Dr. Yonatan Mendel teaches in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben Gurion University. Unfortunately, Mendel, like many of his radicalized peers, is a long-time pro-Palestinian activist.
In the past decade, Haaretz published Mendel’s polemics in Hebrew, including: “The Joint List – the democratic soul here”; “The Arab parties – the last fortress of democracy in Israel”; “The last hours of Arabic as an official language”; “A scary four-letter word that justifies everything”; “A language doing her a favor”; “Praises for Umm al-Fahm”; “Answers to the question of what it means to be a Palestinian in your eyes”; “When speaking Arabic in the Knesset”; “What would we do without the “Palestinian incitement”?”; “Score, Ayman, Score”; “Silence in return for a lie”; “Israeli Hasbara Against Israel”; “Hamas – really no one to talk to?”; “Palestine Ultrasound”; “Unilateral State”; “Great experts for Arabs”; “The Palestinians are disappearing again”; “Now it is forbidden to remain silent.”
Mendel contributed a chapter “The Oslo ‘Peace Process’ and the End of Peace” to the 2019 book, From the River to the Sea: Palestine and Israel in the Shadow of “Peace,” edited by Prof. Mandy Turner. Between 2012-2019 Turner was the Director of the Kenyon Institute, a Palestinian British Academy-sponsored research center based in East Jerusalem. The book is a collection of anti-Israel diatribes. Mendel claims that “it was the Labor Party that was in office from 1948 and hence bears considerable responsibility for the ongoing Palestinian Nakba (including the rejection of the return of refugees); it led the military regime imposed on Palestinian citizens of Israel, inside Israel, from 1948–1966; furthermore, it led the government that occupied the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 war and created the first settlements in the West Bank.”
Mendel’s 2014 book, The Creation of Israeli Arabic: Political and Security Considerations in the Making of Arabic Language Studies in Israel, discussed a “message of delegitimizing Palestinian Arab parties,” and that such a “message was further promoted by the popular mainstream media, which consistently portrays the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel as a threat. Zionist opposition parties and leaders have also played a key role in this delegitimization by constantly insisting that Israel should be, first and foremost, a state for the political thought, aspirations and desires of Jewish citizens only.”
A review of the book by Muhammad Amara from Beit Berl College, published by the Journal of Palestine Studies, in 2016, stated about Arabic teaching that “the language and its culture evoke extremely negative and aggressive attitudes.” For him, Mendel was “investigating the process by which Arabic was transformed from the language of the neighbor into the language of the enemy.”
Not surprisingly, the book has won the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize in 2015.
In 2016, Mendel wrote an article in Haaretz justifying terrorism against Israelis and blaming it on the “Israeli occupation”. For him, a “reference to ‘Palestinian incitement’ after each attack, is very disturbing. There is no denying that there have indeed been those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip calling for the use of violence, but things must be stated accurately: These are secondary tremors. The main temblor is the reality that between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River there is only one state, Israel; only one army, the Israel Defense Forces; only one people that enjoys independence; only one Law of Return; only one hope; and also only one occupation.”
The worst is what he wrote on the killer of Dafna Meir, who was murdered at her doorstep in Otniel: “Try to imagine that the person who carried out the terrorist attack in Otniel, 16-year-old Murad Adais from Beit Amra in the southern West Bank, had not watched television in the days prior to the attack. What insight could be drawn from that? What would he have seen from the window of his home? Which Israelis would he have met? Soldiers at a roadblock? Settlers going around with weapons whose communities were built on Palestinian land?”
Mendel thinks that blaming Palestinian incitement for terrorism is “Pavlovian.”
This Mendel’s piece was picked up by the anti-Semitic website of “Jew World Order,” that “Jesus called them the Synagogue Of Satan – Antichrist.” Their “about us” chapter explains, “When you cannot criticize the Jews, without getting jailed for being anti Semite, you know we live in a Communist Dictatorship. Once you are awake, you cannot fall back to sleep. The truth has no agenda.” The website was created by a group of “concerned individuals, and true Christians,” wishing to tell the world about the “criminal murderous Khazars, that fraudulently call themselves Jews… We support the True Semites (Palestinians), not the fakes that call themselves Jews. We support the true Hebrews (Negros) not the fakes that call themselves Jews.”
Mendel’s view of Israel is highly misleading. He wrote about Israel’s elections in 2015: “What else can be said about a country whose electoral options run from bad to worse, from xenophobia to all-out racism?”
His latest venture is a course (with Dotan Halevi) “Gaza: History, Society, Culture and Politics” for second-year students. They boast about having hosted “more than 20 experts on Gazan including Israeli, Palestinian and international scholars; experts on the ground; representatives from the former Jewish settlement of Gush Katif, which Israel evacuated in 2005; journalists; artists; UN representatives; and Israeli government officials.”
However, in a public statement, they explained that “Of all the speakers, not even one found the siege of Gaza to be sustainable.”
This statement misrepresents the realities. In 2007, after a bloody purge of the Fatah forces, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad turned the enclave into an armed camp with projectiles threatening Israeli citizens. In the last round, some 4000 rockets and missiles were launched toward Israeli cities as far as Beersheba and Tel Aviv. The terror group has embedded with the population, effectively turning it into a human shield.
Over the years, IAM had repeatedly discussed the problems with radical academics who use their academic pulpit to spread anti-Israel propaganda under the guise of scholarship. This faux scholarship serves as a cover for the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements in the West. The pro-Palestinian camp is a major consumer of such writings.
The Israeli government has spent a small fortune fighting academic BDS and anti-Semitism. It would be well advised to note the role of some Israeli scholars in the delegitimization process.
Open Gaza immediately,’ says manager of Israel-Gaza crossing
The Erez Crossing manager debunks myth that restrictions on Gaza uphold security, believes Israel should engage directly with Hamas.
By Meron Rapoport
June 21, 2021
Opening up Gaza “is clearly in Israel’s interest,” said the manager of the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza, Shlomo Tzaban, during a talk with students at Ben-Gurion University last week.
“Gaza has to be opened up immediately, without linkage to prisoners and missing persons and without linkage to Hamas,” he said. “If we open it [Gaza] today, there will be no suicide bombings and Hamas will be severely weakened.”
Tzaban, who has been overseeing the civilian entry and exit point between Israel and Gaza since security at the crossing was privatized in 2006, was a guest speaker in a class on the history of Gaza headed by Dr. Yonatan Mendel and Dotan Halevi. In a recording of the talk that was reviewed by Local Call, Tzaban, who described himself as “the manager of all of Gaza,” contradicted the positions of many Israeli politicians regarding the strip and debunked the security myths that are commonly used to justify the siege, which Israel has imposed since 2007. The southern Rafah Crossing that Gaza shares with Egypt is the only crossing not controlled by Israel.
Tzaban insisted throughout his lecture that Gaza’s development and prosperity was a necessity — echoing the positions of many former Israeli military officials who have criticized the policy of maintaining the blockade. “If things are bad in Gaza, they will be bad in Israel,” he said.
In his talk, Tzaban outlined the strip’s history since 1948, “as told by Gazans,” he said. Palestinians in Gaza remember Egypt’s rule over the strip from 1948 to 1967 “as a Holocaust,” whereas the years between Israel’s occupation of Gaza from 1967 until the beginning of the First Intifada in 1987 are considered a time of prosperity. “They [Palestinians] remember these years with tears in their eyes,” he claimed.
Following the First Intifada, though, when Israel implemented restrictions on movement for Palestinians in Gaza, a “slippery slope” caused the strip to become a “fifth world” territory, Tzaban explained.
Since Israel’s latest military operation in May, during which Israel killed more than 250 people in Gaza and Hamas killed 13 in Israel, the situation in the strip has extremely deteriorated, said Tzaban. Before the 11-day war, around 700 trucks delivered goods to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing every day, he said. However, data collected by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied territories shows that an average of 300 trucks a day were entering Gaza in 2019, and Israel still severely restricts and often entirely forbids the entry of goods that are essential for industry, construction, and other civilian needs. As of the day of the lecture, however, only about 130 trucks were being let in a day, said Tzaban, which aligns with OCHA’s tracking of 4,300 truckloads last month.
‘Gaza is an Israeli problem’
When asked about Israel’s “separation policy” between Gaza and the West Bank, Tzaban replied that while it serves the West Bank, the policy “is very bad for Gaza.” Opening up Gaza, he added, would be very beneficial to Israel. “It is in Israel’s interest that 200,000 Gazans enter [into Israel] today to build us homes and provide financial support to the 2.2 million Palestinians [living there] who have nothing to do with the conflict,” he said.
Tzaban was firm in his position on the lack of security threats involved in opening up Gaza: “Since 2006 to this day, I’ve allowed 9 million Palestinians to enter from Gaza to Israel. There were zero casualties, and zero terrorists,” he said. “If you open the crossings, there will not be a single suicide bombing.”
The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, “knows how to distinguish between those who are good and those who are bad,” said Tzaban, and Israel “has the most advanced technologies in the world” to inspect those entering Israel. “We must let them [Palestinians] taste what they’ve known between 1967 and 1987, the perks of economy, employment, livelihood, and give them back their dignity,” he added.
Tzaban also expressed unwavering support for direct coordination with Hamas. “I’ve said this a long time ago: We must bring Hamas to the Erez Crossing, we must bring their officers,” he said.
“Do you know that before 1987, Hamas’s leadership, [co-founder] Ahmad Yassin and others, would visit the Kirya freely?” Tzaban remarked, referring to Israel’s military compound in Tel Aviv. “You must understand: agreements are made with enemies, there’s no need for deals with friends. I’m in favor of using mediators, but also of communicating directly [with Hamas], as we did in the Oslo Accords.”
Regarding Hamas, Tzaban claimed on the one hand that “terror organizations must be destroyed, terrorist leaders must be wiped out.” But in the same breath, he argued that opening the crossings between Israel and Gaza is a mutual interest. “Hamas will not prevent the residents of Gaza from entering Israel,” he surmised.
“In five years, there will be 3 million Palestinians in Gaza, living across 365 square kilometers [141 square miles],” stated Tzaban. “Gaza is an Israeli problem, not a Palestinian one.”
He continued: “If we don’t solve this, with immense courage, creativity and the investment of all the countries of the world — the United States, the European Union, the Quartet and others — we will continue to run from incident to incident, from confrontation to confrontation, from war to war, including our grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” said Tzaban. “It will not help — left or right, hawk or dove. We must take action here, open the gates of Gaza and within a decade there will no longer be a terror organization.”
In a statement, the class lecturers, Mendel and Halevi, said they had no part in leaking Tzaban’s talk to the press. They explained that this was the second year that their course on Gaza’s history is being offered, in which they’ve hosted more than 20 experts on Gaza. The class has heard from Israeli, Palestinian and international scholars; experts on the ground; representatives from the former Jewish settlement of Gush Katif, which Israel evacuated in 2005; journalists; artists; UN representatives; and even Israeli government officials. “Of all the speakers, not even one found the siege of Gaza to be sustainable,” the statement said.
In response to a request for comment on Tzaban’s remarks, an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesperson said that “Tzaban presented his personal opinions, which do not represent the Defense Ministry’s position.”
A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.Meron Rapoport is an editor at Local Call.
להם יהיה קשה לספר על “נזק אגבי”
יונתן מנדל ודותן הלוי22.05.2021
נדמה שהתקווה הקמאית של ראש הממשלה המנוח יצחק רבין, שאמר על עזה לפני כשלושה עשורים, “הלוואי שהיתה טובעת בים”, משותפת לרבים בישראל. “הלוואי שהיתה טובעת בים”, מהדהדת הקריאה בין מטוסי חיל האוויר המטילים עוד ועוד פצצות על עזה, בין כתבים ופרשנים משולהבים, וממבול הודעות הטוויטר והווטסאפ של אזרחי ישראל. “הלוואי שהיתה טובעת בים”, מצטלצלת התקווה מהצהרותיהם חמורות הסבר של מנהיגי ישראל.
אבל עזה איננה טובעת. היא צפה כל פעם מחדש, ו–1.5 מיליון הפליטים, 75% מאוכלוסייתה, שבים ומעלים את העובדות שהיינו רוצים להטביע: שהמדינה היהודית הוקמה דרך הפיכתם של מאות אלפי פלסטינים לפליטים ושהיום תפישת הביטחון של ישראל מושתתת, בין היתר, על כליאתם ודיכויים של צאצאיהם. בין אם נראה בכך מחיר רצוי, בלתי נמנע או בלתי נסבל, הרצון להשתיק את עזה נובע מההכרה שהיא תמיד תהיה שם להזכיר איפה אנחנו נמצאים.
רבים מהנהגת פתח צמחו במחנות הפליטים ברצועה. האינתיפאדה הראשונה החלה שם, והסכמי אוסלו התבססו על “עזה תחילה”. בעזה נוסדה הרשות הפלסטינית, ושם צמחה תנועת חמאס. עמירה הס כתבה כבר ב–1996 שעזה “מקפלת בתוכה את כל תולדות הסכסוך הישראלי־פלסטיני”. זו היתה לא רק אבחנה אלא גם נבואה. התמקדות הסכסוך בעזה הלכה והתעצמה עם עליית חמאס לשלטון, וכך גם ההדחקה הישראלית של כל סוגיות הליבה של הסכסוך. אולי בגלל זה קל יותר לכתוב על עזה רק בשפה שמוחקת: טרור, ג’יהאד, מנהרות — עזה כַּמוות.
“הרצועה כמו בית סוהר, בכל מקום תהפוך למטרה”: בין ההפצצות, בעזה סומכים על המזלצה”ל מכנה זאת “נזק אגבי”, אבל לאזרחים שנהרגו ברצועת עזה יש שמות
כשהחלטנו ללמד קורס באוניברסיטת בן־גוריון שיוקדש כולו לעזה, על ההיסטוריה, החברה, התרבות והפוליטיקה שלה, ידענו שאחד הדברים הקשים ביותר שנבקש מהסטודנטים לעשות הוא לחשוב על עזה מחוץ למסגרת הדיון המוכרת. לשחרר אותה מהכבלים של הפרשנים הצבאיים; ללמוד על עיר מסחר מרכזית עם חגים עונתיים משלה עוד מהתקופה העותמנית, על היווצרותה של חברת פליטים דינמית אחרי 1948 ועל האמביציות של ישראל כלפי רצועת החוף הזו, מהכיבוש הראשון ב–1956, דרך הכיבוש של 1967 ועד ההתנתקות החד־צדדית ב–2005.
רצינו שהתלמידים שלנו ייחשפו גם לכתיבה פלסטינית ובינלאומית, ושיעזו להסתכל על העולם מבעד לעיניה, דרך הפואמות של הארון האשם אל־רשיד ומועין בסיסו, הרומנים של עאטף אבו סייף ושיריו של מוחמד עסאף, הזוכה העזתי ב”ערבּ איידול”. חוקרות וחוקרים ישראלים ופלסטינים, נציגי ארגוני סיוע בינלאומיים, אנשי ממסד בעבר ובהווה, אפילו מפוני גוש קטיף, שמחו לקחת חלק בקורס. רק בדוברות צה”ל ומת”ק עזה העדיפו לא לדבר. בין אם מתוך אדישות, או מדיניות, סירבו שם להציג את עמדת הכוח ששולט בפועל על הרצועה.
לשמחתנו, הסטודנטיות והסטודנטים לא מחכים לעמדות רשמיות שיכתיבו להם מה לחשוב. מדהים באילו מהירות וטבעיות יכולים צעירים בישראל להשתחרר מהדימוי המוכר של “עזה כַּמוות”, ולעבור לדון על עזה של החיים. רק צריך לאפשר את זה. יותר מ–50% מאוכלוסיית עזה הם בגילם של הסטודנטים או פחות. הגיל החציוני בעזה הוא 18. אלה ואלה בגרו אל עזה סגורה ומסוגרת. יידרש מאמץ רב כדי שהדור הזה, שנולד בישראל, יחיה במציאות אחרת, במדינה שבה בעיות פוליטיות זוכות לפתרונות פוליטיים, לא צבאיים.
בכיתה לפחות הם עושים את הצעד הראשון בנקל: כותבים ודנים על אזרחות ופליטוּת, על שלטון פתח ושלטון חמאס, על נקודות האור והצל שבהיסטוריה המשותפת של הישראלים והפלסטינים, על שירה ומוזיקה. בהקשבה לראשים המדברים את עצמם לדעת באולפנים, כשעזה החרבה נשקפת ברקע כשומר מסך, תהינו לא פעם כמה עמוקים ומפתיעים היו הדיונים עם סטודנטים אחרי שנחשפו למאמר, לשיר, למסמך ארכיוני. הם יודעים שמעבר לגדר חיים גם אנשים כמוהם, שכותבים, לומדים ומפתחים אפליקציות וגולשים בים. להם כבר יהיה קשה לספר על “נזק אגבי”.
אפשר לעשות לעזה דה־הומניזציה. אפשר לעשות לקבלת ההחלטות שם דה־רציונליזציה. אפשר להגיד שהם הביאו את זה על עצמם. אפשר לדפדף לעמוד הבא כשקוראים שיותר מ–60 הרוגים בעזה הם ילדים בני חצי שנה עד 16. אפשר לייחל שעזה תמות ואִתה תמות הסוגיה הפלסטינית. אבל אלה מחשבות שווא, שמסיטות את המבט מהמציאות ומרחיקות פתרון. “מה היית רוצה לומר לישראלים”, שאלנו חבר בעזה, פעיל זכויות אדם. “הייתי רוצה להגיד להם את מה שהם לא רוצים לשמוע”, הוא ענה בלי להסס, “שאנחנו בעזה אוהבים את החיים בדיוק כמוכם, ושאנחנו שונאים את המוות לא פחות מכם”.
ד”ר מנדל הוא מרצה במחלקה ללימודי המזרח התיכון באוניברסיטת בן־גוריון, הלוי הוא דוקטורנט באוניברסיטת קולומביה, והם מלמדים יחד את הקורס “עזה: היסטוריה, חברה, תרבות ופוליטיקה”
First part of the article
Middle East Eye Monday, September 28, 2015
Israel’s army and schools work hand in hand, say teachers
Close ties means Israeli pupils are being raised to be “good soldiers” rather than good citizens
By Jonathan Cook
HAIFA – The task for Israeli pupils: to foil an imminent terror attack on their school. But if they are to succeed, they must first find the clues using key words they have been learning in Arabic.
Arabic lesson plans for Israel’s Jewish schoolchildren have a strange focus.
Those matriculating in the language can rarely hold a conversation in Arabic. And almost none of the hundreds of teachers introducing Jewish children to Israel’s second language are native speakers, even though one in five of the population belong to the country’s Palestinian minority.
The reason, says Yonatan Mendel, a researcher at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, is that the teaching of Arabic in Israel’s Jewish schools is determined almost exclusively by the needs of the Israeli army.
Mendel’s recent research shows that officers from a military intelligence unit called Telem design much of the Arabic language curriculum. “Its involvement is what might be termed an ‘open secret’ in Israel,” he told MEE.
“The military are part and parcel of the education system. The goal of Arabic teaching is to educate the children to be useful components in the military system, to train them to become intelligence officers.”
Telem is a branch of Unit 8200, dozens of whose officers signed a letter last year revealing that their job was to pry into Palestinians’ sex lives, money troubles and illnesses. The information helped with “political persecution”, “recruiting collaborators” and “driving parts of Palestinian society against itself”, the officers noted.
Mendel said Arabic was taught “without sentiment”, an aim established in the state’s earliest years.
“The fear was that, if students had a good relationship with the language and saw Arabs as potential friends, they might cross over to the other side and they would be of no use to the Israeli security system. That was the reason the field of Arabic studies was made free of Arabs.”
London Review of Books
6 March, 2008
Diary: Yonatan Mendel
A year ago I applied for the job of Occupied Territories correspondent at
Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper. I speak Arabic and have taught in Palestinian
schools and taken part in many joint Jewish-Palestinian projects. At my
interview the boss asked how I could possibly be objective. I had spent too
much time with Palestinians; I was bound to be biased in their favour. I
didn’t get the job. My next interview was with Walla, Israel’s most popular
website. This time I did get the job and I became Walla’s Middle East
correspondent. I soon understood what Tamar Liebes, the director of the
Smart Institute of Communication at the Hebrew University, meant when she
said: ‘Journalists and publishers see themselves as actors within the
Zionist movement, not as critical outsiders.’
This is not to say that Israeli journalism is not professional. Corruption,
social decay and dishonesty are pursued with commendable determination by
newspapers, TV and radio. That Israelis heard exactly what former President
Katsav did or didn’t do with his secretaries proves that the media are
performing their watchdog role, even at the risk of causing national and
international embarrassment. Ehud Olmert’s shady apartment deal, the
business of Ariel Sharon’s mysterious Greek island, Binyamin Netanyahu’s
secret love affair, Yitzhak Rabin’s secret American bank account: all of
these are freely discussed by the Israeli media.
When it comes to ‘security’ there is no such freedom. It’s ‘us’ and ‘them’,
the IDF and the ‘enemy’; military discourse, which is the only discourse
allowed, trumps any other possible narrative. It’s not that Israeli
journalists are following orders, or a written code: just that they’d rather
think well of their security forces.
In most of the articles on the conflict two sides battle it out: the Israel
Defence Forces, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, on the other. When a
violent incident is reported, the IDF confirms or the army says but the
Palestinians claim: ‘The Palestinians claimed that a baby was severely
injured in IDF shootings.’ Is this a fib? ‘The Palestinians claim that
Israeli settlers threatened them’: but who are the Palestinians? Did the
entire Palestinian people, citizens of Israel, inhabitants of the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip, people living in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab
states and those living in the diaspora make the claim? Why is it that a
serious article is reporting a claim made by the Palestinians? Why is there
so rarely a name, a desk, an organisation or a source of this information?
Could it be because that would make it seem more reliable?
When the Palestinians aren’t making claims, their viewpoint is simply not
heard. Keshev, the Centre for the Protection of Democracy in Israel, studied
the way Israel’s leading television channels and newspapers covered
Palestinian casualties in a given month – December 2005. They found 48 items
covering the deaths of 22 Palestinians. However, in only eight of those
accounts was the IDF version followed by a Palestinian reaction; in the
other 40 instances the event was reported only from the point of view of the
Another example: in June 2006, four days after the Israeli soldier Gilad
Shalit was kidnapped from the Israeli side of the Gazan security fence,
Israel, according to the Israeli media, arrested some sixty members of
Hamas, of whom 30 were elected members of parliament and eight ministers in
the Palestinian government. In a well-planned operation Israel captured and
jailed the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, the ministers of finance,
education, religious affairs, strategic affairs, domestic affairs, housing
and prisons, as well as the mayors of Bethlehem, Jenin and Qalqilya, the
head of the Palestinian parliament and one quarter of its members. That
these officials were taken from their beds late at night and transferred to
Israeli territory probably to serve (like Gilad Shalit) as future
bargaining-chips did not make this operation a kidnapping. Israel never
kidnaps: it arrests.
The Israeli army never intentionally kills anyone, let alone murders them –
a state of affairs any other armed organisation would be envious of. Even
when a one-ton bomb is dropped onto a dense residential area in Gaza,
killing one gunman and 14 innocent civilians, including nine children, it’s
still not an intentional killing or murder: it is a targeted assassination.
An Israeli journalist can say that IDF soldiers hit Palestinians, or killed
them, or killed them by mistake, and that Palestinians were hit, or were
killed or even found their death (as if they were looking for it), but
murder is out of the question. The consequence, whatever words are used, has
been the death at the hands of the Israeli security forces since the
outbreak of the second intifada of 2087 Palestinians who had nothing to do
with armed struggle.
The IDF, as depicted by the Israeli media, has another strange ability: it
never initiates, decides to attack or launches an operation. The IDF simply
responds. It responds to the Qassam rockets, responds to terror attacks,
responds to Palestinian violence. This makes everything so much more
sensible and civilised: the IDF is forced to fight, to destroy houses, to
shoot Palestinians and to kill 4485 of them in seven years, but none of
these events is the responsibility of the soldiers. They are facing a nasty
enemy, and they respond dutifully. The fact that their actions – curfews,
arrests, naval sieges, shootings and killings – are the main cause of the
Palestinian reaction does not seem to interest the media. Because
Palestinians cannot respond, Israeli journalists choose another verb from
the lexicon that includes revenge, provoke, attack, incite, throw stones or
Interviewing Abu-Qusay, the spokesman of Al-Aqsa Brigades in Gaza, in June
2007, I asked him about the rationale for firing Qassam missiles at the
Israeli town of Sderot. ‘The army might respond,’ I said, not realising that
I was already biased. ‘But we are responding here,’ Abu-Qusay said. ‘We are
not terrorists, we do not want to kill . . . we are resisting Israel’s
continual incursions into the West Bank, its attacks, its siege on our
waters and its closure on our lands.’ Abu-Qusay’s words were translated into
Hebrew, but Israel continued to enter the West Bank every night and Israelis
did not find any harm in it. After all it was only a response.
At a time when there were many Israeli raids on Gaza I asked my colleagues
the following question: ‘If an armed Palestinian crosses the border, enters
Israel, drives to Tel Aviv and shoots people in the streets, he will be the
terrorist and we will be the victims, right? However, if the IDF crosses the
border, drives miles into Gaza, and starts shooting their gunmen, who is the
terrorist and who is the defender? How come the Palestinians living in the
Occupied Territories can never be engaged in self-defence, while the Israeli
army is always the defender?’ My friend Shay from the graphics department
clarified matters for me: ‘If you go to the Gaza Strip and shoot people, you
will be a terrorist. But when the army does it that is an operation to make
Israel safer. It’s the implementation of a government decision!’
Another interesting distinction between us and them came up when Hamas
demanded the release of 450 of its prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit.
Israel announced that it would release prisoners but not those with blood on
their hands. It is always the Palestinians – never the Israelis – who have
blood on their hands. This is not to say that Jews cannot kill Arabs but
they will not have blood on their hands, and if they are arrested they will
be released after a few years, not to mention those with blood on their
hands who’ve gone on to become prime minister. And we are not only more
innocent when we kill but also more susceptible when we are hurt. A regular
description of a Qassam missile that hits Sderot will generally look like
this: ‘A Qassam fell next to a residential house, three Israelis had slight
injuries, and ten others suffered from shock.’ One should not make light of
these injuries: a missile hitting a house in the middle of the night could
indeed cause great shock.
However, one should also remember that shock is for Jews only. Palestinians
are apparently a very tough people.
The IDF, again the envy of all other armies, kills only the most important
people. ‘A high-ranking member of Hamas was killed’ is almost a chorus in
the Israel media. Low-ranking members of Hamas have either never been found
or never been killed. Shlomi Eldar, a TV correspondent in the Gaza Strip,
bravely wrote about this phenomenon in his book Eyeless in Gaza (2005). When
Riyad Abu Zaid was assassinated in 2003, the Israeli press echoed the IDF
announcement that the man was the head of the military wing of Hamas in
Gaza. Eldar, one of Israel’s few investigative journalists, discovered that
the man was merely a secretary in the movement’s prisoner club. ‘It was one
of many occasions in which Israel “upgraded” a Palestinian activist,’ Eldar
wrote. ‘After every assassination any minor activist is “promoted” to a
This phenomenon, in which IDF statements are directly translated into media
reports – there are no checkpoints between the army and the media – is the
result both of a lack of access to information and of the unwillingness of
journalists to prove the army wrong or to portray soldiers as criminals.
‘The IDF is acting in Gaza’ (or in Jenin, or in Tulkarm, or in Hebron) is
the expression given out by the army and embraced by the media. Why make the
listeners’ lives harder? Why tell them what the soldiers do, describing the
fear they create, the fact that they come with heavy vehicles and weapons
and crush a city’s life, creating a greater hatred, sorrow and a desire for
Last month, as a measure against Qassam militants, Israel decided to stop
Gaza’s electricity for a few hours a day. Despite the fact that this means,
for instance, that electricity will fail to reach hospitals, it was said
that ‘the Israeli government decided to approve this step, as another
non-lethal weapon.’ Another thing the soldiers do is clearing – khisuf. In
regular Hebrew, khisuf means to expose something that is hidden, but as used
by the IDF it means to clear an area of potential hiding places for
Palestinian gunmen. During the last intifada, Israeli D9 bulldozers
destroyed thousands of Palestinian houses, uprooted thousands of trees and
left behind thousands of smashed greenhouses. It is better to know that the
army cleared the place than to face the reality that the army destroys
Palestinians’ possessions, pride and hope.
Another useful word is crowning (keter), a euphemism for a siege in which
anyone who leaves his house risks being shot at. War zones are places where
Palestinians can be killed even if they are children who don’t know they’ve
entered a war zone. Palestinian children, by the way, tend to be upgraded to
Palestinian teenagers, especially when they are accidentally killed. More
examples: isolated Israeli outposts in the West Bank are called illegal
outposts, perhaps in contrast to Israeli settlements that are apparently
legal. Administrative detention means jailing people who haven’t been put on
trial or even formally charged (in April 2003 there were 1119 Palestinians
in this situation). The PLO (Ashaf) is always referred to by its acronym and
never by its full name: Palestine is a word that is almost never used –
there is a Palestinian president but no president of Palestine.
‘A society in crisis forges a new vocabulary for itself,’ David Grossman
wrote in The Yellow Wind, ‘and gradually, a new language emerges whose words
. . . no longer describe reality, but attempt, instead, to conceal it.’ This
‘new language’ was adopted voluntarily by the media, but if one needs an
official set of guidelines it can be found in the Nakdi Report, a paper
drafted by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority. First set down in 1972 and
since updated three times, the report aimed to ‘clarify some of the
professional rules that govern the work of a newsperson’. The prohibition of
the term East Jerusalem was one of them.
The restrictions aren’t confined to geography. On 20 May 2006, Israel’s most
popular television channel, Channel 2, reported ‘another targeted
assassination in Gaza, an assassination that might ease the firing of
Qassams’ (up to 376 people have died in targeted assassinations, 150 of them
civilians who were not the target of assassinations). Ehud Ya’ari, a
well-known Israeli correspondent on Arab affairs, sat in the studio and
said: ‘The man who was killed is Muhammad Dahdouh, from Islamic Jihad . . .
this is part of the other war, a war to shrink the volume of Qassam
activists.’ Neither Ya’ari nor the IDF spokesman bothered to report that
four innocent Palestinian civilians were also killed in the operation, and
three more severely injured, one a five-year-old girl called Maria, who will
remain paralysed from the neck down. This ‘oversight’, revealed by the
Israeli journalist Orly Vilnai, only exposed how much we do not know about
what we think we know.
Interestingly, since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip one of the new ‘boo’
words in the Israeli media is Hamastan, a word that appears in the ‘hard’
news section, the allegedly sacred part of newspapers that is supposed to
give the facts, free from editorialising. The same applies to movements such
as Hamas or Hizbullah, which are described in Hebrew as organisations and
not as political movements or parties. Intifada is never given its Arabic
meaning of ‘revolt’; and Al-Quds, which when used by Palestinian politicians
refers only to ‘the holy places in East Jerusalem’ or ‘East Jerusalem’, is
always taken by Israeli correspondents to mean Jerusalem, which is
effectively to imply a Palestinian determination to take over the entire
It was curious to watch the newspapers’ responses to the assassination of
Imad Moughniyeh in Syria two weeks ago. Everyone tried to outdo everyone
else over what to call him: arch-terrorist, master terrorist or the greatest
terrorist on earth. It took the Israeli press a few days to stop celebrating
Moughniyeh’s assassins and start doing what it should have done in the first
place: ask questions about the consequences of the killing. The journalist
Gideon Levy thinks it is an Israeli trend: ‘The chain of “terrorist
chieftains” liquidated by Israel, from Ali Salameh and Abu Jihad through
Abbas Musawi and Yihyeh Ayash to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi
(all “operations” that we celebrated with great pomp and circumstance for
one sweet and intoxicating moment), have thus far brought only harsh and
painful revenge attacks against Israel and Jews throughout the world.’
Israeli correspondents on Arab affairs must of course speak Arabic – many of
them indeed studied it in the security establishment’s schools – and they
need to know the history and politics of the Middle East. And they have to
be Jews. Strikingly, the Israeli-Jewish media prefer to hire journalists
with average Arabic rather than native speakers, since they would be
Palestinian citizens of Israel. Apparently, Jewish journalists are better
equipped than Arab Israelis to explain ‘what Arabs think’, ‘Arab aims’ or
‘what Arabs say’. Maybe this is because the editors know what their audience
wants to hear. Or, even more important, what the Israeli audience would
rather not hear.
If the words occupation, apartheid and racism (not to mention Palestinian
citizens of Israel, bantustans, ethnic cleansing and Nakba) are absent from
Israeli discourse, Israeli citizens can spend their whole lives without
knowing what they have been living with. Take racism (Giz’anut in Hebrew).
If the Israeli parliament legislates that 13 per cent of the country’s lands
can be sold only to Jews, then it is a racist parliament. If in 60 years the
country has had only one Arab minister, then Israel has had racist
governments. If in 60 years of demonstrations rubber bullets and live
ammunition have been used only on Arab demonstrators, then Israel has a
racist police. If 75 per cent of Israelis admit that they would refuse to
have an Arab neighbour, then it is a racist society. By not acknowledging
that Israel is a place where racism shapes relations between Jews and Arabs,
Israeli Jews render themselves unable to deal with the problem or even with
the reality of their own lives.
The same denial of reality is reflected in the avoidance of the term
apartheid. Because of its association with white South Africa, Israelis find
it very hard to use the word. This is not to say that the exact same kind of
regime prevails in the Occupied Territories today, but a country needn’t
have benches ‘for whites only’ in order to be an apartheid state. Apartheid,
after all, means ‘separation’, and if in the Occupied Territories the
settlers have one road and Palestinians need to use alternative roads or
tunnels, then it is an apartheid road system. If the separation wall built
on thousands of dunams of confiscated West Bank land separates people
(including Palestinians on opposite sides of the wall), then it is an
apartheid wall. If in the Occupied Territories there are two judicial
systems, one for Jewish settlers and the other for Palestinians, then it is
an apartheid justice.
And then there are the Occupied Territories themselves. Remarkably, there
are no Occupied Territories in Israel. The term is occasionally used by a
leftist politician or columnist, but in the hard news section it doesn’t
exist. In the past they were called the Administered Territories in order to
conceal the actual fact of occupation; they were then called Judea and
Samaria; but in Israel’s mass media today they’re called the Territories
(Ha-Shtachim). The term helps preserve the notion that the Jews are the
victims, the people who act only in self-defence, the moral half of the
equation, and the Palestinians are the attackers, the bad guys, the people
who fight for no reason. The simplest example explains it: ‘a citizen of the
Territories was caught smuggling illegal weapons.’ It might make sense for
citizens of an occupied territory to try to resist the occupier, but it
doesn’t make sense if they are just from the Territories.
Israeli journalists are not embedded with the security establishment; and
they haven’t been asked to make their audience feel good about Israel’s
military policy. The restrictions they observe are observed voluntarily,
almost unconsciously – which makes their practice all the more dangerous.
Yet a majority of Israelis feel that their media are too left-wing,
insufficiently patriotric, not on Israel’s side. And the foreign media are
worse. During the last intifada, Avraham Hirschson, then the minister of
finance, demanded that CNN’s broadcasts from Israel be closed down on the
grounds of ‘biased broadcasting and tendentious programmes that are nothing
but a campaign of incitement against Israel’. Israeli demonstrators called
for an end to ‘CNN’s unreliable and terror-provoking coverage’ in favour of
Fox News. Israeli men up to the age of 50 are obliged to do one month’s
reserve service every year. ‘The civilian,’ Yigael Yadin, an early Israeli
chief of staff, said, ‘is a soldier on 11
months’ annual leave.’ For the Israeli media there is no leave.
Yonatan Mendel was a correspondent for the Israeli news agency Walla. He is
currently at Queens’ College, Cambridge working on a PhD that studies the
connection between the Arabic language and security in Israel.
Yonatan Mendel on Arabic in Israel
8 April 2015
Yonatan Mendel, Research associate University of Cambridge; and post-doctoral researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is an Israeli linguist whose research centres on the status of the Arabic language within Israeli society. He is also a regular contributor to the LRB, most recently with a Diary piece on Israel’s March election. His latest book The Creation of Israeli Arabic sheds light on a unique corner of the Arab–Israeli conflict: the study and knowledge of Arabic in Jewish-Israeli society. The book explores how security considerations have shaped the study of the Arabic language and of Arab people in Israeli society. Based on research conducted in seven archives in Israel, the book uncovers a new ‘type’ of Arabic created in Israel ̶ passive and securitised. This ‘Israeli Arabic’ has enabled its users to observe the Arab world but not to interact with Arab people in general and with Palestinian citizens of Israel in particular. In their discussion of his book and the ideas surrounding it Dr. Mendel and Professor Yasir Suleiman (head of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge) will provide an unusual view of the Arab-Israeli conflict: through the lens of language studies.
The event will take place on Tuesday 28 April 2015 at 7 p.m at the London Review Bookshop, London.
Click here to book tickets.
Yonatan Mendel, Research Fellow, also discusses the forthcoming Israeli Elections in the London Review of Books
What else can be said about a country whose electoral options run from bad to worse, from xenophobia to all-out racism? There are, I believe, three main blocs. The first wishes to maintain the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in its current form, preferably with no negotiations, in a liminal situation between cold and open war. The second wishes to dance with the conflict – to negotiate and negotiate as if there were no tomorrow. For the third bloc, there is no conflict at all: the elections are about VAT, the middle class and ‘what it means to be Israeli’.
The full article is available here.
Palestinian violence bred by incitement? You mean the occupation? / Yonatan Mendel
Haaretz 29 Feb 2016 — Did the killer of Shlomit Kriegman, who lives in the Qalandiya refugee camp, need a Twitter account to know that his life was in the dumps? — “Palestinian incitement.” Sometimes I wonder what we would do without that pair of words, or without expressions such as “a tailwind for terrorism,” “defensive democracy” and “What would you have done?” In January, Dafna Meir was murdered at the entrance to her home in Otniel. Most of the media outlets in Israel highlighted the fact that the young Palestinian who murdered her was influenced by inciteful statements broadcast on Palestinian television. On visiting the site of the killing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “Palestinian incitement is what is causing terrorism.” . . . This Pavlovian response, which has led public figures to pull out a reference to “Palestinian incitement” after each attack, is very disturbing. There is no denying that there have indeed been those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip calling for the use of violence, but things must be stated accurately: These are secondary tremors. The main temblor is the reality that between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River there is only one state, Israel; only one army, the Israel Defense Forces; only one people that enjoys independence; only one Law of Return; only one hope; and also only one occupation, which will soon be 50 years old. Try for a moment to imagine a world without “Palestinian incitement.” Try to imagine that the person who carried out the terrorist attack in Otniel, 16-year-old Murad Adais from Beit Amra in the southern West Bank, had not watched television in the days prior to the attack. What insight could be drawn from that? What would he have seen from the window of his home? Which Israelis would he have met? Soldiers at a roadblock? Settlers going around with weapons whose communities were built on Palestinian land? (Continued)
JEW WORLD ORDER Jesus called them the Synagogue Of Satan – Antichrist
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