So just who is Anna Baltzer? You may have heard her being interviewed by Phillip Adams and Mark Colvin on ABC Radio, or in other media interviews she’s given during her visit to Australia.
Baltzer is a young bright Jewish American woman, a Fulbright scholar and Maths and Economics major from Colombia University, who says she changed her allegiance from Israelis to the Palestinians when she became a personal witness to the conflict between the two groups. She wrote a book, Witness in Palestine, in which she repeats the anti-Israel mantras of the International Solidarity movement and the Palestinian groups, accusing Israel of apartheid, human rights abuses, and acting in violation of both International Law and United Nations resolutions.
And her qualifications for becoming the poster girl of the Palestinian cause? She’s young, bright and Jewish; and she sells herself as a spokesperson because she’s the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors.
Before we examine what she’s saying, let’s for a moment consider why she has been given so much space and time by the world’s media. If a middle-aged non-Jewish American man became an activist after visiting the Palestinian territories and wrote a fulminating book about Israel’s occupation, he’d be lucky to get a couple of paragraphs in his local media. But just because Baltzer is Jewish and can trace her roots to the Shoah, she is suddenly qualified to speak as an authority on a geo-political issue which has flummoxed the best minds on earth.
Solely because of her ancestry, she’s suddenly seen in the eyes of the world as an expert on one of the most intractable and intricate human rights, racial, ethnic and geo-political situations today. Apart from a short time spent as a volunteer working on the West Bank for the International Women’s Peace Service, Baltzer admits to being ignorant about Israel’s pre-Establishment history, and in her interviews has shown no knowledge of Israel’s people, its past or its present.
And yet here she is, lecturing to members of parliament, the media and enraptured audiences about a situation in which she has knowledge of only one side.
Does she have a right to speak out? Of course, just as anybody has a right to declaim about any situation to a group of friends. But does she have the moral or intellectual authority to declaim on a subject which she approaches with such subjectivity and lack of impartiality, based on such little intimate knowledge or personal experience? That can only be answered in context of the media, and its ethos. Would the media or the Australian MPs to whom she spoke, give similar credence, time and space to, say, a Palestinian student who came to this country, lived for a short time in an Aboriginal village and went around fulminating about Australia’s apartheid and lack of brotherly concerns for its indigenous peoples? The answer, surely, is no! Why would Phillip Adams or any other high-profile interviewer give any coverage to somebody who has little understanding of the complexities of Australia’s relationship with Aborigines, and yet after a brief experience, screams apartheid to anybody who’ll listen?
Baltzer is typical of many young Jewish men and women who have a heartfelt passion for human rights. But that doesn’t make them experts on the issue. It’s much more likely that they’ve learned to repeat in parrot fashion the books or articles they’ve read, and have few original insights and little new or of interest to say.
Yet Baltzer’s qualifications as an activist for the Palestinians seems to be less that she’s spent time in their territory, than she’s the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors.
Never mind the inaccuracies in her case, nor her wilful ignoring of facts which mitigate against her position, all the media and her one-eyed supporters seem to consider is that she’s Jewish, pro-Palestinian and has a connection to the attempted genocide of the European Jews. In their eyes, she makes hating Israel kosher.
Her celebrity has little if anything to do with what she’s saying, but much more to who’s saying it. What’s she’s saying, apart from the fact that it is factually, intellectually and morally biased, has been said a thousand times before by people far more qualified to say it. Because she’s pretty and vocal, she’s become the Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan of the BDS movement – famous for being famous.
What’s far more important than what she told a group of MP’s in Canberra recently, is what she failed to tell them.
For instance, Baltzer said that she based her conclusions on international law and UN resolutions, yet she’s a supporter of a one-State solution which flies in the face of international law and UN resolutions. It was on the basis of a two-State solution that Israel came into existence. To say that the Jewish people have no right to determine their own collective future in a sovereign State as authorised by the UN in 1947 is surely as racist as it would be to deny that same right to the Palestinians.
She says that the security barrier is apartheid, cutting off one Palestinian group from another. Yet she makes no mention of the fact that there was no barrier in place for 35 years between 1967 and 2002; it’s only with the upsurge of terrorism and mass murder in the past 8 years that the barrier was needed, and has reduced to almost zero the murder of Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike. .
She claims that the Jewish settlements are swallowing up most of the West Bank, making it impossible to establish a Palestinian State. Yet the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the territory lying between the barrier and the pre-1967 ‘Green Line’ including East Jerusalem, accounts for only 8.5% of the total area of the West Bank.
She says so much more which is one-sided, inaccurate, politicised, and inflammatory, but again the question has to be asked – why are people reporting what she says? What Baltzer is trotting out is what is so often heard at dinner parties, third hand assumptions by people whose only knowledge (if any) comes from a brief holiday to the region and having read biased reportage.
Her lack of expertise shows itself every time Baltzer is questioned by a reporter who really knows the facts. Which perhaps says more about the media, than it does about Anna Baltzer.