Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Anti-semitism still thrives (Mick Hartley & PZ Myers)

A post by the biologist and self-described "godless liberal" PZ Myers on his Pharyngula blog, titled "Antisemitism still thrives", was followed up by some characteristically acute and illuminating commentary from Mick Hartley on his Politics & Culture blog. I think that, taken together, they speak for themselves. And the same is true for the video clip below, which I recommend watching.

=> I will add just one point. That video clip was compiled by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). MEMRI's website explains:
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) explores the Middle East through the region’s media. MEMRI bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Persian, Urdu-Pashtu, and Turkish media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East.
As Mick Hartley notes, MEMRI is the target of considerable hostility, abuse, criticism, defamation, and malicious innuendo from certain circles. But as far as I have been able to tell, most of the attacks (or malicious insinuations) against MEMRI come from people who would prefer not to face some unpleasant realities—including the fact that we live in an era in which significant portions of the world are infected with pervasive and virulent anti-semitic discourse reminiscent of Europe in the 1890s or even the 1930s—and who therefore respond by trying to shoot the messenger. (Of course, some of the fiercest vituperation against MEMRI comes from straightforward anti-semites and/or obsessive anti-Zionists, but it would be inaccurate and unfair to put all of MEMRI's critics and enemies in those overlapping categories.)

MEMRI does make occasional mistakes and misjudgments, and I know of some specific cases where it has been careless, tendentious, or otherwise deserving of blame. However, if anyone has ever made a serious, credible, and convincing case (I emphasize those adjectives) to support the frequent insinuations that MEMRI is systematically dishonest, misleading, inaccurate, or otherwise unreliable, I haven't seen it. When pressed, even MEMRI's harshest critics—I mean the honest ones—are often forced to concede that its reports and translations are "usually accurate" and reliable (though they also complain that MEMRI "is highly selective in what it chooses to translate", meaning that MEMRI translates things they would prefer were left in obscurity). In fact, MEMRI is an extremely valuable organization that performs an invaluable service, and otherwise well-meaning people should not swallow the propaganda campaign against MEMRI too gullibly.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

PZ Myers (Pharyngula)
November 15, 2010
Antisemitism still thrives

This is a very grim video; the myth of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion still lives on Muslim television. When it starts, you might be able to laugh a bit — did you know the Jews drain the blood of young boys to make matzoh balls? — but by the end, where some evil cleric is gloating over old footage of dead and dying Jews in Nazi prison camps ("look at the corpses, Allah be praised!") and that he hopes the followers of Allah will be the next to carry out this holy work, I give you fair warning that you might well be too sickened to continue.

New Trends in Arabic Anti-semitism from Henrik Clausen on Vimeo.

I'm not a fan of Israel's policies — they're becoming what they oppose — but there's clearly no possibility that they could simply stop fighting for their existence and live in peace and tolerance with neighbors who promote the kind of hate shown above.

Mick Hartley (Politics & Culture)
November 16, 2010
Antisemitism still thrives

MEMRI - the Middle East Media Research Institute - are well known for exposing the virulent anti-semitism that can be found in the Arab and Middle-Eastern media. They're controversial of course: Norman Finkelstein compared their style to the propaganda techniques of the Nazis. Ken Livingstone doesn't like them. They do have Israeli connections. Nevertheless, despite the occasional accusation of inaccuracy in translation, there really isn't much doubt about the general truth of what they show. As for the charge that they're selective; well of course they're selective. If someone rants on TV about Jews being the sons of apes and pigs, and a cancer that needs to be cleansed from the face of the earth, that's worth knowing in itself; never mind if the next programme is a weather report, or the Arab X-Factor, or if those are the only anti-semitic words spoken during the whole day's programming. No one believes that the Arab media are one non-stop anti-semitic rant. But the anti-semitism is there, and needs to be shown.

Yes, they're well known - but perhaps not well known enough. So what happens when people in the West are shown MEMRI clips? Surely it gives them a better understanding of the kind of rhetoric that Israel faces from its neighbours. Doesn't it? Well....here's a test.

PZ Myers - a man who makes Richard Dawkins seem meek and mild - posted yesterday at his Pharyngula site under the title "Antisemitism still thrives". He has a video from Henrik Clausen of a selection of MEMRI clips put together under the title "New Trends in Arabic Anti-semitism", which, apparently, was presented to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva back in September. It's a kind of MEMRI greatest hits, including some truly demented anti-semitic material.

PZ, as everyone calls him, is a scientist - a biologist - but Pharyngula is best known for its denigration of creationists, intelligent designers, and other such religious nutjobs, to use a favourite phrase of his. The politics of his commenters, as far as one can characterise such a thing (he gets lots of comments) is liberal left, with a strong dislike of the GOP.

PZ is of course horrified by the contents of the video:
I'm not a fan of Israel's policies — they're becoming what they oppose — but there's clearly no possibility that they could simply stop fighting for their existence and live in peace and tolerance with neighbors who promote the kind of hate shown above.
Quite what "they're becoming what they oppose" is supposed to mean I'm not sure. I'm guessing that it's some kind of Gaza-as Warsaw-ghetto type comparison. Still, he gets the point.

So...the comments. It starts off with a mild "Would you mind elaborating on the policies of Israel you disagree with and what you mean by "they're becoming what they oppose"?", but from then on it's pretty much all downhill: MEMRI's totally unreliable and biased...What the Israelis say about the Arabs is much worse...Any hatred of the Jews is purely a reaction to what the Jews are doing. There's no criticism of Islam beyond a constant repeating of the view that all religions are equally bad, and Christianity is a whole lot worse. Even those trying to resist the flow of the comments - and there are a few - preface their remarks by saying how they're no friend of Israel, but, or yes, Israel commits terrible crimes, but.

By about 100 comments in, all pretence has vanished:

"Jewish asshole. Can't spend time thinking about how much of an asshole you are, can you, jew."

"Fuck Israel."

Or this:
Professor Myers, you have my respect, gratitude and admiration as an atheist. However, the Israeli's treat the Palestinians the same as the jews were treated by the NAZI's.
Is it possible that your job is on the line if you say anything against Israel, Zionists or Jews. I think you may have been notified because you seem to favor Israel.
Sir, please show a similiar video of Israeli's insanity so we will know you are against all hate and villifacation.
Keep up the good fight and thank you.
Antisemitism still thrives? You bet.

[I should perhaps make clear that I'm not holding PZ responsible for the comments on his site. He's said before that he's not interested in censoring or deleting them, and anyway I think he's off in Mexico at the moment]