Extreme anti-Israel groups often feature like-minded Jewish individuals in their campaigns, events and writings. These voices provide a public relations fig leaf for organizations singling out the Jewish state for one-sided condemnation. The logic, obviously, is that if Jews themselves are leveling harsh criticism at Israel, the organizations own assault must have merit. But what actually counts in statements about Israel, the Palestinians or any other topic are the facts of the issue not the ethnicity, religion or personal psychology of the speaker.
Anna Baltzer is one such Jewish defamer, a relative newcomer who tours US campuses, churches and community venues denigrating Israel with baseless and propagandistic allegations. Her personal story has a familiar ring; she claims to have been raised on the Zionist dream but says "vacations" in Iran, Syria and Lebanon and an extended visit to the West Bank opened her eyes and transformed her into a determined opponent of "the occupation." Those well versed in the history and contemporary reality of the conflict will recognize in Baltzers presentation a re-packaged version of standard accusations against the Zionist state.
Equally predictable are her anecdotal descriptions of Palestinian hardship and alleged Zionist brutality. Likewise familiar is Baltzers invoking of her Jewish roots and grandparents lost to the Holocaust to establish her supposed moral authenticity.
But family aside, Baltzers ideological roots are firmly planted in the anti-Zionist movement. An acolyte of deceased Israeli radical, Tanya Reinhardt and Noam Chomsky, she is affiliated with the International Womens Peace Service (IWPS), a group closely associated with the International Solidarity Movement. Her political message closely reflects the official Palestinian line claiming Israel is a foreign occupier guilty of ethnic cleansing and that the wrongs done to the Arabs can only be righted by reverting back to a mythological pre-Zionist Palestinian land.
False claims about land ownership
1) Baltzer builds her argument against Israel on key historical falsehoods. In a tactic of propaganda, she repeatedly asserts the falsehood that the West Bank and much of Israel itself belonged to the Palestinians as though it were commonly accepted truth. She claims Jewish settlements on the West Bank are illegal according to international law and the land "belongs to the Palestinians, [and is] internationally recognized as Palestinian land." None of this is true; in reality, UN Security Council Resolution 242 (and official United States policy) characterizes the West Bank and Gaza as disputed territories subject to negotiation. Many recognized legal experts (including Professors Julius Stone and Eugene Rostow) argue that the settlements are legal, irrespective of any political view about the advisability of building or removing them.
2) Baltzer perpetuates the falsehood that all land not already under Jewish ownership prior to 1948 belongs to the Palestinians. A series of maps on her Web site depict the annexation of Palestinian land by Jews. A map labeled 1947 shows eight percent under Jewish ownership, and incorrectly assigns the remaining 92 percent to the Palestinians. But most of the territory she assigns to the Palestinians was state-owned property under Turkish and subsequent British and Jordanian governments. In 1967, when Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza in the context of a defensive war, state land came under the sovereignty of Israel, which is how it remains until a "final status" settlement is achieved.
3) Baltzer further confuses the land issue in alleging Israeli Arabs are discriminated against because they are barred from owning most of the land. In reality, within Israel itself, only 6.5 percent of the land is privately owned and although Arabs constitute 20 percent of the population they own roughly half of that private property. They have equal access to the remaining roughly 80 percent of land that is government-owned state land. In practice and under new court rulings Arabs also have access to JNF land which accounts for the remaining 14 percent.
4) Baltzer makes other bizarre claims about land in Israel. In her blog she quotes Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, whom she identifies as a former member of the Palestine National Council, who states,
78% of [Jewish Israelis] live in 14% of Israel. The remaining 22% of [Jewish Israelis] live in 86% of Israel's area, which is Palestinian land ...only 200,000 Jews exploit 17,325 sq. km, which is the home and heritage of 5,248,180 refugees, crammed in camps and denied the right to return home. (April 30, 2007)
This absurd assertion denies Jews the right to 86 percent of the land within their own internationally recognized borders. Tellingly, her repetition of Dr. Sittas claims suggests she sees nothing wrong with reducing Israel into densely populated "bantustans;" precisely what she accuses Israel of doing to the Palestinians.
5) Her recapitulation of the events surrounding Israels founding are standard revisionist mythology. She recounts how "the militant Zionist Irgun and Stern Gang systematically murdered more than 100 men, women, and children in Deir Yassin" and describes it as "part of a carefully planned and orchestrated process that would induce the flight of 70% of the native population to make way for an ethnically Jewish state." (Annas blog: April 30, 2007)
And in her DVD, "Life in Occupied Palestine," she asserts:
The majority of the people living on the land the UN designated for a Jewish state were not Jewish. Zionist forces expelled 750,000 Palestinians from their homes.
The charge of an orchestrated plan and process to expel Palestinians has been thoroughly refuted by serious scholars. Professors Efraim Karsh and Benny Morris, for instance, both reject the charge of an orchestrated expulsion, and conclude the overwhelming majority of Arabs who fled did so in the context of war one launched by Arab armies and militias against the fledgling Jewish state. Their scholarship is supported by the admissions of Arab officials that the Arab population was urged to flee by its own leadership. According to various UN commission reports, between 472,000 and 726,000 Arabs fled the territory that became Israel. Only a small fraction of these were physically uprooted by Jewish forces, in most cases to insure critical roadways remained open during open hostilities.
Demonizing Zionism and defaming Israelis
1) Predictably, Baltzer casts Zionism as a racist movement. She describes a Zionist as "someone who supp
orts the idea of an exclusively Jewish state." This is a baseless distortion of mainstream Zionism. Israel is a democratic state that protects the rights of all its citizens to freely and openly practice their religions. According to Freedom House
, an organization that rates political, religious and civic freedoms around the world, Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to be rated as "Free." Most of the regions states were given the lowest rating of "Not Free." (See the Middle East portion of the Freedom House Map of Freedom reproduced on the left)
One is left to wonder how Baltzers "vacations" in Iran and Syria, nations controlled by repressive regimes that restrict speech, assembly and the rights of minority groups, somehow convinced her that Israel was the regions most serious human rights violator.
2) Her account of the fighting in Jenin in April 2002 repeats the most outrageous propaganda disseminated by the Palestinian Authority in the days immediately after the Israeli incursion. She writes in her blog on November 24, 2003:
Jenin has a reputation for fighting back. Locals say that in April of 2002, it took 12,000 Israeli troops 8 days to capture one small section of the city because so many people fought to the death...
... Soldiers bulldozed homes indiscriminately, without regard to whether any civilians were still inside...
Israel used bulldozers to minimize soldier casualties, but no one knows how many Palestinians died in the attack... Shortly afterward, Israel announced 46 casualties, less than a quarter of their original estimates. Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians testimonies of unarmed men being executed and bodies being crushed suggest that this number is wildly inaccurate. Still, Israel maintains that a massacre never happened at all, and without access to the bodies, nobody can prove that those who went missing were actually killed.
At the time she wrote this entry, even HRW and Amnesty International, as well as the UN all fierce critics of Israel had repudiated claims that a massacre had occurred, counting 52 to 57 Palestinian dead along with 23 Israeli soldiers. Most of the Palestinian fatalities were identified as combatants. The relatively low Palestinian toll after eight days along with the uncharacteristically high toll of Israeli soldiers contradicts Baltzers narrative. Israel could have limited its own casualties by resorting to artillery and aerial bombardment, but in order to minimize Arab civilian casualties, went in on the ground and suffered notable losses.
3) She criticizes Israels security barrier, "the wall" in her terminology, but avoids any discussion of why it was built. Even Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdallah Shalah acknowledged the effectiveness of the barrier, stating:
For example, they built a separation fence in the West Bank . We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks, but the resistance has not surrendered or become helpless, and is looking for other ways to cope with the requirements of every stage [of the intifada]
" (Al-Sharq, March 23, 2008 ).
As an advocate of non-violence, she betrays no ambivalence in her opposition to the barrier despite the fact that it has saved both Israeli and Palestinian lives by reducing opportunities for violence to occur. Baltzers determined opposition to the barrier suggests that promoting the political agenda of "resistance" supercedes any concern for preserving Israeli or Palestinian lives.
Baltzers radicalism and ties to Islamic extremists
1) Baltzers rhetoric and writing are a window on the emerging nexus between the far-left and the Islamic extremists of Hamas. This is exemplified by her association with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a radical group whose members sheltered two British-born terrorists prior to their carrying out a suicide bombing of an Israeli nightclub in 2003 and who today are working on behalf of Hamas to undermine Western efforts to isolate that radical Islamic organization in Gaza.
In her blog, she reveals her participation in ISM strategy sessions and coordination with its activists. ISMs claims to adhere to a non-violent creed are contradicted by the praise its co-founder, Huwaida Arraf, expressed for suicide bombers:
Nonviolent resistance is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation... The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics both nonviolent and violent. But most importantly it must develop a strategy involving both aspects...
2) The relative calm in the West Bank since 2005 and on-going tenuous efforts by responsible governments to foster cooperation between the Abbas government and the Israeli government have reduced opportunities for extremists to instigate "resistance" activities in these areas. Professional agitators like Baltzer have thus migrated to more extreme opponents of compromise, like Hamas in Gaza. In 2007, she wrote:
Recently, perhaps the most paralyzing features of Israel's continued control over Gaza ... is the US and Israeli-led economic embargo against the Palestinian government since Hamas' victory last year....the United States, Europe, and Israel ... say they will only return the Palestinians' lifelines if Hamas agrees to three conditions: (1) renouncing violence, (2) accepting previous agreements, and (3) recognizing Israel. These conditions sound reasonable enough, but are painfully ironic for anyone living on the ground here. True, Hamas has not sworn off violence once and for all, but neither has Israel! In the past year, Palestinians have killed 27 Israelis, most of them soldiers. During that same period of time, Israelis have killed 583 Palestinian civilians (suicide bombers, fighters or others targeted for assassination are not included). Hamas has held fairly consistently to a unilateral ceasefire since January 2005, when they announced their transition from armed struggle to political struggle... Hamas says it reserves the right to resist violently, but has stopped attacking Israelis. Israel claims that all it wants is peace, yet the daily invasions and assassinations continue.
And finally, the last and crucial condition is that Hamas must recognize Israel. The question is, what exactly is meant by "Israel"?... Israel has an artificial Jewish majority that was created and is maintained through various forms of ethnic cleansing. Israel's very existence as a Jewish state is conditional upon the dispossession and either expulsion or bantustanization of the indigenous Palestinian population...
Hamas too has indicated that it would consider peace if Israel withdrew to its internationally recognized 1967 borders leaving Palestinians with just 22% of their historic homeland, but Israel says full withdrawal is out of the question. It is Israel who has yet to recognize Palestine's right to exist, not the other way around. (April 7, 2007)
Baltzer here adheres closely to Hamass narrative of the conflict. These excerpts from a lengthy blog entry are riddled with deceptive manipulation of terms. For instance, while Hamas accepts temporary truces it firmly rejects the right of the Jewish state to exist and refuses to disavow armed struggle. Recently, when an interviewer asked Hamas political chief, Khaled Meshal if Hamas could ever accept Israel. He answered,
No, the question of recognition is out. I have already said we would be able to sign a truce. There are other formulas, but we have already stated that recognition is not among them. (Euronews, July 11, 2008)
Nor has Hamas stopped trying to attack Israel despite Baltzers nonsensical claim that Hamas has adhered to the 2005 ceasefire. From January through August 2008 alone, 1087 rockets and 1218 mortar shells were fired on Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza and Hamas has taken credit for a number of terrorist incidents inside Israel since 2005.
Her statistics on Palestinian casualties are misleading. Through careful cross-checking of Palestinian sources, CAMERA has demonstrated that the groups Baltzer relies upon for her figures play games with how they classify terrorists and militants as civilians or non-combatants. For example, the pro-Palestinian Israeli group BTselem categorizes known terrorists killed in Israeli air strikes as non-combatants so long as they were not carrying out an attack at the time of their demise. Another CAMERA study combed through the weekly reports of the Gaza-based monitoring group Palestinian Committee for Human Rights (PCHR) and calculated 58 percent of all Palestinian fatalities between April 2006 and April 2008 were identified as militants, resistance activists or members of Palestinian security forces by this partisan group. Israeli tallies indicate that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian fatalities are militants and terrorists.
Curiously Baltzers blog falls silent between April 29, 2005 and Jan 26, 2007, a time during which the main news focused on Israels decision to withdraw from Gaza and the chaotic results within Gaza afterward, including intensified internecine fighting between Hamas and Fatah.
In 2007, in the midst of an extended period of relative calm between Israelis and Palestinians on the West Bank, she exclaimed in her blog:
Injustice is unsustainable. It cannot be normalized, because there will always be resistance. The third intifada will come...If the third intifada does not succeed, there will be a fourth. And then a fifth
As many as it takes, until justice is served. (April 29, 2007)
Although Baltzers organization IWPS proclaims in its mission statement that it is "non-aligned and non-partisan and does not 'take sides' but supports any individual, group or organization who resist the Military Occupation of the West Bank in a nonviolent manner," she implicitly condones violence by urging endless intifadas. Surely she knows that Palestinian and Israeli blood would inevitably flow during the next and any subsequent intifadas.
Like others who have preceded her as roving agitators against the Zionist state, Baltzer feeds off the continuing conflict. Her agenda promotes resentment and holds out to Palestinians the unrealistic hope of reversing a century of Jewish growth and development of the land. This can only push prospects for a peaceful coexistence further away. With continuing attempts to forge a more cooperative and calm atmosphere in the West Bank, it is no surprise that Baltzer and others who share her agenda increasingly align their views and actions with the most determined opponents of compromise, like Hamas.