Israel

Newsweek Middle East Editor Goes on Anti-Semitic Twitter Rant

An editor of Newsweek Middle East launched into a Twitter tirade invoking several anti-Semitic tropes late last week, including that Jews are greedy and are not descended from biblical Hebrews, and therefore have no historical connection to Israel.

After the magazine was criticized by pro-Israel bloggers last week for creating an inaccurate documentary video about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the magazine’s senior deputy editor, Leila Hatoum, responded harshly, calling her critics “Zionist trolls,” accusing them of worshiping money, and falsely claiming that Jews are not Semites and therefore not native to the Middle East. (The term anti-Semitism was coined by the 19th century German journalist Wilhelm Marr, who opposed Jewish emancipation and sought to popularize a term that would make Jew-hatred sound more scientific.)

The video that Hatoum shared claimed that references to “Palestine” prior to 1948 meant that an Arab Palestinian state used to exist. However, the artifacts that the video showed in order to prove its case actually highlight the fact that Mandatory Palestine was under British control, not independent; one document even contained the Hebrew initials for “Land of Israel.”

Hatoum’s Twitter rant was first exposed by Israeli blogger “Aussie Dave,” one of the chief critics of the video Hatoum posted. The blogger subsequently discovered earlier offensive tweets that Hatoum wrote, including an (inaccurate) claim that Adolf Hitler’s mother, girlfriend, and doctor were Jewish.

Hartoum also cited the discredited “Khazar” theory claiming that Ashkenazi or Eastern European Jews — which she falsely described as constituting the bulk of Israeli Jewry — do not have Middle Eastern ancestry.

In fact, the shared Middle Eastern roots of Jewish communities, including those that resided in Europe, has been established by multiple genetic studies. “Historical evidence suggests common origins in the Middle East, followed by migrations leading to the establishment of communities of Jews in Europe, Africa and Asia, in what is termed the Jewish Diaspora,” researchers explained in a 2010 study published by Nature that traced “the origins of most Jewish Diaspora communities to the Levant.” (Notably, the study also revealed “a close relationship between most contemporary Jews and non-Jewish populations from the Levant,” including Palestinians.)

Moreover, the majority of Israeli Jews are not Ashkenazi, but have Mizrahi or Sephardic heritage.

Honest Reporting noted that Newsweek Middle East is editorially independent of Newsweek and is owned by the Dubai-based ARY Digital Network. The media watchdog organization wondered if Newsweek would be pleased to have “their brand name being dragged through the mud by the likes of Leila Hatoum and the anti-Israel propaganda being produced on the Newsweek Middle East site.”

The Newsweek video highlighted what Shany Mor referred to in the January 2015 Issue of The Tower Magazine as “the mendacious maps of Palestinian ‘loss,'” which use historically inaccurate information to argue that an independent Palestine disappeared due to the establishment of the State of Israel.

The series of maps referred to by Newsweek misleadingly conflate different aspects of land control. The first map shows areas inhabited by Jews and Arabs that were controlled by the British mandate, the second shows a partition plan that was rejected by Arab leaders, and two more show political control. Mor argued that if one looked at a series of maps only showing the history of Palestinian political control, a more accurate picture would emerge:

The categories of political control and international partition plans are quite easy to map out over time. Since the concern of those publicizing the maps above is Palestinian control of land, we can illustrate this with a more honest series of maps showing areas of political control, using the same years as the original—adding one for clarity.

002_Shany_Mor_Political_Control_Map

As seen above, 1946 has exactly zero land under Palestinian Arab control—not autonomous, not sovereign, not anything—as it was all under British authority. We could go further back in time, to the Ottoman era, for example, and the map wouldn’t change in the slightest. 1947 sees no changes to the map, as Palestine was still under British control. Before the war in June 1967, control is divided between three states, and none of them is Palestinian. The 2005 map would be exactly as it is presented in the original series, showing the very first lands ever be ruled by Palestinian Arabs qua Palestinian Arabs. To clarify this a bit more, I have added a map from 1995, showing the withdrawals undertaken during the first two years of the Oslo process, just up to but not including the 1997 Hebron Protocol.

In fact, if we zoomed in a bit more, we would see how the peace process of the 1990s resulted in the first time a Palestinian Arab regime ruled over any piece of land. This occurred in 1994 with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and Jericho. That control steadily expanded over more and more land during the years leading up to the failed final status talks. Much of it was then lost during the second intifada, but eventually regained as violence died down, and the Gaza disengagement even expanded it slightly. All of these Palestinian land gains have taken place in the last 20 years and every square meter of it came not from Turkey or Britain or Jordan or Egypt, but from Israel alone; and nearly all of it through peace negotiations.

After being presented with evidence of the inaccuracy of similar maps that they had posted, both MSNBC and the textbook company McGraw-Hill acknowledged their error. But months after the maps were thoroughly discredited, Newsweek Middle East risked its credibility by publishing them again.

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