Archive for August, 2007

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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Swinging the pendulum in our direction

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Recently I was looking at reports of outrageously unfair media treatment of Israel, such as HonestReporting on the UK Independent’s Mark Steel, or Camera on Christiane Amanpour’s CNN documentary. And another blow will almost certainly fall soon, with the upcoming release of “Jimmy Carter Man From Plains“, a documentary about Carter’s recent book tour.

HR, Camera, and others do a good job of exposing the bias and, often, the outright lies. But the damage is done, and the people who read Mark Steel, for example, are not likely to check HR’s website.

There is a veritable industry producing anti-Israel material, films, TV programs, articles, books, websites, etc. It’s impossible to counteract this only by responding to them. It’s necessary to tell the true story pro-actively, and it must be done in the most effective — that is, emotionally powerful — way.

Probably the best way to do this is by the visual media, film and TV. Nothing else has the emotional impact or the reach.

Israel has a well-developed film industry, but most of its products are aimed at the domestic market, and many of them present a dark vision of Israel or have a definite left-wing slant.

I am not suggesting that Israeli studios should start cranking out propaganda films. What I would like to see are films aimed at the foreign market which will simply tell the truth, from an Israeli — OK, a Zionist — point of view.

I would like to see feature films, documentaries, TV programs, etc. The media are hungry for content, why can’t we give them some?

What needs to happen is that the conventional wisdom — the everyday assumptions about the Israeli-Arab conflict that most people make when they read or hear about events — needs to change. The tendentious nonsense written by Mark Steel about how Israel does not recognize the Palestinians’ right to exist came from somewhere, and I don’t think Hamas paid him to write it.

Steel won’t read my blog, and if he did he’d dismiss it as just more Israeli propaganda rubbish. Having watched TV in the UK, I know what he and others are seeing on a day-in day-out basis, and I’m not surprised at the assumptions that underlie his writing.

Turning things upside down will not be easy. It will be expensive, which means that the Government of Israel and the Diaspora Jewish community will have to bear some of the burden, at least at first; and they will have to do so with sensitivity and the understanding that the creative people will have to be allowed enough freedom to do what they want.

But after all, the Arabs and their friends managed to change perceptions worldwide starting in 1967. Isn’t it time for the pendulum to swing back in our direction?

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Turks to ADL: ‘It ain’t over’

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Apparently even the carefully calibrated statement made yesterday by the ADL, which stopped short of saying “the Ottomans committed genocide”, was too much for the Turks:

The Turkish ambassador is set to end his vacation two weeks early to return to Israel and register Turkey’s concerns about the Anti-Defamation League’s statement that Turkish actions toward the Armenians from 1915-1918 were “tantamount to genocide,” The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The decision to send Namik Tan back on Thursday came at a high-level meeting at the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara on Wednesday. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to call Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the coming days to discuss the matter.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling the ADL statement “unfortunate,” and said Turkey expected that the statement would “be corrected.”Jerusalem Post [my emphasis]

What exactly does Erdogan have to say to Olmert about this? Or, more precisely, what will he threaten to do if Olmert can’t get Abraham Foxman of the ADL to take back his statement?

The thuggish Turks are also irritated that Foxman implied that a lack of Jewish support for the Turkish position might endanger the Turkish Jewish community:

“The Turkish Jewish community is part and parcel of our society, and there is no reason for them to have concerns,” the ministry said in its statement.

Keep in mind that the ADL’s original statement was made after a meeting with representatives of the Turkish Jews.

There is no question that Turkey is employing a “Jewish strategy”: What could be more effective than to get the Jews, victims of one of the most widely known genocides in history, to deny that the Ottomans had committed genocide? And how easy: Israel will do almost anything to be able to say that they have good relations with at least one Muslim nation, and the Turkish Jews are already hostages — it’s not even necessary to kidnap them Hamas-style.

But the Turks have made at least two serious miscalculations. First, Foxman is a very stubborn man. It is surprising to me that he went as far as he did to take the original statement back, even in the somewhat legalistic formulation that he used. He is not likely to recant at this point.

And this brings us to the second miscalculation. Why did Foxman change his stance? Because, like most Jews today, he has learned something from the Holocaust, and perhaps also from the denial of the Holocaust that is supported today by the greatest enemies of the Jewish people: there is a limit. Genocide is genocide. A Jew simply must be on the right side of this question.

So I doubt that the Turks’ “Jewish strategy” will work.

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ADL’s new statement struggles, fails

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

ADL's Abraham FoxmanAbraham Foxman of the ADL has issued a new statement regarding the Armenian Genocide, which includes the following truly remarkable paragraph:

We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities. On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide. [my emphasis]

Does Mr. Foxman think he is writing some kind of international treaty whose language must be creatively ambiguous? Or perhaps one of those software licensing agreements?

What he should be saying is that the ADL was wrong in not applying the word ‘genocide’ to the aforesaid events, which in fact were a genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire. It would have been much easier to write than the tortured prose above, which is not going to win him a lot of friends among either Turks, Armenians, or Jews who understand the importance of calling genocide by its name.

The statement also includes the following explanation:

Having said that, we continue to firmly believe that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.

Of course I don’t know what threats the Turkish government has made. However, if they are attempting to hold the Turkish Jewish community hostage for actions taken by the US Congress, this should be exposed as a clear violation of their human rights, and Turkey should be censured for it.

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