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Robert Sarner
Writer, Editor, and Communications Specialist

Facts be damned in seeking to delegitimize Israel

Harsh critics of Israel often play fast and loose with the facts in how they present the Jewish state.

Photo credit: Taylor Brandon, Unsplash 

(Royalty-free stock photos)
Harsh critics of Israel often play fast and loose with facts to lambaste the Jewish state

New project from Canadian pro-Palestinian organization, CJPME, the latest in a time-honored tactic of deception in attacking the Jewish state

Some words of wisdom are almost prophetic.

Well over a century ago, celebrated American writer and humorist Mark Twain said caustically: “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can’t think of anything better.” He likely didn’t imagine to what degree this strategy would be applied to malevolent purposes years later.

Unfortunately, such thinking seems to govern much of the narrative that Palestinians and their supporters put forward in their virulent anti-Zionist zeal, as seen in a new project just launched by an anti-Israel organization with the lofty name of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.

With its so-called On This Day initiative aimed at “providing snapshots of key moments in Palestinian history,” the CJPME shows it can compete with the best when it comes to presenting a highly skewed picture to slam Israel, presumably to the benefit of Palestinians. Twain would be amused or maybe not.

One would think that just sticking to the facts would provide critics of Israel sufficient raw material with which to lambaste the Jewish state. Clearly, they’re not easily satiated in their boundless efforts to depict Israel as despicable as possible.

Taking a page out of the playbooks of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and former US president Donald Trump, the anti-Israeli camp knows the value of a compelling storyline, facts be damned.

With their fertile imagination, advocates of the Palestinian cause have shown themselves masters of creating vivid make-believe in the service of their agenda. Having long resorted to a litany of lies to slander Israel as part of their campaign to delegitimize it, these advocates must believe their tall tales serve their objectives well. They may be right.

Over the years, they’ve told some real whoppers. Many would be comical if the intention behind them wasn’t so sinister. That’s without mentioning their oft-repeated falsehoods denying ancient Jewish links to the land of Israel despite clear archaeological evidence to the contrary.

In addition to promoting historical misrepresentations about Israel that ignore the existence of Jewish holy sites dating back millennia, senior Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials regularly make outlandish, even farcical, allegations against the Jewish state. No laughing matter, some are nothing short of modern day variations on medieval blood libels against Jews.  Their constituents and a surprising number of otherwise rational and educated people around the world seem ready to believe this hokum, hook, line and sinker.

Here’s just a sampling, in no particular order, of what Palestinian officials have accused Israel of doing:

  •  Spiking chewing gum with a hormone for consumption by Palestinian youth that turned girls into nymphomaniacs while making boys sterile.
  • Operating a network of AIDS-infected Israeli prostitutes sent to infect Palestinians.
  • Distributing booby-trapped or poisoned sweets across the West Bank to kill Palestinian children.
  • Inoculating Palestinian children with the AIDS virus.
  • Contaminating much of the water sources used by Palestinians with “chemical materials”.
  • Using a form of poison gas against Palestinians that attacks their reproductive organs.
  • Using a mysterious “black gas” that causes abortions, AIDS and foot-and-mouth disease.
  • Releasing poison-resistant rats to drive Arab residents of Jerusalem out of their homes.
  • Using wild boars to destroy Arab crops in the West Bank and drive farmers off their lands

(Trust me: I didn’t make up any of these as my imagination is far too limited).

For the Palestinian leadership, no accusation against Israel or historical misrepresentation is too far-fetched not to be used in the quest for international sympathy and support. The claims say more about those spreading such nonsense than the intended target.

In the eyes of most Palestinians and many of their supporters, when faced with these paranoid, fantasy-driven allegations, Israel is guilty as charged despite a total lack of independent evidence to support such fabrications. As is too often the case with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the benefit of the doubt rarely goes to Israel.

Strangely, there’s little or no accountability for such mendacity. Those behind such falsehoods pay no price, except maybe to their credibility, if even that.

While for some, the level of absurdity of many of these myths may seem almost entertaining, their impact is anything but. They help feed an already-widespread hatred and fear of Israel, reinforcing the suspicion Israel has a diabolical plan and supernatural powers to exterminate Arabs, undermine Muslim piety and ensure its supposed domination over the Middle East, if not the world. No doubt the accusations also further inspire Palestinian terrorists to commit atrocities against Israel and Jewish targets abroad.

More sophisticated than making outrageous claims is twisting history, mixing fiction with fact. It takes many forms and today continues unabated far and wide. Two weeks ago, as already mentioned, the Quebec-based, pro-Palestinian CJPME contributed to the canon of fact-challenged, anti-Israeli propaganda, under the guise of a history primer.

With great pride, it announced the launch of “an exciting new project to connect Canadians with key dates in the history of modern Palestine.” To that end, it said it would provide “reliable information” about events in Palestinian history.

Let’s look at just one example of what they call “reliable information” as it’s symptomatic of this insidious practice to smear Israel.

For its April 3, 2002 instalment, the first sentence states: “Israel begins a 10-day bombardment of the Jenin refugee camp in what became known as the ‘Jenin Massacre.’”

On reading that, those unfamiliar with what really happened 20 years ago could be forgiven for thinking Israel’s military brass sent troops to Jenin to kill innocent, helpless civilians for the thrill of it because, after all, isn’t massacring Palestinians what Israel is all about?

Presumably, Palestinians believe such a deliberately distorted account of what really happened will gain them more sympathy and support from those who don’t know any better. It’s consistent with their time-honored narrative which depicts them as beleaguered victims, suffering at the hands of the merciless, genocidal Zionist monster that revels in gratuitous, unprovoked violence.

In this case, true to form, the authors of the CJPME’s On This Day, show a brazen disregard for inconvenient facts or context that would contradict their favoured account that depicts the Palestinians as the aggrieved party, with nary a sense that perhaps the Palestinians have also contributed to the conflict.

A far more honest, more accurate depiction of April 2, 2002 involving Jenin would include such salient and important details:

  • What Palestinians like to call the “Jenin Massacre” is far more commonly and fairly known as “the Battle of Jenin” as it took place between Israeli (IDF) soldiers and armed Palestinian combatants resulting in a fierce and bloody fight, with fatalities on both sides
  • The IDF counter-terrorist operation in Jenin began in early April 2002, triggered by dozens of murderous bombings against Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists
  • Jenin was known as a central base for Palestinian terrorist groups. Many of those who had murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians in bombings of buses, cafés and restaurants in the winter of 2002 came from Jenin, which housed explosive-making labs
  • A few days before the IDF entered Jenin, a Palestinian killed 30 people celebrating Passover and wounded 140 others in a bombing attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya
  • In March 2002 alone, Palestinian terrorists killed 130 Israelis, mostly civilians, in a series of bombings, which resulted in Israel launching its counter-terrorist operation called Defensive Shield in late March
  • Israel knew that operatives from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had used explosives to boobytrap Jenin in advance of an IDF incursion. That’s why the IDF deployed armed bulldozers to destroy booby-traps and clear paths for soldiers and tanks
  • Well before entering Jenin, the IDF warned residents in Arabic to leave before fighting started
  • The IDF primarily used ground forces to minimize civilian casualties among Palestinians

In the early days of the IDF operation, Palestinians falsely accused Israel of carrying out a “massacre” in Jenin, wildly exaggerating the number of people killed. On April 7, 2002, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told CNN that Israel had killed 500 Palestinians, while a few days later, PA Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman told UPI the number was in the thousands. These were accompanied by allegations of Israel burying Jenin residents in mass graves and other supposed atrocities. Much of the international media amplified these claims slamming Israel.

Later, official Israeli and Palestinian sources indicated between 52 and 54 Palestinians and 23 IDF soldiers died in the fighting. Most of the former were gunmen. After subsequent investigations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations, all of which are notoriously unsympathetic to Israel, rejected claims of a massacre in the Battle of Jenin.

Even The Guardian, a British newspaper often harshly critical of Israel, criticized the media’s false accusation of an IDF massacre. In an article titled “How Jenin battle became a massacre,” it decried the rush to judgment based on flimsy corroboration.

It wrote: “The Independent, the Guardian and the Times, in particular, were quick to denounce Israel and made sensational accusations based on thin evidence, fitting a widely-held stereotype of a defiant, brutal and don’t-give-a-damn Israel.”

To be clear, none of the above is meant as a blanket defense of everything Israel does. Like all countries, it’s inherently imperfect and not immune to scrutiny and fair, fact-based criticism.

But what’s patently wrong is for Israel to be subjected to a discriminatory double-standard and vilified through a re-writing of history and grotesque fabrications, even in today’s “post-truth” era of disinformation and fake news.

If members of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East are really true to their organization’s noble-sounding name, they should know their deceitful tactics will only take us further away from any future justice and peace in the Middle East.

About the Author
Robert Sarner is a writer and communications specialist in Toronto who contributes regularly to the Times of Israel. A former journalist in Israel, France and Canada, his work has appeared in the Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Report, i24 News, Le Monde, Globe and Mail, National Post, Canadian Jewish News, Christian Science Monitor, Detroit Jewish News and The Forward. While living in France, he was the founding Editor of Paris Passion magazine and later was a Senior Editor/Reporter at Israel Television's IBA News.
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