Tag Archives: pro-Palestinian

Cheering Assad for Palestine

The English version of Al Akhbar – a site that has been aptly described as the “Lebanese address for the red-green alliance of leftists and Islamists” – published this week a post that provides an excellent example of the delusions induced by full-fledged Palestine derangement syndrome.

The author of the post is Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a former assistant professor of political science at the Lebanese American University and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center (CMEC), where she was billed as a “leading expert on Hizbollah.”  She now has a blog named “Counter-hegemony unit: A propagandist-in-chief’s war on intellectual imperialism and pursuit of a resistance episteme.”

Yes, it sounds promising – and her post in Al Akhbar doesn’t disappoint. She begins by arguing that the divisions caused by the Syrian uprisings have led to the formation of an “anti-interventionist ‘third-way’ camp,” and she then explains why this is a most dreadful development [my emphasis]:

“Third-wayers, comprised of intellectuals and activists from academia, the mainstream media and NGOs, support elements in the home-grown opposition, reject the Syrian National Council (SNC) on account of its US-NATO-Israeli-Arab backing, and reject the Assad leadership on account of its repression of dissent and its alleged worthlessness to the Resistance project.

While the third-way camp is anti-Zionist and pro-Palestine in orientation, this hardly constitutes a political position. The Palestinian cause has become deeply etched in the Arab collective subconscious and has even become an increasingly pervasive slogan in western liberal activist discourse. Now the real litmus [test] of Arab intellectuals’ and activists’ commitment to the Palestinian cause is no longer their support for Palestinian rights, but rather, their support for the Assad leadership’s struggle against the imperialist-Zionist-Arab moderate axis’ onslaught against it.

Supporting Assad’s struggle against this multi-pronged assault is supporting Palestine today because Syria has become the new front line of the war between Empire and those resisting it. The third-way progressive intellectuals are failing to see the Syrian crisis through this strategic lens. They have shown an inability to “take a step back from the details and look at the bigger picture,” to quote Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.”

And no, you don’t have to read the whole thing, it goes on and on like this – a great illustration of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the anti-Zionism-anti-Americanism-fixation that is a core tenet of the leftist-Islamist alliance and its pro-Palestinian activism.

It seems that Ha’aretz columnist Ari Shavit is blissfully unaware of the appeal of this ideological fixation among the “pro-Palestinian” crowd. Under the title “A deafening silence,” he writes in his recent column:

“During one year, the secular Arab nationalism of Bashar Assad has spilled more innocent blood than the Zionists have in decades. This Arab tyrant, who in the past was the darling of Arab Knesset members, is massacring his fellow Arabs in a way that Israel never did. Arab cities are being bombed, Arab women are murdered, Arab children are slaughtered. An Arab society is being shredded, and an Arab state shattered into fragments.

Despite all this, the The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel is not demanding that the United Nations intervene to stop the bloodshed. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, is not petitioning the International Criminal Court in the Hague to put the war criminals on trial. Large Land Day type demonstrations have not been called. Protesters who take part in mass marches every October aren’t marching. Arab students who mark the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 aren’t coming out against the Syrian Nakba of 2012. Israel’s Arab minority and its anti-Zionist left are watching as thousands of Arab are massacred – and are standing idly by.”

Shavit then goes on to argue that the failure to protest the slaughter in Syria reveals the hypocrisy of the anti-Israel crowd:

“But the Syrian tragedy has serious ramifications for Israel’s anti-Zionist community as well. The inability of this community to directly confront Arab evil undermines the moral basis for its battle against Israeli evil. Its unwillingness to demand that universal values be upheld in Hama and in Homs pulls the rug out from under its demands that universal values be upheld in Ramallah and Nazareth. Its silence when faced with the butcher of Damascus makes its condemnations of the State of Israel sound hollow. […]

Communism in the West was destroyed in the 1950s because it tolerated Stalin’s bloody dictatorship. Tolerance in the face of Assad’s bloody murderousness is liable to have the same effect on Arab-Jewish radicalism in Israel.”

I sure wish Shavit was right – but I doubt it. After all, the oppressive and brutal nature of the Assad-regime was never really in doubt, and the same holds true for Libya’s Gadhafi or the Iranian regime.

Yet, in 2010, a large delegation of Israeli-Arab leaders – including Knesset members – met with Gadhafi to affirm that they are “part of the Arab world” and to share with him their “problems.” One of the problems was apparently that Israeli-Arab Knesset members couldn’t visit all the Arab dictators and autocrats – which, as one of them fumed “angers us and violates our basic rights.” But as everybody knew, Gadhafi, ever the humanitarian, had already formulated a solution for all those terrible problems and human rights violations: get rid of the Jewish state and replace it with “Isratine.”

To be sure, there was a bit of embarrassment a year later, and all of a sudden, some members of the delegation felt it was time to come forward with some less glowing impressions from their visit.

Yet, there is also MK Haneen Zoabi, who reportedly said that in her view, “Iran’s role in Palestinian affairs was ‘more useful’ than that of regimes like Jordan and Egypt, in that Iran stood more firmly ‘against occupation than a lot of the Arab countries. This is our interest.’” She also reportedly believes that Iran’s quest for nuclear arms is to be welcomed since the specter of “Mutually Assured Destruction” would be the only way to curb Israel’s aggression.

These were the views Zoabi expressed in spring 2009, and she probably didn’t like it very much that a few months later, crowds of Iranian regime opponents used the Khomenei-ordained “Quds Day” – when Iranians are supposed to show their support for the Palestinian cause – to chant “Na Gaza, na Lebnan, jaanam fadaaye Iran” (Not Gaza nor Lebanon, I give my life for Iran).

But of course, the Iranian regime prevailed with its unrestrained brutality, and its well-practiced thugs can now afford to help Assad suppress the Syrian uprising.

Who cares as long as Iran’s role in Palestinian affairs is “useful”…

Palestine ÜBER ALLES!!!

UPDATE:

A piece published today by the British writer and researcher Shiraz Maher provides yet another example of the same ideological fixation for the British politician and Viva Palestina campaigner George Galloway. Maher notes that Viva Palestina’s most recent “aid” convoy to Gaza was scheduled to pass through Syria, but that apparently nobody in the organization thought of “aiding the tens of thousands of Syrians who have been systematically tortured, abused, or displaced in that country.” As Maher points out:

“This is boilerplate hypocrisy for Galloway who has spent his career in obsequious servitude to any tyrant on condition that he has money, is anti-Israel, and anti-Western. In Iraq he famously told Saddam Hussein, ‘Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability – a man who arguably killed more Muslims and Arabs than any other leader in the region. But Saddam is no more, so on to the next. In Iran, where President Ahmadinejad crushed the ‘Green revolution’ Galloway has showered the regime with fawning praise and unfettered encomiums. In Damascus, where no political parties are allowed, where no elections take place, and where human rights are a mere fantasy, he told a handpicked audience, ‘Syria is lucky to have Bashar Al-Assad as her president.’”

(h/t Martin Kramer)

Another very relevant piece is a previous article by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, where she sets out to explain, or rather justify, “Why Hezbollah Supports the Assad Regime.” Her central point is that

“Syria’s strategic value does not merely lie in its arms’ supply role [for Hezbollah], but derives from its status as the Arab linchpin of the resistance front, or to borrow Nasrallah’s words, “the only resistance regime in the region”. On balance, “the Syrian leadership can be credited with the preservation and maintenance of the Palestinian cause,” for Hezbollah. So indispensable was the Assad regime to Palestine that Nasrallah boldly declares: “the continuation of this Syrian position” (and by implication, the preservation of the regime), is “the precondition to the continuation of the Palestinian cause.” Accordingly, any threat to the regime’s security and survival is a “danger” not only to Syria, but to Palestine and — considering its role in ending the Lebanese civil war — to Lebanon as well.”

(h/t Bella Center)

The relatively short article published in Al Akhbar is supposedly only part of a larger “study” that, according to a note at the end of the piece, “was originally published by the Conflicts Forum.” However, following the link only leads to the homepage of the notorious organization and a “page not found” notice; a search on the website also fails to turn up the piece. Could it be that Saad-Ghorayeb’s unabashed shilling for Hezbollah and Assad was a bit too much even for the conflict-promoting Conflicts Forum?

Anyone unfamiliar with this organization should check out the excellent exposé by Hussein Ibish and Michael Weiss, who point out:

“Conflicts Forum, which received $708,000 from the EU between 2007 and 2009, is the brainchild of Alastair Crooke, a former long-serving British intelligence agent and adviser to the former EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. In recent years Crooke has emerged as the leading Western champion of Arab and Muslim extremists and anti-Western regimes. Conflicts Forum, in other words, does not seek to resolve conflicts but rather exacerbates them. […]

Most of the publications on the Conflicts Forum website reflect official Iranian ideology and foreign policy, including articles explaining ‘Iran’s commitment to the Palestinian cause,’ attacking the Palestinian Authority, strongly supporting Hamas, celebrating the ‘principled foreign policy of Ayatollah Khamenei,’ and casting the Arab Spring as an Iranian-style ‘Islamic awakening.’”

Bigoted Double Standards: Ben White hits rock bottom for BDS

Staunch anti-Israel activist Ben White has been busy recently advocating a boycott of a performance by Israel’s Habima Theatre during the Globe Theatre World Shakespeare Festival in London. As I have noted in a related post, the campaign against Habima is part of the broader BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) efforts that have targeted Israel in order to delegitimize the Jewish state for the sake of “a world without Zionism.”

While it is therefore hardly surprising when BDS activists appeal to antisemitic sentiments, Ben White, who has a BA in English Literature from Cambridge University, has generally tried to present himself as a somewhat more sophisticated advocate of the Palestinian “cause” – at least if the Palestinian cause is defined as requiring nothing more than attacking Israel.

But the mask seemed to slip when Ben White posted the following tweet:

The picture he linked to is from a tweet posted by the San Francisco Voice for Israel (Bay area chapter of StandWithUs):

Ben White has since seen no reason to apologize for this tweet; indeed, people who challenged him got only evasions and childish LOLs in response.

 

The question whether Ben White’s suggestion that “a picture of Howard Jacobson’s face” provides “another reason to support a boycott of Habima” is a clear-cut example of antisemitism has been debated hotly on Harry’s Place, where Joseph W. argues – convincingly, in my view – that

“Ben White appears to be linking Howard Jacobson – an English Jew – and Israeli Jewish Habima actors, by aesthetics and looks. If you are aware of the history of antisemitism, you will know that a great deal of attention was given to the physical appearance of Jews, who were portrayed as people whom one could legitimately hate based on how they look.

[…]

Only a racist and an antisemite, could look upon the face of one Jew, tell others to look upon the face of this Jew, hoping that they would hate it so much, that they would choose to boycott other Jews.”

It is clear that Ben White isn’t much bothered by these arguments, and it’s easy to see why: in the milieu he moves as an activist, accusations of antisemitism are either regarded as “a badge of honour” or easily dismissed with a tweet that includes  #wtf and #lol.

But there is another dimension to this episode that is worth pondering: if pro-Palestinian campaigner and BDS activist Ben White is “doing the right thing” when he suggests that “a picture of Howard Jacobson’s face” provides “another reason to support a boycott of Habima,” then surely anyone willing to stoop to this level could argue that a picture of Yassir Arafat provides “another reason to support” opposition to some Palestinian endeavor.

Anyone willing to stoop to Ben White’s level could then also argue that, given the official Palestinian show of appreciation for disgraced journalist Helen Thomas, a picture of her face provided a reason to oppose certain Palestinian projects. Indeed, since Thomas was honored for “supporting Palestine in the West,” a picture of her face should – according to Ben White’s “reasoning” – provide a perfectly valid reason to oppose Palestinian efforts to make their case in the West.

Ben White may smugly shrug off accusations of antisemitism, but the mask slipped nonetheless, because we all know how he and his fans would react if this kind of stupid and bigoted argument was used by anyone speaking out for Israel: there would be endless tweets with #hasbarafail and #hasbaralol and all the other mindless vitriol that is so popular among the Israel-haters that Ben White so tirelessly tries to mobilize.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog

The Nakba at Harvard

Already last week, Palestinian activists were gearing up to mark the Nakba by intensifying their efforts to prolong it: Sa’ed Atshan, a Harvard Ph.D. candidate who is a proponent of the so-called “one-state solution” that aims at Israel’s abolition in favor of a bi-national state, drew up a petition to organize “Palestinian-Americans, Palestinians living, working, and studying in the United States, and Americans in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle” in support of a demand for the resignation of Ziad Asali,  the widely respected president of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP). In Atshan’s view, Asali had betrayed the Palestinian cause by accepting an invitation to an event hosted by Israel’s US Ambassador Michael Oren to mark Israel’s Independence Day.

I have already devoted a post to this incident and quoted at length from Asali’s impressive response. But Atshan’s pathetic petition is also worth looking at in detail, because it provides such a good example of the kind of pompous and dishonest Nakba rhetoric that is designed to prolong the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hope that this will lead to Israel’s delegitimization and its eventual absorption in a bi-national state.

In this context it is crucial to emphasize that, while Atshan likes to present himself as a Quaker-educated humanist and progressive, he is utterly opposed to Jewish self-determination in a Jewish state and has therefore no interest in Palestinian self-determination in a state that would exist alongside Israel. As a Harvard Ph.D. candidate with several prestigious fellowships and a lecturer in Peace and Justice Studies at Tufts University, he can be expected to know full well that the Nakba narrative he presents in his petition is nothing but crude propaganda designed to instill a Palestinian sense of grievance that cannot be assuaged unless the world’s only Jewish state is abolished:

“More than 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their historic homeland during the Nakba in 1947-48. These were our grandparents, our parents and their grandparents. Everything was stolen from them – from all of us. Our hearts have been carved out by this monumental crime that has never really ceased. The Nakba continues to this day with daily expulsions, home demolitions, and the constant death that rains on our people without mercy by a state with the most powerful military machine in the Middle East, the same state that Asali celebrated!

We are all baffled, stunned, and left feeling betrayed by the images of Asali posing with smiles in a suit next to Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. in what amounts to a celebration of the greatest wound in the Palestinian psyche – a boundless collective pain that we pass on from one generation to another in hope of redemption, of justice, and the restoration of our dignity as native sons and daughters of Palestine. […]

During this month of May, […] we grieve and remember the ongoing Israeli campaigns to extricate our roots from our homeland and erase our Palestinian Christian and Muslim heritage from the land; […] we renew our commitment to continue the good fight for justice and freedom; and […] we once again lift our hearts with hope and dreams of being at last acknowledged as human beings with entitlement to the full range of human rights accorded to the rest of humanity […]”

When Atshan addressed the One-State Conference at Harvard in early March, he emphasized that academics were able to draw on broad knowledge in their analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, Atshan of course knows full well that in its historic context, the Palestinian Nakba was a very minor “catastrophe” occurring at a time when many millions of refugees all over the world were displaced and dispossessed by war and the drawing of new borders. Atshan also knows full well that, except for the Palestinians, all these refugees found themselves thwarted if they attempted, like the Palestinians, to demand that the clock be turned back; and of course he also knows that while most refugees were eager to get on with their lives, Palestinian and Arab leaders rejected the opportunity to create a state for the Nakba refugees and cynically chose to maintain them as pawns that would play a useful part in the long-term efforts to undo the establishment of Israel.

Likewise, Atshan knows full well that the Arab League and its member states demonstrated that it was not just the Jews of Europe who needed a refuge, but also the Jews who had lived throughout the Middle East for some two millennia.  And while the Jews living in Arab countries were forced to flee their ancient communities decades ago, Atshan of course knows that up to this day, the fate of other minorities in the Arab Middle East is similarly precarious – as this unsettling account of the situation of Christians in the Muslim Middle East illustrates all too well. Atshan therefore must know that by advocating a “one-state solution”, he is advocating returning the Jews to the status of a vulnerable persecuted minority.

Given his quest to turn back the clock,  Atshan obviously perceives a committed proponent of a negotiated two-state solution like ATFP president Ziad Asali as a political opponent – and in true McCarthyist fashion, Atshan calls not just for Asali’s resignation from the ATFP, but for the “severance of all ties to Ziad Asali by ATFP and all Palestinian organizations.” [Emphasis original!]

Right, get the guy blacklisted, and if you succeed, call it a great (Harvard-style) progressive victory for the Nakba…

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

Pity the Palestinians

This past week, supporters of the Palestinian cause were once again out in full force to prove that with friends like them, Palestine needs no enemies.

The target of the assorted “friends” of Palestine was the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), which is arguably the one Palestinian-American organization with the most clout in Washington. I’ve written before about ATFP and the hypocrisy of its critics. The latest incident that got ATFP’s opponents all worked up are two photos showing ATFP president Ziad Asali attending an event hosted by Israel’s US Ambassador  Michael Oren to mark Israel’s Independence Day.

Inviting Asali to this event obviously implies respect, if not outright recognition for the agenda pursued by his organization. But since the ATFP advocates the establishment of a Palestinian state through negotiations, supporters of the Palestinian cause couldn’t care less. To show their displeasure with Asali, they are circulating a pathetic petition demanding his resignation.

This petition could well serve as a great illustration of much of what is wrong with popular “pro-Palestinian” activism, and in a response to the criticism against him, Asali puts his finger on one of the most important points. Under the title “The Lessons of the Nakba,” Asali recounts the experience of his own family and points out:

“I recount this not to bewail my fate, or to dwell in the past. The four generations of Palestinians who have lived and died in refugee camps are the real face of the Palestinian tragedy. It is fitting and proper to honor historical truths, but also to learn the lessons they teach us.

Israelis and Palestinians alike are two peoples who have experienced traumatic histories. We must never forget them. But we must not be held hostage by history either. We must care more about the future of our grandchildren than the past of our grandparents, or even ourselves.”

No doubt many Jews will have reservations about the equivalence between the “traumatic histories” of Israelis and Palestinians implied by Asali. But such entirely justified criticism should not distract from the fact that Asali’s broader vision is one that is largely shared by the Israeli mainstream and the vast majority of Jews in the US and elsewhere in the diaspora:

“We must work together to build a future in which both peoples can enjoy the rights, responsibilities and dignity of citizenship and self-determination. There is only one way to actually accomplish this: ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel. Palestinians must recognize and accept Israel, which is a legitimate member state of the United Nations. The Palestinians must have one place on earth, the territories occupied in 1967, where they can live freely as first class citizens in their own independent state. There is no other way to end the cycle of bloodshed, pain and hatred has that lasted for so long.

To accomplish this, half measures and partial acknowledgment are insufficient. Both people must fully recognize each other’s national rights and states.”

And make no mistake: it is exactly this vision of two states living side by side in peace that most of Asali’s critics reject. It’s no coincidence that the petition against Asali was drawn up by Sa’ed Atshan, a Harvard Ph.D. candidate who is a proponent of the so-called “one-state solution” that aims at Israel’s abolition in favor of a bi-national state.

In this context, it’s interesting to note that the campaign against Asali and the ATFP is not only supported by the usual suspects from the lunatic fringes – see e.g. this piece at Mondoweiss, and the hate-filled comments that follow – but also by MJ Rosenberg, who is no longer with Media Matters and therefore free to write without even minimal constraints.

A state for everybody who needs one

I think I’ve made a startling discovery: The eminent political philosopher and public intellectual Michael Walzer is a Revisionist like Jabotinsky – at least when it comes to his views about the rights of a people to have a state of their own.

Writing in the Huffington Post series “Liberal Zionists Speak Out,” Walzer describes the central tenets of his own Zionism under the title “The State of Righteousness.”

“It is first of all the emotion-laden belief of someone who grew up during World War Two that the Jews need a state, and that this need is so critical and so urgent that it overrides whatever injustices statehood has brought. We still have to oppose the injustices with all the resources we can muster, but we can’t give up the State. So I participate vicariously in Israeli politics by supporting my social-democratic and peacenik friends. I want the state to be as good as it can be, but above all I want it to be.

My Zionism is also a universal statism. I think that everybody who needs a state should have one, not only the Jews but also the Armenians, the Kurds, the Tibetans, the South Sudanese — and the Palestinians. The modern state is the only effective agency for physical protection, economic management and welfare provision. What the most oppressed and impoverished people in the world today most need is a state of their own, a decent state acting on their behalf. I feel some hostility, therefore, toward people who want to ‘transcend’ the state — and I am especially hostile toward those who insist that the transcendence has to begin with the Jews.”

By coincidence, I came across Walzer’s piece on the same day I read an article by Oren Kessler who explored the legacy of Benzion Netanyahu’s political views for his son Binyamin Netanyahu. Since the elder Netanyahu was a follower of the Revisionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky, Kessler outlined Jabotinsky’s views and quoted from his famous “Iron Wall” article published in 1923:

“To Jabotinsky, a Jewish home in Palestine was justified by events past and present. The Romans had expelled the Jews from their homeland two millennia prior, condemning them to an eternity of wandering and depending on the sufferance of other peoples. Virtually every inhabitable corner of the globe was populated by someone, he wrote, and the Jews had historical, spiritual, and emotional ties to one land alone.

‘[S]elf-determination does not mean that if someone has seized a stretch of land it must remain in his possession for all time, and that he who was forcibly ejected from his land must always remain homeless,’ Jabotinsky wrote in his best-known work, the 1923 essay ‘The Iron Wall,’ which remains central to Revisionists’ ideas about Israeli defense policy to this day. ‘Self-determination means revision — such a revision of the distribution of the earth among the nations that those nations who have too much should have to give up some of it to those nations who have not enough or who have none, so that all should have some place on which to exercise their right of self-determination.’”

While Jabotinsky’s Revisionism is nowadays usually described as promoting hardline right-wing positions, his idea that there should be “a revision of the distribution of the earth among the nations” arguably reflects solid left-wing principles of fairness: those who have plenty “should have to give up some of it to those nations who have not enough or who have none, so that all should have some place on which to exercise their right of self-determination.”

One noteworthy aspect of the kind of national self-determination advocated by Jabotinsky here is that he obviously has no sympathy for the blood-and-soil nationalism that became so devastatingly popular among right-wing and fascist groups and that, unfortunately, is also a dominant theme in Palestinian nationalism. Instead, Jabotinsky’s call for a “revision of the distribution of the earth among the nations” ultimately reflects the same principle as Walzer’s liberal “universal statism” which envisages a world where “everybody who needs a state should have one.”

That the Jews needed a state should hardly be controversial given the long history of antisemitism in Europe and the Christian world. Similarly, Jews who lived in the Muslim world usually had to accept the second-class status of dhimmitude, and there are plenty of examples that document arbitrary persecution and anti-Jewish violence throughout the centuries. Eventually, it was the Arab League that provided yet more proof that the Jews did indeed need a state of their own when the organization proceeded in early 1948 to draft laws that, by singling out Jews for discriminatory measures, were reminiscent of the infamous anti-Jewish Nuremberg laws of the Nazis.

It is important to realize that the Jews who felt they needed a state – that is to say, the Zionists – wanted a state mainly for the reasons Walzer lists when he says:

“The modern state is the only effective agency for physical protection, economic management and welfare provision. What the most oppressed and impoverished people in the world today most need is a state of their own, a decent state acting on their behalf.”

By contrast, most Palestinians had, and continue to have, markedly different ideas about why they would like to have a state. The Arabs rejected the UN partition plan in 1947 because for them, a state alongside a Jewish state in Palestine was not worth having – in other words, for them, territorial demands and notions of basically feudalistic ties to land took precedence over all other considerations.

While this understanding would usually be thought of as right-wing, Palestinian demands are nowadays most ardently championed by the left – even if Palestinians openly describe their hardly progressive views. One of the most striking examples is an article by Ahmed Khalidi – a Senior Associate Member of St Antony’s College, Oxford, and former advisor for the Palestinian peace negotiators – who explained the Palestinian ambivalence about statehood in a 2007 Guardian article aptly entitled “Thanks, but no thanks”:

“But statehood as such is a relatively recent addition to Palestinian aspirations. The main Palestinian impetus after the disaster of 1948 was that of ‘return’; it was more about reversing the loss of Arab land and patrimony, than the fulfilment of classical post-colonial self-determination, via statehood.

Driven into national concussion by the catastrophic forced displacement of 1948 and up until the mid-1960s, the sense of a separate ‘Palestinian’ national identity all but disappeared. This ‘lost consciousness’ was only reversed by the emergence of Fatah under Yasser Arafat in the Arab diaspora in the late 1950s.

It was only after the 1967 debacle that a new Palestinian national identity began to take shape. At its core was the notion of the armed struggle as a galvanising force. Armed struggle, according to Fatah, restored Palestinian dignity and gave the Palestinians a say in determining their future.

Statehood and state building had no real place in this scheme. Indeed, the first tentative proposals to establish a state in Palestine (ie the West Bank) were rejected as defeatist and a betrayal of the national cause. This was certainly not an exercise in institution building, land acquisition and state building by stealth, as in the Zionist movement before 1948. After the 1973 war, Fatah’s leaders turned to the notion again. This was largely the result of a realistic reading of the balance of power and a recognition of the limits of what force, on the part of the Arab states or Palestinian irregulars, was likely to achieve. Eventually, in 1988, Arafat himself backed the idea of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders as a historic compromise […]

Today, the Palestinian state is largely a punitive construct devised by the Palestinian’s worst historical enemies; Israel and its implacable ally, the US. The intention behind the state today is to constrain Palestinian aspirations territorially, to force them to give up on their moral rights, renege on their history and submit to Israel’s diktats on fundamental issues of sovereignty.”

Khalidi concludes his piece by arguing that “Palestinians could simply continue to say no to a state that does nothing to address its [sic] basic needs. Either way, it’s hard to see how Israel can win this struggle in the long term.”

For Khalidi, the idea to prevent Israel from “winning” is apparently still crucial, and when he mentions Palestinian rights, territorial “aspirations” remain a central consideration. Khalidi also suggests that the Palestinians might be best off “by demanding equal civil rights to those of the Jews themselves” – not from the government of a state of their own, but from Israel, which, by granting those rights to millions of Palestinians, would of course cease to exist as a Jewish state.

The tasks of a modern state listed by Walzer don’t seem to figure much in Khalidi’s thinking and in the way he views Palestinian aspirations.

It is also noteworthy that the views and positions expressed by Khalidi are widely shared by most of the so-called pro-Palestinian activists campaigning for the Palestinian “cause” in the West – which means that most of them don’t campaign for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but focus instead on delegitimizing Israel as a Jewish state and on insisting that the Palestinians should have “equal civil rights to those of the Jews themselves” in a state that would do away with Israel as a Jewish state.

Palestinian ambivalence about a state of their own is rarely taken into account when pundits ponder the reasons for the failure of the peace process. Arguably, this is not only because it is always easy and popular to blame Israel, but also because it is fairly awkward to acknowledge that there is little that can be done about this ambivalence:  the price of a Palestinian state alongside Israel would indeed mean giving up the “anti-Zionist” struggle that Khalidi rightly describes as so central for Palestinian national identity; at the same time, Palestinians have little reason to believe that they would then get “a decent state acting on their behalf,” because unfortunately, neither the Palestinian experience with Fatah or Hamas nor the experience in other Arab states encourages such hopes.

 

With lies against Israel

Avi Mayer documented today how so-called pro-Palestinian activists on Twitter spread lies about invented Israeli atrocities:

IsraellyCool has a post with the relevant information about the photos in question, documenting that both photos are several years old and have nothing to do with the current Israeli response to the rocket barrage from Gaza and that the little injured girl was the victim of an accident.

Long after the photos were shown to be old, irrelevant and misleading, one pro-Palestinian activists finally suggested that it was time to stop spreading lies, and this tweet was retweeted by Ali Abunimah:

However, Doherty/bangpound did so perpetuating the lie that the little girl was killed by Israeli bombs: he linked to an old post of the “Angry Arab,” i.e. Asad AbuKhalil, Professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus:

No, this is not Zionism — these are just some of the endlessly repeated Palestinian lies about Zionism.

UPDATE:

It turns out that the person who originally tweeted the photo of the badly injured girl and claimed that this was “another child killed by Israel” happens to work for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – and guess what her job is? Information and Media Coordinator… (EXPOSED: UN Media Official Responsible for False Photo Tweet)

I also wanted to link to another recent fake anti-Israel photo that went viral a few weeks ago and was exposed by blogger Omar Dakhane: it’s again a photo of a “Palestinian” girl lying on the ground, with an “Israeli” soldier about to stomp on her – all courtesy of a 2009 street theater performance in Bahrain.

A Palestinian refugee story: myths vs. facts

Linah Alsaafin is a young British-born Palestinian, who is blogging at various anti-Israeli sites, including Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada.

According to her biographical note on Mondoweiss, she “was born in Cardiff, Wales, and was raised in England, the United States, and Palestine.” This of course also means that she has British citizenship, and interestingly, this fact is acknowledged on one of the blogs she contributes to: “Life on Bir Zeit Campus” is described as “A Regular Ode to the Hardships and Joy of Living as expatriates of our Countries of Citizenship in the Holy Land…as Falastiniyyas!”

By coincidence, I came across a tweet of hers, where she announced the passing of her grandfather:

I thought that given the circumstances, it wouldn’t be appropriate to respond and point out that while it was certainly sad that her grandfather spent most of his life as a refugee in the Khan Younis camp in Gaza, this was actually a choice made by Palestinians and Arabs – after all, neither the Egyptians who ruled Gaza until 1967, nor the PA and Hamas that have control of Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal in 2005, have done anything to integrate the refugees.

However, since Linah Alsaafin has now published a related post that exploits her grandfather’s story for political purposes, I think there is no reason to be more respectful of the occasion than she herself is.

It is a long post that mixes very personal memories with political propaganda that is very typical for Palestinian myth-making activism.

To quote some of Alsaafin’s most misleading claims:

My grandfather, 84 year old Ibrahim Hasan Alsaafin, was older than the Zionist state of Israel when he died on Monday in the Khan Younis refugee camp, still yearning to return to his village of al-Fallujah 64 years on, a mere 15 miles away.

On my way to Hebron last Friday for the third annual global Open Shuhada Street protest, the taxi I was in passed by a sign pointing right with the black letters of “Qiryat Gat” emblazoned on it. My heart caught in my mouth, and I craned my neck to hold that sign in my vision long after the taxi turned left.

Qiryat Gat is the Judaized name for my village of al-Fallujah. My village became a Jewish-only settlement for Russian immigrants in the 1950s, and the site for one of Intel Corporation’s biggest manufacturing plants.

Al-Fallujah was completely ethnically cleansed on March 1st, 1949 — a year after Israel’s so-called independence. Sido Ibrahim was a young man then, 19 or 20 years old, and fought with Egyptian paratroops against the terrorist Zionist guerrillas, who attacked the village with jet fighters and long range canons for six months. Most of the villagers fled, taking with them only their children, some even leaving the doors of their houses open. Sido, along with my great-grandmother Nabeeha, joined the scores of villagers in providing food and supplies to the Egyptian and local volunteers who were defending the village. […]

After six months of shelling and raids, the international community decided that al-Fallujah must be evacuated and remain under international control. Sido and my great-grandmother Nabeeha exchanged hugs and tears with the Egyptian fighters who dropped them off along with other civilians in Gaza in their trucks before returning back to Egypt. Sido did not forget to bring the land deeds with him, which we still keep, and my great-grandmother took the key with her, which we also still keep.

First, it is noteworthy that a young man who moved just some 15 miles from one Arab-Muslim community to another Arab-Muslim community was classified as a “refugee” for the rest of his life. Moreover, Alsaafin’s grandfather was brought to Gaza by Egyptian troops, whose war against the fledgling Jewish state he had actively supported – and of course, Mr. Alsaafin would continue to live as a “refugee” under Egyptian rule for almost two decades.

A related correction is warranted in view of Linah Alsaafin’s claims about “Zionist” “jet fighters,” because in reality, the fledgling Israeli Air Force had a very hard time procuring suitable aircraft which were urgently needed to fight off the Egyptian bombing of Tel Aviv.

No less misleading and mistaken are Alsaafin’s remarks about what she calls “my village of al-Fallujah,” now known under its “Judaized name” Qiryat Gat.

As far as the fighting for Faluja is concerned, anyone interested in the facts can check out this timeline of Israel’s War of Independence (scroll down to the map for: Israel War of Independence October 1948 battles, entry for IDF operation Yoav, Oct. 15-22, Nov. 9, Dec. 28-29). The armistice agreement between Egypt and Israel of February 24, 1949, provided for the withdrawal of Egyptian forces from the Faluja pocket.

But Alsaafin’s most telling misrepresentation is perhaps her fact-free claim that “her” village “became a Jewish-only settlement for Russian immigrants in the 1950s.”

In reality – as Alsaafin could have easily found out just by consulting WikipediaQiryat Gat (or Kiryat Gat) served for decades as a new home for the Jews that had to abandon their ancient communities in North Africa’s Arab countries due to the discrimination, dispossession and persecution they suffered as “retribution” for Israel’s establishment.

The town’s demography is reflected in Wikipedia’s list of Qiryat Gat’s “notable residents”: the far-left activist Tali Fahima (who has converted to Islam and fancies herself now a “Palestinian,” but comes from a Moroccan-Jewish family); the celebrated photographer Adi Ness (from an Iranian-Kurdish family); Likud politician and former IDF spokeswoman Miri Regev (from a Moroccan family); and singer and actress Ninet Tayeb (from a Tunisian family; her website is here).

Linah Alsaafin’s fact-free myth-making is quite typical for the propaganda provided by countless “pro-Palestinian” bloggers and activists. Unsurprisingly, she also blames Israel for the fact that for several years, she has not been able to visit her grandfather in Gaza. But while a negotiated peace agreement would obviously be the most straightforward solution to this problem, it seems that Alsaafin is adamantly opposed to negotiations. In one of her recent blog posts, she promotes protests and a twitter campaign devoted to saying #No2Negotiations; in another recent post, she rails against the “outdated so-called representatives [who] negotiate our rights away with the same side that is continuously oppressing us. It is simply ludicrous, shameful, and outright embarrassing that these negotiations still occupy a space in the Palestinian political spectrum. Only free men and women negotiate, and for all their money, expensive cars and villas, and security coordinated travel permits, the Palestinian leadership is still at the end of the day occupied by Israel and its caprices.”

Obviously, Linah Alsaafin can afford this kind of activism – she is, after all, a British expatriate who has chosen to study in the West Bank, but has always the option to return to the country she was born.

UPDATE:

Elder of Ziyon has posted a very interesting NYT article from April 4, 1966. Under the title “Arabs Adamant Against Absorption of Refugees”, the report – with the dateline JERUSALEM (Jordanian Sector), March 30 – quotes Ahmed Shukairy, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization: “The Arab states will not integrate the Palestine refugees because integration would be a slow process of liquidating the Palestine problem.”

One can hardly ask for a more candid acknowledgment of the cynical manipulation of the refugees’ plight.

The whole excerpt provided by Elder is worthwhile reading, but there is arguably one particularly interesting paragraph:

Arab refusal to assimilate the 1.3 million refugees now living in four host countries— Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, controlled by the United Arab Republic—has been the subject of criticism from Israel and from the Western nations that have contributed to supporting the refugees for most of the 18 years since Israel came into existence.

Note that there is no mention of the West Bank – which at that time was of course controlled by Jordan, and in this report it is apparently accepted that the West Bank is part of Jordan.

Twitter vs the real world: Khader Adnan’s ‘victory’

Over the past few days, pro-Palestinian activists demonstrated their ability to transform a well-known member of Islamic Jihad into a victim of Israeli abuse deserving of the solidarity of  everyone willing to speak out (or at least tweet) in defense of human rights – including the truly sincere, the merely gullible, and the openly cynical.

Protesting his detention by Israel with a two-month hunger strike, Islamic Jihad member Khader Adnan was skillfully marketed as an innocuous baker, a devoted father, husband and son, who had been arbitrarily arrested, humiliated and tortured by the evil Israeli Capital O Occupation forces.

It mattered little that it turned out that Adnan had been caught on tape issuing a fiery call for volunteer suicide bombers.

But as an Al Jazeera report noted, there was a marked difference between the real world and the Twitterverse:

The response to Khader Adnan’s protest within Palestinian society has come very late and without the type of force some might have expected. […] A little over a week ago small protests began in front of Israel’s Ofer Prison, located near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The protests spread to other locales in the occupied territories and abroad, but for the most part have been marginal. Everyone is talking about it, but very few seem willing to show their support by taking to the streets. […]

The lack of action in response to Khader Adnan’s case is indicative of many changes in Palestinian society since the end of the second intifada. The increase in partisanship and political division has eroded general solidarity, even over the once unanimous issue of prisoners. Those who support Fatah may be less likely to rally for a member of Islamic Jihad, such as Khader Adnan. […]Indeed, even Islamic Jihad, the party of Khader Adnan, has failed to bring its people out in support of the hunger striker.

Highlighting an important point, the Al Jazeera report observed:

The exception has been a group of social media activists in Ramallah that have made Khader Adnan their cause célèbre, elevating his profile via networking sites such as Twitter. Over the past four days they have caused variations of his name to trend worldwide on several occasions, no small achievement on a forum that usually gives such honours to celebrity gossip.

This is a fascinating observation given the fact that many news outlets are featuring segments reporting on issues that are “trending” on social networks, and in particular on Twitter. Indeed, it was arguably the successful Twitter campaign staged for Adnan that resulted in plenty of mainstream media coverage.

As this case amply demonstrates, the fact that there was little local mobilization for Adnan was completely inconsequential for the success of the Twitter campaign that portrayed him as the standard bearer of an important Palestinian cause.

Given the ideology of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the group’s insistence on violence as the only means of achieving its goal of an Islamic regime in “all of historic Palestine,”  it is easy to see why many Palestinians might be hesitant to throw their enthusiastic support behind a PIJ activist  who stages a hunger strike (while making sure he’s getting some vital nutrients in his water) but thinks other Palestinians should volunteer for suicide missions.

However, commenting on the news that Adnan had ended his hunger strike, regular Al Jazeera columnist Richard Falk – who also serves as UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights – wrote [my emphasis]:

It is a great relief to those millions around the world who were moved to prayer and action by Khader Adnan’s extraordinary hunger strike of 66 days that has ended due to Israel’s agreement to release him on April 17.

We, who were inspired by such a heroic refusal to accept humiliation and arbitrary arrest, can only hope that for the sake of his family, for the cause of Palestinian resistance, and for the struggle to achieve a just peace that Mr Adnan will fully recover to resume his personal and political life. We cannot take for granted that there will be a full recovery given Mr Adnan’s critical condition confirmed by examining doctors, just prior to his decision on February 21 to resume eating in a normal manner.

While it is appropriate to celebrate this ending of the strike as “a victory”, there are several disturbing features that deserve comment.

If you expect Falk to include Adnan’s membership in PIJ in the “disturbing features” worthy of comment, you will be disappointed. To be sure, he does mention the subject, but only to play it down, deny Adnan’s call for volunteer suicide bombers and assert, rather hilariously, that “Mr Adnan’s prior arrests stemmed from militant peaceful demonstrations that landed him in Israeli jails eight times.” [My emphasis] Falk mentions Adnan’s previous hunger strikes, but ignores the fact that he staged one of them while in Palestinian detention.

Reading through the tweets that promoted Adnan’s cause, it seems safe to conclude that many of the campaign’s enthusiastic supporters share Falk’s preposterous fantasies about Adnan’s militant peacefulness and the idea that this is really at the core of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s agenda. No wonder then that some praised Adnan as the “Palestinian Gandhi” – and once again, it is notable that this preposterous suggestion does not seem to be a Palestinian invention: apparently, it originated with Peter Hart, who is the “activism director” at FAIR, a site that claims to provide “well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986” and produces a radio show called CounterSpin. I think that somebody who can turn an Islamic Jihad militant into the “Palestinian Gandhi” knows all there is to know about spin.

Unsurprisingly, the activists promoting the newly crowned “Palestinian Gandhi” have been quick to exploit the momentum generated by their successful Twitter campaign.  Adnan’s wife, who told an Al Jazeera reporter that she lacked the “kinds of skills” to cope with all the media attention, already has penned an eloquent article for the Guardian promoting her husband’s cause; their little daughter is enlisted, too, standing behind a poster of daddy and holding the banner of Islamic Jihad. Really, what could be wrong with that?

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

A post entitled “How Twitter’s trending topics helped catapult a human interest story into the spotlight” offers some more details on how the campaign on behalf of Adnan was organized. As already signaled by the reference to the “human interest” story, this is an entirely uncritical take; noteworthy, however, is the provided measure of the campaign’s success in manipulating the media to cover this manufactured “human interest” story:

“Adnan’s story was all but ignored by mainstream media, until a group of online activists decided to take to Twitter to bring it some much-needed attention. A search on Google News shows the story getting no attention whatsoever at the beginning of February, and peaking to over 300 sources at the height of the campaign.”

Norman Finkelstein’s metamorphosis

It’s nothing short of Kafkaesque: when Norman Finkelstein, a veteran hero of Israel-haters left and right, criticized the BDS campaign in a recent interview, his erstwhile admirers turned on him with a ferocity that is positively delightful.

The +972 blog – which the New Israel Fund supports in order to help it become “sustainable” – posted this scathing verdict (which is real fun because it starts off with what can only be described as a Freudian typo):

Normal [sic!] Finkelstein has made a career out of being the son of holocaust survivors who doesn’t shy away from picking a fight with Israel’s backers, and who unabashedly defends the rights of Palestinians. […] Everything about the interview is classic Finkelstein: his demeanor, his tendency to raise his voice, his adversarial, passionate approach, everything, that is, except for the things he’s saying. In a bizarre turn of events, he comes off as a Zionist bully, or for that matter, any other angry right wing pundit.

[…] Finkelstein even resorts to the desperate tactic of denial. When the interviewer puts forth his contention that the BDS movement is growing in popularity, Finkelstein rejects the idea out of hand, comparing the movement to some Maoist group he apparently was affiliated with at some point in his more idealistic youth.

Here you have it: Norman Finkelstein transformed into a “Zionist bully”…

It really shows you how little it takes in the world of +972 – or, for that matter, of Mondoweiss, which approvingly linked to the +972 post – to earn the label of “Zionist bully”.  Norman Finkelstein most definitely doesn’t deserve it…

Just one additional note: for the author of this +972 post, it is apparently a sign of “idealism” to have been affiliated with a Maoist group — but it’s the sort of ideological “idealism” that isn’t much bothered by the fact that one expert on China’s modern history has argued that Mao “qualifies as the greatest mass murderer in world history.”

 

Viva Palestina: the Syrian connection

After hackers managed to obtain access to the e-mails of some high-ranking officials at the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Ha’aretz got hold of some of the mails and posted them together with relevant background information. One of the articles focuses on the correspondence between “Viva Palestina” organizer George Galloway, a notorious former British MP, and Assad’s media adviser Bouthaina Shaaban.

Ha’aretz correctly notes that Galloway is “identified with the extreme left in Britain” and is well known for his “close contacts with dictators and extremist elements in the Arab world.”

Given Galloway’s history, it is hardly surprising that in August 2010, he contacted Assad’s media adviser to ask her for Syria’s support in organizing an “aid” convoy to Gaza.  Indeed, it turns out that the Syrian regime provided “outstanding assistance” to Galloway’s “Viva Palestina” campaigns “on previous occasions” and Galloway showed his appreciation by praising Syria as “the last castle of Arab dignity.”

Assad’s media adviser responded warmly to Galloway’s request, assuring him that she was “happy to put my time and energy to help with this most important cause of the Twenty Firtst [sic] Century.” Pathetically, she added: “I hope you are following my writings in Counter Punch.”

Of course, Counter Punch is viciously hostile to Israel, but the fact that a supposedly left-wing and progressive newsletter would happily feature contributions from the spokeswoman of Syria’s president is still a great illustration of the depths to which the assorted Israel-haters are ready to stoop.

Equally revealing is the cozy tone of the e-mail exchange between the Syrian dictator’s media adviser and the supposedly pro-Palestinian human rights activist George Galloway: he signs one of his e-mails with “Yours fraternally,” and she responds to “Dear George” and signs off with “As ever, Bouthaina.”

In the meantime, Bouthaina Shaaban may have realized that not everyone in Syria seems to agree with her notion of what constitutes the “most important cause of the Twenty Firtst [sic] Century.”

However, Shaaban herself certainly spared no effort to tout her “most important cause.” As a regular columnist for Asharq Alawsat, she excelled in writing long-winded articles that, irrespective of her ostensible subject, eventually ended up demonizing Israel and frequently also the US and the West in general.

In Januar 2011, she wrote on “Nations and Their Image in the Media,” where she claimed that “the Arabs’ image is being manufactured by their enemies, while Israel’s image has remained that of ‘an oasis of democracy’, although it launches wars and practices genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people.” She lamented at length that the Palestinian plight – and its cause: Zionist evil – wasn’t getting enough media attention, and concluded with a call to mend this dire situation:

The Palestinian people have shown legendary steadfastness for over 63 years in front of the most brutal aggressive power in the history of humanity. They sacrifice their life and future for their country. Don’t they deserve from all of us that we tell the real story of their struggle for freedom and justice to all the free people of the world?

A month later, she commented on the protests in Egypt and other Arab countries under the title “The voice of the masses.” Unsurprisingly, Shaaban wanted her readers to believe that the protests were “a cry for the dignity of Arab citizens, a dignity humiliated by seeing their people besieged in Gaza and seeing six million Palestinians imprisoned in large prisons inside their occupied country, occupied since 1948 and in refugee camps and being killed on a daily basis amidst total Arab impotence.”

And of course, when Robert Fisk gave Shaaban a chance for a sympathetic hearing in The Independent in late October 2011, she seized the opportunity to claim that “we found weapons that were Israeli. I told our people they should show these weapons to the media.”

There is perhaps no better illustration for the gruesomely Orwellian quality of Shaaban’s pronouncements than the fact that UNICEF has recently stated:

“Nearly 11 months of violence in Syria have led to the deaths and injuries of hundreds of children. There are reports of children being arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sexually abused while in detention.”

Will any of the “Viva Palestina” activists recoil now and reflect on their cynical practice to accept hatred of Israel as the lowest common denominator?

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.