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by Ralph Dobrin


Norman Finkelstein: Is he driven by morality and genuine concern for Arabs or plain sick nastiness?


In past generations the most libellous statements against Jews were often made by other Jews who had left the fold, and were eager to demonstrate their loyalty to their new-found identities and faith. There was always a number (probably a tiny minority) who deeply hated their erstwhile Jewish identity because it had been the reason for the discrimination they had suffered and hence the source of their misery. But nowadays, Jews aren't discriminated against like they were in previous centuries, so one would think that there is no longer such a pressing impetus for Jewish self-hate or the need to vociferously disclaim their ethnic or religious roots like in the past.

Yet there are many Jews in the world, as well as in Israel, who make inflammatory accusations against Israel or instigate highly damaging actions. I'm not talking about criticism of actual procedures like house demolitions, or detainment of arrested Arab youngsters together with adults –– controversial actions that are dismaying to any decent person, but which might well be understood in the light of the ongoing terror war waged against Israel. No, I mean outright factual fabrications and hostile actions instigated by Jews in various parts of the world, and even in Israel itself. I'm also referring to criticism of actual procedures without considering what prompted them.

But don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of constructive criticism, especially when it's based on fact. I think that everyone should be able to express themselves about whatever they think is a wrongness, no matter who they are or where they live, as long as they know what they are talking about. Regarding Israel, I'd go so far as to say that even criticism directed at it, which is not motivated by good-will, is nevertheless valid and even constructive from Israel's point of view –– as long as it is not based on falsehood.

Many Jews in Israel and abroad are genuinely disturbed by what they perceive as a lack of morality on Israel's part. Pictures of Israeli soldiers patrolling menacingly in Arab towns do not convey an impression of humaneness and common decency on Israel's part. Each military flare-up produces pictures of devastation and dead Arabs –– often children –– on the television screens of the world, and they fill many a Jewish heart with deep dismay, shame and anger –– in the same way that any decent person seeing these pictures would feel.

The trouble is that the pictures seldom provide the background to each scene of mayhem inflicted on Arabs by Israel's air force or ground troops. They seldom if ever, remind viewers that for over three generations, Arabs have been attacking Jews, often with the stated intention of killing ordinary civilians, including women and children. Pictures do not mention that a mangled, burning car in Gaza, hit by Israeli helicopters, was being used by terrorists driving to their next rocket-firing position. Pictures of dead Arab women and children never mention that terrorists were shooting at Israeli villages from the homes of these people, actually using them as human shields. Also, as has been often proved, many pictures are actually staged by Arab photographers, intent on creating a demonic image of Israel. The 2002 battle in Jenin was a classic example. So was the shameful, recently exposed Muhammad al-Durrah affair.


Since the latter part of the nineteenth century, Jews, especially in the democratic countries, had been in the forefront of every struggle for equality and justice. They were in the forefront in the struggle for real equality and civil rights for the blacks in America, and in apartheid South Africa, it was Jews who formed a major part of the white activists who risked jail and beatings, as well as exile. So it is natural that Jews should have qualms about the plight of Arabs living under Israeli jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria, and de facto independence in Gaza.

However, the dismay felt by many Jews around the world is mainly due to misinformation doled out by skillful spin artists, most of whom are Arabs, but also a number of eloquent Jews. Inform these good people of the real facts and many of them will eventually change their tune –– and possible with a great sense of relief that they had been wrong about the morality of their people in Israel.

However, not all Jews who are appalled by what they perceive as Israeli brutality, are motivated in their condemnation of Israel by sentiments of pure compassion for the hapless Arabs. Many of these people are well aware of the true facts behind the Israel-Arab conflict, but they choose to ignore any Arab aggression and eagerly latch onto every Israeli reaction to Arab attacks as though Israel is the exclusively guilty party.


The first major academic boycott attempt against Israel was initiated a few years ago by British Professors, husband and wife Steven and Hilary Rose, both Jews, who were central figures in the British National Association of Teacher in Further and Higher Education. This set the ball rolling among university lecturers around the world, reaching far-off Australia, where one of the initiators was yet another well-known Jewish academic, John Docker.

When reading material written by these people, one gets the impression that they are deeply concerned about their fellow human beings. But like with most anti-Israel activists, in their version of the situation, there is never any mention of the Arab aggression which from the very outset set off the conflict, and only one side of the conflict is always completely in the wrong –– Israel. But what was surprising with the Rose boycott initiative was that the hundreds of academics who signed the Israel boycott agreement, included ten Israeli academics tenured in top Israeli universities.

One of the most outspoken of these Israelis is Ilan Pappé, formerly from Haifa University, now a professor of history at Exeter University in England. He often mentions massacres perpetrated by Israel that never occurred, including the lie that Israeli committed a massacre in Jenin in 2002, despite copious refutation (including United Nations reports) of the bogus claim.

What drives Pappé and others like him to propagate the damaging lies and libel against his own country. It is not because he doesn't have the facts. After all, the man was born in Israel, served in the army and is a professor of history. Yet he has stated that for him, facts are irrelevant and that truth will not deter the Jewish state's detractors. He says: "I am not as interested in what happened but in how people see what's happened." (Le Soir [Bruxelles],Nov. 29, 1999).

Does his ability to twist facts stem from his affiliation with Communist ideology? (In 1996 Pappé ran in the Knesset elections on Hadash list.) Or does he carry the twisted Jewish self-hate bug, or is he simply a born rebel, opposed to anything that might seem mainstream? Whatever the answer, his activities are damaging to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel. Freedom of expression is an important value, but it should not be abused. Expression should always be based on truthfulness. What a monumental irony when academics tenured at prestigious universities, flout this principle!

And sadly there is a long list of prominent Jewish academics, many of whom are Americans –– some at the forefront of their respective fields. Among the more well-known of these people are Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein who are frequently interviewed by various media channels and who deliver talks on their pet subject –– Israel's culpability in the Middle East tragedy. Prof. Finkelstein routinely compares Israelis with Nazis and compounds this crude observation by praising the "heroic resistance of Hezbollah to foreign occupation."

Actually, it is the Arabs who suffer just as badly from all the one-sided condemnation of Israel, because it encourages them further to continue attacking Israel in their quest to weaken or destroy the Jewish state, which naturally leads to military retaliation, thereby perpetuating Arab misery. If I were an Arab leader, committed to the welfare of my people, I would beg these Jews to desist in their anti-Israel activities.


There are also hundreds and possibly thousands of other Jews actively churning out libellous material against Israel –– some of it based on the fabrications and falsehoods of the above-mentioned people or inspired by them. There are also a few Jews who faithfully swell the ranks of anti-Israel demonstrations, or who help fill campus halls to boo and shout down anyone trying to tell the Israel-Arab conflict like it really is. There are also widely read columnists and bloggers. It's quite possible that a sizeable percentage of these Jews are very decent, concerned human beings, courageously making a stand against what they deem is a terrible injustice. But they all base their notions on one-sided, usually totally false sources of information. These are the people who have to be contacted and engaged in a sober dialogue by anyone with a reasonable amount of relevant knowledge.

Whenever I get a mailing that bashes Israel, using lies, I respond. I enjoy getting into discussions with Israel's detractors. (I never wage an argument –– that never helps.) I think I might have helped tone down a few anti-Israel activists (Jewish and non-Jewish) and possibly even caused a shift in their perceptions of the Israel-Arab conflict.

But my activities in this field are still on a tiny scale. Occasionally, however, I am stumped by someone's assertion or counter to something I have said, even though I think I have a pretty good knowledge of the conflict.

I know that there are many people in Israel and abroad who have a far greater knowledge of the facts than I have. Many also have ready access to factually-accurate ready-made answers to tough questions. I think that there is an urgent need for greater corroboration between individuals and organizations to pool their resources in order to combat more effectively the anti-Israel activities waged by Jews and non-Jews alike –– on a one-on-one basis. I would be very glad to work together with others on this vital endeavor. Please regard this as a personal call if you can help.

For more specific information on how to get bashers to question the validity of their notions, click:
http://truthandsurvival.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/ how-to-deal-with-israel-bashers/


The other day my friend Prof. Kenny Preiss sent me a site created by Maurice Ostroff, which is truly brilliant and is highly recommendable: http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/

I also have added a short list of other very fine sites providing excellent information on the Israel-Arab conflict. I get a definite impression that all the people running the sites mentioned below are very careful about presenting facts that are as accurate as possible. There are also dozens of other fine, comprehensive, helpful sites on the web, that I haven't yet had time to check out properly and I apologise to all those fine people whose sites I have not listed here.


Ralph Dobrin writes:

I was born in 1937 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I learned first-hand the evils of racial discrimination –– being on the side of the white discriminators. My parents had fled Nazi Germany the year before I was born because they were Jews. I came to Israel in 1957 and my main concern, apart from the wellbeing of my family, is this country's survival in the face of the ongoing quest of a large part of humanity to obliterate us –– using falsehood, half-truths and the self-indulgent obtuseness of the so-called enlightened peoples of the free world. But Israel's survival is dependent mainly on the character and spirit of its people. Integrity, common decency and a feeling of togetherness must be developed as well as a belief in national destiny.
This essay was published July 5, 2008 on Dobrin's website:


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