The Drip, Drip, Drip of Criticism and Hatred

Mark Gardner over at the CST blog.

In recent days, I have seen seven ostensibly different news stories and events that show the drip, drip, drip of criticism and hatred of Jews, Zionism and Israel.

Depressingly, there is nothing special whatsoever about these last few days. There have been no flood alerts, just the usual drip, drip drip of stories that you find in the Guardian, the Independent and any number of political websites. Nor is there anything special about the events, just more of the same drip, drip, drip of lobbying that you would find every month of the year.

Is the drip antisemitic? Is it anti-Zionist? Or is it anti-Israel? Is it fair criticism? Is it unfair criticism? Is it hateful? Is the hatred deserved?

Whatever the rights or wrongs of each solitary drip, together they leave us wading through a pool of anger, hatred, contempt, call it what you will.

It is up to you whether you feel the pool is ankle deep, waist high or reaching your nostrils. One thing is for sure, the waterline is still rising.

The last few days’ drips – more accurately, some of those that I’ve noticed – are as follows:

The opening paragraph of an article in the Guardian (5 July 2010) by its Washington columnist, Chris McGreal:

There are questions that rarely get asked in Washington. For years, the mantra that America’s intimate alliance with Israel was as good for the US as it was the Jewish state went largely unchallenged by politicians aware of the cost of anything but unwavering support.

The closing paragraph of a book review in the Guardian (3 July 2010) by one of its literary critics, Nicholas Lezard:

Well, I know what’s going to happen now. I and the blameless Review section of this newspaper will be denounced as either Hamas stooges, antisemites, or both. It would appear that unimpeachably impartial reporting from this miserable part of the world is a categorical impossibility. (I’ve seen pro-Israel websites which maintain that the residents of Gaza actually have it pretty peachy.) But whichever way you lean, this is a very important book indeed.

The obituary in the Independent (6 July 2010) of Abu Daoud, subtitled “Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1972 Olympic massacre”. Written by respected journalist, Adel Darwish, it includes this:

By 4:45am they had taken nine Israeli athletes hostage in their quarters after killing two who, they said, were armed secret agents (they were a weightlifter and a wrestling coach in the Israeli official version.)

The report in the Independent (6 July 2010) by Robert Fisk on his visit to Ketermaya in South Lebanon. Fisk’s report concentrates on the villagers’ lynching of an Egyptian murder suspect two months ago, but he reflects in passing:

The story in Ketermaya, a mixed Druze-Sunni village, is that way back in 1975, a Jewish couple who lived here – there was a tiny Jewish community in Lebanon at the time – were driven from their homes and that their son, an Israeli pilot, bombed the village in revenge during the Israeli invasion of 1982

By extraordinary chance, I was sitting on the hillside above Ketermaya in 1982 and saw the lone plane attack, repeatedly bombing the village on the morning of 7th June. There were no Palestinian fighters there – just civilians, of whom at least 50 were hiding in their homes – and they were all in their graves within 24 hours.

The reported words (2 July 2010) of Glasgow City Councillor Colin Deans, chairman of the Scrutiny Commission:

Build ever higher walls and appropriate ever more land and one day the Holocaust card will buy no more friendship or support. Then where will Israel be?

The hosting on 14 July 2010 at the Quakers’ Friends House, Euston, London of a symposium of 9/11 conspiracy theorists that will feature:

four of the most outspoken and eloquent challengers to the Zio-American imperial order that has emerged post-September 11th.

The hosting on 18 July 2010 by the same Quakers’ Friends House, Euston, London of a worldwide conference of the Hizb ut Tahrir group that only last month stated:

O Muslim Armies! Teach the Jews a lesson after which they will need no further lessons

March forth to fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth

Where to begin with all of this?

Is McGreal right, does anything short of unwavering support for Israel carry the kind of cost that he implies? If so, who or what is the power that lies behind such enforcement? Are they Jews? Are they Zionists? Are they Israelis? Is it a conspiracy, or is it just how those things have ended up? What are Guardian readers to make of such hidden power?

What about Lezard? He makes some criticisms of Israel in a review of a book that is critical of Israeli policy. For this, he and his colleagues will be set upon as backers of terrorism and antisemitism. What are Guardian readers to make of these slanderers? These Jews? – or perhaps they are Zionists? – or perhaps they are something else?

What about those armed Israeli secret agents, whom the “Palestinian terrorist’s”henchmen had to…err…kill in self-defence? What are Independent readers to make of a nation so cunning that it would disguise its secret agents as Olympic athletes? Masters of planning and disguise, eh.

Then again, what about those Jews who have the bloodlust of revenge: the bloodlust that would cause them (in their new Israeli identity) to disobey their squadron commander’s orders and veer off to kill 50 villagers in a one man revenge attack. What are Independent readers to make of such Jews and such Israelis?

And how about the playing of “the Holocaust card?” When will those who play that card realise that its fast running out? When will they realise that relations between Jews and non-Jews will return to pre-Holocaust standards unless Israel, the Jewish state, does what its enemies demand of it? The good citizens of Glasgow can now thank their Scrutiny Commissioner for slipping them off the Holocaust hook.

And what about Quakers’ Friends House, Euston, London? Where is the friendship in allowing these events to take place? The first will proclaim “Zio-American imperial order” responsibility for 9-11 and the subsequent “War on Terror”. And who are we to giggle and point fingers at their lunacy? Given what you can read in the Guardian and Independent about unspecified power; fake terrorist accusations; masters of disguise; and bloodthirsty avengers, why exactly wouldn’t the “Zio-American imperial order” be behind such events?

And as for Quakers hosting Hizb ut Tahrir who want Muslims to “March forth to fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth”, well, given what we’ve read above, hand on heart, who can really blame them? Wouldn’t they be doing the earth a favour?

And what’s that, “eradicate…purify…filth”…Holocaust you say. Oh shut up, we knew you’d call it antisemitic and we knew you’d end up playing that bloody Holocaust card.

35 Responses to “The Drip, Drip, Drip of Criticism and Hatred”

  1. mattpryor Says:

    Just discovered your organisation via the Jewish Chronicle. I just wanted to send you a message of support and encouragement, I am not Jewish but am appalled by the increase in anti-Semitic sentiments of late in the UK and particularly within the Green Party.

    Good luck fighting the good fight.

  2. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    @ Matt: Found your comment, you are in the right place and Mira can contact you about ‘Greens Engage’ for information or join, which ever you prefer.

    @ Mark: Very cogent; I wish I could bring ideas together like this. No venom, no vitriol; more like a mirror.

  3. Mark G Says:

    @ Isca – thank you for your kindness.

    I try desperately hard not to be too vitriolic and usually end up failing miserably!

  4. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Great post, thanks Mark

  5. Israeli professors: academic freedom includes freedom to self-boycott « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

    […] of the petition are fighting not for the right to boycott, but against the intrusion of an unsurprisingly defensive government into what is said and considered on campus, and for the right, when one […]

  6. Joshua Says:

    It appears that Councillor Colin Deans doesn’t just hate the “Zionists”:

    “If all the irish and those descended or related were to support independence here (as none in Eire would relinquish) we would no longer be a colony retained for our oil, gas, water, land and cannon fodder in times of conflicts!” — Councillor Colin Deans

  7. Philip Says:

    I would say that by grouping these disparate incidents together, this basically contravenes everything that Engage says it stands for. Are we really to believe that there is no difference between idiotic extremists like Hizb ut-Tahrir and respected journalists like Fisk and McGreal?

    Engage professes to welcome legitimate criticism of Israel. Grouping these together seems suspiciously like trying to tarnish such criticism by overtly linking them to extremists.

  8. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    Maybe this ‘grouping’ together is something ‘Engage’ needs to be mindful of, especially as you saw it that way.
    I didn’t read it that way, I read it as the title says ‘drip drip’; as examples from disparate areas, but not as equivalents in their extremities.
    It’s always the trouble with written communication; all caveats cannot be expressed.

    • Philip Says:

      Isca, thanks very much for your response.

      If there’s been a mis-communication between me reading and the post being written, then fair enough. You’re absolutely right that the written word can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. I guess that’s something I would need to be careful in my own reading / writing as well as, as you say, Engage in terms of what gets posted.

      I suppose that I read the comments, particularly about Fisk and his supposed belief in Jewish ‘bloodlust,’ as being something of a link. After all, why interpret it that way rather than an observation of a ‘crime against humanity’? But I suppose my point over all is that a negative general opinion of Israel’s foreign and civil rights policies (which Fisk and McGreal try to point out) is probably fair enough, whereas anti-semitism certainly isn’t. Grouping them slightly blurs this distinction.

  9. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “I would say that by grouping these disparate incidents together, this basically contravenes everything that Engage says it stands for. Are we really to believe that there is no difference between idiotic extremists like Hizb ut-Tahrir and respected journalists like Fisk and McGreal?”

    Philip, nowhere does Mark Gardner say that these are moral (or factual) equivalents. As Isca Stieglitz notes, he is writing about the steady accumulation of anti-Israel and antisemitic events that add up to a thoroughly nasty atmosphere and threaten to make antisemitism an everyday taken-for-granted. Hizb ut-Tahir is plainly antisemitic, while it is unlikely that any sane critic would put either Fisk or McGreal in the same category. This is not to say that the latter two (like Nicholas Lezard elsewhere in these pages) do not employ the Livingstone Formulation to try and deflect genuine criticism and debate on their writings on the Middle East. Fisk has, after all, given his name, if involuntarily, to a mode of deconstruction.

    And you have had the Livingstone Formulation explained to you in painstaking detail by a number of people, so don’t pretend you don’t know what it means.

    To directly answer the point you make in the quoted sentences above, and to repeat what has been said numerous times before to you, this website was established, initially, to fight antisemitism in UK academic circles and the boycott on Israeli and only Israeli universities and academics. Just like any organisation established to operate in the field of ideas, this will inevitably take in much more than the narrow definition you wish to strangle this website with.

    If you don’t understand this (as opposed to playing what you think are “clever” games with us and our minds – and by noting this, we thus see through you), then you really do need to read “About us” up there on the left-hand side of each and every page of this site, the Euston Manifesto and these columns more carefully. Possibly, you might also need to read very widely in political science as well as all sorts of other social science disciplines.

    Frankly, by failing to respond to the direct points made to you, you show your inability to understand what an academic and intellectual debate/discussion involves. Try doing so. You’ll be surprised how productive that can be.

    • Philip Says:

      My previous comment to you appears to have got lost in cyberspace.

      Which ‘direct points’ have I not responded to?

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “Which ‘direct points’ have I not responded to?”

        I can’t believe that this is a serious question from Philip.

        Just look at the comments threads attached to “Naomi Chazan: ‘Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul’ ” (June 24) and “Editors – putting the independent back into indie” (June 10).

        Either Philip takes us collectively as idiots with exceptional short-term memory problems, or he has serious problems with his memory. That or he is hoping that none of us take it for granted that one’s persona flows from comments thread to comments thread.

        • Philip Says:

          If there are questions on either of those threads that I have not answered, or points to which I have not responded (and not as a result of having been instructed by the moderator not to pursue a particular line of discussion), then please list them for me. I will be very happy to respond.

          Please don’t continue to _assert_ that I haven’t responded to them without providing _evidence_.

  10. Mark Gardner Says:

    Thank you Brian G – I was just about to write that (or something very similar!) to Philip.

    One of the many reasons why I really value Engage is that it has an unusually excellent level of comments chatter considering the subject matter. (Try CiF for comparison!)

    That is why I was disappointed that Philip seemed to have ignored my effrots to specify that something doesn’t need to be illegitimate or antisemitic in order to make its own negative contribution to what I referred to as “a pool of anger, hatred, contempt, call it what you will.”

    Similarly, I’ve often used the term “chill factor” to explain what’s going on – and there also, regardless of the legitimacy or pigeon-holing of the specific article or event, you get an accumulative effect. With that anology, of course, it would be “deepening the chill” or “lowering the temperature further” etc.

    These may be clumsy anlagoies, but for me they help to explain the problem as I (and I think many others) actually feel it to be.

    • Philip Says:

      And therein lies the problem. By putting legitimate criticism into a ‘pool of anger, hatred, contempt,’ as opposed to a ‘pool of legitimate criticism,’ not only are you verging on libeling people like Fisk (not, I’m sure, that he’s going to pick you up on it, since he probably has other things on his mind) but also you try to invalidate criticism of Israel through foul means. After all, if my claim that snipers picking off children for fun, like Iman al-Hams is to be put into your pool of anti-semitism and filth, what will be the effect on my likelihood to make such a claim?

      • Jonathan Romer Says:

        Fisk writes so eloquently and with such nuance about the Palestinians and the Lebanese, and is so alive to the paradoxes and contradictions of both peoples. His historical memory is so encyclopaedic he can work in a reference — in a story about a Lebanese lynching of an Egyptian in 2010 — to an obscure Israeli bombing 35 years previously, and his devotion to his work is so complete that he even witnessed the bombing. And yet, another hallmark of his writing is his complete indifference to the paradoxes, complications and necessities of the Jews of the Middle East, whether Israeli or other. Whilst he can tell you all about the victims of that 1975 bombing, and even knows the identity of the pilot who perpetrated it and his motive, there’s no hint of why that man’s Lebanese Jewish parents were expelled from their “kind little hamlet” which had “no Palestinian fighters” at the very start of the Lebanese civil war — 7 years before Israeli troops set foot in the country — or what the significance of that fact might be. He can be acknowledge that it was Lebanese that committed the Sabra and Shatilla massacres, but he has no time to think about them: He needs to tell you about the Israelis who permitted it. He knows that Haj Amin al Husseini collaborated with the Nazis, but it’s not significant to him: What’s really important is that Israel is exploiting Husseini to make anti-Palestinian propaganda.

        Fisk depicts the Lebanese and the Palestinians with an eye for light and shade that a Rembrandt would envy. He draws his Jews in crayon. That’s not “legitimate criticism”. “Anger and contempt” is a perfectly fair description of Fisk’s attitude to Israel, Israelis, Jews and Zionists. I doubt he is antisemitic in intent — but what do you suppose his effect is?

        • Philip Says:

          Based on the article cited above only, the only question here is: is it legitimate or not for a journalist to point out a war crime which he has witnessed? I really hope you’ll say ‘legitimate’.

          More broadly, it’s a discussion of Fisk’s work. Fisk has a lot of faults, but I disagree that he has only ‘anger and contempt’ towards Israel, Israelis, Jews and Zionists. Certainly he is extremely critical of Israel, the IDF and Zionists, but you go too far when you extend this to Jews and all Israelis, and this is exactly the point I have been trying to make.

          If indeed, he were to be making angry and contemptuous comments about Jews and all Israelis, then you’re right that the effect of this would be rather nasty (though I suspect he’d lose his job and become something of a laughing stock) but I really don’t think that’s the case. I would imagine that it’s probably going off on too much of a tangent to discuss this fully here, though.

        • Jonathan Romer Says:

          I see no reason to be restricted only to the one article of Fisk’s. This thread is about the constant attrition of malice and bias that accompanies reporting of Israel, and Fisk is a prolific exponent of that. But to focus on the quoted article for now, Fisk does what he does so well and so often: He takes a contemporary story that has no relevant Israeli angle, and he creates one out of a 35 year old incident (one which, if a Google search is any guide, he was the only witness to and the only one ever to report).

          Here’s another way he could have written that story: The hamlet of Ketermaya is not as peaceful as it seems. Years ago, these kindly villagers rose up against outsiders and drove them from the village. Though these “outsiders” were Lebanese and Ketermayans, they were also Jews, and that mattered more. Now, 35 years later, they have savagely lynched another outsider, this time an Egyptian. You’ll never read that from Fisk.

          Fisk’s anti-Israel writing is not just criticism. He’s not a neutral observer who reports everything and lets the chips fall where they may — he advocates the view that journalists can’t and shouldn’t be impartial, and he’s open in his opinion that Israel is the guilty party, from the moment and fact of its creation. In Fisk’s writing, Lebanese brutality to Palestinians and vice versa is tragedy; Israeli violence — any kind, for any reason — against Palestinians is crime; and Palestinian violence against Israel gets no attention. In other words, Fisk is a walking paradigm of the “drip, drip, drip”.

          By the way, your own reference to the “sniper” that killed Iman al-Hams is an embellishment: Not every rifleman in a watchtower is a sniper, and that word is used to create an image of extra viciousness — someone who sees everything, watches and waits and picks his time. The claim that she or anyone else was “picked off for fun” is a baseless slur unless you can substantiate it. And in the context of your comment, both are conflations of individual actions and governmental policy. Is that your idea of legitimate criticism?

        • Philip Says:

          In general, if you want to analyse Fisk’s attitude to something, I agree that you would look at their entire output. It’s just that for the situation we were discussing, I think it’s more relevant to simply address whether what he wrote this time is fair cop or not.

          I agree that what someone writes will be affected by what they leave out, though more importantly it’s affected by what they’ve seen, which will never be eevrything. They simply have to try to give the best possible understanding of what are ‘the facts’ as they can.

          Just because Fisk thinks that Israel has been mostly to blame for the trouble in the region, doesn’t mean that he ‘hates’ Israel. That’s just his reading of the evidence. And it’s not entirely out of the realms of possibility that he’s right, though I can see that to say Israel is ‘entirely’ to blame would be plain wrong.

          With regard to the whole story, I think it’s fair, in a profile of a small village in central Lebanon, for Fisk to recount it’s whole history, and especially the history that he himself has been witness too, tragic as it is. I think it’s perfectly relevant.

          Finally, you’re right to pick me up on my use of ‘fun’ and ‘sniper’. Though I do think the murder was cold-blooded and calculated, both those terms were unfair.

        • Jonathan Romer Says:

          “The situation we were discussing” is the chronic drip, drip drip of stories that you find in the Guardian, the Independent and any number of political websites. As Mark Gardner said, there was nothing special about the particular stories he chose, and that makes Fisk’s body of work precisely relevant here.

          I have not written that Fisk hates anyone; neither has Mark Gardner. It is enough, for the purposes of Mark’s post, to point out that Fisk, and the other’s named with him, are prejudiced, that they give free reign to their prejudice in their writing, and that the effect is to nourish the bias and hatred that surround Israel. The notion that Fisk is presenting the “whole history” of Ketermaya is so silly that it’s hard to believe you thought about those words as you wrote them. I have already pointed out that there’s not a word about why those Jews were expelled from the village. It’s a subject that holds no interest for Fisk, and ignoring it troubles his conscience not at all. You can’t claim that Fisk is simply reporting the whole story, or even as much of the story as he knows, because you only know what he chose to tell you — and Fisk has already declared that he is an advocacy journalist, a partisan.

          And that brings us back to Mark’s point, that partisan journalists feed a steady stream of biased stories to an increasingly receptive public, with the predictable result that it is increasingly impossible for Israel to get a fair hearing. Why should that be a controversial claim? It’s Fisk’s intention not to be impartial, but to lead opinion. That’s what advocacy journalism is for.

        • Philip Says:

          Easy though it is to accuse someone like Fisk of prejudice, I think you should probably retract that statement. I have to confess that I used to have little respect for Fisk, but then I moved to the Middle East and discovered that he is a hugely knowledgeable and vastly experienced journalist, with a keen concern for human beings. His ego is something of a problem, but no one is perfect.

          Back to the subject at hand, do you expect a journalist, very time they write about any topic involving Israel, that they should give a quick history of the state of Israel and the Zionist movement? He is obviously not going to do so. He is giving background on a village which has been troubled by violence for a long time. One sentence about Jews being driven out. Another about an Israeli atrocity that
          he witnessed, with a little more detail precisely because he is able to give it, having been a witness. Nothing at all wrong in this.

          But I’m also at a loss as to why it’s so important for you that Fisk mention ‘why’ Jews were expelled from the village. Aside from the fact that it’s hardly going to be all that controversial an answer, I trust you don’t think it has any bearing on the judgment we might draw about the alleged crimes of this Israeli pilot?

  11. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, you’re the one calling it “legitimate criticism”, not us, and it is noticeable that you merely assert this (and you keep doing asserting on all sorts of issues). If you are so sure that it is legitimate criticism, then please produce evidence that it is. This you have failed to do, constantly.

    If you prefer, here’s a direct question: what evidence do you have that what you call legitimate criticism (as cited by Mark Gardner in the article to which this comments thread is attached) is, indeed, legitimate? There, that shouldn’t be too hard for you to answer.

    As for trying to scare anyone by telling them that they are “verging on libeling people like Fisk”, this is arrant nonsense. You clearly haven’t been keeping up with the developments in libel law in the UK (go and log onto libellawreform), or the failed efforts of others, more fearsome than you, to scare off those who comment here.

    Further, you also fail to keep up with the news. You repeat this canard: “if my claim that snipers picking off children for fun, like Iman al-Hams…” You fail to notice that a French reporter pursued this story (unsupported by his employer) and, in the end, discovered what he suspected all along (and what the IDF, after investigation, claimed): that the fatal bullet came from the wrong direction. There was no way that the fatal bullet could have come from an IDF soldier, sniper, or whoever. He even won damages for _his_ story.

    Be careful in repeating your original claim: many might start to suspect _your_ motives as a disinterested commenter.

    • Philip Says:

      I believe it was Mark G who raised the possibility that it could be ‘fair criticism’. However, as usual, you are demanding ‘evidence’ for my expressions of opinions, when you don’t do the same for your own. This is called double standards.

      I would have thought that when a reporter witnesses a war crime and then reports it, a vast majority of people would think to do so is legitimate. Unless, of course, they believe he is lying, but that’s a different matter. As I understood it no one was saying he was lying.

      My comment about libel was tongue in cheek. I think everyone but you read it as such.

      Can you document this claim about Captain R? I read French, so please send me a link.

  12. Mark G Says:

    Philip, I’m only trying to find relatively simple ways of illustrating how all of this feels re. antisemitism to those who are sensitive to it – either on the receiving end, or the giving end.

    The fact that it doesn’t neatly fit academic, legal or philosophical categories is indeed a large part of the problem, but that’s the reality as it stands.

    What particularly upsets me is that so many on the liberal-left (and I’m not assuming you to belong to that or any other political pigeon hole) think that when Jews express their concerns that we’re primarily doing so in order to shield Israel from criticism: rather than simply expressing how we honestly feel.

    Such an attitude not only splits the struggle against antisemitism from the anti-racist camp – but actually causes Jews to be unfairly regarded by that camp as being agents of (evil) Israel. I consider it to be a (largely inadvertent) antisemitic consequence of the current anti-Israel climate.

    Many people, Jewish and non-Jewish are sensitive to the importance of antisemitic motifs and their role historically and today. I think they / I have every good reason to be like this – and far more so than the supposedly anti-racist camp does for its refusal to seriously contemplate (from nearly every level and angle) the linkage between hating Jews yesterday and hating the Jewish state today.

    In good faith, Mark.

    • Philip Says:

      Mark, I very much appreciate your comment, which is sincere and gentle. Too often arguments become bad-tempered and aggressive, and get out of hand.

      I take your arguments, and I understand where you’re coming from. Indeed there are people for whom anti-semitism sits perfectly comfortably with, and is indeed a factor in, their dislike of Israel.

      But in plenty of other cases, most, this just isn’t the case. In fact, I don’t criticise Israel because I’m anti-semitic (I understand you’re not accusing of it, by the way!) or because I dislike or hate the country. Actually, I really don’t. I criticise Israel because there are aspects of the government’s foreign and civil rights policies, and some prevailing attitudes there, which I find highly disturbing. Nor is Israel the only place about which I would have such, or similar, concerns.

      So, to come back from my digression, what I was trying to say is that grouping incidents this way leads to misunderstanding. And I believe it also harms the goal of thwarting anti-semitism, because it almost makes people immune to such criticisms, if they become associated with cases that are plainly wrong. Moreover, by mixing anti-semitism with legitimate criticism, you actually add ammunition to those who say you’re primarily expressing your concerns to shield Israel from criticism.

      It’s not an exercise in academic pedantry, but a desire to make sure that open discussion can happen in a proper framework.

      Also in good faith, Philip

  13. Mark G Says:

    Philip – thanks, I’m glad we’ve come to a good natured understanding of each other’s perspectives. I do appreciate what you say about how my comment can be taken, and how that could be counter-productive. (But don’t take that as a concession!!) 😉

  14. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip: ” However, as usual, you are demanding ‘evidence’ for my expressions of opinions, when you don’t do the same for your own. This is called double standards.”

    You call something “legitimate criticism” and fail to provide evidence for that. _Again_ you avoid answering direct questions directly, or even indirectly. Now give actual examples of where I have failed to do the same. And opinions are, by definition, not evidence, they are only opinions. You cannot claim (unqualified) that something is a legitimate criticism and then hide behind this being an opinion. All you can do is say you agree with the comment/view. Your opinion doesn’t make it “legitimate”, only evidence does.

    “I would have thought that when a reporter witnesses a war crime and then reports it, a vast majority of people would think to do so is legitimate.” Please see Jonathan Romer’s comment, posted above yours, but written later (ie, after you wrote yours from which this quote is taken). In plain English, Jonathan says that there is no evidence other than Fisk’s word (not even from the villagers themselves) that this bombing raid occurred. What is your evidence: again your opinion that Fisk is right is not evidence.

    “My comment about libel was tongue in cheek. I think everyone but you read it as such.” Really? Funny sense of humour you’ve got, Philip, joking about threats of libel. I see no signs of anyone (everyone) else seeing it as a joke, especially as I got my comment in first. I would have thought that you’d have better things to do, like respond to direct questions and also to the implied but indirect questions.

    “Can you document this claim about Captain R? I read French, so please send me a link.” Just in case we’re talking about different incidents (and I suspect we are), who is Captain R? First time I’ve seen this reference on this thread.

    And yet again, you fail to respond to a direct question, preferring to discuss side issues and complain about other people. So, here again is the direct question I asked you on July 15 at 2.05 am: “what evidence do you have that what you call legitimate criticism (as cited by Mark Gardner in the article to which this comments thread is attached) is, indeed, legitimate?” You’ve posted comments in the intervening period, and responded to other parts of that comment, so how about a direct reply to a direct question, instead of obfuscation?

    • Philip Says:

      I think you misunderstand the nature of the presumption of innocence. Actually, we simply presume that comments are legitimate are so, unless there is something that can show it is not so.

      However, just to indulge you, the reason why I think it is legitimate is because he is reporting something that can only be described as a crime, and because reporting crimes is a ‘good thing’ to do. Now, that doesn’t mean the case for the prosecution is closed – you would also need corroborating evidence. But that isn’t the point. But Fisk’s testimony is in and of itself evidence. It’s entirely legitimate for him to give it.

      Now, he might be mistaken or he might be lying. Both are possibilities. But I don’t think anyone has so far made that kind of suggestion. And if they did, the onus would be on them to show it, not the other way round.

  15. Jonathan Romer Says:


    I didn’t say that Fisk’s Ketermaya incident never occurred, because I don’t know that. I know only that (unusually for any supposed Israeli atrocity) it is as far as I can tell completely absent from the online record until Fisk’s recent story. But that may only be because 1982 was the pre-internet Dark Ages, or for some other valid reason. It does at least suggests that no one, not even Fisk, attached much importance to it until he saw this opportunity to take it to the bank, but my main point was this: Journalism is all about selectivity — which stories to report and which not; what angle to work a story from; what aspects to play up, or play down, or leave out altogether; who to quote and who not to, etc. The alleged 1982 bombing was an optional extra in Fisk’s story, not anything central to it. Therefore it was something he made a deliberate choice to include, and he made another deliberate choice about how to include it. Especially given his unconcealed antipathy to Israel, I can see no reason for his choices except as a gratuitous swipe, another drip from the sewer that has to foul the country an its people at every opportunity — proof of Mark Gardner’s thesis.

    On the subject of Iman al-Hams and Captain R, I’m afraid you may have got yourself confused. Judging by what you wrote, I think you’re thinking of the example about the short life and fabulously useful death of Muhammad al-Dura. Iman al-Hams was a completely different case and, if the mainstream media reports are accurate and complete, was a true atrocity followed by a miscarriage of justice. Such things can happen, even in Israel. Then again, I don’t like second-guessing the decisions of decent court systems and the operative word in the previous sentence was “if”. I no longer take the MSM’s word as gospel on anything, least of all on anything to do with Israel.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Jonathan, re Fisk, “it is as far as I can tell completely absent from the online record until Fisk’s recent story.”

      I thought that that was what I was saying to Philip. Apologies for any misunderstanding and miswording on my part. Further, I do appear to have confused my cases. Given the way the ME is reported by unfriendly journos, this is, perhaps, less surprising than it should be.

      However, I acknowledge that I am wrong in this case.

    • Jonathan Romer Says:

      Sorry Brian — I think I overreacted. After I sent my post I re-read yours, and understood you better. On first reading, I thought you were attributing to me a stronger assertion, that Fisk was lying.

  16. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    You make two comments at the start, more or less, of your latest comment to me: “I think you misunderstand the nature of the presumption of innocence.” and “”However, just to indulge you…”. These comments patronise me, Philip. Please stop doing so: it hardly advances the debate/discussion that is supposed to be going on. Furthermore, it’s rude.

    You go on to say that: “Actually, we simply presume that comments are legitimate are so, unless there is something that can show it is not so.” I don’t think that this is a valid assumption about the intellectual process, especially if there is a debate about the meaning of those comments. I prefer to wait for evidence (if it is not immediately available) before I make public statements that assume the truth of comments from _any_ source.

    You then go on to repeat your earlier assertions about Fisk’s work by saying that: “the reason why I think [Fisk’s claim re the bombing] is legitimate is because [Fisk] is reporting something that can only be described as a crime, and because reporting crimes is a ‘good thing’ to do.”

    We can all agree that reporting crimes is a good thing (just like we’re all against sin), but how do you _know_ that a crime has been committed? Just because Fisk says it has doesn’t mean that it _actually_ has. Evidence is required and all we have is his unsupported word and your acceptance of his word because it supports your apparent weltanschaung that Israel is a committer of human rights abuses. Jonathan Romer has already noted that he is unable to find any corroborating evidence, despite his extensive search for it.

    Then we have this: “you would also need corroborating evidence. But that isn’t the point. But Fisk’s testimony is in and of itself evidence. It’s entirely legitimate for him to give it.” I’m sorry, but that is EXACTLY the point and the very point that is missing from his and your assertions. Fisk’s testimony is, without supporting evidence, far from evidence, it is merely assertion. Also, this is a circular argument: we either need corroborating evidence _or_ Fisk’s ‘testimony’ is in and of itself evidence (if very weak evidence). One or the other, not both.

    There is a famous example from the Washington Post over the Watergate Affair, in which the key reporters failed to obtain sufficient supporting evidence and were, for a while, discredited, even though they were, over time, vindicated. You and Fisk haven’t, yet, been vindicated by supporting evidence. Perhaps there isn’t any supporting evidence, or, if there is, neither of you have yet found it.

    Once again, as every time you’ve been asked, you have failed to provide evidence, and you merely repeat yourself, saying, in effect, because a respected reporter says so, it must be so.

    Whether we like it or not, this doesn’t make it either evidence or truth. It is merely assertion by Fisk, by you and by whoever else repeats it. Once again, you need to provide evidence, rather than assertion.

    • Philip Says:

      What Fisk is doing is providing testimony. This is in and of itself evidence. In a court of law, a witness is questioned in order that they can provide testimony about they have seen, heard or know. This entered into the record as evidence. As I said in my previous comment, this is not likely to be enough to secure a conviction in the absence of corroboration, but it is most certainly evidence. And just because a quick Google search by Jonathan Romer does not throw up a million websites, does not mean it’s wrong.

      Now, I realise that you probably don’t believe Fisk, which is why you put so little faith in his testimony, and because you like to believe that one of the great crusaders for human rights in the Middle East is actually just a biased peddler of half- and mis-truths. That is a pity.

      Nevertheless, to address (again) your point, I am not nor have I ever said that Fisk’s account of Ketermaya 1982 is enough to convict anyone of anything. All I’m saying is that it is entirely legitimate for him to air his testimony, and does not constitute a hate crime against Israel, Jews or anyone else.

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