How will The Quartet respond to the Fatah-Hamas deal?

This essay was written by Hadar Sela, and published at The Propagandist.

The manner in which the world, and in particular the Quartet, responds to the emerging Hamas-Fatah reconciliation will be of prime importance in dictating whether the Middle East will move within the next few months from a situation of no peace to one of all-out war.

If Hamas is allowed by the international community to integrate into the Palestinian Authority without being made to renounce its armed campaigns and without being obliged to recognise Israel’s existence, the already terminally ill peace process will come to a very rapid demise.  Not only will Israel not negotiate with a Palestinian government which contains terrorist elements, but the terms of the Roadmap, which up to now have formed the foundations of negotiations, will become devoid of any further relevance.

That, of course, would suit Hamas perfectly; it has done all in its power to scupper the peace process for many years and by its very definition rejects all negotiations intended to lead to a two-state solution. However, it also suits Fatah which, despite dodging the negotiating table with considerable alacrity since negotiations resumed last autumn, received a serious blow to its already bruised credibility on the Palestinian street with the release of the leaked ‘Palestine Papers’ and is increasingly threatened by internal discord.

If Fatah ever really did intend the peace negotiations to be more than lip-service to its cheque-writing patrons in the international community (and the rejection of the 2008 Olmert offer would suggest very strongly that it had no such intentions), its weakness means that it is currently unable to pursue anything other than the rejectionist stance as represented not only by Hamas, but by a considerable proportion of the Palestinian elite and in particular, those living outside the region.

Read the rest of the essay, here.

The Jewish disease of “if only Israel would do x,y, or z” there would be peace & harmony in the Mid-East

This is cross posted by David Suissa. This essay first appeared in The Jewish Journal and Huffington Post.

One of the most ironic obstacles to peace in the Middle East is what I call the Jewish disease of “ifonlyitis.” This is the school of thought that says “if only” Israel would do this, or “if only” Israel would do that, then we finally might resolve the conflict. I suffer from the syndrome myself, and for that I blame my mother. She convinced me from a very young age that “if only” I put my mind to something, there’s nothing I can’t do.

Well, Mother, it turns out there’s plenty I can’t do, and one of those things is make my enemies like me.

I was thinking of this last week when I read about the plan to increase pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to obtain the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas since June 2006. According to reports, the plan in the Shalit camp now is to “take the gloves off” against Netanyahu. That might include politicizing the cause and having more disruptive demonstrations throughout the country.

In an editorial in Haaretz, Nehemia Strassler wrote that the Shalit family has to “wage a personal war against the prime minister” and be “much more militant.” They must “organize mass protests and bring the country to a standstill. They must not give Netanyahu one moment of quiet.”

Evidently, because Bibi has failed to convince Hamas to return Shalit in exchange for the release of almost 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, he’s now the bad guy and must be punished. If you ever needed more proof of the Jewish instinct to blame ourselves for everything, this is it.

This is a sure sign of the “ifonlyitis” disease: The belief that everything is on our shoulders. It’s all about us. We can achieve anything. If only we would release a few hundred more terrorists with Jewish blood on their hands, we might finally free Gilad Shalit.

If only we did this, or if only we did that.

There is a wonderful psychological benefit to this disease. It gives us the illusion that we are in control; that we can affect our situation, no matter how bad it might seem. It empowers us. And when we’re in a hostile and unpredictable environment, we desperately need to feel we are in control of our destiny.

But we pay a heavy price for this illusion of control. First, it leads to tremendous tension and mutual animosity among Jews. Because we assume we are the ones who are always responsible for any situation, we end up constantly beating each other up.

Second, we get so busy beating each other up that we lose sight of the real obstacles to peace. To the Haaretz writer who is calling for a “war” against Netanyahu because Shalit is still not free, I want to scream: “Why on earth are you declaring war against Bibi? In case you forgot, he’s not the one who kidnapped Shalit and is holding him hostage!”

What Jews need, it seems to me, is less hatred of one another and more hatred of evil. Any group that will target a guided missile at a children’s school bus is evil. Any group that will codify the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel in its charter is evil. Those, my friends, are real obstacles to peace.

If we didn’t have this obsession with blaming ourselves for everything, we might focus more of our energies against the real bad guys – and maybe even come up with some imaginative ways of getting what we want.

For example, instead of pressuring the Israeli government over Gilad Shalit, why not transfer some of that pressure to the Palestinians?

A Syrian Jew who sat next to me at the first Seder this year had this idea: Take the names of the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners whom Israel has already offered to release and promote those throughout the Palestinian territories. Drop millions of leaflets with their names and pictures. Promote them on the Internet and social networks. Buy ads in Palestinian newspapers. Film some prisoners pleading for their freedom and run the clips on Al Jazeera.

In other words, put the real pressure on Hamas, not on Bibi. Humiliate Hamas for refusing to obtain the release of its own Palestinian brothers. Have them answer to the hundreds of Palestinian families who would love nothing more than to see their own Gilad Shalits returned home. Expose Hamas for turning its back on its own people.

Think that wouldn’t be more effective than starting a “personal war” against the Israeli prime minister?

It’s ridiculous to keep beating Bibi up over Gilad Shalit. His offer to release hundreds of prisoners is already risky – going beyond it would be reckless and irresponsible. He’s done his part. Now we must do ours.

Just like the global movement to free Natan Sharansky focused on pressuring the Soviet Union, the global movement to free Gilad Shalit must focus on pressuring the Palestinians. Ideally, we ought to find someone with international credibility who could spearhead this effort – someone highly motivated to do something special for Israel and the Jewish people.

In fact, I have a name in mind: Richard Goldstone.

Now “if only” I can convince him to go after the bad guys.

My Peace Agenda: A Response to Jonathan Freedland

This was published at The Propagandist by Lyn Julius.  Julius is a co-founder of Harif, a UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. (

For most of last week, the Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland was cast as the erstwhile Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in a role-play exercise, while Palestinians played Israelis .

Apparently, every time such exercises take place, it is the ‘Palestinians’ who seethe with righteous indignation as the underdog. The  ‘Israelis’ suffered too, the negotiators recognise, but that was ‘in the past’.

How has the peace agenda come to be so seriously skewed? The victims of a genocidal project to destroy the Jews in the Middle East have been turned into aggressors, and Jewish suffering downplayed. Who around the negotiating table remembers that it was the Arabs who rejected the UN Partition Plan for Palestine, and launched a war of annihilation against Israel in 1948? Who remembers the Arab League secretary-general Azzam Pasha’s spine-chilling promise in 1947: ‘This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades’?  

It was a good week, writes Freedland. He negotiated Israel back to the 1967 borders.That was the easy bit, Jonathan. Did the ‘Israeli ‘negotiators’ get the ‘Palestinians’ renounce  their ‘right of return’ to Israel proper?

The ‘right of return’
This issue cannot be brushed aside lightly as ‘rhetoric’. Not content with getting a Palestinian Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza, even the ‘moderates’ of the Fatah camp have refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Most recently they again affirmed that  their ‘right of return’ was non-negotiable. Thus Palestinians reserve the right to turn the Jewish state into a second state of Palestine, by overwhelming it with millions of returning refugees. The first act of such a Muslim majority-state would be to repeal Israel’s ‘Law of Return’ which entitles Jews ,wherever they may be, to automatic Israeli citizenship.

That’s why, in the real negotiating world, Benjamin Netanyahu is right to make Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state the quintessential issue. (The real Erekat has said flippantly that Israel can call itself what it likes – but does the Arab side accept Israel’s right to call itself what it likes?)  

If successive Israeli governments did not insist on this point in the past, it is because the Netanyahu has realised that the much vaunted ‘two-state solution’ leaves room for ambiguity.

To put it bluntly, Arabs need to become Zionists if there is to be peace. They need to accept that the Jews are an indigenous Middle Eastern people with a right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland.

The Palestinian negotiators at Freedland’s role-play hold ‘the moral high ground’: the Palestinian refugees are seen as the main victims of an Israeli injustice.  But this is another serious distortion.

Read the rest of the essay, here.

Hateful Guardian reader comments about Jews & Israel beneath Daniel Levy’s celebration of Hamas

Daniel Levy’s excitement about Hamas - where he enthusiastically opines that the Islamic Resistance Movement’s participation in a new Palestinian unity government will reinvigorate the peace process – expressed in CiF yesterday, elicited more than few Guardian reader comments which were, let’s just say, not quite tolerant or progressive.

The organized American Jewish community (“domestic Zionist pressure”) prevents the US Administration from forcing Israel to make peace and treat Palestinians humanely. 

Israeli PM Netanyahu will eventually impose martial law, starve and ethnically cleanse the Palestinians (thinly veiled Nazi reference)

American government is hostage to organized Jewish community.  The US is subservient to Israel. 

Israel intentionally fires at ambulances, old people, and children.  The First Intifada is characterized as an “Israeli war against children”. 

Israel slaughtered Palestinian children. Zionism is a racial supremacist ideology. 

Israel has bombed, starved, and tortured Palestinians – who are “the most stoic and humane people on earth”. 

Daniel Levy’s Hamas-o-Mania! (The Jewish far-left jumps way, way over the shark)

Daniel Levy is living proof that those who accuse some on the (Guardian-style) left of being humorless aren’t completely off base, as I can think of no other explanation for how such a seemingly rational man can not see that he’s become a living, breathing parody of the Jewish pro-Palestinian, Israel-loathing left.  

Levy, one of the founders of J Street, who recently opined that maybe, just perhaps, Israel doesn’t deserve to exist –  “Maybe, if this collective Jewish presence [the Jewish State in the Middle East] can only survive by the sword, then Israel really ain’t a good idea.” – has surfaced at the Guardian to express something approaching euphoria over the recent announcement that Hamas has reconciled with Fatah and will now have a greater role in Palestinian affairs (How Hamas-Fatah unity could break Middle East deadlock, CiF, April 28).  

Levy’s sense of relief that Palestinians will finally abandon the failed and craven “accommodationist approach” is palpable, seems almost giddy that there is finally an end to the artificial, conventional paradigm of “moderates” (Fatah) vs. “so-called” “extremists” (Hamas), mockingly refers to characterizations of Hamas as a terrorist group as mere “Israeli talking points,” is particularly confident that the inclusion of the Islamist group who openly seeks Israel’s destruction will reinvigorate the peace process, and at least hopeful that the Islamic Resistance Movement will be “non-violent”.

But, as sensitive souls like Levy are always saying – at least, that is, when they’re not questioning Israel’s right to exist – it may seem to the untrained eye that his support for Hamas is contrary to the Jewish state’s interests, but he’s really only practicing tough love.  Levy, you see, is saving Israel from itself, from their “false sense of permanent impunity” and their “most self-destructive tendencies” such as “settlement building” (which he ever so sensitively likens to a cancer) and “intolerant nationalism”.

Though, of note, Levy’s selflessness in volunteering to help states like Israel iron out their “issues” is oddly absent when it comes to helping Hamas with their unique brand of “intolerant nationalism”.  Strangely, there is no offer from Levy to help the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood get over their addictive desire to rid the world of Israel, nor is concern expressed for the group’s paranoid belief that Jews are trying to take over the world.

(On this latter genocidal proclivity, I guess, in fairness, given our historical obstinateness, can you really blame them?)  

Call Daniel Levy a dupe, a useful idiot, a Jewish scourge, or even self-hating, but I find him – in his exquisite representation of the extreme pathologies which haunt the Jewish far left – an interesting political specimen, and down right entertaining.  

If he didn’t exist, I would SO try to invent him.  

Not yet free: The Guardian’s “Illegal” Jews

There was one line in particular from a Guardian archives post this past Tuesday – a reprint of a story in the Manchester Guardian as it appeared on April 26, 1948 – about battles which raged in the weeks leading to Israel’s declaration of Independence, which really caught my eye.

While the article (From the archive, 26 April, 1948: Irgun fails to seize Jaffa) itself was classic Guardian, focusing on Irgun attacks on Arabs and largely void of any relevant context about Arab violence which commenced upon the passage of UN Resolution 181 in November of 1947 (which partitioned the land to create a Jewish and Arab state), and the immediate declaration by neighboring Arab states that they would greet any attempt to create a Jewish state with war, the following passage especially stands out.

“An illegal immigrant ship carrying some 700 Jews without visas, which was intercepted off the Palestine coast, was expected to reach Haifa some time yesterday.” [emphasis mine]

While the information itself is not surprising, as the British government was continuing a pre-war policy that limited Jewish immigration to historic “Palestine” to several hundred persons a month, with the ultimate objective of barring it entirely even as Holocaust refugees were trying desperately to reach her shores, the use of the phrase “illegal immigrant ship” and “Jews without visas” struck a familiar chord.

The Guardian consistently adjudicates the complex legal status of Judea and Samaria by simply referring to Israeli  Yishuvim as “illegal“, often using pejorative and even demonizing terms – such as “zealots”, “hard-liners”, or “extremists” – to characterize even Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism who live on the other side of the 1949 Armistice Lines.  Indeed, as recently as Sunday, the Guardian reported on the Israeli civilians who were shot by Palestinian Policemen in Nablus after visiting Joseph’s Tomb by noting, in the subheading, that they were there “without Palestinian permission” – as if the malice of open firing on unarmed Jewish civilians was somehow mitigated by the fact they weren’t “authorized” to pray there.  

I’m reminded of a political shirt worn by an old friend in the States which – expressing his sympathy towards immigrants in the US who didn’t arrive via the required legal procedures – contained the declaration: “No Human Being is Illegal”.

Without getting into a discussion on the actual meaning of UN Resolution 242, and how its mandate has been grossly misinterpreted as requiring an Israeli withdrawal to pre- June 1967 borders, there’s something chillingly callous about making moral distinctions between Jewish victims of terrorism based merely on which side of the green they live.    

As I’ve noted previously, reasonable people can of course disagree on the contentious issue of what Israeli policy should be regarding settlement within such communities but, whether in 1948 or 2011, the hubris of those in the international community who create this paradigm of “legal” vs. “illegal” Jews seems indicative of the broader moral litmus test Jews in the diaspora are increasingly asked to pass – “good Jews” who are critical of Israel vs. “bad Jews” who passionately defend her.   

Just as no Israeli men, women, or children are “illegal”, Jews – whether they reside in Jerusalem, Itamar, New York, or London – no longer need to submit to the soft colonialism of moral sanction the world continually seeks to impose upon us.

Leon Pinsker wrote the following in 1882, in his pamphlet, Auto Emancipation:

“When an idle spectator on the road calls out to us: “You poor Jewish devils are certainly to be pitied,” we are most deeply touched; and when a Jew is said to be an honor to his people, we are foolish enough to be proud of it. We have sunk so low that we become almost jubilant when…our people is put on equal footing with non-Jews. But he who must be put on a footing stands but weak.”

Nearly 130 years after Pinsker wrote those words we are still not yet fully free, way too often seek pity we have no use for, are enthralled with the shallow affirmation which we don’t require; and still grant others the power to put us on “equal footing”.

While we can’t control the mental habits of those who possess animosity towards Jews (as individuals or as a nation), we certainly do have the power to emancipate ourselves from the moral vanity which continually provides succor to their imperious judgments. 

The Guardian’s Malice

There is something very chilling and even sinister about the Guardian editorial of April 27th on the subject of the UN report into the conflict two years ago in Sri Lanka.

Firstly, as ‘Just Journalism has already pointed out, there’s the apparently uncontrollable obsession with Israel which caused whoever wrote this editorial to open it with two paragraphs on the subject of the Goldstone Report. As we know, the Guardian is very heavily invested in the defence of that particular document, having been one of its main advocates and the platform of choice for the other three members of the commission who do not share Judge Goldstone’s second thoughts about its content. But even so; why the need to drag the Goldstone Report into a piece about events half a world away?

The clue comes in the second paragraph:

“A UN panel has just produced such a report about the carnage of civilians which took place two years ago when government forces crushed the Tamil Tigers. It is as hard-hitting as anything Goldstone produced, and therefore is just as likely to be shelved. The point is that truth and accountability, let alone international justice, are not divisible. One country’s ability to bury the evidence of war crimes endangers how civilians are treated in all other conflicts. A single failure of international justice is also a collective one.”

What is the Guardian trying to tell us here?

First it suggests that the questioning of the Goldstone Report’s findings is an attempt to create a special and different standard for Israel. Secondly, it tries to turn ‘evidence of war crimes’ into an indisputable fact and accuses Israel of an already executed cover-up of those supposed crimes. Then it goes on to assert that Israel is or will be responsible for the deaths of civilians thousands of miles away in totally unrelated conflicts.

In other words, what the Guardian is saying here is that Israel is responsible for the corruption of collective standards; that it has somehow managed to undermine the ability of the peace-loving, human rights and international law-respecting world (of which the Guardian appears to consider itself a part) to pursue its laudable aims.  And why did Israel do this, according to the Guardian editor? For its own selfish and perfidious ends, of course.

I must admit that when some commentators refer to the Guardian as some sort of modern-day Der Sturmer I usually feel very uncomfortable with the comparison. However, in this case the similarity between the accusation of Israeli corruption of the moral standards of the international judiciary (the pinnacle of the community of human rights advocates) and the old Nazi trope of Jews corrupting ‘pure’ German culture is just too obvious to ignore.

Of course the ironic thing about the Guardian’s zealous defence of the Goldstone Report and its commissioning body the U. N. Human Rights Council is that some of the world’s worst human rights offenders and nose-thumbers at international law are to be found sitting on that body. Despite the Guardian’s apparent bizarre belief to the contrary, even UN officials themselves have expressed concern over the blatantly disproportionate focus on Israel at the UNHRC. In 2006 Kofi Annan said:

“But, I am worried by its disproportionate focus on violations by Israel.  Not that Israel should be given a free pass.  Absolutely not.  But the Council should give the same attention to grave violations committed by other States as well.”

A year later, Ban Ki-moon stated that:

“The Secretary-General is disappointed at the Council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, (Israel) given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”

But significantly, the Guardian has not a bad word to say about the collection of human rights-abusing despots at the UNHRC. Not even the growing possibility that Syria will soon replace Libya on that council even whilst Assad guns down hundreds in the streets and tries to starve rebellious towns into submission shakes the Guardian’s blind faith in that organization.  

And that, I’m afraid, is what happens when obsession and malice take over from logic as they apparently have among Rusbridger and his merry men.  Defending an organization dominated by undemocratic and brutal regimes and flirting with Nazi-style propaganda becomes par for the course when the focus of a once respected publication becomes to delegitimise Israel at every opportunity.  

A continuing obsession: Guardian implies that Israel & her supporters are to blame for civilian atrocities in Sri Lanka

The latest Guardian editorial (“Sri Lanka: No-inquiry zone, April 27) is ostensibly about war crimes committed by the Sri Lanka regime against the Tamil Tigers but, in another example of their editors’ inability to hide their single obsession with the Jewish state, also implies that the attacks on the credibility of the UN Human Rights Commission – and the Goldstone Report which the UNHRC commissioned – has had an injurious effect on the way civilians are treated in other countries.  Specifically, the editorial notes:

“A UN panel has just produced [a report] about the carnage of civilians which took place two years ago when government forces crushed the Tamil Tigers…but will likely be shelved…as hard-hitting as anything Goldstone produced, and therefore is just as likely to be shelved”

The editorial continues:

“One country’s ability to bury the evidence of war crimes endangers how civilians are treated in all other conflicts.” 

The malicious implication is clear: Efforts by Israel and her defenders to refute and undermine the credibility of The Goldstone Report has emboldened other nations who are inclined to commit acts of violence against its civilians.  The editorial then notes:

That there is credible evidence that government soldiers targeted civilians, shelled hospitals and attacked aid workers in the final months of the war against the Tamil Tigers is indisputable. That the Tigers used civilians as human shields and shot those attempting to flee the carnage at point-blank range is equally true. Tens of thousands died as a result of these twin brutalities. 

Even by Guardian standards this is an especially vicious narrative – as if Sri Lankan troops, and rebel Tamil Tigers, would have behaved more morally if the Goldstone Report hadn’t been refuted.  Further, the implication that there is any parallel at all between the conflict in Sri Lanka, which has claimed a total of more than 100,000 lives according to Freedom House, and Israel’s war in Gaza is simply ahistorical. 

As with the Guardian’s equally bizarre contention, regarding the uprisings in the Arab world against despotic regimes, last month that, whatever the issues in each particular Arab country, Palestine was the “cockpit of the crisis, the paper again shows itself singularly obsessed with the actions of the democratic Israeli state and her supporters.

Paraphrasing, and slightly tweaking, an old adage: there are some ideas so crazy, and so implausible, that only Guardian editors could believe them.

Gary Younge’s tunnel vision

Children’s hospital wards are often quite noisy places with sick babies crying, attending mothers chatting, toddlers playing and visitors constantly arriving and leaving. So in the early hours of the afternoon of April 6th 1994, I didn’t actually hear the explosion. It was only the third or fourth consecutive wailing ambulance siren which distracted my attention from the I.V. line I was setting up at the time and activated that all-enveloping sixth sense that something, even in a busy hospital like HaEmek in Afula, was very wrong.

Seconds later the ward’s head nurse put her head around the door. She only needed to say one word – pigu’a – which means terror attack in Hebrew. That word activates an entire system. A skeleton staff remains on the wards whilst the rest of us report to pre-determined places and take up our pre-assigned and well-drilled roles. That day was the first time in my professional life that I witnessed the immediate aftermath of what later turned out to be the first car bomb detonated inside pre-1967 Israel.

Seven gas cylinders, five hand-grenades, 1,100 carpentry nails and the fuel in the tank of the car itself combined to rip through the metal and glass of the number 348 bus whilst it stood at the bus-stop in central Afula with passengers boarding, including many teenagers who had just got out of school for the day. Eight people were killed and forty wounded. For months afterwards I used to see some of the wounded teenagers coming almost daily to the hospital for further treatment, mostly for the severe burns they had sustained.


I don’t suppose that Gary Younge bothered to visit the memorial to the residents of Afula killed in that suicide bombing on his way to Nazareth. He probably also didn’t see the memorial to the 17 people killed aboard the number 830 bus at Meggido Junction on June 5th 2002 by another suicide car bomber from Jenin.  Maybe he doesn’t know about the terror attack at the Ta’anachim Junction on May 20th 2000, the murder of two people by terrorists from Jenin near the Afula central bus station on the 27th of November 2001 or the murder of three others at the same bus station on October 4th of the same year.  If by chance Younge stopped off at the shopping mall in Afula on his way to Nazereth, he probably didn’t notice that three Israelis  there and 47 injured- including one of my former colleagues from HaEmek hospital – on May 19th 2003 when a suicide bomber detonated herself as she was stopped by security guards.

Of course I could go on and write thousands more words about the many other terrorist attacks in Afula and the surrounding areas of Gilboa and Wadi ‘Ara which came out of the northern Shomron area and Jenin in particular. I could write about the month of March 2002 when 135 Israelis were murdered; the month that became the watershed after which the Israeli government could no longer refuse the calls of its citizens to construct a security fence in order to prevent the uninhibited crossing of suicide bombers from Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

But Gary Younge would not be interested in my words. He didn’t even know the correct geographical location of his crossing from autonomous Palestinian territory into Israel. For him the security barrier and border crossings are just instruments for his arsenal in his anti-Israel diatribe. Whichever of the numerous crossings Younge used on his trip to Nazareth, he would have had to travel within Israel to get there because there is no crossing directly into the Galilee town of Nazareth. Even the most northerly crossing point at Jalame on the Gilboa is 24.3 kilometres away from Nazareth and to get there one has to pass right through the town of Afula on route 60.


It is therefore interesting that in his original article (before the amendment made due to readers pointing out his faulty geography),  Younge only saw a border crossing and Nazareth. 

For him there was – very symbolically – nothing in between; no Israel, no monuments to civilians murdered by suicide bombers, no people, no grief, no fear, no need for protection  from devastation of lives and property. In fact, there is no mention whatsoever of ordinary Israeli people – the ones who get blown to smithereens or have their flesh irreversibly charred by bus bombs. Apart from some oblique impersonal mentions of border guards and security personnel, a politician, a suitably quotable academic and some ghostly “foreigners”, there are no Israeli people in Younge’s world.

That says it all. In writing an article supposedly about the imbalance of responsibility and holding of power, Younge has fallen into the self-laid trap which so often afflicts the British media. He is more than willing to empathise with the Palestinians whom he can identify as suffering human beings, but not only can he not empathise with Israelis – he can’t even see them, either literally or figuratively. For him, we don’t exist.

Let’s examine the rest of this statement by Younge:

“At the West Bank-Israel crossing on the access highway to Nazarath,(sic) only brown-skinned people had their passports held.”

Every day, Israeli security forces receive reams of intelligence information. Some of it is useless, some unfounded – as is the case in intelligence gathering in any country around the world. None of it, however, is ignored because it is the first line of defence in preventing the murder of civilians. By making the above statement, Younge is deliberately accusing Israeli security personnel of racism. Obviously that is the only prism through which his life-experience allows him to view situations, but it does not mean that even if the event was as he reports it, that his subjective interpretation of it is correct.

Obviously I do not know the nature of the intelligence passed to the guards at the border crossed by Gary Younge on that day, and neither does he. But anyone with anything but a pre-determined and seemingly irretrievably biased view of Israel would realise that a bunch of foreigners who had just spent several days in enemy territory, possibly accompanied by or known to have had contact with people known to the security agencies because of their connections to certain paramilitary or political groups should expect to be subject to scrutiny. The colour of their skin is entirely irrelevant. What matters is who they have been in contact with and why.

But Gary Younge’s world is clearly shaped exclusively by what he can and cannot see; he is unable to step out of his particular cultural box and specific life experience long enough to understand that London or Brooklyn-based presumptions, expectations and interpretations are often not relevant in this part of the world. That kind of ideologically and politically inspired tunnel vision is what renders the writings of people such as Younge. and so many more of the Guardian faithful, nothing more than blatantly obvious propaganda.

Amnesty International’s complicity in extremism: The NGO to host upcoming pro-Islamist event, which includes former Guardian editor

What is it about Amnesty International UK which makes it repeatedly engage in self-destructive behavior? After the very public and widespread criticism which the organisation brought upon itself by partnering with ‘Cageprisoners’, one would have hoped that lessons would have been learned. Apparently that is not the case for, as shown above, Amnesty International UK is permitting some of Britain’s more off-the-wall Israel haters to congregate on its premises next month for an otiose exercise in self-gratifying rhetoric.

We do not need to dust off our crystal balls in order to predict what will be the answer to the’ question’ “Does the Media aid Israel?”. The very nature of the organising bodies and invited speakers guarantees only one possible outcome to the so-called debate.  

Chairing the event is the Guardian’s former associate foreign editor, Victoria Brittain; she of I didn’t notice that thousands of pounds had been deposited in my bank account” fame. Ms Brittain does a nice line in Israel defamation herself, of course, when not advocating BDS in her role as patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) or ghost-writing the biography of the head of ‘Cageprisoners’, of which she is also a patron (what a coincidence!).

Next on the panel we have Tim Llewellyn, the former BBC Middle East correspondent who has sat on the executive board of the lobbying group CAABU – Council for Arab-British Understanding – which is financed by assorted Arab governments and is involved with the Arab British Centre.  For many years now Llewellyn has been attempting to advance the idea, not least in the Guardian, that the BBC is tainted by pro-Israel bias. He is also a keen advocate for Hamas and Hizbollah, believing that Zionism is a “calamity”, and occasional writer of  Guardian obituaries for terrorists.

How does Llewellyn account for this supposed BBC bias? Well it appears to have something to do with Tony Blair’s choice of (affluent, of course) friends:

“The Blair vision of the Middle East – that the Americans have all the answers, but need a little gentle coaxing from Whitehall, that the Israelis are victims of terror, and “terror” is our main universal enemy, that the Palestinians are their own worst enemies and must do what they are told – will have been sensed at the BBC and passed on down the line.

It is no secret that Blair is very close to Israel. His old crony and party financier, Lord Levy, has been rewarded with the post of special adviser on Middle East matters. Lord Levy is a peer who has close contacts with Israel and a multi-million pound villa near Tel Aviv – his son Daniel Levy worked in the office of Israel’s former Justice Minister, Yossi Beilin. The first stress in any New Labour comment on the Palestine-Israel crisis is always on Israeli security or on “terror”, that easy bête noir of the modern politician (the BBC has uncritically accepted “The War on Terror” as a phrase with meaning).”

Llewellyn has worked closely with another panel member, Greg Philo – a Professor at the University of Glasgow who has co-written two books on the subject of supposed pro-Israel media bias as well in the Guardian.

The fourth panel member is editor in chief of the Al Quds al Arabi newspaper – set up by Palestinian ex-pats – Abdel Bari Atwan, who also writes an occasional column for CiF.  Atwan is well-known for his egregious remarks on various Israel-related subjects, not least his statement that he would “dance in Trafalgar Square” if Israel were ever hit by Iranian nuclear weapons.

If Amnesty International officials think that they will be advancing human rights by hosting Atwan on their premises, they may care to consider his behaviour at a public meeting at the London School of Economics a few months ago, after which the police began an investigation following complaints of antisemitism.

“Raheem Kassam, the Muslim director of Student Rights, said: “These are truly cowardly, bullying tactics which have no place in an academic environment. He (Atwan) must be held to account for creating the conditions on campus whereby audience members see fit to call Jewish students ‘Nazis’.”

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone with even a passing familiarity with MEMO – aka Middle East Monitor – the co-organiser of this event along with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Ten minutes on Google should have been enough to persuade Amnesty International that these are not human rights activists, but seasoned political campaigners, some of whom have associations with terror organisations and political and religious fanatics.

Daoud Abdullah, who is the director of MEMO as well as deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and a senior researcher for the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Palestinian Return Centre, has two major claims to fame. The first is his lead of the MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK. The second is his signing of the Istanbul Declaration which potentially endorsed terrorism against British service personnel.

Senior editor of MEMO is Ibrahim Hewitt, who also heads ‘Interpal’ – the charity which has been the subject of three investigations by the Charity Commission and named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial in the United States, as well as having been banned in Israel because of its Hamas connections.

MEMO’s press officer, Hanan Chehata, took part in a ‘Viva Palestina’ convoy to Gaza, its staff writer Renee Boyer was spokesperson for ‘Free Gaza’ – organiser of pointless flotillas to Gaza- in 2008/9 and its analyst Samira Quraishy is also a researcher for the Khomenist pretend human rights organisation known as the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

MEMO’s honorary advisors include Dr. Salman Abu Sitta – a leading figure in the Al Awda‘ movement which advocates ‘return’ to Israel for millions of descendents of Palestinian refugees with the aim of eradicating the Jewish state.

Two of MEMO’s advisors sit in the House of Lords: Lord Nazir Ahmed , who opposed the presentation of a knighthood to the author Salman Rushdie and hosted a book-launch for the renowned antisemite ‘Israel Shamir’, and Baroness Jenny Tonge, who is also a patron of the PSC and the Muslim Brotherhood-linked ‘ European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’, as well as someone who understands’ suicide bombers and promoted libels regarding fictional Israeli organ-stealing operations in Haiti.  

Other honorary advisors are Dr. Maria Holt of Westminster University – who has no qualms about appearing on Hizbollah’s Al Manar television channel, former Catholic priest Oliver McTernan, founder of Forward Thinking which seems to advocate engagement with terrorists, and last but not least, Muslim Brotherhood linked Oxford academic Tariq Ramadan.

For now, Amnesty International appears to have been intent upon squandering its good reputation for the sake of political designs and its self-harm only seems to get worse as time goes on.  With its credibility already in tatters, the time is long overdue for Amnesty to decide whether it aspires to be part of the solution on the subject of human rights crises and abuses around the world or not.

If it does, it must begin by immediately cancelling its hosting of this MEMO/PSC event which is engineered by people with obvious practical connections to – and ideological sympathies with – some of the world’s worst human-rights abusing regimes and some particularly prominent racists.

Otherwise, Amnesty International will rapidly confirm the growing suspicions of many that it is in fact part of the problem.

Gary Younge’s mythical “white” Israel

There is so much political pathos to dissect in Gary Younge’s diatribe against Israel yesterday (see our replies here and here) but one of the most telling themes in his myopic broadside worth exploring was his implicit accusation that Israel was a “white country” which discriminates against it’s darker skinned residents – particularly evident in this passage:

“At the [border] crossing into Nazareth, only brown-skinned people had their passports held.”

As I noted in the previous post, the journalistic malfeasance of implying that Israeli border security discriminates based on the skin color of those wishing to enter the country – and not rigorous screening procedure based on the state’s long history of terrorists attempting to infiltrate its borders – based solely on a couple of hours of observation is not worthy of a college rag yet alone the website of a major UK newspaper.

But, beyond the particulars of Younge’s assertion, the implicit argument is even more morally reckless.

Younge seems to see the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict through the remarkably skewed view of a “white” Jewish state oppressing “people of color” – Palestinians/Arabs.

I’m not sure if Younge spent any time in our country but it’s highly unlikely that, if he did, he considered the ample visual evidence while walking down the streets in cities such as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv which would have contradicted his hypothesis, and demonstrated that the average Israeli is darker than most citizens in dozens of liberal European capitals.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, the ethnic, national, and racial diversity in Israel  is a legacy of the cultural diversity and far-flung nature of the Jewish Diaspora: it is said that Jews have come to modern Israel from 103 countries, speaking more than 70 different languages upon arriving on her shores.

Indeed, as I noted yesterday, in addition to the 25% of Israeli citizens who aren’t Jewish, about half of Israel’s Jewish population are Jews of color – that is, Jews whose ancestry originates from the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia, South America, India, the Caucasus and elsewhere.

The following photos – attesting to Israel’s remarkable racial and ethnic diversity – won’t be at all surprising to anyone who calls Israel home, or has spent any time here.   

Jews from Yemen arriving in Israel

Mizrachi Jews in Israel


Ethiopian Israelis

More on Gary Younge’s racism, by a Guardian reader

I responded yesterday to Gary Younge’s hateful diatribe against the Jewish state, but wanted to also note a comment beneath the line which makes a very good point, not only about Younge’s particular essay, but about the obsession with Israel more broadly.  

The reader’s analogy is, I think, an apt one, as I also recall acquaintances in the US who never seemed to get quite as outraged by violent crimes committed by whites as they did by such crimes committed by African-Americans, and while they would often be careful not to make any overtly racist comments, it was clear, by their obsessive focus on the sins of individuals within that particular minority community, their criticism revealed a thinly veiled racial animosity. 

Looking over Younge’s choice of topics for his column – beyond his focus on American domestic issues – it’s quite revealing that his forays into the politics of the Middle East somehow all but ignored the Arab uprisings against despotic regimes, and the subsequent brutality used to quell the unrest, yet found time for several attacks on the region’s lone progressive democracy.

The one major difference of course between Americans who engage in racism against blacks, and those who engage in such bigotry against the Jewish state, is that the former bias has been, thankfully, largely delegitimized in American society and considered contrary to the nation’s democratic values, whereas the latter bias not only often fails to elicit public opprobrium but is sometimes considered to be a natural component of progressive political identity – by many, though by no means all, who identify with that political orientation.

While, of course, measured criticism of Israeli policy is not indicative of bigotry, the obsessive and palpable animosity towards Israel should properly be seen as a racism no less insidious than prejudices against any other racial, ethnic, or religious minority.

It’s incumbent upon progressives – and anyone who claims the mantle of tolerance and diversity – to speak out loudly, and without inhibition, against this modern form of anti-Semitism. 

A “Rose in the Desert” Smells Like Sh*t

This is cross posted by A. Jay Adler at The Sad Red Earth

I mean not to diminish but heighten in significance the state repression and murder currently being executed across Syria by reminding us all of what I had intended to write of at the time, the creepiest, most morally repugnant journalism of the year – Joan Juliet Bucks “A Rose in the Desert,” for Vogue, with photography by James Nachtwey. Might Anna Wintour and the other editors of that glossy dross, reeking of ancien regime parfum feel more chastened now to think it, worse, in bad taste? For there were only decades to know of the barbarous tyranny of Syria’s Ba’athistregime, no different from any other party in the Middle East under that banner, with one decade of Syrian interference in Lebanon sufficient to know the nature of Assad junior. Still, for Buck,

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.


That’s an estimated 340 dead so far in the nationwide protests, you should know.

Said the French Ambassador, according to Buck,

She managed to get people [at the International Diplomatic Institute in Paris] to consider the possibilities of a country that’s modernizing itself, that stands for a tolerant secularism in a powder-keg region, with extremists and radicals pushing in from all sides—and the driving force for that rests largely on the shoulders of one couple. I hope they’ll make the right choices for their country and the region.

But, writes Hisham Melham in Foreign Policy, in addition to both the historical and present reality of Syrian politics and behavior,

the underlying reality is much gloomier: Syria does not have a serious university or research institution, a notable press, hospitals with reliable medical care, or any efficient state agency — save the institutions of repression. Indeed, the ingrained inertia of the current Assad regime, its hollow and brittle institutions, and the very nature of the political system, including its instruments of coercion, prevents it from engaging in serious reform or from delivering on the requirements of regional peace. The regime may well have finally lifted the country’s Emergency Law this week, but that will do little to change the underlying authoritarian realities: Article 8 of the constitution (which establishes the primacy of the Baath party in state and society), the illegality of political parties, and an ongoing media environment of censorship and craven dependence.

In many of these ways, Bashar has simply carried on the authoritarian legacy of his father, Hafez Assad.

Quelle surprise.

Not all is lost, however. We can always treasure, here, Nachtwey giving us the Assadsen vogue with Disney World lighting, at play on the floor with the children and trucks, the modern tyrannical family spending quality time at home. I hope it’s framed above the reception desk at the Vogue offices. After all, one needs to take pride in one’s work.