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Israeli journalist battles ‘industry of lies’

  • BenDrorYemini1
“It’s so fashionable to be anti-Israel,” says Israeli journalist and researcher Ben-Dror Yemini, who was brought out to South Africa last week by the South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) for its conference.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Jun 14, 2018

“They (anti-Israel activists) don’t know anything about what is actually happening. Even the [Minister of International Relations and Co-operation] in South Africa has no idea what she is talking about, saying Israel ‘must pull out of Gaza’.

“What do you want from ordinary people on the street? People are totally misinformed, disinformed and ill-informed, and the BDS is prospering because of people’s ignorance. Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power. For BDS, ignorance is power.”

Born in Tel-Aviv, Yemini studied Humanities and History at Tel Aviv University. Later on, he studied law. Soon after, he chose to become a peace activist, and though not aligned to any organisation or movement, he strove for peace in the Middle East.

“Before and after Oslo, I met Yasser Arafat and other high ranking officials to understand what it would take to make peace,” says Yemini, who spoke at the SAFI conference last Sunday. “I wanted reconciliation, and I strove to find out what would make it happen.”

Shortly thereafter, in 1994, Yemini experienced a turning point, one which originated in South Africa. He was referring to a speech Arafat made in South Africa after signing the Oslo Accord in which he said he didn’t actually want peace when agreeing to it. “For me, it was a moment of, ‘What? What?!’ We are fighting for peace, not for manipulation! The way he manipulated and lied to his people after so many years of struggle really struck me – he was fooling them and the world.”

Yemini maintains that no matter what was offered, even President Bill Clinton’s offer of peace and a state were rejected by Arafat.

“What Arafat demanded was the right of return – and that means the destruction of Israel.”

Still, Yemini was not put off his ambition for peace. After a short term in the public service (as the advisor of the Minister of Immigration and the spokesman of the ministry), Yemini began his career as a journalist at the Maariv newspaper, and in 2014, he moved to Yedioth Aharonot.

“I moved from law to a full-time job in journalism, and began to explore a phenomena I call ‘the industry of lies’.” This is what is behind the world’s anti-Israel campaign. “It showed people were not striving for peace, but the destruction of Israel.”

In 2013, Yemini was invited to join Tzipi Livni’s new party, The Movement, and to become a Knesset member. Yemini declined. “To be a journalist is more effective than being a Knesset member,” he says. I need to show people how to distinguish legitimate criticism from lies and distortion.”

Yemini explains the difference between the two: “There is a judge in America who, when asked what pornography is, said, “I’m not sure I can define it, but I think I would know it when I see it.” It’s the case here. Sometimes, you can smell it. But if you are against some policy, it doesn’t mean you are anti-Semitic. You can be against settlements or in favour [of them]. The same with policy. We do it all the time in Israel. I can’t tell anyone not to criticise – I do it myself.

“But there is a phenomenon that is frightening. It is the same kind of demonisation of Jews that was seen in the 1930s, but this time it is against Israel and its Jewish population. This is not criticism. When the BDS speaks, it lies – it is demonisation.

“Today, media and academia are the channels through which false information is processed. No one will criticise them for publishing lies. It’s easy.”

Yemini expressed frustration over the double-standard so often applied to Israel. Addressing the ongoing refugee issue, he says, “Nothing is special about the situation in Israel. Italy just declared it was kicking out 600 000 asylum seekers and refugees. Germany and France are discussing how to deal with refugees in their own countries. Israel has the debate like any other country. Why single out Israel? In Sweden, 12 refugee centres were torched recently. If this had happened in Israel, everyone would call Israel a fascist, racist, Nazi state. It happened in Sweden, not Israel. Yet Israel is singled out again and again!”

However, BDS has no practical impact on Israel. “Here and there it does,” Yemini says “but only symbolically, like the recent withdrawal of Argentinian soccer team. When singers or stars boycott us, yes, we feel it culturally. But, economically, no. Israel prospers no matter what BDS does. We have poverty and social gaps, but the economy is stronger than BDS.”

The biggest fear in Israel is Iran, he says. “Iran is subverting every corner of Middle East, not only Israel. It does what it can to provoke instability. Look at Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain. Iran has dangerous aspirations, not only in the region. Its regime believes in Jihadism, which means creating a global caliphate that will rule the world.”

Although the proposed two-state solution has the potential to bring stability to the region, Yemini maintains that Palestinians are not committed to the cause. “Most Israelis support two states for two people. I support two states for two people. Unfortunately, the Palestinians don’t support this.

“More than a state, they want the destruction of the Jewish people,” he says. “They call it by a nice name – the right of return. In 1948, it was the norm – millions were forced out of homelands, and people wanted national liberation and self-determination. Waves of population exchanges happened in Europe, Pakistan and India at the same time. They don’t call it a Nakba! I’ve never heard of the Pakistani Nakba, although 7 million were forced from India or vice versa. And I never hear about the German Nakba, where between 2 million to 16 million people were forced out!

“The Palestinians deserve self-determination, even if historically they never had a nation. There never was a Palestinian Prime Minister, but if they want one now, I respect that. But, can they tell me I have no right to self-determination? Or someone here from BDS tells me I have no rights? Excuse me? What are you talking about? It’s not just hypocrisy. When you deny rights to only one people out of all people in the world, it’s anti-Semitism.”

Yemini concludes: “I want peace. Even if for now we have no partner, we need to emphasise we want change. I don’t know if I will see peace in my lifetime because the Palestinian heritage is to oppose peace. We cannot forget that they rejected the partition plan. I am not optimistic, but I support any steps that will lessen the conflict.”

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