Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fisking Kevin Coval

The Huffington Post has recently posted an editorial by Kevin Coval, who is described as an author on a hip-hop book. The title of his article is “Why I am Not a Zionist” and contained within it is the most virulent anti-Israel propaganda I am have ever seen, hitting all the talking points of the anti-Zionist manifesto. Naturally, to defend his views he is forced to result to hypocrisy, selective outrage, selective history, and outright distortions. Which in turn is not entirely surprising, as his views are so extreme, so outrageous, so “more Palestinian than the Palestinians,” one would have to be enamored in them (in defiance of logic) to hold them.
Making one post on the Talkback would not be enough. An article like this, which exemplifies the anti-Israel position so common among the HuffPosters, deserves a blow by blow response. .

Mr. Coval begins with a description of a poetry reading, which is all very nice, except for this one interesting clause. He lists many different people who were not ridiculed for their views, which includes a “liberal Zionist apologist.” Coval probably identifies as a liberal, so it appears that he is equating the terms “Zionist” and “apologist,” which is to say that the only person who could possibly be a Zionist would have to apologize for horrid crimes. This is known as “poisoning the well,” making an ad hominem attack on people who disagree with you before they have a chance to open their mouths. Right from the very beginning of his article, Mr. Koval makes the case that to be a Zionist is to be necessarily identify as something undesirable, though of course he gives no explanation. He continues...

“Since the Second Intifada I have thought, wrote, and spoke about these issues, but over the course of these last several weeks, I have arrived at a new beginning. Prior to now, I muddled this issue in complexity. But I have come to realize it is actually simple and clear. I am a Jewish-American man in solidarity with Palestinian people. I am in solidarity with Israeli and American and all people who work and risk their lives and livelihood for justice.”
Yeah... as much as this is a pro-Israel blog, both Matt and I know that things are far from simple, especially where the Middle East is concerned. Something I have found is that the more extreme someone’s beliefs are, the less rooted in reality they are. Notice how Coval introduces himself as “Jewish-American.” Not an American Jew. I can’t help but think that he is using the “as-a-Jew” writing style, in which the author will speak horrid lies about Israel but will claim that because he is a Jew, he should be taken seriously. As you will see in the coming words, Coval will repeat this pattern.

“This is analogy. America celebrates Columbus day [sic] even though Columbus and American settlers killed, enslaved and pushed Indigenous people off land they lived on. Tragically Indigenous people have been nearly wiped out of existence and pushed to the furthest margins of our culture that revels in amnesia.”

I am hardly going to be the one to defend Columbus or his Day. If I had it my way we would have stopped observing it decades ago. But Americans observe his discovery because it was a crucial step in the formation of our country (as mainstream history goes). One thing about observing our history is to be proud of the good parts and respectful of the bad parts. It seems that by Coval’s analysis, we shouldn’t celebrate our victory in WW2 because of all the people we killed to get there. And we shouldn’t celebrate our independence from Britain because some loyalists got tarred and feathers. And we shouldn’t celebrate Barack Obama’s election because of all the presidents before him that weren’t black. But of course, this all leads to his main point, which is:

“It is preposterous to think Jews would celebrate Kristallnacht, the night of glass when SS troops stormed and terrorized their German ghettos. In Israel, Independence Day is called Yom Ha'atzmaut. Communities gather to play music, dance and watch fireworks. The Chief Rabbinate has declared this day a Jewish holiday in which prayers should be said. But Palestinians remember 1948 and the formation of the State of Israel as al-Nakba, The Catastrophe. A day of murder, displacement, and forced Diaspora. A day families are torn apart and ripped away from their homes. A state sanctioned celebration of their dehumanization and second-class citizenship.”
He certainly sounds like he stepped right out of the anti-Israel narrative. Notice how he starts his analogy by comparing the Jews to Nazis. Of course, since he is a Jew he will never believe that this could possibly be considered anti-Semitic. As a Jew, he should know better.
It’s also worth repeating: Israel’s creation did not displace anyone. It was the war that followed, a war that all historians agree was started by the Palestinians and their Arab allies, that is what caused people to be displaced. Israel has every right to be proud of the state that they built, despite all the odds. Celebrating their success is not the same as celebrating the disaster that the Palestinians brought on themselves because of their selfishness and xenophobia.
Mr. Coval calls the formation of Israel “a day of murder.” Maybe he should check his history. Within twenty-four hours of Israel’s declaration of independence, eight Jews were murdered in three separate Palestinian attacks. Six Arab armies marched into Israel, led by the Palestinians. If the Jews hadn’t won the fight, all six hundred thousand of them would have been killed without a second thought. Mr. Coval has a lot of nerve to say that Arabs were the only ones murdered and displaced.
More importantly: Israel wasn’t celebrating the suffering of the Palestinians. They were celebrating their own survival. If Mr. Coval was familiar with Jewish holidays, he would also be familiar with the old joke about why the Jews celebrate: “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat!” Israel’s Independence Day is not any different from Purim or Hanukkah in that respect.

“For this reason alone, I cannot believe in the integrity of the Zionist project. It's built on bodies and lies. It denies the existence of people and a people. One of its slogans, rooted in the same malicious revisionism as American History and Holocaust denial, is, A land without people, for a people without land.”
Now we come to the selective outrage that I was talking about. I don’t think that history is Mr. Coval’s strong suit, but he should be aware that every single nation on earth is built on “bodies and lies.” Palestine certainly is! The reality is that when Jews first started coming to Palestine, it was practically empty. I say practically, not completely. There was plenty of room for both groups of people to live side by side in complete peace. Anti-Zionists like Mr. Coval like to claim that expelling Arabs was always the goal of Zionism, and that it as an “inevitable part.” But if you look at some of the writings of the early Zionists, it was clear they wanted non-Jews living in their state and alongside them. Accusations otherwise are nothing more than slander.
Mr. Coval claims that “Zionism” denies the existence of the Palestinian people. If that was the case, than many of Israel’s enemies, both Arabs and otherwise, are also Zionists. Because they knew that in 1948 there was no such thing as a separate Palestinian nationality. Even Palestinians themselves have admitted this For example:
“Why is it that on June 4th 1967 I was a Jordanian and overnight I became a Palestinian?”
“We did not particularly mind Jordanian rule. The teaching of the destruction of Israel was a definite part of the curriculum, but we considered ourselves Jordanian until the Jews returned to Jerusalem. Then all of the sudden we were Palestinians - they removed the star from the Jordanian flag and all at once we had a Palestinian flag”.
“When I finally realized the lies and myths I was taught, it is my duty as a righteous person to speak out”
-Walid Shoebat, former PLO terrorist.
"There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity... yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel"- Zuhair Muhsin, military commander of the PLO and member of the PLO Executive Council -
"You do not represent Palestine as much as we do. Never forget this one point: There is no such thing as a Palestinian people, there is no Palestinian entity, there is only Syria. You are an integral part of the Syrian people, Palestine is an integral part of Syria. Therefore it is we, the Syrian authorities, who are the true representatives of the Palestinian people".- Syrian dictator Hafez Assad to the PLO leader Yassir Arafat

Don’t get me wrong. The Palestinian people exist now. They deserve the same rights as any other nation. But they didn’t exist in 1948 and they didn’t exist in 1881, when Theodor Herzl founded Zionism. The Palestinian supporters and anti-Zionists will try and pretend that they did, but their own words proved they were not unified into a nation. Mr. Coval is distorting history.

“I am not Pro-Israel because in January Israel murdered over 1400 Palestinians. They bombed schools and hospitals. They bulldoze homes and bodies.”
I think this is probably the most informative passage in Mr. Coval’s article, and it really gives us an insight into his way of thinking.
-First, he claims that he is not pro-Israel because Israel killed people and did things he doesn’t like. That’s a perfectly good reason. One little problem: He also claims to be “in solidarity with the Palestinian people.” The same Palestinian people who have killed hundreds if not thousands of Israelis, as well as thousands of each other (and other Arabs).
So there are two possible explanations: Mr. Coval is being hypocritical and doesn’t mind overlooking the murders of Palestinians while exclusively concentrating on Israel. Mr. Coval is being bigoted and holds the worldview that the lives of Palestinian Arabs are worth more than the lives of his fellow Jews in Israel. It’s hard to claim that you are in favor of peace and that you are truly objective when you are also practicing selective outrage, Mr. Coval.
-Second, his claim that Israel “murdered” Palestinians. This is selective history in full view again. A “murder” implies that the Palestinians were standing around minding their own business when Israel attacked. No honest person would claim that this happened. Mr. Coval is using loaded language to try and avoiding the actual discussion of the issues, which is Israel defending itself against clear and unprovoked attacks. Mr. Coval can’t defend Hamas’ actions, so he is trying to avoid discussing them altogether by writing them out of the narrative.
-Third, his claim that Israel “murdered 1400 Palestinians.” Notice the number. Anti-Zionists like to talk about how awful is that Israel is practicing “collective punishment” against the Palestinians and how they don’t differentiate between the terrorists and the ordinary people. And yet Coval (and others) don’t seem to mind counting the dead bodies of cold-blooded terrorists right alongside the ordinary people to make a morality-by-numbers argument. How is this not hypocrisy?
Going back to the use of the term “murder,” how can Mr. Coval make the claim that when Israel kills a member of an organization that only exists to destroy it, and has declared war upon it, that is “murder?” I’m sure that if he were to ever bring up Israelis killed by rocket fire or suicide bombers, he would not use the “m-word,” he would probably call it “legitimate resistance” or other weasel words.

“Israel builds a separation wall, as Germany did, as the United States does between here and Mexico, as the rich do between themselves and the rest of us. I am not a believer in borders.”
I’m sorry to break this to you, Mr. Coval, but the rest of the planet still does believe in borders. Especially in the Middle East. Further, notice the highlighted section. Sounds kind of like a typical leftist, doesn’t he? I commented on this before. Israel is perceived as rich. Therefore, they are wrong. No more thinking is necessary. Awesome.
His article continues, using the usual buzzwords like “apartheid” and “state-sanctioned terror.” Of course there is not a whit about Palestinian incitement, violence and hatred against Jews (and yes, that would include you, Mr. Koval). Just one last paragraph to point out:

“This is not a complex issue. There is the brutality of government(s) and the need for the liberation of a people, all people. I am a Jewish person who stands with Palestinian people relegated to second-class citizenship and Israeli soldiers who refuse to enact racist militarism. I am not a nationalist; therefore I am not a Zionist.”
I wonder if the Palestinians who kill their fellow “oppressed” because they happen to be gay are going to agree with you about the need for liberation for “all people.” Or the Palestinian Arabs who kill their daughters and wives because they have “dishonored" the family. Because you see, if a Palestinian state becomes a reality, it will become just like all of Israel’s neighbors. The only people who will be truly free will be straight, Arab, Muslim men. Everyone else will be oppressed. Maybe you should think about that the next time you stand with the Palestinian people.
Mr. Coval is not a nationalist? Maybe he should tell the Palestinians they shouldn’t have a state then, and that their nationalism movement is in fact racism (just like he thinks Zionism is). See how far he gets, both literally and metaphorically.
Palestinian Arabs have killed thousands of Israelis, I have mentioned. And yet it never seems to occur to Mr. Coval or other anti-Zionists that Israel is fighting the Palestinians because they like having their friends and neighbors alive. Nope. That’s not even considered. The only reason why Israel will ever fight the Palestinians is because they are racist and love “militarism.”
Without understanding the reasoning of the other side, Mr. Coval has left the ranks of the people who are part of the solution and has firmly joined the side of the people who are part of the problem. If peace comes, it will be in spite of him and his “understanding,” not thanks to him. Maybe he can write a hip-hop song about that.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent critique of Kevin Coval's simplistic, predictable ramblings. I don't paricularly identify as a Zionist, but I can't stand inflammatory, idiotic arguments from any side. Thanks for putting Coval's sophomoric ideas in their place.