Q: Where in London do lawyers hang out?
A: Chancery Lane /The Strand/Middle Temple /Lincolns Inn.
Q: And where in London do anti-Semites hang out?
A: At SOAS: The School of Antisemitism.
Last night was a good example. There was a film shown at SOAS: ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’. It is partly narrated by Roger Waters, who has been called ‘an open hater of Jews’. Its subject is media coverage of Israel in the US. Roger Waters was skyped in after the film and then there was a Panel with John Pilger, Dina Matar of SOAS and Sut Jhally who produced the film.
I spoke out in the Q+A. There were around 275 in the room – you can hear many of them trying to shout me down. After I spoke, an elderly man sitting two way from me (to my right) tried to grab the microphone, pulling at my shirt in frustration (you can hear me swearing at him). At the end another man – who sat three away from me – told me I was the ‘Zionist Jack Ruby’ (no idea of the connection, but it didn’t sound very complimentary). As I walked out of the room with Richard Millett, I was talking to a young man in the middle of his GCSE’s, who genuinely wanted to learn. A man tried to interrupt us. I told him I would talk when I was over with the young guy. He then asked Richard Millett (who was nearby) if he knew me. Richard said ‘yes’. The man – who appeared to be drunk – promptly hit Richard on the head. I guess that blow was meant for me…………
The film itself was unremittingly awful and borderline anti-semitic. Unsurprisingly, it has flopped in the US, rejected by all film festivals (except Palestinian ones). Its thesis is that unlike Europe – where the media is fair to the Palestinians (the example given is Jon Snow!) – in the US, Israel has a stranglehold over the media and this explains US support for Israel. Those of us who follow this genre of Israel-bashing will immediately appreciate how bad the film is by seeing the names of those interviewed: Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Stephen Walt, Amira Hass, Max Blumenthal (these five surely need no introduction), Youseff Munayyer, Peter Hart, Rami Khouri, Rashid Khalidi, Phyllis Bennis, MJ Rosenberg, Norman Solomon, Rula Jebreal, Henry Siegman.
The rot starts about two minutes in.
Allegation: Waters tells us that Israel killed 2000 Palestinians in 2014 and that the overwhelming number were civilians.
Truth: 55% of those who could be identified were combatants – the lowest ever civilian casualty rate in asymmetric warfare.
Allegation: Waters says that in 2014 “Israel flattened Wafa Hospital” in Gaza.
Truth: Hamas used Wafa Hospital as a base to attack Israel and IDF soldiers. Plus the IDF issued repeated warnings before attacking the Hamas terrorists there.
The assertion of Israel’s right to defend itself is called an “imbalance” by Youseff Munayyer!
Then the film distorts UN Resolution 242. It suggests that 242 called on Israel to withdraw from territories captured in 1967 without mentioning the obligation for the Arab States in 242 to cease belligerency. The film says that Israel has violated the Fourth Geneva Convention – It has not. It suggests that the Hamas Charter – which commits Hamas to eliminating Israel and to the genocide of all Jews – is not serious and is falsely used by Israel as a reason not to make peace (Jhally calls it “PR Gold for Israel”!). It suggests that no goods come into Gaza – not true – all goods some in, apart from those that could be used to make missiles. It says that Israel killed the four boys on the beach during the 2014 Gaza War – without pointing out that they had strayed into an area used exclusively by terrorists. And so on.
Allegation: Chomsky suggests that the accusation of antisemitism is used to suppress criticism of Israel.
Truth: The ‘Livingstone Formulation’ – and a lie.
Allegation: Jhally: “You have powerful right-wing billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to Republican candidates, bankrolling a campaign to silence and intimidate student-activists on college campuses”.
Truth: A laughable accusation, the truth is the opposite. It is pro-Israel Jewish students who are being intimidated.
The film suggests that Jews wanted to return to a land in which they had not lived for 3,000 years. Ahistoric nonsense– there has been a continuous Jewish presence near Jerusalem for thousands of years.
Allegation: Israel is accused by Waters of sparking the 1948 War of Independence, by declaring independence.
Truth: The Arabs invaded the new State.
Allegation: Israel is accused of the massacres in Sabra and Shatila in 1982.
Truth: The film omits to mention the Kahane Commission of Inquiry, as a result of which the Army Chief of Staff resigned and the Defence Minister quit.
Allegation: Henry Siegman says that Israel never considered giving up the land captured in 1967.
Truth: The land was offered back in the Khartoum Conference, in exchange for peace. It was met with the famous “Three No’s”. Despite this Israel has returned control of Gaza to the Palestinians, retaining only such control as is necessary for security.
Allegation: Chomsky claims that Israel broke the ceasefire in 2008, leading to Operation Cast Lead. And that Israel acted on November 4th 2008, the day of Obama’s election, in order to divert attention from its operation.
Truth: Acting on intelligence that terrorists were poised to infiltrate Israel and kidnap soldiers, Israeli troops crossed several hundred yards into Gaza to destroy a tunnel that was to be used for the infiltration. A firefight erupted between Hamas gunmen and the IDF. One terrorist was killed. Hamas launched mortar shells at Israeli targets, and an Israeli airstrike killed several Hamas terrorists preparing to fire mortars. And since the start of the ceasefire in June, about 38 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza into Israel.
But the pièce de résistance was a clip intended to show that occasionally, journalists in the US DO stand up to the wicked ‘Israel Lobby’. This featured the late Bob Simon of CBS, who in 2012 made a programme about the alleged persecution of Christian Palestinians by Israel. Here is a transcript:
Bob Simon: “Israel has occupied the West Bank for 45 years turning the little town where Christ was born, into what its residents call “an open air prison”. Christy Anastas lives with [her family] in this house which is surrounded on three sides by the Wall.”
Sut Jhally: “[Ambassador] Michael Oren actually tried to spike it – censor it – leading Simon to directly confront him on camera .…… These are examples of exceptional reporting – but they are the exception and there’s a reason for that. In each of these cases these journalists were mercilessly attacked and labelled as ‘anti-semitic’. It didn’t matter that they were both Jewish. That’s how the climate of intimidation works”
At the time, the media monitoring organisation CAMERA fisked the CBS programme extensively.
But something happened more recently (some 3-4 years ago) which simply blew the CBS programme out of the water. Christy Anastas – the daughter featured in the CBS programme – fled to the UK and revealed herself to be a strong supporter of the Israeli government and an advocate of the real reason why Christians in the West Bank are persecuted – namely, Islamist fundamentalism. You can watch Christy’s talks in the UK here and here. In the second video, watch Christy at 13:40:
“If you ask me a simple question: If you were the Prime Minister of Israel, would you put this wall up? My answer would be ‘yes’…. Because it stopped my people killing themselves and blowing themselves up, and I care for people, not for concrete.”
Indeed after Christy fled to the UK, CAMERA followed up its earlier story.
Q and A: There were a few noteworthy moments in the Q+A. John Pilger talked about Israel as “an anachronism propped up by the US” and “an attack dog for the US”. He described the estimable publication Honest Reporting as “thuggery”.
A lady asked whether members of the Panel had investigated the number of South Africans working in sovereign PR jobs – eg Mark Regev. She was politely corrected: Regev was born in Australia – not South Africa!
A man asked a question which referred to a Palestinian cartoonist “killed by the Israelis in London”. I had to look that one up – to confirm that of course it‘s a lie.
Naomi Wimborne Idrissi asked about the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism which the government has adopted, suggesting that it labels all criticism of Israel as ‘anti-semitic’. Utter nonsense.
Then – inevitably – came the Nazi analogies. Israel’s ‘propaganda’ was compared to Goebbels. (Why is it that when other countries promote their interests it’s ‘diplomacy’ but when Israel does it, it’s ‘propaganda’? Why?) Comparisons were made with Edward Bernays (the nephew of Freud and an early marketing guru who succeeded in convincing women that smoking cigarettes was fashionable).
Incredibly this was not a Palestine Society event. It was a SOAS Faculty event, shared between the Centre for Media Studies and Centre for Palestine Studies. It was chaired by Professor Gilbert Achcar, the Chair of SOAS’s Centre for Palestine Studies.
No question about it. SOAS is a disgrace. The Director Baroness Amos has had two years to sort it out. She has done nothing. SOAS is institutionally anti-Semitic. She must surely now consider her position.