Just two days before Palestinians commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, the names of two Palestinian cameramen targeted and killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza last November were dropped from a dedication ceremony held to honor “reporters, photographers and broadcasters who have died reporting the news” over the past year. The move followed an Israel lobby pressure campaign led by anti-Palestinian organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the American Jewish Committee, efforts that were openly supported by the Israeli government.
The Atlantic Wire’s J.K. Trotter summarizes:
Two days after Washington, D.C.’s Newseum announced its intent to honor Hussam Salama and Mahmoud al-Kumi, who were killed in November while working as cameramen for the Middle East-based Al-Aqsa TV, the well-known temple of journalism has decided — for now — not to recognize Salama and al-Kumi, citing their employer’s deep ties to Hamas, a Palestinian organization currently designated by the United States as a terrorist group.
The Newseum, which honored 82 journalists on May 13, 2013, stated that it had “decided to re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation,” even though just last week, in response to the hysterical reaction to Salama’s and al-Kumi’s initial inclusion, the museum had affirmed and defended their decision, noting that “the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers all consider these men journalists killed in the line of duty.”
Indeed, as Joe Catron notes, Reporters Without Borders has pointed out, “Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks,” while the Committee to Protect Journalists “found that the Israeli military’s official justifications for its attacks on journalists…’did not specifically address CPJ’s central question: how did Israel determine that those targeted did not deserve the civilian protections afforded to all journalists, no matter their perspective, under international law?’”
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers includes both Salama and al-Kumi on its list of “69 Media Employees Killed in 2012,” as does the International Federation of Journalists in tis report, “In the Grip of Violence: Journalists and Media staff Killed in 2012.”
Human Rights Watch, in its December 20, 2012 report on “Unlawful Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Media,” concluded,
Four Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in Gaza during the November 2012 fighting violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations.
The attacks killed two Palestinian cameramen, wounded at least 10 media workers, and badly damaged four media offices, as well as the offices of four private companies. One of the attacks killed a two-year-old boy who lived across the street from a targeted building.
The Israeli government asserted that each of the four attacks was on a legitimate military target but provided no specific information to support its claims. After examining the attack sites and interviewing witnesses, Human Rights Watch found no indications that these targets were valid military objectives.
“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war.”
HRW added, “The two men’s families, interviewed separately, said the men were neither participating in the fighting nor members of any armed group. Human Rights Watch found no evidence, including during visits to the men’s homes, to contradict that claim. Hamas’s armed wing, al-Qassam Brigades, has not put either man on its official list of killed fighters – an unlikely omission if the men had been playing a military role.”
For the Newseum to be bullied into omitting Salama and al-Kumi from its rededication ceremony by avowedly Zionist groups and right-wing media outlets demonstrates that the institution itself is no less a propaganda outfit than Al-Aqsa TV. This shameful last minute decision effectively grants the U.S. and Israeli governments the ability to decide who is and who is not a journalist and who should and who should not be honored for their work.
But the decision also reeks of hypocrisy and Manichean double standards.
The Newseum is essentially suggesting that sycophantic journalists parroting government propaganda may be legitimate targets in military operations and should be labeled combatants, rather than civilians who enjoy press freedoms and are subject to protection.
Yet this only extends as far as the U.S. State Department says it does.
The ADL’s Abe Foxman called Salama and al-Kumi “members of a terrorist organization advancing their agenda through murderous violence” and “terrorist operatives” who “were working for a propaganda outlet, not a legitimate news organization.” The AJC’s David Harris echoed these sentiments, labeling Salama and al-Kumi as “brazen terrorists” and “two individuals who were integral to the propaganda machine of the Hamas terrorist organization,” that could not be considered “a legitimate media operation.”
Such terms as “terrorism” and “terrorist” are perhaps the most loaded, politicized, exploited and, consequently, meaningless words in our current lexicon, employed as a bludgeon against critical thinking in order to reinforce “us vs. them” narratives.
Apparently, the Newseum has determined that our propaganda deserves respect and admiration, while their propaganda (in this case, documenting on camera the effects Israeli bombs and missiles have on the human flesh of Palestinian people at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital) should be condemned, targeted and investigated.
By this measure, plenty of alleged propagandists grace the memorial wall of the Newseum already, with more added during today’s ceremony.
Mohamed Al-Massalma, a freelance reporter for Al Jazeera, was killed by a sniper while covering the Syrian civil war in Busra Al-Harir in late January 2013. The Syrian journalist, working under the pseudonym Mohamed Al-Horani, was “an activist in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad,” before joining Al Jazeera.
In January 2012, Mukarram Khan Aatif was gunned down in the Pakistani town of Shabqadar by members of the Pakistani Taliban. Aatif was a journalist working for Deewa Radio, the U.S. government’s Voice of America Pasto-language service. He was among those honored by the Newseum this year.
The taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) and its affiliated services have been legally banned from broadcasting or distribution here in the United States for the past 65 years because of a Congressional act prohibiting the government from propagandizing to its own citizens. Only last year was this law reversed; the ban will be officially lifted this coming July 2013. VOA is literally U.S. government propaganda, yet its reporters are accorded due protection from violence, as they should be.
Another VOA journalist, Mohammed Ali Nuxurkey, was killed in an al-Shabab bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia, this past March There is no doubt he will be added the Newseum’s wall next year.
If any distinctions are to be made among different categories of journalists caught in the line of fire or deliberately targeted for murder, international law does not, in fact, favor the Foxman’s and Harris’ of the world.
While war journalists who are not embedded with troops or themselves soldiers taking direct part in hostilities are legally protected by the law of armed conflict, embedded reporters are not necessarily similarly protected.
According to international law professor Sandesh Sivakumaran, writing for the Oxford University Press, embedded journalists, while civilians, may be “casualties of lawful attacks” as “[t]he law allows for the targeting of troops and that targeting may result in bystanders or embedded reporters becoming casualties.”
Still, embedded journalists who were killed while accompanying American occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan – a policy promoted by the U.S. military in order to ensure positive reporting on American actions (some might call that propaganda) – have also rightly been accorded a place in the Newseum’s memorial. Journalists like Spanish reporter Julio Anguita Parrado and German correspondent Christian Liebig, killed by Iraqi missiles in an April 7, 2003 attack on the U.S. Army’s 3rd Division headquarters in Baghdad, are honored by the Newseum as is NBC News soundman Jeremy Little, killed in Fallujah in July 2003 while embedded with the Army’s 3rd Infantry.
Sivakumaran also explains that “[j]ournalists who work for media outlets or information services of the armed forces” are legally considered “members of the armed forces,” and therefore “don’t benefit from the protections afforded to civilians and their deaths don’t constitute a violation of the law.”
As such, the Newseum’s glaring duplicity is all the more evident when considering the case of James P. Hunter. A staff sergeant, reporter and photographer with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Hunter was killed on June 18, 2010 by an IED while covering the massive U.S. offensive taking place in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for The Fort Campbell Courier, an Army newspaper in Kentucky. He was an active duty soldier and the first Army journalist to die in combat since 9/11. Still, the Newseum saw fit to honor Hunter on its memorial wall.
Yet in the case of Salama and al-Kumi, “Israeli officials sought to justify attacks on Palestinian media by saying the military had targeted individuals or facilities that ‘had relevance to’ or were ‘linked with’ a Palestinian armed group, or had ‘encouraged and lauded acts of terror against Israeli civilians,’” according to Human Rights Watch. “These justifications, suggesting that it is permissible to attack media because of their associations or opinions, however repugnant, rather than their direct participation in hostilities, violate the laws of war and place journalists at grave risk.”
If repellant statements, including the justification of and praise for acts of violence against civilians, are the benchmark of propaganda and thereby constitute legitimate targeting for death by those opposed to such statements, then countless American journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum would be subject to the same fate as Salama and al-Kumi.
Warmongering and incitement abound in the editorial pages of The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Liberal commentators like Joe Klein and former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs exhalt the extrajudicial executions by flying robot of countless civilians, including a 16-year-old American citizen in Yemen and hundreds of children in Pakistan. Right-wing pundits like Jennifer Rubin and her friends at Commentary and The Weekly Standard openly advocate for the murder of Iranian and Palestinian civilians, endlessly call for permanent war and occupation, support torture and indefinite detention, advocate for the assassination of whistleblowers, scientists and foreign officials, and justify the war crimes of their preferred military forces and governments.
Just days before the car in which Salama and al-Kumi were traveling, marked clearly as a press vehicle, was blown up by an Israeli bomb, Rubin published a post praising the IDF assault on Gaza. Hardly able to contain her glee, Rubin anonymously quoted “an old Middle East hand” declaring that, after weeks of sporadic Israeli airstrikes (“a form of messaging to Hamas”), “the Israelis escalated. But still they are avoiding infrastructure, hitting pinpoint high-level Hamas target.”
A recent B’Tselem report on Israel’s actions last November, however, “challenges the common perception in the Israeli public and media that the operation was ‘surgical’ and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians,” noting that, “in some cases at least, the [Israeli] military violated IHL [international humanitarian law] and in other cases there are substantial reasons to believe IHL was violated.” Israeli airstrikes killed 167 Palestinians in Gaza, at least 87 of whom were noncombatants, including 31 minors.
Two days after cheering Israeli war crimes, Rubin set her sights on a bigger target. “Israel can keep swatting down Hamas, using air power or, if need be, going into Gaza on land,” she wrote. “It has a solemn obligation to defend itself against what was a deliberate escalation by Hamas in the number and quality of weapons launched against Israel’s civilian population. But even with the most robust U.S. support this is not a long-term solution. That will only come when Iran is dealt with, either militarily or via regime change.”
Anyone arguing that Rubin could be targeted with violence for writing her opinions would be labeled sociopathic and lambasted for incitement, and for good reason. And there is no doubt that if correspondents from Israeli Army Radio or employees of the state-run Israel Broadcasting Authority were killed, they would be honored by the Newseum, without so much as a whiff of dissent, let alone outrage.
It is evident that, as always, Palestinians are subject to unparalleled scrutiny and suspicion due to the tireless defamation and lobbying efforts of big-moneyed Zionist organizations and ideological zealots.
But is it surprising that the Newseum should jump on this bias bandwagon?
In the late 1940′s, Bugsy Siegel’s former publicist Hank Greenspun was recruited by Jewish militias in Palestine to help them fight against both the occupying British and indigenous Palestinians. He hijacked a yacht and laundered $1.3 million through Mexico in order to smuggle machine guns stolen from the U.S. Navy in Hawaii to the prolific terrorist group Irgun, which had blown up Jerusalem’s King David Hotel the year before and would massacre the residents of Deir Yassin a year later. Soon thereafter, Greenspun was apprehended by the FBI while attempting to illegally ship surplus combat airplane engines to Haganah.
In 1950, he was convicted of violating the U.S. Neutrality Act and fined $10,000 for his arms deals. The same year, he purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal and renamed it the Las Vegas Sun, serving as publisher for the next four decades.
Upon his death in 1989, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres called Greenspun “a hero of our country and a fighter for freedom – a man of great spirit who fought with his mind and his soul; a man of great conviction and commitment.” In 1993, a one-acre plaza in the Jerusalem Botanical Garden of Hebrew University was dedicated to him.
- Jewish groups slam ‘Newseum’ for honoring Palestinian journalists killed by Israelis (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been ferociously attacked by the American motion picture industry. The attacks have grown more vehement in recent years.
Iran’s response: Drop a “truth bomb” in retaliation.
The multi-megaton truth bomb – the third Hollywoodism Conference at the Fajr Film Festival – brought together fifty authors, scholars, political figures and filmmakers to oppose and expose Hollywood’s war on Islam in general, and the Islamic Republic in particular. (Full disclosure: I was a participant in the conference, which ended Wednesday.)
Former Senator Mike Gravel, a Democratic candidate for President in 2008, said Americans are being fed a distorted view of Iran. “Everything Iran has done has been entirely within its rights” (to develop peaceful nuclear energy) Gravel stated at the conference. Merlin Miller, another US presidential candidate who ran with the Third Position Party in 2012, added: “The nonexistent Iranian bomb is not the real issue.”
America’s CIA and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei agree on one very important thing: Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. Supreme Leader Khamenei has pronounced nuclear weapons haram (forbidden). Anyone who understands the role religious authority plays in Iran knows that no Iranian scientist would even think of contravening the Supreme Leader’s ruling.
Most of the participants, including Miller, agreed with Mark Weber of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) that Hollywood demonizes Iran for a fairly obvious reason: Hollywood, even more than the rest of the US media, is controlled by Zionists. Since Iran opposes Israeli apartheid, and supports the Palestinian resistance, Hollywood endlessly bashes Iran on behalf of Israel.
Weber cited quotes and statistics revealing that Jewish power dominates Hollywood. According to Weber, the vast majority of Hollywood studio heads and top-level executives are Jewish and committed to Israel. Even at the lower-level but important creative positions, Weber argued, Jews are wildly over-represented. The result: Hollywood ceaselessly bashes Arabs, and churns out nonstop hate propaganda supporting Israel’s war on Islam and the Muslim world.
Weber cited Jewish Hollywood columnist Joel Stein, who famously tried to sweeten the bitter pill of Jewish-Zionist power with a dash of humor:
“How deeply Jewish is Hollywood? When the studio chiefs took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago to demand that the Screen Actors Guild settle its contract, the open letter was signed by: News Corp. President Peter Chernin (Jewish), Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey (Jewish), Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger (Jewish), Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton (surprise, Dutch Jew), Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer (Jewish), CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves (so Jewish his great uncle was the first prime minister of Israel), MGM Chairman Harry Sloan (Jewish) and NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker (mega-Jewish). If either of the Weinstein brothers had signed, this group would have not only the power to shut down all film production but to form a minyan with enough Fiji water on hand to fill a mikvah.”
“I don’t care if Americans think we’re running the news media, Hollywood, Wall Street or the government. I just care that we get to keep running them.”
Stein’s column was a response to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) press release celebrating a poll showing that only 22% of Americans know that Jews control Hollywood. In other words, the ADL was triumphantly celebrating the fact that 78% of Americans have been brainwashed into believing an outrageous, transparently false lie (“Jews don’t control Hollywood”). Talk about chutzpah.
And speaking of chutzpah, Abe Foxman and the ADL predictably launched a counter-attack on the Tehran Hollywoodism conference. Oddly, the ADL singled out four participants: Senator Mike Gravel, Jim Fetzer, Merlin Miller, and yours truly as the leaders of what they termed “a rogues’ gallery of conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, and anti-Zionists.” (Though I am honored to be attacked by the ADL three times in less than two years, I must point out that all four of us are anti-Zionists, not anti-Semites.)
One of the conference’s most stimulating and controversial speakers was Dr. Michael Jones, a Catholic who wears his anti-Jewish credentials on his sleeve. Dr. Jones argued that the “Jewish revolutionary spirit” is the source of Hollywood’s attacks on traditional values, including the religious values of Islam. If the ADL feels the need to attack anti-Jewish thinkers, they should target Dr. Jones and give his sophisticated and disturbing work some much-deserved publicity.
A key theme of this year’s Hollywoodism conference was 9/11 truth. European 9/11 authors Thierry Meyssan (France) and Roberto Quaglia (Italy) joined such Americans as filmmaker-politician Art Olivier, philosophy professor Jim Fetzer, 9/11 hero and eyewitness William Rodriguez, and yours truly. All conference participants, and every Iranian we met, expressed skepticism about the official version of 9/11 and/or belief that it was an inside job.
Many participants observed that this conference could not have been held in any Western country, where it would have been harassed by the authorities, boycotted by the media, and (possibly) bombed by the officially-tolerated terrorist group the Jewish Defense League. Many though not all participants are holocaust revisionists, making them unemployable in the US and subject to arrest when they travel to many European countries.
The entire conference – roughly fifty hours of high-quality videos of the presentations and interviews – will be archived at the website Hollywoodism.org.
Most Americans who are actually interested in foreign policy would not expect to learn anything from the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid The New York Post. A brief article that appeared in the paper (but not on their website) and also in Commentary magazine on June 12th was written by Alana Goodman. The piece illustrates precisely why brainwashed readers of either publication should expect little in the way of balance. Goodman is the assistant online editor of Commentary, which focuses on Jewish issues and was founded in 1945 by the American Jewish Committee.
The article is entitled “Unions Back Israel-Basher” and relates to one Charles Barron, a Democrat who is running for a congressional seat in Brooklyn. According to Goodman, Barron is an “extremist, a dictator apologist, and a passionate Israel-basher…” Why? Well, he has a file over at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which is headed by the always on the alert Abe Foxman. Barron, who has admittedly crafted a career as a loose cannon, has made the list of anti-Semites because he has referred to Gaza as a “virtual death camp,” has criticized the “Jewish lobby,” and has called the Israeli government “the biggest terrorist in the world.”
Goodman’s problem is that two public service unions have endorsed Barron and she cannot understand how two large “D” Democratic institutions can possibly find him acceptable. Well, the unions in question have many black members and Barron has a history of appealing to supporters along racial lines, meaning that their money and endorsement are a result of his speaking to their interests. But that would not be an explanation that Goodman would find acceptable because, for her, everything is about Israel and her never-ending search for Israel-bashers.
Goodman also reported, in the Commentary version of her article, about the Democratic Party backlash:
“Former Mayor Ed Koch, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Councilman David Greenfield, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind gathered with several other elected officials in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park this morning for a press conference billed as an effort ‘to Denounce Charles Barron as Enemy of the State of Israel’ and the Jewish community. The politicos who showed up at the event where longtime councilman Mr. Barron was branded ‘hateful,’ a ‘scary monster,’ ‘anti-Semite’ and ‘bigot’ also expressed their support for his rival in the congressional race, Hakeem Jeffries.”
But equally interesting is the litmus test of what it takes to become an ADL and Ed Koch certified anti-Semite in this country. Gaza is a death camp? Well, it actually is, isn’t it? And the Israelis are the prison guards. The Jewish Lobby is not a force for good? Go read Mearsheimer and Walt, both educated white guys who have made the point very forcefully based on impeccable scholarship. And Israel as the world’s biggest terrorist? Measured by what Israel is up to relating to Iran it is certainly the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.
Barron might well turn out to be a lousy congressman for many reasons, but denouncing him a priori for his views of a foreign country is a bit much.
In a May 10 press release, the staunchly pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced it “will convene a new working group on cyberhate that will bring together Internet industry leaders and others to probe the roots of the problem and develop new solutions to address it head-on.”
According to the ADL statement, the establishment of a “Anti-Cyberhate Working Group” was approved by the Task Force on Internet Hate at a May 7 meeting held at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society in Palo Alto, California. The task force was created by the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA).
“Internet hate continues to have a global impact on civil society and a transparent process to respond to it will lead to reviewability and consistency,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “We welcome the commitments of Google and Facebook to participate in this dialogue to combat online hate speech, Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. Working alongside the Internet’s leaders will allow for the development of industry standards that balance effectiveness with respect for the right to free speech.”
The ICCA Task Force is co-chaired by Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, who is charged with countering antisemitism. A member of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, Edelstein lives in the illegal West Bank settlement of Neve Daniel, which he sees as part of “Greater Israel.” As far as the Israeli minister is concerned, however, those who dare to nonviolently oppose Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestinian land are motivated only by hate. According a report on Edelstein’s anti-Arab racism, he told delegates at a 2009 international conference on “combating antisemitism”:
We must repeat again and again these basic facts – TO BE ‘anti-Israel’ IS TO BE ANTI-SEMITIC. TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL, ISRAELI PROFESSORS and ISRAELI businesses, these are not political acts, these are acts of hate, acts of anti-Semitism! Anti-Israel hysteria is anti-Semitic hysteria. They are one and the same. [Ed: Upper case letters in the transcript]
If this is what is meant by “cyberhate,” perhaps the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement should consider targeting Google and Facebook for their apparent willingness to collaborate in the defense of the Israeli occupation.
- The Old News of ‘New Anti-Semitism’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Foxman & Friends: ADL Head Lambastes NYC High School Trip to Israel/Palestine for Insufficient Hasbara
The Anti-Defamation League‘s Abe Foxman is annoyed that a group of seventeen high school students and six faculty members from New York City’s prestigious Friends Seminary recently visited Israel and Palestine (which he terms the “West Bank region”), but didn’t spend nearly enough time being force-fed ADL-approved hasbara.
Writing in The Jerusalem Post in late March, Foxman expressed his clear frustration that “the participants will be spending most of their time in the West Bank meeting with Palestinians,” during which time students “will have overnight stays with Palestinian families” and “will be developing oral histories of those families.” While Foxman states that “[t]here is, of course, nothing intrinsically wrong in doing these things,” he worries that “because of the intensely personal nature of the home visits in the West Bank, which will expose the group only to a Palestinian perspective, these visits should be balanced by similar experiences with Israelis within Israel,” including “meeting with Israeli families” and “visiting important venues like the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.”
Foxman is irked about what he calls the school’s “distorted, anti-Israel version of historical and current events in the Middle East” and worries that its administrators and students won’t “recognize how easily what seems like criticisms of Israel can veer into anti-Semitism.”
What Foxman deftly omitted from his criticism of the Friends trip is that, at the time his piece was published, students had already visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall, explored a number of synagogues, St. Anne’s Church and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, spent time at The Israel Museum, where they met with the director of a program that conducts workshops in which Palestinian and Israeli children create art together, and visited the Jordan River Valley with Mira Edelstein of the Tel-Aviv-based organization EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME). The day after Foxman’s piece appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the group traveled to Jaffa where they met with Dr. Edward Rettig, Director of the Israel/Middle East Office of the American Jewish Committee as well as a representative of The Abraham Fund Initiatives, a non-profit organization dedicated to “promote coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.”
Nevertheless, Foxman criticizes Friends for “taking high school kids to the Middle East and devising such a pro-Palestinian schedule,” especially because “Israel is America’s main ally in the region, a number of the students are Jewish, and balance is one of the school’s valued and oft-stated educational goals.”
It is unsurprising that Foxman’s disingenuous yearning for “balance” is driven by his desire to see the “impressionable high school students” exposed to Israeli narratives that reinforce the eternal victimhood of not only Israel but all Jews worldwide and which equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Learning about the personal experiences of Palestinians and experiencing the infrastructure, discrimination and oppression of the occupation does not fit with Foxman’s agenda.
This past November, an ADL sponsored “group of senior Latino and Latin American journalists, editors and producers completed an eight-day mission to Israel” in an effort “to counter what it sees as Latinos’ less favorable attitudes toward Israel.” The Jerusalem Post reported that “Stops on the tour included the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, Sderot, Nazareth, Safed, Lake Kinneret and the Golan.”
These Latino journalists, who hailed from the United States, Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela, went to multiple areas under Israeli occupation and probably met with numerous local colonists in their illegal settlements on stolen land! Imagine how “intensely personal” these “visits in the West Bank” were for the journalists. One has to assume that, due to Foxman’s apparent commitment to a “balanced” narrative presenting “similar experiences” of both Israelis and Palestinians, when visiting Christian holy sites on the ADL’s dime and with their own guides, the Latino journalists were able to spend ample time speaking with Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim. Oh, wait, that didn’t happen? Shocking!
In early 2004, the ADL took “[s]enior law enforcement personnel from across America, including “sixteen police chiefs and FBI terrorism task force representatives,” to Israel to meet “with their Israeli counterparts and learned how to better predict, prevent and respond to terrorism.” By Foxman’s standards of “balance,” the officials must have been told about the rampant Israeli arrests of Palestinian children and toddlers, who suffer abuse – mental, physical and sexual – and who are tortured during and traumatized by their imprisonment. They surely learned about Israel’s use of administrative detention to hold Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial, a direct violation of universal human rights and international law.
Did the group visit Palestinian communities victimized by housing demolitions, a particularly vindictive form of collective punishment favored by the Israeli government, examine the illegality of Israel’s Apartheid Annexation Wall and U.S.-supplied weaponry, or study the implications of surveillance state built upon domestic spying and racial profiling? Of course not.
University of Florida student Virlany Taboada was sent to Israel in 2010 by the ADL and “visited key sites related to Israel’s history,” “learned the country’s significance to the Jewish people,” and heard “different perspectives… from a variety of people while in Israel including military and a family that the group had a Shabbat dinner with one night.” Balance! No wonder that upon her return, Taboada said,
“For people who say that the Holocaust didn’t exist or that God doesn’t exist, you know the moment you go to the Jewish home and see a Jewish city that something happened. You know something took place that has completely transformed the way Israel is and the way people talk about it and I think that is what I saw there — that there is something special and something unique that you can’t find in a lot of places.“
That “special” and “unique something” is actually called Apartheid, Virlany.
Each year, the ADL brings leaders from colleges across the country to Israel. In August, 17 campus leaders joined the latest of these annual trips.
The eight-day trip, designed for students who have never visited the country, included visits to the Dead Sea, the Golan Heights, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the Jordan River and Christian and Jewish holy sites.
Students also learned about Israel’s diverse culture. They had Shabbat dinner with a family in Jerusalem and met with members of the Druze community as well as Ethiopian immigrants. They met Israeli Defense Force soldiers, students, and young citizens at the forefront of the summer’s tent city protests.
The mission also sought to further the students’ understanding about the conflict by bringing speakers with varying opinions such as a West Bank settler and a Palestinian journalist.
Whoa, one whole Palestinian journalist, eh? What perspective. Assuredly, Foxman didn’t raise any qualms about “balance” when AIPAC brought over 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to Israel in a move that was assailed by Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi as a “propaganda tour” designed to whitewash and obfuscate “the discrimination and occupation that the state of Israel imposes on the Palestinian people in its midst. ”
But Foxman is right: how are New York students supposed to internalize hasbara when they’re actually meeting with Palestinians in Palestine and staying in their homes under Israeli occupation? And all without a visit to Yad Vashem? I mean, when exactly was the emotional blackmail supposed to occur? And how are they supposed to suck face with IDF soldiers if they’re busy learning Palestinian oral histories?
But that’s not all.
Foxman attacks not only the “imbalanced structure of the trip” but also one of its chaperones, a history teacher at Friends, who he describes as having “well-known anti-Israel views, which he promotes at the school” and who “he presents the students a completely biased and one-sided version of events in the Middle East.” Here, the ADL chief seems to be taking his cues from the eminent liar, warmonger, plagiarist, torture-advocate, and outspoken terrorist supporter Alan Dershowitz, who recently also took to the pages of The Jerusalem Post to declare Friends Seminary a haven for anti-Semitism and condemn the same teacher as “rabidly anti-Israel… who propagandizes his students against Israel in the classroom, and who has a picture of Anne Frank wearing a Palestinian headdress on his website.”
“In his World History class, when he devotes one day to Israel, his two primary sources have been reported to be a speech by former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a paper by the American Friends Service Committee,” reveals Foxman, adding that the AFSC “has a long history of one-sided advocacy against the State of Israel.” Readers are supposed to gasp with horror at this. But Foxman’s selective and sensationalistic suggestion is not supported by facts and deliberately seeks to elicit shrieks of shock and condemnation.
The speech assigned to students is not just “a speech by former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat,” it is the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence, written by renowned poet Mahmoud Darwish. Students are also assigned to read both the 1917 Balfour Declaration and Israeli’s own 1948 Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, that a Friends school would include a paper by the American Friends Service Committee is hardly newsworthy.
Foxman also misunderstands the “oral history” component of the Friends trip. The project consists not of Friends students doing oral histories of Palestinian families, but rather sharing their own oral histories about Friends Seminary and Meetinghouse in Manhattan with Palestinian students from the Ramallah Friends school who developed oral histories of their own families.
The fact that the picture of Anne Frank in a kaffiyeh – used to spooky effect by Dershowitz – was actually this photograph of New York City street art posted on Flickr by someone else and merely “liked” by the history teacher in question hardly merits any attention, but perhaps demonstrates just how absurd these charges are.
Perhaps most telling is the inconvenient fact which Foxman and Dershowitz both deliberately leave out of their libelous descriptions of the Friends history teacher: he’s Jewish.
While Foxman claims to have spoken to “a number of parents” who seem to question the “balanced” nature of Middle East curricula at Friends, Joel Cohen, a current Friends parent, responded to both Foxman and Dershowitz’s attack on the school. In a letter written to and published by The Jerusalem Post the day after Foxman’s article appeared, Cohen condemns the “unjustified and unsupported attack on a New York private school, Friends Seminary, that Alan Dershowitz began last month,” stating that “Foxman, like Dershowitz, criticizes this respected school, its administration and faculty based on assertions he fails to support.” Cohen writes that Foxman “cites no evidence for his accusation about the history teacher, much like Dershowitz failed to offer when he began the attacks against Friends and this teacher. Like Dershowitz, Foxman also fails to provide evidence that he in fact knows anything meaningful about the Friends visit.” An even more detailed rebuttal of Dershowitz’s claims was posted on the Friends Seminary Facebook page in late February.
But the best counter to the attacks on Friends and its faculty lies with the students themselves. During the trip to Israel and Palestine, the students kept an incredible, publicly-accessible blog, entitled “Friends Visiting Friends in the Middle East.” It features posts written by the students themselves about their experiences and feelings.
Reading through the posts (written by the students themselves about their experiences and feelings during the trip), understanding the trip’s itinerary and looking at the gorgeous pictures, one can easily see why Foxman and friends are terrified of Friends students traveling to Israel and Palestine without the requisite hasbara pit stops. Truth and knowledge are directly anathema to Zionism’s stranglehold on emotional blackmail, ethnocratic exclusivity, and perennially exploited victimization.
In one entry, a Friends student named Eliza wrote about her conflicted feelings:
When I reflect on the experiences of this trip, the criticisms of it, and the larger conflicts within this region, I have found it really easy to lose sight of the human element in all of this. When I think about my host mother and the way she treated me with love and warmth despite my personal religion and political views, I find it a little bit easier to see the human side and I am incredibly grateful and thankful for that. I am more appreciative that I feel I am coming away from this experience with more of a human connection absent of all politics.
Jacob, who is in his senior year at Friends, wrote the following after spending time with Palestinian students and his host family in Ramallah:
I was amazed at how much these students like me, and also fascinated by the cultural differences… I never want to forget my experiences here, nor do I want to forget the lessons that I drew from them even though we are from different cultures and hold different beliefs. We are the same where it matters most: we both want peace, we both want to laugh, we both value passion, and we both enjoy a good felafel.
Another senior, Will, described painting messages on the separation wall as “one of the most ‘Friends’-like experiences I’ve ever had,” elaborating
We were all painting messages of hope and peace, and beyond that I was moved by how much we were supporting each other, both metaphorical and literally: Not only did we cheer each other on and applaud each other’s handiwork, but I actually lifted Rose up on my shoulders so she could find space to write. I also wrote my own message; after much internal debate, I decided to write the phrase that kept coming to my head: “WE ARE FRIENDS.” And walking away in the sunlight, with empty spray-paints cans in hand and classmates at my side, I really felt that these words were true.
Shortly after arriving in Israel and traveling to the West Bank, Rose summarized her feelings about what she had experienced so far:
We’re simply not staying here long enough. It’s a relief. A dream come true.
It is no surprise that experiences like those described by the inspiring and courageous students of Friends Seminary and which humanize Palestinians represent a dangerous threat to the hegemony of narrative so desperately promoted by career Zionist apologists like Foxman and Dershowitz.
For them, Rose’s “dream come true” is an absolute nightmare.
- Lethal Hawkademia and BDS (alethonews.wordpress.com)