Archive for March, 2009

The DNA of hatred

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

This short video shows what Arab leaders have done to their people. It shows one of the reasons attempts to break down barriers between ordinary Israelis and Arabs so often fail (another reason is intimidation). And it shows, unfortunately, why the road to peace runs through military preparedness and preemption, not friendship.

The speaker is a Syrian actress named Amal ‘Arafa.

Amal 'Arafa

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Legitimizing Hamas is obscene

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

As the third anniversary of Gilad Schalit’s captivity draws near (he was abducted in June 2006), it’s painful to contemplate what he must be suffering. Most likely he is being held underground in a dark, booby-trapped concrete bunker, deprived of human contact. His family has no idea of what may have been done to him; his physical and mental condition are unknown.

His treatment is probably much worse than that of the inmates of Guantanamo Bay, but unlike the global outcry over Guantanamo, only Israelis and a small number of Jews living outside of Israel have expressed real concern — and that has lately taken the form of demonstrations against the Israeli government for not meeting the impossible demands made by Hamas for his release.

The International Red Cross has asked to be allowed to visit him several times and has been turned down. The most recent update on the ICRC website — among countless news releases detailing the ‘humanitarian disaster’ Gazans experienced during the ‘siege’ and the recent war — is from December 2008. In it, an official says,

There are limits to what we can do and to what international humanitarian law entitles us to do when it comes to visiting people in detention or to finding out what happened to people who go missing in an armed conflict.

In the case of Gilad Shalit, we deplore the fact that political considerations have outweighed humanitarian concerns, and respect for basic humanitarian principles, making it virtually impossible to help him or his family.

As a humanitarian organization, we have limited leverage in these matters. All we can do is to remind those who control the situation of their obligation to act in accordance with the spirit and letter of international humanitarian law. The parties to an armed conflict, be they States or non-State groups, have to uphold the law.

I would have expected at least a clear statement that Hamas is violating international law, but apparently ‘deploring’ is the strongest emotion that they can generate (compare the above to the ICRC report from 2007 entitled “The occupied Palestinian territories: Dignity Denied“).

But for the greatest reality inversion, consider the position of Hamas:

Let’s first be clear that Schalit was no innocent captive. He was an Israeli soldier who aimed and shot his weapon, and probably other armaments, at Palestinian civilians. Furthermore, Israel has imprisoned over 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, many without trial, and many of whom were abducted from their homes at night. They have also been subjected to torture. — Ahmed Yousef, senior Hamas official

I very strongly doubt that Schalit ever fired anything at Palestinian civilians. And to compare his situation to prisoners in Israeli jails — who are together with other prisoners, receive regular visits from the Red Cross and family members, have electricity, postal, telephone and television privileges and who for the most part have been tried and convicted of crimes up to and including multiple murder — is beyond ridiculous.

Schalit is at least deserving of the treatment demanded by the Geneva Convention for prisoners of war.  Hamas’ refusal to follow international law in this regard, not to mention the continuing illegal bombardment of civilians and attempts to infiltrate into Israel and carry out terrorist attacks, mark it as a terrorist, outlaw entity.

The usual foreign-policy ‘realists’ and  supposedly civilized media like the NY Times are obscenely calling for Hamas to be a part of a Palestinian unity government. Here is what the ‘realists’ advocate:

In brief, shift the U.S. objective from ousting Hamas to modifying its behavior, offer it inducements that will enable its more moderate elements to prevail, and cease discouraging third parties from engaging with Hamas in ways that might help clarify the movement’s views and test its behavior.

It’s hard for me to find an analogy strong enough to illustrate the wrong-headedness of this. Moderate elements in Hamas? Are there elements in Hamas who are not passionately dedicated to the liquidation of the Jewish state by means of violent jihad? Can Siegman, Scowcroft, Brzezinski, et al. point to even one? Would they have advocated offering ‘inducements’ to encourage the moderate elements in Hitler’s SS?

Hamas represents a pure distillate of the violent and racist attitudes in Palestinian society. The cruelty they display in their treatment of Schalit makes this clear. So why are they treated as anything more than the pathological criminals that they are?

Unfortunately, Hamas’ obsessive hatred is the perfect weapon for Iran, which sees Israel as an obstacle to its geopolitical goals — domination of the Mideast and its oil resources and opposition to the US — and so this gang of racist murderers receives financial support from Iran and political legitimacy from those in the US and Europe who would prefer appeasing Iran to resisting it.

There is only one way to bring Schalit home and only one way to lay the groundwork for the ultimate reconciliation of Israel and the Palestinians, and that is the destruction of Hamas as a political and military power. Israel’s failure to do this in the recent Operation cast Lead will bring about even more warfare and suffering for both Jews and Arabs in the not-so-distant future.

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Palestinian ‘activists’ sabotage efforts to overcome divisions

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

This is really interesting because it illustrates one of the reasons that there will not be peace between Israel and the Palestinians any time soon:

PA dismantles W. Bank youth orchestra
Khaled abu Toameh and AP

Palestinian authorities disbanded a youth orchestra from a West Bank refugee camp after it played for a group of Holocaust survivors in Israel, a local official said on Sunday.

Adnan Hindi of the Jenin camp called the Holocaust a “political issue” and accused conductor Wafa Younis of unknowingly dragging the children into a political dispute…

The 13 Palestinian musicians, aged 11 to 18, are members of the Palestinian orchestra Strings of Freedom that is based in the refugee camp. The concert was held at the Holocaust Survivors’ Center as part of “Good Deeds Day,” an annual event organized by an organization belonging to Israeli billionaire Shari Arison…

Hindi … said that the participation of the children in the concert was a “dangerous matter” because it was directed against the cultural and national identity of the Palestinians.

He accused “suspicious elements” of being behind the Holon event, saying they were seeking to “impact the national culture of the young generation and cast doubt about the heroism and resistance of the residents of the camp during the Israeli invasion in April 2002…”

Ramzi Fayad, a spokesman for various political factions in the Jenin refugee camp, also condemned the participation of the teenagers in the Holocaust event, saying all the groups were strongly opposed to any form of normalization with Israel. “There can be no normalization while Israel is continuing to perpetrate massacres against our people,” he said.

Leaflets distributed in the Jenin area over the weekend also attacked the event and accused the organizers of exploiting the children. The leaflets also warned the Palestinians against participating in similar events in the future. — Jerusalem Post [my emphasis]

So in other words, anything which might teach Palestinian children that Israelis are humans too,  or that it’s possible to find common ground with them about anything, even music, is forbidden. Palestinian “cultural and national identity” means support for “heroism and resistance”, that is, continued terrorist war against Israel. And they are ‘warned’ not to try it again.

This is reminiscent of what happened in 2007 when the One Voice Movement — a naive but sincere group founded by Daniel Lubetzky dedicated to bringing about peace by grass-roots contact between Israelis and Palestinians — tried to hold simultaneous ‘peace concerts’ in Tel Aviv and Jericho. The concert in Jericho was canceled after Palestinian ‘activists’ threatened violence. Here’s the poitical rationale (enforced, as always, by the young men with guns):

According to the widely accepted boycott criteria advocated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the event falls under the category of normalization projects and violates the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), endorsed by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, trade unions, political parties, and grassroots movements, for the following reasons:

  1. Participants are required to join the One Voice Movement and sign a mandate — ostensibly based on a “two-state solution,” but without any commitment to international parameters — which assumes equal responsibility of “both sides” for the “conflict,” and suspiciously fails to call for Israel’s full compliance with its obligations under international law through ending its illegal military occupation, its denial of Palestinian refugee rights (particularly the right of return), and its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens.

  2. The event is sponsored by Israeli institutions (mostly from the private sector) and endorsed by mainstream Israeli political figures from parties including the Likud, Labour and Shas. These Israeli “partners” are unquestionably complicit in maintaining Israel’s occupation and other forms of oppression.

So much for grassroots efforts on behalf of peace.

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Barry Rubin on The Cartoon

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Barry Rubin has written a remarkable, detailed analysis of just what is wrong with The Cartoon. I urge you to think about it: it’s more than just antisemitism or anti-Zionism.

I haven’t reproduced the cartoon here — I’d prefer not to look at it any more — but there’s a link in Prof. Rubin’s article below.

Keep this in mind: many Jews and Zionists are really, really angry at Pat Oliphant and the NY Times. But Oliphant and the publisher of the Times will not have to go into hiding, there will not be violent demonstrations, and nobody will hold up a sign saying “Behead those who insult Judaism”.

The Cartoon: the problem is stupidity, not hatred

By Barry Rubin

It is silly to say that the Pat Oliphant Cartoon in the New York Times and many newspapers around the world is antisemitic.  But it’s also a bad mistake because the cartoon deserves serious analysis to show just how dangerous and wrong it is, in ways that not only hurt Israel but all Western democracies.

Click here to see the cartoon.

Let’s deconstruct the cartoon to show the basic ideas that underlie it and that make it lie.

  1. To begin with, it is not a very good cartoon and bears a striking resemblance to anti-Israel propaganda cartoons in its crudity and one-sidedness.  Aesthetic decline has accompanied political crudeness. It doesn’t just say: these people are wrong but these people are 100 percent evil and hateful. The next step is, of course, they deserve to die and their state deserves to be wiped off the map. Is that what Oliphant thinks? Who cares? That’s what he said.
  2. On the left is a huge figure.  On the right is a small figure. The implication that need not be spoken here is that the big figure—the powerful side—must be wrong. Oliphant like many or most Western intellectuals, academics, and policymakers, still don’t understand the concept of asymmetric warfare. In this, a weaker side wages war on a stronger side using techniques it thinks can make it win. What are these techniques? Terrorism, indifference to the sacrifice of its people, indifference to material losses, refusal to compromise, extending the war for ever.   This is precisely the technique of Hamas: let’s continue attacking Israel in order to provoke it to hit us, let’s target Israeli civilians, let’s seek a total victory based on genocide, let’s use our own civilians as human shields, and with such methods we will win. One way we will win is to demonize those who defend themselves, to put them in positions where they have a choice between surrender and looking bad. This cartoon is a victory for Hamas. But it is also a victory for all those who would fight the West and other democracies (India, for example) using these methods. Remember September 11?
  3. The big figure has no head, and hence is not a human being. Israelis are not human. Moreover the headless figure is irrational. We are to believe that Israel attacked Gaza for no reason. Forget about thousands of rockets, hundreds of mortar shells, and scores of cross-border attacks. The tiny figure on the right is no threat. So there is no reason to attack it. Attacking is immoral and irrational. The same could—and has—been said about al-Qaida, Hizballah, Pakistani terrorists striking at Mumbai, etc.
  4. Dehumanization: The figure on the left is a monster, a robot.  Monsters and robots deserve no sympathy; they have no right to self-defense. If tomorrow an Israeli child or civilian is killed in a terrorist attack, how can one have sympathy for these people since they are not people?
  5. Goosestep: The leg is raised In a Nazi goosestep; the shoe is a jackboot. Thus, Israel is a Nazi power. But why is it a Nazi power? Because it isn’t human and just attacks women and children for no reason at all. And what happens then? Since Israel is said to be Nazi, any sympathy for 2000 years of Jewish suffering—including Arab terrorist attacks—is thus erased.  Incidentally, this is all being done when there is still no proof (not even weak proof) for a single Israeli soldier having committed a single atrocity. Where, then, is the rationality here?
  6. Sword: Ironically, the sword is the weapon used by Islamists to behead people. Why a sword? Because it is a primitive weapon for a primitive people. The hand which is very hairy—again the ape, dehumanized image—holds the sword at a 45 degree angle reminiscent of a Nazi salute. See point 5 above.
  7. The Magen David is Israel’s symbol. Therefore, despite the fact that it is also a general Jewish symbol, it is not antisemitic to use it. Of course, the context matters, too. But that is not what is most important in this cartoon. Still, the author could have labeled the monster “Israel.”  Note, however, that “magen” means shield, and the name of Israel’s army is the Israel Defense Forces. In Gaza, they were acting in a defensive manner but that of course escapes much of the media coverage and things said about the war. What strikes me as most bizarre about the usage of this symbol is that it is being wheeled forward, as if Israel seeks to install itself in the Gaza Strip. But Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, openly stating that it wanted peace. The symbolism is to make the action purely offensive, an aggressive war to annex territory, which of course is untrue
  8. The shark is to me the most offensive part of the cartoon because it shows that the cartoonist has lost any sense of his tradition. Aren’t all the other elements enough to show his theme? The “over-kill” puts it into the category of Arab propaganda cartoons. It says: Israel is innately aggressive, that the whole state of Israel is permanently aggressive and exists for no other reason. If the cartoonist had shown Israel doing mean things to helpless Palestinians, the suggestion is that the Gaza War is a terrible thing. The way this cartoon is done it suggests that Israel’s existence is a terrible thing.
  9. Palestinians are portrayed as only women and children. There are no fighters. Was there no army in Gaza, no 20,000 Hamas men under arms? Did Israel attack a defenseless area?  Again if the cartoonist wanted to portray Israel carelessly attacking into a civilian area, the implication would be that it used excessive force or insufficient care. I would disagree but the extremism of the cartoons suggestion, and its falseness, exceeds the usual bounds of Western rationality.
  10. The evil Israel is heading right toward the Palestinians and they are running in fear. Here is an accurate way to describe the war: After Hamas unilaterally announced it was cancelling the ceasefire, it launched even more rockets and mortars at Israel than it did during the “normal” ceasefire.  Their range was increasing and the lives of one million Israelis became impossible. Hamas leaders openly bragged that Israel was afraid to fight back and they would keep escalating. Israel then attacked, the Hamas forces retreated into the middle of highly populated civilian areas. After some fighting, where civilians were used by Hamas as human shields, Israel had no intention of going into the most densely populated neighborhoods. It thus ended the war, and withdrew.  Hamas then came out of hiding and bragged that it had won a great victory. The fantasy Israel created by Oliphant and others would have continued the war, wiped out Hamas, and retaken the Gaza Strip. In military terms, Israel could have done this with minimal casualties for its own side. Far from proving anti-Israel claims, the history of the Gaza War proved the opposite.

This is, then, a loathsome cartoon. But to dismiss it by the single word “antisemitism” will foreclose thought as to why it is a loathsome cartoon. It will allow its defenders to avoid facing the real problems with this cartoon and the worldview it represents.

Finally, this cartoon represents the mentality that will plague every Western and democratic state in the coming years. Imagine the exact same cartoon but with the Magen David replaced by the Stars and Stripes—the evil America attacking the Taliban or al-Qaida, or Iraq, or Muslims in general.  Indeed, this is the kind of cartoon which has appeared aimed against America or the West in general. It is part of the merging of much Western fashionable intellectual and cultural thinking with that of extremist Third World, and especially radical Islamist, propaganda.

The cartoonist doesn’t hate Jews; he probably doesn’t even hate Israelis. What is involved here is a lack of understanding so enormous that it will incite hatred, cause violence and death, and block policies needed to help people—including Palestinians who, are supposedly the object of its sympathy but thus doomed to suffer under a repressive regime with a permanent war policy.

Antisemitism? Ask not for whom the bell tolls because Israel,  the canary in the mine—the one who first they came for—can tell you that you are all next.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit, or write to Barry Rubin at

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NPR’s shocking lack of journalistic integrity

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

This morning (Thursday) NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ ran a piece by their correspondent in Jerusalem, Eric Westerveldt. Naturally it was about alleged bad behavior by IDF soldiers in Gaza. On Tuesday evening I had posted an item about how some of the most serious accusations, the ‘testimony’ of IDF soldiers that in two cases innocent Palestinian women and children had been shot and killed by Israeli snipers, were proven to be entirely false: rumors that had grown legs before the truth got its pants on, to mangle a remark by Mark Twain.

Now I do not think that NPR editors read my blog, but on Tuesday this fact was made public by CAMERA, on their website and in a mass email after it was published in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv in Hebrew on Monday. It also appeared — in English — in the Jerusalem Post and on the Post’s website on Wednesday. Even before this, doubts had been raised about the third-hand nature of the allegations and the bias of Danny Zamir, who reported them to the press.

So, at 6:05 this morning when I heard Westerveldt begin, I assumed that he was going to say something about how this evil slander was untrue. “Listen,” I said to my wife, “they’re going to say it didn’t happen.”

Yeah, right.

Westerveldt, unable to hide a tone of moral outrage in his voice, proceeded to recite a whole series of allegations of war-crimes and misbehavior by the IDF, including the reports that the women and children were shot by IDF snipers. He interviewed Yehuda Shaul of the extreme left-wing “Breaking the Silence” organization, who passionately added more of the same. Westerveldt also repeated Human Rights Watch accusations of the use of white phosphorus ammunition against human targets, etc.

The IDF point of view was provided by a spokesperson who said, correctly but woodenly, that the accusations were “anecdotal and uncorroborated”, “hearsay unless our investigations will prove otherwise”. Well, they have proven otherwise, but the clear sense of the piece was that it was all over but the public hanging.

The ‘shocking’ part of this is not so much that NPR is biased against Israel — I’ve written about them numerous times, particularly about their sophisticated use of emotional content (see here and here) — but that by Thursday morning they should have known that the accusations of sniper shootings — accusations that the IDF is guilty of murder — were false.

I don’t know when Westerveldt recorded his piece, but I do know that NPR’s editors should not have allowed it to air on Thursday. My guess is that it was just too emotionally juicy to pass by.

Congratulations, NPR. You have put yourself in the same class as the UK Guardian and Pacifica Radio.

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