Sunday 9 March 2014

Bullies and bad character

In a recent article, I opined that – contrary to ‘popular belief’ – criticism of Israel is NOT legitimate, because criticising countries or peoples is the epitome of bigotry. Dictatorial regimes and even democratic governments can indeed be subjected to legitimate criticism; but Israel is the only country that gets criticised as such.
In the same article, I classified Israel’s critics into three categories: ‘the haters’ – who ‘simply’ detest the country and want her to disappear; the ‘justiciaries’ – who persecute her in the name of principles of ‘justice’ invented ad-hoc and not applied to much worse offenders; and ‘the lovers’ – those who behave like abusive parents, constantly bashing Israel for not living up to the impossible standards required by their suffocating ‘love’.
I promised to deal with each category, so here I am ready to make a start.
FrankMcDonald photo
Frank McDonald thinks that Gaza and Warsaw Ghetto are similar.
Let me start with a certain Frank McDonald.  As environmental editor with Irish Times, Mr. McDonald is no expert in either Middle East politics or the history of the Holocaust. Even his ‘non-expert knowledge’ can only be described as patchy, biased and dated: he visited Israel and the West Bank twice, both times in the 1980s; and he also drew ‘knowledge’ from a highly partisan book written by… another hater. As for the Holocaust, he admits that he ‘looked up’ things about it, in search for parallels. But haters never allow lack of basic knowledge to get in the way of shamelessness: he recently saw fit to compare the Gaza Strip with Warsaw Ghetto and Israel with the Nazis.
Civilians in Gaza.  Starvation?
Civilians in Gaza, filmed by the Iranian television. Starvation?
The ‘factual basis’ of McDonald’s imbecile assessment is that at the beginning of the Gaza blockade, an Israeli governmental body had apparently calculated the minimum subsistence (‘red line’) food levels for the civilian population in blockaded Strip; in his view, this is similar to the Nazi starving of Jews in Warsaw Ghetto.
The Israeli document McDonald refers to is an expert’s presentation entitled “Food Needs in Gaza – Red Lines”. It purportedly listed minimum calorie intake for subsistence, according to age and gender.
First, let’s elucidate, once and for all, why would an Israeli governmental body commission such a document. Mr. McDonald’s theory (expressed in another of his defamatory Twitter posts) is that Israelis simply behaved ‘like Nazis’.  But that’s his visceral hatred ‘talking’. In reality, Israel was required to do so – under currently accepted rules of conflict. Having declared a blockade against a territory controlled by a terrorist organisation (one that publicly called to ‘exterminate’ Jews and attempted to do so by deliberately bombarding Israeli towns), Israel became bound by the rules governing such blockade. Such rules are listed, for instance, in the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994), published on the Red Cross website. Article 103 stipulates:
If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies, subject to:
(a) the right to prescribe the technical arrangements, including search, under which such passage is permitted; and
(b) the condition that the distribution of such supplies shall be made under the local supervision of a Protecting Power or a humanitarian organization which offers guarantees of impartiality, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.”
I.e., provided certain conditions are fulfilled, the blockading power is required to allow the passage of supplies essential for the survival of the civilian population. Of course, those ‘certain conditions’ were never fulfilled, because Hamas never cooperated; so in theory Israel would have been justified in refusing any supplies. Needless to say, however, Israel had no intention of causing starvation among the civilian population; so – even while her own civilians were under constant bombardment coming from Gaza – she allowed passage of essential supplies into Strip. Which, given the nature of a terrorist organisation whose ‘fighters’ cannot be readily distinguished from the non-involved civilian population, meant that she also fed the enemy combatants who were launching the rockets. But how does one ascertain that essential supplies are being delivered, while on the other hand not allowing the enemy to live in luxury? By asking experts to calculate what is essential – and by making sure that what is delivered does not fall below that (in reality, the numbers show that Israel constantly delivered considerably more than the experts’ ‘red line’).
So while Frank McDonald clutches onto that document as ‘evidence’ of Israeli Nazi-like behaviour, it proves precisely the opposite. While the Nazis’ purpose was to starve the Jews, Israel’s was to ensure that the Gazan civilian population survived – even in the midst of an armed conflict. Which is why all the cohorts of haters, despite their keen desire to find ‘Israeli crimes’, cannot point to even one person who died of starvation in Gaza.  It's not that people do not starve to death in today's world.  Unfortunately they do  – in droves.  In poverty and disease-stricken areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America, more than 20,000 people die of hunger every day.  It's just that haters did not find a way to blame their plight on the Jews (yet!).  Hence, they'd rather focus on denouncing Israel's incredible cruelty: while Israelis supply the Gazans with flour, meat and cooking oil, they deny them ginger and coriander!
What all this also demonstrates is the haters fundamental ill-will.  McDonald seizes what looked to him as a ‘similarity’ – however conjectural – and based on that sole ‘fact’ concludes that the two situations (Gaza Strip and the Warsaw Ghetto) were comparable. Based on such ‘logic’, one can compare, for instance, the US-led Operation Desert Storm with the Nazi Blitzkrieg. After all, both were based on fast encircling manoeuvres by airforce-supported armoured divisions…
On the way to ‘demonstrating’ his predetermined conclusion (that Jews behave like Nazis) McDonald ‘misses’ a few tiny ‘details’. For instance, that the fundamental purpose of the Warsaw Ghetto was to ‘exterminate’ Poland’s Jewish population. Towards that purpose, they were not just deliberately starved, while also subjected to forced labour; they were gradually transported to death camps, where they were murdered en-masse. The Nazi racial ideology-based ‘extermination’ was perpetrated against a population that never attacked or posed any danger to Germany. While the Gaza Strip is merely subjected to a blockade – a legitimate tactic in armed conflicts – following its falling under the control of a terrorist organisation which attacked Israel. Indeed, McDonald admits that much; it just does not occur to him that these differences are infinitely more important than his one conjectural ‘similarity’. He ‘simply’ declares that cheese and chalk are the same – because both are white.
Israeli car (yellow licence plate) and West Bank Palestinian car (note the 'P' for 'Palestine', parked side-by-side in a Jerusalem parking lot.
Israeli car (yellow licence plate) and West Bank Palestinian car (note the 'P' for 'Palestine'), parked side-by-side in a Jerusalem parking lot.
Like fire, hatred finds things to feed on – just about anything it encounters. For instance, on one of his two visits to Israel, 34 years ago (!) McDonald came across a racist Israeli taxi driver, who urged his party to use his own taxi, rather than a Palestinian one. I rather suspect that there were a few racist taxi drivers in London 34 years ago; but to McDonald – that was conducive of his ‘discovery’ of yet another aspect of Israelis’ Nazi-like behaviour: the Palestinian taxi had different licence plates, unlike the Israeli ones. This, McDonald immediately concluded, was entirely similar to “in the Nazi concentration camps, Jews had yellow Star of David symbols and numbers tattooed on their arms”. Needless to say, all cars registered by Israeli citizens – whether Jews or Arabs – have identical licence plates.  But, since Israel has never annexed the West Bank, Palestinians inhabiting that territory are not Israeli citizens. Indeed, in 1980 they were Jordanian citizens. Their cars had foreign licence plates, different from the Israeli licence plates; just like a Northern Irish cars crossing into Frank McDonald’s native Republic of Ireland. So, yet another conjecture that ill-will turned into ‘evidence’.
A car from Northern Ireland (yellow licence plate) and one from the Republic of Ireland, parked side-by-side at a public event.
A car from Northern Ireland (yellow licence plate) and one from the Republic of Ireland, parked side-by-side at a public event.
But at this point, one needs to ask: why is McDonald so keen to find ‘similarities’ between Jews and Nazis?
To answer that question, one needs to delve a bit into Mr. McDonald’s own ethics. Which we feel we are justified in doing, given that in criticising Israel he claims moral high ground.
One night in 2010, Frank McDonald’s comfort was impinged upon: a neighbourhood hotel operated a night club and the resulting noise bothered Frank. He walked to the club and argued his case with a female employee. Nothing wrong with that; in fact, McDonald could even have complained to the police. But he didn’t; instead, when the female employee did not accede to his demands… he hit her. This holder of ‘moral high ground’ and self-appointed judge of Israeli misbehaviour resorted to physical violence against a woman, merely because he perceived her as somehow responsible for disturbing his rest. And what would Mr. McDonald do against people who bombed his home and endangered his family’s life and limb? I guess we’ll have to leave that to reader’s own imagination!
How is this related to comparing Jews to Nazis? Well, as his behaviour shows, Mr. McDonald is a bully. And bullies try to intimidate people, by hurting them in the ‘best’ way they can. Mr. McDonald knows (or, more likely, instinctively feels – the way bullies do) that comparisons to the Nazis are particularly hurtful to Jews; and that’s precisely why he uses them. McDonald does not compare anyone else to the Nazis – not even Assad’s regime. He never drew a comparison between – for instance – Warsaw Ghetto and the city of Homs. (While the two are not similar in my opinion, the latter has been subjected so far to three years of siege, during which nothing was allowed in and no one has been allowed to get out alive. But Assad is not Jewish and hence he would be much less susceptible to bullying by calling him a Nazi).
McDonald is not the only Israel-hater hurling his ‘criticism’ from a very low ‘moral high ground’. In fact, if one digs deep enough, one will probably find this to be the rule, not the exception.
After admitting plagiarism and misconduct, Johann Hari had to attend a course in Journalistic ethics.  We do not know the outcome.
After admitting plagiarism and misconduct, Johann Hari had to attend a course in journalistic ethics. We do not know the outcome.
A well-known ‘critic’ of Israel, journalist Johann Hari is the one who, from the pages of The Independent, associated Israel with “the smell of shit” – just one of many ways in which Hari chose to lambast Israelis for their ‘immoral’ behaviour. Given his harsh judgements and acute sense of smell when it comes to Jews, one would have expected Hari’s own ethics to smell of frankincense and rosewater.  Hardly, however: in 2011, it was discovered that he engaged in a bit of plagiarism, ‘borrowing’ bits of other people’s work without their permission – and planting them in his own ‘interviews’. Forced to admit that offence, Hari denied, however, another charge: that he invented an atrocity which never happened, in order to win a journalistic prize. In an attempt to quickly end the controversy, he returned the prize itself – though not the £2,000 that came with it! To complete the picture, let’s also mention that he was busily editing Wikipedia under a pseudonym, lavishing praise on himself and defaming other journalists he perceived as ‘rivals’…
Reverend Paul Flowers: a tale of religion, business, politics and... cocaine.  Some 'ministry'!
Reverend Paul Flowers: a tale of religion, business, politics and... cocaine. Some 'ministry'!
In 2012, the Co-op business-politics conglomerate blacklisted four Israeli companies for ‘helping the occupation’ (by selling dates and cherry tomatoes grown on the ‘wrong side’ of the 1949 armistice line). Apparently, this contravened Co-op’s ‘ethical policies’, one of which bans trade not with all ‘settlements’, but specifically with ‘Israeli settlements in the West Bank’ and (as a fig leaf) ‘Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara’ (no Moroccan company has ever been blacklisted, of course). Despite Co-op’s pretence of ‘democracy’ in terms of decision-making, that particular decision was adopted at Board level and imposed top-down. Persistent rumours indicate that one of the main ‘drivers’ of that decision was Rev. Paul Flowers, the chairman of Co-op Bank and de-facto deputy chair of the conglomerate. Under Rev. Flowers’s diligent leadership, the bank lost £700 million in 6 short months – and that’s before a £1.5 billion hole was found in its finances! But that’s just bad management. More enlightening in terms of his personal morals (as opposed to his professional capability) are the revelations about his trading in drugs – in particular cocaine. Following these revelations and the subsequent arrest, Rev. Flowers has also come under scrutiny elsewhere: he is currently under investigation for alleged submission of false expenses claims as Trustee (as in ‘trusted’? how ironic!) of a charity dealing with drug abuse. The matter has meanwhile been referred to the Charity Commission. As a Methodist minister, Flowers was also influential in the Church, having repeatedly candidated for the Presidency of the Methodist Conference and served on several of its committees. It is as yet unknown to which extent – if any – that influence contributed to the anti-Israel boycott resolutions adopted by the UK Methodist Conference in 2010.
Violence, plagiarism, drugs… it would seem that Israel-haters’ unforgivingly ‘ethical’, holier-than-thou attitude towards the Jewish State is conducted from some very murky ‘moral high ground’. One should not be surprised: the bullies’ constant need to oppress and persecute often hides a profound self-dislike; their anger is frequently just an attempt to drown out that tiny inner voice telling them they are really bad people…

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