Ali Abunimah, the Zionist and the hijabi

When an ardent BDS supporter found herself seated “next to a Zionist” at a BDS event, Ali Abunimah rushed to express his sympathy for her predicament:

 BDS smalltalk1

BDS smalltalk2

Now let’s imagine that the “Zionist” had tweeted:

“Sitting next to a hijabi at Loyola’s open forum. Why me”.

If Ali Abunimah had seen such a tweet, he would have rushed to write yet another Electronic Intifada post expressing his disgust at this example of Zionist racism, supremacism, apartheid, Islamophobia and what not.

Dying for an imaginary right of return

Picking up on a report by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, blogger Elder of Ziyon recently found out that a Palestinian official used a meeting with diplomats to spread what can only be called a blood libel.

According to the Ma’an report, Fatah central committee member Mohammad Ishtayyeh said in a meeting with diplomats organized by the German Heinrich Böll Foundation in Ramallah “that the Palestinian Authority had attempted to negotiate the return of Palestinian refugees from Syria, but Israel had refused […] to allow them to come to the Palestinian territories.” The report noted that some “1,500 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing Syria conflict, and around 250,000 Palestinian refugees have been forced to leave their homes in Syria due to violence in the country.”

But as Elder of Ziyon shows by quoting an AP report from January 10, 2013, Israel had “agreed to the return of those refugees to Gaza and the West Bank, but on condition that each refugee … sign a statement that he doesn’t have the right of return (to Israel).”

According to the AP report, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected this offer mediated by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, telling a group of Egyptian journalists in Cairo:

“So we rejected that and said it’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return.”

With this callous statement Abbas demonstrated the hollowness and duplicity of Palestinian politics on several issues.

A report from this past January, entitled “Abbas hardens his stance on Palestinian ‘right of return,’” quotes Abbas stating in a recent speech:

“Let me put it simply: the right of return is a personal decision. What does this mean? That neither the PA, nor the state, nor the PLO, nor Abu-Mazen [Abbas], nor any Palestinian or Arab leader has the right to deprive someone from his right to return.”

If this was truly his position, Abbas would obviously also have no right to decide that Palestinians in Syria should remain in a dangerous war zone without even being asked if they wanted to give up their imaginary “right of return” to Israeli towns and villages they had never seen in order to find some safety in Gaza or the West Bank.

Quite unintentionally, Abbas also illustrated once more – and in multiple ways – how utterly ridiculous the Palestinian concept of a “right of return” really is. In early December 2012, a year before Abbas denied Palestinians in Syria the chance to find refuge in Gaza or the West Bank, he “returned to a triumphant homecoming in Ramallah after winning a resounding endorsement for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations General Assembly.” He told the cheering crowd:

“We now have a state… the world has said loudly ‘yes’ to the state of Palestine.”

Palestinians like to pose as a state at the UN (and on Twitter), they have countless embassies around the world, and the Arab League considers Palestine a member state. Yet, there are Palestinian “refugee” camps in the West Bank and Gaza, populated by residents who consider themselves “refugees” even though they and their parents were born in the territories that 138 UN member states supposedly recognize as the “State of Palestine.” They are “refugees” because, once upon a time, their grandparents lived in a place that is a few kilometers away from the place they live now, and it doesn’t matter that both places are supposedly in “historic Palestine.” As Abbas demonstrated once again by declaring that “it’s better” if Palestinians “die in Syria” than if they seek safety in the “State of Palestine” and give up the fantasy of “returning” to Israel, the so-called Palestinian cause is about one thing, and one thing only: trying to achieve what the Arab armies failed to accomplish in 1948 when they attempted to destroy the fledging Jewish state.

This is also the cause pushed so energetically by so-called “pro-Palestinian” activists – and they are as cynically open about it as Abbas: with their annual “Israel Apartheid Week” farce winding down, the Electronic Intifada published a post devoted to “Visualizing the discrimination faced by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.” Yes, it turns out, there is real apartheid in Lebanon, and activists know it very well.

 Lebanon apartheid

The text accompanying the graphics laments:

“After more than six decades of forced displacement, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon find themselves largely excluded from the formal labor market. As a result of discriminatory laws and biased attitudes, most Palestinians face precarious working conditions and economic hardship.

In Lebanon nowadays, when asked why they are paid less, many refugees can only reply ‘because I’m Palestinian.’ Why are you banned from practicing more than 70 professions? Why can’t you travel? Why can’t you own property? Why were you arrested at every security checkpoint? Why won’t Lebanese hospitals treat you?

The answer is always the same: ‘because I am Palestinian.’”

But no prize for guessing who’s to blame, and what’s the solution:

“In the last 66 years of forced displacement caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon today survive but are deprived of the freedom to really live. […]

The most important question inside the Palestinian refugee camps is one which also has only one answer: what do you want?

The answer rings out: to return to Palestine and live in dignity.”

And needless to point out, to “return to Palestine” means to “return” to the part of “Palestine” that was “occupied” by Israel 66 years ago…

Whether it’s the Palestinian president or “Palestine Solidarity” activists in America, they don’t hide in any way what their “cause” is all about, and yet, hardly anyone notices that it’s not about the settlements. The world continues to pretend that it’s Israel’s responsibility that the Palestinians don’t have a state, while the Palestinians keep saying very clearly that they don’t want a state if that means accepting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Free speech and antisemitism: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath [updated]

When the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) released its 2013 list of the “Top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs” at the end of December, Max Blumenthal reacted with scorn and ridicule when he found himself included in the category “The Power of the Poison Pen.” As if to prove SWC’s assessment, he posted a drawing by the cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who, for good reason, had himself been included in the SWC list for 2012.

Blumenthal Hier cartoon

According to the SWC, it was his recently published book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and his efforts “to equate Israelis with Nazis” that earned Blumenthal a place on the list.

But Blumenthal’s book also had its defenders, most notably perhaps James Fallows, a veteran board member of the prestigious New America Foundation (NAF) who is widely regarded as “a highly acclaimed author, journalist, editor, and media commentator.”

Writing at the Atlantic, Fallows described Blumenthal’s Goliath as a book that “should be discussed and read” and dismissed criticism of Goliath, asserting that it amounted to “flat mischaracterizations” when critics denounced the book as “bigoted propaganda” that is “so anti-Israel it is effectively anti-Semitic.” Fallows also defended the controversial decision to provide Blumenthal with a platform to promote his book at the NAF in early December, arguing that it “was the right call on general free-speech principles” to ignore critics of the event.

Blumenthal certainly appreciated Fallows’ endorsement and promptly posted an excerpt on his Amazon page for Goliath.

But there was another endorsement for Goliath that Blumenthal appreciated greatly – and it arguably makes a fool of Fallows, because it documents that Blumenthal indeed wanted his readers to understand his book as “so anti-Israel” that critics who denounced Goliath as antisemitic can only feel fully vindicated.

Blumenthal made it abundantly clear what he wanted readers to take away from his book when he recommended a “brief but thorough review of Goliath” to his more than 27,000 Twitter followers, explicitly thanking the blogger who had posted the review for the “praise.”

Blumenthal Goliath review1

Here are the relevant quotes from this “brief but thorough review:”

“You’d think Jews, […] of all people, would react viscerally […] against the notion of their state would [sic] come to create their own Gestapo (Shin Bet), build concentration camp (Ketzlot, for African refugees), emphasize racial purity while demonizing miscegenation (rationalized as the ‘demographic’ problem, but more significantly given religious and racial expression in groups like Lehava), using the police state, not just against enemies, but to crush dissent and ghettos (the walls are sprouting up all over Palestinian towns in the West Bank and, of course, there’s always Gaza). Even Kristallnacht was recreated by what amounts to an officially sanctioned anti-immigrant pogrom in Tel Aviv, in May of 2012.

Yes, you’d be mistaken. Reading Goliath, the similarities between Nazi Germany and today’s Israeli regime are impossible to avoid. […]

As I read Goliath, one thought […] kept cropping up throughout: Apart from the specific group, it’s [sic] flag, and all the other trappings of a national mythos and its veneration, are the aims and methods of the ‘pure’ Zionist state so very different than those of the ‘pure’ Aryan one?”

It is often difficult to show antisemitic intent, but Blumenthal makes it easy by endorsing this review – as well as others that offer similar “praise” – thus leaving no doubt how he wanted his book to be understood. Inevitably, this means that Blumenthal and his admirers actually agree with his critics that Goliath presents Israel as an utterly evil state that can only be compared to Nazi Germany. Even though there is considerable controversy about the question when hostility to Israel should be defined as antisemitism, Blumenthal’s single-minded effort to portray Israel in an extremely biased way in order to promote comparisons to Nazi Germany that would justify political campaigns aimed at eliminating the Jewish state qualifies even under the most stringent criteria.

In a paper entitled “Another Milestone for the Mainstreaming of Antisemitism: The New America Foundation and Max Blumenthal’s Goliath” that has just been published by the Louis D. Brandeis Center, I have also provided extensive documentation that Blumenthal’s book, or the material he published earlier and then recycled for the book, has been praised on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. In addition, Goliath was of course celebrated by outlets such as Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada, which cater to activists devoted to promoting boycott campaigns against Israel and maligning the Jewish state as illegitimate and uniquely evil.

Even if the hate-filled material promoted by these sites is considered “protected” free speech, few would argue that it is a violation of the principles of free speech that mainstream outlets usually shun this material and no respectable think tank would consider featuring it.

So what to make of the fact that a prestigious think tank like the NAF and a prominent commentator like James Fallows insist that it was entirely appropriate to promote a book written with the intent to depict Israel as the Nazi Germany of our time? What to make of the accusation that opposing the promotion of a book like Blumenthal’s Goliath violates “general free-speech principles?”

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin rightly argued:

“By claiming that this book requires our attention, he [Fallows] is asserting that Israel’s existence and the right of its six million Jews to self-determination and self-defense is debatable. The answer to Fallows from those of us who were offended by NAF’s decision to embrace Blumenthal is to say that these notions are no more debatable than the positions of the Klan, apartheid advocates, or those of al-Qaeda. Blumenthal’s book belongs in the category of those things that are offensive, not because he is critical of an imperfect democracy but because his purpose is to advance the cause of its dissolution.”

Fallows noted at the end of his defense of the NAF event for Goliath that if Blumenthal is wrong, “his case should be addressed in specific rather than ruled out of respectable consideration.” That means in effect that Blumenthal’s critics are supposed to make a convincing case that Israel is not like Nazi Germany and that the world’s only Jewish state should perhaps be allowed to continue existing, even if some of its citizens, officials and politicians have views that are no better than those held by reactionaries in Europe or the US.

The bigotry inherent in comparing Israel to Nazi Germany has been often demonstrated. Among the most memorable examples is perhaps the 1961 debate at Montreal’s McGill University between the famous British historian Arnold Toynbee and Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Yaacov Herzog. Toynbee had been willing to believe in the 1930s that Hitler had only limited ambitions, but he was alarmed by Zionism, which he considered “demonic.” During a lecture at McGill in January 1961, Toynbee questioned the right of the Jewish people to a state and claimed that Israel’s conduct in the War of Independence was morally equivalent to the Nazis. In the subsequent debate, Herzog forced Toynbee to concede that if Israel’s actions during a war of self-defense justified the comparison to Nazi atrocities, every nation’s conduct in war – and certainly the conduct of the Arabs, who had threatened the fledgling Jewish state with a “war of extermination and momentous massacre” – would have to be denounced in the same terms.

It would be easy to repeat the same exercise with Blumenthal’s Goliath, but since the bigoted comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany has remained fairly popular for more than five decades, it is arguably time to acknowledge that continuing to debate this calumny as if it had any merit might only serve to legitimize and perpetuate the underlying bigotry. As Tobin argued, there are ideas and ideologies that don’t deserve to be debated, and few would suggest that the ideas of Max Blumenthal’s admirers on David Duke’s site, Stormfront, Rense, and Veterans Today need to be seriously debated in order to be refuted. Yet, this is exactly what Blumenthal wants us to do, as this tweet he recently sent to me illustrates:

Blumenthal Stormfront Zionism

In the post Blumenthal links to, a Stormfront member advances the “controversial and extremely radical proposition” that White Nationalists in Europe and the US should support Zionism and even a “mandatory expulsion of Jews” to Israel in order to reduce the “excessive influence” of Jews “over both the media and economics.” As far as Blumenthal is concerned, this “proves” that anti-Israel activists like him are right to claim that Zionism is not only racism, but also a pernicious form of antisemitism that supports a “Juden raus” policy by establishing and maintaining Israel as a Jewish state.

James Fallows may think all this is worthy of debate, but as Twitter user Sol Robinson demonstrated with his reply to Blumenthal, there isn’t really all that much to debate when someone “cannot understand the difference between Jews wanting to get away from racists, and racists wanting jews gone.”

Blumenthal Stormfront reply

Assuming that Blumenthal really “cannot understand” this difference is arguably the most charitable take, particularly in view of the fact that Blumenthal himself  advocated a “Juden raus” policy for those Israeli Jews who would refuse to “become indigenized” in the Arab state that Blumenthal hopes will replace the Jewish state in the not too distant future. To put it bluntly: there is precious little difference between what Stormfront members would like to see happen in Europe and the US and what Max Blumenthal would like to see happen in the Middle East.

Marginalizing such views as despicable bigotry that doesn’t deserve to be dignified by serious debate is not a violation of free speech. Max Blumenthal may fervently believe that the Middle East’s most democratic and pluralistic state is the Nazi Germany of our time and should be treated accordingly, but anyone who agrees that this is a proposition worthwhile debating would have to explain why other hate-filled bigotries that are popular among Blumenthal’s fans at Stormfront and similar sites are generally not regarded as worthy of debate.

* * *

First published on my JPost blog and at Harry’s Place.

Update: In the meantime, I’ve written another related post published on the blog of the Louis. D. Brandeis Center, where I address the spurious claim by Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi that BDS advocates like them suffer from “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

As I argue there, one important point to keep in mind is:

“When prominent tenured academics like Butler and Khalidi worry about the ‘intimidation’ of BDS advocates and proceed to call on their colleagues to oppose this alleged intimidation, it is arguably time to point out that students who oppose the BDS goal of doing away with the Jewish state and view the comparison of Israel and Nazi Germany as anti-Semitic have plenty of reason to feel much more intimidated. Highlighting a research paper on ‘Antisemitism in the Contemporary American University,’ the eminent anti-Semitism expert Robert Wistrich noted three years ago that ‘it is a deeply troubling fact that anti-Semitism (often in the form of anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel) has become a significant part of intellectual and academic discourse.’”

Another crucially important point is that, as Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has argued, “an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age.” A widely praised new study based on some 14,000 hostile messages sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli embassy in Berlin by Monika Schwarz-Friesel provides plenty of evidence that contemporary antisemitism is often expressed as “anti-Israelism” and that it is promoted primarily by “the social mainstream – professors, Ph.Ds, lawyers, priests, university and high-school students.”

Whitewashing BDS and antisemitism in the New York Times

[Note: First published on my JPost blog on February 5, 2014]

A few days ago, anti-Israel activists noted with considerable satisfaction that several recently published New York Times (NYT) articles seemed to justify the conclusion that the paper might be “entering a new era on Israel.” Particular excitement was caused by the NYT decision “to print an oped by BDS leader Omar Barghouti.” Writing on his own blog, Jonathan Cook hailed this decision as “quite a milestone,” and explained:

“Omar includes many issues usually unmentionable in the NYT. But more so than the content of his article, the fact that the NYT is prepared to give a platform to him and the boycott movement – currently viewed by Israel as an enemy potentially even greater than Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons – would truly constitute a revolution in what can be said in the US establishment’s paper of record.”

Cook is absolutely right here. By providing a platform to Barghouti, the NYT has published a not-so-veiled call for abolishing the world’s only Jewish state and, at the same time, allowed Barghouti to falsely claim that the boycott movement he leads is not antisemitic.

Barghouti’s article is entitled “Why Israel Fears the Boycott,” though the URL tells us that the original title was “Why the Boycott Movement Scares Israel.” The answer to this, in whatever variation, is very simple: just like earlier boycotts under the motto “The Jews Are Our Misfortune,” the BDS movement employs similar tactics of slandering the Jews – nowadays the Jews of Israel and those who support the Jewish state – by falsely presenting them to be solely responsible for the “misfortune” of other people, in particular the Palestinians.* Since the long list of lies and slanders Barghouti usually employs when he travels the world to promote the boycott movement has been often described and refuted, I will focus here only on two crucial points that Barghouti tries to obfuscate in his NYT op-ed.

The first is that, as far as Barghouti is concerned, the so-called BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is not campaigning for a negotiated two-state solution and an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Instead, it denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, irrespective of the borders of this state. As Barghouti himself explained, even if Israel gave up its control of all the territories captured in 1967, this would not end the BDS campaigns, because BDS embraces the same rejectionist positions that led to the Arab refusal to accept the UN partition plan in 1947. Barghouti likes to talk a lot about “Palestinian rights,” and while he is careful to use language that conforms to today’s human rights discourse, the most fundamental Palestinian “right” he advocates is the “right” to undo the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.

But while Barghouti and his fellow BDS activists usually feel very confident asserting that Palestinian refugees and their descendants have a unique status and “rights” that no other group of refugees enjoys, they do seem somewhat worried that people might conclude that the boycott movement is, in effect, antisemitic. BDS activists may well have Jewish friends or may even be Jews themselves, but the boycott campaigns they advocate target the Jewish state for being Jewish – as Barghouti himself acknowledges when he says that BDS campaigns would go on even if Israel no longer controlled the West Bank.

Barghouti complains that “Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.” When you click on the link he provides, you get to a post from 2010 on a BDS website, which essentially claims that BDS cannot be antisemitic because it is supposedly supported by “many Jewish organizations and prominent Jewish academics and cultural figures around the world.”  That is a recipe also advocated on the website of David Duke – whom the Anti-Defamation League describes as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.” An article there has much to say about the usefulness of Jewish activists in “anti-Zionist” campaigns and the writer eventually acknowledges freely: “We often cite Jewish writers in order to avoid the anti-Semitic label.”

Unfortunately for Barghouti and David Duke, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, explained only recently that even if you are Jewish, you “can be an anti-Semite if you talk like anti-Semites.” And, as David Hirsh pointed out in a relevant paper on “Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism”, antisemitism doesn’t necessarily mean hating all Jews: “Most forms of antisemitism in history have allowed for ‘exceptional’ Jews. It is not a necessary attribute of antisemitism that it must target every Jew and so there could exist an antisemitism which exempts those Jews who do not identify as ‘Zionist’ from hostility.”

What is really interesting in this context, however, is the fact that Barghouti didn’t try to prove his opposition to antisemitism by linking to a declaration he signed in 2012. Under the title “The struggle for Palestinian rights is incompatible with any form of racism or bigotry,” this declaration, posted by Ali Abunimah at the Electronic Intifada, asserts that the Palestinian “struggle for our inalienable rights is one opposed to all forms of racism and bigotry, including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Zionism, and other forms of bigotry.” As the screenshot below documents, Omar Barghouti is signatory no.5 on this resurrection of the “Zionism is racism” calumny.

Zionism is racism

While the infamous UN resolution is nowadays widely regarded as an embarrassing part of the Soviet-Arab Cold War efforts to undermine Israel, it is hardly surprising that anti-Israel activists yearn to recreate this effective weapon to delegitimize the Jewish state – after all, in the wake of the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution, Zionism became “a metaphor for universal evil” and it was considered perfectly legitimate to boycott Jewish groups or individuals suspected of Zionist sympathies. This must truly seem like the good old times if you are a BDS activist.

The inconvenient truth is that as long as BDS activists like Omar Barghouti remain firmly opposed to a two-state solution that would result in the peaceful coexistence of a Jewish and a Palestinian state, their activism has nothing to do with human rights. Try as he may, Barghouti cannot conceal that he is actually campaigning for what he regards as the most fundamental and non-negotiable Palestinian “right:” the supposed “right” to finally achieve what the Arab war against the emerging Jewish state failed to accomplish. The Palestinians who fled this war that was supposedly waged on their behalf have served as pawns ever since, clinging to their refugee status and the illusion that it could be passed on through generations reared in the belief that the Jews of Israel are their “misfortune.” But then as now, their misfortune was the unwillingness of the Arabs to acknowledge the simple fact that the Jews are one of the Middle East’s most ancient peoples who, in modern times, could claim as much of a right to self-determination as the Arabs. People like Omar Barghouti are still unwilling to acknowledge this simple fact and are devoting all their energies to convince the world that Jewish self-determination is the misfortune of the Palestinians and that it is therefore their “right” to insist that the Jews in the Middle East should be forced to once again live as a minority under Arab Muslim rule.

*Update: A paper by Mark Gardner published in Democratiya Autumn 2007 that I discovered only recently explores several of the points I’m trying to make here under the apt title “‘The Zionists are our Misfortune’: On the (not so) new Antisemitism.”

Another libel in the making

While anti-Israel activists currently keep themselves entertained with their annual “Israel Apartheid Week” spectacle, there are apparently some who feel that just slandering Israel as a state that is guilty of practicing apartheid isn’t good enough. In an attempt to “improve” on the demonization of the world’s only Jewish state, some activists are now trying to spread the idea that Israel is the Nazi Germany of our time. As I have recently documented in detail, Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath is entirely devoted to this purpose, and Blumenthal’s message is not only appreciated by anti-Israel activists on US campuses, but also by the fans of David Duke, Stormfront and similar outlets catering to conspiracy theorists, racists and neo-Nazis.

For the Jew-haters at Stormfront, Max Blumenthal is “great,” and his relentless demonization of Israel is appreciated as proof that “not all jews are assholes.” (See documentation here (pdf)). But beyond garnering praise for himself, Blumenthal also managed to demonstrate that the racists at Stormfront have their priorities: while they would usually not show much sympathy for the plight of African migrants and refugees, they won’t ignore it when somebody claims that Africans in Israel are treated so badly that one can only compare their fate to what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Israel’s supposedly Nazi-like treatment of African migrants and refugees is a major topic in Goliath, and for some of the related material, Blumenthal collaborated with David Sheen, a Canadian-born Israeli who describes himself as a “documentarian & designer.” A few months ago, Mondoweiss – a site that has been frequently accused of publishing antisemitic material – announced that Sheen was writing “the first book on anti-African racism in Israel,” and currently, Sheen is on a month-long speaking tour in the US and Canada to tell everyone who’s willing to listen that his fellow citizens in his adopted country treat African refugees and migrants like the Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.

Max Blumenthal helpfully tweeted a picture showing one of the slides from Sheen’s presentation that illustrates what a great job he’s doing – because obviously, if there is an employment office in the Israeli detention center for African migrants, this is reason enough to compare the facility to Auschwitz and the cynical “Arbeit macht frei” slogan at its entrance gate.

Sheen Arbeit macht frei

To be sure, in Auschwitz the sign indicated “another form of genocide that the Nazis called ‘extermination through work,’” but for “journalists” like Max Blumenthal and David Sheen, this is apparently an irrelevant detail.

Among the material Sheen is presenting to make his case is also a video with the juicy title “Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land.” The fact that more than 600 000 people have watched this clip so far should probably not be taken as a sign of widespread interest in the plight of African migrants in general; indeed, it is safe to assume that few of the people who watched the clip noticed that right at the beginning, the narrator says: “As Europe closes its gates to asylum seekers, Israel became the next best option.”

This seems to be a glitch that really shouldn’t happen to professional Israel bashers. It certainly shouldn’t happen to David Sheen, who, after all, is working on a book in which he intends to make the case that the plight of Africans in Israel

“has huge implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Because if Israeli policy is not based on equal treatment regardless of ethnicity, but on ensuring that as few as possible non-Jewish people remain in the country, then that would go a long way towards explaining Israel’s actions vis-a-vis the Palestinians for the last 66 years. Perhaps the source of the conflict isn’t Arab anti-Semitism, or even competing land claims, but as distasteful as it sounds, a drive by Israeli political and religious leaders for racial and religious purity.”

Now we only have to find out why “Europe closes its gates to asylum seekers”… or why some would talk about “America’s deportation machine”…

Of course, anti-Israel activists couldn’t care less about refugees and migrants outside of Israel. If they did, they would have to realize that the kind of books Blumenthal and Sheen produce could also be written on the US and most European countries. A recent report entitled “Fortress Europe: How the EU Turns Its Back on Refugees” explained that the “expectations of refugees who come to Europe often go unfulfilled. Many must struggle through long asylum application processes or fight against ingrained local prejudice. In some countries, they endure appalling living conditions in refugee camps; in others, they end up on the streets.” Recently filmed footage from an Italian “reception center” for refugees showed scenes that inspired widely reported comparisons with concentration camps;  a report on “Europe’s Deepening Refugee Crisis” described “a cycle of degradation faced by thousands of African refugees living in Europe today;” refugees in Germany complain that they are treated like criminals; in the Netherlands, scores of asylum seekers facing deportation have committed suicide in the past decade and many more have tried to kill themselves; and the way some asylum seekers are treated in Britain has led critics to conclude that they are not even seen as human beings.

And just imagine how popular this slide show would be if it was about Israel…

Sheen uninteresting deportations

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

Let’s do a Max Blumenthal on Palestine

Note: This was first published on December 16, 2013, on my JPost blog, but when I just realized I had forgotten to cross-post it, I thought I should do so right away, since it makes excellent reading for the currently ongoing “Israel Apartheid Week”…

Since I wrote a few weeks ago about the publication of a vicious anti-Israel screed authored by Max Blumenthal, there have been some noteworthy new developments. As I noted back then, Blumenthal’s rant was endorsed not only by influential writers and supposedly respectable academics, but also by activists associated with sites like Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada that devote themselves single-mindedly to maligning the Jewish state. It was therefore hardly surprising when it turned out that these supposedly “progressive” Israel-haters cheered a book that also got much praise from notorious Jew-haters posting at various far-right fringe outlets, including David Duke’s website.

In the meantime, Blumenthal’s fans – among them Roger Waters – have done much to illustrate once again that it is indeed a very slippery slope from fanatic anti-Zionism to outright antisemitism. But in this context, one of the arguably most dismal developments is the fact that the New America Foundation (NAF) decided to give Max Blumenthal a platform to promote his book – which is to say that the leading Democratic think tank in Washington D.C. hosted an event promoting a book about Israel that was enthusiastically endorsed by notorious Jew-haters. As Ron Radosh rightly noted, one might ask if the NAF would have promoted the same book if it was not only praised, but authored by David Duke.*

Among the entirely expected results of the NAF event was that mainstream publications like Foreign Policy started to cheer Blumenthal’s smug dismissal of his critics as hate-filled right-wingers full of “hot air,” while The Atlantic seemed to suggest that opposing the promotion of Blumenthal’s David-Duke-endorsed views was tantamount to opposing free speech.

Soon enough, popular blogger Andrew Sullivan chimed in with a post entitled “Not So Mad Max,” which he followed up a few days later with another post that asked “Who’s Afraid Of The Truth?” Both Sullivan and the Atlantic’s James Fallows chose to imbed into their posts a video co-produced by Max Blumenthal and posted on YouTube under the title “Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land.” The clip has already more than half a million views.

Since Blumenthal’s new-found defenders seem to have a really hard time understanding what’s so offensive about presenting Israel as defined by fringe views and some ugly phenomena that exist in every country, I thought it might be helpful to imagine a Max-Blumenthal-style book on Palestine. So here we go: “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Palestine.”

Naturally, we start with a video clip – though I don’t really recommend that you watch it, since I myself felt sick before getting through less than half of it. Below is a screenshot from the scene at which I stopped, and you should first read the clip’s description to decide if you’re up to watching it:

“The footage, filmed by local civilians [in Gaza] … shows cattle tied to poles, trees and vehicles before being stabbed in the neck and eyes. One animal was kneecapped by shots from an assault rifle. Animals Australia said the footage […] was some of the worst seen in a series of animal welfare outrages involving Australian cattle. WARNING: CONTAINS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC IMAGES”

One might add that the footage shows not only grown men behaving like sadistic savages, but also lots of children excitedly watching the gruesome spectacle and cheering it on.

Gaza cattle abuse

Screenshot from Guardian video: “Abuse of Australian cattle exported to Gaza.”

 I think we can all agree that this makes a wonderful opening for our Max Blumenthal-inspired Palestinian Goliath – and we might view it as a most auspicious coincidence that the title of Blumenthal’s  first chapter is a perfect fit here: “To the Slaughter.” Of course, given the behavior of the children in the clip, one could also opt for the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 59: “Children Whose Hearts Were Unmoved.”

Emulating Max Blumenthal’s “journalism”, we then proceed to point out that Palestinians don’t just live out their brute impulses by torturing tied-up cattle, but that they behave in a similar way to those fellow Palestinians they view as enemies. This can be nicely illustrated with images from a “grisly spectacle” that took place in Gaza late last year, when, according to press reports, “masked Hamas gunmen…forced…six men suspected of collaborating with Israel to lie face down on the street, then shot them dead. Later, while an angry mob stomped and spat on five of the bodies, the sixth was tied to the back of a motorcycle” to be dragged through the streets. According to a CNN report, this was not the first such incident and some people cheered it with shouts of “God is great.”

Gaza lynch mob

Screenshot from Global Post report

Since the list of additional examples of Palestinian depravity is long, we’ll have an easy time getting a lot of short Max-Blumenthal-style chapters illustrating what Andrew Sullivan would presumably call the “truth” about the Palestinians.  Relevant stories include the sad fate of a doctor in Gaza who was kidnapped and “blindfolded, handcuffed and shot six times in the legs, including a kneecap, and then tossed on the street.” Since the doctor was a Hamas supporter, the Islamist group retaliated by kidnapping a Fatah-member and throwing him from the roof of a 15-storey apartment building. Indeed, according to press reports from the summer of 2007, “Hundreds of Hamas and Fatah supporters have been kidnapped in recent months by rival gunmen. The treatment of the hostages […] has become increasingly harsh, and captives are often shot in the legs.” Last year, Human Rights Watch also documented that “Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip commit rampant abuses against Palestinian prisoners, including beatings with metal clubs and rubber hoses, mock executions and arbitrary arrests.”

For the next few chapters of our Blumenthal-style documentation of Palestinian evils we could turn to the terrible treatment of the disabled – after all, it is very revealing how a society treats its most vulnerable members. Since this is a widely ignored subject, we can perhaps use the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 64 here: “The Big Quiet.” Indeed, a “Big Quiet” usually also prevails when it comes to acknowledging that Palestinian children born with disabilities are often paying the terrible price for a “strongly patriarchal culture that prods women into first-cousin marriages and allows polygamy.”

The many truly heartbreaking stories that could be highlighted here include the confinement of two handicapped Palestinian siblings “in an unlit and unventilated cellar” for some 20 years. Unfortunately, this is by no means an isolated case, since many Palestinians “regard people with intellectual disabilities as mad.” The desperate plight of disabled Palestinians is also reflected in a chilling proposal for dealing with the potentially widespread sexual abuse of disabled girls and women. When this issue “was raised on a national governmental level […] one of the suggestions to ‘protect’ a girl with disabilities was to remove her uterus so that if the girl were abused, at least she would not become pregnant.”

If we want to deal with this topic à la Max Blumenthal, we will have to end this chapter by insinuating that the fate of disabled Palestinians is similar to how the disabled fared in Nazi Germany.

We could then smoothly move on to topics that call for Max-Blumenthal-style examples of “fascism” – which in the case of the Palestinians should probably be “Islamofacism.” One of the chapters in this part of the book should perhaps echo the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 61: instead of “This Belongs To The White Man,” we’ll have “This Belongs To The Muslim Man.” We could first highlight the Hamas Charter, and – given its genocidal visions of “stones and trees” calling out “O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him” – Blumental’s chapter on “How To Kill Goyims” could become a chapter on “How To Kill Infidels.”

The next chapter could perhaps deal with the praise repeatedly heaped by Mahmoud Abbas on Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader who is also known as “Hitler’s Mufti” because he collaborated with the Nazis; here, Blumenthal’s chapter title “The Days of ’48 Have Come Again” could become “The Days of ’43 Have Never Gone”. Then we could move on to the enormous popularity Osama bin Laden enjoyed among Palestinians for the decade after 9/11 – maybe Blumenthal’s chapter title on “The Joint Struggle” could come in handy here.

Staying with our Blumenthal-inspired topic of “Islamofascism,” we might then highlight the rather dramatic results of a recent Pew study documenting massive popular support for reactionary Muslim views among Palestinians; the obvious topic to continue would be the recently reported “worrisome trend in rise of ‘honor killings’” perpetrated by Palestinians.

Naturally, the appalling prevalence of corruption and its corrosive effects on Palestinian society would also have to be addressed; likewise, it would be inexcusable to ignore the heartbreaking cruelty inflicted on poverty-stricken and ill Palestinians who have to watch helplessly as their modest dwellings are demolished by a merciless Hamas-government.

So there is obviously more than enough material to come up with a 500-page Blumenthal-style screed. But what are the chances that such a book – faithfully reflecting Blumenthal’s modus operandi with its relentless focus on portraying Palestinians only in the worst possible light – would be promoted by the NAF? What are the chances that Andrew Sullivan would insist that “Life and Loathing in Palestine” should be taken seriously and deserved to be reviewed in the New York Times? What are the chances that Blumenthal’s defenders would eagerly link to the appalling video clip from Gaza, insinuating that it provides a good illustration of how terrible Palestinians truly are?

As we all know, the chances are nil – because the rules that apply when it comes to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state are of course totally unacceptable when others are concerned.

*I have in the meantime written a paper on the NAF’s promotion of Blumenthal’s Goliath; see: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath and the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism

 

Quote of the day: the water libel

“To many Israelis, the allegations about water are one step removed from blood libel. Water is a sensitive issue and is deeply symbolic, especially in the Middle East. […]

Had Martin Schulz [the president of the European Union Parliament, addressing the Israeli Knesset] checked the facts, and wanted to bring up this issue in a serious and constructive manner, he could have said: ‘There is a difference in water usage between Israelis and Palestinians of about 2:1. I am aware that part of this is due to different levels of economic development, that a share of it is due to mismanagement by the Palestinian Authority of the water systems, and another due to the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However, I think that given the important symbolism and sensitivity of water in this region, and the technological advancement of desalination and water re-usage, in which Israel is a world leader, Israel could and should go above and beyond the official agreements it signed with the Palestinian Authority, even more than it already does now, to provide Palestinians with more water.’

Such a paragraph in the speech would not have raised such criticism, but is also would not have created such intense media coverage. Could this be the real reason that Schulz preferred to not check his facts? Could it be that he knew that provocative allegations would create a greater stir than level-headed analysis that highlights the complexity of the situation? For many Israelis, Schulz’ act in the Knesset represents a dangerous and slippery slope, where even those who support Israel are willing to believe the worst about it, and lend their credibility to voicing problematic allegations against it.

The Jewish people are keenly aware that mass acts of physical cruelty towards other human beings are preceded by laying an ideological groundwork. They fear that this is what is taking place in the world today with respect to Israel and Zionism. In this war of ideas […] that is being waged against Israel and Zionism, lies, provocative allegations, stereotypes, misrepresentations, and false interpretations are employed as weapons. The purpose of this war, like all previous ones, is to roll back the great achievement of Zionism – the establishment of a sovereign state for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. The strategy of this war is to associate Israel and Zionism with all that is evil in our world, so that one day the physical the destruction of the modern state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people will not seem like a great loss, and maybe even be a blessing.”

Einat Wilf, Fact Checking in the Knesset (English original of an op-ed published in German in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 18, 2014).

I have previously written about the water libel, explaining that I used this term because current accusations against Israel on various water-related issues echo the medieval accusations that Jews were poisoning wells.

 

Twenty five years on from Rushdie we are too frightened to say we are scared

Warped Mirror PMB:

A powerful post from Nick Cohen — and a must-read if you think we have freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Originally posted on Nick Cohen: Writing from London:

British publishing is now such a neurotic and hypocritical business there are stories it cannot cover. Nor should it try. When journalists, writers and artists can’t be honest with their audience, when they can’t even be honest with themselves, silence is preferable to the damage their double-standards bring.

Last month our media commemorated the imminent anniversary of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie by trying and failing to report the threats to the life of Maajid Nawaz, the chief executive of Quilliam Foundation. In a vindication of Kipling’s “once you have paid him the Dane-geld/you never get rid of the Dane” fanatics are after Nawaz not because he satirised the founding myths of Islam, as Rushdie did, or projected sexist verses from the Koran on to a naked woman’s body, as Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali did, but because – brace yourselves – he tweeted a picture of Jesus…

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Yes, Israel will be blamed

Maybe it’s a bit late in the new year to make predictions, but anyone still looking for a safe bet might want to agree with an anonymous European diplomat who reportedly told his Israeli counterpart towards the end of last year that Israel will lose “the blame game” if the current peace negotiations end in failure. According to a Ha’aretz report, the European diplomat also threatened Israel with “a deluge of sanctions” in case “the negotiations with the Palestinians run aground,” irrespective of the reasons for the failure to reach an agreement.

For the Palestinians, this is of course good news – though it’s really just more of the same: after all, the UN has designated 2014 as “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” and a number of events decrying “the unprecedented historical injustice which the Palestinian people have endured since ‘Al-Nakba’ of 1948” have already been held at the organization’s headquarters in New York. The UN’s willingness to show “solidarity” with a people that has rejected a state of their own for 65 years illustrates that the anonymous European diplomat quoted above is merely following the long established practice of rewarding the Palestinians for their refusal to come to terms with the re-establishment of the Jewish state.

It seems that the Palestinians intend to stick with their rejectionist stance. In a candid interview with Asharq Al-Awsat , the Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki recently boasted that the Palestinians “previously said no 12 times to the Americans” and he proudly declared that they were “prepared to continue with this when it comes to our principles.” Among these “principles” is apparently the refusal to accept the fundamental idea that a peace agreement will establish two states for two peoples. When asked what the “most intractable” issue in the negotiations was, Al-Maliki replied:

“This is the issue of recognizing the Jewish nature of the Israeli state. This is a sharply contentious issue. It would be dangerous to recognize this because this would mean our acceptance of the dissolution of our own history and ties and our historic right to Palestine. This is something that we will never accept under any circumstances. Acceptance of this would also raise fears about the fate of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Israel. They are already second-class citizens, so how will they be affected by the Judaization of the state? This also raises questions about the [Palestinian] refugees and the right of return. So this is something that we absolutely cannot accept.”

This short statement provides an excellent illustration of the fantasies that underpin some of the central Palestinian negotiating positions. The most notable point is arguably the admission that recognizing Israel as the Jewish state implies acknowledging the millennia-old Jewish history in the region, which according to Al-Maliki would be tantamount to “the dissolution” of Palestinian history and the resulting claims. While Binyamin Netanyahu demonstrated in his Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009 that it is perfectly possible to stick to one’s own history and still concede that the present time requires difficult compromises, Al-Maliki is providing here a rare admission that Palestinian history is too flimsy to back up the Palestinian narrative of being an “indigenous” population that is fighting for their ancient rights against a foreign intruder.

The second noteworthy point is Al-Maliki’s worry about the “fate of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Israel.” The PLO has always upheld the fiction that it represents all Palestinians, whether they want it or not, and wherever they reside, even if they are citizens of other states. Therefore, it probably doesn’t matter much to Al-Maliki that not all Arabs in Israel define themselves as Palestinians, and that even those who do are apparently not very enthusiastic about living under Palestinian rule. Indeed, as a recent poll showed, even among those who like to complain loudly about being a minority in the Jewish state, many prefer this status to being citizens in a Palestinian state.

Finally, there is Al-Maliki’s point about the “refugees and the right of return.” Apparently he feels that recognizing Israel as the Jewish state would somehow complicate the demand that millions of descendants should “return” to the places that previous generations of Palestinians left to escape the war fought on their behalf against the fledgling Jewish state. While this demand is anyway completely unrealistic, Al-Maliki reaffirmed – as many Palestinian officials have done before – that the Palestinians would continue to insist on this imaginary “right” to turn the Jewish state into yet another Arab-Muslim state.

An even clearer rejection of the two-state solution and a negotiated peace was conveyed in a recent New York Times op-ed by former Palestinian Authority minister Ali Jarbawi.  Under the title “The Coming Intifada,” Jarbawi started out by claiming that the Palestinians have long wanted a state of their own and were eager to see the peace negotiations succeed. However, according to Jarbawi, the Palestinians made a “strategic mistake” at the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993 when they supposedly conceded “78 percent of the land of historical Palestine.” Jarbawi probably knows full well that this argument is as good as if a former Israeli minister were to claim that Israel conceded Jordan to the Arabs, but he needs this fictitious concession to justify the very real rejection of any realistic two-state solution.  According to Jarbawi,

“Israel’s current conditions for a Palestinian state would shatter Palestinians’ basic demands for liberty and independence. The promised Palestinian state will be nothing but a shadow entity completely ruled by Israel. And the price that is being demanded for this state is so exorbitant that the Palestinian Authority cannot sell it, nor can the Palestinians accept it.

These pockets of land would be demilitarized, and Israel would have control over the borders, skies and natural resources. To get this, Palestinians must give up the right of return of diaspora Palestinians, and publicly declare that Israel is a Jewish state. This is a toxic cocktail perfectly mixed to produce a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation, and the Authority as well — if the latter accepts these Israeli demands and yields to American pressure.”

Jarbawi’s article is arguably an important read, because it shows a former Palestinian minister declaring once more quite openly that a demilitarized Palestinian state comprising most of the previously Jordanian-occupied West Bank and Egyptian-controlled Gaza is simply completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. Unintentionally, Jarbawi also illustrates how Palestinian propaganda works: while he clearly says the Palestinians would violently reject any realistic two-state solution, he also deviously claims that it’s their shattered hopes for a two-state solution that would result in an explosion of violence – and he can probably expect quite a bit of sympathy for this “explanation” from his New York Times readers.

Just from the past few weeks, there are plenty of additional examples illustrating that the Palestinian leadership is also preparing its own public for the failure of the current negotiations and the possible resumption of violence. Some senior Palestinian officials who are close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have recently called the current peace talks “futile,” advocating instead a return to “all kinds of resistance.” Barely two weeks ago, Abbas was listening and applauding when his Minister of Religious Affairs gave a speech urging jihadis fighting in Syria to turn to Jerusalem:

“Whoever wants resistance, whoever wants Jihad, the direction for Jihad is well-known and clear… Those who send young people to Syria or elsewhere to die for a misdirected cause must stop and understand that Jerusalem is still waiting. Jerusalem is the direction, Jerusalem is the address.”

A week later, the official Facebook page of Fatah publicized a clip that shows members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades vowing that they will “turn Tel Aviv into a ball of fire.”

Tel Aviv Fatah threats

Palwatch screenshot

But it’s not just in the UN “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” that Palestinian rejectionism and calls for violence are politely overlooked and even rewarded. If the negotiations don’t produce any results and the Palestinians once again resort to terrorism, they can count on the UN and much of the international media to get plenty of attention and sympathy for their continuing efforts to blame and delegitimize Israel.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog; also at the Polish blog Listy z naszegu sadu

Quote of the day: The dishonesty of Israel’s detractors

“Tibi [Arab-Israeli Member of Knesset] had earlier heckled Netanyahu, claiming that his colleague Abu Arar, a Bedouin MK from Ar’arat in the Negev, did not have water or electricity in his home, because of Israeli discrimination. ‘There’s no water or electricity in his village,’ Tibi shouted at Netanyahu. ‘No water, no electricity. Give him water and electricity and he’ll stop shouting.’ In fact, Channel 2 News showed on Tuesday, Abu Arar, a former school teacher and head of his local council, lives in a three-story home with water, electricity, air-conditioning and a satellite dish, and his street is well lit by street lamps.”

From: Canadians ‘taken aback’ at Arab MKs’ heckling of Harper