I was just at a panel discussion at Boston College about “Israel Apartheid Week” (about which more later). One of the questions posed (in part in response to Dexter van Zile’s comment that the “Apartheid Narrative” scapegoated Israel for the world’s ills) ran somewhat as follows: “Don’t you think that Israel participated in its own scapegoating by not letting in the Western press.
As part of my answer, I tried to explain how, if Western journalists actually did their job, it would have been good to have them in Gaza, but that given how wedded (read: addicted) they are to the framing story of Israeli Goliath / Palestinian David, the chances that they would actually reveal to the West just how systematically Hamas sought to victimize its own people and literally create a humanitarian crisis were pretty slim.
Most people don’t realize just how bad the MSM is in its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, how reluctant they are, for a variety of reasons that span the spectrum from ideological to venal to cowardice, to reveal to their audiences the moral depravity of the Palestinian side. The best current example of the obsession of the Western press with every blemish of the Israelis and their corresponding obliviousness to the Palestinians is probably the work of Ethan Bronner, the NYT mideast correspondent.
Here, Jeffrey Woolf fisks Bronner on the topic of the impact of religious impulses in the Israeli army during the Gaza war. One can easily imagine that the Palestinian version of this article would involve discussing their genocidal ideology, and a host of other problems that would make his remarks — even before Woolf’s corrections — pale in comparison. Alas, don’t expect them anytime soon.
Fisking Bronner on Religious Soldiers
[There is so much wrong with this piece, I decided to pull an Augean Stables.]
A religious war within the Israeli Army
By Ethan Bronner
Sunday, March 22, 2009
JERUSALEM: The publication late last week of eyewitness accounts by Israeli soldiers alleging acute mistreatment of Palestinian civilians in the recent Gaza fighting highlights a debate here about the rules of war. But it also exposes something else: the clash between secular liberals and religious nationalists for control over the army and society.
The credibility of these charges has since been seriously impugned and they are, in any event, extremely distorted. See here.
Several of the testimonies, published by an institute that runs a premilitary course and is affiliated with the left-leaning secular kibbutz movement, showed a distinct impatience with religious soldiers, portraying them as self-appointed holy warriors.
A soldier, identified by the pseudonym Ram, is quoted as saying that in Gaza, “the rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land. This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war.”
The quote is second hand, therefore, suspect. Even if accurate, though, Ram obviously did not understand that מלחמת מצוה does not mean jihad. It refers to a war to defend Jews from attack or to conquer the land of Israel. The booklets do not stress the latter, only the former. Furthermore, since when is it bad to believe in God, in His Providence or in His promise of the Land of Israel to the People of Israel?
Dany Zamir, the director of the one-year premilitary course who solicited the testimonies and then leaked them, leading to a promise by the military to investigate, is quoted in the transcripts as expressing anguish over the growing religious nationalist elements of the military.
“If clerics are anointing us with oil and sticking holy books in our hands, and if the soldiers in these units aren’t representative of the whole spectrum of the Jewish people, but rather of certain segments of the population, what can we expect?” he said. “To whom do we complain?”
Danny Zamir is a radical Leftist, who goes around the world preaching that Israel is a racist, apartheid state. See here. Notice the unctious rhetoric he employs in describing the IDF rabbis and religious soldiers. The man’s agenda is anti-religion, period.
For the first four decades of Israel’s existence, the army — like many of the country’s institutions — was dominated by kibbutz members who saw themselves as secular, Western and educated. In the past decade or two, religious nationalists, including many from the settler movement in the West Bank, have moved into more and more positions of military responsibility. (In Israeli society, they are a growing force, distinct from, and more modern than, the black-garbed ultra-Orthodox, who are excused from military service.)
One might think there had been a putsch or a purge of secular soldiers. The truth is: a) secular families have few or no children b) the percentage of secular Israeli emigres is very high c) the percentage of secular Israeli kids who dodge or avoid army service is the highest in the country (after Haredim and Arabs, who don’t give lip service to Zionism) d) The Kibbutzim have gone bankrupt, both fiscally and ideologically. Finally, the country has, for almost twenty years, been in the midst of a renewal of Jewish identity and the consequent decline in doctrinnaire secularism. The morale building materials distributed by the IDF Rabbinate were snapped up by huge numbers of soldiers, both religious and so-called secular.
Read the rest.
Note that, depending on Palestinian sources, Bronner wrote on January 6, 2009 that there were 640 dead Palestinians, one quarter of whom (160) were civilians. Then four days later he wrote that there were 820 dead, half of them civilians (410) civilians. Which meant that in four days, there were 180 killed, of which 250 were civilians.