Category Archives: Israel-Palestine

Ideological Preparation for the Expulsion of the Palestinians, Continued

Previous posts in this series covering Nur Masalha’s book, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948: . . .

  1. Zionist Founding Fathers’ Plans for Transfer of the Palestinian Arabs
  2. Redemption or Conquest: Zionist Yishuv plans for transfer of Palestinian Arabs in the British Mandate period
  3. The Weizmann Plan to “Transfer” the Palestinians
  4. Zionist Plans for Mass Transfer of Arabs: Alive But Discreet
  5. Pushing for Mass Transfer of Arabs & Warning of “Rivers of Blood”
  6. Compulsory Arab Transfer Necessary for a Jewish State
  7. The Necessity for Mass Arab Transfer
  8. Expulsion of the Palestinians – Pre-War Internal Discussions
  9. Expulsion of the Palestinians: Caution and Discretion during the War Years
  10. Expulsion of the Palestinians: Insights into Yishuv’s Transfer Ideas in World War 2
  11. Expulsion of the Palestinians, Part 11

. . .

Zionist leaders were always alert for opportunities to work with Arab countries that neighboured Palestine in hopes they could assist with plans to transfer the Arab population out of Palestine. Earlier we saw one such attempt to negotiate a plan with Jordanian leaders (1937), and in 1939 another hopeful meeting to work with the Saudi Arabian king was organized.

The plan was to promise King Ibn Saud a major role in a future Arab federation and more immediately to provide him with substantial financial aid to resolve economic hardship his kingdom was at that time enduring.

To approach the Saudi king the Zionist leaders happily found willing support from Harry St John Philby, British orientalist and advisor to the king [see the Wikipedia linked article for his “colourful” career and that of his son]. Philby’s contact in London was the famous British historian Lewis Namier who was closely associated with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and was the political advisor to the Zionist Jewish Agency led by Moshe Shertok.

The 6 October, 1939 meeting

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Interesting Poll

Through a Haaretz article by Amir Tibon I learned of a new Pew Research Center Poll: U.S. Public Has Favorable View of Israel’s People, but Is Less Positive Toward Its Government

One might hope that the title alone of the results of that survey will go some way towards demolishing the slur that criticism of Israel’s governments’ respective policies is a subtle form of anti-semitism.

Disappointingly predictable was the finding that Christians (notably the evangalical side of Christianity) are more likely than Jews and the “religiously unaffiliated” to approve of Trump’s hardline stance in support of Israel’s policies (presumably towards Palestinians).

Overall, it showed that 48 percent of Christians – including 61 percent of Evangelicals – have a favorable view of the Israeli government. However, a plurality of Catholics – 49 percent – have a negative view of the Israeli government, and so does a big majority – 61 percent – of Christians who belong to the historically black church. (Tibon)

Evangelical Protestants are more likely than non-evangelicals to express a favorable opinion of Israel’s government (73% of evangelical Republicans vs. 55% of non-evangelicals) (The Report)

As I’ve experienced in other areas, more Catholics than fundamentalists are on the side of liberalism, social justice and support for oppressed populations, and the support for Trump’s position towards Israel is less among Catholics than among fundamentalists and evangelicals. Bring on Armageddon, I can hear the latter half-silently hoping. “God will bless those who bless the descendants of Abraham!”

  • Among Evangelical Christians, 72 percent think Trump’s policy strikes the “right balance,” and only 15 percent think he is too favorable to Israel.
  • Among Catholics, 34 percent think he is too favorable to Israel, and 51 percent think he has the “right balance.”
  • In addition, 33 percent of the respondents who belong to the “historically black” church said that Trump’s policies are too favorable to Israel, and 40 percent of them said it has the right balance.

Interesting that American blacks even today appear to continue to identify in some sense with the Palestinians. (That notion of identification on the part of American blacks has been a controversial question in the past.)

Jews are not quite as totally gung-ho:

Among Jewish respondents, 42 percent said that Trump’s policies were too favorable to Israel. Only 6 percent said that his policies were too favorable to the Palestinians, while a plurality of 47 percent said the policy struck the right balance. Among Christian respondents, meanwhile, only 26 percent said Trump’s policies were too favorable to Israel, while 59 percent said the 45th president has the ‘right balance.’

The sample size was about 10,500 and error margin estimated at 1.5%.

 

 

Word Crime: War Breaks Out Among Israel Studies Scholars

A recent Haaretz article discusses controversy over a special issue of the Israel Studies journal that criticizes terms such as occupation and genocide used to refer to Israel vis à vis the Palestinians, as well as references to the Israel Lobby and claims that criticism of Zionism is not to be equated with anti-Semitism:

The lead article by Donna Divine, “Word Crimes: Reclaiming The Language of The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, introduces the issue and is free on Jstor. (Unfortunately most of the specialist articles themselves have a price tag and I have not yet seen how or even if the issue itself is available for purchase at a reasonable cost.)

Arie M. Dubnov

Matz’s Haaretz article quotes Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies at George Washington University, Arie M. Dubnov,  claiming:

“the [journal’s] ‘alternative dictionary’ appears designed to provide talking points for anti-BDS and pro-‘hasbara’ efforts, and does not serve an academic purpose.”

The journal Israel Studies is “affiliated with” the Association for Israel Studies (Wikipedia article: Association for Israel Studies) but not that association’s official journal, according to information in the Haaretz article. Critics nonetheless hold the Association leadership responsible for the publication of the issue’s contents, and Dubnov in a letter demanded that the Association publish a retraction or cut their ties with the journal. (The association’s official journal is Israel Studies Review.)

Dubnov was further quoted as saying that the journal issue lent support for critics of Israel studies as a special field in academia as

an invented field that is nothing more than a cover for the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry.

Maltz adds,

He charged that the articles published in the journal “make a mockery of academic rules” and would never have passed muster in a serious academic publication.

Gershon Shafir

Another academic, Gershon Shafir,

“This attempt to suppress critical voices and dissenting views within the [association] is a microcosm of the larger assault on liberal voices and institutions in Israel. . . .

“Ironically . . . the [association] itself was created with the aim of procuring a forum where Israel may be analyzed with the tools common to the social sciences and humanities, to free the study of Israel from the bonds of political loyalty and subservience in which it was enmeshed. That accomplishment, academic
autonomy, is threatened now by the repoliticization of the study of Israel through the criminalization of scholarship and assault on academic freedom.”

Ian Lustick

Another, Ian S. Lustick, oberves that

almost all the contributors to the ‘Word Crimes’ issue are members of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East — a straightout advocacy organization.

Miriam Elman

But a co-editor of the special issue, Miriam F. Elman, responded that such criticisms were “an ugly smear campaign” and certain demands of critics amounted to “academic thuggery”:

there will be no caving in to this bullying. I believe we are talking about a very small minority, as very few scholars would run roughshod over academic freedom in this way.”

So what’s in this special issue? As explained at the beginning I only have access to the lead article so I quote a few sections of that. You can make up your own minds, though I will not be able to resist a couple of mumbles of my own.

Excerpts from Donna Divine’s Word Crimes: Reclaiming The Language of The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

(Not quite sure why I’m doing this. As I said at the outset anyone can read the whole article for free via Jstor. But for any lazy buggers who can’t be bothered here is my selection of hightlights.)

the Jewish state, today, stands accused of practicing apartheid, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and of sustaining itself as a remnant of an outdated and thoroughly delegitimized colonial order.

The language under criticism

identifies Israel not simply as a force hostile to Palestinian interests but also as a major source of evil for the world.

The term genocide

(Donna Divine’s essay also concludes with a discussion of the use of this term in the discussion.)

The United Nations definition of genocide:In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

genocide is now defined as a Zionist impulse. A word that once engendered sympathy for Jews has been contaminated by becoming a rubric describing Israeli policies and a reason to fear Jewish power. . . . .

Think of “Deir Yassin”, the name for Palestinian suffering before the naqba. Millions of people across the globe know something of this village as the site of a massacre and the bonfire it made of Israel’s moral authority in waging its war for independence. . . . .

Tauber’s book [compare blog post] does not remove the stain of war crimes from the Irgun forces fighting in the village, but it does contest the scope of the brutality in that fateful attack in April 1948. Even to raise questions about whether a massacre occurred at Deir Yassin, however, is considered a transgression as Tauber learned from the several American university presses refusing to publish his book, one deeming it “unfit for English readers”. . . . it has had a profound impact on closing down the possibility of following the best available evidence.

From here the article segues into a discussion of Edward Said’s book Orientalism and merges with a discussion of …

The Israel lobby

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“It would never happen the other way around”

Nick Davies (Wikipedia Commons)

Some readers protest when I attempt to convey a Palestinian perspective or concern that I think deserves to be more widely known and respond by stressing the official Israeli version of events as if that is the real truth and all we need to know. Sometimes I try to respond by explaining that their knowledge is shaped largely by one-sided mainstream media reporting. An elaboration of that same point is made by Nick Davies in Flat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies. The link is to a Wikipedia article explaining who Nick Davies is.

There is now a network of pro-Israeli pressure groups who specialise in orchestrating complaints against the media. HonestReporting has offices in London, New York and Toronto and claims to have 140,000 members on whom it can call to drench media organisations in letters and emails. . . .  Camera, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, uses street demos, pressure on advertisers, formal complaints and email showers. Giyus, Give Israel Your Support, supplies its members with a browser button which they can hit to send them any article which they deem offensive, and software called Megaphone to assist them in launching mass complaints. Memri (the Middle East Media Research Institute), Palestine Media Watch, Bicom (the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre) and Israeli Embassy staff all supply more energy for the fence. They share aims and⁄or funding sources with the immensely powerful network of organisations which lobby governments and political parties on behalf of Israel.

The result is that some facts become dangerous: to report Palestinian casualties; to depict the Palestinians as victims of Israeli occupation; to refer to the historic ousting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes; to refer to the killing of Palestinian civilians by Zionist groups in the 1940s. The facts are there, but the electric fence will inflict pain on any reporter who selects them. Words themselves become dangerous: to speak of ‘occupied territories’; to describe Palestinian bombers as anything other than ‘terrorists’; to reject the Israeli government euphemism of ‘targeted killings’. Crucially, there is no lobby of similar force on the Palestinian side. The pro-Israeli groups are able to claim numerous victories.

Honest Reporting claims:

‘Since 2000, the organisation prompted hundreds of apologies, retractions, and revisions from news outlets.’

They cite, in particular, their campaign against CNN, which saw them sending up to 6,000 emails a day to the chief executive and which resulted in their being invited to CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta to meet managers who, they say, ‘showed a genuine sensitivity to HonestReporting’s concerns’. They had complained that CNN was failing to describe Palestinian bombers as ‘terrorists’; that too little attention was being given to Israeli victims; and that CNN had been willing to broadcast videotaped final statements by bombers. Following the meeting, they note, CNN.com started referring to ‘Palestinian terrorism’ and ran a special series on Israeli victims, while the chief executive issued a ban on the use of videotaped statements by bombers. HonestReporting also quotes from transcripts of CNN broadcasts in which the anchor in Atlanta interrupts the correspondent on the ground to put the Israeli case.

HonestReporting also claims credit for Reuters’ decision to stop referring to Hamas as a group seeking an independent state and to describe them instead, for example, as ‘Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction’; and for the Washington Post’s decision to change a website headline from ‘JEWISH TODDLER DIES IN THE WEST BANK’ to ‘JEWISH BABY SHOT DEAD ON WEST BANK’ within ninety minutes of HonestReporting starting to complain. The New York Times printed a fulsome apology for publishing a photograph of a pro-Israeli demonstration which showed anti-Israeli protesters in its foreground. A survey by fair.org found that in 90% of references to the Palestinian territories occupied by the Israeli Army, American cable news described them only as ‘contested’ or ‘disputed’ or even as ‘Israel’.

The BBC has been targeted particularly heavily, winning HonestReporting’s annual award for dishonest reporting. One senior journalist there told me:

‘The lobby insinuates a sense of fear. If the editor of the Today programme knows that an item will make the phone ring off the hook, he may think twice about running it. Sure, the lobby works. I can think of numerous examples where I have felt the brunt of it.’

One member of staff at the BBC recalls the former press officer at the Israeli Embassy in London, David Schneeweiss, persuading a Today producer to set up a story about Yasser Arafat’s involvement in corruption, even though BBC correspondents in Israel said there was nothing in it.

‘You get correspondents there who will file a piece about Palestinians and be told by London ‘Nice piece, but it needs an Israeli voice.’

And that would never happen the other way around. Two extensive academic surveys have found that the BBC routinely gives more airtime to Israeli voices than to Palestinian and that it focuses more frequently on Israeli victims than on Palestinians. The judgements are there to be made.

Davies, Nick. 2009. Flat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media. London: Random House UK. pp. 123f

All the way?

When Australia’s Prime Minister Harold Holt smilingly proudly boasted that Australia was “all the way with LBJ” — implying that Australia was with. side-by-side, joined at the hip with the U.S. in the invasion of Vietnam, no questions asked, fully 100% — many Australians saw the colour of blood and believed Holt had declared Australia to be in an obsequious, servile, amoral relationship to a foreign power.

So when D.J. Trump twits the following. . . .

I am reminded of how times or something somewhere has changed. . . .

From ANU archives

The Golan Heights: the Myth versus the Historical Record

It is an article of faith among Israelis that the Golan Heights were captured in the Six-Day War to stop the Syrians from shelling the settlements down below. — Avi Shlaim

The State of Israel took control of the Golan Heights in 1967 to safeguard its security from external threats. — Donald Trump

Avi Shlaim in The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World writes that Israel’s escalation of tensions on the Syrian front prior to June 1967 was the “single most important factor dragging the Middle East to war”. Prior to the war news stories told again and again of Syrian’s firing at Israeli farmers from the Golan Heights but the full circumstances of those conflicts was not revealed publicly until 1997 when a reporter published notes of his interview with the military commander Moshe Dayan in 1976. In that interview

Dayan confessed that his greatest mistake was that, as minister of defense in June 1967, he did not stick to his original opposition to the storming of the Golan Heights. Tal began to remonstrate that the Syrians were sitting on top of the Golan Heights. Dayan interrupted,

Never mind that. After all, I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let’s talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plow someplace where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was. I did that, and Laskov and Chara [Zvi Tsur, Rabin’s predecessor as chief of staff] did that, and Yitzhak did that, but it seems to me that the person who most enjoyed these games was Dado [David Elazar, OC Northern Command, 1964–69].

(Shlaim, 250f)

The Road to War

According to the evidence in Shlaim’s study neither side wanted the 1967 war. There was no conspiracy by Arab states to launch a surprise attack on Israel and Israel had no plan to seize extra territory at the time. War came about as a consequence of political miscalculations and blunders, or a “crisis slide that neither Israel nor her enemies were able to control.”

Stage 1 – careless threats in media interviews

To begin with, Israel made a series of threats against the Syrian regime unless it stopped its support for Palestinian guerillas:

  • 11 May 1967, Israel’s director of military intelligence in a briefing of foreign journalists “gave a distinct impression that Israel was planning a major military move against Syria.”
  • Then the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces dropped a hint published in an Israeli newspaper “that the aim might be to occupy Damascus and topple the Syrian regime.”

Stage 2 – cornered into a show of leadership

The Soviet Union, supporter of the Syrian government, in response sent a report to Syria’s ally Egypt to warn that Israel was moving its forces towards the northern border and planning to attack Syria. Egypt’s president, Nasser, was pressured to take some decisive action to maintain his credibility as leader of the Arab nations:

The report [from the USSR] was untrue and Nasser knew that it was untrue, but he was in a quandary. His army was bogged down in an inconclusive war in Yemen, and he knew that Israel was militarily stronger than all the Arab confrontation states taken together. Yet, politically, he could not afford to remain inactive, because his leadership of the Arab world was being challenged. . . . Syria had a defense pact with Egypt that compelled it to go to Syria’s aid in the event of an Israeli attack. Clearly, Nasser had to do something, both to preserve his own credibility as an ally and to restrain the hotheads in Damascus. There is general agreement among commentators that Nasser neither wanted nor planned to go to war with Israel. (252f)

I have circled the Straits of Tiran in red. Map is from p. 192 of Iron Wall

Nasser decided on three-fold action to impress the Arab public:

1. He sent a large force into the Sinai

2. He ordered the removal of the U.N. peacekeepers from the Sinai

3. He closed the Straits of Tiran to Israel shipping

Stage 3 – the psychological hit

It was #3 that rankled in Israel the most since the Straits were the prize gain of the Israeli forces in the 1956 Suez War:

For Israel this constituted a casus belli. It canceled the main achievement of the Sinai Campaign. The Israeli economy could survive the closure of the straits, but the deterrent image of the IDF could not. Nasser understood the psychological significance of this step. He knew that Israel’s entire defense philosophy was based on imposing its will on its enemies, not on submitting to unilateral dictates by them. In closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, he took a terrible gamble—and lost. (253)

Stage 4 – collective psychosis

According to Shlaim the Israeli government was paralyzed for two whole weeks with indecision. The lack of leadership led to public panic:

During this period the entire nation succumbed to a collective psychosis. The memory of the Holocaust was a powerful psychological force that deepened the feeling of isolation and accentuated the perception of threat. Although, objectively speaking, Israel was much stronger than its enemies, many Israelis felt that their country faced a threat of imminent destruction. For them the question was not about the Straits of Tiran but about survival. Weak leadership was largely responsible for permitting this panic to spread from the politicians to the people at large. (253)

Stage 5 – threat of the religious party

Israel’s political impasse was resolved on 1 June with the formation of a national unity government. But the National Religious Party threatened to withdraw from the coalition unless the outspoken and belligerent Moshe Dayan was put in charge of the Defense Ministry.

Warnings against: read more »

Anti-Semitism

Charges of anti-Semitism are ever in the news: UK’s Labour Party defections over accusations of anti-Semitism; Macron’s move to criminalize anti-Zionism as covert anti-Semitism; the Ilhan Omar debacle in the U.S., Netanyahu accusing a UN report seriously critical of Israel’s killing of Gazans last year of being “based purely on an obsessive hatred of Israel.”

Time for some clarity of thought:

True anti-Semitism conceives of Jews as being different from other people, in various invidious ways, which gives those others license to single them out and persecute them in both large and small ways. Anti-Semites maintain that Jews who are engaged in what seem like legitimate political activities—running for office, contributing to political campaigns, writing articles and books, or organizing lobbying groups—are actually engaged in dark and secret conspiracies. Real anti-Semites sometimes favor harsh measures to deny Jews full political rights and at times advocate even more violent persecution of Jews. Even in its milder forms, anti-Semitism indulges in various forms of stereotyping and implies that Jews should be viewed with suspicion or contempt, while seeking to deny them the ability to participate fully and freely in all realms of society. In its essential features, true anti-Semitism resembles other forms of racist or religious discrimination, all of which have been roundly condemned in Europe and the United States since the end of World War II.

By contrast, almost all of the many gentiles and Jews who now criticize Israeli policy or worry about the lobby’s impact on U.S. foreign policy find such views deeply disturbing and categorically reject them. Rather, they believe that Jews are like other human beings, which means that they are capable of both good and bad deeds, and that they are entitled to the same status as other members of society. They also believe that Israel acts like other states, which is to say that it vigorously defends its own interests and sometimes pursues policies that are wise and just and sometimes does things that are strategically foolish and even immoral. This perspective is the opposite of anti-Semitism. It calls for treating Jews like everyone else and treating Israel as a normal and legitimate country. Israel, in this view, should be praised when it acts well and criticized when it does not. Americans are also entitled to be upset and critical when Israel does things that harm U.S. interests, and Americans who care about Israel should be free to criticize it when its government takes actions that they believe are not in Israel’s interest either. There is neither special treatment nor a double standard here. Similarly, most critics of the lobby do not see it as a cabal or conspiracy; rather, they argue—as we have—that pro-Israel organizations act as other interest groups do. While the charge of anti-Semitism can be an effective smear tactic, it is usually groundless.

Mearsheimer, John J., and Stephen M. Walt. 2007. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 194-95.

 

It needs to be said (anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism)

Matthew Rozsa has an article in Salon.com and repeated in Alternet:

Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism: But disentangling them can be tricky

Rep. Rashida Tlaib has been unfairly accused of anti-Semitism, but there’s a reason why these issues get confused

Some extracts:

Yes, it is fair to be suspicious of anyone who drags up anti-Semitic myths like the idea that Jews have dual loyalties, or that Jews have too much power, or that Jews are somehow to blame for racist violence in other parts of the world. It is obvious bigotry to blame “Jews” as a group for the actions of Israeli officials, or to invoke greed and other anti-Semitic stereotypes when describing Israel, or to disproportionately focus on the atrocities in Israel while being conveniently silent about human rights violations committed by Arab or Muslim nations. Whether or not a Jewish state should have been created in the Middle East, it has now been there for 70 years — denying its right to exist is also, de facto, anti-Semitic.

Those who employ such rhetoric speak in the language of anti-Semitism.

. . . . . 

At the same time, the truth is that Israel does commit human rights violations. The fact that many wrongs have been done to Jews in the past — and I say this as a Jew who personally experienced a hate crime — does not excuse the suffering that the Israeli government and individual Israelis, have inflicted against the Palestinian people. This explanation by Human Rights Watch from 2017, the 50-year anniversary of the Six Day War, summarizes the problem all too well:

Fifty years after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it controls these areas through repression, institutionalized discrimination, and systematic abuses of the Palestinian population’s rights, Human Rights Watch said today.

At least five categories of major violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law characterize the occupation: unlawful killings; forced displacement; abusive detention; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of settlements, along with the accompanying discriminatory policies that disadvantage Palestinians.

. . . . ..

Many people of good will look at these offenses and are rightly horrified, and it is both cheap and wrong to seek to use the label of “anti-Semite” to shame them into silence. Similarly, if individuals choose not to do business with the State of Israel because they disapprove of its actions, they have a right to do that without being automatically labeled as bigots.

Yes, to wish for a democratic state of Israel with equal rights for all ethnicities and religions is surely a noble dream. I side with those who think it is now too late for a two-state solution and the best option for human rights and dignity for all is for Israel and the West Bank and Gaza to form a single state. (Oh, and those still stuck in refugee camps be allowed to return.) That does in effect mean the “end of Israel as a Jewish state” in the same sense that we speak of the end of South Africa as a white/Boer state. I think what is holding the parties back from going that far is racism, both anti-Jewish and anti-Arab racism. But I do see evidence of non-racists on both sides, the Jewish and the Arab. (But that sounds cruel .. “both sides” .. as if they are both equally to blame: they are not equally to blame, not by a long stretch). Now if only those persons could take the lead….

But I dream.

 

Media Coverage of Israel-Palestine — Update

The findings demonstrate a persistent bias in coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian issue — one where Israeli narratives are privileged and where, despite the continued entrenchment of the occupation, the very topics germane to Palestinians’ day-to-day reality have disappeared. . . . While subtle, a consistent disproportion in article headlines — which by default gives a greater airtime to one side or occludes certain key issues — can impact public perception. — Owais Zaheer

It calls to attention the need to more critically evaluate the scope of coverage of the Israeli occupation and recognize that readers are getting, at best, a heavily filtered rendering of the issue.

. . . .

Since 1967, the year that the Israeli military took control of the West Bank, there has been an 85 percent overall decrease in mention of the term “occupation” in headlines about Israel, despite the fact that the Israeli military’s occupation of Palestinian territory has in fact intensified over this time. Mention of the term “Palestinian refugees,” meanwhile, has declined a stunning 93 percent. 

But there is also a hopeful silver lining:

Despite this grim political reality, there have been significant changes in U.S. media coverage of the conflict, driven in part by popular pressure coming from social media. There are also signs that Israel is becoming a partisan issue dividing liberals and conservatives in the United States, with polls showing that growing numbers of Americans would like their government to take a more evenhanded stance on the conflict.

U.S. government policy has yet to reflect these shifts in public sentiment, with the Trump administration falling over itself to project an unprecedentedly hostile and uncompromising stance toward Palestinian claims. Hard-line supporters of the Israeli government have seemingly shifted their approach from winning “hearts and minds” to punishing opponents: publishing blacklists of Palestinian activists, censoring public figures vocal about the conflict, and advocating for laws to restrict boycotts of Israeli goods.

Nonetheless, people who have followed U.S. debate on the conflict for decades say that there are serious tectonic changes occurring at the level of the American public, both in media and popular sentiment.

“Although news coverage is not evenhanded and is still generally skewed towards the Israeli perspective, there has been a massive shift over the past five years in how this issue is both reported and discussed in the United States,” said Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, a D.C.-based progressive think tank.

“We are seeing a shift in the types of stories that are being covered by major outlets, as well as the stances that public figures are willing to take. There are still huge problems, but things are changing. The discourse on Israel-Palestine is nothing like it was in decades past.”

From The Intercept

The full report:

Download (PDF, 617KB)

We seem to be continuing to slide backwards …..

Mano Singham alerted me to a new article in The Intercept with his post: The death that must not be mentioned in mainstream US discourse

I wonder if the best that can be said about such news is that the great grandchildren of today’s Palestinians will have equal rights alongside Jewish Israelis in a single state with one law for all. …. given no hiccups from unforeseen consequences related to climate change.

 

 

 

 

Palestinians, the Unpeople

unperson:

However, CNN’s swift termination of Hill and continued employment of former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum sparked wide backlash on Twitter. (Santorum once said that “all the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land.”) Many users questioned how any discussion could take place on the question of Palestine if every critique of Israel or any advocacy on behalf of Palestinians is instantly labeled as anti-Semitic.

By Rachel Leah,

CNN fires Marc Lamont Hill as contributor after he called for a “free Palestine” at the UN

“There’s another story going on here . . . a punishment of black radical thinkers in the United States”

Further extracts:

“But there’s another story going on here,” she added, “There is, more broadly, a punishment of black radical thinkers in the United States who define themselves as internationalists. Here, this is not just limited to the question of Palestine, but this is the case of what happened to Muhammad Ali in his opposition to the Vietnam War. It’s what happened in the sidelining of Martin Luther King Jr. in his opposition to the Vietnam War. It’s what happened to Paul Robeson in his declaration that the U.S. practiced a treatment of black people that is tantamount to genocide.”

Thus, CNN’s termination of Hill makes him part of a larger legacy, Erakat continued, of silencing and repudiating black activists in the U.S. for asserting that “they are part of a global struggle against racism and colonialism.” “When it comes to Palestine, that punishment becomes more cruel,” she added.

From the river to the sea . . . . a vision for all people, all races

“All that Marc was saying was that we need to be committed in the space of the United Nations to full justice for Palestinians, whether they’re in exile, whether they’re under occupation or whether they live in the state of Israel itself,” Kelley said. He added that the specific “from the river to the sea” phrase, which refers to  the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, that drew so much ire has been a standard slogan used in demonstrations for Palestinian rights and self-determination “for a century.”

“Nothing in that slogan indicates a calling for the destruction of Israel. It’s certainly calling for an end to occupation,” Kelley said, noting that such a belief is shared by people all over the world, including by some living in Israel.

“What [Hill] said was a vision of inclusion for everybody,” Erakat said, “and all of all things. He’s at the U.N., and when he said it, he gets thunderous applause. So the other thing to consider is that the majority of the world is in agreement with him.”

The Hamas Charter: Context and Significance

“Despite its militant extremism, the Islamist movement has shown that it can be pragmatic.” — Roy, “Hamas and the Transformation(s) of Political Islam in Palestine,” 13

Let’s address head-on the Hamas Charter that denies Israel’s right to exist. (We will leave aside in this post Israel’s Likud Party platform that denies the right for a Palestinian state to ever exist.) I have tried to keep abreast of the makeup and intentions of Hamas for some years but confine myself in this post (or series of posts) on two relatively recent studies:

The prevailing inability or unwillingness to talk about Hamas in a nuanced manner is deeply familiar. During the summer of 2014, when global news rooms were covering Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip, I watched Palestinian analysts being rudely silenced on the air for failing to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization outright. This condemnation was demanded as a prerequisite for the right of these analysts to engage in any debate about the events on the ground. There was no other explanation, it seemed, for the loss of life in Gaza and Israel other than pure-and-simple Palestinian hatred and bloodlust, embodied by Hamas. I wondered how many lives, both Palestinian and Israeli, have been lost or marred by this refusal to engage with the drivers of Palestinian resistance, of which Hamas is only one facet. I considered the elision of the broader historical and political context of the Palestinian struggle in most conversations regarding Hamas. Whether condemnation or support, it felt to me, many of the views I faced on Palestinian armed resistance were unburdened by moral angst or ambiguity. There was often a certainty or a conviction about resistance that was too easily forthcoming.

I have struggled to find such certainty in my own study of Hamas, even as I remain unwavering in my condemnation of targeting civilians, on either side.

(Baconi, p. xi)

  • Baconi, Tareq. 2018. Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Caridi, Paola. 2012. Hamas: From Resistance to Government. New York: Seven Stories Press.

The Beginning

The Hamas charter, adopted in August 1988, made clear the Islamist values of Hamas, declaring that the Quran was its constitution and the land of Palestine part of Islam’s sacred territory that could never be surrendered to non-Muslims.

A few months after its creation, in August 1988, Hamas issued its charter, “The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).” This document introduced the movement and outlined its mission, values, and goals. It defined Hamas’s motto as “God is its goal; The messenger [the Prophet Mohammed] is its Leader; The Quran is its Constitution; Jihad is its methodology ; and Death for the Sake of God is its most coveted desire.”

(Baconi, p. 21)

On August 18, 1988, Hamas published its charter, the Mithaq, its most debated, cited, and condemned document and one that was often used as a political bargaining tool. Article 13 expressly states that “the initiatives, what is called a ‘peaceful solution’ and ‘interna­tional conferences’ to resolve the Palestinian problem, are contrary to the ideology of the Islamic Resistance Movement, because giving up any part of Palestine is like giving up part of religion. The national­ism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion; it edu­cates its members on this, and they perform jihad to raise the banner of God over their nation.”

(Caridi, p. 101)

Who wrote the Charter?

The charter was a rambling work of religious and antisemitic slogans put together by an aged cleric a generation removed from the contemporary leadership of Hamas. The charter was never debated.

According to the most credible account, the text of Hamas’s Charter was penned by Abdel Fattah al-Dukhan, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood’s older generation in Gaza, who was among those present at the December 9, 1987, meeting at Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s house. Nearly the same age as Yassin and a refugee from the Ashkelon area . . . . It was therefore neither one of the new leadership’s ideologues nor one of the future leaders of the Diaspora who wrote the Mithaq. The hand that wrote the foundational Charter, the militant text that over the years became a political manifesto that Hamas itself never debated, belonged to a teacher of fifty years, a preacher from one of Gaza’s refugee camps.

(Caridi, p. 101)

A nationalist-religious charter

According to the charter Palestine is a “waqf” or Islamic land until Judgment Day and that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims.

Through its charter, Hamas made clear its refusal to recognize the State of Israel. The document stressed the indivisibility of the land of “Historic Palestine,” referring to the land that constituted the British Mandate, located between the Eastern Mediterranean and the River Jordan, over which Israel was established. Hamas defined this territory as “an Islamic land entrusted to the Muslim generations until Judgement Day.”107

(Baconi, p. 23)

The Charter’s preamble speaks of the destruction of Israel, but through one of the three citations that appear at the beginning of the text rather than by means of a discussion. The citation is taken from Hassan al-Banna, who in 1948 said, “Israel will grow and will remain strong until Islam will eliminate it, just as it eliminated what came before it.”4 Paradoxically, however, it is not so much these words of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood that created a nearly insurmountable obstacle to changing the Mithaq, but Article 11, which defines Palestine as an Islamic waqf, and therefore a land that can not be subject to the disposal of men, but rather “an Islamic land entrusted to the Muslim generations until the Judgment Day.”’ Thus, adds the Charter’s author, “no one may renounce all, or even part of it.”6

(Caridi, p. 102)

Hamas leaders respond to calls to change its charter

Hamas’s secular rival, the PLO, had always bound itself to the Palestine National Congress’s charter that likewise declared its national duty to be “the liberation of Palestine” and “the elimination of Zionism in Palestine”. Since the PNA’s charter did not prevent Israel from negotiating with the PLO Hamas leadership have dismissed Israel’s objections to its charter as an excuse. They believe that Israel is most perturbed by Hamas success in popular elections in Gaza and that this is its real reason for refusing to negotiate.

Hamas leaders insist they want to avoid the mistake of the PLO who, they believe, gave in to Israel too cheaply.

According to sources inside Hamas, it was on this article that internal debate had in recent years focused in order to try to allow what is, after all, a pragmatic organization to move beyond the formal impasse that had bogged it down. Hamas’s Mithaq, after all, simply echoed what had already been said in a nationalist vein in the Palestinian National Charter, approved by the Palestinian National Congress on July 11, 1968, according to which “the liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty . . . and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.”Eliminating that phrase, just like the other anti-Zionist elements in the Palestinian National Charter, was not the sine qua non condition for the negotiations between the PLO and Israel that led to the Oslo Accords. In practice, the question of its elimination was tackled only in 1996, after the PNA had already been established, and even then it was left formally unresolved.

The history of the Palestinian National Charter has been taken as an example by many Hamas leaders to argue that their Mithaq has been used by Western governments as an alibi and by Israel to avoid contact with the Islamist Movement, especially after its decision to take part in electoral politics in 2005.

. . . . For the Islamist leadership, however, recanting even parts of the Mithaq meant recognizing Israel without having obtained a reciprocal legitimization and, according to many among that same leadership, without having obtained an equally formal recognition not only of the Palestinian people, but of Palestinians as a nation. From a strictly political point of view, Hamas has always feared repeating the mistakes made by Fatah and the PLO, who gave away too much to Israel without receiving anything in exchange. On the contrary, during the life of the PNA and during the negotiations between the 1991 Madrid Conference and the 2000 talks at Camp David, Hamas had always opposed the stances of the PLO and of the PNA, which it considered lax. According to Islamist leaders, if they had a similarly flexible negotiating stance, it would lead to making significant concessions without substantial and tangible results in return.

(Caridi, pp. 102f)

In late 1988, a few months after Hamas issued its charter, Yasser Arafat convened the exiled Palestinian leadership in Algiers. . . . [Arafat] declared the independence of the State of Palestine and invoked international resolutions that demonstrated the PLO’s willingness to accept a state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital. Arafat’s declaration signaled the PLO’s readiness to concede the 78 percent of Palestinian land that had been lost in 1948 and willingness to fulfill the American demand of renouncing terrorism. This signaled to the United States that the PLO was ready to enter into a negotiated settlement with Israel, prompting the administration of President Ronald Reagan to open a dialogue with the PLO in late 1988.

. . . . The PLO’s concessions were anathema for Hamas, whose charter proclaimed that “jihad for the liberation of Palestine is obligatory.” No other path for liberation was viable. The movement dismissed diplomatic efforts as contrary to its ideology, primarily because they were premised on the condition of conceding parts of Palestine, but also because Hamas believed they were unlikely to serve Palestinian interests.

(Baconi, p. 23)

Hamas evolves, reflects on its “worst enemy”

“three people sat around a table and wrote it” . . .  “Palestine cannot be considered a waqf
read more »

Understanding Hamas in Gaza

Tareq Baconi and cover of his newly published book

I have read four studies of Hamas and have this evening begun to update my information by beginning my fifth, Hamas Contained : The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance by Tareq Baconi. So far I have only read the Preface and already I wish everyone could read it and follow up by speaking out and doing their little bits to spread light on a world that is too often lost behind distortions of reality.

Sections of the Preface that hit home with me:

The simplistic binaries that frame conversations of Palestinian armed struggle evoke the condescension expressed by colonial overlords toward the resistance of indigenous peoples. “Palestinians have a culture of hate,” commentators blast on American TV screens. “They are a people who celebrate death.” These familiar accusations, quick to roll off tongues, are both highly effective at framing public discourse and insulting as racist epithets.

Bolded emphasis in all quotations is my own.

I have often found discussions about Hamas very difficult so when I read the following I recognized something immediately:

The prevailing inability or unwillingness to talk about Hamas in a nuanced manner is deeply familiar. During the summer of 2014, when global news rooms were covering Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip, I watched Palestinian analysts being rudely silenced on the air for failing to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization outright. This condemnation was demanded as a prerequisite for the right of these analysts to engage in any debate about the events on the ground. There was no other explanation, it seemed, for the loss of life in Gaza and Israel other than pure-and-simple Palestinian hatred and bloodlust, embodied by Hamas.

Totally absent from any discussion, it seems, is any serious consciousness of the “broader historical and political context of the Palestinian struggle”.

Whether condemnation or support, it felt to me, many of the views I faced on Palestinian armed resistance were unburdened by moral angst or ambiguity. There was often a certainty or a conviction about resistance that was too easily forthcoming.

Oh yes. Black and white. Right and wrong. Good and evil. The simplistic paradigms that have always guaranteed the perpetuation of ignorance and suffering.

Tareq Baconi explains that what he attempts to do in the book is to

peel back all the layers that have given rise to the present dynamic of vilifying and isolating Hamas, and with it, of making acceptable the demonization and suffering of millions of Palestinians within the Gaza Strip. . . . This book works to advance our knowledge of Hamas by elucidating the manner in which the movement evolved over the course of its three decades in existence, from 1987 onward. Understanding Hamas is key to ending the denial of Palestinians their rights after nearly a century of struggle for self-determination.

At the end of his Preface Baconi discusses the wide ranging archival and other sources he has used for this purpose.

Story 1

Personal anecdotes have the potential to encapsulate hundreds of words of analysis. One discussion was with a young boy that took place about a year after the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza:

The conversation was during the Islamic month of Ramadan in 2015, and everyone was sluggish from the June heat. I asked him about the school year he had just finished and whether he was happy to be on holiday. He shrugged. “Sixth grade was fine,” he said, “a bit odd.” He was in Grade A and he used to look forward to playing football against Grade B. That past year, though, the school administration had merged several grades together. The classes were crowded and the football games less enjoyable. I wondered aloud to the boy why the school administration had done that. Annoyed that I was not engaging with the issue at hand, that of football politics, he answered in an exasperated tone. “Half of the Grade A kids had been martyred the summer before,” he snapped. The kids who had survived no longer filled an entire classroom.

Story 2

Another conversation with a Gazan boy (driving his taxi) who was about to graduate from his final school year:

I asked him what he wanted to do postgraduation — always a fraught topic in a place like Gaza. He said he “was thinking of joining the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades,” Hamas’s military wing. I had seen posters throughout the city and on mosque walls announcing that registration was open for their summer training camps. A few of his friends had apparently signed up. Why, I asked. He replied that he wanted to “fight the Jews.” He’d never seen one in real life, he added, but he had seen the F-16s dropping the bombs.

Almost a decade into the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which had begun in earnest in 2007, “Jew,” “Israeli,” and “F-16” had become synonymous. A few years prior, this boy’s father would have been able to travel into Israel, to work as a day laborer or in menial jobs. While it would have been structurally problematic, that man would have nonetheless interacted with Israeli Jews, even Palestinian citizens of Israel, in a nonmilitarized way. This is no longer the case. One could see in my driver how the foundation was laid for history to repeat itself. Resistance had become sacred, a way of living in which he could take a great deal of pride serving his nation.

Reality is complex

Here is why I wish many people would read this book: read more »

Sam Harris’s Immoral Arguments for Israel’s Treatment of Palestinians

Hello Vridar, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. I’ve been far afield exploring new ideas and old. Time to leave self-indulgence aside for a moment and return to share a few of them. (Though my hiatus was not all self-indulgent insofar as some of my time was also taken up exploring new ways to be actively involved in various causes that I care about.)

Marcus Ranum describes himself as “a computer security specialist, consultant, gamer, crafty artist, photographer, soap and cosmetic experimenter, and all-around surrealist” but whatever one makes of that we all owe him a huge thank you for the enormous effort he made to take on point by point Sam Harris’s justification of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, most recently on display on the Gaza border while leaders congratulated themselves on the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. I have attempted to take on Sam Harris’s arguments in small bite-sized morsels, addressing just one or two salient details at a time. But Marcus Ranum has had the tenacity, the patience, the stamina, to take up each one of Sam Harris’s points that he made in another one of his rambling, contradictory, mealy-mouthed justifications for any bloody action taken against Muslims on Israel’s border. (“Mealy-mouthed” because he will drop in contradictory phrases in hopes you won’t notice the barbarism implicit in his words and that will enable him to protest that you were “taking him out of context”. Marcus R dissects it all leaving Sam H stark naked in the end.)  See

Sam Harris on “Why is That You Never Criticize Israel?”

Bookmark the page now but be sure to return to it when you have a good hour to digest it slowly as it deserves. Needless to say, my complaint is not personal. Sam Harris is a nobody who is given way too much publicity for no clear reason as far as I am concerned. My concern is that Sam Harris is articulating the arguments that are all too common everywhere else and whose assumptions and inhumane values, along with outright ignorance, bigotry, not to mention simple logical deceit, need to be addressed and smacked down.

Some of the points addressed (you’ve heard them all before): read more »