Tag Archives: terrorism

The not so progressive Palestinian cause

It seems that most people who support “pro-Palestinian” activism on campus would regard themselves as politically progressive. But there is arguably a lot about the “Palestinian cause” that is not at all progressive. The first problem is that most “pro-Palestinian” activism could be more appropriately described as anti-Israel activism that all too often denounces the world’s only Jewish state in terms that echo the Nazi slogan “The Jews are our misfortune.” Moreover, progressives who champion the “Palestinian cause” are apparently either indifferent to or ignorant of the well-documented reactionary and extremist views that are mainstream among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinian public opinion has long been regularly monitored by institutes like the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) and the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC). The surveys conducted by these institutes often include topical issues relevant mainly for domestic Palestinian politics, but many polls offer fascinating glimpses of Palestinian attitudes that are ignored in the media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though they go a long way to explain the intractability of the conflict.

Take for example the coverage of last summer’s war: while the media resolutely focused on the suffering and devastation in Gaza, Palestinians overwhelmingly felt victorious and credited Hamas for this supposed “victory.” In the immediate aftermath of the war, a whopping 79% of Palestinian saw Hamas as the winner, and even though none of Hamas’ demands were met, 59% believed that the war’s “achievements” justified “the human and material losses sustained by the Gaza Strip.” At the same time, 80% supported “the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israel” – supposedly as a means to end “the siege and blockade,” i.e. the restrictions imposed only because of the launching of rockets and terror attacks from Gaza. Perhaps most shockingly, a clear majority of 57% endorsed “launching rockets from populated areas in the Gaza Strip,” thereby accepting that Gaza residents would be endangered in Israeli strikes against the rocket launchers.

To be sure, these numbers soon changed to reflect somewhat diminished enthusiasm, and the survey results showed interesting differences between Gaza and the West Bank. Nevertheless, Hamas, which had used Gaza’s civilian neighborhoods to launch its rockets and had spent enormous resources to build a sophisticated tunnel network that made war all but inevitable, would have handily won Palestinian elections in the aftermath of a war that brought so much death and destruction to Gaza. Indeed, when Hamas won student council elections in the West Bank this spring, many argued that this result reflected broader political trends, and a Hamas official promptly concluded that this was a victory won by “the Al-Qassam Brigades’ rockets.”

Far from criticizing this militaristic and nationalistic fervor, leading anti-Israel activists like Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal tend to echo and justify it. Abunimah has even gone so far as to object to criticism of summary public executions of accused collaborators by Hamas during the war. Similarly, the fascist genocidal Hamas charter that envisages a society dedicated to “jihad” and the religiously sanctioned killing of all Jews is usually politely ignored by activists.

Indeed, by now it is widely considered as distasteful and ‘right-wing’ to take note of the well-documented daily incitement in Palestinian media and public life. A related New York Times article openly acknowledged a few years ago that the paper of record preferred to ignore this subject. However, the deplorable results of this incitement are reflected in surveys of Muslim opinion conducted by the respected Pew Research Center.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Pew monitored Muslim public opinion about Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for a decade, and the survey results document that throughout this decade, Palestinians remained bin Laden’s most ardent admirers.

1 Pal confidence in binLaden

These results are arguably all the more shocking in view of the fact that survey participants were asked if they had “confidence” in bin Laden “to do the right thing in world affairs.” In 2003, bin Laden actually inspired more “confidence” in Palestinians than their iconic strongman Yassir Arafat.

2 binLaden vs Arafat

As Palestinian enthusiasm for the al-Qaeda leader indicates, support for terrorism among Palestinians is widespread even if the target is not Israel. Among the Muslim populations surveyed by Pew, Palestinians have long been the strongest supporters of suicide bombings targeting civilians “in order to defend Islam from its enemies.”

3 Pal support suicide bombing

While the latest Pew results show a fairly dramatic decline in Palestinian support for suicide bombings against civilians between 2013 and 2014, al-Qaeda still received the highest “favorable” rating among Palestinians, though Pew noted that “[Palestinian] support is down nine percentage points since 2013.”

4 Pal fav on alQaeda 2014

So by now, “only” one out of every four Palestinians has a “favorable” view of al-Qaeda.

It is noteworthy that the last two charts illustrate a marked difference between the views of Israel’s Muslims and the Muslims in Gaza and the West Bank, even though Palestinians usually insist that all Israeli Arabs are Palestinians.

Given the proclivity for extremism in the Palestinian territories, it is hardly surprising that most Palestinians insist that “the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists.” However, this is of course a view that is widely shared in the Muslim Middle East.

Since the “rights and needs of the Palestinian people” are usually understood to include a state of their own, it is remarkable how rarely it is debated what kind of state Palestinians envisage. Perhaps the first noteworthy point of the Palestinian draft constitution is that it arguably undermines Palestinian claims of a distinct identity: Article 2 defines Palestine as “part of the Arab homeland” and identifies the “Palestinian people” as “part of the Arab and Islamic nations.” Article 7 stipulates that the “principles of the Islamic shari’a are a main source for legislation,” while the “followers of the monotheistic religions” are merely granted the right to “have their personal status and religious affairs organized according to their shari’as and religious denominations within the framework of [positive] law, while preserving the unity and independence of the Palestinian people.”

The overwhelming majority of Palestinians are Muslims; according to current estimates, Christians comprise only 1-2% of the Arab population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As documented in a Pew survey from 2013 that included almost 40 000 Muslims in 39 countries, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were often among the Muslim populations with the most extremist views about the role of Islam in society: 89% of Palestinians want Sharia law; 66% endorse the death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion; 76% support mutilation as a punishment for theft, and a shocking 84% want adulterers stoned to death.

“Justice” may be one of the central slogans of the supposedly progressive BDS movement, but in view of the medieval sharia “justice” Palestinians want, it is apparently a demand focused strictly on Israel. “Equality” is another goal BDS professes to pursue, but again, there is probably a highly selective interpretation, because Palestinians are definitely not keen on equality for women, let alone for gays. Like the vast majority of Muslim populations everywhere, 89% of Palestinian Muslims regard homosexuality as morally wrong; only 1% is prepared to see it as morally acceptable. When it comes to so-called “honor killings”, less than half (about 45%) of Palestinian Muslims reject these murders as never justified. And like in most Muslim societies, the vast majority of Palestinians – 87% – insists that a wife must always obey her husband. Only 33% of Palestinian Muslims believe a wife should have the right to divorce her husband, and only 43% think that sons and daughters should have equal inheritance rights. Finally, the other main BDS slogan – freedom – also seems to be a demand that isn’t necessarily meant to apply to the state Palestinians supposedly want:  when asked if they prefer democracy or a strong leader, just 55% of Palestinian Muslims chose democracy, while 40 % preferred a strong leader;  when asked how much political influence religious leaders should have, 29% wanted religious leaders to have a lot of political influence, and another 43% wanted religious leaders to have at least some political influence.

In view of this strong support for political influence by religious leaders – and in view of the BDS goal to see Israel replaced by a Palestinian Muslim majority state – it is arguably important to be aware of the kind of political influence exerted by Palestinian religious leaders in recent years. Unfortunately, Palestinian religious leaders have a long record of denying the historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem; this includes of course the denial of the existence of the Temple.  In a recently published Reuters report, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem insisted that the Temple Mount in its entirety should be considered as the Al Aqsa (mosque) compound and that “Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa [i.e. anywhere on the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest place] is not so much an insult as it is an aggression.” The same Grand Mufti can be seen in this video clip from 2012, where he is announced as a speaker whose words “are necessary because [of] our war with the descendants of apes and pigs” (i.e. Jews); the Grand Mufti obliges by reciting the notorious Islamic sanctioning of the killing of all Jews that is also cited in the Hamas charter.

6 Jerusalem Mufti kill Jews

Another very recent incident involved Sheikh Khaled al-Mughrabi, a religious teacher who used one of his regular classes at the Al Aqsa mosque to teach his students every antisemitic calumny he could possibly think of, including the blood libel – which he presented as a justification for the Holocaust – as well as claims like “Jews worship Satan, plotted the 9/11 attacks, and control the Freemasons who sacrifice their wives and children in secret ceremonies.” After the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a protest letter to Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Sheikh doubled down and defended his antisemitic tirade in his next class. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, he also echoed the among anti-Israel activists popular complaint that their “criticism” of Israel and Zionism is unfairly condemned as antisemitism: “If you give advice to a Jew, he immediately says: ‘You’re inciting to racism, you’re an Antisemite.’ Immediately. It has become a cliché for them, a permanent sentence,[…] which they stick on every person who gives them advice.”

Only bigots would deny that al-Mughrabi’s rant was antisemitic, but all he really did was talking about Jews in the same way anti-Israel activists talk about the Jewish state: just as al-Mughrabi associated Jews with every evil he could think of, anti-Israel activists consistently associate Israel with every evil they can think of. As far as anti-Israel activists are concerned, there’s very little you cannot say as long as you substitute “Zionists” for Jews. Inevitably, the goal of demonizing the world’s only Jewish state as an evil that must be opposed and eliminated requires a simplistic black-and-white narrative that features the Palestinians only as victims who deserve uncritical support in their heroic struggle against the evil forces of Zionism.

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First published on my JPost blog.

The UN and HRW’s list of shame

Last week, I wrote at my JPost blog about efforts at the UN to blacklist the IDF – together with savage terror groups like the Islamic State – as an entity that regularly harms children. The post is reproduced below, but since Human Rights Watch (HRW) is now so energetically pushing for Israel’s inclusion in this “list of shame,” I felt it is worthwhile to add this update as a reminder of the organization’s shameful bias against Israel.

HRW’s persistent negative focus on Israel is well documented, and I have written about the organization’s double standards and the animosity against Israel that is openly displayed by HRW executive director Ken Roth. As I have noted in my previous posts, HRW always stands ready to condemn Israel as soon as the Israeli army moves to defend the country’s citizens against the attacks of terror groups. HRW would perhaps claim that its latest effort is even-handed, since it apparently also recommended the inclusion of Hamas in the UN’s blacklist. But this of course means that HRW sees no difference between Israel and Hamas when it comes to harming children.

Yet, HRW’s own examples of how Hamas has harmed children explain why Palestinian children are sometimes inadvertently harmed by the IDF. According to HRW, “Palestinian armed groups” are guilty of

  • “The repeated launching of rockets from densely populated areas in Gaza, placing children and other civilians living there at risk of retaliatory attacks; and
  • The use of at least three empty schools in Gaza to store weapons, two of which may have been used for launching rockets or mortars.”

One should not overlook that HRW describes Israeli attacks on rocket launching sites as “retaliatory attacks” – which is of course just another not so subtle attempt to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend its citizens.

Among the Palestinian violations that HRW prefers not to mention is the longstanding training and recruitment of child soldiers. And of course HRW also prefers to ignore the fact that Palestinians have repeatedly celebrated terror attacks that killed Israeli teens.

It is also revealing to see who gets blamed by HRW for strikes that result in civilian deaths when Israel is not involved. Here is one telling example from a recent media report on the war in Yemen [my emphasis]:

“On March 31, Human Rights Watch said a diary factory in the western port city of Hodeida came under attack by Saudi airstrikes, killing 31 workers. The rights group blamed Houthis forces for putting civilians at risk, saying that the factory is about 100 metres from a military airbase controlled by Houthis.”

Finally, it should be noted that two international law experts have recently stated that after examining Israel’s targeting methods and its application of the law of armed conflict (LOAC),

“we concluded that IDF positions on targeting law largely track those of the United States military. Moreover, even when they differ, the Israeli approach remains within the ambit of generally acceptable State practice. […] While there are certainly Israeli legal positions that may be contentious, we found that their approach to targeting is consistent with the law and, in many cases, worthy of emulation.”

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How low can the UN sink?

The United Nations (UN) has a long and sordid record of singling out the world’s only Jewish state for hypocritical censure and condemnation.  Most recently, Israel was the only country to be condemned as “a violator of health rights;” unsurprisingly, the supporting “evidence” included antisemitic claims by the Syrian regime, which accused Israel of “continu[ing]  to experiment on Syrian and Arab prisoners with medicines and drugs and to inject them with pathogenic viruses.” That is of course the same regime that mercilessly bombs and kills its own population, while Israel has so far treated some 1600 injured Syrians.

But the UN’s next move against Israel is already being planned: according to a Y-Net report, the “UN secretary-general’s envoy for Children and Armed Conflict recommended this week to include the IDF on a blacklist of countries and organizations accused of regularly causing harm to children. The blacklist includes terror organizations like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Islamic State, and Taliban, as well as African countries such as the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and others.”

As the report notes, the UN is “facing heavy pressure from the Palestinians, their supporters and human rights organizations to include the Israeli army on the list.” However, few people know that this kind of “pressure” is in part generated by the UN itself, which sustains “a whole network of anti-Israel institutions ” that were built up in the wake of the infamous “Zionism is Racism”-resolution of 1975. Even though the resolution was repealed in 1991, this “network of extremely well-funded UN structures and offices” continues to exist to this day.

Needless to say, those who love the Nazi-slogan “Die Juden sind unser Unglück” in its 21st-century version “The Jewish State is our misfortune” are excited about the prospect to have the IDF equated with terror organizations like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) – and as was only to be expected, Max Blumenthal tweeted the Y-Net report adding the hashtag JSIL, which he popularized to associate Israel with the terror group Islamic State (once known as ISIL, i.e. Islamic State in the Levant) as “Jewish State in the Levant” (JSIL).

MB on UN blacklisting IDF

If the UN will once again please Jew-haters everywhere with yet another bigoted condemnation that puts the IDF on the same level as savage terror groups like IS remains to be seen. But in the unlikely case that the UN actually cares about the welfare of Palestinian children, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, could highlight the longstanding abuse of Palestinian children as child-soldiers – indeed, campaigning against this kind of child abuse is supposedly an important part of her work. While all Palestinian factions have used children to fight, nowadays mostly Hamas and other Gaza terror groups openly boast of providing military training to children; one of the most recent examples is a “graduation ceremony” in a Gaza kindergarten.

Gaza kindergarten terror show

In addition, the UN might note the fact that Hamas employed children to dig its extensive tunnel network – which they hoped to use to kill Israelis, including children – and that at least 160 children died working on the tunnels.

And perhaps the UN’s Special Representative Leila Zerrougui could take note of regular TV programs that indoctrinate kids to hate and “shoot the Jews” – ‘all of them’? Perhaps it would also be appropriate to address the very high percentage of forced underage marriages in Gaza? Or the heartbreaking mistreatment of children with disabilities that seems quite common in Palestinian society?

But perhaps the UN will somehow find it more appealing to demonize the IDF that has to fight an enemy that openly celebrates the killing of Israeli children – for Hamas, they are just “prey” to be killed and hidden ‘under the rock.’

Anti-Israel activists react to Charlie Hebdo massacre

When you have studied the output of anti-Israel activists for as long as I have, you know not only that anti-Zionism is usually just a flimsy façade for antisemitism, but also that the hypocrisy and bigotry that sustains the intense hatred for the world’s only Jewish state inevitably shapes a broader ideology. Even on issues that have nothing to do with Israel, it is therefore often easy to predict how anti-Israel activists will react. In the immediate aftermath of the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, I was thus not surprised to see that anti-Israel activists did not join the outpouring of solidarity that swept social media.

Just a few hours after two Islamist terrorists had killed 12 people, veteran Israel-hater Ali Abunimah fumed on Twitter: “US ‘responded’ to 9/11 by invading Iraq. Which country do Internet idiots think France should invade to ‘in response’ to Paris attack?” He then immediately added: “Of course France assisted in many invasions already. Perhaps it can afford one or two more?” In order to leave no doubt that he indeed wanted to blame France’s policies for the terrorist attacks, he clarified his stance a few hours later.

AA on CharlieHebdo

Obviously angered by the solidarity expressed under the trending hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, Abunimah also made it absolutely clear that he preferred maligning the victims of the terror attack by implying that the magazine should be compared to the neo-Nazi site Stormfront.

AA CharlieHebdo Stormfront

The often vulgar and always deliberately provocative material published in Charlie Hebdo might seem an easy target for accusations of racism – at least if one overlooks the fact that the magazine is firmly grounded in the centuries-old tradition of radical French anticlericalism and that it has also featured plenty of caricatures offensive to Christian and Jewish (and Israeli) sensibilities. But this is of course something that people eager to accuse Charlie Hebdo of “racism” against Muslims were resolved to ignore.

Moreover, while the horrific attack in Paris initially had nothing whatsoever to do with Israel or Jews, anyone even vaguely familiar with Islamic extremism would have no illusions about the central role of Jew-hatred in this pernicious ideology. By the time an accomplice of the Charlie Hebdo attackers proceeded to prove this point by targeting a kosher supermarket in Paris, anti-Israel activists were keeping themselves busy spreading the argument – helpfully elaborated in a Guardian illustration and an Intercept post by Glenn Greenwald – that anyone who supported Charlie Hebdo caricatures that offended Muslims also had to endorse Nazi-style antisemitic caricatures for the sake of free speech.

Much to the delight of his fans, Greenwald gleefully suggested on Twitter that he had unmasked the anti-Muslim bigotry of Charlie Hebdo supporters: “The professed love for cartoons which malign religions & their adherents sure dissipates fast when applied to some groups rather than others.”

To make his point, Greenwald reproduced several antisemitic cartoons – some of them from Arab/Muslim media – which he acknowledged as “blasphemous and otherwise offensive.”

He contrasted these examples with what he described as “some not-remotely-blasphemous-or-bigoted yet very pointed and relevant cartoons by the brilliantly provocative Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.”

As Greenwald surely knows, much of Latuff’s Israel-related work has been criticized as antisemitic, and Latuff himself actually doesn’t mind mingling with Jew-haters: in 2006, Iran’s Holocaust-denying president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the pretext of the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy to sponsor a “Holocaust Cartoon Contest” in which Latuff took part, sharing the second prize with a French entry depicting “The myth of the gas chambers.”

While Greenwald claimed he was focusing on “cartoons which malign religions & their adherents,” he tellingly included a Latuff cartoon from 2006 that was apparently drawn in support of Ahmadinejad’s “Holocaust Cartoon Contest.”

GG Latuff Holocaust cartoon

 It is beyond the scope of this post to explain why supposedly intelligent 21st-century progressives would argue that, if it is acceptable to caricature people who are regarded by believers as historic religious leaders, it must be equally acceptable to caricature the industrialized mass-murder of a long-persecuted minority in 20th century Europe.

But in the unlikely case that Greenwald would like us to somehow ponder Muslim religious leaders and the Holocaust in a context relevant to the atrocities in Paris, one could cite the enormously influential Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi who has described Hitler as a tool of divine punishment for the Jews and expressed the hope that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” In this context, one could also point out that when Qaradawi implored his god to “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people” and “count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one,” he did so based on the apparently widely shared Muslim belief in a divinely ordained battle “between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”

It is this kind of beliefs – which, as far as I know, have not been explicitly repudiated by any influential Muslim cleric – that continue to allow radicalized Muslims to feel that they act piously when they commit atrocities like those in Paris. While there are liberal Muslims who have highlighted the urgent need for Muslim self-criticism and reforms, it seems that, as far as anti-Israel activists and their supporters in the media are concerned, these problems must be kept out of the spotlight. So when an Islamist terrorist targets a kosher supermarket in Paris, it’s just another great opportunity to make the case that a 7th century businessman and warlord who founded a religion cannot be mocked in cartoons as long as the almost successful 20th-century attempt to wipe out Europe’s Jews cannot be ridiculed. No doubt Jew-haters everywhere would agree with this approach.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Update:

Harry’s Place has an excellent post on the Guardian illustration I mentioned above: “A response to Joe Sacco;” David Bernstein takes on Greenwald’s numerous “logical fallacies;” and a number of posts try to explain some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that have been attacked by the (willfully?) clueless as “racist” or “Islamophobic”, e.g. “dear US followers;” there is now even a new site devoted to “Understanding Charlie Hebdo cartoons.”

And, by way of an additional update, here’s one of my previous posts with some background on Glenn Greenwald’s obsession with Israel.

The Israel-hater’s Islamic State

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

Israel=ISIS antisemitism

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

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

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

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

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

MB Israel=JSIL

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

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

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

MB Hamas fan

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

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.  

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.”

Max Blumenthal’s Jew-hating fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blumenthal UglyTruth1

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

Blumenthal &revisionism

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

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

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

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

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First published at my JPost blog and The Algemeiner.

Yes, Israel will be blamed

Maybe it’s a bit late in the new year to make predictions, but anyone still looking for a safe bet might want to agree with an anonymous European diplomat who reportedly told his Israeli counterpart towards the end of last year that Israel will lose “the blame game” if the current peace negotiations end in failure. According to a Ha’aretz report, the European diplomat also threatened Israel with “a deluge of sanctions” in case “the negotiations with the Palestinians run aground,” irrespective of the reasons for the failure to reach an agreement.

For the Palestinians, this is of course good news – though it’s really just more of the same: after all, the UN has designated 2014 as “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” and a number of events decrying “the unprecedented historical injustice which the Palestinian people have endured since ‘Al-Nakba’ of 1948” have already been held at the organization’s headquarters in New York. The UN’s willingness to show “solidarity” with a people that has rejected a state of their own for 65 years illustrates that the anonymous European diplomat quoted above is merely following the long established practice of rewarding the Palestinians for their refusal to come to terms with the re-establishment of the Jewish state.

It seems that the Palestinians intend to stick with their rejectionist stance. In a candid interview with Asharq Al-Awsat , the Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki recently boasted that the Palestinians “previously said no 12 times to the Americans” and he proudly declared that they were “prepared to continue with this when it comes to our principles.” Among these “principles” is apparently the refusal to accept the fundamental idea that a peace agreement will establish two states for two peoples. When asked what the “most intractable” issue in the negotiations was, Al-Maliki replied:

“This is the issue of recognizing the Jewish nature of the Israeli state. This is a sharply contentious issue. It would be dangerous to recognize this because this would mean our acceptance of the dissolution of our own history and ties and our historic right to Palestine. This is something that we will never accept under any circumstances. Acceptance of this would also raise fears about the fate of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Israel. They are already second-class citizens, so how will they be affected by the Judaization of the state? This also raises questions about the [Palestinian] refugees and the right of return. So this is something that we absolutely cannot accept.”

This short statement provides an excellent illustration of the fantasies that underpin some of the central Palestinian negotiating positions. The most notable point is arguably the admission that recognizing Israel as the Jewish state implies acknowledging the millennia-old Jewish history in the region, which according to Al-Maliki would be tantamount to “the dissolution” of Palestinian history and the resulting claims. While Binyamin Netanyahu demonstrated in his Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009 that it is perfectly possible to stick to one’s own history and still concede that the present time requires difficult compromises, Al-Maliki is providing here a rare admission that Palestinian history is too flimsy to back up the Palestinian narrative of being an “indigenous” population that is fighting for their ancient rights against a foreign intruder.

The second noteworthy point is Al-Maliki’s worry about the “fate of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Israel.” The PLO has always upheld the fiction that it represents all Palestinians, whether they want it or not, and wherever they reside, even if they are citizens of other states. Therefore, it probably doesn’t matter much to Al-Maliki that not all Arabs in Israel define themselves as Palestinians, and that even those who do are apparently not very enthusiastic about living under Palestinian rule. Indeed, as a recent poll showed, even among those who like to complain loudly about being a minority in the Jewish state, many prefer this status to being citizens in a Palestinian state.

Finally, there is Al-Maliki’s point about the “refugees and the right of return.” Apparently he feels that recognizing Israel as the Jewish state would somehow complicate the demand that millions of descendants should “return” to the places that previous generations of Palestinians left to escape the war fought on their behalf against the fledgling Jewish state. While this demand is anyway completely unrealistic, Al-Maliki reaffirmed – as many Palestinian officials have done before – that the Palestinians would continue to insist on this imaginary “right” to turn the Jewish state into yet another Arab-Muslim state.

An even clearer rejection of the two-state solution and a negotiated peace was conveyed in a recent New York Times op-ed by former Palestinian Authority minister Ali Jarbawi.  Under the title “The Coming Intifada,” Jarbawi started out by claiming that the Palestinians have long wanted a state of their own and were eager to see the peace negotiations succeed. However, according to Jarbawi, the Palestinians made a “strategic mistake” at the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993 when they supposedly conceded “78 percent of the land of historical Palestine.” Jarbawi probably knows full well that this argument is as good as if a former Israeli minister were to claim that Israel conceded Jordan to the Arabs, but he needs this fictitious concession to justify the very real rejection of any realistic two-state solution.  According to Jarbawi,

“Israel’s current conditions for a Palestinian state would shatter Palestinians’ basic demands for liberty and independence. The promised Palestinian state will be nothing but a shadow entity completely ruled by Israel. And the price that is being demanded for this state is so exorbitant that the Palestinian Authority cannot sell it, nor can the Palestinians accept it.

These pockets of land would be demilitarized, and Israel would have control over the borders, skies and natural resources. To get this, Palestinians must give up the right of return of diaspora Palestinians, and publicly declare that Israel is a Jewish state. This is a toxic cocktail perfectly mixed to produce a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation, and the Authority as well — if the latter accepts these Israeli demands and yields to American pressure.”

Jarbawi’s article is arguably an important read, because it shows a former Palestinian minister declaring once more quite openly that a demilitarized Palestinian state comprising most of the previously Jordanian-occupied West Bank and Egyptian-controlled Gaza is simply completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. Unintentionally, Jarbawi also illustrates how Palestinian propaganda works: while he clearly says the Palestinians would violently reject any realistic two-state solution, he also deviously claims that it’s their shattered hopes for a two-state solution that would result in an explosion of violence – and he can probably expect quite a bit of sympathy for this “explanation” from his New York Times readers.

Just from the past few weeks, there are plenty of additional examples illustrating that the Palestinian leadership is also preparing its own public for the failure of the current negotiations and the possible resumption of violence. Some senior Palestinian officials who are close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have recently called the current peace talks “futile,” advocating instead a return to “all kinds of resistance.” Barely two weeks ago, Abbas was listening and applauding when his Minister of Religious Affairs gave a speech urging jihadis fighting in Syria to turn to Jerusalem:

“Whoever wants resistance, whoever wants Jihad, the direction for Jihad is well-known and clear… Those who send young people to Syria or elsewhere to die for a misdirected cause must stop and understand that Jerusalem is still waiting. Jerusalem is the direction, Jerusalem is the address.”

A week later, the official Facebook page of Fatah publicized a clip that shows members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades vowing that they will “turn Tel Aviv into a ball of fire.”

Tel Aviv Fatah threats

Palwatch screenshot

But it’s not just in the UN “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” that Palestinian rejectionism and calls for violence are politely overlooked and even rewarded. If the negotiations don’t produce any results and the Palestinians once again resort to terrorism, they can count on the UN and much of the international media to get plenty of attention and sympathy for their continuing efforts to blame and delegitimize Israel.

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First published at my JPost blog; also at the Polish blog Listy z naszegu sadu

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.

Glenn Greenwald and the Islamists

If you are keeping up with news and views about Israel, you will likely know that the very popular and very opinionated blogger Glenn Greenwald has a well-deserved reputation for his intense dislike of Israel and its supporters. Jeffrey Goldberg once called it “ostentatious anti-Israelism,” noting that Greenwald “evinces toward Israel a disdain that is quite breathtaking. He holds Israel to a standard he doesn’t hold any other country, except the U.S.”

Similarly, Adam Levick argued in a commentary on Greenwald’s move from Salon to The Guardian last summer:

“Greenwald […] advances a brand of anti-imperialism […] informed by a palpable loathing of America, a nation he sees as a dangerous force of evil in the world. Greenwald’s anti-Americanism is so intense he once compared the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein to the Nazi conquest of Europe.

As is often the case with Guardian-brand commentators, Greenwald’s anti-imperialist ideological package includes a vicious anti-Zionism, and a corresponding belief in the injurious influence of organized US Jewry on American foreign policy in the Middle East.”

But it turns out that Greenwald’s loathing for Israel and the US developed only with his growing fame as a blogger. In late 2005, not long after he started his first blog “Unclaimed Territory,” he wrote a post under the title “The Myth of International Wisdom.” Criticizing a Washington Post column by David Ignatius on rising anti-Americanism, Greenwald sharply rejected the notion that “the prevalence and wisdom of these anti-American sentiments around the world compel the U.S. to change its course in order to once again become popular in the world.”

Greenwald’s line of reasoning from back then makes for fascinating reading – not just because of the stark contrast to his current views, but also because one could obviously substitute Israel for America when reading the following passages:

“Any nation would be acting foolishly, and self-destructively, if it allowed its foreign policy to be guided by the threat perceptions of people in other countries. When it comes to facing the profound threat posed to American interests by Islamic extremism, it is naturally the case that people in other countries will view the danger posed by that threat as being less serious and important than Americans perceive it to be.

Americans, justifiably and understandably, consider the 9/11 attacks to be a profound and intolerable assault on U.S. national security, an event so threatening and jarring that it justifies measures which would have previously been considered to be too extreme. […]

This fundamental difference in interests [of different countries] is critical, as it illustrates the utter folly, and irrationality, of using the perceptions of other countries to judge America’s foreign policy. When it comes to the U.S. deciding what it needs to do and should do in response to the threats which gave rise to 9/11 and similar attacks, it is the American perception of the severity and importance of those threats – and not the perception of other countries – which ought to determine America’s response. […]

International unpopularity may be the result of an undesirable or unwarranted foreign policy, but such unpopularity may just as easily flow from the U.S. doing exactly what it ought to do to protect its interests. International public opinion of America’s foreign policy is not evidence, one way or the other, of the merit of those policies. […]

It may be beneficial to U.S. interests to have other countries like what we are doing, but being popular in other countries is not an end in itself. The U.S. can and should pursue whatever measures it deems appropriate to protect its national interests. The fact that the populations or governments of other countries perceive those measures to be excessive or unwarranted is to be expected because those countries have different threat perceptions and divergent interests. And, for exactly that reason, their approval or disapproval cannot be used to assess the rightness of, let alone to dictate, American foreign policy.”

This proof that once upon a time, Glenn Greenwald had some eminently reasonable views was unearthed due to a bitter controversy that erupted recently when Sam Harris challenged Greenwald because he recommended an Al Jazeera article that accused Harris of anti-Muslim bigotry.

The ensuing exchange between the two prominent writers is characteristic for all too many contemporary debates: while Sam Harris bases his arguments firmly on verifiable facts and observations, Greenwald counters by taking refuge in politically-correct pieties.

As Harris highlights in an excellent post on the controversy, his interest in “the logical and behavioral consequences of specific beliefs” means that he cannot necessarily “treat all religions the same.” But this is of course exactly what Glenn Greenwald demands: the man who in 2005 forcefully argued that the US had every right to respond to “the profound threat posed to American interests by Islamic extremism” and “Muslim terrorism” now strenuously objects to “Harris’ years-long argument that Islam poses unique threats beyond what Christianity, Judaism, and the other religions of the world pose.”

Greenwald may say that he has come to see the error of his old views and changed his mind – a step that enabled him to become a leading proponent of the political correctness he condemned in 2005 as “corrupt and dangerous reasoning.”

But that the political correctness Greenwald now champions is as corrupt and dangerous as ever is perhaps best illustrated by his glowing endorsement of a “superb review of Harris’ writings on Israel, the Middle East and US militarism” published on Mondoweiss by one of the site’s regular contributors.

Mondoweiss is of course a site well-known for peddling antisemitic memes, and by linking to it in order to buttress his accusations that Harris is promoting “Islamophobia”, Greenwald demonstrates that not all forms of bigotry are equally troublesome to him.

The piece Greenwald recommends so warmly is a tediously long essay entitled “Sam Harris, uncovered.” Thankfully, however, the author quickly reveals what’s the worst about Harris:

“For a man who likes to badger Muslims about their ‘reflexive solidarity’ with Arab suffering, Harris seems keen to display his own tribal affections for the Jewish state. The virtue of Israel and the wickedness of her enemies are recurring themes in his work. The End of Faith [an award-winning best-selling book by Harris] opens with the melodramatic scene of a young man of undetermined nationality boarding a bus with a suicide vest. The bus detonates, innocents die and Harris, with the relish of a schoolmarm passing on the facts of life to her brood, chalks in the question: ‘Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy-you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it-easy to guess the young man’s religion?’”

But Mondoweiss readers are then told that it is actually not at all easy to guess the religion of the suicide bomber, because if one does away with the “narrow focus” of Harris on the early 21st century and instead looks at the issue historically, one can find “Hindu Tamil Tigers …. or, in 1945, a Buddhist Kamikaze; or….the German Luftwaffe’s suicide squadrons.”

Unsurprisingly, this leads to the triumphant argument: “What the religion of the bomber is depends on at which point of history you begin to start your timeline.”

Glenn Greenwald may think this is “superb,” but it really is utterly stupid and disingenuous. It is stupid because an observation that is true for the present cannot be invalidated by pointing out that at some other point in history, things were different. Harris didn’t claim that throughout history, suicide bombings were usually perpetrated by Muslims; he simply highlighted the well-documented phenomenon that in recent times, it has been primarily Muslims who have perpetrated suicide bombings and that such “martyrdom operations” are widely accepted and regularly glorified by Muslims.

Moreover, while I’m not familiar enough with Hinduism and Buddhism to know if their faithful have developed anything comparable to the contemporary Muslim “martyrdom” cult, I am absolutely certain that the pilots in the German Luftwaffe’s suicide squadron – which operated only a few missions at the very end of the war – were not motivated by their Christian faith: when they embarked on their deadly missions, they didn’t shout some equivalent of “Allahu Akbar,” but “Heil Hitler.”

Yet, this is the kind of “reasoning” Glenn Greenwald admires as “superb” – perhaps because his own reasoning isn’t much better. Take for example Greenwald’s complaint that “of course there are some Muslim individuals who do heinous things in the name of their religion – just like there are extremists in all religions who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion, yet receive far less attention than the bad acts of Muslims.”

The problem with this politically-oh-so-correct mantra that there are “bad apples” everywhere is that not everywhere “bad apples” are considered bad.

Imagine for a moment that a prominent and influential religious leader like the pope wrote glowingly about a divinely ordained and religiously motivated battle between all Christians and all Muslims; or that such a leader praised Hitler and the Holocaust and expressed the hope that there will be a “next time” when the “believers” will have the chance to finish the job; or that he prayed for the annihilation of those whom he and his followers consider enemies and called on God to “kill them, down to the very last one.”

Qaradawi on the Holocaust

Very different from what Greenwald claims, no prominent Christian or Jewish leader could make such statements without a storm of outraged media coverage and vociferous demands for his resignation. But when the “Global Mufti” Qaradawi propagates the vilest views inciting hatred and justifying violence, the western media don’t have to say much about such appalling statements broadcast in the Muslim world to a devoted audience of an estimated sixty million believers.

And if all religions are equally likely to have adherents “who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion,” there should be broad majorities of Christians or Jews who favor something comparably revolting to Sharia punishments such as “stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the … religion.” If all religions were really equally likely to have adherents “who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion,” there should also be many millions of Christians or Jews who admired Al-Qaeda-like groups for most of the past decade.

It is indeed bigotry when the actions and views of a few extremists or fringe groups are taken as representative for a much larger group of believers, but it is also a form of bigotry to ignore well-documented evidence showing that what would be condemned as extremist for Christians and Jews is widely accepted in the Muslim world.

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First published April 13 on my JPost blog.