Friday, 12 August 2022

Harping About Hebron

One of the most outrageous, blood-boiling aspects of ‘modern’ political culture is the shocking levels of intellectual dishonesty found among people who claim moral high ground as ‘campaigners for human rights’.

I’ve written before about the Israeli group that calls itself ‘Breaking the Silence’.  Let me remind you, in just one sentence:

“Fair disclosure: I despise Breaking the Silence.  It’s not that they hold opinions that are very different from mine; frankly [sigh], a lot of people hold opinions very different from mine!  Much as I disagree with them, these BtS chaps are entitled to their opinion; they are even entitled to promote those opinions and try to persuade others.  But the way they go about it is, in my view, thoroughly anti-democratic and intellectually dishonest.”

I’ve also written (and not in very complimentary terms, either) about the British group which calls itself ‘Yachad’:

“In Hebrew, Yachad means ‘together’.  Nice name; but the reality is, these days, that Yachad is ‘together’ with those who target Jews – and only Jews – for boycott.”

The two groups – Breaking the Silence and Yachad – have been working together for years.  And one of the main areas of collaboration is taking British Jews on indoctrination tours – especially to the city of Hebron, in the West Bank.

Why Hebron?  Not because, as Yachad dishonestly claims, it’s “a microcosm of occupation”.  Quite the opposite: rather than being ‘typical’ – as Yachad and BtS would like people to think – Hebron is the worst place in the West Bank.  That’s because some of the most extreme Israelis live in close proximity to some of the most extreme Palestinians.  Agreements have been implemented, which have by-and-large pacified the area and saved lives.  But those same agreements give duplicitous groups like Yachad and BtS an opportunity to bash Israel.

The advert

So, if that’s been going on for a while, why am I writing about it now?  Well, because after the latest such tour, BtS and Yachad have managed to get some free advertising (I am not convinced that it was indeed free; i.e. that no money or other benefits changed hands; but let’s assume it was) from the pages of Jewish News – a British Jewish outlet associated with Times of Israel.  The author is a certain Lee Harpin and his article is entitled “We must fix this for the settlers, soldiers and the Palestinians”.

So that’s why I write about this now: to take apart this disingenuous piece of anti-Israel propaganda and wipe the floor with it.  Sure, people have the right to criticise my country; but, if they do it with ill-will, duplicity or dishonesty, I have the right to expose those rather unpleasant traits.

The first thing I asked myself as I started to read Mr. Harpin’s piece was: who exactly is ‘we’?  If Harpin were an Israeli citizen writing in Hebrew for an Israeli audience (for instance for Ha’aretz, who may be willing to have him), all would be clear and legitimate.  Israelis (read: people who live, pay taxes, vote and put their arses on the line in Israel) have every right to express opinions and try to persuade other Israelis that theirs are the best opinions in town.  But Mr. Harpin isn’t Israeli; he writes in English for a British audience – i.e. people who live, pay taxes and vote in the United Kingdom.  If they are the ’we’, then it’s entirely unclear why “we must fix” anything at all more than 2,000 miles away from where “we” live.

The article’s strapline is no less ‘interesting’:

“Controversial Israeli group Breaking The Silence attracts increasing numbers of diaspora Jews onto its 'occupation tour' in West Bank cities like Hebron.”

And below, still in bold typeface:

“Israeli human rights groups such as Breaking The Silence (BTS) are reporting an increase in bookings from diaspora Jews for ‘occupation tours’ of West Bank cities like Hebron to witness for themselves the situation faced by Palestinians.”

And again, this time in the body of the article, coming from Danielle Bett, a Yachad spokesperson:

“More and more diaspora Jews are visiting the West Bank…”

Well, methinks thou dost protest too much, Mr. Harpin: much as I scoured the rest of the article, I could find no clue what the reported “increase in bookings” was.  Which is ‘a bit’ odd: self-respecting journalists don’t write vague statements bereft of any substance.

And what exactly is the term of reference for that “increase”?  If it’s 2020 or 2021, then Mr. Harpin must be, technically-speaking, correct – and ethically-speaking beyond contempt.  It’s obvious that, if we compare 2022 with the pandemic years, there was a sharp increase in all travel; not just in “occupation tours” to “West Bank cities”, but also in tourism to Timbuktu and Phnom Penh…

And how many Diaspora Jews is “more and more”?  From 8 to 10 – now that’s a whopping 25% growth; but it would be utterly misleading to report “an increase” based on such insignificant numbers...

Let me be clear: I am very suspicious of journalists (or ‘journalists’) who write in this manner: without numbers to support them, such statements amount to subliminal adverts dressed up as ‘news’ and unethically ‘fed’ to the unsuspecting reader.

Journalism?


If one disagrees with Lee Harpin and criticises his views, one is a 'reactionary'. Well, I'm going to call those in his camp (including Yachad and BtS) 'the harpins'. No, not 'an eye for an eye', just contempt for contempt.


 

But let’s go back to Mr. Harpin’s latest ‘journalistic’ contribution:

He begins by giving a broad platform to the BtS ‘tour guide’.  That’s Amir Ziv, the group’s so-called ‘Pedagogy Coordinator’ (‘pedagogy’ sounds so much better than ‘propaganda’ or ‘brainwashing’, doesn’t it?  But it is also indicative of a certain attitude…)

After being so vague about the alleged “increase in bookings”, Harpin suddenly decides to be amazingly precise when reciting Amir’s ‘credentials’:

[He] had served three years in the IDF, with the 50th battalion of the Nahal Brigade in Hebron and Gaza”.

Such military track record may sound impressive to Diaspora Jews with no experience of army service.  But most Israelis would shrug: millions of them served in the IDF – the males typically for three years.  Of course, Amir did not spend three years in Hebron and Gaza – that’s just Harpin’s journalistic sleight of hand; no Israeli soldier did: garrisoning and anti-terror activity in the West Bank is just a relatively small part of IDF’s mission.  Like so many Israelis, I also served in Hebron (and Nablus, and Ramallah and a handful of other ‘nice’ places).  In total, I spent there many months, including as a reservist, at the height of the intifada.  I have quite a few stories to tell – but they’re not the kind of stories Breaking the Silence or Yachad are interested in; they’ll never publish my testimony, nor will they invite me to guide their tours.

So, a word of warning: yes, Amir Ziv served in the IDF, like most Jewish Israelis; but no, that does not mean ‘he knows what he’s talking about’.  Amir is an outlier; listen to any of his comrades and you’ll hear a completely different story.

Anyone who ever listened to a Breaking the Silence presentation knows how one-sided their tales are.  But Lee Harpin wants us to believe that dear ol’s Amir gives a balanced, sane account, which also highlights Israeli suffering:

“Standing beside a memorial plaque in downtown Hebron to Gadi and Dina Levi – a couple expecting the birth of their first child, who were killed by a Palestinian terrorist wearing a bomb while they were on their way to pray at the nearby Cave of the Patriarchs in 2003 – Amir opened up about the impact of violence, having recently become the father of a baby girl.

Recalling another Palestinian sniper attack in the same area, which killed a young child, he said: ‘Each death, each attack, each time you see violence… it pushed me further away into the realisation we need to fix this. It won’t stop on its own, we have to end it, for the settlers, and soldiers who come here, and for the Palestinians.’”

You got that?  All Amir wants you to do is to help everybody: ‘settlers’, soldiers and Palestinians.  And how can “we” do that?  Why, by bashing Israel, of course!

Imagine that, after the Manchester Arena bombing, a British political advocacy group told a group of Israeli tourists that they must apply pressure on the British government in order “to fix this” for the benefit of all: innocent kids attending a concert, police, Muslims...  I dare say that the vast majority of Brits (including most British Muslims) would take a rather dim view of such ‘human rights advocacy’.

But this is all just the beginning.  Next, Amir goes on to describe what, in his enlightened opinion, are the two things “we need to keep in the back of our mind about Hebron”: 1) the 1929 massacre and 2) the Goldstein massacre.

The juxtaposition of the two events is an attempt to hoodwink people into believing that they are similar.  Of course, they were both criminal, disgusting acts.  But otherwise, they had nothing in common.

The pogrom

The 1929 Hebron Massacre was a pogrom perpetrated by large mobs of Arabs against the local Jewish community – a community that lived in the city for centuries, alongside their Arab neighbours.  Organised in groups of hundreds of men armed with swords, axes and knives, the Arab rioters attacked Jewish houses, synagogues and businesses, murdering and pillaging.  They were joined by some Arab policemen.  Two local rabbis noted, however, that there were also a score of Arab families who saved Jews by offering them shelter in their homes.

But the only one who actually confronted the murderers and tried to stop them was British Superintendent Raymond Cafferata, the commander of the local police force.  Here's part of his testimony:

“On hearing screams in a room, I went up a sort of tunnel passage and saw an Arab in the act of cutting off a child's head with a sword. He had already hit him and was having another cut, but on seeing me he tried to aim the stroke at me, but missed; he was practically on the muzzle of my rifle. I shot him low in the groin. Behind him was a Jewish woman smothered in blood with a man I recognized as a police constable named Issa Sheriff from Jaffa. He was standing over the woman with a dagger in his hand. He saw me and bolted into a room close by and tried to shut me out-shouting in Arabic, ‘Your Honor, I am a policeman.’ […] I got into the room and shot him.”

A British inquiry later established:

“About 9 o'clock on the morning of the 24th of August, Arabs in Hebron made a most ferocious attack on the Jewish ghetto and on isolated Jewish houses lying outside the crowded quarters of the town. More than 60 Jews – including many women and children – were murdered and more than 50 were wounded. This savage attack, of which no condemnation could be too severe, was accompanied by wanton destruction and looting. Jewish synagogues were desecrated, a Jewish hospital, which had provided treatment for Arabs, was attacked and ransacked, and only the exceptional personal courage displayed by Mr. Cafferata – the one British Police Officer in the town – prevented the outbreak from developing into a general massacre of the Jews in Hebron.”

The British authorities imposed a fine on the entire city of Hebron.  Sheik Taleb Markah, a member of the local Arab Executive Committee, was found guilty of inciting the riots – and imprisoned for two years.  But not before the British judges had to take over the cross-examination of the accused – noting that the Arab prosecutor had no interest in... prosecuting.

The Hebron pogrom was part of the August 1929 anti-Jewish riots, which were incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and his Supreme Muslim Council.  They cost the lives of 133 Jews.

Back to Mr. Harpin’s article, which – after providing a brief description of the massacre, notes that:

“For the British Mandate, the massacre was confirmation that Jewish existence in Hebron should be brought to an end. The Jews were removed from the area, and placed to begin with in refugee camps.”

In other words: problem – Jews are massacred by Arabs; solution – ethnically cleanse the Jews!

I wonder if Lee Harpin would write with such royal equanimity if Israel were to apply the same kind of ‘conflict resolution’ methodology?

But there’s more than mere equanimity there: kicking the Jews out of Hebron (and the West Bank, and East Jerusalem) is precisely the ‘solution’ advocated by the likes of Yachad and BtS; as well as by Fatah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad of Palestine.

The ‘Jewish’ terrorist

Now let’s turn our attention to ‘the second thing’ – the event that Amir Ziv tries to ‘sell’ people as a sort of ‘counterbalance’ to the Hebron pogrom.

On 25 February 1994, a ‘man’ called Baruch Goldstein entered an area of Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs employed as a mosque.  He opened fire and murdered 29 Palestinians, before being overpowered and killed himself.

Baruch Goldstein mass-murdered innocent, unarmed, defenceless people.  So why do I claim that his horrific act and the 1929 massacre have nothing in common?

Because – however disgusting – Goldstein’s terrorist attack was the act of one individual.  An act condemned in no uncertain terms by the vast majority of the Jewish population in Israel and the Diaspora – and by the entirety of Israel’s political class.

In the aftermath of the crime, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin telephoned Yasser Arafat to express condolences and his disgust for the "loathsome, criminal act of murder".  In a Knesset speech, he addressed Goldstein and any of his ilk thus:

“You are not part of the community of Israel... You are not part of the national democratic camp which we all belong to in this house, and many of the people despise you. You are not partners in the Zionist enterprise. You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out. You placed yourself outside the wall of Jewish law ... We say to this horrible man and those like him: you are a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism."

Then Leader of the Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu also unequivocally condemned Goldstein’s act (no ifs, no buts), calling it a “despicable crime”.

The Yesha Council (the political representatives of Israeli ‘settlers’) called the act "not Jewish, not human".

The Israeli government immediately outlawed Kach, the organisation to which Goldstein belonged.  Several of its members were placed in administrative detention.

The government also appointed a commission of inquiry headed by then president of the Supreme Court, Judge Meir Shamgar.  While describing the massacre as “a base and murderous act, in which innocent people bending in prayer to their maker were killed," the commission found that Goldstein had planned and perpetrated the massacre alone, not telling anyone about his intentions.

The religious establishment in Israel condemned the act with disgust.  The Sephardi Chief Rabbi was the first to suggest that Goldstein should be buried outside the cemetery, saying:

"I am simply ashamed that a Jew carried out such a villainous and irresponsible act"

In condemning the act, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau used the expression ‘khilul HaShem’ "a desecration of God's name".

Rabbi Yehuda Amital of Gush Etzion (an area of Jewish settlement in the West Bank) said Goldstein had "besmirched the Jewish nation and the Torah".

The indoctrination tour continues

Far be it from me to try and excuse in any way the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre.  Like the vast majority of Israelis, I was absolutely shocked by it and am ashamed that a Jew could do something this evil.  I’ll seek no excuse and countenance no forgiveness for the murderer.  May he rot in hell!

But an individual act, however horrific, does not belong in the same category as massacres perpetrated by multitudes.  Especially when the former was condemned in the harshest possible terms by anyone of any consequence in Israel – while the latter was, on the contrary, incited by the Palestinian leadership of the time, and never condemned by the current leaders.

To present the two crimes as similar or equivalent shows, at best, lack of moral compass; and at worst, an intention to deceive.

In describing the Goldstein massacre, Mr. Harpin somehow ‘forgets’ to mention that it was met with wall-to-wall condemnation in Israel; instead, he merely says that it was “condemned globally by Jewish leaders”.  Why?  I suspect this is because Mr. Harpin (like BtS and like Yachad) is intent on portraying Israel as violent, callous, even racist.

That’s why, while ignoring those many condemnations, he decides to focus on ‘stories’ that are selected for their anti-Israel propaganda value:

“On the day of our visit, last month, we counted 64 stones placed on Goldstein’s grave, some almost certainly by visitors earlier that day, who clearly wanted to pay their respects to him.

‘He gave his life for the people of Israel, its Torah and land,’ state the Hebrew words on his tomb.”

Unsuspecting youngsters brought on these indoctrination tours may be fooled into believing that there’s lots of support and approval in Israel for Goldstein and his murderous act.  But there isn’t: as demonstrated in opinion polls, the vast majority of Israelis were disgusted by Goldstein’s unconscionable act.

The harpins’ ‘spiel’ is to highlight the rare exception and pretend it’s the rule.  There is, of course, no reason whatsoever to believe that the 64 stones (or “some” of them) were placed there “almost certainly by visitors earlier that day”.  Nothing, in fact, could be less certain: these ‘visitation stones’ tend to accumulate in time – perhaps for years.  As for the inscription – shameful as I find it – it was worded and paid for by Goldstein’s family and friends; not by the Israeli state, the Israeli government or the Israeli people.

It's true that there are conspiracy theories according to which Goldstein did what he did to prevent a terror attack only he knew about.  It’s also, unfortunately, true that there are a few extremists who – as extremists do – believe in those theories; but to suggest that they’re more than a tiny fringe of nutters despised by the vast majority of Israelis is a form of libel.

In accordance with the law forbidding the construction of monuments dedicated to terrorists, the Israeli police demolished the shrine built by Goldstein's family and supporters.
What was left, in the middle of nowhere, is just the grave itself and the funeral stone, which according to Jewish tradition should never be disturbed. The group around the grave is, by the way, another indoctrination tour, run by B'tselem. It is possible that Breaking the Silence, Yachad, B'tselem et al. bring more 'tourists' to the site than Goldstein's few supporters!

Even more important than what Harpin chooses to write is what he disingenuously chooses to hide: Goldstein’s forlorn grave sits outside any Jewish cemetery.  His family and his few supporters wanted to bury him in Hebron’s old Jewish Cemetery; they were denied.  They then built around the grave what amounted to a shrine: a small plaza paved with flagstones, complete with decorative lanterns, a few benches, etc.  But the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) adopted a law prohibiting monuments to terrorists.  The law was enforced by demolishing the entire structure, except the grave itself and the funeral stone – which in Jewish tradition cannot be disturbed. 

Compare this with the Palestinian Authority, which celebrates terrorists as ‘martyrs’ and names streets and schools after them; and which pays pensions to their families.  Needless to say, this little ‘detail’ is never part of Amir Ziv’s ‘balanced’ presentations – nor apparently did it merit a mention in Lee Harpin’s hatchet job.

We are NOT all Kahane!

But – hold on – doesn’t Israel do the same?  After all, Lee Harpin informs us that

“Earlier on our tour we had stopped in Kahane Park, named after Rabbi Meir Kahane, the ultra-nationalist politician who co-founded the Jewish Defence League, who served a term in the Knesset before being convicted of terrorism, and was assassinated in 1990.”

Firstly – much as I abhor the man – Meir Kahane was never convicted of actually committing an act of terrorism; though he was indeed convicted in the US (and given a 5-year suspended prison sentence, as well as a $5,000 fine) for conspiring to manufacture explosives.  I mention this only to highlight Harpin’s inaccurate ‘journalistic’ style.  Whatever he was found guilty of, Kahane was a racist and should not be lionised.

I've even searched for the 'famous' Kahane Park on the Kiryat Arba Council website. No trace of it...

But here’s the catch: try googling “Kahane Park, Kiryat Arba”; all you'll find is a tweet by... Yachad; and a couple of pictures uploaded by similar organisations.  Better still, go to Google Maps and search for a place called Kahane Park, Kiryat Arba.  You'll be taken, instead, to the Cave of the Patriarchs/Al-Ibrahimi Mosque.  Now search for any other park, including in the West Bank ‘settlements’.  Try for instance the Ze’ev Jabotinsky Park in Ariel; or the Hazon Yosef Park in Betar Illit – both very easy to find, as are dozens of others.  You can even find a park in Kiryat Arba – it's called Technology Park.  Yet you will not find a ‘Kahane Park’ either in Kiryat Arba or anywhere else in Israel.  Officially – and insofar as most Israelis are concerned – it does not exist.

Of course, the town of Kiryat Arba does indeed have a park; and local extremists do indeed call it ‘Kahane Park’.  But that’s where the facts end and the malicious insinuations of Lee Harpin/Yachad/Breaking the Silence take over.

Here’s the truth: there are people in Israel who admire Meir Kahane and think he was a great man.  They tend to be the same people who think Baruch Goldstein was a misunderstood hero.  How many of those nutters are there?  Well, we know that, in the 1984 elections, Kahane managed to attract a whooping… 1% of the votes.  Fast forward 36 years: in 2020, his disciple Itamar Ben Gvir garnered 0.4%.  It’s true that this is still almost 20,000 nutters; but it’s also true that – despite all the harping – the extreme right in Israel gets much less popular support than it does in several European countries.  Even after a century of conflict!

The vast majority of Israelis do not commemorate Meir Kahane.  The harpins' focus on a tiny extremist fringe is deliberately misleading.  It aims to create a false image.  It's a lie.

Bad, bad Israel! Bad, bad Jewish schools!

But let’s go back to Lee Harpin’s text:

“Under the 1997 Oslo agreement, signed by Israel and PLO, Hebron was divided into two areas: H1 and H2. Responsibility for security and civilian matters in H1 – where most of the Palestinian residents of Hebron live (about 115,000 at the time, now about 166,000) – was formally handed over to the Palestinian Authority as was done in all other West Bank cities.

As for H2, Israel retained responsibility for security matters there, and the Palestinian Authority received authority only for civilian matters relating to local Palestinians. About 32,000 Palestinians and 800 settlers now live in H2.”

The Oslo Agreement was, of course, concluded in 1993, not 1997.  The Taba Agreement (sometimes called Oslo II) – in 1995.  Both were signed by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat and neither dealt specifically with Hebron.  What was concluded in 1997 was the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron.  Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t seen as your typical land-for-peace type of guy, but he was the Israeli prime minister who negotiated that particular agreement – by which Israel relinquished control over the vast majority of the city, handing it over to Arafat.  In return, the latter solemnly promised (again) to rid the Palestinian National Charter of all the passages that denied Israel’s right to exist; to fight terror and prevent violence; to prohibit incitement and hostile propaganda; to combat systematically and effectively terrorist organisations and infrastructure; to apprehend, prosecute and punish terrorists; to confiscate all illegal firearms…  Needless to say, Israel (under the ‘hawk’ Netanyahu) withdrew from every inch of H1; the Palestinian Authority (under Arafat and his successor Abbas) broke every one of its commitments above.  But you won’t hear about that at all from the likes of Harpin, Yachad and BtS!

No, the harpins of this world aren’t really interested in agreements and law – unless as a cudgel to beat Israel with.  They’re interested in ‘human stories’ – provided those make Israel look bad.

“In the city centre we speak with Mohamed Fakhore, a Palestinian business student in his 20s, about life in Hebron under Israeli military control.

‘We want the world to know what is happening here,’ he says. ‘I will be arrested if I step there,’ he says, pointing to the floor five metres in front of him. ‘I have been arrested for this one time before.’

It is heartbreaking to realise Fakhore cannot continue walking alongside us. Strict separation rules mean as a Palestinian is not [sic!] allowed to walk on the same road we all can.

Later, in one [sic!] the few Palestinian souvenir shops still open in downtown Hebron, an elderly store owner, who pours us all coffee, explains that his own wife is unable to visit him at work as a result of the separation policy in operation.

It is, he says, a ‘humiliating’ situation.”

It is mindboggling that the harpins can pretend to want ‘two states’ – but also declare it “heartbreaking” when a border is enforced, separating Israeli-controlled areas from Palestinian-controlled ones.  No, these are not “strict separation rules”, but the provisions of an agreement signed between the parties – with the purpose of reducing friction and disentangling Israel from Palestinian lives.

Apparently the 'strict separation rules' that Lee Harpin complains about aren't quite so strict: here is Mohamed Fakhore having a fun day in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

It is also no doubt “heartbreaking” that the shop owner’s wife cannot visit him at work on the Israeli side of the city; but I wonder: can Jews own and operate businesses in the Palestinian part of Hebron?

Incidentally, Israeli right-wing extremists also don’t like the partition of the city: they’d like to roam freely through all Hebron and cause mischief.  Extremists of all tinges – unite!

But, while imperfect, inaesthetic and a rich topic of hostile propaganda by Harpin/Yachad/BtS, the Hebron Agreement does what it was meant to do: it saves lives and allows the two communities to run their affairs independently – as much as possible in the difficult circumstances created by conflict, violence and the accompanying mistrust.  Don't take it from me --ask the Mayor of Hebron.  His Message (published in Arabic and English on the municipal website) contains of course the obligatory anti-Israel rant.  But ultimately it says:

"Since 1996, the city has witnessed several dramatic developments after the numerous decades of continuous Israeli occupation. Due to the Oslo agreement and the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority, the city was liberated and able to embrace a form of security and calm environment. These agreements allowed the Municipal Council to develop a comprehensive management development plan, accompanied by a strategic plan, for the reception of the twenty-first century. Indeed, the Hebron Municipality office, through its own efforts and the support of many friends and partners from around the world implemented a multitude of infrastructure projects, which has had a major impact in promoting domestic and foreign investments in the city. Additionally, it is crucial to achieving the revitalization of the boom in the economic, commercial, industrial, agricultural and urban life."

You won't hear that from Harpin; or from BtS, or from Yachad!

Instead, Harpin’s hatchet job ends with the usual indoctrination ‘spiel’ that BtS and Yachad dish out to unsuspecting, naïve Western kids: there are more IDF soldiers than ‘settlers’ in Hebron (as if Palestinian terror and violence did not exist); an interview with some extremists who ‘want it all’ because ‘it was promised to Abraham’ – as if this is why the vast majority of Israelis want the IDF to stay in Judea & Samaria.

Finally, Harpin gives the floor back to Amir Ziv, who utters the following outrageous lie:

“The bottom line is the Palestinian Authority has the freedom to do what we allow it to do.”

Among other egregious acts, in recent years the Palestinian Authority complained to the International Criminal Court (in blatant breach of its obligations under international agreements it signed), alleging that the IDF committed ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’.  Is that something that “we” would allow – if we had the power to stop?  Would we allow PA’s ‘pay-for-slay policy – wages paid to convicted terrorists and subsidies to the families of suicide bombers?  Would we allow the despicable indoctrination to hate and violence that goes on in Palestinian Authority schools?

Let me give you just a couple of examples of this latter phenomenon – arguably the biggest obstacle to peace.

The Year 5 Arabic Language textbook used in Palestinian Authority schools teaches the following:

“Our Palestinian history is brimming with names of martyrs who have given their lives to the homeland, including the martyr Dalal al-Mughrabi. Her struggle portrays challenge and heroism, making her memory immortal in our hearts and minds. The text in our hands speaks about one side of her struggle.”

Touching; except that Dalal al-Mughrabi (a member of Arafat’s Fatah movement) took part in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre.  11 Palestinian and Lebanese terrorists landed on Israel’s Mediterranean shore near Tel Aviv.  The ‘heroic’ Dalal started the day by murdering an unarmed Israeli woman she happened to find on the beach.  She and her mates then proceeded to murder another 38 Israelis (all but one unarmed, uninvolved civilians), including 13 children.

The Islamic Education textbook for the same age group teaches that the Western Wall (which it calls Al-Buraq Wall)

“is part of the western wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the al-Aqsa Mosque, including the Wall, are Palestinian land and an exclusive right of the Muslims.”

Coming back to Dalal Al-Mughrabi: in 2017, the (not very Israel-loving) Belgian government had to freeze funding to the Palestinian Authority when it discovered that an elementary school for girls they funded in the West Bank was named after that 'martyr'.  Nothing like giving little girls a true hero to emulate, huh?

The logo of the Dalal Al-Mughrabi Elementary School for Girls shows her stylised photo superimposed on the map of 'Palestine,' including Israel. The message is clear...

By the way, the school is located in Bayt Awwa, just a few minutes away from Hebron.  But I don't suppose Amir Ziv includes it in his indoctrination tours.  Though it may be a brilliant opportunity to wax lyrical about what "we must fix"

The harpins, of course, are not at all concerned about all this.  Quite the opposite: what really bothers them is

“the one-dimensional pro-Israel teaching [in] Jewish secondary school[s].”

Hmmm… Really?  Do Jewish secondary schools in the UK lionise Baruch Goldstein, calling him a martyr and a hero and encouraging the students to keep his memory immortal in their hearts and minds?  Do Jewish secondary schools in the UK teach that Al-Aqsa is “an exclusive right of” the Jews?  Is there, somewhere in the UK (or the entire world, for that matter, a school named after Baruch Goldstein??

'Intellectual' child abuse

I left the worst for last: arguably the only truly heartbreaking aspect of Lee Harpin’s screech is when he decides to bring his daughter Ruby into it.  Presumably, she is bothered by the fact that her “social media is flooded with ‘Free Palestine’ propaganda”, so she “insisted” to go on that BtS/Yachad indoctrination tour.

Except that, just a couple of paragraphs further on, we find Ruby and her ‘delightful’ dad attending a “Palestine demo”; that is, one of those ‘protests’ at which slogans like ‘Free, free Palestine!’ and ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!’ are par for the course; and where one so often finds flags and symbols of terror organisations alongside antisemitic banners and slogans, some amounting to overt calls for genocide and ethnic cleansing.

As history teaches us, young people are particularly vulnerable to brainwashing and indoctrination.  I’m afraid that youngsters like Ruby belong in the same category as the Palestinian students: both are cynically being used as political cannon fodder by unscrupulous adults with an ideological axe to grind.  If we are ever to stop the bloodshed and make peace, then children and youngsters – both Jewish and Arab – must be protected from this form of 'intellectual' molestation.

Friday, 20 May 2022

And the Wooden Spoon goes to…

As usually while driving, I was listening to LBC (yes, I know: I’m a sad, sad person!)  In truth, I had rather switched off from the annoying chatter and was focusing on driving – when I suddenly heard the words “former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn”.  And indeed, Corbyn’s voice started to unpleasantly scratch my eardrums, as he muddled through his usual ‘spiel’.  It was immediately after the latest local elections and the author of Labour’s most catastrophic electoral defeat in 84 years proceeded to ‘analyse’ the results and volunteer his opinions.  I could almost hear Starmer’s groan and Johnson’s merriment.  Like a bad smell, some people just don’t go away!

A few days later, also on LBC, I noticed that Tony Blair was still around, as well: to Starmer’s sheer despair he, too, was volunteering his advice!

I was reminded about all that, when I recently read an article by Vivian Wineman.  Like the two men above, Mr. Wineman is also a ‘has been’ – though one of much less consequence in the big scheme of things: he was, once upon a time, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

No, don’t feel sorry for me: even a sad person like me does not follow the ruminations of Vivian Wineman.  A friend brought his article to my attention, by posting a link to it on Facebook, under the comment:

“I’m quite ashamed of my Past President. This piece is truly appalling.”

This piqued my curiosity and I proceeded to read Mr. Wineman’s contribution, entitled “Jewish Anti-Zionists Holders of the Wooden Spoon?”  Not all my readers are British, so I feel I should explain: the Wooden Spoon is a symbol of failure – it is mockingly awarded to the side that finishes last in the Six Nations rugby tournament.

But don’t let that fool you: the key part of Mr. Wineman’s title is… the question mark at its end.

True, he jokingly says that he decided to write about Jewish anti-Zionists because

“I and my family have always been attracted by losers…”

(He should’ve told us that before being elected President of the Board!)

In reality, however, his article reads to me (and to quite a few other people I consulted) conspicuously like an attempt to whitewash (or ‘rehabilitate’, or perhaps legitimise) Jewish anti-Zionism.

Why would he do that?  Well, Mr. Wineman was always a ‘progressive’; no, not in terms of shul affiliation, but of political inclination.  He chaired far-left outfits like Peace Now and New Israel Fund and is currently, I believe, an ardent sympathiser of Yachad – a group of activists claiming to be ‘pro-Israel’, but whose only aim seems to be turning British Jews from supporters of the Jewish state into harsh ‘critics’ thereof.

As an aside: it has always been my observation that the only thing ‘progressive’ about far-leftists is their progressive antipathy towards Israel.  As an example, take Peter Beinart: once upon a time, he used to call himself a Zionist, albeit of the ‘liberal’ variety.  Since then, he has ‘progressed’ to non-Zionism, before becoming an ardent anti-Zionist keen on dismantling the Jewish state.  Yachad (who also used to call themselves ‘liberal Zionists’ – albeit not in recent times of course) have not gone so far yet.  (At least not overtly – they’d be shunned by the entire British Jewish community if they did; though their 'spirited defence' of the slogan ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free’ seems to betray their true feelings.)

Yachad and New Israel Fund 'celebrated' Israel's 74th Independence Day by... more 'criticism' of the Jewish state. Now, I'm no expert in physiognomy, but it seems to me that the face in the left bottom corner is Mr. Wineman's. What do you think?


One of the fundamental errors of judgment that such ‘progressives’ make is to imagine that, by dropping early 20th century anti-Zionists into the conversation, they can somehow legitimise the current ones.  That is, of course, ludicrous.  In 1917, one could still legitimately (albeit wrongly in hindsight) argue against what was still a project in relative infancy.  Should a Jewish state be constituted sometime in the future – or better not?  Today, the State of Israel exists.  It is not just a tangible reality, but the home of the world’s largest, youngest and healthiest Jewish community.  Contemporary anti-Zionists do not debate the merits of a future project; they propose to dismantle an existing, sovereign state (and only one!).  They are at best indifferent and at worst hostile to the fate of that community.

But let’s go back to Mr. Wineman and his treatment of anti-Zionist Jews.  He starts by stating the obvious (though he rather tendentiously downgrades it to “generally accepted”):

“Zionism has swept the board inside the Jewish community...”

I find myself forced to agree, for once, with Mr. Wineman.  Not because the fact is “generally accepted”, but because it is well-documented: every opinion poll ever undertaken shows that, for the vast majority of British Jews, Israel is a major (and often the major) component of their Jewish identity.

Mr. Wineman goes on to say that

“If a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, for instance, were to stand up at a meeting and say that he does not believe in God, eats ham on Yom Kippur and thinks the Bible contains nothing but bubba mayses- old wives [sic!] tails [sic!], there would be distaste maybe, but nothing further and certainly, no calls for expulsion. If our mischievous deputy were to stand up the next month and declare that he did not believe that there should be a State of Israel or even only that he was a supporter of BDS against it, there would be immediate calls for his censure or expulsion.”

Is this, as Mr. Wineman would probably claim, an example of how Zionism “has swept the board”?  It sounds rather like a complaint to me.

In fact, the different treatment of the two ‘transgressions’ in Wineman’s ‘example’ is entirely understandable.  Renowned researcher and Zionist activist David Collier put it much better than I could:

“One [rejecting God, eating pork] is a personal choice that affects only him – and the other [anti-Zionism] harms the well-being of millions of Jews living in the Jewish state.”

Perhaps subconsciously, Wineman (who was once educated in a yeshivah) used the English words “censure” and “expulsion”.  They may be taken as translations of the old Hebrew terms kherem  (חרם)and niddui(נדוי) , which are part of the Jewish law and were used in pre and post-exilic Judaism.  These ‘sanctions’ were originally conceived not as punishment for the transgressing individual (such punishment was expected to come from God, rather than from people), but as a prophylactic measure, aimed at protecting the community from the dire consequences of the transgression and from its harmful proliferation.

After conceding that Zionism is widely embraced by Jews, Wineman goes on to claim that

“It was not always so. Just over a century ago in the years leading up to the Balfour Declaration antizionists were in control of the leading streams of British Jewry; the ultra orthodox [sic!], the mainstream orthodox [sic!], Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism.”

In passing: if Wineman wanted to list “the leading streams…” in “the years leading up…”, it seems to me that he should have capitalised ‘Orthodox’, just as he did with ‘Reform’ and ‘Liberal’.  This is not me supporting orthodoxy, but orthography!  Mr. Wineman may also wish to make up his mind whether he wishes to refer to anti-Zionists (as he did in the title), or do away with the hyphen.  Consistency in presentation might eventually result in logical arguments – one never knows!

More importantly, though: isn’t “in control of” a rather weird (and, I’d suggest, dishonest) argument to make?  Why not just say (as others try to claim sometimes) ‘the majority of Jews opposed Zionism’?  Because, as Wineman knows (and, I suspect, tries to hide), that simply would not be true.  We only need to read the following personal account by historian Simon Schama.  Describing British Jewry’s reaction to the Balfour Declaration, Schama writes:

[W]hen the document was made public by the Zionist Federation, my father saw […] singing and dancing erupt in the streets of the East End, from Mile End to Whitechapel. Something propitious, something providential, had happened, but also something against the odds.

[…]

That East End street party — ‘a kosher knees-up’, Dad called it, lots of fried fish, cake and shouting — was all instinct and no thought, but then sometimes instincts are the real story. Arthur remembered the ‘Hatikvah’ being sung outside a synagogue close to the family house. A month later the same song brought the crowd to their feet in the Royal Opera House. My father stood outside amid a huge throng beside sacks of the next day’s cabbages.”

But that’s not the story that Mr. Wineman favours.  Instead, he writes

“They also dominated the Jewish establishment.  While often supporting Jewish settlement in Israel they were opposed to any attempt to create a political entity for them there.”

The ‘they’ in the passage above refers to anti-Zionists.  But the word that troubles me is ‘also’.  What else, did the anti-Zionists dominate?  They were part of the establishment, while the Jewish masses by-and-large supported Zionism.

Here’s Schama again, still writing about his father:

“He knew all about the Jewish opposition: anti-Zionists, the grandees of the Anglo-Jewish Association and the Conjoint Committee — Claude Montefiore and those Rothschilds, Leopold in particular — who were on the wrong side of the argument.  He was especially horrified by the public accusation of Edwin Montagu, one of the two Jewish members of the Cabinet (the other was the pro-Zionist Herbert Samuel), that the Balfour Declaration was tantamount to being anti-Semitic, since in Montagu’s eyes it presupposed divided loyalties, especially heinous during the war. Others among the anti-Zionist lobby felt the same way, in particular the historian Lucien Wolf, who had actually been questioned about his true nationality by a policeman in 1915 and never quite got over it.

For my father, the defensiveness of the anti-Zionists was a symptom of the gulf dividing West End Jews from East End Jews. The declaration’s 67 words, he thought, could be boiled down to one — the word “home”, bayit.  It was all very well for the likes of Edwin Montagu to complain that their indivisible sense of a British home was now vulnerable to charges of divided allegiance, but Montagu’s home was manorial: avenues of oak and elm, game birds flushed from the bracken, dropping to Home Counties guns.”

And here is Wineman, still talking about anti-Zionists:

“Their writings, though unsuccessful in the long term, were of high quality.  An outstanding member was Edwin Montagu PC, Secretary of State for India and the third Jew to reach cabinet office in this country.”

Isn’t it sad to see a ‘progressive’ like Mr. Wineman trying to ‘sell’ the selfish machinations of a few ‘Jewish barons’ and community makhers who – then, just like today – ran contrary to what the masses wanted?

Edwin Montagu’s stubborn opposition to the Balfour Declaration is well known.  But the reason his efforts (and those of others like him) were unsuccessful” (not just “in the long term”, but then and there) is that British politicians like Balfour and Lloyd George knew very well that those anti-Zionists were utterly unrepresentative, that they spoke only for a tiny number of privileged Jews.  In fact, Balfour understood that Zionism was being embraced by the Jewish masses – and not just in Britain.  Speaking at a meeting of the War Cabinet in October 1917, he opined that

“The vast majority of Jews in Russia and America, as, indeed, all over the world, now appeared to be favourable to Zionism.”

I’d say it’s ironic that a Conservative politician like Balfour was attuned to the aspirations of the “vast majority of Jews”, while a century later a ‘progressive’ like Mr. Wineman is still more concerned with what “the establishment” wanted.  But then, another ‘progressive’ once said that Zionists like me just don’t get English irony…

I don’t know much about Mr. Wineman’s grasp of English irony (though I don’t suspect him of Zionism).  But as for the rigour of his research… his article causes me great concerns in that respect.  Because, even if we were to ignore the popular feeling, the picture of Jewish establishment’s attitude to Zionism is itself much more complex than the one he paints.

It is not true that that “establishment” (or the leadership of the British Jewish community) was uniformly opposed to Zionism.  Some were – such as Mr. Wineman’s distant predecessor, Board of Deputies President David Lindo Alexander.  Others, however (such as Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz) were dedicated supporters of Zionism.

In May 1917, Lindo Alexander published a letter in the Times, which attacked the main tenets of Zionism.  He admitted (and how could he deny it) that

“The Holy Land is necessarily of profound and undying interest for all Jews, as the cradle of their religion, the main theatre of Bible history, and the site of its sacred memorials.  It is not, however, as a mere shrine or place of pilgrimage that they regard the country.  Since the dawn of their political emancipation in Europe the Jews have made rehabilitation of the Jewish community in the Holy Land one of their chief cares, and they have always cherished the hope that the result of their labours would be the regeneration on Palestinian soil of a Jewish community worthy of the great memories and of the environment, and a source of spiritual inspiration to the whole of Jewry.”

But then

“Meanwhile the committee have learnt from the published statements of the Zionist leaders in this country that they now favour a much larger scheme of an essentially political character.”

And what was wrong with that “scheme”?  Well, Lindo Alexander went on to explain that Jews do not regard themselves as a people and have no national aspirations; they see themselves as just “a religious community”, on a par “with their fellow citizens of other creeds”.  Though in fairness he did assign that opinion not to Jews in general, but only to [e]mancipated Jews” – which we might probably translate in today’s parlance as ‘progressives’.  Plus ça change…

So far, the story of Lindo Alexander and his letter would seem to support Mr. Wineman’s contentions.  But only if we ignore the end of that story: just a few days later, the Times published a rebuttal penned by Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz.  Hertz dismissed the opinions of Lindo Alexander and of his ‘sponsor’ and co-signatory Claude Montefiore as unrepresentative of and inconsistent with

“the views held by Anglo-Jewry as a whole or by the Jewries of the overseas dominions.”

And not just the Chief Rabbi: on 17 June 1917, Lindo Alexander’s letter was formally condemned by the Board of Deputies; he was forced to resign.  So much for Mr. Wineman’s assertion that “immediate calls for […] censure or expulsion” of anti-Zionists are a relatively new phenomenon at the Board!

And so much for his contention that the Jewish establishment” was “dominated” by anti-Zionists.  In fact, Mr. Wineman’s sole ‘example’ of Jewish anti-Zionist (Edwin Montagu) cannot really be said to have been part of “the Jewish establishment”.  As a Member of Parliament and Minister, he was certainly part of the British establishment – but his interest in Jewish community affairs (insofar as those affairs did not impinge on his own) is questionable.

But let’s move on: still speaking about Jewish anti-Zionists (or on their behalf?), Mr. Wineman says:

“On a practical level they saw Zionism as stimulus to antisemitism and as an obstacle to their great project of emancipation.”

While admitting that they were wrong on both accounts, Wineman still informs us that

“The decades following the Balfour Declaration saw the rise of the most frightful antisemitism the world has ever seen. It would be very hard, however, to attribute this to Zionism.”

Now, this is a very misleading way to put it.  If I said, for instance, ‘The years after Mr. Wineman’s Presidency of the Board of Deputies saw the rise of the most frightful antisemitism’ – many an unsuspecting reader may understand, whatever the other protestations, that one event led to the other.

No, it would not be “very hard” to attribute the rise in antisemitism to Zionism – it would be impossible for any researcher endowed with intellectual honesty.  In fact, the opposite has been argued: that the rise in antisemitism (especially in Europe and parts of the Muslim world) lent Zionism credibility as the solution to ‘the Jewish problem’.

Let me mention just a few ‘milestones’ that preceded the 1917 Balfour Declaration:

  • In 1840, the blood libel is employed against the Jews of Damascus.  Some community leaders are tortured to death.  The survivors are eventually exonerated, but the population nevertheless perpetrates several pogroms.
  • In 1882, another blood libel case is launched in Hungary.  The accused Jews are eventually acquitted, but the effects of the resulting antisemitic propaganda linger and fester.
  • In 1894 (i.e. 3 years before the First Zionist Congress) Captain Alfred Dreyfus is convicted of treason, after an inquiry and trial with strong antisemitic undertones.
  • In 1909, the British Vice Consul in Mosul remarks:

“The attitude of the Muslims toward the Christians and the Jews is that of a master towards slaves, whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed.”

  • Between 1821 and 1906, hundreds of pogroms were perpetrated throughout Jewish-inhabited areas of the Russian Empire.  Thousands of Jews were murdered – alongside rapes and other atrocities.
  • In 1910, another blood libel incident takes place in Shiraz, Iran.  In the ensuing pogrom, 12 Jews are murdered, 50 are injured and the entire Jewish quarter is pillaged.

It is these occurrences of pre-1917 “frightful antisemitism” (especially the pogroms in Eastern Europe) that explain the apparently contradictory position of anti-Zionists like Lindo Alexander.  As Wineman himself hints (and as the Times letter proves), they supported the return of Jews to the Holy Land; they only opposed self-determination for those Jews.  Why this ‘nuanced’ stance?  Because of the pogroms and the antisemitic policies of the Russian tsars, Jews were fleeing Eastern Europe in large numbers – and many sought to take refuge in Britain.  That migration resulted in fast increase of Britain’s Jewish population: from 65,000 in 1880 to 300,000 in 1914.  Despite their sanctimonious protestations, the anti-Zionist Jews cared little about the Arab population of Palestine; their major concern was a potential rise in British antisemitism, one they feared might be ‘caused’ by a continued massive immigration of ‘unemancipated’ (ahem!) Eastern European Jews.  Sending those Jews to Palestine was a good solution insofar as it kept them away from Britain; but not if they built a ‘Jewish Home’: that might imply that the Jewish barons were not ‘at home’ in Britain.

After the misleading passage analysed above, Mr. Wineman proceeds to… argue back-and-forth with himself:

“It would be very hard, however, to attribute this to Zionism. Although the ultra orthodox anti Zionists do blame the Zionists and even specific Zionist leaders for the holocaust this argument is not taken seriously outside their circles. Among the lurid accusations made against Jews dual loyalty did not figure very prominently. The antisemitic charge was not that the jews had a loyalty to an emerging political entity in the Middle East but that they had aspirations for world government.”

Needless to say, only a tiny, extreme minority of Charedi anti-Zionists blame Zionists for the Shoah.  By the way, I use the term ‘Charedi’ (חרדי) because that’s how they choose to call themselves.  I don’t think that people (especially ‘progressives’ and even more so former Presidents of the Board!) should presume to label communities by names that are – at best – judgmental: let us remember that ultra-Orthodox (even when it’s spelled correctly) includes an element of censure; it means ‘extremely’ or ‘excessively’ Orthodox and that’s not how the people in question view themselves.

Otherwise, the muddled prose above is only remarkable by its careless presentation. After writing alternatively ‘anti-Zionists’ and ‘antizionists’, Mr. Wineman now decided to call them ‘anti Zionists’.  Jews also become ‘jews’ in the space of one sentence…

As a Yachad sympathiser (or active supporter?) Mr. Wineman simply cannot resist squeezing in a swipe at Israel – even in an article that purports to discuss pre-1917 attitudes.  He sets the scene rather sententiously:

“Political rights are a human entitlement, enshrined in numerous international conventions, not a gift from a merciful government for which the recipients must be duly grateful.”

He then goes on to accuse:

“Ironically the one democratic country where this does not apply is the State of Israel.  Arabs within Israel’s pre 1967 borders are full citizens automatically in accordance with Israel’s admirable constitution, but Arabs beyond those borders are not.”

This goes to show that it’s not just English irony that I don’t get – but some people’s logic, too.  See, I always thought that no democratic country awards its citizenship en-masse to people beyond its borders.  Especially to people who are legally and practically in a state of conflict with that country.  Critics of Israel like to pretend that award of citizenship is a universal requirement for people who are ‘controlled’ or ‘occupied’ by the country in question.  But that requirement is made out of whole cloth.  In fact, while Mr. Wineman’s own country ‘controlled’ or ‘occupied’ for long periods of time people in places like Iraq and Afghanistan – it did not offer them British citizenship.

I suspect that Mr. Wineman recognised the weakness of his own argument.  That’s probably why he decided to suddenly change tack, by focusing on East Jerusalem.  Which, according to Israeli law at least, is within – rather than beyond—the country’s borders.

“Even in East Jerusalem, where Israel has claimed full sovereignty ever since 1967, Palestinians are not automatically entitled to citizenship.”

Technically speaking, Mr. Wineman is right.  Logically speaking, his description of the situation is ‘a bit’ simplistic – not to say economical with the truth.  In 1967, Arab residents of Jerusalem were citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – a country at war with Israel.  Automatically granting them Israeli citizenship would have resulted in an unreasonable situation, in which citizens of an enemy country can elect and be elected to the Parliament (and in principle become members of the government, etc.)

The problem with ‘progressive’ critics of Israel is not that they demand that Israel adopts the most liberal measures ever encountered – and even go far beyond those; it is that they require Israel to do so in the midst of an existential conflict, in complete disregard of its collective safety and the principles of self-defence.  In the mind of ‘critics’ like Yachad and Mr. Wineman, Israel ‘must’ grant Arabs citizenship – even if that would endanger the safety and welfare of her existing citizenry.

Instead of such suicidal acts, Israel opted for a reasonable solution, which sought to balance the rights of Jerusalemite Arabs with those of her extant nationals.  East Jerusalem Palestinians were automatically given the status of permanent residents (תושב קבע).  Contrary to Mr. Wineman’s claim, this status confers – rather than denies – political rights: permanent residents are entitled to elect and be elected in local elections (including for the position of prestigious and powerful position of Mayor of Jerusalem).  Permanent residents have the same civic and social rights as Israeli citizens, including among many other things education, healthcare, income support, unemployment benefits…  The main difference is that, unlike citizens, permanent residents cannot elect or be elected to the Israeli Parliament.

Permanent residency is not something Israel invented for the benefit of East Jerusalem Palestinians; it is a legal status practiced by most democratic countries.  I should know: my legal status in the UK is that of a permanent resident.  I can vote in local elections, but not in national ones.  My resident status will be cancelled if I live in another country for more than two years.  I am eligible to apply for British citizenship (having lived here for more than five years), but the granting of citizenship is conditional upon fulfilling a whole raft of requirements including passing a test for knowledge of the English language, an additional test for familiarity with ‘British customs and traditions’ and proving I am ‘of good character’.  As for the latter requirement, the Home Office warns as follows:

“To be of good character you should have shown respect for the rights and freedoms of the UK, observe its laws and fulfilled your duties and obligations as a resident of the UK.  Checks will be carried out to ensure that the information you give is correct.”

If I apply for British citizenship and my application is approved, I would be granted that citizenship – provided I take the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen or the Pledge of Loyalty to the state.

As it happens, I choose not to apply for British citizenship.  I feel it would be somewhat dishonest – a travesty: while I like and respect the country, I do not identify as British.

East Jerusalem Palestinians are also entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship.  The requirements are similar, though understandably in practice the ‘good character’ part places much more focus on security-related activity.

The PLO considers applying for Israeli citizenship an act of national treason; Hamas probably views it as apostasy.  Yet in recent years an increasing number of Jerusalemite Arabs are applying and being granted citizenship.  I don’t blame them; nor do I blame the ones that choose not to – it is a personal choice.  But nor should sanctimonious hypocrites (ensconced in their soft armchairs in North London) blame Israel for doing only ‘the next best thing’ under very difficult circumstances.

Then, there’s another point of logic: officially at least, Yachad (and, I can only presume, sympathisers like Mr. Wineman) still support the two-state solution, while also claiming that such solution would only be possible with a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.  If that is indeed the desired outcome, why, then, would the inhabitants of the future Palestinian capital be created Israeli citizens??

 

I’m afraid I saved the worst for last: in his back-and-forth ‘debate’ on whether Zionism was “a stimulus [to] the most frightful antisemitism”, Mr. Wineman manages to casually sneak in the following vile sentence:

“The Zionists did not provoke German antisemitism and were able to work with the Nazis on one aim they both shared,- [sic!] to get Jews out of Germany.”

Sure, we all know about the Transfer Agreement.  But that Zionists ‘shared one aim’ with the Nazis is a sordid, foul claim.  The Nazis wanted to ‘purify’ the ‘Aryan race’ by getting rid of the Jews, while despoiling them in the process; the Zionists wanted to save the German Jews – whom no other country wanted (not even Britain at the time).  This wasn’t selling one’s soul to the Devil, but making a deal (even) with the Devil to save souls.

In theory at least, one can be an anti-Zionist without accusing Zionists of ‘sharing aims’ with the Nazis; in practice, it seems that anti-Zionism always ends up in antisemitism – if it does not originate in it to start with.  That a former President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews should stoop to accusations proffered by the likes of Ken Livingstone and Sergey Lavrov is a matter of immense sadness and deep shame.



A former President cannot, unfortunately, be censored and expelled.  All we can do is to symbolically award him the ultimate Wooden Spoon.  My granddad would have said, face covered with his huge hands: !וואָס אַ בושה – What a shame!  As, I suspect, would his.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Russia & Ukraine: The smartened-up story – Chapter V

My Russia-Ukraine series of articles is approaching its conclusion.  So let’s summarise:

In the first article, I delved into the history of this conflict, debunking a few myths and underscoring its ethnic character.

The second chapter moves the limelight to more recent times, following the ethnic conflict in its ‘modern’ development.

In the third article, I dealt primarily with the Western actions (or lack thereof) – before and after the Russian aggression.

The fourth article in the series seeks to tear through the waves of propaganda and sloppy journalism and describe the political and military situation based on facts.  I spent the last part of that article analysing the grim consequences for the world at large.

Throughout those articles, I have maintained that, while in the current conflict Russia is by far the main culprit, in the bigger picture nobody comes out smelling of roses: not just Putin and his collaborators, but also Ukrainian and Western leaders.  Their actions – myopic, cowardly, insincere, often irrational and always inconsistent – brought about this dangerous situation.

I started this series with a confession: as a Jew who reads and lives history, I have very little sympathy for either Russia or Ukraine.  I feel very sorry for the (many) innocents caught up in this awful war; but, in regards to the conflict itself, I do not place myself in the corner of either country. 

So in this (last) article of the series, I’d like to close the loop by focusing on Jews.  ‘Why,’ I hear you asking – ‘what’s all this to do with Jews??’  Well, I share your confusion; but, unfortunately, for some people everything is (or should be) about Jews.

Take for instance the Iranian-British journalist Christiane Amanpour – made famous (some would say infamous) by her long career as anchor for the US networks CNN and PBS.  On March 1, she interviewed William Cohen, a former US Defence Secretary.  Despite his name, Mr. Cohen isn’t Jewish – in fact he is a practicing Christian; though I wonder how many among Ms. Amanpour’s audience know that.


At some point, Mr. Cohen raised the spectre of a potential nuclear war:

“It will be radioactive dust, it will be spread all over Russia, Europe, the United States and China as well.  Which is one reason I have suggested, Christiane, that there has to be some kind of outside intervention. Countries like China, India Israel have to give counsel and send the signal to Russia that — I’m hearing all the activity in the background, it’s a little disorienting, but they have to send the signal that they’re prepared to take action, to cut off certain relationships with Russia. Israel is in a position to do that. So is China. And China has to understand that if this thing does deteriorate and we’re on the edge of potentially nuclear weapons and war, then we’re all at risk at that point. The planet is at risk…”

Ms. Amanpour is known as a rather acerbic critic of Israel; this was all the opportunity she needed to focus on the Jewish state:

“But you just mentioned Israel and you've obviously named all the nuclear states. You mentioned India… Israel is a nuclear state. But Israel is also a US ally and did not support the United States-backed resolution in the Security Council.”

In fact, Cohen “obviously” had not named “all the nuclear states”; he’d simply listed three countries he thought might have some influence on Putin.  Placing tiny Israel in the same category as China and India was weird to start with.  But, rather than remarking on that, Ms. Amanpour decided to dismiss India, not to bother at all with China and, instead, direct her ire against the one Jewish state.  And, to boot, to ‘enhance’ the truth a tad: of course, Israel isn’t a member of the UN Security Council – and as such cannot “support” (or indeed oppose) any resolution.  What Israel declined to do was co-sponsor the US draft resolution – an utterly symbolic act; and, in fact, a symbolic draft: nobody expected it to actually become a resolution, as Russia and China have the power of veto in the UN Security Council.  When the matter was brought before the UN General Assembly, Israel co-sponsored and voted in favour of the US-backed Resolution ES-11/1.

Interestingly enough, the draft of the above resolution – citing Israel as co-sponsor – was issued on March 1st, raising the possibility that Ms. Amanpour knew (or should have known) about it.  Whether she knew or not, she continued the interview by asking William Cohen:

“I mean, can you even understand why Israel has not gone precisely for the reasons you have said to read Putin the riot act?”

To a rational person of medium intelligence, the idea of Israel (c. 20,000 square kilometers, population 10 million, GDP $400 billion) ‘reading the riot act’ to the autocratic President of Russia (17 million sq. km, population 145 million, GDP $1,500 billion) would seem ludicrous.  A rational person of medium intelligence may have pointed out that other US allies (including NATO member Turkey, as well as India, Qatar, UAE, etc.) were even less keen than Israel to “read Putin the riot act”.  And the same rational person of average IQ may have pointed out that – given that the mighty USA and the 27country-strong European Union had already “read Putin the riot act” and made no impression on him—there was nothing to gain from any Israeli remonstration.

But no rational person of medium intelligence was present during that interview.  Instead, Mr. Cohen responded, as he knew was expected of him:

“Well, I can say that I'm disappointed… err… deeply disappointed that they had not supported the United States and what we're seeking to do.”

But even in his mind something must have seemed not quite right, because he then went on to observe that

“I also understand that they find themselves in something of a conflict of interest. They've been able to take out certain Syrian targets with the Russians turning a blind eye. So, they've been cultivating a relationship with Russia in order to protect their security interests.”

In other words, even Mr. Cohen understood that – oh, horror – Israel prioritised its security interests over a ‘demonstrative gesture’ that was just as unlikely to move Putin as it was to satisfy Amanpour.

Following the interview, Ms. Amanpour tweeted:

“Israel is a close ally of the US, yet has not supported the US over Ukraine.  ‘I’m deeply disappointed that they have not supported the United States,’ says former US Defence Secretary William Cohen.  ‘They do have to make a decision here.’”

Which, if I’m to use a British understatement, was a rather skewed and tendentious ‘summary’ of what Cohen had said.

Ms. Amanpour is hardly the only Western journalist taking the opportunity to have a pop at the Jewish state.  Also, on Twitter, British broadcaster Andrew Neil (I struggle to recall who he works for these days) remarked:

“Israel fails to stand up for Ukraine. Reluctant to impose sanctions on Russia.  Still allowing flights from Russia but ended visa-free travel for Ukrainians. Stayed silent after Russian airstrike near Babi Yar memorial, where German Nazis killed tens of thousands of Jews in WW2.”

Mr. Neil is partially right: Israel – like the vast majority of countries in the world – did not impose sanctions on Russia.  Israel – like the vast majority of countries – “still” allows flights from Russia.  Israel – unlike the vast majority of countries in the world – has more than a million reasons to allow flights to and from Russia: that’s the number of Israelis who originate from that country; many still have relatives there, whom – Andrew Neil permitting – they wish to see.

It is also true that, since so many Ukrainian wish to seek asylum abroad, Israel has cancelled the visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens – and replaced it with a regime of entry permits.  But Andrew Neil’s criticism would sound less hypocritical if his own country allowed Ukrainians to enter without a visa.  But, of course, the UK does no such thing.  In fact, just like Israel, the UK prioritises visas for Ukrainians that already have relatives in the country.  But that’s where the similarities stop.  Because by the end of April 2022, Israel (population 10 million) had admitted 35,000 Ukrainian refugees; the United Kingdom (population 67 million) took on 27,000.

In fact, even the very hostile Human Rights Watch was forced to admit that Israel “unrolled the welcome mat to thousands of Ukrainians” – though of course it used that ‘praise’ to bash the Jewish state for… not doing the same with Palestinian refugees (i.e., people who do not flee a current war, but whose grandfathers or great-grandfathers fled one 74 years ago!)

As for Mr. Neil’s accusation that Israel [s]tayed silent” on the Babi Yar issue, that criticism isn’t hypocritical – but undeniably, demonstrably wrong.  Oh, let me do away with these annoying British understatements: that claim by Andrew Neil was a naked, indefensible, malignant and shameful lie.



But let’s leave the details of this or that accusation.  There is a bigger issue here; one well-articulated by an Israeli journalist – Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov:

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The fact that so many mainstream journalists are fixated on Israel in a conflict that is not about Israel is creepy and they should really examine why they’re doing it.”

So why do they do it?  Even in the oh-so creative spheres of social media, people have struggled to come up with an ‘acceptable’ explanation.  Some (like the Twitter user below, who calls himself ‘Reinhold Riebuhr’), came up with some ‘interesting’ explanations:

“Zelensky being one of the very few if any Jewish heads of state outside Israel, and Russia’s claim that the purpose of the war is ‘denazification’, might have something to do with why people are surprised Israel hasn’t been more critical of Russia.”

Now, since Nazis started a world war (not just war against Jews), one would think that claims of ‘denazification’ should concern a few other countries, not just Israel.  As for Zelensky being Jewish… how exactly is this justification for focusing on Israel??  Zelensky may be Jewish – but he certainly isn’t Israeli; he is a Ukrainian citizen, a Ukrainian patriot, some may say even a Ukrainian nationalist.  If Rishi Sunak ever becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – are people going to focus on India??

In some parts of the world, people do not feel the need to hide their feelings behind sophisticated ‘explanations’.  While being interviewed by a Lebanese TV station, a certain Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi (a leader of the Houthi insurgency in Yemen) opined:

“I think that what happened to Ukraine is the result of the evil-doing of the Jews.  This is proof that, when a Jew is the leader of a country, it results in war.  If the president of Ukraine was someone else, rather than that Jew, perhaps they would not have ended up in war.”

The Lebanese host, by the way, made no attempt to disabuse Mr. Al-Houthi of those notions – she just moved on to more controversial positions…



And not just in the Middle East.  Dmytro Kuleba is Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister.  Back at the beginning of March, he noticed (or someone noticed for him) that the Israeli airline El Al still had, on its website, a button marker ‘Mir’ – in this case referring to a Russian credit card clearance system.  Ukraine’s top diplomat proceeded to tweet as follows:

“While the world sanctions Russia for its barbaric atrocities in Ukraine, some prefer to make money soaked in Ukrainian blood.  Here is @EL_AL_ISRAEL accepting payments in Russian banking system ‘Mir’ designed to avoid sanctions.  Immoral and a blow to Ukrainian-Israeli relations.”

An Ukrainian accusing Jews of dealing in blood isn’t very diplomatic or conducive of good “Ukrainian-Israeli relations”.  If he had any brains – let alone any shame – Mr. Kuleba could have voiced his outrage in other terms.  Fortunately, someone at El Al is much more patient than I am. S/he tweeted:

“EL AL has blocked the use of the Mir credit card as of February 28.”

February 28 was, let’s remember, just 4 days after the start of the Russian invasion.  El Al’s representative also reminded His Excellency the Foreign Minister that the airline had already flown

“hundreds of tons of humanitarian and medical equipment for Ukraine and evacuated orphans and refugees to bring them to safety in Israel.”

El Al’s clarification was important – not because it forced Mr. Kuleba to offer a resentful apology, alongside a few words of cold gratitude; but because it gave us an opportunity to learn that Ukraine’s Foreign Minister isn’t just an insensitive jerk, but actually an idiot!



Clearly, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov could not allow his Ukrainian counterpart to hog all the glory.  So he soon came up with his own contribution: in an effort to ‘explain’ how a country with a Jewish president could still be ‘ruled by Nazis’, Lavrov opined, in an interview with Italian media:

"So what if Zelenskyy is Jewish? The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine.  Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn't mean anything. Some of the worst antisemites are Jews."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov


No doubt in order to avoid being accused by Andrew Neil of ‘staying silent’, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reacted:

“Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error.  Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of antisemitism.”

Yair Lapid is the son of a Holocaust survivor.  But that did not prevent Mr. Lavrov from delivering to him a history lesson about that rather painful historical event – a lesson whose only purpose was to ‘demonstrate’ that Jews can be and were Nazi collaborators.  The oh-so-erudite Russian diplomat even conjured the exact names of a handful of Jews who ‘betrayed’ their “fellow compatriots”.  Unfortunately, Mr. Lavrov omitted to mention that those Jews had perpetrated their ‘betrayal’ under threat of terrible torture and death not just to themselves, but to their entire family…  Which is more than can be said about tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian collaborators!

Apparently, Putin apologised for his Foreign Minister’s words.  Though the apology – such as it may have been – was uttered in a private phone conversation; apparently, Russian good manners do not require the actual perpetrator to offer a public apology for a public insult.  Nor is blatant antisemitism a sacking offence – in Russia or elsewhere.

Of course, antisemitism does not have to be blatant – even when it’s pervasive.  Early in the conflict, Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spent a lot of time, effort and political capital trying to mediate and put an end to the bloodshed.  An observant Jews, he even broke the prohibition of travelling on Sabbath – on 5 March he flew to Moscow and met Putin, in an attempt to mediate an end to hostilities.  The fact was reported by pretty much every major Western media outlet, including in the UK.  Even the hostile Guardian gave it a cursory mention, while the no-less-unfriendly Financial Times published an entire article on Bennett’s exploits – and later named him as “the primary international mediator on the talks”.

There was one notable exception from this broad coverage: the British Broadcasting Corporation.  First, the Beeb (which reports every little scuffle taking place in Israel, especially if it makes the Jewish state look bad) ignored the whole thing.  Although on 9 March it did report on the mediation efforts of another international actor – Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Any news editor worth her salt will tell you that, in this day and age, ‘5 hours later’ often means ‘too late.  Yet it was 5 days later (on 10 March) that the BBC first told its audience about the Israeli mediation attempts.  Still, it is worth analysing this piece (signed by BBC’s Middle East Correspondent Tom Bateman); it should serve as a textbook example of unethical journalism.

Mr. Bateman’s report starts by dramatically ‘breaking the news’:

“Early in the morning, as Russia's isolation grew, a jet took off from Tel Aviv bound for Moscow. It happened in secret, carrying a VIP delegation. The plane touched down with a reverse thrust: a hot blast into Moscow's dawn while Russia was being frozen out by the West.”

Mr. Bateman’s ‘cloak and dagger’ tone was, to put it very mildly, misplaced: no, the visit did not happen “in secret”; as mentioned, it was reported the same day by the Israeli, British and international media.  As for the rest of the paragraph it attempts to create the impression that Bennett’s flight to Moscow was some sort of ‘breach of solidarity’.  That’s not ‘misplaced’, or even misleading, but a shameless and malevolent lie.  The media had been quasi-unanimous in reporting that Bennett’s attempt at mediation was undertaken at the behest of Ukraine’s President Zelensky and in coordination with USA, Germany and France.  In fact, on 8 March (i.e., 2 days before Bateman’s malicious allegations were published), Zelensky thanked Bennett for those efforts.  A fact that was eminently familiar to the BBC ‘journalist’ – because… he reported it – albeit hidden at the end of his otherwise critical article!

No, this is not Clint Eastwood. Just Tom Bateman, BBC’s Middle East Correspondent, striking a ‘heroic’ pose.

The BBC’s Middle East correspondent also tried to suggest that Bennett’s visit had some sort of selfish motivations:

“There are some immediate concerns for the Israelis. There are at least a quarter of a million Jews in Ukraine, eligible to make Israel their home under its ‘Law of Return’."

Israel, of course, cares deeply about the fate of Ukrainian Jews.  But only a very ‘creative’ BBC journalist could suggest that the reason for Bennett’s meeting with Putin was… what, exactly?  To ask the Russian dictator to suspend his invasion, to allow Ukrainian Jews “to make Israel their home”?

After accusing Bennett of ‘breaking the ranks’ and questioning the ‘purity’ of his motives, Mr. Bateman went on to suggest that his efforts are, actually, bereft of any value:

“It's unlikely Israel can play mediator in the usual sense of a powerful arbiter that tries to entice each party into concessions.  It would have to be more of a message carrier, shuttling between unequal sides.  Some question the value of such an attempt.”

I would be interested to know: who are those “some” that Mr. Bateman referred to in the above passage?  The leader of Hamas?  Or is this just to typical cowardly subterfuge of an unethical ‘journalist’ who attributes his own opinion to others in order to disguise them as ‘news’?  And I’d love to know where Mr. Bateman found that “usual sense” of the term ‘mediator’.  Not in any dictionary I know!  The Cambridge Dictionary provides us with what its authors see as “the usual sense” of the word:

“a person who tries to end a disagreement by helping the two sides to talk about and agree on a solution.”

Nothing about “a powerful arbiter”, then!  In fact, ‘mediation’ is very different from arbitration – as Mr. Bateman could have learned if he paid a bit more attention in high school; or, failing that, if he bothered to google the terms:

“A mediator helps parties negotiate a settlement that will satisfy all the parties. A mediator does not decide a dispute.

An arbitrator functions more like a judge, deciding the outcome of a dispute based on evidence and law presented in an arbitration. Arbitration is binding, and the outcome can be enforced like a court order. Parties must agree to arbitrate and must sign an arbitration agreement.”

But wait for the punch line.  Writes Mr. Bateman:

“Many in Arab countries, having lived the aftershocks of American and British invasions, condemn the West for what they see as its double standards over Ukraine. Palestinians point to Western backing for Ukrainian resistance and celebration of its leaders and ask: What about us? Israeli critics of this argument have been very vocal too, saying there is no equivalence between the two conflicts.”

Now, I know a bit of Middle Eastern history.  But, much as I strain my memory, I can think of just one Arab country where “many […] lived the aftershocks of American and British invasions” (and are still alive to tell Mr. Bateman about it).  That country is Iraq.  Now, whatever one thinks of the American and British invasion of Iraq, the comparison is more than far-fetched.  And “aftershocks of American and British invasions” is a very ‘creative’ euphemism for terrorist attacks perpetrated by some Iraqis against other Iraqis!

As for the Palestinians… I don’t know about ‘alternative history’ or indeed alternative universes.  In this universe, Israel never invaded a sovereign state ruled by Palestinian Arabs; quite the opposite: the sovereign State of Israel was repeatedly invaded by Arab armies claiming to support the Palestinians.

So how does one call the type of hostility that causes a BBC ‘journalist’ to find ‘negatives’ in an attempt to put an end to war and bloodshed – simply because that attempt was undertaken by Jews or the Jewish state?  Along with the vast majority of people of good will, I call it antisemitism; the BBC insists that it should be spelled ‘anti-Semitism’.  Its experts have presumably determined that the term isn't just another name for Jew-hating, but denotes opposition to 'Semitism'!

But the BBC isn’t alone in being eager to bash and very reluctant to utter praise for the Jewish state.  Think of all the politicians who are so quick to condemn Israel – including those (like Emmanuel Macron, Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer) who declare themselves ‘friends’.  All these ‘leaders’ shed crocodile tears for the Ukrainian victims – yet none of them so much as tweeted a word of praise when Israel’s Prime Minister broke one of Judaism’s strictest commandments to try and save lives.

Think about outfits like Yachad and New Israel Fund: to gain a modicum of acceptance, these groups pretend to be ‘pro-Israel’.  Yet – while quick to bash the Jewish state for every real or imaginary misdeed – they couldn’t find it in their hardened hearts to utter a good word in this case.

The closest Yachad got to doing so was by retweeting a post that called Bennet’s peace-making effort “a bizarre turn of events”.  Bizarre indeed!

As for New Israel Fund, they did not even deign to mention Bennett’s flight to Moscow.  Instead, on 7 March Daniel Sokatch, their California-based CEO, published an article that indirectly accused Israel of “neutrality [which] is immoral and dangerous”.  ‘Pro-Israel’ indeed!

Daniel Sokatch, CEO of New Israel Fund. based in sunny… no, not Israel. San Francisco.


None of those ‘pro-Israel’ activist outfits as much as lifted a finger to try and rebut the many Israel-haters for whom the war in Ukraine was just another opportunity to bash the Jewish state.  None of them, for instance, criticised Labour MP Julie Elliott, who tried to cast democratic Israel in the role of the Russian villain:

“The Palestinians are looking to us to speak and act in the same terms.  We sanctioned Russia over Crimea, and we are now likely to impose more sanctions, with which I wholeheartedly agree, yet Palestinians ask why we do nothing to end Israel’s occupation.”

Never mind that Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza in a defensive war – not in a war of unprovoked aggression; never mind that Israel has repeatedly offered to withdraw from the vast majority of those territories in return for peace; never mind that “the Palestinians” (read: the unelected, undemocratic and terrorism-supporting Palestinian ‘leadership’) rejected all those offers; never mind that there are fewer similarities between the two conflicts than between Ms. Elliott and Joseph Stalin.  “We” still have “to speak and act in the same terms”.  Ms. Elliott heard about the Russian aggression against Ukraine; and her operative conclusion is… “we” have to sanction Israel!

Do it with a smile: UK Labour Party MP Julie Elliott


And that’s the point: in the minds of many people, anything and everything bad is about Jews.  Nothing new about that – it’s been going on forever.  Your cow is dying?  The Jews must’ve poisoned the well.  Your child was – God forbid – murdered, or just missing?  I bet the Jews kidnapped him to use his blood in some monstruous ritual.

Throughout this series of articles, I’ve been arguing that, while in the current military conflict Russia is the aggressor – in the bigger picture nobody comes out smelling of roses: certainly not Putin and his accomplices, but also not the Ukrainian and Western leaders.  Because of their actions (or lack thereof), the entire humanity finds itself living in a more dangerous place.

This conflict is very bad news.  Except for the antisemites, of course: for them, it’s yet another opportunity to satisfy their obsession.  And it really does not matter if they weep for Ukraine or root for Putin: they can condemn Jewish oligarchs, blame Zelinsky-the-Jew or – best of all – bash the Jewish state.  Or all of the above, of course.

 
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