Tag Archives: Open Zion

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.”

* * *

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

 

Defending Free Gaza’s antisemitism at +972 and Open Zion

A few days ago, I noticed on my Twitter timeline some commotion about a tweet that had been posted by a group calling itself “Free Gaza Movement” – and it should go without saying that the group’s goal is NOT to free Gaza from the oppressive and abusive rule of Hamas… Instead, Free Gaza devotes itself single-mindedly to delegitimizing Israeli measures to prevent the smuggling of explosives, rockets and weapons into Gaza, and over the past few years, the group has been organizing “flotillas” to “break the siege of Gaza.”

As with many so-called “pro-Palestinian” groups, this also means that Free Gaza spreads a lot of horror stories about Israel, Zionism and Jews. But the recent Free Gaza tweet that attracted so much attention was particularly blatant, asserting that “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.” Anyone skeptical about this claim could click on a link to a video clip featuring a well-known antisemitic conspiracy theorist.

The details of this story and how it developed over the past few days have been documented by Avi Mayer; and by now, there have also been reports in the media about it. Most notably, the influential Walter Russell Mead devoted a long post to this incident, calling on Archbishop Desmond Tutu – who has endorsed Free Gaza – to withdraw his support of the group and to denounce Free Gaza’s propagation of “ugly filth of the lowest kind, gutter anti-Semitism mixed with genocidal rage.”

As I noted in a related post, Free Gaza reacted by offering various evasions and non-apologies. The group’s co-founder Greta Berlin, who was responsible for several of the antisemitic links provided by Free Gaza, claimed in a disingenuous “apology” posted on the Free Gaza website that this material “was shared to a group of people who were discussing the evils of propaganda and racism.”

Despite the fact that Free Gaza has a long record of posting antisemitic material, some people were all too eager to believe this transparently dishonest explanation. Writing on his +972 blog, Larry Derfner complained about “The slandering of Gaza flotilla activist Greta Berlin,” and on Peter Beinart’s Open Zion blog, Emily Hauser declared herself satisfied with Greta Berlin’s assurances that she was not a Holocaust denier and that, even though she hadn’t watched the video she propagated, she posted it as an example of “EXACTLY what I and others are horrified over.”

There is an ancient proverb I remember from school, which we were taught to illustrate the point that claiming innocent intentions doesn’t necessarily absolve a person of the serious consequences of an action: “though the boys throw stones at frogs in sport, yet the frogs do not die in sport but in earnest.”

Quite plainly, what Derfner and Hauser were doing, for whatever reasons, was defending Free Gaza’s antisemitism – and they could have easily realized that this was what they were doing had they bothered to just quickly scroll through the tweets of Free Gaza from the last few weeks.

Just going back to September 1, we find the following: Israel is “committing slow motion genocide” in Gaza; Gaza is a “‘forgotten’ Extermination Camp” much worse than Auschwitz, the Warsaw Ghetto and Treblinka; the Mossad was behind the man who made a film denigrating Islam; alternatively, it was some conspiracy involving “An Israeli film-maker, 100 Jewish donors and their Salafi allies;” and on September 1, Free Gaza linked – not for the first time – to the writings of Gilad Atzmon, a well-known peddler of antisemitic rants.

Here are just a few screenshots of some of the tweets:

By ignoring the blatantly antisemitic material persistently propagated by Free Gaza and rushing to the group’s defense, Derfner and Hauser illustrated a major principle of Israel’s far-left critics: When it comes to so-called pro-Palestinian activists, the iron rule is “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” – and of course, when it comes to Israel, the rule is “see only evil, hear only evil, and speak only evil.”

No surprise then that, in addition to his defense of Free Gaza’s antisemitism, Larry Derfner’s most recent writings include ruminations about his misgivings that “commemorating the Holocaust” and “Israeli bad taste…unfortunately tend to go together.” Right, let’s rush to dismiss blatant antisemitism propagated by “pro-Palestinian” activists and let’s instead focus on ridiculing efforts to cope with the difficulties of dealing with the trauma of a genocide that, still within living memory, wiped out one third of the world’s Jewish population.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

Please note that the examples of Free Gaza’s propagation of antisemitic material  provided here are in addition to the ones already documented by Avi Mayer.

UPDATE 2:

Since I wrote this post, Larry Derfner has responded by doing what presumably passes for real reporting at +972: he conducted a telephone interview with Greta Berlin, and proceeded to publish her lies:

“Regarding an FGM tweet about the infamous film “The Innocence of Muslims” that mentions ‘An Israeli film maker, 100 Jewish donors,’ she said those details were taken from the early reports in the New York Times and other mainstream news agencies, but that since then, of course, the story had changed. ‘The New York Times was fooled, too,’ she said.”

As my screenshot of the tweet documents, the source linked to in the tweet is not quite the New York Times, but a website called Redress; here’s the link provided in the tweet: “An Israeli film-maker, 100 Jewish donors and their Salafi allies.”  On this same site, you can also enjoy a follow-up post on “Israel’s Salafi foot soldiers in the wake of anti-Islam film,” where Nureddin Sabir, the site’s “editor”, argues:

“Israel must bear responsibility for creating the climate that gave rise to the anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims’. But it is Israel’s Salafi and Wahhabi foot soldiers behind the violent protests across the Arab and Muslim worlds who may eventually bring Arabs and Muslims down to their knees.”

Can you get any more nutty?

The other tweet on the Mossad being behind “Sam Bacile” links to a website called Cannonfire and a post entitled “Why I believe that Mossad was behind ‘Sam Bacile.’”

Most likely, none of this will impress Derfner, who writes:

“Even if I find some of her terminology about Gaza (‘slow-motion genocide’ and ‘extermination camps’) to be awfully exaggerated and dangerous, I see no evidence that she’s the monster she’s been made out to be. She’s a self-described anti-Zionist, but I see nothing she’s done or said that I, at least, would consider beyond the pale.”

And, concluding by sharing his impression of Berlin, Derfner writes:

“She doesn’t strike me as a person who scares easily, or who would disown something she believes in to stay in anyone’s good graces. If she genuinely believed in crackpot, anti-Semitic ideas, I think she’d say so and stick by it.”

Once I can think of a way to describe this conclusion politely, I’ll post an update.

UPDATE 3:

Just a short while ago, Avi Mayer published installment no.2 about the ongoing Free Gaza & Greta Berlin saga. He deals extensively with Larry Derfner’s embarrassing attempts to defend Berlin, so I won’t go here into any further detail, except mentioning one point: Derfner updated the post where he so faithfully parroted everything Berlin told him with a statement signed by some people who claim to be members of the “secret” Facebook group with whom Berlin was supposedly discussing the “evils of propaganda and racism.”

First it needs to be noted that the group is soooo secret that they are apparently unable to even provide a link to their site on Facebook; and secondly, I think they are (perhaps inadvertently) rather honest when they all but admit that the opinions they were (or would be) expressing on the subjects they were supposedly discussing would really not be publishable:

“Many of us know each other personally; our mutual trust allows discussions to involve subjects that are not appropriate for public consumption, sometimes simply because our opinions are not fully ripe; we experiment with them and bounce them off each other in an attempt to understand the issues at hand, developing a better and more coherent argument.” [my emphasis]

Right, I can see why people wouldn’t want to publish their “unripe” “experimental” opinions about Nazi propaganda…