Returning to little Zakkai for a moment. The family has asked me to express gratitude to all those who wrote to me to say they were praying, wished him well, etc. It matters to them a great deal.
Then I was asked to post these mitzvah opportunities in merit of good surgery and healing for Zakkai, for those who would like to participate:
Turning to our world...
Barry Rubin has written a particularly important article. Its title makes clear what he's talking about: "Not a Mistake, Misunderstanding, or Well-Intended Criticism But a Deliberate Campaign to Bash Israel." (Emphasis is added)
"The first, most important thing to understand about the Western and especially American debate on Israel is this:
"Never before in history has there been such a concerted, systematic and vicious campaign to discredit and demonize Israel, especially seeking to undermine its support in the Jewish community.
"Without comprehending this fact, the massive attacks from academia, mass media, groups and even in mainstream political and intellectual debate cannot be understood. We aren’t dealing with lots of mistakes, but with the mass production of hate speech...
"Don't believe that they may have gotten it right this particular time. Many of them aren't trying to get it right; most of them are incapable of getting it right.
"These assaults cannot be taken in isolation and with naiveté as if this time a wild accusation is accurate...
The craziest stuff is just the most incautious end of far more apparently credible lies and distortions. And the key 'mistake' made is to use the word 'Jews,' unacceptable, rather 'Israel,' 'Israelis,' or 'Zionists.'
In other words, 'The Jews want to take over the world.' No. 'Israel wants to take over the Middle East.' Okay. 'The Jews use children's blood in Passover matzoh.' No. 'Israel deliberately murders Palestinian children.' Okay.
Not all are aware, of course, of what they are doing, especially those originating or spreading the more 'moderate' hate speech. There are dupes as well as demonizers, though dupes often seem all too credulous to be wholly innocent.
"...Once having been defined as the 'bad guy,' Israel can be accused of anything, as in a film narrative in which the villain is, well, always villainous.
"...there are so many lies—new ones appear each day--and so many facts to counter them with that it is partly a waste of time to counter each offensive in itself. What’s necessary is to understand that this is all based on lies, ignorance, and conscious bad faith.
"The categories include, but are not limited to, falsification of photographs and fabrication of events; distortion of history; making up of quotes; publishing disproportionate numbers of anti-Israel books and articles; indoctrination in schools; refusal to mainstream Israeli views and overwhelming emphasis of radical, critical ones; excessive credibility to hostile sources for outlandish tales (a worldwide story on an alleged, since proven false massacre in Jenin based on a single mysterious informant is just one example).
"...The main single issue is to try to portray Israel as responsible for the lack of peace, just as Jews were historically blamed by those hostile to them for anti-Semitism. Since the experience of the 1993-2000 'peace process' era, the fact that the conflict continues because of the intransigence of Israel’s enemies should have been obvious. Yet this history has been forgotten and its impact on Israeli thinking buried or censored.
"...Much of the new antagonism stems from Western intelligentsias’ sharp turn to the left. The question, of course, is why Israel is such a prominent issue among the many causes available to them.
"...One thing comforting about this campaign is that its activists so often have to resort to lies and exaggerations, showing how little genuine material they possess.
"How much effect is this all having in the real world? Ironically, it is less damaging to Israel itself (attempts at economic boycotts, for example, have yielded no real damage) than to Western Jews who live in the societies so affected. The growing pressure will result in some running for cover—or even joining the assailants—but far more will ultimately wake up.
"Yet again this situation can no longer be dealt with as an ordinary, though rather spirited and emotional, debate. It is a massive, often conscious and deliberate campaign of defamation. No longer on the margins, this campaign has penetrated into using the commanding heights of the Western mass media, intellectual, and academic institutions.
"The reason for pointing this all out is that there are millions of well-intentioned, honest people who would be shocked if they had the paradigm shift from taking a good portion of this material as honest and well-intentioned to understanding that they are being subjected to a concerted propaganda campaign of lies. If they comprehend that, they are far more likely to reject these lies as well as having their eyes opened to wider disinformation campaigns going on today."
Having provided this perspective, I want to move to a situation of deliberate misrepresentation about Israel that is masquerading as academic research.
A report entitled "Portrayal of the 'other' in Israeli and Palestinian School Books," done by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL), has just been released. The study on which it was based -- lead by Professor Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University and Sami Adwan of Bethlehem University -- was funded by a grant from the US State Department and was commissioned by an NGO called A Different Future, which had been founded by a Yale professor of psychiatry, Bruce Wexler.
Bar-Tal, as we are informed by Seth Frantzman, who wrote a piece on this for the JPost, was "co-editor of the radical left Palestine-Israel Journal from 2001 to 2005 (whose masthead shows the colors of the Palestinian flag next to an Israeli flag that does not include a Star of David)."
Says Frantzman, "Bar-Tal's views should have led to concern about the potential for bias in the CRIHL study..." With regard to Israel's actions in Gaza during Cast Lead in 2009, Bar-Tal wrote that the war "derived from the continuous dehumanization of the Hamas organization."
"A university professor who...argues that [Hamas] is a victim of dehumanization by Israel...was supposed to provide an unbiased opinion on Israeli textbooks? One is left with the conclusion that there is overwhelming evidence of pre-existing bias on the part of the authors." (Emphasis added)
It is not surprising, then, that the study provides a perspective of moral equivalency, concluding that, "Both Israeli and Palestinian books present exclusive unilateral national narratives that present a wealth of information about the other as enemy."
The Education Ministry of Israel has slammed this report as "biased, unprofessional and profoundly non-objective."
One of the problems with the methodology of the research is that negative statements about Palestinian Arabs in Israeli books that were simple statements of historical fact were classified as representing "negative" portrayals of the "other."
Among statements listed as "negative" portrayals of the Palestinian Arabs were:
"Ever since 1964, the year the PLO was founded, Palestinian terrorists gangs penetrated [into Israel]." And, [In Iraq] on the holiday of Shavuot, Arabs attacked Jews, and murdered them, including women and children."
The authors considered such statements to be parallel to such statements in PA books as:
"[The British facilitated] Jewish migration into Palestine to turn it into a Jewish state after evacuating or exterminating its people."
You see Frantzman's full piece here:
We might feel inclined to laugh off this severely biased study, except for the fact that it will do real damage. Palestinian Arabs and their supporters are crowing that the charges that PA textbooks are inciteful and anti-Israel have now been discredited.
"The results show that there's almost no stereotypes, there is no hate speech, there's no inciting for violence in the Palestinian textbooks," Dr. Sami Adwan, associate professor of education at Bethlehem University, said.
As someone who has worked with this subject, and written about it, for years, I will state unequivocally that the incitement and bias do exist in those PA books.
One of those whom I've worked with and interviewed is Dr. Arnon Groiss, former head translator/researcher with IMPACT -- The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education. I've read Groiss's translations of PA texts, with hair-raising praise for blood flowing in martyrdom and a great deal more.
You can see a major IMPACT study of PA textbooks here:
Groiss was actually a (nominal) adviser for this project, but says that the advisers were not allowed to really be involved.
"They don't combine the specific items to create the full picture...I don't know why -- they didn't put [into the study] about 40 items, significant anti-Israel items in the Palestinian books," Groiss said. "They said, 'Well we have enough quotations. We don't have to put them all.'"
He's being diplomatic, when he says he doesn't know why.
"We educate teachers to love," Israel Ministry of Education Director General Dalit Stauber told CBN News.
"The first word learned by a pupil who is joining the Israeli education system in the first grade is "shalom." We give him a pigeon with an olive branch to start his first day in school. We teach for peace. We do not teach for hatred."
Stauber was particularly annoyed by the charge in the study that putting the 1972 Olympic Massacre in Israeli history books casts Palestinians in a negative light, because the terrorists who killed the 11 Israeli athletes were Palestinian.
"If facts included in history books in Israel...are presented as if Israeli books present Palestinians in a negative way, what else do we need in order to prove that this is a libel against the Ministry of Education, against professional work done by the Ministry of Education?" Stauber said.
Said General Yossi Kuperwasser, Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry Director, "This comparison, something is wrong and distorted.
"This attempt to compare Israeli textbooks that deal entirely with the question of how you promote peace, how you promote the culture of peace, with the Palestinian textbooks that deal with exactly the opposite, how do you promote a culture of confrontation, how do you promote the readiness of people to carry out martyrdom attacks."
Kuperwasser is concerned that a report such as this exempts the PA from tackling the major problems in its schoolbooks:
"And this is the ongoing Palestinian incitement for hatred, incitement for violence, for terror and the ongoing denial of the Palestinians of the rights of the other and the existence of the other, which is the Israelis and the Jews in this piece of land."
Well, Ayatollah Khameinei, who has the last word on issues of negotiations, has nixed direct talks with the US, saying he won't condone such talks while the US is "pointing a gun at Iran." He says such talks "would not solve any problems."
And Obama's next step?
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says, "We expect Iran and Syria to be the main topics" during Obama's visit to Jerusalem.
The president will have his hands full if he expects much traction with regard to the "peace process": In Cairo, Abbas has just met with Ahmadinejad in Cairo during an Islamic Summit, and has now invited him to come to Ramallah. No word on whether the invitation was accepted. But PLO officials have already indicated they don't have high hopes for progress with Obama's visit.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.