Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Downfall of Asma al-Assad?

Asma, Rose of the Desert, as she appeared in Vogue.
Breaking News: Attempt to smuggle Assad's wife out of Syria foiled

According to Ynet.comthe Egyptian newspaper, al-Masri al-Youm, reported on Sunday that, "Sources within the Syrian opposition said that the Free Syrian Army forces managed to prevent the escape of the first lady of Syria and additional relatives through Damascus airport." The sources claimed that, "Asma Assad, her children, Bashar Assad's mother and his cousin were all in a convoy on the way to the airport when rebel forces under the command of a former senior officer in the Syrian army, blocked the their path." Does this mean that the regime's days are finally numbered?

Asma and children stand by Assad as he
pledged to defeat the conspirators opposing him.
Earlier this month she was seen attending her husband's defiant speech in front of his supporters.  As commented in the Telegraph, The presence of Mr Assad's children was an even greater act of defiance, given the family nature of the regime which he inherited from his father and which he now runs with his brother and brother-in-law. His son, Hafez, 10, is named after his father, whose coup and 30-year dictatorship created modern Syria. His daughter, Zain, is 8, and younger son Karim, 6. The children appeared confused and frightened in pictures beamed across the world from the scene.”

According to AFP's report of the event, "...Syria's First Lady is being likened to a modern-day Marie-Antoinette, drawing criticism for staying mum on a crisis that has left more than 5,000 people dead in her country.
"The British-born Asma al-Assad, who virtually disappeared from the public eye after the revolt broke out in Syria in mid-March, made a surprise appearance this week to support her husband Bashar as he spoke at a pro-regime rally.
"Pictures of the 36-year-old, all smiles with two of her children, adorned the front pages of many Arab and Western newspapers.
"'This shows that she is standing by her man, that she and him are on the same page,' said Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria and former press adviser to local charities run by the First Lady.
"'She is clearly part of the regime.'
"'Bashar's wife and kids cheer on daddy the dictator,' one tweet scoffed."

So, here we have a comedown witnessed by the whole world. First our introduction through that preposterousVogue article just days after the Syrians took to the streets. The Assads tried to convince us of their modernity, their democratic intentions. That story has vanished from the magazine's website. She even fooled Harvard. After not hearing about her for a while, it seemed that she escaped to London. Again, silence. Then a report of her frozen stare when asked by aid workers how she felt about the massacres taking place under her husband’s command. Then her reappearance to watch Assad defy the whole world. Now this. While earlier I had a huge sense of schadenfreude, now I feel some pity. What was she thinking? 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Egyptian Revolution Anniversary Blues

Sandy Cash, an American folk singer living in Israel hits the mark with this prescient ditty recorded in February, 2011. Too bad she was right. A couple of utterances published here and here in the Arab press are just two of some recent confirmations of why we should be a tad more guarded than the mainstream media critiqued here, here and here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Irony of "Israel-First" Denouncers Championing "American Interests" - Update**

Is Glenn Greenwald suddenly an America-Firster?

I've been under the weather this week and anyway too preoccupied by other matters to develop any of the stuff about Israel floating around in my brain. But I have this one question that I want to throw out there:

Since when has the Anti-Israel Left sided with "America's interests"? 

I ask this because of the "Israel-First" debate that's taken over parts of the blogosphere. It seems extraordinary to me that the likes of Philip Weiss, Glenn Greenwald, Max Blumenthal, etal, have used this trope to vilify folks who care alot about the effects of Israel on American foreign policy. Whose interests are they so busy protecting? 

Surely there is a Left-Right divide on that score. Think bananas, think Wall Street, think oil! Yet, the Anti-Israel Left glosses over these when claiming Israel undermines America's interests. How ironic.

I also ask this because of the love Mearsheimer and Walt get from the Anti-Israel Left for their continued espousal of the idea that the "Israel Lobby" has had a deadly influence on American interests abroad. This despite their "Realist" analysis of international relations which promotes the use of hegemony in the various geographic spheres in which any great power participates. 

Read A Progressive Journalist Calls Out Left-Wing Writers Who Use Anti-Semitic Tropes by Spenser Ackerman to get the gist of how preposterous but frightening it is for someone like M. J. Rosenberg to tweet about Eli Lake: “Lake supports #Israel line 100% of the time, always Israel first over U.S.”

And read Robert Kaplan's Atlantic magazine semi-paean to John Mearsheimer. The article is instructive in that it offers a good summary of Mearsheimer's theory of Offensive Realism. Surely, it is this theory that should put a mile-wide distance between Mearsheimer and his Anti-Israel fan club. Offensive Realism is everything that the so-called 'humanitarians' hate. The Israel Lobby argues that unconditional support of Israel is bad for American interests. But since when do, eg, the Palestine Solidarity folk take the side of American interests? Usually they're busy blaming Big Satan for Little Satan's behavior and vice-versa.

Anyway it's food for thought, if you're so inclined.

Postscript: somehow I missed this hilarious photo in Tablet today. Put America First?Nevermind the Lindberghian trope, but, again: which America, whose America? Codepink's? Pat Buchanan's?

Update 4.11.12: Apparently, I am not the only one who noticed some far Left appropriation of the language of 'Realism'. In a comment on Mondoweiss (to which I do not provide links) one Chespirito wrote:  "I do love the way that CodePink, coming out of leftist feminism, has become quite proficient in the language of national interest, the language of Mearsheimer, Walt and realism, a language that this country’s majority of non-leftists readily groks and grooves to. This is what we need more of if we’re ever going to launch a mass movement for a substantially demilitarized foreign policy. The confluence of leftwing idealists and nonleft realists that are rallying against our speical relationship with apartheid client state #1 is a mightily encouraging intellectual development in an otherwise bleak foreign policy discourse."

Monday, January 23, 2012

For a Change, An Israeli Film Not About 'The Conflict' Is Getting Some Buzz - Oscar Update*

... and I wonder how that's going to go over with Oscar's shortlisting committee...

Israel isn't allowed to have an existence apart from the one the world projects on it. Israeli films must always be about the conflict, and must always take the correct position. But that's not enough. Often, sanctimonious windbags like director Ken Loach actually withdraw from film festivals (I should say little film festivals like Melbourne) so as not to be contaminated by the inclusion of films funded by the Israeli government, and attempt to exclude the participation of Israeli films in other festivals (Edinburgh). Somehow, however, when it comes to Cannes, Loach manages to overcome his phobia. I guess size does matter. 

Who knows, maybe Loach, and Mike Leigh, etal, got their knickers in a twist this year when, Footnote, by Israeli-American director, Joseph Cedar, won the Cannes Prize for best screenplay. I sure hope so. Now the film is up for shortlisting as one of five foreign film nominees for the Academy Award.

Unlike Cedar's earlier Oscar contender, Beaufort, about the 2000 Lebanon War, Footnote depicts a tiny dispute -- a tempest in a teapot (as described by the director in a NY Times interview) that is created between warring father and son academics over a prestigious prize and the ideological differences that animate the universe of Talmudic scholarship. 

As Cedar tells 
Annette Insdorf in the Forward, 'This film does not deal with conflict at the national level, but rather within the context of a personal story. It reflects the desire to live peacefully in Israel. In the Talmud, it says that you should not do unto others as you would not like them to do unto you. In a word, compassion.' Talmudic texts were edited and conveyed orally, written down and copied in manuscripts over hundreds of years, and finally printed in the 15th and 16th centuries. Today the study of traditional sacred texts is controversial because the analytical approach questions the reliability of the manuscript. Uriel is a proponent of this 'big picture' approach, while traditionalist Eliezer calls himself a philologist."

I enjoyed the director's response to the predictable question posed by his NY Times interviewer, Larry Rohter:

Q: It’s really unusual to see an Israeli film where, at least in the English-language version, you don’t hear the words “West Bank” or “Palestine” even once. In your previous films, you’ve dealt with settlers and soldiers. Did you deliberately want to break from that? What explains heading off in this particular direction?

A: I can understand why that question would come up, but from my point of view none of my films have to do with the conflict or the region or politics. They’ve all been about experiences that are very personal to me. But I can see why when you just look at the descriptions, some of them seem to be even exploitive of the politics of the region.
“Here there was nothing in the structure or the way the story is presented that has to do with the conflict. But it’s consistent with what I’ve done so far. It does have to do with the relationship between an individual person and the establishment he lives in and wants to belong to, but is ashamed to. So in that sense there is something in this film that is as political as in any other film.”

In other words, Joseph Cedar, like all interesting film makers dares to choose subjects for personal, creative reasons, declaring for himself what 'political' means and not in conformity with the world's reductive expectations. I hope he makes it to the Oscars.

* Oscar nominations were announced today and Footnote was among the five films chosen to compete for best foreign film.

Friday, January 20, 2012

On the 70th Anniversary of the Wannsee Conference

This is Adolf Eichmann's list of all the European Jews destined for extermination in the Final Solution, officially inaugurated and coordinated at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. To mark this event, one interesting thing to do would be to read this critique of Hannah Arendt, who coined the phrase, the banality of evil, to describe Eichmann as essentially a technocrat who was just following orders. His pivotal role as one of the 15 Nazi officials to attend Wannsee would seem to give lie to that idea. But as Sol Stern contends, Arendt's posturing regarding Israel's intentions in holding Eichmann's trial was part of an ideological world view that would gain her a growing following among anti-Zionists. It's a great read. Let me get you started:

Hannah Arendt
“In last year’s extensive commentary marking the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial, one name—Hannah Arendt—was mentioned nearly as often as that of the trial’s notorious defendant. It’s hard to think of another major twentieth-century event so closely linked with one author’s interpretation of it. Arendt, who fled Nazi Germany at 27, was already an internationally renowned scholar and public intellectual when she arrived in Jerusalem in April 1961 to cover the trial for The New Yorker. Arendt’s five articles, which were then expanded into the 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, proved hugely controversial. Many Jewish readers—and non-Jews, too—were shocked by three principal themes in Arendt’s report: her portrayal of Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion as the cynical puppet master manipulating the trial to serve the state’s Zionist ideology; her assertion that Eichmann was a faceless, unthinking bureaucrat, a cog in the machinery of the Final Solution rather than one of its masterminds; and her accusation that leaders of the Judenräte (Jewish councils) in Nazi-occupied Europe had engaged in “sordid and pathetic” behavior, making it easier for the Nazis to manage the logistics of the extermination process.

“Since the publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem, serious scholars have debunked the most inflammatory of Arendt’s charges. Nevertheless, for today’s defamers of Israel, Arendt is a patron saint, a courageous Jewish intellectual who saw Israel’s moral catastrophe coming. These leftist intellectuals don’t merely believe, as Arendt did, that she was the victim of “excommunication” for the sin of criticizing Israel. Their homage to Arendt runs deeper. In fact, their campaign to delegitimize the state of Israel and exile it from the family of nations—another kind of excommunication, if you will—derives several of its themes from Arendt’s writings on Zionism and the Holocaust. Those writings, though deeply marred by political naivety and personal rancor, have now metastasized into a destructive legacy that undermines Israel’s ability to survive as a lonely democracy, surrounded by hostile Islamic societies.” Read the rest here.

Israel a Genocidal Nation? Only Bigots Could Claim That

Norm Finkelstein: 'Israel is Ghengis Khan with a computer.' Nevermind that
the Mongol conquest was probably responsible for 40 million deaths.

I am indebted to Huffington Post Monitor for bringing to attention an extraordinary series of articles by Douglas Anthony Cooper published by, extraordinarily, The Huffington Post, home to genocidally-minded anti-Israelites whose comments on any article related to Israel can make your hair stand on end. And I'm not even talking about official HP bloggers. The series addresses the question 'Is Israel a Genocidal Nation?' He works with the numbers, suggests reasons why some (Norman Finkelstein, etc.) want you to think so and arrives at the only sensible conclusion: No! This should, but we know it won't, stop the spread (even into the mainstream) of the libel constantly issued by Israel's accusers as well as innocent, but ignorant, bystanders. So, let me quote his numbers which he presents after contextualizing them vis-à-vis statistics from some actual genocides:

"THE TOTAL NUMBER of Israelis and Palestinians killed, in over half a century of conflict, is approximately 15,000. This includes all of the fatalities on both sides. The great majority of these have been armed enemy combatants.
"I urge you to check these numbers for yourself. They are academically sound -- we have nowhere near the uncertainty that we have regarding, for instance, Stalinist Russia. The Polynational War Memorialcalculates a total of 14,500, from 1948-2009. Add 272 casualties reported by B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) to bring us from 2009 to the present: 14,772. You can round that up to 15,000.
"At the Memorial, the link to the Conflict Database at the University of Uppsala is broken: if you would like to go into the raw data -- and you should, if you have any doubts -- the dataset can be downloaded here. The various sources are examined in The PRIO Battle Deaths Dataset. For the most accurate figures from 1987 to the present, consult Statistics at B'Tselem.
"If you're concerned about sources -- and you should be -- B'Tselem's figures have been criticized as biased in favor of the Palestinian cause, and Uppsala University, the source for the rest of the data, is more likely to have an anti-Israel bias than not. Nevertheless, both groups strike me as decent, academically rigorous liberals, who care about the truth. If their sympathies were to distort data, it certainly would not be in Israel's favor.
So: 15,000. The number of civilian casualties, on both sides, is a fraction of this: You will find no credible source placing that number in the five figures.
"I shall also leave it to you to determine whether Israel targets civilians. Do your own research. Assume the very worst. You will be disappointed, but you will find allies. This is a good starting point: Targeting Toddlers, an article in the left-wing Village Voice.
"If 15,000 is the total for all lives lost, Palestinian and Israeli, armed and non-combatant, then the figure for unarmed civilian fatalities on the Palestinian side is what? You are welcome to try to whittle this figure down further. The truth is that you could devote your life to parsing this, and remain unsatisfied. The numbers are distorted by propagandists on both sides; they deal with ill-defined categories (what constitutes an armed combatant if there is no regular army?) All I can say with certainty is that the number of Palestinian non-combatants killed, since the founding of Israel, is in the four figures.
"This should not be trivialized: Whether it is 4,000 or 8,000, we are talking about thousands of human beings, each an innocent civilian, loved and mourned. The difference between 6,000 and 6,001 is, to that person's family, everything.
"What is beyond certain, however, is that this total is -- relative to the world's genocides and relative to the size of the populace -- astonishingly low. It is even surprisingly low relative to minor wars. For the likes of Norman Finkelstein in particular, it is scandalously low.
"If you consider Israel to have committed anything that looks remotely like genocide, you are embracing an ignorance that is inseparable from the most vulgar forms of prejudice. It is so patently counterfactual that you cannot even call it bad history: It is simply slander. While it may not be anti-Semitism, always -- not strictly speaking -- it shares more than a little with the notorious blood libel: It is a lie calculated to conjure the image of the murderous Jew."
To get the complexity of his argument, I urge you to read the entire series:
Part 1: Genghis Khan with a Computer here, Part 2: Murder by Numbers herePart 3: A Matter of Lies and Death here, and Part 4: Hatred Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Calls for Killing Jews at Fatah Celebration

Do forgive my 'disproportional' headline and read the full article on the address given by the Seventh Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who was appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas, at an event celebrating the 47th anniversary of the founding of Fatah. Then, refresh your memory about his historic lineage, below:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Even in its Travel Section, the NY Times Reveals its Ambivalence Towards Israel - Update*

"As a traveler, I am not a particularly choosy person. I will go pretty much anywhere, anytime." But, "...I had absolutely zero interest in ever visiting Israel."

"This surprised friends and mildly annoyed my parents, who had visited quite happily. As a Jew, especially one who travels constantly, I was expected at least to have the Jewish state on my radar, if not to be planning a pilgrimage in the very near future. Tel Aviv, they’d say, has wonderful food!
"But to me, a deeply secular Jew, Israel has always felt less like a country than a politically iffy burden. For decades I’d tried to put as much distance between myself and Judaism as possible..."
Thus in Lost in Jerusalem Matt Gross tries to establish his cool credentials before presenting a travel story about Jerusalem where, apart from kvetchy mentions about the Western Wall and Mea Shearim, he describes a city in which the really interesting parts have little to do with the historic Jewish presence, except in regards to night life and restaurants.
It is almost as if the NY Times specifically sought a story that reflected its own deep ambivalence towards Israel. Read a couple of other pieces from the 'Lost' series, here and here and tell me the Jerusalem piece isn't written in an entirely different tenor.

* I'm so glad that both David Harris and Mark Tracy picked up on this story and elaborated far more than I did. Although, ahem, I beat them to it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dutch Reporter Likens Israel's Progressive Prenatal Practices to a Eugenics Program

Products of a militarized campaign to perfect The Chosen People.

Policies and practices that are lauded in other countries are 'problematized' in relation to Israel. So, for instance, Israel's rapid-fire, at-the-ready humanitarian aid missions to disaster zones are described as attempts to white-wash its international image; its progressive LGBT policies pink-wash its treatment of Palestinians; Israel's technological breakthroughs are shunned as byproducts of its military-industrial-complex, and so on.

Now, a new cleansing system is revealed: Israel's extensive, best-practice, prenatal policies are really a manifestation of a eugenics program for producing perfect babies. Honest Reporting today informs us how Ilse van Heusden, a Dutch reporter, pregnant while in Israel was forced to take so many prenatal screening tests that her experience felt like being part of a systematic campaign aimed at perfecting The Chosen People: 

"To be pregnant in Israel is comparable to a military operation. Countless echos and blood tests should produce the perfect baby, nothing can be left to the luck of the draw. The state demands healthy babies and a lot of them too."

In fact so obsessive is Israel in its production of perfect babies that, "The state promotes the birth of children by supplying, among other things, a considerable child allowance."

OMG, can you imagine a more disgraceful policy than providing a considerable child allowance?

But it gets worse:

"After writing that she was diagnosed with the Cytomegalovirus (CMV) virus and as a result was requested to conduct an additional test, Van Heusden exclaimed:
 'I was surprised about the spasmodic attitude about this test and the previous one. After all children are loved and honored here and Israel is a paradise when it comes to having children …’”

Yet while claiming that Israel's pro-baby policies are racist -- as in wanting to maintain a demographic edge -- she reveals herself to be just a tad racist herself. Nor does she mention that tests are recommended and not mandatory:

"I am healthy and not in the category of the Ashkenazi Jews … yet I had to experience twelve echo tests and four blood tests”.

Then, unwittingly giving credence to the importance of rigorous prenatal testing, she boasts:

"Finally, we held this little baby boy in our arms that went through all those tests. When we admired his little fingers and toes we saw that one of his toes was too small. His personal revenge on the Israeli health system.

Honest Reporting uses this opportunity to summarize some basic facts about Israel's prenatal and health delivery system which you can read about here. The key points are that prenatal care in Israel is organized according to World Health Organization recommendations; it's mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world, and that includes Arab-Israeli births; its longevity rate is among the highest and it has managed to achieve its results with a far lower per-capita expenditure than, say, The Netherlands.

In a complementary vein, I read a review of a study aimed at problematizing the experience of Israeli-Arab women’s emergence into modernity in the form of reproductive health and education: Birthing the Nation: Strategies of Palestinian Women in IsraelIn this studywhat would be considered progressive policies, especially given the emphasis placed on women’s equality in the UN Reports on Arab Development, are twisted into examples of cultural hegemony by Israel. Claims are made that Arab-Israeli women are buying into Jewish-Israeli conceptions of what it means to be a modern woman, including controlling reproduction, limiting number of births so as to increase economic wealth, tracing "a link between care for the female body and companionate marriage," (i.e., forming an autonomous identity and demanding equality in marriage), and other insidious 'orientalizing' effects of Zionism. In other words all those things that women in Arab societies are craving should be denied their Arab-Israeli sisters.

I know that things are far from perfect in Israel. The struggle for civil rights is ongoing, just like it is in most other countries. However, Israel is specifically targeted by those who would delegitimize every category of its existence, and that needs to be countered. Robustly.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Anti-Israel Journalist Hangs Himself With Own Rope in New Video

This is a very good video, but for me the star of it is Max Blumenthal, whose own words about Apartheid conditions in Lebanon come back to bite him. He made a name for himself with Feel the Hate a 2009 video showing how, in his opinion, a small group of disgusting young Americans in Israel, represent the entire Zionist enterprise. Their behavior manifests the Dorian Gray-like rot forming inside Zionism's body.

The beauty of his statements edited into Apartheid in the Middle East is that they were originally intended to add weight to the argument that the Palestinians are suffering because of the existence of Israel. In an earnest video interview, Blumenthal describes the horrible conditions in which the Palestinians of Lebanon are forced to live. He describes latter day Nurenberg Laws of exluding Palestinians from civil rights, "...a program of eradicating Palestinian life... worse than anything Israel has done, in my opinion." "...a window of hell..." more shocking than what you'd see in the West Bank. Yet, in describing a neglected cemetery in the Shatilla camp that includes the graves of members of the 'Palestinian resistance', he hastens to add that the ultimate perpetrator of the injustice is the 'place-that-is-now-called-Israel'. Anti-Zionists always forgive the Arab states for their atrocious treatment of Palestinians.

BTW, Blumenthal's Feel the Hate has spawned some telling Feel the Hate, Palestine videos that place the problem a bit closer to the truth.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Israel Cultural Boycott Summary: A for Effort, D- for Success

Or omissions, obfuscations and downright lies.

Mireille Mathieu is on the just published PACBI list of the 2011 triumphs of the cultural boycott of Israel. You see, boycotters claim overwhelming success when they have managed to overwhelm performers with pro-forma (just change the name) letters, Facebook pages , internet exhortations and occasional threats to stay away from Israel. Never mind what's actually achieved. That's not the point. PACBI and other boycott organizations measure success by their own efforts, not by results. So...I've gotta give them an A for effort.

However... let's get back to Mireille Mathieu, surely not the most influential singer of the new century. They claim her as a win although all she did was simply postpone her scheduled date: "le concert prevu le 22 Novembre 2011 en Israel a Tel Aviv est reporte a une date ultrieure." 

Another French star, Vanessa Paradis, was scheduled to visit Israel along with Johnny Depp, their kids, and an entourage that included Isabelle Adjani and Karl Lagerfeld. The boycotters claim she bowed out for 'political reasons'; she and Johnny claim otherwise. And it really is hard to believe that this cast of very, very sophisticated celebs would cancel plans because they suddenly heard that Israel is such an awful place.

Next comes PACBI's ace in the hole: Pete Seeger. According to PACBI, Seeger now supports the boycott and regrets having participated in an event on behalf the Arava Institute. What he actually said was that Arava's cross-border ecology intiative is "very important" and,“I understand why someone would want to boycott a place financially, but I don’t understand why you would boycott dialogue,” Seeger said at the time. “The world will not be here in 50 years unless we learn how to communicate with each other nonviolently.” As Jon Haber commented, Pete Seeger has had a history of political see-sawing and, at 92, can be forgiven for hedging his bets.

Similar ambiguities pertain to Marc Almond, Jon Bon Jovi, The Yardbirds and German baritone Thomas Quasthoff, all of whom only postponed their concerts citing illness or scheduling. There is no evidence that these performers said they are boycotting Israel. None. But, true to PACBI's methods, the internet is plastered with come-ons. I've written about Riverdance pressing on with their Israel tour, yet PACBI still insists on a win because the group's set-designer gave his royalties to an Irish flotilla ship, and we all know what a great success that was.

Another way the boycotters obfuscate the truth is by fuzzying the connection between the boycott call and postponements/cancellations. Therefore, rapper MF Doom who cancelled because of illness, "still has not rescheduled," and "Joe Lynn Turner’s 16 December concert in Tel Aviv is cancelled," but no reason is given. Another example: "Oumou Sangaré becomes the third French artist in 2011 to cancel her planned performance with the Israeli Opera, as BDS makes inroads into the classical music world.  An informative letter from BDS France was followed by letters from DPAI and BDS Italy." Note the missing link between her cancellation and those 'informative letters.'

Macy Gray received an enormous amount of attention when she asked her fans if she should perform -- for the 4th time -- in Israel. In fact she did play there, but PACBI still claim her as a success. Amazingly they have her tweeting, "i had a reality check and I stated that I definitely would not have played there if I had known even the little that I know now," while the Israel Project, who gave her a helicopter tour linked to this actual tweet on her Twitter account: "Thank you Tel Aviv. This was the most incredible trip of my life. I am new and I promise to do all the good I can." Who you gonna believe?

Finally (just to make this story a little shorter not because there aren’t other examples) we have PACBI’s major success claim: The cultural boycott came closer to home as the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra went on tour.  Creative protests were seen in many cities in the USA and Europe.  A protest in London during  the BBC’s Prom Live Broadcast of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra resulted in worldwide press coverage when the BBC decided to halt its live broadcast of the concert.

True, they may have disrupted several concerts but I don’t think there was any impact on the orchestra’s fans. If you look at their website, IPO has a very robust following evidenced by a full international schedule. As Norm Geras points out today, IPO may not feel like coming back to Britain, but should do so because, “…media reports of the disrupted performance suggest that the great majority of the audience wanted to hear the Israeli musicians playing and felt no indulgence towards the noisy protesters. 

To recap, the cultural boycotters may have had a little success with a few artists, but ultimately all they really deserve is an F for fabrication.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Was NY Times Channel-10 'Exposé' Retaliation by Proxy for Netanyahu's No-Thank-You Letter?

Ron Dermer's rejection letter on behalf of Netanyahu could not go
unchallenged by the Times, could it? 

This post goes under the heading of Just Sayin. But, you gotta wonder if there is a connection between the no-thank-you letter Prime Minister Netayahu's senior advisor sent to the NY Times and the Times' subsequent hit-piece claiming that Netanyahu is trying to exercise control over Israel's press. Was this retaliation by proxy?

Of course you wouldn't have read about it in the Times, so I'll quote the start of Ron Dermer's letter, 'leaked' to Israeli newspapers on December 16th, and you can read the rest here:

Dear *Sasha, 
"I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times.  Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.

On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan's admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.

"A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

'It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative.  Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.'

"This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state.  It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking."

Dermer's other objections included the by-now notorious line by Thomas Friedman that Netanyahu's House standing ovation was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby," the outrageous 'pinkwashing' article by Sarah Shulman, and, notably, the Times' rejection of Richard Goldstone's mea culpa op-ed that ultimately ran in the Washington Post.

Now, here is the coincidence that intrigues me: Ten days after Dermer's letter made it all over the internet (except on NYTimes.com) Ethan Bronner's piece, Israel TV Station’s Troubles Reflect a Larger Political Battleground was published front and center on page one.  

His story essentially comes down to this: Channel 10 is in financial trouble, is unable to pay an $11 million debt to Israel's version of the FCC and Netanyahu's Knesset cronies are refusing to extend the deadline for payment. The Times alleges that because Channel 10 has been very critical of Netanyahu, he is out to bring it down. Hence, we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Israeli free press. 

There's plenty of inside baseball material related to this story that makes one wonder if it really belongs on the front page of an American paper but you can be sure that those who want to read into it the decline and fall of Israel's democracy, will do so. I'm not defending Netanyahu here at all. I'm just sayin' that the story reflects my previous concerns that the Times is exploiting its Israel fixation to sell papers (or online hits), has a set of opinion writers who blame Israel exclusively for the impasse in the 'peace process' and often shows bad faith in its coverage of Israel. So, given its problem with Israel, given how embarrassing the viral dissemination of Ron Dermer's letter  must have been, is it possible that Ethan Bronner's exposé served as a way for the Times to hit back to save face?

*Sasha Polakow-Suransky is a staff editor for the op-ed page.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Statesman Shocker: Israel's Gaza Offensive Had Lowest Combatant/Civilian Casualty Ratio in History!

Look kids, let's get ready to launch a rocket into Israel.
It's a new year and I just saw a flying pig: Britain's renowned left-wing magazine published an article, Stop ignoring the facts about Cast Lead, which sets the record straight on Israel's fastidious efforts to limit civilian casualties during the 2006 Gaza, potentially undermining gross accusations leveled against a country trying to defend itself. In the article, Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, asserts that:

"'...during its operation in Gaza, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare." Furthermore, he points out that the steps taken in that conflict by the Israeli Defence Forces to avoid civilian deaths are shown by a study published by the United Nations to have resulted in, by far, the lowest ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in any asymmetric conflict in the history of warfare.

"Kemp explains that by UN estimates, the average ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide is 3:1 -- three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan. But in Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to have been 4:1. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one."

You need to remember that on the basis of the lies regarding casualties bandied about by Hamas and friends -- 1,500 undifferentiated people killed -- that an avalanche of accusations made their way into the mass media's bloodstream. Because of those purported casualty numbers, the delegitimizers have been able to claim that Israel is a bloodthirsty murderer of women and children, that Israeli politicians were prevented from visiting the UK for fear of arrest for alleged war crimes, that led to the war crimes claims in the Goldstone Report* (since then retracted by Goldstone himself), that led to the flotilla debacle, that, most importantly, led the world to ignore Hamas' strategy of hiding behind civilians in order to increase casualty numbers, etc., etc.

Now, this isn't news, Hamas' numbers have been disputed before, but for a publication like the Statesman to make this acknowledgement may make a difference. Or should I wait for hell to freeze over? Read the whole article here.

 Goldstone report: Israel “...deliberately engaged in a disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”