A Hamas Supporter’s Enablers

by Rafael Medoff

A Hamas supporter, appearing on the BBC, has stirred controversy with his comparison of Arab terrorists to Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto. But perhaps the bigger story is the surprisingly large number of mainstream media outlets that have repeatedly given him a platform despite his record of unabashed antisemitism.

In an October 7 segment about the invasion of Israel, BBC News turned to the Gaza-based Refaat Alareer for commentary. In his remarks, Alareer called the Hamas massacres of Israeli children “legitimate and moral” and “exactly like the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.”

Obscene comparisons of Israel to the Nazis are, of course, a staple among Palestinian Arab propagandists. But when it comes to Refaat Alareer, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

There was a time when Alareer openly acknowledged that Jews are the target of his hatred. In a 2012 tweet, for example, he wrote: “Are most Jews evil? Of course they are.” But after Twitter banned his account, Alareer re-emerged with a thinly-disguised euphemism for Jews: “Zios.” In a typical barrage of tweets, in September and October 2021, he wrote that “Zios are the enemy of the free and decent people around the world” and “Zios are the dirtiest little snitches,” along with a string of profanity-laced tweets along similar lines.

Refaat’s writings are filled with references to Nazis and the Holocaust. “Zionazism,” he has declared, is “the root cause of evil…around the world.” In another tweet, he wrote that “all supporters of Israel would be cheering for the Nazis in the 30s and 40s.”

The latter accusation is particularly ironic since Palestinian Arab leaders such as Haj Amin el-Husseini, better known as the Grand Mufti, not only “cheered” for the Nazis but actually collaborated with them. In fact, the government of Yugoslavia indicted Husseini as a war criminal because the all-Muslim SS unit which he organized committed atrocities against Allied soldiers and civilians in Nazi-occupied Bosnia.

Today’s Palestinian Arab leadership, the Palestinian Authority, is so proud of Husseini that it named an elementary school after him in El-Bireh, near the PA capital city of Ramallah. There are also two schools in Gaza named after Hassan Salameh, a senior aide to the Mufti who was with him in Berlin during the war—until Salameh parachuted into British-ruled Palestine in an aborted attempt to poison the water supply of Tel Aviv.

Neither Alareer’s antisemitism nor his vicious distortions of the Holocaust seem to be of much interest to his circle of enablers.

He has been published on the op-ed page of the New York Times. A report on NBC News presented him as a mild-mannered professor trying to protect Gaza’s bookstores from Israeli barbarians. Prominent left-of-center media outlets Democracy Now! and In These Times also feature his extremist commentaries.

The American Friends Service Committee (the foreign policy arm of the Quakers) has a glowing page about Alareer on its website. The AFSC organized a book tour for Alareer some years ago; the subsequent revelations about his antisemitism have not deterred it from continuing to tout him as a literary hero who battles what it calls “Israel’s repeated acts of aggression.”

Most notable was a puff piece about Alareer that was published in the New York Times in November 2021, just a few weeks after his slew of tweets about “dirty Zios.” The article, authored by the Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, portrayed Alareer as a gentle professor of poetry who “teaches Palestinians about empathy.” After protests by media analysts, the Times issued a lengthy correction that retracted much of the article.

If the producers at BBC News had undertaken even the most minimal background check on Alareer before inviting him to comment on the Israel-Gaza war, they would have discovered his long record of antisemitic outbursts. Which means either the BBC News staff failed to do their job; or they knew of his bigotry but still felt he would make a suitable commentator. Either possibility is deplorable.

(October 2023)