Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mondoweiss: A Vipers' Nest of Antisemites

While not blogging anymore, I still do dabble in some of the old observation of the online pro-and-con Israel scene. Mondoweiss has been of particular interest. Set up about 8 years ago by two American Jews, Philip Wiess and Adam Horowitz, to object to the policies of the Bush Administration, it has transformed over time to one of the main homes of the stridently anti-Israel camp.

By my lights, the Jews have the right (like everyone else) to define themselves and their needs, and they've defined themselves as a nation with the need for a nation-state in Israel. Not all Jews, of course, but a very large majority, and that's enough. Ergo, anyone who rejects the Jews' rights to define themselves and to insist on having a nation-state, is antisemitic (though I'm willing to quibble about the possibility of the Palestinians rejecting Israel without being antisemitic - but only they). Seen that way, Mondoweiss is clearly antisemitic, since its tone and over-arching theme is rejection of Zionism and Israel. The more one looks, however, the worse the picture becomes. Someday, a century or two from now, when someone sits down to write the history of Jew-hatred in the early 21st century, Mondoweiss will be a fine case study, worthy of a full section.

The site offers six or ten posts a day. Weiss writes often, Horowitz rarely (he apparently runs their Twitter account which I don't follow). There's a clutch of other regular writers, and a larger group of people who will appear there occasionally; some of them run their own sites or publish elsewhere and are cross-posted at Mondoweiss. The total number of people who have ever posted there is probably a few hundred. There are many dozens of active commenters. Interestingly, many of those who've offered any information about themselves are retirees; the number of students seems much smaller than you'd expect. There are some Canadians Germans and Aussies, but most commenters seem to be Americans. Ah, and then there are the Israelis: some anarchists and extreme far-left ones, and some mainstream Israelis who try to argue with the locals. The latter tend not to stay too long, since their mission is wholly futile: no-one is in the Mondoweiss community to discuss. Their goal is quite different.

The point of Mondoweiss is to get rid of Israel. The site is of course an avid supporter of BDS. While occasional lip-service is given to the two-state solution as a way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, any regular reader will understand this is not something to strive for, as it won't resolve the basic injustice of Israel's existence. Moreover, the conceit of the blog is that it is actively promoting its goal, by spreading the truth about Israel, and slowly chipping away at the stranglehold the Zionists have on the media and public discourse. Weiss writes regularly with considerable excitement about how the public discourse is changing; he's always on the outlook for new converts to his positions or anything near them, and to read him you'd think there's a sea-change underway so that soon Israel will lose its support in America, and soon thereafter, shorn of its only ally, it will crumble away. The Israelis, aware of the precariousness of their enterprise, are eternally bolstering their control of the discourse, because without it they're lost; but they're losing it anyway because the only decent way to understand the Middle East is to hate Israel and this decency is already proving itself more powerful than the Zionist tricks to keep it at bay.

You recognize the old-fashioned antisemitic trope about the Jews who pull the strings behind the facade which hides reality. Even as I write this Weiss has posted about the 35-year friendship between Mitt Romney and Binyamin Netanyahu; I don't see how his piece can be read except as part of a conspiracy theory. Truly frightening, those Zionists, surrounding a future potential American president with their agents when he was only in his 20s.

Being against the existence of Israel isn't particularly exceptional. One of the interesting things about Mondoweiss is the tremendous amount of work they invest in their animosity. I happen to think the Saudi regime is ghastly, but I'd never spend hours every day digging up dirt on it. The Mondoweiss people do that, first by avidly seeking any remotely negative story about Israel, then by seeking the ones which aren't true, then by damning anyone who casts doubt with terms such as hasbarists, Ziobots (I assume these are part Zionists and part robots), and of course genocidists. In order to collect all that dirt they've got to pass by the occasional positive story too, but these never get linked to or even alluded to unless to demonstrate how yet another journalist has succumbed to the threat of Zionist censorship. The result is a depiction of reality which has at best a glancing relationship with the real world, but these folks aren't interested in the real world. In their world, Zionists are easily the worst group of humans, they purportedly hate all Palestinians, they enforce the most cruel policies possibly on them, they steal from-, degrade and kill Palestinians, on a daily basis. You read Mondoweiss regularly and the force of hatred towards Zionists becomes overpowering: no normal decent person could have anything but the deepest contempt for such a gang of deceitful violent criminals. As a commentor named "American" recently wrote:
The thing about the zionist is they attack even those who help them. They turned on England, calling it “worse than Hitler’ because England tried to uphold the immigration quotas agreed to. They demonize the UN that created their state for them.
Everyone, without exception, who has ever had anything to do them has regretted it….the US will too in the end. They are vipers who need to be decapitated.
Comments at Mondoweiss are moderated, so that one could have been deleted - but wasn't. And why would it be? It merely states what is obvious to the locals. Any attempt to argue with them will either be blocked by the same moderators, or derisively laughed off the screen. If a sane commenter has made a reasonable point which gets past the moderators, the locals will dig up a dozen spurious links to disprove it: the value of links being not their veracity, or the trustworthiness of their sources, but their usefulness to the party line. Links which are not useful - you guessed it: they're written off as hasbara lies.

Interestingly, the Mondoweiss community not only has no interest in the lives of real Israelis, it also has no interest in the lives of real Palestinians. Their point is to hate Israel and damn it, no matter what; the possibility that there are Palestinians who live alongside Israelis, interact with them, and even could imagine living with them in peace, is a thought never contemplated. I have Palestinian staff members, colleagues and friends; none of them could remotely fit into the Mondoweiss world. The methodology also has the odd result that according to Mondoweiss, Israelis and Palestinians are all boring cardboard figures, with none of the complexities, complications, shades of grey, frustrations and successes of real people. The very parts of the human story which make it worth following are all dropped, to be replaced by detestation (towards Israelis) and patronizing pity (towards Palestinians).

I'll complete this very partial list of malicious methodology with two links from the Resources page of the website, the part where the editors have collected the basics about their topic. Obviously, they've got a paragraph about the so-called Dalet Plan, which in the mythology of Israel's enemies was the 1948 plan to expel the Palestinians, and which serious scholarship has long since demonstrated was a limited tactical military move formulated in March 1948 in response to developments in an ongoing war which the Arabs had launched:
Khalidi, Walid, "Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies p14.
Drafted by members of the Haganah under the guidance of David Ben-Gurion, and carried out by Israeli para-military groups during 1947-8, Plan Dalet is a military blueprint for the Palestinian Nakba. The document emphasizes the need to secure territory both inside and outside of the 1947 Partition Plan, and provides detailed instructions for the forcible transfer of the Palestinian population, establishing the conditions for a Jewish national state.
You'd expect a resource section explaining a basic Israeli document to link, you know, to an Israeli document, but if you follow the link behind that explanation you'll reach an Arab website with an English version; I searched in vain for anything at all about the Dalet Plan, dishonest or honest.

Then there's an item on their list of resources called "Creating 'unrecognized' villages and home demolitions":
Planning and Building Law 1965, 5725—1965." Knesset 14 July 1965.
The 1965 Planning and Building Law is a set of codes, including legal restrictions to Palestinians on building permits, and land use. The law allows for the Israeli government to transfer privately owned Palestinian land to the state, and requires any unpermitted building to be demolished at the owners’ expense.   All current home demolitions in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories are carried out under the tenets of this law.
This paragraph actually does have a link to an (English version) of an Israeli law, so it looks convincing. Unless you actually look at the law, as I did. It's 67 pages long, and never remotely says what Mondoweiss says it does. As a matter of fact, the very word Palestinian never appears, nor does the word Arab, nor Minority (terms the sneaky Israeli legislators might have used to hide their true intentions). The word Palestine appears only in the footnotes, citing some British laws from before 1948.

Summary: There may be tens of thousands of loyal Mondoweiss readers - an unimportant demographic, but an interesting sociological and historical group. There is no possibility for discourse between them and us, only invective from their side, and head-shaking from ours. Yet they fit comfortably into ancient traditions of Jew-hatred, and thus their potential significance shouldn't be shrugged off. It's important to keep in mind that the free and pluralistic society of the West also harbors such ugly forms of thought.


Anonymous said...

3 posts in as many days? Do I see a trend?

Anonymous said...

Dammit Yaacov, I think the reasonable side of the debate needs you more than our wonderful little country.

Still miss you very much.


Empress Trudy said...

MondoW is little different from 972Mag, or Glenn Greenwald @ Salon or any article about the mideast or West Asia at Huffington Post. Weiss I think is the US's version of Mark Elf, more or less. That Mondo had the backing of the magazine "The Nation" for many years allowed them to devote full time efforts to their agitprop. And now that seemingly The Nation has dropped them, Mondo probably gets its funding from PressTV. Someone should look into that.

Bella Center said...

This is why you need to come back to regular posting. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Re: "American" on mondoweiss: He claims to have "waken up" to Israel when he saw footage of "Israeli snipers" shooting a Palestinian boy in his father's arms 12 years ago. In other words, the false France 2 report on the shooting of Mohammed al Dura has duped him.

Empress Trudy said...

To be fair, Mondo is no different from the psychotic ravings of Glenn Greenwald's anarcho fascism at Salon nor any article about anything vaguely related to the Mideast or West Asia at Huffington Post.

Stop BDS Park Slope said...

Great post, Yaacov. You left out one detail. The writers constantly equate Israel with Nazi's, Gaza with Warsaw, the Occupation with the Shoah.

I can say from experience, having just taken on a group of BDSers (and winning, hurrah!), these people have a pathological confirmation bias problem coupled with total cognitive dissonance.


What.about.the.Arab.lobby? said...

"...the value of links being not their veracity, or the trustworthiness of their sources, but their usefulness to the partly line. Links which are not useful - you guessed it: they're written off as hasbara lies."

You have put your finger on what I find is the most illogical trait of the Mondoweissers. They don't care if something is true or not. If you make any comment which is pro-Israel, they greet it with, "You're lying; all Zionists lie."
They don't bother to come up with a counterargument.

It's enough for them and their supporters to condemn your fact as "Hasbara" which means they ignore it.

Anonymous said...

American has also insinuated that the 'you know whos' were responsible for anthrax attacks.
Of course, this comment went unchallenged by the Mondoweiss regulars.

Benjamin said...

I used to think Mondoweiss was a nest of vipers as the post said. Now, though, it reminds me of the old crowd of die-hard Confederacy supporters we have in the United States. Like Mondoweiss, the pro-Confederates constantly rail against anything that dares threaten their historical vision; Mondoweiss vs. Arab antisemitism, Confederates vs. actual American secession laws. They see a conspiracy of 'agendas' plotting against their movement to hide the 'truth', (minority right groups and 'hasbarists', respectively). And they seem to promulgate a bygone area of unicorns and chocolate rivers if only their side had won/wins.

Essentially, they're pathetic ideolouges who are invigorated by every scrap of what they consider 'progress'; I enjoy looking at the both to see their narrow, paranoid worldview.

Unknown said...

I had a small win against Mondoweiss.

I posted as Bing Bong. The thread is a bit of a mess but I hope you get the gist.


Anonymous said...

Quite well done. I salute you, Bing Bong! Your points maintain integrity, but the Mondo posters are SOOO persistent in re-hammering their treasured convictions, which are likely created by processes as compromised as the one you expose in that thread.

Harry Abrams said...

Good job Yaakov. I spent a bit of time at Mondo, and as you say it is a polemical toilet run by kinky self hating Jews. If the editors don't like your response no matter how polite, they simply won't post it. Especially after several of these cranks have demanded links to prove any assertions you've made.

Anonymous said...

The pathology of the mondoweiss writers is horrifically fascinating to me.

I'm curious: are there blogs written by, for eg., Italians who do nothing but agitate for the destruction of Italy, citing Italy and the Vatican as the centres of global mafia and oppression, etc.?

Or how about Buddhists spewing venom against other Buddhists exclusively, and so on.

In other words is Jewish self-hatred of this sort a unique phenomenon.

It seems to me many of the key drivers of anti-semitism have been and are Jews. Don't they understand the elementary truth that the fires they set will consume them and their families as surely as any other Jew.

And if their actions -- the consequences of their inflammatory rhetoric -- are endangering the lives and welfare of the Jewish people, doesn't it then become moral, even a moral imperative, to shut them up?

It took me a long time to find this blog, and I'm glad I did. The article was excellent and more like it are needed. The sad part is that I had to wade through google search pages of venomous mondoweiss propaganda to find it, and most won't bother, most would be sidetracked into the venom.

Therefore please post more on them. Maybe a Mondoweiss Watch site could be set up.

MondoTruth said...

MondoWeiss watch site MondoTruth on ongoing Jew hatred and anti-semitism of site mondotruth.tumblr.com

Hound said...

I used to post comments at Mondoweiss, and it was a truly nauseating experience like no other. Although they certainly did try their damnedest to mask their true feelings under a fake veneer of "intellect", "integrity", and "humanitarian concern", the Jew hatred was just so palpable, so venomous that it made me sick to my stomach. After about three days, I'd had enough and I bolted. I'd rather listen to David Duke than the disgusting, vile, and dare I say evil cretins at Mondoweiss. At least DD is HONEST about his antisemitic and generally right wing tendencies, unlike these frauds.

Overall, sites like Mondoweiss are very dangerous (but not for the reasons they are hoping for) and something needs to be done about it. A Mondoweiss Watch of some sort is definitely the best means of combating their hate propaganda. If only I had the time/patience/know-how to create one.