Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads an educational tour every summer to Turkey, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trip is open to everyone, from every country.
One of his most recent blog postings caught our eye (hat tip to Tundra). Uploaded on April 9, it was published right in the middle of the week that separates the day on which Israel remembers (a week ago) the tragedy of the Holocaust Memorial Day and day we recall the fallen of Israel’s defensive wars against the Arab armies and against the forces of terror (today).
It’s entitled “Israeli atrocities at Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, 65 years ago… and today“. As a polemicist for a radical Arab position, he writes there more or less what we have learned to expect from those affected by that mindset:
What is the point of calling for memory, including the memory of massacres at Deir Yassin? It is not to respond in hatred and venom, and not to respond in kind. But to make sure that for those of us who dare to speak of a just and peaceful tomorrow, to always know and remember that justice is not the same as amnesia.
Then to make absolutely sure his readers suffer from no loss of historical memory, he publishes a photograph of a Nazi concentration camp called Lager Nordhausen, part of the Buchenwald concentration camp complex. You can see it on the main Wikipedia page devoted to the Holocaust. He places it in a prominent position on his blog page, and right next to it he launches into a vitriolic tirade about how the Zionists carried out a massacre of
250 men, women, children and the elderly, and stuffed many of the bodies down wells… There were also reports of rapes and mutilations… Their tactics have not changed.
It’s clear that the photo is there to magnify the impact of his words, and to serve as a historical record of what he describes. But it’s worse because he not only transposes the imagery of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews into his self-authored polemic about the conflict between the Arabs and Israel; he then invites his readers to understand the implications for today when he says “Their tactics have not changed.”
So who was involved in this massacre? Virtually the totality of the future leadership of the Israeli state.
To be clear: our focus on the photo and the selected quotes among many other quotes does not mean we agree with any other aspect of Safi’s account of what happened at Deir Yassin. That lethal narrative, elaborated and amplified for cold-blooded purposes, been used to fuel Arab hatred of Israel for two generations; the numbers and details just keep growing and getting more elaborate with time. Without entering into the Deir Yassin debate, Wikipedia describes a much smaller death toll (for what that’s worth) and points out that the town’s dead included armed men who carried out attacks on civilian traffic traveling the nearby road to Jerusalem.
It’s also worth noting that the day-after-day massacres taking place daily in Syria (for instance) produce single-day harvests of blood that are truly sickening. For instance (one of many), the Arab-on-Arab slaughter reported just three days ago ["Between 125 and 149 believed killed in Syria on Thursday"] which resulted in carnage greatly exceeding what is claimed in rational sources to have happened in Deir Yassin.
Most ordinary Americans are sympathetic to Israel. This is actually surprising, when you consider what the media pushes at them, day after day. For example, this morning my local Fresno Bee newspaper contained part of an article from the NY Times headlined “Palestinians Erupt in anger at Israel,” which began like this:
JERUSALEM — Days before Secretary of State John Kerry’s return to the region, anger and defiance continued to flare across the West Bank on Thursday as Palestinians buried two teenagers killed by Israeli soldiers during protests triggered by the death of a prisoner with cancer while in Israeli custody. …
Clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youths hurling stones and firebombs erupted there and in other West Bank locations for the third straight day, as Palestinian leaders accused Israel of escalating tensions in order to thwart Washington’s efforts.
“It seems that Israel wants to spark chaos in the Palestinian territories,” President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority told leaders of his Fatah faction at a meeting in Ramallah. “Israel on every occasion is using lethal force against peaceful young protesters, and peaceful demonstrations are being suppressed with the power of weapons. This is not acceptable at all.”
Although firebombs are mentioned, the Times article does not mention that the two “youths” (aged 17 and 18) who were killed were shot while throwing them at soldiers until the 17th paragraph. The excerpt in the Fresno Bee only included the first 8, so local readers did not get the benefit of even this:
The Israeli military said that the youths were hurling firebombs at an army post late Wednesday, and that soldiers responded with live fire; it is investigating the episode.
Here is another account of the incident, from Arutz Sheva, a right-wing Israeli source:
IDF soldiers opened fire on Wednesday night at two terrorists who approached an IDF position near the community of Einav in northern Samaria.
As the two terrorists approached the soldiers, they hurled a firebomb at them. The soldiers returned fire, killing one terrorist and wounding the other.
Personally, I prefer the second version. But even the first is better than the description of the “peaceful young protesters” presented by Mahmoud Abbas, which is all that Fresno Bee readers saw.
Now, a few words about the death of the prisoner, Maysara Abu Hamdiya, in Israeli custody. The Arabs claim that he died because Israel withheld medical care, and even provided a photograph of the poor man handcuffed to a hospital bed. Of course the photograph actually was taken last year of an insurgent in a Syrian hospital, but as you know, truth is all relative anyway.
Abu Hamidya had throat cancer. A prison service spokesperson said that
[He] had been treated since his diagnosis in February and that prison authorities applied to a parole board for his early release after he was found to be terminally ill. He died before the process could be completed…
Did he get good enough medical care? Who knows, but Arabs die in Palestinian Authority custody all the time and there are no riots or media coverage.
So why was Maysara Abu Hamidiya imprisoned in the first place?
In 2002, this retired general in the P.A. “security” forces was arrested for dispatching a suicide bomber to the Café Caffit in the Emek Refaim neighborhood of Jerusalem. The bomber was incompetent and walked in with disconnected wires dangling from his bomb. A waiter saw him and pushed him outside; his bomb did not go off. In 2004 there was another unsuccessful attempt at the same location.
Abu Hamidiya worked for both Fatah and Hamas, and was heavily involved in providing weapons, financing of terrorism and bombmaking, in addition to his role in the failed attack.
See, this is a really good example of what is wrong with the world – or, at very least, what is wrong with the UK’s Express site (see image below).
Israel and Gaza attack each other? Excuse me? They fired rockets at us yesterday; they fired rockets at us today. They fired five rockets at us when Obama was here; and mortars have been flying too. And yes, early this morning, the IDF “struck targets in the Gaza Strip.”
But, I have several problems with this:
- Gaza clearly “attacked” us first – and so putting Israel first isn’t very honest.
- Attack each other implies there is no clear aggressor (note THEY fire at our CITIES, we fire at their military targets and rocket launchers).
There seems to be no evidence whatsoever to back up accusations, in the Guardian and throughout the media, that new bus lines in Israel, serving Palestinians who live in the West Bank but work in central Israel, serve ‘Palestinians only.’
Prior to the launch of the new lines Israeli buses did not stop in towns controlled by the P.A., and Palestinians were dependent on transportation services by “pirate” (Arab) companies. (Alternately they could travel to an Israeli settlement, such as Ariel, and take a bus from there to Israeli cities across the green line).
The Israeli government will on Monday begin operating a “Palestinians-only” bus service to ferry Palestinian workers from the West Bank to Israel, encouraging them to use it instead of travelling with Israeli settlers on a similar route.
However, at no point does Urquhart attempt to buttress this sensational claim, nor indicate the source of the (“Palestinians only”) quote.
In fact, he then notes the following:
Officially anyone can use them, but the ministry of transport said that the new lines are meant to improve services for Palestinians.
In a statement to the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, the ministry said: “The new lines are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing.
As Lori Lowenthal Marcus of the Jewish Press pointed out, the “restrictions” pertain to “only” stopping at Palestinian towns in the territories, where Jews don’t live.
Information on the new services, which are operated by the company Afikim, have reportedly only been advertised in Arabic and distributed only in Palestinian areas of the West Bank.
However, if the goal of the new bus line is to improve service for Palestinians living in the West Bank but working in Israel, it would certainly make sense to advertise the lines in Palestinian towns, and only in Arabic.
Palestinians used to use Palestinian minibuses and taxis to travel into Israel but Israel has increased the number of permits it gives to Palestinians which has led to more mixing on shared routes.
Indeed, Palestinians were dependent upon transportation services by unauthorized Arab companies which charged far more than the new Israeli lines do, and Urquhart, further in his report, quotes the Transportation Ministry official making a similar point.
For example, the public fare for Palestinians traveling to Raanana is reportedly 5.1 shekels (roughly $1.35), and to Tel Aviv will cost 10.6 shekels ($2.85). This is compared to roughly 40 shekels ($10.75) that passengers have been charged by the private transportation services.
Additionally, Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz was quoted in Israel HaYom as explaining that “Palestinians were permitted to use any public bus line they wished, including the ones used by settlers.”
Lowenthal Marcus makes the additional point:
The new bus lines are not, as the misleading headlines suggest, only for Arab Palestinians, the restriction they have is that they only stop at Arab towns in the territories, where – few would disagree – Jews with or without special identification would not dare go for fear – a legitimate one – of physical violence. The fact remains that any Israeli citizens, Jewish, Christian or Zoroastrians, who live in the “Jewish” towns, were able to and did use the pre-existing bus lines.
As Seth Frantzman observed in the Jerusalem Post today:
The website of the bus company, Ofakim, shows that the No. 211 bus route begins near Kalkilya and travels to Tel Aviv with stops in Petah Tikvah, Bnei Brak and elsewhere. It doesn’t indicate that it is a “Palestinian only” bus or that Jews may not ride it. Ofakim claimed “We are not allowed to refuse service and we will not order anyone to get off the bus.”
Frantzman also argued that “nothing obvious prevents Arabs from commuting to a bus stop near a large Jewish community, to take a bus serving Ariel for instance.” He added that “there is no ‘segregation,’ no ‘separate but equal.’ No one is ‘sitting at the back.’”
As we speak, anti-Israel activists across the globe are gearing up for or hosting Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events on various college campuses, with the goal of delegitimizing the State of Israel. As an anti-Israel student group at American University announced, “The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.” While anti-Israel student groups like the Students for Justice in Palestine frequently make such statements, it is critical to remember that such assertions are nothing more than slander designed to harm Israel.
Many of the young anti-Israel activists who claim that Israel is an apartheid state don’t understand what the definition of apartheid truly is. According to Merriam Webster’s English dictionary, apartheid is “racial segregation: specifically, a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.”
According to a report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the subject, among the policies that were implemented in apartheid South Africa were legal prohibitions on sexual relations between different races; forced physical separations between races, in restaurants, neighborhoods, swimming pools, public transport, etc.; restricting members of the black community to unskilled labor in urban areas; forbidding blacks from voting; educational restrictions for blacks, etc.
Benjamin Pogrund is a former deputy editor of the South African Rand Daily who reported on apartheid for 26 years and was an anti-apartheid activist himself. After his newspaper was shut down because its owners were under pressure by the apartheid government, he made Aliyah to Israel. Pogrund, as someone who is familiar with both South African apartheid and Israel, claimed that these conditions listed above do not exist in Israel. He asserted in the Guardian that “Arabs have the vote, which in itself makes them fundamentally different from South Africa’s black population under apartheid. And even the current rightwing government says that it wants to overcome Arab disadvantage and promises action to upgrade education and housing and increase job opportunities.”
Upon witnessing how both Arabs and Jews worked and were treated in Israeli hospitals, in another instance, Pogrund claimed, “What I saw in the Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital was inconceivable in South Africa where I spent most of my life, growing up then and working as a journalist who specialized in apartheid.” Yet the existence of Arab voting rights, government initiatives to decrease the gap between Jews and Arabs, and coexistence in hospitals are not the only aspects of Israeli society that prove that Israel is not an apartheid state. Incitement to racism is a criminal offense in Israel, as is discrimination based on race or religion, implying that the Israeli legal system fundamentally rejects apartheid ideology.
In fact, Israel is a liberal democracy, where the Arab minority actively participates in the political process. Arabs like Major General Hussain Fares, Major General Yosef Mishlav, and Lieutenant Colonel Amos Yarkoni have served prominently in the IDF, while Arabs such as Ali Yahya, Walid Mansour, and Reda Mansour served as Israeli Ambassadors. Salim Joubran sits on the Israeli Supreme Court, while Nawwaf Massalha and Raleb Majadele were members of the Israeli Cabinet. Arabs have also served as university professors, heads of hospital departments, management level positions in various businesses, and in senior level positions in the Israeli Police. Indeed, Israeli Arabs have reached positions that blacks in apartheid South Africa could only dream of. Thus, Israel is the polar opposite of being an apartheid state.
Visit United with Israel.
More mendacious propaganda at Open Zion, Peter Beinart’s weapon of words bunker:
One of the only mixed modes of transportation in Israel is the Jerusalem Light Rail—which, as it was originally built to connect surrounding Israeli settlements to central Jerusalem, is hardly equally inclusive to Palestinians. Historically, when the light rail system was first constructed, it uprooted several Palestinian neighborhoods, further displacing many Palestinians who once lived in Jerusalem. Now, though the train passes through several traditionally Arab neighborhoods, the stations are named in Hebrew rather than Arabic. A. The light rail does not connect “Israeli settlements.” It connects the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Neveh Yaakov and Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill. (By the way, Neveh Yaakov was attacked, destroyed and ethnically cleansed of its Jews by Arabs in late 1947). B. No “Palestinian neighborhoods” were uprooted. That is simply untrue.
C. The stations are name in Hebrew, yes. That is the language of the country. However, Arab place names are also voiced out over the loudspeaker. For example, Damascus Gate (in English), Sha’ar Shchem (in Hebrew) and Bab El-Amud in Arabic. The stops in Arab-populated neighborhoods are sounded off as Bet Hanina and Shuafat and Es-Sahil in all languages with no special Hebrew alteration. Shimon HaTzaddik, though, is not called Sheikh Jarrah. (Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood was also ethnically cleansed of its Jews in early 1948).
D. The Light Rail was originally built to ease mass transportation problems and then, to avoid charges that the city’s Arab population would be discriminated against, tracks were purposefully laid through those neighborhoods.
The writer is a liar.
Visit My Right Word.
Yarmulkes off to Secretary of State John Kerry who pushed back against the repellent nauseating comments of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who had said, at a U.N.-organized conference in Vienna (where else?) on February 27, that Zionism was a crime against humanity. Kerry said that United States found his comments “objectionable.”
Erdogan has said far worse. In 2010 he offered this nugget: “Even bullies, pirates and criminals have a code of honor. But for those who have none, it would be a compliment to call them names.” And last November he accused Israel of state terrorism and of an “attempt at ethnic cleansing.” But Kerry’s condemnation is essentially the first time Erdogan has been called on his disgusting remarks.
There is a reason.
The current thinking of the State of Israel and its allies worldwide is that the Jewish state must embrace whatever friends it can find in whatever form they take. And if those ‘friends’ offer outrageous oral attacks, just sweep it under the rug. Verbal assault? Water off a duck’s back. What matters is what people do, not what they say. Erdogan has to cater to his constituents at home. He’s got to serve up fresh meat in order to remain popular. Turn the other cheek to his insults. Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, who called Jews “apes and pigs” in an Egyptian television interview in 2010, has to cater to the Arab street. He hasn’t gone to war to reverse the Camp David accords, right? So never mind what he says. Don’t respond or things will escalate.
I remember how Israel and world Jewry adopted this posture with Yasser Arafat after he signed the Oslo accords. Here was a man who had ostensibly made peace with Israel. But that did not stop him from regularly speaking of “the terrorist activities of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli crimes” (CNN Interview, 2002). At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2001, Israel’s partner in peace said that the Jewish state was engaged in a “savage and barbaric war” against the Palestinians. He later spoke of Israel using “blatant and fascist military aggression against our Palestinian people” (The New York Times). Most significantly, he declared in July 2008 that Palestinian men, women, children would fight until Judgment Day, when the Palestinians will take over Jerusalem as their capital.
Err… it may sound like war. But he wasn’t openly calling for hurling bombs at buses, correct? So he remained kosher.
But it is my strong opinion that overlooking incendiary rhetoric is exactly what led to the global delegitimization of Israel from which we suffer so severely today. The Jewish State is trapped not only in a war of bombs and missiles but primarily in a war of verbs and words. Its major defenses can no longer include just tanks and helicopter gunships but eloquence, articulateness and factual fluency.
How did Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, which respects the rights of women, gays, and everyone in-between, become one of the most maligned and hated nations on earth? How is it possible that Israel retains, in a global poll of citizens of 22 countries conducted by Globescan, the same negative rating as North Korea (50) and is seen more negatively then even Iran, which stones women to death?
The answer is that Israel has paid lip service to the verbal assault against its reputation for decades. Israeli hasbarah has been a monumental failure not because Israel cannot enunciate but because it failed to understand the importance of words. While Israel was developing advanced radar and the Iron Dome defensive shield, the Arabs were unleashing a global army of articulate spokespeople on campuses, the BBC, and CNN. Arab leaders who were Israel’s ostensive allies were criticizing Israel daily at the U.N. It did not take long before Israel – defenseless and silent – became one of the great pariah nations of the world.
And the only way to combat now and reverse the growing delegitimization it is to create an army of words warriors who employ the power of spoken truth to champion Israel’s cause.
First, we must create an institute, an advanced scholarship, where young Jewish leaders will be trained to become charismatic spokespeople of the Jewish community and defenders of Israel worldwide. The institute would provide real-world media training, debate preparation, broadcasting, op-ed writing, and rhetoric in an effort to create the most charismatic spokespeople for Israel and a new generation of global champions of the Jewish cause. It is the objective of This World: The Jewish Values Network, to create this institute in the near future.
Originally published at Rubin Reports.
In practically his first outing as secretary of state abroad, John Kerry made some remarkable statements in a meeting with young Germans.
The main thing being widely quoted is his statement, “In America, you have a right to be stupid if you want to be… And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that’s a virtue. I think that’s something worth fighting for.”
Of course, there’s a right to be stupid in America! Indeed, just this week it’s been expanded into having a right to be simultaneously stupid and secretary of defense!
To be fair, Kerry’s statement was in the context of defending, albeit not very well, freedom of speech in America. (Kerry was obviously referencing President Barack Obama’s U.N. speech in his own talking points.) How Kerry defends it is what’s scary and dysfunctional.
He was basically saying: Yeah, we know that all these dumb people who don’t agree with us are wrong but we let them talk anyway because it works out okay in the end since nobody listens to them anyway. While he used the words “virtue” and “worth fighting for” those sentiments seem to be clumped onto the end for form’s sake. Kerry certainly doesn’t say–or understand–that people have rights and government has limits. Instead, he talks as if the ruling elite tolerates such fools because it’s so nice.
That is remarkably different from a more traditional defense of American liberty like: We have seen how in a free market place of ideas the best standpoints generally triumph, people are happier, and prosperity ensues. Or, we believe that people are endowed with rights by their creator and no one can or should take them away.
Now that standpoint is really “something worth fighting for” and Americans in the institution now run by Chuck Hagel have been doing so for a couple of centuries. No American goes into battle to defend the right to be stupid.
Oh, wait! Kerry apparently does think so since, as he put it, showing his superior grasp of the English language: “You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
So, you have the right to be stupid but watch out because if you are you might end up in the armed forces fighting to defend the right to be stupid!
In contrast to a proper approach, Kerry makes the American system sound like letting the deranged walk the streets as homeless people, babbling incoherently but doing little harm. Sure, let them cling to their guns and religion while we smart people make all the decisions. He’s merely turning around a traditional left-wing critique of democracy that comes from Herbert Marcuse or Noam Chomsky, of “repressive tolerance.”
And that seems to be what Kerry and Obama really believe. Ironically, they are the modern-day equivalent of what used to be called right-wing reactionaries ruling a patriarchal society that consists of aristocrats and peasants.
Another feature of Kerry’s performance was displaying the Obama Administration propensity for apologizing. The question Kerry was answering came from a young German Muslim who merely asked him about his views on Islam. There was no criticism of the United States. It was an invitation to go into a riff about America as a great, tolerant place not to cringe and insist that outside of stupid people the United States America isn’t horribly “Islamophobic.”
Implied in Kerry’s response was the video that supposedly inspired the Benghazi attack. As you know, this claim is either discredited or, in the words of Kerry’s predecessor, supposedly doesn’t matter. On the verge of his visit to the Middle East, repeating the false notes of the new Obama era national anthem—America the Guilty—is not a good idea.
Kerry added that he’s reading a book entitled No God but God by Reza Aslan, which he gushingly praises and accepts as his source on Islam. There are, of course, many books on Islam and Kerry is free to read whatever he wants. Yet the choice of this particular one is also revealing.