By Rob Harris
Part Two: A look at the individuals cited Murphy’s article
On the 9th of February 2012 the Irish Examiner featured an extraordinary article by Dervla Murphy calling on Irish President Michael D. Higgins not to visit Israel. The intellectual dishonesty of Ms. Murphy’s article stands out, as does the extremism of advocating a one-state solution.
The second part of this article analyses the views of the critics that Murphy quotes as a test of their credability. There is also further analysis the points she made in her open-letter. Part one looks at the broad issues raised by her article.
Murphy gets down to business by referring to the “many Jewish supporters” of the BDS movement:
Tony Judt was among many Jewish supporters of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) campaign.
She quotes a statement by Tony Judt, shortly before his death, perhaps to add an emotive element:
Not long before his death he repeated his call for the EU to use its “enormous leverage” and say to Israel: “So long as you break international law, you can’t be part of the EU market”.
He defined our reason for not doing this as “ridiculous self-blackmail”. His Dutch and German friends said to him: ‘We couldn’t do that! Think of what we did to the Jews. We can’t use economic leverage against Israel. We can’t be a critic of Israel… Why? Because of Auschwitz…”
Quoting Judt allows Murphy to push the outrageous assertion that self-blackmail is behind the EU’s failure to bring about sanctions against Israel. The notion is inferred that Israel also blackmails the EU. It is an all too common charge that Israel uses the Holocaust cynically in the West to gain favours.
Judt conflates two very different things: criticism of Israel, and sanctions, to advance his point of view.
Judt continued: “I understand that. Many of my family were killed in Auschwitz. However, Europe can’t live indefinitely on the credit of someone else’s crimes to justify a state that creates and commits its own crimes… […] the European bad conscience is part of the problem.”
The EU maintains ties with Israel because it is clearly in their economic interests to do so. It is a small but hugely productive economy, of which many major international companies have research bases. Israel also produces more than its fair share of cutting edge technology, especially in the field of health.
Israel should not be special because it is Jewish. Jews are to have a state just like everyone else, it should have no more rights than Slovenia and no fewer.
Here Murphy suggests through Judt’s voice that the EU give more rights to Israel than other states. That is complete nonsense. The truth is that the EU, and its member states, frequently lambast Israel, far more so than other nations that have a contested human rights record. China is one such example.
It is worth pointing out that Tony Judt was a troubling individual, not because he criticised Israel, for that was his right but rather due to the way in which he attacked it. He called Israel an “anachronism” that should be done away with, and dismissed as a “cliché” the idea that attacks against Israel can be motivated by anti-Semitism. He also excused suicide attacks against Jews because “the Palestinians have no other weapons.”
Bizarrely Judt blamed Israel for the increased incidents of anti-Semitism outside Israel. He stated in “Israel: The Alternative”
Today, non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn’t do. But this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions. Diaspora Jews cannot influence Israeli policies, but they are implicitly identified with them, not least by Israel’s own insistent claims upon their allegiance. The behavior of a self-described Jewish state affects the way everyone else looks at Jews.
This argument illustrates the absurdity and irrationalism at the core of Judt’s thoughts on the subject. To quote Leon Wieseltier in the New Republic:
He [Judt] finds himself “implicitly identified” with Israel’s actions in, say, Jenin. But he was nowhere near Jenin. He killed nobody. Indeed, he is ferociously opposed to the killings, and to the policies of the Sharon government in the territories generally. All he has to do, then, is to say so, and then to express his anger at the suggestion that he is in any way responsible for what he, too, deplores. For the notion that all Jews are responsible for whatever any Jews do, that every deed that a Jew does is a Jewish deed, is not a Zionist notion. It is an anti-Semitic notion. But Judt prefers to regard it as an onerous corollary of Zionism (“not least by Israel’s own insistent claims upon their allegiance”). He refuses to place the blame for this unwarranted judgment of himself upon those who make it. Instead he accepts the premise of the prejudice, and turns on Israel. He makes a similar mistake in his evaluation of “the increased incidence of attacks on Jews in Europe.”
It is a paragon of anti-Semitism (and racism more generally) to judge all Jews by the actions of some. Why would anti-Zionists target all Jews when some like himself shout so loudly against Israel?
Clearly the answer is difficult to come by but it would seem that at some level Judt may have identified with this extremism, almost as a rejection of his identity as a Jewish individual, and partly agreed with the stance of the anti-Semites who targeted Jews. Why else would he blame Israel rather than the perpetuators? Perhaps it is fitting for Ms. Murphy to have quoted such a confused divided individual.
It is worth adding that pro-Palestinians criticise opponents who state that certain Jewish critics are self-hating. It would be wrong to suggest all Jewish critics of Israel are likely to be self-hating. However, self-hatred is apparent among various minorities, where some people internalise the oppressive views of others, and come to dislike their identity. This issue would likely manifest in Jewish people too, especially given such cultural antipathy that portrays them as extremely immoral, greedy, cunning etc.
Dervla Murphy wrote:
In the words of Lisa Taraki, a co-founder [of the BDS movement], “the basic logic of BDS is the logic of pressure — not diplomacy, persuasion or dialogue”.
Murphy affirms that pressure is the way to go with Israel, rather than dialogue. A stark admission to make that illustrates the author’s extremism. Despite the nonsensical point about a “logic of pressure”, Lisa Taraki is a Professor of Sociology at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, and a prominent speaker who seeks to boycott of Israel at an economic, artistic, and academic level. To quote Taraki’s speech more comprehensively:
What Palestinians are beginning to realize now with the failure of the political process and dialog, is a new logic of BDS; not a logic of persuasion but of pressure. . . . It’s not a boycott of individual Israelis, but of institutions, and the major cultural institutions are complicit in the domination of oppression. . . . The problem is the Israeli state and what upholds its power . . . virtually all Israeli institutions are complicit.
Taraki claims the BDS movement does not seek the boycott of individuals. This is an obfuscation because in reality a boycott would not merely discriminate against institutions, it would discriminate against individuals, even if they only have a loose association with the relevant institutions. One example is BDS activists pressuring universities all over the world to stop programmes for Israeli students. Rather than seeking a selective boycott, the BDS movement seeks the complete isolation of every sphere of Israeli society on the basis of a certain nationality tied to religion and ethnicity/race.
The common pro-Palestinians cry of “Israel is a belligerent that won’t see sense any other way” is proffered when some object to the draconian measures advocated by the BDS movement. This view is echoed by Ms. Taraki, and is akin to the “string ‘em up, it’s the only language they understand” sentiment of the caricatured London cab driver, as found in publications like Private Eye. It leads to the question of who exactly walked out of peace talks at Camp David in 2000, when the offer of 91% of territorial demands was acquiesced to, and who walked away from Olmert’s offer in 2008 of virtually 100% of all territorial demands with land swaps? Should we actually boycott the Palestinians instead?
It should be noted that in order to justify the academic boycott, Ms. Taraki attempted to suggest Israeli universities are somehow unfree, and used to forward a supposed colonial enterprise. In reality, it is well known Israeli universities are a breeding ground for post-Zionist ideology.
PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), the pre-eminent BDS organisation which Taraki co-founded, claims that “resistance in all its forms is a legitimate right” of Palestinians. It is a significant statement because such groups describe terrorism as “resistance”. Thus they advocate terrorism as one form of morally legitimate “resistance” since all forms have that status.
PACBI is part of a larger Palestinian Non-Government Organization Network, which is afﬁliated to an organisation called Ta’ayush, which led the notoriously anti-Semitic attacks on Israel during the UN Durban I “anti-racism” conference.
Lisa Taraki is also on the board of Al Haq, a Ramallah based NGO. It is a prominent BDS group that also defended terrorism as resistance. Other board members include Shawan Jabarin who was heavily involved with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group. Al Haq was also heavily involved at Durban.
It should be noted that delegates declared the intention of using the Durban I conference as a weapon to harm Israel, and indeed the pro-Palestinian NGOs at the event enshrined the methods for Israel’s demonisation. Jews were denied the opportunity to serve on committees at Durban I, and faced pamphlets asking “What if Hitler had won?” etc.
Murphy quotes Udi Aloni at length:
As the Israeli-American writer and film-maker Udi Aloni explains: “The local strain of apartheid policy nurtured by Israel is precisely the reason why so many Jews all over the world have joined the BDS campaign, key issue for those who are trying to prevent violence against Israel while simultaneously countering its arrogant and aggressive policies… thus BDS actions do not amount to negative, counter-productive moves, as many propagandists try to portray them… they are actions of solidarity, partnership and joint progress serving to preempt, in a non-violent manner, justified violent resistance aimed at attaining the same goals of justice, peace and equality.”
Through the above quote, Murphy claims that the BDS movement takes action in order to prevent violence from happening! The BDS movement emphasises its peaceful intent but that claim should be treated with scepticism when numerous BDS organisations actually legitimise “resistance” in all forms.
Udi Aloni is a prolific advocate for BDS and the one-state solution through his films and books. Despite his limited English skills, he typically waxes lyrical on the prospect of peace with a nation united. His statement from which Murphy quotes, is a paragon of one-sided left-wing absurdity, which not only seeks to nullify Israel as a Jewish state, it lacks any requirement for Palestinians to end terrorism after an immediate withdrawal from the settlements. He baldly states:
The three very basic principles of BDS are:
- An immediate end of the occupation
- Full equality to all Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel
- Legal and moral Recognition of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return
The sentence “From the River to the Sea all People Must be Free” is given prominence of place on Aloni’s website. It clearly echoes the common pro-Palestinian chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which represents a denial of Israel’s right to exist.
Aloni doesn’t seem to think Israel has any right to exist, even in the pre-1967 borders because it is cast as a humiliating 60 year occupation:
You roll your eyes, use your loving words in the service of your conquering people and call upon the Palestinians to surrender in a tender voice. You bestow upon Israel the role of liberator. Upon Israel — that for over 60 years, has been occupying and humiliating them.
Aloni attacked Judge Goldstone viciously in an article that gave out about Goldstone after he refuted some of findings of the highly prejudicial UN Report on Gaza. Aloni asserted: “Judge Goldstone is, in fact, legitimizing apartheid.” but Aloni himself has an unfortunate way of dealing with facts to suit his own purposes.
Aloni erroneously claimed Jewish settlers are subsidised by the US taxpayer. He claimed Israel is not a real democracy, and cites, as proof of Apartheid, the limited citizenship of Arabs in East Jerusalem who are unable to vote. However, the Arabs of East Jerusalem aren’t Israeli citizens as most refused it. Therefore, voting rights are limited but they are able to vote in local municipal elections, and the more important Palestinian legislative elections. He even expects Israel to build housing for Palestinians in the refugee camps because they do so for Jewish settlers. However, Israel only has control over Area C in Oslo II, which represents Jewish habitation. He also presents his mother as a disenchanted Zionist:
“Mom, is all this apartheid?”
With the sigh of a betrayed lover she indicated that, yes, this is apartheid. My heart broke.
Yet Udi is the son of Shulamit Aloni, often described as a hard-core Stalinist, whose anti-Zionist zeal is so intense it borders on the anti-Semitic:
We are a nefarious people. What we are doing in the West Bank is worse than all the pogroms done to the Jews.
Like other anti-Zionist Jews, it seems Aloni has issues with his identity. Even though he already does a great deal for his Palestinian friends, he still feels that he cannot “perform” his Jewishness (!) without reservation:
After so many years of this horrific occupation, when we lost our human side, I felt as a Jew living in Israel that the only way I can perform my Jewishness now is with the unconditional solidarity with my Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Dervla Murphy then cites poet Vitzhak Laor in her article to suggest Israel behaves in a manipulative fashion to try to sway public opinion abroad:
In 2008, Israeli writer Vitzhak Laor revealed that Israelis accepting foreign ministry funding for taking their culture or artistic work abroad were obliged to sign a contract undertaking to act faithfully, responsibly, and tirelessly to provide the ministry with the highest professional services. The service provider is aware that the purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the state of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel.
So much for freedom of speech, if the “service provider” disagreed with some of the state’s policies.
One would expect some sort of contract in any situation where tax payers money is doled out to artists. It is hardly in any nations interest to fund projects that would do significant damage to its standing, and to expect financial aid to simply reinforce “free speech” illustrates the absurdity of Ms. Murphy’s view. Israel has in fact aided films that are far from positive in their portrayal of Israel, for example the film Waltz with Bashir which had real international impact.
It should be noted that the claims of Vitzhak Laor need to be treated with scepticism. He wouldn’t be an impartial source on the topic because he is so virulently anti-Zionist that he has often rewritten very basic history, in the past:
…the claim that Israel faced an existential threat in 1967 was a propaganda lie. It would have been possible to unravel the complicated situation caused by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, but Israel and the United States decided to exploit the Egyptian mistake.
… But the only concession we needed to make, even back in 1967, was giving up the messianic claim that this is our land, from the Bible, and therefore we have a right to it.
The astonishing dishonesty or stupidity of the above quote is difficult to fathom. Laor thinks Israel didn’t face an existential threat even though Nasser repeatedly stated such charming sentiments as “This is our chance Arabs, to deal Israel a mortal blow of annihilation, to blot out its entire presence in our holy land”, and “The Arab people is firmly resolved to wipe Israel off the map”. These and other comments were made the month preceding the war itself, and just a few days after he had ordered UNIFIL peacekeeping troops out of the Sinai. UNIFIL took him seriously enough to leave within a few days. Soon afterward Egypt blocked the Strait of Tiran for Israeli shipping, which is an act of war in its own right. Within a very short time, five nations amassed troops at Israel’s borders. Laor also makes a comical claim that all Israel had to do was give up on its historic Jewish claims as if the surrounding Arab nations would ever leave a principally Jewish state in peace!
Laor went as far as to add credence to the Al-Dura travesty, propagated by the French media, which has been used as a method of incitement in the Arab world since. Laor’s misrepresentations are so extravagant that some are tempted to say he is a dishonest individual.
Dervla Murphy cites Judith Butler’s particularly extreme view that there cannot and should not be any sense of normal life in Israel, and neither is any Israeli entitled to neutrality over the issue of BDS, (the absurdity of this stance is addressed in Part One of this article under ‘Israeli’s ain’t “normal”’):
Modai’s [the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland] claim the film festival was non-political should be considered in the light of University of California professor Judith Butler’s thinking on BDS and normalisation: Israelis have the power to oppose the occupation through BDS, the most powerful non-violent means available. Things change the minute you say “we cannot continue to act as normal”. To work to the side of the occupation is to participate in its normalisation. And the way that normalisation works is to efface or distort the reality of the occupation within public discourse. As a result, neutrality is not an option.
And of course Ms. Murphy includes the by now obligatory “I’m-not-a-horrid-anti-Semite-because-I-am-citing-a-Jew” point by referencing the tragedy Butler’s ancestors faced, as she did with Tony Judt:
Many of Butler’s family were holocaust victims. She grew up in the US in a household sympathetic to Israel.
In reality, Judith Butler is not another disenchanted Jew, of which the pro-Palestinian movement make much of. She is in fact a virulent anti-Zionist who seems to bend over backwards to defend anti-Semitism, and in essence seeks the end of the Jewish State. Many of her other views are also bizarre. For example, as a “Queer Studies expert”, she thinks that people with gender dysphoria should go through dangerous and life-changing transgender operations at will, without psychological evaluation beforehand.
The Olga Document
Ms. Murphy continues her theme of Jewish criticism of Israel by citing a text written in 2004:
Eight years ago, a large group of Israeli scholars and activists met at Givat Olgo… they issued the Olga Appeal. It notes: “The state of Israel was supposed to be a democracy; it has set up a colonial structure combining unmistakable elements of apartheid with the arbitrariness of brutal military occupation… We are united in a critique of Zionism, based as it is on refusal to acknowledge the indigenous people of this country and on denial of their rights, on dispossession of their lands, and on adoption of separation as a fundamental principal and way of life. Adding insult to injury, Israel persists in its refusal to bear any responsibility for its deeds, from the expulsion of the majority of Palestinians from their homeland more than half a century ago, to the present erection of ghetto walls around the remaining Palestinians in the towns and villages of the West Bank.”
The Olga Appeal seeks to stimulate debate about binationalism…
Ms. Murphy whitewashes the intent of the text, the aim of which appears to be to demonise the State of Israel. Its authors included extremist academics like Anat Biletzky who was one of the “scholars” who claimed in 2002 that Israel was going to perpetuate a vast act of mass genocide against the Palestinian populace, come an invasion of Iraq. If they were speaking the truth, was their crystal ball a tad dirty?
To quote an analysis of the Olga Document (or letter) in Commentary Magazine:
Israel, the letter says, is a “death trap” and “the biggest ghetto in the entire history of the Jews”; “military operations and wars has [sic] become the life-support drug of Israel’s Jews.” It goes on to state that “we are living in a benighted colonial reality — in the heart of darkness”; and that Israel seems “determined to pulverize the Palestinian people to dust” by subjecting them to “the nightmare of apartheid, the burden of humiliation and the demons of destruction employed by Israel unremittingly, day and night, for 37 years.” Out of “racist arrogance,” the document claims, Israelis across the political spectrum “depict the Palestinians as subhuman.”
Judging by the extraordinary language used in the text, it is a tract that features sentiments that bear more than a passing resemblance to unhinged self-hating racism. The letter calls Israel the biggest Jewish Ghetto that has ever existed. It also claims that “Israel’s Jews” are somehow addicted to the violence of militarism, conflict and war.
The text is a nonsense that betrays in the authors a very limited appreciation of truth. For example, it claims Israel is attempting to completely destroy the Palestinian people. Yet census figures indicate that the Palestinian people of Gaza and the West Bank had increased from one million people in 1969 to roughly four million by 2004. A four-fold increase in populace in less than forty years is a substantial achievement, which is simply incompatible with any claim of genocide, unless the highly professional IDF are in fact the genocidal equivalent of Dad’s Army!
Other than some extremists who make utterances that are rightly condemned, and given substantial coverage in the mainstream media, Israeli’s do not depict Palestinians as sub-human. By contrast the Palestinian-Arabs continually incite hatred for Jewish people. The letter also makes the claim that the Arabs are “indigenous” to the land, which infers the Jews are not. The Jews do conform to the true definition of an indigenous displaced people, making it a denial of Jewish history.
The question of Israel being an apartheid state in any way akin to South Africa is also an absurdity. All citizens of Israel have the same right to vote, and stand for election to the Israeli Parliament. Some cite the divergent laws in the so-called “Occupied Territories”. That is another canard. Under the Oslo Accords, Israel was to administer the zones with Jewish occupation, and the Palestinians their own. The Jewish zone (Area C) comes under military law, which is effectively the same as laws in Israel itself, whilst the Palestinians have their own legislator. Thus, the apartheid-accusers use the very results of a peace process, intended to devolve and create a Palestinian State, as a club to beat Israel with!
Murphy quotes Mazin Qumsiyeh, another BDS advocate who seems to have a limited grasp of the historical facts of the conflict:
In the land of Canaan, Jews, Christians, and Muslims working together to make the change need more pressure from outside and are beginning to show some progress.”
Ms. Murphy also mentions Arab-Christians as working together with Arab-Muslims to rid themselves of the awful scourge of Israel. Whilst there are quite a number of strongly! pro-Palestinian Christians, the Christian presence has been devastated in the Palestinian territories, and the broader Middle-East.
The town of Bethlehem once had an 85% Christian population at the end of the British Mandate. Areas under Jordanian control experienced a large exodus of Christians, especially East Jerusalem, which lost roughly two-thirds of its Christian populace in a mere nineteen years! Furthermore, a bitter civil war erupted between Lebanese Christians and Muslims during the 1970’s, in part at the instigation of the PLO after they were pushed out of Jordan. These issues had an impact on Bethlehem but it was still over 60% Christian by the 1990’s. However, there has been a mass exodus of Christians since the Pa! lestinian Authority took over in 1995. From the very start Arafat marginalised the Christian populace, and today Christians make up around 15% of the town. By contrast, Israel is the only nation in the Middle East where all can practice their respective faiths unmolested.
The failure of Islamic-Arab society to show tolerance toward their Christian brethren throughout the Middle East would surely cast doubt on Ms. Murphy’s suggestion of a bi-national Jewish-Islamic state, where there is monumentally more hostility toward Jews than Christians. The truth is that such a state would be a short step away from the mass genocide or at best the mass expulsion of Israel’s Jews.
Near the end of her article, Ms. Murphy quotes an inspirational tract:
Ali Abunimah, a young Palestinian-American, emphasises a crucially important point: “By talking of a common future and imagining it, we engage in the act of creating it; we introduce a different prospect to endless war. It is only through shattering taboos and articulating a vision that we can move the idea… from the far margins to the centre of discussion. Simply by admitting the notion to the range of possibilities, we change the landscape.”
In actual fact Ali Abunimah is a 40+ year old Palestinian journalist. He is a seasoned figure on the BDS scene. Whilst he is young in comparison to Ms. Murphy’s years, it is misleading to present a middle-aged man to the reader as some sort of innocent Palestinian youth.
Mr. Abunimah is far from the dovish individual he is presented as being. He is the co-founder of Electronic Intifada, which says a lot for his extremism, and has written tracts with the likes of Omar Barghouti. In 2009 he twittered “Isn’t it the time for a popular Palestinian revolution in the form of a third intifada?” and made other charming statements such as “Supporting Zionism is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.”, and “Ending the occupation does not solve the problem. The Jews do not view all human beings as equal. The 1948 borders were calculated to harm Christians, Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims.” which echoes the views of Barghouti.
Ms. Murphy has cited and quoted quite a number of individuals to advocate a very hard-line approach against Israel. They are presumably cited as paragons of virtue, at least with respect to this issue. Yet none of these people stand up to a modest level of scrutiny, to which they were subjected in this article.
Rob Harris contributes articles to several websites on contentious political issues (not to be confused with the popular English novelist (1957-) of the same name). He blogs at eirael.blogspot.com. He lives in Ireland. For all the exclusive blog entries by Rob Harris, go here.