Category Archives: JPost

The not so progressive Palestinian cause

It seems that most people who support “pro-Palestinian” activism on campus would regard themselves as politically progressive. But there is arguably a lot about the “Palestinian cause” that is not at all progressive. The first problem is that most “pro-Palestinian” activism could be more appropriately described as anti-Israel activism that all too often denounces the world’s only Jewish state in terms that echo the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune.” Moreover, progressives who champion the “Palestinian cause” are apparently either indifferent to or ignorant of the well-documented reactionary and extremist views that are mainstream among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinian public opinion has long been regularly monitored by institutes like the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) and the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC). The surveys conducted by these institutes often include topical issues relevant mainly for domestic Palestinian politics, but many polls offer fascinating glimpses of Palestinian attitudes that are ignored in the media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though they go a long way to explain the intractability of the conflict.

Take for example the coverage of last summer’s war: while the media resolutely focused on the suffering and devastation in Gaza, Palestinians overwhelmingly felt victorious and credited Hamas for this supposed “victory.” In the immediate aftermath of the war, a whopping 79% of Palestinian saw Hamas as the winner, and even though none of Hamas’ demands were met, 59% believed that the war’s “achievements” justified “the human and material losses sustained by the Gaza Strip.” At the same time, 80% supported “the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israel” – supposedly as a means to end “the siege and blockade,” i.e. the restrictions imposed only because of the launching of rockets and terror attacks from Gaza. Perhaps most shockingly, a clear majority of 57% endorsed “launching rockets from populated areas in the Gaza Strip,” thereby accepting that Gaza residents would be endangered in Israeli strikes against the rocket launchers.

To be sure, these numbers soon changed to reflect somewhat diminished enthusiasm, and the survey results showed interesting differences between Gaza and the West Bank. Nevertheless, Hamas, which had used Gaza’s civilian neighborhoods to launch its rockets and had spent enormous resources to build a sophisticated tunnel network that made war all but inevitable, would have handily won Palestinian elections in the aftermath of a war that brought so much death and destruction to Gaza. Indeed, when Hamas won student council elections in the West Bank this spring, many argued that this result reflected broader political trends, and a Hamas official promptly concluded that this was a victory won by “the Al-Qassam Brigades’ rockets.”

Far from criticizing this militaristic and nationalistic fervor, leading anti-Israel activists like Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal tend to echo and justify it. Abunimah has even gone so far as to object to criticism of summary public executions of accused collaborators by Hamas during the war. Similarly, the fascist genocidal Hamas charter that envisages a society dedicated to “jihad” and the religiously sanctioned killing of all Jews is usually politely ignored by activists.

Indeed, by now it is widely considered as distasteful and ‘right-wing’ to take note of the well-documented daily incitement in Palestinian media and public life. A related New York Times article openly acknowledged a few years ago that the paper of record preferred to ignore this subject. However, the deplorable results of this incitement are reflected in surveys of Muslim opinion conducted by the respected Pew Research Center.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Pew monitored Muslim public opinion about Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for a decade, and the survey results document that throughout this decade, Palestinians remained bin Laden’s most ardent admirers.

1 Pal confidence in binLaden

These results are arguably all the more shocking in view of the fact that survey participants were asked if they had “confidence” in bin Laden “to do the right thing in world affairs.” In 2003, bin Laden actually inspired more “confidence” in Palestinians than their iconic strongman Yassir Arafat.

2 binLaden vs Arafat

As Palestinian enthusiasm for the al-Qaeda leader indicates, support for terrorism among Palestinians is widespread even if the target is not Israel. Among the Muslim populations surveyed by Pew, Palestinians have long been the strongest supporters of suicide bombings targeting civilians “in order to defend Islam from its enemies.”

3 Pal support suicide bombing

While the latest Pew results show a fairly dramatic decline in Palestinian support for suicide bombings against civilians between 2013 and 2014, al-Qaeda still received the highest “favorable” rating among Palestinians, though Pew noted that “[Palestinian] support is down nine percentage points since 2013.”

4 Pal fav on alQaeda 2014

So by now, “only” one out of every four Palestinians has a “favorable” view of al-Qaeda.

It is noteworthy that the last two charts illustrate a marked difference between the views of Israel’s Muslims and the Muslims in Gaza and the West Bank, even though Palestinians usually insist that all Israeli Arabs are Palestinians.

Given the proclivity for extremism in the Palestinian territories, it is hardly surprising that most Palestinians insist that “the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists.” However, this is of course a view that is widely shared in the Muslim Middle East.

Since the “rights and needs of the Palestinian people” are usually understood to include a state of their own, it is remarkable how rarely it is debated what kind of state Palestinians envisage. Perhaps the first noteworthy point of the Palestinian draft constitution is that it arguably undermines Palestinian claims of a distinct identity: Article 2 defines Palestine as “part of the Arab homeland” and identifies the “Palestinian people” as “part of the Arab and Islamic nations.” Article 7 stipulates that the “principles of the Islamic shari’a are a main source for legislation,” while the “followers of the monotheistic religions” are merely granted the right to “have their personal status and religious affairs organized according to their shari’as and religious denominations within the framework of [positive] law, while preserving the unity and independence of the Palestinian people.”

The overwhelming majority of Palestinians are Muslims; according to current estimates, Christians comprise only 1-2% of the Arab population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As documented in a Pew survey from 2013 that included almost 40 000 Muslims in 39 countries, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were often among the Muslim populations with the most extremist views about the role of Islam in society: 89% of Palestinians want Sharia law; 66% endorse the death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion; 76% support mutilation as a punishment for theft, and a shocking 84% want adulterers stoned to death.

“Justice” may be one of the central slogans of the supposedly progressive BDS movement, but in view of the medieval sharia “justice” Palestinians want, it is apparently a demand focused strictly on Israel. “Equality” is another goal BDS professes to pursue, but again, there is probably a highly selective interpretation, because Palestinians are definitely not keen on equality for women, let alone for gays. Like the vast majority of Muslim populations everywhere, 89% of Palestinian Muslims regard homosexuality as morally wrong; only 1% is prepared to see it as morally acceptable. When it comes to so-called “honor killings”, less than half (about 45%) of Palestinian Muslims reject these murders as never justified. And like in most Muslim societies, the vast majority of Palestinians – 87% – insists that a wife must always obey her husband. Only 33% of Palestinian Muslims believe a wife should have the right to divorce her husband, and only 43% think that sons and daughters should have equal inheritance rights. Finally, the other main BDS slogan – freedom – also seems to be a demand that isn’t necessarily meant to apply to the state Palestinians supposedly want:  when asked if they prefer democracy or a strong leader, just 55% of Palestinian Muslims chose democracy, while 40 % preferred a strong leader;  when asked how much political influence religious leaders should have, 29% wanted religious leaders to have a lot of political influence, and another 43% wanted religious leaders to have at least some political influence.

In view of this strong support for political influence by religious leaders – and in view of the BDS goal to see Israel replaced by a Palestinian Muslim majority state – it is arguably important to be aware of the kind of political influence exerted by Palestinian religious leaders in recent years. Unfortunately, Palestinian religious leaders have a long record of denying the historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem; this includes of course the denial of the existence of the Temple.  In a recently published Reuters report, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem insisted that the Temple Mount in its entirety should be considered as the Al Aqsa (mosque) compound and that “Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa [i.e. anywhere on the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest place] is not so much an insult as it is an aggression.” The same Grand Mufti can be seen in this video clip from 2012, where he is announced as a speaker whose words “are necessary because [of] our war with the descendants of apes and pigs” (i.e. Jews); the Grand Mufti obliges by reciting the notorious Islamic sanctioning of the killing of all Jews that is also cited in the Hamas charter.

6 Jerusalem Mufti kill Jews

Another very recent incident involved Sheikh Khaled al-Mughrabi, a religious teacher who used one of his regular classes at the Al Aqsa mosque to teach his students every antisemitic calumny he could possibly think of, including the blood libel – which he presented as a justification for the Holocaust – as well as claims like “Jews worship Satan, plotted the 9/11 attacks, and control the Freemasons who sacrifice their wives and children in secret ceremonies.” After the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a protest letter to Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Sheikh doubled down and defended his antisemitic tirade in his next class. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, he also echoed the among anti-Israel activists popular complaint that their “criticism” of Israel and Zionism is unfairly condemned as antisemitism: “If you give advice to a Jew, he immediately says: ‘You’re inciting to racism, you’re an Antisemite.’ Immediately. It has become a cliché for them, a permanent sentence,[…] which they stick on every person who gives them advice.”

Only bigots would deny that al-Mughrabi’s rant was antisemitic, but all he really did was talking about Jews in the same way anti-Israel activists talk about the Jewish state: just as al-Mughrabi associated Jews with every evil he could think of, anti-Israel activists consistently associate Israel with every evil they can think of. As far as anti-Israel activists are concerned, there’s very little you cannot say as long as you substitute “Zionists” for Jews. Inevitably, the goal of demonizing the world’s only Jewish state as an evil that must be opposed and eliminated requires a simplistic black-and-white narrative that features the Palestinians only as victims who deserve uncritical support in their heroic struggle against the evil forces of Zionism.

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First published on my JPost blog.

The UN and HRW’s list of shame

Last week, I wrote at my JPost blog about efforts at the UN to blacklist the IDF – together with savage terror groups like the Islamic State – as an entity that regularly harms children. The post is reproduced below, but since Human Rights Watch (HRW) is now so energetically pushing for Israel’s inclusion in this “list of shame,” I felt it is worthwhile to add this update as a reminder of the organization’s shameful bias against Israel.

HRW’s persistent negative focus on Israel is well documented, and I have written about the organization’s double standards and the animosity against Israel that is openly displayed by HRW executive director Ken Roth. As I have noted in my previous posts, HRW always stands ready to condemn Israel as soon as the Israeli army moves to defend the country’s citizens against the attacks of terror groups. HRW would perhaps claim that its latest effort is even-handed, since it apparently also recommended the inclusion of Hamas in the UN’s blacklist. But this of course means that HRW sees no difference between Israel and Hamas when it comes to harming children.

Yet, HRW’s own examples of how Hamas has harmed children explain why Palestinian children are sometimes inadvertently harmed by the IDF. According to HRW, “Palestinian armed groups” are guilty of

  • “The repeated launching of rockets from densely populated areas in Gaza, placing children and other civilians living there at risk of retaliatory attacks; and
  • The use of at least three empty schools in Gaza to store weapons, two of which may have been used for launching rockets or mortars.”

One should not overlook that HRW describes Israeli attacks on rocket launching sites as “retaliatory attacks” – which is of course just another not so subtle attempt to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend its citizens.

Among the Palestinian violations that HRW prefers not to mention is the longstanding training and recruitment of child soldiers. And of course HRW also prefers to ignore the fact that Palestinians have repeatedly celebrated terror attacks that killed Israeli teens.

It is also revealing to see who gets blamed by HRW for strikes that result in civilian deaths when Israel is not involved. Here is one telling example from a recent media report on the war in Yemen [my emphasis]:

“On March 31, Human Rights Watch said a diary factory in the western port city of Hodeida came under attack by Saudi airstrikes, killing 31 workers. The rights group blamed Houthis forces for putting civilians at risk, saying that the factory is about 100 metres from a military airbase controlled by Houthis.”

Finally, it should be noted that two international law experts have recently stated that after examining Israel’s targeting methods and its application of the law of armed conflict (LOAC),

“we concluded that IDF positions on targeting law largely track those of the United States military. Moreover, even when they differ, the Israeli approach remains within the ambit of generally acceptable State practice. […] While there are certainly Israeli legal positions that may be contentious, we found that their approach to targeting is consistent with the law and, in many cases, worthy of emulation.”

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How low can the UN sink?

The United Nations (UN) has a long and sordid record of singling out the world’s only Jewish state for hypocritical censure and condemnation.  Most recently, Israel was the only country to be condemned as “a violator of health rights;” unsurprisingly, the supporting “evidence” included antisemitic claims by the Syrian regime, which accused Israel of “continu[ing]  to experiment on Syrian and Arab prisoners with medicines and drugs and to inject them with pathogenic viruses.” That is of course the same regime that mercilessly bombs and kills its own population, while Israel has so far treated some 1600 injured Syrians.

But the UN’s next move against Israel is already being planned: according to a Y-Net report, the “UN secretary-general’s envoy for Children and Armed Conflict recommended this week to include the IDF on a blacklist of countries and organizations accused of regularly causing harm to children. The blacklist includes terror organizations like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Islamic State, and Taliban, as well as African countries such as the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and others.”

As the report notes, the UN is “facing heavy pressure from the Palestinians, their supporters and human rights organizations to include the Israeli army on the list.” However, few people know that this kind of “pressure” is in part generated by the UN itself, which sustains “a whole network of anti-Israel institutions ” that were built up in the wake of the infamous “Zionism is Racism”-resolution of 1975. Even though the resolution was repealed in 1991, this “network of extremely well-funded UN structures and offices” continues to exist to this day.

Needless to say, those who love the Nazi-slogan “Die Juden sind unser Unglück” in its 21st-century version “The Jewish State is our misfortune” are excited about the prospect to have the IDF equated with terror organizations like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) – and as was only to be expected, Max Blumenthal tweeted the Y-Net report adding the hashtag JSIL, which he popularized to associate Israel with the terror group Islamic State (once known as ISIL, i.e. Islamic State in the Levant) as “Jewish State in the Levant” (JSIL).

MB on UN blacklisting IDF

If the UN will once again please Jew-haters everywhere with yet another bigoted condemnation that puts the IDF on the same level as savage terror groups like IS remains to be seen. But in the unlikely case that the UN actually cares about the welfare of Palestinian children, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, could highlight the longstanding abuse of Palestinian children as child-soldiers – indeed, campaigning against this kind of child abuse is supposedly an important part of her work. While all Palestinian factions have used children to fight, nowadays mostly Hamas and other Gaza terror groups openly boast of providing military training to children; one of the most recent examples is a “graduation ceremony” in a Gaza kindergarten.

Gaza kindergarten terror show

In addition, the UN might note the fact that Hamas employed children to dig its extensive tunnel network – which they hoped to use to kill Israelis, including children – and that at least 160 children died working on the tunnels.

And perhaps the UN’s Special Representative Leila Zerrougui could take note of regular TV programs that indoctrinate kids to hate and “shoot the Jews” – ‘all of them’? Perhaps it would also be appropriate to address the very high percentage of forced underage marriages in Gaza? Or the heartbreaking mistreatment of children with disabilities that seems quite common in Palestinian society?

But perhaps the UN will somehow find it more appealing to demonize the IDF that has to fight an enemy that openly celebrates the killing of Israeli children – for Hamas, they are just “prey” to be killed and hidden ‘under the rock.’

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.

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.

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.

 

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.”

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.