Category Archives: Quote of the day

Quote of the day: Glenn Greenwald’s antisemitism

“The propaganda in question is a stream of venom and denunciation directed toward the democracy that is Israel, and a similar stream of extenuation and denial about the terroristic activities of Hamas and affiliated jihadist groups, while also maintaining a deafening silence about the various Islamic and secular butchers from Iraq to Syria to Libya who have turned much of the Middle East into a slaughterhouse.

Israel can be criticized like any other state. But treating the Jewish state as the prime focal point of evil in the modern world is clearly something else. That something else has a name. Linking without a shred of evidence police misconduct in Ferguson, Missouri, to Israel, or likening Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the ultimate symbol of evil, a leading Nazi—both of which Mr. Greenwald has done in recent weeks and both of which constitute demonization plain and simple—reveal the recrudescence of the centuries-old obsession of anti-Semitism in modern guise.”

From an American Interest article on “Pierre Omidyar, Glenn Greenwald, and Their War on Israel” by Gabriel Schoenfeld. Reading through Schoenfeld’s short summaries of some of Greenwald’s articles on the recent war between Hamas and Israel, I was struck by how much Greenwald’s writings seem to echo Ali Abunimah’s output at the Electronic Intifada. This is not to suggest that Greenwald copies Abunimah; he obviously just shares his hatred toward Israel and much of the ideology that is fashionable among Israel-haters.

But while Israel-bashing is Abunimah’s main occupation, it’s only a side-show for Greenwald. However, it is noteworthy that when Greenwald takes to Twitter, his reach is clearly much broader than Abunimah’s: Greenwald has some 416 000 followers compared to Abunimah’s roughly 57 000 followers. In this context it is important that Schoenfeld highlights “Greenwald’s prolific Twitter output,” noting that in this medium “his hatred of the Jewish state takes its most pristine form” – an observation that could also be made for Abunimah.

Among the tweets Schoenfeld reproduces to illustrate his point is the one copied below, which was retweeted by almost 1400 people.

Greenwald

Quote of the day: Obama’s kumbaya doctrine

“Obama wants ‘no victor/no vanquished‘ in Iraq, in Syria, in Gaza.  He likes inclusive, power-sharing, unity governments like Fatah-Hamas and Sunni-Shia-Kurd.

Why not start on Capitol Hill?  Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi can invite some Republicans to join the DSCC and DCCC, help raise funds for Tea Party candidates, and find an inclusive, power-sharing compromise on healthcare, immigration, etc.

Maybe when Democrats and Republicans master the no victor/no vanquished strategy, they can help spread inclusiveness and tolerance in parts of the world where disputes are typically resolved by other means.”

A friend commenting on President Obama’s recent New York Times interview, where he said that “he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished.”

To be fair, Obama himself suggested in this interview that Democrats and Republicans had to “adopt the same outlook that we’re asking of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds or Israelis and Palestinians: No victor, no vanquished and work together.” But then he immediately blamed “the rise of the Republican far right for extinguishing so many potential compromises” – which leaves the question: does Obama think the Republican far right is worse than Hamas or the savage Islamic State?

But Obama’s kumbaya-doctrine is particularly worrisome given his already dismal record in the Middle East. As the indispensable Walter Russell Mead points out in an essay at The American Interest,

“It’s not clear that the President’s goal of a grand bargain with Iran is within reach, or that it will deliver the kind of stability he hopes for. For one thing, it’s possible that the Iranians are less interested in reaching a pragmatic and mutually beneficial relationship with Washington than in using Obama’s hunger for a transformative and redeeming diplomatic success to lure him onto a risky and ultimately disastrous course.”

 

Quote of the day: BDS and antisemitism

“My own belief is that the BDS people and their fellow travellers, whatever their background, are anti-Semites. They do all they can to stigmatize the Jewish state and reduce its ability to defend itself. They know that Israel is surrounded by neighbours who will never recognize its existence, much less sign a treaty developed in a ‘peace process’ quarterbacked by Washington. The Palestinians and the Arab states who claim to support them are not hoping for a more generous Israel or a BDS-approved Israel or an Israel willing to hand over the West Bank. They are working for a day when Israel will be gone forever.

In order to satisfy this generation’s anti-Semites, Israel must meet standards that no other country in the world has ever met or ever will. At the United Nations Israel is condemned more often than all other countries combined.”

Robert Fulford on “The BDS smokescreen” in Canada’s National Post

Quote of the day: the water libel

“To many Israelis, the allegations about water are one step removed from blood libel. Water is a sensitive issue and is deeply symbolic, especially in the Middle East. […]

Had Martin Schulz [the president of the European Union Parliament, addressing the Israeli Knesset] checked the facts, and wanted to bring up this issue in a serious and constructive manner, he could have said: ‘There is a difference in water usage between Israelis and Palestinians of about 2:1. I am aware that part of this is due to different levels of economic development, that a share of it is due to mismanagement by the Palestinian Authority of the water systems, and another due to the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However, I think that given the important symbolism and sensitivity of water in this region, and the technological advancement of desalination and water re-usage, in which Israel is a world leader, Israel could and should go above and beyond the official agreements it signed with the Palestinian Authority, even more than it already does now, to provide Palestinians with more water.’

Such a paragraph in the speech would not have raised such criticism, but is also would not have created such intense media coverage. Could this be the real reason that Schulz preferred to not check his facts? Could it be that he knew that provocative allegations would create a greater stir than level-headed analysis that highlights the complexity of the situation? For many Israelis, Schulz’ act in the Knesset represents a dangerous and slippery slope, where even those who support Israel are willing to believe the worst about it, and lend their credibility to voicing problematic allegations against it.

The Jewish people are keenly aware that mass acts of physical cruelty towards other human beings are preceded by laying an ideological groundwork. They fear that this is what is taking place in the world today with respect to Israel and Zionism. In this war of ideas […] that is being waged against Israel and Zionism, lies, provocative allegations, stereotypes, misrepresentations, and false interpretations are employed as weapons. The purpose of this war, like all previous ones, is to roll back the great achievement of Zionism – the establishment of a sovereign state for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. The strategy of this war is to associate Israel and Zionism with all that is evil in our world, so that one day the physical the destruction of the modern state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people will not seem like a great loss, and maybe even be a blessing.”

Einat Wilf, Fact Checking in the Knesset (English original of an op-ed published in German in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 18, 2014).

I have previously written about the water libel, explaining that I used this term because current accusations against Israel on various water-related issues echo the medieval accusations that Jews were poisoning wells.

 

Quote of the day: The dishonesty of Israel’s detractors

“Tibi [Arab-Israeli Member of Knesset] had earlier heckled Netanyahu, claiming that his colleague Abu Arar, a Bedouin MK from Ar’arat in the Negev, did not have water or electricity in his home, because of Israeli discrimination. ‘There’s no water or electricity in his village,’ Tibi shouted at Netanyahu. ‘No water, no electricity. Give him water and electricity and he’ll stop shouting.’ In fact, Channel 2 News showed on Tuesday, Abu Arar, a former school teacher and head of his local council, lives in a three-story home with water, electricity, air-conditioning and a satellite dish, and his street is well lit by street lamps.”

From: Canadians ‘taken aback’ at Arab MKs’ heckling of Harper

Quote of the day: Tribal Arab dictatorships

“In fact, among tribal and sectarian Arab dictatorships, no value is ascribed to the state or the people. In a place where tribal or sectarian loyalties are more important than any other affiliation, people have no sense of being part of a people or country. In a tribal state, the people can go to hell. Hundreds of thousands can lose their lives and millions can be uprooted from their homes, scattering in all directions. None of this makes an impression on the tribal leader. There is no room for soul-searching in such a tribal social structure, because it would be perceived as a sign of weakness. And that would ultimately result in a loss of the reins of power, along with a loss of tribal hegemony, the country and its resources.

Even the Arabic term ‘dawla’ (meaning ‘dynasty’) is derived from the tribal tradition, implying the decline of one tribe and the ascent of another. It always involved the mass slaughter of the members of the losing tribe and their allies. […]

The man at the helm of this tribal mafia is not going to change his ways. His entire existence is based on his imposition of terror. Any letup in this apparatus would spell an end to his regime, and could also spell his end in the more physical sense. Brutal suppression is an inherent aspect of such a regime and social structure.”

We all know how something like this would be taken if it was written by a western commentator or, to imagine the worst-case scenario, by a Jewish Israeli commentator.  But thankfully, this was written by the Israeli Druze poet and Ha’aretz columnist Salman Masalha.

Reflecting on the carnage and destruction in Syria, Masalha also notes that the Arab dictators he describes will always “continue to proclaim victory and the defeat of ‘imperialistic’ and ‘Zionist plots’ to overthrow him.”

What Masalha doesn’t mention is that until not that long ago, this went down very well with the “Arab street.” As a poll from 2008 documents:

“Across the Arab world, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is…the most popular leader, followed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The three leaders are seen as the only ones standing up against US influence in the region.”

I think Masalha’s observation that “Brutal suppression is an inherent aspect of such a regime and social structure” applies not only to the Assad regime in Syria, but also to Hezbollah’s rule in Lebanon and to the Iranian theocracy. But at least until a few years ago, a majority of Arabs apparently felt that standing up to the “West” and of course Israel was more important than the brutal suppression of their own people by those “heroic” regimes. This is one major reason why the region is in such a pitiful state when it comes to economic and social development.

 

Quote of the day

“Classical anti-Semitism, it should be remembered, proclaimed the Jews as a minority group to be an existential menace to a given nation—a danger to its internal homogeneity, unity, religious values, and racial purity. Postwar anti-Zionism, on the other hand, sees the nation of Israel above all as a deadly threat to world peace and the international order. This was the verdict of nearly 60 percent of Europeans polled in a Euro-Barometery Survey in October 2003, when Israel reached the number-one spot in the hit parade of nations that imperil universal tranquility and brotherhood. Yet the change is not as deep as one might assume.

Democratic Europe in the 21st century trades in characterizations not so different from the pre-1939 Fascist myth of ‘warmongering Jews’ or the Communist libels in the 1970s about the militarist, expansionist ‘essence’ of Zionism. For a growing segment of the Western liberal intelligentsia, Zionist Israel is caricatured as a fascist, racist, warmongering state that must be isolated from the community of nations. Today, long after the demise of Communism, democratic intellectuals and academic elites are reproducing some of the worst Soviet clichés about Israel. In that respect, they remind us of the ‘post-Christian’ late-19th-century racist anti-Semites who demonized the Jews in ways reminiscent of the clerical bigots whom they denounced.”

Professor Robert S. Wistrich, “The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism” – an essay based on a presentation to a forum of the European parliament in the summer of 2012.

 

Quote of the day

“The reality is that insane anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are the mother’s milk of political analysis in Egypt and in much of the rest of the Middle East. The emotional, visceral reaction against what is seen as Israel’s shaming, alien presence in the Arab world has fused with ugly and backward western anti-Semitism to create a turbo-charged fear and hatred of Jewish influence and Jewish power. A political and religious culture which cannot help but see the survival of a Jewish state in the region as a badge of humiliation and failure takes comfort in exaggerated ideas about Jewish power.

President Morsi didn’t think he was saying anything weird in claiming a Jewish conspiracy runs the American media. In the world in which he lives, this is like saying that the sun rises in the east. It is a cliche, not a smear.

Israeli policies can exacerbate the problem, but it is Israel’s existence not its excesses that are the heart of the problem. The Arab world will never prosper, and real peace in the Middle East will never come, until the mental disorder represented by anti-Semitism heals. That won’t happen soon—and until it does, a huge cultural gulf is going to keep Arabs and Americans apart.”

Walter Russell Mead, commenting on Egyptian President Morsi’s efforts to explain his antisemitic remarks documented in tapes from 2010 by telling a group of visiting US senators that “we all know that the media in the United States has made a big deal of this and we know the media of the United States is controlled by certain forces.”

As much as Mead’s forceful acknowledgement of the prevalence and importance of antisemitism in the Middle East must be welcomed, it inevitably also highlights how much this issue is neglected in the commentary and analyses provided by Middle East experts in the MSM. But Mead is right to argue that the “Arab world will never prosper, and real peace in the Middle East will never come, until the mental disorder represented by anti-Semitism heals.” It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that those who ignore this factor – and do so willfully if they are really Middle East experts – have an agenda that motivates them to hide or downplay a dynamic that shapes the region in important and negative ways.

Let me conclude with an excellent example illustrating Mead’s view “that insane anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are the mother’s milk of political analysis in Egypt and in much of the rest of the Middle East” – because it is very important to understand that this is not just a phenomenon that animates “the street.” In December 2008, the respected Egyptian Al-Ahram English Weekly published a lengthy analysis on the rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia that had developed into a very serious and costly threat to international shipping. The title of the Al-Ahram analysis was “Israel, piracy and the Red Sea.”

Israel piracy

In the ostensibly knowledgeable and sophisticated piece, long-time regular Al-Ahram contributor Galal Nassar suggested that

“Piracy of this magnitude make [sic!] it clear that the pirates are no longer a haphazard collection of opportunists or individuals with no other sources of income to turn to in their war-torn country. There must be a prime mover seeking to further its own agenda through operations that have grown increasingly sophisticated.”

Needless to say, the “prime mover” behind this evil was of course Israel (supported by the US), which sought to implement longstanding plans – going back to Ben Gurion – to dominate the Red Sea and East Africa.

I sometimes wonder if the US officials involved in granting Egypt’s requests for military equipment are aware of the kind of political “analysis” that informs these requests.

As noted above, the author of the “prime mover”-theory on Somali piracy was a long-time regular Al-Ahram contributor. His most recent piece, published a few days ago, is entitled “The revolution continues;” and he writes there:

“The Arabs are a people without a state because the states they have lack legitimacy that can only come from the people. Israel was planted in the heart of this region to drive them mad and warp their consciousness, and despotic governments were created to force them to love Israel. But the Arab people cannot be made to love their supposed masters — the West and Israel — and they rebelled when the punishment for their refusal to do so (despotic governments) proved too harsh and iniquitous. The Muslim Brothers stepped in to save the day in Egypt; they would convert the Muslims to another (more moderate?) Islam and the intelligence authorities that count every breath people take would be given a new name, in deference to and in honour of the faith. But…

The revolution continues. The Arabs have reached the point of no return. They can no longer accept having policies imposed on them against their will. […] the Arab people are at a crossroads and not sure what to do with their revolution, which is precisely the point where a counterrevolution can be most effective. Neoliberalism, by whatever guise or name it takes, is now the instrument of choice for defusing the revolution. Accordingly, Egypt must pawn its assets, including the Suez Canal, in keeping with the dictates of the World Bank and IMF, if it is to receive financial aid. This is what they call ‘moderate’ Islam. All you have to do is sell your belongings and love Israel in order to gain favour in the current international imperialist order.

The Arab revolution that began in 2011 spread throughout the Arab world at once, as though the Arabs have a single united will. However, if such a single will exists, it must not be translated politically in institutionalised forms, such as unity in a federated system that would enable the Arabs to become strong and give them a sense of meaning and direction. The masters of the imperialist order cannot allow this to happen at all costs. Arab countries are sitting on too much oil. It follows that terrorism must loom in equal abundance, or that while international negotiations, agreements and arrangements are put into place around oil rich Arab countries, terrorism continues to lurk in nearby surroundings and rears its head on occasion. This is how Mali becomes a theatre of war.”

You see: Islamist terrorism doesn’t have anything to do with the failures of Arab and Muslim states, it’s simply one of the perfidious tools of western imperialism and its most evil creation, the Zionist entity…

 

Quote of the day

“Many people want to embrace the happy fantasy that the Palestinians are ready today to make peace if those nasty Israelis would just stop provoking them by building new settlements, and that if we in the West press Israel enough on the settlement question, peace will quickly come. […]

In our view, the real reason the peace process hasn’t succeeded in producing real peace is not that Israeli settlements keep Palestinians away from the table.

The real problem is exactly what it has been for sixty years: deeply rooted Palestinian opposition to a two-state solution. While many Palestinians are ready to accept that solution, many of those see it as only a temporary step on the road to a single, Palestinian state, and a very large group of Palestinians stands with the Hamas leadership in rejecting the legitimacy of Israel on any terms.”

Walter Russell Mead in a piece that should be required reading for the hordes of clueless pundits and politicians – first and foremost European politicians – who have been refusing to see what has been plain for a long time: “The Key to Peace: Selling The Two State Solution in Palestine.”

Over the years – yes, I’ve been blogging since late 2006 already – I have often written about Palestinian rejectionism, which is not only reflected in numerous opinion polls, but also in countless statements by Palestinian officials and intellectuals. A Guardian op-ed by Ahmad Samih Khalidi, who once served as a Palestinian negotiator, states the case perhaps most concisely under the apt title “Thanks, but no thanks.

Mead gives his own summary of Palestinian rejectionism and concludes:

“It may be that for these reasons, real peace is out of reach for now. In that case, the rational course might be to go for a lasting truce in which neither side gives up ultimate claims but accepts a pragmatic, medium term ‘cease fire in place.’ If carefully designed, that kind of practical arrangement could buy time while the search for a conclusive peace treaty continued.”

Quote of the day

“In discussions of the Israel-Arab conflict, it has become increasingly acceptable to pretend that only one character truly exists: Israel, a country peopled with Jews struggling with their history and their demons as they act out a great moral drama against a backdrop of deserts, camels and Arabs.

Israel’s neighbors are present in this narrative as inanimate objects or, at most, as children. Their actions barely warrant analysis, so understanding the story does not involve looking at the complex interactions of Israel and its surroundings but rather dissecting Israel’s flaws.

A variant of this one-man show exists on Israel’s right: In this narrative, the Arabs are uniformly and unalterably malevolent, and the story is Israel’s failure to shed its Diaspora weakness and respond with enough force and ethnic pride. In the version accepted on Israel’s left and abroad, on the other hand, the Arabs are passive bystanders and victims, and the story is the Jews’ abuse of force, their repetition of the crimes once perpetrated against them. In my years covering Israel as part of the international press corps, I came to understand that this latter view has become the default framework in which the story is covered for foreign audiences, shaping the way it is seen by millions of people.”

These are just the first three paragraphs of Matti Friedman’s excellent review of Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country – and Why They Can’t Make Peace, by Patrick Tyler (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012). As nicely summed up in the subtitle of Friedman’s review: “Written with more antipathy than knowledge, a new book by a prominent US journalist is a disturbing example of what passes for learned comment on Israel.”