Tag Archives: BDS

What CUNY role model Linda Sarsour really stands for

The zealotry of über-progressive students turning against their progressive professors has occasionally attracted coverage by the mainstream media. The most recent example is the bullying of Evergreen State College biology professor Bret Weinstein, who recounts his ordeal in the Wall Street Journal under the grim title “The Campus Mob Came for Me—and You, Professor, Could Be Next.” But as James Kirchick showed in a recent article, some universities actually encourage and reward this kind of behavior.

The City University of New York (CUNY) is arguably going to do its part when it honors Linda Sarsour by hosting her as a speaker at the commencement ceremony of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy on June 1. While Sarsour has been described as “an arsonist in our midst,” criticism of the decision to invite the controversial activist was firmly rejected by CUNY chancellor James B. Milliken, who wrote that Sarsour was chosen “because of her involvement in public health issues in New York City and her position as a leader on women’s issues, including her role as co-chair of the recent Women’s March in Washington.” The chancellor also highlighted that “Ms. Sarsour has been recognized by President Obama at the White House as a ‘Champion of Change’ and was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 leaders and Fortune magazine’s 50 global leaders.”

In short, as far as CUNY is concerned, it is fully justified to ignore all criticism of Sarsour and to present her as a role model for the university’s graduates.

As Michael D. Cohen of the Simon Wiesenthal Center acknowledged when he recently denounced Sarsour as “an arsonist in our midst,” she is “a brilliant tactician who manipulates the media to gain attention and sympathy for her cause.” One might add that the media love to be manipulated by her, without asking tough questions about what exactly Sarsour’s “cause” is and how she pursues it.

During one of the recent controversies, Sarsour declared that she wants to be judged by her own words, but it is abundantly clear that she also wants people to ignore plenty of her own words that actually tell us a lot about Sarsour’s “cause” and her activism.

So let’s look at a small sample of those of Sarsour’s own words that are arguably very revealing, even though she will lash out at anybody who quotes them to her.

Indeed, Sarsour was recently recorded berating a student who asked her about her notorious tweet from 2011, when she declared that prominent women’s right activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and strident Islam critic Brigitte Gabriel “don’t deserve to be women;” therefore, Sarsour wished she “could take their vaginas away.” If we take Sarsour’s response to the student who asked about this tweet seriously, White men (capital W, please!) have no business being disturbed by her vile outburst – an answer that reflects the divisive identity politics Sarsour often employs when it suits her, while calling for unity and solidarity when this seems more opportune.

But as the Dartmouth students who enthusiastically applauded Sarsour’s put-down of their impertinent White male fellow student illustrated, many people are all too willing to ignore an obscene six-year-old tweet posted when Sarsour was almost 31 – not, as she falsely claimed, in her twenties. Moreover, in spring 2011, Sarsour reportedly already served as director of the Arab American Association of New York; she was also about to be named “a fellow at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service Women of Color Policy Network” and boasted about her excellent access to the Obama administration.   

And soon enough, Sarsour would also boast about being victorious over Hirsi Ali. In fall 2012, Sarsour was still jealously wondering “What does Ayaan Hirsi Ali got that I ain’t got? Front page covers and shit. #MuslimRage;” but by the spring of 2014, Sarsour was able to celebrate a blow against her nemesis, and she jubilantly announced on Twitter: “Online activism WINS again. @BrandeisU does the right thing and rescinds honorary degree 2 hatemonger Ayaan Hirsi Ali;” she also added: “Hats off 2 @BrandeisU 4 rescinding honorary degree 2 Ayaan Hirsi Ali. U have restored integrity of your institution;” and she thanked the university’s president: “Thank you @PresidentFred for making the right choice today and rescinding honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. We are all very grateful.”

on AHA

Isn’t it deeply ironic that CUNY would so strongly defend its decision to honor Sarsour who celebrated so enthusiastically when she and other activists succeeded in denying a similar honor to Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

Sarsour’s “#MuslimRage” was apparently not diminished by the fact that Hirsi Ali established a foundation that has been working since 2007 “to end honor violence [including Female Genital Mutilation] that shames, hurts or kills thousands of women and girls in the US each year, and puts millions more at risk;” the foundation also promotes “the belief that there is no culture, tradition or religion that justifies violence against women and girls.”

But very different from Hirsi Ali, Sarsour is eager to defend the conservative traditions of Muslim societies, even when they are clearly harmful to women. Sarsour has asserted that “shariah law is reasonable,” ignoring the widespread and well-documented human rights abuses committed in Muslim majority states in the name of sharia. Sarsour has even gone so far as to praise Saudi Arabia – where women are completely dependent on the whims of their male guardians: “10 weeks of PAID maternity leave in Saudi Arabia. Yes PAID. And ur worrying about women driving. Puts us to shame.”

Since Sarsour often emphasizes her Palestinian Muslim identity, it is also interesting to note how Palestinians view sharia. As documented in a Pew survey from 2013, 89% of Palestinians want sharia law; 66% endorse the death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion; 76% support mutilation as a punishment for theft, and a shocking 84% want adulterers stoned to death. The survey also shows that less than half (about 45%) of Palestinian Muslims reject so-called “honor killings” as never justified, and 87% insist that a wife must always obey her husband.

Given that CUNY has explicitly stated that they want to honor Sarsour as a “leader on women’s issues,” it is also noteworthy that she has repeatedly defended arranged marriages like her own, in which her parents married her off at the age of 17. In late 2007, Sarsour told Al Arabiya News: “Every year, we see more than a hundred arranged marriages in our community alone […] In our community […] you not only have to find a spouse who is Arab and Muslim; that person also needs to be Palestinian and from the same village as you.” According to the reporter, “Women like Linda accept being set-up because they don’t really believe in ‘love story weddings’.” And as Sarsour reportedly added to explain the benefits of arranged marriages: “If I fight with my husband, I can always run to my father because he is the one who chose him for me.”

But Sarsour has also defended the practice recently: in an interview with the Mecca Post on March 8, 2017, which begins with a related question, Sarsour answered by asserting: “I feel I have become mature much earlier in life than may be other sisters who are still in high school or in college.”

Well, maybe CUNY should start a “Sarsour Program for Arranged Marriages” to benefit female students in their last year of high school?

The Mecca Post interview with Sarsour includes also plenty of other interesting material. She dismisses her critics as “right wing supremacists” who “engaged in alternative facts and false accusations” and asserts that “there really is nothing that they said that really is true.” She also confidently claims Jesus was “a Palestinian Jewish refugee” who is “very co-essential to us Muslims” but misunderstood by many “who call themselves Christians.” She then proceeds to press Islam’s founder into the service of her agenda, breathlessly describing Muhammad as her “inspiration”:

“he was an activist he was a human rights activist, he stood up for the poor, he wanted to stand up against tyrants and oppressors, he loved animals he loved earth and taking care of the earth, he talked about environmental justice […] He talked about racial justice, and uplifting people regardless of what colour their skin was. […] I also think about Islamophobia now, the man who experienced the most Islamophobia they did not call it Islamophobia 1400 years ago was our beloved Prophet (SAW).”

One really is left to wonder if Sarsour is too naïve to realize that if she transforms Islam’s founder into a 21st century social justice warrior, she ultimately legitimizes those who employ the norms of our time to denounce him for his marriage to an underage girl (which was then common and unfortunately remains accepted in some countries); similarly, by the standards of our time, the supremely successful warlord, who founded not just a faith, but also an empire, committed numerous atrocities.

But when it comes to anything that has to do with Islam, Sarsour is an ardent advocate of double standards. She will denounce Hirsi Ali as a “hatemonger” while uncritically embracing a group like the Nation of Islam (NOI), which, according to the the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “has maintained a consistent record of anti-Semitism and racism since its founding in the 1930s.” The ADL considers veteran NOI leader Louis Farrakhan as “the leading anti-Semite in America;” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) provided a similarly unequivocal condemnation, denouncing “the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric” of Farrakhan and other NOI leaders, whose conduct “earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.”

Yet, in 2012, Sarsour embraced the NOI as “an integral part” of “the history of Islam in America,” emphasizing that “Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Nation of Islam – we are #Muslim, we are all part of one ummah, one family. #Islam.” Two years later, Sarsour insisted that it was not possible to “learn or teach about the history of Islam in America without talking about the Nation of Islam (NOI).”

on Farrakhan Nov 2016

As I have recently documented, Sarsour joined two other leading activists at a major rally organized by Farrakhan and his associates in 2015, where she delivered a strident speech that echoed Farrakhan’s antisemitic efforts to blame Jews for problems and hardships experienced by African-Americans. Sarsour also seems to share some of Farrakhan’s bigoted views on the malignant Jewish influence in America, even though she often claims that she firmly opposes antisemitism. In this context it is important to realize that Sarsour apparently does not accept common definitions of antisemitism and has instead endorsed (#73) the truly Orwellian re-definition that veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah published in fall 2012, reflecting his preposterous view that Zionism is “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today” and that support for Zionism “is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.”

Perhaps CUNY doesn’t care much about Sarsour’s pronounced hostility to the world’s only Jewish state, but one would think they should care about this scene which happened in New York and was witnessed by Michael D. Cohen of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

“Last September, I stood along with many of my colleagues at a New York City Council Public Hearing on that body’s resolution to officially condemn the BDS movement — a hearing at which all those in favor, including myself, were shouted down as “Jewish pigs” and “Zionist filth” from provocateurs strategically placed in the audience. It was Linda Sarsour who was at the forefront — manipulating the camera shots and sound bites. It was Linda Sarsour who sat for hours listening with great satisfaction to the libelous rants and screamed obscenities alleging that Israelis murder Palestinian babies. It was Sarsour who nodded approvingly and congratulated individuals who were kicked out of the hearing room for being out of order, for walking in front of individuals providing testimony in support of the resolution, and for shouting down our supporters with anti-Semitic slurs — all in the name of protecting free speech.”

So much more material could be cited to show how little Sarsour deserves to be held up as a role model for graduates of a respected American university, but let me just conclude with this: when Sarsour addresses her audience at the commencement ceremony of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and says she is honored to do so, remember that she also recently said she was “honored” to share a stage with convicted terrorist murderer and confessed US immigration fraudster Rasmea Odeh.

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A previous version of this post was first published at EoZ.

 

Meet BDS fan Haj Amin al-Husseini – the ‘Hitler of the Holy Land’

Half a year ago, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and the Harvard Law School Alliance for Israel held a conference entitled “War By Other Means – BDS, Israel and the Campus.” One of the speakers was Cornell Professor William Jacobson, whose presentation was on the history of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The presentation is now available at Legal Insurrection, and it is a must-read (or must-watch) because Jacobson shows that “BDS is a direct and provable continuation of the Arab anti-Jewish boycotts in the 1920s and 1930s and [the] subsequent Arab League Boycott, restructured through non-governmental entities to evade U.S. anti-boycott legislation and repackaged in the language of ‘social justice’ to appeal to Western liberals.”

When I read through Professor Jacobson’s presentation, I remembered that some time ago, I had come across an archived JTA article from September 24, 1929 that provides a perfect illustration of the conference theme that boycott campaigns should be understood as “war by other means.”

Published a month after the notorious Hebron massacre and the subsequent Arab violence, which left 133 Jews dead,  the article is entitled “‘My Hands Are Clean,’ Grand Mufti Asserts in Interview;” and as the title suggests, it describes an interview with Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had incited the violence with the pernicious (and still popular) libel that “the Zionists” were plotting to damage or destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque in order to rebuild the Jewish Temple.

Shortly after the bloodbath he had incited, the man who would eventually become known as “Hitler’s Mufti” felt rather confident that the Jews would soon be forced to leave British Mandate Palestine. He asserted (rightly) that “it is untrue that the world is siding with the Jews” and then proceeded to explain:

“We are … assured of the solidarity of the entire Moslem world and have actually offers of armies to help us if necessary. Help is unnecessary. We will win through an economic boycott. The boycott in Moslem countries against Jewish industries is tight and daily growing tighter, until the industries will be broken and English friends, moved by pity, will remove the last remaining Jews [from British Mandate Palestine] on their battleships. Today there’s not a Jewish factory working in Palestine … (which happened to be entirely untrue) [and] as Jewish industry depends on the good will of the surrounding Moslem countries, the factories may as well remain closed. The Moslems will not buy.”         

While the mufti’s hopes of driving out the Jews with a successful economic boycott didn’t work out in his lifetime, he would surely be pleased to know that there are still people who haven’t given up on his lofty goal; and he would surely be no less pleased to see that in forums like the UN, it remains indeed often “untrue that the world is siding with the Jews.”

The mufti also said some other things that you can read any day at Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada and similar sites: he complained about “the aid of rich American Jews for the Palestine upbuilding” and claimed that this aid “made the Palestine Jews so arrogant, they thought they could start expelling is [us].” And just like Palestinian leaders nowadays, al-Husseini denied having incited the murderous violence.

Another remarkable parallel to today’s news is that al-Husseini was rumored to have become quite rich by misappropriating funds he had collected for repairs of the Dome of the Rock. The article’s description of him is intriguing:

“The Mufti spoke in French and granted the interview in the presence of Jamal Effendi Husseini in the palatial office buildings located in the galleries of the Mosque of Omar. The 31 year old Amin El Husseini, with blond beard, sparkling blue eyes, ingratiating smile and pleasant mundane manners, sat in silken robes on a luxurious divan and smoked cigarettes taken from a gold beaten box, holding a morning levee like a mediaeval Turkish Pasha. The hall and corridors were filled with servants, ushers and courtiers. When politely told that world opinion is holding him personally responsible and partially guilty for the savagery and unspeakable assaults, the Mufti smiled and with a sweeping gesture, showing delicate manicured hands, he declared: ‘My hands are clean, I declare before God.’”

As it happens, when I researched this post, I came across another fascinating article about al-Husseini from June 1948. At first, I was not sure if the site that featured it, i.e. Old Magazine Articles, could be trusted. The article is entitled “Hitler of the Holy Land” and the sub header describes the mufti as “a master of terrorism.” But I found out that a ’48 Magazine indeed existed – in fact, it was apparently a relatively expensive highbrow magazine – and the author of the article, David W.Nussbaum, wrote at least two (but likely four) other articles on the mufti elsewhere in the immediate postwar years. According to the information given about Nussbaum, he was a “former Washington correspondent of Life, magazine writer and Navy air veteran” who in early 1948 had “just returned from an extended survey of conditions in the Middle East.” His article on the “Hitler of the Holy Land” is absolutely fascinating (it can also be downloaded as a pdf if you click the blue button “Read article for free” just above the space for comments).

Hitler of the Holy Land

In the almost two decades that had passed since the 1929 interview, the mufti had apparently lost his “pleasant mundane manners;” Nussbaum described him as “a man who has spent a lifetime fleeing justice” and who, “in his struggle for power, counts no man as a friend.” In Nussbaum’s view, the mufti was a crucial and cunning leader who ensured that the Arab conflict with the Jews would not be settled peaceably. Reportedly, al-Husseini told him: “What you see unsheathed in Palestine is the sword of Islam. Whenever they are beset, the Arabs will inevitably unsheathe it.” Asked if the Arabs had enough arms and men to win a war, the mufti responded: “Consequences do not disturb the Arab as they do the Westerner. The Jews do not reckon with this factor. If he is attacked, the Arab fights back regardless of the consequences. The fighting in Palestine has been inevitable since the first Jew set foot there.”

But Nussbaum believed that it was the mufti who worked hard to make war “inevitable”:

“War in Palestine is the goal that the Mufti set himself in the summer of 1946 [when he fled France], and it is the goal that is now being achieved. […] While he tightened his grip on Palestine, the Mufti waged a shrewd campaign within the Arab states. In Egypt, he made effective use of the extremist right-wing Moslem Brotherhood, which, supported by students, staged well-timed demonstrations in Cairo, shouting for revenge against the Jews. Fire-breathing statements began filling the Lebanon papers. In the lobbies of the Arab League conferences, the Mufti hammered away at the idea of jihad – the holy war.”

So it seems Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas knew what he was doing when he repeatedly paid homage to al-Husseini, praising him for having “sponsored the struggle from the beginning.”

But importantly, the “struggle” al-Husseini “sponsored … from the beginning” was not really about Palestine, but rather about Arab-Muslim rule. When Nussbaum asked him if he was looking forward to “an early return to his homeland,” al-Husseini “ruminated for a few moments and then said, ‘Palestine is not my home; it is only one of them. Cairo is home and so is Syria. Whenever I am among my own people, I am home.’”

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A version of this post was first published last Dezember at EoZ.

 

Germany’s bridge to the Islamic world

Qantara – which is Arabic for “bridge” – is a website funded by the German Foreign Office; according to its own description, the site “represents the concerted effort of the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Center for Political Education), Deutsche Welle, the Goethe Institut and the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) to promote dialogue with the Islamic world.”

Unfortunately, I have repeatedly had the impression that Qantara’s idea of promoting dialogue with the Islamic world includes promoting the hatred for Israel that is so prevalent among Muslims. Given the site’s government backing and its prestigious partner organizations, it could be a very worthwhile project to study their coverage of Israel in detail. But a cursory examination of Qantara’s offerings on Israel seems to indicate a preponderance of articles that are hypercritical, if not outright hostile to the world’s only Jewish state. Occasionally, Qantara will even stoop to giving a platform to professional anti-Israel activists like Ben White – who fittingly started his career with a post explaining that he can “understand” why some people are Jew-haters. What is arguably even more worrisome is that at a time when antisemitism in Europe is widely seen as growing alarmingly, Qantara will publish a truly hair-raising piece downplaying antisemitism – and just to be on the safe side, this piece is of course authored by a Jew who feels that “Anti-Semitism has never made much etymological sense” and that it’s a bit unfair that “Jews have been getting exclusive use of the term for quite some time.” But in any case, Qantara’s Jewish antisemitism expert thinks it’s not quite appropriate to talk of antisemitism when an Islamist terrorist kills Jews in a kosher deli in Paris, because anything short of “systemic extermination by national decree” shouldn’t really be called antisemitism and it is also “no wonder some may see a Jewish person or site as an extension of the Israeli policy they detest.”

How would Qantara like an article arguing that it is ‘no wonder some may see a Muslim person or site as an extension of the Saudi/Iranian/ISIS policy they detest’?

Qantara’s recent offerings include a post that promotes BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) against Israel together with the BDS goal of the ultimate elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. The post, presented as a review of a recently published book by veteran Israel-bashers Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, echoes a similar review (by a different author) previously published at the Electronic Intifada, which has long provided anti-Israel activists with variations on the Nazi motto “The Jews are our misfortune.” Nowadays, it is of course the Jewish state that is presented as mankind’s misfortune, and the Qantara post indeed urges the site’s readers to understand that anti-Israel “activism has now become a duty – at international level.”

When I saw that this post was authored by regular Qantara contributor Emran Feroz, I remembered that I had come across this name before. Indeed, it turns out that Feroz – who describes himself on his Twitter profile as an Austro-Afghan journalist and blogger – is an ardent admirer of Max Blumenthal. It is thus hardly a surprise that he happily announced his satisfaction that his Qantara post “made many Zionists angry.” Perhaps Feroz hopes to have as many Jew-hating fans as Blumenthal?

In any case, it seems that Feroz came to admire Blumenthal after “toiletgate”, i.e. the infamous incident last fall when Max Blumenthal visited Germany with his fellow anti-Israel activist David Sheen and they both chased the leader of the Left Party through the corridors of the German Parliament all the way to the toilet, demanding he explain his decision to cancel an event that had been organized for them by some Left Party members. Feroz apparently admired Blumenthal’s and Sheen’s disgraceful conduct, and tried very hard – and ultimately successfully – to meet Blumenthal and interview him about his exploits and his views on Israel. The result was published in the Electronic Intifada under the title “Germany made Palestinians ‘indirect victims of Holocaust,’ says author Max Blumenthal.” In his introductory remarks, Feroz claimed:

“Some German politicians have tried to muzzle debate about Israel by denouncing its critics as ‘anti-Semites.’ The American journalist Max Blumenthal — author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel — faced such a smear on a recent speaking tour in Germany.

A number of elected politicians alleged that a scheduled talk by Blumenthal and his colleague David Sheen in a Berlin theater would serve ‘to promote anti-Semitic prejudice.’ This was deeply ironic: both Blumenthal and Sheen are themselves Jewish. The politicians denouncing them failed to produce any evidence that they are hostile towards fellow Jews.”

Well, if Feroz wants evidence of Blumenthal’s antisemitism, he can find a link to some 60 pages of it here. And since he seems to know very little about antisemitism, he might also want to check out this short introduction to “Anti-Semitism 101.”

It is of course very regrettable that a government-funded site intended to serve as Germany’s “bridge” to the Islamic world employs a regular contributor who downplays antisemitism, admires professional anti-Israel activists and has started to publish on the sites that cater to these activists. In addition to his Electronic Intifada contribution, Feroz has also recently published a post at the hate site Mondoweiss that has been shown to promote antisemitic material.

But it would be wrong to think that this affects only the coverage of Israel. As I have often argued, anti-Israel attitudes tend to come as a package deal, combined with anti-American and generally anti-Western resentments and a host of pseudo-progressive poses. It is thus hardly surprising that Feroz responded to a complaint of the notorious Electronic Intifada contributor Rania Khalek about the German media coverage of Blumenthal’s “toiletgate” with his own complaint about how apparently unpleasant it is to be a writer in Germany. Naturally, Max Blumenthal was sympathetic to Feroz’s plight.

Qantara Feroz1

Qantara Feroz2

In addition to the already mentioned article promoting BDS and the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, another of Feroz’s recent contributions to Qantara illustrates his eagerness to promote material popular among the anti-Israel crowd. In late March, Max Blumenthal published a vicious attack on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and sure enough, two months later, Qantara published an article by Feroz that faithfully recycled many of Blumenthal’s smears. It is somewhat heartening to see that a Qantara reader who claims to be Muslim took the trouble to post a response in defense of Hirsi Ali. But among the anti-Israel activists Feroz admires and promotes, voices that are critical of Islam and urge wide-ranging reforms are generally viewed with hostility – which is only natural when leading activists openly favor Islamist and jihadist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

A particularly offensive paragraph in Feroz’s piece denouncing Hirsi Ali recycled some previously refuted lies that she “absolved” the right-wing Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik “of all blame;” and for good measure, Feroz also threw in a reference to the German-Jewish writer Henryk M. Broder, trying to implicate him somehow as not only a fan of the supposedly vicious and mendacious Hirsi Ali, but also as an inspiration for Breivik.  Qantara editors apparently liked that so much that they opted to illustrate the article with a picture of Broder, including a caption explaining that he is “one of the best known critics of Islam in Germany” and that he “was in the front row applauding Ayaan Hirsi Ali at an event held at the Axel Springer publishing house in Berlin in 2012.”

Qantara Broder

So unfortunately, it seems that some of the building blocks for Germany’s “bridge” to the Islamic world include the downplaying of antisemitism, the recycling of anti-Israel propaganda popular among activists devoted to eliminating the world’s only Jewish state, and even vilifying a German Jewish writer as a fan of supposedly vicious Islam critics and an inspiration to a mass-murdering Muslim-hating far-right extremist. One might wonder if Qantara has perhaps a rather low opinion of the Islamic world or if the site is just trying to cater to its basest instincts?

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This is a very belated cross-post from my JPost blog.

Stanford professor Palumbo-Liu promotes site publishing antisemitic conspiracy theories

Earlier today, I wrote about “BDS solidarity with murderous hatred” at my new Times of Israel (TOI) blog. This post highlights an article written by Stanford professor David Palumbo-Liu in the Huffington Post, where he supports a recent BDS initiative to show solidarity with Palestinians despite (or because of?) the current wave of Palestinian terror attacks; he also seemed to endorse baseless accusations that Israel is threatening Al-Aqsa – which, as I’ve pointed out previously, is a lethal libel first promoted by the man who became notorious as Hitler’s mufti. (See also Jeffrey Goldberg’s similar post on “The Paranoid, Supremacist Roots of the Stabbing Intifada.”)

I noted in my TOI post on BDS that Palumbo-Liu is supporting his views with links that lead to sites devoted to the demonization of Israel, and I argued that “[j]ust as readers who got their news about Jews from Der Stürmer would have found it hard to doubt that ‘the Jews are our misfortune,’ readers who get their news about Israel from the sites cited by Palumbo-Liu will find it hard to doubt that ‘the Jewish state is our misfortune.’”

Among the sites cited by Palumbo-Liu was one I was not familiar with, but when I checked it, I immediately noticed an article promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories, and it quickly turned out that the site features several writers specializing in this field.

Shockingly, Palumbo-Liu – who claims to take antisemitism very seriously – has allowed this site to cross-post his Huffington Post column [archived here], which I noticed only now when I saw that he is promoting the cross-post on Twitter.

Crosspost on Intifada

The Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor at Stanford University apparently likes to be featured on a site that publishes articles explicitly relying on insights garnered from contributors to David Duke’s website. This screenshot of the archived page of the relevant article as it currently appears provides a striking visual illustration: you have the approving reference to “an article on David Duke’s website,” while Palumbo-Liu’s article is featured in the side bar. [as marked in red]

Palumbo Liu and David Duke

From Palumbo-Liu’s article on the site, you could also continue on to another post featured among the recent entries in the sidebar, which promotes a video entitled “They are killing our children.” This post is an excellent example of the 21st century version of the medieval blood libel.

Palumbo Liu and blood libel

The 13-year old Palestinian “killed” in this video had just stabbed and critically injured a 13-year old Israeli Jewish boy; in the meantime, the young terrorist was released from hospital into police custody, while his victim remains hospitalized due to the serious injuries he suffered.

Apparently, Palumbo-Liu didn’t really mean it when he wrote in a Salon article that “Anti-Semitism must be challenged swiftly and decisively by each and every one of us.”

Quite the contrary: as documented here, Palumbo-Liu actually lends his prestige as a Stanford professor to sites and causes that promote antisemitism.

The not so progressive Palestinian cause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Pal confidence in binLaden

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

2 binLaden vs Arafat

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

3 Pal support suicide bombing

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

4 Pal fav on alQaeda 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Jerusalem Mufti kill Jews

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

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

***

First published on my JPost blog.

Teaching anti-Israel incitement

I have long argued that, instead of talking about “pro-Palestinian” activism, it would be much more accurate to talk about anti-Israel activism, because the goals and methods of groups like the BDS movement that advocates boycotting Israel show a single-minded focus on demonizing the Jewish state in order to justify its eventual elimination. Like Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamist terror organizations as well as the mullah-regime in Iran, these activists want a “world without Zionism” and therefore, they want everyone to see Israel as they do:

Israel killer monster

Unsurprisingly, BDS advocates don’t like it much when others object to their relentless demonization of Israel and they quickly resort to complaints that they are being intimidated and that their freedom of speech is being restricted – though it would arguably be more honest if they simply claimed a right to protected hate speech. Moreover, it has been clear for some time that BDS advocates themselves don’t think that people who don’t share their views should have a right to free speech. One of the most recent examples of BDS bullies trying to deny a pro-Israel speaker his freedom of speech was recorded and received relatively wide attention, because the speaker who was attacked – Fathom editor Alan Johnson – and others wrote about it.

Johnson’s two commentaries on the incident provide several concise and analytically sharp observations on some crucial points everyone should understand about BDS and the related anti-Israel activism.

In his first post, Johnson highlights the role that antisemitism and a fanatic “Anti-Zionist Ideology” play in BDS activism, pointing out that given the rhetoric and ideology of BDS activists, it is all but “inevitable” that their campaigns “will act as a lightning rod for rising European anti-Semitism.”

While the blatant antisemitism that is an inevitable part of BDS efforts to demonize Israel is too often ignored, there is another point that Johnson makes which should be very obvious, but is hardly ever noticed:

“‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’ have become tied up with the performance of political identity in the West in a most dangerous way. ‘The Palestinians’ are a stage on which the BDS activists act out their identity. To make that possible, ‘The Palestinians’ must be reduced to pure victims of the evil Nazi-Israelis. For only those kind of Palestinians can enable feelings of moral superiority, purity, quest, meaning, even transcendence of sorts. Palestinians being starved by Assad hold no interest. Palestinians being thrown from rooftops by Hamas members hold no interest. When Salam Fayyad is building up the Palestinian Nation the BDS activists just yawn, or denounce him as a collaborator. Only as agency-less pure victims can the Palestinians play their allotted role as a screen onto which the individual projects his or her identity of the righteous activist.”

Johnson’s second post on the incident highlights the most important – and all too rarely mentioned – point already in the title: “On Israel, the intellectuals are driving the students mad.” As Johnson argues:

“The real culprits are the anti-Israel intellectuals who are driving those students mad. They tell the students that Zionism is racism, while its creation, Israel, has ‘ethnically cleansed’ the Arabs, built an ‘apartheid state’ and is now carrying out a slow ‘genocide’ in Gaza. Stuff a young idealist’s head with that kind of rubbish and do not be surprised if the result is hatred and thuggery.

Today, many students are fed a diet of intellectual incitement when it comes to Zionism and Israel. UC Berkeley’s Judith Butler tells them that Israel is nothing but ‘a violent project of settler colonialism’ while Hamas and Hezbollah are ‘social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left.’ Diana Buttu of Harvard Kennedy School teaches that Israel is guilty of ‘ethnic cleans[ing]’ and ‘massacre.’ Student reading lists are populated by the works of the Israeli Ilan Pappe of Exeter University, who routinely uses the language of ‘genocide politics’ to describe the actions of the Israeli government. […]

The Nazi slogan was ‘the Jews are our misfortune.’ Today, too often, anti-Israel intellectuals are educating students to think that ‘Israel is our misfortune.’”

It is arguably long overdue that people take notice of the fact that when it comes to Israel, students nowadays are all too often taught by professors who claim academic freedom and the right to free speech to engage in unrestrained anti-Israel propaganda. There are some encouraging signs that this problematic issue is finally being addressed. In this month’s Tower Magazine, Howard Wohl, President of Brooklyn College Hillel, also draws attention to the fact that “on too many campuses in North America […] hate speech has become ‘protected’ under the guise of academic freedom.” Wohl points out that “the academic world […] is the main source of support, organization, and activism for anti-Israel causes across North America and Europe. Some parts of academia have turned anti-Israel words and actions into a cottage industry, manufacturing vitriol and protest against the very existence of the Jewish State.”

It is indeed a revealing fact that at western universities, the world’s only Jewish state – which happens to be the most democratic, liberal and pluralistic state in the Middle East – is the only state whose abolition is regularly advocated by professors and students with great passion. Anyone who suspects that this is at least partly due to antisemitism will be immediately denounced as someone who is trying to stifle debate. But as far as BDS supporters are concerned, there is actually nothing to debate: all the leading BDS advocates are adamant that anything short of Israel’s elimination as a Jewish state will not really provide “justice” for the Palestinians.

In this context, one should recall the observations of Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, who wrote in a 2012 article on “Europe’s New Anti-Semitism:”

“I have argued for some years that an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age. Throughout the Middle Ages the highest authority in Europe was the Church. Hence anti-Semitism took the form of Christian anti-Judaism.

In the post-enlightenment Europe of the 19th century the highest authority was no longer the Church. Instead it was science. Thus was born racial anti-Semitism […]

Since Hiroshima and the Holocaust, science no longer holds its pristine place as the highest moral authority. Instead, that role is taken by human rights. It follows that any assault on Jewish life — on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state — must be cast in the language of human rights. Hence the by-now routine accusation that Israel has committed the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity. This is not because the people making these accusations seriously believe them — some do, some don’t. It is because this is the only form in which an assault on Jews can be stated today.”

And this is also why a prominent BDS advocate like Judith Butler insists that Israeli universities must be boycotted, while she would have no problem to lecture at a Palestinian university that has a well-earned reputation for fostering extremism and allowing the glorification of terrorism.

* * *

Update: Since this is a belated cross-post – first published on my JPost blog in mid-March – I would like to add that in the past two months, developments on some American campuses have been bad enough to attract much attention, even in the mainstream press. Some of the most dismal incidents are highlighted in Professor Jacobson’s post “Vassar Nazi cartoon reflects campus dehumanization of Israel.” I have also written some related posts published at The Louis D. Brandeis Center.

 

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

Ali Abunimah, the Zionist and the hijabi

When an ardent BDS supporter found herself seated “next to a Zionist” at a BDS event, Ali Abunimah rushed to express his sympathy for her predicament:

 BDS smalltalk1

BDS smalltalk2

Now let’s imagine that the “Zionist” had tweeted:

“Sitting next to a hijabi at Loyola’s open forum. Why me”.

If Ali Abunimah had seen such a tweet, he would have rushed to write yet another Electronic Intifada post expressing his disgust at this example of Zionist racism, supremacism, apartheid, Islamophobia and what not.

Free speech and antisemitism: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath [updated]

When the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) released its 2013 list of the “Top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs” at the end of December, Max Blumenthal reacted with scorn and ridicule when he found himself included in the category “The Power of the Poison Pen.” As if to prove SWC’s assessment, he posted a drawing by the cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who, for good reason, had himself been included in the SWC list for 2012.

Blumenthal Hier cartoon

According to the SWC, it was his recently published book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and his efforts “to equate Israelis with Nazis” that earned Blumenthal a place on the list.

But Blumenthal’s book also had its defenders, most notably perhaps James Fallows, a veteran board member of the prestigious New America Foundation (NAF) who is widely regarded as “a highly acclaimed author, journalist, editor, and media commentator.”

Writing at the Atlantic, Fallows described Blumenthal’s Goliath as a book that “should be discussed and read” and dismissed criticism of Goliath, asserting that it amounted to “flat mischaracterizations” when critics denounced the book as “bigoted propaganda” that is “so anti-Israel it is effectively anti-Semitic.” Fallows also defended the controversial decision to provide Blumenthal with a platform to promote his book at the NAF in early December, arguing that it “was the right call on general free-speech principles” to ignore critics of the event.

Blumenthal certainly appreciated Fallows’ endorsement and promptly posted an excerpt on his Amazon page for Goliath.

But there was another endorsement for Goliath that Blumenthal appreciated greatly – and it arguably makes a fool of Fallows, because it documents that Blumenthal indeed wanted his readers to understand his book as “so anti-Israel” that critics who denounced Goliath as antisemitic can only feel fully vindicated.

Blumenthal made it abundantly clear what he wanted readers to take away from his book when he recommended a “brief but thorough review of Goliath” to his more than 27,000 Twitter followers, explicitly thanking the blogger who had posted the review for the “praise.”

Blumenthal Goliath review1

Here are the relevant quotes from this “brief but thorough review:”

“You’d think Jews, […] of all people, would react viscerally […] against the notion of their state would [sic] come to create their own Gestapo (Shin Bet), build concentration camp (Ketzlot, for African refugees), emphasize racial purity while demonizing miscegenation (rationalized as the ‘demographic’ problem, but more significantly given religious and racial expression in groups like Lehava), using the police state, not just against enemies, but to crush dissent and ghettos (the walls are sprouting up all over Palestinian towns in the West Bank and, of course, there’s always Gaza). Even Kristallnacht was recreated by what amounts to an officially sanctioned anti-immigrant pogrom in Tel Aviv, in May of 2012.

Yes, you’d be mistaken. Reading Goliath, the similarities between Nazi Germany and today’s Israeli regime are impossible to avoid. […]

As I read Goliath, one thought […] kept cropping up throughout: Apart from the specific group, it’s [sic] flag, and all the other trappings of a national mythos and its veneration, are the aims and methods of the ‘pure’ Zionist state so very different than those of the ‘pure’ Aryan one?”

It is often difficult to show antisemitic intent, but Blumenthal makes it easy by endorsing this review – as well as others that offer similar “praise” – thus leaving no doubt how he wanted his book to be understood. Inevitably, this means that Blumenthal and his admirers actually agree with his critics that Goliath presents Israel as an utterly evil state that can only be compared to Nazi Germany. Even though there is considerable controversy about the question when hostility to Israel should be defined as antisemitism, Blumenthal’s single-minded effort to portray Israel in an extremely biased way in order to promote comparisons to Nazi Germany that would justify political campaigns aimed at eliminating the Jewish state qualifies even under the most stringent criteria.

In a paper entitled “Another Milestone for the Mainstreaming of Antisemitism: The New America Foundation and Max Blumenthal’s Goliath” that has just been published by the Louis D. Brandeis Center, I have also provided extensive documentation that Blumenthal’s book, or the material he published earlier and then recycled for the book, has been praised on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. In addition, Goliath was of course celebrated by outlets such as Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada, which cater to activists devoted to promoting boycott campaigns against Israel and maligning the Jewish state as illegitimate and uniquely evil.

Even if the hate-filled material promoted by these sites is considered “protected” free speech, few would argue that it is a violation of the principles of free speech that mainstream outlets usually shun this material and no respectable think tank would consider featuring it.

So what to make of the fact that a prestigious think tank like the NAF and a prominent commentator like James Fallows insist that it was entirely appropriate to promote a book written with the intent to depict Israel as the Nazi Germany of our time? What to make of the accusation that opposing the promotion of a book like Blumenthal’s Goliath violates “general free-speech principles?”

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin rightly argued:

“By claiming that this book requires our attention, he [Fallows] is asserting that Israel’s existence and the right of its six million Jews to self-determination and self-defense is debatable. The answer to Fallows from those of us who were offended by NAF’s decision to embrace Blumenthal is to say that these notions are no more debatable than the positions of the Klan, apartheid advocates, or those of al-Qaeda. Blumenthal’s book belongs in the category of those things that are offensive, not because he is critical of an imperfect democracy but because his purpose is to advance the cause of its dissolution.”

Fallows noted at the end of his defense of the NAF event for Goliath that if Blumenthal is wrong, “his case should be addressed in specific rather than ruled out of respectable consideration.” That means in effect that Blumenthal’s critics are supposed to make a convincing case that Israel is not like Nazi Germany and that the world’s only Jewish state should perhaps be allowed to continue existing, even if some of its citizens, officials and politicians have views that are no better than those held by reactionaries in Europe or the US.

The bigotry inherent in comparing Israel to Nazi Germany has been often demonstrated. Among the most memorable examples is perhaps the 1961 debate at Montreal’s McGill University between the famous British historian Arnold Toynbee and Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Yaacov Herzog. Toynbee had been willing to believe in the 1930s that Hitler had only limited ambitions, but he was alarmed by Zionism, which he considered “demonic.” During a lecture at McGill in January 1961, Toynbee questioned the right of the Jewish people to a state and claimed that Israel’s conduct in the War of Independence was morally equivalent to the Nazis. In the subsequent debate, Herzog forced Toynbee to concede that if Israel’s actions during a war of self-defense justified the comparison to Nazi atrocities, every nation’s conduct in war – and certainly the conduct of the Arabs, who had threatened the fledgling Jewish state with a “war of extermination and momentous massacre” – would have to be denounced in the same terms.

It would be easy to repeat the same exercise with Blumenthal’s Goliath, but since the bigoted comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany has remained fairly popular for more than five decades, it is arguably time to acknowledge that continuing to debate this calumny as if it had any merit might only serve to legitimize and perpetuate the underlying bigotry. As Tobin argued, there are ideas and ideologies that don’t deserve to be debated, and few would suggest that the ideas of Max Blumenthal’s admirers on David Duke’s site, Stormfront, Rense, and Veterans Today need to be seriously debated in order to be refuted. Yet, this is exactly what Blumenthal wants us to do, as this tweet he recently sent to me illustrates:

Blumenthal Stormfront Zionism

In the post Blumenthal links to, a Stormfront member advances the “controversial and extremely radical proposition” that White Nationalists in Europe and the US should support Zionism and even a “mandatory expulsion of Jews” to Israel in order to reduce the “excessive influence” of Jews “over both the media and economics.” As far as Blumenthal is concerned, this “proves” that anti-Israel activists like him are right to claim that Zionism is not only racism, but also a pernicious form of antisemitism that supports a “Juden raus” policy by establishing and maintaining Israel as a Jewish state.

James Fallows may think all this is worthy of debate, but as Twitter user Sol Robinson demonstrated with his reply to Blumenthal, there isn’t really all that much to debate when someone “cannot understand the difference between Jews wanting to get away from racists, and racists wanting jews gone.”

Blumenthal Stormfront reply

Assuming that Blumenthal really “cannot understand” this difference is arguably the most charitable take, particularly in view of the fact that Blumenthal himself  advocated a “Juden raus” policy for those Israeli Jews who would refuse to “become indigenized” in the Arab state that Blumenthal hopes will replace the Jewish state in the not too distant future. To put it bluntly: there is precious little difference between what Stormfront members would like to see happen in Europe and the US and what Max Blumenthal would like to see happen in the Middle East.

Marginalizing such views as despicable bigotry that doesn’t deserve to be dignified by serious debate is not a violation of free speech. Max Blumenthal may fervently believe that the Middle East’s most democratic and pluralistic state is the Nazi Germany of our time and should be treated accordingly, but anyone who agrees that this is a proposition worthwhile debating would have to explain why other hate-filled bigotries that are popular among Blumenthal’s fans at Stormfront and similar sites are generally not regarded as worthy of debate.

* * *

First published on my JPost blog and at Harry’s Place.

Update: In the meantime, I’ve written another related post published on the blog of the Louis. D. Brandeis Center, where I address the spurious claim by Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi that BDS advocates like them suffer from “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

As I argue there, one important point to keep in mind is:

“When prominent tenured academics like Butler and Khalidi worry about the ‘intimidation’ of BDS advocates and proceed to call on their colleagues to oppose this alleged intimidation, it is arguably time to point out that students who oppose the BDS goal of doing away with the Jewish state and view the comparison of Israel and Nazi Germany as anti-Semitic have plenty of reason to feel much more intimidated. Highlighting a research paper on ‘Antisemitism in the Contemporary American University,’ the eminent anti-Semitism expert Robert Wistrich noted three years ago that ‘it is a deeply troubling fact that anti-Semitism (often in the form of anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel) has become a significant part of intellectual and academic discourse.’”

Another crucially important point is that, as Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has argued, “an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age.” A widely praised new study based on some 14,000 hostile messages sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli embassy in Berlin by Monika Schwarz-Friesel provides plenty of evidence that contemporary antisemitism is often expressed as “anti-Israelism” and that it is promoted primarily by “the social mainstream – professors, Ph.Ds, lawyers, priests, university and high-school students.”

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.”