Friday, September 29, 2006

The Siegman Disease


September 28, 2006
The New Anti-Semitism
By Victor Davis Hanson

Hating Jews, on racial as well as religious grounds, is as old as the
Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Later in Europe,
pogroms and the Holocaust were the natural devolution of that elemental

Anti-Semitism, after World War II, often avoided the burning crosses and
Nazi ranting. It often appeared as a more subtle animosity, fueled by envy
of successful Jews in the West. "The good people, the nice people" often
were the culprits, according to a character in the 1947 film "Gentleman's
Agreement," which dealt with the American aristocracy's social shunning of

A recent third type of anti-Jewish odium is something different. It is a
strange mixture of violent hatred by radical Islamists and the more or
less indifference to it by Westerners.

Those who randomly shoot Jews for being Jews - whether at a Jewish center
in Seattle or at synagogues in Istanbul - are for the large part Muslim
zealots. Most in the West explain away the violence. They chalk it up to
anger over the endless tit-for-tat in the Middle East. Yet privately they
know that we do not see violent Jews shooting Muslims in the United States
or Europe.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promises to wipe Israel "off the
map." He seems eager for the requisite nuclear weapons to finish off what
an Iranian mullah has called a "one-bomb state" - meaning Israel's
destruction would only require one nuclear weapon. Iran's theocracy
intends to turn the idea of a Jewish state on its head. Instead of Israel
being a safe haven for Jews in their historical birthplace, the Iranians
apparently find that concentration only too convenient for their own final
nuclear solution.

In response, here at home the Council on Foreign Relations rewards the
Iranian president with an invitation to speak to its membership. At the
podium of that hallowed chamber, Ahmadinejad, who questions whether the
Holocaust ever took place, basically dismissed a firsthand witness of
Dachau by asking whether he really could be that old.

The state-run, and thus government-authorized, newspapers of the Middle
East, slander Jews in barbaric fashion. "Mein Kampf" (translated, of
course, as "Jihadi") sells briskly in the region. Hamas and Hezbollah
militias on parade emulate the style of brownshirts. In response, much of
the Western public snoozes. They are far more worried over whether a
Danish cartoonist has caricatured Islam, or if the pope has been rude to
Muslims when quoting an obscure 600-year-old Byzantine dialogue.

In the last two decades, radical Islamic terrorists have bombed and
murdered thousands inside Europe and the United States. Their state
supporters in the Middle East have raked in billions in petro-windfall
profits from energy-hungry Western economies. For many in Europe and the
United States, supporting Israel - the Middle East's only stable democracy
- or even its allies in the West has become viewed as both dangerous and

In addition, Israel is no longer weak but proud and ready to defend
itself. So when its terrorist enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas brilliantly
married their own fascist creed with popular leftwing multiculturalism in
the West, there was an eerie union: yet another supposed third-world
victim of a Western oppressor thinking it could earn a pass for its
murderous agenda.

We're accustomed to associating hatred of Jews with the ridiculed
Neanderthal Right of those in sheets and jackboots. But this new venom, at
least in its Western form, is mostly a leftwing, and often an academic,
enterprise. It's also far more insidious, given the left's moral
pretensions and its influence in the prestigious media and universities.
We see the unfortunate results in frequent anti-Israeli demonstrations on
campuses that conflate Israel with Nazis, while the media have published
fraudulent pictures and slanted events in southern Lebanon.

The renewed hatred of Jews in the Middle East - and the indifference to it
in the West - is a sort of "post anti-Semitism." Islamic zealots supply
the old venomous hatred, while affluent and timid Westerners provide the
new necessary indifference - if punctuated by the occasional off-the-cuff
Amen in the manner of a Louis Farrakhan or Mel Gibson outburst.

The dangers of this post anti-Semitism is not just that Jews are shot in
Europe and the United States - or that a drunken celebrity or demagogue
mouths off. Instead, ever so insidiously, radical Islam's hatred of Jews
is becoming normalized.

The result is that the world's politicians and media are talking seriously
with those who not merely want back the West Bank, but rather want an end
to Israel altogether and everyone inside it.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover
Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of "A War
Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian
War." You can reach him by e-mailing
(C) 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

The Siegman Disease
Henry Siegman, Pro-Palestinian Propagandist
By: Gilead Ini

Shortly after Israel launched its campaign to stop Hizbullah's rocket
attacks and rescue kidnapped Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, criticism rang
out from the usual sources. Some Arab leaders, journalists in the
reflexively anti-Israel portion of the British press, and American pundits
like Noam Chomsky and Pat Buchanan all lambasted the Jewish state. Of
course, those condemnations are to be expected.

But it may have come as a surprise to some when, even as Katyusha rockets
were falling on Israeli towns and cities, a former head of the American
Jewish Congress also leveled sharp criticism at Israel. In fact, Henry
Siegman's attacks on Israel are no less predictable than those coming from
the rest of the anti-Israel crowd.

Siegman was until recently a "Mideast expert" at the Council on Foreign
Relations. His "expertise" has often appeared in the Los Angeles Times,
International Herald Tribune, New York Review of Books, and other major
media outlets.

An examination of his body of work, however, reveals it to be little more
than thinly veiled propaganda promoting the Palestinian perspective on the
conflict with Israel.

Siegman's commentary echoes the most extreme themes of the Palestinian
narrative, with the writer heaping shrill criticism on Israel while
excusing Palestinian rejectionism . even when this requires repeatedly
ignoring, fabricating and misrepresenting facts and routinely
contradicting earlier assertions.

Errors, Errors Everywhere

Perhaps the greatest repudiation of Siegman's credibility as an "expert"
is his propensity for error.

A forgiving observer might excuse blunders in predicting events . for
example his reference, not long before Israel announced its intention to
withdraw from the Gaza Strip, to an Israeli "plan" to make sure "Gaza
remain[s] in Israeli hands"; or his insistence after Ariel Sharon
announced the Gaza disengagement plan that the prime minister "has
probably come around to the position that he must kill the idea"; or his
claim, only nine days before Hizbullah's July 12, 2006 cross-border
kidnapping raid . an attack undoubtedly spurred in part by the success of
a similar Hizbullah raid in 2000 . that Israel's release of hundreds of
Arab prisoners in exchange for the Israelis captured in 2000 "did not
cause Israel in the long run any harm."

The Middle East, after all, is a volatile region, and accurate predictions
are not always so easy.

But there is no such excuse for Siegman's all too common errors of fact.

Last June, for example, Siegman outrageously claimed that "since Israel's
disengagement from Gaza last year ... Palestinian civilians have been
killed by Israeli artillery and air strikes virtually on a daily basis."

Even according to figures published by the partisan Palestinian Red
Crescent Society (PRCS), on most days since the Israeli withdrawal no
Palestinians at all were killed . neither Palestinian civilians, nor
Palestinian combatants; not by Israeli air strikes or artillery and not by
Israeli gunfire; not even in "work accidents" or internecine Palestinian
fighting (all of which seem to be included in the PRCS figures). The
specific incidents described by Siegman (Palestinian civilians killed by
Israeli artillery or air strikes), then, were extremely infrequent.

A careful look at March, April, and May 2006, the three months immediately
prior to the publication of Siegman's column, is revealing. According to
Associated Press dispatches from those months, Palestinian civilians died
as a result of Israeli artillery or air strikes on just one day in March,
four days in April and two days in May. Yes, the inadvertent deaths of
civilians are regrettable. But no serious analyst could argue that seven
days out of 92 constitutes "virtually ... a daily basis."

The allegation of wanton Israeli killing of Palestinians was, however, the
message Siegman evidently sought to convey . whether the facts pertained
or not.

Again disregarding the facts, Siegman downplayed Palestinian violence
when, in September 2002, he criticized Israel for not responding
positively to "six weeks of Palestinian quiet" that had supposedly just
passed, and for appointing Effie Eitam, a pro-settlement politician, as
minister of national infrastructure during this so-called period of quiet.

But on the very day Eitam was appointed, Sept. 18, 2002, the charred body
of an Israeli citizen was found. A day earlier, Palestinians had shot him
in the head, set his body on fire, and left it in a neighborhood dump. Two
other Israelis were killed that day, one when Palestinians opened fire on
an Israeli car and one during a suicide bombing at a bus stop. A couple of
weeks earlier, an Israeli was killed when a 100 kg bomb was detonated
under an IDF tank and another was killed when a Palestinian gunman opened
fire from a crowded school at Israeli troops.

That same day, a Palestinian van carrying 1,350 pounds of explosives was
stopped in northern Israel before it could be detonated. Two weeks before
that, a soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. Ten days earlier, a
Palestinian terrorist murdered an Israeli woman and injured her husband.

In fact, one can search as far as two years earlier, to the onset of
Palestinian violence in September 2000, and not find even one month
without multiple, fatal Palestinian suicide bombings, shootings or other
attacks. So much for "six weeks of Palestinian quiet."

Siegman again whitewashed Palestinian violence and misled readers when he
wrote of "revelations by Israel's most senior intelligence and security
officials that the intifada of September 2000 was not planned by [Yasir]
Arafat, but a spontaneous eruption of Palestinian anger ...."

The assertion is beside the point. Even if Arafat did not directly plan
the violence, there is overwhelming consensus, ignored by Siegman, that
Arafat allowed, encouraged and even directed the continuation of the

It is also intellectually dishonest to cite a source that is persuasively
contradicted by many others . and never mention those others. Siegman
quotes Ami Ayalon, a former Israeli intelligence chief, who has said he
believed the intifada was "a spontaneous eruption." But he conceals from
readers the long list of high ranking officials who have indicated the
violence was indeed planned: Amos Gilad, former head of the research
division at Military Intelligence; Amos Malka, the IDF chief of
intelligence under Ehud Barak; former Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col.
Olivier Rafowicz; Mamdouh Nofal, a former advisor to Arafat; former
Palestinian communications minister Imad Faluji; and others.

(The list of errors goes on. For a more comprehensive look at Siegman's
distortions, see the article "Henry Siegman's Expertise: Bashing Israel at
Every Turn" at CAMERA's website,

Demonizing Israel

Siegman's frequent factual errors do not, alone, make him a propagandist.
But as the above examples make apparent, the distortions invariably tilt
in the direction of portraying Israel negatively and are routinely
accompanied by the harshest of anti-Israel rhetoric.

The language used by Siegman in discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict is

Often, there is little difference between his rhetoric and that of the
most extreme anti-Israel activists.

Repeatedly, Siegman invokes language associated with apartheid South
Africa to describe the Jewish state. The country wants "enclaves
resembling Bantustans ... in which the Palestinians would be consigned,"
he once said.

It is "precisely South Africa's 'disengagement' that defined its racist
regime," he argued, adding that Israel "persists in following the South
African model ...."

Siegman has actually implied parallels between Israeli "evil" and Nazi
Germany. Israel's policies seem "too unjust, too evil, to be true,
particularly for a Jewish state that considers its very existence a living
reproach to the German people, and to the world, for the injustices and
suffering inflicted on the Jewish people," he stated.

On numerous occasions, Siegman even accused the country's leaders of
conduct compatible with Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracies:
Ariel Sharon and his aide "knew they had the administration and both
houses of Congress so completely in their pocket," he wrote in a 2004
column. Ever intent on promoting this canard of Israeli control over the
United States government, Siegman repeated the reference to Sharon having
the American government "in his pocket" in two other columns that year.
And in yet another column, he explained that this is made possible because
Sharon so successfully "manipulates Washington."

Again borrowing language from Israel's detractors, Siegman occasionally
describes Israel's security barrier, which is a metal fence along over 95
percent of its length, as a "wall." In Siegman's eyes, Israeli settlers
are characterized by "murderous rage." Israel's occupation inflicts
"unspeakable cruelty." The country's military operation in Gaza in
response to a Hamas kidnapping "targeted only the civilian population."
And the Orthodox Jewish community, both in the United States and Israel,
is ideologically in lockstep with Yitzhak Rabin's assassin.

Hypocrisy and Double Standards

Siegman seems to shift his demands of Israel as necessary to enable
continued criticism of the country. These relentless attacks on Israel,
meanwhile, stand in striking contrast to the gentle treatment accorded
Palestinians and their leaders.

In1997, Siegman called for a negotiated peace that would leave
Palestinians with the Gaza Strip and "most of the West Bank." Israel could
keep settlement blocks along the Green Line, and the "demilitarized"
Palestinian state would be "constrained in its sovereignty" so that
Israel's security needs would be met.

In late 2000, after Arafat rejected a peace offer at Camp David that
closely matched Siegman's proposals, and with Palestinian riots turning
deadly, Siegman then argued "there is no compelling reason why Israel
cannot unilaterally withdraw to the borders proposed by Ehud Barak ...
leaving Palestinians with more than 90 percent of the West Bank."

"Israel," he repeated a week later, "must withdraw its forces from the
West Bank and Gaza, as near as possible to the borders that Mr. Barak
offered to withdraw to at the Camp David meeting. The withdrawal should
include isolated Jewish settlements in the West Bank ..."

Siegman's opinions suddenly changed, though, when it seemed Israel might
actually make a unilateral move from the West Bank. While criticizing
Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Siegman described Israel's
security fence . which lies on that roughly 10 percent of West Bank land
he had earlier agreed Israel should keep . as being built on "stolen"
Palestinian land.

"Palestinians will not settle for less than a state that is fully within
the pre-1967 borders," he emphatically and approvingly noted.

His self-contradiction hardly ends there. Speaking about Sharon's
coalition partners in 2003, Siegman questioned "how a government comprised
of religious and xenophobic nationalist elements can conduct ...

He slammed "most Israelis" for accepting government coalition partners
that he claims "call for ... thinly disguised ethnic cleansing,"

He's even claimed that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister
Tzipi Livni's insistence that Hamas end terror and recognize Israel is
inappropriate since Olmert's and Livni's parents were founders of the
Irgun movement in British Mandate Palestine, which had killed civilians
during the tumultuous pre-1948 years.

But when it comes to Hamas, an organization whose xenophobia-driven
terrorism has targeted and killed hundreds of civilians in recent years,
and whose calls for ethnic cleansing and murder are not "thinly
disguised," or disguised at all, Siegman is hardly so concerned.

On the contrary, he lauded Hamas's "refusal to play by Israel's old
rules," while suggesting people should "not look at Hamas's rhetoric ...
[but] look at what it does." Providing an example of what Hamas does,
Siegman noted: "In spite of Hamas's refusal to change its theological
rejection of Israel, Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister in the Hamas led
government, ordered his ministers to seek practical cooperation with their
Israel counterparts."

(Although Siegman celebrated this supposed Hamas concession, he lamented
in the same article that "Israel's 'concessions,' such as the withdrawal
from Gaza and isolated West Bank settlements, are intended to serve narrow
Israeli interests.")

He defended the Palestinians after they elected Hamas, a murderous and
anti-Semitic terror group, to head the Palestinian Authority, arguing:
"Even hard-liners know that Hamas won the elections not because of their
uncompromising ideology but because they ran on a moderate platform of
clean government and better services."

(He contradicted himself later in the article, claiming it was Sharon's
"unilateralism" that "prepared the ground for [the] Hamas victory.)

By contrast, after Sharon won the Israeli elections in 2001, Siegman wrote
that although at one time people had "insisted [Sharon's views] ... do not
reflect the views and values of most Israelis," such a distinction
"becomes impossible to sustain" in light of Sharon's electoral victory.

And while constantly excoriaing Israel for not negotiating with or
offering concessions to the Palestinians, he excused the Palestinian
intransigence at Camp David by explaining that Arafat "tried to persuade
Clinton that this was not the right time for a negotiation process that
would entail Palestinian compromises ...."

(Siegman presumably feels it is always the right time for Israel to
compromise, even when the country is facing an onslaught of terrorism and
even after Palestinians elect a government committed to Israel's

Siegman's long list of factual errors, his intemperate anti-Israel
rhetoric, his indulgent if not sycophantic stance toward Hamas, and his
endless self-contradiction lead one to wonder why mainstream news
organizations have so frequently turned to this erstwhile Council on
Foreign Relations "expert."

Gilead Ini is a senior research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in
Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), a research and membership organization
devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the
Middle East.

(Editor's Note: For more on Henry Siegman, see this week's Media Monitor
column, page 13.)

3. More on Israel's Judicial Tyranny

4. Wall St Journal on Yom Kippur:
September 29, 2006

A Sacred Sacrifice
September 29, 2006; Page W13

Some of my Jewish friends will approach Yom Kippur next week a bit as if
they were running in a marathon. Once a year, they gear up for the big
race: an all-day service at synagogue along with a fast that calls for no
food or water for more than 24 hours.

Even among the most secular of Jews, fasting on the Day of Atonement is
one religious tradition that has somehow managed to survive. It is as if
this fast were a bridge linking old-world religion with New Age devotion
to health and fitness: Even those who lack religious fervor will approach
the prospect of not eating or drinking once a year as a kind of extreme
work-out -- a treadmill of the soul.

But of course for many Jews fasting has a profound religious meaning. This
was certainly true in my own immigrant Orthodox home, where early on I was
made conscious of the sacred nature of fasting. And not simply on Yom
Kippur -- but on at least a half-dozen other occasions during the year.

Judaism is not an ascetic religion. On the contrary, "it celebrates the
senses," remarks Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, a
Conservative synagogue in Queens, N.Y. Fasting as an act of self-denial,
he notes, is "a relative rarity" in the Jewish calendar. Those fasts that
are mandated -- and Yom Kippur is the most important -- are "a legitimate
Jewish expression of atonement."

During the days leading up to Yom Kippur, a person is supposed to reach
out to friends or to family members that they may have offended the
previous year and ask for forgiveness. But the fast itself concerns a
person's relationship with God. "Denying basic human needs helps a person
to do a true accounting of their soul," explains Rabbi Rafael Konikov of
Chabad of Southampton Jewish Center in Long Island, N.Y.

Not everyone is required to fast: The sick are exempted, as are pregnant
women and young children. I remember that, as a child, I wanted to fast.
The ritual was a kind of status symbol, the passport to adulthood that I
and my young friends craved. Yom Kippur meant an extra prayer -- not to
God but to my family. May I please go without food and water for one more
hour? I would beg. I couldn't wait for the day when I'd be old enough to

I had a perfect role model: My Egyptian-born mother, who approached
fasting with a passion and abandon that I haven't seen before or since.
Even when there wasn't an official fast on the horizon, she would
sometimes make one up. That was not uncommon among Jews of the Middle
East, where faith was tinged with a sense of mysticism. Some great rabbis
the world over and even ordinary folks, fasted on certain weekdays,
believing it led to a greater state of holiness. One Jewish tradition has
it that you can change the outcome of a bad dream by fasting. The illness
of a loved one is another occasion: When I became grievously sick at 16,
my mother fasted regularly, as if God would listen more closely anytime
she made a plea on an empty stomach.

My mother taught me to regard every fast, even the ones that were not
biblically mandated, as sacred. The Fast of Tammuz. The Fast of
Lamentations. The Fast of Esther. The Fast of Tevet. Even the relatively
minor Fast of Gedalia, which comes one day after the celebration of the
Jewish new year.

My mother had a special passion for the Fast of the First Born. Held the
day before Passover, it recalls God's final plague against the Egyptians,
his decree that the Angel of Death go from house to house and slay all of
their first-born children. The fast, which is only observed by the
first-born in a family, is a way of expressing gratitude to God for saving
the Jewish children from this fate. "There's a little bit of 'There but
for the grace of God go I'" to the ritual, says Rabbi Skolnik.

Of course every fast must end at some point, and the ending is part of the
ritual and its meaning. Rabbi Marc Schneier of New York notes that "Yom
Kippur has become a social fast," attractive to people almost as much for
the lavish food served at its conclusion as for the actual atonement. But
the joyful party atmosphere is firmly grounded in faith, he says: "It is a
celebration of God's inscribing us in the Book of Life."

One or two hours before the end of Yom Kippur, my mother and I would sneak
away from synagogue and head home. She would stand in the kitchen
squeezing lemons into a large bowl and then adding spoonfuls of sugar and
fresh mint leaves. Her task completed, she placed the pitcher in the
refrigerator. Then she would take me by the hand and together we would
walk back to synagogue. I longed for a glass of the lemonade right then,
but she shook her head. Our traditional treat would be waiting for us when
the fast was over.

On this coming Yom Kippur Day, as I fast, I will try to approach it with
my mother's old passion. I'll picture that chilled glass of lemonade
waiting for me in the refrigerator, the intense rush and euphoria that
comes with finishing a fast and taking that first sip -- cold and tart,
delicious and rejuvenating -- marking the end of atonement, the return to
life, to celebration.

Ms. Lagnado, a Journal reporter, is the author of "The Man in the White
Sharkskin Suit," a memoir to be published in 2007 by Ecco/HarperCollins.

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