Thursday, October 17, 2013

17-Oct-13: Naive in Seattle (but not only there, of course): notes from the battlefield

The same two speakers on a January 2013 visit to Washington DC
[Image Source]
This is about the gross naivete (that's a quote) of certain people and the recourse to dishonest and false equivalences of certain organized groups.

We see both on display in the report below about a very recent event that took place in Seattle. The speakers come from an organization that sends pairs of representatives - one Arab, one Jewish - to speak in Europe, the US and certain selected other places, constantly. They have a message that resonates well with many audiences. We have listened to them closely. Theirs is a message that does not resonate with us, nor with many of the terror victims whom we know well.

What we see happening far too often is an ongoing effort to downplay the dangers and befuddle audiences about who the terrorists are and what they plan to do. We don't view this as a small thing but see it as part of a cognitive war. Cognitive warfare, to be clear. has real victims, real casualties, real combatants, real battlefields. It is war in the same way that the physical war going on in the skies over our homelands, in our pizza restaurants and on our buses is real.

But first, the article. It comes from the October 16, 2013 edition of The Mike Report, and is republished here with the author's permission.

Shas compared to Hamas at synagogue-sponsored event in Seattle 
Temple De-Hirsch sponsors controversial Israel event. Group claims to promote dialogue but only tells only one side of the story. 
Seattle, WA: October 16, 2013 – Parents Circle is an organization founded by a group of parents of victims of Palestinian violence and parents of Palestinians killed while either attacking Israelis or caught in the crossfire. The group describes itself as founded to “Support Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance” and sponsors multiple outreach and educational programs to further their message. 
The program on Sunday, October 13th at St. Mark’s featured Parents Circle publicist Robi Damelin, an Israeli of South African origin whose son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper at a checkpoint in East Jerusalem. Robi is an articulate and passionate advocate for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. During her talk she frequently compared the South African Apartheid experience to the situation in Israel. Ms. Damelin promoted her vision of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Israel based on the post Apartheid South African model. 
St Marks Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle [Image Source]
Bassam Aramin’s eleven year old daughter Abir was tragically killed in 2007 when caught in IDF crossfire during a Palestinian riot in Anata near Jerusalem. While the exact cause of death is disputed, it appears likely that Abir was struck in the head by an errant IDF Rubber bullet. Aramin similarly spoke of the need to humanize the “other” as a means towards achieving trust between the two peoples. He condemned both violence and revenge as a means towards achieving the goal of a Palestinian state. 
One could not help but be moved by these two sympathetic figures who appear to be genuinely trying to turn their personal tragedy into something positive. Throughout the program the focus was less on fault and more on moving forward. But whenever blame was assigned it was assigned to Israel. 
Whenever blame was assigned it was assigned to Israel.  
At no point the in the nearly two hour program was a mainstream Israeli perspective on the causes of the conflict or its lack of resolution presented. There was reference made by Ms. Damelin for the need to remove the security barrier as a prerequisite to peace. She did not mention that Palestinian terrorism was the precipitant for the construction of the barrier or that terror attacks have been dramatically reduced since the barrier’s installation. 
Both presenters identified “the occupation” as the progenitor of the conflict. There was no context offered as to how the occupation came about or acknowledgement that Israel has ever made any concessions for peace. One could have easily left the lecture under the impression that hostilities between Israel and her Arab neighbors commenced only with the acquisition of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.

An unrelated support organization for bereaved Israeli parents released a statement in July of 2013 expressing their discomfort with Parents Circle, questioning their motives and agenda. “Reviewing the public statements of Parents Circle’s key figures over the past decade, a consistent and depressingly familiar political agenda emerges. The Israelis are the aggressors. The Palestinians are the victims. The occupation is at the heart of the conflict. And as for the role of the terrorists, their ideologies and decades of Arab rejectionist politics – that is simply absent.” 
Towards the end of the program the audience was invited to ask questions. One woman queried the presenters on how one could combat the appeal of Hamas to young Palestinians, asking “With Hamas so into the Jew’s destruction, how are you able to counter that among the young people who look up to them? How do you even begin?” 
Mr. Aramin responded. “It is exactly how the Israelis do with Shas. Shas and Hamas. We are talking to everyone, Hamas. One of the founders of combatants for peace was from Islamic Jihad, which is the same mentality that you see with Hamas. We are talking to the people and I believe it starts and ends with education. Education on both sides, it is not less worse in Israel.” 
There was no objection or gasps of shock when Mr. Aramin placed an Israeli Sephardic-ethnic political party on the same moral plane as the Hamas terror organization. Hamas has indisputably murdered hundreds of innocent civilians in the most gruesome fashion, including many of their fellow Palestinians. While Shas politicians may have at times engaged in offensive rhetoric, they are a political party and have never blown up a pizza parlor or a bus, or murdered anybody for that matter. 
The effectiveness of events like these lie in the emotional stories of the presenters and the decency that they project. Both presenters appealed for non violence from all parties, including Palestinians. They pleaded with their audience not to dehumanize either side. But their message, while sympathetically packaged is singular, the fault of and solution for the conflict lies entirely in Israel’s hands. 
Frimet and Arnold Roth, whose daughter Malki was murdered by Hamas terrorists in the Sbarro massacre of August 9, 2001 expressed their displeasure with Parents Circle in a July 2013 article. ”We believe Parents Circle leverages our collective bereavement to secure funding for advancing a very specific and particular political line - a line even they concede is unrepresentative of Israel’s bereaved families.” 
This one-sided perspective served up gently has garnered support from extremist groups advocating for the boycott and international ostricization of Israel. An unaffiliated Israeli bereaved parents group notes that “it is not so surprising that groups promoting BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel) including EAPPI and Sabeel acknowledge a close relationship with, and support for, Parents Circle.” 
This event was co-sponsored by St. Mark’s Cathedral and Temple De Hirsch Sinai. Rabbi Aron Meyer of Temple De-Hirsch offered the opening invocation. The Stroum Jewish Community Center hosted a similar forum with Parents Circle that same afternoon. 
In a region where animus towards Israel is rampant [some in the audience expressed feverish hostility towards not just Israel but also to Jews. One man verbally accosted a pro-Israel woman in the audience.] one cannot help but be alarmed at the gross naïveté at best of Jewish organizations that promote sleekly produced, agenda driven programs that are not fair to Israel and may ultimately place the Jewish state in greater danger from her very real enemies. 
Our sense is this report shows once again how the jihadists are too often given an easy pass, whether wittingly or unwittingly, by people with a political viewpoint to push. This can certainly happen when those who find it expedient to do so make bogus comparisons with non-terrorist groups whom they happen not to like. In this case, an irresponsible parallel was proposed between the actions of the child-killers of Hamas on one hand, and the views of a religiously-oriented, thoroughly-mainstream Mizrachi/Sephardi political party in Israel, on the other. Insane is the word that comes to mind.

We get cross-eyed just thinking about the mental gymnastics a rational person would have to go through to validate that idiotic and dangerously wrong comparison. We don't believe the speaker whose words are being reported made that effort. To us, it’s fairly obvious he said something a smarter and more responsible representative of the group that flies him around the world would never have said. If you like, a slip of the tongue. But it was said, and as far as we can tell was not taken back – not by the speaker, not by the hosts.

There are audiences, like the one in Seattle, for whom a statement as inane as the one made by the Palestinian Arab speaker works. It can and it does happen in other places too. 

For our recent critique of Parents Circle Families Forum, see “12-Jul-13: Behind the facade at Parents Circle, messages that are deeply disturbing to bereaved families”. Our comments, taken from that article, are mentioned in the report above.

Finally, here's a reminder of one of the things we said when we wrote previously about the activities of Parents Circle:
We sincerely support the right of individuals or groups promoting a political view of the conflict to express it in whatever manner they deem fit, and however much it may differ from ours. But exploiting bereavement to raise funds and to promote specific ideological positions is a different matter. The Parents Circle does just that.

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