A remarkable photo (& blaming the Jews for anti-Semitism)

January 29, 2015

A remarkable photo:On the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a group of child survivors point to a picture of themselves taken by the Soviet army on the day they were freed.From left to right, Miriam Ziegler, now aged 79, Paula Leibovitz, 81, Gabor Hirsch, 85, and Eva Kor, 80.


* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.


* You may wish to also read also last Saturday’s related dispatch: “I came out of hell”



1. Sky News uses “Auschwitz remembered” program to blame the Jews for anti-Semitism
2. BBC: “Is the time coming to lay the Holocaust to rest?”
3. 84% of “Palestinians” believe Israel was behind Paris jihad massacres
4. The anti-Israel cult
5. Netanyahu’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day address at Yad Vashem
6. ISIS handbook: permissible to have sex with captured children
7. State Department-funded group pays for anti-Netanyahu campaign
8. Mossad chief angered by fake reports about him put out by Obama and Kerry
9. The Arab Spring, four years on
10. Israeli C4I network extends special ops reach

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


Sky TV’s most highly-regarded presenter, Adam Boulton, used an interview with the British Chief Rabbi on Holocaust Memorial Day on Tuesday to pursue the “Jews bring it on themselves” myth.

Blaming the victim, whether it is Jews or blacks or homosexuals, is of course one of the cruelest tricks played by racists and bigots.

You can see the clip from Sky’s “Auschwitz remembered” program here.

(Sky is a major international British-based broadcaster carried throughout the world. Rupert Murdoch owns it, although he doesn’t have any editorial control.)



The BBC marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day by promoting its “Big Questions” program with the question “Is the time coming to lay the Holocaust to rest?”

Only one month ago, the head of BBC TV himself asked whether Jews even have a future in Britain given the sharp rise in anti-Semitism (see here together with my response).

Holocaust denial, Holocaust inversion and Holocaust belittling are of course key tools used by anti-Semites. Many are surprised the BBC would ask such a crass and insensitive question at the very moment Holocaust survivors were gathering in Auschwitz.

The BBC ran a number of important programs to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, including showing Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah” on BBC Four.

The Big Questions program was originally titled “The Holocaust: Could something like this happen again?”

(For examples of outright Holocaust denial on the BBC Facebook page, please see here.)

Both the director of BBC TV and the director of BBC News and Current Affairs are subscribers to this list.



A poll conducted by the independent (and most reliable) Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, has found that 84.4% of Palestinians said yes to the statement “the operation (i.e. the terror attack on the Kosher market) was suspicious, and Israel may be behind it.” Only 8.7% believed Islamic extremists were behind the attack.

These results are not so surprising when one reads the (partly European-funded) official Palestinian media, which are full of conspiracy theories about Jews.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) have translated many articles from Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and other Palestinian media, arguing that Mossad planned the attacks in Paris.

Commentator Akram Atallah, interviewed on official PA TV, lied that “it is well know that in the past, the Israeli Mossad carried out operations (i.e. terror attacks). It bombed synagogues in order to force the Jews to emigrate.”



The former AP reporter Matti Friedman delivered a very interesting talk in London on Monday. It is long so I include it at the foot of this dispatch.

(Matti Friedman is a subscriber to this email list.)



In his speech (text below) at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raises important matters concerning Holocaust remembrance, and also the grave dangers of appeasing Iran which will likely lead to a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East.

“My responsibility as Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that the State of Israel will never again be threatened with destruction. My responsibility is to see to it that there will not be a reason to build additional memorial sites such as Yad Vashem.

The pending agreement with Iran is an agreement that endangers the State of Israel. It leaves Iran with the capabilities that will allow it to arm itself with nuclear weapons, one bomb at first and afterwards many atomic bombs. We cannot live with such an agreement; therefore, we oppose it. Even those who try to challenge us within our borders will discover that we are ready to respond with force. Israel views with utmost gravity the attack against it from Syrian territory. Those who play with fire will get burned.

Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is more important today than ever before.

We live in an age of resurgent and violent anti-Semitism, and commemorations like this ceremony remind us where humanity’s oldest and most enduring hatred can lead.

Many thought that after the horrors of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism would finally contract and disappear.

That has not happened.

Hatred of the Jews appeared to take a brief respite after World War II for a few decades.

It has now returned in full force.

Once again in Europe and elsewhere, Jews are being slandered, vilified and targeted just for being Jews.

This is taking place in the intolerant Middle East and in the very heart of the liberal and tolerant West.

It’s taking place in Tehran and Paris, in Gaza and Brussels. Around the world, Jewish communities are increasingly living in fear.

But it’s not just the Jewish people that is being slandered, vilified and targeted. It’s the Jewish state as well.

Israel is assaulted with the same slurs and libels that have been leveled at the Jews since time immemorial.

Islamist extremists have incorporated the most outrageous anti-Semitic calumnies into their murderous doctrine.

Take the Hamas Charter as one example of many.

It reads like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the anti-Semitic forgery on which it is based. It calls for the murder of Jews and the destruction of their state.

Just as classic anti-Semites portrayed the Jew as the embodiment of all evil in the world, today’s anti-Semites portray the Jewish state in the same twisted manner.

And what do the so-called ‘enlightened’ organs of the international community do in response?

A quarter of a million people are slaughtered in Syria, poison gas is used against civilians, and who do the signatories to the Geneva Convention urgently meet to discuss? Israel.

Across the region, dictatorial regimes and brutal movements brutalize their peoples – suppressing women, lynching gays, forcing Christians to live in fear.

And who does the Human Rights Council of the United Nations condemn? Israel.

Hamas fires thousands of rockets at our civilians, deliberately targeting our people while hiding behind Palestinian civilians it uses as human shields.

And who does the ICC announce it will examine? Israel.

No rational examination of the facts could justify this assault on Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, the most beleaguered democracy on earth.

This obsession with the Jewish people and their state has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism.

Some things just don’t change.

But I can tell you today what has changed.

We have changed.

The Jews have changed.

We are no longer a stateless people endlessly searching for a safe haven.

We are no longer a powerless people begging others to protect us.

Today we are an independent and sovereign people in our ancestral homeland.

Today we can speak out against the hateful voices of those seeking our destruction.

Today we can protect ourselves and defend our freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The ayatollahs in Iran, they deny the Holocaust while planning another genocide against our people.

Let me be clear.

The Jewish people will defend itself by itself against any threat.

That’s what the Jewish state is all about.

Nonetheless, we appreciate the support of our friends around the world who reject the spreading twin diseases of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. They’re one in the same.

We are especially grateful for the bipartisan support for Israel across the United States, our great ally.

We share a special bond with the United States, which is built on common values and it’s reflected in our expansive cooperation, especially on matters of security.

Yet it is the Government of Israel that holds the ultimate responsibility for the security of the one and only Jewish state.

And here we must speak out and must speak our mind about the dangers to our people and our state. This is something we could not do at the time of the Holocaust.

Israel will reject any agreement that leaves Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

Regrettably, our understanding is that the offer made by the P5+1 does exactly that.

It would enable Iran to breakout to a nuclear weapon within a few months and many more bombs within a short time.

The capabilities of Iran to produce enriched uranium for atomic bombs are left intact.

Such an agreement is sure to spark a nuclear arms race in the region that would turn the Middle East into a nuclear tinderbox.

And such an agreement is simply unacceptable to Israel. We will oppose it and we will oppose it vigorously.

On this day of Holocaust remembrance, I pledge to you what we could neither say nor do 70 years ago.

Israel will always do what needs to be done to ensure the security of the Jewish people and the one and only Jewish state. That is the significance of this day.

Thank you.”



CNN reports on the pamphlets handed out by IS militants in Mosul, Iraq, entitled, “Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves”:

Q: “Can all unbelieving women be taken captive?”

A: “There is no dispute among the scholars that it is permissible to capture unbelieving women [i.e. any non-Muslim woman].”

Q: “Can one have intercourse with a female captive?”

A: “It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with the female captive. Allah the almighty said: ‘[Successful are the believers] who guard their chastity, except from their wives or [the captives and slaves] that their right hands possess, for then they are free from blame [Koran 23:5-6]’.”

Q: “Is it permissible to have intercourse with a female slave who has not reached puberty?”

A: “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse; however if she is not fit for intercourse, then it is enough to enjoy her without intercourse.”

More here.


I have written in previous dispatches about the thousands of Yazidi women and girls captured in Iraq and held as sex slaves by the Islamic State.

I also noted last summer when Mosul was captured by Isis that if John Kerry and others in Washington hadn’t been constantly obsessing in the first half of last year about Israel, he might have noticed the advance of Isis. Had Obama began his bombing campaign against Isis during this period, Mosul may well never have fallen to Isis in the first place. -- Tom Gross



The Obama administration is directing considerable resources to trying to bring down the democratically elected leader of Israel.

A group funded by the U.S. State Department is financing a campaign by an Israeli leftist group to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has hired former Obama aides to help with its grassroots efforts, the Israeli paper Haaretz reported.

The national field director for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign Jeremy Bird is spearheading the effort, writes Haaretz.

The anti-Netanyahu Israeli organization OneVoice confirmed it is receiving assistance from former Obama staffers “on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts”. Haaretz reported that Bird is now working with other former Obama aides out of an office in Tel Aviv.

American donors are reportedly paying for the Obama campaign team.

Israel will hold elections on March 17.

Obama has refused to meet Netanyahu during his upcoming visit to the U.S.

There is much anger in Israel, even among those who don’t support Netanyahu, at the treatment of Israel in general and of Netanyahu in particular by Obama over the last 6 years.

As Israeli media commentators noted, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was hosted at the White House prior to the recent German elections. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the White House twice prior to British elections. Those were won by Conservative party leader David Cameron, who himself visited Washington this month at Obama’s invitation to lobby the U.S. Congress against adopting new sanctions on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. So why does Obama treat Israel differently, many are asking.



The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service Tamir Pardo issued an extremely rare public statement earlier this month in order to deny U.S. press reports which cited anonymous White House sources claiming he and other senior Mossad officials expressed opposition to a proposed bill by the U.S. congress designed to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

The bill is welcomed by the Israeli government (and most Americans) but opposed by the Obama administration.

There was anger in Israel at what one commentator called “Obama’s below-the-belt attempts to pretend there was disagreement between Netanyahu and the Mossad on the need to keep the pressure on the Iranians, when in fact there is not.”

The Mossad statement “emphasized that the exceptional effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Iran in recent years are what brought Iran to the negotiating table. The bad agreement taking shape [by the West] with Iran is likely to lead to a regional arms race.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also said that a senior Israeli intelligence official told a Congressional delegation that recently visited Israel that additional sanctions would be “like throwing a grenade into the process.” The Mossad statement also specifically denied Kerry’s remarks.

On his forthcoming visit to Washington, Netanyahu is scheduled to be snubbed by the president but he has been invited for the third time to address both houses of Congress, a record held by only one other foreign leader, Winston Churchill.

Last week, Senator Robert Menendez (a senator from Obama’s own Democratic party) charged that the administration’s positions on talks with Iran sounded “like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

Menendez, speaking at a senate hearing, said his impression was that the administration backed “the Iranian narrative of victimization,” countering that, “they are the ones with original sin, an illicit nuclear weapons program going back over the course of 20 years that they are unwilling to come clean on. So I don’t know why we feel compelled to make their case.”







Israeli C4I Network Extends Special Ops Reach
By Barbara Opall-Rome
Defense News
January 27, 2015


TEL AVIV — As Israel grapples with an arc of threats that emanate up and around the Arabian Sea, an Internet Protocol (IP)-supported communications network is augmenting its ability to command complex operations at its borders and far beyond.

Elements of the voice over IP (VoIP) network have been operational for years, and officials here credit it for supporting a months-long mission that culminated in the March 2014 seizure of an Iranian arms cache some 1,500 kilometers from Israel’s Red Sea coast.

But it was only in late December that the network was declared fully operational, connecting special units commanded by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) General Staff and IDF headquarters with all echelons operating under Israel’s three territorial commands.

“It’s state-of-the-art and it’s operational IDF-wide as of the end of 2014,” said Col. Yossi Mashiah, who managed the program as head of the Maof C4I Programs and Systems Engineering Department, part of the C4I Directorate of the IDF General Staff.

“We’re relative pioneers in this world. We started in early 2000 and now I can say with pride that no matter where the commanders are or where the forces are, there’s a single network-based radio communications for everyone.”

He added, “At the end of the day, you win wars and successfully accomplish special missions with radio.”

In a mid-January interview, Mashiah said parts of the network were used to support tactical forces in last summer’s Protective Edge operation in Gaza.

“In the past half-year, our people were in the field tweaking things. We went to Gaza to fix a satellite terminal one day and were out in the field with command centers on other days. ... Now it’s all humming nicely,” he said.

As for special missions, Mashiah cited last year’s Operation Full Disclosure, when Israel tracked the Klos C arms smuggling ship as it plied the Arabian Gulf, eventually seizing it as it made its way up through the Red Sea.

“Where ever you have the infrastructure for backhauling, you can use it,” Mashiah said. “I can’t provide any more specifics, but suffice it to say that this operational network of ours has been very broadly deployed.”

The multiyear program, which Mashiah estimated cost “tens of millions” of dollars, is managed by Maof and operated by the IDF’s Choshen Brigade, also part of the C4I Branch of the IDF General Staff.

Technology and standards are developed by state-owned Rafael, part of them under subcontract to Elbit Systems, developer of the IDF’s digital C4I network, known as Tzayad, or Digital Army Program (DAP).

The Hebrew name for the network is classified. For public consumption, program officials generically refer to it as Radio over IP (RoiP).

But Avriel S., a product line manager in Rafael’s Communications Directorate whose surname is withheld by the company for security reasons, says the network is much more than a radio system. Elements of the IDF system are available to export to license-approved nations under land- and sea-based systems marketed by Rafael, respectively, under the names C4I-Connect and Sea-Com.

“It’s radio, but it’s actually voice and data IP,” said Avriel S. “Radio is part of the voice communications, but everything can be transferred over this infrastructure, including telephony, intercom and all types of data. The RoiP project enables true interoperability by transferring voice and data between forces and across all command echelons.”

For all operations, including special operations, the network — which the Rafael executive noted is actually an application that lays on the IDF’s IP infrastructure — enables mission planning and mission implementation even in instances when servers are jammed or shut down.

“This is one of the special features. As long as they use smart terminals, everything will remain working without interference as long as the IP network is available, even in instances when servers are jammed or shut down,” Avriel S. said. “Once the communication traffic between users and the radio is established, you don’t need any server. You can’t allocate new sessions, but those already on can keep on transmitting and receiving.”

Another feature, he said, is the high reliability and inherent security measures built into the system, which is unlimited by range and adaptable to any method of communications relay.

“The ROIP communications are flexible and highly efficient, no matter where the forces are and whether they are supported by microwave link, satellites, whatever,” Avriel S. said.

Mashiah said more sophisticated versions are in the works to hone connectivity with the Israel Air Force, which now uses its own system to patch into the network. An electronics engineer specializing in tactical communication, he retired in mid-January after 27 years in the IDF, most of them in the Signals Corps.

“I’ve been with this program from the beginning, since I was a major, and I can tell you that it’s already revolutionized our ability to operate as a joint, networked force,” he said. “We’ve left the world of point-to-point communications via radio. Now it’s flexible. It’s everywhere to everywhere, unlimited by range or the amount of users authorized to be on the net.”


A talk by Matti Friedman
January 26, 2015

One night several years ago, I came out of Bethlehem after a reporting assignment and crossed through the Israeli military checkpoint between that city and its neighbor, Jerusalem, where I live. With me were perhaps a dozen Palestinian men, mostly in their thirties – my age. No soldiers were visible at the entrance to the checkpoint, a precaution against suicide bombers. We saw only steel and concrete. I followed the other men through a metal detector into a stark corridor and followed instructions barked from a loudspeaker – Remove your belt! Lift up your shirt! The voice belonged to a soldier watching us on a closed-circuit camera. Exiting the checkpoint, adjusting my belt and clothing with the others, I felt like a being less than entirely human and understood, not for the first time, how a feeling like that would provoke someone to violence.

Consumers of news will recognize this scene as belonging to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which keeps the 2.5 million Palestinians in that territory under military rule, and has since 1967. The facts of this situation aren’t much in question. This should be an issue of concern to Israelis, whose democracy, military, and society are corroded by the inequality in the West Bank. This, too, isn’t much in question.

The question we must ask, as observers of the world, is why this conflict has come over time to draw more attention than any other, and why it is presented as it is. How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01 percent of the world’s surface become the

focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other? We must ask how Israelis and Palestinians have become the stylized symbol of conflict, of strong and weak, the parallel bars upon which the intellectual Olympians of the West perform their tricks – not Turks and Kurds, not Han Chinese and Tibetans, not British soldiers and Iraqi Muslims, not Iraqi Muslims and Iraqi Christians, not Saudi sheikhs and Saudi women, not Indians and Kashmiris, not drug cartel thugs and Mexican villagers. Questioning why this is the case is in no way an attempt to evade or obscure reality, which is why I opened with the checkpoint leading from Bethlehem. On the contrary – anyone seeking a full understanding of reality can’t avoid this question. My experiences as a journalist provide part of the answer, and also raise pressing questions that go beyond the practice of journalism.

I have been writing from and about Israel for most of the past 20 years, since I moved there from Toronto at age 17. During the five and a half years I spent as part of the international press corps as a reporter for the American news agency The Associated Press, between 2006 and 2011, I gradually began to be aware of certain malfunctions in the coverage of the Israel story – recurring omissions, recurring inflations, decisions made according to considerations that were not journalistic but political, all in the context of a story staffed and reported more than any other international story on earth. When I worked in the AP’s Jerusalem bureau, the Israel story was covered by more AP news staff than China, or India, or all of the fifty-odd countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. This is representative of the industry as a whole.

In early 2009, to give one fairly routine example of an editorial decision of the kind I mean, I was instructed by my superiors to report a second-hand story taken from an Israeli newspaper about offensive T-shirts supposedly worn by Israeli soldiers. We had no confirmation of our own of the story’s veracity, and one doesn’t see much coverage of things US Marines or British infantrymen have tattooed on their chests or arms. And yet T-shirts worn by Israeli soldiers were newsworthy in the eyes of one of the world’s most powerful news organizations. This was because we sought to hint or say outright that Israeli soldiers were war criminals, and every detail supporting that portrayal was to be seized upon. Much of the international press corps covered the T-shirt story. At around the same time, several Israeli soldiers were quoted anonymously in a school newsletter speaking of abuses they had supposedly witnessed while fighting in Gaza; we wrote no fewer than three separate stories about this, although the use of sources whose identity isn’t known to reporters is banned for good reason by the AP’s own in-house rules. This story, too, was very much one that we wanted to tell. By the time the soldiers came forward to say they hadn’t actually witnessed the events they supposedly described, and were trying to make a point to young students about the horrors and moral challenges of warfare, it was, of course, too late.

Also in those same months, in early 2009, two reporters in our bureau obtained details of a peace offer made by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, to the Palestinians several months before, and deemed by the Palestinians to be insufficient. The offer proposed a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with a capital in a shared Jerusalem. This should have been one of the year’s biggest stories. But an Israeli peace offer and its rejection by the Palestinians didn’t suit OUR story. The bureau chief ordered both reporters to ignore the Olmert offer, and they did, despite a furious protest from one of them, who later termed this decision “the biggest fiasco I’ve seen in 50 years of journalism.” But it was very much in keeping not only with the practice at the AP, but in the press corps in general. Soldiers’ vile t-shirts were worth a story. Anonymous and unverifiable testimonies of abuses were worth three. A peace proposal from the Israeli prime minister to the Palestinian president was not to be reported at all.

Vandalism of Palestinian property is a story. Neo-Nazi rallies at Palestinian universities or in Palestinian cities are not -- I saw images of such rallies suppressed on more than one occasion. Jewish hatred of Arabs is a story. Arab hatred of Jews is not. Our policy, for example, was not to mention the assertion in the Hamas founding charter that Jews were responsible for engineering both world wars and the Russian and French revolutions, despite the obvious insight this provides into the thinking of one of the most influential actors in the conflict.

100 houses in a West Bank settlement are a story. 100 rockets smuggled into Gaza are not. The Hamas military buildup amid and under the civilian population of Gaza is not a story. But Israeli military action responding to that threat – that is a story, as we all saw this summer. Israel’s responsibility for the deaths of civilians as a result – that’s a story. Hamas’s responsibility for those deaths is not. Any reporter from the international press corps in Israel, whether he or she works for the AP, Reuters, CNN, the BBC, or elsewhere, will recognize the examples I’ve cited here of what is newsworthy and what is not as standard operating procedure.

In my time in the press corps I saw, from the inside, how Israel’s flaws were dissected and magnified, while the flaws of its enemies were purposely erased. I saw how the threats facing Israel were disregarded or even mocked as figments of the Israeli imagination, even as these threats repeatedly materialized. I saw how a fictional image of Israel and of its enemies was manufactured, polished, and propagated to devastating effect by inflating certain details, ignoring others, and presenting the result as an accurate picture of reality. Lest we think this is something that has never happened before, we might remember Orwell’s observation about journalism from the Spanish civil war: “Early in life,” he wrote, “I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which do not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. … I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what had happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’” That was in 1942.

Over time, I came to understand that the malfunctions I was witnessing, and in which I was playing a part, were not limited to the AP. I saw that they were rather part of a broader problem in the way the press functioned, and in how it saw its job. The international press in Israel had become less an observer of the conflict than a player in it. It had moved away from careful explanation and toward a kind of political character assassination on behalf of the side it identified as being right. It valued a kind of ideological uniformity from which you were not allowed to stray. So having begun with limited criticism of certain editorial decisions, I now found myself with a broad critique of the press.

Eventually, however, I realized that even the press wasn’t the whole story. The press was playing a key role in an intellectual phenomenon taking root in the West, but it wasn’t the cause, or not the only cause – it was both blown on a certain course by the prevailing ideological winds, and causing those winds to blow with greater force. Many journalists would like you to believe that the news is created by a kind of algorithm – that it’s a mechanical, even scientific process in which events are inserted, processed, and presented. But of course the news is an imperfect and entirely human affair, the result of interactions between sources, reporters, and editors, all of whom bear the baggage of their background and who reflect, as we all do to some extent, the prejudices of their peers.

In the aftermath of last summer’s Gaza war, and in light of events in Europe in recent months, it should be clear that something deep and toxic is going on. Understanding what that is, it seems to me, will help us understand something important not only about journalism but about the Western mind and the way it sees the world.

What presents itself as political criticism, as analysis, or as journalism, is coming to sound more and more like a new version of a much older complaint – that Jews are troublemakers, a negative force in world events, and that if these people, as a collective, could somehow be made to vanish, we would all be better off. This is, or should be, a cause for alarm, and not only among people sympathetic to Israel or concerned with Jewish affairs. What is in play right now has less to do with the world of politics than with the worlds of psychology and religion, and less to do with Israel than with those condemning Israel.

The occupation of the West Bank, with which I opened, would seem to be at the heart of the story, the root cause, as it were, of the conflict portrayed as the most important on earth. A few words, then, about this occupation.

The occupation was created in the 1967 Mideast war. The occupation is not the conflict, which of course predates the occupation. It is a symptom of the conflict, a conflict that would remain even if the symptom were somehow solved. If we look at the West Bank, the only Palestinian area currently occupied by Israel, and if we include Jerusalem, we see that the conflict in these areas claimed 60 lives last year – Palestinian and Israeli.

An end to this occupation would free Palestinians from Israeli rule, and free Israelis from ruling people who do not wish to be ruled. Observers of the Middle East in 2015 understand, too, that an end to the occupation will create a power vacuum that will be filled, as all power vacuums in the region have been, not by the forces of democracy and modernity, which in our region range from weak to negligible, but by the powerful and ruthless, by the extremists. This is what we’ve learned from the unraveling of the Middle East in recent years. This is what happened in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt, and before that in Gaza and southern Lebanon. My home in Jerusalem is within an easy day’s drive of both Aleppo and Baghdad. Creating a new playground for these forces will bring the black-masked soldiers of radical Islam within yards of Israeli homes with mortars, rockets, and tunneling implements. Many thousands will die.

Beyond the obvious threat to Palestinian Christians, women, gays, and liberals, who will be the first to suffer, this threatens to render much or all of Israel unlivable, ending the only safe progressive space in the Middle East, the only secure minority refuge in the Middle East, and the only Jewish country on earth. No international investment or guarantees, no Western-backed government or Western-trained military will be able to keep that from happening, as we have just seen in Iraq. The world will greet this outcome with sincere expressions of sympathy. Only several years ago I, like many on the left, might have dismissed this as an apocalyptic scenario. It isn’t. It is the most likely scenario.

People observing this conflict from afar have been led to believe that Israel faces a simple choice between occupation and peace. That choice is fiction. The Palestinian choice, it is said, is between Israeli occupation and an independent democracy. That choice, too, is fiction. Neither side faces a clear choice, or clear outcomes. Here we have a conflict in a region of conflict, with no clear villain, no clear victim, and no clear solution, one of many hundreds or thousands of ethnic, national, and religious disputes on earth.

The only group of people subject to a systematic boycott at present in the Western world is Jews, appearing now under the convenient euphemism “Israelis.” The only country that has its own “apartheid week” on campuses is the Jewish country. Protesters have interfered with the unloading of Israeli shipping on the West Coast of the United States, and there are regular calls for a boycott of anything produced in the Jewish state. No similar tactics are currently employed against any other ethnic group or nationality, no matter how egregious the human rights violations attributed to that group’s country of origin.

Anyone who questions why this is so will be greeted with shouts of “the occupation!”, as if this were explanation enough. It is not. Many who would like to question these phenomena don’t dare, for fear that they will somehow be expressing support for this occupation, which has been inflated from a geopolitical dilemma of modest scope by global standards into the world’s premier violation of human rights.

The human costs of the Middle Eastern adventures of America and Britain in this century have been far higher, and far harder to explain, than anything Israel has ever done. They have involved occupations, and the violence they unleashed continues as I speak here this evening. No one boycotts American or British professors. Turkey is a democracy, and a NATO member, and yet its occupation of northern Cyprus and long conflict with the stateless Kurds – many of whom see themselves as occupied – are viewed with a yawn; there is no “Turkish Apartheid Week.” The world is full of injustice. Billions of people are oppressed. In Congo, 5 million people are dead. The time has come for everyone to admit that the fashionable disgust for Israel among many in the West is not liberal but is selective, disproportionate, and discriminatory.

There are simply too many voices coming from too many places, expressing themselves in too poisonous a way, for us to conclude that this is a narrow criticism of the occupation. It’s time for the people making these charges to look closely at themselves, and for us to look closely at them.

Naming and understanding this sentiment is important, as it is becoming one of the key intellectual trends of our time. We might think of it as the “Cult of the Occupation.” This belief system, for that it what it is, uses the occupation as a way of talking about other things.

As usual with Western religions, the center of this one is in the Holy Land. The dogma posits that the occupation is not a conflict like any other, but that it is the very symbol of conflict: that the minute state inhabited by a persecuted minority in the Middle East is in fact a symbol of the ills of the West – colonialism, nationalism, militarism, and racism. In the recent riots in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, a sign hoisted by marchers linked the unrest between African Americans and the police to Israeli rule over Palestinians.

The cult’s priesthood can be found among the activists, NGO experts, and ideological journalists who have turned coverage of this conflict into a catalogue of Jewish moral failings, as if Israeli society were different from any other group of people on earth, as if Jews deserve to be mocked for having suffered and failed to be perfect as a result.

Most of my former colleagues in the press corps aren’t full-fledged members of this group. They aren’t true believers. But boycotts of Israel, and only of Israel, which are one of the cult’s most important practices, have significant support in the press, including among editors who were my superiors. Sympathy for Israel’s predicament is highly unpopular in the relevant social circles, and is something to be avoided by anyone wishing to be invited to the right dinner parties, or to be promoted. The cult and its belief system are in control of the narrative, just as the popular kids in a school and those who decide what clothes or music are acceptable. In the social milieu of the reporters, NGO workers, and activists, which is the same social world, these are the correct opinions. This guides the coverage. This explains why the events in Gaza this summer were portrayed not as a complicated war like many others fought in this century, but as a massacre of innocents. And it explains much else.

So prevalent has this kind of thinking become that participating in liberal intellectual life in the West increasingly requires you to subscribe at least outwardly to this dogma, particularly if you’re a Jew and thus suspected of the wrong sympathies. If you’re a Jew from Israel, your participation is increasingly conditional on an abject and public display of self-flagellation. Your participation, indeed, is increasingly unwelcome.

What, exactly, is going on?

Observers of Western history understand that at times of confusion and unhappiness, and of great ideological ferment, negative sentiment tends to coagulate around Jews. Discussions of the great topics of the time often end up as discussions about Jews.

In the late 1800s, for example, French society was riven by the clash between the old France of the church and army, and the new France of liberalism and the rule of law. The French were preoccupied with the question of who is French, and who is not. They were smarting from their military humiliation by the Prussians. All of this sentiment erupted around the figure of a Jew, Alfred Dreyfus, accused of betraying France as a spy for Germany. His accusers knew he was innocent, but that didn’t matter; he was a symbol of everything they wanted to condemn.

To give another example: Germans in the 1920s and ‘30s were preoccupied with their humiliation in the Great War. This became a discussion of Jewish traitors who had stabbed Germany in the back. Germans were preoccupied as well with the woes of their economy – this became a discussion of Jewish wealth, and Jewish bankers.

In the years of the rise of Communism and the Cold War, communists concerned with their ideological opponents talked about Jewish capitalists and cosmopolitans, or Jewish doctors plotting against the state. At the very same time, in capitalist societies threatened by communism, people condemned Jewish Bolsheviks.

This is the face of this recurring obsession. As the journalist Charles Maurras wrote, approvingly, in 1911: “Everything seems impossible, or frighteningly difficult, without the providential arrival of anti-Semitism, through which all things fall into place and are simplified.”

The West today is preoccupied with a feeling of guilt about the use of power. That’s why the Jews, in their state, are now held up in the press and elsewhere as the prime example of the abuse of power. That’s why for so many the global villain, as portrayed in newspapers and on TV, is none other than the Jewish soldier, or the Jewish settler. This is not because the Jewish settler or soldier is responsible for more harm than anyone else on earth – no sane person would make that claim. It is rather because these are the heirs to the Jewish banker or Jewish commissar of the past. It is because when moral failure raises its head in the Western imagination, the head tends to wear a skullcap.

One would expect the growing scale and complexity of the conflict in the Middle East over the past decade to have eclipsed the fixation on Israel in the eyes of the press and other observers. Israel is, after all, a sideshow: The death toll in Syria in less than four years far exceeds the toll in the Israel-Arab conflict in a century. The annual death toll in the West Bank and Jerusalem is a morning in Iraq.

And yet it is precisely in these years that the obsession has grown worse.

This makes little sense, unless we understand that people aren’t fixated on Israel despite everything else going on – but rather because of everything else going on. As Maurras wrote, when you use the Jew as the symbol of what is wrong, “all things fall into place and are simplified.”

The last few decades have brought the West into conflict with the Islamic world. Terrorists have attacked New York, Washington, London, Madrid, and now Paris. America and Britain caused the unraveling of Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of people are dead there. Afghanistan was occupied and thousands of Western soldiers killed, along with countless civilians – but the Taliban are alive and well, undeterred. Ghaddafi was removed, and Libya is no better off. All of this is confusing and discouraging. It causes people to search for answers and explanations, and these are hard to come by. It is in this context that the Cult of the Occupation has caught on. The idea is that the problems in the Middle East have something to do with Jewish arrogance and perfidy, that the sins of one’s own country can be projected upon the Western world’s old blank screen. This is the idea increasingly reflected on campuses, in labor unions, and in the media fixation on Israel. It’s a projection, one whose chief instrument is the press.

As one BBC reporter informed a Jewish interviewee on camera several weeks ago, after a Muslim terrorist murdered four Jewish shoppers at a Paris supermarket, “Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffered hugely at Jewish hands as well.” Everything, that is, can be linked to the occupation, and Jews can be blamed even for the attacks against them. This isn’t the voice of the perpetrators, but of the enablers. The voice of the enablers is less honest than that of the perpetrators, and more dangerous for being disguised in respectable English. This voice is confident and growing in volume. This is why the year 2015 finds many Jews in Western Europe eyeing their suitcases again.

The Jews of the Middle East are outnumbered by the Arabs of the Middle East 60 to 1, and by the world’s Muslims 200 to 1. Half of the Jews in Israel are there because their families were forced from their homes in the 20th century not by Christians in Europe, but by Muslims in the Middle East. Israel currently has Hezbollah on its northern border, al-Qaeda on its northeastern and southern borders, and Hamas in Gaza. None of these groups seek an end to the occupation, but rather openly wish to destroy Israel. But it is naïve to point out these facts. The facts don’t matter: We are in the world of symbols. In this world, Israel has become a symbol of what is wrong – not Hamas, not Hezbollah, not Great Britain, not America, not Russia.

I believe it’s important to recognize the pathologies at play in order to make sense of things. In this context it’s worth pointing out that I’m hardly the first to identify a problem – Jewish communities like this one have been expending immense efforts to correct it. I wish this wasn’t necessary, and it shouldn’t be necessary, but it undoubtedly is necessary, and becoming more so, and I have great respect for these efforts. Many people, particularly young people, are having trouble maintaining their balance amid this ideological onslaught, which is successfully disguised as journalism or analysis, and is phrased in the language of progressive politics. I would like to help them keep their bearings.

I don’t believe, however, that anyone should make a feeling of persecution the center of their identity, of their Judaism, or of their relationship with Israel. The obsession is a fact, but it isn’t a new fact, and it shouldn’t immobilize us in anger, or force us into a defensive crouch. It shouldn’t make us less willing to seek to improve our situation, to behave with compassion to our neighbors, or to continue building the model society that Israel’s founders had in mind.

I was in Tel Aviv not long ago, on Rothschild Boulevard. The city was humming with life. Signs of prosperity were everywhere, in the renovated Bauhaus buildings, in the clothes, the stores. I watched the people go by: Kids with old bikes and tattoos, businesspeople, men with women, women with women, men with men, all speaking the language of the Bible and Jewish prayer. The summer’s Hamas rockets were already a memory, just a few months old but subsumed in the frantic, irrepressible life of the country. There were cranes everywhere, raising new buildings. There were schoolchildren with oversize knapsacks, and parents with strollers. I heard Arabic, Russian, and French, and the country went about its business with a potent cheer and determination that you miss if all you see are threats and hatred. There have always been threats and hatred, and it has never stopped us. We have enemies, and we have friends. The dogs bark, as the saying goes, and the convoy rolls by.

One of the questions presented to us by the wars of the modern age is what now constitutes victory. In the 21st century, when a battlefield is no longer conquered or lost, when land isn’t changing hands and no one ever surrenders, what does it mean to win?

The answer is that victory is no longer determined on the battlefield. It’s determined in the center, in the society itself. Who has built a better society? Who has provided better lives for people? Where is there the most optimism? Where can the most happy people be found? One report on world happiness ranked Israel as the 11th happiest country on earth. The UK was 22nd.

Israel’s intellectual opponents can rant about the moral failings of the Jews, obscuring their obsession in whatever sophisticated way they choose. The gunmen of Hamas and their allies can stand on heaps of rubble and declare victory. They can fire rockets, and shoot up supermarkets. But if you look at Tel Aviv, or at any thriving neighborhood in Jerusalem, Netanya, Rishon Letzion, or Haifa, you understand that this is victory. This is where we’ve won, and where we win every day.


A reader writes: He could just as easily have written about how dehumanizing it is for the soldiers, forced to give up years to their young lives, to stand hour after hour and day after day behind barricades trying to protect themselves, their buddies, and their people from murder.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.