Archive for August, 2007

The EU joins the UN against Israel; and an Orwellian attempt to define Jew-hatred out of existence

Friday, August 31st, 2007

The UN/EU attacks on Israel seem to be reaching new levels lately:

A UN conference, held at the European Parliament in Brussels, heard an array of speakers call for a boycott against Israel and strategize on ways to achieve its international isolation, during the first day of an event billed by organizers as a gathering to promote “Middle East peace”.

The ‘International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace’ has been organized by the UN’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and attracted political figures and pro-Palestinian members of non governmental organizations (NGOs).

…British Member of Parliament Clare Short said during her speech that Israel was not interested in a two-state solution, and blasted the EU for “allowing” Israel to build “an apartheid wall”. “The boycott worked for South Africa, it is time to do it again,” Short was quoted as saying…

Pierre Galand, European coordinator of the Committees and Associations for Palestine, claimed that the conference was taking place despite pressures to cancel it, and blamed the Fatah-Hamas conflict on “Israeli policy”. — YNet

So we have two of the major organizations which should be responsibly working to solve problems and promote peace, taking the side of the forces which are trying to use the Palestinians as a club to crush the Israeli state.

The behavior of the UN is not surprising, with its plethora of committees, divisions, special functionaries, etc., all of which exist simply to damage Israel. By hosting this conference, which was clearly designed as an anti-Israel tool, the EU too demonstrates that it is officially partisan in this regard.

The UN, meanwhile, continues to plan the “Durban II” conference on racism that will be held in 2009. With Libya chairing the planning committee, it’s hard to imagine that it will be friendly to Israel:

On Monday, Pakistan called for the 2009 conference, dubbed Durban II, to focus on the plight of Palestinians. A number of countries also spoke of expanding the definition of anti-Semitism to cover all Semitic people, i.e. Arabs. — Jerusalem Post [my emphasis]

This Orwellian attempt to define Jew-hatred out of existence seems obviously wrong and remarkably stupid to me, but the fact that “a number of countries” support it indicates the true extent of the antisemitic mindset — in which this seems perfectly sensible — throughout the world.

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Misconceptions about misconceptions about terrorism

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Today Dr. Alfred Evans, CSUF Professor of Political Science, had a piece in the Fresno Bee called “More misconceptions about terrorism“. One of them was described thus:

A sixth misconception is that the actions of terrorist organizations that target the U.S. are motivated directly and primarily by their hostility to our values. Some have said that terrorists attack us because they hate our freedom.

That explanation is rejected by the consensus of experts on anti-American terrorism. The late Gen. Wayne Downing of the U.S. Army (who served as Commander of Special Operations and later as the president’s chief adviser on terrorism) summarized the results of opinion surveys in several Middle Eastern countries by saying, “It is U.S. regional policies — not a clash of values, religion or the ‘Al Jazeera factor’ — that influence anti-American attitudes in the Middle East.” The Defense Science Board report of November 2004 underlined the same point.

Michael Scheuer, who formerly headed the unit in the CIA that tracked Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida and whose books have been praised highly by experts on terrorism, says flatly that none of the reasons for which bin Laden is waging war on us “have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.”

But the ‘experts’ and Evans are missing an important point. The terrorists of al-Qaeda, have a radical Islamist philosophy. What does this mean and what does it imply?

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Jews claiming ‘Arab’ food — will indignities never cease?

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

From the Gulf News (George S. Hishmeh):

My niece, Irene, called me a few days ago indignant that some of her American friends, including some Jews, keep describing typical Arab foods such as falafel, hummus and shawarma, among others, as Israeli…

My first impulse was to tell my niece that Israel was almost 60 year old and these food items have obviously existed long before then.

Actually, these foods predate the arrival of the Arabs in the region as well. Chickpeas (the main ingredient in hummus and falafel) were eaten by the ancient Egyptians. And the roasting of lamb on a spit (shawarma) probably goes back to prehistoric times.

So why are these Arab foods, George? Is there any reason to doubt that the Jews that lived in Land of Israel before the founding of the state — indeed all the way back to Abraham — ate these foods?

They are Middle Eastern foods, and Jews are no less Middle Easterners than Arabs, to the latter’s great and oft-times violent chagrin.

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Shimon Peres displays his arrogance yet again

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Many Israelis hoped that Shimon Peres would be capable of being a non-controversial president. This has not turned out to be the case. Peres has inappropriately involved himself in negotiations with the Palestinians, and now has used his presidential power to grant what appears to be a very questionable pardon:Danny Katz

(IsraelNN.com) President Shimon Peres has decided to reduce the jail sentences of five Israeli-Arab terrorists.

Three of the terrorists are serving for the brutal murder of Haifa Jewish teenager Danny Katz in 1983 and two for the rape and murder of IDF soldier Daphna Carmon in 1987. Katz, the son of Holocaust survivors, was kidnapped from near his Haifa home at the age of 15 by Arabs who worked at a nearby supermarket while on his way to visit a friend. He was beaten to death with sticks and then sodomized. He was found dead four days later in the Israeli-Arab village of Sakhnin.

The men were sentenced to life in prison, plus 27 years. They will now be eligible for release in the near future following Peres’s commutation…

[Amnon] Katz says that his brother’s murderers have become a cause celebre in recent years for the extreme-left, who claimed that they confessed to the crime due to police pressure. The murderers were even granted a retrial based on those claims in 1999 – but were found guilty again.

This is one of those cases that makes one wish that Israel had a death penalty. It would seem to me that the only good reason for releasing these men would be if it could be shown that they were in fact innocent. Peres claims that he has a good reason — but he won’t tell the public and the Katz family what it is:

Peres said that four separate legal bodies discussed the case, and all of them reached the unanimous conclusion that the sentences should be reduced. Nonetheless, Peres said that the reasons for his decision could not be published because they are classified. — Ha’aretz

Peres has said that the decision was “purely legal, and was not based on political considerations”.

I don’t believe it. Considering the emotions surrounding this issue, it seems to me that if there were good legal, nonpolitical, grounds for his action, there would be a way to explain them without revealing classified information like names of informants, etc.

Peres has yet again proven that he did not accept the Presidency in good faith. He cannot seem to make himself perform the presidential function of uniting Israelis and providing a moral example; rather, he continues to be an arrogant, highly political manipulator.

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Hamas is incapable of understanding Israel

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

The excruciating tragedy of Gilad Schalit’s captivity continues, as he marks his 21st birthday and his 14th month of imprisonment in whatever dank hole Hamas is keeping him.

On Tuesday a Hamas official claimed that they had been on the verge of releasing him 4 months ago, but the deal fell apart because the Israeli government “didn’t care about its people or its soldiers”.

Of course the reason that it fell apart is that the price was precisely calibrated to be too high for Israel to pay — a list of 350 terrorists, many of them mass murderers, of whom Israel could only agree to release 40. Noam Schalit, Gilad’s father, criticized both the Prime Minister’s office and Hamas for the failure to reach an agreement.

In order to understand Hamas’ strategy, we need to understand how Hamas evaluates Israel, and how it expects Israel to respond.

Hamas sees Israel as morally and spiritually weak, lacking the will to stand up for itself. Hamas expects the Israeli government to always take the easy way out of any situation, even if it involves compromising important principles and achieving short-term relief at the expense of long-term goals, even survival.

Some will agree with them. To a certain extent, the West in general is unclear about basic principles, and this gives an impression of weakness. But there is another reason for the difficulty that Israel and the West face in hostage situations, and this is something that the Islamists of Hamas and Hezbollah can see, but cannot interpret correctly.

Call it an excess of empathy. For some reason, large elements of Western cultures like that of Israel have become painfully able to empathize with a broad range of other creatures (human and animal), even those to whom they are not closely related. It’s not possible for many Israelis to read about Gilad or Noam Schalit without feeling pain. In fact, many of them empathize strongly with Palestinians, too, which explains some of the apparently psychotic behavior of the far Left in Israel.

I am not saying that Palestinians are incapable of empathy for a wide circle of others, but I must say that public expression of it on their part is rare indeed. And I believe that the Hamas leadership certainly is not made up of particularly empathetic individuals!

So they just don’t get it, and they interpret Israeli attempts to make deals for the return of captives as simple weakness, and they keep pushing the goalposts back in order to demoralize Israelis, shake their confidence in their leaders, and — in their view — weaken them further.

At some point, they believe, Israel will be so weak that it will take any deal, no matter how dangerous, to get Schalit back.

What is actually happening, though, is that the accumulation of pain that Hamas is inflicting is creating a reservoir of hatred which, at some point — perhaps in response to a new atrocity, if, God forbid, Gilad Schalit dies, or perhaps if Hamas joins Hezbollah in the next war — will make it possible for Israel to take military action against it unrestrained by empathy.

Meanwhile, I don’t have a lot of hope for Gilad Schalit. I fear that he will not survive unless information develops which will make it possible for Israeli forces to rescue him.

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Typical British understatement?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

From John Hilary, Director of Campaigns at War on Want, a British charity:

“Israel’s continuing disregard for international humanitarian law and human rights stands as one of the gravest injustices of the 21st century”

Although relatively young, the 21st century has seen 9/11, the Darfur tragedy, various atrocities perpetrated by Sunni and Shiite Arabs against each other in Iraq, bloody murder of civilians in Algeria, massive amounts of killing and maiming in several countries of West Africa (sometimes perpetrated by and against child soldiers), etc. I would count all of these things as violations of human rights.

And don’t forget the continued terrorism of the Palestinians against Israel, supported by Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The Passover Seder bombing in March 2002 was quite unjust to the 30 who died and the 140 who were injured! And this was only one of many such incidents.

The hyperbole is understandable, given the apparent focus of the organization:

War on Want, ostensibly a charity set up to fight worldwide poverty, recently published a guide on its website, entitled, “Towards a global movement for Palestine; a framework for today’s anti-apartheid activism.”

“Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions have gained currency in recent years as a series of strategies to pressure Israel in pursuit of justice for Palestinians,” the guide’s introduction said.

“Yet, it is clear that initiatives need to strengthen and gain greater popular support if they are to be an effective force in support of Palestinians,” it continued, before instructing readers to boycott Israeli goods, support a trade embargo against Israel, back the academic boycott against Israelis, and enforce a sports boycott. — YNet

Perhaps the group should be renamed ‘War on Israel’?

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Self-evident — and wrong!

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Sometimes the experts really blow it. A good example is what has become the conventional wisdom about dealing with the rogue states and radical Islamists of the Middle East. Barry Rubin explains how these policies are encouraging, rather than deterring, our antagonists.

Engage, Moderate, Split

By Barry Rubin

Engage, moderate, and split—that’s the mantra for Middle East policy of the wrong-headed in many foreign ministries, newspaper editorial offices, universities, and other places where the rapidly growing international bad-ideas industry is centered.

Yet nothing could seem more self-evident than these propositions. What could possibly be wrong with engaging radical forces, persuading them to change their ways, and breaking up their alliances?

(more…)

An open letter to the Turkish Ambassador to Israel

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Ambassador Namik TanDear Mr. Ambassador,

You have asked Israel to “…’deliver’ American Jewish organizations and ensure that the US Congress does not pass a resolution characterizing as genocide the massacre of Armenians during World War I”.

Israeli officials tried to explain to you that Israel did not control American Jewish organizations such as the ADL, whose chairman recently issued a statement that (at least obliquely) recognized the Armenian Genocide committed by your Ottoman predecessors.

But you refused to accept this, saying “On some issues there is no such thing as ‘Israel cannot deliver’”.

Possibly you think that there is an international Zionist conspiracy which takes orders from Jerusalem, and it’s just a question of Israel issuing them. Coming from a country where journalists are jailed for ‘insulting Turkishness’, you expect orders to be obeyed.

Well, Mr. Ambassador, I have news for you.

The government of Israel (sometimes to its sorrow) does not control Jewish organizations, either right-wing or left-wing, in America, Israel, or anywhere else. Abe Foxman cannot be arrested for ‘insulting Jewishness’.

Your attempt to hold Turkish-Israeli relations hostage in order to force Jews to take a position that is contrary to their conscience is reprehensible, and in any event doomed. Jews will be Jews, they will not take orders, and they have very strong feelings about genocide denial.

My expectation is that the pressure will backfire, and Jews will close ranks and support the congressional resolution — even those who had previously stood aside for ‘practical’ reasons.

Update [28 Aug 1027 PDT]: The ADL has rehired Andrew Tarsy as New England regional director. Tarsy had been fired last week for opposing the (then) national organization’s position on the Armenian Genocide. See what I mean?

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Islamist extremism and public naivety

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Young people are made of soft clay. Sometimes we adults forget just how soft. And we don’t take seriously enough the absolute commitment that sometimes characterizes their enthusiasms.

The combination can be highly dangerous when a young person lives in a culture where there are plenty of adult mentors ready to channel this enthusiasm into jihad rather than skateboarding.

Ed HusainThis is the situation today in the ‘Asian’ Muslim community in the UK, as described by former jihadi Ed Husain.

Husain’s book, recently published in the UK and yet to appear in the US, is horrifying precisely because it documents so candidly the smoothness with which Husain was recruited to such misguided ruthlessness. He was gradually drawn into ever more intolerant circles, and became prominent within them – helping to galvanize the process by which the racist, misogynist and thuggish ideology came to dominate various colleges in East London a decade or so ago.

Husain himself was thus instrumental in the trend that saw Islamist separation politics rise and thrive; hatreds inculcated among thousands of recruits against nonbelievers and against Britain; the adoption of Islamic clothing by female students on campuses, open confrontation with utterly overwhelmed and impotent college authorities and, in what was for Husain a climactic, epiphanic incident, a murder just outside the grounds of his own Newham College for which he holds himself partially, indirectly responsible. “It was we who had encouraged Muslim fervor,” he writes, “a sense of separation from others, a belief that Muslims were worthier than other humans.” — David Horovitz [entire article recommended]

Husain confirms what we already know, which is the “staggering naivety on the part of the government, law enforcement and the educational authorities” about the seriousness and dimensions of the problem.

So far we do not have this kind of problem here in the US, because of the nature of the Muslim community here, which is smaller, less concentrated, and better integrated.

However, we have the same kind of naive attitude in some circles, which (for example) view any kind of profiling as tantamount to racism.

So for example, when an Israeli visitor explained El Al’s security procedures (which are entirely based on profiling) to some American friends, they were horrified. But by the simple process of subjecting individuals to greater or lesser scrutiny depending on who they are, El Al — unquestionably the most coveted target for terrorists in all of aviation — has chalked up an impressive safety record.

I’m looking forward to reading Husain’s book, and I would hope that politicians and educators will do so as well.

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Israel is different from Northern Ireland

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

With all due respect to Anne Carr and to the bloody intractability of the conflict in Northern Ireland, Ms. Carr doesn’t get it:

A Northern Ireland peace activist told an audience of Arabs and Jews at the St. George Hotel in east Jerusalem on Friday, “If we Irish can solve our conflict, then so can anybody.”

Anne Carr, who opened the first integrated (Protestant-Catholic) school in Northern Ireland in 1986, was delivering the keynote address at a conference organized by the Bereaved Families Forum as a part of its “Knowing it the Beginning” project, which aims to bring together families who have suffered loss from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that they can better understand each other…

“We have to work out a way of living together, respecting the dignity of each other, not creating a humiliating peace so we can feel contentment with our lot, and not resentment with our lot,” she said. — Jerusalem Post

There are of course some similarities between the Troubles and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular the employment of terrorism. But there are also fundamental differences.

The nationalists did not view the unionists as interlopers who must be killed or expelled from Ireland, as most Palestinians view the Jews in Israel. If they had come to power, they would not have ethnically cleansed the Protestant neighborhoods. The Roman Catholicism practiced in Ireland does not call for Catholics to hunt down and kill Protestants.

Although the British government may have sided with the unionists, they do not fire rockets into Catholic areas. Northern Ireland is not surrounded by hostile nations who wish to destroy the state using chemical or nuclear weapons, supposedly to help the Catholics.

There are not four or five million hostile Catholics in camps located in the Irish Republic who are not permitted to live normal lives, but are kept in a permanent state of limbo until they can be introduced into Northern Ireland to change the demographics (and incidentally, to wreak violent havoc).

The question in Northern Ireland is how the area will be governed. Will it be a part of the UK, the Irish Republic, or something in between? In the Mideast, one asks whether the Jews will keep their state or, after a bloody war which may become nuclear, the survivors will be dispersed again throughout the world.

The idea that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can be solved if only the two sides could sit down and talk enough is seductive but false. This is in part because the Palestinians have a wholly unrealistic view of what they are entitled to in any settlement. The Palestinian position is based on a narrative which distorts historical facts, perverts justice, and does not admit that they bear any responsibility for their actions.

I said ‘in part’ because the other part is the fact that in the Middle East the Palestinians are just the tip of the iceberg. Israel is under siege by the entire Arab world, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are pumping large sums of petrodollars into support for Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas which directly confront Israel, and which shortly will be at war with her. There is nothing even remotely analogous to this in the Irish example.

So, while I am certainly in awe of the Irish, who may have ended a conflict that has been going on in some form or other for centuries, I suggest that there’s more than “working out a way of living together” that has to occur before there will be peace in the Middle East.

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Abbas does not want populated area trade — big surprise!

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

A couple of weeks ago there was a flurry of talk about the so-called ‘Peres plan’, in which Israel would turn most of the West Bank over to the Palestinians, while keeping some of the areas with heavy Jewish populations. In return, Israel would transfer some territory within the 1967 borders that is inhabited mostly by Arabs, so that the Palestinians would receive an area equal to 100% of the West Bank.

I criticized the plan on multiple grounds, and I was particularly irritated by the implicit assumption that all of the land of the West Bank was ‘Palestinian’, and they needed to be compensated for any of it that Israel keeps.

I also pointed out that neither the Palestinian factions nor the Israeli Arabs would ever agree to such a trade. The reasons are multiple:

  • The Palestinian factions, both Fatah and Hamas, I said, do not want a populated area exchange because they want the Israeli Arabs to stay right where they are, so they can act as a fifth column — both politically, and — in the event of regional war — militarily.
  • Both Fatah and Hamas have said that they would accept 100% of the territories for a Palestinian state; Fatah for a ‘peace’ treaty and Hamas for a hudna (extended truce). But both have made no secret of their ultimate goal, which is a Palestinian state in place of Israel. As a result, the “2-state solution” they are looking for is not the one that has the most promise of peace, but the one which hurts Israel the most. So they are not prepared, at this stage, to accept anything less than full withdrawal from the territories, and to gleefully observe the bulldozing of settlements and the civil strife among Israelis that would accompany it.

Now Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed this analysis:

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas opposes the idea of population exchanges of settlers and Israeli Arabs as part of a peace accord with Israel, Abbas said in a meeting on Saturday with Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh.

Abbas said his goal was a Palestinian state in the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital. He said population exchange was an idea Israel had raised in the past, but that he had always turned it down.

Barakeh, who represents Israeli Arabs, thanked Abbas and said that “Arab citizens in Israel are not Israeli real estate that can be negotiated as the spoils of occupation.” — Jerusalem Post

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How to fix the UN

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Planning is going forward for another UN conference on racism, to be held in 2009:

Despite its numerous calls for Israel’s destruction, and repeated denials of the Holocaust, Iran has been selected by the United Nations for a leading position in a committee that will plan the 2009 UN World Conference against Racism.

The planning committee, which will meet for the first time in Geneva on August 27, will be made up of an inner circle of 20 UN member-states, to be headed by Libya. — YNet [my emphasis]

The committee is made up of Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Norway, Russia, Senegal, South Africa and Turkey.

Flyer from Durban NGO forumIt will be interesting to see if the committee will manage to exclude antisemitism from the definition of racism, or if they will just leave it up to the conference as a whole to assail Israel and Zionism, as happened at Durban in 2001. Certainly, if any questions of procedure that will relate to them come up in the planning process, at least eight (possibly more) of the above 20 are guaranteed to take the anti-Israel side, no matter what.

Given the nature of the Durban conference — a forum for antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Americanism, 3 days prior to 9/11 — and the makeup of the committee, it’s likely that this one will be even worse. Eye on the UN calls it ‘Durban II’.

I know that Israel and the US consider the UN the only game in town for international cooperation. But even the trivial aspects of it are repellent — the huge, expensive bureaucracy of arrogant functionaries supported mostly by US tax dollars, the conferences in luxurious settings around the world where nothing is accomplished, the scofflaw behavior of its diplomats and staff in New York City.

Now add to this the institutional bias in favor of the Palestinians and against Israel, the special committees and ‘divisions‘ which exist only to support the Arab project of eliminating Israel, the resolutions, the conferences like Durban, etc.

The UN has some accomplishments. Most of them are in the past, but some agencies continue to do worthwhile things. It’s easy to say ‘abolish it’, but really, there needs to be some mechanism for dealing with problems that individual nations and blocs can’t or won’t solve.

I have a modest proposal that would go a long way toward improving the UN:

Make a rule that only democracies can vote in any of the UN’s forums.

Non-democracies could be present as observers, but could not directly influence policy. We could use a relatively loose definition of ‘democracy’, that would include some of the borderline cases like Russia, but monarchies, dictatorships, etc. would be out.

It’s only fair — after all, in today’s UN there are single families (e.g., the house of Saud) that have as many votes in the General Assembly as the 303 million people of the US. And the Emir of Qatar can vote in the security council, although he doesn’t have a veto.

Many of the countries that would be excluded are allegedly concerned with human rights and self-determination (at least, they talk about them in connection with the Palestinians), and these principles are a priori denied by non-democracies. Since the UN is founded on these ideas (see Article 1, Section 1 of the UN Charter), it is entirely reasonable that only nations that actually have a chance of promoting them be allowed to vote.

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