The Guardian’s Turkish Delights

Ah, the Guardian’s editors “found” Turkey – the Turkey they’ve longed for, the Turkey they’ll love, the Turkey of Islamists!!! The Guardian’s editors are a bit too bashful to say so openly, but one reason – perhaps the main reason??? – for falling in love with Islamist Turkey is that, just like Islamists everywhere, Turkey’s ruling Islamists also know that sagging popularity at home can always be transformed into frenzied enthusiasm by playing the anti-Israel card.

Over at Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith spells it out in one of his regular (and regularly excellent) columns [emphasis added]:

“Ankara’s transformation has been in the making since the election that brought Erdogan and the AKP to power in 2003. There was much hand-wringing during the George W. Bush years about who ‘lost’ Turkey, but the fact is that Erdogan is a wily politician who lacks a majority in Turkey and is always competing for an electoral edge. And no one has ever lost support in the modern Middle East by playing the anti-Israel card. Erdogan’s January 2009 performance at Davos, where he accused Israeli President Shimon Peres of ‘knowing very well how to kill’ in the wake of Israel’s Gaza offensive, won him acclaim throughout the region and helped his party build support among the masses.”

Mhm, and when it comes to “support among the masses”, couldn’t it also be said that “no one has ever lost talkbacks in the modern media world by playing the anti-Israel card”? It sure has worked well for CiF in the past two weeks or so: even though articles that have anything to do with Israel are open for comment only for a few hours, the comments they’ve ratcheted up with the Polakow-Suransky “revelations”  and the Gaza flotilla flood of hate must run into the many thousands.

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How about some facts on the “right of return”?

A recent Guardian editorial on the never neglected subject of the “Israel-Palestine conflict” seemed to endorse the idea that Obama should impose a “solution”.  The piece concluded with the rather smug observation that “Mr Netanyahu would kick and scream against an imposed plan, but that is the consequence of rejecting lesser demands now.” Revealingly, one of the complaints the editorial writer listed was that “no one could imagine Mr Netanyahu conducting any meaningful negotiations” on the Palestinian demand for a “right of return”.

No doubt that a Guardian editorialist would find it hard to imagine that out there in the real world, there are lots and lots of reasons why any Israeli politician would have considerable difficulties to conduct “meaningful negotiations” about a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel. For starters, one could point to how refugees fared in Europe and the rest of the world in the wake of World War II; one could also refer to the doubtful legal basis of Palestinian demands regarding a “right of return”,  and one could even mention recent headlines like “Right of Return Dealt Grievous Setback by European HR Court” – describing a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that decided against Greek refugees from Northern Cyprus who tried to claim a right of return.

Well, but then we all know that the Jewish state must be held to different standards than everyone else…

Protestations that holding Israel to different standards than the rest of the world have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism often rely on the fanciful notion that Israel is a relic of European colonialism. In this view, Jewish immigrants from Europe snatched land from the noble native peasants of Palestine who had worked the soil of the Holy Land for centuries.

But over the years, a lot of evidence has been accumulated showing that the economic development of Palestine spurred by Jewish immigration attracted a large influx of Arab immigrants. One blogger who has repeatedly written on this subject is the Elder of Ziyon, and he recently added some fascinating material from an article that was published in August 1935 in the Palestine Post (nowadays known as the Jerusalem Post).  The article is based on a report in the Manchester Guardian (nowadays known as the Guardian) that provides a synopsis of a British Treasury report on the economic situation in Palestine.

Under the title “Prosperity in Palestine”, the article explains:

“The prosperity of Palestine is becoming almost a wearisome theme. It has continued for more than two years in spite of constant presages of a boom that will be followed by a slump. And during the last year it has been more impressive than ever.”

The article goes on to highlight the “extraordinary surplus of the Government and the immense increase in the Customs revenue”, which are attributed to “the increasing immigration”. Quoting an “authoritative estimate”, the number of Jewish immigrants for 1934 is given as 50,000; compared to 38,000 in 1933, and 15,600 in 1932.

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Creative Writing on Terrorism

Reza Aslan is a highly successful author, whose first book on the “Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam” won international acclaim and was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. According to his website, the Iranian-born Aslan studied “Religions” at several US universities, though he is now an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.

I have to admit that I’m not familiar with Aslan’s work, but that is likely true for many other people who followed CiF’s “Best of the Web” recommendation that featured at the top of the list Aslan’s blog at the “Daily Beast” where he had posted an excerpt from his second book that has just been published in paperback.


As can be seen from the screenshot above, CiF’s one-sentence summary provided the title of Aslan’s post: “Jihadists’ Palestinian rallying cry” and promised “[an] excerpt from Reza Aslan’s book, in which he writes about the 7/7 bombers’ radicalization after a visit to Israel-Palestine.”

Indeed, the passage Aslan chose to entice readers to buy his new book opens with the (creatively written) claim:

“Two years before Mohammed Siddique Khan, the soft-spoken second-generation Pakistani-Briton from West Yorkshire, led three of his friends on a suicide mission that would end in the murder of more than 50 of his fellow British citizens on July 7, 2005, he stood at the wall dividing Israel and Palestine, at one of its 500 or so security checkpoints. In all of the material published about the so-called 7/7 bombers, all of the documents and studies and conferences meant to discover what could have led to the radicalization of those four seemingly benign British youths, Khan’s trip to Israel is rarely, if ever, mentioned. But there can be little doubt that it was the decisive moment in his young life—the pivot in his journey from husband and father and, by all accounts, well-adjusted, well-integrated, well-educated youth worker to radical jihadist bent on mass murder.”

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Red Lines for the Left

Walter Russell Mead is arguably one of America’s most interesting political thinkers and commentators.  He has a special talent to present the “bigger picture”, and while his political sympathies are clearly left of center, he seems always prepared to engage fairly with views that may differ from his own. A few months ago, he started blogging at The American Interest, a bi-monthly magazine whose current issue happens to include several pieces debating US policy toward Israel.  (BTW, the magazine’s editor, Adam Garfinkle, has written a book on a phenomenon that’s probably quite familiar to CiF Watch regulars: “Jewcentricity” – you can check it out at Google books here)

When it comes to the debate about the relations between the US and Israel, Walter Russell Mead has long staked out a position that leaves lots of room for fair-minded criticism of Israeli policies, but also draws very clear red lines. A few years back, when Mearsheimer and Walt published their book on the “Israel Lobby”, he memorably wrote in a critical review for Foreign Affairs: “This may be a book that anti-Semites will love, but it is not necessarily an anti-Semitic book.”

Mead returned to this subject in one of his recent blog posts, where he argued that “it’s impossible to understand the popularity of ILS or Israel Lobby Syndrome (the belief that the organized, insistent power of American Jews as deployed through organizations like AIPAC is primarily responsible for American support of the Jewish state) without assigning a role to a lingering whiff of anti-Semitism in the American air.”

Unsurprisingly, this post generated quite a bit of controversy – or, as Mead put it so delicately when he recently commented on the reactions: it “was not universally popular”. Mead announced his intention to examine “the reasons why the United States supports Israel as much as we do”, and he has since written several additional posts on this subject.

However, he emphasized that there was “one difficult subject that needs to be addressed up front, and that issue is anti-Semitism.” While some of Mead’s subsequent observations refer to an American context, his identification of antisemitic themes and sentiments in debates about Israel could easily be drawn from what is published day in and day out on CiF, both above and below the line.

Mead starts out by noting that antisemitism has deep roots in western Christian history and that it is entirely unrealistic to claim that it has disappeared entirely or that it lives on only “in weirdo subcultures.” Therefore, Mead argues, it is rather suspicious “when people who loudly and implausibly assert that anti-Semitism isn’t a problem anymore make harsh and unbalanced criticisms about the world’s only Jewish state.”

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The CiF Routine

CiF-veterans knew what to expect when the Guardian published Harold Evans’ critique of the Goldstone report, which Evans condemned as “A moral atrocity”. Obviously, this sound verdict could only elicit howls of protest by the assorted antisemites and Israel-bashers who are drawn to Cif for their daily fix of “down-with-Israel” delirium.

And it was equally obvious that CiF wouldn’t wait long to provide what the crowds were clamoring for: The next day, Michael Lerner – excuse me: RABBI Michael Lerner – dismissed Evans’ piece as a “screed” and opined that the “global choir of ethical cretins who condemn Goldstone’s Gaza report do Israel no favours.” If you are offended by the “ethical cretins”, you simply demonstrate your inability to appreciate political correctness a la GWV, and in any case, Georgina Henry herself made an appearance to assure everyone that it wasn’t meant “to offend”, it was just “colloquial” and “general”, and the “Guardian’s style guide” (oh-la-la) would ponder the question just how stylish Rabbi Lerner’s general colloquialism/colloquial generalism really truly was.

Naturally, the commentariat adored the good Rabbi’s pious pc-stylishness, but just to be on the safe side and to really make up for allowing Evans to call a spade a spade, CiF also wheeled in none other than Richard Goldstone himself.

True to form, Goldstone opened his piece with the bold claim: “Five weeks after the release of the report of the fact-finding mission on Gaza, there has been no attempt by any of its critics to come to grips with its substance.” Well, it’s not the first time Goldstone makes a claim that would be kind of difficult to support by facts: Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up a website that perhaps doesn’t quite “come to grips” with the “substance” of the Goldstone report, but it does show that there isn’t all that much “substance” to it, and a group of bloggers have set up a website that offers many detailed and devastating rebuttals of Goldstone’s report from a variety of sources.

And then there is of course this authoritative verdict about the Goldstone report: “If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.” Quite so.

Oh, you wonder who said this? Well, this is the eminently venerable (?) Judge Goldstone  judging the Goldstone report in a recent interview with the Forward…

And Goldstone was good enough to elaborate why his report wasn’t really worth all that much: referring to a similar report that had been prepared in the 1990s for Yugoslavia, Goldstone reminisced:

“We couldn’t use that report as evidence at all […] But it was a useful roadmap for our investigators, for me as chief prosecutor, to decide where we should investigate. And that’s the purpose of this sort of report. If there was an independent investigation in Israel, then I think the facts and allegations referred to in our report would be a useful road map. […] I wouldn’t consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved.”

You see how simple it is: Richard Goldstone wouldn’t be embarrassed if it turned out that the outrageous accusations he leveled against Israel and the IDF were shown to be baseless. And you know what: Richard Goldstone is right. Frivolous accusations against Israel is all that it takes – they quickly take on the aura of “facts” and dominate the headlines for weeks and months on end, generating floods of enraged comments and talkbacks demonizing Israel, and when it turns out that there was no evidence to back up the allegations, it won’t be much more than an obscure news item placed in a not too conspicuous spot. We have been through this, and there is a good name for it: the “Jenin massacre syndrome”.

Remember Jenin? Back then, a Guardian editorial opined that “Israel’s actions in Jenin were every bit as repellent as Osama Bin Laden’s attack on New York on September 11.” That was in April 2002. But what do you know: it took just some six years, and presto, there was this follow-up – in the Jerusalem Post: “‘Guardian’ editor apologizes for Jenin editorial.”

This belated apology came during a session at the 2008 Jewish Book Week, where Alan Rusbridger even said that Israel is a “moral necessity” – which is obviously a view that would be news to most Guardian/CiF readers who come to the site because it can always be relied on to describe whatever Israel did and didn’t do as “repellent”. And whoever doesn’t agree can be dismissed as an “ethical cretin”.

The poisonous atmosphere that is thus created is not unique to the Guardian or CiF, but it is of course their editorial choice to endorse and reinforce this kind of atmosphere through a relentlessly negative coverage of all things Israeli and, by inevitable extension, of many things Jewish. As Mark Gardner emphasized in a recent post on the CTS blog:

“It is plain that if the Jewish state is regarded as a pariah, a compulsive serial abuser of human rights, then Jews everywhere will suffer by (real or imaginary) association.”

Mark Gardner makes this point in his analysis of the undignified reaction of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to the criticism of the organization by its founder and long-time chairman, Robert Bernstein, who recently wrote in the New York Times:

“Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

HRW is for sure not the only organization that “has lost critical perspective” when it comes to Israel, and the evasions and distortions that Mark Gardner highlights in HRW’s response to Bernstein’s criticism will be familiar to anyone who has followed a few debates on CiF’s Israel-related threads. Indeed, as Mark Gardner points out:

“There has long been an instinctive reaction from groups such as HRW to savage their critics as being antagonistic pro-Israel lobbyists. There is no way that Robert Bernstein fits that ugly ethnic profiling, and yet HRW’s public reaction effectively treats him as just another pro-Israel snake in the grass. This suggests that HRW’s public reaction to Bernstein reflects an institutionalised inability to deal fairly and squarely with any concerns that are raised by Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel. The suspicion is strengthened when you contemplate the behaviour of the many groups, politicians and media that share HRW’s milieu. It is as if the constant drip, drip, drip, of their attitude to Israel has gradually eroded all of the sense and sensibility that such parties ever had towards the mainstream of the Jewish community.”

CiF is certainly among the “media that share HRW’s milieu”: on CiF, the “antagonistic pro-Israel lobbyists” are dismissed as the GIYUS brigade, or the paid-per-comment Hasbara rent-a-crowd; the “pro-Israel snake in the grass” is easily translated into something “colloquial” and “general” like the “global choir of ethical cretins”; and if “Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel” want to raise any concerns about this kind of atmosphere – well, tough luck: they will find out that Jews who don’t spend half their lives condemning Israel are not entitled to have any valid concerns when it comes to anything even remotely related to Israel.

There Must be a Conspiracy

When the news broke on Friday that Iran had concealed the construction of an additional nuclear enrichment facility, CiF was quick to cover the story with an article by Simon Tisdall, who wrote:

Now it seems the Iranian regime has been caught red-handed, and clean out of trumps, by the forced disclosure that it is building, if not already operating, a second, secret uranium processing plant. The revelation will bring a triumphal roar of “told you so!” from Bush era neoconservatives in the US to hawkish rightwingers in Israel. The likes of former vice-president Dick Cheney and UN envoy John Bolton, and the current Israeli leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, have long insisted that Tehran’s word could not be trusted.

Yet the argument about who was right and who was wrong about Iran is hardly important at this juncture. Today’s disclosures have significant, real-time policy-shifting implications for those who must deal with the ever more believable claims that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

It’s only human that Tisdall wouldn’t like to dwell on the issue of “who was right and who was wrong about Iran”, since he works for a media outlet that has consistently given out the message that there is no reason to worry about Iran’s nuclear program, and that especially Israel’s fears were completely exaggerated, hysterical, paranoid, and, above all, bellicose.

In the parallel universe of the GWV, the threats against the Jewish state that Iran’s rulers have repeated over and over again are mere rhetoric, or mistranslations, and in any case hardly newsworthy – particularly when compared to the always justified concern about the terrible threat posed by Israel

So it was hardly a surprise that a certain colleague of Tisdall was rather unhappy to read on CiF that Iran had been “caught red-handed” and that the revelations about the concealed nuclear facility could “bring a triumphal roar of ‘told you so!’ from Bush era neoconservatives in the US to hawkish rightwingers in Israel.” Heaven forbid – none of this could be truly true!!!

BrianWhit

25 Sep 09, 4:44pm

Staff

This smells of a propaganda stunt by western intelligence agencies. It’s not clear that Iran has actually broken any ruies on disclosure, since the plant is said to be non-operational.

Yeah, there must be a conspiracy…

Damage control was swift, if not outright frantic, and it came in the form of another post on the subject: “Keeping Iran honest”. Any reader who wondered if this title really implied that Iran had been honest while it was concealing the construction of a nuclear facility had all doubts removed by the subheading, which reads: “Iran’s secret nuclear plant will spark a new round of IAEA inspections and lead to a period of even greater transparency.”

Even greater transparency!!! OMG, how transparent can it get???

Once this piece was posted, Tisdall’s unfortunate column was quickly closed for debate. But it didn’t take long before yet another, even more tempting take on the story was posted: “My dinner with Ahmadinejad” gives the “human interest” angle of the story:

Iran is not thinking about specifics.

Instead it seeks something more diffuse: respect, dignity, treatment as an equal member of the world community. This is a country that has been abused, humiliated and looted by foreign powers for 200 years. As Ahmadinejad repeatedly made clear, this has left deep scars.

“We see the world differently from the way prominent politicians in the US see it,” he said at one point. Later he complained about big powers that “really believe they have a right to approach the world from a position of leadership, and insist that others follow them.” Then he said countries “have to recognise each other’s basic rights.”

CiF-readers are unlikely to know that this is the same man speaking who said last year:

“World powers have created a black and dirty microbe named the Zionist regime and have unleashed it like a savage animal on the nations of the region.”

That came shortly after the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, Muhammad Ali Jafari, wrote to Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah:

“The cancerous growth Israel will soon disappear… I am convinced that with every passing day Hizbullah’s might is increasing and in the near future, we will witness the disappearance of this cancerous growth Israel by means of the Hizbullah fighters’ radiation [therapy].”

And the chief of the Iranian Armed Forces, Maj.-Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, wholeheartedly agreed, writing that:

“Lebanese and Palestinian combatants… [will] continue the struggle until the complete destruction of the Zionist regime and the liberation of the entire land of Palestine.”

But according to the GWV, all Ahmadinejad really wants is a bit of respect, and according to the GWV, he deserves it, never mind what he and his lieutenants say…

In the end, however, the Guardian editors acknowledged in a piece posted early Saturday morning:

“The likelihood that Iran’s nuclear programme is wholly civilian, as its leaders continue to claim, diminishes with each unpleasant surprise.”

“Unpleasant”, indeed; “surprise” – only if you insisted to ignore the obvious about Iran’s regime.

Well, and let’s not forget, one reason why all this is so “unpleasant” is this:

Iran’s cat-and-mouse game with nuclear inspectors hands a propaganda victory on a plate to Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier who has made little secret of his air force’s preparations for a long-range air strike.

Right, that’s important to keep in mind: a regime that has repeatedly threatened to annihilate Israel is clearly pursuing nuclear weapons, and what is to be deplored is that this “hands a propaganda victory on a plate to Binyamin Netanyahu”. What a Guardianesque thought…


Goldstoned, Matt Seaton joins the fray

The evidence is clear: over at CiF, there is an intense competition for our attention.

CiF-editor Matt Seaton is apparently jealous that we’ve focused so much on Brian Whitaker – and now Seaton has made a bold move to stake his claim to CiF Watch fame. He did so in the form of a longish and presumably well-thought out comment that he posted in response to a piece with the sanctimonious title Israel must now heal itself.

The piece was yet another commentary on the Goldstone report that condemned Israel for exercising its right to self-defense – at least that’s how the vast majority of Israelis have taken the report. But you can count on CiF to spare no effort to show those Israelis just how wrong they are, and so CiF commissioned the multi-tasking think-tanker Daniel Levy (who is also on the advisory board of J-Street) to pontificate about the right way (no pun intended) to respond to Goldstone’s opus: “for the vast majority of non-or only mildly partisan individuals with a capacity for cognitive reflection, the Goldstone report should be treated seriously and even perhaps as a wake-up call.”

Well, who wouldn’t want to be counted among those “with a capacity for cognitive reflection”? CiF-editor Matt Seaton heeded the “wake-up call” and joined the fray by responding to a comment posted by “RufusT”.

So here is first the comment by “RufusT”, and then the response by Matt Seaton:

RufusT

18 Sep 09, 11:23am

If, as seems probable, Israel has committed serious war crimes then of course the country and its leaders should appear in the International Criminal Court, as should those of any country responsible for such crimes, with Bush and Blair first in the dock (and yes, Hamas and others to follow). There is no historical evidence that an Israeli enquiry would be credible or, even if it were, that its findings would lead to appropriate prosecutions. It should also be pointed out that several of Israel’s current and former leaders have been subject to criminal investigation for their personal behaviour (including rape and serious fraud, ongoing in the case of Lieberman) so to imagine that such individuals could initiate any meaningful judicial proceedings is naive to say the least. As the author says, occupation corrupts and the profound corruption of Israeli society since and politics since 1967 is way too far gone to be healed internally.

mattseaton

18 Sep 09, 11:52am

Staff

@ RufusT:

Good comments. You raise a crucial point about the ICC and any prosecution for war crimes. It seems more or less inevitable that, given the realpolitik of the situation, the Goldstone report’s call for a referral to the ICC is largely symbolic and merely lays down a marker, as Levy says. In practice, the ICC is a relatively new institution, still cutting its teeth on prosecutions of minor (if nefarious) former African dictators.

Given the controversy over Moreno Ocampo’s issuing of an indictment against al-Bashir of Sudan, it is fairly clear that the ICC, as yet, lacks the credibility and international consensus to bring a case against a regional superpower like Israel. Sadly, perhaps, for the foreseeable future Hamas leaders and Israeli politicians and generals alike can rest easy knowing that no indictment is likely to emerge from this quarter any time soon. The diplomatic pressure on the ICC not throw any spanner in the works of Middle East diplomacy, with Sen George Mitchell only now really getting engaged, would surely make ICC action unthinkable.

In the meantime, I share your scepticism about whether there will be any furher inquiry by Israel, as Levy suggests there should be – more in moral hop, than hardheaded expectation, one imagines.

Since Matt Seaton chose to frame his own comment as a response to RufusT – whose comment he praises as “good” – it’s worthwhile to examine what exactly it is that RufusT says:

1) RufusT thinks it “seems probable, [that] Israel has committed serious war crimes”. Well, it may seem “probable” to RufusT (and Matt Seaton, apparently), but there are a few people who know a thing or two about the subject and don’t share this assessment.

2) Since RufusT believes that it is “probable that Israel has committed serious war crimes”, he thinks “the country and its leaders should appear in the International Criminal Court”; RufusT adds that this should also be the case for “those of any country responsible for such crimes, with Bush and Blair first in the dock (and yes, Hamas and others to follow)”. Did RufusT (and Matt Seaton) note that Goldstone somehow hasn’t yet gotten around to investigating Bush and Blair, and that indeed nobody at the UN has asked him to do so? And isn’t it interesting that RufusT thinks that in Israel’s case it wouldn’t be quite enough to bring “those responsible” for war crimes to trial, but also “the country”? Well, just a small glitch here, no need to make a fuss…

3) Then RufusT opines: “There is no historical evidence that an Israeli enquiry would be credible” – wow, what competence, no wonder Matt Seaton is impressed!!! Clearly, RufusT must be a historian and knows a whole lot more about the issue than this ignoramus Harvard Law professor who wrote:

“The lowest blow and the worst canard contained in this lie-laden report is that the Israeli judicial system is incapable of conducting investigations and bringing about compliance with international law. It claims that the Israeli judicial system ‘has major structural flaws that make the system inconsistent with international standards,’ and that ‘there is little potential for accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law through domestic institutions in Israel.’ This is a direct attack on the Israeli Supreme Court by a lawyer who knows full well that there is no country in the world that has a judicial system that demands more accountability than the Israeli system does. There is no judicial system in the world-not in the United States, not in Great Britain, not in South Africa, not in France-that takes more seriously its responsibility to bring its military into compliance with international law.”

4) RufusT then comes up with yet another reason to doubt prima facie the validity of any Israeli investigation; he argues: “several of Israel’s current and former leaders have been subject to criminal investigation for their personal behaviour (including rape and serious fraud, ongoing in the case of Lieberman) so to imagine that such individuals could initiate any meaningful judicial proceedings is naive to say the least.” Mhm, so RufusT (and Matt Seaton) somehow worry that it would be up to former President Moshe Katsav – who has been out of office for more than two years and is currently standing trial – to launch an investigation??? That’s a most bizarre notion, but perhaps they are a bit confused because they are simply so shocked, shocked!!! by the various corruption allegations against a number of Israeli politicians – after all, such behavior is unheard of in jolly good old England. Don’t we all know that Westminster is squeaky clean?!? Yeah, there was this major expense scandal that dominated the British media for weeks just a short while ago, in early summer, and lots of MPs resigned or were sacked or sent into early retirement, but so what, the issue here is Israel!!!

5) OK, back to RufusT, who concludes his post by echoing Daniel Levy: “occupation corrupts and the profound corruption of Israeli society […] and politics since 1967 is way too far gone to be healed internally.” Well, yes, if Daniel Levy says that the Jewish state is sick, severely sick, then who is RufusT (or Matt Seaton) to disagree?

Time now to look at what Matt Seaton has to add to this post that he praises so warmly.

Seaton homes in on the “crucial point about the ICC and any prosecution for war crimes” that he thinks RufusT made. He elaborates:

“It seems more or less inevitable that, given the realpolitik of the situation, the Goldstone report’s call for a referral to the ICC is largely symbolic … In practice, the ICC is a relatively new institution, still cutting its teeth on prosecutions of minor (if nefarious) former African dictators. Given the controversy over Moreno Ocampo’s issuing of an indictment against al-Bashir of Sudan, it is fairly clear that the ICC, as yet, lacks the credibility and international consensus to bring a case against a regional superpower like Israel. Sadly, perhaps, for the foreseeable future Hamas leaders and Israeli politicians and generals alike can rest easy knowing that no indictment is likely to emerge from this quarter any time soon. The diplomatic pressure on the ICC not throw any spanner in the works of Middle East diplomacy, with Sen George Mitchell only now really getting engaged, would surely make ICC action unthinkable.”

So Seaton thinks that if the ICC can’t even go after “minor” figures like Sudan’s president, there is – unfortunately – no chance that it will be able “to bring a case against a regional superpower like Israel”.

One wonders if Seaton knows what exactly led to the indictment of al-Bashir – he could even have read about it in The Guardian:

“The ICC spokeswoman, Laurence Blairon, said the indictment, drawn up by three judges, included five counts of crimes against humanity: murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. The two counts of war crimes were for directing attacks on the civilian population and pillaging. Blairon said Bashir was criminally responsible as the head of state and commander of the Sudanese armed forces for the offences during a five-year counter-insurgency campaign against three armed groups in Darfur.”

The Guardian article on Bashir’s indictment also explains:

“Few independent observers doubt Bashir’s large share of responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur. After the uprising in February 2003 by mainly non-Arab rebels, who complained of marginalisation and neglect, his government armed, trained and financed bands of Arab nomads to attack villages across Darfur, killing, raping and looting as they went. The army provided air and ground support. Moreno-Ocampo says the strategy caused 35,000 violent deaths, and alleges that Bashir wanted to eliminate the Fur, Marsalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups, whom he deemed supportive of the rebels. ‘More than 30 witnesses will [testify] how he [Bashir] managed to control everything, and we have strong evidence of his intention,’ Moreno-Ocampo said yesterday.”

It’s quite remarkable that Seaton wouldn’t hesitate to post a comment that suggests that it would be a much greater accomplishment for the ICC to prosecute Israel’s alleged war crimes.

It’s also quite remarkable that Seaton then continues to say:

“Sadly, perhaps, for the foreseeable future Hamas leaders and Israeli politicians and generals alike can rest easy knowing that no indictment is likely to emerge from this quarter any time soon.”

Whatever could be wrong with talking about “Hamas leaders and Israeli politicians and generals alike”? It’s an obvious “alikeness” in the world of CiF – particularly given the fact that Hamas leaders lead a party whose Charter says:

“Ye are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind: ye command that which is just, and ye forbid that which is unjust, and ye believe in Allah. … ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it’ … This Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), clarifies its picture, reveals its identity, outlines its stand, explains its aims, speaks about its hopes, and calls for its support, adoption and joining its ranks. Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. … The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939, to the emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kissam and his brethren the fighters, members of Moslem Brotherhood … the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

It may be debatable if any of the individual points made by RufusT and Matt Seaton can be described as antisemitic, but when you add it all up, the standard “it’s just criticism of Israel”-excuse looks rather flimsy.