Harriet Sherwood advances myth that Bethlehem is being “economically strangled” by Israel

A recent report by Harriet Sherwood entitled “Palestine seeks world heritage status for Church of the Nativity“, from June 27th, contained a few passages about the city of Bethlehem only tangentially related to the main theme in the story, including this:

“Most pilgrim and tourist buses, run by Israeli or international companies, tour the holy sites in around two hours, bypassing local businesses. Such fleeting visits contribute to the economic strangulation of once-thriving Bethlehem, the main cause of which is the imposing 8m-high concrete separation wall dotted with military watchtowers and checkpoints that Israel began building 10 years ago.” [emphasis added]

Sherwood’s narrative about the “economic strangulation” of Bethlehem was also echoed in a quote used by Phoebe Greenwood, in “If Jesus were to come this year to come this year Bethlehem would be closed“, December 22nd, 2011.

Greenwood wrote:

“Dr Jad Isaac, an expert in Bethlehem’s demographics and a consultant to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, says aside from the physical restrictions on development, Bethlehem’s economy is being strangled by the loss of land and restrictions on Palestinian movement.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, Sherwood’s specific claim about tourists only spending the day in the city (and not spending the night) was also advanced in a LA Times story, on December 20th, 2011, by Edmund Sanders, titled “This Holy Land battle focuses on tourists’ wallets“.

“The third-generation wood-carver, who sells handmade likenesses of baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary, sees as many as 200 tour buses arrive every day from Israel to visit the Church of the Nativity, just a few steps from his store.  But the tourists are escorted directly from the bus to the church and back again. They’re rarely given time to browse the shops nearby and almost never spend the night in Bethlehem.” [emphasis added]

However, Reuters reported the following – only four days prior to Greenwood’s December 22nd report:

“With millions of tourists expected in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during Christmas, local merchants and tourism officials say they are enjoying an economic boomPalestinian minister of tourism, Kholod Daibes, predicted that two million tourists will visit the city by the end of 2011.

We expect to attract greater numbers who are making a special visit so there will be more who stay in the Palestinian hotels, especially when the number of rooms and facilities is increasing,” she said. Daibes said that despite the Arab Spring revolutions in the region, which is expected to impact on tourist numbers, the outlook is still better than in previous years.” [emphasis added]

In December 2010 Bloomberg News, in a story titled “Bethlehem Business Reborn as Christmas Tourism boosts Palestinian Statehood“, similarly reported on the city’s economic success:

“…the rebirth of Bethlehem, where 80 shops — 12 of which opened this year — line the street that runs into Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity.

Tourism is up, with 1.45 million visitors to Bethlehem, 60 percent more than in 2009, the Palestinian Tourism Ministry said. About $250 million has been spent in the city’s hotels, restaurants and shopping centers, up 60 percent from a year ago and accounting for about a third of all Palestinian tourism revenue, the ministry said.”

The Bloomberg report specifically refuted Sherwood’s claim that tourists, run by Israeli operators, were bypassing Palestinian shops and only spending a couple of hours in the town.

More of the tourists who visited Bethlehem stayed overnight this year, leading to a 45 percent increase in hotel stays from 2009, Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes told reporters last week. The Palestinians’ share of tourism revenue from visitors to Israel and the Palestinian territories has risen this year to 10 percent, from 3 percent to 5 percent in past years, she said.”

Bethlehem

So, where precisely did Sherwood obtain her economic data purportedly demonstrating a strangled economy?

We’ll never know.

Neither Sherwood nor her editors deemed it necessary to back up her claim with a source.

But, of course, who needs facts when you have a broader narrative of Israeli oppression which can be used regardless of the particular circumstances, and which doesn’t require burdensome little details like dry empirical data?

Postcard from Israel – Hof HaBonim

It’s officially summer as of last week and so Israelis are off to the beach to enjoy sun, sea and sand. One of Israel’s many beautiful beaches is Hof HaBonim, near the moshav of the same name, at the southern end of the Carmel range. 

This four and a half kilometre-long beach is also a nature reserve and boasts beautiful inlets, sandy beaches, dunes, interesting flora and fauna, abrasion platforms and of course the warm Mediterranean Sea. Camping is permitted for a small fee, and so at the weekends one finds Israelis enjoying beach life overnight, with the ubiquitous barbecue – or ‘mangal’ outside almost every tent. 

‘Comment is Free’ moderators fail to remove references to “ZioNazis” (UPDATED)

The Guardian posted a report by  and , titled “Iran sanctions will halve oil sales but may still not succeed“, June 29. Borger and Dehghan, while musing on the possible effects of the EU’s new oil embargo against the Islamic Republic, included the following dog whistle for Guardian readers obsessed with Israel’s role in any and all possible world calamities:

“Some western diplomats privately concede that the severity of the new sanctions is primarily aimed at dissuading Israel from launching military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.”

So original: Israel, the military aggressor, cunningly manipulating U.S. and EU security policies towards Iran – Western leaders who otherwise would have no national or regional interests in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. 

The following comment has garnered 108 “Recommends” and hasn’t been deleted, despite the fact that it was posted over 11 hours ago.

In fact, the same commenter used the term “ZioNazis” a mere two days ago, beneath the Guardian’s Middle East Live Blogwhich similarly hasn’t been deleted by CiF moderators.

It’s time to ask CiF’s comment editor Becky Gardiner if such an appalling and hateful epithet is consistent with their “community standards“.

@becky_gardiner

(UPDATE, July 1st: Following our post, the comments, which made reference to “ZioNazis”, referenced above were deleted by CiF moderators)

Alon Liel at ‘Comment is Free’: a match made in BDS heaven.

Quite why it was deemed necessary down at Guardian HQ to publish an article by Harriet Sherwood which does nothing but regurgitate the words of another article it published fourteen minutes earlier on ‘Comment is Free’ is a mystery. 

One thing, however, is clear: Alon Liel (the author of the CiF piece of June 27th) is the type of Israeli with whom the Guardian can do business. He makes all the right noises, uses all the right buzz-words, is not averse to delegitimising his fellow countrymen and conforms splendidly to the simplistic ‘Guardian World View’.

Alon Liel

Thus, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) becomes a noble way in which to promote peace instead of what its instigators really intend it to be – a campaign to reverse Jewish self-determination. 

The peace process is of course (yet again) in imminent danger and only the enlightened such as Alon Liel can save us from ourselves. For good measure, he throws in a couple of scary references to ‘apartheid’ and ‘expansionist policy’: almost comical when one considers that the country being discussed has only relinquished territory over the past four decades. 

The ‘settlements’, according to the Liel sound-bites, are of course ‘illegal under international law’ and on ‘occupied land’. They – and they alone – jeopardise peace and a two-state solution. Not terrorism, not generation after generation of officially sanctioned Palestinian incitement, not the inability of Palestinian society to conduct democratic elections and come up with one truly representative leader with whom Israel can negotiate and not even the basic refusal to accept a Jewish presence in the Middle East. 

And of course according to Liel, the West Bank is ‘Palestinian land’ which is being ‘gobbled up by growing settlements’, which are in turn somehow ‘erasing the Green line’ – a ‘line’ which Liel somehow appears to forget was drawn solely as the result of an armistice agreement at the end of a war of attempted annihilation. 

Despite a ten-month building freeze which failed to bring Mahmoud Abbas to the negotiating table, Liel has no qualms about distorting the facts into “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of US President Barack Obama’s plea to freeze settlement growth”.

As offensive as it is to see an Israeli collaborating with the campaign to delegitimize and dehumanize a significant proportion of the Israeli population, Alon Liel is of course entitled to his own opinion. He is even entitled to plaster it all over the pages of any and every foreign and domestic newspaper which will accommodate him. But – as Israelis will be aware (and Guardian editors apparently choose to ignore), this is not the first time that Alon Liel has been wrong. 

The former diplomat (who apparently had no qualms then about taking government salaries paid for in part by the income tax of people he today wishes to delegitimize and boycott) was part of the team which engineered the Oslo Accords.  He is closely associated with Yossi Beilin – the author of the Geneva Accords – and the two have joint business interests today, in addition to Liel’s own business, primarily located in Turkey

Liel is also involved with the political NGOs Ir Amim (board of directors) and ‘B’Tselem‘ (public council), both of which have received funding from the New Israel Fund, of which his wife – Rachel Liel – is director in Israel. In 2006 Rachel Liel took part in an ‘alternative’ Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony organized by ‘Yesh Gvul’, which encourages Israeli soldiers to avoid “serving apartheid” by refusing to serve beyond the ‘green line’ and claims that the Sabra and Shatila massacres were “IDF supervised”. She is also part of the management team of ‘Agenda‘. 

Alon Liel is also known for his self-initiated attempts to negotiate with the Syrian government. Together with American-Syrian businessman Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, he conducted a series of unauthorized talks with Damascus beginning in 2004 and continuing for just under two years.  Liel set up the Israel Syria Peace Society and in 2007 organised a rally in the Golan Heights calling for renewal of negotiations with Syria which he claimed was “not intended to arouse provocation against residents of the Golan”. In the same year, Liel campaigned against school hiking trips in the Golan on the grounds that they were “a political provocation” which supposedly undermined peace.

Imagine if that particular Alon Liel campaign to negotiate with a mass-murdering dictator had been successful: today Israel would have a Syrian civil war, complete with the dangers of a sizeable chemical weapons arsenal falling into unknown hands, just minutes away from its major water supply and several mid-sized population centres in its north.  

Those familiar with Alon Liel will not find it surprising that he is prepared to scaremonger, to distort facts, to willfully ignore the true nature and aims of the BDS movement and even support the bigoted Alice Walker in order to advance the same Don Quixote agenda he has been pushing for decades. Those familiar with the Guardian will not find it shocking that the paper would be keen to co-operate with Liel – although two practically identical articles in the space of 14 minutes has to be a bit desperate – even for them. 

In 2008 Alon Liel ran in the Labour Party primaries. He was not elected: apparently even members of the Israeli Labour Party did not wish to embrace his off-the-wall ideas. But obviously, neither he nor his new best buddies at the Guardian can come to terms with the fact that Alon Liel represents a fringe view not only rejected by the Israeli democracy as a whole, but also disturbingly oblivious to the complex realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

It’s a perfect match. 

The media lie of “Jews only” roads in Israel

The following is an English translation of an essay published in the Hebrew edition of Ha’aretz by Yishai Goldflam, director of Presspectiva – a site dedicated to ensuring accuracy and responsibility in the Israeli media.

Do there exist roads in Judea and Samaria that are designated for “Jews only”? Are Christians and Muslims really prohibited from traveling on roads across the Green Line?

This charge, which is often voiced in these parts, including in [Ha'aretz], provokes condemnation of Israel’s alleged racism — and is simply untrue. There appears to be a terminology confusion that produces a factual error that harms legitimate discussion and criticism of Israeli actions. 

Here are the facts: the state did, indeed, impose restrictions on certain roads in Judea and Samaria several years ago and did not allow Palestinians to travel on them, especially after the eruption of the second intifada. But most of the restrictions were already removed in 2009. Today, most West Bank roads are open to the majority of the Palestinian population. And even at the time those roads were restricted for Israeli use, they were never restricted to Israeli Jews alone. The  roads were open to all Israeli citizens – Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians. There was never a religious or ethnic-based separation on the roads of Judea and Samaria.

Actually this fact is crystal clear to anyone who has ever been to the area. Only someone who has never traveled in territory over the Green Line could possibly believe the claim that there exist roads for only Jews. Today, one can see license plates of Palestinians from Jenin to Hebron, on bypass roads that were allegedly built for Jews only (for example, the  Qalqilya bypass, the southern Nablus bypass, and the Ramallah bypass roads), as well as on main roads like Route 505 leading to Ariel – a road that was labeled  at least twice in this paper [Ha'aretz] “an apartheid road for Jews only.”

The Associated Press published  a correction in January 2010 stating, “These roads are open to all Israeli citizens, including Arabs,  foreigners and tourists.” Similar corrections were published on  CNN, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. But the journalistic responsibility and  professionalism demonstrated by the world’s leading media outlets apparently made no impression on the Israeli media, which even today continues to air this false charge.

Beyond the error itself, the claim of “Jews-only” roads impairs reasonable discussion about Israeli actions. While it is possible to debate and criticize the (real) restrictions imposed on  Palestinians (all Palestinians, not just Muslims) on some West Bank roads during a specific time period, Israel and her supporters are forced to address this bogus claim of ethnic-religious separation on these roads.

Raising this claim, particularly in the Israeli media, grants it validity. Anti-Israel activists, too ignorant and lazy to substantiate their own charges, wave around “facts” they find in Israeli newspapers that supposedly “prove” the racism of the State of Israel and justify their own attacks on her. It’s hardly surprising this mendacious claim has become a major weapon in the attempt to brand Israel an “apartheid state.” Thus, irresponsible journalists and publicists contribute to the distortion of the domestic and international discussion about Israel.

Many media outlets in the world have already acknowledged their mistake and corrected it.  Is the Israeli media capable of meeting the accepted standards of  journalistic integrity?

A Deception Named UNRWA

Veteran Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yamini has written extensively on the subject of the treatment of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries. This article (translated by CiF Watch) was published on June 22nd 2012 and is entitled ‘A deception named UNRWA’. 

Last month the American Senate reached a precedential decision concerning UNRWA and the Palestinian refugees. In order to understand the change, we must remind ourselves that the beginnings of UNRWA were appropriate. It was a humanitarian organization working on behalf of the UN in order to take care of the Arabs of the British Mandate, most of whom fled and some of whom were expelled, in the context of the Arab aggression which sought to destroy the State of Israel which had barely been established. But the care of refugees changed direction, and instead of care UNRWA became a factory of cloning, worsening and perpetuation of massive proportions. 

The UN has two bodies which deal with refugees. The High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which deals with all the world’s refugees and UNRWA, which deals only with those who became Palestinians. (In the beginning they didn’t know they were such. They were Arabs. The separate identity developed later). The Commissioner has taken care of fifty million people. They received initial help and they are not refugees. UNRWA, in contrast, began with 711 thousand and magically turned them into more than five million. The commission rehabilitates refugees. UNRWA nurtures, clones and perpetuates the refugee problem. 

This paradox is clear to anyone who has eyes in his head. It originates from many sources. One of them is UNRWA’s  strange definition of a refugee: someone “whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict”. But with time, descendants too came into the picture, and strangely, and in conflict with the definition, so did those who were not in need from the beginning, as well as those who became wealthy later on – all still count as refugees. And thus the number of “refugees” rises with the years at a somewhat strange and dizzy rate

On the basis of this, MK Dr. Einat Wilf has been acting in the past few months, in collaboration with AIPAC, to try to bring about change in UNRWA’s main funder – the United States. The result is the “Kirk Amendment”, named after the Republican Senator Mark Kirk, which will oblige the State Department to report on the real number of original refugees – those who meet the criteria appearing in UNRWA’s original mandate. It is estimated that the numbers are around 30,000 alone. 

There is something sophisticated about Kirk’s amendment. That is because there is nothing in it which demands a cut in aid or the changing of criteria. There is only the obligation to report. Report on the number of original refugees and report on the number of descendants. But information about the amendment makes it clear that in fact this is a first step in the direction of a more basic change. Because following the reports the question will be raised – why should the tax payers have to fund those who are not really refugees?

 Actually, these questions are already appearing. The Deputy Secretary of State of the United States, Thomas Nides, sent a letter to the Senate appropriations committee in which he urged them to vote against the amendment. According to him, this is a particularly sensitive subject, America should not interfere in establishing the number of refugees and the subject is supposed to be solved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The Jordanian embassy in Washington exerted pressure against the amendment and Nides states in his letter that the amendment is liable to create “a negative reaction, especially in Jordan”. 

Nides’s request was rejected. The amendment passed. In the meantime there have been no strong after-shocks. It is time to pierce the inflated balloon, which continues to inflate further, of the Palestinian refugees. The day when the Palestinian “refugees” will be treated in the same way as tens of millions of other refugees in the world is the day their situation will begin to improve, together with improvement in the chances for peace. That is because the “refugee problem”, as the Arab side has said time and time again, “is perpetuated in order to achieve the solution of the elimination of Israel”. 

The treatment so far of the refugee problem has become the biggest obstacle to peace. It is time for a change. The US Senate has taken the first step, limited and hesitant. A step in the right direction. Let us hope that the next steps will come too. 

International norms

Some more points for the attention of the US Congress: according to official UNRWA figures, the number of refugees in Lebanon was at the beginning of last year 425,000. But according to research published by the American University of Beirut, which UNRWA itself helped fund, there are just 260-280,000 refugees. They are emigrating and fleeing from Arab countries because they suffer from the worst apartheid in the Arab world (also according to the report). So there is no connection between the number registered and budgeted and the number still there. So America, which is the main donor, has to ask the question: where exactly is the money going when there is an inflation of 57% in the number of refugees?  

And another deception: according to the UN’s refugee charter, whoever receives citizenship in whatever country can no longer be counted as a refugee. And yet according to official UNRWA figures, in Jordan there are over two million refugees, the vast majority of whom hold Jordanian citizenship. So it is possible to reduce the numbers by two million in Jordan, and another 150 thousand in Lebanon and it is more than likely that the situation in Syria is similar. There the number is inflated too. A recommendation in that spirit is found in a report presented by James Lindsay. For seven years Lindsay held a senior position in UNRWA. After he left, and whilst a research fellow at the “Washington Institute”, he published a comprehensive report with suggestions for deep reform. 

And the carnival carries on. UNRWA keeps a team of over 29,000 people, among whom only two hundred are not Palestinian. We are talking about a huge system, which also deals in incitement, through the education system which the organization holds. This is the UN’s biggest agency. Just for comparison, UNHCR, the commission which takes care of all the rest of the world’s refugees, keeps a much smaller team of 7,685 employees, and takes care of 34 million refugees. In UNRWA there is one worker for every 172 refugees. In the UNHCR – one worker for every 4,424 refugees. The budget per head at UNRWA is also more than double that at UNHCR. Taking into account the fact that a significant proportion of those listed are already citizens of other countries or that the lists are inflated, as in Lebanon, that means that a Palestinian “refugee” costs the international community – and especially the US – a lot more than any other refugee in the world. 

The chain of absurd and deception has to end. There is a need for universal definitions and norms. The anti-Israel camp claims again and again that Israel must obey international norms. A wonderful and just demand. That is exactly what should also happen on the subject of the refugees. The same definitions of “who is a refugee” and the same treatment which helps the real needy and does not eternalize them as “refugees”. That would be the international community’s biggest contribution to encouraging peace.

Senator Kirk began. Let us hope he continues. 

The Guardian ideology: Where reporting Iranian antisemitism is counter-revolutionary

What precisely would it take for the Guardian to report a story about antisemitism on the part of Iranian leaders?

While every Israeli policy conceivably affecting its Arab citizens, or the Palestinians, is scrutinized (by their ideological DNA experts) for trace amounts of racism, nowhere on the Guardian’s Iran page, for example, will you read that a website with close ties to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei recently outlined why it would be religiously acceptable to kill all Jews in Israel.

This doctrine details why such genocide would be legally and morally justified and in accordance with Islamic law.

More recently, the Guardian failed to report a hideously antisemitic speech given by Iran’s vice president Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, delivered on Tuesday, June 26th 2012, at an international anti-drug conference – a story which was reported widely in the mainstream media and by wire services.

Iran’s Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi holds hands with Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh during a welcome ceremony at Sa’abad complex in Tehran, Feb. 10

Rahimi charged that the Talmud was responsible for the spread of illegal drugs around the world in a speech which reportedly even shocked European diplomats in attendance.

Rahimi, second in line to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also charged that Jews “think God has created the world so that all other nations can serve them” and that the Talmud teaches to “destroy everyone who opposes the Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother.”  The New York Times also quoted Rahimi as saying Zionists ordered gynecologists to kill black babies and that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was started by Jews although none died in it.

The Guardian’s failure to report on such extreme antisemitism, delivered by an Iranian leader at an international forum, is not unrelated to the their consistent record defending the Islamic Republic against its critics, especially in the context of Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Here is a sample of some of the polemical interference the Guardian has run for the mullahs in Tehran. 

  • A Guardian editorial warning Israel against saber-rattling against Iran and arguing that the Jewish state should just learn to live with a nuclear armed Iran (Iran, bolting the stable door, November 9th, 2011).
  • Saeed Kamali Dehghan’s warning against covert actions by the West and Israel to prevent Iran from acquiring nukes, which will “ruin any chance of dialogue with Tehran” (The covert war on Iran is illegal and dangerous, January 11th, 2012).

But the Pravda award for great achievements in passing off simply absurd political theories as serious thought goes to their veteran journalist Brian Whitaker, who actually served as the Guardian’s Middle East editor for seven years.

In a ‘Comment is Free’ piece on November 9th, 2011 titled Why do the US media believe the worse about Iran?”, Whitaker not only ignored the most recent IAEA report - available on the Guardian website - which stated that Iran has carried out “a structured program to develop an explosive nuclear device”, but suggested that the clandestine program may not be nuclear at all: merely a project to manufacture nanodiamonds.

As proof for this alternative and simply bizarre explanation – which has somehow eluded intelligence agencies, nuclear watchdog groups, and the international monitoring agency – Whitaker linked to a fringe site called Moon of Alabama“. 

But such comical obfuscations seem necessarily related to the Guardian’s failure to report about Iranian leaders who draw upon classic  antisemitic conspiracy theories to justify their desire to rid the world of the “cancerous tumor” known as the Jewish state.

Indeed, it seems that much of the Guardian’s editorial resources are devoted towards arguing that an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would be madness because, at the end of the day, the Iranians are rational political actors who will behave rationally even if they become a nuclear power.  Such a theory is in itself a symptom of the paper’s broader belief that there are no moral differences between such Islamist states and the democratic West – a habit of mind characterized by Richard Landes as “Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism“.  

As such, evidence demonstrating that Iranian values are necessarily hostile towards not just Israel but Jews as such, represents supremely inconvenient truths and would run counter to the Guardian’s broader cause.  

If Israel is seen as correctly perceiving a nuclear armed Iran as a threat to the lives of millions of Jews – as well as the state’s very survival – then the Guardian’s long campaign against military intervention (as with their broader anti-Zionist narrative) is seriously undermined, and indeed would strain credulity.

The Guardian’s seemingly unlimited capacity to deny, or at least ignore, Islamist antisemitism is informed as much by an indifference to the political aspirations of Jews as it is by a broader refusal to allow for information which would contradict their most cherished beliefs.

Richard Millett: Save the children…except when they’re Israeli.

Cross posted by Richard Millett

Kerry Smith (Save The Children), Lord Warner, Aimee Shalan (Medical Aid for Palestinians) last night.

I was back at Parliament last night for the launch of a joint report by Save The Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians called Falling Behind – The Effect Of The Blockade On Child Health in Gaza.

The same day a report was released called Children in Military Custody. This may explain why there were only 20 people at my meeting.

It must have been a good day to release bad news about Israel. With politicians, NGOs and charities totally impotent to stop massacres in Syria and starvation and disease in Africa they got back to doing what they do best; delegitimising Israel.

I haven’t had a chance to read Children in Military Custody except to note that it starts off by stating:

“We have no reason to differ from the view of Her Majesty’s Government and the international community that these settlements are illegal.”

This despite Article 6 of the British Mandate which called for “close settlement by Jews on the land”. So when did those “settlements” suddenly become “illegal”?

Anyone?

Children in Military Custody also relies heavily on a recent report on exactlythe same subject matter by Defence for Children International – Palestine Section called Bound, Blindfolded & Convicted: Children held in military detention.

How many reports on exactly the same subject do we need? Obviously there is no austerity in some NGOs and government departments (Children in Military Custody was funded by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The main problem with Bound, Blindfolded & Convicted is that all the testimony was taken anonymously.

Similarly, Children in Military Custody adopted the ‘Chatham House principle’ of not attributing quotes to individuals, again making it impossible to test the evidence.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Embassy in London responded to Children in Military Custody by noting that Palestinians under the age of 18 were encouraged by school textbooks and television programmes to glorify terrorism. As a result they were often involved in lethal acts which presented the Israeli authorities with serious challenges.

But the Embassy said the Israeli government intends to study the recommendations “as part of its ongoing efforts to find the most appropriate balance between preventing violence and treating perpetrators with humanity”.

As for Falling Behind – The Effect Of The Blockade On Child Health in GazaKerry Smith (Humanitarian Advocacy Adviser, Save The Children) and Aimee Shalan (Director of Advocacy and Communications, Medical Aid for Palestinians) solely blamed Israel’s blockade for the apparent swathe of malnutrition and disease sweeping the children of Gaza caused by, inter alia, lack of medicines and there being (literally) no safe drinking water in Gaza.

I asked how this could be the case if the average age longevity in Gaza is better than parts of Britain, specifically Glasgow (in Gaza average life expectancy is 74.16 years).

Labour’s Lord Warner, who was chairing, explained that it was only since Israel’s blockade that there had been a rapid deterioration in child health in Gaza, therefore only in 10 to 15 years time will we truly see how far average life expectancy in Gaza has dropped as a result of the blockade.

I then asked how it was that there could be such a shortage of medicines considering the existence of the likes of Save The Children and UNRWA. Why would Israel block these medicines?

This time the blame was with Israel’s bureaucracy which meant that much of the medicine arrived out of date. Oh, and Israel kept only one crossing open (Kerem Shalom). Someone from the audience shouted that it was “all intentional”.

I also asked whether Egypt should take any  responsibility for Gaza, but was told that Egypt’s border with Gaza is closed at the request of Israel.

Hamas wasn’t mentioned once, except for when Lord Warner said that he didn’t believe it was full of terrorists.

Kerry Smith and Aimee Shalan then called for Israel to lift its blockade to enable free movement in and out of Gaza.

Should Israel heed this call it wouldn’t be long before it was burying many of its children blown up in Hamas and Islamic Jihad suicide bombings.

So just to recap Save The Children, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Hamas, Amnesty, War on Want, Egypt etc. have no responsibility whatsoever for Gaza.

All responsibility lies totally with Israel who should immediately open itself up to the risk of Palestinian suicide bombers.

But, then again, you knew that didn’t you…

MP Kaufman, hearing Harriet Sherwood’s dog whistle, accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing in Acre

Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP, at the House of Commons on January 15, 2009:

“The spokeswoman for the Israeli army, Major Leibovich, was asked about the Israeli killing of, at that time, 800 Palestinians. The total is now 1,000. She replied instantly that ’500 of them were militants’. That was the reply of a Nazi. I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.” [emphasis added]

“My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

“The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt from Gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.”

Kaufman, speaking at a Watford Friends of Salfeet meeting, June 25, 2009:

“[Iran has] a loathsome regime [but unlike Israel] at least it keeps its totalitarian theocracy to within its own borders” 

Kaufman, speaking at a meeting of the House of Commons, March 30, 2010:

“Lord Ashcroft, the wealthy Tory donor, owns one part of the [Conservative] party and Jewish millionaires the other.”

Given such explicit hatred towards Israel, Kaufman, the quintessential as-a-Jew, was naturally given a platform at the Guardian to comment on Harriet Sherwood’s June 24th report, Israel’s historic city of Acre faces tourist and settler tensions, (Guardian Letters, June 26).

Kaufman with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh

As Hadar Sela argued, Sherwood’s report advanced the narrative that rich Jews are buying property in the old city of Acre in a process of ‘gentrification’, with the intent of driving out the poor Arab population. Based on interviews with a few radical Arab activists she turned a story about the physical and economic regeneration of a depressed city into something akin to Israeli ethnic cleansing.

Sherwood wrote:

“According to Arab activists in Acre, this is part of a grand plan, driven by the city’s Jewish mayor, to gentrify and rebrand the old city – and persuade, induce or coerce Arabs to leave.”

“Arabs, who make up 28% of Acre’s population but 100% of the old city, fear that a programme of gentrification funded by Jewish investors will – either by design or simply as a consequence – drive them out.”

How specifically are Arabs being driven out?

“Ahmed Odeh, an Arab member of the city council, claims that about 50 properties in the old city have been acquired by Jewish investors for redevelopment. He says a number of ruses have been employed to encourage Arab residents to give up their properties – whose ownership was taken by the Israeli state after the 1948 war – to developers. These include straightforward cash offers, often irresistible to poor families; orders for expensive repairs; and eviction if debts are defaulted on.” [emphasis added]

That’s enough proof for Kaufman, whose Guardian letter reads as follows:

Of course, Sherwood’s report didn’t actually cite any examples of Arabs who were “driven our of their homes” in Acre.  She merely gave voice to a few residents in the city who see a conspiracy in market pressures from an improving economy which could spur some Arabs to sell their property and move to less expensive areas.

As Acre’s mayor Shimon Lankry argued in Sherwood’s report, the suggestion of a grand plan to drive Arabs out represents a “ridiculous accusations, only voiced by extremists”, and noted that “not a single Jewish family has moved into the [100% Arab] old city.”

Ridiculous accusations at Israel voiced by extremists?

Aka, another day at the Guardian.

Life, death and terror on Israel’s Route 60: Phoebe Greenwood’s contrasting moral sympathy

The murder, September 23rd, 2011:

On September 23rd, 2011, Asher Palmer buckled his infant son Yonatan into the car and drove from Kiryat Arba heading to Jerusalem to meet his pregnant wife at her parents’ Jerusalem home, where they were to spend Shabbat. 

The twenty-five year old Israeli man was driving on Route 60 (a south-north intercity road in Israel that stretches from Beersheba to Nazareth) between the Jewish communities of Kiryat Arba and Karmei Tzur when several large rocks – thrown by Palestinians waiting nearby – crashed through their windshield, causing Asher to lose control and the car to overturn.

Asher and Yonatan were pronounced dead at the scene.  The police said that the front window was shattered and a large rock was found inside the car with Palmer’s blood on it.

Two Palestinian citizens from Halhoul were arrested a couple of weeks later (by the Shin Bet) and admitted to throwing a rock that caused the fatal crash. The two were also investigated  for the possibility that they were behind 17 other similar attempts to kill Israeli drivers.

Remarkably, IDF figures revealed that the month during which the Palmers were attacked had been the most violent month in the previous year and a half in terms of rock throwing in the West Bank.  There were a staggering 498 incidents of rocks being thrown at Israeli vehicles in September 2011 alone.

Phoebe Greenwood, who has been contributing to the Guardian from Israel and the Palestinian territories since January 2011 did not report the story.

In fact, there were only two brief mentions of this deadly act of terrorism at the Guardian. One was a throw-away passage buried in an AP story about a mosque vandalized in Northern Israel, on October 3rd, and the other was a reference to the attack by Harriet Sherwood, (in a piece titled “Israel approves new settler homes in East Jerusalem“), which callously referred to the victims in passing as a “settler and his son.” [emphasis added]

Here is the Guardian headline and photo in Sherwood’s story which mentioned the attack.

And, here’s the headline and photo from the AP story:

A total of eighty-eight words in the Guardian have been devoted to the terror attack. There has been no mention of the names of the victims and no follow-up report on the arrest of the two Palestinians.

The accident, February 16th, 2012:

A bus carrying children and their teachers from a kindergarten in Shuafat refugee camp (on an expedition to a park near Ramallah) was struck head-on by a truck travelling in the opposite direction, during a heavy rain, and forced off the road on a section of Route 60 ten minutes from Qalandiya . Nine children and the driver of the bus were killed in the crash. Thirty more children were injured.  Several Palestinian children are still receiving care at Israeli hospitals for burns and post accident trauma.

The exact sequence of events leading to the crash is not in doubt, though there is an investigation being conducted by the PA over what was perceived as the relatively slow emergency response to the accident.

In two reports (one for The Telegraph and one for the Guardian) Phoebe Greenwood has devoted 1444 words to the bus accident. The latest, in the Guardian, June 26th, included this scare title: “West Bank’s route 60 a ‘road of death‘ for Palestinian children” and was placed in the Global Development (Global Road Safety in Focus) section of the site. [emphasis added]

Here is the headline and accompanying photo:

Characteristically, Greenwood has focused much of her writing on Israel’s perceived role in the accident.

In The Telegraph, Greenwood cited a couple of hateful comments about the Palestinian victims, within one Israeli Facebook thread beneath a link to a story about the accident from the site of Walla, to contextualize the story, suggesting, evidently, that such views were indicative of Israeli sentiment.

Greenwood also wrote that “roads open to Palestinian drivers in the occupied West Bank are notoriously dangerous…” – a theme she explored in greater detail in her June 26th Guardian story, where she wrote:

“Many Palestinian roads are unpaved and take circuitous routes to avoid the separation wall [checkpoints] and settlements….”

“Mohammed Shtayeh, the Palestinian Authority’s minister for homes and public works until 2010, says the Israeli authorities’ refusal to allow the Palestinian Authority to repair and maintain roads running through Area C can be linked to a rise in road accidents in the West Bank.”

Greenwood fails to provide any context regarding Palestinian acts of terror (which prompted the construction both the security fence and checkpoints) which, since the Oslo Accords in 1993 through the 2nd Intifada, claimed nearly 1400 Israeli lives.

But beyond such insinuations, much of Greenwood’s Guardian piece reads as simple human interest story and devotes quite a bit of space to the pain expressed by two Palestinian mothers – one who lost a five-year old so and another whose daughter is lying in a drug-induced coma at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, after suffering burns to 75% of her body.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a reporter based in the region attempting to humanize and provide color to the often abstract contentious political issues involving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. 

Indeed, Greenwood’s empathy towards the Palestinian victims of February’s fatal bus accident was evident throughout her reports.

In her Guardian piece, she observed:

“…it is still difficult…for all the parents whose children were killed or injured in the inferno on the West Bank’s route 60 – to identify who is to blame.”

However, in contrast, Asher’s wife Puah Palmer and his parents Moshe and Molly know precisely who is to blame for their devastating loss: two Palestinian terrorists who were intent on taking Israeli lives and apparently unmoved by the possibility that the act of terror they were committing could take the life of a baby.   

Has Greenwood ever considered talking to the surviving family and friends of Asher and Yonatan Palmer in Kiryat Arba – to give voice to their pain, grief and anger?

It is really difficult to read the Guardian each day, observing its egregious lack of empathy towards Israeli victims of terror and its continuing sins of omission regarding the Palestinian perpetrators without coming to the conclusion that, at the paper, Israeli Jewish life is cheap and the lives of “settlers’” even cheaper.

Asher and Yonatan Palmer

‘Comment is Free’ or PressTV? CiF contributor portrays Iran as a force for peace & reform in Syria

Even by Guardian standards the propaganda value of a recent ‘Comment is Free’ essay, June 26, titled “Iran is trying to broker a political solution to Syria“, by Mohammad Ataie, is off the charts.

The first clue was the breathtaking claim in the strap line:

Consistent with the title, Ataie, an Iranian journalist with Diplomacy-i-Irani, argues that Iran is working tirelessly to end the violence in Syria, a brutal crackdown on opposition by Bashar al-Assad which has resulted in a death toll of up to 15,000.

Here are some of the passages in his essay worth noting:

Iran’s leaders are frustrated with the slow pace of reform in Syria:

“But, particularly since the recent parliamentary election in Syria, there has been an increasing sense of frustration in Tehran with the sluggish Assad-led political reforms.”

Iran, the peacemaker:

“During the past few months, Iranian diplomats have contacted the Syrian opposition to assist the Assad-led reform and facilitate negotiations between the president and the opposition.”

Iran, the champion of political dissent:

“The recent “multi-party parliamentary election” – which was devoid of meaningful participation by opposition groups – and the formation of the new Syrian government by a member of the ruling Ba’ath party, have in particular disenchanted Iranian officials with Assad’s strategy for a political solution.”

Iran opposes the violent crackdown by Syria, and urgently wants nothing more than to end the bloodshed:

“Iran, though certainly intent on safeguarding its key regional ally, does not see its fundamental interest in a security crackdown, but rather in reform and serious dialogue between Assad and the opposition.”

“Iran is not on the same side of the Syrian conflict as the US and its allies, but it does have a big stake in ending the bloodshed and finding a political solution to the crisis.”

Of course, anyone familiar with Iran’s military assistance to Assad would immediately understand that Ataie’s claims are nothing but fiction, a polemic designed to deceive the gullible or provide comfort to those who view Iran sympathetically as an anti-imperialist counterweight to U.S. hegemony.

It’s simply not in dispute that  Iran continues to provide major assistance to Assad specifically, per a recent Reuters report, “to help him suppress anti-government protests, [and is providing] high-tech surveillance technology, guns and ammunition”, according to U.S. and European security officials.

(Photo–http://www.presstv.ir/detail.fa/144902.html)

A well documented report just published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, titled “The role of Iranian Security Forces in the Syrian Bloodshed“, details the Islamic Republic’s assistance to the Assad regime.

Among their findings: 

  • “Amid the…massacres of the civilian population in various parts of the country, Iranian military, propaganda, and economic assistance keeps flowing in, and its aim is to help President Bashar al-Assad survive. Iran views the confrontation in Syria as a critical battleground with the West regarding the reshaping of the Middle East and its own role in the region as a key, vital and influential player.” [emphasis added]
  • “Hizbullah weapons are serving – under Iran’s command – as part of Assad’s apparatus of violent repression. Esmail Ghani, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corp – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), is the most senior Iranian military official so far to have revealed its activity in Syria. In an interview…he acknowledged that elements of the IRGC-QF have been involved in Syrian events.” [emphasis added]
  • “This marked the first time a senior IRGC-QF commander had confirmed reports by Syrian opposition elements and Western sources about active involvement of elite units of the IRGC-QF, together with the Syrian army, in violent repression of the protests. The opposition, especially the Free Syrian Army, sometimes presents testimonies of direct Iranian involvement in the fighting.  Iranians and  Hizbullah operatives have been captured in the main centers of fighting including Homs. In their confessions they admit that they belong to the IRGC-QF and were sent to put down the disturbances in Syria.” [emphasis added]
  • “Iranian assistance to the repression of the Syrian uprising, which has included consultation as well as guidance in the “field,” began shortly after the protests first erupted. This aid was already reported by Iranian opposition elements, who claimed that the repression in Syria was being carried out by a Syrian contingent of the IRGC-QF that had been operating in the country, and had been responsible over time for military, intelligence, and logistical assistance to Hizbullah in Lebanon.”
  • “In a May 29, 2012, press briefing, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland pointed to Iran’s involvement in the Houla massacre, linking the Qods Force to the incident and implicitly to other incidents in Syria as well. She noted the great similarity in structure and operational methods between the Shabiha forces that stood behind the massacre, according to various testimonies,  and the Basij, the volunteer arm of the IRGC-QF.” [emphasis added]

Finally, Ataie’s CiF essay included this claim:

“In the eyes of Iran…civil war and sectarian violence in Syria only benefit Israel.” [emphasis added]

So, based on this criteria, is it now safe to characterize the Islamic Republic of Iran itself as a tool of the Zionists?

The most insidious Zionist tool: Economic development. (Unintended comedy at the Guardian)

Yesterday, June 25, in ‘Harriet Sherwood taken for a ride in Acre’, Hadar Sela effectively fisked Sherwood’s latest report, Israel’s historic city of Acre faces tourist and settler tensions, June 24, and made the following points:

  • The headline of Sherwood’s article declares that “…Acre faces tourist and settler tensions” with the strap line further claiming that “Mixed Arab-Jewish ‘sleeping beauty’ city awakes to gentrification and influx of nationalist-religious Jews”, advancing the specious narrative that rich Jews are buying property in the old city of Acco in a process of ‘gentrification’, thus driving out the poor Arab population.
  • Sherwood manages [by interviewing Arabs with extreme anti-Zionist agendas] to turn a story about the physical and economic regeneration of a depressed city (a dynamic typically understood to be desirable) into a tall tale of quasi ethnic cleansing.
  • Interestingly, while all the activists Sherwood interviews warn of racism and anti-Arab discrimination in Acco’s newer neighbourhoods, even invoking the spectre of ‘settlers coming to town and the ‘Judaisation‘ of the city, not one of them – nor Harriet Sherwood herself –  seems to find anything amiss with the concurrent campaign objecting to  Jews buying property in Acco’s predominately Arab old city.

Indeed, only in the Guardian can economic development in an Israeli city (inside the green line) be framed in a manner suggesting anti-Arab racism, and Jewish malevolence.

Yet, there was one passage in particular which caught my eye and, it seems, shows the shallow and almost comical nature of the narrative advanced in Sherwood’s tale.

“Ahmed Odeh, an Arab member of the city council, claims that about 50 properties in the old city have been acquired by Jewish investors for redevelopment. He says a number of ruses have been employed to encourage Arab residents to give up their properties…to developers. These include straightforward cash offers, often irresistible to poor families; orders for expensive repairs; and eviction if debts are defaulted on.” [Emphasis added]

Simply chilling: The ancient and supremely sinister Semitic ruses of paying cash for a property an owner is willing to sell, and evicting those who default on their mortgages!

Those scheming Zionist financiers, money lenders, and merchants will clearly stop at nothing!

Harriet Sherwood is taken for a ride in Acco.

Although the south of Israel was still under rocket attack on June 24th, Harriet Sherwood decided to take a trip north to Acco. 

The headline of her subsequent article declares that “Israel’s historic city of Acre faces tourist and settler tensions” with the strap line further claiming that “Mixed Arab-Jewish ‘sleeping beauty’ city awakes to gentrification and influx of nationalist-religious Jews”. 

Sherwood’s basic claim in this article is that rich Jews are buying up property in the old city of Acco in a process of ‘gentrification’ and driving out the poor Arab population. 

“According to Arab activists in Acre, this is part of a grand plan, driven by the city’s Jewish mayor, to gentrify and rebrand the old city – and persuade, induce or coerce Arabs to leave.” 

Of course if Harriet Sherwood wanted to trace the beginnings of economic troubles in Acco, she would have to start back in Ottoman times when the builder of the Hejaz railway, Sultan Abdul Hamid II, decided that its branch line would terminate in the small fishing village of Haifa rather than in Acco.  She would then have to progress to the decision by the British Mandate to overlook the ancient silted-up Acco port in favour of the construction of a new deep-water port at nearby Haifa in 1932, the subsequent construction of oil refineries there and the opening of the oil pipeline stretching from Iraq to Haifa in 1934. She might also take into account the evacuation of the Jews of Acco by the British authorities following the riots of 1929. 

For many years Acco has been one of the worst affected towns in Israel from the point of view of unemployment and a low average wage. Among the reasons for this has been the closure or relocation of some factories and the increased mechanization of others. Acco’s traditional fishing industry has been hit by the falling of numbers of fish in the eastern Mediterranean in general.  Its traditional markets lost their prominence in the area as shopping centres became fashionable and its tourism industry was hampered by the fact that most visitors only came for day trips, preferring to use hotels in nearby Haifa due to Acco’s lack of night-life. 

In 2006 the Israeli government declared Acco a ‘national goal’ and by 2009, 36 new factories had been opened in the city, along with a new shopping centre.  There has been serious investment in many conservation and restoration projects in the old city and in updating the infrastructure of the city as a whole. At last it seems as though Acco is moving beyond its run-down state and the opening of hotels such as the one featured in Harriet Sherwood’s article is one important way to boost the economic potential of the city – and in particular that of its ancient quarter, where some 40% of the 6,000 residents receive social security allowances.  

The importance of tourism to Acco’s economy is obviously not lost on residents of its old city. Whilst on a tour of the city’s market after the completion of part one of its restoration the Chair of the Committee of Traders in Old Acco, Mr Anaan Hajazi, said:

“We thank the mayor of Acco Shimon Lankry and we all hope that this project will help to develop tourism and improve the situation of traders in the old city.”

So how does Harriet Sherwood manage to turn a story of the physical and economic regeneration of a depressed city (something which takes place the world over) into a tall tale of quasi ethnic cleansing? 

The clue is in some of her interviewees (and possibly also hosts?) who are using this story to advance a political agenda. 

Let us begin with Ahmed Odeh who, as Sherwood states, is a member of Acco’s city council. Odeh – the owner of a bakery in the town – is also chair of the communist anti-Zionist Hadash party in Acco, which he represents on the council. He is one of three Arab members of the city council, one of whom is deputy mayor and another head of the Waqf. In other words, despite his frequent protestations in various media outlets, Mr Odeh and his fellow Arab councilors, along with the mayoral assistant Samir Batah, have been active partners in the changes being made in the city. 

Here is Mr Odeh (far right) in December 2008 demonstrating against Operation Cast Lead. The sign the councilor is holding says “Stop the massacre immediately” but apparently does not refer to rocket fire at his fellow Israeli citizens. More recently, Ahmed Odeh came out publicly in support of the speech made by Mahmoud Abbas at the UN in 2011 as part of the Palestinian Authority’s plan for a universal declaration of statehood. 

The second of Harriet Sherwood’s interviewees is “local activist” Sami Hawari. Hawari is a media consultant, holding an MA from Haifa University. He also sits on the UNESCO committee for the preservation of Arab heritage sites in Israel. 

Hawari is also General Director of the NGO Al Yater which claims to engage in “educational activities and advocacy efforts to promote the rights of the Arab population of Akko” and is supported by the New Israel Fund among others. In April 2012, the Haifa District Court rejected a petition brought by Al Yater and others on the subject of housing in Acco because it was not established that there had been discrimination.  Obviously not content with the court’s decision, Hawari and Ahmed Odeh took their campaign to the media 

In 2006 Al Yater was criticized for organizing the screening of the controversial film ‘Paradise Now’ – which is about suicide bombers – in Acco. In 2008, at the time of the clashes between Jews and Arabs in Acco, Sami Hawari gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he suggested that the events in Acco were reminiscent of Kristallnacht and expressed fear of “another massacre of Palestinians, this time in Acre”. 

Finally, we come to Sherwood’s third interviewee Jafar Farah, founder and director of the Arab human rights organization Mossawa in Haifa, which is also funded by the New Israel Fund the Abraham Fund and Oxfam UK among others. 

In October 2000, as the second Intifada erupted, Farah gave an interview to ABC News in which he supported the call by then MK Azmi Bishara for UN troops to be sent to Israel, also distorting both history and the events at the time. 

“And I have to remind that the U.N. decision in ’47 was for two countries for two peoples, the Jewish people and the Palestinian people, in the homeland of the Palestinians.”

“Also if they [Palestinians] use stones and any way of expressing themselves, it’s not war. War is when both sides use guns and war machines. Palestinians are using mainly, especially in Israel, stones.”

“I didn’t hear Arafat, the chairman of the P.L.O. or the Palestinian Authority, talking about destroying Israel. It’s mainly rumors that get out from Israeli right-wing groups. They want to prove that there is no partner for peace in the Middle East.”

“I know that Arafat doesn’t think about destroying Israel. I know it personally.”

In June 2010 Jafar Farah thought it necessary to visit ‘activists’ from the Mavi Marmara in a Haifa hospital. During the second Lebanon war in 2006, Farah took the opportunity to blame the deaths of Arab Israelis not upon the rockets fired from Lebanon by Hizballah, but upon supposed Israeli discrimination which, according to him, meant that Arab Israelis had neither shelters nor sirens. (Note – since 1991 it has been mandatory in Israel to build a safe room in every new home constructed.) However, Farah opposes attempts to recruit Arab youths to National Service programs. 

So in a nutshell, Acco provides fertile ground for all manner of people and organisations to advance their own agendas. We have the anti-Zionist communist who deals in local politics, the NGO which uses charges of discrimination in order to delegitimize Israel at every turn and the media maestro who appears to have recruited Harriet Sherwood (knowingly or not) as part of his latest campaign.

The interesting thing about it all is that whilst all these activists warn of racism and anti-Arab discrimination in Acco’s newer neighbourhoods, even invoking the spectre of ‘settlers‘ coming to town and the ‘Judaisation‘ of the city, not one of them – or Harriet Sherwood herself –  seems to find anything amiss with the concurrent campaign objecting to  Jews buying property in Acco’s old city.

When all-Jewish neighbourhoods are presented as racist and discriminatory, but all-Arab neighbourhoods are just romantic and quaint, the writer obviously has either a serious problem with double standards or a political agenda. Or both. 

Blogger at The Independent evokes Nazi analogy, arguing Israel is based on “superior race theory”

Is there something in the British air?

What precisely gives rise within that country’s public sphere to the malign hatred of the one majority Jewish nation in the world? What makes self-described “sensible”, “cultured”, “tolerant” and “sensitive souls” lose all sense of moral proportion when contemplating, obsessing over (and typically, wildly inflating) every conceivable Jewish sin?

Richard Sudan (a “writer, political campaigner and poet” who has contributed to ‘Comment is Free‘), blogs for The Independent and has warned in past posts there of the dangerous influence of the Israel lobby in the UK’s detainment of Sheikh Raed Salah, as well as what he characterizes as President Obama’s uncritical support for the Jewish state. 

Sudan, in a post at The Independent titled “Note to refugees from South Sudan: Israel is for the white man“, June 22nd, takes one comment from Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai (which appears racist, but is based on a quite egregious mistranslation from the original Hebrew) and uses it as the scare headline.

He introduces his post thus:

“['Israel is for the white man'] were the astonishing words uttered by Israel’s interior minister Eli Yishai in an interview recently in which he outlined the Israeli government’s view of African migrants.”

Sudan links to a piece at Electronic Intifada, which in turn links to a Ha’aretz piece, which references an interview Yishai gave in Hebrew in Maariv.

Here’s the Hebrew:

Here’s the translation of the first two sentences by CiF Watch’s Hadar Sela.

“Most of the people who come here are Muslims who think this country doesn’t belong to us, to the white man. Some of them have said so openly on television.”

It’s clear that – whatever Yishai’s broader point – he is talking about the way (according to his view) Muslims think of “whites”, and is certainly not saying that “Israel is for the white man”.

Also, a bit research would have led Sudan to discover another little nugget of information contradicting his predetermined anti-Zionist thesis: Yishai himself was born to Tunisian parents. That is, the white racist antagonist in Sudan’s tale is actually Sephardi rather than  “white”!

However, the moral nadir of Sudan’s article is yet to come.

Perhaps it is fair to ask whether the editor at The Independent who reviewed Sudan’s post so much as winced, let alone considered revising or deleting the following passage (in a piece critical of Israel’s handling of Sudanese migrants).

“The continual persecution of the Palestinians, politically and ideologically, the military court system, and now the emerging negative view of non-white people should outline clearly what the overriding Israeli government consensus is.  The superior race theory is one that we’ve seen in the past, and is the hallmark of theories centered on a perspective viewed through the prism of eugenics.  Those theories are dangerous and they need to be relegated to the past-along with Zionism.” [emphasis added]

The writer’s contempt for the Jewish state is palpable and he is quite clear in arguing that Zionism is a dangerous, supremacist ideology based on “eugenics” and, similar to other such ideologies based on racial purity in the 20th century, should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Sudan, cognitively inebriated with Judeophobic inspired contempt, is evidently unburdened by the simple fact that – contrary to his working theory of Zionist white supremacism - over half of Israelis are non-white (making Israel a far more racially diverse nation than the UK). This supremely inconvenient fact is one which fellow adherents to the hideous charge of “Supremacism” against Jews and/or Israelis (such as David Duke and Gilad Atzmon) similarly fail to note.

However, Sudan’s morally grotesque screed on Jewish villainy need not be further fisked, scrutinized or analyzed.

Beyond Sudan’s prose, tropes and simply fantastical political musings, the larger question remains:

How is it that a “respectable” British newspaper saw fit to publish a commentary likening Jewish nationalism – a movement embraced by Israel’s six million Jewish inhabitants and the overwhelming majority of Jews in the diaspora – to a Nazi-style, racial supremacist menace whose eradication is nothing short of an ethical imperative?

The corollary of such political calculus would suggest that all Israeli Jews – insofar as they represent an organic and immutable obstacle to peace and progress – are fair game to all who seek, by means violent or otherwise, the end of the Jewish state.  

The Independent has crossed a dangerous line – the legitimization of extreme racist polemic hitherto assigned to the unserious fringes of the blogosphere – and it needs desperately to be held accountable for its acquiescence in the face of such visceral antisemitic malice.