Jerusalem event: Israel, Hamas and media coverage of the war in Gaza

CAMERA public forum, “War By Other Means: Israel, Hamas and Media Coverage of Gaza”, will be held on Sunday November 9th at Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center.  The interactive panel discussion (to be hosted by Arnold Roth) will include CAMERA’s Israel Director Tamar Sternthal, Israeli columnist and author Ben-Dror Yemini, BBC Watch Managing Editor Hadar Sela, Professor Richard Landes and CAMERA Senior Researcher Gidon Shaviv.

We urge readers who are going to be in Jerusalem to attend.

Registration is necessary and can be done here.

war by other means

Independent’s demonization of Israel continues: Op-ed accuses state of genocide

As we noted earlier in the week, the Independent doesn’t have a correspondent in the region, but has a stable of Israel ‘critics’ ready on a moment’s notice to launch polemical assaults on the Jewish State.  Last week, they published one op-ed (by Mira Bar-Hillel) which evoked Nazi Germany in vilifying Israeli military actions in Gaza, and another one (by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown) which all but accused Israel of engaging in a plan to exterminate the Palestinians.

This week, Mira Bar-Hillel (a British Jew who has admitted to being antisemitic) returns in a July 17th op-ed erroneously suggesting that the Israeli media has demanded the IDF bomb Gaza “back to the Stone Age” (see here), and accusing the country of believing that “Palestinians aren’t quite human”.  (She also falsely claimed that no Israelis were killed during previous Gaza war in 2012.)

Another July 17th op-ed by Yana Hawari actually endorsed Hamas’s refusal to agree to a ceasefire last week, and finished her diatribe with the following accusation:

It [the war] also allows them to break up the unity between Hamas and Fatah. But most importantly it allows them to continue the strangulation and the genocide of the Palestinian people of Gaza in front of an international audience. 

Of all the hateful, perverse smears against Israel leveled by the hard-left against Israel, the genocide charge is by far the most ludicrous, and the most pernicious. 

As we’ve argued previously, debating the “question” of whether Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians seems at first glance to be as productive as ‘arguing’ whether or not Jews are trying to take over the world. However, unlike the latter charge, which, no matter how bigoted and irrational, is not really quantifiable, the former malicious smear – reflecting the “Israel as the new Nazis“ narrative – can be easily refuted by a few population statistics.

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

Additionally, to add further context:

  • The number of Arabs killed (since 1920) in Arab-Israeli wars is far less than the number of Arabs killed by Arabs in Syria alone since 2011.

As a point of reference, the Jewish population of Gaza and Palestinian controlled West Bank is practically zero (save a few pro-Palestinian “journalists” who reside there), while the Jewish population in the entire Arab Middle East has decreased from over 850,000 in 1949 to less than 5,000 today.  (Yet, relatedly, despite the almost complete disappearance of Jewish inhabitants in territories they control, some Palestinian and Arab leaders often incite their citizens to engage in the mass murder of Jews in Israel, and even in the diaspora.)

The broad charge that Jews are ethnically cleansing Arabs (Palestinians or otherwise) in the Middle East, based on the numbers, represents the opposite of the truth.  The only group which has actually been ethnically cleansed in the Middle East since the end of World War 2 has been Jews. (Though, it should be noted that Christians are also in danger of extinction.)

The Independent – which risibly claims to be guided by “enlightened” values and once even strongly denied that it demonizes Israel – should be ashamed of itself for peddling such lies.

Girl Power: 9/11, the Middle East and the West

The following essay (originally published at The New Republic on Oct. 8, 2001) was co-written by Richard Landes and his father David LandesDavid passed away last month at the age of 89.

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David Landes

Among the popular explanations for September 11′s cunning, devastating attacks on the United States is American support for Israel. The argument runs like this: If the United States had not aided and abetted the Muslim world’s primary enemy, we would not have become Islam’s enemy ourselves, and therefore would not have been a target for reprisals. That argument, however, is a dodge. Even if there were no Israel, the Muslim world would still likely feel deep and deepening hostility toward the West.

That hostility predates the formation of the Jewish State, and has its roots in the West’s growing cultural, political, economic, and military dominance over the lands of Islam, a dominance that has been building for centuries but was by no means inevitable, and which many Muslims find baffling and infuriating. Hundreds of years ago, Islamic civilization stood at the pinnacle of global achievement, politically and intellectually.

Muslim empires ruled over the Middle East, stretched west to Spain and Portugal and east to India and the borderlands of China. Islam was deservedly reputed for its ecumenism, its ability to learn from and assimilate other societies. And then something went wrong.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Islamic theologians shut down liberal philosophical schools. As a result of this banishing of “heresy” from an increasingly dogmatic Islam, the high culture lost its capaciousness and, hence, its adaptability. In the succeeding centuries, reactionary features of Islamic society hardened: slavery; the exclusion of women from public life; the vast gap of wealth and power separating elites from an impoverished population. At the same time new competitors sprang up in the West, committed by Christianity to an anti-Islamic position and by national ambitions to anti-Muslim warfare. As Muslims lost territory and technological superiority, they sought solace in the truths of yesteryear, in a refusal to sell out to the lies of the infidel.

The industrial revolution only made the imbalance worse. By the end of the nineteenth century, Western power had reduced the Middle East to a sandy piece of worldwide European empire. This formal dominion was later reversed, but by voluntary European retreat, not Muslim force of arms. In fact, the West no longer needed formal empire to profit from its technological and economic superiority. By the second half of the twentieth century, the difference between standards of living in the West and in the Muslim world had grown startlingly manifest and unbearably humiliating.

Why did muslim societies fall behind? Given the diversity of Islamic civilizations, of course, and the complexity of historical change, there are many, many answers. But one that has received too little attention–both in the West and in the Islamic world–is the evolution of Islamic societies’ treatment of women. That treatment, needless to say, differs in different parts of the Muslim world. Indeed, to take just one example of Islamic society’s openness to female power, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Indonesia have all been ruled in recent years by women. But nonetheless, compared to the West, the lives of women in most of the Muslim world are remarkably circumscribed. While Christian theology has, to a significant degree, reformed its backward views of women, Islamic theology has been much slower to do so. Muslim women are excluded from much of public space and, according to the Hadith, Mohammad said, “I was shown the hellfire and that the majority of its dwellers are women.” This fundamental inequality makes Muslim societies substantially less productive–not only by denying opportunity to women, but by inhibiting a meritocratic spirit among men.

And the oppression of women may not only help explain why Islamic societies have fallen behind the West. It may also help explain why they find the West so culturally threatening. Israel–where women don bikinis on the beach, attend university in large numbers, and are required to serve in the military–represents a deeply subversive example for many of its Middle Eastern neighbors. Osama bin Laden, in particular, has voiced outrage at the presence of American women soldiers on Saudi soil. Might he be worried that the women of the Gulf are watching them and taking note? For bin Laden and his followers, these are not mere cultural differences. They are evidence of Islam’s purity and the West’s corruption, and part of an apocalyptic struggle for universal salvation through Muslim dominion. The stakes are cosmic, ultimate; and the duty of all Muslims is not only to reject the adversary but also to destroy him.

Given the depth of Islam’s conflict with the West, trading Israel for Syria’s or Iran’s help in the reprisals against bin Laden will win us no real friends; it will only convince the Muslim world that America can be brought to betray its allies with the right combinations of threats and face-saving formulas. The real work–and, sadly, it will take far longer than even the war against terrorism–must take place within Islam itself. Self-criticism rather than blaming others, receptivity rather than dogmatic aggression, especially to their own women–these are some of the difficult steps Islam needs to take if it wants to regain the glory for which it so desperately longs.

This video clip might just upturn the way people think about the conflict

Cross posted at This Ongoing War, a blog edited by Arnold and Frimet Roth

We hope the imagery below has gone viral by the time you see it here.

The caption on the LiveLeaks site where we first saw it says very little about who is behind it or their goals. But that’s less significant than might appear to be the case at first. Though they participants are speaking Arabic, you don’t really need to get into the meaning of their words to fully comprehend the message on show here.

What the people in front of the cameras and behind them have discovered, and which far too few in Western countries understand, is that if you take yourself seriously enough while inventing an entire narrative and looking injured and/or offended, practically no one is going to object or reveal the truth. In other words, Pallywood (“a bustling industry of alfresco cinema“, according to the man who coined the term).

It has been a standard part of news coverage here in the Arab vs Israel conflict for at least a decade. It’s in evidence . Faked photos (sometimes call fauxtography), faked clashes, faked injuries, faked deaths, faked dramatic poses, faked arguments and faked responses.

Take a look at the whole two-minute clip:

 

Now, while it’s still freshly planted in your mind, would be a good time to take a look at the aldurah.com website, and the ground-breaking, 18-minute video “Pallywood: According to Palestinian Sources” (2008), the work of Prof. Richard Landes.

Fisking Rachel Shabi: How Dare the Israelis Suggest Palestinians Lied!

Cross posted by Richard Landes 

When the Guardian came out with their first article on the Israeli report on Al Durah, I thought that even though it was done by Harriet Sherwood, it was fairly neutral. I should have known that CiF would deliver the goods. Below the reaction of Rachel Shabi, with fisking.

dura“So low?” Lots of people and lots of governments have faked deaths. It’s not a particularly heinous or rare phenomenon. But wait, the Palestinians have done much worse: they’ve killed their own children and then made a media circus of trying to blame Israel.

Or wait, maybe the Israeli accusation of fakery is itself the indication of a horrifying new nadir. An Israeli report has concluded that Muhammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old Palestinian whose death in 2000 in Gaza was captured by a French public TV channel, was not killed by Israelis – and may in fact not be dead at all.

Back then, a short film of Muhammad and his father, both caught in a shootout, trying helplessly to shelter against a barrage of gunfire, was narrated by French Channel 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin and relayed around the world, turning the boy into a symbol of the brutality of the second intifada and the Israeli occupation. Now, Israel says those same images are yet more proof of a global campaign to delegitimise Israel – and are, additionally, attempts to invoke the blood libel.

Not invoke… deploy. If you look at the particularly vigorous life of all kinds of blood libels in the wake of Al Durah, from the extensive TV Ramadan series (2005) to the new variants on the old European variety (Muslim blood for Purim Humantashen in addition to Passover matzah), the blood libel is in the cognitive bloodstream of the Arab world.

And so begins another ugly bout of the endless propaganda disease that is so endemic to this conflict. Israel is reported to have killed 1,397 Palestinian children not involved in hostilities since the start of the second intifada, according to the NGO Defence for Children International in Palestine, but there are no investigations into their deaths because none have been as emblematic as Muhammad.

I’m in favor of an investigation of all of them, but I doubt that many of these statistics will hold up to scrutiny. B’tselem, whose figures are considerably lower, itself has a serious reliability problem. In any case I’m willing to bet that (had we serious evidence) we would find:

  • that the number is greatly inflated by including older teenagers (16-17) who are often combatants
  • that in no case were any of those children deliberately murdered (as Talal Abu Rahma explicitly accused Israel of doing)
  • that some of them were killed by Palestinians as herehereherehere, and here (not to mention honor-killings)
  • that a goodly number were killed in situations where their lives were deliberately endangered by Palestinian combatants firing at Israel from behind them

There is perhaps no society on earth with as dark a history of promoting a child death cult, sacrificing its children, encouraging its children to seek death, praising those who die, than the Palestinians. Any serious investigation here will not go well for the Palestinians, who systematically, indeed ghoulishly exploit the children whose deaths they cause.

kid killed by hamas

Egyptian Prime Minister Kandil and Hamas Chief Haniya kissing a baby killed by Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli children.

Shabi:

Those images of his terrified face seconds before his death were relayed around the world and are now burned into so many hearts: there are postage stamps of him, parks and streets named after him and screen-grab posters of that terrible moment raised on roads across the Arab and Muslim world.

And the most likely explanation for the terror is that Palestinian marksmen were firing bullets over their heads (but very close). Their expressions suggest that this was not what they had signed up for.

1st-bullet-a1

The opening scene: the circular cloud over their heads indicates a bullet from head on, not from a 30 degree angle (i.e., from the Israeli position)

Shabi:

This investigation, commissioned by Binyamin Netanyahu last year, seems intended only to give fuel to rightist Israel supporters – any report seeking to get closer to the truth might have bothered to speak to Muhammad’s father, or Enderlin, or France’s Channel 2. Instead, what this document provides is spin and no new evidence. It has cued a flood of commentary, about lying Palestinians and a hostile foreign media, from rightwing Israeli commentators.

Is it to be ignored because it gives fuel to those who think that Palestinians systematically lie in their cognitive war against Israel (something easily documentable), and that the foreign media is hostile, specifically in their predilection for passing on Palestinian accusations, no matter how unsupported by the evidence – as real news to their audiences back home? If it’s not your take on matters, not interested?

If my take needs Al Durah as a symbol of Israeli brutality, I don’t care if its been faked, it’s true. If the Israelis paint Al Durah as a symbol of Palestinian malevolence and journalistic incompetence, they must be lying.

Shabi:

But what stands out, yet again, is the disregard for anything Palestinians might have to contribute to the story. In effect, this report is saying to Palestinians: your words, your pain and your losses are insignificant, erasable bumps in this narrative.

First of all, Palestinian testimony in this affair is ludicrous. Talal Abu Rahma has been caught in a continuous string of false statements and sly retractions. The other “witnesses,” whose testimony Enderlin bizarrely submitted to court, talk of helicopter gunships that never were.

Secondly, given that Palestinians systematically try to weaponize their pain against Israel, even when other Palestinians directly caused it (see above and below), it’s really a bit much for you to get indignant when someone tries to call a halt to the charade.

YE Mideast Israel Palestinians

Jihad Masharawi

Jihad Masharawi, BBC reporter, holding his baby, almost certainly killed by an errant Hamas rocket. I feel the pain, I just can’t get behind the way that it’s used to scapegoat Israel for Palestinian brutality.

Shabi:

It is no wonder that Muhammad’s father, Jamal al-Dura, has said: “What saddens me is that I feel alone in the face of the Israeli propaganda machine …”, going on to lament a lack of support from either the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah or the Hamas government in Gaza.

I would take that as a sign that even the PA and Hamas aren’t willing to take this one on. “Everyone” – even (or especially) the Palestinian elites know this is a fake.

Shabi:

With this investigation, Israel’s government exposes its obsession with trying to win the propaganda war, as though this will magically make everything OK. Netanyahu has called the al-Dura incident part of the “ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimise Israel”. But the problem is that nothing could possibility delegitimise Israel more than its prolonged and oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people – the escalating deaths;

Escalating? Actually deaths in this conflict are exceptionally low. You want “escalating deaths” try Syria next door, where in less than three years more people have been killed (70,000) than in the entire Arab-Israeli conflict over 65 years.

media-vs-casualty-footprint

Shabi:

…the daily, grinding humiliation.

metro2

Ladies in a Gaza supermarket, humiliated in their open air prison.

Shabi:

The longer it continues, the more such attempts to obfuscate or detract from this reality – rather than bring about its end – will only make matters worse.

This is not reality that you’re talking about. This is a constructed lethal narrative, supported by statements that fly directly in the face of reality. (E.g., the Palestinians under occupation have the highest life expectancy, lowest infant mortality, and highest rate of higher education, than any other Arabs in the Middle East, except Israeli Arabs). Your article just illustrates the kind of reality-defying narrative that suits your purposes, the very epitome of the Al Durah Journalism that the Israeli report critiques.

The Guardian’s lethal narrative about snipers who murder innocent children.

On Mar 26, 2001, an Israeli named Shalhevet Pass, age 10 months, was killed by Palestinian sniper fire at the entrance to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood in Hebron. Shalhevet was shot in the brain, while in her stroller - with her parents by her side.  

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Shalhevet Pass

Chillingly, an investigation ruled that the the infant was shot deliberately.

The Jewish baby was one of dozens of Israelis who have been murdered as the result of Palestinian sniper fire emanating from Gaza or the West Bank since the early 90s.

Pass’s murder came to mind when I first read a 2012 report by the Guardian’s Chris McGreal suggesting that IDF soldiers deliberately took aim at Palestinian kids – a narrative of Israeli cruelty which actually paled in comparison to a 2005 story he wrote which was even more explicit in evoking the image of such sadistic villainy.

In ‘Rachel Corrie verdict exposes Israeli military mindset‘, Aug. 28, McGreal, in an effort to contextualize the death of Rachel Corrie, and dismissal of the Corrie family lawsuit, as symptomatic of something much darker, argued that “the state of the collective Israeli military mind…cast the definition of enemies so widely that children walking down the street were legitimate targets if they crossed a red line that was invisible to everyone but the soldiers looking at it.”

McGreal’s 2005 Guardian reportcross posted at one well-known conspiracy site – was titled in a manner leaving nothing to the imagination:

snipers

Here are some passages from McGreal’s tale.

“It was the shooting of Asma Mughayar that swept away any lingering doubts I had about how it is the Israeli army kills so many Palestinian children and civilians.

Asma, 16, and her younger brother, Ahmad, were collecting laundry from the roof of their home in the south of the Gaza Strip in May last year when they were felled by an Israeli army sniper. Neither child was armed or threatening the soldier, who fired unseen through a hole punched in the wall of a neighbouring block of flats.

the army changed its account and claimed the pair were killed by a Palestinian, though there was persuasive evidence pointing to the Israeli sniper’s nest.

In southern Gaza, the killings take place in a climate that amounts to a form of terror against the population. Random fire into Rafah and Khan Yunis has claimed hundreds of lives, including five children shot as they sat at their school desks.Many others have died when the snipers must have known who was in their sights – children playing football, sitting outside home, walking back from school.”

McGreal provided no source for the fantastical story – which was, perhaps, inspired by dispatches in 2001 from Gaza by the discredited American reporter Chris Hedges – and certainly nothing resembling actual evidence that Israeli snipers fired on Palestinian children.

Of course, the most iconic image, preceding the reports by McGreal and Hedges, purporting to characterize unimaginable Israeli malevolence – that Israelis deliberately kill innocent and defenseless children – was the reported death, in Sept of 2000, of Mohammed al-Durrah.

The incident – illustrated by a video purportedly showing a father standing by impotently as the Israelis shot down, in cold blood, his terrified son – was quickly framed in the West  as a justifiable source of outrage for “a beleaguered Palestinian people fighting for their independence“.

Despite the fact that the evidence of the case overwhelmingly demonstrates that al-Durrah was almost certainly not shot by Israelis, and, in fact, in all likelihood, was not shot at all, what Shelby Steele describes as poetic truths triumphed over the empirical evidence, and a lethal narrative about Zionist brutality, which continues to incite Jihadists to this day, emerged victorious.

This one incident became an icon of hatred towards Israel.  

Countries had postage stamps honoring al-Durrah. Daniel Pearl was killed to avenge his “death”. Osama Bin Laden used the incident to incite before 9/11, and town squares & academies have been named after him.  Al-Durrah was even referred to in the Arab media as “a tiny sleeping Jesus“.

In short, he became a poster child for the Intifada, and as proof of Zionist malice.

More recently, a French Jihadist named Muhammad Merah murdered Jewish school-girls in cold blood outside their school in Toulouse to avenge the murder of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli soldiers. 

Yet, how many people in the West even know the name ‘Shalhevet Pass’?

Indeed, no matter how absurd the charges that the IDF targets innocent Palestinian kids, such morally reckless narratives evoking the specter of unimaginable Jewish malevolence has become so ingrained in the Islamist and extreme-left imagination that the facts regarding such libels have become largely irrelevant.

Richard Landes explained the significance of the media’s unfathomable credulity in the face of such crude propaganda, thus:

“One of the key functions of the mainstream news media is to serve as a dialysis machine, filtering out the poisons that can weaken the civil polities in which they operate. At least in the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have, alas, played the role of injecting the poisons of lethal narratives into the information stream of the West.” 

When Chris McGreal conjures the grotesque image of bloodthirsty IDF soldiers ruthlessly taking aim at innocent Palestinian children, the already powerful Judeophobic antipathy – nurtured continually in the Middle East – becomes that much more impenetrable, and violence directed at Israeli and non-Israeli Jews that much more probable.

Related articles

In support of Jews goin’ rogue

Is it possible that the whole world is wrong and [the Jews] are right?”

– Ahad Ha-‘Am, 1893 (about the blood libels)

Kofi Anan, 2002 (about the Jenin “massacre”)

“How impoverished a world, when the answer to that question is no.”

- Richard Landes

Glenn Greenwald believes in ‘American Exceptionalism’.

He is a firm believer that, contrary to what most Americans think, his country is exceptionally oppressive to its perceived enemies, both foreign and domestic.  The America conjured by Greenwald daily on his blog is that of an imperialist hegemon exporting ‘terror’ around the globe - a putative democracy which stifles dissent and denies true freedom to its citizens.

One day historians may look back at the likes of Greenwald and marvel at the political dynamic in early 21st century America which influenced affluent and privileged Americans – those blessed with freedom and prosperity unimaginable to most – to be so hyper-critical of their own nation and possessed with a seeming religious belief in their country’s immutable sin.

While it would be easy to contextualize Greenwald’s hostility towards Israel – and the ‘Comment is Free’ columnist’s history of employing Judeophobic tropes in the service of criticizing the state’s American supporters – in a manner imputing antisemitism, a different conclusion should be reached.  Though, admittedly, he seems to have accepted narratives about the dangers of Jewish power which are often advanced by anti-Jewish racists, his anti-Zionism seems to more accurately represent a political derivative of his anti-Americanism.

The American public’s overwhelming support for Israel likely only indicates, to Greenwald, (ala Noam Chomsky) imperialist overlap.

To Greenwald, both nations’ proclivities to ignore the fiction known as the “international community” and go their own way in protecting their interests and in refusing to bow before the UN designated authorities on moral behavior (in sober recognition of the selective justice pursued by such arbiters of civility) makes them especially worthy of opprobrium.

Indeed, quite recently the Guardian blogger expressed concern that, contrary to conventional wisdom on which nations in the world should be criticized for flagrantly defying international norms, it is the stubbornness of Israel (and the U.S.) which should rightly earn them the status of “rogue states”. (A short quiz on the US, Israel on ‘rogue nation’ status, CiF, Dec. 4).

Their sins, per Greenwald?  Opposing Palestinians observer status at the UN, opposition to calls for international oversight of Israel’s nuclear facilities, and Netanyahu’s decision to allow for zoning and planning for future Israeli homes between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim.

For Greenwald, it simply isn’t possible that the whole world is wrong – that granting the Palestinians a road to statehood independent of negotiations and without assurances as to the nascent state’s peaceful intent, is advisable – and Israel and the U.S. are right.

Nor, evidently, can Greenwald conceive why Israel may be a bit suspicious that Arab-led efforts to neuter Israel’s military advantages may not be motivated by the best of intentions.

And, of course, Greenwald is baffled as to why the Jewish state is hesitant to defer to the collective wisdom of leaders in Brussels, London and NYC before engaging in planning decisions near their capital.

Though these all represent unique questions, they are also tied in to a larger dynamic often at play within the pages of ‘Comment is Free’ – a tendency of those who fancy themselves anti-colonialists to engage in a form of soft colonialism which continually fancies in haughtily lecturing Jews on what they need to do, and what they need not do, to pacify their enemies and achieve peace.

The history of such imperiousness attitudes in the face of determined Jewish will predates, by quite a few years, Glenn Greenwald and the New Left – and indeed the evocation of the ‘obstinate Jew’ underlay much of early Christian anti-Judaism.

In its modern (20th century) form Jews were asked why they stubbornly infested a continent instead of packing up and leaving for Palestine – to be followed, decades later, with the inverse query: why don’t they get the hell out of Palestine and return to their European cities of “origin”?

Thousands of Jews ignored warnings to avoid emigrating to Palestine during WWII, as the consensus was that the land couldn’t possibly economically support such a massive influx of impoverished refugees.

Jews were told to delay, or permanently avoid, declaring statehood in 1948, as Western leaders were certain that they’d be horribly defeated by numerically superior enemy forces.

Levi Eshkol was told not to launch a strike against Arab armies, which were amassed along their border in June 1967 and planning a catastrophic attack, but to wait instead for the international community to intervene.  Golda was told much the same in the days leading up to the surprise Arab attack on Yom Kippur in 1973.

The voices of wisdom and protocol were certain that Menachem Begin absolutely should not strike Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1981.

Oslo, Israelis were assured by statesmen and diplomats, would moderate Palestinians and reduce their motivation for terror.  The ‘Land for Peace’ formula, they were told, was simply axiomatic.  

In 2001, when Israel denied it had committed a massacre in Jenin, the spokesman for the ‘international community’ – and more than a few journalists – scolded Jews for their pomposity: How could it be that Israel was right and the whole world wrong?

When a few stubborn scholars began to critically examine the  death of Mohammad al-Durrah, many stood aghast at the audacity of questioning what everyone simply knew to be true.

Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon would make Hezbollah less powerful, they said. And, similar territorial concessions in Gaza would neuter Hamas, denying the Islamist group their raison d’être – and would surely bring peace to Israel’s south.  

The roots of radicalism lay in occupation we were and still are told – a political calculus not scrutinized even after thousands of rockets have been launched from unoccupied land.  And, of course, defending yourselves against such premeditated acts of terror emanating from sovereign Palestinian territory will only radicalize the radicals. 

Through it all, the secular sages who continue to grace the mainstream media pages have never waned in their beliefs: that they know what’s best, their ‘tough love’ will save Jews from themselves.

Yet, despite being an evidently stubborn lot – or, more likely, because of it – Jews (not unlike Americans) are alive and quite well, proud, prosperous, masters of their fate and still audaciously goin’ rogue. 

The Dead Baby War: Fisking Max Fisher

Cross posted by Richard Landes at Augean Stables under the full title: “The Dead Baby War: Reflections on Palestinian Thanatography and Western Stupefication”.

Max Fisher, formerly of the Atlantic Monthly, now the WaPo’s “foreign policy advisor,”  just posted a reflection on the war of images in the current Gaza operation. In it he makes every effort to be “even-handed.” And in the end, comes up empty-handed. A remarkable example of how intelligent people can look carefully at evidence and learn nothing. If I didn’t know better (which I don’t), I might think he was doing some “damage control,” if not for Hamas (in which case, presumably it would be unconscious), then for the paradigm that permits him not to acknowledge Hamas’ character.

The Israeli-Palestinian politics of a bloodied child’s photo

Posted by Max Fisher on November 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

 

Left, a journalist for BBC Arabic holds his son’s body. Center, an emergency worker carries an Israeli infant from the site of a rocket strike. Right, Egypt’s prime minister and a Hamas official bend over a young boy’s body. (AP, Reuters, Reuters)

Wars are often defined by their images, and the renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas has already produced three such photographs in as many days. In the first, displayed on the front page of Thursday’s Washington Post, BBC journalist Jihad Misharawi carries the body of his 11-month-old son, killed when a munition landed on his Gaza home. An almost parallel image shows an emergency worker carrying an Israeli infant, bloody but alive, from the scene of a rocket attack that had killed three adults. The third, from Friday, captures Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, in his visit to a Gazan hospital, resting his hand on the head of a boy killed in an airstrike.

Each tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on. It’s a narrative that speaks to the pain of a grieving people, to the anger at those responsible, and to a determination for the world to bear witness. But the conversations around these photos, and around the stories that they tell, are themselves a microcosm of the distrust and feelings of victimhood that have long plagued the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Studiously even-handed. One of my favorite memes: “both sides…”

The old arguments of the Middle East are so entrenched that the photos, for all their emotional power, were almost immediately pressed into the service of one side or another.

Actually, there’s a huge difference between the sides. Israel has, over the years, shown enormous reluctance to use the photos of their dead and wounded to appeal for public sympathy; whereas Palestinians have actually created victims in order to parade their suffering in front of the public. Indeed, Palestinian TV revels in pictures of the dead (so much so, that when my daughter wanted to help me with some logging of PLO TV footage, I had to decline lest she be brutalized by the material). They systematically use the media to both arouse sympathy from an “empathic” West, and to arouse hatred and a desire for revenge among Arabs and Muslims. Nothing uglier.

Israel, on the other hand, studiously avoids pictures of the dead, and only a shocking incident like Ramallah can break those taboos. They were so reluctant to exploit these images that, even at the height of the suicide campaign (2002-3) they refused to release pictures of the dead victims. The two cultures could not be more different on this score, and yet, Fisher has no problem finding his symmetry.

To obfuscate this fundamental difference with a pleasing even-handedness symbolizes the literal stupefication of our culture that necessarily accompanies the politically correct paradigm (PCP1), founded on a dogmatic cognitive egocentrism. It forces one not to see critical information. It’s as if we were under orders to not notice everything that a good detective should pick up on, as if we were required to assist the clean-up crews that want to frame the story to their advantage. In such a world, the protagonists of the Mentalist, Lie to Me, Elementary, CSI, House, are not merely unwelcome, they are banished.

Prayers (selichot) for the ‘As-a-Jew’ Progressive

Cross posted by my ‘favorite’ medievalist, Richard Landes

(Selichot refers to special prayers for forgiveness, recited during the month preceding Rosh Hashanah)

Steven Plaut has put out a (perhaps too-) long list of selichot for the “Oslo Left.”

I had prepared a meditation for progressive, as-a-Jews, who feel compelled to flagellate Israel’s breast in front of the world:

  • How often have I accepted uncritically a lethal narrative aimed at my own people, just in order to “look good,” to “save face” with my friends, who expect me to rise above being a tribal, Israel-firster.
  • How often have I admitted to crimes on behalf of my people without checking to see if they were accurate?
  • How often have I failed to speak out against the depravity of the Palestinian leadership, out of fear of being called a racist and an Islamophobe?
  • How often have I allowed people who wish to destroy my people to use me to Jew-wash their genocidal hatreds.
  • How often have I been tempted to become haughty and hate my people in my heart, and feed the flames of hatred against them, because their behavior shames me in front of my honor group, the “Hamoulah of the global Left”?

Suggestions for further ones – I’m sure there are many – are welcome.

My ‘Times of Israel’ essay: ‘Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian and the anti-imperialism of fools’

The following was published at Times of Israel

The Guardian’s most egregious moral blind spot – especially in light of the media group’s claim to represent anti-racist values – pertains to their editors’ licensing of commentators who possess an antipathy towards Jews and routinely advance tropes indistinguishable from what is normally associated with far-right Judeophobia.

Such polemicists (who are granted the media group’s progressive kashrut license) are typically of the radical Islamic variety – those who espouse values which are incompatible with even the broadest understanding of progressivism yet are given a moral pass by virtue of their cynical use of the language of human rights. (Richard Landes refers to such political posers as “demopaths.”)

Indeed, Guardian editors often grant members of terrorist groups, or their supporters, space at the Guardian’s blog, ‘Comment is Free‘.

However, the Guardian-approved socially acceptable anti-Israel brand of reactionary politics isn’t limited to those of the Islamist persuasion.

Ben White, who penned an appalling apologia for anti-Semitism for the extremist publication CounterPunch, is routinely published at “Comment is Free” – and given a platform to advance his malign obsession with the Jewish state.

The Guardian even offered space, in their letters section, to Alison Weir - accurately characterized as one of the few modern-day promoters of the ancient anti-Semitic blood libel.

Gilad Atzmon, who has literally endorsed the conspiracies advanced in the Elders of the Protocols of Zion that Jews are indeed trying to take over the world, has been the subject of quite laudatory profiles at the Guardian – and also had a letter published.

More recently, it was announced that Salon.com blogger, Glenn Greenwald, will be moving to the Guardian.

Greenwald (who blogs at Salon.com) advances a brand of anti-imperialism, much in the tradition of Guardian Associate Editor Seumas Milne, informed by a palpable loathing of America, a nation he sees as a dangerous force of evil in the world. Greenwald’s anti-Americanism is so intense he once compared the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein to the Nazi conquest of Europe.

As is often the case with Guardian-brand commentators, Greenwald’s anti-imperialist ideological package includes a vicious anti-Zionism, and a corresponding belief on the injurious influence of organized US Jewry on American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Here’s a sample of his musings on the villainy of organized Jewry.

  • “So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.”
  • “Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”

Read the rest of my essay, here.

Richard Landes: The Real ‘Poison’ in the Middle East Conflict

Cross posted by Richard Landes, who blogs at Augean Stables

The New York Times ran the following cartoon, allegedly about the poisoning of Yassir Arafat by Patrick Chappatte (HT/BR).

Some think this is an outrageous cartoon that supports the libel that the Israelis poisoned Arafat. And it may be just that. After all, either Chappatte is an advocate of the destruction of Israel, or he’s in total ignorance of what’s at stake, as in this cartoon (HT/DG)

But, unintentionally or not, it actually makes a very different and critical point. From the outset, the relationship between Israel and her neighbors has been poisoned by what Nidra Poller has called lethal narratives,” stories accusing (in this case) Israel of intentionally murdering innocent civilians, preferably children. Lethal narratives are key elements in cognitive warfare designed at once to create hatred and a desire for vengeance among “us” (whose children are being murdered), guilt and self-loathing among “them” (whose soldiers are doing the killing), and hostility among bystanders (the Westerners whose judgments play a critical role in determining policy).

The most powerful lethal narrative, the Muhammad al Durah story, was a nuclear bomb of cognitive warfare. It aroused Muslims throughout the world; it filled Israelis with horror and sapped their ability to defend themselves against accusations; and it thrilled various groups, primarily Europeans and Leftists, who saw it as a “get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free” card, which freed them from any commitment to be fair to Israel.

The move was a masterstroke of cognitive war. Jihadis got the Europeans to play their lethal narrative repeatedly on their TVs during the early intifada, waving the flag of Jihad in front of their immigrant Muslim population. And as a result, Europe, in the 21st century, got a “Muslim Street.”

The mainstream news media’s laundering lethal narratives and presenting them to the public as “news” plays a critical role in Palestinian (and beyond that, Islamist) cognitive warfare. Once they had gone wild over the al Durah poison, the mainstream news media believed any claims that Palestinians made that Israelis had killed children until proven wrong, and doubted any Israeli claims to innocence until proven right. And if that happened (long after the initial lethal narrative had been spread), the press mumbled corrections and moved on to the next lethal narrative.

I personally had a direct experience of this dynamic when I gave a talk at a conference in Budapest in 2007 on millenarianism. I presented al Durah as a key element in the “going viral” of Muslim apocalyptic memes, and referred to the story as a “blood libel.” The organizer of the conference noted:

“I’ve warned against sloppy use of terminology at this conference [I had previously suggested that Marx was a millennialist], and your use of blood libel is a prime example: it’s just simple murder of children,which we know for a fact Israelis are doing every day. (Italics mine)

In her very “statement of fact” the speaker proved the efficacy of the blood libel she denied.

One of the key functions of the mainstream news media is to serve as a dialysis machine, filtering out the poisons that can weaken the civil polities in which they operate. At least in the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have, alas, played the role of injecting the poisons of lethal narratives into the information stream of the West.

We are all the weaker for it. Indeed, we find traces of poison in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, and the ludicrous story of Israel poisoning Arafat is only the most recent example, and the above cartoon, a pathetic illustration.

Related articles

The Guardian and Hamas: Willing Dupe and Immutable Victim

I came across a passage from a Shelby Steele essay in 2010 (excerpts of which I posted below) which may accurately explain the Guardians’ continuing sympathy for even the most violent, antisemitic Islamists: Hamas members who represent the antithesis of even the broadest understanding of liberal values.

Since 2011, the broadsheet which aspires to be the world’s leading liberal voice has published the Islamist terror groups’ head of international relations Osama Hamdan, Hamas advisorAzzam Tamimi, Musa Abumarzuq - deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, and today Hamas’ political leader and Gaza’s Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh.

 Steele wrote:

“[T]he merest echo of the shameful Western past is enough to chill support for Israel in the West.

The West …lacks the self-assurance to see the Palestinians accurately. Here again it is safer in the white West to see the Palestinians as they advertise themselves—as an “occupied” people denied sovereignty and simple human dignity by a white Western colonizer. The West is simply too vulnerable to the racist stigma to object to this “neo-colonial” characterization.

Our problem in the West is understandable. [We] don’t want to lose more moral authority than we already have. So…choose not to see certain things that are right in front of us. For example, we ignore that the Palestinians…are driven to militancy and war not by legitimate complaints against Israel or the West but by an internalized sense of inferiority. If the Palestinians got everything they want—a sovereign nation —they would wake the next morning still hounded by a sense of inferiority.

And the quickest cover for inferiority is hatred. The problem is not me; it is them. And in my victimization I enjoy a moral and human grandiosity—no matter how smart and modern my enemy is, I have the innocence that defines victims. I may be poor but my hands are clean. Even my backwardness and poverty only reflect a moral superiority.”

 The truth of Steele’s words is reflected by Ismail Haniyeh’s essay. The leader of a movement whose founding charter continually calls for the eradication of the Jewish state strikes the appropriate ‘liberal cords’ and plays the Guardian crowd like a fiddle.

Haniyeh begins his CiF essay We Palestinians are reclaiming our destiny, June 8th, thus:

“Some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away.”

Haniyeh is being a bit coy here. Is the fakery he speaks of the Jews’ erroneous connection to Israel? Perhaps the rhetorical obfuscation and craftiness over the truth (in need of ‘revelation’) is owed to the need for tip-towing around elements in his movement’s less than enlightened founding platform; those elements which command allegiance to the Protocols of the Elder of Zion and insist that there is indeed a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.  

The Islamist leader now clearly aspires to more lofty and elevated prose (though, as you’ll see in this passage, falls for the garden-variety analogies).

“…our destiny dictated that we should become like a fruit overhanging a garden fence: each passer-by would try to pluck us, while we struggled to cling to the vine. But our right to our land…is an inalienable right guaranteed by all norms and laws. The “Palestinian problem” has many dimensions, but at its root is Israel’s occupation.” 

Hint for the truly perplexed and/or those merely taking the Guardian seriously: where the Hamas leader writes that the “Palestinian problem has many dimensions, but at its roots is Israel’s occupation.”, by “occupation” he meant of course to write “existence”.

Now the progressive Haniyeh pivots to the downright risible:

“We as a people want to live in our homeland, the land of our ancestors, in freedom, dignity and democracy, and with a just peace that restores our rights.”

A more exquisite example of what Richard Landes terms the Demopath vs. Dupe dynamic would be difficult to find. This dynamic indeed lies at the heart of the Guardian’s liberal cognitive egocentrism (the tendency to believe that almost everyone wants positive-sum solutions – and prohibits people from imagining malevolence). 

Demopaths, such as Hamas, are – per Landes – people who use democratic language and invoke human rights only when it serves their interests.  Thus, they are able to invoke the word “democracy” without a hint of cognitive dissonance even in the face of their bloody coup in 2007 which purged Gaza of any last trace of democratic opposition and the dearth of human rights in the territory for religious minorities, women or gays.

Dupes, per Landes, are people who take demopaths at face value, accept their position and accuse those who suspect demopathy of demonizing, essentializing, prejudice, or racism.

I’d add one more component to Landes’ definition of a “Dupe”, Guardian style. ‘Comment is Free’s decision to legitimize Hamas, per Shelby Steele, seems necessarily incumbent upon the terrorist organisation not only effectively employing the language of human rights, but using it in a broader narrative claiming victimhood. 

Who are the Palestinians in the eyes of the Guardian, after all, other than a group (via a strictly enforced political orthodoxy) juxtaposed with the Jewish other: a political abstraction void of complexity or human color?

Without this perception of victimhood, the Palestinians would be forced to be held accountable for their cultures’ political and moral faults and egregious social and economic underdevelopment – difficult truths in an honor-shame culture

The silence of the Guardian (and the West more broadly) in face of decades of the Palestinians’ (post Holocaust) endemic antisemitism is shameful, for sure, but seems in many ways to be informed by their own contempt towards those whose sympathy they claim to possess.

When you deny adults moral agency, you are in effect infantilizing them.  You are implicitly acknowledging that they cannot compete morally with other adults; that their culture can not be held to the same ethical standards as others.

Is there a more clear definition of racism?