Column for Jewish News issue May 1 2015 by Jenni Frazer
A friend of mine in Tel Aviv, much given to conspiracy theories, once told me that nothing ever happened over the weekend because Israeli newspapers didn’t publish on Shabbat. My friend was convinced that the government sat on news until life reached the sunlit uplands of Sunday morning.
No such situation, sadly, obtained last weekend as news of the Nepal tragedy filtered through: the earthquake and its aftershock have apparently claimed hundreds of lives, and the death toll continued to rise this week.
But anyone who is in the mood for conspiracy theories needed to look no further than social media, where the usual suspects, and then some, squatted evilly.
You might not have thought, on the face of it, that the sheer awfulness of Nepal was an opportunity for the Israel-bashers to come out of the woodwork, but you – and I for that matter – would have been wrong.
Israel’s “crime”, it turns out, was to have offered humanitarian help. Almost as soon as the appalling loss of life in Nepal became global news, Israel rallied a crack team of doctors, nurses, rescue workers and auxiliaries. Two hundred and sixty Israelis and a raft of medicines and supplies were readied to fly to Kathmandhu, the capital of Nepal and close to the epicentre of the earthquake.
But what was the response? Here’s the charmless comment of Washington DC-based Rania Khalek, who describes herself as an independent journalist for whom “objectivity is b******t”. You can say that again, Ms K. “Did you ever consider,” she mused, “that maybe Israel is heading to Nepal to learn from the earthquake how to kill better?”
Later, she had an idea for a “game”: “Who buried these people in the rubble – Israel or an earthquake?” Helpfully, Khalek provided pictures of destroyed houses.
Khalek wasn’t the only one indulging in a spot of “what-aboutery” as this comparison has become known – although usually this is a term used to attack Israel supporters who vainly try to ask why anti-Israel activists have remained so silent about the attacks on Palestinians in Yarmouk.
Brighton’s very own one-man pustule of outrage, Tony Greenstein, was ready to chip in, too. “If it makes good PR Israel’s always ready to help,” he declared. “When the cameras go, Israel goes. But Gaza is left to rot.”
Leaving aside the inanity of Rania Khalek’s claim that Israel could “learn” from an earthquake, the sheer vitriol of these kind of comments – and I have only picked out two, to spare readers’ blood pressure – almost defies belief. Israel’s solid record of humanitarian relief in so many countries has been a grassroots movement spearheaded by its medics, not government-directed, although it is now certainly government-supported. Do Khalek and Greenstein believe, perhaps, that in some dark ante-room at the back of the Knesset, an Israel official sits with pursed lips, debating how to spin PR out of a world catastrophe? If they do, they are more stupid than I thought.
And, while we are on the subject of the stupidity of the anti-Israel crowd, I must bring to readers’ attention the delicious story of Max Blumenthal – to whom, in fact, Rania Khalek was addressing her Nepal comments on Twitter.
Max Blumenthal is the son of Sidney Blumenthal, the long-time personal adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton during Bill Clinton’s first presidency. Blumenthal Senior became so toxic and divisive a presence that the then White House Chief of Staff, and now Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel (no stranger to fights himself) advised that Sidney Blumenthal should be nowhere near the Clintons in the second administration.
And son Max, now 37, appears to have inherited his father’s combative mantle. Max spends his time in a fug of anti-Israel activity, writing, talking about and denouncing the Jewish state wherever he can.
Every opportunity he gets, Max Blumenthal cheers on the Israel boycott crowd. So it was particularly lovely to learn that he had built his new website with technology provided by Wix – which is an Israeli internet company. When it was pointed out to him, Blumenthal Jr said he had been unaware of Wix’s credentials, but that “it should be easy to replace them.” Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for us, Wix has not been so easy to replace, and his website has languished for two weeks behind a giant advert for the Israeli company.
Just perfect, really. And not a conspiracy theory in sight.