Opinion | When Fiction Masquerades as Journalism


By Kevin Ross

After reading Susan Abulhawa’s article on Philly.com and The Philadelphia Inquirer, “By touring Israel, Philadelphia Orchestra ignores crimes against Palestinians,” I was mystified how in today’s day and age, with all the resources at our disposal to verify information, such an article could make it in the opinion section of a major newspaper. I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts.

Statements of fact are either true or not true. That’s why this article, which is so full of blatant lies, cannot be honestly described as an opinion. It can only be described as fraud.

Given the long history of Palestinian Arab supporters manufacturing evidence to the point that the phrase “Pallywood” has been coined, one would think that a major newspaper would be a bit more cautious in printing such an article. Palestinian Arab propagandists often make or share fake videos designed to pull at the heartstrings of the uninformed international community that is not knowledgeable about these efforts to demonize Israel.

Alan Dershowitz said of Abulhawa that she “supports Hamas, she supports Hezbollah, she supports Husseini (the Muslim Grand Mufti that collaborated with Hitler).” French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy described Abulhawa’s novel Mornings in Jenin as “a concentration of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish clichés masquerading as fiction.” It appears that her article is consistent with her other views and works of propaganda.

Susan Abulhawa (Susan Abulhawa.jpg by decltype licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Abulhawa’s depiction of Israel, its history and alleged treatment of the Palestinian Arabs is something you would expect to read on Hamas propaganda websites. Her work of fiction begins by depicting an alleged sinister Israeli conspiracy to cover up Israel’s alleged diabolical crimes against the allegedly meek, innocent Palestinian Arabs. How is Israel going about hiding these crimes? She claims it’s by putting on lots of concerts in order to divert attention away from these crimes.

This begs the question: If Israel is so awful to Arabs, why do the majority of Israeli Arabs — by a wide margin — want to live in Israel rather than anywhere else, including in any future Palestinian state?

Her depiction of Palestinian Arab-led boycotts against Israel being successful and likening such boycotts to the fight against apartheid South Africa is laughable. The Rolling Stones, Justin Bieber, Aerosmith, Rihanna, Sia, Guns N’ Roses, Madonna, Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, Linkin Park, Alicia Keys, Backstreet Boys, Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, One Republic, Robbie Williams, Seal, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, the Pixies, Rod Stewart, Nick Cave, Tears for Fears, Grandaddy, Jose Gonzalez, Fatboy Slim, Jean-Michel Jarre, Paul Young, Vanessa-Mae, Emir Kusturica, Ace of Base, Alice Cooper, Santana, The Chainsmokers and so many more have either already performed in Israel or are scheduled to do so.

The creative community overwhelmingly supports Israel. Only a vocal minority have chosen to boycott Israel. The leader of the performing artists boycotting Israel is Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters, who best exemplified his views by floating giant inflatable pigs with the Jewish Star of David emblazoned on them at his concerts.

Moving on to the fantastical claims of Israel being an apartheid state, one simply needs to look at what an apartheid state looked like and then compare it to Israel.

In apartheid South Africa all non-whites couldn’t vote, couldn’t hold political office, couldn’t marry whites, couldn’t use the same restrooms, couldn’t attend white schools and couldn’t live in white neighborhoods. Not one of these restrictions exists for Arabs living in Israel.

There are Arab members of parliament. There are Arab Supreme Court justices. It was an Arab judge that sentenced a former Israeli president to jail for sexual misconduct. All the signs in Israel are in Hebrew, English and Arabic. The truth is that Arabs in Israel are freer than any Arabs in the entire Arab world.

Even members of South Africa’s parliament like Kenneth Meshoe, who lived under the apartheid regime in South Africa, have railed against the scurrilous comparison to apartheid South Africa. Meshoe stated that such comparisons are “inaccurate and malicious,” whose “purpose is to demonize Israel and delegitimize Israel’s existence. … Because it is so inaccurate, it betrays the memory of those that suffered under real apartheid.”

The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement’s efforts to demonize Israel are founded on lies. Curiously, as supporting evidence to prove her outlandish accusations, Abulhawa chose to cite Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu, a longstanding anti-Semite with an appalling list of anti-Jewish comments spanning decades. Here’s one of Tutu’s typical statements about Jews: “Whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can’t ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people.” And let us not forget, arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat was also a Nobel laureate.

Abulhawa “creatively” characterizes the Israel Defense Forces’ defense against Hamas terrorists attempting to breach the Gaza border fence and infiltrate Israel as having “killed 40 Palestinians and wounded 5,000 more in the span of four weeks” — as if these were regular Palestinian Arabs doing nothing wrong, just minding their own business. In truth, they have repeatedly thrown firebombs at Israeli soldiers.

Abulhawa refers to the 1948 Arab population as “indigenous,” despite the fact that overwhelmingly, the Arab population were new arrivals to the area, coming from the Arabian Peninsula in the late 1800s, as documented by British census data. Nonetheless, like Abulhawa, Palestinian Arab leaders have been attempting to rewrite history. Archaeologists continue to find ancient Hebrew artifacts that are thousands of years old, evidencing the Jewish presence in the land for thousands of years. Curiously, no such Palestinian Arab archaeological findings have been found.

Abulhawa’s libel of Israel is consistent with her radical views. Her screed was yet another shameless attempt to smear the only Jewish state.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is rightly proud to stand with the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. While no country is perfect, no other country facing similar threats and challenges has comported itself more honorably and equitably than Israel. Israel remains a beacon of freedom, democracy and equal rights for all. Even while on the front lines of the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, Israel remains a vibrant, successful and happy country whose contributions to mankind continue to enrich the world.

Israel truly is a “light unto the nations.” 

Kevin Ross is co-president of the Zionist Organization of America’s Philadelphia office.


  1. I wish to respond to Kevin Ross’s piece to refocus on what I see as the main question at issue: the killing of unarmed, peacefully protesting Palestinians, including journalists and children, by Israel’s military. No country should treat its population that way, no matter what the population may or may not have done in the past. It is a violation of their human rights. We have asked the Orchestra not to tour Israel while such a severe violation of human rights is underway, but management has declined even to meet. That is the reason for the continuing protests.

    • Israel never intentionally kills unarmed, peacefully protesting Palestinians. Perhaps you are confusing them with the Palestinians in Gaza, who are not citizens of Israel, but who are armed with Molotov cocktails and guns, as well as rocks that can kill, and who pretend bravery while hiding behind children and the skirts of women, a clear human rights violation. When these men try to cross a border into Israel, Israel has the sovereign right and duty to protect its borders and its citizens. Granted, in times of chaos, an innocent unarmed journalist may be shot but, unfortunately, accidents happen. Most of the men shot by Israel were proven to be armed members of Hamas. I hope the Philadelphia Orchestra has a successful journey and enjoys the many wonders of Israel.

    • Ms. Guttenberg, I don’t know where you are getting your news from, however, the protests at the Gaza border are not remotely peaceful, nor are the “Palestinian” Arabs unarmed. You may or may not have seen the report issued shortly after the first wave of Arab attacks on the Israel-Gaza border fence. The overwhelming majority of those killed were positively identified as Hamas terrorists. The terrorists were launching firebombs at the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), flying kites over the border fence with incendiary devices and explosives attached, using burned tires to create an eco-hazard in Israel as well as using the thick smoke to conceal Hamas terrorists cutting the border fence with bolt cutters so they could infiltrate into Israel and murder innocent civilians. Every country has the right to protect its borders from hostile invasion and attack. The journalist you cited turned out to be a longtime Hamas terrorist organization member for many years and had been on the payroll of the terror group since 2011.

      You either know all this and are deliberately trying to mischaracterize these facts or are exhibiting a breathtaking naivete and ignorance of the true facts on the ground. Whoever is providing you with your “news” is not doing you any favors and you are endangering the lives of Israelis by delegitimizing and mischaracterizing their rightful defense against their border by Hamas terrorists. By the way, what kind of parent would bring a child to a war zone? What you don’t seem to realize is that Hamas has long used the “dead baby strategy” as a cudgel against Israel. They intentionally put their young people in harms way with hopes of being able to broadcast dead children to the world. It’s disgusting.

      What astonishes me most is that even if all of the spurious and absurd claims against Israel were all true, it would still pale in comparison to the human rights abuses that occur in Gaza. They suppress freedom of religion- you can be killed for leaving the faith, other religions cannot be practiced there, there is no free press and citizens can be jailed or killed for speaking out against the radical Islamic regime, women do not have equal rights, to be gay is a death sentence there — they throw homosexuals off of rooftops, they use their own people as human shields as they launch rockets from kindergartens, mosques, and hospitals, and the list goes on.

      It strains credulity to believe that you care about human rights when you speak out against alleged Israeli crimes that rarely turn out to be true but ignore the overshadowing Hamas human rights abuses that are undeniable and occur with regularity.

  2. I get it: Kevin Ross is “Mr. Israel.” Good for him. Love his passion and enthusiasm for what he believes is a just cause.

    However, he whiffed on this. Actually he swung three times and struck out. And looks bad doing so.

    What he fails to grasp and comprehend, is that the piece is question is an opinion piece.

    He does not call this out in this rebuttal. He refers to this as an article.

    While he might not like the content or the ideology, the other writer is entitled to her opinion.

    • @Marta: They are not peaceful protesters. They are there for two purposes: to try to breach the border and infiltrate Israel to dance — oh wait, I mean to murder the closest citizens, and 2) to be shot on camera to generate wrongful sympathy. You’ve fallen for it, I’m very sorry to say, even pointing out that a journalist was killed. In fact, I saw a photo of a journalist protecting “peacefully protesting Palestinians” who were launching a lethal rock at Israeli soldiers. Open your eyes but moreso your mind and read between the lines.

    • Mr. Siegel, thank you for calling me “Mr. Israel.” I hope to one day live up to that lofty title.
      I have no problem with Ms. Abdulhawa having her own opinion. In fact, my article specifically says, “I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts.” And that is my issue. Its not OK to promote easily verifiable falsehoods in the guise of an opinion. Hopefully, a paper with any journalistic integrity would not entertain publishing a serious article about the Earth being flat or other types of nonsense like ludicrous conspiracy theory-type claims like the Jews being responsible for 9/11 and so forth. Some things simply don’t fall into the category of opinion. Propagandists like Adulhawa try to exploit this country’s respect for and commitment to free speech by masquerading propaganda in the guise of opinion.
      Its troubling that you found my response to this vicious, libelous, anti-Semitic screed more problematic than the screed itself. The two sides have two very different value systems. One side supports democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, women’s rights, gay rights, human rights. The other side has a leader in his 13th year of a four-year term, destroys places of worship of other religions and kills those that leave the faith, suppresses free speech, suppresses freedom of press, women do not have equal rights to men, gays are thrown off rooftops merely for being gay, dissenters are imprisoned and tortured, etc. You have chosen to take issue with the former. You should be taking issue with the latter.

    • While Ms. Abulhawa is entitled to her opinions, Harry, to paraphrase Sen. Moynihan, she cannot make up “facts.” None — zero — of her allegations against Israel are true.

  3. Mr. Ross’s hit piece on an award-winning, internationally recognized journalist and author reads like a speech from President Trump — anything that Ms. Abulhawa says about Israel that he doesn’t feel comfortable about is labeled “fake news” or “fake facts,” leaving him free to make up his own facts as he writes along. Kudos to Abulhawa and, for that matter to all Palestinians, for having the courage to stand up to 70 years of the Zionists’ denial of their existence that has been used time and again to cover over the theft of Indigenous lands. And FYI, Mr. Ross – rocks don’t kill but heavily armed Israel snipers intentionally aiming to kill and wound women and children do. Enough enough.

    • Mrs. Piette, that Ms. Abulhawa has won awards such as the MEMO Palestine Award does little to bolster her work of fiction that was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her novels are admitted works of fiction — not even Abulhawa denies that they are fiction. Furthermore, you provided no supporting evidence to debunk or disprove any of my critique of Abulhawa’s “article,” which is telling.

      Your assertion that the Jews were not the indigenous people to the land of Israel and that the Arabs were the indigenous people is not backed by any evidence whatsoever — historical, literary, cultural, archaeological, or scientific. The name Palestine is a Roman name. There is no letter ‘P’ in Arabic. Do you honestly believe a people would name themselves using a name they could not pronounce in their own language? Furthermore, with the advent of DNA technology, it is irrefutable that Arabs descend from the Hijaz, not the Levant.

      But since when has facts and logic stood in the way of anti-Semites seeking to erase and conceal Jewish history and replace it with the false narrative of “theft of indigenous lands”? It is people like you that are impeding the peace process. If more people were simply honest with the Arabs — like the Saudi king is being right now — and admit that the Jews are the indigenous people to the land of Israel, it would remove much of the resentment and hatred that so many Arabs are infected with because their leaders have indoctrinated them from birth by stuffing this fake narrative down their throats — in their schools, newspapers, social media, radio, TV, etc.

      The Israelis are well aware of the existence of the Arabs living there. Having to deal with the ceaseless hostility, incitement and terrorism stoked by Arab leadership has been hard to ignore. Furthermore, it has created tremendous hardships on its own people. Their leaders’ decision to invest their considerable resources to build terror tunnels and rockets instead of schools and businesses is emblematic of this ongoing self-inflicted wound. This wound will not be able to heal as long as lies and propaganda continue to be fed to the “Palestinian” Arabs.

      G-d willing, when Arabs and their sympathizers abandon the supremacist goals of conquest and destruction of Israel, which we both know is never going to happen, we can then begin to move forward together as the true family that we are. Remember, Ishmael — the forefather of the Arabs and Isaac — the forefather of the Jews, are both sons of Abraham. They are brothers. While you seek affirm and perpetuate lies and propaganda, I will continue to call out these lies wherever I see them. I will do this while simultaneously continuing to pray that Jews and Arabs can once again come together and be one family, living side by side in peace.

      You are on the wrong side of history. I hope you will consider abandoning your fruitless defense of the indefensible. Let’s work together by telling the hard truths that must be told so that these two special people — Jews and Arabs, who have so much to share with one another and so much to learn from one another — can put an end to this destructive conflict and begin to build a new future of true mutual respect, love, and brotherhood.

  4. Ms. Guttenberg, I don’t know where you are getting your information from, but your characterization of “unarmed, peacefully protesting Palestinians” (which is somewhat of an oxymoron), is simply not consistent with reality.

    Here are just a few sources that have revealed that intelligence has shown that the overwhelming majority of those killed were Hamas terrorists posing an imminent threat. They have consistently launched firebombs, kites with bombs and incendiary devices attached, drones, etc,. at IDF soldiers as well as attempted to breach the border fence. This video is widely available on YouTube, so you can see for yourself. Pointedly, the video shows their use of Palestinian flags with the swastika emblazoned on it which is consistent with the Hamas charter which calls for the murder of all Jews.

    Your defense of Hamas terrorists is indefensible and your unsuccessful attempts to get the Orchestra to boycott Israel is reminiscent of the disturbing support the Nazi regime received from its citizens that all too willingly bought in to the propaganda- despite the obviousness of its untruth.

    If you are indeed Jewish, you have been wildly misled by whomever is filling your head with such propaganda. You are now standing on the side of those that ferociously oppose freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, women’s rights, gay rights and, most of all, human rights. Your invocation of outrage over human rights violations reveals a breathtaking ignorance of the human rights violations of those you have sided with. They throw gay people off of rooftops just for being gay. Women can be murdered for dating someone outside the faith or for doing something to embarrass her family. Perhaps you should watch the film Honor Diaries if you are not familiar. Selling land to a Jew is a capital offense. I could go on and on. It’s really gross. But you probably know all this.

    Israel is the only country in the entire middle east that upholds all of these values. If you are truly motivated to stand up for human rights, even the most outlandish lies about Israel pale in comparison to the real, horrific human rights abuses occurring in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Myanmar, Yemen, China, etc. — all of which you are curiously silent about. Curiously, you only felt the need to condemn the only Jewish state.

    If you want to create the kind of world that you want your children and grandchildren to live in, you have to call out the real bad actors of the world and support those trying to uphold the universal values needed for a civilized world.

    I hope I’ve given you something to think about.

  5. Marta, you are correct: “No country should treat its population that way” — Hamas should stop oppressing the Gazan palestinian-Arabs. To remind everyone; the Palestinian-Arabs voted for Hamas in a free, fair and democratic election.
    To remind everyone further, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The only Israelis in the Strip today are those whom the palestinian-Arabs are holding hostage. The Gazans are not part of Israel’s population.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here