Thursday, June 12, 2008

Al-Jazeera's Viewers Get A Lesson On Jerusalem

Dr. Mordechai Keidar, a lecturer from Bar Ilan University's Department of Arabic Studies, was interviewed last week on Al-Jazeera by journalist Jamal Rayyan about Jerusalem Day--apparently in part because of reports that Israel plans to construct housing units beyond the Green Line.

The result was a lecture that Al-Jazeera's viewers will not soon forget:
Rayyan opened with the question, "Mr. Mordechai, is his decision meant to constitute another nail in the coffin of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?"

The journalist appeared taken aback when Keidar answered, "To tell you the truth I don't quite understand this. Must Israel ask permission from some other authority in the world? It has been our capital for 3,000 years. We have been there since the time your forefathers used to drink wine, bury their daughters alive, and pray to multiple gods."

Keidar was referring to a period Arabs call Jahiliyyah (ignorance of divine guidance), which prevailed in the Arab world before the time of the Islam. "So then," he continued, "why must we speak about this? It has been our city for 3,000 years and will be for eternity."

'Jerusalem is ours for eternity'

The stunned Rayyan refused to give up. "Excuse me Mr. Mordechai! If you would like to speak about history let's talk about the Kuran as well. You cannot deny the existence of Jerusalem in the Kuran! I ask you to refrain from making statements that offend Arabs and Muslims. Let's please stay with our topic," he said.

"Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Kuran," Keidar said.

Rayyan stated the verse that, according to Muslim belief, refers to Jerusalem, but Keidar continued to object. "Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Kuran even once."

Rayyan continued: "Let's talk politics, please. Doesn't this decision oppose the Road Map, which determines that Israel will halt construction of the settlements in Jerusalem?"

"The Road Map does not mention Jerusalem," Keidar argued. "Jerusalem is outside of negotiations. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, Period! We cannot discuss Jerusalem in any way. You return to this issue time and again, but Jerusalem is not referred to in the Road Map. My brother, go and read the Road Map."

"At this rate Jerusalem will soon include all of the West Bank," Rayyan countered.

"My brother, Israel does not involve itself in housing that Qatar constructs in the Qatar Peninsula," Keidar answered. "What do you want with Jerusalem? Jerusalem is ours for eternity and no one, not Al-Jazeera or anyone else, has any say in it. Jerusalem is solely a Jewish city and no one else has any connection to it."

The interview went on for a few more minutes, after which Rayyan parted from Keidar without thanking him. It is interesting to point out that Al-Jazeera's slogan is "The opinion, and the other opinion". It seems this slogan has never been put to such a test.
Here is the video--posted by Keidar himself, with English subtitles:

This is what Hasbarah should be.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

No, excedt for a couple good points Keidar made, this video is a lesson in not just ineffective, but counter-effective (if that's a word) or harmful hasbara.

From the get go his tone was wrong, his unresponsiveness to questions/failure to stay on point was wrong, he missed opportunities to challenge the interviewer's errors of fact and arguments for a Palestinian al-Quds, and made a couple statements that perpetuate antizionist-supported myths harmful to Israel's case.

Came off as a ranting, digressing, accusatory person that had to resort to ad hominem and can't be reasoned with.

Daled Amos said...


You may be right, but in terms of his tone he seemed to me to mirror the the way the Arabs themselves tend to speak and argue with each other--ranting, digressing and accusatory.

I'll have to go through it again.

Anonymous said...


Please cite at least one "ad hominem" comment Keidar made. Or admit that you've used the term incorrectly. You may not like his angry tone. I for one applaud it. There is no reason to coddle terrorist-supporting Arabs (and every Arab who objects to an Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria is de facto a terrorist supporter) and we need to see more of this push-back from people who can beat the Israel-haters at their own game.

Keidar made not one single personal remark. I think you should examine your own prejudices about Israel's right to exist.

Anonymous said...

This is gold medal winning, the audience is Al Jazeera Arabic and the good doctor addresses the audience with facts in a tone & manner they will respect & understand. He seizes on well established arab propoganda and negates it while admonishing the arab world for being a large part of the reason there is no agreement yet, because the expectations are not realistic & entirely unflexible.

I read the transliteration previously, thanks for bringing the video to light.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated, professor. That interviewer had his panties in a serious knot by the end of that interview...

Anonymous said...

o.k. dread pirate...let me re-watch here...yeah, o.k., on the very first question of the interviewer (about the 0:13 mark):

Interviewer asks whether the new building in Jerusalem is a nail in the coffin of Israel-Palestinian negotiations.

Keidar with no good to be here, or nice to be able to talk with you about the facts of the matter intro, avoids the negotiations focus of the question and reminds him that Jerusalem has been Israel's capital for 3000 years (not exactly right, more accurate to have said historical presence for 3000 years, but in any case this was actually one of Keidar's better points)...and then it happens, at about the 0:31 mark, he just had to attack the person (i.e., go "ad hominem") and stick in the inflammatory and totally unnecessary and counterproductive remarks "when your forefathers were drinking wine, burying their daughters alive and worshipping idols." But despite veracity, that is the epitome of ad hominem.

(Anyway, the "hasbara" just went downhill from there; as I said, even substantively he hurt Israel's case.)

Anonymous said...

'Jerusalem is ours for eternity'

Forget Palestine, Israel's real enemy is the American Democratic Party.

Anonymous said...

"the inflammatory and totally unnecessary and counterproductive remarks 'when your forefathers were drinking wine, burying their daughters alive and worshipping idols.'"

Yes, totally inflammatory, etc. because of the Truth being spoken. Just out of curiousity, how inflammatory is it to say that Jews have no claim to Jerusalem?

Anonymous said...

Yes, anonymous, of course it is extremely inflammatory to say that Jews have no claim to Jerusalem--so when the Arabs say that it just makes them look bad, especially if the Israeli response is fact-laden and composed in clear contrast to their emotion and inflexibility. 100% of the weight of historical and legal evidence is on Israel's side when it comes to Jerusalem-- not 99%, but 100%, therefore it is important to get the facts supporting this truth out both to the world and even to create doubts in the minds of that small part of the Palestinian as well as broader Arab and Muslim world that actually is open to reason about what slim arguments and bases they have. Keidar had an opportunity to do this and he blew it.

Let Abbas and the rest repeat the "no negotiations on Jerusalem" mantra, why not, that only reveals to the world that it is not Israel who is being intransigent, but the Palestinians.

What is in Israel's interest is to get their case of lawful and historical entitlement out, and if they can also manage to debunk a few myths (such as Res 181 or 242) and do so by having the Palestinians/Arab world, such as this host, concede the points for them, that would have been even better.

Daled Amos said...

Cindy, I don't know that one argues the same way to a Western and an Arab audience. Arabs are an emotional people--to take the approach that one should be cool and rational to make a point may be to superimpose a Western viewpoint on a very different audience.

In The Arab Mind, Raphael Patai has a chapter (Under The Spell of Language) on the Arab predilection for rhetoric, exaggeration, overassertion, and repetition.

I don't know that cold rational discourse by Keidar would have made an impression on an Arab audience or would have been interpreted as weak and disinterested.

Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

daled amos, here in the part of Florida where I live there's a decent size Arab Muslim population and to the last man each one of the many I've spoken with has been most gracious and reasonable as we disagree. Finally a few days ago I made the decision to take up their invitation to use the library facilities at their mosque and Islamic Center (there are 2 major ones in my area). They know full well I am not interested in becoming a Muslim, that I am both a Christian and a Zionist, that I only want to increase understanding, yet they had no problem with it as long as I cover up properly (which is quite severely actually).

As for Israel and the disputed territories, I only went in 1990, but had a wonderful experience and was invited into Palestinian homes in both Judea and Samaria. There were cases of initial hostility (as there were w/sabra), but nothing a bit of human respect and conversation didn't quickly overcome.

Daled Amos said...

Cindy, I don't dispute your experience. Arabs are renowned for their hospitality--even the more extreme among them.

When Islamists are guests in other countries, however, the same does not seem to apply. See the Report 'Dispatches: Undercover Mosque' which you can view in 6 parts on YouTube. Here is part 1
You can view the rest--and see some responses here.

kevin said...

I post this, nice work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you daled amos, I have seen them.