Israel’s Defense Minister, Bogie Yaalon is ticked off (in Hebrew it’s called b’rogez). And when an IDF ex-chief of staff is ticked, look out. It’s those damn delegitimizers again! Making trouble for Israel.
Bogie’s got their number. He’s going to fight fire with fire. If those Europeans want to slap labels on our West Bank products and punish us for our settlements by preventing us from participating in prestigious projects like Horizon 2020–well then, we’ll show ’em!
Bogie would prefer to go after real European terrorists if he could. But after Madrid and London, Al Qaeda is pretty much cleaned out of Europe. So now he’s going after the low-hanging fruit. Those he views as the terrorist sympathizers. Groups like the Council for European Palestinian Relations. It goes without saying that it’s a Hamas front. If not Hamas, then Hezbollah for sure. You say Hezbollah isn’t Palestinian? Who cares, they’re pretty much all the same anyway. Arabs, and they want to kill us. Right?
So if you’re Bogie Yaalon and looking to send a message to European leaders, what better choice than a European NGO dedicated to promoting Palestinian rights and which is spearheaded by no less than four members of the European Parliament. The Israeli defense ministry has declared the group a criminal enterprise just as Hamas, Hezbollah or other Arab militant groups are. Membership in CEPR if you enter Israel’s jurisdiction could land you in jail. Even donating money could be construed by Israel’s security services as financing terrorism.
It means that should former Blair government minister Clare Short ever set foot in Israel, she’d be arrested. In fact, Bogie would likely show up at Ben Gurion to have his picture taken next to her handcuffed. It would make a great photo-op for the nightly Israeli news.
In his own mind, Yaalon is something like Captain Israel (except in his case we should give the ex-general a promotion and call him General Israel), that magnificent Jewish superhero standing up for his people and staring down evildoers. POW! But does Israel really need superheroes? Or does it need level-headed pragmatists? If it wants comic book heroes it will end up with a comic book plot filled with blood and guts. Only the ending won’t necessarily result in the hero knocking off the villain, saving the world and getting the girl. It could end up much, much worse.
So hold on a minute: is this a wise policy? Is this the way a democratic government behaves? Does it threaten to throw members of foreign governments into prison merely because of their political views? There is a wonderful term for this in Yiddish: auf tsu l’achuss (from the Hebrew word for ‘anger’). It’s impossible to translate perfectly, but roughly it means cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. It means engaging in provocative, even self-destructive behavior, because you’re goddamn ticked off.
Since the last two posts I wrote contained strong criticism of the journalistic standards of Haaretz, tonight’s will no different. This is how Chaim Levinson described CEPR in his article:
…A Belgian non-profit organization that serves as Hamas’ representative in Europe…The organization is registered in Belgium and acts as a lobby for the Gaza government in the European Union.
A review of the group’s website contains no such statement. In fact, Hamas is hardly mentioned at all in its entire website (though CEPR does engage in work in Gaza). Though it is undoubtedly registered in Belgium, nowhere on its website does it claim to lobby on behalf of any particular Palestinian faction. Here is how it describes its “political engagements:”
In the Middle East, the CEPR engages with all Palestinian political factions, as well as holding talks with key regional actors, such as the League of Arab States, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Jordan, and the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament in Lebanon, as well as the transitional government in Tunisia and political actors in Egypt.
In other words, CEPR is not Hamas’ representative in Europe. It is an NGO seeking to build bridges between Palestinian leaders and those in Europe. Of course, the group does take positions that Hamas, and most other Palestinians, would support like calling for lifting of Israel’s illegal siege of Gaza. But that does not constitute representing or advocating for Hamas.
Invoking the term “Hamas” is one of those red-meat/red flag terms that elicits a Pavlovian response inside Israel and parts of the rest of the world. The Islamist movement is listed as a terror group in the U.S. and other countries and tying CEPR to it is as good as proving the NGO is a supporter of terror. It doesn’t matter that none of this is true. Yaalon is one of those vile politicians who throws feces on his opponents in the hopes that some of it will stick and then he can turn around and scream about how disgusting the bad guy is. Yaalon, as I’ve written here regarding his alarmism about Iran, never lets truth or facts get in the way of his doomsaying.
The Shin Bet has been willingly co-opted into this travesty spouting the following nonsense in the guise of intelligence analysis:
The Shin Bet security services replied that CEPR has in fact recently been declared an illegal organization, in light of the fact that it is Hamas’ leading organization in Europe, which carries out its activity under cover of being a pro-Palestinian organization.
Levinson, in his role as dutiful Likudist stenographer, manages to insert yet another bit of unsupported propaganda into his supposedly objective news report:
The director of the NGO is Dr. Arafat Shoukri, a resident of London who has been active for many years in various organizations working against the State of Israel
I would challenge the pro-Israel social activists monitoring this site (you know who you are) to offer us examples of this “anti-Israel” propaganda of which Shoukri is guilty. Keep in mind, that criticizing Israeli policy or the State which prosecutes those policies is not “anti-Israel.”
So what is the real problem with CEPR? Not that it supports Hamas, but that it supports Palestine. But even more–it doesn’t even make a pretense of supporting Israeli interests. If it did, it might be harder to attack. But CEPRs goal is to promote Palestinian interests inside and outside Europe. And that, for ‘General Israel’ is enough.
It should not be the job of a journalist (like Levinson) to regurgitate press releases by security officials. It is a good reporter’s job to recapitulate their views, but to do so with a skeptical eye; and with a willingness to offer contrary views and evidence. Levinson doesn’t do this. For “balance,” he quotes a statement by Shoukri that threatens Israel with a lawsuit. He interviews no other independent political or terror experts on the subject. He doesn’t interview any of the four MEPs who will be victims of this disastrous ruling.
Finally, this is yet another example of the overreaching and desperation to which this far-right Israeli government is falling prey. It cannot staunch the elevator-drop in Israel’s credibility on the world stage (because it refuses to modify Israeli nationalist policy). So instead it lashes out petulantly against perceived enemies. But this behavior is seen for what it is by both Israel’s friends (dropping fast) and enemies. It neither wins friends, not influences people to paraphrase Dale Carnegie.
In politics, when you are in a superior position you don’t need to boast about it. When you are in an inferior position, you scream bloody murder. That is what such dumb policies as this indicate. That Israel is reeling from the BDS steamroller. It doesn’t know what to do. So it lashes out ferociously, but ultimately aimlessly.
If there were any sane heads in the current government they’d warn Bibi that what Yaalon is doing is counter-productive. If you threaten to arrest Europe’s elected leaders then you can be damn sure few European leaders will shed a tear when the first Israeli general or minister is arrested on European soil. Is that really what Israel wants? Can it afford to play this sort of tit for tat game? Because there are a helluva lot more Europeans and European leaders than Israelis. Israel only has one defense minister that can be arrested (though perhaps ex-ministers might do). Europe has tens if not a score. And if they do arrest Clare Short at Ben Gurion, how long before they arrest Yaalon (or Barak or Halutz) at Gatwick?