May 22, 2021 — New York
This piece originally appeared in The Times of Israel.
As Hamas fired deadly missiles at Israel for 11 straight days, Israel’s critics fired one verbal salvo after another.
Unable or unwilling to distinguish between a terrorist organization, Hamas, seeking Israel’s destruction, and a democratic country trying to deny the group’s wish, they went for the jugular.
Here are 15 of the most memorably outrageous accusations:
- Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, discussing Israel’s actions in Gaza on CNN, stated, “They’re losing the media war despite their connections…” CNN anchor Bianna Golodryga laudably pushed back, “What are their connections?” The minister laughed and said, “Deep pockets.” The anchor followed up: “What does that mean?” The minister replied, “Well, they’re very influential people, they control media.” (May 20)
This is classical antisemitism — the spurious notion of Jews “controlling” the media (see AJC’s Translate Hate Glossary). By the way, if we did, we’re doing a pretty lousy job, judging by the daily fare we’ve witnessed from BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times, MSNBC, etc.
- Chinese Communist Party-Affiliated Chinese TV Host Zheng Junfeng: “Some people believe that U.S. pro-Israeli policy is traceable to the influence of wealthy Jews in the U.S. and the Jewish lobby on U.S. foreign policy.” (May 16)
Another egregious example of classical antisemitism, alleging that “wealthy Jews” wield inordinate influence on the policies of a government. Echoes of the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which attributed demonic powers to a Jewish “cabal.” Incidentally, Jews are two percent of the U.S. population, hold a multiplicity of views, and, like fellow Americans, are active on many sides of many causes. And please take note: Unlike the case in some other notable countries, the American Constitution invites citizens to “petition the government.”
- Member of Irish Parliament Richard Boyd Barrett: “We must demand the dismantling of the Israeli state.” (May 15)
There are 193 member states of the United Nations. Mr. Barrett is proposing the dismantling of Israel. Are there any other UN member states he is proposing to dismantle? If not, which appears to be the case, could it possibly have something to do with the fact that Israel is the lone Jewish majority nation on Earth?
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “[Israelis] are murderers, to the point that they kill children who are five or six years old. They are murderers, to the point they drag women on the ground to their death and they are murderers, to the point they kill old people…They only are satisfied by sucking their blood.” (May 17)
Yet another blood libel from one of the world’s foremost antisemites, who might usefully spend more time addressing urgent issues closer to home, such as the truth about the Armenian Genocide, repression of Kurds, 47-year occupation of northern Cyprus, imprisonment of journalists and political dissidents, harassment of the Orthodox Church, and widespread regional meddling.
- “Daily Show” Host Trevor Noah: Mr. Noah compared the deadly Israel-Hamas conflict to a scrap between himself and his little brother. “As a person who has immensely more power, I had to ask myself whether my response to this child was just or necessary. Could I find different ways to deal with this?” (May 11)
Say what? This analogy might trigger some laughs on Comedy Central, but, unless I’m mistaken, his little brother was not indiscriminately targeting civilians, plotting the annihilation of an entire nation, and wreaking regional havoc. For goodness’ sake, the safety of an entire country, Israel, and its 9 million inhabitants, hangs in the balance.
- MSNBC Host Ali Velshi: “There is currently no existential threat to the state of Israel.” (May 17)
Mr. Velshi and I must be living on different planets. I have no clue what his news sources are, but mine are the actual words and deeds of the leaders of Iran, the leaders of Hezbollah, and the leaders of Hamas. They proclaim it for all to hear: “Death to Israel!,” and their military arsenals, which contain tens of thousands of deadly missiles, including precision-guided missiles, and, in the case of Iran, unmistakable nuclear ambitions, amply underscore the point.
- Fox News Commentator Geraldo Rivera: The U.S. is “complicit in an ongoing crime against humanity” by providing Israel with weapons to bomb Gaza. “Everyone and everything going into and out of Gaza is controlled by Israel….It’s effectively one of the world’s largest prison camps.” (May 19)
The “ongoing crime against humanity” in Gaza is perpetrated by Hamas, not Israel. The warden of “one of the world’s largest prison camps” is Hamas, not Israel. Why does Mr. Rivera remove all agency from Hamas leadership, which has led the Palestinians into a dead-end for the past 14 years? Why does he instead assign all responsibility to a country, Israel, which withdrew every single soldier and settler from Gaza in 2005, giving the coastal strip the first chance in its entire history to chart its own destiny? And perhaps, Mr. Rivera has a different map than I do, but, according to mine, Gaza has two borders, not one. The last time I checked, Egypt, the most populous Arab country, was in charge of its 7.5-mile border with Gaza.
- U.S. Member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “The Israeli government…target[s] international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing.” (May 19)
No, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Israel targets Hamas command and control centers, arms depots, terrorist hideaways, missile launching sites, and missile assembly facilities. It so happens that Hamas chooses to place these in “international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites.” That’s why, perhaps unlike any other army in the world, Israel goes to great lengths to alert civilians to evacuate these locations before any military strikes take place. Again, to be clear, if Hamas did not cynically instrumentalize civilian sites, this would not even be a discussion.
- “Celebrity” Gigi Hadid: “One cannot advocate for racial equality, LGBT and women’s rights, condemn corrupt and abusive regimes, and other injustices yet choose to ignore the Palestinian oppression. It does not add up.” (May 11)
How can one advocate for racial (and religious) equality, LGBTQ rights, and women’s rights, and condemn corrupt and abusive regimes, while blithely choosing to ignore the wide-ranging oppression of Palestinians, including women and LGBTQ, by Hamas, one of the most reactionary groups anywhere? It just doesn’t add up.
- “Last Week Tonight” Host John Oliver: “Both sides are firing rockets, but one side has one of the most advanced militaries in the world. Both sides are suffering heartbreaking casualties, but one side is suffering them exponentially…I would hope that a real friend would tell me when I’m being an a**hole, and definitely when I’m committing a f****ing war crime.” (May 17)
John Oliver’s conclusion appears to be that it’s not a “fair fight.” Gee, according to him, the side with more casualties gets to earn victim status. By that standard, checking the casualty figures for the Second World War, his native Britain must be the abominable aggressor, while it’s actually Nazi Germany that merits the title of virtuous victim. After all, Germany’s civilian casualty figures were far higher than the U.K.’s. Today, though, as in the case of the Second World War, the starting point for any discussion must be between fanatical aggressors and their intended targets.
- U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “We must change course and adopt an evenhanded approach.” (May 14)
Adopt an evenhanded approach? Evenhanded between Israel, a democratic nation, and Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union? Evenhanded between a country that left Gaza in 2005 to govern itself, and Hamas, which openly seeks Israel’s end? Evenhanded between Hamas, which shouts “Death to America!,” and Israel, a steadfast American ally?
- U.S. Member of Congress Ilhan Omar: “People who protest, including young children, are routinely shot by IDF soldiers—often killed—with no consequences.” (May 13)
“Routinely shot”? This is stunningly false, indeed constitutes a blood libel. And before judging the human rights situation in Israel, a country that the Congresswoman has never visited in her life (other than an attempted public relations stunt), maybe she might help us understand why she was one of just two Democratic Members of Congress unwilling to support H. Res. 296 condemning the Armenian Genocide, in which 1.5 million people were systematically murdered because of who they were. Or why she was the only Democratic member who refused to support any American sanctions against Turkey in 2019, despite its appalling human rights record. What gives here?
- U.S. Member of Congress Cori Bush: “The fight for Black lives and the fight for Palestinian liberation are interconnected. We oppose our money going to fund militarized policing, occupation, and systems of violent oppression and trauma [in Israel]. We are anti-war. We are anti-occupation. And we are anti-apartheid. Period.” (May 13)
If Rep. Bush visited Israel and saw the country for herself, among the first things that would strike her, no doubt, is the country’s racial and cultural diversity, including a large, and growing, Ethiopian Jewish community. Indeed, one African American civil rights leader said: “The rescue of Ethiopian Jews [by Israel] is the first time that black Africans were brought out of oppression into freedom, not the opposite.” Let’s not try to superimpose American racial analyses onto an exceptionally complex and longstanding political conflict thousands of miles away. This is not even remotely about race, but rather the elusive search to create two states for two peoples, both indigenous to the Middle East. If only the Palestinians would finally say “yes” to a peace proposal, having said “no” for decades, we might actually get there.
- Former U.K. Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn: “If it wanted, Israel could halt the bloodshed by ending the siege of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine.” (May 12)
It’s hard to take seriously the views of a failed British politician (even if Rep. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed him in his 2019 election bid) who does not recognize Israel’s very right to exist, stoked antisemitism in his own Labour Party, grieved at the tombstones of terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes, received funding from Iranian government media, and celebrates tyrants from Damascus to Caracas. News alert: When he speaks about the “occupation of Palestine,” there’s no doubt he is referring to all of Israel as occupied Palestine, even as he allows for ambiguity in the reader’s mind.
- U.S. Member of Congress Rashida Tlaib: “It is our duty to end the apartheid system that for decades has subjected Palestinians to inhumane treatment and racism.” (May 13)
It’s our duty, above all, to pray for Palestinian leaders who will, at long last, reverse the repeated rejections of a two-state solution that began, in 1947, with opposing a UN recommendation for a two-state deal. In fact, we could have been celebrating this year the 74th anniversary of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and harmony. But, that would require a certain degree of introspection on the part of Rep. Tlaib who, until now, has shown far more inclination to blame Israel for everything but the weather — and maybe I just missed that criticism, too.
David Harris is the CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).