Friday, January 27th | 6 Shevat 5783

March 17, 2020 8:28 am

After Coronavirus, the Mask Is Off at the Quincy Institute

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avatar by Dexter Van Zile


Palestinian police officers stand guard outside the Church of the Nativity that was closed as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 6, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma.

We ought to thank Sarah Leah Whitson, Managing Director for Research and Policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft — the gathering place for Israel-haters established by Andrew Bacevich in 2019.

Whitson, who was well known for promoting hostility toward Israel under the guise of human rights activism during her tenure at Human Rights Watch, revealed an astonishing and troubling desire to see Israeli Jews suffer.

Whitson took off the mask in a reply to a tweet by Mairav Zonszein, a contributor to the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, who expressed glee that Israeli Jews were forced to live under quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 virus.

In the March 14 tweet, Zonszein wrote, “6 million Jewish Israelis will now get a taste of what around the same number of Palestinians have experienced for over a half a century.”

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So here we have an Israeli-American journalist who covers Israel expressing glee that six million of her fellow Jews are going to be under quarantine isolation to limit the effects of a deadly virus. She suggests that the isolation that Israelis will endure over the next few months is punishment for all the bad things that the Israelis have done to the Palestinians over the years. Just another opportunity to demonize Jewish self-defense, and not attacks on Jews.

The problem with this type of thinking is how easily it can be flipped. Someone on the other side of the debate could, and probably will, argue that the suffering endured by Palestinians as a result of the COVID-19 virus is just punishment for the terror attacks perpetrated by groups like Hamas and PFLP over the years. Fortunately, most Israelis and Palestinians understand what’s at stake and are working together to constrain the virus, Zonszein’s thoughts notwithstanding.

Most responsible public figures would condemn Zonszein’s crazy tweet or pass it over in silence, but not Sarah Leah Whitson. She picked up Zonszein’s tweet like a fumbled football and ran it into the end zone. She did this by hitting “reply” and typing, “Such a tiny taste. Missing a tablespoon of blood.”

With this now-deleted tweet, Whitson hearkened back to the medieval blood libel, which accused Jews of using the blood of gentile children to make Passover matzah, just a few weeks before Passover. After some serious pushback, Whitson said she deleted the tweet to “prevent misinterpretation” because her message “didn’t come out right” and she “should’ve emphasized I abhor all violence.”

Forgive me, but I have a tough time taking Whitson’s explanation seriously. No one with the least bit of knowledge of Jewish history would have “accidentally” put in a reference to a “teaspoon” of blood without warning bells going off in the back of her head.

It doesn’t help that Whitson’s employer, the Quincy Institute, is a gathering place for all manner of Israel haters. Its list of experts reads like a who’s who of the Walt and Mearsheimer crowd. (And guess what? Both Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the infamous Israel Lobby book serve as advisers to the Quincy Institute.)

Then we’ve got Trita Parsi, the former staffer for the National Iranian American Council, with ties to the Iranian regime. Then there’s retired US Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who once suggested that Israel perpetrated gas attacks on civilians in Syria as part of a “false-flag” operation. Exactly what is Wilkerson doing serving as an expert for an organization dedicated to “responsible statecraft”?

This brings us back to Whitson, the Managing Director for Research and Policy at the Quincy Institute. Does posting ugly tweets redolent of antisemitic blood libels qualify as promoting peace and tranquility in both the United States and the international arena?

Again, we should all be thankful to Whitson for taking the mask off. Behind the façade of responsible statecraft at the Quincy Institute, there’s an ugly visage of anti-Israel scapegoating.

Dexter Van Zile is the Shillman Research Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.

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