How did an MSNBC interview about Ukraine turn into an attack on Israel?

The working assumption made by Hasan and Beinart is that Israel is a repressive society, as bad as Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

By Gidon Ben-Zvi, HonestReporting

Any hope that MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan — known for posting baseless accusations about the Jewish state to his 1.1 million Twitter followers — would conduct a tough but fair interview, was dashed the second he opened with this leading question during a May 2 segment on his show:

“But at what point do we as a country say that we also offer our support to all people fighting repression and occupation, not just brave Ukrainians, because in places like Yemen and the occupied Palestinian territories we’re not on the side of those people are we? Our allies are the ones doing the oppressing and occupying in those places.”

Hasan is implying that the Israeli government’s steps to protect its citizens from acts of terrorism that are fueled by the Palestinian Authority’s continuous incitement to and financial incentivization for the perpetuation of violence are on the same moral plane as Russia’s war of choice against Ukraine — as well as the actions taken by some of the world’s worst human rights violators against their own people.

Revisionist thinking trumps history

Not missing a beat, the response given by Hasan’s guest, the one and only Peter Beinart, is a case study of revisionist thinking trumping actual history:

“We’re outraged Ukraine has been occupied since 2014. Palestinians have been occupied since 1967… and the U.S. still gives unconditional military aid to Israel…Then Americans are surprised that people around the world see us as hypocrites?”

On the one hand, when Beinart during the segment is discussing the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, he says the following: “You can’t attack a country if it doesn’t pose an immediate threat to you.”

On the other hand, Beinart fails to mention that in stark contrast to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, Israel, which indeed gained control of certain territories during the Six-Day War, only did so after first having been forced into a war of survival against neighboring Arab countries.

Regional leaders in the run-up to the conflict had repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had imposed a blockade of Israeli goods through the Straits of Tiran, itself an act of war, while ordering a massive military buildup and demanding the removal of UN peacekeeping forces monitoring the shared border. Moreover, top Arab officials around the Middle East had repeatedly made public genocidal statements about the Jewish state.

After the war, Israel’s cabinet met and agreed to send to the United States the following offer: “Israel proposes reaching peace with Egypt [and with Syria] on the basis of the international border and the security requirements of Israel.”

The Israeli government proposed returning the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace. In response, the Arab League — at the time comprising Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, and Sudan — issued a proclamation known as the Khartoum Resolution, or, more informally, the Three Nos: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it…”

Baseless comparison

Despite this decades-long intransigence, successive Israeli governments have repeatedly attempted to forge a path towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Yet Beinart implies that the sorry state of the Palestinian people since 1967 is primarily Israel’s fault.

The comments made by Peter Beinart on MSNBC’s “The Mehdi Hasan Show” are part of a growing pattern, equating — sometimes quite subtly — the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine with Israel’s fight against Palestinian terror groups in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

Such comparisons are baseless. According to most members of the United Nations Security Council, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violates Article 2(4) of the UN Charter which requires member states to refrain from the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Notably, Ukraine did not commit or threaten to commit an armed attack against Russia or any other UN member state prior to Moscow’s military action.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem’s policies and actions are in direct response to Palestinian terror groups looking to inflict harm on all Israeli citizens — Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Selective outrage

Peter Beinart then lambasts as hypocritical Washington’s policy regarding “unconditional” military aid to Israel. Yet this sense of outrage does not apply to a Palestinian Authority that allocates more than 7 percent of its annual budget to what has been termed a “Martyrs’ Fund” because of those who receive the cash: convicted terrorists.

Beinart’s silence on the issue is in line with a seeming unwillingness by major media outlets to raise questions regarding the Biden Administration’s decision last year to resume U.S. financial assistance to the Palestinians.

Apparently, there is nothing “hypocritical” about the PA possibly diverting U.S. tax dollars to incentivize violence against Israeli citizens.

The working assumption made by Hasan and Beinart is that Israel is a repressive society, as bad as Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In fact, Israel is a country ranked above Italy, Spain and the United States in a respected global index of democratic values. The country is by far the most democratic in the Middle East.

By lumping in Jerusalem with some of the world’s most egregious human rights violators, Hasan, Beinart, and by extension MSNBC are slandering a country that extends rights and protections to all its citizens – Jews and non-Jews alike.

Even worse, such a mischaracterization of Israel diminishes the very real plight of people around the world who are suffering under the rule of truly oppressive regimes.