Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

The CAMERA never lies?

So, amongst the small slew of hate mail and spectacular volume of spam my Guardian piece on travel to Palestine has inspired, today I got this interesting little email:

Hi Sarah,
There are some factual errors in your piece entitled 10 Things to Do in Palestine.
Also, out of curiosity, are you of the opinion that Gaza is occupied?
Matthew Mainen

Now, assuming (and there seems little reason to think otherwise) that the source of this is the most obvious Matthew Mainen, it derives from this guy, whose profile on the website of The Institute for Gulf Affairs reads as follows:

Matthew Mainen is a policy analyst at the Institute for Gulf Affairs, where he has been an associate since 2005. During this period, he has worked on numerous projects including IGA’s groundbreaking analysis of Saudi Arabia’s educational system. Matthew has published op-eds in many leading papers and online periodicals including the New York Times, the New York Post and the Hill. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from UMBC with a degree in political science and is currently pursuing a masters in international conflict resolution at Tel Aviv University.

The Institute for Gulf Affairs is one of those innocuous, academic-sounding American organisations which seem to have a scary level of influence in US policymaking. Scary because, taking the IGA as an example:
— it/its staff have some deeply unpleasant friends and colleagues, especially at Benador Associates and other right-wing Republican lobby firms in the Benador family;
— it’s unsurprising to find it funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, one of the USA’s ‘soft’ foreign policy organisations which, under the guise of being an independent civil-libs organisation, gets to make the CIA’s job easier for it…
‘Angry Arab’ rarely anyone’s fool or whitewasher, has some characteristically pithy things to say about IGA. And a quick glance at Mainen’s own blog shows that he spends a lot of his time trying to take down those such as Ben White and Ali Abunimah who devote their time and energy to speaking truth to power.
Of course, it’s also rather entertaining to see someone who claims to be a specialist analyst of the Middle East seeking to correct anyone else’s facts by using the website of CAMERA as a source. CAMERA is the Campaign for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (itself a choice of name which would be hilarious if it weren’t so bitter), which exists to attack anyone and everyone who questions the State of Israel’s human rights record and its occupation of Palestinian land. If I ever found a fact lurking on its website it definitely got in there by accident.

18 comments on “The CAMERA never lies?

  1. AbeBird
    November 30, 2011

    Cameras generally lie when Sarah Irving pushes the light.

  2. Matthew Mainen
    December 2, 2011


    Yes or no: Is Akko in the West Bank?

    Also – what is your highest level of education and in which field?

    • Sarah Irving
      December 2, 2011

      FYI, MA, International Political Economy, not that I seem to share your obsession with bits of paper.

  3. Matthew Mainen
    December 2, 2011

    And of course, those of us who graduated summa cum laude and have published numerous articles in real and respected newspapers (no the electronic intifada is not a real or respected newspapers understand that it doesn’t matter who funds an organization. You attack arguments not people. You learn this in freshman level critical thinking.

    Because you seem incapable of doing so, I will give you an example of how to attack an argument or statement.

    I attack your false implication that Akko is in the West Bank. Care to defend your statement :)

    • Sarah Irving
      December 2, 2011

      Have you bothered actually reading the article you spend so much time attacking? Let me quote: “The new Bradt guide also covers areas of Israel that are home to large numbers of Palestinians and where their culture survives. Not to be missed is the old city of Akka…”

  4. Matthew Mainen
    December 2, 2011

    So then if you have an MA, you should be well aware of the inapplicability and unscholarly nature of making an ad hominen attack.

    I did read the article, how else would I have spotted your falsehood that Israel controls all points of entry into the Gaza Strip. Do you admit this is false?

    So according to you, I could subline an article “10 things to do in China” and have one of those things be China Town, Washington DC. Because after all, China town is IN DC, right.

    And also, according to the INES survey for the 2009 election, most Israeli-Arabs do not primarily self-identify as Palestinian. Don’t you think it’s a little culturally insensitive for you to impose your political agenda on our Arab citizens? Shouldn’t they be allowed to determine for themselves what they are called? Seems to me, you are keen on denying these people their culture – not promote it. The Survey can be found here, though you need spss to open it.

    Also, are you of the opinion that Gaza is occupied? If you are going to answer this question, I do ask that you tell me what are the two qualifications of occupation as determined by the international law setting case the United States vs. Wilhelm List et al in Nuremberg. Because after all, if you wish to make an assertion about whether or not an entity is occupied, you should certainly know of a pivotal case on the subject.

  5. bandora etrog
    December 2, 2011

    “…our Arab citizens?” not israel’s? sounds a bit patronising to me…

    and how many palestinian israelis do you actually know? do you know why so many are reluctant to say they’re palestinian? because there is so much racism against non-jewish (and jewish, when you look at mizrahi) citizens. yes i do know, i used to live there.

  6. Matthew Mainen
    December 2, 2011

    They self identify as Arab. Please read the data.

    There is no such-term as “Palestinian Israeli.” It has absolutely no scholarly basis as the people who have come to be referred to as Palestinians have a distinct culture from those who are from Israel proper. There is a wealth of scholarly material on this cultural differentiation.

    • Sarah Irving
      December 2, 2011

      “There is a wealth of scholarly material on this cultural differentiation.”… written by…?

    • bandora etrog
      December 2, 2011

      no such term? so why do people use it then? (yes, they do.) bit like pretending there’s no such thing as palestine or palestinians. and what would you know about palestinian culture? if it’s not written on some scholarly paper then it can’t possibly be a fact? i’ve spent a great deal of time with palestinians in israel and the west bank and i know what i’ve seen and experienced. what cultural distinctions are you talking about? how much time have you spent with palestinians?

      • Matthew Mainen
        December 2, 2011

        I know enough about Palestinian culture to know that the Arabs in Israel don’t identify as Palestinians, the according to scientific polls they love living in Israel, and they want better ties with the Jews etc.. etc..

        All my experiences have proved this. I have not met one Arab in Israel who didn’t meet the above criteria.

  7. Matthew Mainen
    December 2, 2011

    Sammy Smooha, in my opinion, is the preeminent scholar on the subject of Arabs in Israel, but there are many others who are equally as distinguished.

    This is a good start:

    “The Advances and Limits of the Israelization of Israel’s Palestinian Citizens,” Pp. 9-33 in Israeli and Palestinian Identities in History and Literature, Edited by Kamal Abdel-Malek and David C. Jacobson. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 1999. view/download

    Click to access TheAdvancesLimitsIsraelizationIsraelPalestinian.pdf

    The central thesis is that the Israeli Arabs have a distinct cultural evolution from the Palestinians because while they have Palestinian elements, they clearly have many Israeli elements.

    Page 19 shows the results from a 1995 scientific survey. More Arabs identified as “Israeli citizen” than “member of the Palestinian people.” In fact, only 23% saw themselves as Palestinian.

    The SPSS data from INES has the most recent figures on self-identity.

  8. Asad Khan
    December 2, 2011

    Dear Sarah
    You have far more important things to do than engaging with people like this. Ignore! My blog had its share of obsessed stalkers at one point as well.

  9. Kim
    December 3, 2011

    Oh dear Sarah, poor Matthew!!! Your really should stop “picking” on him, he graduate summa cum laude didn’t you know!! :P Have some respect woman!! After all, you are just a well educated writer committed to human rights and social justice, not a pompous patronising Zionist git committed to maintaining a racist Zionist state.

  10. Kim
    December 3, 2011

    On a more serious note:

    I have to disagree slightly with bandora etrog, “our Arab citizens” is not “a bit” patronizing but extremely patronizing and colonial.

    In relation to this, it is laughable that Matthew Mainen accuses of Sarah of imposing her political agenda “on our Arab citizens”, when it was the Zionist state who sought to impose their political agenda on approximately 150,000 Palestinians who were internally displace as a result of the Zionist ethnic cleansing which took place during al Nakba (and terrorized 750,000 Palestinians into fleeing to neighbouring Arab countries).

    It was the Israeli Zionist state that imposed the term “Israeli-Arab” on Palestinians inside the newly formed Israeli state in order to deny their Palestinian-ness, erase their cultural heritage and to deny them the right of return to their land and property. This is the same Zionist state which forced “Israeli-Arabs” to live under military rule from 1949 until 1966, ensuring their freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly was restricted. As part of their military rule, the Israeli state also specifically sought to quash Palestinian culture from being celebrate publicly by Palestinans or within wider Israeli society, thus enacting a state run policy of actively denying them their cultural heritage as Palestinians.

    So it is absolutely laughable for Mainen to claim that Palestinians willing choose to be identified as “Israeli-Arab” – they did not. This term was forcibly imposed on them by the Zionist state for more than 60 years.

    As a result, it is unsurprising that many Palestinians still continue to use this term given it is the dominant term used by Zionists and the Israeli state to describe them and is a term that is structurally reinforced by the Israeli state. However, many Palestinians are increasingly seeking to challenge this term, which is colonial and one of the many tools that the State of Israel has used to try and erase the existence of the Palestinians.

    It is interesting that in order to push his case, Mainen quotes a 16 year old survey as if its findings are carved in stone, never ever to change over the course of time. As Mainen notes, according to this 1995 survey, 23% of Palestinians in Israel identified as Palestinian (in actual terms, this would have been just over 231,000 people at the time).

    Its interesting to noted that a survey conduced in 1995 and 4 years later in 1999 by Mainen’s preffered academic, Sammy Smooha, found that the portion of Arab citizens of Israel willing to call themselves “Israeli Arabs” had dropped from 63 percent in 1995 to 33 percent four years later in 1999. The study aslo found that those willing to fly an Israeli flag on Independence Day fell from 43 percent in 1995 to 28 in 1999.

    A more recent survey conducted in 2008 by the Israel Democracy Centre found that the majority of Israeli Arabs saw themselves as either Palestinian or Arab, with only a small percentage of the community viewing themselves as “Israeli”. According to the study 45% viewed themsleves as “Arab” and 24% viewed themselves as Palestinains (in real population terms this would be just over 357,000 people viewing themselves as Palestinian – an increase of more than 126,000 people idenifty this way as compared to 1995).

    As for Sammy Smooha, while he is indeed a leading voice in this field, he is not the only Israeli academic to write on the issue of Palestinian citizens of Israel – there are many. This includes other academics, who while agreeing with quite a lot of his material, also have disagreements with him (for example, about his model of “ethnic democracy”)

    Unfortunately, Matthew Mainen’s patronising pomposity seeks to hold up out-of-date studies in order to try and push his own Zionist agenda, which is not fooling anyone.

  11. Matthew Mainen
    December 3, 2011


    In referencing CAMERA you claim “If I ever found a fact lurking on its website it definitely got in there by accident.”

    I challenge you to find me one falsehood in any of CAMERA’s work. Just one.

    Please let me know – you will be making a correction to your statement that Israel controls all points of entry into the West Bank and Gaza.

    Finally, do you believe that Gaza is occupied? If so, please give me your answer in reference to the two requirements of occupation as enunciated by The U.S. vs. Wilhelm List et al.

  12. Matthew Mainen
    December 3, 2011


    In the only person who is patronizing is you.

    You could have saved me your essay by just stating

    “I believe that Israeli-Arabs are mindless drones who cannot think for themselves and are so stupid that whatever the Zionist Nazis impose on them is what they accept.”

    Your diminutive views of the Palestinians could have been summarized in one sentence. Summa Cum Laudes know the importance of being concise :) :).

    I never claimed that a majority of Arabs in Israel said they were Palestinian. I claimed that a minority view themselves as Palestinian.

    Reading comprehension is also something that us Summa Cum Ladues value :) :).

  13. Matthew Mainen
    December 3, 2011

    Kim and Mr. Khan,

    Are you guys of the opinion that Gaza is occupied? If so, can you briefly explain your answer in terms of the two qualifications of occupation as determined via the U.S. vs. Wilhelm list et al at Nuremberg.

    Also, please do not cite me Human Rights Watch. I am concerned with original source material.

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