The Washington Post today ran this miserable piece "Why do human rights groups ignore Palestinians’ war of words?" by the founder of Human Rights Watch Robert Bernstein. It is nearly impossible to get a rebuttal published in the Post. A brief response below.
"Two dominant forces have defined Arab nations in modern times: autocratic leadership that has denied basic freedoms to its own people, and a deeply ingrained and institutionalized anti-Semitism, centered on a hatred of Israel," Bernstein wrote. "This is particularly true in Gaza, the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran," he added.
Judging by his poorly argued article full of stereotypes, Bernstein could be excused for his mistake. He is not aware that neither Pakistan nor Iran are Arab. But were where the Post's fact-checking editors to let such a grave mistake find its way to their pages?
After talking about "Arab nations" in a sweeping manner, accusing all of them of cultivating of a culture centered around "the hatred of Israel," Bernstein tries to lump Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the radical Arab elements like Hamas and Hezbollah, even though Abbas and these two groups are archenemies. Bernstein wants to undermine Abbas's application to the UN for Palestinian statehood. He writes: "[W]hile portraying himself to the West as a man of compromise, Abbas said flatly last October that 'we refuse to recognize a Jewish state."
In the website version of the article, Abbas's quote is linked to a youtube video, posted by MEMRI, of a sound bite from Abbas in which he actually utters these words. But Bernstein takes Abbas's words out of context. In the video, right before saying "we refuse to recognize a Jewish state," Abbas said "we are not the party to address" on this matter. This makes more sense. What Abbas was trying to say was that he and the Palestinian Authority had no capacity to say whether Israel qualifies as a Jewish state or not. Let them go to the UN and get such recognition, he told his interviewer.
Abbas did not mean that he was opposed to the creation of the state of Israel or that he had abandoned the two-state solution, which he was fighting for – against Israel's objections – last week at the UN. Abbas simply said that he was in no position to say whether Israel is Jewish or not. That would be Israel's business. But Bernstein does not care. He wants to implicate Abbas with the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah in order to undermine his quest for Palestinian statehood.
At any rate, the article is poor. It takes minor incidents and blows them out of proportion to show that every Arab hates Israel. In the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen, there has been no expression of any hatred of Israel (such as flag burning) in any one of the thousands of still ongoing protests. The only such incidents happened in Egypt when soccer hooligans assaulted the Israeli embassy, twice, and even those shameful Egyptian acts came in the aftermath of the killing of Egyptian troops on the border with Israel. The Egyptian assaults on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo were denounced by scores of Arab officials and intelligentsia, a stance that clearly did not find its way to Bernstein's article, MEMRI videos, or the Post's pages.