Jesús Alcalá—a lawyer, writer and former chairman of the Swedish branch of Amnesty International—recently wrote an article in the Swedish daily newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, titled “The Dangers of Careless Journalism.”
Alcalá has harsh words for the tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet’s publication of Donald Boström’s article on “Israeli organ harvesting”—and for Åsa Linderborg, the Aftonbladet editor who continues to stand by the story:
Every year around thirty different human rights organizations – international, Israeli and Palestinian – report on abuses and violations of human rights in Israel, on the West Bank, and in Gaza. The criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is often harsh. But none of these organizations have ever accused or suspected Israel of stealing organs from Palestinians that the Israeli army has killed. Not Amnesty. Not Human Rights Watch. Not a single of Israel’s many Jewish and Palestinian human rights organizations. Not a single one.
I have no reason to believe that Boström is an anti-Semite. I am sure that he is driven by genuine concern for the rights of the Palestinians. His cause is good. I believe the same of Åsa Linderborg.
Still. The end cannot justify the means. The carelessness is dangerous. Boström is familiar with the conflict in the Middle East. Is it then too much to ask that he avoids any connection to the myths of Jewish blood libels? Is it not careless to lend credence to rumors that are consequently exploited to strengthen hatred? Barely a month after Boström’s article is published; the Algerian paper al-Khabar writes that a Jewish organ trade group has kidnapped a great number of Algerian and Moroccan children. This information is news both to the Algerian and the Moroccan police. No investigation has been made. No one has been questioned. No “kidnapped” children have been identified. The basis for al-Khabar’s news story is a statement made by the head of the Algerian National Healthcare Committee, the well known anti-Semite Mustafa Khayattil. Khayattil connects the alleged kidnappings with Boström’s article. What is Boström thinking when he later on travels to Algeria to receive a journalistic prize from the Algerian National Journalist Union for his article on organ trade?
In December 2009, during a heavily anti-Semitic election campaign, Ukrainian media report that Israel during the last two years have kidnapped more than 25,000 children from the Ukraine. The children have allegedly been traced to Israeli hospitals. The source of the information is professor of philosophy, Vyacheslav Gudin, who claims, partly with reference to Boström’s article that the children have been the victims of organ trade.
Somewhat later that same month, in the harsh mood created by the rumors of organ trade, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad referring to Boström’s article demands international action against Israel for its organ trade. Ghassan Khatib, the spokesperson for the Palestinian government, specifies those demands. “It is high time that the international community punishes Israel for its robbing of the organs of Palestinian martyrs.” Did Boström really not realize that his speculations around ”involuntary organ reserves” – published in a major West European paper – would not have the consequences that we have possibly only seen the beginning of?
It is true that both news reporting and cultural journalism can be a matter of life and death. That is why it is so important, so vital, that media never spread rumors, that journalists are always careful with facts and nuances, complexities and detail. And is it not the case that culture preferably should be a result of reflection? That the task of cultural journalism is to penetrate the buzz of fast and simple news and explanations that makes reflection unnecessary? That the cultural journalist should attempt to bring light on the complexities rather than denying their existence? That there is hardly any task more pressing for cultural journalism than to keep alive nuances and shades of grey and to resist the temptation of black and white journalism?
Predictably, Alcalá’s article prompted Aftonbladet editor Åsa Linderborg to respond with accusations of (surprise!) a conspiracy of silence among Sweden’s liberals:
Jesus Alcalá must be the only (former) chairman of Swedish Amnesty ever to defend the right of occupation forces to kill and steal bodies…..Every new article strengthens the diagnosis that the liberals suffer from a collective empathy disorder vis-à-vis Palestinians: they have no human value, and we who claim the opposite should just shut up. Not write, not speak, not ask questions. They themselves sit there like the three monkeys, who refuse to see, hear or speak about what’s uncomfortable.
The Nation Institute (TNI)—affiliated with the Nation magazine—does some good work. Their Investigative Fund is dedicated to improving the scope and overall quality of investigative reporting in the independent press. They also established a Journalism Fellowship Program “to enable prominent journalists to write on pressing and complex social issues free of the constraints of the mainstream media.”
TNI often tilts farther to the Left than my own views, but I appreciate a thriving marketplace of ideas. (If, for no other reason, because I love a good argument.) However, I was disappointed to see that one of their new Fellows is Philip Weiss—a contributing writer to the Nation, who publishes the blog Mondoweiss. TNI says Weiss’s blog “ explores Middle East policy, Israel/Palestine issues, and Jewish identity.”
Sorry, but describing Mondoweiss as a blog that “explores Middle East policy, Israel/Palestine issues, and Jewish identity” is like describing the John Birch Society as “an organization dedicated to safeguarding freedom and promoting American values.”
I’ve blogged before about Weiss’s vapid anti-Zionist commentaries (see here and here). He reminds me of that old Jewish joke about the guy who, every time he hears a door open, thinks the Messiah has arrived. Similarly, Weiss interprets every scrap of information and news as the death knell for Zionism. (For a comprehensive overview of Weiss’s anti-Israel rants, I recommend the post, “The Malice of Mondoweiss,” over at the blog, The Sad Red Earth.)
I’m not sure why TNI felt the world needed yet another anti-Israel blog. But, at least on this point, the case could be made that Mondoweiss falls under the category of political commentary. What truly disturbs me is that TNI threw its support behind what Weiss calls his exploration of “Jewish Identity”
Weiss says: “I call myself an assimilating Jew because it seems the most honest description of choices I’ve made, to marry outside the tribe and generally decrease my Jewish cultural/religious adherence.”
That’s fine, that’s his personal choice. Though it begs the question, how does decreasing his “Jewish cultural/religious adherence” makes him particularly qualified to investigate “Jewish Identity”?
In Weiss’s case, exploring Jewish identity has manifested itself as an obsession with “Jewish Power.” Weiss believes that Jews are too wealthy and influential in American society—and as a result, they corrupt U.S. policies and themselves.
He complains that Jews are too rich, and wonders “when someone is going to do the Jewish story here. What fabulous wealth has done to Jewish values.” I guess Philip isn’t familiar with the concept of tzedaka….which helps explain why Business Week‘s survey of “The 50 Most Generous Philanthropists” included at least 15 Jews—which means that Jews, who are only about 2 percent of the American population, are 30 percent of America’s most generous donors. And more than 90 percent of Jewish households perform tzedaka—several surveys have found that only 6 percent of such charitable donations go to “Jewish causes and organizations.” For instance, a 2006 survey of Jewish charitable donations found that 83 percent of the money was given to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
(And, since Philip is keen on perpetuating the stereotype that Jews are too wealthy, perhaps he should look at the recent studies that reveal that 350,000 Jews in New York City and state alone live beneath the poverty line.)
Weiss chastises Jews for not being sufficiently progressive—yet simultaneously complains that American Jews donate disproportionately large amounts of money to the Democratic Party, saying that “Israel is evidently central to that giving.” (Yes, Philip, that’s the only thing we care about. The economy, civil rights, the environment are irrelevant issues.)
Weiss also says: “Media culture means that Jews, including me, are all over the media….In the last week or so I typically found myself counting Jewish names in media broadcasts. Everyone from Ezra Klein commenting on Charlie Rose about the Congress to Andrew Ross Sorkin on Terry Gross yesterday, talking financial policy, to Brian Lehrer having on three different Jewish journalists today, and one of them, Nina Totenberg, kvelling about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.” (Yes, Philip, all Jewish journalists think alike.)
Weiss traveled to Gaza with Codepink, and when he returned he blogged about his feelings of rage in New York City. He took down the volatile post, but not before The Sad Red Earth excerpted these quotes from Weiss:
– Emily and I go out on West End Avenue, and a blonde mother goes by with two kids. I hear her talking Hebrew and I feel anger toward her. The kids are in cute outfits. They must have some money to live in this neighborhood. I think about all the seculars who are leaving Israel, and why they don’t speak out against a basic Zionist principle: the necessity of the Jewish state.
– she has an appointment with the legislative assistant to her congressman. His name sounds Jewish. I feel anger at him, and give her suggestions of what to say to the guy.
– I’ve met anti-Semites cloaked in their righteous criticism. I saw anti-Jewish hatred in Gaza, where they paint dustbins with the Star of David. I’ve felt that hatred of Israel myself. When you see the monstrosities of Gaza, you can’t help but feel hatred.
Mondoweiss doesn’t explore “Jewish Identity”—it’s an incomprehensible diary of Philip Weiss trying to come to terms with his own identity. And he does so by transforming Jews into a grotesque caricature, peddling familiar anti-semitic tropes of Jewish money, power, and tribalism. He portrays Jews as homogeneous victims of groupthink, making a mockery of a culture that has long eschewed consensus. (As the old saying goes, the only thing that Jews can agree upon is that Jesus was not the Messiah.) And his loathing for Israel increasingly manifests itself as a loathing of those whom he still considers “his people.”
Again, Weiss is entitled to his opinions. But why do they merit being a project of The Nation Institute?
Andrew Sullivan deserves many kudos: he has written eloquently and thoughtfully about the intellectual decline of American conservatism; he has held the media’s feet to the fire concerning the U.S. torture of detainees; and his blog has served as a “Radio Free Iran,” posting real-time updates, twitters and photos of the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters.
Yet, on other issues, Sullivan is less praise-worthy. Most notably, his commentary on Israel has degenerated into shrill, uninformed polemics. When it comes to the Jewish State, Sullivan is what I call an “Ike Turner Pundit”—he occasionally apologizes for overwrought criticisms or poorly chosen language, and then immediately resumes smacking Israel.
In honor of Sullivan’s ongoing project, “The Odd Lies of Sarah Palin” (which is, itself, a full-time job), Judeosphere is proud to unveil a new series of posts: “The Odd Rants of Andrew Sullivan.”
So, here’s the first installment: Israel and “World War”
Sullivan has been rather apocalyptic lately in his concerns that Israel might attack Iran:
The real question we need to consider is what to do if Israel acts unilaterally, and sets the region ablaze, bringing the rest of the West into the cross-fire. Do we sanction Israel? Dare we not sanction Israel if it starts a fourth world war in the region that ends up killing Americans in the blowback?
The hardine Israeli ambassador, the one who has taken sides in the AIPAC-J-Street dust-up, wants “crippling sanctions” against the Iranian people if Israel is to be restrained from launching a fourth world war.
And, regarding an article by John Bolton advocating an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities:
Bolton’s position is at least consistent; and tactically speaking, this would probably be, as he suggests, the least damaging moment to make the strike. But the damage would nonetheless be real, the effectiveness of a strike highly questionable, the global terrorist blowback immense, and the initiation of a Third World War would instantly kill the Green Revolution and empower Ahmadinejad.
So, where to begin?
First, should we be worried about World War III or World War IV? (C’mon, Sullivan, make up your mind.) And, if it’s World War IV, when was World War III? How did I miss this? Was it when I overslept that one day back in 2006?
Second, while I agree that an Israeli military strike is not a practical idea, how exactly would this provoke a World War? Is Sullivan suggesting that Arab countries would be drawn into a war with Israel on behalf of Iran? (Rather hard to imagine. In fact, while Arab governments would issue their ritual condemnations, they’d be pretty happy Israel did it.)
And what about this immense “global terrorist blowback”? Al Qaeda has no love for Shi’ite Iran, which it views as an ideological rival. In fact, Al Qaeda has said that, if America and Iran ever went to war, they would welcome the development and sit back watching as the conflict drained both sides’ resources.
Another point: Israel’s military conflicts with Hezbollah and Hamas didn’t provoke an immense global terrorist blowback, so why would this be different? Interestingly, Sullivan neglects to reflect upon how the intensifying U.S. military conflict in Afghanistan might be inspiring terrorists to strike back against America. (It’s so much easier to blame Israel.)
A valid concern for those throwing around terms such as “World War” is whether an Israeli military strike would prompt Iran to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and ratchet up its nuclear weapons program, without the pesky interference of UN inspection teams.
But wait…here’s what Sullivan has to say about a nuclear-armed Iran :
I also think that once you have conceded that there may be any element in the Tehran leadership that is rational and is capable of responding to rational deterrence theory, the entire premise of the World War IV case implodes. The evidence of revolutionary Iran is, moreover, that it has acted as rationally as one might predict in responding to real military threats. If deterrence worked against Mao and can work against Kim Jong-Il, then a nuclear Tehran may be containable.
If Sullivan has a compelling case that an Israeli attack upon Iran would start a “World War,” I’d welcome hearing it. But so far, he hasn’t made an effort to outline how such a scenario would unfold. Instead, he relies on scare language.
And, if you think I’m being too harsh for saying that, here’s what Sullivan had to say back in 2007, when expressing his concerns about the prospect of a Rudy Giuliani presidency:
His authoritarian, meddling instincts, and his frequent, hotheaded outbursts: all this make giving him the Cheney-style presidency a huge risk. Maybe not immediately – but in the wake of another terror attack, I don’t think anyone can feel comfortable with what he might do to the Constitution and American liberty. Maybe this worry of mine will lead to charges of “shrill hysteria” from those already declaring that it’s World War IV…
“Shrill hysteria” — his words, not mine.
Last year, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (better known as Fatah) gathered in Bethlehem and approved a revision of its charter for the first time since the 1960s.
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence’s Open Source Center has translated the document into English. Although it hasn’t been officially released, the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) managed to obtain a copy [pdf].
I must say, as far as liberation movement charters go, this is one of the most boring and bureaucratic documents that I have ever read. (I mean, at least the Hamas Charter provides occasional comic relief by ranting about the Freemasons.)
There’s one section, for instance, that describes activities that would merit an official warning or reprimand: “Late arrival to a meeting without an excuse” and “Non-participation in organizational activities for over one month without an acceptable excuse.” (This begs the question: Can you still participate in the revolution if you bring a note from home?)
As FAS notes, the only interesting part is what is not included in the charter:
The document is not particularly conciliatory in tone or content. It is a call to revolution, confrontation with the enemy, and the liberation of Palestine, “free and Arab.” [However] the original Fatah charter (or constitution) from the 1960s embraced “the world-wide struggle against Zionism,” denied Jewish historical or religious ties to the land, and called for the “eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.” None of that language is carried over into the new charter, which manages not to mention Israel, Zionism, or Jews at all.
Watching movies is often a Rashomon experience. People tend to imbue films with messages based upon their own backgrounds and ideologies. (Case in point: Charles Krauthammer vs. Jonathan Freedland on Steven Spielberg’s Munich.)
That said, I can’t remember the last time a movie provoked as many diverse reactions as Avatar. Over at the “21st Century Socialism” website, Noah Tucker offers a comprehensive and (unintentionally) humorous overview of how different columnists and pundits have interpreted the film.
It’s a good read. To summarize, Avatar is: anti-American, anti-capitalist, pro-environment, racist, anti-indigenous-peoples, anti-Catholic, anti-Israel, pro-Jewish, pagan-worshipping and anti-war.
Oh, it’s also pro-Smurf.
There are people who disagree with AIPAC’s policies. I’m fine with that. There are people who disagree with J Street’s polices. I’m also fine with that.
But, I’m not-so-fine when either organization is unfairly slandered—such as the oft-repeated claim that AIPAC pushed the United States into war with Iraq—or the claim that J Street is an “anti-Israel group” whose purpose is “to undermine the safety, security and continued vitality of the State of Israel.”
The latter statement was made by Harvey Schwartz, the chairman of AIAC. What is AIAC? (Glad you asked!) AIAC is the American Israeli Action Coalition —a recently-formed organization that claims to represent the 250,000 expatriate United States citizens currently living in Israel: “Having grown up in the United States and now living in Israel, we have the unique ability to apply our backgrounds and experiences to have a highly constructive influence upon Israeli policy as well as American policy towards Israel and the entire Middle East.” AIAC has published a statement of principles that includes “Promoting efforts for a true, effective and final peace between the State of Israel and the neighboring states based on safety and security.”
Well, that sounds nice. But it would be more accurate to describe AIAC as a pro-settlement advocacy group. Its founding members include Jeff Daube (the wignutty ZOA’s representative in Jerusalem) and veteran settler activists Eve Harow and Toby Willig. At a recent protest against the temporary settlement freeze, Willig declared, “the settlers’ struggle is a modern reenactment of Chanukah, the few against the many.” (Is there such a thing as Judah Maccabee Syndrome?)
Anyway, back to J Street. AIAC called upon Hillel to rescind an invitation extended to Jeremy Ben Ami, executive director of J Street, to speak at the University of Pennsylvania campus on February 4th. Here’s the text of their press release :
“There is no room for more anti-Israel propaganda on campus,” Schwartz continued. “Hillel has for many years done a wonderful job in promoting Zionism and pro-Israel attitudes on the nation’s campuses. There is more than enough Israel and Jew-bashing on today’s campuses by resident and imported anti-Semites. The American-Israelis believe that it is inconceivable that Hillel–with its venerable history of defending Jewish interests on campus–will collaborate with the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Aaron Tirschwell, AIAC’s Executive Director, stated that “the American Israelis believe that Hillel should recognize J Street for what it really is. Rather, it should encourage its followers on campus to unite with groups already on campus which promote pro-Israel, pro-Zionist messages. This is not a question of non-censorship or academic freedom. Rather, it is a question of rather Hillel should be giving a platform to Israel and Jew-haters to spout their venomous falsities, without an opposing speaker to be present at the same time.”
Where to begin? For starters, it is a really low blow to compare J Street to the parade of anti-Zionist and anti-semitic individuals who are often part of the campus lecture circuit these days.
AIAC appears particularly unhappy that J Street endorses the removal of some settlements from the West Bank, and supports a peace agreement “under which the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem would fall under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighborhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty. Negotiations have produced creative ideas for resolving the hardest issues, including sovereignty and management arrangements for the Old City and the Holy Basin.”
Decent people can disagree on these issues, but do these positions qualify J Street as “Israel and Jew-haters”?
As for Hillel’s response:
In a written response to a query from Israel National News, Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, explained Monday that the student group had “considered J Street’s request and applied to it the same criteria we would apply to other Jewish communal organizations.”
Those criteria, he said, included a commitment to accept and subscribe to the Hillel mission statement of support of Israel ‘as the Jewish state with secure and recognized borders and as a member of the family of free nations’; that they do not (sic) advocate actions that will materially harm Israel or its representatives such as boycotts, sanctions or judicial action; and that they present their views with civility…. we believe it is important that all voices that abide by our principles regarding Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish-People have an opportunity to express their opinions in our building.”
I notice that the AIAC statement of principles also includes: “Furthering the continued development of democracy and democratic ideals in the State of Israel” and “Cultivating the unity of all members of the Jewish faith in Israel.”
It’s a shame they don’t extend those principles to the United States.
Schism! Schism! Schism! Every so often, I like to check in and see the latest debate between the Moonbats (a.k.a. the nouveau Loony Left) and the Marxists (a.k.a. the Dinosaur Left). See previous smackdowns here, here and here.
Time for Round 4: This time, the subject is Iran.
In one corner, we have Moonbats such as Yvonne Ridley and anti-imperialist “scholar” James Petras (who believes that dentists are participants in a Zionist plot to gain domination over the United States).
Ridley and Petras tow the line that President Ahmadinejad represents the poor, working-class people of Iran—and that the demonstrations are being led by spoiled middle-class elitists, at the encouragement of foreign agents. Ridley gushes: “I’m quite a fan of Mahmoud Admadinejad who is adored by the common man and woman in Iran. Anyone who vows to narrow the gap between rich and poor can’t be all that bad… unless you’re one of the rich!”
Petras declares that the reports saying Ahmadinejad stole the election are a hoax:
The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations of opposition supporters, ignoring and downplaying the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that the incumbent candidate was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while the bulk of the opposition demonstrators was drawn from the upper and middle class students, business and professional class….The “youth vote,” which the Western media praised as “pro-reformist,” was a clear minority of less than 30% but came from a highly privileged, vocal and largely English speaking group with a monopoly on the Western media.
The Marxists, however, aren’t buying it. They’re saying that Ahmadinejad and other regime members are….capitalists. (That’s right, they went there.) Particularly troubling to the Marxists is the Iranian government’s decision to cut subsidies on behalf of their multilateral puppet-masters, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
Here’s the commentary at the website, No Sweat (“fighting sweatshop bosses, in solidarity with workers, worldwide”):
Though not all anti-government struggles are necessarily in line with class interests of working people, it must be noted that the despotic rule of IR [the Iranian regime] is a Capitalist repressive order, combined with religious features and a thorough insertion of Islam in daily functions of government….IR has been able to impose an astonishing level of poverty, insecurity, and general lawlessness upon workers, toiling masses and people.
According to the World Socialist Web Site:
Ahmadinejad has tried to give a populist cover to the elimination of the subsidies, with the claim that it is the better-off sections who consume more and thus have benefited disproportionately from the subsidies.
The deepening economic crisis in Iran and the efforts of all sections of the Iranian elite to place the burden of the crisis on Iran’s toilers is creating conditions in which the working class will be driven to mount its own challenge to the Islamic Republic. For such a challenge to be successful, it must articulate a socialist internationalist program that can rally Iran’s toilers against all sections of the bourgeoisie and clerical political establishment and against US and world imperialism.
And the Marxist publication Political Affairs says:
Thus, once again the two powerful organizations of global capitalism have applauded and praised the Islamic regime for the detailed implementation of their demands. The reality is that despite the reports of the IMF and the World Bank, Iran is still struggling in the grip of an economic crisis and the economic conditions of the society continue to worsen each passing day…. Let’s see what this praise means for the Iranian people, especially the toilers.
And here’s the ironic postscript to this debate: Both the Marxists and Moonbats have defended Iran’s sovereign right to develop its “peaceful” nuclear energy program—and both have condemned the “imperialist” efforts to deprive Iran of that right.
With that in mind, here’s a report identifying one of the primary causes of Iran’s economic mess:
The international community’s confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program already has affected the Iranian economy adversely and could threaten investment and growth further if the crisis escalates, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)…. The IMF report is a message to the Iranians that the “nuclear crisis is quite a problem” for them, according to Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Iranian economic policies are very risky,” he said. “Companies that have shown interest in investing might not follow through if the nuclear issue is not resolved. The Ahmadinejad government is needlessly provoking the outside players and putting the country at risk.”
The Lebanese press is reporting that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is planning to join George Galloway in his fourth “Viva Palestina” convoy to Gaza. (If Noam Chomsky shows up, the Axis of Idiocy will officially be complete.)
A suggestion for (genuine) human rights activists: While Chavez is out of the country, consider launching a “Viva Venezuela” flotilla to protest the growing number of Venezuelan political prisoners, and the 6,000 extrajudicial killings [pdf] that have occurred since Chavez came to power.
Anybody got a boat?
BBC blogger Rory Cellan-Jones has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Revered Stephen Sizer, who filed a police complaint against blogger Seismic Shock.
As one would expect from the BBC, the description of Sizer’s activities have been neatly whitewashed:
The priest has campaigned against Zionism, has accused the Israeli government of war crimes and has called for the Church of England to sell its investments in companies associated with the occupation of Palestinian territories. Mr Sizer has strenuously denied accusations on the Seismic Shock blog that he is anti-Semitic or that his pronouncements have given comfort to Holocaust deniers.
Translation: Sizer is being smeared as an anti-semite because he is a critic of Israel.
Rory Cellan-Jones also states: “I was unable to speak to Stephen Sizer, who is out of the country at the moment, but a parish worker told me the vicar had felt threatened by the contents of the blog.”
The only “threat” that I see is being outed as a sympathizer for Holocaust denial.