Jacob's Voice

Sound and Fury on the Israeli Left

The Algemeiner (October 14, 2014)

Anyone who is unfamiliar with the rhetoric of the Israeli left might want to check out responses from Peace Now and Haaretz to the recent purchase of homes in Jerusalem – by Jews. With predictable frenzy they anticipated the imminent collapse of morality in the Jewish state after Jews moved into their new homes in Silwan, a few meters south of the Old City, duly purchased from a willing Arab seller. Arab property owners in Silwan denied any sale and initiated “legal procedures” to nullify it. (More about that below.)

“The implication of this offensive act,” declared Peace Now, “has far reaching consequences.” With a mastery of arithmetic that would make any third-grader proud, it reported that 6 buildings, comprising 20 housing units, could increase “the settler presence” by 35%, enlarging the number of Jews by one hundred. For Peace Now, that is a shanda of monumental proportions, posing a severe threat to the population of Silwan, which already includes 500 Jews - and 50,000 Arabs. This “unjust and dangerous reality” climaxes more than twenty years during which “the Israeli government and police are allowing and supporting” settlements.

An editorial in Haaretz (October 10) condemned the occupancy by “dozens of Jewish settlers” in an “East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood” as proof that Prime Minister Netanyahu is “an enthusiastic supporter of annexing the territories and of handing the State of Israel … to the settlers.” The “seizure” of homes in Silwan was “another nail in the coffin of the peace process” – which, Haaretz concluded, was its intended purpose. But Israel’s “illegitimate colonialist policies” would surely “infuriate not only the Arab world but also Israel’s closest friends.” House buying in Jerusalem (but only by Jews) was “a destructive move,” which “could exacerbate the tense situation and spark another round of violence.”

The next day the Arab “legal procedures” touted by Peace Now were displayed when a 50-year-old Arab resident of Silwan was stabbed to death by a fellow Arab. According to local residents, “he was killed in a dispute over selling property to Israeli Jews.” The murdered man and his killer were members of a family in whose building seven of the Jewish newcomers had recently arrived.

Politics become dirty when Jewish settlers can be blamed by the Israeli left for obstructing the “peace process.” Hardly coincidentally, Peace Now released its report of the Silwan move-in to embarrass Prime Minister Netanyahu while he was in New York to address the United Nations. Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat, with the bygone Oslo Accords to his credit, castigated the Jewish arrivals as “illegal Israeli settlers protected by occupation forces” and by a government that launches “land grabs and attempts at changing the identity and demography of Palestine and particularly occupied East Jerusalem.” Fadi Maragha, a local Fatah representative, warned: “They think they can drive us out. But we are the landowners. We were here, and we will be here until we have all of Palestine without any Jewish people in it.” The Mufti of Jerusalem labeled the arrival of Jewish residents in Silwan a “criminal act” that furthered the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.

Silwan, to be sure, repeats a familiar story in the Land of Israel. In 2005, in the ancient biblical city of Hebron where Jews had lived since Abraham negotiated with Ephron (the Hittite, not Palestinian) over the Machpelah cave as a burial place for Sarah, the Jewish community purchased a four-story building. It overlooked a street where twelve Israelis had been murdered in a deadly terrorist attack three years earlier. The purchaser, New York businessman Morris Abraham, had relatives who lived in Hebron until the Arab riots of 1929 slaughtered sixty-seven Jews, decimated the community and emptied it of Jews until after the Six-Day War.

Although no evidence emerged to invalidate the Hebron purchase, leftist Jews were furious. Meretz Party chairman Yossi Beilin planned to submit a bill in the Knesset calling for the evacuation of all Jews from Hebron – until a political opponent indicated that he would introduce an identical bill calling for the removal of all Arabs. The human rights group B’Tselem, declaring the house to be a “new settlement” that Jews had “invaded,” demanded their immediate eviction “without regard to the question of ownership.” Not even signed purchase and sale agreements, and a video of the Palestinian seller receiving and counting his money, satisfied Jewish critics. Despairing of “Israeli democracy,” Morris Abraham noted that anywhere else “when a person purchases private property his purchase is honored.” The new residents of Beit HaShalom were forcibly evicted by Israeli security forces. It took seven years before the High Court of Justice validated his purchase.

Like Hebron, Silwan has biblical roots. For Zionism to have meaning, the return of Jews to their ancient homeland – purchasing land to build homes and rebuild communities – should remain a source of Jewish pride. Those who only feel shame missed a good opportunity recently to atone for their groundless hatred against fellow Jews.

 

 

 

 

Jewish “Settlers” in Jerusalem

The Algemeiner (October 3, 2014)

In 1628, twenty years after Jamestown became the first British colony in North America, a new settlement far to the north was named Salem. For its pious Puritan settlers Salem represented an Anglicized version of shalom. According to biblical sources, the pool of Siloam was the source of water for the priests who sprinkled it on the altar of the nearby Temple. It was identified in the Talmud as the center of the Land of Israel. In time, Christian monks lived in nearby caves and Muslims built a village in the fertile valley, whose spring was a sacred water source.

Jews from Yemen arrived in Silwan in 1881, inhabiting its caves until land purchased by sympathetic philanthropists permitted the construction of stone houses. Several hundred Yemenite Jews moved into the neighborhood known as Kfar HaShiloach. During the Arab revolt that erupted in 1936 many Jewish residents fled; those who remained were evacuated by the British two years later. Arab families occupied their abandoned homes.

Jews returned to inhabit Silwan in recent decades with the development of its City of David National Park as a major Jerusalem tourist attraction. Thousands of visitors have been guided through the remnants of ancient homes and walk through the tunnel carved during the reign of King Hezekiah. Now a mixed Arab and Jewish neighborhood within steps of the Old City walls, it was inhabited by one hundred Jewish families – until this past week, when dozens of Jews, with police protection, moved into twenty-five empty apartments in seven buildings purchased by the City of David Foundation (Elad) at extravagant prices from willing Arab sellers.

Arab residents of Silwan were not happy with their new neighbors. “I’m disappointed that these Palestinians think of money without even thinking about what this does to their families,” said Jawad Siam, identified by Haaretz (which described the move as “the takeover of buildings”) as “a long-time political activist in Silwan.” A Fatah representative who arrived to console an Arab man whose son had sold family property to the Palestinian broker who, in turn, sold it to Elad, asserted: “We were here, and we will be here until we have all of Palestine without any Jewish people in it.”

Coming as it did on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to the United Nations and subsequent meeting with President Obama, the Silwan transaction – along with the parallel announcement of Israeli approval for the construction of 2,500 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos - roiled Washington. In carefully orchestrated harmony, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki and White House spokesman Josh Earnest expressed “deep concern” over construction plans, which would “call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement” (which, to be sure, Palestinians have rejected ever since the Peel Commission partition plan of 1937).

Earnest also castigated the move of Jews into Silwan. The United States, he said (quite earnestly), “condemns the recent occupation of residential buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan by people whose agenda provokes tensions.” Transforming a legitimate purchase and sale agreement into “occupation” that is “provocative,” Earnest preposterously asserted that more Jews in Silwan (living where Jews first lived during the reign of King Solomon) “would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

To depict Jews living anywhere in Jerusalem, their ancient capital two millennia before the first Muslims arrived, as illegal intruders falls somewhere between misguided and malicious. Learning of Earnest’s statement while traveling in New York, Netanyahu responded appropriately: “Arabs in Jerusalem are free to purchase apartments in the western city and no one is arguing against it. I have no intention of telling Jews they can’t buy apartments in East Jerusalem. This is private property and an individual right.” No matter how opprobrious the term “settler” might be to some, in and outside the White House, Jews are not settlers in their holy city.

Jews, as Harvard scholar Ruth Wisse has perceptively written, “have more concurrent rights to their land than any other people on this earth can claim: aboriginal rights, divine rights, legal rights, internationally guaranteed rights, pioneering rights, and the rights of that perennial arbiter, war.” That should be required reading in the White House, where a primer on Jewish history in the Land of Israel is desperately needed.

Abbas Finds a Friend in The New York Times

 The Algemeiner (September 29, 2014)

In his Rosh Hashanah tirade at the UN General Assembly Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the ninth year of his four-year term,  calumnied Israel. Referring to the recent Gaza war launched by Hamas, he preposterously blamed the Jewish State for “a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people.” Its “settlement activities and the occupation’s brutality,” Abbas alleged, undermined every attempt to negotiate the peace he has persistently fled. Israel, he claimed, had committed “absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world.” Indeed, it was “preparing for a new Nakba against the Palestinian people.”

The “colonial occupying Power,” Abbas’s rant continued (conveniently ignoring that all Israeli soldiers and civilians were removed from Gaza in 2005), “has chosen to defy the entire world by launching its war on Gaza.” Palestinians have the “legitimate right to resist this colonial, racist Israeli occupation,” which is “unmatched in modern times.” In a remarkable display of inversion – indeed, obtuse blindness – Abbas denounced “the rising and rampant racism in the Israeli political and media discourse” and its “culture of racism, incitement and hatred.” He could not more precisely have described Palestinian culture. Leader of a people who pioneered in devising the horrors of modern terrorism, he concluded by blaming Israel for “an abhorrent form of state terrorism.”

Reporting Abbas’s speech in The New York Times (September 26), Somini Sengupta paid scant attention to the vitriolic language and malicious slanders that infused it. (She noted, however, that he was “visibly enraged.”) Her article merely rehashed the Palestinian Authority’s quest for membership in the international court (the better to challenge the legitimacy of Israel) – while acknowledging “the conspicuous absence” of any direct mention of it in Abbas’s address. She also included a sketchy summary of the Gaza war. Not until her concluding sentence did she quote the centerpiece of Abbas’s speech: “settlement occupation” as “an abhorrent form of state terrorism.”

No matter. The Times Opinion page that day provided the opportunity for a deservedly unknown Israeli-American writer to explore “How Israel Silences Dissent.” Mairav Zonszein was perfectly qualified. Her  career as an aspiring journalist has been devoted to an array of left-wing, peace-now organizations in Israel. These include the Association for Civil Rights; the Union of Progressive Zionists; Ir Amim (a left-wing group that focuses on Jewish construction, home demolitions and evictions, and the separation barrier in Jerusalem); and Ta’ayush, self-described as “a grassroots organization” of Palestinians and Jews whose goal is “to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.” Ms. Zonszein is also a former editor and contributor to +972, which describes itself as an “independent” blog magazine established in 2010 to present “a new and mostly young voice” – the better to launch tirades against Israel.

Living in perhaps the world’s most loquacious nation, where animated conversation, vigorous challenges and contradictory opinions blanket the media, Ms. Zonszein seems unable to discover dissent. She cites “extremist Israeli Jews” who attacked anti-war protesters in Tel Aviv and Haifa at the beginning of the Gaza war. She concludes that “the vilification of the few Israelis [really?] who don’t subscribe to right-wing doctrine” has escalated into “acts of incitement.” Indeed, “the aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians … has been simmering for decades.”

That seems rather odd coming from a left-wing political activist whose shrill voice seems to enjoy a multitude of opportunities for expression – including self-preening about her article on Facebook and Twitter. She rants against “an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right.” Clearly, their “aggressive silencing” has not squelched Ms. Zonszein – nor any of her fellow true believers.

She laments that Israelis “increasingly seem unwilling to listen to criticism, even when it comes from within their own family.” Indeed, “they are trying to silence it before it can be voiced.” But aligned with “the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights,” Ms. Zonszein managed to find a reassuring embrace by The New York Times. Ithas long provided Israeli dissenters on the left with opportunities to endorse its persistent flagellation of the Jewish state. In Zonszein, the Times has found the appropriate spokeswoman for every anti-Israel cliché that the Israeli left has stored in its fetid arsenal.

Betrayal: FDR and the Jews

The Algemeiner (September 23, 2014)

 Like everyone else I knew in the Forest Hills of my boyhood, my parents were the American–born children of immigrants from Eastern Europe. But my grandparents, who left Russia and Rumania in their desperate quest for freedom, opportunity and children who would become genuine Americans, always remained foreigners. They spoke Yiddish, brewed tea in samovars schlepped from Odessa, and shrieked hysterically - doubtlessly reminded of the Czar’s army - when my beloved uncle was drafted during World War II.

Their allegiance to the United States was pledged every four years when, like the overwhelming majority of American Jews of their generation, they voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt. During my childhood I believed that Roosevelt’s first name was “President”;  he was the closest thing to a Savior that our brand of Americanized Judaism permitted. We listened to his “fireside chats” and during the 1944 presidential campaign my mother dragged me to Queens Boulevard in  pouring rain to cheer his passing motorcade. I vividly remember glimpsing his delightful dog Fala, but not the President. At my father’s suggestion, I even wrote to the White House to ask him to buy a war bond to support our school’s patriotic campaign.

Six months later, the impact of his death registered only with the arrival of Life magazine. It displayed the photograph of a mournful black accordionist, weeping as he played “Going Home” when Roosevelt’s body left Warm Springs for burial in Hyde Park. That image ranked in memory – and still does – with the Jewish boy in Warsaw, my age exactly, raising his arms in terror as he confronted Nazi soldiers; and with the first horrific Life photos of emaciated survivors in the extermination camps.

All those memories were rekindled while I watched “The Roosevelts,” Ken Burns’ new documentary. As a professional historian, mentored by one of the commentators, I had long ago come to realize that FDR hardly was the saint that my parents, extended family, and virtually every American Jew outside privileged German Jewish circles, had worshipped. So I took with many grains of salt, but rising anger, the whitewash of FDR’s indifference to the plight of European Jewry that I was witnessing, even though I knew that disgraceful story all too well.

But not until I read (or reread) some of Roosevelt’s most despicable statements about Jews, extensively documented in a series of on-line commentaries by Rafael Medoff, founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, did the depths of Roosevelt’s loathing for Jews, and refusal to lift a finger (which, unlike his legs, was not paralyzed) to rescue them, fully penetrate. As far back as 1920, when FDR was the Democratic party candidate for vice president, he had proposed that “the greater part of the foreign population of the City of New York” should be “distributed to different localities upstate” so as to feel pressure to “conform to the manners and customs and requirements of their new home.” As a member of the Harvard board of directors he supported a Jewish admissions quota.

In 1941 he told his Cabinet that too many Jews were federal employees in Oregon. One of his grandsons recalled that the protagonists in FDR’s jokes “were always Lower East Side Jews with heavy accents.” At a wartime White House luncheon with Prime Minister Churchill, he suggested “the best way to settle the Jewish question” was “to spread the Jews thin all over the world.” Indeed, enlightened Hyde Park residents surely would not object to adding “four or five Jewish families.” At the 1945 Yalta conference, FDR indicated to Stalin that as a concession to the king of Saudi Arabia he would “give him the six million Jews in the United States.”

Tragically, Roosevelt’s embedded anti-Semitism was not confined to jokes. It was displayed in the refusal of the American government in 1939 to admit the desperate refugees on board the S.S. St. Louis, who were returned to Germany - or to even fill the quotas that authorized the limited admission of Germans. It was revealed in American government suppression of information about the mass murder of European Jews. The White House opposed a resolution to create the War Refugee Board and delayed its establishment for fourteen months. Orders to bomb railroad tracks leading to the extermination camps were never given, although Nazi facilities merely five miles away were destroyed. And special American missions were launched to rescue art treasures – and performing Lipizzaner horses.

Roosevelt’s anti-Semitism did not cause the Holocaust. But his indifference to the annihilation of European Jewry contributed to its horrific consequences. “The Roosevelts” attempts to airbrush FDR’s dismal failure. Watching it, I was reminded of the power of boyhood myths and the durability of sanitized history. It reaffirmed my decision never to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, where a dark empty room would more accurately display  American silence about the fate of Jews that Franklin D. Roosevelt personified. And I understood, more deeply than ever before, why two generations of American Jews were lulled by FDR’s soothing reassurances into believing that their desperate yearning for acceptance was fulfilled.

Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Greetings From Hamas

The Algemeiner (September 19, 2014)

In the narrative of inversion that distorted media coverage of the recent Gaza war, the plight of Israeli civilians targeted by Hamas rockets, missiles and tunnel attacks was all but ignored. The conventional media wisdom featured innocent Gazans whose homes and lives were destroyed by cruelly disproportionate Israeli responses. Little wonder that during seven weeks when thousands of Israeli civilians fled from their homes and communities to safety with family, friends, or in makeshift accommodations elsewhere, the media remained fixated on Gaza victims of Hamas aggression.

 New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren finally roused herself to check the fate of bombarded Israeli civilians in Sderot, who have endured Hamas rocket attacks ever since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza nearly a decade earlier. She fixated on a group of middle-aged men, comfortably seated on a sofa and beach chairs on Koby Hill, who happily munched snacks while they cheered the Israeli rocket “show.” So much for the plight of Israeli civilians under attack. The death of 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman from a rocket attack on his family’s home in a border kibbutz, which immersed the entire country in sorrowful mourning, was virtually ignored.

During the seven-week war, Israeli security sources revealed that a massive surprise attack had been planned by Hamas for Rosh Hashanah. Two hundred Hamas fighters, wearing Israeli uniforms, would emerge from dozens of tunnels to kidnap and kill Israeli civilians, effectively holding the entire country hostage. It is little wonder that despite the current cease-fire Israeli residents of communities adjacent to Gaza remain apprehensive about spending the approaching High Holy Days in their homes. “People are very afraid,” revealed Silvia Orshovsky of Ein Hashlosha, owner of a market that was hit during a rocket attack. “I want to be secure,” she told an Israeli reporter. “I’m going to hold the holidays elsewhere with friends.”

She is not alone. In Kibbutz Nahal Oz, where the Tragerman boy was killed, seventeen families, including his, have announced that they were leaving their homes – either for a year or permanently. In nearby Nirim, a resident told a reporter “we will hold the holiday far away … if it won’t be quiet we’ll stay there.” The sense of abandonment by their government was palpable. But the toll exacted on Israeli civilians by incessant Hamas attacks was not a story deemed fit to print in The New York Times.

The narrative of Palestinian victimization remains too compelling to relinquish. With a Palestinian truck driver as her tour guide, Jodi Rudoren reported (September 17) on the recent upsurge in violence by young Jerusalem Arabs. Just as she had relied almost exclusively upon Gaza resident Fares Akram (the Times stringer who also reports for Al Jazeera) as her primary source of access to beleaguered Gazans, so she was guided through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya to whitewash the violence inflicted by rock-throwing Arab boys and men, hundreds of whom have been arrested by Israeli police.

Rudoren’s bias, whether or not to her credit, is always blatant. The source of the violent upsurge, she wrote, was “the abductions and murders of three Israeli teenagers, followed by the gruesome abduction and murder” of a Palestinian teenager. Revealingly, only the abduction and murder of the Palestinian boy was “gruesome.” She noted that “Palestinians report attempted kidnappings, aggression and racist taunts by Jews.” She did not disclose what Israelis report, nor reveal the response of the Israeli owner of the gas station that was assaulted and looted by unidentified “masked youths” throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

Ms. Rudoren’s Palestinian contacts, not surprisingly, offered variations on a familiar trope. The father of a 10-year-old, who runs a children’s center, revealed: “I’m not trying to convince them not to throw stones. I’m not going to tell them not to burn the gas station.” (Perish the thought.) A “community leader” in Issawaya, whose claim that his family has lived there for “800 years” is reported by Rudoren as though officially documented, blamed the recent outburst on “the settlers’ violence.” What violence – surely not the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers - Rudoren did not document. But she carefully quoted a mother of five who revealed “I hate all Jews… . I even tell my children to go and throw stones. It is normal. It is a reaction to what the army is doing.”

As she did from her visit to Kerry Hill in Sderot, Rudoren embraced the narrative that she never tires of recounting: the evil Israeli, indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians whose violent retaliation is unquestionably justified. For the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the Times, that is the news that’s fit to print.

 

  

 

 

 

 

A Familiar Plague Infests Israel

The Algemeiner (September 15, 2014)

Last week 43 Israeli soldiers from Unit 8200 of the IDF Intelligence Corps sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Grantz that has gone viral. Claiming that “during the course of our service we learned that the Intelligence Corps is an inseparable part of the military control over the territories,” they declared: “We refuse to take part in activity against Palestinians and refuse to be tools to deepen the military control in the occupied territories.”

Their proclamation of refusal, so soon after the havoc of Operation Defensive Shield, elicited a prompt and furious response signed by more than 200 members of their Unit, decrying as an act of “political insubordination” the protesters’ “cynical and politically motivated use of their legal and moral duty to serve.”  Nor were they alone. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon condemned the letter as a contribution to “the unfounded and undeserved delegitimization efforts against the State of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF.” Knesset member Yariv Levin, chairman of the Intelligence Subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee, declared: “Anyone who refuses to help protect the country essentially crosses the line from being a supporter of democracy to being a supporter of Palestinian terrorism.”

So the battle lines were drawn between Israeli soldiers and their nation – not for the first time. The struggle between conscience and country is hardly new. Five years after independence, 18-year-old Amnon Zichroni, claiming that he was a pacifist, refused to carry weapons. Israel’s first public conscientious objector, he was sentenced by a military tribunal to seven months in prison. In 1970, one hundred graduating high-school students issued a “declaration of intent” to Prime Minister Golda Meir: “We are wondering why we should fight in a repeated war which holds no future.”

Seven years later another student cohort asked Prime Minister Menachem Begin: “How do you expect us to go to war when we are not sure that the road that leads to war is just?” In a letter to Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann, twenty-seven high-school students, inspired by “opposition to the occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people,” indicated their intention to refuse to serve in Judea and Samaria. Gad Elgazi, one of the signees, kept his word and was court-martialed and sentenced to one year in prison. Rejecting his appeal, the Supreme Court ruled: “No military organization can tolerate the existence of a general principle according to which individual soldiers can dictate their place of service, be it for economic or social reasons, or for reasons of conscience.”

During the first Lebanon war, which provoked unprecedented military disobedience (not coincidentally because Israel had its first right-wing prime minister), Colonel Eli Geva notoriously refused to lead his tank brigade in an attack on West Beirut. An organization named Yesh Gvul (“There is a Limit”) broadened its focus from the “occupied territory” in the West Bank to include Lebanon. Co-founder and reserve major Ishai Menuchin proclaimed: “It never occurred to me that I might be used as a tool of occupation or be asked to fight in wars of choice, as opposed to wars of defense.” Other soldiers cited Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. (revealing sources for Israeli refuseniks) and employed Holocaust and Nazi analogies to justify their disobedience.

The eruption of the Palestinian intifada in 1987 multiplied the number of dissenting reservists and soldiers, most of whom had already been active in leftist political and protest groups. In a letter to Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Adi Ophir insisted that “occupation” was “a far greater menace to Israeli democracy and to the rule of law” than refusal to serve. A demographically identifiable segment of the population belonged to the refusenik movement, and still does: secular, Ashkenazi, highly educated, from elite sectors of Israeli society. Their political affiliation prompted a prescient warning from Haaretz lest left-wing disobedience become a precedent for future resistance from those on the political right.

Indeed, left-wing disobedience in the 1980s became the model for right-wing religious Zionists a decade later. The regional council of Jewish settlers declared that any government prepared to relinquish territory was “an illegal government” whose orders should be disobeyed. Former Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira, reiterating the supremacy of the biblical command to settle the land, cited Maimonides: “even if the King gives an order to transgress the words of the Torah, we do not listen to him.”

The Israeli Supreme Court has summarily rejected the principle “whereby soldiers can dictate … where they will serve,whether for economic or social reasons, or for reasons of conscience.” But the fundamental question remains: among competing sources of authority – the State, military orders, halakha, individual conscience, God – what will Israelis honor? The question is as old as Jewish history. The Biblical renegade Korah and his followers were swiftly punished by death for challenging the divine authority claimed by Moses and Aaron. For Josephus, who deserted his soldiers and surrendered to Vespasian, the source of legitimate authority was Roman power.

In contemporary Israel the ultimate source of legitimate authority may remain contentious. But the current challenge from several dozen disaffected reservists, now lacerated across the Israeli political spectrum, has deservedly undermined the left-wing political agenda they so avidly embrace.

When is an Islamic State not Islamic?

The Algemeiner (September 12, 2014)

In his nationally televised speech on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, President Obama pointedly declared: “The Islamic State [ISIL] is not Islamic.” If the President’s verbal acrobatics sounded familiar they were. And not only because he was echoing Humpty Dumpty’s familiar aphorism: “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.”

In his memorable Cairo speech in June 2009, the new president referred to “a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world.” Citing 9/11 he identified “violent extremists … in a small but potent minority of Muslims” who have “exploited these tensions.” That horrific attack “has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to American and Western countries, but also to human rights.” Indeed it had, quite justifiably so.

But, President Obama insisted in his quest for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” America and Islam “share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” It was, he asserted, “part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

Now, as the Islamic State rampages through Syria and Iraq, with ambitions for an caliphate stretching far beyond those borders, even The New York Times noted that “its brutal interpretation of Islamic law” guided its path. One may plausibly argue that ISIL/ISIS is hardly representative of the history or culture of Islam – indeed, that it is a monstrous perversion of Islam by committing appalling acts in its name. But to assert, as President Obama recently did, that “ISIL is not Islamic” is not only false but, in the wake of the recent televised beheading of American journalists James Foley and Stephen Satloff by ISIL jihadi murderers, surreal.

Barely a week after 9/11 President George W. Bush, addressing Congress, identified Al Qaeda as “a fringe form of Islamic extremism.” His precision stands in sharp contrast to President Obama’s evasion of the obvious relationship between ISIS and Islam, however perverse its inflammatory words and horrific actions may be. As Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who served in the Defense Department between 2002-4, has written (Commentary 9/11): “National security should never be sacrificed upon the alter of political correctness… . To pretend that the enemy – ISIS in this case – does not root itself in an interpretation of Islam is simply wrong.”

Yet President Obama persists in wishing away ISIL’s self-proclaimed roots in Islam. “No religion,” he declared in his attempt at exoneration, “condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.” But as Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of best-selling books about Muhammad and Islam, asks: “If the Islamic State were really so obviously un-Islamic, how is it that it came to call itself ‘the Islamic State’”? And why have hundreds of Western Muslims – including, evidently, the ISIS jihadist who beheaded two American journalists – journeyed to the Middle East to join its ranks?

Why, one might wonder, does President Obama either fail to grasp, or decline to assert, the obvious derivation of the Islamic State from Islam? According to the most recent CIA estimate, it now has between 20,000-30,000 fighters on the ground in Syria and Iraq, its growth prompted by stronger recruitment (including hundreds of Western Muslims) and “the declaration of a caliphate.”

Historically, “caliphate” refers to the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion following the death of Muhammad. ISIS still has a way to go. But for an American president to avert his eyes from the religious (Islamic) roots of ISIS is a form of political myopia with potentially ominous consequences for Americans who have just commemorated the Al Qaeda-inflicted catastrophe now forever known as 9/11.

To Settle or Not to Settle? That is the Question

The Algemeiner (September 5, 2014)

Not long after the recent Gaza war finally subsided, a familiar contentious issue reemerged. Following an investigation lasting several years Israel’s Civil Administration declared nearly one thousand acres south of Jerusalem, within the cluster of communities known as Gush Etzion, to be state land. This meant that new homes could be built for Jews. Or, in the reflexive common parlance: Israel was planning another illegal “settlement” on “Palestinian” land.

To the contrary. The Etzion bloc, located between Jerusalem and Hebron, currently comprises 18 communities with nearly 40,000 residents. Its modern origins are traceable to 1927, when Yemenite immigrants and ultra-Orthodox Jews established “Migdal Eder,” named after the biblical site (mentioned in Genesis 35:21) where Jacob pitched his tent after burying Rachel. Destroyed during the violent Arab riots of 1929, when the ancient Jewish community in nearby Hebron was also decimated, it was rebuilt between 1943 and 1947, only to be demolished yet again by marauding Arabs on the eve of Israel’s independence. More than 200 Jewish residents, who fought valiantly to the bitter end, were massacred. By Knesset decree, the day Gush Etzion fell became – and remains – the day of remembrance for Israeli soldiers killed in military action.

Following the Six-Day War, Hanan Porat, a child survivor of the Gush Etzion carnage, was determined to restore his vanquished community. Impelled by the politics of memory, he joined Rabbi Moshe Levinger and lawyer Elyakim Haetzni in urging “a Jewish vengeance of building, rebirth and return” in Hebron and Gush Etzion. Their resolute efforts were crowned with success. But in the eyes of the world (including myopic secular Israelis), the current Jewish inhabitants of these ancient Jewish communities are “settlers,” illegally occupying “Palestinian” land. In fact, like their ardent Zionist predecessors ever since the 19th century, they have returned to the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.

Predictable public furor erupted, outside and inside Israel, following the Civil Administration announcement. A State Department official declared “We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity.” Al-Jazeera condemned “the latest and largest in a series of land grabs.” Peace Now warned that it could “dramatically change the reality” in the area. “Most countries,” noted The New York Times in a familiar trope, “consider Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law.” Times of Israel blogger Marc Goldberg, accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of a land grab propelled by ulterior political motives, urged: “Forget the 1,000 acres, leave them for the Palestinians and enter into a new peace process with Mahmoud Abbas.”

The canard of settlement “illegality” should finally be put to rest. Despite the incessant claims of settlement critics, international law fails to support them. Article 80 of the United Nations Charter (known as the “Palestine clause”) preserved the right of the Jewish people to “close settlement” west of the Jordan River. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), frequently cited by settlement critics, declared that an “occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Promulgated in the wake of forced Nazi population transfers during World War II, it hardly applied to the decisions of individual Jews (“settlers”) to return to their ancient homeland. Nor did the government of Israel “deport” Palestinians from, nor “transfer” Israelis to, biblical Judea and Samaria (Jordan’s “West Bank”) after the Six-Day War.

Following that war, the carefully framed language of UN Security Council Resolution 242 only required Israel to withdraw from “territories” – not from “the territories” or “all the territories” – that it gained during the Arab war to destroy the Jewish state. The absence of “the” was not an oversight; it was meant to assure Israel that the 1949 “Green Line” boundaries had been obliterated. As Undersecretary of State Eugene V. Rostow subsequently wrote: “The right of Jewish settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing [Palestinian] population to live there.”

If that provides insufficient legal support for the recent Israeli Civil Administration ruling, it might be noticed that the Oslo II Accord, signed by Rabin and Arafat at the White House in 1995, divided the West Bank into three zones. In Area A, Palestinians have full control; in Area B, there is mixed Palestinian and Israeli security control (and exclusive Palestinian civil control); and in Area C, Israel retains full military and civil control (including the power to zone and plan for development).

 The territory generating the current international bruhaha is entirely within Area C, where Israel possesses every right under international law to develop, and – to use that despised word – “settle.” If not in the land between Hebron and Jerusalem, the capitals of ancient Israel, then where?

On Wednesday the Jerusalem Local Building and Planning Committee approved a large construction proposal for an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem with 2,200 homes. Israel’s settlement critics remain silent. Might there be a double-standard?

Exposing The New York Times’ Top Man in Gaza

New York Times readers have reason to wonder how Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren, its primary Gaza war reporter, has gained access to the Palestinian civilians whose tragic plight she has so incessantly recorded. Ms. Rudoren has acknowledged that she cannot speak Arabic, which inevitably raises questions about her access to the sources she cites.

The answers are entwined in the identity of the Times’ primary Gaza journalist, who only recently shared a by-line. Until then he was invariably described as having “contributed reporting” from Gaza. He is Fares Akram, described by Rudoren as “brave, committed, talented … indefatigable.” He may be all of these, but there is more to his story, and to Times coverage, than that. Indeed, living in north Gaza City, Akram’s life among Gazans, within the framework of his own family history in Gaza, have decisively molded – and distorted – Times coverage.

Akram is the grandson of Fares al-Ghoul, a Palestinian refugee from Ashkelon in 1948, whose son Akrem (Fares’s father), became a lawyer and judge employed by the Palestinian Authority. Fares Akram’s 48-year-old father was killed on his farm near the northern Gaza border during an Israeli air strike at the beginning of the 2009 Gaza war, launched to destroy Hamas rocket sites that were firing missiles into Israel.

His father, Fares Akram wrote mournfully five years ago, “hated what Hamas was doing to Gaza’s legal system, introducing Islamist justice, and he completely opposed violence.” Had he lived, “he would have worked hard for a just settlement with Israel and a better future for Palestinians.” But as “a grieving son,” Fares wrote, “I am finding it hard to distinguish between what the Israelis call terrorists and the Israeli pilots and tank crews who are invading Gaza.” He asked: “What is the difference between the pilot who blew my father to pieces and the militant who fires a small rocket?” The difference  was – and remains – that Hamas launched war against Israel. The distinction between attacker and responder still eludes Fares Akram.

His own political identity was expressed, and likely deepened, by his work as a research consultant, which began in 2007, with Human Rights Watch. He contributed to its sharp indictments of Israel for alleged war crimes during the Gaza war that resulted in his father’s death. His relationship with the organization continues. But Human Rights Watch is hardly a neutral observer or reporter. Financially sustained by the George Soros Open Society Foundation (Soros gained notoriety a decade ago for blaming anti-Semitism on Israel and the United States), it was sharply criticized for its delegitimization of Israel during Operation Cast Lead. Then as now, Israel was pilloried for retaliating against Hamas attacks from behind civilian shields.

The Times is not Akram’s only journalistic employer; he also reports for Al Jazeera. As Richard Behar wrote in his comprehensive Forbes article on “The Media Intifada” against Israel (August 21), Akram’s recent writings “show a stark blood-soaked landscape of burned Palestinian corpses and suffering Palestinian civilians – with not a single Hamas fighter to be found.” Reporting the devastation in Shujayea, with its intricate web of Hamas tunnels and underground command centers, Akram refrained from assigning any responsibility to the Gaza terrorists who instigated and perpetuate the current carnage from their concealed hiding places.

The problem, Akram revealed in a Times interview (August 6), is that “the story of Gaza is my story too.” He believes that he can set aside his own feelings “when necessary to maintain my fairness and rigor as a reporter.” But he acknowledges that “because of security concerns,” Hamas officials have “disappeared,” remaining unavailable “to respond to questions about whether their tactics are appropriate, effective or enjoy popular support.” Furthermore, Hamas militants “are Israel’s declared targets, so trying to get close to them endangers us.” To stay alive, he must keep his distance, focused exclusively on the plight of Gaza civilians amid Israeli responses to Hamas aggression. That is the only narrative its leaders permit.

The Times evidently believes that “all the news that’s fit to print” about Gaza can be provided by a partisan Gazan stringer who is handcuffed by Hamas. Akram’s tendentious lamentations should encourage reconsideration of its heavy reliance upon his reporting. It is otherwise impossible to understand why the death toll among Gazans (now just over 2000, including many hundreds of Hamas fighters) is endlessly reiterated in the Times while the mounting civilian death toll in Syria, approaching 200,000, is virtually ignored.

Postscript: On August 23, one week after the Times published a front-page interview with a Holocaust hero who now lacerates Israel for its racism at home and war crimes in Gaza, it printed a half-page ad signed by scores of Holocaust survivors and descendants. Expressing alarm at “the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society” and “the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people” in Gaza, they advocated “the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.”

In a twist of historical irony to which they were evidently oblivious the signers selected the most appropriate forum for their appalling anti-Zionist jeremiad. Had The New York Times not buried the Holocaust in its inner pages, whenever it even deigned to notice the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews, many victims whose memory these morally obtuse relatives claim to honor might have found safe refuge  in the nascent State of Israel that their misguided descendants now calumny so viciously.

Scanning the names of signers I felt a stab of shame by association to discover an Auerbach among them. Thankfully, there is no known family connection with this betrayer of his people and desecrator of our shared family name.

All the News That’s Fit to Castigate Israel

Jewish Press (August 13, 2014)

Arthur Hays Sulzberger, who succeeded his father-in-law Adolph S. Ochs as publisher of The New York Times in 1935, embraced Ochs’s determination that the Times would never appear to be a “Jewish newspaper.” It would publish “all the news that’s fit to print.” A month before Israel declared independence Sulzberger lamented: “JEW is to be the common denominator for everything we do. God help us!”

The Times remains faithful to Ochs-Sulzberger dogma. The unrelenting Hamas missile assault against Israel, punctuated by deadly tunnel invasions of Israeli territory, provoked a fierce – and eminently justified – Israeli air and ground response. It also triggered the repetitive Times story line of moral equivalency that equates Israeli retaliation with Hamas provocation.

The Gaza war afforded the Times a perfect opportunity to highlight Palestinian suffering from Israeli responses to Hamas assaults. The benefit to Hamas from using human shields to protect its command centers and rocket storage sites was evident: Israel would be blamed. As Prime Minister Netanyahu declared: “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using civilians to protect their missiles.” The Times carefully ignored that distinction.

Israel received little credit for warning Gaza civilians to evacuate neighborhoods where Hamas fighters sought refuge and rocket launchers were stored, often adjacent to – or inside – hospitals, mosques and schools. While a bevy of Times journalists reported from Gaza not one was posted in Sderot or kibbutzim in southern Israel, the constant target of Hamas rockets long before the current attacks began.

Neither combatant, the Times inaccurately reported (7/14), was prepared to “signal interest in international appeals for a cease-fire as they continued their barrages.”

In fact, Israel accepted the Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Hamas instantly rejected. Times reporter Anne Barnard reported (7/15) that Israel was to blame (so her Palestinian sources asserted) for its continued “occupation” of Gaza – which, Barnard failed to note, ended nearly a decade ago.

Times columnist Nicholas Kristof demonstrated his mastery of moral equivalency. It is “hard-liners on each side,” he wrote (7/16), “who are driving events.” To be sure, he conceded to Israel “a right to respond” to Gaza rockets – but only “with some proportionality” that he did not demand from Hamas, which launched rocket attacks unprovoked by anything other than Israel’s existence. Only a “minimalist response” from Israel to Hamas rocket attacks could end the conflict. He imposed no such constraints on Hamas.

The Times became so transfixed by Gaza suffering that even its photographers became partisan journalists. Tyler Hicks’s self-proclaimed responsibility “to document… the news” expanded to include editorial commentary. After photographing the tragedy of four young boys killed by an Israeli missile, he wrote (7/17): “Children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes … don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters.”

The Times refrained from exploring in any depth the location of Hamas missiles in civilian neighborhoods, in or near schools, hospitals and mosques, the better to trigger wrath against Israel for the civilian casualties that inevitably resulted from its retaliatory strikes. Indeed, it was revealed that United Nations Relief and Works Administration representatives discovered rockets stored in a Gaza school, only to turn them over to Hamas.

After enduring nearly two weeks of constant rocket assaults, the Israel Defense Forces spotted armed Hamas terrorists exiting a tunnel inside Israel to attack a nearby kibbutz. Israel then launched a ground assault into Gaza to destroy the tunnels. The Times response, co-written by Jerusalem Bureau chief Jodi Rudoren (7/18), predictably focused on the toll exacted on Palestinian civilians by Israeli retaliation for the Hamas invasion. Hamas responsibility for the suffering of its own people was ignored.

In a Times opinion column (7/17) Nathan Thrall claimed that Israel’s refusal to ease its “suffocating border closures” in Gaza, and its attempts to isolate the Hamas government internationally, forced Hamas into “seeking through violence” what it could not obtain otherwise. Two days later the lead Times editorial approvingly cited Thrall’s blame-Israel approach. Conceding that Israel could not be expected to tolerate bombardment, for which “Hamas leaders deserve condemnation,” it nonetheless emphasized that “innocent Palestinians are being killed and brutalized” – largely, to be sure, because Hamas aggression exposed them to danger. But military action, it advised, “is not a long-term solution.” Jodi Rudoren, evidently enthralled by Thrall, insisted that it was “somewhat dangerous” for Netanyahu to emphasize demilitarization of Hamas as the Israeli objective.

The Times continued to provide variations on the theme of moral equivalency. Asking “Who’s Right and Wrong in the Middle East,” Nicholas Kristof (7/20) began with “Israeli troops again invading Gaza” before moving to “cross-demonization” by “two peoples who each have plenty of right.” In the end, for Kristof, it is “a conflict between right and right.” Rejecting “equivalence,” he prefers “symmetry” – between Hamas terrorism and Israeli democracy.

In an opinion column (7/31) Timothy Egan blamed “extremists on both sides” for the war Hamas initiated. The Israeli response, not Hamas aggression, remained the centerpiece of moral equivalency in Times reporting, commentary and editorializing – and the difficulty a reader might encounter trying to distinguish one from the other.

As the Gaza war reached a crescendo of violence, moral equivalency shaded inexorably into palpable anti-Israel bias. In one lead story (7/21), Anne Barnard and Isabel Kershner skimmed quickly past the tunnels that transported Hamas fighters into Israeli territory in search of civilian and military targets. Barnard wrote poignantly about the plight of Gaza civilians without mentioning Hamas responsibility for launching the rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel that caused their hardship.

With the increasingly heavy toll of Hamas aggression on Gazans, civilian suffering – but not the Hamas rockets and terror tunnels that provoked it – became the virtually exclusive focus of Times coverage. It focused on the morgue in Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, not the Hamas command center below where its leaders took refuge. Its endlessly reiterated update on Gaza “civilian” deaths, provided by UNRWA, did not disclose how many were combatant-age males.

The Times’s barrage against Israel was encapsulated in an opinion essay by Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer (7/22). He succinctly described Gaza, where “nowhere is safe. Not a mosque. Not a church. Not a school, or even a hospital.” He did not say why: because Hamas rocket attacks from those locations provoked and sustained the conflict. Mentioning damaged and destroyed homes, he noted the impossibility of rebuilding because cement is “severely rationed” by Israel, which “suspects” that it is used to build tunnels for Hamas attacks. Only “suspects”?

Rudoren finally reported from Sderot (7/22), one mile west of Gaza, whose residents have been targeted by rockets ever since the total Israeli withdrawal nearly a decade ago. There she discovered Koby Hill, where middle-aged men (occasionally joined by women and children), seated on a sofa and beach chairs, contentedly munched watermelon and cheered the spectacle of the Israeli rocket “show.” (To be fair, that was a journalistic improvement over the CNN reporter whose Twitter post described the hilltop Israeli spectators as “scum.”)

Defending its Gaza coverage, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy responded to a sharp critique in The New York Observer (which I authored) by asserting that it “was written by someone with a particular point of view on the subject of Israel” – as though the Times itself has none. She airily dismissed critics “because they’re not interested in fair reporting” – disregarding the palpably slanted reporting in the Times.

Ms. Murphy ignored the glaring reality, documented by Noah Pollak in The Weekly Standard, that Times coverage all but ignored pictures of Hamas fighters, tunnels, rockets, and human shields. Virtually its only photos exposed the civilian casualties caused by Israeli retaliation for Hamas attacks. These are “balanced” by photos of Israeli tanks and soldiers. It is not difficult to discern who, according to the Times,are the aggressors.

Even its front-page headline “Israel Says Hamas is Using Civilians as Shields” (7/24) implied doubt about what could not be more obvious. Although Israel “says” so, Barnard and Rudoren wrote: “Nothing is ever so clear in the complex and often brutal calculus of urban warfare.” The Times reporters claimed “There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack — the legal definition of a human shield under international law.” False. The Geneva Conventions assert: “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”

“At the root of the dueling allegations,” they wrote, “are the two sides’ very different views.” The retreat to moral equivalency was blatant. It ignored the reality that justified the Israeli bombing of Al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City, which housed a Hamas military command-and-control center and access shafts to its tunnel network. The Israeli attack triggered damaging secondary explosions, suggesting a substantial arms cache beneath the hospital.

The death of Sergeant Max Steinberg, the Golani Brigade “lone soldier” who made aliyah from Los Angeles and was killed in battle fighting for his adopted homeland, reverberated throughout Israel, and in media outlets worldwide. In a remarkable outpouring of sorrow and respect, 30,000 Israelis attended his funeral at the Har Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. The Times, however, mentioned his name (7/24) only in the caption of a photograph taken far from the burial site showing nothing more than two dozen spectators and an Israeli flag. Given the Sulzberger legacy,an American Jew fighting and dying for Israel could only arouse primal anxiety at the Times over allegations of divided loyalty.

It took three weeks of rocket attacks before Times coverage displayed any sign of moderating the paper’s prevailing narrative of blaming Israel for responding to Hamas aggression. There was a discernible shift in its coverage (7/25) of terrible explosions at a UN school killing 16 Gaza civilians who had gathered there for safety. The page 1 story by Ben Hubbard, its young Cairo-based reporter, was distinctive for its refusal to fault Israel, noting “the source of the blasts was unclear.” Even the lead Times editorial conceded that Israel “has reason” to respond with “strong military action” against rocket attacks while Hamas deserved “the strongest possible condemnation” for locating weapons in densely populated areas.

But the Times quickly recovered its equilibrium. Editorial board member Serge Schmemann, hewing to Times dogma, proposed (7/27) the creation of “two separate states” as the “only solution,”with the United States as “the only viable mediator.” Rudoren, who had returned to Jerusalem, glibly described her underground tunnel “tour” as “part of the propaganda push” conducted by the IDF (7/29).

Only displaced Gaza civilian victims of Hamas warfare were deemed worthy of Times attention. Nearly four weeks into the fighting the Times still ignored the mass exodus from border kibbutzim as thousands of Israelis fled Hamas rockets for safety elsewhere. Nor had it mentioned Hamas responsibility for the deaths of scores of Gaza children who had died in “workplace accidents” while building its tunnels. It also ignored the rocket fired from the parking lot of Al-Shifa hospital, a war crime reported by a Finnish TV journalist despite Hamas warnings of retribution for such revelations. The booby-trapped UNRWA clinic whose explosion killed three Israeli soldiers was not mentioned. Similarly, only near the end of a lengthy Page 1 article (8/3) did Times reporters refer to five mosques concealing Hamas weapons attacked by Israel.

Barely one hour into the cease-fire announced by Secretary of State Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 31, Hamas suicide fighters killed three Israeli soldiers including 2d Lt. Hadar Goldin, initially believed to have been kidnapped. President Obama and Secretary Kerry – but not the Times – denounced that “outrageous” cease-fire violation. Rudoren and Kershner merely noted that “neither side” is ready to end the conflict until its goals are met (8/2). Columnist Roger Cohen (8/3) preposterously blamed “the open-air prison of Gaza” on Israel’s “failing to reach out to Palestinian moderates and extending settlements in the West Bank.” After all, “millions of Palestinians are oppressed” under “Israeli domination.” About Hamas oppression and domination in Gaza he remained silent.

One month after Hamas launched its war against Israel the Times spearheaded the media chorus of denunciation of the Jewish state. Two lengthy front-page articles (8/4) were devoted to Israeli damage to Gaza civilian sites and harm to their inhabitants. Buried near the end of one came the brief, but hardly irrelevant, aside: “Israel said that 55 rockets were fired from Gaza” the day before. But that was not a story line the Times cared to pursue.

On the first day of the first August cease-fire, the Times ran a poignant article about a traumatized Gaza psychologist and lengthy wartime diary extracts by a Gaza writer. By then, however, even the pretense of moral equivalency had vanished. There was no mention of Israelis, traumatized by incoming rockets and underground tunnels, who had fled their homes for safety. No interviews with Israeli psychologists treating terrified children were included.

But two weeks earlier, in its Sunday Travel Section (7/20), readers were invited to participate in a forthcoming “Times Journey through “the geographical, cultural, historical and political landscapes of Israel and the West Bank.” Its leader was identified as a “featured expert” – none other than Hanan Ashwari, a member of the PLO Executive Committee. So much for Times objectivity.

No careful reader of the Times could be surprised by the anti-Israel tilt of its reporting and editorializing. The newspaper that buried the Holocaust on its inside pages, whose publisher resolutely opposed Jewish statehood, and whose editors, reporters, columnists and op-ed contributors routinely engage in Israel-bashing, undermines Adolph Ochs’s commitment to “all the news that’s fit to print.”

Its current translation means all the news that fits its unrelenting castigation of Israel.