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As AJC and CAMERA go after Jebreal for writing up Israeli ‘hate policies,’ ‘NYT’ backs her up

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On Monday the New York Times ran an important op-ed on racism inside Israel, penned by Rula Jebreal, the Israeli-Italian novelist who has family in Haifa, in which she called for a “civil rights movement” inside Israel to overcome the government’s “hate policies.” The piece represented a new high-water-mark in Times honesty about conditions inside Israel, following on Mairav Zonszein’s excellent op-ed on the silencing of dissent in the country a month ago.

Jebreal’s commentary was well-timed: it paralleled Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s acknowledgement that Israel is a “sick” society because of shocking scenes of anti-Palestinian hatred inside Israel. But Rivlin isn’t being widely reported inside the U.S., and Jebreal is on the Times website; so her piece has fostered an angry backlash from Israel supporters. Some have told Jebreal and her family to try living in an Arab country. Or as one Times commenter states: “As depressing as this article is, even more depressing is reading all the comments by people who think that saying, “Hey, it’s even worse over there,” is somehow a cogent defense of Israel.”

Pro-Israel organizations have joined in the reaction. The American Jewish Committee on Twitter called Jebreal’s op-ed “error-filled.” Think about that for a minute; an American Jewish organization lecturing a person of color from a foreign country that she doesn’t know the political conditions in that country; I bet Jebreal speaks Hebrew better than any number of folks at the AJC.

The AJC then directed readers to an attack on Jebreal from Elder of Ziyon, who described the piece as “another overwrought, emotional anti-Israel op-ed.”

if Jebreal wants to fix the nation that she is a citizen of, lying in the New York Times to incite clueless Americans against Israel is not the way to do it. On the contrary – her methods seem to indicate that she wants to damage Israel, not improve it.

And the New York Times is eager to help her do so.

Matt Seaton, an editor at the NYT op-ed page, has promoted the piece and defended it against the attacks. When he wrote, “it’s equal opportunity opinion here; aim to give voice to all sides of a debate over time,” Tamar Sternthal of the pro-Israel organization CAMERA responded:

So we can expect two hit pieces in the next month about Palestinian racism?

And Seaton’s riposted:

Sure, soon as they have sovereign state to discriminate with. Meanwhile, expect piece from cabinet min. on why they won’t

Another piece to look forward to. And when a pro-Israel tweeter wrote, “So every country in that part of the world is allowed to favor their democratic majority, yet only Israel gets demonized for it,” Seaton responded:

you’re setting a low bar there, don’t you think? I believe Israel aspires higher

Israel’s archivist Yaacov Lozowick has quibbled with Jebreal’s numbers on the Palestinian population:

They’re 20% only if you count 350k in East Jerusalem. Ontherwise 16-17%. Glad the NYT recognizes Isr in E. J’lem

Other criticisms of the piece also come off as quibbles. Elder of Ziyon says that Jebreal lies when she she said that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has sought “to make the ‘transfer’ of Palestinians legal.” Elder wrote:

And the Lieberman Plan did not call for “transfer,” meaning moving Palestinian Arabs out of their homes. He called to redraw the borders to include more Arabs in a Palestinian state.

But his plan would transfer those Palestinians’ citizenship to another country, on a racial basis. People don’t like that idea, any more than I would like being told I live in Canada tomorrow.

A more substantive critique of Jebreal, titled, “New York Times Op-Ed Paints Israel as a Racist,” at Honest Reporting Simon Plosker, in which Plosker at least concedes the reality:

President Reuven Rivlin has recently made great efforts to confront what is undeniably a genuine problem for Israeli society… The New York Times has jumped on the opportunity to once again take Israel’s imperfections and magnify them to the extent of demonizing an entire country.

Plosker’s critiques are not all that convincing though. For instance, he writes:

Jebreal claims that even before the passing of a controversial law, it was “virtually impossible for a Palestinian to buy or rent a home in any majority-Jewish city.” In fact, the Admissions Committees Law that she cites, applies in practice to small communities and villages that have historically admitted new residents based on selective criteria.

That’s hardly trivial discrimination, that’s structural. That law “entrenches racial segregation; 434 small communities in Israel, or 43% of all residential areas, will be allowed to close their doors to Palestinian Arab citizens of the state.”

And what about Nazareth. Palestinians can buy in the old city, but they’re explicitly discriminated against in “Upper Nazareth,” whose mayor declares that it will be “Jewish forever” and who has refused to allow a school that teaches in Arabic. Sounds like a hate policy to me!

Plosker also says:

Jebreal writes: “Palestinian Israeli citizens, meanwhile, are subject to a ban on family reunification: If they marry a fellow Palestinian from the West Bank or Gaza, they are prohibited from living in Israel under the Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law.” She does not mention that this law, which is worded as a temporary order, was passed in the wake of the so-called Second Intifada due to legitimate security concerns.

But the Second Intifada was 14 years ago; and this law is an act of collective punishment against Palestinians as a security threat. If you’re a child in Ramallah of a Palestinian living in Haifa you can’t visit him because you’re deemed a security threat. Americans would never tolerate that kind of legal discrimination.

It’s great that the Times is standing up for Jebreal on these very basic questions of human rights. And what a shame that the American Jewish Committee is trying to run her down.

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35 Responses

  1. Sycamores
    October 29, 2014, 1:28 pm

    Rula Jebreal, the Israeli-Italian novelist

    for clarification Rula Jebreal is a Palestinian with both an Israeli and Italian citizenship

  2. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    October 29, 2014, 1:37 pm

    Good thing that the NYTimes occasionalloy runs an honest piece about Israeli racism.

    Is it too much to ask when the NYT readers will hear about Israeli racism from their regular Israel reporters and editors (Bronner/Rudoren/Kirschner, etc.)?

    Sometimes it’s hard to believe they’re covering the same country!

  3. amigo
    October 29, 2014, 1:44 pm

    One has to wonder what benefit Israel and it,s Jewish Diaspora have to gain by expending so much effort and financial resources on a goal they can never achieve.Wouldn,t all that effort directed at making a just peace result in creating a safer more secure Israel living in peace and harmony and consequently security with it,s neighbours .

    Do Israelis believe they will be safer and more secure if they reach the goal of a Greater Israel .Do they believe that the people at the other side of this “magic” border will cease resisting them and trying to regain what was taken.Will the rockets, (much larger and more advanced by then)somehow magically stop arriving because Israel has decided it has enough land.
    Israel has been offered several peace deals which included full recognition and normal relations but they choose to go the road of expansion and eventual destruction of Israel.

    Go figure.

    • Horizontal
      October 29, 2014, 5:10 pm

      You know like they say, when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging? I don’t think too many Israelis these days are looking up.

  4. just
    October 29, 2014, 3:39 pm

    Matt Seaton’s responses are a delight, and it’s so refreshing to find a change of scenery @ the NYT.

  5. Bumblebye
    October 29, 2014, 4:34 pm

    Is this the same Matt Seaton who was editor of CiF at the Guardian? If so, often took part in the threads.

  6. Horizontal
    October 29, 2014, 5:08 pm

    At least the Elder of Ziyon admitted that he thinks Americans are clueless.

    • David Doppler
      David Doppler
      October 30, 2014, 12:18 pm

      That’s a significant point, because it highlights a pillar of hasbara: Americans are “clueless,” and can be misled through a concerted propaganda campaign.

      Jefferson boasted how American farmers could converse in Latin and avidly read and discussed the latest news from London and Paris. An informed public is one of the pillars of America, and those who count on being able to manipulate the clueless don’t understand American history. As Churchill said, the Americans always do the right thing, after exhausting all the alternatives.

      I think we’re set up for Obama to make his most important speech ever, in which he openly confronts Israel’s racism, Apartheid, and deceit, as well as the collective fear that enables it, makes clear to the Israelis that continuation on this right-wing path ends in the International Court of Criminal Justice for its leaders, with whom American leaders will no longer be able to stand.

      • David Doppler
        David Doppler
        October 30, 2014, 12:49 pm

        Israel’s hasbarists use the same tired argument : all criticism of Israeli policy is Anti-Semitic, even in the halls of academia, where donation hungry administrators can be humiliated in front of their Faculty Senates, by succumbing to pressure tactics from manipulative donors. Once the American academic community is “radicalized” on this issue, how exactly do hasbarists plan to re-benight America? by saying their same tired arguments more loudly? By calling that entire community Anti-Semitic? By doubling down on their donations with strings attached? Time for a leadership change, and a change in direction.

      • Ellen
        October 31, 2014, 12:07 pm

        David, to your post below:

        I fear most all Americans are, indeed, still clueless. But that is due to a 60 year old well-greased propaganda machine, lack of information, and a massively corrupted political system where elected officials are purchased. So “how do Hasbarists plant to re-benight America? How will it end? Maybe like this as a corrupt cop can no longer pull the wool over the isolated peasantry:

        It will start to unravel when mainstream US media reports on, for example, this horrible event broadcast yesterday with use of actual tapes, records instead of hearsay that is easily dismissed: “The day Israel attacked America.”

  7. seafoid
    October 29, 2014, 6:13 pm

    “President Reuven Rivlin has recently made great efforts to confront what is undeniably a genuine problem for Israeli society”

    FFS. What is Rivlin going to do about it ? It’s just another STFU from Zionism.

    • lonely rico
      lonely rico
      October 29, 2014, 8:12 pm

      … move the plant to Lehavim in Israel’s southern Negev region …
      Lehavim appears (*) to be in territory assigned to the “Arab State” in the 1947 Plan of Partition (Resolution 181), illegally occupied by Israel since 1948.
      * see map “Partition plan, UN 1947, with ’49 armistice delineated” at

      • benedict
        October 30, 2014, 2:11 pm

        there is nothing illegal about israels occupation of territory beyond the partition line.

      • seafoid
        October 31, 2014, 10:15 am


        the status of the land beyond the armistice line is whoever has the strongest army gets it. That is the legal precedent from 1948.

        I can’t see Zionism doing much better long term than the Mamluks. Can you ?

      • benedict
        October 31, 2014, 10:28 am


        why mamluks? why not like the ottomans?

      • Mooser
        October 31, 2014, 12:36 pm

        “why not like the ottomans?”

        Gosh, Zionism does aspire to be at the top of the heap, politically! You want to be like the Ottoman Empire? Now, there’s a good model for Zionism.

        And let me guess, because the Ottoman Empire, a couple hundred years ago, did something, Israel gets to do it in 2014? Okay, that makes sense.

      • Walid
        October 31, 2014, 3:08 pm

        Speaking of Ottomans, Caliph Erdogan built himself a palace worthy of his imperial highness; from Euro news:

        “Turkish president Erdogan unveils his new palace of a thousand rooms
        By Everton Gayle
        29/10 19:37 CET

        “Let them tear it down if they can. They ordered its suspension, yet they can’t stop this building. I’ll be opening it; I’ll be moving in and using it.”

        The words of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan when faced with critics of his “white elephant”, or rather white palace.
        The residence boasts 1,000 rooms and cost $350 million (€280 million) to build.

        It was built on land donated to the state in 1937 and the area declared a protected site in 1992. Constructing a building on the site is and remains illegal.

        An administrative court demanded that construction stop. This was backed up by the Council of State. In fact there were reportedly three injunctions from three different administrative courts to stop the building of the palace.

      • seafoid
        October 31, 2014, 3:31 pm


        Because the Mamluks were soldiers who thought they had it all figured out, just like the Zionists. They were court players who took power and ruled with an iron fist. They were unbeatable . All very like the Zionists.

        And then one day they were all invited for a meal in Cairo by their new overlord as a peace gesture. And he had every motherfucking last one of them executed.
        Which will probably be the fate of the top Zionists in the end, because that is what happens when the law of the jungle is the law.

      • lysias
        October 31, 2014, 3:41 pm

        Speaking of Turkey, the Housing Minister in the new Turkish government was on the Mavi Marmara.

  8. seafoid
    October 29, 2014, 6:24 pm

    “The success of the BDS movement reflects mounting pressure, especially from Europe, from NGOs, trade unions, churches and others which are forcing their governments to take action against Israel. The European Union is taking an increasingly tougher line and the boycott movement is gaining traction in the US, where it had struggled to win support.”

  9. MRW
    October 30, 2014, 5:37 am

    BBC just announced that Sweden recognized Palestine today, October 30, 2014, and urged other countries to do the same.

    There goes the neighborhood.

  10. MRW
    October 30, 2014, 5:48 am

    From an article on the American Jewish Committee site, entitled Tell the Senate to Condemn and Counter Anti-Semitism

    From Berlin to Paris, from London to Brussels, we are once again hearing the blood-curdling screams of “Death to the Jews.”

    But it’s OK to Paint “Death to Arabs” on doors in Israel, and scream it at rallies?

    • seafoid
      October 31, 2014, 7:27 pm

      “From Berlin to Paris, from London to Brussels, we are once again hearing the blood-curdling screams of “Death to the Jews.” “-

      I’d love to see the proof of that.
      Europe is anti occupation, not anti semitic

  11. Kay24
    October 30, 2014, 8:07 am

    Congratulations to Sweden for being the first BRAVE EU nation to recognize the Palestinians.
    Thank you for taking a huge step in helping occupied people finally get some rights and human dignity in their lives. We hope the rest of the EU and the world will follow your example.

    “Sweden becomes first European state to recognize Palestine
    Israel’s foreign minister says Sweden ‘needs to understand that relations in the Middle East are more complicated than a piece of furniture from IKEA that you assemble at home.’
    By Barak Ravid

    The Swedish government officially recognized Palestine as a state Thursday morning, during its morning session. In doing so, it became the first European state to recognize a Palestinian state.

    • just
      October 30, 2014, 10:11 am

      I’m confused by this:

      “Seven EU member states have already recognised a Palestinian state – Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania. Non-EU member Iceland is the only other western European nation to have done so.

      The US cautioned Sweden against recognition, calling it “premature” and saying the Palestinian state could only come through a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

      In Thursday’s announcement, Wallström said: “The government considers that international law criteria for recognition of a Palestinian state have been fulfilled.””

  12. MRW
    October 30, 2014, 8:44 am

    Wasn’t Sweden one of the first countries, if not the first, to speak out against apartheid in the 80s?

  13. just
    October 30, 2014, 9:02 am

    Hurrah for Sweden!!!

    Hjärtliga gratulationer och tack!

  14. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    October 30, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Is this the same Matt Seaton who used to be editor of Guardian’s Comment is Free, and then became one of their US editors?

    If it is, this is interesting. As CiF editor, he was known for coming below the line to offer his trite Zionist apologia. Readers remarked on how inappropriate it was for the CiF editor, no less, to be taking sides on what the Guardian likes to think is a uniquely ‘controversial’ subject and he seems to have been told to put a lid on it after that.

  15. benedict
    October 30, 2014, 3:29 pm

    As an Israeli I can tell you that the article is full of lies and distortions. I will point out some.
    Strip search: an inevitable result of the security threats Israel is facing. Nothing discriminatory about it.
    Citizenship : Rula states that she and her daughter have dual American-israeki citizenship. Then claims an official refused to renew here daughters citizenship since she is not Jewish. There is no such thing.
    “Death to arabs”: an unfortunate slure of some extremist. Rejected by mainstream Israeli society. Unfortunately similar hate slogans can be found against Jews to.

    • annie
      October 30, 2014, 3:56 pm

      Strip search: an inevitable result of the security threats Israel is facing. Nothing discriminatory about it.

      claiming something is “inevitable” doesn’t disqualify it from being discriminatory. of course it’s discriminatory when palestinians are targeted, and they are, even when they are israeli. this has been covered here repeatedly.

      and that’s just one thing wrong with your ‘logic’, or lack thereof.

      • benedict
        October 31, 2014, 9:30 am

        Sorry, annie, but I don’t see your logic.

        The threat of terrorism in the Middle East is acute and palpable. In Israel itself public transportation was the target of numerous terror attacks. Being searched is unpleasant but neither is being blown to bits by a terrorist bomb. Israeli Jews are also commonly searched to. Every time I enter a government building in Israel I am expected to empty my pockets, to pass through a metal detector and sometimes to present an ID. It is a cheap price I gladly pay for increased public safety.

        The rest of rula’s article is full of similar astonishing distortions.

        If I will have time I will point out some of them.

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      October 31, 2014, 10:02 am

      “Strip search: an inevitable result of the security threats Israel is facing. Nothing discriminatory about it.”

      How come I never hear about Jews being strip searched at the BG airport?

      • benedict
        October 31, 2014, 10:25 am

        Because experience teaches that all previous terror attakes on Israeli transportation where done by Arabs/Palestinian.

        Experience is the best teacher.

  16. Mooser
    October 31, 2014, 12:38 pm

    “Experience is the best teacher.”

    Right you are, Benedict! So, you want to talk about the last time we Jews tried to combine religion and empire? What was our experience then? Is it something we should repeat?

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