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February 18, 2010

"What Often Happens to Israel's Critics"?

andrew sullivan critics.jpg
Andrew Sullivan, in a series of recent posts his blog The Daily Dish, purports to describe "What often happens to Israel's critics."

What happens, we're meant to believe, is that these critics are met by little more than "smears and character assassinations."

Of course we've heard this all before from the likes of former president Jimmy Carter, Gaza investigator Richard Goldstone, and Independent columnist Johann Hari. And of course, in each of these cases, the cry of "character assassination" was intended to denigrate and distract from the many serious, substantive critiques of their work. Put another way, the smears were not targeted at Israel's critics, but rather employed by them and directed at the critics' critics (including CAMERA).

But what about the latest charge by Sullivan?

Well, his exhibit one is nothing other than a repeat of a May 2008 column by Johann Hari. Apparently Sullivan hadn't seen the Hari column until now. And apparently he didn't realize, or didn't care to reveal to his readers, that Hari's accusation has long been debunked.

Discussing the reaction to a column he wrote blaming Jewish settlements for poisoning Palestinian land and water with untreated sewage, Hari claimed, and Sullivan echoed nearly a year later,

There was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile "pro-Israel" writers and media monitoring groups – including Honest Reporting and Camera – said I an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ...

Which might be very convincing, were it not yet another distortion by Hari. CAMERA has, in fact, never compared Hari to Goebbels or Ahmadinejad, and very much did dispute the substance of his piece (including inter alia by pointing out the key fact that Hari concealed: that Palestinians are by far the major source of untreated sewage in the West Bank. See rebuttals of Hari's column, e.g., here and here.)

So, understood with all the relevant facts, here is "what often happens to Israel's critics": They sometimes falsify or otherwise distort the facts in relentless attacks on Israel. When that's the case (and also when people disagree with their logic for other reasons) they are often criticized by others, who fact-check, add context and debate ideas. When that happens, Israel's critics often pretend that the criticism amounts to little more than ad hominem smears, and fail to reply to the substance of the challenges.

Plus ca change.

Disclaimer: This blog post is in no way charging Andrew Sullivan with being an antisemite. That's left for others to debate.

Posted by at February 18, 2010 05:50 PM


Sullivan's complete about face with respect to Israel -- he used to be among Israel's strongest supporters and the Palestinians most vocal critics -- is payback to the neocons for making common cause with the gay-bashing religious right in the U.S. It really has little to do with Israel, but Sullivan will seek to conceal this behind a mist of words and rationalizations.

Posted by: Jeff at February 18, 2010 07:52 PM

Sullivan of yesteryear is really the best refutation of Sullivan of today. In an article in the Sunday Times of Oct. 20, 2002, entitled "Anti-Semitism Creeps Into the Anti-war Camp," Sullivan while denying that opposition to Israel is per se anti-Semitism, has this to say:

"[W]hat are these anti-Israel
fanatics really obsessed about? The answer, I think, lies in the nature of part of today's left. It is fuelled above all by resentment of the success western countries, and their citizens,
have achieved through freedom and hard work. Just look at Israel's amazing achievements in comparison with its neighbours: a vibrant civil society, economic growth, technological skills, an agricultural miracle. It is no surprise that the resentful left despises it. So, for obvious
reasons, do Israel's neighbours. The Arab states could have made peace decades ago and enriched themselves through trade and interaction. Instead, rather than emulate the Jewish state, they spent decades trying to destroy it. When they
didn't succeed, Arab dictators resorted to the easy distractions of envy, hatred and obsession.... Such negativism matters. When a movement is based on resentment, when your
political style is as bitter as it is angry and your rhetoric focuses not on those murdering party-goers in Bali or workers in Manhattan but on the democratic powers trying to protect them, your fate is cast. A politics of resentment is a poisonous creature that slowly embitters itself. You should not be surprised if the most poisonous form of resentment that the world has ever
known springs up, unbidden, in your midst."

And in The Sunday Times of August 11, 2002, Sullivan says: "It is almost a given in the European media that Israel is the immoral protagonist. The fact that it is a democracy, and there is not one democracy in the Arab world, is ignored, as is the fact that Israel exists in part because of Europe's legacy of genocidal anti-semitism. The incidental killing of civilians during Israel's acts of military self
defence are seen as morally equivalent to the deliberate targeting of civilians by Palestinian bombers. And the routine hatred of Jews, an anti-semitism that is now a key part of the ideology of the Arab states, is simply ignored, or
downplayed. We're not anti-semitic, Europeans say, we're anti-Israel. But while the
slightest infraction of civilised norms by Israel is trumpeted, the routine torture, despotism and corruption that is the norm among its neighbours barely gains a column inch."

These and many other articles over the years, as well as appearances on C-Span's Washington Journal with Christopher Hitchens, and blogs of prior years on his web site, are a rich mine of passionate pro-Israel opinions that completely contradict his new-found, but equally passionate, anti-Israel rhetoric.

Posted by: Jeff at February 19, 2010 01:56 AM

Dear Sirs,

You state with conviction that Hari is incorrect in alleging that untreated Israeli sewage is polluting the occupied territories and endangering Palestinians, yet the link provided in your own 'rebuttals' -
- clearly states this is the case: "Sewage from most Palestinian cities and villages receives no treatment at all. The sewage of many Israeli settlements in the West Bank is not treated adequately, or even at all."

Furthermore: "The Israeli Environment Ministry opened a criminal investigation against the Mayor of Ariel settlement, on account of sewage mis-management" so it is openly acknowledged by the Israeli government, making your statements in above and in the rebuttals even more bizarre.

Lastly, as a nation state Israel is responsible for and empowered to govern itself effectively. The Palestinians have been denied this basic human right. Accusing them of culpability for inadequacy of infrastructure even while they are blockaded and prevented from improving it against their will is like telling someone they are responsible for breathing adequately while holding their head in a tank of water.

You should be ashamed.


Posted by: Martin at March 16, 2010 10:59 AM

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