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‘Village on the volcano’ is latest effort to change the subject from the occupation

Middle East
on 30 Comments

Three days ago the Washington Post did a piece on Palestinians in the occupied territories who are girding for settler attacks on the olive harvest — “Last year, the United Nations reported that Israeli settlers damaged or destroyed nearly 11,000 olive trees and saplings owned by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.”

Israel apologists leaped into action. The pro-Israel media group CAMERA issued a call to its members to email the Washington Post and say that it is missing the big story from the Middle East in pursuing a “trivial” story about the occupation:

why feature, by placement and illustration… a subject that, in context of a Middle East torn by bloody inter-Arab, inter-Muslim upheaval, is peripheral, even trivial? Perhaps because The Post foreign desk again has filtered Arab-Israeli news through the distorting “Palestinian narrative.”

The effort to trivialize the occupation by contrasting it to a much bigger conflict was seeded by Matti Friedman, formerly of the Associated Press, in an important piece of press criticism in Tablet at the very end of the Gaza massacres, with the ironic title, “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth.” Friedman was later given the better part of a half hour on National Public Radio to lay out his claims: the media are fixated on a “master narrative” of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the occupation when it’s a side show to the fact that Israel is in a tough neighborhood. The real story is that Israel is “a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano” of violent Islamism in the Middle East. Sort of like the “old villa in the jungle” idea from Ehud Barak, with a new twist, Hamas’s global ambitions. Friedman:

Hamas is a group like many others in the Middle East, dedicated to the idea that radical Islam must extend its supremacy across the Mid East and confront the west… Radical Islam is very real. I live very close to it…

[The] conflict… started about a century ago before the state of Israel existed… So the idea that this is a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is incorrect. And the idea that if the Israeli Palestinian impasse is solved, there will be peace in the region, is incorrect.

The “basic fact” of Israeli existence is that it is surrounded by more than 300 million Arabs, Friedman says, not that it is occupying Palestine.

The idea that Hamas has global ambitions is a Netanyahu talking point; “Hamas & ISIS are branches of the same poisonous tree,” he says. And it’s a claim that Allison Deger has exploded, and even the Jerusalem Post has mocked; Hamas is a national resistance movement.

This idea continues to be propounded by lobbyists. And yesterday Israeli minister Yuval Steinitz picked up the Matti Friedman theme, saying that it would be “suicidal” for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank because jihad is popping up all over.

“After the extremely negative experiences following the complete withdrawal from Gaza nine years ago, it would be difficult to take similar risks with the West Bank – especially when taking into account jihadist groups popping up [throughout the Middle East], taking large areas under their control,” Steinitz said.

He repeated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that Hamas in Gaza was no different than the Islamic State, Nusra Front and similar-minded organizations throughout the Middle East.

“If what happened in Gaza, in Iraq, in Syria and Libya would repeat itself in the West Bank, this would be committing suicide.”

The tough neighborhood idea has been around for a long time. The rise of ISIS is giving it new strength as propaganda — the latest way of trying to change the subject from the fact that the occupation is nearly 50 years old and millions of Palestinians have no rights under that regime. And the U.S. supports that occupation to the hilt.

P.S. In that dialogue at On the Media, Ethan Bronner of the New York Times said that the reason that the press focuses disproportionate attention on Israel and Palestine is because the US has a special interest in Israel. The US government gives 3 billion a year to Israel, typically 80 members of Congress visit Israel on summer recess — “some never had a passport before; to them foreign policy meant, what do you think about Israel?”

The US government is focused on Israel and Palestine issue with an extraordinary laserlike focus. And it is a bipartisan phenomenon. Now why, why is the US so interested? First of all it is the holy land… holy to the three great monotheistic religions…So that’s almost half the world. So what happens there matters. It’s also an amazing story, right? The near destruction of Jews in the Holocaust, their rise from the ashes. The US also has a very close relationship with Israel. There is a sense that this is a democratic outpost that needs to be preserved and yet needs to be pushed to do what the Americans consider right with regard to the Palestinians as well.

Bronner is right to speak of the historical power of the Jewish question in Europe, which was supposedly resolved by Israel’s formation. That is one reason Americans stand by Israel, as do so many European countries: We thought we figured this out, we don’t want to have to go back to the drawing board. But he leaves out the role of the Israel lobby, and the presence of Zionism inside the establishment. The political power of the lobby is why all those congressmen go out there. And the fact that this matter is discussed by three Jews on National Public Radio, two of them Zionists, one an Islamophobe; and you almost never hear from a Palestinian– that reflects the conservative Jewish presence in the media, a generation shaped by ’67 and ’73 that does not reflect the anti-Zionist impulses now flourishing among the young. I keep waiting for the reformation.


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30 Responses

  1. annie
    October 25, 2014, 2:07 pm

    Phil, not sure if you embedded this link because i have not opened them all yet, but i highly recommend this article, a response to Matti Friedman’s tablet article by Steven Gutkin, AP Jerusalem bureau chief, the guy who hired Friedman and whom many of Friedman’s accusations were directed towards. Gutkin calls the Tablet article “little more than well-written hogwash.”

    And shame on NPR for hosting friedman regarding his accusations sans one Palestinian voice.

    • Shingo
      October 25, 2014, 5:08 pm

      And shame on NPR for hosting friedman regarding his accusations sans one Palestinian voice.

      I agree Annie, but even Bronner does a half decent job of exposing the absurdity and baselessness of friedman’s pathetic arguments.

      • Horizontal
        October 26, 2014, 12:41 pm

        NPR: No Palestinians Represented, or Not Progressive, Really.

    • bilal a
      bilal a
      October 26, 2014, 7:02 am

      Allen West On Ottawa Attack: “Shut Down” Mosques Of Perpetrators And Deport The Imams

    • Donald
      October 26, 2014, 8:07 pm

      I clicked on Annie’s link to Gutkin. There’s also a part 2, which goes into some detail on what is wrong with Friedman’s piece–


      I haven’t bothered to read Friedman, but it sounds like the sort of garbage that will only persuade the already converted–Gutkin himself is a liberal Zionist who favors a 2SS that will enable Israel to be a Jewish democracy, and he obviously thinks Friedman and people like him are an obstacle to any possibility of a peaceful solution. I suspect most in the mainstream press, who might think we’re too far to the left, will read Friedman and be at least as dismissive of him.

  2. Horizontal
    October 25, 2014, 2:20 pm

    Anyone dumb enough to perch their house on a volcano should expect a bit of heat from time to time.

    And let me add — while yawning — that if those olive groves had belonged to Jewish settlers and had been uprooted by Arab “terrorists,” it would up there with the crime of the century.

    Apparently there’s only one tired arrow in the Zionist quiver.

    • Kay24
      October 25, 2014, 2:32 pm

      Anyone dumb enough to continue a brutal occupation must expect those people to resist it at every opportunity and means available. The occupy, blockade, steal lands,,, trees, water, and resources, and expect the victims of these crimes to smile and sing Kumbaya. The occupier can wield power, do whatever the hell it wants, but hey no one can dare to respond. The zionist nation gets away with it, because the US shields it, aids it, and is compliant in all its crimes.
      Israel provokes, attacks, bombs, steals, lies, and then acts outrage that they live in a hostile neighborhood. What a hoot!

  3. Horizontal
    October 25, 2014, 2:21 pm

    Anyone dumb enough to perch their house on a volcano should expect a bit of heat from time to time.

    And let me add — while yawning — that if those olive groves had belonged to Jewish settlers and had been uprooted by Arab “terrorists,” it would be up there with the crime of the century.

    Apparently there’s only one tired arrow in the Zionist quiver.

  4. Horizontal
    October 25, 2014, 2:24 pm

    Sorry for the double post. Tried to edit, and this is what I got.

  5. just
    October 25, 2014, 2:55 pm

    More squealing from the sfb rogues’ gallery– don’t they know it doesn’t work anymore?

    I found this tidbit:

    “Tonight I was examining AP’s recent reports on Israel-Palestine and noted additional articles by Matti Friedman. Since they all seem to contain such distinctly pro-Israel bias I decided to look into Friedman more to see what I could learn about his/her background.

    It turns out that Friedman is male, grew up in Canada, and at the age of 16 won a “Bronfman Youth Fellowship” for an all-expense-paid five-week summer trip to Israel for Jewish high school students from North America to “encounter the land and people of Israel [and] study Judaism and major issues in contemporary Jewish life.”

    The next year he moved to Israel, where he settled and has lived since 1995. And yes, he served in the Israeli military.”

    Quelle surprise.

    • Kay24
      October 25, 2014, 3:24 pm

      It is that freebie trip to Israel that we must watch out for. It clearly shows that after accepting that, most recipients end up being eternally devoted to dear zioland. Our members of congress takes it, members of the media (Chris Matthews and recently Jay Leno) and they even offer it to students. Wonder what is in that koolaid they drink over there.

      • annie
        October 25, 2014, 3:29 pm

        Wonder what is in that koolaid they drink over there.

        speaking of koolaid, this reminded me of another one of SeaMAC’s efforts, Apartheid Adventures (dozens of videos!)

      • just
        October 25, 2014, 7:33 pm

        thanks, annie.

        such great stuff.

      • Mooser
        October 26, 2014, 12:28 pm

        “It is that freebie trip to Israel that we must watch out for. It clearly shows that after accepting that, most recipients end up being eternally devoted to dear zioland.”

        Well, just to be fair, aren’t there stories on Mondo about people who found their illusions and misconceptions about Israel starting to crack and crumble on a Birthright trip? It doesn’t always work.

  6. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    October 25, 2014, 3:32 pm

    a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano

    I live in Alaska, where we have dozens of active volcanoes. Nobody builds villages anywhere near them, let alone on their slopes. So Friedman is comparing Israel to Pompeii?

    • piotr
      October 25, 2014, 10:34 pm

      Remember that this is the only safe place for Jews, who should abandon such dangerous locations of their exile like Boca Raton and Toronto and flock to the Promised Land, and bitterly complain that the villa is in the jungle, the village on the slope of volcano, the neighborhood is crappy and so on.

      Apparently, when the spies told Moses that the land ahead has milk and honey they forgot some details, like the surcharge for kosher products.

  7. seafoid
    October 25, 2014, 3:37 pm

    The occupation is slowly corroding whatever the point of Judaism was.
    As Galbraith said about the economic crash of the 1930s

    “The conventional wisdom”gives way not so much to new ideas as to “the massive onslaught of circumstances with which it cannot contend”.

    Zionism is due the same fate

  8. Brewer
    October 25, 2014, 5:11 pm

    I have been waiting for this.
    Since returning home after two years working Aid and Development in a remote location with little access to internet or even radio, some phenomena have disturbed and intrigued me. One is the ballyhoo over ISIS which is infecting
    (via our ex Wall Street banker and Israel boosting prime Minister) political discourse in my native New Zealand. The volume on this meme has been turned up, the PM using it to promote GCSB which Greenwald and Snowden have revealed, conducts mass surveillance on Kiwis..

    Before I left I knew that the incursions into Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and Syria all had their Neocon/Israeli sponsorship and that the narratives were demonstrably false, that the real motivation conformed to the Yinon strategy more or less.

    It seems the game plan now is to create a common enemy, to draw the non-aligned into common cause with the Israel project.

    It is important that readers understand that ISIS is nothing like the bogeyman these spruikers are touting. “Gary Brecher” (John Dolan writing as “The War Nerd”) has called every play since Iraq correctly. Here he is on ISIS:

    For a week now, we’ve been getting nonstop scare stories about Islamic State’s menacing advance on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. And as far as it goes, the stories are true: Islamic State (IS) did come within 14 km of Kobani, attacking from the South, West, and East, before US air strikes and reinforcements from the Turkish-Kurdish PKK militia stopped them.

    And yes, the fall of Kobani would be a bad thing. A very bad thing, because IS is something unusual: A demonized group that really is as demonic as the mainstream media makes it out to be. Not as powerful, not as important, but every bit as demonic. Islamic State—latest in a long string of names for what was once “Al Qaeda Iraq”—is a collection of the worst survivors of various Sunni Iraqi militias, spiced with a few over-hyped European misogynist converts. A rotten group, whose idea of godly fun is killing heroic, uppity women like Samira Al-Nuaimi and raping captured Yazidi children, and I hope they all suffer miserable deaths, the sooner the better.

    But IS is not performing the great military feats these scare stories give them credit for. And making them out to be such great conquerors only inflates the ridiculous vanity of the sadistic ham-actors who flock to IS.

    KUWAIT CITY — A strange thing happened in Kobane, the Kurdish border town besieged by Islamic State: It didn’t fall.

    In fact, today the BBC reported that Islamic State, the supposedly invincible jihadis who have been besieging Kobane, is retreating from the city.

    Nobody expected that. Well, nobody except me. I’ve been saying for a long time that IS(IS) was the most overhyped military force on the planet, and that IS has been attacking Kobane for fifteen months—fifteen damn months—without success, which might just sort of suggest it’s not the juggernaut it’s been made out to be, and that IS’s other supposedly scary advance toward Baghdad is no more than a sad attempt to recover some of the Sunni suburbs of the capital the Sunni controlled completely less than a decade ago.

    (Hope my attempts at html work)

  9. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    October 25, 2014, 7:54 pm

    Didn’t they demand to live in that “bad” neighborhood?

    • Horizontal
      October 26, 2014, 12:34 pm

      Funny how it only got really bad when they showed up in great numbers.

  10. JLewisDickerson
    October 25, 2014, 10:21 pm

    RE: “I keep waiting for the reformation.” ~ Weiss

    AUDIO ACCOMPANIMENT: sound of crickets chirping

  11. bilal a
    bilal a
    October 26, 2014, 7:54 am

    NYT says syrian abductors had foreign accents , some from europe, and does this sound familiar?

    At gunpoint, Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Abobaker were driven to a textile factory in a village outside Aleppo, Syria, where they were placed in separate cells. Mr. Abobaker, who was freed two weeks later, heard their captors take Mr. Sotloff into an adjoining room. Then he heard the Arabic-speaking interrogator say in English: “Password.”

    It was a process to be repeated with several other hostages. The kidnappers seized their laptops, cellphones and cameras and demanded the passwords to their accounts. They scanned their Facebook timelines, their Skype chats, their image archives and their emails, looking for evidence of collusion with Western spy agencies and militaries.

    IDF veteran 2 standing ovation @ evangelical summit “Israel must smash their skulls” re Hamas / Palestinians

    • Horizontal
      October 26, 2014, 12:38 pm

      IDF veteran 2 standing ovation @ evangelical summit “Israel must smash their skulls” re Hamas / Palestinians

      Reminds me of a conservative uncle of mine. Claims to love Jesus, but after talking to him after a minute or two, you soon realize what he really loves is the Old Testament. I suspect he’s not alone in that.

  12. gracie fr
    gracie fr
    October 26, 2014, 4:41 pm

    As if things couldn’t get any more “volcanic…..

    PM set to approve 2,000 housing units in West Bank — report
    Netanyahu to present large-scale infrastructure projects to ministers this week, Channel 2 reports; diplomatic source warns of international backlash

  13. NickJOCW
    October 27, 2014, 1:03 pm

    The business of burying Israel/Palestine in a broader anti Arab terrorists picture so that Israel is the good guy facing off terrorists is clever and dangerous but not new. Back in July in The Diplomat had a piece about China vis a vis Israel with this paragraph.

    By contrast, the group that supports Israel argues that the terrorist threats faced by China are controlled and implemented by extremist groups like Hamas. They believe such extremist groups are connected to Chinese terror cells, and may be responsible for luring in a small number of Chinese Muslims. They argue that Israel’s intense attack on this group will help China’s own fight against terrorism.

  14. surewin
    October 27, 2014, 4:50 pm

    ” The US government gives 3 billion a year to Israel…”

    That’s one component of what the US gives Israel. That number has been constant for how long? 35 years? We used to talk about millions and billions, but now we talk about billions and trillions. Three billion dollars is not what it was 35 years ago. One of the purposes of the fixed 3 billion number seems to be to induce people to repeat it over and over to other people, spreading the idea that $3 billion is the total. But the more we hear about billions and especially trillions, we realize that $3 billion is not very much. That’s what we are supposed to think. An accurate accounting (which is certainly done in private circles but not public ones) would presumably show steady growth. I presume; I don’t know for sure. Take it as a question. Some researchers and observers have offered answers. How about addressing the question here on this site?

  15. Xpat
    October 27, 2014, 8:20 pm

    “nd the fact that this matter is discussed by three Jews on National Public Radio, two of them Zionists, one an Islamophobe; and you almost never hear from a Palestinian– that reflects the conservative Jewish presence in the media”

    Since Hophmi missed this one, let me fill in for him:
    it is anti-Semitic of you to insinuate that having three Jews and no Palestinians on a radio program equals biased coverage of Israel.

  16. American
    October 27, 2014, 8:47 pm

    A thinking person’s question would be why they built their Village on a Volcano if their whole point was to be safe……or a villa in the jungle … begin with.
    The only meme they know is the victim meme —Jews about to be covered with Arab molten lava or trampled by anti semite elephants in the jungle!
    Always the same old.

  17. joer
    October 29, 2014, 11:49 am

    “Village on a Volcano”? What happened to “A good kid in a bad neighborhood”? I guess after Gaza calling Israel “a good kid” is a bit of a stretch….besides, they blew up the neighborhood.

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