“What often happens to Israel’s Critics, 1”

To be honest, I like how he starting to qualify himself. Now he’s using the word “often,” perhaps because someone pointed out his comment

[…] deemed an anti-Semite. This is the fate of most goyim who question the Israeli government on any grounds in Washington, so I cannot complain (at least I am not called a self-hating Jew as most Jewish American critics of Israel’s government are).

But what often happens to critics of Israel, both Jewish and non-Jewish, is that they don’t do self-critical and hence self-protective research before making their claims.

Sullivan is quoting a Hari column that is over a year old, referring to a drubbing Hari got for a scurrilous op-ed about Israel’s 60th anniversary. It quickly segued into an accusation that Israeli settlers have flooded Palestinians with their feces in untreated sewage and then into a fraudulent quote from Ben Gurion about a deliberate policy to eject Palestinians in 1948, and then back to sewage.

Sullivan cites Hari’s shrill self-martyrization with complete confidence, feeling no obligation to check the facts beforehand. Hari delivered very trumped up counter-charges in response to the “smearing” he alleged by the two major pro-Israel press watchdog/gadfly groups. Their criticism contained no accusation of antisemitism but only of animus and unfairness against Israel. The Dish:

Johann Hari recounts his own experience at the hands of a variety of intellectuals whose fundamental desire is not to engage in debate about Israel and Palestine, but to control the debate with smears and character assassinations.

Note Johann’s credentials as a writer and reporter, whose brave and extensive record exposing vile Islamist anti-Semitism cannot be denied.

There are two problems here. (1) Hari’s fundamental desire was to avoid debating about facts and instead to cast aspersions. His opposition wanted to debate the facts and cast aspersions. (2) There is a difference between antisemitism and unfair criticism of Israel, you know. The Dish is starting to recognize it less than Alan Dershowitz.

In fairness, Hari has indeed spoken out against antisemitism in the lion’s dead of radical Islamists, a fact on which he prides himself. But Hari enjoys taking a side precisely where and when it is bound to agitate a group of voices and produce blowback that gratifies him, a tendency that transcends his human rights commitments.

It is unfortunate that Andrew chooses to take his friend at face value instead of doing his own journalistic evaluation of ethics, as he did with the recent book Game Change, about which Andrew noted

Full disclosure: I am an old friend of [the co-writer] Heilemann and like and respect him immensely. But it’s my role to ask uncomfortable questions.

Just because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is involved, or an accusation of a Israel Lobby, doesn’t absolve the usual process of “asking uncomfortable questions.” A major value Andrew professes about his criticism of Israel support is that he does it so as not to engage in double standards, correct?

Since Hari vainly suspended the need for self-criticism — he actually posted the false quote before, whereupon it was roundly debunked — he got himself into a situation that doesn’t reflect well on his journalistic ideals. Now that Andrew has instantly taken Hari’s word, it doesn’t reflect well on him either.

The worst CAMERA and HonestReporting do is a initial comparison of Hari’s sewage libel about Israeli settlers and the “poisoning the wells” libel about Jews. The two groups did not say he is, as Hari maintained,

an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh

The well thing is reaching, and in any case, completely unnecessary to support the claim that Hari’s column attempted to dodge facts, use falsehoods and smear Israel.  However, CAMERA and HonestReporing were right to point to how his article has been widely disseminated in the two online media cesspits we might refer to as the “anti-Israel Lobby” and the “Jew-bashing lobby.”

For their part, HonestReporting and CAMERA seem to be doing better than Hari because all three employ ad hominem, but HonestReporting and CAMERA also employ facts … to the extent that they got Hari’s editor to write back:

Johann Hari’s column chose to focus on the untreated sewage emanating from the settlements he believes “there is a qualitiative difference between Israeli settlements, constructed illegally, pumping untreated sewage towards the occupied population, and a collapsing Palestinian Authority being unable to treat its own sewage partly because it exists under military occupation.” A columnist – who is clearly flagged up to readers as writing an opinionated take on the news – is perfectly within his rights to do this. The facts he offered were accurate; his opinions and choice of emphasis are his own, as any reader can see, and as they should be for an op-ed writer.

CAMERA and HonestReporting rest their argument on a few main points:

(1) Hari’s sole source of information about sewage is a 2004 report that found it could verify that 6% of Jewish settlements treat their sewage properly … in the evaluation of only 50% of settlements and disregarding whether sewage treatment facilities had been started that would become adequate. Hari, of course, wrote to give the impression that 94% of Jewish settlements treat their waste improperly, meaning channeling it into the inherently Palestinian soil of the West Bank.

He ignored every contrary report — one by Israel’s environmental agency was starkly contrary — and would not allude to the fact that the sole report he used put the blame for the Palestinians’ (immediate-term) waste problem on the Palestinians. It also said that they produce 75% of the waste water in the West Bank, though investing in virtually no treatment.

(2) Hari’s whole story has the catalytic detail of his physical revulsion to the scent of an Arab town, Sfalit, that he specifically blamed the Ariel settlement bloc for dumping their waste water on.  Hari ignored the simple fact that this waste that he smelled and decried as the byproduct of Israel’s wicked side came only from the Palestinian town, according to the same source that provided the report he used!

I hope that Andrew, in situations not involving Israel, would recognize this as a clear failing of journalistic ethics and as a smear technique.

(3) Hari writes:

So how did it come to this? How did a Jewish state founded 60 years ago with a promise to be “a light unto the nations” end up flinging its filth at a cowering Palestinian population?

Perfectly sober rhetoric there that does not suggest any animus or conform with anybody else’s traditional antisemitism. A bit later Hari continues, making the big connection between the “secret” of sewage “flinging” and the “secret” of “population transfer”:

When it became clear these Palestinians would not welcome becoming a minority in somebody else’s country, darker plans were drawn up. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, wrote in 1937: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”

It’s just that the historian Benny Morris, whose work Hari has used in the past, had already written the Independent when Hari put the quote in an earlier column. Morris wrote then:

Hari quotes David Ben-Gurion as saying in 1937: “I support compulsory transfer … The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.” The first part of the quote (“I support compulsory transfer”) is genuine; the rest ( ‘”The Arabs will have to go … such as a war’”) is an invention, pure and simple, either by Hari or by whomever he is quoting […]

Is Andrew willing to support the accusation of “filth flinging” as justifiable rhetoric, that doesn’t show a hint of bias against Israel as charged by CAMERA and HonestReporting? I hope at least he is not willing to sign off on the use of a false quote as justifiable and such a minor error that it shouldn’t cast doubt on whether Hari deserves an opinion column in The Independent.

Those are CAMERA and HonestReporting’s main points. I want to add though that Hari’s opinion piece is strewn with numerous other smaller errors, about both historical and contemporary facts.  For example, Hari wrote,

This weekend, the elected Hamas government offered a six-month truce that could have led to talks. The Israeli government responded within hours by blowing up a senior Hamas leader and killing a 14-year-old girl.

In fact, there was no peace offering but some hearsay that Hamas discussions had started (and we all know about the outcome of the 6-month “ceasefire” that went into place months later). And there was no “blowing up” of a senior Hamas leader.  What kind of journalism is this?

He was a senior Hamas leader in charge of rocket squats. The IDF went to Gaza to arrest him. One of his daughters was killed by “shrapnel”  in an exchange of bullets that occurred when the Hamas leader shot first at the IDF rather than surrender or send out his family first.  The Palestinian press wasn’t even pushing the idea that the shrapnel was a function of Israeli fire. After his daughter was killed, this terrorist commander did surrender and let his wife and other children go to safety.

In general, Hari wanted to ignore all the very available information about the terrible shape of the Palestinian sewage system that Hamas refuses to fix, that West Bank Arab towns hold back from investing in, and that corruption has devastated in both territories.  CAMERA at least cited a few good news articles about this issue, in the opportunism inherent in their counter spin.

Some were about Palestinian-Israeli cooperative projects to deal with the sewage problem that affects both communities. One article was about how Palestinian sewage threatens the safety of Israeli drinking water, and noted that the town of Sfalit — whose smell went up Hari’s nose — has specifically refused to embark on such a project because it would supposedly give legitimacy to Zionist colonialism:

When Israel constructed a sewage line down the Kana River in the northern West Bank several years ago to take waste from settlements like Kedumim into Israel proper, the Civil Administration offered Palestinian villages in the area the option of hooking up to the pipeline. The Palestinians refused, because they thought this would be tantamount to recognizing the legitimacy of the settlements. The same thing happened with a proposed sewage treatment plant for waste coming from the settlement city of Ariel and from the nearby Palestinian town of Salfit: The Palestinians would not take part in a project that required cooperation with Israeli settlements. As a result, the Palestinian towns continue to pour their sewage into rivers and cesspools.

I have to blame Hari himself for deliberately bringing on accusations of anti-Israel animus, and I’m not, I don’t think, “blaming the victim.”  Harri began his column deliberately trying to show why he can’t acknowledge any positive achievements of the Jewish state, since he is remembering the specific stench of sewage in a Palestinian town, sewage that he blamed on Israel from exporting from their own town for “flinging on cowering” masses. He then embarks on a long section of the piece he devoted to trying to make the history of Israel’s founding seem more illegitimate from several perspectives. He caps this off flagrantly with a quote he already knew Israel supporters had called him on.

I’ve been told that George Galloway yells and hangs up on callers to his office who say there was no Holocaust. Great. Thanks for your generosity, George. The fact that Hari has been publicly anti-antisemitic does not extenuate the fact that he has accused Israelis of wanting to abuse and dispossess Palestinians to a scatological extreme.  And if Hari’s deliberate return to a false quote doesn’t prove to Andrew that on Israel, his friend is a smear artist who has abandoned the vocation of journalism, what would?

Would Andrew have us believe that Hari’s sewage libel and historical libel are only the modus operandi of a “critic of Israel” with journalistic integrity who deserves no condemnation for anti-Israeli bias in the way he criticizes? And any such condemnation merely comes from a media lynch mob that Hari writes gets “sent in” after every valid criticism?

This time, Hari didn’t send in his lawyer after a person who impugned his journalistic integrity. No, this time, he decided that to preemptively strike with a  smear campaign was cheaper and more effective. Maybe he thought he earned the license to this hypocrisy of smearing CAMERA and HonestReporting, since they have annoyed over ten thousand journalists, probably at least a few of them for being genuinely responsible for ethical wrecks.

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