Jews demonised at Centre for Palestine Studies as Ilan Pappe comes to SOAS

Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett

Jews came under fire last night at the Centre for Palestine Studies, based at SOAS and under the chairmanship of Gilbert Achcar. It was irrelevant if you are a Jew in Israel, Scotland, Wales or England. Ilan Pappe, the CPS guest speaker, doesn’t discriminate.

Pappe, a lecturer at Exeter University, started by saying he wished “to answer the riddle of the growing gap between the image Israeli Jews have of themselves and the external image the world has of them”. In North Korea the gap between the view North Koreans have of themselves and that of them by outside world would not be much different, but in Israel there is “genuine difference”.

He said the Zionist movement in Israel should be credited for its marketing skills, particularly the way it marketed both Palestine as a land without a people for a people without a land and also Israel as a European country. This helped “absolve them from what they did to the native population”.

Israel, he said, therefore appeared to be a democracy while actually being an “ethnic racist state”. Israel had succeeded in “marketing an oppressive reality as a democratic one”.

Israel had marketed Zionism, he said, to include such enlightenment concepts as liberalism, capitalism and social democracy. And Zionism was far more successful than other ideas because it was “born after the failures of Nazism and fascism”.

Such branding and marketing, according to Pappe, had been done via academia and fiction.

Israeli academics, he said, undertook a “willing role to commodify the Zionist project on the basis of so-called scientific research”. And books and films like EXODUS showed Zionist figures looking like “Aryan Israelis”, while the Palestinians looked “like either Osama Bin Laden or ET”.

But, Pappe said, at one stage certain Israelis had an “epiphany”. Using the same methodology of books, articles and films they challenged these “truisms of Zionism by re-examining the Zionist project from the beginning”.

They showed Israel was a “settler colonial society, an aggressive society and a discriminatory society”. However, they got “cold feet” when challenged and apologised before disappearing without trace, some being forced to leave Israel.

However, this same methodology has now been adopted by people outside Israel which, according to Pappe, worries Israel. Israel can “stifle criticism and crush those who don’t toe the line from within” but cannot do the same to those outside Israel.

In response to this, Pappe said, the Israeli elite has re-adopted the Zionist dogma in a “neo-Zionist” form, which is far harsher and less flexible than the original. Such “neo-Zionism” being symbolised by the likes of Netanyahu, Bennett and Lieberman.

Pappe said he was worried how Israel would react to a new, even non-violent, Palestinian Intifada as “the Israel of 2014 is worse than the Israel of 1987 and 2ooo. It is a more ruthless Israel”.

“Neo-Zionism”, Pappe explained, attempts to combine liberal and theocratic ideas of how to live as Jews in the twentieth century and is a “lethal combination if you are the enemy”. Pappe said this is “not easy to sell as a liberal democracy”.

“Israeli society is neo-Zionist. Most (Jewish Israelis) want an ethnic racist state. There are no liberal Zionists anymore,” he said. He cited Peter Beinart, J Street and Ari Shavit as the last possible bastions of liberal Zionism.

Pappe said that in 2005 the Israeli government created Brand Israel Group(BIG), to target the Jewish community in America, despite already having America “in its pocket”. Israel, he said, is doubtful of their support in the future.

Pappe said his publisher, Verso, would neither allow him to show the fairly explicit posters in his new book that were used by Israel to “appeal to the Jewish homosexual community in New York City” nor those aimed at Jewish heterosexuals. The idea being, Pappe said, if you like this sexy woman you might like Israel’s occupation.

By 2010, however, this campaign was seen by Israel to have failed and so, Pappe said, Israel’s new policy was to distract the opposition. Instead of trying to win an argument about “apartheid and ethnic cleansing” activists were urged to say, for example, “But Israel invented chewing gum!”.

Pappe said Israel had also been successful in convincing Jews in other countries that Israel is their story as well. He said he was once confronted by Jews in Edinburgh and that he had told them in no uncertain terms that Israel was not their story.

Then at the end of last night’s event when I criticised his lecture he asked me in Hebrew if I speak Hebrew, presumably to imply that Israel is not my story either. Ironically, your typical SOAS audience member has absolutely no connection with the Palestinians and cannot speak Arabic.

The final irony is that the marketing and branding Pappe accuses Israel of doing is just what he does! For example, during his talk he urged his audience to use “settler colonialism”, “Israeli apartheid”, “regime change” and “ethnic cleansing” when discussing Israel.

(I have been banned by SOAS, under threat of legal action, from filming or taking photos at these events without permission. All my requests for permission have since been declined. Others are permitted to film and take photos.)

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Peter Beinart’s illiberal mission: To subvert Jewish & non-Jewish support for Israel

The following post was written by Yisrael Medad, and originally published at the Jerusalem Post and Love of the Land.

Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart once again pursues his goal of subverting Jewish and non-Jewish support for Zionism and the state of Israel. 

His new crusading essay has appeared, “The American Jewish Cocoon“. He is concerned with

“them.”

“They” are the…

Palestinians that so often consume the American Jewish conversation about Israel.

He notes that…

For the most part, Palestinians do not speak in American synagogues or write in the Jewish press. The organization Birthright, which since 1999 has taken almost 350,000 young Diaspora Jews—mostly Americans—to visit Israel, does not venture to Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank (nor do they come to the Jewish communities, btw – YM)… the organized American Jewish community a closed intellectual space, isolated from the experiences and perspectives of roughly half the people under Israeli control. And the result is that American Jewish leaders, even those who harbor no animosity toward Palestinians, know little about the reality of their lives.

He, but of course, want American Jews to provide a platform for the Arabs of the former League of Nations territory awarded as a Mandate for the purpose of the reconstitution of the Jewish national home. For him, he is bothered that in not doing so, it is…

almost impossible for Jewish campus organizations to invite a Palestinian speaker.

He bemoans the standards that are set, which, to his thinking, are too high.

First, “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard” is so vague that it could bar virtually any Palestinian (or, for that matter, non-Palestinian) critic of Israeli policy. 

As a result, American Jews, for the most part…

don’t know the degree to which Palestinians are denied those rights in the West Bank. They are unfamiliar with the realities of ordinary Palestinian life because they live inside the cocoon the organized American Jewish community has built for itself.

Not only, then, is the consequence of “this isolation” a “lack of information”, but…

the other is a lack of empathy

…as well as the minimization of 

the human toll of living, for forty-six years, without the basic rights that…Jewish neighbors take for granted….This lack of familiarity with Palestinian life also inclines many in the organized American Jewish world to assume that Palestinian anger toward Israel must be a product solely of Palestinian pathology…By walling themselves off from Palestinians, American Jews fail to understand the very behavior they seek to prevent.

He doesn’t like the trips Congressmen take, conveniently noting that AIPAC does not allow those it hosts to visit Jewish communities as well, although their regional directors have done their duty and seen, to an extent, the Jewish reality in Yesha, but not enough.

Beinart does take into consideration that…

in some ways a truly open conversation with Palestinians may be more discomforting to American Jews like myself who are committed to the two-state solution than to those skeptical of it.

Why?

Well, as Beinart admits…

Virtually every Palestinian I’ve ever met considers Zionism to be colonialist, imperialist, and racist.

Nevertheless, for Beinart, this open line to Arabs of the Palestinian Authority area is important for two reasons. The first is that ignorance is “dangerous” and that it can encourage “American Jewish hatred” and he refers to Sheldon Adelson’s remark of “why would I want to invest money with people who want to kill my people?” 

Beinart finishes his text so…

By seeing Palestinians—truly seeing them—we glimpse a faded, yellowing photograph of ourselves. We are reminded of the days when we were a stateless people, living at the mercy of others. And by recognizing the way statelessness threatens Palestinian dignity, we ensure that statehood doesn’t rob us of our own.

I can assure Beinart that the more American Jews get to know the truth – not the liberal-tinted glasses view, nor the propaganda view – they will be even more pro-Yesha, pro-Jewish retention of Judea and Samaria and more anti-Palestinianism.

They will learn of the “Temple Denial” phenomenon. They will become acquainted with the anti-Semitism at the root of Islamist ideology which drives (and, with the Grand Mufti El-Husseini’s pro-Nazism beginning in 1933, drove) their bloodthirsty opposition to Zionism. They will know that the dispute is not territorial nor where a boundary line will be drawn but it is existential. They will come to acknowledge the deeply rooted fanaticism and extremism that guides their anti-Zionism thinking and actions. They will recognize the lies and half-truths that form the basis of Palestinianism, the inventivity model of nationalism.

I publish their words. Many other bloggers and web sites do as well. With Google Translate, even the Arab-language sites are open to us all. There is no shortage of getting to know “the enemy”. In fact, we are commanded to, in a sense, to “know thy enemy” which, in Jewish thought was expressed in the Ethics of the Fathers, 2:14, by Rabbi Elazar who would say: ‘Be diligent in the study of Torah. Know what to answer a heretic’.

But Beinart seeks to turn things around. To weaken Jewish resolve which will lead to endangering Israel’s existence while permitting terrorists to gain sympathy. We cannot allow the history of the 9-decades conflict to dissolve into tears of empathy. 

If I do possess sympathy, I extend it to Beinart whose orientation is a twisted approach, one that subverts truth and lends itself to the further promotion of anti-Zionism, Israel’s delegitimization and its isolation.

He is not liberal in any sense but dogmatic and lacks true love of his people.

Oh, and that cocoon? No beautiful butterfly will appear from his suggestion.

Peter Beinart’s Open Zion feels the pain of pre-Oslo murderers and their loved ones

An Aug. 20 essay by  at Peter Beinart’s blog Open Zion, titled ‘Palestinian Prisoners Are Released and No One Cares‘, mostly stands out in the way in which Arab murderers are characterized sympathetically while the victims of their brutal crimes are all but ignored.

graphic

Indeed, we’ve been posting frequently on the sympathetic portrayal, by some in the media, of the the 104 pre-Oslo prisoners who Israel has agreed to release – all of whom were convicted of murder, attempted murder, or being an accessory to murder, and the dearth of information about the victims and their families.  And, in fact, Zayid spends most of the space allotted to her commenting on the pain felt by the recently released murderers – in “the middle of the night”!, we are reminded – and the ‘feelings’ of their families.

In addition to the moral inversion typical in the far-left’s coverage of the prisoner release story, here are a few of the smears and falsehoods in Zayid’s Open Zion essay. 

Israelis simply don’t care about the release of prisoners who murdered their fellow citizens:

Zayid writes:

“The Israeli families who claimed to be directly affected by the freed prisoners’ actions seemed to be the only folks who really cared about the move to send these notorious men home.” 

It’s unclear how Zayid gauged the pulse of the Israeli public in a manner sufficient to make such a claim about their attitudes towards the prisoners’ release, but polls certainly indicate she’s flat-out wrong.  In fact, 77.5 percent of Israelis polled recently opposed the release – results which are quite intuitive to most Israelis, an extremely large number of whom have been personally affected by Palestinian terrorism.   

Palestinian “Political Prisoners” in Israel:

Zayid writes:

It is also important to remember whom Israel chose to free. These are not women, children, or prisoners of conscience. They are not your average Palestinians serving time for rock throwing or because an acquaintance who could no longer handle the torture volunteered their name as a scapegoat. These are not the Palestinians being held without charges or as political prisoners for nonviolent resistance.

It’s a small comfort that Zayid doesn’t at least parrot the Palestinian narrative of the pre-Oslo prisoners as “political prisoners“, but she still legitimizes the absurd notion that there are such prisoners in Israeli jails – those whose incarceration are, per the accepted definition of the term, based purely on their political or religious beliefs.

Imputing the most sinister motives to Israelis, even in response to the most painful concessions for peace:

Zayid writes:

Israel chose these prisoners specifically knowing that after over two decades of rotting in jail, these men no longer pose a threat, and that the move to free them could be used to Israel’s advantage. As the families cheer the homecoming of their loved ones, Israel can use those images to reinforce the myth that Palestinians are terrorist-loving savages. 

Of course it was Mahmoud Abbas who demanded the release of the ‘pre-Oslo’ prisoners, and so to imply that releasing them was a strategic, calculated, cynical Israeli decision continues in the illiberal tradition of those who deny Palestinian moral agency, and see in all political events a sinister Israeli motive. Further, to impute Israeli racism in the ‘belief’ that Palestinians routinely engage in incitement and glorify terrorists is to deny evidence documented daily on sites which monitor such incitement.  

It is an indisputable fact that Palestinians routinely celebrate even those citizens who’ve committed the most barbaric crimes, such as the honors bestowed upon Dalal Mughrabi, the woman who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history, when she and other terrorists hijacked a bus in 1978 and killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children.

Moral equivalence between terrorists and the IDF

Zayid writes:

“Others who come to cheer see little difference between Palestinian armed resistance and an Israeli sniper shooting an unarmed 13-year-old through the heart. Both are murderers and both will find a couple hundred people to give them a hero’s welcome, regardless.”

Such a moral equivalency between Palestinian terrorists who intentionally kill Israelis and IDF soldiers who, during the course of engaging Palestinian terrorists, accidentally kill Palestinians is a common theme in anti-Zionist propaganda, and since Zayid doesn’t provide a link it’s impossible to know for sure what incident she’s even referring to.  

However, while Palestinians who murder Israelis (such as the 26 recently released prisoners) have received heroes’ welcomes when they return home, it strains credulity to even imagine a situation where an IDF soldier whose actions may have resulted in the death of a Palestinian child is celebrated because of Palestinian deaths.

One of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel is greeted by relatives and friends at the headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Atef Safadi, European Pressphoto Agency / August 14, 2013

One of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel is greeted by relatives and friends at the headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. (Atef Safadi, European Pressphoto Agency / August 14, 2013

Religiously segregated housing:

Zayid writes:

“Freeing 26 prisoners out of 5000 means nothing compared to the Israeli Housing Minister announcing the construction of 1200 new religiously segregated housing units

Here, Zaid is likely talking about the recent announcement of 1187 new homes mostly in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods where, as CAMERA has documented on several occasions in response to false claims, no such segregation exists.  (Indeed, in Dec. 2012, this blog was able to even get the Guardian to acknowledge that it is inaccurate to assert that such racially exclusive housing exists.)

However, in addition to the factual errors and smears, what most stands out in Zaid’s piece is how Arab murderers are humanized, while Israeli victims and their families remain nameless and largely faceless. 

It’s hard to know when Peter Beinart’s Open Zion, supposedly inspired by his love of Israel, devolved into a project which promotes the views of those who are contemptuous of Israelis, and even those who have defended anti-Semites, but, whatever his motivations, this latest piece of agitprop places his blog in an ideological direction closer to Electronic Intifada or Mondoweiss than any site which would proudly identify as Zionist.

UPDATE: There was one additional error in Zayid’s essay which I originally decided not to focus on, but which, based on a Twitter exchange about the issue, is worth at least mentioning. She cited the number of Palestinians as seven million, a number we’ve never seen before and which is greater, by more than two million, than the official Palestinian figures.  Here’s her reply:

Remarkably, she included Arab Israelis in her total count of Palestinians!

The intoxicated anti-Zionist rants of Rachel Shabi

Professional Jewish critics of Israel – those commentators who in some manner leverage their connection to Judaism to garner more credibility when launching often hysterical attacks on the Jewish state – are as much defined by their hubris as their political orientation.

Writers like Peter Beinart, Richard Silverstein, or Daniel Levy truly believe they are equipped with a superior intellect and moral understanding, and often suggest – when offering criticism indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the most ardent anti-Zionists – that they are actually engaging in a political form of ‘tough love’.  They are saving Israeli Jews from their own destructive tendencies – “saving Israel,” as it were, “from itself.”

The following is the headline from Rachel Shabi‘s latest ‘Comment is Free’ commentary, opining on recent news regarding European Union guidelines which restrict EU funding for Israeli projects across the green line.

screen shot

Whilst the quote concerning water thrown at a “drunk” was actually from the site of the far-left group Gush Shalom, it was specifically cited by Shabi (in the passage which follows) to illustrate Israel’s collective state of mind in refusing to bow to such international criticism over the construction of homes across the green line.

Israel sees international policy on settlements as simply a guideline or position statement, as opposed to actual law. This escalating sense of hubris over settlement expansion – and getting away with it – is what makes the EU move such a shock for Israel: Gush Shalom, Israel’s peace bloc, likened the EU decision to “a bucket of cold water poured on the head of a drunk”.

Of course such gratuitous pejorative depictions and smears of the Jewish state are nothing new for the frequent ‘Comment is Free’ contributor.

Since 2002 Shabi (born to Iraqi Jewish parents) has published over 100 essays at ‘Comment is Free’ on the topic of Israel, and the themes have been as predictable as they have been facile. Israelis (or Jews as such) are almost never the object of Shabi’s  sympathetic imagination, and she quite excels at imputing to Israel the the very worst motives, regardless of the issue being addressed.

Themes explored by Shabi at ‘Comment is Free’ include the following:

  • Israelis oppressing Palestinians
  • Israelis oppressing its Arab citizens and other minorities
  • Israelis oppressing foreign workers
  • Narratives attempting to deny Israel’s democratic advantages
  • Suggestions that Israel is moving to the extreme right politically

Themes not explored by Shabi:

In addition to downright petty critiques of even the most benign aspects of ordinary Israeli life – such as accusing the state of, in effect, ‘colonising’ hummus – her capacity to twist and turn prose in a way which assigns maximum malice to the Jewish state has few limits.  In one ‘CiF’ essay she mocked Israel’s efforts to unfairly ‘smear’ Hamas as a terrorist group, and once even managed to spin Israeli concerns over the potential rise of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as evidence of Israeli racism – unmoved, it seems, by the genocidal racism expressed by the group’s spiritual leader, who called for Allah to literally kill every Jew on earth.

An essay she published at CiF last year, commenting on anti-immigrant rhetoric by some Israeli politicians, suggested Israeli parallels with European fascism.  But, perhaps her most insidious accusation was leveled in a piece which appeared shortly after the 2008-09 Gaza War, where she wrote the following:

Likewise, mention the civilian casualties in Gaza and the stock response is to blame Hamas, cast as a bloodthirsty, death-worshipping cult, a terror group that by definition forces Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian children. One email that did the rounds during the assault was a cartoon depicting two fighters, facing each other. The Israeli fighter aimed his gun with a baby in a pram behind him, shielded; the Palestinian fighter had the baby in front of him, as a shield. What’s astounding is not how often this circular jammed email boxes, but how often Israelis repeat the cartoon set-up as though it were fact, or as though it thereby legitimises the bombing of civilians. 

Most Israelis, in other words, seem to have convinced themselves that their own moral superiority somehow sanctions and justifies their own acts of moral repugnance

In addition to her dangerous flirtation with antisemitic narratives of so-called ‘Jewish Supremacism‘, the final passage represents the ultimate projection, and anti-Zionist leftist critics’ most pronounced deceit: their belief that they are uniquely equipped with the penetrating moral intelligence necessary to see through the racism which informs Israelis’ “belief” in their state’s moral advantages over reactionary Islamist extremists.  Jewish anti-Zionist agitprop artists like Shabi, inebriated by post-colonial ideology, fancy themselves more sophisticated and politically enlightened than Israeli Jews, whose obtuse nationalism and ethnocentric loyalties, it is suggested, blind them to the dangerous folly of their path.

Such condescension and visceral animosity towards her fellow Jews, under the guise (of course!) of “progressive” political thought, is as risible as it is repugnant.  

Matt Seaton’s caricature of courage

The highly criticized cartoon published in The Sunday Times on Holocaust Memorial Day – depicting mangled, tortured Palestinians being buried over with bricks laid by the bloody trowel of a sinister Israeli leader – was defended by  in Haaretz on Jan. 28 as “grossly unfair” but “not antisemitic”.

Here’s the cartoon by Gerald Scarfe that we posted about yesterday, and which The Sunday Times editor has since defended as “typically robust“.

content_photo-2

While much has been written about the cartoon – and the timing of its publication – the Haaretz contributor offers a dissenting view, one which, though I believe to be misguided, is nonetheless clearly thought through, well-informed and serious.

However, one particular word used by a Guardian editor on Twitter to characterize Pfeffer’s defense of Scarfe’s work caught my eye.

Here’s the Tweet by Matt Seaton, the Guardian’s editor of the US edition of ‘Comment is Free’.

Seaton’s Tweet, suggesting that it took ‘courage’ for Pfeffer to defend Scarfe, represents a good illustration of the moral conceit often displayed by such contrarians – those whose opinions about Israel, antisemitism and other issues place them outside the mainstream of Jewish opinion and thus must face some level of opprobrium for their views. 

However, whether we’re discussing Peter Beinart’s advocacy for boycotting Israeli companies across the green line, Ben Murane struggling with the ‘chauvinism’ of Jewish particularism, or even Antony Lerman’s polemical assaults against the very right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, the truth is that such Jews can confidently dissent from mainstream opinion with impunity.

Similarly, the only penalty that the contributor for the leftist Israeli daily will have to face for arguing that Jews, and others, are mistaken in their characterization of the Scarfe cartoon as antisemitic is, of course, dissenting opinions from those who take issue with his view.

Writers who trade in unpopular ideas within the political safety net that liberal, democratic societies provide them shouldn’t be so thin-skinned as to expect that freedom of speech requires freedom from criticism, and so vain as to fancy themselves, or their political fellow travelers, courageous for having to withstand such critiques.

What Jonathan Freedland doesn’t get

Cross posted by SnoopyTheGoon at Simply Jews

I’ve stumbled on a (new to me) appearance of Jonathan Freedland under the auspices of Open Zion section of the Daily beast, edited by Peter Beinart. It was surprising, since I thought that being a columnist for the Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle makes him busy enough, without resorting to another venue. But the article, titled What U.S. Jews Don’t Get About European Anti-Semitism was interesting enough by itself.

The general purpose of the article (and the venue used), if I get it right, is to prove to American Jews that the fears displayed by some of them about the allegedly precarious situation of the European Jewry are just undue histrionics. 

The article is full of arguments in favor of this attitude: from the mistaken outcry by prof Rubin (6 years ago, what a memory!) through the finely nuanced analysis of different anti-Jewish sentiments in different European countries and the right wing extremists supporting Israel (proving what, exactly? – but let’s leave it alone) to the rosy perspective for the British Jews…

There even is an illustration of the idyllic life led by the British Jews in that article:

BritishJewsWith a capture: “Jewish men walk along the street in the Stamford Hill area of north London, Jan, 19, 2011.” Wow, man, you don’t say…  unfettered Jews working around Stamford. How cool. 

All this sounds like a serious and overwhelming tranquilizer attack, but more about it later. What really made me mad is the following: 

“Beneath these two headline cases are a hundred other lesser points of friction, often on campus, situations where Jews and Muslims have clashed, frequently over the politics of the Middle East. A consistent trend, noticed by those who monitor anti-Semitism, is a surge in anti-Jewish hatred whenever the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalates.”

One does his best, trying to ignore that “situations where Jews and Muslims have clashed”, as if European Jews are equally guilty in the “clashes”. Of course, one should be careful not to favor any side, especially when that “Islamophobia” label is circling the air, looking for another warm body to stick to – but imagine the folks like the ones in the picture above attacking innocent London Muslims…

But Freedland’s matter of fact acceptance of the inevitable “clashes” (read “European Muslims attacking European Jews”), whenever the Zionists perform their usual dastardly deed – this is what really gets my goat. Ten years ago that point of view was aired by one of the biggest stains on British journalism, one Seumas Milne, in his slimy Guardian piece ‘This slur of anti-Semitism is used to defend repression. Its lead sets the tone:

“Ending Israel’s occupation will benefit Jews and Muslims in Europe”

While it’s unclear how European Muslims will benefit, the benefit for the Jews, according to Milne, is obvious: stop the occupation and the attacks by Muslims stop.

Which, in effect, makes the European Jews into hostages for the Muslim rage, whenever and for whatever reason they become unhappy with Israel (or anything else, for that matter – after all blaming the Jooz is customary). And it’s quite painful to see how a “progressive” Jewish journalist repeats this deranged viewpoint as accepted and acceptable by using it as a side remark, without any comment.

Speaking of comments, it would be interesting to understand Freedland’s personal view of the other passage in that text:

“Others have long been alarmed by the case of Malmö, Sweden, a city whose 45,000 Muslims make up 15 percent of the population and where Jews have been on the receiving end of persistent anti-Semitic attacks—a fact denied by the town’s Social Democratic mayor, who instead criticized Malmo’s Jews for their failure to condemn Israel. As he put it, “We accept neither anti-Semitism nor Zionism in Malmö.””

Why didn’t Jonathan comment on this is unclear, and I would love to be certain he thinks what I do about that dreck of a mayor. But how could one be sure?

Very sad. And now about the general thrust of the article, the tranquilizer attack. It is hard to argue the fact that some responses, coming from US Jews to the shenanigans of the various antisemitic elements in Europe, could be over the top. But the sad tradition of European Jewry to stick its collective head into the sand and to ignore the signs of danger couldn’t be overlooked. And no matter how much Valium does Jonathan shove down our craw, a brief detour to a moment of European history could put it into perspective:

  • From hereBy the end of 1920, the Nazi Party had about 3,000 members.
  • From here: In the 1928 German elections, less than 3% of the people voted for the Nazi Party.

The humble results brought up above are easily dwarfed by current popularity of Front National in France, Jobbik in Hungary etc. One would say that there are very good reasons for the Jews (and other minorities) in Europe to feel somewhat shaky, especially as the economic crisis takes it toll. But no, Jonathan has an easy answer for that one too: 

“Episodes that Americans see as evidence of growing European hostility to Jews are often understood by European Jews to be criticism of Israel—in fact, not even criticism of Israel itself, but rather of a specific strain of Israeli policy: what we might call the Greater Israel project of continuing and expanding settlement of the West Bank.”

Clumsy. Very clumsy, Jonathan.

But probably heartily approved by Peter Beinart. So be it.

Jonathan Freedland’s illusions about the nature of modern antisemitism

Jonathan Freedland is one of the more decent and reasonable Guardian journalists.

freedland

It’s sad that, at the Guardian, being a Zionist who takes anti-Jewish racism seriously warrants such a tribute, but in contextualizing antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy at the Guardian and Comment is Free, it’s important nonetheless to make moral distinctions. For sure, Freedland is not Chris McGreal, and he certainly is not an ‘as-a-Jew’.

His recent essay, however, published at Peter Beinart’s site, Open Zion, titled ‘What US Jews don’t get about European Antisemitism‘, Jan. 14, displays the characteristic intellectual ticks evident in self-styled progressives who comment on antipathy towards Jews.  Freedland sets the tone early by ridiculing a few of the widely discredited stories about antisemitism in Europe, such as the false report six years ago that British schools had banned the teaching of the Holocaust.

In fact, Freedland spends a remarkable amount of space – nearly 25% of his essay – providing examples of what isn’t antisemitism, and mocking those who, he alleges, exaggerate the threat to Jews in the UK and the rest of Europe. 

Freedland writes:

“We are getting used to the fact that U.S. Jews seem ready to believe the worst of this part of the world. In the two cases I’ve mentioned, many Americans were all too willing to accept that British Jews were about to become latter-day Marranos, driven underground by an anti-Semitic government and its jihadist allies, huddling together to teach their children about the Holocaust in Hebrew whispers.”

Finally, getting to “real” antisemitism, Freedland notes the importance of making distinctions “between Western Europe on the one hand and Eastern and Central Europe on the other.

Freedland correctly cites the rise of the Hungarian neo-fascist party Jobbik, as well as Greece’s Golden Dawn party as an ominous indication of a dangerous cultural lurch towards classic European right-wing antisemitism.

Interestingly, Freedland spends little time, however, discussing Islamist antisemitism in Western Europe, and not a word is mentioned about the Judeophobia of the European left.

He writes:

“The most extreme case is surely last year’s multiple homicide—the victims, three children and a rabbi—in Toulouse, apparently by a jihadist maniac. Others have long been alarmed by the case of Malmö, Sweden, a city whose 45,000 Muslims make up 15 percent of the population and where Jews have been on the receiving end of persistent anti-Semitic attacks.”

Then Freedland engages in an egregious obfuscation, positing a stunning moral equivalence between victim and perpetrator, by adding the following:

“So, yes, in Western European countries the tension between established Jewish communities and emerging Muslim ones can be perilous.”

First, it’s important to establish that – based on a comprehensive study at Yale, on antisemitism in ten European countries, by Charles Small and Edward Kaplan – Muslims in Europe are dramatically more likely to harbor antisemitic views than non-Muslims.

While Freedland correctly notes that there “is a surge in anti-Jewish hatred whenever the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalates”, the implied cause and effect is erroneous.

The empirical data which Small and Kaplan analyzed strongly indicated that – contrary to what Freedland implies – anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual already harbors strong antisemitic views.

However, beyond the statistics, Freedland’s suggestion that there is anything resembling parity in attacks by Muslims against Jews and attacks by Jews against Muslims represents a staggering inversion.

Freedland only included two examples of Muslim antisemitism, but, of course, there are hundreds more he didn’t note. Here are a few plots to murder Jews by Muslim extremists in 2012.

  • In October, A former Portsmouth Football Club player was among a group of 11 alleged Islamic convert terrorists arrested in France for targeting Jews – 7 months after Mohammed Merah murdered Jewish children in Toulouse.
  • In July, Mohammed Sadiq Khan and his wife Shasta Khan were convicted of planning to bomb Jewish targets in north Manchester.
  • In March, Italian police arrested Mohamed Jarmoune, an Italian of Moroccan origin, who they suspected of planning an attack on a synagogue, at his home in Brescia.

Moreover, in the UK in 2011, 31 out of 92 total violent antisemitic attacks in the UK in 2011, according to the CST, were committed by Muslim/Islamist perpetrators – an extremely disproportionate number when you consider that Muslims make up roughly 4.8% of the population in England and Wales.

Would Freedland suggest that there are (evidently unreported) Jewish or Zionist terrorist cells engaged in similar plots and attacks against Muslim targets? Are there synagogue versions of the radical East London Mosque? Are there Jewish neighborhoods in London, such as Golders Green, understood to be no-go areas for religious Muslims? 

Of course, he certainly knows the answer to these questions.

However, there is a more important point which needs to be addressed.

Right-wing antisemitism in Europe  – certainly within the mainstream media, and at the Guardian – has been properly delegitimized in a way Islamist antisemitism has not.  When the BNP, EDL and other like-minded right-wing extremists march in London, there is something approaching moral unanimity on the racist, xenophobic danger they present.  However, such a moral consensus does not exist when demonstrations in the UK are held by sympathizers of Hamas, Hezbollah and other violently antisemitic movements.

Finally, sometimes CiF Watch is asked why we spend so much time condemning Islamist antisemtism and less amount of time condemning right-wing or neo-Nazi racism against Jews.  

The answer is simple.

White supremacists, and other extreme right-wing groups, don’t have a platform at ‘Comment is Free’, while Islamist extremists who are affiliated with groups openly calling for the murder of Jews (and, no, not merely Zionists) are routinely provided a platform by Guardian editors – evidently motivated by the risible belief that such violent radicals are giving voice to genuinely “progressive” values.

While I’d like to give Jonathan Freedland the benefit of the doubt that he sincerely is intolerant towards all forms of antisemitism, it’s difficult not to conclude that he lacks the fortitude necessary to confront the dangerous legitimization of Islamist inspired Judeophobia in the UK – particularly at the media institution where he’s currently employed.  

 

Peter Beinart vs. the American Jewish community

Polemics and analyses which represent nothing more than preconceived anti-Israel conclusions in search of supporting evidence are nothing new at the Guardian Group.  Nonetheless, the absence of empirical evidence in Peter Beinart’s attempt to support his claim, in an essay at ‘The Observer’ (sister paper of the Guardian) on Jan. 12, ‘Jewish Americans may be increasingly disenchanted with Netanyahu. But their priorities lie elsewhere, is still quite striking.

Beinart, the former New Republic editor who recently re-invented himself as a Jew who’s ashamed of Israel’s stubborn refusal to unilaterally declare peace in the ‘new Middle East’, and thus allow his delicate conscience to escape the unbearable social weight of Zionist vigilance against Palestinian intransigence, seemed determined to convince the Guardian coven that he’s in the vanguard of an unstoppable Jewish progressive revolt against Jerusalem.

Characteristically, Beinart spends no time reflecting upon what the terms “right” and “left” denote in the current political context – and seems breezily unconcerned with the messy nuances of Israel’s pragmatic consensus forged by the sobering failures of Oslo, the dangerous results of an illusory land for peace strategic calculus, and Islamism’s regional ascendancy.

To the marginal Beinart-style Jewish left, moral enlightenment means never having to prove your a priori progressive advantages over your more “tribalist” coreligionists.

His posturing begins thus:

“In Israel, public discourse is moving right.

In Jewish America, by contrast, public discourse about Israel is moving left. You can see it in the increasingly harsh criticism of Binyamin Netanyahu‘s government by mainstream Jewish commentators such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Are many of these liberal, relatively secular Jews, especially in the younger generation, uncomfortable with Israel’s current drift? Yes”

However, the political sensibilities of most American Jews have long since drifted away from the increasingly irrelevant intellectual echo-chamber which Beinart imputes so much significance – most having long ago steered their URL clear of such New York establishment media institutions.

Contrary to Beinart’s fanciful wishes, the Zionist sensibilities of most American Jews have not wavered.

A 2012 poll by Lutz Global, on behalf of CAMERA, found continuing, deep support for Israel and a “strong belief in Israel’s commitment to peace efforts and apprehension about its existential situation.” Survey respondents similarly expressed strong support for Israel’s right to self-defense and fierce opposition to those (such as Beinart) who endorse BDS against the Jewish state – with 71% opposing boycotts against Israel, and 68% opposing a boycott of products made in cities beyond the green line.

 A full 85% agreed that Israel ‘is right to take threats to its existence seriously,’ and that Israel’s concerns are neither “irrational’ nor overstated”.

The Lutz poll also demonstrated that American Jews possess a strong belief that “the Israeli government (84%) and its people (85%) are committed to establishing genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.” Respondents were extremely skeptical of the Palestinian commitment to peace and consider Palestinian incitement against Jews to be a major obstacle to a long-term agreement (77%) – far more so than settlements (12%) or “occupation” (12%).

Beinart then turns to Iran, and writes the following:

“So is Netanyahu free to do whatever he pleases without worrying about the American Jewish response? On the Palestinians, maybe. But on Iran, no. That’s because war with Iran, a war in which the US could easily become engulfed even if we don’t drop the first bomb, is a much higher priority than the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (or lack thereof). It’s a higher priority for Americans, for liberal American Jews, and for America’s president. It’s an issue on which Obama, as evidenced by the Hagel nomination, is not prepared to defer to Aipac. And it’s an issue that could, if America goes to war, mobilise those liberal American Jews who would not mobilise politically on the peace process but did mobilise against the war in Iraq.”

So, is American Jewish opinion at odds with the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews who believe that a nuclear armed Iran would represent an existential threat to their nation?

According to another comprehensive 2012 survey of American Jewish opinion by the AJC the answer is a resounding “no”.  The Iranian nuclear program concerns the vast majority of American Jews: 89 percent are “very” (56 percent) or somewhat (33 percent) concerned about it. Only 11 percent say they are not too concerned or not concerned at all.

Additionally, 64 percent of American Jews surveyed said that, if diplomacy and sanctions fail, “they would support the U.S. taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.” Also, 75 percent would “support Israel taking such action if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”

Contrary to Beinart’s claims, the research indicates that American Jewish opinion is solidly in alignment with Israeli Jewish opinion on the most important issues regarding peace and security for the Jewish state.

Not surprisingly given the outcome of the recent US election, the same AJC poll showing broad support among American Jews for Israel also demonstrates that the overwhelming majority also back President Obama, which would indicate that such Jews don’t see their Zionism as in any way inconsistent with their liberal political orientation.

Beinart, in one passage in his Observer piece, cites data allegedly indicating that “only” 58 percent of younger American Jews even could identify who Binyamin Netanyahu is.

However, based on the polling data, I think it’s fair to ask how many younger American Jews have any idea who exactly Peter Beinart is.

What war is good for: Jonathan Freedland and the empty platitudes of ‘peace’

“War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things;
the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings
which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.
A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight,
nothing which is more important than his own personal safety,
is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free
unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

- John Stuart Mill

The memo at Guardian HQ explaining the ‘root cause’ of Israel’s operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ evidently has been distributed far and wide within their coven of activist journalists.

While Guardian reporters, and ‘Comment is Free’ contributors, have varied in the degree of malice they impute to the Jewish state for launching strikes against terror targets in Gaza, the message they’ve conveyed to their readers is clear: Don’t believe the Israeli ‘narrative’ that the state is acting to stop thousands of rockets from being launched at their cities by a malevolent Islamist terror group committed to its destruction.

Harriet Sherwood, Simon Tisdall,  and, of course Steve Bell, are among the Guardian reporters and commentators who are vexed by the idea that the Jewish state would see fit to defend its citizens from a well-armed terrorist movement on its border, and see something more cynical – indeed something much darker – in the decision to launch ‘Pillar Of Defense’.

Jonathan Freedland’s video commentary – ‘Why has Israel decided to attack Gaza now?‘, focusing almost entirely on the supposed electoral reasons behind the war – is a telling case because Freedland is a unique Guardian journalist; he’s a proud Jew who supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Not that Freedland hasn’t in the past succumbed to ‘J Street/Yachad/Peter Beinart leftist narrative which mistakes love for Israel with obsessive criticism, but, by all accounts, he is a decent, reasonable and mostly sober commentator.

However, as you watch this video, you’ll note that Freedland spends about 2 minutes and 37 seconds (out of a 2 minute and 52 second interview) on the alleged electoral reasons, and only 15 seconds explaining the context of Hamas rocket fire.

Additionally, in a full commentary about the war at ‘Comment is Free’, Freedland, in ‘The battle between Israel and Gaza solves nothing, Nov. 15, repeats the same reasoning:

“Why did Israel hit back now? The Hebrew press immediately assumed the key date was political, not military: 22 January, when Israelis go to the polls. There are plenty of precedents for outgoing governments taking military action, hoping to create a wave of national unity that will carry them to victory: Cast Lead itself fits that pattern. Binyamin Netanyahu may well have wanted to push aside his Labor rival and prevent his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, making a planned comeback – forcing both to fall into line as patriotic cheerleaders. Similarly, Barak found a way to remind voters of his supposed indispensability.”

However, Freedland’s suspicion of Israeli motives is as notable as his facile understanding of the broader issues of war and peace. 

His commentary ends, thus.

“Above all, the pain and anguish inflicted by yet another round of civilian deaths and injury will sow hatred in the hearts of another generation, who will grow up bent on revenge and yet more bloodshed. This keeps happening, decade after decade, for one simple reason: there can be no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides will say the action they have taken is necessary. But it will solve nothing.” [emphasis added]

This last highlighted passage gets to the heart of the matter, and defines, as much as anything, the false, and dangerous, political assumptions of the Guardian Left.

A basic understanding of Israeli history, it seems, would inspire Freedland to take note of the fact that it was the use of force, and the credible threat of force, which has protected the Jewish state from Arab efforts, over the last 64 years, to ‘throw the Jews into the sea’.  Negotiations with its enemies didn’t occur organically, but only as the result of Israeli military victories which prompted its defeated foes to grudgingly accept that they did not have the capacity to fulfill their destructive aims.

By what means, other than through military force, would Jonathan Freedland suggest should be used by Israel to defang terrorist groups in Gaza (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Resistance Committees, and others) which possess thousands of rockets and the will to martyr thousands of their citizens in the cause of Jihad?

The perception of weakness and a lack of resolve – for any nation, yet alone the tiny Jewish state –  represents a dangerous provocation.

‘Peace’, when dealing with an enemy committed to your destruction, is not a serious strategy, but merely an empty and quite dangerous platitude.

The overwhelming majority of Israelis, their passionate supporters abroad and defenders of Western democracy more broadly understand this intuitive moral and political fact. 

Philly Diarist: Beinartism writ small

Beinartism (Read this post by our friends at Fresno Zionism to get up to speed on the term.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012. Philadelphia:

Me: “Can I please have a bag for my kippah? I live overseas and don’t want it to get lost on the trip back.”

Sales attendant: “Sure. Where do you live overseas?”

Me: “Israel.”

Sales attendant (after a brief pause and a troubled look): “What do you think about the Palestinian issue ?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Sales attendant: “Do you think they deserve a state? Because I believe they deserve a state.”

Me: “Well, many Israelis are concerned that a new Palestinian state wouldn’t in fact bring peace and may only lead to more terrorist attacks and, as in Gaza, give rise to a government led by a radical, undemocratic and violent movement.”

Sales attendant: “Well, I just believe that the Palestinians deserve a state.”

Me: “And I just replied to your question.”

This exchange, on my last day visiting my family in Philadelphia, didn’t take place in just any old Judaica store. It took place between me and a middle-aged Jewish woman who worked in the gift shop of the newly opened National Museum of American Jewish History, across from the Liberty Bell in the city’s historic district.  

I had been in the U.S. for nine days prior to this encounter and never received similar queries from anyone else when I mentioned in passing, in the context of the conversation, that I was from Philly but now a citizen of Israel.

To my family and close friends back in the U.S. my Israeli citizenship is a source of pride, and a topic of conversation which typically revolves around my day-to-day life in Jerusalem, my job, whether my Hebrew has improved and suchlike. 

The woman I encountered, however, conveyed a palpable discomfort at my first mention of the “I” word.  

I couldn’t stop wondering if it was even conceivable that she would have challenged a Turkish visitor to the museum to defend their policy towards the Kurds. Or would she have challenged a Chinese visitor she just met to a debate about Tibet?  Would she have begun a conversation with a guest to her shop from a European nation with troops in Afghanistan or Iraq how they felt about high civilian casualty numbers?

This question actually wasn’t even about Israel. It was about her  an act of morally posturing. She was setting herself apart from me. 

She didn’t attempt to refute the brief argument I presented regarding Israel’s security concerns, but simply repeated what she “believed”. It wasn’t really a conversation at all.

So convinced are such people, with something approaching a secular faith, that peace would be the inevitable result of Israeli withdrawals from the disputed territories they often can’t be bothered to defend their premise. Their argument – any serious observer of the region would have to admit – has at the very least been called into question following the results of Israeli withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza.

While it’s possible the saleswoman I encountered never read Peter Beinart’s recent musings on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict, she certainly shares much of the former New Republic editor’s hubris.

Indeed, the most gnawing omission in Beinart’s original essay on (as he titled his subsequent book) “the crisis of American Zionism” – published at The New York Review of Books under the title “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” – is that it doesn’t mention what should be expected of Palestinians at all.  In fact, Beinart only refers to Palestinians a few times, and always as passive actors.

He writes of the urgent need to promote a “Zionism that recognized Palestinians as deserving of dignity and capable of peace”, and commends Jews (like himself) deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included”. [emphasis added]

In the spirit of my interlocutor’s query, Beinart, in his more than 4500 word essay, did not (even in passing) meditate upon the security implications of his proposals. 

If Israelis are to take criticism by Jewish Americans seriously we must first be convinced that their opinions are informed by a rigorous and morally sober understanding of the political realities of the region in which we live.  As such, perhaps we can expect a bit of humility in the face of the ascendancy of Hezbollah and Hamas following our experiment with the “Land for Peace’ formula in 2000 and 2005.  And I think we can be forgiven for asking why they believe a future Palestinian state will necessarily produce peace, tolerance and co existence  values clearly lacking in the political cultures in Gaza and the PA. 

I truly want to believe that such critics are motivated by more than just moral vanity, but the longer I live in the Jewish state (especially in the midst of an ‘Arab Spring’ which hasn’t produced a thaw in our neighbors’ antipathy towards our very presence) the harder it is to take their desperate desire to ‘save us from ourselves’ seriously. 

Israelis – who will have to suffer the real world consequences of any future peace agreement – aren’t in any way asking for ‘uncritical support’ from American Jews: only that the premises of their critiques be supportable.

And, finally, if you work at a Jewish institution and meet someone from Israel please consider being as polite and courteous as you would with a visitor from any other country. You may want to make friendly small talk. And, if you absolutely must discuss the politics of his or her country then, whatever you ask, at least be open-minded and truly listen to the answer. 

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

‘Boycott Israel,’ the movie, starring actress Emma Thompson

 

This is cross posted by Ben Cohen, and originally appeared at Jointmedia News Service.

If Hollywood ever makes a movie about the movement to boycott Israel, I can think of no one better suited to the starring role than Emma Thompson.

I imagine Thompson’s character as a schoolteacher or a librarian, dowdy looking with just a hint of prettiness. She lives alone in a cozy apartment filled with potted plants and books on personal growth, third-world politics and vegetarian cookery.

Her significant other is a fluffy cat that nestles in her lap every night as she sits in front of her computer reading the latest dispatches from occupied “Palestine,” her face etched with righteous disbelief.

She doesn’t have time for a boyfriend, but that won’t stop her would-be suitor, an equally self-righteous, mildly kooky Jewish writer—think Peter Beinart—from trying to win her heart.

By the time we’re halfway through the film, Emma will have decided that she simply must visit the West Bank, despite the enormous dangers posed by the Israeli occupation forces. She comes to this awareness while attending a Passover seder hosted by her aspiring boyfriend, during which he pulls out a fading photograph of his great-grandmother who was murdered during the Holocaust. 

Fighting back the tears, he confides that, “If she could see what Israel has become, she’d die all over again from the shame.” The two fall into each other’s arms, waking the next morning to a breakfast of matzo brei— as Emma tries to pronounce the name of the dish she’s eating, we giggle through the obligatory moment of light relief—before she’s whisked away in a taxi to the airport, and thence to the beautiful-yet-tragic land of Palestine.

In the West Bank, she cavorts with cute little kids—“just like the ones I teach back home”—drinks mint tea with effusive women who bear the daily humiliation of occupation with a smile and a shrug, and admires the steely-eyed men who stand up to the nasty Israelis with all the conviction of a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King.

Emma embraces their anger but concludes that violence is not the answer. Just before she leaves the Palestinian village that now feels like home, she regales the enthusiastically nodding villagers with a speech—tearful, of course—expounding on the importance of non-violence. “Don’t use bombs,” she exhorts. “Use boycotts.” Their applause can be heard all the way to the adjacent Israeli army base, where the commander is suddenly struck by the realization that the Palestinian aspiration for freedom can never be crushed.

Roll the credits. And don’t call it a chick flick.

With a movie like this one, art would be imitating life—to be precise, Emma Thompson’s life. Recently, the Oscar-winning actress joined with other darlings of stage and screen to protest the participation of Tel Aviv’s venerable Habimah Theater in a London festival that is performing the plays of William Shakespeare in 37 different languages.

In a letter published by The Guardian—a liberal newspaper with a long track record of publishing anti-Semitic material—Thompson and her cohorts slammed “Habima” [sic] for its “shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.” They ended with a demand to exclude the theater from the festival. No such objections were voiced concerning the participation of a Palestinian theater troupe, nor the involvement of the National Theater of China, which is directly funded by one of the world’s most repressive regimes.

In fact, there are many good reasons to ditch political objections and keep the festival open to all—which its organizers, to their credit, have done, in spite of Thompson’s fulminations. To perform Shakespeare is in itself a celebration of artistic freedom. Habimah’s version of “The Merchant of Venice,” the play that gave us the figure of Shylock, the Jewish moneylender who embodies anti-Semitic canards even as he challenges them, is sure to be enticing. And I would genuinely love to see how actors from communist China interpret the story of “Richard III.”

For those like Emma Thompson, though, boycotts are predicated on supposedly universal principles and then applied to only one target—Israel. To understand the strategy here, it’s worth recalling the campaign in the UK for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Ten years ago, an article in The Guardian noted that Israel’s universities are victims of their own success:

“The nature of Israel’s academic pre-eminence,” the article explained, “makes it vulnerable to a boycott.”

The same logic applies to the flourishing arts scene in Israel. The excellence of a theater like Habimah, along with its enthusiasm to perform outside Israel’s borders, renders it a sitting duck for boycott campaigners. In their warped view of the world, Palestinian freedom can only be achieved by quarantining Israelis on the basis of their nationality.

Thus do apparently free-spirited artists echo the racist policies of the Arab League, which began its boycott of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel in 1945, three years before the state of Israel was born.

What, then, is the appropriate response to Emma Thompson and those like her? Certainly not to make the movie I described earlier. Instead, they should be given a taste of their own medicine.

We are often told that Jews run Hollywood—the same Hollywood that carried on casting Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson’s fellow Brit, in leading roles after she denounced so-called “Zionist hoodlums” in an Oscar acceptance speech in 1978. Will the studio moguls continue to indulge Thompson as they indulged Redgrave? Or will they show some gumption, and tell her that, for as long as she seeks to discriminate against Israeli artists, she will be banished from our screens?

I think I know, sadly, what the answer is. But I’d love to be proved wrong.

 

Comment is Free, Jane Eisner & a modest question for Peter Beinart & the American Jewish Left

Jane Eisner’s March 28th Comment is Free essay, Peter Beinart’s problematic Zionist BDS proposal, was interesting in several respects.

First Eisner praised  Beinart’s “new and controversial proposal for a targeted boycott of products from Israeli settlements” (meant to pressure Israel to withdrawal completely from the West Bank) as representing a valiant effort to test “how big the Jewish tent really is.”

Eisner characterized Beinart’s proposal for “BDS” as a “movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS)…targeting only the territories beyond the Green Line – the area captured by Israel in 1967 that should make up a new Palestinian state or, in Beinart’s words, non-democratic Israel”

Eisner criticizes the proposal as impractical, arguing that the vast majority of Israeli products are manufactured in Israel proper, and that such a targeted boycott would have little if any effect on Israel’s economy.

Then, while Eisner also raises a slight moral objection to Beinart’s embrace of the BDS movement, she nevertheless concludes:

What Beinart has accomplished, though, is to pinpoint a deep frustration and confusion on the part of many Jews who want to stop the peace process from unraveling and who wish to see and end to the occupation that leaves Israel’s security intact. This is the constituency of Jewish opinion that wants to reclaim the high moral ground in the struggle for Israel’s democratic soul.

For that reason, he and his ideas – no matter how outrageous, no matter how self-serving – deserve a place inside the tent. He asks an uncomfortable, difficult, yet essential question: if well-meaning American Jews who love Israel believe that the occupation of Palestinian land and people is detrimental and wrong, what are those Jews to do?

However, the most gnawing omission in Beinart’s original essay on “the crisis of American Zionism” published at The New York Review of Books, under the title “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment“, is that it doesn’t mention what he expects of Palestinians – and indeed Beinart only refers to Palestinians a few times, and always as passive actors.

He writes of the urgent need to promote a “Zionism that recognized Palestinians as deserving of dignity and capable of peace”, commends Jews (like himself) deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included” and challenges “Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

In addition, he fails to even reflect, in an over 4500 word essay, on the security implications of withdrawing from the disputed territories, and never once acknowledges the injurious results of Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and S. Lebanon.

So, to liberal American Jews like Beinart, I’d like to ask a simple question in relation to what you demand of Israel and American Zionists:

What do you demand of the Palestinians?

  • Do you expect Palestinians to cease endemic antisemitic incitement in their mosques, state-controlled media, and culture?
  • Do you expect Palestinians to stop honoring terrorists, and finally promote the values of peace and co-existence, and endorse the Jewish state’s right to exist?
  • Do you expect Palestinians to create genuinely democratic institutions?
  • Do you expect Palestinians to take steps to end codified misogyny, such as their judicial system which rarely punishes men found guilty of honor killings?
  • Do you expect them to decriminalize homosexuality?
  • Do you expect Palestinians to adopt genuinely liberal norms regarding a free press and freedom of speech? 
  • What steps do you expect Palestinians to take to inspire confidence that a nascent Palestinian state will be peaceful, and won’t devolve into an Islamist controlled polity, as in Gaza, or a terrorist dominated country like Lebanon?
  • And, more broadly, do you expect the same moral performance from Palestinians as you do of Israeli Jews?

For Beinart, and many of his allies on the American Jewish left, the only actors who possess moral agency in his tale of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict are Jews – and seems supremely concerned with the necessity of such Jews maintaining the “moral high ground” at seemingly any cost.

Such liberal American Jews seem remarkably nonchalant about the real life consequences of their proposals – advancing opinions not based on a rigorous examination of Israel’s complicated regional security threats, which include Islamist terrorist movements committed to the Jewish state’s destruction on two borders, but a desire to maintain their own “progressive” standing.  

This dynamic – supreme moral vanity and an unwillingness to bear the unpleasant consequences which accompany even the most responsible use of political and military power – has been aptly characterized by Ruth Wisse as moral solipsism.

Until liberal American Jews show a genuine willingness to reflect on such questions about Palestinian responsibility, the vital issue of precisely what kind of Palestinian state Israelis can expect to arise and, more broadly, to what degree they’re willing to hold Palestinians (and the larger Arab world) to the same moral standards they hold Zionists, its hard not to conclude that their polemical assaults on the “Zionist establishment” are informed by both narcissism and quintessentially liberal racism.

I remember a conversation with a friend just before Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, in which he assured me that such a move would give Israel the “moral high ground”, and garner political support for the Jewish state in the event that the newly independent Palestinian state in Gaza devolved into a terrorist enclave, and the IDF was forced to engage in military actions in response.

As Hamas’s ascendancy and the obsessive international criticism, and delegitimization, as the result of the Gaza War indicated however, both assumptions, widely held by many on the Jewish left, were proven wildly inaccurate.

If the price of preventing a similar or even more dangerous political and military dynamic on our state’s eastern border is the loss of support from Peter Beinart and his political allies, it is a cost that Israelis (and those Zionist allies unburdened by the desire to remain popular within progressive political circles) must be willing to pay. 

There’s nothing noble, admirable, moral (or “liberal) about promoting policies which will likely result in greater Jewish victimhood. 

Peter Beinart and the Crisis of American Jewish Liberalism

Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic, has recently entered the ideological enterprise of delegitimization – convinced that he alone possesses wisdom about how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which has eluded Israeli leaders for over six decades.

Beinart’s book, The Crisis of Zionism, doesn’t merely argue that Israel should withdrawal from the West Bank but, in criticizing the occupation, evokes the ugly specter of racism and segregation in the pre-Civil Rights American South. 

From his book blurb:

An American Jewish community that sent its sons and daughters to Mississippi when African-Americans were denied equal citizenship merely because they were not white cannot turn away when millions of West Bank Palestinians are denied rights simply because they are not Jews.

You understand that only by giving Palestinians their own country in the West Bank and Gaza Strip can Israel again become a Jewish state that offers the right of citizenship to all the people within its domain.

And you understand that if Israel collapses as a democratic Jewish state, Zionism itself will die.

Of course, like so much of what passes for liberal thought on Israel, Beinart has almost nothing to say on what he expects of the Palestinians in the context of his hopes for peace and co-existence.

Does he expect them to end antisemitic incitement or take steps to reform a political culture which honors terrorism? Does he demand that they build democratic institutions, hold free and fair elections and extend even nominal rights to women, gays and religious minorities?

No, Beinart’s liberal racism can not assign even the most rudimentary moral agency to Palestinians – the quintessential ethnic abstraction.

Further, does Beinart even wonder what the real-life results will be if Israel abides by his advice and withdrawals to 1967  borders, and what will happen if, as in Gaza in 2005 and S. Lebanon in 2000, such withdrawals only embolden the most violent terrorist movements, and make Israelis even more vulnerable to rocket fire and other acts of deadly terrorism?

No, there isn’t a crisis of Zionism.

There’s a crisis of his brand of American Jewish liberalism – “intellectuals’ who have lived in their own mind too long, truly incapable of imagining life outside the safety of their own cognitive bubbles.

Such political sages are not equipped with the moral imagination necessary to empathize with a modern Jewish state under siege, surrounded by hideously antisemitic Islamist terrorist movements who are quite explicit in their malevolent designs.

Do such sensitive souls ever wonder why Palestinian society never seems to produce their own version of Peter Beinart? Why don’t such critics ever demand reciprocal Palestinian self-reflection or empathy for the (Jewish) “other”?

Finally, does Peter Beinart ever wonder what the consequences will be if he’s wrong?

If the policies he advocates lead not to peace but to war, to more bloodshed and greater Jewish suffering, will he say he’s sorry? Will he finally repudiate his naive belief that “they are just like us”?

Of course not.

He will remain far removed from the deadly serious issues of war and peace in the Middle East.

He’ll write another book. He’ll become a fellow at another think tank.

Peter Beinart can opine on issues with the liberating sense of his own impunity to their potential real-world consequences, knowing that he will never, ever have to deal with the dangers paved by his best intentions.

Israelis like me, my friends, my wife and family, however, aren’t so privileged.

(Finally, here’s a powerful Shabbat sermon by Reform rabbi Ammiel Hirsch against Beinart’s call for BDS against Israelis living beyond the green line, from his pulpit at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan.)

Guardian’s former Iran correspondent legitimizes bizarre anti-Israel conspiracy theory

H/T Steve

Geneive Abdo is a former Iran correspondent for the Guardian and current contributor to major American newspapers, as well as Al-Jazeera

She is a fellow at the Century Foundation which, according to Commentary Magazine‘s Michael Rubin, has close ties to the White House.

Abdo recently suggested to Australian public radio that Israel had bombed its own diplomats in India in order to have an excuse to blame Iran:

(Journalist) ELEANOR HALL: Iran’s leadership says it’s sheer lies that it’s behind the attacks and that the Israelis have planted the bombs themselves to discredit Iran?

GENEIVE ABDO: Well I think that’s entirely possible. I mean, if you consider what the Israelis did for many years in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East, that theory is not so farfetched.

And, as Rubin observed, “What progressive analysis would be complete without obsessing about the dark shadow of a “Jewish lobby?”

ELEANOR HALL: So how dangerous do you think the situation is right now?

GENEIVE ABDO: Well, I think it’s very dangerous. It’s far more dangerous than probably any escalation tension that we’ve seen in 30 years. So, you know, you have the Israelis not willing to live with a nuclear Iran. You have the Iranians going forward with their nuclear program. And you have an American president trying to be re-elected with a Jewish lobby in the United States that’s extremely powerful.

So, we have a “specialist” on Iran, working for an influential progressive think tank, who legitimizes bizarre conspiracy theories and advances tropes about the injurious effects of organized Jewry.  

But that’s not all.

Abdo is a speaker at the upcoming conference, in Washington, DC, of the left-wing Israel lobbying group, J Street  – an event which also features Peter Beinart.

Perhaps one of the biggest conceits of Israel’s critics are their frequent suggestions that there’s something brave about their stance, positing that anti-Israel views are stifled, and that activism can cost you professionally.

As Noah Pollock observed of Peter Beinart’s claims to this effect:

Beinart imputes that critics of Israel within the Jewish community and elsewhere have been rendered mute and ineffective by the power of politically conservative Jews and the Washington lobby they supposedly control. 

The presence of Geneive Abdo, an anti-Israel conspiracy theorist who advances antisemitic canards, at a conference of a well-funded American Jewish lobbying group, would suggest, however, that such politically powerful conservative Jews are doing a horrible job of muting such “alternative” voices. 

What Peter Beinart won’t report: PA TV thanks Palestinian children for fertilizing land with blood

H/T Margie

“The idea that the problem is Israel, that the problem is the Jews, protects Palestinians from having to confront [their] inferiority or do anything about it or overcome it. The idea among Palestinians that they are victims means more to them than anything else. It is everything. It is the centerpiece of their very identity and it is the way they define themselves as human beings in the world.”

“Palestinians will never be reached…until they are somehow able to get… beyond this sort of poetic truth that they are the perennial victims of an aggressive and racist Israeli nation.” - Shelby Steele

Sorry, I typically file such stories as “What the Guardian won’t report”, but in light of Peter Beinart’s latest foray into the delegitmizing enterprise – convinced, it seems, that peace would be achieved if not for racist Zionist policy  – it seems apropos to occasionally note facts the earnest liberal journalist evidently finds inconvenient to his narrative of Israeli villainy.

Beinart’s failure to hold Palestinians accountable for perpetuating a culture which glorifies terrorism, and promotes antisemitism, represents a dynamic his former colleague at The New Republic, Jim Sleeper, would likely characterize as “liberal racism“.

This week, official Palestinian Authority TV reported from a Fatah celebration in a refugee camp in Lebanon and focused on the following slide shown at the celebration. Fatah’s message was that children are created so that their blood will be “fertilizer” to saturate the land:

Sickness, hate, pathos?

Banish the thought!

No. I’m sure its all about “the settlements”.