Archive for April, 2008

Hopeful Palestinians and manufactured nonsense

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

There are real problems and there is nonsense manufactured to keep our minds off the real problems.

A real — and immediate — problem is the fact that Iran’s wholly-owned subsidiaries Syria and Hezbollah have tens of thousands of missiles, short, medium, and long range, all aimed at Israel. Another real problem, although slightly less immediate, is that Iran is moving along on her nuclear weapons program.

In the category of nonsense, Condoleezza Rice has said that “Young Palestinians are losing hope for an agreement with Israel”.

Losing hope? Were there ever “young Palestinians” (or even old Palestinians) pining away for a deal between Israel and the US-armed, Western-financed Fatah faction that they don’t support?

Here is what Palestinians think, young ones and old ones:

A public opinion poll [March 2008] reveals that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians – 84 percent – support the shooting attack at the Marcaz HaRav yeshiva on March 6 that left eight Jewish boys dead.

The most recent Israeli and Palestinian public opinion poll conducted jointly by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, describes Palestinians’ ‘staggering’ support of violent acts against Israel. Support for the shooting attack was greater in the Gaza Strip – at 91 percent, compared to the West Bank at 79 percent.

A further 64 percent of Palestinians polled support launching rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns, such as Sderot and Ashkelon.

The idea that Palestinians want a state in the territories is a wish-fulfillment fantasy of the Israeli Left and a useful fiction for the US State Department. The ongoing negotiations between Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction and Israel, in which Abbas continues to insist on impossible conditions (like 1967 borders and a right of return for descendants of 1948 refugees), and which Israel pretends to take seriously, are manufactured nonsense.

What almost all Palestinians, young and old, hope for is the collapse of the state of Israel, brought about by a combination of their ‘armed struggle’, regional war with Syria and Hezbollah, and diplomatic pressure from the oil-addicted and — at least in the case of the US — Saudi-subverted West.

Hopeful young Palestinians

Hopeful young Palestinians

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US reneges on commitments to Israel

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

When Caroline Glick was here yesterday I wanted to ask her about the 2004 letter from President Bush to then-PM Ariel Sharon. At that time, immediately before the withdrawal from Gaza, Bush made two ground-breaking statements. First, he said that

In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949…

And then he added this:

It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel…

I wanted to ask Ms. Glick how she understood the first of these statements, in the light of the continued complaints by Condoleezza Rice that Israel is “violating the road map” by constructing new homes inside existing settlements such as Elkana and in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, places which certainly count as ‘Israeli population centers’ which would remain in Israel in any reasonable final agreement.

And I wanted to ask why, considering the second statement, the US insists that ‘everything is on the table’ for negotiations, including the unacceptable and absurd demand for a right of return for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, something that is equivalent to ending the Jewish state.

I have written about this contradiction before (see “Annapolis is an irrelevant joke“), but I remained profoundly mystified by my own government’s schizophrenia with respect to its ‘valued ally’, Israel.

I didn’t have an opportunity to ask Ms. Glick what she thought, but in her column today she has answered my question without being asked:

According to last Thursday’s Washington Post, Bush administration officials are doing everything they can to try to get out of the President’s commitment to Sharon. Justifying the letter as an insincere piece of political maneuvering used to help Sharon expel the Jews from Gaza and Northern Samaria in 2005, they explain that the letter is no longer politically necessary. It served its purpose of drumming up domestic Israeli support for the now completed withdrawal and expulsion and ought to be set aside.

From the Washington Post item referenced by Glick:

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, at a news briefing in January, suggested that Bush’s 2004 letter was aimed at helping Sharon win domestic approval for the Gaza withdrawal. “The president obviously still stands by that letter of April of 2004, but you need to look at it, obviously, in the context of which it was issued,” he said. [my emphasis]

So there’s nothing to be mystified about. Bush wrote the letter to help smooth the path to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and now that that is done it has become ‘inoperative’.

The Washington Post, by the way, consistently refers to ‘settlement expansion’, but in fact the boundaries of the ‘settlements’ and neighborhoods in question are not being expanded; homes are being constructed within them.

There is apparently a disagreement between the US and Israel about unpublicized understandings of what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ settlement construction. The US claims there are no such understandings, and that any construction outside of 1967 borders is a problem. Israel says that there is an understanding that unsubsidized construction can continue within settlements and neighborhoods that are expected to become part of Israel.

But if the Bush letter has any significance, it certainly must imply that what Israel does within the boundaries of Elkana, for example, is none of our business. If it doesn’t mean at least that, then what does it mean? What exactly is it that President Bush “stands by” in the letter?

Present State Department positions seem to be indistinguishable from those of Mahmoud Abbas, who continues to insist on 1967 borders and a right of return.

If Hadley’s remarks are taken seriously, the word of the President of the United States is no better than that of Yasser Arafat, who lied about recognizing Israel and renouncing terrorism in order to get his foot in the door when he signed the Oslo Accord.

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Caroline Glick in Fresno

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Caroline GlickJerusalem Post columnist and author Caroline Glick spoke here in Fresno yesterday. Her talk was well attended, but as often happens, many of those who most needed to hear what she had to say were not present.

She spoke for over an hour, but the main point that she made was this:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so often called ‘the root of the problem’ in the Middle East, is in fact a sideshow, one of the proxy wars spun off from the real root, the war that Iran has been fighting against the United States — the Great Satan — since 1979.

Glick sees Iran as a ‘revolutionary state’, like the Soviet Union and the US, which has a policy goal of exporting their revolution (communist, in the case of the Soviets, democratic in the case of the US, and Islamic for Iran). Iran, in her view, sees the US as the major obstacle to achieving this goal, and to that end has supported proxy wars and terrorist actions around the world by Hizbullah, which she calls “the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Foreign Legion”.

The war in Iraq has become a proxy war, with the US primarily fighting Iranian-supported insurgents, both Shiite and Sunni. Iran apparently does not shrink at cooperation with Sunni groups such as Hamas and Al-Qaeda, at least insofar as they attack American interests.

Iran sees Israel as her immediate target for multiple reasons. For one thing, Israel represents an outpost of American power in the Mideast, and is standing in the way of the projection of the Iranian revolution into the Eastern Mediterranean area — not just Israel, but Lebanon, Jordan and even Egypt. For another, the presence of a Jewish state in the heart of Dar al Islam is a bone in the throat of all Islamic fundamentalists, and whoever removes it will have a real claim to leadership in the Muslim world.

Israel, the “Little Satan”, is directly in the crosshairs of the huge military machine that Iran has built with its windfall oil revenues. Iran, Glick said, has spent literally billions building up Syrian non-conventional military capability: a massive number of rockets and artillery pieces, many armed with chemical warheads, aimed at all parts of Israel.

Following the North Korean model — Seoul is presently held hostage to North Korean guns from across the DMZ — Iran chose to invest in this technology, rather than the tanks and airplanes that have been regularly destroyed by the IDF in previous wars. And all of this is entirely under the control of Teheran. Syria no longer has independent military volition.

So Israel has to worry about Syria, about the 40,000 rockets that Hizbullah has received from Iran via Syria under the nose of the UN, about the Hamas forces presently — with Iranian training, funding and supply — being converted from a terrorist militia to a real army, and of course about the soon-to-be operational nuclear capability of Iran herself.

Glick did not discuss the question of whether the US invasion of Iraq was a good idea. But she said that given the present situation, any exit from Iraq that leaves Iran in control will certainly tip the balance in the region, allowing Iranian forces to sweep through weak, unstable Jordan and fulfill Ahmadinejad’s dream of ‘liberating’ Jerusalem.

Given all this, the ‘peace process’ between Israel and the PA — which doesn’t even represent the Palestinians, who overwhelmingly voted for Hamas — is less than irrelevant, and is a distraction from the real threat to Israel and to the interests of the US.

Glick stayed away from US politics. But she did say that the Democratic Party should disassociate itself from Jimmy Carter, who has done real damage to American interests by legitimizing Hamas.

Caroline Glick presents what is generally considered a right-wing point of view in Israel. But unlike almost all politicians and most commentators anywhere on the political spectrum, she is both very well-informed and brutally honest. Pay attention to what she says.

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Pogo Possum was right

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

Pogo PossumDo we need to repeat the immortal words of Pogo Possum here? Or is it enough to remind ourselves of the tradition that the Temple was destroyed as a result of inter-Jewish squabbling?

Writing about the “J Street lobby”, a new Jewish organization intended to counter the supposedly right-wing slant of AIPAC, Jonathan Tobin points out that

  • AIPAC is not actually right-wing, but tries to reflect the position of the Government of Israel, having at times irritated both the Right and the Left;
  • Left-wing views on Israel in America are not suppressed but probably even better funded (by Arab and oil-company sources) than AIPAC; and most importantly,
  • The idea that peace can be achieved by means of Israeli concessions represents a misreading of the Palestinian leadership, moderate and extremist alike.

The blindness of the Left in Israel, which often seems to view “the Occupation” as far worse than an Israel surrounded by Hamas-dominated terror states in rocket range of population centers and Ben Gurion Airport, and which somehow refuses to believe — despite their words and deeds — that the Palestinians don’t want peace as much as Israeli leftists do, is remarkable, even pathological.

But here in the US, the major reasons that liberal Jews often think that the root of the problem is “Israeli intransigence” are different:

  • They make false analogies to American foreign policy, failing to grasp that unlike the US, Israel really is threatened with extinction;
  • They have been convinced that Israel is massively powerful and the Palestinians underdogs fighting for survival, ignoring the fact that the Palestinians have Iran and Saudi Arabia standing behind them (or at least using them);
  • Anti-Israel forces have done an excellent job of exploiting the American revulsion against racism, despite the fact that the real racists in the Middle East are Arabs; and,
  • Americans are seriously misinformed about day-to-day events in the region due to the highly biased American media — at least, those outlets favored by liberals, like NPR, the New York Times, etc.

But what really triggered the creation of “J street”, in my opinion, is an issue which Tobin didn’t even mention.

AIPAC made a strategic decision to embrace the Christian Zionist phenomenon. Pastor John Hagee famously spoke at the AIPAC convention in 2007, expressing a strong pro-Israel position, and offering the support of “50 million evangelicals”. Although he did not explicitly say “Israel must keep all of the territories”, he said this:

We are again hearing calls to appease the enemies of Israel. Once again those who would appease seek to do so at the expense of Israel. They tell us that if we want the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop massacring each other in Iraq then Israel must give up land. They tell us that if we want the Syrians to stop murdering the leaders in Lebanon, then Israel must give up land. They tell us if we want the Saudis to permit women to drive and to vote, Israel must give up land. If we want the sun to rise it the east and set in the west, Israel must give up land. Let me be clear; Israel is not the problem here.

Scapegoating Israel will not solve the problem; the problem is the Arab rejection of Israel’s right to exist.

But far worse, from the point of view of American Jewish liberals, are Hagee’s domestic policies: against gay marriage, against abortion rights, against (in their opinion) the separation of church and state, etc.

Dr. Hagee represents everything that American liberals hate and fear, and in many cases it is close to home — which Israel is not.

Here in Central California where evangelical Christianity has many adherents, some Jewish liberals have chosen to make an alliance with Muslim groups to oppose what they see as the threat of Christian proselytizing in schools. The fact that these Muslims also present anti-Israel views is not as important to them as the local issue.

In fact, if you believe sources like Jews on First, the greatest threat facing Jewry in the 21st Century is evangelical Christianity, not radical Islam!

History will decide whether AIPAC made the right decision in regard to the Christian Right. But there is no question that uppermost in their minds was what would be best for Israel and its relationship with the US in the long run, and not whether left-wing American Jews, whose support for Israel has recently been lukewarm at best, would be unhappy.

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Attack on Syrian reactor irritates ElBaradei

Friday, April 25th, 2008

News item:

The head of the UN nuclear monitoring agency on Friday criticized the US for not giving his organization intelligence information sooner on what Washington says was a nuclear reactor in Syria being built secretly by North Korea.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei also chastised Israel for bombing the site seven months ago, in a statement whose strong language reflected his anger at being kept out of the picture for so long. — Jerusalem Post

Had the UN been ‘in the picture’, the result would have been that the regime that is the Mideast’s greatest terrorist hotel, whose mischief in the region — done for its own purposes and Iran’s — is unparalleled in recent history, would soon have the material to build a nuclear or radiological weapon.

Israel’s bombing the reactor may have saved countless lives, while ElBaradei’s activities have done no more than provide a cover for Iran to move its own nuclear program forward.

“[T]he director general views the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the nonproliferation regime”, said the UN agency.

Actually, the unilateral use of force was the safest and most effective way to deal with the threat, and — like the Israeli attack on the Iraqi reactor in 1981 — was doubtless quietly appreciated in foreign ministries around the world. But the question of Iran’s nuclear development is more complicated.

If the major powers, including the US, have decided that the better part of valor will be to accept Iran as a nuclear power, then the stage is set for a confrontation between Israel and Iran. But it would be of an entirely different character than a unilateral surgical strike; it would involve widespread destruction and loss of life on both sides.

Such an outcome is still preventable; but if it is allowed to happen it wouldn’t be the first time that the cowardice of the Western democracies and the narrow self-interest of the Russians has given birth to a catastrophe of historic proportions.

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Peace between Israel and Syria? Not likely.

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Does anyone know what’s really going on between Israel and Syria?

Keep in mind:

— that Israel recently bombed what is thought to have been a nuclear installation manned by North Korean technicians;

— that with Iranian aid, Syria has recently undergone a huge buildup of missile forces aimed at every part of Israel, some with chemical warheads;

— that both sides have recently increased military preparedness in border areas, with Syria moving large forces to the border.

Along with all of these disquieting indicators, we have this:

In an interview with the Qatari daily Al Watan the Syrian president claimed that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had informed him that Olmert had agreed to cede the Golan for peace…

“Olmert told the Turkish prime minister that he was willing to retreat from the Golan,” Assad said, claiming that Olmert’s willingness to cede the plateau was reiterated in interviews he gave before Pessah…

On Wednesday, western diplomatic officials, who confirmed that messages from Jerusalem to Damascus and vice versa have been going through Erdogan’s office for months, said Israel made clear that any peace agreement would necessitate Syria ending its support for Hamas and throwing Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal out of Damascus; ceasing support for Hizbullah; and distancing itself from Iran. — Jerusalem Post

Here are some questions that immediately come to mind:

Does Israel have enough confidence in Assad to withdraw from the very strategic Golan at a time when tensions with Syria are at their highest point in years?

The Syrian leadership has used the conflict with Israel as an excuse to suppress domestic demands for reform and economic liberalization for decades. Do they intend to give this up?

Syria has very little volition independent of Iran. It is also a critical part of Hizbullah and Hamas’ supply line from Iran. Will Iran sit quietly while Syria makes peace with its enemy, Israel, and isolates its proxies?

Control of Lebanon is one of Syria’s major foreign policy goals. It has been pursuing this by means of increasing Hizbullah’s influence (often by murdering its political opponenents). Will Assad disconnect from Hizbullah?

And finally, will Syria, which has been carrying the banner of implacable hostility to Israel for so long, isolate herself from the mainstream of the Arab world?

I’m doubtful.

One explanation that perhaps partly makes sense is that it’s all a smokescreen to distract attention from whatever revelations will be made today in the US about the bombed nuclear installation. This presents its own set of mysteries, like why Israel was so closed-mouthed about the operation, and why the US is suddenly rolling out its version of the affair.

Another view is that Assad, with full backing from Iran, believes that Israel was sufficiently chastened by the Second Lebanon War that it will be prepared to give back the Golan and get essentially nothing in return.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made it clear that he’s no fool, at least so he says. But it seems to me that if one knows in advance that the other party in a negotiation cannot possibly provide an acceptable deal, and indeed that his offer is dishonest, then best not begin negotiating at all.

Black Wedding (courtesy Cox and Forkum)

Is the honeymoon over? I don’t think so (courtesy coxandforkum.com).

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Kadish espionage case raises questions

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Ben-Ami KadishThe arrest of 84-year old Ben-Ami Kadish by the FBI for espionage allegedly committed in the early 1980’s has been in the news for several days.

Kadish, a dual citizen of Israel and the US, is said to have served in the British and US military in WWII and in the Hagana during the War of Independence.

He was working for the US Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey as a mechanical engineer between 1979-1985, when he is accused of having copied secret documents for Israeli intelligence. Supposedly this included information on nuclear weapons, modified F-15 fighters sold to Saudi Arabia, and the Patriot missile defense system.

According to prosecutors, he could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

Naturally the connection to the Jonathan Pollard case has been raised. Both offenses were said to have been committed at about the same time, and both Pollard and Kadish seem to have been ‘idealists':

A criminal complaint said Kadish confessed to FBI agents on Sunday that he had given the Israeli [agent] between 50 and 100 classified documents and accepted no cash in return, only small gifts and occasional dinners for him and his family.

Kadish admitted to the charges in court, saying that he wanted to help Israel. — Jerusalem Post

The most interesting question raised by all this is “why has Kadish only been arrested now?” After all, the alleged crimes took place more than 23 years ago. If the FBI recently obtained new information, where did it come from?

Debka suggests that the information is not new:

The material put before the court indicates that the federal authorities and CIA had long been aware that the Connecticut-born military engineer was passing classified documents to the Israeli science attaché at the New York consulate before his retirement at least 18 years ago.

If this is so, then why arrest Kadish now? Several possibilities come to mind:

The connection with Jonathan Pollard. Efforts are being made to free Pollard before President Bush leaves office, and another spy scandal would do serious damage. We know that there are those in the US government and CIA very strongly committed to keeping Pollard imprisoned for life.

Pollard’s fate (he is in his 23rd year of a life sentence, imposed when the Government reneged on a plea bargain) indicates that there is special treatment reserved for Jewish spies for Israel. No one else has ever received such a sentence for spying for an ally in peacetime, and even those who spied for enemies almost always got lighter sentences (Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen are exceptions).

A desire to damage the US-Israel relationship. The trial of AIPAC staffers Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman for giving national security information to Israel is about to begin. The Government’s case is remarkably weak and one can argue that the defendants were victims of entrapment. I’ve speculated that this case is part of an attempt on the part of anti-Israel elements to weaken AIPAC and Jewish influence in general, so as to make it easier to move US policy in a pro-Arab direction. The Kadish case supports the “dual loyalty” argument.

Further details will certainly come out in the near future.

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The sources of antisemitism today

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Antisemitism has taken many forms throughout its long career. It’s a frustrating rejoinder to those who believe that there is such a thing as social progress analogous to technological development.

Many of us think of Christian antisemitism, forged in the struggle of the early Christians with the Roman Empire, as the seminal form from which later Jew-hatreds sprang. There’s some truth to this.

The recent film (from the book by James Carroll) “Constantine’s Sword” comes down quite hard on the Catholic Church:

In Carroll’s telling, Catholic hostility to Jews goes back at least to the fourth century, when the emperor Constantine conquered Rome, carrying a sword fashioned as a cross. At the time, he says in the film, there were roughly the same number of Jews as Christians in the world.

In subsequent centuries, the Church’s attitudes toward Jews ranged from cold tolerance to frenzied orgies of religiously inspired mass murder. Among the highlights of this tortured history is the total destruction of centers of Jewish life situated along the Rhine river in 1096. As the Crusaders journeyed to the Holy Land to make war on the Muslims — armed with shields bearing signs of the cross and with priests in the lead — they warmed up for the battles to come by wiping out the Jewish settlements in their path. — Ben Harris (JTA)

There is no question that it was bad for Jews in the Christian world long after the middle ages. Discrimination, pogroms, even mass expulsions were their lot in Europe for hundreds of years. My own grandparents fled the Pale of Settlement almost exactly 100 years ago to escape violent persecution by the locals, who used Christianity as an excuse for their actions.

In the mid-20th century the anti-Christian Nazis and the atheist Stalin cynically used Christian themes to buttress their own antisemitic programs, and the Jews suffered mightily. And there were also Catholic voices raised against the Jews, even here in America (see Charles Coughlin). But a funny thing happened, in part as a reaction to the massive evil of this time:

The Church grew up.

In one of the most important documents of the modern Church, Nostra Aetate (1965 – read it!), Pope Paul VI does not dilute what he sees as the fundamental principle of Christianity — that there is only one way to salvation — but calls upon Catholics to understand and appreciate the truths (albeit partial, in his view) found in other religions. Most importantly, he demands that the Church treat adherents of other religions with respect and tolerance, specifically denouncing antisemitism.

Unfortunately, at just about the same time that the traditional host of the antisemitism virus began to reject it, a new one appeared. During the 1960’s, the Arab-Israeli conflict had taken the form of a proxy struggle between the US and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets taking the side of the Arabs. This led to such absurdities as fascist Arab regimes like that of Syria declaring themselves to be ‘socialists’, but also to the international Left — which if not pro-Soviet was at least anti-American — taking a strong anti-Israel position as well.

Although not all anti-Zionism is antisemitic, there is a natural progression which has been followed here, and today the extreme Left has outstripped the neo-Nazi Right as a reservoir of antisemitic expression.

But the greatest outpouring of Jew-hatred today comes from the Muslim world:

Muslim anti-Semitism is growing in scope and extremism, to the point that it has become a credible strategic threat for Israel, according to a 180-page report produced for Israeli policymakers by the semi-official Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC)…

Among the report’s most worrying findings is the growth over the past three decades of uniquely Muslim roots to older European versions of anti-Semitism. Without discounting classical Christian Europe’s canards regarding secret Jewish conspiracies, the ritual slaughter of non-Jewish children and other allegations of Jewish evil, anti-Semitism in the Muslim world increasingly finds its own, Islamic reasons for anti-Jewish hatred through new interpretations of Islamic history and scripture.

From the Koranic story of a Jewess who poisoned Muhammad, to the troubled relations between Muhammad and the Jewish tribes of Arabia, radical Islamist groups and thinkers have been using extreme anti-Semitic rhetoric that has grown increasingly popular with the Muslim public, particularly in Iran and the Arab states. Using well-known Koranic texts, these groups have been mapping out the Jews’ “innate negative attributes” and teaching a paradigm of permanent struggle between Muslims and Jews.

The goal of this “Islamified” anti-Semitism, according to the report, is to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a national territorial contest which could be resolved through compromise to a “historic, cultural and existential struggle for the supremacy of Islam.” — Jerusalem Post

The report goes on to describe how — instead of European antisemitic literature being imported to the Middle East, it is now exported to Europe, where it influences Muslim segments of the population there. And in the Middle East, antisemitism has government approval in many countries which are allegedly at peace with Israel — like Egypt, where you can buy Arabic translations of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on many street corners.

The most worrisome thing in the report is that antisemitism as an instrument of national policy, last seen in Nazi Germany, has returned:

At the heart of this surge in Muslim anti-Semitism lies Iran, with the regime’s support for Holocaust denial and hosting of anti-Semites from around the world, along with formal calls for Israel’s destruction by many of the country’s leaders.

“Iran is the first example of its kind since Nazi Germany in which a state officially adopts an active policy of anti-Semitism as a means to further its national interests,” the report notes.

It goes on to say that while Iran does not deny that Jews were massacred during WWII, the current regime seeks to minimize the scale of the Holocaust in order to reduce support for Israel’s very existence in the West, which it believes comes from feelings of guilt over the world’s inaction while Jews were murdered during WWII.

So one can understand, in the face of all this, my unconcern about Pope Benedict XVI’s promulgation of a Latin Good Friday prayer that calls for Catholics to pray for the Jews to accept Jesus as savior — something which does not contradict Nostra Aetate, although it is perhaps uncomfortable for some Jews, and although liberal Catholics may wish that the Church had moved further along the road to ecumenicism than it actually did.

Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate that other organizations, like the UN, have not followed the lead of the Church in this area. If the world has learned anything from the history of the mid-20th century one would expect firm condemnations — and real sanctions — of governments like those of Egypt and especially Iran, which today exemplify the racist philosophy that should have been buried with Adolf Hitler.

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Fresno’s Durban Conference

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Fresno State’s Middle East Studies program is planning an “International Conference” on “Teaching about the Middle East in the 21st Century” this October.

Why do I care? Because, given the politicization of academia in general and Middle East Studies in particular — and the individuals running the conference — I expect that it will not be a quiet exercise in arcane scholarship.

Instead, I expect another attempt to bring the politics of hatred to our local university, just as the same people turned a benign “International Days” event into a vicious anti-Israel “Palestine Day” in 2003.

Papers apparently can be about absolutely anything Mideast-related. Some of the ‘disciplines’ listed are

• Culture, Gender & Ethnography
• Diaspora & Migration Culture
• Middle East Politics & Representations
• U.S. Foreign Policy

It’s easy to guess the kind of material that is likely to be presented in those ‘disciplines’, especially since the postmodernist revolution in academia has made it possible to claim that anything politically congenial to the writer is true (see Nadia Abu El-Haj and CSUF’s own Mary Husain).

The conference chair is Dr. Sasan Fayazmanesh, by trade an economist, but known for popularizing the term “USrael”, in support of his view that US and Israeli policy is closely coordinated (if only it were so), and dominated by a “neo-con” (Jewish) cabal.

The Middle East Studies program has been in existence for a year, funded by a grant from the US Department of Education. Judging by the course offerings and programs, my feeling is that it should have been called “Arab and Persian” studies, since there is no indication that there are or ever have been Christians or Jews in the region! The program is chaired by Dr. Vida Samiian, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, “Palestine Day” organizer, and an activist who has been responsible for bringing numerous anti-Israel speakers and films to the area.

Let’s hope this will not turn into Fresno’s Durban Conference.

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Palestinian photographer killed, IDF investigating

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

News item:

The IDF says it will investigate the killing of a cameraman for the Reuters news agency in Gaza.

Fadel Shana was killed while filming an Israeli tank in Gaza on Wednesday, a day of heavy fighting. His final footage shows the tank firing a shell in his direction. Palestinian medics say five others were killed in the incident, including four teenagers.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch says its investigation suggests soldiers fired either recklessly or targeted Shana. — Jerusalem Post

The event is being promoted as a deliberate killing of a non-combatant whose vehicle was marked “TV”, etc.

One thing that is never explained when these accusations are made is exactly how Israel would benefit if it were so. Of course there’s no need to, since the devilish nature of the IDF and indeed all Israelis is taken for granted.

I wasn’t there, of course, but neither was HRW. The whole story raises many questions about what actually happened and why. You can see photos and the original Reuters video, as well as read about likely scenarios here, at Snapped Shot.

My guess is that it will turn out, upon full investigation, that the reporter was ‘embedded’ with a Hamas rocket launching team, in which case he should have known quite well what the risks were.

What is important is that the IDF is responding to the accusations. They have learned that it is necessary to dig out the truth in these cases, rather than to let them go unanswered to become part of the great mass of Palestinian lies and libels of the al-Dura variety.

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Annapolis is an ‘irrelevant joke’

Friday, April 18th, 2008

The Jerusalem Post reports:

The Construction and Housing Ministry on Friday advertised two tenders for leasing plots of land in the West Bank settlements of Elkana and Ariel in order to build 100 new housing units…

The Peace Now organization issued a response saying that “the government is destroying the chance to arrive at an agreement with the Palestinians and is turning Annapolis [the 2007 Annapolis peace initiative] into an irrelevant joke.”

The Palestinian position is that Israel must go back to 1967 borders. They also insist on a right of return, and other things which are impossible. There cannot be a peace agreement on their terms that will leave Israel standing.

Israel’s position is that there is nothing permanent about the 1967 borders — which are after all cease-fire lines from 1949 — and that a final agreement could include Israel keeping the larger settlement blocs while compensating the Palestinian state with land elsewhere. Israel believes that any final agreement would keep Ariel and Elkana, as well as some neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, etc.

Some have even suggested a ‘swap’ where Israel transfers areas with large Arab populations to ‘Palestine’ and keeps some settlements. Naturally, the Israeli Arabs living in these areas hate the idea. It’s quite OK for them to be Palestinian nationalists while they get the benefits of living in Israel, but they aren’t prepared to give these up. And of course the more Arabs that live in Israel, the greater the pressure to turn it into a binational state.

These ideas could be pursued if the goal of both sides were a Jewish and a Palestinian state living side by side, but it isn’t.

The Palestinians believe that the territories and indeed the state of Israel are all lands that were stolen from them. In their view, Israel is responsible for everything. The Abbas government has agreed to settle for 1967 borders as a temporary step, but only on conditions which will result in a Jewish state of Israel being untenable. A real compromise which could lead to two peaceful states is not desirable to them; what they want is progress toward getting ‘their’ land back.

The position of the US is ambivalent. Although President Bush said, in a letter to PM Ariel Sharon in 2004, that

In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,

nevertheless, the State Department continues to insist that any construction within the boundaries of existing ‘settlements’ (including East Jerusalem) “violates the Road Map”. And although the same letter contained the following remark,

It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel,

there has been no US insistence that the Palestinian demand for a right of return be taken off the table.

Peace Now, after all of these years and all of the lies and murder from Arafat and his heirs, still refuses to believe that the PLO doesn’t have the same goals that they do.

The Annapolis meeting was an irrelevant joke from the start, or worse — because rather than force the Palestinians to be realistic, all it did was institutionalize the impossible US project to fight Hamas with Fatah.

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Hamas legitimacy campaign in high gear

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Mahmoud al-ZaharHamas’ Mahmoud al-Zahar, in the Washington Post:

While Rice persuades Israeli occupation forces to cut a few dozen meaningless roadblocks from among the more than 500 West Bank control points, these forces simultaneously choke off fuel supplies to Gaza… [blah, blah, recitation of Israeli ‘crimes’]

Last week’s attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot should not surprise critics in the West. Palestinians are fighting a total war…

OK, Israel is “chok[ing] off fuel supplies to Gaza”, so you attack the only place that fuel from Israel enters Gaza?

And today,

Only a week after the lethal terror attack at the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, and after complaining of fuel shortages, terror groups are again targeting Israelis supplying fuel to the Gaza Strip.

Thursday afternoon, Palestinians opened fire at trucks transporting fuel to the Strip at the Nahal Oz fuel terminal. No injuries or damages were reported in the latest attack. — YNet

Tell us again about how Israel is responsible for the shortage, please.

But not only are the Gazans fuel-less, they are also hungry, says Jimmy Carter:

Speaking at the American University in Cairo after talks with Hamas leaders, Carter said Palestinians in Gaza were being “starved to death” and received fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. — YNet

How does Carter know this, since Israel did not allow him to enter Gaza? Simple, Mahmoud al-Zahar told him!

Carter’s talks in Cairo were with former Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar and former Interior Minister Saeed Seyam, who did not speak to reporters. Hamas officials have touted the meetings as a recognition of their legitimacy after their 2006 election victory.

As I suggested last week, Carter’s visit is already being used to lend legitimacy to Hamas.

Looks like a coordinated campaign to me, with the Washington Post and Carter leading the charge.

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