One can always count on University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole to excuse violence and hatred directed at Israel. At his blog, Informed Comment (which, judging by the references to the mythical Jenin "massacre" and the USS Liberty canard in the comments section, is read avidly by anti-Israel conspiracy theorists), Cole takes pains to explain away last week's horrific bulldozer attack in Jerusalem.
Cole apparently sees no contradiction between his perfunctory admission that "Violence against innocent civilians is always condemnable and deplored by IC," and his claim to add "context" to the attack by trying to justify the alleged motivations of the perpetrator, Palestinian construction worker Husam Taysir Dwayat.
Citing Al-Jazeera International (one of his favored sources), Cole asserts that, "the bulldozer operator had been working on a controversial rail line connecting West Jerusalem to Arab East Jerusalem, which many Palestinians feel will further disadvantage them." He then launches into a litany of Israel's supposed sins, including demolishing illegal buildings in East Jerusalem, what he calls "rapid encroachments on the Palestinians in the West Bank," the so-called "violence of Israeli colonists (many of them Americans) against native Palestinians," and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) use of military action to protect Israeli citizens from their genocidal neighbors.
Among his sources, Cole cites the Israeli leftist "human rights group" B'Tselem, which has been known to play fast and loose with facts in order to provide a sympathetic media with lurid stories about imagined Israeli human rights transgressions—qualities that make the group an ideal source for Cole's unlimited paranoia. Earlier this year Cole used the occasion of the Hamas-inspired media fabrication regarding electricity and fuel shortages to accuse Israel of perpetrating atrocities, war crimes, and slavery against Gazans, not to mention killing asthmatics and newborns. Yet Cole can't muster the same outrage over the calculated murder of women, children, infants, and any civilian unlucky enough to have crossed paths with Dwayat's bulldozer.
As for Dwayat's motivations, Cole chooses to ignore the fact that he yelled "Allah Akbar" while stepping on the gas pedal, that his mother praised him as a shaheed (martyr) while ululating from the balcony of the family home, or that Palestinian terrorist groups are tripping over themselves trying to take credit for the attack. Meanwhile, his family blames the Jewish woman with whom Dwayat was once involved (and who he was convicted of raping) and his neighbors continue to repeat rumors about "haredi teenagers" throwing stones at Dwayat the day before the attack. But in Cole's morally relativistic world, Dwayat was simply forced to mow down Israeli civilians because he was "seized with a fit of rage over accumulated grievances in his own mind, real or imagined." So much for context.
Such obfuscation is standard fare for Cole, who continues to insist that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinjad was mistranslated when, at the aptly named World without Zionism conference in October, 2005, he said that Israel should be "wiped off the map." Of course, the Iranian regime constantly calls for Israel's destruction and regularly evinces hatred towards Jews. Iran's state-run television replays a seemingly endless repertoire of conspiratorial, anti-Semitic programming, much of which mirrors Nazi-era propaganda. The allegation that the films "Chicken Run" and "Saving Private Ryan" are tools for "Zionist propaganda" is just a recent example. Perhaps Cole can justify that ludicrous claim as well. After all, he's accused Jewish-American officials of dual loyalty, and he has a habit of taking Iranian regime-owned press at face value.
Cole's use of his blog to peddle conspiratorial tendencies directed at the United States in general, and those on the right in particular, is nothing new. Writing at his blog in January this year, Cole implied that the harassment of U.S. Navy vessels in the Straits of Hormuz by Iranian patrol craft was part of a GOP conspiracy. As Campus Watch director Winfield Myers noted at the time:
That a Middle East studies professor upon whom the press relies for insight into this key region can be so wrong-headed in so many ways—and in a single blog post—bodes ill for efforts to bring supply the American public with accurate, reliable information about the Middle East. Overt biases, a selective reading of sources to support preordained conclusions, an eagerness to believe the press of foreign dictatorships over one's own Navy, and the reliance on crude conspiracy theories will ensure only that consumers of media reports on the region are too often misinformed, and that academic Middle East specialists are further discredited.
The real context for Cole's apologia for Dwayat, the bulldozer terrorist, and his "grievances," is that Cole's so-called informed commentary is a font of uninformed conspiracy-mongering where terrorists are excused and the regimes that support them whitewashed.
Cinnamon Stillwell is the Northern California Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.