Commentary Magazine


Topic: anti-Semitism

A Big Loss for Anti-Israel Academics

It wasn’t even close. At Sunday’s business meeting of the American Historical Association’s annual conference, AHA members present voted overwhelmingly against considering two resolutions sponsored by Historians Against the War, both attempting to draw AHA into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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It wasn’t even close. At Sunday’s business meeting of the American Historical Association’s annual conference, AHA members present voted overwhelmingly against considering two resolutions sponsored by Historians Against the War, both attempting to draw AHA into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The resolutions accuse Israel of the usual crimes against the right to education and academic freedom. But the content of the resolutions, though objectionable, as usual disguised the actual goal of those proposing them. As Van Goss, a historian at Franklin and Marshall and a member of HAW’s steering committee, explained at a roundtable on the resolutions, “I know the AHA. If we bring in a BDS resolution, we’ll get blown out of the water. That’s not a tactically smart thing to do.” Having conceded that the resolution is a “politically and tactically sensible move” on the part of people whose purpose is to get the AHA to boycott Israel, Van Goss goes on to deny that the resolution is an “in any shape or form” an “entering wedge” for the boycott movement. Sure.

Van Goss may have been right about the likely fate of an actual BDS resolution. Such a resolution was submitted for consideration at the meeting but rejected in part because it did not have the required 50 signatures. As AHA executive director James Grossman said in explaining the decision, this “bar is quite low,” since AHA has more than 13,000 members. Of course, a more competent effort would have netted more than the required 50 signatures, but the incompetence of this year’s effort is itself heartening.

Indeed, HAW submitted its own two resolutions late, which is why the vote was about whether to suspend the rules so that the resolutions could be considered rather than about the resolutions themselves. Claire Potter, via Twitter, reported on the debate. Opponents of suspension for the most part agreed with the AHA Council, which could have put the resolution on the agenda but declined to do so for two reasons. First, timing: “A complex issue should not arise [without] time for research and reflection.” Second, fairness: putting the item on the agenda late would be unfair to those not in attendance who “might have attended had they known the resolutions [would be] on the agenda.”

Those in favor of suspension argued, strangely, that abiding by the rules was undemocratic since the rules were made to “suppress and curtail debate.” They also argued that even if the procedure were unfair, that unfairness could somehow be wiped out by a full membership vote, though such a vote was not guaranteed to occur and, if it did occur, would do so in a context of an unfairly secured endorsement. No one explained why there was such a hurry to pass a resolution, perhaps because it is “not a tactically smart thing to do” to say out loud that the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement needs every anti-Israel statement it can get, whether it directly calls for a boycott or not, to create the appearance of momentum. That propaganda beast needs feeding.

The members present weren’t buying it. The resolutions’ supporters needed two-thirds of the votes. They got not even one-third. In a defeat the History News Network called stunning, the activists won just 51 votes. 144 voted against suspending the rules, and 3 abstained.

The History News Network is right to call the magnitude of defeat stunning. Proponents of the resolutions had more time to organize than did their opponents, and the AHA has not been shy about taking political stands before. Historians like David Greenberg of Rutgers University, Sharon Musher of Richard Stockton College, and Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland, who have defended the integrity of AHA against attempts to use it as a political weapon, deserve a lot of credit. But they and their allies will soon enough have to be at it again. Incoming AHA president Vicki Ruiz has decided to devote three of six presidential sessions at next year’s conference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is disappointing that Ruiz thinks that the AHA staking out its foreign policy is worth half of the time she controls at the conference. But Ruiz has once before stood against the anti-Israel boycott movement, and it is to be hoped that the discussions she organizes will be fairer than has been the norm. Certainly, BDS opponents are not afraid of such discussions. Alice Kessler Harris of Columbia University, a boycott opponent, rose to urge the AHA Council to design a program of education so that if it should come to a vote next year, the vote might actually be informed by knowledge of the issues at stake.

The activists of Historians Against the War tried to interrupt her. I guess they think ignorance is good for their cause.

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Fatah Celebrates Anniversary with Incitement to Genocide

Fatah, the Palestinian movement founded by Yasir Arafat (who, ironically, was not actually Palestinian but rather the son of an Egyptian textile merchant) just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Mind you, it was the anniversary not of its founding as has been widely reported, but rather the anniversary of its first murder of Jews.

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Fatah, the Palestinian movement founded by Yasir Arafat (who, ironically, was not actually Palestinian but rather the son of an Egyptian textile merchant) just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Mind you, it was the anniversary not of its founding as has been widely reported, but rather the anniversary of its first murder of Jews.

True to form, it commemorated its murderous anniversary with this graphic of a pile of the skulls of dead Jews. True to form, Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth celebrated the application to join the International Criminal Court filed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas but could find no time to condemn the incitement that Abbas’s movement posted on its Facebook page.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss such graphics as part and parcel of Palestinian political culture. Certainly, that’s been the attitude of most State Department officials and peace processors since the peace process began. But, Roth says he believes not in the demonization of Israel but rather the universality of human-rights law (so long it is as he interprets it). Perhaps, though, if he wants not to appear a hypocrite with deep-seated animosity to the Jewish state, he might consider the work of Gregory Gordon, former legal officer of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, who has written that genocide cannot occur without incitement. He listed five questions relevant to defining such incitement: “Where was the statement made? Is it sufficiently public? Is it sufficiently direct? Is it permissible free speech or criminal incitement? What is the state of mind of the person uttering the statements—is there intent to incite?” To answer these with regard to the pile of Jewish skulls:

  • The statement was made on Fatah’s official Facebook page.
  • Yes, the page is public.
  • Yes, the statement is direct; there can be no misinterpreting it.
  • There appears every intent to incite; the graphic was time-consuming to create and apparently passed through the hierarchy for posting approval.
  • Certainly, the Palestinian Authority provides freedom to incite, even if it does not extend freedom of speech to such topics as criticizing Arafat, Abbas (currently serving the tenth year of his four-year presidential term), or the corruption of Abbas’s cronies.

Diplomats tend to whitewash opponents in an effort to keep the diplomatic process alive, but it’s not always possible to put lipstick on a pig. That said, Abbas once reserved such incitement for closed Palestinian audiences. It is only with the understanding that self-appointed judges of morality and law like Roth are so thoroughly politicized and uphold such a double standard that they feel emboldened to go public with celebration of terrorism and incitement to genocide.

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Open Season on Jews for Palestinians

Last month, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was blasted by Israel for making statements that both incited terrorist attacks and for his praise of those who committed such actions. But the PA head, who is vowing to get a vote for his effort to have the United Nations Security Council recognize a Palestinian state without making peace first with Israel, noted that Western nations did not join in the criticism. Palestinians were similarly undaunted and the toll of terrorist attacks on Israelis in both Jerusalem and the West Bank has continued to rise. Just this week, Palestinians firebombed the car of a Jewish family resulting in life-threatening burns to an 11-year-old child. Days later, two policemen were stabbed in Jerusalem by a Palestinian who had just attended prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. But rather than these and other attacks generating international outrage, the world shrugs. Palestinians trying to kill Jews is so ordinary that few people, including many American Jews, think it worth the effort to complain about it.

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Last month, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was blasted by Israel for making statements that both incited terrorist attacks and for his praise of those who committed such actions. But the PA head, who is vowing to get a vote for his effort to have the United Nations Security Council recognize a Palestinian state without making peace first with Israel, noted that Western nations did not join in the criticism. Palestinians were similarly undaunted and the toll of terrorist attacks on Israelis in both Jerusalem and the West Bank has continued to rise. Just this week, Palestinians firebombed the car of a Jewish family resulting in life-threatening burns to an 11-year-old child. Days later, two policemen were stabbed in Jerusalem by a Palestinian who had just attended prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. But rather than these and other attacks generating international outrage, the world shrugs. Palestinians trying to kill Jews is so ordinary that few people, including many American Jews, think it worth the effort to complain about it.

In a sense those that think this way aren’t entirely wrong. Attacks on Jews on the roads in the West Bank have always been so commonplace as to not even raise many eyebrows in Israel. Indeed, the most interesting detail in the story about the firebombing that nearly killed an 11-year-old girl is that her mother said she barely escaped a similar fate recently when another firebomb just missed her.

The same is true of attacks in Jerusalem recently. The horrific stabbings of four rabbis at prayer in a Har Nof synagogue last month generated a momentary surge of interest in the surge in Arab terrorism that quickly dissipated. While that crime was considered more noteworthy, the numerous attempts by Palestinians to run down Jewish pedestrians or to stab or incinerate them in the weeks since that attack demonstrates that it was unique only in terms of the number of casualties and the barbaric methods used by the murderers.

Why does the world yawn when it hears of Palestinians attacking Jews?

One reason is that it reflects the same attitude that was reflected in a memorable exchange between Denmark’s ambassador to Israel and columnist Caroline Glick. The ambassador said that Israel should be happy about being judged by a double standard because no one expected the Palestinians to behave like Europeans while everyone thought the Israelis should. Such a stance is condescending to Palestinians who are assumed to be uncivilized and unlikely to act in a manner that is consistent with international norms.

But this attitude also reflects, as the ambassador noted in passing in his utterly unconvincing defense of his position, a sense that the Jews are the more powerful party in the conflict. In essence, the world thinks the Jews have it coming. This is what many in the world think is the fate a Jewish people that has survived two millennia of anti-Semitism and persecution and several Arab wars aimed at the destruction of their state deserves. No other people in the world have their right to sovereignty over their ancient homeland dismissed along with their right to self-defense in this manner. Such “special” treatment is an act of bias and the term for such prejudice when applied to Jews is anti-Semitism.

Palestinians leaders have declared open season on killing Jews and the world isn’t particularly interested. It is little surprise that Palestinians listen to their leaders and imams and throw gasoline bombs and attempt to run down or stab Jews whenever they can. Under these circumstances, this week’s casualties just like all those that have become before them, should expect little sympathy or notice from the international press.

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Holiday Jew-Hatred on the Sidewalks of NY

In recent years, a rising tide of anti-Semitism has swept through Europe making it dangerous for Jews to openly identify with their faith on the streets of great Western capitals. Shrouded behind a thin veil of criticism about the Middle East peace process, Jew hatred has become an open and increasingly accepted fact of life in Europe that makes it perilous to express support for the Jewish state even at times when it is being assailed by terrorist attacks. Though support for boycotts of Israel and other forms of incitement have popped up on college campuses, up until now this distressing trend had not yet shown its face on American shores. But, as Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote in the New York Observer yesterday, the anti-Israel movement has now stepped up its incitement and has begun an effort to boycott a business owned by a supporter of Israel. By doing so, they have crossed a very clear line that divides wrongheaded yet acceptable political protest from open hatred against Jews.

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In recent years, a rising tide of anti-Semitism has swept through Europe making it dangerous for Jews to openly identify with their faith on the streets of great Western capitals. Shrouded behind a thin veil of criticism about the Middle East peace process, Jew hatred has become an open and increasingly accepted fact of life in Europe that makes it perilous to express support for the Jewish state even at times when it is being assailed by terrorist attacks. Though support for boycotts of Israel and other forms of incitement have popped up on college campuses, up until now this distressing trend had not yet shown its face on American shores. But, as Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote in the New York Observer yesterday, the anti-Israel movement has now stepped up its incitement and has begun an effort to boycott a business owned by a supporter of Israel. By doing so, they have crossed a very clear line that divides wrongheaded yet acceptable political protest from open hatred against Jews.

The incident concerns a demonstration outside a jewelry outlet owned by Israeli entrepreneur Lev Leviev. Singing faux Christmas carols with lyrics proclaiming their support for a Palestinian war on Israel, participants were urging passersby to stay away from the store because its owner “steals Palestinian land.” Boteach writes that when he and his family attempted to converse with the demonstrators and to urge them to support Israel—the only democracy in the Middle East—and to oppose Hamas terrorists, they were cursed at and shouted down.

What’s their problem with Leviev? The prominent philanthropist’s sin is that he does business in Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank where Jews live, including contracting for the building of homes in Jewish neighborhoods of the capital and Beitar Ilit, part of the Gush Etzion bloc where Jews were slaughtered and evicted by Arabs in 1948. The demonstrators Boteach described are wrong about these places being “stolen” Palestinian land. But whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, what they are doing is nothing less than an attempt to treat a Jew who does business in Israel as a pariah. The line that separates such actions from unabashed anti-Semitic targeting of Jewish businesses is paper-thin and is undermined by the brazen anti-Semitic comments that accompanied this protest and other protests organized at nearby Jewish events.

The point here is not to dispute the right of anti-Zionists to express their opposition to the existence of a Jewish state. Rather, it is to show that the purpose of the anti-Leviev demonstration is to intimidate and silence Jews associated with the Jewish state. If Leviev can be boycotted in this manner, then so can any Jew, rich or poor, who has ties to Israel.

The effort to separate opposition to a Jewish state from anti-Semitism has always rested on the notion that there is a distinction between the two points of view. But, increasingly, as it is expressed in European demonstrations as well as here in the United States, that is a distinction without a difference. Those who would deny the Jews the same rights of sovereignty and self-defense that they never think to oppose anywhere else are practicing an invidious form of discrimination. One may disagree with Israeli policies, but those who support efforts to end its existence are engaging in a form of hatred.

That hatred has increasingly taken the form of the BDS—boycott, divest, and sanction—movement that attempts to wage economic war on Israel and its supporters. As the street theater taking place in Manhattan that Boteach witnessed clearly shows, it is no longer possible to pretend that boycotts of Israel are not merely a new way to boycott and discriminate against Jews. In other words, the effort to pretend that this is not a form of anti-Semitism has officially failed.

While all too many good people, including some supporters of Israel, try to pretend that this hatred can be answered by forcing Israel to change its policies, the BDS crowd and their Palestinian allies have always made it clear that they generally agree with Hamas in claiming that all areas of Israel, including the part that made up pre-1967 Israel, are “settlements” that must be destroyed. The time is over for treating these practitioners of hate with kid gloves and understanding. What they are preaching, in principle and in practice, is a form of hatred.

They should not be allowed to do so without being called to account by decent Americans of all faiths and political affiliations.

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Don’t Like Anti-Semitism? Then Don’t Encourage It.

In Britain, prominent Jewish figures are expressing concern about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in that country. Most recently the director of the BBC Danny Cohen has stated that he has never felt so uncomfortable being Jewish in Britain. He even went so far as to cast doubt on the long-term future of Anglo-Jewry. Similarly, Labor Party leader Ed Miliband—also Jewish—has called for a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism. The great irony here, however, is that both men are Jews heading organizations which, through their portrayal and policy on Israel, are laying the groundwork for yet more Jew-hatred.

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In Britain, prominent Jewish figures are expressing concern about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in that country. Most recently the director of the BBC Danny Cohen has stated that he has never felt so uncomfortable being Jewish in Britain. He even went so far as to cast doubt on the long-term future of Anglo-Jewry. Similarly, Labor Party leader Ed Miliband—also Jewish—has called for a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism. The great irony here, however, is that both men are Jews heading organizations which, through their portrayal and policy on Israel, are laying the groundwork for yet more Jew-hatred.

The correlation between the demonization of Israel and attacks on Jews worldwide is hardly in doubt. The dramatic spike in anti-Semitic attacks throughout the diaspora that coincided with this summer’s Gaza war speaks for itself. That is not to suggest that Israeli policy is the underlying cause of anti-Semitism, but rather just as Church doctrine or Social Darwinism were ideologies used as a conduit for anti-Semitism, today anti-Zionism, with its depiction of events in Israel, takes the position as the primary outlet for anti-Semitism. And while both Danny Cohen and Ed Miliband are quite right to be concerned by the rising tide of Jew-hatred in Britain today, there is no escaping the fact that both the BBC and the Labor Party have played a role in stoking the kind of contempt for the Jewish state that leads directly to the increasingly common verbal and physical attacks on British Jews.

Danny Cohen only took over as head of BBC television in May 2013, and so can hardly be held responsible for the BBC’s long legacy of slanted reporting on Israel. And in fairness, Cohen has pledged to give prominence to programming about the Holocaust to mark the upcoming memorial day. Still, during the recent Gaza conflict there were several troubling moments at the BBC. One particularly memorable incident was news anchor Emily Maitlis’s grilling of Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. Maitlis—who is herself Jewish—hounded Regev on the point of a UN shelter that had been hit, possibly by Israel, possibly by Hamas. The implicit suggestion in Maitlis’s questioning was that Israel had the exact coordinates of the shelter, that Israel knew that it was full of women and children, that Israel had refused to permit an evacuation of those in the shelter, and that Israel had intentionally gone ahead and hit it anyway. Her accusatory questions became fiercest when she asserted: “But you said you were going to hit it, you hit it, you killed them! You knew there were children in that building!”

Meanwhile, under Ed Miliband Labor has veered toward being far more overtly hostile to the Jewish state. While it is true that this process has been taking place on the left of that party for some time, under the stewardship of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Labor policy remained resolutely supportive of the Jewish state. Yet under Miliband, the son of Holocaust refugees, this has begun to change. Not only did Miliband condemn Israel’s war against Hamas this summer, but he publicly attacked Prime Minister Cameron’s refusal to join in with the chorus of condemnation, calling Cameron’s stance “unacceptable and unjustifiable.” Miliband further outraged Israel supporters when he recently attended the gala dinner for Labor Friends of Palestine—a group which reportedly backs anti-Israel boycotts.

More than anything else, what stood out was Miliband’s decision to whip the vote on Palestinian statehood, obliging all Labor parliamentarians to support unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood regardless of the security implications for Israel. During the debate for that vote, some of the most aggressively anti-Israel speeches came from the Labor benches. The Jewish Labor MP Gerald Kaufman, who has previously compared Israeli actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, denounced Israel for provoking the anti-Semitism that he claimed he wished to see an end of. Indeed, Kaufman quite preposterously claimed that Israel is damaging the image of Judaism. It seems not to occur to Mr. Kaufman that it might be his own very public misrepresentation of the Jewish state that could be contributing to anti-Semitism.

So many of the accusations thrown at Israel today echo far older incarnations of Jew-hatred. Once it was accusations of Jews murdering and kidnapping Christian children, and now the accusation is of Israelis imprisoning minors and bombing Palestinian children. Once it was said that the Jews poisoned wells and caused the crops to fail, now that waste water from settlements pollutes Palestinian fields and drinking water. Similarly, the prominent depiction of blood and Palestinian children in contemporary political cartoons about Israel mirrors so precisely the imagery found in medieval anti-Semitism. What was particularly remarkable about medieval anti-Semitism was that whether it was the show trials of the Talmud, the Spanish Inquisition, or the numerous blood libel cases, time and again the names of Jewish converts who had risen high in the Church establishment are found littering the history books on account of the unique role they played in putting anti-Jewish ideas into non-Jewish heads. Perhaps there really is nothing new under the sun.

To be clear: when Miliband and Cohen decry the rise of anti-Semitism it is not in doubt that they are being sincere. But they are also being woefully naive if they fail to see the role the organizations they head have in stoking that same anti-Semitism.

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The Higher Education Hypocrisy Award for 2014 Goes to …

It’s a close contest, and there is a bit of 2014 left, but this year’s award for higher education hypocrisy surely must go to eight signatories of the latest anti-Israel petition to emerge from our universities. The petition itself, signed by members of the faculty of New York University, is the standard call to punish corporations that can be connected in some way to Israel’s activities in the West Bank or Gaza. What’s striking about this one is that eight of the signatories, more than ten percent of the present total, are affiliated with NYU’s satellite campus in Abu Dhabi. NYU’s Abu Dhabi outpost, “wholly bankrolled by the oil-rich Abu Dhabi government,” opened in 2010, and its permanent campus, located alongside an “idyllic resort” under development on Saadiyat Island, was completed in 2014.

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It’s a close contest, and there is a bit of 2014 left, but this year’s award for higher education hypocrisy surely must go to eight signatories of the latest anti-Israel petition to emerge from our universities. The petition itself, signed by members of the faculty of New York University, is the standard call to punish corporations that can be connected in some way to Israel’s activities in the West Bank or Gaza. What’s striking about this one is that eight of the signatories, more than ten percent of the present total, are affiliated with NYU’s satellite campus in Abu Dhabi. NYU’s Abu Dhabi outpost, “wholly bankrolled by the oil-rich Abu Dhabi government,” opened in 2010, and its permanent campus, located alongside an “idyllic resort” under development on Saadiyat Island, was completed in 2014.

So I wonder when these eight faculty members, who pompously stand on NYU’s “long and proud tradition of demanding that the university live up to its professed values,” will be renouncing their affiliation with the government of the United Arab Emirates. As Freedom House observes in its 2014 report, the UAE bans political parties, and “criticism of the government, allies [and] religion” is prohibited by law.

The UAE also has a labor problem. UAE’s mostly foreign workers do not have the right to organize, bargain collectively, or strike. Expatriate workers can be banned from working in the UAE if they try to leave their employer prior to at least two years of service. NYU responded to this difficulty by issuing a statement concerning labor values they expected to be adhered to in the building of the campus. Nonetheless, some of the workers who built the campus “lived in squalor, 15 men to a room.” Almost all had to pay a recruitment fee, consisting of about a year’s wages, for the privilege of getting the job, then worked 11 to 12 hours per day. Workers with the temerity to strike were arrested, beaten, and deported. But it’s a lovely campus, and I am sure the faculty members who want NYU to live up to its values are enjoying it. Who can begrudge brave and hardworking anti-Israeli petition signers their day at the beach? Besides as the signatories of this letter—who include three of the faculty members who signed the anti-Israel position—explain, “our partners are trying to do their best.” Moreover, many of the NYUAD faculty discuss “the complexities of labor in the Gulf” with their students, which is undoubtedly a comfort to the workers, who, because they were not allowed to hold onto their passports and sometimes not even to have their own bank cards, had little hope of escaping their employers, much less bettering their conditions.

It’s nice, though, that NYU’s Abu Dhabi faculty feels able to discuss labor “complexities” since, according to Freedom House, faculties at Western universities typically “take care to not criticize the UAE government or its policies out of fear of losing funding.” There are other incentives for silence as well: “in 2012, several academics critical of UAE government policies were dismissed from their positions and either arrested or expelled from the country.”

But it is commendable that these faculty members, busy enjoying a campus built by indentured servants, and the hospitality of a government that honors neither academic nor political freedom, have found time away from kayaking in Saadiyat Island’s lovely mangrove lagoons, to demand that NYU break with Israel and live up to its values. Some would call this breathtaking hypocrisy. I call it the quintessence of the academic anti-Israel movement.

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New Harvard Doctrine: Palestinians Matter More than Jews

Some, but by no means all, Palestinians, think that SodaStream, a company that does business in the West Bank, should be boycotted on the grounds that it profits from the “occupation.” I say some but by no means all because the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement does not represent all Palestinians. Not all Palestinians, for example, balk at the prospect of Israelis and Palestinians cooperating. But the BDS movement views such cooperation, unless it is explicitly anti-Israel, as “normalization.” An observer from Reuters describes Sodastream’s West Bank factory this way: “Inside the plant, assembly lines buzz to the mixed voices in Hebrew and Arabic of its employees — a rare example of people from the two sides working and talking together.” That’s the kind of thing BDS cannot tolerate, especially if it means that Palestinians are able to earn a higher wage than they could elsewhere.

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Some, but by no means all, Palestinians, think that SodaStream, a company that does business in the West Bank, should be boycotted on the grounds that it profits from the “occupation.” I say some but by no means all because the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement does not represent all Palestinians. Not all Palestinians, for example, balk at the prospect of Israelis and Palestinians cooperating. But the BDS movement views such cooperation, unless it is explicitly anti-Israel, as “normalization.” An observer from Reuters describes Sodastream’s West Bank factory this way: “Inside the plant, assembly lines buzz to the mixed voices in Hebrew and Arabic of its employees — a rare example of people from the two sides working and talking together.” That’s the kind of thing BDS cannot tolerate, especially if it means that Palestinians are able to earn a higher wage than they could elsewhere.

Some, but by no means all, Jews consider the BDS movement anti-Semitic because, among other reasons, it calls for an end to the only Jewish state. This group includes some Harvard University students.

Nonetheless, Harvard University has apparently chosen to stand with BDS. According to a Harvard University Dining Services spokesperson, the HDS has agreed “to remove SodaStream labels on current machines and purchase machines from other companies such as American firms EverPure and Crysalli in the future.” Although BDS has a history of claiming victories prematurely, and although HDS has not said why it is removing SodaStream labels from the machines, it is hard to imagine any justification other than the one set forth by Rachel J. Sandalow, a student leader in the pro-BDS Open Hillel movement: “These machines can be seen as a microaggression to Palestinian students and their families and like the University doesn’t care about Palestinian human rights.” The HDS action followed a meeting which included Harvard professors and administrators, and representatives of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee.

Let’s set aside whether Harvard should make policy based on perceived “microaggressions.” What’s striking here is that Harvard cares only about the “microaggressons” perceived by certain groups. One participant at the meeting apparently pointed out that wiping out SodaStream’s name may be perceived as an endorsement of anti-Israeli politics. That participant wasn’t wrong, but insofar as BDS also represents, for at least some Jewish students, anti-Semitism, it could also be perceived by them as an endorsement of anti-Jewish politics. If Harvard is serious about rooting our microaggressions, then they should take the concerns of those students seriously.

Of course, there is no action Harvard could have taken that would not have offended someone, which tells us something about the wisdom of enacting policies simply to avoid offending people. In the end, you have to choose whom you’re going to offend. Harvard shamefully judged it safest to offend the Jews.

Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, has recognized that academic boycotts against Israel are unacceptable. She should also recognize that this mini-boycott is unacceptable and reverse the decision.

UPDATE: Harvard’s provost Alan M. Garber strongly suggests that this decision will not stand. “Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy,” Garber wrote in an emailed statement in response to the report of the decision shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday. “If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the University, that will be rectified now.” President Faust has requested in investigation.

 

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Librarians for BDS: When Librarians Burn Books

Much has been written here at COMMENTARY and elsewhere regarding the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement, its hypocrisy, and the anti-Semitic attitudes which too often seem to motivate some of its most vocal supporters.

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Much has been written here at COMMENTARY and elsewhere regarding the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement, its hypocrisy, and the anti-Semitic attitudes which too often seem to motivate some of its most vocal supporters.

That too many academics conflate scholarship with politics, and believe free speech trumps academic rigor is old news. There is nothing wrong nor intimidating about outsiders shining the limelight on professors who abuse their positions or on any scholarly ideas that those scholars put forth. After all, if professors’ research has been conducted with rigor, it will withstand criticism. But if it has not, then it should be subject to ridicule. Only in an Orwellian world is free speech synonymous with affirmation. And only to the immature or unprofessional must speech codes or stacked panels prevent disapproval.

Professors should be judged by their research and their teaching. University librarians should be held to another standard entirely. A university librarian’s purpose is to accumulate books, journals, and archival materials ranging the gambit of the field irrespective of their own personal politics, or the popular political directives of the day. Once they acquire those resources, a librarian should organize and ease access to it.

And yet, with this statement released by Middle Eastern Studies scholars and librarians endorsing the BDS call and seeking the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, librarians at some major universities are effectively embracing the notion that they will filter acquisitions according to their own political predilections. What librarians such as Mastan Ebtehaj at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University; Blair Kuntz at the University of Toronto; Mahmoud Omidsalar at California State University, Los Angeles; and Anais Salamon at McGill University are effectively saying is that they will not consider acquiring, cataloguing, or making available titles published by such Israeli scholarly presses such as Tel Aviv University Press, or the Truman Institute’s press. That may not literally be burning books, but how shameful it is for university librarians to do the figurative equivalent, filtering knowledge by whether or not they agree with the author or, as BDS demands, whether or not they like his or her nationality or that of the scholar’s publishing company. How ironic it is that librarians—those who should dedicate their professional life to protecting access to knowledge—have read so few of the history books they supposedly guard, for if they did, they might not be comfortable with past parallels to their present actions.

And while librarians might justify affixing their signatures to the statement cited above in being true to their political conscience or even free speech, they should recognize that free speech does not trump or excuse professional responsibility, any more than free speech would absolve a doctor who refused to touch an Israeli patient or who, because of their own personal beliefs, decided to treat cancer patients only with crystals and aromatherapy. Librarians should write what they want, sign what they want, and preach what they want. Professional competence and responsibility are not endlessly subjective. If a librarian at California State University—a state institution—for example, declares openly that he will not fulfill his duty, perhaps then the state should not entrust him with such responsibility. Under no circumstance do librarians who ban books embrace free speech.

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Putting Lipstick on the BDS Pig

The BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement targeting Israel has had more success in the Kafkaesque confines of the modern American university than in the real world. Yet even in the academy, where both the rule of law and basic constitutional rights are heavily curtailed and anti-Semitism is tolerated if not fostered, it has begun to lose battles. That’s because a few principled American academics still support academic freedom, and make their argument convincingly. Yet now another group of leftist academics is offering a way to target Israel while maintaining a façade of academic integrity.

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The BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement targeting Israel has had more success in the Kafkaesque confines of the modern American university than in the real world. Yet even in the academy, where both the rule of law and basic constitutional rights are heavily curtailed and anti-Semitism is tolerated if not fostered, it has begun to lose battles. That’s because a few principled American academics still support academic freedom, and make their argument convincingly. Yet now another group of leftist academics is offering a way to target Israel while maintaining a façade of academic integrity.

The group is a leftist organization called the Third Narrative, which seeks to replace the prevailing anti-Israel narrative on the left with their own anti-Israel narrative, which they consider morally superior. It’s as though one Illinois governor is claiming to be less corrupt than one of his predecessors. Fine, but let’s remember just how relative your morality is here.

The Third Narrative’s mission statement criticizes the overheated anti-Israel rhetoric of the left, but still wants the left to take aim at Israel:

The Third Narrative initiative is our response to this situation. We hope to engage people on the left who suspect that it is wrong to lay all blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict at the feet of Israeli Jews…but aren’t sure how to respond to Israel’s most vitriolic critics. Some of what these critics say is true, some of their accusations are justified. Some of what Israel’s traditional defenders say is also accurate. When it comes to this conflict, the truth is rarely black or white; it resides in a gray area where advocates on either side typically don’t like to venture. That is where we try to go with The Third Narrative.

In theory, it sounds good. A less hateful left is still thoroughly intellectually dishonest, but still an improvement. (It’s a low bar.) Once fiercely opposed to BDS, the organization now seems to have been opposed to the form the mainstream BDS movement was taking, especially the anti-Semitic umbrella BDS organization. The Third Narrative apparently thinks there’s a third way between BDS and no BDS, as it explained in an open letter titled “A Time for Personal Sanctions”:

That response, we believe, should not take the form of generalized boycotts and other sanctions that indiscriminately target Israeli society and Israeli institutions. Such measures are both unjust and politically counterproductive. In particular, campaigns for boycotts and blacklists of Israeli academia attack the most basic principles of academic freedom and open intellectual exchange.

Moreover, a response to Israel’s settlement and annexation policies should not suggest that Israel bears exclusive responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy, or that, if pressured, Israel could solve it unilaterally. Achieving a just and durable negotiated solution requires constructive efforts by actors on all sides of the intertwined Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts. However, if the door is to be held open to the possibility of a just, workable, and peaceful solution, one requirement is to prevent actions that would sabotage it. For this reason, we propose targeted sanctions to focus on political actors engaged in such sabotage.

Although they single out four Israeli figures to sanction, the point is really to attack Naftali Bennett, the first politician on their blacklist and a rising star in Israeli politics, on the eve of a national election. (Uri Ariel, Moshe Feiglin, and Zeev Hever are the others.)

Signatories to the letter include Michael Walzer (Princeton), Todd Gitlin (Columbia), Alan Wolfe (Boston College), Michael Kazin (Georgetown), and Gershon Shafir (UC San Diego) among others. As you can see from the names, they are not only academics but also writers. And as you might expect from American academics and left-wing journalists, they have no idea what they’re talking about. A read-through of their open letter shows them to be ignorant of basic international law and deceitful about Israeli actions.

They want to sanction Israelis whose opinions they disagree with, but since those Israelis are not professors at Tel Aviv University they can convince themselves they are better than those other BDSniks. This is their version of a kosher BDS. It is nothing of the sort.

Since their concern about political figures getting in the way of the two-state solution is surely genuine, I eagerly await the follow-up open letter detailing the Palestinian figures they’re also sanctioning: figures who support or encourage terrorism, those involved in Palestinian media who fuel incitement; etc.

And why stop there? As they must know, the political figures who do the most to torpedo Israeli-Palestinian peace sit in Tehran. Which Iranian government officials–obviously President Rouhani, but there must be others–will Third Narrative advocate personal sanctions for?

What’s dangerous about the Third Narrative’s supposedly kosher BDS is that it offers the legions of thought police throughout academia an outlet for their anti-Israel fervor that also flatters their unearned sense of academic integrity. But they can put all the lipstick they want on this pig, it won’t make it kosher.

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BDS Is About Israel, Not Settlements

The campaign to boycott Israel–the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement–is undoubtedly a fringe campaign. But where this small band of anti-Israel extremists have experienced some traction is among those whom they have been able to convince that BDS is only against settlements. The argument goes that a boycott of Israeli settler produce will somehow persuade the Israelis to abandon their security concerns and bring an end to their so-called occupation of the West Bank. Yet one only has to look to how BDS conducts its campaigns in practice to see that this alleged concern with the “occupation” is just one of many disingenuous claims from what is, at its heart, an entirely disingenuous movement.

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The campaign to boycott Israel–the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement–is undoubtedly a fringe campaign. But where this small band of anti-Israel extremists have experienced some traction is among those whom they have been able to convince that BDS is only against settlements. The argument goes that a boycott of Israeli settler produce will somehow persuade the Israelis to abandon their security concerns and bring an end to their so-called occupation of the West Bank. Yet one only has to look to how BDS conducts its campaigns in practice to see that this alleged concern with the “occupation” is just one of many disingenuous claims from what is, at its heart, an entirely disingenuous movement.

Listening to the words of BDS leaders such as Omar Barghouti you soon realize that the end goal of BDS is nothing less than the total elimination of the Jewish state. But unlike Barghouti, most of the BDS movement has the common sense not to state this so publicly. As such, BDS efforts have been ostensibly focused around boycotting settlements; although in practice this still allows campaigners to attack most Israeli companies by making flimsy arguments about guilt by association. So for instance the Israeli national theater company Habima was targeted on the grounds that it had previously performed in settlements. In Europe this argument is beginning to take hold. Supermarket chains, churches, city councils, and now EU diplomats are all coming round to the idea that boycotting the Jewish state outright may be going too far, but boycotting Jews who dare to live on the “wrong side” of a defunct armistice line is perfectly acceptable.

For BDS, SodaStream was the ideal target. This high-profile company, with its popular products and Super Bowl commercials featuring Scarlett Johansson, had one of its factories just to the east of Jerusalem in the West Bank. The fact that SodaStream boasted of being the largest commercial employer of Palestinians in the world did nothing to dissuade BDS from its efforts. Indeed, just a few months back when it was announced that SodaStream would relocate its factory from the West Bank to the Israeli Negev, BDS expressed no remorse for the Palestinian workers losing their jobs, but only exuberance at their own apparent victory.

Still, now that SodaStream is relocating from the West Bank BDS will be dropping the boycott, right? Wrong! As if proof was needed that fleeing the settlements will do nothing to appease those who simply hate the Jewish state in its entirety, BDSniks have said that they will continue to boycott SodaStream. Now the pretext for boycotting is the allegation that the new factory will be based “close to” a town being built to provide local Bedouin with housing. And supposedly this renders SodaStream “implicated in the displacement of Palestinians.” One can scarcely believe that the movement’s leaders believe such claims, but then these are the feeble excuses of bigots trying to hide and justify their unacceptable agenda.

The true character of BDS is becoming increasingly apparent as the boycotters shift their attention toward targets that even they can’t bracket in with settlements and “stolen land,” except of course for the fact that BDS clearly considers all of Israel stolen land and any Jewish enterprise on that land to be a pollution. Israeli-Arabs are of course exempt from boycotts. Because at its core BDS is a movement that makes ethnicity the dividing line that determines who is to be boycotted and who isn’t. As such, it comes as no surprise that BDS activists in the UK have launched action against Sabon, an Israeli cosmetics company that has always been based within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

Sabon opened its first luxury cosmetics store in London at the beginning of November and BDSers were demonstrating outside within just four days of its arrival. Over the weekend activists staged a particularly aggressive gathering, in which one of the ringleaders was heard employing the most shameless blood libel language, barking coldly down the megaphone: “you don’t want to be going into this shop, buying beautiful smelling lotions to smear over your body, because if you do you will be smearing yourself in the blood of Palestinians.” And yet this particular Saturday morning protest appears to have been spearheaded by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, the extremist fringe of an already extremist sect.

As can be seen in the video, the activists are few in number and their efforts have consistently failed to persuade consumers to reject Israeli products. Yet by standing in front of the entrance of Israeli owned stores, intimidating shoppers from stepping inside, it only takes a handful dedicated fanatics to get a stranglehold on a small store. Just a few streets over from the new Sabon outlet is the storefront that was once home to London’s Ahava Dead Sea spa. But in 2011 BDS activists succeeded in hounding Ahava out, not by persuading customers with their arguments, but rather by creating so much noise and disturbance on the salubrious Covent Garden street that–under pressure from surrounding businesses–the building owner eventually discontinued Ahava’s lease. The protesters now seek to do the same to Sabon simply because it, like Ahava and SodaStream, is owned by Israeli Jews.

A few years ago the fierce critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein attacked some on his own side, calling BDS “a cult.” It is a cult, but more than that, it’s also a fundamentally racist movement, and that is what the world needs to be hearing about BDS.

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An Insider’s Account of Open Hillel

Holly Bicerano is no friend of ours. In her Times of Israel blog, she has defended the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.’s) indefensible divestment vote, denied that Israel’s most recent Gaza incursion was “self-defense,” and complained that Israel is sabotaging Palestinian democracy. It therefore is telling that, for this former member of the Open Hillel Steering Committee and Jewish Voices for Peace, Open Hillel is too dishonest and malicious to command her allegiance.

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Holly Bicerano is no friend of ours. In her Times of Israel blog, she has defended the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.’s) indefensible divestment vote, denied that Israel’s most recent Gaza incursion was “self-defense,” and complained that Israel is sabotaging Palestinian democracy. It therefore is telling that, for this former member of the Open Hillel Steering Committee and Jewish Voices for Peace, Open Hillel is too dishonest and malicious to command her allegiance.

Open Hillel was founded in 2012 at Harvard University. (Aiden Pink’s account of the organization is worth reading in its entirety.) Harvard’s Hillel had refused to co-sponsor an event with Harvard’s Palestinian Solidarity Committee, which supports the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement against Israel. According to Hillel International’s “Standards of Partnership,” a Hillel will not “partner with, house, or host” organizations that support BDS. The Open Hillel movement encourages campus Hillels to defy that standard.

Because Open Hillel claims to stand for “inclusivity and open discourse,” and it is hard to be against those things, it has attracted some support. Vassar College and Swarthmore’s Hillel organizations have officially rejected the Standards of Partnership and declared themselves Open Hillels. But Jonathan Tobin and Ben Cohen have warned in these pages that Open Hillel’s talk of inclusiveness is a ploy. The intent of Open Hillel is a hostile takeover of as many Hillels as its members can gain influence over, with a view to turning Hillel, the central Jewish organization in American campus life, into an instrument of the campaign to turn Israel into a pariah state. Bicerano, an insider, says that Open Hillel’s critics are absolutely right.

“While Open Hillel’s stated aims are open dialogue and inclusiveness,” Bicerano explains, “the organization in actuality has something else in mind. The people who claim that Open Hillel’s main objective is to garner support for the BDS movement may not realize just how right they are.” First, leaders of Open Hillel voted to form a committee to explore an “anti-normalization” campaign “to end joint discussions and programs between Jews and Palestinians unless they subscribe to the BDS movement.” Although the committee allegedly was created to foster “open discussion” about anti-normalization, it has in fact, according to Bicerano, stacked discussions in favor of the campaign.

Moreover, Open Hillel never publicly announced the formation of the committee, presumably because any fool can see that one does not “create open dialogue by empowering people who are against it.” Bicerano concludes, based on her experience on the steering committee, that Open Hillel “has fallen into the hands of anti-normalization activists.”

Second, Bicerano has apparently just noticed that students involved in the BDS movement have no interest in inclusiveness or dialogue. “Bringing pro-BDS groups into Hillel,” she has realized, “will not mean more open dialogue and inclusiveness. From disrupting pro-Israel events to blocking Birthright tables, these groups regularly employ tactics that create a hostile atmosphere for pro-Israel students.” Bicerano even concedes that “anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism often go hand in hand.”

Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership are not perfect. For example, Hillel will not host speakers who hold Israel to a “double standard.” This maddeningly vague guideline would seem to rule out liberal Zionists who adamantly oppose BDS but think that the Jewish state should indeed abide by higher standards than most states. But as Bicerano points out, this guideline has been applied in such a way that advocates of a settlement boycott are “already permitted to speak at Hillel.” It is tolerably clear to a fair-minded observer that what Hillel seeks to prevent is not criticism, even harsh criticism, of Israel, but the use of its name to further the destruction of Israel. Bicerano’s insider confirmation that Hillel is, if anything, understating the extent to which Open Hillel is out to destroy it, is welcome.

Note: Legal Insurrection’s account, of which I just became aware, is here and worth reading.

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Symbolic Votes and Anti-Semitic Incitement

Yesterday the French parliament voted to recognize the nonexistent state of Palestine in a nonbinding move, in keeping with France’s firm commitment to base its foreign policy on delusions, appeasement, and surrender at the first sign of trouble. My initial instinct was to dismiss it, both because of France’s general irrelevance to the defense of the free world and because of its symbolic nature. But I was wrong to do so. In fact, the symbolic nature of France’s action is precisely what makes it so deadly, so dangerous, and so utterly indefensible.

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Yesterday the French parliament voted to recognize the nonexistent state of Palestine in a nonbinding move, in keeping with France’s firm commitment to base its foreign policy on delusions, appeasement, and surrender at the first sign of trouble. My initial instinct was to dismiss it, both because of France’s general irrelevance to the defense of the free world and because of its symbolic nature. But I was wrong to do so. In fact, the symbolic nature of France’s action is precisely what makes it so deadly, so dangerous, and so utterly indefensible.

What specifically changed my mind was the story accompanying this headline in the Algemeiner yesterday: “Paris Jewish Community in Shock Over Rape, Home Invasion ‘Because You Are Jews’.” On Monday, anti-Semitic thugs robbed a Jewish family in a Paris suburb and raped the 19-year-old woman, telling them it was because they were Jewish. I was far from alone in making the connection between the two stories–not because one caused the other (the vote happened after the rape) but because it makes clear the French government has no interest in protecting its Jews and no intention of combating–when it isn’t promoting it itself–the anti-Semitism that courses through the blood of French society.

The barbaric has become the prosaic in France today, and the parliamentary vote on “Palestine” is a good indication of why that is and will continue to be the case. Of course such votes against Israel are not victimless crimes, since Israel does suffer in the court of world opinion and subsequently at home: two more Israelis were stabbed today by an Arab terrorist who knows the world won’t muster outrage at the targeting of Jews simply for being Jews. After all, that’s how it is Western Europe today.

Yet aside from the impact on Israel’s diplomatic isolation, it’s also not a victimless crime at home. Indeed, the fact that the votes are symbolic is no justification at all. If the “Palestine” vote were replaced with something more than symbolic, if the French were playing some constructive role in an active (and actual) peace process, they could at least claim they were helping all parties take steps toward peace. The Israelis make sacrifices for peace all the time.

But the French are admitting that they are not doing anything of the sort. The vote is symbolic, meaning that it’s simply a case of the French government yelling again about the Jews and how the French government believes they must be blamed.

During this past summer’s Gaza war, France saw an uptick in anti-Semitic violence. This is because bigots draw no distinction between the Jewish state and the Jewish people. When they are angry at Israel, they start a pogrom; they aim their violence not at embassies but at synagogues. And when the French government makes a show of standing against Israel, it serves only one purpose: incitement.

As the New York Times reports, Europe’s Jewish community is bracing for the fallout:

Serge Cwajgenbaum, the secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, an organization in Brussels representing European Jews, played down the political consequences of the vote, calling it toothless. But he said it reflected a worrying attitude in some quarters of Europe that threatened to further undermine the faltering Middle East peace process.

Mr. Cwajgenbaum said he feared the vote was an effort by some on the French left to curry favor with Muslim voters.

“Such votes can have negative consequences for the Middle East peace process because it can radicalize people, while pushing Palestinians to abandon the negotiating table in favor of seeking recognitions,” Mr. Cwajgenbaum said.

“I can’t exclude the possibility that there can be repercussions of the vote on the Jewish community,” he added, “as criticism of Israel can be construed by some extremists as an excuse for incitement against Jews.”

French President Francoise Hollande can distance himself from the vote all he wants, he’s done nothing to change course. When the last bout of anti-Semitic violence broke out, the French Jewish community mobilized to defend itself, since the state wouldn’t. The state then moved to disarm the Jews.

Hollande is overseeing the further disintegration of civilized French society. I’m sure he and others would love to believe that, as the Times claims, “the strident tone of parts of the parliamentary motion and the wide margin of passage reflect Europe’s growing impatience with the breakdown of negotiations over a two-state solution,” rather than the truth, which is a far greater indictment of European society and its leaders.

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Who Will Listen to Pope’s Call on Middle East Christians?

During his three day visit to Turkey, Pope Francis joined with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I to offer some words of solidarity with the Middle East’s fast vanishing Christian communities. The sentiments expressed here were valuable, not least because in their joint statement the two Christian leaders called for “an appropriate response on the part of the international community.” Yet one only has to look at the comments by Turkey’s president Erdogan to see just what they are up against.

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During his three day visit to Turkey, Pope Francis joined with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I to offer some words of solidarity with the Middle East’s fast vanishing Christian communities. The sentiments expressed here were valuable, not least because in their joint statement the two Christian leaders called for “an appropriate response on the part of the international community.” Yet one only has to look at the comments by Turkey’s president Erdogan to see just what they are up against.

The Pope’s comments no doubt went some considerable way toward adding moral clarity to this matter, while President Erdogan—in previous statements—has already been busily muddying the waters. So while on his flight back to Rome the Pope called for Islamic leaders to condemn terrorism and specifically linked the plight of the Middle East’s Christians to the rise of ISIS, Erdogan breathtakingly blamed the rise of ISIS on alleged Islamophobia in the West–a demonstrably absurd claim that was no doubt in part a desperate attempt to divert attention away from Christian suffering and to instead reframe the conversation around Muslim victimhood and the wickedness of the West.

For a sense of just how outlandish the Turkish president’s rhetoric on the subject has now become, in his speech just prior to the pope’s arrival Erdogan stated “Foreigners love oil, gold, diamonds and the cheap labour force of the Islamic world. They like the conflicts, fights and quarrels of the Middle East. Believe me, they don’t like us. They look like friends, but they want us dead, they like seeing our children die.” It is worth noting that Turkey’s own Christian population has diminished considerably. A century ago 20 percent of those living in what is now Turkey were Christian; today that figure stands at a pitiful 0.2 percent. The Greek Orthodox population has been whittled down to fewer than 3,000 while what remains of the Armenian Christian community lives in almost constant fear. Just a few years back Hrant Dink–editor of a leading Armenian newspaper—was murdered by Turkish nationalists.

An unrepentant Erdogan can blame an Islamophobic West for the rise of ISIS all he wants, but his country stands accused of allowing ISIS fighters to flow freely into Iraq and Syria where they have carried out the most unspeakable crimes of murder, rape, and torture against the Christian communities that they find in their path. Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew spoke of how unacceptable they find the prospect of a Middle East free of its native Christianity. And yet, if no one is willing to intervene seriously in the region, then that is precisely what is going to happen.

Knowing this, one has to wonder why Christian leaders have so far failed to create a serious campaign to pressure Western governments to back serious intervention on humanitarian grounds. After all, in the 1990s the West—led by the United States—intervened in Bosnia to stop the massacre of the Muslim population of the Balkans and thus prevent a genocide on Europe’s doorstep that most of Western Europe appeared ready to sit back and let happen. Shouldn’t Christians now be demanding the same kind of meaningful intervention on their behalf?

Christian groups have in recent years campaigned for all kinds of people and causes all around the world. Perhaps it is in some way an expression of the Christian virtue of selflessness that churches have promoted other causes over the welfare of their own coreligionists in the Middle East. Yet it is particularly striking how the denominations at the liberal end of Protestantism have so enthusiastically taken up the campaign against Israel, while almost ignoring the plight of Christians in the same region. From the American Presbyterians and the British Methodists with their boycotts to the annual “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, it’s the same story. And then there is the Church of England’s flagship St. James’s church in London which, as Melanie Phillips recounted in COMMENTARY earlier this year, previously marked the Christmas festivities with their “Bethlehem Unwrapped” campaign featuring a nine meter high replica of Israel’s security barrier.

This Christmas can we expect to see “ISIS Unwrapped” at St. James’s? Of course not, just more events about the Palestinians. If these denominations focused even half the energy they put into demonizing Israel into instead campaigning in solidarity with Christians in the Middle East then we might see this issue receiving the kind of public attention it deserves. It was of course the former head of the Anglican Church, Rowan Williams, who insinuated that the West was to blame for provoking the persecution of the Middle East’s Christians. And so while it is encouraging that the Pope has decried what ISIS is doing to Christian communities, one wonders how many Christians in the West will actually be more sympathetic to Erdogan’s claim that the real culprit here is Western Islamophobia for having “made ISIS do it” in the first place.

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Abbas’s Nazi-Zionist Conspiracy Theory and the Western Dupes Who Avert Their Eyes

A decade after his death, Yasser Arafat’s legacy is still with us. He perfected the art of saying one thing in English to manipulate the Clinton administration and another in Arabic to reassure the Palestinians that his promises to Clinton were lies he assumed the president was too inattentive to figure out. Arafat may be gone, but the torch has been passed, and Mahmoud Abbas has learned well from his mentor.

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A decade after his death, Yasser Arafat’s legacy is still with us. He perfected the art of saying one thing in English to manipulate the Clinton administration and another in Arabic to reassure the Palestinians that his promises to Clinton were lies he assumed the president was too inattentive to figure out. Arafat may be gone, but the torch has been passed, and Mahmoud Abbas has learned well from his mentor.

The latest evidence of this is Ronen Bergman’s in-depth report today on Abbas’s career as an intellectual fraud. Bergman writes:

The Palestinian Authority’s new media division is putting considerable effort it seems into the construction and maintenance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’official website. The site is user-friendly and includes information on the familiar parts of Abbas’ resume — from his childhood in Safed to the president’s office in Ramallah. The site details Abbas’ political journey as a Palestinian leader, without forgetting to include all of the awards and citations he has received along the way.

Far from hiding Abbas’s extremism, Bergman reports, the site “glorifies Abbas’ work” and even presents him as a “philosopher with a unique perspective on history, and an important intellectual.” Among the works listed are Abbas’s books, which can be read on the site–in Arabic.

One such book is The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism, based on Abbas’s infamous 1982 paper calling basic facts of the Holocaust into question. The book’s central idea is that Zionist leaders saw the Holocaust as beneficial to their cause and worthy of their cooperation, so they struck up an alliance with the Nazis to facilitate the extermination of the Jewish people. A taste:

In this book, Abbas wonders, among other things, “How can one believe that the Zionist movement, which set out to protect a nation, would later become the reason for its destruction? History teaches us about (the Emperor) Nero who torched Rome. But Nero was mad, and his madness rids him of the responsibility to his actions. History also teaches us about leaders who betrayed their people and their country and sold them out to their enemies. But these leaders are isolated. They alone carry the responsibility for their actions. But when a large national public movement conspires against its ‘people,’ well that is embarrassing…

“An Arab proverb says: ‘If a dispute arises between thieves, the theft is discovered.’ This is what happened with the Zionist movement. When ‘Labor’ (Mapai) was in power in the State of Israel, it refused to include the revisionists and those started exposing facts and blowing away the smoke screen of lies. We cannot fail to mention that many of the Zionist movement’s people during the war were amazed of the results of the cooperation between the Zionists and the Nazis, and the massive amount of victims struck them with terror… To this one must add that many documents from the Third Reich had reached many hands, which allowed us to present these documents that illustrate the nature of the relations and cooperation between the Nazis and the Zionist movement.”

Bergman goes into some detail on Abbas’s intellectual development, and his article is worth reading in full. He also points out that Abbas has rejected accusations of Holocaust denial over the years, and yet “The fact the books were recently reprinted with funding from the Palestinian Authority and are recommended on the PA president’s official website, negates the claims made by Abbas and his associates several times that this is just a thesis paper released over 30 years ago.” Bergman also notes that Abbas’s denial of his Holocaust denial has been far more muted in Arab media than to Western audiences.

The fact of the matter is that Abbas is proud of his “achievements” in anti-Semitic conspiracy mongering. The West treats him as though he is something he is not, in large part because they, and the Western media they rely on, don’t read or speak Arabic and don’t really know who Abbas is, despite treating him as a man of peace. (As the State Department still does.)

It also feeds into the anti-Netanyahu obsession of many Western journalists who seem forced to paint Abbas as some sort of moderate in order to build a more damning case against Netanyahu or to blame him for the lack of peace. When Abbas recently put out a statement slamming Israeli proponents of equal prayer rights on the Temple Mount, he disguised it as a call for calm. This prompted Jeffrey Goldberg, one of Bibi’s consistent hecklers, to tweet the following: “Abbas, labeled by Netanyahu gov’t as a Holocaust-denying fanatic, endorses Bibi’s call for calm in Jerusalem.”

Yikes. Not only did that misread Abbas’s message, but it implied that Netanyahu was somehow mistaken to treat Abbas as “a Holocaust-denying fanatic.” As Bergman’s report makes clear, such Western proponents of Abbas’s supposed moderation have a tremendous amount of egg on their face when someone actually makes the effort to read Abbas’s public pronouncements of his own beliefs. Abbas is indeed who his critics say he is. And he wants everyone to know it.

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Why UNRWA Perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Part of the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is pretending to hold actors and institutions involved to a higher set of expectations than experience would dictate. Over the course of last summer’s war between Hamas in Gaza and the Israel Defense Forces, this meant propagating the idea that it was in any way shocking when the terrorist organization’s weapons–stockpiled for the express purpose of killing Jews in a maniacal, genocidal campaign–turned up, repeatedly, at schools run by UNRWA: the UN agency dedicated to keeping Palestinians living like refugees in perpetuity.

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Part of the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is pretending to hold actors and institutions involved to a higher set of expectations than experience would dictate. Over the course of last summer’s war between Hamas in Gaza and the Israel Defense Forces, this meant propagating the idea that it was in any way shocking when the terrorist organization’s weapons–stockpiled for the express purpose of killing Jews in a maniacal, genocidal campaign–turned up, repeatedly, at schools run by UNRWA: the UN agency dedicated to keeping Palestinians living like refugees in perpetuity.

So now it’s unclear precisely how to react to a raft of stories demonstrating the reason it wasn’t surprising to find Hamas weapons in UNRWA schools: because UNRWA teachers and principles share Hamas’s violently anti-Semitic ideology. Yet in fact this is newsworthy, for an important reason beyond the obvious. First, though, it’s instructive to see just what American taxpayers are getting for their UNRWA money.

On November 20, after the Har Nof massacre in which Palestinian terrorists murdered four rabbis in a Jerusalem synagogue, the Algemeiner reported:

Popular Jewish blogger Elder of Ziyon has amassed evidence of UNRWA employees lauding the Jerusalem attack, among them Maha al Mosa, an UNRWA teacher in Syria who prayed for the two terrorists to be accepted in “paradise” as “martyrs,” Ibrahim Hajjar, another teacher based in Hebron, who published a poem praising the terrorists, and another Syrian-based teacher who, using a pseudonym, posted a celebratory picture of Adolf Hitler on his Facebook page.

The latest outrage centers on Naief al-Hattab, school director of UNRWA’s Zaitoun Elementary School Boys “B” and former school headmaster of Shijia Elementary School Boys “A” for Refugees. Writing on his Facebook page, al-Hattab congratulated the terrorists on their “wonderful revenge.” Al-Hattab, who shook hands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on his visit to Gaza in October, has previously posted inflammatory statements and images, among them one of a young child brandishing a sub-machine gun. It is not clear whether this child is related to al-Hattab, or whether he attends the Zaitoun Elementary School which al-Hattab runs.

Elder of Ziyon followed up with two more posts, the latest one coming today, on an UNRWA teachers group posting various jihadist media and anti-Israel incitement. And that brings us to the reason UNRWA’s exploits are important. We already know what UNRWA does; it exists to perpetuate Palestinian poverty and statelessness while pocketing American taxpayer cash. It’s a scam, but at this point it’s certainly no secret.

But these latest stories are good examples of why UNRWA does what it does. The organization keeps Palestinians mired in desperation because they agree with the Hamas struggle to eliminate Israel. And the UNRWA schools are where they can exert the utmost control over Palestinian minds, shaping them to abhor the Jewish people and to value bigotry and terrorism over education and productive job training.

Promoting hate is not incidental to UNRWA’s mission. It is UNRWA’s mission. This suggests it values neither Jewish life nor Palestinian life, and it certainly doesn’t believe Palestinians are entitled to a dignified existence. Why would Hamas weapons show up at an UNRWA school? Why wouldn’t they show up there? Where else would be more appropriate?

On Friday, Andrew Roberts reflected on the perpetual refugee status of the descendents of the actual Palestinian refugees. Roberts noted that what happened to the Palestinians “happened so often in the mid-1940s to early 1950s that it is surprising that the plural of the word exodus—exodi?—is not used in reference to this period.”

He continued:

Yet all of these refugee groups, except one, chose to try to make the best of their new environments. Most have succeeded, and some, such as the refugees who reached America in that decade, have done so triumphantly. The sole exception has been the Palestinians, who made the choice to embrace fanatical irredentism and launch two intifadas—and perhaps now a third—resulting in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

The Palestinians should certainly own up to much of the blame for repeatedly rejecting the two-state solution and a sovereign nation-state of their own. To do otherwise would be to rob them of their agency–a bigotry of the left all too often foisted upon the Palestinians.

But we should also wonder how much independence and self-reliance the Palestinians’ supposed friends and allies want them to have. To judge by UNRWA’s example, not much. In such a case, it’s clear that UNRWA’s noxious participation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is itself an impediment to peace. And not a minor one, either.

As long as UNRWA is treated as a legitimate participant this process–and loads of American cash says they indeed are–then the perspective they impart on young Palestinian minds will also be seen as legitimate. And that means terror and anti-Semitism will be subsidized and promoted as an acceptable path to a resolution. Which means they will not only continue, but almost certainly increase.

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Conspiracy Theories and Palestinian Terror

Israel is not only still reeling from the horror of a Palestinian terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue earlier this week. Almost as shocking is the spectacle of hatred in Arab neighborhoods and cities in Jerusalem, the West Bank Gaza in which the two terrorists that hacked and shot four Jews praying and a Druze policeman are being treated as heroes. Yet the crime as well as the sometimes-violent demonstrations of glee and laudatory statements from Palestinian leaders about the murder of civilians has been largely treated in the Western media as just another unfortunate tit-for-tat between two warring peoples. Even worse, the motivation for terror attacks as well as the applause they generate is being represented as a function of Palestinian complaints about settlements, alleged discrimination or funding issues. But, as this report from the Times of Israel tracing the events of the last week shows, the explanations offered by the New York Times, to choose just the most egregious example of distorted coverage, are completely missing the madness that is driving the conflict.

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Israel is not only still reeling from the horror of a Palestinian terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue earlier this week. Almost as shocking is the spectacle of hatred in Arab neighborhoods and cities in Jerusalem, the West Bank Gaza in which the two terrorists that hacked and shot four Jews praying and a Druze policeman are being treated as heroes. Yet the crime as well as the sometimes-violent demonstrations of glee and laudatory statements from Palestinian leaders about the murder of civilians has been largely treated in the Western media as just another unfortunate tit-for-tat between two warring peoples. Even worse, the motivation for terror attacks as well as the applause they generate is being represented as a function of Palestinian complaints about settlements, alleged discrimination or funding issues. But, as this report from the Times of Israel tracing the events of the last week shows, the explanations offered by the New York Times, to choose just the most egregious example of distorted coverage, are completely missing the madness that is driving the conflict.

As the Times of Israel reports, the genesis of the synagogue attack and its violent aftermath may have been fueled in no small part by false reports about the murder of a Palestinian bus driver. The man was found hanged in his bus and both Israeli and Palestinian coroners ruled that the death was obviously a suicide. But in the hothouse Palestinian rumor mill in which conspiracy theories about alleged Jewish atrocities are the coin of the realm, this, along with wild claims about Israeli “violation of women at al-Aksa” was enough to send two men into a synagogue to murder and untold thousands of their compatriots into the streets to support their crime.

This is a significant fact because Western journalists, such as the New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren, have been seeking to explain the atrocity and the support for it by linking it to critiques of Israeli policies about allowing Jews to move to parts of Jerusalem or municipal funding policies that may short change Arabs. I have already critiqued Rudoren’s reporting in terms of its misperceptions about what is negotiable in the conflict as well as her false claims of moral equivalence about attacks on houses of worship. Our Seth Mandel also touched on these issues as well as Rudoren’s claims that her critics are biased.

But the big picture here is not so much the poor performance of the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief as it is the failure by her paper and most other mainstream publishing outlets to delve deeper into the real roots of Palestinian anger. By choosing to obsess over policy questions that dovetail with Obama administration complaints about Israel’s government, Rudoren ignored the mania of hate that seems to bubble up from the Palestinian street. That not only fails to explain what sends Palestinians out to slaughter Jews or to cheer such actions, it also demonstrates a lack of understanding as to why the conflict as a whole is so impervious to solutions.

If Palestinian leaders have consistently and repeatedly rejected Israeli peace offers throughout the last 15 years and, indeed, all chances at territorial compromise dating back to the 1930s, it is because their political culture is still driven by the same factors that led to the Har Nof massacre this week as well as the pogroms of 1929 and 1936 that were similarly motivated by false rumors about Jewish activity on the Temple Mount. It’s not just that Palestinians have had hatred for Jews driven into them by their leaders and media for a century, it’s that their view of the conflict is one that is rooted in belief that Jews are an enemy that must be driven from the land.

Israelis and their government are not perfect but the willingness of Palestinians to believe any tall tale about Jewish crimes has little to do with the Netanyahu government’s policies and everything to do with a variant of Jew hatred that has found a home in the Middle East in the last 100 years. While it is possible to talk about what Israel might do to appease their antagonists’ ambitions in order to promote peace, it is this virus of anti-Semitism that must be addressed if any Palestinian leader will ever have the courage to sign a peace deal with the Israelis that will recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn.

The lunacy that leads to blood-soaked bodies lying on a synagogue floor begins with this hate and paranoia that has driven itself deep into the psyche of the Palestinian imagination. It is the same psychosis that allows Palestinian Authority media and officials to promote conspiracy theories and praise terrorists. So long as even a supposed moderate such as PA leader Mahmoud Abbas can call a terrorist murderer a “martyr” who went straight to heaven, why should we be surprised that Jerusalem and West Bank Arabs think the Jews are raping Muslims on the Temple Mount or murdering bus drivers, even though these are imaginary crimes?

So long as mainstream media outlets ignore the truth about Palestinian politics and terror, it is also no surprise that their coverage of the conflict tells us more about their biases than anything happening on the ground.

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Kerry Calls Out Palestinian Incitement; Will Anything Change?

Many aspects of this morning’s barbaric terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, in which armed Palestinians murdered four Jews, are quite similar to past attacks. Americans were among the victims, for example; the Palestinians celebrated the killing of innocent Jews, encouraging their children to grow up and do the same; and the media–CNN especially, but also Canada’s CBC and others–covered the attack in ways that made them indistinguishable from Palestinian government-run propaganda outlets. But one thing was different: a heartening and truly revealing statement from Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Many aspects of this morning’s barbaric terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, in which armed Palestinians murdered four Jews, are quite similar to past attacks. Americans were among the victims, for example; the Palestinians celebrated the killing of innocent Jews, encouraging their children to grow up and do the same; and the media–CNN especially, but also Canada’s CBC and others–covered the attack in ways that made them indistinguishable from Palestinian government-run propaganda outlets. But one thing was different: a heartening and truly revealing statement from Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry has been, up to this point, playing an undeniably dangerous and counterproductive role in the peace process. He has used the negotiations as a vanity project, not a serious attempt to solve an intractable problem. But the worst part of Kerry’s destructive bumbling has been the State Department’s refusal to hold PA head Mahmoud Abbas accountable for his steady incitement of terror.

There is no question that Abbas’s incitement is partially responsible for the recent spate of terror attacks in Israel’s capital. And yet the State Department took Abbas’s side each time it had the chance, defending him as a man of peace. As I wrote in late October, spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about Abbas’s incitement and here is what she said:

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s – as you know, President Abbas has renounced violence and consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states. I don’t have any other analysis for you to offer.

When you excuse the murder of innocents, you get more murder of innocents. And that’s exactly what happened, and what continued to happen, as Kerry’s State Department and the Obama White House sought to pick childish fights with Benjamin Netanyahu instead of acting like adults or playing a constructive role in the conflict.

There was never any doubt that Obama and Kerry’s behavior would encourage more bloodshed. Yet something has apparently changed:

Kerry telephoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer condolences following the gruesome killing spree by Palestinian assailants at a Jerusalem synagogue, while other world leaders also expressed horror at the attack.

Kerry, in London for talks on Iran and the Middle East, called the assault an “act of pure terror and senseless brutality” and called on the Palestinian leadership to condemn it “in the most powerful terms.”

Police said two attackers from East Jerusalem entered the synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood shortly after 7 a.m. and began attacking worshipers at morning prayers with a gun, a meat cleaver, and an ax. Both terrorists were killed by police.

Kerry blamed the attack on Palestinian calls for “days of rage” and said Palestinian leaders must take serious steps to refrain from such incitement.

So who’s right–old Kerry or new Kerry? Clearly, new Kerry is a vast upgrade. But there are two disquieting characteristics of this transformation that will temper enthusiasm for the secretary of state’s newfound moral compass.

The first is that Jews can be forgiven for thinking that the world sees them as sacrificial pawns. Today’s victims are of course not the first deaths in the Palestinians’ latest not-quite-intifada. And they were not the first Americans killed either. And they were not the first victims of Abbas’s incitement or his directive to take action against Jews in Jerusalem. The sad fact is that the world regards a certain amount of Jewish blood as the cost of doing business–not worth getting all worked up about.

The word for that is “expendable.” And that’s what the families of victims and those who survived previous attacks understand all too well: their loved ones were expendable to the international community and, most painfully, to the government of the United States of America. A line has now been crossed, apparently, and the Jews under attack are no longer considered expendable. But it’s unfortunate that the line was there to begin with.

The second disquieting facet of this is the age-old question: What now? That is, now that Kerry has admitted the role Palestinian incitement plays in Palestinian terror, what will he do about it? The answer is almost certainly: Nothing. The U.S. government is not going to defund the Palestinian Authority; Netanyahu has in the past fought for continued funding of the PA on the premise that Abbas must be propped up. Israel is doing its part by keeping the IDF in the West Bank; the U.S. does its part by keeping up the flow of cash.

Abbas condemned today’s attack, so perhaps Kerry’s new posture is at least keeping up the appearance of peace all around. And appearances can help. But incitement is not just about public statements from Abbas promoting violence–though he has been making such statements throughout the recent terror campaign. It’s about a system of education and Palestinian media that incites and demonizes Jews. Until the U.S. and the broader international community finds a way to crack down on this government-run culture of demonization, peace will remain farther than Kerry or his European counterparts like to pretend.

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Survey Reveals Extent of French Muslim Anti-Semitism

A new survey has been published revealing the extent of anti-Semitism in France. But what the survey exposed most starkly was the drastic degree to which the Muslim population in France–on the whole–adheres to a radically anti-Semitic outlook. The survey exposes a worrying reality, one in which a sizable minority of the French population holds views about Jews that are by any measure bigoted. Yet when one looks at how French Muslims responded to the same questions in the survey, we see a picture of a religious and ethnic community in which an alarming majority appear to be feverishly anti-Semitic.

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A new survey has been published revealing the extent of anti-Semitism in France. But what the survey exposed most starkly was the drastic degree to which the Muslim population in France–on the whole–adheres to a radically anti-Semitic outlook. The survey exposes a worrying reality, one in which a sizable minority of the French population holds views about Jews that are by any measure bigoted. Yet when one looks at how French Muslims responded to the same questions in the survey, we see a picture of a religious and ethnic community in which an alarming majority appear to be feverishly anti-Semitic.

The recent French survey, which posed the same set of questions to both the general population and to those from Muslim backgrounds, came back with some alarming findings. It is disconcerting that, as the survey revealed, 25 percent of Frenchmen believe Jews have too much influence over the nation’s economy. But compare that to the survey’s parallel finding that 74 percent of French Muslims endorse such a view. When asked if they thought that France’s media is controlled by the Jews, 23 percent of the general population said that they did. That, however, pales in comparison when held up against the 70 percent of the French Muslims polled who held such a belief.

Interestingly, when respondents were asked a question about whether Jews exploit the Holocaust, the gap between the Muslim and general populations diminished somewhat. On this question a much larger than usual proportion of the general population, 32 percent, came out with an anti-Semitic position, answering in favor of the view that Jews use the Holocaust for their own benefit. Yet among French Muslims the numbers holding this anti-Jewish view was down on previous questions, albeit with 56 percent still answering in the affirmative.

Nor do these questions relate to Israel. When both groups were asked about the existence of a global Zionist conspiracy, both seemed less taken with this suggestion than they were with some of the others. So while 16 percent of the general population confirmed that they believe in such an outlandish notion, a similarly reduced proportion of the Muslims polled, 44 percent, held such a view.

This may be surprising. No doubt many would claim that what appears to be anti-Semitism on the part of French Muslims is in fact a somewhat high-spirited expression of solidarity for their Muslim brothers the Palestinians. And yet, according to this survey at least, French Muslims weren’t so taken with the idea of a Zionist plot. Far more popular, however, was the good old-fashioned conspiracy theory that says that Jews control the media and economy. These notions that were once the staple of European anti-Semitism now appear to have been taken up with far greater enthusiasm by the continent’s Muslim immigrants.

The findings from this survey would appear to confirm the picture painted by another from just over a year ago. That survey—released by Europe’s Agency for Fundamental Rights—found Europe’s Jews reporting that a greatly disproportionate degree of the anti-Semitism that they experienced came from the left and those identified as “Muslim extremists” than from any other group. So for instance in France, 73 percent of Jews surveyed said that they had witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism from someone with “Muslim extremist views.”

The problem with that survey was that it simply monitored the Jewish perception of anti-Semitism and so could all too easily be dismissed as nothing more than paranoia from a community that has convinced itself that it is being picked on. That has been a problem across Europe; take this piece from August that the BBC produced, seemingly with no other purpose than to downplay and question the notion that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the West.

And if there have been those who for political reasons have been reluctant to admit that anti-Semitism is a growing problem in Europe, then these same people have tended to be all the more stubborn about conceding the role that parts of Europe’s Islamic population is playing in this trend. When the infamous 2012 terror attack took place on the Jewish school in Toulouse, there was no shortage of those in the media who volunteered the hypothesis that this would turn out to be another far-right Anders Breivik-style attack. By the time of the shooting at Brussels’s Jewish Museum last May, most were prepared for news that this was the work of yet another Islamist radical.

With the anti-Jewish riots witnessed in Paris this summer, accompanied as they were by overtly anti-Semitic protests in Germany and a rise in violent anti-Semitism in Britain, European leaders do now seem ready to acknowledge that they have a problem on their hands. As yet, however, any open and public discussion of which groups are driving that problem is still well off the cards.

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Protest Against Anti-Semitism in Turkey

Turkey was once one of the most religiously tolerant majority Muslim societies in its attitude toward Jews. The reason wasn’t so much tolerant political culture, but rather a belief that the Jews were a tranquil, loyal minority. After all, Turkish school books taught that while Greeks, Armenians, and Arabs all rose up against the Ottomans, the Jews did not. Hence, Turkey boasted along with Iran either the second or third largest Jewish community in the Middle East after Israel itself.

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Turkey was once one of the most religiously tolerant majority Muslim societies in its attitude toward Jews. The reason wasn’t so much tolerant political culture, but rather a belief that the Jews were a tranquil, loyal minority. After all, Turkish school books taught that while Greeks, Armenians, and Arabs all rose up against the Ottomans, the Jews did not. Hence, Turkey boasted along with Iran either the second or third largest Jewish community in the Middle East after Israel itself.

In recent years, of course, this has changed. Just as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used his consolidation of control over state media to fan the flames of anti-Americanism, so too has he used it to stoke anti-Semitism far beyond the Islamist circles in which he grew and from which he emerged. Jews are now contemplating the end of their millennia-long presence in Anatolia.

Against the backdrop of Hamas’s missile strikes on Israel and the Israeli military response, Samil Tayyar, an AKP member and the head of constitutional commission, tweeted “may your ancestors perish, may your Hitlers be abundant” and, of course, a Turkish shopkeeper made headlines with the sign, “The Jew dogs cannot come in here.” This month has been particularly bad, as vandals attacked one of Istanbul’s most prominent synagogues on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, significant not only for that date but also because it was so close to the 11 anniversary of the al-Qaeda attack on the synagogue that in a different time and place Turks had condemned.

It’s important to recognize that not all Turks have succumbed to the hateful populism pushed forward by Erdoğan, the Turkish government, and even some members of the Turkish foreign ministry. This past weekend, a handful of Turks held a protest to condemn the anti-Semitism which has flourished inside Turkey. From “The Radical Democrat,” a blog which is also on the forefront of anti-censorship efforts inside Turkey:

In order to protest against the rising anti-Semitism in Turkey and commemorate the horrific events of the past, Say Stop has held a protest meeting with dozens of participants. When activists were gathering in Galatasaray Square in Taksim’s Istiklal, right next to the venue was placed ten times more policemen than activists as usual. The moment banner was opened, interestingly enough some people came to ask questions in English, thinking anyone protesting anti-Semitism would come from abroad and not from within Turkey….

Too often, American and European diplomats find it “sophisticated” to ignore incitement, human rights, and the hateful ideologies promoted by adversaries. Had they held Erdoğan accountable for his statements from the start, Turkey might not have descended to the point it is now. But whether in Iran, Venezuela, Russia, or Turkey, it should never been too late to lend a hand and give a platform to those within their respective countries who at great personal risk to themselves speak out in favor of tolerance, individual liberty, and freedom.

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Turkey: Beware the Jewish Olive Tree!

Because of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sectarianism, Turkey has become quite an inhospitable place to be a religious minority, whether Jewish, Christian, Alevi, or Yezidi. Over the last several years, Turkish militants have murdered or attempted to murder priests in Turkey. Whereas the Turkish government has sought sympathy for the refugee crisis that has resulted from the Islamic State’s rise in neighboring Syria and Iraq, Turkey’s treatment of refugees differs wildly based on their religion. Simply put, when Turkey distributed humanitarian aid, Yezidis need not apply. And, as for the Alevis—basically a Shi‘ite offshoot sect that accounts for at least one-fifth of Turkey’s population—Erdoğan has refused to recognize their places of worship and deemed their children should be educated only in Sunni doctrine. The Jews are facing unprecedented anti-Semitism to the point where the community has begun to pick up and leave, much as most of the Iranian Jewish community did during and after Iran’s Islamic revolution.

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Because of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sectarianism, Turkey has become quite an inhospitable place to be a religious minority, whether Jewish, Christian, Alevi, or Yezidi. Over the last several years, Turkish militants have murdered or attempted to murder priests in Turkey. Whereas the Turkish government has sought sympathy for the refugee crisis that has resulted from the Islamic State’s rise in neighboring Syria and Iraq, Turkey’s treatment of refugees differs wildly based on their religion. Simply put, when Turkey distributed humanitarian aid, Yezidis need not apply. And, as for the Alevis—basically a Shi‘ite offshoot sect that accounts for at least one-fifth of Turkey’s population—Erdoğan has refused to recognize their places of worship and deemed their children should be educated only in Sunni doctrine. The Jews are facing unprecedented anti-Semitism to the point where the community has begun to pick up and leave, much as most of the Iranian Jewish community did during and after Iran’s Islamic revolution.

So just how bad has anti-Semitism become inside Turkey? Erdoğan has, of course, been no friend to Turkey’s environmentalist movement. The Gezi Park protests began as an effort to save one of the few remaining green spaces in central Istanbul against government-sponsored development but morphed into a wider opposition movement as a result of Erdoğan’s heavy-handed tactics. Over subsequent months, Erdoğan has accelerated development which has raised the ire of those seeking to protect Turkey’s green spaces. Now, it seems, Erdoğan’s supporters have found a new and creative way to justify the bulldozing of trees. From a Turkish column explaining a whispering campaign promoting the ideas that olive trees are ‘pro-Jewish’ and therefore should be destroyed. A Turkish interlocutor translates the key passage:

Close to the end of the World, a war will break out between the Muslims and Jews which will be won by the Muslims. The Jews will start to run away and hide behind trees. All such trees will yell “There is a Jew hiding behind me come and kill him/her.” Only the olive tree will not give away the Jews. Because the olive is a Jewish tree, that is why Israel is promoting the planting of olive trees.

Therefore, it seems, it is desirable to cut down olive trees. Hence, there should be no complaints as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) destroys thousands if not hundreds of thousands of olive trees in Western Turkey to clear land for mining and industrial development. It’s all meant simply to prepare the world for the end of days and the annihilation of the Jews.

Sure, Mr. Obama. Turkey belongs in Europe. What could possibly go wrong?

 

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