The Jews and Israelis who back BDS

There once was a time when you might have thought there is a typo in the headline, but nowadays we all know the sad truth. Astonishingly, there are Jews both in the Diaspora and within Israel who promote, encourage or at the very least have keep an open mind about BDS.

By now the activities of extreme groups like Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), Jews for Justice for Palestinians, etc. are well known and thoroughly documented.  See NGO Monitor for details on how they use misrepresentation, exaggerations and outright lies to subvert Israel’s cause.

Yet there are other groups which sound benign and yet are giving a tail-wind to the boycott movement. Once such movement is Open Hillel which trades on the Hillel pro-Israel name to promote a devious agenda.  Describing the Open Hillel group as well as several others, a senior American lecturer,  A. J. Caschetta, writes in the Jerusalem Post of Backdoor BDS:

The first model allows you to disagree with what BDS says, while fighting for its right to be heard.

The Open Hillel Academic Council was founded to contest the Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities of the Jewish campus organization Hillel, which bar its 550+ chapters in the US and abroad from hosting or partnering with organizations that “support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.”

Open Hillel claims that Hillel has been taken over by a coterie of donors with no “respect for academic freedom and who seek to enforce their own rightwing ideologies.” Accepting BDS at the table, so goes the argument, will not only “restore critical inquiry” but also end Hillel’s “stifling conversation about Israel-Palestine.”

Open Hillel was created to force Hillel to work with the enemies of Israel, which isn’t surprising given that one of the founders is Judith Butler, West Coast queen of the BDS movement.


The second form of backdoor BDS is a piecemeal version that rejects measures punishing Israelis collectively in favor of those that ostensibly target only the most “guilty.”

The Third Narrative (TTN), a project of the American leftist Zionist group Ameinu (formerly the Labor Zionist Alliance), is focused on targeting the so-called “occupied territories,” rather than the whole of Israel. Syracuse University Jewish Studies professor Zachary Braiterman, a prolific writer on this subject, denounces the American Studies Association’s “blanket academic boycott on all Israeli universities and colleges” but applauds “more targeted…boycotts of West Bank settlements,” like those of the European Union. The latter, which he calls “bds,” reflect “international consensus that settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a violation of Palestinian human rights.”

Caschetta tries to analyse the motives and mindset of those who would side with our enemies and finishes with a warning:

For many on the Jewish academic Left, the question of whether, and how far, to embrace the BDS agenda has become the defining issue of their careers, perhaps even their identities. Given the extraordinary pressures they face to disavow Israel, advocating “bds” is for some a defensive move that allows them to fit in without jumping on the bandwagon. Others suffer from what Dr. Kenneth Levin calls the Oslo Syndrome: “the recurring propensity among segments of the Jewish population to take to heart the indictments of besiegers and persecutors, and to ascribe to themselves the power to change dramatically the attitudes of their enemies by self-reform.”

But make no mistake, the growing numbers of backdoor BDS advocates are, wittingly or unwittingly, advancing the BDS cause. All of these “bds” currents implicitly accept the foundational premise of BDS – that Israelis and/or Jews should be singled out for unique treatment. After all, “individual sanctions” are tools applied only to the world’s most odious regimes, and Open Hillel treats the one Jewish group on college campuses in a way that no other identity group is treated. As Andrew Pessin points out, no one would expect African-American groups to accept white supremacists to their ranks in the name of “intellectual inquiry” or “balance.”

The only racism that is still acceptable today in polite circles is anti-Jewish racism. Yet the antisemites are outraged if you call them antisemites. They want to be able to hate the Jews while still carrying their “halo” of liberal tolerance. But it doesn’t work that way and we must continue to call them out on their intolerance and hatred.

However bad Open Hillel and its ilk are – and they are pretty dangerous – a far worse phenomenon, and one much less known in Jewish circles, is the massive support given to BDS by a group of about 20 Israeli academics, as Yair Altman reports in Israel Hayom: (emphases are added):

A new report compiled by Dr. Shahar Golan of right-wing group Im Tirtzu has revealed that some 20 Israeli academics are encouraging the American Anthropological Association to boycott Israel in a vote that is expected to be tallied at the end of the month.

The AAA is the world’s largest professional body for anthropologists, with some 10,000 members, and it has just opened the polls for a vote on whether to sever all ties with Israel.

The 20 Israeli academics supporting the boycott are university lecturers and faculty members, some of whom receive their salaries from Israeli tax dollars, meaning that they are essentially supporting a boycott against themselves.

In an effort to stop the boycott motion, the Israeli Anthropological Association wrote a letter to its American counterpart. However, two weeks later, 20 Israeli academics who belong to various left-wing groups expressed support for the boycott in a second letter.

Altman lists these treacherous academics who teach in various Israeli colleges as well as overseas: Tel Aviv University, Tel Hai College, Sapir College, The Open University. There are several other Israelis in the list who no longer live here:

Professor Uri Davis (who converted to Islam and married a Palestinian woman from Ramallah), Dr. Naor Ben-Yehoyada, Eliran Bar-El, Hadas Weiss, Barak Kalir, Hilla Dayan, Erella Grassiani and Nitzan Shoshan.

The universities defended themselves by distancing themselves from these lecturers’ opinions, stating that they did not represent the universities, only their own opinions, and these are protected by free speech. As for the academics themselves, they explained their actins by claiming they are concerned for the future of Israel (they have a funny way of showing their concern!) and by asserting that the ASA boycott call is “is a response to Palestinian civil society’s call for non-violent struggle against the occupation” and not led by Israelis. I’m sure you all find that terribly reassuring. Not.

Why have the university administrations not taken action against these subversive academics? Do they not understand that the activities of these academics could in theory lead to the closure of their own schools?

As Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu states:

“The decision-makers and university presidents in Israel are struggling against the BDS phenomenon around the world, but they are completely ignoring the boycott phenomenon within, which is being led by Israeli academics. It is sad to see that the boycott leaders are cutting the branch upon which they are perched and working behind the scenes to critically harm the future of Israeli academia.”

So what is the real motive for their self-hatred, or rather for their disdain of their fellow Israelis who think differently to them? Is it Oslo Syndrome, being convinced by the enemy that their cause is the right one? Is it a form of Jewish antisemitism? Do they look down on right-wing Jews and Israelis and think they are superior to them? Is it a purely commercial decision? Are they hoping to attract better paying jobs and more fame by jumping on a radical-chic trendy bandwagon? Are they subversive anti-Western anti-imperialists on a mission?

Or are they simply so open-minded their brains fell out?

Posted in Academia, Antisemitism, Boycotts and BDS, Incitement, Israel news | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

In the British Labour Party, antisemitism springs from the top down – Update: antisemitic member readmitted

The nasty phenomenon of antisemitism in the British Labour Party is not leaving the news, and for a very good reason:

The indefatigable Douglas Murray of the Gatestone Institute explains that in the UK Labour Party anti-Semitism springs from the top down:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has ordered an “independent inquiry” into the party’s anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism isn’t new to the UK Labour Party, and its recent anti-Semitic outbursts shouldn’t surprise anyone, says Douglas Murray of The Gatestone Institute. He explains in the video below that Labour’s anti-Semitism problem starts at top of the party and why he believes that this inquiry will not solve anything.

Just watch the following video:

“Jewish Labour Mole” expands on this theme in “Looking Down, Not Up“, (via Harry’s Place): (emphases are mine):

I was brought up to beware the following set of circumstances: an economic recession; the emergence of a populist leader with an antisemitic following and the inexorable flow downwards to an increase in antisemitic abuse, violence and murder. That sequence is no fable: it’s history on repeat, and it’s happening now.

It’s true that Antisemitism is a society-wide phenomenon: but it rarely flourishes unless sanctioned by leaders and institutions. The caveat in this classic narrative is that the conditions required for that evil to triumph is that Good Men Do Nothing.

I was given to believe that never again would ‘Good Men Do Nothing’. I was sold a pup.

On the day of Corbyn’s coronation as leader, we Jews waited to see how he would handle his well-known antisemitic inheritance, an inheritance that was news to the wider public, but not to Jews nor his fringe antisemitic fan-base. The Jewish Chronicle immediately published a list of some of those items on their front page. But in the weeks that followed, as Jews were engulfed by the ensuing overflow of antisemitic sewage online, we heard Yvette Cooper, for example, speak up about the rise in online misogyny: but there was no public defence of the Jews. Ditto Burnham. Ditto … all of them.

The silence of those first few weeks still stuns me, and makes me feel viscerally sick for having pledged my allegiance to Labour. It wasn’t so much the promotion of Corbyn & his tribe, whose Soviet-infused Marxism’s embrace of ‘Anti-Colonial’ Islamism had brought together two smouldering brands of antisemitism & re-kindled a phoenix-fire of Jew-hate: no, we knew about that. It was that mainstream Labour leaders were silent on the eternal hatred that they knew full-well was now encamped in their home.

I watched, knowing that Jewish leaders, senior members of the Labour Party and newspaper editors would have understood exactly what they had witnessed. What would they say?

The Board of Deputies spoke, but all they could coax from dry lips was to pronounce his statement ‘Deeply disturbing’. As for the rest of the polity:


As for the press, they continued to focus on the expendable apparatchiks of the lower orders, gleefully notching up their body count, but keeping their eyes averted downwards, not up. No demands were made of Jeremy, Diane or Len to withdraw their remarks. No-one called them out, save Jews.

Just read it all. It’s a horrifying and damning condemnation of the antisemitism within the Labour Party, and of those who turn a blind eye, or simply don’t want to rock the boat.

As for the much-vaunted Labour inquiry into antisemitism in the party, it appears to be not so much a damp squib as a whitewash. The British watchdog Campaign Against Antisemitism notes four fatal flaws with the Labour Antisemitism Inquiry:

Firstly, the inquiry’s scope only covers the rules in future cases of antisemitism. It will not examine existing cases that remain unaddressed, such as the case of Sir Gerald Kaufman.

Secondly, the Labour Party’s antisemitism problem is not so acute because the rules were too lax; it is acute because the Party’s leadership and structures have failed to identify antisemitism and condemn it. The inquiry should examine the conduct of the Party’s leadership, but it will not.

Thirdly, the Vice Chair of the inquiry is Professor David Feldman, who has already dismissed claims of antisemitism in the Party as “baseless” and “politically motivated” in an open letter. It is ludicrous to appoint as judge and jury someone who has already made up his mind in opposition to the vast majority of British Jews.

Fourthly, the inquiry seeks to concoct its own definition of antisemitism

A further two flaws are pointed out in the Daily Mail’s article on the inquiry. The head of the Labour inquiry, Shami Chakrabarti joined the Labour party on very the day she was appointed, admitting that she holds Labour’s interests at heart. In which case how can she, or the inquiry, be considered independent?

The chairwoman of Jeremy Corbyn’s inquiry into anti-Semitism in Labour deliberately joined the party on the day she was appointed to make clear her support for its ‘interests’.

A further problem is with the inquiry itself, as it has been diluted from being an inquiry into antisemitism into an inquiry into all kinds of racism:

Ms Chakrabarti today issued a call for evidence for her inquiry, seeking written submissions on ‘anti-Semitism and all forms of racism including Islamophobia‘ by June 10. 

Why can’t antisemitism be addressed on its own “rights”? If Islamophobia were to be investigated, I’m willing to lay bets that antisemitism wouldn’t be included in the inquiry.

As what of Ms. Chakrabarti’s deputy, Prof. David Feldman, who was named by the CAA? Despite his Jewish name his history on antisemitism is rather questionable, as this Jewish Chronicle article notes:

Prof Feldman is a signatory to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a group of Jewish academics who are critical of British Jewish communal institutions.On Sunday, IJV released a statement which expressed concern “at the proliferation in recent weeks of sweeping allegations of pervasive antisemitism within the Labour Party.”

It added: “Some of these allegations against individuals are, in our view, baseless and disingenuous; in other cases, ill-chosen language has been employed.”

Sarah Brown at Engage Online has a more detailed history of Prof. Feldman’s  activity. While I don’t agree with everything she writes, she points out some of the major flaws in Feldman’s  submission to the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism.

However the single most controversial element in Feldman’s report is his refusal to recognize the use of Nazi imagery in anti-Israel discourse as antisemitic. He does concede that carrying a placard saying ‘Hitler was right’ was antisemitic – indeed his explanation seemed superfluous. 

However simply drawing parallels – say between Warsaw and Gaza – is not antisemitic in Feldman’s book, even though he fully acknowledges that such parallels are hurtful and inaccurate.

One absent presence in Feldman’s report was any reference to the blood libel. This trope would seem to fit under his first chosen definition of antisemitism as it relies on a lurid false claim of Jewish difference.

As for the head of the Labour inquiry, Shami Chakrabarti has admitted that she holds Labour’s interests at heart. In which case how can she, or the inquiry, be considered independent?

The chairwoman of Jeremy Corbyn’s inquiry into anti-Semitism in Labour deliberately joined the party on the day she was appointed to make clear her support for its ‘interests’.

Shami Chakrabarti

A further problem with the inquiry itself is that it has been diluted from being an inquiry into antisemitism into an inquiry into all kinds of racism:

Ms Chakrabarti today issued a call for evidence for her inquiry, seeking written submissions on ‘anti-Semitism and all forms of racism including Islamophobia’ by June 10. 

With all this in mind is it any wonder that the pro-Corbyn grassroots organization Momentum branch planned an anti-Semitism debate – on Shabbat.  The fact that after protests from Jewish members, the start time was brought forward by one hour to accommodate religious Jews neither compensates them, nor is it a satisfactory response to something that should have been blindingly obvious.

Update: A vice-chair of the above Momentum movement, Jackie Walker, was earlier suspended from Labour for a revolting antisemitic facebook post where she accused the Jews of heavy involvement in the slave trade:


This was disproved as an out and out libel. as Geoffrey Alderman in the Jewish Chronicle.

We should thus be outraged, but probably not be surprised that Walker has now been readmitted to Labour as Sarah Brown writes at Harry’s Place. Brown brings some particularly nasty examples of the glee with which Walker’s supporters greet the resignation of members disgusted with Walker and the antisemitism in the party.

Unless the Labour Party makes a truly genuine effort – and not just pay lip service with meaningless inquiries – to root out antisemitism from its ranks it’s hard to imagine they will retain much of their Jewish membership. Sadly, with the rot starting right at the head, I can’t see change happening any time soon.

Posted in Antisemitism | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Good News Friday

Thank goodness it’s Friday again, and time for another Good News Friday installment.

We’ll start with some Jewish tradition. Yesterday was the minor holiday of Lag Ba’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer. The main celebration, or “Hilula” is marked with a gigantic bonfire, attended by hundreds of thousands of people, at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (whose yahrzeit is traditionally held to be on Lag Ba’Omer) in Meron, near Safed in the Galilee.

Bonfires are also lit all around the country at private and public gatherings and in Israel at least, people spend time outdoors. The roots of these traditions can be read at the link.

The bonfire tradition is one taken VERY seriously by all Israelis of all ages, and anyone flying over the country on Lag Ba’Omer eve might think the country has caught fire! Sadly there were several outbreaks of fire around the country – whether from negligent celebrants or arson, and the very hot dry heatwave only spurred the fire on – but the massive wild-fire outside Jerusalem was the largest and most dangerous.

Wildfire outside Jerusalem, near Ramot neighbourhood

Nearby residents had to be temporarily evacuated, but thankfully it was finally brought under control without injury or loss of human life, but the damage to the trees and wildlife is still to be measured.

Interestingly the Picture a Day website has some great photos of a Lag ba’Omer children’s procession in Jerusalem from almost 100 years ago!

Lag Ba'Omer 1918

Lag Ba’Omer 1918

Today, there is a 1918 date on the Library of Congress page and this new caption:  “Jewish children and adults, one holding a Star of David banner, walking south on Nablus Road towards the grave of Shimon Hatzadik (Simon the Just), Jerusalem.”

In fact, the day was Tuesday, April 30, 1918. The procession is almost certainly an organized outing of several Jerusalem schools taking place on Lag Ba’Omer, four weeks after Passover. Traditionally, on Lag Ba’Omer Jews flock to the Galilee mountaintop of Meiron to the grave of Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the most famous scholars in the Talmud. But some 100 years ago, travel to Meiron would have taken days. Instead, the children took a hike to Shimon Hatzadik’s grave, a known custom 100 years ago in Jerusalem.

The houses around the grave where Jews lived 100 years ago were abandoned under threat of Arab pogroms in the 1920s and 1930s. The Hadassah convoy massacre in 1948, in which almost 80 Jews were killed, took place on the road beneath the building with the very prominent arches.

In recent years, however, Jewish families have returned to the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood.

Read the rest of the story about the photo. It is quite fascinating. The site also provides us with a useful comparative picture showing the area then and now:

Comparison of buildings from 1918 and today. Second stories were added to the buildings over the years. (IDP)

An added bonus to these wonderful photos is the proof that Jews were living, working and thriving in Jerusalem long before the antisemites claim we arrived in Israel, and long before any “Palestinian” Arabs laid claim to the houses that the Jews abandoned precisely because of that Arab violence.

Since we’re in celebratory mood, what better news could there be than to know that Israel has the world’s 6th highest life expectancy rate (via Pini). Not bad for a country in a war zone!

Despite ongoing security threats and regional instability, Israelis can expect to live well into their 80s, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) newly released global report on life expectancy.

Elderly Israelis

Japan has the world’s highest average life expectancy—nearly 84 years—followed by Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, and Spain. Israel came in sixth..

…  Israelis can expect an average lifespan of 82.5 years—80.6 for men and 84.3 for women, according to WHO. This sharply contrasts with some of Israel’s neighbors, including Egypt (71 years) and Jordan (74 years). For those living in conflict-ridden Syria and Iraq, the average life expectancies are about 65 and 69 years, respectively.

In the United States, males have an average lifespan of 77 years and women an average of 81.6 years.

I take the comparison with the US more seriously than with our war-torn neighbours, and it’s a badge of honour for us to rate higher than them.

This is of a piece with the World Happiness Index where there too, Israel ranked very high, in 11th place.  Again, never mind the 3rd world countries. Let us compare ourselves to the West:

The United States came in at 13, the United Kingdom at 23, France at 32, and Italy at 50.

the report, now in its fourth edition, ranks 157 countries by happiness levels using factors such as per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and healthy years of life expectancy.

It also rates “having someone to count on in times of trouble” and freedom from corruption in government and business.

Israel is certainly a country that can be counted on not only in times of trouble, but at all times. Israelis are always working to improve the world and the human condition. Last week French PM Emanuel Valls inaugurated Israel’s largest solar park:

Israel came one step closer to a clean-energy future on Sunday, when the country inaugurated a 50-megawatt solar in the northern Negev, through a partnership with a subsidiary of France’s national electric company.

Zmorot solar park

The Zmorot Solar Park was built as a joint project of the Israeli partner Solex and EDF Energies Nouvelles Israel Ltd., with the support of a subsidiary of the Électricité de France’s renewable energy arm.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls attended the inauguration during his three-day trip to Israel, calling the site another “chapter of cooperation between our two countries” and a sign of future work. He hailed the Zmorot field as more than just a technical project. “It is a political project, a project that shows us a way for the future of renewable energy.”

Kol hakavod to Solex and EDF on their collaboration and this successful project. May they go on to many more joint projects which keep our air clean!

What else keeps us happy here in Israel? Visiting performers!. And you don’t get much bigger a star than Elton John who rocked Tel Aviv last night to a sold-out audience:

Thank you Sir Elton! Looking forward to many more performances.

And for a lovely close to this week’s post, here is a great feel-good story, which I would call “Only in Israel”, except that it happened in Paris – an unexpected story of unity and hope:

As Israelis took the lids off their foam sprays and silly string, and adorned themselves in blue and white to celebrate Independence Day, we stepped off a plane at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and began making our way towards baggage control for a four-day trip to the French capital.

Just a few hundred meters into the terminal, a woman came running down the ramp shrieking in panicked French. We had no idea what she was saying, but a moment later spotted a middle-aged man collapsed on the floor, with a small crowd of anxious people around him.

He had no pulse, and a man kneeling on the floor next to him began to try to resuscitate him. My husband, Meir Arad, an Israeli Jew, ran up to a member of the airport staff who was standing watching nearby, and asked her to get a defibrillator. She disappeared through a door behind her… and didn’t come back.

My husband joined the man kneeling on the floor, an Israeli-Arab nurse from near Tiberias whose name we never caught. Together they began working on the man, taking it in turns, one after another, hands together pumping on his chest trying to revive him.

As onlookers just walked on without offering help, and airport staff disappearing from view, the Arab nurse remarked:

“This balagan could never have happened in Israel,” we all told each other.

“Ain k’mo Israel [There’s nowhere like Israel],” said the nurse, shaking his head.

And the happy end?

And they did save his life. An hour or two later we received a text from El Al that the man, whose name we never knew, was revived and doing well. Without their intervention, there is no doubt he would have died on that ramp in Charles de Gaulle. It was a joyful end to a very moving Independence Day.

Kol hakavod to Meir Arad and the (unnamed) Arab nurse. Not only did they save a human life, but they brought honour to Israel, making a huge kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d’s name).  Would that there would be more people like these two heroes all over the world.

And with this heart-warming story I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Culture, Arts & Sports, History, Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Son of Hamas: There is an Islamic problem that threatens humanity

Continuing on the theme from my previous post about the state of Israel’s moral compass, here is someone who knows how truly moral Israel is.

Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Hamas commander Sheikh Hassan Yousef, and worked as an undercover agent for Israel for many years. From his Wikipedia bio:

Shin Bet considered him its most valuable source within the Hamas leadership: the information Yousef supplied prevented dozens of suicide attacks and assassinations of Israelis, exposed numerous Hamas cells,[1] and assisted Israel in hunting down many militants, including the incarceration of his own father, a Hamas leader SheikhHassan Yousef.[4] In March 2010, he published his autobiography titled Son of Hamas.[5]

In 1999, Yousef converted to Christianity, and in 2007 moved to the United States.[2] His request for political asylum in the United States was granted pending a routine background check on June 30, 2010.[6]

The rest of his life story reads like a spy thriller. He wrote an autobiography Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices.

Last week Mosab Yousef was a keynote speaker at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York.  Arutz Sheva brings us the video and a summary of his speech:

Yousef, whose code name was “The Green Prince”, risked his life working undercover for the Shin Bet, and during that time he supplied information that prevented dozens of suicide attacks and assassinations of Israelis and exposed numerous Hamas terrorist cells.

He ultimately converted to Christianity and fled to the United States where he was granted political asylum.

“At one point I thought that the Jewish nation is the enemy of humanity. I thought they were the enemy of our people, the Palestinian people, until I experienced what the Jewish nation truly is,” said Yousef, who described Israel as “the only light in the Middle East”.

“We can fool ourselves, but there is an Islamic problem,” he continued, adding, “Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, the Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram – all of them kill in the name of Allah.”

“There is an Islamic problem and humanity needs to stand against this danger, because it is not directed only against Israel. This danger is against human evolution,” warned Yousef.

Yousef then addresses the much-discussed question of Israel’s morality:

Yousef praised Israel for its morality and its values, saying Israel is a “nation that managed to survive the Holocaust and instead of assuming the role of victim and blaming everyone they were able to establish a democratic state – a young country which developed in less than 25 years. This is a good example for everyone.”

Just listen to his amazing speech. No further commentary is necessary.


Posted in Antisemitism, support Israel, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Worrying about Israel’s “moral compass”

Ever since Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Yair Golan warned Israel against becoming “morally corrupt”, and newly-resigned Defence Minister Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon expressed dismay at Israel’s loss of its moral compass, the world has been equally watching us with bated breath, looking for signs of imminent Nazism and racism to appear in Israeli society.

For the BBC of course this was manna from Heaven. BBC Watch reports on the BBC’s “World Have Your Say” radio program where they wondered aloud at this very moral compass that Israel looks set to lose. As you might expect, there was no such pondering about other, much more violent countries:

… However, BBC audiences have not been invited to ponder the question of whether the citizens of Austria (or America, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Finland or Denmark) have lost their moral compass en masse.

That question was posed –literally – in relation to a country which the BBC has long portrayed as ‘lurching’ to the right of the political map – regardless of the inaccuracy of that framing.

The May 20th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ (titled “Has Israel Lost its ‘Moral Compass’?“, from 00:48) based its discussion around the resignation of Israel’s Minister of Defence on the same day and presenter Anu Anand was joined by four telephone interviewees.

Towards the end of the item, as Gregg Roman [Director of the Middle East Forum – Ed.] tried to provide listeners with insights into the Israeli political scene, Anand interrupted and refocused the discussion on the programme’s real topic:

“But can I just move you guys back to the…the….you know, the talk about how Israel is losing its values. I do understand there are heavy politics involved, but perhaps for a global audience…”

The BBC of course is not the only media outlet shedding crocodile tears for Israel’s worrying morality though they are a leading influence. As one reads media articles, social media posts, talkbacks on articles, or watches and hears TV and radio programs, the effect on the average Israeli is suffocating and infuriating.

A golden oldie but as relevant as ever

I am therefore very thankful that I came across Vic Rosenthal’s (aka Abu Yehuda) excellent  two-part series on this very subject which should be required reading for all pro-Israel advocates.

In part I of Adjusting the Moral Compass he describes the origin of this discussion on morality, which was the incident of the IDF soldier Elor Azaria who shot dead an (apparently) incapacitated terrorist after a knife attack. He then places this discussion of morality into a historical context and also locates where Israel sits on the world stage:

On the one side, we have the primarily secular academic, cultural, military, legal and media elites, mostly Ashkenazim whose families have been in Israel for generations, who have become increasingly vocal, even frantic, about what they call ‘undemocratic’, ‘racist’, ‘ultra-nationalist’, ‘fascist’ and ‘theocratic’ trends in society.On the other side – now a majority –  are found many religious Israelis and those of Mizrachi or Soviet origin, who believe that the elites are anti-Zionist, self-hating, bigoted against religious people and ignorant about the true nature of our enemies.

Both sides believe that the other, if not reined in, will destroy the state.

The real issue is the degree to which our moral system should be universal or tribal.

Universalism, the belief that we are obligated to treat all human beings alike regardless of who they are has reached its apogee in Europe and the US, where no crime is more detested than ‘racism’.

Universalist ethics are opposed to tribalism, which prioritizes one’s own tribe, religious group or nation. There was no Enlightenment in the Islamic world, and Middle Eastern cultures are still highly tribalistic; so much so that attempts to create modern states while ignoring ethnic, religious and tribal realities have been (e.g., Syria and Lebanon) spectacular failures.  One way to characterize the moral system of a culture is by where it falls on the universalism-tribalism axis.

Former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak tried to force Israel into the mold of a European or American “state of its citizens.” In the name of democracy, the Court opposed attempts to maintain a special status for Jews or Judaism. Foreign interests like the American New Israel Fund and the Union for Reform Judaism, as well as European-financed NGOs support this universalist vision, even to the point of calling for changes in our flag and national anthem because they don’t speak to our Arab citizens.

Of course they don’t. Why should they, in a Jewish state?

The environment is changing and the cultural organism must change too, if it is to adapt to it. In our new environment, a strongly universalist morality is not an advantage; it constitutes unilateral moral disarmament. Our state won’t survive as a copy of the US or Sweden (indeed, the pressures are such that neither the US nor Sweden may survive in their present form).

That doesn’t mean that we need to give up democratic government or adopt all the cultural practices of our neighbors, like their misogyny, religious coercion, or beheadings and barrel bombs. It doesn’t imply that we ought to view ourselves as superior to non-Jews or that we should deny non-Jews that live among us their civil rights.

What it does mean is that our objective should be a state that unashamedly prioritizes Jewish people, culture, religion and values.

In Part II Vic speaks of the consequences of moral equivalence, of applying a universalist belief to an area where tribalism rules:

The psychological consequences of our European-style ‘fairness’ on our tribal enemies are also counterproductive. They understand our ‘goodness’ as weakness, and take maximum advantage of it. It does not make them admire us or wish for peace; rather, it generates contempt and encourages them to continue using violent tactics.

What is true of our rules for warfare and counterterrorism also applies to our public diplomacy and other areas. Our leaders express an understanding of the supposed Palestinian need for a state and desire to sit down with them and negotiate a peace deal, while the Arabs publish maps on which Israel does not appear and educate their children to love martyrdom above all. We provide surgery in our best hospitals to the relatives of leaders of Hamas and the PLO, while they encourage their people to pick up a knife and stab a Jew.

One of the implications of a universalist morality is that there is no such thing as an enemy in the traditional sense. If anyone should be considered an enemy it would be the leaders of Hamas and the PLO; yet our doctors save the lives of their relatives. In this view even terrorists have rights, and the people of Gaza and the Arabs of Judea and Samaria shouldn’t be punished collectively for what their leaders do. After all, everyone is an individual and everyone has human rights.

Israelis have taken this European approach even further. Because of our (historically inappropriate) guilt complex toward the Palestinians, we might say that “everyone has human rights especially the Palestinians.”

But what if we realign our moral system to see the conflict in tribal terms?

This is war and the Palestinians are the enemy. Who speaks like this in Israel today?

You don’t supply water, electricity, food and cement to an enemy population, especially one which has no desire to overthrow its leadership. And the Palestinians, both in Gaza and Judea/Samaria have defined themselves as an enemy, by their choice of leaders, by what they teach in their schools and say in their official and social media, and in their popular support and enthusiastic participation in terrorism against Jews.

Collective punishment? Of course they should be punished collectively, because their guilt as an aggressor is collective.

Now before anyone gets outraged at the politically incorrect but (in my opinion) morally correct assertiveness expressed by Vic Rosenthal, let us just remind ourselves of a very similar instance that happened just last week – in New York. A knife-wielding man was shot dead – and guess what? There was no UN resolution or condemnation of New York cops, there were no editorials or programs on the BBC expressing hypocritical concern at the morality of the US. It was taken as a given that an armed man will be shot dead. As the Algemeiner reports on the “disproportionate response to the New York attacker“:

“Knife-wielding man shot dead in midtown Manhattan” was the headline making the rounds on the Internet last week. The man with the knife had not shouted “Allahu Akbar,” nor was he attempting to commit a terror attack. He was simply an apparently inebriated individual, identified as Gary Conrad, who went into a Food Emporium, where he allegedly became “aggressive and belligerent.”

According to NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill, “He was swearing at the people in the store, swearing at the workers in the store.” Swearing, imagine that. What a lethal menace!

A police officer called to the scene began struggling with Conrad, who pulled out a knife. Police officers ordered him to drop the knife, but he continued to approach them with the knife in his hand. At that point, O’Neill said, an officer and a sergeant opened fire on Conrad.

They did not shoot him once. They did not merely aim to neutralize him by shooting him in the legs or his arms. They shot him an incredible nine times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Had this taken place in Israel, and had this man not been called Gary Conrad, but Mohammed, and had he not been merely an inebriated loon but a terrorist out to slash Jews, international outrage would have poured forth in torrents from the front page of every single news outlet and the mouth of every opinion maker worth his salt. The “disproportionate force” claim would have been thrown about and every self-respecting journalist would have asked why Israel had to kill the man — shooting him no fewer than nine times — instead of simply neutralizing him by shooting him in the legs or the arms and then taking him to hospital.

So far, not a single news report has questioned the judgment of the NYPD. No American liberal has come forth in self-righteous indignation, asking whether killing this man, who, after all, was not threatening to blow up the Food Emporium or stab anyone, may have been slightly on the disproportionate side.

Let us stop beating ourselves about the head and bewailing our loss or lack of morality, and instead we should be proud of just how well Israel and Israelis comport themselves while under the most extreme threat of constant attack and annihilation. We compare well not just in comparison to our degenerate neighbours, but compared to every Western country on earth.

Of course there is always room for improvement, and we cannot sit back and think we are saints, but nevertheless we have much to be proud of in our democracy, our enlightenment and yes, our morality.

Update: Lawrence in the comments provides us with another excellent link: Why some Jews are afraid of their inner-Nazi. It expresses similar sentiments to Abu Yehuda in a more concise manner. Go and read!

Posted in Antisemitism, Israel news, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Netanyahu’s appointment of Liberman as Defence Minister: Gewald on the Left, cautious welcome on the right

The last few days in have been a roller-coaster in Israeli politics, with coalition talks going on behind the scenes – but constantly leaked to the public – between Likud and, alternately, Zionist Union and Yisrael Beitenu. In the end, Yisrael Beitenu and Avigdor Liberman won the contest, but not without much antagonism and back-biting from all corners of the political spectrum.

Avigdor Liberman, new Defence Minister

Honest Reporting brings us a pretty good synopsis of the whole saga:

Israeli coalition politics is a combination of Game of Thrones and musical chairs. In a bid to expand his one-seat parliamentary majority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lured Avigdor Liberman back into the government by giving him the Defense Ministry. This happened as efforts to form a national unity coalition with Isaac Herzog and the Zionist Union floundered.

According to Israeli media reports, ex-British prime minister Tony Blair, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi were key figures in trying to bring about a unity government, seeing it as a way to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. This might explain Egyptian anger at the Israeli government’s last-minute rightward turn. So how did the reported plan unravel?

“Herzog claims the talks failed because Netanyahu refused to provide written versions of the understandings they had reached over settlement construction and negotiations with the Palestinians, the two elements that were supposed to enable the regional move with the Arab nations. Likud sources say Netanyahu realized that Herzog did not have the backing of a majority of his Knesset faction for joining the coalition, and didn’t want to take the risk of making such far-reaching diplomatic undertakings.”

The far left predictably cried “Gewald!” (Translation: Disaster!) at Liberman’s appointment as Defence Minister as they protested the most dangerous government ever!

Hundreds of far leftists held a protest on Saturday night at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square, demonstrating against MK Avigdor Liberman being appointed Defense Minister as part of his Yisrael Beytenu party joining the coalition government.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and supporters at anti-government rally in Tel Aviv

Present at the protest was MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), former Labor MK Yael Dayan, chairperson of Meretz’s management Ori Zachi – and counter-protesting the radical leftists, nationalist rap star Yoav Eliasi, better known by his stage name Hatzel.

The leftist protesters bore signs reading “Liberman is a fascist,” “the disaster government, we don’t want any more victims,” and “Liberman is war minister.”

Elad Wolf and Bar Gisin, two of the far left organizers of the event, told Walla that “the time has come to wake up the state of Israel.”

“The ground is burning, this right-wing government is the most dangerous Israeli government. We must stop this huge snowball before it will be too late. The Israeli public is sick of Netanyahu’s cynical survival games and the threats and incitement of Liberman and (Naftali) Bennett. We have no confidence in them, not in their sincerity and certainly not in their policy.”

Even the centrist David Horovitz at the Times of Israel was very wary about Liberman’s appointment, calling it no ordinary political maneuver: He starts by mentioning Channel 2’s veteran military correspondent Roni Daniel’s cry of mourning and his doubt about wishing his children to continue living in Israel:

Channel 2’s grizzled and gray-haired military correspondent Roni Daniel does not have the reputation of a bleeding-heart liberal.

In the midst of the evening broadcast, during a discussion on that day’s resignation of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and his imminent replacement by Avigdor Liberman, Daniel asked if his fellow panelists would keep quiet for a minute because there was something he wanted to say. He then declared, entirely unbidden, that he was “no longer sure” that he wanted his children to continue to live in Israel, because, he said, the “culture of government” was now so distasteful. He also reeled off a list of right-wing Knesset members to whom he took particular exception.

Jaws dropped around the studio. One of Daniel’s colleagues, Amnon Abromowitz, attempted to make light of the declaration, saying flippantly, “Before Roni leaves the studio and his children leave the country…” But Daniel was emphatically not in flippant mood. He banged his fist on the table, and protested that Abromowitz was not taking him seriously.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brutal ousting of the defense minister who has stood loyally at his side for the past three years, in favor of an unpredictable populist with a track record of castigating the government even when he’s in it, has produced predictable reactions across the spectrum. The further right, the warmer the support for the change in personnel; the further left, the direr the warnings of fascism and extremism in the governance of Israel. …

Outgoing Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, Avigdor Liberman and PM Netanyahu

The loyalist and the demagogue

The defenestration of Moshe Ya’alon, and the elevation of defense minister-in-waiting Avigdor Liberman, is no ordinary cabinet reshuffle.

Ya’alon had all the attributes Netanyahu could ever have wanted in this most prominent and sensitive of positions. As a military man, Ya’alon’s record is peerless. He was a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, a commander of the army’s most elite commando unit (Sayeret Matkal, in which Netanyahu also served), and, finally, the chief of staff who led the battle to suppress the onslaught of Palestinian suicide bombings in the Second Intifada. The son of a Haganah veteran father and a Holocaust survivor mother, he grew up working class in Haifa, and later moved to a kibbutz, but he moved gradually to the political right, and chose the Likud when he entered politics in 2008.

Ya’alon is also a man of steely moral principle, who immediately protested the breach of ethical norms that he saw in the alleged cold-blooded execution in Hebron on March 24, by IDF Sergeant Elor Azaria, of a Palestinian assailant who had been disarmed and was lying wounded. He also insisted, after Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan had warned this month of “horrifying processes” in today’s Israel that carried echoes of pre-World War II Germany, that the army’s commanders have the right and obligation to speak their minds.

Now Ya’alon, the military high-flier and the moralist, is to be replaced by former IDF Corporal Liberman, a man whose mediocre military career has never prevented him from prescribing one-sentence solutions to Israel’s various military challenges, and whose moral compass led him, far from condemning Azaria, to make a solidarity visit to the military court at which the soldier is being tried for manslaughter.

Perhaps in most striking contrast to Ya’alon, however, is the degree to which Liberman manifestly cannot be relied upon by Netanyahu. They have worked together on and off for some 30 years, and Liberman, set on becoming prime minister himself, has switched from Netanyahu loyalist to rival, from coalition partner to opposition critic, and back again, as and when he has spotted an opportunity for personal advantage.

Trump-style, he’ll say whatever he thinks it useful to his career to say. On Gaza, for instance, Liberman declared at the height of the 2014 war, when he himself sat in the inner cabinet, that Hamas must be smashed and the government was not going far enough. But later he decided that Gaza must be given over to the UN. And later still that the way forward was via the Strip’s economic development. When he deems the time ripe, he can be relied upon to ditch Netanyahu with the same ease that he ditched his Yisrael Beytenu party’s much-hyped social agenda in negotiating this coalition deal.

The beginning of the end, of what?

Why did Netanyahu trade the loyal, moral, militarily expert Ya’alon for the disloyal, demagogic, and militarily inexpert Liberman? Ultimately because Netanyahu needed to expand his unstable coalition, and Liberman would not have joined if he wasn’t given the defense post. The alternative potential coalition partner, Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog, was driving too hard a bargain, leads a disunited party and is reviled by the governing right.

But self-evidently, too, Netanyahu was unfazed by Liberman’s defense of the Hebron soldier, and unperturbed to be shedding the irritatingly ethical Ya’alon.

There’s much more at the link, and while I find myself somewhat sympathetic to Horovitz’s shocked reaction, I am simultaneously taking the whole saga with a strong dose of cynicism. Nothing is ever as bad as the Left claims nor as good as the Right claims. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and the sky is not really falling.

First of all, there are voices, yes, on the Right, which remind the very ethical Moshe Yaalon that the IDF is subordinate to the civilian government and is not a military junta. There is speculation in the  article that Yaalon’s support for IDF officers’ freedom of speech outside of the army is what probably tipped Netanyahu’s hand into finding a new coalition partner:

The Israeli political battle lines were clearly delineated once again late Sunday, with right wing-nationalist lawmakers denouncing Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for his support of an army high command that has become more vocal in offering its opinions on the current state of society.

The fallout from the minister’s remarks reverberated into late Sunday, when Ya’alon was summoned for “an urgent meeting” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

“Somebody needs to remind Bogie (Ya’alon’s nickname) that we live in a democracy, not a military regime,” Likud MK Oren Hazan said. “The IDF is not a junta. Its job is to implement the decisions of the civilian leadership and not to disagree with it and chart its own policy.”

Ron Jager in Arutz Sheva sees a positive spin in Liberman’s appointment, as he writes about “perception as deterrence“. He asserts that the Palestinians and the Left have built up Liberman into such a bogeyman, that they might very well do what Israel wants just to avert “the evil decree” of a Liberman backlash:

The recent news that Avigdor Liberman, a former Israeli  Foreign  Minister and head of the smal right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party,will replace Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon as the new Israeli defense minister has been greeted by the Israeli media and their elitist opinion makers with dismay and stupefaction.  In Tel-Aviv, a city known for its progressive and leftist inclination, many muttered that the municipality should start opening up the air raid shelters as Liberman’s appointment hit the airwaves.

Liberman, a politician feared and despised by the Israeli left, is being demonized and delegitimized before his appointment goes into effect. The potential appointment of Avigdor Lieberman  as Defense Minister has thrown the whole Palestinian Arab leadership and Israeli Arab politicians into a frenzy, making the reaction of Israel’s leftist elite seem mild. Claiming that Israel is adopting characteristics of a fascist regime and calling for boycott of Israel; stating that “the Israeli government is sending a message to the world that Israel prefers extremism, dedication to the “occupation” and “settlements over peace” and encouraging blatant racism, are only a fraction of the derogatory and slanderous accusations against a veteran politician who has been democratically elected.

The potential appointment of Avigdor Lieberman to the position of Defense Minister may very well herald a new and more effective deterrence against the Palestinian Arab desire to get up in the morning and murder a Jew. The Palestinian Arab perception of Lieberman is as a person who believes in the sanctification of power, ruthlessness, violence, and who has murderous potential might very well be exactly the change that causes the Palestinians to adopt a more realistic assessment of what a negotiated settlement will look like.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin expressed great satisfaction with the new appointment saying that “now the government can finally do what we were elected to do“.

And Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself reassured the government that Yisrael Beitenu’s joining the coalition and Liberman’s appointment will not impact talks with the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began the weekly government cabinet meeting by defending efforts to expand the coalition, stating that the inclusion of the Yisrael Beytenu party will not impact on the government’s diplomatic efforts vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority.

“From the beginning, when we established the government, I said that my intention was to expand the government,” Netanyahu said. “61 [the government’s current narrow majority of one – ed.] is better than 59, but a government which is as wide as possible is an important thing for the State of Israel.”

Emphasizing that talks were still “underway”, the PM added that a “wider coalition” would enable the government to better deal with the wider range of challenges facing the country.

He further emphasized that the secular-nationalist party’s inclusion into the coalition would not alter the government’s commitment to engage in direct talks with the Palestinian Authority, despite Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s critical views on the matter.

One final critique of the Left’s criticism of Liberman’s appointment, and a blistering attack on their hypocrisy, is produced by Kalman Liebskind at NRG (Ma’ariv, Hebrew only). Here are some highlights and my free translation of some of his comments:

Liebskind accuses the Left not of criticizing Netanyahu – we all do that! – but of always wanting precisely what is bad for Netanyahu, not necessarily what is good for Israel. He also reminds us that the Left were very happy to consider Liberman as Defence Minister back at election time when everyone was jockeying to create a coalition:

On Wednesday evening Fate sat on the couch, watching the news and rolled with laughter. The panic that attacked all those journalists and the social media highly amused him. Why? Because for a long time, these people, who built up in their imagination all kinds of strange coalitions of “Just Not Bibi”, saw Liberman as a senior and legitimate partner for all intents and purposes. Raviv Druker [Haaretz journalist] published an “imaginary scenario” where Yair Lapid would make a government coalition and Liberman would be Defence Minister.

So let’s all calm down and give this new coalition a chance – not that we have any say in the matter, which is a whole different story about Israel’s democratic system.

Final update: It’s not over till the fat lady sings – Netanyahu has just announced that he is still holding out hope that the Zionist Union will join the coalition. Never say never…

Posted in Israel news, Media and journalism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments