Tag Archives: Hamas

Let’s do a Max Blumenthal on Palestine

Note: This was first published on December 16, 2013, on my JPost blog, but when I just realized I had forgotten to cross-post it, I thought I should do so right away, since it makes excellent reading for the currently ongoing “Israel Apartheid Week”…

Since I wrote a few weeks ago about the publication of a vicious anti-Israel screed authored by Max Blumenthal, there have been some noteworthy new developments. As I noted back then, Blumenthal’s rant was endorsed not only by influential writers and supposedly respectable academics, but also by activists associated with sites like Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada that devote themselves single-mindedly to maligning the Jewish state. It was therefore hardly surprising when it turned out that these supposedly “progressive” Israel-haters cheered a book that also got much praise from notorious Jew-haters posting at various far-right fringe outlets, including David Duke’s website.

In the meantime, Blumenthal’s fans – among them Roger Waters – have done much to illustrate once again that it is indeed a very slippery slope from fanatic anti-Zionism to outright antisemitism. But in this context, one of the arguably most dismal developments is the fact that the New America Foundation (NAF) decided to give Max Blumenthal a platform to promote his book – which is to say that the leading Democratic think tank in Washington D.C. hosted an event promoting a book about Israel that was enthusiastically endorsed by notorious Jew-haters. As Ron Radosh rightly noted, one might ask if the NAF would have promoted the same book if it was not only praised, but authored by David Duke.*

Among the entirely expected results of the NAF event was that mainstream publications like Foreign Policy started to cheer Blumenthal’s smug dismissal of his critics as hate-filled right-wingers full of “hot air,” while The Atlantic seemed to suggest that opposing the promotion of Blumenthal’s David-Duke-endorsed views was tantamount to opposing free speech.

Soon enough, popular blogger Andrew Sullivan chimed in with a post entitled “Not So Mad Max,” which he followed up a few days later with another post that asked “Who’s Afraid Of The Truth?” Both Sullivan and the Atlantic’s James Fallows chose to imbed into their posts a video co-produced by Max Blumenthal and posted on YouTube under the title “Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land.” The clip has already more than half a million views.

Since Blumenthal’s new-found defenders seem to have a really hard time understanding what’s so offensive about presenting Israel as defined by fringe views and some ugly phenomena that exist in every country, I thought it might be helpful to imagine a Max-Blumenthal-style book on Palestine. So here we go: “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Palestine.”

Naturally, we start with a video clip – though I don’t really recommend that you watch it, since I myself felt sick before getting through less than half of it. Below is a screenshot from the scene at which I stopped, and you should first read the clip’s description to decide if you’re up to watching it:

“The footage, filmed by local civilians [in Gaza] … shows cattle tied to poles, trees and vehicles before being stabbed in the neck and eyes. One animal was kneecapped by shots from an assault rifle. Animals Australia said the footage […] was some of the worst seen in a series of animal welfare outrages involving Australian cattle. WARNING: CONTAINS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC IMAGES”

One might add that the footage shows not only grown men behaving like sadistic savages, but also lots of children excitedly watching the gruesome spectacle and cheering it on.

Gaza cattle abuse

Screenshot from Guardian video: “Abuse of Australian cattle exported to Gaza.”

 I think we can all agree that this makes a wonderful opening for our Max Blumenthal-inspired Palestinian Goliath – and we might view it as a most auspicious coincidence that the title of Blumenthal’s  first chapter is a perfect fit here: “To the Slaughter.” Of course, given the behavior of the children in the clip, one could also opt for the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 59: “Children Whose Hearts Were Unmoved.”

Emulating Max Blumenthal’s “journalism”, we then proceed to point out that Palestinians don’t just live out their brute impulses by torturing tied-up cattle, but that they behave in a similar way to those fellow Palestinians they view as enemies. This can be nicely illustrated with images from a “grisly spectacle” that took place in Gaza late last year, when, according to press reports, “masked Hamas gunmen…forced…six men suspected of collaborating with Israel to lie face down on the street, then shot them dead. Later, while an angry mob stomped and spat on five of the bodies, the sixth was tied to the back of a motorcycle” to be dragged through the streets. According to a CNN report, this was not the first such incident and some people cheered it with shouts of “God is great.”

Gaza lynch mob

Screenshot from Global Post report

Since the list of additional examples of Palestinian depravity is long, we’ll have an easy time getting a lot of short Max-Blumenthal-style chapters illustrating what Andrew Sullivan would presumably call the “truth” about the Palestinians.  Relevant stories include the sad fate of a doctor in Gaza who was kidnapped and “blindfolded, handcuffed and shot six times in the legs, including a kneecap, and then tossed on the street.” Since the doctor was a Hamas supporter, the Islamist group retaliated by kidnapping a Fatah-member and throwing him from the roof of a 15-storey apartment building. Indeed, according to press reports from the summer of 2007, “Hundreds of Hamas and Fatah supporters have been kidnapped in recent months by rival gunmen. The treatment of the hostages […] has become increasingly harsh, and captives are often shot in the legs.” Last year, Human Rights Watch also documented that “Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip commit rampant abuses against Palestinian prisoners, including beatings with metal clubs and rubber hoses, mock executions and arbitrary arrests.”

For the next few chapters of our Blumenthal-style documentation of Palestinian evils we could turn to the terrible treatment of the disabled – after all, it is very revealing how a society treats its most vulnerable members. Since this is a widely ignored subject, we can perhaps use the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 64 here: “The Big Quiet.” Indeed, a “Big Quiet” usually also prevails when it comes to acknowledging that Palestinian children born with disabilities are often paying the terrible price for a “strongly patriarchal culture that prods women into first-cousin marriages and allows polygamy.”

The many truly heartbreaking stories that could be highlighted here include the confinement of two handicapped Palestinian siblings “in an unlit and unventilated cellar” for some 20 years. Unfortunately, this is by no means an isolated case, since many Palestinians “regard people with intellectual disabilities as mad.” The desperate plight of disabled Palestinians is also reflected in a chilling proposal for dealing with the potentially widespread sexual abuse of disabled girls and women. When this issue “was raised on a national governmental level […] one of the suggestions to ‘protect’ a girl with disabilities was to remove her uterus so that if the girl were abused, at least she would not become pregnant.”

If we want to deal with this topic à la Max Blumenthal, we will have to end this chapter by insinuating that the fate of disabled Palestinians is similar to how the disabled fared in Nazi Germany.

We could then smoothly move on to topics that call for Max-Blumenthal-style examples of “fascism” – which in the case of the Palestinians should probably be “Islamofacism.” One of the chapters in this part of the book should perhaps echo the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 61: instead of “This Belongs To The White Man,” we’ll have “This Belongs To The Muslim Man.” We could first highlight the Hamas Charter, and – given its genocidal visions of “stones and trees” calling out “O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him” – Blumental’s chapter on “How To Kill Goyims” could become a chapter on “How To Kill Infidels.”

The next chapter could perhaps deal with the praise repeatedly heaped by Mahmoud Abbas on Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader who is also known as “Hitler’s Mufti” because he collaborated with the Nazis; here, Blumenthal’s chapter title “The Days of ’48 Have Come Again” could become “The Days of ’43 Have Never Gone”. Then we could move on to the enormous popularity Osama bin Laden enjoyed among Palestinians for the decade after 9/11 – maybe Blumenthal’s chapter title on “The Joint Struggle” could come in handy here.

Staying with our Blumenthal-inspired topic of “Islamofascism,” we might then highlight the rather dramatic results of a recent Pew study documenting massive popular support for reactionary Muslim views among Palestinians; the obvious topic to continue would be the recently reported “worrisome trend in rise of ‘honor killings’” perpetrated by Palestinians.

Naturally, the appalling prevalence of corruption and its corrosive effects on Palestinian society would also have to be addressed; likewise, it would be inexcusable to ignore the heartbreaking cruelty inflicted on poverty-stricken and ill Palestinians who have to watch helplessly as their modest dwellings are demolished by a merciless Hamas-government.

So there is obviously more than enough material to come up with a 500-page Blumenthal-style screed. But what are the chances that such a book – faithfully reflecting Blumenthal’s modus operandi with its relentless focus on portraying Palestinians only in the worst possible light – would be promoted by the NAF? What are the chances that Andrew Sullivan would insist that “Life and Loathing in Palestine” should be taken seriously and deserved to be reviewed in the New York Times? What are the chances that Blumenthal’s defenders would eagerly link to the appalling video clip from Gaza, insinuating that it provides a good illustration of how terrible Palestinians truly are?

As we all know, the chances are nil – because the rules that apply when it comes to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state are of course totally unacceptable when others are concerned.

*I have in the meantime written a paper on the NAF’s promotion of Blumenthal’s Goliath; see: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath and the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism

 

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.

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.

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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.

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First published at The Algemeiner.

 

 

Who will tell the truth about the Masharawi tragedy? [updated]

A heartbreaking picture dominated the world media last November, just a day after Israel launched its “Pillar of Defense”-campaign to stop the barrage of rockets from Gaza. The picture showed a grief-stricken young father in Gaza holding the shrouded body of his baby son.

The Washington Post was among the newspapers that featured the photo prominently on its front page.

WaPo Gaza baby Fpage

 Twitter screenshot

Unsurprisingly, Hamas was quick to also distribute the photo, adding rather ridiculously: “Where is the media coverage of Israel’s crimes in Gaza[?]”

Hamas Gaza baby

Twitter screenshot

But while the media generally agreed with Hamas that it should be taken for granted that Israel was to blame for the death of the baby, blogger Elder of Ziyon pointed out that there were many reasons to question this supposed “fact.” However, the BBC would have none of that: while it devoted several reports to this tragic story because the bereaved father was employed by the BBC’s Gaza office, it firmly dismissed all doubts, insisting that baby Omar most likely “died in the one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks.”

Months later, the BBC continues to feature this story – despite the fact that by now, a UN investigation has concluded that baby Omar Masharawi (also spelled Mashhrawi or Misharawi) was indeed killed “by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.” As BBC Watch notes, the relevant UN report has been published four days ago, and the BBC hasn’t yet gotten around to issuing any correction to its original stories. The same is probably true for most of the mainstream media that prominently featured this tragic image and the related story – and even if corrections were issued, they wouldn’t be given the prominent and dramatic coverage that the original received. The grief-stricken father in Gaza holding the shrouded body of his beloved baby son will inevitably become part of the “lethal narratives” that are spread eagerly by mainstream journalists who have long embraced the notion that Goliath Israel is cruelly oppressing and killing the Palestinian David.

*

I wrote about this tragic incident in late November last year, when the Washington Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton (whose term just ended) responded to the controversy about the front page photo. His article included a callous dismissal of the rocket barrage from Gaza, which Pexton compared to “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”

According to Pexton, the photo of Jihad Masharawi mourning his baby son was selected for the front page because everyone at the Washington Post felt that it “went straight to the heart, this sobbing man who just lost his baby son.”

Of course, the rocket was fired with the intention to create such a scene in Israel.

Pexton also argued that “an effective photograph…moves the viewer toward a larger truth” – though he didn’t make entirely clear what he had in mind. But he also linked to a related Washington Post article on “The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo,” which featured three images: the first on the left is the photo that was the controversial choice for the Washington Post’s front page; the one in the middle is an injured Israeli infant, and the third photo is again from a boy killed in Gaza who was rushed to Gaza’s Shifa Hospital just when Egypt’s Prime Minister was visiting there with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

WaPo Gaza-Israel child victims

Washington Post screenshot

Commenting on the three images, Max Fisher argued:

“Each tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on. It’s a narrative that speaks to the pain of a grieving people, to the anger at those responsible, and to a determination for the world to bear witness. But the conversations around these photos, and around the stories that they tell, are themselves a microcosm of the distrust and feelings of victimhood that have long plagued the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Whatever story Max Fisher thought the three photos were telling and whatever uplifting contemplations he intended to offer, the plain truth is that all three children were victims of rockets shot by Hamas and other Gaza terrorists. The plain truth is also that they hoped that only Israeli children would be injured or killed by their rockets, but they knew that if they wouldn’t quite succeed and some children in Gaza got killed by their rockets, nobody would hesitate to blame Israel for it.

After all, everyone knows that the strikes of the Israeli Goliath kill, while the attacks of the Palestinian David are merely “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind” – and who cares that every Israeli strike that kills a Palestinian child or civilian is considered by the Israeli military and the vast majority of the Israeli public a tragic event, while every Palestinian “bee sting” that kills an Israeli child or civilian is considered by Palestinian terror groups and their supporters a reason to cheer and celebrate.

The Washington Post’s Max Fisher certainly doesn’t care about this well-documented fact, as his not-so-subtle exercise in equivalency illustrates: “a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy” implies after all that just as Hamas is a “heartless enemy” to Israel’s children, the IDF is an equally “heartless enemy” to Palestinian children.

As far as Fisher is concerned, this is the “story” told by the three images he comments on. But it is of course he who is telling a story about heartless enemies wounding and killing innocent children. I doubt that Fisher will take the time to revisit his story and ponder how much – or rather how little – sense it makes once we know that each of the children shown in the photos was a victim of Palestinian fire.

Fisher focuses mainly on arguing how terrible it is that there are controversies about such photos and the stories they supposedly tell. But as this example illustrates so well, it is always people who tell stories about images, and it indeed matters a lot what stories they tell – because facts matter if we want to understand reality.

Of course, when it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (and the broader Arab and Muslim world), focusing on facts and their proper context isn’t all that fashionable.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Update:

In the end, quite a lot of media outlets reported the UN finding that the son of Jihad Mashrawi was most likely the victim of a Palestinian rocket. However, as J.E. Dyer rightly points out in her excellent and detailed analysis of several incidents that were falsely blamed on Israel (“Oops – The IDF didn’t kill Baby Mashrawi (and other things that didn’t happen during Pillar of Defense)”), this incident showed once again that media organizations that care about their reputation should be considerably more careful about vetting their sources and verifying the details of events they report on.

The perhaps most impressive correction for the Masharawi incident was published by AP, which had taken the widely published photo of the mourning father back in November.

However, the BBC was extremely reluctant to correct its story. Similarly, the Washington Post’s Max Fisher doubled down on his earlier false equivalence that implied there was no difference between Hamas and the IDF. Accordingly, Fisher now wrote in his new post on the subject:

“But, as I wrote in November when reports suggested that an Israeli strike had killed Mishrawi, does knowing which military’s errant round happened to have landed on this civilian home really determine the larger narrative of one of the world’s thorniest and most complicated conflicts? Does assigning blame for Mishrawi’s tragic death, awful as it may be, offer us any real insight into who holds the blame for 60 years of fighting? And is partitioning blame really going to serve either side particularly well?

It’s difficult to see how knowing whose rocket or missile killed Mishrawi would resolve the larger questions for which that debate is a proxy: responsibility for continuing the long-term conflict, for sparking the latest round of fighting in November, and for the Israeli and Palestinian civilians who suffer as a result. But these are notoriously thorny debates. As with so many protracted geopolitical conflicts, neither side comes out looking as angelic or demonic as its partisans might wish. In many ways, 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. […]”

While this is pure nonsense on several levels, I will for now just note that if Fisher wants to see Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza as a “military” just like the IDF, he would have to hold them both to the same standard – which means he would have to deal with the fact that Hamas and the other Palestinian terror groups intentionally target Israeli civilians and are jubilant if they manage to kill or maim them. The fact of the matter is 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 child-soldiers of Palestine

* Originally published at my JPost blog on January 26 *

Last Thursday, many Sunni Muslims celebrated the birth of Islam’s founder Muhammad. As the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported, Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced during a ceremony to mark this occasion that Hamas was planning to establish a “military academy” that would offer training to children as young as twelve. The children attending the school would be able to “graduate with a diploma or a BA in military affairs.”

However, as a widely quoted Associated Press (AP) report indicates, this was apparently not an entirely new initiative: since last September, Hamas has been offering a military training program as “a weekly elective…in all Gaza high schools,” and the ceremony on Thursday included celebrations of the “graduation” of the first 3600 participants:

“More than 3,000 Palestinian teenagers on Thursday graduated from the ruling Hamas terror group’s first high school military training program in the Gaza Strip, displaying mock weapons, crawling commando-style on the ground and taking up fighting positions for thousands of cheering supporters.

Hamas officials said the Futuwwa, or ‘Youth,’ program is aimed at fostering a new generation of leaders in the struggle against Israel.”

A fifteen year old graduate of this program quoted in the AP report was enthusiastic:

“My officer taught me the values of courage, sacrifice and love of jihad, as well as some battle tactics […] I feel that I can free my energy in a good way. I can do for real what I do in video games.”

There may well be a connection between this “educational” initiative by Hamas and the efforts mentioned by senior Hamas commander Zaher Jabarin in a recent interview with Hamas’ Al-Quds TV. In the interview, Jabarin boasted that Hamas labors “day and night” to educate Palestinian children to become suicide bombers.

“There was training of the divine generation, the true generation of martyrdom-seekers, through which we can participate in the battle. First, before anything else, before any Jihadi action, before the transfer of weapons, money, etc., and everything required for action, first and foremost is the individual person. The Islamic Movement [Hamas] took care of the education of this youngster who will participate in this battle […] We labored day and night to build the person, who will participate in this battle […] The Palestinian youngsters, the resistance and Jihad warriors, fight and quarrel over performing a courageous suicide operation.”

Jabarin emphasized that Hamas was “now preparing for the battle of liberation, and not just the resistance as we have done in the past” – and tellingly, the teenagers “graduating” on Muhammad’s birthday were called “Liberation Vanguards.”

Among the many questions that should be raised in this context is whether the claim by AP that Hamas has been offering a military training program as “a weekly elective…in all Gaza high schools” means that UNRWA – which runs 245 schools for 225,000 students in Gaza – cooperates with Hamas in hosting or otherwise facilitating the military training of teenagers. UNWRA also has a program for donors to “adopt” a Gaza school, and recently, the German government donated 3 million Euros for the construction of two additional UNRWA schools in Gaza. No doubt these donations are well-meant, but they obviously also allow the Hamas-rulers of Gaza to avoid committing resources to the education of Gaza’s children while leaving them free to finance instead “jihad” training for teenagers.

It is perhaps also time that the organizations that are so eager to indict Israel for any harm that comes to Palestinian teenagers in situations of conflict take note of the longstanding and prevalent Palestinian practice to provide children with some sort of military training.

In June 1970, Life Magazine featured a report on “Palestinian Arabs” with a cover photo that showed a group of boys holding what seems to be real guns; the photo was captioned: “The ‘Tiger Cubs’ train at a camp in Jordan.”

Life 1261970 cover

The report included another similar photo accompanied by a text explaining that it showed “student guerillas in Jordan receiv[ing] weapons instruction in a tent under the stern gaze of Che Guevara. The course is sponsored by the liberation front.”

Life 1970 Pal story

Or consider this revealing testimony, first published in 1985 and reprinted 1998 for a special Al-Ahram series on “50 years of Arab dispossession”: in an interview, Nagi El-Ali, a prominent cartoonist, decries Israel’s 1982 campaign against Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon, but then he boasts:

“I saw for myself how afraid the Israeli soldiers were of the children. A child of ten or eleven had sufficient training to carry and use an RBG rifle. The situation was simple enough. The Israeli tanks were in front of them and the weapon was in their hands. The Israelis were afraid to go into the camps, and if they did, they would only do so in daylight.”

Right: those cowardly Israeli soldiers, utterly shocked when they encounter heavily armed children sent by cynical adults to fight for them… And of course, these adults know very well when to switch from the perverted pride reflected in El-Ali’s recollection – and countless other similar statements – to a display of abject victimization.

To be sure, Palestinian youngsters no longer train “under the stern gaze of Che Guevara,” but otherwise, not all that much has changed: nowadays, they get trained as “Jihad warriors” who proudly graduate on Muhammad’s birthday, indoctrinated to regard it as a privilege to perform “a courageous suicide operation.” The international community makes sure Hamas won’t have other expenses for education and continues to overlook the vicious legacy of decades of determined Palestinian efforts to teach children that violence and terrorism are noble and admirable.

 

Just a thought: Cheering Al Jazeera America

In an excellent commentary on “Al Gore’s Al Jazeera sellout” in Ha’aretz, James Kirchick highlights some of the issues that have caused considerable concern about the profitable sale of Current TV that was acquired by the Qatari network in order to build up “Al Jazeera America.” Krichick begins by recalling that in July 2008, Al Jazeera celebrated the release of the notorious Lebanese terrorist and murderer Samir Kuntar – whom Israel exchanged for the remains of two abducted soldiers – by hosting a televised birthday party for him. During the program, the head of Al Jazeera’s Beirut office praised Kuntar as a “pan-Arab hero.”

While Al Jazeera later acknowledged that its enthusiastic coverage of Kuntar’s release had been inappropriate, Kirchick argues that “[such] coverage is all too typical of Al Jazeera, and it is important to keep the above scene in mind as American liberals, so-called ‘media studies’ experts, and other denizens of the global cosmopolitan class trip over themselves in praising the Arab Satellite network’s acquisition of Current TV.”

Kirchick goes on to argue:

“Indeed, vital to understanding Al Jazeera is acknowledging that it does have an ideology. This is something that many of its Western fan boys choose to ignore. Calling the network’s ethos an ‘ideology’, however, gives its modus operandi a little too much credit; the network, despite its protestations, is ultimately a tool of Qatari foreign policy. The network’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is invariably influenced by the fact that the Emir of Qatar has heaped hundreds of millions of dollars on Hamas. See, for instance, its highly manipulative and irresponsible presentation of the ‘Palestine Papers’ two years ago, which emboldened the implacable terrorist organization while portraying the Palestinian Authority as feckless, Zionist collaborators.”

Kirchick then focuses on the New York Times editorial board that praised Al Jazeera as “an important news source” that “could bring an important international perspective to American audiences” because it “often brings a nuance to international stories that can be lacking on American networks.”

Somewhat sarcastically, Kirchick adds:

“One wonders what specific ‘nuance’ the Times commends. Is it the musings of Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, who shares his thoughts on permissible spousal abuse to 60 million viewers via his program ‘Shariah and Life?’ It was on Al Jazeera Arabic that Qaradawi, the most popular Sunni cleric in the world, declared that Adolf Hitler ‘managed to put [the Jews] in their place.’ The Holocaust, he declared, ‘was divine punishment for them,’ even though, of course, they ‘exaggerated’ it.”

Western praise for Al Jazeera is also remarkable given the restrictions upheld in Qatar. Here are some of the relevant passages of the 2011 Freedom House report on Qatar:

“While Qatar permits its flagship satellite television channel Al-Jazeera to air critical coverage of foreign countries and leaders, journalists are forbidden from criticizing the Qatari government, the ruling family, or Islam, and are subject to prosecution for such violations. […]

As a government-subsidized channel, Al-Jazeera refrains from criticizing the Qatari authorities, providing only sparse and uncritical local news. […]

The concentration of media ownership within the ruling family as well as the high financial costs and citizenship requirements to obtain media ownership licenses continue to hinder the expansion and freedom of the press.

Approximately 69 percent of the Qatari population used the internet in 2010, a major increase from 32 percent in 2007. Sixty-three percent of households have access to the internet. The government censors political, religious, and pornographic content through the sole, state-owned internet-service provider. Both high-speed and dial-up internet users are directed to a proxy server that maintains a list of banned websites and blocks material deemed inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political, and moral values of the country.”

That Qatari authorities are very serious about enforcing these restrictions is illustrated by the case of a renowned Qatari poet who has been given a life sentence for “a poem considered offensive to the nation’s symbols.”

Presumably, this kind of story is not one of the “nuances” that the New York Times hopes to get from Al Jazeera America.

Update:

Clifford D. May has another excellent article on this matter in National Review Online. May cites two journalists who worked for Al Jazeera but left due to a pro-Islamist and anti-American bias; he also quotes an interesting commentary from 2001 by Fouad Ajami, who noted that

“[Al Jazeera] may not officially be the Osama bin Laden Channel, but he is clearly its star . . . The channel’s graphics assign him a lead role: there is bin Laden seated on a mat, his submachine gun on his lap; there is bin Laden on horseback in Afghanistan, the brave knight of the Arab world. A huge, glamorous poster of bin Laden’s silhouette hangs in the background of the main studio set at Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. […] Although Al Jazeera has sometimes been hailed in the West for being an autonomous Arabic news outlet, it would be a mistake to call it a fair or responsible one. Day in and day out, Al Jazeera deliberately fans the flames of Muslim outrage.”

May also highlights Qaradawi’s star role at Al Jazeera:

“One more reason to be less than optimistic: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the host of Al Jazeera Arabic’s most popular program, Sharia and Life. Qaradawi endorsed Ayatollah Khomeini’s call to execute novelist Salman Rushdie for blasphemy, called what Hitler did to Europe’s Jews ‘divine punishment’ (adding that ‘Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers’). In 1991, one of his acolytes, Mohamed Akram, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, wrote a memorandum, later obtained by the FBI, asserting that Brothers ‘must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.’”

Molad – or: what’s wrong with the Israeli left

In a post entitled “Confessions of a lapsed leftist,” I tried to explain more than a year ago why my lifelong allegiance to the left had begun to crumble. Of course, many Israelis who had supported “Peace Now” in the 1990s and who had hoped that the negotiations at Camp David and Taba would result in a peace agreement went through a similar experience in view of the fact that the Palestinians chose to respond to Israel’s offers with the long and bloody “Al Aqsa”-Intifada.

The historian Benny Morris has repeatedly described the unfortunate learning process that many of us went through, most recently last fall in a long interview with Ha’aretz. The problem is that Israel’s left – which represented the peace camp – has not been able or willing to go through the same learning process. As a result, there are lots of politically homeless people like me in Israel, and I think the dizzying proliferation of new parties over the past few years is at least in part a reflection of this widespread homelessness.

Personally, I can’t say that I find any of the new options attractive or politically convincing and sound, and it is perhaps for this reason that I felt particular frustration when I recently discovered that a new left-wing Israeli think tank that had been established a year ago is apparently resolved to continue the left’s head-in-the-sand-approach. The two posts I wrote about the new organization were first published in The Algemeiner and on my Jerusalem Post blog; they are cross-posted below with some minor changes. Continue reading

News from Israel’s Islamist neighborhood

If it was a western president or prime minister – let alone an Israeli one – who had made utterly bigoted and hate-filled remarks about Muslims not long before he took office, it sure would be a top news item all over the world. But when it turns out that some two years ago, the man who is now Egypt’s president called “the Zionists” “blood-suckers,” “warmongers,” and “the descendants of apes and pigs,” most of the mainstream media (MSM) seem to think it should be politely ignored.

In a way one could actually argue that this really isn’t newsworthy, because if the MSM accurately reported on Islamist ideology, everyone would already know that implacable Jew-hatred is an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s views and agenda. After all, Morsi’s statements from 2010, which were recently translated by MEMRI, faithfully echo themes that are all too familiar from the Hamas Charter, and similar views are regularly propagated by well-respected Muslim scholars.

The question why this torrent of loathsome statements by influential and widely respected figures who clearly shape and represent mainstream views is studiously ignored in the MSM was recently addressed by Pat Condell, who focused on the Palestinians and argued that this kind of “political correctness” reflected a patronizing and ultimately racist attitude.

While I largely agree with Pat Condell’s broader argument, I think there are also other important factors at work – first and foremost perhaps the western mantra that other societies should be approached as “people like us.” The problem with this approach is that, while it is always true on an individual level – we can meet people we personally like and get along with anywhere –, it is not true for societies.  A society where the reactionary and bigoted views of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood are mainstream is simply not like a society where it is mainstream to reject and even loathe comparably reactionary and bigoted views.

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.