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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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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The Economist falsely suggests that exports from Gaza are banned.

The Economist’s Middle East blog, Pomegranate, published a post on April 2 about the art scene in Gaza, titled ‘Not so bleak, which included the following closing passages:

Hamas now keeps its hands off the enclave’s burgeoning arts scene. “In the first years it banned exhibitions,” says Mr Haj. “Now it stages its own…There’s a kind of a glasnost.” Purists in the religious-endowments ministries stayed away. But the Hamas culture minister issued a licence, offering moral but not financial support and apologising that his $10,000 budget for such projects could not cover the show.

The interior ministry did summon an artist, but only to inquire menacingly how he had managed to exhibit a painting in Israel. “I sent it by e-mail,” came the reply. Selling the originals is trickier, since exports from Gaza are still banned.

First, it should be pointed out that there is nothing prohibiting the Palestinian artist in Gaza from sending the original painting to Israel, as there is regular postal service between the two territories. Moreover, The Economist blogger’s suggestion that ‘exports from Gaza are banned’ is flatly untrue.

The following graph published by Gisha – an NGO whose mission is to “protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents” – illustrates the number of truckloads of goods exiting Gaza for export (to the U.S., Europe and the Arab world).

gisha graphic

As you can see, though the quantity of trucks leaving the strip for export varies dramatically depending on the month, there is clearly no ban on exports, as The Economist seems to claim.  

Additionally, according to COGAT (the Israel Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), from the beginning of 2012 through July 2013 over 850 tons of fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices were exported abroad from Gaza. 

tut

Strawberries prepared for export from Gaza

In fact, it appears that there are few limits imposed by Israel on the quantity of consumer goods Gaza can export to foreign markets (outside of Israel and the West Bank), so it’s unclear how The Economist contributor – who only goes by the initials N.P. – arrived at the conclusion that ‘exports are (still) banned’.

 

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More on Harriet Sherwood’s love letter to the “miraculous” people of Gaza

We posted recently about a 3200 word love letter to the people of Gaza by departing Guardian Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood – a farewell report which “paid tribute to the resilience, creativity and humour of its people… despite their adverse circumstances and repeated setbacks”.

The moral pass given to the extremist antisemitic movement ruling Gaza by Sherwood – reflecting the paper’s proclivity to frame even most malevolent Palestinian political actors in a sympathetic light - was evident in the following passage:

I arrived eager to learn more about what is frequently called the world’s most intractable conflict, and to try to understand the powerful feelings of historical injustice on both sides. I am leaving angry about an occupation that has lasted close to half a century, weary of Israel’s grinding oppression of the Palestinian people, cynical about the political leadership on both sides and in the international community, and pessimistic that a fair resolution will be reached.

Well, it turns out that the print edition of The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) published additional content related to Sherwood’s apologia, one which included a simply risible headline:

miracle

Observer, Jan. 25, page 16

First, the misinformation in these “facts” about the “miracle” of Gaza is significant.

  • Electricity and Fuel: Even Palestinians are blaming Hamas for the fuel shortage – and related power outages – which was largely caused by the Islamist group’s decision not to pay for fuel from the open market, but instead rely on taxes gained from the illegal transfer of cheaper fuel through tunnels.  These elaborate and extremely expensive underground structures have been largely closed down (by both Israel and Egypt) due to Hamas’s decision to utilize these ‘humanitarian’ tunnels for weapons smuggling and other terrorist uses
  • Construction: Again, Sherwood fails to reveal that the export of most construction material to Gaza was (temporarily) suspended only after the IDF uncovered the terrorist tunnels Hamas was using to transfer deadly weapons, and plan terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. Prior to these restrictions, construction materials for both UN projects and private contractors were being imported into the territory.   
  • Imports: Again, Hamas was using the tunnels to not only import “cheaper” consumer goods, but to import deadly weapons and plan terror attacks. (Additionally, every month, Israel oversees the transfer of roughly thousands of trucks of goods into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing – supplies which include food, humanitarian products, medical supplies and electrical products.)
  • Exports: Sherwood again misleads, as she fails to note that Gaza exports over 50 truckloads of goods each month to mostly European markets – goods which includes fruit, spices and flowers.
  • Exit: Sherwood fails to note that, in addition to the pedestrian crossings into Egypt, between 4,000 and 5,000 Gazans are given permits each month to enter into Israel. A large percentage of these Palestinians are allowed into Israel to get medical treatment at Israeli hospitals.
  • Rockets: Remarkably, the number cited by Sherwood is actually HIGHER than what was reported by the Israeli Security Agency. According to figures released by the ISA, there were 74 rockets and mortars fired into Israel from Gaza in 2013.

Additionally, Sherwood failed to note that Gazans receive a large percentage of the roughly $2.4 billion that the Palestinians (in both Gaza and the W. Bank) receive annually in international aid, making Palestinians the third largest recipient of aid in the world.

Beyond the misleading nature of Sherwood’s specific claims, the decision (presumably by Guardian editors) to use the word “miraculous” to describe Gaza’s survival is a great illustration of the fetishization of Palestinians continually on display in their reports and commentaries, most which lack the critical scrutiny that Israelis are typically subjected to.  A more sober assessment of Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal in 2005 would surely evoke Abba Ebban’s dismay over Palestinians’ tendency to “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.  

When the last Israeli soldiers left Gaza, Palestinian Arabs were free of ‘occupation’ for the first time in their history, yet didn’t respond by working towards the development of democratic norms and the promotion of economic growth and social progress.  Instead, they elected a reactionary, extremist and ideologically antisemitic religious movement whose primary focus was inculcating Palestinians with hatred towards Jews, and ridding the region of the Zionist entity.

Gazans’ economic woes – exaggerated, though they are – can be directly attributed to their destructive decision during the 2006 legislative elections, and they will only know true freedom and real economic prosperity when they figure out how to free themselves from the yoke of Islamist fanatics who speak in their name. 

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Guardian mourns Eyad Sarraj, a Palestinian who once asked: Are Jews evil by nature?

What exactly does it take to disqualify a Palestinian from being canonized as a liberal human rights activist by the Guardian Left?  This question came to mind when reading a Guardian obituary for Eyad Sarraj, who died recently at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem where he was being treated for cancer.  

obitThe obit was written by the Guardian’s former associate foreign editor Victoria Brittain, a Palestine Solidarity Campaign patron who recently penned a spirited defense at ‘Comment is Free’ of radical Islamist preacher (and suspected  al-Qaeda operative) Abu Qatada.

Brittain begins by acknowledging the personal nature of her relationship with Sarraj:

My friend and mentor Eyad Sarraj, who has died aged 69 after suffering from multiple myeloma, was not only Gaza’s first and most distinguished psychiatrist, but also a tireless chronicler of pain and resilience in that tiny, crowded territory under occupation and Israeli firepower.

Brittain then engages in a bit of historical white washing:

Eyad [Sarraj] was born in Palestine under the British mandate, in Bir al-Saba, which became Beersheva after the establishment of Israel…Returning to Gaza, he lived through the violence of the Israeli military against the youthful defiance of the first intifada in 1988, which left a new generation traumatised

Of course, the intifada Brittain alludes to – which raged between 1987 and 1993 – included hundreds of terror attacks by Palestinians using weapons such as Molotov cocktails, hand grenades and assault rifles.  Two hundred Israelis were killed, thousands injured, and countless more “traumatised” by such acts of “youthful defiance”.

Brittain adds the following:

In 1990, he founded the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme [GCMHP] and built a team of 40 specialists, many of them with the experience of Israeli prisons’ torture and forced collaborations. Every suffering family’s door was open to the GCMHP, which became a key part of Gaza’s ability to function against all the odds.

However, as head of GCMHP Sarraj cynically exploited his ‘expertise’ to “psychoanalyze” Israeli villainy, a record of demonizing rhetoric which included his allegation that “inside Israel there is an identification with the aggressor, the Nazi.”

Brittain then concludes her beatification:

He was a father figure in Gaza – foreign delegations always wanted to call on him, friends phoned him from around the world to get Gaza’s news, especially when it was bad. The texture of his life was in the assassinations, bombed homes, arrested fathers, attempted suicide bombings, and their consequences of trauma and dysfunction in GCMHP’s everyday work. His private strength was buttressed with quiet early morning walks on the beach, where he was greeted by fishermen and children going to school, and with evening talks with friends in his book-lined home.

From 2002 the occasional sharing of these walks and times with Eyad in Gaza, or in London, always meant new understanding and a renewal of optimism that against all odds Gaza’s exceptional people could transform the grimmest of times.

Eyad [Sarraj] received many honours including, in 1997, the Physicians for Human Rights award, and, in 1998, the Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders. In 2010, he won the Olof Palme prize for his self-sacrificing struggle for the Palestinian people. He was a key witness to the Goldstone report on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.

However, in addition to the fact that Sarraj was on the Gaza Advisory Council of the international “pro-Hamas umbrella organization” called the Free Gaza Movement, there’s one especially relevant piece of history Brittain left out which would seem quite relevant in assessing his overall moral legacy.

In an interview with Tikkun in 2003, Sarraj said:

I’ve asked myself: ‘Are they evil by nature, these Jews? Or are they stupid, born mentally subnormal? Why are they doing this?’ It’s unbelievable. And I found after long, long thinking about it that they are not born evil. And they are not stupid. They are psycho-pathologically disturbed.”

As we’ve argued in previous posts, the most egregious problem at the Guardian is not explicitly Judeophobic commentary, but, rather, the moral cover the media group’s contributors often provide for Palestinians with well-documented records of engaging in anti-Jewish racism.

Victoria Brittain’s Guardian obituary for the Palestinian ‘activist’ represents yet another example of their ubiquitous antisemitic sins of omission. 

Gaza fisherman fight Israeli “savagery”: Fisking a Guardian Group feature

The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian) devoted over 3400 words to a Sunday Magazine feature on the Israeli ‘assault’ on Gaza’s fishing industry.

gaza

The article was written by Alex Renton, a commentator on issues relating to global poverty, and was based largely on his first-person account with Palestinian fishermen on a vessel off the coast of Gaza. 

We’re first introduced to the skipper of the fishing vessel in the following passage, which notes the putatively argumentative and abrasive nature of the people in the region.

It’s nearly dark. A couple of Israeli F-16 jets make twin scratches across the glow in the southeast, above the Egyptian border. “They own all the world,” mutters old Abu Nayim. But, for now, this feels like the most peaceful place you could find on this crowded coast, where there live some of the most disputatious people in the planet. There’s not much to tell you that this is a very risky way to catch fish.

Israeli Navy fires on vessel?

The passage above is followed by this photo – the same one used to illustrate the feature in the Observer print edition.

fishing under fire

The caption reads:

Under fire: an Israeli gunboat fires on a Palestinian fishing boat/ Photograph: Gianluca Panella for the Observer

However, the illuminated water rising above the vessel would likely indicate that warning shots were fired into the water, near the vessel.

Israelis shoot the messenger?

The previous passage continues thus:

But his son, 22-year-old Mukhtar, is more anxious. He was on the boat on Monday when the Israeli navy put four bullets into the fibre-glass tender – a felucca – that’s bobbing behind us. He warns Gianluca, the photographer, who has his telephoto lens out – “If they see you poking that out, they will shoot at you.”

The quote – suggesting that the Israeli Navy has a habit of firing on photojournalists – is of course left un-examined by Renton.

“To go over six miles is death”?

They bob at anchor, their lights festive against the dark ocean. We’re close to the limit, as close as Abu Nayim dares, because the further out to sea the more sardines there are. “To go over six miles is death,” says Abu Nayim.

Actually, the most recent Palestinian civilians killed at sea were killed by the Egyptian Navy which, by all accounts, appears to be much more trigger-happy than the IDF when patrolling the seas

Israeli Navy tosses live grenades at fishing nets?

The above passage continues thus:

Once, when he may have drifted over, an Israeli gunboat tossed a live grenade on to the nets. In the past month the fishing boats of Gaza have come under fire 10 times.

The charge, left unchallenged by the Observer contributor, that the Israeli Navy “tossed a live grenade on to the nets”, seems highly unlikely. And, we were unable to find any news sources making a similar claim.

Israeli Navy “curses the prophet”?

There’s another one-second blast of machine-gun fire. I can see the Israeli boat, so close to the fishing boat that its huge bow-wave gleams white in the lights. It’s circling the fishermen at high-speed, the wake throwing the fishing boat around. There’s shouting, through a megaphone. “The Israelis are insulting them,” says my interpreter. He doesn’t want to say the words. “They curse the prophet. They call the fishermen ‘son of a dog’. Tell them to go back to Palestine.”

Though there is no way to prove or disprove it, the claim – alleged by Renton’s interpreter – that Israelis cursed Muhammad through the boat’s megaphone again simply strains credulity. 

Israel is destroying a once thriving fishing industry.

Not so long ago, Gaza had a thriving fishing industry. In 1994 the Oslo peace accords with Israel granted the Palestinian enclave, which was formed largely by refugees from the 1948 war that followed the founding of Israel, rights to fish up to 20 nautical miles offshore. That supported a fishing industry, according to a study done by the United Nations Foodand Agriculture Organisation (FAO), of some 4,000 boat-owning families. In 2004 they landed nearly 3,000 tonnes of fish. It was crucial to the nutrition of the 1.7 million people of the Gaza Strip, more than half of whom were dependent on food aid, even then.

It’s true that in 2004 Palestinians in Gaza landed nearly 3,000 tonnes of fish. However, the implication most would draw from this is that the tonnage has decreased every year since the Israeli blockade in 2006 – a claim easily disproven by figures provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).  As you can see, 2004 was a statistical anomaly.  In 2003, the catch was roughly 1.5 tons, while in 2005 the catch was 1.8 tons.   The catch in 2012 (just under 2.1 tons), as you can see in the PCBS chart below, was higher than in the three previous years.

PCBS. (click to enlarge)

PCBS Data. (click to enlarge)

 Sewage.

Three miles or six, the industry’s collapse was inevitable. Fishing inshore is poor, and there’s an added danger because of Gaza’s failed sewage system. That was built to serve 400,000 people, and it has collapsed because of war damage and lack of materials to maintain it. Eighty-nine million litres of raw or partially treated waste water go straight into the sea every day. Last year the fishermen’s catch was less than half what it had been 10 years before

However, as Reuters reported last month, the sewage system’s failure is largely due to “Egypt’s…crackdown on cross-border smuggling tunnels that used to bring fuel in cheaply”, which forced Gaza’s waste water treatment plant to close. Additional factors leading to the fuel crisis include “political infighting” between Hamas and Fatah, a fact confirmed recently by a Hamas spokesperson (and one notable Gaza resident).  If the sewage is indeed harming the Gaza fishing sector, it seems largely due to Egyptian restrictions and Palestinian infighting.

“Savage” Israelis?

Fishing is a harsh trade at any time, but here it is made rather more risky by the Israeli navy. As I witnessed, it makes its own arbitrary rules about the fishing zone, and exacts savage punishments for those who break them. 

As Renton noted elsewhere in the article, the overwhelming majority of fishermen who go beyond the nautical limit are not harmed at all.  Some are detained, while others are simply led back to an area closer to the Gaza coast.  Renton wrote that “often fishermen will be taken to Israeli ports, blindfolded and handcuffed and questioned under ‘aggressive interrogation’ (the UN’s phrase) and then, after what may be several days’ detention, charged a fee to be transported back to the border.”  However you can reasonably characterize such consequences, the word “savage” is clearly meaningless hyperbole.

The “World’s largest prison”?

For the people of Gaza, then numbering 1.5 million, normal life ended. Not since they were children had any of the young men I went fishing with left the “prison” – that’s David Cameron’s term.

Actually, per Twitter, that’s also a term fancied by Alex Renton:

tweet

It’s your fault the Jews are here.

In the penultimate paragraph there is this curious exchange between the journalist and one of the protagonists:

“You’re from Britain,” says the eldest son, Nayim. “It’s your fault. You invited the Jews to come from Europe to here, to take our land.” I demurred: it was more complicated than that. “What about the Balfour declaration?” he asked – referring to the note signed in 1917 by Britain’s foreign secretary AJ Balfour, declaring that Britain favoured the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. I thought about telling him that Balfour was my grandmother’s uncle, and that my own great-uncle fought Israeli terrorists in Jerusalem in 1947, as a British policeman. But what I said was: “It’s true, we are part of the history. We are responsible, too.”

There’s so much to unpack in this exchange between the ‘victim and accused’.  Even more troubling than Renton’s failure to challenge the anti-historical charge that Jews were “invited” from Europe to take Palestinian land is his insistence on his own moral innocence. Renton is on the right side of history. His family fought the Jews. 

Finally, someone wrote a response to Renton in the reader comment section beneath his article at The Observer.  The response (to the passage we noted above) was inexplicably deleted by ‘CiF’ moderators.  However, we were able to take a screen shot of the comment before its deletion. Here is the text:

Palestine once the Arabs (not in those days called Palestinians) made it clear they didn’t want Jewish immigrants, even though Ottoman censuses showed that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority from the first census in the mid-19th century.

Following bloody pogroms in Palestine by Arabs against Jews in the late 1920s and into the 1930s the pro-Arab British assured the Arab leadership that only a few thousand European Jews a year would henceforth be allowed in with an absolute total limit of 75,000. This was after Hitler had come to power and when Jews from across Europe were desperately seeking sanctuary somewhere, anywhere. Britain, the Dominions and colonies didn’t want most of them before, during or after the Holocaust. From the 1930s until 1948 the Royal Navy blockaded the coast of Palestine and turned back and even sunk (yes, sunk) merchant ships carrying Holocaust survivors to prevent them reaching ports. Thousands of Holocaust survivors from across Europe were interned by the British in camps on Cyprus.

Even before 1948 when Israel came into existence as a legal state and was immediately attacked by several Arab armies and air forces, there were Arab schemes to destroy any prosperity that Jews might generate even though thousands of Arabs from Jordan, Lebanon and Syria had settled in Palestine as Jews immigrated, attracted by the economic benefits Jews were developing. That is why as early as 1945 there was an Arab Boycott of Jews organization sponsored by the Arab League. (Not boycott of Israel, which didn’t then exist, but boycott of all things Jewish.)

As Alex Renton also knows, I am sure, approximately 850,000 Jews were forced to leave Muslim countries from 1948 onward and most of them tried to get to Israel. These were not Jews from Europe, these were Jews who lived in Arab countries, spoke Arabic and had absorbed Arab culture and had lived in North Africa and the Middle East since long before most of these regions were conquered by the Arabs and long before the arrival of Islam.

It is never explained why it seems to be a perfectly acceptable stance for some pro-Palestinians to support those Arabs who want to ‘remove’ Jews who live in Israel, even if they are from families who have always lived in what is now Israel. Both Hamas and the PA have publicly stated that no Jew will be permitted to live in ‘liberated’ Palestine.

Yes, Mr. Renton, it is indeed “a bit more complicated” than you suggest.

Harriet Sherwood misleads on UNRWA statement about Gaza construction ban

Harriet Sherwood’s Nov. 22 report continues in the Guardian tradition of ignoring Hamas’s responsibility for the situation in Gaza, devoting nearly all of the text to highlighting Egyptian and (mostly) Israeli responsibility for the reported economic downturn in the territory.  

sherwood

The two opening paragraphs set the tone for her story:

Gaza is becoming uninhabitable as humanitarian conditions deteriorate rapidly following Egypt’s destruction of smuggling tunnels and Israel’s renewed ban on the import of construction materials, the United Nations and aid agencies have said. 

A year after the end of the eight-day war between Gaza and Israel last November, the UN said the situation in the tiny coastal strip was worse than before the conflict.

Further, a passage later in her report – about the IDF’s discovery last month of a tunnel from Gaza into southern Israel – represents a classic Guardian obfuscation: 

In addition, Israel last month halted the import of building materials through the crossings it controls, after the discovery of a sophisticated tunnel built by Hamas militants from Gaza to Israel. According to the Israeli military, it was constructed using materials that Israel had permitted to enter Gaza.

Sherwood doesn’t acknowledge that the purpose of this 1.7 km tunnel was to kidnap Israeli soldiers, nor does she acknowledge – in a story devoted to Gaza’s economic situation – that the construction materials diverted by the Islamist regime to build such an elaborate terror facility could have been used to build schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure projects.  The Guardian Jerusalem correspondent also failed to note that, prior to the discovery of the tunnel, Israel had actually started to increase the quantity of construction materials allowed into Gaza to compensate for the draconian anti-tunnel measures taken by the Egyptian government.

But the most deceptive paragraph appears near the end, where Sherwood addresses the alleged effects of the new Israeli restrictions: 

As a result of the renewed [Israeli] ban, 19 out of 20 construction projects – including 12 schools – initiated by Unrwa have ground to a halt, putting at risk thousands more jobs. Unwra [sic] said Israel’s action was collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.

It appears as if Sherwood significantly mischaracterized UNRWA’s position, as she is almost certainly referring to a statement by the outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, as reported by the agency on Nov. 19.  Here is the UNRWA text in its entirety. 

The outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, has warned that 19 out of 20 UNRWA construction projects in Gaza have “ground to a halt”. Speaking to the Advisory Commission of major donors and governments hosting Palestinian refugee populations, Grandi said that since March UNRWA has “not had any construction projects cleared by the Israeli government, and for the past month, has been “unable to import building materials.”

Grandi told the “AdCom” delegates that “following the closure of most smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt”, and “given that Israel does not allow exports and hence a resumption of normal economic activities, prices are rising because commodities are becoming scarce, lack of fuel has provoked the closure of the power plant, the few jobs available in the construction industry are disappearing; and the list continues”, said Grandi.

Grandi had a stark warning about regional stability. “Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable, and further conflict is bound, as before, to affect civilians in Gaza and southern Israel, unless its causes are addressed.”  Grandi, who leaves office in the new year, called on the international community not to forget Gaza and to address the human dimension.

The time had come to rethink security concerns and political considerations, Grandi argued. “Perhaps strengthening the human security of the people of Gaza is a better avenue to ensuring regional stability than physical closures, political isolation and military action. To obtain this, first and foremost, the Israeli blockade – which is illegal – must be lifted. Meanwhile, the United Nations must be allowed to at least continue construction projects and provide a few extra jobs to the beleaguered population.”

First, Grandi makes no mention in the statement of “collective punishment”.  Moreover, it’s clear that he wasn’t merely arguing – as Sherwood seems to suggest – that the renewed Israeli ban on construction materials was “illegal”, but that Israel’s entire military blockade to prevent the import of rockets and other deadly weaponry was “illegal”.  However, as Sherwood surely knows, the UN Palmer Commission concluded in 2011 that the IDF blockade is fully consistent with international law and is NOT a form of collective punishment.  It’s especially curious that Sherwood didn’t reveal this fact as she reported on the conclusions of the Palmer Commission herself in a story published on Jan. 23, 2011. In ‘Israeli soldiers fired at Gaza aid flotilla in self-defence, says inquiry‘, she wrote the following:

The commission also found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla was attempting to breach, was primarily for security reasons and was imposed lawfully. It added that it did not “constitute ‘collective punishment’ of the population of the Gaza Strip”.

Whilst the language in her Nov. 22 report is not completely clear, if Sherwood is claiming that UNRWA characterized the recent Israeli restrictions on construction materials into Gaza as “illegal”, and as a form of “collective punishment”, it is clear that the outgoing UNRWA Commissioner General never in fact made such an argument.  

Alternately, if Sherwood was merely attempting to characterize the Commissioner General’s opinion on the broader issue of the Israeli blockade, then she failed to reveal that this view was definitively contradicted by the UN inquiry which she herself reported more than two years ago.  

Either way you read Sherwood’s awkward prose, the reader is significantly misinformed. 

Why Chas loves Israel

The following is an extract from Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy by Chas Newkey-Burden and Julie Burchill.  

(This chapter was written by Chas Newkey-Burden, who blogs at OyVaGoy)

Chas Newkey-Burden

Chas Newkey-Burden

‘When my father was a little boy in Poland, the streets of Europe were covered with graffiti, “Jews, go back to Palestine,” or sometimes worse: “Dirty Yids, piss off to Palestine.” When my father revisited Europe fifty years later, the walls were covered with new graffiti, “Jews, get out of Palestine.”’  - Israeli author Amos Oz

Everyone knows the proverb of the three wise monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. As shown throughout this book, the modern hypocrite can be very skilled indeed at seeing and hearing no evil. When women are stoned to death in Arab states, when gay men are brutalised in Caribbean countries, the hypocrites’ ability to cover their ears and look the other way is remarkable.

However, the triumvirate cannot be completed for when it comes to the state of Israel the modern hypocrite just cannot stop speaking evil. They will fail to condemn – and sometimes actually support – terrorists who blow up school buses and pizza parlours. They will march hand in hand with people who – quite literally – fundamentally disagree with every basic political principle they claim to hold dear. They will openly question whether Israel even has the right to exist.

And all along the way, they will show themselves to be devastating hypocrites.

The anti-Israel brigade would have us believe that the motivation for this vitriolic hatred of Israel is a genuine, compassionate concern for the fate of the Palestinian people. But do they really care about the Palestinians, or is their compassion somewhat selective, to put it politely? In reality, are they only interested in Palestinian suffering for as long as it gives them an opportunity to bash Israel?

This hypocrisy is not entirely modern. When the West Bank and the Gaza strip were occupied by Jordan and Egypt, those occupations of ‘Palestinian land’ drew not a whimper of protest from the people who spat blood at the ‘occupation’ of those territories by Israel. When Jordan killed thousands of Palestinians and drove just as many of them from their refugee camps into Lebanon, Israel-bashers saw nothing wrong with that at all. Neither did they take issue with Kuwait when it deported Palestinians in the aftermath of the 1991 Iraq war. Why were they silent in all these cases? Because none of them gave them a chance to bash Israel, of course.

Well established as this hypocrisy is, in the 21st century it has well and truly taken root as ‘supporting’ the Palestinians had become achingly fashionable. So when Hamas-sparked violence led to Palestinian students at a West Bank university being brutally beaten and shot by their own people, the Westerners who claim to support the Palestinians raised not a single word of protest or concern. Likewise, when Palestinian women are stabbed to death in “honour killings” across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, no anti-Israel Westerners lose a single moment’s sleep on their behalf.

Likewise, when Palestinian children are hospitalised after being caught in the crossfire of fighting between rival Palestinian factions, there is not a word of condemnation from the West. When Palestinian children are deliberately forced into the line of fire by their own people, where is the concern from those in the West who claim to be their biggest supporters? When terrorists are found to be hiding hand grenades in the cradles where Palestinian babies sleep, where is the outrage?

If Israel is accused of torturing Palestinian terror suspects, the hypocrite is indignantly up-in-arms in protest without establishing a single fact but when Palestinians suspected of collaborating are proven to be brutally tortured – sometimes to death – by members of Islamic Jihad, again the silence is deafening.

Similarly, if these people are truly concerned about the Palestinians, then where are their words of praise for Israel when it flings open its hospital doors to them? Just one example: in May 2007 an eight-day-old baby from the Gaza Strip that was suffering with congenital heart complications was treated in a hospital in Israel. An Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance drove into the Gaza Strip, dodging Qassam rockets that were headed for Israel and collected the child for treatment at the Sheba Medical Center in Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. Such cases are far from rare. But I’ve never heard a word of praise for these treatments from any of those in the West who claim to be concerned over the fate of the Palestinians.

It’s the same with the refugee question. The heartbreak that the hypocrite feels for Palestinian refugees is only expressed in the context of slamming Israel. When it’s pointed out to them that the Arab world has done precious little to help the refugees, their interest dwindles. And what of the hundreds and thousands of Jewish refugees who were deported from Arab states? They’ve never received any compensation – as Palestinian refugees have from Israel – and no Westerner has ever cried them self to sleep on their behalf.

Any action taken by Israel to deal with Palestinian terrorists is met with abuse and distortion. The case of Jenin was typical. Following scores of suicide bombings organised from within the Jenin refugee camp, Israel entered the camp in search of the terrorists. As the fighting ended the media leapt into action to demonise Israel’s action. The Guardian described Israel’s actions as “every bit as repellent” as the 9/11 attacks. The Evening Standard cried: “We are talking here of massacre, and a cover-up, of genocide.” The Independent spoke of a “war crime” and The Times claimed there were “mass graves”. The head of the United Nations Refugee Agency was quickly out of the traps to describe the affair as a “human rights catastrophe that has few parallels in recent history”. The EU was nor far behind in its condemnation.

Let’s examine the facts of this massacre, this genocide. In total 75 people died at Jenin. 23 of these were Israeli soldiers and 52 were Palestinians, almost all of them combatants. By even the most hysterical, loaded standards of language this does not constitute genocide, nor anything of the sort. Indeed, the Palestinian death toll would have been much higher – and the Israeli death toll non-existent – had Israel simply bombed the camp from the air. Instead, to avoid civilian casualties, Israel put their own soldiers at risk, sending them in on foot to search through booby-trapped homes.

When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon next visited Israeli troops, one of them asked him: “Why didn’t we bomb the terrorists from the air? That operation cost the lives of more than 20 of our comrades!” Sharon replied: “That is the painful and inevitable price that those who refuse to abandon their humanity have to pay.” In return for paying the painful price of eschewing air attacks, Sharon and the brave Israeli soldiers who entered a terrorist camp on foot were accused of genocide and massacre and spoken of in the same terms as the 9/11 terrorists.

However, the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. In 2007, another Palestinian camp, which had become swamped with suicide bombers, was attacked. This time, the gloves came off. The camp was surrounded by tanks and artillery that fired indiscriminately at the inhabitants. Snipers backed up this fire. The camp’s water and electricity supplies were cut off. Thousands of innocent Palestinians were forced to flee but not before at least 18 had been killed and dozens injured. The camp itself was reduced to rubble. Ultimately, the fighting killed more than 300 people and forced nearly 40,000 Palestinian refugees to flee.

This time, there was next to no coverage in the British media. There was no talk of genocide or massacre. Rather than condemning the attack, the EU and UN were quick to express their support to the army. Even the Arab League came out in support. So what had changed? You guessed it, this time the army dealing with the camp was not the Israeli army but the Lebanese army. How terrifyingly revealing this is of the hypocrisy of those who claim to care about fate of the Palestinians.

During the fighting, tanks and artillery had also fired at residential areas of Lebanon and civilians were inevitably caught in the crossfire. Just months earlier, the anti-war brigade has been marching through the streets of London to express their concern for the people of Lebanon who were caught in the crossfire of Israel’s fighting with Hezbollah. Strangely, the marchers couldn’t get off their self-righteous backsides when Lebanese civilians were being shot at by Islamic groups: this time, the people of Lebanon could go to hell as far as they were concerned.

How different it had been in the summer of 2006. “We are all Hezbollah now,” the modern hypocrites had chanted as they marched in fury against Israel’s latest battle for survival, as the rockets of that terror group were raining down on its cities and kibbutzim. If “Not In My Name” was an embarrassing slogan, then “We are all Hezbollah now” was little short of insane. How could these marchers, who say they oppose misogyny, tyranny, homophobia and genocide, march in support of an organisation which fanatically and brutally promotes all those things? Because they’re hypocrites, of course, and because their frenzied hatred of Israel has utterly stupefied them. It was embarrassing for them, therefore, when Hezbollah’s leader Hasan Nasrallah told them: “We don’t want anything from you. We just want to eliminate you.” As Martin Amis neatly put it, these demonstrators were “up the arse of the people that want them dead”.

But what were they doing up there? Many no doubt believed that during the war they were backing the little guy of Hezbollah against the big guy of Israel. The truth was somewhat different, though. Hezbollah was no little guy, it was backed by millions of pounds of Iranian and Syrian money. Neither were the two sides of the conflict as clear-cut as they believed. The Israeli Arabs of Haifa spent much of the summer sitting in bunkers to avoid being killed by Hezbollah rockets. Many of these Arabs cheered on the Israeli army throughout the campaign.

Similarly, Ethiopian Jews who Israel had previously bravely airlifted from oppression and starvation were particularly badly hit in Tiberias. How incredible that back in England, many of the groups whose members wear white Make Poverty History wristbands and campaign on Third World debt were willing to cheer as Ethiopians were bombed by Hezbollah.

So no, Israel was not necessarily the Goliath of the conflict. How could a nation the size of Wales, surrounded by millions who want it wiped off the map be a Goliath? However, the courage shown by its soldiers was immense. Lt Colonel Roe Klein was marching at the head of a unit of troops when a Hezbollah man threw a hand grenade at them. Lt Klein jumped on top of the grenade to save his troops, losing his life in the process. Meanwhile, Hezbollah were employing the standard cowardly tactic of hiding among women and children, with wheelchair-bound people a particular favourite.

Throughout Israel, the population showed itself to be as brave and humanitarian as ever. Newspapers were full of classified advertisements in which families offered to house those from the north of the country who were under Hezbollah fire. Ultra-Orthodox Jews took in secular Jews, people living in small flats flung open their doors to large families with pets. The blitz spirit also saw youngsters from the big cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv organise treats for Arab children from Galilee. The government arranged for celebrities to visit the bunker-ridden population of the north and even flew in a gay porn star to cheer up gay Israeli troops. As Hezbollah’s rockets rained down over northern Israel, weddings in the region had to be cancelled. So cinema producer Eliman Bardugo organised for those affected to have the chance to be married en masse on the beach in Tel Aviv. Some 50 couples took him up on the offer.

Meanwhile, in London, left-wing people took to the streets to cheer on Hezbollah as it butchered Israeli people. As, for instance, a Hezbollah rocket hit a kibbutz and killed 12 people including an ultra-orthodox Jew who was sitting next to a hippy with pierced ears. The more of these incidents happened, the further the marchers climbed up the arses of the people who wanted them dead.

It would have been familiar territory for many of them. When I went to see the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie in London’s West End, I had sat in an audience littered with white English men and women wearing keffiyeh scarves and some wearing Hamas badges. I see these people – and the marching Hezbollah-wannabes – as terror groupies, a sort of left-wing equivalent of the little boys who play army in playgrounds across England. But these are adults so they really should know better.

I’m not sure the terror groupies look the other way on the topic of Palestinian terrorism. They seem – sorry to say – almost turned-on by it. You surely can’t, after all, overlook something as big as the blowing up of buses or pizza parlours. There is no ‘bigger picture’ regarding people who do that. And why would you appropriate the uniform of the man who backed all that terrorism unless you actively had, well, a bit of a thing for him? For much of the audience, the play about Rachel Corrie must have been a gleefully pornographic experience. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes a picture can be worth far more than that. There are more than a thousand words in the play, about Corrie, the young US activist who accidentally died during an anti-Israel protest in Gaza in 2003. But none of them shed light on the now-canonised Corrie as much as a photograph taken of her by the Associated Press a month before her death. She was snapped burning an American flag and whipping up the crowd at a pro-Hamas rally.

Naturally, there is no mention of this photograph in the play. Neither is it mentioned that thanks in part to demonstrations of the International Solidarity Movement with who Corrie travelled to the Middle East, the Israel Defence Force was prevented from blocking the passage of weapons which were later shown to have been used to kill Israeli children in southern Israel.

Instead, the play is full of naïve anti-Israel propaganda from the mouth of Corrie. “The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance,” she wrote in 2003 as Palestinian suicide bombs were slaughtering Israelis. Lest we forget who the real star of the story is, towards the end of the play Corrie writes: “When I come back from Palestine I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work.” We’re back in self-indulgence territory, aren’t we? Not in my name. My name is Rachel Corrie. We’re all Hezbollah now. Thousands are dying but it’s all about me. The hypocrisy of the audience was depressing. I wonder if any of were even aware that Hamas had danced over Corrie’s grave when she died? To the Palestinians, a dead young American girl was a wonderful publicity coup. Had any of the audience travelled to the Middle East in a Corriesque trip of self-indulgence, the Palestinians would have crossed their fingers in the hope they too died.

As I say, the modern hypocrite is delighted to overlook misogyny, homophobia and brutal clampdowns on all manner of person freedoms in Arab states and the other side of this coin of hypocritical currency is the way they simultaneously overlook the extraordinarily positive record Israel has on such issues. Take the case of Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister who took the top job in 1969, just 21 years into the country’s existence and a full decade before England had our first female Prime Minister. In some Arab states, women are not allowed to go to school. In Israel they can become the most powerful person in the country.

Meir herself was well aware of this spectacular contrast. In 1948, when she was a negotiator with the Jewish Agency, she set off on a secret mission to meet King Abdullah of Transjordan. The meeting was secret so she travelled with the Agency’s Arab expert Ezra Danin and posed as his wife. She recalled: “I would travel in the traditional dark and voluminous robes of an Arab woman. I spoke no Arabic at all but as a Moslem wife accompanying her husband it was most unlikely that I would be called upon to say anything to anyone.” How hypocritical it is of those left-wingers in the West that they can hate a country with tales such as these throughout its history.

It’s just the same with gay issues. Left-wingers who say they passionately believe in gay rights manage to put that passion aside when it comes to their view of the only country in the Middle East with a positive record on the issue. A wonderfully positive record, in fact. In 2006, within days of the country’s fighting with Hezbollah ending, I flew to Israel to research a feature on gay life in the Holy Land. Before leaving, I’d been warned by anti-Israel Westerners to expect to find a very homophobic country. Had any of them bothered to visit Israel, they’d have discovered it’s nothing of the sort. Workplace discrimination against gay people is outlawed; the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) has openly gay members; in schools, teenagers learn about the difficulties of being gay and the importance of treating all sexualities equally. The Israel Defence Force has dozens of openly gay officers who, like all gay soldiers in its ranks, are treated equally by order of the government.

The Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples are eligible for spousal and widower benefits. The country has gay football teams. Most mainstream television dramas in Israel regularly feature gay storylines. When transsexual Dana International won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest as Israel’s representative, 80 per cent of polled Israelis called her “an appropriate representative of Israel”.

These facts are there for all to see but it is only on visiting Israel that you discover how happily the different sections of the society coexist. I interviewed a gay Israeli man on Tel Aviv’s “Hilton beach” – it is opposite the Hilton hotel – which is also known as the “gay beach”, where men openly check each other out and pick each other up. It is neighboured by the city’s religious beach which has separate bathing days for men and women. And all this is just yards from Tel Aviv’s Independence Park, which is the main gay cruising area in Tel Aviv. The cruising park in Jerusalem has the same name.

Elsewhere in Tel Aviv is the House of Freedom. Opened in the late 1990s, this is a shelter for gay, lesbian and transgender youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been thrown out of home after coming out to their parents. At the House they are counselled by social workers who then visit the parents and attempt to bring about reconciliation. Those attempts are often successful, each year hundreds of gay youngsters return to a better home thanks to this remarkable institution.

And everywhere you go in the city, gay men walk hand in hand more openly that they even would in London’s Soho. It is staggering that Western left-wingers who claim to believe in gay rights can be so furiously opposed to tolerant Israel. The tolerance is not confined to Tel Aviv, either. When some in Jerusalem opposed the staging of the gay pride parade in the capital in 2007, the media presented a city on the brink of civil war. I happened to be in Jerusalem that week – though I didn’t attend the parade – and I witnessed no unrest. Perhaps the strongest opposition I witnessed to the parade came from a taxi driver. I asked him what he thought about the parade and he sighed deeply before saying: “Oh it was terrible for the traffic.” He was right, too!

By hating Israel, the pro-gay-rights left are not just proving to be hypocritical, they are also endangering the one hope that gay Palestinians have. The leading gay rights organisation in Israel organises Arabic gay evenings where gay Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza strip are invited to come and party with Israelis – and many take up the invitation. “We are their only hope,” says one of the organisers. “If they came out where they live, they would be killed but they can come and party with us in Israel.” As has been documented by human rights groups, gay Palestinians are routinely tortured and murdered by their own people. They often flee to the safety of Israel.

The attraction that Israel should hold for believers in the rainbow alliance doesn’t end with its record on women and gay men. I remember on a road trip from the Dead Sea to Tel Aviv marvelling at a quartet of an ultra-orthodox Jew, an Arab, a uniformed Israeli soldier and a mini-skirt wearing girl in her late teens all engaging in friendly chit-chat as they waited for some traffic lights to change. Such sights are far from uncommon as Israel is home to one of the planet’s most diverse people: dreadlocked Ethiopians, and their fellow Africans from Yemen, Egypt and Morocco exist alongside people from Iraq, Iran, Russian and Latin America. Then there are Asians from the Far East and Israeli Arabs, the latter group enjoying more personal freedoms in Israel than they would in any Arab state.

My experiences in Israel might seem surprising to the reader who hasn’t been there – particularly given the predominance of reports casting the country as a villainous, apartheid state. There exists a peculiar unwillingness to accept good news from Israel, which contrasts with the way that paradigm-shifting reports on ‘The hidden modernity of Tehran’ are welcomed with open arms. When I attempted to include the scene that I had witnessed at the traffic lights in a magazine feature I wrote about the research trip to Israel, I had to go through an exasperating discussion with the commissioning editor. He didn’t seem to know that Israeli Arabs exist and insisted that the scene I described couldn’t have occurred. He’d never been to Israel but was quite sure that he was right and I was wrong.

He was in good company in his blissful ignorance. Within hours of my return from the trip, I received a call from a journalist acquaintance who asked me with genuine shock: “What’s all this about you going to Israel?” He said that a mutual journalist acquaintance of ours was “absolutely disgusted” with me for going there and that he hoped I was “going to put the boot in” when I wrote my articles. These were not close acquaintances, I hadn’t even spoken to one of them for nearly nine years and it must have taken them some digging around to find my new telephone number. They obviously thought it was worth the trouble to have a dig at a writer who was friendly to Israel. Apparently the “absolutely disgusted” man – a weekly columnist on a high-profile magazine – has since tried to get an article published that claims that Tony Blair murdered Yasser Arafat.

The editor of another magazine once told me I was not allowed to write that Yasser Arafat turned down Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David in 2000. I asked why and he replied “because of a need for balance.” I pointed out that nobody, including Arafat, has ever disputed that he rejected Barak’s offer and the editor replied: “Well, I don’t know about that but you still can’t write it.” The article in question was an “opinion” piece and taking sides was the order of the day each week in that column. Not if the article was about Israel, it seemed. Get this for hypocrisy, though: the same magazine had happily published articles accusing Israel of “war crimes” and carried advertising accusing Israel of apartheid policies. Clearly, the need for balance is relative.

Not that there was much balance in the motion the National Union Of Journalists passed in 2007 to boycott Israel. As a writer I felt shame and despair at this motion. Those emotions of shame and despair were not joined by shock, though, because much of the British media has long been absorbed by a blind hatred of Israel.

Broadsheet newspapers print editorials that are so biased and distorted that Osama Bin Laden would probably blush at them and say: “Steady on! We can’t print that!” The BBC refuses to describe suicide bombers who blow up buses full of Israeli schoolchildren as “terrorists” even though it has used that term to describe bombers in London, Iraq and Indonesia. One of its correspondents told a Hamas rally that he and his colleagues were “waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder with the Palestinian people”.

Why did the NUJ choose Israel for a boycott? The country has an entirely free press. If the NUJ wanted to boycott a country, then Russia, China, Zimbabwe and Pakistan would have been more sensible options, given their record on press freedom. The timing, too, was ridiculous. Shortly before the motion was passed, BBC journalist Alan Johnston was kidnapped by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. So why did the NUJ respond to this by boycotting Israel?

The coverage of the Alan Johnston case was riddled with hypocrisy. Every day, the BBC devoted acres of space to the story. Yet the BBC largely ignored the plight of young Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped by Palestinians. Indeed, the BBC refuses to even use the term “kidnap” in relation to the snatching of teenager Corporal Gilad Shalit, preferring to say he was “captured”. I was in Israel during Johnston’s captivity and had a conversation about his case with an Arab from the West Bank. He said: “I’m surprised that they took someone from the BBC. Everyone knows the BBC is totally biased for the Palestinians. I bet they’re not so for the Palestinians now, though!” When I told him that the BBC was just as pro-Palestinian as ever, he raised his eyes to the heavens. “That’s strange,” he said.

True. But then Auntie Beeb has long shown its true colours on the conflict. A 2007 a leaked internal BBC memo written by Bowen blamed Israel for all the woes of the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that Israel had withdrawn two years earlier from Gaza!

Hmm, what we need is a man who can effortlessly show these BBC buffoons just how hypocritical they are. Step forward and take a bow Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel and all-round hero of both myself and my co-author. He was interviewed on the BBC during the 2006 Hezbollah conflict and made mince meat of his quizzer:

Interviewer: “How come so many more Lebanese have been killed in this conflict than Israelis?”

Netanyahu: “Are you sure that you want to start asking in that direction?”

Interviewer: “Why not?”

Netanyahu: “Because in World War II more Germans were killed than British and Americans combined, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the war was caused by Germany’s aggression. And in response to the German blitz on London, the British wiped out the entire city of Dresden, burning to death more German civilians than the number of people killed in Hiroshima.

“Moreover, I could remind you that in 1944, when the RAF tried to bomb the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen, some of the bombs missed their target and fell on a Danish children’s hospital, killing 83 little children.

“Perhaps you have another question?”

Perhaps indeed! Perhaps the academics who chose to boycott Israel at the same time as the NUJ might have asked themselves some questions too. In 2007, they voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions in a protest supposedly on behalf of the Palestinians. Meanwhile, back in the real world a young Jordanian-Palestinian woman, was graduating with a Master’s degree from Ben Gurion University in Israel. Dana Rassas was trained by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev, and then went on to study the Israeli water desalination program at the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies at Ben Gurion University. As a result of her studies in Israel, Rassas is now helping to solve Jordan’s water problems. If they boycotters had their way, she’d never have had any of these chances.

To take a wider view, why is it that so many people who cling to the notion of human rights when considering the plight of the Palestinians couldn’t give a hoot about other groups around the world like the Tibetans, the Kurds, the Armenians and the Chechens? Is it because these groups didn’t have the fortune of being in dispute with Jewish people? Either way, it is indisputable that the incessant focus of the human rights movement on the actions of Israel has allowed genuinely horrific human rights abuses in other parts of the world to go unnoticed.

As we keep seeing, whatever it does Israel cannot win and so we end up returning to the graffiti seen by Amos Oz’s father in Poland. First: go back to Palestine, then: get out of Palestine. antisemitism has always been dominated by contradictions. The Jews have been attacked for being both communist schemers and capitalists plotting to take over the world. They can’t stop sticking their noses into others’ business yet they also must be attacked for keeping themselves to themselves. They were taunted for being too weak when the Germans tried to eliminate them from the face of the earth and are now slammed for being too strong when the Arabs try the same trick.

Ironically, for all the attention and criticism that Western hypocrites throw at Israel, the biggest questioners of the state and its actions are Israelis themselves. Israel’s Supreme Court is a thorn in the side of the government and army and frequently overrules both. It regularly examines petitions brought by Palestinian people and rules in their favour. Many of its judgements have restricted the options open to the army and in passing them, the Court has acknowledged that its rulings will cause Israeli loss of life but insisted that such steps are needed in the interests of humanity.

When terrorist leaders who have arranged the slaughter of Israeli people are killed by the Israel Defence Force, there is no cheering in the street as is seen among Palestinians when another school bus is blown up by a suicide bomber, a favourite tactic of there’s as seen in November 2000. Instead, commissions of inquiry are set up to examine whether the elimination of these men who wanted to blow murder their children was ethical and correct. On and on it goes, this relentless self-examination by a country that has faced abuse, distortion and calls for its destruction since the very minute it was established in 1948.

But then that’s the thing about Israel: strong, plucky, moral, deeply self-critical yet determinedly happy and upbeat, it is everything the modern hypocrite is not. I love it.

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Guardian images highlight freed terrorist; ignores Holocaust survivor he murdered

After the first round of 26 Palestinian pre-Oslo prisoners were released by Israel in August, as a concession to renew peace talks, the Guardian published three celebratory photosin their Picture Desk Live series, all showing the prisoners being reunited with their families. The captions used for the photos all failed to even mention the Israeli victims of the crimes committed by the freed Palestinians.

Now, as Israel begins the painful process of releasing the second group of 26 pre-Oslo prisoners, the Guardian’s coverage continues to highlight the released terrorists while all but ignoring their victims.

Today’s edition of the Guardian’s Picture Desk Live includes the following:

released

The Guardian also added a video of Palestinians celebrating the prisoner release (to accompany an AP story they published today) that included an image of what appears to be the same man in the photo above.

video

Though both the caption and video failed to identify the freed Palestinian, other sites indicate that he is Shabbir Hazam (aka, Shabir Kassam Taher Hazam). Shabbir Hazam, born in 1974, was a member of Fatah and a resident of Gaza who was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment for (along with an accomplice) murdering a work colleague – Isaac Rotenberg from Holon – with an axe.

Here is a photo of Rotenberg:

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Isaac Rotenberg

As we’ve noted previously Isaac Rotenberg, born in Poland, was a Holocaust survivor.  Most of his family was murdered in the Sobibor death camp, but Isaac managed to escape and joined the partisans. After the war he tried to make his way to mandate Palestine, but was interred by the British and sent to a detention camp in Cyprus until 1947. After his release Isaac arrived in pre-state Israel and fought in the War of Independence. He continued his work as a plasterer even after pension age and in March 1994 was at his place of work in Petah Tikva when he was attacked by Shabbir Hazam (and another Palestinian worker) with an axe.

He died, aged 67, two days later.

Whilst the Guardian’s coverage of the prisoner release continues to highlight the joy of the freed terrorist and their families, the Jews (and Palestinian ‘collaborators’) they murdered continue to largely remain nameless and faceless.

What the Guardian won’t report: Details on 26 Palestinian terrorists to be released (and their victims).

The Guardian hasn’t yet published a report on the second round of prisoners who will soon be freed as part of a US-brokered deal for the resumption of peace talks. However, the Israeli Prison Service published a list (in Hebrew) of those 26 scheduled for release, so we’re posting the following information - translated and edited by Hadar Sela, managing editor of BBC Watch – on both the prisoners and their victims: 

Nasser Mohammed:  born in 1965, a member of Hamas and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Aharon Avidar.

Karaja Rafaa: born in 1962, a resident of Judea & Samaria.  Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Aharon Avidar.

Aharon (Roni) Avidar was born in Jerusalem and was a computer programmer. He was 29 years old when, in February 1985, he was shot by terrorists whilst on reserve duty guarding a government office in Al Bireh, near Ramallah. Roni was survived by his wife and daughter – his infant son had died some three months before he was murdered. 

Tsabbag Mohamed:  born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria was arrested in 1991 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Whilst a minor, he tortured and brutally murdered three local residents (Hassan Katbia, Lutfi Sa’adi and one other person) suspected of collaboration.

Shabbir Hazam: born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of the Gaza Strip was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment. As an initiation into a terror organization, together with an accomplice released in the previous round, he murdered a work colleague – Isaac Rotenberg from Holon – with an axe. 

Isaac Rotenberg

Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg was born in Poland. Most of his family was murdered in the Sobibor death camp, but Isaac managed to escape and joined the partisans. After the war he tried to make his way by ship to mandate Palestine, but was interred by the British and sent to a detention camp in Cyprus until 1947. After his release Isaac arrived in pre-state Israel and fought in the War of Independence. He continued his work as a plasterer even after pension age and in March 1994 was at his place of work in Petah Tikva when he was attacked by two Palestinian labourers with axes. He died, aged 67, two days later. 

Amawi Halmi: born 1968, a member of Hamas and a resident of the Gaza Strip was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yigal Vaknin.

Yigal Vaknin

 22-year-old tractor operator Yigal Vaknin was stabbed to death in an orchard at his place of work in Moshav Batzra on September 24th 1993 (the eve of Yom Kippur), eleven days after the signing of the Oslo accords, when Halmi and an accomplice lured him with a request for help. Yigal, who grew up in Dimona, was survived by his parents and eight brothers and sisters.

Damouni Ahmed: born 1970, a member of Hamas and a resident of the Gaza Strip, was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the lynching of reservist Amnon Pomerantz.

Amnon Pomerantz was an electrical engineer and scientist and worked in research and development. On September 20th 1990, Amnon left his home in Havatzelet Hasharon for reserve duty in Gaza. Three hours later, he was brutally murdered by a gang of Palestinian rioters after he took a wrong turn on the way to his base and accidentally entered Al Burj Refugee Camp. After they threw rocks at him, they poured gasoline on his vehicle and ignited it with Amnon inside. Amnon was 46 at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Reuven David

Reuven David was born in Iraq and was the owner of a mini-market in Petah Tikva. In May 1991, together with an accomplice who was released in the previous round, Matslaha entered 59 year-old David’s shop, tied him up, gagged him and then beat him to death, before escaping in the victim’s car. Reuven David left a wife, three children and several grandchildren. 

Abu Dahila Sharif: born 1955, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, was arrested in 1992 for the murder of Avi Osher and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Avi Osher, aged 40 from Moshav Beka’ot in the Jordan Rift Valley was an agricultural instructor who also managed the date grove at Moshav Mesu’a. In June 1991 Avi was stabbed to death in that date grove by Abu Dahila, with whom he had worked for 15 years. Avi was survived by his wife Eilat and their two children. 

Gnimat Mustafa and Gnimat Ziad: both born 1962, both residents of Judea & Samaria and members of Fatah, were arrested in 1985 and each sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two Israeli civilians – Meir Ben Yair (33) and Michal Cohen (32) who were sitting in a car in Messu’a forest, near Beit Shemesh.

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Guy Fridman

In December 1990 nineteen year-old Guy Fridman was killed and two other soldiers were injured in Bethlehem when bombs exploded in an ambush. He was survived by his parents and two brothers. 

Shakir Al Afu: born 1964, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1986 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Shaltiel Akiva.

On the eve of Pessach 1985, Sgt. Shaltiel Akiva, aged 21, arrived home from Lebanon to spend the holiday with his family in Rosh HaAiyn. However, he was immediately called back to his base in Samaria. On April 6th he set out to visit his family but en route was kidnapped and strangled to death by a terrorist cell. His body was found two days later near Beit Ariyeh. He was survived by his parents and five siblings. 

Yosef Shirazi

Yosef Shirazi (62) was born in Baghdad and immigrated to Israel in 1950. He resided in Eilat where he had just begun working as a security guard for the Hebrew Unversity’s marine biology research centre when he was shot at close range by members of a terror cell who had swum from Aqaba in Jordan to Eilat with the intention of carrying out a terror attack.  

Mukbal Najah: born 1966, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to 38 years imprisonment for the murder – together with an accomplice – of Ya’akov Shalom. He was due for release in July 2028.

Ya’akov Shalom was born in Jerusalem in 1949 where he studied law after his military service. In later years he opened a restaurant in Ein Kerem and it was in the flat above the restaurant that he was stabbed to death in May 1990 by two of his employees. 

Yusef Hazaa: born in 1967 and a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two civilians

In July 1985, whilst a minor and together with an accomplice, he murdered two Israeli teachers from a school in Afula on a preparatory hike in a JNF forest on the Gilboa mountains. 35 year-old father of five Yosef Elihau was shot at close range and 19 year-old National Service volunteer Leah Almakayis was strangled.

Genia Friedman

Genia Friedman immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine in 1991. She was 41 years old when, in February 1992, she was stabbed to death on a main street in Kfar Saba, where she lived. The terrorist also stabbed and injured her father and two other people. 

Abdel Aziz Ahmed: born 1973, a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Motti Bitton. He planned, initiated and carried out the attack in October 1992 which led to the death of 32 year-old father of three Motti Bitton from Ganim and the injury of his wife, Mali Bitton whilst they were shopping in convenience store along the road from Jenin to Jezreel Junction.

Abu Hanana Usama: born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Motti Bitton (see above) and the injury of his wife by throwing an explosive device at her.

Turkeman Mohamed: born 1973, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting and killing Motti Bitton (see above) and shooting and injuring the deceased’s wife who got out of her vehicle to help her husband. 

Revital Seri

Revital Seri (22) and Ron Levy (23) were both students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In October 1984 they were hiking near the Cremisan monastery when they were attacked by Abed Rabbo (whose mother was honored by Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year), tied up and shot to death at close range with a stolen weapon. 

Aashur Mohamed:  born 1960, resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1985 and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment (scheduled release date May 2017) for murder and grievous bodily harm.

Together with two accomplices, he shot 33 year-old taxi driver David Caspi in the head whilst he was driving them through the neighbourhood of Shuafat and then dumped his body by the side of the road. David Caspi left a wife and two daughters.

While in prison he was involved in the assault and injury of another prisoner. 

Ian Sean Feinberg

Ian Sean Feinberg was born in South Africa and immigrated to Israel after finishing High School. Having qualified in law before his enlistment, he spent five years serving as a lawyer in the Gaza Strip and was later involved professionally with Palestinian economic development as a legal advisor. On April 18th 1993, during a business meeting in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, terrorists burst into the room announcing that they had ‘come to kill the Jew’. They then murdered him with gunshots and an axe. Ian was 30 at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Shimon Cohen

Shimon Cohen, who was 71 years old when he was killed in the terror attack on Mahane Yehuda market, was a sixth generation Jerusalemite who was born in the Old City in 1920. After his retirement from the family’s fish stall in the same market, he used to visit friends there frequently. 

Beni- Hassan Othman: born 1966, resident of Judea & Samaria, member of Fatah. Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of Yosef Eliyahu and Leah Almakayis (see above).

Samarin Asrar: born 1969, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Tzvi Klein and for attempted murder.

Tzvi Klein

Tzvi Klein was born in 1947 in Czechoslovakia. A mathematician and an educator, he made his home in Ofra, teaching and also active at the pedagogic centre of the Binyamin council.

On the first day of Hannuka 1991, he was travelling from Jerusalem to Ofra when shots were fired at his vehicle. Tzvi was fatally injured in the head, a passenger was also injured and his daughter who was also travelling with him was unharmed. 44 years old at the time of his death, Tzvi was survived by his wife and three children. 

 

How much does terrorism cost the Palestinian economy?

In a recent edition of the Guardian’s data blog – where facts are evidently “sacred” – contributor  focused on history’s refugees and naturally managed to include the Palestinian “Nakba” while failing to mention the more than 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands in the two decades following 1948.

fact

So, when we saw Chalabi’s byline in a new data blog entry on the Palestinian economy, (How does Palestine’s economy work?, Oct. 14), we weren’t expecting much.

Chalabi begins her piece, thus:

These days, the economic health of any country relies on that of others – but the Palestinian Territories are exceptionally dependent on factors outside of them. On what do Palestinian economic fortunes rely on and how does the future look?

Whilst she notes the role played by Palestinian corruption, Egyptian restrictions and a few other factors, her focus, accounting for a large majority of the text in the story, is naturally on Israel.

She writes:

Israeli occupation in Palestinian territories, the barrier it has constructed along and within the West Bank as well as its land, air and sea blockades in the Gaza strip have placed severe limitations on the success of Palestinian economic policies.

A complex web of checkpoints and roadblocks make it difficult for Palestinians to travel within the Palestinian Territories for jobs, to bank or to trade. Farmers whose land is now behind the barrier are required to apply for ‘visitor permits’ which Israel regularly rejects – in Akkaba it approved 49% of applications in 2011, and just 20% by 2012. More recently, a report from the World Bank found that Israeli restrictions in the West Bank alone cost the Palestinian economy $3.4bn (£2.1bn) a year, or 35% of its GDP.

Israel’s reach in the Palestinian Territories means it can exert enormous power over Palestinian livelihoods. Oxfam estimates that 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted by Israeli authorities since 1967. As a result, the 80,000 Palestinian families that the UN claims are economically reliant on the olive harvest lose £12.3m each year To show the impact of this, Visualizing Palestine showed what an area with a third the amount of trees – Central Park – would look like if it were destroyed.

Israel may have policies that hamper the Palestinian economy, but it is also a major source of Palestinian livelihoods. Unemployment is exceptionally high in the West Bank and the Gaza strip where almost 1 in 4 adults are jobless. According to the latest report from the International Labour Office, some 87,000 Palestinians aged over 15 (around 10% of all those with jobs) are employed in Israel and its settlements.

The majority of these Palestinians are employed in the construction sector, followed by manufacturing and agriculture – all of which tend to be characterised by insecurity. A survey by Palestine’s main trade union found that only 11% of workers in Israeli settlements said they had job security, over half received less than the minimum wage and 65% had been exposed to toxic substances.

Though you can read our posts in response to the World Bank report mentioned by Chalabi here and herethe remarkable thing about her claim regarding the harmful effects of Israeli checkpoints and security fences on the Palestinian economy is that she doesn’t say a word about the Palestinian violence which prompted them.  You’d almost be forgiven for believing that Israel enacted these defensive security measures for no reason whatsoever, or for the purpose of choking the Palestinian economy.  Indeed, words such as “terrorism”, “rocket”, “militant” and “violence” are nowhere to be found in her post.

To get a sense of how extraordinarily misleading this is, imagine a media report about the injurious effects of economic sanctions on Iran which didn’t even mention that the sanctions were enacted to influence Tehran into complying with U.N. Security Council demands that it halt its nuclear weapons development.

Similarly, Chalabi – as with most Guardian Left narratives about the economic toll of Israeli defensive measures on the Palestinian economy – is conflating cause with effect.  It ignores the fact that the Israeli blockade of Gaza was prompted by thousands of rockets targeting Israeli civilians, and that the security fence was constructed in response to waves of deadly suicide bombings in the early 2000s which targeted cafes, markets, bus stops and other public areas where families and children congregate.  

One can of course debate the particular costs and benefits of specific checkpoints, or question whether the route of the security fence can be altered to improve Palestinians’ quality of life while continuing to protect Israeli civilians.  But, to completely ignore that these measures were undertaken to carry out the most fundamental mission of government – to protect its citizens from harm – represents a glaring obfuscation.

Just once, we’d love to see an analysis of the economic impact of terrorism on the Palestinian economy.  To those so inclined, here are a few dynamics worth attempting to quantify:

  • The cost to the Palestinian economy by Israeli security measures necessitated by Palestinian terror
  • The cost of procurement, production, maintenance and deployment of nearly 13,000 rockets launched by terrorists in Gaza since 2001
  • The cost of terrorist tunnels in Gaza, both in terms of the government funds used to build them as well as the diversion of concrete and other construction materials which would otherwise be used to improve their infrastructure 
  • The costs of guns, ammunition, suicide belts, explosive devices (and training of ‘militants’ to use such arms) in the West Bank and Gaza since the First Intifada
  • The related cost to the Palestinian economy of thousands of Palestinians involved in the terror industry who could otherwise be employed in more productive enterprises
  • The cost to the Palestinian Authority of paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons
  • The cost to the Palestinian economy of their leaders’ glorification of terror and Zionist scapegoating and related failure to nurture a national ethos of education, hard work and innovation

The World Bank report on the Palestinian economy optimistically predicted a $3.5 billion windfall as the result of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. But, even leaving aside the question of which party is to blame for the economic impact caused by the failure to reach a peace agreement, it seems reasonable to take into account the cost of Palestinian values, habits and cultural norms which are inimical to economic prosperity.

Palestinians pay dearly for Hamas ‘resistance tunnels’

The IDF recently discovered an elaborate and costly tunnel from Gaza to Israel which was likely to be used by Hamas to launch future terror attacks.

Tunnel2-e1381669083207

A soldier investigating the Gazan terror tunnel that led into Israeli civilian communities,

The 1.7 km tunnel (leading from Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, into Israel) was complete with an electrical supply and phone lines, was reportedly the longest ever constructed, and extends a full 18 meters underground. It cost Hamas tens of millions of dollars, and used an estimated 24,000 concrete slabs and 500 tons of concrete (material which the IDF had recently permitted into Gaza in greater quantities to benefit the ‘civilian’ construction sector). If it had been utilized in a terror attack, or a kidnapping, it could have prompted a full-scale war. 

However, whilst the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood has been focused on other ‘productive’ Gaza smuggling activities, and hasn’t yet reported on the tunnel, we’d recommend that – if she does cover it – she considers framing the story in a manner similar to her coverage of a World Bank report titled ’Israel’s West Bank control ‘costing Palestinian economy billions, and focus on the money lost by the tunnel’s construction and the likely loss in future imports and trade.  

She may also want to glean important context on the implications of the story from our guest contributor Akus who, in response to Sherwood’s World Bank story, questioned the assumption that wealth will flow from Palestinian lands due merely to an end to the ‘occupation’.  Akus suggested the speciousness of the assumption that a new Palestinian state will be economically successful, especially in light of the long history of mismanagement by the PA, which has included billions in wasted and stolen foreign aid.

Akus also pointed to factors the World Bank report on the ‘root cause’ of Palestine’s economic woes didn’t take into account.  He noted that their rosy scenario of future growth (once free of the yoke of ‘Israeli oppression’) ignores a Palestinian culture which is inimical to such progress – the deleterious effects of terror, incitement and moral scapegoating inherently inconsistent with the values necessary for social and economic progress and self-reliance.

Indeed, while most mainstream media outlets have reported on the terror tunnel, we haven’t yet read an analysis which has seriously connected the dots and provided readers with an understanding of the implications of such Islamist duplicity.

A serious contextualization of the story would note that, just last month, Israel permitted delivery of increased quantities of cement and steel for use by the private sector into Gaza, levels not seen since 2007 when Israel banned their transfer fearing that Hamas would use construction materials unsupervised by international aid agencies to fortify its positions and build tunnels for terror attacks.

Indeed, the IDF reported that “sufficient evidence suggests that terrorists methodically abuse construction materials transferred into the strip by Israel as humanitarian aid in order to build such [terror] tunnels.”

In other words, initial Israeli concerns about the potential misuse of humanitarian aid for military purposes (dual use items) have clearly been vindicated.

The next time you read a report at the Guardian or elsewhere criticizing Israeli restrictions on imports into Gaza, consider how many homes, schools, medical facilities, water sewage treatment plants, and other vital infrastructure projects could have been built in Gaza with the construction materials Hamas continues to divert for military purposes.

Further, per the post by Akus, you can conclude from the enormous resources (in time, money and manpower) that went into the Gaza terror tunnels that the rosy scenarios for peace and prosperity in another independent Palestinian polity are, at best, quite questionable.  

When pro-Israel commentators criticize the Palestinian culture of incitement and terror, they aren’t engaging in ‘Zionist talking points’ but, rather, are expressing sincere concerns that the greatest peace treaty ever written can’t engender a Palestinian culture of peace, education and self-sufficiency.  Though most Israelis support in principle ‘two states for two peoples’, Israelis accurately extrapolate from the consequences of recent territorial concessions that withdrawing from land alone won’t necessarily bring peace if Palestinian leaders don’t cease in inculcating their citizenry with the values of belligerence, hate and violence.

It’s unclear how anyone truly concerned with peace in the Middle East can fail to recognize that the “resistance tunnels” in Gaza not only will cost millions to the Gazan economy, but will result in an additional loss more difficult to quantify – the continued erosion of Israeli trust, and the fear that even our bravest and most audacious peace overtures will never truly be reciprocated. 

Is the Guardian romanticizing Palestinian child marriages?

There is little debate that the continuing international phenomenon of child marriages represents a serious human rights violation.

Indeed, it is estimated that more than 142 million girls will be coerced into becoming child brides by 2020 if current rates continue. Of that number, 50 million will be younger than 15.  Child marriage “increases health risks through early pregnancy and motherhood”, and increases the chances of girls being the victims of physical and sexual abuse in the home.  In poor countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for teenage girls.

According to Babatunde Osotimehin, M.D, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, “Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects,” 

In Gaza, the problem is especially serious. A recent Al Monitor report claimed that of about 17,000 marriages registered in the courts of Gaza, a staggering 35% of the brides were under 17 years old. The author of the story cites, as the cause of this widespread problem, “old traditions that do not allow girls the right to decide their fate, and a lack of legal and legislative action to grant them this right.”

Yet, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the photographer and Guardian editor responsible for the following Sept. 30 photo story on a recent child marriage in Gaza was almost romanticizing such underage marriages.

story

Here’s the caption of the photo:

Ahmed Soboh, 15, is welcomed by his relatives a day before his wedding party, in Beit Lahiya, near the border between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip

In fact, the captions used under the 13 pictures in the series (some of which were featured previously at the Guardian in their ‘Picture Desk Live’ series) don’t even attempt to contextualize the recent marriage of Ahmed, 15, and Tala, who’s only 14, in a manner which would convey the message that such a young union is widely acknowledged to be a grave violation of children’s human rights.

Here’s another photo from the series: 

The newlywed couple pose

Tala and Ahmed

The caption reads: “The newlywed couple poses”.

Here’s another photo:

Palestinian groom Ahmed Soboh, 15, and his bride Tala, 14, stand inside Tal

Ahmed and Tala

The caption reads: “Ahmed Soboh, 15, and his bride Tala, 14, stand inside Tala’s house during their wedding party in Beit Lahiya.”

Finally, the horror of child marriages was recently articulated by an 11-year-old Yemeni girl, Nada al-Ahdal, whose account of escaping her own arranged marriage went viral on YouTube.

It’s difficult to avoid detecting a whiff of liberal racism in the Guardian’s photographic celebration of the young girl’s exploitation – a misplaced fear, perhaps, of offending cultural sensitivities by holding poor Palestinians accountable to Western standards – and, just as likely, an inability to frame stories of injustice in ‘Palestine’ which don’t fit the template of Israeli oppression. 

h/t Elder 

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

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

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

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

antony

Here’s the passage in question:

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

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

Palestinian Arabs, West Bank: 2,676,740

Palestinian Arabs, Gaza Strip: 1,763,387

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

Israeli Arabs (citizens): 1,666,800

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

Israeli Jews: 6,056,100

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

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

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

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

The Economist’s extraordinarily misleading 12 words on why Hamas hates Israel

Sometimes when reading the British media’s coverage of the Middle East, it seems as if some ‘professional’ reporters either have little expertise on the issues they’re writing about or that their employer lacks such high-tech, super-sophisticated research tools as, say, Google.

The Economist’s recent article on Hamas’s continuing isolation (Lonely Hamas, Sept. 7), is a case in point.

hamas

First, in fairness, the report does paint a largely accurate picture of the pressure being placed on the Islamist group by Egypt’s new regime:

THE Gaza Strip, an enclave tucked between Egypt and Israel that is still ruled by Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is once again caged in. Egypt’s ruling generals, fearful that what they see as an Islamist tumour on their north-eastern flank might grow back into a Brotherhood cancer, want to contain it, if not cut it out. So they have sent bulldozers to demolish the houses along the border with Gaza that covered the tunnels providing Gaza’s 1.8m people with half their basic needs and most of their fuel and building material.

Of some 300 tunnels that operated before Egypt’s army overthrew Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brother who had been president for a year, only ten are said now to function. 

Later, there’s also this fair assessment of why the ‘Zionist enemy’ (at least temporarily) no longer seems like Hamas’s greatest threat:

If it is to survive as Gaza’s ruler, Hamas will have to rely on its old foe, Israel. While Egypt has choked off access to Gaza, Israel has loosened it, with 400 lorries recently entering the strip from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing in a single day, the liveliest such traffic for many years. “If they increase demand, we’re ready to step up,” says an Israeli military spokeswoman.

At Friday prayers, some Hamas preachers curse Egypt more than Israel. 

Good so far. However, then, in the final paragraph, the author of the unsigned article attempts to provide readers with some context on the enmity between Israel and Hamas, and writes the following:

Yet Israelis still loathe Hamas, which carried out scores of suicide-bombings against Israelis in the early 2000s. Hamas, meanwhile, reviles Israel for its assaults on Gaza and its leaders.

That’s why Hamas hates Israel?!

Well, for starters, Hamas’s obsessive hatred, which manifests itself in explicit calls by their leaders to commit genocide against the Jews, likely has something to do with their founding charter, published in 1988.  The document cites the wisdom of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion‘ to “prove” that Jews are trying to take over the world, and asserts its theological commitment to destroying the Jewish state – regardless of where its borders are drawn – through a long-term strategy of violent jihad. 

Here are a few excerpts from their charter:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.

Hamas rocket attacks and suicide bombings are merely the natural product of their eliminationist anti-Zionist, antisemitic ideology. 

Finally, it should be noted that this blog often cites political, historical and geographical facts about the Mid-East that should be obvious to even the casual observer, and the passage cited above in The Economist demonstrates the necessity of continuing to provide such basic information which, for some reason, often eludes ‘professionals’ tasked with contextualizing events in the region.