Archive for December, 2007

Obama on the conflict

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

The Orthodox Union Public Affairs blog has recently published a statement by presidential candidate Barack Obama on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:

“I start with the premise that Israel is a stalwart ally of ours and their security cannot be compromised. I also start with the premise that the status quo is unsustainable and that what would be good for Israeli security will be the kind of two-state solution that allows the Palestinians to live and prosper in their own state and allows Israel to maintain the security of its state.”

“I think everyone knows what the basic outlines of an agreement would look like. It would mean that the Palestinians would have to reinterpret the notion of right of return in a way that would preserve Israel as a Jewish state. It might involve compensation and other concessions from the Israelis but ultimately Israel is not going to give up its state.”

This is carefully worded and nuanced, and it’s worth thinking about what it means. The first paragraph represents the conventional wisdom on the two-state solution, and is true in a tautological way: obviously a solution that “allows Israel to maintain the security of its state” will be good for Israeli security.

However, the implication is that a two-state solution is necessary for Israeli security, because the status quo is unsustainable. What Obama does not deal with is the fact that the Palestinians do not want — in any way, shape or form — a state alongside Israel in which they can live and prosper. Forcing Israel to make concessions that are intended to lead to a two-state solution in this situation could certainly compromise Israel’s security.

The second paragraph is even more interesting. Shmuel Rosner, writing in Ha’aretz, suggests that it means that “Barack Obama backs Israel remaining a Jewish state“. Well, it means that he does not think that the Palestinians should be able to flood Israel with ‘refugees’, but it also does not mean that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“Compensation and other concessions from the Israelis” implies that the Palestinian nakba story is legitimate, that Israel created the refugees, and is responsible for them. Otherwise, why should Israel owe them anything?

The war that ended in 1948 was a continuation of the struggle to throw the Jews out that the Palestinian Arabs began in the 1920’s and was taken up by the Arab nations when they invaded Israel. There would have been no Arab refugees if they had accepted the partition resolution, instead of choosing war. The fact that the refugees weren’t resettled, but kept in misery for 60 years was the fault of the Arab nations and the compliant West — not Israel.

Accepting the principle of compensation is accepting the principle that Palestine actually belonged to the Arabs, the Jews took it, and now they need to compensate the Arabs for their loss.

The right of return does not require reinterpretation. There is no such right. The refugees have a right to resettlement in the Palestinian state or perhaps their present host countries, and a right to compensation from the Arab nations for the way they have been treated.

Here is what I think Obama, or any presidential candidate, should say:

“I start with the premise that Israel is a stalwart ally of ours and their security cannot be compromised. I also start with the premise that the status quo is unsustainable and that Palestinians must accept Israel’s right to exist unmolested as a Jewish state in the Middle East.”

“Part of any two-state agreement must be that the Palestinians agree that there is no right of return to Israel, but only to the Palestinian state. Refugees may receive compensation or other benefits (from Arab nations or the West), but they are not in any way the responsibility of Israel.”

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Academic: IDF dehumanizes Palestinians by not raping them

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

What I am about to discuss is simply unbelievable. So maybe it’s made up, intended as a satire on leftist academics. You decide.

( A research paper that won a Hebrew University teachers’ committee prize finds that the lack of IDF rapes of Palestinian women is designed to serve a political purpose.

The abstract of the paper, authored by doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, notes that the paper shows that “the lack of organized military rape is an alternate way of realizing [particular] political goals.”

The next sentence delineates the particular goals that are realized in this manner: “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences – just as organized military rape would have done.”

The paper further theorizes that Arab women in Judea and Samaria are not raped by IDF soldiers because the women are de-humanized in the soldiers’ eyes…

Nitzan’s paper did, however, give much space to the explanation that the Israeli soldiers refrained from rape out of demographic considerations. She explained at length how fearful the Jewish population is of the growing Arab population, and how in cases of wartime rape, the baby is generally assumed to be of the mother’s nationality.

Let me try to get my mind around this idea.

Arab propaganda for the past hundred years or so has accused Jews of raping Arab women, because of the inflammatory nature of such accusations. But despite the fact that rape in war, even mass rape as a military tactic, has characterized many recent conflicts throughout the world, there are almost zero known cases of IDF soldiers raping Palestinian women.

A normal person would think that this is a good thing which speaks well of our army. Explanations that can be offered might include Jewish religious traditions, which persist even in secular Jews, the IDF’s concept of tohar haneshek [purity of arms], etc.

But a normal person cannot understand the mind of a person so damaged by self-hatred, so infused with the viewpoint of her enemies, that she would conclude that the reason her country’s soldiers are not guilty of rape is…that they are racists!

And it doesn’t matter if IDF soldiers rape or not, because “the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences – just as organized military rape would have done.”

So we might as well be rapists, because the goal of raping and not-raping is the same!

Even Dr. Chomsky didn’t think of this.

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Saudi “libel tourist” wins a round

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

Khalid Salim a bin MahfouzSheik Khalid Salim a bin Mahfouz sleeps with goats and chickens. And he looks like a weasel, too. So sue me.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld made some perhaps better-researched statements in her 2003 book Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop It. In particular, she accused Saudi billionaire Sheik Khalid Salim a bin Mahfouz of financing terrorism in a big way:

Her book had reported that bin Mahfouz, the former chairman of Saudi Arabia’s largest bank, National Commercial Bank, had allegedly deposited “tens of millions of dollars in London and New York directly into terrorist accounts—the accounts of the same terrorists who were implicated in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 224 people were killed, including twelve Americans, and more than four thousand were injured.”

The book implicated bin Mahfouz in transferring from the bank’s Zakat (charity) Committee some $74 million to the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and to the Muwafaq “blessed relief” Foundation. Muwafaq in turn allegedly deposited funds directly with al Qaeda. Finally, Ehrenfeld also indicated that much of the funding for terrorism emanates from the Saudis, including the bin Mahfouz and al Rahji families, who allegedly funnel the monies through a host of “charitable” institutions. — Alyssa A. Lappen, ‘Libel Wars’, Frontpage Magazine (2005)

Ehrenfeld’s accusations were carefully documented, and under US law are protected as free speech. However, libel laws in the UK are much looser and put the burden of proof on the accused. Although only a handful of books were sold in the UK, Ehrenfeld describes what happened:

Bin Mahfouz sued me in London in January 2004, shortly after the U.S. publication of my book… I refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of a British court over a book published here; the court then ruled for bin Mahfouz by default, enjoined British publication of Funding Evil, awarded bin Mahfouz $225,900 in damages and expenses and ordered me to publicly apologize and destroy the book. I refuse to acknowledge the British Court or its ruling…

Since British libel law favors suits such as bin Mahfouz’s, and the First Amendment protects U.S. journalists reporting on public issues, I chose to fight his false claims in America. I sued in a New York federal court, for a declaration that bin Mahfouz’ English default judgment is unenforceable in the United States, because it violates my First Amendment rights…

On June 8, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared my case is “ripe” for hearing in a U.S. [state] court, noting that the case has implications for all U.S. authors and publishers, whose First Amendment rights are threatened by foreign libel rulings.

Unfortunately, the New York State Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) has just ruled that a New York court cannot hear Ehrenfeld’s case on the technical grounds that bin Mahfouz does little business in New York.

Although our sheik can’t collect his judgement in the US without going to court here (where he would probably lose, big time) Ehrenfeld is out a small fortune in legal expenses. And she can’t travel to the UK without risking arrest.

The practice of silencing writers and journalists by taking advantage of UK laws has come to be called “libel tourism” and is a favorite tactic of bin Mahfouz and other rich malefactors:

…bin Mahfouz sued Pluto Press in the U.K. over the suggestion in Michael Griffin’s 2003 Reaping the Whirlwind that he was related by marriage to Osama bin Laden and a supporter of terrorism. Bin Mahfouz “accepted” a substantial settlement and an apology, as he did earlier for a report in the Mail on Sunday. In another case, bin Mahfouz’ litigiousness was reportedly behind the halt in British publication by Secker & Warburg in early 2004 of Craig Unger’s House of Bush; House of Saud. — Lappen

…bin Mahfouz threatened to sue Cambridge University Press (CUP), the publisher of Alms of Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, but refrained from including the book’s two American writers, J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins.

Facing the mere threat of a lawsuit from Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, Cambridge University Press — the world’s oldest publishing house — agreed in Britain’s High Court on July 30, to pulp all the unsold copies. When the American authors rightfully refused to join, CUP issued a public apology, which in fact defamed the authors. CUP also paid substantial undisclosed damages, a huge “contribution” to a charity of bin Mahfouz’ choice, and sent letters to more than 200 libraries worldwide, asking to pull the book off their shelves. CUP’s capitulation handed an important victory to the Saudis’ financial jihad against free speech. — Ehrenfeld

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and Mohammed Jameel — another Saudi billionaire — have also sued foreign publications for libel in the UK and won (although Jameel’s case was later overthrown by the House of Lords).

The problem with all this is that publishers are beginning to get cold feet about printing anything that could make a possible libel tourist unhappy, no matter how untrue — or how important. Truth and justice are all very nice concepts, but when a publisher needs to spend half a million dollars in legal fees to publish a book that may not earn that much, this has what lawyers call a “chilling effect” on free speech:

Ehrenfeld was hardly his only target. Bin Mahfouz and other wealthy Saudis had previously attacked other reporters and news agencies, all of which chose to apologize publicly, or settle the cases—or in the cases of some book publishers, to back off publication all together. USA Today, for one, printed a lengthy retraction concerning a November 2004 article by Marc Umile that had implicated bin Mahfouz.

As a result of bin Mahfouz’ intimidation, Gerald Posner, in Secrets of the Kingdom, makes no reference to bin Mahfouz or Muwafaq. Loretta Napoleoni removed all references to bin Mahfouz from her U.S. paperback book, Terror Incorporated. — Lappen

And since the internet has world-wide reach, even I could be a target of such as bin Mahfouz.

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Hamas is a disaster for Arabs, but irrelevant for Israel

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Barry Rubin writes,

[The] Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip… is the most important single Middle East event of 2007 because it is a clear, probably irreversible, shift in the balance of power. Four decades of a movement dominated by nationalists has come to an end. Given Fatah’s continuing weaknesses it is conceivable that Hamas will take over the West Bank within a few years and marginalize its rival. To Islamists, this is a great victory.

In fact, it is a disaster for Palestinians and Arabs. It deepens divisions and destroys any real (as opposed to the silly superficial events that take up governments’ time and media space) diplomatic option for them. A negotiated resolution of the Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and with it prospects for a Palestinian state, has been set back for decades. Much Western sympathy has been lost. [my emphasis]

In years to come, struggles between Arab nationalists and Islamists, as well as between Sunnis and Shias, will dwarf the Arab-Israeli conflict. During 2008 we will have to assess whether the Palestinian Authority still ruling the West Bank can meet the Hamas challenge (we already know it won’t meet the diplomatic challenge but it will take all year for most Western politicians and much of the media to discover that).

I agree that it is a disaster for Palestinians and Arabs. But so many of them, maybe not only the hard-core Islamists, think the opposite!

The fact is (and I’m sure Rubin would agree), that they don’t have the same criteria as the West. Peace and prosperity are not the primary desiderata for them. Recovery of Arab honor and removal of the hated Jew from ‘their’ land are.

The US has finally learned a similar lesson in Iraq. The Shiites, having suffered horribly under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, are not looking forward to peace and prosperity alongside Iraq’s Sunnis. Rather, they would like to set up a brutal regime which will give the Sunnis their ‘just’ desserts!

Strategic planners in Israel and the West should be prepared for the ultimate triumph of Hamas. But regardless of who the Palestinian leadership will be, whether it will be of the nationalist or Islamist variety, the one thing that we can be sure of is that it can garner respect and support from the Palestinian public only if it promises to replace Israel by an Arab state. This is the only way that honor can be restored.

Therefore we can expect that there will always be demands for right of return, etc., that Israel cannot meet and still survive as a Jewish state.

It’s a matter of speculation whether this has always been the case or if there was some point — possibly before the return of Arafat and his campaign of incitement that was enabled by the Oslo accord — at which a modus vivendi between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East could have been found. But if there was such a window, it is certainly closed today.

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Who is stronger, Israel or Hamas?

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Hamas, under pressure from Israeli air attacks, has recently started talking about a cease-fire and even the release of Gilad Schalit, who has been in their captivity now for 18 months.

Of course, they will only release him in return for hundreds of terrorist operatives held in Israeli jails. Apparently they will not be satisfied only with those who are being held for trying to murder Israelis, but want freedom for successful murderers as well.

Israel is considering the criteria to be used in selecting candidates for release. Some officials were adamant about not releasing those with blood on their hands:

[Foreign affairs and defense committee] members stepping out of the meeting quoted [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni as saying the government was reevaluating what the classifications for prisoners were and how Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians.

“By being so flexible and pragmatic, the government is helping increase terrorism and foils the international fight against it,” Israel Radio quoted FADC member and Likud MK Yuval Steinitz as saying.

“According to the government’s new formulae, a killer is no longer a killer, and the terrorist Palestinian Authority is a peace partner”…

But others were less harsh:

Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan said that “Israel should stop dealing with definitions and rigid standards.” [like the definition of ‘murder’?]

…Vilan said that “in Israel too there are fighters who killed terrorists and can be considered as those with ‘blood on their hands.’ We call them terrorists but they [the Palestinians] call them freedom fighters.”

One might well ask Vilan, “who cares what they call them?”

The fact that a member of the Knesset could make such a statement speaks to the demoralization that has affected some circles in Israel. But the situation is not so black that the discussion needs to be about how much appeasement can be tolerated before it becomes surrender.

The appeasement strategy cannot work anyway, because Arab demands will always escalate, remaining just out of reach until the red lines are crossed — until what had previously been unthinkable, like releasing murderers, becomes acceptable. And then they press even more.

As a tactic to get Gilad Schalit released, it may succeed. But then they can simply grab another Israeli and start the whole process over again.

We should keep in mind that this entire process has begun because Hamas is hurting. Israel is killing Hamas’ own soldiers and their Islamic Jihad lackeys at an unprecedented rate. They want this to stop, and if Israel is dumb enough to also release prisoners, so much the better.

Rather than trying to negotiate a cease-fire, the approach should be to step up the targeted killings and pinpoint incursions with the goal of creating fear for their lives in the hearts of the Hamas (and other terrorist) leadership. And then explain to them that it will only get worse until the rocketing of Sderot stops and Gilad Schalit goes home.

Israel needs to know that it is stronger than Hamas and to act on this basis, not the reverse.

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