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.”

January 02, 2016

Terror on My Street

                                                Dizengoff Circle, Tel Aviv

                                            published at Times of Israel

Maybe I am too new to Israel to call Dizengoff my street, but I know parts of it well and yesterday I was about to go to Dizengoff Center, truthfully because I thought a movie might change a stressed mood. I almost got on the wrong bus, which I've done before, and then I would have walked over to Dizengoff at just about the time a terrorist was pulling out his rifle and firing into a pub and two cafes. 

But I decided that before the markets closed for shabbat and before it started raining again, I'd get groceries. So I wasn't there. Most of Tel Aviv and even most of the people walking on Dizengoff were not there in the line of fire. But two young Israelis, Alon Bakal, age 26 and Shimon Ruimi, age 30, were murdered; eight others were injured and hospitalized; and many people were traumatized. Just the day before, Alon Bakal had sent his father a text: "I'm having fun; I love to live."

For on Friday afternoon, the streets and cafes of Tel Aviv are crowded with people enjoying life here. 

When I got back home with my groceries, I saw on Channel 10 news what had happened, what has been happening in some part of Israel nearly every day for the past three months: a terrorist had attacked Israeli Jews for being. For existing.

As I watched the news on my computer, flipping among channels 10 and 2 and the English language Israeli news sites, I didn't feel afraid, though maybe I'll feel that later, as I walk to my ulpan every Sunday and Tuesday past the cafes that yesterday were riddled with bullets. And I didn't feel like I wanted to rush back to the US any more than I might on other days when I'm missing family and friends.

In fact, I felt like what I had been thinking about and worrying about that afternoon was so trivial it did not even matter what this particular day's obsessions were. I felt: I'm alive and safe and life is incredible.

And I wish for this front-line that is Israel to start being a place the rest of the world notices -- not, as has so often been the case, in order to blame it for defending itself; and not, as has so often been the case, to blame its victims of terror for the abuse heaped on them. And especially not to pretend that there are no connections of ideology linking the terror in Paris and San Bernardino and Tel Aviv. But to notice that what happens here is happening in Europe and America and for the same reasons.

In the US it is hard to follow Israeli news events, even though Israel is always in the news. If you watch CNN, you may think there is some possibility that this was a "criminal" rather than a terrorist attack. You may wonder how it is that, while still at large, the killer has an attorney who is being quoted in the New York Times. You may have missed the information that as soon as the killings were reported, the Hamas government of Gaza praised them.

You may even miss the fact that these "lone wolf" attackers are actually following a herd, one that supplies weapons, training, (in this case) a get-away, and most important, an agenda. Someone should tell Reuters News Service that, as far as we know, not a single perpetrator of a stabbing, or shooting, or car-ramming against Israelis has said he or she did this because peace talks are stalled or because there are settlements. The goal is to eliminate Israel.

But the good thing is that if you come to Israel tomorrow, what you'll see if you walk down Dizengoff Street is that the terrorists' goal has absolutely no chance of succeeding.

November 15, 2015

The Ongoing War In France

                                                                                                                published at Times of Israel

President Hollande has closed the borders of France. Such a thing has not happened since World War II. The borders were sealed to make sure that none of the terrorists got away, although the police said Friday night that all of these terrorists had been killed.

The borders were also sealed and "checkpoints reinstated" because the President of France has decided to try to keep out other potential terrorists.

About one hundred and fifty people were murdered at six different Paris locations in France's worst experience of terror attacks. On Friday evening these people were sitting in cafes, watching a soccer match, attending a rock concert, or simply enjoying life in the beautiful city of Paris.  In a split second their lives were destroyed by suicide bombers, grenade throwers, and by the gunfire of terrorists shouting "Allahu Akbar." Hundreds more in Paris are injured and of course thousands are traumatized.

President Obama, offering US support and sympathy, said that the terrorists must be "brought to justice." President Hollande managed to say "we know who they are" without saying who they are.

Paris's terror, like the terror of 9/11, the London tube bombings, the Mumbai attacks, and the ongoing nearly daily violence against Israelis, is part of a global war.

Yet, every time an Islamist terror attack occurs--except in Israel where it is acknowledged that Hamas, Hezbollah, and even "lone wolf" kids abusively raised to kill infidels, are perpetuating terror--there is reluctance to name the perpetrators, to acknowledge that their goal is to destroy, to murder, and ultimately to take over.

As the events unfolded no mainstream media site nor political leader (that I heard) used the term "Islamist terror" even though there was never any doubt that these were Islamist attacks.  ISIS was all over social media praising the killings.

Now ISIS (Daesh) has claimed responsibility. President Hollande has announced "three days of national mourning" and said this:

"Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action...France will be merciless towards these barbarians from Daesh."

I hope that there is no call for "all sides" to quell the violence or for Hollande not to engage in rhetoric that will "inflame tensions."

And if the French do respond to the murder of innocents, I hope that the free world will help them (regardless of their various faults) rather than mistake them for the perpetrators.

October 20, 2015

Twisting Words About Attacks in Israel

                                                                                                             published at Jews Down Under

Common words and phrases are losing their meaning in reference to the terror wave in Israel. These obfuscations often start with political leaders and then are spread by media. A good guide to whether you are getting an unbiased report will be to notice if key words still keep their common meanings, or if, instead, odd usage directs readers and viewers toward minimizing or even justifying terrorism against Israelis.

Light or moderate wounds:  normally describes the level of injuries someone has sustained.

Referring to Israelis, now suggests that the danger was minimal.

Every day for the past two weeks, in some cases nearly every hour, Jewish Israelis have been the victims of stabbing or shooting attacks. Or of cars purposely rammed into people standing at bus stops.

Every one of these attacks is an attempted murder. This is true even when the victim manages to fight off the terrorist or stumbles away with only light or moderate wounds. All of the victims of terror who are injured and taken to hospitals are alive only because the terrorist failed at his or her goal of killing Jews.

The terms, "attempted murder" or "terrorist attack" do not seem to be applied to attempted murders and terrorist attacks by Palestinians against Jews.

Alleged:  normally indicates some possibility that there was no attack or that the individual apprehended was not an attacker.

Regarding terror against Israelis, now indicates that what we are seeing did not happen.

Dozens of people witness these events, and often the perpetrator has explicitly stated his or her intention to murder Jews. Although Jews have in fact been attacked, and the perpetrator has been stopped in the act of attacking, the word, "alleged" is included apparently to raise doubt about what really occurred. The effort to suggest that no security response is needed shows up even when there is video that allows viewers (and reporters) to see the terrorist in action.

Executed: Normally means that someone was summarily killed.

Now describes an attacker who was wounded by Israeli security and is at this moment alive and being interviewed.  Can also be used to suggest that live ammunition is inappropriate for use by Israeli security under any circumstances.

An Arab woman is shouting and wielding a knife at a bus station; she refuses to put down the knife after repeated requests by security who start clearing the area of civilians. She keeps the knife in her hand raised over her head and eventually an officer stops her by firing at her leg. She is rushed to an Israeli hospital and this is described as "an execution."

A young teen goes on a stabbing spree and is shot at in the process. He is rushed to the hospital where he is sitting up eating lunch and being interviewed. He says that he set out to kill Jews while Mahmoud Abbas gives a televised speech declaring that the boy was "executed." 

Resulting deaths: Normally refers to the number of people who have been killed by terrorists.

Now does not distinguish between victims and their murderers.

Rumors: The common term for unsubstantiated claims.

Now presented as justification for any kind of terrorism against Israelis.

For months, the false rumor rumor has been spread by Palestinian leaders, Muslim Imams, and Palestinian Authority teachers, that Jews will be allowed to pray at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Even the US State department said this and then had to issue a retraction. The "status quo" agreement the State of Israel made with Jordan in 1967 has never changed and isn't changing. News articles do not describe (or show curiosity about) this unusual arrangement but suggest that a rumor is simply a reason to take up guns or knives or cinder blocks and start trying to kill Israelis.

No one was harmed: Normally means that a harmful situation was diffused or stopped before anyone was hurt.

The now familiar, revised meaning suggests that attacks against Israelis are only harmful if a civilian is killed.

Long before the current round of Palestinian terror, the Hamas government of Gaza had been firing rockets into Israel. The press rarely mentions these rockets until there is an Israeli response. Every rocket fired into Israel is intended to harm civilians, and does harm them by terrorizing anyone in the area, by traumatizing families who have seconds to find a bomb shelter, as well as by injuring children and adults.

In the current terror wave, there is not even the 15 to 60 second siren warning. Only the sirens of ambulances.