At Teen Vogue, Fighting for Truth Isn’t Easy

May 16, 2018: See our update on this issue here

In an April 24 piece in Teen Vogue, Rawan Eewshah argues, “Fighting for Palestine Is Never Easy — Even With Privilege Like Mine.” CAMERA has written about Teen Vogue‘s anti-Israel bias several times already, and unfortunately, although this piece doesn’t suffer from the same set of problems as earlier pieces, overall, it’s no improvement. Some of the assertions in this article strain credulity, and it would appear that it was published with out basic fact checking.

Eewshah, who currently works for Hearst’s Complex Networks, and who has worked at Allure and Buzzfeed, begins her piece with a family anecdote,

My dad tells me about playing soccer in the streets of al-Jib, a small city just north of Jerusalem. As the oldest of 10 children, my dad has always been a natural leader. He’d go outside, gather the neighborhood kids, and they’d play for hours on end. The only thing that would stop the never-ending games of footy is if his mother called him in for dinner or if they saw an Israeli soldier approaching. Growing up, he says, he witnessed children his own age be jailed — and on two occasions, saw his own relatives shot and killed by Israeli forces disguised in keffiyehs. (A keffiyeh is a traditional black-and-white Palestinian scarf.) So, the sight of a soldier was reason enough to abruptly end any carefree fun my father and his neighborhood friends were having.

During the Six Day War of 1967, the soccer games with the neighborhood kids became far and few between. A year later, when my father became a refugee, they ended altogether.

That’s a somber tale. There’s one problem with it, though. Al-Jib is in the West Bank. For the 19 years prior to 1967, it was under Jordanian control. How exactly Israeli soldiers could possibly arrest children and shoot Eewshah’s relatives in the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, she doesn’t tell us. Although there were some cross-border raids to deter terrorism, Israeli soldiers didn’t administer the area, much less walk around scaring children into abandoning their soccer games.

To the extent that it’s possible that Eewshah’s father may have seen such things, she doesn’t tell us what those kids were doing when they were arrested or, why her relatives were shot. Were the kids throwing stones at civilians in moving cars? Were her relatives plotting or carrying out terror attacks against Israel (which were common both before and after 1967)? She asks us to assume they were all innocent victims.

Eewshah also fails to inform her teen readers that Israel entered the West Bank in 1967 only after Jordan attacked Israel from within it, that after Israel’s preemptive strike on Egypt, it asked Jordan to stay out of the war, and that if Jordan hadn’t made the decision to enter the war on what turned out to be the losing side, Israel never would have come to control the West Bank. Those facts don’t fit in with her narrative.

She continues, “It’s been more than 50 years since the day Israeli soldiers marched to my father’s door in al-Jib with the intention of seizing his family’s home and subsequently rendering him homeless.” We can’t know the circumstances of Eewshah’s family, but we do know that in most cases, Arabs who became refugees as a result of the Six-Day War had fled in fear of a war that Arabs started, and were not expelled. Moreover, Israel gave many of them the opportunity to return shortly after the war ended.

“Israelis and Palestinians have technically been fighting for control of the same territories for nearly a century, according to NPR, but the heart of the conflict dates back to the 1940s,” Eewshah tells her readers, referring to the UN Partition Plan. Omitted, of course, is any mention of the second-class status to which Jews were relegated in Arab lands prior to Israel’s rebirth (including in the land that is now Israel when that land was controlled by the Ottoman Empire) and the fact that conflicts between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East go as far back as the time of Mohammed.

Next, Eewshah tell us,

In 1947, the U.N. voted to divide [the land] into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Arabs rejected the plan and fighting began within days. Immediately after the British Mandate for Palestine expired on May 14, 1948, Israel declared its own independence; the next day, neighboring Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq) invaded Israel and began fighting on behalf of Palestine.

While Eewshah and Teen Vogue deserve some credit for acknowledging that it was five Arab nations that initiated the 1948 war, Eewshah’s description that they fought “on behalf of Palestine,” betrays her own lack of serious knowledge on the issue beyond family lore. There has never been a sovereign entity known as “Palestine.” Palestine was the colonial name assigned to the region by the Romans in the year 132 CE, after crushing a Jewish revolt against Roman rule. Indeed, prior to 1948, the Jews who lived there referred to themselves as “Palestinian.”

Further, those Arab states didn’t even fight on behalf of “Palestinians.” Egypt, Syria and Jordan all took control of territories filled with Palestinian Arab refugees, yet kept them in refugee camps and, along with Lebanon, refused them full rights. Either Jordan or Egypt or both could have created Palestinian states but did not.

Eewshah finally reaches her main point, which is a paean to Ahed Tamimi. CAMERA has written extensively about Tamimi before. Under her parents’ instruction, she has been in the business of provoking soldiers in front of cameras to score publicity points for years. In the incident for which she is now imprisoned, she not only slapped, but also punched and kicked a soldier, while her mother filmed her, and then called for “stabbings or martyrdom operations [suicide bombings] or throwing stones” by her fellow Palestinians.

To Eewshah, the forbearance of the Israeli soldiers that Tamimi attacked is defeat, rendering Tamimi a “symbol for Palestinian resistance.” The support Tamimi has received from celebrities is, to Eewshah, testament to the justness of her cause.

Eewshah’s claim that Tamimi has no access to a lawyer is demonstrably false; Tamimi was represented by counsel throughout her proceedings. When she claims that the Palestinian mantra is “to exist is to resist,” her link is to the website for the International Solidarity Movement, a group that “embrac[es] Palestinian militants, even suicide bombers.” And while she complains about the number of minors Israel holds in detention, she ignores the fact that minors do in fact commit terror attacks, and ignores the reasons why they do it.

Eewshah’s claim that “we may no longer have a physical manifestation of a place to call home,” is at odds with not only the fact of Palestinian Authority rule over large parts of the West Bank and Hamas rule over Gaza, but also the multiple times that Palestinian leaders turned down opportunities to create a Palestinian state. Those rejected opportunities for statehood, of course, are also concealed from her readers. She writes, “in existing every day as Palestinians, we’re resisting the oppression that drove us from our country in the first place.” Tamimi, however, hasn’t been “driven from” anywhere.

Eewshah concludes, “but I guess I am privileged, because having a manager who may dislike you for being Palestinian is a lot better than being imprisoned for it.” No Palestinians, including the Tamimis, are imprisoned for being Palestinian – at least not by Israel. Ahed Tamimi was imprisoned for assaulting a soldier and for calling on others to commit “stabbings or martyrdom operations [suicide bombings] or throwing stones.” The charges against her mother and cousin were similar.

In the past, CAMERA has criticized Teen Vogue for relying on writers who had no knowledge of the conflict. It does seem that in this case, the magazine went in search of someone who, at least on the surface, may have appeared to have knowledge through first-hand experience. Unfortunately, she seems to have sold them a false bill of goods.