Category Archives: JPost

Whitewashing BDS and antisemitism in the New York Times

[Note: First published on my JPost blog on February 5, 2014]

A few days ago, anti-Israel activists noted with considerable satisfaction that several recently published New York Times (NYT) articles seemed to justify the conclusion that the paper might be “entering a new era on Israel.” Particular excitement was caused by the NYT decision “to print an oped by BDS leader Omar Barghouti.” Writing on his own blog, Jonathan Cook hailed this decision as “quite a milestone,” and explained:

“Omar includes many issues usually unmentionable in the NYT. But more so than the content of his article, the fact that the NYT is prepared to give a platform to him and the boycott movement – currently viewed by Israel as an enemy potentially even greater than Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons – would truly constitute a revolution in what can be said in the US establishment’s paper of record.”

Cook is absolutely right here. By providing a platform to Barghouti, the NYT has published a not-so-veiled call for abolishing the world’s only Jewish state and, at the same time, allowed Barghouti to falsely claim that the boycott movement he leads is not antisemitic.

Barghouti’s article is entitled “Why Israel Fears the Boycott,” though the URL tells us that the original title was “Why the Boycott Movement Scares Israel.” The answer to this, in whatever variation, is very simple: just like earlier boycotts under the motto “The Jews Are Our Misfortune,” the BDS movement employs similar tactics of slandering the Jews – nowadays the Jews of Israel and those who support the Jewish state – by falsely presenting them to be solely responsible for the “misfortune” of other people, in particular the Palestinians.* Since the long list of lies and slanders Barghouti usually employs when he travels the world to promote the boycott movement has been often described and refuted, I will focus here only on two crucial points that Barghouti tries to obfuscate in his NYT op-ed.

The first is that, as far as Barghouti is concerned, the so-called BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is not campaigning for a negotiated two-state solution and an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Instead, it denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, irrespective of the borders of this state. As Barghouti himself explained, even if Israel gave up its control of all the territories captured in 1967, this would not end the BDS campaigns, because BDS embraces the same rejectionist positions that led to the Arab refusal to accept the UN partition plan in 1947. Barghouti likes to talk a lot about “Palestinian rights,” and while he is careful to use language that conforms to today’s human rights discourse, the most fundamental Palestinian “right” he advocates is the “right” to undo the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.

But while Barghouti and his fellow BDS activists usually feel very confident asserting that Palestinian refugees and their descendants have a unique status and “rights” that no other group of refugees enjoys, they do seem somewhat worried that people might conclude that the boycott movement is, in effect, antisemitic. BDS activists may well have Jewish friends or may even be Jews themselves, but the boycott campaigns they advocate target the Jewish state for being Jewish – as Barghouti himself acknowledges when he says that BDS campaigns would go on even if Israel no longer controlled the West Bank.

Barghouti complains that “Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.” When you click on the link he provides, you get to a post from 2010 on a BDS website, which essentially claims that BDS cannot be antisemitic because it is supposedly supported by “many Jewish organizations and prominent Jewish academics and cultural figures around the world.”  That is a recipe also advocated on the website of David Duke – whom the Anti-Defamation League describes as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.” An article there has much to say about the usefulness of Jewish activists in “anti-Zionist” campaigns and the writer eventually acknowledges freely: “We often cite Jewish writers in order to avoid the anti-Semitic label.”

Unfortunately for Barghouti and David Duke, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, explained only recently that even if you are Jewish, you “can be an anti-Semite if you talk like anti-Semites.” And, as David Hirsh pointed out in a relevant paper on “Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism”, antisemitism doesn’t necessarily mean hating all Jews: “Most forms of antisemitism in history have allowed for ‘exceptional’ Jews. It is not a necessary attribute of antisemitism that it must target every Jew and so there could exist an antisemitism which exempts those Jews who do not identify as ‘Zionist’ from hostility.”

What is really interesting in this context, however, is the fact that Barghouti didn’t try to prove his opposition to antisemitism by linking to a declaration he signed in 2012. Under the title “The struggle for Palestinian rights is incompatible with any form of racism or bigotry,” this declaration, posted by Ali Abunimah at the Electronic Intifada, asserts that the Palestinian “struggle for our inalienable rights is one opposed to all forms of racism and bigotry, including, but not limited to, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Zionism, and other forms of bigotry.” As the screenshot below documents, Omar Barghouti is signatory no.5 on this resurrection of the “Zionism is racism” calumny.

Zionism is racism

While the infamous UN resolution is nowadays widely regarded as an embarrassing part of the Soviet-Arab Cold War efforts to undermine Israel, it is hardly surprising that anti-Israel activists yearn to recreate this effective weapon to delegitimize the Jewish state – after all, in the wake of the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution, Zionism became “a metaphor for universal evil” and it was considered perfectly legitimate to boycott Jewish groups or individuals suspected of Zionist sympathies. This must truly seem like the good old times if you are a BDS activist.

The inconvenient truth is that as long as BDS activists like Omar Barghouti remain firmly opposed to a two-state solution that would result in the peaceful coexistence of a Jewish and a Palestinian state, their activism has nothing to do with human rights. Try as he may, Barghouti cannot conceal that he is actually campaigning for what he regards as the most fundamental and non-negotiable Palestinian “right:” the supposed “right” to finally achieve what the Arab war against the emerging Jewish state failed to accomplish. The Palestinians who fled this war that was supposedly waged on their behalf have served as pawns ever since, clinging to their refugee status and the illusion that it could be passed on through generations reared in the belief that the Jews of Israel are their “misfortune.” But then as now, their misfortune was the unwillingness of the Arabs to acknowledge the simple fact that the Jews are one of the Middle East’s most ancient peoples who, in modern times, could claim as much of a right to self-determination as the Arabs. People like Omar Barghouti are still unwilling to acknowledge this simple fact and are devoting all their energies to convince the world that Jewish self-determination is the misfortune of the Palestinians and that it is therefore their “right” to insist that the Jews in the Middle East should be forced to once again live as a minority under Arab Muslim rule.

*Update: A paper by Mark Gardner published in Democratiya Autumn 2007 that I discovered only recently explores several of the points I’m trying to make here under the apt title “‘The Zionists are our Misfortune’: On the (not so) new Antisemitism.”

Another libel in the making

While anti-Israel activists currently keep themselves entertained with their annual “Israel Apartheid Week” spectacle, there are apparently some who feel that just slandering Israel as a state that is guilty of practicing apartheid isn’t good enough. In an attempt to “improve” on the demonization of the world’s only Jewish state, some activists are now trying to spread the idea that Israel is the Nazi Germany of our time. As I have recently documented in detail, Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath is entirely devoted to this purpose, and Blumenthal’s message is not only appreciated by anti-Israel activists on US campuses, but also by the fans of David Duke, Stormfront and similar outlets catering to conspiracy theorists, racists and neo-Nazis.

For the Jew-haters at Stormfront, Max Blumenthal is “great,” and his relentless demonization of Israel is appreciated as proof that “not all jews are assholes.” (See documentation here (pdf)). But beyond garnering praise for himself, Blumenthal also managed to demonstrate that the racists at Stormfront have their priorities: while they would usually not show much sympathy for the plight of African migrants and refugees, they won’t ignore it when somebody claims that Africans in Israel are treated so badly that one can only compare their fate to what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Israel’s supposedly Nazi-like treatment of African migrants and refugees is a major topic in Goliath, and for some of the related material, Blumenthal collaborated with David Sheen, a Canadian-born Israeli who describes himself as a “documentarian & designer.” A few months ago, Mondoweiss – a site that has been frequently accused of publishing antisemitic material – announced that Sheen was writing “the first book on anti-African racism in Israel,” and currently, Sheen is on a month-long speaking tour in the US and Canada to tell everyone who’s willing to listen that his fellow citizens in his adopted country treat African refugees and migrants like the Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.

Max Blumenthal helpfully tweeted a picture showing one of the slides from Sheen’s presentation that illustrates what a great job he’s doing – because obviously, if there is an employment office in the Israeli detention center for African migrants, this is reason enough to compare the facility to Auschwitz and the cynical “Arbeit macht frei” slogan at its entrance gate.

Sheen Arbeit macht frei

To be sure, in Auschwitz the sign indicated “another form of genocide that the Nazis called ‘extermination through work,’” but for “journalists” like Max Blumenthal and David Sheen, this is apparently an irrelevant detail.

Among the material Sheen is presenting to make his case is also a video with the juicy title “Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land.” The fact that more than 600 000 people have watched this clip so far should probably not be taken as a sign of widespread interest in the plight of African migrants in general; indeed, it is safe to assume that few of the people who watched the clip noticed that right at the beginning, the narrator says: “As Europe closes its gates to asylum seekers, Israel became the next best option.”

This seems to be a glitch that really shouldn’t happen to professional Israel bashers. It certainly shouldn’t happen to David Sheen, who, after all, is working on a book in which he intends to make the case that the plight of Africans in Israel

“has huge implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Because if Israeli policy is not based on equal treatment regardless of ethnicity, but on ensuring that as few as possible non-Jewish people remain in the country, then that would go a long way towards explaining Israel’s actions vis-a-vis the Palestinians for the last 66 years. Perhaps the source of the conflict isn’t Arab anti-Semitism, or even competing land claims, but as distasteful as it sounds, a drive by Israeli political and religious leaders for racial and religious purity.”

Now we only have to find out why “Europe closes its gates to asylum seekers”… or why some would talk about “America’s deportation machine”…

Of course, anti-Israel activists couldn’t care less about refugees and migrants outside of Israel. If they did, they would have to realize that the kind of books Blumenthal and Sheen produce could also be written on the US and most European countries. A recent report entitled “Fortress Europe: How the EU Turns Its Back on Refugees” explained that the “expectations of refugees who come to Europe often go unfulfilled. Many must struggle through long asylum application processes or fight against ingrained local prejudice. In some countries, they endure appalling living conditions in refugee camps; in others, they end up on the streets.” Recently filmed footage from an Italian “reception center” for refugees showed scenes that inspired widely reported comparisons with concentration camps;  a report on “Europe’s Deepening Refugee Crisis” described “a cycle of degradation faced by thousands of African refugees living in Europe today;” refugees in Germany complain that they are treated like criminals; in the Netherlands, scores of asylum seekers facing deportation have committed suicide in the past decade and many more have tried to kill themselves; and the way some asylum seekers are treated in Britain has led critics to conclude that they are not even seen as human beings.

And just imagine how popular this slide show would be if it was about Israel…

Sheen uninteresting deportations

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

Let’s do a Max Blumenthal on Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaza cattle abuse

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

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

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

Gaza lynch mob

Screenshot from Global Post report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Christmas propaganda from Palestine

It’s this time of year again when Palestinians and their supporters gear up to use Christianity’s most popular holy day for their own ugly political purposes. Elsewhere it may be the season of goodwill to all, but for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), it’s just another welcome opportunity to stir up ill will towards Israel and the Jews.

For this purpose, the PLO has just released a short animated clip, which the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (PLO-NAD) helpfully tweeted with the hashtag #ChristmasUnderOccupation.

PLO Xmas propaganda

The clip shows Santa passing all the usual symbols of Palestinian victimization: the evil kippa-wearing Israeli settler, armed and accompanied by a fearsome dog; a checkpoint guarded by an armed Israeli soldier; a sad girl with her teddy bear in front of a ruined house, and of course the security barrier built in response to the terrorist carnage of the Al-Aqsa intifada. But the best part of the clip is arguably the short text that accompanies it, which explains that on Christmas, “Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps one should view this as a huge improvement over some of the other “Jesus was a Palestinian”-fantasies that are part of the annual Palestinian Christmas propaganda routine – last year, for example, an op-ed in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida proclaimed:

“Jesus is a Palestinian; the self-sacrificing Yasser Arafat is a Palestinian; Mahmoud Abbas, the messenger of peace on earth, is a Palestinian. How great is this nation of the holy Trinity!”

Given that Palestinians are used to being indulged by the world, there is indeed no reason why they should care that elsewhere, practicing Christians acknowledge history and think that it is important to remember

“that the first Christmas was first and foremost a Jewish event. Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the shepherds, the baby: they were all Jewish. And as the baby Jesus moved toward adolescence and adulthood, it was Jewish religion, Jewish literature, Jewish culture and Jewish history that shaped his personality and his mind.”

The fact that the historic Jesus was a Jew is of course also reflected in the concept of shared Judeo-Christian values. But all this is merrily ignored by Palestinians and their supporters, who don’t seem the least bit embarrassed to press Jesus into the service of Palestinian nationalism – never mind the fact that the declared goal of this nationalism is a state with Islam as “the official religion” and the “principles of Islamic Shari’a” as “the main source of legislation.”

In this context, it is rather interesting to ponder the popular Palestinian propaganda fantasies about the terrible hardships that would be inflicted by cruel Israeli soldiers on a present-day Joseph and the pregnant Mary on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  For this Christmas season, the PLO-NAD chose to retweet a tweet by the virulently anti-Israel (not to say antisemitic) website “If Americans knew,” which apparently sponsored a billboard in Atlanta depicting Joseph and Mary being blocked from reaching Bethlehem by the security barrier.

PLO Xmas propaganda2

That Palestinian propagandists would choose such an image is a perfect illustration of their confidence that when it comes to maligning Israel, neither facts nor Christian beliefs matter. After all, the historical Joseph and Mary were Jews, and according to the Christian Bible, they travelled “out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he [Joseph] was of the house and lineage of David); To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”

Can you imagine what would happen nowadays to a Jew from Nazareth who claims to be of the lineage of David and goes to Bethlehem because he regards it as the “city of David” and therefore his hometown?

I’m afraid the best case scenario is that the international media would denounce him and his pregnant wife Mary as extremist settlers who have only themselves to blame if anything happened to them and their newborn baby. And one thing is for sure: if this present-day Joseph tried to buy any property in Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem, any Palestinian willing to sell to him would risk being either lynched or sentenced to death for the crime of selling property to a Jew.

But the arguably most distasteful aspect of the annual Palestinian Christmas propaganda is the implicit belittling of the desperate situation of Christians all over the Muslim Middle East. To be sure, the West’s politically correct elites also don’t like to dwell on the fact that Christians nowadays suffer more persecution than any other religious group, and of course it counts for little that Christianity was born in the Middle East long before the region was conquered by Islam. By now it seems that the millennia-old native Christian communities may be facing the same fate suffered by the ancient Jewish communities of the Muslim Middle East. As Robin Harris put it in a Spectator column: “The ‘Sunday’ people are now following the ‘Saturday’ people out of the Middle East.”

Well, as a matter of fact, the “Saturday people” are still clinging to a tiny patch of the Middle East – and Palestinian propagandists work not just on Christmas, but all year round to create the impression that this is what ails the region.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog.

The Temple Mount as symbol of Muslim fanaticism

In recent weeks, there have been numerous media reports warning about escalating tensions and possible violence on the Temple Mount.  Even if you just read the headlines and leads, the situation sounds pretty dire, as this selection from Al Monitor, Sky News and the Washington Post illustrates:

Israeli Restrictions at Al-Aqsa Mosque Could Spark Violence: Israel is imposing tighter restrictions on Palestinian Muslims wishing to access Al-Aqsa Mosque while allowing more Jewish visits that disrespect Islamic customs.”

Sacred Shrines Become ‘Ticking Time Bomb: ‘The chief cleric at one of the world’s holiest mosques tells Sky News that acts of Jewish prayer could spark a regional war.”

Jewish activists want to pray on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, raising alarm in Muslim world.”

These headlines and leads also tell us already who is to blame for this potentially explosive situation: Jews who want to visit the Temple Mount and maybe even pray there. Well, who could imagine a greater outrage than Jews wanting to visit and perhaps pray at the historic site of the Jewish Temples?  And who would dispute that followers of the “religion of peace” have every right to react to such an outrage with threats of massive violence? After all, Muslims are used to having their holiest sites off-limits to “infidels.” True, frustrated journalists who don’t make it into Mecca and Medina may point out that “You don’t have to be a Catholic to go to the Vatican. You don’t have to be Jewish to go to the Western Wall… You don’t have to be Buddhist to hear the Dalai Lama speak” – but there is obviously no reason to expect similar openness from Islam. Indeed, as a Guardian contributor casually remarked: “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic” if Jews were allowed to freely visit the Temple Mount and pray there. And of course, in the Guardian as elsewhere, it’s the Jews who are the extremists.

However, this kind of reporting and commentary isn’t as biased as it may seem, because it unfortunately reflects the view of the Israeli authorities.  As a recent Jerusalem Post report about violent attacks by Muslims explains:

“Although the [Israeli] Supreme Court has upheld Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount – which is overseen by the Wakf Muslim religious trust – the court also allows police to prevent any form of worship there if they believe such activities will incite a ‘disturbance to the public order.’ […] Asked what has precipitated the pronounced uptick in violence, Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Arabs are growing increasingly incensed by religious Jews who increasingly illegally pray there in an act of civil disobedience. ‘The Arabs don’t like Jews coming there to pray, and an extreme group of Jews is going there to provoke them,’ he said.”

In other words, Israel’s Supreme Court has acknowledged that Jews have the right to pray on the Temple Mount, but it has also given Muslims a veto right: if they don’t like it and become violent, then they’ll get their way and Jews who exercise their supposed right are accused of engaging in a provocative “act of civil disobedience.” In practice that means that the Saudi policy of treating “infidels” like dogs who have to be kept off Muslim holy grounds is all too often also enforced on the Temple Mount.

Temple Mount threats

 Sky News screenshot

While I myself am not religious and have little sympathy for the political agenda of the more prominent activists who push for greater access to the Temple Mount, I don’t quite agree with the conclusion offered in a recent article by Avi Issacharoff that “[r]adical Muslim and Jewish groups at times seem to have forged an unholy alliance to push for holy war.”

As most of the reports on anything that happens on the Temple Mount emphasize, it is probably the most explosive spot on earth – but it is so explosive because the whole world takes it for granted that it is perfectly acceptable that “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic” if they had to acknowledge the fact that first and foremost Jews, but also Christians have a historic attachment to the Temple Mount and that the claim of exclusive Muslim control is a ridiculous anachronism rooted in the glorification of Islamic imperialism and supremacism.

One of the very few Muslims to publicly acknowledge the long pre-Islamic history of the Temple Mount and its significance is Qanta Ahmed, who earlier this year published a fascinating four-part report on her visit to the site. In the final part of her report, she recounts her visit to the Al Aqsa mosque, where her Muslim guide showed her some massive ancient columns, explaining: “This was the entrance to the Second Jewish Temple that was here before Al Aqsa. You can see it is absolutely distinct.”

Reflecting on this sight, Qanta Ahmed writes:

“Somehow, these hardy arches, these massive pillars had escaped even the Romans’ determined destruction of the Second Temple. Before this place was made ours, it had clearly been theirs. We were on borrowed ground.”

Already in a melancholic mood from the decay and neglect she witnessed all over Islam’s supposedly third-holiest site – something noted also more recently by another Muslim visitor – Qanta Ahmed ends her report with a somber conclusion:

“Nowhere in my long ago travels and imperfect memory is the anoxia of Islamism more apparent than [in] the spent bosom of the Farthest Mosque [i.e. Al Aqsa]. Here, we have become the Farthest Muslims. I feel our departure most acutely in Jerusalem, the world’s gentle biographer, the beating, romantic heart of all belief, to all People, of all Books. Jerusalem, dear Muslims, is home to a gilded dome rendered hollow, little more than a fading husk to the richness once contained therein. She is ours no more.”

Once we hear even remotely similar sentiments from Muslim leaders, we will know that the Middle East is on the mend and peace is really possible.

In the meantime, it would be already a big step in the right direction if journalists and commentators hesitated a bit before they nonchalantly report – and implicitly justify – threats of Muslim violence. Ironically enough, the recent “Islamophobia” report of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) lectures us that the notion “that Muslims are inclined to violence including revenge and retaliation” is “Islamophobic.”  So the next time a Sky News reporter hears the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem threatening that the “whole region will be engulfed by war” if Jews want to pray on the Temple Mount, he could perhaps ask the Grand Mufti to explain this threat in view of the historic Jewish attachment to the Temple Mount and claims that Islam is a “religion of peace.” And maybe next time a Guardian blogger – particularly if he happens to be a Christian priest – writes about how easily “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic,” he could ask himself what it would take for him to write with equal understanding about the threat of a billion Christians worldwide going ballistic.

As long as the media depict Muslim violence in the name of Islam as an inevitable reaction to any perceived provocation and give a free pass to the Muslim leaders who never tire to threaten such violence, we can regard the OIC definition of “Islamophobia” as no more than a cynical political tool that allows Muslim leaders to incite violence with impunity – and we can expect that the Temple Mount will remain a dangerous symbol of Muslim fanaticism.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog on December 12, 2013

 

Guess who finds Israel guilty of genocide?

It’s a piece of news that’s too absurd to make the news – but by ignoring it we actually miss a good illustration of the bizarre extremes to which Jew-haters will go. So here we go: “Tribunal Issues Landmark Verdict against Israel for Genocide” reads the happy headline of an article posted at the website of the “Centre for Research on Globalization,” which, for good reason, has been described as “a Canadian clubhouse for crackpots of the anti-war, 911-truth, anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist variety.”

As it happens, the founder of this outfit, a certain Michel Chossudovsky, is also a member of the “Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC)” that apparently initiated the bizarre proceedings against the State of Israel. Naturally, Chossudovsky, a retired professor of economics, complained on his website that this “important judicial process has received very little coverage in the Western media,” but – needless to say – he vowed to make up for this inexcusable neglect by providing extensive coverage of “this historic judgment against the State of Israel.”

In case you are like me and have never heard of the “Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC)” and its “tribunal,” a quick check at Wikepedia tells us that this is “a Malaysian organisation established in 2007 by Mahathir Mohamad to investigate war crimes…as an alternative to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which Mahathir accused of bias in its selection of cases.” Among those tried and duly convicted by the “tribunal” are of course George W. Bush and Tony Blair…

Mahathir Mohamad, the founder of this kangaroo court, was Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003. In October 2003, shortly before he stepped down as prime minister, he attracted international attention with a speech at a summit for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), where he told his audience that while Muslims “have the biggest oil reserve in the world,” “have great wealth” and “control 57 out of the 180 countries in the world,” they “will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews.” Indeed, according to Mahathir, “today the Jews rule the world by proxy.”

It seems that Mahathir had developed similar “insights’’ for decades, and he continued to occasionally share his views about the Jews. Addressing a London “Forum on Gaza Genocide” in March 2009, Mahathir urged his audience to remember “that as a country with one people (Jews) the trouble that it has caused is horrendous. Ever since the country with one people was created there has been endless violence, conflicts and wars including the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York and the acts of terrorism.”

Mahathir expressed similar ideas when he addressed a “Conference for the Support of Al-Quds” in January 2010, where he reportedly said:

“The Jews had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom.
Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world. The Holocaust failed as a final solution.”

Holocaust failed

 Screenshot from Malaysia Today

 Some two years later, Mahathir wrote in response to the Israeli court decision on the accidental death of the pro-Palestinian American activist Rachel Corrie:

“I am glad to be labeled antisemitic […] How can I be otherwise, when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness towards not just their enemies but even towards their allies should any try to stop the senseless killing of their Palestinian enemies.”

One could only wish that all the people who share Mahathir’s views would be equally glad to acknowledge that they indeed hold antisemitic views.

Given Mahathir’s longstanding views on the Jews and their state, it was obviously all but inevitable that his “War Crimes Commission” would sooner or later get around to finding Israel guilty of all the worst atrocities. While Mahathir’s fellow- KLWCC member Chossudovsky complained that “this historic judgment against the State of Israel” didn’t get the media coverage it deserved, it actually got some well-deserved coverage on RT, a Russian-sponsored “news” network that apparently has long worked closely with Chossudovsky’s outfit.

In a lengthy and somewhat incoherent RT-article, Nadezhda Kevorkova tries to explain “Why the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal’s genocide verdict against Israel sets a key precedent.” After offering a long medley of rather confused observations, Kevorkova concludes her piece with a few true gems:

“The fact that the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal condemned Israel is hardly surprising – Malaysia actively supports the Palestinians. In early 2013 the Malaysian prime minister visited the Gaza Strip – there aren’t many political leaders who can afford to make such a provocative step.

Malaysian Islam is similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that suffered such a crushing political defeat in Egypt. Malaysia’s ex-leader, Mahathir Mohamad, is a very influential figure in the Muslim world, especially among Muslim Brotherhood supporters, specifically in the part of the Muslim establishment that’s close to Britain.

Malaysia is even more determined to get revenge for the damage the Muslim Brotherhood sustained than Turkey, so this influential political faction dealt their opponents a glancing, but painful blow. It’s the first time an international tribunal convicted not individual generals, but the State of Israel of genocide. Israel’s main weapon has been turned against it.”

Mhm, so Malaysia wanted “revenge for the damage the Muslim Brotherhood sustained” and therefore “convicted… the State of Israel of genocide.” Well, if they say so on RT, who are we to disagree???

And another gem courtesy of Kevorkova:

“most of the Israel’s supporters wanted to believe that almost three years of revolutions in the Arab world and two years of fighting in Syria have pushed the Palestinian issue to the sidelines. Israel rejoiced that the focus shifted from the Palestinian issue, which united everyone, to the Syrian conflict, which became a bone of contention for the entire world.

Contrary to Israel’s expectations of two months ago, the Tribunal is not trying Assad for crimes against the Syrian people. Instead, it is trying Israel for genocide of the Palestinians. All of a sudden, Israel has lost its momentum.  The Palestinians are back in the political spotlight, and the trap designed to lure Assad has turned into a trap for Israel.

Last but not least, many pundits rushed to argue that both the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and their fall is all the doing of the US.  The veteran commentators would say that those who are to blame for the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will not go unpunished by the US and UK. The Israeli agents had put too much effort into cajoling major governments to support the Sisi-led coup to oust Mubarak and ignore the 3,000 deaths caused by the junta and the lies of the world media about the Muslim Brotherhood allegedly burning down the Coptic churches. Encouraged by the UK and Obama, full of arrogance and reluctance to reach any kind of compromise, Israel paved its own way to the genocide verdict.”

Admittedly, none of this makes much sense – but then, Jew-haters rarely do…. Indeed, as the story outlined here illustrates, some of them seem to feel that since the “Holocaust failed as a final solution,” Israel – as the collective Jew of today – must be condemned for “genocide.”

* * *

First published at my JPost blog on December 5, 2013.

 

Islam and the war of ideas

A few weeks ago, the New Yorker published a very interesting post by George Packer on “Islamist Violence and a War of Ideas.” Packer began by giving “a very partial box score of global Islamist violence during the month of September.” Highlighting that “hundreds, of people…most of them Muslims…are being murdered every day, blown to pieces, burned alive, shot to death, beheaded, in the name of an extremely violent strain of Islam,” Packer argued that

“the violence flows from ideas, terrible ideas, about the meaning of Islam, the character of non-Muslims, and the duties of Muslims. These ideas are promulgated in mosques and coffee shops and schools, and on satellite TV and the Internet, with the aid of conspiracy theories, half-truths, deceptive editing, and lies.”

Packer warns that Americans, and presumably the West in general, must not be indifferent to this bloody violence even when its victims are primarily Muslims themselves. In his view, Americans have relied too much on fighting Islamist extremism by military means, while not giving “enough thought to… addressing the heart of the violence: the terrible ideas that license massacres in the name of religion.”

However, as Packer reports, there is a new initiative to fight these “terrible ideas.”  A recently created joint U.S.-Turkish fund to combat Islamist extremism, called the Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience, is supposed “to identify and finance grassroots groups around the Muslim world that will do the difficult work of opposing extremist ideas at home.” As Packer emphasizes, the “American role would be very much in the background;” indeed, he notes that “Americans are not in a position, morally or practically, to lead this effort.” Instead, “citizens, organizations, and governments of key Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, would take the lead.”

While I agree that America can’t lead this “effort” for practical reasons, it seems to me that giving Saudi Arabia and Pakistan a leading role in combatting Islamist extremism is like putting a pyromaniac in charge of the fire brigade.

No less problematic is Packer’s failure to fully acknowledge what it means that the Islamist violence he denounces so wholeheartedly flows indeed, as he himself writes, “from ideas, terrible ideas, about the meaning of Islam, the character of non-Muslims, and the duties of Muslims.” These “terrible ideas” are by no means propagated by just a handful of extremists; indeed, Packer rightly notes that they “are promulgated in mosques and coffee shops and schools, and on satellite TV and the Internet.”

In other words, these “terrible ideas” are mainstream Muslim fare – which means that in the politically-correct West, non-Muslims are generally expected to refrain from any criticism.

A good example for an influential Muslim leader who spreads truly terrible ideas is Yusuf Qaradawi. Many millions of Muslims regard Qaradawi as a great scholar and, due to his enormous influence, he has even been described as the “Global Mufti”. Among the terrible ideas Qaradawi has propagated is his fervent belief in a divinely ordained battle between “all Muslims and all Jews,” his view that the Holocaust was well-deserved “divine punishment” for the Jews, and his hope that “the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” Yet, the politically-correct view of Qaradawi (expressed e.g. by a widely respected Middle East expert in the influential magazine Foreign Affairs) is that we should politely ignore Qaradawi’s genocidal Jew-hatred and instead appreciate him as a leading Muslim moderate:

“He [Qaradawi] is best known for his doctrine of wasatiyya, or ‘centrism,’ which lays out a middle ground between secularism and fundamentalism. He rejects the doctrinal extremism of the Salafists and the violent extremism of al Qaeda[…] At the same time, he often takes issue with U.S. foreign policy and is certainly hostile toward Israel, not to mention being a highly successful proselytizer of the Islamist worldview. This potent mixture may be troubling, but it largely defines the mainstream Muslim position. Indeed, one of the keys to Qaradawi’s popularity is his ability to anticipate Arab and Muslim views; […]  Qaradawi is a barometer of Muslim opinion as much as a cause of it.”

The message here is clear: if the “mainstream Muslim position” reflects a “troubling” mixture, the West should simply be grateful that it’s not worse…

Qaradawi genocidal prayer

Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradawi leads a prayer for the annihilation of the Jews, broadcast on Al-Jazeera TV (Qatar) – January 9, 2009 (MEMRI screenshot)

Maybe this is a very pragmatic approach, but it hardly provides a sound footing for fighting a “war of ideas.”

Indeed, when it comes to Islam, the West seems very reluctant to engage in fighting any “war of ideas,” despite the fact that particularly in Europe, the radicalization of fast-growing Muslim minorities is very worrisome. An excellent feature essay for the November cover of Standpoint Magazine is devoted to the question if the West is losing “The War For The Soul Of Islam.” Author Douglas Murray notes early on that historically, “in the battle for the soul of Islam the extremists tend to win” and he concludes pessimistically:

“it is assumed that Islam is like all other religions, that suspicion of Islam is as dangerous as suspicion of any other religion. In short, they [British and Western governments] have tried to treat Islam like any other faith. And the problem is that it is not. Not just because Islam behaves in significantly different ways from other faiths, but because at the very point  that it is swiftly growing in our own countries its global direction of travel is consistently regressive.”

Several of Murray’s central observations are confirmed in a recent post on the popular blog Harry’s Place, where a liberal Muslim notes despondently that nowadays, Muslim leaders in the West “can happily believe and even state publicly that the death penalty should apply to anyone who has sex outside of marriage, takes part in a homosexual act, insults the Prophet or leaves Islam without being [criticized as] ‘extreme’.”

So maybe instead of spending resources on funding an unpromising campaign to combat Islamic extremism in countries whose governments continue to promote fundamentalist Islam, the West would be better off to stop the appeasement of Muslim reactionaries and instead start vigorously supporting reform-minded Muslims in Europe and the US?

* * *

First published November 1, 2013, at my JPost blog.

 

Cheering a new ‘I Hate Israel Handbook’ [updated]

Coinciding with last weekend’s 75th anniversary of the “Kristallnacht” pogrom by the Nazis, several institutions in Berlin, including the Jewish Museum, organized an “International Conference on Current Phenomena of Antisemitism in Europe.” Given that the focus of the conference was supposedly on “current” manifestations of antisemitism in Europe, it was not at all promising that the keynote speaker – Oxford University philosopher Brian Klug – has made a name for himself by arguing that the demonization of the Jewish state is not “necessarily anti-semitic.” And while Klug has spent much energy opposing the notion that there is a “new antisemitism” that targets Israel, he seems eager to embrace the relatively new concept of “Islamophobia.” 

When critics of Klug published a dossier detailing their objections to his views, the Oxford professor immediately hinted that he might take legal action, because his “attorney…confirmed that the dossier is defamatory.” That left me wondering if Klug (and his attorney, of course!) feels there is anything “defamatory” about the fact that he is being enthusiastically defended and cheered on by a site like Mondoweiss, which has often been accused of publishing antisemitic material.

In recent weeks, one of the biggest stories at Mondoweiss was the publication of a new book by Max Blumenthal, one of the site’s heroes. As one critical reviewer elsewhere noted, Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” is really a “I Hate Israel Handbook” brimming with implicit equations of Israel with Nazis, which “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed) without a single word change once it’s translated into Arabic.”

Unsurprisingly for those of us who are less sophisticated about antisemitism than Brian Klug, there is a big market for a new “I Hate Israel Handbook.” The Israel-haters at the Electronic Intifada jubilantly announced that the book was at one point “the number one seller on Amazon.com in the category of Israeli history.” So perhaps we can imagine that just as Brian Klug shared his thoughts on “Current Phenomena of Antisemitism” with his audience at the Berlin conference, some Mondoweiss (and Brian Klug) fans and other Israel-haters were savoring Blumenthal’s screed – and perhaps they even happened to read the chapters on the Israeli-run concentration camp and the Israeli-perpetrated Kristallnacht?

Blumenthal Goliath

It is arguably no coincidence that a site like Mondoweiss would champion both Oxford philosopher Brian Klug and anti-Israel propagandist Max Blumenthal. Indeed, the fairly impressive endorsements Blumenthal has been able to get for his screed could be seen as the fruit of Klug’s endlessly repeated mantra that there should be precious few red lines when it comes to criticizing Israel. In one of his first articles on this subject Klug wrote some ten years ago:

“In his book, The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz argues that when criticism of Israel ‘crosses the line from fair to foul’ it goes ‘from acceptable to anti-semitic’.

People who take this view say the line is crossed when critics single Israel out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Israel by harsher criteria than they use for other states; when they misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light; when they vilify the Jewish state; and so on. All of which undoubtedly is foul. But is it necessarily anti-semitic?

No, it is not.”

Let’s imagine for a moment how Professor Klug would feel about this version:

“when critics single Islam out unfairly; when they apply a double standard and judge Islam by harsher criteria than they use for other religions; when they misrepresent the facts so as to put Islam in a bad light; when they vilify the Muslim religion…[this] undoubtedly is foul. But is it necessarily Islamophobic?

No, it is not.”

Of course, one could try this with Blacks, Roma, gays, or whatever other group or entity one would like to vilify while claiming the authority of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug to argue that none of this means that one is “necessarily” bigoted.

However, as we all know, the Klug-definition for bigotry is considered acceptable only when it comes to Israel. So Max Blumenthal and many others can apply double standards and judge Israel by harsher criteria than any other state; they can misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light; and they can freely vilify the Jewish state without risking to be denounced as “necessarily anti-semitic.”

Now let’s have a look at some of those who were happy to endorse Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook.”

The top editorial endorsement featured on the book’s Amazon page is unsurprisingly from The Guardian: “Goliath…shows in forensic detail the reality of the Israeli mainstream’s embrace [of] blatant racism against Arabs and Africans.” It is noteworthy that The Guardian is saying here that the vast majority of Israelis are blatantly racist: the rightwing is racist by definition (certainly by The Guardian’s definition), and since the mainstream is also racist, only a small minority of far-left Israelis are perhaps not racist. It’s also safe to assume that The Guardian is only talking about Jewish Israelis here – so at least Arab Israelis may not be racist…

Ironically enough, another warm endorsement for Blumenthal’s screed comes from The American Conservative (TAC), nicely illustrating that when it comes to the evils of Israel, a supposedly “progressive” publication like The Guardian and a paleoconservative publication like TAC can see eye to eye.

Then there is an endorsement from Stephen Walt – with his full institutional affiliation: Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Walt praises Blumenthal’s “[b]rave reporting,” adding: “Makes me wish he wrote for the New York Times.” Given that earlier this year, Walt served as guest contributor for the Hamas mouthpiece MEMO, it is arguably not surprising that he would happily endorse a book that “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.”

Another high-profile academic endorsement for Blumenthal’s screed comes from Rashid Khalidi, though the Columbia professor apparently didn’t want his institutional affiliation displayed. Khalidi praises the book because he feels it “lifts the carefully maintained veil concealing the reality of Israel as it actually is today” and he deplores that this reality “is elided in most reportage from the region.” Obviously Khalidi has a point: with all the bad press Israel is getting, the ‘unveiling’ of its concentration camps and Kristallnachts is still something that is usually found only on the lunatic Jew-hating fringes.

Needless to say, Blumenthal also made sure to collect endorsements from some well-known Jews. Charles H. Manekin, Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center of Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, likes to describe himself as a “cultural Zionist” – that is to say, a “Zionist” who cares about Jewish culture but not about a Jewish state (– and non-philosophers might think that makes him an anti-Zionist…). His enthusiasm about Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook” was such that he professed: “I would like to send a copy…to every Jew I know.”

In addition to these endorsements from academics, there is much praise from writers who work or worked for influential publications: Glenn Greenwald, who has just left The Guardian, apparently found it “stunningly insightful” to read about Israel’s concentration camps and Kristallnachts; David Hirst, also affiliated with The Guardian, worries that Israel will be destroyed by the “virulence of a cancer, both institutional and popular, which [is….] essentially of its own racist and colonialist making;” award-winning former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges considers Blumenthal’s screed one of the most “fearless and honest books ever written about Israel;” and long-time Ha’aretz columnist Akiva Eldar also couldn’t help feeling impressed by Blumenthal’s relentless demonization of Israel.

Naturally, Blumenthal’s “I Hate Israel Handbook” was also warmly praised by his trusted comrades from Mondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada. And unsurprisingly, Blumenthal’s work is also much appreciated by the Jew-haters at  David Duke’s website:

“Blumenthal’s writings and videos are extremely valuable in the study of Jewish extremism, as he is not shy about using his Jewish name and looks to gain access to Jewish extremists in order to document the ugliest side of Zionism…as it pertains to Israel.”

While this is an endorsement Max Blumenthal chose not to quote on his Amazon page, I think that this is exactly the company the people who praised Blumenthal’s screed deserve. But I have no illusions that any of them would feel embarrassed by the fact that a propaganda tract they endorse is also praised by far-right antisemites. Moreover, even those who have prestigious academic positions know that, thanks in part to efforts like those of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug, there is no price to pay for cheering the vilification of the Jewish state – and therefore inevitably the Jews who sustain it – in ways that would be completely unacceptable if any other group with a long history of persecution and discrimination was the target.

* * *

First published on November 14, 2013 at my JPost blog.

Update:

More well-deserved praise for Blumenthal’s book comes from Gilad Atzmon, proud author of “The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics.” In case you are lucky enough to never have heard of Gilad Atzmon, here is a succinct description by Jeffrey Goldberg:

“Gilad Atzmon is a jazz saxophonist who lives in London and who has a side gig disseminating the wildest sort of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He is an ex-Israeli and a self-proclaimed ‘self-hater’ who traffics in Holocaust denial and all sorts of grotesque, medieval anti-Jewish calumnies.”

Writing at Veterans Today – a website that according to the Anti-Defamation League regularly “features anti-Israel and Holocaust denial materials [and] offers a platform for numerous columnists who promote anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theories” – Atzmon concludes his review by declaring:

“I really want Blumenthal’s book to succeed and be read widely.  Being a theoretician, I do not have the time for any kind of field work. I establish a conceptual and intellectual framework with the hope that some would […] gather the necessary evidence to support my theses.  Whether Blumenthal understands it or not, this is exactly what he did in his latest book. He brilliantly though unwittingly managed to produce a pretty impressive journalistic account in support of my criticism of Jewish identity politics and tribal supremacy.”

And now it turns out that the supposedly progressive New America Foundation is planning to host an event promoting Blumenthal’s book on December 4. The invitation to the event reportedly describes the book as “an unflinching, unprecedented work of journalism which depicts a startling portrait of Israeli society under siege from increasingly authoritarian politics.”

I would suggest there’s no reason to hold back: why not invite some of Max Blumenthal’s most ardent fans like Atzmon and the writer from David Duke’s site to the New America event?

Netanyahu and the fundamentals of peace

Under the title “Netanyahu the fundamentalist,” David Landau grimly predicted in a recent Ha’aretz column that “History will damn the Israeli prime minister’s obsessive demand for the Palestinians to commit heart and soul to the idea of Israel as the ‘Jewish State’ as a precondition for peace.” Needless to say, this was not the first Ha’aretz article opposing Netanyahu’s stance – and needless to say, blaming Israel in general and Binyamin Netanyahu in particular for the lack of peace is always a crowd pleaser for the audiences Ha’aretz caters to.

But Landau’s piece was so weak and contradictory that it only helps to make the case for Netanyahu’s demand.

At the beginning of his column, Landau notes that the “United Nations spoke of a Jewish state and an Arab state back in the 1940s. That was the accepted vocabulary ever since the principle of partition made its appearance in the 1930s. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, uses the same vocabulary today.”

If it was true that Abbas “uses the same vocabulary today,” it should hardly be a problem for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

However, Landau then goes on to explain that

“Abbas can never extend recognition to Israel as ‘the Jewish state,’ because there are close to 20 percent of Palestinians among Israel’s citizens and the recognition that Netanyahu demands of Israel as ‘the Jewish state’ would be considered, in Palestinian opinion, a betrayal of them.”

Landau probably knows all too well that the problem is not just “Palestinian opinion,” but rather the fact that the PLO claims to be “the sole legitimate representative of the entire Palestinian people” – which, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, includes Israel’s Arab citizens (irrespective of the question whether they regard themselves as Palestinians and want to be represented by the PLO). It is important to realize that Palestinian advocates have even used this claim to argue that a Palestinian state is not all that desirable since it could only represent its own citizens and not Palestinians who are citizens of other countries, including Israel. Similar notions about statehood requiring the Palestinians to give up on various claims and all sorts of imaginary “rights” are reflected in the views of many “one-state” proponents and in the vicious anti-Israel propaganda of sites like the Electronic Intifada.

Unfortunately for Landau, the fact that the Palestinians oppose the recognition of Israel as the Jewish state because they insist on representing Israel’s Arab citizens doesn’t really show that it is Netanyahu who is the “fundamentalist” here…

After all, there are plenty of states that define themselves in no uncertain terms as the nation state of a particular group, and as far as I know, nobody has yet thought of withholding recognition because there may also be minorities in this state that do not identify as part of the nation. Moreover, when we look around in the region, Israel is for sure the best place to live when you belong to a minority. Like minorities everywhere – including in Europe – Israel’s Arab citizens may have reason to complain about various disadvantages, but most are arguably better off than if they lived in a neighboring state as part of the Arab majority. In this context it’s also interesting to note that Palestinians don’t seem to have similar demands and claims towards Arab states with sizable Palestinian populations. Is it acceptable that Jordan is the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” when at least two thirds of its population is Palestinian? Well, maybe Jordan doesn’t count, since it has already a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian queen… And indeed, we do know that the Palestinians didn’t demand a state while the West Bank was annexed by Jordan and Gaza was administered by Egypt. One could almost think that the Palestinians only start to have problems when Jews are involved.

Given Landau’s reference to the fact that the “United Nations spoke of a Jewish state and an Arab state back in the 1940s,” we might also recall – as Israel’s UN Ambassodor Ron Prosor recently noted – that “General Assembly resolution 181 (II) dividing the British Mandate over Palestine referred to the creation of a Jewish State 25 times.” It didn’t mention a Palestinian state because at the time, only few had ever heard of a “Palestinian people.” Even today, official Palestinian documents insist that “Palestine is part of the large Arab World, and the Palestinian people are part of the Arab Nation.”

Yet, Israel’s “fundamentalist” Prime Minister is willing to acknowledge that nowadays, the Palestinians regard themselves as a people that should have a state of their own. At a recent meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, Netanyahu said: “peace is premised on mutual recognition, of two states for two peoples, of the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people mirrored by the Jewish state for the Jewish people.” Admittedly, he also mentioned the f-word, adding: “I think that’s fundamental for any peace”…

But while Netanyahu probably can’t say anything that would cause his left-wing critics to let go of their convenient bogeyman, Haviv Rettig Gur has recently argued – rightly, in my view – that Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians make peace with Israel as the Jewish state must be understood in the context of the well-documented Palestinian demonization of Israel as fundamentally illegitimate and evil.

As it turns out, not even a veteran Israeli dove like Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin can argue on a Palestinian website in favor of the demand to recognize Israel as the Jewish state. Baskin writes that he can’t quite understand why the Palestinians would find it so difficult to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. But it’s not so hard to explain: the two major components of Palestinian identity are the very recent secular one which depends almost exclusively on implacable hostility to Israel, and the religious one which is based on centuries of Islamic imperialism and supremacism. Acknowledging that an ancient people like the Jews have any rights in their historic homeland will inevitably undermine both the secular and the religious component of Palestinian identity.

Two states for two peoples is a nice-sounding formula, but unfortunately, it’s not clear that the Palestinians have a strong enough identity to really feel as a people that can pull together for the difficult task of building a functioning state. Of course, Gaza is already a statelet, and the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank are living under the rule of a Palestinian administration that is recognized by most UN members as representing the Palestinian state. The bizarre make-belief quality of this UN recognition may well carry over to any future “peace” agreement; yet, since it would mean the end of Israel as we know it – and the end of Israel as the Jewish state – to absorb the Palestinians on the West Bank as Israeli citizens, I’m all for a solution that would somehow resolve the problem of Palestinian statelessness.

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First published at my JPost blog on October 25, 2013