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Insulting Islam: the flogging of Raif Badawi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saudi blogger Badawi

Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wahhabism: A deadly scripture (2007)

Saudi Arabia funding fuels jihadist terror (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Max Blumenthal’s Halloween

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

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

MB Halloween fascist hijab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sand on Stormfront1

Sand on Stormfront2

Duke Atzmon & Sand

Sand on Iran Press TV

Sand on Ugly Truth

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

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

If you want to call it Gaza’s 9/11…

When Israel bombed a few high-rise buildings in Gaza shortly before Hamas finally accepted the ceasefire that had been offered for weeks, anti-Israel activists took to comparing what happened in Gaza to the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11. Writing at his Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah claimed that “the overall death toll in Gaza since Israel’s bombardment began on 7 July proportionately far exceeds those attacks” and – on the basis of whatever mathematical exercises he was doing – he concluded that “Gaza has experienced about 125 ‘9/11s’ since 7 July” because “Israel has dropped the equivalent of an atomic bomb on Gaza.”

Gaza 9 11

In a second piece on the same subject, Abunimah presented an “infographic” entitled “The Five Stages of Grief” that supposedly “reflects on the shared experiences of grief of Americans [after 9/11] and Palestinians in Gaza, while contrasting the stages of healing and recovery.”

If so-called “pro-Palestinian” activists have the chutzpah to make this comparison, it’s only fair to recall that the Palestinians were among those who cheered and celebrated on 9/11. While there were later attempts to claim that this was not true and while the Palestinian Authority made every effort to suppress reports of Palestinian jubilation, the respected Pew Research Center monitored Muslim public opinion about Al Qaeda and bin Laden for a decade after 9/11, and the survey results document that throughout this decade, Palestinians remained bin Laden’s most ardent admirers.

Pals for bin Laden1

These results are all the more shocking in view of the fact that participants in the survey were asked if they had “confidence” in bin Laden “to do the right thing in world affairs.” Appallingly, in 2003, almost three out of every four Palestinians expressed “confidence” in bin Laden “to do the right thing in world affairs” and every third Palestinian would still feel this way shortly before bin Laden’s death in 2011.

Pew surveys also show that Palestinians have long been the most extremist Muslim public when it comes to support for terrorism and suicide bombings. As noted in the relevant survey published exactly a year ago:

“Support for suicide bombing and other violence aimed at civilian targets is most widespread in the Palestinian territories, with 62% of Muslims saying that such attacks are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Support is strong both in Hamas-ruled Gaza (64%) and the Fatah-governed West Bank (60%).”

Pals for terrorism

This puts the results of a recently published survey of Palestinian public opinion in perspective. While the survey documents a dramatic spike in support for Hamas, many other results simply reflect the always high support for terrorism among Palestinians. Thus, the survey shows not only overwhelming support for the launching of rockets from Gaza, but also widespread support for the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teens that preceded the recent fighting between Hamas and Israel. According to the poll,

“57% of the public say that they supported the June 2014 kidnapping of the three Israelis in the West Bank when that incident took place. Support for the kidnapping reached 67% in the Gaza Strip and only 45% in the West Bank.

Similarly, a majority of 54% supported the killing of the three kidnapped Israelis and 42% opposed it. Support for the killing reached 69% in the Gaza Strip and only 42% in the West Bank. 52% of the West Bankers opposed the killing of the three kidnapped Israelis.”  

But the poll also shows that Palestinians feel they should be allowed to engage in terrorism, kidnappings and killings without having to face the repercussions: fully 79 percent of Palestinians “believe Israel was responsible for the eruption of the Gaza war.”

Unsurprisingly, anti-Israel activists like Abunimah push the same ludicrous notions. The “infographic” posted at Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada that suggests that New Yorkers fared incomparably better after 9/11 than Gazan’s after their many “9/11s” includes the complaint that “Palestinians are stuck in a repeating cycle, they cannot heal, nor can they accept the continuation of Israeli violence and blockade.”  The statement that “Palestinians are stuck in a repeating cycle” is actually one of the few true pieces of information conveyed in this graphic, but as so many surveys show, this vicious cycle is entirely the Palestinians’ own making. When almost three quarters of a population have confidence that Osama bin Laden would “do the right thing in world affairs” and almost 80 percent believe a war that resulted in more than 2000 dead, more than 10 000 injured and considerable destruction was a “victory” for the terrorist organization that started it, there is unfortunately no basis for any constructive development.  

Ha’aretz guidelines for progressive bigotry

The recent war between Hamas and Israel has once again unleashed a global wave of antisemitism that all too many people who should know better try to downplay as mere “anti-Zionism” or justified “criticism” of Israel’s policies and conduct. But while we may pay more attention to this phenomenon when it makes the news because of massive demonstrations, the pernicious notion that it is somehow “understandable” when people express antisemitic resentments while claiming to protest Israeli policies and that therefore, Israel is ultimately to blame for spikes in global antisemitism, has long been promoted by anti-Israel activists who have an obvious interest in whitewashing the antisemitism that is so prevalent in their circles.

As I have repeatedly argued, it should be obvious that if antisemitism can be “justified” by Israeli policies, any other bigotry can also be justified by employing a similar “reasoning.” It is therefore particularly disheartening to see that the Israeli left’s flagship paper Ha’aretz keeps publishing op-eds that promote endless variations of the argument that Israel causes “understandable” antisemitism. In late May, I wrote about this on my JPost blog (now cross-posted below) and I just noticed that Ha’aretz published recently yet another variation on this theme by Dmitry Shumsky. Tellingly, Shumsky’s preposterous piece starts out with the utterly misleading assertion that “Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, cited the socioeconomic and political failure of Europe’s Jews to integrate into the non-Jewish environment as the cause of modern anti-Semitism.” So you see, even Herzl felt that antisemitism was caused by the failure of the Jews “to integrate into the non-Jewish environment”… Good news for Muslim-haters in Europe and elsewhere: as long as you feel that Muslim minorities in your country fail to integrate into the non-Muslim environment, you’re most welcome to indulge into anti-Muslim bigotry, discrimination and persecution to your heart’s content. The same applies to anyone in the US who feels that blacks haven’t properly integrated into the non-black environment, or that Hispanics haven’t really integrated into the non-Hispanic environment – hate these people all you want, because after all, your hate is justified by their failure to integrate.

As far as Shumsky is concerned, today’s collective Jew Israel “is not discriminated against in the family of nations. On the contrary. It is given preferential treatment and benefits from privilege” and thus there is no reason to be surprised “that a country that enjoys privilege in the international community has awakened large, ongoing waves of hatred against itself.” Since Shumsky doesn’t tell us exactly what “preferential treatment” and “privilege” Israel enjoys in “the family of nations,” i.e. the UN, we are left to speculate which parts of the UN “network of anti-Israel institutions” Shumsky has in mind.

* * *

Ha’aretz playing into anti-Semites’ hands

Under the title “Netanyahu playing into anti-Semites’ hands,” Ha’aretz opinion writer Carolina Landsmann makes a convincing case that the paper she works for is determined to compete with the often antisemitic websites that cater to anti-Israel activists and outright Jew-haters. Landsmann begins her not particularly coherent column by mocking the Israeli prime minister’s efforts to have good relations with countries in Asia and Africa. Miss Landsmann’s comment on this diplomatically and economically sound approach: “The West repudiates us? Let’s recreate ourselves in the East (at least until they realize who we are).”

Right, Miss Landsmann: maybe Jews can pretend for a while to be different than they really are, but truly, who would want anything to do with them once it becomes clear who the Jews really are?

For Carolina Landsmann, Israel’s prime minister is really “Emperor Netanyahu, head of the Jewish empire with its capital the State of Israel,” and one of the most frightening developments under his reign is what she calls “the ‘Jewish identity’ bill.” Presumably, she refers to the much debated initiatives to define Israel as a Jewish state, though according to her there is something even more sinister afoot:

“We are witnessing a move to nationalize the Diaspora Jews. The bill aims to identify Jewish with Israeli and convert all Diaspora Jews into Israelis de facto. It’s only a matter of time until Jews, wherever they are, get the right to vote. […] Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are on a dangerous course. They want to harness the struggle against anti-Semitism to the struggle against moves against Israel’s policy. But they don’t realize, or do realize and turn a blind eye, that the move will backfire. It will merely inflame the rage and anger further, because it portrays Israel and the Jews as a body without borders that wants to expand beyond its state. In this sense, Netanyahu is playing into the anti-Semites’ hands by implementing their wildest fantasy about the Jews.”

For good measure, Landsmann also suggests that perhaps “such a situation is not against Israel’s interests. Zionism in its current incarnation has created a distorted dependency on anti-Semitism.”

So let’s summarize all the antisemitic tropes Miss Landsmann manages to pack into her column:

1) Jews want to deceive others who will rightly recoil once they realize who the Jews really are

2) Jews can be seen as “a body without borders” bent on expansion and control everywhere

3) Jews cause antisemitism by behaving in ways that can only confirm antisemitic fantasies about the Jews

4) Jews ultimately benefit from antisemitism

Little wonder that the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah was excitedly tweeting Landsmann’s column as a confirmation of his views:

AA on Haaretz Landsmann

 

This is a well-deserved compliment for Carolina Landsmann given Abunimah’s Orwellian definition of antisemitism which is based on his view that Zionism is “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today” and that it is comparable to Nazism. Unsurprisingly, Abunimah’s stance has been warmly endorsed on David Duke’s website – where they are currently working hard on “The Illustrated Protocols of Zion.” Landsmann’s article would certainly qualify as useful source material for this project.

Duke Protocols

Unsurprisingly, neither Abunimah nor Ha’aretz were impressed by the findings of the recently published ADL survey on antisemitism. A few days after Abunimah mocked the survey as merely showing that “the most Israeli-occupied places on Earth have the most ‘anti-Semitic’ views,” veteran Ha’aretz reporter Amira Hass complained that the ADL had failed to ask Palestinians “How many times have you been beaten by a Jew? How many people do you know whose land was stolen by Jews – people whom the Jews removed from their homes?”

Israel-haters like Max Blumenthal – who is popular wherever there are Jew-haters – were clearly pleased:

MB bigotry OK

A Ha’aretz editorial on the same day argued:

“Netanyahu, the last of the demagogues, seized on one of the survey’s findings, which states that the place with the highest level of anti-Semitism is the Palestinian Authority areas, where 93 percent of adults allegedly hold anti-Semitic views. Of course that finding can, and should, be explained in the context of the Israeli occupation that’s going on for 47 years; an occupation in which hundreds of thousands of Jews settled on lands that are not part of the State of Israel; an occupation under which thousands of Palestinians were killed and hundreds of thousands jailed; an occupation that prevents the Palestinians from living comfortably and with dignity.”

In their eagerness to justify antisemitism, the Ha’aretz writers inevitably provided a general justification for bigotry: Have you or anyone you know ever been harmed in any way by a Muslim/Arab/immigrant? If so, it’s fine to hate Muslims/Arabs/immigrants – and if anyone calls you a racist, tell them that the political correctness of your bigotry has been certified by Israel’s famously progressive paper Ha’aretz.

 

Unilateral empathy

[First published on July 25 at my JPost blog.]

TV screens, newspapers around the world and the social media are full of images and stories highlighting the suffering of Gaza’s population during the current fighting. Audiences everywhere are encouraged to focus on the “voices of the victims,” and the implication is usually that they are victims of Israel’s merciless onslaught against Gaza.

While I and virtually all of my Israeli friends would agree that at a time like this, there is undoubtedly much heartbreak in Gaza, many leftists worry that Israelis don’t feel enough empathy for the suffering of Gaza’s civilians. Writing in Ha’aretz under the appealing title “Humans of Gaza, Humans of Tel Aviv,” Josie Glausiusz rightly argues that we risk losing part of our own humanity if we forget that people in Gaza are human just like we ourselves are. She emphasizes that she has no sympathy for Hamas, citing the paper’s columnist  Chemi Shalev’s description of the terror group as a “cruel, fanatic, fundamentalist, reactionary, totalitarian, misogynistic, Holocaust denying, human rights-abusing, anti-democratic, anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic movement that embraces terror, sanctifies martyrdom, glorifies death and condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden.” However, Glausiusz also believes there is an important “but,” for which she cites Sari Bashi, founder and former executive director of Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement: “Gaza is not Hamas.”

This is obviously true; indeed, a recent survey – taken before the current escalation – indicated that Hamas was becoming very unpopular, though another recent survey showed that Islamic Jihad was gaining support in Gaza at the expense of Hamas. But the fact that these two terror groups together have the support of a solid one third of Gaza’s population still means that some two thirds of Gazans may have “moderate” political views.

Unfortunately, however, it is not at all clear that this matters much in a situation like the current one.

I have already described in a previous post that a young doctor from Gaza, who spent much time sharing the suffering he encountered in his hospital on Twitter and on BBC Radio, adamantly opposed a cease-fire that would not meet the demands of Hamas. In the meantime, Dr. Dabour has continued to share heartbreaking stories of the suffering endured by his fellow Gazans, but when the terror organization Al Qassam Brigades claimed a few days ago that it had captured an Israeli soldier (who is missing but presumed dead), Dr. Dabour declared jubilantly that it had all been worth it:

Gaza Dr cheers Hamas kidnap claims 

Dr. Dabour was not alone: the claim triggered widespread celebrations and it didn’t take long before Hamas released a song to mark their purported “achievement” and “Ramadan victory.” The “song” was also promoted by the supposedly “progressive” Ali Abunimah, whose Electronic Intifada was hyperactive in putting out claims about Israeli atrocities and stories of unimaginable suffering in Gaza.  

Abunimah on kidnapped soldier

These reactions reminded me of a remark by the well-known Palestinian psychiatrist and award-winning peace and human rights activist Eyad Sarraj. According to the documentary “The Gatekeepers”—a film that was widely praised for providing harshly critical views of Israeli policies  – Sarraj explained during the time of the bloody Al Aqsa Intifada that, irrespective of the price they have to pay, Palestinians regard it as a worthwhile “victory” to make Israelis suffer.

As I have argued after previous rounds of fighting against terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, there is plenty of evidence that Palestinians are indeed willing to put the ideology of Islamist terrorist “resistance” above their own well-being. They may want empathy from others, but if they have the feeling that the “resistance” of Hamas and Hezbollah leads to Israeli suffering, they are only too willing to brush off whatever they have to endure. As Dr. Dabour put it so chillingly: all sorrows – hundreds of dead and thousands of wounded – are “forgotten” as soon as the Qassam Brigades claim to have abducted a single Israeli soldier. Or, as implied in Sarraj’s remark: Palestinian suffering doesn’t matter as long as it leads to Israeli suffering.

That is of course the ideology of Islamist terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad – and whenever they decide to drag Palestinians in yet another round of war, most Palestinians seem to embrace this masochistic stance. As long as this remains the case, our empathy with grieving families in Gaza should not distract from the fact that those who are buried in Gaza – just like those who are buried in Israel – are the victims of a jihadist death cult.

 

 

 

Gaza doctor shrugs off suffering

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

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

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

 Gaza Dr cheers kidnap

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

Gaza Drs celebrate

In addition, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported:

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

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

#HitlerWasRight for Palestine

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

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

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

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

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Iranian treats: Sugarcoating Holocaust denial and nuclear weapons

Every now and then, Ha’aretz publishes an article that reminds me of the times when I, as well as many other Israelis, used to read the paper religiously. Whether or not you agreed with its left-wing stance, Ha’aretz offered quality reporting and interesting views without continuously insinuating that the majority of Israelis are just a bunch of despicable right-wing morons who fully deserve to be hated by their righteous neighbors and the noble world at large.

The article that reminded me now of those good old times is by Chemi Shalev and is entitled “Iran’s Holocaust-denial trickery may point to nuclear duplicity as well.” Because Shalev responds to a pretty disgusting piece by his Ha’aretz colleague Anshel Pfeffer – who had penned what he probably considers a really witty rant on the “obsession with Rohani’s view of the Holocaust” – Shalev begins his piece by listing the large number of his family members who perished in the Nazi genocide.

He then goes on to make some excellent points:

“I am, admittedly, one of those Jews that my Haaretz colleague Anshel Pfeffer describes as being ‘obsessed’ with Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s efforts to obfuscate, bypass and sugarcoat his regime’s Holocaust denial and/or distortion. Rohani’s whitewash campaign, I confess, insults me personally.

But Iran’s ongoing Holocaust denial, absolute or partial, is much more than a personal or even collective affront. It is a telltale sign, first and foremost, of the Iranian regime’s abiding anti-Semitism, as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum makes clear: ‘Holocaust denial and distortion are generally motivated by hatred of Jews, and build on the claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests.’

Consequently, if the blatant Holocaust denial of Iran’s spiritual leader Ali Khamenei and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a clear-cut manifestation of their ‘hatred of Jews,’ than the more sterile version of Holocaust distortion offered by Rohani and his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is but a refined version of the exact same odious sentiment.

And while it may not be a conclusive litmus test for evaluating their commitment to a nuclear arrangement with the West, it is certainly valid to note that they may be playing the same game with their nuclear weapons program as they are with their refusal to accept the Holocaust. That just as they are couching their anti-Semitism in more palatable terms, so they are repackaging Iran’s continued drive to produce nuclear weapons in words that spark less suspicion and elicit less scrutiny.

This is no less a credible claim, to say the least, than the opposite contention that sees the Iranian leadership carrying out a miraculous and instantaneous 180 degree reversal, both in its anti-Semitic ideology and its overall nuclear policy.

And by the same token, the willingness of many in the media to isolate one or two catchphrase headlines from complex statements made in New York in recent days by both Rohani and Zarif […] in order to absolve them, more or less, of Holocaust denial, is grounds enough to suspect that Rohani may be getting a similar free pass when he protests his nuclear innocence.”

Later on, Chalev highlights another important point:

“And then there is the issue of equivalency, another classic gambit of Holocaust deniers. ‘The point is,’ [Iran’s Foreign Minister] Zarif told George Stephanopoulos, ‘we condemn the killing of innocent people, whether it happened in Nazi Germany or whether it’s happening in Palestine.’ Which is like dispatching three or four birds with one stone: The Israelis are Nazis, the Palestinians are innocents, the Holocaust wasn’t any worse than Israel’s occupation of the territories and, concurrently, Israel’s occupation of the territories is just as horrid as the Holocaust.”

What Chalev doesn’t mention is that while this equivalency is indeed “another classic gambit of Holocaust deniers,” it has become widespread and widely acceptable. It’s not difficult to find examples in political commentaries published in supposedly respectable mainstream media; one of the results is – as documented in a German study from 2010 – that some 57% of Germans believe “that Israel is waging a war of annihilation against the Palestinians” and that some 40% agreed that “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is basically no different from what the Nazis did with the Jews during the Third Reich.”

This obviously means that Iranian officials who engage in this “classic gambit of Holocaust deniers” can be sure that they will find a sympathetic audience. And there is every reason to think that somebody who nods along approvingly when Iranian officials equate the Holocaust with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians will tend to believe that there is nothing wrong with Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Indeed, Guardian readers know already that Israel’s Prime Minister is a “hawk” while Iran’s President is a “dove”…

Ali Abunimah goes to Gaza

He tried and failed several times before, but this week, Ali Abunimah finally made it to Gaza. Obviously, the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada and passionate anti-Israel activist has devoted fans in the Hamas-ruled territory, and they eagerly awaited his arrival. Everyone – including Abunimah himself – was apparently a bit worried that there might be problems crossing the Egyptian-controlled border, which had been recently closed by Egyptian police to protest the kidnapping of several colleagues by Islamist gunmen. And it’s safe to assume that the fact that Israel couldn’t be blamed for the closure and other problems at the crossing made it all so much harder to bear…

Obviously, during his stay in Gaza, Ali Abunimah will do his very best to come up with many reasons to blame Israel. Indeed, his popular “narratives” about the bottomless evils of Israel and Zionism have presumably led to his invitation to the currently ongoing Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest) – though it is a bit strange that an activist who likes to present himself as a serious reporter and political commentator would be invited to a festival that is supposedly devoted to literature and the arts. But perhaps Ali Abunimah’s advocacy should indeed be regarded as an art form that deserves to be featured in an event supported by organizations like the British Council and the Arts Council England?

I for one would never accuse Ali Abunimah of sticking to facts or bothering much with reality.

And sure enough, one of his first tweets after crossing from Egypt into Gaza illustrated one of Abunimah’s favorite fairy tales: that Israeli cities like Ashkelon are “occupied” Palestinian towns.

AliAbu occupied Ashkelon

Of course, Hamas terrorists have similar views:

Ashkelon Qassam tweet

Unsurprisingly, Ali Abunimah is an outspoken supporter of the kind of “resistance” Hamas advocates and practices, and just like Hamas, he doesn’t waste time pretending that he is for peaceful co-existence: Hamas claims a Palestine extending “from the river to the sea,” and Abunimah wants to see this territory as “One Country.” Similarly, while Hamas denounces the Jews as the incarnation of evil, Abunimah makes his living demonizing “the Zionists” as inhumane Nazi-type racists who like nothing better than inflicting untold suffering on the poor Palestinians.

Given the fact that most Israeli Jews are committed  Zionists, it’s of course a bit puzzling why Abunimah would want to condemn the Palestinians to share “One Country” with such evil people…

In any case, Abunimah’s claims that his “One Country” would be a democratic secular paradise with equal rights for everyone are laughable given the well-documented reactionary and even extremist views of many Palestinians.  As blogger Elder of Ziyon highlighted, a recently published Pew survey of Muslim views demonstrates that Palestinian Muslims “are among the most religiously conservative and intolerant” of the Muslim publics polled by Pew. A dramatic infographic illustrates some of the results, including the preference of almost 90 percent of Palestinians for having Islamic sharia law as “the official law of the land.”

Elder Sharia infographic

It is noteworthy that this preference is reflected in the proposed constitution for a Palestinian state, which stipulates that “Islam is the official religion in Palestine” and that the “principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation.”

While Ali Abunimah is usually very good at ignoring the unpleasant Palestinian realities that can’t be blamed on Israel, he seemed somewhat upset to come across examples of Sharia enforcement in Gaza. Thus, he was clearly dismayed to find out that for web users in Gaza, “Dating sites are blocked!” – but naturally, he was reluctant to blame Hamas and suggested that “the censorship is done by the PA,” i.e. the Palestinian West Bank authority that he despises so heartily. However, a Twitter user from Gaza contradicted him, asserting that “Hamas blocked dating sites recently. Part of their ‘modesty’ policing.”

Hamas blocks dating sites

By and large however, Ali Abunimah energetically focused on what he was invited for: demonizing Israel and advocating the abolition of the world’s only Jewish state in favor of his “One Country”-fantasy. Judging from some of the images that were tweeted, it unfortunately looks as if just a handful of people attended his workshop, but there were clearly some enthusiastic fans who listened attentively to “@AliAbunimah debunking the two-state solution. Awesome #PalFest.”

AliAbu Gaza workshop

In addition to fulfilling his PalFest obligations by sharing his tips on creating “narratives” to demonize Israel, Abunimah was busy looking out for any new material that could somehow be used to rail about Israel. Among his finds was a sign in Hebrew that he promptly photographed and tweeted with the devastating comment: “Hebrew is still omnipresent in Gaza. #colonialism.” He was also appalled to find out that Gazans use Israeli currency.

Then it was time to echo the popular Palestinian “blood-and-soil”-theme. Visiting Khuza’a in the Southern Gaza Strip right at the border with Israel, Abunimah tweeted a picture of a handful of grains with the melodramatic comment: “Palestinian wheat grown in #Gaza with sweat and tears under the occupier’s guns.” Another picture of the area, showing what seems to be a tower in the distance, comes with the claim: “New occupier watch tower regularly fires on farmers working their land in Khuza’a.” However, tweeting yet another picture of apparently the same area, Abunimah lamented that “Land once full of olive trees now barren thanks to occupier bulldozers and tanks.”

While in the real world the plight of Khuza’a’s farmers is due to the unfortunate fact that Gaza terrorists like to use their farmlands to launch attacks on Israel, in the world of Ali Abunimah and his fans, there is of course no reason whatsoever to wonder why the “occupier” would be so cruel to poor, innocent, hard-working Palestinian farmers – it goes without saying that shooting them and making their lives hell is what the evil Zionists like to do just for fun!!!

Let’s all hope that Ali Abunimah will be able to avoid any encounter with farmers in Gaza who attend Israeli fairs and workshops to improve their production – and hopefully, he will not ingest any of their produce! Admittedly, though, should any such misfortune befall him, he surely would find a creative way to spin it into an edifying story about oppressive-colonial-supremacist-racist-Zionist subjugation, exploitation, occupation and much worse…

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.