Tag Archives: Palestinian

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.”

Let’s do a Max Blumenthal on Palestine

Note: This was first published on December 16, 2013, on my JPost blog, but when I just realized I had forgotten to cross-post it, I thought I should do so right away, since it makes excellent reading for the currently ongoing “Israel Apartheid Week”…

Since I wrote a few weeks ago about the publication of a vicious anti-Israel screed authored by Max Blumenthal, there have been some noteworthy new developments. As I noted back then, Blumenthal’s rant was endorsed not only by influential writers and supposedly respectable academics, but also by activists associated with sites like Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada that devote themselves single-mindedly to maligning the Jewish state. It was therefore hardly surprising when it turned out that these supposedly “progressive” Israel-haters cheered a book that also got much praise from notorious Jew-haters posting at various far-right fringe outlets, including David Duke’s website.

In the meantime, Blumenthal’s fans – among them Roger Waters – have done much to illustrate once again that it is indeed a very slippery slope from fanatic anti-Zionism to outright antisemitism. But in this context, one of the arguably most dismal developments is the fact that the New America Foundation (NAF) decided to give Max Blumenthal a platform to promote his book – which is to say that the leading Democratic think tank in Washington D.C. hosted an event promoting a book about Israel that was enthusiastically endorsed by notorious Jew-haters. As Ron Radosh rightly noted, one might ask if the NAF would have promoted the same book if it was not only praised, but authored by David Duke.*

Among the entirely expected results of the NAF event was that mainstream publications like Foreign Policy started to cheer Blumenthal’s smug dismissal of his critics as hate-filled right-wingers full of “hot air,” while The Atlantic seemed to suggest that opposing the promotion of Blumenthal’s David-Duke-endorsed views was tantamount to opposing free speech.

Soon enough, popular blogger Andrew Sullivan chimed in with a post entitled “Not So Mad Max,” which he followed up a few days later with another post that asked “Who’s Afraid Of The Truth?” Both Sullivan and the Atlantic’s James Fallows chose to imbed into their posts a video co-produced by Max Blumenthal and posted on YouTube under the title “Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land.” The clip has already more than half a million views.

Since Blumenthal’s new-found defenders seem to have a really hard time understanding what’s so offensive about presenting Israel as defined by fringe views and some ugly phenomena that exist in every country, I thought it might be helpful to imagine a Max-Blumenthal-style book on Palestine. So here we go: “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Palestine.”

Naturally, we start with a video clip – though I don’t really recommend that you watch it, since I myself felt sick before getting through less than half of it. Below is a screenshot from the scene at which I stopped, and you should first read the clip’s description to decide if you’re up to watching it:

“The footage, filmed by local civilians [in Gaza] … shows cattle tied to poles, trees and vehicles before being stabbed in the neck and eyes. One animal was kneecapped by shots from an assault rifle. Animals Australia said the footage […] was some of the worst seen in a series of animal welfare outrages involving Australian cattle. WARNING: CONTAINS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC IMAGES”

One might add that the footage shows not only grown men behaving like sadistic savages, but also lots of children excitedly watching the gruesome spectacle and cheering it on.

Gaza cattle abuse

Screenshot from Guardian video: “Abuse of Australian cattle exported to Gaza.”

 I think we can all agree that this makes a wonderful opening for our Max Blumenthal-inspired Palestinian Goliath – and we might view it as a most auspicious coincidence that the title of Blumenthal’s  first chapter is a perfect fit here: “To the Slaughter.” Of course, given the behavior of the children in the clip, one could also opt for the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 59: “Children Whose Hearts Were Unmoved.”

Emulating Max Blumenthal’s “journalism”, we then proceed to point out that Palestinians don’t just live out their brute impulses by torturing tied-up cattle, but that they behave in a similar way to those fellow Palestinians they view as enemies. This can be nicely illustrated with images from a “grisly spectacle” that took place in Gaza late last year, when, according to press reports, “masked Hamas gunmen…forced…six men suspected of collaborating with Israel to lie face down on the street, then shot them dead. Later, while an angry mob stomped and spat on five of the bodies, the sixth was tied to the back of a motorcycle” to be dragged through the streets. According to a CNN report, this was not the first such incident and some people cheered it with shouts of “God is great.”

Gaza lynch mob

Screenshot from Global Post report

Since the list of additional examples of Palestinian depravity is long, we’ll have an easy time getting a lot of short Max-Blumenthal-style chapters illustrating what Andrew Sullivan would presumably call the “truth” about the Palestinians.  Relevant stories include the sad fate of a doctor in Gaza who was kidnapped and “blindfolded, handcuffed and shot six times in the legs, including a kneecap, and then tossed on the street.” Since the doctor was a Hamas supporter, the Islamist group retaliated by kidnapping a Fatah-member and throwing him from the roof of a 15-storey apartment building. Indeed, according to press reports from the summer of 2007, “Hundreds of Hamas and Fatah supporters have been kidnapped in recent months by rival gunmen. The treatment of the hostages […] has become increasingly harsh, and captives are often shot in the legs.” Last year, Human Rights Watch also documented that “Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip commit rampant abuses against Palestinian prisoners, including beatings with metal clubs and rubber hoses, mock executions and arbitrary arrests.”

For the next few chapters of our Blumenthal-style documentation of Palestinian evils we could turn to the terrible treatment of the disabled – after all, it is very revealing how a society treats its most vulnerable members. Since this is a widely ignored subject, we can perhaps use the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 64 here: “The Big Quiet.” Indeed, a “Big Quiet” usually also prevails when it comes to acknowledging that Palestinian children born with disabilities are often paying the terrible price for a “strongly patriarchal culture that prods women into first-cousin marriages and allows polygamy.”

The many truly heartbreaking stories that could be highlighted here include the confinement of two handicapped Palestinian siblings “in an unlit and unventilated cellar” for some 20 years. Unfortunately, this is by no means an isolated case, since many Palestinians “regard people with intellectual disabilities as mad.” The desperate plight of disabled Palestinians is also reflected in a chilling proposal for dealing with the potentially widespread sexual abuse of disabled girls and women. When this issue “was raised on a national governmental level […] one of the suggestions to ‘protect’ a girl with disabilities was to remove her uterus so that if the girl were abused, at least she would not become pregnant.”

If we want to deal with this topic à la Max Blumenthal, we will have to end this chapter by insinuating that the fate of disabled Palestinians is similar to how the disabled fared in Nazi Germany.

We could then smoothly move on to topics that call for Max-Blumenthal-style examples of “fascism” – which in the case of the Palestinians should probably be “Islamofacism.” One of the chapters in this part of the book should perhaps echo the title of Blumenthal’s chapter 61: instead of “This Belongs To The White Man,” we’ll have “This Belongs To The Muslim Man.” We could first highlight the Hamas Charter, and – given its genocidal visions of “stones and trees” calling out “O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him” – Blumental’s chapter on “How To Kill Goyims” could become a chapter on “How To Kill Infidels.”

The next chapter could perhaps deal with the praise repeatedly heaped by Mahmoud Abbas on Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader who is also known as “Hitler’s Mufti” because he collaborated with the Nazis; here, Blumenthal’s chapter title “The Days of ’48 Have Come Again” could become “The Days of ’43 Have Never Gone”. Then we could move on to the enormous popularity Osama bin Laden enjoyed among Palestinians for the decade after 9/11 – maybe Blumenthal’s chapter title on “The Joint Struggle” could come in handy here.

Staying with our Blumenthal-inspired topic of “Islamofascism,” we might then highlight the rather dramatic results of a recent Pew study documenting massive popular support for reactionary Muslim views among Palestinians; the obvious topic to continue would be the recently reported “worrisome trend in rise of ‘honor killings’” perpetrated by Palestinians.

Naturally, the appalling prevalence of corruption and its corrosive effects on Palestinian society would also have to be addressed; likewise, it would be inexcusable to ignore the heartbreaking cruelty inflicted on poverty-stricken and ill Palestinians who have to watch helplessly as their modest dwellings are demolished by a merciless Hamas-government.

So there is obviously more than enough material to come up with a 500-page Blumenthal-style screed. But what are the chances that such a book – faithfully reflecting Blumenthal’s modus operandi with its relentless focus on portraying Palestinians only in the worst possible light – would be promoted by the NAF? What are the chances that Andrew Sullivan would insist that “Life and Loathing in Palestine” should be taken seriously and deserved to be reviewed in the New York Times? What are the chances that Blumenthal’s defenders would eagerly link to the appalling video clip from Gaza, insinuating that it provides a good illustration of how terrible Palestinians truly are?

As we all know, the chances are nil – because the rules that apply when it comes to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state are of course totally unacceptable when others are concerned.

*I have in the meantime written a paper on the NAF’s promotion of Blumenthal’s Goliath; see: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath and the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism

 

Yes, Israel will be blamed

Maybe it’s a bit late in the new year to make predictions, but anyone still looking for a safe bet might want to agree with an anonymous European diplomat who reportedly told his Israeli counterpart towards the end of last year that Israel will lose “the blame game” if the current peace negotiations end in failure. According to a Ha’aretz report, the European diplomat also threatened Israel with “a deluge of sanctions” in case “the negotiations with the Palestinians run aground,” irrespective of the reasons for the failure to reach an agreement.

For the Palestinians, this is of course good news – though it’s really just more of the same: after all, the UN has designated 2014 as “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” and a number of events decrying “the unprecedented historical injustice which the Palestinian people have endured since ‘Al-Nakba’ of 1948” have already been held at the organization’s headquarters in New York. The UN’s willingness to show “solidarity” with a people that has rejected a state of their own for 65 years illustrates that the anonymous European diplomat quoted above is merely following the long established practice of rewarding the Palestinians for their refusal to come to terms with the re-establishment of the Jewish state.

It seems that the Palestinians intend to stick with their rejectionist stance. In a candid interview with Asharq Al-Awsat , the Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki recently boasted that the Palestinians “previously said no 12 times to the Americans” and he proudly declared that they were “prepared to continue with this when it comes to our principles.” Among these “principles” is apparently the refusal to accept the fundamental idea that a peace agreement will establish two states for two peoples. When asked what the “most intractable” issue in the negotiations was, Al-Maliki replied:

“This is the issue of recognizing the Jewish nature of the Israeli state. This is a sharply contentious issue. It would be dangerous to recognize this because this would mean our acceptance of the dissolution of our own history and ties and our historic right to Palestine. This is something that we will never accept under any circumstances. Acceptance of this would also raise fears about the fate of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Israel. They are already second-class citizens, so how will they be affected by the Judaization of the state? This also raises questions about the [Palestinian] refugees and the right of return. So this is something that we absolutely cannot accept.”

This short statement provides an excellent illustration of the fantasies that underpin some of the central Palestinian negotiating positions. The most notable point is arguably the admission that recognizing Israel as the Jewish state implies acknowledging the millennia-old Jewish history in the region, which according to Al-Maliki would be tantamount to “the dissolution” of Palestinian history and the resulting claims. While Binyamin Netanyahu demonstrated in his Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009 that it is perfectly possible to stick to one’s own history and still concede that the present time requires difficult compromises, Al-Maliki is providing here a rare admission that Palestinian history is too flimsy to back up the Palestinian narrative of being an “indigenous” population that is fighting for their ancient rights against a foreign intruder.

The second noteworthy point is Al-Maliki’s worry about the “fate of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Israel.” The PLO has always upheld the fiction that it represents all Palestinians, whether they want it or not, and wherever they reside, even if they are citizens of other states. Therefore, it probably doesn’t matter much to Al-Maliki that not all Arabs in Israel define themselves as Palestinians, and that even those who do are apparently not very enthusiastic about living under Palestinian rule. Indeed, as a recent poll showed, even among those who like to complain loudly about being a minority in the Jewish state, many prefer this status to being citizens in a Palestinian state.

Finally, there is Al-Maliki’s point about the “refugees and the right of return.” Apparently he feels that recognizing Israel as the Jewish state would somehow complicate the demand that millions of descendants should “return” to the places that previous generations of Palestinians left to escape the war fought on their behalf against the fledgling Jewish state. While this demand is anyway completely unrealistic, Al-Maliki reaffirmed – as many Palestinian officials have done before – that the Palestinians would continue to insist on this imaginary “right” to turn the Jewish state into yet another Arab-Muslim state.

An even clearer rejection of the two-state solution and a negotiated peace was conveyed in a recent New York Times op-ed by former Palestinian Authority minister Ali Jarbawi.  Under the title “The Coming Intifada,” Jarbawi started out by claiming that the Palestinians have long wanted a state of their own and were eager to see the peace negotiations succeed. However, according to Jarbawi, the Palestinians made a “strategic mistake” at the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993 when they supposedly conceded “78 percent of the land of historical Palestine.” Jarbawi probably knows full well that this argument is as good as if a former Israeli minister were to claim that Israel conceded Jordan to the Arabs, but he needs this fictitious concession to justify the very real rejection of any realistic two-state solution.  According to Jarbawi,

“Israel’s current conditions for a Palestinian state would shatter Palestinians’ basic demands for liberty and independence. The promised Palestinian state will be nothing but a shadow entity completely ruled by Israel. And the price that is being demanded for this state is so exorbitant that the Palestinian Authority cannot sell it, nor can the Palestinians accept it.

These pockets of land would be demilitarized, and Israel would have control over the borders, skies and natural resources. To get this, Palestinians must give up the right of return of diaspora Palestinians, and publicly declare that Israel is a Jewish state. This is a toxic cocktail perfectly mixed to produce a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation, and the Authority as well — if the latter accepts these Israeli demands and yields to American pressure.”

Jarbawi’s article is arguably an important read, because it shows a former Palestinian minister declaring once more quite openly that a demilitarized Palestinian state comprising most of the previously Jordanian-occupied West Bank and Egyptian-controlled Gaza is simply completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. Unintentionally, Jarbawi also illustrates how Palestinian propaganda works: while he clearly says the Palestinians would violently reject any realistic two-state solution, he also deviously claims that it’s their shattered hopes for a two-state solution that would result in an explosion of violence – and he can probably expect quite a bit of sympathy for this “explanation” from his New York Times readers.

Just from the past few weeks, there are plenty of additional examples illustrating that the Palestinian leadership is also preparing its own public for the failure of the current negotiations and the possible resumption of violence. Some senior Palestinian officials who are close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have recently called the current peace talks “futile,” advocating instead a return to “all kinds of resistance.” Barely two weeks ago, Abbas was listening and applauding when his Minister of Religious Affairs gave a speech urging jihadis fighting in Syria to turn to Jerusalem:

“Whoever wants resistance, whoever wants Jihad, the direction for Jihad is well-known and clear… Those who send young people to Syria or elsewhere to die for a misdirected cause must stop and understand that Jerusalem is still waiting. Jerusalem is the direction, Jerusalem is the address.”

A week later, the official Facebook page of Fatah publicized a clip that shows members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades vowing that they will “turn Tel Aviv into a ball of fire.”

Tel Aviv Fatah threats

Palwatch screenshot

But it’s not just in the UN “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” that Palestinian rejectionism and calls for violence are politely overlooked and even rewarded. If the negotiations don’t produce any results and the Palestinians once again resort to terrorism, they can count on the UN and much of the international media to get plenty of attention and sympathy for their continuing efforts to blame and delegitimize Israel.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog; also at the Polish blog Listy z naszegu sadu

Christmas propaganda from Palestine

It’s this time of year again when Palestinians and their supporters gear up to use Christianity’s most popular holy day for their own ugly political purposes. Elsewhere it may be the season of goodwill to all, but for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), it’s just another welcome opportunity to stir up ill will towards Israel and the Jews.

For this purpose, the PLO has just released a short animated clip, which the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (PLO-NAD) helpfully tweeted with the hashtag #ChristmasUnderOccupation.

PLO Xmas propaganda

The clip shows Santa passing all the usual symbols of Palestinian victimization: the evil kippa-wearing Israeli settler, armed and accompanied by a fearsome dog; a checkpoint guarded by an armed Israeli soldier; a sad girl with her teddy bear in front of a ruined house, and of course the security barrier built in response to the terrorist carnage of the Al-Aqsa intifada. But the best part of the clip is arguably the short text that accompanies it, which explains that on Christmas, “Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps one should view this as a huge improvement over some of the other “Jesus was a Palestinian”-fantasies that are part of the annual Palestinian Christmas propaganda routine – last year, for example, an op-ed in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida proclaimed:

“Jesus is a Palestinian; the self-sacrificing Yasser Arafat is a Palestinian; Mahmoud Abbas, the messenger of peace on earth, is a Palestinian. How great is this nation of the holy Trinity!”

Given that Palestinians are used to being indulged by the world, there is indeed no reason why they should care that elsewhere, practicing Christians acknowledge history and think that it is important to remember

“that the first Christmas was first and foremost a Jewish event. Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the shepherds, the baby: they were all Jewish. And as the baby Jesus moved toward adolescence and adulthood, it was Jewish religion, Jewish literature, Jewish culture and Jewish history that shaped his personality and his mind.”

The fact that the historic Jesus was a Jew is of course also reflected in the concept of shared Judeo-Christian values. But all this is merrily ignored by Palestinians and their supporters, who don’t seem the least bit embarrassed to press Jesus into the service of Palestinian nationalism – never mind the fact that the declared goal of this nationalism is a state with Islam as “the official religion” and the “principles of Islamic Shari’a” as “the main source of legislation.”

In this context, it is rather interesting to ponder the popular Palestinian propaganda fantasies about the terrible hardships that would be inflicted by cruel Israeli soldiers on a present-day Joseph and the pregnant Mary on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  For this Christmas season, the PLO-NAD chose to retweet a tweet by the virulently anti-Israel (not to say antisemitic) website “If Americans knew,” which apparently sponsored a billboard in Atlanta depicting Joseph and Mary being blocked from reaching Bethlehem by the security barrier.

PLO Xmas propaganda2

That Palestinian propagandists would choose such an image is a perfect illustration of their confidence that when it comes to maligning Israel, neither facts nor Christian beliefs matter. After all, the historical Joseph and Mary were Jews, and according to the Christian Bible, they travelled “out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he [Joseph] was of the house and lineage of David); To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”

Can you imagine what would happen nowadays to a Jew from Nazareth who claims to be of the lineage of David and goes to Bethlehem because he regards it as the “city of David” and therefore his hometown?

I’m afraid the best case scenario is that the international media would denounce him and his pregnant wife Mary as extremist settlers who have only themselves to blame if anything happened to them and their newborn baby. And one thing is for sure: if this present-day Joseph tried to buy any property in Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem, any Palestinian willing to sell to him would risk being either lynched or sentenced to death for the crime of selling property to a Jew.

But the arguably most distasteful aspect of the annual Palestinian Christmas propaganda is the implicit belittling of the desperate situation of Christians all over the Muslim Middle East. To be sure, the West’s politically correct elites also don’t like to dwell on the fact that Christians nowadays suffer more persecution than any other religious group, and of course it counts for little that Christianity was born in the Middle East long before the region was conquered by Islam. By now it seems that the millennia-old native Christian communities may be facing the same fate suffered by the ancient Jewish communities of the Muslim Middle East. As Robin Harris put it in a Spectator column: “The ‘Sunday’ people are now following the ‘Saturday’ people out of the Middle East.”

Well, as a matter of fact, the “Saturday people” are still clinging to a tiny patch of the Middle East – and Palestinian propagandists work not just on Christmas, but all year round to create the impression that this is what ails the region.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog.

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.

Arab Idol politics

There may be carnage in Syria and plenty of unrest, violence and instability in much of the rest of the Arab world, but there is also the “Arab Idol” singing contest that has provided some welcome distraction for lovers of Arab pop music over the past few weeks. This year’s contest generated particular excitement when a young wedding singer from Gaza reached the finals – and naturally, even the Western media rushed to report his story in the most glowing terms (while Syrian finalist Farah Yousef was apparently deemed less media-worthy).

Already in May, The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood reported happily about the “Gaza refugee tipped to win Arab Idol.” The 23-year-old Mohammed Assaf who was reportedly born in Libya and grew up in Gaza can hardly be considered a “refugee” under any reasonable definition,  but Sherwood was of course right to anticipate that Assaf would win the contest – and tonight around midnight, he was not only declared the new “Arab Idol” but also “the UN’s first Palestinian ambassador.”

According to a story reported by Ma’an news agency as well as other Arab media sites:

“A diplomatic source in Beirut, where MBC’s Arab Idol is filmed, told Ma’an the agreement was signed days ago to make Assaf the first-ever Palestinian refugee to become a UN ambassador. He will become the Palestine refugee agency UNRWA’s first-ever regional youth ambassador, the source said.

‘A man with a golden voice is going to take the Palestinians’ voice to the universe. At long last, a fantastic story out of Gaza that will touch the hearts of the world,’ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the ambassadorship has not yet been announced.

‘It is is a wonderful day for Palestine and for the UN,’ he added.”

The “man with a golden voice”-theme was already sounded by the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood back in May.  Sherwood also told her readers that Assaf’s “repertoire consisted mainly of patriotic songs,” including presumably this one that places Israeli cities in “Palestine” (– and please;) do click the link to listen to the song):

“My country Palestine is beautiful
Turn to Safed and then to Tiberias,
And send regards to the sea of Acre and Haifa
Don’t forget Nazareth – the Arab fortress,
And tell Beit Shean about its people’s return
By Allah, oh traveling [bird], I burn with envy
My country Palestine is beautiful.”

UNRWA chief Filippo Grandi apparently sees no problem with such a song. According to an Al Arabiya report, Grandi declared that “Mohammed’s music is a universal language and speaks to all of us. How fantastic that a Palestine refugee from Gaza should bring us all together in this way.”

Of course, we can only imagine how very differently Mr. Grandi would react if an Israeli Jew won a singing contest with a repertoire that included a song about the Land of Israel and its ancient Jewish sites in Judea and Samaria…

But according to Harriet Sherwood’s report from May, the new Arab Idol actually longs to perform love songs – which is of course not appreciated in Islamist-ruled Gaza:

“Hamas, he [Mohammed Assaf] said last year, discouraged artists and musicians, and he had been arrested more than 20 times by Hamas security officials. ‘Once I was arrested for a week. They kept asking me to sign a pledge not to sing. But my message as a Palestinian is that we not only speak or fight or shoot, but we also sing.’”

The emphasis here is presumably on “also sing” because Sherwood rushes to assure her readers that “Assaf has not abandoned his roots or his beliefs. He has spoken against the Israeli occupation and has supported hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.” According to Sherwood, Assaf declared: “If I had to choose between winning the Arab Idol title and the freedom of [prisoner] Samer Issawi, I would choose freedom for the Palestinian hero whose steadfastness is peerless […] I can’t differentiate between my art and my patriotic attitude.”

Like most Palestinian heroes, Samer Issawi is of course a convicted terrorist.

It would certainly be unrealistic to expect the newly crowned Arab Idol and UNRWA Goodwill Ambassador Mohammed Assaf to break with the long tradition of glorifying Palestinian terrorists. Indeed, Assaf is apparently widely seen as having “helped locals forget how Palestinians, once united against the Israeli occupation of their land, are busy fighting one another.” An Atlantic report even quotes a Ramallah resident as claiming that “[no] other figure since Arafat has been this popular.”

Yet, not everyone is enthusiastic: according to an AP report, the recent Friday sermon at Jerusalem’s  Al Aqsa Mosque included a sharp rebuke that “Palestinians lost sight of their struggle for independence by getting preoccupied with the show.” Echoing views that have also been expressed by Hamas, the preacher reportedly insisted: “Voting for songs and immorality, evil and sin is not only forbidden, it is a crime against the cause of our people.”

Given the dearth of good news from the Middle East, it’s definitely good news when a lot of Arabs get excited about something the Islamists abhor – and it’s even better news if this is a show that is clearly modeled on “American Idol.”

I think it’s even good news that UNRWA was so eager to press the new Arab Idol into their service. As I noted above, this entirely inappropriate step has already provided some good illustrations of UNRWA’s problematic role in perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem. Indeed, UNRWA officials have openly acknowledged that they work hard to foster a distinct Palestinian refugee identity based on the myth of a “right to return” for generations of Palestinians who have never seen the places in Israel they want to “return” to. The new Arab Idol is an excellent example: born in Libya to Palestinian parents who presumably worked there, Assaf reportedly spent most of his young life in Gaza, which is supposedly part of Palestine. Yet, he and his family live in a “refugee camp” – demonstrating perfectly that even when Palestinians live in Palestine under Palestinian rule, they will continue to insist that they are “refugees,” and UNRWA will eagerly support them in this ridiculous claim. It is downright obscene that this decades-old scam continues at a time when aid agencies anticipate that the number of refugees fleeing the carnage in Syria will soon pass two million.

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First published on my JPost blog on June 22, 2013.

 

Soccer and terrorism: what UEFA needs to know [updated]

Thanks to an energetic campaign by anti-Israel activists, even someone like me who doesn’t really keep up with sports and soccer news can know that this year’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals are scheduled to take place in Israel this June.

Naturally, the BDS-crowd that wants Israel held to bigoted double standards can’t stand the idea, and at sites like the Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah and friends have begun to churn out their usual fare of propaganda, petitions and piffle to rally the BDS-faithful for yet another campaign.

When it comes to football, it’s perhaps particularly easy to illustrate that BDS is indeed all about applying bigoted double standards to Israel.  After all, while there have been displays of despicable racism by Israeli football fans, very similar problems have long plagued the sport in Europe and elsewhere, as even the title of this BBC analysis from 2000 nicely illustrates: “Soccer violence an international problem.”

Yet, the BBC and other media outlets like nothing better than to report over and over again on the transgressions of Israeli fans. But when Egyptian football fans display a huge banner calling for a new Holocaust, it’s not worth mentioning. Similarly, there is no interest when Jibril Rajoub, the President of the Palestinian Football Federation and the Palestinian Olympic Committee elicits chuckles and roaring applause when he promises that he will provide helicopters for visiting committee members “so they will see no Jews, no Satans, no Zionist sons of bitches.”

Given the determined disinterest of the media in reporting anything that might show the pervasive demonization of Jews and Israel among Palestinians, the activists who want to pressure UEFA into boycotting Israel take no risk when they use Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak to push their campaign. And the BBC is there to help: as blogger Adam Holland noted in a post last July, the BBC “reported on Israel’s release of Mahmoud al-Sarsak and his return to Gaza, portraying him as a hunger-striking soccer player who was never formally charged with a crime. […]  All that is true, of course, but only a partial recounting of the facts.”

Holland goes on to quote a related AP report:

“Dozens of Islamic militants fired rifles in the air Tuesday in a rousing homecoming for a member of the Palestinian national soccer team who was released by Israel after being held for three years without formal charges.

The player, Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, had staged a hunger strike for more than 90 days to press for his release, winning support from international sports organizations.

Israel accused Sarsak of being active in the violent Islamic Jihad group, a charge he denied while in custody.

However, senior Islamic Jihad officials were present during a welcoming ceremony for him in Gaza City on Tuesday, and one of the group’s leaders, Nafez Azzam, praised the soccer player as ‘one of our noble members.’

Later Tuesday, as Sarsak approached his family home in the Rafah refugee camp, dozens of Islamic Jihad gunmen fired in the air from SUVs and motorcycles. Women waved black Islamic Jihad banners from nearby homes and streets were decorated with huge photos of the player.”

Combining soccer and terrorism isn’t all that unusual for Palestinians, as documented by this very long list of sport events, programs and facilities named after terrorists. Football events on this list include a youth tournament in August 2012 named after three terrorists who murdered a 45 year-old father of 7; another football tournament for youth in March 2011 named after the first Palestinian female suicide bomber Wafa Idris who used her position as a volunteer for the Palestinian Red Crescent to bypass Israeli security; the May 2010 “Shahid…Abu Al-Qassam…tournament for security services teams;” and the regularly held “Abu Jihad football tournament.”

Beyond using sport events to honor terrorists, sport facilities have also been used to store weapons and explosives and to launch rockets targeting Israeli civilians.

 Gaza stadium

Screenshot IDF tweet

But needless to say, the fact that Gaza terrorists use a stadium to fire missiles on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem doesn’t prevent the likes of Ali Abunimah to accuse Israel of wantonly destroying the stadium and demanding that therefore, “Israel must not host UEFA tournaments” – and of course, Abunimah is not at all embarrassed to back up his call by referring to Mahmoud Sarsak, one of Islamic Jihad’s “noble members.”

But indeed, why should Abunimah be embarrassed to promote an Islamic Jihad member cynically appealing to “people of conscience”? When it comes to the Palestinians, anything goes: the Palestinian Authority (PA) was not even embarrassed to honor Amin Al-Hindi, one of the senior planners of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, with “an imposing official military funeral.” As one commentary in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida put it when Al-Hindi passed away in August 2010:

“Everyone knows that Amin Al-Hindi was one of the stars who sparkled at one of the stormiest points on the international level – the operation that was carried out at the [Olympics] sports stadium in Munich, Germany, in 1972. That was just one of many shining stations.”

Given this unabashed veneration for the planners of the Munich massacre, it is all the more disgraceful that Jibril Rajoub – the man who wants to see “no Jews, no Satans, no Zionist sons of bitches” – claimed that commemorating the 40th anniversary of this atrocity would amount to “racism.” But of course, the western media had no interest in finding out how Palestinian authorities and Palestinian society today view the terror strike at the Munich Olympics – after all, it wouldn’t have been all that pleasant to acknowledge the official Palestinian praise for the “stars who sparkled” so gloriously in the Munich massacre.

Naturally, the BDS activists who try to pressure UEFA into boycotting Israel also have nothing to say about the pervasive glorification of terrorism, and the cooperation with terrorism, that is so common in Palestinian sport.  But whether it is sports or any other area, BDS always means bigoted double standards: grotesquely magnifying Israeli problems that are not dissimilar to shortcomings in other countries, while ignoring gross abuses by Palestinians.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

Update:

Since I first posted this, I realized that there could be almost daily updates to this story. Here’s just one from The Guardian’s Comment is free (Cif), written by Cif blogger Giles Fraser whose posts get filed under “belief” in Fraser’s “Loose canon” series….

Under the headline “Why Theodor Herzl’s writings still have an urgent message,” Fraser writes about antisemitic chants by Hungarian football fans and other recent manifestations of antisemitism in Hungary; he then goes on to argue that because of such incidents, “re-reading Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish Question in a Budapest cafe, opposite the astonishingly beautiful Dohány Street Synagogue, feels, once again, so topical.”

And just a few hours ago, Robert Mackey of the NYT Lede blog found it worthwhile to post a tweet about some Palestinian youngsters who protested a planned game by the Barcelona club in Tel Aviv.

Mackey Pal soccer

 As the link tweeted by Mackey explains oh-so-helpfully:

“11 soccer playing youths from Bil’in torched 11 FC Barcelona football jerseys at the Apartheid-Annexation Wall in disgust at that club’s proposed playing of an exhibition game in Israel’s national stadium, Tel Aviv, on July 31st. FC Barcelona is a serial offender in normalising the occupation, toadying up to Israel and drawing an equivalence between colonised and colonizer, victim and victimiser. As the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) put it: Cultural events and projects involving Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis that promote ‘balance’ between the ‘two sides’ in presenting their respective narratives, as if on par, or are otherwise based on the false premise that the colonizers and the colonized, the oppressors and the oppressed, are equally responsible for the ‘conflict,’ are intentionally deceptive, intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible. Such events and projects, often seeking to encourage dialogue or ‘reconciliation between the two sides’ without addressing the requirements of justice, promote the normalization of oppression and injustice.”

I could be COMPLETELY wrong, but somehow I suspect that Mackey hasn’t yet shown any interest in the rampant racism and glorification of terrorism that is sadly such an integral part of Palestinian sport.

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h/t Adam Holland for the Mackey tweet.

War, the western media, and Palestinian public opinion

When it comes to covering Israel’s efforts to rein in the rocket barrage that Hamas and other Islamist terror groups in Gaza have been directing at Israeli towns for years, the western media like to focus on stories and images that highlight the suffering of Palestinian civilians. As acknowledged in several Washington Post articles published during Israel’s November 2012 campaign against the activities of Gaza terror groups, this entails a more or less open appeal to emotions.

Addressing the controversy about a front page photo showing a grief-stricken father from Gaza cradling the shrouded body of his baby son, Patrick Pexton explained that the image was chosen because it “went straight to the heart.” In the same piece Pexton noted that while the rocket barrage from Gaza was “disruptive and traumatic” for Israeli civilians, most of the rockets could be dismissed as just “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”

Another related article by Max Fisher was devoted to “The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo.” In addition to the photo of the grieving father from Gaza, Fisher contemplated two other images that showed a dead Palestinian boy and an injured Israeli girl.

WaPo Gaza-Israel child victims

Fisher argued that each of the three images “tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on.” In the case of the two dead Palestinian children, the assumption was of course that Israel was the “heartless enemy” responsible for the fatal injuries. Noting that there were controversies about the question if the two Palestinian children had really been killed by Israeli strikes, Fisher lamented that the “old arguments of the Middle East are so entrenched that the photos, for all their emotional power, were almost immediately pressed into the service of one side or another.”

But when it eventually turned out that all three children were indeed victims of Palestinian strikes, Fisher insisted that it wasn’t really all that important “whose rocket or missile” was to blame, asserting that “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.”

To put it cynically, Fisher has a point: it would obviously be quite “messy” to squarely deal with the fact that all the three images – which, according to his own characterization, “defined … the renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas” – really showed the victims of Palestinian rockets.

But cynicism aside, it is downright obscene to suggest that it would be much “purer, cleaner, lower-risk” to let the “emotional power” of images of dead children work its magic. One just has to recall the hatred and fanaticism incited with the al-Durah-footage from 2000 to understand why some critics call this approach “lethal journalism.” One could also argue that less emotion and more reason would easily produce the realization 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.

The media’s eagerness to elicit empathy with Palestinian suffering is also problematic because there is plenty of evidence that confrontations with Israel are rather popular among Palestinians – and needless to say, this evidence is generally ignored.

For years, Palestinian public opinion has been regularly monitored. The most recent poll from Gaza and the West Bank shows that “40% support a return to an armed intifada.” A previous poll published last December, shortly after the end of Israel’s recent military campaign against Hamas, highlights among its main findings that the “events of the past several weeks have given Hamas a significant boost […] The fourth quarter of 2012 shows a dramatic change in public attitude favoring Hamas. Haniyeh’s popularity increases significantly allowing him to defeat Abbas if new presidential elections are held today. […] Needless to say, the outcome of the latest Gaza war between Hamas and Israel is responsible for this change.”

A detailed analysis of the poll documents that “Hamas has gained a great political victory in its war with Israel: 81% believe that it came out the winner and only 3% believe that Israel came out the winner […] Percentage of those who believe that Hamas came out a winner stands at 75% in the Gaza Strip and 84% in the West Bank. […]

Similar findings have been documented for years. Take for example a poll published in the wake of the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Even though the media were dominated by reports and commentaries decrying the destruction and hardships inflicted on Lebanon, a staggering 86% of Palestinians viewed Hezbollah as the “winner in the Lebanon war.”  Fully 90% rejected the view that the war had been the result of “an uncalculated adventure by Hezbollah;” 73% believed the war “strengthens the resistance option in Palestine;” 75% expressed support for emulating Hezbollah by “taking Israeli soldiers prisoners in order to exchange them with Palestinian prisoners” and 63% said that “the Palestinians should emulate Hezbollah’s methods by using rockets against Israeli cities.”

It is noteworthy that Palestinian enthusiasm for firing rockets from Gaza was obviously not diminished by Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory in September 2005 and the fact that in spring 2006, Israeli voters handed an election victory to the Kadima party that had been newly formed to promote the disengagement from Gaza and additional withdrawals from the West Bank. In this context, it should also be recalled that just two months earlier, Palestinian voters overwhelming endorsed Hamas.

One of the successful Hamas candidates for this election was Mariam Farhat, better known as the proud and defiant “Mother of Martyrs” or “Umm Nidal,” named after her son Nidal who was considered the inventor of the Qassam rocket. An Israeli reporter who commented on Farhat’s recent death recalled his encounter with her during the election campaign:

“The scene was unforgettable. I saw a woman in her mid-fifties, full of bluster, wandering among the people of the refugee camps with a semi-automatic rifle in her hands and a white veil covering her head. Crowds of admirers tagged along, clearing a way for her wherever she went, as if she were some living saint.”

Umm Nidal had become a celebrity when she declared in 2005, at the funeral of her third son killed due to terrorist activities: “I have four sons left … I hope that they all become martyrs.”

When she passed away in mid-March, she was reportedly honored not just with a full military funeral and a eulogy by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, but also by words of praise and appreciation from Palestinian officials in the West Bank.

How many Palestinians really share the gruesome views of “Umm Nidal” is debatable, but given the pervasive glorification of “martyrdom” achieved through terrorism and “jihad” in Palestinian society, she can hardly be dismissed as a fringe figure.

A rare glimpse of this widely ignored reality could be caught when New York Times (NYT) reporter Jodi Rudoren noted in a Facebook post last November that it seemed to her that Palestinians in Gaza were sometimes rather “ho-hum” about their casualties. Needless to say, Rudoren’s observation caused great outrage, followed by a swift apology on the part of the NYT, which assigned a social media supervisor to the appropriately contrite Rudoren.

Reportedly, Rudoren readily acknowledged that she “should have talked about steadfastness or resiliency” and that she “just wasn’t careful enough.”

Rudoren clearly broke a taboo by making an observation that didn’t quite fit with the media’s mission to focus on Palestinian suffering caused by Israel.

But another remark that doesn’t quite fit with this mission went largely unnoticed – perhaps because it was made in “The Gatekeepers,” a film that was widely praised for providing harshly critical views of Israeli policies and the fight against Palestinian terrorism. However, one of the film’s seven segments is entitled “Our Victory Is to See You Suffer” – and this title quotes a remark by the well-known Palestinian psychiatrist and award-winning peace and human rights activist Eyad Sarraj. According to Ami Ayalon in “The Gatekeepers,” it was Sarraj who explained to him during a meeting devoted to developing a peace initiative at the time of the bloody Al Aqsa Intifada that, irrespective of the price paid by Palestinians, they saw it as their “victory” to make Israelis suffer.

As amply documented by the many polls and plenty of other evidence studiously ignored by the media, Sarraj was clearly telling the truth – though it is of course a truth that the western media don’t want to tell.

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First published at The Algemeiner.

 

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.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.