Tag Archives: media

Guess who finds Israel guilty of genocide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holocaust failed

 Screenshot from Malaysia Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And another gem courtesy of Kevorkova:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Netanyahu and the fundamentals of peace

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

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

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

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

However, Landau then goes on to explain that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First published at my JPost blog on October 25, 2013

Let’s first abolish Pakistan

Some two weeks ago, The New York Times published a lengthy op-ed that advocated essentially the same idea proposed a few years earlier in the paper’s pages by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi’s piece was entitled “The One-State Solution;” the more recent version – written by influential University of Pennsylvania professor Ian Lustick – has the title “Two-State Illusion.”

The psychopath who cruelly ruled Libya and the University of Pennsylvania professor basically agree that for the sake of the Palestinians, Israel as a Jewish state has to be abolished – never mind the fact that Israel is arguably the most successful state established in the decades since World War II. Indeed, Professor Lustick seems to think that Israel’s success is all the more unpalatable given the likely failure of a Palestinian state. As he correctly anticipates: “Strong Islamist trends make a fundamentalist Palestine more likely than a small state under a secular government.”

Of course, this insight could have prompted Lustick to contemplate options that wouldn’t entail the destruction of the Jewish state – but tellingly, it didn’t.

Since Lustick’s piece was published, there have been many excellent responses, including a commentary by Gilead Ini who highlights an important but much too rarely mentioned point.  In a short list of ideas that the NYT would never discuss because they would be considered “simply beyond the pale,” Ini rightly notes:

“Nor has The New York Times offered space in its coveted opinion pages for debate about whether the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which is entangled in border disputes and burdened by extremism, should be annulled, folded back into India from which it was carved. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the newspaper promoting arguments in favor of the elimination of any recognized, democratic country. Such ideas…are beyond the pale. Except, of course, when it comes to Israel.”

It is indeed fascinating and revealing to compare the media’s treatment of Pakistan and Israel – not least because the Muslim state of Pakistan and the Jewish state of Israel were established at almost the same time by partitioning formerly British-ruled territories. In both cases, the consequences entailed bloodshed and refugees, though the magnitude is incomparable: the creation of Pakistan resulted in some 14 million refugees, and estimates of the number of people who lost their lives range from several hundred thousand to one million. 

Many millions more were displaced or killed when East and West Pakistan split in 1971; in addition, as a recent Forbes op-ed puts it, Pakistan has been “at war with itself” ever since it was created to supposedly “preserve ‘what is most precious in Islam.’” Judging from Pakistan’s dismal record in every respect, one would unfortunately have to conclude that intolerance and extremism are what is most precious in Islam.

A few years ago, Fareed Zakaria tried to explain “Why Pakistan keeps exporting jihad,” noting that:

“For a wannabe terrorist shopping for help, Pakistan is a supermarket. There are dozens of jihadi organizations: Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Qaeda, Jalaluddin, Siraj Haqqani’s network and Tehrik-e-Taliban. The list goes on. […] The Pakistani scholar-politician Husain Haqqani tells in his brilliant history “Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military” how the government’s jihadist connections date to the country’s creation as an ideological, Islamic state and the decision by successive governments to use jihad both to gain domestic support and to hurt its perennial rival, India.”

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s destabilizing influence is not restricted to exporting jihad and terrorism: after all, Pakistan has also supplied nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran.

In other words, one could easily imagine that if Pakistan didn’t exist, the world might be a much better place… But of course, it is completely out of the question to entertain such a thought in polite company – which definitely includes NYT readers. Yet, as soon as Israel is concerned, quite a few people who would be appalled to have a debate about the benefits of Pakistan’s demise seem to feel that it is entirely respectable and even constructive to argue that abolishing the world’s only Jewish state could help to resolve some difficult problems.

It might be tempting to conclude that this attitude can be explained with concerns about the plight of the Palestinians. After all, the Qaddafi-Lustick vision of “Israstine” seems to be motivated primarily by the quest to accommodate Palestinian demands such as the “right of return” that are incompatible with Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state.

But curiously enough, few people seem concerned about the plight of Pakistan’s “Palestinians” – the Baloch. Indeed, the Baloch have arguably a much better claim to nationhood and a state than the Palestinians, and they have fought for independence ever since Balochistan came under Pakistani rule. Perhaps more importantly in the context that is relevant here, there can be little doubt that the suffering of the Baloch is so severe that one can even make the case that they are among the “most unfortunate” people in the world.

So why is nobody arguing that Pakistan should be dissolved if it is unwilling to grant Balochistan independence and is obviously unable to provide the Baloch with even the most rudimentary services or guarantee their most basic human rights?

Or, to put it differently: why do the Palestinians get so much more attention and support than the Baloch or, for that matter, the Kurds and many other groups that are oppressed and would like to have independence or at least autonomy?

The answer is of course that only the Palestinians can blame the Jews for their situation – and this is plainly something that has great appeal in much of the world.  As David Nirenberg notes in his new book “Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition:” “We live in an age in which millions of people are exposed daily to some variant of the argument that the challenges of the world they live in are best explained in terms of ‘Israel.’ ” Professor Lustick and the New York Times are obviously eager to help spread this message.

And to be sure, as little sense as it makes to explain the challenges of the world we live in in terms of the tiny Jewish state, it is certainly much easier and incomparably less risky than explaining some of the major challenges of our times in terms of failed Islamic states like Pakistan and the problem-plagued Muslim world at large.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog; also published in Polish in Racjonalista.

Iranian treats: Sugarcoating Holocaust denial and nuclear weapons

Every now and then, Ha’aretz publishes an article that reminds me of the times when I, as well as many other Israelis, used to read the paper religiously. Whether or not you agreed with its left-wing stance, Ha’aretz offered quality reporting and interesting views without continuously insinuating that the majority of Israelis are just a bunch of despicable right-wing morons who fully deserve to be hated by their righteous neighbors and the noble world at large.

The article that reminded me now of those good old times is by Chemi Shalev and is entitled “Iran’s Holocaust-denial trickery may point to nuclear duplicity as well.” Because Shalev responds to a pretty disgusting piece by his Ha’aretz colleague Anshel Pfeffer – who had penned what he probably considers a really witty rant on the “obsession with Rohani’s view of the Holocaust” – Shalev begins his piece by listing the large number of his family members who perished in the Nazi genocide.

He then goes on to make some excellent points:

“I am, admittedly, one of those Jews that my Haaretz colleague Anshel Pfeffer describes as being ‘obsessed’ with Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s efforts to obfuscate, bypass and sugarcoat his regime’s Holocaust denial and/or distortion. Rohani’s whitewash campaign, I confess, insults me personally.

But Iran’s ongoing Holocaust denial, absolute or partial, is much more than a personal or even collective affront. It is a telltale sign, first and foremost, of the Iranian regime’s abiding anti-Semitism, as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum makes clear: ‘Holocaust denial and distortion are generally motivated by hatred of Jews, and build on the claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests.’

Consequently, if the blatant Holocaust denial of Iran’s spiritual leader Ali Khamenei and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a clear-cut manifestation of their ‘hatred of Jews,’ than the more sterile version of Holocaust distortion offered by Rohani and his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is but a refined version of the exact same odious sentiment.

And while it may not be a conclusive litmus test for evaluating their commitment to a nuclear arrangement with the West, it is certainly valid to note that they may be playing the same game with their nuclear weapons program as they are with their refusal to accept the Holocaust. That just as they are couching their anti-Semitism in more palatable terms, so they are repackaging Iran’s continued drive to produce nuclear weapons in words that spark less suspicion and elicit less scrutiny.

This is no less a credible claim, to say the least, than the opposite contention that sees the Iranian leadership carrying out a miraculous and instantaneous 180 degree reversal, both in its anti-Semitic ideology and its overall nuclear policy.

And by the same token, the willingness of many in the media to isolate one or two catchphrase headlines from complex statements made in New York in recent days by both Rohani and Zarif […] in order to absolve them, more or less, of Holocaust denial, is grounds enough to suspect that Rohani may be getting a similar free pass when he protests his nuclear innocence.”

Later on, Chalev highlights another important point:

“And then there is the issue of equivalency, another classic gambit of Holocaust deniers. ‘The point is,’ [Iran’s Foreign Minister] Zarif told George Stephanopoulos, ‘we condemn the killing of innocent people, whether it happened in Nazi Germany or whether it’s happening in Palestine.’ Which is like dispatching three or four birds with one stone: The Israelis are Nazis, the Palestinians are innocents, the Holocaust wasn’t any worse than Israel’s occupation of the territories and, concurrently, Israel’s occupation of the territories is just as horrid as the Holocaust.”

What Chalev doesn’t mention is that while this equivalency is indeed “another classic gambit of Holocaust deniers,” it has become widespread and widely acceptable. It’s not difficult to find examples in political commentaries published in supposedly respectable mainstream media; one of the results is – as documented in a German study from 2010 – that some 57% of Germans believe “that Israel is waging a war of annihilation against the Palestinians” and that some 40% agreed that “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is basically no different from what the Nazis did with the Jews during the Third Reich.”

This obviously means that Iranian officials who engage in this “classic gambit of Holocaust deniers” can be sure that they will find a sympathetic audience. And there is every reason to think that somebody who nods along approvingly when Iranian officials equate the Holocaust with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians will tend to believe that there is nothing wrong with Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Indeed, Guardian readers know already that Israel’s Prime Minister is a “hawk” while Iran’s President is a “dove”…

The banality of Lisa Goldman’s Israel-bashing

Peter Beinart’s Open Zion website claims to “foster an open and unafraid conversation about Israel, Palestine, and the Jewish future.” The “unafraid” apparently reflects the popular canard that it is somehow dangerous to criticize Israel, but the site’s offerings tend to prove that most Open Zion contributors – among them avowed anti-Zionists like Yousef Munayyer – are indeed “unafraid” to depict the Jewish state in the worst possible light.

There is no doubt that Open Zion’s incoming senior editor Lisa Goldman also qualifies as absolutely “unafraid.” Indeed, her writings prove that she is not only “unafraid” to make a living by criticizing Israel, but that she is also completely “unafraid” to openly promote glaring double standards.

Goldman’s recent pieces for Open Zion include one article published under the headline “Israel’s Most Liberal City Introduces Racially Segregated Kindergartens.Goldman starts her piece breezily claiming:

“When the children of south Tel Aviv head back to school on Tuesday, kindergarteners will attend facilities that are segregated by race. The children of asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa will go to their kindergartens and all the other kids will go to their own. As of this year, the municipality of Israel’s most liberal city decided that separate-but-equal for three-to-six year olds was the way to go—in 2013.”

Yes, dear reader, you are supposed to recoil now and remember the Jim Crow laws of the segregated American South and Apartheid in South Africa. Interestingly enough, the article’s URL also indicates that Goldman’s original title for the post was “The banality of racism in Israel’s most liberal city” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/23/the-banality-of-racism-in-israel-s-most-liberal-city.html) – and why not throw in some thinly veiled reference to the Nazis and Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” when it serves the good cause of making Israel look bad?

In response to the piece, several commenters noted that Goldman ignored the fact that resentments against asylum seekers and difficulties with their integration are not only a problem in Israel; moreover, some also noted that the Israeli reports Goldman relied on for her own piece actually didn’t justify her claim that Tel Aviv was trying to implement racial segregation.

Indeed, by now the Jerusalem Post has checked the story with the result that, while Tel Aviv is building two new pre-schools, there is absolutely nothing to support the claim that they or any existing facilities will be segregated by race. As to the other point about the difficulties asylum seekers and refugees face pretty much everywhere, here is a recent report (in German) about bitter protests that have been going on in Germany for several months because refugees feel their situation and treatment is intolerable. Even EU citizen – particularly when they are members of minorities like the Roma and try to migrate to richer states – face ill-treatment and discrimination all over Europe.

But of course, if Israel-bashers had to consider how the issues Israel is criticized for are handled elsewhere…

It seems that being “unafraid” of criticizing Israel also often means being unafraid of singling out Israel and employing double standards. Lisa Goldman’s work offers some nice illustrations: as eager as she is to accuse Israel of racism under the flimsiest of pretexts, she is determined to overlook massive evidence of Arab and Muslim Jew-hatred. That’s how she could write in March 2012 that Jews shouldn’t worry about Egyptian “bigotry” because, while “one hears quite a lot of old-fashioned anti-Semitic talk in Egypt,” Goldman was convinced that “Jew hatred is a relatively new, imported phenomenon that has little history in Egypt and does not seem to run very deep.”

Never mind that Egypt’s ancient Jewish communities were ethnically cleansed, never mind that antisemitic tropes are used to entertain the masses, never mind that Egypt’s Islamists – for whom Jew-hatred is an integral part of their ideology – had taken power.

Of course, Lisa Goldman didn’t see any reason to worry about the election victory of Egypt’s Islamists. Already in January 2012, she admonished Israelis who expressed dismay about the election results in Egypt to mind their own business and to realize that Israeli voters had handed power to people who were no better – and perhaps even worse – than Egypt’s Islamists:

“citizens of the democratic state of Israel […] freely elected, as the largest faction in its governing coalition after the Likud, the quasi-fascist Yisrael Beitenu party. […] In our Knesset, we also have Kahanists and a large contingent from Shas, which is quite similar to the [Salafist] Nour party.”

It seems that Lisa Goldman felt that this was one of her most rewarding articles: when her comment was approvingly quoted by The Arabist, Goldman happily tweeted:

 Goldman Arabist

A year later, Egypt’s Islamist president Morsi was in the news because a video from 2010 that showed him calling Jews the “descendants of apes and pigs” had been discovered. Walter Russell Mead noted in a comment:

“Morsi’s anti-Semitic views are not surprising in themselves; indeed they are completely mainstream and unobjectionable in the Egyptian context. Not many people in Egypt would disagree with the statements in question, and Morsi is more likely to be attacked for being too soft on Israel than for venting his spleen. But these statements, and the widespread support for them, should remind everyone just how slim the chances are for real peace between Israel and its neighbors.”

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

 

Simply adorable: the cute kids of the third Intifada at NYT Magazine

Last weekend, the New York Times (NYT) was praised to the high heavens by activists who campaign tirelessly for a “world without Zionism.” The praise of those who dedicate all their energies to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state was well-deserved.

Mondoweiss – a site that, for good reason, has often been criticized for antisemitism – proclaimed ecstatically: “Landmark ‘NYT Magazine’ cover story ennobles resistance in Nabi Saleh.”  The aspects highlighted by Mondoweiss illustrate perfectly why the NYT Magazine story was so popular in these circles:

“Iconic portraits of several of the heroic villagers [of Nabi Saleh] adorn the magazine’s cover, and the piece itself, by novelist Ben Ehrenreich, is told from the point of view of a community of 500 souls resisting monstrous forces that have taken their land and lives. […]

The great surprise of the piece is that it has appeared in the Times at all. For it contains an implicit argument for violent resistance and little of the usual hasbara fixin’s. Israeli spokespeople are not allowed to frame the resistance; the narrator doesn’t lecture us about two states and in fact refers to the territorial distinction between 1948 Israel and 1967 Israel as ‘the so-called 1967 Green Line.’ Regular readers of our site will find no new information here […] Ehrenreich represents our community, the next generation of enlightened Americans surveying this bitter conflict.”

At Mondoweiss, “enlightened” means of course subscribing to the fervent belief that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state and that it is in no way antisemitic to demand that the Jews give up their right to self-determination in a state of their own. And as Mondoweiss rightly notes, Ben Ehrenreich indeed “represents” the “community” that opposes the existence of Israel as a Jewish state: four years ago, he explained in the Los Angeles Times that “Zionism is the problem” because it keeps “Israelis and Palestinians from living in peace.”

One can’t get more simplistic than that, but Ehrenreich has since worked hard to spread this view and has won an award for his contribution to the popular “water libel”-genre of writings that accuse Israel of stealing and/or poisoning Palestinian water supplies.

While Mondoweiss was jubilant that the NYT was so willing to feature Ehrenreich’s “implicit argument for violent resistance,” mainstream sites harshly criticized that the “New York Times Magazine Cheerleads for Terror.

The most powerful response to the NYT Magazine piece came from Frimet and Arnold Roth who lost their teenaged daughter in the 2001 terror attack on the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem.  Writing on their blog “This Ongoing War,” the Roths note that Ehrenreich just mentions in passing that “Ahlam Tamimi [who] escorted a bomber to a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem” remains “much-loved in Nabi Saleh.”

“That’s all he writes about Ahlam Tamimi but we can tell you more. She is a Jordanian who was 21 years old and the news-reader on official Palestinian Authority television when she signed on with Hamas to become a terrorist. She engineered, planned and helped execute a massacre in the center of Jerusalem on a hot summer afternoon in 2001. She chose the target, a restaurant filled with Jewish children. And she brought the bomb. The outcome (15 killed, a sixteenth still in a vegetative state today, 130 injured) was so uplifting to her that she has gone on camera again and again to say, smiling into the camera lens, how proud she is of what she did. She is entirely free of regret. A convicted felon and a mass-murderer convicted on multiple homicide charges, she has never denied the role she embraced and justifies it fully.”

So this is the “much-loved” heroine of the “heroic villagers” that NYT Magazine promoted on its cover and in a lengthy feature story.

NYT Mag cover Intifada

 Screenshot from the “Nabi Saleh Solidarity” blog

What is truly remarkable about the cover is that NYT Magazine chose to include the images of at least two children among those who want to get the credit for starting a third Intifada.

This is actually remarkably honest, because – as I have recently documented in a post on “The child-soldiers of Palestine” – it is a longstanding Palestinian tradition to encourage and train children to participate in violent confrontations with Israel, and Palestinian children were also used in the last Intifada.

As Ehrenreich himself acknowledges, one of the children featured on the NYT Magazine cover – the girl in the bottom row of photos – is already well-known. Indeed, Ehrenreich’s efforts to present Nabi Saleh’s wannabe Intifada instigators as “people like you and me” requires him to treat their confrontations with Israeli soldiers as a “family affair” that naturally includes the children.

But not just Ehrenreich and NYT Magazine are willing to idolize a girl who is encouraged by her parents to try her best to provoke Israeli soldiers. The 11-year-old Ahed Tamimi – daughter of Bassem Tamimi, the leader of Nabi Saleh’s Intifada-hopefuls – had received an award and an iPhone from Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan in recognition of her photogenic efforts to wear out the patience of Israeli soldiers.

As it turns out, Ahed received the “Handala Courage Award” – which happens to be named after a cartoon character created by Palestinian cartoonist Naji Salim al-Ali (also spelled Nagi El-Ali) whom I quoted in my post on “The child-soldiers of Palestine,” where I wrote:

“consider this revealing testimony, first published in 1985 and reprinted 1998 for a special Al-Ahram series on “50 years of Arab dispossession”: in an interview, Nagi El-Ali, a prominent cartoonist, decries Israel’s 1982 campaign against Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon, but then he boasts:

‘I saw for myself how afraid the Israeli soldiers were of the children. A child of ten or eleven had sufficient training to carry and use an RBG rifle. The situation was simple enough. The Israeli tanks were in front of them and the weapon was in their hands. The Israelis were afraid to go into the camps, and if they did, they would only do so in daylight.’”

Ahed Tamimi is just an 11-year-old girl, but her parents must be so proud that they brought up their daughter in this tradition – which nowadays is recognized, rewarded and promoted not just by Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, but also by the NYT Magazine.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Who will tell the truth about the Masharawi tragedy? [updated]

A heartbreaking picture dominated the world media last November, just a day after Israel launched its “Pillar of Defense”-campaign to stop the barrage of rockets from Gaza. The picture showed a grief-stricken young father in Gaza holding the shrouded body of his baby son.

The Washington Post was among the newspapers that featured the photo prominently on its front page.

WaPo Gaza baby Fpage

 Twitter screenshot

Unsurprisingly, Hamas was quick to also distribute the photo, adding rather ridiculously: “Where is the media coverage of Israel’s crimes in Gaza[?]”

Hamas Gaza baby

Twitter screenshot

But while the media generally agreed with Hamas that it should be taken for granted that Israel was to blame for the death of the baby, blogger Elder of Ziyon pointed out that there were many reasons to question this supposed “fact.” However, the BBC would have none of that: while it devoted several reports to this tragic story because the bereaved father was employed by the BBC’s Gaza office, it firmly dismissed all doubts, insisting that baby Omar most likely “died in the one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks.”

Months later, the BBC continues to feature this story – despite the fact that by now, a UN investigation has concluded that baby Omar Masharawi (also spelled Mashhrawi or Misharawi) was indeed killed “by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.” As BBC Watch notes, the relevant UN report has been published four days ago, and the BBC hasn’t yet gotten around to issuing any correction to its original stories. The same is probably true for most of the mainstream media that prominently featured this tragic image and the related story – and even if corrections were issued, they wouldn’t be given the prominent and dramatic coverage that the original received. The grief-stricken father in Gaza holding the shrouded body of his beloved baby son will inevitably become part of the “lethal narratives” that are spread eagerly by mainstream journalists who have long embraced the notion that Goliath Israel is cruelly oppressing and killing the Palestinian David.

*

I wrote about this tragic incident in late November last year, when the Washington Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton (whose term just ended) responded to the controversy about the front page photo. His article included a callous dismissal of the rocket barrage from Gaza, which Pexton compared to “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”

According to Pexton, the photo of Jihad Masharawi mourning his baby son was selected for the front page because everyone at the Washington Post felt that it “went straight to the heart, this sobbing man who just lost his baby son.”

Of course, the rocket was fired with the intention to create such a scene in Israel.

Pexton also argued that “an effective photograph…moves the viewer toward a larger truth” – though he didn’t make entirely clear what he had in mind. But he also linked to a related Washington Post article on “The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo,” which featured three images: the first on the left is the photo that was the controversial choice for the Washington Post’s front page; the one in the middle is an injured Israeli infant, and the third photo is again from a boy killed in Gaza who was rushed to Gaza’s Shifa Hospital just when Egypt’s Prime Minister was visiting there with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

WaPo Gaza-Israel child victims

Washington Post screenshot

Commenting on the three images, Max Fisher argued:

“Each tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on. It’s a narrative that speaks to the pain of a grieving people, to the anger at those responsible, and to a determination for the world to bear witness. But the conversations around these photos, and around the stories that they tell, are themselves a microcosm of the distrust and feelings of victimhood that have long plagued the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Whatever story Max Fisher thought the three photos were telling and whatever uplifting contemplations he intended to offer, the plain truth is that all three children were victims of rockets shot by Hamas and other Gaza terrorists. The plain truth is also that they hoped that only Israeli children would be injured or killed by their rockets, but they knew that if they wouldn’t quite succeed and some children in Gaza got killed by their rockets, nobody would hesitate to blame Israel for it.

After all, everyone knows that the strikes of the Israeli Goliath kill, while the attacks of the Palestinian David are merely “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind” – and who cares that every Israeli strike that kills a Palestinian child or civilian is considered by the Israeli military and the vast majority of the Israeli public a tragic event, while every Palestinian “bee sting” that kills an Israeli child or civilian is considered by Palestinian terror groups and their supporters a reason to cheer and celebrate.

The Washington Post’s Max Fisher certainly doesn’t care about this well-documented fact, as his not-so-subtle exercise in equivalency illustrates: “a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy” implies after all that just as Hamas is a “heartless enemy” to Israel’s children, the IDF is an equally “heartless enemy” to Palestinian children.

As far as Fisher is concerned, this is the “story” told by the three images he comments on. But it is of course he who is telling a story about heartless enemies wounding and killing innocent children. I doubt that Fisher will take the time to revisit his story and ponder how much – or rather how little – sense it makes once we know that each of the children shown in the photos was a victim of Palestinian fire.

Fisher focuses mainly on arguing how terrible it is that there are controversies about such photos and the stories they supposedly tell. But as this example illustrates so well, it is always people who tell stories about images, and it indeed matters a lot what stories they tell – because facts matter if we want to understand reality.

Of course, when it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (and the broader Arab and Muslim world), focusing on facts and their proper context isn’t all that fashionable.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Update:

In the end, quite a lot of media outlets reported the UN finding that the son of Jihad Mashrawi was most likely the victim of a Palestinian rocket. However, as J.E. Dyer rightly points out in her excellent and detailed analysis of several incidents that were falsely blamed on Israel (“Oops – The IDF didn’t kill Baby Mashrawi (and other things that didn’t happen during Pillar of Defense)”), this incident showed once again that media organizations that care about their reputation should be considerably more careful about vetting their sources and verifying the details of events they report on.

The perhaps most impressive correction for the Masharawi incident was published by AP, which had taken the widely published photo of the mourning father back in November.

However, the BBC was extremely reluctant to correct its story. Similarly, the Washington Post’s Max Fisher doubled down on his earlier false equivalence that implied there was no difference between Hamas and the IDF. Accordingly, Fisher now wrote in his new post on the subject:

“But, as I wrote in November when reports suggested that an Israeli strike had killed Mishrawi, does knowing which military’s errant round happened to have landed on this civilian home really determine the larger narrative of one of the world’s thorniest and most complicated conflicts? Does assigning blame for Mishrawi’s tragic death, awful as it may be, offer us any real insight into who holds the blame for 60 years of fighting? And is partitioning blame really going to serve either side particularly well?

It’s difficult to see how knowing whose rocket or missile killed Mishrawi would resolve the larger questions for which that debate is a proxy: responsibility for continuing the long-term conflict, for sparking the latest round of fighting in November, and for the Israeli and Palestinian civilians who suffer as a result. But these are notoriously thorny debates. As with so many protracted geopolitical conflicts, neither side comes out looking as angelic or demonic as its partisans might wish. In many ways, something as isolated as a single photo of a wounded or killed child offers a purer, cleaner, lower-risk way to talk about issues too messy to engage with directly. […]”

While this is pure nonsense on several levels, I will for now just note that if Fisher wants to see Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza as a “military” just like the IDF, he would have to hold them both to the same standard – which means he would have to deal with the fact that Hamas and the other Palestinian terror groups intentionally target Israeli civilians and are jubilant if they manage to kill or maim them. The fact of the matter is that there wouldn’t be any photos of wounded or killed children from Gaza if Palestinian terror groups stopped using the territory they control as a launching pad for mortars, rockets and terror attacks on Israel.

Visualizing Palestine [updated]

*First published at The Algemeiner on March 6*

Last Sunday, Al Arabiya reported with much anticipation that an “advertising drive is expected to take Washington D.C by storm on Monday as the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Visualizing Palestine call on the United States to halt $30 billion of military aid to the Jewish state.”

The advertisements targeted the annual policy meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Al Arabiya featured one poster that suggests US taxpayer-funded weapons are used by Israel to kill innocent Palestinian civilians.

The text on the poster claims that between 2000 and 2009, Israel’s military “killed at least 2960 unarmed Palestinians.” Unsurprisingly, it turns out that presenting Palestinians as the innocent victims of Israeli brutality and evil is the basic formula of the work put out by the “Visualizing Palestine” project.

This is probably a promising strategy, since many people who see a poster claiming that Israel killed almost 3000 innocent Palestinians between 2000 and 2009 will not necessarily recall what else happened in these years: In response to being offered a state of their own in the summer of 2000, the Palestinians launched a brutal war of terror against Israel;  and in response to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Palestinians elected the terror group Hamas  and subjected Israel to relentless attacks with thousands of rockets. In 2008, the Palestinians were once again offered a state including the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Jerusalem, but once again they chose not to respond positively.

When I checked out the work of “Visualizing Palestine,” I couldn’t help imagining how different their output would look if – instead of presenting Palestinians as hapless and helpless victims of Israel – mainstream views and attitudes of Palestinians were “visualized.”

So let’s give it a try and visualize Palestinian reactions to the aid they receive from the US.

For many years, the US has provided millions of dollars in bilateral annual aid to the Palestinians; in addition, the US is the largest single-state donor to UNRWA – the UN agency that works exclusively for the roughly 5 million Palestinians who claim (inherited) refugee status.

Yet, as documented by Pew surveys, Palestinians were always the most ardent admirers of Osama bin Laden. In 2003, 72 percent of Palestinians had “a lot” or “some confidence” that bin Laden would “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” Visualizing this fact could get us an image like this:

Pal visuals2

There is plenty of additional material. While the US pushed for the negotiations that resulted in the 2008 offer for a Palestinian state that I just mentioned, Palestinian “confidence” in bin Laden eroded only slowly: by 2009, 52 percent of Palestinians still trusted the Al-Qaeda leader to “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” and by 2011, when he was killed by US Special Forces in his hide-out in Pakistan, fully a third of Palestinians still held bin Laden in high regard. Indeed, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned bin Laden’s assassination and deplored “the killing of an Arab holy warrior.”

Visualizing similar support for terrorism, extremism and Jew-hatred among Palestinians and the broader Arab and Muslim publics would perhaps be very useful for helping people understand why the Jewish state remains a small threatened island in a dysfunctional and volatile neighborhood.

Update:

BBC Watch recently had a post on Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. Atwan was born in Egypt-controlled Gaza, studied at Cairo University and has lived since the late 1970s in London. On his own website, Atwan (rightly) boasts that his “often controversial opinions are frequently sought by print and broadcast journalists the world over.”

There is no doubt that Atwan is a highly influential opinion-shaper, and as BBC Watch notes, his “controversial opinions” include “endorsements of terror attacks against Israelis” and the declaration “that he would ‘dance with delight’ in Trafalgar Square were Iranian missiles to hit Tel Aviv.”

Unsurprisingly, Atwan also considers Osama bin Laden a “great man,” because – as he explained on BBC Arabic – the “fact is that no one has caused more damage to the US than Al-Qaeda.”

Arab Jew-hate and the western media

As much as the media like to report and opine on Israel, they usually do so in a way that presents Arab and Muslim hatred for the Jewish state as an ultimately understandable reaction to Israeli policies. The intense hatred for Jews that is so prevalent throughout the region is a topic that is rarely broached, leaving western audiences oblivious to the fact that in today’s Middle East, antisemitism is as acceptable – and perhaps even more popular – as it was in Nazi Germany.

However, it seems that the usual reluctance to report on Arab and Muslim Jew-hatred was deemed untenable when MEMRI recently posted some video clips from 2010 that showed Egypt’s current president Morsi delivering antisemitic rants.  But while this story has by now been widely covered, initially nobody was really eager to report it – as Jeffrey Goldberg highlighted when he entitled a related blog post “Egyptian President Calls Jews ‘Sons of Apes and Pigs’; World Yawns.” Goldberg also linked to a fascinating Forbes story by Richard Behar, who actually took the trouble to monitor how Morsi’s remarks were (not) covered in most of the western media for several days.

As Behar rightly notes, “the demonization of Jews is commonplace and de rigueur in the Arab media (although most Americans wouldn’t know that because they are not being made aware of it).” Behar tried to do his part to counter this lack of knowledge late last November, when he published an article highlighting the “continuous, venomous stream of hate messages disseminated by the PA [Palestinian Authority] through its media and social and education systems.”

In a follow-up to his recent story on the media’s reluctance to report Morsi’s antisemitic rants, Behar notes that eventually, even the White House got around to condemning Morsi’s vile views, and he suggests that this might justify the hope that “the media world (and Washington) may be waking up from its collective stupor–specifically, the timeworn and tiresome routine of ignoring anti-Semitic hate speech by Islamist officials as if it’s to be expected of them, and thus not newsworthy.”

While I don’t share Behar’s optimism, I sure wish he was right, because this would certainly be a most welcome development that would enable many people around the world to have a much better understanding of the Middle East and the reasons for the lack of peace between Arabs and Israel.

This point was emphasized in a related post by Walter Russell Mead, who observed:

“Morsi’s anti-Semitic views are not surprising in themselves; indeed they are completely mainstream and unobjectionable in the Egyptian context. Not many people in Egypt would disagree with the statements in question, and Morsi is more likely to be attacked for being too soft on Israel than for venting his spleen. But these statements, and the widespread support for them, should remind everyone just how slim the chances are for real peace between Israel and its neighbors.

There are a lot of illusions out there about how the exercise of power will moderate the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups. To some degree, Morsi’s record in office shows a pragmatic willingness to maintain a treaty he deeply loathes with the ‘sons of apes and pigs.’ But we would do better to think of this as caution rather than moderation. If a real opportunity presented itself to destroy the Jewish state, there can be little doubt that Morsi and the members of his movement would think it their duty to act.

For Israel, the lesson is obvious. For the foreseeable future it must depend upon strength rather than trust if it intends to survive.”

Since I asserted above that in today’s Middle East, antisemitism is as acceptable – and perhaps even more popular – as it was in Nazi Germany, let me close with two recent examples that illustrate this point.

The first example comes from the speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to mark the recent anniversary of Fatah commemorating the group’s first terror attack against Israel on January 1, 1965. As rightly noted in an analysis of this speech by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Abbas used this opportunity to espouse a radical political doctrine:

“Abbas reinforced his uncompromising message with a pledge to continue the path of struggle of previous Palestinian leaders, mentioning the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who forged a strategic alliance with Nazi Germany, and heads of Palestinian terror organizations who were directly responsible for the murder of thousands of Israeli civilians, including Halil al-Wazir Abu Jihad (Fatah), Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (Hamas), Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi (Hamas), Fathi al-Shikaki (Islamic Jihad), George Habash (Popular Front), Abu Ali Mustafa (Popular Front), Abu al-Abbas (Arab Liberation Front), and Izzadin al-Qassam (leader of the jihad war against the Jewish Yishuv and the British in the 1930s).”

A translation of the relevant passages of the speech by MEMRI shows that Abbas named Husseini – widely known as “Hitler’s Mufti” – as one of Palestine’s “pioneers.” Given that Abbas has faced much criticism for his Ph.D. thesis that questioned the Holocaust and claimed collaboration between the Nazis and the Zionist movement, he surely knew what he was doing. (And presumably Germany’s Social Democrats know what they are doing when they declare that they have “common values” with Fatah.)

The second example illustrates how this kind of nonchalant embrace of prominent Nazi-collaborators is reflected and amplified on popular social media sites: the Facebook page of “Palestine News” boasts more than 425,000 “Likes,” and when I checked it out just now, it registered “86,142 talking about this.”

A few days ago, this image with a supposed quote from Hitler was posted on the page:

Palestine News Hitler

This posting garnered 1853 “Likes;” the accompanying text is basically the same as a purported Hitler quote provided in a popular “Hitler quotes” app:  “I could have killed all the Jews in the world, but I spared some of them so you know why I killed the rest.”

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Update:

The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported yesterday that during an interview with a Beirut-based TV station that is affiliated with Hezbollah and Iran, Palestinian President Abbas was asked about allegations that he was a Holocaust denier. Reportedly, Abbas responded with an apparent reference to his dissertation, saying that he had “70 more books that I still haven’t published” about the alleged link between the Zionist movement and the Nazis, adding: “I challenge anyone to deny the relationship between Zionism and Nazism before World War Two.”

However, a spokesman for Abbas later denied that Abbas had talked about a link between Zionism and Nazism, and the remark about the “70 more books” certainly seems bizarre.

Just a thought: Cheering Al Jazeera America

In an excellent commentary on “Al Gore’s Al Jazeera sellout” in Ha’aretz, James Kirchick highlights some of the issues that have caused considerable concern about the profitable sale of Current TV that was acquired by the Qatari network in order to build up “Al Jazeera America.” Krichick begins by recalling that in July 2008, Al Jazeera celebrated the release of the notorious Lebanese terrorist and murderer Samir Kuntar – whom Israel exchanged for the remains of two abducted soldiers – by hosting a televised birthday party for him. During the program, the head of Al Jazeera’s Beirut office praised Kuntar as a “pan-Arab hero.”

While Al Jazeera later acknowledged that its enthusiastic coverage of Kuntar’s release had been inappropriate, Kirchick argues that “[such] coverage is all too typical of Al Jazeera, and it is important to keep the above scene in mind as American liberals, so-called ‘media studies’ experts, and other denizens of the global cosmopolitan class trip over themselves in praising the Arab Satellite network’s acquisition of Current TV.”

Kirchick goes on to argue:

“Indeed, vital to understanding Al Jazeera is acknowledging that it does have an ideology. This is something that many of its Western fan boys choose to ignore. Calling the network’s ethos an ‘ideology’, however, gives its modus operandi a little too much credit; the network, despite its protestations, is ultimately a tool of Qatari foreign policy. The network’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is invariably influenced by the fact that the Emir of Qatar has heaped hundreds of millions of dollars on Hamas. See, for instance, its highly manipulative and irresponsible presentation of the ‘Palestine Papers’ two years ago, which emboldened the implacable terrorist organization while portraying the Palestinian Authority as feckless, Zionist collaborators.”

Kirchick then focuses on the New York Times editorial board that praised Al Jazeera as “an important news source” that “could bring an important international perspective to American audiences” because it “often brings a nuance to international stories that can be lacking on American networks.”

Somewhat sarcastically, Kirchick adds:

“One wonders what specific ‘nuance’ the Times commends. Is it the musings of Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, who shares his thoughts on permissible spousal abuse to 60 million viewers via his program ‘Shariah and Life?’ It was on Al Jazeera Arabic that Qaradawi, the most popular Sunni cleric in the world, declared that Adolf Hitler ‘managed to put [the Jews] in their place.’ The Holocaust, he declared, ‘was divine punishment for them,’ even though, of course, they ‘exaggerated’ it.”

Western praise for Al Jazeera is also remarkable given the restrictions upheld in Qatar. Here are some of the relevant passages of the 2011 Freedom House report on Qatar:

“While Qatar permits its flagship satellite television channel Al-Jazeera to air critical coverage of foreign countries and leaders, journalists are forbidden from criticizing the Qatari government, the ruling family, or Islam, and are subject to prosecution for such violations. […]

As a government-subsidized channel, Al-Jazeera refrains from criticizing the Qatari authorities, providing only sparse and uncritical local news. […]

The concentration of media ownership within the ruling family as well as the high financial costs and citizenship requirements to obtain media ownership licenses continue to hinder the expansion and freedom of the press.

Approximately 69 percent of the Qatari population used the internet in 2010, a major increase from 32 percent in 2007. Sixty-three percent of households have access to the internet. The government censors political, religious, and pornographic content through the sole, state-owned internet-service provider. Both high-speed and dial-up internet users are directed to a proxy server that maintains a list of banned websites and blocks material deemed inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political, and moral values of the country.”

That Qatari authorities are very serious about enforcing these restrictions is illustrated by the case of a renowned Qatari poet who has been given a life sentence for “a poem considered offensive to the nation’s symbols.”

Presumably, this kind of story is not one of the “nuances” that the New York Times hopes to get from Al Jazeera America.

Update:

Clifford D. May has another excellent article on this matter in National Review Online. May cites two journalists who worked for Al Jazeera but left due to a pro-Islamist and anti-American bias; he also quotes an interesting commentary from 2001 by Fouad Ajami, who noted that

“[Al Jazeera] may not officially be the Osama bin Laden Channel, but he is clearly its star . . . The channel’s graphics assign him a lead role: there is bin Laden seated on a mat, his submachine gun on his lap; there is bin Laden on horseback in Afghanistan, the brave knight of the Arab world. A huge, glamorous poster of bin Laden’s silhouette hangs in the background of the main studio set at Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. […] Although Al Jazeera has sometimes been hailed in the West for being an autonomous Arabic news outlet, it would be a mistake to call it a fair or responsible one. Day in and day out, Al Jazeera deliberately fans the flames of Muslim outrage.”

May also highlights Qaradawi’s star role at Al Jazeera:

“One more reason to be less than optimistic: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the host of Al Jazeera Arabic’s most popular program, Sharia and Life. Qaradawi endorsed Ayatollah Khomeini’s call to execute novelist Salman Rushdie for blasphemy, called what Hitler did to Europe’s Jews ‘divine punishment’ (adding that ‘Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers’). In 1991, one of his acolytes, Mohamed Akram, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, wrote a memorandum, later obtained by the FBI, asserting that Brothers ‘must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.’”