When COVID-19 upended America’s fragile sense of security, antisemites throughout the globe saw an opportunity to link the crisis to Jews and Israel and popularize their fallacious conspiracy theories. Now those same actors are exploiting the tragic death of George Floyd, again blaming either Jews or Israel for the plight of blacks.
Anti-Israel activists have launched a misinformation campaign, drawing insidious parallels between the policing issues in America with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and using doctored photos of Israeli soldiers to elicit misplaced outrage. This propaganda has filtered through to celebrities such as Chelsea Handler and Jessica Chastain, who posted videos on Instagram praising Louis Farrakhan, who notoriously labeled Jews “termites” and Adolf Hitler a “very great man.”
More proof of the Jew-demonizing contagion was a series of Instagram posts by American photographer and director Vin Arfuso, which went viral, with A-list celebrities reposting to their tens of millions of followers. Arfuso used Floyd’s death as a launching pad to falsely charge Israel with an assortment of crimes that even a basic Wikipedia search would disprove.
The post was eventually removed, but not before it shaped an anti-Israel narrative. This antisemitism normalization behooves us to revisit some of his allegations and set the record straight, once and for all.
IDF Goes Out of Its Way to Protect Civilians
“The big bad tough guys of the #IDF thoroughly enjoy beating and shooting children,” Arfuso wrote. “They even have shirts that depict a pregnant Palestinian woman with a sniper scope on her stomach that reads ‘1 shot two kills.’”
On the contrary, military experts across the globe have labeled the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) the “most ethical army in the world” due to the drastic measures Israel takes to avoid injuring and killing civilians, particularly women and children. These measures include warning residents in enemy areas of an impending attack by dropping millions of leaflets in targeted areas, sending tens of thousands of texts and voicemails, and broadcasting radio messages, encouraging Palestinian residents to evacuate.
“Never in the history of warfare has an army phoned its enemy and told them where they are going to drop their bombs,” said one former high-ranking British military officer.
The IDF will also use ground troops instead of air raids, abort missions, redirect attacks, reroute missiles mid-air, and employ expensive and timely techniques such as “roof knocking,” all to protect Palestinian civilian lives at the expense of and increased risk to Israel’s soldiers and civilians. According to British Col. Richard Kemp, Israel does “more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
While any civilian casualties in war are regrettable, many deaths can be attributed to the tactics of Hamas and other militant groups when they use civilians as human shields, fire rockets from schools and hospitals, hide weapons in apartment buildings, take cover in civilian homes, and force civilians to stand on rooftops of buildings the IDF has warned it might attack. Despite this, Israel’s civilian-to-combatant death ratio is approximately 1:1, lower than the United Nations average estimate for such conflicts around the world, which is 3:1, three civilians killed for every one combatant.
Palestinian Authority and Hamas Oppress Their People
In addition, Arfuso’s statement about the shirts worn by soldiers is misleading, as it suggests the IDF manufactured and widely distributed them. It did neither. In fact, the IDF publicly condemned the vulgar apparel and took disciplinary actions against the few soldiers who wore the shirts.
Meanwhile, Arfuso’s post conveniently left out the fact that Hamas and Palestinian Authority state media, mosques, summer camps, and textbooks often deny the Holocaust, glorify Hitler, preach and inspire violence against Jews, and characterize them as “apes and pigs.” The glorification of violence, mocking of Israeli suffering, and antisemitism are why so many foreign governments and international organizations have cut off aid to Palestinians until they reform their institutions.
Arfuso also wrote, “When people say #freepalestine, it doesn’t mean that scary Muslims will run into Tel Aviv and ruin the fun dance parties on the beach. … What Palestinians are asking for somebody else’s army to no longer be their government. A government which they hold no right to vote, a government which suffocates them socially, economically, and of course physically.”
This claim fails to take into account the complex geopolitical reality in Israel proper and the disputed territories. Nor does it distinguish between Palestinian Arabs and Arab-Israelis.
Arab-Israelis make up 20 percent of Israel’s population and have the same legal rights as Jewish-Israelis. Not only do they vote in elections, but Israel has never practiced racial segregation. It is the only real democracy in the Middle East, in which Arabs sit in the country’s Parliament and on its Supreme Court.
More than 22 percent of the student body of the Technion, Israel’s version of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are Arab students. Israel also has progressive laws about free speech, equality of the sexes, and LGBT rights. Arabs and Jews not only party together on Tel-Aviv beaches, they work alongside one another as professors, lawyers, doctors, politicians, and scientists, riding the same buses, living in the same apartment buildings, and eating at the same restaurants.
Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand, are generally considered to be those living in the territories. The overwhelming majority live under self-rule of either the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, or Hamas in Gaza. They are not governed by the Israeli government, as Arfuso facetiously insists. Gaza citizens have no voting rights, while the Palestinian Authority hasn’t held elections in the West Bank in 15 years.
A 2018 report by Human Rights Watch detailed the Palestinian Authority and Hamas’ troubling arbitrary arrests and torture of their own people. Arfuso’s claim that Palestinians do not vote and are suffocated “socially, economically, and of course physically,” is correct, but it is at the hands of their own leaders.
Pro-Israel Jews Are Not ‘Fake’ Jews
Perhaps the most outrageous of Arfuso’s assertions was that “the United States (fake Christians in the mid west) and Israel (fake Jewish ppl in the Israeli government) created Hamas SIMPLY for all of you geniuses to believe that hamas is the reasons for the decades worth of occupation, oppression, ethnic cleansing, and MURDER.”
More than half the world’s Jews live in Israel. To call any of them “fake” is an antisemitic smear meant to deny Jewish nationhood and their more than 3,500 years of attachment to the land. The subtle implication of this claim is that one can be Jewish only if one is anti-Israel. Since 95 percent of American Jews support Israel, by Arfuso’s logic, they are all “fake” Jews.
The conspiracy theory that the United States and Israel created Hamas is also verifiably and laughably false. Hamas was founded during the First Intifada in 1987 by members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as an alternative to the secular Palestinian Liberation Organization. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by multiple countries and international bodies, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Its leaders have encouraged Palestinians abroad to slaughter Jews wherever they may appear.
Hamas Wants to See Israel Destroyed
Finally, Arfuso articulated the blatant falsehood that “for years, the Palestinians have recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace/security and only ask for their independence.” In Gaza, Hamas not only doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist, but openly calls for its destruction, as well as the annihilation of world Jewry. This call is espoused in its charter, and Hamas officials frequently echo it in public declarations.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has a long history of rejecting peace initiatives and refusing to participate in peace negotiations. In 2000, the Palestinians rejected the Bill Clinton parameters at Camp David, which would have provided full statehood, including all of Gaza, 97 percent of the West Bank, and a capital in Jerusalem.
In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas even more concessions than were offered at Camp David, yet Abbas never responded. In 2009, President Barack Obama persuaded Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu to commit to a 10-month settlement freeze, but Abbas refused to return to the negotiating table.
In 2014, Abbas once again rejected the Obama-Kerry framework, as the Palestinian leader reportedly told Obama he would never recognize a “Jewish State,” abandon the “right of return,” or commit to “end of conflict.” All of this has led international observers to believe the Palestinians wish to control all of the land, “from the river to the sea,” instead of forging a peace deal and allowing a Jewish state and a Palestinian state to thrive alongside one another.
In perpetuating baseless lies about Israel, Arfuso simply foments animosity and division, and plants a dangerous ideology in the minds of those who know little about the nuanced realities of the conflict. Most certainly, his perversions do nothing to advance the cause of racial justice in America.
Peace can never be achieved between two parties if the goal of one party is the elimination of the other. Peace is about compromise, acceptance, and coexisting, as Arabs and Jews do in Israel.