Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Varda Meyers Epstein's weekly column:

It's hard to understand why someone like Sarit Michaeli, the spokesperson for B'Tselem, the so-called human rights organization, continues to live in Israel, considering the fact that she sees Israel as an "occupier" of its Arab minority. I mean, if she thinks she's guilty of a crime, why doesn't she leave? 

At the same time, it's even more difficult to understand why anyone gives her a platform to spew her nonsense. Still, Alan Mendoza of JTV acquitted himself well in his interview of Michaeli.

He at least tried to pin her down, to make her admit that, for instance, Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, is a terrorist organization. He asks her once, twice, three times. But that comes later.

The interview begins with an overview of B'Tselem history and how the org has morphed from being all about the "occupation," all the time, to sometimes noticing that the other side isn't exactly playing fair. You know how it goes: gotta look balanced or no one takes you seriously. Especially since you got caught giving out cameras to people in Hebron to take that little film clip of Elor Azaria in which you MUTED THE SOUND.

Soon enough, thank God, Mendoza cuts off her blather:

Alan Mendoza: Okay, so the original goal was informational, and to bring to light human rights abuses. What's the goal today?

Sarit Michaeli: So I think over the years, the situation has changed on the ground and I think our understanding as well of the inflation of our role in the broader picture is also evolved.

(Take a deep breath. Not really, but this is going to be long.)

Sarit Michaeli: If in the past, it seemed like information is enough in order to spur Israelis on to action, to get them to oppose the Israeli occupation—which we do as the pure problem of human rights violations of Palestinians living under it—now of course we're much more nuanced I think in our understanding and we know that this isn't simply going to change purely by providing this information, but information and research is still, for the basic building block of our work but on top of that we do a lot of advocacy with Israel, with the international community, with the Israeli public, talking about the reality on the ground, talking about what it means, you know, we're actually only just a week following the 49th anniversary of the occupation, actually half a century, entering a 50th year of the occupation, and one of the key things for us is trying to explain the reality on the ground all Palestinians living under the occupation today. . .

(Someone, anyone, please write the McWhirter brothers. Surely that's a sentence worthy of a Guinness record?)

Alan Mendoza: I get you want to explain what's happening on the ground. Where do you want that to go to? What's your end point in this?

Sarit Michaeli: I mean, for us I think the key issue is that the Israeli occupation needs to end. B'Tselem doesn't say. . .

Alan Mendoza: Is that a two-state solution or a one-state solution?

Sarit Michaeli: B'Tselem doesn't provide a blueprint as to how to end the conflict. It's far beyond the limits of our mandate. Our mandate is to look at the current situation and to you know, influence Israelis and Palestinians to reach a decision on how to end the conflict between them and how to resolve it, you know, in whatever way that of course, appears to work for both sides, but also to force it to benchmarks, to human rights benchmarks.

Alan Mendoza: I understand that. You speak of human rights benchmarks. Of course it's important those are kept to. What about benchmarks on the Palestinian side? It doesn't appear you have any interest in Palestinian rights and we know, we've had many reports from Palestinian human rights activists about what happens under the Palestinian Authority. Torture, murder, things like that. Where's your comment on that?

Ooh. SNAP.

Sarit Michaeli: Well absolutely, so our website of course includes critique, not just theoretical critiques, but also information and data on the most egregious human rights violations under the Palestinian Authority but also under the Hamas regime in Gaza. We certainly view human rights as a universal issue and of course it would be completely absurd not to relate to these kinds of violations. What we try to also do is we work out what we would be effective in doing, so when it comes to the recent, for example, execution in Gaza by Hamas, to torture and various forms of denial of freedom of speech by the PA, of course we've made very clear statements about this. We've also made statements and we denounce in very categorical terms Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians are not just a violation of the rights of the Palestinians by other Palestinians, but also a violation of Israelis by Palestinians.

Say what?

Sarit Michaeli: However, as it is really an Israeli organization, the bulk of our research and our work and our effort goes at self-criticism so looking at our own government, our own army. . .

Here it comes. The big question. First time:

Alan Mendoza: Let's look at one issue. Is Hamas a terrorist organization?

Sarit Michaeli: Hamas engages in clear terrorist acts when it bombs Israeli civilians. We have denounced these actions clearly, I mean if you're referring to the attempt by a former Israeli Member of Knesset to basically smear B'Tselem's director, in order to place us in a position, to present a false image, as if B'Tselem is somehow, in any way, in support of attacks against civilians, it's simply incorrect and it is simply, basically a form of political attack against us then what can we do. . .

Second time:

Alan Mendoza: Are you prepared to call Hamas a terrorist organization? That's what I'm asking you.

Third time:

Alan Mendoza: Are you prepared to call Hamas a terrorist organization?

Sarit Michaeli: As I said, we denounce the terrorist acts perpetrated by Hamas military. We have stated that again and again. Again what you're referring to is a clear attempt by Israeli politicians, to try and present us as if we are terrorists . . .

Alan Mendoza: It's a very simple question. . .

Sarit Michaeli: . . . and of course this is simply unacceptable. . .

Alan Mendoza: . . . and you're not answering it.

Sarit Mendoza: I answered it.

Alan Mendoza: Well, it seems that you believe that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. . .

Sarit Mendoza: We have said that Hamas attacks Israelis, attacks Israeli civilians, and it bombs Israeli civilians. We've denounced these acts, clearly.

Alan Mendoza: It's a terrorist organization part of the time.

Sarit Michaeli: I've answered your question.

Actually, no. You haven't.

Sarit Michaeli: You're trying to basically present our, you know, our attitude and approach to this issue based on the framing of you know, presented by an Israeli extremist right-wing Member of Knesset when he was a radio reporter. This is the backdrop to what we're talking about. I think this notion of somehow like smearing us as like terrorist sympathizers, it's just simply unacceptable. B'Tselem has a very clear record of condemning this type of violence.

Alan Mendoza: I'm afraid that's all we've got time for. Thank you for joining us.

So as a mother of 12 kids, what this reminded me of most is the theory that you never call a child "bad." Rather, you say his actions are bad. "Jimmy, it is a bad thing to bite Susie" but never , "Jimmy, you are a bad boy for biting Susie."

In other words, B'Tselem views Hamas as an unruly child to be tamed with psychobabble. Michaeli won't characterize Hamas as a terrorist organization. She has no compunction, on the other hand, about characterizing Israel as an "occupier."

Just another example of the soft bigotry of low expectations, brought to you by B'Tselem.

(h/t Natan Epstein)

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