Archive for May, 2008

Perfidious Albion

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

I really hate the word ‘wonk’, but in recent years I’ve become a history wonk. So my current bedtime reading has been the newly updated Seventh Edition of The Israel-Arab Reader, edited by Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (Penguin: 2008, ISBN 978-0-14-311379-9).

The book is simply a collection of relevant documents from the Bilu Manifesto of 1882 to President Bush’s statement at the Annapolis conference on November 27, 2007, arranged in strict chronological order. In these days when rewriting history for political purposes is not only common, but apparently is seen by many as a legitimate academic enterprise, I find a dip into the cold water of actual facts refreshing before going to sleep.

For example, take the British White Paper of 1939 (p. 44) which first reaffirms Britain’s commitment under the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate to provide for a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and then continues as follows:

Although it is not difficult to contend that the large number of Jewish immigrants who have been admitted so far have been absorbed economically, the fear of the Arabs that this influx will continue indefinitely until the Jewish population is in a position to dominate them has produced consequences which are extremely grave for Jews and Arabs alike and for the peace and prosperity of Palestine. The lamentable disturbances of the past three years are only the latest and most sustained manifestation of this intense Arab apprehension. The methods employed by Arab terrorists against fellow Arabs and Jews alike must receive unqualified condemnation. But it cannot be denied that fear of indefinite Jewish immigration is widespread amongst the Arab population and that this fear has made possible disturbances which have given a serious setback to economic progress, depleted the Palestine exchequer, rendered life and property insecure, and produced a bitterness between the Arab and Jewish populations which is deplorable between citizens of the same country [my emphasis].

In other words, unhappy Arabs respond with riots, terrorism and violence. Sound familiar? So the British, while ‘deploring’ the violence, decided to solve the problem — by stopping immigration:

For each of the next five years a quota of 10,000 Jewish immigrants will be allowed on the understanding that a shortage one year may be added to the quotas for subsequent years, within the five year period, if economic absorptive capacity permits.

In addition, as a contribution towards the solution of the Jewish refugee problem, 25,000 refugees will be admitted as soon as the High Commissioner is satisfied that adequate provision for their maintenance is ensured, special consideration being given to refugee children and dependents…

After the period of five years, no further Jewish immigration will be permitted unless the Arabs of Palestine are prepared to acquiesce in it [!].

Like Chamberlain’s famous capitulation to Hitler in the previous year, Britain chose to make a ‘practical’ decision instead of a morally correct one. And people wonder why the phrase “perfidious Albion” is still current!

I highly recommend this book, which may be read at any time of the day.

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It’s the jihad, stupid

Monday, May 12th, 2008

The 1948 war, even Benny Morris now admits, was a jihad against the Jews in the land of Israel.

I’m looking forward to Morris’ new history of the War of Independence, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, which has just been published. A fundamental fact about the conflict which has been missed by those who believe that peace can be achieved by compromise, is that from the beginning — long before 1948, even — it has been driven by the Arab struggle to eliminate the Jewish presence in the region. It isn’t a question of borders, minority rights, refugees, or anything else.

Morris, famous for his assertion of an active Jewish role in the flight of the Palestinian refugees (and his unfair and disingenuous treatment of Ben-Gurion in this connection), has finally come to see the fundamental nature of the conflict.

The jihad is difficult to understand for westerners who think that everything can be solved by fairness, economic development, and communication. Recently Rabbis for Human Rights held an ‘alternative’ 60th anniversary celebration for Israel, in which they emphasized the need for Israel to ‘live up’ to ethical principles contained in the Declaration of Independence.

This is not only irrelevant — the jihadists’ desire to expunge Jews from ‘Palestine’ has nothing to do with how the Jews behave — but directly helpful to the enemy. The Arabs’ explicit strategy is to present Israel as denying human rights to Palestinians, by provoking, exaggerating, and even inventing incidents in order to make it seem as though the conflict is about these sort of issues rather than the continuation of a genocidal war. Rabbis for Human Rights and similar Jewish groups assist them in this project of delegitmization by validating their claims.

Western observers then become indignant about Palestinian rights and ignore the Arab and Persian jihad which is trying to take away the most essential of human rights from the Jewish people, the rights to self-determination and to life.

Meanwhile, the murderous jihad continues. A rocket from Gaza took another life today, a woman in Moshav Yesha (her name hasn’t been released yet), a tourist visiting relatives. The rocket struck quite close to her, riddling her body with the ball bearings packed in its warhead.

Body of yet another murder victim removed, this time from Moshav Yesha

The body of yet another murder victim is removed, this time from Moshav Yesha

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Two questions

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

News item:

Hamas rocket nearly hits busload of students in Sderot

( Following a weekend of over 20 mortar shells and rockets, Hamas fired a rocket Sunday afternoon that narrowly missed a busload of students in the parking lot of Sapir College in Sderot. A car was damaged.

Earlier this year, student Roni Yichye was killed by a Hamas-fired rocket in the same parking lot.

Two questions for Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak:

  1. What would you have done if the rocket had made a direct hit on the bus?
  2. Why wait for it to happen?

Jimmy KedoshimOn Friday, Jimmy Kedoshim, 48, father of three, was killed by a Hamas mortar shell in his garden in Kfar Aza, a kibbutz close to the border. Kedoshim was a powered paragliding champion, a former paratrooper who used his skill to operate an aerial photography and advertising business. He’s shown here immediately after landing his paraglider.

He was killed for the crime of being a Jew living in Israel. How long can this be allowed to continue?

The body of Jimmy Kedoshim is removed from his home in Kfar Aza

The body of Jimmy Kedoshim is removed from his home in Kfar Aza

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Iran’s proxy putsch will be successful

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

What appears to be a civil war is beginning in Lebanon, with Hezbollah — a radical Shiite group — trying either to mount a traditional coup in which the present somewhat pro-Western government will be replaced with a Hezbollah-dominated one, or simply to give their state-within-a-state de facto control of the country.

Probably it’s the latter, which can be accomplished without providing an excuse for embarrassing Security Council resolutions. One of the triggers for the current crisis was Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network, which the government rightly sees as a way for Hezbollah to coordinate and direct their forces without interruption or interception of communications. Another was the government’s attempt to remove a pro-Hezbollah airport security administrator.

Lebanon has parties (and militias) representing various factions of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians, and Druze. It also has an ‘official’ army that supposedly takes orders from a government in which Hezbollah’s strength has increased significantly as opposition politicians are murdered (8 since 2005), probably by Hezbollah ally Syria. Hezbollah’s militia is well-trained and well-armed, and it also has many sympathizers in the Lebanese army. The army has already agreed to backtrack on some of the government’s demands regarding the communications network and airport manager.

Hezbollah is funded by Iran and supplied through Iran’s satellite, Syria. Syria also has her own interests in Lebanon, having colonized that nation for almost 30 years until being forced to remove her forces in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (almost certainly by Syrian agents).

In 2006 the US and Iran fought a proxy war by way of Israel and Hezbollah. Results were inconclusive enough to encourage Iran to rearm Hezbollah and attempt to develop a similar army from Hamas in Gaza, although there is reason to believe that the IDF woke up and smelled the coffee, and will do better next time.

The next time may be coming soon if the present civil strife spills over into an attack on Israel, or if Israel gets nervous enough to intervene.

Noah Pollak sees similarities between the behavior of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and sees Western observers making the same fundamental mistake in both cases:

What does the crisis in Lebanon teach us about Hezbollah? It teaches us the same lesson we learned from Hamas when it took Gaza: Islamic supremacist groups, despite their claims to the contrary, cannot be integrated into states or democratic political systems…

We have heard for many years from an array of journalists, scholars, and pundits that Hamas and Hezbollah are complicated social movements that employ violence in the service of their political goals, and that they are therefore susceptible to diplomatic engagement…

In the streets of Beirut, with Kalashnikovs and RPGs, Hezbollah is making it abundantly clear that its participation in Lebanese politics ends when Hezbollah is asked to submit to the state’s authority. How many more Middle East “experts” are going to proclaim that the answer to Islamic supremacism is dialogue and political integration?

No one knows exactly what Hezbollah intends. What is certain is that the Lebanese government does not have the strength or the will to resist, and that therefore another domino will shortly fall to the Iranian axis.

Update [11 May 2008 0713]: For an excellent analysis of Hezbollah’s recent actions, see Jonathan Speyer, “The Question of Power“.

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Super-rationality along with irrationality

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Another Israeli civilian has been killed in a Hamas bombardment, in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, close to the Gaza strip. Several others were wounded. Nine rockets or mortar shells fired from Gaza struck Israel today, including this one.

Meanwhile, indirect negotiations for a cease-fire continue in Egypt. Although we don’t know the details, suggestions are that it would include a hugely unbalanced prisoner exchange with Hamas and possibly other concessions.

Israel’s government is at the same time super-rational and entirely irrational. Super-rational because it is capable of making the decision to accept the continuing attrition of the rocket attacks, the humiliation of allowing Hamas to depopulate part of the state and prove to the world that Israel is incapable of defending herself, so as not to deal with the short-term consequences of putting an end to Hamas.

And irrational because it is prepared to trade one kidnapped soldier — who will quickly be replaced by another — for the release of hundreds or even more than a thousand prisoners, many of them with blood on their hands (the requirement to only release non-murderers was dropped some time ago).

A few simple facts need to be recognized:

  1. Hamas will not go away by itself and it is not ever going to become a Zionist organization. Its reason for being is to destroy Israel and kill Jews. The question is not if to fight it, it’s when. And Hamas isn’t getting weaker.
  2. The rocket barrage is an attack on more than the unfortunate victims. It is an attack on the sovereignty of the State of Israel. It cannot be allowed to continue.
  3. Israel is in a war for survival. Soldiers are lost in war. I have three children, all of whom served in the IDF, one for an extended period. I know the feeling when the telephone rings at night. But a lopsided prisoner exchange will encourage further kidnappings and remove the deterrent against terrorist murder.

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