Media Roundup: British “Israelization,” Cyber McCarthyism, and IDF Justice

“We Are All Zionists Now,” by Ben Judah and Josh Glancy, Tablet – 30 April.

The article is part of a larger series about British Jewry and anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in the UK; this informative article relates the long-standing affinity toward Israel among many British Jews, for whom Israel is a cheap flight away, often home to relatives, and presents an appealing cultural model. On that note, the authors describe how the predominantly Ashkenazi Jewish community (descendant of Eastern European and Russian Jews) is ditching its old school ways as “EasyJet and anti-Zionism are turning British Jews into Israelis.” And how does this “Israelization” of British Jews manifest itself?

The Anglo-Jewish refrigerator has followed this evolution. For Ashkenazim, gone are the cholent and chrain, the gefilte fish and goulash recipes that grandma brought over from Poland. In their place are pita, baba ganoush, shakshuka, and hummus. A takeaway treat now is no longer a salt-beef sandwich from Bloom’s deli in Golders Green but a chicken shwarma from Solly’s down the road. A dinner party is almost certain to be fueled by the cuisine of Jerusalemite chef Yotam Ottolenghi, who has brought previously unknown spices such as za’atar and ras el hanout to north London kitchens. Israeli words such as “yalla” are dropped into speech alongside Jackie Mason-esque yiddishisms to affirm a sense of Jewish identity. (emphasis mine). 

Arab dishes and street food, along with spices that were hardly unknown prior to 1948 and also Arabic in name, add a common Arabic (is Israeli a language?) expression and, viola!, you’ve got a proper British Zionist who is no less than an honorary Israeli. Now you know.

“Shadowy Web Site Creates Blacklist of Pro-Palestinian Activists,” by Josh Nathan-Kazis, Forward – 27 May.

With an Israeli cabinet openly in opposition to a Palestinian state and thus in favor of apartheid by any other name and with Israel quickly falling out of favor with young Americans and Democrats, it must be a difficult time for American Zionists, particularly of the right-wing sort, who had been accustomed to a narrative that attracted bipartisan support in its portrayal of Israel as the good-faith, peace-seeking nation. Nobody wants to be an advocate for apartheid and 21st colonialism, so rather than openly debating Palestinian solidarity activists and declaring their transparent if unspoken support for the Israeli state “be it right or wrong, good or bad,” as someone once said, many apologists for Israeli occupation resort to intimidation, censorship, defamation (of which the accusation of anti-Semitism is only the most prominent), distortion, subterfuge, threats, and now cyber-bullying.

A new website is publicizing the identities of pro-Palestinian student activists to prevent them from getting jobs after they graduate from college. But the website is keeping its own backers’ identity a secret.

“It is your duty to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees,” a female narrator intones in a slick video posted to the website’s YouTube account.

Called Canary Mission, the site has posted profiles of dozens of students and recent graduates…

The blacklist includes dozens of students and graduates, along with their images, social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, et cetera…), short biographies, and “infamous quotes,” all in a printable PDF for traveling comrades.

And infamous? They must have damning quotations that would embarrass any reasonable advocate for the Palestinians! One student conveys a particularly stomach-churning appeal to his peers:

“If any other students were found to have their houses demolished, or were forced to go through checkpoints to visit their families, would we be silent about that?”

Why take the side of thousands of Israeli house demolitions and dehumanizing checkpoints when it is so much easier to derail the discussion if you shot the messenger rather than talk about the message?

The website has kept the names of its own donors and employees a secret. Joe McCarthy at least was proud to publicly destroy the careers of individuals he considered ideologically offensive. This faceless attack on students and graduates who dare to stand up for Palestinian rights speaks to the growing desperation among a pro-Israel crowd that has been unable to win debates or browbeat university administrators into silencing pro-Palestinian campus activism (not for lack of trying) and has now decided to ramp up bullying by hoping to scare students into silence for fear of having their contact information publicly listed on a website bound to attract the most fanatical of heckling partisans, that and not potentially lost jobs may be the greater consequence. A movement unable to win on its merits and descending to digital thuggery may actually hasten its own isolation.

For those interested in checking out the website, please avoid going directly to the site and instead use this link which allows for viewing access without pushing up the site on the list of Google search results were one to search the names of any of the profiled students. The less traffic to the site, the better.

“Soldiers repeatedly harass B’Tselem volunteers’ family in Hebron, threaten wrongful arrest of teen son,” B’Tselem – 25 May.

In this video produced by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian boy, Maher Abu Haya, after they were pelted by a few rocks and pebbles. Israeli soldiers patrolling al-Khalil/Hebron, the site of the incident, routinely turn a blind eye toward their settler compatriots attacking Palestinians. In some cases, soldiers prove themselves to be enthusiastic enablers of settler harassment. But, heaven forbid, an occupying soldiers should be bothered by the native population. And if so bothered, well, it is so frustrating to have so much power and with no one to impose it on, thus find a Palestinian to “punish,” any will do.

…soldiers detained 14-year-old Maher Abu Haya near his home, apparently while they were in pursuit of teens suspected of throwing stones. When Maher’s father, Mahmoud, arrived on the spot, the soldiers told him that his son had thrown stones. After Maher denied the allegations and a conversation between the soldiers revealed the claim was baseless, the soldiers began claiming that Maher knew the identity of the stone-throwers. They also said that Maher is regularly seen near Beit Hadassah when stones are thrown there – willfully ignoring the fact that he lives right next to the settlement. The soldiers threatened Mahmoud Abu Haya that should they see Maher in the vicinity again when stones are thrown, they would arrest him even if he had nothing to do with it. They further threatened to hold Maher tied up all night and compel his family to pay a fine for his release. They also threatened to search the family’s home and destroy it in the process. They then released Maher. (emphasis mine). 

Of all its brutalities and injustices, this videos conveys the heart of it: the absolute arbitrary nature of Israeli “law” on the West Bank and the absolute lack of rights Palestinians have against a hostile force. Simply put, one people is at the mercy of another and the latter is often made up of hotheaded young men fueled by racism and shamelessly arrogant in their knowledge that they carry the guns and call the shots, often literally.

A kid is faulted and threatened for always being seen around his home. What’s one to do? Here’s an idea: the kid’s presence is merely incidental, the family home is the real problem. It has no business being so close to an Israeli settlement. They’re practically asking for a house demolition. And Israel’s supporters need not be diffident about justifying this one. After all, Israeli soldiers are under attack, they have a right to self-defense, and for all we know the kid was the original rock-thrower pesky slingshot terrorist!