Ha’aretz Gives Hanan Ashrawi a Makeover

In a news feature item in the Thursday edition of Ha’aretz, Akiva Eldar discusses Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, her organization MIFTAH, and incitement (“Palestinians against a hostile media“). Interestingly, his only mention of the word “propaganda” relates to “Israeli propaganda” originating from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and the Ha’aretz writer has not a word to say about incitement originating from Ashrawi and MIFTAH themselves.

Eldar describes a MIFTAH report to the European Union which reportedly denounces incitement in the Palestinian press, and quotes Ashrawi without challenge when she describes MIFTAH, an organization whose Web site is a purveyor of anti-Israel incitement: “Our main object is to reach a balanced, honest and informative media, and we are willing to assist the development of an alternative, critical and more credible media discourse.”

And, how exactly has MIFTAH pursued that lofty goal?

Memorable (Mis)Quotes
MIFTAH’s “Memorable Quotes” Web site feature includes numerous fabricated or distorted quotes allegedly by Israeli leaders. For example, the site attributes the following to Chairman Heilbrun, of the Committee for the Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat, the mayor of Tel Aviv in 1983:

We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves.

While Lahat was indeed re-elected mayor of Tel Aviv in 1983, no record was found of any “Chairman Heilbrun.” CAMERA contacted former Mayor Lahat who attested he has never employed, known or heard of any such person. The quote was traced to a 1988 book, The Hidden History of Zionism, by radical Marxist Ralph Schoenman. According to Schoenman’s footnote, the Heilbrun quote was hearsay related to him in private conversations.

In another quote falsely attributed to an Israeli leader, MIFTAH claims that in an interview with Amos Oz originally published in the Israeli daily Davar on Dec. 17, 1982, Ariel Sharon stated:

I don’t mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal. What you don’t understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it.

Amos Oz has confirmed that he never met nor interviewed Sharon. The so-called “interview” was a literary device taken from Oz’s book In the Land of Israel. In the English version, the interviewee’s identity is not revealed, and is referred to as Z (Flamingo/Fontana 1983). Palestinian propagandists substituted Sharon’s name for Z in the Davar interview. The description of Z does not fit Sharon, and at one point Z himself refers to Sharon, Begin and General Eitan.

MIFTAH’s “Memorable Misquotes” also unforgettably attributes the following to Israel Koenig in the “The Koenig Memorandum”:

We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.

The Koenig Report or “memorandum,” as it is sometimes referred to, was a private document of recommendations written in 1975 by civil servant Israel Koenig, the Interior Ministry’s official in charge of the Galilee, to alter the demographic balance of the region in the favor of the Jews. The recommendations, which included expanding and strengthening Israel’s Jewish presence in the Galilee, applying legal consequences to Arabs expressing hostility toward the state and Zionism, enforcing tax collection from the Arab sector, and other steps, were rejected by then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and caused great controversy in Israel. As controversial as Koenig’s proposals were, however, there was absolutely no suggestion of using “terror,” “assassination,” “intimidation,” or “land confiscations.”

MIFTAH also claims that Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff in the Israeli Defense Forces, was quoted as saying the following in articles by Gad Becker of Yediot Achronot (April 13, 1983) and in the New York Times (April 14, 1983):

We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.

The quote does not appear in either article. While both sources discuss comments made by then-outgoing Chief of Staff Eitan, there is nothing remotely resembling this quote.

More fabricated quotes listed in MIFTAH and other anti-Israel Web sites can be checked here and here.

More MIFTAH Incitement
Simon Plosker, managing editor of NGO Monitor, notes that MIFTAH campaigns

against what it terms the “Apartheid Wall” in a continuation of the “Apartheid” strategy utilized by Palestinian NGOs at the 2001 Durban anti-racism conference. Miftah, while espousing universal human rights, fails to condemn suicide bombings yet cynically condemned Israel’s “cold-blooded murder” of Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin as “an assault on all Palestinians”. Using the language of demonization, Miftah accuses Israel of “a systematic policy of ethnic cleansing” during the 1947/8 war and carrying out a “continued pursuit of transfer”.

MIFTAH: No Incitement in Palestinian Textbooks
In his eagerness to praise MIFTAH for denouncing Palestinian incitement, Akiva Eldar misses the Jan. 30, 2004 posting on MIFTAH’s Web site entitled “The Myth of Incitement in Palestinian Textbooks.” This posting stands in striking contrast to Eldar’s reporting: “MIFTAH does not make do with the observation that the Palestinian media does not incite.”

Hanan Ashrawi: ‘Enemy of Incitement’?
Eldar reverentially describes Ashrawi as “the English literature PhD from Ramallah. The woman who became the international voice of Palestine and struck fear into Israeli PR is a signatory to a document that would even stand the ‘town square test’ of Mr. Democracy, Minister Natan Sharansky, a star of the Sasson report.”

What Eldar omits about his star Palestinian spokeswoman is her own virulent incitement, including calls for attacks on Israelis. For instance, she stated: “the army of occupation and the settlers have become legitimate and select targets of Palestinian resistance” (AP, Nov. 15, 2000).

Also ignored by Eldar are Ashrawi’s numerous false and defamatory statements. For example, regarding the two Israeli reservists who were lynched to deat h in Ashrawi’s hometown, she asserted:

The two undercover Israeli agents that had infiltrated the march were recognised by the Palestinians as members of the Death Squads that had been responsible for assassinations and provocations. (Jordan Times, Oct. 29, 2000)

Ashrawi points to this absurd justification for the brutal lynching of the two Israeli reservists despite the fact that many journalists have clearly acknowledged that the victims were driving a Mazda sedan with Israeli plates and were at least partially clad in army fatigues (See, for example, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 13, 2000). It is patently absurd to suggest that two elite, undercover members of a “death squad” would announce their presence by driving into town with Israeli plates and in Israeli army uniforms, and would allow themselves to be taken without firing a shot.

Regarding the ownership of land pre-1948, Ashrawi has alleged:

You want to go back to 1948, 1947 –– Jews owned 7 percent of the land, Palestinians owned 93 percent of all of Palestine. (“The Connection,” WBUR, Jan. 18, 2000)

Ashrawi routinely propagates the common but false claim that land not owned by Jews in Palestine in 1948 belonged to Palestinian Arabs. In fact, historically, under Ottoman and British rule, most of the land was government owned. According to statistics from the Survey of Palestine, which was published in 1946 by British Mandate authorities, and later republished by the PLO-affiliated Institute for Palestine Studies, Jews owned 8.6 percent of the land and Arabs owned 28.6 percent. But the Arab total included Bedouin grazing land (8.4 percent) and waste land (13.4 percent), neither of which was legally ownable according to the prevailing Turkish and British land laws. Not counting Bedouin grazing land and waste land, Arab owned land totaled only 6.8 percent. But, even if one counts land in these categories as Arab owned, the majority of land in Palestine in 1948 was state land, which did not belong to Palestinian private owners. Because there was never a sovereign Palestinian Arab state, this state land cannot be said to have ever have been “Palestinian owned.”

On the same radio program, Ashrawi commented about reported Palestinian Authority demolitions of Palestinian buildings:

There have been no home demolitions by the Palestinians – by the Palestinian Authority –– neither under occupation by what he [radio caller] calls “Fatah hawks” or whoever, and there have been no home demolitions even though there were certain houses that were built illegally. There was one case in which there was an attempt to remove one floor in Gaza that I know of. But according to all the reports we have seen, and I have been a persistent – not just follower of human rights, but an activist on behalf of human rights – there were no house demolitions. (“The Connection,” WBUR, Jan. 18, 2000)

The detailed press reports reproduced below contradict Ashrawi’s heated denials:

The irony was probably not lost on Abdel Nasser Shaikh al-Aid when bulldozers driven by fellow Palestinians demolished the dwelling in Gaza where he lived with his family (“Refugee in Gaza Feels PLO Wrath,” Times of London, Jan. 31, 1994)

Aged and unsteady, propelled by rage, Fatima Abu Suayed seized her visitor’s arm and thrust him in to the scattered remains of her home.

Poor even by Gaza’s shrunken standards, she had lived with 13 relatives in a two-room shack of cinder block and battered sheet metal. One afternoon this month, police swept in and told the woman and her neighbors that had to leave Palestinian state property. Then a bulldozer plowed down more than 20 homes –– some of them, like Abu Suayed’s, with all the contents inside.

Among her losses was the only adornment on the flattened walls –– a portrait of Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.

“Our president!” she shouted, voice rich with contempt. “He comes here to kick us out! I ask God to punish those who destroyed this home! I ask God to punish them! I ask it every hour!” (“Palestinians in Gaza Vent Ire Over Arafat,” Washington Post, February 27, 1995)

Today the Palestinian Authority destroyed an illegal building used as housing for Bedouins in Tarkumei. The number of illegal buildings destroyed in recent months has risen. Bedouins say this is a provocation to violence. (Israel’s Channel 2, July 30, 1998)

For more examples of Ashrawi’s distortions which undercut her goal as quoted by Eldar to develop a “more credible media discourse,” see CAMERA’s report “Hanan Ashrawi’s Propaganda.”

While MIFTAH’s reported findings shared with the European Union may be commendable and unprecedented, they in no way justify whitewashing Ashrawi and MIFTAH’s own misinformation and incitement, both historic and present day.

Ha’aretz‘s Hebrew edition entitled Eldar’s piece on Ashrawi “The Enemy of Incitement.” Hanan Ashrawi’s transformation in Ha’aretz is nothing less than astounding.

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