Israel and Greece: A Tale of Two Nation-States

This is cross posted by Diana Muir Appelbaum at Jewish Ideas Daily

What made Greece, long a pro-Arab country with a history of anti-Semitism and a notoriously soft line on terrorism, stop political activists from sailing a flotilla to Gaza?  What led Greece to rush fire-fighting helicopters to the Mt. Carmel fire?  Why do many observers expect to see more Greek-Israeli cooperation not only in defense and diplomacy, but also in culture, tourism, business, and development of solar and water-saving technology?

Part of the answer is that Greece would like to become less dependent on Arab oil by buying natural gas from Israel, and it is the obvious partner for a pipeline to bring Israeli natural gas to profitable European markets.

But the surprise is how much deeper the friendship could become, as a look at Greece’s history and culture reveals a number of striking parallels with Israel.

Like Israel, modern Greece was created by romantic nationalists able first to imagine, and then to achieve, independence because of the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire.  Both countries were populated by victims of vicious and sometimes genocidal ethnic cleansings.

When Greece achieved independence in 1828, it was a tiny statelet with borders that ended just north of Athens.  The overwhelming majority of ethnic Greeks lived outside the Greek state, and historic Mt. Olympus and Constantinople, with hundreds of thousands of Greek residents, were outside its borders.

Among the many promises made by the British government during World War I—when the Ottomans fought alongside Germany—were the establishment of a Jewish homeland (the Balfour Declaration), and a promise that the ethnically Greek areas of coastal Anatolia (also then outside the Greek state) would be given to Greece.  With the Ottoman Empire crumbling, the 1919 Paris Peace Conference authorized Greece to move into Smyrna.  Unwisely, the Greek army pressed past the Greek-populated areas into the interior of Anatolia, where the Turkish army decimated it.

Massacres and ethnic cleansings of Anatolian Greeks had begun in 1914 but accelerated in 1919, and are remembered for their scale, brutality, and genocidal intent. The outcome of the Armenian massacres was even worse, since when the two campaigns began, Greek Christians had an independent state to flee to as the Armenians did not. But in both cases, no one intervened.  Instead, the world sent Ernest Hemingway to file moving reports about the ranks of starving Greek refugees trudging toward the border and safety.

Only after the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians and the 1,400,000 Greek Christians of Anatolia was largely complete did the great powers meet in the Swiss city of Lausanne, where they worked out partial compensation for the Greek victims.   The remaining Christians in Turkey were obliged to move to Greece, and the 300,000 Muslims in Greece (except for those of Thrace) were required to depart for Turkey, with their homes converted to housing for Greek refugees.  A Greek Christian community was allowed to remain in Istanbul in 1923, but it was driven out during the Cyprus crises.

One result was that well over a quarter of the population of the Greek state, which numbered a mere four-and-a-half million people, was suddenly made up of refugees.  Only in the Jewish state have refugees comprised a larger proportion of the population.

Even after this enormous ethnic cleansing, large Greek communities remained in the Soviet Union, Egypt, French Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.  The Greek law of return was designed to provide citizenship for ethnic Greeks who might need it.  They have needed it often—in large events, like the Nasser-era policies that forced a substantial Greek community out of Egypt, and small but dramatic ones, like the 1993 Greek Army operation that rescued ethnic Greeks from war-torn Abkhazia.

The challenges of integrating these recurring waves of refugees have been enormous.  As in Israel, they arrived stripped of their property to a country with little demand for their skills, speaking mutually unintelligible variants of Greek or entirely foreign languages.

Greece has never been perfect; it has been violent and, despite decades of European Union-funded prosperity, has not figured out how to build an economy.  And yet it has offered something valuable to its citizens.  Whether they are the descendants of refugees driven from their distant homes or of peasants exploited by arrogant overlords, all Greeks are now members of a national community.  As citizens, they have a voice in their own government and the right to national self-determination and self-defense.

If Greeks often seem unreasonably prickly or stiff-necked to EU officials, their Balkan neighbors, or Turkey, it is because the memory of not having had these rights is so vivid.  But the lives of nations are not static.  The Muslim citizens of eastern Thrace no longer live as peasant farmers.  The young move to Thessalonica and Athens where they join a growing community of illegal immigrant workers from poor countries including Egypt, Pakistan, and Albania.  Some Muslim Albanians agitate for the right of return that Greece law gives to ethnically Greek Christians.  They descend from the large community of ethnic Albanians expelled by Greek partisans late in World War II following their widespread collaboration with Italian and German occupation forces.

These developments raise the question of what it means to be Greek, a particularly challenging issue because until recently, Greek ethnicity, membership in the Greek Orthodox Church, and the right to Greek nationality have meant more or less the same thing.

Most Greeks continue to regard Greek culture, history, language, and Christianity as inseparable from Greek nationality, even if they personally enter a church only to attend weddings and funerals.  The memory of centuries of Ottoman rule during which Greek culture and literature declined, the repair of the roof on a church was technically illegal, and even those Greeks with great wealth and privileges had no rights makes nationhood precious.

This, then, is the deep commonality that prime ministers Papandreou and Netanyahu have discovered and set out to cultivate: the idea that in a large and diverse world, the right to exist of two small, distinctive nation states, one Greek and one Jewish, is eminently worth defending.

Diana Muir Appelbaum is an American author and historian.  She is at work on a book tentatively entitled Nationhood: The Foundation of Democracy

What the Guardian won’t report about growing up Palestinian under the Israeli “Occupation”

H/T Margie and Medusa

(Though this essay, by Sarah Elshazly, was first published in 2004, her passionate, and quite heterodox polemic – on Israel, the Arab world, and root of the Palestinian Refugee problem – represents a Palestinian narrative about the conflict that’s rarely if ever heard at the Guardian or within the mainstream media, and is well worth the read.)

Ever since I was a child, I’ve heard different accounts from different sources on what happened to the Palestinians and Palestine. I heard the Jewish side and  the Arab side. The side that no one seems to want to hear, is of those who lived and live there. The Israeli Arabs. Rare as we are in terms of a world-wide nation, we exist. Despite the fact that some Jews may want us out of Israel and some Arabs believe that we are an extension of the Zionists, we exist. We keep our culture and tradition. Mahshy, or stuffed grape leaves, remain our favorite meal and not lox and cream cheese (Which is actually the food of Eastern European Jews and not Israeli Jews). We love Arabic music and sing old folk songs which include “wein aa Ramallah” a name of a famous Palestinian city, as well as songs from all over the Arab world. We are however different. We have vested interest in both sides and are angry at both sides.

Israeli Arabs have lived side by side with Jews for as long as this generation can remember. We have lived as Israeli citizens since 1948. Before that, the region wasn’t quite as divided. Families lived in different cities in the area which includes the West Bank, Gaza, Amman and other Arab cities in areas where borders were created later. All of the sudden, Palestinians became strangers to their own families. We were divided by boundaries set by the Europeans and those within the boundaries of Israel became “Israeli Arabs”. The Israeli Arabs have become the unwanted, unloved, illegitimate, biracial  step-child of  the Middle East conflict. No one wants to associate themselves with us and no one wants us to identify ourselves as one of them. We have to apologize for our existence.

What angers me the most about this is the stories that I heard as child from those ones who stayed behind. Palestinians who fled their homes and lost their families and children and most of all their dignity are angry, bitter and distraught. No one can blame them. They seem to have been taught who they are supposed to hate, who is the guilty party and who should be punished for their problems. Peoples’ memories are so short . It is easier to have a focused on one enemy- especially an enemy who does not belong to the same “tribe”, than to analyze a situation such as the Palestinian refugees disaster.

The question is, why did Arabs living in what became Israel flee? The ones who remained in their homes actually live and prosper. So why didn’t they stay. There is the one focused obvious enemy, Israel. But is that the truth? It is not my place or my purpose to discuss who belongs in that tiny region called Israel, but it is my intent and reason for risking shunning by my own community to set the record straight. The Arab world warned the Palestinians of staying with the Jews. They also warned them that they were going in to fight the Zionists and that the Palestinians should leave in order for them not to get hurt. Many Palestinians  trusted these Arab leaders and left. Bad blood had existed between some groups of Arabs and Jews- enough to flame the Propaganda machines. Those who lived with Jews for a long time, were not as easily convinced and stayed home. My family members have always told us  that there were cars going around telling people to stay put. The cars contained Jews. They told everyone that they will not harm them. Thus we have the situation where Jews are begging Arabs to stay and live with them and other Arabs from outside the country were telling them to flee for their lives.

Palestinians have gotten the short end of the stick in  the Arab society. They are kept in poverty and turmoil because it suits the leadership of the Arab world to keep them in this position. What better way to do it than to take away every last means of dignity and power, shift the attention of the average Arab  towards the perfect target- Jews.

You don’t believe me? Then ask yourself why Jordan, Egypt or Syria didn’t they give the Palestinians a country when they were the ones who had our land? Why didn’t they give Jerusalem to the Palestinians and why do they expect more of Israel? If I hear one more time a non Palestinian, especially American Muslims ,repeat the phrase “Over 50 years of the Zionist occupation” I’m going to burst. Can no one actually read history? I don’t mean ancient history, I’m talking about 1948-1967. Who had that land? Even with the assumption that they wanted the Palestinians to have “all” their land, there is no excuse for not giving them an independent state. And we blame Israel?

I remember as a child watching a Syrian play with a very famous Syrian comedian. The play was about the 1973 war which took place in October. The comedian played a young man who fought in the war and was taken hostage. After his release he was detained by his government. At one point, the guards slapped him and he started crying. A fellow inmate who was also a fellow hostage asked him with puzzlement “Why are you crying? I’ve seen the enemies do much more to you and you just laughed it off? This was only a slap.” He replied “The enemy is an enemy and I expected that of them, a slap is only a slap. From a brother however, it’s a slap in the heart.”

Let’s take  this another step. The Arab world is full of Palestinians. Yes, the same Arab world that pretends to care and wants to fan  the fire of  the poor Palestinians and get so exited when they are killed. Yes, the same Arab world that sits by the TV to watch a young Palestinian get killed by Israel in order to justify their hate of the Jews right before  they go to their cozy beds. The same Arab world that has taught the Palestinians to fight. That same Arab world will not give a Palestinian citizenship. Now the argument that it is because they will go home to their rightful land doesn’t sit well with me. Even if that is so, to me it indicates an admission that they do not have a land. What are they to do in the mean time? Why can’t they give them equal rights? Why can’t they go to schools for free? Why can’t  they get the same jobs and pay as the person who was born and grew up the their same area? Where is that love, for that matter, where is that hate for Israel that they use  the Palestinian issue to justify?

Let’s go to the refugees! First the Arab Governments starts with the scare tactics, then they take what ever they could from the United States and Israel and then they stick them in camps with deplorable living conditions. WHY? Why didn’t they leave them alone in their homes? Why did they promise them refuge and reward them with what are essentially prison camps? And most of all,  why didn’t they provide them with homes in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan heights when they had control over them?  Please do not say “Money”. The Palestinian refugees receive aid from all over the world and yet, they don’t seem to have a better living conditions. The “hosting” Governments siphons off some money into its’ pockets and the Palestinian authority, or lack of it, siphons off the rest and as a result the poor deserving people get nothing.

I am not writing this to say merely to say that the Arab world had not done  enough or done nothing nor am I suggesting that they do anything now. I am merely pointing out the truth and basically, as a Palestinian, I would like to ask the entire world to stop exploiting our issue. If you want a do a good deed find your own. To the singers who are romanticizing the Palestinian suffering, it is not romantic. There is nothing dreamy about it. There is no heroism in a small child throwing rocks at a tank. Either warn  the child to stay away or Please shut up! How dare you do this to our children? Our suffering gives  you good video materials and a good rating? Not to mention fame and the good old all mighty Dollar?

To the average citizen in the Arab world, stop crying crocodile tears for us. We don’t need you to talk about the “poor Palestinians” or to protest. We thank you for your kind feelings, but please, leave us alone. We do not want to be the object of your pity. To the Arab and Islamic Governments, fix your own problems. Do not use our misery to blind your subjects to what is really wrong with your countries. What are you afraid of? If the people wise up and stop hating Israel they’re going to turn on you? Maybe, I mean, when you condone so much hate you will pay the price. You’ve created monsters and you won’t be able to handle them. Worry about creating jobs for your own poor people and educating the children and leave us alone. In short to all those who are driving our children to die, please, stay away from us.

The Guardian’s latest precipitous circulation decline (& their increasing reliance on the BBC)

This is cross posted at the blog, Autonomous Mind

A couple of weeks ago the Audit Bureau of Circulations figures for national newspapers for June was reported in the Press Gazette. It shows that newspapers are fishing an increasingly shallow pool as readers turn away from them.

The average drop in year on year average circulation figures across the dailies was 7.9%.  However, as you can see from the table below, some fared worse than others…

(The Up/Down figure is the year-on-year percentage rise or fall in circulation)

The New Labour supporting Times and increasingly confused Telegraph both showed above average falls in average daily circulation, reflecting their lack of relevance.  But it is the left leaning papers that are really suffering.  The Daily Star recorded the biggest drop and The Guardian saw the third largest decline.

The Guardian is firmly on track to fall below the quarter of a million average daily circulation figure.  But that notwithstanding it continues to enjoy audience reach through its broadcasting arm, the BBC, which spouts the Guardian editorial line as if it were a given truth.  Again, this raises the question of the disproportionate influence The Guardian has over the BBC.  Despite the fact readers are rejecting The Guardian newspaper in greater numbers than the industry average, it is referenced far more by the BBC than any other organ and more journalists from The Guardian are called upon to offer commentary and opinion than from any other paper.

We could hope the BBC Trust might take time to commission a review into plurality of opinion among its invited guests, but if recent ‘independent’ reviews are anything to go by they would probably maintain their incestuous relationship by asking Peter Preston to conduct it, and the outcome would likely be a recommendation that the BBC stops inviting any journalists on air except those from The Guardian, current or retired, and that Alan Rusbridger be given his own primetime TV slot to share his views on Britain, News Corporation and the world.

Without the BBC the fact is the Guardian would be sinking much further even quicker. From the advertising revenue to the visibility and platform afforded to the paper, the licence fee payer is being compelled to subsidise a declining business under pain of fine or imprisonment.  Bar the grumbling what is anyone doing to address this outrageous state of affairs?

Tel Aviv homeless upset at (Mya Guarnieri-style) far left hypocrisy

This is cross posted at Point of No Return

Kfar Shalem - the common man's struggle against encroaching redevelopment

With Israelis camping out in the streets in protest against a chronic shortage of affordable housing, who should jump on the bandwagon but Mya Guarnieri, al-Jazeera’s woman in Tel Aviv [and occasional CiF contributor]. Guarnieri wonders why the media have been ignoring the good citizens of Kfar Shalem, an area of south Tel Aviv threatened with demolition which she wrote about in February.

Kfar Shalem may not be familiar to most Israelis but it is certainly known to readers of this blog, when Point of No Return covered the mostly-Mizrahi residents’ struggle to fight eviction in 2007.

Young anti-Zionist radicals like Guarnieri can’t resist politicising what is essentially nothing more sinister than the common man’s universal fight against encroaching urban gentrification and redevelopment.

In her article for +972 blog, Israel has manipulated the poor Mizrahim for political ends, exploiting them to keep Palestinians from reclaiming their homes:

Now an economically depressed neighborhood of South Tel Aviv, Kfar Shalem, was once a Palestinian village, Salame. Jewish forces ran the Arab residents out in early 1948, months before Israel was established and (what some refer to as) the War of Independence began.

The young state gave the empty Palestinian homes to impoverished Mizrachi Jews. The idea, some residents of Kfar Shalem admit today, was to discourage dispossessed Palestinians from returning. The Jewish occupants were to “guard” the houses.

These new residents also created facts on the ground and, after the 1948 War, the municipality of Tel Aviv annexed Jaffa and Salame—both of which were destined for a Palestinian state under the partition plan approved by the UN in November of 1947.

Not a word of course, about the Arab aggression that caused the ‘War of Independence’. Nor is Guarnieri remotely troubled by the thought that the impoverished Mizrahi Jews could have themselves been dispossessed of their homes in their Arab countries of birth. For Guarnieri, Arabs can only ever be victims.

This blog has already drawn attention to the double standard among far-leftists for whom Arab property rights invariably trump Jewish rights, for example in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah. These leftists are only ever exercised by injustice against Jews when the Ashkenazi-dominated ruling elite can be blamed.

Curiously enough, however, this form of leftist hypocrisy has not escaped some of the residents of Kfar Shalem themselves: they obviously find the attentions of anti-Zionists like Guarnieri rather irksome. She herself admits, but was too cowardly to include in her report for Al-Jazeera:

.. many of the Jewish Israelis I interviewed were upset with their fellow citizens for not doing more to help them in their battle against homelessness. Some also expressed frustration with the Israeli left because they felt that such activists reserve their sympathies only for Palestinians and foreigners.

Good for you, residents of Kfar Shalem, for making a stand against the leftist manipulation of your grievances to advance their own political agenda.

The Sad Song Of Norway: Its Antisemitic Refrain

This is cross posted at Daphne Anson

Oslo, 2006.  Miriam Shomrat, Israel’s Ambassador to Norway, was incensed.  And with good reason.

In September that year, a month after Oslo’s Jewish cemetery was vandalised, and just before Rosh Hashanah, three individuals in a passing car (later identified as two Islamists and an accomplice called Kristiansen), fired a volley of 13 shots at the synagogue.  The building’s facade was damaged, although luckily no one was hurt.  

The attack came shortly after the government of Jens Stoltenberg (who of course has been very much in the public eye this past week, and has visited a mosque to show his solidarity with his country’s Muslims) ruled that security cameras monitoring the approaches to the synagogue in Oslo must be removed.

Likening the attack on the synagogue to terrorism (a court verdict disagreed, by the way, finding merely that “serious vandalism” had occurred), Miriam Shomrat observed, before the perpetrators (who had, it would transpire, planned to bomb the Israeli and American embassies and to kidnap and decapitate her) were discovered:

“We don’t know who’s doing this, whether it’s Norwegians or foreigners.  But the fact that there’s been an increase [in attacks] and that it’s happening in Oslo must be taken very seriously by the political community.”

Diplomatic or not, in a television interview she made some pointed remarks about the fact that not a single message of sympathy had  been forthcoming from the country’s Royal Family, and blamed a former prime minister, Kåre Willoch (wrongly identified in the following video as “Kurk Witnak”) for contributing to the climate of antisemitism in Norway, and also criticised bestselling author Jostein Gaarder.

Willoch, a Conservative, and a fierce critic of Israeli policy towads the Palestinian Arabs, had in May 2006 invited Hamas official Atef Adwan to a private lucheon; Willoch would subsequently be accused of antisemitism by the Wall Street Journal for observing of President Obama’s appointment of Rahm Emanuel: “It does not look too promising, he has chosen a chief of staff who is Jewish,” a remark also condemned by Alan Dershowitz.

Gaarder, during Israel’s operations against Hizbollah in southern Lebanon, had in an op-ed in the newspaper Aftenposten entitled “God’s Chosen People” described Judaism as “an archaic national and warlike religion” and noted that Christianity promotes “compassion and forgiveness”.  He claimed that many Israelis  rejoiced at the deaths of Lebanese children, just as the biblical Israelites celebrated the plagues a wrathful Deity inflicted upon Egypt. 

“We laugh at this people’s whims, and cry over its misdeeds. To act as God’s chosen people is not only foolish and arrogant, it is a crime against humanity. We call it racism…. We laugh with embarrassment at those who still believe that the god of the flora, fauna and galaxies has chosen one particular people as his favorite, and given them amusing stone tablets, burning bushes and a license to kill….

We no longer recognize the State of Israel. We could not recognize the apartheid regime of South Africa, nor did we recognize the Afghani Taliban regime. Then there were many who did not recognize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing. We need to get used to the idea: The State of Israel, in its current form, is history.

The State of Israel has raped the recognition of the world and shall have no peace until it lays down its arms.”

Ambassador Shomrat’s remarks were denounced the following day by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, of whom we’ve also been seeing a lot in recent days.

Sniffed Støre, who has shown time and again that he is no friend to Israel:

“In the first place an ambassador from another country ought to know that the Royal Family can never respond to such remarks. And anyway she should also know that it is the government that expresses the view of the Norwegian authorities. 

What she is doing is to make criticisms of something that must be interpreted as a lack of sympathy with what happened last week. I think this is an unsuitable remark for an ambassador from another country in Norway.”

Fast forward a few years.  In a BBC News bulletin on Wednesday, an attractive and personable young woman who is a member of the Norwegian parliament was interviewed, obviously in order to drive home the message that Norway is the multicultural paradise that all good leftists say it is. Describing Norway as a “land of opportunity” she pointed out that she, the daughter of Muslim immigrants, had been elected to the legislature at the age of 28.

Quite so.  But for its small and dwindling Jewish community Norway is less the land of opportunity than the land of betrayal.

During the Second World War, Norway was the only one of the four Scandinavian countries which failed to protect its Jews from deportation.  Of Norway’s 1700 Jews, 736 were deported to their deaths (the others were hidden or managed to escape).

In contrast, the Jews of Denmark were famously rescued by being secretly conveyed by fishing boats to Sweden (which was neutral and unoccupied by the Nazis), while Finland, although an ally of Nazi Germany, pointedly refused to allow its Jews to be deported.

From 1942-45 wartime Norway was ruled by the Nazi stooge Vidkun Quisling, whose name is a synonym for treason, while below him were the usual gang of German and local antisemitic psychopaths.  (If you have ten minutes to spare, have a look at this video, in the second half of which an expert is interviewed.)

After the war, although Quisling was hanged, Police Inspector Knut Rod, who had been responsible for rounding up the Jews, was acquitted in what one source has described as a “scandalous” trial, while Jewish survivors who managed to return to Norway found that their apartments and businesses had been taken over by “Aryan” Norwegians.  Those Jews fortunate enough to get their property returned to them had to pay a steep “administration fee” for the privilege.

Although 66 years have passed since the end of the war, it appears that little has changed.  Norway today is, in fact, one of the most antisemitic countries in Europe, and much of the impetus for this hostility to Jews and to Israel has come not only from Muslim sources but from the ruling Labor Party and its supporters.

An astute pro-Israel Norwegian blogger noted, two-and-a-half years ago:

‘Mainstream media in Norway frequently uses cartoons depicting the state of Israel as the quintessential, vicious Jew. More often than not this caricature of a villainous Jew is depicted as violently oppressing a seemingly powerless neighbour.  To the right you can see “the seven synonyms of death”, from the Norwegian dailyDagsavisen, on January 7th, 2004. Dagsavisen is still tied to the labor movement, but not as much as it used to. In this caricature we see a bearded, bignosed man writing down synonyms for death on a scroll. He is wearing a cap which looks sort of Jewish….

I think it’s ten years now that I’ve heard people talk about similarities between Israel and Nazi-Germany. The comparison has been pretty much drilled into us in a classic Pavlovian conditioning.’ 

Last year, a prominent University of Oslo social anthropologist and  popular chat show regular, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, wrote, in  his book  Søppel – avfall i en verden av bivirkninger (“Trash – Garbage in a world of side effects”), while paraphrasing another author:

“The Jews (were considered) unclean because they were both insiders and outsiders: They had contributed disproportionately to Europe’s fine arts and were culturally competent, but at the same time they were not quite insiders due to their religion, their networks and their propensity for endogamy (they mostly married other Jews). They excluded themselves, and were in turn excluded, or vice versa.”

He then dropped the clanger: “These days the same formula is applied to Arabs…. by Jews.”

Apparently, the perception of Muslims as “the new Jews”and the Israelis as “the new Nazis” is found rather a lot in Norway

Who can easily forget the far-left hatchet-faced Gaza-based Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert, doing a far-left hatchet job on Israel during Operation Cast Lead in 2009?

The previous year, controversial performer Otto Jespersen offended Jews when he joked with impunity on national television:

“I would like to take the opportunity to remember all the billions of fleas and lice that lost their lives in German gas chambers, without having done anything wrong other than settling on persons of Jewish background.”

 And he ended a satirical monologue on antisemitism thus:

 “Finally, I would like to wish all Norwegian Jews a Merry Christmas – no, what am I saying! You don’t celebrate Christmas, do you!? It was you who crucified Jesus.”

 In 2010 Labor parliamentarian Anders Mathisen apparently queried the Holocaust, telling the newspaper Finnmarken that Jews “exaggerated their stories” and “there is no evidence the gas chambers and or mass graves existed”.  He reportedly accused movies such as Schindler’s List for bamboozling the public, and is said to have refused calls to resign.

Jens Stoltenberg’s immediate predecessor as party leader, Thorbjørn Jagland, currently serving as Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, was utterly condemnatory of Israel and its defensive actions on board the Mavi Marmara last year, taking Turkey’s part. 

Socialist leader Kristin Halvorsen has spearheaded Norway’s pervasive “Boikott Israel” campaign. Not long ago, she supported a call for military action against Israel if it attacked Hamas in Gaza.  She’s pictured here, when serving as minister of finance,at an anti-Israel rally where (in translation) a placard pronounced: “The greatest axis of evil: USA and Israel” and (it’s not hard to guess by whom) “Death to the Jews!” was repeatedly shouted.

Halvorsen’s twisted logic is that unless punitive action is taken against Israel for air strikes at Hamas positions, the credibility of international attempts to dislodge Gaddafi by force are morally undermined.  Similarly, Vibeke Løkkeberg, director of the anti-Israel movie Tears Over Gaza, aired on state-owned television station NRK, compared Operation Cast Lead to “the massacres Gaddafi is conducting against Libyan insurgents”.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who visited the ill-fated Utøya island youth camp the day before the massacre by Breivik, was cheered for his pro-Palestinian rhetoric, despite rejecting youth camp leader Eskil Pedersen’s call for a unilateral boycott of Israel by Norway. (Both men are pictured here, side by side.)

(Updatebe sure also to read this and this.)

Last year, the Norwegian government, which has banned Israel from tendering for Norwegian defence contracts, divested from two Israeli concerns operating in the West Bank, and its sovereign wealth fund divested from an Israeli company that worked on the security fence.  The government recently upgraded Palestinian representation in Norway to full ambassadorial status despite the Fatah’s accord with Hamas.

Sitting alongside Mahmoud Abbas, Støre told a press conference that ” it is perfectly legitimate” for Abbas to seek recognition of an independent Palestinian state at the UN.   Støre chairs a group of countries who financially support the Palestinian cause, and stressed that “all donors should make an extra effort to support the Palestinians this summer and autumn”.  Ingrid Fiskaa, a Socialist who serves as official in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, declared in 2008 that she occasioanlly wished that the UN would send “precision-guided missiles against selected Israeli targets”.  For more on Støre, who’s likely to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as Prime Minister in due course, and his woeful attitude towards Israel.

In November 2010, 100 or so members and supporters of a political party called Rødt (“Red”) held what police termed “an illegal demonstration” inside a shopping centre in Oslo. The BDSers involved displayed banners proclaiming “Occupation is not nice – Boycott Israel!” and “Shame on you!”,  and yelled “Boycott Israel” and “Free Palestine” as they surrounded a booth selling mineral products from the Dead Sea, interfered with the goods on display,  and harassed the Israeli salesperson.  The affixed stickers to the booth and handed out leaflets. The mall was closed for fifteen to twenty minutes while police struggled to restore order.  

Last Sunday, BBC television news, always keen to deride legitimate concerns over mass Third World immigration into Europe and to deplore “Islamophobia” whatever the trigger or occasion, trotted out Thorbjorn Jagland to sing the praises of the Norwegian/European commitment to mass immigration and that supposed Utopia wrought by multiculturalism.

Alas, modern Norway is a society in which all minorities may flourish unimpeded (even those whose cultures are inherently misogynistic and treat women as chattels).

All minorities except one, it seems.  (Incidentally, Shechita is banned in Norway, but Muslim ritual slaughter is allowed!)

American writer and literary critic Bruce Bawer has described antisemitism in Norway, where he lives, as being de rigeuer amongst much of  “the cultural elite – the academics, intellectuals, writers, journalists, politicians, and technocrats”.

He maintains:

“Part of the motivation for this anti-Semitism is the influx into Norway in recent decades of masses of Muslims from Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere. Multiculturalism has taught Norway’s cultural elite to take an uncritical, even obsequious, posture toward every aspect of Muslim culture and belief. When Muslim leaders rant against Israel and the Jews, the reflexive response of the multiculturalist elite is to join them in their rantings. This is called solidarity.”

Read more in Joseph Klein’s invaluable article “Norway is repeating its Quisling treachery of the Nazi era, this time.” 

See also Alan Dershowitz on recent events and his own experience of Norway’s antipathy to Jews and Israel:

Also read this, this, and this.

On the Guardian’s characterization of Marwan Barghouti as the Palestinians’ Nelson Mandela

In a brief update on the region from the Guardian’s “Middle East Live” page on July 20th – their blogging on “Uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa” – Marwan Barghouti was characterized as “a Nelson Mandela for the Palestinians”.

Yes, really.

For those unaware: Barghouti, the founder of Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, is currently serving five life terms in Israeli prison for orchestrating suicide terror attacks which killed five Israelis.

He has referred to Israel as “the worst and most abominable enemy known to humanity and modern history,” and continues to call for armed “resistance” against Israeli civilians.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, it should be noted, is an organization designated as a terrorist group by the United StatesCanada, Japan and the European Union, due to their orchestration of dozens of suicide bombings and many more shooting attacks against Israeli vehicles.

Here are some of the group’s most notable attacks:

January 2002: Bat Mitzvah massacre, when a gunman killed six and wounded 33 in a Bat Mitzvah celebration.

March 2, 2002:  suicide bombing in Beit Yisrael, Jerusalem – 11 killed.  

January 5, 2003: Southern Tel Aviv central bus station – 22 killed

January 29, 2004: Rehavia, Jerusalem, bus line 19 – 11 killed

March 14, 2004: Port of Ashdod – 10 killed (together with Hamas).

To compare Barghouti to Mandela – that is, as a leader who can become a political catalyst to peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians – is an appalling, if unsurprising, Guardian moral inversion. 

Barghouti is a terrorist leader who possesses no remorse for the dozens of innocent Jewish civilians his group has murdered.

The degree to which the Guardian can spin such a malevolent bigot as some sort of progressive force demonstrates once again the extreme pathos which informs the ideology known as the Guardian Left.

Harriet Sherwood false “Arab Spring” political parallel update

As we’ve noted before, connecting the political dots is not one of Harriet Sherwood’s greatest strengths.

Indeed, Sherwood’s latest unintentionally comical effort to draw some sort of political parallel between protests in Israel over the high cost of rent and the Arab revolts against repressive regimes in the region (Government alarm at citizens revolt as tent protests spread) – referring to the Israeli “tent movement” as “yet another example of this year’s ripples of revolt across the region” – is best embodied in the following passage:

Inevitably connections have been made between the Arab Spring and this Israeli Summer. There are of course important differences“:

Hmm…what modest differences could she be referring to?

the [Israeli] protesters are mostly middle-class; the focus is on the cost of living rather than fundamental rights of freedom and democracy. [emphasis mine]

Important differences?  Yeah, you think?!

Because, really, other than such pesky minor details – the difference between citizens of a democracy exercising their rights in a free society to protest high living costs (protests indicative of a thriving economy and a hot real estate market) and the revolts against tyrannical Arab regimes (“resistance” against totalitarian regimes which deny both basic human rights and decent standards of living) – drawing political parallels between the two are otherwise simply inevitable”.

Guardian piece on U.S. soldier arrested for planning terror attack leaves out one “small” detail

When even the New York Times can’t avoid noting the Islamist motivations of the Army private who was arrested this week, near his (Fort Hood) military base in Texas, in what local law enforcement officials described as a serious “terror plot” to kill other soldiers, it’s quite revealing that the Guardian somehow managed to pull off such a rhetorical feat.  

According to officials quoted in the NYT report, the suspect, Naser Jason Abdo, had a gun, more than one wall clock, a cellphone, duct tape and a shopping list for what appeared to be explosive components, as well as an article on “how to make a bomb in your kitchen” from the English-language al-Qaeda magazine Inspire.

The Guardian piece, US soldier arrested near Foot Hood admits to attack plan, July 29, evidently found the apparent religious inspiration of the suspect -who was planning to murder US soldiers at Ft. Hood, in a way reminiscent of the attack in 2009, on the same military base, by Nidal Malik Hasan, which left 13 people dead, and 29 injured – of no particular significance. 

And while the Guardian piece noted the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting in a short sentence in the last paragraph, it similarly failed to note the religious motivation, nor the fact that the suspect of that attack, Nidal Malik Hasan, was radicalized by an American Imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, with ties to al-Qaeda.  

Abdo’s religious background was only mentioned obliquely, in the context of noting his complaint that his religious beliefs were inconsistent with serving:

Abdo applied for conscientious objector status in 2010 after he decided Islamic standards would prohibit his service in the US army in any war, military officials said.

Inversely, the Christian faith, and extreme right-wing political ideology, of the Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, behind the recent deadly terrorist attack is routinely noted in both straight news stories and CiF commentary.

While the New York Times’ motto, printed in the upper left-hand corner of the front page, “All the news that’s fit to print”, is the cause of much derision by the Gray Lady’s many critics who note the paper’s egregious political slant, compared to the ideologically driven bias which informs almost everything the Guardian reports, and what they don’t report, the New York Times is practically The Encyclopedia Britannica.  

Israel fires back at Harriet Sherwood

Israel’s UK Embassy Spokesperson, Amir Ofek, had a letter printed at The Guardian, regarding Harriet Sherwood’s recent fishing expeditions off the coast of Gaza (See our posts here, here, here, and here) worth noting.

The conclusion from Harriet Sherwood’s “fact-finding mission” (Troubled waters: Palestinian fishermen caught in Israel gunboat policing net, 25 July) is clear. None of the Palestinian allegations she went to check were supported by what she saw. No live fire, no interfering by the Israeli navy before the boat crossed the three miles line and no ramming of Palestinians boats. Apparently, she was left with nothing more than a long list of baseless allegations. The boat (Oliva) is well known to the Israeli Defence Force, due to it regularly provoking similar confrontations. The Oliva – with no fishermen on board – childishly provoked the otherwise uninvolved Israeli navy and crossed the three miles line. And yet the navy’s only reactions were warning sirens and use of water cannons.

Since Hamas came to power, thousands of missiles have been fired towards Israeli cities. As long as attempts to smuggle weapons into Gazacontinue, the Israeli navy will fulfil its obligation to keep its country’s citizens safe. The Palestinian fishermen should address their complaints to Hamas and demand it denounces terror as required by the international community.

Amir Ofek

Counsellor for media affairs, Embassy of Israel

Ofek’s message was a simple one – the inalienable right of a sovereign democratic state to defend itself from a terrorist movement openly dedicated to it’s destruction - but one rarely given voice at the Guardian.

Meanwhile, Sherwood’s back in Jerusalem, blogging about our movie houses, and enduring the culinary road less traveled. 

Seumas Milne’s extraordinary duplicity on the nature of terrorist threats in Europe

You’d be hard pressed to find a  more perfect illustration of ideologically driven obfuscation regarding the threat posed by Islamist inspired terrorism – even at the Guardian – than Associate Editor Seumas Milne’s latest piece.

In, “In his rage against Muslims, Norway’s killer was no loner.“, July 28, Seumas asserts “the continuum between the poisonous nonsense commonplace in the mainstream media in recent years, the street slogans of groups like the EDL, [the rise of right wing parties in Europe] and Breivik’s outpourings is unmistakable.”

Milne then claims:

“In reality, as Europol figures demonstrate, the overwhelming majority of terror attacks in Europe in recent years have been carried out by non-Muslims.”

Interestingly, Milne’s link goes to an opinion piece in Al-Jazeera titled “Nationalists pose bigger threat than al-Qaeda“, which quotes Mehdi Hasan – who advocated for the end of Jewish state in a 2009 CiF piece – characterizing the EU figures in an essay in The New Statesmen. 

However, according to the official EU Law Enforcement Agency report he alludes to, during 2008, “359 individuals were tried on terrorism charges in EU member states in a total of 187 proceedings. Of 384 [terrorism related] verdicts which were pronounced in 2008, 50 percent were related to Islamist terrorism,” a staggering percentage when you consider how relatively small the percentage of Muslims are to the total population in most European states.

Indeed, the EU report notes that “states continue to face a high level threat from Islamists” – terrorists, the report notes, who “aim at causing indiscriminate mass casualties.” Further, it states that “the number of persons associated with ‘home-grown’ Islamist terrorist groups is rising in the EU.”

To provide some sense of proportion, the report shows that, between 2006 and 2008, the number of Islamists arrested on terror related charges was 645, while Right Wing Extremists arrested for terror charges was 59.

In the U.S. the disproportionate number of terror attacks or plots motivated by radical Islam is even more stark. (See here and here).

Moreover, according to the FBI, out of nearly 15,000 people killed worldwide by terrorist attacks in 2009, over 60% of the perpetrators were Islamic extremists.

Milne also warns of the “the rise of Islamophobia in Europe and the US”, while the data completely contradicts this.

In the US, Jews remain six times more likely than Muslims to be the target of hate crimes, figures consistent with a recent report (covering the last eight years) dispelling the myth of “increasing Islamophobia” in the U.S. 

While in Europe, a Pew Global Survey demonstrated that the percentage of Europeans holding positive views towards Muslims has actually risen over the last five years.

Of course, Islamism doesn’t represent the only terrorist threat in Europe, but to deny that attacks inspired by Islamist ideology represents a disproportionate element of that threat is to engage in rank dishonesty.

It’s not surprising that an extremist like Milne – who has glorified terrorist movements in Kabul, Baghdad, and “Palestine”, referring to them as “anti-imperialists” and “resistance movements” – would engage in such polemical malfeasance.

But, it’s scary to ponder how many Guardian readers will no doubt meekly accept his profound distortions regarding the genuine dangers, to the democratic West, posed by Islamist-inspired terrorism. 

Is Israeli President Shimon Peres the Guardian’s new Middle East correspondent?

This is cross posted by Simon Plosker at  the blog of Honest Reporting

RSS feeds often publish the first version of an article without any subsequent updates or corrections. I was surprised to see the author of a report from Syria on my Israel news feed from The Guardian:

Yes, the author is one “Shimon Peres”.

A look at the full article on The Guardian website reveals that the author is actually Nour Ali, a pseudonym for a journalist in Damascus.

Is The Guardian really that obsessed by Israel that the first pseudonym they came up with was that of Israel’s president?

Yes, denying Jews the right to self-determination is inherently anti-Semitic.

The University College Union, one of the biggest academic trade unions in the world, representing more than 120,000 lecturers, researchers and staff who work in universities and further education colleges, passed a resolution at its annual conference in Harrogate in Yorkshire last month dissociating itself from the EU working definition of anti-Semitism, claiming that it stifled debate and is used to deflect criticism of Israel.

The UCU also voted to support an academic and cultural boycott against Israel.

Ronnie Fraser, director of the Academic Friends of Israel, a freelance maths lecturer whose parents fled the Holocaust, spoke against the motion at the conference and initiated legal action against his own trade union, accusing them of adopting policies that “violate his dignity”, “create a degrading, humiliating and offensive environment” and that harass its Jewish members.

The union has crossed a red line, and “only anti-Semites” would disassociate themselves from the EU Working Definition and vote in favor of the resolution,” Fraser said.

We applaud Ronnie Fraser for his moral courage and strength of character.

The notion that the EU’s working definition silences debate on Israel is an absurd and audacious claim in light of the obsessive and disproportionate criticism the Jewish state receives, by any measurable standard, especially in the UK.

Here are specific examples of antisemitism per the EU working definition – which, it should be noted, were adopted by the Management Board of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) comprising 27 appointees of the 27 EU governments (plus the Council of Europe and Commission appointees):

1.  Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

2.  Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

3.  Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

4.  Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

5.  Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

6.  Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Specifically with respect to Israel, taking into account the overall context, the EUMC gave the following examples:

7.  Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

8.  Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

9.  Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

10.  Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

11.  Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

While it’s chilling to imagine that there are professionals in UK academia who feel “stifled” by guidelines which proscribe historically anti-Semitic bigotry as codified in numbers one through six, numbers seven through eleven, pertaining to Israel, also seem consistent with general prohibitions against racism as it’s generally understood, such as: holding any group to higher standards than others, demonizing that group, or holding one member of the group responsible for the actions of the collective.

To be clear, it seems likely that the first caveat in number seven, “denying Jewish people their right to self-determination“, is where Israel’s critics feel most “stifled”.

Danny Rich, the Executive Director of Liberal Judaism in the UK, and Zionist Federation Patron, also wishes to disassociate himself from the EUMC Definition of Antisemitism: that is, he thinks it is not, ipso facto, anti-Semitic to call for the end of the Jewish State.

Rich said, in the context of defending his decision to host a program at the Montagu Centre, Liberal Judaism’s central London HQ, which included Jeff Halper – a fierce proponent of BDS and advocate of a one-state solution:

“Jonathan Hoffman accuses Liberal Judaism of hosting an antisemitic speaker on the basis that any person who calls for a one-state solution is by definition antisemitic. That is clearly nonsense.”

Of course, opposition to the codification of such views as racist stems from the wish to be able to call for the end of Jewish sovereignty in their historic homeland and be given impunity from any corresponding public opprobrium or official censure.

Those who seek such political ends somehow fail to understand how fundamentally discriminatory it is to deny the Jewish people, and only the Jewish people – out of all those in the world whose fundamental national legitimacy is (for some reason) never questioned – the right to self-determination and, furthermore, are blind to the clear dangers of forcing Jews to be stateless in a region awash with extreme anti-Semitism, where such anti-Jewish sentiment is uncontroversial, universal, and represents the normative opinion.

Sixty-three years after the rebirth of the modern Jewish state Israelis should no longer have to make such utilitarian arguments against those arguing for a return to Jewish powerlessness; we shouldn’t have to remind the world what statelessness cost us throughout the centuries – the tragic history of discrimination, humiliation, and mass slaughter which occurred as the result of allowing our fate to be decided by the whims and wishes of non-Jewish rulers.

For, to do so would be to cravenly succumb to the rules imposed on us by our tormentors and accusers.  

Ruth Wisse, in her book, “Jews and Power”, argues that, historically, Jews, in displaying the resilience necessary to survive in exile, and not burdened by the weight of a military, believed they could pursue their mission as a “light unto the nations” on a purely moral plane. She demonstrates how, in fact, perpetual political weakness increased Jews’ vulnerability to scapegoating and violence, as it unwittingly goaded power-seeking nations to cast them as perpetual targets.

Moreover, as Abba Eban said, in 1981, six years after the shameful UN Resolution was passed – by a movement of Arab and Soviet bloc states which sought to extinguish Israel’s existence, diplomatically, in a way they were unable to achieve by force of arms – characterizing the entire Zionist movement as fundamentally racist.

“Israel’s right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel’s legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgement.”

Menachem Begin said:

“Would it enter the mind of any Briton or Frenchman, Belgian or Dutchman, Hungarian or Bulgarian, Russian or American, to request for its people recognition of its right to exist?”  “We need nobody’s recognition in asserting this inalienable right.”

Yes, denying Jews their fundamental right of statehood is inherently anti-Semitic – that is, discriminatory – in both intent and effect.

This is equally true whether you’re a British academic, a representative of the Arab League, or the President of Iran.

Arguing otherwise is cruel, racist and, to borrow Rabbi Rich’s wording, utter “nonsense”.