Delegitimizing Israel at Southampton University [updated]

Update: When this post was first published on my JPost blog in February (and cross-posted at Harry’s Place), the conference that is criticized here was scheduled to take place two months later, in mid-April. However, it soon became apparent that there was a lot of opposition, and Southampton University eventually decided to cancel the event “due to concerns that the safety of staff, students and visitors could not be guaranteed.” Legal challenges by the conference organizers against the cancellation were rejected in court. A summary and commentary on the controversy can be found here.

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In an article on “Europe’s New Anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks argued a few years ago that it was important to realize that throughout history, assaults on Jewish life always needed “justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age.” For our own time, this means according to Sacks that “any assault on Jewish life – on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state – must be cast in the language of human rights,” which is reflected in “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.”

Against the backdrop of deadly terrorist attacks on Jews in several European capitals in recent months, some of Europe’s political leaders – most notably French Prime Minister Manuel Valls – have passionately denounced antisemitism and pledged to fight it. Yet, the problem identified by Rabbi Sacks remains, and in the wake of the most recent attacks in Copenhagen, a Wall Street Journal editorial rightly noted that “[e]lite hostility to Israel amplifies street-level anti-Semitism.”

Unfortunately it seems that such elite hostility to Israel will be showcased at a conference scheduled for April at the University of Southampton. The official announcement describes the conference as “a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine.” The conference is supposedly “unique because it concerns the legitimacy in International Law of the Jewish state of Israel;” however, as students of antisemitism will know, there is nothing “unique” about singling out the world’s only Jewish state for delegitimization.

The conference has been initiated and organized by University of Southampton professor Oren Ben Dor, and his views on the conference’s subject are no secret: the intensity of his animus against Israel is nicely illustrated in a fundraising letter for the conference, where the Nahariya-born (former) Israeli claims to have grown up “in Palestine.”

Ben Dor SouthamptonU1

Ben Dor’s fundraising letter notes explicitly that the “conference is fully hosted, and supported by the University of Southampton. The university enables us to use its hospitality services, event organisation, marketing network and financial administration for the organisation, delivery, recording of the conference. It is a remarkable achievement in itself that such a conference will be help [sic] in UK academia.”

Indeed, it is remarkable that, almost seven decades after Israel’s establishment, the University of Southampton is holding a three-day conference devoted to searching for ways to use international law to deny the world’s only Jewish state the right to exist. But arguably, Professor Ben Dor’s record of “academic” activism against Israel is hardly less remarkable: it seems that roughly half of the publications listed on his official university page are either reviews of the writings of anti-Israel propagandists (e.g. Ali Abunimah, Jonathan Cook), or contributions to various “One State” conferences and other supposedly “pro-Palestinian” events focused on the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. On his official page outlining his research, Ben Dor emphasizes that his academic work “relates” to his “political activity regarding Palestine, the gist of which is a call for justice and peace in Palestine (in that order).” Ben Dor’s writings leave little doubt that as far as he is concerned, “justice” requires the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state; indeed, Ben Dor has even asserted that it was time to “legitimate” the “voice” of Hamas, because “understanding this voice as an ethical cry to the world to not allow Israel the right to persist in its racist self-definition is a much better way of articulating the moral message.”

This brazen attempt to not only ignore but even whitewash the genocidal antisemitism and fascism of the Hamas Charter is unfortunately not the only indication that Ben Dor has no hesitation to embrace open anti-Jewish bigotry. The “numerous articles in Counterpunch” that he highlights on his official university page also include a passionate protest against what Ben Dor calls “the constant attempts to silence Gilad Atzmon.” According to Ben Dor,

“It would be an understatement to say that debating Gilad’s voice is supremely important. No thinking person could fail to be stimulated by the deep connections Gilad makes.”

In case you haven’t heard of Gilad Atzmon, you could find out more about him on the neo-Nazi Internet forum Stormfront, where members broadly agree with Ben Dor’s view that his “voice is supremely important” – indeed, Atzmon’s writings are regarded as so important there that they are often shared and posted on the site.

Ben Dor Atzmon Stormfront

Alternatively, you could have Ben Dor’s view about the importance of Atzmon’s voice confirmed by former Klan leader and avowed white supremacist David Duke, who has praised him as “perhaps the bravest and clearest thinking person of Jewish descent in the world.”

Ben Dor Atzmon DDuke

The admiration is mutual – this is what Atzmon said in an interview last year:

“The left is devastated by David Duke for instance. He was in the KKK when he was young. But here is something quite amazing: I read him and I was shocked to find out that this guy knows more about Jewish identity than I do! How could a supposedly ‘racist’ Gentile who probably never entered a synagogue knows [sic] more than I do about Judaism? The reason is in fact very simple: he is a proud white man.”

One could fill pages upon pages to document Atzmon’s well-deserved popularity among Jew-haters, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. So Ben Dor was wrong to complain that Atzmon is being silenced: he gets plenty of publicity at all the sites frequented by bigots looking for their daily dose of stories about Jewish cunning and evil. And Ben Dor himself has repeatedly done his part to promote Atzmon and his odious views, including even hosting him at Southampton University. Why not also invite Duke if the “supremely important” Atzmon recommends him so enthusiastically as an expert on “Jewish identity”?

To what extent Ben Dor actually agrees with Atzmon’s “gutter anti-Semitism” is hard to ascertain given that he likes to write in a style that reflects his fascination with the now utterly disgraced German philosopher Martin Heidegger; but there can be little doubt that Ben Dor shares Atzmon’s conviction that Israel is an absolute evil that cannot be allowed to exist. While Atzmon has expressed the view that even Nazi Germany was less evil than Israel, Ben Dor has repeatedly described Israel as utterly immoral and has denounced the Jewish state as “a terrorist state like no other” and demanded that “the herrenvolk (master race) nature of its democracy” must be openly debated.

Ben Dor certainly knows that it is generally regarded as antisemitic to equate Israel with Nazi Germany and to argue that the world’s only Jewish state is too evil to exist. Yet, it seems that this is what Ben Dor is arguing in his political writings, and given his own emphasis on the connection between his academic work and his “political activity regarding Palestine,” the planned publication of the proceedings of his conference at the University of Southampton may turn out to be of interest not only for anti-Israel activists in and out of the Ivory Tower, but also for researchers studying 21st-century antisemitism and the ‘elite hostility to Israel’ that provides ostensibly new justifications for the oldest hatred.

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Update 2: The CST’s Mark Gardner argues in a related post that Ben Dor’s views put him “firmly in the same ball park as Atzmon.” Gardner also quotes from a video-taped speech where Ben Dor asserts “that there is something so Jewish in that which has provoked the Holocaust” – which, as I already suggested above, seems to echo the preposterous notion of Jewish “self-destruction” developed by Heidegger in his “Black Notebooks.”

The Palestine Project’s flood libel

When something bad happens, antisemites have always known whom to blame. So it was little wonder that, when Gaza was flooded after heavy rainfalls last month, the Palestinians would blame Israel and “the Jews” for maliciously opening entirely imaginary dams – and it was hardly surprising that some major media outlets didn’t hesitate to publish this story without even a minimum of fact-checking. While some of the worst offenders ultimately withdrew the story and AFP even dedicated a separate report to “dispelling the myth about Israeli ‘dams’,” professional anti-Israel propagandists were only too happy to spread what quickly became known as the “flood libel.”

Veteran anti-Israel activists Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal both tweeted a link to a post featured on a website run by “The Palestine Project,” which rejected Israeli statements that there are no dams that could be opened to flood Gaza as a “myth.”

AA MB link Holocaust denier 911 trutherSince both Abunimah and Blumenthal like to claim that they can be trusted to provide accurate and factual information, one should expect that they noticed that the post they linked to was prominently identified as a previously published post from another blog, and that they checked out the provided link to the original.

This link leads to a much longer piece entitled “No Dams in the Negev? Anatomy of a Hasbara Swarm” published in January 2014 on a blog by a certain Richard Edmondson who proudly displays his 9/11 conspiracy theories in a banner at the blog’s side bar.

MB links to Holocaust denier 911 trutherA quick look at the blog’s “About” page reveals that Edmondson has the reputation of being a Holocaust denier, and just a few additional seconds of searching illustrate how he got this reputation: even though he claims not to be a Holocaust denier, he undermined his case by cross-posting an unabashedly antisemitic article from Iran’s Press TV on the “Holocaust of Lies: US Mainstream Media.” Unsurprisingly, Edmondson considers the Iranian regime’s antisemitic propaganda outlet “a model of responsible journalism.”

A few additional minutes of browsing through the blog’s offerings reveal a cesspool of anti-Jewish bigotry, including a post suggesting that the deadly attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris in January was a “false flag” operation designed to motivate French Jews to immigrate to Israel; there is also warm praise for a fellow Jew-hater who often cross-posts Edmondson’s vile output under the label “Jewish Matters,” and a quick Google search shows Edmondson featured as a “columnist” on Veterans Today, another website where antisemitic conspiracy theories are popular.

The promotion of Edmondson’s post by “The Palestine Project” and prominent activists like Abunimah and Blumenthal is just another example illustrating an argument I have often made: “pro-Palestinian” antisemitism is not a bug, but a feature, because when your agenda is demonizing the world’s only Jewish state as too evil to be allowed to exist, you will inevitably end up using exactly the same methods and themes as those who have demonized Jews throughout the centuries.

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First published at my JPost blog on 03/10/2015.

The successful demonization of Israel

The recent release of a new study by the London-based think tank Chatham House brought Israel-haters some widely cheered news, because the study includes the finding [pdf; p.12] that 35 percent of the British public feel “especially unfavorable” towards Israel. Writing at his Electronic Intifada blog, Ali Abunimah noted with great satisfaction that the Chatham House study showed that “Israel ranks as one of the world’s most unfavorably viewed countries among the UK public” and he concluded triumphantly that “these numbers indicate […] that the vast sums Israel has spent on propaganda or hasbara have made no dent in its unpopularity, while its continued occupation and repeated massacres in Gaza continue to affect public perceptions.” Linking to a post from 2013, Abunimah also pointed out that “results from the Chatham House survey confirm trends seen in other polls across the world, showing that Israel is consisently [sic] among the world’s most negatively viewed countries.”

While Abunimah’s last point is correct, both his blog post and a tweet that was popular among Israel-haters were wrong in asserting that only North Korea was seen more unfavorable than Israel.

Celebrating Israel demonizationApparently, Israel-haters all work from the same cherry-picked talking points and can’t be bothered to check them – because if they had checked the relevant table in the study, they would have realized that Russia was entitled to their “gold medal” as the country that was seen as “especially unfavorable” by a majority (56%) of the British public. But it would have been really awkward for Abunimah to crow about Russia’s propaganda efforts not paying off, since some of his best friends – like Max Blumenthal, for example, or Electronic Intifada contributor Rania Khalek – are popular guests on Putin’s well-financed mouthpiece RT. The channel has also featured various Holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists, and neo-Nazis, and it reportedly provides a nice source of income for British politician George Galloway, who has been honored for his devotion to the Palestinian “cause” by Hamas leader Haniyeh and who supplements his salary as Member of Parliament with appearances on RT as well as Iranian and Lebanese TV.

While there is no reason to downplay the truly dedicated efforts of Abunimah and his ilk to do their part in order to ensure that the world’s only Jewish state is among the world’s least favorably viewed countries, the negative image of Israel that is once again reflected in the Chatham House study has long been promoted by a wide array of opinion shapers. As the Simon Wiesenthal Center put it in reaction to a 2003 poll that showed a majority of Europeans viewing Israel as the foremost threat to world peace, this result indicated “that Europeans have bought into the vilification and demonization campaign directed against the State of Israel and her supporters by European leaders and media.” However, other polls show that this is not only a European problem. World-wide polls conducted by the BBC for 2012 and 2013 ranked Israel as a country seen to have a mainly negative influence along with North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.

This is actually somewhat unfair to North Korea, Pakistan and Iran – at least if you form your world view on the basis of reports by Human Rights Watch (HRW). A recent post by blogger Elder of Ziyon provides a stark illustration of the pervasive demonization of Israel in a chart that tracks how often countries are mentioned in the new HRW 2015 “World Report.” According to this chart, only Syria – a country where in recent years not only hundreds of thousands have been killed, wounded or displaced, but where also more than 10 000 people have been systematically tortured to death – is mentioned more often than Israel.

EoZ HRW biasAnyone who needs some additional illustration of HRW’s preposterous bias should note that when the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson recently learned that the US Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. was exhibiting some of the gruesome evidence of systematic torture in Syrian jails, she immediately demanded that the museum “should also show pics of death and destruction in #Gaza.”

In an exchange with Jeffrey Goldberg, Whitson later protested that she had neither intended to equate the recent war between Hamas and Israel with the Holocaust nor to suggest that Israel was guilty of genocide in Gaza; instead, she claimed she had just “urged showing of images of #Gaza destruction.”

Of course, one can hardly argue that images of the destruction in Gaza from the last war have been ignored by the media. Indeed, one recent example that would perhaps have pleased Whitson was a Sky News program on Holocaust Memorial Day that featured images of this destruction while the interviewer questioned the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis about possible connections between Israel’s actions and the rise of antisemitism in Europe. Contrary to countless misleading media reports, Sky News did not apologize for suggesting a connection between Israel’s actions and rising antisemitism and merely acknowledged “that the particular circumstances of the use of the pictures from Gaza was unfortunate.”

Opinion shapers in the media and in NGOs like HRW have obviously a large part in the public’s long-documented negative view of the world’s only Jewish state. As Matti Friedman put it so well in a recent presentation:

“How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01 per cent of the world’s surface become the focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other? We must ask how Israelis and Palestinians have become the stylised symbol of conflict, of strong and weak, the parallel bars upon which the intellectual Olympians of the West perform their tricks.”

Friedman has previously explored the problematic media coverage of Israel in several superb articles; in this presentation, he argues that “the minute state inhabited by a persecuted minority in the Middle East is in fact [seen as] a symbol of the ills of the West – colonialism, nationalism, militarism, and racism.”

“The West today is preoccupied with a feeling of guilt about the use of power. That’s why the Jews, in their state, are now held up in the press and elsewhere as the prime example of the abuse of power. That’s why for so many the global villain, as portrayed in newspapers and on TV, is none other than the Jewish soldier, or the Jewish settler. This is not because the Jewish settler or soldier is responsible for more harm than anyone else on earth – no sane person would make that claim. It is rather because these are the heirs to the Jewish banker or Jewish commissar of the past. It is because when moral failure raises its head in the Western imagination, the head tends to wear a skullcap.”

Millions nodded along when the Nazis asserted that “the Jews are our misfortune.” Millions nowadays nod along when the media and NGOs suggest that the Jewish state is the world’s misfortune.

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First published on my JPost blog 02/12/2015; also published on the Polish blog Listy z naszego sadu.

Insulting Islam: the flogging of Raif Badawi

Aptly described as “the survivors’ issue,” the new edition of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo reportedly “sold out within minutes;” though for this week, the now so tragically famous publication will come out in five million copies instead of the normal print run of 60,000. But since the magazine’s defiant staff once again put a caricature of Mohammad on the cover, there are already – once again – plenty of complaints, accusations and threats. An Al Jazeera contributor sharply criticized that “Charlie Hebdo continued with its provocative editorial line” and failed to respect “the red lines” and “all of the calls issued by Muslim clerics.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, who had enjoyed their photo opportunity during last Sunday’s solidarity march in Paris, rushed to condemn the new Charlie Hebdo cartoons, while the International Union of Muslim Scholars ominously warned of “dire consequences to the continued insults to the Prophet.”

It is 2015, and Muslim leaders once again tell their fellow-believers that drawings in an originally fairly obscure European publication are such a terrible insult to Islam that outrage and even “dire consequences” are justified.

But what is not an insult to Islam is that in 2015, Saudi Arabia, an “Islamic state based on principles prescribed by the Qur’an” and governed by a monarchy claiming a “deep sense of responsibility toward Islam,” is putting on a weekly spectacle of sadism in the name of Islam. Via Amnesty International, here is an eyewitness account of what happened in front of the al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah last Friday, and what the pious Saudi regime wants to happen there for another 19 weeks every Friday:

“When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today.

They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?

Raif Badawi had been brought to the square in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah just after midday. […] He was handcuffed and shackled but his face was not covered – everyone could see his face.

Still shackled, Raif stood up in the middle of the crowd. […]

A security officer approached him from behind with a huge cane and started beating him.

Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain.

The officer beat Raif on his back and legs, counting the lashes until they reached 50.

The punishment took about 5 minutes. It was very quick, with no break in between lashes.

When it was over, the crowd shouted, ‘Allah-hu Akbar! Allah-hu Akbar!’”

Yes, Allah-hu Akbar, it is 2015, and a father of three can be sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes by a pious Muslim regime that will drag him in front of a crowd of its pious Muslim subjects to have him flogged publicly for the unspeakable crime of having tried to encourage political and social debate with his entirely reasonable, if rather restrained, writings.

Are there any Muslim leaders, any Muslim scholars, who consider this medieval barbarity an insult to Islam? Are there any sizeable Muslim grass root movements to protest against Saudi sadism – the regular public floggings, the beheadings on “Chop-chop square,” the absurd trials of witches – all of it justified as required by Islam?

Apparently not. Nothing that Muslims do in the name of Islam can be as insulting to their religion as the drawings of European cartoonists.

Saudi blogger Badawi

Update:

Also posted at Harry’s Place and my JPost blog.

News reports now indicate that today’s scheduled flogging of Badawi has been “postponed ‘for medical reasons’. ” The Telegraph report concludes with the observation (my emphasis):

“an indefinite postponement would be a neat compromise for the Saudi authorities, who would be reluctant to be seen to bow before western pressure, particularly at a time when activists are calling for wider political change in the country, as across the Arab world.

They are also bound by the opposite pressure internally, with large numbers of traditionalist Saudis taking to social media to defend the punishment, and accusing the authorities of being weak in the face of insults to Islam in the West – for example from the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in publications like Charlie Hebdo.”

So this suggests that the Saudi condemnation of the terror attacks in Paris is paid for by the likes of Raif Badawi: to burnish their “moderate” image – that western politicians and media so eagerly and cynically help to promote – the Saudi regime will join in the condemnation of some spectacular Islamist terror attacks like those in Paris; but at the same time, it will assure its hardline supporters at home that the regime remains committed to defending the violent and repressive form of Islam it has always championed.

Indeed, Saudi support for spreading their peculiar and extremely intolerant version of Islam is an important point brought up in the debate of this post at Harry’s Place. Here are a few links to relevant reports on the “astronomical” amounts of money Saudi Arabia has been spending for at least two decades to radicalize Muslims around the world:

Saudi Government Paper: ‘Billions Spent by Saudi Royal Family to Spread Islam to Every Corner of the Earth’ (2002)

Wahhabism: A deadly scripture (2007)

Saudi Arabia funding fuels jihadist terror (2013)

Finally, though I rarely agree with The Guardian when it comes to their coverage of the Middle East, they published a great editorial on this subject today. Particularly noteworthy are the “lessons for the world” highlighted by The Guardian:

“The first is a much-needed reminder of their bare-faced hypocrisy. Saudi is, so far as its rulers can make it, closed to all foreign ideas. They equate atheism with terrorism, and propose to apply the same punishments for both. At the same time it is a fountain of Islamist poison, of antisemitism, of narrow-minded and fanatical preachers, and of young men who leave to fight in other people’s countries and help to destroy them in the cause of Wahhabist Islam. Let us not forget that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis and that Saudi money has funded cruel and pointless wars all over the Middle East. If the kingdom now draws back in horror at the spectacle of Islamic State rampaging through the river valleys of Iraq and Syria, it is the horror of Dr Frankenstein seeing his monster walking.

The second is the spineless hypocrisy of western governments, not least our own, who take their oil, and hope for their money. When the spokespeople for the British Foreign Office assure us, as they always do, that there are forces of reform within the kingdom, shame should make the words taste like soap in their mouths.

In this country we have censored television programmes and cancelled a major bribery inquiry rather than disturb Saudi sensibilities, and those are just the cases that came to public knowledge. The punishment of Mr Badawi is a reminder to us all that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an enemy of free speech, of free thought, of honesty and of courage wherever they may be found in the world today. The British government should remember the slogan used against the mafia in Sicily: to be silent is to be complicit. Last week, many expressed their solidarity by saying we are all Charlie Hebdo: it is as true and just as necessary to remember and proclaim that we are all Raif Badawi.”

By way of a further update, the Times of Israel (TOI) reports that some 500 Palestinian Muslims demonstrated against Charlie Hebdo at the Al Aqsa mosque after Friday prayers, burning the French flag and chanting “’jihad, jihad, we will die in the name of God’ followed by ‘Allahu Akbar’ … and ‘Muhammad [is] our master and leader forever.’”

According to TOI, “Muslims across Middle East cities marched on Friday to protest the publication, as Qatar warned the image would ‘fuel hatred’.” The largest rally was reportedly in Jordan, “where around 2,500 protesters took to the streets of the capital Amman.”

By contrast, it seems that protests against Badawi’s flogging and imprisonment were held mostly in western countries.

 

Anti-Israel activists react to Charlie Hebdo massacre

When you have studied the output of anti-Israel activists for as long as I have, you know not only that anti-Zionism is usually just a flimsy façade for antisemitism, but also that the hypocrisy and bigotry that sustains the intense hatred for the world’s only Jewish state inevitably shapes a broader ideology. Even on issues that have nothing to do with Israel, it is therefore often easy to predict how anti-Israel activists will react. In the immediate aftermath of the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, I was thus not surprised to see that anti-Israel activists did not join the outpouring of solidarity that swept social media.

Just a few hours after two Islamist terrorists had killed 12 people, veteran Israel-hater Ali Abunimah fumed on Twitter: “US ‘responded’ to 9/11 by invading Iraq. Which country do Internet idiots think France should invade to ‘in response’ to Paris attack?” He then immediately added: “Of course France assisted in many invasions already. Perhaps it can afford one or two more?” In order to leave no doubt that he indeed wanted to blame France’s policies for the terrorist attacks, he clarified his stance a few hours later.

AA on CharlieHebdo

Obviously angered by the solidarity expressed under the trending hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, Abunimah also made it absolutely clear that he preferred maligning the victims of the terror attack by implying that the magazine should be compared to the neo-Nazi site Stormfront.

AA CharlieHebdo Stormfront

The often vulgar and always deliberately provocative material published in Charlie Hebdo might seem an easy target for accusations of racism – at least if one overlooks the fact that the magazine is firmly grounded in the centuries-old tradition of radical French anticlericalism and that it has also featured plenty of caricatures offensive to Christian and Jewish (and Israeli) sensibilities. But this is of course something that people eager to accuse Charlie Hebdo of “racism” against Muslims were resolved to ignore.

Moreover, while the horrific attack in Paris initially had nothing whatsoever to do with Israel or Jews, anyone even vaguely familiar with Islamic extremism would have no illusions about the central role of Jew-hatred in this pernicious ideology. By the time an accomplice of the Charlie Hebdo attackers proceeded to prove this point by targeting a kosher supermarket in Paris, anti-Israel activists were keeping themselves busy spreading the argument – helpfully elaborated in a Guardian illustration and an Intercept post by Glenn Greenwald – that anyone who supported Charlie Hebdo caricatures that offended Muslims also had to endorse Nazi-style antisemitic caricatures for the sake of free speech.

Much to the delight of his fans, Greenwald gleefully suggested on Twitter that he had unmasked the anti-Muslim bigotry of Charlie Hebdo supporters: “The professed love for cartoons which malign religions & their adherents sure dissipates fast when applied to some groups rather than others.”

To make his point, Greenwald reproduced several antisemitic cartoons – some of them from Arab/Muslim media – which he acknowledged as “blasphemous and otherwise offensive.”

He contrasted these examples with what he described as “some not-remotely-blasphemous-or-bigoted yet very pointed and relevant cartoons by the brilliantly provocative Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.”

As Greenwald surely knows, much of Latuff’s Israel-related work has been criticized as antisemitic, and Latuff himself actually doesn’t mind mingling with Jew-haters: in 2006, Iran’s Holocaust-denying president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the pretext of the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy to sponsor a “Holocaust Cartoon Contest” in which Latuff took part, sharing the second prize with a French entry depicting “The myth of the gas chambers.”

While Greenwald claimed he was focusing on “cartoons which malign religions & their adherents,” he tellingly included a Latuff cartoon from 2006 that was apparently drawn in support of Ahmadinejad’s “Holocaust Cartoon Contest.”

GG Latuff Holocaust cartoon

 It is beyond the scope of this post to explain why supposedly intelligent 21st-century progressives would argue that, if it is acceptable to caricature people who are regarded by believers as historic religious leaders, it must be equally acceptable to caricature the industrialized mass-murder of a long-persecuted minority in 20th century Europe.

But in the unlikely case that Greenwald would like us to somehow ponder Muslim religious leaders and the Holocaust in a context relevant to the atrocities in Paris, one could cite the enormously influential Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi who has described Hitler as a tool of divine punishment for the Jews and expressed the hope that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” In this context, one could also point out that when Qaradawi implored his god to “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people” and “count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one,” he did so based on the apparently widely shared Muslim belief in a divinely ordained battle “between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”

It is this kind of beliefs – which, as far as I know, have not been explicitly repudiated by any influential Muslim cleric – that continue to allow radicalized Muslims to feel that they act piously when they commit atrocities like those in Paris. While there are liberal Muslims who have highlighted the urgent need for Muslim self-criticism and reforms, it seems that, as far as anti-Israel activists and their supporters in the media are concerned, these problems must be kept out of the spotlight. So when an Islamist terrorist targets a kosher supermarket in Paris, it’s just another great opportunity to make the case that a 7th century businessman and warlord who founded a religion cannot be mocked in cartoons as long as the almost successful 20th-century attempt to wipe out Europe’s Jews cannot be ridiculed. No doubt Jew-haters everywhere would agree with this approach.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Update:

Harry’s Place has an excellent post on the Guardian illustration I mentioned above: “A response to Joe Sacco;” David Bernstein takes on Greenwald’s numerous “logical fallacies;” and a number of posts try to explain some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that have been attacked by the (willfully?) clueless as “racist” or “Islamophobic”, e.g. “dear US followers;” there is now even a new site devoted to “Understanding Charlie Hebdo cartoons.”

And, by way of an additional update, here’s one of my previous posts with some background on Glenn Greenwald’s obsession with Israel.

David Sheen knows what it takes to demonize Israel [updated]

A few days ago, the media monitor CAMERA exposed one of the lies that budding anti-Israel activist David Sheen is spreading in order to make a living by demonizing Israel. As I have noted in a previous post, Sheen apparently hopes to appeal to the same audiences that enthusiastically embraced Max Blumenthal’s odious screed “Goliath,” which equated Israel with Nazi Germany and earned Blumenthal devoted fans wherever there are Jew-haters.

But even if one focuses relentlessly on Israel’s failings, it’s of course no easy job to pretend that the modern, pluralistic and democratic Jewish state is like Nazi Germany. While Sheen does his best to provide his audiences on social media and at activist gatherings on US campuses with the Israel-bashing they expect from him, he is also unwittingly demonstrating that it takes lots of lies to demonize Israel as a uniquely monstrous evil.

CAMERA caught Sheen when he claimed on Twitter that “Just as Nazis compared Jews to vermin to incite racism against them, Netanyahu compares non-Jewish Africans to ebola.” But even when his lie was exposed, Sheen continued to insist that Netanyahu “compared” African migrants to Ebola, because Netanyahu mentioned Israel’s “general efforts to defend our borders from illegal infiltrators and terror” in remarks addressing measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

DSheen Ebola

On Twitter, Sheen has often been challenged when he posted other lies and inaccuracies by Nurit Baytch, who has also published a detailed analysis of some of the fabrications Sheen has been presenting to activist gatherings in the US. Most recently, Nurit noted Sheen’s pathetic attempt to use a real estate advertisement that refers to Tel Aviv’s historic “White City” as yet another proof of Israel’s ingrained racism.

DSheen White City

Of course, Sheen’s utterly ridiculous claim was eagerly retweeted by almost 200 of his followers – which apparently encouraged him to dig deeper and insinuate that calling white buildings white is somehow racist. Surely he will soon start a campaign to rename the White House…

DSheen White City2

No less bizarre is Sheen’s apparent obsession with what he refers to as Israel’s “rape culture.” In recent days, I noticed two tweets where Sheen alludes to this supposed “rape culture” and provides links that are obviously meant to indicate there is a validation for his smears – but in both cases, the material he links to has nothing whatsoever to do with rape: one link leads to a report criticizing Ultra-Orthodox Jews for vandalizing ‘bat mitzvah’ ads in Jerusalem, while the other link, rather amusingly, leads to a report on the diametrically opposed world of fashion and “racy” advertisement.

DSheen rape1DSheen rape2

But whether it’s about Ultra-Orthodox men insisting on an anachronistic “modesty” or young women repudiating any notions of “modesty” and confidently showing off their bodies, David Sheen can only fantasize about a “rape culture.”

Sheen’s bizarre tweet on the fashion article (which was retweeted by Max Blumenthal) is arguably particularly offensive, as reflected in this response:

DSheen rape3

I couldn’t find any other recent tweet that explains Sheen’s “rape culture” claims. While Sheen seems to accuse Israel in general of a “rampant rape culture” in one tweet, the other seems to suggest that this “rape culture” has something to do with the “army’s crimes” – presumably meaning that IDF soldiers rape Palestinians. Unfortunately for Sheen, he is going against the stream here: as deranged as it may sound, anti-Israel activists really prefer to point to the rarity of rapes by IDF soldiers as yet another proof that Israel is racist… As an award-winning Israeli research paper put it so preposterously: “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences.”

While this illustrates nicely that truly anything can be used to bash Israel, Sheen usually focuses on the supposedly particularly dire plight of African migrants and refugees in Israel. Neither he nor his fans seem to be bothered by the fact that migrants and refugees face harsh experiences in countries around the world. If Sheen’s audiences in the US don’t follow the news (other than Electronic Intifada-style news from Israel), it would take only a quick search on Google to find plenty of harrowing reports on US detention centers and the merciless American “deportation machine” that even deports children – but of course, it is so much more thrilling to get worked up about problems in Israel, because when the world’s only Jewish state shows the same failings as the rest of the world, the Jew-hater happily concludes that Israel is too evil to be allowed to exist.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

Together with his admired mentor Max Blumenthal, Sheen is currently in Berlin, where he and Blumenthal have faced some opposition to their efforts to demonize Israel (see here.) This evening, both Sheen and Blumenthal have boasted on Twitter about their shockingly thuggish attempts to harass and intimidate their critics. Blumenthal posted or re-tweeted several tweets by their fans that link to a clip featuring Sheen aggressively pursuing the leader of Germany’s Left (party) into the men’s room, screaming hysterically that his life will be in danger because Gysi called him an antisemite. Sheen posted this clip on YouTube with the title “Gysi, I’m asking you for an apology.”

DS pursues Gysi2

But of course, Gysi has nothing to apologize, since he just called Sheen what he is – and Sheen proved once again what he is with his hysteric lies about having his reputation ruined and his life endangered because of Gysi’s entirely justified rejection of Sheen’s relentless demonization of Israel.

Max Blumenthal’s Halloween

Anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal likes to complain that he doesn’t understand why he is so often accused of antisemitism. Tonight, he posted this tweet:

MB Halloween fascist kippaIf this tweet is not antisemitic, then the (hypothetical) one below is not Islamophobic:

MB Halloween fascist hijab

For those not familiar with the people pictured: the photo tweeted by Blumenthal shows hard-right Likud Knesset member Moshe Feiglin (who is wearing a kippah); the other photo shows Maryam Mohammad Yousif Farhat, a Hamas member who won a seat in the Palestinian legislative election in 2006 and was popularly known as Umm Nidal (wearing a hijab). I’m aware that some people would protest that this implies an unfair equation of a controversial right-wing politician with a frighteningly fanatic supporter of terrorism. But whether or not this comparison is fair, it highlights Blumenthal’s hypocrisy all the more starkly: he and his fans obviously see nothing wrong with ridiculing a right-wing Jewish politician wearing a kippah as having a “fascist” Halloween costume, but they would furiously attack anyone who taunted an ardent hijab-clad supporter of Hamas terrorism for wearing a fascist Halloween costume as a despicable Islamophobe.

Despite his well-documented record of antisemitism – which has earned him fans wherever there are Jew-haters – Blumenthal is currently in Oslo to address a “Globalisation conference” organized by the Norwegian Social Forum, which describes itself as “working for a world where concern for people, society and the environment is more important than economic profit.” Hopefully he is the only speaker there who has fans among neo-Nazis, white supremacists and racist conspiracy theorists and spends his free time posting antisemitic tweets from Oslo.

The Israel-hater’s Islamic State

What do Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa and the Islamic State have in common? For Israel-haters, it’s an easy question: all three are regarded as utterly evil and therefore, they provide a perfect reference point for expressing one’s loathing of the world’s only Jewish state. It’s of course just another variation of what Jew-haters have always done.

Israel=ISIS antisemitism

The brutal Islamic State (IS/ISIL/ISIS) is thus actually good news for those who hate Israel, because the daily news of atrocities make people everywhere recoil and this revulsion can be put to good use if it’s diverted to the one modern, democratic and pluralistic state in the Middle East that is the complete antithesis of the reactionary Islamofascist ambitions of the ISIL-jihadists.

The efforts of Israel-haters to equate the Jewish state with the savage terrorists of the Islamic State have resulted in the hashtag #JSIL that is meant to taint the “Jewish state in the Levant” with the horrors of ISIL, the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”.

It is telling that it was apparently the tireless anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal who first created and promoted this hashtag. Exactly a year ago, Blumenthal was busy promoting his newly published book “Goliath” that compared Israel to Nazi Germany in an apparent effort to go beyond the demonization of “just” comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa. What a difference a year makes! In October 2013, it seemed that Israel could best be demonized as the Nazi Germany of our time; but now, in October 2014, it seems so much more opportune to demonize Israel as the Jewish version of the Islamic State…

If we follow the bizarre “logic” of Blumenthal and his fans, this would presumably also mean that the Islamic State is something like the Nazi Germany of our time. Anyone who assumes that Blumenthal and his ilk would now devote themselves to opposing such evil in our own time is in for a disappointment, because the savagery of the fanatic jihadists who are currently slaughtering and raping their way through parts of Iraq and Syria matters as little as the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis and the Apartheid regime in the past. All that matters is that the Islamic State provides a new way to demonize the world’s only Jewish state as the epitome of evil.

While Blumenthal and his fans therefore see little reason to highlight the terror group’s atrocities or the plight of its victims, they are eagerly monitoring how well their #JSIL hashtag is doing on Twitter.

MB Israel=JSIL

It is of course particularly ironic that an outspoken Hamas-supporter like Max Blumenthal should try to equate the democratic and pluralistic Israel with the Islamic State. Blumenthal recently declared that if he was a Palestinian, he “would want to live in Gaza, where true resistance is” – and needless to say, Blumenthal’s greatly admired “true resistance” has a charter that defines an Islamist and jihadist ideology that shares much with the monstrous agenda of the Islamic State. A leading Hamas member confirmed recently that Hamas wants to “build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine.”

The current debate about the Islamic State and the question how many Muslims endorse similarly “fundamentalist” views of Islam’s teachings has also rekindled interest in a Pew survey from 2013 that included almost 40 000 Muslims in 39 countries. The results showed that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were often among the most extremist Muslim populations: 89% of Palestinians want Sharia law; 66% endorse the death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion; 76% support punishing thieves by cutting off their hands, and a shocking 84% want adulterers stoned to death. As documented in other Pew surveys, Palestinians were also the most ardent fans of Osama bin Laden from 2003 until 2011.

So if Hamas had its way and could “build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine,” this state might not be all that different from the Islamic State that is so much in the news now. Max Blumenthal has made it repeatedly clear that he fervently hopes for a victory of the Palestinian “resistance” and he has called for the ethnic cleansing of all Israeli Jews who wouldn’t want to submit to Palestinian rule – but since he enjoyed his recent stay in Hamas-ruled Gaza so much, maybe he would want to be one of the very few Jews who would happily live in the Islamic state that his greatly admired “resistance” hopes to build on the ruins of the Jewish state that he hates so intensely.

MB Hamas fan

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

Quote of the day: Glenn Greenwald’s antisemitism

“The propaganda in question is a stream of venom and denunciation directed toward the democracy that is Israel, and a similar stream of extenuation and denial about the terroristic activities of Hamas and affiliated jihadist groups, while also maintaining a deafening silence about the various Islamic and secular butchers from Iraq to Syria to Libya who have turned much of the Middle East into a slaughterhouse.

Israel can be criticized like any other state. But treating the Jewish state as the prime focal point of evil in the modern world is clearly something else. That something else has a name. Linking without a shred of evidence police misconduct in Ferguson, Missouri, to Israel, or likening Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the ultimate symbol of evil, a leading Nazi—both of which Mr. Greenwald has done in recent weeks and both of which constitute demonization plain and simple—reveal the recrudescence of the centuries-old obsession of anti-Semitism in modern guise.”

From an American Interest article on “Pierre Omidyar, Glenn Greenwald, and Their War on Israel” by Gabriel Schoenfeld. Reading through Schoenfeld’s short summaries of some of Greenwald’s articles on the recent war between Hamas and Israel, I was struck by how much Greenwald’s writings seem to echo Ali Abunimah’s output at the Electronic Intifada. This is not to suggest that Greenwald copies Abunimah; he obviously just shares his hatred toward Israel and much of the ideology that is fashionable among Israel-haters.

But while Israel-bashing is Abunimah’s main occupation, it’s only a side-show for Greenwald. However, it is noteworthy that when Greenwald takes to Twitter, his reach is clearly much broader than Abunimah’s: Greenwald has some 416 000 followers compared to Abunimah’s roughly 57 000 followers. In this context it is important that Schoenfeld highlights “Greenwald’s prolific Twitter output,” noting that in this medium “his hatred of the Jewish state takes its most pristine form” – an observation that could also be made for Abunimah.

Among the tweets Schoenfeld reproduces to illustrate his point is the one copied below, which was retweeted by almost 1400 people.

Greenwald

Shlomo Sand resigns from being an invented Jew (or something like it)

Tel Aviv University, which was recently ranked Israel’s best, also has the doubtful distinction of employing a professor of history who is regarded as a first-rate authority on Jews by lots of first-rate Jew-haters. Shlomo Sand earned the admiration of antisemites everywhere with his “Invention of the Jewish People,” a book that was hugely successful as it appealed to both old-fashioned Jew-haters and supposedly progressive “anti-Zionists”. In a comprehensive review that takes Sand’s ramblings perhaps too seriously, his truly accomplished Tel Aviv University colleague Anita Shapira has politely noted that Sand “bases his arguments on the most esoteric and controversial interpretations, while seeking to undermine the credibility of important scholars by dismissing their conclusions without bringing any evidence to bear.”

Needless to say, Sand enjoyed his new-found celebrity and eventually delighted his fans with yet another fanciful screed, this time on the “Invention of the Land of Israel.” Since he apparently promised to come up with a trilogy, he has now published another volume where he announces his resignation from being a – presumably invented – Jew. In response to this publication, my very erudite Facebook friend David Sigeti wrote a comment that echoes Shapira’s point quoted above and highlights the important question how Sand’s specious “scholarship” could be so shamelessly promoted by many academics and intellectuals:

“I think that the best short phrase to describe Sand is ‘serial crackpot’. [According to Sand] All the genetic evidence is fabricated and the Ashkenazim are really from Central Asia, Yiddish is a Slavic language in spite of being mutually comprehensible with various dialects of German, the ancient Romans were incapable of transporting large numbers of slaves across the Mediterranean in spite of having fed Italy from Egypt for centuries etc., etc., etc. He is almost certainly the only author in the modern, democratic world to write a book that relies on so many crackpot hypotheses in fields as diverse as genetics, linguistics, and history and to get it taken seriously by other academics and intellectuals.

That this nonsense gets taken seriously may be the most telling example of the confluence between ‘anti-Zionism’ and classical antisemitism. It is almost impossible to imagine anything like Sand’s ideas being taken seriously on any subject other than the Jews. The willingness of supposedly respectable academics and intellectuals to give Sand a respectful hearing is eerily reminiscent of the willingness of otherwise apparently rational academics and intellectuals to believe the most insane ideas about the Jews back before open, self-declared antisemitism became a social faux pas.”

Below just a small sample of screenshots illustrating the company Sand’s admirers in intellectual and academic circles keep: Sand’s work is of course quite popular on Stormfront (here e.g. https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t660227/ and https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t660836/ ); Amazon UK customers who buy David Duke’s insights on “Jewish Supremacism” also tend to buy Sand’s first book as well as Gilad Atzmon’s vile screed “The Wandering Who” (and apparently, the official website promoting Sand’s first book linked to an enthusiastic review by Atzmon);  Iranian Press TV invited Sand to promote his book on the “Invention of the Land of Israel;” and Sand’s defense against criticism of his most recent book in Ha’aretz was reposted at the viciously antisemitic blogThe Ugly Truth”.

Sand on Stormfront1

Sand on Stormfront2

Duke Atzmon & Sand

Sand on Iran Press TV

Sand on Ugly Truth

Needless to say, Sand’s book on “The Invention of the Jewish People” was also positively reviewed on websites dedicated to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state in the service of the “Palestinian cause,” such as The Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss. In its 2012 end-of-year fundraising campaign, Mondoweiss rewarded donors who gave $60 or more with a copy of Sand’s “Invention of the Land of Israel.”

When Sand was told about his admirers on sites like Stormfront after the publication of his first book and asked if he was worried that the book might “be exploited for pernicious ends,” he answered dismissively: “I don’t care if crazy anti-Semites in the United States use my book.” Reportedly, he did express concern about “how the forthcoming Arabic translation might be received in the Muslim world” – but it seems that ultimately, he was just “disappointed” that he wasn’t even invited when the Arabic-language edition of his book was published in Ramallah. However, Sand was hosted at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University by Professor Sari Nusseibeh, who served as the university’s president at the time, and this was certainly an honor that would not have been bestowed on anyone who had written books on “The Invention of the Palestinian People” and “The Invention of the Land of Palestine.” Indeed, one shudders to think how an author promoting those titles would be received by Sand’s admirers.