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Media Analyses





Phyllis Bennis Mendaciously Bashes Israel on C-SPAN While Promoting ISIS Book


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C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb interviewed veteran Israel-basher Phyllis Bennis (writer, analyst, fringe activist on Middle East issues) Aug.16, 2015 (8-9 p.m.) on the Q&A program. The first 3/4 of the program dealt mainly with her notions of what drives ISIS (Islamic State) terrorism discussed in her new book (July 1), “Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer.” Bennis, an anti-Zionist Jew who is director of the New Internationalism Project of the left-leaning  Institute for Policy Studies, has authored other “primers” – “Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer” and “Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer.” Bennis' faulty “understanding” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – dealt with in the final part of this broadcast – is consistent with her “understanding” of Islamic terrorism and the Iran problem.

Bennis asserts that the ISIS (and Al-Qaeda) terrorists are driven by one or more of the factors of poverty, powerlessness, American occupation – or despotism and disenfranchisement caused by the West. But indicative that she is either dishonest or uninformed about the subject, nowhere does Bennis list as a factor, Islamist indoctrination or Islamic extremism or any equivalent term widely understood to be at least a significant factor in driving the terrorism. She fails to mention any of these terms: Islamist, fanatic, fanaticism, extremist, indoctrination, mullah and so-forth. In fact, she mentions the word “Islamic” only twice – both times in referring to the “Islamic State” (ISIS). She mentions “Prophet Mohammed” (or any variation of the term) only once – “It [Islam] goes back to the seventh century and the Prophet Mohammed. I am not an expert on all the ins and outs of the ideology.” This admission seems to be an understatement.

Lamb leads Bennis to lash out at Israel

Bennis, prompted by Lamb, warms up to a favorite activity, vilifying Israel. Lamb: “I'm going to run a piece of video of a person you know well. He died in 2003. He is a Palestinian by birth. You are a Reform Jew by birth and then became an anti-Zionist. We have to find out why. Here's Edward Said [pronounced “Sa-heed”]: “... The official Israeli policy ... has always been to not recognize the Palestinian people as equals ... most Israelis and what seems to be the majority of American Jews have made every effort to deny, avoid or negate a Palestinian reality. That is why there is no peace.”

But Edward Said's false explanation as to “why there is no peace” is still contradicted by the facts. The Arabs continue to refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state (evidently 22 Arab Muslim states is fine but one Jewish state is one too many) and continue to insist on the right of return of Palestinian Arabs and their descendants to Israel which would result in engulfing the state. The result would be the replacement of Israel by a 23rd Arab Muslim state. The basic propaganda narrative underlying the Arab “right of return” to Israel is the so-called “nakba” (Arabic for "catastrophe") myth, which falsely claims that Palestinian Arabs in 1948 suffered a forced exodus at the hands of Israeli Jews comparable to the Holocaust suffered by European Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their sympathizers. Nakba Day on May 15 is marked by Arab protests (including in recent years confrontations along Israel's frontiers) while Israel's birthday is celebrated on May 14, the modern Jewish state of Israel having declared its independence on May 14, 1948, in keeping with the U.N.'s 1947 partition plan. Furthermore, according to authoritative sources, in the wake of Israel's War of Independence in 1948, the overwhelming majority of Arab refugees from what became the Jewish state were not expelled by Israelis. But, ironically, a much larger number of refugees, Jews who had resided in Arab countries for many generations, were forced to flee their native lands. Thus the Jewish "nakba" dwarfed the Arab "nakba" and moreover, while the new Jewish state welcomed and assimilated these Jewish refugees, the Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants were cynically penned up by their Arab brethren in refugee camps – a condition which still persists. Unfortunately, C-SPAN viewers never hear information like this.
 
Bennis “great mentor” (see below) Said was more of a propagandist than a true academic (he taught at Columbia University). CAMERA's Dr. Alex Safian exposed much of Said's propaganda. Safian refuting a Said propaganda staple, wrote,

… in fact, the great majority of Palestinians were not expelled, and that most, like Professor Said and his family, chose to leave. (See for example, Karsh's Were the Palestinians Expelled in Commentary, July-August 2000; Justus Reid Weiner, My Beautiful Old House and other Fabrications by Edward Said, Commentary, September 1999)

Bennis commenting on Lamb's Said video clip, said, “He [Said] was a great mentor of mine in the last years of his life ... One of the things that I was always most proud of growing up Jewish [and Zionist] was the concern about ideas... My father would challenge me with ideas [but] he never questioned Israel... I [later] read the works of Theodor Herzl [Viennese journalist], the father of modern Zionism. I found that he wrote these letters begging for support from – guess who – Cecil Rhodes, the great British colonialist” (see below). At this point, she says, she started to understand that Israel was a “colonial project” which led her to Edward Said which, in turn, led to a determination to “build a movement that can change the U.S. policy” which “enables Israeli occupation and Israeli apartheid policies.”

The myths of “Israeli occupation and Israeli apartheid policies” and “colonialism”

Bennis' false accusation that Israel is a “colonial project” is clearly propagandistic. If other peoples have a right to live securely in their homelands, then the Jewish people certainly have a right to live securely in their homeland. This includes Jewish communities (“settlements”) in the West Bank (see below). The 20th century restoration of the nation of Israel was never intended to be at the expense of anyone. In 1948, the Jews accepted the U.N. partition plan but the Arabs initiated their genocidal campaign aimed at cleansing the land of all Jews. Bennis' supposed “colonialism” revelation about Herzl/Rhodes is based on an obscure incident (see below).

• A key element of the “occupation” myth is the claim that West Bank Jewish settlements are illegal as well as a hindrance to peace. A “hindrance to peace”? Yes – for a society brainwashed by a steady stream of antisemitic, anti-Israel incitement from Palestinian media, mosques and schools in violation of Article 26 (2) of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in violation of Israeli-Palestinian agreements. On the other hand, there is nothing in mainstream Jewish society relating to Arabs (or any ethnic/religious/racial group) that is remotely analogous to that found chronically in official Palestinian sources aimed at the destruction of Israel and Jews. Thus it is that Palestinian Arabs (and not surprisingly – their anti-Israel supporters elsewhere) demand a Jew-free apartheid in the West Bank.

• Can the settlements be considered illegal? Basic international law in this case, the League of Nations' Palestine Mandate, Article 6, calls for "close Jewish settlement" on the land west of the Jordan River. Article 6 is incorporated by Article 80 of the U.N. Charter, sometimes referred to as "the Palestine article." The United States endorsed the mandate, including Article 6, in the 1924 Anglo-American Convention. The West Bank is not sovereign territory of any country, but rather land disputed by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It was illegally occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967, when Israel took control as a result of successful self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War. As Eugene Rostow – a co-author of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), the keystone of all subsequent successful Arab-Israeli negotiations pointed out – 242 does not require complete Israeli withdrawal. Rather, the status of the territory, to which Jews as well as Arabs have legitimate claims, is to be resolved in negotiations as called for in the resolution and by U.N. Security Council Resolution 338 (1973). Meanwhile, Jewish villages and towns built in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria, the ancient homeland of the Jewish people) since 1967 are no more deserving of condemnation than are Arab villages built since then in previously existing Arab villages and towns.

• The term “apartheid” originated in South Africa to describe the country's system of enforced separation between blacks and whites. There has never been anything comparable to this in Israel as between any groups. The assertion that Israel is an apartheid state is a slander. Israeli Arabs enjoy greater political, social and economic rights, not to mention personal safety, than their brethren in virtually all Arab countries. While Bennis, like most of her ilk, routinely falsely accuses Israel of “apartheid,” rarely, if ever, is there criticism of those who genuinely practice or advocate apartheid. For example, she ignores Palestinian leaders' advocacy of apartheid in insisting on “not a single Jew” in any new “Palestine.” Most Arab societies practice apartheid of women, apartheid of homosexuals, apartheid of Christians, of Jews, of democracy. In Saudi Arabia, they hang homosexuals; in Sudan, genocide has taken place; women all over the Arab world get murdered if they don't wear the hijab or if they fall in love with the wrong man. But Bennis is disinterested in this, she has bigger fish to fry – “apartheid Israel.”
 
• A factor that generates claims of apartheid is Israel's security barrier, the main purpose of which is to prevent Palestinian terrorists from murdering Israelis. It is misleadingly referred to as a "wall" since less than 5 percent of the barrier can be considered a "wall." Originally planned to encompass approximately 12 percent of the disputed West Bank, it has been re-routed by the Israeli military in response to Israeli Supreme Court decisions in cases brought by Palestinian Arabs. It now includes less than eight percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side of the barrier. The barrier was constructed in response to the “al-Aqsa intifada,” the 2000 - 2004 Palestinian terror war in which more than 1,000 Israelis – Jewish and Arabs, more than three-fourths of them non-combatants – and foreign visitors were murdered, most by Palestinian terrorists crossing unimpeded from the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The barrier's completion has contributed significantly to the roughly 95 percent decrease in lethal attacks from the area.
 
Bennis' early-on delusions

Bennis' delusions include one of grandeur early-on (she was determined to “build a movement that can change the U.S. policy”) and the revelation she received of Israel as a “colonial project” when discovering, as she describes it (above), Herzl's “letters begging for support from – guess who – Cecil Rhodes, the great British colonialist.”

So, Herzl, who communicated via numerous letters with many notables of his day (late 19th, early 20th centuries), supposedly revealed his colonialism aims in letters to Cecil Rhodes (British imperialist, businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa). Never mind Herzl's numerous other letters, Bennis deals only with these Rhodes letters, an obscure matter, as if they incriminate Zionism as “colonialist.” What is there to say about these letters? First, it's not clear that Herzl actually sent any letters to Rhodes. Herzl apparently wanted to write to Rhodes to ask for money since Herzl's main concern in the early 1900s relating to the Zionism project was lack of funds to purchase land in Ottoman Empire-controlled Palestine and so Herzl contacted many investors. It's clear that Herzl's purpose with respect to Rhodes was to persuade him (and his associates) to make financial investments in Herzl's grand project:

You, Mr. Rhodes, are a visionary politician or a practical visionary… I want you to … put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan and to make the following declaration to a few people who swear by you: I, Rhodes have examined this plan and found it correct and practicable. It is a plan full of culture, excellent for the group of people for whom it is directly designed, not detrimental to the general progress of mankind, and quite good for England, for Greater Britain. If you and your associates supply the requested financial aid for this, you will, in addition to these satisfactions, have the satisfaction of making a good profit. For what is being asked for is money. What is the plan? To settle Palestine with the homecoming Jewish people. (The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, editor-Raphael Patai, translator-Harry Zohn, Volume III, The Herzl Press, page 1194; the diary entry is dated Jan 11, 1902).

Herzl writes on Jan. 20, 1902, “This letter to Rhodes remains in the ink bottle for the time being, because [of being busy with fund-raising activities] …” Apparently the letter didn't go beyond the diary.

According to the late Israeli writer Amos Elon (The New York Review of Books, Dec. 19, 2002),

One of Herzl's friends asked Cecil Rhodes, the great British imperialist, for his advice. Rhodes answered: “Tell Dr. Herzl to put money in his pocket.” Herzl scarcely had any money. “The secret I keep from everybody,” he wrote, “is the fact that I am at the head only of a movement of beggars and fools” (Schnorrer und Narren). The rich, with very few exceptions, opposed his scheme. The early settlers were mostly penniless idealists, social anarchists, Narodniks, practicing a bizarre “religion of hard labor.” Ninety percent of those who arrived in Palestine between 1904 and 1914 returned to Europe or wandered on to America.

Misleading millions of potential viewers, Lamb's symbiotic interview of Bennis, exhibiting her usual dogmatic commitment to anti-Israel mythology (as well as her usual condemnation of the purpose of U.S. war on terrorism), is in keeping with C-SPAN's chronic Jewish/Israel problem that CAMERA continues to document.


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