The Enemy Within
by Jonathan Rosenblum
June 26, 2006
Long ago the prophet Yeshaya warned, "Your ruiners and destroyers will come from amongst you" (49:17). It is doubtful whether that the truth of those words has ever been more evident than today.
Last week the leaders of the Presbyterian Church, meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, engaged in three days of searching debate over whether to rescind a 2004 resolution calling for divestment from Israel. Similar resolutions have been passed in recent years by the Anglican Church of England and the American Episcopalian Church.
Divestment resolutions are of immense propaganda value because they embed in the public mind a connection between Israel and the former apartheid regime of South Africa, against which divestment was pursued with great effect. Fear of being labeled an apartheid regime – with a minority of Jews ruling over a majority Arab population – was a major impetus behind Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw from Gaza.
Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein was one of two representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Birmingham lobbying for rescission. He had expected a large Palestinian presence there as well, given the importance of the issue.
The Palestinians, however, were largely absent. They were not needed. In their place were dozens of Jews lobbying in favor of retaining the divestment resolution: Tikkun, Machsom Watch (the organization in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s daughter Dana is active), Jewish Voice for Peace. Norman Finkelstein, who has been dubbed the Jewish David Irving, and whose book The Holocaust Industry was called by a New York Times reviewer a new variation on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was there as well, generously offering his latest screed against Israel to every delegate.
Dr. Yehuda Pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who identifies himself as a man of the Left, was stunned by the vitriol heaped on Israel by these Jews. His voice quivering with passion, he asked them: If you consider Israel’s behavior too harsh, why don’t you go to Israel and demonstrate at IDF headquarters, where you might have some effect. But the only beneficiaries of retaining the divestment resolution here will be those who killed my son.
Fortunately, the Jewish haters of Israel did not prevail. A new resolution passed, which not only apologized to the Jewish community for the hurt caused by the earlier resolution and termed the process by which it was adopted deeply flawed, but removed any mention of divestment. (To be sure the new resolution was far from perfect; it called for Israel to dismantle the security fence beyond the 1967 borders, which it called Palestinian land.)
THE LEAD ROLE PLAYED BY JEWS in the attack on Israel was part of a larger pattern. The various resolutions in favor of an academic boycott of Israeli universities and academics passed in recent years by British academic unions were, in large part, the brainchild of Haifa University Professor Ilan Pappe, and its main proponents in England were Jewish professors Stephen and Jacquelyn Rose.
When the Ontario branch of Canada’s largest union voted recently to boycott Israel, it was privileged to receive a letter of support from 25 Israeli academics, most of them currently teaching at Israeli academic institutions, expressing their support for "your courageous initiative and fervent hope that it will set an example for many others to follow."
The Western press feels little need to check itself when reporting from Israel because it can always find support for any charges it makes, no matter how preposterous, in the Israeli media itself. At international conferences to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Israeli "representatives" – usually someone like Gideon Levy or Amira Hass from Haaretz – consistently outdo their Palestinian counterparts in their condemnations of Israel.
Among the major sources for the notorious paper by Harvard Professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer, in which they charged that American foreign policy had been kidnapped by the "Israel Lobby" were Israeli journalists and academics. What Israeli Jews say about Israel is perceived as carrying special force, no matter how unsupported, because surely no Jew or Israeli would say anything bad about Israel unless it were true.
Ha’aretz publisher Amos Schocken does not lag far behind his star reporters. After the Knesset passed a law denying residency to Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens – i.e., to citizens of a quasi-state at open war with Israel – he wrote in Ha’aretz that Israel had shown itself to be an "apartheid state," that has no interest in peace with its neighbors.
Nor do the intemperate attacks on Israel come exclusively from academics and fringe figures. Avraham Burg, former chairman of the Jewish Agency, Speaker of the Knesset, and Chairman of the Labor Party, published a piece in 2003 in numerous international papers, in which he placed the entire onus on Israel for the failure to achieve peace. He mentioned Palestinian suicide bombers only to express his understanding: "Having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, [Israel] should not be surprised when they come full of hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism."
After Yasir Arafat turned down a Palestinian state at Camp David and launched a new intifada against Israeli, Israel Prize winner and former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni, wrote an article in Le Monde in which she had not one word of criticism for the Palestinians and not one good word to say about Israel.
EVEN AMONG ISRAEL-HATING ISRAELI ACADEMICS, Ben-Gurion University lecturer Neve Gordon deserves mention. At a time when Yasir Arafat was offering a safe haven in his Ramallah compound to the murderers of Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, Gordon violated an army order and entered the compound to serve as a human shield for Arafat, along with 250 members of the infamous International Solidarity Movement. Once there he was photographed holding hands triumphantly aloft with Arafat, and telling journalists that charges of Arafat’s involvement in terrorism against Israel were Israeli propaganda.
Gordon is a frequent critic of Israel’s "fascism" and "state terror." And he once wrote a letter to Ha’aretz justifying Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians as the only language that Israel and Ehud Barak understand.
Gordon has led a campaign falsely accusing his former army commander, Gaza Brigade Commander Gen. Aviv Kochavi, of "war crimes." As a consequence, Kochavi was warned by the IDF not to take up advanced studies at the Royal College of Defense Studies in England, out of fear of a "war crimes" prosecution. Gordon formerly headed an organization called Physicians for Human Rights (though he is not a doctor), whose website carries cartoons of Israelis oppressing Palestinians, which Bar-Ilan University’s Gerald Steinberg writes, can only be characterized as "anti-Semitic."
Finally, Gordon is an ardent supporter of the aforementioned Norman Finkelstein, whose works he views as in the finest tradition of the Biblical prophets, afra l’puma. Gordon’s laudatory reviews of Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry are carried on various neo-Nazi and Islamist sites, including that of Ernst Zundel, who was deported from Canada to stand trial in Germany for Holocaust denial. In that book, Finkelstein argues that the numbers of those killed in the Holocaust are grossly exaggerated, as part of a systematic manipulation by world Jewry to deflect criticism of Israel’s "racist" and "Nazi" treatment of Palestinians.
Gordon stands for the proposition that as far as the Israeli legal system in concerned there is no such thing as traitorous speech. On the other hand, calling such speech by its name may be libelous. While Gordon does not exactly restrain his tongue or his pen, he would prefer others to restrain theirs when speaking about him. Thus he slapped a libel suit on Haifa University economics professor Steven Plaut, for whom Israeli’s anti-Israel academics are something of a pet peeve and who devotes much time to exposing and ridiculing their antics.
Gordon chose the venue for his libel suit with care. Even though he lives in Jerusalem, and Plaut in Haifa, he sued in Nazareth, where he had the best chance of drawing an Arab judge. His strategy was a reprise of that used by Southerners at the height of the American civil rights movement in the ‘60s to bankrupt the civil rights organizations and their leaders with a series libel suits tried before red-neck Southern juries in places like Alabama.
The United States Supreme Court put an end to the practice in the 1964 case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which made it virtually impossible for a public figure to sue for libel absent a showing of reckless disregard for the truth. That expressions of opinion were beyond the reach of libel law did not even need stating.
Unfortunately, Israel’s protections of free speech lag considerably behind those of the United States. Nazareth proved to be Gordon’s Alabama; he drew the Arab judge he sought. And she did not disappoint. She socked Professor Plaut with an 80,000 shekel judgment plus 15,000 shekels in court costs.
The decision bordered on the unbelievable. Part of the judgment was based on a satirical e-mail sent to Gordon consoling him on the death in a targeted killing of Hamas’ leading bomb maker. Plaut denied that he had written the e-mail, and testified that he had done nothing more than forward it to his e-mail list. There was no evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless the satiric joke – a clear expression of opinion -- was deemed libelous.
Judge Reem Nadaff also found a posting by Plaut where he described Gordon’s scholarly publications as paltry to be libelous. Yet that description was unquestionably true at the time made. (That it is no longer true is more a testament to the standards of left-wing scholarly journals than to Gordon’s scholarship.) Judge Nadaff nevertheless entered judgment against Plaut for failing to remove the offending articles from various websites later, when the description no longer applied – a novel doctrine.
Most of Nadaff’s opinion focused on discussion of two headlines of articles written by Plaut. She emphasized the particular power packed by a headline, even though neither of the headlines in question – "Haaretz promotes Jews for Hitler" and "Judenrat for Peace" – even mentioned Gordon by name.
In the first article Plaut blasted Ha’aretz for picking Gordon to review Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry and then printing his laudatory review. Plaut denied even writing the headline in question, which he said was composed by an editor. In any event, "the Jews for Hitler" being promoted by Ha’aretz obviously referred to Finkelstein, whose book Ha’aretz was criticized for reviewing favorably. Contrary to what Judge Nadaff wrote, the plural "Jews" did not necessarily include Gordon. Plaut mentioned some other lovely Jews in the piece, including Noam Chomsky and the editors of Tikkun magazine. Moreover, the most reasonable understanding of the headline is that "Jews for Hitler" is a metaphoric club of which Finkelstein is the prime example.
Along the way, Judge Nadaff wrote a mini-essay on how discussion of the Holocaust is taboo in Israel and anyone who questions the received orthodoxy is subjected to vicious condemnation. She seemed to view it as her duty to defend forms of Holocaust denial in Israel by hitting those who express contempt for the deniers with libel judgments.
"Judenrat for Peace" savaged Gordon for his visit to Arafat’s Ramallah compound. Nadaff read the title as a literal statement that Gordon – who was not mentioned by name in the title – was a collaborator with Hitler in his plans to destroy the Jewish people. Yet Plaut was clearly engaging in a Holocaust metaphor: Just as during the Holocaust the Judenrat assisted in the killing of their fellow Jews, so do Gordon and his ilk today. While that may not dovetail with Judge Nadaff’s estimate of Arafat, evidence of his role in financing in directing terror attacks against Israeli Jews right up until his death is hardly in short supply.
Judge Nadaff basically created a new rule -- Holocaust metaphors are beyond the pale – ignoring in the process plenty of Israeli case law to the contrary, as well as much case law to the effect that public figures, like Gordon, must expect to be subject to the harshest criticism.
The only consolation in Judge Nadaff’s astounding opinion is the revelation that not all the "destroyers" come for within.
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