In what should have been a well-researched piece, The Economist recently provided its readers with an A-Z glossary on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, the “glossary” is rife with inaccuracies, omissions, and flat-out mistakes that mislead rather than inform.
Here are the most egregious examples from the A-Z list, each followed by our brief responses.
THE ECONOMIST: Gaza’s largest hospital. Israel claims that Hamas has its underground headquarters below the building, which Hamas denies. Attacking health-care facilities can be illegal under international law.
Response: Israel has exposed Hamas tunnels under the hospital. The Israeli army also said it had found “weapons, ammunition, grenades, military equipment disguised in medical containers, and anti-tank explosives” at the site, and released some images of these. When healthcare facilities are used for terror activity, they lose their legally protected status under international law.
Arab Revolt in Palestine
THE ECONOMIST: In 1936 unrest broke out in the British mandate of Palestine amid frustration at rising Jewish immigration in the wake of Britain’s Balfour Declaration. By the summer of 1939 the uprising had been suppressed—but Britain later faced Jewish revolts and after the second world war handed the problem to the United Nations, which voted to partition the land.
Response: The Arab Revolt was not a mere “unrest.” It was a wide-scale, violent Palestinian uprising fueled by leadership incitement against Jewish immigration. More than 400 Jews were killed by Arabs during the revolt. Ignoring these facts creates the false impression that it was an anti-colonial rather than an anti-Jewish revolt.
THE ECONOMIST: Peace deals signed after the first Arab–Israeli war of 1948. Israel and Arab states divided up the land. No Palestinian state was created; Egypt controlled Gaza while Transjordan (later Jordan) formally annexed the West Bank.
Response: The 1949 Armistice comprised of ceasefire agreements between Israel and its belligerent Arab neighbors, not peace deals. The armistice line (not a permanent border) is where the Israeli and Arab armies happened to be when the fighting was halted.
THE ECONOMIST: Israeli prisoners held by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On October 7th 2023 around 240 people were taken by Hamas from Israel to Gaza.
Response: Calling hostages “prisoners” suggests they have been detained or imprisoned under some form of legal framework. It also paves the way to morally equate them to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails over violence and terror charges. But the Israeli hostages, children included, were not prisoners nor were they “taken” by Hamas to Gaza. They have been brutally kidnapped from their homes and other places after witnessing horrific atrocities inflicted on their families and communities. According to accounts of released hostages, they have been terrorized and suffered starvation and abuse while in Hamas captivity.
THE ECONOMIST: The modern state of Israel was established in May 1948 by Jewish leaders after the withdrawal of Britain from Palestine. The name also refers to a kingdom in ancient Palestine comprising the lands occupied by the Hebrew people.
Response: The phrase “ancient Palestine” suggests that a nation known as Palestine existed in the past, with the word “ancient” giving the impression that this nation has deep roots in the region, and thus has a natural claim to be revived in the form of a modern state called Palestine. This is false, as there has never been a state of Palestine as today’s supporters are calling for. This phrase, as well as the word “occupied,” also subtly suggests that a Jewish presence is foreign to the region. In reality, Jews are indigenous to Israel and have had a presence there for centuries.
Israel Defense Forces
THE ECONOMIST: Israel’s army. Largely made up of reservists with a small core of professional soldiers. Led in 2023 by Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi.
Response: The word “professional” suggests that Israeli soldiers sign up for a non-compulsory army service. A more accurate word would have been “conscripted,” as these soldiers are required to complete a mandatory military service.
First Lebanon War
THE ECONOMIST: Four month conflict between Israel and Lebanon in 1982. Known in Israel as Operation Peace for Galilee. Israel invaded in order to dismantle Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation which had taken control of the south of Lebanon. The war killed thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, along with hundreds of Israeli and Syrian soldiers. The PLO subsequently moved its headquarters to Tunisia. In 1985 most Israeli troops were withdrawn from Lebanon, except for a border “security zone”.
Response: What’s omitted here is the reason for the war — the terrorist activity of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Before the war, the PLO had launched numerous lethal attacks against Israel from its southern Lebanon bases. The deadliest one was the 1978 coastal road massacre, in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were killed. Palestinian terrorists had also constantly targeted Israel’s northern communities with artillery and rocket fire. The immediate trigger for the war was the assassination of Israel’s ambassador to the UK by Palestinian terrorists in June 1982.
Second Lebanon War
THE ECONOMIST: Conflict between Israel and Lebanon between July and August 2006. Launched by Israel in an attempt to destroy Hizbullah, an Iran-backed militant group and political party which had created a “state within a state” in the south of the country. Israel imposed a naval blockade, bombed Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and invaded the south. Six years earlier Israeli troops had withdrawn from the security zone established in 1985.
Response: Again, the reason for the war is omitted. Israel retaliated against a Hezbollah attack in which three soldiers were killed and two others kidnapped, while a barrage of rockets was fired at Israeli territory on July 12, 2006. The terrorist group had been constantly attacking Israeli forces, despite their withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
THE ECONOMIST: Brief armed conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours in June 1967. Israel tripled its territory, capturing the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai peninsula. Israel has since moved to build Jewish settlements on some of the land occupied during the war.
Response: The entry makes Israel look like the aggressor in an unprovoked war. In fact, this was a war of self-defense. Arab armies were amassed on Israel’s borders in preparation to attack and destroy it, and Egypt had closed the Straits of Tiran, a strategic supply route for Israel. Moreover, Israel had been constantly subjected to terrorist attacks from the West Bank. And while the armed conflict was “brief” in the sense of its timeframe, its results were seismic for the region.
THE ECONOMIST: In October 1956 Israel invaded Egypt, capturing the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip. The conflict was planned in collusion with Britain and France in order to allow them to regain control of the Suez Canal which they had run until Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdul Nasser, nationalised it in July 1956. America was outraged and pushed Britain to abort the mission. In December 1956 the Israelis withdrew from Sinai and in March 1957 they withdrew from Gaza.
Response: The Economist fails to mention that Israel’s main goal in the Sinai operation was the eradication of the Palestinian “Fedayeen” based in Sinai, who had terrorized Israeli communities since the beginning of the 1950s. It also fails to mention that Egypt had illegally closed the Straits of Tiran in 1955. Instead, it makes Israel look like a co-conspirator in a colonial war.
THE ECONOMIST: Israeli-occupied territory run in part by the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians view it as the core of their would-be state. Right-wing and religious Israelis regard it as their ancestral territory, with many biblical sites, and are pushing for Israel to annex it in part or entirely. Home to increasing numbers of Israeli settlers.
Response: The area is presented as the object of two competing worldviews, without mentioning the fact that it actually is the ancestral Jewish homeland, known also as Judea and Samaria. Such phrasing undermines the validity of the Jewish claims to the region.
THE ECONOMIST: A movement founded by Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian Jew, with the aim of creating a Jewish homeland. In the 1920s the movement was dominated by socialists, who went on to establish the state of Israel on socialist principles. In more recent years religious Zionism, an offshoot, which regards Zionism as a fundamental component of Orthodox Judaism, has become a powerful force.
Response: The aim of Zionism was to establish a state for the Jews in their historic homeland, not to create a Jewish homeland. It is clearly stated in Herzl’s book, The Jewish State. Presenting Zionism’s core idea as an out-of-the-blue creation undermines the very basis of the Jewish national movement.
The Economist was right to publish an A-Z explainer on the Arab-Israeli conflict. News consumers need basic information on complicated issues. But this is exactly why such efforts should be performed with extra care. When every word matters, when every mistake tilts the narrative, when every entry is loaded, The Economist should have known better.
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South Dakota Passes Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism
South Dakota’s state Senate passed on Thursday a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating anti-Jewish hate crimes.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) already adopted the definition, which has been embraced by lawmakers across the political spectrum, via executive order in 2021. This latest measure, HB 1076, aims to further integrate the IHRA’s guidance into law and includes the organization’s examples of antisemitism. It now awaits a vote by the state House of Representatives.
“As antisemitism continues to rise across America, having a clear and standardized definition enables a more unified stance against this hatred,” the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), said in a statement. “We appreciate Governor Kristi Noem for making this legislation a policy goal of hers, strengthening the use of the IHRA Working Definition in South Dakota through legislation, following the December 2021 adoption via executive proclamation.”
CAM called on lawmakers in the lower house to follow the Senate’s lead and implored “other states to join the fight against antisemitism by adopting the IHRA definition, ensuring the safety and well-being of their Jewish residents.”
First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations.
Widely regard as the world’s leading definition of antisemitism, it was adopted by 97 governmental and nonprofit organizations in 2023, according to a report Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Antisemitism Research Center issued in January.
Earlier this month, Georgia became the latest US state to pass legislation applying IHRA’s guidance to state law. 33 US States have as well, including Virginia, Texas, New York, and Florida.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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Columbia University Sued for Allowing Antisemitic Violence and Discrimination
Columbia University allowed for antisemitism to explode on campus endangering the welfare of Jewish students and faculty, StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice and Students Against Antisemitism (SAA) alleges in a lawsuit announced on Wednesday.
Filed in the US District Court of Southern New York, the complaint recounts dozens of reported antisemitic incidents that occurred after Oct. 7 which the university allegedly failed to respond to adequately because of anti-Jewish, as well as anti-Zionist, bias.
“Columbia refuses to enforce its policies or protect Jewish and Israeli members of the campus community,” Yael Lerman, director of SWU Center for Legal Justice said on Wednesday in a press release. “Columbia has created a pervasively hostile campus environment in which antisemitic activists act with impunity, knowing that there will be no real repercussions for their violations of campus policies.”
“We decline to comment on pending litigation,” Columbia University spokesperson and vice president for communications told The Algemeiner on Friday.
The plaintiffs in the case accuse Columbia University of violating their contract, to which it is bound upon receiving payment for their tuition, and contravening Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. They are seeking damages as well as injunctive relief.
“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews, “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds after the tragedy, violating the school’s code of conduct and never facing consequences, the complaint says. Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”
300 faculty signed a letter proclaiming “unwavering solidarity” with Massad, and in the following days, Students for Justice in Palestine defended Hamas’ actions as “rooted in international law.” In response, Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, opting not to address their rhetoric directly, issued a statement mentioning “violence that is affecting so many people” but not, the complaint noted, explicitly condemning Hamas, terrorism, and antisemitism. Nine days later, Shafik rejected an invitation to participate in a viewing of footage of the Oct. 7 attacks captured by CCTV cameras.
The complaint goes on to allege that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.
More request to the university went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while Students for Justice in Palestine held demonstrations. The school’s powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events whole no one explained the inconsistency.
Virulent antisemitism at Columbia University on the heels of Oct. 7 was not a one-off occurance, the complaint alleges, retracing in over 100 pages 20 years of alleged anti-Jewish hatred at the school.
“Students at Columbia are enduring unprecedented levels of antisemitic and anti-Israel hate while coping with the trauma of Hamas’ October 7th massacre,” SWU CEO Roz Rothstein said in Wednesday’s press release. “We will ensure that Columbia University is held accountable for their gross failure to protect their Jewish and Israeli students.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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University of California-Los Angeles Student Government Passes BDS Resolution
The University of California-Los Angeles student government on Tuesday passed a resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as false accusation that Israel is committing a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
“The Israeli government has carried out a genocidal bombing campaign and ground invasion against Palestinians in Gaza — intentionally targeting hospitals universities, schools, shelters, churches, mosques, homes, neighborhoods, refugee camps, ambulances, medical personnel, [United Nations] workers, journalists and more,” the resolution, passed 10-3 by the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC), says, not mentioning that UN personnel in Gaza assisted Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.
It continued, “Let it be resolved that the Undergraduate Student Association of UCLA formally call upon the UC Regents to withdraw investments in securities, endowments mutual funds, and other monetary instruments….providing material assistance to the commission or maintenance of flagrant violations of international law.
The days leading up to the vote were fraught, The Daily Bruin, the university’s official student newspaper reported on Wednesday.
“Non-UCLA students” sent USAC council members emails imploring them to vote for or against the resolution and USAC Cultural Affairs Commissioner and sponsor of the resolution, Alicia Verdugo, was accused of antisemitism and deserving of impeachment. The UCLA Graduate Student Association and University of California-Davis’ student government had just endorsed BDS the previous week, prompting fervent anticipation for the outcome of Tuesday’s USAC session.
Before voting took place, members of the council ordered a secret ballot, withholding from their constituents a record of where they stood on an issue of monumental importance to the campus culture. According to The Daily Bruin, they expressed “concerns” about “privacy” and “security.” Some members intimated how they would vote, however. During a question and answer period, one student who co-sponsored the resolution, accused a Jewish student of being “classist” and using “coded” language because she argued that the council had advanced the resolution without fully appreciating the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the history of antisemitism.
“As a Guatemalan, …my country went through genocide,” he snapped at the young woman, The Daily Bruin’s reporting documented. “My family died in the Guatemalan Mayan genocide. I understand. I very well know what genocide looks like.”
Other council members voiced their support by co-sponsoring the resolution, which was co-authored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that has held unauthorized demonstrations and terrorized Jewish students across the country.
Responding to USAC’s decision, Jewish students told the paper that they find the campaign for BDS and the attempts of pro-Palestinian students to defend Hamas’ atrocities myopic and offensive.
“How can anyone dare to contextualize since Oct. 7 without acknowledging that the Jewish people are victims of such a cataclysmic attack?” Mikayla Weinhouse said. “BDS intentionally aims to divide a community. Its supporters paint a complex and century-old conflict in the Middle East as a simplistic narrative that inspires hate rather than advocates for a solution.”
University of California-Los Angeles denounced the resolution for transgressing school policy and the spirit of academic freedom.
“The University of California and UCLA, which, like all nine other UC campuses, has consistently opposed calls for a boycott against and divestment from Israel,” the school said in a statement. “We stand firm in our conviction that a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty and to the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on this campus.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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