Sunday, July 29, 2012



The BBC has managed to flabbergast even those Israelis who hadn’t expected minimal fairness from it.

The British Broadcasting Corporation could never be accused of showering Israel with sympathy, or even credited with gracing Israel with the rudiments of objectivity. Nonetheless, the BBC has managed to flabbergast even those Israelis who hadn’t expected minimal fairness from it.

The BBC has devoted a web page to the Olympic athletes.

Most of the entries are straightforward enough, but not so the ones devoted to Israel and “Palestine,” which, though not a sovereign state, did win recognition as a member of the Olympic Council of Asia since 1986 and the International Olympic Committee since 1995.

On the latter’s country profile page, the BBC listed “East Jerusalem” as the capital of Palestine. No capital whatever was noted on the page devoted to Israel, not even “West Jerusalem.” As expected, that generated considerable commotion and even a written complaint from government spokesman Mark Regev.

Discomfited, the BBC tried a quick fix, defining Jerusalem as Israel’s “seat of government,” but not without failing to add that “most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”

The corresponding revamp on the Palestine page seeks to strike equivalence with the following: “Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital.”

Evincing no hint of regret, the BBC later waxed indignant and argued that the modifications on its website were “generated by online lobby activity.” The inference is that there was something untoward in said “online lobby activity” and that the BBC had its arm unjustly twisted.

Moreover, no opportunity appears to have been missed to render Israel’s image disagreeable. The photo chosen to represent Israel on its BBC profile shows an IDF soldier screaming at an Arab, with the caption reading: “Israelis and Palestinians have been at loggerheads for decades.”

The Syrian page, in contrast, looks idyllic. It pictures three pretty girls in white Muslim garb with older black-clad women in the background, all smiling. The caption informs us innocuously that “the overwhelming majority of Syrians are Muslim.”

Concomitantly, the campaign to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes slain by Arab terrorists at the Munich Olympics exactly 40 years ago received zero coverage on the BBC. That’s starkly different from the choices made by other international news providers, British ones notably among them.

The BBC’s palpable anti-Israel predispositions are nothing new. Malcolm Balen, a senior editorial adviser, compiled a report in 2004 on the BBC’s radio and television broadcasters’ attitudes toward the Israeli-Arab conflict. The 20,000-word Balen Report is said to contain scathing criticism of the BBC, which fought tooth and nail against demands that it release it under the Freedom of Information Act.

But despite Balen’s admonitions, the BBC remained unrepentant and failed to clean up its act. A most telling case in point was its coverage of the March 2011 Itamar massacre, where Palestinian terrorists invaded the home of the Fogel family and butchered the father, mother, their two young sons and three-month-old baby daughter.

The BBC’s version abounded in outright inaccuracies and mind-boggling omissions. Worst of all, it was given scant resonance altogether. It was unmentioned on BBC Television and was accorded only a fleeting brief reference on radio.

In his testimony to Parliament earlier this month, the BBC’s outgoing director-general, Mark Thompson, belatedly acknowledged that his organization “got it wrong.” Yet as this latest controversy surrounding the BBC’s misrepresentations indicates, the BBC willfully keeps right on getting it wrong. It doesn’t exert much effort to get it right.

Last summer, for instance, it featured a story claiming that a Jerusalem court sentenced a dog to death by stoning. This was an utter hoax, which a preliminary check would have revealed. Yet apparently the goodwill didn’t exist to accord Israel fair treatment. The temptation to paint Israel in the most unflattering colors plainly couldn’t be resisted. The fabrication in this case was so blatant that the BBC eventually removed this item but not before it blackened Israel’s face.

Yet more than such shenanigans damage Israel, they undermine the BBC’s own integrity. For its own good, it ought to desist from so flagrantly exposing its bias.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why we must challenge double standards on Israel

 It is dangerous to dismiss threats to destroy the Jewish state as empty rhetoric.
Carol Hunt Sunday July 22 2012 

'WHEN my father was a little boy in Poland, the streets of Europe were covered with graffiti, 'Jews, go back to Palestine', or sometimes worse: 'Dirty Yids, piss off to Palestine'. When my father revisited Europe 50 years later, the walls were covered with new graffiti, 'Jews, get out of Palestine'." Israeli author Amos Oz.

On the slopes of the Mount of Remembrance, outside Jerusalem's Old City, sits Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Museum -- a reminder to the world that evil exists.

When we, an Irish press group, visit on a warm July afternoon, our guide tells us of the recent arrest of members of an extreme Jewish, anti-Zionist group. They had sprayed the museum with slogans such as: "Thanks, Hitler for the wonderful Holocaust you organised for us! Only because of you we received a state." These fundamentalist Jews are not alone in refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Israeli nation -- few of its neighbours choose to do so.

On a trip to the oft-bombarded southern Israeli town of Sderot, retired colonel Miri Eisin tells us of an interview on Irish radio last year, where the "sin" of the foundation of the Israeli state was put to her to discuss, a priori. Irish politicians, we were informed by a senior foreign ministry official the day before, increasingly push an "anti-Israeli line" in the corridors of Brussels and Strasbourg.

We take a helicopter and view the "apartheid wall" between the two peoples. We are surprised to learn that only 4 per cent of the "wall" is concrete, the rest is a thin security fence, which was reluctantly erected by the Israeli government after more than 1,000 of its civilians were killed by suicide bombers coming over the border. The bombings have since been dramatically reduced.
Near the border, a young major points to where one of his soldiers was shot the previous week. He explains the moral dilemmas faced by the Israeli Defense Forces as they struggle to isolate terrorists from innocent women and children. He recalls: "My soldiers were answering a shot from an upstairs window when the front door suddenly opened ... and a child of about four years of age stepped out."

A group of young soldiers at a "simulated guerrilla camp" expand on the moral problem of entering terrorist areas when children are sent to deter and distract. "There are some decisions you can only take in the moment," they say.

Since its conception in 1948, Israel has repeatedly had to defend its right to exist as a place where people of Jewish ancestry can find refuge. In doing so, it has stood accused of being a criminal state, a violator of human rights, a proponent of apartheid and the main barrier to peace in the Middle East. Not just by hostile neighbours, but by Western governments, the United Nations, intellectuals and human rights campaigners worldwide as well as a great many Irish people.

This is despite the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the region (the jury is still out on Egypt); the only country which grants its citizens, male and female, gay and straight, equal human rights; the only state where all religions can practice their faith in safety; the only country where people can openly protest and oppose their government without fear of their lives. And most sinister of all, this is despite the fact that the fundamentalist Iranian regime, after brutally crushing its pro-democracy movement, has been training and funding terrorist groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Its aims? The total destruction of Israel plus the establishment of a Shiia theocracy in Lebanon and elsewhere.

"But what about the Palestinians in Gaza?" you ask.
Yes, you're right. The people of Gaza are entitled to a decent living, access to their workplaces, and a future for their children. The Palestinian people are also entitled to freedom from an oppressive, terrorist regime. And yes, Israel has sometimes made mistakes, over-reacted and lacked generosity toward its neighbour. Many Israeli citizens would be first to acknowledge this.

It is shameful that Palestine remains dependent on charity from the UN and similar agencies and also, one has to add, that neighbouring oil-rich Arab countries have repeatedly refused to address their misery. Last month Jordon refused to take in Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria. Palestinian leaders have three times rejected the two-state solution -- the most practical and just way to end their woes -- as it requires a recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state (most recently at Camp David and Taba in 2000, when Israel offered to give up claims to both Gaza and the West Bank). And the terror that their supposed Arab 'allies' inflicts on them far surpasses any actions that Israel has been guilty of when trying to defend its own people.

Surely our concern for the dismal plight of the Palestinian people cannot only be expressed in conjunction with censure of Israel alone? Is this not more of the historical double standard, the unique condemnation that Jews have been subject to for millennia?

Last month Iran -- that haven of human rights -- held a cultural festival here in Dublin, seeking to further ties between our countries. Where were the protests of the pro-Palestinian groups who so energetically tried to close down last year's Israeli Film Festival, who intimidate any musicians or artists who attempt to visit Israel?

It is legitimate and necessary to question this hypocrisy without fear of intimidation or censure from these organisations because the double standard applied to Israel endangers the rule of law and the credibility of international institutions. And now Israel -- which fundamentalist Iran, Hamas, etc, repeatedly vow to wipe off the face of the Earth -- fears that it has little time before Iran's nuclear capabilities are used against it. After Israel, who could be next? The US? The EU?

Meanwhile the atmosphere in downtown Tel Aviv is one of casual cheer; the locals, with their honesty and 'just-get-on-with-it' attitude remind me very much of tough, straight-talking New Yorkers. Young beauties of all races -- Ethiopian, Scandinavian, Romanian, Russian, German, Arab and American, gay, straight, religious and secular -- sit outside the cafes and bars, enjoying the music of nearby musicians and the fading heat from a slowly setting sun.

Tiny Israel is one of the most successful economies in the world. In 2008 it attracted nearly three times the amount of venture capital funding as the US and 30 times the average of Western Europe. In per-capita innovation, Israel dwarfs all nations. What they have achieved in that tiny, arid piece of land is astonishing.

But some of Israel's neighbours have promised repeatedly that they will destroy both the state and its people. Those who insist that this is empty rhetoric; those who are determined to see no right on the side of Israel and no wrong on the side of those who wish to destroy the Jewish state and 'transfer' her population should take a visit to Yad Vashem, where the evil results of ignoring -- or indeed supporting -- the promises and ideologies of radical regimes are laid bare for all of us to see.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Delusional British attitude to Israel

Hadar Sela, July 12th 2012, is an Anglo-Israeli writer and blogger living in Israel

Documents seen exclusively by The Commentator have revealed disturbing attitudes towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the British Government’s analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Further illumination was available this week when Matthew Gould, the British Ambassador to Israel, spoke at a sub-committee meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

There is much in the Ambassador's speech (which, obviously, reflects the attitudes of those he represents rather than his own opinions) to raise quizzical eyebrows, but insufficient space here to address all the points.

Not the least bizarre was the statement that last year the British government allocated £2 million for security in Jewish schools -- without addressing the rather obvious follow-up question of why Jewish schools in the UK (and only they) are in need of security in the first place.

No less bizarre is the following claim:

"…[T]here is indeed a small group of people in the UK – as in many other countries – who are determined to promote a fundamental assault upon Israel's very legitimacy. They represent a small minority, but they are active, loud and hugely dedicated.

They try, and sometimes succeed, to marshal civil society organisations to their cause. These people are on the margin of political life, but they have made occasional inroads into mainstream politics."

One can but speculate as to how Palestine Solidarity Campaign patrons such as Jeremy Corbyn MP and Baroness Tonge will react to the knowledge that the FCO considers them to be 'on the margin of political life'.

Equally, one wonders how the 17 trade unions affiliated to the PSC – representing, according to their own claims, 80 percent of the members of the 6.5 million-strong TUC – became a 'small minority'. And, according to the Ambassador's theory, apparently the Church of England can also now be classified as a fringe group.

But among all the claims made in the speech, there are two in particular which merit further discussion. The Ambassador – again, presumably reflecting FCO accepted wisdoms – stated that:

"There is an important battle for public opinion to be had in the UK, but it is not the one at the far fringes of political life. Rather, it is for the centre ground, where the issue is not delegitimisation but a genuine concern about the absence of progress towards peace, about settlements and the occupation.

"By contrast, progress towards peace will further discredit the delegitimisers and allow Israel’s supporters to shift their energy away from extinguishing fires to embracing Israel positively."

Notably, this view places the onus entirely upon one party involved in the conflict: Israel. It completely ignores the many efforts –and sacrifices - Israel has made over the years in order to try to achieve a settlement to the conflict.

Not only does it also choose to side-step the issue of the repeated refusal of the Palestinian Authority to come to the negotiating table and its seemingly boundless ability to come up with ever more imaginative pre-conditions (which, when met, inevitably become the basis for yet more demands), but it also fails to view the issue in its broader terms as an Arab-Israeli conflict rather than merely a Palestinian-Israeli one.

The notion that progress in the peace process, dismantling of settlements and the ending of Israeli control over land not already ruled by the Palestinian Authority would result in a reduction of the delegitimisation of Israel by UK-based organisations is undermined by events to date - including the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

Far from resulting in a reduction in delegitimisation of Israel in the UK, the fact that for seven years there have been no Israeli civilian villages or permanently stationed armed forces in Gaza has had no positive effect whatsoever.

Gaza is today even more of a cause celebre for British supporters of the Hamas regime which aspires to rid the region of Jews completely – and (despite the Ambassador's claims) those supporters include a startlingly high number of British MPs, members of the House of Lords and other public figures.

What is profoundly worrying about this FCO view is the apparent lack of ability to acknowledge the true nature of the conflict.

The simplistic approach - as represented by this 'it's the occupation' mindset – blithely ignores the fact that prior to 1967 – before any 'occupation' or 'settlements' - peace was just as elusive as it is today. That is because such an approach deliberately erases the wider regional aspects of the conflict, including the funding and enabling of terror by players such as Iran and Qatar.

The FCO approach also fails to recognize the critical fact that rather than being a 'genuine concern' or reaction to any situation on the ground, delegitimisation is in fact part of the warfare; another weapon in the arsenal of those who aim to bring about an end to the Jewish state.

And, like the Kassam and Grad missiles and the suicide-bombers' explosives, that weapon too is in many cases funded and enabled by elements far beyond the local confines of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

It is, of course, difficult to believe that with all its resources, the FCO does not know all this. The question which must therefore be asked is why the FCO appears to want to establish Israeli action or inaction as the cause of increased anti-Israel activity in the UK – rather than making an honest and factual appraisal of the pro-Islamist extremist elements at work in its own society.

No less worrying was the following claim made by the Ambassador in the Knesset meeting:

"These people [anti-Israel activists in the UK] are a small minority. Their efforts do need to be addressed, but they also need to be set in context. The wider economic impact of what they do has been miniscule. Their impact is through the noise they make. And that noise has been magnified many times over all the attention they have been given by Israel’s friends.

That attention risks making them mainstream. I fear that for many friends of Israel, this destructive agenda by Israel’s enemies – and their desire to counter it - will come to define their connection with Israel. And perhaps, that is the most profound victory that the delegitimisers could achieve."

In other words, this (apparently FCO-endorsed) approach cynically apportions the blame for the growth of the anti-Israel movements in the UK, and their infiltration into the mainstream, exclusively to supporters of Israel.

It implies that a better strategy would be to ignore the constant stream of lies, distortions and often downright anti-Semitic calumnies -- whilst failing to acknowledge what kind of effect such unchecked intense and well-funded propaganda has on both mainstream opinion and decision-makers in the UK.

Chillingly, it also appears to promote the outdated concept of quiet, passive Jews keeping their heads down in the hope that the latest storm-cloud will pass. Fortunately, those days are long gone.

But Israelis (and Jews) have been here before. During the years of British administration of the Mandate for Palestine, the standard approach taken by the British authorities in reaction to Arab rioting and violence (e.g. 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936) was to blame Jewish immigration and systematically disarm the Jewish population of Palestine, rendering it unable to defend itself from recurrent attack. That policy laid down disastrous foundations for a modus operandi still prevalent today.

The FCO appears to be determined to proceed along its well-trodden route of failed policies based upon willfully blind misinterpretations of the Middle East tailored to protect its own perceived interests.

Whether or not those interests are identical to those of a government purportedly seeking (for all too obvious reasons) to strengthen economic ties with Israel is another question.

How the FCO's policies tie in with the current government's past statements regarding its commitment to Israel's security – as well as its own domestic struggles against extremism - is yet another.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yasir Arafat Is Still Dead

Yasir Arafat Is Still Dead and We Know Who Really Did Him In

By: Barry Rubin July 6, 2012

Yasir Arafat is still dead. True, he was once alive. I sat across from him in his Gaza office, for example. And he even had a copy of my history of the PLO on his book shelf so he must have been of sound mind at the time. It's not my fault. I told him to start jogging and cut down on sweets.But he didn't listen. On November 4, 2004, he died, a fate he previously delivered to thousands of far more innocent people.

The effort now by various Palestinian factions to imply Israel killed him is the funniest thing in the Middle East since the CIA director's congressional briefing when he said the Muslim Brotherhood was a secular democratic organization. What's dismaying is how much play Western media are giving this charge as if it should be taken seriously. When the West behaves in this way it signals at the least a dangerously naive credulousness and amnesia; at worst, it signals a profound anti-Jewish and anti-Israel complex on their part. The New York Times and Washington Post take this nonsense seriously.

But there's something else in this story, something very chilling indeed. Revolutionary Islamists especially, but many Muslims otherwise, believe that Jews tried to murder Muhammad, the founder of Islam, and even if they failed that the poison shortened his life. The accusation that Jews are the murderer of prophets–with Muslims throwing in the founder of Christianity also–is a phrase that derives from this story. It is frequently heard from Hamas and others. This is a blood libel, an alleged crime that then leads to the view that Jews are absolutely evil and should be wiped out. In short, it is a rationale for genocide. When Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood say that Israel should be wiped off the map and Jews generally should be murdered that incitement is the inevitable consequence of this line of thinking.

That Western observers are unaware of all of this history, and repeated every day in inciteful sermons found often in Middle East mosques, is quite evident. Such a lack of knowledge leads them to believe that the conflicts they say are easily resolvable, quickly settled by more Israeli concessions or still continuing because of Israeli actions when the causes are much deeper and the solutions far more remote. Western societies today are obsessed with searching everywhere for racism and hate speech. Well, the idea that the Jews murdered Arafat (rather than that Arafat spent most of his career murdering Jews) falls into that category.

As for the specific claims in the Arafat case, they are easily disposed of:

First of all, anyone who saw Arafat during the last year of his life knew he was seriously ill and steadily worsening. His lips trembled, he looked disoriented, and he wasn't as articulate as usual. Even on television you couldn't possibly miss his distress. Parkinson's disease was a likely diagnosis though Crohn's disease was said to be another probable medical problem for the dictator.

His doctors obviously knew that he was in bad shape. But, and this is what's most important, they didn't do anything about it. The prospect of Arafat's death was so traumatic for the movement—which had known no other leader during 43 years for Fatah, 36 years for the PLO, and its entire ten year life for the Palestinian Authority. By not taking serious action and giving him better treatment, the key to the mystery is this: His own doctors and movement killed Arafat. So if Israel killed Arafat then his own doctors and the entire PLO, Fatah, and PA leadership were in on the conspiracy. Indeed, Arafat himself, by not more actively seeking medical help or speaking about his problems was also in on the conspiracy. This is unlikely.

Second, the doctors were shut up and the report of his death was kept secret by Arafat's widow Suha Arafat. Since his colleagues had access to a lot of this information they also kept quiet. In other words, we are supposed to believe that those who in the world who most hated Israel had evidence that Israel had something to do with his death but they kept it secret?

Third, suddenly, almost eight years later Suha and other Arafat loyalists are making claims. But there is no new evidence whatsoever. Obviously, this is a publicity stunt. Let them release the huge medical report on his death. Let them permit the French doctors to have a press conference. Let them dig up Arafat. Until one of those things happens why should the Western media fall for this trick? So again, if there was the slightest suspicion that Arafat was being murdered, Arafat's wife, doctors, and all of the Palestinian leadership were helping the conspiracy. This is also unlikely.

Fourth, the claims that Arafat was poisoned by Israel using some exotic radioactive means has been made from the day Arafat was planted but have always faded away, at least internationally, because no evidence was offered. Old fables are being treated like new revelations. Such claims of Zionist conspiracies are always promoted in order to slander and discredit Israel when just about anyone significant dies in the Arab world.

Fifth, if Arafat had been poisoned by radioactive substances his symptoms would have been extreme and evident. They include nausea, hair loss, throat swelling and paleness Moreover, Arafat would have died really fast, but he lingered for a long time.

The history of this myth shows that it is the Palestinian leadership, not Israel, that has something to hide, that has kept everything secret. I suspect the secret is the incompetence of his own doctors.

So did Arafat die of AIDs? After my own serious research on this matter I could find no evidence for this assertion. And I know that both Israeli and U.S. intelligence had no evidence that Arafat was homosexual either on the basis of in-depth discussions over many years. Sources like Ahmad Jibril–a life-long enemy of Arafat–and other unreliable sources cited are not impressive. If there is evidence to the contrary I will certainly revise my view.

The rumor began with an article by Oriana Fallaci whose only evidence was that his bodyguards at the time were extremely handsome young men. (By the time I was seeing him in the 1990s that was certainly not true at all.)

Of course, Arafat was a weird person and in our biography, Arafat: A Political Biography, Judith Colp Rubin and myself explain his psychology and personality. One of my favorite Palestinian jokes about Arafat recounts that he is patting the head of a little girl and asks her, "Whose daughter are you?"

She answers, "Yours." Arafat was considered by his countrymen to be so cold that he didn't recognize his own begotten daughter. The story is almost plausible.

But I repeat: there is no reason to think Arafat was a homosexual or died of AIDs. He was overweight, ate an unhealthy diet, worked long hours, didn't take care of himself (he believed eating honey would keep him healthy), and had very bad doctors despite their local reputations.

So we know who killed Arafat: his doctors, entourage, movement, and of course his own body. Yet when I go to Yahoo what do I see but Arafat's "mysterious" death as the lead story in the entire world, as if any accusation made against Israel must be true.

Note: Here's a history of the Israel-killed-Arafat tale in Palestinian Media Watch. For more analysis of why the claims are absurd see here and here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


European, U.S. and Canadian Government Funding Behind Anti-Israel Activism in Mainline Churches

NGO Monitor's latest report July 2nd documents the flow of funds from European, US and Canadian governments to several Palestinian and pro-Palestinian Christian NGOs that promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), and supersessionist theologies, in mainline churches across the globe.

The main findings:

• In the last decade, BDS aimed at Israel developed as a key issue in mainline Christian denominations in the United States, Europe, Canada, and elsewhere.

• A number of European governments, plus the United States and Canada provide funds for these church-based efforts to delegitimize Israel. These taxpayer funds are disbursed as grants to church-based humanitarian NGOs, which then transfer these funds to highly politicized pro-Palestinian NGOs, including Christian groups that promote within mainline churches BDS, the one-state solution and, in many cases, antisemitic supercessionist, or replacement, theologies

• The US government, through the National Endowment for Democracy (mostly funded by the US Congress) granted the Holy Land Trust $124,300 (2009, 2010, 2012). HLT's executive director Sami Awad, speaking at the National Leadership Conference for the Vineyard Church in 2009, told the audience (at 01:20:27 in the audio): "We've actually done training in non-violence for Hamas leaders and other militant groups as well." Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department and the EU. Further, the US Supreme Court upheld a law criminalizing material support for terror organizations. (Holder, Attorney General, et al. v. Humanitarian Law Project et al. 2010). The law defines "material support" as including "any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including... training, expert advice or assistance..." Based in Bethlehem, HLT is a signatory to the 2005 "Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS" and supports the Kairos Palestine document. HLT conducts highly politicized tours to the region targeting church leaders.

• BDS strategists view the churches as a key target for promoting the BDS agenda because: "religious institutions are seen in many communities as embodying important moral and ethical principles... Divestment campaigns that target companies such as Caterpillar have been initiated in a number of major Christian churches. Not only will successful divestment campaigns financially weaken the Occupation, but will raise both the public profile and legitimacy of the BDS campaign."

To read the full report, click here.