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May 31, 2006

Palestinian Refugee Contradicts Claims of "Expulsion"

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports that a elderly refugee from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war explained to a Palestinian newspaper that she was told by Arab leaders to flee her village.

Such testimony is important since the press still occasionally refers, for example, to "the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians." This false claim is inconsistent with the woman's testimony, as well as other detailed evidence revealing that most refugees were not "expelled." (In fact, many Jews in Israel attempted to persuade Palestinians to stay put.)

See PMW's translation of the woman's comments, along with two other similar statements, here.

Posted by at 05:05 PM |  Comments (0)

May 30, 2006

British Teachers Blasted for Voting to Boycott Israel

The British National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) voted on Monday at its annual conference to consider boycotting Israeli academics who do not dissociate themselves from what it called Israel's "apartheid policies":


Conference notes continuing Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices. It recalls its motion of solidarity last year for the AUT resolution to exercise moral and professional responsibility.

Conference instructs the NEC to facilitate meetings in each university and college, and to circulate information to Branches, offering to fund the speakers' travel costs.

Conference invites members to consider their own responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals, and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies.

The British Association of University Teachers (AUT), which is slated to merge with NATFHE tomorrow and which last year overturned its own hastily-passed boycott, sharply rejected the NATFHE vote:

At its recent annual conference NATFHE passed a motion inviting their members to consider boycotting Israeli academics under certain circumstances.

AUT does not endorse this policy and is strongly advising its members not to implement it. ...

On 1 June AUT and NATFHE join to form the University and College Union (UCU). The NATFHE motion is not binding on the UCU. The AUT will argue for the UCU to adopt the report of its commission. It will not support or cooperate in any way with any attempts to implement the NATFHE motion in advance of the first UCU annual national congress in June 2007.

In addition to the AUT, academics from around the world blasted the NATFHE motion. A letter signed by hundreds of academics that was published in the Guardian on May 27 stated that

... this boycott proposal would do more harm than good, if the aim is to bolster the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements.

The political test for Israeli academics builds on a tradition established by McCarthy in the US and the antisemitic purges in communist eastern Europe. We oppose forcing academics to sign a statement to demonstrate political cleanliness. Unions should have consistent policy with regard to human rights abuses and the curtailment of academic freedom that goes with them. We oppose the inconsistency of blacklisting Israelis, but adopting a different attitude to academics in the US, China, Russia, Britain, Sudan, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Syria or Egypt - or in the long list of other states that are responsible for equal or worse human rights abuses.

Israeli universities are among the most open and anti-racist spaces in Israel. They have large numbers of Arab students and teachers.

And a letter in the Financial Times, this one signed by President Emeriti of prominent American universities, noted:

The proposed boycott would violate fundamental academic norms, undermine efforts to promote scholarly co-operation between Arabs and Jews, and perpetuate flagrant distortions about the nature of Israeli government and society.

We find it odd that Israel, a democracy with a vigorous exchange of ideas on all topics including policies toward the Palestinians, has been singled out for a boycott, rather than the many authoritarian nations that ruthlessly suppress academic and political discourse. Open exchange, collaboration, co-operation and free debate are the hallmarks of academic life. To isolate and sever ties with a community of scholars based on their national or religious identity, ostensibly as a protest against their government's policies, is a serious breach of academic norms.

Posted by rh at 03:39 PM |  Comments (0)

Updated: Iran Adopts Nazi Tactics?

The National Post apologized for running the story about Iran requiring non-Muslims to wear colored badges and admitted it was false. Melanie Phillips has posted the explanation given by the National Post about how this happened. Read it here.

Update: The Jerusalem Post and other outlets now express doubts about the validity of the reports mentioned below.

Canada's National Post and Israel's Jerusalem Post and Yediot Ahronot report that the Iranian parliament passed—and the government is considering approving—a new law requiring the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

According to the National Post:

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

Posted by rh at 01:53 PM |  Comments (1)

May 22, 2006

Carter Stands by His Errors

jimmy carter.jpg

Former President Jimmy Carter sticks to his recent public falsification of Arab-Israeli diplomatic history and international law, even when confronted with the facts.

William Bilek, a physician in Atlanta, wrote to Carter on March 20, following the publication of the former president’s column in that day’s edition of the British newspaper the Guardian. Carter's commentary also appeared in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz. (See “Jimmy Carter’s Syndicated Errors.?)

Bilek shared with us the content of his letter in which he challenged Carter on several erroneous statements. He wrote:

Most egregiously you wrongly state that U.N. [Security Council] Resolution 242 (1967) has ‘mandated Israel’s withdrawal from the [emphasis added] occupied territories. You are more aware than most, that that article, “the,? is expressly omitted in the definitive, official, legal English version of that resolution, specifically to permit final border changes in a peace agreement.

This is true. The resolution’s co-drafter, former U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow, explained in a 1991 article in the New Republic:

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. In negotiating such agreements, the parties should take into account, among other factors, security considerations, access to the international waterways of the region, and, of course, their respective legal claims.

That a former President could be so ignorant of this history is difficult to believe.

Among other Carter falsehoods noted by Bilek in the Guardian commentary were the assertions that all U.S. administrations have agreed that Israel’s permanent borders must “coincide with those established in 1949.?

Not only does the Bush administration not hold that view, as Bilek reminded Carter, but both Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan are on record that Israel could not be expected to return to the extremely vulnerable ‘49 lines, no more than nine miles wide at one of Israel’s most populous points.

Presented with undisputable facts — or at least facts that cannot in good faith be disputed — Carter returned Bilek’s letter with this handwritten note, which highlights the ex-president’s rigid insistence on rewriting history :

To Dr. Bilek: All international laws, resolutions & U.S. policies call for Israel’s withdrawal and the non-acquisition of territory by force. It’s obvious that you disagree — Best Wishes, Jimmy C.

Carter has since recycled his Guardian/Ha’aretz piece in USA Today, May 16, as “Israel’s new plan: A land grab.? (See "CAMERA ALERT: Jimmy Carter Blunders in USA Today?.)

Bilek concluded his letter to Carter by noting that “it is unclear why a former president, with such accolades to his reputation, has now come out practically as a shill for the recognized terrorists of Hamas, in the process attempting to skew history to suit a particular point of view.?

Whatever the reason, Jimmy Carter repeatedly, in mass circulation newspapers and individual correspondence, discredits himself as a source on Arab-Israeli matters. If the Surgeon-General’s purview included polemics, Carter’s maunderings would carry an advisory: “Caution: Hazardous to your intellectual health.?

Posted by ER at 04:54 PM |  Comments (3)

May 21, 2006

Discussion of Anti-Semitism Struck from EU Conference on Media Racism

According to the Jerusalem Post:

Israel will boycott a European Union-sponsored conference on "Racism, Xenophobia and the Media" being held Monday in Vienna because the issue of anti-Semitism is not on the agenda, The Jerusalem Post has learned. ...

Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said that when the Vienna conference was first organized last year, it had planned to address racism in the media, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. ...

The original description of the conference received in Jerusalem in March said that the two-day seminar, which would be attended by a number of media personalities from Europe and the Arab world, would deal with racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

However all references to anti-Semitism had been removed from an updated description that the Foreign Ministry received on May 11, while a report on Islamophobia in the press was still on the agenda.

The conference is part of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, which includes Syria, Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. Some of those countries might have benefited from discussion of the anti-Semitism in their media. But they are not alone. The European press also has room to improve in that area.

The US Department of State's "Report on Global Anti-Semitism," released in 2005, notes that

Anti-Semitism in Europe increased significantly in recent years. ... Beginning in 2000, verbal attacks directed against Jews increased while incidents of vandalism (e.g. graffiti, fire bombings of Jewish schools, desecration of synagogues and cemeteries) surged. Physical assaults including beatings, stabbings and other violence against Jews in Europe increased markedly, in a number of cases resulting in serious injury and even death. Also troubling is a bias that spills over into anti-Semitism in some of the left-of-center press and among some intellectuals.

Posted by at 05:37 PM |  Comments (0)

May 17, 2006

Two Articles on Palestinian Aid

Since the U.S. and E.U. decided to suspend aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, voices in the media have expressed increasing concern over the hardships imposed on the Palestinian people. Articles often give prominence to visible images of economic suffering, but generally fail to examine whether the extensive aid is used to promote or impede resolution of the conflict.

Two pieces appearing in UK newspapers today, however, do raise such questions.

In a piece titled “How Europe unwittingly fuels bloodshed in Israel?, appearing in today's Daily Telegraph, Daniel Hannan probes the motives of aid providers and discusses how generous European aid to the Palestinians has supported a culture of dependence and resentment that fuels extremism and terrorism. According to Hannan,

the very fact of pumping more money into the Occupied Territories will make terrorism more likely. Palestinians are already... the largest per capita recipients of overseas aid in the world. Yet the level of violence in Gaza and the West Bank has risen in proportion to the amount of assistance received.

Hannan believes that

by firehosing cash at the PA, Europeans signal their opposition to Washington, suck up to their Muslim voters and, above all, vent their dislike of Israel.

In another piece appearing in the Financial Times, "Blaming Hamas Sidesteps Regional Realities", Hala Mustafa, editor of a journal published by the al-Ahram Foundation, exposes the duplicitous behavior of the so-called moderate Arab governments and argues that for too long these allegedly pro-western governments have been given a pass on their role in propagating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why has there been so little progress? For the answer, look not just to the Israelis and Palestinians, but to other governments in the region which have been neither receptive nor helpful to reaching a lasting peace. While the roles of the Middle East's two most radical regimes, Syria and Iran (the latter recently pledged $50m in aid to prop up the bankrupt Palestinian government) are usually at the centre of the debate, very little attention has been given to the policies of the "moderate" regional governments.

Both pieces address the Palestinian aid crisis from critical perspectives, focusing on key issues that deserve more attention and discussion in the media.

Posted by SS at 10:39 AM |  Comments (0)

May 12, 2006

Novak Criticized by Friend and Fellow Columnist

Robert Novak

Last month, CAMERA exposed numerous errors in Robert Novak's column attacking Israel and its security barrier. (A follow up column by Novak was similarly inaccurate. See here.)

It is commendable, then, that Novak's friend, columnist Jack Kemp, took the journalist to task for some of those errors.

Kemp wrote:

It's not fun taking on Bob Novak, as he's been a family friend since I first went to Congress ....

[But] Bob's claim that Israel seeks to deprive Palestinian Christians of their water sources is a canard. In the specific case he mentioned, the reservoir serving the village of Aboud, was in fact built by Israel and will remain outside the security barrier, thereby ensuring free access of the villagers to the area's water source. ...

Contrary to the thrust of the Novak column, Isreal's Christian population has in fact prospered and quadrupeled over the last half-century, in sharp contrast to the dwindling Christian communities in other countries in the Middle East. ...

I have personally traveled into the West Bank in February to get a first-hand look at the "security wall" and have come to the conclusion it's absolutely necessary for the physical protection of everyone. ...

Confroned with dilemmas faced by no other Western democracy, Israel had to strike a delicate balance between overriding security needs and pressing humanitarian concerns in constructing the barrier. Under the guidance of Isreal's High Court, the government immediately made changes at the cost of rerouting large sections of the barrier, a process of self-scrutiny that continues today. Israels are the first to acknowledge the implications of the barrier for communities on both sides of the fence, yet its necessity is beyond dispute. ...

Read the whole thing here or in the April 27 Washington Times.

Posted by at 12:33 PM |  Comments (0)

May 01, 2006

Al Arian To Be Deported After Serving Jail Term

Wire services are reporting that former Florida University professor Sami Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison (of which he has already served 38 months) before being deported from the U.S for conspiracy to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian was previously found not guilty in eight of 17 charges brought against him, but agreed to a plea bargain on April 14 in which he would agree to be deported and plead guilty to one of nine remaining charges in exchange for dropping the other charges.

al arian.jpg
Sami Al Arian

AP reports that:

As part of the plea agreement, Al-Arian admitted to being associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the late 1980s and providing "services" for the group, which included filing for immigration benefits for key members, hiding the identities of those men and lying about his involvement.

Reuters writes that:

In his ruling, [Judge]Moody harshly criticized al-Arian for doing nothing to stop bombings perpetrated by Islamic Jihad.

"You lifted not one finger. To the contrary, you laughed when you heard of the bombings," he said.

"You are a master manipulator. The evidence is clear in this case. you were a leader of the PIJ."

CAMERA previously criticized apologists for Al-Arian.

Some news agencies are still at it--now trying to characterize Islamic Jihad's terrorist nature as arguable. A news database search shows, for example, that Agence France Presse (AFP) headlined its feature on Al Arian's sentencing by placing the term "terrorist" in quotation marks:

Arab-American gets 57 months for aiding Palestinian 'terrorist' group

The first sentence similarly discounts the designation of Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization:

An Arab-American former university professor was sentenced in Florida Monday to 57 months in jail and deportation for conspiring to aid a Palestinian group designated as "terrorist" by the United States.

Posted by rh at 10:55 AM |  Comments (0)