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Tel Aviv University
[TAU, Law] To Prof' Aeyal Gross who demanded an apology over IAM's article posted on Dec 14, 2010


Below a letter to TAU Prof' Aeyal Gross who demanded an apology over IAM's article posted on Dec 14, 2010


D
ear Professor Gross,

We are in possession of your rather extraordinary response (dated Jan 6th) to our reply (dated Dec 29, see below) to your demand for a public apology (dated Dec 22).    (We have refrained from publishing the contents of your demand at your express request) 

Let us say at the outset that we find your allegation that "I think your actions… is [sic]   McCarthyst [sic] and undermines democracy" quite astonishing – indeed preposterous.

McCarthyism!!?? Indeed because we propagate views that you espouse and/or endorse – generally without any comment on our part - to audiences who otherwise would be unexposed to them? Does that really undermine democracy!!?? Because we operate – usually without any interpretative remarks on our part - to inform sectors of the public of the manner in which you (and your likeminded colleagues) portray Israel, its policies and perspectives, to sectors who otherwise would be totally unaware of the activities you undertake?

Perhaps a reality-check on your part would be appropriate – as well as a revision of the meaning of "McCarthyism."

Indeed, your desire for concealment, your penchant for the covert and your aversion of open debate are – to say the least - puzzling.  I am sure that you can understand why this might provoke suspicion in the minds of some that what you are really demanding is a license to conduct a surreptitious assault on Israel's legitimacy with total impunity from any countervailing criticism and absolute immunity from any expression of concern - largely at the expense of the Israeli tax-payer and/or pro-Israeli benefactors.

Your complaint is that "your actions...is [sic] often based on misrepresentations..
Your response just proves it. You ignore the fact that my article Harvey Milk Was Here addresses killing in both Sderot and Gaza, thus referring to killings of "others" in Israel and Palestine by both sides...."
  It is a complaint that many might consider more than a little disingenuous.

For in your almost 3000 word diatribe, in which you rally forth against every single defect – real and imagined - in Israeli society, there isonly one perfunctory reference to Sderot, in which you give the strong impression that you make no moral distinction between"the massacre of children in Gaza, and in Sderot".

What other conclusion can a non-partisan reader arrive at, other than that you see a moral equivalency between:

 (a) the deliberate targeting of civilians; and

(b) the unintended consequences of regrettable - and regretted - collateral damage due to military action, initiated only as response to the prior deliberate targeting of civilians.

Indeed, in the absence of a persuasive statement to the contrary on your part, clarifying that this is not the case, you will appreciate why some people - less charitable than IAM staff - might well reach the conclusion that this is in fact is a view that you do endorse.  After all, what else could they conclude?

Throughout your toxic tirade, you berate and denigrate almost all aspects of life in Israel, which you portray as cruel and distorted caricature of reality, wildly prejudicial and discriminatory against anyone who is not a male heterosexual Ashkenazi. Apart from the single, telegraphically brief reference to juvenile causalities in Sderot, no mention – certainly no disapproving or disparaging mention – is made of Palestinian society or Palestinian actions.

Indeed, as dispassionate readers can easily discern from the link to the full text article we provided (more "misrepresentation" on our part?), the Palestinians – in stark contrast to Israelis – are portrayed almost uniformly as victims rather than villains, the misery they allegedly suffer emphasized inordinately more often than the murder they undeniably commit.

In light of this, many may be forced to conclude that your protestation of "balance" on your part, and your protests of "misrepresentation" on our part, in themselves comprise the quintessential example of "misrepresentation".

You commitment (or lack thereof) to "balance" - not to mention "veracity" - is clearly reflected in a December 2009 post of yours, entitledKilling the messenger: Prof. Aeyal Gross on the assault on Israeli human rights groups  in which you seem to making the extraordinary – indeed almost self contradictory - claim that any criticism of Israel's critics, or any call for transparency and/or accountability on their part, constitutes a dire danger to Israeli democracy. As an example, you quote the skepticism expressed by some in Israel as to the impartiality of organizations such as the Human Rights Watch. You write:

Another example is the attack on Human Rights Watch (HRW) …  Israel does not hold a special place in the work of HRW, and its reports concerning Israel are produced in the same way as those focused on any other country"

It is one thing to make unsubstantiated rebuttals – it quite another to repudiate factual evidence.  Indeed, as a detailed analysis of the inordinate efforts and resources the HRW has devoted to Israel shows, your claims seem to be wildly divergent from the facts.  The following graph, (see below) is characteristic of the findings of the analysis– which interesting enough refers to the activities the of Middle East North Africa (MENA) division of HRW, with which you are affiliated. One wonders if you have any evidence to refute these finding -- and their implications. Or do you consider the mere conduct of the analysis, and the publications of its findings, a mortal threat to Israeli democracy?  We look forward to your response.   

With regard to you denial of authorship of "Aeyal Gross Gaza Notes-On Gaza’s (non-existent) health system", you state that site that carried the post is a site "unfamiliar to me which put the title … above a report by three human rights organizations [Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Al-Mezan Center (Gaza) and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (Ramallah)]".

You then go to suggest that "I think that website may have put my name there because I linked that report in my blog."

 

IAM has very little ability to verify or refute your denial – however, we should like to bring three points to your attention.

 

(a)    The above site was not the only one to carry the posting. You should know that for example it appears on the site of"Occupation Magazine" at <www.kibush.co.il >.

(b)   We wait with bated breath to see what actions you take against sites, and what demands you make from them to issue (carefully dictated) apologies for "misrepresenting" you and your positions, for causing you unwarranted embarrassment, and for leaving you vulnerable to attack by malicious "McCarthy-mongers" determined to destroy democracy in Israel.

(c)    However, since you did link the "Gaza Notes" post to your blog (as you yourself admit), the logical conclusion to draw is that you endorse its content – for otherwise why promote its propagation? In the absence of a clarifying rebuttal, surely you will understand that there is little option but to assume that even if you did not compose the report, you certainly seem to commend those who did.

 

Finally, allow us to express our regret at your refusal to provide us with further material – such as your Harvard lecture.  Indeed, it is rather puzzling to us that you would want to restrict the distribution of your views and preclude sections of the public from being exposed to them.  Should you be concerned about "misrepresentation" of your opinions on our part, let us assure you that we will commit ourselves to giving our readership the full verbatim version of the text, in addition to any excerpts which we feel warrant special emphasis.  This will allow readers not only to assess your work on its merits, but also to critically evaluate our judgment as to the choice of such excerpts. 

Why would you decline such an offer?  You will of course appreciate that your apparent reticence for wide exposure of your opinions and your apparent aversion for critical analysis of them might well lead many to suspect your stated motives… 

Sincerely,

Dr. Martin Sherman, member of Israel Academia Monitor Advisory Board


and Israel Academia Monitor's staff

 






======================================================================



Wed, 29 Dec 2010


Dear Prof' Gross,

We received your e-mail dated Dec 22, 2010, in which you claimed that there were inaccuracies in the IAM post regarding yourself, your public statements and organizational affiliations.

Following our review, we have found that there were several errors in the original posting for which we apologize and intend to rectify in response to your request:

(a) You claimed that that in your Harvard lecture “The Indeterminacies of Occupation,” you did not state that killing of children of "others" are the norm in Israel as posted by IAM.

Indeed, we must apologize for this. Due to a regrettable editorial error, this statement was indeed attributed to your Harvard lecture rather than your article entitled "Harvey Milk Was Here" where you indeed made such a statement.

In the article which deals with the killing of two people by a lone shooter in a Gay Center in Tel Aviv, you write of Israeli society :

 "… Israeli politicians and the GLBT community must ask whether the massacre of children in Gaza …is less shocking that that of children on Nachmani Street in Tel-Aviv.  …the obvious question is whether in a society where shooting at children of the “other” is the norm, we should be surprised that GLBT children become the target of similar violence …Do rallies of the sort held in Tel-Aviv allow not only the cabinet ministers who participated, but also the general public which came to offer its support, to feel enlightened and liberal, while it is in fact indifferent or worse to Israel’s widespread killing of Palestinian youth?"

In this regard, there are several queries and offers:

□ We do not in fact have the text of your Harvard lecture but we would be most grateful if you would provide us with it so that we could distribute it to our readership, who undoubtedly would be most eager to learn more regarding the content of your speech at that prestigious institute.

□ You will surely understand why many may raise a somewhat perplexed eyebrow at the causal connection you attempt to establish between the attitude towards GBLT's in Israel and the IDF actions against the Palestinians. Indeed, given the fact that the IDF has arguably led the way in incorporating GBLT's in its ranks (including, it would seem, one of the victims of the murder your article deals with), some might find your attempt particularly galling.  

□ So in light of your professed concern for "the other" on the one hand and the perilously grave situation the gay community amongst the Palestinians on the other, one would imagine that you must have devoted some attention to critiquing the socio-cultural characteristics in Palestinian society that generate its murderous attitudes to its GLBTs.- who frequently flee to Israel to find refuge.

□ Again we would be eager to distribute any works you have done on this topic – particularly any comparative analyses you may have conducted on the relative status of GLBT's in Israeli and Palestinian society.  Of course, if this is a subject that you have failed to address, we are sure you will understand why many may feel that your article "Harvey Milk Was Here" brings the disingenuous and the hypocritical to the levels seldom encountered.  

…………..…………..

(b) We have a little difficultly in understanding your demand for an apology for mentioning your membership on the board of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). After all, the language of the IAM posting is a verbatim copy of that in you own site!

Moreover, nowhere in the IAM posting does it state, as you suggest, that you were a board member at the time of the petition referring to Road 443 as an “apartheid road.”, which, according to the NGO-Monitor, ACRI filed in 2009.   

However given the kind of activities that ACRI engages in, IAM thought that it was appropriate that your past affiliation with such an organization be brought to the attention of our readership.  If it is your contention that there is a sea- change in the nature organization or its activities relative to those conducted at the time of your membership, we would be interested to understand the details of this change.

Moreover, we would also be happy to know whether or not you in fact disagree substantially with the spirit of the ACPI petition – even if not filed during the time of your membership.  If so, please inform us and we would be happy to distribute this information to our readership.

We are sure that you will understand that the in the absence of such advice, it would be plausible to conclude that you do in fact endorse the spirit of the petition. 

…………..………….. 

(c) As for claims regarding the IAM posting's mentioning of your membership on the Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Advisory Board, there does indeed seem to be room for some misunderstanding.

According to the HRW website your name appears as member of HRW Board of Directors for the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. Whether in fact that means that you are a regional member of the HRW Board of Directors or a member of the Board of Directors of a Regional Office of HRW in not quite clear.  If you feel that this is a matter of cardinal importance – please clarify and we will be happy to inform our readership of the distinction. Also, to avoid future confusion and misunderstanding, you may want to contact HRW and request that they present their organizational structure in a less ambiguous manner to avoid this kind of confusion. 

As for HRW endorsement of a boycott of Israel, the IAM posting referred to the NGO-Monitor position on this. Indeed, the NGO- Monitor has been quite specific in this regard and Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, commenting on a recent HRW report, stated

"Of even greater concern, HRW in this report endorses boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)…"

Also see:

Human Rights Watch Joins Anti-Israel Boycott Campaign

 HRW and Amnesty Promote Caterpillar Boycott,"

 

Indeed, at least with regard to one company, Caterpillar, it would seem that that HRW has called for a cutting of ties with Israel. See HRW postings

Caterpillar Should Suspend Bulldozer Sales

Human Rights Watch Letter to Caterpillar 

In light of the above – and your affiliation with this organization -  it is perhaps appropriate to remind our readership of the vigorous denouncement of HRW made last year by its founder Robert L. Bernstein for its virulent and grossly disproportionate anti-Israel bias - Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast - NYTimes.com

 

…………..…………..

 

We find you denying your writing of an update during the Gaza war on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center, and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society rather puzzling.  For it is a matter of record that  on 28.12.2008 a bulletin written by you and entitled  Aeyal Gross’s Gaza notes On Gaza’s (non-existent) health system, was posted.  More over the bulletin began with the following text:

 

"Today at 12:07am Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Al-Mezan Center (Gaza) and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (Ramallah) Emergency Gaza Update 28.12.2008" (sic)

 

It ended with the publication of contact information for all the three organizations - Physicians for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center, and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society – in fact referring the public to them for further details

 

You will thus understand why anyone applying basic common sense criteria to foregoing facts might well conclude that they reflect some organizational affiliation between the bulletin and the previously mentioned organizations. Indeed, it would appear implausible to surmise otherwise. 

 

We would be happy for your elucidation on this matter - in the absence of which one must conclude that you have found our explanation convincing.

 

We do however feel that our readership would be interested in an excerpt from your bulletin.  You wrote:

 

The Israeli military is issuing threats to civilians

Many patients have phoned PHR-Israel [Physicians for Human Rights-Israel] over the past 24 hours, reporting that during the night they had received recorded threats over the telephone. The first recorded message ordered them to leave their homes due to planned bombardments. The second message warned that anyone aiding militants or hiding arms would be exposed to bombardments.

 

Again, you will understand that many will feel that you are either mindlessly oblivious to – or mindfully obscuring - the difference between a well-intentioned warning and a ill-intentioned threat, or, are you perhaps suggesting that the IDF should refrain from warning civilians of imminent attacks; or that it should allow the residents of Gaza to "aid militants or hid[e] arms " with impunity???

…………..…………..

As for the .2009  SOAS event in which you participated and which you claim was not pro-Palestinian, you will of course be aware of its listed sponsors – such as The Association of the Palestinian Community, and the Sir Joseph Hotung Programme and the positions they have adopted on the Palestinian issue.

Thus, for example the Association of the Palestinian Community posts on its website that its objectives include "Supporting the Palestinian Cause".  Can one get much more manifestly pro-Palestinian than that?

Furthermore, its home page supports the organization's newsletter Minbar Al Jaliyah. The lead article is headlined "Don't buy Israeli apartheid" with the sub-headline calling for "Broadening the campaign to free Palestine" extolling the rationale for the boycott and divestment campaign against Israel – including its academic and cultural institutions. Other articles such as "Doing Our Bit "call for active participation in the boycott campaign – "As Palestinians resident in the UK, there is no doubt that we should be actively participating in this campaign" - while yet others such as "Palestinian couple visits Haifa home on Nakba anniversary" serve to perpetuate the narrative of Return to Haifa and Jaffa.  

The Sir Joseph Hotung Programme participated in the production of a publication with the somewhat partisan title Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? , which purports to be:

  "A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law". As for the impartiality of the document, this is reflected in the language of "Implications and Recommendations"

The following examples will serve to convey the spirit of its work:

… Israel’s breach of the peremptory norms prohibiting colonialism and apartheid are clear. When faced with a serious breach of an obligation arising under a peremptory norm, all States have the duty not to recognize this situation as lawful and have the duty not to aid or assist the maintenance of this situation.

Israel bears the primary responsibility for remedying the illegal situation it has createdIn the first place, it has the duty to cease its unlawful activity and dismantle the structures and institutions of colonialism and apartheid that it has createdIsrael is additionally required by international law to implement duties of reparation, compensation and satisfaction in order to wipe out the consequences of its unlawful acts… Israel has the duty to promote the Palestinian people’s exercise of its right of self-determination …

With sponsors of this ilk, you surely must realize that it far from implausible to assume the event might be characterized as "pro-Palestinian."

Surely, to that your claim that the fact that there "was serious criticism of Hamas's actions" somehow proves that the event not a biased or "Pro-Palestinian" conference, cuts very little mustard. For, by that standard, the Fatah movement which has vehemently criticized Hamas could also be deemed "not biased or pro Palestinian".

But in truth, we do not have the proceedings of the conference. So if you would be so kind as to make that available – particularly your own contribution – IAM would be most eager to peruse them.  Should this prove our assessment wrong – we would be happy to admit error.

 


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