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May 04, 2016’s Ben Norton Smears Israel, Again


Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band had been a vocal activist against South African apartheid and he does not support the anti-Israel boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement. Some fans called him out on this supposed contradiction so Van Zandt took to his Twitter account to express his pro-Israel opinions. Ben Norton of, whose shoddy reporting on Israel is a frequent topic on CAMERA, covered Van Zandt’s comments in a virulently anti-Israel article headlined, “Steven Van Zandt’s Israel gaffe: Musician gets basic facts wrong in Twitter rant. It is apartheid — South African activists agree?.

Unfortunately for Ben Norton, simply insisting that something “is,? does not make it fact, and the facts prove that Israel is not apartheid South Africa. Norton's article proposes to right the erroneous statements the musician made, but does so with an inaccurate, ahistorical version of Israeli history and no acknowledgement of Palestinian antisemitic violence and terrorism.

Norton states "Palestinians have lived under illegal military occupation for almost 50 years, and Palestinian citizens of Israel face more than 50 Israeli laws that directly or indirectly discriminate against them 'in all areas of life,' according to Israeli human rights organization Adalah.?

In fact, Israel’s “occupation? in the West Bank is not illegal under international law. That is a claim journalists often make but it is refuted by many international legal scholars (and often exposed by CAMERA for example, here in response to the New York Times and here, regarding another article).

CAMERA has also unmasked the fallacies riddling Adalah’s list of Israel’s allegedly “discriminatory laws,? which include, for example, the ridiculous citation of the 1949 Flag and Emblem Law that put the Star of David on the Israeli flag. Adalah claims that the presence of the Jewish Star of David on the national flag is discriminatory to other religions, even while the cross is depicted on the flags of countries across Europe and the Islamic crescent appears on many national flags around the world.

Van Zandt tweets that “The problems there have existed for a thousand years and you want the solution in 140 characters?? How does Norton rebut this? By parroting Palestinian talking points:

In 1917, the British colonial regime’s Balfour Declaration pledged the land of Palestine to the Jewish people, without consideration of the people who already lived there. From 1947 to 1948, Zionist militias waged a war of independence from the British, forming the state of Israel. In this war, Zionist militias ethnically cleansed the Palestinians, forcibly expelling roughly two-thirds of the population, as renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappé documented in his book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.? Today, the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees registered with the U.N. do not have the right to return to their home. One of the core demands of the BDS movement is the right to return.

The claim that “Zionist militias ethnically cleansed the Palestinians? trusts in the entirely unreliable research of Ilan Pappé, who is known for making up quotes to support his charges. Additionally, Norton’s statement that “One of the core demands of the BDS movement is the right to return? does not acknowledge that Palestinian return is meant to cause the destruction of a Jewish state. Norton also misrepresents the entirety of the Palestinian refugee issue, failing to include important context.

Norton's description of the creation of the Jewish State of Israel suggests the destruction of an established national Palestinian people who had lived in the land for centuries. This is patently untrue. As others have done in their reporting of Israel, Norton also completely ignores the deep and long history of a Jewish presence in Israel, as well as the necessary context of antisemitic violence.

Refuting comparisons of Israel to South African apartheid does not amount to a ludicrous "Twitter rant.? The facts prove that Israeli society, which is marked by Arab doctors, lawyers, judges, and academics working alongside Jews and Christians, is nothing like racist, apartheid South Africa. Norton quotes an Israeli activist who preposterously states that "Tel Aviv is a modern day Sun City," comparing the Israeli city known for its beaches, Gay Pride parade, and thriving cultural scene that welcomes racial diversity to the segregated South African metropolis of wealth whose only residents were white.

Ben Norton, not Steven Van Zandt, is the one who has made the “Israel gaffe."

--Rachel Frommer, CAMERA Intern

Posted by SC at May 4, 2016 04:56 PM


Why does Norton not mention the 850,000 Jews that were Expelled by Middle Eastern Arab Muslim nations in 1948??

Posted by: Michael Palmer at May 5, 2016 11:07 PM

I have a masters degree in public international law and in international criminal law from Leiden University in the Netherlands. The one thing that rankles me every time I hear it is that "illegal" trope. Everyone is so anxious to claim that what Israel does is "illegal"; excessive force in its defense, security measures and most commonly it's "illegal occupation" of the "Palestinian territories". Other than the "Wall" decision of the International Court of Justice (the "ICJ") which refers to the "Occupied Palestinian Territories" without having litigated the issue, there has never been a finding by any legitimate international body that Israel occupies anything! Saying it is so does not make it so, no matter how often it is repeated.

Posted by: Ian at May 6, 2016 10:03 AM

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