On the question of whether or not Israel has a right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people—a question that never arises about any other legally constituted nation with ethnic origins—I say yes, and so, thankfully, do the publications I write for. Is Israel perfect? No, obviously; no country is perfect. Is honest criticism of Israel's policies and actions admissible in media commentary? Of course.
What isn't admissible? Demonization, delegitimation and double standards when it comes to Israel alone of all the nations. Those are Natan Sharansky's famous guidelines for spotting the bright line between criticism and a level of anti-Zionism that amounts to antisemitism, and I can't think of a better set of criteria.
Where do we find this line being crossed in journalism on a regular basis? In left-wing media. I am not saying all conservative mainstream media are entirely objective on the Israel-Arab conflict. But that's not today's topic. Out of control Israel-bashing is.
On May 30, Canada's most woke broadsheet, the Toronto Star, permitted Shree Paradkar, their columnist for race and gender issues, to publish an anti-Israel column rife with falsehoods and misleading information.
The column's basic thrust was to deny Jews their claim to indigeneity in the land of Israel (delegitimation) and label them as colonizers (demonization), while celebrating the binding indigenous ties amongst Canada's First Nations, American blacks and Palestinians, even though of the three groups, only the First Nations can lay claim to internationally acknowledged criteria for indigeneity. Paradkar even holds the Black Panther movement up for admiration, because they (wrongly, by any definition of a colony) "considered themselves as living within a colony in the US."
Speaking of the thuggish Black Panthers—to digress for a moment from her complete ignorance on what "indigeneity" means—Paradkar links their struggle against their oppressors—US white supremacists—with the Palestinian struggle against their Israeli oppressors. The two situations have zero in common historically, but Paradkar sees what she wants to see: The US is the "big Satan" and Israel is the "little Satan."
Paradkar makes a special, warm mention of Kwame Ture, a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael, the "honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party," who coined the phrase 'black power.'" Nice role models you have there, Shree: Carmichael was a fullblown antisemite, who once said, "the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist," and who railed against advocates of racial harmony. Paradkar would stagger to a fainting couch if an influential pro-Israel journalist were to publicly praise a Jewish ultra-nationalist who said "the only good Palestinian nationalist is a dead Palestinian nationalist," so here is the third criterion, double standards, to round off Paradkar's profile.
Back to indigeneity. As I have noted in previous writing on this issue, indigeneity cannot be arbitrarily assigned to any present-day minority that claims it. A working definition of "indigenous people" was developed by anthropologist José R. Martinez-Cobo, former special rapporteur of the Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities for the United Nations.
According to Martinez-Cobo, indigenous communities, peoples and nations demonstrate a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that evolved on their territories. Though non-dominant and a numeric minority, they consider themselves distinct from the societies that now prevail on their lands. They are determined to inhabit and transmit their territories to future generations, while maintaining their ethnic identity, cultural patterns, social institutions and sometimes even legal systems.
Some significant factors in identifying indigenous peoples are: continuous occupation of ancestral lands, common religion or tribal system emphasizing spiritual ties to the land, common language, and a common ancestry.
So BDS supporters, who accept the (false) premise that the Palestinians are indigenous to Israel and oppressed by Jewish white colonialists, have it backward. It is the (non-white) Mizrachi Jews in continuous habitation in Israel from time immemorial who were oppressed under a series of imperial regimes, up to and including the British Mandate." Indeed, they are the opposite of colonizers. They speak the same language and revere the same sacred spaces as their ancestors did 3,000 years ago.
The real colonizers of the land of Israel were those who occupied the land during Jewish exile: the Babylonians, Romans, Christian Crusaders, Arabs, Ottomans and the British. The Jews were merely reclaiming what had been stolen from them. They would have preferred to do it without "armed struggle," which Paradkar so admires in other liberationist groups, but Judeophobic Arabs gave them no choice.
Paradkar's statement that the British "colonized Palestine" which they seized from the Ottoman Turks after World War One is historical revisionism. There was no such thing as a Palestinian people before 1964, when the KGB created the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and trained them in terrorist operations, which of course they also funded. The USSR in fact created several national liberation fronts: the PLO, the National Liberation Army of Bolivia with Ernesto "Che" Guevara as its leader (1964), as well as the National Liberation Army of Columbia (1965). All these fronts espoused militant Marxism and demonized capitalist democracies.
The KGB also trained their propagandists in emollient rhetoric. What a good student Paradkar is. The words "armed struggle" sound romantic and heroic. "Suicide bombers" and "terrorism" have less cachet, but more truth in them.
In another brazen statement of misdirection, Paradkar states: "Across Canada, thousands of people have rallied to support Palestinians, as they were newly bombed by Israel." Even the Star's editor—if indeed Paradkar is assigned one—should have balked at that canard. That's like saying that the US "newly bombed" Afghanistan in 2011, omitting the small detail of the attack on the Twin Towers. Perhaps 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilians slipped Paradkar's mind as the motivation for Israel's acts of self-defence and justified retaliation, but somebody of authority at the Star with a nanogram of journalistic honour should have insisted she fill the glaring omission.
She also omitted to mention that the Israeli military is the first and only military in human history to warn its enemy with an hour's notice of where and when its bombs will fall. And even then, Hamas does not evacuate its citizens but insists they remain in place as human shields to ensure death rates are high enough to arouse the fury of the world.
Paradkar even alludes respectfully to the debunked allegation that Israeli police trained police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was shot, implying that Israel is somehow complicit in that unfortunate death. This is a complete fabrication.
She did not quite get away with that. Following a protest by Honest Reporting Canada (HRC), a non-profit whose mission is "to ensure truth, integrity and fairness, and to combat ideological prejudice: in journalism and the media, as it impacts Israel," Paradkar's column was amended to include, "The stated objective was anti-terrorism training." Even so, that gives the impression it was nothing more than a "statement," when in fact it was the truth, and the Israeli police had nothing whatsoever to do with Brown's shooting except in Paradkar's fevered imagination. As Honest Reporting responded to the grudging change, "this edit does not redress the harm caused or mitigate matters not one iota."
Paradkar's extreme anti-Zionism cripples her professional obligation to separate rumours from established fact, as long as the rumour demonizes Israel. In a January column, she leaped on the blood libel that Israel was withholding vaccines and other forms of medical care from Palestinians, without troubling to inquire where Israel's obligations on that front begin and end. Of course Israel was vaccinating its Arab citizens. But the Palestinians in the West Back are the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. This is not a minor detail; it is the crux of the story, but the libel was apparently so delectable, she could not be bothered to check if it was true.
It is troubling that the Star allows Paradkar to give free rein to her extreme bias against Israel without any apparent editorial oversight, but all the more so as she is now an "internal ombud" at the Star, whose mandate is to "provide a safe place for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) journalists and all journalists to express editorial-related discrimination and bias concerns if they don't feel comfortable bringing it to their manager directly.'"
I wonder what Paradkar would say to a Jewish journalist at the Star who hadn't yet succumbed to Israel Derangement Syndrome, and who came to her with a complaint that she was experiencing hostility from peers because of her pro-Israel position (as for example happened to Bari Weiss of The New York Times). That of course is an absurd hypothesis. The Star has no brief against Jewish opinionists, but has plenty to choose amongst who are thoroughly infused with Israel Derangement Syndrome. Like Rick Salutin, who routinely trivializes the threat Hamas and their Iranian masters pose to Israel, and who shills for the "one-state solution," which would end Israel's existence as a Jewish nation-state.
The Star is so reflexively anti-Israel, it cannot be taken seriously by anyone seeking balance or wisdom on the Middle East, or even rational criticism of Israel's policies. The proof is in the long litany of complaints regarding errors, omissions and falsehoods the Star receives from HRC. Judge for yourself whether you think it is the Star or Honest Reporting who is more trustworthy on the Israel-Arab conflict. Here is a sample of complaints directed at The Star from HRC files over the last few months alone:
Every publication is free to operate according to its editorial bias. But in the case of the Middle East, while strong bias toward Israel may be irritating to those with a different opinion, the publication's editorials and opinion columns are not stirring up hatred against Palestinians or any other identifiable group. The opposite cannot be said to be true.
In this era, the combination of demonization, delegitimation and double standards regarding Israel in the media has a direct link to arousal of antisemitic rhetoric and even antisemitic behaviour. The Star should do some soul-searching. They need to take more responsibility for what their rabid Israel-haters are spewing in the Star's pages, at the very least exercising more fact-checking supervision over Shree Paradkar's tendentious and defamatory rants.
For readers interested in a short, but illuminating history of the Jews and their historical relationship to Israel, which contains valuable information that gives the lie to the Israel-haters, produced by therealhistoryofisrael.com, does a remarkably good job of it, and is accompanied by an annotated transcript.