Tag Archives: Twitter

Anonymous: hackers spreading lies and hate [updated]

As widely reported in the news [in early April], hackers from the “Anonymous” group have threatened massive cyber-attacks against Israel on Holocaust Memorial Day. According to the Jerusalem Post, Anonymous boasted that it will “erase Israel from the Internet” by mounting the “largest online assault on a single country in history.”

While Anonymous is supposedly motivated by “pro-Palestinian” sentiments, the date they chose for their attacks is obviously revealing.

But hatred, extremism and antisemitism have long been an integral part of most “pro-Palestinian” campaigns, as is nicely illustrated by this Facebook post of “Activists around the world for Palestine” cheering on the hacking campaign against Israeli sites:

Third Intifada hacking op

Presumably they felt this image is representative of what they stand for, and indeed one of the comments posted in response is “Death to Israel.”

The group is also currently calling for a “3rd Intifada:”

Third Intifada

Unsurprisingly, the “Activists around the world for Palestine” also like to compare Israel with Nazi Germany, as illustrated by this post from April 3, which received 633 “Likes” and 650 “Shares;” as the comments posted in response illustrate, “pro-Palestinian” Jew-haters eagerly seized the opportunity to display their bigotry.

Third Intifada Nazis Israel

Meanwhile on Twitter, an account that supports Anonymous and claims to provide “news” – which more than 900 000 people find worthwhile following – entertained its fans last night not just with largely fake “success” stories, but also with the lie that last November, an Israeli Minister had threatened the Palestinian with a “Holocaust”.

Anonymous1

As you can see from the screenshot that was taken some three hours after the tweet was posted, more than 120 people eagerly retweeted these “news.”

It’s an excellent example of the kind of “news” anti-Israel campaigners rely on.

The link provided by the Anonymous “news” tweet leads to a website called “policymic,” where apparently anyone who accumulates enough points from comments can contribute. However, the piece in question was written by the site’s co-founder Jake Horowitz, who claims that he is “trying to spark thoughtful debate on important political issues.”

Horowitz’s post is dated “5 months ago,” and claims that

“A senior Israeli politician warned that Palestinians firing rockets from Gaza into Israel will be punished with a “bigger holocaust” from Israeli armed forces, according to the Telegraph.

Matan Vilnai, deputy defense minister, used the term “shoah” during an interview on Army Radio, a Hebrew word for holocaust typically only reserved in Israel to describe the Nazi holocaust of Jews during World War II.”

Anyone who follows the news about Israel closely would of course know that last November, Matan Vilnai was not deputy defense minister – and anyone who doesn’t follow the news about Israel closely but still wants to write about Israel should be expected to check the facts.

But apparently, Horowitz was too thrilled when he came across this story to even notice that the article he linked to was from the end of February 2008, when Vilnai was indeed deputy defense minister and made this comment, which – due to his unfortunate choice not to use another Hebrew word for “catastrophe” – caused an uproar.

Horowitz also failed to update or correct his misleading post, even though several commenters noted that he was regurgitating an article that was more than four years old.

Now, another five months later, Anonymous “news” picks up this fabrication based on a four-year-old report about a stupid choice of words by an Israeli minister and many of their fans eagerly retweet this “news” item. In their weird world, the completely spurious claim that just a few months ago, Israel was threatening the Palestinians with a Holocaust probably provides ample justification for a massive cyber-attack on Israel during Holocaust Memorial Day.

You couldn’t find a better illustration of the kind of “news” that is endlessly circulated among the “pro-Palestinian” haters of the Jewish state.

* * *

This was first published on my JPost blog on April 7.

Update:

Ultimately, the anti-Israel hackers failed to do much damage, and they certainly failed to deliver on their stated ambition to “wipe Israel off the map of the Internet.” According to a Ha’aretz report, “Fewer than 100 small websites and some 15 large organizations were affected for periods ranging from a few minutes to a few hours.”

The hope expressed by Hamas spokesman Ihab al-Ghussian on his Facebook page therefore didn’t really come true: “May God [Allah] protect the spirit and operations of the soldiers in the electronic war.”

On the other hand, Israeli hackers who responded to the attack were quite satisfied…

The SS-headache of Carlos Latuff

Among “pro-Palestinian” activists, the cartoonist Carlos Latuff is a widely admired artist.  Like most of his fans, Latuff expresses his support for the Palestinian cause with an intense hatred for Israel, which is reflected in his large output of images comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Unsurprisingly, Latuff’s achievements also include a winning entry for the 2006 Iranian “International Holocaust Cartoon Contest.”

The fact that comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany are generally regarded as antisemitic doesn’t seem to bother Latuff and his fans – quite the contrary: for them, it’s apparently just another reason for ridicule and amusement.

This flippant reaction was well illustrated when Latuff responded to his inclusion in a list of this past year’s “Top Ten Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic Slurs” compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Tweeting his “Thanks to Rabbi Marvin Hier and @simonwiesenthal for the award for my toons on #Gaza slaughter,” Latuff attached a cartoon depicting himself being “awarded” a third-place medal by Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Wiesenthal Center.

Latuff Wiesenthal SS1

As you can see in the screenshot of Latuff’s cartoon above, there is an unmistakable SS-symbol next to Rabbi Hier’s head. When I noted this in a tweet, Latuff quickly responded, claiming that I was wrong and that the “bolts are cartoon representation of headache.” To support his claim, he linked to the following picture:

Latuff headache

For comparison, here is the SS-symbol:

Latuff ADL SS

Since Latuff immediately blocked me, he didn’t have to face up and respond to the evidence showing just how flimsy his “headache”-explanation looked.

After all, for somebody like Latuff who works with images, it is hardly credible to claim that he was unaware of the obvious SS-reference in this cartoon. How about this very similar “headache” in an undeniably antisemitic cartoon from 2006?

Latuff SS headache

Screenshot showing part of a Russian cartoon from a report by Tom Gross on anti-Israeli and antisemitic cartoons published in the international media in the summer of 2006

It is also noteworthy that Latuff didn’t link to any of his own images to illustrate his claim that an SS-symbol look-alike was a common cartoon representation of a headache. But his claim is most severely undermined by the fact – illustrated here – that he has made it something of a specialty to work Nazi-symbolism into his cartoons relating to Israel. He now has only himself to blame if it seems that this has become second nature to him.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Qaradawi for the (deliberately) clueless

It’s probably not a good idea to try to debate Islamophobia on Twitter – but I got involved in such a debate anyway because I was thinking about this issue after having read a very interesting post on “Theocracy in the UK.” However, the Twitter debate wasn’t at all related to this post. At the point I joined in, the focus was on the controversial term Islamophobia, which in my view is very problematic because it implies that the teachings of Islam cannot legitimately be criticized.

To illustrate my point, I linked to a post of mine entitled “Who’s defaming Islam?,” where I argued that there are plenty of examples of popular Muslim leaders or widely respected authorities making statements about Islam that depict the faith as requiring Jew-hatred and support for jihadi terrorism.

I then focused in particular on Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, because he is without a doubt a mainstream figure who is regarded as a great scholar by many millions of Muslims and who has even been described as the “Global Mufti” due to his enormous influence.

But unfortunately, Qaradawi’s views fully justify the conclusion of Mark Gardner and Dave Rich that he represents “the combination of theological anti-Judaism, modern European antisemitism and conflict-driven Judeophobia that make up contemporary Islamist attitudes to Jews.”

Indeed, Qaradawi is an avowed Jew-hater who fervently believes in a divinely ordained battle between “all Muslims and all Jews.” As Qaradawi emphasizes in his “Fatawa on Palestine” in reference to the notorious hadith that features prominently in the Hamas Charter:

“The last day will not come unless you fight Jews. A Jew will hide himself behind stones and trees and stones and trees will say, ‘O servant of Allah – or O Muslim – there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews. (p. 77)”

 Perhaps even more disturbingly, Qaradawi has expressed the view that

“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place.

“This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” [...]

On another occasion, Qaradawi prayed:

“Oh Allah, take your enemies, the enemies of Islam. Oh Allah, take the Jews, the treacherous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people. Oh Allah, they have spread much tyranny and corruption in the land. Pour Your wrath upon them, oh our God. Lie in wait for them. Oh Allah, You annihilated the people of Thamoud at the hand of a tyrant, and You annihilated the people of ‘Aad with a fierce, icy gale. Oh Allah, You annihilated the people Thamoud at the hand of a tyrant, You annihilated the people of ‘Aad with a fierce, icy gale, and You destroyed the Pharaoh and his soldiers – oh Allah, take this oppressive, tyrannical band of people. Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.”

However, in the debate on twitter, two people were resolved to downplay both Qaradawi’s Jew-hatred and his influence. @LutherBlissetts claimed triumphantly that Qaradawi wasn’t the only one who regarded the Holocaust as a divine punishment inflicted on the Jews, citing the fervent (and controversial) supporter of Israel John Hagee and Rabbi Yoel Teitlebaum (the Satmar Rebbe).

Now, it is indeed true that both Pastor Hagee and the Satmar Rebbe have argued that the Holocaust should be understood as God’s punishment for the Jews – and they both have done so in the context of a theological quest to explain the unspeakable evil and suffering of the Nazi genocide. To suggest that this is in any way comparable to Qaradawi’s views is simply beneath contempt: Qaradawi makes it crystal clear that he thinks it was praiseworthy that the Nazis “managed to put them [the Jews] in their place” and he explicitly expresses the hope that there will be a “next time…at the hand of the believers [i.e. the Muslims].”

The argument advanced by @TellMamaUK  – an organization that encourages Muslims to report instances of harassment and bigotry – was very different: they claimed that Qaradawi’s views “do not reflect the range of British Muslims” and complained that I was “really hung up on the ‘mainstream’ thing,” arguing that “Communities are diverse or does that not matter?”

But it is of course a platitude to say that there will be some diversity and a range of views in any given group of people – whether it’s a religious, political, social or ethnic group. It’s also a platitude to say that in any group of people, there are likely some fringe figures with bizarre and outrageous views – and Qaradawi wouldn’t be worth mentioning if he was such a fringe figure.

In the context of the debate about the term Islamophobia, my point about Qaradawi being mainstream by virtue of his huge following and influence was therefore a different one: while Qaradawi’s standing obviously does not justify bigotry against individual Muslims, it illustrates very well the problems with the term Islamophobia.

The Runnymede Trust’s definition of Islamophobia – which was mentioned in the debate as the relevant definition – includes the point that Islam “is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.”

While Qaradawi may not accept the wording here, he certainly is an enthusiastic advocate of an Islam that stands for violence – indeed for genocidal violence – and a “clash of civilizations” when it comes to the Jews (and to a somewhat lesser degree to the US and the West).

So should Qaradawi – and the many other Muslim clerics and scholars who preach similar views – be denounced as Islamophobic ?

The problem is obviously – as this debate illustrated all too well – that it is much more likely that it is considered Islamophobic to argue that there is a serious problem when somebody with Qaradawi’s views is mainstream.

Ali Abunimah hopes Obama will make history [updated]

No, the title of this post doesn’t mean that Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada hopes President Obama will achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in his second term. After all, like most “pro-Palestinian” activists, Abunimah is not primarily interested in the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather in getting rid of the Jewish State.

Yet, as much as so-called pro-Palestinian activists may hate Israel, they often also have plenty of other resentments that add up to an utterly unhinged world view. There is perhaps no better way to examine the fringe views that are so popular in “pro-Palestinian” circles than to follow Ali Abunimah on Twitter.

Consider this recent tweet by Abunimah:

Abunimah on Obama

To be sure, once upon a time, Abunimah had a much more favorable view of Obama – but that was of course when Obama would “attend events in the Palestinian community in Chicago all the time.”

By now, Abunimah seems thoroughly disenchanted, not just with Barack Obama, but even with the Democratic Party in general:

Abunimah on US parties

It is noteworthy that in this tweet, support for Israel ranks only third in the list of Democratic faults.

That is because Abunimah was also tweeting a Reuters report published by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that described how some Pakistanis reacted to Obama’s re-election.

Abunimah on Pakistan

Of course, Ali Abunimah doesn’t usually care all that much what’s going on in Pakistan, and he certainly wouldn’t like it if people started to compare all the attention the Palestinians are getting to the disgraceful neglect of the Baloch struggle against Pakistan’s murderous oppression of their aspirations for freedom.

However, Abunimah’s concern for Pakistani victims of American drone strikes is apparently due to his view that both the US and Israel should be condemned for fighting against Islamist terrorism. It was therefore hardly a surprise when Abunimah retweeted a complaint that General Petraeus had resigned because of an extramarital affair, and not because “he murdered innocent people.”

Abunimah on Petraeus

Elaborating on this issue at the Electronic Intifada, Abunimah not only reminded his readers that Petraeus once made a controversial remark blaming the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict for fuelling the flames of Arab hatred for America, but also claimed that this remark was motivated by “the same cold calculation of how to maintain and advance US imperial domination that allowed him [Petraeus] to oversee – on behalf of the president – wars, occupations and murders of children and teenagers and other civilians all over the world using drones.”

So in the world of Ali Abunimah and his many fans, the US president and the generals who serve in the US army are all just murderers and criminals.

Needless to say, this is even more true when it comes to Israel. Here is Ali Abunimah’s take on the recent aggression from Hamas-ruled Gaza:

Abunimah Gaza resistance Abunimah PalDefForces

Amazingly, there are still people who apparently think Abunimah should somehow be taken seriously. Last March, The Forward published a fairly sympathetic profile of him, which concluded with the remark that Abunimah feels that the criticism he gets proves that people “are paying attention” to him. The Forward profile ended by quoting Abunimah:

“I am not a professor at a big university. I don’t have a think tank behind me. I don’t have a title, and yet I am able to influence in one way or another the way people think and the way that they act […] As much as the opposition would like to ignore me, they can’t, and that is not because of any title I carry.”

Well, with all this influence Abunimah fancies himself having, Obama has already one leg in prison… Of course, there may be severe overcrowding, since most US generals should probably also be there, and let’s not forget George W. Bush and all Israeli leaders and generals and whoever else isn’t in favor of the glorious “resistance” put up by Islamist terrorists in the Middle East and elsewhere.

* * *

This is a belated cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

In response to this post, G-Nice‏@ArikSharon alerted me to an interesting piece written by the widely respected Palestinian* commentator Hussein Ibish a few years ago. Under the title “What does Ali Abunimah really believe?,” Ibish notes that he and Abunimah wrote “numerous articles and monographs” together, but that Abunimah’s views “have shifted radically in recent years.” Ibish also points out something I’ve often noticed when reading Abunimah’s output: namely, that he “tailors his statements to appeal to different audiences in different media at different times” – which perhaps indicates that he is aware that openly standing by the unhinged views with which he fires up his fans would come with the price of not being taken serious by a less partisan audience.

Needless to say, I fully agree with Ibish’s view that “its not really possible to fully understand what Abunimah’s real thinking is without consulting [his] tweets in which he has been letting his guard down and allowing those who pay attention to get a close glimpse of his actual agenda, which is decidedly not a pretty picture.”

But since Ibish uses the term “agenda,” it’s worth highlighting that Abunimah combines his enthusiastic cheerleading for Hamas and Islamic Jihad with a relentless demonization of Israel, passing it off not only as “pro-Palestinian”, but also as a progressive defense of human rights.

This is of course exactly the kind of “pro-Palestinian” activism that has done so much to poison progressive politics.

Whether or not Abunimah’s activism can be described as “pro-Palestinian,” it sure qualifies as obsessively anti-Israel. Yet, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated with his recent speech at the UN to much applause, it indeed seems that championing the “Palestinian cause” is generally understood as requiring harsh denunciations of Israel.

But it is too often overlooked that the most fervent anti-Israel ideologues show symptoms that are hard to distinguish from those that Walter Russell Mead has repeatedly described so well for antisemitism. As Mead put it:

“Jew haters don’t understand how the world works; anti-Semitism is both a cause and a consequence of a basic failure to comprehend the way pluralistic and liberal societies behave. As a result, nations and political establishments warped by this hatred tend to make one dumb decision after another.”

Those who are consumed by hate for the world’s only Jewish state and dedicate themselves single-mindedly to the goal of undoing its establishment tend to exhibit similar failures of comprehension – which is arguably no coincidence given the often observed overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

But as Mead rightly noted in a post on “The Hate That Dares Not Speak Its Name,” “many of today’s anti-Semites like to think of themselves as enlightened, modern people and [they] get all huffy and hissy if anyone accuses them of prejudice in any form.”

This is certainly true for Ali Abunimah and many of his fellow activists and followers. Yet, while Abunimah has repeatedly tried to distance himself from activists who propagated antisemitic tropes all too openly, there is no denying that the politics of the supposedly “progressive” down-with-Israel crowd differs very little from the hate-filled visions of antisemites.

As hard as Abunimah may try to pose as a progressive anti-racist and defender of human rights, his enthusiastic cheerleading for Hamas and groups like Islamic Jihad ultimately means going along with the seething Jew-hatred expressed in the Hamas Charter and in countless jihadi pronouncements.

But there is arguably more to it, because – as I tried to illustrate by highlighting Abunimah’s views on Obama – dedicated anti-Israel activists like Abunimah tend to have radical fringe-views not only on Israel, but also on many other issues. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the down-with-Israel-crowd also hates a lot about America and the West in general – and this hate is so all-consuming that there seems to be little else.

Those who happily subscribe to these fervent resentments will therefore usually be unable or unwilling to see the Middle East and the Muslim world as anything but victims of Western depravity. Whatever might be wrong there is not deemed worthy of attention given the enormity of Western wrong-doing.

To be sure, this version of “The White Man’s Burden” has long been a widely accepted part of the supposedly progressive world view that elevates the “Palestinian cause” to the all-important issue of our time. While the latent antisemitism that is so frequently an integral part of this “progressive” activism certainly helps to explain some of the bizarre positions that are so enthusiastically embraced by “pro-Palestinian” campaigners, it is also very interesting to look at this as a broader manifestation of the Zeitgeist. Some of the writings by Richard Landes are particularly interesting in this context. He has coined the term “Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome,” arguing:

“Without self-criticism and its accompanying learning curve, there is little progress. Hence progressives rightly emphasize self-criticism. […] In some cases, however, self-critical progressives can take this strategy so far that they fall into the trap of taking most or all of the responsibility for something when it is not primarily of their doing. To some extent, this unusual generosity reflects the notion that it takes a “big man” to admit fault, and that if we progressives are stronger, we should make the first, second and even third moves of concession and apology, in order to encourage those with whom we find ourselves in dispute. Combining inflated rhetoric with a therapeutic notion that the disadvantaged should not be held to the same exacting standards (moral equivalence) leads one to fall into self-critical pathologies.

In the most extreme cases, we encounter Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome (MOS): “it is all our fault; and if we can only be better, we can fix anything/everything.” This hyper-critical attitude can be seen with particular clarity in the response of some progressives and radicals to both the 9-11 attack in 2001 in the US, and the 7-7 attack in 2005 in London. For many, “What did we do to make them hate us?” trumped “What are they telling themselves that makes them hate us so?” In a sense, the very preference for the former question underlines our desire to be in control. Maybe we can fix what it is that we do to them, so they’ll not hate us so. Maybe even, they’ll like us. […]

The tendency to hyper-self-criticize leads to a kind of moral self-absorption in which one loses any sense of the other side of any conflict as moral agent. […] the real tragedy here comes with the unconscious racism involved in such a moral argument. The proponents of such thinking fail to grant the “other side” any moral agency. “Their behavior is entirely reactive, a response to our bad deeds. If only we would stop, they would stop.” This approach, which gives us, among other things, the current policy of appeasement in the West, also operates on assumptions that the “other” — in this case, the global Jihadis and the Muslim cultures from which they draw their recruits — are not autonomous moral agents. In other words, they, like animals, can’t help themselves. Hence, we make no moral demands on them, indeed, we lower ourselves to their moral level with our equivalences.”

* * *

*Correction: Somebody on Twitter protested my description of Ibish as Palestinian, and indeed it seems I was mistaken. There is only very little information on Ibish’s family background available, but a 2003 obituary of his father, Professor Yusuf Hussein Ibish, indicates that he came from a Syrian-Kurdish family while his mother Joan Schenck was apparently European or American.

How to stoke Islamophobia [updated]

Addressing Congress just a few days after the devastating terrorist attacks on 9/11, President George W. Bush repeatedly emphasized the need to distinguish between the peaceful teachings of Islam and the fanaticism of those “who commit evil in the name of Allah.” The terrorists who had struck on 9/11, were, Bush asserted, “traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

Even Bush’s most vitriolic critics would echo this view for years. Writing in the Washington Post in July 2007, John L. Esposito, Founding Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – which in 2005 was renamed The HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – insisted: “In our post-9/11 world, the ability to distinguish between Islam itself and Muslim extremism will be critical.”

But soon enough, this was no longer good enough. With a new administration in Washington trying to distance itself from Bush’s “war on terror” at least rhetorically, there were determined efforts to avoid any reference to Islam.

By now, however, it seems clear that this avoidance strategy hasn’t been helpful in any way.

In a scathing essay peppered with lots of sarcasm, Walter Russell Mead recently commented on the “War That Nobody Wants,” arguing:

“But roads paved with good intentions don’t always take you where you want to go, and denial does not look like an effective or sustainable strategy in the current state of what is and remains a multi-theater war against a set of armed religious fanatics and bigoted zealots with a crazed world view and the capacity to make a lot of trouble in a lot of places at the same time. […]

If you want to stoke Islamophobia, don’t level with the people about the nature of the problems we face. […] sometimes truth needs to be told. […] We are fighting a battle first to contain and then to defeat a vicious ideology of murder and hate that masks itself as religious zeal. We are fighting this war both at home and abroad, and there is not an inhabited continent anywhere on Planet Earth where this threat is not a serious concern. All Muslims are not our enemies — far from it, and many of our most important allies and associates are decent, pious, enlightened Muslims who loathe the hate-spewing murderers as much as anybody else — but all of our enemies claim to be fighting in the name of Islam.”

Unfortunately it seems that Mead’s common sense arguments won’t be welcomed by those who prefer to complain loudly about “Islamophobia” while they themselves dismiss the distinction between Muslims and violent extremists who justify savage acts of terrorism in the name of Islam.

As the recent controversy about ads in several US cities that denounce violent jihad as “savage” illustrates, we apparently live in a time when it is “anti-Muslim” to feel it is “savage” that self-described jihadists would consider videos of beheadings “very, very important” tools for recruiting volunteers to their ranks. And apparently, it’s also beyond the pale to recoil at the savagery of Muslim fanatics who proudly announce that they will keep trying to kill a fourteen-year old girl that they already injured grievously to silence her demands for education, respect and dignity.

The prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy, who is widely considered a liberal activist, has done much to publicize the controversy about the ads denouncing violent jihad as “savage.” As I have documented, she responded to the ads by declaring herself a “proud savage;” she then proceeded to deface one of the ads and, in the aftermath of being arrested and charged with misdemeanor and criminal mischief, she started a very successful publicity campaign to style herself as a latter-day heroine of the Civil Rights movement – while boasting at the same time that she and her supporters succeeded in getting the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to announce revised advertising guidelines.

After all this agitation, Eltahawy has now decided that it was finally time to do what one could have expected from a prominent writer long ago, and she has taken to the pages of the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website to make her case in writing.

It is quite obviously a weak case. The headline of her post announces “If anti-Muslim ads are protected, so must be my free speech right to protest” – but the text reveals that even Eltahawy is aware that her act of vandalism wasn’t really an exercise of free speech, because she admits: “I broke the law, yes.”

But Eltahawy adds defiantly: “So what? I broke it to make a point of principle. Eleven years after the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims are still being bullied and vilified.”

Indeed, Eltahawy tries hard to make the case that there is at least some “coincidental correlation” between the ads that denounce violent jihad as savage and various incidents of anti-Muslim violence and bigotry. Her article opens with a reference to a recent arson attack on the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo:

“Five days after I spraypainted over a racist and bigoted advertisement in the New York subway, a man set fire to my brother’s local mosque. He struck just a few hours after the mosque’s kindergarten had been filled with children at Sunday school, including my four nieces and nephews.

It was a coincidental correlation but there was nothing casual about either the hate speech on the walls of the subway […] or the arson in Ohio, which was described as an ‘act of terrorism’ by officials who announced federal hate crime charges against the suspect.”

Leaving aside the fact that Eltahawy of course knows full well that the accused arsonist was reportedly motivated by his anger about recent anti-American violence in the Middle East, it is noteworthy that it apparently wouldn’t occur to her that, due to the fanaticism of violent jihadists, hundreds of thousands of Israeli children live daily under the threat that her nieces and nephews might have faced attending Sunday school in a mosque in Ohio.

One could also recall in this context the terrorist attack on a religious seminary in Jerusalem in spring 2008 that resulted in the killing of eight students and the wounding of 11 others – a result that was cheered and celebrated by Hamas supporters in Gaza.

In the world of Mona Eltahawy, it is “anti-Muslim” to denounce any of this as savage. And in Mona Eltahawy’s world it is also “anti-Muslim” to point out that there is not just a “coincidental” but a very direct “correlation” between the thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians as well as the many brutal terrorist attacks and the ringing endorsements of a divinely ordained genocidal battle against the Jews by leading clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who – according to Eltahawy herself – is “mainstream” and “commands a huge audience on and off the satellite channels.”

While Eltahawy would not hesitate to express her loathing of Qaradawi’s views on women in the strongest terms, she apparently takes no offense when Qaradawi tells his “huge audience” of followers that the extermination of Jews by Muslims is divinely ordained – so much so that even the “stones and trees” will do their part by betraying any Jew who might hide behind them.

Whether Eltahawy and her supporters like it or not, the kind of Jew-hating jihad preached by Qaradawi and recently threatened by the Supreme Guide of Egypt’s  Muslim Brotherhood is indeed savage in the context of 21st century civilization.

The claim that it is “anti-Muslim” to say so unfortunately makes sense only if one accepts that Qaradawi’s Jew-hatred is and should be part of mainstream Muslim beliefs. Mona Eltahawy seems to accept that when she rails against the condemnation of jihad as savage and adopts the hashtag #ProudSavage, but fails to even acknowledge the appalling ideology and acts of the violent jihadists of our time.

Rather bizarrely, she concludes her CiF-article by emphasizing that her nieces – who apparently live in the US – “will not grow up to be scared or apologetic for being Muslim, or Egyptian, or brown.” She also praises the “refusal to be intimidated by bullies” shown by many young Muslims who “were just 10 or 11 when 9/11 happened, and […who] refuse to apologise for something they had nothing to do with.”

Very different from what Eltahawy suggests, nobody who wants to be taken serious will demand that young Muslims apologize for “something they had nothing to do with.” But it is entirely reasonable and justified to expect Muslims – whether younger or older – to understand that demands to ignore the horrors advocated and perpetrated by violent jihadists won’t do much to combat anti-Muslim bigotry.

Mona Eltahawy clearly doesn’t understand that and concludes her article declaring: “The only hashtag I will consider is #ProudSavage.”

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This post was first published at my JPost blog and, under a slightly different title, cross-posted on CiFWatch.

Update:

Only after I published this post, I saw that the Wall Street Journal had an article on this issue on October 1. The brilliant title says it all: “Call a Terrorist a ‘Savage’? How Uncivilized.”

Here is one of the examples highlighted in the WSJ to illustrate that the description “savage” is justified:

“This is a Reuters photo that ran on the New York Times front page for Sept. 1, 2004. It shows an Israeli bus after it had been blown up by a suicide bomber. Neither bloody nor gory, the photo is nonetheless deeply disturbing, because it shows the lifeless body of a young woman hanging out a window.

The Times news story added this detail about the reaction to that attack. “In Gaza,” ran the report, “thousands of supporters of Hamas celebrated in the streets, and the Associated Press reported that one of the bombers’ widows hailed the attack as ‘heroic’ and said her husband’s soul was ‘happy in heaven.'” What part of any of this is not savage?”

Some three weeks have passed since the controversy about the ads denouncing violent jihad as savage erupted, and neither Mona Eltahawy nor her fans and supporters have bothered to explain why they object to this. I have asked this question a few times on Twitter, but either I didn’t get any answer – which actually was sort of the best-case scenario – or I got blocked (this was Mona Eltahawy’s response) or I had some abuse hurled at me. Sad times for self-described progressives: it seems they can function only in a well-insulated echo-chamber.

In any case, I’ve in the meantime also come across a report on reason.com about Mona Eltahawy’s defacing of one of the ads, which notes:

“Eltahawy is not a raving lunatic. In the past she has made some fairly intelligent criticisms of extremists. But even allowing that few people keep cool heads while getting handcuffed by burly cops, she has obviously gone off the deep end here.”

Following the links provided here leads to two articles by Mona Eltahawy. The first was written in July 2005, shortly after the 7/7 London bombings; the second one is from January 2006 and comments on the riots staged by Muslims in response to some cartoons published in an obscure Danish newspaper. In both articles Eltahawy expresses views she apparently no longer holds – because if she did, it’s hard to see why she would have been so incensed by the denunciation of violent jihad as savage.

Consider these statements from Eltahawy’s commentary on the cartoon riots:

“the cartoon incident belongs at the very center of the kind of debate that Muslims must have in the European countries where they live – particularly after the Madrid train bombings of 2003 and the London subway bombings of 2005. While right-wing anti-immigration groups whip up Islamophobia in Denmark, Muslim communities wallow in denial over the increasing role of their own extremists.

As just one example, last August Fadi Abdullatif, the spokesman for the Danish branch of the militant Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization, was charged with calling for the killing of members of the Danish government. He distributed leaflets calling on Muslims in Denmark to go to Fallujah in Iraq and fight the Americans, and to kill their own leaders if they obstructed them. […]

Not only does Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization banned in many Muslim countries, have a branch in Denmark, but Abdullatif has a history of calling for violence that he then justifies by referring to freedom of speech – the very notion the Danish newspaper made use of to publish the cartoons. In October 2002, Abdullatif was found guilty of distributing racist propaganda after Hizb-ut-Tahrir handed out leaflets that made threats against Jews by citing verses from the Koran. He was given a 60-day suspended sentence.

Abdullatif used the Koran to justify incitement to violence! And we still wonder why people associate Islam with violence?

Muslims must honestly examine why there is such a huge gap between the way we imagine Islam and our prophet, and the way both are seen by others. Our offended sensibilities must not be limited to the Danish newspaper or the cartoonist, but [must extend] to those like Fadi Abdullatif whose actions should be regarded as just as offensive to Islam and to our reverence for the prophet.”

I sure couldn’t agree more – indeed, about a year ago, I argued in a post asking “Who’s defaming Islam?”:

“efforts to shield Islam from defamation by non-Muslims will inevitably look like an attempt to proscribe free speech as long as authorities that claim a leading role in the Muslim world as well as mainstream Muslim groups and widely revered Muslim scholars come out with statements that sound quite ‘Islamophobic’ when quoted as representative of mainstream Muslim views.”

However, in the meantime, Mona Eltahawy seems to have changed her views. She apparently no longer thinks it is worthwhile to make demands on her fellow Muslims and prefers instead to add her voice to the chorus of complaints about western “Islamophobia” and styling herself as a potential victim by declaring herself a “proud savage.”

But while Muslim extremism and militancy remain as much of a problem today as they were on 9/11, we know that the charges about “Islamophobia” have been greatly exaggerated. As Jonathan S. Tobin pointed out in a post entitled “FBI Statistics Belie Islamophobia Hysteria:”

“It has become an accepted trope of contemporary journalism that American Muslims are under siege and beset by hatred and prejudice. But the evidence for this conventional wisdom is lacking. The story line of Muslim persecution in the United States has always been a matter of anecdotes and perception, not facts. That truth was confirmed this week when the FBI released their annual crime statistics report which showed once again that hate crimes against Muslims remain rare and are far outnumbered by attacks on Jews. […]

Because the far greater number of attacks on Jews is not viewed […] as proof the country is boiling with hatred for Jews, how can anyone rationally argue that the far fewer number of assaults on Muslims can justify the conclusion that Islamophobia is rampant?”

Tobin, however, is making the same mistake that I made: he wrongly assumes this is a rational debate. But it isn’t a rational debate – and as far as Mona Eltahawy is concerned, it shouldn’t be a rational debate. Indeed, it seems she feels that as long as she has some 165 000 followers on Twitter, rational argument is just a waste of time.

Free Gaza tweets for terror and a world without Zionism

The still ongoing controversy about Free Gaza’s propagation of antisemitic material has revealed the for me somewhat surprising fact that apparently quite a few of the group’s supporters seem to believe that Free Gaza is somehow dedicated to promoting peace and coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians.

That is plainly not the case.

One of the most recent tweets from Free Gaza is a call to #NormalizeResistance. As I write, this hashtag seems to be primarily used to protest an invitation for Gilad Shalit by FC Barcelona, and the top tweet right now comes from an account set up under the name of Khader Adnan.

We know what Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan means by “resistance” – and as it happens, Gaza’s rulers understand “resistance” in pretty much the same way.

It is precisely this kind of “resistance” advocated by Islamic Jihad and Hamas that has led to the “blockade” that Free Gaza opposes: Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, more than 8,000 rockets have been fired from there by the “resistance,” terrorizing about one million Israeli civilians who live within the range of these rockets.

So let’s see what Free Gaza has to say about the “resistance”:

These tweets refer to an incident on June 1, 2012, when an armed infiltrator associated with Islamic Jihad from Gaza was discovered by IDF units near the Gaza border and managed to kill one soldier before being killed himself.

To sum up Free Gaza’s take on the event: an “operation” executed by “Gaza defenders” succeeded in killing one “IOF” soldier – though Free Gaza had apparently hoped the “operation” would result in three “dead Israeli soldiers.”

On the rockets raining down on Israeli towns, Free Gaza has this to say:

“Over 100 retaliatory projectiles and rockets including long-range Grad type have been fired from Gaza by Palestinian resistance groups.#Gaza

When it comes to Free Gaza’s – and certainly Greta Berlin’s – vision for the future, there seems to be no room for Israel as a Jewish state, and indeed, there seems to be no room for Jewish Israelis. In January, Free Gaza tweeted a link to a blog post entitled “Call me a Palestinian from Palestine.”

The post features a large photo of a mural depicting the widely idolized Leila Khaled, whose “fame” rests on her contribution to making airplane hijackings a successful terrorist tactic some 30 years ago.

The text of the post itself is fairly typical for the Palestinian “steadfastness”-genre that usually invokes the popular “blood-and-soil”-theme that self-described progressives apparently find deeply moving when it’s employed by Palestinians. In this case it’s an image often used on “Land Day”:

“My blood and sweat have since the dawn of history watered this land, kept it green and blooming and gave the poppies their colour.”

The main theme of the post is built on a much-used dichotomy: on one side are the unspeakably evil and cruel “Zionist racist” colonizers who are the real terrorist that “raped and continue to rape [Palestine] for over 63 years;” on the other side are the noble natives who patiently suffer, waiting for the day when their “home between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River … will be free of the Zionist colonists, the cowards and racists that … have no place in this land.”

Among the rapturous reader comments, there is one by Greta Berlin, linking to Free Gaza’s website, saying: “Heartbreaking and uplifting. As long as the young people of Palestine never forget, Palestine will always be remembered and will, one day. be returned.”

Yet another indication that Greta Berlin wants a “Zionist-free” Palestine “between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River” is the indignant tweet sent out by Free Gaza about a Huffington Post story with the somewhat misleading headline “Helen Thomas Denied Table For White House Correspondents Dinner.” However, as the report explains, Helen Thomas was given the privilege to get two tickets for this dinner even though she was no longer a White House correspondent. The Huffington Post report delicately alludes to “controversial comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” that cost Thomas her status as a White House correspondent; the incident referred to is a clip showing Thomas voicing the view that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home [to] Poland, Germany… America and everywhere else.”

In any case, Free Gaza was clearly very upset that Helen Thomas wasn’t granted the extraordinary privilege of reserving a whole table at the glitzy White House Correspondents’ Dinner, tweeting:

“Helen Thomas denied own table at big D.C. dinner. http://huff.to/HdDf28 via @Gaza Please write to the organizers and express your disgust.”

Last but by no means least, it is noteworthy that in the ongoing controversy about the antisemitic material tweeted by Free Gaza, it is widely ignored that several of these tweets link to fringe websites that propagate bizarre conspiracy theories. Unsurprisingly, Free Gaza has also done this when it’s not really about Jews or Zionists: At the end of last December, Free Gaza posted a tweet about the “Engineered ‘Arab Spring:’” “2011 YEAR of the DUPE: One Year into the Engineered “Arab Spring,” One Step Closer to Global Hegemony.”

The article Free Gaza linked to revealed that “the US had been behind the uprisings and that they were anything but ‘spontaneous,’ or ‘indigenous;’” indeed, according to the lengthy piece, “the uprisings were part of an immense geopolitical campaign conceived in the West and carried out through its proxies with the assistance of disingenuous foundations, organizations, and the stable of NGOs they maintain throughout the world.”

Unsurprisingly, the site that published this piece also offers the “truth” about a whole lot of other dreadful cover-ups, including the terrorist attacks of 9/11…

Mona Eltahawy defends jihad: We are all proud savages now! [Updated]

On Tuesday, the prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy informed her almost 160 000 Twitter followers in no uncertain terms that she was incensed by an advertisement that had been placed in some New York City subways stations. Quoting a Reuters report about the ad, Eltahawy referred to it as “‘Savage’ jihad ad,” and, by adding the hashtag  #ProudSavage, presumably declared her solidarity with maligned jihadists who see themselves in a war against Israel and (western) civilization.

Indeed, as the day wore on, Eltahawy playfully pondered on Twitter how best to protest the ad, deciding eventually that defacing it with pink spray paint would be “sexier” than the alternatives. A few hours later, Eltahawy was going through with her plan to cover one of the ads with pink paint, but was confronted by a woman resolved to stop her. The ensuing brawl was captured by a New York Post camera crew, and Eltahawy was eventually arrested and held overnight to face a criminal mischief charge in court.

This story is a perfect, if utterly depressing, illustration of the mindless sloganeering that all too often passes for political action and debate nowadays.

First, let us consider what the ad that Reuters described as “inflammatory” really said. As the Reuters report noted, the ad equates “Islamic jihad with savagery;” saying specifically:

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.  Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

To me, the most straightforward reading of the message here is: Jihad, understood as war, and in this case specifically as war against Israel, is savage. This is only “inflammatory” if you worry that many Muslims would be insulted to see violent jihadi acts of war denounced as savage.

But apparently, this is not how Eltahawy and her many ardent supporters read the ad. The most revealing illustration for their reading was provided by the well-known cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who has rightly been criticized for his “staggering amount of work dedicated to advancing explicitly anti-Semitic political imagery.”

Latuff was quick to support the #FreeMona campaign developing on Twitter with a drawing that, according to Latuff’s own caption, meant to illustrate that “equating Muslims with savages is freedom of speech – protesting against it is not…”

But while Latuff claimed that the ad was “equating Muslims with savages”, his rendering of the ad tellingly left out the last line “Defeat Jihad.”

It wasn’t the text of the ad that equated Muslims with savages, but Latuff – as well as Eltahawy and her admirers – apparently equated Jihad, understood as war, and specifically as war against Israel, with Islam and therefore with Muslims.

That would probably please jihadists everywhere.

Let’s now consider what the solidarity expressed in the hashtag #ProudSavage really means in the context of contemporary jihadist declarations and actions.

First, I would hope that we can all agree that self-described jihadists who consider videos of beheadings “very,very important” tools for recruiting volunteers deserve to be denounced as savage.

Unfortunately, jihadi rhetoric can hardly be considered as all that more civilized.

Among the most widely known examples is probably the Hamas Charter, especially the declaration:

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

The enormously influential Egyptian Islamic leader Yusuf Qaradawi – who is even regarded by some as “Global Mufti” – has explicitly praised this declaration as “one of the miracles of our Prophet,” noting:

“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”

Qaradawi has made many similar statements encouraging hatred and violence between Muslims and Jews; indeed, a few years ago, he even used his popular Al Jazeera show that reached an audience of tens of millions of Muslims to praise the Holocaust as a divinely ordained punishment for the Jews, expressing the hope that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

How “racist” or “hateful” is it to denounce these racist and hateful views as savage?

Indeed, if there is such a thing as universal values and universal human rights and if we all share a common humanity, then it cannot be that denouncing calls by mainstream Muslim organizations and personalities for a bloody Muslim Jihad against Jews is somehow worse than this incitement to Jew-hatred and violence.

Well-meaning people like Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, are therefore arguably wrong to criticize this specific ad by repeating the well-worn piety that “for the vast majority of Muslims, ‘jihad’ refers to a spiritual quest, not the more politicized idea of holy war.”

That may be true, but the fact of the matter is that, as I have documented above, there is today also a mainstream Muslim understanding of jihad as bloody and, as far as Jews are concerned, ultimately genocidal war. There are also numerous violent jihadi groups, and the “vast majority of Muslims” who understand jihad as a spiritual quest have arguably little reason to feel offended when violent terrorists are denounced as savage.

Indeed, in the wake of 9/11, there were countless appeals by western leaders and commentators admonishing people not to conflate terrorists who kill in the name of Islam with the religion followed by more than 1.5 billion Muslims. But when we have an ad that denounces jihad as savage, the “politically correct” consensus now seems to be that this is an “anti-Muslim” ad.

Unfortunately, this view appears to reflect the sad fact that when it comes to Israel, most Muslims are indeed opposed to the Jewish state’s existence and Jews are viewed negatively by an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East.

Another reason why this ad is interpreted as “anti-Muslim” is of course the fact that it was sponsored by a group that has often rightly been criticized and condemned for campaigns that betray anti-Muslim bigotry. Yet, such groups arguably only stand to gain adherents when it becomes anti-Muslim bigotry to denounce violent jihad as savage.

As deplorable and objectionable as it is that some believe that by denigrating Islam and Muslims in general, they are engaging in pro-Israel activism, it is not all that much better to pretend that widespread hatred of Jews, Israel and even the West doesn’t exist in the Muslim world.

Particularly a prominent writer like Mona Eltahawy surely had the option to turn to numerous widely read media outlets to explain what she finds so objectionable in this specific ad – and perhaps also what she thinks of the mainstream Muslim views of jihad I cited above. Engaging in an act of futile vandalism accompanied by a few rather vulgar tweets and claiming that this is an exercise of free speech and anti-racist political action is indeed a poor reflection on a widely admired writer of our time.

But while I am writing this, Eltahawy’s most recent tweet announces:

“I return to court to face my charges – proudly – on Nov29. #ProudSavage #FuckHate #NYC

And, in yet another tweet posted just five minutes ago and already retweeted by almost 100 people, Eltahawy declares:

“I spray painted that racist piece of shit poster out of principle, protected speech & non-violent disobedience. Proud & absolutely no regrets!”

Unthinking demagoguery attracts a lot of fans, it seems. And what do you know: there is also a new slogan, because, naturally, when a much-despised fringe group sponsors an ad describing the jihad that targets Israel as savage, the most anti-racist thing to do is to declare that we are all proud savages now…

* * *

This article was published on my JPost blog and in the Algemeiner.

UPDATE:

There is an amazing article in The Forward, which reports under the title: “Jewish Groups Object to Anti-Muslim Ad; Hope To Limit Damage From ‘Savage’ Controversy

“The timing of the [ad] campaign could not be worse, as anger is still simmering worldwide over the anti-Islamic YouTube film ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ which insults the Prophet Muhammad. Despite the small reach of the AFDI campaign – only 10 ads among the 11,000 spread across New York City’s 400-odd subway stations – the reaction to it is unpredictable.

Jewish advocates are particularly disturbed by the ads because they combine anti-Islamic propaganda and pro-Israel discourse as if supporting Israel and rejecting Islam were two sides of the same coin.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and a longtime champion of interreligious dialogue, told the Forward that he was “troubled” by the linking of Islam and Judaism in such a contentious way.

“People must understand that there is not a conflict between Muslims and Jews,” Schneier said. “The only conflict there is is between those who believe in coexistence and those who seek to destroy human rights.”

Schneier added that in the same way that other seemingly small manifestations against Islam have been taken as extremely offensive in the past, it would not be hard to imagine how this “could mutate in other parts of the Muslim world” — and raise anti-Israel feelings.

“These ads are Islamophobia at its worst, and in a very irresponsible fashion, since Israel has been brought into the frame,” Schneier said.”

So let’s get this straight: The good Rabbi Schneier, who thinks that these ads present “Islamophobia at its worst,” also thinks that “10 ads among the 11,000 spread across New York City’s 400-odd subway stations” could cause terrible riots all over the Muslim world and “raise anti-Israel feelings.”

On the last point, the Rabbi might be less worried if he knew that “anti-Israel feelings” and outright Jew-hatred are so prevalent in the Muslim world that it’s hard to “raise” them. And when it comes to his inordinate fear of Muslim mob violence, the Rabbi might want to check out the excellent World Affairs Journal piece by Michael Weiss on “Guilt and the ‘Innocence of Muslims’.”

But, most pathetic – if likely well-meaning – is of course this part:

“People must understand that there is not a conflict between Muslims and Jews,” Schneier said. “The only conflict there is is between those who believe in coexistence and those who seek to destroy human rights.”

Rabbi Schneier should tell this one time to Global Mufti Qaradawi – though unfortunately, he won’t be able to do this in person, because Sheikh Qaradawi doesn’t meet with Jews

The Forward’s coverage of this story also includes a blog post that reports gleefully that at least five of the 10 ads have been politically corrected – which is to say, partly plastered over by stickers claiming “Racism” or “Hate speech.”

The morale of the story is clearly that it is “Islamophobia at its worst” to distinguish between Muslims and jihadists – which presumably means: all Muslims are jihadists and anyone who wants to say something not so flattering about jihad should be told to shut up so as not to risk a frightful outbreak of jihadi=Muslim rage…

 

MJ Rosenberg, Media Matters and misinformation

Media Matters for America (MMfA) describes itself as a “progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” As a partner project, it operates Media Matters Action Network (MMAN), which is described in very similar terms as “a progressive research and information center dedicated to analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation; ensuring accuracy, appropriate balance, and accountability in the media through targeted public action campaigns; empowering and expanding progressive voices in the media by providing a full range of resources to assist the larger progressive community in creating and disseminating progressive information and views; and engaging in other activities at the confluence of progressive thought, policy, and media.”

It should go without saying that anyone who works for an outfit that is monitoring political opponents for “misinformation” will obviously be expected to be very careful about the information they are putting out. However, this is apparently not a standard embraced by Media Matters.

One of the people who work for MMAN is MJ Rosenberg. He holds the position of Senior Foreign Policy Fellow,  writes a blog at the Huffington Post and contributes regularly to Al Jazeera – including a recent piece that promotes the demagogic trope that the Israel Lobby controls Washington.

Unfortunately, it seems that Rosenberg is prone to spreading even worse misinformation about Israel. As I documented in a blog post yesterday, Rosenberg claimed in a tweet that Ha’aretz had reported that a “Palestinian infant died in incubator which went dead due to Israeli electricity shutdown.”

But the relevant Associated Press (AP) report published by Ha’aretz did not blame Israel in any way; instead, it stated explicitly that the power shortage that led to the baby’s death had “been caused by a cut-off of Egyptian fuel.”

Due to the fact that Rosenberg had blocked me on Twitter some two months ago after I had challenged him about his enthusiastic endorsement of a controversial essay, I was not able to draw his attention to my post, but since many others on Twitter mentioned it, there is little doubt that he was aware that his slander had been noticed.

Yet, for much of the day, Rosenberg did not react in any way, and did not retract his false claim, even though he was very active on Twitter throughout the day, with many of his tweets devoted to praising Peter Beinart’s recently published book and denigrating its many critics:

Eventually, however, Rosenberg posted this tweet: “AP corrects report I linked to that Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza caused electricity short & baby’s death. Not so.” http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h2zT_SjrNb_ae8164oW6QBLLLpZw?docId=5b16fbbae67641d88b044fa37b057a6c

It is a sad reflection of MJ Rosenberg’s professional ethics and competence if he thinks that this is an appropriate retraction of his completely false claim that adds to so many similar accusations echoing ancient blood libels against Jews.

Let’s list the many falsehoods Rosenberg managed to pack into his half-hearted retraction:

1)    Contrary to his claim, Rosenberg’s original tweet about the death of the baby did not link to any AP report; instead, as I documented, he simply referred to a Ha’aretz report without providing any link

2)    The AP report Rosenberg now links to is not a correction of the original AP report published by Ha’aretz; indeed, the report is dated as “4 days ago,” which means it was published before the report on the death of the baby – and therefore, it does of course not mention this incident.

3)    However, as documented by Camera, AP did actually issue a correction of the original report published by Ha’aretz, and it is a riddle why Rosenberg avoided linking to it. One possible explanation is that he didn’t like the fact that the rewritten AP report gave Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev the opportunity to comment on the apparent attempt by Hamas to alter details of the baby’s death in order to use it for political propaganda.

4)    Rosenberg’s tweet implies that there was actually an AP story that blamed “Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza” for the electricity shortage that caused the baby’s death – but of course, there was no such story.

5)    While Rosenberg will certainly be able to quote opinions that agree with his view that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is “illegal,” the fact of the matter is that the UN Palmer Commission found it to be legal.

Rosenberg certainly managed to give a master class demonstrating how much misinformation can be packed into a single tweet. But by doing so, he exposed himself as a reckless partisan campaigner who is not only unwilling to take responsibility when he is caught spreading lies, but who seems to think he can make do with a disingenuous “retraction” that replaces one big lie with lots of little ones.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

MJ Rosenberg doubles down — here are screenshots of his most recent relevant tweets; the YNet article he links to in one of them is from 2006 and sets up yet another lie, because the bombing of a Gaza power station some six years ago has nothing whatsoever to do with the current power shortage that is caused by Hamas policies that have angered Egypt and led to a severe fuel shortage.

Reading Rosenberg’s recent tweets tells us a lot about the sincerity of his professed commitment to Israel’s right to exist in security: when it comes to a land-for-peace deal, MJ Rosenberg clearly cares primarily about pressuring Israel to give up land – and if, like in the case of Gaza, there is no peace in return, MJ Rosenberg will eagerly join the chorus condemning Israel for defending itself.

To sum up this episode, MJ Rosenberg first provided a demonstration of the cynical carelessness and dishonesty that are always at work in the demonization of Israel, and he then proceeded to show that even where Israel has withdrawn to the pre-1967 lines, progressives like him don’t think this is enough to entitle Israel to peace, or even to the right to defend itself.

 

MJ Rosenberg improves on Palestinian propaganda

When Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent defender of Israel, recently vowed to take on the self-described progressive watchdog group Media Matters, he singled out the group’s senior foreign policy fellow MJ Rosenberg for his particularly vitriolic attacks against Israel and its supporters.

Rushing to Rosenberg’s defense, one of his old friends argued that Rosenberg was really an “Israel-Lover” who was unfairly criticized because he was simply continuing “what he’s done for 43 years, mounting the barricades for the Jewish cause of a safe, peaceful Israel and damn what others think. The ground around him has moved, but he hasn’t.”

However, it wouldn’t be hard to collect innumerable examples of Rosenberg rhetoric that cannot be spun as in any way promoting the “Jewish cause of a safe, peaceful Israel.” By coincidence, I came across just one example today that can only be explained by a deep animus against Israel.

Yesterday afternoon, Ha’aretz published an AP report on the death of a baby in Gaza. According to the report, the baby needed a respirator which, due to a fuel shortage, had to be powered by a generator that, by mistake, ran out of fuel overnight. Most of the report was devoted to explaining the fuel shortage:

“The power shortage has been caused by a cut-off of Egyptian fuel.

A shipment of 450,000 liters of gasoline and diesel fuel purchased by the Palestinian Authority was sent into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Friday, after Israel agreed to permit the transfer.

Over a year ago, Hamas ceased importing fuel from Israel.

The shipment is meant to provide temporary relief for the fuel shortage in the Gaza strip, which started after Egypt cut off all shipments of fuel to Gaza. Senior Hamas officials blamed the Egyptian intelligence services, claiming that they were behind cutting off fuel to Gaza, in order to force the Hamas government into an agreement with Fatah.

Over the past year, Hamas has been smuggling fuel into Gaza at reduced prices through underground tunnels. The shortage began last month as fuel supplies smuggled from Egypt began to dry up. The Palestinian Authority paid full price for the shipment to be delivered on Friday, in order to help ease the current fuel crisis, which has forced Gaza’s 1.7 million to endure widespread blackouts.”

Yet, this is what MJ Rosenberg tweeted:

It is notable that Rosenberg did not provide the link to the Ha’aretz report. But clearly, there was nothing in the report that could explain his claim that the baby died “due to Israeli electricity shut down” – this was something he simply made up.

But there is another twist to the story, because, as documented by Camera, AP soon realized that the baby had apparently died already in early March and that “Hamas was now trying to recycle the story to capitalize on the family’s tragedy.”

According to AP, the changed timing of the baby’s death would allow Hamas to “highlight the human cost Gaza’s 1.6 million residents are paying for 18-hour-a-day blackouts, triggered by a cutoff of Egyptian fuel.”

In other words, the Palestinian propaganda methods that have been so often used against Israel are now used against Egypt. But Hamas will find out that when the Jewish state is to blame, the media and so-called pro-Palestinian activists will be infinitely more interested than when Egypt is the target.

Maybe Rosenberg’s mistake simply reflects a Pavlovian response: if a Ha’aretz headline announces the death of a baby in Gaza, there is no need to read on: it must be Israel’s fault. It’s unlikely that this is the first time he has operated under this assumption: Israel is guilty until proven otherwise.

UPDATE:

Many more recent examples of false accusations blaming Israel for the death of Palestinian children in this Camera piece on “The Global Blood Libel against Israel.”

With lies against Israel

Avi Mayer documented today how so-called pro-Palestinian activists on Twitter spread lies about invented Israeli atrocities:

IsraellyCool has a post with the relevant information about the photos in question, documenting that both photos are several years old and have nothing to do with the current Israeli response to the rocket barrage from Gaza and that the little injured girl was the victim of an accident.

Long after the photos were shown to be old, irrelevant and misleading, one pro-Palestinian activists finally suggested that it was time to stop spreading lies, and this tweet was retweeted by Ali Abunimah:

However, Doherty/bangpound did so perpetuating the lie that the little girl was killed by Israeli bombs: he linked to an old post of the “Angry Arab,” i.e. Asad AbuKhalil, Professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus:

No, this is not Zionism — these are just some of the endlessly repeated Palestinian lies about Zionism.

UPDATE:

It turns out that the person who originally tweeted the photo of the badly injured girl and claimed that this was “another child killed by Israel” happens to work for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – and guess what her job is? Information and Media Coordinator… (EXPOSED: UN Media Official Responsible for False Photo Tweet)

I also wanted to link to another recent fake anti-Israel photo that went viral a few weeks ago and was exposed by blogger Omar Dakhane: it’s again a photo of a “Palestinian” girl lying on the ground, with an “Israeli” soldier about to stomp on her – all courtesy of a 2009 street theater performance in Bahrain.