Archive for April, 2007

Strangling for peace

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Here’s some vibrant imagery from Veronique de Keyser, a Belgian member of the European Parliament:

Addressing a European Left Group hearing on the situation of Palestinian political prisoners last week, De Keyser deplored the “passivity” of the European Parliament on the Palestinian issue, and hailed the “moderation and maturity” of the Palestinians.

“I wonder how they are able to limit violence in the territories given the background,” the Socialist politician said. “If the Israeli ambassador comes in the future to speak of Israel’s security, I feel like I want to strangle him.” [my emphasis]

She seems to have a ‘thing’ for this particular metaphor, because she also said:

One must wring the neck of the European and German culpability on the Shoah.

No, I do not understand why she appears to have rubbed charcoal on her cheeks in the photo.

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Hamas and the Barbary pirates

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Hamas is pushing hard for international recognition of the Palestinian government that it heads. Yet their behavior is not that of a responsible party (much less a nation) but rather resembles that of the Barbary pirates:

[Hamas leader Khaled] Mashaal said that kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit will not be released until Israel yields to Palestinian demands. “If the enemy insists on continuing to refuse to free our prisoners, I am saying here that we have every capability to do again what we have done before…”– YNet

There are indeed similarities between the Palestinians and the Barbary pirates. For example, does this not sound like present-day Gaza?

The payment of blackmail, disguised as presents or ransoms, did not always secure safety. The most powerful states in Europe condescended to make payments to them and to tolerate their insults. Religious orders—the Redemptionists and Lazarists — were engaged in working for the redemption of captives and large legacies were left for that purpose in many countries. — Wikipedia

And consider the response from a representative of Tripoli when asked in 1786 why his agents preyed on American ships:

That it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Nothing’s changed in 221 years.

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Winograd report blames more than just officials

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Where's the shame?The Winograd Commission report on the Second Lebanon War has been officially released. As expected, it primarily blames PM Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for the poor outcome.

Olmert, to his credit, said that he “accepts responsibility”. But not so much to his credit, he does not offer to resign — as many Israelis, both to his right and to his left, have demanded.

More important than the assignment of blame to particular individuals is this, from the report:

The IDF was not ready for this war. Among the many reasons for this we can mention a few: Some of the political and military elites in Israel have reached the conclusion that Israel is beyond the era of wars. It had enough military might and superiority to deter others from declaring war against her; these would also be sufficient to send a painful reminder to anyone who seemed to be undeterred; since Israel did not intend to initiate a war, the conclusion was that the main challenge facing the land forces would be low intensity asymmetrical conflicts.

Given these assumptions, the IDF did not need to be prepared for ‘real’ war. There was also no urgent need to update in a systematic and sophisticated way Israel’s overall security strategy and to consider how to mobilize and combine all its resources and sources of strength – political, economic, social, military, spiritual. cultural and scientific – to address the totality of the challenges it faces. [my emphasis]

A number of Israeli voices have explained in detail the cultural phenomenon that lies behind this failure: the wishful thinking by many, especially the academic and political elite, that because Israel seemed so like the US or a European country, it was possible to forget the dangerous neighborhood in which she lives. For example, see Ari Shavit: A Spirit of Absolute Folly, published last August in Ha’aretz.

I’m uncharacteristically optimistic that this war has really served the function of the proverbial “wakeup call”, and that now not only the IDF but Israeli society in general is coming to understand that the time to relax their guard and be a ‘normal’ nation has not yet arrived.

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A completely different universe

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

MK Yossi Beilin of the left-wing Meretz party at Abie Natan’s 80th birthday party:

Beilin said that Natan’s ambitions were “closer than ever” to being realized. “All of the Arab countries are willing to make peace with us,” Beilin said. “Peace is within touching distance.”

He is not even on another planet, but in a completely different universe.

Crunch time for Israel and Hamas in Gaza

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

By Vic Rosenthal

A recent article on ZioNation titled “Israel’s strategy: Gaza and beyond“, by Ami Isseroff, is a must-read. The writer shows that Israel’s military options in dealing with the continuing rocket fire and build-up by Hamas in Gaza are quite limited:

Israeli analysts are insisting that a confrontation with Hamas in Gaza is “inevitable.” On this issue at least, Hamas agrees with Israelis. They believe an Israeli invasion is only a matter of time, and they are, for their own reasons, doing everything possible to hasten the time, as well as to prepare for it. Hamas is provoking Israel with rocket attacks and planning more kidnappings of Israelis, like the one that was foiled recently. At the same time, they are smuggling in increasing quantities of arms, preparing either for defense or for a new “Intifada,” or both…

The only military action that would eliminate the rocket threat and the threat of kidnapping and other actions is total conquest of Gaza. Militarily that is not a major operation for the IDF, though it would involve a significant number of casualties. Diplomatically it is at present out of the question…

Moreover, if Israel were to re-occupy the Gaza strip, what could it do with it and for how long could it occupy it? …The result of such an invasion would only be a forced withdrawal by Israel, allowing Hamas to proclaim another “victory” for “steadfastness” and “resistance.”

Non-military solutions are just as limited. Isseroff suggests that the best option is

…to try to promote Abbas and the moderates and get them back into power in place of the Hamas. Without Hamas competition in the “hate Israel contest,” Palestinians will, it is hoped move to a more moderate position, and Fatah/PLO, which has an increasingly vested interest in a genuine peace process, will help to lead them there.

Unfortunately, he then goes on to show that this is unlikely to work either. It requires at least a moderately non-corrupt Fatah which will care more about the Palestinian people than about feathering personal and family nests, and a modicum of international cooperation:

  • Fatah must show evidence of real reorganization and of a genuine effort to curb corruption in its ranks…
  • Public opinion and international policy must be united and steadfast in understanding the real goals of the Hamas, and in refusing to grant it legitimacy as long as it upholds genocidal, racist policies and continue to practice terror. The support given Hamas by “moderate” Arab states and by the Norwegian and Swiss governments is incompatible with this goal and is sabotaging the already slim chances for peace.


Hamas’ hypocrisy

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Khaled Meshaal, leader of the so-called ‘military wing’ of Hamas — as if there is anything military about terrorism against civilians, kidnapping, etc. — said yesterday that a barrage of 41 rockets and 54 mortar shells fired into Israel last week were an act of ‘self-defense':

“It’s the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves,” Mashaal said, adding the attacks came in revenge for the killings of nine Hamas supporters by Israel. “These are violations that needed a retaliation.” — AP

Last week three Hamas terrorists were killed while planting explosives on the border fence between Gaza and Israel. Another died in Gaza when a bomb he was transporting exploded. And prior to that several were killed immediately after firing Qassam missiles at Israel. These are not defensive acts.

In another example of his ability to turn reality on its head, Meshaal blames PM Olmert for the fact that Gilad Shalit is being held by Hamas. Olmert is “personally behind the delay in the release of the Israeli soldier.”

It’s insane: Hamas criminals cross the border, grab Shalit and kill several others, and then demand the release of more than a thousand prisoners, including convicted mass murderers…but when Israel balks at the demand, Olmert is ‘responsible’?

By the way, Israeli security sources have said that the rocket and mortar barrage was intended to cover an attempt to kidnap another Israeli. So much for self-defense.

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U.S. taxpayers supporting campaign to defame Israel

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Here’s what you’ll see on the Washington DC Metro (WMATA) in the near future:Washington Metro poster

According to Canadian Jewish News,

Initiated by a charity called the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the 46-by-60-inch posters depict an imposing tank pointing its main firing turret at a child with a schoolbag walking along a dirt road.

“Imagine if this were your child’s path to school. Palestinians don’t have to imagine,” the poster states, before continuing to call for an end to U.S. aid for “Israel’s brutal military occupation… paid for by U.S. taxpayers like you.”

CBS Outdoor, the New York-based firm that places in-station advertising for WMATA, at first refused to consider the poster, but eventually relented to pressure from WMATA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). [my emphasis]

Believe it or not, apparently the IRS feels that the “U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation” is a legitimate charity:

Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, which does business as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Donations made to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law [from].

So if you are a U.S. taxpayer, you may be paying for aid to Israel (as well as aid to the Palestinians, Egypt, etc.), but you are also paying for these posters!

The ACLU and WMATA argue that this is a legitimate exercise of first-amendment rights. I say that the posters are defamatory of the State of Israel, and should not be permitted for this reason.

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Israeli Arabs and Palestinian nationalism

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Israel will need to face the question of how to respond to the growing Palestinian nationalism of her Arab citizens soon:

The Balad movement held a rally in support of former Knesset Member Azmi Bishara [see my previous posts here and here], who is under investigation for suspected collaboration with the enemy during the Second Lebanon War last summer…

“What is Bishara accused of? Collaborating with the enemy? Hizbullah isn’t our enemy, the Israeli occupation is the enemy. [PM Ehud] Olmert, [security service head Yuval] Diskin and [right-wing MK Avigdor] Lieberman the immigrant will not succeed in removing us from our land,” Hadash [Communist party] Secretary-General Ayman Auda said. — YNet

Another speaker was the head of the “Islamic Movement in Israel”, Sheikh Raed Salah. Salah, who recently incited Arabs to riot over the repairs to the Mughrabi Gate near the Temple mount, said that Israel was trying to expel Arab citizens from the state:

If the options before us are either to be kicked out or to die on this land – we will take the second option. We may be killed and jailed and we will not leave this land. At the end of the day, we will win…

As I’ve written before, there is a difference between guaranteeing equal rights to a minority and satisfying its nationalistic aspirations, especially when this nationalism directly contradicts the defining character of the state.

Israel is not going to kick the Arab minority out. But there are 22 Arab nations, 23 if you count the anarchic Palestinian state in Gaza. There is one Jewish state. Arab citizens of Israel will have to decide if they want to live as a minority in the Jewish state, where they may continue to demand equal rights (but not nationhood) or if they want to move to Palestine or another Arab nation. The option of continuing to live in Israel while fighting for its replacement by yet another an Arab state cannot be provided to them.

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No surprise in leaked report on conduct of the war

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

The Winograd report, the inquiry into the disaster of the second Lebanon war, will be released on Monday. Naturally, its contents are already leaking out:

A report broadcast by Israel’s Channel 10 news claimed on Saturday evening that the committee found Prime Minister Ehud Olmert failed to put into action emergency plans drawn up long before the war. Fearing it would result in heavy casualties Olmert resisted a ground incursion into Lebanon but presented no cohesive alternative in its stead due to a lack of structured planning. According to the committee the war was grossly mismanaged and decisions were hastily made in the ensuing chaos

The committee accused [Defense Minister Amir] Peretz of failing to make up for his lack of military experience and failing to utilize the defense-oriented resources at his disposal. Peretz, according to the committee, preferred to convene a private forum which bypassed the ministry of defense so that in the end [Peretz] was running the war with Olmert with a complete lack of the necessary knowledge. (my emphasis) — YNet

The report also severely criticized former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. Halutz resigned earlier this year and was replaced by Gabi Ashkenazi.

YNet claims that left-wing Knesset member Yossi Beilin met with right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu ‘secretly’ on Friday, and both agreed that Olmert “must not continue as PM”. There is probably no other issue that these two could agree about. This reminds me of a joke:

Israeli 1: Did you hear that Olmert’s popularity was at 3%?

Israeli 2: I had no idea he had so many relatives!

In addition to his failure as a decision-maker, Olmert’s Prime Ministership is suffering from his unpopularity, the perception that he will not be PM much longer, and several investigations for corruption. Only someone displaying enormous arrogance, someone disconnected from reality, could continue to insist upon remaining in his position as Olmert has. Like Dan Halutz, he should take responsibility and resign.

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Impact of Saudi terror attack could have been great

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Saudi Arabia has broken up a huge plot to attack their oil industry:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Police arrested 172 Islamic militants, some of whom had trained abroad as pilots so they could fly aircraft in attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, the Interior Ministry said Friday. A spokesman said all that remained in the plot “was to set the zero hour.”

The ministry issued a statement saying the detainees were planning to carry out suicide atttacks against “public figures, oil facilities, refineries … and military zones” — some of which were outside the kingdom…

The kingdom…devotes significant resources to defend its oil industry against [such] threats. The government planned to spend $2 billion of its $12 billion defense budget last year to protect the country’s oil sector…

Previous reports have said the country keeps round-the-clock helicopter and F-15 fighter patrols over its export terminals, with as many as 30,000 troops protecting the oil infrastructure.

Although one’s first impulse is to say “they deserve it”, a successful attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure would be a tremendous blow to the West. Such an event could cause the price of oil to double or more overnight. Even though the US gets only about 7 or 8 percent of the oil it consumes from Saudi Arabia, the impact of the price increase would be enormous. The US economy, already imperiled by high levels of public and private debt and a large current account deficit, could be seriously destabilized. We could see a sharp increase in inflation and interest rates, and a stock market plunge as starters.

One major beneficiary would be Iran. Iran’s oil industry is much less efficient than that of Saudi Arabia, and indeed current Saudi attempts to keep oil prices stable are in part aimed at the hostile Iranian regime. A sudden flow of cash would reinforce Ahmadinijad’s regime and allow it to spend even more on its nuclear program.

In fact, even though the terrorists that have been arrested appear to be al-Qaeda Sunni types, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that Iran had provided support for them in money, weapons, training, or other forms.

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No comparison

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

A random choice from comments posted on the BBC website concerning journalist Alan Johnston, still held by the gangsters of Gaza (since March 12):

What cause can be justified by kidnapping innocent people? It is a cowardly act. What has Alan done that made you want to kidnap him? He is a journalist based in Gaza in support of the Palestinian people and their fight for freedom. I have been watching his reporting for years and he is a very good man. Release him immediately and stop causing so much pain for him and his family and friends.

There are at least 2835 similar remarks, of varying degrees of English literacy and insight, from all over the world. No, I didn’t read them all. I read as many as I could stand to read.

I would have expected to find at least one saying something like, “yes, while you’re at it, release Gilad Shalit too”. After all, Shalit is only 21 years old (he observed his birthday in captivity), he’s been held now for 10 months, and he too was just doing his job, trying to help his people in their struggle — not for ‘freedom’, but to keep from being murdered.

But I didn’t find anything like that. Lots of empathy for Mr. Johnston, lots of hard-headed comments of the form “don’t they understand that they’re hurting their cause?”, lots of appeals to God and Allah to bring him home, but I guess there’s just no comparison between a heroic journalist and a 21-year old draftee.

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Write about something else, please

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

That was quick:

GAZA (Reuters) Thu Apr 26, 4:33 AM ET– Palestinian armed factions renewed their commitment to a Gaza Strip truce on Thursday but said rocket salvoes from the territory could resume if Israel did not halt military operations in the occupied West Bank.

JERUSALEM (AP) Thu Apr 26, 7:45 PM ET– Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets toward Israel on Thursday, the army said, and Israeli officials warned they were losing patience as rising tensions threatened a five-month cease-fire. [my emphasis]

What’s to threaten? Counting today’s two, a total of 225 Qassam rockets have been fired into Israel since the ‘cease-fire’ was declared in November.

Every day there’s at least one article about the cease-fire. Is it holding up, will it continue, did Israel strain it, will it be extended, did Don Imus insult it, etc. I have a picture in my mind of a Palestinian spokesperson surrounded by a crowd of reporters, each frantically trying to get his own angle on the fortunes of the really, really important cease-fire.

Please, write about something else, like how the Palestinians are so dumb that they kidnap friendly journalists, blow up their own restaurants and Internet cafes, and beat up unveiled women.

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