Tag Archives: gaza

Indy Story on Gaza Student “Denied” Visa to Study in UK Riddled with Distortions

A Sept. 27th article in the Independent by Bethan McKernan claims that a 28-year-old Palestinian student named Mohammed Awad was due to begin a masters programme at Goldsmiths, University of London, but may have to forfeit his place because of an “Israeli delay in approving his travel papers”.

Awad, from Jabalia, north of Gaza City, is quoted by the Indy expressing his frustration at the “red tape and lengthy delays” at COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) in processing his application.

However, we contacted COGAT to inquire about travel visa, and they responded by emphatically denying the Indy’s version of what occurred. A spokesperson told us that his application was approved for travel on Nov. 14th, the exact date requested by the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee.  Though the article was updated (at some point after it was first published) to note a response by COGAT confirming that Awad’s application had been “submitted” for travel on Nov. 14th, McKernan failed to make clear that it was in fact “approved”.

The headline accompanying McKernan’s article is even more misleading.  It not only fails to reflect the reply from COGAT, but actually claims Awad’s application was “denied”, despite the fact that the article doesn’t make this claim.

Additionally, the Indy piece asserts that Awad had previously “missed the chance to study in France in 2014 because of a delayed COGAT decision, as well as a professional development course in the West Bank last year.” But, this too was denied by COGAT in an email to UK Media Watch.  According to a spokesperson, this was his first such request.

Near the end of the article, McKernan includes a quote from an ‘expert’ named Garry Spedding:

In a letter to MPs urging them to intervene in Mr Awad’s case, Gary Spedding, a cross-party consultant on Israel and the Palestinian Territories, said he could not “stress enough” “the value of bringing Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly that of the Gaza Strip, over to the United Kingdom for studies.”

McKernan obfuscates the fact that Garry Spedding is hardly an objective “consultant”. He’s a well-known pro-Palestinian activistwho founded a group called Palestine Solidarity Society at Queen’s University in Belfast.  Spedding was deported from Israel in 2014 due to his reported involvement in organising a protest at Queen’s in which an Israeli official was attacked.

Further down in the article, the Indy contextualises COGAT’s  putative delay of Awad’s travel request by alleging that “permission to leave Gaza is notoriously difficult to obtain for the enclave’s two million residents”, an Israeli process characterized by McKernan as “Kafkaesque”.

However, the statistics (provided to us by COGAT) tell a completely different story.

  • In 2014, 65,539 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
  • In 2015, 103,784 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
  • In 2016, 99,864 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
  • In the first quarter of 2017, 39,219 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
Somehow, since 2014, more than 300,000 Palestinians have managed to navigate this “Kafkaesque” process.
Finally, in a perfect example of the advocacy journalism that routinely compromises the media’s objectivity in covering the conflict, here’s how McKernan ended her “news article”:
We’ve lodged an official complaint with Indy editors over the misleading and false claims in the article.
This article was originally published at CAMERA’s UK Media Watch.

Meet Ben Suster: Current Campus Coordinator, Former CAMERA Fellow

Prior to the summer of 2014, CAMERA campus coordinator Ben Suster was politically indifferent towards Israel. Although he had been there multiple times before to visit family and participate in programs, this trip was different. He landed a few days before the bodies of the three murdered yeshiva boys were found and was in Israel for the duration of Operation Protective Edge. The rocket attacks from Gaza resulted in hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in bomb shelters and makeshift bunkers. In Sderot, a missile landed 2 kilometers away from where he was. He attended soldier’s funerals and spent much time underground. This was an eye opening experience for Ben.Initially, the basis of his support for Israel came from his American Israeli background, but after living in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Sderot during the operation he became invested in fighting for what he now considered his home.

When he returned to the United States, he learned that Israel was not only being attacked militarily, but also assaulted verbally on his college campus and in the media. He started teaching himself about the history of Israel and the conflict, and felt invested in combatting media bias and anti-Israel sentiment at his university.

Ben started working with the pro-Israel group on campus and eventually became the president of the CAMERA-supported  group Knights for Israel at the University of Central Florida. As a group, they worked a lot with CAMERA to plan successful events. The club put together campaigns in response to Israel apartheid week and, most importantly, the members grew into leaders.

Now, as a campus coordinator for the tri state area and Canada, Ben travels to schools throughout the year and helps students by providing them with the resources they need to improve their group, execute successful events, and gives advice based on his personal experiences.

He has spoken at countless events, such as fundraisers, Chabad Shabbatons, and educational events for college and high school students, as well as invested parents. His speeches are based on how CAMERA helped him grow into an Israel educator, and how students can become a strong influence on their campus.

Ben shares what he and Knights for Israel accomplished, creating leaders who prepared and hosted events that attracted a wide range of students, half of whom were not Jewish.

Most importantly, he focuses on how the media poorly represents Israel, creates myths and misinformation and how this parallels the atmosphere on college campuses across the world today. He believes anyone can provide input on why BDS is bad, but he focuses on why empowering the students to educate about and defend Israel is the most important thing.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Ilana Sperling.

Harvard’s Sara Roy: All Hamas Needs is Love

Solving Gaza is simple. If Israel only wanted to, it could make Hamas disappear, its military wing evaporate, and its followers give up their claim to Jerusalem.

That, at least, is what seems to pass for “smart” at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES). In a London Review of Books article entitled “If Israel were smart,” CMES research associate Sara Roy weaves a tale of a Gaza Strip waiting patiently through misfortune for little more than a hug from Israel. But in her telling, Gaza is rebuffed by Israel, which for no decipherable reason continues to cruelly impose sanctions on the Hamas-run territory. (Roy has previously dubbed this “oppression imposed by Jews.”)

How easy it could all be, Roy and her carefully selected interviewees tell readers:

“If the Israelis were smart,” one religious Muslim told me, “they would open two or three industrial zones, do a security check and find the most wanted among us and employ them. Al-Qassem would evaporate very quickly and everyone would be more secure … The mosques would be empty.”

Al Qassem refers to the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s so-called military wing.

The basis for this utopian vision? “All we want are open borders for export,” another interlocutor explains. (Emphasis added throughout.) The idea that all it takes to resolve the conflict between Hamas and Israel is some industrial zones, or any other small measures, might not be the most sophisticated of thoughts. But such formations nonetheless fill Roy’s article. For example:

If the Israelis were thinking clearly, one person said, “everyone could benefit. All they must do is give us a window to live a normal life and all these extremist groups would disappear. Hamas would disappear. … Our generation wants to make peace and it is foolish for Israel to refuse.”

Another anonymous Gaza resident — all of Roy’s sources in the piece are curiously anonymous — insists that the pious Muslims of Gaza are on the verge of forgetting about Jerusalem. Roy credulously relays his assessment: “One well-placed person claimed that ‘50 to 60 per cent of Hamas’ would give up any claim to Jerusalem in return for the Rafah border crossing being opened up again.”

This type of all-it-takes thinking is also directed at Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader in the West Bank. “I was consistently told that if Abbas wanted to win the support of Gaza’s people all he would have to do is pay the [Hamas] civil servants their salaries,” the author writes.

Roy endorses each of these grandiose assurances without question or skepticism, steering her readers to do the same. In other words, with her Harvard affiliation as a certificate of authenticity, she is selling snake oil to the urbane readers of the London Review of Books.

Does the Gaza businessman who insisted his countrymen only want “open borders for export” truly represent his fellow citizens, as Roy suggests? Surely, she is familiar with polls showing that a majority of Gazans want much, much more. In one recent survey, for example, over 60 percent of Gaza Palestinians indicated that even a Palestinian state in all of the Gaza Strip and West Bank wouldn’t be a conflict-ending solution in their eyes. An even higher percentage expressed their opposition to a binational state. (What, then, is their preferred solution?)

Other polls have consistently shown Palestinians are unwilling to compromise on their demand that Palestinian refugees from their 1948 war against Israel, and millions of their descendants, be permitted to flood Israel. This would amount, in the words of dovish Israeli author Amos Oz, to “abolishing the Jewish people’s right to self determination” and “eradicating Israel.” In short, the claim that Gazans want nothing more than an increase in exports is not a serious contribution to the conversation.

Equally outlandish is the assertion that Hamas members would give up their claim to Jerusalem if Israel would open the Rafah border crossing — not only because Israel hasn’t controlled the crossing separating Egypt from the Hamas territory for the past decade, but also because, alas, Rafah was regularly open in years past, and yet Hamas members continued to demand Palestinian control over Jerusalem and the rest of Israel.

Rafah Border Crossing opened as recently as late June (Courtesy)

And what about industrial zones? Would mosques empty if there were such spaces? (Roy never does explain why she casts empty mosques as a desirable objective.) Ninety percent of Gaza Strip residents described themselves in a recent poll as religious (57 percent) or somewhat religious (33 percent), suggesting mosque attendance is hardly on the verge of disappearing, no matter the circumstances.

Okay, so would the Al-Qassam Brigades evaporate? Surely Roy knows (but doesn’t want her readers to know) that industrial zones operated for years along Gaza’s Erez and Karni crossings. Those did nothing to prevent Hamas’s onslaught of anti-Jewish violence.

Industrial parks didn’t end terrorism. Rather, terrorism ended industrial parks. Frequent, deadly Palestinian attacks targeting the Erez industrial park ultimately led to the withdrawal of Israeli businesses from the park and the end of the venture. But even as Roy refers to the lack of Israeli factories in Gaza as “morally obscene” and “outrageously stupid,” she ignores the history of Palestinian assaults on the industrial parks.

In fact, nowhere in her entire article does she acknowledge any sort of anti-Israel violence from Gaza, which has long been a launching pad for deadly terrorism — in particular thousands of mortar and rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities. It is an inexcusable omission in a piece ostensibly about Israeli border controls and sanctions affecting the Gaza Strip.

Instead, Roy goes out of her way to cast Israeli security measures as an inscrutable mystery:

“What do the Israelis want?” I was asked the question again and again, with each questioner looking at me searchingly, sometimes imploringly, for an answer, for some insight they clearly felt that they didn’t have. Why is Gaza being punished in so heartless a manner, and what does Israel truly hope to gain by it?

For those familiar with Roy’s history of sympathy for Hamas and antipathy for the Jewish state, it’s not hard to imagine her response to these (purported) questions. Her fellow Jews “are not preoccupied by our cruelty nor are we haunted by it,” she might have said. Perhaps she replied that “Hatred is familiar to us if nothing else — we [Jews] understand it and it is safe.” Or maybe she told her questioners that so many Jews, being part of “an unconscious people,” are eager to “incorporate the need to kill women and children” into their ethics code. She has said all this before.

It is clear that neither Roy’s dehumanizing, hateful anti-Jewish rhetoric nor her shallow commentary is disqualifying in the eyes of the London Review of Books. After all, the publication’s editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, once told The Sunday Times, “I’m unambiguously hostile to Israel because it’s a mendacious state.” And who better than someone who preaches to the world the immorality of the Jewish people to also lecture the world about the evils of the Jewish state?

What is somewhat less clear, though, is why Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies is unmoved by their employee’s vacuous analysis and hateful language.

This article was written by CAMERA’s Gilead Ini and was originally published at camera.org.

Gaza’s Electricity and the Tragedy of Palestinian Leadership

The nearly two million citizens of Gaza are facing a growing electricity crisis, with most Gazans now having only four hours of power a day. This is the result of the tensions between Hamas, who rule Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority/Fatah, who rule the West Bank.

Even though Gaza is ruled by Hamas, they are dependent on the PA to help provide electricity – Hamas get the fuel for Gaza’s power plant from the PA, and the PA, not Hamas, pays the bill to Israel for the electricity Israel provides to Gaza. The current crisis is because the Palestinian Authority added extra taxes on fuel, so Hamas cannot afford to buy the fuel to run Gaza’s power plant, and the Palestinian Authority also is refusing to pay Israel for the 50% of Gaza’s power that Israel supplies.

This incident demonstrates the tragedy of the Palestinian cause, and how the Palestinians are suffering, not because of Israel, but because of Palestnian leaders and their radicalism.

The Palestinian leadership is causing Gaza children to go to school by candlelight

The PA is denying Gaza its electricity as a way of pressuring Hamas to give control of Gaza back to the PA. The Palestinian people are suffering as part of the power politics between the PA (Fatah) and Hamas.

But even worse is that there is a simple solution to the crisis. The PA says it will no longer pay the electricity bill for Gaza, but Hamas could pay most of it themselves very easily.

The bill for Gaza’s electricity, provided by Israel, is $130 million dollars a year. Hamas spends $100 million a year on weapons to attack Israel with, including $40 million on digging tunnels into Israel. Imagine for a minute that you are the ruler of Gaza. Your people’s lives are drawing to a standstill as they cannot switch on lights, plug in refrigerators, charge their phones, or watch television. You have the option to provide them electricity again, or alternatively, to dig tunnels into a neighboring country, and build up your supply of rockets to attack their civilians. Which do you choose?

The situation in Gaza is tragic – as their own people go without electricity, Hamas pours all its money into trying to destroy Israel. Hamas is sacrificing their own future for the sake of trying to harm Israel’s. The world endlessly criticizes Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians – but there is no way that the Palestinian situation can improve if their own leaders continue to prioritize attacking Israel above helping their own. As Netanyahu recently said – Israel cares more for the Palestinian people than the Palestinian leaders care for them. Palestinian leadership is not looking out for the best interests of their own, and this is the great tragedy of the Palestinian people.

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

The Choices Palestinians Make

After returning from an awful weekend trip with a Christian youth group, I told my mother I wanted to stop going to church in the next town over and worship where we lived. “Nobody likes me over there,” I said. Her response was direct and brutal: “Maybe they are not the problem. Maybe it is you.”

It was a shock. Mothers are not supposed to talk that way to their 11-year-old sons (so I thought). In the years since, I have tried, with varying degrees of success, when in a difficult position, to look at the role I played in creating the circumstances I find myself in.

Maybe I have behaved in unlikable ways and need to stop. Life together with other people — with any measure of peace — requires a willingness to dispense with a false belief in one’s innocence. We all tend to believe that nothing is ever our fault; more likely, we realize that many things are.

There are times when I wish my mother could remonstrate with the Palestinians intellectuals, many of them Christians, whom I meet in the course of my work. Listening to them talk, it often seems as if the difficulties they describe are solely the result of other people’s acts. Most unsettling of all, however, is the willingness of Western peace and human rights activists to affirm this crippling narrative of innocence.

Instead of patting Palestinians on the head and telling them that everything is Israel’s fault, perhaps it is time to bring them up short and tell them, “Maybe it is you!” — and insist that Palestinians look closely at the injustices and mistakes perpetrated by Arabs over the past few decades. Perhaps it is time to confront Palestinians with the choice they face: They can keep trying to deny the Jewish people their right to a sovereign state, or they can make peace and get a state of their own; they cannot do both. If Palestinians are interested in making peace, perhaps they need to start earning the trust of the Israelis, bring an end to incitement, educate their children for peace instead of murder, and begin building a future for themselves and their children without blaming Israel for every setback they endure.

Palestinian glorification of terrorists: Mahmoud Abbas stands with a boy, who holds a photo of Dalal Mughrabi. Mughrabi killed 37 Israelis in a terrorist attack in 1978, yet is revered as a hero by the PA.

Here, the ability of the Palestinians to romance and recruit sympathetic, empathetic and condescending peace activists actually works against them. It hinders their development as a people because it prevents them from developing the human capacity for agency, or ability to, in the words of psychologist Albert Bandura, “influence intentionally one’s functioning and life circumstances… [People] are not simply onlookers of their behavior. They are contributors to their life circumstances, not just products of them.”

All too often, outsiders to the Israel-Palestinian conflict encourage the Palestinians to view themselves as onlookers to their own suffering, without encouraging them to think what their leaders did to cause this suffering. Over the long haul, such condescension does not help, and can be lethal.

You can see this condescension in the blurbs promoting The Drone Eats With Me: A Gaza Diary, (Beacon, 2016) by Palestinian writer Atef Abu Saif.

“This is what war is like in the twenty-first century—the voice of a civilian in the onslaught of drone warfare, a voice we have never heard before,” writes Michael Ondaatje, author of the acclaimed text, The English Patient. Molly Crabbapple, the radical author of Drawing Blood, declares that Saif’s book “deserves to become a modern classic of war literature.” It would seem that Saif has written a text of towering importance.

Alas, he has not. Saif does provide a powerful first-person narrative of the suffering endured by the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. The stories Saif tells in his diary, portions of which were previously published in Western newspapers, are harrowing, tragic and well written, particularly when he recounts the suffering endured by parents whose children were killed by Israeli missiles and gunfire. The entry for July 15, 2014, is emblematic:

On the TV, the father of one of the children killed in an attack on the Shuja’iyya quarter on July 9 wails at the corpse of his son: “Forgive me, son, I could not protect you!” It is very hard to watch, knowing deep down that this might be me in a week’s time. Being a father brings with it a deep-seated instinct to protect, but also an assumption that you can protect. You are your children’s hero, their superman. You tell yourself you can outwit the planes, the tanks and the warships, to protect them. You can do anything for their sake. But this father on the TV could not have done anything differently to protect his son. Only the pilot had any choice in the matter.

The problem in Saif’s thinking becomes evident in the last sentence: “only the pilot had any choice in the matter.”

The notion that the Israeli pilot is the only one who has any responsibility for the child’s death is simply false. A lot of bad choices were made — by Palestinians — prior to the death of the young child and Saif knows it; he just can’t — or will not — address these choices, at least not in this text.

By placing all the blame on the Israelis for the death of the child, he is encouraging his readers to believe that the Palestinians are powerless to change the circumstances under which they live. According to him, only the international community, which Saif laments as ineffectual and indifferent, can do that.

The reality that Saif will not confront in his book is that Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip, bears a huge measure of responsibility for the suffering he documents. Hamas has repeatedly started wars that it cannot win against a country that cannot afford to lose. During these conflicts, it has launched rockets from schoolyards and has used hospitals as command centers for its leaders, putting civilians on both sides of the conflict at risk. When children are killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza, Hamas puts their bodies on display to demonize Israel, and writers such as Saif assist in this tactic.

Saif ignores the thousands of rockets fired by Hamas in 2014, which caused the Israeli response. An IDF graphic shows how rockets were fired from all over Gaza, including from within residential areas.

Hamas has summoned civilians to the rooftops of buildings to serve as human shields after Israel warned that these buildings would soon be under attack. During the war in 2008–2009, Hamas diverted food and fuel from their intended recipients as part of its policy of increasing the suffering in the Gaza Strip in order to make Israel look bad. It has used cement and other building materials allowed into the Gaza Strip — ostensibly for the benefit of Palestinian civilians — in order to construct tunnels that can penetrate Israel and serve as a means to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.

A Hamas official recounts on Palestinian TV how Israeli forces gave advance warning to him, to evacuate his home before bombing it. He goes on to describe how after the warning, he rushed to gather friends, family and neighbors on the roof of the building to use as human shields, which caused Israeli forces to abort the strike.

The attempted attack on Israel’s nuclear installation in Dimona during the 2014 war is in line with countless declarations from Hamas that it seeks the destruction of the Jewish people. Apart from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas Charters, a few months before the summer war, for instance, a show broadcast on a Hamas-run television station encouraged Palestinian children to kill all the Jews.In the months prior to the 2014 war, Hamas leaders openly declared that they were going to invade Israel and cross all sorts of red lines in the upcoming conflict. Hamas made good on this promise by attempting to hit nuclear facilities in Dimona with long-range missiles. The missiles hit the city, but missed the city’s nuclear facilities.

During its 2012 fight with Israel, Hamas leaders declared that killing Jews is a religious obligation. Hamas promotes a genocidal organization that seeks Israel’s destruction and yet Saif does not speak a word about this lethal ideology or actions before or during the 2014 war.

Insisting that Saif confront Hamas’s misdeeds in a book that recounts — page after page — the tragic deaths of Palestinian children as a result of Israeli airstrikes might, to some readers, seem like a merciless and heartless thing to do. But if the goal is to bring these deaths to an end, that is exactly what Saif and other Palestinian intellectuals need to do.

All too often, the Palestinian deaths are used to shut down the conversation about what Palestinian leaders have done wrong and about the underlying causes of the conflict. Honesty requires that the deaths of these Palestinian children serve to drive — not obstruct — the conversation toward Palestinian agency and responsibility. As long as average Palestinians view themselves as ineffectual and helpless, their leaders will continue to rob them blind and put their children in harm’s way.

To be sure, Saif has, condemned Hamas for its totalitarian behavior after the organization prevented him from leaving the Gaza Strip to attend a literary awards ceremony in 2015 where he was to receive acclaim for his book, The Suspended Life. This text, which was short listed for the International Prize for Arabic Literature in 2015, does reportedly hint at Hamas’s oppressive agenda and style of governance. Saif is quite articulate and forceful declaring that “Freedoms retreated gradually under Hamas rule in Gaza.”

Another Palestinian writer from Gaza, Asmaa al-Ghoul, has also been critical of Hamas on this score. Speaking in Oslo in May, 2013, she declared, “Journalists in Gaza also have to face a lot because of the Islamist government of Hamas. It is a dictatorship pure and simple.” This may help to explain criticism of Hamas, however, is nowhere to be found in Saif’s book.

Predictably, Saif is quite forceful in his condemnations of Israel. In his entry for July 20, 2014, written in response to an Israeli drone strike that tragically killed Palestinian children, He writes:

Who will convince this generation of Israelis that what they’ve done this summer is a crime? Who will convince the pilot that this is not a mission for his people, but a mission against it? Who will teach him that life cannot be built on the ruins of other lives? Who will convince the drone operator that the people of Gaza are not characters in a video game? Who will convince him that the buildings he sees on his screen are not graphics, but homes containing living rooms, and kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, that there are kids inside, fast asleep; that mobiles hang over their beds; that teddy bears and toy dinosaurs lie on the floor; that posters line the walls? Who will convince him that the orchards his craft flies over in the dark aren’t just clusters of pixels? Someone planted those trees, watered them, watched them as they grew. Some of those trees are ancient, in fact, maybe older than the Torah itself, older than the legends and fantasies he read about as a boy.

On and on he goes in an emotionally powerful but intellectually dishonest lament. Saif simply cannot come to grips with the responsibility Palestinian leaders have for the suffering in the areas they govern. Nor can he come to grips with the humanity or the hopes and dreams of the people on the other side of the conflict. The reference to the Torah is a gratuitous slap — as is his use of the words “legends and fantasies” to describe what goes on in the drone operator’s head.

Sadly, the book is not a “classic of war literature,” but instead, just another text in the overpopulated genre of anti-Zionist polemics, otherwise known as “resistance literature.” In the world Saif describes, the Palestinians are innocent victims without any capabilities or responsibility for the circumstances they are in; the Israelis, to him, are the all-powerful monsters who have nothing but contempt for the international community that fails to hold them accountable.

Israeli children shelter from rocket fire. For Saif, the Israelis are monsters, distorting the real picture, whereby the IDF acts in self defence.

This is exactly what Saif’s condescending patrons and boosters in the West are looking for — narratives that allow them to embrace and broadcast baseless hatred for the Jewish state in the name of human rights.

Westerners who feast on this narrative do not help the Palestinians, but hurt them, by responding to the misdeeds of Palestinian elites with condescending pats on the head instead of the rebukes they warrant.

This article was originally published on the Gatestone Institute website.

Contributed by Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst for CAMERA.

Op-Ed: We all want justice

CAMERA Fellow Emily Firestone.

CAMERA Fellow Emily Firestone.

Unfortunately, the feel of worldwide oppression is often very present. A Wednesday night event held in the Boston University Law  Auditorium, titled “Imprisonment of a People: From the U.S. to Palestine,” hosted by the Students for Justice in Palestine and UMOJA: BU’s Black Student Union, addressed this very fact. The audience heard from a panel of speakers, which included Shaun King, Oren Nimni, Carl Williams and Yamila Hussein. The auditorium was packed to maximum capacity, and people spilled out into the next room. The feeling of deep unity, however, turned to targeting the Jewish minority in the Middle East by the end of the evening.

Shaun King addressed how these issues are very complicated and challenging to address. While I completely understand the focus of the event on the oppression of these two groups, I think the way the context was presented did not achieve a sufficient or appropriate degree of accuracy.

These conversations are highly complex. The “gray area” is vast, and one must be cautious when blurring crossing an invisible line of sensitivity. The conversation took a turn a little too deep into one viewpoint, with the repeated tone that Israel is the oppressor and root of Palestinian suffering, and I would argue that this is not the case.

This event did not hold the Palestinian leadership responsible at all and placed all blame on Israel. Palestinian leaders treat their own people terribly. Under Palestinian Authority, selling land to Israelis is a punishable offense and in Gaza, Hamas routinely steals building infrastructure provided to the people to build homes to use to build a system of underground tunnels to carry out terrorism in Israel. I think the Palestinian self-determination needs to be more pro-active to make change for the better within the culture, instead of blaming Israel for all their suffering.

While this event portrayed Israel in an oppressive light, there is another side. When I think of Israel, I actually think of the very same liberating values that were noted at the event as the goals of the two groups. I think of the diversity of the population and especially of the many minorities in the country, and the parts they play in the democracy. I think of the black and Israeli-Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament. I think of the coexistence that people want. Most people would prefer living in peace to an atmosphere of tension and even war.

On Wednesday night, Shaun King noted that it should never become politically incorrect to care about a certain issue or cause, and I couldn’t agree more. There shouldn’t be a double standard for support for Israel. There are multiple sides to every story and I acknowledge the right to just talk about one side of it. But it’s such a shame to find differences and strife when the groups have so many shared values in reality. Our enemies are common, we have the same problems with media control and bias, we are passionate about justice. Israel is a minority in the Middle East and it seems hypocritical of minority groups fighting for freedom to target another minority group that desires freedom.

It was great to hear Yamila Hussein say, “I do not trust a pro-Palestinian that hates Jews.” I just wonder why no one spoke up and acknowledged and supported the right of a Jewish national homeland for the Jewish people. It wasn’t said at the event on Wednesday night, but I’ll say it now. Being Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian do not contradict one another. This very important distinction was missed at the event.

The concept of nonviolent protest in the form of economic boycott was weaved into the evening’s conversation until it culminated, towards the end, into blatant support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. This is really problematic. The underlying goal of the BDS movement is to isolate and immobilize Israel economically. This delegitimization of Israel is appalling, especially by a group of people so passionately dedicated to self-determination. The Pro-Israel community feels that same drive for self-determination, especially finding themselves in the middle of the tough region of the Middle East. Oren Nimni actually addressed this particular issue, saying that one thing that unites the Black Lives Matter and Students for Justice in Palestine movements is being told they don’t belong. The surrounding countries do not hide their desire for the complete and utter destruction of Israel. Israel wants justice too.

This article was originally published on The Daily Free Press.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow and member of Boston University Students for Israel (BUSI) Emily Firestone at Boston University.

Alleged “humanitarian” workers in Gaza support Hamas terror

This month, the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security and intelligence agency, busted an alleged humanitarian aid UN employee, Wahid Abdullah Burash, for his support of terrorism. As an engineer of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Burash used UNDP funding which was designated for developing Gaza infrastructure, his knowledge from this project, and his access as an UN employee in order to assist Hamas in terrorism.

United Nations aid worker Wahid Abdullah Burash was arrested by the Shin Bet. Photo: Shin Bet security force, via the Algemeiner

United Nations aid worker Wahid Abdullah Burash was arrested by the Shin Bet. Photo: Shin Bet security force, via the Algemeiner

In another recent scandal discovered this August, the Shin Bet arrested Mohammed El Halabi, the chief executive of Christian aid group World Vision, for assisting Hamas with millions of dollars worth of “aid” money designated for Gazans. El Halabi has reportedly confessed that World Vision has been funding Hamas terror tunnels and Islamist militants. This supposed “aid” worker has now been exposed as a life-long member of Hamas. Sadly, El Halabi is only one example of Hamas’s tactics to exploit well-meaning NGO aid efforts in order to advance their terrorist work in Gaza.

Supposed aid workers who in reality support terrorism prevent much-needed development in Gaza and discourage future aid work in Gaza–how can anyone support a “humanitarian” program that may be directly supporting terrorism? As human rights activist Bassem Eid sadly acknowledges, this scandal “will prevent other [NGOs] from working in the West Bank as well as in Gaza.”

As Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the head of the Israeli Law Center, explains, the arrest of El Halibi is “a turning point in the struggle to deprive terrorists from the oxygen they receive in the form of aid.”

The graph depicts the number of truckloads that entered Gaza via all Israeli-controlled crossings from October 2009 onwards. Source: PalTrade, OCHA-OPT and UNSCO. These figures include truckloads of goods entering the Gaza Strip other than fuel and gas. Source: Gisha, Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

The graph depicts the number of truckloads that entered Gaza via all Israeli-controlled crossings from October 2009 onwards. Source: PalTrade, OCHA-OPT and UNSCO. These figures include truckloads of goods entering the Gaza Strip other than fuel and gas. Source: Gisha, Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

Despite Hamas’ terror tunnels infiltrating into Israel, rockets launched into Israel, and abuse of aid work, Israel constantly assists the inhabitants of Gaza. Even during times of war, Israeli soldiers risk their lives in order to deliver goods and supplies to Gazans.

Sadly, as journalist Ariel Bolstein explains, many organizations including the UN, World Vision, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, have been tricked into funding terrorism or have been betrayed by employees who use their positions to support terror activities. We can only hope that the Shin Bet’s recent discoveries will prompt justice to be served, resulting in the restoration of proper aid to Gaza.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Bottle in the Gaza Sea Screening at UAA

University of Alaska Anchorage’s CAMERA supported group, Students United, screened Bottle in the Gaza Sea. Since its release in 2011, the film has received praise, including winning the Audience Award and the Young Jury Award for Best Actor at the Reunion Island Film Festival. The film takes a very human and honest look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A girl living in Israel befriends a young man from Gaza. Their friendship is chronicled, as well as the daily struggles they both face.


“Tal is 17 years old. Naim is 20. She’s Israeli. He’s Palestinian. She lives in Jerusalem. He lives in Gaza. They were born in a land of scorched earth, where fathers bury their children. They must endure an explosive situation that is not of their choosing at an age where young people are falling in love and taking their place in adult life. A bottle thrown in the sea and a correspondence by email nurture the slender hope that their relationship might give them the strength to confront this harsh reality to grapple with it, and thereby ever so slightly change it. Only 60 miles separate them but how many bombings, check-points, sleepless nights and bloodstained days stand between them?” reads the synopsis by IMBD.

A diverse group of people ranging from their teens to late 50s, the audience was intrigued by the story and the conflicts both protagonists faced. A local high school group brought interesting questions and dialogue to the conversation. The college students were impressed by the activism of their younger counterparts, as well as their concrete understanding of the Middle East.


The relationship seen between the young Gazan boy and Israeli girl presented the conflict in a refreshing light. Their struggles were not disregarded, rather they were emphasized. Through their mutual hurdles, they are able to reach a better understanding of the other side. Overall, viewers enjoyed the film because they saw a new approach to the conflict and saw that there is a great deal of potential for people to get along in the region.

Apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship here!

The West’s Pro-Palestinian Obligation

CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly.

Any person who claims, publicly or privately, to value human life, freedom, truth, equality, self-determination or any other human rights claim must stand in support of the Palestinian people.

As shown by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice’s research the Palestinians’ basic human rights are violated daily, their children are indoctrinated and senselessly murdered. Palestinian women are left in danger of death at family members’ hands because of assault or perceived misconduct. The Palestinian lives in poverty under the thumb of an elitist and extravagantly wealthy governing body. As a people the Palestinians represent the West’s tolerance of human rights abuses.

Gaza is under the control of Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization under the leadership of Khaled Mashaal: billionaire amidst a sea of poverty. Hamas during the 2014 50-Day Gaza War carried out missile attacks on its own people, used children to dig terror tunnels into Israel, many of those children died. This, the same organization involved in the trafficking of African refugees, has killed Palestinians suspected of working with Israel, without the benefit of free and fair trial. Palestinian children grow up indoctrinated and watching violence endorsing, anti-Semitic televisions shows: Barney with bloodlust. Rather than touting kindness these children’s shows teach songs written upon the premise wiping Jews from the face of the earth would be a global positive.

For the full article, visit The Times of Israel.

Contributed by University of Alaska CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly.

Learn more about our 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship program here!

BBC Blur, a Stirring Reality

First thing in the morning, we, the participants on CAMERA’s Annual Leadership and Advocacy Training Mission to Israel departed our hotel to Kfar Haruv, a kibbutz located in the southern Golan Heights to meet Hadar Sela, the managing director of BBC Watch. Before hearing from Sela, we were entranced by the ambiance of the charming village and the majestic view of the Sea of Galilee.


Students visiting Hadar Sela’s kibbutz during the CAMERA trip.

Engaged in Sela’s talk on western media distortions, we couldn’t help but think about all the times we have been unknowingly led astray by the media. Prior to Sela’s talk, we would have thought that it would be fair to assume such a renowned and profound international broadcaster, established by a Royal Charter, would be a valid and credible source of information and news, but after Sela’s talk we changed our minds.

According to Sela, the BBC is guilty of using incorrect and unrelated photographs, misleading headlines and excluding vital parts to a story, and much more in order to distort public opinion.


Hadar Sela showing the students the view from her kibbutz

Immediately after returning to London, Sela’s voice echoed into my head. On the 8th of July the BBC broadcasted a documentary on the Children of the Gaza War, portraying the lives of Israeli and Gazan children during and after Operation Protective Edge last year. Mirroring the BBC’s normal fashion, the audience was given incorrect information. For example, the seemingly peaceful beach filled with children in Gaza, which was a regular rocket target, was actually a well-known Hamas-inhabited territory. The BBC is infamous for using statistics given by Hamas, an EU-designated terrorist organization, as a reliable and credible source for data, information and statistics.

This time however, something else was striking. There was a deliberate mistranslation in the subtitles. A Gazan child in the program says that the “yahud are massacring the Palestinians.” The word yahud  is the Arabic word for “Jew.” The BBC made the conscious decision to replace the translation in the subtitles; with the word “Israelis” for “yahud,” making the sentence read “the Israelis are massacring the Palestinians.”

After complaints of this mistranslation, the BBC then defended its decision, claiming that the children meant to say “Israelis” and that they were given advice by the translators to make it read that way as well. In changing this word the BBC clearly ignored the difference between the words “Jew” and “Israeli.” The assumed interchangeability of the words “Jew” and “Israeli” is a major problem that needs to be highlighted. By the BBC’s standards, if Jew and Israeli can be interchanged, could the words anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism be interchanged? I hope not.

What the boy was saying versus what the BBC interpreted brings up the question of how we associate the two words and why we do so. Anti-Zioinism is the hostility toward the Jewish state, whereas, Anti-Semitism is the hostility toward Jewish people, which are very different. Anti-Zionism is  seen as politically correct versus anti-Semitism, which is deemed socially unacceptable, especially in the West. Is one simply widely accepted disguise of the other, or are they two different doctrines that need to be distinguished?

Giving the BBC the benefit of the doubt, this boy was expressing his hatred for Israel and not the Jews, but because of the blurred lines between these two words nowadays,the hatred of Israel could give rise to the hatred of Jews and vice-versa.

Clearly, we are faced with a rise in anti-Semitism acreoss Europe, not to mention an increase in anti-Zionist sentiment, the latter masked by glamorous titles such as BDS or pro-Palestine. The world was shocked by the Chrile Hebdo shootins in January, followed by violent shootings by the Hyper Kacher supermarket in Paris’s porte de Vincennes-home to one of France’s more prominent Jewish communities. A legal neo-Nazi rally was carried our in Richmond Terrace, London only weeks ago; a city that boasts and accepting, multi-cultural environment suddenly shocked by individuals campaigning against the “Jewification of Britain.”

Interestingly, what is denominated “far-right” in the political spectrum was very obviously disclaimed by the presence of a Palestinian flag in the protest.

Should we not be making up our minds? Are we anti-Semitic or pro-Palestine?


This was contributed by King’s College London CAMERA Fellow, Joelle Reid.