Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Anna Baltzer out of the Middle East

Inasmuch as this event was taking place in my own area, I gave up several hours of my life last night to hear Anna Baltzer speak. Baltzer is another in a line of anti-Zionist Jews who traipse around the country to speak against Israel. Her apparent expertise comes from 1. being the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors (she calls them Holocaust refugees, a subtle attempt to put the Palestinian refugee experience on the same level as the horrors of Nazism) 2. Having been a Fulbright scholar at Columbia which resulted in her obtaining a teaching job in Turkey and 3. Having lived in the West Bank for eight months and been trained by the terror support network the International Solidarity Movement.

Her talk focused on many photographs she had taken while in the West Bank and on the hardship that the occupation poses for Palestinians who are seeking emplyment, education and health. She also rails against Israel's security barrier, and shows many pictures of that. From her talk, you would never know that hundreds of Israeli civilians died since 2000 in the terror war launched by Yasser Arafat. You would never know about the children sent to try to smuggle suicide bomb belts through checkpoints. You would never know about the jihadist propaganda on Palestinian TV. She asked at one point "Does segregation bring peace?" (Well, yes if you segregate those who would act violently against you it does!)

She also talks about 1948 in such a way that it is no surprise when she admits that she is an anti-Zionist who favors the so-called "one state solution", in which the Palestinians will agree to suddenly live peacefully with Israel and sing "kumbaya" in the hilltops watching the sun set into the Mediterranean (until the moment they are a demographic majority, that is). She shows the same inaccurate slides of land ownership favored by Jewish Voice for Peace , though this writer was sardonically amused by the slide that showed landownership in 2007 with large chunks of Gaza still designated as "Jewish owned".

In her question and answer period she kept referring back to an appendix in her book, presumably with all her set responses already written in. Most of them sound like they are lifted directly from Ilan "Facts aren't important" Pappe. She also would not answer several questions directly, such as how Israelis can feel secure in withdrawing from the West Bank if that will put Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport in the range of rocket attacks, or how Palestinian children are expected to learn peace if they are taught hate.

Not surprisingly, her talk and her answers were riddled with inaccuracies. She showed a slide with a quote by Ben Gurion supposedly advocating compulsory transfer:
"I support compulsory transfer. I do not see in it anything immoral ... The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war."
By omitting the full quote, she incorrectly implies that the Jewish leadership adopted transfer as a plan. Efraim Karsh, in his critique of a book by Israeli historian Benny Morris, quoted from the record of the Jewish Agency Executive meeting on June 12, 1937 (“Falsifying the Record: Benny Morris, David Ben-Gurion and the ‘Transfer’ Idea,” Israel Affairs, V4, No. 2, Winter 1997, p52-53). It reads as follows: "I saw in the Peel Plan [proposed by England] two positive things: the ideas of state and compulsory transfer. I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see in it anything immoral, but compulsory transfer can only be effected by England and not by the Jews... Not only is it inconceivable for us to carry it out, but it is also inconceivable for us to propose it. " This was in reference to the Peel plan, which proposed a very tiny sliver of land on the coastal plain for the Jews from which a small number of Arabs would be transferred. The Jews accepted the plan; the Arabs, foreshadowing the intransigence of 1948, 1967 and 2000, rejected it.

She claims that Gaza is still "occupied" under international law. Good thing she's not MY international lawyer. The International Committee of the Red Cross states: What is occupation?Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations (HR) states that a "territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised." If Israel had control over Gaza then Haniyeh would be dead or captured. Who is responsible for public order in Gaza? Hamas. Rather than occupied, Gaza is under sanctions, because of its refusal to adhere to the basic requirements of renouncing violence and terrorism. Those sanctions are enforced by Israel and Egypt jointly, and supported by the EU and the US.

She claims the Arab armies in 1948 never entered areas that were set aside for the Jewish state; that is completely false. There is a Syrian tank at the gates of Kibbutz Degania--it's a relatively famous photo spot. Degania was within the Jewish area of the 1947 UN Partition plan. The description of the battle is at Egyptian armies occupied most of the Negev until driven out by the IDF in late1948-early 1949. Kaukji's "Arab Liberation Army" roamed in Galilee. You can see a detailed map here.

But perhaps the biggest and most damning lie is her claim that Zionism supports an EXCLUSIVELY Jewish state. Ephraim Karsh specifically examines the entire (not edited) relevant quotes from early Zionists-- even Jabotinsky, who drafted a constitution in 1934 that would put Arabs on an equal political footing. Zionism is the movement for a Jewish state, but there is room for non-Jews in it just like there is room for Jews and Moslems in the Christian states of Europe. Even a few (a very, very few) predominantly Moslem states such as Morocco (and officially secular Turkey) grant Jews political and civil rights. But it serves Baltzer's purpose to portray Zionism as an evil, exclusionary policy, because she is promoting the BDS agenda: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. Specifically trying to draw a parallel with the anti-apartheid movement, Baltzer shows a slide of logos of companies that do business in Israel and urges the audience to boycott them. Since the "BDS" movement specifically also calls for the so-called "right" of return of 1948 Palestinian refugees, its underlying agenda is clear-- the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Anna seemed fond of saying "Don't trust me; do your own research." Of course, all the sources she used were of the Ilan Pappe variety. I did my research, and it shows that Baltzer twists the truth in support of an agenda against the existence of Israel. She's right; I don't trust her.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Indymedia: A Visit to the Truth Optional Planet

Many activists initially welcomed Indymedia as an alternative to the commercial media, as a way to give a voice to the voiceless. For local issues in particular, Indymedia had the potential to inform and engage in a way the commercial ventures had failed. Years into the Indymedia experiment, its failures are clear.

Many IMCs have failed completely and exist only as an archive. This has proven to be a dignified end. Others languish on life support, awaiting the merciful pulling of the plug as they fill with commercial spam. Some Indymedia have fallen under fascist control, where only the politically correct dare express their opinions. At these sites, the far left has gone full circle to the point where its become indistinguishable from the far right. The San Francisco Indymedia Center, Indybay, has become a forum for hate speech and truth optional reporting masquerading as "free speech".

Many local Israeli activists have found themselves viciously attacked on Indybay for crime of being Zionist in public, and daring to support Israel's right to exist. They find themselves subject to lies, harassment and intimidation in an effort to suppress their voices. Adding insult to injury, when they attempt to respond to the charges brought against them, they are simply deleted, as Indybay allows no dissent. For Indybay in general, and for Micha in particular, I recommend a visit to The society of professional journalists code of ethics (

You may want to pay particular attention to these guidelines:

* Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
* Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
* Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
* Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
* Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.

Roll that around your collective conscience, Indybay:

"Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant."

That icon of the left, Noam Chomsky said "If you don't believe in free speech for those you despise, then you don't believe in it at all.". It is precisely through cross cultural communication- through open dialog and the sharing of information and ideas that differences can be discussed and resolved. Censorship eliminates this possibility . We should be encouraging engagement and communication rather than creating artificial barriers.

Just something to think about Micha- do you want to be a real journalist when you grow up, or just another kid with a camera?

And in the meanwhile, bloggers, if you want to post on Indybay, remember these few simple rules:

1. Address anyone you don't agree with as a "right wing conservative"
2. No historic sources that contradict leftist philosophy are admissible.
3. Insist that all the worlds problems could be solved through the destruction of Israel
4. And when in doubt, know that the editors will run interference for you, and remove any dissent