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When reality becomes hate speech: President of EU Parliament visits Israel

The facts of the occupation are indisputable – it is the words we use to describe those facts that are now being delegitimized.

File photo of EU Parliament President Martin Schulz (Photo by EU Parliament)

File photo of EU Parliament President Martin Schulz (Photo by EU Parliament)

An absurd incident took place in the Knesset Wednesday when members of the Jewish Home party walked out of the plenum during a speech by European Parliament President Martin Schulz of Germany.

During his visit to Israel, President Schulz did just about everything to ingratiate himself with his right-wing hosts, tirelessly reiterating his commitment to the country and promising that a boycott of Israel will never take place. Yet he did make the mistake of mentioning the occupation on the Knesset floor, referring to the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank don’t have the same access to water as Israelis. Schulz was immediately accused of expressing anti-Israeli bias, hate speech, anti-Semitism and just about every imaginable type of crime against the Jewish people. Prime Minister Netanyahu was slightly more nuanced than his coalition partners, stating, “the chairman, like many Europeans suffers from selective hearing.”

The Israeli right was quick to come up with talking points blaming Schulz for his faulty data – it turns out that the gap between Israeli and Palestinian water consumption is smaller than he stated – and the usual political drama followed, with the European official trying in vain to prove that he is pro-Israeli enough. Yet nobody actually denies that Palestinians get less water than Israelis (and less than what the World Health Organization recommends); that Israel is using the West Bank’s main water aquifer for its own needs; that illegal settlements are connected to the Israeli water grid while Palestinians who live nearby need to buy their water in tanks at much higher prices; and that Palestinians get arrested if they try to “illegally” connect to the Israeli grid. These issues are not argued about in the local political discourse; they are facts.

The problem for the Israeli government and its supporters abroad is that reality in the West Bank is biased, so the political war is now aimed at calling things out for what they are. It’s almost impossible to get official Israelis speakers to talk about reality these days. If you do point out some of the most gruesome features of reality, you are accused of leaving out “context” – at best – and at worst, you are a self-hating Jew, traitor or anti-Semite (depending on your ethnicity or nationality). In this debate, reality itself becomes hate-speech.

Can anyone argue that Palestinians and Israelis in the same territory are not subject to separate legal systems? That in the same Hebron neighborhood, one person lives under civilian law while the other is subject to a military regime? Can anyone really argue that Palestinians do not have the right to vote while Israelis do? Can anyone argue that Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza enjoy freedom to travel, domestically and abroad? Can anybody argue that this hasn’t been going on for almost half a century, which is as “permanent” a situation as there is in modern history?

Obviously, nobody can. So just referencing these facts makes one a target. The words one uses to describe the situation become the object of debate instead of the situation itself. Every time I refer to the apartheid regime in the Occupied Territories as apartheid, the foundations that support this website get a report from a well-funded Jerusalem-based organization named NGO Monitor, calling on them to cut ties with +972 Magazine. NGO Monitor and its likes will never debate the facts on the ground – the occupation itself – but only references to it, because there is really nothing to debate here. It is reality that is biased, so references to reality must be punished.

The only reason this strategy is somewhat successful is due to the imbalance of power between Israel, the governments that support it, its lobbying organizations and its advocacy arms, and the Palestinians. In fact, the threshold for debating facts in the American media is so high that every piece referring to the reality on the ground is celebrated like a miracle of biblical scale, circulated on email and shared on social media. (“Would you believe it? NBC showed the Wall! Times are-a-changin’!”) In certain places, and certainly in Jewish forums, just inviting a Palestinian speaker becomes a revolutionary act that needs to be debated, fought over, and finally balanced with some paid government envoy from Jerusalem to provide “context,” i.e., explain that the occupation is somehow the Palestinians’ fault.

This is why my advice to most visitors in Israel/Palestine is to drive to the West Bank and simply trust their own eyes and ears. Don’t talk to Israelis – don’t even talk to Palestinians – just have a look around and try to make sense of what you see. In the end, I must believe that reality will prevail.

Related:
Visualizing Occupation: A series of striking infographics on the effect of occupation on Palestinian civilians

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    COMMENTS

    1. haifawi

      just drive around without talking to anyone? i mean, if people went to iqrit, they would see an ‘archeological site’ with 20-something arab dudes day-drinking in a church.

      there is a LOT of context here, and you need to talk to people. it’s just that you need critical thinking skills first.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis

      “This is why my advice to most visitors in Israel/Palestine is to drive to the West Bank and simply trust their own eyes and ears. Don’t talk to Israelis – don’t even talk to Palestinians – just have a look around and try to make sense of what you see. In the end, I must believe that reality will prevail”.

      Yeah. Right! You think you are funny and cocky, but you are not, Noam Sheizaf. Sorry. Folks need to get their facts and data correct BEFORE making serious allegations against others. That’s a basic demand of decency and common courtesy. That’s all Israel asks for. THAT, sir, is the CORE of the controversy. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        He didn’t make an allegation. He quoted a Palestinian student and asked his public if what he’d said was true. All that public needed to do was politely tell Schultz that it wasn’t … quite.

        Both Bennett and his “brother”, who reminded us with gravitas that he is the son of an ex-Chairman of Yad Vashem, later made pointed remarks about Schultz’s addressing the Knesset in his mother-tongue although he wasn’t the first to address them in that language and the last person who did brought the house down.

        It’s strange how touchy pro-settler MKs and their retinues are. If strangers fail to (ummm how can I put this politely?) fawn and pet them (!), they pout, stamp their feet, howl like banshees and then flounce out.

        Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      Lucky Mr Schultz’s Palestinian student was slightly off the mark with his figures; otherwise we’d never have had the chance to cringe at this magnificent spectacle. In our eternal quest to avoid truth, we’ll end up voting for the politician who’s best at throwing hissy fits in some future general election. Bennett’s a champion at that (anyone know if his ratings shot up today?) and could well become our Prime Minister before we know it.

      It’ll be fun watching him and ooh, let’s say Erdogan lock horns while we tumble on to the bottom of our slippery slope.

      Reply to Comment
    4. ‘that Israel is using the West Bank’s main water aquifer for its own needs; that illegal settlements are connected to the Israeli water grid while Palestinians who live nearby need to buy their water in tanks at much higher prices; and that Palestinians get arrested if they try to “illegally” connect to the Israeli grid.’

      In a desert, water says much. I have long shied from calling State acts in the occupation as “war crimes,” but upon hearing of the destruction of wells to force prior residents to move–I began to wonder. The allocation and exclusion of water is a structural act with social structural consequences, inducing hatred which primes for violence. If you place people in impossible conditions, then deny such exist, or label those affected as self cause, you create an enemy. The settlements are designed, socio-politically, to press forward, which means expunging others, or truncating their lives. Calling the West Bank “Judea and Samaria” will not change this; a Biblical warrant to expunge residents is just a warrant to expunge residents. I have never favored being a slave to God.

      Making certain is spelled J & S correctly, I came across this, of today:

      “Israel’s housing minister said on Thursday that the country had the right to build in the E1 zone of the West Bank, which he referred to using the Biblical names ”Judea and Samaria”. Ariel belongs to the far-right national religious Jewish Home party.

      The minister was speaking at the beginning of a march that took off from the Maaleh Adumim settlement and ended in E1 (an undeveloped stretch of land just to the west, which borders annexed east Jerusalem) against the efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to bring in a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Following the minister’s rally, thousands of youths from Jewish religious schools began walking towards E1…”

      http://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/en/news/sections/politics/2014/02/13/Israel-has-right-build-Judea-Samaria-minister_10070508.html

      The Boycott Law, the Nakba Law, the pending if not passed Nazi Law, are all designed to control thought by controlling speech. You report another form in the Knesset today. And one controls thought to force reality. Many of tried this. Many still do. George W. Bush denied climate change–and the absence of WMD for some time.

      Do not let them silence you. Reality is not the friend of Yahweh. It cares for no one and, when we resist it, we always lose.

      Of course there is apartheid. It is just Biblically mandated, so ok. I find one religious mandate for expulsion little different than another.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ginger Eis

      “Every time I refer to the apartheid regime in the Occupied Territories as apartheid, the foundations that support this website get a report from a well-funded Jerusalem-based organization named NGO Monitor, calling on them to cut ties with +972 Magazine. NGO Monitor and its likes will never debate the facts on the ground – the occupation itself – but only references to it, because there is really nothing to debate here. It is reality that is biased, so references to reality must be punished”.

      WRONG again, Noam Sheizaf. You indeed use the word “apartheid” to describe the situation in Judea and Samaria. Others use “ethnic cleansing”, “genocide”, etc. People take these claims VERY seriously. Your problem is this: each scientific examination of your allegations shows said allegations to be FALSE and exposes the authors to be unreliable, anti-Israel or outright anti-Semitic! They who donate have the right to know how their money is used. NGO Monitor is not your enemy. The FACTS on the ground are. Sir.

      Reply to Comment
      • JG

        Every time Gingerhead posts, I send a report to the “Don’t harm your Shiftkey” NGO

        Reply to Comment
      • tod

        Ginger, facts, provide facts. Noam provides links to serious studies, you nothing but ad hominem attacks. If I may, I lived two years in the Palestinian territories and I can confirm that what he writes is not only correct but also slightly softened.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          Tod, (1) the party that makes an allegation against another party bears the burden of proof. That’s an elementary rule of evidence. Bearing that in mind, your assignment is this: (2) provide us with the LEGAL definitions of (a) apartheid, (b) ethnic cleansing and (c) genocide. (3) Use “facts” you gathered during the “two years” you “lived in the Palestinian territories” to make the case for apartheid and/or ethnic cleansing and/or genocide. This assignment is very easy, though Mr. Noam Sheizaf has NOT been able to do it, and calling him out on his failure is no ‘argumentum ad hominem’, if you know what that means). I will be MORE THAN happy to give a reasoned rebuttal. Welcome to the debate, sir.

          Reply to Comment
          • Richard Lightbown

            Not so fast Ging. You wrote :

            ‘each scientific examination of your allegations shows said allegations to be FALSE ‘

            So let’s have the links to the scientific examinations that you are referring to. And don’t try to fob me off with a load of homework like tried to do last time I called you out (with the excuse you were on holiday). You have made claims here that need to be backed up with clear references otherwise it is just a load of humbug, as is usually the case with you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            I love debates. If you appreciate useful debates, you must behave accordingly, i.e. be courteous and avoid vulgarity, childish sarcasm, etc. (as you did before and are doing now). I will give you another chance. Here is one of what you asked for (I can’t link more than one source on this site). If you disagree please (a) make counter arguments using (b) proper legal definitions of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide and (c) verifiable facts (i.e. provide reliable source for the facts relied upon).

            http://www.factsandlogic.org/ad_121.html

            Reply to Comment
      • YOU are living proof everything in this article is 100% correct. Your jaw dropping denial of anything remotely ‘anti israel’ leaves no one in any doubt as to your inability (or refusal)to see what the rest of the world has no CHOICE but to see, when it comes to israels inhuman treatment of the Palestinians. And all the ‘hasbara spin’ on this earth isn’t going to change that.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          Now you are talking about “Palestinian mistreatment” instead of using such fraudulent terms/phrases as “apartheid”, “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”, because you realize that “The world has no CHOICE but to see” that NONE of that is going on. And no, Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, India, Russia, etc. DON’T agree with you and your BDS! This is the world that matters. Your world is the 57 Muslim countries that have always been anti-Israel. Israel will continue to do her best to become friends with them. But ultimately Israel will not commit suicide in trying to achieve that goal. Remember Barak’s peace offers? The Arabs can still ask for- and get it (and end the “Palestinian mistreatment” this very moment!). The ball is in your court. The world knows that.

          Reply to Comment
    6. Rehmat

      As I said before, Israeli racism has no religion. What the self-hating Jewish Martin Schulz said was nothing new. In 2009 Amnesty International reported:

      “Israel allows the Palestians access to only a fraction of the shared water sources, which lie mostly in the occupied West Bank, while the unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies. In Gaza the Israeli blockade has made an already dire situation worse,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).

      http://rehmat1.com/2009/10/29/israeli-theft-of-arab-water-sources/

      Reply to Comment
    7. richard witty

      Schultz was speaking reality.

      I’m not sure you were. You go from truth (understated, so that the reality is the more prominent phenomena in the communication), to litany (so that one’s eyes glaze over, except for the “converted”, to polemic (“apartheid”).

      From undeniable and informative to the point of transformational, to dismissable if not repellent.

      The choir doesn’t need to be satisfied with your writing.

      The rational center is your audience, if you want change.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Rehmat

      In March 2012, Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief got into trouble with leaders of the Zionist regime for comparing the shooting death of four French Jews by a serial killer at Toulouse with Jewish army’s killing of over 1200 civilians in Gaza during ‘Operation Cast Lead‘ in December 2008.

      http://rehmat1.com/2012/03/22/comparison-of-gaza-and-french-school-attack-irks-israel/

      Reply to Comment
    9. John Dowdle

      EU leadersmust speak real truth to the fascist leadership of Israel, who are turning into their very own nightmare before our very eyes. Having been victims of Nazism they are now turning into Nazis themselves with their obvious ethnic cleansing programs.
      Having lived in apartheid South Africa and recently been to historic Palestine, I have to agree with former Archbishop Tutu that what now exists in Israel-Palestine is far worse than the apartheid previously found in South Africa.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        Mr. John Dowdle, you are making declarations (not arguments!). That’s not how to debate and convince. There is what you need to do: (1) provide us with the LEGAL definitions of (a) apartheid, (b) ethnic cleansing and (c) genocide. (3) Use “facts” you gathered while living in “South Africa” and “historic Palestine” to make the case for apartheid and/or ethnic cleansing and/or genocide. This assignment is very easy. Can you do it?

        You might be also interested in what REAL South Africans have to say. See for example:

        http://unitedwithisrael.org/south-african-mp-israel-is-not-an-apartheid-state/

        Reply to Comment
        • Haifawi

          I’m so sick of people trying to fob off claims of apartheid by discussing ISRAELI civilians.
          Inside the West Bank, two groups of people live under the SAME government (The Civil Administration). However, TWO systems of law apply to them.
          THIS…IS…APARTHEID!!! *kicks you into a hole*

          Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            Haifawi, you are wrong. Here is why: (1) over 96% of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria live under the Rule of the Palestinian Government (in Areas A and B)! (2) Over 10.000 Palestinians living in E. J’lem are Israeli citizens. Israel offered/continues to offer Israeli nationality to the rest; (3) only 56-60.000 Palestinians live in area C which according to the Oslo Accords falls under Israeli military and civilian rule; (4) anti-Semites and their apologist claim “apartheid” re the whole of Israel -not just Judea and Samaria, (5) Israel wants to apply Israeli law to Area C. The Palestinians oppose that! Once AGAIN: (a) provide the legal definition of “apartheid”, (b) apply said definition to the situation in “Area C” and (c) make a coherent argument (no rants!) that “apartheid” exists there. I’m always flabbergasted that anti-Semites and their apologist always scream “apartheid” but when they are challenged, they – unable to make coherent legal arguments – get angry and nasty while using ghetto-language as you are doing right now. You get another chance to make said arguments. Let’s hear them, now.

            Reply to Comment
    10. Tess

      Great article by a courageous journalist. I salute you Mr. Sheizaf

      Reply to Comment
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