Tag Archives: BBC

Gaza doctor rejects cease-fire [updated]

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

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

AA no ceasefire

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

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

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

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

AA no ceasefire2

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

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

AA Gaza doctor3

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

As Goldberg rightly points out:

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

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

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

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First published on my JPost blog.

Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More myths from the BBC

The BBC’s recent effort to do away with “Arab Spring myths” is rather remarkable: it’s a very short piece that doesn’t really bust any myths but instead perpetuates some of the all-time favorites that inform much of the BBC’s Middle East coverage.

Among the supposed myths tackled by the BBC is the notion that the so-called “Arab Spring” has somehow weakened Arab passion for the Palestinian cause. Not so, argues Roger Hardy on the BBC’s website. Exhibit A for the validity of his view is the attack on Israel’s embassy in Cairo in September.

He then proceeds to argue that even though the Arab uprisings have been motivated mainly by domestic issues, “anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment has not disappeared.” He adds in brackets: “Why should we expect it to?”

This is an interesting rhetorical question that can be read in two ways. Since this is the BBC, bigotry can surely be ruled out, and we can therefore safely assume that it is not meant to imply: You simply can’t expect those Arabs to come to their senses and realize that neither Israel nor America are causing any of the problems that have condemned the Arab world to decades of backwardness.

So we are left with the second option: the anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment that is so prevalent in the Arab world is a rational expression of legitimate criticism directed against specific Israeli and American policies that should and could be corrected, and doing so would drastically diminish hostility towards Israel and the US in the Arab world.

I’m tempted to describe this as the mother of all Mideast myths.

Let’s just take the example of Egypt and consider first how the country’s rather unpopular US-sponsored peace with Israel has panned out:

According to the Congressional Research Service, Egypt has accrued $69 billion from the United States since 1979, while Israel has gained $98 billion. In fact, the two countries have been the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid since 1979. […] Cairo has been able to sharply reduce its military budget since the 1973 war. According to the World Bank, Egypt’s military expenditures consumed approximately 2 percent of its gross national product in 2009 (about $3.8 billion), compared to more than 20 percent in 1976. This drastic reduction has allowed Cairo to reallocate military funds to economic development projects.

Furthermore, a third of all Egyptian exports to the US come from Qualifying Industrial Zones that provide free-trade access to U.S. markets and encourage economic cooperation between Israel and Jordan and Egypt.

The often-heard argument that most of the US aid for Egypt has benefited the military and that therefore ordinary Egyptians would naturally see little reason to temper their anti-American sentiments doesn’t quite square with the slogan “the army and the people are one” that was so popular among Egyptian demonstrators earlier this year. Until very recently, the vast majority of Egyptians clearly regarded their army with pride and admiration – never mind the fact that for decades, it has been financed, trained and equipped by the despised US.

But let’s not beat around the bush: anti-American sentiments in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world are largely due to the notion that Arabs should be able to demand that the US cease supporting Israel so that Arab hatred of the Jewish state would have a better chance to prevail. And it is just another mega-myth that an Israeli-Palestinian land-for-peace agreement would result in a dramatic decrease of anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment among Arabs.

We already know for sure that the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan have not reduced Arab hostility to Israel or the US; likewise, Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza and a large part of the West Bank have also not improved matters in this respect.

So why pretend that it is reasonable to expect that the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza would suddenly change all that?

Unsurprisingly, there is a politically correct purpose that is served by this myth: once you acknowledge that there is precious little evidence for the belief that Arab anti-Israel sentiments are rooted in specific and legitimate political grievances that can be addressed, it will be much harder to avoid looking at the plentiful evidence that points to deep-seated hatreds and the unwillingness to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

To quote just one example, there are polls that have shown that “majorities or pluralities in most predominantly Muslim nations surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in 2007 expressed the view that the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists.”

Furthermore, given the enormous popular support for Islamists in the region, one should also remember that one of the most influential leaders of the global Muslim Brotherhood, Yussuf al-Qaradawi, declared on Al-Jazeera that Hitler was an instrument of “Allah” and that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”

I can’t find any mention of this by the BBC – though it is quite inconceivable that the BBC would ignore an endorsement of a Muslim genocide by a non-Muslim religious leader of comparable stature.

But it seems that it’s actually “progressive” to overlook Qaradawi’s vicious expressions of antisemitism and claim instead that he is a staunch supporter of democracy.

Right: One standard for Muslims and Arabs, another one for those Westerners – particularly Israelis and Americans – who only have themselves to blame for being hated in the Arab and Muslim world.

A lot of myths have to be created to cover up this bigotry. And it’s a myth – and a pernicious one at that – to believe that the kind of “anti-Israel” sentiments expressed by Qaradawi can be addressed by any policies short of Nazi policies.

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A  slightly different version was posted on my JPost blog.