Guardian vilifies Jewish extremist, but gives Arab extremist a pass

In his Guardian report, Jerusalem correspondent Oliver Holmes accurately described the extremism, racism and homophobia of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, both of whom are set to join the Knesset after their party, Religious Zionism, passed the electoral threshold in Tuesday’s election.

The article (“Racist and reprehensible’: Jewish Power set to enter Israel’s parliament”, March 24) included the following:

[Itamar] Ben-Gvir was convicted in 2007 of inciting racism after holding signs at a protest reading “Expel the Arab enemy”.

Until last year he kept a photo in his living room of Baruch Goldstein, an American-Israeli settler who in 1994 shot dead 29 Palestinians in Hebron as they held morning prayers.

The alliance’s leader, Bezalel Smotrich, once suggested segregated wards in hospitals so Jewish women would not have to give birth next to Palestinians.

As Holmes noted, AIPAC has condemned the party as “racist and reprehensible”, and it seems clear that the overwhelming majority of Israeli and diaspora Jews abhor their toxic views.

However, today the Guardian published an article by Holmes on the Arab Islamist Party ‘Ra’am, which similarly crossed the electoral threshold, that completely omitted any mention of the party’s extremist views.

The piece (“A small Islamist party could decide Benjamin Netanyahu’s fate”, March 26) framed the article thusly:

He built a hugely successful career scaremongering among Israelis about politicians from the country’s Arab minority presenting a threat from the inside. Now, Benjamin Netanyahu’s rhetoric might have come back to haunt him: election results suggest the leader’s fate may have fallen into the hands of a small party of Islamists.

Holmes noted that neither Netanyahu or the opposition have a clear path to a majority, and that the Islamist Ra’am’s four Knesset seats would be needed for either side to form a government.

Remarkably, though, this is all Holmes has to say about the views and ideology of Ra’am’s leader Mansour Abbas:

Mansour Abbas, 46, the group’s leader, is a conservative Muslim politician but also a pragmatist. Seeking to improve the lives of Israel’s victimised Arab minority, Abbas has not ruled out joining the hardline prime minister if it brings him influence.

A “conservative Muslim” and a “pragmatist” who’s “seeking to improve the lives of Israel’s victimised Arab minority”. He seems quite reasonable, doesn’t he?

No, not really.

Abbas, let’s remember, hails from the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, affiliated – like Hamas – with the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist movement that’s anti-democratic and seeks nothing less than the implementation of sharia (Islamic law) under a global caliphate.

Regardless of whether he’s “pragmatic” politically, he’s clearly extreme-right when it comes to his ideology.

For instance, he’s advocated so-called “conversion therapy” to LGBT youth in an interview with Walla News.  Conversion Therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual using psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions.  In fact, his Ra’am party split with the Arab Joint List over his refusal to adopt progressive positions on LGBT issues.

Waleed al-Hawashla, the current head of Ra’am’s faction in the Knesset, said that pro-LGBT positions stand in contradiction to Islamic religious values, and that of Arab society in general.

Also, though his brand of Islamist politics is often characterised as more moderate than that of the Northern Branch, led by Raed Salah, their pro-terrorist sympathies often overlap. Here’s Abbas in 2013, honoring the family of the Hamas terrorist cell that carried out a suicide bombing on Egged bus at Meron junction that killed 9 and wounded 40. (Abbas in on the far right.)

So, why wasn’t any of this revealed by the Guardian? Because, as we’ve consistently demonsrated, their editors and reporters do not take Palestinians or Arab Israelis seriously as moral actors who are in possession of human agency – insisting instead on framing them entirely as victims.

On Twitter, Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov aptly summed up the current political deadlock, with both the Religious Zionist Party and Ra’am refusing to sit in the same coalition:

The irony is that whilst the media frames the election as one which could result in ‘the most right-wing government ever’, the fact is that, in the off chance Mansour joins a Likud-led coalition, his party’s hostility to LGBT rights, radical opposition to secularism and support for terrorists ensures that ‘the most right-wing government ever’ would be even more right-wing.

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