Category Archives: Uncategorized

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…

***

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Good Jews, bad Jews, and the ugly writings of Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad

In early May, The Algemeiner published an article in which I documented that several Al Jazeera op-eds by Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad on Zionism and Israel included material that was hard to distinguish from the kind of antisemitic texts one can find at a site like Stormfront [article cross-posted below]. About ten days later, a new op-ed by Massad caused a huge outcry – which apparently prompted Al Jazeera to remove the piece a few days after it was published. Anyone who wanted to read Massad’s piece after Al Jazeera had removed it could still find it on Stormfront – or on Ali Abunimah’s blog at the Electronic Intifada…

For some reason, it was featured there with an image of the Nazi-publication “Der Stürmer” in the background.

Massad on EI

However, the saga continued when Al Jazeera eventually decided to re-publish Massad’s piece on May 21, together with a short note from the editor who claimed that Al Jazeera had neither succumbed to any pressures when it pulled the piece nor when it decided to re-publish it:

“Al Jazeera does not submit to pressure regardless of circumstance, and our history is full of examples where we were faced with extremely tough choices but never gave in. This is the secret to our success.”

Oh well… Perhaps they were ultimately swayed by Liam Hoare’s argument, who wrote on his blog that the removal of Massad’s article was “exactly the wrong thing for al-Jazeera to have done” because “denying people the right to read this disgraceful, unlettered essay also denies people the right to find out just what a horrible little man Joseph Massad is — which is a useful public service for al-Jazeera to be engaging in.”

In any case, to wrap up this installment of the Massad saga, I cross-post my own two commentaries below, with some minor modifications [as indicated].

However, a few additional points should perhaps be highlighted.

First, it is hard to convey just how bizarre Massad’s piece is. He started out with the preposterous claim that Nazism and Zionism were both antisemitic and then proceeded to demonstrate that he himself was perfectly able to distinguish between good Jews and bad Jews: according to Massad, most Jews were anti-Zionists (and therefore of course good) because just like Massad, they realized the evils of Zionism right away… Unfortunately, however, these good Jews were all killed by the antisemitism of the Nazis, while the bad Jews were saved by the antisemitism of the Zionists – or, as Massad puts it:

“While the majority of Jews continued to resist the anti-Semitic basis of Zionism and its alliances with anti-Semites, the Nazi genocide not only killed 90 percent of European Jews, but in the process also killed the majority of Jewish enemies of Zionism who died precisely because they refused to heed the Zionist call of abandoning their countries and homes.

After the War, the horror at the Jewish holocaust did not stop European countries from supporting the anti-Semitic programme of Zionism. On the contrary, these countries shared with the Nazis a predilection for Zionism.”

So no, it’s not your fault if you can’t make sense of this. Indeed, Massad’s bizarre “reasoning” reminded me that Walter Russell Mead once noted that antisemitism usually indicates the “inability to see the world clearly and discern cause and effect relations in complex social settings […] Anti-Semitism isn’t just the socialism of fools; it is the sociology of the befuddled.  The anti-Semite fails to grasp how the world works, and that failure condemns him to endless frustration.” Sarcastically, Mead added: “Naturally, this is the fault of the Jews.”

Naturally, Massad’s fans also knew whom to blame for Al Jazeera’s decision to remove his column. As the “Angry Arab,” Massad’s colleague As’ad AbuKhalil put it, the decision was “due to pressures from Zionist hoodlums.” And there were momentous implications: “The Qatari ruling dynasty is now at the feet of Zionists.”

* * *

Stormfront Material from Columbia University Professor
Joseph Massad

[First published at The Algemeiner]

In one of his recent columns for Al Jazeera, Columbia University professor Joseph Massad holds forth on the topic of “Israel and the politics of boycott.” He casually claims in this piece that “the Zionists…were pioneers in their use of boycotts to effect racial separatism,” while “the Nazis would be latecomers to the tactic.” In other words, the Nazis were just imitating “the Zionists”…

No doubt the politically correct thing to do is to regard Professor Massad as just another Israel “critic.” But one of Massad’s older Al Jazeera columns offers an excellent example of the professor’s methods and the kind of “intellectual” company he gets to keep as a result.

Some two years ago, Massad penned a bitter complaint about the contrast between a supposed western indifference to any suffering by Arab/Palestinian children and an eagerness to sympathize when Jewish children are in danger. Reflecting his obsessive hatred of Zionism, Massad devoted one section of his article to “Zionism and Jewish children,” where he claimed that “Zionism did not always show similar love towards Jewish children, whom it never flinched from sacrificing for its colonial goals.”

The “evidence” Massad produced to support his vicious claim is a quote of David Ben-Gurion, who, according to Massad, rejected a generous British offer to take a few thousand Jewish children from Germany to Britain in the wake of the so-called “Kristallnacht”-pogroms in November 1938. The quote reads:

“If I knew it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), then I would opt for the second alternative, for we must weigh not only the life of these children but also the history of the people of Israel.”

As noted in a relevant section on “Ben Gurion and the Holocaust” in a longer post by CAMERA, “so-called ‘post-Zionists’ and anti-Zionist radicals” love to insinuate that the Zionists happily collaborated with the Nazis in order to promote immigration to Palestine irrespective of overall Jewish interests and the survival of Europe’s Jews.

But in late 1938, it was already clear that precious few countries were willing to take in Jewish refugees. Indeed, Germany’s Nazi government gloated in the wake of the Evian Conference in the summer of 1938 “how ‘astounding’ it was that foreign countries criticized Germany for their treatment of the Jews, but none of them wanted to open the doors to them.”

That is the context for the Ben Gurion quote presented by Massad – but of course, Massad prefers to ignore this context. (And needless to say, his interest in the rescue of Jewish children from the Nazis doesn’t include the Jewish children whose rescue was sabotaged by the Palestinian leader who became notorious as “Hitler’s mufti.”)

Massad’s Ben Gurion quote is taken from a debate that focused on Britain’s decision to deny the Jewish children from Germany entrance into Palestine, giving rise to the concern that the British offer to instead take these children to Britain would only help to undermine the idea that British Mandate Palestine should serve as a safe haven for Jewish refugees, which would ultimately leave many desperate refugees without any place to go.

Yet another piece of context-free “evidence” produced by Massad is an incident from November 1940, when – according to Massad – “the Zionists responded to the British-imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine, long demanded by the Palestinian people, by blowing up a ship with Jewish civilian passengers in Haifa – killing 242 Jews, including scores of children.” Triumphantly, Massad concludes: “For Zionism, Jewish children are as expendable as Palestinian and Arab children, unless they serve its colonial goals.”

However, very different from what Massad suggested, there was of course no intent to blow up the ship – named Patria – that carried almost 2000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The sinking of the ship was due to a tragically miscalculated explosive charge that was placed on board to damage the Patria in order to prevent it from sailing to Mauritius, where –bowing to Arab pressure and violence – the British authorities intended to deport and intern the refugees.

Now, do you care to guess where else the kind of “evidence” marshaled by Massad is popular for very much the same purpose?

Yes, indeed: at Stormfront – the neo-Nazi “White Pride World Wide” hate site.

Massad Stormfront1

Massad Stormfront2

Clearly, the “Friend of Stormfront” who posted this would appreciate Massad’s use of the Patria incident.

But there is much more: scroll down a little bit on this same page, and you’ll find a text that is sourced as a quote from David Duke’s notorious “minor league Mein Kampf” – and as it happens, it’s pretty much identical to what Columbia University professor Joseph Massad wrote in his Al Jazeera column.

Stormfront isn’t a site I would normally link to, but there is arguably no longer a point avoiding such sites if their offerings are mainstreamed on Al Jazeera English by a professor from a highly regarded American University. So here is the link and an image of the David Duke text that includes the Ben Gurion quote and the Patria incident.

Massad Stormfront DDuke

So should we conclude that this is where Professor Massad looks for his “evidence”? Or is it perhaps just a case of not so great minds thinking alike? After all, former Klansman David Duke uses the Ben Gurion quote to argue that if “Israel’s first prime minister’s regard for Jewish life was such that he would rather see half the Jewish children of Germany die than be transported to England instead of Israel, how much value could one expect him to place on the life of a Palestinian child?” And Professor Massad uses the same quote for an article asking “Are Palestinian children less worthy?” And then both David Duke and Professor Massad go on to mention the Patria incident… Ah, what a coincidence!

But lo and behold, there are more examples of David Duke and Joseph Massad thinking alike: both like to talk about “Jewish Supremacism” – and needless to say, the fans of White Supremacism at Stormfront agree that this is a very worthwhile topic. Similarly, both David Duke and Joseph Massad are adamant that the Jewish state is inherently racist – and when it comes to Israeli racism, even Stormfront fans are of course appalled!

To be sure, Massad is far too sophisticated to engage in the fevered antisemitic conspiracy theories that come natural to David Duke. At the same time, Massad is not too sophisticated to keep repeating utterly misleading claims about how “helpful” European antisemitism and Nazism was for the Zionist project.

When it comes to one of Massad’s favorite topics – the efforts of German Zionists to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine by collaborating with Nazi authorities – he would probably claim to rely on Francis R. Nicosia’s book on “Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.” But while Nicosia emphasizes that, given the historical context, it would be completely unjustified to suggest any moral or political equivalency between the Nazis and the Zionists, Massad keeps insinuating exactly such an equivalency.

Massad writes about this issue as if history had not vindicated the Zionist conviction that Jews urgently needed a homeland as a safe haven – and of course, he also ignores that the expulsion of Jews from their ancient communities in the Arab and Muslim world provided yet another vindication for Zionism.

The result is that it’s not easy to tell if you read Massad or Stormfront. Try for yourself – with these Massad-style-cherry-picked quotes [updated version, from my JPost blog, cross-posted below; correct answers below]:

1) “Nazism was a boon to Zionism throughout the 1930s.”

2) “For all intents and purposes, the National Socialist government was the best thing to happen to Zionism in its history.”

3) “In Germany, the average Jews were victims of the Zionist elite who worked hand in hand with the Nazis.”

4) “Hitler could have just confiscated all the Jewish wealth. Instead he used the ‘Haavara Program’ to help establish the State of Israel.”

5) “Between 1933 and 1939, 60 percent of all capital invested in Jewish Palestine came from German Jewish money through the Transfer Agreement.”

6) “In fact, contra all other German Jews (and everyone else inside and outside Germany) who recognised Nazism as the Jews’ bitterest enemy, Zionism saw an opportunity to strengthen its colonisation of Palestine.”

7) “Zionists welcomed the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies. Like the Nazis, they believed in race-based national character and destiny. Like the Nazis, they believed Jews had no future in Germany.

8) “the Zionist Federation of Germany […] supported the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, as they agreed with the Nazis that Jews and Aryans were separate and separable races. This was not a tactical support but one based on ideological similitude.”

9) “Zionism […] developed the idea of the first racially separatist planned community for the exclusive use of Ashkenazi Jews, namely the Kibbutz.”

10) “The Zionists were afraid that the ‘Jewish race’ was disappearing through assimilation.”

 

***************

 

1) Massad  2) Stormfront   3) Stormfront    4) Stormfront    5) Massad    6) Massad    7) Stormfront    8) Massad    9) Massad    10) Stormfront

 

From Al Jazeera to Columbia University:
Joseph Massad’s obsession with Israel

[Cross-posted from my JPost blog]

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

Al Jazeera has deleted Massad’s op-ed “The Last of the Semites” from its website.

According to a furious post by Ali Abunimah at the Electronic Intifada, “Massad told The Electronic Intifada that he had ‘received confirmation’ from his editor at Al Jazeera English that ‘management pulled the article.’”

[But as noted above, the article was later re-published.]

* * *

Columbia University professor Joseph Massad has been at it for years, but for some reason, his latest op-ed for Al Jazeera finally made many people sit up and pay attention to Massad’s relentless efforts to taint Israel and Zionism with preposterous Nazi-comparisons and claims of Nazi-collaboration.

Popular columnist Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted sarcastically: “Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory.”

Goldberg on Massad AlJaz

While a lot of people agreed with Goldberg and either retweeted him or posted similar tweets, it is debatable if Massad’s latest Al Jazeera column was really so much worse than the many others that reflect his obsession with Israel. As I have documented only recently, Massad’s writings on Israel can easily be confused with material from the neo-Nazi “White Pride World Wide” hate site Stormfront – and at least in one case, he actually did write a passage that closely resembles a Stormfront post that is taken from David Duke’s notorious “minor league Mein Kampf.”

It was therefore arguably long overdue that people finally noticed that Massad was using his Al Jazeera columns to spread his vicious views on Israel and Zionism. In his latest lengthy and rather incoherent screed, Massad tries once again to resurrect the “Zionism is racism”-equation with the added twist of insisting that Zionism is really Nazi-like racism. This brings Massad to the utterly ridiculous conclusion that

“Israel and the Western powers want to elevate anti-Semitism to an international principle around which they seek to establish full consensus. They insist that for there to be peace in the Middle East, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims must become, like the West, anti-Semites by espousing Zionism and recognising Israel’s anti-Semitic claims [i.e. Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state].”

Furthermore, according to Massad,

“the Palestinian people and the few surviving anti-Zionist Jews […] are […] the heirs of the pre-WWII Jewish and Palestinian struggles against anti-Semitism and its Zionist colonial manifestation. It is their resistance that stands in the way of a complete victory for European anti-Semitism in the Middle East and the world at large.”

It is almost amusing that Massad insists that “the Palestinian Authority and its cronies” are not part of this oh-so-noble tradition of opposing the kind of antisemitic Zionism that is the product of his fevered imagination. But of course, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Columbia University professor Joseph Massad clearly share a fondness for the “historical narishkayt” that there was some sort of cozy “relationship between Zionism and Nazism before World War II.”

Indeed, Massad – who works at Columbia University as an expert on “modern Arab politics and intellectual history” – faithfully reflects the antisemitic demonization of Israel that is so commonplace in the Arab media and that keeps poisoning Arab politics.

In reaction to Massad’s latest screed, many on Twitter dismissed his vicious views as proof of his ignorance, and a widely recommended post by Liam Hoare opened with the verdict that “Joseph Massad’s op-ed, ‘The Last of the Semites’, demonstrates above all that the Columbia professor knows very little about not a lot.”

But while Hoare does a good job demonstrating that Massad’s views amount to “a total perversion of Jewish history and what Herzl actually thought and wrote,” it’s safe to assume that Professor Massad thinks of himself as a foremost expert on Zionism and Israel. Indeed, his Al Jazeera columns on these subjects usually include a reference to his book on “The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians,” and it turns out that this spring semester, Massad is also teaching a course that covers some of the very subjects he knows so “very little about.”

Massad course

Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Massad’s students are likely to learn how to present Zionism as “a total perversion of Jewish history and what Herzl actually thought and wrote.”

Whether the resulting ideas are articulated in a Columbia University classroom or on Al Jazeera or Stormfront makes little difference as far as their substance is concerned. I tried to illustrate this point in my recent post on Massad with some quotes that are either from Massad or from Stormfront – see if you can tell them apart [quiz posted above].

[…]

Needless to say, Massad and his admirers who enthusiastically endorsed his recent column – among them Max Blumenthal of Mondoweiss, Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada, and the “Angry Arab” Professor As’ad AbuKhalil  – would all insist, just as Massad claims in his Al Jazeera piece, that their staunch anti-Zionism means quasi by definition that they can’t be antisemitic, even if they propagate the same perverted tropes that are popular on Stormfront.

 *************************

 Update:

I just saw that Massad’s column on “The last of the Semites” is being shared and debated at Stormfront.

Massad latest Stormfront

 

War, the western media, and Palestinian public opinion

When it comes to covering Israel’s efforts to rein in the rocket barrage that Hamas and other Islamist terror groups in Gaza have been directing at Israeli towns for years, the western media like to focus on stories and images that highlight the suffering of Palestinian civilians. As acknowledged in several Washington Post articles published during Israel’s November 2012 campaign against the activities of Gaza terror groups, this entails a more or less open appeal to emotions.

Addressing the controversy about a front page photo showing a grief-stricken father from Gaza cradling the shrouded body of his baby son, Patrick Pexton explained that the image was chosen because it “went straight to the heart.” In the same piece Pexton noted that while the rocket barrage from Gaza was “disruptive and traumatic” for Israeli civilians, most of the rockets could be dismissed as just “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”

Another related article by Max Fisher was devoted to “The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo.” In addition to the photo of the grieving father from Gaza, Fisher contemplated two other images that showed a dead Palestinian boy and an injured Israeli girl.

WaPo Gaza-Israel child victims

Fisher argued that each of the three images “tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on.” In the case of the two dead Palestinian children, the assumption was of course that Israel was the “heartless enemy” responsible for the fatal injuries. Noting that there were controversies about the question if the two Palestinian children had really been killed by Israeli strikes, Fisher lamented that the “old arguments of the Middle East are so entrenched that the photos, for all their emotional power, were almost immediately pressed into the service of one side or another.”

But when it eventually turned out that all three children were indeed victims of Palestinian strikes, Fisher insisted that it wasn’t really all that important “whose rocket or missile” was to blame, asserting that “something as isolated as a single photo of a wounded or killed child offers a purer, cleaner, lower-risk way to talk about issues too messy to engage with directly.”

To put it cynically, Fisher has a point: it would obviously be quite “messy” to squarely deal with the fact that all the three images – which, according to his own characterization, “defined … the renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas” – really showed the victims of Palestinian rockets.

But cynicism aside, it is downright obscene to suggest that it would be much “purer, cleaner, lower-risk” to let the “emotional power” of images of dead children work its magic. One just has to recall the hatred and fanaticism incited with the al-Durah-footage from 2000 to understand why some critics call this approach “lethal journalism.” One could also argue that less emotion and more reason would easily produce the realization that there wouldn’t be any photos of wounded or killed children from Gaza if Palestinian terror groups stopped using the territory they control as a launching pad for mortars, rockets and terror attacks on Israel.

The media’s eagerness to elicit empathy with Palestinian suffering is also problematic because there is plenty of evidence that confrontations with Israel are rather popular among Palestinians – and needless to say, this evidence is generally ignored.

For years, Palestinian public opinion has been regularly monitored. The most recent poll from Gaza and the West Bank shows that “40% support a return to an armed intifada.” A previous poll published last December, shortly after the end of Israel’s recent military campaign against Hamas, highlights among its main findings that the “events of the past several weeks have given Hamas a significant boost […] The fourth quarter of 2012 shows a dramatic change in public attitude favoring Hamas. Haniyeh’s popularity increases significantly allowing him to defeat Abbas if new presidential elections are held today. […] Needless to say, the outcome of the latest Gaza war between Hamas and Israel is responsible for this change.”

A detailed analysis of the poll documents that “Hamas has gained a great political victory in its war with Israel: 81% believe that it came out the winner and only 3% believe that Israel came out the winner […] Percentage of those who believe that Hamas came out a winner stands at 75% in the Gaza Strip and 84% in the West Bank. […]

Similar findings have been documented for years. Take for example a poll published in the wake of the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Even though the media were dominated by reports and commentaries decrying the destruction and hardships inflicted on Lebanon, a staggering 86% of Palestinians viewed Hezbollah as the “winner in the Lebanon war.”  Fully 90% rejected the view that the war had been the result of “an uncalculated adventure by Hezbollah;” 73% believed the war “strengthens the resistance option in Palestine;” 75% expressed support for emulating Hezbollah by “taking Israeli soldiers prisoners in order to exchange them with Palestinian prisoners” and 63% said that “the Palestinians should emulate Hezbollah’s methods by using rockets against Israeli cities.”

It is noteworthy that Palestinian enthusiasm for firing rockets from Gaza was obviously not diminished by Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory in September 2005 and the fact that in spring 2006, Israeli voters handed an election victory to the Kadima party that had been newly formed to promote the disengagement from Gaza and additional withdrawals from the West Bank. In this context, it should also be recalled that just two months earlier, Palestinian voters overwhelming endorsed Hamas.

One of the successful Hamas candidates for this election was Mariam Farhat, better known as the proud and defiant “Mother of Martyrs” or “Umm Nidal,” named after her son Nidal who was considered the inventor of the Qassam rocket. An Israeli reporter who commented on Farhat’s recent death recalled his encounter with her during the election campaign:

“The scene was unforgettable. I saw a woman in her mid-fifties, full of bluster, wandering among the people of the refugee camps with a semi-automatic rifle in her hands and a white veil covering her head. Crowds of admirers tagged along, clearing a way for her wherever she went, as if she were some living saint.”

Umm Nidal had become a celebrity when she declared in 2005, at the funeral of her third son killed due to terrorist activities: “I have four sons left … I hope that they all become martyrs.”

When she passed away in mid-March, she was reportedly honored not just with a full military funeral and a eulogy by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, but also by words of praise and appreciation from Palestinian officials in the West Bank.

How many Palestinians really share the gruesome views of “Umm Nidal” is debatable, but given the pervasive glorification of “martyrdom” achieved through terrorism and “jihad” in Palestinian society, she can hardly be dismissed as a fringe figure.

A rare glimpse of this widely ignored reality could be caught when New York Times (NYT) reporter Jodi Rudoren noted in a Facebook post last November that it seemed to her that Palestinians in Gaza were sometimes rather “ho-hum” about their casualties. Needless to say, Rudoren’s observation caused great outrage, followed by a swift apology on the part of the NYT, which assigned a social media supervisor to the appropriately contrite Rudoren.

Reportedly, Rudoren readily acknowledged that she “should have talked about steadfastness or resiliency” and that she “just wasn’t careful enough.”

Rudoren clearly broke a taboo by making an observation that didn’t quite fit with the media’s mission to focus on Palestinian suffering caused by Israel.

But another remark that doesn’t quite fit with this mission went largely unnoticed – perhaps because it was made in “The Gatekeepers,” a film that was widely praised for providing harshly critical views of Israeli policies and the fight against Palestinian terrorism. However, one of the film’s seven segments is entitled “Our Victory Is to See You Suffer” – and this title quotes a remark by the well-known Palestinian psychiatrist and award-winning peace and human rights activist Eyad Sarraj. According to Ami Ayalon in “The Gatekeepers,” it was Sarraj who explained to him during a meeting devoted to developing a peace initiative at the time of the bloody Al Aqsa Intifada that, irrespective of the price paid by Palestinians, they saw it as their “victory” to make Israelis suffer.

As amply documented by the many polls and plenty of other evidence studiously ignored by the media, Sarraj was clearly telling the truth – though it is of course a truth that the western media don’t want to tell.

* * *

First published at The Algemeiner.

 

Stephen Walt and the Islamist Lobby

When John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published their book “The Israel Lobby” in 2007, the respected American scholar Walter Russell Mead argued in a very critical review that this “may be a book that anti-Semites will love, but it is not necessarily an anti-Semitic book.” Mead also noted that the book was “written in haste” and predicted that it would “be repented at leisure.”

As it turned out, the assumption that Mearsheimer and Walt would have any regrets about writing “a book that anti-Semites will love” was all too optimistic.

Some four years later, Mead commented on reports that John Mearsheimer had endorsed a book written by “a Hitler Apologist and Holocaust Revisionist.” Mead noted politely that “this is not normally the intellectual company a Distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago is expected to keep” and he suggested that “we may even hear some thoughts from Professor Walt about his co-author.”

Unfortunately, this was again an all too optimistic expectation, because Stephen Walt promptly used his blog at Foreign Policy to give his co-author a prominent platform to double down on his endorsement of the book in question and its author Gilad Atzmon.

At this point it was becoming increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that both Walt and Mearsheimer didn’t mind at all if their writings appealed to people with openly antisemitic views. Indeed, whether intentionally or not, there can be little doubt that Walt and Mearsheimer have done much to mainstream antisemitism.

Now Stephen Walt has taken another step to confirm this conclusion. He has been featured as the March 2013 Guest Writer for the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), a website whose self-described mission is promoting “the Palestinian cause” by reaching out “to opinion makers and decision makers in a deliberate, organized and sustained manner.”

However, as far as MEMO is concerned, the “Palestinian cause” is really the cause of Hamas. It is therefore no coincidence that, together with their esteemed guest writer Stephen Walt, MEMO also featured a “New strategic document” by Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal (also spelled Mashal or Meshaal).

Walt & Hamas on MEMO

 Screenshot from MEMO homepage

To be sure, Mishaal offers little that is in any way “new”; instead, he focuses mainly on re-affirming the Hamas principles laid down in the group’s notorious charter that provides religious justifications for eternal enmity towards Jews and claims Palestine “from the river to the sea” as Muslim land. When Mishaal calls for change, he demands a “move towards changing the attitude towards the resistance and resistance movements. What used to be strange, rejected, or taboo in the past by the standards of the official Arab norms, such as not supplying the resistance with arms, must become possible today.”

There can be little doubt that “resistance” in the sense Hamas understands it is something that MEMO fully supports. Consider this truly sickening homage to Ahlam al-Tamimi. You wouldn’t know it from the “fact sheet” posted by MEMO, but Tamimi is the terrorist who chose a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem as the target for a suicide bomber whom she brought there in August 2001. To Tamimi’s great pride and delight, the terror attack she helped plan and execute resulted in the death of 15 people, including 7 children, and some 130 additional victims with injuries – and to the great joy of her many ardent admirers in MEMO and elsewhere, Tamimi was among the convicts released by Israel in exchange for Hamas hostage Gilad Shalit in the fall of 2011.

As Walter Russell Mead observed, this may not be quite the company that a distinguished professor is expected to keep, but Harvard’s Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs Stephen Walt was apparently happy to be a MEMO Guest Writer.

Walt’s supposedly “exclusive” contribution to MEMO is entitled “Obama, American Jewry and the prospects for Middle East peace;” but as it happens, he was not the only writer on this topic featured by MEMO.  There was another piece by one of MEMO’s well-known contributors , Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, who prides himself on his “often controversial opinions” that include admiration for Osama bin Laden, endorsements of terror attacks against Israelis and the declaration that he would “dance with delight in Trafalgar Square” if Iran bombarded Israel.

Unsurprisingly, Atwan’s piece was entitled “Obama, the Israel sycophant;” and Atwan complained bitterly that Obama “has disappointed us and reminded us of Uncle Tom in the famous American novel.”

Since documenting the appalling views propagated by MEMO could easily fill a book, I will for now just highlight that the site’s current offerings include an utterly lunatic “report” claiming that “Israeli police enable rabbis and settlers to mark Passover inside Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Needless to say, MEMO is also among the ardent admirers of Sheik Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch in Israel, who subscribes to the medieval libel that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make Matzo bread.

Of course, Professor Walt may not have known any of this when he agreed to provide MEMO with an “exclusive” – but just a few moments of googling could have enlightened him and led him, for example, to this excellent post by Alan Johnson.

Among the unsavory examples of MEMO’s connections listed by Johnson is Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, who hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for the notorious Israel Shamir in 2005. As Johnson explains:

“Shamir’s speech, reported [by] the Times journalist Stephen Pollard, included these opinions: ‘All the [political] parties are Zionist-infiltrated.’ ‘Your newspapers belong to Zionists . . . Jews indeed own, control and edit a big share of mass media, this mainstay of Imperial thinking.’ ‘In the Middle East we have just one reason for wars, terror and trouble—and that is Jewish supremacy drive.’”

Writing in April 2011, Johnson noted that Lord Ahmed “paid no price” for going through with this disgraceful event. However, recently Lord Ahmed was accused of having expressed sentiments that echo the “Jewish control”-meme of Shamir, and he has been suspended pending an investigation.

But in general, Johnson is obviously right: efforts to mainstream anti-Jewish hatred and the Islamist demonization of the Jewish state have become so commonplace that there is little risk to high-profile professionals and academics who join in.

* * *

First published at The Algemeiner.

 

 

Visualizing Palestine [updated]

*First published at The Algemeiner on March 6*

Last Sunday, Al Arabiya reported with much anticipation that an “advertising drive is expected to take Washington D.C by storm on Monday as the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Visualizing Palestine call on the United States to halt $30 billion of military aid to the Jewish state.”

The advertisements targeted the annual policy meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Al Arabiya featured one poster that suggests US taxpayer-funded weapons are used by Israel to kill innocent Palestinian civilians.

The text on the poster claims that between 2000 and 2009, Israel’s military “killed at least 2960 unarmed Palestinians.” Unsurprisingly, it turns out that presenting Palestinians as the innocent victims of Israeli brutality and evil is the basic formula of the work put out by the “Visualizing Palestine” project.

This is probably a promising strategy, since many people who see a poster claiming that Israel killed almost 3000 innocent Palestinians between 2000 and 2009 will not necessarily recall what else happened in these years: In response to being offered a state of their own in the summer of 2000, the Palestinians launched a brutal war of terror against Israel;  and in response to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Palestinians elected the terror group Hamas  and subjected Israel to relentless attacks with thousands of rockets. In 2008, the Palestinians were once again offered a state including the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Jerusalem, but once again they chose not to respond positively.

When I checked out the work of “Visualizing Palestine,” I couldn’t help imagining how different their output would look if – instead of presenting Palestinians as hapless and helpless victims of Israel – mainstream views and attitudes of Palestinians were “visualized.”

So let’s give it a try and visualize Palestinian reactions to the aid they receive from the US.

For many years, the US has provided millions of dollars in bilateral annual aid to the Palestinians; in addition, the US is the largest single-state donor to UNRWA – the UN agency that works exclusively for the roughly 5 million Palestinians who claim (inherited) refugee status.

Yet, as documented by Pew surveys, Palestinians were always the most ardent admirers of Osama bin Laden. In 2003, 72 percent of Palestinians had “a lot” or “some confidence” that bin Laden would “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” Visualizing this fact could get us an image like this:

Pal visuals2

There is plenty of additional material. While the US pushed for the negotiations that resulted in the 2008 offer for a Palestinian state that I just mentioned, Palestinian “confidence” in bin Laden eroded only slowly: by 2009, 52 percent of Palestinians still trusted the Al-Qaeda leader to “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” and by 2011, when he was killed by US Special Forces in his hide-out in Pakistan, fully a third of Palestinians still held bin Laden in high regard. Indeed, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned bin Laden’s assassination and deplored “the killing of an Arab holy warrior.”

Visualizing similar support for terrorism, extremism and Jew-hatred among Palestinians and the broader Arab and Muslim publics would perhaps be very useful for helping people understand why the Jewish state remains a small threatened island in a dysfunctional and volatile neighborhood.

Update:

BBC Watch recently had a post on Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. Atwan was born in Egypt-controlled Gaza, studied at Cairo University and has lived since the late 1970s in London. On his own website, Atwan (rightly) boasts that his “often controversial opinions are frequently sought by print and broadcast journalists the world over.”

There is no doubt that Atwan is a highly influential opinion-shaper, and as BBC Watch notes, his “controversial opinions” include “endorsements of terror attacks against Israelis” and the declaration “that he would ‘dance with delight’ in Trafalgar Square were Iranian missiles to hit Tel Aviv.”

Unsurprisingly, Atwan also considers Osama bin Laden a “great man,” because – as he explained on BBC Arabic – the “fact is that no one has caused more damage to the US than Al-Qaeda.”

Ali Abunimah and the Islamist reign of terror in Mali

The reign of terror imposed by armed Islamists gangs who seized control of northern Mali has been widely reported. Last spring, these groups took advantage of the destabilization that followed a coup in the country that was once considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies. In the areas they control, the Islamists proceeded to not only ruthlessly destroy ancient Muslim mausoleums that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, but also to impose their brutal rule on the defenseless population.

Under the rather restrained headline “Mali: Islamist Armed Groups Spread Fear in North,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) has provided a fairly detailed report of the atrocities committed by the Islamists. According to HRW’s senior Africa researcher,

“The Islamist armed groups have become increasingly repressive as they have tightened their grip over northern Mali … Stonings, amputations [i.e. Sharia-sanctioned mutilations], and floggings have become the order of the day in an apparent attempt to force the local population to accept their world view. In imposing their brand of Sharia law, they have also meted out a tragically cruel parody of justice and recruited and armed children as young as 12.”

In December, the United Nations Security Council sanctioned an African-led military intervention in Mali; however, the deployment of these forces was only in the planning stage when Al-Qaeda linked groups recently made further advances. Following an appeal for urgent military aid from France by Mali’s government a few days ago, France promptly intervened to support the efforts of Mali’s armed forces to push back the Islamist advance. According to a Reuters report, “France’s intervention immediately tipped the military balance of power,” enabling Malian government forces to retake the town recently seized by the Islamists.

Reuters also reported that “a spokesman for al Qaeda’s north African arm AQIM urged France … to reconsider its intervention. ‘Stop your assault against us or you are digging your own sons’ graves.’”

This is how veteran “pro-Palestinian” activist Ali Abunimah commented on this development on Twitter:

Abunimah France Mali

In another tweet, Abunimah opined: “François Hollande must have gotten permission from Obama before declaring France’s glorious little war in Mali.”

Apparently, for a progressive “pro-Palestinian” activist like Ali Abunimah, there is nothing wrong with the reign of terror and destruction imposed by Islamists in Mali – but when a western country helps the armed forces of Mali to drive the Islamist terror groups back, it’s time to express outrage.

Since Abunimah is a regular Al Jazeera contributor – both for the website and as a studio guest – one could wonder if this is the kind of “nuance” that the New York Times editorial board had in mind when it warmly welcomed the news about the planned launch of Al Jazeera America.

Update:

This was also cross-posted at Harry’s Place.

In the meantime, some of Ali Abunimah’s fellow progressives have been active:

 AAs fellow progressives1

 AAs fellow progressives2

In case you wonder who Anjem Choudary is, here are a few lines from his Wikipedia entry (but there is much more…):

“Choudary is a vocal critic of the UK’s involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has praised the terrorists involved in the attacks of 11 September 2001, and 7 July 2005. He believes in the implementation of Sharia Law throughout the UK, and marched in protest at the Jyllands-Posten cartoons controversy, following which he was prosecuted for organising an unlawful demonstration. He was also investigated, but not charged, for his 2006 comments regarding Pope Benedict XVI. Choudary receives little support from the mainstream UK Muslim population and has been largely criticised in the media. The French Interior Ministry has also permanently banned him from entering France.”

 And according to a report in the Egypt Independent, Jama’a al-Islamiya has also called for protests at the French embassy against the intervention in Mali.

Update2:

To round out the picture, it’s worthwhile noting that Iran’s Press TV reacted already back in December to the UN Security Council’s approval of an intervention in Mali with an article entitled “Mali new prey to West imperialist quest.”

Last but by no means least, the blog “Africa is a country” has a detailed post on the unfolding events in Mali, which includes also a paragraph that nicely summarizes who is opposing the intervention:

“Not everyone is in favor of the intervention. Let’s count some of the more vocal opponents—Oumar Mariko, Mali’s perpetual gadfly; French ex-Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who argues that it would be better to wait for the lions to lie down with the lambs; Paris-based Camerounian novelist Calixthe Beyala, plagiarist who argues that those Malians who would prefer not to live under a crude faux-Islamic vigilantism suffer from a plantation mentality; and some truly reprehensible protesters at the French embassy in London, who refuse to believe that most Malians are Muslims and don’t need religious instruction from Salafists. It’s hard to imagine a leakier ship of fools.”

The “truly reprehensible protesters at the French embassy in London” mentioned here are obviously the ones pictured above.

 

Human Rights Watch: War Crimes for Dummies [updated]

As predictable as night follows day, Human Rights Watch (HRW) will come up with accusations against Israel as soon as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) do what they are supposed to do: defend Israel’s citizens.

So there is no reason to be surprised that HRW is now claiming that “Israeli army attacks on journalists and media facilities in the Gaza Strip during last month’s military operation violated the laws of war.”

Rejecting Israel’s explanations for these specific attacks, HRW Mideast director Sarah Leah Whitson reportedly quipped “Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so.”

The legal adviser of the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor, Anne Herzberg, had a great response to Whitson: “Just because HRW claims something is a war crime does not make it so.”

But it is arguably also very instructive to see when HRW does NOT claim that war crimes have been committed:

 “Human Rights Watch has conducted a thorough investigation of civilian deaths … On the basis of this investigation, Human Rights Watch has found that there were ninety separate incidents involving civilian deaths … Some 500 … civilians are known to have died in these incidents. … nine incidents were a result of attacks on non-military targets that Human Rights Watch believes were illegitimate. … Thirty-three incidents occurred as a result of attacks on targets in densely populated urban areas … the use of cluster bombs was a decisive factor in civilian deaths in at least three incidents. … In its investigation Human Rights Watch has found no evidence of war crimes.”

When some 500 civilians die, when non-military targets are attacked and cluster bombs are used and yet, the conclusion is that there is “no evidence of war crimes,” you can be sure of one thing: Israel wasn’t involved. Indeed, the quote here is from a HRW report on NATO’s bombing campaign in Yugoslavia in 1999.

Incidentally, the NATO campaign also included a strike on the headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), killing sixteen people and leaving many trapped for days in the damaged building.  In this case, HRW was content to assert that this was an “inappropriate” target because “[the] risks involved to the civilian population in undertaking this urban attack grossly outweigh any perceived military benefit.”

It is important to remember that this NATO campaign was officially justified as a humanitarian intervention designed to protect the Kosovo Albanians from Serbian aggression. Yet, in the course of this campaign, civilian infrastructure was deliberately targeted and destroyed; cluster bombs were used, causing the death of an estimated 90-150 civilians; and, according to the report cited above, “inventory shortages and cost considerations” led to the replacement of precision-guided weapons with “dumb” bombs.

As the report on the NATO campaign illustrates, there is no simple and straightforward definition of what constitutes a war crime. But at HRW, a very simple and straightforward definition is emerging: whenever the IDF is involved, it must be a war crime.

* * *

This post was first published at The Algemeiner.

Update:

In the meantime, HRW has gotten around to condemning the rockets launched from Gaza into Israel as “unlawful.” As rightly noted in an excellent post on Harry’s Place, this condemnation was discreetly published on Christmas Eve, when it wouldn’t attract too much attention – though the fact that it was published would still allow HRW to claim impartiality. But as also pointed out at Harry’s Place, it is of course utterly ridiculous that HRW pretends that Hamas might be in any way interested in upholding international law:

“There is an element of dark comedy in the following rather odd statement [by HRW]:

‘As the ruling authority in Gaza, Hamas has an obligation to stop unlawful attacks and punish those responsible.’

The notion that Hamas might stop such attacks… is laughable. They glory in them, and revel in the supposed cowardice of Jewish civilians running for shelter. […] they’ve boasted of their success in terrorising Jews.”

While HRW is apparently not willing to fully acknowledge that Hamas doesn’t commit war crimes by mistake, but that targeting Israeli civilians is their deliberate modus operandi, HRW did at least acknowledge that some of the rockets launched from Gaza – often from populated civilian areas – have fallen short and caused casualties among Gaza’s civilian population.

As widely noted, the body of one boy killed in such an incident was then used by Palestinians in Gaza for a widely distributed media story meant to blame Israel for the death.