PBS’ Tavis Smiley Hosts Anti-Israel Propagandist Rula Jebreal

Rula Jebreal markets herself as a “journalist, author, and foreign policy analyst,” but she would be more accurately characterized as a Palestinian propagandist in the mold of fellow agitator Diana Buttu.  Both Buttu and Jebreal glibly dispense the most outrageous falsehoods to promote enmity toward Israel and support their narrative of grievance. And both are attractive, photogenic, and handed opportunities to spout their lies in the mainstream media, despite their documented histories of dishonesty.

Take, for example, the Nov. 9, 2015 edition of the PBS late-night talk show hosted by Tavis Smiley, which featured Jebreal ranting against Israel and its prime minister. After granting the self-declared pundit unfounded authority by introducing her fawningly as “an award-winning journalist, author and foreign policy analyst,” host Tavis Smiley invited her comments on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with US President Obama. Unable to contain her seething animosity toward the Israeli leader, the propagandist went on an acrimonious tirade, portraying the Israeli leader as greedy and cunning. She raged:

The timing [of the meeting] is incredible, especially because he announced that he actually appointed a man who insulted President Obama two days before he arrived to Washington, D.C., Ron Baratz, who said that President Obama is anti-Semitic and he offended also Secretary Kerry.

So basically what Bibi is saying and what he’s doing after President Obama himself actually gave up on the peace process because they announced that nothing will happen and there will be no peace under his watch, he’s coming to collect his prize after he tried to sabotage the most incredible and important foreign policy achievement of this president. He’s coming here to say, well, I need more money, more cooperation, more aid, and you owe me that. So, basically, he will follow up and he will continue with his policies and he’s telling this president who actually he sees as an existential threat…

Contrary to Jebreal’s malicious spin on Netanyahu’s visit, the Washington Post objectively reported that the meeting moved beyond the two leaders’ ” rhetorical combat earlier in the year over the Iran nuclear deal.” And contrary to the misleading scenario Jebreal paints of unilateral demands by Netanyahu, the Post indicated that both leaders sought to renegotiate a military memorandum of understanding before it expires in 2017, in light of the new military requirements in a region that has become more unstable and insecure. The Post quoted President Obama to voice his position on the discussion:

We want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the United States and Israel can plan effectively for our defense needs going forward.

But Jebreal wasn’t content just to misrepresent the joint meeting, she played up to her African-American host by deviously and deceivingly portraying Netanyahu as a racist who despises African-Americans and Arabs alike:

When he [Netanyahu] talked about Arabs during the campaign election in March, when he said Arabs are driving in droves to vote, I think he looks at President Obama and he sees a Black man from the minority whose middle name is Hussein, whose father was Muslim, rising up in a country like this that gives opportunities, rising up and leading the most important nation in the world. That’s the kind of existential threat that Bibi does never want to happen in his own country, and I think he tried to undermine the president over and over.

The false attribution of racism to Israel’s leader is one Jebreal repeated throughout the interview. But far from demurring, Smiley underscored and bolstered the propagandist’s over-the-top accusations. When Jebreal insisted that Smiley call Netanyahu’s request for military aid a “demand” – something clearly untrue, as no demands were made– Smiley readily complied, before expanding upon the propagandist’s anti-Israel accusations by suggesting “the numbers [amount of military aid requested] are astounding for how much of our budget in foreign aid goes specifically to Israel.” Never mind that Smiley was unable to provide any actual figures because the leaders had not decided on any.

Smiley then allowed Jebreal to deliver an uninterrupted screed against the US for what she alleged was “unconditional support for Israel”and “enabling discriminatory laws and segregation and subjugation of millions of people.”

The falsehoods about “discriminatory laws, segregation, and subjugation” are familiar ones, frequently trotted out by propagandists, and used by Jebreal herself, But they have been thoroughly debunked. (See here  and here.) What the propagandists label as “discriminatory laws” are absurd and would not be considered discriminatory in any other country. They include Israel’s “Flag and Emblem Law” which declares the blue and white Star of David flag as the official “state flag” of Israel; the Law of Return, which allows Jews to immigrate and gain automatic citizenship in Israel; the Identity Law which requires Israeli nationals of all ethnicities and non-residents over the age of 16 to carry an identity certificate; a law reducing social security benefits to all Israelis; and a law exempting the State of liability for “:anyone who suffered damage while acting on behalf of a subject of an enemy state or a member or operative of a terrorist organization.”

Jebreal was also given a platform to rail against “the pro-Israel lobby” which she accused of “bending the policies of the United States to where it’s more segregation is actually the liability for the United States and undermines the stature of the United States around the world.” This is a popular hoax among conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites, evocative of the notorious forgery “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and the “Zionist Occupied Government” canard popularized by neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, and supported by the fraudulent scholarship of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.

And so it goes. Tavis Smiley encouraging, supporting and providing Jebreal with leading questions that become opportunities for her to demonize Israel and its leader. In the alternate universe of Jebreal, truth is turned on its head. It is no longer Mahmoud Abbas who incites his people to violence by urging them to stop the Jews from “defiling” Muslim holy sites with their “filthy feet” and blessing “every dr
op of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem,” as he publicly proclaimed on Sept. 16. It is no longer the Palestinian leadership’s continuous hate rhetoric and exaltation of violence against Israel and Jews in the name of Allah that is encouraging young terrorists to plunge their knives into Israeli victims. In Jebreal’s inversion of reality, it is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who is responsible for “dangerous rhetoric” urging his people to kill innocent Palestinians. And as Jebreal continues to skew the facts and indulge in her own hate rhetoric, Smiley sits back and listens attentively while the identifying caption on the screen seems to sanction her words by crediting as “Rula Jebreal, Award-Winning Journalist.”

Tavis Smiley airs on more than 95 percent of PBS stations in more than 200 markets. The major sponsor of this program is Walmart, one of the world’s biggest retailers. Unfortunately, Smiley has a long history of allowing anti-Israel and even antisemitic guests to expound without challenge and without any basis in fact. The November 9th example with Jebreal is just one more example. The question that should be asked of Walmart’s executive board is whether they feel that supporting Tavis Smiley’s skewed and biased program is really the best use of its resources.

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