Tag Archives: media

Linda Sarsour wants to make sharia kosher

“This term sharia is the Arabic translation of the Hebrew word halakhah.” Linda Sarsour

Once upon a time, when being a leftist and a feminist meant something very different than what it means today, I happily considered myself both. But when someone like Linda Sarsour is cheered as a leftist feminist icon, I can only feel politically homeless: I want no part of Sarsour’s left, and I most definitely don’t support the crowd assembled by the notorious Pamela Geller for a protest that the New York Times (NYT) was only too happy to cover – after all, it was a good opportunity to tell readers that Sarsour’s “critics are a strange mix, including right-leaning Jews and Zionists, commentators like Pamela Geller, and some members of the alt-right.” Newsweek readers were also informed that “Feminist activist Linda Sarsour has become one of the far right’s favorite targets.”

As it happens, the NYT and Newsweek are simply parroting what Sarsour has told her fans countless times. The most recent example is a Facebook post from May 25, where Sarsour also claims that her evil right-wing detractors are using her “as a symbol to silence the communities I come from.” She then goes on to assert:

“When they chant or say they are ‘Anti-sharia’ that means anti-Muslim – plain and simple. This term sharia is the Arabic translation of the Hebrew word halakhah. It’s a set of guidelines that Muslims and Jews follow respectively. ‘Banning sharia’ means infringing on the rights of Muslims to worship freely – let’s call it out for what it is.”

I’m quite sure Sarsour is intelligent enough to know exactly what she’s doing by equating Islamic sharia and Jewish halacha.  She knows full well that, no matter how benign her own personal interpretation of sharia may be, the application of sharia results in terrible oppression and gruesome human rights violations all over the Muslim world. And she knows full well how disingenuous it therefore is to claim – as she also did when she recently re-tweeted one of her fans – that “Sharia is to Muslims what Canon Law is to Catholics what Halakah Law is to Jews.” And yes, I responded with a really snarky tweet.

sharia like halakhah

I’m not religious myself and neither qualified nor inclined to defend any religious laws – indeed, for someone like me, who was a leftist and a feminists before Sarsour was even born, it’s inconceivable to do so. To be sure, by now I’ve learnt to accept that many people find meaning in following the religious laws of their faith to a greater or lesser degree, and obviously, religious rituals can offer a lot of consolation to believers when life brings sorrow and bereavement. But that is no reason to forget that Christianity and Islam also have a very long and bloody history of religious coercion. That Sarsour insists on defending sharia while completely ignoring the sadistic cruelty of traditional sharia punishments and the misery that continues to be inflicted, particularly on women, in the name of sharia is one of the major reasons why I find it so appalling to watch her being made into an icon of everything that is supposedly progressive, good and just.

So I completely agree with Emma-Kate Symons – who must be a dreadful right-winger, but was inexplicably and scandalously allowed to criticize Sarsour in the NYT 

“Linda Sarsour is a religiously conservative veiled Muslim woman, embracing a fundamentalist worldview requiring women to ‘modestly’ cover themselves, a view which has little to do with female equality and much more of a connection with the ideology of political Islam than feminism. Could we imagine a wig-wearing Orthodox woman emerging from a similar ‘purity’-focused culture predicated on sexual segregation and covering women, headlining such an event [as the Women’s March]? No, because she is rightly assumed to be intensely conservative, not progressive on issues surrounding women’s roles and their bodies.”

Symons seems unrepentant, judging from her response to the NYT’s recent effort to promote Sarsour as a rising progressive star whose only critics are contemptible right-wingers.

Symons vs SarsourSymons vs Sarsour2

It may well be that Sarsour would argue that all the Muslim judges who use Islamic law to justify the oppression of women, or sadistic punishments like public floggings and beheadings, have no clue about sharia. I would be most happy if Sarsour embarked on a tour of the Muslim world to enlighten these guys – indeed, I hereby pledge that I would generously donate to help make such a tour possible.

Let’s conclude with a horrifying thought experiment: imagine the world’s only Jewish state would apply halacha as sharia is applied in Muslim states like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Is there anyone who believes that in this case, Linda Sarsour wouldn’t be very very busy denouncing Jewish law as a terrible human rights disaster that must be fought tooth and nail?

The terror-supporting, Jew-hating Tamimis and their enablers (summary and links)

As my regular readers will know, the American writer Ben Ehrenreich recently published a book that portrays the Tamimis of Nabi Saleh as a lovely family of non-violent activists who suffer greatly from Israel’s relentless and wantonly cruel oppression. It was not the first time Ehrenreich paid tribute to the Tamimis and their supposedly noble struggle: already in spring 2013, his story about the Tamimis’ ambition to start a “Third Intifada” was featured on the cover of the New York Times (NYT) Magazine – and Israel-haters noted with great satisfaction that Ehrenreich’s piece “contains an implicit argument for violent resistance.”

The same could be said about Ehrenreich’s new book; yet, reviewers for highbrow outlets like the NYT and The Economist were hardly able to contain their heartfelt sympathy for Ehrenreich’s terror-loving Jew-hating protagonists – which presumably means that none of them noticed or was bothered by the fact that Ehrenreich does acknowledge in his book that the Tamimi family includes several much-loved terrorist murderers.

I began to document the Tamimis’ ardent support for terror and their equally ardent Jew-hatred a year ago and wrote several posts; a more systematic and thorough documentation was published in the November issue of The Tower Magazine (How a Family Became a Propaganda Machine), where I argued that it was completely unethical for Amnesty International to promote the Tamimis as supposedly non-violent defenders of human rights.

After the publication of Ehrenreich’s book in June, I updated my research on the Tamimis and documented their ongoing support for terrorism and their seething Jew-hatred in several additional posts (see e.g. Ben Ehrenreich’s obscene empathy with the terror-supporting Tamimis).

Given that Ehrenreich’s book – and the glowing reviews for it – were published just a few weeks before the 15th anniversary of the Sbarro massacre, which was planned and facilitated by Ahlam Tamimi, I very much appreciated that Tablet published a related post of mine (though I didn’t get to choose the title): Was Ben Ehrenreich Bamboozled By a Palestinian Terror Clan?

Another related piece was first published at Harry’s Place and is cross-posted below; it includes a YouTube video I put together in collaboration with Elder of Ziyon; the clip offers a short introduction to the four Tamimi family members listed first in the Acknowledgements to Ehrenreich’s book. I later also created a slide show featuring about 40 tweets by Manal Tamimi, which provide a glimpse of the intense hatred that drives the Tamimis.

 * * *

Ben Ehrenreich celebrates the Tamimis (who celebrate terrorism)

Roughly a month before the 9/11 terror attacks, Palestinian terrorists bombed a crowded Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem on August 9, 2001. Fifteen people were killed, including seven children and a pregnant woman, and some 130 people suffered injuries; one young mother was left in a permanent vegetative state. Unwittingly or not, the Guardian marked the 15th anniversary of the bombing by promoting a book that extols the humanity and lovingkindness of the family of the Hamas-affiliated terrorist who planned, and helped perpetrate, the bombing: Ben Ehrenreich’s recently published “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine” focuses heavily on the Tamimis of Nabi Saleh, who remain proud of their relative Ahlam Tamimi, the unrepentant mastermind of the Sbarro massacre.

Ehrenreich’s book has already won high praise from the New York Times, which recommended it warmly as a “Love Letter to Palestine” that is full of “heartbreaking and eye-opening” stories; similarly, a teary-eyed review in The Economist fawned over Ehrenreich’s “elegant and moving account” and emphasized that “[it] is in the author’s descriptions of the Tamimis that the hope, and the love, are to be found.”

The few hints Ehrenreich provides in his book about his protagonists’ sympathies for terrorism and terrorists apparently didn’t strike any reviewer as worthwhile investigating. Ehrenreich does acknowledge in passing that Ahlam Tamimi’s “relatives in Nabi Saleh still speak of her with great affection,” and he does get around to mentioning that two other Tamimi family members were convicted of the 1993 murder and burning of Chaim Mizrahi. One of them, Nizar Tamimi, happens to be the nephew of Ehrenreich’s dear friend Bassem Tamimi; Nizar is also the presumably proud husband of Ahlam: the two murderers were both released in the 2011 deal that freed Hamas hostage Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1027 convicted Palestinian terrorists – an event that was celebrated in Nabi Saleh – and they married shortly afterwards in Jordan. Bassem Tamimi and his wife Nariman, as well as their famous daughter Ahed, attended the happy occasion; needless to say, the murderous couple reportedly planned to “have resistance children.”

While Ehrenreich doesn’t tell his readers much about Nizar or Ahlam, he does devote a few pages to the stories of Said Tamimi, who helped his cousin Nizar kill Chaim Mizrahi and who was released in December 2013 in a US-brokered deal “to bring Palestinian leaders back to peace negotiations.” It’s noteworthy in this context that a still available media report published shortly after Mizrahi’s murder in 1993 stated that the killing was claimed by Hamas, describing it as “an attack by extremists determined to disrupt the peace process by provoking Jewish anger.”

Ehrenreich doesn’t bother his readers with these details, but after presenting Said Tamimi as a somewhat tragic and sympathetic figure, he does address the murder:

“About Mizrahi, Said expressed no remorse. ‘I didn’t know him personally,’ he said. ‘Those were the means that we used. It was part of the resistance and part of the struggle. I was considered a fighter, a soldier. The role of a soldier is to kill or be killed.’ Bassem interrupted: ‘This was not a personal issue,’ he said. Said nodded and agreed. ‘It wasn’t personal,’ he repeated. ‘My father was killed in a battle. I killed in a battle.’ [Note PMB: Mizrachi was reportedly a religious student in Beit El who went to the Tamimis to buy eggs.] I asked him where it happened. Bassem answered for him. ‘Near Beit El,’ he said. I asked him how. Again Bassem answered. ‘With a knife,’ he said. Out the window, the muezzin’s cry was rising from the mosques. Said stubbed out his cigarette, excused himself and kneeled in the corner to pray. I poured Bassem another coffee. ‘Ben,’ he said, laughing, ‘fuck you. Why do you ask all these questions?’”

Well, no worries: It was the only time Ehrenreich asked his friends some mildly probing questions. After all, Ehrenreich didn’t want to know too much about the Tamimis’ unpleasant views and the occasions they acted on them – or at least he didn’t want his readers to know much about all that.

But as I have shown in a fairly detailed documentation that is based on examining publicly available social media posts and other material where the Tamimis freely express themselves, their image as “non-violent” activists who valiantly fight for a noble cause is hardly more than a façade designed to attract the support of gullible “pro-Palestinian” westerners and organizations like Amnesty International. While Ehrenreich worked hard to bolster this image, the Tamimis freely share their enthusiastic support for terrorism and their ardent Jew-hatred among themselves on social media (though mostly in Arabic). Bassem Tamimi tends to be more careful about the “non-violent” Tamimi brand and only occasionally betrays his admiration for terror groups like Hezbollah or the Qassam Brigades, but the Facebook page of his wife Nariman provides a steady stream of posts and interactions with friends and family that leave little doubt about the Tamimis’ shared enthusiasm for terror.

As I have already noted in a recent piece for Tablet, Nariman has repeatedly promoted posts by Ahlam Tamimi (whose Facebook page is adorned with images of the suicide bomber who carried out the Sbarro massacre) inciting and glorifying terror attacks; she has also posted graphic instructions on where to aim a knife to ensure a lethal outcome for a stabbing attack, and whenever there are news about a terror attack, Nariman Tamimi will rush to celebrate with her Facebook friends. Even if a teenage Palestinian murders a 13-year-old Jewish girl sleeping at home in her bed, Nariman Tamimi and friends & family will hail the teenage terrorist as a heroic “martyr” who helped “to restore to the homeland its reverence.” Nariman Tamimi is also more than willing to go public with her admiration for Ahlam Tamimi: just last year, Israeli media reported that Nariman defended the Sbarro pizzeria bombing as “an integral part of the struggle,” declaring firmly: “Everyone fights in the manner in which he believes. There is armed uprising, and there is popular uprising. I support every form of uprising.”

Bassem and Nariman Tamimi are the first people Ehrenreich lists in his Acknowledgements, where he thanks them profusely: “I would not have been able to write this book without the abundant help, generosity, hospitality, kindness, laughter, encouragement, insights, and wise counsel of Bassem Tamimi, Nariman Tamimi, Bilal Tamimi, [and] Manal Tamimi.”

A clip I made together with veteran blogger Elder of Ziyon provides a glimpse of what these four paragons of lovingkindness really stand for.

Perhaps the most outspoken member of the Tamimi family is Manal Tamimi, who represents the Tamimis’ cause on Twitter in broken English under the well-chosen handle @screamingtamimi. Manal is always happy to flaunt her enthusiastic support for terror and her ardent Jew-hatred. While Bassem Tamimi will only occasionally acknowledge that the “struggle” he advocates is not just directed against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, but against Israel’s existence as a Jewish state in any borders, Manal Tamimi will frankly announce on Twitter: “We will keep resisting until the last zionist either got killed or leave palestine.” Her hatred is so intense that she sometimes just can’t resist posting the most vile antisemitic material imaginable – even if it means equating Palestinians with the Nazis, as she did in this tweet [archived here: http://archive.is/s6dvM; an almost identical image identifies the hideous creature that is beaten up by the Nazi figure as a “Jew Rat”].

It is not hard to find out that Ehrenreich shares the Tamimis’ view that one Jewish state in the world is one too many – as he put it in a 2009 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times: “Zionism is the problem.” Obviously enough, however, reviewers for highbrow outlets don’t really have a problem with a writer who doesn’t want Israel to exist, but who wants everyone to share his love and admiration for a clan that has already produced several murderers, that openly justifies past terrorist attacks like the Sbarro bombing, and that cheers every new murder of Israelis quite publicly.

Note: Translation of Arabic texts courtesy of Ibn Boutros

Breaking the silence in Israel and the US

Note: This post was first published in early June on my JPost blog.  I realized I had forgotten to cross-post it when I was catching up with some of Ben-Dror Yemini’s recent writings, which include an excellent article on the Israeli NGO “Breaking the Silence”(BtS) entitled “Breaking the truth: The mission to demonize Israel.” While Yemini emphasizes that “[e]very democratic country needs to be proud that entities critical of the state operate within it,” his verdict on BtS is devastating: “Hamas doesn’t need a propaganda department: it has Breaking the Silence.”

* * *

Last month [i.e. in May], the Israeli group “Breaking the Silence” (BtS) attracted much attention – including international media coverage – after it published damning anonymous testimony about the IDF’s conduct during the war against Hamas and other Gaza terrorist groups last summer. While BtS claims on its website that its goal is exposing alleged misconduct by the IDF in the Palestinian territories and “pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled,” the group publishes much of its material not only in Hebrew, but also in English. Unsurprisingly, there is a market for the kind of material BtS produces abroad, and members of the group are currently “in the midst of another international tour of Europe and the United States.” Indeed, according to NGO Monitor, “BtS has been part of at least 50 events in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and South Africa” in the past three years and the group’s work is, either directly or via third parties, “almost entirely funded by European governments.”

As Israeli journalist and author Matti Friedman noted in a critical response to the latest BtS publication:

“Breaking the Silence’s money is foreign, not Israeli, and the primary customers for its product are foreign, not Israeli. At its extensive English website, Jewish soldiers are presented for international consumption as a spectacle of moral failure, a spectacle paid for by Norwegians, French Catholics, and Germans. This being so, it is completely reasonable for Israelis to wonder what exactly this group is and which side it is on.”

An answer to Friedman’s last point can be found in an analysis of the latest BtS publication by the Times of Israel’s military correspondent Mitch Ginsburg who suggests that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that BtS wants to see “Israel’s ability to bring its military might to bear against Hamas […] drastically reduced.”

In addition to all this well-founded criticism of BtS’s methods, goals and modus operandi, IDF veterans – including soldiers who fought last year in Gaza – have challenged the latest anonymous BtS testimonies on social media.

Even though all this indicates that BtS is a fringe group whose methods and aims are viewed with suspicion by mainstream Israelis, the group has obviously well-connected supporters abroad. A recent Ha’aretz report highlights meetings between BtS representatives and “members of the White House National Security Council” as well as “senior officials” of the State Department’s human rights bureau. According to the report, these meetings were organized by Matt Duss of the Washington-based three-men Foundation for Middle East Peace, and Duss reportedly felt the meetings showed that BtS “has an open door to the administration.”

This is very interesting in view of the fact that there is actually an American organization that seems comparable to BtS – though it has apparently an incomparably harder time when it comes to attracting media attention or finding an “open door” to senior government officials. Like BtS, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) wants to give a voice to soldiers critical of what they experienced during their service. But unlike BtS, IVAW seems to get no major funding from European governments or NGOs, and when I was trying to research the media coverage of the group, I quickly came across complaints that even efforts to put on major events were met with “silence” by US mainstream media. Not much success with “breaking the silence” for IVAW, it seems.

One of the complaints that focuses on the failure of the New York Times (NYT) to cover a 2008 event put on by IVAW cites the NYT public editor’s explanation that the paper wasn’t really interested in covering “charges and counter-charges at home by organizations with strongly held political viewpoints about the war.” But apparently, the NYT has a different standard when it comes to covering charges against the IDF made by an organization like BtS, which obviously has “strongly held political viewpoints” about the wars Israel has to fight: BtS’s latest allegations were covered in an Associated Press report;  in 2007, the NYT published a report on a BtS event in Jerusalem that described BtS as “a group of former Israeli combat soldiers and some current reservists [who are] shocked at their own misconduct and that of others” and helpfully included a link to the group’s website; and a 2010 article entitled “Israeli Rights Groups View Themselves as Under Siege” counts BtS among Israel’s “most prominent human rights organizations.”

[Update: a NYT editorial of June 23, 2015 on “War Crimes and the Gaza War” again cited BtS in support of a UN report accusing Israel of serious violations and possible war crimes]

 When it comes to ‘open doors’ in Washington, America’s own IVAW again seems to have a harder time than Israel’s BtS. According to one relevant report I could find from 2008, there was “a packed public hearing on Capitol Hill” organized by members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but the report also notes that even “politicians who have consistently criticized the [Iraq] war” regarded IVAW as “a politically risky ally,” and one IVAW representative confirmed that the group is “generally viewed as too radical for most politicians.” Maybe Matt Duss, who so helpfully opened important doors for BtS, could also be of assistance to IVAW?

Unsurprisingly, IVAW shares BtS’s criticism of Israel’s presence in the West Bank and the group has also condemned last year’s Gaza war.

IVAW on Gaza

But for some reason, denouncing Israel’s military clearly attracts more funding and publicity than denouncing the US military. This also seems to be reflected on social media: currently, IVAW’s Facebook page has 26,472 “Likes”, while the BtS Hebrew Facebook page has 39,538 “Likes” and its English Facebook page has 173,918 “Likes” – despite the fact that both groups were founded just a few months apart in 2004 and that American military campaigns in the intervening decade have obviously affected many millions more than Israeli military campaigns.

Last but perhaps not least, some questions: is it conceivable that any American organization of military veterans would collect anonymous testimony from active soldiers, would accept foreign funding for their work, and would travel the world to present their publications, including to foreign government officials, while retaining any credibility at home? And another question: when BtS representatives recently met with Obama administration officials, did they wonder if these officials would be equally interested in anonymous testimony collected from US soldiers?

* * *

Update:

In the current debate about Breaking the Silence, a number of additional interesting pieces have been published; a recent post at the Tower links to some of them. The arguably most noteworthy article comes from Ha’aretz columnist Ari Shavit. While his newspaper went all out defending BtS, Shavit used his column to not only offer some mild criticism of the organization, but also to recount two instances when he broke his silence about abuses he observed as a young IDF recruit and later as a reservist.

In the first instance, back in the late 1970s (i.e. long before Shavit became a well-known commentator), Shavit recounts that he wrote “a touching letter to the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff” and was very surprised when “it was brought to his attention and he ordered an investigation.”

In the early 1990s, Shavit wrote an article about abuses he had seen during his reserve service in a detention center in Gaza during the first intifada. As he explains:

“the establishment’s response in that case was also surprising. Although I was not a well-known journalist, then-Justice Minister Dan Meridor summoned me and asked to know exactly what went on in the facility. Then-State Prosecutor Dorit Beinisch made use of what I had written to change protocols and influence the interrogation methods of the Shin Bet Security Service. The text that I had written out of heartbreak made it possible for decent and courageous officials to make some real changes.”

Quds News and Ali Abunimah cheer terrorist disguised as media member

This Friday, a knife-wielding Palestinian terrorist posing as a member of the press attacked and wounded an IDF soldier. As Reuters reported:

“[A] Palestinian posing as a journalist wounded an Israeli soldier with a knife before being shot dead near the West Bank town of Hebron, the Israeli military said.

Reuters television footage showed the Palestinian rolling on the ground and surrounded by Israeli troops after the attack. He was holding a knife and wearing a fluorescent yellow vest over a t-shirt marked “PRESS”.

The foreign press association in Israel and the Palestinian territories said it deplored the attack and called on Palestinian media organizations to verify all staff credentials.

The Palestinian journalists union said the knife attacker had no links to any media outlets and urged Israel not to use the event as an excuse to attack its press members.”

Concerns that this abuse of press credentials might endanger members of the media were also expressed on Twitter by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg: “Palestinian knifemen disguising themselves as journalists are going to get actual reporters hurt.”

The Reuters report on the incident included a photo by Bilal al-Taweel with the caption: “A Palestinian (R) posing as a journalist runs after a wounded Israeli soldier to continue stabbing him before being shot dead near the West Bank city of Hebron October 16, 2015.

AA cheers fake journo terrorist Reuters

The same photo was shared on Facebook by Quds News without any context, and proved extremely popular because it seemed to show an unarmed Palestinian chasing an Israeli soldier. Twelve hours after it was posted, it had garnered more than 23,600 “Likes” and had been shared almost 12,000 times. In case Quds News regrets this deplorable post, the page has been archived here.

Veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah was among those who really liked the image and shared it on Twitter – where Quds News had also shared it repeatedly – presenting it as “Photo of Palestinian pursuing armed occupation soldier in Hebron.” [Archived here]

AA cheers fake journo terrorist

Perhaps next time Al Jazeera gives Ali Abunimah a platform to air his views, they could ask him why he cheered this abuse of media credentials that are meant to protect staff working in conflict zones. No doubt Abunimah will come up with some excuse, and of course his sympathies for terrorism have not been a secret.

The Tamimi masterclass on media manipulation

In a recent post that focused on Bassem and Nariman Tamimi’s cynical exploitation of their children as props for their efforts to provoke clashes with the IDF in order to ignite a “Third Intifada,” I noted that the Tamimis can usually rely on completely uncritical and indeed outright sympathetic media coverage of their activism. The most striking example of the cozy relationship that the Tamimis have cultivated with the media is perhaps the fawning tribute featured as a New York Times Magazine cover in March 2013, which was authored by American writer Ben Ehrenreich after he had been a house guest of the Tamimis for three weeks.

It is thus hardly surprising that by now, the Tamimis apparently feel free to tell the media any story that suits their purpose. Their complete disregard for facts and the ease with which they fabricate a story to bolster their image as righteous defenders of a noble cause was on full display in the wake of the widely covered recent attempt of an IDF soldier to arrest Bassem Tamimi’s 12-year-old son Mohammad (also known as Abu Yazan) for stone-throwing. As the viral video-clip showed, the fully armed soldier was beaten and bitten by a group consisting mostly of women and girls – prominently including Bassem Tamimi’s daughter Ahed – and the soldier ultimately released the boy from his hold and retreated.

Most parents watching this clip would probably shudder to imagine their own children in the place of Mohammad Tamimi. But according to a CNN report, Bassem Tamimi remained calm enough to film the attempt to arrest his son from a safe distance, explaining to CNN that he and his family “routinely” film “all of the protests to keep a record of the conflict there and collect what he says is evidence of Israeli abuses.”

One element that undeniably added to the emotional impact of the clip was the fact that Mohammad Tamimi had a plaster cast on his left arm. The various explanations offered by Bassem and Nariman Tamimi about how their son sustained the injury that required the cast reveal their mendacious modus operandi and their reliance on uncritical and sympathetic media coverage.

Before documenting the fabrications of Bassem and Nariman Tamimi in detail, it is noteworthy that their son’s previously injured arm not only added to the impact of the viral clip that showed an ostensibly frightened boy with one arm in a cast, but that it also greatly intensified the sense of victory felt afterwards by the family and their supporters. As the saying goes: one picture is worth a thousand words – and this widely shared picture with which the Tamimis celebrated their “victory” transforms the frightened and injured boy who was exhibited to the world as the victim of a brutal assault by a heavily armed soldier into a little superman who needs just one arm to toss the hapless soldier into the air.

Tamimi kids shatter IDF myth

As far as the Tamimis are concerned, it truly is child’s play to “shatter the myth of the Zionist army.” Needless to say, if the “Zionist army” was as brutal and trigger-happy as the Tamimis usually claim, their “heroic” son would have had two broken arms in the best-case scenario.

But how did Mohammad Tamimi, aka Abu Yazan, break his left arm? One journalist who apparently addressed this question to Bassem Tamimi reported:

“According to his father, the child in the video, Mohammed Tamimi, broke his wrist while fleeing an Israeli tank in his village, which was why he was wearing a cast.”

Apparently, the journalist did not notice that it would be rather unusual if the IDF drove a “tank” through the village and children would have to ‘flee’ this tank. It seems that the journalist did not question the claim and no evidence is offered to support it.

But the question of how Mohammad Tamimi injured his left arm also came up in an interview with Nariman Tamimi, the boy’s mother. She offered not only a completely different story [as highlighted below], but also used what will be shown to be a fabrication to justify the participation of her children in the regularly instigated confrontations with soldiers:

NTamimi story on broken arm

Again, no further evidence of the alleged attack on the Tamimi’s home is provided.

So did Mohammad Tamimi break his arm while fleeing an Israeli tank, as his father claims, or did he break his arm while sitting peacefully at home, getting hurt by tear gas canisters shot into the Tamimi house by the IDF, as his mother claims?

The answer suggested by checking the relevant Facebook (FB) posts of Bassem and Nariman Tamimi is: none of the above.

Nariman Tamimi’s story appears to be a complete fabrication, invented at the spur of the moment to justify why she would not only allow, but actually encourage even her youngest child to participate in regular protests that are designed to provoke clashes with IDF soldiers.

On August 25, at 7.40 PM (all times given are Israel time), Nariman Tamimi announced in a post on her FB page that her son Abu Yazan had broken his arm; a fairly literal translation of her post would read: “Abu Yazan is wounded, [his] hand is broken, a thousand wishes of get well, oh great one!”

About an hour later, at 8.46 PM, Nariman Tamimi posted a follow-up, including a photo, via mobile upload on her FB page.

NTamimi 2nd FBpost on broken arm

Curiously, the photo Nariman Tamimi chose to upload was several years old; it can e.g. be found in a post from November 2012 at the blog of the French branch of the notorious International Solidarity Movement. (The post also includes a video clip showing a small group of children – including Ahed Tamimi and her brother Mohammad – screaming at bemused soldiers and trying their very best to provoke them.)

2012 pic of boy and jeep

Why she chose to upload this old picture is anyone’s guess, but the text she added is fairly clear; again, staying as close as possible to the original, the translation would be:

“When you are wounded, your hand is broken, you put it in your shirt and put the edge of the shirt in your mouth and keep hitting the occupation with your pure stone – then you are my son, Abu Yazan, may Allah return you to me healthy, oh mother.”

The message Nariman Tamimi has for her son here is clear: never mind that you broke your arm while throwing stones at an army jeep, pull yourself together and keep throwing stones. This is a truly chilling glimpse of the ruthless pressure the Tamimis exert on their children.

Both of Nariman Tamimi’s posts elicited many responses, with people expressing concern and wishing a speedy recovery. In response to a question of what exactly happened, posted by FB user Sheerin Al Araj at 8.56 PM, Nariman Tamimi explained a little more than half an hour later, at 9.35 PM: “He fell while he was throwing stones at the jeep, and he broke his hand.”

NTamimi admits son threw stones

Just two minutes later, at 9.37 PM, Nariman Tamimi explained in another post:

“Allah be blessed, he fell when he hit a jeep; his hand broke, there was a possibility that it would be operated on, but Allah be blessed, the fracture returned to its place, it was put in a plaster cast, and he is going home.”

NTamimi 937 post

Shortly afterwards, another exchange indicates that even some admirers of the Tamimis began to feel they are overdoing it. At 9.46 PM, Sheerin Al Araj writes: “May Allah protect you, what is [it] going to be with you, stop, enough.” Nariman Tamimi’s rather chilling response two minutes later is: “Either victory or martyrdom; and everything is going to be OK.”

NTamimi Victory or martyrdom

At 10.24 PM, Bassem Tamimi shared his version of the incident on FB, uploading an image of his son with the cast, adding comments English and Arabic. The Arabic text says: “May Allah cure you Muhammad/Abu Yazan. In a confrontation with the forces of the occupation, tear gas canisters surrounded him, he fell and broke his hand. May you be healthy, oh hero!” Tamimi added in English: “today the IOF attacked the village of Nabi Saleh. during the clashes my son Mohammad was injured and broke his arm. free Palestine.”

Nariman Tamimi shared this post on her own timeline at 11.13 PM.

NTamimi share Bs version broken arm

Bassem Tamimi’s version was of course vague enough to allow both of them to fill in details and dramatize as needed when they were asked a few days later how their son had broken his arm. Bassem Tamimi chose to come up with the frightening scenario of a tank ploughing through the village, forcing his son to flee in panic; whereas his wife felt the need to invent the very different scenario of an IDF attack on the house, because she wanted to justify her insistence that it was best for her children to be sent out to confront soldiers.

Both obviously counted on the credulity of the reporters and didn’t expect to be asked for any evidence. Their son had a cast on his arm – who would doubt that in some way or other, a vicious act of the brutal “IOF” was to blame? How often have the Tamimis played the same game without being caught lying?

But worse than their lies and their shameless manipulation of the media – which, after all, love to be fed the kind of stories the Tamimis are eager to provide – is their ruthless exploitation of their children. It emerged in the comments responding to Nariman Tamimi’s post that this was already the second time that her son Mohammad had broken his arm, presumably under similar circumstances. But when a concerned friend suggested it was “enough” and time to stop, Nariman Tamimi defiantly responded “Either victory or martyrdom.” It is a terrible thought, but given the way the Tamimis have exploited their children so far, one has to wonder if they might ultimately consider the “martyrdom” of one of them a “victory.”

And make no mistake: the “victory” for which the Tamimis are fighting is not the peaceful co-existence of the Jewish State of Israel and an Arab-Muslim Palestinian state. In various interviews published on sites that oppose Israel’s existence as a Jewish state – such as the “hate-siteMondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada (from where an interview conducted by the notorious Max Blumenthal was even cross-posted on the website of the Al-Qassam Brigades), Bassem Tamimi has indicated that he is a determined proponent of the so-called “one-state-solution” that would absorb the world’s only Jewish state into yet another Arab-Muslim majority state.

* * *

This is a slightly edited version, including additional screenshots, of the piece recently published on my JPost blog.

Update: A recent YNet report illustrates that the Tamimis are not the only ones to freely fabricate stories: “A Palestinian source reported on Saturday that an Israeli had shot a six-year-old Palestinian boy;” however, an investigation by the IDF found that “the boy was wounded while playing with a gun owned by his brother, a Palestinian police officer.” The IDF suspected that “the family invented the story of an Israeli attacker to protect their older son and additionally to get a paycheck from the Palestinian Authority as victims of terror at the hands of Jewish settlers.”

The successful demonization of Israel

The recent release of a new study by the London-based think tank Chatham House brought Israel-haters some widely cheered news, because the study includes the finding [pdf; p.12] that 35 percent of the British public feel “especially unfavorable” towards Israel. Writing at his Electronic Intifada blog, Ali Abunimah noted with great satisfaction that the Chatham House study showed that “Israel ranks as one of the world’s most unfavorably viewed countries among the UK public” and he concluded triumphantly that “these numbers indicate […] that the vast sums Israel has spent on propaganda or hasbara have made no dent in its unpopularity, while its continued occupation and repeated massacres in Gaza continue to affect public perceptions.” Linking to a post from 2013, Abunimah also pointed out that “results from the Chatham House survey confirm trends seen in other polls across the world, showing that Israel is consisently [sic] among the world’s most negatively viewed countries.”

While Abunimah’s last point is correct, both his blog post and a tweet that was popular among Israel-haters were wrong in asserting that only North Korea was seen more unfavorable than Israel.

Celebrating Israel demonizationApparently, Israel-haters all work from the same cherry-picked talking points and can’t be bothered to check them – because if they had checked the relevant table in the study, they would have realized that Russia was entitled to their “gold medal” as the country that was seen as “especially unfavorable” by a majority (56%) of the British public. But it would have been really awkward for Abunimah to crow about Russia’s propaganda efforts not paying off, since some of his best friends – like Max Blumenthal, for example, or Electronic Intifada contributor Rania Khalek – are popular guests on Putin’s well-financed mouthpiece RT. The channel has also featured various Holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists, and neo-Nazis, and it reportedly provides a nice source of income for British politician George Galloway, who has been honored for his devotion to the Palestinian “cause” by Hamas leader Haniyeh and who supplements his salary as Member of Parliament with appearances on RT as well as Iranian and Lebanese TV.

While there is no reason to downplay the truly dedicated efforts of Abunimah and his ilk to do their part in order to ensure that the world’s only Jewish state is among the world’s least favorably viewed countries, the negative image of Israel that is once again reflected in the Chatham House study has long been promoted by a wide array of opinion shapers. As the Simon Wiesenthal Center put it in reaction to a 2003 poll that showed a majority of Europeans viewing Israel as the foremost threat to world peace, this result indicated “that Europeans have bought into the vilification and demonization campaign directed against the State of Israel and her supporters by European leaders and media.” However, other polls show that this is not only a European problem. World-wide polls conducted by the BBC for 2012 and 2013 ranked Israel as a country seen to have a mainly negative influence along with North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.

This is actually somewhat unfair to North Korea, Pakistan and Iran – at least if you form your world view on the basis of reports by Human Rights Watch (HRW). A recent post by blogger Elder of Ziyon provides a stark illustration of the pervasive demonization of Israel in a chart that tracks how often countries are mentioned in the new HRW 2015 “World Report.” According to this chart, only Syria – a country where in recent years not only hundreds of thousands have been killed, wounded or displaced, but where also more than 10 000 people have been systematically tortured to death – is mentioned more often than Israel.

EoZ HRW biasAnyone who needs some additional illustration of HRW’s preposterous bias should note that when the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson recently learned that the US Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. was exhibiting some of the gruesome evidence of systematic torture in Syrian jails, she immediately demanded that the museum “should also show pics of death and destruction in #Gaza.”

In an exchange with Jeffrey Goldberg, Whitson later protested that she had neither intended to equate the recent war between Hamas and Israel with the Holocaust nor to suggest that Israel was guilty of genocide in Gaza; instead, she claimed she had just “urged showing of images of #Gaza destruction.”

Of course, one can hardly argue that images of the destruction in Gaza from the last war have been ignored by the media. Indeed, one recent example that would perhaps have pleased Whitson was a Sky News program on Holocaust Memorial Day that featured images of this destruction while the interviewer questioned the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis about possible connections between Israel’s actions and the rise of antisemitism in Europe. Contrary to countless misleading media reports, Sky News did not apologize for suggesting a connection between Israel’s actions and rising antisemitism and merely acknowledged “that the particular circumstances of the use of the pictures from Gaza was unfortunate.”

Opinion shapers in the media and in NGOs like HRW have obviously a large part in the public’s long-documented negative view of the world’s only Jewish state. As Matti Friedman put it so well in a recent presentation:

“How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01 per cent of the world’s surface become the focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other? We must ask how Israelis and Palestinians have become the stylised symbol of conflict, of strong and weak, the parallel bars upon which the intellectual Olympians of the West perform their tricks.”

Friedman has previously explored the problematic media coverage of Israel in several superb articles; in this presentation, he argues that “the minute state inhabited by a persecuted minority in the Middle East is in fact [seen as] a symbol of the ills of the West – colonialism, nationalism, militarism, and racism.”

“The West today is preoccupied with a feeling of guilt about the use of power. That’s why the Jews, in their state, are now held up in the press and elsewhere as the prime example of the abuse of power. That’s why for so many the global villain, as portrayed in newspapers and on TV, is none other than the Jewish soldier, or the Jewish settler. This is not because the Jewish settler or soldier is responsible for more harm than anyone else on earth – no sane person would make that claim. It is rather because these are the heirs to the Jewish banker or Jewish commissar of the past. It is because when moral failure raises its head in the Western imagination, the head tends to wear a skullcap.”

Millions nodded along when the Nazis asserted that “the Jews are our misfortune.” Millions nowadays nod along when the media and NGOs suggest that the Jewish state is the world’s misfortune.

* * *

First published on my JPost blog 02/12/2015; also published on the Polish blog Listy z naszego sadu.

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

Gaza doctor shrugs off suffering

Three days ago, I reported on the enthusiasm of Dr. Belal Al-Dabour for “resistance rockets” and his determined rejection of any ceasefire before the conditions set by Hamas are fulfilled. As I noted, Dr. Dabour was at the same time very busy with sharing harrowing accounts about the suffering in Gaza on social media and on BBC Radio. In the meantime, the casualties in Gaza have sharply increased, with more than 400 people reported dead and more than 2000 injured.

Dr. Dabour has continued to share heartbreaking stories of the suffering endured by his fellow Gazans, most recently on Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada. Reports about the difficult situation faced by medical personal and hospitals in Gaza have also appeared in the Israeli media.

But in Gaza, all this suffering apparently doesn’t count for much: when the terror organization Al Qassam Brigades claimed last night that it had captured an Israeli soldier, Dr. Dabour declared jubilantly that it had all been worth it:

 Gaza Dr cheers kidnap

All the many commentators who complain about the “disproportionate” death toll between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza should take note of this view of a young doctor in Gaza – particularly given the fact that Dr. Dabour was by no means the only one to start celebrating.

Gaza Drs celebrate

In addition, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported:

“Palestinians in Gaza City, Bethlehem and other cities celebrated with gunshots and fireworks Sunday night after a broadcast announcement by Hamas that it had captured an Israeli soldier.”

According to the Ha’aretz report, IDF sources described the Hamas claim as “dubious.”

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.”

Twenty five years on from Rushdie we are too frightened to say we are scared

A powerful post from Nick Cohen — and a must-read if you think we have freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Nick Cohen: Writing from London

British publishing is now such a neurotic and hypocritical business there are stories it cannot cover. Nor should it try. When journalists, writers and artists can’t be honest with their audience, when they can’t even be honest with themselves, silence is preferable to the damage their double-standards bring.

Last month our media commemorated the imminent anniversary of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie by trying and failing to report the threats to the life of Maajid Nawaz, the chief executive of Quilliam Foundation. In a vindication of Kipling’s “once you have paid him the Dane-geld/you never get rid of the Dane” fanatics are after Nawaz not because he satirised the founding myths of Islam, as Rushdie did, or projected sexist verses from the Koran on to a naked woman’s body, as Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali did, but because – brace yourselves – he tweeted a picture of Jesus…

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