Journalist teaches students to join no party and sign no petitions for any cause — oh except one

on 28 Comments

“My Family in Israel” is a piece in Forbes by Richard Behar, an investigative journalist, about his relatives living in Israel suffering from rocket attacks. The piece fully absorbs the Israeli national-security psychosis. “This behavior does not suit human beings,” a relative says, of Palestinians. Another justifies indifference to Palestinian rights by saying that they just want an Islamic fundamentalist state. (This is the same mindset that I encountered in interviews on the street in Jerusalem with Israelis who have forgotten about the two-state solution.)

The most interesting excerpt in Behar’s piece are the paragraphs below. (Thanks to Alex Kane.) They show how a commitment to Jewish history as Behar interprets it trumps his professional ethics. His greatest goal is to guarantee Jewish safety, and in that spirit he’s taken on the fears of the Israeli Jewish community, as his own concern:

These hits and near-hits inspired me to write this column, although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is something that I’ve stayed away from in my 30 years as an investigative journalist for major media outlets. (My only exception: This expose last year on the deplorable interview of the just-released Shalit by Egyptian state TV.)

When I speak to investigative journalism classes, I advise students not to register with any political party, nor sign petitions for even saving the ice caps. They’re not needed for that. And yet, born a Jew, I’ve come to recognize that my first priority as an investigative reporter has to be to live safely – something 4,000 years of my ancestors’ history had rarely permitted them to do (anywhere in the world).

I’m not going to write a thesis about who started the conflict, or who is right or wrong. I do have strong pro-Zionist views that have evolved over many years and visits – as well as 60+ books on the topic, penned from all sides.

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28 Responses

  1. JohnAdamTurnbull
    December 2, 2012, 7:46 pm

    First I would read “two millenia”, then “three thousand years” — and now it’s four everywhere I look. (Prosnor at the UN, etc.)

    My understanding is that not even the early Zionist writers would make this claim with a straight face because it required a literalist reading of the Old Testament as “history” in the modern sense.

    Is there some hasbara scoreboard that rolls up the count by a thousand every few months? Will the discovery of the distinct DNA of some Nile slave take us to five thousand, or is four the official limit?

    • Eva Smagacz
      December 3, 2012, 6:51 am

      The official limit is, as of this year, 5773.
      This does not mean that there will be no announcement, in near future, by academics from Tel Aviv University, of a special (sarcasm alert) Ape DNA, which belonged to Apes with larger skulls, penises, and especially luxuriant fur.

      • JohnAdamTurnbull
        December 3, 2012, 3:24 pm

        Thanks Eva and eljay.

        I’ve since reached the middle of Shlomo Sand’s “The Invention of the Jewish People” and I’m amazed at his description of the way the Old Testament has been placed as the foundational, factual account of academic (and national/institutional) Jewish History.

      • lysias
        December 3, 2012, 7:16 pm

        Sand’s latest, The Invention of the Land of Israel, also has a lot to say on that, and is, in my opinion, an even better book.

      • AM
        December 3, 2012, 10:33 pm

        I read the book when it first came out; its thesis is very interesting, and even if one doesn’t subscribe into the final conclusions, it still throws the official Israeli story into complete disarray and shows that its construction is:
        (A) Much like the story of many other nation states: pure myth and
        (B) the mythology was constructed using extremely shoddy “historical reconstruction” (still true for other nation states, except for the special University Dept’s dedicated to Israeli History)

      • MHughes976
        December 4, 2012, 10:17 am

        Thanks – must read it. In some ancient texts, like the Adad-Nirari inscription (Ancient Near Eastern Texts 281) ‘Palestine’ looks more like a subset alongside Tyre, Sidon and Edom – the kingdom based on Samaria being known as ‘Mat Humri’ – ‘Omria’. But the only name for the whole of what is now the river-t0-sea territory from Lebanon to Egypt that is attested from pre-Roman times is ‘Palestine’ (Herodotus 7/89).

    • eljay
      December 3, 2012, 9:26 am

      >> First I would read “two millenia”, then “three thousand years” — and now it’s four everywhere I look. … Will the discovery of the distinct DNA of some Nile slave take us to five thousand, or is four the official limit?

      Don’t quote me on this, but I believe it’s been proven that Jewish dinosaurs (Shlomosaurus?) dominated the Levant ~6,000 years ago… ;-)

  2. DICKERSON3870
    December 2, 2012, 7:56 pm

    RE: “‘This behavior does not suit human beings’, a relative [of Behar’s in Israel] says, of Palestinians.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: In (un)reality, many Israelis do not consider the men, women and children in Gaza to be human beings (at least not in the universal sense).

    SEE: “IDF rabbinate publication during Gaza war: We will show no mercy on the cruel”, By Amos Harel, Haaretz, 1/26/09
    ‘[There’s] biblical ban on surrendering single millimeter of [Land of Israel] to gentiles,’ publication said.

    During the fighting in the Gaza Strip, the religious media – and on two occasions, the Israel Defense Forces weekly journal Bamahane – were full of praise for the army rabbinate. The substantial role of religious officers and soldiers in the front-line units of the IDF was, for the first time, supported also by the significant presence
    of rabbis there.
    The chief army rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki, joined the troops in the field on a number of occasions, as did rabbis under his command.
    Officers and soldiers reported that they felt “spiritually elevated” and “morally empowered” by conversations with rabbis who gave them encouragement before the confrontation with the Palestinians.
    But what exactly was the content of these conversations and of the plethora of written material disseminated by the IDF rabbinate during the war? A reservist battalion rabbi told the religious newspaper B’Sheva last week that Rontzki explained to his staff that their role was not “to distribute wine and challah for Shabbat to the troops,” but “to fill them with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit.”
    An overview of some of the army rabbinate’s publications made available during the fighting reflects the tone of nationalist propaganda that steps blatantly into politics, sounds racist and can be interpreted as a call to challenge international law when it comes to dealing with enemy civilians.
    Haaretz has received some of the publications through Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers who collect evidence of unacceptable behavior in the army vis-a-vis Palestinians. Other material was provided by officers and men who received it during Operation Cast Lead. Following are quotations from this material:

    [There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it.” This is an excerpt from a publication entitled “Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead,” issued by the IDF rabbinate. The text is from “Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner,” who heads the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem.
    The following questions are posed in one publication: “Is it possible to compare today’s Palestinians to the Philistines of the past? And if so, is it possible to apply lessons today from the military tactics of Samson and David?” Rabbi Aviner is again quoted as saying: “A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land … They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country … Today the problem is the same. The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence.”
    The IDF rabbinate, also quoting Rabbi Aviner, describes the appropriate code of conduct in the field: “When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions.
    This is a war on murderers. ‘A la guerre comme a la guerre.'” . . .


  3. Les
    December 2, 2012, 8:49 pm

    Behar’s notion of security brings to mind Hillel. “If I am only for myself, then who am I?”

  4. Mondowise
    December 2, 2012, 8:54 pm

    “They show how a commitment to Jewish history as Behar interprets it trumps his professional ethics.”

    then he’s neither professional nor ethical, not even close.

    • eGuard
      December 3, 2012, 4:31 am

      He’s more of a fraud. Writes in Forbes: Tzipi arrived with her parents in the early 1930s from Poland, just as the persecution of Jews there was escalating. Then, there?

      This he writes about how to treat facts: In my mind, he [Benny Morris] is the only historian who has the guts to alter his conclusions wherever the documents go that he unearths from archives.

      • piotr
        December 3, 2012, 10:55 pm

        Is it about Tsipi Livni, born in 1958, whose father came to Palestine in 1925?

      • eGuard
        December 4, 2012, 4:55 am

        In the linked Forbes piece, he writes about a cousin called Tzipi. Born in Poland, 83 years old (so born in 1928/1929). “Early thirties … persecution of Jews” in Poland? I bet he knowns exactly the year they moved to Palestine, but that wouldn’t fit the suggestion. He does suggest but not state that such prosecution was the reason for emigration. And in the early thirties, really, Jews from Germany fled to Poland for safety.

        He’s distorting the story in its logic, facts and honesty.

      • piotr
        December 4, 2012, 10:54 pm

        The situation in Poland was complicated. The government was nationalistic-technocratic, extreme nationalists were in opposition. Jews made about 30% of the urban population, so smallish bands of far-right thugs could not do much, but they did have some “achievements”. There was also a big divide within the elite (which is somewhat persistent till today) between “enlightened” and “patriots”, and of course the elite Jews would almost alway (but not always!) be in the first part, compounding the hostility from the latter (toward “Jews, Masons and Communists”).

  5. tombishop
    December 2, 2012, 8:54 pm

    Someone should show Richard Behar this column:

    Noam Chomsky: Palestine 2012 – Gaza and the UN resolution

  6. Betsy
    December 2, 2012, 10:25 pm

    the logic of gang warfare. Plus, stupid & self-destructive. Welcome to Mad Max world!

    forget the ice caps melting & worry about important dangers…Your grandchildren will thank you for this…

  7. seafoid
    December 3, 2012, 6:58 am

    Since I moved to Jerusalem last year, I have visited numerous threatened communities, and I always depart with a sense of bewilderment at how people can survive in such circumstances. Many are engaged in years-long legal battles to be allowed to stay where they are, or are haunted by the spectre of losing their homes.

    They live with the uncertainty that their children may well not have a school to attend later in the term, while they are often unable to work because of movement restrictions or because they cannot reach their land. Others are largely cut off from the rest of society by the wall, while many face regular harassment from settlers.

    While lack of mobility is tough for anyone, it takes a particularly bad toll on the Bedouin, who feel it is their heritage, even their birth right, to roam free, and I have heard numerous complaints from them about how caged in and trapped they feel. On a more practical level, this also affects their livelihood, as they have little land left on which to graze their livestock.

    The sense of powerlessness this creates can leave enormous emotional scars. “We feel constant guilt towards our children, and wonder if they ask themselves, ‘Why did you bring us into this world?’” admitted one father in Izbat al-Tabib, a village near Qalqilya, which suffers from most of the problems I outlined above. “We feel powerless to improve the situation of our children or even to protect them. Can you imagine how difficult that is for a father to bear?”

  8. eljay
    December 3, 2012, 9:20 am

    >> I’m not going to write a thesis about who started the conflict, or who is right or wrong. … Instead, I’m going to focus on what I think may be the biggest hurdle today to a real and lasting peace … In one sentence: “They have to stop brainwashing their kids,” says [Behar’s cousin] Mattan.

    Rather than “write a thesis … about who is right or wrong”, Mr. Behar – an investigative journalist who admits to having “strong pro-Zionist views” – get right down to brass tacks: It’s the Palestinians’ fault.

    Very impressive.

  9. Keith
    December 3, 2012, 5:34 pm

    “And yet, born a Jew, I’ve come to recognize that my first priority as an investigative reporter has to be to live safely – something 4,000 years of my ancestors’ history had rarely permitted them to do (anywhere in the world).”

    This is the irrational statement of someone with intense tribal loyalty. If he truly believes this, then his only logical response is to be an anti-Gentile chauvinist. It is simply illogical to have normal relations with non-Jews if you think that they are out to get you. This is a core belief of Zionism, the secular throwback to Classical Judaism. It is the ideological glue which binds together the tribe in defensive solidarity and kinship favoritism. It is an extreme form of irrationality accepted by those who perceive benefits from group membership. It is part of group identity and solidarity, and is highly resistant to change based upon rational argument. I strongly suspect that there would be a significant difference between Zionist Jews and unorganized Jews in whether they believe the statement to be literally true in regards to historically unique Jewish persecution. This Judeo-centric worldview has been assiduously cultivated and reinforced.

    • AhVee
      December 4, 2012, 7:14 am

      Very well said, you write very well, I always enjoy reading your posts.
      This kind of behavior breeds anti-semitism at rates which would shame neo-nazis, and one would have to be deliberately obtuse not to see it, especially in the face of such intense persecution paranoia. (And honestly, repeating the “we were all persecuted since our inception” mantra doesn’t make it any truer, and goes to show how easy it is for some to forget generations of peace, if there’s a juicy opportunity to capitalize off those generations of persecution..) And why do they believe that they have any form of right over others because of it, especially in the face of the fact that many others have also suffered through thousands of years of subordination and persecution?

      Many groups haven’t been treated well throughout history, some groups have been, and are continually being treated far worse – Women, the disabled, political dissidents… none of these groups have made their former plight a billion-dollar industry, and keep repeating tales of their persecution ad-nauseum to anyone who would so much think a negative thought their way, let alone expect politicians around the world to shower them in reparations and support rogue states. There was a point in time (not sure if this idea is still around) among radical feminists, in which they called for some fashion of ‘country for women’, deeply entrenched in the belief that only segregation could truly end exploitation and persecution by males. Something similar may even still be held by some fringe Deaf activists. Only difference between them and the Zios is that they didn’t get their fantasy pandered to and supported with billions a year in arms and money, and they don’t have all governments in the western world backpedalling the moment they burp a out a criticism of something that has turned into a colonial and racist freakfest.

      • Keith
        December 4, 2012, 2:24 pm

        AHVEE- Thanks. I try especially hard for clarity on this particular topic because it is easy to be misconstrued, particularly by those who believe that you are out to get them. When one has been conditioned to see oneself as a victim of the ‘other,’ any sort of critical analysis by the ‘other’ is easily seen as a justification for perceived past abuse, and perhaps as a prelude to future abuse. This perception of victim-hood is critically important as it affects how reality is perceived and evaluated. Strongly held beliefs are highly resistant to change no matter how irrational they may appear to others. Fear is a powerful thing.

        What must be kept in mind is how this ideology of victim-hood has been cultivated by the Jewish elites. During the period of Classical Judaism, the Jews were truly a people who shall dwell apart. Different dress, different customs, ghettoized housing and mentality, all designed to separate Jews from the surrounding Gentile community, most of it the consequence of the Jewish elites desiring to be separate from the Goyim and imposing this lifestyle on the rest of the community.

        With the advent of the European enlightenment, the power of the Rabbis declined and the Jewish community splintered as many Jews abandoned a restricted lifestyle and attempted to assimilate. Alas, blood and soil nationalism intervened and modern anti-Semitism was born. The Nazis and the Holocaust enabled the Zionists to reconstruct Judaic mythology in secular form. The notion of being born a Jew, always to be a Jew and suffering a uniquely Jewish fate was given a certain “Holocaust legitimacy.” Jews became a sort of fictitious race determined at birth, rather than a believer of a religion/ideology which one could accept or reject.

        This notion of Jewish uniqueness and Jewish persecution are critically important in understanding Jewish support for Israel and Zionism. A key question is why the Jewish Zionist elites continue to promote Jewish tribalism, what is in it for them? I tend to believe that a significant part of Jewish success is a consequence of organized Jewish power built around tribal solidarity. Prospects for change? Who knows. As for me, I’m more concerned about potential nuclear war, catastrophic environmental change, and financial/social collapse.

      • AhVee
        December 4, 2012, 4:51 pm

        “When one has been conditioned to see oneself as a victim of the ‘other,’ any sort of critical analysis by the ‘other’ is easily seen as a justification for perceived past abuse, and perhaps as a prelude to future abuse.”

        That’s spot-on, and describes very well my own emotional experiences and what I had to overcome when I started moving away from Zionism, though I did eventually learn to hate it with quite a passion, mostly for the fear the ideology is continuing to instill in people it pretends to want to protect. I don’t remember a time in which my parents have not been nervous people, and it wasn’t until I was much older that I started to understand why they were constantly looking for signs of their downfall, it hurts me that the irrational fears they have are preventing them from living the life they should be living – a life as happy people in a safe and peaceful country. I think the only reason why I managed the emotional move away from the ideology so well is because I never understood the base of their fear, I just simply never saw it around me like they seemed to, I doubt any amount of logic would have done the trick if I actually had, hence my skepticism concerning the persuasive effect of logic.
        I’m past believing that this kind of conditioning ever really leaves, it’s like it leaves a scar which never heals, something so impossible to overcome, the logic necessary to fight it stands no chance against the behemoth of innate emotional responses, which instantly flatten it. I’m not far away from saying that fear of the Other is the only self-definition some Jews have left. Fearing the potential damage done to oneself by ‘the Other’ whilst simultaneously being consumed by ones own fear is not unlike fearing the splinter in the eye for the stake through the heart.

        “Different dress, different customs, ghettoized housing and mentality”

        Your run-down reminded me a lot of Batnitzky’s book “How Judaism Became a Religion”. On a similar note, have you ever read Meyrink’s “The Golem”?

      • Keith
        December 5, 2012, 6:12 pm

        AHVEE- “On a similar note, have you ever read Meyrink’s “The Golem”?

        Alas, no. Israel/Palestine/Jewishness are side issues for me. My core focus is on global political economy.

      • seafoid
        December 5, 2012, 7:10 pm

        I have just started reading “Immanuel Wallerstein and the problem of the world”. Have you come across it before?

      • Donald
        December 5, 2012, 7:32 pm

        Keith–A side issue, but out of curiosity, what books or websites or whatever would you recommend on global political economy? (The list can be as long or as short as you want to give.)

      • AhVee
        December 6, 2012, 5:01 am

        seafoid — You were probably talking to Keith, but may I ask you to write a review on amazon once you’re finished with it? Looks like an interesting book, I’m trying to find out if it’s worth adding to my studies reading list (I’m studying sociology).

      • Keith
        December 6, 2012, 2:50 pm


        Counterpunch (my primary source of information)


        Dissident Voice

        Dandelion Salad

        Black Agenda Report (very timely focus on Africa and AFRICOM)


        “Year 501: The Conquest Continues,” Noam Chomsky (should be required reading in high school)

        “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century,” Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, ed)

        “Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder,” Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler

        “The Evil Axis of Finance: The US-Japan-China Stranglehold on the Global Future,” Richard Westra

        “Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance,” Michael Hudson

        “American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance,” Leo Panitch and Martijn Konings, ed

        “When Corporations Rule the World,” David C. Korten

      • Donald
        December 6, 2012, 3:23 pm

        Thanks Keith. I’m familiar with some of those (Chomsky, Znet, Counterpunch), but not with others. Will check some of them out.

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