Apologies to my readers for my long absence during several important events. A brief update and list of articles worth considering for discussion. I am now in a better position to both post and pay attention to the excellent discussions some of you readers have been maintaining while I lurked.
Swedish article on Organ Transplant
Among the most significant items on which I need to post has been Aftonbladet controversy, the Swedish article accusing the Israelis of engaging in harvesting organs from dead Palestinians, what many — justifiably to my mind — consider a modern blood libel. By now, it’s clear — and avowed — that the author has no evidence for his claims, and even the families involved admit that they never made the claims. Barry Rubin has some excellent remarks on Facebook about why, even though the media openly admits to holding Israel to a higher standard, it’s equally if not more important for the media to be careful with Israel, given the long history of libels against it.
So if you say that you hold Jews to higher standards remember equally that they have been treated, misexplained, misunderstood and lied about to lower standards. That there are people–often the main supposed witnesses to the things you denounce Israel for–who have a vested interest in making Israel look bad and who are willing to lie, along with reporters and others who have an antagonism to Israel. What are you doing to correct that side of the balance?
I’m going to hold you to a higher standard in your coverage of Israel for the same reason.
Israeli spokespeople have hit back hard on this, both officially and unofficially. Below is Mordechai Kedar’s responses to the author of the piece, Donald Bostrom, in which he mentions al Durah and invokes Pallywood. Note how Bostrom starts by saying, “It’s not up to me to have any evidence…” How do you think Kedar comes off?
One of my correspondents shudders at Kedar’s performance.
This TV interview with Kedar and Bostrom is a disaster. Bostrom comes across as the calm, reasonable speaker. Kedar is overheated and makes unsupported allegations that Palestinians are “compulsive liars” and have a conspiracy—these remarks make him look like a racist. Kedar is right, but his delivery completely undercuts his own message.
Bostrom, on the other hand, is a poster-boy for Pallywood, as it manifests in journalism. Not only are Palestinian witnesses “as good as anyone’s”, but the work of the NGOs and other journalists in having Israel as a daily human rights violator, make anything the Palestinians claim perfectly believable.
Yale University Press and the Danish Cartoon Book without Danish Cartoons.
The appalling decision of Yale U. Press not to publish the cartoons out of concern for the sensitivity of Muslims is, among many issues, a perfect illustration of the role of experts (the unanimous 12 who recommended not to publish the cartoons) of the role of an anomalous consensus among our elites whose opinions matter. All twelve? No one i respect who thinks on the issue of how we deal with militant Islam would have recommended so pusillanimous a course. Was there not one person in the bunch to say something like this?
This is absurd. Of course you publish the cartoons. Their almost entirely anodine nature is part of the story.
It attests to the nature of the violent response, which was the bullying of a newly empowered advocacy community: global Jihadis who feel that Muslim sharia should rule the planet. Not to publish would be to act like dhimmi. It would replicate all the errors that were made at the time of the event, in which America’s failure to publish the cartoonbs in every paper at once betrayed Europeans behaving bravely, and signaled to the Islamist triumphalists that indeed the whole world was vulnerable to their demands.
Or just a simple, “don’t be ridiculous.”
In any case, the “unanimous 12″ strike me as the most significant elemnt in this lamentable story. It’s testimony to the Emperor’s New Clothes effect. The court has so taken control of the discourse that the simplest and most obvious responses are not merely “voted down,” but excluded. Let’s not forget that the emperor and his court carried on the charade even after the crowd had turned against the hegemonic discourse in which the emperor’s clothes were dazzling.
But this issue is not confined to Yale alone. This essay, by Yale senior Matt Shaffer, about his time at Yale gives an intellectual backgrtound to this court consensus.
Condemning prejudice is great, but devoting the keynote speech of Yale orientation to a finger-wagging lecture against bigotry, as Professor Yoshino did, was like opening a conference of physicists with a warning on the dangers of astrology. In short, Despite Dean Salovey’s assertion that, “We will help you learn how to think rather than tell you what to think,” it looked more and more that they were going to teach us neither how to think nor what to think, but rather, what to feel.
That evening, things went from mere disappointment to sheer farce. Tedious lectures turned into indoctrination. We were required to attend ‘discussions’ with our freshman counselors about Professor Yoshino’s speech. The freshman counselor set the tone, and then student after student performed a series of variations upon a single theme: white men are bad, Islam is fabulous and judgment is bad. We need to be eternally vigilant and morally courageous in the face of the innumerable male WASP bigots around us. (Why we are allowed to judge white people as bad and Islam as good when judgment is supposedly forbidden is beyond my ken.)
This article — despite it’s somwhat archaic conclusion about truth beauty and goodness — supports the folllowing lllustrated metaphor in some detail. When I first read this cartoon (HT Michelle Saltzman) I confess to feeling uneasy. The packaging is harsh; the insights, given Shaffer’s reflections, seem quite accurate. Is it Kedar-style? Or something else.
I’m pretty sure that if you were to take a poll of Americans and ask them, “who put the Palestinian refugees in camps and kept them there to this day?” a large majority would respond, “The Israelis, duh. Why would the Arabs do that to their brethren?” For example, Michael Moore speaks about a visit to the refugee camps in 1988:
Although in my life I had already traveled through Central America, China, Southeast Asia, and other parts of the Middle East. I wasn’t ready for what I saw in the refugee camps in the Occupied Territories. I had never encountered such squalor, debasement, and utter misery. To force human beings to live in these conditions – and do so at the barrel of a gun, for more than forty years — just made no sense. Stupid White Men, p. 178.
Now Moore seems to presume that it’s the Israelis who have done this to the Palestinians. (His next paragraph goes into how badly the Jews have been treated in the past and how sad that they should turn around and do it to someone else — the favorite formula of those attracted to moral Schadenfreude.) He seems to have no awareness that for the first (and critical) half of the Palestinian experience of refugee confinement, it was Arab rulers and Arab guns who kept them in misery, and that once Israel took over they tried to move these unfortunate victims out into decent housing, and it was the Arabs who pushed UN Resolutions insisting that they be returned to the squalor of the camps.
How much more nonsensical is that — it’s the Arabs who want their misery, not the Israelis?
I have posted before on the inexcusably ruthless Palestinian and Arab policy of using the refugees from 1948 as hostages, really as sacrificial victims on the altar of Arab irredentist hatred of Israel. The single most constructive move that the world community can do to contribute to peace is test the real intentions of the “moderates” who assure us all that only a fraction of the Palestinian refugees will want to return to Israel once the peace deal has been brokered, by insisting that they start moving those who don’t/won’t want to move back into decent housing… not just in Palestinian territory, but all over the Arab world. And Jimmy Carter can lead the movement as head of Habitat Humanity.
Now, at last, an Arab intellectual, Daoud Al-Shiryan, has tackled this shameful (by modern humanitarian standards) situation. MEMRI provides an extensive translation of passages. H/T oao and Elder of Ziyon
Daoud Al-Shiryan, Al-Hayat columnist and deputy secretary-general of Al-Arabiya TV, recently published several articles criticizing how the Palestinian refugees have been treated by the Arab countries in which they live. He called on these countries to integrate the refugees into their societies and to resettle them before they are forced to do so by the international community.
Objecting to Refugee Resettlement Is Objecting to Peace
In the first of his articles, published July 15, 2009, Al-Shiryan wrote: “The issue of [refugee] resettlement has begun to preoccupy the Arab countries, which are keeping the Palestinians in depressing prison camps known as Palestinian refugee camps. Although so far no one in the Arab world has called for their resettlement, the refugee problem has now [gained prominence] in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, both on the political arena and in the media. It has [even] become an issue in forming the next Lebanese government. This means that, in its next stage, the peace process is expected to encounter obstacles [on the part of] the Arabs.
“Objecting to [refugee] resettlement is no different than objecting to peace. It is nothing but an unrealistic slogan. The Arabs have agreed to peace, although they realize that there cannot be peace without [refugee] resettlement. But they disregard this fact, viewing the refugee issue as a point of controversy, when it is [actually] a central and key issue in the peace process. The fear [of being accused of renouncing the nationalist] slogans [calling for] struggle, resistance, and casting Israel into the sea – slogans which emerged at the outset of the peace process with Israel – and the link that has been established between the issue [of resettlement] and ethnic and political problems in some [Arab] countries – have [all] become an obstacle to a realistic and honest approach to the issue.
“Arabs who object to the [refugee] resettlement plan contend that they are motivated by their zealous devotion to the Right of Return. But they have not lifted a finger to keep this right alive in the consciousness of the Palestinian ‘detainees’ in the camps of abasement. As a result, this spurious devotion has evoked the opposite reaction: a Palestinian [refugee] now hopes to emigrate to America, Europe, Canada, or Australia in order to escape the hell of the Palestinian refugee camps, which have played a part in killing his will to live.
HRW continues its assault on Israel based on methodologies that, were they used in science, would have us still living in the Ptolemean universe (i.e., human rights revolve around the Palestinians). Fortunately, both NGO Monitor and the IDF are responding vigorously.
Begin with what HRW doesn’t want to mention: i.e., that Hamas “operatives” systematically use civilians as shields, including those who wave white flags. Here’s IDF aerial footage from January 7, 2009 showing just such an incident.
Comment: Captured in this aerial footage, a Hamas terrorist plants an IED and then climbs into a house containing uninvolved civilians. Later the civilians and the Hamas terrorist exit the house waiving a white flag, at which point IDF troops approach and arrest the terrorist.
This is just one of many examples of how Hamas uses uninvolved civilians as human shields. This example is particularly egregious since the terrorist used civilians waving a white flag to try to evade IDF soldiers.
1) It takes the moral heat off of Israel. How can you get your back into accusing Israel for shooting at people with white flags when there are combattants hiding among them. (Idem for ambulances, checkpoints, etc.) Exhibit B is the explanation for this twisted morality. Noah Pollak over at Contentions explains how both Sarah Leah Whitson of Saudi notoriety and the author of the report, Joe Stork, have long careers and anti-Israel advocates (“pro-Palestinian” would be too twisted a term for people who have no problem with the Palestinian treatment of their own refugees).
And 2) it raises a huge problem of the validity of the testimony they collect among Palestinians. If Hamas will fire from the midst of civilians, hide behind white-flag toting refugees, and keep them cooped up in areas to which they draw fire, then surely they are not going to be very happy with Palestinians complaining about that behavior. Once HRW grants that such matters go on within the same report in which they present Palestinian evidence as their key source for their allegations, the epistemological house of cards begins to fall.
So exhibit C is an analysis of a particular case which I treated at some length in the aftermath of operation Cast Lead — the tale of the Abed Rabbo family. Here Elder of Ziyon examines the way in which HRW uses testimony whose only value is to document how unreliable Palestinian witnesses tend to be, in order to indict Israeli soldiers.
Every once in a while one reads an interview that reeks of brown-nosing. Here’s one by Ron Kampeas, who had been sharply critical of HRW for their visit to Saudi Arabia, of the key player here, Sarah Leah Whitson. Fisking and further analysis added throughout.
Sarah Leah Whitson, the senior Human Rights Watch official at the center of the controversy over meetings with potential givers in Saudi Arabia, kindly and conscientiously reached out to me to answer my questions.
She also chided me for not reaching out to her before posting my questions. I had some lame reply about blogging and its immediacy, but she had a point.
In any case, while I still have broader critiques about HRW’s notion of balance — Israel on the one side, the rest of the Middle East on the other — Whitson’s replies directly addressed my questions, and were not in any way evasive.
Here are my questions and her replies (I summarize, but also include direct quotes from our conversation): * Does/ would HRW solicit funds in Israel?
Whitson first of all made clear these were not fund-raisers in Riyadh (“I wish” was how she put it), but not exactly not fund-raisers: They were friends of HRW making their friends, colleagues and acquaintances aware of its work and mission.
“They are informal dinners hosted by friends and supporters, where they come to ask us questions.”
And yes, there were two similar private events in Tel Aviv recently.
How on earth is this a non-evasive answer? What on earth is “friends of HRW making their friends, colleagues and acquaintances aware of its work and mission” mean? They flew out there – how many? – to shoot the breeze?
How charming of her to jokingly say, “I wish…” What a lovely opening: “And if they had/did offered money, would/did you you accept it?”
* Does/Would it do so through presentations that expose human rights abuses by Palestinian authorities and by Arab governments?
Here’s Prime Minister’s spokesman Mark Regev responding to an aggressive CNN reporter’s questions (HT/Carl in Jerusalem):
Although overall I’d say this is a good set of responses, there are several aspects of the encounter that deserve further comment.
1) CNN is the one who has fallen into the trap of politicizing this, which, as Regev points out, is precisely why the family didn’t move out: to create street theater, and that’s just what CNN obliged them with. When Isha Sesay asks if these images of the eviction are conducive to peace, Regev could have said, “Don’t you think that CNN’s making a huge story out of a legal dispute between private citizens and turning it into a media circus is what’s not conducive to peace? Your images inflame anger and hatred in a situation that’s completely inappropriate. Don’t you care how you affect public opinion?”
2) When Sesay said, “Isn’t this a policy to kick out Arabs and move in Israelis?” Regev could have answered, “If this is what you believe, if you think that the Israeli Supreme court system is an extension of what you imagine is an evil Israeli government’s policies, whether legal or not, then no wonder you do the kind of stories you do.”
In both cases, such answers alert the viewers to the ways their perceptions are being manipulated by journalists with agendas. The logic behind Sesay’s aggressive questioning and CNN’s inflammatory coverage is: The way to peace is to force Israel to make concessions at any cost, including inciting hatred of her in both the Arab world — what are the Palestinians supposed to do when these images circulate internationally, say, “oh well, it was a court decision” — and in the West.
But once again it is the extreme malice of the British reaction which takes the breath away. The British consulate says it is ‘unacceptable’ that Israel should act in accordance with the law as laid down by its own Supreme Court. The British thus ignore law and justice, history and truth to support instead illegal Arab actions which deny the Jewish ownership of the land in question. And what in heaven’s name has this property dispute between Israel and the Arabs in Jerusalem got to do with the British anyway? As I remarked here the other day, they appear to think they are still administering the Palestine Mandate – where they exhibited similar partisanship in the interests of injustice, illegality and the Arab cause against Jewish rights.