Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Mind of the Antisemites

Zionist Juice yesterday called my attention to this line in Michael Ratner's questionable reportage from Maale Edumim:
We saw field after field of olive tree stumps, 100 year old trees that once belonged to the Bedouins that had been cut down by the Israelis—insuring that Bedouins could not stay in or near East Jerusalem.
Set aside the minor complication that the Bedouins in the Judean Desert don't plant olive trees, and certainly didn't a century ago. I know the field (not plural) he's talking about. Or put it like this: there are no such fields on the road from Jerusalem to Maale Edumim. A few miles further on down the same road, however, where Ratner may well also have been, there is one field that theoretically could be what he saw. I wrote about it late in 2007, here; at the time a Guardian reporter had written about the blackened olive trees, and it just so happened I had just taken the same road:
Most significantly, however, in both directions I looked at the two only fields that could possibly fit Borger's description of blackened olive trees. I stared at them, because they are indeed rather puzzling. Back in the 1970s, so far as I can remember, they weren't there at all: merely a parched and dusty hillside. Then in the 80s, as Jewish settlements were built nearby, someone planted them with some kind of desert crop - acacia, perhaps? I sort of thought it must have been the initiative of the new settlers, but maybe I was wrong. I didn't give it much thought - two fields out in the desert, nothing all that noteworthy. And then yesterday, I was struck by the fact that all the stumps look dead.

There was never an olive tree there, the stumps aren't blackened stumps of them, and anyway, what's the connection between Maaleh Edumim, some miles up the road, and those two fields? Maybe the acacia's all died of something? Maybe the owner, whoever he or she might be, stopped watering them and they died? Indeed, I don't know - but I do know that Borger's version is hogwash.
Since writing that post I've learned more about how these peoples' minds work.

More than 99.8% of the settlers have never had anything to do with Palestinian olive trees, nor committed any kind of violence against their Palestinian neighbors. Along the fringe, however, there are cases of destroying olive trees (and worse). The two communities living alongside one another, however, are never reported in the media, just as there aren't many media reports of people elsewhere living near other people. What gets reported are the unusual cases; in the case of the settlers, reports that fit the template of cruel-settlers-ruining-the-lives- of-neighboring-Palestinians will always be given attention.

Eventually this consistent distortion of reality takes on a life of its own: Settlers have a policy of destroying Palestinian olive groves. So people who come to the West Bank to observe the things they've heard of so often are eager to see for themselves, perhaps as a way of inserting themselves in the story and inflating their own importance: I'm part of history! Alas, there are many Palestinian olive groves on the West Bank, but most of them are simple groves of olive trees. Not destroyed at all. If you didn't know exactly where to look, you could criss-cross the West Bank and never see a destroyed grove. Yet the purpose of the trip is to see - so the travelers invent.

Michael Ratner certainly did. He saw some Bedouins and told they're about to be evicted. He saw a road which has been constructed by the Israelis to assist Palestinian travel from Rammalah to Bethlehem and cast it as Apartheid. He saw some rotten stumps and knew they were century-old Palestinian olive trees destroyed by the Israelis.



Anonymous said...

the way the olive tree story was first presented to me by our German public radio (dradio.de) for which we have to pay a mandatory fee was that it was Israel's STATE policy to either destroy olive trees or to uproot them on Palestinian land and replant them on Israeli land

It was one of many stories which seemed to transport so much hyperventilated hyperbole that I got curious enough to take a closer look once I had the time for it.

The amount of intentional wilful slandering/misreporting/ignorance I found wherever I dug a bit deeper probably increased my blood pressure forever. There is a "nice" German word for it: Rufmord, literally Murder of Reputation/Standing and I think, when you do it to an individual you may be taken to court for it, but when you do a bit of foreign reporting it is just a little bit of bias? About the only media outlet we have that refrains from singing that evil song is our tabloid BILD (bild.de), the one from which any aesthete abstains with a shudder until he/she has a book or so to sell.

Anonymous said...

.. and there is the belief that the ancients never ever damaged olive trees while being at war - mass slaughter yes, hacking down an olive tree no

- even if that may have been true at some point in time to my current state of knowledge that can't have been a very extended period.
But as I was still taught it in school there is at least one generation who considers olive trees as more holy than history may be justifies and keeps that love of olive trees alive. They are beautiful to look at and I hope for all the producers of the oil that the craze about the stuff keeps going but nobody moans about the destruction of a field of sun flowers (oil) or cherry trees of whatever the same way. I guess that even German oaks wouldn't raise feelings quite as high and that while Pippi Langstrumpf is considered superior reading to Odysseus . or maybe that's the reason why? Fantasizing Hyperbole beats the real stuff?

AKUS said...

Ratner's article is a perfect example of what I have characterized as the two “I”s of innuendo and invention that are the hallmark of most articles bashing Israel.

In fact, I'll add a third - ignorance.

His reportage is so biased it would take pages to demolish it in full. But at least a couple of thoughts come to mind:

1) He writes about a refugee camp with 35,000 inhabitants. That township has, I am pretty sure, been there since at least 1948 - under Jordanian rule for 20 years. The people living there, if they are descendants of 1948 refugees, are supported by UNRWA, while Jewish refugees never had UN support. The PA announced a budget of $2.78B - one would think that with that kind of money they could do something for their own people.

2) He writes about a swimming pool in Maale Adumim - but is ignorant of the swimming pools in the Palestinian areas of the WB:

E.g. - at posh hotels in Ramallah, each boasting its swimming pool:



and public pools:


W. Bank swimming pools help Palestinians brave the heat
By Avi Issacharoff

I could go on for pages.

Anonymous said...

Aren't the Bedouins historically nomadic? Do nomadic peoples plant olive trees that must mature over years?

NormanF said...

If you don't know much about the Land Of Israel or its geography, you're going to be led astray. All one has to do is read Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad to get a contemporaneous picture of Ottoman Palestine. It was a dry and desolate land with very few people, mostly uncultivated. And thus we're lead to believe that olive trees always grew there.

Anonymous said...

twain's trip was in the mid 1800. aside from the 2000 year old trees on the mount of olives the history of olive trees in the holy land is well documented. it i think the notion there were few people there @ israel's founding has been thoroughly debunked.

Darryl Dempsey said...

Is it my imagination or is there a resurgence of "anonymous" trolls on this site since the new year?

Victor said...

That new readers have found Yaacov is a good thing. I think labeling people trolls is unhelpful, unless we're interested in the type of echo chamber that Mondoweiss is.

Victor said...

I am in regular contact with Jewish farmers in several Yesha settlements. What never makes the news is the daily interactions that take place between Jews and Arabs on the ground. The two have very different notions of farming. Palestinians cultivate mostly at a subsistence level, while Jews generally aim at commercialization.

To create a commercial farming operation, you need modern irrigation, proper tilling of the soil, fertilizers, runoff management, etc. The fellahin don't do any of this. When a Jew nearby starts laying irrigation pipes, you can be damn sure that every Palestinian in the vicinity is going to go over and ask if they can connect a pipe off the main line to their own field, or to pick up some excess fertilizer or get information on pesticides.

Left by themselves, Jews and Arabs could probably live together peacefully. If that's what we want - peace - then it is achievable. Peace, however, is not the aim of most pro-Palestinian agitators, "justice" is. Justice, to them, means undoing 1948, and since 1948 will not be undone, they will continue to agitate, provoke and destabilize.

Yaacov said...

Actually, Victor,it's not even justice they want, it's the undoing of 1948 and the Zionist efforts since the end of the 19th century. They use the moniker "justice" merely because it sounds nice to Western ears. If it were truly justice they sought, it would have to be justice for both sides, meaning.... compromise, partition, and something like 1948...

Barry Meislin said...

They use the moniker "justice" merely because it sounds nice to Western ears. If it were truly justice they sought, it would have to be justice for both sides, meaning.... compromise, partition, and something like 1948...

Not so.

"Justice" for them means the end of the State of Israel.

"Peace" for them means the end of the State of Israel.

Yes, words have meanings. And these are their meanings. For them.

And they don't really care how the end of Israel is accomplished. Israel can be obliterated, or Israel can merely agree to dismantle herself.

On this issue, they're really quite flexible.

And they're very willing to wait and let attrition do its work. No agreement, no peace. No, no, and again no. While they clamor how Israel isn't willing to negotiate, and how Israeli policies and intransigence is preventing peace from breaking out all over.

Attrition. Water on rock. It's just a matter of time before the latest iteration of "The Crusaders" folds up and disappears from the shores of Palestine.

Sumud, my brothers. Resistance. Justice. Peace.

Attrition. Stalling. Refusing. Requesting the impossible. And then asking the world why, why, by what right is Israel preventing a solution? Why is Israel defying the UN? The world??

It works exceeding well. It is a masterful strategy.

And with that attrition, Israel's legitimacy weakens further and further. Israel's reputation sinks deeper and deeper. Since it's well known that it's entirely (or mostly) Israel's fault there is no peace.

(And if it's not that well known to you yet, the MSM will hammer in the message.)


The status quo. Attrition. That's fine with them. That's perfect with them. Especially since the continued "oppression" and "suffering" engendered by the lack of solution (assisted by timely terror attacks) offers them big bucks---that should be "huge bucks"---and tremendous sympathy.

Even as it corrodes the Jewish State and earns it universal opprobrium, relentless condemnation and endless disgust.

What is known by Israel's partners in peace as a "win-win" situation.

So don't look for the status quo to change any time soon. The Palestinians feel they're in the driver's seat. Countries are offering to build them their state (a state, by the way, which they don't want). Countries are falling over each other to give them cash. ("Well if they want to give us money, who are we to refuse, heh,he, but we can't be bought, nosir.")

And there's nothing (they firmly believe) Israel can do about it (except decide to dismantle itself).

(Now it would be nice that Israel, and Israeli citizens---that is, those that believe in the right of Jewish State to exist---recognize this for what it is and make a serious effort to address and tackle the immense social problems and problems of values that have been plaguing the country internally---but this, too, is a function of the war of attrition waged against her, and the feelings of deep despair that it engenders---especially in the long and vanishing wake of those heady days of "peace is around the corner".)

Of course, Israel's partners in peace would rather destroy Israel with a show of force, destruction having always been the more attractive option, and one more commensurate with their self image.

But they're not fussy how Israel disappears. Really, they're not.

Anonymous said...

thanks Barry - it is an old story - whoever stands up for his/her rights ends up as the culpable trouble maker and I wish I knew how Israel could come up with a scheme to make the world accept reality.

and I may add that from my German outpost I get the impression that the world deludes itself in ways that seem totally insane i.e. that if only Israel would comply to whatever, the Middle East would stop being an area in turmoil and something like the European Union could be established there (just as a thought experiment: do you think the US would tolerate France succeeding in creating a Mediterranean Union with itself as the domineering member state? Sarkozy had the idea and failed before the US - and Russia? and Turkey? - needed to do something about it)

(as to the European Union my trust in its durability gets shaken to the core whenever I hear news from our Eastern borders).

In my book the "old" areas of the globe will always have to live with the danger of turmoil erupting and everybody who convinces himself that there are once and for all solutions needs a head shrinker.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Bedouin are nomads by definition so they don't bother planting trees. Now when I lived at Kfar Adumim, there were a few Bedouin encampments nearby but they were not cultivating plants of any sort nor were they planting trees. They raised livestock, including camels, goats and sheep. They could trade or sell those animals and get in return vegetable products and/or money with which to buy vegetable and other necessities. So again, Bedouin as a rule don't plant trees.

Furthermore, Jerusalem is on the edge of the Judean Desert. In a desert you grow plants only with irrigation [except at oases or after unusually heavy rains].

In any case, the notion of Bedouin near Maaleh Adumim growing olive trees is bizarre. I do know that some people at Kfar Adumim did plant some olive groves in that area but these were irrigated. 100 years ago, the Judean Desert did not witness irrigation or cultivation.

If someone saw burnt olive trees, maybe they belonged to Kfar Adumim.