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PBS Stands by “Dying to Be a Martyr” Curriculum (Part 1)

Early in April, the conservative news website the Blaze reported on a lesson plan about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict geared towards high school students on PBS’ website. The lesson plan, titled, “Dying to be a Martyr,” includes video clips of interviews with three young Arab men who either committed terror bombings against Israelis or planned to commit them.

As the Blaze pointed out, “no instructions are provided telling teachers to denounce the radical claims made by Majdi [who participated in a terror attack that killed 17 people] and there are no other lesson plans describing the conflict from the point of view of the Israelis.”

The written materials that accompany the videos are also extremely one-sided, and prompt students to sympathize with the Palestinian side.

Shortly after the Blaze and a few others reported on the lesson plan, the (now-former) PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler wrote about the lesson plan and the coverage of it on his blog. Of the lesson plan itself, Getler wrote that, “my own reading of the lesson plan was that the overall tone it projected was more tilted toward understanding the plight of the Palestinians—which is very real—than to the impact, and especially the immorality, of suicide bombings as a recourse; that the most powerful elements were those bomber videos and that it was more focused on the drama of capturing the voices and desperation of the bombers than on the immorality of the act itself.”

Despite these comments from its own Ombudsman, PBS has neither removed the lesson plan nor altered the content.

A Hamas terrorist.

The Lesson Plan’s Objectives

One of the stated objectives of the lesson plan is to “explain why individuals and groups sometimes turn to tactics of terrorism, and evaluate how terrorism affects the world we live in.” Indeed, one of the student organizer worksheets asks students about the impact of the bombing on Israelis. Yet, there is no video or written material that discusses how individuals and societies are affected by terror.

Moreover, the only information about why people engage in terrorism is the statements of the two bombers and the would-be bomber themselves. There is no mention of the fact that the Palestinian Authority pays salaries to terrorists, or of the undeniable causal connection between those salaries and terror. This omission is despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority law has been in effect unofficially “since the PA came into existence in 1993 … and [it was] made official in 2004.”

Nor is there any mention of incitement in statements by Palestinian leaders, in books and lessons in PA schools, and media. For example, a recent study by the Center for Near East Policy Research found that “over 200 US-government- approved textbooks used in hundreds of Palestinian UNRWA-sponsored schools are reportedly teaching Arab children between the first and ninth grades to kill Israelis, and sacrifice themselves as martyrs to drive Jews out of the country.”

Therefore, the lesson plan does not provide the necessary material for students to accomplish its stated goal.

The Lesson Plan’s Video Materials

The lesson plan’s Overview states:

This lesson will use video segments from Wide Angle‘s “Suicide Bombers” (2004), Internet sites, and primary sources to examine the roots of the Middle East conflict. The video contains interviews with young Muslim Palestinians who participated—or intended to participate—in suicide bombings. These young Palestinians share the personal, religious, political and emotional reasons behind their participation in these terrorist operations.

As is made clear, the three video interviews with terrorists are central to the lesson. There are no videos with interviews of terror attack survivors or family members of those killed to provide balance.

Two of the three clips are from an interview with 18-year-old Mohanned Abu Tayyoun, who planned a terror attack but then changed his mind and did not go through with it. The third video features two subjects, 25-year-old Majdi Amer, who built the bomb that killed 17 people and wounded 50, and another terrorist whose name is not given.

While playing the videos of Mohanned, teachers are instructed to ask students “to identify how Mohanned views his life and how he feels it differs from the lives of Israelis (Jews),” and “why Mohanned may feel that way.” PBS tells us, “answers may include: Palestinians have less land, fewer privileges, cannot come and go as they please.” They are not instructed to ask students to identify how a survivor of a terror attack feels nor the feelings of family members whose loved one was killed in a terror attack. The worksheet students are to be given after viewing the videos asks, “how does history relate to the anger of Palestinian suicide bombers towards the state of Israel and Jews, as seen in the video clips?” There are no questions asking how Jews or Israelis might feel about being attacked in 1948, 1967, 1973, or in hundreds of terror attacks. The materials are set up to prompt students to sympathize with the Palestinian side.

In the third video, titled “Israel and Palestine,” terrorist Majdi tells viewers, “if the Israelis kill a child in Gaza, I’m ready to kill one in Tel Aviv.” The students are not given any information, however, about why a child may have been killed in Gaza. Thus, the material leads them to a false understanding of the two killings as morally equivalent.

Majdi continues, “I’m a person who looks for peace, who calls for peace, but with one basic condition, the freedom of my country and people, and to put an end to this Nazi state, this racist Jewish state.” The students are never told that peace and freedom were offered to the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000, and again in 2001 – years before Majdi’s 2003 attack – and rejected by the Palestinian Authority’s then-President, Yasser Arafat, in favor of violence.

The second terrorist interviewed in the same video tells his audience, “it’s the duty of every Muslim to liberate this land, every inch of it, so, we acted accordingly, struggled to free all of Palestine, the whole of it, the areas occupied in 1948, as well as the West Bank and Gaza strip, all of it.” There is no instruction, however, to compare this statement with other statements in the lesson plan that this is a struggle over getting a fair share and an even division of the land.

 

To continue reading this article, part two can be found here.

This article was originally published by CAMERA’s Karen Bekker at camera.org.

PBS Stands by “Dying to Be a Martyr” Curriculum (Part 2)

The Lesson Plan’s Written Materials

The written materials present an extremely one-sided view of the conflict. The discussion of the UN’s proposed partition plan, for example, highlights the mass of land allocated to Jews and Arabs, but omits the fact that approximately 60 percentof the land allotted to the Jews was desert. The answer key also inaccurately states that the area for the proposed Arab state was “isolated from other Arab nations,” when in fact the proposed state would have shared borders with Lebanon, Egypt, and Transjordan. Thus, the lesson prompts students to incorrectly conclude that the UN’s proposed partition was unfair to Arabs.

Moreover, the student materials ask students to imagine the reactions to the partition plan by a “Palestinian Muslim,” and an “Israeli Jew … for example, a student may draw a happy face for an Israeli Jew and an angry face for a Palestinian Muslim.” Of course, prior to 1948, the populations were referred to as “Palestinian Arabs,” and “Palestinian Jews.” The material informs students that Palestinians Arabs were justifiably unhappy with the proposed partition plan, and revisionist language is used to connect only the Palestinian Arabs with the land, when in fact it is Jews, and not Palestinian Arabs, that are indigenous to the region. This further encourages the students to sympathize with the Arab side.

In combination with the videos, the effect is that terrorism is portrayed as an understandable, if not justified, response to a legitimate land grievance.

In addition, the lesson plan is out of date. Michael Getler reports that it is ten years old. It includes two links, purportedly to find further material, that are no longer functioning. It was written prior to the 2008 negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, during which Olmert offered to evacuate almost all of the West Bank – an offer that Abbas rejected. The lesson plan also does not include the pivotal 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, though it appears to have been prepared after that withdrawal took place. Nor does it include the fact that Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 and has used it as a terror base ever since, launching attacks, rockets and missiles against Israeli civilians.

PBS Ombudsman Weighs In

PBS’s now-former Ombudsman, Michael Getler (who retired in the spring) addressed this lesson plan on his blog. Although he speculated as to some critics’ possible ulterior motives, he still found that they “raise what I consider to be some legitimate questions about the content, or more precisely as I read it, a lack of more contextual content, within this lesson plan.”

He raised the following criticisms with PBS’ corporate communications:

1) that the project ‘seems to encourage students to learn to sympathize with radical Islamic terrorists,’2) that there is no instructions or denunciation of the immorality of suicide bombing, and also radical Islam, and 3) that there is no lesson plan describing the conflict and the tactics from an Israeli point of view.

The corporate communications office responded that, “in no way does [PBS] condone the heinous actions of individuals who would target innocent civilians. PBS would strongly condemn any assertion that terrorism is ever appropriate.” Yet, this condemnation is not present in the lesson plan itself. PBS instead relies on teachers to spontaneously provide this interpretation of the materials – something they may or may not do. The lesson may not explicitly condone suicide bombers, but without an explicit condemnation, it could certainly be interpreted that way by impressionable teens.

PBS corporate communications further asserted that the material “helps high school students grapple with the complexity of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” This is plainly not the case, because the material is simplified to highlight the point of view of only one side. To the extent that the Israeli side is presented at all, in the written materials, such written materials are clearly not as powerful a medium as the videos in which students learn the terrorists’ point of view.

PBS corporate continues, “the instructional activities that are part of the lesson plan(e.g., the culminating activity for students to ‘create an objective newspaper article from the perspective of a reporter who has just witnessed a suicide bombing. The article will include background on the conflict, motivations of the bombers, impact of the bombing on Israelis, and a conclusion’)and the accompanying resources all provide a multi-faceted view of the issue.” It’s not clear, however, how students can include information on the “impact of the bombing on Israelis” when they have not been provided with any material on that subject, or how they can discuss motivations of the bombers when they have not been provided with all of the information about factors that may influence them.

Getler wrote that, “it is, in my view, important to hear such views [i.e., those presented in the lesson plans] and understand what motivates them.” Perhaps. But such views should be balanced with views of those who have survived terror attacks, or family members of those who did not survive. A discussion of the PA’s role in funding terror attacks, and the incitement in school textbooks would also have provided much-needed context.

The PBS lesson plan is a textbook case of bias, presenting predominantly one side, doing so in a more compelling way than the other, and failing to include important facts and context. What makes it particularly insidious is the fact that this is not a simple PBS news segment or documentary, it is a lesson plan meant to influence young minds.

This is part two of “PBS Stands by “Dying to Be a Martyr” Curriculum”. To read part one, click here.

This article was originally published by CAMERA’s Karen Bekker at camera.org.

Confessions of a College Zionist

CAMERA Fellow Jody Miller

A few weeks ago while tabling for an event with my pro-Israel group Mustangs United for Israel on campus, we were approached by a student who stopped and asked, “So, if you are pro-Israel then that means you’re anti-Palestinian?” It was an easy question to answer. In fact, it only took one word: No.

This question and others like it have become routine for me. Throughout my time in college, I have been told that because I believe in the Jewish state’s right to exist, I can’t believe in equal rights, Palestinian human rights or my rights as a woman.

Actually, I can — and I do.

It is because of my belief in honoring people’s rights regardless of religion, race,or sex that I feel compelled to support Israel. As the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel offers the same legal rights and protections to citizens, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, is hardly a homogeneous Jewish group; Muslim, Christians, and Druze all serve as elected officials and in other government roles.

The Middle East, with the exception of Israel, is notorious for its mistreatment and discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community. In Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is punishable by death. In these and many other Middle East countries, it is dangerous to just express support for LGBTQ+ rights and movements.

Tel Aviv Gay Pride (Reuters)

With the West Bank under the control of the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip under the rule of Hamas, the Palestinian leadership offers no exception to the Middle East’s hostility towards LGBTQ+ rights. According to the U.S. State Department, “the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza [are] challenging environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons,” due to societal discrimination stemming from cultural and religious traditions. Palestinian gay men are subject to threats, intimidation, and potential violence. Meanwhile, as former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren pointed out in a 2012 speech,  “The same year that the U.S. instituted Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Israel Defense Forces specifically banned all discrimination against sexual minorities.”

Ironically, many of the students who specifically question my own respect for the rights and protection of Palestinians know very little about how the government in the Territories actually treat the people who live there. Israel is painted as the “oppressor,” but consider this 2016/2017 assessment from Amnesty International:

The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip both continued to restrict freedom of expression, including by arresting and detaining critics and political opponents. They also restricted the right to peaceful assembly and used excessive force to disperse some protests. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife in both Gaza and the West Bank.

In February, Palestinian author Abbad Yahya was arrested for his novel Crime in Ramallah for “threatening morality” and his novel was banned. Yahya reportedly fled his home amidst death threats. According to NPR, a book club in the West Bank city of Nablus had to cancel public discussion of the book after its members received death threats. Where are the rights for these Palestinians?

Imagine if you were not allowed to express your thoughts on current politics without fear of retribution. The International Human Rights Council recorded 41 instances of individuals being arrested, harassed or intimidated by the PA for issues relating to freedom of expression in 2015. At least a handful of those instances were due to opinions expressed on social media.

Sexual assault and harassment, domestic violence and honor killings still remain a problem in Palestinian society. In 2014, the Washington Post, along with multiple other outlets, reported that “honor killings” of women had doubled in the Palestinian territories from 2012 to 2013. According to the United Nations, “29.9 percent of ever-married women in the West Bank and 51% in the Gaza Strip have been subjected to a form of violence within the household.” Where are the rights for these Palestinian women?

I can confidently say to my fellow students that I not only care about the rights of Palestinians, but I have actually taken the time to learn about life under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and understanding the complex roots of the hardships they face. I will not pretend that Israel is a perfect country that plays no role, but I also recognize that the true underlying root of their oppression is their own government — and that scapegoating Israel as the monolithic source of pain is inaccurate and cruel.

Moreover, I will not stand here and feel intimidated by other students who question my support for Palestinians and human rights. Instead, I will educate the students at my university because a true advocate of any cause will not rely on inaccuracies and misconceptions that are bandied about without facts or knowledge, but rather read, listen, study, and teach.

Contributed by Jody Miller, CAMERA Fellow at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and member of CAMERA-supported group Mustangs United for Israel.

This article was republished at The Algemeiner

The Dangers of Divestment

CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Zagorsky

Less than one year after USG voted down OSU Divest’s attempt to divest from Israel, the group has yet again pushed the issue onto the ballot. They claim the sole purpose of this bill is to fight for social justice, and to create financial neutrality by preventing OSU from using its funds to support companies that cause human-rights violations. While I respect the ballot process and OSU Divest’s democratic right to voice their opinion, the information they are providing is misguided and fails to tell the whole story. This thinly-veiled anti-Semitic campaign will only cause trouble, not bring an end to injustice. Despite OSU Divest’s insistence that they are trying to make OSU neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, voting “Yes” on Issue Two inherently means taking an anti-Israel side. Instead, there are many reasons why I encourage you to vote “No” on this dangerous ballot measure.

OSU Divest’s bill is a product of a larger campaign called the Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign (also known as BDS). The BDS campaign specifically targets liberal college campuses, masking anti-Semitism as a fight for human rights. The Ohio Legislature is one of 17 states that voted to prohibit state agencies from doing business with any company that openly supports BDS, and former President Barack Obama spoke out against the BDS campaign, stating that it unfairly “targeting the State of Israel.”

Ballot Issue 2 singles out Israel in its supposed quest to fight human-rights violations, while openly ignoring the hundreds of other countries (Syria, North Korea and Russia to name a few) that are currently inflicting far more serious crimes against their citizens. It is a direct violation of the State Department’s 3D’s test of anti-Semitism: any legislation that seeks to demonize, delegitimize, or subject Israel to a double standard is no longer seen as legitimate criticism of the country.

But not only does this ballot issue promote anti-Semitism internationally, it also signals to students at home that anti-Semitism is acceptable. Campuses across the nation that have passed BDS have seen spikes in anti-Semitic acts.  Last year, here at Ohio State, members of the pro-Israel community (Senators and regular students alike) were harassed and taunted after leaving the BDS vote. I personally asked one of my friends to walk me home — I was scared of the angry protesters waiting outside the Senate chamber.

Ballot Issue 2 additionally mentions divesting from companies who supply to private prisons. It is therefore troubling that the only student group on campus, the Student Alliance for Prison Reform, was never contacted to help. The ballot’s anti-Semitism cannot be clearer, and SAPR is openly against this bill.

Many Palestinians employed at SodaStream lost their jobs due to the BDS campaign

Additionally, a pro-BDS bill has many negative financial ramifications.  Even the Palestinian Authority (the governing body of PA-controlled areas in the West Bank) does not support the BDS campaign, as boycotting these companies hurts Palestinians economically. Seriously, look up “The Palestinian Case Against BDS,” written by Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human-rights activist. A few years ago, SodaStream was boycotted, causing them to close down their factory in the West Bank, putting many Palestinians out of work.

I encourage you to vote “No” on Issue Two in the upcoming election and prevent this bill from harming Palestinians and your fellow Buckeyes. At the very least, though, ensure that you understand the issue before you vote.  Simply checking “Yes” because the ballot says it is preventing human rights violations could be one of the most dangerous things you could do.

Contributed by Ohio State University CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Zagorsky.

This article was originally published in Ohio State University campus paper The Lantern.

Palestinians are Hurt by BDS

CAMERA Fellow Deborah Shamilov.

“All the people who wanted to close SodaStream’s West Bank factory are mistaken… They didn’t take into consideration the families,” Ali Jafar, a Palestinian SodaStream employee stated back in 2015. He had been working at the Israeli company’s West Bank factory which produced home carbonation drink machines for two years before it was shut down due to pressure from the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign.

Palestinian workers react to the SodaStream in the West Bank being shut down.

The BDS campaign aims to prevent people around the world from buying Israeli products, and even has targeted celebrities and educational institutions for their support for or representation of anything related to the Jewish state. The campaign claims that Israel practices apartheid in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – similar to that which was practiced in South Africa. However, SodaStream and its employees contradict such lies about Israel. The factory had been bringing Palestinians and Israelis to work together happily, and today also employs Arabs and Bedouins. Management and staff had shared that benefits and salaries were the same for employees in the same job setting, regardless of whether they were Jewish, Bedouin or Palestinian. In some cases, Palestinian workers were even given higher positions than their Jewish counterparts. In a video made by the SodaStream employees, you can see them introducing each other and working side-by-side in peace.

Following SodaStream’s fall in sales, the factory had to be relocated to Southern Israel and as a result, had to lay off the 500 West Bank Palestinians it had employed. In the end, the global campaign intended to delegitimize Israel had in fact hurt the Palestinians. It had hurt the opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to work together and build relationships.

Regardless of the progress and happiness felt by the workers, the fanatics of the BDS campaign squandered a wonderful opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis alike. This is just one example of the BDS campaign attacking Israel with blind, unjustifiable hatred; and the torment continues. In response to the boycotts and protests, SodaStream will now be placing stickers that read, “Made is in Israel: This product is produced by Arabs and Jews working side by side in peace and harmony” on all of its products.

New SodaStream labels

The question is, what are the real goals of the BDS campaign? Is it to help the Palestinians, or is it to use the Palestinians as a reason to target Israel? Either way, it has neither been helping Palestinians, nor has it been using factual claims as a basis for its Israel hatred. Innocent people working towards peace should not have to suffer because of the hatred spewed out by the ignorant.

Contributed by Rutgers University CAMERA Fellow Deborah Shamilov.

PBS Hosts Extremist Miko Peled on Talk Show

On February 2, PBS’s Tavis Smiley hosted Miko Peled on his talk show. Peled is a radical anti-Israel activist who has, in the past, falsely described Israel as an apartheid state, referred to Israeli airport security officers as the “Smiling Gestapo,” and defended terrorists.

On Smiley’s program, Peled:

  • called Jewish history a myth,
  • called Israel an illegitimate state, saying Jews have no right to self-determination there,
  • called the Haganah a terrorist group, but justified terrorism against Israelis, and
  • perpetuated falsehoods about Israel, including the ubiquitous water libel.

Yet, his host failed to aggressively challenge his assertions.

Miko Peled (left) during his interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS.

When Smiley asked Peled how he responds to allegations that he is antisemitic, Peled responded, in essence, that he can’t be antisemitic, first, because he is Jewish, and second, because he is not racist against African Americans or other racial minorities. Peled then claims that opposing the State of Israel – not its policies, but the State itself – is not antisemitic. In fact, the Obama State Department declared that it is. This, too, is ignored by his host.

Neither Smiley nor a second guest, apparently brought on in an attempt at “balance,” unraveled the falsehoods promoted by Peled. Real journalism requires real facts, not narratives spun by advocates. PBS should do better.

If Tavis Smiley had researched his subject prior to the interview, he would have found that Peled has falsely described Israel as an apartheid state, and called Israeli airport security officers the “Smiling Gestapo.” In the anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada, Peled wrote that “Israel is an illegitimate creation brought about by a union between racism and colonialism,” and that “criticizing Palestinian resistance [i.e., terrorism] is unconscionable.” He has described terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons – some for murder – as “political prisoners.”

The Obama State Department defined antisemitism to include “justifying the killing or harming of Jews (often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion),” as well as “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” and “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist.” Prior to appearing on Smiley’s show, Peled had engaged in all three of these behaviors. Yet, during the program, Smiley failed to aggressively challenge Peled when he continued his open delegitimization of the State of Israel, when he dismissed historical fact as a “mythical narrative,” or when he promoted a narrative that is not based in fact at all.

Peled began the discussion by calling “the return of the Jewish people, the building of a Jewish state after 2,000 years” a mythical narrative. He continued,

Legitimizing the idea that Jews have a right to come from Europe, take over a land that is inhabited by other people, kick those people away and establish their own state there, I don’t see how you legitimize that. But these were different times.

These were times where Europeans thought they could come to the countries of people who are not white and do whatever they wanted, and that’s what really Zionism was about. The idea was for white European Jews to go to go to Palestine that was inhabited by Arabs, which means they’re probably just Bedouins and poor people and who cares, and establish a state for the Jewish people.

There are numerous problems with this statement. First, Peled ignores the ample historical evidence that Jews are in fact indigenous to the land of present-day Israel, and ignores that Jews have maintained a continuous presence in Jerusalem since 1004 BCE. Second, referring to Jews simply as “white Europeans” ignores the history of Jewish oppression in Europe, as well as the fact that many Jewish Israelis arrived in the country as refugees from Arab lands. And, as CAMERA has shown before, “many of those who today identify as Palestinians descend from relatively recent migrations from surrounding territories.”

It’s also inaccurate to generally describe the Arabs living in Mandatory Palestine as having been “kicked away.” While there were some instances in which the Arabs of Palestine were forced from their homes during the 1948 War of Independence, in most cases, those who became refugees fled from actual or anticipated fighting.

In one of his more disturbing comments, Peled refers to the Haganah as a terrorist group. In fact, the Haganah was formed for the defense of the Jewish communities of Mandatory Palestine, after British forces failed to protect those communities from attack. A few minutes later in the interview, however, Peled justifies terrorism when it is committed against Israelis, saying “if they’re Palestinians and they live there and you come and declare that it’s a Jewish state, what are they supposed to do, you know? They’re going to resist. They’re going to fight. You’re going to put them in prison, you’re going to call them terrorists.” Again, Smiley fails to challenge either the inaccurate characterization of the Haganah, or the defense of the murder of civilians.

Smiley gives Peled an opening for the delegitimization of Israel when he asks, “tell me why you no longer believe that a two-state solution is even viable.” Peled responds at some length, but never mentions that Palestinians have turned down Israeli offers to withdraw, allowing them to create their own state, three times since 2000. Instead, he absurdly claims that the fact that people refer to the region as “Judea and Samaria” somehow prevents the establishment of a Palestinian state. In discussing the close proximity in which Jews and Palestinians live in the West Bank, he also relies on the assumption that Jews won’t be able to live in a future Palestinian state, without questioning whether or why, this is so –namely, that they would likely be targeted with violence. Finally, he cites the descendants of Palestinian refugees, without questioning why they are the only refugee group that passes down refugee status from one generation to the next, rather than being resettled in their host countries.

During the interview, Peled says explicitly, “I don’t accept that there’s a need for a Jewish state…. You cannot have a Jewish state in an Arab country unless you are going to infringe upon the rights of the local people. You have to kick them out because they won’t have rights.” Peled – and Smiley – both ignore the fact that two million Arabs live in Israel with full and equal rights. Here, however, Peled does get a little bit of push-back from his host, when Smiley asks, “why are Jews not entitled to their own homeland, to their own state, to their own borders? Why are they not entitled to that?” Peled’s response is telling: “Because Jews have their states. They have American Jews in America. They’ve got French Jews in Germany. You’ve got, you know, Australian Jews in Australia.”

Peled’s claim that Israel is unnecessary because they’ve “got French Jews in Germany,” ignores the fact that for most of the history of European Jewry, Jews were persecuted, culminating in the Holocaust. It ignores that in the Middle East, Jews lived in second-class, or dhimmi, status. It ignores the current flight of French Jews into Israel, to escape anti-Jewish violence there.

Smiley misses those points in his response, in which he asserts “that’s like saying Americans, we shouldn’t have a US of A because there are Americans all around the globe.” His comparison to America is specious. European colonists who came to the US were not indigenous to this land, as Jews are to Israel, and there was no American nation living in exile for 2,000 years.

Finally, Peled repeats the thoroughly-debunked water libel, saying, Palestinians “get 12 hours of water per week,” and implying that this is Israel’s fault. As CAMERA has noted before, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) has dispelled this canard:

Water shortages in the Palestinian Authority are the result of Palestinian policies that deliberately waste water and destroy the regional water ecology. The Palestinians refuse to develop their own significant underground water resources, build a seawater desalination plant, fix massive leakage from their municipal water pipes, build sewage treatment plants, irrigate land with treated sewage effluents or modern water-saving devices, or bill their own citizens for consumer water usage, leading to enormous waste.

At the same time, they drill illegally into Israel’s water resources, and send their sewage flowing into the valleys and streams of central Israel. In short, the Palestinian Authority is using water as a weapon against the State of Israel. It is not interested in practical solutions to solve the Palestinian people’s water shortages, but rather perpetuation of the shortages and the besmirching of Israel.

CAMERA’s Tricia Miller has written:

Israel supplies Palestinian communities with water from Israeli wells and has laid hundreds of kilometers of new water mains and connected hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns to the newly built water system. Villages and towns not hooked up to the new system have refused the service for political reasons, believing that acceptance of Israel’s offer of a new water supply would legitimize the “occupation.”

The guest that followed Peled on the program, Rabbi Steve Leder, was presumably intended to give an appearance of balance. Rabbi Leder did disagree with Peled about the need for a two-state solution and for Jewish self-determination, and did note that, according to former US envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Martin Indyk, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has “checked out.” Rabbi Leder did not, however, debunk any of Peled’s falsehoods and he did not note that the Palestinians have rejected three Israeli peace offers. Thus, many of Peled’s claims went unchallenged.

 

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.

Pomerantz: An Open Letter to President Snyder

Dear President Snyder,

We are writing to you on behalf of Israel’s CWRU, the only pro-Israel student group on campus. My name is Hannah Pomerantz, I am a second-year student at Case Western Reserve University, a member of the group, and a Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Recently, the CWRU Radical Student Union hosted a screening of a film about the portrayal of the Israel-Palestine conflict in American media. This film made many broad claims about the conflict which suggested that Israel has, among other things, used false propaganda to secure support from the American public and has lied to uphold its image as the underdog.

The film sought to educate about manipulation in the media regarding Israel’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while directly contradicting this idea. Several students and staff who have spent a significant amount of time studying the nuances of the conflict were able to see clear anti-Israel bias in the film. One of the most notable points was the portrayal of Israel as an offensive threat, facing zero casualties during waves of violence, which is plainly false, while outlining the number of Palestinian casualties many times over. This is an inaccurate and one-sided narrative that grossly misrepresents the conflict and justifies a response. Lastly, the film concluded with a call to action that encouraged Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that is nationally known to act with hatred towards Jews and people who support Israel. It suggests that students should get involved with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which is harmful to both Israelis and Palestinians alike.

While I do believe every student on this campus is entitled to express their opinion, I think that a film which demonstrates such clear bias is unacceptable to be presented by a student organization at our university, without even providing information from another perspective. However the real cause for concern that arose because of this screening was the chalking found the next day on campus, calling for BDS on our campus. In 2013, you expressed the university’s stance that we must oppose academic boycotts in the “strongest possible terms.”

CWRU prides itself on being a university that strives towards the best possible future and having students who are educated in a well-rounded way, especially on topics of diversity and inclusion. By allowing such a narrative to come to our campus, we are heading down a dangerous road of exclusion and hate, which is antithetical to what I believe is our mission as students at CWRU.

My hope in drafting this letter is that you, President Snyder, will continue to affirm our work towards open dialogue and unbiased education from all sides for the betterment of all students on this campus.

Sincerely,

Hannah Pomerantz

CAMERA Fellow

Member of Israel’s CWRU

Case Western Reserve University Class of 2019

This article was originally published on The Observer.

Putting IDF Soldiers Through Higher Education

Haredi, or ultra-orthodox Jews, often live in sheltered communities in Israel. Recently, young Haredim have been either leaving their religious background or their community norms in order to serve in the IDF. Many Haredim, often despite their family’s wishes, are choosing to serve and overall become more involved in the workforce of the secular world.

Haredi soldiers. Source: mycatbirdseat.com

Haredi soldiers. Source: mycatbirdseat.com

For many, joining the Israel Defense Forces serves as a great way to become part of the secular world and increase one’s own opportunities. As an alternative to IDF service, those who are unable to serve in the military for medical, religious, or other reasons, can serve in Israel’s National Service, working at schools, hospitals, or other institutions for one to two years.

While the participation of Haredim in the IDF and Israel’s National Service is on the rise, Palestinians have recently become more involved in this avenue of Israeli society as well, serving in the both. Many Palestinians want to help protect the country that is allowing them to live freely, to work, and to advance professionally. Abed, an Arab resident of East Jerusalem explains, explains that she chose to join Israel’s National Service because as an expression of loyalty to the State of Israel. She recognizes the benefits of being in Israel, all that it offers her, and wants to give back to the state in return.

Source: twitter.com

Source: twitter.com

By serving in the IDF or Israel’s National Service, an individual gives up their time and dedicates their efforts to helping ensure the security and development of Israel. The State of Israel recognizes this and as a show of appreciation, has been increasing the benefits for participating young people. For example, the IDF has increased the salaries of soldiers.

The IDF has decided to help soldiers with their higher education recently as well. A new program has been launched to fund university costs for combat soldiers and soldiers who lack sufficient family support, financial or otherwise. Ideally, the IDF would like to develop this program so that every individual in Israel that dedicates their time to serving the country can be helped with higher education in return.

Education is key to financial and professional advancement. Current and recently released soldiers are very enthusiastic about this new program that will financially support them in their university costs. While now financially supporting university costs, the Israeli government is also trying to develop high-school education in order to increase university opportunities already from a younger age.

School girls in East Jerusalem. Source: AlJazeera

School girls in East Jerusalem. Source: AlJazeera

In order to enter university, an applicant must fulfill matriculation exams. By completing the Israeli matriculation exams, an applicant can much more easily apply for a higher education degree. The Israeli government recently set up funding for Palestinian schools that allow students the opportunity to take these exams, and in turn, encourage students’ eligibility to attend university.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority criticized this new beneficial program. While Palestinian residents, such as Abed who wants to advance herself academically and is happy to participate in Israeli society, the PA chooses to bad talk a program that can only increase opportunities for Palestinians.

Balancing between financial constraints and the many different ways to improve Israeli curriculums or encourage professional advancement in Israel, Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett has been leading many beneficial changes in Israeli education. Bennett and the Education Ministry is dedicated to improving education opportunities for all of Israel. As Bennett says, “we have to give the tools and build capabilities for all of our kids to have 21st-century skills” in order to succeed and that is the Education Ministry’s goal for all children in Israel, regardless of their community or origin.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

MLK’s Dream Conflicts With BDS

Dumisani Washington, a CAMERA speaker and a proud activist for Israel, is an expert in Dr. Martin Luther King’s pro-Israel legacy. In the past, he has spoken to students at UCONN, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, as well as at other CAMERA-supported groups. When Dumisani Washington speaks to students who are either pro-Israel, not at all knowledgeable about Israel, everyone learns a lot from his interesting perspective.

Dumisani Washington

Dumisani Washington

The values of the BDS movement reflect concepts from Black ‘militant’ movements rather than Dr. King’s legacy of human rights. Washington’s writings help explain the antisemitic roots of BDS and how they conflict with what Dr. King stood for.

Dr. King stood for peace in the Middle East and peace in Israel

Source: inspiringthealtruisticmoment.com

Source: inspiringthealtruisticmoment.com

Dr. King, in simple and clear words, stated that, “What is basic and what is needed in the Middle East is peace.” Although the follow-up statement is often overlooked, Dr. King also explained that regarding Israel, “We must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist.” As Dumisani Washington explains, Dr. King respected the Jewish people and Israel’s territorial integrity—he recognized the Jewish state as the model democracy in the Middle East. Dr. King even referred to Israel as “an oasis of brotherhood and democracy.”

While other groups during the Civil Rights Movement had begun to falsely label Israel as a colonizing, imperialistic power, Dr. King only called for restoring security in Israel.

Black ‘militant’ groups disagreed with Dr. King and began to slander Israel.

Black Panther members in the 1960's. Source: hiphopwired.com

Black Panther members in the 1960’s. Source: hiphopwired.com

While Dr. King is highly respected and appreciated for his leadership and efforts in the African American Civil Rights Movement, African American ‘militant’ groups such as Black Panther were critical and impatient with Dr. King’s non-violent methods of ending discrimination.

Such African American civil rights activists, or ‘militants’ as they were referred to, were angry at American society—they were thirsty to finally obtain equal rights and establish Black Power.

As part of their quest for justice, these ‘militants’ were quick to look at Israel and equate the Palestinian-Israeli relationship to the White-African American relationship. As Dumisani Washington explains, they began to label Israel as a Western colonization and as imperial, and tended to sympathize with Arabs.

Such Black ‘militant’ groups drew false parallels between their narrative and that of Palestinians.

On May 8, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians wave flags as Israelis march celebrating Jerusalem Day outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's old city. Source: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

On May 8, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians wave flags as Israelis march celebrating Jerusalem Day outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s old city. Source: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

Projecting the African American narrative on the Palestinian narrative creates an inaccurate conception of Middle East relations and is simply a false understanding of Israeli-Palestinian relationships.

Dr. King could not agree more with Black ‘militant’ groups that America needed to stop discrimination and establish equal rights for all citizens. However, in addition to protesting their violent methods, Dr. King also disagreed with their undeveloped understanding of Israel.

Dr. King recognized that Israel’s relationship was not at all comparable to that of America’s relationship to African Americans. In fact, Dr. King argued that as the country developed, Israel would only help Palestinians further.

On a fundamental level, Dr. King disagreed with Black ‘militant’ groups and saw them as “color consumed.”

Dr. King marching with Dr. Ralph Bunche and Rabbi Abraham Joshua in a 1965 protest. Source: jewishcurrents.org

Dr. King marching with Dr. Ralph Bunche and Rabbi Abraham Joshua in a 1965 protest. Source: jewishcurrents.org

The philosophies of Black ‘militant’ groups did not reflect the opinion of most African-Americans. As Dr. King explained, these ‘militants’ were “color consumed” and would condemn those who are not colored. This is a radical reaction to racism and is a sort of racism of its own.

As a result of being “color consumed,” these Black ‘militants’ would empathize with “colored” Arabs. Consequently out of a sense of “colored” superiority, they would stand in solidarity with Arabs and became hostile to Israel.

In Dumisani Washington’s words, Dr. King saw this as “nonsense.”

Dr. King would not tolerate color superiority of any kind and believed that people should be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Dr. King’s perspective on the Middle East was objective whereas Black ‘militants’ looked at the Palestinian-Israeli relationship with an automatic bias.

Though this sometimes meant disagreeing with fellow African Americans, Dr. King was more concerned about not being “color consumed” and fighting honestly for truth and justice.

Fundamental roots of the BDS movement are similar to, and possibly directly influenced by, these “color consumed” concepts.

FUCK BDS

While the BDS movement claims to be helping Palestinians, BDS is an anti-Semitic movement.
BDS is unconcerned about the Jews’ need for a safe haven and their right to their homeland in Israel. BDS is only interested in hearing the Palestinian narrative and choose them over the Jewish people just as Black ‘militants’ sided solely with Arabs.

As Dumisani Washington explains, Arab aggression, beginning with the Khartoum Declaration, spurred anti-Israel views among Black ‘militants.’ In turn, this strengthened anti-Zionism in America and eventually resulted in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel.

To honor Dr. King’s legacy is to truly serve human rights and justice.

Jewish palestinian friends. Source: jmsmith.org

Jewish palestinian friends. Source: jmsmith.org

While the BDS movement is blinded by its staunch bias against Israel, Dumisani Washington argues that to truly promote Dr. King’s legacy of human rights for all people, it is essential to stand with Israel.

Additionally, Dumisani Washington explains that Palestinian authorities must be criticized for perpetrating their own people. While BDS overlooks Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, these regimes are responsible for countless honor killings in the West Bank and for withholding aid funds worth billions of dollars from suffering Palestinians.

Similar to the Black ‘militant’ groups, BDS is a color consumed movement and needs to consider the roots of their values before they continue wasting their time blaming Israel and not truly helping Palestinians.

To further understand Dumisani Washington’s view on Israel and his writings on Dr. King’s Pro-Israel legacy, click here. In addition, Dumisani Washington constantly speaks for Israel on his Facebook Page.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz