Murdoch apologizes for anti-Israel cartoon, artist apologizes for timing

January 29, 2013 • 11:58 am

We had some some, er, “lively” discussion the other day about a cartoon by Gerald Scarfe in the Sunday Times showing Benjamin Netanyahu cementing a bunch of screaming, bloody Palestinians into a wall. The cartoon was published on Holocaust Memorial Day, and here it is:


According to a report on the BBC News today, editor Rupert Murdoch has apologized and so, in a way, has the artist:

The Jewish Chronicle said that in a message denying it permission to reprint the cartoon, Scarfe said he “very much regrets” the timing of the cartoon.

He had apparently been unaware that Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mr Murdoch wrote in a tweet: “Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”

(BTW, I am no fan of Rupert Murdoch.)

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the cartoon was “shockingly reminiscent of the blood libel imagery more usually found in parts of the virulently anti-Semitic Arab press”.

The term “blood libel” refers to myths dating back to the Middle Ages that Jews murdered children to use their blood during religious rituals.

. . . In a statement, the Sunday Times said the cartoon was aimed at Mr Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel or Jewish people.

But Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said it had “caused immense pain to the Jewish community in the UK and around the world”.

“Whatever the intention, the danger of such images is that they reinforce a great slander of our time: that Jews, victims of the Holocaust, are now perpetrators of a similar crime against the Palestinians,” he said in a statement.

The news report details other Jewish criticism of the cartoon, but also a statement by an Israeli journalist that, while the cartoon was offensive, it wasn’t antisemitic.

Well, I thought the cartoon was in poor taste, and catered to—if it was not inspired by—antisemitic feelings, but I didn’t feel “immense pain”.  I felt the need to combat the cartoon with speech.

I am a bit worried, though, that the Jewish community may become too easily offended at legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy. I have some of those criticisms myself, but don’t think this cartoon expresses any of them.  Criticism of Israel is not automatically criticism of the Jews, though one has to be careful about crossing that line—which this cartoon did. And its publication on Holocaust Memorial Day was insensitive.

But I don’t think people are aware at the extent of antisemitism out there, especially those who aren’t Jewish. Although I’m not at all religious, I have been sensitized to the issue by having myself been called antisemitic names in my youth, including “dirty Jew” and “Yid.”  Jewish cemeteries are still vandalized, and antisemitic slogans spray-painted on synagogues. When I was in Lisbon a few months ago, I saw one Holocaust memorial defiled in this way. I have heard too many academics, discussing the question, refer to me, Jerry, as “you people.” Now what does that mean?

As one commenter pointed out, it’s a bit offensive to tell Jewish people how they should or should not feel in such a case l if you’re not one of them.

But this brings up the Danish cartoons making fun of Mohamed.  Was I—were we—telling Muslims that they shouldn’t be offended when they were published? I don’t think so.  What speech there was in favor of publishing those cartoons (and many venues didn’t say anything out of cowardice) made the point that it’s ridiculous to adhere to a religious dogma that Mohamed should not be depicted in a picture. That’s not the same thing as saying that Jews shouldn’t be offended by pictures accusing them of blood libel, of taking over the media, and so on. (Such cartoons, as I hope we all know, are daily fare in Islamic countries.) I was in favor of publishing the Danish cartoons, but also strongly opposed to that stupid anti-Islamic film “Innocence of Muslims,” which attacked not religious belief, or the behavior it inspires, but Muslims themselves.

At any rate, do note the different reactions of the two faith communities. Did Jews go on murderous rampages after the cartoon was published, killing British citizens, storming their embassies, and threatening the life of Scarfe? No: they filed formal protests. That’s the civilized way to do it. No fatwas, bounties on Scarfe’s head, and so on. Defamatory speech is met with counter-speech. I doubt that Scarfe has gone into hiding, or has armed guards protecting him.

And Scarfe’s cartoon has been reproduced widely, unlike the behavior of the many cowardly publishers (including Yale University Press) who refused to reprint the cartoons of Mohamed.  That’s because publishers fear violent reprisals from Muslims but not from Jews.  Once again, a real difference in the behavior of the two religious communities is ignored, and Islam given a pass. Why are Israelis held to higher standards than Palestinians?

I don’t think we should rehash the whole issue in the comments, but I can’t prevent that. What I’d prefer is a discussion contrasting the Danish cartoons with Scarfe’s.

113 thoughts on “Murdoch apologizes for anti-Israel cartoon, artist apologizes for timing

  1. On the question of the Scarfe cartoon versus the Danish cartoons. Three issues to consider: intent; hurt/offence caused; reaction.

    Intent: the publishers of the Danish cartoons were (I believe) fully aware that they would be offensive to Muslims – their intent was to demonstrate freedom of expression. The Sunday Times, by its own admission, made a mistake. It didn’t intend the cartoon to cause so much offence, and Gerald Scarfe has made clear that his only target was political.

    Hurt/offence: in both cases a lot of people felt severely hurt and offended, in one case because of a slur on deeply-help personal beliefs and in the other because of sensitivity to slurs on deeply-felt racial identity.

    Reaction: threats of violence in the case of the Danish cartoons versus civilised protest in the case of the Sunday Times. No contest.

    Overall – not much in it.

    1. The Danish cartoons did not only produce “Threats of violence” Chief Constables were jumping up and down with rage. We all saw it on TV.

    1. Very offensive of Huckabee to use his Auschwitz trip to coopt the suffering of the Jewish people in the holocaust as being like the situation Christians face in America today.

      I’m thoroughly disgusted that he would compare the US government to the Nazis like that, and to use this kind of emotional manipulation to whip up fear and hatred in his audience. Since Huckabee has decided to use comparisons between Hitler’s Germany and the US government, I’ll venture to say that Huckabee’s rhetorical technique, in it’s shameful attempt to mobilize the audience with a false sense of grievance and persecution, is more Hitlerian in nature than anything the US government is engaged in.

      What on earth is the relevance of this posting to the topic at hand?

      Abortion is not a holocaust.

  2. I recommend watching “Defamation”, the wonderful Yoav Shamir documentary. I grew up in Israel with “The whole world is against us” as a given, and this film was an eye opener.

  3. I would argue that the Scarfe cartoon isn’t antisemitic or inspired by true antisemitic feelings as Jerry suggests. With the cartoon’s artwork as it is, the cartoon seems more meant to criticize a towering and bullying opposition leader than to be really antisemitic. One notices that there aren’t cackling cabals of jews depicted or conspiratorial-themed nonsense which characterizes true antisemitism. The blood imagery is pretty unfortunate, however.

    As for the Danish cartoons, (2) is pretty much spot on.

  4. I’m not sure what’s wrong with the cartoon. As former supporter of Israel in the 1970s and 1980s it’s become clear over-time that Israel has really lost its way.

    And it’s not that recent. Like it or not, Israel was the best and last ally of apartheid South Africa. Even helped them in their efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

    And while they don’t have as strong a de jure apartheid policy as SA did, they do have some elements of that as well as a de facto policy. And it’s culturally ingrained now.

    October 2012 Yisraela Goldblum Fund poll

    (1) A 59% majority of the Jewish public wants preference for Jews over Arabs in government ministries.

    (2) 49%, almost half, desire better treatment by the state for its Jewish, as oppposed to, its Arab citizens

    (3) 42% preferred not to live in the same building with Arabs.

    (4) 42% preferred not to have their children share school classes with Arab children

    (5) ‘A third of the Jewish public wants a law that would block Israeli Arabs from voting for the Knesset (the Israeli parliament).

    (6) 69% objects, in the event Israel were to annex the West Bank, to giving Palestinians (2.5 million ), to allowing them a right to vote.

    (7) 74% favours a separate road system on the West Bank for Israelis and Palestinians.

    (8) 24% regard separate roads as “a good situation” and 50% consider them “a necessary situation.”

    (9) 47% percent want part of Israel’s Arab population transferred to the Palestinian National Authority.

    (10)36% support the transference of some Israeli Arab villages to the PA, in exchange for keeping some of the West Bank settlements.

    (11) 58% believes Israel practices apartheid against Arabs, though the Palestinian territories|the territories have yet to be annexed.

    (12) 31% think this kind of system is not in force in Israel-

    (13) 38% of the Jewish public wants, and 48% object to, the annexation of such territories with settlements on them.

    Analysing the results in terms of confessional groups, Levy gave the following confessional breakdown of the poll results:-

    Ultra Orthodox Israelis:-

    (14) 70% of the ultra-Orthodox support legally barring Israeli Arabs from voting.

    (15) 82% percent support preferential treatment by the state for Jews.

    (16) 95% favour workplace discrimination against Arabs.

    Religious Israelis:-

    (17) Are, after the ultra-orthodox, the second most anti-Arab group.

    Secular Israelis:-

    (18) 68% of secular Israelis would not object to Arab neighbours, 73% percent would not object to Arab students in their children’s classes. 50% think there should be no discrimination against Arabs in admissions to a workplace.

    Russian immigrants are less radical, and closer to secular Israelis in outlook.

    So, yeah, a political satire of a very important perspective on what is happening.

    1. Again, the expectation for much higher sandards from Israel than for any other country in the world.
      I bet a fortune that if a similar pool would be done in France or in any other European country focusing on one or other minority (black, jews, moslems) you will get similar results.
      Mind you that these countries are not at war with any of these minorities or with a country that supports them.
      (Jewish) Israel has been at war with the arabs for almost a century, with much blood spilled on both sides. Given this context, Israel behaves quite well, especially when you compare it to its neighbor arab countries, which have kicked out all of their Jewish fellows that have lived there for centuries and have become virtually Judenfrei. Only the nazis achieve achieve so much success.

  5. As to a double standard–who would you rather not offend? A group of school teachers or a gang of crazies with guns?

  6. I truly wonder how so many liberal western intellectuals continue to hold Jews to such an exceptionally high standard of expected behaviour that they neither apply to Palestinian people nor certainly would not apply to themselves, had they suffered from such an appalling history. Imagine that YOUR ethnic or faith group had suffered centuries of hatred, persecution and demonisation. – and that no matter how desperately you sought over time to receive any equitable or humane treatment from the supposed enlightened Western society into which you tried to assimilate, there was, and actually still is, a strong residue of that hatred and prejudice. Then just imagine that even within living history such a supposedly civilised Western society, your people were sought out and brutally exterminated – to the extent that less than 30% remained alive in greater Europe. Imagine this happening to the British or the American people, or to Methodists or to Catholics. Wouldn’t many of your people come to the stark conclusion that there never can be safety within such a society and that you must seek at all costs to have your own land where you at least have a chance to defend yourself?
    Wouldn’t you expect that people who have been so traumatised, so endlessly, to become terrorists themselves – seeking out some terrible retribution for what has been done to them. But no, this is not how Jews have behaved. They hold to those standards of Western civilization that was denied to them. They have, and continue to contribute in every sphere of advancing Western civilisation. Yet when they are pushed to the wall, say when they can no longer tolerate living in conditions where rockets are continuously launched into their homes and they strike out … THEY are the ones you characterize as barbaric.
    Anyone who has a Jewish background looking at the Sunday Times cartoon knows EXACTLY what it is being said about them. It is exactly that same old hatred, exactly that same old double standard. How DARE anyone say that they are being oversensitive?

    1. Because, if we’re choosing not to change the subject away from the cartoon, the cartoon doesn’t exhibit any of the classical pathological signs of legitimate anti-Semitism. The cartoon lacks a paranoid, garbag theme about secret cabals of Jews controlling the media, or the financial markets, or the universities, or the United States government, or poisoning the wells. The one feature that distinguishes true anti-Semitism from other stripes of bigotry is this paranoid delusion about secret Jewish control. You cheapen condemnation of the real thing when you respond the way that you have.

      1. Well I suppose it’s just too difficult to get all of those things that you require in your definition of “legitimate” anti-semitism into just one cartoon. Even the Nazi’s couldn’t manage that.
        The very lame excuse that the Times itself used was that it wasn’t anti-semitism ( in spite of imagery of blood sacrifice and the standard physical Jewish cartoon feature characterisation), but that the cartoon content was targeted only at Netanyahu, and not the Jewish people. Of course they deliberately avoid the exact context and timing of the cartoon itself – the obvious connection that Netanyahu had just been made the democratically elected leader of Isreal, and that obviously it was the Jews that did that, and are therefore culpable parties to the slur. You remember, Democracy – that thing that Jews somehow somehow seem to cling to, to express themselves.

        1. By the way, why exactly do you think Murdoch ever bothered to apologise for the cartoon -exactly classifying it as a “grotesque, offensive cartoon”?
          Or perhaps Murdoch is only in the thrall of the “secret cabals of Jews controlling the media, or the financial markets” that you define as being necessary to establish the reality of “legitimate” anti-semitism?

        2. What a pity S, that you weren’t around to help out that poor old Rep. Todd Akin when he was trying to clarify the specific differences between what he claimed was “legitimate rape” and what other people tended to think was rape really was.

          1. If you’re rambling, subject-changing responses didn’t show how weak your point was, then mentioning the nazis and breaking Godwin’s law certainly did. There is no type of bigotry more depraved than antisemitism, and this cartoon, though in bad taste, was not antisemitic.

    2. Perhaps the Israel bashers should consider what the situation would be for the Palestinians if the Assad family was in charge in Israel. They they would really have something to whine about.

      1. Perhaps it would be better for the one-eyed Israel boosters not to insist on limiting comparisons of national behaviour to fascist and xenophobic regimes. Can you aim higher please?

          1. Of course not; use of the adjective implies a restricted subset, and while I deliberately didn’t specify individuals, I didn’t think Ceiling Cat was one of them (though indeed you did pair the Scarfe cartoon with a rabid Hamas video, admitting to having ‘reservations’ about the Wall and settlements is a lot more nuanced than the commenters I had in mind).

            I mentioned ‘asymmetry’ in an earlier comment: there is no Palestinian state to hold to any standard of behaviour, and I don’t hang out on any bwebsites run by culturally-Palestinian atheist evolutionary biologists either. But when I hear behaviour being excused as ‘better than Hitler, anyway’ (or its equivalent), pardon me if I spit.

  7. While I understand and sympathize with Your concerns, a few things should not be forgotten. Take for instance the guy in the cartoon and look at what he said on the same Holocaust memorial day:

    It is difficult to look at this and not be disgusted by this comment. Whatever Iran’s intentions or capabilities saying that they are preparing for a new Holocaust is absurd and belittles the memory of those who died. If messages like that were proffered by others it would be considered anti-Semitic. Israeli politicians have played the “Holocaust Card” dishonestly too often. And in this context this particular cartoon is relevant and not insensitive.

    In the past few months, several unarmed Palestinian children have been murdered because they approached the wall that on their land! Not only that, but the wall divided several Palestinian communities and basically cutoff some Palestinian peasants from their land, removing their means of maintaining themselves. The wall has also spurred several peaceful resistance movements that have been received with the typical brutality and murders we have come to expect from Israel. And deafening silence from western media on these groups is appalling. Perhaps these protests make it difficult to demonize Arabs and Muslims (search for Billin for more info).

    To sum it up, the cartoon is actually accurate.

    1. Ah, the Palestinians, the poor babies. Perhaps they would prefer Syria, where some 800 in a refugee camp were shot down by Assad’s assassins. According to the UN, some 140,000 Palestinians have now fled Syria and are living in miserable conditions in makeshift refugee camps, mostly in Lebanon and Jordan. This is in addition to some 700,000 Syrian refugees.

      As Yitzak Shamir once said, he who lives in a tough neighborhood must be a tough guy and we live in a tough neighborhood.

      1. As usual totally relevant to the discussion. I surrender to your logic, facts and writing skills.

        But is nice to see you quote a known terrorist.
        But hey, it is a tough neighborhood.

          1. Do you want to prove that there are bad Arabs around? Everyone knows that, but again, I fail to see the relevance in the comment.

        1. By the way, relative to Yitzak Shamir, during the Madrid Conference of 1991, the Syrian Foreign Minster (now vice-president), Farouk al-Sharaa, displayed a British wanted poster for Shamir from the 1940s in Egypt. Of course, Mr. Sharaa conveniently failed to point out that a couple of future Egyptian Presidents, Nasser and Sadat were also wanted by the British authorities, so Shamir was in pretty good company.

  8. This may shock you (or not), but I have next to no history on this. When I read Wikipedia, I see from my outsider view that more palestinians dies of violence than the rest of the israelis.

    So I would think that you could symbolize that with blood. In fact, it would be wrong not to.

    As for the other symbols, I punt.

    1. Of course, the Swedish Government in 1940 allowed German troops to march through Sweden to attack Norway, a stab in the back if there ever was one. Sweden should be the last country to criticize others.

      1. What we have here is not the country Sweden making a criticism.

        It is an individual freely voicing his opinion.

        Your tactics here, guilt by association, deflection from the issue at hand to some unrelated historical event, and evoking Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis (Dolchstoss), are all typical of the kinds of propaganda used repeatedly to shield Israel from criticism for its violent military repression and punishment of millions of innocent people because of the crimes of a few.

        1. Mr. Larsson, is a Swedish citizen has a perfect right to criticize Israel or any other country. I was merely pointing out that his country is also subject to criticism. Don’t believe it, just ask someone from Norway.

          1. And your point in doing that was… what, exactly? He never stated that his country wasn’t open to criticism. So what was your purpose in doing so, other than to somehow downplay the critique he was making against Israel?

          2. Every country can be criticized, and I was not trying to defend what Sweden did in WWII.

            But your points were entirely irrelevent to the discussion.

            The United States, my country, engaged in slaughter of the Indians and stole their lands, and brought slaves from Africa and cruely tortured and abused the for a few hundred years before “freeing” them into a system of legally backed violence and discrimination for another hundred years before they began to have real opportunities for freedom and legally protected rights.

            It would be a logical fallacy to imply that means I can’t offer valid opinions about current events in the world today.

            Your point was an irrelevent fallacy.

        2. I just wish Jeff, that I could claim to demonstrate that high moral purity and perfect ethical insight that you seem to be able to demonstrate when pontificating on what is happening in the Arab/Israeli conflict. The fact that your description of the situation bears only a slight resemblance to reality is perhaps a nuisance to you? But how very good it must feel to operate on such a high moral plane. Somehow I cannot reach such an elevated position myself, having my ethical standards poisoned somewhat by seeing major sections of my family tree exterminated by exactly the same sort of hatreds as exhibited by those who seek a similar fate for fellow Jews in Israel. I’m sure that if your family had suffered a similar fate you would be far more sanguine about it, and never use such an experience as “propaganda” as you put it, or ever to have that past experience frame some of your reactions to present circumstances. And you would see the actions of a “few” (as you put it) entire movements such as Hamas or even entire nation states such as Iran force you to take any actions that might be seen as “militarily repressive” by a liberal intelligentsia to thwart such threats. You would therefore never get irritated when fellow intellectuals get on their high horse to pontificate about how you should behave when they have absolutely no comprehension whatsoever of what it is like to have experienced such hatreds and such persecutions. You would be ethically untouchable…… and dead of course.

          1. Its a terrible problem if Jews can’t distinguish between what happened in Germany and what is happening today in Israel.

            Jews have exponentially greater amounts of power and control today. That’s a fundamental difference that shouldn’t be factored out of the discussion.

            I’m sorry about your family, and if my family had suffered that fate it could be true that I couldn’t avoid irrational emotionally clouded views.

            1. Yes,

              Jeff’s last sentence hit the nail on the head. Without a doubt we are hearing views here that are emotionally clouded and irrational. The Jews and the Arabs seem to celebrate past insults and are sure to pass the xenophobia and hatred on to their kids. Rightly or wrongly those identifying as Jews have developed a permanent chip on their shoulder and a sense of righteousness that is perennial and seems to justify anything. This is something to be feared in a theocracy armed with nuclear weapons.

  9. No doubt many Germans believed all the “facts”: Jews caused WW I and the defeat of Germany, Jews were rich and powerful and caused the world depression, Jews were poor and spread diseases, Jews were Communists, Jews killed Jesus Christ. I suspect that quite a lot of them even believed that Jews killed Christian children for matzos (in my country some people still believe all of the above). Cartoons in Der Sturmer reinforced all those beliefs. Today Israel is a Jew among nations. Any slander is readily believed, the more so when quite a lot of it is disseminated by Jews and most of all, by Haaretz. Just one example: a few weeks ago the Haaretz English version informed its readers who were eager to believe the worst about Israel that the IDF killed a teenage boy. However, the Hebrew version gave the real facts: a man in his twenties broke into a home where a mother and her four children slept. He wounded the mother with a knife but this woman, trained in martial arts, managed to lock him in the bathroom and call for help. He escaped through the window and was, indeed, killed by the IDF while escaping. No English language press reported anything else about this story than that a “Palestinian teenager was killed by the IDF”. One of the commentators here wrote about “several children killed by the IDF”. It is difficult to debunk such a general statement, but knowing the situation in Israel I really doubt that it was just coldblooded killing of some children by those “monstrous” IDF soldiers.
    Very often one hears the accusation that too few Jews die compared to the number of Palestinians killed, as if the writers didn’t know that Israelis are building shelters and defending their civilians the best they can, while Palestinians are using theirs as human shields. Children in Gaza as young as 12 are taught how to shoot and how to be suicide bombers. And, I would like to ask: how many Malians died when the French army went into Mali and how many French soldiers? How many German civilians died when Allied armies went into Germany in WW II compared to Allied soldiers? Why is this comparison done only regarding the Israeli army which, according to Red Cross statistics has the best record in the proportion of dead enemy combatants to civilians?
    I am not saying that Israel does no wrong, stupid or misguided things. Like any other country in the world, it does. But only Israel is always singled out for opprobrium.
    BTW, who of all the people commenting here knew that yesterday 10 Palestinian Arabs were killed? Nobody reported it because they were killed in Syria and Jews couldn’t be blamed, so who would pay attention to some 10 Palestinians killed by somebody else? What hypocrisy!

    1. How many German civilians died when Allied armies went into Germany in WW II compared to Allied soldiers?

      Forget that, how many German civilians died in the bombing raids over Germany (an estimated 30,000) in the fire bombing of Dresden alone). How many Japanese civilians died in the fire bombing of Tokyo. How about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    2. There are human rights abuse on both sides. I’m not trying to defend or make apologetics for killings perpetrated by Arabs against Israelis. I’m trying to correct the willful one-sided view that Israel can do no wrong, and that Israel is only a victim in this conflict. There is killing and injustice on both sides, and both sides have legitimate complaints.

      Conflicts perpetuate as long as both sides keep focusing only on their side of the story. The only way to end conflicts is to get both sides to see the other as human and to understand their point of view. Continually denying that Palestinians have rights to dignity, self-determination, and economic freedom, or that Israel has the right to exist, are the attitudes that perpetuate the conflict.

      Here is a Human Rights Watch report.

      1. As is typical of Israel bashers, Mr. Johnson attempts to compare human rights violations committed by the Government of Israel with those committed by Israel’s neighbors. That’s like comparing someone who swipes some silverware from a restaurant with someone who sticks up a bank and then blows away the tellers.

        1. No, it’s like comparing the actions of a powerful wealthy economic giant in the region and the acts of its unchallenged military might, vs. the actions of stone throwers, angry mobs, relatively poor and disorganized people without freedom of movement, and some very frustrated yet lethal terrorists.

          1. Yes indeed, the Hamas terrorists are very frustrated because the Government of Israel is refuses to allow them to achieve their desire to give the Jews of Israel the Eichmann treatment.

            1. And in your mind Hamas represents all Palestinians, so you need not think any further than that convenient subset of the problem.

  10. People can be offended, sometimes justifiably, and they should be free to voice that offense. Absolutely.

    But no one should attempt to silence or censor that which is deemed offensive.

    To me, that’s the main issue.

  11. I am not sure that Muslims are really given “a free pass”. When there was a violent response to the Danish cartoons most comment that I saw, condemned the violence of that reaction. When Islamic fundamentalists such as Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza preach hatred towards the West they are condemned and when Islamic regimes in various countries perpetrate abuses on their own people we condemn it. When Hamas launches rockets into Israel it is widely condemned and most Western governments and many commentators (admittedly not all) recognise that Israel has a right to defend itself and its citizens. Without getting into the issue of whether or not that particular cartoon went too far, I don’t believe that reasonable criticism of the way in which Israel defends itself and the extent to which this bears down on the Palestinian people as opposed to the Hamas regime is demonstrating double standards or being anti-semitic.

    1. Isn’t that nice, Western Governments condemn the Hamas terrorist government in the Gaza Strip. The inhabitants of that area should be glad that the Assad family isn’t running Israel. They would be in the same position as the inhabitants of the Syrian City of Hama were in in 1982 when Assad pere surrounded the town with several hundred artillery pieces and subjected it to a bombardment lasting several days, killing some 20,000 of them. Assad fils is as bad as his old man. The Government of Syria doesn’t bother with precision munitions like the IDF. They just kill ’em all and let Allah sort ’em out.

      1. So, as long as you can point to worse regimes somewhere in the world all criticism of Israel (or the US or the UK or anywhere else for that matter) is invalid in your view?
        By that logic all we have to do is find the single worst tyrrany in the World and everybody else gets a “free pass”?

        1. Like all Israel bashers, Mr. Wallace misses the point. The issue isn’t whether Israel should get a free pass, the issue is whether their beastliness towards the Palestinians approaches the beastliness of their neighbors. Given current events in Syria, I would argue that it doesn’t even come close. The number of Palestinians killed by Assad’s storm troopers in the refugee camp north of Damascus exceeds by a factor of 3 the number of Palestinians killed in both actions in the Gaza Strip by the IDF.

          Several months ago, there was an interesting talkback to an article in the Ynetnews about Arab Knesset member, Hanin Zoabi, who was complaining in a court case before the Israeli Supreme Court that she was being oppressed by the government. The talkback was from someone in Syria suggesting that she move to Damascus where she would soon find out what oppression was really all about.

          1. First, I am not an Israel basher. Second, what is the relevance of whether or not Syria is more beastly than Israel? Who here is saying that there is anything to admire about Syria? If the Assad regime is kicked out then hooray (as long as whatever replaces it is not even worse).
            As far as I know Israel is a democracy that considers itself to be an honourable and decent member of the international community. Why then do you want to judge it by the standards of Assad or Hamas or whatever other ‘beastly’ example you can think of?
            I am not a UK or a US basher either and I am proud to be a citizen of the former but don’t hesitate to criticize the British government when I believe it has acted in an unjust or unwise way. That is what living in a democracy is all about. I am sure there are citizens of Israel (and not just arabs) who are critical of their government’s policies and actions with respect to Gaza, the wall, the settlements and so on. Are they too “Israel bashers” and anti-semites?
            Your attitude is childish if you insist on name calling anyone who dares criticize anything Israel does. It is also childish to dismiss anyone’s suffering or claims of being oppressed by saying that they would have it evn worse in this place or that. Sadly, it is always possible to find an even worse case of torture and oppression than any given case.

  12. On the one hand, many Muslims believe that their Prophet should not be depicted. On the other hand, some Gentiles believe that the Jews were complicit in the death of Jesus. Fundamentally, both positions are founded on religious beliefs and we, who are atheists, ought not to temper our criticisms of individuals and organisations in secular matters by taking account of religious sensitivities no matter of what persuasion.

  13. But I don’t think people are aware at the extent of antisemitism out there, especially those who aren’t Jewish. Although I’m not at all religious, I have been sensitized to the issue by having myself been called antisemitic names in my youth, including “dirty Jew” and “Yid.”

    Might it also be possible that people generally aren’t aware of the extent of misogyny out there, especially those who aren’t women? And might it be reasonable for those who are aware to be sensitized to being called misogynistic names, including “bitch” and “cunt”?

      1. “Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

        “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

        “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

        “That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

        From Silver Blaze

  14. Sorry, one question wasn;t clear; I meant to say:

    If a child has “Jewish” parents but is adopted as a baby by “non-Jewish” people and not brought up in any kind of “Jewish” tradition, does the child, in your view, remain “Jewish” in any sense?

    1. The comment I’m replying to was just an addendum to my first comment, which is stuck in moderation. I’d be very grateful if you could release (and answer) it Jerry. Thanks!

  15. What a sad statement about humanity that so many can be persuaded by a religion that one particular patch of the Earth is worth killing others to possess.
    Yeah, I know, it’s written in a book, and all your ancestors felt the same way.

  16. How very strange! When Jerry posted about President Mursi’s vile anti-Semitic rants, the discussion was – mostly – about the sins of Israel and not about hatred towards Jews which is ubiquitous in Arab schools, universities, mosques, homes, media and politics, in short: in Arab world. Nobody pointed out that Israel’s sins were here as irrelevant as saying that the wife cooked a soup which was too salty, and that was why the husband beat her black and blue. But in this thread every mention of the situation in Arab world, and the environment in which Israel exists, is greeted with a howl “Irrelevant!” It seems to me, from my far away Polish backwaters, that for many commentators only bashing of Israel is “relevant”.

  17. Some commenters here repeat time and again that there are human rights abuse on both sides (but give examples, often imaginary, of only one side), that both sides should look at the other like human beings with dignity (but accuse only Israel of not doing so). I suggest watching this video and answer the final challenge posted in it: to show Jews presented as human beings in Arab media and to show the type of dehumanizing of Arabs in Israeli media as Jews are dehumanized in Arab media (not in form of HRT or AI reports but real documents from media from both sides):

  18. There were some suggestions that one has to be a Jew or a Christian fundamentalist to support Israel. Of course, it is not so, but here is a nice exmple from rather unexpected side: native Canadian. It seems that it is enough not to have prejudices to be able to see the reality.
    A Native and a Zionist

  19. First I want to point out that we need to be very careful about generalizing the stereotype of Jewish or Muslim. It’s true that no Jews engaged in riotous murder in response to this cartoon, whereas Muslims around the world did riot and kill and burn in response to the Mohammed cartoons and the “Innocence of Muslims” video. But keep in mind that with 1.2 billion Muslims and 15 million Jews in the world, far more Muslims behaved civilly in response to these offensive images than did Jews. Jews win on a percentage basis, but really not by that much. I suspect only a tiny fraction of 1% of Muslims actually rioted and engaged in violence, even though probably most of them considered the images to be very offensive. I’m not excusing any violence, simply noting that the problem is not quite as bad as it sounds when you say Muslims do this, and Jews don’t. At best a small percentage of Muslims do it. And the world’s Jewish population enjoys a far higher level of economic security and economic freedom than the Muslims, which is an important factor.

    On the question “Why are Israelis held to higher standards than Palestinians?”, I think the answer lies in expectations, which are formed in reaction to observations and experience. This is just a natural property of how our brains work.

    We don’t expect the same of a dolphin and a shark, or a dog and a bear. We don’t expect the same of a professional and an amateur, or of a doctor and a homeless man or a criminal. We form expectations based on what we believe are the demonstrated tendencies or capabilities of a subject. And this applies to Israelis and Palestinians as well. I used extreme comparisons to illustrate the point, not to imply that Palestinians are like sharks, bears, or homeless criminals. They are perhaps amateurs economically compared to the Israelis.

    People often assume that antisemitism is involved in the double standard between Israel and Palestinians. While I’m sure that for a relatively small number of people this is true, I think the extent of that is exaggerated. While antisemitism exists, I think the fact that Israel is held to a higher standard is in a way praise of Israel and its accomplishments. People expect more of Israel because Israel has demonstrated that it can live up to a higher standard.

    We can make all kinds of comparisons between the Israelis and the Arabs living in Palestine: educational, technological, economic, political, military, etc. The Israelis are so far ahead of the Palestinians in all of these categories that relate to wealth, power, and know-how that they aren’t even playing in the same league. We don’t think it’s fair to hold professionals and amateurs to the same standards, and in a real sense the Palestinians are amateurs at organizing and maintaining a modern state and economy and democracy.

    One can get bogged down in asking why this is so, but such considerations can easily lead to racist conclusions and justifications for discrimination. Those who defend Israel’s right to occupy the West Bank and seek to delegitimize the Palestinians often focus on these types of comparisons, as if Israel’s technological, economic, political, educational, and military superiority in itself is a justification for dehumanizing, disenfranchising, and denying land, political self-determination, and economic freedom to Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims. There are strong hints of colonialism in this kind of thinking, the favoritism of the civilizing intruder over the savage native. It’s repulsive for obvious reasons.

    People are the way they are because of history. The Jews and the Arabs come from a single genetic branch of humanity, the Semites, but their histories are quite different. We could talk about natural selection at work, but history perhaps sounds less clinical and dehumanizing. The majority of Israeli Jews are there because of twentieth century immigration from Europe and North America. Jews developed high levels of numeracy and literacy at a time in history when most of world was illiterate. This has served them very well as the world has transitioned from largely agricultural to urban, industrial, and technological.

    So when one looks at the histories, there is little reason to be surprised that the Jewish people were far better equipped than the local residents with the knowledge and experience needed to rapidly develop economically in their new land.

    The asymmetry in wealth and power makes it quite natural that we should expect more of the Israelis. That asymmetry began with historic backgrounds, but also was reflected in the success of Zionism and the gift of land to Israel by the 1947 UN partition of Palestine. No matter how deserving we believe the Jews were, because of their long suffering, frequent displacements, and historic ties to the land they once lost in battle with the Romans, it doesn’t change the fact that this land had been Muslim and Arab majority land since at least the twelfth century, and was under the protection of the Ottoman Empire for five centuries. The Turks had given a great deal of autonomy to local Arab tribal leaders, so a way of life and a tribal system of governance had established deep roots in this land long before the project of Zionism was ever started. People worked the land and worshipped and adhered to ancient codes of conduct, but they did not have anything resembling a modern nation state. Because if this many claim there is no Palestinian people, and they have no land rights, because they were never a country proper, but this argument is just a convenient fiction for those who wish to fulfill a kind of biblically inspired manifest destiny of Jewish rule over all of Palestine.

    If one develops an appreciation of the kind of historical rights the Arab Muslim population felt toward this land, the UN partition in 1947 can be seen as terribly asymmetric, not at all a fair division of land between two peoples with equal rights based on prior precedents, but more like taking half a region from a group of long time residents and giving it to a group of recent immigrants. The Arabs never negotiated or agreed to this. The Jews desired it greatly and lobbied for it enthusiastically. So of course for one group it was an onerous imposition forced upon them, and for another group it was a fantastic gift and joyous victory. Yet people act today as if both groups should have accepted it with equal gratitude, and that the Arabs should have quietly swallowed their pride while letting go of their long term investment in the land and the history of the region.

    These assymmetries greatly resemble the situation that developed between the citizens of the fledgling USA and the Native Americans, though the technological and cultural differences are not as extreme as the case of Europeans colonizing the Americas.

    One can not condone or forgive acts of terror, but one can at least understand the frustration, anger, loss of control, and helpless feelings that led to that desperation. Jews resorted to terror against the British because they were angry and frustrated over immigration quotas, and they faced a pronounced asymmetry vis-a-vis the British. We also saw more modern forms of Jewish terror, such as the foiled attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the gunning down of Muslim worshipers in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein killing 29 and wounding 125, and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. These desperate acts are what people engage in when they reach the feeling that they have no other alternative, like they have truth and justice on their side, but they are at the end of their rope, powerless and helpless and lacking all control and empowerment.

    This is the nature of asymmetric warfare and conflict, that poorly defended soft targets are hit with stealth and surprise. Again, I’m not condoning any violence, just offering a way to try to see both sides and understand that its possibility exists in any people left without hope.

    So in summary, that a war occurred in 1948 and 1967 and 1973 and terrorism and intifadas followed is not so surprising if you really look at the history from both sides. Obviously it has been very bad from the perspective of Israel, but only because things have also been very bad from the perspective of Palestinian Arabs. And while Israel has suffered painful violence, it has also enjoyed success unparalleled in that region. It’s true that Arabs could have made smarter decisions, been better organized, and have achieved a state by now if they had been willing to let go of what they had lost to Israel and were far-sighted enough to cut their losses and make the best of what was still available to them. But they didn’t, and that has a lot to do with the educational, economic, technological, and historic asymmetries between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. These asymmetries explain both the conflict and the reasons why people seem to unfairly expect more of Israel than they do of the Palestinians.

    1. Jeff, I should like to applaud this balanced post and await with interest the comments of your detractors.

    2. This is an interesting overview, but I think you’re missing an important point that explains the double standard that certainly does exist between our expectations of the behaviour of Israel versus its neighbours.

      Israel is a creation of “the West”, and was strongly supported by Europe and the US following the holocaust – the worst crime in history, perpetrated by Europeans on other Europeans. So we in the west are right to expect it to adopt western standards of democracy and behaviour. And it was, and is, entirely reasonable for us to feel that, in the light of the holocaust, a safe home for Jewish people was the least they could expect.

      The snag is that the Arab people living in the region were not asked for their view. They had nothing to do with the holocaust, and can point to Jewish communities living alongside Arabs across the Middle East for centuries – communities that have now largely disappeared. While it’s true that they have lower standards in terms of democracy and civil rights than we (rightly) expect of Israel – sometimes tragically so, if we look at the horrors of Syria – it is understandable that they feel that the land, and homes of people living in what is now Israel were in many cases stolen, and that the displaced people continue to be oppressed.

      So the people of Palestine continue to suffer a great wrong, in part because of a far greater wrong suffered by the Jewish people in Europe at the hands of other Europeans.

      To add to the problem, other states, notably Iran and Syria, have stoked extremism, while neither the Palestinian or Israeli leadership have exhibited Mandela-like qualities. Meanwhile the US has exported fundamentalist settlers, while failing to apply its influence to driving a long term solution, continuing to finance Israel while it creates “facts on the ground” with illegal settlements.

      We all share some of the blame here. And, giving that the Arab/Israeli dispute is the grit in the Islamist oyster, we all suffer the consequences.

      1. The creation of the State of Israel was certainly not strongly supported by UK Governments: quite the reverse. If you check the Wiki page on the Aliyah Bet you will find a very long list of emigrant ships captured and in a number of cases sunk with loss of life. Most occurred after the end of WWII when the full horror of the Holocaust had become known.

        1. Fair point, it was extremely messy. But there would have been no state of Israel without the Balfour Declaration. And I think now most people would feel the actions to prevent people who had suffered the trauma of the holocaust from getting to Israel were heartless.We can’t wash our hands of it.

  20. Jeff Johnson wrote a very long comment, totally irrelevant to the subject, but containing so many distortions and such strange logic that I feel compelled to comment:
    1. He assures us that there are more decent Muslims than decent Jews because there are 1.2 billion Muslims and only 15 million Jews. Even if some percentage of Muslims rioted and murdered in answer to the Muhammed caricatures and not one Jew rioted and murdered, it is still leaving many more non-rioting Muslims than the whole Jewish population of the world. This is brilliant logic. There were 60 million Germans in Europe during WW II and only 9 million Jews. Of course, not all Germans murdered Jews, ergo there were more decent Germans than Jews in WW II.
    2. Mr Johnson assures us that Jews are highly educated and rich, Arabs are poorly educated and poor. No wonder we should hold Jews to a higher standard of behaviour, and this is an asymmetry which explains a lot.
    He writes as if Arabs were not getting untold riches from oil and as if Palestinians were not recipients of the highest aid per capita any population ever got. When Israel was established it received broken remnants of European Jewry directly from Nazi death camps and Jews from Arab countries. Some of the latter were educated middle class but a lot were almost illiterate people who were not different from people in the countries of their origin. Mr Johnson seems not to realise that education and high development is something people can obtain, not something given once and for all. You can use your money to buy weapons and teach your youth how to destroy and be martyrs, or you can use your money to educate your youth in how to be builders, scientists, doctors etc.
    3. There were negotiations between Arab leaders and early Zionists. Unfortunately the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a Jew-hater, won a power struggle among Arab leaders and those who were friendly towards Jews were either marginalised or killed. The Mufti became an admirer of Hitler, was in Berlin during the war, with the help of German experts prepared plans for the extermination of Jews from Palestine and organized a Muslim SS Division in Europe. He had quite a lot of Jewsih blood on his hands.

    1. Malgorzata, two can play this utterly pointless game. Not only was the Mufti plotting and intriguing but so too was Lehi aka The Stern Gang. They sought alliance with the Italian fascists offering to fight alongside them in return for assistance in setting up a Jewish State based on “totalitarian principles”.
      Realpolitik gives rise to strange bedfellows.

    2. Mr Johnson seems not to realise that education and high development is something people can obtain, not something given once and for all. You can use your money to buy weapons and teach your youth how to destroy and be martyrs, or you can use your money to educate your youth in how to be builders, scientists, doctors etc.

      You are making this sound much easier than it is. First of all educating people isn’t enough. They need years of hands on experience to become mature professionals in engineering, science, medicine, law, architecture, finance, public policy and resource planning, manufacturing, business administration, etc.

      The immigrants to Israel included talent that had decades of professional experience in modern industrialized economies from all over Europe and the Americas. You don’t build that kind of knowledge starting with an agrarian economy by sending kids to school for a few generations.

      Next, the Jewish people have excelled for centuries in academic and professional fields, any kind of profession that is in demand in prosperous cities and requires high levels of education. This is a result of historical forces at work since the end of the bar Kochba rebellion.

      Here us an interesting book review I came across recently on the role of education in Jewish history:

      With a tiny fraction of the world’s population Jews have won twenty percent of Nobel prizes. This is an awesome achievement. This is something deserving of great admiration and respect. And this long time emphasis on education is an important part of why Israel has so quickly become way more prosperous and powerful than its neighbors.

      You also seem to think that Palestinians have full self-determination, full economic freedom, and the ability to go where they want, when they want without hindrance. If you think this you have a naive view of what the IDF occupation is like. People often have to contend with hours of delay at checkpoints getting to and from work or school. These are not policies designed to streamline economic growth.

      And the implication that all Palestinians are trained to be martyrs is another naive viewpoint. Your opinions are as much a cartoon charicature of Palestinians as that Times cartoon was of Netanyahu. In your version of things there is the shining noble faultless Israelis who have never done any harm and who are only victims, and then there are vile corrupt evil Arabs who only care about one thing: the total destruction of Israel. The truth is considerably more complex than this. You are looking at the Arabs through a lens very similar to antisemitism.

      1. “First of all educating people isn’t enough. They need years of hands on experience to become mature professionals in engineering, science, medicine, law, architecture, finance, public policy and resource planning, manufacturing, business administration, etc.”

        Of course, South Koreans had just that, to take only the most striking example. I really can discern a whiff of racism against Arabs. Somehow Polish tailors and bricklayers of Jewish descent, and Yemeni peasants of Jewish descent were according to you capable of becoming mature prfessionals when given education, but you seem to think that Arabs are incapable of such a feat.

        1. No, I do not think them incapable. They once were world intellectual leaders. I don’t know exactly how to explain why they are what they are. What I do not believe is that they are simply evil, which is what a lot of argument here seems to imply. My best guess is that their religion has hampered technological progress. What is simply an indisputable fact is that Arab countries have not fully participated in the scientific and technological revolution of recent centuries. Their output in scientific work is practically nil compared to Europe, the Americas, and Asia. I’m sure they can change this, but it will take time.

          It’s amazing that you could accuse me of racism against the Arabs when I’m the one arguing for their rights and to try to see past the conflict to see them not as enemies but as humans. It seems to me the racism is in your stereotypes of all Palestiniabs being trained as martyrs, and your arguments which all cast Israel as blameless and Palestinians as the only source of evil. You could at least make some effort to understand why Arabs are angry with Israel if you are not racist in your regard of Arabs. To dismiss them all as evil hating irrational antisemites means you can’t have been to an Arab country and talked with people, sat down to meals, or in any way ever viewed them face to face as human beings.

          1. Just check those names: Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, Wafa Sultan, Noni Darwish, Ibtihal Al-Khattib, Ahmed Abu Mattar, Ibrahim Al-Buleihi – those are just a few of Arab “mature professionals” whose work I tranlated into Polish and got them an audience in my country and who are my friends. Maybe they could explain to you that they hold their societies to the same standard as other “mature” societies and that teaching their children just Koran and hatred is what holds their societies back. Oh, and when you are at it, you could also check another of my friends, not Arab this time but a Turk, Burak Bekdil.
            You do not want to see all those “mature prefessionals” among Arab-Israelis – because this would spoil your picture of Israel as a uniformly thuggish society.
            You do not care about Palestinians killed by Syria (I wrote about it in one of the comments) and neither of Palestinians discriminated against in practically all the Arab countries. You are only interested in them as a tool to bash Israel with.
            And you are surprised that I (and not only I) see quite a lot of racism in your opinions?

      2. Next, the Jewish people have excelled for centuries in academic and professional fields, any kind of profession that is in demand in prosperous cities and requires high levels of education. This is a result of historical forces at work since the end of the bar Kochba rebellion.

        That certainly isn’t true in the sciences prior to the 20th century. I can’t think of a prominent Jewish physicist prior to Albert Michelson, the first Jew (and also the first American and first graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy) to win a Nobel prize in physics in 1907 for the invention of the interferometer and measurement of the speed of light to 5 significant figures. Since then, of course, we have Einstein, et al.

  21. “I’m sorry about your family, and if my family had suffered that fate it could be true that I couldn’t avoid irrational emotionally clouded views.”
    Jeff, you may try to position me as emotional and irrational but you’re going to have to produce some evidence to make that charge stick. Emotional on the subject, I may be. But being emotional does not imply irrationality… we have both seen, for example, Dawkins, or Hitchins being very emotional over a subject and still being far from irrational. Similarly being unemotional, as you seem to be, is no guarantee of rationality. I think that Malgorzata’s repsonse to your recent posts excellently set out just a few of the many points that exhibit that lack of rationality in your own views. No, I will take that comment of yours about my emotional irrationality exactly as it was intended, as a backhanded insult and an ad-hominem attempt to dismiss my arguments.
    What I would like to focus on is the rather amazing defence of your self-admitted double standard that you hold, and your attempts to justify it, and it’s repercussions.
    First let me say, that I have friends on both sides of the Atlantic who are less educated or less wealthy or both, who would be seriously offended by your incredibly patronising view that you expect and will excuse lesser moral behaviours from them because of that fact. As for the proposition that higher education and greater general prosperity leads to a higher level of morality we only have to look at Germany, a central cradle of the Enlightenment, Science and European culture and “das land der dichter und denker”, to put pay to that theory, given events of the past.
    The double standard that you apply is not just slightly nuanced, but it is extreme. The “uneducated poor” can get literally get away with murder. Not only do you insult the Palestinian people with such a patronising double standard but you actually place moral expectations on them that are lower than “civilized European societies”. What condescension- for as long as you do not admit them to the world of the civilized, how can you ever expect them to hold those standards themselves or to have any self respect. More than that, you provide a “free pass” for those violent elements of Palestinian or Arab society such as Hamas or Hezbollah to carry out atrocity that is EXCUSABLE. Anything that Jews in Israel do is triple dammed- their behaviour is always worse, always a provocation. Look at your own words in past postings. You justify any Palestinian violence in their own eyes, you excuse, you vilify. You provide fodder that helps the likes of Hamas to propagandise, to offer reasons to the Palestinian people on why their course of action is acceptable, -why hatred is acceptable.
    You are a double-standarded apologist for violence. You are part of the problem.

    1. Well said, Mr. Kornstein. Mr. Johnson’s arguments remind me of a teacher deciding that a very gifted student–of whom so much is expected–should get only a C-, whereas another student from a bad background–of whom nothing much is expected–should have an A. This says everything about the teacher’s prejudices and nothing at all about the abilities of the students.

      1. You have misunderstood the argument. No grades are being awarded.

        It’s more like schools decide that some entering freshmen need remedial math or English, and others don’t because they have had better preparation.

        Or like students who are freshman can’t be expected to do graduate work.

        Or like people with comfortable levels of wealth are far less likely to steal than people struggling in poverty.

        Certainly it can’t be that hard to grasp that once different levels of achievement are reached, then it is common and reasonable to have different levels of expectation. Or am I expecting too much of you?


      This is my evidence, your post.

      I’m simply being realistic that there are assymmetries in wealth and power in this situation. Who could deny that if they are regarding the situation without emotional passions?

      My argument is countering all the other arguments that are anti-Arab in these two threads. The anti-Arab arguments seem founded upon the assumption of Israel’s superiority. Israel is blameless, their killing is justified, and a host of insinuations that goodness must be on the side of those who prosper, while evil rests in those who don’t prosper. These assumptions are all present in the uncritical views arguing that Israel can do no wrong.

      All I’m trying to say us look, every one involved is human, and they are the way they are, and they have different capabilities because of larger historical forces.

      The bottom line is that as long as both sides keep hating characatures of the other side, both sides are doomed to war and conflict. Only when both sides see the other as humans, flawed but natural, trying to love their children, raise their families, seeking out livelihood as best they can, with needs and rights that accrue naturally to all humans, can peace proceed.

      A common point in all my arguments is that roughly three million Palestinians need dignity, self-determination, and economic freedom, and they don’t have it. I have acknowledged that some of the blame for that rests with mistakes Arab leadership has made in the past. I have acknowledged Israel’s right to exist, but Israel does not have the right to take all of Palestine.

      A realistic look reveals that Israel has the power and control in this situation. That is the asymmetry in a nutshell. And that is why I see responsibility resting with Israel to make bold moves toward peace.

      Instead what I see is endless justification for Israel to act like a panicked elephant fearing a mouse. Nobody is going to destroy Israel. Of course Iran must be dealt with. Of course security measures must be maintained. Of course Israel has the full backing of US military might should any military move be made against it. And of course the Israeli military is far more powerful and capable than any of its neighbors.

      What threatens Israel the most is the continued grip on Palestinian territory. What threatens Israel is building settlements, for as long as they do that they telegraph the intention to take permanent possession of the West Bank, and as long as they telegraph that intention Hamas and other terrorists will try to attack them.

      What also threatens Israel us the specter of having permanent responsibility of three million Arabs in the West Bank. They either deport them, oppress them as second class citizens, or make them full citizens. I don’t see any other option (except the apparently unnameable, which is excluded). Israel either compromises its morality and invites perpetual war, or it compromises its democracy, or it compromises its Jewish character. One of these things must result from the current path, which all of the ardent defenders of Israel continue to champion. I don’t see how anyone who loves Israel can recommend that fate for her.

      As I see it, the best chance Israel has of ending this conflict is to do everything in its power to ensure that these Palestinian people have land and the dignity of self-determination and economic freedom. But they aren’t doing this.

      Instead they have a militarily enforced stranglehold on the movement of goods and people, and a program of constructing settler communities on land that by rights belongs to Palestinian people. Why? Because of emotional and biblical attachments to owning all of Judea and Samaria. These policies are every bit as stubbornly wrongheaded as Arabs who insist Israel has no right to exist. And it looks like present Israeli leadership, rather than taking steps to relieve hostilities and move toward peace has dug in their heels, and intends to use their military advantage and the passage of time to brazen it out until permanent ownership of the West Bank is a fait accomplis.

      1. (except the apparently unnameable, which is excluded).

        I have no hesitancy whatever in naming it, an Eichmann solution.

      2. Oddly enough, I don’t have much use for Bibi either. I think that former French President Sarkozy was right on the money when he was caught by an open mike during a conversation with President Obama, “I can’t stand him (Bibi), he’s such a liar.” Former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon was quoted as telling Bibi to his face, “you were born a liar”. His self defeating antagonism towards President Obama and his clashes with former Secretary of State Clinton and German Chancellor Merkel brand him as a misogynist in addition to being a liar. Unfortunately, we are stuck with him and somehow have to make the best of it.

  22. It is odd that the anti-Israel contingent so often argue that everyone else holds Israel up as entirely blameless. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say or write that anywhere. This is a transparently false argument–assuming what others think and then dramatically refuting their imaginary position. You can’t take it seriously.
    As for why the Muslim countries generally lag behind the rest of the world now, Bernard Lewis has explained it interestingly in his “What Went Wrong?” and he sees it as largely the effect of Islam. For example, the muezzin called people to prayer and had a monopoly on timepieces, so nobody else was allowed to measure time! The great Muslim scientists of the Middle Ages were not typical of the culture and the learning wasn’t shared around. I recommend the Lewis book for numerous interesting insights.

    1. It is odd that the anti-Israel contingent so often argue that everyone else holds Israel up as entirely blameless. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say or write that anywhere.

      Perhaps it is more accurate to say that whenever anyone criticizes Israel, no matter how valid the criticism, you call them anti-Israel and you seek to excuse the criticism with arguments based on a very selective filtering of the facts.

      In practice that amounts to holding Israel blameless, even if you don’t explicitly use those terms.

      Perhaps you could enumerate some of the areas in which you don’t think Israel is blameless in this conflict. I would really like to hear that, because I have made some effort to describe where I think Israel should accept some fault and you have denied them all. So far you have attempted to refute every criticism anyone has offered.

      As for why the Muslim countries generally lag behind the rest of the world

      Gee, this is pretty similar to what I argued, which you ridiculed, and for which I was accused of racism by another commenter.

      1. It’s just that the criticism is so lop-sided and so focused on every perceived fault of Israel while ignoring those of its enemies.
        No, you sounded racist because you suggested that the Arabs were incapable of the levels Israelis have reached. They needed more time to develop. It’s more a question of what each culture has done with the same amount of time, and that is pretty plain to see.

        1. I think you misunderstood me. We often hear what we expect to hear.

          Contrary to what you seem to believe, I’m not the least bit anti-Israel. I admire Israel and want it to endure and prosper.

          I feel the same about the US, even though I can acknowledge we have made horrible mistakes and committed atrocities because of wrong headedness.

          That’s how I feel about Israel. It has dug itself into a wrong headed corner and needs to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths.

          If you look at all I’ve written you should notice a pattern of arguing that Muslims and Arabs are not all terrorists, and not all antisemites, and that Hamas does not represent all Palestinians, that the PA has accomplished some promising cooperation with Israel, and that the Palestinians have rights based on history and on law, and that there are justifications for Arab anger against Israel (but no justifications for antisemitism). This hardly sounds like someone who is racist against Arabs.

          On the other hand, I’ve encountered arguments that Palestinians spend all their money training their kids to be martyrs, that the Palestinians aren’t a real people, that they have sacrificed their rights to Palestinian territory because they didn’t accept the original 1947 partition, and all Arabs want the destruction of Israel, etc. These sound a lot more like overly broad stereotypes typical of a racially tinged viewpoint.

          I was not arguing that Arabs can never do what Israel has done. I was making a realistic assessment of how things stand today. It is in fact true that the Palestinians do not have the wealth, power, education and expertise, infrastructure, military ability, technology, industy, communications, transportation capacities that Israel has. I think that all things considered, we should be able to expect Israel to make stronger gestures toward peace, and we should be able to expect a people much richer and more comfortable to be able to take a bold lead in making peace rather than continuing to build settlements on land that is supposedly intended to become a Palestinian state. This is the kind of thing I was talking about when I said it is fair for people to expect more of Israel, because we generally do expect more of the well off than of the poor, of people with resources and options, rather than people cramped by shortages and restrictions and limits and poverty and lack of freedom. People act like a temporary settlement freeze was a grand gesture on the part of Israel. I can’t see why Israel had any business to ever have constructed a single settlement. That’s not an anti-Israel point of view. It’s a rational interpretation of the international legal framework that enabled Israel to even exist at all.

          1. Contrary to what you seem to believe, I’m not the least bit anti-Israel. I admire Israel and want it to endure and prosper.

            Gee, Mr. Johnson sounds like well known Israel basher Stephen Walt who says that he’s only trying to save Israel from the Likud party. Mr. Johnson’s hero, Jeffrey Goldberg would take great issue with Prof. Walt’s claim.

  23. I think you’re right that we expect more of people who have advantages to begin with, but the problem is with expecting less of other people because of some inherent defect. That is what people mean by “racism”. But if those people with advantages have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, as Israel has, that should be taken into consideration, too.

    The Palestinians suffer from decisions their ancestors took–to go to war instead of accepting a compromise. They also suffer from current indoctrination. That is, and will continue to be, a huge stumbling block.

    The Israelis have often made gestures of peace, but they have been interpreted as signs of weakness and surrender and not answered with any positive proposals, just renewed attacks.

  24. Perhaps I am being simplistic by bringing Northern Ireland into the debate. But there are parallels. There were, and indeed still are, groups who will never be satisfied until Ulster is part of the Republic and others who will remain in thrall to a perverted view of history and “King Billy”. However, the vast majority of the people, albeit easily led at the height of the Troubles, wanted nothing more than to earn their living, raise their families and generally go about their lives in peace and security. It took a tremendous amount of talking (much of it conducted in secrecy) over two decades to achieve that. Israel / Palestine should be capable of resolution if the desires of the masses as opposed to the aims of the minorities are listened to and acted upon.

  25. I think this analogy works only so far, but it is a parallel of sorts. It occurs to me that if Northern Ireland had had the “benefit” of as many NGOs as there are in Israel/Palestine, all with their own agendas and their own solutions to others’ problems, they would still be at each other’s throats.

    1. I think you are right Sarah. Also, peace initiatives have been too high profile, too public and, on occasion, opportunities for grandstanding US Presidents. Only the use has the clout and the money to solve this one, but imo, it’s best done from behind the scenes.

  26. I have looked at this cartoon several times and keep coming back to my first impression of it. It was telling me something that I think may be true… Netanyahu is leading Israel to become another world player of the persecution
    game, and if he keeps it up, the next cartoon could depict a little moustache under that nose (which still looks like Nixon’s to me).

    Jimmy Carter was not off the mark at all with the allegation that Israel is running an apartheid system against the Palestinians. Thus Netanyahu building a wall, thus the blood of Palestinians (not the “blood libel” stuff), with which he is building that wall.

    Nothing more, nothing less. I’m sorry Scarfe apologized.

    1. James Earl Carter aka Jimmy Peanut, is about as knowledgeable about the State of Israel as his buddy, Yasir Arafat was.

  27. “Apartheid” would mean that the citizens of the country were divided into classes and given different privileges, but the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens. “Apartheid” is just not applicable here and Jimmy Carter was badly mistaken. Israeli citizens all have equal rights before the law.

    1. You might want to look up the restrictions put on Arab/Palestinian citizens living in Israel in terms of voting and property rights. Israel is not a democracy.

      As for Jimmy Carter’s view of the use of the term apartheid as applies to the actions Israel has taken with the land grabs and divisions etc, I encourage you to read his book, Palestine Peace, Not Apartheid, particularly the chapter titled “The Wall as a Prison” and p.215 on his definition of the term.

      I think, with all his experience with various government systems, his diplomatic and world knowledge background that he would know what he is talking about. He was not criticized over this book’s use of the term “apartheid”, he was criticized as an “anti-semite” for pointing out what Israel is doing.

      1. There aren’t any restrictions on voting rights for Arab citizens in Israel. There are some 11 Arab Knesset members divided amongst 3 parties and even someone like Hanin Zoabi, is grudgingly tolerated; she would be expelled from the legislature of virtually any other country in the world, based on her extreme views.

      2. You might well think that Jimmy Carter, a former President, might have some knowledge of the Middle East, but he plainly doesn’t. His book “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid” is riddled with errors. Maybe he got some inept person to do the research for him. On many points he gets things exactly turned around. One little example:he says that Israel attacked Jordan in 1967, when in fact Jordan attacked Israel! If he can’t get that right, how much can he know about the history of the whole complicated situation? His book was pretty much debunked not long after it came out, but as so often happens, the myth lives on. “Bearing False Witness”, ed. Andrea Levin, addresses Carter’s mistakes pretty comprehensively.

        1. I leave you all with this from Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic magazine…”A de-facto apartheid already exists in the West Bank. Inside the borders of Israel proper, Arabs and Jews are judged by the same set of laws in the same courtrooms; across the Green Line, Jews live under Israeli civil law as well, but their Arab neighbors–people who live, in some cases, just yards away–fall under a different, and substantially undemocratic, set of laws, administered by the Israeli Army. The system is neither as elaborate nor as pervasive as South African apartheid, and it is, officially, temporary. It is nevertheless a form of apartheid, because two different ethnic groups living in the same territory are judged by two separate sets of laws.”

          1. Jeffrey Goldberg is right up to a point, but he gets most of it wrong by omitting some crucial details. The Israeli inhabitants of Area C, both Jews and Arabs, live under Israeli law. If Israeli law were applied to all the inhabitants, it would be considered annexation of Area C, but that Area is still in limbo until the border is agreed. The inhabitants without Israeli citizenship live under the law of the last jurisdiction, which was Jordanian. The question of jurisdiction is not a matter of ethnicity or apartheid, but merely of citizenship. In short, it would be illegal for Israel to apply its own law uniformly to a region that is not under its official jurisdiction, and that is why this anomaly exists. It has nothing to do with an unjust Israeli policy and everything to do with the failure of the PA to negotiate a border with Israel. Note that this curious anomaly applies to only about 5% of West Bank inhabitants—the others live under PA regulations.

            1. Some further food for thought….




              There is a systematic discrimination against Arab/Palestinian citizens living within Israel’s borders. Most people do not know about it or pay any attention to it. We in America are pretty much kept in the dark about it.

              1. More like junk food. The Electronic Intifada is not a reliable source of information, unless you want a compendium of lies and half truths about Israel.

  28. “Its a terrible problem if Jews can’t distinguish between what happened in Germany and what is happening today in Israel. Jews have exponentially greater amounts of power and control today. ”

    If by that statement you mean that Jews in Israel now have the capacity to defend themselves I totally agree. As for the intent of their adversaries I don’t see much real difference – the same intense hatred, the same aims of annihilation, even the use of the exact same explicit materials to propagandise their cause. I would certainly not claim that all Palestinians have these aims, as I would not claim that all Germans in Nazi Germany shared Hitler’s total objectives – but enough Germans did to reap the whirlwind. And enough do in the Arab states, and they are the ones who have so far been controlling the agenda. And I see no real sign of a strong moderating force within the Palestinian community to temper these ambitions of annihilation. You cannot really blame the Jews for ” erring on the side of caution” in maintaining a military capability to defend themselves given their dreadful past experience. The Arab Spring can change this depressing state of affairs if it fosters a more secular, more enlightened and more tolerant Middle East. This is what we should encourage. It does no good at all to ignore the realities of this very complex conflict or to hold simplistic double standards when addressing solutions.

  29. I agree with most of what you say in this post, but not this: “What speech there was in favor of publishing those cartoons (and many venues didn’t say anything out of cowardice) made the point that it’s ridiculous to adhere to a religious dogma that Mohamed should not be depicted in a picture.”

    Bullshit. While that was one issue, the main issue were things like the bomb in the turban etc. I’m not making a judgement either way, just pointing out that the issue of depicting Mohamed, although it did play a role, was not the main issue.

    If it really were such a big problem, why is the publisher of Jesus and Mo still alive? Does he live in exile somewhere, feeding his comic to the internet like Wolfman Jack on reel-to-reel tape?

Leave a Reply