Guardian contributor blames 1929 Arab massacre of Jews on Zionist provocations

During my youth in Poland, I asked a group of Poles why they felt a need to beat up Jews, and they responded that the very presence of Jews was a “provocation. - Menachem Begin

In an otherwise unproblematic 2010 Guardian review (that we just came across) of a book by Martin Gilbert, titled ‘In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands’, there was the following remarkable claim:

The influx of Zionist pioneers into Palestine from 1897 onwards, and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, had a fateful impact on Jewish-Muslim coexistence. In such a bitter conflict we are all parti pris and even a scrupulous recorder like Gilbert is drawn into polemics and apologetics. For example, in detailing the shocking Arab riots of 1929 – in which 133 Jews were killed and 339 wounded – he might have mentioned that the violence was fueled in large part by the provocations of Zionist activists at the Wailing Wall (as with Ariel Sharon’s walkabout on the Temple Mount before the second intifada)

Leaving his specious claim about Sharon and the intifada aside, its first important to point out that the ’1929 Riots’ refers to several massacres that year - one in Jerusalem that the author is referring to, one in Hebron and one in Safed.

Regarding the Jerusalem incidents, to blame “Zionist activists at the Wailing Wall’ for the Arab massacres is nothing but a propagandistic historical fabrication.

The following was written by Ricki Hollander, Senior Analyst at CAMERA, on the 1929 massacres:

In September 1928, a small group of Jews erected a “mechitza” (a divider to separate men and women during prayers) for Yom Kippur prayers at the Western Wall. The British forcibly dismantled the divider, but  Haj Amin al Husseini [the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem] used this incident as a pretext to incite Muslims. He accused the Jews of attempting to seize Muslim holy sites, including the al Aqsa Mosque.

A virulent propaganda campaign calling for jihad against the Jews resulted in the frequent beating and stoning of Jews worshipping at the Wall and culminated in widespread, murderous riots across Palestine in August 1929.

August 15, 1929 was Tisha B’Av, the day on which Jews commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple. Thousands of Jews marched to the Wall to protest British restrictions on Jewish prayer there, and to reaffirm their Jewish connection to the holy site. They displayed their nationalistic fervor by singing Hatikvah (later to become Israel’s national anthem). The following day, mobs of armed Arab worshippers inflamed by anti-Jewish sermons, fell upon Jewish worshippers at the Wall, destroying Jewish prayer books and notes placed between the stones of the wall. On August 17, a Jewish boy was killed by Arabs during ensuing riots in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bukharan.

According to the Davar newspaper of August 20, 1929, incitement against the Jews was rampant, especially in the Jerusalem and Hebron area. Rumors were spread that Jews had cursed Islam and intended to take over their holy places; Muslims were told that it was their duty to take revenge. “Defend the Holy Places” became the battle cry.

On August 23, more than 1000 Arabs launched attacks on Jews throughout Jerusalem. Forty-seven people were killed. This was followed by widespread attacks on Jews throughout Palestine. Again, the British forbade Jews to organize armed self-defense units and within several days, 133 Jews had been killed and 339 wounded. Arab attackers sustained high numbers of casualties (116), almost all of whom were killed by British police trying to quell the violence. Jewish leaders reported that Arab attacks showed evidence of organized warfare; Arab assaults on Jewish communities extended from as far south as Hebron to Haifa, Safed, Mahanaim and Pekiin in the north. A state of emergency was declared and martial law was imposed by the British.

Additionallythe Palestine Inquiry Commission appointed by the British Government to investigate the riots unequivocally declared that “the [violent] outbreak in Jerusalem on August 23rd was from the beginning an attack by Arabs on the Jews for which no excuse, in the form of earlier murders by Jews, has been established”.

In fact, beyond the predictable agitprop employed after the 1929 riots by the Palestine Communist Party, it’s difficult to find any source parroting the claim that ‘Zionist provocations’ caused the anti-Jewish violence.

Indeed, there appears to be no historical dispute regarding the fact that Arab mobs, fed by antisemitic incitement (including the propagation of conspiracy theories by Muslim religious leaders), engaged in brutal, unprovoked attacks on Jewish men, women and children over a series of weeks. 

However, some Jews reportedly sang Hatikvah at the Western Wall.

So, according to the Guardian contributor, it wasn’t antisemitic incitement and widespread anti-Jewish racism, but nationalistic Jewish songs which provoked the Arabs to kill them.  

Though we’re all too familiar with such perverse Guardian logic by which Jewish victims are in some way always to blame for the Palestinian violence perpetrated against them, the mere ubiquitousness of such moral inversions shouldn’t render them any less appalling.

(This post was revised to make it clear that the Guardian review in question was published in 2010.)

Guardian covers tabloid scandal about Bibi’s wife; ignores Gaza terror attacks

In 2005 Israel evacuated every Jew from Gaza, an act which provided Palestinians in the coastal strip a chance to have an independent polity free of foreign interference for the first time in history.  

In 2006, despite assurances from the ‘international community’ that the absence of an Israeli military and ‘settler’ presence would moderate the Palestinian electorate in Gaza, a plurality of Gazans voted for Hamas – an extremist group committed to the annihilation of Israel and the murder of Jews.  Hamas has run the territory without political opposition since their violent purge of Fatah in 2007.  

Since 2006, and despite the absence of Israeli occupation, over 8,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israeli towns.  Or, to put it more accurately, there have been 8,000 individual attempts to murder innocent Israelis since that time. 

To those who don’t understand why many Israelis are reluctant to cede more land to the Palestinians without sufficient and sustainable security guarantees that aren’t dependent on the good will of Palestinian leaders or the casual ‘assurances’ of Western governments, the answer can be culled from the results of this real-life ‘land for peace’ experiment.  In short, though most Israelis strongly support, in principle, a two-state solution, most wearily expect that the new Palestinian state will quickly devolve into either failed state or, more likely, a terror state.

The reason why this blog focuses at times on the Guardian’s failure to report terror attacks from Gaza (and the West Bank), is that such an egregious failure to report the full story about the conflict allows their readers to lazily dismiss Israel’s insistence on defensible borders. This security doctrine is based on past wars and terror attacks, as well as the current reality of terrorist enemies on their borders (Hezbollah and Hamas) who are in possession of a combined arsenal of up to 170,000 (increasingly sophisticated and accurate) rockets and missiles.

So, for instance, the Guardian has failed to publish even one stand-alone article  (by their regional reporters) on any of the 100 plus rocket attacks from Gaza since January, 2014.  (The only minor exception pertains to two AFP stories (not written by Guardian staff) which characteristically focused on Israel’s response to rocket attacks.)

Here are the headlines of the two AFP reports which even mentioned Gaza rocket attacks. (Note the ‘tit for tat’ narrative, and emphasis on Israel’s response to the Gaza rockets):

AFP/Guardian story, March 3:

march 3AFP/Guardian story, March 13:

March 13

 Though their regional correspondents evidently didn’t find scores of deadly projectile fired at Israeli civilian targets newsworthy, they did, however, find time to pen two articles on complaints by former employees of the Netanyahus (a maid and a household assistant) about alleged unfair treatment by the prime minister’s wife, Sara.

Here’s a January 17 report by Rory McCarthy:

jan 17

Here’s an April 9 report by the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont:

april 9

 ‘Shocking’ details in the Jan. 17 report, included the following:

Peretz [the former maid] worked in the Netanyahu family home, in Caesarea, for six years. In the lawsuit she reportedly claimed that the prime minister’s wife, a psychologist, denied her basic social benefits and shouted at her for not following rules. Among the rules was allegedly the instruction that the employer be addressed only as “Mrs Sara Netanyahu,” following her husband becoming prime minister last spring.

Peter Beaumont’s story including even more ‘explosive’ charges:

He alleges that on another occasion Mrs Netanyahu woke him at 3am to complain that he had bought milk in bags rather than cartons. “When I complained about the time and the tone in which she spoke the harsh words to me, Mr Netanyahu interfered in the discussion and said I should do everything Mrs Netanyahu asked ‘so she will calm down’,” Naftali claims.

To put the Guardian’s priorities in some perspective, here are stats comparing their coverage of over 100 rockets attacks (100 individual Palestinian war crimes) vs their coverage of complaints against the prime minister’s wife by two former employees:

  • Guardian stories covering Sara Netanyahu’s alleged mistreatment of two employees: 2
  • Number of words in two Guardian reports on Sara Netanyahu’s alleged mistreatment of two employees: 1228
  • Guardian stories primarily devoted to terrorist attacks from Gaza: 0
  • Number of words devoted to Gaza rocket attacks on Israel within two broader Guardian/AFP reports (which focused on the general ‘tit for tat’ attacks between Gaza and Israel): 110

In case you were wondering, the latest illegal attack on Israeli civilians by the terrorists in control of Gaza (not reported by the Guardian) occurred on April 9, the very day the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent published the latest installment of L’Affair Sara.

Such contrasting priorities, which place greater emphasis on gossip about the Israeli prime minister’s wife than on deadly projectiles fired at innocent Israeli men, women and children, explains quite a bit about British misconceptions on the root cause of the conflict, and the main impediments to its resolution. 

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Guardian book review includes throw-away line about Israeli ‘ethnic cleansing’

Though we haven’t read the book by Arun Kundnani (a Soros Fellow who’s appeared at events sponsored by the Khomeinist Islamic Human Rights Commission) titled ‘The Muslims Are Coming!‘, A Guardian review by Robin Yassin-Kassab suggests it comports perfectly with the Glenn Greenwald - Guardian Left view that Islamist terror isn’t caused by radical ideologies, but by legitimate grievances against Western foreign policy. 

However, in addition to the author’s passionate endorsement of even the most risible excuses for extremism, there was this characteristic swipe at Israel.

Culturalism’s best-known proponent is Bernard LewisDick Cheney‘s favourite historian, who locates the problem as Islam itself, a totalitarian ideology-culture incompatible with democratic modernity. So Mitt Romney explains the vast divergence between Israeli and Palestinian economies thus: “Culture makes all the difference” – and decades of occupation, ethnic cleansing and war make no difference at all

Without revisiting the quote by the former U.S. presidential candidate, it’s important to note the causal manner in which Yassin-Kassab charges Israel with “ethnic cleansing” – an accusation, as we’ve noted previously, that has absolutely no basis in reality, and can be easily refuted by a few population statistics.

  • The Palestinian population in the West Bank increased from 462,000 in 1949 to more than 2.5 million today.
  • The Palestinian population in Gaza increased from 82,000 in 1948 to more than 1.7 million today.

Additionally, to add further context:

  •  The Jewish population in the Arab Middle East has decreased from over 850,000 in 1948 to less than 5,000 today.

So, while the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza has increased over 700 percent since Israel’s establishment, the Jewish population in the Arab Middle East has decreased by 99 percent – dry data which demonstrates that though Arab governments have quite ‘successfully’ ethnically cleansed their Jewish citizens, Zionists remain the most ‘incompetent’ ethnic cleansers on the planet.

Harriet Sherwood wants Israeli Jews to feel the ‘pain’ of exclusion

A few hours before the Israeli government was set to approve a new deal with the Palestinians to extend peace talks till 2015 – which involved the release of the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners,  hundreds of additional prisoners and a partial curb in construction beyond the green line – the Palestinians signed letters seeking acceptance to 15 UN treaties and conventions, reneging on their agreement of July 2013 to refrain from making unilateral moves. 

The last-minute breakdown throws the possibility that talks will proceed past the April 29 deadline into serious doubt, and was followed by additional Palestinian demands. These include Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital, the release of 1,200 more prisoners (including Marwan Barghouti), a complete cessation of settlement construction, the imposition of PA sovereignty over Area C, a halt to Israeli anti-terror operations in PA-controlled territories, and a lifting the arms blockade on Gaza.

Anyone who’s been closely following negotiations would understand that Palestinians were counting down the days until the April 29 deadline when they would be free to execute what Jerusalem Post correspondent Herb Kenion refers to as their Plan B – waging diplomatic warfare against Israel to isolate it, delegitimize it, and eventually force it through international pressure to give in to their maximalist demands.

Such a plan of political warfare is largely inspired by what’s known as the Durban Strategy, a declaration adopted in the 2001 NGO Forum of the UN’s Durban conference. The Durban campaign – itself the political successor to the Arab boycott launched in 1945, three years before Israeli statehood – featured numerous expressions of antisemitism, focused on labeling Israel an ‘apartheid state’ guilty of ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘genocide’, and ‘war crimes’”, and adopted a resolution calling for the “complete and total isolation of Israel…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, [and] the full cessation of all links between all states and Israel.”  

What’s known today as the modern BDS movement – which singles out the Jewish state, alone among the family of nations, for a coordinated campaign of boycotts, sanctions, divestment and social exclusion – was essentially born on that day.

Though the Guardian’s coverage of the region has consistently legitimized, amplified and provided succor the BDS movement, an op-ed published at ‘Comment is Fee’ (A boycott can jolt Israelis from their somnolence on Palestine, April 4) explicitly endorsing BDS was noteworthy in that it wasn’t written by an anti-Zionist activist, but rather by one of their ‘serious journalists’ – their outgoing Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood.

To those of us familiar with Sherwood’s brand of activist journalism, it is not at all surprising that she has expressed her support for BDS, nor that – despite glaring evidence attesting to Palestinian refusal to budge on vital topics such as the long-term final agreement issues of refugees, mutual recognition, or even the demand that a final peace agreement include an end to all Palestinian claims against Israel – would be ignored.

What largely stands out in her polemical attack is the contempt she seems to possess for average Israelis.  While she has eloquently expressed her affection for Palestinians, Israeli Jews – even after all this time in the country - clearly seem to stand beyond the limits of her imaginative sympathy. 

The op-ed – illustrated with photo of privileged Israelis “soaking up the sun on a Tel Aviv beach”, oblivious to “the daily grind experienced by more than 4 million Palestinians” – begins by citing a few recent BDS victories before contending that BDS, in protest of its “47-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza”, is gathering steam.  Sherwood repeats a quote by Israel’s prime minister which attacked Europe and its “dark history” and demanded that “the boycotters must be exposed for what they are… classical antisemites in modern garb”, to which the Guardian journalist responds:

“This is a serious charge, and one that causes deep discomfort to many who want to bring pressure to bear on the Israeli government over its policies towards the Palestinians, but who also vigorously oppose antisemitism in any form. Opposing the occupation does not equate to antisemitism or a rejection of Jews’ right to, and need for, a homeland. The repeated accusation of antisemitism does not make it true, however frequently it is leveled by those who defend Israel unconditionally.”

Of course, Sherwood – who has never, in nearly four years of covering the region, addressed the issue of the extreme (and quite real) expressions of Judeophobia within Palestinian society – fails to explain why precisely the “accusations of antisemitism” against boycott advocates who often defend Palestinians unconditionally, are unfair.  And, though she draws a distinction between BDS advocates who merely support boycotting ‘settlement’ goods and those who call for a complete boycott of the state, she doesn’t acknowledge that those who support the latter approach largely reject the right of the state to exist within any borders.

Finally, Sherwood writes about the increasing frustration felt “by Israel’s intransigence…and the failure of the international community to back up critical words with meaningful actions”, before concluding that “only when Israeli citizens and institutions feel the consequences of their government’s policies will they force change from within”.  She argues that Israelis are “shielded from the [daily grind] of occupation”, before reaching the conclusion that “economic pain, isolation and global opprobrium” will surely force Israelis “to take notice”.

First, like so many journalists covering the conflict, Sherwood seems to take as a given the benign nature of Palestinian intentions despite so much evidence to the contrary, and doesn’t acknowledge that Israelis overwhelmingly support two-states for two peoples while refusing to ignore the failure of previous ‘land for peace’ guarantees and, therefore, remaining skeptical that the creation of a Palestinian state will actually bring peace.

More pertinent to the theme in Sherwood’s op-ed, Israelis – and most Jews around the world – indeed view current calls to exclude Israeli Jews from the international community in the context of the dark history of such measures.  Such Jews naturally question the motivation of sophisticated (putatively progressive) Europeans who see the unimaginable violence and brutality meted out to Arabs by other Arabs in the Middle East – which includes the systemic violation of the rights of women, gays and political dissidents, and (in some cases) industrial-scale killing and torture – and yet believe that the only country whose citizens deserve to be boycotted just so happens to be the only one with a Jewish majority.

The duplicity of pro-Palestinian activists is represented not merely by the manner in which they gain support from the liberal-left despite the decidedly illiberal nature of the Palestinian national movement, nor the way they promote an understanding of the dispute which conflates cause (the more than 70 year Arab war against the Jewish state) with effect (the territorial dispute which only came about as the result of that war).  No; their supreme deceit relates to how they manage to convince so many within the opinion elite that – unlike every other time in history - this time those campaigning for the exclusion of Jewish professionals, academics and artists are morally justified; that this time a small community of Jews can truly represent an organic obstacle to peace and progress; that this time it truly is malevolent Jewish behavior that brings about measures singling out Jews for opprobrium and sanction.

However, though many Zionists are secular, most thankfully are imbued with a rich and edifying tradition which explains that ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun’.  Try as they may, no degree of sophistry employed by boycott proponents can possibly convince us to accept the supremacy of the au courant morality over the ethics of our fathers, to not see this latest political attack through the lens of Jewish history, nor to avoid reaching the conclusion that - as in every generation – resistance to their assault will be fierce and, in time, succeed.

‘This too shall pass’. 

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Peter Beaumont vs Peter Beaumont: Guardian journo contradicts himself on prisoner release

In ‘Middle East peace talks edge towards collapse despite Kerry’s frantic efforts, Guardian, April 2, the newspaper’s incoming Jerusalem correspondent writes the following about the collapsing ‘peace process’.

Eight months ago, Netanyahu signed a US-sponsored agreement to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners in a quid pro quo that would block the Palestinian application to membership of a raft of UN bodies in exchange for talks. But despite the agreement, Netanyahu has refused to release the fourth group of prisoners unless the Palestinian Authority recognises Israel as a Jewish state.

This is flat-out untrue.

The Jewish state recognition demand is a separate issue, was voiced prior to the current crisis about the release of the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners and has never been cited as a factor why Israel is reluctant to release the remaining 26 Palestinians.

As reported by media sites across the political spectrum, Israeli negotiators have only demanded that – for the prisoner release to go ahead – Palestinians must at least agree to extend talks past the April 29 deadline, and have asked why they should release these prisoners when (immediately following their release) Palestinians will likely decide to end the talks.

Interestingly, three days prior to his April 2 story, Peter Beaumont himself acknowledged that the fear of Palestinians walking away from talks was the reason for Israel’s hesitation over the final prisoner release.

In his report on March 31, he wrote the following:

The Israeli government has said it is unwilling to go ahead with the latest prisoner release until it has a commitment from Abbas to extend this phase of the negotiations. On Sunday the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the talks were “verging on a crisis”.

Just to make it easier, here are snapshots of the competing Peter Beaumont passages.

Beaumont, March 31:

1

Beaumont, April 2:

2

Which one is it, Peter?

 

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Guardian review of the film ‘Noah’ culls parable about Israeli “land grabs” in the biblical story

In reading a Guardian review of the new film Noah, starring Russell Crowe, we are reminded again how the media group’s hostility towards Israel can manifest itself in the most unlikely places.  The article (Arkaeology: the real meaning of the Noah story, March 31), by culture critic , begins by explaining her view of the Biblical story:

The Bible isn’t the word of God or dictation taken by any of his followers, but neither is it a novel, though it is a kind of structural matrix for all fiction. It is a most extraordinary text written by several hands from different periods, each having their own motives and style. 

Diski then proceeds with a (at times contemptuous) deconstruction of the story of Noah, which consumes most of her 2500 word essay – a Guardian Left drash which begins to take form in these latter paragraphs:

Ham, who was the father of Canaan, walked into the tent and “saw the nakedness of his father [Noah], and told his two brethren without”. For which, when he regained his senses, Noah cursed Ham’s son, Canaan, and condemned him to become the servant of Shem and Japheth and their offspring. Shem and Japheth had walked backwards into the tent with a garment over their shoulders and, without looking behind them at Noah, covered him and “saw not their father’s nakedness”. So why the gravity of Ham’s punishment? Baffling. Perfect for the rabbis to work on, but difficult or embarrassing enough for most of them to keep their silence.

It isn’t the most famous part of the Noah story. Not the one they tell in primary schools where the animals walked in two by two. There’s no tiny figure of the naked Noah in a stupor in those wooden sets of Noah’s Ark. Perhaps, suggests the Gemora Sanhedrin, facing up to the oddity of the verse about Ham seeing his father’s nakedness, it means either that Ham castrated his father, or that he sodomised him. This seems a bit of a stretch from “seeing his nakedness”, but we know the Bible has a quaint way with sexual deeds: lying with each other, knowing each other – and why would Ham’s offspring be condemned to servility for an innocent incident?

I wonder what the movie will make of this. Beyond their disapproval of showing Noah drunk, there are no mentions of incest or Oedipal activity in reports of complaints about the movie from the fundamentalists. Maybe the movie ends with the rainbow promise and a drunken I Will Survive party. I wonder what the fundamentalists make of this passage in the Bible. Either option, castration or sodomy, certainly seems an ignominious finale to the Noah, with whom the world began again. The Bible has no more to say after the curse, beyond “And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.”

Then, a more modern villain appears in Diski’s tale:

Perhaps it simply goes to show how right the Lord was to give up hope in mankind’s essential goodness. Or, as is the way of the Bible and in particular the Priestly writer’s text, it was simply having one of its expositional geopolitical history moments, to explain why the Canaanites (with Noah’s curse on them) had to vacate their land so that the tribe of Israel could move in and settle there. Nothing to do with sex, but a florid way of giving grounds for how things got to be the way they are, and ever should be. Just as Israel today chooses to explain its land “rights” on the basis of that ancient, patched-together, fanciful book.

A great read, and a delightful puzzle, but as the contradictory and whimsical interpretations of the rabbis show, hardly a reliable basis for justifying real-world land grabs. Dubious folk-historical territorial claims, on the one hand; an ancient parable to warn of the next man-made destruction of the planet modern, on the other. I look forward to what the least biblical of biblical films will do with this most malleable of texts.

As we saw with Guardian religion blogger Andrew Brown’s contention that new archaeological evidence that camels weren’t domesticated until 1,500 years after the stories in Genesis are supposed to have taken place” undermines Zionism, we see again the paper’s dexterity in weaving anti-Zionist narratives into even the most disconnected cultural, historical or political issues. 

Of course, Zionism (which since its modern incarnation was largely a secular movement) is based not on the literal truth of every word in the Tanach – what our cultured British literary critic characterizes as “ancient, patched-together, fanciful book” - but largely on the more than 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, as well as modern legal rightsthe San Remo Resolution of 1920, the Mandate for Palestine which was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, and the Franco-British Boundary Convention of 1920 – supplemented by the Anglo-American Convention of December 3, 1924 respecting the Mandate for Palestine.

However, I would venture to guess that such dry legal and historical evidence attesting to the inalienable rights of the Jewish people in their homeland would not at all interest Ms. Diski.  Our skepticism regarding the Guardian writer’s receptiveness to an empirically based understanding of the modern Middle East is partially based on the following essay she wrote at a literary journal called ‘berfrois’, in which expounded on her conflicted British Jewish identity.

But I find myself in a double difficulty. I am against antisemitism and racism in general, but I am also against the idea of Zionism and dismayed by its consequences. More than that, I positively relish the Jewish diaspora. The great thing about the Jews is the fact that they are dotted about all over the world, participating in every other culture, while also sharing and holding on to a changing culture of their own. I find this infinitely preferable to nationalism. I have no sense at all that Israel has anything to do with me. I see no justification for demanding a national homeland that was and is already inhabited by others, based on a fictional narrative written by various hands thousands of years ago. In particular I deplore the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinians and its use of the holocaust as a rationale for displacing and persecuting people

As Howard Jacobson has broadly observed about such ‘heartfelt’ confessionals, though Jenny Diski is against “real” antisemitism, at least in the abstract, when it comes to six million real Jews living in the world’s only Jewish state, as-a-Jew, she is (proudly) ASHamed!

Though religious Christians and Jews are often mocked by many within the Guardian Left for their ‘fanciful’ stories and ‘unenlightened’ beliefs, Diski’s fealty to such ahistorical narratives reflects the increasing tendency of such ‘sophisticated’ UK commentators to accept calumnies about Jews which not only flirt dangerously close to familiar antipathies, but are so divorced from reality as to resemble something akin to secular superstition. 

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Tell the International Assoc. of Architects to reject RIBA’s racist boycott of Israelis

We recently posted about a Guardian report on a resolution by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which called on Union of International Architects (UIA) to suspend the membership of the Israeli Association of United Architects “until it acts to resist projects on illegally-occupied land and observes international law and accords”.  

We noted that this appalling decision represents a prime example of the racist double standards at the heart of the BDS movement, as RIBA singles out Israeli architects among the 74 members of the UIA – a list which includes Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria, among others.

It appears that the resolution was based in part on the anti-Israel activism of RIBA’s past President Angela Brady, and a dishonest and highly propagandistic presentation by an extreme Jewish critic of Israel named Abe Hayeem. Hayeem is a RIBA member, chair of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor.

may17-03-607

Abe Hayeem (2003)

(You can hear Hayeem in this audio, from an anti-Israel demo in London in 2003, accuse the “neo-fascist” government of Israel of engaging in a policy of “transfer”, “ethnic cleansing”, “state terrorism” and “apartheid” against Palestinians, and calling for a complete trade embargo against the state.)

However, there’s been some push back against RIBA’s resolution by Stephen Gamesa RIBA member who published an op-ed at The Jewish Chronicle condemning the organization’s bigotry and hypocrisy, and calling for the removal of their Royal Charter if the resolution is not reversed.  

@stephengames

Stephen Games

Mr. Games has published the following open letter to the president of RIBA.

Dear President,

I am not a member of any interest group within the RIBA but was nonetheless disappointed to learn of Council’s decision to call for the Israeli architects’ body to be suspended from the International Union of Architects. I had no previous knowledge that this was coming up for a vote, I have not seen it reported in the RIBA, and I have not had any documentation about it, otherwise I would have protested earlier.

I object to the vote for five reasons:

1.0  The vote was biased

1.1  Council’s decision is wrong and misconceived. I completely accept that the principle of Israel’s building on land won by Israel when resisting efforts by combined Arab forces to destroy it in 1967 is contentious, politically motivated and merits questioning. It is designed to provide housing for Israelis and to redefine future borders. It will however either cease when an agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority or will continue legitimately, either within a newly drawn Israel or a newly drawn Palestinian state. 

1.2  The fact that no such agreement has yet been reached reflects the fact that terms have not yet been drawn up that satisfy both sides. Council’s decision implicitly means that the RIBA blames Israel alone for the fact that an agreement has not yet been reached.

1.3  For the RIBA to blame one side for censure is inappropriate. The RIBA is not a political body, it has no special insight into the dispute, nor is there anything in its constitution that should lead it to be partisan. The RIBA’s proper role is to preserve neutrality. To do otherwise is to act outside its mandate as a royal body. 

2.0  The vote was intrusive and mischievous

2.1  The decision suggests that the argument about Israeli building needs to be specially highlighted. It does not. There is already vocal opposition within Israel itself to “settlement building”. Significant numbers of IAUA members are themselves opposed to such building and do not need or wish to be removed from international platforms such as the International Union. They themselves see this as unhelpful and unfriendly action by foreign busy-bodies, designed not to ameliorate conditions but to demonise one side and one side alone in the dispute.

2.2  Votes such as this do not resolve problems. They drive the opposed parties further apart.

3.0  The vote was unfair

3.1  In voting for the Israeli Association of United Architects to be suspended, Council is taking action that it has taken against no other country. The meaning of this is that the RIBA finds Israel uniquely reprehensible in the world, or more reprehensible than any other country, in terms of human rights abuse. This flies in the face of all evidence. In the most recent (2011) Observer human rights index, Israel did not appear in even the top 20 of human rights abusers, which were listed as (in order):

1. Congo   2. Rwanda   3. Burundi   4. Algeria   5. Sierra Leone  

6. Egypt   7. North Korea   8. Sudan   9. Indonesia   10. Yugoslavia  

11. Pakistan   12. China   13. Libya   14. Burma   15. Iraq  

16. Afghanistan   17. Iran   18. Yemen   19. Chad  20.  Congo (Republic).

3.2  In Iraq, gays are rounded up by police, thrown into prison and tortured; Israel, by contrast, serves as a haven for gays in the Middle East, even mounting an annual Gay Pride march, an event unthinkable elsewhere in the region.

3.3  Israel is a country of political and religious pluralism. Freedom of expression and worship is welcomed. Israeli Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, are a full part of Israeli society, and can and do serve as parliamentarians in the Israeli Knesset. In no Arab country, and in few Muslim countries, is the presence of Israelis or Jews even tolerated.

3.4  Israel’s architectural body is itself made up of Israeli Arabs as well as others. Nowhere does such reciprocity exist in Arab or Muslim countries.

3.5  If the vote against Israel is to stand, it must logically be followed by similar calls for architects in countries beyond the Middle East to be banned.

4.0  The vote was reductive

4.1  If Council wishes to support the aspirations of the Palestinians, it has an obligation not to do so at Israel’s expense. Politics should not be a zero-sum game: the RIBA should recognise that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to end up with better outcomes. In Council’s vote, however, support for Palestinians was expressed in language defined entirely by vitriolic negativity towards Israel. This is utterly inappropriate and gives rise to reasonable speculation that the vote was as much about hostility to Israel as about support for Palestinians.

4.2  As the aftermath of the Arab springs has shown, Middle Eastern politics is far more complex than the simplistic “Palestinians-good/Israel-bad” formula that supporters of the vote in Council represented. The reductivism that Council has voted for is shameful in its effort to resort to pre-Arab Spring blindness about long-standing Middle East rivalries and hostilities, of which hatred of Israel is neither the biggest nor the most entrenched.

4.3  If Council truly wished to have a say only about the Middle East, it should be supporting all people in the region who are truly suffering victimisation and oppression. If the vote in Council is allowed to stand, it must therefore be followed by a huge programme of similar and more appropriate calls for suspension—especially against Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran—and especially against other countries whose treatment of Palestinians is much more reprehensible than that of Israel, but whose actions are deliberately ignored and veiled by obsessive opponents of Israel who wish only to use the Palestinian cause to damage Israel.

5.0  The vote disgraces the RIBA

5.1  For the reasons given, by allowing the vote against Israel to stand, the RIBA risks emerging not as a body that supports Palestinians but as a body with an in-built and unprincipled prejudice against Israel and legitimate Jewish aspiration.

5.2  For more than a thousand years, the Christian Church attempted to eradicate Judaism, either by mass killing or mass conversion. Were it the case that the majority of Council members came from Christian backgrounds, some observers might conclude that the vote continued a long-standing cultural prejudice against Jews within our society in general and within the RIBA in particular. 

5.2  The campaign to boycott Israel is also bound up with a much more insidious pan-Arab and pan-Muslim campaign to delegitimise Israel and eradicate it as a state. Thus, a millennium of opposition to Jews being Jews could be seen to be joining forces with a century-long campaign to prevent Israel being Israel.

5.3  In voting for Israel’s suspension, the RIBA could be seen as siding with the most vicious campaigners against not just boycott and divestment but against Israel’s legitimacy and its survival as a state.

Conclusion

No one could want to belong to a body that can be characterised as anti-semitic, nor is it appropriate that an institutionally anti-semitic body should retain its royal charter. 

In view of the above, I urge the RIBA to reverse its decision as soon as possible. If it does not, there will inevitably be a campaign calling for the removal of the royal charter, and this will involve much unnecessary expenditure of time and effort all round.

I am copying this letter to the press.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Games

To assist Mr. Games and others in the UK who oppose the boycott, please sign this petition , and (per the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s approach) consider contacting the president of the Union of International Architects (UIA), Prof. Albert Dubler, and ask that the group reject RIBA’s endorsement of a policy of racist exclusion targeting Israelis. 

uia@uia-architectes.org

 

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Guardian contributor claims all Palestinians jailed for terror crimes are ‘political prisoners’!

The following is a first person account (posted previously at this blog) by an Israeli paramedic who, in 2011, arrived on the scene at the Israeli community of Itamar shortly after five members of the Fogel family, including three children, were savagely murdered:

The first thing I saw when we entered the first room was 4-year-old [Elad] on the carpet with three stab wounds in his left chest, and, as I thought at the time he was still alive, left another medic to attend to him.

I then entered the second room and found the 11-year-old[Yoav] who had been butchered, his throat was sliced so deep that his head was nearly detached from the body.

Then we entered the third room where we found the mother [Ruth] dead, lying on floor in pool of blood with multiple stab wounds.  On a bed in same room, lying dead with single stab wound in the neck, was the father [Udi].  The three-month old baby [Hadas] was underneath the father.  The baby was killed with one stab wound to the skull.

I then returned to the first room, where I thought Elad was still alive, and soon realized that he, too, was dead.

The carpet was soaked in blood.

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Fogel family

The two Palestinians who pled guilty to the gruesome murder, Amjad Awad and his cousin Hakim Awad (who were affiliated with the PFLP terror group),expressed no remorse for their crimes at the hearing where they were sentenced to life in prison.

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Amjad Awad and Hakim Awad

Amjad and Awad are among  the roughly 4,200 or so ‘security prisoners’ – those convicted of crimes, usually violent in nature, motivated by nationalistic reasons – in Israeli jails. Among these security prisoners are Palestinians who committed terrorist attacks where Israelis were killed or maimed; Palestinians who were on their way to suicide missions and were apprehended before the attack; attack planners; and those responsible for preparing the explosives, etc.

However, there is, evidently, another word some use when characterizing the Itamar murderers and others with Israeli blood on their hands: Political Prisoners.

This term was employed recently by ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Martin Linton.  Linton, you may recall, is a former British MP (and chair of Labour Friends of Palestine) who warned in 2010 that “there are long tentacles of Israel in [the UK] who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.”

Linton’s ‘CiF’ op-ed (‘Release Marwan Barghouti. He can be Palestine’s Nelson Mandela‘, March 28), which contained praise for the terrorist mastermind so fawning it could be mistaken for a parody, included this passage:

An international campaign has been launched to free Barghouti and the 4,227 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. It is supported by every party in the Palestinian parliament, with Fatah and Hamas united for once, and by the overwhelming majority of Palestinians.

This is of course an egregious distortion of the widely accepted definition of the term “political prisoner“, which normally refers to ‘a person imprisoned for their political beliefs or actions’, and mirrors the language used by the most radical pro-Palestinian voices.

Finally, it should be noted that back in May we prompted a correction at the Guardian over a similarly false claim, in a report by Harriet Sherwood referring to the 123 ‘Pre-Oslo Palestinian Prisoners‘ – all of whom were convicted of murder, attempted murder or being an accomplice to murder – as “political prisoners“. 

Though Sherwood’s article was a straight news story, and Linton’s an op-ed, the Press Complaints Commission has been clear that newspaper editors are required to ensure that even op-eds avoid claims which are false or misleading. 

Linton didn’t merely advance an offensive opinion, he stated as fact something that is categorically untrue.  

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Peter Beaumont continues Guardian tradition of callously ignoring Israeli terror victims

It would be tempting in critiquing Peter Beaumont’s report on Marwan Barghouti to cite the adage with roots in the Midrash which roughly translates to ‘He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel
Will Ultimately Become Cruel to the Compassionate’, except that there’s no indication that the incoming Guardian Jerusalem correspondent would even acknowledge the malevolence possessed by the arch-terrorist.

Indeed, Beaumont’s report (Palestinians renew calls to free ‘leader-in-waiting’ Marwan Barghouti, March 26) employs all the requisite Guardian methods for covering a story about an imprisoned terrorist whose cause is championed by the Palestinians.

First, Beaumont highlights the ‘suffering’ of family members of the terrorist:

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Then, there’s the quote from a far-left, marginal former Israeli politician:

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There’s also an especially strange suggestion that some Israelis don’t consider him a convicted terrorist.

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And, there is obfuscation of the clear fact that Barghouti has stated repeatedly that he continues to support terrorism as a legitimate tactic to ‘free Palestine’

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However, the most disturbing element of Beaumont’s report – a dynamic present throughout much of the UK media’s coverage of such issues – is his failure to even note the details of Barghouti’s trail of terror, nor give voice to his Israeli victims.

Barghouti’s ‘fight for the liberation in Palestine’ included several terror attacks in which five Israelis were murdered.

The court which convicted Barghouti found him responsible for a June 2001 attack in Maale Adumim in which a Greek monk was murdered, a January 2002 terror attack in Givat Zeev, a March 2002 attack at Tel Aviv’s Seafood Market restaurant in which three people were murdered, and a car bomb attack in Jerusalem. (Details from the original indictment, which accused Barghouti of responsibility for 33 additional murders, can be viewed here.)

As CAMERA reported, Barghouti is also widely considered to have been one of the main leaders in the Palestinian campaign of violence during the 2nd Intifada and helped found and lead the Fatah-based militias (the Tanzim and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades) which carried out numerous deadly suicide attacks. 

Barghouti also reportedly was complicit in a suicide bombing at a crowd of shoppers on King George Street in Jerusalem on March 21, 2002 which claimed the lives of three and injured 86 others.  Yonatan Bauer, then age 7, was severely wounded in the attack when a screw from the suicide vest passed through his brain.  The picture below was taken within minutes of the attack:

Alan Joseph Bauer stands over his son Yonatan, minutes after they were both injured in suicide attack in Jerusalem on March 21, 2002.

Obfuscating terror; falsely imputing peaceful intentions; and prioritizing the suffering of a terrorist’s family over that of the Israeli victims?

It looks like Harriet Sherwood can be confident her replacement at the Guardian’s Jerusalem desk will be following in the proud tradition of pro-Palestinian “journalism” which represents the unique ideological niche of the London broadsheet.

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Why is former Guardian journo David Hearst afraid of a few Zionist activists?

I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are. There are, in fact, a number of reasons. One is the state of Israel, its ideology of racial supremacy and its subsequent crimes committed against the Palestinians. It is because Zionists have always sought to equate their colonial project with Judaism that some misguidedly respond to what they see on their televisions with attacks on Jews or Jewish property….Secondly, and related to the first point, is the widespread bias and subservience to the Israeli cause in the Western media.Ben White (‘Comment is Free’ contributor, and anti-Israel activist)

In late June we cross posted a piece by the CST on a forum held at the Front Line Club in London which was titled “Critiquing the media’s approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict”.  The forum included British Islamist, Ibrahim Hewitt, ex-BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn, and former Guardian chief foreign leader writer David Hearst.  

Sure enough, the event did not disappoint, with participants continually attempting to explain the dangerous influence of the Israel lobby (which was alternately referred to as the Jewish lobby) on media coverage of the Middle East.

Additionally, a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the British anti-Zionist Left was offered by Hearst, which you can hear in full if you forward to the 24 minute mark of this video.   Here’s part of what Hearst said:

In my short time as lead writer [at the Guardian] I felt that pressure very, very personally, both within and outside the organization.

If you just Google my name you’ll see…there’s a whole organization which is there to monitor everything I write from a point of view of antisemitism. I mean, the whole thing is disgusting….but it’s pressure. It really is pressure.

Of course, the idea that a well-paid journalist for a global media group felt “pressure” from a blog which combats antisemitism – and employs such ‘chilling’ tactics as publishing sharply worded posts, amplifying that message on Twitter and Facebook, and sending respectful complaints to their readers’ editor – is risible enough.

However, a recent exchange between Hearst and blogger Richard Millett would suggest that Hearst really does fear the subterfuge of CiF Watch Zionists.

The Tweet from Millett links to his blog post - cross posted at CiF Watch – about his experience on Friday at Amnesty International’s London HQ for the launch of Ben White’s (long-awaited!) updated Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide. The event was chaired by Hearst and, as you’ll see from the video clip in his post, Millett was denied the chance to ask a question due to his ‘affiliation’.

Hearst’s exact words, when Millett asked why he was denied the right to speak, were as follows:

“I know exactly what you’re up to. And who you are. And who you write for.”

In response to Hearst’s bizarre reply, Millett wrote:

So, what was I up to? Who am I? Who do I write for? Well, since starting this blog in 2009 I have mainly written for myself. I have occasionally written for the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish News, the Jewish Chronicle and CiF Watch, but I never realised writing could get me boycotted.

Here’s Millett’s subsequent Tweet, which tagged White and Hearst, and linked to his post:

Here’s Hearst’s reply, two days later:

Whilst Hearst was referring to a charge by Ben White – in a post published at the pro-Hamas site, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) – that the Israel Embassy in London tried to nix the Amnesty event, it’s unclear how – even assuming this is true – Millett was connected to this.  And, what did he mean by “folk”?  Is he referring to Israelis? Zionists? The pro-Israel ‘lobby’? 

Millett – who, by the way, is British and not Israeli – tried to get a clarification from Hearst, but, so far, to no avail:

It’s almost as if, in the mind of Hearst, the Israel Embassy, the ‘Israel lobby’, CiF Watch and Richard Millett are all part of one centrally organized international Zionist “pressure” group.

However, let us humbly suggest that, just perhaps, Hearst should be a bit less concerned with the blog posts and Tweets of a few Zionist activists, and bit more concerned with the fact that he chaired an event with an anti-Israel extremist who has expressed sympathy towards Jew-haters.

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Boycotted at Ben White Amnesty event as David Hearst announces “I know who you write for”.

Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett

White and Hearst in discussion at Amnesty last night.

White and Hearst in discussion at Amnesty last night.

Last night (Shabbat) I was at Amnesty International’s London HQ for the launch of Ben White’s updated Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide. The event was chaired by David Hearst, former chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian.

After White’s talk he had a Q&A with Hearst after which members of the audience were allowed to ask White questions. Well, most of them anyway.

I had my arm raised for half hour while Hearst took questions from those sitting around me, before taking questions from the other side of the room. While my arm was still raised Hearst called an end to questions.

Feeling rather frustrated I asked whether I could put a question to White. Hearst declined my request and replied:

“I know exactly what you’re up to. And who you are. And who you write for.”

Sinister or what! Here’s the exchange:

 

So, what was I up to? Who am I? Who do I write for? Well, since starting this blog in 2009 I have mainly written for myself. I have occasionally written for the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish News, the Jewish Chronicle and CiF Watch, but I never realised writing could get me boycotted.

But here’s the point; I have never had any dealings with Hearst. So, how did he know who I was?

He was obviously primed but why? I have never been disallowed from asking a question at Amnesty before, although I was once threatened at an Amnesty event by Amnesty Campaign Manager Krystian Benedict, who has since been moved to work on Syria and who was present last night.

My question to White was going to be simply this: Seeing that White relies heavily on statements by Israeli politicians to paint Israel as racist (see slides below) I wanted to know whether the same could also be said of White particularly after he once stated that (British Jewish author) Howard Jacobson’s face was “another reason to support a boycott of Habima”, the Israeli theatre company.

I’m sure White would have batted that away quite easily, wouldn’t he? He reads my blog (he mentions it), so he should feel free to leave an answer below.

White started his talk addressing the Israeli Embassy’s apparent attempt to stop last night’s event taking place and went on to dedicate the evening to “all those people, including the Palestinians, who have sacrificed so much for liberation”.

Here’s the clip:

 

He then proceeded to talk about Israel’s continued “Judaisation”, particularly in the Negev and Galilee, and Israel’s “brutality”, “racism” and “apartheid” (including towards Israel’s own Ethiopian and Mizrahi Jews).

White loves nothing more than portraying Israel and Israelis as child killers. Apparently, Israeli soldiers hide near schools so they can kill Palestinian children (see slides below).

White finished off by telling his love struck audience that “Israel is afraid”.

Meanwhile, if last night is anything to go by I’m sure that Middle East Eye, David Hearst’s new website, will be a beacon of democracy and one of many and varied views…..

Slides used by Ben White last night:

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Harriet Sherwood reports on latest target of anti-Zionist witch-hunt: Israeli architects

As Harriet Sherwood’s days as the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent wind down, she’s evidently decided to use her remaining time doing what she does best: legitimizing the most marginal and hypocritical efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israeli Jews.  Her latest report focuses on efforts – by some ‘sophisticated’ Brits – to isolate the latest international ‘misfortune’: Israeli architects. 

Sherwood’s report begins:

Britain’s leading architectural association has called for its Israeli counterpart to be excluded from the International Union of Architects in protest at Israel‘s occupation of Palestine, in a further indication of the growing momentum of the boycott movement.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) has demanded the suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from the international body, saying it is complicit in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and other violations of international law.

Riba’s president, Angela Brady, told a meeting of the its council on Wednesday that failure to back the motion “would send a clear message to the world that we as an institution turn a blind eye or by inaction support what’s going on – land grabs, forced removals, killing the state and human rights, and reinforcement of apartheid“.

Additionally, we glanced at the website of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which provides more information on the effort to boycott Israeli architects:

The full RIBA motion, proposed by RIBA Immediate Past President, Angela Brady, was:

“Since the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) has paid no regard to the UIA resolution 13* of 2005 and 2009, the RIBA calls on the UIA, as the international guardian of professional and ethical standards in our profession, to suspend the membership of the Israeli Association of United Architects, until it acts to resist these illegal projects, and observes international law, and the UIA Accords and Resolution 13.”

So, what does Resolution 13 say:

*UIA’s Resolution 13 (2005 and 2009) states that “The UIA Council condemns development projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated, and projects based on regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory, and similarly it condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention”.

So, leaving aside the fact that RIBA evidently has no problem with the other 74 members of the International Union of Architects – a list which includes Pakistan, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Syria – it seems that, per their own language opposing building on lands which has been “ethnically purified”, they should boycott a member “state” known as ‘Palestine.

You see, while  there are no restrictions on the purchase of private land in Israel by Israeli Arabs or by non-citizens (nor any such restrictions on leasing public land to Arabs by the Israeli Land Authority), the Palestinian Authority bans the sale of land to Jews. The Palestinian Land Law, which was originally put in force by Jordan when they occupied the West Bank, carries the death sentence.

Is it even debatable that banning the sale of land based solely on the fact that the potential buyer is Jewish represents a perfect example of “ethnically purifying” the land?

But, of course, the BDS movement has never been concerned with the equal application of moral standards, but, rather, with legitimizing their racist witch-hunt – the targeting of Israeli Jews for delegitimization, demonization and exclusion.  

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A very ugly map: Examining Saeb Erekat’s claim to Obama regarding settlements

According to a report in the Guardian on March 18th, Mahmoud Abbas showed President Obama a “very ugly map” during their meeting on Monday.

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Here are the first few passages of the story by Paul Lewis:

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas showed Barack Obama what his negotiator called “a very ugly map” of recently constructed Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, amid concern peace talks may be about to fall apart.

His chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who was present at the meeting between Abbas and Obama at the White House, said on Tuesday that the encounter had been “candid” and “difficult”.

Erekat said the Palestinian delegation showed the US president a map showing 10,589 housing settlement units he said were built on Palestinian-claimed territory since negotiations began less than eight months ago.

We put a map to president Obama – showed him the extent of what happened since we began in July,” Erekat said, showing the same map to an audience at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington.

It is a very ugly map.

Though we haven’t seen Erekat’s map, the numbers he presented to the American President were, at best, extraordinarily misleading.

First, it’s unclear whether Erekat was referring to completed homes or merely construction starts. Either way, based on numbers available at the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, it appears as if Erekat was not telling the truth.

If ’10,589′ was meant to represent the number of completed homes in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and east Jerusalem, then, as the chart below showing completed homes by region in all of 2013 (a longer period than the 8 months Erekat is referencing) shows, this is simply not true.  

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As you can see, the chart shows that the number of construction starts for all of 2013 in the West Bank was 2,534, and the number of construction starts in ALL of Jerusalem (not merely east Jerusalem) was 4,625.  So, even taking into consideration the fact that the these stats include west Jerusalem as well – a part of the city not claimed as “Palestinian land” – the total number of construction starts in the West Bank and ALL of Jerusalem was only 7,159, far lower than the 10,589 claimed. 

If, on the other hand, Erekat’s number of 10,589 was meant to represent completed homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, then the degree of inaccuracy was even greater, as this chart from the CBS demonstrates:

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Arrow on the right points to Jerusalem. Arrow on the left points to the West Bank.

This chart shows that the number of completed homes in 2013 in the West Bank was 1,365, while the number of completed homes in ALL of Jerusalem – again, not merely east Jerusalem – was 3,652.  This brings the total number of completed homes in the territory to 5,017 – less than half of Erekat’s number.

Either way – whether Erekat’s claim refers to completed homes or construction starts – the numbers just don’t add up.

Moreover, contrary to broader claim by Erekat (and the U.S. administration) that Netanyahu is engaging in ‘aggressive settlement expansion’, we can see that the number of completed homes in the West Bank and ALL of Jerusalem in 2013 was slightly higher than in 2012, but decidedly lower than the figures recorded for 2011 and 2010.  Even the number of construction starts in the territories – which spiked in 2013 after artificially low numbers were recorded in the three previous years, due in part to Israel’s construction freeze – have been lower during Netanyahu’s years than under his predecessors.

Add to this mix the fact that the overwhelming majority of new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have been built within existing settlement boundaries – most of which would remain under Israeli control, even based on maps representing Olmert’s generous offer in 2008 – and you can see that the settlement issue is a red herring which has little relevance in the context of the more serious issues the parties must address for a final status agreement to be reached. 

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Guardian interviewer is incredulous at ScarJo’s refusal to cave to BDS bullies

In a 2700 word March 16 cover story about Scarlett Johansson – titled “In Alien Territory” –  published at The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian), roughly 600 words deal with the row involving the actress’s decision to step down as Oxfam ambassador after the NGO criticized her for becoming global brand ambassador for SodaStream.

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The Observer, March 16

While Johansson acquitted herself quite well in the interview, conducted by Carole Cadwalladr, what most stands out is how even their media group’s culture critics automatically become experts on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and adopt the Guardian narrative about the conflict.

 is a features writer for The Observer, and though it doesn’t seem she’s ever weighed in on the issues of BDS and Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria previously, she wasn’t shy about boldly making it known which party is in the wrong.

Cadwalladr begins discussing the SodaStream row in the following passages:

I move on to…a difficult subject. SodaStream. When I Google “Scarlett Johansson” the fizzy-drinks maker is the third predictive search suggestion in the list, after “Scarlett Johansson hot” – before even “Scarlett Johansson bum”. A month ago, Johansson found herself caught up in a raging news story when it emerged Oxfam had written to her regarding her decision to become a brand ambassador for SodaStream.

The company, it transpired, manufactures its products in a factory in a settlement on the West Bank, and while “Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors,” it wrote, it also “believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support”.

It of course would be more accurate to say that one of SodaStream’s 13 plants is located in the West Bank’.

Cadwalladr continues:

Johansson responded by stepping down from her Oxfam role. From afar, it looked like she’d received very poor advice; that someone who is paid good money to protect her interests hadn’t done the necessary research before she’d accepted the role and that she’d unwittingly inserted herself into the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflict. By the time Oxfam raised the issue, she was going to get flak if she did step down, flak if she didn’t. Was the whole thing just a bit of a mistake?

Johansson admirably defends her decision:

But she shakes her head. “No, I stand behind that decision. I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.” Really? “Yes, and… it still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”

Naturally, Cadwalladr has no rejoinder to Johansson’s central point: that Oxfam and the BDS crowd would evidently rather see hundreds of Palestinians lose a good paying job than tolerate an Israeli factory in the West Bank.

Cadwalladr continues, and pivots to the desired talking points:

But the international community says that the settlements are illegal and shouldn’t be there.

Johansson replies:

“I think that’s something that’s very easily debatable. In that case, I was literally plunged into a conversation that’s way grander and larger than this one particular issue. And there’s no right side or wrong side leaning on this issue.”

Cadwalladr, the Guardian Group journalist that she is, obviously has a little stomach for nuance on the dreaded ‘settlements’ issue, and feigns expertise:

Except, there’s a lot of unanimity, actually, I say, about the settlements on the West Bank.

Evidently, we can assume that the Observer journalist has thoroughly read Article 49(6) of the 1949 Geneva Convention (the primary document cited by international bodies in their determination that Settlements are illegal).  Further, we can be confident that she has come to the conclusion that Israelis who voluntarily moved beyond the green line in the years following  the Six Day War evoke the inhumane practices of the Nazis during and before World War II which that article of the Convention was meant to address.  And, she no doubt also believes that the Convention text concerning “the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization” should be read to prohibit an Israeli factory in one such ‘settlement’ which employs both Jews and Palestinians.

Johansson responds:

“I think in the UK there is,” she says. “That’s one thing I’ve realised… I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”

Cadwalladr smugly replies:

Well, not just the UK. There’s also the small matter of the UN security council, the UN general assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice… which all agree that they’re in contravention of international law

Then Cadwalladr gets patronising:

Half of me admires Johansson for sticking to her guns –

Then she gets insulting:

her mother is Jewish and she obviously has strong opinions about Israel and its policies. Half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive. Or, most likely, poorly advised. Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…

Cadwalladr of course has no idea whether the fact that Johansson’s mother is Jewish influenced her decision to represent SodaStream.

She then suggests a less than admirable motive which ‘some’ may impute:

“When I say a mistake,” I say, “I mean partly because people saw you making a choice between Oxfam – a charity that is out to alleviate global poverty – and accepting a lot of money to advertise a product for a commercial company. For a lot of people, that’s like making a choice between charity – good – and lots of money – greed.”

Johansson responds:

“Sure I think that’s the way you can look at it. But I also think for a non-governmental organisation to be supporting something that’s supporting a political cause… there’s something that feels not right about that to me. There’s plenty of evidence that Oxfam does support and has funded a BDS [boycott, divest, sanctions] movement in the past. It’s something that can’t really be denied.”

Finally, Cadwalladr writes:

When I contacted Oxfam, it denied this.

Oxfam may deny it all they like, but as NGO Monitor (NGOM) demonstrated, they simply are not being honest.

Not only is Oxfam – as Johansson said - a highly politicized organization, NGOM’s director Gerald Steinberg has written the following in response to Oxfam’s denial that they support BDS:

Oxfam denied that it was involved in BDS, but the facts proved the contrary. Between 2011 and 2013, the Dutch branch, known as Oxfam Novib, provided almost $500,000 (largely from government funds provided ostensibly for humanitarian aid) to one of the most radical BDS leaders, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP). This group also received funds from Oxfam GB (Great Britain). The discrepancy between Oxfam’s claims and the documentation of its role in BDS was highlighted by SodaStream executives and in a number of media articles.

Although CWP is technically an Israel-based NGO, almost all of its activities are focused externally in promoting boycott campaigns, particularly in Europe. (For political purposes, ever since the NGO Forum of the infamous 2001 UN Durban anti-racism conference, the Arab and European leaders of BDS often use fringe Israeli and Jewish groups as facades, and this is the case with CWP.) 

Though Cadwalladr was wrong on the facts, “half of me admires” her “for sticking to her guns”.  But “half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive…or, most likely, poorly advised” by her Guardian handlers.

“Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…”

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Fisking a Guardian claim that Bibi believes in “Israeli exceptionalism”.

Nicholas Blincoe’s bio at the Guardian notes that he is an author, critic, screenwriter and former advisor to Nick Clegg – who “divides his time between the UK and Palestine”.  Naturally, his time in Palestine is devoted to anti-Israel activism, as he is an enthusiastic supporter of BDS and has written a book sympathetic to the terrorist-abetting International Solidarity Movement – which he risibly suggested is a non-violent group.

His other observations about the region include a claim that Christians are leaving Bethlehem due to Jewish persecution, and that the mission of Israeli archeology is “to erase the traces of non-Jewish civilizations.”

He also once claimed, at Comment is Free’, that the Har Homa neighborhood (in Jerusalem) is in fact located in Bethlehem.

Blincoe has even praised the writing of a neo-Nazi style racist named Gilad Atzmon. 

Additionally, some of his Tweets include even more fanciful claims:

Recently, he managed to criticize Israel in the context of Russia’s military aggression in Crimea, suggesting the existence of unnamed Israelis who (he claims) support Russia’s military’s actions.

There was also this, complaining of Labour’s historic support for Israel’s existence:

Then, there was this bizarre accusation that Israelis steal land from Palestinians to help prevent the country from going into a recession.

Here, he repeats a lie advanced at Mondoweiss, definitively refuted by Elder of Ziyon, that Israeli forces viciously attacked innocent Palestinian footballers – an assault, it is claimed, which included firing at the athlete’s feet in order to end their athletic careers.

Here, he can be seen legitimizing a comparison between Israeli occupation of the West Bank and US slavery.

So, with such a tortured relationship with the truth, our Guardian Spin detector was set to maximum when reading his March 14 essay (Cameron at the Knesset: helping to burst the bubble of Israeli politics?) at ‘Comment is Free’ on David Cameron’s speech before the Israeli Knesset.

After reflecting on a few relatively minor details of Cameron’s address, he pivoted to his primary argument: Israelis are a stiff-necked, arrogant people who don’t care much what others think about their delusional beliefs.

If Cameron learned anything from his visit, it ought to be that Israelis are fully engaged in arguing with other Israelis; the rest of the world does not get a look in. Israel’s political class exists inside a bubble in which only their views matter, no matter how detached from reality they might be.

These are small points to take from a long speech, true. But debates around Israel have tended to emphasise Israeli exceptionalism. The idea that Israel can create its own reality flows naturally from the idea that this is a young country, founded upon religious and/or revolutionary zeal less than 70 years ago. Yet the longer that Israel is allowed to operate by its own, different rules, the less chance for peace in a region and a world of equals, trading openly and negotiating freely.

He then made a specific charge about Netanyahu that we decided was worth investigating: 

Twenty-five years ago, Netanyahu wrote a book for the US market entitled A Place Among the Nations, which argued that it was time Israel was welcomed into the international fold. It seems a laudable thesis, but the argument was disingenuous. Netanyahu actually argued that Israel’s exceptionalism – its right to act according to its own principles rather than international norms – was the thing that the world should learn to love and embrace.

First, a Google Books search of the text in ‘A Place Among the Nations‘ does not turn up any references to the term “Israeli exceptionalism”, “exceptionalism” or “exception”.  Moreover, in several reviews of the book we read (some which were decidedly hostile to the Likud leader), not one echoed Blincoe’s claim that Bibi expressed a belief that Israel should not have to act according to “international norms”. 

Also, here’s a passage suggesting that Bibi complained that Israel is judged unfairly by the international community, and that he’d prefer it if Israel WAS judged (fairly), according to “international norms”, as you can see in this passage on page 170 – again, from a text search in Google Books:

normsIt’s possible Blincoe’s claim rests on a misinterpretation of the following passage, from page 376:

religious rightHowever, the necessary context relates to the fact that, as other sources demonstrated, Bibi’s not outlining his own views, but laying out (and clearly criticizing) the religious right view.  The passages in this chapter included criticism both of the far right and far left – positioning himself as representing the centre, against two-states (at the time that wasn’t right-wing), but also opposed to annexation and other policies likely to alienate the ‘international community’.

Here’s the full passage:

A mirror image of this [left-wing] messianism is found on the religious right, where it is believed that the act of settling the land is in and of itself sufficient to earn divine providence and an end to the country’s woes. If Israel were merely to hang tough and erect more settlements, it could dispense with world opinion and international pressures.

It’s unclear if Blincoe actually read ‘A Place Among the Nations’, but he certainly has mischaracterized Netanyahu’s argument, as there seems to be no evidence that he ever used the term “Israeli exceptionalism”, or a similar term, nor argued that Israel has the “right to act according to its own principles rather than international norms.

Unless he can produce a quote from Bibi’s book we weren’t able to locate, it certainly looks as if Blincoe’s brand of pro-Palestinian politics includes smearing the Israel’s leaders with fabricated evidence in service of predictable anti-Zionist conclusions.

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