Sunday, October 10, 2010

Faisal Abbas Deploys the Ethereal Standard

I guess Ishmael Khalidi's blog post on Thursday was not acceptable to the HP's editors, so they felt like they needed to counter-balance it with three strongly anti-Israel articles posted late on Friday afternoon. The first one is by brand-new HP blogger (another one) Faisal J. Abbas, who is from Saudi Arabia and has written extensively for newspapers all over the Middle East. But I am sure that it is just a coincidence that he is very critical of Israel. Sure.

Anyway, Mr. Abbas dances the dance we have seen before, where because Israel did something wrong it must not be a democracy! You can tell right from the title, "Israel's Democracy Rings Hollow as IDF Continues to Humiliate Palestinian Detainees." We have see this before with Narwani and Rosenberg, among others, but I guess the talking point still needs to be repeated. But in the process Mr. Abbas contradicts himself, it is really quite fascinating. Let's get into it.

He begins by talking about the story about the belly-dancing Israeli soldier, which by now we are all familiar. He then projects about Israel' reaction to it:
"My immediate reaction was that this will be yet another incident where we will be swamped by different Israeli spokespersons repeating over and over again that 'Israel is a democratic state, it has a democratic army' and that this issue 'will be investigated'....This is because every time some horrific incident occurs [they do that.]"
First of all, remember this comment because he quotes Netanyahu at the end of his article and (surprise surprise) Netanyahu doesn't say that. So I thought I would take a quick look, because I'm not made out of time, to see if Mr. Abbas is correct. I didn't find anything on the MFA, so maybe if Mr. Abbas would like to provide a specific example I'll take a look. Until then it sure sounds like a strawman to me.

After labeling Israel a "rogue and occupying state," he concedes that it is more democratic than "most" Middle Eastern countries. He further notes that it was Israel's media that broke the story and in many other places. But then he shifts the ethereal standard so that he can turn that into an attack:
"However, all this doesn't give Israel a 'carte blanche' to do as it pleases. On the contrary, being a 'democracy' means it is more accountable than all its neighbors and I think instead of bragging about it all day long, it should actually start behaving like a democratic state, in all aspects rather than being selective about it."
Okay, this is going to be hard to follow. Israel is a democracy, but not really, because it has scare quotes around the word. So since it is a "democracy" it is a terrible country and it is behaving very badly, but since it is a democracy it should be judged to a higher standard than all the others. It is not acting like a democracy, only pretending to be, but it should be judged like a democracy anyway.

Mr. Abbas is dancing the dance we have seen before: His overall point is that Israel's democratic nature is gone, if it ever exited. And yet he can't ignore the truth that Israel is democratic so he is forced to straddle the fence: Israel is a "democracy" so it can be judged like one...but it really isn't. Confused? Me too. Let's continue.

At this point he begins talking about his overall point, which is the conditions of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. He says that they "complain about ill-treatment, physical and verbal assaults, lack of medical attention and unhealthy living conditions." Israel's response has been to ignore them or to use spokespeople to say that they are lying. Unfortunately for Mr. Abbas, the Red Cross is not Israeli spokespeople and they check the prisons often. Unlike...say...wherever Gilad Shalit is.
"Looking at this swinging soldier's YouTube video and listening to how Abergil recently said that she saw 'nothing wrong' with the pictures she posted of herself with handcuffed and blindfolded detainees, I can safely say that its about time Israel disciplined its 'democratic' army."
Here we have confirmation bias again. And it is particularly telling that Mr. Abbas got up on his soapbox about this issue this time. Why? Well because this is the week that the story about American soldiers butchering Afghan civilians came to light. By any measure a more terrible thing than soldiers humiliating prisoners, and yet no one (certainly not Mr. Abbas) is accusing America or its army of being "undemocratic." Because the ethereal standard is clear: Israel is in a completely different category from all the other countries of the world. When I called out Mr. Abbas about this double standard, here is what he said:

Ah, of course. The classic Palsbarist defense: "When I accuse Israel of being undemocratic, I'm really just criticizing its actions!" Yeah, that doesn't work any more Mr. Abbas. But let's get back to the article:
"However, perhaps the one thing that was equally as preposterous to these two Israeli soldiers' acts is the shameful silence of the international community. Needless to say such behavior is against international treaties and accords. One might argue that Israel has been immune to criticism and defiant of UN resolutions in the past, so why bother and condemn?"
 That's a possibility. Here are some others: The aforementioned killing of Afghani civilians, Guantanamo Bay, secret prisons all over the Middle East, the 2000 Ramallah lynching, the use of secret police again in the Middle East, and innumerable cases of prisoner abuses by all armies in all wars. Maybe you don't mind being a hypocrite, Mr. Abbas, but I imagine the international community does. They are not going to criticize Israel (this time) for what their own soldiers have done many times over...if not worse.

This is getting a little long so let's close with Netanyahu's reaction to the story and Mr. Abbas reaction to that:
"Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent condemnation fails to include a call for action to make sure such behavior never happens again.
So far he has only considered the hip-shaking soldier's actions an "assault on human dignity and brought shame on the Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel."
Netanyahu also said: "Humiliating prisoners runs contrary to the values of Israel and the Jewish people".
Okay, so do you remember in the beginning of the article when he said that every time Israel does something wrong they repeat that they are democratic? Is that happening here? Is Mr. Abbas a liar? Apparently. Of course what is particularly ironic is that now that a condemnation is made suddenly it is not sufficient, Mr. Abbas now demands that Netanyahu call for it to not happen again. Guess what, Mr. Abbas? It's not like this behavior was sanctioned before this happened. Both the dancer and whats-her-name broke the rules. So let's move the ethereal standard: It's never good enough.

Mr. Abbas concludes by repeating his talking points and his attack on Israel's democratic nature. I see no reason to repeat my observations a second time. Welcome to the Huffington Post, where there is one standard for Israel and no standards for anyone else.


  1. And the more obvious point is, whatever you think of humiliating a prisoner, that's not a war crime. The enemy deserves to be humiliated when captured. But when you look at true human rights abuses in the Middle East that rise to the level of torture and massacre, the Palbarists aren't interested. You really have to blow up the Israeli's army's minor transgressions to make them look worse than they really are. And with regards to the former don't look for the anti-Zios to insist on the equal application of the law any time soon.

  2. I appreciate you taking the time to comment so extensively on my work, I would like to assure you that there is conspiracy behind me writing for the Huffington Post, and I would just like to point out that I am not that new, I've been there for a while actually.

    I would have loved to comment on all the accusations and arguments you made above, but frankly I don't have the time now as I am about to head out for my Christmas break.

    However, I assure you that comments on my work for on the Huffington Post are not censored as I post everything - so next time you wish to agree or disagree with me, please feel free to leave your comment underneath my piece and let us get us a debate going. (which is the whole point really of having an open-platform)

    Issue can never be solved if you avoid having a free-democratic debate and continue to stick to your own corner and talk only to supporters who will always say 'yes' to you.

  3. Just as I thought, you deleted my comment on your opinion - this wouldn't have happened if you had commented on one of my posts on the Huffington Post.

    I think this just says it all, what you want is to have things your way, only say and hear things that you want -- and you don't wish to part-take in a free democratic discussion.

    Once more, next time you have something to say, please feel free to say beneath my article on the Huffington Post, I assure you I don't censor things like you do !

  4. Mr. Abbas,

    Sorry about the deletion, your comments were both picked up by Blogger's automatic spam detection. Don't know why. They've been restored now.

  5. Thank you - I welcome your comments and would be happy to reply to them whenever I write any piece in the future, the point is to start a debate.

  6. Okay sounds good, thanks for the comments.


Hey guys we've started to employ a slight comment policy. We used to have completely open comments but then people abused it. So our comment policy is such: No obvious trolling or spamming. And be warned: unlike the Huffington Post we actually enforce our comment policy.