Category Archives: JPost

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.

 

Max Blumenthal’s Jew-hating fans

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

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

As I have shown in a detailed documentation [pdf], Blumenthal’s work on Israel has been promoted on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. Given Blumenthal’s own conduct, there is also every reason to assume that he fully agrees with the praise by a Stormfront member who declared that by exposing Israeli evils, “Max Blumenthal has done a great service for all of humanity here, and we WNS [i.e. white nationalists], and the rest of the world, ought to be grateful to him.”

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

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

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

Blumenthal UglyTruth1

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

Blumenthal &revisionism

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

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

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

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

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First published at my JPost blog and The Algemeiner.

Nakba propaganda for Pope Francis

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

Pope Palestine Nakba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nakba Holocaust

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

Teaching anti-Israel incitement

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

Israel killer monster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

 

The Palestinians and the Holocaust

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

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

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

Barry &Schwanitz book

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

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

Mufti & Himmler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

Dying for an imaginary right of return

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Lebanon apartheid

The text accompanying the graphics laments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

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

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

Blumenthal Hier cartoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blumenthal Goliath review1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin rightly argued:

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

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

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

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

Blumenthal Stormfront Zionism

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

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

Blumenthal Stormfront reply

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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