+972 Magazine » Larry Derfner http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Mon, 26 Jan 2015 23:28:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Netanyahu on how his old U.S. high school ‘changed’ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-on-how-his-old-u-s-high-school-changed/101809/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-on-how-his-old-u-s-high-school-changed/101809/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 14:15:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=101809 More evidence that his racism doesn’t stop at Arabs.

I’ve never written about a particular comment Bibi Netanyahu made when I interviewed him in the summer of 1993, because as objective evidence of anti-black racism, it’s not exactly slam-dunk.

But this weekend Netanyahu accused Israel’s friendliest, most unthreatening Arab public figure, broadcaster-turned-candidate Zohair Bahloul, of “praising Hezbollah” in a court testimony. What Bahloul actually said was the exact opposite. For Netanyahu this was a personal low in terms of anti-Arab racism, which takes some effort. And recently I saw a Washington Post account of the blatant anti-Hispanic racism Netanyahu showed in a 2002 speech to white Texans, which was perfectly in line with the anti-Hispanic attitudes he expressed in his 1993 book “A Place Among the Nations – Israel and the World.”

So even if the evidence I’ve gathered of Netanyahu’s anti-black racism is not conclusive, not undeniable, it was a tell-tale sign as far as I’m concerned. And between his documented disdain for Hispanics and his ever-deepening contempt for Arabs, Netanyahu is coming into focus not just as an Israeli Jewish hater of Arabs, but as an old-fashioned white bigot. So I want to put that comment he made to me in early summer 1993 on the record.

Netanyahu had just been elected leader of the Likud, and I was doing a magazine profile of him. The interview, conducted in English, took place in his Jerusalem office. Before we started, we made small talk, and I mentioned the high school he’d gone to, Cheltenham High, just outside Philadelphia. He said it had been a very good school when he was there in the mid-60s. Then, with a conspiratorial expression on his face, he added:

“It’s changed.”

His meaning was clear to me: Cheltenham was a good, white school when he was there, then the blacks moved in and it went to hell. There’s no other reasonable interpretation of those words in the mouth of a person who lived in America in the 1960s and 1970s, when they’re directed in private, presumably off the record, to an American immigrant of roughly the same age, and when they’re accompanied by a conspiratorial look on one’s face.

The Wikipedia entry on Cheltenham High School, one of the oldest in Pennsylvania, says that as of the 2011-12 school year, the student body there was 49% Black, 40% White, 7% Asian, 3% Hispanic, and 1% Native American.

In the mid-1960s, high schools in traditionally white, wealthy suburbs of big American cities like Philadelphia didn’t have that sort of ethnic breakdown – they were all or nearly all white. Later, many of them, including Netanyahu’s alma mater, “changed.”

Why did he make that remark with that expression on his face during the warm-up for our interview? I figure it was because he wanted to gauge whether he was going to be talking to his kind of Jewish immigrant to Israel, or to a liberal. (As I remember, I nodded without expression in response to his remark.)

Netanyahu’s supporters can easily dismiss this anecdote as meaningless, as the purely subjective interpretation by an inveterate Bibiphobe of a two-word comment and a facial expression. But for those who aren’t Netanyahu supporters, and who know something about “changing neighborhoods” and “white flight” in America from the 1970s on, what else could he have meant? In the context of his views of Hispanics, not to mention his bottomless contempt for Arabs, together with his generally superior, cynical, narrow, rigid worldview and character, the logical – not to say obvious – way to understand what he was saying about his old high school was that it “changed” from white to black, or to racially integrated; i.e. from a good school to a bad school.

With all that’s known about Netanyahu, I think that taking those words to be innocent and unassuming would be a stretch. Instead, I think it’s fair to conclude on the basis of that anecdote that Netanyahu holds racist attitudes towards blacks.

To what extent, though, is an open question. For instance, his loathing of Obama – does it stem partly from white racism? I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that it does, but I do think that the question, in light of the above, is an interesting one to ponder.

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Israeli air strike in Syria: Lies, aggression — at what cost? http://972mag.com/israeli-air-strike-in-syria-preemption-or-aggression/101733/ http://972mag.com/israeli-air-strike-in-syria-preemption-or-aggression/101733/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 11:38:05 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=101733 From close up, the assassination of a Hezbollah commander and an Iranian general was probably preemption. In the big picture, it was definitely aggression.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israeli Air Force pilots' course graduation ceremony, June 26, 2014. (Photo by Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israeli Air Force pilots’ course graduation ceremony, June 26, 2014. (Photo by Haim Zach/GPO)

During the Second Intifada, (late 2000-2004) Israel made a habit of carrying out “targeted assassinations” of Palestinian militant leaders. The Palestinians, in turn, had a predilection for blowing up buses and cafes. After an assassination of a high-up Hamasnik or Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades man, some Israelis and many foreigners would question whether it was a good idea, whether it was worth the risk, given the likelihood that the Palestinians would be out for revenge. The routine response from the national leadership was that these Palestinian terrorists are always trying to kill as many Israelis as they can, no matter what Israel does or doesn’t do, so targeted assassinations do not put Israelis in any more danger than they’re already in.

Yet after every targeted assassination of a major Palestinian figure, the political, military and intelligence heads would warn the public that the threat level had just gone red, so they should be on high alert, keep their eyes open.

And I would wonder: if Palestinian terrorists are not influenced by Israeli targeted assassinations, why do Israel’s authorities put the public on high alert after each one?

The answer was that Israel’s authorities – the prime minister, defense minister, IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad – were bullshitting themselves and the public. They wanted to kill big-time terrorists, and they didn’t want to be put off by the risk of major revenge attacks, so they decided that there was no risk, and peddled that bullshit to the public.

Which brings us to Israel’s air strike on Sunday in the Syrian Golan Heights, which killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general and six Hezbollah fighters, including Jihad Mughniyeh, son of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah military chief whom Israel assassinated seven years ago.

Another head-on contradiction

The security establishment and “Western intelligence sources” immediately put out the word that Mughniyeh “was already planning, and had prepared, more major murderous attacks against Israel in the Golan Heights. These attacks include rocket fire, infiltrations, explosive devices, anti-tank missile fire, etc., with the goal of killing soldiers, hitting Israeli communities in the Golan Heights and killing Israeli civilians,” according to Yedioth Ahronoth, echoing the general coverage.

At the same time, though, Israeli authorities were saying that Hezbollah was not expected to try to strike back too harshly for Sunday’s assassinations because it didn’t want a full-scale confrontation with Israel, certainly not now when it is so heavily preoccupied with fighting on Assad’s side in the Syrian civil war.  “Hezbollah doesn’t want a full-fledged war. It has a number of possibilities to respond in different arenas. We assume that it currently does not want full contact,” former IDF counter-terrorism head Yoram Schweitzer told AFP, in line with the Israeli assessment in the immediate aftermath of the air strike.

Once again, there is a head-on contradiction here: if Hezbollah is not likely to strike back too hard at Israel for fear of a war, why was Jihad Mughniyeh planning to light up the north with rockets, bombs and deadly infiltrations?

They can’t both be true – if Mughniyeh was planning such attacks on Israel, then Hezbollah is not afraid of war with Israel, and would be looking to hit back extremely hard for the assassinations. But if Hezbollah’s response really was likely to be muted out of fear of conflagration with Israel, then it makes no sense whatsoever that Mughniyeh was about to try to kill lots of Israelis.

So which line of bullshit was it? Was the Israeli establishment 1) artificially inflating Mughniyeh’s intentions because it wanted to kill some Hezbollah men and an Iranian general just because? Or was it 2) artificially deflating the likelihood of a major Hezbollah/Iranian retaliation because it wanted to convince itself and the public that the air strike had carried little risk?

I think the answer is 2). I find it hard to believe Hezbollah was not planning to hit Israel hard at some point because Israel, after all, has blasted Hezbollah and Syria repeatedly for the last two years, bombing convoys of Syrian advanced weapons headed for south Lebanon as well as Syrian weapons depots, and killing Syrian and Hezbollah officials along the way. In return, Hezbollah, despite its best efforts, hasn’t managed to do more than injure a few Israeli soldiers with explosive devices on the border, while Syria and Iran have done nothing.

In recent years, Israel has been trashing Hezbollah, Syria and Iran as it pleases, with the only severe counterattack being Hezbollah’s 2012 assault on a tourist bus in Bulgaria, which killed five Israelis and a local bus driver in retaliation for the Mossad’s assassination of Imad Mughniyeh and five Iranian nuclear scientists. The following year Israel began its series of aerial strikes in Lebanon and Syria, the most recent of which took place last month.

So why wouldn’t Hezbollah’s Jihad Mughniyeh, with Iran’s backing, have been planning to hit Israel now?

War of choice

It didn’t have to be this way though. Israel could have a quiet northern border if it wanted to get off the fear-and-aggression treadmill. It taught Hezbollah a very harsh lesson in the 2006 Second Lebanon War; after that it could have adopted a hands-off policy toward Lebanon, Syria and Iran and trusted its military might to deter Hassan Nasrallah’s guerrillas from any further provocations, such as the kidnapping of two soldiers that set off that war. Instead, after the war, Israel went on the offensive and stayed on it, calling this policy – what else? – self defense.

Since Sunday, the popularity of the air strike and credibility of Israel’s leadership have been going straight downhill. First, Knesset candidate and retired IDF general Yoav Galant spilled the beans by saying that such military adventures during election campaigns are not coincidental. Then “security officials,” probably Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon or IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, said out of one side of their mouth that they didn’t know Iranian Gen. Mohammed Allahdadi had been in the ill-fated convoy, while out of the other side saying that Israel did not take responsibility for the attack at all. After that, the claim that Israel didn’t mean to kill Allahdadi stopped being taken seriously.

As did the assurances that Hezbollah will probably limit its counterattack. The North is now on high alert; tanks, soldiers and Iron Domes have been pouring in; a false alarm one morning led roads to be closed and communities to be told to stay indoors; and Gantz and the commander of the Air Force have cancelled their trips abroad.

“The scene envisioned in Israel is of an especially cruel assault,” wrote Yedioth’s very astute and well-connected defense analyst Alex Fishman on Friday. “Hezbollah and the Iranians want to see blood, and lots of it. The assessment is that they will aim the attack at soldiers to extract a painful price from Israel – as many deaths and injuries as possible – to punish, avenge, teach a lesson and deter. The targeted assassinations … put them in a position of having almost no choice.”

Indeed, the weak side that is continually under attack sooner or later has no choice. But the strong side that is continually on the attack does.

Retired Israeli general suggests Syria attack timed for election effect
Israel’s ‘war between wars’ backfires
It seems Israel just picked another fight beyond its borders

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No, Mr. Netanyahu, answers to terrorism are not all the same http://972mag.com/no-mr-netanyahu-answers-to-terrorism-are-not-all-the-same/101423/ http://972mag.com/no-mr-netanyahu-answers-to-terrorism-are-not-all-the-same/101423/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 14:20:41 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=101423 The prime minister compares Israel’s predicament with the Palestinians to France’s current one with jihadists, but the true comparison is to France’s struggle with Algeria in the 1950s and early 1960s.

World leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, march in Paris following the deadly terror attacks, January 11, 2015. (Photo by Haim Zach/GPO)

World leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, march in Paris following the deadly terror attacks, January 11, 2015. (Photo by Haim Zach/GPO)

In Paris early this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drove home a message he’s been delivering for decades: “Israel supports Europe in its fight against terrorism, and it’s time Europe support Israel in the same exact struggle.”

But he’s wrong. Europe and Israel are not caught up in the same struggle. They don’t face the same terrorism, either.

Despite Netanyahu’s claim, which he says was only reinforced by the jihadist murder spree in the French capital, Islamist terrorism against a country, France, that is not ruling over any Muslim nation cannot be compared to Islamist terror against a country, Israel, that is.

France is not doing anything to any Muslim nation to warrant violent attacks by Muslims. There is nothing France can do against jihadism but fight it.

French soldiers capture FLN fighters in Algeria, 1958. (Author unknown)

French soldiers capture FLN fighters in Algeria, 1958. (Author unknown)

Contrast this with the terrorism France faced in the 1950s and early 1960s from Algerian guerrillas. At the time France held Algeria under colonial rule, as it had for over a century. In 1962, after years of fighting what it characterized as a war against terrorism, the French ended it by finally getting out of Algeria and granting the country its independence.

Netanyahu compares Israel’s predicament with the Palestinians to France’s current one with jihadists, but the true comparison is to France’s struggle with Algeria.

Israel has been ruling the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against their will since the 1967 Six Day War. (Israel withdrew from Gaza’s interior in 2005, but maintains harsh control over its borders, coast and airspace, thus keeping it under occupation.) The main threat of terror facing Israel comes from Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza in the shadow of Israel’s army.

In Paris, Netanyahu lumped Hamas together with global jihadist groups such as Al Qaida and ISIS, whose stamps were on the murders of cartoonists, police officers and Jewish shoppers in Paris. Hamas runs a frightful regime, it can fairly be called an Islamofascist movement, its charter contains anti-Semitic declarations, and its denunciation of the Paris massacres should be taken with several grains of salt. But none of that justifies Israel’s blockade of the Strip and its throttling of nearly 2 million Gazans. And nothing whatsoever justifies Israel’s full-on military dictatorship over 2.5 million Palestinians in Gaza’s sister territory, the West Bank (where Hamas is being suppressed by the local Palestinian Authority in cooperation with the Israeli army and Shin Bet).

So while neither France nor any other Western country is doing anything to Muslims that could be considered a casus belli for jihadists, the same cannot be said about Israel in relation to Hamas and other Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.

Violent, intolerant and anti-Semitic as it is, Hamas is still a completely different problem for Israel than ISIS and Al Qaida are for the West, and it must be dealt with in a completely different way.

Such a way was shown successfully by Israel itself when it withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon after facing years of terror from Hezbollah, which is the other Islamist nemesis of Israel’s, besides Hamas, that Netanyahu equated with the global jihadists who struck Paris.

A Palestinian youth holds a mock rocket as thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas' 25th anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 14, 2012. This is the first time since 2007 that the Palestinian Authority has allowed Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in the West Bank. (photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth holds a mock rocket as thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas’ 25th anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 14, 2012. (photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

But again, the comparison fails. Hezbollah, its militant Islamic creed notwithstanding, fought Israel when the Israeli army was occupying all or part of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000. But since Israel got out of that country, there has been virtually no violence from Hezbollah, except for its extremely ill-advised attack in 2006 that set off a month-long war. Otherwise, the rare acts of violence that Hezbollah does commit against Israel are dwarfed by Israel’s attacks on the Lebanese organization and its allies Syria and Iran.

Hezbollah used terror against Israel, and Hamas often still does, in a political context that makes them much more comparable to Algeria’s National Liberation Front that terrorized France in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Islamism of Hezbollah and Hamas or secularism of the FLN are far less significant than the fact that all three movements arose in response to enemy occupation of their countries.

Not all terrorists are the same. Netanyahu knows this, or should; his party, Likud, was founded by Menachem Begin, who fought Britain’s occupation of his soon-to-be country by means of lethal terrorism in the 1930s and 1940s, and later went on to become prime minister of Israel.

The British solved the problem of Begin’s terrorism (and that of another future Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir) by getting out of what was then called Palestine. The French solved the problem of Algerian terrorism by getting out of Algeria. Israel effectively ended the problem of Hezbollah terrorism by quitting Lebanon. It can reasonably expect to do the same with Palestinian terrorism, especially in view of Israel’s prohibitive military power, by getting out of the West Bank and Gaza.

In their fight with jihadists, France and the West use force as a last option, really their only option. In its fight with Hamas and the Palestinians, Israel holds a nonviolent political option that, certainly under Netanyahu, it has yet to try.

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France needs no one’s advice on fighting Islamist terror http://972mag.com/france-needs-no-ones-advice-on-fighting-islamist-terror/101187/ http://972mag.com/france-needs-no-ones-advice-on-fighting-islamist-terror/101187/#comments Sun, 11 Jan 2015 12:03:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=101187 A look at the facts.

In Israel and America, France has this reputation of being the ultimate effete, left-liberal country – so politically correct, so multiculti, so morally relativist and scared to death of offending any minority, especially Muslims, that it’s incapable of dealing with the threat of jihadist terror. Israelis and Americans (led of course by Bibi Netanyahu) are now lecturing the French that they have to wake up, get tough, crack down on these bastards or they’re going to be conquered by them.  (A lot of right-wing French are saying the same thing.)

Stock photo of French marines patrolling in Paris. (Photo by Kavalenkau / Shutterstock.com)

Stock photo of French marines patrolling in Paris. (Photo by Kavalenkau / Shutterstock.com)

I don’t think that’s going to happen. When it comes to fighting Islamist terrorism, the French are world-beaters – going back to the 1980s. It’s difficult to say which attack was France’s 9/11, but it happened a long time before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. France probably has the West’s toughest laws against terrorism, and it has no problem targeting Muslim suspects. One other thing – France’s mainstream Muslim population joins the rest of the country (except for adamant civil liberties advocates) in supporting the policy. And another point – France’s fight against terror is aided greatly by undercover French Muslim agents infiltrating certain mosques.

Two weeks after 9/11, TIME Magazine ran a story whose title pretty much tells it all: “Fighting Terrorism: Lessons from France.” Given the popular images of France and America today, it’s a real jaw-dropper to read:

Simply by citing “association with wrong-doers involved in a terrorist enterprise,” French police are able to arrest and detain any suspect in any crime whose goal, however remotely, can ultimately assist terrorist activity. That law shocks civil libertarians in the U.S. and Britain, but French officials retort that those countries’ commitment to strict civil libertarian principles has made them havens where Islamist militants can plot terror with less risk of detection because of the legal restraints on techniques such as spot ID checks and information monitoring.

And from a 2004 Washington Post article, “French push limits in fight on terror”:

While other Western countries debate the proper balance between security and individual rights, France has experienced scant public dissent over tactics that would be controversial, if not illegal, in the United States and some other countries.

France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network.

The Directorate of Surveillance of the Territory, the domestic intelligence agency, employs a large number of Arabic speakers and Muslims to infiltrate radical groups, according to anti-terrorism experts here.

Other countries, including the United States, have long-standing policies that restrict law enforcement agents from infiltrating places of worship. So far, however, France’s aggressive approach has not led to widespread criticism.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said many Muslims support the expulsions and are just as concerned about preventing terrorist attacks as other French citizens. “We find the public arrogance of these extremists completely intolerable,” he said. “Fundamentalism is on the rise. . . . This is a real danger. The state should take measures against these types of people that disrupt society, not only when there is a terrorist attack, but before.”

And a Foreign Policy article in 2006, “How the French fight terror”:

France… found itself in the cross hairs of Middle Eastern terrorists well before the United States did. France was the first to uncover a plot to crash a jetliner into a landmark building (the Eiffel Tower) a chilling preview of the 9/11 attacks. It was the first to face the reality that its own citizens could become assets of Islamist terrorist groups, long before British nationals bombed the London Underground last July. As a result, it has continuously adapted its judicial system and intelligence services to the terrorist threat that it faces.

Finally, from a New York Times 2012 article, “Fighting terrorism, French-style,” following the murders at a Toulouse Jewish school:

’France has a very aggressive system, and before 9/11 they were centralizing the intelligence process and fixing laws to let them grab people very early to disrupt anything in advance,” says Gary Schmitt, an intelligence expert and resident scholar in security studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “They do a lot of things, including telephone intercepts, that make the Patriot Act look namby-pamby. In the U.S., we talk of pre-emption in military terms, but the French talk of it on the home front, to discover plots and conspiracies.”

So I wouldn’t worry about France getting conquered by jihadists. Also, I would stop giving the French advice about how to deal with them. Finally, I would stop believing stereotypes about that great, precious country that are 180 degrees from the truth.

Putting the Charlie Hebdo attack in context

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How Israel stupefies so many brilliant Jews http://972mag.com/how-israel-stupefies-so-many-brilliant-jews/100418/ http://972mag.com/how-israel-stupefies-so-many-brilliant-jews/100418/#comments Wed, 24 Dec 2014 09:35:04 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100418 It’s the occupation, professor. Deja vu from the Technion.

On the eve of Passover 1988, I was working at the Technion, Israel’s prestigious technological institute in Haifa, writing fundraising prose. It was a few months into the First Intifada, and Israel’s image had been taking a battering overseas like never before, with scenes being televised continually of heavily armed soldiers and tanks putting down a rebellion by teenagers with stones.

We workers in the administration building gathered for the traditional pre-Passover toast with the college president. In his remarks, he noted that many of us would be going abroad for the holiday, and that the issue of Israel’s high-profile behavior could well come up in our conversations with people who wanted to hear what Israelis had to say. His advice: “Speak in one voice.” All around me, people were nodding.

I found this pretty depressing. The president of a leading Israeli college sending the employees out into the world to be PR robots for the government and army. Did this happen in other countries, democratic countries? It was another example of the ultra-nationalism, conformist political thought and self-righteous paranoia that I didn’t like about the country – and it was setting the tone even at the top of one of its best colleges.

Since then, the Technion has come up in the world. Three of its professors have won Nobel Prizes for science, it’s going to share with Cornell a $2 billion campus being built in New York City, its international ranking has climbed and its fundraising has multiplied.

But in some ways, evidently, it hasn’t changed. This week the Technion’s current president, Prof. Peretz Lavie, wrote an op-ed in Yedioth Ahronoth telling of his dismay at all the anti-Israel activity, the BDS stuff, he saw in a recent visit to U.S. and Canadian college campuses. It’s so bad, he wrote, that “the Jewish students themselves hardly take part in events on campus and are not showing much interest in workshops and programs aimed at training them to represent Israel on the PR level.” His advice:

Israel’s decision makers should give this important issue a higher priority on their agenda. There is an urgent need for a reorganization of the system on Israel’s image on campuses in North America and Europe. The state must urgently appoint an official to deal with this issue and back the appointment with funds and authorities.

It didn’t enter the Technion president’s mind that Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians might have something to do with the anti-Israel mood on Western campuses. No, what we need is better PR, and an end to what he called the “outrageous lack of coordination” in this effort. We need to speak in one voice.

This thing that Israel has with Arabs, this need to forever keep them down lest they rise up and swallow us, combined with the need to forever justify this obsessive violence, has crippled so many otherwise brilliant Jewish minds, in Israel, America and elsewhere. This victim mentality, which brings with it an inability to admit any wrongdoing toward Arabs (who are misperceived as Israel’s victimizers), has hobbled the thinking of so many otherwise highly intelligent Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. On every other subject under the sun, they’re open-minded, they examine all sides, they try to weigh information objectively. But on the subject of Israel, they become propagandists. On Israel, they are literally stupefied by their need to proclaim this country’s innocence and defend or at least excuse its violent domination of Arabs, which they wouldn’t defend or excuse if it was any other country doing this to any other people. On Israel, these Jews’ otherwise outstanding minds are one big blind spot.

It was depressing on Passover 1988, and all the more so on Hanukkah 2014.

Read also:
Boycott goes prime-time in Israel
Israel’s watershed moment that wasn’t
‘Open Hillel’ seeks to redefine U.S. Jewish debate on Israel-Palestine

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The wave of Jerusalem attacks Israelis don’t hear about http://972mag.com/the-wave-of-jerusalem-attacks-israelis-dont-hear-about/100165/ http://972mag.com/the-wave-of-jerusalem-attacks-israelis-dont-hear-about/100165/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:41:56 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100165 One hundred Palestinian bus drivers in the capital have quit their jobs because of such violence from Jewish racists.

Illustrative photo of an Egged bus (Photo by Kw0/CC 3.0)

Illustrative photo of an Egged bus (Photo by Kw0/CC 3.0)

If you’d asked me how many East Jerusalem Palestinian bus drivers in the capital had quit their jobs because of the violence they’d faced from Jewish assailants, I’d have said oh, maybe three. When I read in Haaretz on Sunday (truly a must-read) that the number is roughly 100 — or one out of three Palestinian bus drivers in the capital — I was amazed. East Jerusalem Palestinians, on the whole, are poor; driving for Israel’s giant Egged bus cooperative is a very, very good job for an ordinary eastside resident, paying about three times the average East Jerusalemite’s salary. When 100 of these drivers quit their jobs because of the menace of racist Jewish marauders, it means that that menace is overwhelming.

I had no idea. And I keep up with the news and I’m extremely alert to stories about Jews abusing Arabs. I knew from the Israeli media that on the nights after Palestinian terror killings, bands of young Jews would roam the streets on Jerusalem’s Jewish westside, attacking Arabs in their path and chanting “death to the Arabs.” After the death of Egged driver Yousef Hassan al-Ramouni a month ago — he was found hanged in his bus in what Israeli forensic pathologists ruled a suicide, but which Palestinians commonly believe was a murder — there was a story or two about East Jerusalem drivers complaining about Jewish attacks. But with those rare exceptions and the story of the murder by burning of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the only Jerusalem violence you hear about in the Israeli media lately is Palestinian-on-Jewish — the murders by car and knife, the stoning of the light rail, the violent protests against the police.

But Jewish violence against Arabs in Jerusalem? As far as we Israeli Jews can gather from the news, these are not exactly isolated incidents, but they’re not a “phenomenon,” either. Nothing to make a normal Palestinian bus driver quit his job.

I didn’t know, we didn’t know. In Israel, any incident of Arab-on-Jewish violence is a big story, while a plague of Jewish-on-Arab violence has to be going on for years and years, like the “price tag” settler attacks, before it qualifies for sustained media attention.

Read also: Settler violence — it comes with the territory

The resignations, formal or effective, by the 100 Palestinian bus drivers have come only in the last month, since the driver Ramouni’s hanging death, said Tamir Nir, the Jerusalem city councilman in charge of local transportation. In a Sunday interview on TLV1 radio, he told me that Jewish attacks on Palestinian drivers have become a full-blown phenomenon in the last six months, growing especially intense in the last two.

Most of the assaults have been verbal, he added, but “about 40” were physical. However, a Palestinian attorney representing many of the former Egged drivers painted yet a much bleaker picture for Haaretz’s Nir Hasson:

“The situation is catastrophic,” said attorney Osama Ibrahem, who represents more than 40 drivers who have been attacked — mainly in the past four months. “Not a day passes without a physical assault,” he said. “I’m not talking about verbal assaults. They don’t even count those; that’s something they’ve learned to live with.”

Hasson reported that Egged buses are frequently stoned in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, regardless of whether the driver is Jewish or Arab. He also wrote that “Jewish drivers complain of passengers who suspect them of being Arabs and demand to see their identity cards before boarding.”

I asked Councilman Nir if Palestinian passengers were also attacking Jewish drivers. “No, I don’t know about it, I don’t think that they are,” he said. “But as you know there are attacks on the train.” Yes, about that we know.

“We also have problems with Arab taxi drivers,” the councilman continued. “They suffer too, from violence, and not only violence — some people don’t want to drive with them, don’t want to pay them.”

He said Egged plans to install security cameras in the buses, and that he’s lobbying to get barriers put up between drivers and passengers, but until now no measures have been taken to protect Palestinian drivers, who have been under ongoing attack for the last half year. “Unfortunately, I heard about the issue only about three weeks ago,” he said. “It came up only after the death of the driver. I didn’t know about it before, nobody told me about it.”

I believe him. That’s how pathetically in the dark Israeli Jews are about Jewish-on-Arab violence: even the head of transportation for the Jerusalem Municipality didn’t know that local Palestinian bus drivers had been getting attacked regularly until one of them was found hanged in his bus last month.

Read also:
WATCH: Israeli Jews attack Palestinian on public bus
A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel

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Moshe Kahlon for prime minister of Israel http://972mag.com/moshe-kahlon-for-prime-minister-of-israel/99625/ http://972mag.com/moshe-kahlon-for-prime-minister-of-israel/99625/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 09:43:10 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99625 I’m planning to vote for Meretz, but if Kahlon has a chance on election day of beating Netanyahu, I’ll vote for him.

I was talking a couple of days ago about the upcoming elections with a friend from work, a middle-class, American-born Ashkenazi immigrant with a Ph. D. in political science. He told me he was voting for the left-wing, largely Arab Hadash party. I asked who he would vote for if, on election day, which is tentatively set for March 17, the “wild card” in the race, ex-Likudnik Moshe Kahlon, had a chance to become the next prime minister. “Then I’d vote for Kahlon,” he said. Myself, I’m planning to vote for Meretz, the left-wing Zionist party, but if Kahlon has a chance on election day of beating Netanyahu, whom the polls now rate the favorite, then I’ll vote for Kahlon, too.

Moshe Kahlon. (photo: Activestills.org)

Moshe Kahlon. (photo: Activestills.org)

This is meant as an illustration of Kahlon’s potential; Hadash and Meretz voters are the last people who would seem likely to vote for a politician whose role model is Menachem Begin. Polls now give Kahlon about 10 Knesset seats (out of 120); he’ll need double that to lead the next government. But I think he can do it. The latest poll, conducted for The Jerusalem Post and Ma’ariv and released Thursday, finds him the single most popular candidate for prime minister, outpolling Netanyahu, 46% to 36%.

Bibi can be beaten. He’s been around too long, he hasn’t delivered much, the atmosphere in the country is extremely unpleasant, and people are tired of his mouth and face. They blame him for these unwanted early elections that are going to cost $500 million. They see the government as a mess with him sitting atop it. They want somebody new, but Netanyahu’s only rivals until now, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman, are too far right for the mainstream.

Kahlon is not. Alone among Israeli politicians, he can win support from the sane right, the center, and even – if it’s between him, Netanyahu and Bennett on election day – the left. He has exclusive ownership of the No. 1 campaign issue – economic hardship, especially the high cost of living – from having broken the cell phone monopoly and dramatically slashed cell phone prices as communications minister in 2012,  a move that instantly made him the wonder boy of Israeli politics. As the only Mizrahi in the race, he can attract a lot of Mizrahi votes from Likud and the Mizrahi ultra-Orthodox Shas party, yet is likable and educated enough (with degrees in political science and law) to neutralize Ashkenazi prejudice inside the ballot box. His absence from politics for nearly two years has spared him from the public’s rising disgust with politicians, which just went up several more notches on account of the new election. He’s not a hater, not an Arab basher, not a Likud fascist, which also carries a lot of appeal with the mainstream. In that way he’s a breath of fresh air, like President Reuven Rivlin.

If Kahlon’s party – which doesn’t even have a name or a list of candidates yet – is the largest vote-getter and he becomes prime minister, he will not end the occupation, certainly not in a first term. He’s not a peacenik; he’s never shown any inclination to take down settlements or agree to a Palestinian state. (Though at a campaign stop in a Tel Aviv pub on Friday, he reportedly described himself as “center and slightly right-leaning,’ and said, “I will not hesitate to concede territory for real peace. I will not miss an opportunity for peace.”) And even if he were to move left in office, he would not have a government behind him; the right-wing parties are too popular to form a ruling coalition without at least one of them, and none would sit still for any peace agreement that the Palestinians could be party to.

But if Kahlon became Israel’s next leader, at the very least he would not seek to humiliate Arabs at every turn; he would not pick fights with them like Netanyahu and his allies constantly do. Also, he would make it acceptable again to talk about helping the poor, not just the middle class. He told Yedioth Ahronoth in April, as reported in Times of Israel:

Likud for me was really the Likud of Menachem Begin, who also represented a social vision: reducing disparities between rich and poor, neighborhood renewal, social rehabilitation, and education reform. It was a pragmatic Likud that knew how to make peace when needed. That is Likud for me. But that Likud no longer exists today, and I struggle to accept some of the things taking place within the party.

Likud is a way of life, Likud is social awareness, Likud is compassion and carrying for the weak… But Likud is no longer there, it has strayed from the path. In recent years Likud’s social banner has been dismantled… for the sake of political-security gains.

And while the assumption should be that he wouldn’t end the occupation in his first term, it’s not an impossibility for all time, like it is with Netanyahu and Bennett. Kahlon is guaranteed to have sincere advocates of a two-state solution high on his party list; among his potential running mates are ex-Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, former Mossad head Meir Dagan and economist Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg. Plus, if elected, he would very likely take Isaac Herzog’s Labor, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah and/or Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid into the government with him. He could turn serious about a peace deal, and if he were prime minister, there would be tremendous pressure from various quarters for him to do so. New elections and new governments come along remarkably often in Israel; a second Kahlon government could look very different from a first one.

Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Israel Beitenu headquarter, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman thank their supporters at the Likud-Israel Beitenu headquarter, January 23 2013 (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills)

We have to get rid of Netanyahu. The rotting of this country and the dying of hope must be stopped and reversed. With the right wing so powerful in Israel today, the only candidate who at this point has a chance to pull it off is Kahlon.

He could flop in the campaign, or he could do well but not well enough to challenge Netanyahu and Bennett for the leadership. In that case, I’ll vote Meretz and my friend from work will vote Hadash. But if Kahlon is in contention for the prime ministership on election day, I think there will be a massive shift of voters to his party. Israelis want change, they don’t want Netanyahu anymore, they don’t want the coldness, hostility and stagnation they now associate with him. Kahlon has the most winning smile in Israeli politics, he’s not arrogant, and his image is of a doer, not a demagogue. The left-center-Arab parties can’t win the election, but he can, and if he does, it will be a huge improvement over the horror show we’ve got. As for the chance of him ending the occupation, I’ll quote from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There’s a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.

Israel’s elections: A referendum on Netanyahu
Top 10 reasons Israel should be going to early elections

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Netanyahu’s xenophobia: Bad in America, bad in Israel http://972mag.com/netanyahu-a-xenophobe-in-america-too/99296/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-a-xenophobe-in-america-too/99296/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 12:10:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99296 We know what he thinks of Arabs. Read what he thinks of Mexican-Americans.

Sign warning of immigrants near the U.S.-Mexican Border. (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Sign warning of migrants near the U.S.-Mexican Border. (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Of all the reasons Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu puts forth for why Israel needs a “Jewish nation-state” law, the most bizarre one is this: “There are those – including those who deny our national rights – who would like to establish autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev.”

Yeah, and there are those who would like to colonize Mars, and they will probably get there long before anybody establishes Arab autonomy in the Galilee and Negev.

This is another of Netanyahu’s endless supply of Arab scarecrows: we have to pass this cockamamie nation-state law or the Arabs are going to take over the Galilee and Negev.

Read also: Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all?

No surprises here; he’s built his career on scaring Jews about Arabs. But Netanyahu has a well-known parallel career as a pitchman to Americans, Christians as well as Jews, for the cause of Israeli Jewish chauvinism – and to get them on his side, he has been known to wave around a different ethnic scarecrow: a Mexican one.

In his 1993 magnum opus, “A Place Among the Nations – Israel and the World,” which was first published in English, he writes about what he calls the “Palestinian Principle.” He describes it as the idea that any ethnic minority has a right to carve out its own state on the land where it resides, regardless of the effect on the established surrounding state, and even if another state already exists where that ethnic minority is the majority. (At the time, Netanyahu was fighting against the Palestinian statehood campaign with the argument that “Jordan is Palestine.”)

After depicting the chaos that would ensue if the “Palestinian Principle” were applied in Europe, Africa and Asia, he writes on page 150:

The United States is not exempt from this potential nightmare. In a decade or two the southwestern region of America is likely to be predominantly Hispanic, mainly as a result of continuous emigration from Mexico. It is not inconceivable that in this community champions of the Palestinian Principle could emerge. These would demand not merely equality before the law, or naturalization, or even Spanish as a first language. Instead, they would say that since they form a local majority in the territory (which was forcibly taken from Mexico in the war of 1848), they deserve a state of their own. …

[This scenario] may sound farfetched today. But it will not necessarily appear that way tomorrow, especially if the Palestinian Principle is allowed to continue to spread, which it surely will if a second Palestinian state comes into being.

And that was only the mild, written version of Netanyahu evoking the Mexican peril for Americans to win their solidarity against the Arab peril in Israel. In person, he gets much uglier.

In April 2002 he spoke to a Dallas audience at an event sponsored by the National Center for Policy Analysis. Washington Post columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. wrote, “The idea was to get Americans to feel Israel’s pain. But, as a Mexican American in the audience, all I felt was nauseated.” Navarrette continued (h/t to Doug Chandler):

When asked for a historical overview of Middle East turmoil, Netanyahu mentioned how Jews migrated back to the Holy Land in the early years of the 20th century, set up farms and businesses and turned a desert into a desirable destination. So desirable that soon there were hordes of Palestinians trying to get in and enjoy the fruits of Israel labor. Then, Netanyahu turned to the crowd and offered this bit of sarcasm: “Now, you here in Texas wouldn’t know anything about this phenomenon.” …

Asked about why Israel is reluctant to allow Palestinians living in refugee camps to enter into Israeli society, Netanyahu mentioned security concerns but also said that a mass migration would “flood” Israel. “You know about this,” he said. “This is the reason you have an INS.”

However, this Dallas audience must have been a liberal Democratic one, not exactly Bibi’s crowd. Navarrette:

The good news is that, judging from the audience’s reaction, Bibi made a boo-boo. The ethnic pitch got no applause, only uncomfortable looks and nervous laughter.

My dear God, Mexicans in Texas, Arabs in the Galilee, the brown people are taking over: this is Bibi Netanyahu’s message to Americans and Israelis, his saviors of the free world.

He’s not only an Israeli Jewish xenophobe, he’s a wannabe American xenophobe, too. An old-fashioned white man, holding off the dark-skinned hordes.

Nightmare, he says? Given his attitude toward ethnic minorities, the nightmare is his vision of a “Jewish nation-state.”

Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all?
Bill aims to strip citizenship, curb speech — a bellwether of Israel’s Right
Israel’s UN ambassador puts another nail in the two-state coffin

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‘Pallywood’: A particularly ugly ethnic slur http://972mag.com/a-particularly-ugly-ethnic-slur-pallywood/98824/ http://972mag.com/a-particularly-ugly-ethnic-slur-pallywood/98824/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 09:40:55 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98824 And a very popular one among right-wing Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

I’ve been writing for years against the “Pallywood” theory – the right-wing notion that videos showing Palestinians getting killed by Israelis are really elaborate fakes meant to blacken Israel’s name. Yet it’s only this morning I realized that the term “Pallywood,” which was coined by Boston University Prof. Richard Landes, is an ethnic slur, and a particularly ugly one.

It not only mangles the name of an entire people, it does so in the most contemptuous context – it links the name Palestinian with the telling of lies, and not just any lies, but lies about Palestinian deaths at the hands of their conquerors.

Pallywood. Compared to that, referring to New York as “Hymietown” is mild stuff.

What a bigoted term Landes invented, and what a popular one it is in the Israeli/right-wing Jewish political lexicon. A Google search for “Pallywood” this morning turned up 406,000 entries. There’s a Wikipedia page for it, too.

And I didn’t even notice how vicious an insult it was until now, which says a lot about how living in Israel makes you numb to abuses of Palestinian, or Arab, or Muslim dignity: In Israel, we Jews say things about them that they could never get away with saying about us.

Day of catastrophe for ‘Pallywood’ conspiracy theorists
Beitunia killings and the media’s incredibly high bar for Palestinian stories
Truth, tapes and two dead Palestinians

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Day of catastrophe for ‘Pallywood’ conspiracy theorists http://972mag.com/nakba-day-indeed-for-pallywood-conspiracy-freaks/98735/ http://972mag.com/nakba-day-indeed-for-pallywood-conspiracy-freaks/98735/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 13:19:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98735 Naming and shaming.

Following Wednesday’s arrest of a Border Policeman on suspicion of murdering a Palestinian teenager in a May 15 Nakba Day protest, here is a partial list of Israeli and pro-Israel figures who insinuated that the video of the shooting (which also showed the killing of another teenage protester) had been fabricated:

Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon: “I’ve seen lots of films that were edited [to distort what had happened]. This film I’ve not yet seen, but I know the system.”

IDF spokesman Maj. Arye Shalicar: “That film was edited and does not reflect the reality of the day in question, the violence.”

Roni Daniel, Channel 2’s military correspondent and media warmonger supreme: Times of Israel: “Daniel suggested that the film may have been staged and faked. … His queries were not about whether two Palestinians had been shot that day, Daniel said, but rather about whether the NGO footage being disseminated indeed actually showed such shootings or was fabricated.”

Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren: On CNN: “The many, many inconsistencies, you see two young people who were supposedly shot, one to the chest, one through the back but they both fall in the same way. They fall forward which is inconsistent with what we know about combat deaths. We see a picture of Israel forces shooting. But if you zero in on that picture, you will see that those rifles indeed have the sleeve on the barrel, which is used for rubber bullets, not for live ammunition.”

Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon:  ”The organization for the “protection of Palestinian children” stands behind this latest video, as they were behind the Muhammad al-Durrah video. … When it is revealed that this video is fabricated, we must hit these organizations where it hurts them the most: the tax-exempt fundraising.”

Media “watchdog” CAMERA, reprinting a story from right-wing Jewish newspaper Algemeiner: “The usual suspects are pushing the story and video of the alleged killings has gotten a huge number of hits on YouTube, but it’s pretty clear that something is amiss with the story the Palestinians have told the world about what happened at Betunia.”

Jonathan S. Tobin, editor of Commentary magazine online: “Those who cry bloody murder at the Israelis today will owe them an apology if, as may well be the case, the film is a fraud and the Nakba killings are a new version of the al-Dura blood libel. “

Yisrael Medad, co-founder of Israel’s Media Watch (another “watchdog”): “In concert, this is clear evidence of a Pallywood production. Showing the edited videos, then the fuller ones (showing the set-up) in succession — with appropriate narration would make this case with crystal clarity.”


These and countless other right-wingers have popularized the idea that whenever a video shows Israelis battering or killing Arabs without cause, the video is a fake, either staged or doctored. They come up with all sorts of seeming “discrepancies” to make their case, just like conspiracy freaks do to “prove” that the CIA killed Kennedy, or that Israel was behind 9/11, or that no one ever walked on the moon.

WATCH: Video shows Israeli army killing of two Palestinian teens

None of them have ever come close to demonstrating the inauthenticity of a single one of the many, many videos that show Israeli soldiers, police, settlers or ordinary hotheads abusing or killing Palestinians. Yet their claims are naturally accepted as truth by anti-Arab Jewish nationalists, who happen to run the present Israeli government and much of the Diaspora Jewish establishment. And so this campaign – which argues that the Palestinian victims in these videos were either never killed, or killed by other Palestinians – has become enormously influential in Israel and the Diaspora. It neutralizes, and to a great extent even reverses, the effect of each of these videos as they come to light: instead of being clear evidence of Israeli brutality against Palestinians, the video may not be that at all – in fact, it may be evidence of Palestinian deceitfulness, or even of Palestinian willingness to kill their own so they can blame it on Israel.

Ultimately, the message of these right-wing Zionist truthers is that every allegation of Israeli wrongdoing against Palestinians, videotaped or not, is bullshit – none of it should be believed. This is not a fringe notion; it is the reigning view in Israel and the Diaspora establishment.

The campaign began after the infamous killing of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura while he was cowering behind his father in Gaza on September 30, 2000. Film of the incident taken by France 2 television was used by Palestinians and their supporters to whip up support for the Second Intifada. (In fact, the al-Duras were caught in a crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen; no can say for sure whose bullets struck them.) Boston University history Prof. Richard Landes, French “media analyst” Philippe Karsenty and others began publicizing “evidence” that the France 2 film was faked, with Landes coining the term “Pallywood” to describe it and others like it. They maintained that the the al-Duras had either never been shot, or been shot by Palestinians out to blame Israel, and that the truth had been covered up since. Their “evidence” is a mountain of lurid garbage, which includes the claim that the blood seen in the video spreading across the boy’s midsection is actually a red cloth he was holding to look like blood on camera! The source of much of the al-Dura campaign’s “findings” come from by Nahum Shahaf, an Israeli physicist who cut his teeth as a conspiracy theorist on the Rabin assassination.

In May of last year, the Pallywood theory of the al-Dura killing was adopted in full by the Israeli government in a report commissioned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and written by the Kuperwasser Committee, whose members were drawn from the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, IDF Spokesman’s Office and Israel Police. Netanyahu declared the findings to be “the truth.”

In May of this year, this same theory was applied by Moshe Ya’alon, Roni Daniel, Michael Oren and many others to the video of the Nakba Day killings of Nadim Nuwara, 17, and Muhammad Salameh, also 17. The video was taken by a private security camera at the site of the protest. It was distributed by Defense for Children International – Palestine. The protest had included stone and Molotov cocktail-throwing, but the video shows Nuwara and Salameh being shot while walking along harmlessly, long after the violence of the protest had ended.

The unnamed Border Policeman was arrested on suspicion of murdering Nuwara – and his commander arrested for covering it up – based on the fatal bullet provided by Nuwara’s family. There’s a chance, of course, that they won’t be charged, and if charged there’s a chance, of course, they won’t be convicted. But the arrests by themselves should deeply discredit all those whose reaction to the video of the alleged murder of two Palestinian teenagers (no arrests have been made in Salameh’s killing) was to cry “hoax.” And for all those who are not anti-Arab Jewish nationalists, the arrests by themselves should be enough to debunk the Pallywood theory of the Nakba Day killings, and cast extreme skepticism, at the very least, on the theory in its entirety.

Going forward, or backward, there will be more videos like this one, appearing to show Palestinians getting killed without cause by Israelis. When they surface, people should remember what a certain anti-Arab Jewish nationalist declared in a different context, and say: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, let’s not immediately cross off the possibility that it’s a duck.

More on the Beitunia killings:
Border cop arrested for Nakba Day killing, debunking IDF tales
Beitunia killings and the media’s incredibly high bar for Palestinian stories
Truth, tapes and two dead Palestinians
Details of Palestinian deaths jeopardize a system of denial

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