Archive for December, 2009

Mohammad Bakri: ‘art’ is his shield

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Bakri's propaganda film is popular worldwide.

Bakri's propaganda film is popular worldwide.

Filmmaker and actor Mohammad Bakri, a ‘Palestinian resident of Israel’, may be prosecuted for criminal libel for his 2002 film “Jenin, Jenin”.

You may recall that in 2002, after a horrendous wave of bombings and shootings in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands injured, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank to root out the terrorists responsible for it. One of their strongholds was the city of Jenin,  in Northern Samaria. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the period of 2001-2002, 57 Israelis were killed and hundreds injured by terrorists based in or directed from Jenin alone. During April 3-11, 2002, IDF soldiers fought a fierce battle in Jenin with members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa brigades, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

After the first day, the fighting moved to the adjacent ‘refugee camp’, which had been heavily fortified and booby-trapped by the Palestinians. Nevertheless, in order to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible, IDF soldiers fought house-to-house instead of employing artillery and air strikes. As a result — as ultimately attested to by the UN — only 52 Palestinians were killed, almost all combatants; but 23 Israeli soldiers were lost, 13 of them in one ambush on April 9.

After the battle, Palestinian spokesmen such as Nabil Sha’ath, Hassan Abdel Rahman, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erakat, claimed that Israel had massacred hundreds of Palestinians, burying them in mass graves or leaving their bodies to decompose under the rubble. But unlike the situation in Gaza, the Palestinians did not control access to the area, and the truth ultimately came out (although, as CAMERA notes in the link above, the fact that they had lied through their teeth didn’t seem to hurt the credibility of the Palestinian spokesmen with the international press).

The anti-Israel media, particularly in the UK, took up the story of the ‘Jenin Massacre’ with glee, embellishing it with ever-more bloody details and accusations of wanton Israeli cruelty. Alleged body counts rose to the thousands. And Mohammad Bakri’s crude propaganda film won a film-festival prize for “Mediterranean Documentary Film-making and Reporting”.

The film consists of after-the-fact interviews with Palestinians who tell ever more horrible stories, and ‘visualizations’ of events such as tanks crushing Palestinians which even Bakri admits didn’t happen:

Bakri spliced together video footage shot during the offensive in which an Israeli tank [armored personnel carrier — ed.] appears to trample a group of Palestinian prisoners. Bakri said there was no proof that incident ever took place, but that he was trying to demonstrate what an Israeli tank symbolized to Palestinians.Joshua Mitnick in the NJ Star-Ledger, from Electronic Intifada [my italics]

As I reported once before, my daughter met Bakri in Tel Aviv a few years ago and asked him if he really believed that his film was accurate. He responded that he was an artist and not a historian, and that although perhaps all the details weren’t accurate, the film was a true depiction of what Israel was doing to Palestinians. Bakri’s theory of truth seems a bit different from mine.

The definitive refutation of Bakri’s film is a short article by Dr. David Zangen, who was present during the battle as an IDF doctor, and even treated one of Bakri’s interviewees. It’s called Seven Lies about Jenin. Almost as interesting as his comments about the film is his account of the way the audience at a Jerusalem screening treated him.

The film was originally banned by Israel’s film board, but the ban was overthrown by the Supreme Court. Bakri was then sued for civil libel by five IDF reservists who had taken part in the operation. However, the suit was thrown out because the judge ruled that while the film libeled IDF soldiers as a group, it did not single out these soldiers, so they did not have standing to sue.

Now the soldiers have appealed to the IDF Advocate General, who asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to indict Bakri on criminal charges. Bakri’s response was typical: “This is the difference between me and the military advocate general: He is busy with murdering people and I am busy with art.”

Bakri is wrong. He is as much a soldier in the war against Israel as any Hamas bomber. It is unacceptable that he be allowed to use ‘art’ as a shield and to benefit from Israel’s free society as he does his best to destroy it. He should be indicted and held responsible for his actions.

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Israel’s nuclear traitor

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

‘Any other country in the world would…’ department:

Nuclear traitor Mordechai Vanunu

Nuclear traitor Mordechai Vanunu

Why is this man walking around free?

In 1985, Mordechai Vanunu, left his job as a  technician at Israel’s nuclear installation in Dimona. Before leaving he took several rolls of film and in 1986 helped the UK Sunday Times write a bombshell story (so to speak) exposing the extent of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Vanunu revealed that Israel had ten times the number of bombs heretofore thought, and that it was developing hydrogen and neutron weapons.

Vanunu was lured into a trap in Italy by a female Mossad agent; he was brought back to Israel and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for “transmission of secret information with the intent to harm state security, collecting secret information with the intent to harm state security and of aiding the enemy during a state of war”. When he was released in 2004, he was forbidden from leaving the country, meeting foreigners or even having a cell phone. I presume he is carefully watched day and night.

Born a Jew in Morocco in 1954 (but not, as Wikipedia says, the son of a rabbi), Vanunu converted to Christianity and now lives in an Anglican monastery in Jerusalem. He insists that he was incarcerated as punishment for his conversion. Right.

During the time that he worked at Dimona, Vanunu was also a part-time student at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, studying Philosophy and Geography.  According to, he experienced a “political awakening”, and “opposed [the] Israeli invasion of Lebanon and criticized the Israeli states [sic] militarism and policy toward the Palestinians in Israel and occupied territories.”

Vanunu is considered a martyr and a person of conscience by the usual suspects. Interviewed by the notorious Israel-hater Amy Goodman in 2004, Vanunu explained his motivation:

When I get out of the prison, I am saying many, many times that I am very glad, happy and proud to reveal its nuclear secrets to all the world and to let all the world to see the stupidity of Israel’s nuclear weapons policy and the danger of a nuclear weapons policy in secret by Israel. And I was not a traitor. The real traitors are Israel’s government who was behind this nuclear weapons policy for 40 years, and continues. They are betraying the Israeli citizens, and betraying the Arab community, and betraying all of humanity and the world, the human beings of all the world. They are the real traitors.

Vanunu continued that

This means Israel was ready to use nuclear weapons in the next war, in 1986 if it had war with Iraq, or Iran or Syria. It could use them against armies. That means the beginning by Israel using atomic bomb…. That was the most dangerous point in the Middle East: Israel, they could have used nuclear weapons like no other state there…

Since only the lunatic fringe would accuse Israel of wanting to expand beyond the post-1967 borders, any such use in war would be defensive. It’s notable that since Israel developed its nuclear arsenal in the late 1960’s, it has never been used, neither directly nor even as a threat. Instead it has been a last-resort deterrent, and an effective one, against enemies such as Syria, which have massive amounts of non-conventional weaponry. Vanunu’s view that it is a ‘danger’ for Israel to have a nuclear capability is entirely the opposite of the truth.

One wonders where his distorted ideology came from. But it’s possible to guess. Ben Gurion University of the Negev today is a center of leftist extremism in Israel, with faculty like Neve Gordon and others espousing positions similar to those of Vanunu.

Vanunu is now on house arrest after violating, for the nth time, the provisions of his release agreement. In an Arab country or Russia, he would be long dead. In the US, where the Rosenbergs were executed and where Jonathan Pollard continues to serve a life sentence for far less serious acts, he would still be in prison. But Vanunu wants — are we surprised? — to go to the US!

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Palestinians murder rabbi, complain to US

Sunday, December 27th, 2009
Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, z"l, teaches his kindergarten class at Shavei Shomron. Rabbi Chai was murdered by Palestinian terrorists on Thursday.

Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, z"l, teaches his kindergarten class at Shavei Shomron. Rabbi Chai was murdered by Palestinian terrorists on Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai was shot from ambush while driving on Route 557 between the settlements of Shavei Shomron and Einav, in Samaria.  He died at the scene from multiple head wounds, according to reports. Aged 40 or 45 (reports differ) and a teacher at the local school, Rabbi Chai left a wife and seven children. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militia associated with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization, took credit for the murder.

On Friday night, acting on intelligence from the Shabak [general security service], Israeli soldiers from the Duvdevan unit attempted to arrest three al-Aksa members:

Nader Raed Sukarji, a 40 year-old inhabitant of Shechem [Nablus], was arrested in 2002 and suspected of being a top Al Aksa terror group brigade operative and participant in many terror attacks.  He also prepared bombs and helped establish explosives factories in Nablus.  He was released from prison in January 2009…

Ghassan Abu Sharkh, 39, was imprisoned by security forces in 1990.  His brother, Nayef, was the head of the Tanzim terror organization’s military  wing in Nablus. Nayef facilitated several terror attacks until being killed by IDF forces in June 2004.

Anan Suleiman Mustafa Subih, 36, resident of Nablus, was an operative of the “Shuhada al-Aksa” brigade, which was involved in extensive Tanzim military operations as a cell of Tanzim in Nablus.  The group was led by Nayef Abu Sharkh, until Nayef’s death.  Subih worked in trafficking weapons and supplies for use in terror acts.  Subih had recently been accepted to Israel’s amnesty program for Fatah gunmen.  His participation in Tanzim activity was a direct violation of that agreement. — Arutz Sheva

The three refused to surrender and were shot dead by the IDF troops. A rifle found in the home of Subih was identified as having been used in the ambush.

So what is notable about this skirmish in the hundred-year old war against the Jews of Eretz Israel?

One thing was the response of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel’s supposed ‘peace partner’, which presently refuses to negotiate with Israel because, according to them, the settlement freeze is inadequate to meet Israel’s Roadmap obligations  (the PA’s major roadmap obligation, it should be recalled, is to ‘fight terrorism’):

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the Nablus raid, as well as the killing of three Palestinians [Hamas operatives — ed.] from the Gaza Strip who tried to cross the border into Israel, showed that Israel “does not want peace.”

“The policy of assassinations and the indiscriminate killings reveal that Israel has decided to destroy the stability and security of the Palestinians,” Abu Rudaineh said. “Israel is seeking to drag our people into a new cycle of violence to avoid growing international pressure on the Israeli government to fulfill its obligations toward the peace process…”

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official and a close adviser to [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas, accused Israel of “returning to its policy of executing innocent Palestinians and members of the Palestinian security forces.” Abed Rabbo claimed that Israel was preparing for a “comprehensive and bloody terror campaign” against the Palestinians and the PA.

He added that Saturday’s events were in the context of Israel’s attempt to distract attention for its “bigger crimes – the demolition of houses in Jerusalem and the construction of the racist wall.”

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that the Nablus operation was intended to destroy his government’s efforts to restore law and order to the city. He too accused Israel of escalating tensions to avoid fulfilling its obligations under the terms of the road map for peace in the Middle East. Fayyad and commanders of the PA security forces visited the families of the three Fatah gunmen to offer condolences.Jerusalem Post

I have not been able to find any comments by Fayyad, or any other Palestinian officials, that expressed even the slightest sympathy for the family of Rabbi Chai.

Moderate Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad pays condolences to families of murderers in Nablus. -- Maan News

Moderate Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad pays condolences to families of murderers in Nablus.

At the Fatah convention this August, the al-Aqsa brigades were formally endorsed as Fatah’s “military wing”. So official Palestinian concern for the murderers is understandable.

Keep in mind that the PA security forces are directly funded by the US, and are presently being trained by US General Keith Dayton. Which bring us to the next notable item:

The United States has demanded clarifications from Israel after IDF special forces killed three terrorists Saturday who murdered a civilian, Rabbi Meir Chai, on Thursday.

Calls were made to National Security Adviser Prof. Uzi Arad, apparently by senior U.S. Administration officials, in which he was asked to provide clarifications. The calls came from the United States after Palestinian Authority officials complained to the Americans that the IDF had carried out “executions.” — Arutz Sheva

One wonders if the US demanded ‘clarification’ from the Fatah-dominated PA about the actions of Fatah’s “military wing”? Nothing like support from an ally, is there?

Another thing: one of the terrorists was recently released from an Israeli prison in a ‘gesture to bolster Abbas’, while another one was a participant in a special program in which terrorists were asked to give their word that they would lay down their arms — another ‘gesture’. Can we learn anything from this?

And finally: I don’t know if the IDF could have arrested them without killing them, and in all honesty I don’t care. These are three murderers who will not be freed in some future ‘prisoner exchange’. Indeed, this action and similar ones should be viewed as the military operations that they are, and soldiers must not be judged by the standards applied to police officers operating in peacetime.

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Organs, organs

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

The following article is so important that I chose to reprint it here (with permission), in order to give it the widest possible distribution. I’ve taken the liberty of changing some of the links in the original version for more complete or authoritative citations — editor

Selective Outrage
A subject for an objective academic study
By Maurice Ostroff

China’s Grisly Practices
With the launching last month of David Matas and David Kilgour’s book “Bloody Harvest,” every fair minded person must wonder why there has been no public outrage at its gruesome revelation of wide-scale harvesting of organs from live prisoners of conscience in China. The authors estimate that 41,500 organ transplants using Falun Gong prisoners have been done in the past five years. Their vital organs were seized involuntarily for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries.

This is not merely a journalist’s report that can be taken lightly. Matas is a lawyer who received the Order of Canada for his human rights work, and Kilgour is a  former crown prosecutor and former Member of Parliament.

The allegations are not new. According to the British Medical Journal of Nov. 24, 2001 prisoners in China can be executed for crimes such as black market activities, in addition to murder. Ambulances wait at the site of the executions and the fresh organs from healthy young persons are harvested, to be transplanted into recipients from abroad.

10,000 African Albinos in hiding
And why, one must ask, is there no outrage at reports by the International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies, that 10,000 Albinos have gone into hiding in East Africa because of the common belief that body parts of albinos have magical powers?

India’s Black Market in Organs
And are we too indifferent to express outrage at India’s black market organ scandal as reported in Time magazine of Feb. 1, 2008, revealing an organ transplant ring that has been harvesting kidneys from poor Indian laborers, sometimes against their wishes? Doctors pay $1000 for the kidneys and sell them for $37,500. Another massive transplant ring in Punjab was uncovered in 2003. Police there believe at least 30 of the donors, died, despite promises that they would receive excellent post-operation medical care. Some donors were forcibly brought to clinics at gunpoint and forced to undergo operations that they didn’t want.

Even Britain
In 2000, pathologist Dick Van Velzen at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool confessed to removing hundreds of thousands of organs from children’s bodies and storing them in hospitals all over the country. In addition to over 2,000 hearts, there were a large number of brain parts, eyes taken from over 15,000 stillborn foetuses and perhaps most disturbingly of all, a number of children’s heads and bodies.

Gaza’s Grisly Trophies
And there was not even a hint of outrage when Mideast Dispatch Archive reported on May 11, 2004 that body parts of six murdered Israelis were paraded around in Gaza as trophies by Palestinian mobs, including members of the PA security forces. Some even played football with body parts in the street. One disembodied head was placed on a table so television cameras could film it close up.

But there is no lack of outrage when Israel is in the dock
How does one explain the glaring difference between the mild media reactions to the above well documented reports and the immediate frenzied response to the unsubstantiated inference that the IDF harvested body parts of Palestinians, in the article by Donald Bostrom in the Swedish Aftonbladet? And how does one explain the instant fame acquired by the author whose name suddenly achieved over 400,000 Google results.

Bostrom’s own words confirm that his accusations are based on flimsy inferences rather than evidence. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post on August 20, he said critics “think I’m accusing the IDF of stealing organs. That’s not what I’m doing. I just recorded the Palestinian families saying that.” He went on to say “I don’t think there is a connection between the New York thing and what happened in the West Bank in the 90s.” Astonishingly, Mr. Bostrom nevertheless used the NY story in his leading paragraph together with a prominent photograph of one of the accused, a bearded Mr. Rosenbaum. More egregiously, Mr. Bostrom omitted to tell his readers that there were only five Jews among the 44 people arrested in the NY corruption and organ brokering scandal, including two New Jersey mayors, an assemblyman, and a city deputy mayor.

Evidently, when Israel is in the dock, an accusation doesn’t need to meet even the minimum requirements of journalistic integrity to be widely accepted.

The tenuous nature of Bostrom’s accusations are all too obvious when one considers that he refers to hearsay incidents in 1992, to imply that the IDF harvested organs in the Cast Lead operation in 2008-9

In enjoying his new fame, Mr. Bostrom is evidently not averse to exaggeration. On receiving an award for excellence from the National Federation of Algerian Journalists he casually increased the number of Palestinian victims whose body parts had been harvested, to more than 1,000.

Prof. Hiss
Most of the articles that followed Bostrom’s see a conspiratorial link between the IDF in 2009 and the unrelated 1990 incident in which Professor Hiss, who was then head of Israel’s forensic institute, admitted that he had harvested organs from cadavers without permission of their families. This incident closely resembles the Dick Van Velzen case in Britain cited above.

Israel’s Health Ministry responded that the guidelines at that time were not clear, but that they have been severely tightened and strictly enforced since then. Although Professor Hiss still works as chief pathologist, he was dismissed as head of the forensic institute.

Israel’s attorney-general Rubenstein at the time decided not to indict him since “there is no suspicion of corruption or profiteering on the part of Prof. Hiss, and the only interest he had was the advancement of medical research.”

There was a great deal of dissatisfaction with Rubenstein’s decision. Former Health Minister Dahan said he was sure that there was room for a criminal investigation but that there was at least one encouraging result, namely, that the questionable practices in the Forensic Institute would not continue.

Disgusting as this episode was, it is dishonest journalism to draw a false link from it to the IDF’s behavior in Operation Cast Lead.

Journalistic standards
Even one of Israel’s severest critics, Matthew Cassel, assistant editor of The Electronic Intifada, cannot close his eyes to the obvious defects in the Bostrom article. Cassel regards Bostrom’s baseless organ theft accusations as a propaganda gift for Israel. He wrote,

I support uncovering human rights violations and war crimes wherever they occur, especially in Palestine, where I have worked for many years. I do believe Bostrom’s intentions were to do much the same but that his process was highly irresponsible. The problem is not that he is accusing the State of Israel of wrongdoing, but that he is making accusations of what would amount to extremely serious war crimes while providing absolutely no evidence to support his claims…

The editors at the Swedish daily Aftonbladet who published this piece, should’ve sent it back to the author and told him to investigate the issue further until he found evidence to corroborate his claims.

Like all types of incitement to hate, this example of reckless journalism, is harmful to peace efforts. Like real viruses and computer viruses they spread and mutate and acquire long lasting lives of their own. Predictably, Boström’s story has spawned cartoons of Jews stealing body parts and drinking Arab blood. Algeria’s al-Khabar newspaper has fantasized Jewish-directed gangs of Algerians and Moroccans capturing children for harvesting of their body parts.

Even Al Jazeera Magazine has been infected with the hysteria. In a December 3, article it refers to an international Israeli conspiracy to kidnap children and harvest their organs and repeats a Pravda story that Israel has brought some 25,000 Ukrainian children into the occupied entity over the past two years in order to harvest their organs.

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Footnotes in historical fiction

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Massacres and wanton killings by Israel are a recurring theme in the Arab and Palestinian narrative. Deir Yassin, Ruach Shaked, Jenin, al-Dura, Sabra and Shatila (in which case the killing was done by Israel’s allies), and on and on. Now a graphic novel by Joe Sacco, “Footnotes in Gaza“  tells the story of another two incidents in which large numbers of Palestinian civilians were supposedly killed. In a very positive review in the NY Times, Patrick Cockburn wites,

The killings [allegedly — ed.] took place during the Suez crisis of 1956, when the Israeli Army swept into the Gaza Strip, the great majority of whose inhabitants were Palestinian refugees. According to figures from the United Nations, 275 Palestinians were killed in the town of Khan Younis at the southern end of the strip on Nov. 3, and 111 died in Rafah, a few miles away on the Egyptian border, during a Nov. 12 operation by Israeli troops. Israel insisted that the Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces were still facing armed resistance. The Palestinians said all resistance had ceased by then.

Sacco’s book will undoubtedly do much to further inflame anti-Zionist hatred. His research consisted of interviewing Palestinian “witnesses and survivors” in 2002-3. Although I can’t prove this without asking him, I’m almost certain that he did not talk to Israeli soldiers who were present. According to this review, he did not identify the Israeli units involved in the alleged massacres. Surely this information is available and would have led him to witnesses on the other side.

Why this is important is that Palestinians have made an industry out of lying about, exaggerating, and entirely faking atrocity stories.

So given this history, it should be clear that ‘eyewitness testimony’ by Palestinians or other Arabs needs to be taken with a truckload of salt. A real historian or investigative journalist must take all possible steps to collect evidence from both sides involved in highly controversial events. Otherwise the product is historical fiction, not history.

Of course historical fiction is appropriate if your intention, like that of Goldstone, is to contribute to the demonization of Israel.

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