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 Talking Points to Obfuscation
 Leonard Fein, USA
 August 2, 2002
The New York Times reports that under contract with the United States Agency for International Development, researchers from the Johns Hopkins University have surveyed the state of malnutrition among Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza. The preliminary findings show that 51% of those children are indeed suffering from malnutrition—30% from chronic malnutrition, 21% from acute malnutrition. The formal report is due to be published August 5. Israel's reaction thus far has been to deny the findings. It denies the report—as also reports of malnutrition by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—on the grounds that it biased, since it was directed by a Palestinian doctor. It claims there is neither hunger nor malnutrition in the West Bank and Gaza, albeit there is "humanitarian distress," which is actually "accelerating the moves toward a cease fire." At the same time, according to Israeli newspaper reports, Israel dismisses the significance of the much-rumored imminent Palestinian announcement of a unilateral cease fire. "It won't be close to our demands," according to a senior government source.

In the meantime, we may rest assured that American Jewish organizations are preparing "talking points" for distribution to their constituents in anticipation of the publication of the malnutrition report. If past is prologue, which it usually is, here are some examples of the sort of thing we may expect in the days ahead:

* These misleading data are plainly yet another demonstration of anti-Israel bias. The study, directed by a Palestinian doctor, has produced false data, and in any case the malnutrition they report must be understood in the broader context of the conflict.

* We know the data are false because Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. In keeping with the Jewish tradition, Israel is always sensitive to humanitarian concerns, especially as they involve children. It is simply unthinkable that Israel would knowingly be in any way responsible for the malnutrition of children.

* Responsibility for the non-existent malnutrition rests with the Palestinians—specifically, with Yasser Arafat, who is irrelevant. Israel has transmitted documents to the United States that show conclusively that Yasser Arafat is personally responsible for eating the food allocated to West Bank children.

* Responsibility for the non-existent malnutrition rests with the Palestinians—specifically, with Yasser Arafat, who is irrelevant. Israel has repeatedly stated that if the Palestinians would acquiesce to Israeli policy, no one would be hungry any more.

* Responsibility for the non-existent malnutrition rests with the Palestinians—specifically, with Yasser Arafat, who is irrelevant. Israel has ample evidence that there is more than enough food in the West Bank, but that the Palestinian authorities, with the cooperation of Palestinian parents, are purposely starving their children, for whom they do not care, in order to elicit world sympathy.

* It is important to remember that when Israel causes malnutrition, which it does not, Israelis feel remorse. Palestinians know nothing of remorse. Accordingly, the Palestinians should be blamed not only for the non-existent malnutrition which is their fault, but also for making the Israelis feel bad.

* If the Palestinians had accepted the United Nations partition of 1947, all this unpleasantness could have been avoided.

* Unfortunately, some continue to blur the lines between terrorism and self-defense. There is no moral equivalence between suicide bombing and denial of food to children.

* Israel's Defense Ministry has a web site filled with stories of how Israeli soldiers have gone out of their way, at great personal risk, to provide snacks for Palestinian children—this even though they are not suffering from malnutrition.

* If Palestinians children were truly hungry, their families would move to Jordan, where they belong. Israel has film that shows Palestinian children being taught to simulate the symptoms of malnutrition.

* Johns Hopkins University is located in Baltimore. The schools of Baltimore were segregated until 1964. Baltimore-based institutions have no right to preach to Israel regarding humanitarian behavior.

* The United States Agency for International Development used to be part of the State Department, which is staffed by Arabists and self-hating Jews, and is even today headed by Colin Powell, who does not regard Yasser Arafat as irrelevant.

* The so-called bomb which was dropped by the Israeli air force in Gaza last week, with unfortunate and unintended consequences, commonly referred to as collateral damage, was in fact a one-ton shipment of food. Israel regrets that it caused human casualties, and Israel feels very bad. Even Prime Minister Sharon has expressed his regrets, which must be taken very seriously since he earlier described the so-called bomb as a "great success."

* Malnutrition is a world-wide phenomenon. At least five provinces of Pakistan have higher rates of malnutrition. Singling out Israel for criticism is evidence of anti-Israel bias.

* If Palestinian children spent less time throwing stones, they would have more time to eat.

* Eating disorders are in fact a sign of upward mobility.

Malnutrition is a clinical condition that can cause life-long impairment. Sometimes the best defense is genuine contrition, as evidenced by changed policies.

Leonard Fein's most recent book is Against the Dying of the Light: A Father's Story of Love, Loss, and Hope (Jewish Lights, 2001).

From The Forward, August 2, 2002.