Michael Oren is a master hasbarist. Albeit, nowhere as proficient nor eloquent as the first Mr. Hasbara, Abba Eban, but a master none the less. He's creepy, slick and peddles himself off as a scholar.
When I first read Oren's recent Op-Ed on Foreign Policy's blog, it made me cringe, literally. For starters I was appalled that a site I respect and use as a frequent resource would stoop so low as to function as a blatant propaganda outfit for the Foreign Ministry of Israel (but that's another matter altogether). Merely the title itself, “Israel’s Resilient Democracy,” made me want to gag. It starts out with this allegation:
The Jewish state, moreover, belongs to a tiny group of countries --...-- never to have suffered intervals of non-democratic governance.
And then it just gets worse with every sentence.
972's Noam Sheizaf takes him on, chews him up and spits him out. Heaven! Sheizaf says he will go "in depth", and he does. In "Omissions, half-truths, lies: Ambassador Oren in Foreign Policy" Sheizaf completely eviscerates Oren over and over and over.
Here's one example:
Ambassador Oren writes:
In fact, Israel has tolerated acts that would be deemed treasonous in virtually any other democracy. Ahmed Tibi, who once advised PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat and recently praised Palestinian “martyrs” — a well-known euphemism for suicide bombers — serves as a member and deputy speaker of the Knesset.
Context: Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (Raam-Taal / United Arab List) was recently accused by a rightwing watchdog group of giving a speech more than a year ago in which he praised suicide attacks on Israeli civilians. When the full video of the speech was released, it turned out that Tibi was referring to Palestinians who were killed in protests and to civilians who lost their lives. The version released by the watchdog group was heavily edited to create a false impression.
As a result, journalist Ben-Dror Yemini of Maariv and The Jerusalem Post, a well-known critic of the Arab Knesset members and one of those who broke the shahid (martyr) story, retracted his accusation both on his blog and in the printed paper. Yemini even went on Israeli public radio, saying: “I admit I was wrong. We owe an apology to [MK] Tibi.”
The leading Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth also published an apology for running this story in its printed edition.(correction/update: Yedioth apologized for the same accusation but on a different occasion, not the affair mentioned here. Mr. Tibi claimed that Dan Margalit, senior pundit for Israel Hayom, also backed down from these accusations, but I wasn’t able to find a link )
Not only did MK Tibi never praise suicide bombing, he is extremely consistent in denouncing the killing of Israeli civilians. Tibi is also a passionate critic of Holocaust denial in the Arab world, and can often be heard saying that “there is nothing more immoral than Holocaust denial.” There are two options here: Either Prof. Oren knowingly repeated a blood libel against the deputy speaker of his own Knesset, or he failed to fact check the issue before repeating those accusations. Both cases say something of the nature of Prof. Oren’s work, and demonstrate how easy it is to demonize Palestinians in Israel today.
Sheizaf neither begins or ends there, he goes after Oren for perpetuating the myth of Israeli Arab parties calling for the “dismantling the Jewish state” when in fact they repeatedly call for a “state for all its citizens.” He rips Oren over the British Mandate’s emergency regulations and administrative detention, the NGO fiasco, the boycott law, the Nakba Law, the erosion of democratic rights of Israeli citizens, and then skewers him over his condescending critique of Peter Beinart's assertion that Israel bars Palestinians from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives.
Sheirzaf asserts the heart of Oren’s text "intends to portray Israel as a tiny America, a bastion of civil rights in a hostile and strange environment," and counters:
Let’s imagine those citizens surrounded by walls and fences and a system of dozens of roadblocks, some of them permanent with many appearing and disappearing every day, between the various suburbs and towns, so a route that could take 10 minute to drive regularly turns into a journey of hours. Let’s imagine them unable to relocate or travel abroad without a special permit, notoriously hard to obtain, from the military authorities.
And on top of this, they can’t vote.
And now let’s imagine this unique situation applied to a third of the population under the United State’s control – say 100 million – for two-thirds of the country’s history, meaning over 150 years. This would be the proper analogy, if we were to follow Ambassador Oren’s logic. It doesn’t sound very democratic.
Not very democratic indeed.
Sheizaf slays him at the end, it's so much fun to read. Thank you Noam, fabulous.