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60 Minutes Smears Israel Again

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

By CAMERA staff

Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America,


In the January 25th episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes entitled “Is Peace Out of Reach,” correspondent Bob Simon teamed up with Palestinian politician and partisan Mustafa Barghouti to promote the Palestinian view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, heaping blame on Israel and exculpating the Palestinians for the absence of peace. In a caricature of Israeli villainy and Palestinian victimhood Simon presented a simple fable: a two-state solution, the key to peace, is thwarted by stubborn Israeli settlers.


Palestinian speakers were joined by a like-minded Israeli critic, while an Israeli settler leader whose views represent neither the Israeli mainstream, the Israeli government nor even most settlers was cast as the primary obstacle to peace. But the program itself was much more lopsided than even the imbalance of speakers indicates, since correspondent Bob Simon — whose voice dominates the segment — clearly and continuously joined the “blame Israel” chorus.


While echoing Palestinian talking points and repeating without challenge anti-Israel propaganda — including the slur that Israel practices apartheid and that settlements are like “crusader fortresses”— Simon overlooked recent history and even heckled an Israeli soldier as if in a schoolyard argument. (“Have you lost your voice?” he contemptuously asked an Israeli soldier who was seemingly not authorized or prepared to speak with the press.)


Simon laid down his distorted storyline at the outset of the segment, declaring: “a lasting peace really depends on the West Bank, where Palestinians had hoped to create their state.”


Actually, most Israelis would say — given recent experience with peacemaking attempts — that “lasting peace really depends” on Palestinians accepting Israel as a legitimate and permanent neighbor and not continuing to hope for and seek Israel’s elimination from the region. But this view held by Israelis was absent from the program.


Nor, in this vein, was there any mention that Palestinians were offered the two-state solution sixty years ago, and again eight years ago when they not only rejected the Camp David/Taba peace offer, but chose a terror war against Israel instead. Had they accepted the offer, Palestinians would have a state, settlements deep inside the West Bank would be gone, and, the hope was, Palestinian terrorism would have ceased. Instead, the eruption of unprecedented Palestinian terrorism prompted Israeli defensive measures that altered the face of the West Bank.


None of this crucial information appeared in the segment.


Simon also failed to remind viewers of the other recent Israeli effort to reduce violence and enhance peace — the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel removed every citizen and dismantled every settlement and got, in return, not peace but more rockets and mortars than ever.


Does Simon think Israel is required to undertake withdrawal from areas close to Israel’s major cities and congested heartland without considering the possibility of more violent aggression against its people?


Why does he ignore reasonable Israeli concerns that if it withdrew from the West Bank “Hamas would take over the institutions and apparatuses of the Palestinian Authority within days”?


Does Simon think recent history is irrelevant? Does he think omitting essential facts (and substituting a fable) is ethical journalism?




Just as Simon ignored Israel’s offer to dismantle settlements and create a Palestinian state, he also ignored the violence that followed Palestinian rejection of the offer. The words “terror,” “terrorism” or “terrorist” do not appear even once in the transcript of the segment. Nor do the words “violence,” “war,” “gunmen,” “militants,” “attacker,” or “suicide bombers.”


The one reference to guns during the 60 Minutes segment, in fact, was Simon’s assertion that “the Israelis,” as opposed to the Palestinians, “have the guns.” The one reference to “security” was Mustafa Barghouti’s claim that most Israeli checkpoints cannot be justified by security concerns.


Although Simon ignored Palestinian violence against Israel, he nonetheless faulted Israeli response to the violence. Stripped of its context, Israel’s attempts to protect its civilians were framed as gratuitously causing inconvenience, oppression, and “humiliation” to Palestinians.


The security barrier (which Simon absurdly says Israel refers to as a “wall”) was said to “appropriate” land and “separat[e] farmers from their land.” But its essential purpose, to protect Israelis and prevent suicide bombers from reaching their targets, was ignored. Likewise, Simon described checkpoints as “humiliating,” and allowed Barghouti to allege that they primarily exist “to block the movement of people from one place to another,” but failed to reference the number of Palestinian attacks they’ve prevented, and failed to mention that, like the barrier, most checkpoints didn’t exist before the Palestinians initiated their war of terror in late 2000.


Moreover, the checkpoints continue to serve the purpose for which they’re intended, foiling infiltrations and terrorist attacks.CAMERA recently examined incidents at the Hawara checkpoint over the course of one month, October 2008.

  • On October 5, a Palestinian was stopped carrying a suspicious parcel containing two pipe bombs;
  • On October 12, a female soldier prevented an attack when she discovered nine pipe bombs in the bags of three Palestinian traveling companions;
  • On the following day, soldiers stopped a man who was trying to cross the checkpoint with explosive devices. He was shot and lightly wounded as he tried to escape in a get-away car;
  • On October 15, soldiers confiscated a 10 cm knife from a man trying to pass through the checkpoint;
  • A week later on October 22, the checkpoint was temporarily closed as a 17-year-old youth was detained with several firebombs and an explosive device.
  • On October 25, a Palestinian youth was taken for questioning after soldiers found a pipe bomb in his bag.)

Evidently for Simon it’s not “humiliating” for Israel to have to be on guard constantly against Palestinians with bombs and kives trying to kill men, women and children.



Simon seemed to relish in particular a segment focused on Israel’s periodic military requisitioning of a Palestinian home for apparent surveillance use in Nablus. The Nassif home is set on the heights overlooking the town and provides a unique vantage from which Israel can monitor ongoing terrorist efforts in the district. Casting the military use of the private home of the Nassif’s as an outrage, the CBS correspondent did almost nothing to present the Israeli position, saying only that “an army spokesperson told us the army uses the Nassif’s house for important surveillance operations.”


There was not a word in the segment to indicate the gravity of what Israel faces in maintaining the relative quiet that has prevailed since it was compelled to counter the terrorist upsurge after the collapse of the Camp David talks. For Israel Nablus remains a hotbed of terrorist efforts and the central district of the West Bank from which attempted attacks on Israel emanate.


According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, in 2007 “the Hamas networks in Samaria, especially in the Nablus region, were defined by the Israel Security Agency as dangerous and working avidly to rehabilitate themselves after the damage done by Operation Defensive Shield. In 2007 a series of counter-terrorist activities was directed against the networks including the detention of many operatives, some of them senior.” (See, e.g.,  here, here and here.)


The terrorist activity and murder of hundreds of Israelis in 2001-2003 has been dramatically diminished through a combination of the security barrier and intense, round-the-clock vigilance inside the West Bank.


Because much of Nablus lies in a valley, Israel can survey the camps, casbah and city below from strategic hills, and this surveillance sometimes entails using private homes that provide the best vantage point. IDF soldiers are instructed not to harm anyone or to damage property.


Even the BBC, which is not generally regarded as sympathetic to Israel, alerted its readers to Israel’s position in a more journalistically responsible manner. In a piece about the house, a reporter notes:


Over the last six years, the Israeli army has made frequent incursions into the city, to arrest and kill militants. When it does, the soldiers often return to bang on Mr Nasif’s door. …


Nablus does have a history of militancy. In the past, perpetrators of bombings in which Israeli civilians were killed, came from the city.


Although those attacks have dramatically decreased in number over recent years, the army says that does not mean attacks are not still being planned. That is why it says it needs to keep on making its raids into Nablus.


In other words, unlike 60 Minutes, the BBC acknowledges that the murder of Israeli civilians, and Israel’s attempts to act against potential killers, is an essential part of the story.




As with his discussion of the West Bank, Simon grossly misled viewers regarding Palestinians in Jerusalem:


The army is evicting Arabs from their homes in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hoped to make their capital. Outraged, Arabs tried to save their homes, but the Israelis have the guns. Israel demolished more than 100 Arab homes in the past year, ruling they’d been illegally built. Arabs say this is just another tactic to drive them out.


“Drive them out”? Under Israeli control, the Arab population of Jerusalem has increased dramatically, and in fact grew substantially faster than the Jewish population of Jerusalem.


Additionally, Israel also demolishes illegal Jewish structures in Jerusalem. Does this mean it is trying to “drive out” Jews from Jerusalem? And Palestinians themselves have demolished illegal homes under their control. Would CBS take seriously allegations that the Palestinian Authority is trying to “drive out” Palestinians from Gaza because it has demolished illegal building there — which it has?




Simon’s use of loaded, anti-Israel language was uninhibited. Here is one typical statement by the correspondent:


Palestinians had hoped to establish their state here on the West Bank, an area the size of Delaware. But Israelis have sliced it up with scores of settlements and hundreds of miles of new highways that only settlers can use. Palestinians have to drive or ride on the older roads. When they want to travel from one town to another, they have to submit to humiliating delays at checkpoints and roadblocks. There are more than 600 of them on the West Bank.


In just this few seconds of monologue:

  • Simon falsely asserted that there are “hundreds of miles of new highways that only settlers can use.” In fact, all Israelis, whether Jewish or Arab, Christian or Muslim, can use Israel’s bypass roads, as can West Bank Palestinians who are believed to pose no threat to commuters.
  • He claimed absurdly that Israelis were preventing a Palestinian state because they “sliced … up” the West Bank (in fact, as mentioned above, the lack of a Palestinian state is not because Israel “sliced up” — as Bob Simon and pro-Palestinian activists describe it — the West Bank, but because they rejected a state, started a terror war, and used territory abandoned by Israel as a base for deadly attacks).
  • He also relayed unfiltered the Palestinian view of checkpoints as “humiliating” while ignoring the fact that Palestinians’ violent rejection of a state prompted most of the checkpoints.




Mustapha Barghouti was quoted and paraphrased more than any other guest and given an unchallenged platform to level a variety of extreme charges. Referring to him only as a “former candidate for Palestinian president” Simon gave no hint that he is a long-time partisan whose statements are often patently false and propagandistic – notwithstanding his role as a PA legislator.


* Commenting on the death of arch-terrorist George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and mastermind of bombings and hijackings, the Lod Airport massacre and the Entebbe hijacking, Barghouti praised the PFLP leader who, he said, left a legacy of “loyalty to the Palestinian cause in a very principled manner – honest, clean politics and great devotion to the Palestinian cause and to humanity.” (Jerusalem Post Jan 29, 2008)


* On Dec 30, as the Gaza conflict erupted, he stated on CNN that not a “single” Israeli had been killed since Dec 27, when in fact four had been killed.


* On CNN, he charged that Israel had broken the June 2008 ceasefire, when the Palestinians had broken it repeatedly with the firing of rockets, mortars, and light arms and with attempted infiltrations aimed at abducting Israelis.


* Barghouti’s lies sometimes catch up with him as, for example, when the San Francisco Chronicle had to correct an absurd allegation he made that Israel’s security barrier “was claiming 58% of the West Bank.”


Barghouti and Simon together dramatically lament that Barghouti cannot “ever” enter Jerusalem, implying he’s barred because he moved away from the city. Unmentioned was the fact that Barghouti has been arrested several times for violating agreements not to engage in political electioneering in Jerusalem without a permit, and according to London’s Independent (Jan. 8, 2005), he has deliberately “sought confrontations with the security forces as a tactic to gain badly needed publicity.” Moreover, after an arrest in January 2006, he was ordered by Jerusalem police to stay out of Jerusalem for the next 30 days (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2006) — not as Simon claims “forever.” Apparently, the story is more complicated than the 60 Minutes host implies.


The Nassif family is granted almost as much time as Barghouti to give their view of events at their home overlooking Nablus, a sharp contrast with the ultra-brief, paraphrased Israeli comment that “important surveillance operations” occur from the house.


Daniella Weiss, resident of the West Bank, is presented as a counterweight to Barghouti and voice for the settlement movement. Yet she represents the most extreme position of Israeli settler opinion, has sparred with settler leadership, and advocates for illegal settler outposts – all of which are not positions of the vast majority of Israelis and Israeli settlers. Casting her comments as representative produces a highly distorted picture of settlements, ignoring the relevant legal, historical, and religious issues.


Meron Benvenisti is identified as a supposedly “moderate” Israeli; but his stated views are far from moderate. He claims Israelis are not actually victims of Arab violence, but that “Jewish immigrants settled on the lands of Arab natives, met with violent resistance, and responded as if they were the victims and the natives the aggressors” (The Nation, June 18, 2007). In the August 7, 2003 Ha’aretz, he wrote: “… the basic story here is not one of two national movements that are confronting each other; the basic story is that of natives and settlers.” (Like Hamas extremists, he uses “settlers” here to refer to all Israelis, not just those living in the West Bank.)


He even claims Israel is worse in some respects than apartheid South Africa and he argues for a single bi-national state over the entirety of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip — a proposal far outside the Israeli political mainstream.


Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is very briefly interviewed, representing the official voice of Israel. She is only quoted discussing the possible need to remove settlements. If she commented on the need for checkpoints and other security measures or other context, it didn’t make it on the air.


Never is there a good time for shoddy reporting, but today when Israel is under intense political pressure and Jews around the world are encountering heightened anti-Semitism, Simon’s biased, inaccurate blast at Israel is especially reprehensible and deserving of public protest.








CBS 60 Minutes, January 25, 2009

BOB SIMON, co-host:


Getting a peace deal in the Middle East is such a priority to President Obama that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Arab and Israeli leaders. And on day two, the president made former Senator George Mitchell his special envoy for Middle East peace. Mr. Obama wants to shore up the cease-fire in Gaza, but a lasting peace really depends on the West Bank, where Palestinians had hoped to create their state. The problem is, even before Israel invaded Gaza, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians had concluded that peace between them was no longer possible, that history had passed it by.


(Map of area)


SIMON: (Voiceover) For peace to have a chance, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank, which would then become the Palestinian state. It’s known as the two-state solution. But while negotiations have been going on for 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved in to occupy the West Bank. Palestinians say they can’t have a state with Israeli settlers all over it, which the settlers say is precisely the idea.


(Workers in field)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Daniella Weiss moved from Israel to the West Bank 33 years ago. She has been the mayor of a large settlement.


Mayor DANIELLA WEISS: I think that settlements prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the land of Israel. This is the goal, and this is the reality.


(Man and son working in field; government officials; desert; doctor caring for patient)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Though settlers and Palestinians don’t agree on anything, most do agree now that a peace deal has been overtaken by events. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is a former candidate for Palestinian president.


Dr. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: While my heart still wants to believe that the two-state solution is possible, my brain keeps telling me the opposite because of what I see in terms of the building of settlements. So in a way, these settlers are destroying the potential peace for both people that would have been created if we had two-state solution.


(Tanks; wounded; men carrying children; fire and smoke)


SIMON: (Voiceover) And he told us Israel’s invasion of Gaza, all the death and destruction, convinces him that Israel does not want a two-state solution.


Dr. BARGHOUTI: I am very worried that what Israel has done has furthered us much further from the possibility of two-state solution.


(Sheep herder and sheep; aerial view of settlement; highways; men in car; man riding donkey; women and children walking; woman’s credentials being checked by soldier; people waiting at checkpoint)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Palestinians had hoped to establish their state here on the West Bank, an area the size of Delaware. But Israelis have sliced it up with scores of settlements and hundreds of miles of new highways that only settlers can use. Palestinians have to drive or ride on the older roads. When they want to travel from one town to another, they have to submit to humiliating delays at checkpoints and roadblocks. There are more than 600 of them on the West Bank.


Why do the Israelies have so many checkpoints?


Dr. BARGHOUTI: I think the main goal is to fragment the West Bank. Maybe a little bit of them can be justified because they say it’s for security. But I think the vast majority of them are basically to block the movement of people from one place to another.


(Building; photo of young Barghouti with siblings; photo of Barghouti as a doctor; town; Barghouti working on computer)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Here’s how they block Dr. Barghouti. He was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Jerusalem, and worked in a hospital there for 14 years. Four years ago, he moved to a town just 10 miles away. But now, because he no longer lives in Jerusalem, he can’t get back in, ever.


Now, wait a minute. You cannot go to Jerusalem?


Dr. BARGHOUTI: At all.


SIMON: Can’t you get a permit to go?


Dr. BARGHOUTI: I asked for a permit to go to Jerusalem during the last year–the last two years about 16 times, and 16 times they were rejected. Like most Palestinians, I don’t have a permit to go to the city I was born in, to the city I used to work in, to the city where my sister lives.


(Aerial view of settlements; Simon riding in helicopter; house)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Here’s what he’s up against–scores of Israeli settlements dominating the lowlands like crusader fortresses. Many are little cities, and none of them existed 40 years ago. The Israelis always take the high ground, sometimes the hills, sometimes the homes. And sometimes, Arabs are occupied inside their own homes. This house, for example, the highest house on the highest hill overlooking the town of Nablus. We learned that Israeli soldiers often corral the four families who live here and take over the house to monitor movement down below.


We’re going into an apartment owned by a Mr. Nassif here in Nablus. We understand that Israeli soldiers came in this morning, and without any notice, without any invitation, came into the apartment and have been there ever since.


Mr. ABDUL NASSIF: We cannot speak with you. There are soldiers.


SIMON: There are soldiers?


Mr. NASSIF: Yes.


SIMON: What are they doing here?


Mr. NASSIF: We are in prison here.


SIMON: Well, what’s happening?


Mr. NASSIF: They are keeping us here, and the soldiers are upstairs. We cannot move, we cannot speak with you.


SIMON: You can’t leave the house?




SIMON: They told you that?


Mr. NASSIF: Yes. I can’t leave.


SIMON: How long are they going to stay?


Mr. NASSIF: I don’t know.


SIMON: Are they paying you any money?


Mr. NASSIF: You are kidding.


SIMON: I’m kidding.


(Nassif talking with Simon)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Abdul Nassif, a bank manager, said he had to get to his bank to open the safe but that soldiers won’t let him go. He told us, when the soldiers come, they wake everybody up and herd them into a kitchen for hours while soldiers sleep in their bedrooms. They can’t leave or use the phone or let us in. He sent us downstairs to see if his brother would open the door so we could ask the soldiers why they keep taking over this house.


Unidentified Man #1: You want to come?


SIMON: Yes. Just open the door and then…


Man #1: The soldiers close the door from the keys. They take the keys.


(House; Simon talking to house occupants through gate; occupants and soldiers inside house)


SIMON: (Voiceover) So we left, and that night, so did the soldiers. But when we returned two days later, the soldiers were back for more surveillance. This time, they kept the women under house arrest, but let the men go to work and the children go to school. When the children returned, we caught a glimpse of two armed soldiers at the top of the stairs. Then, more children came home, but the soldiers wouldn’t open the door again.


Unidentified Man #2: They say if you don’t go back behind the wall, the children will not enter the house.


SIMON: But this is where the children live.


Unidentified Soldier: Yeah, but you need to go away from the door so I can let the children come in, OK?


SIMON: Who are you?


Man #2: He’s a commander here.


SIMON: He’s a commander here?


Man #2: Yeah.


SIMON: Can we talk to you?


Soldier: No.


SIMON: But we are talking to you now. Why don’t you tell us what you’re doing here? Have you lost your voice?


Well, they’ve closed the door now. They’ve closed the window. So I guess, if the children are going to get home, we have to–we have to leave, so that’s what we’ll do.


An army spokesperson told us the army uses the Nassifs’ house for important surveillance operations. The Nassifs told us the soldiers usually stay for a day or two, always coming and going in the middle of the night. When they do go, the Nassifs never know when they’ll be occupied again. It could be tomorrow, next week or next month. The only certainty, they say, is that the soldiers will be back.


(Men talking and walking on streets; building under construction; aerial view of settlement; workers; Israelis; man praying; women; children playing)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Another crippling reality on the West Bank is high unemployment, now about 20 percent. So some Palestinians can only find jobs building Israeli settlements. They’re so ashamed to work here that they asked us not to show their faces. The settlers now number about 280,000, and as they keep moving in, their population keeps growing about 5 percent every year But the two and a half million Arabs have their strategy, too. They’re growing bigger families.


Demographers predict that within 10 years, Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Without a separate Palestinian state, the Israelis would have three options, none of them good. They could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank. They could give the Palestinians the vote. That would be the democratic option, but it would mean the end of the Jewish state. Or they could inflict apartheid, have the minority Israelis rule the majority Palestinians. But apartheid regimes don’t have a very long life.


Dr. BARGHOUTI: Unfortunately, and I have to say to you that apartheid is already in place.


SIMON: Apartheid is already in place?


Dr. BARGHOUTI: Absolutely.


(Aerial view of wall; soldiers at checkpoint; fountain; rocky, arid ground; Israelis at cafe; Meron Benvenisti walking with Simon)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Apartheid? Israel is building what it calls a security wall between the West Bank and Israel. The Palestinians are furious because it appropriates 8 percent of the West Bank. Not only that, it weaves its way through Palestinian farms, separating farmers from their land. They have to wait at gates for soldiers to let them in. Settlers get a lot more water than Palestinians, which is why settlements are green and Arab areas are not. Moderate Israelis who deplore the occupation used to believe passionately in a two-state solution. No longer. Meron Benvenisti used to be deputy mayor of Jerusalem.


Israeli leaders and Palestinian leaders are negotiating a two-state solution. What do you think the prospects are?


Mr. MERON BENVENISTI: Prospects are nil. The geopolitical condition that’s been created in ’67 is irreversible, cannot be changed. You cannot unscramble that egg.


SIMON: Does this mean that the settlers have won?




SIMON: And the settlers will remain forever and ever?


Mr. BENVENISTI: I don’t know forever and ever, but they will remain and will flourish.


Mayor WEISS: The settlers, the attitude that I present here, this is the heart, this is the pulse. This is the past, present and future of the Jewish nation.


SIMON: So you’re saying basically that you and your fellow settlers are immovable?


Mayor WEISS: I say that we and the settlers here are immovable. We will stay here forever.


(Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni at events)


SIMON: (Voiceover) But one very important Israeli says she intends to move them out. She’s foreign minister Tzipi Livni, a candidate to become prime minister in elections next month. She’s also Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, and she told us peace is unthinkable with the settlers where they are.


Can you really imagine evacuating the tens of thousands of settlers who say they will not leave?


Ms. TZIPI LIVNI: It’s not going to be easy, but this is the only solution.


SIMON: But you know that there are settlers who say, `We will fight. We will not leave. We will fight.’


Ms. LIVNI: So this is the responsibility of the government, of the police to stop them, as simple as that. Israel is a state of law and order.


(Riot; soldiers patrolling)


SIMON: (Voiceover) And disorder. Here’s what happened three years ago when the army evicted just nine families from a West Bank settlement called Amona. It was chaos, the first time since the creation of the state that Jews were in pitched battle against Jews. To Israelis of all stripes, it was not a pretty picture, and it made the government loathe to try again. Officials fear that more battles to empty settlements could rip Israel apart. They’re afraid that religious officers in the army, and there are an increasing number of them, would disobey any order to evict settlers.


Mayor WEISS: There will be a mutiny in the army.


SIMON: A mutiny in the army?


Mayor WEISS: I think a mutiny against such an illegal order will make our army only stronger.


(House being demolished; soldiers battling civilians; building being demolished)


SIMON: (Voiceover) The army is evicting Arabs from their homes in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hoped to make their capital. Outraged, Arabs tried to save their homes, but the Israelis have the guns. Israel demolished more than 100 Arab homes in the past year, ruling they’d been illegally built. Arabs say this is just another tactic to drive them out. But officials say they also knock down unauthorized Jewish buildings on the West Bank. They’re put up by youngsters, the next generation’s campaign to populate the land. Daniella Weiss told us they will not be stopped.


The army tore this down this morning…


Mayor WEISS: Yes.


SMITH: …and now you’re rebuilding it.


Mayor WEISS: Yes, and we will have the upper hand, I have no doubt.


SIMON: But the army will tear it down again.


Mayor WEISS: So we will rebuild it. The experience shows that the world belongs to those who are stubborn, and we are very stubborn.


(Men building dwelling; aerial view of countryside)


SIMON: (Voiceover) Stubborn, she says, because they were ordered to populate this land by no less an authority than God.


Mayor WEISS: This is the mission of our generation. The most important point is this, to hold strong to the soil of the holy land



Israel’s Fight For Survival

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

By Bruce Thornton


Israel’s fight for survival is against not only Hamas, Hezbollah, and their state sponsors Syria and Iran. Equally formidable, if more insidious, are those in the West whose virulent hatred of Israel imperils its existence. This antipathy among Western academics, commentators, and reporters is itself a reflection of the larger moral and intellectual corruption that endangers not just Israel but Western civilization. The media coverage of the recent Israeli offensive against Hamas and its rockets in Gaza bears all the signs of this irrational and incoherent hatred of the only country in the Middle East in which the rule of law, human rights, and political freedom––all the boons we Westerners take for granted––are respected in ways impossible to duplicate in any Muslim Arab country.


Just as with the Lebanon offensive of 2006, the Western media report events in terms of a prefabricated narrative shorn of historical fact and context. In this mythic paradigm, Israel is the neo-colonial, neo-imperialist minion of late capitalism, an outpost of Western aggression and exploitation of the dark-skinned Third World “other” whose land has been stolen and whose people have been displaced. All the dysfunctions of the West, so this tale goes, such as racism and xenophobia, are expressed in Israel’s treatment of its victims. Hence the mechanisms of Zionist “apartheid” such as checkpoints, walls, restrictions on movement, “refugee” camps, “displaced” persons, and the brutal indifference and “disproportionate” response of Israel’s U.S.-financed military machine. Muslim “terrorism” is explained away as the understandable response on the part of those subjected to this oppression and lacking the resources to fight back. Thus they can be forgiven for being caught up in the “cycle of violence” whose prime mover is Israel.


This narrative is gratifying to those Westerners who think that a hatred of one’s own civilization is a sign of intellectual sophistication. But it’s possible only by dint of massive historical ignorance. Take, for example, the very term “Palestinian,” used as though it referred to a distinct people. Yet the majority of so-called Palestinians are indistinguishable from the Arab Muslims in Syria, Jordan, or Lebanon. The very word itself is from the Latin word for “Philistine,” and was the Orwellian name the Romans gave the region after it destroyed what was left of the Jewish nation that had existed in the region for a thousand years. Later the term was an Ottoman name for an administrative district, and as such was used to describe the Jews who lived there as well as the Arabs.


The current usage of “Palestinian,” then, does not reflect historical reality but rather political propaganda whose purpose is to obscure historical fact, just as the Romans had attempted to erase the Jewish nation. Once the Arab world painfully realized that it could not defeat Israel militarily, it cast the war against Israel in terms that would appeal to Western ideals––as a struggle of national self-determination, an ideal, by the way, alien to Islamic history and ideology. Now those wretched “Palestinian refugees,” who are in fact a creation of the Arab states that refused to integrate their brother Arabs into their own nations, became photogenic icons of suffering used to undermine Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of Westerners addled by noble-savage multiculturalism and trite Marxist critiques of capitalism and “imperialism.”


Such historical ignorance crops up everywhere in the thinking of Israel’s enemies. Israel is an “illegitimate” state, even though it was created by the same process that created Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia––the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire that followed World War I, and that was ratified by the League of Nations and then the U.N. The 600,000 Palestinian refugees are an intolerable injustice, yet we never hear a word about the 800,000 Jews expelled by Egypt, Iraq, and other Muslim nations after 1948. Nor are we told why the Palestinian refugees deserve such international concern and outrage as compared, say, to the 1.2 million Greeks whom the Turks expelled from lands that Greeks had inhabited for 2000 years, or to the 12 million Germans kicked out of Eastern Europe after World War II.


“Occupation” of a “homeland” is another of Israel’s crimes, yet no one talks about the Arab occupation of Spain for seven centuries, the occupation of Greece and the Balkans for five centuries, and the continuing Muslim occupation of Asia Minor, Egypt, North Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean littoral, regions that were Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian for centuries before they were conquered and occupied by Muslims. And of course, no mention will be made of the historical fact that what today is called the West Bank, the presumed Palestinian “homeland,” is ancient Judea and Samaria, the heart of the Jewish homeland for 1000 years. Likewise, “occupation” of the holy Muslim city of Jerusalem is another outrage, even though Jerusalem is extensively documented as a Jewish city and holy site dating back to 1300 B.C., and only became Muslim in the 7th Century by violent conquest. And while Israel, after retaking Jerusalem in a defensive war, has allowed Muslims to occupy the Temple Mount and keep the mosque there, Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, once the second-most important church in Christendom, is in the hands of Muslim Turks whose ancestors defaced its once-glorious mosaics after the brutal sack of Constantinople.


In other words, historically Muslims have violated, and continue to violate, every principle by which Israel is deemed an international pariah, yet rarely do we hear anything other than perfunctory denunciation of Islamic bigotry and violence. This double standard, whereby the West and Israel are held accountable to principles that are not applied to Muslims, partly accounts for the moral incoherence of Israel’s Western critics. Hence to Israel’s critics, the inadvertent deaths of non-combatants resulting from Israel’s attempts to defend its citizens are condemned more vehemently and obsessively than the deliberate murder of women and children by the Arab jihadists. These terrorists, moreover, use their own people as expendable propaganda assets precisely because they have taken the measure of the Western media, which can be depended upon to provide inflammatory coverage of Palestinian suffering without providing the moral context that identifies who is responsible for that suffering.


This failure of Western moral and historical intelligence represents the greatest danger to Israel’s survival, and it exposes the fatal weakness of the West––a loss of confidence in the very values and beliefs that have created the ideals, such as freedom and human rights, without which life is intolerable.

Dear Citizen of Gaza

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

By Yishai G (reserve soldier),

I am the soldier who slept in your home.




While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home, which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.

I am that someone.

I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

I spent many days in your home. You and your family’s presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife’s perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children’s toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet, although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.

I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.

I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.

I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.

Therefore, I am sure you know that Kassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.

How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say “enough!”? Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?

I can hear you saying “it’s not me, it’s Hamas.” My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about “occupation,” you must certainly reach the conclusion that Hamas is your real enemy.

The reality is so simple, even a seven-year-old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).

Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched rockets on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful, but very easy to explain.

As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children’s education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.

I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self-pity, smuggling arms, and nurturing a hatred for your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone had stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching rockets on innocent civilians, I would not have had to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.

You don’t have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine.

Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians were used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders’ bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates — your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people — your situation would be very different.

You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip and it is considered to be the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?

My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible.

In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden.

The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny. How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands.

I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.

But only you can move the wheels of history.

Yishai, (Reserve Soldier)

The above was a letter that was originally published in the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Ma’ariv, and translated into English by the Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA).

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