Guardian op-ed: Mordechai Vanunu is a hero ‘like Snowden’

Before leaving his job as a technician at Israel’s nuclear installation in Dimona, Mordechai Vanunu had smuggled in a camera and covertly took dozens of photos of the secret facility – information he later used to help the UK Sunday Times write a story purporting to expose Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

Vanunu was convicted of treason and espionage in 1988, and released after serving 18 years in prison.  After his release, he claimed that he was proud of what he did.

Vanunu is still subject to travel restrictions  as he is still considered a serious danger to Israeli security.

Naturally, Vanunu is something of a cause célèbre at the Guardian, which has published no less than 76 separate pieces (reports, op-eds and letters) on the convicted felon (dating back to 1986), including an official editorial entitled “In Praise of…Mordechai Vanunu.

vanunu page

Vanunu page at the Guardian

The Guardian’s latest celebration of Vanunu comes in the form of an op-ed written by Duncan Campbell (a long time Guardian contributor), one which evokes Edward Snowden in characterizing Vanunu as nothing less than a hero:

heroThough the narrative advanced in this latest op-ed overlaps considerably with the the previous 75 Guardian reports and commentaries on Vanunu, Campbell’s evocation of Snowden – whose Guardian-facilitated leaks were characterized by the GCHQ as “the most catastrophic loss suffered by British intelligence” in history – suggests an effort to grant Vanunu the ‘martyr’ status only bestowed by the Guardian Left upon those Israelis sufficiently hostile to their state.

Despite the predictability of Campbell’s apologia, there was at least one passage – containing a classic Guardian obfuscation – worthy of comment.

Last December, he failed in the high court of justice in his latest bid to be allowed to leave. Does Edward Snowden, as he adjusts to life in Moscow, wonder whether he will still be haunted and hunted by the US government for decades to come?

 No one seriously claims that the man who was exhaustively debriefed by the Sunday Times nearly 30 years ago has any secrets up his sleeve. The decision to restrict his movements seems to be based more on a desire to inflict punishment on an unrepentant man than for security concerns.

However, Campbell is either being lazy or dishonest, as the Haaretz article he linked to in the above passage quite clearly indicates that there are indeed ‘serious claims’ that Vanunu has more ‘secrets up his sleeve’.  Here are the relevant passages from the very report cited by Campbell:

In his latest petition, filed by attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, Vanunu argued that a considerable amount of time had passed since he had worked in the Dimona center and committed the offenses for which he was convicted, and that not enough weight was being given to this passage of time. Vanunu also claimed that information about Israel’s nuclear capabilities published since his release “immeasurably exceeds” what he could add today…

The state countered through lawyers Dan Eldad and Aner Helman that Vanunu still possesses unpublished classified information and that he is trying to get the information published. To this end, the state’s lawyers presented classified material that was not made public.

In the decision, written by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis on behalf of himself and justices Miriam Naor and Isaac Amit, the court said that “after examining the extensive material submitted to the court, we are convinced that there is no reason to intervene in the decision of the respondents to extend the validity of the orders for another year.”

Grunis added, “One cannot say that the orders constitute a means of punishment, as claimed by the petitioner. The orders were designed to prevent future dissemination of classified information. In recent years, the court has examined several times the necessity of the orders, and has been convinced, time after time, that they are needed to protect national security.”

Grunis said that from the privileged material shown to the justices it emerges that Vanunu “is still collecting classified information and has not backed down from his plans to disseminate the information.”

So, contrary to Campbell’s contention, the Israeli court evidently not only has reason to believe that Vanunu has national security ‘secrets up his sleeve’, but has seen evidence indicating he intends to disseminate the information if given the opportunity.

Of course the broader truth pertaining to the Vanunu affair – and the media coverage of his ongoing legal battles – relates to the obvious fact that there isn’t a country in the world which wouldn’t act aggressively to prevent national security secrets from being revealed.

Further, characterizing as a “hero” those who betray an oath of secrecy and attempt to bypass established legal means to redress grievances against a particular government policy makes a mockery of  the term, and conflates felons convicted of betraying the national security of a democratic state with genuine political dissidents in truly repressive regimes.

 

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Peter Beaumont wants you to believe that Jews oppress Christians in Jerusalem

The most recent report by the US State Department on Religious Freedom in Israel and the Palestinian territories noted that though “Israel’s security fence restricted the ability of some Palestinian Muslims and Christians to reach some places of worship”, overall “the Israeli government respected the right to freedom of religion within the Occupied Territories“.

Regarding Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, however, the State Department reached a far different conclusion, documenting the institutional discrimination against Christians, their minority Shiite population and all Muslims who didn’t abide by the strictest interpretation of Islam.

Here are some highlights from the report: 

The de facto Hamas authorities in Gaza continued to restrict religious freedom in both law and practice, and the negative trend for respect of this right was reflected in such abuses as arresting or detaining Muslims in Gaza who did not abide by Hamas’ strict interpretation of Islam and broadcasting a program calling for Jews to be killed.”

Since the 2007 Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, has exercised de facto authority over the territory and has enforced conservative Islamic law, harassed non-Muslims, and imposed religious restrictions on women.

Hamas maintained control of Gaza throughout the year, used it as a base for attacks against Israel, and sometimes exploited its security apparatus to arrest or detain Muslims in Gaza who did not abide by Hamas’ strict interpretation of Islam.

In January Hamas authorities reportedly raided a Shia religious gathering during the holiday of Arbaeen in the Gazan neighborhood of Sheikh Zayyad. Reports differed on whether excessive force was used, although some claim at least 14 persons were arrested and some hospitalized. Hamas Ministry of Interior public statements claimed that the raid was a response to an illegal group with “corrupt views” that sought to commit unspecified crimes. It further stated that Gaza was a “Sunni country where Shiism does not exist.

Hamas enforced a conservative interpretation of Islam on Gaza’s Muslim population. For example, Hamas operated a women’s prison during the year to house women convicted of “ethical crimes” such as “illegitimate pregnancy.”

 local [Gaza] religious leaders received warnings ahead of Christian holidays against any public display of Christianity. Christians raised concerns that Hamas failed to defend their rights as a religious minority. Local officials sometimes advised converts to leave their communities to prevent harassment against them.

More broadly, reports abound demonstrating that Christians face systemic persecution throughout the Arab and Muslim Middle East, with studies predicting that “Christianity will “effectively disappear from the region as a cultural and political force within our lifetime”.  As The Telegraph commented on a recent study by the think-tank Civitas, “the most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam”. The report estimates some 2 million Christians have reportedly fled the region in the past 20 years alone.

Israel, on the other hand, is the one country in the region where the Christians are free, the population thriving, and their numbers growing.

Yet, despite the fact that Israel is the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont filed a report employing quintessential Guardian trickery on the issue: imputing Israeli intolerance from a few highly questionable accounts that are completely devoid of context, while ignoring the far more egregious crimes against Christians by Palestinian Muslims.

His report, Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem find their path to the Via Dolorosa is an ever harder road, April 20, all but ignores the larger story, that tens of thousands of Christians were able to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as part of Easter celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City, and characteristically focuses on a few sporadic complaints.

Typical is this passage:

Orthodox worshippers complained of a heavy-handed Israeli police presence at the Holy Fire ceremony on Easter Saturday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with many worshippers denied access.

Of course, such “heavy-handed” security and crowd control measures, to keep worshipers from surging into the church, may be one of the reasons why there were no reports of violence despite the incredibly large number of visitors.  Further, testifying to the overall success of the day’s events, Christian officials reportedly thanked Israeli police for their professional handling of the event.

Beaumont’s narrative appears to have taken an even more dishonest turn in the following passages:

On Sunday morning it emerged that Israeli police had prevented the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians from attending the Holy Fire ceremony on Saturday.

Serry said in a statement Israeli security officers had stopped a group of Palestinian worshippers and diplomats in a procession near the church, “claiming they had orders to that effect”.

However, it appears that Serry was allowed to pass and did attend the ceremony.

As the Washington Post reported on the same incident:

A precarious standoff ensued ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through,” Serry said. Serry spokeswoman Elpida Rouka said that the envoy and his party were trapped for about 30 minutes but that eventually the police retreated and the group, along with “an anxious crowd of worshipers,” was able to enter.

Additionally, we emailed Israel Police Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld who confirmed that Serry did indeed attend the ceremony.

It appears that Beaumont got it wrong.

Moreover, a more honest assessment of the day’s events would invariably conclude that Israel pulled off a remarkable feat on Saturday, allowing tens of thousands of Christians to visit holy sites in Jerusalem for Easter - a day which wasn’t marred by even the smallest incident of violence.

But, of course, such an honest account of Israel’s progressive advantages in the region would betray the Guardian narrative.  And, as we’re slowing learning about the paper’s new regional correspondent, when there’s a competition between allegiance to accuracy and telling Guardian readers what they want to hear, the former will lose almost every time.   

Catherine Philp names a suspect in the Passover attack on Jewish family: The ‘settlements’

On Monday night a Palestinian sniper fired multiple rounds from a Kalashnikov rifle at a Jewish family travelling on Route 35 to their Passover Seder in Kiryat Arba, killing 47-year-old Baruch Mizrachi and wounding his pregnant wife and one of their young sons.

Though the IDF is still hunting for the perpetrator, the Times Middle East correspondent has already pronounced a likely suspect. Yes, you guessed it, ‘Israeli Settlers’.

Catherine Philp’s story on the lethal attack, quite callously, never names the victim – referring to Mizrachi alternately as “a policeman”, even though he wasn’t on duty or in uniform at the time of the attack, and “the driver” – and focuses almost entirely on news from the day before regarding four Jewish families who moved into Hebron consistent with a Supreme Court ruling determining the property was purchased legally.  

The narrative focus is already evident in the headline:

header

The April 16th story (pay wall) begins thusly:

An Israeli policeman was shot dead near Hebron on the eve of the Passover festival as Jewish settlers celebrated their return to a disputed house in a Palestinian area of the West Bank city.

Three families moved into the building on Sunday evening, protected by Israeli soldiers, hours after Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli defence minister, granted permission for their return — six years after their initial eviction.

The first apparent retaliation for the return of the settlers came on Monday night when a man opened fire on a car outside Hebron.

Remarkably, by the third paragraph Philp already establishes causation between the two events, without one iota of actual evidence and before, let’s remember, the culprits have even been apprehended or interrogated.

Philp continues, adding a bit more information on the nameless driver/policeman.

The driver, an Israeli policeman, was killed and his wife wounded. A nine-year-old boy in another car suffered light injuries.

However, the final ten paragraphs all deal with the broader story of the “provocation” of the continuing Jewish presence in Hebron, the oldest Jewish community in the world.

In total, only three out of fourteen paragraphs are devoted to the terrorist attack on a Jewish couple and their young children.

Mizrachi was laid to rest on Wednesday night, and left behind five young children, the youngest of whom recited Kaddish (the prayer recited by Jewish mourners) as the funeral began.

Baruch Mizachi

Baruch Mizachi

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The Guardian has absolutely no idea why a Jewish man was murdered near Hebron

To understand the latest report by Peter Beaumont (the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent), it’s necessary to comprehend the Guardian’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, in which Israelis represent privileged Western colonialists, and are almost completely the guilty party, while Palestinians are the weak, the dispossessed and colonized – and are almost entirely the victims.

Since their journalistic ethos seems inspired by a desire to, as one Guardian journalist phrased it, ‘comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable’, even the most brutal Palestinian terror attacks will necessarily be framed in a manner which robs Israeli victims of their humanity, and obfuscates the malevolence of the Palestinian perpetrator.

To wit, a April 14 story by Beaumont on a deadly terrorist attack near Hebron, on the eve of Passover, in which a Jewish man (Baruch Mizrachi) was killed, and his wife (Hadas) and children injured by Palestinian sniper fire, is notable for the absence of the words “terrorist” or even “militant”, its subtle attempts to downplay the deadly assault and the suggestion that the motive for the attack is ‘unclear’.  

The story, titled Israeli man killed and family members hurt as car fired on in West Bank, begins thusly:

One Israeli was killed three others injured after their car was hit by gunfire as they travelled through the West Bank on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday.

The dead man, aged 40, was understood to be the father of the family while his pregnant wife, aged 28, and two children – one of them a nine-year old – were injured.

At least one man armed with an automatic weapon and apparently wearing a helmet opened fire on several cars travelling on route 35 near the city of Hebron, according to witness reports.

Note the passive language in the title and the opening passage, in which the victim’s car was hit by “gunfire”.  It isn’t until the third paragraph that “an armed man” makes an appearance.  However, the identity or likely motive of “the armed man” is not explored.

Beaumont continues:

The family in the car that was hit was understood to be en route from their home in Modi’in – an Israeli town split across occupied Palestinian and Israeli territory – to visit the mother’s family for the traditional meal that commences the Passover religious festival. The shooting was the second incident in the past two days on the West Bank.

This paragraph represents the first attempt to impute ‘settler’ status upon the victim.  However, Beaumont gets it wrong. Modi’in does not extend into “Palestinian territory”. (The Maccabim section of the greater Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut municipality – encompassing a few zip codes – are in what’s known as No Man’s Land, which refers to land between Israel and the West Bank whose sovereignty was never fully clarified after the War of Independence in 1948.)

Beaumont continues, and fails to properly contextualize additional information which clearly indicates a terror attack had taken place.

A traveller in another of the cars relayed the incident to an Israeli news agency describing the man as armed with a Kalashnikov and wearing a helmet. “He opened fire but didn’t hit us. He kept firing at the cars behind us,” the man said.

Israel‘s Channel 10 quoted another witness describing the man as dressed in black.

Beaumont then adds information which could easily be read as possible motives – if not justifications – for the shooting, which is curious in that, up until this point, he hasn’t so much as hinted that the attack could be nationalist (or political) in nature.

The shooting comes amid increasing tensions following a stalemate in peace talks.

It also comes hard on the heels of permission by the Israeli army on Sunday for three settler families to move into a building in nearby Hebron, after a long legal battle and culminating on Sunday with the authorisation by Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, of the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s.

Then, in the penultimate paragraph, Beaumont descends to the absurd, feigning ignorance as to the likely motive:

However, with no immediate claim of responsibility the precise motives for the shooting remained unclear.

Finally, there this closing paragraph:

In the last 12 months five Israelis have been killed in attacks on the West Bank. According to figures collated by the Israeli NGO B’Tselem between January 2009 and the end of February this year 82 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces or civilians on the West Bank and 20 Israelis.

Note that, per Beaumont, Israelis have been killed by “attacks” perpetrated by faceless perpetrators, while Palestinians have been killed by “Israelis”.

Finally, in light of Beaumont’s callous, agenda-driven report, here’s a first-hand account of the shooting (per the Israeli media) which will humanize the victims:

“We left our house in Modi’in and headed to the Seder,” Hadas Mizrahi told Ynet. “We passed the Tarqumia checkpoint and a traffic circle, and then Baruch saw a terrorist. He told me, ‘they’re shooting, they’re shooting, they’re shooting. There’s a terrorist.’ Baruch put his foot down on the gas pedal.

“I felt a pain in my back. I told the kids, ‘take off your seatbelts and lie down on the floor’. I took the steering wheel, shifted into low gear and used the handbrake to reduce the speed. I used a rag to wipe up the blood; I saw that Baruch was dead. When the soldiers arrived, I told them to dress my wounds and put the children in a protected vehicle, so that they didn’t see their father lying dead.”

The initial investigation into the attack found that the terrorist fired dozens of rounds from a Kalashnikov at vehicles, hitting the car in which Baruch and Hadas Mizrahi and five of their children were travelling. The children, aged between 3 and 13, did not suffer any injuries, in no small part thanks to Hadas’ quick thinking.

I’ll be strong for the children, because that’s what Baruch would have wanted. We should also be thankful for the miracle that my children and I survived. We will stay strong and God willing, my children will grow and succeed, and that will be my victory against the terrorists,” said the mother, whose condition is defined as moderate. “I have two bullet wounds and a fractured rib.”

hadas

(This post was revised at 19:30 Israeli time to more accurately explain the boundaries of Modi’in.)

Irish Times columnist ponders whether ‘rich Zionists’ control US foreign policy

We’ve previously written about Irish Times columnist Eamonn McCann, a Trotskyist activist and commentator who has employed the “chosen people” canard to suggest that Israeli attacks are arguably inspired by a belief in their own superiority, claimed that Zionism is racism and prophesized on the Jewish State’s ultimate demise.

In his April 10 Irish Times op-ed, the ‘truth telling’ radical expressed his disgust at Sheldon Adelson – or, more precisely, a recent episode involving New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in which the possible Presidential contender apologized to Adelson (a Republican donor) after giving a speech in which he referred to Judea and Samaria as ‘occupied territory’.

Here’s how McCann characterized the episode:

In a desperate effort to clamber his way back into the race for the Republican presidential nomination for 2016, New Jersey governor Chris Christie last week kowtowed to Zionism and apologised for telling the truth. 

Later, McCann wrote this in an attempt to contextualize Christie’s apology to Adelson:

There is a common view which this episode will reinforce that rich Zionists have captured US policy on the Middle East and use their financial clout to deliver uncritical support from the political elite for Israeli outrages against dispossessed Palestinians. There may be truth in this, but not the whole truth.

First, McCann fails to explain how the charge that “rich Zionists have captured US policy” is “not the whole truth”.  

Moreover, Adelson is Jewish, and it seems undeniable, given the context (as well as McCann’s previous expressions of contempt for ‘Zionists), that “rich Zionists” is a thinly veiled euphemism for “rich Jews’.  

Of course, saying outright that ‘rich Jews control the US government’ would represent the babbling of an anti-Semite.

And, we all know that editors at the Irish Times would never, ever allow such crude bigotry on the pages of their ‘progressive’ newspaper, don’t we?

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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.

Financial Times or Electronic Intifada? ‘Serious’ UK paper descends to agitprop

The blurring of ‘professional’ journalism with political advocacy was on full display recently in a “serious” journal known as the Financial Times - the British equivalent of the U.S.-based Wall Street Journal, which largely focuses on international business and economic news.  The April 3 report by David Gardner descends to hyperbole in the very strap line of the story by employing a trope – suggesting that Israel controls the United States – often used by those who claim a decidedly more extremist political pedigree.

strap line

In the second paragraph of the report, Gardner attempts to explain the reason for the current impasse in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians:

The ostensible new roadblock concerns prisoners. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the interim Palestinian Authority, came back to the negotiating table even though Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused yet again to freeze settlement building, thus allowing Israel to continue eating up the shrinking territory over which the Palestinians are negotiating to eventually build their state.

It’s important to remember that Abbas previously refused to talk to Netanyahu about peace for the first nine months of a ten-month settlement freeze instituted by the Israeli prime minister in November 2009. Additionally, as almost all new ‘settlement’ construction in recent years has taken place within existing settlement boundaries, it’s extraordinarly misleading to characterize such construction as “eating up the shrinking territory”.

Gardner continues:

Mr Abbas, seen by admirers as a moderate and by critics as a quisling, has abjured radical siren calls for resistance in favour of a negotiated solution. He has nothing to show his people. He looks weak and discredited.

First, “radical siren calls for resistance” is of course a euphemism for violent attacks against Israeli civilians – and Gardner seems to be suggesting that mere absence of an organized intifada suggests that the Palestinian leader is somehow a moderate. (Quisling, by the way, is a term used to demonize political leaders who betray their own country by aiding an ‘invading enemy’, referring to Vidkun Quisling, the pro-Nazi Norwegian leader.)

Then, Gardner proceeds to completely mischaracterize the reason for the impasse.

To offset this, Israel was persuaded to release 104 Palestinian long-term prisoners. The Netanyahu government’s refusal to hand over the last batch on the due date precipitated the current crisis. In retaliation, Mr Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties, investing Palestine with some of the international attributes of a state – which he had promised the US to defer while negotiations continued

This is flatly untrue. The prisoner release was always meant to serve as an incentive to keep Palestinians talking.  The crisis began when Abbas refused to commit to extending the April 29 deadline, even after the last round of prisoners were to be released.  However, a tentative deal, brokered by the US, was reportedly agreed to by both parties to keep the talks going through 2015 – which included the release of the final 26 prisoners along with an additional 400 other prisoners, as well as a curb on settlement construction in the West Bank.  

The Israeli government was reportedly only hours away from agreeing to the terms of the deal to extend talks when Abbas announced the move to join 15 international conventions and treaties – in violation of his agreement when talks began to avoid such unilateral steps – thus effectively sabotaging the agreement.

Gardner’s claim that “Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties” in “retaliation” for Netanyahu’s “refusal to hand over the last batch” of prisoners represents an egregious distortion of the sequence of events.  Netanyahu’s government temporarily delayed the release of the 26 prisoners in order to first get a commitment from the Palestinians to continue the peace talks past the April 29 deadline.  If Abbas hadn’t initiated his unilateral move, the 26 prisoners were almost certainly going to be released.

Gardner continues:

The prisoners in question were supposed to have been released 20 years ago as part of the Oslo accords, at the high water mark for hopes that these two peoples could close a deal on sharing the Holy Land. They were not.

This is not true.  The pre-Oslo prisoners are all convicted of murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murder and there was no provision of the Oslo Accords requiring their release.  Israel only agreed to free 4,000 Palestinian prisoners (women, administrative detainees and minors, as well as elderly and sick prisoners), and stated quite clearly that they would not release “prisoners who killed Israeli citizens or were deemed likely to become involved in future acts of violence”.

Here’s the text of the relevant agreement from 1995, as published on an official Palestinian website

prisoners

Then, to demonstrate Israel’s “pattern of the US consistently over-rewarding a recalcitrant ally, as well as being snubbed by Israel for its pains”, Gardner makes the following claim:

In 2009, for example, it was Mr Obama who blinked when Mr Netanyahu simply refused to halt colonisation of Palestinian land. Instead, in 2010, the US president offered Israel the Jordan Valley – a big chunk of the occupied West Bank that is not his to give – in return for a short pause in settlement building. Mr Netanyahu, in any event, refused.

Again, this is a complete fabrication.

Nobody disputes that, at Obama’s urging in 2009, Israel agreed to a 10-month construction freeze on new homes in the West Bank.  The curb in construction can be demonstrated by housing statistics for the year in question.   It’s possible Gardner is referring to an incentive offered by Obama to Netanyahu to extend the 10-month freeze by another 2 months in exchange for the President’s support, in principle, to Israel retaining some sort of military presence in the Jordan Valley in the context of a final peace deal, but to write that Obama “offered Israel the Jordan Valley”, which implies that ‘settlements’ in that area would be retained by Israel, is highly misleading.

Then, following a passage which repeats the “Israeli tail wagging the US dog” claim from the strap line, Gardner adds:

Far from pushing Israel to roll back the occupation enough to enable Palestinians to build a viable state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital, it looks as though the US is planning to hand Israel almost all the settlement blocs, about three-quarters of East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley

First, Gaza isn’t on the table as there is a political division between Hamas and Fatah, the former (which controls the strip) refuses to agree to negotiation or recognize Israel under any circumstances.  Second, the US isn’t handing Israel anything, as responsibility for an agreement rests in the hands of both parties.  Additionally, as negotiations haven’t even come close to concluding, it’s impossible to know for sure what the final map would look like.  And, again, the US isn’t offering Israel the Jordan Valley. 

Gardner continues:

In addition, the Palestinians are being pressed to recognise Israel as a Jewish state – rather than, as they have long since done, recognise the state of Israel and its right to exist. Agreement to that could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees, prejudice the position of that fifth of the population of Israel proper that is Palestinian Arab by origin, as well as require Palestinians to repudiate their history.

By arguing that the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people (a requirement by Israeli leaders going back to Sharon) “could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees” (a number corresponding to the number of Palestinians recognized by UNRWA as “refugees”, not the number of actual refugees, which is closer to 30,000) he’s implicitly endorsing the unlimited right of return, a concept which will Israel will never agree to as it is a thinly veiled way to achieve a one-state solution.

Naturally, Gardner doesn’t mention that Abbas – during his recent meeting with Obama – not only refused to compromise on the ‘right of return’ and mutual recognition, but also reportedly refused to commit to an ‘end of conflict’ proviso, “under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel”.

Gardner ends by warning Israel that failing to compromise with the Palestinians “will chip away at Israel’s hard-won legitimacy”, but it is such intellectually dishonest pro-Palestinian propaganda parading as journalism which chips away at the veneer of his professional credibility.

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Latest target of anti-Zionist witch-hunt in the UK: Israeli psychotherapists.

Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett

Martin Kemp, Teresa Bailey, Jeff Halper, David Harrold at the Guild of Psychotherapists, Nelson Square, London on Wednesday night.

Martin Kemp, Teresa Bailey, Jeff Halper, David Harrold at the Guild of Psychotherapists, Nelson Square, London on Wednesday night.

On Wednesday night I found myself sitting among 60 or so psychotherapists and mental health workers at the Guild of Psychotherapists in London for the launch meeting of the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network.

The four panelists were David Harrold and Mohamed Altawil, both of the Palestine Trauma Centre UK, psychotherapist Martin Kemp and ubiquitous Israel-hater Jeff Halper of Israeli Committee against House Demolitions. Chairing the evening was psychotherapist Teresa Bailey.

The evening was supposed to be about helping the Palestinians but, as ever, it quickly dissolved into an evening of unmitigated attacks on Israel and Zionism, and calls for a boycott of the Jewish state. Contributions from panelists were very short so as to encourage comments from the audience.

First to speak was Altawil who discussed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder suffered by Palestinian children. He said the biggest trauma was when Palestinian children lost their houses and he accused Israel of “working to kill Palestinians from the inside”.

Harrold said Palestinians were in an “abusive relationship” shown by Israeli politicians talking about “putting Palestinians on a diet” and how they “must be made to feel a defeated people”. He said the Palestinians had been “reduced to a level of thinking only about the problem of survival, nothing else”.

Harrold continued “if you are sane you are going to resist” and he then listed certain ways of resisting which included “rockets and martyrs’ funerals”. He said he did not endorse such methods. He didn’t say he denounced them either.

Halper, who wishes to boycott Israel out of existence, called for the mobilisation of “civil society”.

Kemp criticised David Cameron for “declaring himself rock solid in his support of Israel”. Kemp described politicians who speak up in support of Israel as “hypocritical” and he invoked Ghada Karmi, Ronnie Kasrils, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Judith Butler to support his notion that Israel has an “apartheid system”.

Kemp finished by saying that “the west’s embrace of Zionism is having a detrimental effect on our own political culture”.

For more on Kemp’s ideological hatred towards Israel read his article To Resist Is To Exist in Therapy Today in which he seems to compare Israel to Nazi Germany when he invokes Emanuel Berman who said:

‘The lessons from Germany… and from Chile… point… to the need for analysts in all countries to confront openly major issues in their country’s history… Israeli society, and more specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which it is engulfed, is a case in point…’

From the floor Derek Summerfield, a senior lecturer and another seemingly vicious anti-Israel polemicist said “boycott is the only tool” and David, a young social worker in London who didn’t give his surname, suggested they should “hit Israelis economically”.

Andrew Samuels, a founding member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, a psychotherapist, political consultant and professor of Analytical Psychology at the University of Essex, seems to be a master of the dark arts of which his ideological mentor Carl Jung would not have approved.

Samuels suggested the Jewish community would respond to a political move couched in terms of “mental health and therapy”.

He was “excited about setting up a line of influence that ends up in governmental circles” and the “prestigious meeting rooms in Parliament” which would be provided.

He said “histrionics, the worst case scenario, emotional blackmail and all that kind of thing” should be used.

He complained that “the psychotherapy world is two-thirds pro-Israel”. But, he said, “we have to have the fight…the question is how best to make a lot of noise because noise really does matter. Losing debates and resolutions doesn’t matter viewed in the context of historical time. You have to lose a lot before you have the remotest possibility of winning anything.”

Margaret McCallin, an elderly English lady and a retired psychotherapist, said that “the mental health of the Palestinians must be seen in the context of violation of human rights and the ongoing violence from which these people see no end”.

She said that despite the way the Palestinians live in Gaza “they don’t get up and start slaughtering the Israelis on the border or any of the others”. How delightfully generous of her.

Finally, Teresa Bailey took a vote to gauge support for the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network and quoted Martin Luther King’s “what is remembered are not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.

There were many other vicious comments about Israel from the floor, yet not one mention of Palestinian terror group Hamas and its real oppression of Palestinian women, gays and dissidents.

So expect a racist boycott of Israeli psychotherapists and mental health workers along the lines of the RIBA boycott of Israeli architects anytime soon.

Wednesday night at Guild of Psychotherapists.

Wednesday night at Guild of Psychotherapists.

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Palestine Solidarity Campaign holds anti-Israel hate event at P21 Gallery.

Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett

PSC at P21 Gallery, London last night.

PSC at P21 Gallery, London last night.

“Boycott, Boycott, Boycott. Boycott Israeli products and settlement products. Put pressure on Israel economically. It’s the language THEY understand,” Mahmoud Doughlas implored his audience last night.

Doughlas wasn’t pressed on what he meant by “they”, but the language certainly seemed to contain a racist undercurrent.

Doughlas was speaking, via Skype from Nablus, at a PSC event hosted by P21 Gallery. The event was Education under Occupation – stories from West Bank and Gaza students.

Doughlas, an electrical engineering student at Birzeit University, was speaking from Nablus because, he said, Britain had refused him an entry visa.

He began by telling the audience that when he was in 7th grade Israeli soldiers entered his school “randomly injuring people” and throwing teargas into the classrooms. He couldn’t breathe for 15 minutes and ended up in hospital.

He claimed that one of his friends had been imprisoned for 18 months for writing graffiti on a settlement wall and, if I heard correctly, he said Palestinians have even “been arrested for dreaming about doing something”.

Meanwhile, Jehan al Farra, an alumnus of the Islamic University in Gaza, definitely was in London. She had been in the UK since September studying for a Masters in Computer Studies.

Her main preoccupation last night was describing the problems of studying in Gaza, especially getting to and from academic institutions there due to fuel shortages.

During the Q&A an audience member pointed out that she is highly articulate and very confident, which is a tribute to her teachers and the syllabus. This was a difficult point for her to address without admitting that, just maybe, the situation isn’t as bad as her and her colleagues were attempting to portray.

But she did address another point when an audience member claimed that “Israel had worked hard to destroy Palestinian heritage”. Al Farra said that Israel had even “occupied Palestinian culture”. An example she gave was the Israeli keffiyeh.

Maybe al Farra should read this interesting statement on the Israeli keffiyeh:

“Jews indigenous to the Middle East, such as my family is, have worn some variation of the “kefyah” (cap/kippah) and keffiyeh (head/neck scarves) for thousands of years.”

Here is al Farra last night describing how Palestinians sometimes get killed in accidents when using electricity generators:

 

Last night the PSC was sporting its brand new logo (see top photo – top left of screen). However, on the PSC website and their leaflets the logo is still the map of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, which is far more honest about their intentions for Israel:

psclogo

And PSC’s Ameena Saleem, who was chairing last night’s event, wasted no opportunity to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. This, as we know, is merely code for calling for the Jewish state’s destruction.

P21 Gallery, itself, has a fairly large space at 21 Chalton Street. It supported St James’s Church’s Bethlehemfest over the Christmas period when St James’s Church ran a number of anti-Israel events while also erecting a copy of Israel’s security wall outside its premises in central London.

St James’s Church called for the real wall, which saves lives, to be dismantled. An astonishing £30,000 was spent building the copy wall.

Meanwhile, the charitable objectives of P21 Gallery (registered number 1153141) are:

“TO WORK IN COLLABORATION WITH BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, ORGANISATIONS, ARTISTS, CURATORS AND DESIGNERS TO PROMOTE, DOCUMENT AND FACILITATE PUBLIC ACCESS TO ARAB ART AND CULTURE IN BRITAIN BY ESTABLISHING AND MAINTAINING AN ART GALLERY AND CULTURAL CENTRE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PUBLIC.”

But the website of P21 Gallery states:

“The P21 Gallery is a London-based non-profit organisation promoting contemporary Middle Eastern and Arab art and culture with distinct focus on Palestine.”

Judging by last night’s event I think that the charitable objectives could possibly be more clearly defined as: Facilitating the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state.

But then that wouldn’t have sounded too charitable to the Charity Commissioners.

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Stealth ‘corrections’ at the Indy in Mira Bar-Hillel’s confessional about Olmert

A couple of hours ago we posted about an op-ed by Mira Bar-Hillel, titled ‘I dated Ehud Olmert once. His ambition stood out, but the corruption was yet to come‘, which included two errors:

First, she got the date of Ariel Sharon’s coma wrong.

More significantly, Bar-Hillel greatly inflated the casualty figures from the 2008-09 war in Gaza.  Here’s the original passage:

he [Olmert] ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead, 

As we noted, even B’tselem (the NGO which has one of the highest casualty tallies) didn’t claim that the three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas “left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead”.  While other sources (including, quite tellingly, Hamas) place the civilian casualty figures dramatically lower, B’tselem has claimed that 773 of the 1387 Palestinians killed “did not take part in hostilities”.

Shortly after contacting Indy editors and alerting them to the errors, we noticed two changes:

First, the date of Sharon’s coma was corrected.

However, though there was a second change, it was not at all sufficient.  They merely changed this…

Two years later, he ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead… 

to this:

Two years later he ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left nearly 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead..

So, do they accept B’tselem’s figures, or don’t they? If they do, then are we to believe that 773 is “nearly 1000″?

Finally, it’s important to note that though newspaper editors (at the Guardian and elsewhere) who respond positively to our correction requests typically explain the revision or acknowledge it somewhere on their site, the changes to Bar-Hillel’s op-ed were not acknowledged or explained via an email, nor noted by Indy editors anywhere on the page.

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UK journalist who dated Ehud Olmert corrupts Gaza War casualty figures

Mira Bar-Hillel, the British journalist who has admitted to being prejudiced against Jews, penned an op-ed on April 1 at the Independent which contained an even more startling revelation:
mira

In what reads at first glance as an April Fool’s joke, Bar-Hillel writes the following about the former Israeli Prime Minister.

Reader, I didn’t marry him. Not even close. But I did once go out with the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has just been convicted of bribery and corruption.

Back in late 1969 a blind date was arranged for us. We moved in the same circles for a few years: he as an aspiring politician, me as a journalist. Then as now, Olmert was highly intelligent, with a sharp legal mind. On the downside was his raw ambition.

Olmert was the accidental PM. ‘Arik’ Sharon made him his deputy mainly to force him to toe the line. But when Sharon fell into a coma in 2004, Olmert inherited the job without having to bother with an election which he would probably not have won.

His legacy as PM includes the ill-fated adventure in Lebanon in August 2006, which killed over 1,000 people, mostly civilians, devastated civil infrastructure and displaced approximately one million Lebanese. Two years later, he ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead, many of them, as in Lebanon, children.

First, she of course got the date of Ariel Sharon’s coma wrong, which occurred in 2006, not 2004.

Additionally, Bar-Hillel significantly inflates the casualty figures in the 2008-09 war in Gaza.

Even such politicized pro-Palestinian NGOs such as B’tselem haven’t claimed that the three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas “left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead”.  While other sources (including, quite tellingly, Hamas) place the civilian casualty figures dramatically lower, B’tselem has claimed that 773 of the 1387 Palestinians they claim were killed in the war “did not take part in hostilities” – more than 20 percent less than the figure cited by Bar-Hillel.

While Bar-Hillel acknowledges that the failed shidduch with the disgraced former PM didn’t provide an opportunity to really get to know the man, readers of the Independent would likely benefit from an equally frank admission that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is an issue about which she knows even less about.

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Factual errors behind the anti-Israel vote by Royal Institute of British Architects

CiF Watch recently posted about a motion passed by the Royal Institute of British Architects calling on the International Union of Architects (UIA) “to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects’ (IAUA) membership until it acts to resist projects on illegally-occupied land and observes international law and accords”.

The decision was based partly on a presentation given to the group by an anti-Israel activist (and Guardian contributor) named Abe Hayeem.

abe

Here is a response to some of the glaring factual errors which led to the RIBA anti-Israel vote.

1. RIBA claimed that their vote was based partly on Union of International Architects (UIA) Resolution 13 which states that Israeli projects in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) were ‘illegal’, as well as the Resolution’s claim  that “The UIA Council condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention”.  

First, the claim that “Israeli projects in the West Bank are “illegal” – despite what the UK media claims – represents a highly disputed legal contention.  Additionally, almost all Israeli settlements are in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, and is under full Israeli military and administrative control per the Oslo II Accord (1995) – an agreement, signed by the Palestinians, which contains no prohibition against settlement construction.

Also, Israel has not contravened the Geneva Convention.  Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention states

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

No court of law has ever found Israel to be in breach of this Article. The Article was written after WW2, when German and Russia forcibly transferred populations. Israel has not forced anyone to move into the West Bank, nor has it displaced local populations. In fact, the Palestinian population within the territories has increased dramatically

The International court of Justice did find in 2004 that Israel was in breach of the Geneva Convention, but this was in an advisory opinion which is not legally binding.

2. Abe Hayeem’s presentation to the RIBA Council included a characterization of the Prawer Plan for resettlement of the Israeli Bedouin as “ethnic cleansing”.

However, the plan does not even remotely resemble “ethnic cleansing”. It is a plan to give the Bedouin citizens of Israel more services and to reduce the economic and social gaps between the Bedouin and the rest of Israeli society. Many Bedouin supported the Plan (which has been shelved) under which a minority, some 20,000 to 30,000 Bedouin, would have been relocated (a few kilometers from their current place of residence) to recognised Bedouin towns, in order to be connected to Israel’s utility networks and have better access to state services.  Further, most Bedouin would have their current land legalized.  The plan also stipulated that those forced to move would receive financial compensation as well as new plots of land.

3. Hayeem also told the RIBA Council the following:

“Palestinian land has become so fragmented that a viable Palestinian State has been rendered impossible. The map of Palestine, for the indigenous Palestinians, has shrunk from being 97% of the land in 1917 to 44% in 1947 to 22% in 1967.”

First, the “map” he’s referring to has been exposed as a lie.

Further, it is not true that a “viable Palestinian state has become impossible”. Under the final status negotiations, Israel accepts that some settlements will need to be evacuated in the event of a peace agreement. And Hayeem’s figures (97% to 22%) ignore the impact of the immigration of Jews to Palestine in 1917-1947 as well as the 1948 War of Independence which was started by the Arabs but in which the new State of Israel successfully defended itself. In 1917 Israel did not exist! – hence the 97% figure.

4. Hayeem’s presentation to the RIBA Council accused Israel of pursuing “apartheid policies”.

This is an egregious falsehood, as you can see by a thorough refutation of the smear published by BICOM.  (See also Jonathan Hoffman’s critique of Ben White’s book.)

Finally, it’s worth noting that in April 2000 Nelson Mandela came to London and spoke to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He spoke of the need for Israel to leave the lands taken in 1967 but not unless there was first recognition of the Jewish State by the Arab States:

I added a second position, that Israel cannot be expected to withdraw from the Arab territories which she legitimately conquered when the Arab States wanted to whip her out of the map of the world.”

No mention of ‘apartheid’ in Israel – from a man who spent 27 years as a prisoner of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

(Editor’s Note: To assist those in the UK who oppose the boycott, please sign this petition, and 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 (UIA email)

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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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