The massacring of the truth

The following article by former Israeli cabinet minister Amnon Rubinstein, appearing in the usually respectable Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper, contained a hysterical attack on the Electronic Intifada made possible only by badly distorting the contents of a recent letter we wrote to The Economist magazine. For the full story, see our 17 September report, Israeli newspaper prints attack on EI, refuses to publish response (EI)

Ha’aretz — A new film by Mohammad Bakri, “Jenin, Jenin: A One-Sided Movie” portrays the IDF as an embodiment of evil and cruelty, and its soldiers as the butchers of helpless citizens in Jenin. The movie was the subject of Ha’aretz Magazine’s article “Taking sides,” by Vered Levy-Barzilai, on September 6.

Less than two weeks ago, on August 30, the Economist published a letter from a pro-Palestinian American organization called “The Electronic Intifada.” This letter followed reports by the British weekly, and one by the secretary-general of the United Nations, both debunking claims of a massacre in Jenin. The letter presents an entirely different type of argument.

The writers claimed that no Palestinians had spread false rumors of a massacre in Jenin and that the “myth” of the Palestinians accusing the IDF of a massacre was part of an anti-Palestinian plot.

Amos Harel, Anat Cygielman and Amira Hass reported in Ha’aretz on April 12 that the Palestinians were claiming the IDF had massacred about 500 people, “buried dozens of Palestinian bodies … in a ditch and used bulldozers to cover them.” A Palestinian woman on television said the IDF “threw bodies into the sewage so your journalists wouldn’t see them.” Since we were foolish enough to prevent journalists from entering for many days, these accusations spread throughout the entire world, and the massacre in Jenin that never was turned into a terrible slaughter.

Now the members of the Electronic Intifada are not only saying there was no massacre, but that there were never any accusations of massacre, and whoever attributes such accusations to the Palestinians is misleading and lying. All this is contrary to the One-Sided Film.

Why is this at all important? Because a propaganda war is being waged against Israel - including an electronic intifada - that has no counterpart in other conflicts. It does not simply entail criticizing Israel for its policies, or a government stand, or an attack on one issue or another. Rather, it is a propaganda offensive aimed at portraying Israel as a monstrous state - propaganda without restraints. One day Israel is commiting a massacre, the next day it is disseminating false accusations that the Palestinians spread rumors of an imaginary massacre. Anything goes - massacre or anti-massacre.

It is permissible to criticize Israel - sometimes it is even obligatory. Indeed, anyone visiting the Gaza Strip cannot remain uncritical. But Palestinian and Arab incitement is something entirely different in that it seeks to damage the legitimacy of the Jewish state’s existence. Harold Evans, a former editor of The Sunday Times, wrote (on June 28) that this propaganda aims to create “the dehumanization of all Jews” and this “frenzied, vociferous, paranoid, vicious and prolific” propaganda - which came after the Oslo Accords and Camp David - had generated a rising wave of anti-Semitism throughout the Muslim world.

And indeed, this propaganda - in which Israelis also participate - has all the signs of hysterical anti-Semitism. Not all criticism of Israel - as harsh as it may be - is anti-Semitic. But the new Arab and Palestinian propaganda shares common characteristics with the old hatred - obsessiveness and monstrousness.

The attack on Israel is obsessive since it erupts powerfully in all contexts, at every international conference, ecological discussion, and on marginal issues. For example, the Tate Gallery in London is now exhibiting Ori Gersht’s photographs of the Judean Desert. This exhibition provides an excuse for Time Out’s art critic to reproach and vilify Israel because the nature photographs ignore the plight of the Palestinians. This did not prevent the same critic from lauding the 1930s photographs of Hitler’s friend Leni Riefenstahl for not showing sympathy toward Nazism. One can laugh derisively, but this is something that has nothing at all to do with criticism of Israeli actions.

The monstrousness is expressed in portraying Israel as capable of carrying out any despicable crime against helpless Arabs - including disseminating AIDS in Cairo, raping Arab women at IDF checkpoints, and tossing the bodies of murdered Arabs into a sewage ditch in Jenin. This is not a conflict or war like those being waged in other places like Kashmir, Sudan and Chechnya. Instead it portrays a state that has no right to exist at all and whose destruction would be a blessing for mankind - because of the massacre that was, and the massacre that never happened.