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    Someone who is glad we're moving on

    "Groups of Palestinians have been torching the synagogues. Not the homes or businesses. "

    In fact, we left no homes or businesses standing. We left nothing much that could be of use to them, only a few public buildings, mostly those structures that once were used as synagogues, the quintessential symbol of occupation from the Palestinian point of view.

    The government did a flip-flop yesterday, on the very last day before the final withdrawal, deciding at the last moment not to bulldoze the former synagogues ourselves but to leave them to their obvious fate.

    The Yesha leadership dismally fell on their faces in the end, leaving their idealistic young supporters suddenly in a crisis of faith. This is the shift in focus that they need from their own failures to the actions of the barbarian hordes.

    The torching of the former synagogues was a foregone conclusion but at least we can point fingers now.


    Perhaps the Al Aqsa mosque will now be torched by enraged Jews in the BBC's narrative of the "cycle of violence"?

    Or maybe not.


    Someone who is glad etc-- my issue here is not about the rights and wrongs of the disengagement and Israeli political responses. What I'm interested in here is how the BBC chooses to report what is happening. What it includes, what it leaves out, and what it glosses over.

    Eamonn-- you make a very astute point about the BBC narrative of the "cycle of violence". Somehow I think any settler violence that might happen between now and whenever won't be seen as only to be expected in the light of the torching of the former settlement synagogues.As indeed it shouldn't. But I somehow feel that any further demonstrations of Palestinian "rage" or "celebration" which involve destruction and mayhem will be "explained" this way, complete with accompanying blame-Israel quote from a Palestinian politician or PA security figure.

    Stephen Newton

    Had you watched BBC news this morning, you'd have seen this story at the top of the bulletin.


    Stephen, was that TV news on BBC1? And did they show the synagogues burning? Another interesting point about the Radio 4 Today programme was that when they did say that one synagogue was burning they actually said a synagogue "has been set alight". The Israeli web sites were referring to the synagogues being "torched". Interestingly, the London Times lead on the Palestinian takeover is now
    "Synagogues burn in Gaza".,,251-1776741,00.html

    Of course, I like to think that I am not naive in these matters. I actually think the Israeli government made a deliberate decision not to go on taking responsibility for controlling Palestinian violence, and refused to help them along by destroying the synagogues themselves. The eagerness of the Palestinians to avoid this propaganda own goal was illustrated by the ever-fascinating comments of Saab Erekat, quoted in the Times as saying:
    "Palestinian officials then hoped to prevent the buildings from being over-run, aware that the uncomfortable images of their destruction would over-shadow the proposed celebrations.

    "We don't want to be put in a situation that we are demolishing synagogues in front of the world," said the Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat."

    For once, they seem to have been exposed shooting themselves in the feet.

    Geoffrey Bernstein

    Burning synagogues - haven't we seen this before? Nazi Germany in case anyone doesn't remember. And how many mosques have the Israelis and/or Jews ever torched? None. So what does this tell you about Moslems in general and Palestinians in particular? It tells you that they are a backward group of people and not part of the nineteenth century, never mind the twenty first.


    Geoffrey-- I understand that you might feel upset and angry at reports of synagogues being torched. But it is not comparable with Nazi Germany (and incidentally my own parents and one of my grandmothers were in Nazi Berlin when it happened-- my father was in hiding). The Berlin synagogues were living shuls. What got torched in Gaza were the shells of what had been shuls, but which had effectively been deconsecrated. None of which excuses the action of torching them, but it makes the comparison wrong. Actually there have been Jewish extreme fringe groups who have plotted to blow up Al Aqsa and tonight's Jerusalem Post reports the racist Kahane Chai group calling for the Temple Mount mosques to be demolished

    Your comments on Muslims and Palestinians are racist and unacceptable. What a particular set of gangs of people does in one area cannot be extrapolated to stand for the whole of the Palestinian people let alone for the huge worldwide population of Muslims.


    The synagogues were left for precisely that reason, every other building was buldozed (homes, farms, greenhouses) but these were left.

    Congratulations for being so quick to echo the propaganda.

    (Oh and while I do not agree with you on much good luck with the blog)


    Oh and on this

    "And how many mosques have the Israelis and/or Jews ever torched"

    Out of some 140 village mosques that were abandoned due to the war in 1948, some 100 were totally torn down. The rest, about 40, are in advanced stages of collapse and neglect, or are used by the Jewish residents for other purposes.

    …Several mosques serve as housing, and others are used for commercial and cultural purposes. The mosque of an abandoned village on the Iron Valley serves a kibbutz carpentry. A mosque in an artists' community in the Carmel serves partly as a restaurant and bar. Other mosques serve as museums and galleries. The large synagogue in a township near Rehovot is located inside the abandoned village's mosque, whose minaret was destroyed and the symbolic half crescent atop its dome has been replaced by a menorah.


    In 1997, when the residents of a community in the Western Galilee wanted to build an extention, they rammed the remnants of the village's abandoned mosque with a bulldozer and demolished it completely


    And we haven't even mentioned yet the tombs of sheikhs that have become graves of holy Jewish figures - the "Dan tomb" that replaced the tomb of Sheikh Gharib, a local holy man, or the tomb of Sit Sakina in Tiberias, which became the tomb of Rachel, Rabbi Akiva's wife. Less than 40 Moslem cemeteries remained out of more than 150 that existed in abandoned villages. They too are run down and in constant danger of having their tombs smashed and of being violated and expropriated.


    Sonic-- echo the propaganda?
    Young man, didn't your mother teach you manners?

    At least she taught you to wish a person good luck, so maybe with a little attention to simple respect for your elders....

    In what way is reporting the actual burning of synagogues (actually reported by that well known pro-zionist propaganda organization Associated Press) propaganda?


    Sacking synagogues


    "In 1948, after the Jordanian Legion occupied east Jerusalem, forcibly expelling the Old City's ancient Jewish community, it showed the world what could be perpetrated even by moderate Arabs, as the Hashemites were reputed to be.

    They destroyed no less than 58 synagogues, including the magnificent Rabbi Yehuda Hahasid Synagogue (the Hurva).

    Synagogue remains were used by the Jordanians as cowsheds, donkey stables and public lavatories. This wasn't neglect, a charge that can be leveled at Israel regarding some mosque structures in abandoned and emptied Arab hamlets. This was deliberate abuse with intent to desecrate and humiliate. While Israel's record in 1948 and 1967 may not be perfect, jubilant desecration was never the motivation.

    Even the ancient and hallowed Jewish Mount of Olives Cemetery wasn't left alone. No less than 75% of its tombstones were ripped out.

    The international community was outraged a few years ago when Afghanistan's Talibans blew up giant Buddhist statuaries. But outrage was conspicuously absent against the destruction of Jewish antiquities on the Temple Mount. Nor was there any particular international notice, let alone concern, when Nablus mobs ransacked Joseph's Tomb in 2001."


    I haven't had time to read many blogs for the past few days, so I'm a bit late commenting here. But I must, because the responses thus far are so fascinating - in an appalling sort of way.
    It seems that a few people are willfully misunderstanding you, Judy, or are simply using your blog as a platform to express their reactionary points of view.

    This post is about selective or biased reporting. It is not a post about the rights or wrongs of torching the synagogues.

    I do think it's very sad that so many people have allowed themselves to be manipulated by the politicians and the media regarding this issue. As one Orthodox Israeli political reporter said to me, No one comes out of this story looking good. The issue was never about whether the synagogues in Gush Katif would be destroyed, but who would destroy them. The Israeli government promised the PA that they would do the job, but then reneged at the last minute. Everyone knew that the Palestinians lacked the manpower and the will to protect those buildings. And furthermore, would we really expect the Palestinian
    police to shoot their own people for torching those deconsecrated, ugly buildings? I wouldn't expect the IDF to sacrifice a single soldier's life to protect them, so why would I expect more of the Palestinians?

    I saw some of those synagogues after the settlements had been evacuated: the interiors were completely stripped by the Israelis who had left; even the ceiling panels and electrical outlets had been removed. Cigarette butts and empty water bottles littered the floor, which was tracked with mud. And let us not forget that the first people to damage a synagogue in Gush Katif were the Israeli anti-disengagement protestors who barricaded themselves on the roof in Kfar Darom. So why do we expect the Palestinians to respect those deconsecrated, empty buildings that had no architectural value?


    Lisa, thank you for some authoritative, helpful and very insightful comments.

    Other readers may not be aware that, apart from being the best blogger in Israel (and she has awards to prove it), Lisa is a freelance journalist who has spent most of the last weeks down in Gaza covering the disengagement and this period of the PA takeover. She has also had extensive opportunities to meet with and interview members of the PA hierarchy. So, unlike most of us, she clearly knows what she's talking about from having been on the scene.

    I just wish the BBC would make her their Israel & PA correspondent..... I could then start writing posts about how balanced, perceptive and insightful the BBC reporting was.

    I won't let my relative ignorance hold me back from saying that I do think you don't sufficiently take account in your comments on the PA, Lisa, of the significance of the fact that the people doing the torching appear to have been from organized Hamas terrorist groups, carefully proclaimed and organized for action weeks before the event. Which was known to the PA. And which the BBC reporting about the day also downplayed. And that some of the PA leadership did make some quite inflammatory triumphalist speeches. The lack of will on their part to protect these buildings was significant. I think a really interesting parallel is the aftermath of the Iraq 2003 war, where the US soldiers failed to stop looting and mayhem too. But then they didn't make announcements saying that this was the right of the people, or seem to shrug their shoulders about having Islamist terrorist groups running riot. And of course the BBC and associated western world liberal press absolutely excoriated them for allowing this to happen.

    You can read Lisa's blog at


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