Archive for July, 2008

Needed: a Reconquest of Labor

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Ha’aretz reports:

A Palestinian bulldozer driver went on a rampage in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday, wounding at least 24 people, just weeks after a similar attack in the capital left three dead.

The driver was identified as a 22-year-old resident of East Jerusalem who held an Israeli ID card. Police sealed off possible escape routes into the predominantly Arab area of Jerusalem and were searching for two suspects who fled the scene, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Another day, another jihad-by-heavy-equipment.

A. D. GordonTime to ponder the words of A. D. Gordon:

We [the Jewish people] have become accustomed to every form of life, except to a life of labour–of labour done at our own behest and for its own sake. It will require the greatest effort of will for such a people to become normal again. — People and Labour, 1911

Now it is true that every people have many individuals who shun physical labour and try to live off the work of others… We Jews have developed an attitude of looking down on physical labour…. But labour is the only force which binds man to the soil… it is the basic energy for the creation of national culture. This is what we do not have, but we are not aware of missing it. We are a people without a country, without a national living language, without a national culture. We seem to think that if we have no labour it does not matter – let Ivan, John or Mustafa do the work, while we busy ourselves with producing a culture, with creating national values and with enthroning absolute justice in the world. — Our Tasks Ahead, 1920

The early kibbutzniks took Gordon seriously and learned how to farm, how to build, and how to defend themselves, things that most Diaspora Jews had forgotten. The Zionist idea that Jews would possess the land only when they were the workers as well as the owners of it was called “kibush ha’avoda“, the Conquest of Labor.

Israel is at a turning point today (see Daniel Pipes, “Samir Kuntar and the Last Laugh“). Lots of things have to change to get the country on the right path, but it wouldn’t hurt to start with a Reconquest of Labor.

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J Street poll dishonest, misleading and flawed

Monday, July 21st, 2008

The J Street organization, which bills itself “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement” has released a new survey of the American Jewish community.

I want to discuss just one particular ‘finding’ from this poll, because it shows how J Street and others use polling deceptively.

Perhaps, more remarkable is [American Jews’] attitude on the basic dichotomy that often captures the debate – that is, when push comes to shove, does military superiority or a peace agreement better provide Israeli security.  On this fundamental question…Jews favor a peace agreement by a 50 to 34 margin

J Street’s technique is to conflate two questions, one trivial and true and the other significant but false. The polling data naturally supports the trivial one, but the interpretation claims to have proven the significant one.

Here’s the question that gave rise to the numbers above:

  1. Israel cannot rely on peace agreements with its enemies to provide security, and in the long run, Israel can only achieve real security by maintaining its military superiority; or,
  2. Israel must always maintain its strong military, but in the long run, Israel can only achieve real security through peace agreements that end conflicts and establish internationally recognized borders.

The first thing that you notice is that these questions don’t present clear-cut opposing positions.  Alternative 1 says that “Israel cannot rely on peace agreements” but alternative 2 says that “Israel must always maintain its strong military”. If Israel could rely on peace agreements, then why would it need a strong military?

What the question basically comes down to is this: “Which would be better, a strong military with peace agreements that end the conflict, or military superiority without such agreements?” And the obvious, trivial answer is  “of course it would be better to have an agreed end to the conflict!” And this is what 54 percent of American Jews believe.

But this trivial proposition is not the one that J Street claims to show. Rather, they want us to believe that a majority of American Jews think that a ‘peace agreement’ provides ‘better security’ than military superiority.

And that’s not all. The question posits abstract “peace agreements that end conflicts”. But this kind of agreement, the holy grail of Israeli-Arab peacemaking is nowhere on the table today. The question is so hypothetical as to be meaningless.

There’s more, lots more, including this false dichotomy:

After we presented a mixture of hawkish and pro-peace messages, we re-asked this series of questions and the “firm support” number was unchanged.

Did it occur to the writer that it is quite consistent to be “hawkish” — that is, to believe that “military superiority” is necessary to the continued existence of the state — and to want peace? And that it is reasonable to think that the “peace efforts” that are presently under way are actually more likely to lead to war than peace? So maybe it’s not so clear who is pro-peace and who is not.

And — oh yes. One minor methodological point.

Gerstein | Agne contracted the research company YouGovPolimetrix to administer the survey by email invitation to its web-based panel, which is regularly updated and consists of 1.2 million Americans.

This poll is not a random sample, the sample was allowed to select itself! Self-selection bias is one of the most elementary errors that can be made in opinion research.

To slightly twist a remark by Mark Twain, there are lies, damn lies, and opinion polls.

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Gordon Brown sympathetic to dead Jews, less so to live ones

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

News Item:

[British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown told reporters that Britain will always be a genuine friend of Israel, and guaranteed that the Jewish State’s security is of top concern for the United Kingdom. He added that he understood the obstacles [in the region], but “also the opportunities” that lie ahead.

Britain hasn’t been a friend of Israel since the Balfour Declaration (1917), which it has been trying to take back ever since. Britain turned its back on the Jews in the 1930’s when it closed the door on Jewish immigration to Palestine just as Hitler began his genocidal project. Later, near the end of the mandate, it tilted sharply toward the Arabs and aided them in their war against the new Jewish state.

Earlier Sunday, Brown called on Israel to stop settlement construction, and offered additional financial support and police training to the Palestinian Authority government.

Britain here demonstrates its genuine friendship with Israel by arming and training its enemies, just as it did for the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948.

The British leader said economic prosperity was the key to peace, and urged an easing of Israeli travel restrictions in the West Bank that have hindered commerce.

He promised British support in developing housing, industrial parks and small businesses…

Brown said he supported those who understand that “the prospect of prosperity encourages people that the return to violence is something that is an unacceptable price to pay, and something that should be rejected.”

Of course, it’s all due to ‘Israeli restrictions’, not mentioning the reason that these restrictions exist. If there weren’t ‘restrictions’, would the Palestinian economy thrive? Take, for example, Gaza when Israel totally withdrew all her forces, and Jewish donors presented the Palestinians with a profitable system of hothouses growing flowers for the European market. There were no ‘restrictions’, but in an orgy of hatred the hothouses were destroyed and the Palestinians went into the rocket business full time.

As if it had anything to do with economics! Palestinian politics is not the politics of rational decision-making, in which the goal is to improve the lot of the population. Rather, it is a contest between extremist groups, gangs with guns competing to see who can kill the most Jews, which group can get the most with the least compromise, and who is most likely to bring the about day that all of Israel is replaced by an Arab state, the nakba reversed.

It’s hard to believe that sophisticated people like Gordon Brown actually believe that they can move the Palestinians away from violence and toward a desire for peace with aid of any sort — particularly military assistance (Palestinian ‘police’ are more like an army than a police force). Certainly the billions that have already been pumped into the Palestinian hole have not done so in the slightest.

My conclusion is that they do not actually believe this, but present it for public consumption; the real motivation is to appear to be doing something that will lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the territories. This is demanded by the Arab world and by a large segment of Brown’s constituency.

Brown’s first stop in Israel was Yad Vashem, the country’s official Holocaust memorial, where he attended a ceremony for the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany.

Sympathy for dead Jews is cheap, even free. Standing up for the self-determination and security of live ones is another matter entirely, one on which Britain historically has a very poor record.

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No Palestinian Mandela

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Abbas with Haniyeh

Mahmoud Abbas appoints Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh leader of short-lived unity government (2007) as the Original Terrorist looks on approvingly from above

Barack Obama is embarking on a Grand Tour of Europe and the Middle East. Among other places, he will go to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.


If Mahmoud Abbas were a great leader, a Palestinian Nelson Mandela as it were, then it would make sense. But he’s not: he’s a man who thinks the murderers of children are heroes, and  his goal, unlike Mandela’s desire for reconciliation, is the ethnic cleansing of the Land of Israel of Jews.

If Mahmoud Abbas, although not a Palestinian Mandela, were at least a representative of his people, then it would make sense. But the majority of Palestinians openly support Hamas, and most of those who follow Abbas are paid to do so.

In fact, Abbas is no more or less than a second-rate terror gangster that the Bush Administration — in need of a Palestinian ‘leader’ in order to meet its commitments to Europe and Saudi Arabia — has chosen to prop up, with the help of a compliant Israel.  Without US money and IDF protection, Abbas would be gone in a flash.

The Bushies say that we have to do this, otherwise we’ll get Hamas.  But the truth of the matter is that we will get Hamas anyway, unless Israel finds the will (and gets a green light) to go after Hamas and wipe it out.

The NY Times claims that Obama has 300 foreign policy advisers. You’d think that at least a few of them would be clear-sighted enough to understand this. After all, why continue a “failed Bush policy”?

But if Obama is elected, chances are — judging from his puerile misunderstanding of the nature of the common enemies of the US and Israel  — that we will be lucky if his policy is no worse than Bush’s.

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The contrast has never been so stark

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Kuntar free in Lebanon (AP)Now the Hezbollah deal has been consummated and Israel has received the bodies of its soldiers. Child-murderer Samir Kuntar is free, enjoying a hero’s welcome in Lebanon, feted not only by Hezbollah’s Nasrallah but also by the President and Prime Minister of Lebanon, and the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

I was strongly opposed to the deal because of its sheer irrationality. Didn’t it invite more kidnappings? Didn’t it ensure that the price that will be paid for Gilad Schalit will be even more outrageous? Didn’t it legitimize the terrorist Hezbollah even further?

But maybe it presents an opportunity to break through the fog of lies created by our enemies — lies about their own goals and motivations and about the nature of Israel, Israelis and Jews.

To everyone who thinks that terrorism against Israel is the product of ‘extremists’  and that Israel needs to make peace with ‘moderates’ like PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Lebanese PM Fuad Saniora, etc.: How moderate can they be when they applaud terrorist murderers Samir Kuntar and Dalal Mughrabi, hold them up as heroes and examples?

To everyone who’s said that the conflict is primarily about human rights: Do you still believe this?

The contrast between Israeli and Arab society has never been so stark. Listen to an al-Jazeera TV host tell us what a Palestinian state would look like:

Ghassan bin Jiddo: Twelve men, led by a woman called Dalal Al-Maghrabi, managed to establish the State of Palestine, after the whole world had denied them their right to do so. They turned a bus, going from Haifa to Tel Aviv, into a temporary capital of the State of Palestine. They raised the white, red, and black flag at the front of the bus, singing, shouting, and dancing like children on a school trip.

There were real children on a trip on that bus, and 13 of them died in the temporary capital of Palestine, shot or burned to death by Mughrabi and her men. This is the peaceful Palestinian state that Arab societies yearn for. And this is the kind of declaration of statehood they cheer about.

Hezbollah, Fatah, Hamas, et al. have all said that the deal is a great victory for the ‘resistance’, showing how much stronger and more resolute they are than the Israelis, who stupidly care enough about the bodies of soldiers that they would suffer enormous humiliation and strategic damage to get them back.

On the contrary.

It illustrates the difference between civilized people and…something else.

There will be another confrontation between Isarel and Hezbollah, and soon enough with Hamas as well. Israeli soldiers will go into battle knowing the nature of the nation standing behind them as well as the nature of the enemy.  The results will speak for themselves.

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