Friday, March 29, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 03/29/2013 Hanan Ashrawi Spreads Blood Libel Against Jews on Passover -- Media Yawns

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) The immunity of NGO's

Hanan Ashrawi is a well known Palestinian moderate. These few paragraphs accurately reflect the prevailing view of Ashrawi in the media.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the PLO could be chastised and disparaged with ease. Its reign of terror against civilian targets across Israel and Europe made it reviled and its name synonymous with bloodshed. Then, out of nowhere, an elegantly dressed woman emerged, fluent in English and able to present the Palestinians and their cause in a whole new light. 
In April 1988, Ashrawi was invited to appear on ABC's highly regarded Night-line news programme, presented by Ted Koppel. Her insistence that a physical barricade be erected between the Israeli and Palestinian speakers was a potent symbol which brought home to the audience watching in the United States the divisions between the two peoples. 
What immediately caught the eye was Hanan's looks, which contrasted sharply with the Western stereotypes of gun-toting Palestinian terrorists - a combination of Western chic and exotic eastern charm, according to Barbara Victor, the author of this book. 
But more noticeable than that was her devastating use of the English language to advance her cause. For many years, the former Israeli foreign minister, Abba Eban, was able to articulate the Jewish people's cause to Western audiences with an irresistible eloquence. Many presidents and prime ministers were won over by his speeches and carefully crafted arguments. Now the Palestinians had someone who could do the same. For instance, there were her comments about her father, who refused to give up the goal of a Palestinian state replacing Israel in it entirety - "he never gave up the dream until he realised he was perpetuating a nightmare" - or her reference to the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians as "fatal proximity".
Whatever else Ashrawi is, one thing she is not is an expert in history. Caryle Murphy of the Washington Post wrote a fawning profile of Ashrawi, The Practiced Palestinian, in November 1991.
As spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation at the Middle East peace conference here, the 45-year-old Ashrawi has been arguing that case with a composure, conciseness and clarity long missing in the bitter Palestinian-Israeli dispute. In the process, she has left many of the outworn cliches and taboos surrounding this conflict cut to ribbons. Take, for example, the man who rose at Friday's press conference to confront her. A representative of an American Christian broadcasting outlet, he said he "didn't understand" how Ashrawi could ask Israel "to exchange land for peace," because "when Judea and Samaria were in the hands of the Arab world, Israel was attacked three times." 
"First of all, I find your reference to 'Judea and Samaria' a statement of extreme bias, and rather offensive," Ashrawi replied, homing in on his use of the biblical names for the occupied West Bank that echoes the Israeli government's religion-based claim to the land where Ashrawi lives and where the Palestinians hope someday to have an independent state. "I am a Palestinian Christian, and I know what Christianity is. I am a descendant of the first Christians in the world, and Jesus Christ was born in my country, in my land. Bethlehem is a Palestinian town. So I will not accept this one-upmanship on Christianity. Nobody has the monopoly." 
After dismissing the man's challenge with a deft mini-dissertation, she ended with: "Are there any serious questions?"
How else would the areas have been referred to at the time of Jesus? I would think Judea and Samaria. (Yisrael Medad once noted that even the Christian bible uses the names. Ashrawi apparently doesn't know her own religion very well either.)

Ashrawi is in the news, (or should be in the news) because an NGO she founded, Miftah, recently perpetuated the blood libel. Elder of Ziyon noticed this yesterday. In response Miftah removed the offending article, but not before Elder of Ziyon captured screen shots of the offending article. Daled Amos tracked the developments of this story.

In a followup, Elder of Ziyon explained Why the Miftah antisemitism story is so important:
The offensive article was not written by a marginal figure or a loose cannon. Nawaf al-Zaru has written other articles for Miftah, and similarly his blood libel article is still visible on major Arab media, today. Not only that, but al-Zaru is regarded as an Arab expert on Israel and Hebrew. He has written numerous articles and books, and was the editor of at least two Jordanian newspapers. Indeed, he had written a more expansive version of the blood libel article in 2009, in response to an earlier Passover seder at the White House. 
His viewpoints aren't an aberration. They are mainstream. I see the same kinds of writings nearly every day in the Arab media, although not always as explicit. 
By ignoring the hate, the funders of Miftah are tacitly endorsing it. And people like Hanan Ashrawi will not be called to account for overseeing a publication and website in which such hate can be published, past all the editors and webmasters and other gatekeepers whose salaries are being paid by these NGOs.
NGO's also get lots of uncritical coverage in the media. Coverage of Israel frequently includes unexamined criticisms by NGO's as if they are unimpeachable sources.
A recent lead article at Miftah's website states:
Sidelining the Palestinian cause, Obama invested his time and energy into securing an Israeli apology to Turkey and restoring diplomatic ties between nations. Adding insult to injury for the Palestinians, it turns out Obama scored an accomplishment after all. Unfortunately, Obama’s near silence regarding the Palestinian people’s national rights reflected his poor leadership in this regard and lack of commitment towards resolving this conflict. Hence, he negated himself as an influential peace leader in the eyes of the Palestinians, who saw him more of the stereotypical political pawn.
A graphic on the website refers to UN resolutions 194, not 242 or 338.

Even without the blood libel, Miftah's website isn't devoted to any sort of accommodation but to nurturing Palestinian grievances against Israel and the West.

2) The Washington Post on Obama's trip

Fareed Zakaria uses a guest column in the Washington Post to proclaim Obama appeals to Israel's conscience:
He starts with condescension:
As a piece of rhetoric, Barack Obama’s speech to college students in Jerusalem was a triumph. He finally convinced Israel and its supporters that “HE GETS US,” as one of them e-mailed me. “In his Kishkas [gut], he gets us!” But Obama also spoke more bluntly about Israel’s occupation and the case for a Palestinian state than any U.S. president has in the past. Oratory aside, Obama has recognized and employed the strongest — and perhaps only — path toward peace and a Palestinian state: an appeal to Israel’s conscience.
I've seen the "kishkas" so-called argument before as if President Obama's problem with Israel was a lack of empathy, not his policies. Obama supporters, who agreed with his stance towards Israel - both in terms of his actual policy and his distance - proclaimed him to be pro-Israel anyway and didn't understand why people who supported Israel were suspicious of Obama. Now they see Israelis and supporters no longer have a reason to be suspicious. Having established that Israel's supporters are superficial, Zakaria concludes:
Obama’s speech appealed to this aspect of Israel’s psyche and grounded it deeply in Jewish values: “Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition but also in the idea that a people deserve to be free in a land of their own.” Then, applying that idea to Israel’s longtime adversaries, he said: 
“Look at the world through [Palestinian] eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day.” 
Having tried pressure, threats and tough talk, Obama has settled on a new strategy: appealing to Israel as a liberal democracy and to its people’s sense of conscience and character. In the long run, this is the most likely path to peace and a Palestinian state.
Obama will be successful now because he changed his tone! How fatuous.

Charles Krauthammer, on the other hand, explains What really happened in Jerusalem. He begins with a quote from President Obama:
“I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those [Palestinian] kids, they’d say, ‘I want these kids to succeed.’ ”
— Barack Obama, in Jerusalem, March 21 
Very true. But how does the other side feel about Israeli kids?
Consider that the most revered parent in Palestinian society is Mariam Farhat of Gaza. Her distinction? Three of her sons died in various stages of trying to kill Israelis — one in a suicide attack, shooting up and hurling grenades in a room full of Jewish students.
So much for reciprocity. In the Palestinian territories, streets, public squares, summer camps, high schools, even a kindergarten are named after suicide bombers and other mass murderers. So much for the notion that if only Israelis would care about Arab kids, peace would be possible.
Krauthammer writes further:
So what was the point of Obama’s Jerusalem speech encouraging young Israelis to make peace, a speech the media drooled over? It was mere rhetoric, a sideshow meant to soften the impact on the Arab side of the really important event of Obama’s trip: the major recalibration of his position on the peace process. 
Obama knows that peace talks are going nowhere. First, because there is no way that Israel can sanely make concessions while its neighborhood is roiling and unstable — the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt, rockets being fired from Gaza, Hezbollah brandishing 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel, civil war raging in Syria with its chemical weapons and rising jihadists, and Iran threatening openly to raze Tel Aviv and Haifa. 
Second, peace is going nowhere because Abbas has shown Obama over the past four years that he has no interest in negotiating. Obama’s message to Abbas was blunt: Come to the table without preconditions, i.e., without the excuse of demanding a settlement freeze first.
I'd add that Abbas rejected that message in his joint remarks with President Obama.

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