A new report [pdf] by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Human Rights First has found that of 56 participating governments in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 23 nations have failed to adequately gather and report data on hate crimes and anti-Semitic incidents.
Says Abe Foxman:
“As key stakeholders in this process, we are renewing our challenge to all of the participating OSCE governments to move past their resistance to reporting and cataloging hate crimes. The disclosure of hate crime data offers a jumping-off point for a more effective response, for when there is data, there is awareness, and where there is awareness, there is action.”
Some notable findings from the report:
Number of countries who claim to collect data on anti-semitic hate crimes: 19
Number of countries who provide data on anti-semitic hate crimes:
8 (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom)
Overall, nine governments—Andorra, Armenia, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan—reported that fewer than ten hate crime incidents were recorded by police in 2008. Sounds like paradise.
Last week, I noted that participants in the U.S. Social Forum were outraged that a workshop on gay and lesbian rights in the Middle East was being sponsored by the Israel advocacy group, StandWithUs.
The latest news is that organizers of the U.S. Social Forum responded by expelling the group from the weeklong gathering. Here’s the press release from StandWithUs:
“The cancellation letter claimed that we had ‘masked the true nature’ of the workshop and were really trying to ‘defend Israel,’ but this is patently false,” according to SWU Midwest Director Brett Cohen, an expert on gay issues in the Middle East who was approved by USSF to lead the session. “We gave them our program plan and background about our organization, and website information months ago. In all that time, the conference organizers never asked for more information.”
Cohen has been harassed for several weeks by USSF participants who emailed him intimidating messages with thinly veiled threats that violence might break out at his session. The organizers of the USSF were unwilling to offer security at the workshop, and warned Cohen, “Security is important to the US Social Forum. At the same time, the social forum is an open space,” implying that Cohen’s physical safety might be at risk.
In their message to the forum, the organizers stated that they cannot, “allow the workshop to proceed uncontested.”
“The real tragedy is that once again, the voice of the persecuted Middle Eastern LGBTQI community is being silenced. They face murderous persecution and discrimination. In Iran, gay men are forced to undergo sex change operations, or face execution. Across the Middle East, gays are murdered by their own families in ‘honor killings.’ They face active discrimination and often, legal punishment for the ‘crime’ of being gay…..Our goal was to shed light on their plight and connect conference participants to these important organizations so that they could offer assistance and shed light on this viciously persecuted minority. I thought building these coalitions was the purpose of this conference,” said Cohen.
Back in March, I blogged about the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO), who distributed fliers targeting Jewish Maryland politicians who favored gun control as “bagel brain Jews” and accused them of pursuing “racist policies to destroy your gun rights.”
JFPO has concluded that: “Some Jews, like Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer, are incurable authoritarians. But other Jewish politicians and policy makers can hopefully be reached.”
To that end, JFPO is filming a new documentary:
No Guns for Jews will be award-winning quality, as all our other films have been. No punches will be pulled with the “we know what’s best for you” crowd. We have acquired very powerful facts, materials and resources to confront the “bagel brains”. We will expose “bagel brain” Jews who endanger all Jews and all other citizens with their “gun control” “sickness”. The documentary challenges the viewer to answer the question: Will you Live by G-d’s Law, or Choose to Die from Man’s Law?
I must have missed something in the Ten Commandments, because I haven’t come across any references to “Thou Shalt Not Deprive Thy Neighbor of His Semi-Automatic Weapon.”
Oh, and here’s the logo for the forthcoming film:
Comparing Jewish gun owners to Holocaust victims. This group just keeps getting more classy.
In the aftermath of the flotilla incident, the same crowd of people who decried NATO’s “illegal war” against the genocidaires in the Balkans are warmly embracing the defense organization—in particular, Article V of the NATO Treaty, which declares that an attack on one is an attack against all.
Anti-imperialist author William Blum writes: “Things internationally are so dispiriting there’s nothing left to do but fantasize. I picture Turkey, as a member of NATO, demanding that the alliance come to its defense after being attacked by Israel.” The Bertrand Russell Tribunal Committee has posted an online solidarity petition, which declares: “The Mavi Marmara, carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid….was also flying the Turkish flag, in international waters, giving it status as a sovereign extension of Turkey. Regardless, Israel attacked….Will NATO react to an attack on one of its members?”
I wonder though: since these folks are so dedicated to NATO defending Turkey, will they likewise demand NATO support for Turkey’s military campaign against the Kurds?
After September 11th, NATO recognized that terrorism could constitute an attack on a member nation. Indeed, in September 2001, the Turkish press reported:
Ankara is pleased with the NATO decision to invoke Article V, which is the North Atlantic Treaty’s mutual defense clause saying that if one member state is under attack all other member nations would defend it. Turkey’s NATO Permanent Representative Ambassador Onur Oymen, “We have always called for terrorist activities to be included within the Article V.” It was stated that Turkey, who has been fighting against terrorism for years, will receive more support from the European countries after NATO’s invoking of Article V. Oymen said, “We have always stated that an attack does not only mean a country’s intrusion to another country’s territory but it also covers terrorist attacks which is an international problem. That’s why NATO’s invoking of Article V is very important for us.” NATO’s decision is of great importance for Turkey who has been fighting against PKK terrorism but not receiving much support from the European countries.
Right now, violence between Turkey and the PKK is sharply escalating:
Mr. Erdogan’s mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) party blames the PKK and what it considers to be its provocations for the collapse. The PKK and its BDP allies disagree. The rebels declared a ceasefire in April 2009, yet the army continued its operations. “Hardly a day passed that I did not attend a PKK fighter’s funeral,” says Nijad Yaruk, the BDP’s provincial boss in Diyarbakir. He sees the past year’s arrests of some 1,500 Kurdish activists and politicians, including elected BDP mayors, as proof that the “opening” is a lie.
Erdogan has pledged to “annihilate” PKK rebels. And, if the past is any guide, this will involve indiscriminate bombings in southeastern Turkey and forced, mass evacuations of Kurdish villages.
So, what say you, the dedicated champions of Turkish sovereignty? Will you be lobbying for NATO’s intervention when Ankara’s adversary is someone other than Israel?
Turkey’s role in the Gaza flotilla incident was a dramatic wake-up call that Ankara is serious about pursuing its “regional engagement” strategy and becoming more involved in the affairs of the Middle East.
Yet, despite the schadenfreude of seeing the Israelis subjected to world condemnation, some Arab countries remain suspicious about Turkey’s long-term intentions.
Memri has compiled an intriguing overview of editorials in the Arab press. Newspapers in the Persian Gulf countries were especially critical of Turkey, often referring to it as the “new Ottoman Empire.” Saudi writer Abdallah Nasser Al-Otaibi, for instance, warns that “Erdogan wants to revive the Ottoman belief that in order to be strong and stand proud, they must conquer the Arab minds… The age-old Turkish dream to rule all the Arab lands has now been resurrected, and the Turks have no qualms about exploiting the Arabs’ fateful causes, on which they have been silent in the past 60 years”
Among the Palestinians, Wassef Mansour, a member of Fatah, used language against Turkey and Iran that is usually reserved for Israel:
“Adolf Hitler invented the theory of lebensraum… according to which some countries feel that their status does not match their military or economic power and therefore interfere politically or militarily in [the affairs of] neighboring countries, especially when those countries are militarily weak…Following the demise of the charismatic Arab leaders, the disintegration of Iraqi military power, and the Arab summits’ abandonment of the military option, Iran and Turkey began to see the Arab region as part of their lebensraum…
I reject what some people have begun to say, namely that victory is nigh thanks to Erdogan or Ahmadinejad – despite my hope that it will be achieved some day. I reject insulting or forgetting the losses of our Arab peoples for the sake of Palestine, and the notion that victory and liberation will be achieved only by Turkish or Farsi [speakers].”
Not surprisingly, Egypt—which sees Turkey as attempting to co-opt Cairo’s bid for leadership in the region—was the most hostile. The government daily newspaper, Al-Gumhouriyya, declared:
“Turkey is perhaps good for a political show, like what happened in Davos when Erdogan walked out of the council [after a confrontation with Israeli President Shimon Peres], but it is no good at opposing the U.S. – unlike Cairo, which has rejected dozens of American proposals and requests. Egypt is not dependent on [any of its] allies. It [makes] independent and sovereign decisions and submits to no one…”
Yes, Egypt, which receives billions of U.S. aid each year, is boasting of its ability to reject U.S. diplomatic initiatives. Will pundits such as Stephen Walt and Andrew Sullivan bother to take notice? I’m guessing, no.
Writing in the Guardian, Robert Fowke, an author of science and history books, seeks to explain his “disproportionate interest in Israel.”
The reason, he says, is not anti-semitism. (“I have many Jewish friends.”)
No, the main reason, he says, is that Israel isn’t sufficiently foreign:
When things heat up, it is close to an addiction. Why am I not so worked up about Zimbabwe? North Korea? Sudan? Tibet? Burma?
I do not respond to [Israel] as I do to most other foreign states. It is, emotionally, almost an English county planted on the Mediterranean shores.
So I judge this by domestic standards, not foreign ones. I do not expect Israelis to behave like Burmese generals; I expect them to behave like Englishmen, like my friends.
The number of news items about Israel-Palestine has created a self-reinforcing cycle – my appetite for yet more items is whetted by each new article or drama. All of which would appear to vindicate the complaints of the pro-Israel lobby – except that they should consider how they themselves contribute to this.
One reason why Israel is singled out for so much attention is because its supporters are so very vociferous, pushing their agenda at every opportunity. As a consumer of news, the speed of their responses and their sheer ubiquity inflames my interest and my antipathy.
I genuinely admire Fowke for this introspective effort. No, just kidding, he’s a schmuck and an epitome of orientalist bigotry. While I’m sure Israelis appreciate that they rank high enough on the civilization meter to be deemed British, I feel bad for the democratic activists and jailed dissidents in Iran, China, Zimbabwe and Burma who don’t merit as much attention since they’re, well, so foreign.
More to the point, this type of double-think helps explain why Israel faces peril. By Fowke’s own definition, Israel might not be a “foreign” country, but it is surrounded by “foreign” neighbors—nations that are not held accountable for their authoritarian tendencies because they’re not Western enough for Fowke to take an active interest in their affairs.
Which, of course, explains why Israel’s supporters “are so very voiciferous”—because we have to deal with people like Fowke who, by his own admission, are obsessed with Israel and who never miss an opportunity to find ways to demonize, delegitimize and isolate the Jewish State.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) takes note of the president’s failure to deliver on his commitment to promoting democracy in the Middle East:
In Cairo, the president pledged to uphold human and political rights, stating clearly that the United States “will support them everywhere.” This portion of the speech received the loudest and most sustained applause from the young people in the assembled crowd.
Yet the past year has witnessed a step backward in the global march toward increased democracy. According to Freedom House’s annual report on the subject, the status of “free” or “partly free” states has regressed. In the Middle East, setbacks were recorded nearly everywhere outside of Iraq. Elections in Tunisia, where President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali won a fifth term with nearly 90 percent of the vote, took place without comment from the White House. The administration also generally ignored the Syrian government’s continued abuse of journalists, bloggers, and democratic activists.
Nowhere, however, was a greater opportunity missed than in Egypt, where the regime renewed the emergency law just weeks before the anniversary of Obama’s speech. Washington did not adequately press Cairo to honor its years-old commitment to replace the law with modern anti-terror legislation, reflecting the apparent lack of priority the administration placed on the issue.
WINEP also notes how, in the lead-up to the one year anniversary of the speech, the administration has sought to lower the expectations that Obama raised in Cairo:
Recognizing that tangible deliverables from the Cairo address were in short supply, key administration officials have spent the past few months reframing the speech’s intent and legacy. No longer was it to be viewed as outreach to Muslims; instead, it was retroactively couched as a more general example of “global engagement.” Describing it as the opening gambit of a major initiative was no longer acceptable either; as one senior official stated during remarks on Capitol Hill last week, the speech should now be viewed as a “generational mission statement.”
The Detroit News reports:
But local Jewish leaders are concerned some workshops organized by some Palestinian groups have an anti-Israeli slant. “This is really an effort to basically hijack the conference,” said Robert Cohen, executive director for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit.
“While there is normally a firm comfort level between the Jewish community and progressive voices on such issues as care for the elderly, immigrant rights, improving public education, reducing poverty, etc., Jewish community leaders are concerned that the conference will be hijacked by those who reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and Jewish rights to a national homeland,” Cohen said. But forum organizer Adrienne Brown said many of the workshops related to the Israeli-Palestinian issue are co-organized by Jewish groups.”The workshops are anti-Zionist, not anti-Israeli,” Brown said. Sara Kershnar, a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and an organizer of some of the pro-Palestinian workshops, said the social forum is “pro-justice and pro-human rights.” The workshops are not anti-Israelis but are “critical of Israel’s institutionalized racism and anti-apartheid policies,” said Kershnar, who is Jewish.
“Anti-Zionist, but not anti-Israeli.” I’ll need some time to mentally process that comment. Meanwhile, the U.S. Social Forum is hyping the “first national Jewish Anti-Zionist gathering,” where participants will have the opportunity to “meet with anti-Zionist Jews from the United States” committed to: “heeding the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) call from Palestinian civil society,” “supporting anti-imperialist, anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles,” and “exploring ways to confront Zionism by reclaiming Jewish histories and culture that Zionism has co-opted or attempted to erase.”
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that participants at the U.S. Social Forum were outraged to learn that one workshop is being sponsored by the Israel-advocacy group, StandWithUs. The workshop is titled “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East“:
The purpose of this workshop is to expose the underground LBGTQI Liberation movements that currently exist across the Middle East. We will seek to explore the cultural context of the status of the LGBTQI community across time and the vast mosaic of cultures that make up the region. After establishing a historical context, we will introduce participants to the stories of young people from across the region striving for acceptance. Some stories are harrowing and gut wrenching, while others are triumphant, but all are inspirational. The end goal is to engage the participants in supporting the cause of LGBTQI Liberation, and to connect them with outlets through which they can offer their support. We plan on having information available on how to connect with the offices of different Middle Eastern LGBTQI non-profits, and will offer material produced by StandWithUs which uses information collected by such organizations as Amnesty International for participants to walk away with so that they can better educate their own communities about the realities of the Middle East.
The workshop prompted outraged commentaries such as “Zionism Still Welcome at the U.S. Social Forum” and a Facebook page sponsored by “Arab Queers say NO to Pinkwashing at the U.S. Social Forum.” Says one Facebook commentator: “If the U.S. Social Forum insists on allowing Zionist Hasbara militias to pollute an otherwise progressive forum, I propose we construct an elaborate checkpoint system to indefinitely delay their entry, followed by strip searches and brutal interrogations. Then we demolish their tent and expel them from Detroit.” (Wow, can you feel the progressive love?)
Not everyone is freaking out–and as usual, the event has once again revealed the schism on the Left as to whether Israel is a patron of the United States or the driver of U.S. policy. One commenter said: “Don’t you people see that Zionism is a distraction? The true imperialists in the Middle East are the Americans. The Israeli state was founded by the west so that the West could continue to scapegoat Jews for their own wrong doing in the world. The more we focus on Zionism the less attention we pay to the true imperialist forces in the world. Focusing on Zionism as the cause of problems in the middle east is exactly what the imperialists want us to do. It is the United States that has invaded two sovereign nations.”
But that view–the closest you are likely to find to a “tolerant” view toward Zionism at the Social Forum–appears to be in the minority. Meanwhile, it appears, the plight of gays and lesbians in the Middle East will not be on the agenda of a gathering whose motto is “A Better World is Necessary.”
Critics of Israel who believe that the “mainstream media” (whatever that is, these days) is “controlled” by the minions of the Israel Lobby tend to cite a one-word solution to this alleged stranglehold on the news: Internet.
The blogosphere has also mattered. Before the internet, opinion journalism in Washington was dominated by a few organs, almost all of which were fanatically pro-Israel. The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard and National Review were all neoconservative on the Israel question – and The New York Times wasn’t far behind. You could barely get any criticism of the Jewish state into the American press. Now, an entire generation of younger writers – Jewish and Gentile – has emerged online outside of the old media gatekeepers to kick-start a real debate.
Likewise, here’s John Mearsheimer:
But the Internet is a game changer. It not only makes it easy for the opponents of [Israeli] apartheid to get the real story out to the world, but it also allows Americans to learn the story that the New York Times and the Washington Post have been hiding from them.
I’ve found that it’s pretty much impossible to argue with folks who make such overarching statements. For starters, media bias is in the eye of the beholder. (Just check out the archives at CAMERA for numerous claims of anti-Israel bias in the Washington Post and the New York Times.) Also, critics like Sullivan and Mearsheimer won’t be satisfied unless the media focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 24/7.
On one point they are correct: the blogosphere tends to devote more attention to Israel and the Palestinians than the dead tree media. But, the bad news for the advocates of the all-mighty Internet is that the new media doesn’t always adhere to what they consider the proper ideological slant.
The Pew Research Center offers these charts comparing what topics recently dominated the blogosphere versus the conventional media:
However, Pew also notes: “For the second week in a row, the deadly May 31 clash between Israeli soldiers and a ship headed for the Gaza Strip was the leading subject for bloggers. But the conversation changed markedly. Two weeks ago, critics of Israel dominated the blogosphere. Last week, supporters of its military actions weighed in with their response….Most bloggers who discussed the subject agreed with a June 4 opinion piece by Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer who defended Israel’s blockade of Gaza and its response to the Turkish ship. Many also criticized President Obama, claiming he has not stood with Israel against its enemies.”
I feel kind of sorry for all those people who, for years, could easily blame the corporate-controlled, pro-Israel, status quo media for the ails of modern society. In the era of the Internet and the blogosphere, who are they going to blame?