When Journalists Accept Confusion

As regular readers here know, I have Palestinian in‐laws and grandchildren, for my oldest daughter is Muslim (of which, I highly approve) and is married to a man who was born in Palestine but was forced to relocate to Jordan in the wake of the six‐day “war” in his homeland. This has forced me to do my own study of the history of the conflict in the region, because my window to the world is likely quite different than yours. I’ve nothing to “sell” in this regard; I’m simply being the journalist I was trained to be and practiced for 45‐plus years in the industry.

Image result for activist Alison Weir
Alison Weir

In viewing videos from California activist Alison Weir (and Executive Director of If Americans Knew) via YouTube, I’ve found a kindred spirit whom I wasn’t aware existed until now, thanks to my son‐in‐law. And, her explanation of the ignorance she once knew is very similar to my own. The timeframe for this quote is the mid‐2000s:

“Five years ago, I guess it was, I knew almost nothing about Israel and Palestine. I skimmed the headlines on the topic. I accepted the confusion of what I read, and like most people, I just moved on. It seemed distant and really irrelevant to my daily life.”

After seeing images of children throwing rocks against Israeli tanks during the second infatata, Weir began to take it seriously and wonder what was really going on. Her research as a journalist lifted the veil of ignorance and opened her eyes to the truth, that American media provides only a HIGHLY propagandized — and therefore one‐sided — version of reality in the Middle East.

I’ve had the same revelation, and I’ve come to believe that this is available to anyone who searches for it. It begins with this statement by Ms. Weir:

“I accepted the confusion of what I read.”

This is a remarkable admission for any journalist. What is it about confusion that favors our just giving up on it? Accepting confusion is a terrible habit, especially if that confusion is fed by somebody’s lies, but if I’m to be truthful, I must admit to the same acceptance prior to 2006. That’s when I visited my daughter’s family in Amman, Jordan, where my confusion was multiplied by stories of oppression and violence by the Israelis that bordered on the unbelievable. No wonder I was confused. Among these seemingly preposterous exclamations was the story of armed Israeli settlers who roamed the roads in the West Bank in automobiles, shooting and killing Palestinians at will. I simply couldn’t bring myself to accept what I was being told.

Confusion, it seems, is a balm given to those who look the other way in the face of evidence to the contrary. I’d rather be confused than accept that reality is really quite simple. I need it to be confusing, because I need to embrace Israel as the birthplace of my faith. Poor, innocent, lovable Israel.

After I returned stateside, I began investigating the particular claim I’d heard. I found that the NBC News Bureau in Israel was run by a former coworker of mine during my years in Milwaukee, so I called him one day. To my utter amazement, he confirmed completely the story I’d been told in Amman, that cars filled with armed Israeli “settlers” regularly drove around the West Bank killing Palestinians with impunity. How, I asked him, was it that I’d never heard of, much less seen, such a story? Why, I asked, didn’t he do stories on such things? “We do them all the time,” he responded, “but they get spiked in New York.”

So there it was, right in front of me, and I still had trouble believing such atrocities. I began to look deeper and seek out sources of information beyond the mainstream. My family was a great help, for the entirety of the Arab press wrote about such. I found Mondoweiss, an online publication specializing in stories about the Palestinian crisis but told from the perspective of non‐Israelis. It is quite an eye‐opening experience to subscribe to the daily Mondoweiss newsletter. There’s little attempt at balance here, but reading it helps me realize that there still is a remarkable “other side” to the story we are fed by Netanyahu, the Israelis, and the American press.

The confusion lifted, and my view became clearer and clearer the more I investigated via the web. One thing that had colored my view was my history working with Pat Robertson and The 700 Club. We owned a radio station in Lebanon and gave aid to the Marjayoun Hospital (of which the IRS was concerned). We were “with” the Israelis every step of the way, but not because we were in the least concerned about the conflict involving Palestinians. Rather, we were in for a pound, because we preached (as did other evangelicals) that 1948 was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy regarding the return of Jesus Christ for his 1,000 year reign (depending on your view of the Rapture). Israel had to return to Jewish Nation status before this would happen, so we preached that the end was near. Moreover, his return has to be in Jerusalem, which is why Christians are so happy with Donald Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol.

Zionism, the political movement, and Judaism, the religion of the Jews, are not the same thing, no matter how the Netanyahu government presents it in discussions of antisemitism, the expressions of those who “hate” the Jews. Israel is not a theocracy, and its government is certainly of man. It’s okay to criticize Zionism without being automatically labeled anti‐Semitic, although Netanyahu wants the two connected for propaganda purposes.

The defense of Zionism begins with the Holocaust, and Israel’s right wing is quick to reference it and to do so with regularity. Zionists need the connection to maintain any semblance of moral high ground in denying Palestinians any rights whatsoever. Consider the IDF celebrity Elor Azarya, who served just nine months in prison for the extrajudicial execution (a.k.a. murder) of Palestinian teenager Abdel Fattah al‐Sharif. He was convicted of manslaughter, but the people of Israel refused to accept it. Here’s a part of what I wrote in December of 2017:

The people of Israel — not just the government, the people — want Azarya released, because they view him as a hero and his extrajudicial execution of a Palestinian teenager in the streets of Hebron last year as completely justified. I’m serious. Azarya was 19‐years old when he blew the brains out of an incapacitated and bleeding Palestinian who was lying prone on his stomach in a pool of blood. Azarya pulled his rifle, walked a few steps to get close to his victim and shot him in the head. All of this was caught on videotape. This blatant murder was reduced to manslaughter with Azarya sentenced to 18 months in prison, four months of which was immediately suspended. The people of Israel want him released, and the latest news is that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin might just pardon him. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Azarya, “Everyone’s son” in calling for his release. You should also know that there are questions about the belief that Azarya’s victim was, in fact, the man who attacked an Israeli soldier with a knife on the day he was executed. The whole mess stinks, and yet Azarya’s smiling face is plastered all over the country as a symbol of the fine young men who defend Israel and her government.

Forensics revealed that it was Azarya’s bullet that killed al‐Sharif, but it didn’t matter. This is a blatant example of Israeli treatment of Palestinians but by no means unique. Many of these murders have been captured on videotape, but no one in the West is moved whatsoever. It’s just too darned confusing.

Americans ARE confused by events, because everything we read is driven by the Israelis and their propaganda practice, hasbara. Although Zionism has been around since the 19th Century, it was the 20th Century and the German Holocaust that energized it in such a way as to bring about the modern nation of Israel. For Israel to be justified, it must continue to lean on the Holocaust in such a way as to present itself as a lamb surrounded by wolves.

It is hardly that. Israel has nukes. Israel has a powerful military with cutting edge technology and weaponry that’s the envy of the world. It also receives from the U.S. $10 million each and every day (weekends included) to sustain its edge in controlling its corner of the world.

And, so, the question that needs to be asked most is “what do we get out of this?” It’s a fair question and one that journalists shouldn’t be prohibited from asking. And, perhaps if that happened, we wouldn’t be nearly so confused as we are.

Remember the name: Emad Abu Shamsiya

The mainstream press won’t do this, so I will and proudly.

Regular readers know that I am a supporter of Palestinian rights and a staunch anti‐Zionist. I have Palestinian family that lives in Amman, so my view is outside the mainstream. Anti‐Zionism is not anti‐Semitism, and therein is the problem, for supporters of Israel must believe they are one in the same. They are not, and the events that take place in the region daily are badly — and deliberately — distorted by influential groups who are manipulating truth for their own gain. This is especially true in the United States, where we send staggering resources in support of an Israeli government that is badly out of control. It’s the duty of certain American evangelical Christians to look the other way, because they believe Zionism is Biblical prophecy fulfilled. With such a belief in place, it’s necessary to deny any narrative that disputes this, no matter how logical, reasonable, or validated it may be. So deeply held is this belief that their ears are utterly shut to all but the Israeli narrative.

The irony of this is that Zionism — which was born of a response to the Holocaust — has produced in Israel a clone of the Warsaw Ghetto from which the Jews fled in the first place. This ghetto is where Israel “allows” Palestinians to live in the occupied territories, a euphemism for land the Israelis possess illegally. Israel wants all of that land for itself, and American Christians support it, because God promised them everything from the sea to the Jordan River. Of course, this promise was tied to righteousness, which is nowhere to be found in the current State of Israel. But I digress.

The shooter, Elor Azraya

The shooter, Elor Azraya

I’m a reader of Mondoweiss, a publication that reports about the Middle East from a perspective that asks hard questions about the Zionist narrative. Well‐intentioned Americans may think of the daily events in these territories as reflecting on our own “wild west,” but the law in the west never sanctioned extrajudicial executions of outlaws by lawmen. This is why a disturbing video by Emad Abu Shamsiya last Thursday of such an execution in the streets of the Hebron ghetto has raised such alarm. The photo to the right is Elor Azraya, a young Israeli soldier who executed a wounded, immobile, unarmed, and incapacitated Palestinian named Abed al‐Fattah Yusri al‐Sharif. According to the Israelis, the victim and an accomplice had stabbed another Israeli soldier.

The shooter, Azraya, claims he thought the victim might have had a bomb and shot him when the semi‐conscious man moved. This documented event is causing turmoil not only in the occupied territories but on the streets elsewhere, for we have seen this kind of atrocity coming for months. Azraya’s real crime was getting caught on video, but even his lawyer says it was justified, that Azraya “acted in accordance with the rules of engagement as suggested by his superiors.” Mondoweiss reported recently that “the practice of Israeli medics abandoning triage protocol is increasingly prevalent and has support among medical professionals and some in the government.” The abandonment of internationally recognized triage protocols means death for the Palestinians, and death outside judicial oversight.

I’ve seen the video a dozen times. Here, I’ve isolated frames of the video, so that you can see for yourself what happened. This is murder in the streets, in a ghetto created by Israelis to support its expansionism.

The Palestinian is on the ground (arrow), just beyond an ambulance that is moving slowly. Azraya is circled. He’s speaking with another soldier who some suggest is a superior. Watch what happens, and note the two soldiers closest to the Palestinians. They are talking on the phone and are 3–4 feet away, and yet they do not suspect any sort of threat.

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This is the frame in which the gunshot rings out and the man on the ground’s head explodes. After the ambulance passes, we see streams of blood flowing from the man’s head. It’s hard to watch and not be affected.

Mondoweiss interviewed the man who shot the video a few months ago as part of an ongoing series of reports about life in the Hebron ghetto. He has been threatened many times, and especially since the release of the above video last week. The latest insult today comes from two Israeli Hebron settlers who suggest that the shoe cobbler who shot the video was acting in concert with the two dead Palestinian attackers in the hopes of capturing on video exactly what he did. They call it “naïve” to think otherwise:

Itamar Ben‐Gvir and Bentzi Gopstein, far‐right settlers and followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, have filed a complaint with Israeli police against Emad Abu Shamsiya, the Palestinian videographer who captured the execution of an incapacitated Palestinian suspect in Hebron.

In their letter to the police, they claim that Abu Shamsiya’s presence during the killing is no coincidence, but was coördinated with the alleged attack in order to capture damning video.

Remember the name Emad Abu Shamsiya — the shoemaker. He will be in the news again.

And so the story advances, with only one side being told in the West. The Israelis have charged the shooter with murder, but there is no evidence whatsoever that he will be held accountable, despite the public pronouncement of Israeli leaders. This is simply political chest‐beating, while the real story takes place in the streets, where shoot‐to‐kill is the order. Such is the dehumanization of Zionism’s opponents.

And if you can get quiet enough, you’ll hear the voices of the brave Jews from the ghetto of Warsaw crying out in shame, “How could you?”