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Blood libels revisited

August 31, 2009

Recent reports of Israeli organ harvesting by the Swedish Aftonbladet reminded me of my childhood in Soviet Russia. As a kid growing up in Moscow, Palestinian refugees were perceived as the epitome of human despair.  The Soviet TV would present daily reports of humanitarian crimes perpetrated by the Israeli aggressors against powerless Palestinian civilians. Although I was only six at the time, I distinctly remember the gruesome reports from Sabra and Shatila that were broadcast on the evening news day in and day out. Whenever anyone in the house would wrap a blanket around himself to keep out the chills, my staunchly Zionist mother would tell him to stop walking around like a Palestinian refugee and go get a sweater.

Today, some 25 years later, I find disconcerting resemblance between Western – especially European – reporting of events in Israel and the best traditions of Pravda’s virulent anti-Semitism. By detaching the Palestinians’ plight from its overall historical context and inflating incidents out of proportion, the media has succeeded in vilifying Israel and creating an unprecedented wave of ill feeling towards a nation that has had to defend its right to exist since day one.

The truth is the Palestinians have remained refugees for 60 years not only because the Arab states have used every trick up their sleeve to keep them this way, but also because they are better off as refugees eating off Israel’s prosperity than as citizens in just about any Arab country. In a recent article in Asia Times, Spengler presents novel analysis of the Palestinians’ “plight” based on indisputable facts.

Palestinians enjoy higher GDP, life expectancy, and literacy rates than almost any Arab nation. Truth is Palestinian refugees are far better off economically and socially than the citizens of Egypt, Syria, or Jordan. A friend of mine, a bookkeeper at a Jerusalem nursing home, recently related her surprise when two new employees, both residing at the Shuafat refugee camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem, produced gold Visa cards as means of identification. (Gold Visas are not issued routinely in Israel, unlike in the US.)

Palestinians do suffer from high incidence of violent crime, internal fighting, and confrontations with the Israeli army. But they have written that script themselves. After two intifadas and thousands of casualties on both sides, some Palestinians now find themselves longing for the “the Israeli hell.”

Unfortunately, the new brand of European freedom fighters is keeping all that off its radar. As Thomas Friedman observed in his classic From Beirut to Jerusalem, the Palestinians are the luckiest refugees ever born. And Western society has a special affinity for them, as they allow it to shrug off its conscience, as embodied by the Jews, by doing a hatchet job on Israel. Besides, vilifying Israel also comes in handy when fund raising in Saudi Arabia.

I often wonder what it will take for our neighbours from across the Mediterranean to get over their prejudices and begin viewing Israel in a more objective light. Then again, may be we should stop being surprised. After all, history usually repeats itself.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. lieba-Masha permalink
    September 25, 2009 4:14 am

    Leah, I love your article/

    • Leah permalink*
      September 25, 2009 1:32 pm


      Thank you very much!

  2. irina permalink
    September 27, 2009 3:48 pm

    Thanks a lot!

  3. irina permalink
    September 27, 2009 3:49 pm

    Great! Thanks a lot!

  4. lieba-Masha permalink
    September 29, 2009 2:41 am

    Leah, what is your e-mail? How was your Yom Kipur?

    • Leah permalink*
      September 29, 2009 5:50 am

      check my about page. it’s there.

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