Sunday, August 3, 2014

Is it time to boycott the Toronto Star again?

Entry to Iran's Holocaust cartoon contest
The Toronto Star has long held a bias against Israel. Some decades ago, the Jewish community became sufficiently fed up to boycott the paper, and then its news coverage did improve.

But one thing that never changed is the unrelenting loathing of Israel expressed by the Star’s political columnists. Month after month, Haroon Siddique, Thomas Walkom, Antonia Zerbisias, Rick Salutin, have suggested that Israel is the most contemptible place in the world.

But the Star may have hit a new low with a recent column from Heather Mallick titled “Gaza? That’s history stomping its foot.” In her bizarre column, Mallick asserts that Israel attacks Palestinian civilians and does so because, as Jews, Israelis can’t get over the Holocaust.

Where to even begin?

First, it’s a malicious lie that Israel attacks civilians. Israel targets Hamas fighters, commanders, and weapon depots. For its part, Hamas deliberately puts Palestinian civilians at in harm’s way by launching attacks from next to homes, schools, mosques and hospitals and using them as weapons’ depots.
A neighbourhood in Gaza, where Hamas launched rockets at
Israel from a mosque, a hospital, a cemetery & a playground
Israel goes to great lengths to urge civilians to leave areas coming under attack – not only leafleting from the air but also telephoning and texting individuals – extraordinary measures never before attempted by any other army in history. But while Israel begs Palestinian civilians to clear out before attacking, Hamas instructs them to stay.

As former president Bill Clinton recently noted, Hamas’s “crass strategy” is to turn public opinion against Israel by deliberately raising the Palestinian body count.  

In this moral equation, Mallick comes down on the side of Hamas. She condemns Israel phoning civilians to warn them of impending attacks, sneering at the practice as “almost beyond belief.”

Mallick needs to listen to the Palestinian ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council. On Palestinian TV, he explained why Palestinians should hesitate to join the International Criminal Court. “Each and every missile” Hamas launches against Israel “constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets,” he explained.

In contrast, he went on, “Many of our people in Gaza appeared on TV and said that the Israeli army warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment. In such a case, if someone is killed, the law considers it a mistake rather than an intentional killing, because [the Israelis] followed the legal procedures.”

As for Mallick’s accusation that Jews “lash out” at Palestinians because we can’t get over “the hurts of history” and because we’ve “learned the wrong thing” from the Holocaust, it’s a nasty slur, but not original. It’s a trend among antisemites to use the Holocaust as a club with which to beat Jews, and it's a trend that's seeped into the mainstream.

In its crudest form, antisemites accuse Jews of inventing the Holocaust  to extort money from Germans or sympathy from gullible gentiles. Alternatively Jews are pictured as the new Nazis, having been sent to “Auschwitz and Dachau not to suffer, but to learn”  as the Greek newspaper Ethnos put it in a cartoon back in 2002. 
Israeli soldier: “Don’t feel guilty, brother. 
We were not in Aushchwitz and Dachau to suffer, but to learn.” 
If Mallick would simply visit reality, she’d find Israel’s war with Hamas easier to explain. In the past nine years since Israel left Gaza, Hamas and other terrorist groups have fired 14,000 rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza into Israel, attempting to murder innocent Israelis.

Previous short wars reduced the rain of missiles, but Hamas provoked the current crisis by again sharply increasing their rocket fire. Israel’s aim is to end this ceaseless terrorism, and Hamas knows it can stop this war anytime. All it has to do is agree to live in peace. 

To her credit, Mallick calls Hamas’s rocket attacks “vile,” but she also states that “Palestinians are right to fight the Occupation.”

I’ve always supported negotiations and peace, so I’m dismayed that Mallick endorses fighting, particularly as Palestinian violence has generally been terrorism. But I’m also bewildered. Does Mallick not know that Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005? What “occupation” does she imagine Hamas is fighting?

Hamas broadcast this sermon on July 25, calling for the extermination of Jews

As for the West Bank, its ruler, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, has called on Hamas to accept a ceasefire and has publicly questioned what Hamas can possibly hope to achieve by firing rockets at Israel.

In any case, throughout its 27 years of existence, Hamas has never pretended its purpose is to end Israel’s defensive occupation of the West Bank. It’s insisted that it intends to destroy Israel and to kill Jews. Full stop. And no one watching Hamas’s actions can doubt their sincerity.

Indeed, just last Friday, July 25, Hamas broadcast a religious sermon, stating, “Our doctrine in fighting you {the Jews} is that we will totally exterminate you. We will not leave a single one of you alive.”

This is what Hamas is all about. But it’s not something you’ll ever see reported in the Toronto Star.

In her column, Mallick also asserts that terrorists will slaughter Canadians in revenge for Israel’s war with Hamas. This at least is original. To my knowledge no other pundit in the world has suggested such an unlikely scenario.

I don’t know if Mallick is really so crazed that she believe this or if she cynically hopes to make Canadians fear that Israel is putting us all in danger. But I do think it’s time to remind ourselves that whenever we buy the Toronto Star or advertise in the Star, we’re paying for that paper to continue slandering Israel. I think it’s time we stopped.

Postscript: Col Richard Kemp who spent 30 years fighting terrorists for the British army gives a good overview of the difficulties of fighting an enemy who wants to increase their own civilian body count here.

Note" A slightly shorter version of this article appeared in the Jewish Tribune.

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