Archive for September, 2007

A far too-clever formulation

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

From time to time we see the argument made that a reasonable compromise on the Palestinian ‘right of return’ would be for Israel to accept the ‘right’ of the Palestinians to return, without it being ‘realized':

We, the Jews, also do not surrender, nor can we surrender, our rights to the historic holdings of our forefathers in Hebron, Shilo, and Anatot. But the majority of Israelis are willing to relinquish the right to realize Jewish sovereignty and Jewish settlement at those Biblical sites, in proportion to Palestinian concessions. The vast majority of Palestinians are clearly aware that it is impossible for millions of refugees to return to their homes and land in Jaffa, Ramle, and Haifa.

Everyone knows that this is Israel’s red line. In an endless number of deliberations of a solution to the refugee problem and proposed solutions, a formula was suggested which would divide the “right of return” into two terms: “Right” and “return.” The right exists; it is not subject to appeal, nor is the somewhat problematic wording of UN Resolution 194, which recognizes that right, subject to appeal. But practical return to the geographic domain of the State of Israel is not feasible. Danny Rubinstein in Ha’aretz

There are several things wrong with this far too-clever formulation. For one, it is irrational to tell someone that he has a right to something, but in the same breath that he is forbidden from realizing it. What is the meaning of ‘right’ in this case?

Here in the United States there was a situation for many years in which blacks had the ‘right’ to vote, but were forbidden from exercising this right. People struggled and even gave their lives so that these rights could be realized, and ultimately they were.

Another problem is that granting this ‘right’, whether or not it is realized, implies that the Palestinian narrative that the land of Israel belongs to them, not to the present residents, is true. Is constitutes an admission that Jews do not have the ‘right’ to live there. Are we prepared to say “we are thieves, but the true owners are forbidden to take back their property?” Do we believe this?

And from a practical point of view: once we agree that they have a right to return, what argument do we use to prevent them from returning? “It would destroy the Jewish character of the state” might be meaningful to us, but who else would accept it? And why should they?

Indeed, this ‘compromise’ is not a compromise, it is a complete surrender in principle with the proviso that the physical surrender will take place at some later date.

Although Danny Rubinstein — who called Israel an ‘apartheid state’ at a UN conference in Brussels — is a particularly loose cannon, this idea has appeared in other circles as well.

It is to be hoped that Israeli leaders do not adopt this as a way to deal with Palestinian demands for a right of return at the November peace conference. They should make it quite clear that Jews live in Israel with full legitimacy and ownership of the land that they live on, and that there is no Palestinian ‘right of return’, realizable or otherwise.

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Are we really as stupid as we seem?

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Khaled Abu Toameh reports:

Fatah will fight alongside Hamas if and when the IDF launches a military operation in the Gaza Strip, a senior Fatah official in Gaza City said Thursday.

“Fatah won’t remain idle in the face of an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip,” the official said. “We will definitely fight together with Hamas against the Israeli army. It’s our duty to defend our people against the occupiers.”

The Fatah official said his faction would place political differences aside and form a joint front against Israel if the IDF enters the Gaza Strip. “The homeland is more important than all our differences,” he said…

According to…reports, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have decided to invite representatives of Fatah and Hamas for talks on ways of ending their power struggle.

Big surprise.

Russian APCMeanwhile, the German Foreign Minister suggests that Europe should send aid to Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, the Israeli government [!] has approved sending Russian armored personnel carriers, rifles and ammunation to Abbas, and Israel plans to release 400 Fatah security prisoners this Sunday.

No, Israel has not said that they will teach them to drive the APCs. That will probably be the job of US Generals James Jones and Keith Dayton, whose job is to ‘coordinate security’ and build up the Fatah faction’s ability to ‘fight terror’.

Last week, terrorists of Fatah’s al-Aqsa brigades murdered Israeli Ido Zoltan. Not Hamas. Fatah.

So they don’t agree to recognize Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, they plan to cooperate with Hamas — although they have supposedly agreed with the ‘roadmap’ that they will disarm and dismantle terrorist groups — and they can’t or won’t control their own terrorists. Partner…or enemy?

It should be 100% clear by now, to the US, Europe, and Israel, that Fatah’s moderation is only wishful thinking, and the strategy of building a solution to the conflict on it cannot possibly succeed. Arms supplied to Fatah will be used directly against Israel, as they were in the Oslo period, or they will end up in the hands of Hamas as they did earlier this year. How many times do we need to make the same mistake?

Are we really as stupid as we seem?

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Peace vs. ‘peace’

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

I got called “anti-Peace” again recently. But I am not anti-Peace, I very much wish for Peace between Israel and the Arabs so that my children who live in Israel can be safe, so that my son, who has been some form of soldier for the past ten years, can be an artist as he wishes to be.

But what I am is anti-‘peace’. What’s the difference?

A necessary condition for Peace is that the Arabs have stopped trying to kill Jews and destroy Israel. A 10-year hudna, such as Hamas offers, for example, is not Peace because it is only a particular tactic in the struggle; the goal remains the same. Peace is more or less what Israel has with Jordan today.

And what is ‘peace’? ‘Peace’ is a situation in which Israel and the Arabs have signed an agreement which states that both sides want Peace and spells out what they will do to get it, but which is either impossible to implement or which one or both sides intends to circumvent. The Oslo Accord is a good example of ‘peace’. Papers were signed, concessions were made, but Yasser Arafat never wanted Peace, never held up his end of the agreements, and ultimately made war.

Some Israelis said from the beginning that Oslo was only ‘peace’, but most thought it would lead to Peace and were bitterly disappointed.

Most ordinary people, Israelis and Palestinians, probably want Peace, although some other things that they want are incompatible. But who wants ‘peace’?

The US wants ‘peace’. The Bush Administration wants it because an agreement will make them look good in history and because they think that they can get Syria to stop supporting Iraqi insurgents by forcing Israel to give them the Golan Heights. The US State Department wants ‘peace’ because it is basically pro-Arab and knows that ‘peace’ will weaken Israel and make the Saudis happy.

Mahmoud Abbas wants ‘peace’, because it will mean more aid from the US and Europe for him, and because it will weaken Israel and serve as a stage on the way to replacing Israel with an Arab state.

Hamas and Syria want neither Peace nor ‘peace’. They do not want to help Abbas or the US. Hamas’ constituency will not accept even ‘peace’. Syria does not want ‘peace’, because ‘peace’ would (as Barry Rubin argues in The Truth About Syria) remove the excuse used by the Assad regime to oppress its population, drain the economy, and exploit Lebanon. Assad would much prefer the status quo without the Golan Heights to an agreement that would make him give up his influence in Lebanon.

The Israeli government is in an interesting position. Although Oslo taught them the difference between Peace and ‘peace’, ‘peace’ is very important to the Americans who are important to Israel. The international media, the UN and NGOs, the EU, Tony Blair, etc. — they all seem to think (or pretend) that ‘peace’ is Peace.

So the PM and the Foreign Minister need to pretend that they think ‘peace’ is Peace and are enthusiastic about it — otherwise they will be called “anti-Peace”.

It’s not a problem for me.

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Misplaced optimism

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Palestinian Authority (West Bank branch) President Mahmoud Abbas is optimistic:

Israel and the Palestinians may sign a peace agreement within six months of the international Mideast peace conference scheduled for November, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday. — Jerusalem Post

Leaving aside the question of the more than 1 million Palestinians who live in Hamas-run Gaza, what has changed since 2000 to make this possible?

Has Israel’s attitude changed toward the Palestinian demand, not softened by Abbas, to resettle the descendants of Palestinian refugees in Israel?

Have the Palestinians indicated that they would be prepared to accept any less of Jerusalem than all of the areas formerly occupied by Jordan? Will they allow Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount?

Have the Saudis, billed as the stars of the upcoming conference, given us any reason to believe that the Arab League proposal on which this conference is supposedly based will offer Israel anything other than terms of surrender?

Does Syria, which the US wishes to invite to the conference, have any more desire to end the conflict with Israel than in the past (see Barry Rubin’s opinion here)?

No, there is only one thing that is driving this conference, and that is the US desire to gain concessions from Syria and help from Saudi Arabia in respect to Iraq. The polite way to put it is the way it appeared in the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report:

Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism—are inextricably linked…

The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and particularly Syria—which is the principal transit point for shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, and which supports radical Palestinian groups.

I’ve argued that this ‘linkage’ idea is nonsense. Unfortunately, the US State Department doesn’t agree with me, and so is moving ahead with its plan to trade its only reliable ally in the Mideast for probably worthless promises from the Arab nations.

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Barghouti time again

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Marwan BarghoutiHa’aretz:

Imprisoned Fatah boss Marwan Barghouti will become the Palestinians’ next leader, Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer recently told Haaretz.

…Ben-Eliezer said that he believed that “there is no reason to become alarmed” by the possibility that Barghouti will be released from the Israeli prison system, where he is serving five consecutive life sentences for terrorist activities.

In case anyone is unclear, the ‘activities’ mentioned were the murders of four Israelis and a Greek monk.

Barghouti is the author of the “prisoners’ document” which is touted as a charter for a moderate Palestinian Authority, but actually simply calls for unity between Fatah and Hamas in the struggle with Israel, and does not call for an end to violence against Israelis.

This comes up every few months, usually when some Labor MK calls for his release. Apparently there is a point of view that any ‘peace’ agreement with the Palestinians, even a bad one that cannot result in peace, even an agreement with a Palestinian leader such as Barghouti with gallons of Jewish blood on his hands, is better than no agreement.

Ben-Eliezer says over the past months he had realized Barghouti is probably the best partner Israel has with whom it can hope to achieve a breakthrough in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Indeed. There is no better partner because there is no reasonable partner, but the idea, possibly born in the USA, is that — partner or not — an agreement must be reached.

According to Ben-Eliezer, Barghouti enjoys considerable sway over the situation in Palestinian Authority from within the Hadarim prison facility.

The minister says Barghouti’s pull extends to the preparations for the U.S.-sponsored regional peace summit Washington intends to hold in November.

That’s it, then. The Americans say there must be a ‘summit’ (somehow, and I shudder to speculate how, this is supposed to help with Iraq) and there must be an agreement, regardless of the consequences. The Palestinians, understanding this, will not play unless they get what they want, and this is one of the things they want.

“We have to find a suitable opportunity to release Barghouti, and we have to link it to the release of Gilad Shalit,” the minister said.

It’s not possible to release a quintuple murderer in return for a hostage. Israel needs to apply the death penalty to terrorist murders to prevent such situations.

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Borrowing trouble

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

My wife tells me that I worry too much. “Don’t borrow trouble”, she says. Well, here are a few of the things I worry about:

Nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorist proxies
The “Mutual Assured Destruction” of the Cold War was effective at preventing atomic war because both sides knew exactly who their enemy was, and where he lived. And also, to tell the truth, that regardless of what one thought about them, the leaders on both sides were not the type to get their jollies from the idea of incinerating their enemies. None of this is true today.

The internalization of antisemitism in human belief
It seems that there’s been antisemitism as long as there have been Jews (and even in places where there were not Jews), but the power of modern mass media and its deliberate employment by Israel’s enemies has caused half the world to take the idea that Jews and Israel are the embodiment of evil as an non-controversial given.

The development of radical Islam as normative Islam
For various reasons, from the simple psychological pull to extremes to complex political phenomena, more and more of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims are coming to hold radical forms of belief which promote violent and aggressive action in the name of Islam.

The loss of intellectual and moral vitality in the West
While the academic establishment rewards utter nonsense and seems to have entirely forgotten the notion of objective truth, political and business leaders pursue personal wealth at the expense of their constituents, customers, employees, stockholders, etc.

That’s probably enough for now. I can’t help worrying, it’s in the genes.

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The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of Mearsheimer and Walt

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Mearsheimer (left) and WaltTwo questions about Mearsheimer and Walt come to my mind:

1) What are they trying to do?

2) Why are they doing it?

I think that their work has less to do with its putative subject, the pro-Israel lobby, than appears. They are simply using this route — which rings bells deep in the psyche of many who are not overtly antisemitic — to damage Israel’s security by driving a wedge between her and her major ally and supporter, the US. Here’s a report of one stop on their book tour, in Berkeley, California from the Blue Truth blog. Read it and see if there is any other way to understand the thrust of their arguments.

For example:

(Walt) then goes on to say that no other democracies get the same level of support and that Israel’s treatment of its own Arab population (much less its treatment of the West Bank Arabs who are not citizens) doesn’t measure up to American values. He does go as far as to say that Israel, in its actions to defend itself, “doesn’t act any better” than its adversaries… Not a word about the fact that Israel has terrorist gangs on its borders armed with rockets, not a word about the terror war launched by Arafat in 2000, not a word about 60 years of genocidal threats against the Jewish state. Listening to Walt, one would think Israel is located in central Europe surrounded by friendly neighbors but just can’t manage to get along with them…

[Mearsheimer] is the one to present the arguments that are staples of the far left and the extreme right, that the influence of “The Lobby” is so pervasive that it was one of the main driving forces for the US invasion of Iraq, and that the policies it promotes are a major source of terrorism. He spent a lot of his time tying the 9/11 attacks to US support for Israel as well. [my emphasis. The whole article is recommended.]

Although they also say that they are not opposed to the existence of Israel, their arguments are designed to strike directly at American support for Israel. So much for what they are doing. Now, why?

The ‘why’ is interesting. Here is an excerpt from some remarks on “Walt and Mearsheimer By Any Other Name” in the Solomonia blog by a commenter named ‘ERIS’. He writes:

Walt and Mearsheimer know full well there is no super-powerful “Jewish Lobby”, that the pro-Israel lobbyists have competing counterparts representing many other causes and countries, and that the pro-Israel lobby is not particularly remarkable in this environment. They know full well that the misrepresentations of fact, omissions, things taken out of context, logical errors, etc. in their prior paper and this book are indeed risible, the trash produced by dilettantes, not by serious researchers.

But they don’t care.

What would make them produce such garbage?

Indeed, since they would be expected to have a notion of the difference between scholarship and propaganda, why did they choose the latter? I don’t have a definite answer, but I have a guess: I think they are doing it for the money.

Although the book is definitely going to get them big bucks, I doubt that they knew this when they wrote the original article. My theory — and it is completely unsubstantiated, so far — is that a careful investigation would show that this is a project financed by Our Friends The Saudis.

Possibly they feel that their bribery of support for Jimmy Carter was a little too obvious, so they’ve been much more careful with this one.

So come on, investigative reporters. Dig a little and prove me right!

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The AP feeds the ‘Israel Lobby’ hysteria

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

An example of ‘unbiased’ news reporting from the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Congress signaled its disapproval of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a vote Tuesday to tighten sanctions against his government and a call to designate his Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group.

The swift rebuke was a rare display of bipartisan cooperation in a Congress bitterly divided on the Iraq war. It reflected lawmakers’ long-standing nervousness about Tehran’s intentions in the region, particularly toward Israel—a sentiment fueled by the pro-Israeli lobby whose influence reaches across party lines in Congress

The House passed, by a 397-16 vote, a proposal by [Tom] Lantos, D-Calif., aimed at blocking foreign investment in Iran, in particular its lucrative energy sector. The bill would specifically bar the president from waiving U.S. sanctions… [my emphasis]

The article goes on to add that

The legislative push came a day after Ahmadinejad defended Holocaust revisionists, questioned who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and declared homosexuals didn’t exist in Iran in a tense question-and- answer session at Columbia University.

And let’s not forget that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Does Congress need an Israel lobby to tell it these things?

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The snake speaks

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Ahmadinejad on the treatment of gays in Iran:

Mr. President, another student asks, Iranian women are now denied basic human rights, and your government has imposed draconian punishments, including execution on Iranian citizens who are homosexuals. Why are you doing those things?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Those in Iran are genuine true freedoms. The Iranian people are free. Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedoms. We have two deputy vice — well, two vice presidents that are female…

But as for the executions, I’d like to raise two questions. If someone comes and establishes a network for illicit drug trafficking that affects the (use ?) in Iran, Turkey, Europe, the United States by introducing these illicit drugs and destroys them, would you ever reward them? …

Don’t you have capital punishment in the United States? You do, too. (Applause.)

In Iran, too, there’s capital punishment for illicit drug traffickers, for people who violate the rights of people…

MR. COATSWORTH [moderator]: (Off mike) — and drug smugglers. The question was about sexual preference and women. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. (Laughter.) We don’t have that in our country. (Booing.) In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you that we have it. (Laughter.)

Well, they don’t have quite as many as they used to:

Hanging gay teenagers in Mashad, Iran

Hanging gay teenagers in Mashad, Iran

You can find the complete transcript of Ahmadinejad’s talk at Columbia here.

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What are the Palestinians paying for?

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Why does Ahmadinejad care about the Holocaust?

Possibly lots of reasons, but one of them is to make a poor argument against Israel.

“Granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?” he said…

Ahmadinejad said he simply wanted more research on the Holocaust, which he said was abused as a justification for Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians.

“Why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price for an event they had nothing to do with?” Ahmadinejad asked. — Jerusalem Post report of his Columbia University speech

al-Husseini in BerlinThe Holocaust actually has little to do with the Palestinians, unless you are talking about the Palestinian Nazi, Haj Amin al-Husseini. But the idea that Israel was created as a result of the Holocaust is nonsense.

By 1939 the Zionists had put all of the institutions of the Jewish state in place. The only thing that remained was to kick out the British. And there’s no doubt that would have happened, with or without the Holocaust. Indeed, many of the six million would probably have ended up in Israel instead of the smokestacks of Auschwitz.

The Palestinians are paying the price, actually, of some choices made by their leaders and friends.

  • They are paying for the choice made by al-Husseini to try to drive the Jews out of Palestine and, when this failed, to ally himself with Hitler.
  • They are paying for the choice made by the Arab nations to try to destroy Israel in 1948.
  • They are paying — a very high price — for the choice made by the Arab nations to not try to solve the refugee problem, but rather to exacerbate it in order to use it against Israel.
  • They are paying the price for Nasser’s arrogance and desire to commit genocide in 1967.
  • They are paying the price for almost everything ever done by Yasser Arafat.
  • And now they are paying for electing a Hamas-dominated Palestinian authority.

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Motti Lerner and historical truth

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Motti LernerRecently I wrote about Israeli Arab playwright Mohammed Bakri and his “artistic” concept of historical truth.

Apparently some Jewish Israelis have similar ideas. For example, take Motti Lerner (please):

Lerner, the grandson of one of two woman presumed to have revealed to the Turkish authorities the spying activities of Sarah Aharonson in Zichron Ya’acov in 1917, leading to her arrest, torture and eventual suicide, is a theater personage of note. He has previously staged Messianic Pangs, The Murder of Isaac – with its infamous urination scene – and Bus 300, as well as Kastner’s Trial among others…

…it was the Kastner play that attained for him a place in all Israeli law schools – and no small amount of notoriety – when the subject of “freedom of expression” is taught.

In its script, produced for Channel 2 television more than a decade ago, Lerner takes liberal license with his Hannah Szenes character and suggests she handed two Palestinian Jewish parachutists over to the Hungarian police.

The incident not only didn’t take place; it couldn’t have. Szenes was already imprisoned when the parachutists arrived in the Hungarian capital. The scene was a figment of Lerner’s imagination…


Scholarship…or rubbish?

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

Recently I wrote about CSU Fresno’s developing Middle East Studies program. I suggested that it might — like many programs and academic departments of Middle East studies — have an uncomfortable slant, tending towards radical Islam and including tendentious anti-American and anti-Israel content.

Mary HusainOne of the faculty members teaching several courses and proposed courses is Mary Husain. She has taught courses in the departments of Women’s Studies and Communications in the areas of “cultural studies, gender studies, and media persuasion”. She is listed to teach proposed courses in Middle Eastern Film Criticism, Middle Eastern News Analysis, and Intercultural Communication.

Ms. Husain has recently published an article with Kevin Ayotte, called “Securing Afghan Women: Neocolonialism, Epistemic Violence, and the Rhetoric of the Veil” (NWSA Journal, Vol. 17 No. 3). Although the article is not available on the web, I have obtained a copy from the library.