Archive for January, 2008

Winograd

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The Winograd Commission report on the Second Lebanon War has been released, and it’s ugly (although many feel that the part that was made public was not at all ugly enough, since it did not explicitly demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert).

The consensus is that the goals of the war were fuzzy, the strategy nonexistent, the preparation poor, the tactics wrong, and that as a result soldiers and civilians died and were wounded for nothing — or less than nothing, since the strategic situation now is worse than before the war.

Here are a pair of snippets from commentary on the report. The articles linked are worth reading in their entirety.

Michael Oren:

I had fought in war before but had never seen such intensive fire — tracer bullets, rockets, artillery shells — nor been assigned a more horrific detail. My unit was escorting the bodies of Israeli soldiers killed on the last night of the Second Lebanon War, a few hours before the U.N. cease-fire agreement took effect. None of us understood the purpose of this last-minute offensive or, indeed, many of the government’s disastrous decisions during the war. We agreed that the burden of these failures would be borne by our leaders, military and civilians alike.

Now, a year and a half later, veterans of the war are demanding that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accept responsibility for its conduct — or risk unraveling the consensus on which Israel’s survival depends.

Ami Isseroff:

Israel has a tradition, that when a major failure occurs – or even a minor but symbolic one – the Prime Minister responsible for that failure resigns. David Ben Gurion resigned when he was not exonerated for his suspected role in the Lavon affair. Golda Meir resigned after the failure of the Yom Kippur war, and Yitzhak Rabin resigned because of a trivial technical violation – his wife had a forbidden $3,000 bank account in the United States. This last seems laughable in view of the major failures of the recent war. The fact that the resignation of Olmert after the war was not automatic is an indication of the real problems in public morality, priorities and values that caused the failure.

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A grain of truth in a pile of rubbish

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Who could believe that anything worthwhile might be found in an article that begins like this:

It looked like the fall of the Berlin wall. And not only did it look like it. For a moment, the Rafah crossing was the Brandenburg Gate.

It is impossible not to feel exhilaration when masses of oppressed and hungry people break down the wall that is shutting them in, their eyes radiant, embracing everybody they meet …

The Gaza Strip is the largest prison on earth. The breaking of the Rafah wall was an act of liberation. It proves that an inhuman policy is always a stupid policy: no power can stand up against a mass of people that has crossed the border of despair.

No, this was not found on a pro-Hamas website, but was written by an Israeli, Uri Avnery. He continues:

The reason given for the starving and freezing of one and a half million human beings, crowded into a territory of 365 square kilometers, is the continued shooting at the town of Sderot and the adjoining villages.

That is a well-chosen reason. It unites the primitive and poor parts of the Israeli public. It blunts the criticism of the UN and the governments throughout the world, who might otherwise have spoken out against a collective punishment that is, undoubtedly, a war crime under international law.

I have to admit that it makes me angry to read about the ‘primitive and poor’ parts of the Israeli public who think, after all, that a sovereign nation should not be forced to absorb thousands of rocket hits, some deaths, many injuries, and lots of trauma without doing whatever is possible to stop it. Especially since the ‘starving and freezing’ is partly faked, and partly the result of Hamas’ actions like confiscating hospital fuel for military purposes. Avnery has a simple solution:

Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire. It repeated the offer this week.

A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the “targeted” assassinations and the blockade.

Why doesn’t our government jump at this proposal?

The obvious answer is that like previous cease-fires, Israel expects that Hamas will stop some of their activities, off-load others to groups that they ‘don’t control’ like Islamic Jihad, and use the respite to continue with less visible ones like making rockets, stockpiling ammunition and explosives, tunneling under the Gaza/Israel border, and — now that the Egyptian border is breached — preparing terrorist attacks inside Israel which they will either deny or find a reason to justify when the time comes.

And there’s another answer, which is that maybe the time for a truce is not when we are finally starting to hurt Hamas with targeted killings and incursions. And also, possibly suggested by the primitive and poor part of my brain, there is the idea that Hamas should be made to pay for what it’s done.

But Avnery thinks he understands the true, hidden motives of Olmert and Barak for refusing this generous offer:

Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.

Why? Simple again: Sderot is only a pretext – much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext for something else altogether. The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.

Possibly I could agree that the government needs to do more to stop the attacks on Sderot, but…a pretext! Avnery is displaying his ability, found so often on the extreme left, to think the absolute worst about the motives of his own people and the best about their enemies.

But we are almost getting to the point where he says something true, so we had to plow through this. Here is part of it:

And then something happened that none of them foresaw, in spite of the fact that it was the most foreseeable event on earth.

The breakthrough into Egypt, which Avnery claims was due to the ‘pressure cooker’ of the blockade, was carefully prepared for by Hamas over a period of months. The propaganda buildup, the daily cutting and weakening of the fence, and finally the ‘explosion’, presented by the media and hailed by Avnery as an eruption of oppressed humanity, were all parts of another Paliwood production.

But it was forseeable. Not, as Avnery suggests, because the Gazans were too miserable to be contained, but because Hamas was working on the fence for months.

And it raises the question, “what were Olmert and Barak thinking?”, because the consequences of this event are not good:

  1. Israel’s long, relatively porous border with Egypt is now exposed to Hamas terrorists from Gaza.
  2. An operation to finish off Hamas in Gaza, already difficult, is now 10 times harder.
  3. Mubarak’s regime, long threatened by radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood — of which Hamas is an offshoot — now has something else to worry about.
  4. The need to protect both the border with Israel and Egypt’s own interior threatens the demilitarization of the Sinai.
  5. The possibility exists that Hamas will actually occupy part of the Sinai, meaning that Israeli action against it would constitute a violation of Egyptian sovereignty.

Regarding Mubarak’s position, here is what Avnery writes, almost correctly:

Even before [the breakthrough], Mubarak was in an impossible situation. Hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion Muslims, saw how the Israeli army had closed the Gaza strip off on three sides: the North, the East and the sea. The fourth side of the blockade was provided by the Egyptian army.

The Egyptian president, who claims the leadership of the entire Arab world, was seen as a collaborator with an inhuman operation conducted by a cruel enemy in order to gain the favor (and the money) of the Americans. His internal enemies, the Muslim Brothers, exploited the situation to debase him in the eyes of his own people.

It is doubtful if Mubarak could have persisted in this position. But the Palestinian masses [no, Hamas — ed.] relieved him of the need to make a decision. They decided for him. They broke out like a tsunami wave. Now he has to decide whether to succumb to the Israeli demand to re-impose the blockade on his Arab brothers.

In the final analysis, this may be more important for what happens to Egypt than for the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

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Three myths about Israel and the Palestinians

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Every once in a while it’s necessary to argue against some of the myths that have become current. Here are three such myths:

Myth no. 1: The Israel-Palestinian conflict is between Israel and the Palestinians.

Actually, the conflict pits Israel against the Arab world, and against the forces of Sunni and Shiite Islamism. All of the above have never accepted the idea of a Jewish state in the Mideast and wish to eliminate it. The US supports Israel where it sees a congruence of national interests; there is by no means unqualified support, and at this moment these interests are perceived by many in the US administration to be growing farther apart.

Among those who wish to destroy Israel are Iran and Saudi Arabia. These nations have invested a lot of oil money in terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah which are doing their best to destabilize the region (e.g., in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority) and to kill Israelis. They also fund massive media and propaganda campaigns around the world, carry on diplomatic offensives against Israel, and support jihadist groups in various places, which — while they may not directly target Israel — use terrorism to try to influence Western nations’ policy toward her.

It’s also appropriate to mention Syria and Egypt, which are presently stockpiling large quantities of weapons, including sophisticated weapons whose only use would be against Israel, and — especially in the case of Syria — have large stocks of chemical and biological weapons.

The role of the Palestinians — and we must also include a large proportion of the so-called “Israeli Arabs” who today see themselves as Palestinians first — is as a growth medium for the terrorist militias. For this reason, their general condition is kept as miserable as possible and their sense of victimization nurtured, both in terms of their historical grievances and their present treatment by Israel. As I’ve said before, the Palestinians’ function is to be the point of the spear to be driven into Israel.

Myth no. 2: Israel is much more powerful than the Palestinians

An understanding of Myth no. 1 above shows that this is more irrelevant than false. The IDF is more than a match for the terrorist militias — although Hamas and Hezbollah are presently developing professional, well-trained and well-equipped armies that are a far cry from Arafat’s guerrillas. But much of the danger comes from the connections of the terrorist militias to their patrons — as demonstrated by the second Lebanon war — and from the potential of these patrons’ direct involvement. Iran’s soon-to-be nuclear capability and Syria’s chemical rockets stand behind this threat.

Continuing terrorism against Israel, while it may not be as dramatic as the invasions of 1973, can have the effect of harming Israel’s economy and morale, weakening her and reducing ability to fight a major war when it comes.

The small physical size of Israel has made her civilian population vulnerable to short-range rocket attacks from outside her borders which are very difficult to prevent, and which — because the terrorists are non-state proxies — can continue without international pressure to stop them even though they are war crimes under international law. Israel, on the other hand, is highly limited in how it can respond, especially by the US. This tips the balance of power against Israel.

Myth no. 3: Israel uses its power to oppress the Palestinians

One of the strategies used by Israel’s enemies is to create and capitalize upon as much ‘oppression’ as possible. So Israel is forced to establish roadblocks in the West Bank to prevent suicide bombers from crossing into Israel proper, and then the Palestinians relate stories of pregnant women giving birth there, etc.

Another example is the regular protests against the security fence by Palestinians and their ‘international’ supporters, designed to both draw attention to Israel’s security measures, to present them as oppression, and to provoke Israel into responding as violently as possible to create more incidents. If there are not enough real incidents, they exaggerate and sometimes entirely fake them.

On a much larger scale, Hamas provoked Israel into the partial blockade of the Gaza strip by firing thousands of rockets into Sderot and environs. Hamas then exaggerated the privations of the Gaza residents and quite successfully presented this to the international media. The recent ‘blackout’, in which Hamas pretended that a cutoff of diesel fuel caused a major power outage, while the strip still was receiving 75% of normal electricity supply from Israel and Egypt, was a major propaganda triumph.

The Left in Israel and progressives around the world call for an ‘end to the occupation’ because they think that a solution to the conflict will be more likely if the Palestinians are freed from ‘oppression’. But they do not understand that the ‘oppression’ is actually desired and indeed often created by the anti-Israel forces as a tool to get the West to force Israel to make concessions. Once the concessions are made — this is what the progressives don’t understand — the ‘oppression’ always appears somewhere else or in another form, requiring more concessions.

So, for example, when Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and went to great lengths to get the UN to certify the border, Hezbollah discovered the Shebaa Farms as a pretext to claim that Israel still occupies Lebanon.

And when Israel withdrew from 100% of Gaza but found it necessary to control the borders to prevent terrorism, the Palestinians complained that they were in a “huge open-air prison”. Hamas also fired mortars at the crossing points in order to force their closure, so they could blame Israel for more ‘oppression’. Finally they fired rockets at Sderot until Israel, prevented by the human-shield tactic from massive retaliation, responded with the blockade (which of course was not complete for humanitarian reasons anyway).

If Israel were to completely withdraw to the 1967 lines, there is no doubt that the internal ‘oppression’ of the “Palestinian citizens of Israel” would then come to the fore (not that this is being ignored today).

This also explains why no matter how much aid is given to the Palestinians, their condition never seems to improve.

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Reuters inverts reality

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Reuters has gone completely over the top. They are no more reliable or less biased than Al-Jazeera — indeed, they are worse because everyone understands Al-Jazeera’s point of view, while some still take Reuters seriously.

Yesterday I mentioned several incidents in the ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian terrorists. In one case two border police officers were ambushed and shot, one fatally. In the other, two Hamas terrorists infiltrated a school in Kfar Etzion and started stabbing people; they were overpowered and killed by two of the teachers.

Get ready for this. Here is how Reuters reports these incidents:

Two Palestinians, Israeli killed in W.Bank incidents

JERUSALEM, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Jewish settlers shot dead two Palestinians and gunmen killed an Israeli border policeman in two separate incidents in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, medical and security services said.

Note that the headline and the story mentions the Palestinians first, and does not suggest that they were doing anything other than minding their own business when (in highly emotive language) the “settlers shot [them] dead”.

Police said Palestinian gunmen shot an Israeli paramilitary border policeman near the Shuafat refugee camp near Jerusalem and that he died of his wounds at the scene.

A woman, also from the Israeli security services, received moderate to serious gunshot wounds in the same incident, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Israel Radio reported that a large number of police and soldiers were combing the area, searching for the gunmen.

OK, although I’m not sure what the faintly disreputable word ‘paramilitary’ is supposed to add. Now let’s get to how the Palestinians died, five paragraphs into the story:

In the second incident, settlers overpowered and shot dead two Palestinians who infiltrated a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, an army spokeswoman said.

Israel radio said the Palestinians had stabbed two settlers at the Kfar Etzion settlement, not far from Bethlehem, before being shot, and a hospital spokeswoman in Jerusalem said the settlers’ injuries were light to moderate. [my emphasis]

Just in case you might have mistakenly thought that they were humans living in a kibbutz, the article uses the words ‘settlers’ and ‘settlement’ no less than six times.

The “Palestinians” — who should be called ‘terrorists’ if anyone should — disabled an alarm system and cut the perimeter fence at the kibbutz, which houses a yeshiva operated by the famed Talmudic scholar, Adin Steinsaltz. Dressed in stolen IDF uniforms, they sneaked into a meeting of teachers and attempted to stab them; they were shot by one of the teachers. Similar infiltrations have resulted in numerous Israeli deaths.

Just a word about the ‘settlement’ of Kfar Etzion. It was originally founded on legally purchased land by Yemenite Jews in 1927, abandoned several times due to Arab attacks and rebuilt. Finally, in 1948 Kibbutz Kfar Etzion was overrun by the British-commanded Jordanian Arab legion. Here is an account of what happened:

On the 13th of May the defenders of Kfar Etzion surrendered to the Legion. The Legion honored the surrender, though Arab irregulars continued to fire for some time. The defenders gathered in front of the school and put down their weapons. They were photographed by someone in a kaffiyeh (Arab headdress and European suit). Then an armored car, apparently belonging to the Legion, approached and opened fire, and other Arab attackers opened fire with submachine guns and grenades. Some survivors claimed Legion soldiers were not involved, others insisted that they were. Survivors all recall that that the Arabs were screaming “Deir Yassin.” All accounts agree that Legion officers rescued several survivors.

About 50 defenders escaped to the cellar of the old German monastery that was within the grounds, and tried to defend themselves there. The Arab attackers finished them off with hand grenades and then blew up the building, which collapsed over them. All but about five defenders were eventually killed. In all, about 128 defenders were massacred by the Palestinian Arab irregulars or the Jordan Legion, counting those who had escaped to the basement of the monastery. Some accounts do not count these people as “massacred” and estimate that fifty were massacred. However, those who fled to the basement were given no chance to surrender. One of the survivors, a woman, was taken to a field to be raped by two Legion soldiers, but saved by an officer. About 157 Jewish defenders died in the final battle for Gush Etzion, including those killed in the massacre.

After the illegal 19-year Jordanian occupation ended in 1967, Kfar Etzion was rebuilt yet again.

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Some news items

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

In all the excitement about the Israeli ‘blockade’ of Gaza, replete with candle-lit Hamas meetings, and the total evaporation of the border between Egypt and Gaza, here are a few news items that you may have missed:

Item:

A border police officer was killed and another female officer was wounded Thursday night in a shooting attack near the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem…

The Battalions of Struggle and Return, a previously anonymous offshoot of Fatah’s Aksa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, Israel Radio reported.

Item:

In another simultaneous incident, two terrorists were killed after they infiltrated the Mekor Hayim High School Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion, south of Jerusalem.

The terrorists, armed with knives and a pistol, infiltrated the kibbutz – in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc – and snuck into a building used by the high school, run by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

They entered a classroom where tutors were holding a meeting, and stabbed two of them. The wounded suffered non-threatening injuries, one to the head and the other to the shoulder, and were evacuated to Hadassah Hosptial in Jerusalem. — Jerusalem Post

Item:

Palestinians opened fire Tuesday morning at farmers working in a field near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha in southern Israel. There were no reports of injuries. An IDF force fired back at the shooters, and the farmers stopped their work and were removed from the field.

[Carlos Chavez,] an Ecuadorian volunteer was murdered by a Palestinian sniper in the same area last week.

Item:

[On Tuesday,] seven Qassam rockets and one mortar shells landed in Israel since the morning hours.

Two barrages were fired shortly before 8 am, as Sderot’s children were making their way to school.

Nine Qassam rockets and 13 mortar shells were fired at the western Negev communities on Monday afternoon. — YNet

Recently, there have been as many as 50 rockets fired in one day, and since the Gaza disengagement the total is close to 4200.

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Now is not the time for a Palestinian state

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe YaalonIt’s become conventional wisdom that the path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a new partition agreement. Israel will leave some or all of the territory conquered in 1967, with or without land swaps; Jerusalem will in some way be divided so that part of it can be the capital of Israel and part of Palestine; the refugees will go somewhere; and a peaceful state of Palestine will be created with or without territorial contiguity. It’s just a matter of working out the details and preventing the ‘extremists’ from wrecking it.

Virtually every ‘moderate’ voice in the world, starting with the Bush Administration — even some Arab states — officially supports some kind of Oslo-like solution along these lines. Only outlaws like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and Hezbollah oppose it. Public opinion in the West is massively in favor.

Yet it can’t possibly be implemented, at least not for a generation, and anybody who has paid attention to the actions and words of the Palestinian leadership, particularly since the signing of the Oslo accord and its failure, should be able to see this.

Former Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon spoke this week at the Herzliya Conference in Israel, and his words should be required reading for everyone concerned, particularly the diplomats in the US State Department and Foreign Offices around the world.

Some of Ya’alon’s points:

In the [Oslo] accord Israel recognized the right of the Palestinian people to have self determination and recognized the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The Palestinians, on the other side, did not recognize Zionism as a national Jewish movement and did not recognize the rights of the Jews to a national Jewish country, an independent Jewish state. The Palestinians delayed Israel’s efforts to insist on the Palestinian recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

Indeed, in spite of massive pressure from President Clinton, the PLO covenant which defined Israel as illegitimate and called for its ‘liberation by armed struggle’ was never changed. And today’s ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayed refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

This lack of recognition shows that the Palestinians are striving for the disappearance of Israel as an independent Jewish state, or in other words: the Palestinians’ goal is not an Israeli state within the 1967 borders (Gaza, Judea and Samaria) but a Palestinian state on Israel’s ruins. It is important to remember that the Palestinian unification did not come after the six day war, but with the foundation of Zionism. In my opinion, Arafat started a war in September 2000 to escape from the “two state solution” and the de-facto recognition of Israel as an independent Jewish state.

In addition we can see a pattern in Arafat’s war of terror that is very similar to the reaction of Palestinians in previous attempts to divide the land: in 1937 the [Peel] Committee and the “Arab Rebellion”; in 1947 the UN partition plan and the War of Independence afterwards…

…since the beginning of Zionism there was no Palestinian leadership that was willing to acknowledge the right of the Jewish people to an independent Jewish state. In addition, since the beginning of Zionism there was no Palestinian leadership that was willing to accept a Jewish state within the 1967 borders as a final agreement. Under these circumstances there is no way to establish a secure situation with a “two state solution”.

But is it possible that Abbas and Fayed are different? In a word, no. Barry Rubin discusses this in detail in the previous post, “The shadow falling on Israel-Palestinian peace“, but some of the symptoms are 1) their inability to compromise on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state or on a right of return, 2) their inability to confront Hamas or even the terrorists in their own Fatah organization, and 3) their continued tolerance of the campaign of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement coming from every media and educational outlet in the Palestinian Authority.

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The shadow falling on Israel-Palestinian peace

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I’ve written on several occasions that Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah can’t be expected to make a peace agreement acceptable to Israel or to deliver on one if it were signed. Today Barry Rubin explains exactly why this is true.

Fatah’s Politics Make Peace Impolitic

By Barry Rubin

T.S. Elliot wrote memorably in “The Hollow Men”: Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act/Falls the Shadow

In the case of the peace process and all the great ideas for fixing everything in Arab-Israel relations, the Shadow has been Palestinian leaders’ unwillingness–and now also inability–to make a compromise agreement ending the conflict.

Close examination of the movement’s ideology, organization, and structure shows why this is true. Exactly forty years ago, in 1968, Yasir Arafat and Fatah took over. That same year he laid down two principles dominating the movement ever since.

First, in July 1968, he changed the PLO Charter from emphasizing the group was no longer a follower of Arab states but both independent and the struggle’s leader. But at the same time he stated, “We are an extension of the hundred million Arabs.”

It proved hard to have it both ways, though Arafat usually managed the tension adequately. Today, the Arab world’s real support for Fatah–and for the Palestinians generally–is minimal, though many in the West still don’t notice that. Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas recently said, “Our Arab relations are at their best. We do not have any problems with any Arab country.”

Well, not exactly. The remaining backing does not include financial aid (the West pays the bills), direct military involvement, or strenuous diplomatic effort. Instead, it mostly revolves around demanding that the United States solve the problem while the regimes focus on their own real priorities.

Second, back in 1968, Arafat mandated the goal as total victory bringing Israel’s disappearance. Thus, armed struggle was the main tactic intended to “maintain an atmosphere of strain and anxiety that will force the Zionists to realize that it is impossible for them to live in Israel.” Since then, Israel has prospered, the Palestinians have suffered, and Hamas has seized that slogan. But it also remains a central plank for Fatah.

Abbas puts the main emphasis on diplomacy today. But most of his colleagues and constituents are still focused on glorifying violence and insisting on ultimate, total victory. What he can do, or even say, is quite limited.

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Blame Hamas, not Israel, for Gaza problems

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

UN Watch writes,

As Israel struggles to defend its civilians from deadly Hamas rocket attacks—200 in the past few days alone, averaging nearly one per hour—the Arab and Islamic states have called an emergency “Special Session” of the UN Human Rights Council [HRC] for this Wednesday. Their proposed resolution would invert the simple reality that Hamas and its terrorist allies are deliberately targeting civilians, whereas Israel in its defensive measures takes pains to avoid harming civilians…

The draft resolution circulated by the Palestinians is entirely one-sided. It accuses Israel of “grave breaches” of human rights, and of “incessant and repeated military attacks and incursions.”

Not a word, of course, about rockets, mortars, sniping, planting explosives at the border fence or digging under it, etc. The past few weeks have seen as many as 50 rockets a day hitting southern Israel.

The UN HRC, with a great majority of anti-Israel members, is likely to approve it. Recently, they passed a resolution commending the Sudan for its “cooperation” in solving the problem of human rights abuses in Darfur!

If you believe in the efficacy of such things, you can send an email here to the leaders of Western nations on the HRC.

Probably more effective is writing one’s own letter, as Maurice Ostroff has done, and he has sent it to the prime ministers of Canada, Britain, Germany, France and Slovenia:

January 22, 2008

Motion to be proposed on January 23, at UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Gaza blockade

May I respectfully suggest that your representative on the HRC take the following circumstances into account when participating in the above session.

If the proposers of the motion to end the blockade of Gaza are sincerely interested in the welfare of the Gazan citizens, they can achieve their goal speedily and effectively by addressing the party that really holds the key, namely Hamas. And as Hamas is well disposed to the majority of HRC member states, HRC is in a favorable position to influence that organization.

In the interests of moral integrity, the HRC dare not miss this opportunity to effectively release the Gazans from their nightmare by insisting and ensuring that Hamas put an end to the rocket attacks, whereupon electricity, fuel and other supplies will immediately start flowing into Gaza.

It is completely illogical to expect Israel to refrain from acting to counter the War Crime of rockets deliberately aimed from civilian areas in Gaza, at Israeli homes, schools and hospitals with the declared intention of killing and maiming as many as possible. More than 4,000 rockets have landed in Israel since the pullout from Gaza and it is not due to lack of intent, that none have yet landed on a crowded hospital or school.

The declared intention is to indiscriminately kill and maim as many civilians as possible. If any had had fallen on a school the number of casualties would have been disastrous. In the past few weeks alone, more than 450 rockets and mortars have been launched. If each missile fired had achieved the launcher’s intention, the results would have been a massacre of huge proportions. That this was and remains the intention cannot be ignored and it is only by the grace of the almighty that it has not happened.

Removing the cause of the blockade by ending the firing of rockets would obviously be of greater humanitarian value than cynically adding another vengeful one-sided resolution against Israel while completely ignoring the context in which events are taking place.

Sincerely
Maurice Ostroff

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Hamas propaganda barrage hits its target

Monday, January 21st, 2008

This morning I wrote a letter to my local newspaper in response to a biased AP item written by Ibrahim Barzak which began, “Gaza City was plunged into darkness Sunday after Israel blocked the shipment of fuel that powers its only electrical plant in retaliation for persistent rocket attacks by Hamas militants.”

The article made it sound as though Israel had shut off power to Gaza, and quoted Hamas as saying that five patients at the hospital had died as a result of the power outage (but admits that this can not be confirmed. So why include it?).

Several paragraphs down it is mentioned in passing that Israel directly supplies 70% of Gaza’s electricity (another 5% comes from Egypt), and that this was not interrupted. So why was there a massive blackout?

Arye Mekel, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said, “What we are seeing now is a staged production by Hamas.”

Given the amount of electricity provided by Israel and Egypt, there was no justification for the massive blackouts, Mr. Mekel said, even with a shortage of fuel.– NY Times

I suppose that Hamas needed to divert that 70% to its really critical functions, like running the lathes that make rocket motors or lighting the weapons-smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border.

In fact, as Honest Reporting points out, Hamas officials made a big deal about shutting down the power plant themselves and invited the media to watch them do it!

To add insult to injury, the Fresno Bee shortened the already slanted AP dispatch by leaving off the very last sentence, which mentioned the fact that 200 rockets and mortars had hit southern Israel since last Tuesday.

Of course this kind of coverage has been as constant as the Qassam barrage on Sderot in past months. Just search Yahoo News for “Gaza Barzak” to see numerous AP releases from staffer Barzak about the suffering Gazans and the sadistic Zionists.

Now it seems that the propaganda barrage has hit its target as well. Israel has announced that it will be sending a week’s supply of diesel fuel plus 50 truckloads of food and other supplies to Gaza. Supposedly this is not a result of international pressure. But given that Israeli officials do not themselves believe that that there is a “humanitarian crisis”, there’s no other explanation.

Schoolchildren in Sderot try to hide from Hamas missiles

Schoolchildren in Sderot try to hide from Hamas missiles (courtesy Sderot Media)

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Bolton talks about the NIE

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

When the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) came out in December 2007, I was struck by the emphasis placed on its first sentence — “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program” — in all major media reports, and the almost universal conclusion drawn that the US was not going to take serious action, military or diplomatic, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (see “The NIE: read past the first line“).

The New York Times wrote in an editorial,

Tehran, we are now told, halted its secret nuclear weapons program in 2003, which means that President Bush has absolutely no excuse for going to war against Iran.

…and, therefore, far less leverage to get effective sanctions applied. The overwhelming reaction in the press and foreign and domestic political circles was similar: the US is backing off on stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

I argued at the time that anyone actually reading the NIE (the non-classified part that was released) would get the impression that the likelihood of Iran developing deliverable nuclear weapons in the next few years is still as great as ever.

Former UN Ambassador John BoltonToday former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said the same thing in a Jerusalem Post interview:

…the NIE “doesn’t say what you probably think it says. Once you get past the first sentence or two, it doesn’t come out that different from the 2005 NIE. All of the attention was focused on the one finding that [Iran halted the weapons-building] aspect of the weapons program, even though later they say that they only have ‘moderate confidence’ that this suspension has continued. That’s a polite way of saying they don’t have a clue what the situation is.”

The document also defines the weapons program as “actual weaponization, that is, fabrication – only a tiny sliver of the total activity required for a country to have a nuclear weapons program. It still remains entirely within Iran’s discretion when and under what circumstances it proceeds to a nuclear weapons capability.”

Iran, it is well known, is continuing with the other parts of the job — the preparation of nuclear explosive material, and the development of delivery systems.

Bolton also expressed his opinion about who was responsible for the release of the report and its wording:

“I know the people who wrote this intelligence estimate,” Bolton continued. “They are not from our intelligence community. They’re from our State Department. It was a highly politicized document written by people who had a very clear policy objective.”

Said objective, in my opinion, being to placate Iran in return for a reduction of the level of violence by Iranian-influenced Shiite forces in Iraq. Has it worked? Maybe:Moqtada al-Sadr

Gen. David Petraeus has been deservedly praised for tamping down violence in Iraq, but an unlikely character deserves some credit— [Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-] Sadr. Five months ago the firebrand cleric ordered his followers to lay down their arms, and they’ve largely obeyed…

In early December Sadr issued another decree, urging his followers to focus on prayer and religious studies. He’s leading by example. Senior clerics close to Sadr, who did not want to be named speaking about their boss, confirm that he himself is studying to ascend to the rank of ayatollah, using books, CDs and even texts on the Internet. — Newsweek

If this is the correct analysis, then the maneuver provides a short-term gain for a lame duck administration. But it may yet create a much bigger problem for the next President, for the Mideast, and indeed for all of us.

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Nurturing the mindset of war

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

When one nation is supposedly at peace with another like Israel and Egypt, or when negotiations intended to achieve peace are taking place, then hateful expressions intended to demonize are, shall we say, inappropriate. But the prevalence of it in ‘friendly’ Arab media actually sends a message, to which we should pay attention.

For example, here’s a cartoon from Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA — our ‘peace partner’) published in October 2007 (Palestinian Media Watch):

Al-Hayat cartoon, Oct. 2007

The text on the missiles reads, “Allah, scatter them!”

“And turn their wives into widows!”

“And turn their children into orphans!”

“And give us victory over them!”

This was published during the period immediately preceding the Annapolis “peace” conference. One would think it came from Hamas. Is there any wonder that several recent murders of Israelis in the West Bank have been carried out by members of the PA “security” forces?

But nobody comes close to Egypt, with whom Israel has supposedly been at peace since 1976, for anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic incitement. Here’s a sample from the official Al-Ahram newspaper from April 2001:

Al-Ahram cartoon, April 2001

Nice, isn’t it? I can’t read Arabic, so maybe one of my readers will translate the captions — not that it’s necessary in order to understand it.

Of course, Jordan is different. Right?

Ad-Dustur (Jordan) cartoon, October 2003

This one is from the Jordanian government-owned Ad-Dustur newspaper. The sign says “Gaza Strip or the Israeli Annihilation Camp.”

Words and pictures can have great power. Sometimes people minimize the importance of hateful messages and incitement, as if to say “as long as nobody was hurt or killed, it’s no big deal”. Or they say “it doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just internal politics”.

The fact is that every information tool at hand to the ‘friendly’ Arab regimes, not just newspapers but radio, television, schools and universities, mosque pulpits, children’s books and schoolbooks, etc. is turned to the tasks of creating hate, destroying credibility, preventing reconciliation, and above all preparing their citizens for war.

The first thing Yasser Arafat did when he returned from exile in 1994 to lead the PA after the signing of the Oslo accord was to establish a Palestinian educational system designed from the ground up to teach children that Israel is illegitimate, that ‘Palestine’ would be redeemed through armed struggle, and that they would be the ones to do it. Peace, which became part of Israeli schools’ curricula, was not mentioned. David Meir-Levi wrote,

After Hitler, Arafat is the first national leader in history to set up a school system whose purpose was to teach the nation’s children to hate another ethnic group and to instill in them the ambition to murder as many as they could.

So what’s the message that all this sends? That there is no real peace available, only various forms of hudna (temporary truce). Because the right to make war is reserved, and the necessary mindset nurtured.

Egypt, despite the peace treaty, continues to buy expensive, sophisticated weapons that it has absolutely no use for — unless there is another war with Israel. All of the plans for “normalized” cultural and economic ties between Israel and Egypt that were intended to break down the barriers between peoples have not come to fruition, because the Egyptians want it that way.

The PA and Arab nations have made it clear that they will not withdraw their hatred. Indeed, at this point — as a result of their own highly effective ‘educational’ activities — perhaps they cannot.

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US plan is falling apart as Abbas sides with Hamas

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

It should only happen:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considering resigning from his post if Israel continues its military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a top PA official said Thursday.

The official said Abbas, in a series of phone conversations with Arab, American and EU leaders and government officials, strongly condemned Israel’s attacks as a “severe blow” to the peace process. — Jerusalem Post

Israel, of course, is fighting a war with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations in the south. It is illustrative of the contempt in which Israel is held by its “peace partner” that in his view Israel is not permitted to defend herself against the continuous rocket attacks — dozens each day — as well as murderous sniping, etc.

“The president has said that he will resign if the military escalation and daily killings continue,” the official said. “Israel’s actions undermine the Palestinian Authority and drive more Palestinians into the open arms of Hamas and Islamic Jihad”…

Several Fatah officials on Thursday visited Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar in Gaza City to offer their condolences over the death of his son, Husam, in Tuesday’s IDF operation. The delegation was headed by top Fatah operative Ibrahim Abu al-Naja. The visit came hours after Abbas phoned Zahar to also offer his condolences. It was the first time the two had talked since Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last June.

There is nothing in the slightest surprising about this because although Hamas and Fatah disagree on the nature of ‘Palestine’ (should it be a ‘normal’ secular dictatorship or an Islamist state governed according to Shaaria), and on tactics (should they even pretend that Palestinians will be satisfied with a state that does not extend to the Mediterranean) — both factions agree that Israel must eventually be replaced by an Arab state.

Possibly this was what Abbas had in mind last summer when he angered many Fatah partisans by responding to the Hamas coup in Gaza with inaction, pretty much allowing Hamas to seize the Palestinian Authority’s arsenal of US-supplied weapons without having to face any organized resistance.

Meanwhile Fatah’s own war against Israel continues, with yet another shooting in West Bank, this time not fatal.

It’s incredible to me that all this can be going on and the US administration does not realize that its plan to suppress Hamas with Fatah, armed and trained by the US, cannot possibly work and will only result in more dead Israelis.

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