What about the Grand Mufti’s desire to ‘liquidate the Jews’ doesn’t Robert Fisk understand?

Fisking “Middle East expert” Robert Fisk can be especially challenging, as he often pivots seamlessly between mere distortions and outright fabrications within the same essay.  His latest op-ed at The Independent, The real poison is to be found in Arafat’s legacy, Nov. 18, represents a great example of his talent for such multi-faceted misrepresentations.

fisk

Though he dismisses recent accusations that Arafat was poisoned, Fisk, in attempting to explain the legacy of the late Palestinian leader, whitewashes his decades-long involvement in lethal terrorist attacks against Israelis, and risibly claims that his biggest character flaw was that he was in fact ‘too trusting’ of Israeli leaders.

Fisk writes:

He made so many concessions to Israel – because he was growing old and wanted to go to “Palestine” before he died – that his political descendants are still paying for them. Arafat had never seen a Jewish colony on occupied land when he accepted the Oslo agreement. He trusted the Americans. He trusted the Israelis. He trusted anyone who appeared to say the right things. And it must have been exhausting to start his career as a super-“terrorist” in Beirut and then be greeted on the White House lawn as a super- “statesman” and then re-created by Israel as a super-“terrorist” again.

However, the most egregious lie by omission appears later in the essay when he addresses comments Arafat reportedly made about the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, per a conversation he had with Edward Said:

Edward Said told me that Arafat said to him in 1985 that “if there’s one thing I don’t want to be, it’s to be like Haj Amin. He was always right, and he got nothing and died in exile.”

Hunted by the British, Haj Amin, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, went to Berlin during the Second World War in the hope that Hitler would help the Palestinians.

His claim that the pro-Nazi Haj Amin was merely attempting to “help the Palestinians” represents an extraordinary obfuscation.  

As a CAMERA report (based on documentation in a book by Jennie Lebel titled ‘The Mufti of Jerusalem: Haj-Amin el-Husseini and National-Socialism‘) makes clear, Haj Amin’s desire to ‘help the Palestinians’ was superseded by a greater passion – to annihilate the Jews.

Haj Amin El-Husseini, who was appointed Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 aided by sympathetic British officials, advocated violent opposition to Jewish settlement in the Mandate for Palestine and incited the Arabs against the growing Jewish presence. Lebel describes the violence of 1929, where Haj Amin spread the story that the Jews planned to destroy the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa mosque. Using falsified photos of the mosque on fire and disseminating propaganda that borrowed from the anti-Jewish forgery, the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the mufti instigated a widespread pogrom against Jews in Palestine. On Aug. 23, Arabs streamed into Jerusalem and attacked Jews. Six days later, a second wave of attacks resulted in 64 dead in Hebron

Hebron_massacre_newspaper

The Mufti injected a religiously based anti-Jewish component into the emerging Palestinian national consciousness….Presaging modern boycott proposals against Jewish settlement, Haj Amin called on all Muslims to boycott Jewish goods and organized an Arab strike on April 10, 1936.

He saw in the Nazis and Italian fascists natural allies who would do what the British were unwilling to do — purge the region of Jews and help him establish a unified Arab state throughout the Middle East…Believing that the Axis might prevail in the war, the mufti secured a commitment from both Italy and Germany to the formation of a region-wide Arab state. He also asked for permission to solve the Jewish problem by the “same method that will be applied for the solution of the Jewish problem in the Axis states.” 

On Nov. 28, 1941, he met for the first time with Adolf Hitler, relaying to the German leader the Arab conviction that Germany would win the war and that this would benefit the Arab cause. 
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, meets Hitler for the first time. Berlin, Germany, November 28, 1941.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, meets Hitler in Berlin

While Hitler shared the mufti’s belief that the present war would determine the fate of the Arabs, his priority was the struggle against what he saw as Jewish-controlled Britain and the Soviet Union. Lebel reveals Hitler’s promise that when the German army reached the southern borders of the Caucasus, he would announce to the Arab world their time of liberation had come. The Germans would annihilate all Jews who lived in Arab areas.
… 

[Haj Amin's] conspiratorial view of Jewish ambitions are reflected in the widespread dissemination of such publications as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in the Arab and Muslim world. The view of the Jews as contaminators of society and malevolent conspirators resonate today in the founding Charter of Hamas.

In a radio broadcast from Germany on Nov. 16, 1943…Haj Amin laid out his vision of the conflict with the Jews:

“The Jews bring the world poverty, trouble and disaster … they destroy morality in all countries… they falsify the words of the prophet, they are the bearers of anarchy and bring suffering to the world. They are like moths who eat away all the good in the countries. They prepared the war machine for Roosevelt and brought disaster to the world. They are monsters and the basis for all evil in the world ….” 

As Nazi official Wilhelm Melchers testified after the war:

The mufti was an accomplished foe of the Jews and did not conceal that he would love to see all of them liquidated.

It’s clear that Haj Amin’s relationship with Hitler was no mere ‘alliance of convenience’, but was based on shared eliminationist antisemitic fantasies.  As Jeffrey Herf wrote in his 2009 book, ‘Nazi Propaganda for the Arab world‘, the Mufti “played a central role in the cultural fusion of European with Islamic traditions of Jew-hatred [and] was one of the few who had mastered the ideological themes and nuances of fascism and Nazism, as well as the anti-Jewish elements within the Koran and its subsequent commentaries.”

Robert Fisk’s innocuous description of Haj Amin as ‘pro-Palestinian’ is as morally perverse as characterizing Adolf Hitler as merely  ‘pro-Aryan’.

Is a lie of omission still a lie? Guardian report failed to include key words in Lieberman quote

Harriet Sherwood published a report today, Nov. 6, on the acquittal of Avigdor Lieberman, titled ‘Avigdor Lieberman to return to Israeli cabinet after corruption acquittal‘. Whilst there is nothing especially problematic in Sherwood’s report about Lieberman, who was cleared on charges of fraud in a unanimous ruling by three judges after a lengthy trial, we noted a related ‘recommended’ article on the right side bar:

lieberman

The 2009 article, by the paper’s former Jerusalem correspondent, Rory McCarthy, is a profile of the Yisrael Beiteinu party leader (and former foreign minister), titled ‘The rise of Israel’s foreign minister‘, which includes the following claim:

In typically blunt terms Lieberman has called for the trial and execution of Arab fellow MPs.

However, upon researching the claim it became clear that McCarthy omitted a few words in Lieberman’s quote, which go back to comments attributed to him in May, 2006. Here’s a translation of a Hebrew media report on what he said on the floor of the Israeli Knesset:

Lieberman called the execution of Arab Israeli MKs who met with the Hamas…

Whilst Lieberman’s comments were still, quite obviously, extremely inflammatory (and were condemned at the time by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as an act of “incitement”), Guardian readers who come across McCarthy’s report could likely believe (falsely) that Lieberman was calling for death sentences to be carried out arbitrarily against Arab members of the Israeli Knesset.

It’s quite notable that other news sites (even ones not typically friendly to Israel) got the 2006 Lieberman quote right, including even Electronic Intifada (EI).  An EI post shortly after Lieberman’s comments were published included the following:

A few days previously, on 5 May, Lieberman expressed the hope that Arab legislators who met with the Hamas leadership be put on trial and executed

Interestingly, even McCarthy’s colleagues have accurately reported his comments.

Extreme left Guardian columnist Jonathan Steele got the quote correct in a 2006 essay, which included the following:

Lieberman has described Tibi and other Israeli Arabs who have met Hamas officials as traitors. They should be executed, he said…

Here’s Peter Beaumont – foreign editor of The Observer, sister publication of the Guardian - in 2012:

 At various times he has called for the expulsion of Israel’s Arab population, [and] the “execution” of Arab MPs who met with leaders of Hamas,

Bottom line?  

A ‘lie of omission’ is still a lie.

Towards a new ‘liberation theology’: Will progressives ever learn to embrace Jewish success?

Here are the first few paragraphs of my Times of Israel essay published today:

If the progressive community was truly concerned about the fate of historically oppressed minorities, and sincerely moved by a passionate desire to find the social and economic remedies to ameliorate the condition of the marginalized, the example of Jews in the late 20th and early 21st centuries would serve as a model for all future campaigns.

Progressives who are unburdened by the fetishization of victimhood, and misplaced faith in ‘systemic’ root causes, would have to be inspired by the example of world Jewry – a community which not only survived the  Holocaust, but quickly re-established their communities and, within a short period of time, could boast of social, economic and political success (in Israel and the diaspora) quite ‘disproportionate’ to their miniscule numbers.

Howard Jacobson has forcefully argued that the world has never forgiven Jews for the collective guilt driven by memory of the Holocaust. However, it seems equally as urgent to acknowledge that the progressive movement seems not to have forgiven Jews for a success born largely of their own perseverance.

Read the rest of the essay here.

Irish Times op-ed decries “Israeli ideology” of “hatred”, predicts state’s demise

Even by the standards of anti-Zionist hostility we’re accustomed to while monitoring the Guardian, a commentary published by the Irish Times on Oct. 3 is simply odious. Here’s the headline of the piece by a socialist activist (and ‘Comment is Free’ contributornamed Eamonn McCann:

it

Here are some of the hysterical passages from an essay simply dripping with contempt towards the Jewish state:

The late Mary Holland once explained to me why she had changed sides on the Israel-Palestine issue after spending just a few hours in the region. She had arrived as a supporter and admirer of Israel, looking forward to experiencing the ways in which people who had survived one of the most appalling atrocities in all of human history were gathering in their ancestral homeland to envision and create a state of their own.

As soon as you walked out of the hotel, she recalled, you could see something was terribly wrong. Arabs shrinking back on the pavements to allow Jews to pass, being literally, physically pushed out of their way if they didn’t move fast enough, and, worst of all in her account, the Arabs’ heads-down acceptance of it all.

My old political mentor, Tony Cliff, born Yigael Gluckstein, founder of the Socialist Workers’ Party, recounted a similar sort of epiphany. A teenage member of the socialist Zionist group Hashomer Hatzair in the 1930s, he discarded the Zionist component of his belief “in one go” after watching a group of Jewish settlers moving through a market in Haifa systematically pouring kerosene over the produce on display on Arab fruit and vegetable stalls.

Last week, Orla Devine, in her early 20s, from Greysteel in Co Derry, described (orladevine.wordpress.com) her first day as a volunteer with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel: “Abed Abu Jawwad stands in front of the rubble of his home where he and his family were sleeping only hours earlier. At 7am that morning, whilst the children were still sleeping, seven Israeli military vehicles, one bulldozer and approximately 40 people from the Israeli authorities surrounded the land of Abed, and his son Mahmoud Abu Jawwad, in Humsa village and began demolishing both houses and four animal shelters before they had the chance to empty them of all their belongings.”

It’s the routine nature of the incidents she recounts, as of the incidents that shifted the thinking of Mary Holland and Tony Cliff, that speaks most persuasively of the settled hatred that lies at the heart of Israel’s official ideology.

Commenting on the recent incident in which a French diplomat, Marion Fesneau-Castaing, punched an Israeli soldier in the West Bank, and criticism of Israel’s behavior towards Fesneau-Castaing by the former head of the Israel-Ireland Friendship League, Tom Carew, McCann adds:

Mr Carew was acting in Israel’s best interest in denouncing the assault on diplomats delivering aid to Palestinians. But Israel apparently cannot see that. Which will be the cause of its downfall in the end.

McCann’s agitprop – which uses a few fantastical anecdotes to advance a version of the “Zionism = Racism” smear – is simply indistinguishable from what’s published at Islamist extremist sites, or at Iranian propaganda organs like PressTV.

It’s such “everyday” hatred which continues to define the anti-Zionist ideology of the ‘sophisticated’ European far-Left. 

Antony Loewenstein’s latest dishonest anti-Israel smear at ‘Comment is Free’

Antony Loewenstein doesn’t believe the Jewish state should exist under any circumstances, and in his latest ‘Comment Free’ commentary he wears this badge proudly by characterizing his identity as a melange of Judaism, atheism, Germanic traditions, Anglo-Saxon-Australian beliefs and anti-Zionism.

When last we posted about the marginal Aussie commentator, we revealed that he flat-out lied when he recounted a conversation in which he evidently told Tony Abbott (before he became Prime Minister) that there were “Jews only roads” in the West Bank.  As CAMERA proved definitively quite a few years ago, such roads do not exist.

In his current CiF contribution, the misinformation he advances to Guardian readers is a bit more subtle, but easy nonetheless to refute for anyone who understands Israeli-Jewish demography, or is at least willing to open the link he provides to “prove” his argument.

antony

Here’s the passage in question:

According to new Israeli government released figures, Jews are now outnumbered by Arabs under Israeli sovereignty by over 50,000 people. That’s segregation by definition. Israel learns nothing from history except how to brutalise the marginalised.

This bizarre claim that the current demography proves  Israel is practicing “segregation” is clarified by opening the link he provides, an article at The Forward by J.J. Goldberg, which provides these population figures.

Palestinian Arabs, West Bank: 2,676,740

Palestinian Arabs, Gaza Strip: 1,763,387

(Total Palestinians, Israeli military-administered territories: 4,440,127)

Israeli Arabs (citizens): 1,666,800

Total Arabs under Israeli sovereign administration: 6,106,927

Israeli Jews: 6,056,100

In case it didn’t already jump out at you, Loewenstein, per Goldberg, is including in his Arab-Jewish demographic snapshot, not only Palestinians in the West Bank, but Gaza (where Israel completed a withdrawal in 2005) as well.  However, even for those believing the specious claim that Gaza is still “occupied”, there’s another group of Arabs Loewenstein includes: Arab Israelis!

Loewenstein fails to acknowledge that a segment of the Arab figure he cites as under Israeli sovereignty are in fact under the state’s sovereignty because of course they are full citizens.  

Even those who advance the hyperbolic claim that the territorial dispute between Israel and Palestinians represents racial ‘segregation’ don’t include Arab citizens of Israel in this smear because the segregation charge (dishonest under any circumstances) could only conceivably be leveled if the subjected group is denied voting rights and other civil rights.  As this is clearly not the case with Arab Israelis, Lowenstein’s argument completely falls apart.

Loewenstein’s polemical slight of hand isn’t as egregious as his outright lie about “Jews-only roads”, but it does again demonstrate that anti-Zionist ideologues will continue to find a platform to spread their smears at ‘Comment is Free’.   

Guardian rock ‘n roll fantasy: Paper blurs identity of Palestinians and Arab Israelis

What’s the first thing you think of when you see this headline?

headline

A great human interest story on rock ‘n roll artists modelling “peace and understanding” between two peoples who have historically been in conflict, right?

Indeed, here are the opening passages from the story:

They are united by facial hair, frayed jeans and a love of heavy metal – plus a belief that music is above politics, religion and conflict. Now the Israeli band Orphaned Land is joining forces with the Palestinian group Khalas to take a message of coexistence through rock’n’roll across Europe.

An 18-gig tour will see the bands perform in six countries, including Britain, this autumn. The musicians will share both a stage and a tour bus for three weeks, proving in practice that their “metal brotherhood” overrides differences of religion and national identity.

At a concert to launch their European tour in Tel Aviv last week, Orphaned Land’s lead singer, Kobi Farhi, and Khalas’s lead guitarist, Abed Hathut, explained their mission.

“We can’t change the world, but we can give an example of how coexistence is possible,” said Farhi. “Sharing a stage and sharing a bus is stronger than a thousand words. We’ll show how two people from different backgrounds who live in a conflict zone can perform together.”

“We are metal brothers before everything,” said Hathut. But, he added, “there is no bigger message for peace than through this tour”.

Coexistence ventures may be new in the world of heavy metal, but precedent was set in the high-brow realm of classical music more than two decades ago, when Jewish conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian intellectual Edward Said co-founded an orchestra of young Israeli, Palestinian and Arab musicians.

So, it indeed still seems that Israeli and Palestinian bands are touring together to champion peace and reconciliation, doesn’t it? 

Except that, by the seventh passage, we learn something which changes the context a bit. Pay especially attention to the text I’ve place in bold.

The members of Khalas, which is the supporting act on the tour, and Orphaned Land have “become soulmates” since meeting at a radio station and realising they have more in common than divided them, said Farhi. Last week’s gig was their second performance together. But joint ventures between Jewish and Arab artists in Israel have in the past met with boycott calls from Palestinian activists, who argue that coexistence projects sanitise discrimination against Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens…

Further passages in the story finally confirm what the above text implies – that the band, Khalas, is made up of Arab citizens of Israel (from Acre) not, as the title and most of the text suggests, Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories who don’t have Israeli citizenship. Whilst some activists do use the term “Palestinian citizens of Israel’ instead of ‘Arab Israelis’ to refer to Israelis who are ethnically and linguistically Arab (but full citizens of the state), the average reader looking at the headline and accompanying text wouldn’t likely understand this distinction.

Moreover, as anyone who lives in Israel, or has spent any serious time here, would surely know, Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel mix, mingle and interact in nearly every area of daily public and private life, and whilst the notion of Arab and Jewish (Israeli) bands going on tour together certainly is a nice symbol, it’s hardly groundbreaking.

Surely, Harriet Sherwood has been in the country long enough to realize this.

h/t Matt

History lecturer James Renton: “Britain should apologise for Balfour Declaration.”

Cross posted by the London based blogger, Richard Millett

James Renton and Deborah Maccoby of JfJfP at SOAS

James Renton and Deborah Maccoby of JfJfP at SOAS

A little known history lecturer is quickly becoming the new poster boy of the anti-Israel movement. Last night at SOAS James Renton detailed why he thinks the British government should apologise for the Balfour Declaration. He was invited to speak by Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

The thrust of Renton’s argument is that there should be such an apology because the Balfour Declaration lacked clarity on the meaning of “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, which, he said, unleashed an expectation of statehood amongst Jews that was never intended. He blames the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on this “misconceived, ill thought through policy of the British government”.

He also argued that the Declaration was based on the mistaken and anti-Semitic assumption that Jews had great power in America and Russia and that they were mainly Zionist. Therefore, such a declaration would encourage Russia and America against Germany during the Great War.

Renton thinks that there was never an intention to create a Jewish state and he quoted from a letter from David Lloyd George to the then Archbishop of Westminster, who told Lloyd George in 1919 that the Zionists in Palestine were “causing a stink and claiming that the country would soon be coming under their control”. Lloyd George replied to the Archbishop:

“If the Zionists claim domination of the Holy Land under a British protectorate then they are certainly putting their claims too high.”

Renton criticised Britain for advertising that it was a big supporter of Zionism while at the same time promoting national freedom for Arabs but without thinking either side really expected political independence in Palestine. This was because the British viewed both Jews and Arabs as “politically backward”.

You can read Renton’s thesis in Haaretz (contact me in you cannot access the link and I will send you the article).

However, his thesis is facile. For one he contradicts himself by saying both that the British thought the Jews had immense power but that they were also politically backward. Which is it?

For Renton the Balfour Declaration was mainly down to anti-Semitism. As he puts it “Balfour and Mark Sykes said nasty things about Jews” (Sykes was the government’s advisor on the Middle East at the time). And he downplays the role of Christian support for a Jewish state as well as Chaim Weizmann’s efforts in manufacturing ammunition for Britain during the Great War.

This campaign to have Britain apologise for the Balfour Declaration was dreamt up by the Palestine Return Centre. They launched a petition with the view to obtaining one million signatures in support of an apology by the time of the centenary of the Declaration in 2017. Unlike Renton, the PRC thinks the apology should be for the tremendous injustices” the Balfour Declaration has caused to the Palestinian people.

The PRC are now using the recent decision in the Mau Mau rebellion case, where Britain has been found guilty of complicity in the torture of victims in the Mau Mau uprising against British rule in Kenya in the 1950s and 1960s, to give their campaign a boost.

Renton spotted one difficulty with the PRC’s campaign though. He noted that there will be no one alive from the era of the Balfour Declaration to attest. So he suggested to a representative of the PRC who was in the audience last night that the PRC might have more success if they asked the British government for an apology for the Arab losses during the Arab uprising of 1936-1939.

The problem with that is that the PRC’s raison d’etre is the destruction of Israel via the so-called Palestinian “right of return”. They want an apology to undermine Israel’s existence. I doubt that Arabs were killed during that Arab uprising is of great significance to the PRC in the scheme of things. Renton might not know of the PRC’s politics, but there’s a good clue in their name Palestine Return Centre as to why they might want an apology.

Anyway, the wording of the Balfour Declaration is clear. What is meant by “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” if not a state? The clue is in the words “national home”.

Renton gave us a sheet of homework asking all 10 of us in the audience some questions:

1. Did today’s talk differ from your previous understanding of this issue?
2. Has Dr Renton’s talk affected how you think about the Balfour Declaration?
3. What aspects would you challenge, and why?

Maybe you could email him at james.renton@edgehill.ac.uk with your answers. He wants to hear from you.

The Guardian hosts an Israeli “settler” point-of-view

Cross posted by Yisrael Medad at My Right Word

My good friend Dani Dayan has an op-ed in, of all places, The Guardian.  He had one in the New York Times last July that really upset many left-wing radicals who think freedom of expression is to be limited to their way of thinking formulating politics.

Some extracts and comments from “What you call ‘settlements’ are on solid moral ground”:

…More than 360,000 Israelis live in almost 200 communities across Judea and Samaria, with 200,000 more in East Jerusalem. That’s more than half a million people. Our endeavour stands on solid moral ground.

This week marks 46 years since the agonising days of June 1967, when the Arab world physically tried to annihilate Israel. We defeated them and liberated the strategic hills that overlook 70% of Israel’s population. If partition of this contested land was ever the just solution to the conflict, it ceased the moment one side refused.

I would add, to fine-tune the piece: just as the indigenous Arabs rejected a partition proposal during World War I in the form of the Sykes-Picot arrangement, and as they did in 1937, in 1939 and again in 1947, they undercut their moral standing by being totally uncompromising.

Our communities stand on solid moral ground. Built on vacant land, no settlement stands on the ruins of any Arab village…In Judea and Samaria there is ample room for many Jews, many Palestinians and peaceful coexistence. Our communities stand on solid moral ground because the right of Jews to live in Shiloh, Hebron or Beth El is inalienable. These sites are the cradles of Jewish civilisation, the birthplace of Hebraic culture. Negating the right of Jews to live in these historic parts of the Jewish homeland would be morally wrong.

It is also quite contrary to legal rights Jews hold to their patrimony, recognized over the centuries by all the leading nations and religions and confirmed through the Balfour Declaration, the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference, the 1920 Sam Remo Conference and the 1922 League of Nations.

Unfortunately, too many people view as moral the necessity of the establishment of a Palestinian state and ignore the historic and legal aspects of Jewish national rights in the Land of Israel as well as the history and the character of the conflict over the last 90 years or so.

Moreover, many people, too many, say that Biblical narratives, even if true and confirmed by archaeological science, are irrelevant and I presume they would interpret this reference -”…Shiloh, Hebron or Beth El is inalienable. These sites are the cradles of Jewish civilisation, the birthplace of Hebraic culture” - as a Biblical reference.  But “biblical” does not mean only “religious” or “theological”.  There is an objective truth in the Biblical narrative.

What could be added to this claim is that Jews lived in these areas not only 2000 years ago but throughout the past 2000 years, in every century thereof, and until 1948.

It was the Arabs that practiced ethnic cleansing through terror and depopulated Jewish communities in Gaza, Hebron and Jerusalem’s Old City.  That is not only a strike at our historic right but very much immoral.

Dani concludes:

After 20 years of failed attempts to reach a two-state solution, isn’t it time we admit our failures and move on? The time has come to invest in new, innovative paths to peace that unite people through acts of mutual respect. The first step is to stop the demonisation of our communities and acknowledge that settlements aren’t the problem – but rather an integral part of any future solution.

And we need to formulate a second step.  That would be the idea of retention.  Then we can move on to other intermediate forms of self-rule.  Only then and after a testing period can we even contemplate anything further.

Palestinian ‘refugees’, hypocrisy and unity: just follow the money

Cross posted at ‘This Ongoing War’, a blog edited by Frimet and Arnold Roth 

The Arab-on-Arab bloodbath just across Israel’s northern border goes on and on, and with it the incredible – and worsening – suffering of ordinary Syrians. That is, in significant ways, a function of politically correct but morally repugnant decision-making of the ‘world community’.

Syrian Refugees January 2013

Syrian Refugees January 2013

The decades-long handling of the Palestinian Arabs as a uniquely deserving cause is revealed for the scam it always was. People are paying with their lives for the double-talk about the ‘refugees’. Those people are not only Arabs, but in many cases they are also the close kin of the undeserving beneficiaries of the Palestinian Arab Victimhood industry.

Evelyn Gordon writes (“How UNRWA Steals Money from Those Who Need It Most“) about the current threat by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to halt all relief operations in Syria and for the benefit of Syrian refugees. 1.3 million of them are being looked after until now; the number – given the ongoing unchecked savagery throughout Syria – is certain to grow.

$1.5 billion was pledged to the UN agency by donors earlier this year; only $400 million has turned up. That’s a shortfall of more than 70%. What can we learn from this?

For anyone familiar with the way Arab national giving works, this is a constant: fancy rhetoric and high-flying speeches about Arab solidarity and Arab unity and Arab generosity, followed by… not much. Is there a shortage of available cash in the oil-soaked Arab world? Not really. (We wrote about the phenomenon of $600 million recreational yachts a few days ago. See 10-Apr-13: “I cannot help but cry out long live the descendants of apes and pigs”)

 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that unless more money arrives (read: unless the promises of funding are honored, which so far has not happened), UNHCR is going to stop distributing food to refugees in Lebanon from May. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, with the largest population of Syrian refugees, has said it will close its borders to more of them; it cannot cope without aid.

Now pause. 

Evelyn Gordon writes about a different (a very different) UN agency that deals with refugees, one that

enjoys comfortable funding of about $1 billion a year to help a very different group of refugees–refugees who generally live in permanent homes rather than flimsy tents in makeshift camps; who have never faced the trauma of flight and dislocation, having lived all their lives in the place where they were born; who often have jobs that provide an income on top of their refugee benefits; and who enjoy regular access to schooling, healthcare and all the other benefits of non-refugee life… Their generous funding continues undisturbed even as Syrian refugees are facing the imminent loss of such basics as food and fresh water. I am talking, of course, about UNRWA.

People who have never heard this before think we’re making this up, so please read carefully and verify: 

It has long been clear that UNRWA–which deals solely with Palestinian refugees, while UNHCR bears responsibility for all other refugees on the planet–is a major obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Since, unlike UNHCR, it grants refugee status to the original refugees’ descendants in perpetuity, the number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned from under 700,000 in 1949 to over five million today, even as the world’s non-Palestinian refugee population has shrunk from over 100 million to under 30 million. Moreover, while UNHCR’s primary goal is to resettle refugees, UNRWA hasn’t resettled a single refugee in its history… It has thereby perpetuated and exacerbated the Palestinian refugee problem to the point where it has become the single greatest obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement… Unfortunately for the Syrians, it seems that many of the world’s self-proclaimed humanitarians prefer harming Israel to helping those who need it most. [Evelyn Gordon]

Last year, we asked [in a post called "5-Jun-12: If there's one single thing about UNRWA that we wish people understood, it's this"] a question that, if it were to get an honest answer, might point to a genuine breakthrough in resolving our neighbourhood’s problems.

If (to borrow the laughable claims made by its many supporters) UNRWA’s work is so important, if it brings us closer to peace, if it restores dignity to the lives of dispossessed and destitute Arabs, then why, when you look at the top twenty list of donors to this agency that exists entirely from donations, do you see that only one is Arab (the Islamic Development Bank). What is it about UNRWA that the Arab states understand better than the nations and tax-payers of the West?

Allow us to restate this in a simpler way:

Arab leaders, many of whom preside over phenomenal cash resources, (a)  to the strange UN agency that exists specifically to support the most beloved cause that exists in the Arab world – the Palestinians. And (b) they fail to honour their pledges (as we noted above) to fund the one organization that can do something to relieve the genuine suffering of the Syrians, tens of thousands of whom have been killed in the past two years’ Arab-on-Arab fighting and millions of whom are now desperate to find shelter.

The role of rampant hypocrisy in explaining what happens in global politics is under-appreciated.

Letter to Iain Banks on the eve of Yom HaShoah

The following was written by Bataween, and originally published on April 7 at ‘Point of No Return‘ - a blog about Middle East’s forgotten Jewish refugees.

On the eve of Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust memorial day, Point of No Return was inspired by the words of a little-known Iraqi-Jewish writer to address the announcement by celebrated Scottish writer Iain Banks that he’s supporting a cultural boycott of Israel.
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Dear Iain,
 
I was sorry to learn that you have terminal cancer and will probably not be long for this world. It is  a matter of deep regret that the world is about to lose a talented writer and a noble human being.

However, I was surprised that the Middle East ranks so high on your list of priorities that directly after you had announced news of your cancer,  The Guardian chose to print a piece about your personal boycott of Israel. In it you wrote: 

“The particular tragedy of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people is that nobody seems to have learned anything. Israel itself was brought into being partly as a belated and guilty attempt by the world community to help compensate for its complicity in, or at least its inability to prevent, the catastrophic crime of the Holocaust. Of all people, the Jewish people ought to know how it feels to be persecuted en masse, to be punished collectively and to be treated as less than human. For the Israeli state and the collective of often unlikely bedfellows who support it so unquestioningly throughout the world to pursue and support the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people – forced so brutally off their land in 1948 and still under attack today – to be so blind to the idea that injustice is injustice, regardless not just on whom it is visited, but by whom as well, is one of the defining iniquities of our age, and powerfully implies a shamingly low upper limit on the extent of our species’ moral intelligence.

The solution to the dispossession and persecution of one people can never be to dispossess and persecute another. When we do this, or participate in this, or even just allow this to happen without criticism or resistance, we only help ensure further injustice, oppression, intolerance, cruelty and violence in the future.”

We’ve heard it all before from your fellow boycotters of Israel: scores of trendy opinion-formers, academics and artistes. They actually believe that neat paradox: a persecuted people is now persecuting another. Don’t the Jews of all people know any better?

What really pains me is that you will be going to your death without knowing how wrong you have been. Israel is full of people -  Jewish people – persecuted simply for being Jews and expelled from land and property they have lived on since time immemorial by Arabs.This is a truth that even Jews from Europe haven’t graspedThe Arabs did this barely three years after the monumental tragedy of the Holocaust, in which the Palestinian leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, among other Arabs, was complicit. The Mufti plotted the extermination of the Jews of the region well before Israel was established. Arabs and radical Muslims have been seeking to destroy the Jewish state ever since. 

To illustrate my point, on the eve of Yom HaShoah, when Israel marks the anniversary of the Holocaust, let me quote Aharon, an Iraqi Jew you won’t have heard of, who wrote a chapter in a book* you won’t have heard of either:

“Two thousand years of persecution, execution and forced conversion culminated in Hitler’s Final Solution, a solution which wiped out nearly half the world’s Jewish population. And this was followed by, and compounded by  the ethnic cleansing by the Arab Countries of all their Jewish populations. Both events took place on the watch of the civilised world which responded by a deafening silence. Jews therefore feel themselves to be permanent refugees even after the rise of the State of Israel which is now anyway precariously balanced within the vast  Muslim Middle East.”

At the end it was the Arab world, not Hitler that executed their final solution, and no power can move the clock back. That is why  today it is worrying Israelis and Jews alike that what happened in Germany under the Nazis in the early 1930s is being re-enacted in a startlingly similar way again in Europe today. Every aspect of life in Israel, its people, its institutions, its places of learning, even its acclaimed courts of justice are being demonized. Recently this demonizing has been organized and reinforced by concerted bans and boycotts here in Europe in protest, they say, against the occupation of Palestinian lands to which the majority of the citizens of Israel are opposed. All this sends shivers in the hearts of Jews everywhere reminding them of the anti-Semitic demonizing propaganda of the 1930s, which was the precursor of, and prepared the ground for the Holocaust. As Condoleezza Rice, the American Secretary of State, stated recently: Anti-Semitism is not just a historical fact but a current event.

“The Arab World has played and continues to play its active part too in the Jewish tragedy. During World War II they made Jewish life in their midst a living hell. By the early 1950’s when the safe haven of Israel opened, some 900,000 Jews were ethnically cleansed to Israel from Arab countries leaving all Arab countries what the Nazis called “Judenrein”, lands clean of  Jews. Therefore what the Nazis failed to do, the Arab countries accomplished and perpetuated. And the world accepts that as normal.

“These 900,000 Jewish refugees are forgotten because Israel did not leave them in camps to rot and did not ask the UN to set up agencies to serve to perpetuate their misery and status as refugees. With help from Jews worldwide these Jewish refugees with their bare hands gave themselves dignity, security and a future in stark contrast to the way rich, very rich, Arabs treated the then 700,000 Palestinian refugees and disgracefully continue to treat their descendants today.

“I was a victim and a witness of this ethnic cleansing. My personal story tells it all. I wanted so much to be part of my country Iraq and to participate actively in its revival after World War II.  When I finished my pre-university studies in Iraq and secured a place with various universities in England and France  to continue my studies the Iraqi authorities refused point-blank to allow me to travel. Why? Because I was a Jew. And as a result of accumulations of other violent events around the Jewish community  I could see that there was no way to be both Jewish and Iraqi. So I took the only way I could that was still open for me out of the country. Together with about twenty desperate Jews, we managed to cross the borders of  Iraq into Iran in the north, literally  on foot. We got there from Baghdad in a truck.

“The truck driver had managed to bribe the border guards to close their eyes as we were nearing the border,  pretending to be carrying cattle from one town to another. At the last-minute, after the truck was approaching the border, some border police started shooting, probably only to justify their surprise to see that the cattle  had turned into human beings, but more likely  because the bribe was not big enough to go round. The driver left us in the middle of nowhere pointing to us the direction to the Iranian borders.  I was young, barely 19 years old at that time. Fleeing Iraq, in my case via Iran, whose people I will always be indebted to for their hospitality and safe passage at my desperate time of need, I arrived at the absorption centre in Israel in 1949 by air from Tehran. I found there a mixture of people all dejected all helpless. My fellow refugees from Arab countries were desperately trying to rebuild their lives out of nothing in a land of nothing.”

But it was the sight of the remnants of the Holocaust camps that broke my heart and my spirit. I saw frightened shadows of human beings dazed, confused and broken trying to regain their existence as humans. But worst of all instead of hatred, rage and bitterness I found many trying to remove the concentration camp numbers on their arms feeling guilty of being alive and ashamed of not having put up a fight before allowing themselves to be led as sheep to the Gas chambers. It is the combined images of the ethnically cleansed Arab Jews who lost their countries, and the Holocaust remnants of European Jews who lost their dignity, that are engraved in my being and in the mind of every Jew who says “never again”.  That is why Israelis feel the need to keep their citizen army and even their nuclear shield not because they are on a Samson-like suicidal mission. It is because they are determined to live with pride and dignity denied to them in those dark days of the 30s and 40s. And this time, if they must die, they want to die fighting.”

And so, Iain, by blindly aligning yourself with the Palestinian cause, you are siding, not with innocent victims, but with some among them who would commit a second Shoah if they could

If they haven’t fulfilled that intention, it is only because the Jews of Israel have been strong enough to thwart it. It is they, not the Israelis, who nurse in their children with hate

Sorry if self-defence is so very unpopular in your postmodern world, Iain. As someone once remarked: “it is better to be unpopular than dead.”

*From Chapter 14: The Prophet of the Libyan Desert by Max Melli, Vladimir Pavlinic and Aharon Nathan (Amazon and bookshops)

11 years ago: How the Guardian reported 2002 Netanya Passover Massacre

The attack

On March 27, 2002, a Hamas terrorist named Abdel-Basset Odeh broke into a Passover Seder at the dining hall of the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel, and set off powerful explosives in a suitcase he was carrying, murdering 30 of the 250 people (mostly elderly Jews) in the crowded room.  One hundred and fifty more people were injured in what would become known as the bloodiest attack of the 2nd Intifada.

Several of the victims were Holocaust survivors.

passover

Photos of those killed in the Passover bombing

Guardian report:

One of the most remarkable elements of the Guardian’s initial report on the Passover Eve suicide bombing is how relatively little space was devoted to the actual attack and to the victims.

The opening sentence of the March 28, 2002 report on the bombing, by Suzanne Goldenberg (in Beirut) and Graham Usher (in Jerusalem), is telling.  Note that the immediate focus is on the diplomatic ramifications, not on the Israeli dead and injured.

“A Palestinian suicide bomber walked into a hotel lobby crowded with Israelis gathered for the ritual Passover meal last night, dealing a crushing blow to efforts at the Arab summit to open a new chapter with the Jewish state.”

Goldenberg continues:

“Police said 16 people were killed and more than 140 wounded after the bomber detonated a large bag of explosives in a dining room of the Park hotel in the seaside town of Netanya. It was one of the deadliest attacks in 18 months of fighting.”

Actually, 22 civilians were killed instantly in the blast and another 8 died of their wounds over the next few days. 

Goldenberg:

“The explosion tore through the hotel, blowing out walls and windows and overturning tables and chairs. “Suddenly it was hell,” said one of the guests, Nechama Donenhirsch, 52. “There was the smell of smoke and dust in my mouth and a ringing in my ears.”

Televised scenes showed screaming women, wailing ambulances, cloaked bodies and shop awnings buckled by heat. Israeli police reported that several of the wounded were in “life-threatening condition”.”

The murderer’s bag was packed with 20 lbs of explosives, as well as ball bearings and metal pellets to maximize the carnage from the blast. 

Metal pellets and metal pieces added to the explosives to increase casualties

Metal pellets and metal pieces added to the explosives to increase casualties

Goldenberg continues – again expressing concern for the diplomatic fallout, and the potential for Israeli ‘revenge’.

“The Islamic militant group Hamas told an Arab satellite television station that it was responsible for the attack. The bombing threatened to derail the latest US truce mission, which survived two suicide attacks last week. George Bush denounced the bomb attack as “callous, cold-blooded killing”.

The Palestinian Authority said it “strongly condemned” the bombing and Palestinian security sources said Yasser Arafat had ordered the arrest of four key militants in the West Bank.

Many in Israel saw yesterday’s attack as an event which could goad the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, into launching a crushing military offensive on the West Bank and Gaza. An Israeli government spokesman talked of a “Passover massacre”, vowing “far-reaching responses against Palestinian Authority facilities”. “

Again, Goldenberg:

“The bomb went off at about 7.20pm, as dozens of guests settled down for the Passover Seder in the dining hall.

Netanya has been targeted several times by Palestinians during the 18-month intifada, due to its proximity to the West Bank border. On March 2 Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis, including a baby, in the same area as last night’s attack.

The town had been put on maximum alert after warnings of attacks during the Passover holiday. But it is impossible to prevent suicide attacks, said Netanya’s mayor, Miriam Feyerberg. “This is a city that can be infiltrated from many different directions.” Ms Feyerberg, who witnessed the carnage, said: “I saw little children, bodies. And I want to say something to the Arab leaders in Beirut. This is not resistance. This is murder.” “

And, then the Guardian story strangely changed focus.

Almost all of Goldenberg’s next 663 words (out of a 1072 word report) pertains not to the savage murder of dozens of innocent Israeli civilians but to Arab regional politics and infighting.  The final sentence of the story, in bold (emphasis added), is simply surreal in the context of the Jewish suffering which had just occurred.

“The bombing offered a cruel contrast to attempts by Saudi Arabia to contain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by conjuring up the prospect of a broad Arab peace.

Minutes after Crown Prince Abdullah outlined for the first time his ideas for a land-for-peace deal with Israel in Beirut yesterday, the summit was thrown into chaos with the Lebanese hosts blocking Mr Arafat from addressing Arab leaders via satellite link.

The Palestinian delegation marched out. It was eventually persuaded to remain in Beirut overnight, but the outburst exposed the internal rivalries among the 22 Arab League states.

While the crown prince appealed to the Israeli public to put their trust in peace, Syria’s Bashar Assad called on Arab leaders to support the Palestinian uprising, and condemned the Jewish state as a “living example” of terrorism.

An Arab newspaper said last night it had received an email it believed to be from Osama bin Laden, denouncing the Saudi peace initiative and praising Palestinian suicide attacks. Associated Press said the language of the email, sent to al-Quds a-Arabi, a London-based daily, resembled that used in previous statements by Bin Laden.

The two-day meeting opened in Beirut with two key moderate leaders distancing themselves from the proceedings after Israel barred Mr Arafat from leaving his headquarters in Ramallah. Jordan’s King Abdullah withdrew early yesterday, and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stayed home.

Palestinian officials said Mr Arafat waited in a Ramallah television studio for hours yesterday listening to a succession of speeches before giving up on his fellow Arab leaders and delivering his speech to al-Jazeera television.

“He was kept waiting from 11am to 2.30pm,” said Majdi Khaldi, an adviser to Mr Arafat and a member of the delegation. “We cannot accept that.”

After the Palestinian leader was put on hold for a speech by Mr Assad, “we understood the message: that the summit chairman will not allow Mr Arafat to make his speech – even if he wants to”.

At first the Lebanese organisers said they pulled the plug on Mr Arafat because they feared a live broadcast could be hijacked by Mr Sharon. Later, they blamed technical reasons and egos.

“Our Palestinian friends wanted their chairman to speak first, and when they saw the list was long, they lost patience,” said Ghassan Salameh, Lebanese summit spokesman.

The explanations suggest that more radical states such as Syria and Lebanon were working behind the scenes to deflect attention from Prince Abdullah’s peace proposal.

In his speech on al-Jazeera, Mr Arafat endorsed the Saudi initiative. However, Mr Assad and Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud were deeply unsettled by the gesture towards their sworn enemy.

Some of those reservations were acknowledged by Prince Abdullah yesterday, who toughened the original conditions of his proposal and down graded its reward for Israel.

The changes are a reversion to traditional Arab positions: a full Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied since the 1967 war, a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees – which was absent from the original proposal.

In an unusual appeal to Israelis, Prince Abdullah said that if their government accepted the plan: “We will not hesitate to accept the right of the Israeli people to live in security with the people of the region.”

Hopes that other states would rally behind the Saudi initiative to produce a collective Arab vision for peace were undercut by Syrian and Lebanese addresses.

“The real danger resides in our collective submission to ‘pressures’ to put an end to the resistance and intifada in return for halting aggression, totally discarding the occupation,” said Mr Lahoud. He called for the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes.

In a rambling discourse on terrorism and the aftermath of September 11, Mr Assad called on Arab states to support the uprising and to sever – or suspend ties – with Israel until peace was achieved.

It’s time to save the Palestinian people from the new holocaust they are living in,” he said.” [emphasis added]

Aftermath:

Shortly after the attack, at Al-Baset Odeh’s home in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, “the suicide bomber’s father, brother, uncle and other relatives sat at a wake, and received congratulations from friends and neighbors“. ”Everyone’s proud of him,” his older brother, Issam Odeh, reportedly said.

The following week, in early April, the Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg was one of the journalists who covered Israel’s military response to the Passover Massacre, Operation Defensive Shield.  Her report on the especially hard fighting in the West Bank town of Jenin, which involved house to house fighting in a neighborhood known to be a terrorist enclave, advanced the lie that an Israeli atrocity against innocent Palestinians had taken place. Her dramatic report on April 16, which used terms like “massacre” and “summary executions”, and accepted the most risible Palestinian claims at face value, were proven wildly inaccurate by a subsequent UN investigation.  Goldenberg never apologized, nor was a retraction ever published.  

Less than a year later, the Palestinian Authority named a football tournament after Shahid Abd Al-Baset Odeh.

A poster in which the Hamas movement in Tulkarm announces the death as a martyr of Muhammad Abd al-Basset Oudeh.

A poster in which the Hamas movement in Tulkarm announced the martyrdom of Abd al-Basset Oudeh.

Among the Palestinians released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011 was Hamas terrorist Nasser Yataima, who was sentenced to 29 life sentences for having planned the 2002 Passover Massacre.

Arafat’s terror war from 2000 to 2005 claimed 1064 Israeli lives.  Over seven thousand more were injured. The overwhelming majority of the Israeli victims were civilians.

The Guardian’s Chris McGreal flubs Jewish demography

The Guardian’s Chris McGreal published ‘Obama urged: act tough on Israel or risk collapse of a two-state solution‘ on March 19, which contained two signature McGreal tactics. First, there is the suggestion of faux concern by the Guardian reporter, in the context of discussing a two-state solution, that Israel must be ‘saved from itself’, citing “growing warnings” from unnamed Zionist supporters. Also, he again advances his false claim (see also here) that Netanyahu didn’t in fact agree to a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009.

But then there was this especially curious passage:

Others have pointed up a recent Hebrew University demographic study, which showed that Jews are now in a minority in the occupied territories – suggesting that Israel’s democratic and Jewish character are threatened by its reluctance to give up territory to an independent Palestine.

His claim was further illustrated in the accompanying photo caption:

caption

As would be obvious to even the causal Israel observer, of course, Jews are a minority in “occupied territories” and have been so since Israel’s founding.  There are no Jews in Gaza, roughly 325,000 Jews in the West Bank, and another roughly 190,000 in eastern Jerusalem. If you include Golan (another 19,000) that’s 537,000 Jews.  Since the non-Jewish population of of the West Bank is over 2.5 million, you don’t need a demographic study to conclude that Jews are a minority. 

So, while it’s difficult to know for sure what McGreal is referring to, he may have been eluding to a recently cited study by Sergio DellaPergola, a Hebrew University professor and expert on Israeli population studies.  However, McGreal, at the very least, evidently flubbed the data.  DellaPergola was citing the population of Jews relative to non-Jews in the entire historic land of Israel – from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, including Gaza, the West Bank and Israel proper – a politically meaningless stat, and certainly not consistent with McGreal’s characterization of the area as the “occupied territories”.  

Here’s a passage from a story about the issue in The Atlantic:

The statistics DellaPergola assembled are clear and their implications are frightening. Right now, the total number of Jews and Arabs living under Israeli rule in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza is just under 12 million people. At the moment, a shade under 50 percent of the population is Jewish.

Chris McGreal evidently conflated the data, confusing the Jewish population in the ‘occupied territories’ (in which they’re obviously a minority), with the total Jewish population the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel within the green line. 

Of course, there is one additional explanation for McGreal’s curious passage about “Jews now [being] a minority in the occupied territories.  Such a passage would follow only if he considers all of Israel ‘occupied Palestinian territory’.

So, which one is it:

1. McGreal comically misunderstood the data?

2. McGreal understood the data (concerning the Jewish population in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank), but he embraces the claims made routinely by Palestinian extremists (and some “moderate” Palestinians) that all of Israel is ‘occupied’ Palestinian land?

images

Whilst the former seems more likely, we wouldn’t put it past him to be implicitly endorsing the ‘Greater Palestine’ argument in the latter. 

Phoebe Greenwood’s polemical caricature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

1612We’ve recently commended Harriet Sherwood for her modest improvements in covering the region, and in taking the first tentative steps towards giving voice to the legitimate concerns of Israelis as well as Palestinians. Specifically, we noted that Sherwood, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, recently began seeking comment from mainstream Israelis, rather than simply those representing the far-left, thus enabling her readers to better understand the political dynamics at play in the Israeli -Palestinian Conflict.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for Phoebe Greenwood, who has filled in for Sherwood for over a month while she was away.  Greenwood, as with so many ‘journavists’, seems to see her role, in a manner consistent with the au courant post-colonial politics of her day, as providing a voice to the powerless – a binary paradigm which, in ignoring the broader Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Islamist regional conflict, necessarily tailors her reports in a manner which show Palestinians in the best possible light.  Israelis, when they enter the picture at all, are often crude caricatures – a recognizable Goliath in each chapter of the tale she conjures.

Greenwood’s latest report, ‘Palestinian buy land to protect future state and generations‘, March 18, is ostensibly a story about Palestinians purchasing land in the West Bank to secure their presence in the region.  However, such land acquisition is framed as merely a part in a larger Israeli-Palestinian struggle for territory, which she believes defines the conflict – a battle for over 5,000 sq kilometers of real estate in Judea and Samaria which, she claims, Israel is winning.

Israel, according to Greenwood, is winning the war for land by unfairly building “illegal” settlements.  In an effort to explain Israeli motivations for such ‘land grabs’, she adds the following:

Many Israeli Jews believe they have a God-given right to settle anywhere in the biblical land of Israel. Others justify the defiance of international law on the grounds of national security or argue that Arabs cannot be trusted.

This, evidently, represents Greenwood’s conception of Israeli Jews: Violators of international law motivated by religious fundamentalism and racism.

Whilst it’s nice that Greenwood also mentioned Israeli national security concerns, her lazy generalization fails to even address the fact that many Israelis (and many legal scholars) don’t believe that living in Judea and Samaria is ‘illegal’, as their political justification for their presence is supported by Jewish history and, more importantly, codified legally by the Mandate for Palestine – an international adjudication which has never been abrogated.

However, more toxic than Greenwood’s imputation of outlaw status to Israelis who live in communities on the other side of the 1949 armistice lines is the casual accusation of racism – representing a staggering moral inversion given Arab belligerence throughout Israel’s nearly 65 years of existence.

Though the breezy dismissal of Israeli concerns that a deal with the Palestinians, which potentially would remove hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes, may not in fact deliver peace, represents somewhat of the norm amongst even those in the media who claim to empathize with Zionism, the suggestion that such fears are inspired by anti-Arab racism is at best intellectually lazy, and arguably an indication of a broader malevolence.

Israeli Jews who are skeptical of Palestinian peace overtures are rationally responding to several different, though related, historical and political realities.

First, Israeli caution over the possibilities for peace are based, in part, on an understanding of most of the Arab world’s continuing refusal to accept, or in any way normalize relations with, the Jewish state within any borders – a concern only heightened by the ascendancy of Islamism since the start of the ‘Arab Spring’.

Second, Israelis have learned important lessons from the failures of Oslo, and, especially, their withdrawals from South Lebanon and Gaza – the latter representing a perfect cautionary tale regarding the danger of assuming the validity of the ‘land for peace’ formula , or even that Israeli presence in “occupied” land represents the main cause of Arab hostility.

Finally, to address Greenwood’s specific accusation, Israeli concerns over the sincerity of Arab leaders’ putative calls for peace are motivated, in part, by a sober understanding of the pervasive antisemitism among the overwhelming majority of citizens in the Arab world.  Israelis are aware of the state-sponsored hate spewing from Ramallah, Gaza City, Cairo, and Damascus, and understand intuitively that true peace can only be achieved when their neighbors begin to embrace truly liberal values – not merely in rejecting antisemitism, but by adopting democratic norms, treating women, gays and religious minorities with respect, and beginning to nurture a culture of self-criticism.

The path to peace in the region will be a long and arduous one, but must begin with a West, and Western media, that is just as demanding of the Arab world as they are of the Jewish state.  Such moral consistency would of course require the rejection of old, tired and destructive ideologies which place groups, a priori, in arbitrary categories of victim and oppressor – expecting little from the former and everything from the latter.

Until such a moral and journalistic revolution within the mainstream media occurs, however, we can expect stringers like Phoebe Greenwood to continue failing to hold a mirror to a sclerotic Arab political culture which represents a nearly impenetrable barrier to peace and progress in the Middle East.

What Harriet Sherwood missed while in Gaza: Hamas to demolish 75 ‘illegal’ Palestinian homes

Harriet Sherwood is quite drawn to stories about Arab and Palestinian homes, built without permission, demolished by Israeli authorities, and such Guardian reports are often accompanied by evocative photos of the women and children displaced by such demolitions. 

Here are just a few of her reports about home demolitions over the last few years:

july 14 2010

July 14, 2010

Aug. 3, 2010

Aug. 3, 2010

jan 14 2011

Jan. 14, 2011

Mar 1 2011

March 1, 2011

june 12 2011

June 12, 2011

dec 5 2011

Dec 5, 2011

Strangely, however, given Sherwood’s interest in such stories, her journalistic radar didn’t hone in on the following event, even though she just filed a report, on Feb. 13, directly from Gaza City.

Arab news sources such as Ma’an and Al-Akhbar reported the following on Feb. 12.

“Members of the Abu Amrah family in Gaza City demonstrated Tuesday in front of offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council protesting a decision by the Hamas-run government to demolish 75 houses belonging to the family in the al-Rimal neighborhood.

The government says it decided to demolish the houses because they were illegally built on public lands. The demolition is scheduled to be conducted Wednesday morning.”

According to Al-Akhbar, many of the Palestinians who will lose their homes are refugees.

“Bulldozers were stationed Wednesday outside the homes of nearly 75 families in al-Rimal neighborhood. Many of whom are Palestinian refugees displaced by Israel in 1948.”

One of the residents whose home is targeted for demolition by Palestinian authorities, Hazem Abu Hmeid, told Al-Akhbar:

“This is a great injustice, an act of persecution and a forceful imposition of Hamas’s own version of laws on refugees.”

A Gaza government official claimed the homes were built illegally on public land. However, as Al-Akhbar notes:

“Al-Rimal neighborhood lies in a busy commercial area where property values are among the highest in the coastal strip, and Many residents expect the government to open the area up to lucrative investments.”

I guess it’s safe to say that some Palestinian victims of home demolitions are more deserving of sympathy than others, at least according to the Guardian correspondent covering Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

‘Comment is Free’ contributor claims 1967 Six Day War was act of Israeli aggression

Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian Arab who’s the former director of the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, a radical group which has characterized Palestinian terror attacks as legitimate “resistance” and is currently being led by Shawan Jabarin, a Palestinian with alleged ties to the PFLP terrorist group.

raj

The Guardian posted a video on Oct. 9, 2012 of an interview with Shehadeh in which he casually suggested that Israel’s goal was to ethnically cleans Palestinians, so his latest “analysis” on Palestinians’ views about yesterday’s Israeli election, ‘Israel’s elections mean little to most Palestinians – with good reason‘, ‘Comment is Free’, Jan. 23, should come as no surprise.

Shehadeh didn’t waste any time contextualizing what he characterized as Palestinian indifference to the particular results of the Israeli election by evoking the political parallel of disenfranchised blacks under South African apartheid, and soon pivoted to the following additional fiction:

“Since the beginning of the occupation more than 44 years ago, no Israeli government has indicated willingness to accept that its status is that of an occupier of territory acquired through a belligerent war, and consequently been willing to withdraw from these areas and hand them over either to the surrounding Arab states or to a newly created sovereign, independent Palestinian state.”

The idea that Israel acquired territory in June 1967 though a “belligerent war” is a gross historical lie.

The Six Day War was instigated by Arab leaders who explicitly stated that their aim was nothing less than the annihilation of Israel, while Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol did everything possible to avoid a military confrontation with the much larger Arab forces.

In the weeks leading up to the war, Egypt’s President Nasser had ejected UN peace keeping forces from Sinai and Gaza, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, and contributed the bulk of forces to a combined Arab army – much of which was amassed along Israel’s porous borders – consisting of 500,000 troops, more than 5,000 tanks, and almost 1,000 fighter planes.  Threatening rhetoric coming from Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad included the following by Nasser on May 27 and 28, 1967:

“Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight . . . The mining of Sharm el Sheikh is a confrontation with Israel. Adopting this measure obligates us to be ready to embark on a general war with Israel.”

“We will not accept any … coexistence with Israel. … Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel …. The war with Israel is in effect since 1948.”

Additionally, while the Soviets had begun supplying the Arabs with arms in the build-up to the war, France, Israel’s major arms supplier, had issued a complete ban on weapons sales to the Jewish state.

Israel – which, in 1967, wasn’t in control of one inch of Arab territory – was facing total isolation, and the realistic prospect of complete annihilation, when the IDF launched a successful strike on the Egyptian Air Force on the morning of  June 5, ‘officially’ beginning a war which would result in a swift Israeli victory and the acquisition of Gaza and the Sinai, from Egypt, and the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem from Jordan.

Further, contrary to the duplicitous claims made by Shehadeh, in the immediate aftermath of Israel’s victory, Arab leaders, much to the surprise of Israeli leaders, maintained their belligerence and refused to enter into direct peace talks with the Jewish state.  Instead, at a meeting of the Arab League in Khartoum in September, they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel, and insisted on no peace, no negotiations, and no recognition.

Israel would subsequently withdraw from the Sinai, in the context of a peace treaty with Egypt, and leave Gaza unilaterally.  

However, Israeli offers to withdraw from nearly all of the remaining territory held since ’67, and offer statehood (within geographically contiguous boundaries) to Palestinian Arabs – who were never offered sovereignty under Egyptian and Jordanian rule – would be rebuffed by Yasser Arafat in 2000.  The Palestinian President responded to the peace offer by initiating a bloody terror war which would last over four years and claim over a thousand Israeli lives.  (Interestingly, in 2002 Shehadeh characterized Arafat as “admirable” for not having “betrayed” his people by accepting the Israeli peace offer.)

Another offer of Palestinian statehood, which included the equivalent (with land swaps) of 100% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, was rejected by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008.

Palestinians, like Arab leaders in ’67, have continued to say no to peace and recognition of the Jewish state.

While Guardian reporters and ‘CiF’ contributors are free to be as hostile to Israel’s existence as they wish, allowing such pro-Palestinian activists the right to engage in such polemical malice, and egregious misrepresentations of history, by characterizing the Six Day War as a Zionist ‘war of aggression’ more befits a Palestine Solidarity Campaign propaganda flyer than the virtual pages of a “serious” newspaper.

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