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July 21, 2017 12:09 pm

The Telos Group’s Palestinian Propaganda Posing as Promotion of Peacemaking

avatar by Noah Summers

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Adele Biton. The 4-year-old Israeli girl died in February 2015 two years after she was seriously injured in a terrorist attack on her family’s car. Photo: Biton family album.

The template is all too familiar —  those “peace activists” who compare present-day Palestinian suffering to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, simply as a ploy to engender sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

Those who perpetuate this historically inaccurate narrative seek both to minimize Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and to imply that Israel has genocidal intent directed toward Palestinians.

The Telos Group, an American organization deceptively posing as a peacemaking entity, recently released a film, titled Apolis, that implicitly promotes such a narrative.

It does so, in part, by cutting between images of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and supposed violence against the Palestinians, which the film implicitly alleges is being carried out at the hands of Israel’s military. The narrative created in the film both implies that Israel is solely at fault for Palestinian suffering and completely ignores not only the suffering that Palestinians endure under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank but also the brutal terror that they live under in Hamas-controlled Gaza. 

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In Apolis — which has more than 26,000 views on Facebook already — Israel is portrayed as ruining a Palestinian Christian child’s birthday party in Bethlehem — forcing her sister who lived across the street to phone the child to sing Happy Birthday “under the sound of bullets.”

An uninformed viewer would assume that the film provides a balanced perspective from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since both an Israeli and a Palestinian are interviewed. However, interviewee Daniel (Danny) Seidemann — the Israeli-American Jewish descendant of Holocaust survivors — is a noted critic of Israel’s policies, particularly in Jerusalem. He and his organization, Terrestrial Jerusalem, were among a list of what NGO Monitor termed as “highly biased and politicized NGOs[.]” According to the NGO Monitor, Seidemann’s other organization, Ir Amim, is similarly critical of Israel and sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative. 

Angie (Angel) Saba, a Christian Palestinian, is also interviewed in the film. She is the public relations coordinator for the Diyar Consortium, whose president and founder is Mitri Raheb, “who has a long history of anti-Israel activism,” according to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting. In Apolis, Saba references the work of the Diyar Consortium as “creative resistance” to what she terms “the [Israeli] occupation.” 

The film proclaims that both Daniel and Angie are engaged “in the dangerous and radical work of peacemaking.” However, a Jewish Israeli advocating for Jewish and Palestinian “self-determination,” as Daniel did in the film, is hardly considered “radical” within Israeli society. And a Palestinian blaming Israel for Palestinian suffering, as Angie subtly did, would not be considered “dangerous” within Palestinian society. What is both radical and dangerous is that the Telos Group, in this film, deceptively portrays a historically false narrative as reality.

At one point, a rock-throwing child is shown. Although Angie talks later in the film about the boy putting down the rock and picking up a violin as another form of resistance, the film makes the rock-throwing seem artistic and strangely sanitized — instead of portraying the brutal reality of Palestinian rock-throwing, namely, the Israelis who have been injured or murdered as a result. 

For example, Telos could have told the story of another child — a two-year-old Israeli girl named Adele Biton, who suffered “a traumatic brain injury following a 2013 stone-throwing attack on a West Bank road that led to a collision between the car her mother was driving and a truck.” Adele suffered severe neurological injuries and died two years later from complications from pneumonia. The Arab medic, who successfully worked intensively to save Adele’s life at the time of the rock-throwing and collision, publicly held the Palestinian rock throwers responsible for her death.  

 Telos could have also told the story of Alexander Levlovitz, a 64-year-old Israeli returning from a holiday dinner, who lost control of his vehicle, suffered an apparent heart attack, and “was critically injured” when his car crashed in a Palestinian rock-throwing attack. Instead, the Telos Group film whitewashed the real-life consequences of Palestinian rock-throwing.

The film’s whitewashing comes as no surprise to those familiar with Telos, given its affinity for the same Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that recently reaffirmed its steadfast refusal to give up its financial payments to terrorists — like these rock-throwers — and their families.

While posing as a peacemaking entity, the Telos Group instead promotes a pro-PLO/Palestinian Authority (PA) agenda by parroting talking points similar to those of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian elites — paying lip service to peace, but refusing to take actions that condemn myths, incitement, and violence. 

The Telos film’s title, Apolis, is a Greek word whose meaning can be interpreted as “citizens without a state” or “global citizens.” This interpretation is clearly evocative of the Holocaust, in which millions of Jews who had been rendered stateless were murdered. In a like vein, Telos uses the film’s imagery and narrative to inaccurately equate the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Telos then uses that narrative to subtly undermine Israel’s identity and right to sovereignty and security, in ways that echo Palestinian talking points at the United Nations.

As recently demonstrated at UNESCO, strategic, historically erroneous parallels are a common Palestinian government tactic — and they are also used by Telos.

In Apolis, after detailing his own family’s experience in the Holocaust, Seidemann places blame on Israel for Palestinian suffering by stating: “Both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are deeply traumatized people. Both peoples have experienced the fear of being uprooted, of being exiled…” Neglecting to address the issue of Palestinian terrorists and the PLO’s support of them, Seidemann further states, “This is not a morality play of good and evil. This is about two peoples embraced in a tragic conflict.” 

Telos’s PLO/PA affinity is easily explained. Telos Group co-founder, Gregory Khalil, previously worked for the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi as an intern and provided legal advice to Palestinian negotiators working on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

With its recent film, Telos yet again reveals its true colors. Its attempt to hide its anti-Israel sentiments under the cloak of using the Holocaust for its own political ends is deeply offensive to all true peace activists who seek an enduring peace between Israelis and the Palestinians. 

In 2013, Ynet News and Israel Today reported that Palestinians who visited Israel’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, stated their opposition to equating Palestinian suffering with the Holocaust: “I don’t agree with the comparison between the Holocaust and the situation in the territories, and people who make this comparison make it out of pain and anger,” said Ahmed al-Jaafari. Bassam Aramin agreed by stating, “This is a big mistake. These [the situation in the territories and the Holocaust] are very different things.”  

Writing for the Gatestone Institute, Manfred Gerstenfeld and Jamie Berk recognized the false moral equivalence that the Palestinians visiting Yad Vashem noticed. Gerstenfeld and Berk also pointed outthat a false narrative or visual manipulation — both of which Apolis employed — are used to fabricate a false moral equivalence.

It is beyond time for Telos to stop drawing false parallels to the Holocaust.

And it is time for Telos to stop the charade of creating Palestinian propaganda posing as promotion of peacemaking.          

Noah Summers is a specialist on Middle East affairs and American foreign policy.

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