Two pieces on journalism in the Israel-Palestine conflict

Most readers know that I feel Israel, vis-à-vis its conflict with Palestine, has been given a raw deal in both world opinion and the world press. They also know that I don’t think that the country is blameless in the Middle East fracas (the settlements, for example, are unconscionable), but that they hold the moral high ground over the Palestinians, who are sworn to extirpate Israel and determined to kill civilians directly.  (Read the Hamas Charter, a document brimming with hatred and anti-Semitism, if you don’t believe me. It’s must reading for anyone who wants credibility on the conflict.)

At any rate, I spend a fair amount of time reading articles that excoriate Israel while ignoring the malfeasance of Hamas. The Guardian is especially vile in that respect, though the New York Times‘s reporting also seems unbalanced. I endure the calls of my fellow academics to boycott conferences in Israel, and for universities to divest in investments there.  All of the West, it seems, and many of my fellow academics as well, see Israel as predatory, and Palestinians as their innocent victims. In the meantime, anti-Semitic acts are on the rise in Europe (they’re a staple in Arab lands, of course).  I feel there is a connection between these things.

But I won’t fulminate today. Since I have read many, many anti-Israel and pro-Palestine pieces, I’ll ask you, if you think you’re open-minded on the issue, to simply read two pieces.  The first one is long, but, to me, worth it and meticulously researched. Both pieces show how the international press is in collusion with Hamas (or intimidated by Hamas) to produced biased reporting.

The first article, by Richard Behar in last week’s Forbes, “The media intifada: bad math, ugly truths, about New York Times in Israel-Hamas war,” is an eye-opener. Behar seems to have done his homework, and much of what he says is enlightening, particularly about the statistics about the dead on both sides. It’s not just about the Times‘s one-sided reporting in the region, but indicts nearly every other press outlet as well.

In The Tablet, a Jewish website, you can read a similar analysis (although a bit more impassioned) by Matti Friedman, “An insider’s guide to the most important story on earth: A former AP correspondent explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters.”  (The story is three pages long.) Friedman, who lives in Israel and worked there for the Associated Press, also faults foreign media for lazy reporting, collusion with or intimidation by Hamas, biases (many reporters are strongly anti-Israeli on their social media), and downright hatred of Israel. Like Behar, Friedman claims that this promotes a kind of slanted reporting that, in turn, has seriously heightened the world’s opprobrium towards Israel. His writing is very good, and I’ll give one longish excerpt:

The Old Blank Screen

For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew. It was their role in Christian tradition—the only reason European society knew or cared about them in the first place.

Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned—and I’m not alone this summer—is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.

When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.

Some readers might remember that Britain participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fallout from which has now killed more than three times the number of people ever killed in the Israel-Arab conflict; yet in Britain, protesters furiously condemn Jewish militarism. White people in London and Paris whose parents not long ago had themselves fanned by dark people in the sitting rooms of Rangoon or Algiers condemn Jewish “colonialism.” Americans who live in places called “Manhattan” or “Seattle” condemn Jews for displacing the native people of Palestine. Russian reporters condemn Israel’s brutal military tactics. Belgian reporters condemn Israel’s treatment of Africans. When Israel opened a transportation service for Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank a few years ago, American news consumers could read about Israel “segregating buses.” And there are a lot of people in Europe, and not just in Germany, who enjoy hearing the Jews accused of genocide.

You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.

The last section of the piece, “Who cares if the world gets the Israel story wrong?”, which draws a parallel between current reporting in the Middle East and reporting during the Spanish Civil War when Orwell fought there, is very good.

I will say no more; I’m just recommending these pieces as balance for the vast bulk of anti-Israel reporting in the world press, and I’m sure people will give their opinions. But hell, I’ll put up an excerpt from the last section, too:

Orwell did not step off an airplane in Catalonia, stand next to a Republican cannon, and have himself filmed while confidently repeating what everyone else was saying or describing what any fool could see: weaponry, rubble, bodies. He looked beyond the ideological fantasies of his peers and knew that what was important was not necessarily visible. Spain, he understood, was not really about Spain at all—it was about a clash of totalitarian systems, German and Russian. He knew he was witnessing a threat to European civilization, and he wrote that, and he was right.

Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer means understanding Hezbollah in Lebanon, the rise of the Sunni jihadis in Syria and Iraq, and the long tentacles of Iran. It requires figuring out why countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia now see themselves as closer to Israel than to Hamas. Above all, it requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will be able to look around and connect the dots.

Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. Israel is not one of the most important stories in the world, or even in the Middle East; whatever the outcome in this region in the next decade, it will have as much to do with Israel as World War II had to do with Spain. Israel is a speck on the map—a sideshow that happens to carry an unusual emotional charge.

Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality. They may convince themselves that all of this is the Jews’ problem, and indeed the Jews’ fault. But journalists engage in these fantasies at the cost of their credibility and that of their profession. And, as Orwell would tell us, the world entertains fantasies at its peril.

Even if you don’t agree with the message, the writing is superb.

h/t: Malgorzata ~

 

89 Comments

  1. Posted August 28, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    //

    • Mal
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      //

  2. jeffran
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    When I click the Forbes link, I get a WordPress login for some reason.

  3. GBJames
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    sub

  4. Malgorzata
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    sub.

  5. J Smith
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Agreed that the US press does have an obsession with Israel, and severely under reports tragedies and atrocities that occur all over the globe in much greater numbers that Israel. I read somewhere that the ISIS-Syrian civil war has killed somewhere in the order of 160,000+ people so far, and displaced hundreds of thousands more, which is two orders of magnitude larger than the latest deaths in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

    However there still will remain one area in which critics have a legitimate point. Ignoring Iraq and Afghanistan because of recent wars, Israel has consistently received a much higher amounts of US foreign aid particularly military assistance than any other country in the world. This speaks of bias.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      I suspect the United States’ pro Israel bias stems from the revelations of the holocaust.

      Israel was formed in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

      I suspect that anyone who belonged to a small minority group that faced a serious attempt at extinction might desire a place where they could be a majority.

      The Arabs, by and large, were the undefeated allies of Hitler. Their attitudes have not been changed by defeat and reconstruction as were Germany’s.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Israel is a US ally and in a limited sense a client state – occasionally doing the dirty work for us, such as the bombing of the Iranian reactor way back when; occasionally subordinating her own interests, for example when she stood down during the first Iraq war. Is that the same as “bias”? I guess we are biased toward Western Europe over Russia, then, and biased toward South Korea over North Korea. Biased toward Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey over Iran.

        If that’s the case, bias would not always appear to mean unfairness or irrationality.

        While the Dollar doesn’t always follow The Flag, you can be sure The Flag follows the dollar. The US alliance with Israel is in our enlightened self-interest every bit as much as are our alliances with Canada and Britain. I am sickened by the circumstances of the poor and powerless in the Arab world but I feel like the lion’s share of the blame for that is on Islamic state’s leadership – I fault Israel for over-reaction and mismanagement of the captured territories, certainly, and my own government could have done better of course.

        The Islamic states however have consistently, actively, intentionally, and cruelly taken advantage of their subjects and they are the ones who made this conflict what it is today.

        I suddenly feel that we have made a huge misjudgment by not going nuclear decades ago – nuclear power that is. Millions are suffering and dying and we fund that evil with our petrodollars. Safe nuclear power is an immense technical challenge and cleaner alternative energies are coming along too slowly but that black gold is the greatest poison there is. Also too, climate change.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        The US and its allies have interests in the Middle East & being friends with Israel is helpful. Vox has a whole thing on US-Israel relations.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Israel doesn’t get aid from other countries. This doesn’t stop people there from being obsessively critical of Israel.
      There is no equivalence of the calls to boycott Israel with beacons of human rights such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
      I can accept aid as an explanation for the special attention Israel gets in the U.S., but not elsewhere. And the American public is more supportive of Israel anyway.

  6. Jeffrey Jones
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I am always amazed at the fact that the media rant about the women and children killed in Gaza. I’ve yet to see anyone state the number of Hamas fighters killed, or even that any have been killed at all.
    I know Israelis are clever, but to actually be able to make bullets and bombs that only kill Palestinian women and children is a fantastic breakthrough in weapons development.
    Then again here in South Africa, when 34 miners were mowed down by the South African Police, the miners were led to believe by a sangoma (witchdoctor) that they were bulletproof and/or invisible.
    Who knows maybe Hamas witchdoctors are better than South African ones, and Hamas fighters are bulletproof/invisible to to the IDF.
    Just a theory; same as evolution.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      On that same tip, the media are incredibly co9ncerned about the deaths of women and children in Gaza, but when was the last time Reuters or the NYT addressed 900+ documented honor killings of women in Pakistan? I worked in news for 6 years, I understand fully the complete of professional acumen in contemporary media and even I am stunned at how poorly, and with such obvious bias, this conflict is being reported.

  7. eric
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I endure the calls of my fellow academics to boycott conferences in Israel, and for universities to divest in investments there. All of the West, it seems, and many of my fellow academics as well, see Israel as predatory, and Palestinians as their innocent victims.

    My experience in non-Academia US is that it’s not as vehemently anti-Israel as what you describe. Its generally more neutral or pragmatic, and in conservative areas/workplaces the sense is generally (and sometimes, “religious fundamental scarily”) pro-Israel. None of the labs or private corporations I have worked for would’ve ever suppoted a boycott, let alone implemented one. A workplace dominated by the academic left (like U Chicago) has its pros and its cons, and I’d like to think that in this instance, what you’re experiencing is one of the cons of being in that sub-group rather than a general US or western trend.

    Even if you don’t agree with the message, the writing is superb.

    I agree with his penultimate paragraph. I also agree that we should be supporting middle eastern nations when they generally increase or serve as good examples of democratization and personal freedom in the region. That probably translates into annual or regular support for countries like Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and (more spottily) Egypt – but for the others, support should be more targeted towards specific goals (enact this good policy, get our support).

  8. Posted August 28, 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Two things to add. First, I knew Rich Behar years ago, when I too worked at Forbes. Rich went on to write for, I think, Time and was working on an article, or series and/or book about Scientology which I heard earned him threats. I also heard he had not been intimidated although I have not heard of any book he did write.
    I.e., Rich is a really good guy.
    I am surprised that his piece is in Forbes, given its conservative POV.
    And I can’t right now remember what the second thing was.

  9. Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Here’s a different perspective (from one who has read extensively on the conflict, lived in Israel/Palestine for a short time).

    #1 Israel is condemned because it has been successful and is militarily on top. Most humans tend to side with an underdog–whoever that maybe. In 1947 many humans sided with Jewish people because they were under (though of course horrifically worse and no Jewish person ever supported the killing of civilians like Palestinians do).

    #2 Most humans have no sense of history. So they go with pop-ed twits and TV news bits and get a very distorted view of the actual situation. I’m glad you included the recommendation that people read the HAMAS Charter.

    #3 The disproportionate deaths of Israeli civilians versus Gazans. At least 1,300 Gazan civilians versus 6-9 Israeli civilians.

    Of course, there are reasons for that. Israel tries to protect its citizens, while it appears that HAMAS has spent all its money on rockets instead of bomb shelters.

    Though I am a pro-Israeli hawk when it comes to this current conflict (Israel shouldn’t have agreed to a cease fire), the death of so many civilian Gazans is deeply troubling and tragic:-(

    Maybe, Israel should have responded only defensively at first, and appealed to other nations for help including NATO and the Security Council of the UN. I know the latter has a horrible record,
    but Israel’s immediate, extensive bombing
    in response to the 3 murders of the Jewish teens and some rockets hitting mostly empty Israeli land made Israel look like it was the aggressor (even though it wasn’t).

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Israel didn’t immediately start extensive bombing. In fact, the bombing came only after several days of rockets from Gaza, to which Israel responded with great restraint to the sources of fire.
      Nobody except Israel would do anything real about the shelling of Israeli civilians.

  10. mecwordpress
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The piece by Matti Friedman is powerful, cutting and masterfully written. We ignore what is said in it at our peril.

  11. Deepak Shetty
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    but that they hold the moral high ground over the Palestinians, who are sworn to extirpate Israel and determined to kill civilians directly
    Yes the charter is surely more important than the actual deaths of civilians. The swearing to kill is more important than the actual killing.

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:29 am | Permalink

      Would you prefer it if more Israelis were killed? Believe me, the Palestinians try, but they don’t have the means, and their missiles are intereceted. I suppose you didn’t read the articles, for it shows that far, far more Germans than Americans or Brits were killed in WWII. I guess the Nazis had the moral high ground.

      • Deepak Shetty
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        I have re-read my comment and I do not see anyplace where I have said
        a. Hamas doesn’t try to kill as many Israelis as they can
        b. That morality is judged by having a scale and counting number of dead and the immoral side is the one who has killed more
        c. or anywhere that I have come even close to implying that I prefer more Israelis to be killed?
        The point is you seem to ignore the actual deaths (and living standards) in preference to the Hamas charter.

      • Michiel van Haren
        Posted August 31, 2014 at 4:47 am | Permalink

        You are referring to the quote by Ambassador Ido Aharoni “If the only criteria for the Western media to measure the moral validity of any military campaign is the number of civilian casualties, then Germany was clearly the victim in WWII—hands down.”

        This is of course complete nonsense. First of all, the allies were not just the US and Britain, but (most importantly) also Russia. Neither the US or Britain suffered ground attack or occupation by the Nazi’s so yes they lost comparatively few civilians compared to Germany. But what about the holocaust? That doesn’t count? Or the millions of civilians killed in occupied countries and in slave labour in Germany?
        The Nazi’s obviously did not have the moral high ground when looking from a perspective of civilian deaths. The amount of Polish civilians killed in WW2 is already higher than the amount of German civilian casualties (more then five million compared to less then four million, accord to this website http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/civilian_casualties_of_world_war.htm)

        • Posted August 31, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          Even if we agree with what you say, body count isn’t a good measure to decide which side is right.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      If you say you want to kill everyone and actually start trying to do so a protective response is warranted. As has been said, do you want Israel to sacrifice 10 – 20, 500, to prove that Hamas’s promise means something?
      Also, did you not read the article about the possible ‘real’ numbers? Those numbers you are alluding to may include a larger percentage of actual combatants than you think.

      • Deepak Shetty
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

        a protective response is warranted
        No argument.

        As has been said, do you want Israel to sacrifice 10 – 20, 500, to prove that Hamas’s promise means something?
        False dichotomy. I do not know why you or Coyne indulged in responses of this type.

        Also, did you not read the article about the possible ‘real’ numbers?
        Here’s the truth I don’t know how many Palestinians are dead – and of those how many are terrorists – How many were hiding weapons and How many were just children whose parents had to collect their remains in a plastic bag
        Neither do you. or the writer of this article.
        if you want to make a judgement call on “immorality” – you cannot do it without knowing this fact. You can choose to believe this article(a surprise for those who claim a scientific mindset) ad verbatim but do you notice how it plays fast and loose?
        Their results thus far (with 450 deaths analyzed) show that approximately half are civilians. Based on prior wars with Hamas, it’s highly likely that, in the final analysis, the majority of the dead will have been terrorist operatives.
        Out of 450 – half are civilians – The rest are names in a terrorist list (how accurate? is it like guantanamo bay? were they tried and convicted?) implies that it is highly likely,in future(see my crystal ball here!) the majority dead are terrorist operatives! Or how Israels research institute is “an independent body”

        Another thing that should bother you about this article is that if you truly wanted to say there is an anti-Israel bias in media then you could have used a scientific methodology -no? At the very least , total number of articles, then an objective evaluation of bias and so on. To praise this article when it does no such thing is indicative of confirmation bias on your side.

        Conservatives love to point out that the media has a liberal bias – to which liberals usually respond to “reality has a liberal bias”. So even if you could prove that the media is anti-Israel, you’d have to also prove that it doesn’t reflect reality – good luck with that.

        The point still stands – you cannot focus on a charter without considering the actual happenings on the ground. If the number of deaths are in dispute , the condition of Palestinians living a sub-human existing, due to Israeli sanctions are not, correct?

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          The death of Palestinian, a real tragedy, is the inevitable result of them bening used as human shields by Hamas while attacking Israeli civilians.
          Israel has the right and the duty to duty to defend its civilians. Israel, unlike Hamas, does not target civilians. When Hamas attacks Israeli civilians from densely populated areas, mosques, hospitals, schools, UN facilities etc, when Hamas uses ambulances for military operation, when Hamas stops people who were warned by the IDF of a coming attack, sometimes by chaining them, then Palestinian civilian will get hit. Putting the blame on Israel means that it has to sit idly while seeing its citizens attacks because Hamas plays dirty.

    • Deepak Shetty
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Testing if I have been banned

      • Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        This is strange 🙂

  12. Trophy
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I really can’t get bothered to feel sympathy for any side in this conflict (i.e., the Israeli government vs Hamas/Fatah). The articles are interesting but:

    1) It is fashionable in the left to be pro-Palestine and to not seriously condemn Hamas or any of the other terrorist groups. So yes, if you focus on the journalism done by the left-leaning newpapers you will find a lot of bias against Israel.

    2) However, the right media it is the opposite. Listen to pundits on Fox News on the Israel – Palestine conflict to see what I mean. So, if you focus your attention on the journalism done by the right-leaning media, you’ll find that most articles are pro-Israel (see here: http://www.foxnews.com/search-results/search?&submit=Search&q=israel&ss=fn&mc_Text=22964&mc_Video=7201&f1=Opinion ).

    3) One can argue that these really don’t matter because US is politically very pro-Israel and criticising Israel is pretty much political suicide for any politician.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      While your point is accurate in regards to a staunch pro-Israel stance for some in the conservative media, a some pundits on Fox News doesn’t balance out the anti-Israel bias in much of the reporting. I think Behar did a fantastic job of illuminating the prevalence of a reflexive anti-Israel bias, even citing Fox News as using the same, unfounded “mostly civilians” language in their reporting on the conflict.

      • Trophy
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:29 am | Permalink

        While Behar’s article was interesting, it was mostly a practice in confirmation bias. He was just looking for examples that confirms his already established premise that “media is generally very pro-Hamas/Palestine”. This is neither a rational argument nor a well-defined position. What does it mean to claim “Media has anti-Israel bias”? All media? “Most” media? He does not even get close to quantifying it, just throws a bunch of examples to “prove a point” (a.k.a confirmation bias). My point is that if you spend your time on right-leaning magazines, websites, and newspapers, you will rarely find anti-Israel bias and more often pro-Israel bias. And Forbes generally leans to the right.

        Also, on the estimates of the civilian casualties, I would trust UN and more independnt sources rather than Israeli or Hamas reports. While UN reports are definitely not unbaised, Israeli reports are obviously biased due to undeniable existence of conflict of interest. And from the estiamtes that I have seen, the majority of the casualties seem to be civilians.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:33 am | Permalink

          You didn’t read the articles: UN estimates are taken directly for Hamas! And, in fact, Israel and others get the lists of names from Hamas and simply try to estimate what proportion of the killed are terrorists.

          And how do you know that Behar had a confirmation bias before he began reporting, or found out over time, AS HE SAYS, that the media was slanting its coverage.

          What is your evidence that Behar actually has confirmation bias? You’re looking for any excuse to discount his article, include that it was published in Forbes. The only real claim you make is bogus: the UN has its own casualty figures.

          • Trophy
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:55 am | Permalink

            I’ll have to read more on the UN numbers to makeup my mind so I’ll keep an open mind in that regard.

            What is your evidence that Behar actually has confirmation bias?

            Because the incorrect way to prove that “media” has anti-Israel bias is to find a set of articles that have anti-Israel bias. The correct way would be to randomly pick a set of articles and news reports, and evaluate them objectively through predetermined criteria for bias. He uses the first method which is basically the same thing as confirmation bias.

            • Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:59 am | Permalink

              You didn’t read the articles, obviously, but just commented before reading them. And you didn’t answer the question. Behar’s point was to show that many respected media outlets use reporting methods that lead them to have a bias. You give no evidence that he had a predisposition to be biased himself at the outset. Making a judgement on the proportion of articles that are “biased” is a. impossible, and b. something nobody would read. It suffices to show that the world’s media outlets rely on bad information and shoddy reporting. Behar is not interested in what papers like the Muncie Star Press think, but what the New York Times, the Guardian, and Al-Jazeera do. And he established that.

              It looks like you have confirmation bias since you were so willing to accept the UN figures, assuming (without having read the articles) that they were independent of the Hamas ones.

  13. telluric
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the two articles, particularly the piece by Richard Behar.

    Richard Behar did the epic Time Magazine article on the cult of scientology in 1991.

    After the cult sued TIME, Richard withstood and endured a 40 day deposition with the cult’s lawyer, Kendrik Moxon. The cult lost the suit.

    https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Fishman/time-behar.html

    Richard also published an excellent article on Hamas during the 2012 conflict. This is where I learned that Hamas (and the muslim brotherhood) uses Orwell’s 1984 as an Instruction Manuel.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/richardbehar/2012/11/30/my-family-in-israel-one-direct-hit-two-near-misses-and-the-brainwashing-behind-the-rockets/

    Matti Friedman’s piece is also excellent reading.

    Vivat!

  14. Steve Cameron
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I agree that not enough blame is put on Hamas for all the civilian deaths that have resulted from the Israeli offensive, and there certainly is an anti-Israel slant to much of the reporting of this conflict. However, the author you quote above seems as happy as so many other journalists to conflate Israel with Jews generally and Hamas with Palestinians generally–a pernicious tendency that I think contributes to the anti-semitism (and anti-arab feelings) that he is writing about. I’ll have to read the articles, but I think what’s most unfortunate about this conflict is how the reporting always seems quite biased toward one side or the other. I think both sides’ governments are full of terrible people willing to commit terrible acts on each other; Israel comes off worse because they have better weapons that do more damage.

  15. Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Only read the Behar article so far. Worth reading closely. Some devastating analysis of bad reporting, especially on the “majority of deaths are civilians” (unsourced), and a much needed skewing of the odious Job Snow.

    Instead of picking out a quote I’ll pick out a link: a French journalist is doing a live broadcast from outside his hotel, near a UN building, and a Hamas rocket flies straight over his head.

    http://www.france24.com/en/20140805-exclusive-video-hamas-rocket-launching-pad-near-gaza-homes-un-building/

  16. Bob Michaelson
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    “They [the Israelis] hold the moral high ground over the Palestinians, who are sworn to extirpate Israel and determined to kill civilians directly. (Read the Hamas Charter, a document brimming with hatred and anti-Semitism, if you don’t believe me.”
    This statement equates Hamas with the Palestinians – I hope you didn’t intend to do so; that is the moral equivalent of equating Jews with Israel, or Israel with Likud. If you point to the Hamas position that refuses to recognize an Israeli state, you need to point to the Likud position that refuses to recognize a Palestinian state; there is a symmetrical intolerance. And as you are aware, the Israeli invasion of Gaza only strengthened Hamas’s position among the Palestinians; not a very smart thing to do.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Considering that Hamas is the de facto government in Gaza, it makes perfect sense to equate Hamas to the Palestinians, in the context of this conflict. This is exactly as equating the Israeli government to Israel (and “Israelis”). This does not mean that innocent non combatants are legitimate targets, but only that the government represents its people.
      To distinguish between Hamas and the Palestinians would be as nonsensical as distinguishing between the IDF and Israel.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Also, you are wrong about Likud. The Israeli PM, who is the leader of the Likud party stated his support for a two states solution. The main obstacle so far is the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state.

      • Bob Michaelson
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        We in the United States recognize that governments are temporary and so we don’t equate them with nations; thus it is perfectly patriotic to oppose the government. I don’t think any political scientist would agree that equating a government with a nation is valid in a democracy.
        While Bibi did claim – with caveats – to support a two-state solution, that has never been accepted by the Likud party as a whole, and in fact has been denounced by significant sectors of Likud, some of whom say that Bibi’s statement was just a tactical maneuver.

        • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          It is true that in some ways, a government is distinct from the nation. But the government represents its nation and its actions are attributed to the nation, and not (only) to the people who hold positions in that government. Wars are fought between nations, not between the individuals who serve in their governments at the time of the conflict, and international treaties signed by a government are binding when that government is replaced. So yeah, in some ways, the government and the nation are one. This is true for the United States as it is for any other nation.
          They can say whatever they want. This is the official policy of the Likud and the state of Israel and enjoy very massive support in the Israeli public.
          I personally support this in principle, but not as long as the Palestinians don’t recgnize Israel

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

            urgh… as a Jewish state (and before anyone jumps with something about state and religion, Israel is a Jewish state not in the sense that it follows the Jewish religious law, but in the sense that it is the nation state of the Jewish people, just as Palestine will be the nation state of the Palestinians.

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

            urgh …as a Jewish state (and before anyone jumps with something about state and religion, Israel is a Jewish state not in the sense that it follows the Jewish religious law, but in the sense that it is the nation state of the Jewish people, just as Palestine will be the nation state of the Palestinians).

            • Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

              Jewish Palestine is known as the state of Israel. Arab Palestine is Jordan. The Palestinian Arabs already have a state – it was called Trans-Jordan, and is now called Jordan.

              For decades the position of great Arab State was that the people of Jordan and the Palestinian Arabs in Israel were the same people. For more than three decades, the kings and highest officials of Jordan made public speeches declaring, for example:

              “The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan” (King Hussein of Jordan, in 1981.)

              The Mandate of Palestine denied Jews the right to live or own land in Trans-Jordan – because it was the homeland of the Arabs of Palestine, just as Israel was the new homeland of the Jews of Palestine. If Israel had followed Trans-Jordan’s lead – and not allowed Muslims to live in Israel, we all would not be having this argument, one would think.

              • Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

                I find it pointless to argue about what could be done in the past. The reality now is that there are millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
                There is no acceptable way to make them go. It’s one thing to temporarily hold an occupied territory with the population without citizen rights until the future of the territory is decided, and completely another if it’s a permanent state.
                Israel cannot do this and still be both Jewish and democratic.
                I want Israel to remain a Jewish democratic state and I see it as OUR interest to avoid the collision between the two.
                Now, we won’t get rid of the West Bank at all costs. We won’t let it become an enemy state on our back yard. This will make our life here unbearable. But when the Palestinians finally accept that the only way out of their miserable condition is to accept us as a Jewish state that isn’t going anywhere, we need to let them control themselves in their own state.

              • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:16 am | Permalink

                I find it pointless to argue about what could be done in the past.

                I find it useful to remember the actual history, as it can instruct us in the present. When we let the words ‘Palestine” or ‘Palestinian’ or ‘Two-state solution’ or ‘occupied territory’ become subverted to adhere to the ahistorical narrative of only one side in this issue, we can’t make true progress.

                There is no acceptable way to make them go.

                To me, that is the interesting question!

                Which would be more acceptable: Another 100 years with tens of thousands of terrorism deaths,fear,and many hundreds of bad press cycles, or – a few bad press cycles during the transfer of these people to the country whose charter obligation was to provide a home for them in the first place?

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      And as you are aware, the Israeli invasion of Gaza only strengthened Hamas’s position among the Palestinians; not a very smart thing to do.”

      I find that sentence rather curiously worded. But I’ll skip over my objections and note that you have made a rather glaring omission:

      You didn’t say what you think would have been a smarter way for Israel to be handling this situation.

      Why did you leave that bit out?

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      The people of Palestine elected Hamas to represent them. Given this, how is it wrong to equate Hamas with Palestine?

      • Bob Michaelson
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        Did you equate the United States with Junior Bush? (Setting aside the point that Junior wasn’t really elected in 2000). I would find that an appalling notion.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink

          He was the President. So, in some capacity yes. And I was a registered democrat in Palm Beach County Florida in 2000 so mine was one of the disenfranchised votes. Bush was a terrible president and his election was, at best suspect. But he WAS the president for 8 years.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        I guess that as an Israeli I am supposed to agree with you here, but I sadly, I don’t.
        I have already pointed, in my reply above to Bob Michaelson, to some ways in which this equation is correct.
        However, this is not true in every sense. For example, the people of the US elected a President from the Democratic Party. I think that we can all agree that America and the democratic party are not the same thing. While Hamas members are terrorists and therefore legitimate military targets, not every Palestinian is. We can easily think of more ways in which Hamas and Palestine are distinct.

        • Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          Another way Palestinians and Hamas are distinct:
          “The results of the June poll go even further than these indicators, showing that Gazans would be willing to look to Israel for their livelihood. Respondents overwhelmingly (82 percent) said they “would like to see Israel allow more Palestinians to work in Israel.” Still more poignantly, a majority (56 percent) said they “would be personally willing to work in Israel if there was a good, high-paying job.”

          http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/gaza-public-rejects-hamas-wants-ceasefire

          I find that surprisingly positive — that despite what the people of Gaza have endured, they would still be prepared to work and/or live in Israel.

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

            Yeah. This shows you the reality regarding the blood libel of the terrible Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people and Apartheid.
            This is also demonstrated by the fierce opposition of the leaders of the Israeli Arabs, who don’t miss an opportunity to demonize Israel and its treatment of its Arab citizens, to any idea which means them joining the future Palestinian state.

        • colnago80
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          Well, no distinction was made between the Frankenberger regime in Germany and the civilians therein during WW2.

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

            I am not sure why you mean bring this up.
            The anti-Israeli mob often emphasizes this distinction to enable the argument that the death of any innocent Palestinian from Israeli fire is immoral and illegal.
            Supporters of Israel typically claim that there is no distinction with the same reasoning.
            I think that both positions are wrong for reasons I explained above. It is right to see the whole nation collectively from certain perspectives and to distinguish the government and its armed forces from the population in others.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

        Don’t think we can give you that. As far as I know, the people of the Gaza enclave elected Hamas, but not those of the West Bank.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

          You are wrong. The elections were held in both and Hamas won. I’m not sure if Hamas got the majority of the votes in the West Bank, but this doesn’t matter. Obama is the president of all 50 states, not only those he won.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:07 am | Permalink

          You know, that’s a fair point and an over-sight on my part.

  17. Rich
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    TY You do us a all a service by calling attention to excellent articles like these.

  18. Adam M.
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    One thing that baffles me about this conflict is why Hamas keeps launching rockets at all. They’ve launched over 3200 rockets in the last two months and managed to kill, what, one person? Two? Zero? (I know two or three people were killed by mortars, but mortars are not rockets.)

    About one civilian death for 3200 rockets. Very little property damage either. They’re completely ineffective from a military standpoint. (And that’s not really thanks to Iron Dome. They’ve never been effective.) But they cost Hamas (and thus all Palestinians, since many people equate the two) large amounts of good will, meaning that the rockets actually have negative value. So why fire them? Is is pure pigheadedness? A gesture of defiance?

    Israel isn’t going to end the blockade or stop building settlements unless they’re forced or pressured to. But Hamas, etc. have negligible military strength compared to Israel. So the only hope Palestinians have is to get world opinion on their side. The rockets are completely counterproductive. I can’t tell if Hamas is deliberately undermining the only strategy that will work, or if they’re just dumb.

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      You are wrong on several points.
      1. Iron Dome is very effective. Without it, many more rockets would hit Israeli cities, kibbutzim and villages. I know there are articles saying otherwise. There are also articles “scientifically proving” creationism, that the moon landing is a hoax, saying that 9/11 was done by the American administration, etc.
      2. The small number of Israeli casualties from those rockets which did hit residential areas is a result of the Israelis using bomb shelters (unlike Palestinians who were sent to the roof tops in fighting areas by Hamas).
      3. To price of keeping the casualties numbers small is huge. People must stay at a close distance to bomb shelters, parents must stay close to their children (and can’t work), many outdoors activities are impossible (during the summer vacation), etc.
      4. The rockets being launched under pressure of Israeli attack was another factor making them less effective.

      The way to get concessions from Israel is not “pressure”, because no pressure can overcome the need to defend your civilians from jihadן lunatics. What can achieve this is convincing Israelis that it will actually bring peace. The experience of Gaza, which Israel evacuated completely in 2005 just to see it becoming a terror state dedicated to the destruction of Israel and Israelis, makes this a lot more difficult.

      • Adam M.
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        I never said Iron Dome doesn’t stop many of the rockets. It does. But Iron Dome was only deployed in 2011 and Hamas has been sending rockets into Israel for far longer. Those rockets have never been effective, not even at causing significant property damage, let alone killing anyone. How many houses have been flattened by the rockets? Zero, to my knowledge. There’s no shelter for a house; the rockets are simply militarily useless.

        Anyway, my point was to question why Hamas fires the rockets when it isn’t and never has been effective at anything besides destroying any good will the Palestinians might otherwise have. They only hurt themselves, so why do it? Obstinance? Foolishness? To cause fear? Or are they actually trying to prolong the conflict?

        That said, I don’t believe Israel is interested in peace any more than it’s interested in removing its settlements.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

          In the past, Hamas’ rockets were very limited in range and inaccurate and could not reach big cities. They were launched at sparsely settled areas, rarely hit anything of importance and indeed did little damage, but when did hit houses, the damage was serious.
          Since then, they improved in range, accuracy and charge weight. This allows them to reach big metropolitan areas where the chances of hitting a significant target are much bigger. The lives of most Israelis were on hold to deal with the threat during the conflict.

          Of course Israel does not want peace. Without war, how can we get children’s blood for our religious rituals?

  19. TJR
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    I’ve always had the same impression of overseas coverage of Northern Ireland. Every time I’ve talked to someone from overseas about it, its clear that they’ve pretty much bought the Sinn Fein/IRA propaganda version. Its as though the protestants don’t even exist.

  20. Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    These articles have opened my eyes a bit about the framing, if not the nature of events.

    I’ll tell you one thing, though: I end up reading about “Hamas’s rarely-mentioned 1988 charter” pretty much every day.

    Maybe because I’m on the internet, and not the papers and TV news.

  21. Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I am not denying history and I am not the one who needs to be convinced of Israel’s just cause. I live here, I have fought for my country since the early 90s, and Israel is where I raise my child. I took part in Protective Edge as a reserve officer, as I will in the next conflicts, when they come.
    What I mean is that you cannot turn the wheel back to fix history. We need to deal with the actual reality and not with what it could or had to be.
    I don’t who you are, but moving millions of people against their will, AKA ethnic cleansing, is not just a matter of “a few bad press cycles”, but requires things that I don’t want to see my country doing.
    We chose to live in a bad neighborhood. Look at the countries around us. In a typical month, more Arabs are killed by other Arabs than the during the entire conflicts with Israel. I see no reason to believe that we can, in the foreseeable future, get peace like, say, in Western Europe. I know it’s not politically correct, but the peoples surrounding us glorify violence and death and, surprise surprise, they get plenty of it. So yes, for the time being, until their culture changes, we need to live on our swords.
    The dreams about “peace now” or some military victory that will get our enemies to peacefully coexist with us are just that, dreams. Israelis who cannot accept this unpleasant reality probably don’t live in the right nation.

  22. Daniel
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    As someone who does not think Israel has gotten a raw deal in terms of public opinion or press, in general, nor thinks the criticism leveled at Israel for their actions to be unfair (I will qualify these statements in a moment), I want to share my perspective.

    I will start by saying I most certainly condemn racist and hateful statements from Hamas, Palestinians, and in fact anyone. I do not think there is justification for these sentiments, and I do not think there is justification for wishing or attempting to kill civilians. I believe that there should be more criticism of Hamas, and other organisations, for these views.

    Having read Behar’s piece, I have no reason to disbelieve his statements regarding Hamas’ intimidation of journalists, their manipulation of stories and figures, and their use of civilian sites for military actions. Again, these are unconscionable acts, and should be roundly condemned. I also believe him when he says that media reporting on the issue has been skewed, that major media organisations focus on the actions of Israel, and the impacts on Gaza, and not the other way round. These organisations are doing a disservice to their craft, to their audience, and to the people of Israel, Palestine, and the world.

    I would not deny that much of the criticism of Israel comes from a position of anti-semitism, or that anti-semitism, long bubbling under the surface of western society, is increasing. I could not deny that, it is undeniable. It is intolerable. It is all too obvious, and it gets a pass all too often from people on all sides of the political spectrum in western countries. It comes in many forms – from the otherwise progressive acquaintances who will spit the word ‘Zionist’ like it’s poison, to the stereotypes perpetuated by people who are ‘only joking’, to outright filth (not from anyone I know personally, but there is plenty of it on social media, in comments sections, spraypainted on walls). I try to confront people about this whenever I can, but to my lasting shame I am sure I do not do enough.

    Now that I hope I have made my position clear on these issues, I would like to make my primary point:

    None of what I have mentioned above justifies the witholding of the fundamental right to self-determination.

    None of the hatred or bile that has been spat at Israel or the Jewish people. None of the rockets that have been fired at Israel, none of the bombs, and attacks, or kidnappings, or any of the other vile, terrible, unconscionable atrocities that have been committed against the people of Israel over the years negates the fundamental right of Palestinians to be citizens. Of somewhere.

    I have been told many times that the Palestinians have turned down three offers of statehood over the years. Perhaps people have been thinking of other occasions, but my understanding is that these three occasions were: 1947, 2000, 2008. Perhaps the Palestinian leaders were wrong and callous to turn down these offers and agreements, I do not know – that is up to the Palestinian people, of the time, and of today, to decide, and I do not know their feelings. But I fundamentally reject the notion that statehood was something for Israel, the UN, or any other parties to these negotiations, to ‘offer’ to Palestinians.

    I reject the notion of there being any legitimacy in demanding that Palestinians recognise Israel, as a Jewish state, or even as a state at all, as a condition of Palestinian statehood.

    I believe any Palestinian state should recognise Israel, but I cannot accept their failure to do so as any kind of justification for witholding the fundamental right of self-determination, of statehood. (The issue of recognising Israel as a Jewish State is more troublesome – as Behar points out, Israel is only 75% Jewish. What would recognising Israel as a Jewish state mean for those remaining 25%? I cannot speak for them, but if I were to imagine myself in an analogous situation, I would find it deeply offensive, akin to being told I was not truly a citizen of the country)

    I also reject the notion that the demilitarisation of any subsequent Palestinian state can be a condition of granting statehood. I abhor violence, and I hate that there is a need (real or perceived, depending on which country you are talking about) for countries to maintain a military force. However, I believe that that is a decision for the citizens of a country to make for themselves. If Palestine became independent, formed an army, and attacked Israel, I would support Israel’s right to defend themselves. If a Palestinian state followed through on Hamas’ declared intention of driving Israel into the sea, or of committing genocide against the Jewish people, I would support Israel in their defense, I would support my country, and other western countries, in fighting alongside Israel to stamp out such hatred.

    Matti Friedman describes the situation as Israel-Arab rather than Israel-Palestine, and says that it is “a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries”. Maybe this is true. Friedman talks about an “implicit assumption that if the Palestinian problem is somehow solved the conflict will be over”, and correctly says that no informed person could believe that is true. Solving the Palestinian problem through the granting of statehood will surely not solve all the problems of the Middle East. But if you believe that all the problems of the Middle East provide even the slightest justification for not solving the Palestinian problem, then your position is contemptible. If you think that the very real hostility that many of those 300 million Arabs feel towards Israel justifies witholding fundamental rights from 4.5 million Arabs, then I have nothing but contempt for you.

    Matti Friedman compares Israel to countries with a colonial past, the Americans who displaced the Native Americans, the European nations with their sordid pasts in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.

    All these countries have much to be ashamed about.

    I live in Australia, which has one of the most tarnished records when it comes to the treatment of another people living on the same land. Truly, what Australians did can, in at least some cases, be called genocide. Australia has much to atone for, and so far has barely stirred itself to apologise.

    I grew up in New Zealand, which has one of the best records when it comes to the treatment of indigenous peoples, and still my country has done many despicable and shameful things in it’s short history. I know that I have benefited from the dispossession of Maori land. My family farmed land seized in the aftermath of the great wars of the 1860s. The very fabric and prosperity of the society that I grew up in is based on theft, racism, and human misery. I strive to do whatever I can to right those wrongs, but I know it will never be enough, and the past cannot be undone.

    Like these other countries, I do not think Israel’s founding strips it of legitimacy. But the Native Americans, the Canadian First Nations, the Maori, the Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, the inhabitants of the former Belgian Congo, Moroccans, Haitians, Indians, for all the misery and suffering they have been through, for all that we, as the citizens of wealthy, developed nations, owe them a massive debt, owe them the most heartfelt apologies for our transgressions, for all that we can never make it up to them, for what has been done to them, they are all citizens. Of somewhere.

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      What you say, that the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel does not justify denying them statehood, actually means that Israel must accept on its borders a state committed to its destruction, a state of people who have already tried destroying Israel.
      This does not make sense to me.
      When one state tries to destroy another state, the latter has the right to eliminate the threat.
      When Germany attacked other nations, it was occupied. Germans did not become citizens of the occupying powers. They were nominally German citizens, but they did not control themselves. The Palestinians are in the same situation. The Palestinians in the West Bank actually held Jordanian citizenship, but it was revoked by Jordan. Those in Gaza have never had any citizenship. Even the German agreement to cease hostilities did not immediately gained them self-control.
      I recognize that Germany is an extreme example, but this is true to other conflicts. To my knowledge, no nation has even been demanded to accept an openly aggressive enemy state on it border.
      Why do you expect this from Israel?

      The situation of the colonial powers is not similar to that of Israel. The Congolese people did not want to destroy Belgium, the Algerian did not aspire to destroy France etc. If the Palestinian get their way, Israel will cease to exist.

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      This letter is 1285 words long, and that is way too long. Have you read the Roolz. Like everyone else who posts overly long comments, I warn them not to do so. I want comments, not essays. I suggest you get your own website if you want to publish things this long. I will let this one go by, but not any others like this.

      • Daniel
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        I do apologise, it kind of got away from me. I honestly didn’t realise it was as long as it was, until I hit Post Comment, and it popped up. I promise, I will be more conscious of length in the future.

  23. Daniel
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    When one state tries to destroy another state, the latter has the right to eliminate the threat.

    Sure. But one of them is not a state. And I believe I made it clear, if Palestine the state attacked Israel, I would support Israel’s right to respond. In fact, I’m not condemning Israel’s use of force against Hamas’ fighters either, in this case at least (I think sometimes their response is proportional, sometimes it is not. Conflict is a difficult thing, and it is hard to always make the right decisions in the moment). Again, doesn’t affect whether Palestinians should have self-determination.

    The Palestinians in the West Bank actually held Jordanian citizenship, but it was revoked by Jordan. Those in Gaza have never had any citizenship.

    Well, aren’t Jordan terrible. I condemn them too. Condemn, condemn, condemn. Has that cleared things up? Ok, well in the here and now, Israel hold the trump card on whether a Palestinian state is recognised, they could make the call today. The fact that they don’t is their continuing shame.

    “The situation of the colonial powers is not similar to that of Israel. The Congolese people did not want to destroy Belgium, the Algerian did not aspire to destroy France etc. If the Palestinian get their way, Israel will cease to exist.”

    I mentioned these cases because the article by Matti Friedman mentioned these cases, I believe Friedman’s implication being that all us westerners who criticise are terrible hypocrites, who have done much worse. And in a lot of ways we have. But I like I said, I don’t think the sins of the western world justify anyone witholding fundamental rights from anyone else.

    And yes, if the Palestinians somehow actually got the military capability to destroy Israel maybe they would try. But they don’t have it. Gaining statehood doesn’t magically grant them the ability to outmilitarise Israel.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Granting the statehood to Palestinians is not in Israel’s hands. All Palestinian leaders (and most of Arab leaders) refuse to build a Palestinian state until at least two of their demands are met: Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine (which Olmert agreed to) and settling of 5-7 millions descendants of Palestinian refugees from 1948 War in Israel proper, which no Israeli can agree to because this would be a suicide.
      BTW acknowledging that Israel is a Jewish state in no way diminishes the right of minorities. Poland is a Polish state and we have many minorities: German, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Tatar. They are full Polish citizens, exactly like Arab citizens of Israel are full citizen of their country. The same goes for Germany which is a German state, for France which is a French state etc. For people from U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand this can be strange but this is absolutely normal in Europe with very old ethnic groups being a majority on the areas which in time became states.

      • Daniel
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        Ok, your point about what it may or may not mean to be a Jewish State is accepted.

        I still don’t accept that recognising Israel as such is a legitimate precondition to self-determination.

        As for Palestinian pre-conditions about statehood, that’s up to them. That’s why it is called “self-determination”. I do not accept that any legitimacy in Israel’s pre-conditions for a statehood agreement.

        Israel could say “you can be a state whenever you want to, by your own declaration. We can continue to negotiate all the other things, land swaps, etc. as time goes by”

        I don’t think that recognition of the Palestinian state should be a bargaining chip in Israel’s hands

        • Malgorzata
          Posted August 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

          The whole Middle East is on fire. IS is a threat to all minorities in Iraq and Syria (and Assad is threatning from the other side). Both IS and Assad declare that Israel must be destroyed. Iran and Syria have been arming Hamas and have been smuggling arms to the West Bank. Iran’s leaders repeat time and time again that “the cancerous tumor, the Zionist entity” must be cut out from the body of Islam. And you suggest that there should be an independent state a few kilometers from Israel’s population centra, Israels industry and Israel’s international airport, all an easy target from the nearby mountains. Generously, you say that if Israel is attacked, you would support it. I’m afraid that in the situation when an independent state has easy access to Iranian and other weapons you will only be able to pay your condolences to a few surviving Israelis. Unless Palestinians renounce terror, agree to build their own state and forget about “right of return” and about destroying Israel. The dream that they will surely do it if they only have their own state is unrealistic in the extreme. See Gaza which Israel left to Palestinians 2005.

          • Daniel
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

            I think that the right for Palestinians to declare their independence unilaterally and without preconditions, at any time of their choosing, should be put on the table by Israel, without preconditions.

            Everything else can stay the same.

            Then the situation can be treated as it should be, as the occupation of foreign territory, to maintain the security of Israel. There is legitimacy and precedent in this, as in the case of the occupation of Germany that Golan mentions above, and in numerous other conflict zones. (One effect of this arrangement is that it would underscore the illegality and immorality of the settlements, though this should be clear already)

            The negotiations can then proceed between two legally equal parties, with regards to land swaps, eventual transfer of power, and so on.

            I’m not advocating that Israel just hand the keys to Palestine and walk away tomorrow. I am saying that Palestinians have a human right to be citizens of a country. No one else wants them, so they should have their own country, and better they be citizens of a country under occupation, than continue to live in a legal limbo.

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      This is nonsense.
      I don’t care if the Palestinians determine themselves elsewhere. I will support a Palestinian state alongside Israel if I can reasonably expect it to live in peace with us.
      What I cannot understand is your demand that I agree to an enemy state committed to the destruction of my daughter 4 kilometers from my home.

      • Daniel
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        I sympathise with your trepidation. But they are already there. They are already fighting you. I fail to see any reason why granting them statehood (or the option to declare independence at a time of their choosing) would worsen Israel’s security situation.

        I also suspect that given the opportunities to start making a real country for themselves, most Palestinians would give up on the idea of fighting a futile war with Israel – because, while I understand the very real and genuine fear you might feel for yourself and your family, and I certainly don’t want to diminish the suffering of anyone harmed or killed by Hamas or other groups, or the suffering of their loved ones,
        Hamas, and any other Palestinian group, do not pose an existential military threat to Israel, nor will they in the foreseeable future, even if they were to gain independence.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

          Of course they don’t pose an existential threat in the sense that they cannot destroy Israel, but they can cause enough casualties and damage that no nation agree agree to live with and Israel doesn’t either. America could survive 9/11 every few months. Would you accept that? Don’t expect this from Israel.

          It’s a different story to deal with terrorists in areas we control and in a foreign nation.

          • Daniel
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

            You mention in your earlier comment the occupation of Germany, and similar situations in other conflicts around the world.

            That is all I am advocating.

            Punishing all Palestinians by witholding a fundamental human right in order to secure Israel’s territory is unconscionable, and unacceptable. Recognise that they have a right to declare independence, and then treat the situation accordingly – as an occupation of sovereign territory in the aftermath/ongoing conflict. There is legitimacy in such an occupation, and there is international legal process to follow.

            • Posted August 30, 2014 at 6:54 am | Permalink

              Actually there isn’t a legal process to follow.
              Typically, territories belong to sovereign nations of which the residents are citizens (like Iraq in the Second Gulf War). This isn’t true for the West Bank and Gaza, because Gaza has never been annexed by Egypt and the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank was illegal.
              The legitimacy of the Israeli occupation is those territories being used to attack Israel.
              These territories have never been sovereign. In this sense, they are no man’s land, and Israel has every legal right to annex them (though, as an Israeli, I think that this would be incredibly foolish. This means the end of Israel as either Jewish or democratic).
              To change this, this sovereignty has to be created. Legally, it makes perfect sense to set conditions for that sovereignty, especially such a reasonable condition as the obligation to not attack another nation.

              • Daniel
                Posted August 30, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

                You are correct, Israel does have the legal right to annex Palestine. But it has not. Because, as you point out, either the Palestinian would all become Israeli citizens, or you would have to deny them democratic rights, neither of which you want to do.

                So without the intention of making the territories part of Israel, Palestinians should have the right to become their own country – even if it is a country under military occupation.

                There are two roads that could be taken – annexation or independence – and what I find morally unacceptable is that Israel has taken neither, and continues to take neither.

              • Posted August 30, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

                Israel is willing to grant the Palestinians independence, under certain conditions, which are natural demands from any nation (in essence, to recognize the right of another nation to exist and not attack it).
                Contrary to what you say, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is the only reasonable way to do it.

              • Daniel
                Posted August 30, 2014 at 8:26 am | Permalink

                I don’t believe Israel has any moral authority to ‘grant’ independence to Palestine, I believe self-determination is a human right, and being a citizen of a country is a human right.

                I do not believe that human rights come with conditions such as recognising any particular state, or another state’s right to exist.

                I think a Palestinian state should recognise Israel, and Israel’s right to exist. I think Israel does have a right to exist, and I think Israel has a right to take necessary and justified actions to defend its existence, and its right to exist, and its citizens’ human rights.

                I just do not think denying another group of people their human rights is justified or necessary to protect those rights.

              • Posted August 30, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

                Rights are not absolute. One obvious limit the violation of the rights of others.
                The Palestinians’ right for self determination sin’ bigger than that of the Jews, and so long as the refuse to recognize the Jews’ right, they cannot get theirs.

  24. Pluto Animus
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    If Hamas is the equivalent of the Spanish Fascists, and Israel are the Spanish Republicans, then why does Gaza look like Guernica?

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      It doesn’t.
      For the extent it’s similar, it’s the result of Hamas choosing to attack Israeli civilians from densely built areas, hospitals, schools, mosques, UN facilities and their like, all that while hiding behind civilians.

  25. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Of course Israel is unfairly described. E.g. it is “Israel’s blockade of Gaza”, never mind that Arab Egypt also block the ruling terrorist Hamas borders due to Hamas’s aggression.

    That said, I can’t agree with this “ideological fantasy” based on pattern search and no evidence:

    “Some readers might remember that Britain participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fallout from which has now killed more than three times the number of people ever killed in the Israel-Arab conflict; yet in Britain, protesters furiously condemn Jewish militarism.”

    An observation in correct, current context. It is unhealthy to not see one’s own failings.

    “White people in London and Paris whose parents not long ago had themselves fanned by dark people in the sitting rooms of Rangoon or Algiers condemn Jewish “colonialism.” Americans who live in places called “Manhattan” or “Seattle” condemn Jews for displacing the native people of Palestine. Russian reporters condemn Israel’s brutal military tactics. Belgian reporters condemn Israel’s treatment of Africans. When Israel opened a transportation service for Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank a few years ago, American news consumers could read about Israel “segregating buses.” And there are a lot of people in Europe, and not just in Germany, who enjoy hearing the Jews accused of genocide.”

    An observation in incorrect, dated ‘context’. It is healthy when say the Belgian reporters recognize the failings of others, a failing their previous generations themselves engaged in.

    The imbalance in reporting is more likely explained by the usual tendency of people to root for the underdog. It is perceived to be the Gaza civilians, victims for both Hamas and Israel. Never mind that they voted for Hamas and still do. (It is rumored that Hamas is afraid to stop their aggression because they would then be overthrown. Ironic, uncritical take on “underdogs”.)

    And don’t forget that the rest of the world (UN) is also at fault in this conflict. We criticize Israel for technicalities, in bad faith. [Wikipedia]

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      … for construed technicalities …


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