The Six Day War: Day Two

This week, Jewish Ideas Daily commemorates the forty-fifth anniversary of the Six-Day War with a day-by-day synopsis, for which we are indebted to Michael Oren’s comprehensive book, ‘Six Days of War.  

Abba Eban

In the Sinai, Israeli aircraft commanded the skies and the IDF advanced along roads littered with Egyptian tanks.  Some were in flames, illuminating the darkness; others were simply immobilized by malfunctions in their Soviet-made engines, which had failed in desert conditions.  On June 6th, 1967, by 8:00 a.m. Tel Aviv time, Israeli forces had entered el-Arish.  It initially seemed desolate, but the Israelis were soon under fire from every window.  Israel’s leadership, not expecting the war to move so quickly, had not considered what do to beyond el-Arish.  The IDF’s challenge became keeping up with the retreating Egyptian forces.

Meanwhile, Gaza had been severed from Sinai.  Though Defense Minister Moshe Dayan had predicted that this move would cripple the Strip, fighting was heavy; Gaza would ultimately account for nearly half of all the war’s Israeli casualties.  Still, Dayan’s prediction was correct: Gaza was taken by mid-morning.

Yet even as Egyptian anti-aircraft gun barrels melted from the continuous, unsuccessful efforts against Israeli planes, more than half of Egypt’s forces were intact.  Some important detachments had yet to see action.  Pilots remained available.  Forty-eight Algerian aircraft were en route, along with volunteers from Morocco, Tunisia, and Sudan.  Expressions of support poured in from Arab sympathizers.  By contrast, Israel’s forces were exhausted from over 24 hours of non-stop combat and were low on fuel and ammunition.

Meanwhile, another front was opening in the war—a political front.  In a 1:00 a.m. radio broadcast, IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin had informed Israelis of the previous day’s astounding military successes.  The broadcast boosted morale; but, Rabin knew, carried a risk: The international community might now seek a cease-fire, preventing further Israeli advances and threatening Israel’s gains with pressures for unreciprocated concessions.  The United States and Britain had declared neutrality, while France, then Israel’s primary patron, had embargoed further arms shipments.

Egypt’s leadership now ordered a wholesale retreat: An army assembled in 24 days began trying to draw back in as many hours.  Egyptian leaders may have believed that the more devastating their reversal looked, the more likely it was that the United Nations or Soviet Union would intervene.  They also began propagating the disinformation that America and Britain had intervened on Israel’s behalf.  During the day, this rumor spread across the Middle East.  Mobs attacked American embassies and consulates.  Exports to America and Britain were banned.  Egypt severed its U.S. diplomatic ties; other Arab states followed suit.  Americans were deported from Egypt at virtually a moment’s notice.

In the east, Jordanian forces were losing ground in tense, sometimes hand-to-hand combat as Israeli forces sought to “atone for the sin of ’48,” their failure to take Jerusalem’s Old City in the War of Independence.  By 5:15 a.m., Israel had won East Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill in one of the bloodiest battles in Arab-Israeli history.  It took more hours of heavy fighting for the Israelis to capture Mount Scopus.  Angering some field commanders, Dayan decided to surround the Old City rather than attack.  Even the efforts at encirclement proved arduous.

Of the promised Arab reinforcements, only Iraqi forces saw combat.  The Saudis sent a contingent, but it did not fight.  An Egyptian doctor attached to Saudi forces on the eastern border remembered: “We hoped”—fruitlessly—”that one Israeli plane would attack us, so that we could say that we participated in the war and we fired our guns.”

Jordan’s military retained significant strength, but King Hussein panicked when his generals warned him before dawn that failing to retreat from the West Bank would decimate his army.  He feared that if he accepted a cease-fire while Egyptians still fought, Egypt would blame him for defeat; he might face mutiny from his military and Jordan’s Palestinian Arabs.  He summoned Western ambassadors in Amman to warn that his kingdom might fall without an internationally imposed cease-fire.  He repeated the rumor that America had intervened to support Israel. President Lyndon Johnson heard and was infuriated.

Hussein also requested orders from Egypt but, for hours, received none.  Meanwhile, the IDF took the West Bank cities of Jenin and Ramallah and advanced toward Nablus and Qalqilya.  Hussein raced to the battlefield in a jeep.  He later recalled what he saw there: “In groups of thirty or two, wounded, exhausted, [soldiers] were trying to clear a path under the monstrouscoup de grace being dealt them by a horde of Israeli Mirages screaming in a cloudless blue sky seared with sun.”

In the north there was an abortive Syrian probe but general disorganization: The bridges across the Jordan River, for instance, were too narrow for Soviet tanks.  Dayan resisted opening a northern front.

Recognition was growing that the war would be decided in New York and Washington.  Sleepless for nearly two days, Foreign Minister Abba Eban flew to the UN; his plane was almost hit by Jordanian shrapnel.  Arriving in New York, he went straight to the Security Council.  With barely time to review his notes, he delivered what became a famous oration on Israel’s behalf.

In the United States, President Johnson, with an election season beginning, was cognizant of the public’s pro-Israel feeling—and angered by the Soviet role in the war and the misinformation about American behavior.  He was inclined to let Israel keep its gains and use them as bargaining chips.  Yet America allowed the UN to move toward a cease-fire.  Eban reluctantly acquiesced, and a resolution was passed.  But Israel was saved from the potential consequences when Egypt rebuffed the resolution, complaining that it did not require full and immediate Israeli withdrawals.

At 11:15 p.m., King Hussein finally received word from Egypt that its air force was obliterated and its army in full retreat.  Now Hussein could, and did, order a withdrawal from the West Bank.  He then heard about the UN resolution; the cease-fire would take effect at dawn.  Hussein accepted the resolution—and rescinded the order to retreat, in hopes that his forces and their Iraqi reinforcements could hold parts of the West Bank and the Old City until morning.

Process over progress: West’s infatuation with ‘buying time’ over ‘resolve’ to prevent nuclear Iran

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, an Anglo-Israeli freelance writer

As the Guardian’s Julian Borger recently reported (Iran nuclear talks: Settling for confusion in Baghdad, hoping for clarity in Moscow, May 29th) Iran and six of the world’s major powers agreed to settle on confusion at the latest round of negotiations in Baghdad and which adjourned on May 24th with no sign of progress.

The focal point of the talks was the international community’s call on Tehran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, which is a short technical step away from highly enriched uranium that can be weaponized.

The Iranians have responded with calls of their own for an immediate easing of the increasingly painful economic sanctions which have been imposed on them.

And so the endless whirling diplomatic pirouette continues; accompanied as always by rosy prognostications, fervent wishes and dramatic – albeit brief – flowerings of optimism.  How long have Iranian and Western diplomats been filling their dance cards with high level quibbling on the issue of Tehran’s nuclear program?  Here’s a cursory list of U.N. sanctions leveled against the Islamic Republic of Iran:

  • United Nations Security Council Resolution 1803 – passed on March 3, 2008. It extended the asset freezes and called upon states to monitor the activities of Iranian banks, inspect Iranian ships and aircraft, and to monitor the movement of individuals involved with the program through their territory.
  • United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 – passed on June 9 2010. It banned Iran from participating in any activities related to ballistic missiles, tightened the arms embargo, and recommended that states inspect Iranian cargo, prevent the provision of financial services used for sensitive nuclear activities and closely watch Iranian individuals and entities when dealing with them…

It’s a wonder of modern day statecraft that such bold resolutions haven’t managed to persuade Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Mullah regime to give up their pursuit and development of the bomb.

And the short list above doesn’t include the bilateral sanctions leveled by the European Union, United States and other countries against Iran.

Fortunately, U.S. President Barack Obama has reacted to Tehran’s repeated evasions regarding nuclear weaponization with strong talk, saying that the world is “unified around Iran’s misbehavior in this area.

Date of quote: February 9, 2010.

Two years later, on March 14, 2012, Obama again unsheathed the proverbial saber and gave it a good rattle, stating that that the window for dealing with its nuclear program through diplomatic channels is “shrinking.”

Albert Einstein once said that insanity can be defined as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As such, is Yukiya Amano, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, just slightly mentally deficient? Perish the thought. Rather, the meat and marrow of any deal is, unfortunately, secondary to the political spinning at play whenever a perceived breakthrough on inspections is proclaimed.

If the true goal of these talks is to resolve the polarizing issue of Iran’s nuclear program in one of the world’s most volatile regions – and not to simply claim faint diplomatic victories that usually revolve around the tortured cliché of “agreeing to keep talking” – Iran’s race to convert enriched uranium to bomb-grade fuel can be significantly slowed in a number of ways.  While the country is already nuclear capable, a nuclear-armed Iran is not inevitable.

In general a concerted, synchronized implementation of the following policies could help prevent Iran from crossing the line from weapons capability to weapons production: Containment, Deterrence, Intrusive Inspections and Engagement (since the main purpose of the first three courses of action is to persuade Iran to negotiate).

Should these diplomatic overtures fail there’s the option of using military force to halt or reverse nuclear proliferation. Since Israel has more to fear from a nuclear Iran than the United States, it may need to resort to force to curtail Iran’s capabilities if diplomacy fails. The Israeli Air force possesses the capability to destroy even well-hardened targets in Iran with some degree of confidence.

Possible attack routes include flying over the Mediterranean, refueling from airborne tankers and then continuing east over Turkey to Iran, or having IAF planes fly southeast, over Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and then continuing northeast across Iraq. A third option would involve Israeli forces flying southeast and then east along the Saudi-Iraqi border to the Persian Gulf and then north, refueling along the way.

To resolve this crisis diplomatically, Tehran will need to be convinced of Western resolve to halt  its nuclear program. Such a breakthrough will only occur as a result of tougher sanctions and stiffer demands than those presented in the two rounds of talks conducted Baghdad. While a diplomatic, peaceful resolution is ideal, it may not be achievable in light of the Iranian people’s — reformers and conservatives alike — strong support for enrichment.

National pride in the technical prowess embodied in Iran’s nuclear program is at the core of this support.

For now, the dance continues. The third attempt in three months to answer international worries that Iran’s atomic energy program may be a cover for secret weapons work is scheduled to take place next month in Moscow.

How appropriate that the next round of graceful, flowing, ethereal diplomatic doublespeak  that aims to bring us “peace in our time” will be held at the home of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Feminism, Islamism, the Hijab and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Nadiya Takolia

Nadiya Takolia: researcher at Engage & ‘Comment is Free’ contributor

As a near absolutist in my belief in freedom of expression, I am very wary about judging people based on religiously inspired customs or attire. As such, women who freely choose to wear the hijab should not be subjected to social opprobrium or political restrictions in free societies. 

However, ‘s essay on ‘Comment is Free’, May 28th, “The hijab has liberated me from society’s expectations of women” makes several arguments in defense of her decision, whilst in her 20s, to wear the hijab which seem – based on her broader political views – quite specious.

In fairness, however, the first explanation is the most defensible from a progressive standpoint.

Takolia argues that in a society where a woman’s value seems focused on her sexual charms, the hijab can be seen as a political statement.

Takolia writes:

“From perfume and clothes ads to children’s dolls and X Factor finals, you don’t need to go far to see that the woman/sex combination is everywhere.  It makes many of us feel like a pawn in society’s beauty game – ensuring that gloss in my hair, the glow in my face and trying to attain that (non-existent) perfect figure.”

Takolia emphasizes that her decision to wear the hijab was not religious, but purely political.

However, beyond the narrow (and I think admirable) desire of Takolia not to be objectified, her embrace of the hijab encompasses a more expansive politically progressive mantle: one – as it will become clear – inherently at odds with the broader ideology to which she pledges her allegiance.

Takolia writes of coming across the hijab “as a twentysomething undergraduate, [while] reading feminist literature”.  She later asserts that the hijab is ” political, feminist and empowering.”

Also, Takolia opines:

“[The hijab] is me telling the world that my femininity is not available for public consumption. I am taking control of it, and I don’t want to be part of a system that reduces and demeans women.” [emphasis mine]

So, is Nadiya Takolia a progressive woman? Does she rightfully reject misogyny in all its manifestations and oppose political movements which demean and subjugate women?

Sadly, no.

According to her ‘Comment is Free’ bio, Takolia works for an organization called Engage – also known as iEngage (which should NOT be confused with the anti-racist site Engage which campaigns against antisemitism).

What is iEngage?

Well, they claim to help empower and encourage British Muslims within local communities to be more actively involved in British media and politics.

However, Engage’s idea of politically empowering Muslims has a very narrow and decidedly illiberal focus. Indeed, the group puts a significant amount of energy into opposing moderate and liberal Muslims, while defending radical Islamist and decidedly reactionary Muslim organisations.

Per Harry’s Place:

“The nature of iEngage is demonstrated by its support for the East London Mosque, London Muslim Centre and Islamic Forum Europe: three bodies with a worrying history of extreme politics, which have repeatedly hosted hate preachers and supporters of terrorism…[and] attacked, as Islamophobes, any journalist or Muslim who criticises the East London Mosque, the London Muslim Centre or the Islamic Forum Europe.”

“The East London Mosque twice hosted the Al Qaeda-aligned preacher Anwar al-Awlaki at the East London Mosque/London Muslim Centre. Awlaki has been identified by the 9/11 Commission as the spiritual adviser of two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Added Lucy Lips at HP:

“This was the problem with iEngage all along. It is an organisation which is very closely tied to specific Islamist political parties, which both defends those political parties and associated hate preachers, while attacking Muslim liberals in the most personal terms. Indeed, iEngage operates from an office within the Islam Channel: a tv station which has been censured by OFCOM for advocating marital rape [and] violence against women. 

Takolia’s Tweets similarly demonstrate, at the least, an evident sympathy towards Islamists with clear anti-feminist political leanings.

Here’s one of her Tweets about Raed Salah.

In addition to Salah’s documented antisemitic incitement (his reciting of a poem advancing the ancient blood libel, which the UK Immigration Tribunal confirmed he indeed said), the following represents a perfect illustration of Salah’s reactionary views towards women. (Here’s a passage from a 2003 interview with Salah by a Ha’aretz reporter.)

Ha’aretz journalist:  “What is your opinion of the legislation now being discussed in the Knesset, which would grant Muslim women rights similar to those of Jewish women in matters of personal status?”

Raed Salah:  ”That bill is tantamount to a war on Islam. It is an attempt to dictate different, foreign values that are neither Muslim nor Palestinian values.”

On Nadiya Takolia’s Facebook page, the ‘Likes’ include the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC): (For those not on FB, see screenshot of her support for PRC below post)

The Palestinian Return Centre is not only a Hamas-supporting organization [they are believed to transfer funds directly to Hamas], but it also promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and rejects the right of Israel to exist within any borders.  Israeli defense officials characterize the group as nothing less than a direct part of the Hamas movement. Indeed, the PRC advocates the Hamas strategy of violent Jihad.

iEngage’s  demonstrates again how proponents of, or at least apologists for, the most reactionary movements within Islam continue, under the veneer of human rights, to attempt to avoid being held responsible for an adherence to reactionary, racist, and violent political agendas.

Hijab or no hijab, Islamism is inherently and necessarily incompatible with feminism – even broadly understood.  

What the Guardian won’t report: Attempted Palestinian kidnapping of Israeli mother & child

Harriet Sherwood just published a story (Israeli settlers filmed firing gun at Palestinians, May 21), which included a video posted on YouTube providing little context, about Israelis from Yitzhar firing at Palestinians in the Arab town of Asira al-Qibliya – an incident currently being investigated by the IDF.

While the Guardian wasted no time running with the story above, despite the paucity of facts, the following frightening tale of Palestinians terrorizing an Israeli mother and her child will likely never find its way to the pages of the Guardian, as Harriet Sherwood’s narrative of the region rarely allows for such unambiguous tales of Jewish victimhood.

The following was reported in Ynet, per information recently released by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service:

Some two months ago Palestinians attempted to kidnap Yael Shahak and her daughter, who was eight years old at the time, when they were driving to the Beit El area in the West Bank.

Yael Shahak and her daughter

On Sunday [May 20] , after the Palestinians accused of the attempted kidnapping…were indicted, Yael recalled the incident.

“One of them took a wrench which he used to shatter the car’s front windshield. At that moment I understood that they were going to kill me and my daughter that we would come out of this dead or handicapped.”

One night in March, Shahak and her daughter were on their way home from an event in central Israel. “We got onto the Beit El access road and a few minutes later, after one of the bends in the road, I noticed a car standing at the side of the road,” she recalled.

“…I honked my horn and then they zigzagged in front of me. The spot was one where you could not bypass or evade the car in front of you, so I drove behind them and tried to avoid them.”

But the Palestinians would not give up. “They saw me backing up so they also backed up. That’s when the penny dropped that I had a problem,” she said. “I tried to escape but they wouldn’t let me move to the side of the road. Eventually they stopped and stood right in front of my vehicle.

“I saw four men in front of me, I was frightened by the fact that they were all men – that was before I even paid attention to whether they were Arabs or not.

One of the men walked up to Shahak’s window while the other three surrounded the car. “The terrorist who came up to my window signaled me to open it.

“The doors and windows were locked so [he tried] to convince me to open the window and [I] tried to tell him that I want to continue on my way. It was all done with hand signals and looks. Then at some point the look in his eyes changed and he became crazed.”

That is when the violence started. “After several blows to the windshield, with all the glass flying at me, he suddenly stopped. At the time I didn’t understand why and it was only after the fact that I realized that they saw an [Israeli vehicle] coming from the direction of Beit El.”

“The terrorists [then] fled…”

“I will never forget the look on the terrorist’s face…” 

“That night [my daughter] cried with me…”

There were nine members – Palestinians from the Ramallah area – in the terror cell responsible for the attempted kidnapping of Shahak and her daughter,  which was headed by Mouhmad Ramdan (22) of al-Bira.

Some of the terrorists (affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) are being held in Israel while others are in the custody of the Palestinian Authority.

Suspect Mouhmad Ramdan

According to the Shin Bet, the terrorists were trying to kidnap Shahak and her daughter in order to use them as bargaining chips in prisoner exchanges.

Is the following Guardian headline even conceivable?

Camera grabbed, rucksack snatched and racially abused at SOAS

This is a cross-post from Richard Millett’s Blog

When I went to last night’s Palestine Society event at SOAS (public advertisement above) the audience was greeted with this slide when we entered the Khalili Lecture Theatre:

The slide that greeted us in the KLT at SOAS last night.

Before journalist Abdel Bari Atwan or Oxford University’s Dr. Karma Nebulsi spoke we were shown a film. Here is the eight seconds I was able to film before I felt some quite sharp prods in my shoulder while being ordered to stop filming:

Next I am told “You’re a typical Israeli, you know that”, which I took as a racist comment:

Next I am told to stop filming and recording by the chairperson before a rather large chap who had subsequently seated himself in front of me got up, turned around and tried to grab my camera, leaving me with a throbbing finger, before making off with my rucksack:

In the act of snatching the rucksack my phone, glasses case, pens and voice recorder ended up all over the floor and under the seats in front of me. I had to kneel to pick everything up, but I’m still missing a pen.

The audience started to taunt me and slow hand clap. Bari Atwan remained silent throughout while Nebulsi had the nerve to accuse me of being disruptive. Bizarrely, she offered to escort me outside to retrieve my rucksack but I refused to leave until my stuff was returned. At no stage did anyone in the 40 strong audience come to my defence in any way:

Eventually, SOAS security retrieved my rucksack and, suprisingly, my coat, which must have been removed by someone from behind me while I wasn’t looking. My coat had my keys in it:

After my coat and rucksack had been returned and after I had managed to retrieve most of my belongings from the floor and from under the seats I left.

To say I felt shaken and pretty distressed is the least of it.

I have turned off the comments just for this blog as I don’t wish to have prejudiced anything that may or may not happen but if anyone can help me with the names of any of those in the clips above then I would be very grateful.

Also, I’d be interested in knowing the translation of the Arabic on the slide above.

My email is

Is ‘OpenDemocracy’ closed to Zionists?

A guest post by Fritz Wunderlich, loyal CiF Watch reader

[Editor's Note: We often get emails from supporters who ask us to publish posts about antisemitism and the assault on Israel's legitimacy at newspapers and sites other than the Guardian. While we typically don't have much time to devote to monitoring other media, Mr. Wunderlich offered to introduce our readers to what he felt was an institutional bias against Israel (and the state's supporters) at the site, OpenDemocracy, and we agreed.]

OpenDemocracy (OD) is a UK-based “progressive” site for opinion and news about international affairs, politics, and culture. OD was founded in 2000 by Anthony Barnett, David Hayes, Susan Richards and Paul Hilder. OD has been funded by a number of philanthropic organisations, including the Ford Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and others.

This is not a general assessment of OD, but merely a snapshot meant to address what I feel is OD’s institutional hostility towards Israel and climate of tolerance towards thinly veiled anti-Semitic tropes employed by commenters. While promoting the values of free speech this e-zine often doesn’t hesitate to censor voices which challenge its bias.

To begin with I initially visited OD when I was under the impression that it was another outlet for thoughtful, reasoned debate.  But I soon discovered it was something completely different.

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OD claims to advocate free speech, but not personal abuse.  However, the working reality is different.

In addition to the downright anti-Semitic comments at OD, those who raise objections to the dominant anti-Zionist narrative are often mocked or ridiculed.

When you challenge the dominant Palestinian narrative you’re often called a racist, fascist and so on.  Or, classic anti-Zionist invectives are employed, such as ‘Israel is a colonial power’, ‘terrorism is legitimate resistance’, ‘Israel is an apartheid system’, ‘Zionism is a racist ideology’, and ‘the Jewish state has no moral legitimacy’.

Both the editors at OD, and most commenters, don’t like the concept of nation-state, (especially the Jewish one), at all. However, when I’ve asked why contributors and commenters support Palestinian nationalism, they often respond by arguing that such oppressed people are entitled to be nationalistic under their particular circumstances.

Many commenters consider themselves advocates of all peace seeking Israelis and Palestinians, complain vociferously about racist Zionists and constantly denounce Israel as the main obstacle to peace in the region, a terror state and so on.

Here are a few comments worth noting: (None of these have been deleted by OD moderators.)

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When I comment about anti-Semitism (or simply lies and smears about Zionists) below the line at OD the moderators typically dismiss the complaint and my post is typically deleted while the offensive comments are not. I’ve even written to the editors, which typically elicits a less than serious and thorough response.

Unsurprisingly, OD mainly publishes articles (above the line) criticizing and demonizing Israel, by writers such as (former CiF contributor) Antony Lerman, Paul Pogers, and a Palestinian named Sameh Habeeb. 

Finally, here are some essays at OD by Habeeb, who is the founder of The Palestine Telegraph. If you recall, The Palestine Telegraph made news in 2010 when they posted a video message on their home page by former KKK leader David Duke calling Israel a terrorist state.

(Remarkably, this was too much for even Baroness Jenny Tonge, who subsequently withdrew her patronage of the paper.)

The Commentator picks up BBC fact-check fail.

The now one year-old (congratulations all!) news and commentary site The Commentator brings us the story of a report by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell which includes lengthy quotes from a source whose name she could not even get right. 

This is a screenshot of the original, which was later amended following the article in The Commentator:

‘Robert’ Falk is, of course, the infamous Richard Falk. Despite his position since 2008 as ‘UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories’, he makes no pretence of objectivity. Here  is Falk on his personal blog expressing support for the 2010 Stuttgart Declaration which opposes a two-state solution and at the bottom line calls for the eradication of Israel.

As The Commentator points out, his anti-Israel ‘CV’ includes much more.

“In a nutshell, Falk is so hostile to Israel that he’s a de facto anti-Israel activist. But even that fails to do justice to the sheer viciousness of his diatribes against the Jewish state. Here’s just a smattering of examples of his approach. First there are the suggested comparisons with Nazi Germany. He has sometimes claimed that he doesn’t quite mean it literally. On others he has talked of Israeli policies as “genocidal”.

He’s ambivalent about Hamas as a terrorist outfit. His language about Israel is peppered with references to “apartheid“, “criminality“, “collective punishment“ and so on. The picture is clear enough.”

Read the whole article here.

So if the BBC could not get Falk’s name right, does that also mean that they failed to run a background check on his suitability as a quotable source before publishing an article relying so heavily upon his opinions? 

And why (just like the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood only a few days ago) did Yolande Knell fail to point out that the two Palestinian prisoners named in her article – Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla (Tha’er Halahleh) – are Islamic Jihad activists

In Hebrew there is a useful phrase: ‘Itonut mita’am’ – עיתונות מטעם – which translates as ‘media on behalf of’. The British public funding the BBC through its compulsory license fee may well ask on behalf of whom or what. 

Joy Wolfe: On Habima Theatre Company, Boycotts and BUYcotts

A guest post by Joy Wolfe, StandWithUs UK chairwoman  and co-President of the Zionist Federation

StandWithUs UK and many other UK organisations and individuals have applauded the high profile figures (Arnold Wesker, Ronald Harwood, Maureen Lipman, Simon Callow, Louise Mensch MP and Steven Berkoff) who have opposed calls for the Globe Theatre in London to disinvite the world-renowned Israeli Habima Theatre Company.

We also congratulate Howard Jacobson on his positive stand in supporting Habima.

Boycotts of any kind are totally counter productive and do nothing to help the Palestinians.

Hopefully the BDS brigade will think again about disrupting a performance that the majority of the audience wish to support and enjoy.  However, if they do press ahead with their publicly declared threat to cause a disturbance I hope they will be quickly ejected and face legal consequences.

Cultural, academic and trade boycotts are particularly counter productive when Israel has so much to offer the international community.

Not only are they counter productive but often have the exact opposite of the desired effect as people often go out of their way to support companies and shops that are targeted.  Recently in Canada, a targeted shop the boycotters were trying to disrupt was inundated with pro-Israel customers who previously had never even heard of the company.

Another example of a misguided attempt to help the Palestinians was the failed April 15th “Welcome to Palestine” flytilla, when over 1500 pro Palestinian protesters had planned to fly into Israel to disrupt Ben Gurion Airport before moving on to carry out alleged humanitarian visits to “Palestinian prisoners”.

In a brilliantly crafted response, Israel had alerted airlines to the fact that those denied entry into Israel would have to be flown home at the airlines’ expense.  As a result, hundreds were refused boarding at a number of European airports and around 40 who did succeed in arriving in Israel were sent home with a pithily written letter noting all the genuine human rights issues around the world, not least in Syria, where their protests would be better directed.

In the meantime, despite the best efforts of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners, there are so many positives to prove just how unsuccessful they are.  Israeli trade with the UK has never been at a higher level, academics from Israel and the UK are working together in many cooperative projects, Israel has just signed a new aviation agreement with the EU, and Israel and the UK have an extensive programme of business and academic joint projects.

We should reduce our efforts to counter BDS activists, and similar reactive measures, which give them the added oxygen of the publicity they seek, and concentrate instead on spreading the good news about Israel’s achievements and cooperation with grass-roots Palestinians, which are much more positive and effective ways to create an atmosphere more conducive to moving the peace process forward.

The Washington Post’s Coverage of Israel: Slouching towards the Guardian at Easter

A Guest post by AKUS

In December last year I wrote a column headed The Washington Post’s coverage of Israel: Slouching towards the Guardian? about the unusual way the Washington Post covered Israel’s use of drones over Gaza and pointed out that “it seems to have become strikingly similar in content and tone to the Guardian”.

This was followed by Scott Wilson, The Washington Post’s anti-Israel attack dog: Slouching towards Harriet Sherwood?, which showed the resemblance between Scott Wilson’s coverage of Israel and the Harriet Sherwood‘s approach in the Guardian. Scott  provided a polite rebuttal to the idea that he is the Washington Post’s “attack dog, but the tone and method employed in the article was strikingly similar to the typical Guardian article – inaccuracies, no context, and a half-hearted editorial apology after CAMERA called them out (which is more than the Guardian provides in most cases).

On April 4th, 2012, the Washington Post published  a Guardian-like article by Richard Stearns about Easter in Jerusalem: “A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians” in its problematic “On Faith” section which was replete with …  yes, inaccuracies, no context, and, in place of an apology, a furious rebuttal by Israel’s US Ambassador, Michael Oren.

The Washington Post’s “On Faith” section has been a fertile ground for anti-Semitic articles and below-the-line anti-Semitic commentary.

In March 2011 the paper instituted a moderation policy in order to clean things up below the line, but Stearns’ article shows that they have a long way to go in fixing what is wrong above the line. His article resembles the annual articles that appear in the Guardian at Easter and Christmas about the plight of the Christians in the West Bank. Their problems are always presented as Israel’s fault, rather than due to the widely reported policies and actions of the Moslem Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank intended to drive Christian Arabs out.

For example, last Christmas, the Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood wrote ‘If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed even though there were an estimated 100,000 visitors to Bethlehem – more than ever, and compared to 70,000 the year before – and accommodation was impossible to find.

In response to Stearns’ article, on April 5th, 2012, the Israeli Ambassador, Michael Oren, termed the article “libelous”:

“The claims made in a recent article by Richard Stearns (“A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians”) are completely without foundation and are libelous to the State of Israel.”

Stearns first bemoaned the need for security checks for Arabs entering Jerusalem from the West Bank (amusing to anyone who has had to pass thorough the security checkpoints to attend the July 4th celebrations on the Washington, DC Mall after 9/11) and followed with outlandishly incorrect data about the number of permits issued to West Bank Christians.

Stearns made no effort at all to explain why Israel maintains checkpoints and security barriers to protect the Christians and other visitors that flock to the Old City of Jerusalem year round, but especially during festivals such as Easter and Christmas. Instead,  he describes the security measures and number of visitor permits (visas, in effect) in a way that makes it appear that Israel is deliberately trying to prevent Christians from visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Easter to witness the ancient “Holy Fire” ritual:

Because of travel restrictions in past years, the vast majority of Christians living in the West Bank have been stopped at checkpoints and prevented from attending one of the most important religious services of the year. Israeli authorities require permits for entering Jerusalem. Local Christians estimate that only 2,000 — 3,000 permits are provided, despite the overwhelming desire among the 50,000 Palestinian Christians to travel from the West Bank and Gaza for the Easter week celebrations in Jerusalem.

Those who make it across checkpoints and into Israel are still barricaded by numerous walls and other security obstructions. As a result, even many who have permits are unable to make it to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In 2010, a Palestinian colleague of mine at World Vision, who had warm memories as a child of the Holy Fire service, was able to return to the Holy Sepulchre. She described the scene for those able to gain entrance to the church: “The crowd, striving to stay joyful, could still feel the change of what Easter had now become and the dark cloud of checkpoints, police forces, and denial of entry that had obscured the joy of this holiday.”

Now, in fact, as Oren pointed out, this is libelous and the description of the celebrants is nonsense. First, the number of permits cited by Stearns is wrong by an order of magnitude:

“Israel has provided more than 20,000 permits this year for Palestinian Christians to enter Jerusalem for the Good Friday and Easter holidays. Five-hundred similar permits have also been issued to the remaining Christians of Gaza, though the area is under the control of the terrorist organization Hamas.

Second, the “dark cloud” he refers to is belied by the joyful pictures of the worshippers   inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the “Holy Fire” ceremony

Yes, there were police on hand to keep order, and protect against any terrorists who might feel this would be an opportune time to create a massacre in a crowded church that would discourage Christians from visiting Israel.

Moreover, police have been required, upon occasion, to intervene in violent confrontations between Christians of different sects over some slight or perceived infringement on their historical claims to some particular section of the Church or its property, as shown in the conflict between Greek and Armenian monks  in this clip from 2008 or this fight in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in December 2011, when Palestinian police had to intervene.

Third, I found particularly infuriating his insinuation that Israel is persecuting Christians, when in fact it is the only country in the Middle East in which Christians are not only free to practice their religion, but their numbers are increasing:

Again, WaPo

While the ancient Christian communities around Jerusalem await the miracle of the Holy Fire this week, I pray for another miracle — one that would give full religious freedom to the Christians in the West Bank and Gaza.

This is utterly outrageous. The reason that Christians in the West Bank and Gaza do not have religion freedom is because the Arab authorities there – the PA, Fatah, and Hamas – have made it their policy and practice to make it less and less acceptable for Christians to live there.

Moreover, in the main section of its own paper, not the problematic “On Faith” section, the Washington Post had the following article which describes the visit to Jerusalem this Easter by Copts from Egypt:

Defying church ban, Egyptian Christians defy church ban and travel to Jerusalem

JERUSALEM — After the death of their spiritual leader, more than 2,000 Egyptian Copts have poured into the Holy Land for the Easter holidays, defying a ban he imposed on visiting Jerusalem and other Israeli-controlled areas.

The influx — after decades when Egyptian pilgrims were a rarity — adds a new element to the already diverse mix of languages and faiths in Jerusalem’s Old City during the holy season. The pilgrims are clearly distinguished by the Egyptian accent of their Arabic and long cotton robes worn by many of the men.

The Copts, mostly middle-aged or senior citizens have been busy milling around the Holy Sepulcher throughout the week. They have trundled to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, built on the site where they believe Jesus was born. They have shopped and haggled on the way, charming many Palestinians with their Egyptian accents and humor, made familiar throughout the Arab world through generations of popular Egyptian movies and soap operas.

So what is going on at the Washington Post?

Once again I am left wondering, since it still has relatively frequent articles that fairly represent Israel from columnists like Jackson Diehl and blog extracts from right-wing bloggers like Jennifer Rubin and even occasional editorials that fairly represent Israel’s positions and concerns. There is even an Easter article by a Christian woman with a Jewish aunt pointing out the dangers that Easter has posed for Jews, At Easter, remembering Passover, due to the reading of the story of the crucifixion:

As at many churches, my church had just read the Passion narrative according to the Gospel of John: “[T]he Jews . . . cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ ” The vilification of “the Jews” in John’s Gospel has had murderous consequences through the ages — and although Christians turned on Jews at many times of year, the Triduum was especially violent. As the 15th-century Rabbi Joseph Cohen said about Good Friday, “Every year we live in fear of this day.”

As I left church on Friday, I was worrying about what we have forgotten: the killing that our ecclesial forebears undertook on Good Fridays past. We have forgotten that sermons and liturgies prompted this killing.

Yet the editors seem to be unaware of how articles like Stearns’ Easter article, usually found in the  “On Faith”  section, are put forward to revisit old Christian antagonisms to Israel and Jews and  a Guardian-like view of Israel and the Palestinians.

Data about Israel and the West Bank are copious and easy to find, and errors of a factor of ten and obvious bias and misrepresentation should not be tolerated. The Washington Post needs to tighten up its reviews of articles about Israel Judaism, especially in the “On Faith” section.

It should institute clear policies that demand accuracy, truthfulness, and lack of bias from all its contributors and journalists writing about Israel and Judaism if it is not to become a copy of the Guardian in its treatment of the Middle East and Israel in particular.

Jenin. Ten Years Since Something That Never Happened: A Learning Moment for the Guardian

[While I read the Guardian everyday now, I wasn't so "privileged" back during the Palestinian wave of terror known as the Second Intifada. While I did know that the Guardian made a morally incomprehensible comparison between Jenin (Israel's Operation Defensive Shield) and 9/11, I didn't realize that they never published an apology, even after the narrative of "Jenin Massacre" was definitively disproven. This essay at Harry's Place, (which they submitted to, and was rejected by, editors at Comment is Free), thoroughly fisking the Guardian's coverage of the battle of Jenin, is simply required reading for anyone wishing to understand their institutional anti—Israel journalistic malice   — AL]

For two full weeks in April of 2002, the Guardian ran wild with lurid tales of an Israeli massacre in the Palestinian city of Jenin on the West Bank — a massacre that never happened.  The misrepresentations and outright fabrications have never been properly addressed in the ten ensuing years, as though the Guardian’s editors believe nothing more than some hasty reporting and bad sourcing happened.  But the reportorial failings were far too systematic to be so dismissed, and until the Guardian conducts a thorough investigation of its own errors and publishes a detailed account to its readers, its integrity on Israel-Palestine will continue to be called into question.

First the facts: On the heels of a thirty-day Palestinian suicide bombing campaign in Israeli cities which included thirteen deadly attacks (imagine thirteen 7/7’s in one month), Israel embarked on a military offensive in the West Bank.  The fiercest fighting in this offensive occurred in the refugee camp just outside the West Bank town of Jenin, the launching point for 30 Palestinian suicide bombers in the year and half previous (seven were caught before they could blow themselves up; the other 23 succeeded in carrying out their attacks).  In this battle, which lasted less than a week, 23 Israeli soldiers were killed as well as 52 Palestinians, of whom at most 14 were civilians (there is some marginal dispute about that last figure).

There was nothing extraordinary in this battle or in these numbers.  Looking back, what is extraordinary is that Ariel Sharon’s Israel sat through 18 months of Palestinian suicide terror before embarking on even this military offensive.  Seamus Milne assured readers on April 10 of the ‘futility’ of this military response, though with the benefit of hindsight we can clearly see this battle as the turning point in the struggle to end suicide terror on Israel’s streets.  Milne referred to ‘hundreds’ killed, ‘evidence of atrocities,’ and ‘state terror.’  Not to be outdone, Suzanne Goldenberg reported from Jenin’s ‘lunar landscape’ of ‘a silent wasteland, permeated with the stench of rotting corpses and cordite.’  She found ‘convincing accounts’ of summary executions, though let’s be honest and concede that it’s not generally difficult to convinceGoldenberg of Israeli villainy.  In the next day’s report from Jenin, a frustrated Goldenberg reported that the morgue in Jenin had ‘just 16 bodies’ after ‘only two bodies [were] plucked from the wreckage.’  This didn’t cause her to doubt for a moment that there were hundreds more buried beneath or to hesitate in reporting from a Palestinian source that bodies may have been transported ‘to a special zone in Israel.’  Brian Whitaker and Chris McGreal weighed in with their own equally tendentious and equally flawed reporting the following week.

Read the rest of the essay here.

Little Ms Jihad Can’t Be Wrong: Emma Thompson and the Magic of Technicolor

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, a freelance Israeli writer

I recently celebrated my third consecutive Passover in Israel.

True, this historical tidbit may lack the dramatic resonance of a hike up Masada or an excursion into the Western Wall Tunnels. Still, I am but a scion of restless Diaspora gypsies, a vagabond collection of characters and scoundrels who hustled pool in halls around Coney Island and attempted to topple Disneyland by getting in on a fun little footnote by the name of Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, California.

Passover in the United States is instantly synonymous with The Ten Commandments, filmed in glorious Technicolor and featuring a memorable performance by Edward G. Robinson as Dathan, the cruel Israelite overseer of the Hebrews who moonlighted as informant for the Egyptians.

Since the 1956 premier of this visually arresting epic, the Jewish world has turned, turned, turned. A slew of presumptive Pharaohs, including Gamel Abdel Nasser and Leonid Brezhnev, have sought to complete the good works initiated by Rameses II – by way of expulsion, persecution and imprisonment.

Yet, neither Dathan’s whip nor Joseph Stalin’s “forgotten Zion”, Birobidzhan, succeeded in foiling the Hebrews’ tryst with destiny – in a land called Canaan, at a time ordained in heaven.

A powerful cast, dazzling special effects (for the day) and, above all, a compelling narrative is at the root of The Ten Commandments’ timeless appeal. In the years since Charlton Heston led thousands of Paramount Picture extras to the Land of Milk and Honey, however, an insidious form of historical narrative has laid claim to popular perceptions about Israel and its place among the family of nations. Even the phrase ‘right to exist’ is applied in reference to only one nation on Earth.

When the telling of a rollicking good tale supplants the rigorous pursuit and accumulation of facts, the result is historical relativism. If truth differs over time and bends over space, then all notions of objectivity are lost. This is the United Colors of Benetton School of Historical Inquiry: non judgmental, superficially egalitarian and incessantly self-righteous.

At first, this diluting of history’s richness and depth into a tepid stew of bumper sticker catch phrases was confined to the hallowed halls of academie. It took a few years, but history-as-you-like-it eventually received the full red carpet treatment. And in no corner of society has relativism been more warmly embraced than in the arts – a subculture noted for its garish sentimentalism and ersatz tolerance.

A recent incident of fashionable bigotry masquerading as politically courageous theater was that of Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson’s call for the exclusion of Israel’s Habima Theater Company from Globe to Globe, a renowned international festival being held at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

The elegant Ms Thompson cites ‘policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state’ as fuelling her moral outrage.

When I clicked on to the Globe to Globe website, then, I naturally assumed, based on the effervescent Emma’s righteous indignation, that the festival would consist of the tried and true assemblage of British Commonwealth nations: Australia, India, Jamaica and of course the United Kingdom. A cross-section of enlightened societies with an appreciation for the Bard of Avon was a safe bet, no?

I stand corrected. Here’s just a partial list of nations that have “partnered” with the World Shakespeare Festival in some way, shape or form, along with some of their own state-sponsored ‘productions’:

*China: “Forced Abortions: One Child Left Behind”

* Palestinian Authority: “All in the Family: Murder Most Honorable”

*Oman: “No Comment: Of Jailed Journalists and Pesky Freedoms”

*Russia: “Now Steal This II: Putin’s Revenge”

*Tunisia: “The Rise of Moderate Jihad and the Twilight of Liberty”

While Emma Thompson’s intellectual dishonesty and selective outrage is certainly sufficient to induce a temporary spike in one’s blood pressure, I must hereby admit that I couldn’t care less.

Thing is, life is quite a bit about timing. I happened to hear about Ms Thompson’s casting her lot in with butchers and tyrants right as I was heading out, with my very pregnant wife in tow, to have our pots and pans, forks and knives kosherized prior to the onset of Passover, 2012.

At some point on the short walk from our Nachlaot apartment to the site of the holy boiling, feelings of anger at a misguided British thespian melted away like so much fermented grain from a freshly steamed pot.

Then, my mind wandered to stories my father would tell me about he being the son of a bona fide hustler…and owner of the Ocean Highway Ride at Pacific Ocean Park. Emma Thompson and Sabba Harry…no obvious connection, right?

Not so fast.

Ms Thompson’s rant actually bares a remarkable resemblance to my grandfather’s blue and orange ride. Both rumble and hiss at exaggerated decibels, making an instant impact on anyone in earshot. And both will eventually be forgotten but for the tired recollections of a few old peddlers and faded theater impresarios.

Ill fated ideas, be they Pacific Ocean Park or boycotting Israel, are slated for disposal into the trash bin of cold, objective, inevitable history.

By the way, Operation Zero Chametz (Thanks Chabad!) was a success and I’m proud to say that our floors were so clean, Elijah himself could have eaten off them.

Chas Newkey-Burden reflects on his love of Israel & Judaism: “The missing part of the jigsaw”

The following essay was written by Chas Newkey-Burden and published at The Jewish Chronicle

I never told you the one about how a Christian/Hindu cult helped me love Israel and Judaism, did I? As a non-Jew who proudly supports Zionism and is fascinated by Judaism, particularly the mystical and Hasidic traditions, I am often asked how I came to feel this way. To me, the real question is why someone would not support Israel and admire Judaism, but of course I understand the curiosity.

The short answer – which I’ve blogged about and mentioned during speeches – is that I became fascinated by the Middle East after the September 11 attacks. To my surprise, having previously had a lazy, hazy perception that Israel were the villains of the conflict, I became more and more pro-Israel the more I learned about the issue. So I started visiting Israel and quickly fell in love with the place.

However, I’ve never written or spoken publicly about a challenging childhood experience that had a part to play in this. When I was nine, I joined a new school in London. I was so excited to be leaving primary school and joining a new, ‘grown-up’ establishment. What I didn’t realise until I got there was that 99 percent of the pupils and their families were members of bizarre religious cult, as were all the staff.

The cult, which dominated the school, combined Victorian sternness with less savoury elements of Christianity and Hinduism to create a cruel concoction. I was a member of the one percent of pupils with no connection to the cult. This meant that twice a day, as my classmates meditated and chanted Sanskrit, I had to go to a dark room in the basement and sit kicking my heels with the other odd ones out of the school.

It also meant I was pressured to join the cult. The more I resisted this pressure, the more I was targeted by the staff. It was astounding how quickly the teachers could turn a maths, English or science class into a free-for-all discussion of how I came from an “impure” family.

The staff strongly discouraged pupils from befriending me and at times some of the teachers were violent with me. At one point I was even-handed a year-long detention, which meant I couldn’t leave the school until 6.30pm on weekdays and not before mid-afternoon on Saturdays.

For six years I resisted the pressure to join the cult and then at 16 I was finally able to leave the godforsaken place. Years later, in 2007, an inquiry found that “mistreatment” and “criminal assaults” had taken place when I was there. It is possible that one can never completely move on from such an experience – the question is how to create a positive legacy.

Which brings me to my love of Israel. I think that as result of what I faced at school I have developed a stronger empathy for anyone who is unfairly singled out. For instance, when Kofi Annan – then the Secretary General of the UN – was asked why the UN so disproportionately targets Israel, and replied: “Can the whole world be wrong?” he made my blood boil. As I knew from my schooling, sometimes yes, the whole world can be wrong.

Recently, while dining with a Jewish family I’m friendly with, I sensed a wider connection. I was telling them about my strange school, when the wise father of the household turned to me and said:

“You were like the Jew at school – that’s why you understand us.”

I had never thought of it that way, as I consider the story of the Jewish experience to be as much about the inspiration of your enormous achievements and inspiring example as it is the hatred you have faced.

But I can see his point – and within it is the positive legacy I sought. Perhaps if I had not been so tested as a child I would not have subsequently stood at the Kotel, nor watched the sunset in Tel Aviv, nor heard of the wondrous Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nachman, whose teachings now enrich my life.

Whatever took me here I am glad it did. After all, supporting Israel and admiring Judaism is the only sensible way to roll.

Perpetrators as victims: Seumas Milne ignores Islamist-inspired antisemitism of Toulouse massacre

Mohammed Merah

As we reported, The Guardian’s two official editorials on the Islamist inspired murders of four innocent Jews in the French city of Toulouse by Mohammed Merah, in over 900 words of text, never once used the word “antisemitism”nor mentioned the names or Jewish identity of the victims, yet employed the phrase “anti-immigrant rhetoric” three times.

The second editorial, published after Merah’s identity, and Jihadist background, was known, warned not of Islamist inspired Jew hatred, but of the danger of French officials “alienating” the French Muslim community.

An analysis of the shootings by the Guardian’s Paris correspondent, , which attempted to locate root causes for Merah’s rampage, similarly never mentioned the word “antisemitism” yet included this possible explanation for his massacre:

 Merah had self-radicalised in prison, where he spent nearly two years as a teenager after stealing a handbag. Merah’s lawyer said he been a polite and tolerant teenager, but resentful about that prison sentence and angry at being rejected by the army.

And, Chrisais added this:

Merah’s background of petty crime and poor schooling on a housing estate in a drab neighbourhood of Toulouse has catapulted the question of social inequalities and the integration of minorities in France back onto centre stage….Some said the social alienation and discrimination felt by second and third generation, ethnic minority French youths must be addressed...

Not to be outdone, the Guardian’s Associate Editor Seumas Milne, in an essay on April 3 praising the dictator-loving George Galloway (whose political infatuations have included Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh) wrote the following:

Since last month’s atrocities in ToulousePresident Nicolas Sarkozy has improved his poll ratings a bit, pandering to xenophobes and Islamophobes and posturing as a security champion

Yes, clearly: The lesson of the Toulouse massacre is the danger of Islamophobia and xenophobia, but certainly NOT Islamist antisemitism!

Three official editorials, and a prominent feature report by their France correspondent, and not even a cursory attempt to address the disturbing dynamics of a malign Islamist ideology which would prompt a 23-year-old man, raised in France, to murder three innocent Jewish children.

In a refreshing bit of political lucidity French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, commenting on the recent arrests of 30 radical Muslims by French police, who were tracked on Islamist forums preparing to travel to areas including Afghanistan, Pakistan and West Africa to wage Jihad, said the following:

“There will be no respite in France’s pursuit of militants…The pressure on radical Islam and the threats it represents will not stop.”

That such an intuitive understanding of the moral and political lessons of the Toulouse massacre – the need to face the threats posed by radical Islam in Europe, and not the problem of Islamophobia, second generation immigrant “alienation”, poverty or poor schooling – is even remotely controversial at the Guardian is another commentary on their editors’ supreme political pathos.

The Guardian group continues to be defined by this morally perverse and intellectually unintelligible understanding of what a modern liberal political sensibility demands.

CiF Watch Special Report: Latest Assault on Israel’s legitimacy, ‘Air Flotilla 2′, April 15th, 2012

A guest post by Hadar Sela (this report may also be viewed on scribd by clicking here)

Hot on the heels of the ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ will come yet another event designed to continue the assault on Israel’s legitimacy – the April 15th ‘Air Flotilla 2′ (also known as ‘Welcome to Palestine’) or flytilla‘ as last year’s  (Hamas approved) similar event was dubbed.

Once again, the aim is to have large numbers of international “activists flying in to Ben Gurion airport on one day – in the words of the organisers – as part of the “challenge to Israel’s illegal siege of Palestine”.

“There is no way into Palestine other than through Israeli control points. Israel has turned Palestine into a giant prison, but prisoners have a right to receive visitors.

Welcome to Palestine 2012 will again challenge Israel’s policy of isolating the West Bank while the settler paramilitaries and army commit brutal crimes against a virtually defenceless Palestinian civilian population.”

The similarity of the methodology and rhetoric of this project to that of the Global March to Jerusalem is no coincidence; several of the organisers and endorsers are mutual to both campaigns.  In fact, Mazin Qumsiyeh recently put out calls for volunteers for both projects on his blog, claiming that over 1,500 Europeans have already purchased tickets for April 15th whilst the overall target number appears to be 2,500.

Endorsers of the Air Flotilla include occasional Guardian contributor and ‘Right to Enter activist Sam Bahour, Tony Benn (controversial president of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ which was involved in the GMJ) , Noam Chomsky (a GMJ endorser), Nazareth-based former Guardian journalist  Jonathan Cook, ‘Free Gaza’ and ISM activist Hedy Epstein and PA Ambassador Manuel Hassassian (whose mission promoted the Global March to Jerusalem).

Also on board are Ronnie Kasrils (a GMJ endorser), Nurit Peled, John Pilger, Jean Ziegler, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb ( a GMJ endorser), Susan Abulhawa (a GMJ endorser), Ali Abunimah (whose ‘electronic Intifada’ is promoting the Air Flotilla), Mustafa Barghouti (a GMJ organizer), Abdelfattah Abu Srour of the Al Rowwad Culltural Centre (which supported the 2011 flytilla and the GMJ) and Desmond Tutu (also a GMJ endorser).

Mustafa Barghouti’s ‘Palestinian National Initiative was also an endorser of the Global March to Jerusalem, as was The Siraj Centre (where Mazin Qumsiyeh is a member of the board) and the Palestine Justice Network which is currently involved in the organization of the Air Flotilla. The Palestine Justice Network solicits donations through the International Solidarity Campaign-linked ‘Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People’, of which Qumsiyeh is head.

In April 2011 the Palestine Justice Network launched its ‘One State Initiative’ and as can be seen from the endorsements, many of the names also appear on the list of those supporting or organising the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign, as well as on the list of signatories of the Stuttgart Declaration.

In short, as was the case with the organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem, the Air Flotilla initiators are united by their rejection of the internationally-accepted route of negotiations aimed at leading to a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Their aim is an imposed ‘one-state solution’ which would result in the end of self-determination for the Jewish people.

A list of foreign organisations endorsing the Air Flotilla – predominantly from the United Kingdom – can be seen here. Among the individual endorsers is Maha Rahwanji of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign executive committee. The PSC was of course heavily involved in the organization of the Global March to Jerusalem. Something of Rahwanji‘s mindset can be understood from her Twitter timeline.

Unsurprisingly, the Iranian regime-linked ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ based in the UK is also promoting the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ project, as is Iran’s ‘Press TV’ – according to which “[t]his year, the Welcome to Palestine movement aims to overwhelm Israeli officials by its sheer number of members”.

Purveyor of anti-Semitic cartoons Carlos Latuff presented a gift to the campaign:

The ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign has no qualms about using the false – and highly charged – canard of ‘apartheid’ on its official website in order to curry support.

“Plans are underway to challenge Israeli apartheid during 2012 by having a large number of international activists land in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.”

The campaign’s supporting Twitter account – described as an ‘awareness campaign’ – goes even further, propagating lies and descending into anti-Semitic Nazi analogies.

The end-game of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ Air Flotilla is, however, revealed in this Tweet:

One of the people operating the ‘Airflotilla2′ Twitter account and its online campaign in general is Gaza Strip-born Ayman Qwaider who is currently resident in Spain.

Before leaving Gaza to study abroad, Qwaider worked for the ‘European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’ – a Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood project which is headed by UK-based Hamas operative  Mohammed Sawalha. Sawalha was instrumental in the organization of both the 2010 and 2011 flotillas and was also one of the organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem.

Ayman Qwaider has written for the Palestine Telegraph which is operated by Sameh Habeebwho is also spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’ and connected to the Hamas-linked Palestinian Return Centre based in London which is proscribed by Israel.  Last year Qwaider was active in the flotilla campaign on behalf of the ‘Spanish Boat to Gaza’, including giving a talk at a Spanish university.

Part of the online support campaign for the ‘Airflotilla2′ initiative includes an e-mail campaign aimed at members of Parliament.

“Palestinians resist.  The British Government, however, joins with Israel to isolate the Palestinians while they are being dispossessed.  The UK Government, for example, refused to support the recent successful Palestinian bid to join UNESCO in the teeth of bitter US and Israeli opposition. The UK Government has also signalled it will oppose the Palestinian bid for full membership of the UN.

When our governments endorse illegal Israeli occupation, concerned citizens need to take action.”

The main difference between the Airflotilla2 and the Global March to Jerusalem is that the former is designed to appeal primarily – though not exclusively - to European audiences, as reflected in its campaigning and publicity which includes websites and advertising in various European  languages.

UK :
BELGIUM : / et pour Bruxelles (Brussels) :
PALESTINE : (school project) and

In the Netherlands, Electronic Intifada’s Adri Nieuwhof appears to be utilising her connections within the ‘human rights’/international aid community in order to publicize the project.

Several of the ‘Airflotilla2′ organisers took part in last year’s failed flytilla including Myriam de Ly and David Dupire from Belgium and Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Events were held in Paris , Brussels and other European cities earlier this year to promote the campaign.

The final speaker in the video – Jaques Neno of the EJE (Les Enfants, le Jeu et l’Education) is also one of the project’s organisers, along with George N Rishmawi – co-founder of International Solidarity Movement (ISM), head of the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC), coordinator of the Siraj Centre and a former board member of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between Peoples. As stated above, Airflotilla2 and GMJ organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh is connected to both the latter organisations.

Neno tells potential participants that they should expect three possible scenarios. The first is that they will get arrested.  In that case, according, to him “you have won because when Israel puts you in prison it shows how it becomes more and more fascist”.

The second scenario involves the activists being prevented from boarding their flights at the point of departure, as happened in many cases in 2011, but which Neno appears to consider unlikely this year. The third scenario is that they will reach their destination.

Obviously, provocation and bad public relations for Israel are yet again the real name of the game and several factors suggest that this latest publicity stunt aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy should not be taken lightly.

One of these factors is the date which, although originally planned to coincide with the anniversary of the death of ISM activist Vittorio Arrigoni, is also the day after the end of the Pessach holiday when Ben Gurion airport will be particularly busy with a large volume of travelers. For example, the UK airline Jet2 has added an additional flight to its usual schedule on that day which is probably aimed at returning Pessach visitors to Manchester, but is likely to be used by ‘Airflotilla2′ activists from Scotland and the north of England.

Another factor is the unverified claim by ‘Welcome to Palestine’ organisers (Palestine Justice Network) that following the 2011 flytilla during which the majority of activists were not permitted to board their flights, “[a]s a result of legal challenges, many European airlines not only fully refunded the tickets, but also agreed not to repeat the incident.”  In the event that airlines will refuse to transport the activists, demonstrations are already being planned.

The International Solidarity Movement in France is already very indignant regarding a statement put out recently by the French Foreign Ministry advising its citizens not to take part in the ‘Airflotilla2′.

The British government has similarly advised against participation in the project, but such recommendations are unlikely to make much of an impression on these activists, as can be seen by the reaction of the French organisers.

“We have no illusions about our leaders and the fact they eat in the hand of the Israeli occupation. We know how they behaved in July, and more generally how they refuse to apply international law and the principle of reciprocity, then they leave to enter France all Israelis who wish, including criminals war. They do not even defend French diplomats when they are humiliated, beaten or injured by the police or the IDF.”

“The method of intimidation will not work. Participants in the mission “Welcome to Palestine” have the right, justice and morality on their side. And they are aware of the seriousness of the situation for the Palestinians, every day more persecuted and dispossessed. They are not ashamed to go visit them. And to do head high, without lying, without going into the game of the occupant, which would wipe out Palestine and the Palestinians.

Gentlemen of the Quai d’Orsay, gentlemen of the government, history will record that you do not have much dignity.”

On the publicity front, the involvement of Ali Abunimah in this campaign means that we are likely to see a far more intense level of activity, particularly on social networks, than was the case with the Global March to Jerusalem which Abunimah and others shunned.

UPDATE, April 11th:

The full ‘Welcome to Palestine’ programme of events can be seen here. The stated aims of the project – building a school and a museum and refurbishing a kindergarten – appear to be confined to one day of activity, with the rest of the week’s visit dedicated to trips to various destinations and a seminar on the subject of “How to End the Occupation?”.

The organisation hoping to build a museum on the history of Palestinian refugees is the Al Rowwad Centre which was also involved in the organisation of the 2011 flytilla, is party to the BDS movement and was an endorser of the Global March to Jerusalem. Pictured below is one of its vehicles, bearing a logo which clearly rejects a negotiated two-state solution.

CiF Watch Global Zionist Subterfuge Update: Our blog welcomes 3 new international readers

Though most of CiF Watch traffic is obviously from Anglo nations we have received some “special” comments recently from non-Anglo regions of the world.

If you recall, a comment in response to our post, “Arthur Nelson’s Occupied Mind: Why the Guardian Left can’t take Arab antisemitism seriously“, arrived from a neighboring Palestinian polity:

Indeed, we traced the IP address back to Gaza City.

And, beneath the line of our post “What the Guardian won’t report: Pro-Palestinian activists in London – Israel must be destroyed“, was this, which we traced back to Mexico:

Yesterday, one of Israelinurse’s postcards from Israel, (Tiberias Waterfront), elicited this comment prophesizing that blood will be shed to take back what was taken from the Palestinians:

While I traced the IP address of this reader, who hopes that “god bless[es] our soul”,  back to Spain, a quick search found that he had signed a petition during the Second Lebanon War condemning Israeli genocide against Lebanon and the Palestinian people. 

While he’s currently located in Spain, he evidently identifies with the fascist (Nazi inspired) Syrian Social Nationalist party, which promotes Pan-Syrian nationalism – the goal of building a Greater Syrian state which would encompass Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, as well as parts of Turkey.

Such attention, from anti-Zionist commenters from 3 different continents, would seem to indicate that our international Zionist (Jewish supremacist) blogging is finally garnering wider attention.

Indeed, as you can see from this map of our traffic (orange and red indicating readers), our blog is read throughout most of the world – with a few unfortunate exceptions, such as Greenland (population 56,000).

So, as we’re always looking for ways to increase our web traffic, it appears as if we haven’t done enough outreach to the Greenlandic community, which, as you’ll see in our (quite ambitious) 2013 global Zionist strategic plan, we believe has growth potential.

As 2013 is fast approaching, any suggestions  on how we can more effectively engage in Zionist ‘Greenwashing’ would be greatly welcomed!