2 Articles; The Privileged Slander: Why the Media Laps Up The Anti-Israel Lying Campaign; Europe Battles Over Its Future: A Dutch Case Study

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The Privileged Slander: Why the Media Laps Up The Anti-Israel Lying Campaign

Posted: 27 Jun 2010 08:21 AM PDT

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By Barry Rubin

Israel is subject daily to scores of false claims and slanders that receive a remarkable amount of credibility in Western media, academic, and intellectual circles even when no proof is offered.

Palestinian groups (including the Gaza and Palestinian Authority regimes), associated local and allied foreign non-government organizations, Western radical and anti-Israel groups, and politically committed journalists are eager to act as propaganda agents making up false stories or transmitting them without serious thought or checking.

Others have simply defined the Palestinians as the “victims” and “underdogs” while Israel is the “villain” and “oppressor.” Yet truth remains truth; academic and journalist standards are supposed to apply.

While regular journalists may ask for an official Israeli reaction to such stories the undermanned government agencies are deluged by hundreds of these stories, and committed to checking out seriously each one. Thus, the Israeli government cannot keep up with the flow of lies.

So the key question is to understand the deliberateness of this anti-Israel propaganda and evaluating the credibility of the sources.

An important aspect of this is to understand that Israel is a decent, democratic country with a free media that is energetic about exploring any alleged wrongdoing and a fair court system that does the same. To demonize Israel into a monstrous, murderous state—which is often done—makes people believe any negative story.

Some of these are big false stories—the alleged killing of Muhammad al-Dura and the supposed Jenin massacre—others are tiny. Some—like the claim Israel was murdering Palestinians to steal their organs– get into the main Western newspapers while others only make it into smaller and non-English ones.

Taken together, this campaign of falsification is creating a big wave not only of anti-Israel sentiment but of antisemitism on a Medieval scale, simply the modern equivalent of claims that the Jews poisoned wells, spread Bubonic Plague, or murdered children to use their blood for Passover matzohs.

Come to think of it even those claims are still in circulation. Indeed, on June 8, the Syrian representative at the UN Human Rights Council (oh, the irony!) claimed in a speech that Israeli children are taught to extoll blood-drinking. No Western delegate attacked the statement.

Here are three actual examples of well-educated Westerners believing such modern legends reported to me recently by colleagues:

–A former classmate, one told me, claimed that the Palestinians are living in death camps, being starved, etc. Asked to provide facts and provided with evidence to the contrary, he could provide no real examples. Finally, he remarked, `The truth is always somewhere in the middle.’”

–Hundreds of American college professors signed a petition claiming that Israel was supposedly about to throw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of the West Bank though there was zero evidence of any such intention and, of course, nothing ever happened.

–A British writer of some fame claimed, on the basis of an alleged single conversation with a questionable source, that Israel was preparing gas chambers for the mass murder of Palestinians. When asked if she was really claiming this would happen, she stated that it wasn’t going to happen but only because people like her had sounded the alarm to prevent it.

Here is one example plucked from today’s mail. The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry claimed that Israel was holding up seven oxygen machines intended for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and paid for by the Norwegian government. It said that a protest was being made to Norway. The story was picked up by several European newspapers. No evidence or specifics—what Israeli agency held them up? What dates? What hospitals were these for?–was provided.

Asked to look into this, an Israeli official did so and pointed out that there were no controls over such imports into the West Bank so there would be no basis for holding up anything. As for the story generally, no applications to import such machines had been filed, there was no record of any such machines arriving, and thus nothing had been held up.

In short, the story is completely false, presuming that the Palestinian Authority health ministry won’t provide documents and specifics. But that isn’t going to happen as it will just be on to the next false story, hoping for a bigger media response.

Having seen so many such stories disproved over the years—as Israel’s credibility, while not perfect, has compared favorably with that of any Western democratic state—one might think a lesson would be learned. But as the great American journalist Eric Severeid remarked many years ago, nothing can protect someone when the media sets out deliberately to misunderstand and report falsely about them.

In addition, they should only repeat, report, or believe stories based on credible identified sources citing specific names, dates, and details. In addition, stories or claims should be internally logical and make sense given known facts. The idea that Israel enjoys killing or injuring Palestinians for fun does not meet that test.

Honorable journalists and scholars should take note and approach these false stories more skeptically. They should also reexamine their stereotypes and remember that their political views should be kept as much as possible out of their professional work.

Not so long ago, the above points would have been taken for granted as the most basic and obvious principles. They need to be relearned.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (PalgraveMacmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

Europe Battles Over Its Future: A Dutch Case Study

Posted: 26 Jun 2010 02:39 PM PDT

The following article was published in PajamasMedia here. If you forward or reprint it please give them the link and credit. Please note that they chose a title different from the one I preferred and have put into this text. I include the full article below for your convenience.

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By Barry Rubin

The political situation in Europe today is quite different from the stereotype of a continent hostile to the United States (even if Obama is personally popular) and Israel; appeasement-oriented toward Iran and revolutionary Islamism; and eagerly multicultural and Politically Correct. True, it is more oriented in that direction than North America, but there is a real struggle afoot.

In many countries—notably the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany, and to a slightly lesser extent the United Kingdom and France—the partisan gap between the left and center-right marks a boundary of much greater significance than a decade or two ago. Although each situation is different, the parties of the left tend to be more anti-American and anti-Israel and less alert to the threat of revolutionary Islamism as well as favoring continued large-scale immigration and big-state, big-spending policies.

Take the Netherlands as a case study. After elections last month, the parties of the center-right hold 83 seats while those of the left have 67. Since there are ten parties in parliament, talks to form a coalition government will last for weeks, especially since the two largest have only twenty percent each. In the elections, only three seats changed hands between blocs.

But the big news was the shift within the center-right, the rise of the People’s Party for Freedom (PVV) led by the controversial Geert Wilders, which almost tripled its vote, going from 9 to 24 seats. To his enemies, almost no epithet is too extreme to throw against him. The flamboyant Wilders has been outspoken in opposing immigration and especially that of Muslims, making a sharp critique of political Islamism and sometimes Islam itself.

The power of the Dutch state was turned on Wilders, who is currently on trial for making statements which in America would fall well within Constitutional protection. State television ran documentaries during the election designed to show he was a virtual Nazi.

What is Wilders’ program? First, a sharp limitation on asylum seekers admitted into the country and none from Muslim-majority states. No dual nationality; new mosques; separate Islamic schools; wearing of burqas; or government subsidies for Islamic media. Mosques where violence is propagated will be closed and heavy punishment for female circumcision. For their first ten years in Holland, immigrants receive no social benefits or citizenship. At the end of that period, those with no criminal record will receive full citizenship.

The rise in support for Wilders’ party is in large part a response to serious concern over the domestic situation in the country. Aside from the assassination of a filmmaker by a radical Islamist, there has been a steep increase in crime and social welfare spending. Amsterdam, not long ago the most gay-friendly city in the world, is a place where homosexuals might be attacked in the streets by Muslim immigrant youth, while a recent television program that followed three Jews wearing identifiable garb as such in a stroll around the city showed them being harassed and insulted. Twenty percent of Dutch teachers report that attempts to teach about the Holocaust, in the country of Anne Frank, were rejected or disrupted by immigrant children.

While Muslims still comprise only a bit more than 5 percent of the population, whole areas of Dutch cities have a majority of people who are recent immigrants and whose commitment to assimilation into the country’s norms is questionable. For example, polls show that much of the country’s Muslim population sympathizes with the September 11 attacks. Certainly, they disagree with the Netherlands’ rather libertarian views on women’s rights and homosexuality.

One of the main arguments against mass immigration is that it is incredibly costly to Dutch taxpayers. It is possible to be suspicious of a report commissioned by Wilders showing that the cost is 7.2 billion Euros a year to a country of about 16 million people that means each citizen. But in fact that report was written by the country’s most respected independent think tank and is not that much higher than the government’s own estimate of 6 billion a year.

And here’s where it gets interesting. For while the focus was on Wilders’ VVD, the second biggest winner was the mainstream conservative (in European terminology, liberal) People’s party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), which went from 22 to 31 seats. The VVD favors lower taxes, smaller government, less government regulation. While Wilders often focuses his criticism on Islam itself, the VVD is quite critical of radical Islamism.

And though the VVD’s positions are less extreme than Wilders, it also favors serious reductions in immigration, the closing of mosques where radical doctrines are preached, and the denial of social welfare payments for immigrants during their first decade in the country. These two parties received one-third of the vote and three Christian parties, from whose voters Wilders and the VVD obtained their increased support have somewhat similar stances.

For instance, here’s what the platform of the Christian Union, the most liberal—in the American sense of that word—of these parties:

”Every Dutchman has the right to assembly, to religion and to express his opinion. But financial support of Dutch political, cultural and religious institutes from demonstrably non-free countries (such as Saudi-Arabia and Iran) is not permitted. It’s allowed to protect a free society from the importation of bondage.” It also supports banning the burqa from public buildings, public transport, and schools.

A similar pattern emerges regarding stances toward Israel. Wilders is an outspoken supporter but the other parties are also sympathetic, though there is an anti-Israel minority in the VVD. The foreign minister, for example, a Christian Democrat, said that Israel was entitled to stop Gaza flotilla ships in international waters, refused to condemn Israel’s actions, and supports tough sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program. While the four non-Wilders center-right parties are more nuanced in their attitude than decades ago, they are certainly not kneejerk anti-Israel in their positions.

Thus, about 55 percent of Dutch voters backed parties that want a real change in key policies.
Why is nothing dramatic likely to happen? Because 45 percent endorsed parties on the left and given the Dutch passion for consensus, the existence of so many parties, and the reluctance of several parties to bring Wilders’ party into government some kind of broad coalition will likely emerge.

On the left, the largest party, Labour, led by former Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, got less than half of the overall vote. It can be described now as the party of the Dutch status quo, that is, continuation of existing policies. Despite being led by a nominal Jew, it is very critical of Israel and totally uncritical of Hamas. The left favors increases in taxes and government regulations.

Outsiders would view this situation of deadlock between two sides with such different visions of Dutch politics and society as a big problem. In contrast, the Dutch believe they thrive on this kind of paradox, finding some compromise to ease them through. Yet can a major crisis be long avoided given the economic and social issues faced by the Netherlands and so many other European states today?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (PalgraveMacmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.


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