The Boys Who Cried the Boy Who Cried anti-Semitism

Cross posted from A. Jay Adler’s blog, the sad red earth.

One of the salient features of the evolving massively networked media environment is the readier production than ever before of manufactured realities. Enough people simply assert something to be true, enough people virally lift the assertion across the MNM and write about it as true, and the idea takes almost unshakeable hold in the minds of a sufficient number of people so that the manufactured reality is now a feature of reality itself – a contention, a belief that clings to circumstance and becomes a part of it. No situation in the world produces more of this than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, as an example, Paul Krugman, in an almost classic apophasis extended over three very brief paragraphs, managed, while pretending not to address the conflict – “But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect…” – to invoke as many as three of these manufactured realities. The first, announced in the title of his column, is that there is a crisis in Zionism. It has been said by some that if there is a crisis in Zionism, it is, in fact, a crisis in liberal Zionism, not Zionism per se. It might also be characterized that if there is any kind of crisis in Zionism, it is a crisis produced by those declaring that there is a crisis in Zionism. Said the man with the gun in his hand, “Don’t you understand – this is a life or death situation!” Well, if you say so.

But such perceptions, or their contrary, may merely be a matter of temperament.Okay, you deal with the crisis. I’m going fishing. Or, okayyou deal with the crisis – I’ll go deal with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.

Next, while Krugman was feigning apophasistically (oh, I like that) not to address the crisis of Zionism in a column he titled “The Crisis of Zionism,” he also claimed of Israel that

the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide

and that

to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups…..

This is a pretty common – hell, this is a constant complaint of critics of Israeli policy: that they criticize Israel, quite dramatically and severely in many instances, and that – oh, my God – they get criticized quite dramatically and severely back. What the hell is going on around here?

This sentiment was echoed in an “open-letter” of encouragement to Krugman from that very sensitive dear, Jeremy Ben-Ami, who declared,

As the President of J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby, I am followed closely by my own personal buzzsaw.

The last time Ben-Ami supped with Barack Obama and George W. Bush he was heard to cry out, “You guys just have no idea.”

In the face of this brutal rhetorical assault, the likes of which has not been seen since way back during the pre-modern days of the last Rick Santorum anti-Obama ad, Krugman felt compelled – even though he really didn’t want to talk about all this stuff – to proclaim Peter Beinart “brave,” and Beinart’s book, titled, wouldn’t you know, The Crisis of Zionism, a “brave book.”

It is near impossible to measure the magnitude of the courage it takes to stake out a position on Israel basically that of the editorial board of the New York Times and of nearly every one of the regular international columnists of that paper. From Mearsheimer and Walt to Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Charles Freeman, Norman Finkelstein, Gunter Grass, Haaretz, the Guardian, many of England’s major unions, many scores or more of left campus organizations, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the World Council of Churches – may I stop now? It’s a lonely world out there. It’s a no man’s land, brother. The courage, the courage.

And what they suffer once they speak out – what they suffer.

What do they suffer?

Other people disagree with them. Vehemently. Why?

Says Beinart of Israel, it is

an entity of dubious democratic legitimacy

that is

sweeping the two-state solution into history’s dustbin.


we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel

for it is guilty of

systematic oppression.

Beinart had previously written,

Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral


 in Israel today, this humane, universalistic Zionism does not wield power. To the contrary, it is gasping for air.

And get this:

Hebrew University Professor Ze’ev Sternhell is an expert on fascism and a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize. Commenting on Lieberman and the leaders of Shas in a recent Op-Ed in Haaretz, he wrote, “The last time politicians holding views similar to theirs were in power in post–World War II Western Europe was in Franco’s Spain.”

I think I’ll stop there. My aim here is not to argue any of these claims. My aim is to call attention to their nature. Their severity is hard to surpass without criminal accusation – hardly unusual against Israel in these confused times – and some of them even imply it. Yet these critics, such as Beinart and almost all like him, and now from behind a rhetorical device, Paul Krugman, take umbrage, cry foul, that people who feel and think just as deeply as they, but against their positions, argue back at them with just as great severity. Followed the contention between American Democrats and Republicans lately – from the Affordable Health Care Act to gun rights to contraception to who’s a card-carrying communist to who’s a war criminal? Strong views, strong language.

Maybe it should be different, but it’s all around us. For me to be called “shoeshine boy for Hitchens” is a penny found on the street. “Jew hack” is stronger stuff. And though readers who even recall might think that after this, this prime specimen had burrowed back into a wall post, I’ve spared him the attention of letting readers know that he occasionally likes to write and try to post comments calling meJudenrat. Worth knowing about him, more – for there’s a point in it – is that his was the voice that narrated The Goldstone Report video along with Ken Loach and Arundhati Roy. That is how it mixes together in the cauldron of Jewish modernity.

What contemporary critics of Israel are doing in their constant whining that the defenders of what they criticize are playing too rough – poor babies – calling them names, and it shouldn’t be allowed, is engaging in a form of special pleading. They want an exception made for critics of Israel. They get to say that Israel is losing its democracy and an acts as an oppressor, that Zionism is in a downward moral spiral, that Israel’s government bears comparisons to Franco’s Spain, but that their opponents, who believe all of these charges to be utter, slanderous crap, don’t get to slam these critics back just as hard. Why would these various voices think themselves so special – that they should be spared the equities of rhetorical combat?

For the actual anti-Semites amongst them – for the John Mearsheimers blurbing for the Gilad Atzmons – the meme of fierce, crushing retribution from the Zionists is just a continuation of the classic conspiratorial slander: speak out against the powerful Jew and his forces will rise up foully in repressive reaction. The well-intentioned critic of Israeli policy speaking nonsense – Krugman writing of “the narrow-minded policies of the current government” as if this protracted history of Arab enmity and rejectionism began only with the facilely-conjured bogeyman of Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009 – repeats the same meme (“to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack”), and the blind alliance between the vile and the vain further poisons the atmosphere. Wherein lies their vanity? They are so convinced of the moral valor of their stand that they are astounded that the universe does not deliver to them a dispensation from the return volley. How brave they are to say shitty things about Israel; how simply awful and unfair that Israel’s defenders will say shitty things back.

The culminating appeal, the bathetic cri de Coeur is against a charge of anti-Semitism. Krugman, in his not writing about the crisis of Zionism, finds words to repeat this manufactured reality too, complaining of

organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.

You will, of course, find people making stupid, reflexive charges of anti-Semitism and self-hating Jew. There are enough bloggers and comments sections out there to allow any little teapot to pop its lid. The woodwork delivers up critters who squeal “self-hating Jew” in letters and emails just as it does those who squeak “Jew hack.” It is not, all that often, a very attractive world. What you will not find, however, is any record of his legitimate critics calling Peter Beinart anti-Semitic. I had the idea, but of course I was not the first, so when I Googled “Beinart” and “anti-Semite” together, among the hits I made on the first page was this from Jewlicious:

Search on any internet search engine for “Peter Beinart antisemite” or “Peter Beinart antisemitic” or “peter beinart antisemitism” as I just have and at least in the first pages of the search (I didn’t have the patience to go deeper, sorry) there were no articles or blogs, certainly not from any reputable sources, where Beinart is called anti-Semitic. In fact, you find supporters of his position and reasoned articles, pro and con, about his book.

What you may, indeed, find more of than anyone actually calling Peter Beinart or other mainstream liberal critics of Israel anti-Semitic is people, rather, objecting to critics of Israel being called anti-Semitic. At least in the public internet records of this debate, discussions of the prospect of the charge, and expressions of objection to the charge, are far more likely to be found than any actual leveling of the charge.

Jews have a long history of coping with manufactured realities. It isn’t over yet.


34 Responses to “The Boys Who Cried the Boy Who Cried anti-Semitism”

  1. allan siegel Says:

    Well, well, well… AJA has gotten all worked up about a few paragraphs by Paul Krugram he finds it difficult to quote correctly but manages to incoherently foam at the mouth in a vain attempt to discredit Krugman’s simple observation; hardly surprising from such an astute commentator who stated that, “The Last of the Mohicans is one of Hollywood’s most finely accomplished adventure stories, a film of refined aesthetic vision coupled with invigorating popular appeal. It is one of the most kinetic films ever made.” OMG turn off the fog machines.

    • the sad red earth (@thesadredearth) Says:

      Of course, my post is about more than Paul Krugman, whom I otherwise admire. Of course, Mr. Siegel charges misquotation and incoherence without demonstrating any, the most facile form of comment. As to the quality of my film commentary (my thanks for reading!), I bow before “OMG. ” Or is “turn off the fog machines” more trenchant?

      • allan siegel Says:

        Here is how AJA’s misquotation works. Krugman’s blog post starts in this manner: “Something I’ve been meaning to do — and still don’t have the time to do properly — is say something about Peter Beinart’s brave book The Crisis of Zionism.
        The truth is that like many liberal American Jews — and most American Jews are still liberal — I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going.”
        Anyone who bothered to look knows the level of political discourse in Israeli media about the Middle East, Zionism etc. is more more pronounced then within U.S. mainstream media (there are obvious reasons for this). This gap is what Krugman is focusing on by drawing attention to Beinart’s book. Krugman is stating a pretty obvious fact.
        What seems to greatly disturb AJA is that Krugman (a highly respected and visible economist – and a Jew) is stating the obvious in America’s paper of record. Shame on him. AJA, despite is diatribe, is actually advocating the type of censorship wherein Beinart’s book (and the issues it raises) is pushed into the shadows eliminating any real discourse.

        • the sad red earth (@thesadredearth) Says:

          Some good points below. But I like not to spray over the stink people let off until the full bouquet has been released into the room, just so we recognize it in the future. Siegel says I misquote Krugman and am incoherent. I remark in return that he failed even to attempt to substantiate either claim. Siegel responds on the first point by offering a longer quotation from Krugman, with the introduction that this “is how AJA’s misquotation works” and then moving on. He does not demonstrate any misquotation – mistaken or misrepresented quotation – at all. He appears not to know what the word means. He doesn’t bother with the claim of incoherence, and I now understand why: it isn’t an omission, but a concession to incapacity. He then resorts simply to asserting the obvious truth of what Krugman said and to that non sequitur about censorship. The sum of what he tries to pass of as argument is simply that he doesn’t like what I said. Krugman deserves far better in his defense.

  2. Rebecca Lesses Says:

    Allan, what exactly about Adler’s post don’t you like? You’ve accused him of being incoherent, but haven’t said very coherently what you object to.

  3. NIMN Says:

    Hi Allan,

    Seems to me that you tend to foam just as good.

    After all, are you still tweeting stuff from Press TV?

    Still think this Stalinist nonsense is true which you posted a while back,

    ‘What a skewed sense of history: Jewish history in general and Zionist history in particular. Perhaps just simply a reflection of the ghettoized and colonized mentality of Jews who have seen themselves as perpetual victims until of course Israel came along to reverse the history of victimhood. But where were all the brave Zionists when it came to the Resistance and fighting Nazis? Buying their way to the Land of Milk and Honey?”

    And you think its the Israeli Jews and not you who have problem with the legacy of a ‘ghettoized and colonized mentality’??

    Foam, baby, foam

    • allan siegel Says:

      Clever, foam, baby, foam – good sense of history.

    • zkharya Says:

      ‘But where were all the brave Zionists when it came to the Resistance and fighting Nazis? Buying their way to the Land of Milk and Honey?”’

      Ignorant twit. How about leading the Warsaw Ghetto uprising?

      • zkharya Says:

        By Siegel’s criteria, +every+ Jew who fled the Nazis, rather than stood and fought (pretty much hopelessly), was a coward. Which would indict pretty much every European (and Arab) Jew, 1933-1945, including most of the dead.

  4. NIMN Says:

    And here we have it.
    AJA is far from impressed by Beinart’s book. He thinks its bollocks.
    Well maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.
    However, for Seigel, such criticism is tantamount to ‘actually advocating the type of censorship’ by saying in public that he thinks the book wrong on many things (may be it is, and may be it’s not).
    So, Beinart’s’s book is met with accolades of ‘bravery’; critics of that book are met by Seigel with claims of attempted ‘censorship’.
    Seems like AJA’s point is proved by Seigel at the very point in which he claims to disagree.

  5. Curious Says:

    I appreciate that there has been some criticism of Mr Krugman’s article by some people. but has he lost his job in the wake of the article he published or suffered any official censure since publishing it?
    In what way has Mr Krugman suffered a financial or professional penalty for exercising his right to say what he thinks?

  6. NIMN Says:

    And in keeping with my ‘good sense of history’, a couple of other more pertinent precedents

    ‘Rudolph Slansky was the Stalinist leader of post war Czechosolovakia who ended up being deposed in an antisemitic purge and accused of Zionism and bourgeois Jewish nationalism in 1952. Slansky’s confession was written by the antisemites and beaten into him:

    “I deliberately shielded Zionism by publicly speaking out against the people who pointed to the hostile activities of Zionists and by describing these people as anti-Semites so that these people were in the end prosecuted and persecuted. I thus created an atmosphere in which people were afraid to oppose Zionism.”

    See also,
    Charles Lindburgh,
    “A smear campaign was instituted against individuals who opposed intervention. The terms “fifth columnist,” “traitor,” “Nazi,” “anti-Semitic” were thrown ceaselessly at any one who dared to suggest that it was not to the best interests of the United States to enter the war”………….”Many others dared no longer speak.”

    Probably just coincidences……………

  7. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Rebecca Lesses, above “Allan, what exactly about Adler’s post don’t you like? You’ve accused him of being incoherent, but haven’t said very coherently what you object to.” No, and and Allan Siegel didn’t respond to direct criticisms, questions or evidence of his being wrong when he commented on that Howard Jacobson some months back either.

    Seems he’s one of those who likes to dish it out but can’t take it and (as AJA says) prefers to cry “foul” to engaging in proper debate.

    • allan siegel Says:

      What exactly do I mean by criticising Mr. Adler for being incoherent? His incoherence stems from the fact that he is not quite certain what he wants to write about – although, Krugman’s blog (not article or column mind you) seems to have flipped his switch.
      He starts off by talking about ‘manufactured realities’, the internet and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; he uses the term ‘apophasis’ as intellectual cover suggesting that Krugman’s mentioning of Beinart’s book is a prime example of such a device. Well, exactly in what manner has the MNM (as he says) manufactured the conflict? A good issue to be sure but Mr. Adler is spot-off in discussing the subject.
      In the following paragraphs Adler then throws potshots at a number of subjects and people, i.e. J Street and Jeremy Ben-Ami and even suggests that Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky and Gunter Grass are regular columnists for the NYT (in what editorial disneyland is Adler living in?); hardly and ounce of truth here.
      Taking time to reload, in the next sentences it seems that Adler’s real intention to write a review of Beinart’s book (suggesting a form of continuity with his initial starting point – Krugman) but no; really Adler is simply try to shore up an already shabby critical ediface by doing a kind of rhetorical bait-and-switch. He’s not going to review (even superficially) Beinart’s book but changes tact again; this time he takes potshots at the critics of Israel. One simply has TO TRY and follow the dots linking the various points in Adler’s arguement to see the lack of focus or clarity.
      Consequently, without dissecting this further, it is rather difficult to get an indepth sense of what Adler wants to truly talk about or whether he is capable of bringing anything new to the discussion. My suggestion is that he start at the beginning and reread Krugman’s blog and then try and figure out what he really wants to say.

      • NIMN Says:

        The point of the post is the mendaciouness of the allegation that critics of critics of Israel label their adveraries ‘antisemitic’. It is in the context of this myth (along with the related fable of ‘Zionist power’) that works such as Beinart’s are presented normatively as ‘brave’ and its critics accused of falsely raising the issue of antisemitism.
        It is really not that difficult.
        Where complexity arises is where the alleged ‘criticism’ of Israel is expressed through the tropes and imagery of antisemitism (i.e. IDF harvesting organs in Haiti; Zionists run x or y political party, Zionist controlled media, etc.). In these instances, rather than these ‘critics’ reflecting on the accusation, discussing it, defending it, reformulating their thoughts on it, naking a judgement on it – in other words, taking seriously the possible presence of racism in their thinking on Israel – the standard response is to claim that those raising the question of antisemitism are being ‘dishonest’, are simply defending Israel or Zionist interests and so on, The consequence being, of course, that legitimate concerns of antisemitism are ruled out of court a priori as nothing more than a functional lie; a consequence, ironically that, as noted above, emerges from and continues to feed into the myth that Jews lie in order to protect their brethren ( a common theme of right wing and totalitarian antisemitic thought.
        That is the nature of the post and some thinking that follows from it.

      • the sad red earth (@thesadredearth) Says:

        “Adler is simply try [sic] to shore up an already shabby critical ediface by doing a kind of rhetorical bait-and-switch.”

        No, in truth I was trying to catch a tiger by the tail so as not to bite off more than I could chew.

        Siegel almost caught me.

  8. Haller Says:

    So many words and I fail to understand the basics behind the camouflage:
    1. are the author and the person who copied him here here think that the territories are occupied (as Peter Beinart thinks)?
    — If yes – then how do you end the occupation if settlements multiply and the number of settlers grows all the time?
    — If not — then why not call the territories liberated territories (as I as a committed and honest Zionist do)?
    — If yes — then why build more settlements and destroy more Palestinian houses?
    — If not — then why not annex the liberated Jewish territory and grant the right to vote for all (in order to maintain Israel’s democracy)?

    Whatever you answer can you please be clear and stop trying to be clever and to show off?

  9. Marko Attila Hoare Says:

    ‘a position on Israel basically that of the editorial board of the New York Times and of nearly every one of the regular international columnists of that paper. From Mearsheimer and Walt to Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Charles Freeman, Norman Finkelstein, Gunter Grass, Haaretz, the Guardian, many of England’s major unions, many scores or more of left campus organizations, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the World Council of Churches’

    There seems to be a lot of conflation going on here – how can the New York Times and Haaretz be put in the same category as Noam Chomsky ? The NYT is a liberal pro-Israel newspaper that appears to be deeply concerned with the direction in which Israel is going, and Haaretz is a liberal Zionist newspaper with a proud history.

    The liberal or left-wing Zionist voice needs to be heard much more than it is, not flippantly dismissed like this. Between the anti-Israel negationists and the pro-Israel nationalist headbangers – increasingly as extreme as each other – newspapers like the NYT and Haaretz frequently represent the voice of reason.

    • David D. Says:


      Without getting into the question of the “bravery” Israel’s critics, I should point out that as a (very) longtime reader of The New York Times, I find your characterization of it as a “pro-Israel” newspaper puzzling, if not grossly inaccurate. Notorious for its silence during the Holocaust era, the Times has bent over backwards to avoid dealing with “Jewish” issues. As for Israel (save perhaps for brief “honeymoons” post 1948 and 1967), over the entire history of the Jewish state, the NY Times’ position has been coldly neutral and in recent years it has tilted strongly critical. This is evident not only in its choice of commentary but in the way it covers daily events in Palestine/Israel.

      Here is a sample of its editorial bias:

      And you need only read today’s item on Israel to see how its bias shapes even its news coverage:

      Barry Rubin dissects the piece here:

      With the arrival of Jodi Rudoren as correspondent, New York Times coverage of Israel and related issues has now gone to a new level of ridiculous bias, especially after a predecessor who really did try to be fair.
      What is most impressive about Rudoren’s record so far is that there is no attempt to give the faintest appearance of balance. She probably doesn’t understand what that concept means. And she certainly knows that the editors and ombudsman won’t hold her accountable.

      We in Israel have grown used to media prejudice and, given our low expectations, probably accept more of it without complaint than anyone else in the world. Yet the following lead was the absolute last straw for me, in an article titled “Palestinians Go Hungry to Make Their Voices Heard“:

      “The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”

      This is not news coverage but revolutionary romanticism. And consider the implications:

      – The article does not tell us that they are in prison for a reason. These are overwhelmingly people who have murdered or tried to murder civilians during a period, by the way, when their supposed governmental representative, the Palestinian Authority, was not at war with Israel.

      – They were in fact “burly young men…wielding automatic weapons” when thrown into prison after trials. Most of them admit — indeed brag about — their crimes and make it clear that they would continue such deeds if released.

      No, The NY Times has not yet sunk to the calumnious level of The Guardian, but it is hardly “pro-Israel”.

      • Marko Attila Hoare Says:

        David, with all due respect, the articles you link to don’t provide any evidence at all that the New York Times is anti-Israel. The ‘Soccer Dad’ article linked to by the Elder of Ziyon blog claims ‘The final tally for the last six months of 2011, is 38 anti-Israel opinion articles and 7 pro-Israel opinion articles; a ratio of more than 5 to 1.’ But if you actually look at the articles in question, it turns out that he counts an article as ‘anti-Israel’ if it is critical of the Netanyahu government.

        He claims ‘Perhaps the lowest blow was the publishing of an op-ed by Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert.’ So publishing an op-ed by a former Israeli prime minister counts as ‘anti-Israel’; indeed, as the ‘lowest blow’ ! Clearly, the Soccer Dad and Elder of Ziyon blogs are confusing being critical of the current Israeli government with being ‘anti-Israel’.

        There is nothing ‘anti-Israel’ about the article on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. It would be like saying that a newspaper is ‘anti-American’ if it reports on Guantanamo Bay, or ‘anti-British’ if it reports on the case of the Birmingham SIx or Guildford Four.

        In its editorial of 18 October 2011, the New York Times stated ‘We share the joy of Israelis over the release of Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, who was held by Hamas for five years. We will leave it to the Israeli people to debate whether the deal — which includes the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners — will make their country safer or lead to more violence or more abductions of Israeli soldiers or other citizens.’

        In its editorial of 5 March 2012, the New York Times stated ‘Iran’s nuclear appetites are undeniable, as is its malign intent toward Israel, toward America, toward its Arab neighbours and its own people. Israel’s threats of unilateral action have finally focused the world’s attention on the danger… Israelis have every right to feel fearful and frustrated. For too long the world ignored Iran’s misdeeds and shrugged off Israel’s alarms.’

        These are just two examples that indicate the NYT’s solidarity with, and concern for, Israel and its people.

        • David D. Says:


          I hold no brief for “Soccer Dad” (I suspect his politics would not co-incide with mine), and I haven’t verified his examples, but I find the Elder of Ziyon blogger to be generally quite careful in his statements. At the end of the item I linked to, he provides another link, to a letter from Netanyahu’s advisor, Ron Dermer, to the Times on the matter of the Times’ position on Israel. It clearly has an axe to grind, but is revealing nevertheless.

          As for the points you raise…

          The piece by Olmert is not anti-Israel at all… in its essence. But the context is important. When, say, a Russian newspaper quotes an American politician criticizing Obama’s policy on Georgia, it is hardly “pro”-American. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it is in fact “anti”-American.) The NY Times has never had a good word for Netanyahu, even when the Israeli prime minister was at his most conciliatory. They simply don’t like him and have made no secret of their dislike.

          Similarly, they are not “anti”-Israel, but their criticism of the Israeli government fits well with their generally critical tone vis-à-vis Israel as a whole (a tone that was set decades ago but has recently got sharper). Whether it is on the reporters’ initiative (who disdain anything less than “front page” material) or whether it is a result of editorial directives, but feel-good stories about Israeli culture or technology or even a human interest piece about Israeli doctors volunteering to perform complicated surgery on Palestinian children just never makes it into the pages of the Times, not even into the back pages.

          Here’s a recent example of a story that could have been reported in the Times.


          It’s about Daniel Barenboim, a staunch Israeli supporter of Palestinian causes who had a concert by his Arab-Jewish orchestra cancelled under anti-Israel pressure. This is the harsh reality of Israel’s predicament. But not something that the NY Times would report.

          As for there being “nothing ‘anti-Israel’ about the article on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons”, I beg to differ. As Barry Rubin pointed out, the lead is uttter “revolutionary romanticism”. The piece provides no context. Most readers are well aware of how the prisoners in Guantanamo got there, but innocent readers would have no way of knowing that the many of the Palestinian prisoners committed horrific acts of terrorism, were duly tried (Israeli courts are notably fair and independent) and convicted. Israel has no capital punishment. Many of the men behind bars are murderers. I wonder how long such men would last in, say, China, which, unlike Israel, faces no existential threat from its neighbours. Or whether the NY Times would even bother to write about them. Chen Guangcheng will make the Times’ front page. Palestinians too. Uighurs no page at all.

        • David D. Says:

          Rereading Ron Dermer’s letter to the Times, I noticed this comment in the thread on the Elder of Ziyon blog. It echoes my own sentiments:

          “In the past”…

          You must mean prior to 1967. The Times’ coverage of the Middle East has been increasingly tilted against Israel for at least 3-4 decades and it has become a patently obvious opposition in recent years.

          Compared to European left or “liberal” newspapers (I’m a liberal myself, a dismayed liberal but still a liberal), in particular The Guardian, the NY Times is relatively moderate in how it expresses that opposition. But it regularly bends over backwards to find fault with Israel (when have you last read a positive article about ordinary life in Israel… is there any coverage at all in the NY Times of ordinary life in Israel, let alone its cultural or scientific glories?) all the while bending over backwards to interpret Palestinian and/or Arab stances as “moderate” when, if the Israel-Palestinian positions had been reversed, they would have been vilified. And perhaps the most disturbing development regarding not only Israel but Jews around the world — the growth of antisemitism and its twin: the blatant demonization of Israel — is consistently (wilfully?) ignored by the NY Times. For shame!

      • Carlo Says:

        David D. quotes Barry Rubin in reference to the Palestinian hunger strikers:

        ” – The article does not tell us that they are in prison for a reason. These are
        overwhelmingly people who have murdered or tried to murder civilians during a period, by the way, when their supposed governmental representative, the Palestinian Authority, was not at war with Israel.

        ” – They were in fact “burly young men…wielding automatic weapons” when thrown into prison after trials. Most of them admit — indeed brag about — their crimes and make it clear that they would continue such deeds if released.”

        This is inaccurate and misleading. Rubin is indulging in pure speculation. The six who are in a critical condition are in prison for a reason that has not been disclosed. They have not been charged with any crime but are simply subject to administrative detention under regulations inherited from the British colonial system.

        See Amnesty International or reference to the Red cross and UN appeals at:

        • David D. Says:


          Yes, it is a bit misleading. Barry Rubin was referring to the general population of prisoners, not specifically those under administrative detention. But so was the NY Times piece. The prisoners (in general) were campaigning for “improved prison conditions”, not against administrative detention. Two of the most prominent prisoners under administrative detention (and on a hunger strike), Diab and Halahla, appealed their detention to the Israel Supreme Court and just lost, [ ] though one of the presiding judges did take the opportunity to suggest “that the state should consider allowing a jurist with security clearance to study information on the inmates’ imprisonment. Such a move ‘could bring the court’s proceedings closer to [preserving] the detainees’ rights without harming security’,”

          Almost all countries have some sort of administrative detention [ ] some for such simple things as immigration control, but most for more serious matters, generally pertaining to terrorism and security. And Israel probably has more reason to have it than most. Unlike normal criminal proceedings, which are open to the public and are retrospective (i.e. deal with events that have already occured), adminstrative detention generally deals with prevention of future actions. I’m not familiar with Israeli law in this regard, but my understanding is that such detentions are subject to judicial review (as the Diab and Halahla case above would would indicate).

          The point remains that the NY Times piece was tendentious and very poorly written, conflating prisoners who were tried and convicted of murder and terrorism with those under administrative detention. Under the circumstances I think Barry Rubin’s criticism was not unfair.

    • the sad red earth (@thesadredearth) Says:

      Far from conflate those various figures and organizations, my very point was to suggest their range – the range and frequency of criticism of Israeli policy, making yet one more criticism hardly an act of bravery before, actually, the no price there is to be paid for it.

  10. Wonder Says:

    David d: is the wall street j pro israel? Who is pro israel? According tou your 1984 logic only those who upport the opression of the palestinins nd the occupation are pro israel. How boring can one get?

    • David D. Says:

      So is any newspaper which doesn’t call for outright destruction of the Jewish state or dumping the Jews into the Mediterranean automatically “pro”-Israel? By your (truly orwellian) logic, only Al-Aqsa TV (the Hamas channel) or Al-Manar (Hezbollah) could, prima facie, be exempt from being labeled “pro-Israel”. My, but Israel must have a lot of “friends”. (But then, of course, we all know who really controls the media.)

      How Wonder(ful)!

  11. Carlo Says:


    While, as you say, “Almost all countries have some sort of administrative detention”, they
    use it mainly as a temporary response to illegal immigrants and suchlike. Few democratic states rely on widespread use of administrative detention, circumventing due process, to incarcerate political dissidents or representatives of ethnic minorities.

    BtSelem is clear: “Over the years, Israel has administratively detained thousands of Palestinians for prolonged periods of time, without prosecuting them, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them or their attorneys to study the evidence, making a mockery of the protections specified in Israeli and international law to protect the right to liberty and due process, the right of defendants to state their case, and the presumption of innocence. Over the years, Israel has held thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention, for periods ranging from several months to several years.”

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “While, as you say, “Almost all countries have some sort of administrative detention”, they
      use it mainly as a temporary response to illegal immigrants and suchlike. Few democratic states rely on widespread use of administrative detention, circumventing due process, to incarcerate political dissidents or representatives of ethnic minorities.” How then, Carlo, would you characterise the USA and Guantanamo Bay and the use of ‘administrative detention’ since shortly after 2001?

      Sounds remarkably similar to what Israel is using, and many are condemning, to me? So why don’t they condemn the US as well, and in the same breath?

      • Carlo Says:

        Those who are even-handed, Brian, condemn abusive use of administrative detention wherever it occurs.

        Amnesty International, for example, says:

        “At Guantanamo, the U.S. government sought to hold detainees in a place neither U.S. nor international law applied. But no one can be held outside of the law. Guantanamo must be closed the right way: detainees must either be promptly charged and given fair trials in U.S. federal courts, or be released. Illegal detention at other U.S. facilities, including those in Afghanistan, must end.” []
        Regarding the Palestinian hunger strikers whose lives are in danger, Amnesty urges “the Israeli authorities to release these six detainees . . ., as well as all other Palestinians in administrative detention, unless they are promptly charged with internationally recognizable criminal offences and brought to trial in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards;”

    • David D. Says:

      Oh, so former and future terrorists are merely “political dissidents or representatives of ethnic minorities” ?

      Israel could solve all its security problems by hiring you as its PR consultant.

      • Carlo Says:

        By “former terrorists”, David, you presumably mean people who have been convicted in a court of law for crimes of violence, served their sentence and thereby paid their debt to society. But “future terrorists”? While it’s a novel legal concept, what would you substitute for material evidence, a crystal ball?

        Currently there are 546 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centres including 3 women and 13 minors. It would be to Israel’s credit if these people were removed from military jurisdiction, brought before civil courts, and either charged with some indictable offence or released. Justice might then be seen to be done.

        • David D. Says:

          “Future terrorists” are “would-be” or rather “would-have-been” terrorists had the security services not intercepted them in time. Conspiracy or preparation to commit terrorism [ ] is a crime even if the plot was nipped in the bud. By your standard, Carlo, until those rockets from Gaza actually land on a school in Sderot they might just be weather probes gone astray! And, of course, the rocket launchers themselves should never, ever, be held in administrative detention… until their aim improves.

  12. Absolute Observer Says:

    Yes of course administration detention should end in Israel.
    As Carlo says, either try them before the court or free them. It is the same argument we had in the UK during internment and what we are having now about ‘house arrests’ short of trial for particular individuals. It’s a no brainer whether in Israel, the US, the UK. Syria, France, Egypt., the US, etc. As such It is not to be done for Israel’s ‘credit’ (whatever that means) but rather because it is a basic premise of the rule of law and one expects no less as matter of principle. I am sure Carlo agrees that Israel is no more an offender of this principle that the other states mentioned (probably less than some and maybe more than others)and, therefore, while legitimately open to censure deserves no less or no more censure given to other states for this breach of the rule of law. For example, I am sure Carlo would now like to post Amnesty’s comments concerning other states’ use of illegal/administrative detention to indicate both the generality of thebreach of this principle and his general opposition to all breaches wherever they occur. I assume that, since he has the data for the US and Israel, he has the data for other states t hand too?

    What a pity, though, that we have moved away from the theme of the thread to yet another ding-dong about Israel.

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