"(Editor’s note: readers might ask why Vermont writers and media should engage in the spirited defense of the State of Israel. One obvious answer, as shown in the commentary below by author Peter Fernandez of Northfield: some Vermont media outlets have refused to publish his columns, even as Vermont anti-Israel organizations are speaking in public schools and pressuring Vermont institutions to withdraw their participation and support. A version of this post first appeared in the Times of Israel.)
By Peter Fernandez
For decades, this free-lance journalist regularly contributed op-eds and letters regarding the Israel/Palestine Conflict to two of Vermont’s leading daily newspapers. In 2016, both newspapers hired new editors, who subsequently blacklisted him. And the state’s most fab, counter-cultural-cosmopolitan weekly failed to return his correspondence regarding his contributing an op-ed related to this subject.
This scribe’s “mistake” was questioning the historic origins and political plausibility of Palestine’s mistaken and hyperbolic grievances against the Jewish State. Timely context, detailed geographic facts, and sublime quotations from Arab leaders sustained his counter- arguments from 1977 until 2016.
These three newspapers didn’t appreciate quotations such as the late King Hussein’s, Associated Press, January 21, 1960: “Since 1948 Arab leaders have used the Palestinian people for selfish political purposes. This is criminal.” Or these illuminating avowals by Khaled Al-Azm, Syria’s Prime Minister after the 1948 War: “Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees while it was we who made them leave. We brought disaster upon Palestinian refugees by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave.” Black-listed because such testimonies only serve to sabotage their agenda: the normalization of anti-Israel narratives.
Journalism in the Green Mountain State has become an ardent adherent to this season’s “cancel culture.” In the third least populated state in the US behind Alaska and Wyoming, with 630,000 citizens, better known for quaint Yankee ruralism, maple syrup, cows, skiing, and, lucky us, Bernie Sanders, Vermont readers are not always allowed the myriad viewpoints required in objectively underlining the complexities of this Middle East Conflict.
Since the two newspapers that censored the reporter are privately owned, they can do as they wish legally, but freedom of speech is being canceled one news article, one op-ed, and one letter-to-the-editor at a time, without notice, by a medium that once proudly and routinely practiced political neutrality. Since I am an unknown commodity, nobody takes notice, but when a renowned reporter is badgered into resigning from the New York Times, like independent-thinking Bara Weiss for “writing about the Jews again,” the nation tunes in. How many unknown voices inside “The Great Satan” sympathetic to “The Little Satan,” have been bullied and/or silenced?
Popular opinion in The Green Mountain State is also influenced by public radio, where one of these censoring newspaper editors also works. On May 16, 2018, a Vermont Public Radio correspondent covered a student assembly at a local high school regarding the Israel/Palestine Conflict. There was just one guest speaker, and he, a “Palestinian refugee,” was an outspoken critic of Israel. To the credit of the VPR reporter, he stated that this one-sided platform “upset some community members.”
For some murky reason, the social justice organization behind the planned event failed to inform the high school principal about the one speaker deal. The principal, whom I contacted, called the scheduled speaker the night before the program’s set date, and shared that he was concerned the controversial subject was not going to be appropriately covered, to which the star speaker replied, “What do you mean? There is only one perspective.”
By that time it was too late to call the event off, which is probably what these “justice and peace activists” were planning for. Since that time a set of guidelines has been imposed for such future events at this high school. But, so it was, that hundreds of middle-grade students and family members heard only the hate-filled Palestine point-of-view. This is how most “radical” Social Justice Warrior groups operate. Unfairly, spitefully, and angrily.
Ben&Jerry’s, the Vermont-based entrepreneurs, whose popular ice cream is sold throughout the universe, are usually only hassled by such activists for making their product available in “occupied Palestinian Lands.” These “occupied” lands have always been historically known for thousands of years as Judea and Samaria. They are currently occupied by Israel, legally. When Jordan occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, and destroyed Jewish cemeteries, the media didn’t complain about Arab occupation, but G-d forbid Jews live in their ancestral home. Also, the Hebrews have been forbidden since the British Palestine Mandate of 1922 to live east of the Jordan River. Palestine was just a name invented by the conquering Romans to rid Israel, Judea and Samaria of their Jewish origin.
These Green Mountain anti-Israel propagandists are deviously disguised as peace activists in progressive political organizations. For here we have Jews for Peace in Palestine, Vermont For Justice and Peace for Palestine, Justice For All, The Peace & Justice Center, not to mention too many liberal churches malevolently practicing only the latter half of Genesis 12:3: “Those who bless Israel will be blessed & those who curse Israel will be cursed.”
There are a lot of “inclusive-progressive-woke” hate groups up here in “shelag eretz” (land of snow) cursing the tiniest and most maligned, misunderstood country in the world. “Peace and Justice” have become code words for countless left-wing anti-Israel groups.
In 2018, after ten annual two-week trips to the Middle East for training with Israeli law enforcement, Vermont and Northampton (Massachusetts) State Police bowed to pressure mounted by such groups, including “Vermonters for Justice in Peace in Palestine.” Quotes from their leaders were printed liberally in news stories covering the State Police pullback.
Most pro-Palestine Marxist parties obtain the bulk of their scurrilous misinformation from Amnesty International. According to NGO Monitor, Amnesty International “disproportionately singles out Israel for condemnation, focusing solely on the conflict with the Palestinians, misrepresenting the complexity of the conflict and ignoring more severe human rights violations” elsewhere: Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, Tunisia, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, North Korea, Russia, and China occupying Tibet since 1950.
Anti-Israel groups never mention the fact that American police also train with other nations that include Scotland and Germany. According to James Sinkinson, President of Flame, a pro-Israel advocacy group, “…those countries are never the target of Black Lives Matter or other ultra-lefts. Only the Jewish state of Israel.” According to Sinkinson, Amnesty International “was forced to recant: ‘allegations that the US police were taught tactics of ‘neck kneeling’ by Israeli secret services is not something we ever reported and the article in question has rightly been amended to acknowledge that.’” Pro-Palestine activists lie.
Similar posts by socialist online media also admit (see end of post) that U.S. police, in particular, did not receive ‘neck kneeling’ training from Israeli police. Yet the front page of the Vermonters for Justice in Palestine website continues to perpetuate this myth.
“Israel is behind the death of George Floyd” is yet another antisemitic trope, or blood accusation, thanks to these “peaceful protestors.” These amateur Arabists have created dangerous libel against the only free and democratic nation in the middle east. Well, other than our biased media, Vermont is a swell place to live.
The writer, a Northfield resident, had his first children’s book, MY HEBREW DINOSAURUS, an alef-bet picture book, published in 1994 with Kar Ben. It was released in the states, Canada, Great Britain, and Israel. His other works have appeared in Jack&Jill Magazine, He iis proud of seeing Moshe Dayan speak at UVM in 1972, and meeting Yitshak Shamir on the Tel Aviv beach in 1994. A former “mitna dev,” or civilian volunteer for Sar-El, Volunteers for Israel, he hopes to soon work on another Tzahal base or hospital.
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