SOAS London event dispells ‘simplistic’ view that Hizbullah is a terror group

Cross posted from London-based blogger Richard Millett 

To say that my question “Is this book pro-Hizbollah?” wasn’t well received on Tuesday night at SOAS is an understatement.

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I was at the book launch of The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication written by Lina Khatib, Dina Matar and Atef Alshaer.

After I had asked my question Dina Matar said “I knew you were going to ask that” and Lina Khatib waved the book at me and said “Why don’t you read it?”

The book explains how Hizbullah has been successful in staying relevant since its 1982 inception by adapting itself to changing situations and communicating these adaptations through various means such as poetry and social media.

Hizbullah are poets? Who knew.

One can imagine: “To kill a Jew, or not to kill a Jew. That is the question.”

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Daily Mail characterizes Israeli tourists at Syrian look-out point as “ghoulish”

Ghoulish: Morbidly interested in death or disaster 

The Mount Bental Look-Out point in the Golan is one of the more popular Israeli mountain peaks, due in part to the beautiful views of the Golan, Mt. Hermon and Syria, and because it was the site of a battle during the Yom Kippur War in which 160 Israeli tanks successfully held off nearly ten times their number of Syrian tanks. 

Sightseers can also of course look down at the Syrian town of Quneitra and the Quneitra crossing point, the only border crossing between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights – the sight, quite recently, of fierce fighting between rebels from the Nusra Front and Syrian government forces.

Here’s the Daily Mail’s headline, evidently inspired in part by an EPA photo of the Bental look-out point, published on Sept. 5th.

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Now here’s a photo (and caption), used to illustrate the Daily Mail article, of those “ghoulish” Israeli daytrippers:

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Here are the opening passages of the article:

Donning T-shirts, shorts and sunglasses, they stand on a mountainside platform, gazing into the distance through sets of binoculars.

But these Israeli daytrippers aren’t just admiring the landscape – they are watching a fierce battle just over the Syrian border. One that now involves ISIS.

The militant group – which released a video of their execution of American journalist Steven Sotloff earlier this week – are now just half a mile from the Golan Heights border crossing between Israel and Syria.

The Queneitra crossing has already seen fierce fighting between the Syrian army and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, with the rebels taking control of the Syrian checkpoint just weeks ago.  

Today, smoke could be seen rising from the outskirts of the town of Quneitra as the Syrian military fired at the rebels, killing at least 16

Overlooking orchards spilling down the mountainside, the platform was the perfect spot for the local daytrippers to watch battle commence.

‘I can see the terrorists at the checkpoint,’ Majd Abu Akl, a Druze Israeli farmer, looking east through binoculars to Syria, told the Financial Times.

He identified some of the men as belonging to the Nusra Front by their black uniforms, while others were driving around in UN jeeps with black ISIS flags.

Israelis, who have long considered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad their bitter foe, are now worried about the threat of the ever-nearing militants.

‘There is a battle for control on the other side of the border; we are watching it carefully,’ said Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defence forces.  So far it hasn’t been pointed in our direction, but we need to be prepared for that day.’

Even if we are to assume that some of the Israelis seen in the photo came to his extremely popular lookout site specifically to watch the fighting, the big question which leaps to mind is how on earth the Daily Mail was able to establish that they came because they get perverse “ghoulish” pleasure in watching the death and destruction.

Finally, in a classic case of burying the lead, the next passage in the article highlights another dynamic related to ISIS.

It comes as a report of a gathering of ‘thousands’ of ISIS supporters at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has increased concerns that the extremist group’s sights are focused on Israel as a future target.

So, to recap:

1. A few dozen Israeli tourists go to Mt. Bental, where those “armed with binoculars” can evidently see fighting between Islamist rebels and Syrian government forces over the Quneitra border crossing.

2. Thousands of Palestinians showed up at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to show their support for barbaric jihadists known as ISIS.

3. The Daily Mail frames the story by speculating on the ill-motives of the Israeli tourists, while brushing aside (evidently as morally insignificant) the ugly spectacle of thousands of Palestinians showing their support for ISIS. 

As our analysis of the UK media’s coverage of the region consistently indicates, not only do foreign journalists see their job as making sure that “every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported”, but in fact often manage to frame even the most benign and innocent Israeli behavior in the most negative light possible.

Guardian cartoon juxtaposes ISIS and Netanyahu

No, this is not, by a long stretch, the worst Guardian cartoon (Martin Rowson on the Bárðarbunga volcano – cartoon, Aug. 24). And by that we mean, unlike other cartoons published by the media group that we’ve highlighted, this one is not antisemitic.  

However…

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Here’s a close up of the relevant section of the cartoon, which references recent news regarding a possible volcanic eruption in Iceland to make a point about ‘human sacrifice’ (a possible allusion to the row over the Elie Wiesel Anti-Hamas ‘Child Sacrifice’ Ad), violence and ‘savages’ among us:

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First, note the cartoon’s placement of evidently equally abhorrent “savages” – the ISIS jihadist, Netanyahu, the Hamasnik, Russia’s Putin, Egypt’s al-Sisi, Syria’s Assad, President Obama, Saudi’s King Abdullah and (possibly) Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau. 

Moreover, let’s remember one thing. This is the Guardian, and their cartoonist’s decision to place the Israeli Prime Minister right next to the ISIS jihadist is certainly not an accident.

Indeed, the mere absence of overt Judeophobic calumnies does not lessen the injurious editorial impact of Rowson’s graphic agitprop: by blurring the profound moral distinctions between antisemitic extremists and the Jewish target of their hate, it is hostile to the most elementary understanding of what opposing antisemitism means.

Condemning antisemitism in the abstract while failing to name, shame and condemn actual anti-Semites is the anti-racism of posers and cowards.

Glenn Greenwald and the ‘anti-imperialist’ inspired indifference to antisemitism

As Charles Krauthammer argued recently about information from the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s nuclear pursuits, in the context of Hassan Rouhani’s “charm offensive”:

It takes about 250 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in August that Iran already has 186 kilograms. That leaves the Iranians on the threshold of going nuclear. They are adding 3,000 new high-speed centrifuges. They need just a bit more talking, stalling, smiling and stringing along of a gullible West.

Of course, the term “gullible”, which suggests a degree of good intentions, doesn’t accurately characterize the politics of Glenn Greenwald.  If Greenwald was born in a previous era, he’d no doubt be parroting Soviet propaganda – not because he would have necessarily been a supporter Soviet communism (any more than he is currently a supporter of Islamism), but because his political orientation demands that he take a position sympathetic to America’s adversaries.

Glenn Greenwald addresses 2013 Socialism Conference via Skype

James Kirchick - whose recent courageous battle against Russia’s institutionalized anti-gay bigotry evidently failed to evoke Greenwood’s sympathy – has argued that the Guardian journalist “subscribes to a modernized version of the old trope attributing all that is wrong in the world to the behavior of the United States.”  And, if you think Kirchick is overstating the case, then all you have to do is look at Greenwald’s support for such odious figures as al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awaki, traitors such as Bradley Manning and, seemingly, any malicious political actor who ever opposed U.S. “hegemony”. 

Additionally, whilst murderous despots such as Bashar al-Assad never quite seem to inspire Greenwald’s liberal, “humanitarian” passions, he hasn’t hesitated in unleashing his full fury on Jewish, pro-Israel journalists who run afoul of his political sensibilities.

He has accused Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard and Martin Peretz of The New Republic of “psychopathic derangement” and “sociopathic indifference” and “celebration” over their alleged insensitivity toward civilian deaths in Iraq. Goldfarb and Peretz, he wrote, seem to get a “blood-pumping excitement” from the suffering of the weakest members of society.  Greenwald has also characterized Charles Krauthammer as “bloodthirsty”, and asserted: “It is difficult to find someone with a more psychopathic indifference to the slaughter of innocent people in pursuit of shadowy, unstated political goals than Charles Krauthammer.”

Though his latest Guardian column doesn’t employ such incendiary rhetoric against the journalistic object of his rage, his post (Brian Williams’ Iran Propaganda, Sept. 28), takes aim at the NBC News Anchor for making the ‘audacious’ claim that the new leadership in Iran is “suddenly claiming they don’t want nuclear weapons”, to which Greenwald sarcastically replies:

Yes, Iran’s claim that they don’t want nuclear weapons sure is “sudden” – if you pretend that virtually everything that they’ve said on that question for the past ten years does not exist.

Greenwald then quotes the firm denials of paradigms of honesty and moral clarity such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who, per Greenwald, “issued a 2005 religious edict banning the pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

However, according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published in April, there is no evidence that such a fatwa was ever issued. MEMRI demonstrates that the mysterious fatwa – cited by Iran apologists to attest to the “peaceful” designs of their nuclear program – is a fiction. MEMRI’s report included the following:

“An exhaustive search of the various official websites of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei turned up no such fatwa, either on his fatwa website or on his personal website….MEMRI’s investigation reveals that no such fatwa ever existed or was ever issued or published, and that media reports about it are nothing more than a propaganda ruse on the part of the Iranian regime apparatuses – in an attempt to deceive top U.S. administration officials…”

Was Greenwald – whose investigative skills are so highly touted by his supporters – truly unable to locate the MEMRI report contradicting his contention, one which was issued more than five months before his post?

Interestingly, MEMRI’s report also included details on the likely existence of a genuine fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader in 2006 “which states that shari’a does not forbid the use of nuclear weapons.”  

Moreover, as we reported in February, a website with close ties to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly outlined why it would be religiously acceptable to kill all Jews in Israel – a doctrine which details why the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of all its people would be legally and morally justified, and in accordance to Islamic doctrine.  

Whilst a throwaway line by one American journalist inspires Greenwald to outrage, multiple, extremely well-documented examples – mirroring the article cited above – of Iranian leaders engaging in incitement to genocide seem to leave him unmoved. Here are a few illustrations, from an extensive report by the JCPA:

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Whilst the silence of many leftist intellectuals in the face of such malice represents a stunning indictment on the devolution of a once proudly humanitarian movement, it’s important to stress that – though Greenwald and his fellow travelers certainly aren’t beyond employing antisemitic tropes - it would be inaccurate to infer that silence on the Iranian threat necessarily suggests malice towards Jews as such.  

In reading Greenwald, what most stands out is an adversarial dynamic, exhibited by such ideologues, explained by Anthony Julius:

Truth is to be arrived at by inverting the “us = good” and “other = bad” binarism.” [They] find virtue in opposing [their] own community.”

Or, as James Kirchick wrote about Greenwald in the Commentary essay noted above:

In his capacity as a legally minded pontificator of the far left, Greenwald might be called the Leonard Boudin of the interactive age. Boudin was the go-to lawyer for America’s most prominent Communists, left-wing radicals, and terrorists, not to mention the post-revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Like Boudin, Greenwald can always be relied upon to provide a defense for those who wish to do America and its allies harm. Greenwald has ranked his perverse sense of “anti-imperialism” ahead of any and all other considerations, including what many would expect to be his own self-interest. After all, how else could a gay Jew become the world’s most verbose Western apologist for homophobic, anti-Semitic fanatics and murderers?

Greenwald isn’t antisemitic, any more than he’s homophobic. It’s just that his anti-American, anti-Zionist, “anti-imperialist” ideological package demands continued fealty to those who are. 

Guardian publication corrects false claim that Israel used ‘chemical weapons’ in Gaza

The Jerusalem Post just reported the following regarding a false allegation against Israel made by Nabila Ramdani in an Observer commentary on Aug. 31:

Israel won a small battle Sunday against creeping attempts to equate Israel’s use of white phosphorous in Gaza to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons when the Observer in Britain issued a correction on the matter Sunday.

“Contrary to the impression given in Assad is a war criminal, but an attack will do nothing for the people of Syria”(Comment, last week, page 34), white phosphorus, used by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2008, is not a chemical weapon as understood by the Chemical Weapons Convention, and its use is in itself not ‘in breach of all international conventions,” the paper [a sister publication of the Guardian] noted on Sunday.

 Read the rest of the story here.

(Note: Though the correction was published at the Observer’s ‘For the record‘ page, the essay by Ramdani has not yet been revised accordingly.)

Robert Fisk finds Zionist smoking gun in likely U.S. attack against Syria

Although an Aug. 30 op-ed by the ethically and morally challenged Robert Fisk at The Independent didn’t reach level of lunacy seen in George Galloway’s claim that Israel supplied Assad with the chemical weapons used to kill over 1400 civilians, it was absurd enough to again prove that anti-Zionist polemicists can find Israeli fingerprints on almost any political phenomena in the Middle East.

Fisk’s essay, Iran, not Syria, is the West’s real target, began thusly:

Before the stupidest Western war in the history of the modern world begins – I am, of course, referring to the attack on Syria that we all yet have to swallow – it might be as well to say that the cruise missiles which we confidently expect to sweep onto one of mankind’s oldest cities have absolutely nothing to do with Syria. 

They are intended to harm Iran. They are intended to strike at the Islamic republic now that it has a new and vibrant president – as opposed to the crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and when it just might be a little more stable.

Iran is Israel’s enemy. Iran is therefore, naturally, America’s enemy. So fire the missiles at Iran’s only Arab ally.

I would have included additional passages used by Fisk to defend his suggestion of Israeli root causes, except that the accusation abruptly ends there. Fisk’s polemical hit-and-run then quickly pivots to another theme in his broad attempt to impute the darkest motives to likely US military action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In addition to the obvious point that Iran, since the 1979 revolution, has been America’s enemy as well as Israel’s, even by the low standards of anti-Zionist agitprop, Fisk’s thesis rests on a comically thin argument.  He would have Indy readers believe that the U.S. decision to engage in what will almost certainly be a very limited use of force against a few military targets in Syria, in retaliation for crossing President Obama’s red line over chemical weapons, actually represents a stealth plan to aid Israel.

It’s unclear of course how a few cruise missiles launched against Syrian chemical weapons sites would change the balance of power in the civil war, or even minimally disrupt Iran’s continuing military support for the regime in Damascus, or how any of this would affect Israel’s efforts to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.  However, to those preaching to the anti-Zionist choir – and engaging in the facile “who benefits?” causation – such pesky questions regarding empirical evidence are obviously never relevant.

Indeed, here’s what appears beneath the essay, where Indy readers are allowed to express their opinion of Fisk’s allegations:

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Fisk clearly understands the simple truth (proven by the continuing popularity of even the most comical Middle East conspiracy theories) that the mere absence of facts or logic is rarely a barrier for those determined to reach a preconceived anti-Zionist conclusion.

Guardian clashes with much of the Islamic world over U.S. military action in Syria

The likelihood that the Guardian would eventually publish an editorial opposing U.S. led military action in Syria in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons to murder of hundreds of civilians, and that the op-ed would evoke the 2003 Iraq War, was something approaching an empirical certainty.

Sure enough, yesterday, Guardian editors launched their pre-emptive polemical attack against even limited Western military action: 

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Here are the highlights from their editorial:

The West’s ‘war against Arabs and Muslims’

“After eight western interventions in Arab or Muslim countries in 15 years, sceptical generals and a hostile western public at large are entitled to answers.”

It’s about Iraq, stupid!

“Specifically in Syria, the most toxic and enduring element of the civil war – the sectarian battle between Sunnis and Shias – though a historic one, is a product of the way US forces used Shia militia when they first came under sustained attack from Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Syria is so intractable not just because of where it is, and who its neighbours are, but because the damage caused by such interventions is cumulative.”

Iran and Russia, the peacemakers:

“The return to Geneva [for peace talks] has to involve Russia and Iran, both of whom have acknowledged that chemical weapons have been used in Syria but blame their use on jihadi groups fighting on the rebel side

If the process of trying to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria was kept within the framework of the UN, or if, as the price of avoiding an airstrike, Iran could back the idea of a permanent UN presence in Syria monitoring Mr Assad’s stocks of chemical weapons, then a way back to the negotiating table could be found.”

Anyone familiar with Guardian editorials on the Middle East would surely recognize the narrative – a template for opposing military action in the Middle East which is employed seemingly regardless of the particular circumstances. 

Interestingly, however, especially in the context of the paper’s political sympathies towards the Arab and Muslim world, if you were to visit the homepage of The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – which defines their group as representing “the collective voice of the Muslim world” – you’d see the following:

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Here are highlights from their statement on Syria:

The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) reiterated its condemnation of the dreadful attack on the suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus with internationally banned chemical weapons, inflicting a heavy loss of lives among civilians. 

The General Secretariat also stressed the need to hold the Syrian Government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime and to bring its perpetrators to justice. It called on the Security Council to discharge its duty of preserving international security and stability, take a unified position against this monstrous crime and its perpetrators, and put an end to such violations, while reaffirming OIC’s consistent position on the preservation of Syria’s unity and stability. 

The General Secretariat indicated that this attack is a blatant affront to all religious and moral values and a deliberate disregard of international laws and norms, which requires a decisive action. 

The stance echoes an even more definitive resolution by the organization of Arab Gulf states (GCC), which earlier condemned the attack and called on the UN Security Council to authorize decisive action. 

Remarkably, such the positions suggest that much of the Arab and Muslim world doesn’t see a limited attack against Syrian military assets as representing an ‘attack against Muslims’, that they don’t give a damn what the Russians or Iranians think, and are not haunted by the fact that 10 years ago NATO forces launched a major war in Iraq and put an end to the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Whilst the motivations of Muslim and Arab states supporting Western intervention in Syria vary, they certainly aren’t paralyzed by the obtuse historical understanding and crippling ideology which informs a Guardian Left groupthink that surrenders to pacifism, if not cold indifference, in the face of even the most barbaric Muslim on Muslim violence in the MIddle East.

‘CiF’ contributor John Pilger lashes out at America’s “fascist” tendencies

Cross posted at the blog, Nick Nipclose 

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John Pilger

John Pilger, who has legitimized 9/11 conspiracy theories, suggested that Hezbollah’s resistance represented “humanity at its noblest” and supports neo-nazi Gilad Atzmon, claims, in his July 4 CiF essay, that the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales was “forced down” on “suspicion” that it was carrying a “political refugee” (Edward Snowden) to safety. The episode, he argues, is “a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders.”

Pilger, in contextualizing the incident, describes the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) as “a vast Orwellian police state apparatus servicing history’s greatest war-making machine…engaging in criminal activity on an epic scale“. And, though, for instance, the NSA cannot wiretap without warrants, Pilger quite fancies Hugo Chavez whose party passed legislation allowing warrantless wiretapping, and whose government engaged in manipulation of the judiciary and intelligence agencies – the latter which had spied on the country’s tiny Jewish population.

Additionally, Pilger’s central allegation regarding Morales’ plane seems to be highly questionable according to Philip Bump at The Atlantic, who notes that such claims seem to be relying on “reporting comes from a single source, the Bolivian government”, and that some of it has already been contradicted. The “tall tale of the re-routed Bolivian president’s plane is falling apart,” according to Michael C. Moynihan at the Daily Beast, and “does not make sense,” citing, for instance, an audio recording of the Bolivian pilot telling an air-traffic controller that they needed to land because they were unable to get a correct indication of the fuel indication.

Taking his bizarre narrative a step further, Pilger then argues that the incident reveals that “the democratic facades of the US now barely conceal a systematic gangsterism…historically associated with fascism.”

Pilger is a leftover from 20th century faux radicalism, evoking Buster Keaton in the twilight zone episode ‘Once Upon a Time’, a comical relic from a bygone era. Pilger engages in antisemitic tropes with abandon, produces lies in service of Baathists in Syria and runs interference for Iranian tyrants, yet is moved to liberal outrage by ‘American imperialism’ which he believes most people, unguided by his enlightened morality and keen intellect, are unable to detect.

Extremists like Pilger play populist games but reveal that they have a very low opinion of the masses they imagine themselves fighting for.

Guardian misleads on Israeli Druze, part 2: Unreliable Sources

In our previous post about a report by Phoebe Greenwood in the Guardian (‘Golan Heights braces for war as tensions rise between Syria and Israel, May 31) we exposed two errors.  The report grossly inflated the number of Druze in the Golan Heights (there are 20,000, not 80,000 as Greenwood claimed), and also falsely alleged that Druze is an “Islamic sect” when it is in fact a unique monotheistic religion which departed from Islam around the 11th century. 

As we noted in our last post (as a bit of background), Majdal Shams is one of the four Druze communities in the Golan Heights, with a population of about 9,000. After capturing the Golan Heights during the Six Day War, Israel offered all the Druze people living there citizenship—an offer most turned down. However, they all carry Israeli ID cards and are free to live, travel, work, and seek higher education anywhere in the Jewish state.

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Majdal Shams (Photo courtesy of Hadar Sela)

However, in addition to these factual errors, Greenwood’s report on the precarious position of residents of the Israeli-Syrian border town of Majdal Shams – in the context of a Syrian civil war which has already spread to Lebanon and now threatens Israel’s northern communities – relies largely on a Druze who she fails to fully identify.

Greenwood writes the following:

“We are in a very special situation. We are lucky our village wasn’t destroyed in 1967 because Israel considers us Druze so we are not a target for them. We are Syrian so we are not a target for Syria or for Hezbollah. We are like an island in this region,” explains Dr Maray Taisseer [sic], a consultant at the Majdal Shams medical centre and community spokesperson.

Leaving aside the risible claim that the Syrian Druze community in the Golan wouldn’t ever be targeted by the Iranian sponsored Shiite Islamist movement or the regime of Bashar Assad because neither would dare target ‘Syrians’, it’s misleading to refer to Dr. Taisseer Maray (Greenwood conflated his first and last names) as a “community spokesman”.  

Maray, Greenwood primary source, is in fact the director of a highly politicized, pro-BDS NGO, Golan for Development, and has stated his opposition to the existence of a Jewish state within any borders.

Greenwood then quotes Maray further:

The war, if it comes, may not be a disaster, Taisseer suggests, if it delivers Golan back into Syrian hands.

“Whatever happens in Syria, everyone agrees we should be liberated – it doesn’t matter whether it’s by regime or rebel forces. This is Syrian land and that is clear,” he states unequivocally.

However, as my colleague Hadar Sela (a longtime resident of the Golan) observed, it’s clear to those who have truly gotten to know the Druze of Majdal Shams over a number of years that ‘everyone’ does not agree.  The vast majority of Druze there have family in Syria and they’re likely terrified about their safety. Hence, every word they say, Sela argued, “is likely measured because they know full well that a wrong word in the media may have serious consequences.”

Further, as Middle East analyst Michael Totten has observed about the Golan Druze in World Affairs Journal:

[Druze are] loyal to whoever is in charge of the country they live in…The Druze on the Golan are no different from Israeli or Lebanese Druze in this way, but their political geography is different. Though they’re governed by Israel now, they may be governed again by Syria later. So even though Israel offers them citizenship, most haven’t taken it. They’re afraid of the consequences if Syrian rule ever returns.

Also quite noteworthy are comments by the mayor of Majdal Shams, Dolan Abu-Salah, who suggested in an interview in 2012 that living in Israel was a “privilege”.  Abu-Salah went on to boast that, by living in the state of Israel, “we [Druze] enjoy all the benefits of a very democratic regime. We pay taxes. And we get excellent social benefits.”

Shefaa Abu Jabal, a prominent Majdal Shams Druze spokesperson (and anti-Assad activist) explained in an interview with Dissent Magazine last summer that though her heart may long emotionally for Syria, she is “100 percent aware that thanks to my education that I received here in Israel I can express my opinion more freely”. Indeed, last July Abu Jabal passed the Israeli bar after graduating from Haifa University Law School—the first Syrian Druze woman resident of Israel to graduate from an Israeli university.

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Shefaa Abu Jabal in Majdal Shams

Just two weeks after Abu Jabal uttered those words, she emailed the journalist at Dissent to say that she had deactivated her Facebook page. She needed to “be out of the spotlight” for a while, and “to protect her allies living under Assad“.

Whilst it may be difficult to determine with any degree of empirical certainty how “most” Druze in Majdal Shams feel about the war in Syria, or their Israeli identity, Greenwood’s story – and her reliance on selected “spokespersons” – represents a good example of the risks of taking reports by Guardian journalists who are compromised by preconceived narratives about the region at face value.

Harriet Sherwood warns that Israel may “internationalize” Syrian war

In previous posts we’ve commented on wild accusations by both Guardian contributor Patrick Seale and the Indy’s Robert Fisk warning that recent Israeli military operations in Syria – to prevent sophisticated weapons from getting in the hands of Hezbollah – runs the risk of dragging a reluctant US, or its allies, into the three-year war.

Fisk (writing in the Indy) warned:

…Israel has now intervened in the Syrian war.  It may say it was only aiming at weapons destined for the Hezbollah – but these were weapons also being used against rebel forces in Syria.  By diminishing the regime’s supply of these weapons, it is therefore helping the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad. And since Israel regards itself as a Western nation – best friend and best US military ally in the Middle East, etc, etc – this means that “we” are now involved in the war, directly and from the air. 

Seale (writing for Middle East Online) was even more explicit in imputing Israeli malice:

Although Israel was evidently delighted with the weapons, this did not inhibit it from accusing Syria of using chemical weapons — clearly in the hope of provoking a U.S. attack on that country.

Harriet Sherwood’s May 20 report, John Kerry to visit Middle East this week to revive peace talks, which explores the broader regional political and strategic challenges beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advances a similar trope.

Sherwood’s report includes the following passage:

Much of the secretary of state’s attention will be focussed on Syria during his four-day trip to the Middle East, which includes visits to Oman and Jordan. He is expected to discuss with Netanyahu Israel’s recent airstrikes on weapons stores near Damascus and the risks of such action internationalising the civil war, now into its third year.

Unlike Fisk and Seale, Sherwood doesn’t expand on her contention that such limited Israeli involvement could result in wider international involvement in the war.  Moreover, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent fails to acknowledge that the war (which has claimed up to 90,000 lives, and resulted in roughly 1.5 million refugees) was “internationalized” long before the Israeli strike – with Iran, Hezbollah and Russia playing leading roles in the pro-Assad axis.

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Bombed-out mosque in the northern town of Azaz, 47km north of Aleppo

Iran’s role in keeping Assad in power is significant — supplying the regime with a large and strategically important supply of weapons and advisors, and allowing terrorists from its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to cross into Syria and fight alongside government forces. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have even been training key Syrian military and security forces and helping the regime expand its military capabilities. 

Additionally, Russia, motivated by both financial considerations and the desire to maintain influence in the region by preventing the departure of one its few strategic allies, continues to provide diplomatic cover for Assad (such as vetoing UN sanctions) and, most importantly, sends a huge supply of sophisticated arms to government forces.

Finally, recent efforts by the UK to lift the EU arms embargo on Syria, in order to possibly begin funneling weapons to selected opposition groups, suggests an evolving view that though all of the potential political outcomes in the civil war are fraught with danger, the West increasingly believes that it can not sit idly by and watch as the most extreme Al Qaeda backed rebel groups, such as the Nusra Front, gain strength.

Whatever additional limited IDF operations may be launched against Syrian arms destined for Hezbollah will represent a quite rational and intuitive political decision to prevent the illegal Shiite Islamist militia occupying Lebanon from gaining more deadly weapons to use against Israeli citizens.  

The Arab on Arab bloodshed in Syria has been “internationalized” since the beginning of the conflict, and whatever limited actions Jerusalem may take to limit the violence crossing its border will have little or no bearing on the decisions world powers will make independently regarding how best to secure their own interests in a Middle East war which shows no signs of abating. 

‘CiF’ contributor Patrick Seale accuses Israel of “provoking” the US to war in Syria

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Patrick Seale

Whilst even before the state of Israel was reborn antisemitic demagogues like Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin characterized American Jews as disloyal “fifth columnists” who were pushing the U.S. to war for financial reasons, even after the war any temporary post-Holocaust taboos on the imputation of such malevolence to Jews soon were eroded. 

Paul Findley, a former U.S. Congressman whose book They Dare to Speak Out, an attack on the ‘pernicious’ influence of the “Israel lobby,” became a bestseller in 1985.  And, a couple of decades later academics considered to be foreign policy “realists”, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, became popular within anti-Zionist circles after their publication of ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’.  The book warned of the “stranglehold” which the Israel “Lobby” exercises over Congress; of their “manipulation of the media” and efforts to “squelch debate”.  They also argued that the 2003 Iraq war wouldn’t have been possible without the influence of Israel and the American Israel lobby.

While paleoconservative commentators in the mid to late 2000s have unsurprisingly also championed this narrative – Pat Buchanan wrote in 2008 that “Israel and its Fifth Column in [Washington , DC] seek to stampede us into war with Iran” – some liberal columnists have engaged in similar rhetoric.  For instance, columnist Joe Klein asserted in his TIME blog that Jewish neoconservatives “plumped” for the war in Iraq and are now doing the same for “an even more foolish assault on Iran” with the goal of making the world “safe for Israel.”  

Additionally, Guardian contributors have advanced the specious claim that Israel, or the Israel lobby, are primarily responsible for US sanctions against Iran, and represent a powerful and dangerous force pushing the US to outright war against the Islamic Republic. Such narratives, with varying degrees of explicitness, have been advanced by, among other CiF contributors, veteran Guardian journalists Simon Tisdall and Simon Jenkins, and the paper’s associate editor, Seumas Milne.  And, of course, Glenn Greenwald has been the most explicit promoter of the ‘Jewish necon’ cabal to take the country to war against Iran’ meme, arguing the following at his previous blog at Salon.com in 2007.

It is simply true that there are large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests and they perceive it to be in Israel’s interests for the U.S. to militarily confront Iran.

Turning to the crisis in Syria, whilst we recently commented on suggestions made by Robert Fisk at the Indy that recent Israeli strikes on weapons in Syria intended for Hezbollah was an act which would recklessly push ‘the West’ into the Syrian war, a recent commentary by occasional Guardian contributor Patrick Seale, writing in ‘Middle East Online‘, takes Fisk’s hysterical claim a few steps further.

He writes:

On April 23, a senior Israeli officer, Brig Gen Utai Brun, head of research at army intelligence, made a serious accusation against Syria. In a lecture at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, he declared: “To the best of our professional understanding, the Syrian regime has used lethal chemical weapons against gunmen in a series of incidents in recent months…” General Brun gave no evidence for his accusation and produced no physical proof, but he added that the Israel Defence Forces believed Syria had used the nerve agent sarin on several occasions, including a specific attack on March 19.

In addition to Seale’s erroneous suggestion that it was Israel alone which charged Syria with using chemical weapons – French and British intelligence claimed on April  18 (several days before the Israeli claims cited by Seale) that “there is credible evidence that Syria has fired chemical weapons”  – his argument that such charges are without “proof” is contradicted by recent statements by the Obama Administration  charging Assad with using such weapons.

Seale’s commentary continues: 

As it happened, [Israeli] General Brun made his accusation against Syria during a three-day visit to Israel by America’s new Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel — a man whose appointment Israel’s supporters in the United States had sought to prevent. Some Jewish organisations had come close to calling him anti-Semitic. Only by eating humble pie did Hagel manage to have his appointment confirmed. He now clearly hopes to put an end to his quarrel with America’s pro-Israeli lobby.

On this his first visit to Israel as Defence Secretary, he announced that Israel was to receive a rich haul of advanced U.S. weapons — air refuelling tankers, cutting-edge radar and the V-22 Osprey ‘tiltrotor’ aircraft, an advanced plane so far denied to all other US allies. But Hagel’s generous gesture was to no avail.

Seale’s facile logic assumes that the decision by the US Defense Department to sell Israel advanced weaponry – which was part of a broader Middle East arms package which included weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – must be the result, not of deliberations by the national security apparatus of the Obama administration, but of Secretary Hagel’s wish to mollify the pro-Israel lobby.

Seale then jumps to his broader conclusion:

Although Israel was evidently delighted with the weapons, this did not inhibit it from accusing Syria of using chemical weapons — clearly in the hope of provoking a U.S. attack on that country.

Hagel was angry that Israel was putting pressure on the United States to intervene in Syria. The Israeli authorities may well have thought that Hagel, still recovering from the beating pro-Israelis had given him in Washington, would not dare dispute Israel’s assessment

Finally, Seale makes this extraordinary leap:

By insisting that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, General Brun’s aim seems to have been to persuade the United States to destroy both the Syrian regime and its Hezbollah ally

Interestingly, however, while some anti-Zionists have indeed accused Israel of siding with the rebels, many others have made the opposite claim – that Israel is siding with Assad and against the revolution in order to maintain relative peace on their northern border.  The failure of anti-Israel propagandists to stay on message aside, Israel has continually made it clear both in word and in deed that it is not at war with Syria, but primarily concerned with the threat posed by Hezbollah – an Iranian backed heavily armed Shiite Islamist terror group occupying large swaths of Lebanon.

Moreover, you’d be hard pressed to find a commentator or analyst other than Seale who has seriously argued that Israel is deviously trying to provoke the US into a Middle East war against its will. Seal’s accusation that Israel is “provoking” the US to “destroy” both the Syrian regime and Hezbollah is pure fantasy, concocted by a lazy and easily suggestible mind mired in historically based conspiratorial notions imputing enormous power to both the Jewish state and its supporters in the US.

Glenn Greenwald’s latest diatribe against Israel’s supporters, and others he detests

- “The outgoing Salon blogger can’t seem to have an honest discussion without accusing his debate partners of malicious motives”. (Foreign Policy Magazine, Aug. 16, 2012, 

Glenn Greenwald doesn’t seem much interested in the vexing moral questions naturally elicited by the ongoing bloodbath in Syria. The Arab dictator’s bombing of civilians, and the routine use of torture,  summary executions, and sexual violence against women and children by troops and ethnic groups loyal to the regime don’t weigh heavily on his conscience.   

And, whilst the putative topic of Glenn Greenwald latest CiF piece would suggest an interest in Israel’s recent, brief military foray into the conflict, he characteristically doesn’t attempt to engage in anything approaching serious critical scrutiny over IAF operations to destroy sophisticated Iranian made weaponry heading to Hezbollah.   Similarly, he doesn’t bother devoting space in his column calculating the political, military and political factors at play in the regional threat faced by the Jewish state from Bashar al-Assad and his Shiite Islamist allies, Hezbollah and Iran.

Additionally, Greenwald doesn’t take a stab at weighing the costs and benefits of Israeli military action relative to the alternative of simply allowing the illegal militia occupying much of Lebanon – which has already accumulated an arsenal of thousands of sophisticated rockets – free rein to further threaten Israeli communities, and what remains of Lebanon’s tattered national sovereignty.

Indeed, in reading Glenn Greenwald it seems clear that he doesn’t much fancy such serious, critical analyses of the real and often vexing political and moral decisions faced by democratically elected heads of state.

Greenwald’s inspiration – the blogging muse which constantly ignites his frenetic prose – lay in deconstructing the confidence and righteousness of democracy’s defenders, and those otherwise possessed with the moral clarity which he seems to so detest.

He informs us in quite vivid language, yet in tellingly vague military terms, about of the damage caused by Israel’s bombs  - which he notes are “massive” - and the IDF’s military objective communicated by “Israeli defenders” – and, evidently, only “Israeli defenders” – of targeting weapons provided by Iran that were to end up in the hands of Hezbollah.

And, he then – again, avoiding directly weighing in on the policy decision at hand – evokes a straw man while lashing out at supporters of Israel’s action.

Because people who cheer for military action by their side like to pretend that they’re something more than primitive “might-makes-right” tribalists, the claim is being hauled out that Israel’s actions are justified by the “principle” that it has the right to defend itself from foreign weapons in the hands of hostile forces.

Greenwald then descends further into the absurd:

Or, for that matter, if Syria this week attacks a US military base on US soil and incidentally kills some American civilians (as Nidal Hasan did), and then cites as justification the fact that the US has been aiding Syrian rebels, would any establishment US journalist or political official argue that this was remotely justified?

Of course, Nidal Hasan didn’t “incidentally” kill some American civilians.  He entered the Soldier Readiness Processing Center in Fort Hood, TX in 2009 and, armed with several high-caliber assault rifles, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” while open firing on a room crammed with fellow soldiers. Hasan “sprayed bullets at soldiers in a fanlike motion” before aiming at individual soldiers.  Nidal didn’t attack a “military base”, but engaged in a cold-blooded execution of as many people as possible.

Greenwald’s contemptuous critique continues:

Few things are more ludicrous than the attempt by advocates of US and Israeli militarism to pretend that they’re applying anything remotely resembling “principles”. Their only cognizable “principle” is rank tribalism: My Side is superior, and therefore we are entitled to do things that Our Enemies are not

One could say quite reasonably that this is the pure expression of the crux of US political discourse on such matters: they must abide by rules from which we’re immune, because we’re superior. So much of the pseudo-high-minded theorizing emanating from DC think thanks and US media outlets boils down to this adolescent, self-praising, tribalistic license: we have the right to do X, but they do not. 

This whole debate would be much more tolerable if it were at least honestly acknowledged that what is driving the discussion are tribalistic notions of entitlement and nothing more noble.

Greenwald, a review of his posts on the subject of terrorism suggests, doesn’t merely advance the post-modern cliché that ‘one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, but believes that the term “terrorism” is racially loaded and that the suggestion of serious moral distinctions between political actors represents an expression of primitive triumphalism.  

Greenwald not only isn’t prepared to acknowledge that regimes in Damascus, Khartoum, Pyongyang, or Tehran (for instance) may have less regard for human rights than those in Washington, D.C. or Jerusalem, but that those possessing such beliefs are necessarily compromised by intellectually and morally debilitating ethnocentric biases.

As such, for Greenwald, the suggestion of considerable moral differences between Syria and Israel is necessarily loaded with the pathos of “tribalistic license”.

A review of his latest post, as well as much of his work to date, demonstrates that he’s not prepared to engage in serious thinking regarding the threats posed in the region by the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis.  Nor does he possess the capacity to conduct a broader analysis of the Middle East – in the context of the Arab upheavals in general and the Syrian war in particular – and dissect the continuing democracy deficit in the region.

In his latest 800 word diatribe against Israel’s “supporters”, Greenwald doesn’t even briefly suggest why Israel’s limited military operation in Syria wasn’t justified, because such quotidian concerns – relating to how citizens of democratic nations can most effectively, and most ethically, defend themselves from hostile state and non-state actors – don’t seem to much interest him.

For a careful, sober political survey of the Israeli-Arab (and Israeli-Islamist) conflict, and the broader issues concerning the “Arab Spring”, you’ll have to seek the commentary of serious analysts - those more concerned with honestly assessing the political dynamics of the region than with engaging in ad hominem and often hysterical attacks against their opponents. 

Robert Fisk convinces himself that Israel has ‘dragged the West into Syrian war’

It seems that the ethically challenged British ‘journalist’ Robert Fisk wanted desperately to impute the worst motives to Israel in analyzing reports of up to a dozen IAF strikes over the last few days on advanced Syrian weapons to prevent their transfer to Hezbollah.  However, the weakness of his latest essay suggests that he may have found the case against Israel’s sober decision not to allow Iranian made Fateh-110 missiles to fall into the hands of the Shiite terror movement allied with Bashar al-Assad was simply too difficult.

File photo of the Iranian made Fateh 110 missile, which Israel reported targeted in raids into Syria over the weekend.

File photo of the Iranian made Fateh 110 missile, which Israel reportedly targeted in raids into Syria over the weekend.

Facts have not served much of an obstacle for Fisk in the past when desiring a particular conclusion to a story, and his May 5 piece in the Indy –  implicitly suggesting that Israel is dragging unwilling, ineffectual Western governments into foreign wars - seems to be no exception.

fisk

He begins by expressing skepticism over the ‘official’ reason for Israel’s reported raid on Bashar al-Assad’s weapons and military facilities:

The story is already familiar: the Israelis wanted to prevent a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon;  they were being sent by the Syrian government. According, at least, to a ‘Western intelligence source’. Anonymous, of course. And it opens the old question: why when the Syrian regime is fighting for its life would it send advanced missiles out of Syria?

Well, for starters, Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, a conflict, now in its third year, which has claimed over 70,000 lives and produced over one million refugees. But as fighting between forces loyal to the Assad regime and the rebels escalates,  Assad has a powerful interest in facilitating the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case he loses his grip on power and it becomes more difficult for the regime to channel weapons from Iran directly to Damascus.

Additionally, some analysts have argued that an even more heavily armed Hezbollah could become a powerful ally for Assad if he is forced to leave Damascus and take refuge in the Hezbollah-controlled northern Bekaa Valley.

Later, Fisk gets to the central thesis of his polemic:

Much more important, however, is the salient fact that Israel has now intervened in the Syrian war.  It may say it was only aiming at weapons destined for the Hezbollah – but these were weapons also being used against rebel forces in Syria.  By diminishing the regime’s supply of these weapons, it is therefore helping the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad. And since Israel regards itself as a Western nation – best friend and best US military ally in the Middle East, etc, etc – this means that “we” are now involved in the war, directly and from the air. 

Fisk’s specious logic nearly “Fisks” itself, as his entire argument – that Israel has dragged the West into a foreign war – seems largely based on the following argument cum non-sequitur:

1. Israel has attacked arms caches in Syria

2. Israel regards itself as a Western nation.

3. Therefore, Israel has dragged the West into the Syrian war.

The Indy contributor offers nothing else to suggest that Israeli strikes to prevent the transfer of deadly weapons to Syria has any influence whatsoever on the current debate in the US, or within other Western nations, over whether to intervene militarily in the civil war.

Of course, in addition to the speciousness of his logic, Fisk is essentially parroting Assad talking points – which, notably, was also employed in a highly misleading headline chosen by a major UK news corporation - that Israel is acting in alliance with “Islamist terrorists” to overthrow the regime, a charge so unserious that even Guardian Middle East Editor Ian Black dismissed it as “lacking any evidence”.

Finally, Fisk complains thusly:

Let’s see if the US and the EU condemn Israel’s air attacks. I doubt it. Which would mean, if we are silent, that we approve of them.

However, Fisk’s suggestion that the US has been “silent” on the reported attacks is flatly untrue.

President Obama stated, after news of IAF strikes on Syria was first reported, that Israel was justified to guard “against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terror groups like Hezbollah” and suggested that there is considerable US-Israeli coordination regarding the threat of weapons transfers in Syria – a clear expression of support for Israel’s right to self-defense which was also echoed yesterday by UK foreign secretary William Hague.

One of the few places outside of the Syrian propaganda ministry where Israel’s decision to prevent Hezbollah – an Iranian backed illegal militia which occupies large swaths of Lebanon – from acquiring more deadly weaponry represents a ‘dangerous provocation’ which may ignite another Western war in the Mid-East is the mind of Robert Fisk.

George Galloway boycotts 6 million Jews

To those who don’t believe that BDS and other forms anti-Zionist agitation often lead to racism, here’s a video posted today at the site of the Oxford University Student Union.

The Respect MP (and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor) had just begun to debate Eylon Aslan-Levy, a student at Brasenose, a constituent college of Oxford, on the motion ‘Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank’.

Here’s what transpired next.

 

Galloway had been “misled”.  He wouldn’t have agreed to participate if he knew he was debating an Israeli.  He said:

 “I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis.

(I guess we can assume his policy of exclusion doesn’t extend to Muslim and Arab citizens of the state.)

So, out of a population of roughly 13.5 million Jews in the world, 6 million live in Israel. 

George Galloway, who has paid homage to Saddam Hussein, “glorified” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and even praised the Syrian butcher, Bashar al-Assad, doesn’t respect 44% of the world’s Jews.

Whilst there is always the danger of using gratuitous political analogies in even the most sincere attempts to characterize the extreme malevolence of the BDS movement, there is a passage in a book about European Jewish history I read a while back which used a darkly evocative term that seems, at least in this context, historically apt.

The book, ‘The fate of European Jews’, by Leni Yahil, characterized the effects of the Nuremberg Laws and other antisemitic measures enacted by Germany in the 1930s as condemning the nation’s Jews to a “social death” – an idea which resonates at least when contextualizing the political objectives of some of the most extreme anti-Israel activists.

George Galloway, by, in effect, boycotting and refusing to recognize the moral legitimacy of Israelis (and not merely the state or its institutions), is attempting to consign six million Jewish men, women and children to pariah status, and social exclusion from the international community.

This is the hideously racist moral place the malign obsession with the Jewish state – often the sine qua non of the BDS movement – inevitably leads.    

More than a cartoon: What Jews talk about when they talk about antisemitism

The Gerald Scarfe Sunday Times cartoon controversy has followed a familiar pattern, with some arguing that the depiction of the bloody trowel wielding Israeli Prime Minister torturing innocent souls – published on Holocaust Memorial Day – evoked the classic antisemitic blood libel, while others (including Guardian contributors and cartoonists) dissented, claiming that Scarfe had no racist intent and was merely critiquing the policies of a head of state who happened to be a Jew.

In response to some who have noted, in Scarfe’s defense, that he had previously depicted Syria’s Assad using a similar blood motif, Stephen Pollard of The JC aptly noted: “But there’s never been an anti-Alawite blood libel, and the context matters. The blood libel is central to the history of antisemitism.”

Though Scarfe may have indeed possessed no antisemitic intent whatsoever, Pollard is stressing that the effect of the cartoon simply can’t be ignored, and that historical context matters.

When we talk about antisemitism at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ on this blog we’re not claiming to possess some sort of political mentalism – a piercing moral intuition which grants us access to the souls of their journalists and contributors.  Similarly, we’re not suggesting that we can ever tell with any degree of certainty that, when we argue that criticism of Israel crosses the line to antisemitism, the writer who’s the focus of our ire is necessarily haunted by dark Judeophobic thoughts.

Rather, many of us who talk seriously about antisemitism are skilled at identifying common tropes, narratives and graphic depictions of Jews which are based on prejudices, stereotypes and mythology and which have historically been employed by those who have engaged in cognitive or physical war against Jews.

Though I’m now an Israeli, an apt analogy on the moral necessity of understanding and being sensitive about the racist context of seemingly benign ideas can be derived from my experience growing up in America.

Those who grew up in the US and inherited not the guilt but the moral legacy of slavery and segregation intuitively understand that we owe African-Americans an earnest commitment to strenuously avoid employing the linguistic, cultural and political currency of racism’s tyrannical reign.  Though race relations have matured immeasurably by any standard, and codified bigotry all but eliminated, there are, nonetheless, unwritten prohibitions against language which, even though often unintended, hearkens back to the past, evoking the haunting memory of the nation’s past sins.

In America, comedians avoid black-face routines, in which white performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person.  A mainstream newspaper wouldn’t publish a cartoon depicting an African-American as lazy and shiftless, nor would any publication present a black public figure (in any context) as  a boot licking  ‘Uncle Tom.  And, someone using the N-word (in public or private) would be rightfully socially ostracized or at least stigmatized as crude racist.

Such political taboos in America have developed organically over time in response to a quite particular historical chapter, and are recognized by most as something akin to an unwritten social contract on the issue of race.  White Americans can not ever fully understand black pain, the learned cognitive responses from their collective consciousness, but it is reasonable of them to expect that we not recklessly tread, even if without malice, on their sacred shared memory.  

Further, whites who honor this implied covenant – and avoid evoking such narratives and imagery – by and large don’t bemoan the so-called “restrictions” placed on their artistic or intellectual expression, or complain that African-Americans are stifling their free speech.  Rather, such unwritten rules, social mores and ethical norms about race are typically understood to represent something akin to a moral restitution for a previous generation’s crimes.  While in the US, the First Amendment affords legal protection to those who would engage in anti-black hate speech, it is largely understood that responsible citizenship often requires self-restraint – the greatness of a people measured by what they are permitted to do, but decide not to in order to preserve national harmony, what’s known in Judaism as Shalom bayit.  

When Jews talk seriously about antisemitism they are asking those who don’t wish to be so morally implicated to avoid needlessly poisoning the political environment which Jews inhabit.

They are appealing to the better angels of their neighbors’ nature by asking them not to carelessly conjure calumnies such as the “danger” to the world of Jewish power or conspiracies , Jews’ “disloyalty” to the countries where they live, that Jews share collective guilt for the sins of a few, that they’ve come to morally resemble their Nazi persecutors, or that Jews intentionally spill the blood of innocents.

In short, we are asking that decent people avoid employing canards which represented the major themes in Europe’s historic persecution of Jews, and which, tragically, still have currency on the extreme left, the extreme right, and, especially, in much of the Arab and Muslim world today.

The Scarfe/Sunday Times row is about more than the cartoon itself, and it is certainly not about the “right” to offend. It’s about sober but passionate pleas by a minuscule minority that decent people not afflict the historically afflicted, and to recognize their moral obligations to not provide aid and comfort to anti-Jewish racists.  

We are asking genuine anti-racists to resist becoming, even if unintentionally, intellectual partners or political fellow travelers with those who trade in the lethal narratives and toxic calumnies associated with the resilient Judeophobic hatred which has caused us immeasurable pain, horrid suffering and indescribable calamities through the ages.