February 21, 2012 by Emily Gian
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Earlier this month, the noted American commentator and jurist Alan Dershowitz wrote a thought provoking article entitled ‘How the Hard Left, By Focusing Only on Israel, Encouraged Arab Despotism’…writes Emily Gian.

Emily Gian

He described how the hard left and others have long ignored the despotism of virtually all Arab regimes whilst, at the same time condemning the Middle East’s only true democracy. With the phenomenon of the Arab Spring now entering its second year, Dershowitz notes that the radicals “are jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation, though still not with the fury that they reserve for the one nation in the Middle East that has complete free speech, gender equality, gay rights, an open and critical press, an independent judiciary and fair and open elections.”

We’re all aware of the identity of that nation and of the double standards that have led to a breakdown in the provision of relief for those in the region whose human rights really need protection – the citizens of the most despotic regimes on the face of the earth.

Dershowitz points out that … “Unless we restore human rights to its proper role as a neutral and universal standard of human conduct, the kind of tyranny and despotism that stimulated the current protests will continue.”

It was with the Dershowitz article in mind that I considered the news from the Middle East over the weekend.

Today’s Australian and The Age both reported on the horrible news about Syrian forces of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime firing on mourners at a funeral. 

Since March 2011, the revolt against Assad’s regime has resulted in the death of an estimated 6,000 people, many of them civilians murdered in cold blood by government troops but it has only been in recent times that the media has seriously taken up the story of the horrors of this war and the way this regime treats its people.


But many in the media, particularly those who like to consider themselves in tune with progressive thought, still prefer to present news from this part of the world by concentrating on Israel and its perceived excesses.

The media story of the day is that of Khader Adnan. The story is a simple one of a humble Palestinian baker arrested apparently for no reason by a brutal Israeli army protesting his detention by going on a hunger strike.

Adnan is now on his 64th day of the hunger strike and close to death. He is becoming quite a celebrity in the media, particularly the social media where the 140-character limit is enough space to celebrate Adnan and disparage the Israelis, without venturing deeply into the story.

For examples of how Khader Adnan’s story has been portrayed in the media please read ‘Israel shackles Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan’ by Hariet Sherwood from the Guardian, and today’s offering from Ruth Pollard in the Age entitled ‘Riots feared as hunger strikers health worsens’.

Adnan has been held without charge under administrative detention since the middle of December, and has been on a hunger strike since the day after his arrest. It is claimed he began the hunger strike to draw attention to administrative detention, which ‘refers to arrests carried out by the IDF on behalf of the Shin Bet, in which the detainee is not informed of the charges against him and is not brought before a judge to contest his arrest’. In January, he was given a four-month administrative detention order.

Very scant reference has been made in both stories as to why Adnan was arrested as though it is not entirely relevant to the tale that the journalists want to weave. The inconvenient truth is that Adnan is not simply a member of Islamic Jihad, but also a spokesperson and one of its political leaders.

Pollard deals with it as follows: “Israel has in the past alleged he acted as a spokesman for the Iran-backed militant group Islamic Jihad”. She informs us that Adnan’s wife denies any allegations and says ‘Israel never produced evidence he was a senior figure within the Islamic Jihad’. Notice there is no outright denial – simply that Israel has not produced the evidence. CiF Watch notes Sherwood’s Guardian article also “uncritically cited” Adnan’s wife (see more).

Neither article bothers to mention that Islamic Jihad is a recognised terror organization in Australia, the UK, the US and the EU. Another inconvenient truth is that its goal is ‘the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel through holy war’ (see more).

So if the Guardian and The Age won’t enlighten their readers who will? The has an interesting piece about Adnan’s background. As recently as 2005 he was cited in the Boston Globe as a Islamic Jihad spokesman where he was quoted as ‘repudiating any sort of ceasefire with Israel, and urging all Palestinian terror groups to resume fighting with Israel’. In an interview with al Jazeera in the same year he declared “we the PA and all the Palestinian people are in one trench and targeting the Zionist enemy”. The same article notes that he was more recently described by an Arab news source as “Sheikh Khader Adnan, the political leader of the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine”. Furthermore, this is not Adnan’s first arrest, nor it is his first hunger strike. The international media did not care too much for Khader Adnan’s well-being when he was being detained in a Palestine Authority jail.

The truth is that some people have been cooking up stories about their humble little baker and Adnan is fortunate enough to have been arrested by democratic Israel. The world knows that when Gilad Shalit was incarcerated by Hamas, he was given not even the most basic human right.

The issue of the administrative detention is a vexed one in any society but in Israel, where threats of violence against its citizens by terror groups such as Islamic Jihad are routine daily matters and thousands have been killed or injured in terrorist attacks, a balance must be maintained between the rights of the individual and the ability of the state to ensure that its citizens can survive and exist.

Sherwood and Pollard are unable to hide the fact that Adnan’s case has been taken to Israel’s High Court of Justice and will be heard on Thursday. Adnan has the right to a hearing with advocates arguing his case and if there is no basis for his continued detention, then he will ultimately walk free. This is what happens in democratic states*.
Adnan will certainly not be treated in the way Bashar al-Assad’s regime treats its citizens or how Adnan’s own people would treat the Israelis.

This article appeared at the weekend in Haaretz newspaper entitled ‘Palestinian television still glorifies attacks against Israel’. Incitement against Israel persists in Palestinian television and radio broadcasts, where places such a Haifa and Tel Aviv are considered to be part of ‘occupied Palestine.’

I wait with bated breath to see how Ruth Pollard and The Age cover this story (if at all).

* I have added to the original text by amplifying the situation with regard to Israel’s dilemma regarding administrative detention of terror suspects. The subject is a complex one capable of filling volumes of text.

Emily Gian is the Israel Advocacy Analyst at the Zionist Council of Victoria and a PhD Candidate in Israeli Literature at the University of Melbourne 



3 Responses to “Despotism”
  1. Larry Stillman says:

    There are some bigtime fibs and elisions in this article.

    Any left or progressive organisation to the left of Genghiz Khan has been condemning the Assad regime, as you can see from the Gillard Goverment, the Greens and every other group I can think of.

    Second, the issue about Khader Adnan is not that if he is a good guy or not (I don’t think he is by the way), but that such matters have to be tried in the courts in a reasonable amount of time, if a country is to be considered a reasonably functional democracy. But since Israeli democracy does not apply to the Palestinians, they are subject to a widely abused system. This is much the same as the abuse that was committed by the British in Northern Ireland, aslso a functional democracy.

    It is also not true that scant attention has been paid as to why Adnan was detained. The fact is that people dispute the reason why he was detained. They proper way to test this is in open court.

    Thus when you say ‘a balance must be maintained between the rights of the individual and the ability of the state to ensure that its citizens can survive and exist,’ you re actually ignoring the fact that there is virtually no limit to detention– this is not a balance, this is a blatant abuse of state power that has to be limited.

    Even Menahem Begin of all people, thought that the use of administrative detention was a dreadful abuse of mandate era law. There has been widespread abuse of the system by the Israeli government over many many years, whether it applies to Palestinians and settlers by the way. Most recently, there has been a scandal involving detention of young boys.

    How the Syrians abuse their citizens should not be used to justify Israeli abuse.

    A failed attempt at hasbarah Emily.

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    Such good work you’re doing, Emily Gian. It’s exhausting being a watch dog for Israel, which Jews living in the Diaspora, tend to be if they’re concerned about truth. I, too, do my best in this regard, managing to get some letters published in The Age (the latest two Sundays ago re Iran/Israel and the international community’s ridiculous expectations). Living in Israel between 2004 – Jan. 2007, I was aware of the pressure lifting at least insofar as being surrounded continually by ill-informed, bias-ridden media.

  3. Ben says:

    The hard left encouraged Arab despotism! If only this met the truth,however rmotely. Most of the despotic regimes were foisted on the Arabs by British and French imperial powers, and armed and supported by the US, with the exception of the Baathist regimes. The left has been the one most welcoming of the Arab spring, whether against Baathist or US client regimes, while Israel and its chief sponsor were afraid of the toppling of its client regimes and collaborators.

    Dershowitz has made a career out of hasbara and slander of progressive voices, most prominently Norman Finkelstein.

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