Tag Archives: Hamas

The Israel-hater’s Islamic State

What do Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa and the Islamic State have in common? For Israel-haters, it’s an easy question: all three are regarded as utterly evil and therefore, they provide a perfect reference point for expressing one’s loathing of the world’s only Jewish state. It’s of course just another variation of what Jew-haters have always done.

Israel=ISIS antisemitism

The brutal Islamic State (IS/ISIL/ISIS) is thus actually good news for those who hate Israel, because the daily news of atrocities make people everywhere recoil and this revulsion can be put to good use if it’s diverted to the one modern, democratic and pluralistic state in the Middle East that is the complete antithesis of the reactionary Islamofascist ambitions of the ISIL-jihadists.

The efforts of Israel-haters to equate the Jewish state with the savage terrorists of the Islamic State have resulted in the hashtag #JSIL that is meant to taint the “Jewish state in the Levant” with the horrors of ISIL, the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”.

It is telling that it was apparently the tireless anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal who first created and promoted this hashtag. Exactly a year ago, Blumenthal was busy promoting his newly published book “Goliath” that compared Israel to Nazi Germany in an apparent effort to go beyond the demonization of “just” comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa. What a difference a year makes! In October 2013, it seemed that Israel could best be demonized as the Nazi Germany of our time; but now, in October 2014, it seems so much more opportune to demonize Israel as the Jewish version of the Islamic State…

If we follow the bizarre “logic” of Blumenthal and his fans, this would presumably also mean that the Islamic State is something like the Nazi Germany of our time. Anyone who assumes that Blumenthal and his ilk would now devote themselves to opposing such evil in our own time is in for a disappointment, because the savagery of the fanatic jihadists who are currently slaughtering and raping their way through parts of Iraq and Syria matters as little as the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis and the Apartheid regime in the past. All that matters is that the Islamic State provides a new way to demonize the world’s only Jewish state as the epitome of evil.

While Blumenthal and his fans therefore see little reason to highlight the terror group’s atrocities or the plight of its victims, they are eagerly monitoring how well their #JSIL hashtag is doing on Twitter.

MB Israel=JSIL

It is of course particularly ironic that an outspoken Hamas-supporter like Max Blumenthal should try to equate the democratic and pluralistic Israel with the Islamic State. Blumenthal recently declared that if he was a Palestinian, he “would want to live in Gaza, where true resistance is” – and needless to say, Blumenthal’s greatly admired “true resistance” has a charter that defines an Islamist and jihadist ideology that shares much with the monstrous agenda of the Islamic State. A leading Hamas member confirmed recently that Hamas wants to “build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine.”

The current debate about the Islamic State and the question how many Muslims endorse similarly “fundamentalist” views of Islam’s teachings has also rekindled interest in a Pew survey from 2013 that included almost 40 000 Muslims in 39 countries. The results showed that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were often among the most extremist Muslim populations: 89% of Palestinians want Sharia law; 66% endorse the death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion; 76% support punishing thieves by cutting off their hands, and a shocking 84% want adulterers stoned to death. As documented in other Pew surveys, Palestinians were also the most ardent fans of Osama bin Laden from 2003 until 2011.

So if Hamas had its way and could “build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine,” this state might not be all that different from the Islamic State that is so much in the news now. Max Blumenthal has made it repeatedly clear that he fervently hopes for a victory of the Palestinian “resistance” and he has called for the ethnic cleansing of all Israeli Jews who wouldn’t want to submit to Palestinian rule – but since he enjoyed his recent stay in Hamas-ruled Gaza so much, maybe he would want to be one of the very few Jews who would happily live in the Islamic state that his greatly admired “resistance” hopes to build on the ruins of the Jewish state that he hates so intensely.

MB Hamas fan

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

If you want to call it Gaza’s 9/11…

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

Gaza 9 11

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

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

Pals for bin Laden1

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

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

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

Pals for terrorism

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

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

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

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

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

Unilateral empathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaza Dr cheers Hamas kidnap claims 

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

Abunimah on kidnapped soldier

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

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

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

 

 

 

Gaza doctor shrugs off suffering

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

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

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

 Gaza Dr cheers kidnap

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

Gaza Drs celebrate

In addition, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported:

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

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

Gaza doctor rejects cease-fire [updated]

Imagine you are a young doctor in Gaza during the current war: there is terrible destruction, frequent and fearsome airstrikes, some 200 of your fellow Gazans have been killed and more than 1000 have been wounded. Local hospitals are facing a shortage of medicine and equipment, particularly for trauma injuries. Surely you would want nothing more than a cease-fire to end this misery?

Not if you are Dr. Belal Al-Dabour. As soon as there were rumors about a ceasefire, Dr. Al-Dabour took to Twitter – where he has a sizable following of almost 10,000 – and protested passionately:

AA no ceasefire

One could perhaps interpret this as meaning “Death is better than the life we have here under Hamas,” but there is no indication whatsoever that Dr. Al-Dabour is critical of Hamas – quite the contrary: he generally refers to casualties as “martyrs” and the rockets that Hamas and other terror groups launch from Gaza against Israeli towns are for him “resistance rockets.”

It is thus hardly a coincidence that Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada (EI) was among those who retweeted Al-Dabour’s determined rejection of a ceasefire. Indeed, last year, one of Al-Dabour’s blog posts was cross-posted at EI, and since both Al-Dabour and  Abunimah passionately oppose a cease-fire that doesn’t fulfill the conditions set by Hamas, several of Al-Dabour’s related tweets were now featured in an EI post by Abunimah with the typically Orwellian title “Hamas did not reject a ceasefire, Israel did.

From the comfort of Abunimah’s home in Chicago, it is obviously easy to oppose a cease-fire half a world away, particularly if the ongoing fighting gives a boost to your usual anti-Israel activism. It sadly seems that supporters of Hamas “resistance” view the current fighting not that much different from Hamas, and as Jeffrey Goldberg concluded in a recent must-read column: “Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.”

The explanation offered by Abunimah is that Gazans “don’t want to waste all this blood.”

AA no ceasefire2

Apparently, the logic is that when a conflict provoked by Hamas has already cost some 200 lives, yet more lives have to be sacrificed in order to enable Hamas to reach its goals.

But while it is hardly surprising when a professional anti-Israel activist lobbies for Hamas and against a cease-fire, it is arguably quite shocking to see a medical doctor who has to deal with the resulting suffering oppose an end to the bloodshed. Indeed, Dr. Al-Dabour’s stance is all the more appalling given that he has been posting countless tweets on the hardships and suffering experienced by his fellow Gazans. He has also written about his difficult experiences during previous escalations, and he has now been repeatedlyinterviewed by BBC Radio. According to the tweets he posted, he was asked in his most recent interview “what people think about resistance rockets” and he answered “that people dream about a life in which their [sic!] are other options!” He also added: “When you’re cornered you fight back, that’s how it is. With the siege and the occupation we’re left with no options and with nothing to lose.”

AA Gaza doctor3

It seems Dr. Al-Dabour has never pondered the question asked by Jeffrey Goldberg in the already quoted column: “What if, nine years ago, when Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza, the Palestinians had made a different choice. What if they chose to build the nucleus of a state, rather than a series of subterranean rocket factories?”

As Goldberg rightly points out:

“In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza, free from their Israeli occupiers, could have taken a lesson from the Kurds — and from David Ben-Gurion, the principal Israeli state-builder — and created the necessary infrastructure for eventual freedom. Gaza is centrally located between two large economies, those of Israel and Egypt. Europe is just across the Mediterranean. Gaza could have easily attracted untold billions in economic aid.

The Israelis did not impose a blockade on Gaza right away. That came later, when it became clear that Palestinian groups were considering using their newly liberated territory as a launching pad for attacks. In the days after withdrawal, the Israelis encouraged Gaza’s development. A group of American Jewish donors paid $14 million for 3,000 greenhouses left behind by expelled Jewish settlers and donated them to the Palestinian Authority. The greenhouses were soon looted and destroyed, serving, until today, as a perfect metaphor for Gaza’s wasted opportunity.”

Sadly, while Gazans like Dr. Al-Dabour who now oppose a cease-fire in order to give Hamas more time to achieve some sort of “victory” may claim that the people of Gaza ‘dream about a life in which there are other options,’ they will only ensure that there will be more wasted opportunities as long as they see nothing wrong with the “resistance rockets” of Gaza’s terror groups. Couldn’t a medical doctor be expected to be smart enough to realize that these “resistance rockets” inflict much greater damage on Gaza than on Israel?

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First published on my JPost blog.

Update:

Tonight, after Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip began, Dr. Al-Dabour again posted some tweets, including one that reads:

“On BBC radio I told my horrific stories, then he asks: Who do you blame for civilian casualties Israel or hamas who stores weapons in houses?”

Naturally, Al-Dabour could be sure his followers would agree with him that it was outrageous to even ask such a question; on the other hand, it’s very unlikely that his BBC interviewer or the BBC Radio audience were aware that Al-Dabour regards the arsenal of Hamas as “resistance rockets.” According to the Israeli media, such “resistance rockets” had been stored not far from Gaza’s Wafa Hospital, and as the Washington Post reported, Gaza’s Shifa Hospital once again serves as “de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.”

Since Al-Dabour so passionately agreed with the Hamas approach to reject the cease-fire without any hesitation, it is important to understand how crucial this rejection was. As Ha’aretz reported tonight:

“A senior [Israeli] official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cabinet ministers had already approved the ground operation when it met Tuesday night, after the Egyptian cease-fire initiative fell through. […]

The same official also said that despite the authorization, the ground operation was delayed in order to give the Egyptians another opportunity to forge a cease-fire. On Wednesday, Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen, Netanyahu’s envoy for the peace process Isaac Molho and the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-military affairs department, Amos Gilad, traveled to Cairo.

The Israeli delegation shared the iftar, the meal breaking the daily Ramadan fast, with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Fareed al-Tohami and his senior advisors. After meeting for a few hours, the delegation returned to Israel. The message Cohen, Molho and Gilad brought back was that Hamas is only increasing its demands, hardening its position toward a possible cease-fire.

‘We found out that we, the Egyptians and [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] are more or less in the same place regarding the need for a cease-fire,’ said the senior official. ‘But we also found out that Hamas is playing a totally different ballgame. We felt that they’re forcefully trying to sabotage the Egyptian attempts and mediation, and escalate the conflict.’

After the Israeli delegation returned to Israel on Thursday morning, pessimistic about the chances for a cease-fire, the decision to begin a ground operation on Thursday night began to take shape. The decision was bolstered by the fact that Hamas did not even honor the six-hour, UN-initiated humanitarian cease-fire on Thursday.”

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.

* * *

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.