On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

Jewish leader’s blog too controversial for America On Line’s “The Huntington Post”?

David Harris

David Harris is Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee.  The New York Times has called the AJC, which was founded in 1906,  “the dean of American Jewish organizations.” 

So it’s not that radical of an outfit. 

But the position taken by David Harris on what is being called “the Gaza flotilla” — boats attempting to run Israel’s blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip — was apparently too extreme for the liberal editors at the Huffington Post.


He’s been blogging for years on the HuffPost, which was bought out recently by America On Line. Here’s what they themselves say about him on their own header for his blog on their pages:

However, he says they bounced his last posting back as too radical.

Just what did he say that was so offensive? And just what is going on? Has defending Israel suddenly become politically incorrect?


Here is his censored blog in full.


By David Harris 

We’re on the verge of another “flotilla” to Gaza. Estimates of the number of ships and participants vary from day to day, tending downward, but the erstwhile organizers insist that the maritime operation will take place.

Their spokesmen have been hyperactive in drawing attention to the event. After all, without coverage, they’d be denied their oxygen. And the kind of coverage they seek – idealistic humanists and peace activists determined to aid the poor, beleaguered residents of Gaza versus stone-hearted oppressors in military uniforms determined to block them at all costs – would, needless to say, portray Israel in the worst possible light.


The International Solidarity Movement, Free Gaza Movement, U.S. Boat to Gaza, and kindred spirits want the world to believe there is a strip of land called Gaza that, left to its own devices, would create the Shangri-La of the Middle East.

All its residents want are peace, harmony, coexistence, and tranquility. Some spokesmen acknowledge that Gaza has a governing authority. A very few even mention its name, Hamas, but hasten to add that it was elected democratically, so end of story. The rest don’t give it a name, as it might muddy the waters.

According to this narrative – a word particularly popular in Middle East discussions- the residents of Gaza face a neighboring oppressor, Israel, which, for diabolical reasons of its own, wants to inflict maximum harm on people whose only dream in life is to live and let live. For these spokesmen, the wealth of vocabulary in the Oxford English Dictionary fails to capture the true nature of Israel’s venality.


Enter, then, the self-described, modern-day Freedom Riders. They’re boarding flotilla ships, they suggest, to bring aid, relief, and attention to those trapped in Birmingham, Alabama, circa 1963.

George Orwell, where are you? You could have a field day with this story.

Actually, you anticipated it when you wrote about the Ministry of Truth in your classic book, 1984. What were the ruling party’s slogans on the outside of the 1,000-foot-tall building housing the ministry? Weren’t they “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength”? And didn’t the ministry rewrite history at will to ensure it always served the party’s interests?

The Gaza flotilla spokesmen are inverting the truth and rewriting history at will to serve their interests. And what are those interests? To prop up the Hamas regime in Gaza and delegitimize Israel.


While they are entitled to their own opinions, however misguided, they are not entitled to their own facts.

They cannot separate Hamas from the equation. Much as they might try, the central fact is that Hamas is key to understanding Gaza today.

Hamas is a terrorist organization. Don’t take my word for it. Check with the United States and European Union, both of which have designated Hamas as a terrorist entity.

Hamas preaches the elimination of Israel and a toxic brew of classical anti-Semitism. Again, don’t believe me. Read the Hamas Charter.

While Hamas may have been elected to govern with the PA in 2006, the first and only national Palestinian elections, one election does not a democracy make. Hamas used the ballot box to gain a foothold, then employed anti-democratic means to impose its own suffocating vision on the land. Hamas violently ousted the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007 and has ruled ever since. Because Hamas cannot reform, the much heralded “unity” agreement it signed with Fatah six weeks ago is headed for an uncertain future.


Hamas celebrates violence. It joyously speaks of jihad, martyrdom, conflict, and the ultimate destruction of Israel. It has matched its fiery rhetoric with a sustained effort to import weapons, courtesy of Iran, smugglers in the Sinai, and tunnels from the Egyptian side of the border. In recent years, literally thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired from Gaza at Israel. Why?

Israel has no claim on Gaza. To the contrary, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Soldiers and settlers alike were pulled out by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, giving local residents the first chance ever in their history to govern themselves.

Indeed, with Israel’s encouragement, a number of Jewish donors purchased Israeli greenhouses in Gaza and left them behind to help jump-start the local economy. The first reaction was to ransack them, when they could have been sources of flowers and vegetables for the local economy.


Israel has an interest in a stable, peaceful, and prospering Gaza, not a gun-toting, missile-firing, jihad-preaching entity. After all, you can change a lot of things in life, but not neighbors. Israel and Gaza are destined to be neighbors for a long time to come.

The Quartet – the U.S., EU, Russia, and UN – set three conditions for engagement with Hamas. The group must forswear violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. To date, none of those conditions have been met. Apologists for Gaza would have you believe otherwise, but Hamas’s spokesmen always undercut them. When it serves their purposes, they might briefly curtail violence to regroup and rearm, but Hamas is adamant that it will never abandon its struggle against Israel.


So, let’s be clear. The flotilla participants, whether they acknowledge it or not, are handmaidens of a terrorist regime. That regime, not Israel, is responsible for the conditions in Gaza, which may not be enviable, but are a far cry from the dire picture of starvation and stunted growth painted by the hyperbolic spokesmen.

Israel has only one concern, which is to ensure that Hamas, a declared enemy of Israel, does not get additional means to threaten its neighbor. That’s it, pure and simple.

As has been said, if Hamas laid down its weapons, there would be peace. If Israel laid down its weapons, there would be no Israel.

The flotilla participants claim their mission is nothing more than humanitarian, but, in reality, it serves the interests of a regime that espouses terrorism, peddles anti-Semitism, and praises the memory of Osama Bin Laden.

To portray themselves as the new wave of Freedom Riders is to trample grotesquely on the legacy of America’s civil rights struggle and rewrite history. Orwell’s Ministry of Truth is back.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment JohnWV

    Delegitimization? Or,how about “Israel is peace?” No, the central forthcoming topic is magnitude of the Jewish state’s punitive reparations payments to the Palestinian state.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Allan

    In 1900 the Arab population in all of Palestine, including what is now Jordan, was less than 10% of a much smaller population. The Arabs had no interest in Palestine until European and American Jews started pouring a great deal of money into the area, and now they want to steal that wealth from Israel. I am all for bombing this flotilla out of the water, and then sending the Arabs back to Syria, Egypt, or whatever hellhole they came from.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ned Ludlam

    When say, Ahmadinejed or Hamas, calls for the end of Israel they mean something significantly different than is commonly represented in conventional western media. Same goes for the “de-legitimization” movement.

    The objection is focused on the form of state sovereignty – allegedly theocratic, racist etc. The constitutional structure of the Israeli state is held to be so debased that it cannot be reformed – it must be replaced with a more suitable regime. This is how anti-Zionists frame the matter.

    In the west, to be thought to be against Israel axiomatically entails being against maintaining the current indigenous Jewish population. As in ‘If you’re against Israel you’re for killing or driving out all the Jews’. So there!

    Across all the factions, anti-Zionist groups of any sort when they advance their policy alternative axiomatically make a prominent place for an ongoing Jewish presence. They don’t have anywhere else to go and they are established on the ground so they must be accommodated. It remains a daunting task to work out satisfactory arrangements. The anti-Zionists say that continuity of Israel cannot be a default position because its constitutional premises are at the heart of those issues under contention.

    the necessary discussions cannot cannot be undertaken through the employment of the current constitutional state power configured as “Israel” inimical.

    There are mutual ‘exterminationist’ elements in both the Zionist and anti-Zionist camps. They are a predictable, almost scripted, phenomenon. They have little political throwight. Let’s keep this sideshow off the table.

    Focus on the disconnect. They mean ‘state form’ and we’re commonly thinking ‘the people of the state’.

    This is a hinge issue. The Competing Parties have walled themselves in by emotionally demonizing each other’s ‘straw-men’. A whole industry of ‘bash-the-other-guy’ stuff has emerged. Of course, the Wise Guys know that it’s a racket, but the chumps keep buying it.

    I advance no opinion as regards the Contending Opinions.

    For the Best Opinion to prevail we’ll have to stop analyzing caricatures.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    This is an area in which the US should abstain. We need the billions we send Israel more than they do. We cover for them in the UN whatever war crimes they commit, at great expense to us.

    It’s time we washed our hands of the Middle East. Leave it to the Middle Easterners.

  • Brisbane Electrician

    Palestine is rich with war history even the beginning many lives have been sacrificed due to territory reasons.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Barbara S. Reed, Ph.D.

    David Harris is the only reason I give $$$ to the American Jewish Committee. He is articulate, low key, highly knowledgeable, and
    quite decent. The Huff Po, by contrast, uses its writers by not paying them one cent for their contributions and has their cheap-shot outlook on serious matters. No real reason exists for the Huff Po to find fault with Harris’s statements.

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