Tag Archives: hasbara

Israeli Army can’t provide me evidence of flotilla’s violent plans, story unravels (Updated)

Israelis woke up on June 27 to a front page Jerusalem Post story claiming flotilla passengers planned violence against soldiers. The story has completely unraveled.

Israelis woke up to a front page Jerusalem Post story claiming flotilla passengers planned violence against soldiers. The story has completely unraveled.

Update: Neues Deutschland reported that chief army spokesperson Avital Liebovich claimed Israel infiltrated the US boat to Gaza with naval intelligence agents, who relayed the IDF with a report of the passengers’ violent intentions. The passengers denied the claim as baseless and hysterical. The ludicrous nature of Liebovich’s claim is underscored by my interview (below) with the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, where she works. A robot translation of the ND article is here.

On June 27, the Israeli army released a highly suspect claim that passengers on the flotilla planned to kill and maim Israeli soldiers. The claim looks like yet another anti-flotilla hoax emanating from Israeli government channels.

Today, I reached an official from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit after placing several calls and an email to the office requesting proof to support the army’s claim. The official was unable to supply me with one piece of evidence. Instead, she said, “Basically there’s a trust between the IDF and reporters. And like in any other army, you know, a senior IDF source says something, people are inclined to believe it because this is somebody high up, this is somebody that has a lifetime of experience and credibility and this is like any other army.”

When I asked why anyone would report such a claim without seeing any firm evidence, the army spokesperson said, “If there were something we probably would give it but because of sensitivities we can’t expand further.”

Listen to the whole interview here:

Despite an apparent lack of evidence, the army’s disinformation found its way into top Israeli newspapers through a select group of military correspondents including the Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz. Katz reported that flotilla passengers planned to kill Israeli soldiers and that they were bringing “bags of sulfur” to attack the soldiers. “This is a chemical weapon, and if poured on a soldier it can paralyze him,” an unnamed army source told Katz. “If the sulfur is then lit on fire, the soldier will light up like a torch.” Yedioth Aharanot’s Hanan Greenberg also reported, “IDF fears flotilla activists will try to kill Israeli soldiers.” And Haaretz hyped the claim in Hebrew.

Today, the army’s story was exposed as disinformation. First, Yedioth Aharonot military correspondent Alex Fishman reported, “There is no information that there is going to be a group of radicals on board that will form a hard core of violent resistance against IDF soliders. Nor is there any clear information about live weapons that will be on board the ships.” Then, a group of Israeli government ministers accused the army of “media spin” and “public relations hysteria” for claiming the flotilla passengers planned to attack soldiers with chemical weapons.

And now, an Israeli army official (who curiously did not want to give me her name) has refused to supply me with any evidence to support the army’s wild claims. As I wrote during Israel’s disinformation spree in the wake of last year’s flotilla, nothing the Israeli army says can be trusted. Unfortunately, many reporters still accept the army’s claims on trust, while others do not even bother to investigate.

Ex-classmate of accused Israeli spy Ilan Grapel: He “was a standard campus pro-Israel…type”

Accused Israeli spy Ilan Grapel in Egypt's Tahrir Square

Accused Israeli spy Ilan Grapel in Egypt's Tahrir Square

I received the following from a friend who says he was personally acquainted with Ilan Grapel, the man Egyptian authorities are accusing of having spied for Israel:

knew the guy as we all worked for the security department at johns hopkins. the school provided these shuttles taking students/faculty/employees within a mile radius or so of campus, for safety. he was a dispatcher if i remember right, i was a driver of the vans. i’d say we were friendly acquaintances, the drivers would come into the office a couple times a night on the shift, drink slurpees with the other employees, that kind of thing. they used to call him screech, came from queens if i remember right.

was a fairly standard campus pro-israel rally attendee type in those days, when those groups were a lot louder than they are now. not really remarkable, same canned lines and the whole lot back then. other friends knew him a bit better. i don’t think bragging about wanting to join the israeli army some day was remarkable back then or even now.

last i heard about him from a friend was he got shot in the shoulder during the lebanon war in 2006 and couldn’t raise one of his arms over his head anymore, may have gotten some kind of compensation for that. there were a couple of kids i knew who had aspirations to go to the middle east in the future to learn arabic, to help “understand the enemy” in hopes of being of some use to israeli society.

i don’t want to misrepresent myself as someone close to him, i knew him casually and found him mildly interesting, but that’s about it, and it was more than 7 years ago. i think it’s entirely plausible that he was indeed motivated by nothing other than pro-israel romaticism, going to egypt for whatever reason, to talk up israel or do something that he thought would help that cause of his in some way.

Portrait of a Hasbara Troll

Etan Schwartz, hasbara troll

Etan Schwartz appears to be "E," the most annoying hasbara troll to visit my blog

In the immediate aftermath of the Israeli Navy’s massacre of 9 activists on the Mavi Marmara, I began a journalistic process of discrediting wild and fabricated claims by the Israeli Army Spokesman’s Unit about the incident. Around this time, when my blog began receiving unprecedented traffic, several hasbara trolls suddenly occupied my comments section. They have maintained a constant presence ever since, dragging the discussion into the gutter with propagandistic arguments and absurd personal attacks on me and other commenters — there isn’t much else to do when you are defending a country that behaves like Israel does. While I enjoy receiving legitimate criticism, I can no longer allow trolls to treat my blog like Moshe Katsav treated his female staffers. So I have decided to ban them all and institute a new “no trolling” policy.

I have also taken successful steps to unmask one of the shrillest, most annoying, and consequently, most pathetic, hasbara trolls; an obsessive character who writes under the handle of “E,” and who has also trolled at 972mag.com as “F.” “E” and “F” appear to be Etan J Schwartz of Englewood, New Jersey — all the evidence I have compiled points to him. Indeed, “E” has registered to comment on my blog through the email address ejs255@nyu.edu, which matches his initials and alma mater. And his IP address, 174.252.125.242, indicates that he is in or around Livingston, New Jersey, which is basically down the road from Englewood. So I am 99.99 percent certain that Etan J. Schwartz is “E.”

Schwartz has carried out a long campaign of harassment and demonization against me and others through his personal Facebook page and with letters to my editors written under his real name. In both his Facebook rants and in what appear to be his anonymous diatribes in my comments section, his rhetoric is distinguished by resentful remarks against Ashkenazi Jews. Schwartz’s anti-Ashkenazi tendencies are strange considering that he labors as a chai walla for the Ashkenazi country club known as the neoconservative movement and that he appears devoted to promoting the cause of a country controlled by an Ashkenazi elite that has historically exploited and oppressed Mizrahim. But who ever said that hasbara trolls were not conflicted, deeply damaged people?

A typical comment by "E", who appears to be Etan Schwartz, is filled with insults and innuendo

A typical comment by "E", who appears to be Etan Schwartz, is filled with insults and innuendo

A graduate of New York University who has pursued his master’s degree in International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School, Schwartz has set his sights on a career as an errand boy for the Israel lobby and neocon groups. Given all the career opportunities that are seemingly available to this young man, I find it remarkable that he seems to spend so much of his energy scrutinizing my work and polluting the comments section of my blog. Is he really that much of a loser? Doesn’t he have anything better to do? Or is he paid by the Israeli Foreign Ministry or a pro-Israel oufit to troll? (Professional hasbara trolls are some our society’s biggest losers, so both scenarios are possible and equally tragic).

According to his bio, Schwartz was a researcher for WINEP, which is AIPAC’s de facto policy arm. He also did some work for the Islamophobic huckster Steve Emerson at the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Vincent Cannistrano, a former CIA counter-terrorism operative, has alleged that Emerson’s closest allies are “Israeli funded.” Now Schwartz claims to now be a staff assistant for the Kurdistan Regional Government, an entity that neocon Cliff May recently hailed as, “The Other Israel” (May appeared to have some sort of arrangement with the KRG to produce favorable publicity).

Is someone paying Etan Schwartz to troll, or is he just a sociopathic loser?

Is someone paying Etan Schwartz to troll, or is he just a sociopathic loser?

The question is, given Schwartz’s connections to the neocon cabal, do his employers know about his apparent ongoing campaign of harassment against me and possibly other bloggers? Perhaps trolling is part of Schwartz’s job description and his obsession with me and everything I write is rooted in some rational motivation. Or perhaps he is a pure sociopath who presents a clear hazard to anyone who hires him and everyone who works in his vicinity. In this case, Schwartz’s employers should know his about his apparent hobby.

Though trolls will never be heard from at my blog again, I will continue my efforts to unmask those who have frequented this site for the sole purpose of trolling.

Etan, may the Schwartz be with you!

News from Chelm: Knesset discusses ways to pressure performers not to cancel concerts in Israel

Today in Knesset, Ronit Tirosh of Kadima (the opposition party that almost never opposes racist and anti-democratic legislation, and often sponsors it) convened a discussion in the Commitee on Education, Culture and Sport about compelling reluctant pop stars to perform in Israel. The legislators were joined by Shuki Weiss, a big time Israeli concert promoter who has lost thousands from last minute cancellations by artists like Elvis Costello. “The state must intervene,” Weiss said, according to Achbar Ha’ir, an Israeli arts and culture publication (I am summarizing the Hebrew article).

So what sort of intervention did the committee propose? First, Tirosh raised the idea of compensating promoters like Weiss for their losses with some form of state supervision or insurance. This is wonderful idea, but only if you are pro-BDS. One of the key argument against BDS hinges on the specious idea that the boycott targets innocent Israeli citizens. Why should we punish Israelis for their government? anti-BDS people argue, assuming that somehow the people didn’t elect their government and don’t participate in maintaining the Occupation. But if the Israeli government doles out money to wealthy promoters to cover their losses (while the Finance and Housing Ministries bilk, exploit and evict tens of thousands of working class Jewish families — and you won’t hear about their plight from the Z Word or other hasbarist blogs) the cultural boycott becomes a direct means of targeting the state.

The only other idea that Tirosh and the committee could come up with was to do hasbara, or officially sanctioned propaganda, on Facebook and social media sites to encourage artists to make good on their plans to perform in Israel. This seems to be Israel’s answer to all its problems, as though commercials filled with bikini-clad girls on Tel Aviv beaches can distract from or paper over the crimes those same girls commit while in IDF uniform.

Of course, if Israel wanted to improve its international reputation, it could give unlimited permits to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to attend concerts in Israel. Why are illegal Jewish settlers from Hashmonaim able to see Macy Gray perform in Tel Aviv while my friend Said Amireh, a 19-year-old from the Palestinian who lives a few hundred meters away in Nilin, imprisoned behind a giant wall, can not? The answer is that the state is built on a foundation of discrimination. Because it does not intend to change, it must prepare for worldwide castigation.

Weiss went on to predict that things will get worse for Israel, especially in the age of social media-inspired revolutions in the Arab world like the one in Egypt. On this point, he is completely correct. The Dizengoff Command Band’s semi-satirical hit from Israeli in 1970, “The Whole World is Against Us,” has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Israeli Gov. Promotes Glenn Beck’s Gaza Flotilla Screed

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — the diplomatic disaster area of Avigdor Lieberman — is promoting Glenn Beck’s infamous episode on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on its “selected articles” page. Apparently Israel’s department of hasbara does not realize that Beck is looked at by everyone but the most ardent members of the Tea Party movement as a conspiratorial, racist demagogue with no credibility. Nor does it seem to care that Beck has an extensive record of endorsing the work of virulent anti-Semites like the Nazi apologist Elizabeth Dilling.

Didi Remez has an excellent analysis at Coteret on what he calls “the Tea Partying of the US-Israel relationship.” Remez reports that numerous mainstream Israeli opinion leaders have posted the Beck clip on the Facebook pages along with Caroline Glick’s notoriously racist, “We Con The World” video. Now the Israeli government has gotten in on the act. It’s no wonder being “pro-Israel” in the US is becoming increasingly synonymous with being a Tea Party-style Republican.

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