June 30, 2020

NEIGHBORHOOD BULLY'S CHECKPOINT ATTACKS DRIVER

                              A screenshot from a cartoon published on the Facebook page of the Fatah movement




Why is so much left out of reporting about Israel at the same time that these stories spread around the world as big news?

It looks like it just happened again: a car-ramming attack. There have been over 80 such attacks in Israel in the past five years. It’s a terror method that has been copied by ISIS.

 

Associated Press wire service doesn’t discuss the frequency of these attacks on Israelis or the praise and rewards Palestinian leadership gives to attackers. Instead, reports describe Israeli border guards shooting a young man, who his relatives say, was just driving to a wedding.

 

For some reason, the stories also include mention of ongoing discussion about “annexing” Israeli towns in the West Bank.

 

So far, only the Israeli and Jewish press has reported that there is a relevant video made prior to the incident by Ahmed Erekat in which he describes “shame” at being accused of collaborating with Israel and bringing “dishonor” to his family.

 

News stories don’t mention that about a month ago there was a car ramming at this same spot. After the crash the perpetrator jumped out of his car and stabbed a soldier.  

 

CNN headlines their story: “Video Shows Palestinian Man Shot at Israeli Checkpoint.” Yet you can see in the video that there is a line of cars at a standstill when Erekat carefully pulls out far to the left side of the road and then turns the car sharply to the right speeding directly into a guard, sending her flying through the air. It sure looks like a deliberate car ramming.

 

Erekat was running toward the guards when he was shot. Though medical help arrived within minutes, he didn’t survive. The border guard, Shani Or Hama Kodesh was injured and taken to the hospital and is recovering. She said Erekat looked her in the eye and aimed for her, a detail that can be found in the Times of Israel and other Israeli news sites. But not, for instance, at Sky News that labels the event “Israeli Guard Kills Relative of Top PLO Negotiator Saeb Erakat.”    

 

Rutgers University professor Noura Erakat has been posting on Twitter that her “young cousin” is a victim of “dehumanization.” She is a well-known anti-Israel speaker who advocates for the end of the Jewish state.    Her posts are praised and supported by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

 

I call it the Frame of the Neighborhood Bully.  Regardless of current actions or recorded history, the bully is always in the wrong, as Bob Dylan described in his song about Israel in 1983. If there is any conflict, the stronger party, even though vastly outnumbered is always at fault no matter the circumstances.

 

In more academic terminology, Israel is considered the oppressor in every situation. The rhetoric of victim and oppressor gets in the way of even attempting to see events here clearly.

 

Of course this does not mean that Israel is always right, either. Rather, it means there is little room for reasoned discussion of what happens in Israel.

 

The journalists I’ve quoted may or may not be promoting their own views of Israel. But they are presenting the news in a predictable format, one in which getting at all the facts is subordinate to following an expected storyline.

 

                                          published atTimes of Israel

May 20, 2020

To My US Senator Who Opposes the US Peace Plan


Dear Senator Feinstein,

I am writing in response to your recent letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu. I’m one of your constituents who voted for you in numerous elections, a Cal State professor emerita now living in Tel Aviv. My book, Framing Israel is based on analyzing public discourse about Israel.

I know you’ve visited Israel and are familiar with its geography, history, and its many negotiated and unilateral peace offers. Yet you write that you are “hopeful” for the Palestinian Authority and Israel to “come to the negotiating table to reach an agreement so that our shared goal of two states, living side-by-side in peace and prosperity, can be realized.” Certainly, you’re aware that no Palestinian leader has advocated for “living side-by-side in peace” with Israel.  

On the contrary, the Palestinian Authority continues to celebrate and fund terror attacks on Israeli civilians and the Hamas government continues to target Israelis with incendiary devices and rockets.  Even when Israel unilaterally left Gaza in 2005 hoping for “peace and prosperity” for Palestinians and Israelis, Hamas took over in a coup creating a dictatorship that spends billions on terror. Palestinian leaders have not asked for peace with Israel but for its disappearance.  

Now there is another, new proposed peace plan offered by the US. The Palestinian Authority has rejected it sight unseen. That Israel is preparing to put into practice a small part of that plan does not preclude future negotiations or agreements.

Your letter doesn’t indicate why you think that extending Israeli law to the Israeli citizens who live in Area C, the area designated by the Oslo Accords as fully under Israeli control, will negatively impact future peace talks. Nor does your letter note that the Palestinian cities (Areas A and B) will remain under Palestinian control. Calling this an “annexation” may be popular but it is also misleading, for the area in question does not belong to any country other than Israel.

You write of your “fear” for what will happen to “Israel’s national security and diplomatic relationships.” On first reading, I thought this sounded a bit threatening. But your letter begins by congratulating the Prime Minister and Defense Minister on Israel’s new unity government, the government that plans to follow through with extending sovereignty to the area in question. So, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that if Israel’s elected parliament and the majority of Israelis do not share your fears, perhaps you need not worry either.

Sincerely,

Cherryl Smith, PhD
Martinez, CA and Tel Aviv, Israel

                                                                                                               Published in Times of Israel

April 10, 2020

Coronavirus Advice for All from Geriatric Medicine

                                                      published in Times of Israel


Israel took early steps toward slowing the transmission of Covid-19 and according to a Hong Kong-based statistical study it is the safest country to be in during the pandemic. Israel’s percentage of deaths per number of people infected is one of the lowest in the world.  Nevertheless, we have had more than 80 people die in which coronavirus played a role and we have over 10,000 known cases of coronavirus so far.

Our very strict rules that allow for leaving home only to get groceries or medicine or to be outside for a short time within 100 meters of one’s home have helped to limit the spread of the virus. With the exception of essential services, most people are working from home or are not working. There’s no visiting friends or relatives even during the Pesach holiday and, starting next week, we cannot go outside without wearing a mask. Certainly no gyms or pools are open; beaches are off limits; and long hikes and bicycle rides are not an option, at least not in the urban areas where 70% of Israelis live.

Yet, according to specialists in geriatrics, exercise should not be thought of as something optional; it is not simply recreation, conditioning, and good for one’s frame of mind. It is basic hygiene. This is because moderate exercise has a positive effect on one’s immune system, which is made up of cells and antibodies that protect us from invading microorganisms. When our immune system is weak, our bodies are less able to fight off harmful pathogens such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses.

A basic principle of geriatric medicine is to help patients move and remain active to the extent that is possible for a particular individual. Patients who need time in rehabilitation hospitals are not only recovering from medical procedures and illnesses but are also recovering from prolonged periods of immobilization. Getting the patient moving is a significant part of the health plan.

Those of us who are relatively healthy may find ourselves becoming less resistant to disease if we drastically limit our physical movement. The best advice during “stay-at-home” is to let go of our usual concepts of exercise in which we need the gym, open space, a swimming pool, a team sport, or exercise equipment. When we’re stuck at home we need to keep our immune systems strong and even to make them stronger. 

This can mean daily stretching, jogging in place, walking up and down stairs, putting on music and dancing along, doing yoga, sit-ups, jumping jacks, pilates, push-ups, or walking around the house. Following any of the hundreds of exercise videos on YouTube can help. Exercise that is also utilitarian counts too: the everyday bending and stretching of house cleaning, rearranging furniture, doing home repairs, gardening, and so on. The key is movement even while we are “locked down.”

Interestingly, while there is medical evidence that moderate exercise builds up the immune system, such evidence does not exist for vitamin supplements. Of course, if one has a particular vitamin deficiency or if one’s diet lacks any of the food groups--dairy, meat, some grains, fruits, or vegetables--supplements can be necessary.

We know that the psychological toll of begin stuck at home is helped by trying to exercise to the extent one can within the limits of one’s physical condition and the space available. But more than that, it may be essential toward fending off viruses.


Medical information provided by Jerrold Schwartz, MD, former medical director of Bridgewater Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Binghamton, New York and currently a physician with Sharan Medical Care at Home in Bnai Brak.




March 26, 2020

Corona-19 and Anti-Israel Ideology



                                              published at TimesofIsrael

Israeli doctors and nurses, like medical professionals worldwide, are working round the clock in extremely difficult conditions. The country is almost completely locked down.

Yet those who subscribe to a relentless anti-Israel ideology find ways to use the current crisis to distort and denigrate real life in Israel and to obscure Israel’s humanitarian contributions. At its most extreme, it is an ideology in which Israel is always at fault.

The state-run news services of both Iran and Turkey simply blame Zionists for the outbreak of Corona-19.

Dozens of posts blaming Jews and Israel for the Corona virus are showing up on social media. The Anti-Defamation League has been tracking this commentary. Some twitter comments have been especially grotesque.

At California State University, Stanislaus, a political science professor claimed Israel would have “different medical treatments for Jews and non-Jews” and would “put non-Jews in prisons.” This slander outraged many people who responded that the professor clearly knows nothing about Israel, its national heath system, and the huge number of Arab-Israeli doctors and nurses. He fired back calling the responders “Zionist hoodlums” and writing, “looks like I activated the Israel lobby.”

The University of Maryland branch of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) found itself facing a campus-hosted event called “Corona and Countering the Occupation.” As the SSI noted, the “event doesn’t have any logic to it and is hijacking an international epidemic.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Israeli scientists are testing possible vaccines and working to develop cures. Israel sent protective equipment and hundreds of thousands of masks to China. Quarantined patients around the world have been able to ask questions of Israeli doctors who are volunteering to give their support using technology based in Tel Aviv.

An Israeli company is donating millions of doses of a drug that scientists say may halt the virus and that US health officials are fast-tracking for public use.

And in exact reversal of anti-Israel dogma, the Jewish state is working closely with the Palestinian Authority. Israel has been delivering medical gear and testing equipment to the PA and providing special joint trainings for Israeli and Palestinian medical personnel.

In spite of very recent rocket attacks on civilians in Israel, the Israelis have given hundreds of test kits to Hamas-run Gaza. In fact, a big part of Israel’s emergency measures are “focused on the Palestinians.” According to Col. Sharon Biton who heads the government activities in the West Bank:

“Our efforts against this virus stem not merely from a legal duty, but from a humanitarian and moral one, with an understanding that this pathogen does not care about national borders."

Such efforts are not forthcoming from any other Middle Eastern country.

With his decades of experience as a journalist in both Israel and the Palestinian areas, Khaled Abu Toameh assesses the situation clearly:
        
Egypt, for its part, long ago abandoned the Palestinians by essentially sealing its border with the Gaza Strip. The Lebanese, Egyptians and most Arabs perceive the Palestinians as Israel's problem. When the current virus crisis has passed, it is to be hoped that the Palestinians will remember that one country alone came to their rescue: Israel.”



March 11, 2020

To the Brave Students Who Counter "Apartheid" Week



                                          published at Times of Israel

If you are a student concerned about the appearance on your campus of the two- or three-week “Week” devoted to factually bizarre comparisons of Israel to South African apartheid, know that the Week is aimed at silencing you. And since others will simply ignore the Week or assume it has a valid point to make, it appears that the Week is actually put on especially for you.

It is not aimed at any policy of Israel and it certainly does not advocate for a State of Palestine next to the State of Israel, any more than does its counterpart the Boycott movement. It is performance art, whose goal is delegitimizing Israel and in that process, you. 

What has happened is that Israel has been framed. The perspectives through which Israel is viewed block out the reality of life there. And you are on a front line dealing with this framing that shows up dramatically during the Week, but also exists in much of what you’ll experience on campus whenever Israel is mentioned, and in much of what you’ll find in the media. 

You don't have to know all the facts to counter the framing of Israel because the charges the Week makes are not based on facts in the first place. Of course, knowing about Israel’s historical and current situations will be useful to you, but mostly because you’ll be reassured that in spite of the cognitive dissonance you may experience at hearing warriors for social justice single out one (and only one) small, liberal nation to boycott and label as an evil entity, Israel is actually the place you think it is: beautiful and unique; intense and relaxed; full of craziness and problems; and yet, multicultural and progressive and free.

Take heart. Your concern and your visible opposition to the laughable portrayal of Israel offered by the Week makes you one of the bravest students on campus. 

For one thing, you are voicing your objections pretty much on your own, with just your group of Zionist students, in a setting where even the word Zionist has been cancelled. Professor Judea Pearl wisely explains that it is "Zionophobia" you are fighting against, “the irrational fear of a homeland for the Jewish people,” a prejudice that even some Jews may hold. 

You’re brave because there are many campus events with which some students quietly disagree; yet the anti-Israel events are those that do result in counter-response. You are standing up in the face of what you know to be slander against the Jewish state.

Since each campus is its own small ecosystem, you are likely to know best which responses to the untruths heard during the Week will suit your school. Whether you put up your own informational display, or stand silently with signs supporting Israel, or go ahead and engage in a shouting match, or post quotes from political leaders, or hand out pictures of regular life in Israel, or perform Israeli rock or rap, all those less brave than you are depending on you and thanking you.



February 28, 2020

Announcing: Framing Israel, A Personal Tour of Media and Campus Rhetoric


At long, long last the book I have been working on for many years has been finalized and published. Here’s a little excerpt a few pages into chapter 1:



For years after my first trip to Israel, I thought what I was seeing in mainstream media, and in a more abstract version on college campuses, was a lack of information. I imagined that Israelis’ stories just weren’t getting out. I wanted to explain, point by point, what news reports and campus speakers seemed to be missing. I didn’t know that the Hebrew word, hasbara, which is often translated as Israeli “public relations,” actually means “explanation” or “information” but I did think that these were most needed, that if there were better spokespersons from Israel or if the books that offer information about Israel’s history and situation were widely read, the prevalence of what I now saw as one-sided discourse would disappear…And sometimes, people do have a change of heart when they learn that there is more to a story or that they have been misinformed.

However, the impetus for this book is not the need to get out a set of facts, though factual information is important—and, in this case, readily available—but to address why even factual information often has no impact on discussion of Israel. What I have come to understand is that although, like all countries, Israel has many problems and limitations, the language and rhetoric about Israel has framed it unfairly, unlike any other country in the world.


The book is available on Amazon and from the publisher, RVP Press. And any bookstore can order it for you.   

Now maybe there will be more postings here from me!

December 22, 2018

Why Does Hezbollah Dig Tunnels?








Israel has now located four tunnels dug by Hezbollah into Israel from Lebanon.

In a helpful article Seth J. Frantzman chronicles the growing sophistication of such terrorist tunnels popular with the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah.  

Naturally, the word, “tunnels” makes us think of harmless narrow passageways and a means of simply getting from one place to another. But these are deep, concrete fortified structures designed for surprise attack on civilians in Israel.  There is plenty of room inside for fighters, weapons, and supplies as seen in this video by UN Watch director, Hillel Neuer. The enormous costs of building are paid by Iran.

Not only are the Hezbollah tunnels constructed for purposes of attack on Israeli civilians, some are built on the property of Lebanese civilians. Of course, all this is against international law as it’s a war crime purposely to attack civilians or to use civilian areas for staging violence.

When Hamas tunnels into Israeli farms, or sends incendiary devices into southern Israel, or when Fatah honors terrorists in the West Bank, we hear that the problem is “occupation” even though there are no Jews or IDF soldiers in Gaza and all the West Bank cities are under Palestinian control.  What is the problem from Lebanon? 

The Hezbollah tunnels run under an internationally recognized and undisputed border.  And certainly Hezbollah is not advocating for the welfare of Palestinians who in Lebanon are not even allowed citizenship.  Just maybe it has to do with the demographics of Israel?

These tunnels are simply the shortest distance to Jews. According to the leader of Hezbollah, it's simply most convenient to attack the nearby Jews of Israel; any Jews anywhere are just as much a target.


December 08, 2018

What Do AntiZionists Want?








Yesterday, the New York Times ran this front-page headline: “Anti-Zionism is Not the Same as Anti-Semitism.”  

Here at Framing Israel we’re interested in language and rhetoric, so the claims of Times staff opinion writer, Michelle Goldberg demand our attention. She says, “The conflation of antisemitism with antiZionism is a rhetorical slight of hand that depends on treating Israel as the embodiment of the Jewish people everywhere.”  This statement seems to be slight of hand, itself.

I would understand saying Israel embodies a 2000-year longing of Jews to return to their roots.  Or that Israel embodies the modern Zionist hope for a home safe from antisemitism.  I do understand that Goldberg objects to such Zionist themes and that she feels somehow implicated in what the Israeli government does.

At the same time, she tells us that BDS advocacy by new members of the US Congress is something that “American Jews have nothing to fear...” This appears right below the headline, in fact.

Goldberg writes that while some criticisms of Israel can be antisemitic, one can object to “Jewish ethno-nationalism without being a bigot.”

But “entho-national” doesn’t describe Israel, which is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, democratic Jewish state.  And antiZionism is not hard to recognize.  It isn’t criticism of Israel.

Rather, antiZionists believe there should no majority Jewish country between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

There can be a Palestinian majority country, or all the many Muslim majority countries, or a Japanese majority country; in fact, there can be all of the 195 countries of the world except one.

BDS advocates for the elimination of the world’s only Jewish majority state.

In earlier eras, antisemitism showed up as hatred of the Jewish religion and at other times as hatred of the Jewish people.  Although these forms of Jew hatred still exist, more often antisemitism now appears as hatred of the Jewish state.

Singling out Jews for special harm fits the definition of antisemitism so well that even the New York Times front page can’t make this reality go away.




April 04, 2016

UC Regents Condemn anti-Semitic anti-Zionism: Media Disapprove



   
                                                       published at Honest Reporting

A “landmark” first step was taken by the University of California system this week to combat anti-Semitism on campus. The Regents’ statement of principles condemns “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism” and declares that such behaviors “have no place in the University of California.”

“There is absolutely no doubt that anti-Zionism is the driving force behind the alarming rise in anti-Semitism at UC and at schools across the country” says Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, the UC Santa Cruz faculty member who heads the AMCHA Initiative that tracks on-campus anti-Semitism.

But much of mainstream reporting on the Regents’ statement erases this link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Headlines refer to anti-Semitism but not to anti-Zionism and reporting suggests that there is no real need for the Regents’ statement or that free speech is at risk.

The LA Times made their position explicit in an editorial: “In reality, it is perfectly possible to oppose Zionism—or advocate for a secular state in what is now Israel and the West Bank—without being anti-Jewish.”

Leaving aside that Jewish Israel is predominately secular and is surrounded by Muslim counties that unlike Israel do not have religious freedom, and leaving aside the secular Zionist founders of the Jewish State, I find most disturbing the phrase “in what is now Israel and the West Bank.”

Somehow the LA Times, the largest newspaper in the city that has the second largest Jewish population in the US, whose editorial board defines anti-Zionism as “opposition to the idea of a Jewish State,” cannot understand that college students report they are ostracized and harassed because they take the minority view (on campus) that the world’s only Jewish state should continue to exist.  Students are experiencing old fashioned anti-Semitism to such a degree that even the Regents of UC, who have many other things to worry about, have noticed.

I’ll admit that I struggle to understand what forms of anti-Zionism are not anti-Semitic. The LA Times’ definition that anti-Zionism opposes even the idea of a Jewish state suggests that anti-Zionism is necessarily anti-Jewish. However, anti-Zionism is also its own form of bigotry. The push for legalistic language to protect Jewish students arises from the reality that anti-Zionism is quite acceptable on campus while, at the same time, Jews are not a “protected minority.”

The hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents catalogued by AMCHA are connected to the widely heard campus position that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state and to demonizing Zionism. Tellingly, Associated Press reports that ran in many California papers including the San Francisco Chronicle contrasted “Israeli supporters” with “backers of Palestinian rights,” although Zionism is the concept of Jewish rights to self-determination. No report that I could find considered pro-Israel students to be “backers of Jewish rights.”

In fact, the LA Times headlined its editorial “Striking a Balance Between Free Speech and Bigotry,” as if anti-Zionism is not a form of bigotry and as if anti-Zionist speech is not protected by the first amendment.

No one explains the situation better than UCLA professor, Judea Pearl:

“UC guidelines opposing anti-Semitism are grossly inadequate in curbing the current wave of anti-Jewish hostilities on campuses, which by and large are directed not against those who practice their religion but against those suspected of supporting Israel…

…the UC regents have not banned anti-Semitic, Islamophobic or white supremacist speech, and do not propose to ban anti-Zionist speech; rather, the regents rightly want to make it clear that the latter is beyond the pale of civil discourse.

So if the regents adopt the principles against intolerance, they won't officially restrict free expression. But, and here is an important distinction, they will send a message to the community that anti-Zionism, like Islamophobia and other hateful ideologies, has “no place,” culturally, “at the University of California.”