The appalling absence of freedom of speech within the Western pro-Palestinian movement.
The pro-Palestinian movement is profoundly undemocratic with regard to dissenting views. All contentious issues have at least two points of view. A level of reasoned discussion is often required to bring about a fair resolution to a given issue. While most of us can have strong reactions to the opinions of others when they are unpalatable, we still recognize they are entitled to have differing opinions. The need for free speech is meaningless if we all agree with each other, and it is a necessary characteristic of having a free, open society. However, nowhere more so than with the Israeli-Palestinian debate does a genuine belligerence occur when there is a divergence of opinion away from the predominant pro-Palestinian narrative of the conflict. Whenever anyone endorses an opinion in the media or on the internet that is even mildly critical of the Palestinians or mildly supportive of Israel they are typically subjected to extreme criticism. Palestinian sympathisers often use a variety of dishonest methods of argumentation. One common method of counter-argument largely avoids confronting the issue at hand. A pro-Israel article dealing with a particular topic is broadly dismissed but typically, issues are cited that are beyond the scope of said article and as a consequence, vitriolic scorn is often heaped upon it. Even lengthy articles can only deal with a limited number of topics in a limited number of words, and can only address a limited number of responses. Yet they are typically attacked to such an extent it comes across as an attempt, wherever possible, to discredit articles supporting Israel.
The Guardian newspaper has been for some time a notoriously biased publication when it comes to matters of the Middle East. Any article that doesn’t roundly condemn Israel is subjected to extreme prolific criticism below in the Comment is Free (CIF) internet comment sections that is often very abusive in nature. Furthermore, rather than just criticising the content of the article, many comments can be extremely personal in nature. An author’s reputation can be put into disrepute by claiming he or she is a “holocaust denier,” under the control of “Zionist paymasters” etc. The moderators of the Comment is Free section often allow deeply anti-Semitic views to also be expressed. The criticism is very prolific, with comments sometimes numbering in the thousands. The Comment is Free section is an extreme example from a mainstream newspaper but this sort of activity is nonetheless very common. It should be clear that this sort of behaviour represents an attempt to intimidate and essentially shout down any dissenting opinions. This does not only happen on the internet. One discussion shows the same often occurs, and in mainstream publications few moderate articles on the conflict ever go unanswered (forcefully) in letters pages. From colloquial evidence, many that defend Israel are sometimes subjected to serious threats, which needs to be discussed openly.
The mainstream media throughout the world bears a great deal of responsibility for promoting the pro-Palestinian movement. With Operation Cast Lead, the frenzied media continually misrepresented the importance of Hamas’ attacks. Many journalists said Hamas was wrong to attack but didn’t take the consequences of the matter seriously. This gave a false sense of balanced journalism while relentlessly exaggerating the actions of the IDF in Gaza and downplaying efforts to minimise civilian casualties. Very basic notions of journalistic balance are flouted with the corrupting of facts, the misrepresentation of opinions as facts, and a remarkable inability to seek alternative views. In recent years, inflammatory news coverage has been shown to result in increased violence towards Jews, such as in France where some news reports were proven to be faked. Given the evidential material and the depth of this bias, it is plausible to assert there is a certain level of genuine collusion between the Palestinians and the media but it is hard to say how common. Media bias is nonetheless so profound it can be asserted the Western media have some responsibility for promoting Palestinian terrorism. Little wonder Israel refused journalists access during Cast Lead.
It appears that most Palestinian propaganda is believed uncritically in the media even though it is very well known that Palestinian terrorist groups have been economical with the truth for a very long time. Profoundly dishonest reporting of casualty figures is a defining characteristic of Palestinian propaganda, and within a short time of the Israeli ground attack in January 2009, Hamas was claiming 300 children had been killed. As with previous conflicts involving Israel, the BBC and many other news institutions that should have known better repeated such figures verbatim even though it is widely known that the Palestinians can play fast and loose with such facts. The figures only increased to just under 400 after weeks of fighting on the ground which indicates the implausibility of such a death toll yet it continued to be a main feature of news coverage in 2009. To illustrate the depth of such bias, Irish Broadcaster RTE even mentioned the “1,300 Vs 13” death toll in an introduction to a story related more to Bin Laden, instead of referring to the many thousands he is personally responsible for murdering.
While the international media has become to an extent a sort of agency for Palestinian propaganda, the internet is perhaps an even more useful tool for disseminating anti-Israeli/anti-Semitic propaganda. Any nutcase can start a blog or site that can be seen around the world. This has led to a popular Western movement of hardcore support for Palestinian terrorism. Judging by the very prolific use of the Internet by pro-Palestinian groups it must be an ideal platform to attack Israel. The intent can clearly be seen even in the names of such sites e.g. “electronicintifada.net”.
A defining characteristic of the anti-Israel movement is its tireless dedication to propaganda of a most opportunistic kind. For example, when the film “Blood Diamond” about the horrors of the illegal African diamond trade was released, pro-Palestinian groups started picketing jewellers that stocked diamonds from Israel. “Apartheid,” a very emotive term, is a real favourite of pro-Palestinians, e.g. Israel Apartheid Week. This is a sheer absurdity in a state with universal suffrage where minority interests are protected. During the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, they protested about the security barrier or “Apartheid Wall” as they prefer to call it. The wall that has saved hundreds of lives, and with less terrorism, economic progress in towns like Bethlehem was possible. Meanwhile few Arab Christians remain due to Islamic intimidation clearly assisted by the Palestinian authorities. Pro-Palestinians even hijack the memory of the Holocaust, e.g. with events leading to Holocaust Memorial Day. “Activists” and “internationals,” as they like to call themselves, go to the region armed with video cameras to hopefully film and write about the latest supposed Israeli atrocity. Many videos, as seen on pro-Palestinian websites, feature grandiose descriptions of Israeli brutality that display an extraordinary divergence from the reality presented in said videos. Many, as found on YouTube, actually demonstrate the restraint of the Israeli military. If these people confronted in a similar fashion the troops of nations that were genuine human rights abusers many would meet an unpleasant end.
Many of these supposed “activists” attempt to cause diplomatic incidents to embarrass Israel. One example is the repeated attempts to break the embargo on Gaza since the election of Hamas. In 2008, a ship carried 5,000 balloons to lift the spirits of the unfortunate people of Gaza. In 2009, the amusingly titled “Spirit of Humanity” attempted to barge into Gaza. It was, of course, known that the ship would be detained if it didn’t turn back. Not only did the ship break maritime law, but all shipping to Gaza is restricted primarily due to the transit of arms particularly from Iran. If aid was the true aim of these people it could have been supplied through border crossings. Pro-Palestinian groups milked the event for all it was worth and when those on the ship were released they wasted no time peddling lies that were at times breathtaking. For example, British minority newspaper The Voice (July 20th 2009) featured an interview by Jamaican/British filmmaker Ishmail Blagrove in which he compared the low security prison where he was detained with a Nazi concentration camp. He said hundreds of black people were taken off the streets of Israel seemingly on a daily basis and imprisoned by authorities, redolent of the worst excesses of Apartheid South Africa.
Within the pro-Palestinian movement there is a profound lack of ownership of the fact that its own activities are clearly giving rise to anti-Semitic feeling and crime towards Jewish people generally. During the protests in response to the Israeli invasion of Gaza in January 2009 there were many anti-Semitic incidents. One of the more notorious occurred in Amsterdam where there were chants of “Hamas Hamas, Jews to the gas.” In the UK, many felt such a profound sense of menace that a reclaim the streets march was organised in response to the frequent Pro-Palestinian demonstrations which were heavily policed out of necessity. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many reports of an array of unsubtle anti-Semitic slogans and placards being waved about at such marches. Is any campaigner concerned about placards carrying messages like “Death to the Jews” as seen in numerous photos? Whilst some organisers may attempt to distance themselves from such sentiments, to my knowledge there have never been any strong condemnations or any real efforts to weed out such elements from demonstrations. Indeed it is surely not lost on the organisers that many if not the majority of those attending such rallies hold these opinions.
In the UK there was an three-fold increase in overtly anti-Semitic crime. Besides violent assaults, Jewish businesses and synagogues were attacked. Even Jewish primary schools were targeted. In stark contrast to the wave of support shown to the Muslim community principally by left wingers after the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London, hardly a word of concern has been uttered about rising anti-Semitism. Indeed left-wing groups, who tend to adopt all the concerns of ethnic minorities as their own, have been leading the charge of defaming Israel. Little wonder then that the same groups would not be terribly worried if the Jews in their midst are concerned for their safety. The problem of rising anti-Semitism is felt keenly in many parts of Europe (e.g. Paris and Malmo, Sweden) and increasingly in the US.
Besides the increased anti-Semitic crime rate, many independent surveys in recent years have shown considerable increases in anti-Semitism around the world. In supposedly enlightened Europe a very substantial number of people stated they blamed the Jews for the current financial crisis! Pro-Palestinian supporters strongly reject all accusations of anti-Semitism and continually assert they are only anti-Zionist. However, if they were sincere in their expressed intentions they would surely acknowledge the harm being done to Jewish communities. In various countries pro-Palestinians have notably targeted Jewish shops with no link to Israel as locations for campaign posters, sometimes daubed messages on windows (a la Nazi Germany), and sought boycott of similarly unassociated businesses. These and other examples of Jews being singled-out further disproves their activity has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
The figure of 300 child deaths in Gaza has been bandied about by the pro-Palestinian movement throughout 2009, along with inflammatory imagery of child murder, for example a poster of a Palestinian child clutching a teddy bear while an Israeli helicopter fires missiles at it. As with other Palestinian propaganda the image draws upon old blood libel motifs, in this case the Jew as child murderer. Witness the paranoid speculation of Israeli/Jewish conspiracies, e.g. the notion that Jews control the media and are limiting criticism of Israel. A recent example is the absurdity that British-Jewish-Israeli lobbying is having an undue influence on the British establishment and is controlling the UK media. This, like other theories advanced by pro-Palestinians, requires an absurd inverted down-is-up understanding of reality. Such cases demonstrate a will to hate and defame Jews regardless of fact. This is no different to the past.