Those wonderful folks who bring you Israeli hasbara have invested $6-million in a new advertising campaign in the aftermath of that rather nasty and inconvenient little war in Gaza. The Israeli tourism commissioner for North American was interviewed in the Canadian Jewish News:
He said Israeli tourism officials had forecast an “even better” year in 2009 [than 2008], but the war in Gaza and the global economic downturn have dampened expectations. Now, Sommer said he’d consider the year a success if there was only a 20 per cent drop in tourism this year…
Sommer also spoke at length about how the Canadian market is expanding due to recent, local public relations campaigns that paint Israel in a new light as a safe and fun travel destination.
…On another front, Sommer said Israel has also increased its trips for journalists to Israel in order to increase the country’s positive exposure in the worldwide media.
It is unfortunate what a dirty little war does to a nation’s tourism image, isn’t it? As for “safe,” that depends on your perspective doesn’t it? If you asked residents of Gaza about that question they might have a few ideas of their own to add. Do you think that all the journalists in the world giving Israel “positive exposure” could mend the image conveyed by 1,400 dead Gazans? Rhetorical question–you don’t need to answer.
The campaign (shall we call it “Operation Cast Gold?”) is designed to cast Israel in the most favorable light possible and it’ll really make your skin crawl if you have any sensitivity to the ironies in the ad copy:
Today in Israel
Children are playing, people are smiling, and visitors from around the world are enjoying restaurants, the hostels, the ancient sites, and the endless wonders of today’s Israel. In other words–today is another beautiful day in Israel, where everyone always has a warm and friendly “Shalom” for you. Today is a perfect day for you to plan your trip to Israel.
Israel: No One Belongs Here More Than You
They tried pretty much the same thing about a year ago in preparation for the spring-summer tourist season, a campaign I skewered here. My post drew a sharp scolding from the resident Comment is Free Anglo-Israeli progressive, Seth Freedman, no doubt influenced by the fact that Alex Stein, his best friend, protested my approach sharply. I thought it was rather unfortunate that Seth used his CiF bully pulpit to fight his best friend’s battle for him.
Returning to our subject, why is it that Israelis believe the answer to a horrific, blood-curdling war is a pretty ad campaign? No, don’t answer that. It was just a rhetorical question. Oh hell, give it a shot–answer it if you like.
I encourage my readers to have as much fun with the ad copy as possible (fun in the darkest sense of the word, of course). Let’s talk back to these hasbaraniks. Here’s my contribution:
Today is another beautiful day in Israel, where everyone always has a warm and friendly “Shalom for you”…unless you’re a dirty stinking Palestinian.
Yes, it’s grim. I know. You can do better. So give it a shot.
Alex Stein says
Richard, I thought you drew a line under all this when you said you thought it best that you and Seth not make contact with each other. So I’m a little surprised to see you drag this up again. It’s also a little upsetting given that I thought our dialogue had been a bit more constructive during the last few weeks. I guess you don’t agree. Needless to say, though, the arguments Seth came up with then still stand. The promotion of tourism is based on an anaesthetised, airbrushed, sentimentalised view of a country. In this sense, Israel is behaving no different to any other country.
(btw, Had you noted that the new Tourism Minister is from Yisrael Beytenu, I might have had more sympathy…)
Richard Silverstein says
You’d have to ask Seth why after the last go round on Israeli tourism he decided to criticize yet another piece of mine in one of his CiF columns. So you mean to say that Seth is allowed to take shots at me two different times, but I’m not allowed to write about one incident that disturbed me?
I note that you do not dispute the fact that your communication with Seth in some way spurred him to attack my work. I used to have what I thought was a good relationship with Seth until the tourism dispute. It still rankles that you may’ve had something to do with spoiling that and that Seth allowed his friendship with you to spoil it. But hey, everybody makes their bed & has to lie in it.
We have found more to agree on over the past week or so and the critical statement I made in this post relates only to the tourism incident and not to any subsequent interactions I’ve had with you.
But Israel isn’t like any other country. It fought a dirty little war killing 1,400 Gazans & then got scared about how all this would play out in terms of their tourism business leading it to shell out $6-million to try to offset the damage.
And the tourism commissioner himself connects the campaign with the war in Gaza & concedes it will repress business. Few other countries in the world I can think of promote tourism in the midst of brutal wars with their neighbors.
I’ve seen that disgusting ad.
Another shot in the propaganda war, now that some people are criticizing Israel. Gee whiz, just cuz they use white phosphorous against a civilian population, those critics must be anti-semites.
Here is another indicator:
“The US envoy to the United Nations says that Washington has a duty to fight the growing anti-Israeli sentiments in the world. In a Friday interview with the Politico, Susan Rice said that the Obama White House was determined to “fight against the anti-Israel crap” at the UN.
Rice hailed the attempt as a crusade for “the principles we believe in,” echoing the former US administrations’ staunch and blind support for Israel.”
Hugh Slaman says
What exactly is the legal status of the 700,000 expelled Palestinians and their children now? If they were to apply for Israeli citizenship, would they automatically be rejected?
The ad probably delivers too. If you go to Israel it is possible now at least (before the coming next war) to be completely oblivious to the conflict and you may very well have a great vacation. The operative phrase is “if you go”. I think from anecdotal evidence and what I just read about tourism being way down) that many are afraid to go now especially after this war.
All countries have their ugly secrets. We keep inviting people to come and trample all over Uluru while we hide the traditional owners in 5th world slums.
We invited them to exotic tropical ports for years or for desert treks while ignoring the refugees locked up in our concentration camps being tear gassed and water cannoned.
During the Atlanta Olympic games the US shoved the homeless to the edge of town to clean the streets, we did the same in Sydney by the way, London is doing it, Greece did it.
Israel’s problem is that she keeps murdering the arabs who own the land.
Alex Stein says
Richard – I occasionally suggest ideas of pieces for Seth to write about; some he chooses to take up, others he doesn’t. I’m sure you have people forwarding you ideas all the time.
I’m not going to go round in circles here; suffice to say that I think you could be writing about more significant things than “Israeli Tourism Industry in doing its job shock”. It would have more weight, btw, if you supported a tourist boycott of the country.
Richard Silverstein says
My best friend doesn’t suggest that I write articles attacking fellow progressive CiF authors. If he did, I wouldn’t write it. Now, if it was Petra Marquardt I probably would!
I don’t support a tourist boycott though I am not opposed to any tourist who decides not to visit Israel for political reasons. But I don’t support advertising that dissembles about the Israeli reality.
Arie Brand says
Marilyn this isn’t the place to start a discussion about Australia but if you meant to imply that Australia’s policy regarding aborigines and refugees are comparable to what Israel does to the Palestinians I must protest.
About the traditional owners of Uluru, at least they had their land returned to them albeit on the condition that it is leased (as a National Park) to the Government for 99 years. They do, however, profit from the deal since they get 25% of the entrance fees to Uluru. That fee is now, I believe, $A 25 and there are two to three hundred thousand visitors per year there. So 25 % amounts to a tidy sum especially since the number of traditional owners seems to be quite limited.
About the camps for refugees – they definitely were bad but to call them ‘concentration camps’ is over the top. They are in no way comparable to the Nazi death and torture camps or even to the British ‘concentration camps’ (the origin of the term) during the Boer War in which 56,000 Boer women and children died – not because of deliberate genocide (as in the Nazi camps) but because of neglect.
Keep things in perspective.
Arie Brand says
oops: wrong plural after policy
Miles Stuart says
Is Israel really going to do itself any favours by encouraging people to visit? I’m a long way from sure. The poster is idyllic, but reality is likely to impress itself more firmly.
In my time in Israel and Palestine I got lost several times.
On one occasion somewhere in north west Jerusalem. It was like being lost on Mars with Martians. I am laughing as I recall it because it was so bizarre. As I tried to find a bystander to ask the way, the denizens buried their heads in their chests and shouldered past. Anywhere in the world you find all types of people, some friendly, some less so. The first couple of times I just put it down to coincidence. After half an hour I started to wonder if I was breaching some local etiquette like having the wrong shaped head, standing on cracks in the pavement, or who knows what! Maybe everyone was like some sort of extreme version of those Frenchmen who could not abide acknowledging an English speaker.
I did meet unfriendly and unhelpful Palestinians but they were few and far between. The phrases I heard everywhere I went was “You are most welcome here”. Palestinians must start learning English by rote learning it. Eventually one would have become quite startled not to receive such a greeting. Palestinians have a well deserved reputation for hospitality. On another occasion I got lost walking back from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Dusk fell, it grew dark and I grew fed up. A Palestinian taxi passed me on the deserted road which had no footway and stopped unbidden. After a short exchange he offered to drive me as far as he could which was the checkpoint closest to where I wanted to go. He refused my repeated attempts to offer payment despite the fact he had obviously gone miles out of his way. This was all the more impressive because the economy of Bethlehem had been devastated by the effects of the Wall and other Israeli ‘security’ measures. (While in Bethlehem I visited the Bethlehem Arab Women’s Union Museum, in the centre of town and which I thoroughly recommend. Visitors were so rare I was personally accompanied round the museum, my guide switching lights on and off to save electricity as we went.)
On another occasion I got lost late at night in the old city of Nablus (which btw is architecturally glorious and full of life and vibrancy, during the day at least. It contrasts starkly with Hebron which is also architecturally glorious but has had the life ripped out of it by the impact of settlers). I wasn’t particularly bothered as Nablus is not large and the geography means you can’t go far wrong. In any case my mind was on the events of the day rather than my immediate surroundings. I glanced up to see a group of young men, several armed, looking at me a short distance ahead. I cursed myself for my stupidity and inattention. Frightened as I was I thought it best to continue past them rather than retreat. As I came closer I said as calmly as I could “H, He, Hello”. To which they replied, clearly amused, “Good evening.” And, as you might have guessed, “You are most welcome here”.
*RE: “As I tried to find a bystander to ask the way, the denizens buried their heads in their chests and shouldered past.”
*THE WORDS OF A FORMER ISRAELI: “Israelis have never been particularly kind to each other. It’s one of the reasons I left actually. In my late twenties I started to grow weary of the unkind, harsh and unforgiving atmosphere around me. It was a tough place to live in not because of our ‘enemies’ but because of how people treated one another. You would believe that we were all enemies rather than people who have some kind of a shared heritage. The only thing that could unite people and temporarily brought out more kindness and a sense of cooperation was a feeling of being under collective threat, and in particular a ‘good wholesome war’.” – Avigail Abarbanel
SOURCE – http://www.avigailabarbanel.me.uk/
“What exactly is the legal status of the 700,000 expelled Palestinians and their children now? If they were to apply for Israeli citizenship, would they automatically be rejected?”
What is the status of the 800,000 Jews evicted from Arab countries. Will the Arab countries give them back their homes and property?
Hugh Slaman says
I was asking a simple question, and hoping for information from those better informed than I am.
I have no interest in engaging in a polemical battle with you.
Richard Silverstein says
This is rightist propaganda. There were few, if any Jews expelled from Arab countries. It is certainly true that economic & other factors were not good for Jews (& Muslims as well) in many Arab countries & that this encouraged them to emigrate to Israel and elsewhere. It is true that Israel sent shlichim who attempted to persuade as many Arab Jews as possible to make aliyah. It is true that in a few countries there was hostility that persuaded Jews to leave. But I’d dare you to provide any evidence that Jews were “evicted.”
Absolutely true Richard. Reading 1967 and other books shows the lunacy of Israel – they expel 800,000 arabs from Palestine and spend the next decade replacing them with arabs from Yemen, Morocco, Iraq and other places.
And Arie, I know the aborigines have their own land for now but they only got it back a few decades ago. It was not until 1972 in most of the country we stopped stealing their children and 1981 in Queensland.
WE don’t lock refugees up in the desert concentration camps anymore but we did it from 1992 – 2007 and damaged tens of thousands of innocent people.
My point Arie is that it never works, getting rid of native populations is a losing proposition and short of total genocide always will be.
The idea in the 21st century that someone claiming to be jewish from the US, England or Australia can automatically go and live in Palestine because Israel says so, but the 4 million Palestinians in the diaspora who own the land are not allowed to go home adds up to the criteria for derangement I would suggest.
Dr Elias Checour wrote a book about the 1967 expulsion and the bringing of Iraqis to Palestine and he explained that the Irgun and others were setting off fire bombs among the 150,000 jews in the population to terrify them into leaving their ancient homeland to migrate to Palestine as jewish Israeli’s.
I had this confirmed by several Iraqi friends who remember it well and now live in Australia.
What I find even more amazing is the belief in the west that Israel was founded because of nazi Germany – no such place existed in 1948 yet they have got away with that propoganda for all these years while continuing to steal the land.
Richard Silverstein says
A place called Israel existed both in reality & in the minds of Jews for centuries. In 1948, it may’ve been called Palestine, but it was Israel-in-the-making for the Jews of Palestine and other Jews around the world. The need to deny national self-determination to the Jews of Israel in order to confer it on the Palestinians is rather noxious. I don’t believe that to right a wrong we must compound it by punishing the Jews of Israel.
Miles Stuart says
I don’t think Marilyns is trying to imply “that to right a wrong we must compound it by punishing the Jews of Israel”.
I for one certainly once believed in the myth of a land without people for a people without land. That the modern State of Israel did not exist in 1948 is factually true. Neither did a state called Palestine. The belief of many Jews that they had a right of exclusive ownership to the territory inhabited by Palestinians does not make it so.
It rather depends on what is meant by “national self-determination”. As it is now being exercised it most certainly IS noxious. The Jews of Israel (or anywhere else) should have exactly the same rights of freedom and liberty as every other individual on the planet, including Palestinians. They do not have any right to live in a state which discriminates in any way against citizens who are not Jews.
I’m Canadian and in terms of TV publicity, other than Barbados, and the U.S. (mostly borders States) we don’t get a lot of publicity to go and visit any country in particular. The publicity is mostly done by travel agancies who promise to put together the trip of your dreams, usually south and hot.
Plus or minus 2 weeks ago, I saw a TV advertisement promoting Isreal as a tourist destination. I was speechless and surprised at my reaction which was…oohs..YUKS!!! Creepy! I would not feel safe going there. Vacation oasis, I don’t think so.
Friendly, fun-loving is not the image I have of Israelis right now.It is more of a people willing to starve and bomb a defenseless population, burning them alive with white phophorous or just shooting them for the fun of it. The Gaza war is way too fresh in my mind. I don’t even think I was over the Lebanon war of 2006.
At this point in time, I would not consider visiting Israel for both safety and political reasons.
Arie Brand says
I noticed that Obama, in his recent speech to the Turkish parliament, referred to Americans who had spent at least part of their lives in countries with a Moslem majority and added that he had been among them.
Yes, he was of course. As we know he arrived in Indonesia in the very year that the Six Day War took place and spent four years there when he was at primary school age. In “The Audacity of Hope” he speaks about those years with some nostalgia: “I remember those years” he says “as a joyous time, full of adventure and mystery – days of chasing down chickens and running from water buffalo, nights of shadow puppets and ghost stories and street vendors bringing delectable sweets to our door”, and a few pages further down he adds that in thinking about Bali and all of Indonesia “I’m haunted by memories – the feel of packed mud under bare feet as I wander through paddy fields; the sight of day breaking behind volcanic peaks; the muezzin’s call at night and the smell of wood smoke; the dickering at the fruit stands alongside the road; the frenzied sound of a gamelan orchestra, the musicians’ faces lit by fire.”
I wonder how these years have contributed to his view of the world. He stresses that Indonesia has 240 million people and is, in terms of population, the fourth largest country in the world – but that yet many Americans cannot point it out on the map. So he is keenly aware, unlike perhaps many Americans, that there is a wide, wide world beyond the U.S.
Also, in the years that he lived there militant Islam had not yet shown its ugly face or rather had gone underground after the leaders of the Darul Islam movement, that terrorized West Java in the fifties, had, in 1962, been captured or killed. “Traditionally” says Obama “Indonesians practiced a tolerant, almost syncretic brand of the faith, infused with the Buddhist, Hindu, and animist traditions of earlier periods. Under the watchful eye of an explicitly secular Suharto governement, alcohol was permitted, non-Muslims practiced their faith free from persecution, and women – sporting skirts or sarongs as they rode buses or scooters on the way to work – possessed all the rights that men possessed”. But things have changed as Obama is well aware.
Yet, when he said in that Turkish parliament that the US was not at war with the world of Islam he must have had this image in mind of the Islam of this period of his youth in the world’s biggest Moslem state.
How does it influence his view of the Israelian-Palestinian conflict? It is unlikely that he would ever share the vicious hatred of Islam shown by many American fellow travellers of Israel. But what else? We don’t know. About Israel he says almost nothing in this book (the name of the country doesn’t even occur in the index). And where he talks about it (in his account of his return trip from Iraq) he adopts an almost quietist tone: “I flew by helicopter” he writes “across the line separating the two peoples and found myself unable to distinguish Jewish towns from Arab towns, all of them fragile outposts against the green and stony hills. From the promenade above Jerusalem, I looked down at the Old City, the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, considered the two thousand years of war and rumors of war that this small plot of land had come to represent, and pondered the possible futility of believing that this conflict might somehow end in our time, or that America, for all its power, might have any lasting say over the course of the world.”
The bird’s eye view from a helicopter or “from the promenade above Jerusalem” , high above the ugly reality of the world down below, is of course the ideal perspective for quietism – but is it for an American President?
It’s true that in the next paragraphs he banishes these thoughts “of an old man” and reminds himself of the obligation “to engage in efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East”, but will it only require a dose of Netanyahu’s slick obstructionism to let him slip back into quietism, into thoughts about the “possible futility of believing that this conflict might somehow end in our time.”?
Miles Stuart says
I’d read that as a good sign. If he had written much that was realistic and honest it is unlikely he would now be in a position to do much about it. Of course it’s possible he was just uninformed and uninterested but that seems unlikely in the extreme.
The real obstacle to progress is likely to be Congress.
Arie Brand says
Julian asks about the 800,000 Jews allegedly evicted (read: often forced to make aliyah by Zionist activities) from Arab countries, suggesting, in true Hasbara fashion, that their fate is somehow comparable to that of the Palestinians.
He did so a week ago at Mondoweiss (3/30) and I came up with a very extensive reply detailing what had impelled Iraqi and Moroccon Jews to leave their rerspective countries (where they often had privileged positions).
Julian did not react.
Instead, he just goes on trying to spread the same disinformation on other blogs.
RE: “…Julian asks…I came up with a very extensive reply…Julian did not react…”
MY COMMENT: I’ve read that most computer viruses cripple a computer by having it perform a large number of useless tasks over and over. This utilizes all of the computer’s CPU and/or memory performing these useless tasks; thereby leaving no CPU/memory resources to perform useful functions. (hint, hint)
@Miles Stuart – re your tourist experience in israel – I’ll share some of mine:
It is true that one can encounter some unhelpful, indifferent, sometimes almost hostile reactions in Israel, especially if one happens to be in parts of towns not accustomed to tourists. Of course, there are some super friendly reactions too, but on the whole, discourse in Israel is somewhat crude, and they take pride in not being “phony friendly” with obvious tourists, despite the constant urging from their tourism ministry.
The worst and least friendly people are found, of course, in orthodox parts of the country. There you’ll be lucky to even get a response at all, just like you describe. Once, not too long ago, driving into ramat gan to a particular address, I stopped on a busy street to ask directions, as I was totally lost (the signs are terrible!). Wouldn’t you know it just happened to be on the edge of bnei brak – a haredi enclave where no secular person apparently ever goes. I asked several people – both women and men for the location of a major artery I was looking for. The men – even one who didn’t wear the eastern european parochial garb that would reveal him as super-orthodox – ignored the question as if none were asked. The women looked, nodded and said they didn’t know. I asked several people – even went inside a convenience store – both in English and hebrew. No luck. I thought this was the most unfriendly place I ever encountered in all my travels (and I was in many countries and several off-the-beaten track locations).
Ended up driving around idly until i saw no hint of anything religious, and eventually a young kid helped me out (nice boy…). Later i recounted this entire incident to several of my israeli friends/relatives and they just chuckled, saying that no one should ever go into “those” neighborhoods, “those” expressed with a sneer and a tone of total disgust (which is how the secular in israel feel towards the “religious nutcases” (their expression) in their midst). Several would add that israel has indeed become an unpleasant place where conversation is almost too crude to bear, usually followed by lamentations of the corruption that appeared to have overtaken everything. Increasingly, more and more people – of all ages – would indicate ) that they’d leave if they could. Which kind pf has the effect of making one feel bad for being a citizen of some “nice’ civilized country like America or England or Brazil (?).
of course, there are also great israelis who are huge fun to be with. That is, as long as the conversation doesn’t veer into anything to do with palestinians or Arabs (one learns to never bring up the subject in israel). Or to Obama (who most distrust). Or to israeli elections/politicians (whom just about everybody seems to despise). Naturally, it depends on whom one knows, but this last visit left me with some not so positive impressions.
But yes, the scenery is still great, as is the food, as is the meditarranean sea (which has no equal). But we from the outside find it harder and harder to enjoy knowing how much suffering goes on just a short distance away. In my case, I knew they all knew there was this little 1000 pound baby gorilla in the room, which somehow cast a pall over every visit, no matter how great the people in the room were (they usually know – or suspect – which side of the fence I’m on…).
What that tells me is that, in a way, the dead, the oppressed and the dispossessed palestinians have a way of haunting the most oblivious of israelis. they seem to always be there – by their absence they are ever-present. Perhaps we should take comfort from that.
And Richard, please don’t fight with alex any more. on the levels that matter you, alex and seth are on the same side. Let’s set upon Petra instead (such fun….)
Miles Stuart says
Thanks Dana, I did not mean to imply the experience I described was universal. I chose it because it was so extraordinary, I cannot recall it without laughing.
Israelis are, perhaps unsurprisingly, very varied in attitude and outlook. There are few other countries which it would be harder characterise stereotypically as one could with say Germans or Italians. That said, in my mind I identify Israelis generally as roundheads (North European) and Palestinians as cavaliers (Mediterranean). Of course there are also Palestinian roundheads and Israeli cavaliers. Whist I suspect I am myself a roundhead, I enjoy the company of cavaliers more.
I agree and this is why I disagreed with Richard about the power of passive ( non violent) resistance. I think moral consciences cannot ( or will not) be buried.
RE: “…why is it that Israelis believe the answer to a horrific, blood-curdling war is a pretty ad campaign?”
Edward Louis Bernays
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Edward Louis Bernays (November 22, 1891 – March 9, 1995) is considered one of the fathers of the field of public relations along with Ivy Lee. Combining the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious.
He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the ‘herd instinct’ that Trotter had described. Adam Curtis’s award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations, and Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine…
SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays
Alex Stein says
Is it not legitimate for me to suggest he write a critique of your piece?
Richard Silverstein says
I think you’re being disingenuous or else you yrself aren’t fully cognizant of your motivation. Personally, I think you were angry at my responses to you about my original Israeli tourism post (our exchange was quite contentious as I recall) and urged Seth to take me on. Both the tone of Seth’s column and subsequent vituperative personal e mail between us indicated to me that Seth was quite hostile about this entire episode. Now, the question is: was Seth pissed at me because of what you told him or because he was offended on yr behalf?
I realize that writers can’t keep personal relationships out of their writing nor should they. But I do think that sometimes those relationships can intrude upon and complicate what and how one writes.
Alex Stein says
Once again you are quite willing to tell me what my motivations were.
I think a – how shall I put it – strident tone is one of the hallmarks of Seth’s writing, whether it’s about your piece or anything else. I wouldn’t take it personally; I don’t have that much influence on him!
Arie Brand says
Early this year Michael Backman, a correspondent of the Australian newspaper The Age wrote one of his usual columns for the paper. But this one caused an unusual explosion. Backman had had the temerity to comment on the unpopularity of Israeli tourists in Nepal.
He wrote among other things:
“Trekking in Nepal is fashionable among young Israelis. So much so that many shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara have signs in Hebrew. But once you get on the trekking circuit and speak with local Nepalese guides and guesthouse operators you soon discover how disliked the Israelis are. Many guesthouses in this poor country will even tell Israeli trekking groups that they are full rather than accept them. This has nothing to do with religion or politics: Nepalese people are some of the warmest, most hospitable in the world. Rather, they say that the young Israelis are rude, arrogant, and argue over trifling amounts of money even though they clearly have means.”
Those who claim to represent the Australian Jewish community were up in arms and berated the editor in chief, Ramadge, who bent over backwards to apologize saying that the publication of the column was an ‘error’ (he had good reason to be careful – apparently his predecessor, Andrew Jaspan, had been removed from his post because he had allowed a reporter from Israel to be a bit too frank. Jaspan’s Jewishness couldn’t save him).
Arie Brand says
Oh yes, Backman’s columns were suspended for three months.
Jaspan spiked the last piece Ed O’Loughlin wrote which described in shocking detail the murder of the Gaza journalist that we all saw on our TV screens. Ed was a superb journalist but had the temerity to call Israel’s behaviour “collective punishment” which is only the truth.
It seems the only journalist in Australia who is untouchable is Paul McGeough. Arie I trust you have read his new book about Khalid Mishal.
Acai Berri says
800,000 Jews allegedly evicted (read: often forced to make aliyah by Zionist activities) from Arab countries…If this is true, couldnt the Zionists force Jews from America to be “evicted” too?
Dick Silversmith says
“Today is a beautiful day in America where most people look forward to a green spring… unless you’re a self important nebesha who devotes his life to self aggrandization of his meager importance by demonstrating his lack of class and civility towards those that either disagree with him and/or find him to be as annoying in print as in person”
Yes, it’s grim. I know. I can do better. but it’s a start.
Richard Silverstein says
How do you know whether I’m annoying in person since you’ve never met me? I’m actually not half as annoying as you are. I’ve approved yr comment just for the sake of its entertainment value. Alas, unlike you, I know you can’t do better than this feeble fable.
Hugh Slaman says
The Zionists need a presence here in America to pressure U.S. foreign policy in a direction that benefits Israel. Moreover, they need to maintain a good image here, and this was never a concern when it came to Arab countries.
Arie Brand says
Acai those Zionist activities to promote making aliyah included false flag operations such as the bombing of a synagogue, of the USIS library and other targets in Iraq around 1950. I have written extensively about that on Mondoweiss (30/3 and earlier) and will not replicate that post here.
Peter D says
Arie, a link would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Zhu Bajie says
Whenever I visited Israel in the ’80s, it seemed that most of the grunt work was done by Arabs. Lately, I’ve heard that guest workers from Fujian (in China) have taken up that role. Can anyone give me more info? Who picks the tomatoes, tends the olive trees, makes the white cheese? Or has the Israeli diet changed in the last 20 years?
Arie Brand says
Peter you can try the following browser address. I haven’t mastered the art of translating that into a short word like “here”. This address will take you to Philip’s introductory piece and my stories about the Iraqi and Moroccon Jews are among the comments:
Arie Brand says
I certainly don’t believe in the inborn characteristics of a whole nation, especially not in the case of so diverse a nation as the Israelis.
On the other hand I don’t believe that Backman deliberately maligned the young Israelis who travel around in South Asia. Backman is an old hand in those regions and he probably truthfully reported what he heard along the grapevine there.
So what do these young Israelis suffer from? The answer might be: the “Checkpoint Syndrome”.
“Checkpoint Syndrome” is the title of the book by Israeli Staff Sergeant (Res.) Ron Furer who describes there how he and his mates were gradually turned into a pack of sadistic animals by the freedom they had at checkpoints, as barely nineteen and twenty year old boys, to harass and humiliate Palestinians. Gideon Levy published a review of the book and an interview with Furer in Haaretz of 25th Nov. 2003 under the title “I slapped an Arab in the face”.
Furer also talks there about his post-IDF experience in India when he still suffered from the syndrome. Here is the relevant passage:
The occupation should end not just for the physical and mental health of the Palestinians but for that of the Israelis.
Arie Brand says
I’ve lost track.
On the topic of the 800,000 Jews who came to Israel from Arab countries I checked out Arie Brand’s posts on mondoweiss, which he recommends above. (btw I am not a poster there). Then I read Tom Segev’s chapter “Nameless People” from his book “the First Israeli’s”. Segev paints a much more mixed story about the circumstances that caused individuals and groups to leave the various countries- and ” officially” on both ends the mixed desires for them to be allowed to come to Israel in such overwhelming numbers. The alleged activities in Iraq ( the bombing of the synagogue) to promote this, on the part of Zionists, according to Segev, is a mystery (see footnote on page 167).
Segev goes on to say that it was Zionists who were persecuted and that there was little harassment of other Jews in Iraq even after the formation of Israel. And so on-
One can believe whatever one wants. For me the story of Arab Jews appears to be is a very mixed bag: they wanted to leave, the did not want to leave, they were welcome, they were not welcome…… Obviously there was not the urgency of the remnants of the Holocaust, and amongst some in Israel no desire to have this “human material”. But not everyone thought this way. Shabtai Teveth indicates that Ben-Gurion sincerely felt that these Arab Jews needed rescue. ( “Ben-Gurion and the Holocaust”).
I am no scholar or authority… obviously.
Arie Brand says
Suzanne, in addition to the material that I have quoted in my earlier blogpost there is a much more recent article by Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books of 6th Nov. 2008 that has the rather telling title “Leaving Paradise”.
Shatz says there (in answer to a reaction by a reader):
“We may never know whether the bombs were laid by Zionist agents, but we do know that Mossad’s responsibility is taken for granted by many Iraqi Jews: Morad Qazzaz, a leader of the Iraqi-Jewish underground, was known as Morad Abu al-Knabel, or ‘Morad, Father of the Bombs’. Folklore or not, it’s an indication that Iraq’s Jews have long believed that Israel had a hand in their exodus.”
I have quoted two of those Iraqi Jews in my earlier post: Naeim Giladi and Professor Ella Shohat.
Shohat confirms the picture that Shatz gives of the position of the Jews in many Arab lands as a rather privileged one. She also stresses the complete cultural integration of Iraqi Jews in their environment. The distinction was not between Arabs and non-Arabs but between Moslems, Jews and Christians. Iraqi Jews spoke Arabic, not Yiddish, and it was only after their arrival in Israel that Arabness and Jewishness was presented as an antonym to them. When Shohat’s mother first encountered Ashkenaze Jews she mistook them for Christians.
Shohat is rather bitter about the experience of those Mizrahi Jews in Israel. She writes about:
“our uprootedness or ambiguous positioning within Israel …, where we have been systematically discriminated against by institutions that deployed their energies and material to the consistent advantage of European Jews and to the consistent disadvantage of Oriental Jews. Even our physiognomies betray us, leading to internalized colonialism or physical misperception. Sephardic Oriental women often dye their dark hair blond, while the men have more than once been arrested or beaten when mistaken for Palestinians. What for Ashkenazi immigrants from Russian and Poland was a social aliya (literally “ascent”) was for Oriental Sephardic Jews a yerida (“descent”). “
The fact that to Iraqi Jews this was indeed “yerida” is also confirmed by what Shatz writes:
“The exodus of Mesopotamia’s Jews, who traced their origins back to the destruction of the first temple in 587 BCE, would have seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the 20th century. As Violette Shamash writes, Babylon was the home of ‘our patriarch Abraham Abinou’; the place where the Talmud was written and Jewish law codified. And if distant memories weren’t enough to bind Jews to their ancestral home, something more tangible did: security and the promise of a good life. Of all the Jewish communities in the Middle East, the Mesopotamian Jews were the most integrated, the most Arabised, the most prosperous. Not only had they freely practised their faith under the Ottomans, they had become the country’s most powerful economic group. And there was hardly an area of Mesopotamian culture on which Jews had not left their imprint, from the style of music performed in Baghdad’s cafés to the wafting amba, a mango pickle that Baghdadi Jews working in India brought home with them.[*]
Recent polemics – and pro-Israeli websites – have made much of the indignities of Jewish life under Ottoman rule, seeking to expose the ‘myth’ of Muslim tolerance. This tolerance, it’s argued, is a euphemism for dependence on the goodwill of capricious, if not cruel Muslim overlords. The memoirs of Iraqi Jews, however, tell a very different story: Shamash, who was born in 1912 and spent the last twenty years of her life recording her memories of ‘my Baghdad, my native land’, is not alone in describing her family’s life before the arrival of British troops in World War One as ‘paradise’. Memories of Eden provides as sumptuous an account of the world of the Baghdadi Jewish elite as we’re likely to get. It’s a portrait of the city as seen from inside a qasr, the palace her merchant father built on the banks of the Tigris, facing what is now the Green Zone.”
It is true that in the time of British colonialism the Jews aroused hostility because they were seen as the allies of the Brits and their dominance of economic life was resented. But the forties saw their renewed integration. This position changed after the foundation of the Jewish State. There was increasing hostility to and suspicion of Jews and the Iraqi state took various anti-Jewish measures. Zionist activities helped this process along.
.” The Jewish population grew more receptive to the overtures of Mossad, which had become increasingly active in Iraq since the Golden Square took power, some agents entering the country as volunteers with the British army during the 1941 invasion. Mossad’s objective was not to improve the position of the Jews in Iraq, but to hasten their departure. Pamphlets appeared discouraging Jews from mixing with Arabs, and arguing that any attempt to do so ‘leads to butchery’.
The Israeli government circulated stories about Iraqi ‘pogroms’ and ‘concentration camps’ and denounced the hanging of seven Jews charged with Zionist activism in March 1949 – executions that Mossad’s own agents in Baghdad insisted had never occurred. “
So the question now is whether Mossad’s ‘encouragement’ included the bombings. For me a fairly strong piece of evidence is what Ben Cohen mentions in his review in the Journal of Palestine Studies of Moshe Gat’s book on the Iraqi Jews. Cohen claims that, at the time that the Lavon affair became an issue in Israeli government circles, Yigal Allon, the former leader of Palmach, said that such a method of operation “was first tried in Iraq” . The Lavon affair, one will recall, was another Israeli false flag operation – this one in Egypt where American and British targets were bombed in an effort to persuade the Americans and Brits not to relinquish such control in Egypt as they had.
Will we never know the truth about the Iraqi bombings? It is worth noting here that , after decades of denials, Israel’s open acknowledgement of its responsibility for the Egyptian bombings only came as recently as 2005, a half century later, when survivors of the affair were officially honoured.
You refer to Ben-Gurion’s concern with the fate of the Iraqi Jews as a factor in Israel’s promotion of their emigration. Ben-Gurion, it seems to me, was in the first place concerned with the fate of the Zionist State. He had not shown overt anxiety about the fate of the Jews threatened with the holocaust, unless they provided, in the form of young and strong migrants, potential material for the Zionist State. The migration of the Iraqi Jews fitted, as far as I know, in his ‘one million plan’ in which Mizrahi Jews had to make up for the depletion of Ashkenaze Jews through the holocaust.
Miles Stuart says
Whatever happened to the Jewish Diaspora and why, the indisputable result is that many ancient Jewish communities and cultures have been all but extinguished. Personally I think humanity as whole is poorer, much poorer for it whether or not it has benefited the individuals uprooted. There are some changes, and this is one such, which cannot be reversed. The loss is permanent. In a world which is ever more homogeneous I think linguistic and cultural diversity in general should be more highly prized than it is, we should consciously support it.
I just want to leave a quick reply to Arie Brand and Miles Stuart ( I agree with you completely, humanity is poorer) intending to say something further after reading the Adam Shatz.
Thank you first for the details and the subject of Mizrachi Jews exodus from Arab lands. I am all for myth-busting especially since a certain version of it has been invoked constantly by some that I and others argue with (including in my family) vociferously. In and of itself this is a very interesting issue anyway for me. I want the truth. The history should not get to be told in only one way- especially since the conflict is not settled and this is a part of it ongoing. But I am also aware that in the process, which is necessary and healthy, there may be too much of a swing in the other direction, conclusions too quickly drawn about the whole picture based on more information coming out, in order to correct the way this has been painted by partisans in order to make their case or achieve their ends.
I have no idea if this discussion is still alive but if it is I would like a response to Lyn Julius criticism in the LRB
of the Adam Shatz article ( which I read as recommended by Arie Brand.
Vol. 30 No. 23 · Cover date: 4 December 2008
From Lyn Julius
Richard Silverstein says
Lyn Julius is not exactly an unbiased source. In fact, she is an ardent pro-Israel apologist & anti-Muslim bigot. Since you’ve quoted her ltr. but left out Shatz’s reply I thought fit to add it:
Yes I read it and read responses to it. I also have done quite a bit of research since this topic peaked my interest and wish for a better place to enter so many other links that I have found with substantial information about the situation of Iraqi Jews prior to the formation of Israel. I am aware of how this issue is being used or abused.
Everyone has a bias, including here, and my original conclusion was that one often promotes and cherry picks what one chooses to believe to fit a narrative. So let’s be more careful- or I will. That the opposing view may have some truth somehow is an affront. That should not be. It’s the truth, which even if a mixed bag, quite a mixed bag, we should accept. I find the more I read the more I feel that the story, because it is being used, is lost. Lyn Julius, though also a perhaps partisan, is not completely wrong because she is. Nor are those here, whose views by and large I share, completely right. I am dismayed by the conclusion drawn above ( as an example), not only about who was responsible for the bombing because it fits a story when there are others possibilities and other clever motives and liars all around in this story.
Common sense: A happy people do not pick up and leave b/c of a bombing- not 124,000 of them. There was a lot happening and prior even if you only start with 1941 and the “Farhud” ( pogrom) of June 1941″
But as there were ups, there was also downs to recall if you were a Bagdhadi Jew, from a deep history. One looking for some truth cannot blame the Iraqi Jewish exodus on a single bombing even if it was the Mossad (unproven) and it fits a storyline (Jews were happy but scared into emigrating).
What started me searching beyond was Arie Brand and then my check into my own library sources- including Howard Sachar ( yes biased, or rather proud, but an honest historian if there ever was one). Read him on this “The Ingathering and Struggle…” chapter of his 1000 page book ” A History of Israel…” ( a more detailed book on this subject I don’t know of) pages 398-99. He does not even mention the bombing- never mind that it was seminal. In fact he says what happened in Iraq had, in the end, theeffect of an expulsion.
There are many more sources that I would link but this is not a forum. With an open mind one would have to conclude that there was indeed persecution, (and fear of it growing), that WW2 and the creation of Israel ( and Arabs humiliated and angry about losses) changed the atmosphere and picture for Jews in Iraq as well as elsewhere. They were not so welcome. But still it was a mixed bag of reasons that they left what finally made them leave.
It’s common sense that people do not leave home so easily, especially a place that has been a home for centuries.
Apparently Lyn Julius’ parents fled Iraq in 1950. Richard I approached her writing/s with an open mind. I know nothing of her as anti-Muslim or a pro-Israel apologist. ( you can link for me evidence). I don’t think you mean to infer that you are anti-Israel. I know better. But making the world better place for me has also to do with trying to understand each other’s views better. This conflict is not so much about Jews vs Muslims/Arabs as those who prefer to hate and emphasize differences which surely we have ( and it’s usually about the past) vs those who would rather come together. If I feel that way- I have to try to understand another viewpoint and reject some labels and judgements in order to be free to make my own.