Saturday, January 26, 2013

Types of Antisemitism: "They of all people" and David Ward MP

This will be an occasional series, at times when I discover a new (to me) type of antisemitism.
One such type has just been manifested by a British Liberal Democrat MP, David Ward. The International Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust is tomorrow, January 27 - this date was chosen because on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz. In a Book of Commitment placed at the House of Commons for MPs to sign, Ward wrote:
Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
In order to publicize this statement, he wrote on his own website, as well as tweeting: "Bradford East MP, David Ward, has criticised Israel on the day he has signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who died during the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides." (Quotes taken from the article on the CST blog, by Mark Gardner).

The first offensive part of Ward's statement is that he holds "the Jews" responsible for "atrocities" committed on Palestinians both at the founding of the state of Israel and continuing to this day. He's saying that "the Jews," that monolithic entity, have been harming Palestinians since the establishment of the state. All Jews? Some Jews? Just Jews in Israel? Or perhaps just Israeli leaders, or Israeli soldiers?

Ward has issued a "clarification" explaining which Jews he really meant:
Asked if he accepted that he was accusing Jews, rather than the Israeli state, of inflicting persection on the Palestinians, he replied: "I'm accusing the Jews who did it, so if you're a Jew and you did not do it I'm not accusing you. I'm saying that those Jews who did that and continue to do it have not learned those lessons. If you are a Jew and you do not do those things and have never done those things then I am of course not criticising you."
I'm reminded of John Mearsheimer's abhorrent "New Afrikaners" speech, where he took upon himself to judge which Jews adhered to his moral standards and which were outside the pale of normal morality.

The second offensive part of Ward's statement is that he seems to regard the Holocaust not as an unparalleled attempt to exterminate an entire people, but as a kind of moral learning experience for the Jewish people, an experience which they have flunked. "The Jews" apparently should have learned particular moral lessons from the Holocaust, especially the Christian messages of "turn the other cheek," "love your enemies," and "pray for your persecutors." The Jews who survive the Holocaust should have learned these messages while their entire families were being tortured and murdered by mass shootings in the Soviet Union, while they were being forced into ghettos, starved, overworked, and vulnerable to illnesses, while they were being taken on trains from all over Europe to the gas chambers in the death camps in Poland, and there brutally murdered, with no grave to mark their bodies.

Ward doubtless believes that his words were intended to, and did in fact, help the Palestinian cause, but he is absolutely wrong. Do the Palestinians need British MPs making antisemitic remarks on their behalf? Does it help the cause of Palestinian freedom from Israeli oppression to blame "the Jews" for failing to learn the correct lessons of Auschwitz? Of course not. While Ward thought that he was helping the Palestinians, all he was actually doing was venting his spleen against "the Jews." He was expressing his resentment that for all the years since the end of the Second World War it has been outside the pale of polite society to express what he really thinks about Jews.

Chas Newkey-Burden has the best, last word about Ward's ridiculous argument:
Let us strip the "they-of-all-people" argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity. Do not accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.
Good articles denouncing and analyzing Ward's statements:

The Soupy One has a good commentary and running update on Ward's offensive statements.

From Chas Newkey-Burden:

An earlier column by Howard Jacobson in the Independent explains Ward's rhetorical strategy very well:
Forget Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is old hat. The new strategy ....  is to depict the Holocaust in all its horror in order that Jews can be charged ("You, of all people") with failing to live up to it. By this logic the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn't. "Jews know more than anyone that killing civilians is wrong," resounds an unmistakably authorial voice in The Promise. Thus are Jews doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to the moral wasteland of having found no humanising redemption in its horrors.
Another earlier article by David Hirsh also explains this rhetorical strategy, The Jews Should Know Better.
I hate the "Jews should know better" argument on so many different levels. 
Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament for the North West of England Chris Davies is proud of the following quote, which he has put on his website:
"I visited Auschwitz last year and it is very difficult to understand why those whose history is one of such terrible oppression appear not to care that they have themselves become oppressors."
The Jews "appear not to care that they have themselves become oppressors". He does mean "the Jews", doesn't he? He is talking about "those whose history is of such terrible oppression", who came to his mind when he visited Auschwitz. Yes. He means Jews. Jews used to be oppressed; now they are oppressors, and they don't even care (apparently). 
This is just careless racist generalisation from a Liberal Democrat Euro MP who ought to know better. He holds all Jews collectively responsible for what he understands as the "oppressive" acts of the Israeli government. He shifts focus from acts that he understands as "oppressive" to "the Jews" that he understands as responsible for them and he calls them "oppressors". And then he adds that "the Jews" (apparently) don't care. As though "the Jews" spoke with one voice (or cared with a single conscience). 
The overwhelming majority of the Jews who were at Auschwitz (where Davies visited as a tourist, or perhaps as a VIP) left that place through the chimney. Many of them, I suspect, did not have time to sit down and ponder the lessons that they were supposed, by this smug Liberal Democrat MEP, to have been learning. 
What were the lessons being taught to "the Jews" at Auschwitz? What should "the Jews" have learnt from the Shoah experience? In an earlier post, I argued that many Jews actually did learn the central lesson that the 20th Century seemed to be teaching everybody: "If you don't have a nation state of your own, then you have no rights". 
Marc Goldberg also has written a very good op-ed piece for the Times of Israel. His last three paragraphs:
Criticising Jews for not learning enough about loving their fellow man whilst being the victims of a death machine the likes of which the world has never seen is beyond the pale. Unlike being a victim of out and out anti Jewish violence this purposeful conflation of Jews with the very worst human scum is something that I have been in contact with often in the UK. 
In short it’s not enough for a Jew to stand up and point out an incident of anti-Semitism but now they have to go get down to the nuts and bolts of every statement to which they might feel offended and explain why and then argue the point as if it is a political opinion. Uniquely among ethnic minorities in the UK Jews have to actually argue with people as to their right to feel offended and explain right down to the minutiae just why a person’s comments are offensive. 
I know that I certainly find this rather infuriating and unfair. I think MPs such as David Ward might want to remember that the Holocaust wasn’t some kind of cathartic communal learning experience nor was it the great event that allowed us to get our own country, the Holocaust was systematic death, nothing to do with Israel, nothing to do with Palestine everything to do with Jews and certainly not an excuse for him, or anyone else to label us all as Nazis.
Matthew Harris also wrote a good article denouncing Ward. His last paragraph:
Nothing that has happened in Israel/Palestine is so bad as to stand comparison with the genocidal murder of millions of Jews and other people in the Holocaust. To compare Israel's treatment of the Palestinians (or some Palestinians' hatred of Israelis) with what happened in Nazi death camps is to misunderstand the former and to trivialise the latter. Also, to suggest that Jewish suffering in the Holocaust means that Jews should now know better than to behave as badly as everyone else behaves is to hold Jews to a higher standard than others are held to, with the Holocaust thus becoming not a cause of sympathy for "the Jews", but another reason to criticise "the Jews" - and that stinks.
Paul David Evans, THE HOLOCAUST AND DAVID WARD MP. One excellent paragraph among many:
In a stroke such analogies belittle the suffering of the past, obscure our understanding of the present and most dangerously, suggest a kind of retroactive collective responsibility should be carried by Jewish people for their own suffering. “Yes,” they say “Jews suffered…” – you can smell the caveat coming, can’t you? “But look at the suffering they have caused too! Can they really be called victims? Unlike perpetrators of that genocide, Jews haven’t even learnt anything from being murdered in their millions! What is wrong with them?”. David Ward might not have meant all of that, I think he probably just thought he was being clever when his office sent out that press release. But that is the dirty subtext which he bought into – and he should be held accountable for it. 
David Curtis wrote a letter to Ward explaining how vile he thought Ward's comments were, adding himself to the list of "detractors" who have written to Ward.

CIF Watch wrote "turn David Ward's vile charge on its head."

Sarah AB of Harry's Places writes on Engage - David Ward, Israel, the Holocaust, and the Jews.

Flesh is Grass on David Ward.

Also a good oped piece in the Telegraph: David Ward's Grotesque Caricature of Israel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Israeli election results - Update

The results of the Israeli elections today are coming in, and it seems as if the right & left will be about evenly matched in the Knesset. The national totals as of 6.08 am Israeli time are:

Likud-Beitenu - 831,212 votes - 23.24% of the vote
Yesh Atid - 507,582 votes - 14.19% of the vote
Labor - 409,468 votes - 11.45% of the vote
Shas - 315,843 votes - 8.83%
Habayit Hayehudi - 313,366 votes - 8.76%
Yahadut Hatorah - 189,666 votes - 5.30%
Tzipi Livni - 179,730 votes - 5.03%
Meretz - 164,064 votes - 4.59%
United Arab List - 135,829 votes - 3.8%
Hadash - 111,673 votes - 3.12%
Balad - 95,312 votes - 2.67%
Kadima - 74,686 votes - 2.09%

Votes still to be included in these totals are of soldiers and prisoners (prisoners in Israeli jails still have the right to vote, and there are polling stations in the jails).

A party needs to get at least 2% of the vote in order to enter the Knesset.

According to Haaretz, this translates into the following mandates for the parties (96% of votes counted):
Likud - 31
Habayit Hayehudi - 11
Shas - 11
Yahadut Hatorah - 7
Yesh Atid - 19
Labor -15
Tzipi Livni - 6
Kadima - 2
Meretz - 6
Ra'am Ta'al - 5
Hadash - 4
Balad - 3

If these figures hold, in order for Netanyahu to have even a remotely stable government, he won't be able to rely only on the rightwing parties. The right-wing total is: 60. At least 61 are needed to form a coalition. The Jewish center-left parties are: 48. The Arab parties are: 12. No Israeli government has ever been formed with the Arab parties. Netanyahu could probably get Kadima with him easily, which would give him 62 mandates, but that's also awfully precarious. His pre-election coalition was much larger. It will be interesting to watch the coalition negotiations.

This year the Israeli government website is posting the votes counted by precinct, so I thought I would look up the polling places closest to where I was living last year and see what the party breakdowns were, as of about 5:00 am Israeli time.

The polling places are in two schools, both on Yehuda St. - Pelech and Efrata, in the Baka neighborhood. The vote breakdowns do not match the national totals, especially in the much greater support for the Meretz party.

For Jerusalem polling place 460, in the Pelech school, this is the breakdown:
377 votes total
21% Meretz
20.7% Likud
16.5% Habayit Hayehudi
14.6% Labor
10.9% Yesh Atid
4% Tzipi Livni
4% Hadash
3% Am Shalem
1.8% Shas
.5% Yahadut ha-Torah

Polling place 461, also in Pelech
418 votes total
21% Likud
20% Meretz
14.2% Labor
12% Habayit Hayehudi
9.2% Yesh Atid
4.6% Tzipi Livni
4.6% Am Shalem
4.1% Shas
2.6% Hadash

Polling place 462, also in Pelech - 273 votes
24% Habayit Hayehudi
23% Meretz
13.6% Labor
13.24% Likud
8% Yesh Atid
5.5% Am Shalem
3.3% Shas
2.5% Tzipi Livni

Polling place 456, in the Efrata school
263 votes
20% Meretz
16.5% Likud
15% Labor
12% Habayit Hayehudi
10.7% Yesh Atid
6.5% Shas
3.5% Kadima
2.7% Am Shalem
2.3% Yahadut ha-Torah

Polling place 463, also in Efrata
331 votes
27% Likud
17% Habayit Hayehudi
12.7% Meretz
10.9% Labor
8.8% Yesh Atid
8.5% Shas
5.2% Otzma Leyisrael
3% Am Shalem
1.8% Tzipi Livni

Polling place 464, also in Efrata
393 votes
23% Habayit Hayehudi
27.4% Likud
15% Labor
12.3% Yesh Atid
11.5% Meretz
4.4% Am Shalem
3.5% Shas
3.3% Tzipi Livni
2.8% Otzma Leyisrael

Polling place 472, also in Efrata
426 votes
20% Likud
19% Meretz
15.6% Habayit Hayehudi
12.6% Labor
10.9% Yesh Atid
5% Tzipi Livni
4.7% Am Shalem
4.5% Shas
1.9% Kadima
1.7% Hadash

Kiryat Arba election results - 9 votes for Meretz!

More fun with Israeli election results, this time from Kiryat Arba, the Jewish settlement just next door to Hebron. Almost all of the votes went to the far right parties of Habayit Hayehudi and Otzma Leyisrael, with Likud a fairly poor third, but there were 9 votes for Meretz, one for Hadash, and two for Balad!

Polling place #1
529 total votes
51.5% to Habayit Hayehudi
30.4% to Otzma Leyisrael
10.3% to Likud
2.5% to Shas
And one vote for Balad! And a vote for Meretz!

Polling place #2
394 total votes
45% for Habayit Hayehudi
27% for Otzma Leyisrael
14.5% for Likud
3.6% for Shas
2% for Yesh Atid
2 votes for Meretz, and one vote for Balad!

Polling place #3
444 total votes
36% to Habayit Hayehudi
28% to Otzma Leyisrael
25% to Likud
3.7% to Shas
And Meretz got one vote!

Polling place #4
600 total votes
44.6% to Habayit Hayehudi
31% to Otzma Leyisrael
17.8% to Likud
all the other parties are less than 2 percent of the vote, but Meretz gets 3 votes (!)

Polling place #5
449 votes
38.8% to Habayit Hayehudi
26% to Otzma Leyisrael
23.4% to Likud
2.5% to Koach Lehashpia
1.35% to Yesh Atid (2 votes)

Polling place #6
287 total votes
32% to Habayit Hayehudi
29% to Likud
25% to Otzma Leyisrael
4.2% to Shas
And one vote for Hadash! (None for Meretz)

Polling place #7
434 votes
41% for Habayit Hayehudi
24.5% for Otzma Leyisrael
24% for Likud
2.12% for Shas
1.8% for Yesh Atid (8 votes)
And 2 votes for Meretz!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

More American murders by gun

Will these stories ever end?

Five Dead In New Mexico Shooting
A teenage boy has been charged with murder after a shooting in New Mexico left five people dead, the Albuquerque Journal reports. An assault-style rifle is among the weapons police believe was used in the Saturday night shooting. 
In an email from Bernalillo County officials, a shooting took place on Long Lane SW Saturday evening. Deputies were dispatched and found an adult male, an adult female and three children dead. All victims appeared to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Multiple weapons appeared to have been used to include an assault-type rifle. 
The teen is charged with two counts of murder and three counts of child abuse resulting in death.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Review of Andrei Orlov, "The Enoch-Metatron Tradition"

I've just posted a new page, with my review of Andrei Orlov's The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, which I gave as a review at the 2005 SBL Annual Meeting.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Raised on Hatred - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells about widespread hatred of Jews in the Middle East - Jews, not Zionists or Israelis. I think it's important that this is finally being talked about in the New York Times, not just in Israeli or Jewish publications.

She writes:
EGYPT’S newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was caught on tape about three years ago urging his followers to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists. Not long after, the then-leader of the Muslim Brotherhood described Zionists as “bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians,” “warmongers” and “descendants of apes and pigs.” 
These remarks are disgusting, but they are neither shocking nor new. As a child growing up in a Muslim family, I constantly heard my mother, other relatives and neighbors wish for the death of Jews, who were considered our darkest enemy. Our religious tutors and the preachers in our mosques set aside extra time to pray for the destruction of Jews....
All over the Middle East, hatred for Jews and Zionists can be found in textbooks for children as young as three, complete with illustrations of Jews with monster-like qualities. Mainstream educational television programs are consistently anti-Semitic. In songs, books, newspaper articles and blogs, Jews are variously compared to pigs, donkeys, rats and cockroaches, and also to vampires and a host of other imaginary creatures....

It is a major step forward for a sitting U.S. administration and leading American newspapers to unequivocally condemn Morsi’s words. But condemnation is just the first move.... 
Here is an opportunity to acknowledge the breadth and depth of the attitude toward Jews in the Middle East, and how that affects the much desired but elusive peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. 
So many explanations have been offered for the failure of successive U.S. administrations to achieve that peace, but the answer is in Morsi’s words. Why would one make peace with bloodsuckers and descendants of apes and monkeys? 
Millions of Muslims have been conditioned to regard Jews not only as the enemies of Palestine but as the enemies of all Muslims, of God and of all humanity. Arab leaders far more prominent and influential than Morsi have been tireless in “educating” or “nursing” generations to believe that Jews are “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs.” (These are the words of the Saudi sheik Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, imam at the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca.) 
In 2011, a Pew survey found that in Turkey, just 4 percent of those surveyed held a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of Jews; in Indonesia, 10 percent; in Pakistan 2 percent. In addition, 95 percent of Jordanians, 94 percent of Egyptians and 95 percent of Lebanese hold a “very unfavorable” view of Jews [pdf]. 
In recent decades Israeli and American administrations negotiated with unelected Arab despots, who played a double game. They honored the formal peace treaties by not conducting military attacks against Israel. But they condoned the Islamists’ dissemination of hatred against Israel, Zionism and Jews....

New York Times editorial: President Morsi’s Repulsive Comments Against Jews

New York Times editorial about Morsi: President Morsi’s Repulsive Comments Against Jews. Since I didn't receive yesterday's paper, I didn't realize that the article about Morsi was on the front page, and that there was an editorial today about him. Good for the Times. Here's the editorial:
When Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s president in June, he rose, unknown and untested, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the leader of the most important Arab country. He has made missteps and some truly alarming decisions, but there was still reason to hope that he might grow into the job and become the kind of leader that could benefit Egypt and the region.

His scurrilous comments from nearly three years ago about Zionists and Jews, which just came to light, have raised serious doubts about whether he can ever be the force for moderation and stability that is needed. As reported by David Kirkpatrick in The Times, Mr. Morsi is shown in a video from 2010 delivering a speech in which he urges Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists. In a television interview months later, he described Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

That kind of pure bigotry is unacceptable anywhere, anytime. But it is even more offensive in public discourse, coming from someone who became the president of a major country. Mr. Morsi’s comments deserve to be condemned unequivocally, as the Obama administration did on Tuesday. Jay Carney, the president’s spokesman, said, “We completely reject these statements.”

The problem goes deeper than just Mr. Morsi, however. The remarks were made at a time when anti-Israel sentiment was running high in Egypt and the region after the three-week Gaza conflict in 2009 between Israel and Hamas. The sad truth is that defaming Jews is an all too standard feature of Egyptian, and Arab, discourse; Israelis are not immune to responding in kind either.

Teaching children to hate and dehumanizing one’s adversaries is just the kind of twisted mentality that fuels the conflicts that torment the region.

Does Mr. Morsi really believe what he said in 2010? Has becoming president made him think differently about the need to respect and work with all people? So far, there has been no official reaction.

The White House called for Mr. Morsi to make clear that he respects members of all faiths and said the videotaped remarks run counter to the goal of peace. President Obama should also deliver that message to President Morsi directly.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New York Times admits: Egypt’s Leader, Morsi, Made Anti-Jewish Slurs

The New York Times finally reports on something that has been circulating in the Jewish blogosphere since last week, and which Jeffrey Goldberg wrote about today in his blog for the Atlantic: Egypt’s Leader, Morsi, Made Anti-Jewish Slurs.
Nearly three years ago, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood delivered a speech urging Egyptians to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” for Jews and Zionists. In a television interview around that time, the same leader described Zionists as “these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”

That leader, Mohamed Morsi, is now president of Egypt — and his comments may be coming back to haunt him....

“When the leader of a country has a history of statements demonizing Jews, and he does not do anything to correct it, it makes sense that many people in Israel would conclude that he cannot be trusted as a partner for peace,” said Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League....

As the chief of the Brotherhood’s political arm before becoming president, Mr. Morsi was one of the group’s most outspoken critics of Zionists and Israel. He sometimes referred to Zionists as “Draculas” or “vampires,” using demonizing language historically associated with anti-Semitism. Although he explicitly denigrates Jews in the recently exposed videos, Mr. Morsi and other political and Brotherhood leaders typically restrict their inflammatory comments to the more ambiguous category of “Zionists.”

The anti-Semitic statements that have come to light this month both date back to 2010, when anti-Israeli sentiment was running high after a three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza the previous year.

In the video footage first broadcast Friday on Mr. Youssef’s television program, Mr. Morsi addressed a rally in his hometown in the Nile Delta to denounce the Israeli blockade of Gaza. “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews,” Mr. Morsi declared. Egyptian children “must feed on hatred; hatred must continue,” he said. “The hatred must go on for God and as a form of worshiping him.”

“The land of Palestine will not be freed except through resistance,” he said, praising the militant group Hamas as an extension of the Brotherhood.

“Who is our enemy? The Zionists. Who occupies our land? The Zionists. Who hates us? The Zionists. Who destroys our lands? The Zionists,” Mr. Morsi added, lashing out at “America, France and Europe” as “Zionist” supporters.

“And the last of them is that Obama,” Mr. Morsi said. He called the American president a liar who promised the Arab world “empty meaningless words.”

The other video clip was a television interview from the same period unearthed last week by the Middle East Media Research Institute, based in Washington, which tracks anti-Semitic statements in the Arab world.

“These bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs,” Mr. Morsi declared, using a slur for Jews that is familiar across the Muslim world. Although he referred repeatedly to “Zionists” and never explicitly to Jews, Mr. Morsi echoed historic anti-Semitic themes: “They have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout their history. They are hostile by nature.” ....
Elder of Ziyon wrote about this yesterday: MSM gives Morsi a free pass for calling Jews "apes and pigs." He was quoting an article by Richard Behar, who writes for Forbes, on January 11: News Flash: Jews Are 'Apes And Pigs.' So Why Is Egypt's Morsi The Elephant In America's Newsrooms?
Last Friday, the sitting president of Egypt – the world’s 15th most populous nation — was exposed for calling Jews “apes and pigs.” And he did it in a TV interview (in Arabic) in 2010, less than two years before he took office.

Needless to say, this was HUGE NEWS for American mass media! Only it wasn’t. (Knock, knock, New York Times? Anybody home?) In fact, to be fair to the paper of record, not a single major outlet has covered it. Not AP or Reuters. Not CBS News or CNN. Not Time magazine or U.S. News & World Report. Not the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Etcetera. And therein lies a story, which this column can only begin to skin open here.

Mohamed Morsi’s bizarre Apes-and-Pigs rant hit the Jerusalem Post’s homepage that same day (again, last Friday), as its lead story. Specifically, a prestigious U.S. organization named the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) — chaired by Oliver “Buck” Revell, a former deputy head of the FBI in charge of counter-terrorism – released it widely to the global media and posted it on YouTube.

Undoubtedly, the Cairo and Jerusalem bureaus of the big U.S. media outlets saw the story. But the news only found its way to certain American readers and viewers by getting picked up in Jewish and/or conservative forums over the following days.

Commentary magazine, American Thinker and Breitbart thoughtfully weighed in on the subject. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), Jewish Talk Radio, and the Christian Broadcasting Network also saw value in covering it. So did – of all things — a prominent national stock-picking and finance newspaper, Investor’s Business Daily. Fox News entertainer Sean Hannity has been pouncing on it — no surprise there. (Do I really have to tune in to that unpleasant loudmouth if I want to be sure not to miss such newsworthy information?) UPI gave it some pickup, but that news service is only a shadow of its former great self. Once nearly equaling the size and reach of AP in the 1960s, it shrunk to a virtual carcass by 2000 — when it was sold to a company founded by Reverend Moon, the self-proclaimed messiah.

The Times of Israel ran a story about it, and added the fact that Morsi was captured three months ago by MEMRI on a different video. In that tape, he can be seen in fervent prayer at a mosque in western Egypt in October, mouthing the word “Amen” after the preacher urged Allah to “destroy the Jews and their supporters.” (Virtually every big media outlet in America ignored that, too.)

I studied the Pigs-and-Apes story’s journey and trajectory through America over the past week with Sue Radlauer, the Director of Research Services here at Forbes. We gave it seven days to see if any of the so-called “mainstream media” — a pejorative phrase that too-often obscures more than it reveals — bestowed the hate speech even a few sentences of back-page ink. Nothing.

Of course, the demonization of Jews is commonplace and de rigueur in the Arab media (although most Americans wouldn’t know that because they are not being made aware of it). But what makes this omission in Big Media especially egregious is that Morsi–sometimes spelled Morsy or Mursi– went even further than genetically pairing Jews with lower beasts. As you can see and hear for yourself in the Morsi Tapes, he called for an end to any and all negotiations for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians – droning on that all the land belongs to the latter. He called for a boycott of American goods because of its support for Israel. (Of course, he didn’t bother mentioning that American taxpayers have provided nearly $70 billion of aid to Egypt, since it made peace with Israel in 1979, and the spigot continues for now.) He even went so far as to label the Palestinian Authority an entity “created by the Zionist and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people and its interests.”

Apes and pigs aside, Morsi also warned his TV listeners that Jews have never been nice people. “They have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout history,” he oozed. “They are hostile by nature.” (One can almost see comedian Jon Stewart’s frozen eyes right about now, before he says something like, “A holiday in Luxor, anyone?”)

If that’s not enough to make the Morsi Tapes even a little newsworthy, consider that Egypt’s economy is on the brink of collapse, with its government desperate for a $4.8 billion IMF loan. Meanwhile, plans have long been underway for the first official visit by the Egyptian president to Washington this March, where he’ll dine with President Obama. So far, the U.S. State Department hasn’t issued a peep of dismay about the tapes. And yet this is arguably the time to do so — before (not after) the huge checks are cut.

So what’s going on here? On Monday, I raised the topic of Morsi’s 2010 language with Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. “Well, they [Muslim Brotherhood] certainly don’t have a monopoly over anti-Semitic comments in the Middle East,” said Oren, who was born and raised in America, and who has written best-selling books on Middle Eastern history. “These comments were alarming, intolerant, and cause for serious concern. Still, we want to distinguish between what they say and what they do. We expect people to act in a responsible and accountable way. That Morsi and his government today played a constructive role in reaching a ceasefire [with Hamas in November], that’s more important – because it actually saved lives.”

Fair enough. But major, seasoned reporters still need to hold Morsi’s feet to fire over such comments – if not by asking him directly about them, then at least by reporting that he uttered them. Surely, if the president of virtually any other country in the world had defamed an entire people in such a way — only a couple years before they got the top job, to boot — it would have at least gotten a few column-inches. Yet Morsi gets a free pass.

“In my view, it’s important to know just how extreme this important man really is, especially because [Leon] Panetta and [Hillary] Clinton after visits there made statements suggesting otherwise,” says MEMRI board director Elliott Abrams, who served in top policy positions under Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush. “You’re right that if such a tape by Putin or [Turkey's] Erdogan or [Argentina's] Kirchner, etc., etc., was discovered, it would be big news. If it isn’t, is the MSM saying, ‘Well, hell, we know all Muslims have a fanatical hatred of Jews, so no big deal?’”

On Sunday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spent an hour with Morsi in Cairo in what the network billed as an exclusive interview. It was a fine conversation, and he’s doing an hour-long special this weekend about his hour-long interview and visit to Egypt. Blitzer is one of my favorite TV anchors today. (He plays it straight, if sometimes dull, and doesn’t condescend to viewers. I never feel like he’s trying to drag me with a rope through my television set.)

But Wolf could have tossed a few Ape-and-Pig hardballs in Morsi’s direction — given that his reporting staff surely must have been aware of the tapes from the Jerusalem Post piece, if from nowhere else. Why not ask the anthropologist-in-chief: “Do you still believe that Jews are pigs? Invoking Koranic scripture, you claimed that Zionists descend from pigs, but since Zionists weren’t around at the time of your prophet, does this mean all Jews come from pigs, or just certain ones? Do you still believe that America should be boycotted? And does that include American cash? Or should your whole diatribe be disregarded as merely the kooky, carefree views from one’s youth – uhhh…TWO YEARS AGO?”

For several days, I attempted to speak with Blitzer about the good, the bad and the ugly of media coverage of the Middle East. But his publicist says he’s too busy – even to consider responding to a single email question prior to my publishing.

The New York Times rarely touches this stuff. In fact, a harshly critical mega-report about the newspaper’s Middle East coverage was recently released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). The Times can’t be too happy about it. “The failure of the New York Times to cover the hate indoctrination leads the pack, in a way,” CAMERA’s head Andrea Levin told me yesterday. “The fact that they deem it to be so unimportant helps to lay down that news decision for others as well. And, to us, it’s one of the greatest derelictions in current news coverage of the conflict.”......
One wonders if this Forbes article provoked the Times into publishing their article tonight about Morsi's comments. The Forbes article is much better than the Times article - more in depth, interviews Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren, better analysis - and especially because it's not hobbled by the attitude that there must always be balance in an article.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Should Chuck Hagel be our next defense secretary?

I haven't felt that I knew enough one way or the other to have an opinion on whether Chuck Hagel should be the next US defense secretary. These are my thoughts on two issues with his nomination - his views on Israel and gay and lesbian rights.


I am disturbed by some of the statements that the Fact Checker blog of the Washington Post has gathered from Hagel. The blog puts them in the context of the entire speech where they can be found.
Hagel says his positions on Israel has been “completely distorted,” though he acknowledges that “I have also questioned some very cavalier attitudes taken about very complicated issues in the Middle East.” Certainly, Hagel has expressed sentiments that many U.S. politicians tend to avoid, including a consistent concern for the plight of Palestinians.
I agree with his concern for the Palestinians, but I don't like the way in which he has blamed Israel for problems in the Middle East that Israel is not responsible for. In a discussion with then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1998, about getting Arab states' support for US policy vis-a-vis Iraq, he asked her, "Do you believe part of this problem is the perception in the Arab world that we’ve tilted way too far toward Israel in the Middle East peace process?" She says no. After Albright's response, he asks again, "But surely you believe that they're linked? You don't believe that there's any linkage between the Middle East peace process and what's happening in Iraq?"

I think Albright was right - what did sanctions against Iraq have to do with whether negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians were going well or badly? Does everything that happens in the Middle East, even when it does not involve Israel, actually involve Israel? Remember, Israel did not participate in the Gulf War, even though it was attacked by Iraq.

I also find it offensive what he said, in an interview with Aaron David Miller, talking about about someone asking him a question during a meeting in New York, "I said, ‘I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.’ I support Israel, but my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States — not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that. Now I know most Senators don’t talk like I do.”

This is offensive to me because it comes across as if Hagel is questioning the patriotism of the questioner. If he's not an Israeli senator, then what does that make the questioner? Someone who is more loyal to Israel than the US? The quote doesn't tell us the speech or meeting where he made this statement, so we don't know if he's speaking to someone Jewish or not. In the US there is a classic trope that accuses American Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to the US, and whether or not Hagel intended to do that, it feels to me that he's evoking that accusation.

Do any of these statements mean he shouldn't be the next US defense secretary? Probably not. He doesn't make US foreign policy - President Obama does. But I don't feel particularly happy that Obama nominated him rather than Susan Rice. Why did Obama fold on Rice? Senate Republicans opposed her (at least some of them), and probably the same Senate Republicans will oppose Hagel. Why wasn't it worth supporting Rice in the face of the same opponents?

Gay and lesbian equality

In addition to his statements about Israel, Hagel has also said and done other things that I don't agree with - for example, his offensive remarks about the gay man that Clinton nominated to be ambassador to Luxembourg, whom he accused of being an "aggressively gay" and his consistent anti-gay voting record in the Senate. The New Yorker reports:
But the Hagel nomination also presents challenges for Americans who care about civil rights. When Hagel served in the United States Senate, as a Republican from Nebraska, he consistently voted against gay rights—his record earned him a zero-per-cent rating (three times) from the Human Rights Campaign, the leading gay-rights lobby. Among other things, Hagel voted against extending basic employment nondiscrimination protections and the federal hate-crimes law to cover gay Americans. 
In 1998, after President Bill Clinton nominated a prominent gay-rights advocate from San Francisco, James Hormel, to be the ambassador to Luxembourg, Hagel, then a Senator, seemed to go out of his way to malign not only Hormel—“openly, aggressively gay”—but gay Americans generally, with comments that were blatantly offensive even then; they suggested that the very fact of being gay should disqualify one from representing America abroad.
Hagel was also opposed to gays and lesbians openly serving in the US military (ironically enough, Israel accepted openly gay and lesbian soldiers in 1993 - at just the time that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was passed in the US). This raises another question - while the defense secretary doesn't make foreign policy, he does direct the US military. Now that DADT has been repealed, will Hagel aggressively support the equality of gay and lesbian soldiers?

The New Yorker article continues:
Hagel should—and, presumably, will—be pressed to do substantially more than give his assurance that he will carry out the President’s policies on gay rights. If he has truly changed his views, he needs to explain the context of that conversion and lay out a plan for making the Pentagon and the military more welcoming for gay and lesbian Americans. (“I want to hear how he’s evolved on this issue,” Tammy Baldwin, the newly elected openly gay Senator from Wisconsin told MSNBC.) He will also need to speak to the issue of gay-marriage equality and how it impacts gay military families who are among those most affected by the Defense of Marriage Act, under review this term by the Supreme Court.
I hope that this issue is one that Obama will press Hagel on. I also wish that Obama had considered  more carefully whether it was a good idea to put a man in control of the Defense Department who had voted consistently against gay rights and made offensive anti-gay remarks about a gay man nominated to be an ambassador.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Joe Weissman - his family's fate at Buchenwald and Sobibor

Joe Weissman, who blogs at Harry's Place, has written a very moving post about the fate of his family during the Shoah: My Weissmann family at Buchenwald and Sobibor.

His grandmother Lili, from Austria, was saved by the Kindertransport to London, but her father, Heinrich Weissmann, was murdered at Buchenwald, and her mother Anna and brother Heinz were murdered at Sobibor. They are pictured below (L-R: Anna, Lili, Heinz, Heinrich).