With deceptively edited videos and dubious allegations, the Israel lobby has manufactured an antisemitism epidemic to turn the media’s gaze away from dead children in Gaza.
Following an 11-day assault on the Gaza Strip in which the Israeli army killed over 220 people, including more than 65 children, and days of videotaped rampages of Jewish extremist mobs against Palestinian people and property inside Israeli cities, Israel lobbyists in the US and Canada have launched a carefully coordinated public relations campaign to deflect outrage.
Having failed to successfully defend massacres of entire families in their homes and the deliberate demolition of civilian residential towers and media offices in Gaza City, the US Israel lobby and the Israeli government it advocates for have manufactured an epidemic of antisemitic violence with the goal of portraying American Jewry as the true victim of the crisis.
Led by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Israel lobbyists have portrayed a series of street scuffles between supporters of Palestine and pro-Israel activists as anti-Jewish pogroms. In nearly every case, no evidence exists to substantiate claims that Jews were targeted as Jews for violent assault. There is ample proof of deception, however, as video and photographic evidence reveals pro-Israel elements provoking demonstrators, initiating violence and falsifying or embellishing their testimonies.
Since the Israeli government and Palestinian political factions signed a ceasefire, the media has provided Israel lobbyists with an uncritical platform to baselessly accuse Palestine solidarity activists of triggering a wave of antisemitic violence, and even claim without a shred of evidence that Jews are being hunted in their homes.
Everyone from President Joseph Biden to members of the progressive congressional “Squad” have lent their voices to the chorus of condemnation. Meanwhile, celebrity influencers have posted blue squares on their Instagram accounts to symbolize solidarity with an American Jewish community supposedly under siege.
The Israel Foreign Ministry has capitalized on the moral panic with a tweet invoking the intersectional social justice lexicon of woke millennials:
To all of our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world, we see you, we hear you, we stand with you. pic.twitter.com/Kj8tldvItC
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) May 23, 2021
In an apparent bid to burnish their reputations and that of the movement they claim to represent, several prominent Palestine solidarity activists and Muslim online influencers have echoed the statements by elected officials. Rather than challenge a narrative designed to denigrate Palestine solidarity advocacy as bigoted and even criminal, these opportunistic elements have inadvertently legitimized it.
Now, as the Israeli police round up hundreds of young Palestinians citizens of Israel for participating in protests against their own dispossession, the New York Police Department has begun doing the same, arresting Palestinian American youth, jailing and investigating them for “hate crimes” over their involvement in videotaped tussles with pro-Israel demonstrators.
In many high-profile cases, however, video and photographic evidence examined by The Grayzone contradicts the allegations made by pro-Israel forces and reveals the stories of several accusers to be highly deceptive, if not entirely false.
The Case of the Invisible Yarmulke
A May 19 incident in midtown New York City has become the centerpiece of the pro-Israel narrative of Palestinian pogroms targeting Jews across America. According to the official story, a mob of Palestinian youth hunted down and brutalized a lone Jewish man, Joseph Borgen, on his way to a nearby pro-Israel rally.
In an interview with Borgen, CNN host Don Lemon claimed he was “wearing a yarmulke,” or Jewish skullcap, when he was attacked. Borgen repeated this claim in several subsequent media engagements.
“Before I can even react,” Borgen told Lemon, “I was surrounded by a crowd of people who, as you saw in the video, proceeded to beat me down and then, after the fact, pepper spray and mace me.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly decried the violence as an antisemitic hate crime, and insinuated that Borgen was wearing a visible yarmulke. “I unequivocally condemn these brutal attacks on visibly Jewish New Yorkers and we will not tolerate antisemitic violent gang harassment and intimidation,” Cuomo declared.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, a member of the progressive congressional “Squad,” also chimed in to portray the incident as an example of “antisemitic hate.”
The scuffle and its aftermath were captured on video by a bystander, yet CNN played only a short portion showing several men pummeling Borgen. The complete video and photographs taken immediately after the melee reveal that Borgen was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt – not a yarmulke. Unless video surfaces showing he was visibly wearing a yarmulke, Borgen appears to have misled the media to create the impression that he was targeted for simply being Jewish in public.
Further, footage shows that Borgen had to be restrained by three police officers as he attempted to charge at his accused attackers while they ran off, challenging them to fight. “One on one!” he barked repeatedly before lying back on the ground.
If Borgen was targeted *as a Jew* – and not as a pro-Israel demonstrator engaged in a political dispute with Palestinians – then how could anyone see the kippa he claimed he was wearing?
He was wearing a hoodie, bore no religious garb I can see, yet it’s treated as a hate crime pic.twitter.com/osVocyIjqP
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) May 22, 2021
Moments after the incident, NYPD arrested a 23-year-old Palestinian man named Waseem Awawdeh and charged him with second degree assault as a hate crime and attempted first degree gang assault. Awawdeh, who was filmed striking Borgen with a crutch, was nursing an injury and appears to have been the easiest person on the scene for police to capture.
A May 23 article in the right-wing, Murdoch-owned New York Post attempted to portray Awawdeh as an unrepentant thug, quoting an anonymous jailer claiming the accused had stated, “I would do it again.” Buried in the article, however, was an account by several friends of the accuser who were present: “Friends of Awawdeh’s who refused to give their names claimed Awawdeh was attacked first. ‘They picked somebody that was weak, that was on crutches,’” the Post reported.
The Grayzone received an identical account of testimonies gathered from witnesses of the incident. They said that several pro-Israel demonstrators attacked Awawdeh, who had a leg injury, triggering the violent response captured on video.
NY1, a local New York City news outlet, reported that “the clashes [in Midtown] started after several people threw water and juice bottles out of a window at the pro-Palestinian demonstrators. That’s when the two sides starting fighting each other.”
This version of events fits a pattern in which Israel sympathizers provoke Palestinian demonstrators, and even initiate violence, then mislead the media about the circumstances of the fighting to portray themselves as blameless victims of antisemitic hate crimes.
“How many pro-Palestinian demonstrators did you wail away on?”
On May 19, a pair of Israeli citizens, Snir Dayan and Amit Skornik, claimed a mob of Palestinian American demonstrators assaulted them in midtown New York City in what they described as an antisemitic attack.
According to an article in Fox News which painted the incident as a hate crime, “Dayan said he recalled seeing ‘a bunch of pro-Palestinian protests outside’ and decided to attach a small Israeli flag he had in his apartment to his motorcycle as a ‘quiet’ form of protest.” The Israeli claimed to Fox that a mob of 30 Palestinian protesters spontaneously attacked him and his friend after they heard him speaking Hebrew.
However, video of the incident shows Dayan throwing the first punch with an Israeli flag wrapped around his fist. It is unclear if any blows were exchanged before the recording began. After NYPD officers intervened to separate the dueling groups, they cuffed Dayan and escorted him to a police wagon as he taunted the demonstrators with Israeli nationalist chants. He was then arrested, ostensibly because he appeared to have initiated the violence.
It turned out that both Dayan and Skornik were Israeli soldiers who had served in the Golani Brigades, a special forces division that participated in Israel’s 2014 assault on the Gaza Strip during which Israeli forces killed 551 children.
What’s more, Skornik attempted to milk the street fight to raise money for his fellow Golani Brigade soldiers. On his Facebook page, he complained that GoFundMe refused to authorize the fundraiser, which was advertised with images of himself and Dayan proudly punching pro-Palestinian protesters.
Both Dayan and Skornik seem well-trained in mixed martial arts and other forms of close quarters combat. In fact, Skornik is part of a family dynasty of Israeli martial arts experts. His father, Guy Skornik, operates a company called Skornik Israeli Combat, while Dayan has posted video of himself sparring in martial arts.
Back home in Israel, Hebrew media turned the two self-proclaimed victims into heroic warriors, openly lionizing them for trading punches with pro-Palestine protesters on the streets of New York.
“How many pro-Palestinian demonstrators did you wail away on? That’s the question that interests me the most,” Israeli Channel 13’s far-right host, Avri Gilad, asked the two former soldiers.
“At the end end of the video,” Dayan said, “you can see that they tried to outflank us on the other side of the sidewalk. I ran towards them, I hit one of them, and two, three, four seconds later I was in handcuffs, with two to three police officers accompanying me to the cruiser.”
“You are first of all a source of pride!” the host, Gilad, told Dayan and Skornik. “You are exactly the Jews and Israelis we want there, and not all those bleeding hearts, the [Jewish] Americans that are being betrayed…”
A Facebook post promoting Skornik and Dayan’s appearance on Israel’s Channel 13 was deluged with supportive anti-Arab commentary.
Canadian politicians condemn assaults by violent Zionist hate group… as antisemitic hate crimes
The pattern of deceptively edited video appearing to show Palestine solidarity activists attacking supporters of Israel and triggering angry denunciations of antisemitic violence from top politicians has also surfaced in Canada.
On May 15, video surfaced from a Palestine Youth Movement protest in Toronto that seemed to show young Canadian Arabs beating a gray-haired pro-Israel man with a wooden stick. Doug Ford, the premier of Ottawa, and Toronto Mayor John Tory followed the Canadian Israel lobby’s lead in immediately denouncing the scene as an antisemitic hate crime.
“Hate, antisemitism and violence have no place in our city,” Tory said in response to the video. “Any violence against our city’s Jewish community or members of any other community in Toronto is absolutely unacceptable.”
However, more complete video of the scuffle revealed that pro-Israel forces initiated the violence against Palestine solidarity demonstrators who were attempting to retreat. Further, several of those among the pro-Israel mob were members of the Jewish Defense League, a violent extremist organization responsible for numerous brutal assaults and assassinations of Palestinian Americans, and were armed at the time with knives and baseball bats.
— NCCM (@nccm) May 17, 2021
In a separate incident in Toronto, peaceful pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators outside a rally organized by a who’s who of Canadian Israel lobby groups came under attack from Jewish Defense League thugs threatening to run them over with vehicles and maim them with weapons. Toronto police officers could be seen in video of the incident reaching for their service pistols in fear as they sought to hold back the mob of Zionist hooligans.
The @TorontoPolice were scared to arrest the Zionist, intent on murdering Muslim Canadians, on the spot, as a mob of crazed Jewish Supremacists could have lynched them too. In fact, Police had to escort the Muslim Canadians to the protection of cop cars, to avoid a lynching. 2/ pic.twitter.com/TcVWmWr6K6
— Laith لَيث (@LaithMarouf) May 21, 2021
After video surfaced showing that Tory and Ford had wrongly denounced pro-Palestine forces and falsely accused them of antisemitic violence, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) asked the lawmakers if they planned to retract their statements.
Tory refused to back away from his erroneous comments, while a spokesperson for Ford declared, “The Premier’s statement stands.”
Dishonestly framed video clips feed the media outrage
The deceptively edited and dishonestly framed video clips that underpin the Israel lobby’s antisemitism narrative are almost too numerous to track. However, two viral videos that purport to show anti-Jewish violence deserve closer scrutiny.
Breitbart, the far-right, xenophobic website conceived by the late Andrew Breitbart following a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, published a video headlined as follows: “At a pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, DC, Tuesday, several marches shoved and assaulted a counter-protester.”
Though the video shows pro-Palestinian demonstrators shoving a man, he was not a pro-Israel “counter-protester.” Ramsey Aburdene, a Palestinian American raised in Washington DC, said he had been falsely accused by a fellow protester of vandalizing the street near the Israeli embassy in Northwest DC, and was momentarily pushed around by demonstrators who mistakenly believed the allegation.
“This was in no way an antisemitic attack,” Aburdene told The Grayzone. “It was just a dumb situation that quickly got out of control because one individual was determined to escalate the situation. Everyone involved was apologetic to me and very embarrassed by the situation.”
Footage of another incident in West Los Angeles has elicited outrage and condemnations from politicians including LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who slammed what he called “an organized antisemitic attack.” According to media coverage of the incident, a caravan of pro-Palestinian motorists parading down La Cienega Boulevard began attacking Jewish diners. “It was a hate crime. It was prepared, they came to fight with Jewish people,” a non-Jewish diner claimed to CBS.
Though a fight ensued between diners and members of the pro-Palestine caravan, it remains unclear if anyone at the restaurant was targeted based on their religion or ethnicity. In fact, the only person who sought medical treatment after the scuffle was the non-Jewish man.
Further, video posted on social media by Sia Kordestani, a staffer at the American Jewish Committee – a major Israel lobby organization – shows a diner shouting, “Fuck you!” at the caravan and throwing what appears to be glasses and cutlery at people in the cars. “Some threw things back” at the caravan, Kordestani wrote.
🚨🚨 Tonight pro-Palestinian individuals were driving with megaphones around La Cienega & Beverly (a heavily Jewish area) in Los Angeles and threw objects at Jews at a restaurant table. Some threw things back.
The pro-Palestinian group came to the sidewalk to fight.
— Sia Kordestani 🦁 (@SiaKordestani) May 19, 2021
To be sure, footage of the ensuing fight was ugly, and some of those involved may have committed crimes. But like other high-profile videotaped incidents, the violence appears to have been motivated by an angry political dispute over Israel-Palestine, not ethno-religious animus. Indeed, despite claims by witnesses, there is little to no evidence to demonstrate that anyone at the sushi restaurant was targeted simply for being Jewish. Los Angeles police are nonetheless investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.
The ADL exaggerates antisemitism with bogus data and anti-Palestinian propaganda
At the forefront of the narrative alleging a nationwide crisis in antisemitic violence is the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL. The heavily-funded outfit is at once a public relations juggernaut that partners with Silicon Valley tech barons, corporate media and celebrity influencers; an Israel lobbying powerhouse that takes US law enforcement officers to Israel on propaganda junkets; and a private intelligence agency that spied on activists opposed to South African apartheid during the 1980’s, and which does the same to those battling apartheid today in Israel-Palestine.
ADL CEO and former bottled water salesman Jonathan Greenblatt has been a virtual fixture on CNN and other networks since the antisemitism outrage erupted. During a May 20 interview with CNN, Greenblatt claimed, “There was one report of cars driving through Jewish neighborhoods in Los Angeles throwing bottles at homes that had the Jewish mezzuzah on the doors.” He provided no evidence for the incendiary claim, and his host asked for none.
The ADL has also peddling a dubiously sourced report headlined, “Uptick in Antisemitic Incidents Linked to Recent Mideast Violence.” Claiming a whopping 193 “antisemitic incidents” in the mere span of a week, the ADL report classified “dozens of anti-Israel rallies” and chants of “Intifada” as acts of anti-Jewish bigotry.
In his 2009 documentary on the weaponization of antisemitism, Defamation, Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir exposed the farcical methodology the ADL has used to document supposedly antisemitic incidents. As ADL senior staff revealed on camera to Shamir, the organization enters virtually any complaint it receives into its database, including anonymous claims of anti-Israel media coverage and workplace disputes. It then cites the data to generate the specter of rising public hostility toward Jews – and fundraise off its constituents’ fears.
When Shamir asked the ADL for help following up on an antisemitic attack, its staff was unable to provide him with a single incident to cover.
ADL staff was unable to provide him with anything.
From Shamir’s eye-opening film, Defamation pic.twitter.com/Gsmflltnde
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) May 23, 2021
Despite the ADL’s well-established record of hucksterism and its propagandistic conflation of Palestine solidarity activism with antisemitism, its recent report received promotional boosts from the National Basketball Association and Sacha Baron-Cohen, the British Jewish comedian best known for portraying Central Asians and Arabs as stereotypically barbaric and primitive antisemites. (Baron-Cohen was successfully sued in 2009 by a Palestinian Christian peace activist whom he falsely portrayed in his film, Bruno, as a terrorist in league with Osama Bin Laden.)
The Corbyn-ing of Palestine solidarity in the US
The US Israel lobby’s cynical manufacturing of a wave of antisemitism in the wake of rising Palestine solidarity activity closely resembles the campaign waged by its political counterparts across the Atlantic to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the UK’s Labour Party. Though Corbyn was a veteran anti-racist campaigner – or perhaps because he was – the British Israel lobby and the Israeli embassy in London staged a coordinated effort to brand him and his progressive supporters in Labour as vicious Jew haters.
In most cases, the lobby’s accusations were based on wild distortions and outright lies, however, Corbyn and his allies routinely opted against pushing back, and even withdrew his own complaint that antisemitism inside Labour had been cynically exaggerated. In the end, supporters of Palestinian rights were purged from Labour in droves and Corbyn was replaced with Sir Keir Starmer, a grim centrist with strong Zionist sympathies, deep national security state ties, and the charisma of a filing cabinet.
“The beast is slain,” a prominent UK Israel lobbyist declared, boasting that Corbyn had been “slaughtered” thanks to “our spies and intel.”
The Israel lobby’s latest blitz of antisemitism allegations has successfully deflected US media’s attention away from Israel’s deliberate bombing of civilian towers and extermination of entire families in Gaza, the pogroms Jewish extremists waged against Palestinians just minutes from Tel Aviv, and the ongoing police round-up of Palestinian citizens of Israel. In turn, it has cast an American Jewish community basking in almost unimaginable affluence and privilege as the true victims of the Israel-Palestine crisis, while impugning a movement agitating for the rights of a dispossessed and colonized people as bigoted criminals.
We are all Jeremy Corbyn now.