Archive for October, 2007

Some core issues

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

As the Annapolis conference approaches, Israel and the Palestinians (Abbas faction) disagree about whether to try to decide ‘core issues’ (borders, refugees, Jerusalem) or, as Israel prefers, just to produce a general statement of principles.

Abbas is pushing hard for core issues, but the version of his bottom line that he has so far presented is unacceptable to Israel: full withdrawal to 1967 borders including all of East Jerusalem, return of refugees and their descendants to Israel, Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount and Western Wall, etc.

Ami Isseroff thinks that Israel is making a mistake in trying to avoid discussing the core issues, but he thinks that Israel should be the one to lay down the bottom lines. Here are his ideas for an Israeli core proposal:

Liquidation of the refugee problem – This was deliberately created and is artificially maintained as a tool for destroying Israel. This was explicitly stated at a Fateh Web site until not long ago in so many words: “The refugee issue is the winning card that will mean the end of the state of Israel.” Everyone knows it is so, yet the UN, including the EU and the United States, continue to support the UNRWA, which perpetuates the refugee problem, and treats Arab refugees from Palestine differently from every other refugee population in the world. Termination of this situation is a key requirement for peace.

Recognition of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and the right of Israel to exist as the state of the Jewish people - Until today, this right has never been recognized by any Arab country including those who made peace with Israel, and it was not recognized by the Palestinians either. The right of Israel to exist was recognized [this can be disputed — ed.], but this recognition was a cover for the plan to flood Israel with Arab “refugees.”

Recognition that the Jewish people and the State of Israel have historic rights in Jerusalem – The internationalization of Jerusalem must come off the international agenda. Jerusalem is holy to many religions, but in all history, except for the short-lived crusader state, Jerusalem was only the capital city of one nation – the Jewish nation. We cannot expect that the Palestinians will recognize any Jewish rights in East Jerusalem if the United States doesn’t recognize any Jewish rights in any part of Jerusalem.

A declaration that wanton murder of civilians is illegitimate – The Palestinians agreed to an end to violence in the Oslo accords, but did not keep their word.

The above conditions must be met if there is to be peace. They must be implemented by declarations in Arabic as well as in English for the benefit of foreigners, and more important, by sincere actions. These must include a total cessation of the systematic incitement and racism that is rife in Palestinian society and the Arab world. No more Nakba commemoration parades with posters reading “Haifa,” “Beisan,” “Birsaba,” “Yaffo.” No more maps that show all of Israel as Palestine. No more kiddie shows of children willing to blow themselves up to “liberate” Jerusalem. No more TV shows and newspaper articles about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Jews baking Matzot from the blood of Christian children. No more sermons about God destroying the Jewish sons of dogs and monkeys.

Israel in effect is saying “we are not an obstacle to peace; we are prepared to make an agreement on borders that will allow for a Palestinian state, but we will not accept, explicitly or implicitly (by allowing incitement) your definition of our state as illegitimate”.

These principles have to be Israel’s bottom line, but they obviously aren’t sufficient conditions for a deal. An agreement that won’t be kept is far worse than no agreement at all, just a prescription for war. Can we ask Israel to withdraw from territory that will be difficult or impossible to reoccupy in the event that the Palestinians don’t live up to a commitment to end violent attacks on Israel? How can this be guaranteed when Abbas doesn’t even control Fatah extremists, not to mention Hamas?

It’s hard to understand the logic of the Europeans and others who want Israel to sign on the dotted line on the assumption that that the Palestinians will act in good faith, given their track record until now.

So yes, here are the core principles. But I think an actual deal has to wait for the day that there is some stability on the other side, and a reason to believe that agreements will — or even can — be honored.

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The Fence

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

After construction began on the security fence, the usual suspects started screaming bloody murder: Apartheid segregation wall! Ethnic cleansing! Bantustans! Land grab!

I realized the significance of this immediately. The fence, if effective, would take away the Palestinians’ best weapon, terrorism or the threat of terrorism. No wonder that Israel-haters like Noam Chomsky, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the International Solidarity Movement, etc. were livid!

And as a matter of fact, it was effective. During the Second Intifada, a close friend of mine served in a special unit of the security forces. Their primary task was to intercept terrorists infiltrating from the territories. They travelled all over the country, day and night. They never saw their families, but they stopped far more bombers than got through. Some days there were literally dozens of alerts.

And as the security fence was built, their job got easier. The suicide bombers and others could not cross where the fence was finished, so they had to go around it. It was easier to patrol the open areas than the whole border. But there still were some infiltrations from areas where the fence was not complete, and some of them were successful.

It would seem that finishing the fence is a no-brainer. No matter how good the Palestinians get at rocket science, it’s still easier, cheaper, and more accurate for the terrorist groups to send a dupe with an explosive belt than to hit something with a rocket. An unbroken fence might save dozens, or even hundreds of Israeli lives if it prevents a handful of suicide bombings.

So I was extremely disheartened to read the following:

Not a single kilometer of the West Bank security fence has been completed in the past four months…

This week, the Defense Ministry told three contractors with signed agreements worth NIS 100 million not to begin scheduled work on the fence in the South Hebron Hills – due to lack of funds…

Last year, the Defense Ministry completed 102 km. of the fence. Some 10 months into 2007, however, only an additional 48 km. – just 6 percent of the entire planned route of the fence – have been completed…

Earlier this year, the estimated target date for the project’s completion was moved from 2008 to 2010 – meaning it will take the government eight years to build the fence which was first approved by the cabinet in 2002. — Jerusalem Post

Is there actually a lack of funds? Of course the Defense Ministry has many expensive projects, such as developing anti-missile systems, countering new Russian weapons in the hands of Hezbollah, and rebuilding ground forces decimated by years of neglect. Like everything, it’s a question of priorities, and for some reason the government does not give this a high priority.

Could it be that the reason is political? Could it be that the campaign by the Palestinians and their friends to help them keep their best, cheapest, most accurate weapon have borne fruit, perhaps via the US State Department?

Maybe the Defense Ministry is simply tired of the hundreds of legal challenges to the route of the fence?

It’s too important for that. My suggestion is that the existing parts of the fence should be left where they are for the time being, to be revisited after the rest is complete. The Ministry should be flexible about the proposed route, but speed of construction needs to be a priority.

A leaky bucket is better than no bucket, but an intact one is better still.

Fence Statistics

(courtesy of Jewish Virtual Library)

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Physical and virtual war with Hamas are inevitible

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

War noises from Gaza:

Hamas official Sheikh Ahmad Hamdan of Khan Yunis said Tuesday that he recently met with [Muhammed] Deif in the fugitive’s hiding place. According to Hamdan, Deif, leader of Hamas’s Izzadin a-Kassam armed wing, told him that in the next few weeks, his group would initiate an attack against the “Israeli occupation, and not remain on the defensive.”

The report of the Izzadin a-Kassam leader’s alleged plans comes after Brig.-Gen. Moshe (Chico) Tamir, head of the Gaza Division, said Monday that Hamas was trying to establish a bunker system as well as fortified rocket-launching and surveillance positions along the security fence with the Gaza Strip.

“They are trying to dig tunnels, build surveillance positions and mortar-fire stations along the fence,” Tamir told reporters during a briefing concerning the death of IDF reservist Ehud Efrati during clashes with Hamas gunmen early Monday morning. “They are trying to build this up and we are trying to stop them.”

Unless Israel strikes first:

“Every day that passes brings us closer to a broad operation in Gaza,” [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak told Army Radio.

“We are not happy to do it, we’re not rushing to do it, and we’ll be happy if circumstances succeed in preventing it,” he said. “But the time is approaching when we’ll have to undertake a broad operation in Gaza.” — Jerusalem Post

Although it is possible that someday Israel will find a modus vivendi with the majority of Palestinians and even her Arab neighbors, it will never, ever come to one with Hamas, whose reason for being is to destroy Israel. Since there is no reason to believe that Hamas will wither away by itself — it’s well nourished by Israel’s enemies — then war is a certainty.

The Israeli leadership needs to understand that in addition to the physical combat, there will be a media war that will be as important or more so. Although Israel will have military superiority, she will be fighting the information battles at a huge disadvantage — because of previous failures in this realm.

Hamas almost certainly will deploy battalions of media relations experts. They will spin every incident, invent massacres that didn’t happen, and “kill” hundreds of Mohammed al-Duras. Their propaganda commandos will perform audacious acts like recycling already-dead bodies from morgues and creating non-existent hospitals that they can accuse Israel of having bombed. All of these seeds will fall onto the fertile fields of reporters from the UK Guardian, AFP, NPR, the BBC, CNN, and so forth, where they will sprout into media disasters.

To coin a phrase, winning physically isn’t everything — the ultimate outcome will depend in great measure on the virtual war, its effect on opinion and ultimately the policies of the major players on the world stage.

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NPR in Gaza

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Some time ago, I took National Public Radio (NPR) to task for employing what I’ve come to call the Emotive Bias Technique in its reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This morning, reporter Eric Westervelt provided another perfect example (as if any more are needed).

Westervelt interviews an ‘ordinary Gazan’, Salahadin al-Sultan, owner of a grocery store in Beit Hanoun, one of the prime locations from which Qassam rockets are fired daily at southern Israel.

Sultan shows him that there is almost nothing in the store, and that he has even had to sell off much of his family’s possessions to survive. This is because Israel — after the Hamas takeover — has “tightened its crossing points into the territories” (Westervelt does not mention that Hamas often attacks the crossings with mortar fire), so that “only limited humanitarian food and medical supplies are getting in”. What is getting in since Hamas took over, of course, are explosives — 112 tons of them — but he leaves this out too.

Westervelt admits that rockets are continuing to be fired into Israel, and so “Israel has declared Gaza a hostile entity” and is “tightening the screws”. Then we go back to Sultan, whose customers are unemployed or “government workers” (most of whom were likely employed by the ‘security services’) who get only partial salaries. Most of Sultan’s furniture is gone, sold to pay for food and bills. Sultan’s wife’s gold jewelry has been sold and — you can hear the heartstrings twanging — also his wedding ring.

A child passes with a donkey cart, selling vegetables from “forlorn boxes”, carefully driving around a refilled crater produced by an Israeli bomb not far from the shop. The explosion smashed his windows. We don’t know what the rocket launchers which must have been there did to Sderot. At one point, so many rockets were launched from Beit Hanoun, that angry residents wanted the army to return random barrage for barrage. Of course, the army only targets launchers and their operators.

The Emotive Bias Technique depends on the human propensity to remember emotionally loaded experiences much more than the recitation of facts. So Sultan’s depressing situation, his lost wedding ring, the child skirting the crater with his miserable vegetables — these make an impression. The matter-of-fact statement that, yes, rockets are being fired from Beit Hanoun does not.

In addition to Emotive Bias, Westervelt leaves out important context. Hamas is spending huge sums of money smuggling explosives and weapons into the strip, building fortifications near the border, digging tunnels under the border to attack Israel, manufacturing rockets, etc. This money could be spent on ameliorating economic conditions in Gaza, if Hamas wished to do so. Israel’s “tightening the screws” is a direct result of the rocket and mortar fire, sniping, and attempts to kidnap Israelis that are occurring every day. If Hamas would stop them, the restrictions would stop too.

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Israel should stop shooting herself in the foot

Monday, October 29th, 2007

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Monday rejected for the time being the Defense Ministry’s intention of causing power shortages in the Gaza Strip as a punitive measure [my emphasis] for rocket attacks against Israeli communities, the Justice Ministry announced.

Mazuz gave the green light for various economic sanctions including cutting economic and commercial ties with the Gaza Strip. However, as far as the army and defense ministry’s intention of cutting power supplies to Gaza was concerned, Mazuz said more planning work had to be done before the decision could be carried out. This, “in order to look into the possibility of implementing the measure so that it would be in keeping with the government’s decision [of Sept. 19.] That decision restricted sanctions so that they would not cause humanitarian harm to the civilian population.”

According to an example provided by Channel 10 news, Mazuz instructed the army to determine how to warn Gaza hospitals of its intention to cut electricity in enough time so that the hospitals could turn on their own generators.

I wrote recently that Israel is not required to supply fuel and power to a hostile entity, which is at this very moment at war with her, firing rockets, attempting to breach her border, and engaging her soldiers in combat.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, rockets are being fired from Gaza directly at the power station in Ashkelon where the electricity used to make the rockets is generated!

Rather than simply stopping delivery of fuel and electricity, the policy seems to be to produce a calibrated amount of discomfort to force Hamas to change its behavior.

First of all, this won’t work. Hamas is indifferent to the discomfort of those that are not aligned with it, and will divert any available supplies to meet its own needs.

Second, it sets an unfortunate precedent. It seems as though Israel accepts the opinion of Ban Ki-moon, for example, that Israel is responsible for the welfare of Gazans.

Third, from a public relations standpoint it is idiotic. It both weakens Israel’s position and opens it to the charge of collective punishment — which of course is not limited to critics outside of Israel, but is now being taken up by the Attorney General!

Israel should stop shooting herself in the foot. Turn off the power and stop fuel deliveries. Let Hamas bring in fuel and power by way of the multitude of tunnels under the Egyptian border, through which have passed 112 tons of explosives since Israel withdrew from Gaza.

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Eleven commandments of Palestinian politics

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Recently, I wrote that the Fatah terrorists who were arrested — and promptly released — for planning to assassinate Israeli PM Ehud Olmert — were possibly part of a piece of Paliwood theater. I simply couldn’t get my mind around the actions of Abbas and Fayed any other way. But there’s another way to see it.

The Attempt to Kill Olmert
By Barry Rubin

Several Fatah security force officers assigned to protect Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as he went to meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas, it has just been revealed, planned to assassinate him instead. This event should be amazing enough to get people to rethink their premises. After all, it is late 2007, with a supposedly moderate leadership running the PA and Fatah, and this kind of thing is still happening.

It should be emphasized that the would-be assassins were Fatah, not Hamas, and that they were quickly released by PA authorities before outside pressure forced their re-arrest. (Prediction: they will be freed soon with little or no international media coverage.)

But this is merely the same basic pattern as happened with the assassins of Israeli government minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001 or the gunmen who seized the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002: international indifference, a show of PA law enforcement, and terrorists go free. Not to mention thousands of other attacks when the PA had a chance to teach its own people about the politically counterproductive—not to mention immoral and divisive–nature of terrorism.

The PA has never really punished anyone for murdering or trying to kill an Israeli or for attacking Israel. Occasionally, in the 1990s, there were convictions but only on charges of damaging the Palestinian cause which meant attacking at an embarrassing time. Even those prisoners were quickly released.

Remember that the conspirators, if successful, would have tremendously damaged the PA and Fatah before an international summit meeting from which Palestinians hoped to benefit. If they’d actually started shooting, much less killed or wounded Olmert, the PA, Fatah, and the Palestinian cause would have been so discredited that it would take years before they were offered a state or lavish Western aid again.

Consequently, based on his own interests, Abbas should have them shot, which is what the PA does to people it deems traitors. But they probably won’t even get community service in the end.

Why? Because of the rules of Palestinian politics which are absolutely fatal to the hope of getting a Palestinian state, becoming more moderate, ending terrorism, or stopping even officially sponsored PA incitement to commit terrorism. Palestinians know these rules well though outsiders seem largely unaware of them. Exceptions can be found but few and since these are considered shameful they go unpublicized and thus form no precedent for changing the rules, which are:

1. Palestinians cannot stop other Palestinians from attacking Israel. To do so would be betraying the cause, becoming Israel’s lackey. This applies even if the Israelis are bringing in supplies or providing jobs to Palestinians, or if the attack damages Palestinian interests. If the victims are schoolchildren or shoppers or people riding on a bus, of course, is irrelevant in this world view.

2. He who is most militant is always right. Extremism equals heroism. This is one reason why Fatah has such a difficult time competing with Hamas. It cannot denounce these rivals for being too hardline and intransigent. Suicide bombers along with those who incite and manage them are role models, not misled individuals, much less evil ones.

3. More violence is good and a victory if it inflicts casualties or damage on Israel. Other than ritual denunciations for the foreign media, these are matters for pride, with the implication being that they advance the cause rather than sabotage it.

4. No Israeli government can do anything good. Thus, Olmert is no better than anyone else even as he withdraws from the Gaza Strip, offers to accept a Palestinian state, and is ready to give up east Jerusalem. Some Palestinian leaders can talk privately to Israeli counterparts about cooperation and even their dream of peace but don’t tell this to their own people.

5. Since Palestinians are the perpetual victim they are entitled to everything they want and never need to give anything in exchange for Israeli concessions. Thus, the preferred PA diplomatic option is that Israel withdraws from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, recognizes an independent Palestinian state, releases all Palestinian prisoners, and then talks can begin. (Note: I thought of this as a satire but a high-ranking Syrian official just proposed the equivalent on that front.)

6. No Palestinian should be imprisoned for attacks on Israel one minute longer than required by international public relations’ needs. After all, if they are doing heroic deeds against an evil enemy—even by murdering civilians on purpose—why should they be punished?

7. Fatah won’t discipline or expel anyone for launching attacks.

8. Wiping Israel off the map is morally correct. If anyone says anything different they will be scared or ashamed, justifying their lapse as a temporary tactical measure or way to fool enemies.

9. While pretending to be nationalist, the movement sets as top priority the so-called “right of return,” the demand that all Palestinian refugees or their descendents—several million people—must be allowed to live in Israel. It is better not to get a state than to give up this demand. Even though having many Palestinians go live in Israel would make Palestine weaker and poorer it is better to focus on destroying Israel from within.

10. It is more important to be steadfast and patient with a terrible status quo than to make big gains by ending the conflict forever. To do so would give up future Palestinians’ chance to seek total victory. Their right to all of the land cannot be given away.

11. No speeches, no foreign aid, and no international plans or meetings have altered these basic rules. Palestinian leaders may sincerely voice their dismay with this problem privately but won’t fight to smash them. If they ever really do change we’ll know. But until then, these are the reasons why the Palestinian side cannot and will not reach for peace or keep existing commitments very well. Even if a handful of top Palestinians want to reach agreement with Israel, they cannot—and even worse, dare not—violate these commandments.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA). His latest books are The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

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Stop terrorism — for real — first

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter spoke to an AIPAC conference in Philadelphia yesterday:

Dichter further stated that the US-sponsored Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland, “must enable both sides – Israel and the Palestinians, with the assistance of the US, the Quartet and the moderate Arab nations – to finally start implementing the first stage of the road map.”

The minister added that the Palestinians must establish law enforcement bodies such as police forces, courts and “real prisons”, before negotiations on a final status agreement can begin. Without such bodies, Dichter said, any declarations by the Palestinians have no merit. — Jerusalem Post

Let’s remind ourselves of what the Roadmap actually said. Here are some excerpts from Phase 1:

  • Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.
  • Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association with terror and corruption.
  • GOI [Government of Israel] takes no actions undermining trust, including deportations, attack on civilians; confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure; and other measures specified in the Tenet Work Plan.
  • Arab states cut off public and private funding and all other forms of support for groups supporting and engaging in violence and terror.
  • GOI immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001.
  • Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements). — MideastWeb

Neither the Roadmap nor the Mitchell Report on which it’s based specifies the order in which these conditions must be met. When the Roadmap was adopted, however, Israel agreed to it with 14 reservations. Israel did not object to freezing settlement activity, but first two points include the following:

These [Palestinian Authority security] organizations will engage in genuine prevention of terror and violence through arrests, interrogations, prevention and the enforcement of the legal groundwork for investigations, prosecution and punishment…

Full performance will be a condition for progress between phases and for progress within phases. The first condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement. Progress between phases will come only following the full implementation of the preceding phase. Attention will be paid not to timelines, but to performance benchmarks. (Timelines will serve only as reference points).

Needless to say, neither side has implemented Phase 1 of the Roadmap. It is Israel’s position, which Dichter is simply restating, that terrorist violence against Israel has to stop as a first condition, before anything else.

This is not unreasonable, unless you believe the Palestinian contention that Israel’s defensive activities are equivalent to Palestinian terrorism.

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The real Iranian threat against Israel

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Foreign Minister Tzipi LivniThe following item appeared in Ha’aretz yesterday:

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a few months ago in a series of closed discussions that in her opinion that Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel…

Her precise meaning has not been made clear. Here is what I think makes sense:

It’s certain that if Iran succeeds in detonating a nuclear bomb in, say, Tel Aviv, it would be a great catastrophe. But Israel has the ability to preempt and defend against missile and other types of attack, given the delivery technology in Iran’s possession. So a massive attack that would “wipe Israel off the map” would not be likely to succeed.

In addition, and of overriding importance, Iran’s goals would not be served. Israel has a second-strike capability which almost certainly would do far more damage to Iran than Iran could do to Israel. Iran’s dream of being a world or even regional power would be over, her military, oil and industrial capacity decimated.

The real threat from Iran is less dramatic, but in the long run, more dangerous: regional domination — including control of oil resources in neighboring countries. Perhaps it could be accomplished just by bullying, without Iran needing to detonate any nuclear bombs.

This would result in an enormous increase in Iranian influence throughout the world. Iran would then have the ability to strangle Israel’s economy, drive away population, fight her by proxy, etc. This could, over a longer term, actually be worse for Israel than a partially successful nuclear attack.

There is no doubt that Livni understands this, and it is for this reason that she has said on numerous occasions that Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. And since the possession of such makes effective action against them much more difficult or impossible, the urgency to take action is not diminished.

The threat is real and time to defuse it is short — even if it is less apocalyptic than one might imagine.

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Terrorist murderer of 17 Americans walks free

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Terrorist al-BadawiOutrageous but not terribly surprising:

SAN’A, Yemen [AP] – Yemen has set free one of the al-Qaida masterminds of the USS Cole bombing in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors, a senior security official said Thursday.

Jamal al-Badawi, who is wanted by the FBI, was convicted in 2004 of plotting, preparing and helping carry out the USS Cole bombing and received a death sentence that was commuted to 15 years in prison.

He and 22 others, mostly al-Qaida fighters, escaped from prison in 2004. But al-Badawi was granted his freedom after turning himself in 15 days ago and pledging loyalty to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh…

Al-Badawi has a $5 million US bounty on his head. His release came after a deal negotiated between Yemen and al-Quaeda “in return for a pledge not to engage in any violent or Al-Qaeda-related activity” (AFP).

Oh, I see. He’s clearly entirely rehabilitated.

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Will it be lights out for Hamas?

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

What if England had been supplying electricity to Germany in 1941?

Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s approval earlier Thursday of an IDF plan to impose sanctions on the Gaza Strip in wake of the escalation in Kassam rocket attacks was the first step, defense officials told The Jerusalem Post, towards a “complete disengagement” including the gradual reduction in Palestinian dependency on Israel for gas and electricity…

According to the plan, one of the power lines connecting Israel and Gaza will be shut down at first for 15 minutes after a rocket attack, gradually increasing the cutoff length if the barrages continue, up to a two-hour limit. In addition, Israel will begin reducing the amount of gasoline it allows into the Gaza Strip…

Defense officials stressed that the fairly-limited sanctions were not capable of creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and were being imposed with the eventual goal – of the defense establishment – to completely cut off Palestinian dependency on Israel. The cuts to electricity will not affect Gaza-based hospitals, defense officials said…

Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Israel had no choice but to take punitive measures. “Should we tell them to continue firing rockets at the same power station that provides them with electricity and continue to bomb the water system that provides them with water?” he asked.

But

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat appealed for international intervention and called the Israeli decision to cut off electricity to Gaza after each Kassam rocket “particularly provocative given that Palestinians and Israelis are meeting to negotiate an agreement on the core issues for ending the conflict between them.”

Palestinians and human rights groups denounced the measure as collective punishment. One of the groups, Gisha, issued a statement warning, “Playing with electricity is playing with fire,” adding, “Even a brief interruption in electricity threatens the safety and well-being of Gaza residents.” — Jerusalem Post

1) Firing rockets at random into civilian territory in order to kill people is very ‘provocative’ and in fact is a war crime.

2) By Gisha’s reasoning, almost any wartime action that affects a civilian population is ‘collective punishment’. Nevertheless, Israel’s tying the interruptions of service to rocket attacks is unfortunate, because it lends itself to the charge that the interruptions are retaliatory in nature. Israel should simply cut the electricity because it is not required to supply a hostile enemy. Let Hamas solve the problem by ceasing its belligerency.

This should have happened a long time ago, perhaps on the day this March when a Hamas sniper in Gaza shot an Israeli electrical worker atop a pole on the Israeli side of the border (see “Black Out Gaza!”).

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Amnesty International almost gets it, but misses the point

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Amnesty International (AI), long considered to be severely biased against Israel, is starting to understand that Palestinians can oppress Palestinians. We might say that they almost get it:

The 57-page report, Occupied Palestinian Territories: Torn apart by factional strife, accuses Hamas of resorting increasingly to arbitrary detentions and torture since it took power last June in the Gaza Strip, and of allowing its forces to attack and assault peaceful demonstrators as well as journalists reporting on their protests. In the West Bank, the report blames security forces loyal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas of arbitrarily detaining hundreds of Hamas supporters but of failing to take action against Fatah militants responsible for abductions, arson and other attacks. — AI press release

Hmm, I could have written that, except that I would have used the word ‘terrorists’. But it’s not bad. On the other hand, they continue as follows:

Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East Programme Director [said] “The ongoing factional struggle between Fatah and Hamas is having a dire effect on the lives of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, compounding and exacerbating the human rights and humanitarian crisis caused by Israeli military campaigns and blockades.” [my emphasis]

So it’s as if Israel is the cause of the problem, and Hamas/Fatah are merely guilty of making it worse! Not so smart, Smart. You are missing the point that the Palestinians have always had the option of stopping terrorist activities (as I write, missiles are falling on Sderot) and thereby putting an end to Israeli actions in self-defense.

And the outrage seems to be primarily generated when Palestinians are the victims of violence. Search the AI database for reports on the Israel and the territories, and you will find some critical of the Palestinians for their behavior towards one another, or for such things as the Alan Johnston kidnapping. You will find literally hundreds critical of Israel in the harshest possible terms (I did find one which evenhandedly criticized Israel and Hamas for civilian casualties in Gaza and Sderot, and one which criticized Hizbullah for the rocket barrage of 2006).

I’ll take AI more seriously when they recognize the long-term Arab project to destroy Israel as a human rights problem.

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All about Zionist genetic weapons

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Gen. BagherzadehSometimes stupidity becomes so overwhelming that one wants to… well, you decide:

An Iranian official has said that the U.S., assisted by Israel, is seeking to create a genetic and molecular bank to manufacture new types of unconventional weapons.

Addressing an international seminar on “The Consequences of the Use of Chemical Weapons against Iran,” Foundation for the Protection of the Values of the Sacred Defense head Gen. Mir Feysal Bagherzadeh said that the U.S., in collaboration with the Zionist regime of Israel, is forming a bank of the molecules and genes of the different world nations and peoples in pursuit of its hostile goals.

“This is not done in pursuit of humanitarian goals. Rather they are seeking to manufacture a weapon which could kill specific peoples in a limited geographical area,” he stressed.

[He said that] after the recent crash of a Thai plane, U.S. and Israeli experts searched for corpses of Iranian nationals in a bid to obtain their genes for the research. — MEMRI

To dispose of the scientific issue first, no, there can’t be such a weapon. Human genes are remarkably similar among ethnic groups. And even if there were a way to discriminate, populations — especially in the US and Israel — are very diverse. Who’s to say that the many Israeli Jews of Sephardic ancestry — like the current Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, whose mother came from Syria, or his predecessor, Dan Halutz, whose father came from Iran — are not likely to have characteristics similar to those of Syrians and Iranians?

But racists just love this kind of stuff. People who used to talk about blood now talk about genetics. The same Jewish genes that make Jews intelligent but irredeemably evil allow for targeted biological weapons, in this view! Of course, the most that can be said is that statistically one ethnic group may have a greater likelihood to possess particular characteristics than another.

Actually, what really separates peoples are things like education and features of culture. And cultures are prey to diseases caused by what one might call ‘social viruses’, of which antisemitism is a particularly contagious and virulent example.

This particular libel is, in a way, perfect. The evil Jews, evil because of their Jewish blood, use this very same blood as a talisman to protect them against a fearsome plague that they start themselves! Shades of the well-poisoners who brought the Black Death on Europe.

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