Howard Epstein




What is it about self-proclaiming liberals, the self-declared right-thinking yet utterly wrong-headed do-gooders, those with the hearts that bleed for the Palestinians – even as daily they draw our blood, as in Petach Tikvah last week when six Israelis were attacked by an Arab from the Judean (West Bank) town of Shechem (Nablus)? Why do liberal hearts not bleed also for us?

Were you or I to be motivated to improve the lot of the Palestinians – and there is plenty of room for improvement – and not merely write about it as I do, lamenting their bankrupt leadership (and I am not referring to the bank account of Abu Mazen, you understand), but to do something concrete, like arming them with cameras so as to record Israeli injustices, would we not seek some balance, too? Speaking for myself (and I expect also for you), I would. But then, I do not claim to have morality, justice and our Creator exclusively on my side. I, immoral, dissolute and depraved as I am – not being a fully paid-up member of B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, BDS or J-Street – am credulous enough to consider that, outside traffic management, every street is two-way. Naïf that I am.

In a balanced world, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority – or, as Wikipedia has it, the State of Palestine – would have not just the nom de guerre, Abu Mazen, but also a nom de paix. Fat chance!

In a balanced world, too, J-Street would not be vehemently opposing the appointment of David Friedman, President Trump’s pick as US ambassador to the State of Israel, but regarding it as a balance to the inherent Arabism of the State Department. This goes way back, otherwise why would President Truman have had to side-line, or rather blind-side, State in 1947, in order to follow his instincts and ensure that America be the first to recognise the emergent State of Israel? And it goes back further than that. Why do you think that, even as the British were facilitating the Kindertransport after the failure of Évian Conference in July 1938, the USA made no effort to airlift Jewish children to the Goldene Medina?

That is a manifestation of the abandonment of the Jews to their fate: hard-hearted and insouciant, in the face of the convening of Évian – proof-positive that the world had a clear idea of what Hitler had in mind for the Jews (Mein Kampf having put it beyond doubt as from its publication in 1925).

As for the Europeans, do not think for a minute that they are not every bit as hateful to the Jews as in the past thousand years, and more, of pogroms, dispossessions, expulsions, rape, murder and genocide. A leper cannot easily change his spots and this one does not even try. The EU works actively daily to cleave closer to the Arab states and to the Palestinians. Even as the latter fail ever to lift themselves above their base inhumanity – as in celebrating every Israeli death – the Europeans double down on their opposition to Israel, partly as an extension of their innate Jew-hatred and partly as a premium payment on some imaginary insurance policy against terrorism.

That insurance cover looks like the worst deal an essentially dodgy industry ever offered, with the most virulently anti-Semitic EU state, France (although Hungary is vying for pole position now), suffering by far and away the most from Islamic terrorism, with 278 fatalities over the past two years. Does this spur a change of policy? I am not holding my breath although you may hold yours if you think it would help..

In the meantime, ask yourself whether Germany, who admitted a million Muslim refugees over the past 14 months, would have opened the doors quite so wide had the refugees been refujews. I think we both know the answer. Pass over Évian water, someone.

Still, it is not Germany’s new-found humanity to man that I complain about, nor even of B’Tselem giving smart phones to those who wish to record Israeli excesses. It is just that I would be more convinced of the bona fides of these people if they had any sense of balance. For example, the EU could restrict imports from places other than (as they see it) “Occupied Palestine” – except that it was Jordan when we occupied it in a(nother) war of survival in 1967. If Israeli companies operating beyond the Green Line are seen as too immoral to sell their goods into Europe, here are some other candidates:-

  • Iran, which hangs children fairly frequently;
  • China, which executes more people than any other nation, without ever having translated the words “fair trial” into any one of the 297 Chinese languages;
  • Turkey, which imprisons its journalists on a scale so large that commentators are no longer sure of the numbers detained in its Midnight Express-like conditions; and yes – here is another
  • America, which treats its black citizens shamefully.

An op-ed in this weekend’s Times (of London), by the thoughtful and erudite Ben Macintyre, entitled “Cameras are Reversing Orwell’s Nightmare”, shone a light on the activities of another do-gooder Israeli – that is one who is not Hagai El-Ad, who denounced the nation that succoured him at the UN Security Council (see my October 2016 blog: Padded Cell or Prison Cell for The Beast of B’Tselem). Macintyre lauded the work of “a small, little-known British charity called Videre Est Credere (Seeing is Believing)” for, as he put it, giving Little Brother the opportunity to keep an eye on Big Brother. I carried out a little research.

According to “Wired” magazine, the leading light in Vedere, Oren Yakobovich, 42, is “a former Israeli soldier who still carries himself with a military bearing”. Well, to me, who shuffles along with all the aplomb of a latter-day Quasimodo, that is really impressive. Yet, it is strange. You would think that his gait would afford him better balance than I have. Sadly no.

Here is a further extract from Wired:-

Videre was founded in 2008 by two Israelis who, unknown to each other, had the same idea at a similar time. Yakobovich was raised in a right-wing Israeli community near Tel Aviv. As a youth he readily accepted the status quo of fervent Israeli nationalism. “The Arabs did not exist, they were there but they had no rights and didn’t deserve a country,” he says, explaining his former views, over coffee and hummus in a Marylebone hotel, before the trip to Africa. He couldn’t wait to join the army. He was so enthusiastic about conscription that he began training before he started, working on his fitness so he would be a better soldier. He was quickly promoted to officer. “I had more power at 19 than I ever had in my whole life before or since,” he explains. “It gives you great skills for life.”

There was no single terrible incident or atrocity that made him become disillusioned about the Israeli cause or the way the army treated the Arabs. But he became gradually aware that his involvement in day-to-day activities, such as checking men, women and children at checkpoints, was creating more hate, more enemies — and probably more terrorism too. He says his fellow soldiers thought of all Arabs as potential enemies, and treated them accordingly. He noted how ordinary young Israelis could switch from compassion to cruelty. “I gradually realised there was something very wrong,” he says. (

And here is some more from Macintyre (who refers to Vedere’s work in “the Middle East” rather than in Israel, so I do not doubt his bona fides):-

Founded in 2008, Videre uses cutting-edge technology and hidden video recording devices to enable trained activists around the world to record human rights abuses, expose political intimidation and corruption, and secretly produce eyewitness reports from places where open journalism and investigation are impossible.

An individual with a camera concealed in a shirt button or a pen can take on the most brutal despotic regime, revealing crimes by armies, security forces, militia groups or officials. With several hundred activists working across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Videre gathers visual evidence that is carefully authenticated then quietly distributed to mainstream media, human rights organisations, courts, influential business figures and political leaders.

So good for you, Videre – and for you, Yakobovich, impatient with your homeland and its struggle to face down the threats with which it is confronted. But here is where the balance comes in. Israel is frequently castigated, in a direct insult to black South Africans who truly suffered abominably during the Apartheid years, with the accusation that Israel is an Apartheid nation. Whilst not excusing any abuse of Palestinians by the Israeli army whenever it may occur, I suggest to Yakobovich that widen his activities. He should empower ordinary Israelis to video-record covertly the way that Israeli Arabs are part and parcel of everyday life in Israel.

Rig up those who work in our hospitals to see the care given to our Arab patients (and why not?), and the freedom of their families to visit them on equal terms as other Israelis (and why not?), and the care given by Arab doctors, nurses and other medical staff to Israeli patients of all stripes (and why not?). Train those who use our beaches, especially in Tel Aviv close to Jaffo, to record surreptitiously the many Arab families making their barbeques alongside ours (and why not?). Give shirt-button cameras to those who work at Ben Gurion airport to video Arab families passing through on jet-away holidays (and why not?), and to Tel Avivians who buy their fruit and vegetables from Arab store owners (and why not?). Teach Israeli bus passengers in Jerusalem to make recordings of how many journeys are peacefully undertaken by Arab passengers without incident alongside Jewish passengers (and why not?). Train me to video Arabs exercising an equal right to vote, and to interview the Arab police chief in Nazareth or the Arab who chaired the bench of judges that sent a former Israeli president to jail for rape. I can do that. And, in each and every case, and more, why not?

Of course there is no reason why not. So why not empower Israelis to make a pictorial record of how Israel is as far from being an Apartheid state as what-used-to-be-Syria is from ever being reconstituted? Let the world see on video what we see with the naked eye day in and day out. It might be persuasive. Equally importantly, it would indicate that Yakobovich and his co-founder, fellow Israeli, Uri Fruchtmann, have real bona fides in their quest to right wrongs and eliminate injustice.

Why these things work only one way and not in both directions is beyond me, so I shall make every effort to locate Yakobovich who, for someone who promotes himself widely (he has given a TED-talk about his work), is shy about making himself accessible. And if I do locate him I shall send him this article as a challenge for him to add balance to his work by ensuring that the way the camera does not lie be applied in the honorable cause of showing how we accept our Arabs as we should – which suggests that we would behave likewise with our Palestinian neighbours if they would drop their virulent anti-Semitism and show a real desire to get along with us – and not keep trying to get along without us.


© 2017 February – Howard Epstein

Howard Epstein is a political commentator and the author of Guns, Traumas and Exceptionalism: America in the Twenty-First Century, recently published by Amazon and on Kindle. He writes:-

There is no need for me to tell you that the scourge of gun crime is perhaps the most pressing issue in the USA. My book takes a new approach – support failing gun control by viewing gun crime through the prism of gun culture.

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