Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Anti-Zionism’s links with anti-Semitism - RTE subscribes to Livingstone Formulation in Labour Party controversy

Ken Livingstone facing camera crews at Westminster (source: Youtube/C4News)

RTE, the public service broadcaster of the Irish Republic, has the capacity to immensely influence the views and moral stances of the Irish nation as seasoned commentator (and one-time senior RTE insider) Eoghan Harris has often pointed out. Due to a virtual broadcasting monopoly, the way in which RTE treats contentious issues of major social concern, such as terrorism, migrant waves, the resurgence of European anti-Semitism, etc., arguably has a greater impact on the thinking of the Irish Nation than equivalent broadcasting institutions in other countries, such as the United Kingdom’s BBC, that compete with a strong private sector.

RTE’s audience reach extends beyond the Irish Republic, with media saturation in Northern Ireland, and its radio and television channels are viewed quite widely abroad, particularly in the UK mainland.

King Newt strikes Jerusalem

The controversy over Ken ‘Newt’ Livingstone’s suspension from the British Labour Party, for defending Naz Shah, an MP accused of anti-Semitism, raged in the UK last month. Livingstone was suspended for an odd apologia of Shah’s actions – he claimed that Hitler supported the Zionist movement until he “went mad” and instituted the programme of mass Jewish extermination. Livingstone has since doubled-down in his attack on the Jewish State by claiming Israel’s creation was a “catastrophe”.

Livingstone’s comments were without any historical basis but he would attempt to back-up his claims with the use of bigoted ahistoric sources cited by neo-NAZI types in the shadier side of the Internet. His assertion that Israel should not have been created “because there had been a Palestinian community there for 2,000 years,” was similarly ahistorical, fitting the PLO’s old propaganda-narrative that Jesus Christ was the first Arab-Palestinian shahid (martyr). He also holds Israel responsible for the military aggression of the Arab-Islamic world, and the creation of ISIS, whilst conflating the risk of a nuclear-Iran with Israel’s arsenal.

Patchy coverage

The fracas has been given little attention to-date on RTE. Their sole article on the topic (‘Livingstone defends Hitler comments in Labour row’, 30th April 2016) was peculiar because it only featured Livingstone’s perspective and that of his defenders. The article also included Livingstone’s obviously fallacious strawman of Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments concerning Haij Amin al Husseini’s role in the Holocaust — the Israeli prime-minister never suggested that Hitler supported Zionism.

Broadcast coverage was similar. The story only featured passing mention on television, in an afternoon ‘RTE News Now’ bulletin on the April 28th, when the news of Livingstone’s suspension first emerged but was not featured in RTE’s lengthier prime news programmes later that same day. By contrast, the election of Labourite Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, received substantive coverage on radio and television throughout the May 6th/7th period, and featured more strongly in online content.

The lack of coverage on RTE is rather peculiar. British political events tend to feature quite prolifically in RTE news schedules due to the close connections between the two States. Moreover, Livingstone is a politician of some renown in Ireland. He was the first senior British political figure to openly engage in talks with Sein Fein-IRA, and one of the very few to have advocated loudly for the Republican group’s cause. While head of the Greater London Council, he talked prolifically with the terror group during an intensive period of its London bombing campaign, for which he earned a considerable degree of notoriority — principally hatred.

Livingstone also earned a lot of affection within the London-Irish community of yore by pandering to an exaggerated and unworthy victimhood. Indeed, Livingstone once charged that “What Britain did in Ireland was worse than what Hitler did to the Jews.” It is worth noting that Livingstone’s views would have also been percieved as extreme in Ireland! While many sympathesised with the very poor treatment of the Catholic populace in Ulster, few would have agreed with his expressions of support for the IRA. Sein Fein only found electoral pre-eminance in Ulster after the Good-Friday Agreement, and only obtained electoral success in the Republic in more recent years.

Labour’s electoral woes matter more?

Perhaps RTE’s most notable input on Livingstone anti-Semitism controversy came when Marian Finucane, a veteran RTE journalist and presenter of repute in Ireland, discussed the issue in the second hour of RTE Radio One’s ‘Marian Finucane Show’ on Sunday the 1st May 2016. Enda Brady, an Irish correspondent with UK broadcaster ‘Sky News’, was invited onto the show to provide some insights into the on-going row. However, the discussion was rather more revealing for its misleading and oddly slanted appraisal of the controversy.

The contributions to the radio slot focused far more on the impact that the controversy would have on the British Labour Party’s electoral ability, than on the actual anti-Semitic content of the remarks that led to the very controversy. This peculiar focus may have led some listeners to wonder if there was any real substance to the criticism of Livingstone’s remarks, beyond that of mere historical inaccuracy.

In a brief commentary to introduce the issue, Brady stated:
“Basically a row over comments Ken Livingstone had made earlier in the week defending a Yorkshire MP called Naz Shah. She had shared something on Facebook. She had shared a post calling for Israel to be relocated to the United States… Ken Livingstone waded in and attempted to defend her, and in doing so kept digging, making the situation just awful for Labour.”

Finucane: “Just coming up to elections?”

Brady: “Yes, local elections here on Thursday, and you know the focus should be on, you would imagine from a Labour perspective, the focus should have been on fighting a Conservative Government, and austerity, and cuts, and what have you to public spending, and yes Labour riven by internal strife and division, and a rather unpleasant nasty row over allegations of anti-Semitism. […]

But yes it’s a mess, and you just think the Conservative Party, David Cameron, everyone else, they must just be watching this with their mouths open”

Finucane: “Manna from heaven.”

Brady: “Yes precisely…”
Finucane and Brady would go on to discuss how the controversy could undermine Sadiq Khan’s prospects in the London mayoral election, with Brady adding:
“Again he’s [Khan] being embroiled in this as well, and just by association, questions being put, you know ‘are you anti-Semitic as well?’ It just looks terrible for Labour. It really, really does, with day after day of headlines, and of course I guess its been a comparatively quiet news cycle, this has just been leading every single bulletin for five six days.”
The questions surrounding Khan related to his own personal associations with extremists, rather than merely his being a member of the Labour Party. Senator Kevin Humphrys, a member of the Irish Labour Party, described the remarks as “wrong”, but similarly focused on the damage it would cause to the British Labour Party vote.

There was a vague reference to a broader concern about anti-Semitism within the Labour Party but there was no mention of the many egregious comments by other Labour members, which would have assisted in framing a discussion to which Irish audiences have limited media exposure.

To cite a few examples of the scale of this problematic behaviour: Gerry Downing’s suggestion that Marxists address what he termed “the Jewish Question”, descriptions of Hitler as the “Zionist God”, charges that Israel uses the Holocaust as “a financial racket in the West”, media reports that Labour secretly suspended fifty Labour members for issues connected with anti-Semitism, and the resignation of a Oxford University Labour Club chairman spurred by the endemic anti-Semitism of its members. To Brady’s credit, he did however note that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s critics point out his poor performance in dealing with the issue.

It should be noted both Brady and Finucane briefly mentioned the hatred exhibited toward Jewish people in France, with Brady describing it as a “massive issue”. Finucane also noted that anti-Semitism is an unacknowledged problem, and disagreed with Livingstone’s view that Hitler supported Zionism. Ultimately however, it was a missed opportunity to discuss an issue that the Western mainstream media often seeks to avoid.

Naz Shah’s unfortunate ‘Facebookery’

Finucane’s radio segment reported that Naz Shah posted a Facebook entry stating that the conflict would be solved if Israel was moved to the US. Later the discussion strayed into flippant territory:
Finucane: “There’s a lot to be said for keeping away from Facebook.”

Sinead O’Carroll (News Editor with “Absolutely, this started with a politician making a very flippant point on Facebook.”
Such opining infers that Shah did not really mean anything of substance when writing the post. Neither Finucane, nor the other contributors, explained why this particular post is thought by many to be offensive. Shah’s ‘transportation’ Facebook post was not intended to be a constructive idea (however bizarre) — another contributor later suggested that anti-Zionism is not necessarily anti-Semitic. Shah posted a kind of mocking info-graphic that suggested Israel was to blame for all of the troubles of the Middle East (presumably including Islamist terrorism spreading Westward), and that the existence of the Jewish State somehow made the world unhappy. By inference, the post recommends ethnically cleansing the Middle East of its Jewish people, much of whom were forced, by persecution, to flee to Israel from other regions of the Middle East in the first instance.

Finucane and O’Carroll present the post as little more than a ‘blonde moment’ but Shah added a comment that reinforced the message of the infographic, and the contributors also failed to note that she has a record for making other problematic comments in the past.

Shah has also posted critical content about “Jews”, compared Israel’s policies to those of Hitler, and promoted an article that likened Zionism to al Qaeda, which charged that the movement had caused Jews to act in negative ways, akin to neo-Nazi claims of normative Jewish behaviour, with respect to control of politics, the media etc. in European societies, and offered a solution to the “Jewish Question in Europe”. Shah was a relatively senior politician. She is an MP, was private secretary to the Shadow Chancellor, and more remarkably, a member of a committee combating anti-Semitism in Britain, so critics, both within and outside the Labour party, were fully entitled to raise concerns about bigotry.

By the time of the discussion on the Finucane Show, news had also emerged that Shah’s aide, Mohammed Shabbir, had engaged in overtly anti-Semitic messages, inferring that Orthodox Jewish people were engaged in child abuse, prostitution, used the neo-Nazi term “Zio”, suggested Israel created ISIS to serve as a pretext to invade Syria, compared Israel to NAZI Germany, etc. These views echoed some of Shah’s comments, thus raising further questions about her beliefs.

RTE’s Livingstone, I presume

At the end of the discussion, Finucane stated that she had been suprised when she found out that Livingstone was involved in a row over anti-Semitism
“I have to say I was very surprised — I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated that Ken Livingstone would be in any way anti-Semitic.”
Livingstone, who has been a guest on Finucane’s show previously, has intermittently caused a quite substantive level of controversy over many expressions that displayed a strong disregard and dislike of Jewish people. And has expressed strong support for the likes of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an individual who not only supports Arab-Palestinian terrorism, but has openly expressed genocidal sentiments toward the Jewish people.

After the odd focus on Labour’s election worries, and some expressions of generalised concern about anti-Semitism in Europe today, the discussion strayed into contentious territory when Finucane stated:
“The tricky bit is that just because somebody says that they disagree with Israeli policy in Gaza, it does not mean they are anti-Semitic, and those lines have to be clarified. And they’ve kind of got blurred I think in this debate as well.”

Brady: “Yes I think that’s a fair point but I think in modern politics the speed the reaction of labour to clamp down on all of this, a lot of people here will feel very sore.”
Shah posted the offending infographic during the Gaza war so Finucane appears to be arguing that the comment was not in itself anti-Semitic. However, Shah did not merely criticise Israeli policy in Gaza. Shah took issue with Israel’s very existence. Another guest, Gerard Howlin, a former Fianna Fail Party advisor, agreed but also drew attention to the fact that anti-Zionism often coincides with anti-Semitism:
“There is this thing between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And of course they aren’t always the same. You can be perfectly anti-Zionist without being in any way anti-Semitic, and that should be very much acknowledged. You can be critical of Israel in particular without being in any way anti-Semitic. But of course Zionism is a response to anti-Semitism originally.”
Livingstone reformulated

Finucane advanced the argument that criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic, and that the debate confused or conflated anti-Zionism (as inferred by her defence of Shah’s existentially anti-Zionist views) with anti-Semitism, as further indicated by Howlin’s response. By inference, such a position would suggest that the views of the two main players in the controversy — both Shah’s and Livingstone’s — were not necessarily anti-Semitic. Therefore, it seems that Livingstone was quite entitled to defend Naz Shah since the MP did not express views that were inherently anti-Semitic. Such argumentation would lead to the conclusion that if her views are not inherently or necessarily anti-Semitic then, in effect, they should ultimately not to be regarded as anti-Semitic because such accusations are no longer deemed to be fair (in view of the supposed power of the accusation that may be reputationally damaging) or morally legitimate, and so the charge is presented as a vicious ploy.

The stance endorsed on the ‘Marian Finucane show’ constitutes a category error, because it forms a fallacious conflation of two divergent categories of argumentation. There is of course an area where the two categories coincide because anti-Zionism must by definition be critical of the existence of the State of Israel, and efforts to defend its existence. Yet there are circumstances where criticism of Israel does not originate from anti-Zionist positions. Anti-Zionism is a different category of argumentation that is advanced by those possessing trenchant anti-Israel positions. Anti-Zionism is necessarily extremist because anti-Zionists advocate for the dissolution of the sole principally-Jewish State in existence, regardless of its borders and compromises it has attempted to make with Arab-Palestinian society.

Perhaps unwittingly, Finucane may have advanced a strawman’ argument created by anti-Israel advocates, not least by Livingstone himself (for whom David Hirsh coined the term ‘Livingstone Formulation’), who wish to attack those defending Israel in debate. Such advocates present opponents defending Israel (from what is seen as unjustified criticism) as being disingenuous and attempting to silence all criticism of the Jewish State by using the “anti-Semitism card” to trump legitimate debate.

However, it does not appear that anyone has ever argued that all substantive criticism of Israel is inherently anti-Semitic. This cannot be a normative pro-Israel position because it is not uncommon to find criticism of the Jewish State emanating from those who do support Israel in a substantive and meaningful way (in contrast to Peter Beinart, J-Street, et al, who only claim to support Israel but adopt staunchly anti-Israel positions). Rightly or wrongly, many who genuinely support Israel express reservations about Israeli government policy.

Anti-Zionism is necessarily anti-Semitic

There is a strong material link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, both in more traditional and the newer forms, the latter of which manifests most overtly as an intensive and aggressive demonisation of Israel, which is notably singular in its treatment. This reality leads to another question: ‘Is anti-Zionism necessarily anti-Semitic or is it possible to be anti-Zionist without holding anti-Semitic beliefs or being discriminatory by holding the Jewish collective to a different standard to that of other peoples?’

Anti-Zionism is notable for white-washing anti-Semitism. It disregards the oppression that Jewish people experienced in the Christian and Islamic worlds for over a Millennia, which arose with hatreds that continue to exist, albeit in a modified form in the Western World which normatively adopt the language of humanitarianism. It often re-writes the oppression Jews experienced in the Islamic world.

Anti-Zionism disregards the ancient cultural link between Israel and the Jewish People, which may only continue with Jewish self-determination, given the continued rejection of Jewish religious rights within Arab-Islamic societies throughout the Middle East, and the likelihood that a Jewish presence in the region would cease to exist in a would-be Palestinian Nation, as it has ceased throughout almost all of the rest of the Middle East. Trenchant anti-Semitism is normative at all levels in Arab-Palestinian society, of a form that incites violence, terrorism and genocidal sentiment. Rather, anti-Zionists portray wholly improbable results to their advocacy, claiming (in contravention to all available evidence) that peaceful democratic and pluralistic scenarios would result, rather than a further purging of the Middle East.

Anti-Zionists do not accept the two-state solution. They unjustly blame Israel for Arab-Palestinian rejectionism. Ultimately, peace cannot be made with Israel — rather this nation must be compelled to surrender all and effectively abandon the aim of Jewish autonomy, or be cleansed ethnically — the Jewish people should all “go back to Europe”, even if they are Mizrahi purged from Arab nations.

While people can hate a nation for a variety of reasons, hatred that motivates criticism of Israel is typically anti-Semitic, because it directly or indirectly focuses on the Jewish character of the State, which can often be seen in those people who form negative obsessions about a distant nation, which they problematize, often by holding it to absurdist double-standards. They do so while wholly ignoring (or sometimes defending) the manifest wrongdoing of Israel’s regional opponents. Such posturing effectively denies the Jewish State’s right to defend its own citizens.

Indeed, if Israel’s existence is a fundamental wrong visited on another people, then it must necessarily follow that the military defence of Israel’s physical integrity, particularly from attacks by its enemies seeking to remedy supposed wrongs that resulted in the Jewish State’s creation, must also be wrong.

As a consequence, it is difficult not to conclude that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism that singles out one particular ethnicity of the world’s diverse tapestry, as not deserving of autonomy in its homeland, whilst simultaneously denying the dangers of anti-Semitism that gave rise to Zionism.
These advocates often engage in hysterical demonising language, and sometimes classically anti-Semitic imagery. They project insidious forms of wrongdoing on their opponents, such as arguing that those who disagree are part of a ‘Zionist cabal’ engaging in ‘hasabara’. Anger of an unusual intensity toward other perspectives is common in those advancing anti-Israel stances, whether it be in discussions in the media or on marches, and indeed it is common to see anti-Israel activists disrupting or preventing pro-Israel speakers from expressing themselves, whilst commonly claiming that supporters of Israel silence their own arguments at various levels in political, media and academic domains.

True to form

RTE’s treatment of the Livingstone controversy provides an illustrative example of their failings when dealing with issues that do not sit very easily with the normative political culture found at the Broadcaster. Unlike most of her colleagues at RTE, Marian Finucane does deserve some credit for having the presence of mind to allow space for other perspectives on the Israeli-Jewish/Arab-Islamic conflict, besides the common anti-Israeli stances that pervade the media. Similarly, Brady and her guests were largely sympathetic to the difficulties Jewish society faces in Europe today. However, there are limitations, arguably due to RTE’s staunch political culture, where those on the left always have to be the good guys. Red Ken, and so many others in the anti-Israel movement, professes to care about racism and deny being anti-Semitic so it must be thus! Such a level of trust and faith is not displayed toward the political right.

This bias, a kind of cognitive schtoma, thoroughly taints RTE’s political coverage, where opponents of the recently defeated Fein Gael-Labour government were never meaningfully scrutinised, so leading to an unprecedented degree of political instability, and the grave consequences of the leftistcause celeb of abolishing the new water-charges regime was rarely analysed by the media as a whole despite the longstanding failure to adequately fund Ireland’s ancient water infrastructure, which has led to grave economic and public health issues, and etc., etc.

While it is fair to say that most people in Ireland do not particularly care all that much about the Jewish-Israeli/Islamic-Arab conflict, there is still an unthinking insistence that those loudly lambasting Israel possess only the very best of motives. Such people tend to insist their activism is motivated by humanitarianism but their activism in relation to other conflicts, such as the Assad slaughter in neighbouring Syria, is conspicuously absent, as one well known critic of the movement has noted. Supposed Jewish wrongs matter a lot more.

For a long time RTE has played no small role in advancing and reinforcing such perceptions, which neatly fit the Broadcaster’s reflexively anti-US/pro-Islam posturing. Thus, the recent migrant waves are typically described as “refugees”, and the spate of Islamist attacks on European soil are borne of economic disadvantage and Western Islamophobia and/or racism rather than anything remotely associated with intolerance borne of religious ideology. The absolutist uniformity of RTE’s narratives can be startling — the same on-message NGOs are trotted out for interviews and sound-bites, with nary a murmur of dissent ever afforded the briefest of airtime.

This blindness extends to the levels of coverage afforded to a given topic. RTE audiences are much more likely to hear about the enthusiasm British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has for Motown’s style of music, than last year’s concerns that he held anti-Semitic views after defending an anti-Semite of some notoriety, giving support to an anti-Israel Holocaust denier, etc., etc.

And when such unfortunate matters come to a head, and so demand to be addressed, we may expect just one perspective. Therefore, we only hear voices in defence of Livingstone’s actions. But even when the ‘right’ or ‘good’ team wins out, it is difficult to find balanced coverage. For example, RTE presented several unopposed voices defending Labour’s newly elected London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, with inferred charges of Islamophobia against competitor Zac Goldsmith and the wider Tory Party, even though it is widely known that Khan repeatedly shared a platform with an ISIS supporter, has assisted other unsavoury characters, and has described moderate Muslims as… “Uncle Toms”!

RTE, like the UK’s BBC, the US’ NPR/PBS programming, Norway’s NRK, et al., are more than conventional media sources. They are institutions constructed to serve the public of a given nation, funded in an enforced manner by the self-same public, with licence fees or a portion of the national tax spend. Thus there is every right to expect the highest of journalistic standards, which in turn can foster fair and informed debate, particularly as such institutions often have an especially powerful role in broadcasting. However, public service broadcasting has almost become a by-word for slanted unduly politicised commentary of a form typically reinforcing left-wing narratives.

If there is truth to the old saying, that “being on the left means never having to say you’re sorry,” then it may be presumed that public service media advocacy of certain political narratives play a significant role in the notable deficits of public scrutiny across their associated segments of the political spectrum.

Published at Crethi Plethi.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Rafeef Ziadah‏ - a rather objectionable “poet”

'International Literature Festival Dublin’ - source:

Next month’s ‘International Literature Festival Dublin’, will feature numerous speakers of a certain political persuasion – the likes of Naomi Klein, Yanis “evilly grinning the IMF/EU into submission” Varoufakis, and so-called “peace activist” Margaretta D'Arcy.

The oddity of art events universally promoting hard-left politics, with a revolutionary slant, in festival after festival, is worthy of comment. Indeed, such events do not seem to be complete without an Arab-Palestinian or two completing the bill. In this instance, one of the two stages of the Abbey Theatre will be graced by Rafeef Ziadah on the 22nd of May. To quote the International Literature Festival’s promotional literature:
‘“Rafeef’s poetry demands to be heard” ~ Ken Loach

Rafeef Ziadah is an acclaimed Palestinian refugee poet and activist. Her poem ‘We Teach Life, Sir’ – an impassioned attack on media misrepresentation of the Palestinian cause – went viral within days of its release, clocking up millions of views, and since then she has toured the world, representing Palestine at the Poets Olympiad in London in 2012 and releasing We Teach Life, an acclaimed new album of poetry and songs. This live show offers an exciting blend of poetry and music, which she brings to the stage with Australian guitarist and We Teach Life producer Phil Monsour.’
It is standard in the promotion of such events for the contentious and often objectionable character of such guests to be completely ignored. Thus, Rafeef Ziadah is presented merely as a “Palestinian refugee poet and activist”. Whilst it might be unfair to expect promotional material to afford full voice to her critics, it is nonetheless quite a white-wash, given her close association with a number of highly objectionable organisations. Perhaps indication of such would raise question (in the mind of the reader) about the legitimacy of her invite.

Ziadah claims to be a Lebanese-Palestinian refugee but uses her family history to promote a victim narrative that is out of step with the historical record of the era.

Ziadah is first and foremost a leading and widely publicised BDS campaigner. She is as a member of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which is “the Palestinian coordinating body for the BDS campaignworldwide.” She is also a member of PACBI (Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott Initiative) – a group that became notorious for its dishonesty, stances opposed to reconciliation, and inflammatory pseudo rights-based rhetoric, and claims on her website to have been a founding member of "Israel Apartheid Week", a movement which is noted for its anti-Semitism, which has increasingly made campuses a hostile space for Jewish students,

Ziadah is also a leading member of controversial UK charity ‘War on Want’, which has engaged in particularly egregious activity designed to inflame extreme hatred, leading the UK government to cease affording the organisation the financial benefits of a charity.

Ziadah is a lecturer at SOAS, University of London (the School of Oriental and African Studies), doubtlessly teaching her brand of hatred at the university’s ‘London Middle East Institute (LMEI)’ and ‘Centre for Palestine Studies (CPS)’. In her role she has presided over events that forwarded discredited, demonising, and decidedly anti-Semitic theories, such as the claim that Israel harvests the organs of Arab-Palestinians, and engages in the systematic rape of Arab prisoners.

Ziadah opposes the Oslo Accords and effectively calls for the destruction of Israel. Much like her boss at PACBI, Omar Barghouti, She has made it clear that the boycott movement is an effort to destroy Israel, regardless of any future placement of its borders:
“Rafeef concluded the forum with an open invitation to all to her house in Haifa, once Palestine is free. Once she can return home. And the campaign to boycott the products of Carmel Agrexco is a step along the way.”
Ziadah makes much of her claim that those who collectively make up Arab-Palestinian society “teach life”. This is of course a response to criticism concerning normative Arab-Palestinian incitement, which teaches a particularly violent form of hatred towards both Israeli citizens, and Jewish people more generally. Such sentiments are inculcated in a systemic form from childhood, through education, familial bonding and popular entertainment. And yet Ziadah has praised figures like Khader Adnan, who is a leading member of Islamic Jihad, noted for his encouragement of suicide-terrorism. However, she believes it is to engage in a racist discourse to actually discuss this abiding threat to Israel's existence.

Ziadah’s hypocritical posturing does not make her “We teach life” meme any more sincere than rather ambitious mass-invites to her future home. However, her message will continue to be presented uncritically at festivals in the coming months where she will promote her new album.

Also published at Crethi Plethi.

Friday, 6 November 2015

The EU Violates International Law with Respect to Jewish Settlements

Lars Faaborg-Andersen [source - Yossi Zwecker]

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, expressed support for the move by the economic union to encourage its member states to reject and modify the labelling of items originating in East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (AKA the West Bank), and the Golan Heights, as having been produced in Israel. Some of this EU legislation will be obligatory. Faaborg-Andersen stated:
“The EU position is that we do not recognize Israeli authority beyond the Green Line. It is not part of Israel. It is not part of what we understand to be Israel’s international recognized borders”
This view is commensurate with the EU’s systematic and substantive flouting of law in Judea and Samaria and its partial boycott of Jewish organisations operating in these territories.

The EU’s stance is used to carry favour with the Islamic Middle East. The EU/EEC began to support the Arab-Palestinian cause soon after the 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo began, which blackmailed Western states for supposedly supporting Israel. Support for terrorist factions began with the Venice Declaration of 1980, which called for Israel to negotiate with Arafat’s PLO, despite the terror organisation’s public affirmation that they would ‘liquidate’ the Jewish State just days before the Declaration, the PLO’s ongoing terror against Israeli civilians, as well as their role triggering civil war in Lebanon.

The stance adopted by Faaborg-Andersen appears to suggest that the EU expects Israel to accept the new measures without objection, arguing rather absurdly that new labelling will improve the standing of Israeli produce, and be detrimental to the discriminatory anti-Israel boycott movement. However, this new development may cause a substantive and permanent breach in Israeli-European relations, already strained by the EU’s undue interference.

International law

The EU Ambassador’s assertion affirms that the Union is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which allows Israel to administer the territories of East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), the Golan Heights, etc., until peace settlements would come into effect. Eugene V. Rostow, one of the authors of Resolution 242 noted:
“Resolution 242, which as undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969 I helped produce, calls on the parties to make peace and allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces “from territories” it occupied during the Six-Day War — not from “the” territories nor from “all” the territories, but from some of the territories, which included the Sinai Desert, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Five-and-a-half months of vehement public diplomacy in 1967 made it perfectly clear what the missing definite article in Resolution 242 means. Ingeniously drafted resolutions calling for withdrawals from “all” the territories were defeated in the Security Council and the General Assembly. Speaker after speaker made it explicit that Israel was not to be forced back to the “fragile” and “vulnerable” Armistice Demarcation Lines, but should retire once peace was made to what Resolution 242 called “secure and recognized” boundaries, agreed to by the parties.”
Rostow’s view is clearly echoed by other drafters of the Resolution.

The EU’s stance also needs to be seen in the context of the Armistice line agreements of 1949, between Israel and Jordan, and Israel and Syria, in the aftermath of a ceasefire during Israel’s war of Independence. Jordan and Syria previously occupied the territories currently in dispute.

Article VI of the agreement between Israel and Jordan states:
“The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”
Similarly, Article V of the Armistice Agreement, between Syria and Israel, states:
“It is emphasized that the following arrangements for the Armistice Demarcation Line between the Israeli and Syrian armed forces and for the Demilitarized Zone are not to be interpreted as having any relation whatsoever to ultimate territorial arrangements affecting the two Parties to this Agreement.”
Thus, all of the boundaries that the EU is pressuring Israel to return to were explicitly rejected as lasting political boundaries by all sides in the conflict. The 1974 armistice agreement between Syria and Israel notes that it does not constitute a peace deal, and that a resolution of the conflict should be made through negotiations.

The British Palestine Mandatory text affirms that the territory of Palestine is for “the establishment of the Jewish national home”. A clause of exception included, gave the British Mandatory authority some flexibility over territories solely east (Article 25) of the Jordan River, which would subsequently become the Arab-Palestinian nation ‘Trans-Jordan’. However, Judea and Samaria is west of the Jordan River (hence the Jordanian name ‘West Bank’), which establishes Israel’s claim, as the Jewish national home, to the territory.

The 1920 San Remo agreement effectively made the right to a Jewish national home in Palestine binding. Territorial borders were not defined but the biblical phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” was applied by British leaders. The identified territory would necessarily include Judea and Samaria (West Bank).

With respect to Resolution 242, the EU is violating international law on two counts: (1) failing to recognise Israel’s authority in said territories, and (2) by attempting to prevent Israel from coming to peace-deals with defensible borders. Consequently, the EU is harming interests in obtaining peaceful relations by undermining Israeli authority, and prejudging the outcome of highly sensitive negotiations. Since several parties conducted belligerent campaigns against Israel in 1967, the Jewish State has a legal right, as per 242, to obtain defensible secure borders, which would necessitate some modification of the 1949-67 armistice lines.

The EU refutes this principle which endangers Israel’s long-term security, and thus the stability of the region as a whole. Resolutions passed by the Security Council are legally binding so in effect become a part of international law.Consequently, the EU’s stance is wholly out of line with international law on the issue. However, the EU’s pretend-balance was again regurgitated during the interview, when Faaborg-Andersen claimed:
“We do not expect the Israeli side to make peace on its own. We understand that it takes two to make peace… what we require is that both parties refrain from taking steps that undermine the peace effort.”
And yet the EU rarely reprimands the Arab-Palestinian factions for the most egregious wrongdoing. Instead, they lay blame on the existence of settlements beyond the 1949-67 Armistice Lines, when they do not in fact contravene international law, and have a negligible impact on the prospect for peace, since they only occupy approximately 1% of Judea and Samaria, while the principle of mutually-agreed land-swaps has been accepted by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

The Golan Heights

The EU’s stance on the Golan Heights is particularly bizarre, given the fact that the zone was used by Syrian forces to almost continually harass Israel and its citizens until the 1967 Six Day War, which gave rise to Resolution 242.

Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, a former president of the International Court of Justice, noted that:
“a state acting in lawful exercise of its right of self-defense may seize and occupy foreign territory as long as such seizure and occupation are necessary to its self-defense […] as condition of its withdrawal from such territory, that State may require the institution of security measures reasonably designed to ensure that that territory shall not again be used to mount a threat or use of force against it of such a nature as to justify exercise of self-defense”
Syria is technically still in a state of war with Israel. A peace initiative in the 1990s failed, as well as indirect negotiations in 2008 which ended when Operation Cast Lead began in reaction to intensified missile strikes from Gaza. Further talks are not envisaged. Syria’s closer relations with Iran and Hizbullah make possibility of a deal with Israel very improbable. Yet EU policy endorses handing this territory, so vital to Israel’s security, back to Syria. Today, Syria comprises an illegitimate failed-state, with the prospect of becoming a Sunni-Islamist equivalent with the potential to recommence war with the Jewish State. Yet the EU’s stance remains unchanged with respect to its policy approach.

Supporting a two-state solution?

During the recent rise of violence against Israeli civilians, the EU noted the killing of an Israeli couple but rather than condemn Arab-Palestinian religious incitement as a principle cause, the statement called for restraint from all sides, and a renewed engagement in a peace process:
“in the face of such a crime, restraint and calm are needed on all sides to ensure that the violence witnessed yesterday and in recent months does not aggravate the situation further. On the contrary, the continuing loss of life highlights once more the necessity for a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The failure to condemn state-sanctioned incitement, which has led to a huge number of attacks against Israeli civilians, is noteworthy because it violates the PLO’s undertaking under the Interim Oslo Accord known as Oslo II. Systematic and continued incitement is indicative of bad faith but the EU would rather blame settlements, which were to be determined in final status negotiations, whilst simultaneously assisting in the building of illegal Arab-Palestinian enclaves.

Ironically, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, asserted that Israel should implement steps on the ground consistent with prior agreements, and to work toward a solution based on the Arab Peace Initiative. The Arab League’s Initiative is a highly problematic ‘take it or leave it’ proposal, which stands in contravention of Resolution 242 by demanding that Israel fully withdraw before a weak non-binding form of Arab State recognition is implemented, with the demographic nullification of the Jewish State by enshrining a ‘right of return’ on those claiming to be descendants of Arab-Palestinian refugees, whilst preventing the voluntary settlement of such Arab people that lived in Arab lands for decades. Joel Singer, a negotiator at the Oslo talks, noted that the Initiative doesn’t call on Arab-Palestinian groups “to stop terrorism”, much less commend any mechanism to prevent its impact.

Despite insistence to the contrary, the EU, whilst advocating for a two-state solution which it accuses Israel of undermining, is in fact acting in contravention of the very principles set down in successive plans for a two-state solution, based on Resolution 242. EU behaviour also delegitimises Israel’s just claim to a secure existence. Should a new labelling policy be enshrined in EU law, it will represent another epoch of a broad long-term strategy, which demonises the Jewish State in an effort toward Arab appeasement.

Also published at Crethi Plethi

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini’s Initiatory Role in the Extermination of European Jewry

(Updated - 23rd October)

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been harshly criticised in recent days for highlighting what he believes to be the role of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate era, in encouraging the initiation of the most destructive phase of the Holocaust. The position of Grand Mufti affords the highest authority on religious law in Sunni Muslim nations.

During a speech at the 37th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem this week, Netanyahu claimed that Hitler originally intended to expel European Jews but changed his mind due to the influence of al-Husseini. The Mufti argued that the expulsion of the Jews would lead to their migration to Mandatory Palestine, which he had a leading role in violently opposing. Netanyahu stated that Hitler was persuaded to exterminate Europe’s Jewry at a meeting between the two men on the 28th November 1941.

The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husaini, meets with Adolf Hitler,
 November 28th, 1941

The claim has been widely criticised. Some elements in the media presented Netanyahu as somehow making trouble, for example RTE titled its article on the controversy: “Netanyahu provokes Holocaust row” when in fact the Mufti’s relationship with Hitler was only referred to briefly in the speech. The thrust of criticism concerned Arab-Palestinian incitement from the Mufti’s era to the present, which media outlets ignore.

Fatah-PLO lambasted Netanyahu's comments, unsurprisingly perhaps, given al Husseini's heroic status in Arab-Palestinian society. Carlos Latuff, an illustrator who deals in anti-Israel propaganda, mocked Netanyahu over the episode. Latuff makes near-continual use of Holocaust imagery to demonise the Jewish State’s role in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Moshe Zimmermann, of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, went as far as to argue that Netanyahu is a Holocaust denier:
“Any attempt to deflect the burden from Hitler to others is a form of Holocaust denial”
Such a charge is a nonsense since Netanyahu didn’t deny Hitler’s responsibility for the Holocaust. Holocaust Deniers deny that the Holocaust occurred, suggest there was no intent to exterminate European Jews, or minimise or relativise the dimension of the episode by presenting it as a fairly typical genocide for the period. The term is not used for those who argue that Hitler may have been influenced by other allied elements.

Associated Press failed to note that Moshe Zimmermann has a record for applying offensive Holocaust terminology to Jewish political opponents. He described Hebron’s Jewish children as ‘Hitlerjugend’ (Hitler Youth). Such behaviour is often deemed to be objectionable since it trivialises the scale and cruelty of the Holocaust. Thus, it is most peculiar for Associated Press to claim that Zimmermann is a prominent expert on anti-Semitism. His expertise in fact focuses on German history, and is regarded as one of the most extreme anti-Israel propagandists in Israeli academia.

Netanyahu later clarified that he had no intention of absolving Hitler of his responsibility for the extermination programme but wished to highlight “the role played by the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a war criminal, in encouraging and goading Hitler, Ribbentrop, Himmler and others to exterminate European Jewry.”

Associated Press wrote that unnamed historians disagreed with Netanyahu’s claim of the Mufti’s role:
“Historians quickly noted that the Nazi Final Solution was already well underway at this point, with several concentration camps up and running. Hitler had previously repeatedly declared his lethal intentions for the Jews.”
Such claims are not in keeping with the known timeline of the Holocaust, and also conflates the nature of concentration camps. There were concentration camps in NAZI Germany going back to the middle 1930s but they were not extermination camps. Camps with the principle purpose of committing mass murder are known to have only been built after the Wannasee Conference of January 1942, which marked a major turning point in the Holocaust.

Hitler had indeed declared a lethal intent towards the Jewish race, such as in a January 1941 speech but it was clearly a threat of extermination should war spread internationally. Hitler’s private speech to Nazi Leaders 20 days after his meeting with al-Husseini attests to his wish for extermination to finalise the ‘Jewish Question’. It is important to note that this was after war had spread to the United States and the USSR. Hitler appeared to believe that powerful international Jewish financiers were out to destroy the Reich and the Germanic people. His stance may have been propagandistic but the NAZIs projected many of their own character defects upon a notional Jewish collective which was described as genocidal in intent.

There is no consensus among historians as to when NAZI Germany decided upon extermination rather than a mix of expulsion, starvation and genocide. Arguments tend to vary, favouring the middle of 1941 or closer to the end of 1941 as the turning point in this horrific episode. Critics might argue that Netanyahu pointed to a specific meeting as turning Hitler’s opinion toward extermination rather than expulsion. However, it appears to be incorrect to point to the existence of genocidal methodologies prior to al-Husseini’s visit, as a refutation of Netanyahu’s stance.

It is worth noting that an expulsion strategy was adopted at the time as a solution to the ‘Jewish Question’. Mass genocide was systematic in the newly NAZI-occupied areas of Eastern Europe which had an immensely destructive impact on the regional Jewish populaces but this strategy does not appear to have been envisaged as the primary solution for ending European Jewry's presence. Professor Peter Longerich, a scholar of the Holocaust, argues that it is difficult to place the exact date of transition toward a programme of pure extermination:
“In mid-1941, Hitler ordered the deportation of Jews from the Greater German ‘Reich’ to Eastern European ghettos. Ten thousand German Jews were sent to Lodz, Minsk and Riga between October 1941 and February 1942. From March 1942 they were deported to ghettos in the Lublin district. Hitler was thus putting into practice his plan, developed at the start of 1941, to deport the Jews to occupied Soviet territories. But he did not wait for his original precondition to be fulfilled — military victory over the Soviet Union’s Red Army.
In autumn 1941, the Nazi regime extended the policy of mass murder to areas outside the Soviet Union. In so doing they drew on experience gained from the defunct T4 ‘euthanasia’ programme. From this point, fixed and mobile gas chambers were to be used to murder Jews. At Chelmno, from December 1941, specially adapted buses (Gaswagen) were used for this purpose. In March 1942, Belzec extermination camp went into operation, killing Jews from Lublin and Galicia.
The exact date on which the leadership of the Nazi regime decided to convert the as-yet-unplanned intention to exterminate all European Jews into a concrete programme is not documented and is still the subject of controversy among historians. It is likely that it was not the consequence of a single decision, but of a longer process.”
A multifaceted strategy for resolving the “Jewish Question” was not novel. Konstantin Pobedonostsev, a leading Russian political figure of the late 19th Century, famously remarked on what he saw as the desired fate of the then three-million Jews living in Imperial Russia: “one-third will die, one third will leave the country, and the last third will be completely assimilated within the Russian people.”

Al-Husseini was in contact with the Third Reich since 1933, and testimony, such as that of Eichmann’s assistant, Dieter Wisliceny establishes that he had a role in encouraging a Holocaust extermination programme, rather than expulsion as a means for Hitler to be rid of the Jewish people:
"Adolf Eichmann’s deputy, , stated at his Nuremberg trial that the mufti’s importance “must not be disregarded[.] … [T]he Mufti had repeatedly suggested to … Hitler, Ribbentrop and Himmler, the extermination of European Jewry"
Andre Steiner also relayed a conversation with Wisliceny in Bratislava, June 1944:
"When acting as adviser on Jewish affairs to the Slovakian government, Wisliceny is believed to have said that “the Mufti was one of the instigators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and was a partner and adviser to Eichmann and Hitler for carrying out this plan.” (citation from the book “Israel: The Will to Prevail,” by Danny Danon, 2012).
Some prominent historians have cast doubt on the accuracy of Wisliceny’s statement however, arguing that the timelines suggest the Mufti’s meeting with Hitler came too late, although Wisliceny suggests that al-Husseini influenced other members of the Third Reich as well.

Bernard Wasserstein’s book ‘Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945’, asserts that the Third Reich precluded Jews being allowed to emigrate to British-Mandatory Palestine due to the NAZI alliance with the Mufti — in March 1941, Hitler agreed to this condition, and a few months later the Nazis ended the legal emigration of Jews from areas under German control, for which they often extorted substantial sums of money.

During 1941, leading NAZI members were advocating the deportation of Jews to the USSR, to free up space for German citizens. Hitler finally agreed to the proposal at the end of September 1941. At some point between October and December, NAZI policy would crystallise into an approach solely constituting extermination. Little wonder that some historians believe that the Mufti’s visit was a pivotal moment in the Holocaust.

The book ‘Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East’, authored by Wolfgang G. Schwanitz and Barry Rubin, points to Hitler being open to emigration as a solution to the “Jewish Question” in 1941. The book vividly illustrates (see pages 20–22) the influence that the Mufti brought to bear in helping initiate a mass extermination programme, albeit a contention that is controversial amongst other historians:
“Hitler had to decide precisely how “the very last” of the Jews were to leave Germany. As late as 1941, Hitler thought this could happen, in the words of Hermann Göring in July, by “emigration or evacuation.” Yet since other countries refused to take many or any Jewish refugees, Palestine was the only possible refuge, as designated by the League of Nations in 1922. If that last safe haven was closed, mass murder would be Hitler’s only alternative.
The importance of the Arab-Muslim alliance for Berlin, along with the grand mufti’s urging, ensured that outcome"
The question is one of intentionality. Holocaust deniers would like to believe that Hitler and the Third Reich did not possess the most murderous ambitions toward the Jewish people, and would not have preferred to murder world Jewry rather than merely expel such people. The intensity of Hitler's hatred led him to see Jews as an international threat, and believed that such a concentration in Palestine might cause further trouble, as asserted during his meeting with al Husseini. Yet the scale of murderous ambition would have an impact on the number of Jewish people ultimately killed in the Holocaust.

The issue is one of intent to destroy the entire Jewish populace in Europe, and perhaps the Middle East and elsewhere. The NAZIs murdered a large number of Jews up until 1941 but also entertained expelling them to other parts of the world. The Holocaust is often deemed to have begun in 1941 when death squads murdered Jews en masse in Eastern Europe. A report by a senior member of the Einsatzgruppen states that the death squad killed 137,346 people in Lithuania between the start of July 1941 and the end of November that same year. Thus, the Reich was using ever more lethal efforts to handle Jewish populaces.

Material evidence is somewhat contradictory. Construction in October 1941 of the Second phase of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, which would be used for mass extermination the following year, was first intended to ease the prison population, but on the other hand, the first mass killings at Auschwitz took place in September 1941, when prisoners were murdered by gas in the basement of one building.

Rudolf Hoess, the commander of Auschwitz, asserted under questioning 1946, that he was summoned to Berlin to speak to Heinrich Himmler in the summer of 1941. He claimed that Himmler told him that Hitler had given the order for the extermination of the Jewish people, and Auschwitz was chosen for that purpose.

This meeting likely came after Hermann Goering's July 31st order to the more senior figure of Reinhard Heydrich, to prepare plans “for the implementation of the aspired final solution of the Jewish question” in all German-occupied areas of Europe. Such a plan would not necessarily conflict with a plan to deport Jews to Russia, although Adolf Eichmann would later relay (presumably the same order) that Heydrich had told him the following month that "the Führer has ordered the physical extermination of the Jews." However, Gord McFee argues that Hitler was likely indecisive, given the delay in the plans. Hitler’s delayed decision to agree to the mass deportation of Jews to Russia in September suggests that he considered different options to resolve the ‘Jewish Question’.

An active policy of expulsion paralleled murderous policy. As Holocaust specialist Professor David Cesarani noted:
“The autumn of 1941 is one of the strangest and most difficult periods to get a hold of… In the Soviet Union you have got the most radical conceivable kind of ethnic cleansing which is the mass shooting of populations, particularly the Jewish population. You have the crystallization of an idea in Berlin that during the war itself the Jews are going to be removed from the sphere of influence of the Third Reich, which I think at that point means after the defeat of the Soviet Union, which is imminent, dumping them in Siberia, not actually killing them… Tens of thousands of Jews are being massacred, but people are thinking of sending Jews alive to somewhere else where they may die, but they may not.” 
A diary entry by Joseph Goebbels, of the 12th of December, affirms a substantive change in Hitler’s thought: "Führer has decided to make a clean sweep. He prophesied to the Jews that if they again brought about a world war, they would live to see their annihilation in it." This position was echoed in an article published in 1943.

The closest to an outright order for extermination is a note that Heinrich Himmler made in his appointment diary, in the aftermath of the December 18th meeting with Hitler. Himmler wrote: "Jewish Question—to be exterminated as partisans" seemingly in response to Hitler’s belief that “New York Jews” were waging war against the Third Reich, and must now collectively suffer the consequences.

While it is correct to suggest that Netanyahu exaggerated the likely role of al-Husseini in Hitler’s decision to extend the Holocaust programme’s reach, and to claim that other factors would have likely had a substantive impact on Hitler’s decision-making, especially the spread of war to the US, it nonetheless appears to be correct to assert that the Mufti had a significant influence on the Reich when it came to migration policy, including a direct complicity in the deaths of many thousands of Jewish children.

Al Husseini's influence would extend to the establishment of a Bosnian-Muslim Waffen SS division in 1943, and planning to institute a Jewish extermination programme in Palestine, which was prevented by Rommel’s defeat by the British at El Alamein, as attested in the book ‘Nazi Palestine: The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews of Palestine’, by Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers.
“Arise. O sons of Arabia, fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion. That will save our honor.” — Haj Amin al-Husseini, radio broadcast, May 1942.
Al-Husseini may not have merely encouraged an extermination programme - there is less historical debate in the fact that he collaborated in efforts to implement such policy, and systematically promoted the NAZI cause in the Arab world. Although the media has presented a white-wash of the Mufti's behaviour, perhaps this week’s argument will encourage some renewed interest in this issue, which has been all too often ignored.
“…The sole German objective in the region will be to liquidate all Jews who live in Arab countries under the patronage of Great Britain.” — Adolf Hitler to Hajj Amin al-Husseini, November 28, 1941.

Also published at Crethi Plethi

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

An Analysis of Media Narratives on Present Circumstances in Gaza

Robert Shortt, Gaza, Prime Time, May 7, 2015 (RTE Screen-grab).

Ireland’s principle broadcasting institution, RTE, ran a series of news reports by journalist Robert Shortt, which are concerned with the current troubles that the people of Gaza face, in the aftermath of ‘Operation Protective Edge’, last year’s war between Israel and several terrorist groups based in Gaza.

Shortt’s reportage echoes many of the recent accounts of the situation in Gaza found in the mainstream media. His reports form the basis of this article’s broader thematic rebuttal of current media coverage.

The most substantive report, ‘Inside Gaza’, was broadcast on ‘Prime Time’, RTE’s premium current affairs programme, on May 7th 2015 (RTE incorrectly posts the date as May 8th). The segment begins at 9:57 in RTE’s Internet Player.

An article, titled ‘RTE’s Gaza news coverage sponsored by Irish Aid’s pro-Palestinian proxy’ details possible breaches of broadcasting code in Shortt’s reports.

The report is introduced by David McCullagh, who accepted United Nations “estimates” of the civilian death toll, without mention of their true source — Hamas, which often used distorted figures for propaganda in the past.
“Last year Hamas and Israel fought a 50 day war in the Gaza strip. It was the third conflict in six years and the deadliest. The UN estimates that on the Israeli side 67 soldiers and four civilians were killed. On the Palestinian side, over 2,200 people were killed, including over 1,500 civilians, of whom 551 were children. Now many are warning that tensions are rising once again.”
Zaitoun Elementary School, 'New Crisis in Gaza', RTE News, May 9, 2015 (Screen-grab)

On the UN report: ‘attacking’ schools?

Shortt’s 11 and a half minute report highlights the suffering of children during and after the 2014 conflict. For example, he stated:
“Last July, Mara, her ten siblings, father, and mother, then heavily pregnant, fled the bombing of their home to find shelter in this UN school. Over a thousand people are still crammed into the classrooms of Zeitoun Elementary. Seven such centres were attacked by Israeli forces during the war causing 44 deaths, and 227 injuries.”
Shortt’s claim relates to the damage of seven schools studied in a UN Board of Inquiry report — its summary findings were issued on the 27th April. Shortt’s claim that Israel “attacked” seven UN schools is not credible. The report notes that one school (appertaining to ‘Incident (g)’ in the study) was not being used as a shelter, and the road outside another school (‘Incident (f)’) was struck, rather than the school itself. Moreover, the word ‘attack’ suggests an overt intentional wish to strike these UN civilian installations, which the UN report, although prejudicial in its own right, does not itself ascribe to Israeli actions.

Despite the specificity of the report, Shortt failed to properly identify the school in question. It may be an ‘United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’ (UNRWA) school in Zeitoun (also spelt Zaitoun), called the ‘Shahada Al-Manar Elementary’, a site from which Hamas was identified to have fired weaponry, or ‘Zeitoun Preparatory Girls “B” School’. The UN report blames the IDF for a stray “projectile” striking the roof of the latter school, whilst stating that “militant activity was also noted” (Point D, 35) some hours earlier in the area, and that no IDF activity can be explicitly tied to the single strike. Therefore, to describe the school as having been “attacked” is misleading.

Shortt’s subsequent news report, discussed below, appears to reference the same building visually, but a sign identifies it as “Zaitoun Elementary Boys “B” School”, which was not one of the schools featured in the UN report, albeit related to the girls school of the same name. Shortt further remarks:
“Last week the UN dismissed Israeli claims that Hamas rockets were found in schools used as shelters but it admitted rockets were found in empty schools.”
Israel did not claim rockets had been found in schools actively used as shelters. Broad Israeli claims related to the use of active school shelters by terrorist groups, to launch attacks. Such claims were latterly disputed by witness testimony in the report but the conditions of the testimony can be deemed problematic with some justification, given potential conflicts of interest with the parties collecting it. Moreover, the word ‘dismissal’ is an undue and misleading description of the UN report’s findings. The UN report looked specifically at a small number of instances, namely those that involved UNRWA property (see Point 5 of the report), rather than provide an actual overview of the conflict:
“In its report, the Board noted that it was not within its terms of reference to address the wider aspects of the conflict in Gaza, its causes or the situation affecting the civilian populations of Gaza and Israel in the period before “Operation Protective Edge” was launched. Its task was limited to considering the ten incidents identified in its terms of reference.”
Furthermore it should be noted that inactive schools were not merely acknowledged to have been used for the storage of weaponry. Two of the three referenced sites were also used to fire against the IDF. Shortt’s report focuses on the area of Jabalia. The UN report notes an interesting event in relation to one of the area's local schools: it “was highly likely that an unidentified Palestinian armed group could have used the school premises to launch attacks on or around 14 July” (point 70) but Shortt does not appear to deem it necessary to mention such mitigating circumstance.

Shortt makes similarly misleading claims in an article on RTE’s site, which comes across as an apologia for the use of schools:
“Israel claims Hamas used school shelters to store rockets. But a report last week from the UN found the schools where rockets were located were empty and not the shelters where hundreds gathered only to come under attack once more.”
The UN report noted that the three schools in question were at summer recess so it is possible they could have been used if the war began at a slightly earlier date. They are designated civilian structures, so it is still a highly problematic matter to use them in war. Shortt et al. wish to dismiss the import of such unprecedented findings but they represent just a surface glimpse of long-established behaviour, e.g. from 2009:
‘United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Chief John Holmes told the UN Security Council, “The reckless and cynical use of civilian installations by Hamas and indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian populations are clear violations of international humanitarian law.”’
The UN report’s findings add further credence to the long-expressed view that terror groups use human shields in civilian areas. The report only addressed three structures. An increasing number of international journalists have acknowledged that Hamas use human shields, while Ghazi Hamad, a representative of Hamas, grudgingly admitted they fired from civilian areas during the war, while civilians would have been resident.

It is time for the likes of Shortt, et al, to stop making excuses, whilst subtly inferring that Israel targets civilians intentionally, as per his claim (quoted above) that civilians were twice attacked by Israel.

Gaza’s embargo

The report mentions the failure of promised donations to materialise, but fundamentally blames the present problems on the blockade, with Siobhan Powell, of (UNRWA) echoing the notion. Shortt says:
“Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after a violent split between Palestinians in 2007. Hamas has ruled Gaza since.”
It is not wholly accurate to describe Israel’s action as a ‘blockade’, other than with respect to its maritime activity, which cut off access to the sea beyond a six nautical mile zone, due to efforts to smuggle weaponry into Gaza. A blockade tends to be defined as “The isolation of a nation, area, city, or harbor by hostile ships or forces in order to prevent the entrance and exit of traffic and commerce.” UNRWA however notes that “Israel allows most goods into the Gaza Strip except for items it defines as “dual-use” materials which could have a military purpose.”

Israel allows some Gazan produce to be exported internationally, through its borders, and has assisted farmers in recent years with a variety of projects. Export levels remain small but have shown signs of increasing in the aftermath of the 2014 war, a situation that looks set to continue by addressing security issues.

Israel’s actions over land would be more correctly defined as a partial type of ‘embargo’, a forceful diplomatic measure adopted by some nations to limit its interaction with a given territory. Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed the Agreement on Movement & Access, allowing for free access of people and goods into Israel. However, after the 2006 elections, Hamas refused to recognise Israel’s right to exist or to curtail its violence, which led to the EU and the Quartet suspending assistance arrangements in Gaza. Hamas would then enter into a state of revolt by violently throwing off the legal structures of the Palestinian Authority in 2007, the interim arrangement toward forging of a new Arab state, with it concomitant security arrangements.

With Hamas instigating further belligerent acts, a maritime blockade was formally announced in June 2008
“In accordance with the agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, entry by foreign vessels to this zone is prohibited. Israeli Notice 6/2008”
The embargo and naval blockade grew out of a worsening scenario with a belligerent seizing absolute control in a coup. As such it was and continues to be a justified measure, as the Palmer Report accepts.

Shortt on steel and cement

The limited reconstruction of Gaza should be blamed on Hamas and the international community for not ensuring that construction materials are utilised for their intended purpose. Shortt thinks differently:
“Rebuilding after a war is a huge task. Rebuilding after three wars in six years is a monumental task. Add to that a blockade and a temporary cease-fire, and it’s leading to frustration and a simmering sense of anger, which is stretching hope of return to any sort of a normal life here in Gaza to its limits.”
The destruction to some neighbourhoods nearer the Gaza border with Israel is considerable. The zones of conflict were limited however, so it is somewhat misleading to present all of Gaza as being in a near-complete state of destruction, and to present the entire enclave as being in need of reconstruction thrice-over, when there were substantive efforts to rebuild previously. In 2010 Israel significantly eased the embargo, allowing Gaza’s infrastructure to be improved, yielding results that were at times unexpected, given common perceptions of quality of life in the Strip. In 2013 Israel further eased restrictions on construction materials, until these materials were repeatedly found to have been exploited by Hamas for building terror-tunnels into Israel itself.

Shortt then presents, as an unsubstantiated claim, the notion that Hamas is using building materials to construct new tunnels to conduct assaults, when it is in fact rather more than just a mere accusation:
“Israel accuses it [Hamas] of continuing to use cement and steel to rebuild tunnels to launch attacks into its territory.”
The programme segment then leads to an apologia from a representative of Hamas. Dr. Hamad Ghazy, Hamas’ Deputy Foreign Minister, who, after indirectly justifying such acts as a defence, stated:
“We want to take precautions to prevent any possible aggression against our people, but ah we gave promises that all the building materials that come to Gaza go to people who need it. Hamas will not interfere.”
Despite the contradictory message, purposefully aimed at Western audiences, Hamas’ leaders have loudly pledged Hamas’ wish to build new tunnels, and rearm. Recent reports attest to an unpleasant reality that Hamas is intensifying its tunnel-building efforts, with the use of greater mechanisation.

Dual-use cement imports had been curtailed, due to its military usage. However, tens of thousands of tons of other building materials had been transported into the Gaza Strip since the end of the 2014 war, and Israel has in another respect liberalised the import of cement. UNRWA itself notes:
“Construction materials defined as dual-use are only permitted to enter for approved projects by international organizations and, since mid-October 2014, under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), an agreement between the governments of Israel and Palestine, for private sector use. The GRM, to which UNRWA is not a party, allows for private sector imports, and hence for shelter self-help for large scale reconstruction which was not possible prior to the establishment of the GRM”
The Jewish State had restricted the import of cement due to Hamas’ efforts to obtain such materials, often via the black market, but has since lifted its restrictions.

In another news report, entitled ‘New Crisis in Gaza’, broadcast on the RTE’s 6.1 (6 o’clock) and 9 PM news programmes, and otherwise repeated cyclically on the broadcaster’s ‘News Now’ channel, Robert Shortt states:
“In Gaza they call concrete ‘grey gold’. Building materials are in such short supply that people are literally taking sledge hammers to the remnants of buildings here, to extract the steel rods and break down the concrete rubble, in order to use it again.”
Similarly, Shortt wrote:
“The dull thud of sledgehammers can be heard as people break up collapsed concrete floors. Donkeys pull carts piled with twisted steel rods literally torn from the wreckage. Such is the shortage of building materials, Gazans are recycling everything they can use.”

Cement factory representative, 'New Crisis in Gaza', RTE News, May 9, 2015 (Screen-grab)

Shortt presents this story as if individual Arab-Palestinians are remoulding rubble with their bare hands. However, there is in fact an established localised industry recycling steel bars and concrete. Shortt indeed does mention a “concrete factory was destroyed during the war and rebuilt at a cost of four million Euro” but does not tie the point to the recycling of concrete.

To quote one pro-Palestinian source critical of Israel:
“Abu Ali Daloul is one of the main traders of recycled iron bars in Gaza. He bought tons of the iron bars removed from the rubble of the recent war. He fixes the bars and prepares them to be used again for construction purposes.

The concrete rubble are transported to stone breaking workshops in order to be turned into pebbles for use on road paving projects. Abu Lebda is a stone breading [sic] workshop which recycles concrete rubble and provides brick manufacturers with pebbles to make bricks with

Malaka concrete bricks factory brings the pebbles from Abu Lebda’s stone breaking workshop and puts the amounts in its stores hoping the cement to pass through the crossings to be able to produce bricks suffecient to rebuild Gaza.”
Moreover, the recycling of steel and concrete building materials has become commonplace the world over, for environmental reasons. Shortt, however, would sooner have the viewer believe that this is a remarkable, near-unprecedented phenomenon!

An anti-Israel NGO, called Gisha, reported in January that quite substantive amounts of concrete had entered Gaza since the end of Operation Protective Edge, but very little has been used to rebuild Gazan homes, despite the fact that Gaza’s residents are entitled to free building materials if their homes are damaged. The materials were in fact sold to Hamas, and requisitioned by Hamas.

Dr. Mona el-Farra

In the Prime Time report, Shortt proceeds to discuss the more personal effects of the embargo upon Dr. Mona el-Farra, a leading member of a highly partisan NGO called the ‘Middle East Children’s Alliance’ (MECA):
“But the blockade goes deeper. Gazans cannot travel freely across their borders. Dr. Mona el-Farra was prevented from travelling to Ireland in March to speak at a conference.”
The conference in question was organised by SIPTU in Dublin. SIPTU, Ireland’s largest trade union, has long pushed for a strong anti-Israel agenda, and supports a boycott. Some made a fuss of her non-attendance at the time. Sinn Féin-IRA leader, Gerry Adams, took up el-Farra’s cause with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, but the conference, far from advocating a fair just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, actually promoted a boycott of Israel, and a one-state solution, which would destroy the self-determination of the Jewish People, in a region that is otherwise Judenrein.

Therefore, it was no surprise that el-Farra proceeded to blame Israel for not letting her travel through its borders. She suggested it was because her voice is ‘loud’. However, neither she nor the programme makers noted that both Egypt and Israel denied her passage from Gaza, nor that both states have a right to control their borders, particularly when belligerent groups lie in wait beyond these barriers!

It should be noted that the Palestinian Authority constitutes the body responsible for the issuance of Gaza’s passports, as established in the Interim agreement with Israel. It is left unsaid in Shortt’s report, but Hamas has accused its Fatah/PLO rivals of frustrating the efforts of academics and campaigners to travel from the Gaza Strip, since 2008.

For the children?

Notably, Robert Shortt’s reports focused to a significant extent on the welfare of children. He states:
“Its against this backdrop of continuing violence and confrontational politics that children like Mara attempt to grow up.”

Like many Gazan children, she has seen the horrors of war. Psychological support has helped her re-adjust.”
Similarly, to quote a promotional webpage:
“Dr El Farra was prevented from travelling to Ireland in March to speak at a conference on Gaza. Her main concern is the impact of the conflict on the children of Gaza.”
Dr. el-Farra comments further on the predicament of Gaza’s children, who suffer the effects of war:
“The direct impact is the children don’t sleep well at night, having nightmares. Different sorts of phobias. Some of them lost speech. Some of them are afraid of dark nights or back to bedwetting again.

Some cannot focus at school. They became very irritable and they cannot focus at school. And this of course has another effect which is social problems. Have restless children, quarrelous, aggressive children.

There’s no life at the moment in Gaza. You are coming as visitor but I live here, and I go everyday to the refugee camp areas, and I can see the frustration on peoples faces and souls and minds.

My concern is the youth. They will start looking for radical solutions, getting involved with more radical Islamist groups like ISIS”
In this context, Israel’s influence on Gaza, through embargo and war, is blamed for these disturbing behavioural traits. Oddly however, neither el-Farra, or the programme makers, mentioned the extent to which Hamas radicalises Gaza’s children, with thousands of youngsters going to training camps. Even some Gaza-based anti-Israel NGOs are objecting to Hamas’ use of children in this way:
“local human rights groups are accusing Hamas of exploiting children for political purposes.

“We are not disputing the right of an occupied people to resist, but it must be done by adults, not children,” one human rights activist told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The camps are making young people aggressive instead of educating them and teaching them to abide by the law,” the activist said.”
Thus, problematic unsocial behaviour in children can equally be attributed to radicalisation. Hamas and other Arab-Palestinian factions have engaged in such behaviour, which is illegal under international law. The issue is far from recent, e.g. with the use of children in the First Arab Revolt of 1936.

Despite el-Farra’s/MECA’s professed wish to see the welfare of Arab-Palestinian children improve, the vocal defence of terrorism, and use of children for emotive conflict propaganda, may explain why they turn a blind eye to the abuse of children on their very doorstep, an abuse that even has expression in Gaza’s media. “Every Muslim mother must nurse her children on hatred of the sons of Zion” is one of Hamas’ many statements on the desired outcome of parenting.

Schools have long been a source of radicalisation in the Arab-Palestinian territories. Even children attending UNRWA’s own putatively civilian schools can experience the force of radicalisation. The headmaster of Zeitoun Elementary Boys school openly celebrates genocide and massacre. Shortt visited the school but seemingly such behaviour didn’t deserve mention!

El-Farra frets about the possibility of Islamic State becoming popular in Gaza. While the Western media presents ISIS in justifiably strong terms, due to its extraordinary bloodlust, Hamas’ speech is notably more extreme with respect to its advocacy of the genocide of all Jews, leading to the distinct possibility that the Sunni group’s bloodlust is only impeded by arguably the most sophisticated counter-terror force in the world.

Does responsibility lie with Arab-Palestinian rule?

Shortt’s coverage suggests Israel treats Gazans worse today than say a year ago. Arguably the opposite is the case. Shortt failed to report on various developments. For example, Israel facilitates the mass transit of construction materials into Gaza. Israel is doubling the water delivery to Gaza, after a crisis due to illegal drilling in the Strip’s coastal aquifer. Israel is also helping to increase the supply of electricity in the region, and may have indirectly engaged in discussions with Hamas, to construct a pipeline going from the Jewish State to Gaza to reinforce the electricity supply.

It is of course stating the obvious to say there are very limited opportunities for the people of Gaza, and that many are likely to feel a deep sense of despair. However, although conditions are extremely challenging after the damage caused by war, further Israeli initiatives, for business and reconstruction, were initiated during the latter months of 2014.

Shortt focuses on Israel’s blameworthiness for the present circumstances blighting the Gaza Strip, but what of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority themselves? The viewer only hears mention of “dysfunctional Palestinian politics”. Perhaps he hints at a topic that goes beyond Hamas’ rejectionist stances. He may refer to factionalism and corruption but viewers are not advised even though it relates strongly to the topic at hand. Is blameworthiness attributable to non-Jews of less interest to the viewer?

It is acknowledged that political factionalism has played abidingly negative role on conditions in Gaza from the very outset.

Other than previously mentioned issues, such as the dispute over passport issuance, there have been continued disagreements between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over the payment of trans-state energy bills, which has resulted in power cuts of up to 18 hours per day. Such a measure would have a profoundly destructive impact on any economy. Likewise, the PA is believed to be intentionally slowing the payment of wages to State employees in Gaza, which constitute a substantive source of revenue to the localised economy. Lack of pay for many months has led to protests. There have been reports that Hamas is imposing another tax on imports, the monies from stressed private sectors will go into the pockets of long-unpaid members of Hamas.

Hamas have claimed that the Palestinian Authority demanded control of 50% of the monies pledged by international donors, to aid reconstruction in Gaza, whilst also stating that they rebuffed an Israeli offer to lift the embargo, and open up Gaza’s territory for shipping and air travel, in return for a long term truce. Both Fatah/PA and Hamas have of course their own agendas in attempting to commandeer billions of dollars in promised international aid.

Shortt on facts?

As we have seen, Shortt’s capacity to place blame on Israel was achieved due to significant omissions of basic fact inconvenient to his narrative. Shortt closed his Prime Time report with these troubling sentiments:
“Gaza is hemmed in by the sea and Israel. Its people are caught between dysfunctional Palestinian politics and the constant threat of war. The tide of violence breaks regularly here. Summer is coming. People fear what it may bring.”
Tellingly, Shortt made no mention of the fact that Israel’s embargo and maritime blockade is made in partnership with Egypt. This is a normative approach for the media, which largely ignores Egypt’s crucial role. Egypt has long appreciated the threat that Hamas poses to its security, as a military faction of the long proscribed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Whilst the Arab nation did temporarily allow access through its borders, Egypt’s policy had broadly been harsher than that of Israel, giving little assistance at all.

Be that as it may, conditions for the people of Gaza are harsh. Siobhan Powell of UNRWA stated:
“There are no jobs so people can’t provide food for their families. It’s why we have such a dependency on assistance.”
Such a claim is an exaggeration, with the employment rate of Gaza largely remaining at 55% in recent years. Beyond the hyperbole, it is one of the highest rates in the world. The international community, including UNRWA, et al, blame Israel for such circumstance. And yet, in Israel’s defence, it does foster assistance programmes, continues to provide water and electricity (sometimes at its own peril), and supplies the assistance that keeps Gaza fed, the fuel to provide comfort and transport, and the materials to at least tentatively rebuild.

Shortt’s closing statement illustrates the problem with these normative media narratives — they flatly refuse to place any meaningful blame at Hamas’ door. Any sensible evaluation would surely conclude that when Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas, via the electorate’s assistance, took the opportunity to perpetuate conflict. Israel had to act to cut off a lethal belligerent operating freely on one of its borders.

The international community decry the wars with Hamas, and they decry the suffering of the populace. A highly vocal number claim that Israel should release Gaza from its embargo, and somehow peace will be found! All such a strategy will do is give Hamas carte blanche to wage a greater scale of war. As a result, Gaza’s civilians and the Israeli populace near Gaza’s border, will suffer all the more. There is no option for peace, other than Gaza being rid of Hamas, but the common ideological blind spot, which Shortt appears to suffer from, has to blame Israel for not only for its own legitimate defensible actions, but for the pain Hamas visits on the populace that voted it in on a mandate of continued strife.
“We shall not rest until our entire holy land is liberated … To the Zionists we promise that tomorrow all of Palestine will become hell for you” (Memri)

Also published at Crethi Plethi.