Gaza doctor shrugs off suffering

Three days ago, I reported on the enthusiasm of Dr. Belal Al-Dabour for “resistance rockets” and his determined rejection of any ceasefire before the conditions set by Hamas are fulfilled. As I noted, Dr. Dabour was at the same time very busy with sharing harrowing accounts about the suffering in Gaza on social media and on BBC Radio. In the meantime, the casualties in Gaza have sharply increased, with more than 400 people reported dead and more than 2000 injured.

Dr. Dabour has continued to share heartbreaking stories of the suffering endured by his fellow Gazans, most recently on Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada. Reports about the difficult situation faced by medical personal and hospitals in Gaza have also appeared in the Israeli media.

But in Gaza, all this suffering apparently doesn’t count for much: when the terror organization Al Qassam Brigades claimed last night that it had captured an Israeli soldier, Dr. Dabour declared jubilantly that it had all been worth it:

 Gaza Dr cheers kidnap

All the many commentators who complain about the “disproportionate” death toll between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza should take note of this view of a young doctor in Gaza – particularly given the fact that Dr. Dabour was by no means the only one to start celebrating.

Gaza Drs celebrate

In addition, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported:

“Palestinians in Gaza City, Bethlehem and other cities celebrated with gunshots and fireworks Sunday night after a broadcast announcement by Hamas that it had captured an Israeli soldier.”

According to the Ha’aretz report, IDF sources described the Hamas claim as “dubious.”

Gaza doctor rejects cease-fire [updated]

Imagine you are a young doctor in Gaza during the current war: there is terrible destruction, frequent and fearsome airstrikes, some 200 of your fellow Gazans have been killed and more than 1000 have been wounded. Local hospitals are facing a shortage of medicine and equipment, particularly for trauma injuries. Surely you would want nothing more than a cease-fire to end this misery?

Not if you are Dr. Belal Al-Dabour. As soon as there were rumors about a ceasefire, Dr. Al-Dabour took to Twitter – where he has a sizable following of almost 10,000 – and protested passionately:

AA no ceasefire

One could perhaps interpret this as meaning “Death is better than the life we have here under Hamas,” but there is no indication whatsoever that Dr. Al-Dabour is critical of Hamas – quite the contrary: he generally refers to casualties as “martyrs” and the rockets that Hamas and other terror groups launch from Gaza against Israeli towns are for him “resistance rockets.”

It is thus hardly a coincidence that Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada (EI) was among those who retweeted Al-Dabour’s determined rejection of a ceasefire. Indeed, last year, one of Al-Dabour’s blog posts was cross-posted at EI, and since both Al-Dabour and  Abunimah passionately oppose a cease-fire that doesn’t fulfill the conditions set by Hamas, several of Al-Dabour’s related tweets were now featured in an EI post by Abunimah with the typically Orwellian title “Hamas did not reject a ceasefire, Israel did.

From the comfort of Abunimah’s home in Chicago, it is obviously easy to oppose a cease-fire half a world away, particularly if the ongoing fighting gives a boost to your usual anti-Israel activism. It sadly seems that supporters of Hamas “resistance” view the current fighting not that much different from Hamas, and as Jeffrey Goldberg concluded in a recent must-read column: “Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.”

The explanation offered by Abunimah is that Gazans “don’t want to waste all this blood.”

AA no ceasefire2

Apparently, the logic is that when a conflict provoked by Hamas has already cost some 200 lives, yet more lives have to be sacrificed in order to enable Hamas to reach its goals.

But while it is hardly surprising when a professional anti-Israel activist lobbies for Hamas and against a cease-fire, it is arguably quite shocking to see a medical doctor who has to deal with the resulting suffering oppose an end to the bloodshed. Indeed, Dr. Al-Dabour’s stance is all the more appalling given that he has been posting countless tweets on the hardships and suffering experienced by his fellow Gazans. He has also written about his difficult experiences during previous escalations, and he has now been repeatedlyinterviewed by BBC Radio. According to the tweets he posted, he was asked in his most recent interview “what people think about resistance rockets” and he answered “that people dream about a life in which their [sic!] are other options!” He also added: “When you’re cornered you fight back, that’s how it is. With the siege and the occupation we’re left with no options and with nothing to lose.”

AA Gaza doctor3

It seems Dr. Al-Dabour has never pondered the question asked by Jeffrey Goldberg in the already quoted column: “What if, nine years ago, when Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza, the Palestinians had made a different choice. What if they chose to build the nucleus of a state, rather than a series of subterranean rocket factories?”

As Goldberg rightly points out:

“In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza, free from their Israeli occupiers, could have taken a lesson from the Kurds — and from David Ben-Gurion, the principal Israeli state-builder — and created the necessary infrastructure for eventual freedom. Gaza is centrally located between two large economies, those of Israel and Egypt. Europe is just across the Mediterranean. Gaza could have easily attracted untold billions in economic aid.

The Israelis did not impose a blockade on Gaza right away. That came later, when it became clear that Palestinian groups were considering using their newly liberated territory as a launching pad for attacks. In the days after withdrawal, the Israelis encouraged Gaza’s development. A group of American Jewish donors paid $14 million for 3,000 greenhouses left behind by expelled Jewish settlers and donated them to the Palestinian Authority. The greenhouses were soon looted and destroyed, serving, until today, as a perfect metaphor for Gaza’s wasted opportunity.”

Sadly, while Gazans like Dr. Al-Dabour who now oppose a cease-fire in order to give Hamas more time to achieve some sort of “victory” may claim that the people of Gaza ‘dream about a life in which there are other options,’ they will only ensure that there will be more wasted opportunities as long as they see nothing wrong with the “resistance rockets” of Gaza’s terror groups. Couldn’t a medical doctor be expected to be smart enough to realize that these “resistance rockets” inflict much greater damage on Gaza than on Israel?

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First published on my JPost blog.

Update:

Tonight, after Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip began, Dr. Al-Dabour again posted some tweets, including one that reads:

“On BBC radio I told my horrific stories, then he asks: Who do you blame for civilian casualties Israel or hamas who stores weapons in houses?”

Naturally, Al-Dabour could be sure his followers would agree with him that it was outrageous to even ask such a question; on the other hand, it’s very unlikely that his BBC interviewer or the BBC Radio audience were aware that Al-Dabour regards the arsenal of Hamas as “resistance rockets.” According to the Israeli media, such “resistance rockets” had been stored not far from Gaza’s Wafa Hospital, and as the Washington Post reported, Gaza’s Shifa Hospital once again serves as “de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.”

Since Al-Dabour so passionately agreed with the Hamas approach to reject the cease-fire without any hesitation, it is important to understand how crucial this rejection was. As Ha’aretz reported tonight:

“A senior [Israeli] official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cabinet ministers had already approved the ground operation when it met Tuesday night, after the Egyptian cease-fire initiative fell through. […]

The same official also said that despite the authorization, the ground operation was delayed in order to give the Egyptians another opportunity to forge a cease-fire. On Wednesday, Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen, Netanyahu’s envoy for the peace process Isaac Molho and the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-military affairs department, Amos Gilad, traveled to Cairo.

The Israeli delegation shared the iftar, the meal breaking the daily Ramadan fast, with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Fareed al-Tohami and his senior advisors. After meeting for a few hours, the delegation returned to Israel. The message Cohen, Molho and Gilad brought back was that Hamas is only increasing its demands, hardening its position toward a possible cease-fire.

‘We found out that we, the Egyptians and [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] are more or less in the same place regarding the need for a cease-fire,’ said the senior official. ‘But we also found out that Hamas is playing a totally different ballgame. We felt that they’re forcefully trying to sabotage the Egyptian attempts and mediation, and escalate the conflict.’

After the Israeli delegation returned to Israel on Thursday morning, pessimistic about the chances for a cease-fire, the decision to begin a ground operation on Thursday night began to take shape. The decision was bolstered by the fact that Hamas did not even honor the six-hour, UN-initiated humanitarian cease-fire on Thursday.”

#HitlerWasRight for Palestine

It is often asserted that anti-Zionism is not necessarily antisemitism, but whenever Israel has to defend itself against Hamas rockets and Islamist terrorism, plenty of “anti-Zionists” drop all pretenses and reveal themselves as fervent Jew-haters. In recent days, many have noted the use of hashtags like #HitlerWasRight and #KillJews on Twitter. CNN’s Jake Tapper criticized in a tweet the “vile stuff out there via hashtags #HitlerWasRight & #HitlerDidNothingWrong, many from ppl who don’t seem to get what Hitler thought of Arabs.” The implication that Arabs could only be expected to despise Hitler if they knew that Nazi racism also extended to Arabs – though not as completely as to Jews – may unfortunately be right. Indeed, there are many indications that Arabs (and Muslims) were and are willing to ignore general Nazi racism and applaud Nazi antisemitism.

Historically, the most notable example is of course Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader who became known as “Hitler’s mufti.” In our own time, the perhaps most prominent example is Yussuf al-Qaradawi, the influential cleric who has been described as the “Global Mufti.” In late January 2009 – in the wake of Israel’s three-week campaign against Hamas – Qaradawi told his huge audience on Al-Jazeera TV that the Holocaust had been “divine punishment” for the Jews and he expressed the hope that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”

This time around, it was Turkish pop star Yildizz Tilbee who expressed similar sentiments on Twitter. She reportedly praised Hitler for the Holocaust, writing “May God bless Hitler” and assured her more than 330 000 followers: “If God allows, it will be again Muslims who will bring the end of those Jews, it is near, near.”

While the prevalence of Arab and Muslim antisemitism is a well-documented phenomenon, English-language hashtags on Twitter obviously provide only a glimpse that is not necessarily representative. However, the sample of screen shots I took of relevant tweets seems to confirm once again that Jew-hatred has the ability to unite people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

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D-Day and the Nazi legacy in the Arab world [updated]

In the wake of the recent commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the historic assault on Nazi-occupied France, the well-respected Arab analyst and commentator Hussein Ibish posted a tweet suggesting that the participation of some forces recruited from Arab countries invalidated what he called the “myth” that “Arabs sided with the Nazis.”

Ibish DDay1

When I responded that the “fact that some Arabs were recruited for the Allies doesn’t make Arab Nazi collaboration a ‘myth,’” a heated exchange ensued.  Ibish countered that while there were only few Arab Nazi collaborators, there were “HUGE numbers of Arabs who took up arms against Axis forces.” He proceeded to cite specific numbers, claiming e.g. that “9,000 Palestinians enlisted in the British army during the war,” and while he did not link to any sources, Ibish definitely does not deserve to be suspected of making up his own facts.

However, even if one assumes it is correct that 9000 Arabs from British Mandate Palestine enlisted in the British Army, this number is dwarfed by the 30,000 Jewish volunteers from British-ruled Palestine who served with the British forces during World War II. In addition, Jewish refugees who had escaped Nazi-controlled areas in Europe also volunteered to join the fight against Hitler’s Germany. Altogether, some 1.5 million Jews fought in the regular Allied armies – which is to say: roughly 10 percent of the global Jewish population in 1940. Of course, by the end of World War II, some six million Jewish civilians had been murdered by the Nazis, and a quarter of a million Jewish soldiers had lost their lives fighting with the Allies.

The number – and percentage – of Jewish fighters is staggering, and it is perhaps little wonder that at one point during the exchange, Ibish moved from his original focus on Arabs to Muslims, even including Muslims from British-ruled India to bolster his numbers. But this shouldn’t be a numbers game; and it also makes no sense to assume that Arab and Muslim recruits from areas under colonial rule fought with the Allies because they were motivated by a passionate opposition to Nazi ideology and Nazi Jew-hatred. Towards the end of the exchange, Ibish claimed that I wanted to believe that “Arabs/Muslims were generally pro-Nazi,” and he added all too confidently: “Good news: they weren’t!”

Given that I did my Ph.D. on a somewhat related topic – US intelligence on Germany during the 1940s – I’m not quite as unsophisticated as Ibish seems to assume. I doubt that there are reliable studies about how Arabs and Muslims in general felt about the Nazis during World War II, and given that countless millions of Arabs and Muslims lived in great poverty and had very little education at the time, many likely knew too little to have an informed opinion. However, we do know that the Nazis invested considerable efforts to appeal to Arab and Muslim audiences through broadcasts and other propaganda, and several scholars have made a convincing case that the poisonous legacy of this propaganda and the collaboration between the Nazi regime and some Arab leaders lives on in the Middle East.

So while it is obviously true that Arab and Muslim forces participated for various reasons in the Allied efforts to defeat Nazi Germany and the Axis powers, it is unfortunately also true that the ideologies developed by Arab and Muslim Nazi collaborators and sympathizers have remained deeply entrenched in the Middle East throughout the seven decades that have passed since D-Day.

Syrian Protocols 2005

Syrian edition in 2005 of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”

It is interesting in this context that Ibish linked in the exchange on Twitter to one of his articles where he decried the “very disturbing tendency by both Western and, to some extent also Arab, observers to apply different standards […], to be very tough on Western populists, demagogues and religious fanatics on the one hand and to be neutral, blasé or ‘understanding’ about their Arab counterparts on the other.”

But unfortunately, such very different standards are also applied when it comes to the legacy of Nazism in the Middle East. In Europe and the US, no group that identifies with a text even remotely resembling the Hamas Charter would stand a chance to gain any political legitimacy; yet, when the Western-supported Palestinian Authority forms a “unity government” with Hamas, there is no shortage of analysts and politicians who argue that this is acceptable because after all, Hamas has a sizeable constituency among Palestinians and if they don’t mind the unmistakable echoes of Nazi ideology in the group’s charter, everyone else should be willing to along with it.

There is a similar willingness to ignore the Nazi connections of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to an American intelligence report from June 1, 1946, the return of Hitler’s ally Amin al-Husseini to Egypt was welcomed by Hassan Al-Banna, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who praised Husseini in a statement to the Arab League as a “hero who challenged an empire and fought Zionism, with the help of Hitler and Germany. Germany and Hitler are gone, but Amin Al-Husseini will continue the struggle.”

As Rubin and Schwanitz note (p.233), al-Husseini indeed “remained the historic Palestinian Arab leader until he was able to anoint [Yassir] Arafat as successor during meetings between them in 1968, and selected Said Ramadan [his son-in law and father of Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan] as his successor to lead the European-based Islamist movement. Even more important was al-Husaini’s role as leader of the international Islamist movement, ensuring that it survived the lean years of the 1950s and 1960s. When Islamism revived in the 1970s, its ideology bore the mark of al-Husaini and the other wartime collaborators, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.”

But while al-Husseini continues to be hailed as a Palestinian hero – including by Mahmoud Abbas –, a Palestinian professor who earlier this year dared to take his students to Auschwitz was threatened and vilified and eventually resigned his position.

As these and countless other examples illustrate, even if sizeable Arab and Muslim forces helped to defeat the Nazis 70 years ago, the Nazi legacy in the Middle East still needs to be defeated.

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After posting this piece at my JPost blog, I came across an article at the excellent Tablet, where David Mikics writes about the book “The Eternal Nazi: From Mauthausen to Cairo, the Relentless Pursuit of SS Doctor Aribert Heim.” As Mikics notes:

“When Heim landed in Egypt in 1963, he found himself on welcoming, even familiar ground. President Nasser, if one trusts his own words on the subject, was as true a disciple of the Nazi cause as had ever lived. “During the Second World War, our sympathies were with the Germans,” Nasser told the Deutsche Nationalzeitung in May 1964, adding that “The lie of the 6 million murdered Jews is not taken seriously by anybody.” Wehrmacht Gen. Wilhelm Fahrmbacher prepared the Egyptian army for its effort to destroy Israel in 1948, and Wilhelm Voss, a former SS weapons expert, developed the Egyptian missile program. Johann von Leers, a convert to Islam known as Omar Amin, served Nasser as an anti-Semitic propagandist.”

This highlights a fact that is too often ignored: while Nazi Germany was defeated in 1945, Israel’s Jews still had to fight Nazis – not just Nazi sympathizers – years later. Another example I noted in a recent post concerns a group of some 40 Bosnian Muslims – veterans of the units “Hitler’s mufti” al-Husseini had recruited for the Nazis – who fought in Jaffa in January 1948.

By now, Hussein Ibish has also published a column on the topic of our exchange on Twitter, though it was important for him to let me know that I shouldn’t “flatter” myself by assuming it had anything to do with this exchange. Under the title “Second World War record of Muslims is worth marking,” Ibish repeats the numbers he presented in our exchange, once again without citing any sources; and as the title of his piece already indicates, he again ultimately focuses on the numbers of Muslims who fought with the Allies to defeat Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers. While Ibish argues that “it is essential to remember and recognise that huge numbers of Arabs and Muslims fought in the war, and that – in spite of the constant misrepresentation, distortion or downplaying of this reality – they did so almost entirely on the ­Allied side and against Nazi Germany,” he also openly acknowledges that “there were significant groupings with sympathy for Nazi Germany in Arab and Muslim societies. Some of this was clearly driven by anti-colonial sentiment. But at times it clearly crossed the line into outright ideological support, such as by the short-lived Rashid Ali government in Iraq.”

Ibish refers to al-Husseini as the “most notorious Arab collaborator with the Nazi regime,” but falsely claims that

“following the war, after receiving a hero’s welcome in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Husseini quickly slipped into obscurity and played no further role in Palestinian politics until his death. He remains a largely forgotten figure, with even Hamas according him no real historical significance.”

As I’ve shown repeatedly, there is plenty of evidence to conclude that a majority of Palestinian Arabs regarded al-Husseini as their leader in the years after his return from Europe, and it is an indisputable fact that he continued to play a leading role in the Islamist movement for decades. Unfortunately, Ibish is also wrong to claim that Palestinians no longer see him as a significant historical figure. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas explicitly honored al-Husseini in speeches he gave in 2010 and in 2013.

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Note: I just came across a very interesting and relevant review of a book by Derek Penslar, Jews and the Military: A History, Princeton University Press, 2013.

 

Max Blumenthal’s Jew-hating fans

Max Blumenthal, the proud author of a book that equates Israel with Nazi Germany, keeps complaining that he is being unfairly accused of antisemitism. According to some tweets quoting Blumenthal’s statements at a recent event in Chicago, poor Max Blumenthal doesn’t know “what it means anymore,” though he is quite certain that this is just more evidence for a “symbiosis between Zionism and anti-Semitism.”

Blumenthal complains1Blumenthal Zionism AS To be sure, Blumenthal isn’t entirely wrong to see a “symbiosis,” but it’s between anti-Zionism and antisemitism – and his own work provides plenty of evidence for this symbiosis.

As I have shown in a detailed documentation [pdf], Blumenthal’s work on Israel has been promoted 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. Given Blumenthal’s own conduct, there is also every reason to assume that he fully agrees with the praise by a Stormfront member who declared that by exposing Israeli evils, “Max Blumenthal has done a great service for all of humanity here, and we WNS [i.e. white nationalists], and the rest of the world, ought to be grateful to him.”

Since the publication of my documentation in February, it has emerged that in addition to the sites I mentioned, Blumenthal’s writings were also posted on the neo-Nazi forum used by the arrested suspect in last month’s fatal Overland Park, Kansas, shootings. The shooter targeted Jewish institutions and reportedly shouted “Heil Hitler” when he was taken into custody.

While the suspect’s interest in one of Blumenthal’s articles certainly doesn’t justify sinking to the level of Blumenthal himself – who tried to present the 2011 massacre in Norway as inspired by writers cited in the perpetrator’s deranged “manifesto” – William Jacobson rightly argues in a related blog post that the shocking attack in Kansas provides yet another illustration of “the intersection between neo-Nazi and anti-Zionist conspiracy theories.” Moreover, given Blumenthal’s popularity on so many reactionary and antisemitic sites, it is utterly disingenuous when he now complains about being “smeared” with such racist associations only on the basis of the Kansas shooter’s interest in his work. With his relentless efforts to demonize Israel, Blumenthal has certainly done his part to show over and over again that supposedly left-wing “pro-Palestinian” activists and far-right reactionaries have no problem finding their lowest common denominator in their shared enthusiasm for antisemitic material.

Indeed, it seems that wherever there are Jew-haters, there will be fans of Max Blumenthal’s work. Among the most recently exposed antisemitic hate sites is a blog that promises its readers “The Ugly Truth” about “Zionism, Jewish extremism, and a few other nasty items making our world uninhabitable today.” It’s unfortunately not at all surprising that the site is popular among some so-called “pro-Palestinian” activists – and it is not at all surprising that the person(s) maintaining the blog have found quite a few of Blumenthal’s articles relevant for their purposes (I stopped looking after I found more than half a dozen).

Blumenthal UglyTruth1

As the screencap shows, the articles authored by Blumenthal and cross-posted on this site  include his already mentioned attempt to implicate writers he opposes in the Norway massacre, because the perpetrator cited them in his own rambling writings. Another post on the same subject quotes Blumenthal; this piece is entitled “Anders Behring Breivik: a Judeo-Masonic Terrorist” and is authored by somebody who claims to be the founder of a “Center for the Study of Anti-Goyimism” and a “revisionist” historian whose “research” includes material like the one pictured below.

Blumenthal &revisionism

It’s again not surprising that Max Blumenthal has promoted a variation on the theme that terrorism is somehow good for the Jews – or at least for those Jews who are Zionists: after all, cherry-picking a few quotes or scenes that suit his purpose of demonizing the Jewish state is his specialty. Ultimately, Blumenthal’s message is similar to the one outlined in Article 22 of the Hamas Charter, which includes the charge: “They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state.” In short, there is no evil that the Jews/Zionists don’t manage to take advantage of.

As Mark Gardner writes in his excellent post on the odious site where Blumenthal’s writings are appreciated as part of the “ugly truth:”

“The sordid, ugly truth […] is that the Holocaust occurred […] because of the singling out of Jews for unique hatreds, built upon hateful ideas, language and imagery. These old themes resonate throughout The Ugly Truth, used for both Zionism/Zionists and Judaism/Jews. […] They are depicted as controllers of nations, driving war and death; as the master manipulators, perpetrating their false plans; as needing to be cut down; as killing the innocent; perverting decent morals and values; ritualistic monsters, to be derided, hated and feared in equal measure.”

And the sordid, ugly truth about Max Blumenthal’s work on Israel and on American Jews is that it has earned him a well-deserved following wherever there are Jew-haters: from the fringes of the far-left all the way to the fringes of the far-right.

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First published at my JPost blog and The Algemeiner.

Nakba propaganda for Pope Francis

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the recent visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land was a visit to “Palestine” that provided just another opportunity to present Israel’s creation as a “catastrophe” or “nakba” for Palestinians in general, and Palestinian Christians in particular.

Pope Palestine Nakba

The document promoted for this purpose by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department on Twitter has already been shown by blogger Elder of Ziyon to be “filled with lies.” One could add much more to the list of inaccuracies and distortions highlighted by Elder. To give just one example, consider this presentation of the “nakba” in Jaffa:

“Jaffa, after resisting days of siege and bombardment by terrorist organizations such as the Irgun, fell on May 14 th. From its 66,500 Palestinian inhabitants (including 16,000 Christians), less than 5,000 were able to stay, including less than 2,000 Christians.”

First it is noteworthy that Jewish development had attracted large numbers of Arab migrants in search of work to cities like Jaffa; indeed, it is well documented that due to “the substantial 1880-1947 Arab immigration […] the Arab population of Jaffa, Haifa and Ramla grew 17, 12 and 5 times respectively.” Secondly, the claim that “less than 5,000 [of Jaffa’s Arabs] were able to stay” is undermined by the testimony of one of Jaffa’s Arab residents, who described the exodus as motivated by the desire to avoid the fighting when the widespread “belief that the Jews were generally cowards” started to seem questionable. Thirdly, if we assume the PLO’s numbers are correct, it is interesting to note that in terms of the proportions of Jaffa’s Arab population, noticeably fewer Christians than Muslims fled the fighting.* In this context one could also point out that the current enthusiasm of the PLO for Palestinian Christians seems somewhat opportunistic given the fact that the draft constitution of Palestine defines Islam as “the official religion in Palestine” and stipulates that the “principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation.”

But beyond specific inaccuracies and outright misrepresentations it is no less important to address the fundamental problems with the Palestinian use of the nakba as a major propaganda tool designed to delegitimize Israel. As Ben-Dror Yemini argues in an excellent new column on this subject, the popular notion that supporting the Palestinian “nakba” narrative is somehow conducive to peace and reconciliation is utterly misguided: “Reconciliation is not achieved through propagandist lies that turn the birth of the State of Israel into a crime. Reconciliation is only achieved when the truth wins out.”

Yemini highlights the important point that in the context of its time, the Palestinian “nakba” was a comparatively minor “catastrophe” and that during and after World War II, many millions of people suffered a similar fate:

“Tens of millions in Europe and in Asia experienced [the] same trauma in the same decade, both before and after the war’s end. This is what happened to some 700,000 Palestinian Arabs. And this is what also happened to 850,000 Jews. The Jews had a Nakba, so did the Palestinians, and so did the Germans. There was also a Polish Nakba, and a Hindu Nakba. Nakba was the cruel reality of that time. It was a global Nakba. For every nation, a Nakba.”

Moreover, Yemini rightly argues that the Palestinian “nakba” should be seen in similar terms as the German “nakba:” after Germany lost its war of aggression, “[b]etween 12 and 16 million ethnic Germans were expelled from central European states at the end of the war and in its aftermath. Between 600,000 and two million were killed during those expulsions, which included innumerable pogroms and massacres.” The Palestinians – many of whom viewed the Nazi ally Haj Amin al-Husseini as their leader (as also the previously cited eye witness report from Jaffa in 1947/48 confirms) – were likewise on the losing side of a war of aggression that had been instigated by several Arab states. Moreover, there is no reason to think that “Hitler’s mufti” had given up on his plans for a “final solution” of his “Jewish problem” – plans he had developed in the comfort and luxury provided by the Nazi leadership since he became their guest in late 1941. And it is also relevant in this context that some 30 000 of those Jews whom the followers of al-Husseini despised as “cowards” had volunteered to fight the Nazis by joining the British army.

Astonishingly enough, some of these undeniable historical facts have even been acknowledged in a recent Ha’aretz column. Responding to an editorial in a scathing column, Shlomo Avineri – a regular contributor to the paper – chastised Ha’aretz for “its stunning disregard of quite a few fundamental and indisputable historical facts.” At a time when it is often regarded as taboo to question the factual basis of “narratives,” Avineri asserted with admirable disregard for political correctness that there is such a thing as “indisputable historical truths” and that the “attempt to ignore them is morally flawed.” As he pointed out:

“It is a fact […] that in September 1939, Germany invaded Poland and not the other way around. It is a fact that on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States and not vice versa. It is also true that what is called the Nakba is the result of a political decision by the Palestinian leadership and the Arab states to reject the United Nations partition resolution, to try to prevent its implementation by force and to attack the Jewish community in the Land of Israel before and after the state’s establishment.”

Avineri also criticized the editorial for claiming that it was a “fact that a national and human disaster befell the Palestinians.”

“A disaster? Was the Nakba an earthquake? A tornado? A tsunami? It was the tragic result of an Arab political decision to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state in the portion of the Land of Israel that had been under the British Mandate, just as the expulsion of 12 million ethnic Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary after 1945 was the tragic result of German aggression in 1939 and later in 1941, when it invaded the Soviet Union. In both cases, masses of innocent civilians paid the price of their leaders’ aggression. But if anyone today tried to describe the expulsion of millions of Germans from Eastern Europe as a ‘disaster’ that had nothing to do with the Third Reich’s aggression, he would rightly be called a neo-Nazi.”

Needless to say, so-called “pro-Palestinian” activists are incensed when they are confronted with even the slightest hint that their nakba “narrative” may ignore some inconvenient historical facts.

Nakba Holocaust

As this exchange (h/t Nurit Baytch) between Rania Khalek and Alex Kane illustrates, they regard any questioning of the Palestinian view that the “nakba” was a “catastrophe” inflicted by evil Zionists on completely innocent and peaceful Palestinian civilians as comparable to minimizing the Holocaust with the argument that the Nazis felt the Jews were ruining Germany’s economy.  One more reason to conclude it is justified to cite Khalek as an example for the bigotry that is so pervasive in the BDS movement; and, given the fact that Kane serves as “Assistant Editor” at Mondoweiss, one more reason to conclude that this site is indeed deeply tainted by antisemitism.

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 * Many more relevant details can be found in: Itamar Radai, Jaffa, 1948: The fall of a city [pdf]. Journal of Israeli History: Politics, Society, Culture, Volume 30,  Issue 1, 2011 (pp. 23-43). See e.g.:

“Jaffa experienced far-reaching changes during the British Mandate period, which brought about extensive modernization. Rapid economic development led to internal migration, particularly of Muslim Arabs, from villages to the city and migration on a more limited scale from elsewhere in the region. At the beginning of the 1920s, Jaffa had a population of 32,500, of whom 5,000 were Jews; toward the end of World War II the population stood at 102,000, of whom about 71,000 were Arabs. […] As a result of the intensified urbanization process, high-poverty areas sprang up on Jaffa’s periphery, characterized by densely populated and substandard housing […] At the end of 1946, 70% of Jaffa’s Arab residents lived in these impoverished neighborhoods and in others like them in the city’s center. For the most part internal migrants, they found work in the city as unskilled laborers and in many cases lodged in these shantytowns only temporarily. Notable among the external migrants were those from the Hawran area in southwest Syria […] Many migrants felt threatened by the disparity between the conservative way of life and traditional social structure in their mountainous regions of origin and life on the coastal plain, which was amenable to external influences and bore a more cosmopolitan character. Most concretely, the migrants’ sense of being under threat was due to the Jewish presence, and their situation was further aggravated by their chilly reception by the city’s Arabs, many of whom were Christians – a phenomenon the new arrivals had infrequently encountered in the central hills of Palestine.” […]

“The immediate reaction in Jaffa to the UN partition resolution was indifference tinged with apprehension, tension, confusion, and uncertainty about the future. The British assessment was that the majority of the Palestinian Arabs recognized the leadership of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Husayni, but that many, particularly Christians and members of the ‘moderate circles,’ namely the upper middle class, looked askance at the bellicose policy espoused by the Husaynis.”

Radai also mentions the deployment of some 40 Bosnian Muslims in January 1948 – they were actually the veterans of the units al-Husseini had recruited to fight for the Nazis, as described in more detail in  Seth Frantzman’s JPost Magazine article “Strange bedfellows.”

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This is a slightly modified cross-post from my JPost blog, where this piece was first published shortly before the pope’s visit under the title “Nakba facts.”

Teaching anti-Israel incitement

I have long argued that, instead of talking about “pro-Palestinian” activism, it would be much more accurate to talk about anti-Israel activism, because the goals and methods of groups like the BDS movement that advocates boycotting Israel show a single-minded focus on demonizing the Jewish state in order to justify its eventual elimination. Like Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamist terror organizations as well as the mullah-regime in Iran, these activists want a “world without Zionism” and therefore, they want everyone to see Israel as they do:

Israel killer monster

Unsurprisingly, BDS advocates don’t like it much when others object to their relentless demonization of Israel and they quickly resort to complaints that they are being intimidated and that their freedom of speech is being restricted – though it would arguably be more honest if they simply claimed a right to protected hate speech. Moreover, it has been clear for some time that BDS advocates themselves don’t think that people who don’t share their views should have a right to free speech. One of the most recent examples of BDS bullies trying to deny a pro-Israel speaker his freedom of speech was recorded and received relatively wide attention, because the speaker who was attacked – Fathom editor Alan Johnson – and others wrote about it.

Johnson’s two commentaries on the incident provide several concise and analytically sharp observations on some crucial points everyone should understand about BDS and the related anti-Israel activism.

In his first post, Johnson highlights the role that antisemitism and a fanatic “Anti-Zionist Ideology” play in BDS activism, pointing out that given the rhetoric and ideology of BDS activists, it is all but “inevitable” that their campaigns “will act as a lightning rod for rising European anti-Semitism.”

While the blatant antisemitism that is an inevitable part of BDS efforts to demonize Israel is too often ignored, there is another point that Johnson makes which should be very obvious, but is hardly ever noticed:

“‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’ have become tied up with the performance of political identity in the West in a most dangerous way. ‘The Palestinians’ are a stage on which the BDS activists act out their identity. To make that possible, ‘The Palestinians’ must be reduced to pure victims of the evil Nazi-Israelis. For only those kind of Palestinians can enable feelings of moral superiority, purity, quest, meaning, even transcendence of sorts. Palestinians being starved by Assad hold no interest. Palestinians being thrown from rooftops by Hamas members hold no interest. When Salam Fayyad is building up the Palestinian Nation the BDS activists just yawn, or denounce him as a collaborator. Only as agency-less pure victims can the Palestinians play their allotted role as a screen onto which the individual projects his or her identity of the righteous activist.”

Johnson’s second post on the incident highlights the most important – and all too rarely mentioned – point already in the title: “On Israel, the intellectuals are driving the students mad.” As Johnson argues:

“The real culprits are the anti-Israel intellectuals who are driving those students mad. They tell the students that Zionism is racism, while its creation, Israel, has ‘ethnically cleansed’ the Arabs, built an ‘apartheid state’ and is now carrying out a slow ‘genocide’ in Gaza. Stuff a young idealist’s head with that kind of rubbish and do not be surprised if the result is hatred and thuggery.

Today, many students are fed a diet of intellectual incitement when it comes to Zionism and Israel. UC Berkeley’s Judith Butler tells them that Israel is nothing but ‘a violent project of settler colonialism’ while Hamas and Hezbollah are ‘social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left.’ Diana Buttu of Harvard Kennedy School teaches that Israel is guilty of ‘ethnic cleans[ing]’ and ‘massacre.’ Student reading lists are populated by the works of the Israeli Ilan Pappe of Exeter University, who routinely uses the language of ‘genocide politics’ to describe the actions of the Israeli government. […]

The Nazi slogan was ‘the Jews are our misfortune.’ Today, too often, anti-Israel intellectuals are educating students to think that ‘Israel is our misfortune.’”

It is arguably long overdue that people take notice of the fact that when it comes to Israel, students nowadays are all too often taught by professors who claim academic freedom and the right to free speech to engage in unrestrained anti-Israel propaganda. There are some encouraging signs that this problematic issue is finally being addressed. In this month’s Tower Magazine, Howard Wohl, President of Brooklyn College Hillel, also draws attention to the fact that “on too many campuses in North America […] hate speech has become ‘protected’ under the guise of academic freedom.” Wohl points out that “the academic world […] is the main source of support, organization, and activism for anti-Israel causes across North America and Europe. Some parts of academia have turned anti-Israel words and actions into a cottage industry, manufacturing vitriol and protest against the very existence of the Jewish State.”

It is indeed a revealing fact that at western universities, the world’s only Jewish state – which happens to be the most democratic, liberal and pluralistic state in the Middle East – is the only state whose abolition is regularly advocated by professors and students with great passion. Anyone who suspects that this is at least partly due to antisemitism will be immediately denounced as someone who is trying to stifle debate. But as far as BDS supporters are concerned, there is actually nothing to debate: all the leading BDS advocates are adamant that anything short of Israel’s elimination as a Jewish state will not really provide “justice” for the Palestinians.

In this context, one should recall the observations of Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, who wrote in a 2012 article on “Europe’s New Anti-Semitism:”

“I have argued for some years that an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age. Throughout the Middle Ages the highest authority in Europe was the Church. Hence anti-Semitism took the form of Christian anti-Judaism.

In the post-enlightenment Europe of the 19th century the highest authority was no longer the Church. Instead it was science. Thus was born racial anti-Semitism […]

Since Hiroshima and the Holocaust, science no longer holds its pristine place as the highest moral authority. Instead, that role is taken by human rights. It follows that any assault on Jewish life — on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state — must be cast in the language of human rights. Hence the by-now routine accusation that Israel has committed the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity. This is not because the people making these accusations seriously believe them — some do, some don’t. It is because this is the only form in which an assault on Jews can be stated today.”

And this is also why a prominent BDS advocate like Judith Butler insists that Israeli universities must be boycotted, while she would have no problem to lecture at a Palestinian university that has a well-earned reputation for fostering extremism and allowing the glorification of terrorism.

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Update: Since this is a belated cross-post – first published on my JPost blog in mid-March – I would like to add that in the past two months, developments on some American campuses have been bad enough to attract much attention, even in the mainstream press. Some of the most dismal incidents are highlighted in Professor Jacobson’s post “Vassar Nazi cartoon reflects campus dehumanization of Israel.” I have also written some related posts published at The Louis D. Brandeis Center.

 

The hostile response to the ADL’s report on antisemitism

Commenting on the reactions to a CNN report on the Anti-Defamation League’s newly published study on antisemitism [pdf], David Sigeti posted the following observations on his Facebook page, which I share here with his permission – because I felt that just clicking “Like” didn’t do his excellent post justice.

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This article and the study that it describes are pointing to an appalling reality. The comments, almost 4000 of them, confirm the results of the study — almost all of the highly-rated top-level comments are hostile to the article and the study and often in clearly antisemitic ways. Ugh.

The sheer number of comments (in just five hours) is itself a symptom of what some call “Jew-centricity”, an excessive concern with the Jews. Although a fascination with Jews is not necessarily antisemitic, as it can be a positive attitude, the overall tendency to obsession with the Jews is certainly an important factor in the remarkable longevity, breadth, and depth of antisemitism.

Ever since the Enlightenment, Jews have hoped that modernity would break with the traditional antisemitism of Christian (and Muslim) society. Some put their faith in liberalism with its advocacy of equal rights, religious tolerance, and democracy. Others put their faith in various forms of socialism and communism. Many of the founders of Zionism thought that “regularizing” the status of the Jews with the foundation of a Jewish state would reduce antisemitism, which they took as a reaction to the anomalous situation of the Jews as a dispersed nation. This idea was often expressed in the slogan that the Jews should be “a nation like any other”.

Although all of these movements (with the exception of communism) have made contributions to opposing antisemitism, the sad fact is that it is still with us in spades. Indeed, the situation globally might be as bad as it has ever been, except for the existence of Israel as a refuge for persecuted Jews and for the fact that the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Arab world (and also, less completely, from the larger Muslim world) has left almost no Jews in the regions where antisemitism is strongest. And the situation is getting worse, as Holocaust denial, the blood libel, and the most extreme antisemitic conspiracy theories spread rapidly in the Muslim world, and as hostility to Israel in the Western countries becomes more and more extreme, irrational, and infused with the themes of traditional antisemitism.

The sages warned us long ago that, “Esau hates Jacob.” Rabban Shim’on bar Yochai even said that this is a “fixed principle” of Halacha. He had a point.

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Note: I just saw that CNN closed the comments and apparently deleted several hundred, because when I first looked at the site about an hour ago, I remember a comment count of over 3800, while there are now “only” 3476 (or, by another count on the site, 35 14) left.

The Palestinians and the Holocaust

In the past few weeks, several reports highlighted the vitriolic backlash that followed a visit by a group of Palestinian students to Auschwitz at the end of March. The controversial visit – apparently the first of its kind – was organized as part of a joint program on Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution with the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and was led by Al-Quds University professor Mohammed S. Dajani.

The media reports on this visit leave little doubt that Professor Dajani reacted to the abuse and threats directed at him with admirable courage and integrity; it is also clear that he greatly inspired the students who participated in this trip. Moreover, the organizers of this program obviously had only the best of intentions. Yet, it is arguably deplorable that nobody seems to have made an effort to use this opportunity to teach the Palestinian students about the collaboration of Haj Amin al-Husseini with the Nazis. As one of the Palestinian students who visited Auschwitz reportedly noted afterwards:  “It is a strange thing for a Palestinian to go to a Nazi death camp. But I would recommend the trip.”

Quite obviously, this student remained completely unaware that when Palestinians visit a Nazi death camp, they have no reason to feel like detached spectators for whom it is somewhat “strange” to come. On the contrary, when Palestinians visit a Nazi death camp, they are following in the footsteps of the man who is nowadays sometimes referred to as “Hitler’s mufti,” and they have the chance to understand what this Palestinian ally of the Nazis saw and what he envisaged for the Middle East after the Nazi victory he hoped for.

Barry &Schwanitz book

According to the recently published book “Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East” by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang Schwanitz, it was either al-Husseini himself or one of his aides and relatives who visited Sachsenhausen in June 1942 together with three other Arab officials (p.2); there is also credible information indicating that one year later, “Eichmann personally took al-Husaini to visit the Auschwitz and Maidanek concentration camps.” (p. 164)

Rubin and Schwanitz also document that at this time, al-Husseini traveled extensively in German-occupied Poland and in early July 1943, he was Himmler’s guest in the Ukrainian town of Zhitomir. As al-Husseini later recorded in his own memoirs, Himmler told him on this occasion that the Nazis had already “liquidated about three million” Jews. (p.188)

Mufti & Himmler

Screenshot showing a photo of Haj Amin al-Husseini meeting
SS leader Heinrich Himmler,
with the dedication:
To His Eminence the Grand Mufti as a memory; 4 VII: 1943; H.Himmler.

 This was obviously good news for al-Husseini. While the Nazis were initially content to solve their “Jewish problem” by driving Jews out of Germany and German-occupied areas, Rubin and Schwanitz argue that the importance they attached to their alliance with the Palestinian mufti was one of the factors that led to the adoption of the “Final Solution:” since al-Husseini wanted the Arab lands he intended to rule as “judenrein” as the Nazis wanted Germany and Europe, the Nazis had one more reason to conclude that it was in their interest to begin the systematic killing of Jews.

According to Rubin and Schwanitz, it was therefore also not entirely coincidental that shortly “after seeing the grand mufti Hitler ordered invitations sent for a conference to be held at a villa on Lake Wannsee. The meeting’s purpose was to plan the comprehensive extermination of all Europe’s Jews.” (p. 8) Al-Husseini was also “the first non-German informed about the plan, even before it was formally presented at the conference. Adolf Eichmann himself was assigned to this task. Eichmann briefed al-Husaini in the SS headquarters map room, using the presentation prepared for the conference. The grand mufti, Eichmann’s aide recalled, was very impressed, so taken with this blueprint for genocide that al-Husaini asked Eichmann to send an expert […] to Jerusalem to be his own personal adviser for setting up death camps and gas chambers once Germany won the war and he was in power.” (pp. 8-9)

The Nazis believed that, in contrast to some of the other Arab leaders who had shown interest in cooperating with them, the mufti had transnational appeal and influence due to his standing as a religious leader. The resulting esteem shown to al-Husseini by the Nazis was not only reflected in his access to the highest echelons of the Nazi leadership – including a lengthy audience with Hitler – but also in the lavish accommodations and payments he received:

“In November 1941, al-Husaini arrived in Berlin to a reception showing the Germans saw him as future leader of all Arabs and Muslims […] He was housed in the luxurious Castle Bellevue, once home to Germany’s crown prince and today the official residence of Germany’s president. Al-Husaini was paid for his personal and political needs an amount equivalent to about twelve million dollars a year in today’s values. The funds were raised by selling gold seized from Jews sent to concentration camps. Following this pattern, al-Husaini requested and received as his office an expropriated Jewish apartment. His staff was housed in a half-dozen other houses provided by the Germans. In addition, al-Husaini was given a suite in Berlin’s splendid Hotel Adlon and, for vacations, luxurious accommodations at the Hotel Zittau and Oybin Castle in Saxony.” (p.5)

So it is not at all “a strange thing for a Palestinian to go to a Nazi death camp” – particularly given the fact that al-Husseini remains a revered Palestinian leader. In recent years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly paid homage to al-Husseini, which inevitably casts a shadow over today’s news that for the first time, Abbas issued a special statement for Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day describing the Holocaust as “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era.”

This statement shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, since it will no doubt trigger furious reactions by all those who insist that the Palestinian “nakba” was a comparable tragedy. Nevertheless, those who will now rush to praise Abbas for this statement should pause for a moment and consider how much more could be achieved for the prospects of genuine reconciliation and peace if the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world were finally willing to confront their own historical connections to the Nazi era. As Rubin and Schwanitz rightly highlight: “The regimes that would later rule Iraq for forty years, Syria for fifty years, and Egypt for sixty years were all established by groups and leaders who had been Nazi sympathizers.” (p.4) Given the re-emergence of Islamism, it is no less important to realize that this “ideology bore the mark of al-Husaini and the other wartime [Nazi] collaborators, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.”

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Also posted at  The Algemeinermy JPost blog and on the Polish blog Listy z naszego sadu

Quote of the day: BDS and antisemitism

“My own belief is that the BDS people and their fellow travellers, whatever their background, are anti-Semites. They do all they can to stigmatize the Jewish state and reduce its ability to defend itself. They know that Israel is surrounded by neighbours who will never recognize its existence, much less sign a treaty developed in a ‘peace process’ quarterbacked by Washington. The Palestinians and the Arab states who claim to support them are not hoping for a more generous Israel or a BDS-approved Israel or an Israel willing to hand over the West Bank. They are working for a day when Israel will be gone forever.

In order to satisfy this generation’s anti-Semites, Israel must meet standards that no other country in the world has ever met or ever will. At the United Nations Israel is condemned more often than all other countries combined.”

Robert Fulford on “The BDS smokescreen” in Canada’s National Post