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 http://www.gloriacenter.org, or write to Barry Rubin at profbarryrubin@yahoo.com.

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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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Livni blames Bibi — in advance

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Tzipi Livni:

Livni said that she hoped the new government would reach peace deals with the Syrians and Palestinians, adding, however, that she was skeptical in light of the coalition agreements.

“For the country, I wish that this government brings peace for the Israeli people, but when I look at the agreements, the matter doesn’t appear in them,” she said. “From my discussions with Netanyahu, I don’t believe that’s what he’s striving for, but I hope he doesn’t miss opportunities.” — Jerusalem Post

I think I would call this statement “not constructive”.

The implication is that if the new government does not reach a ‘peace deal’ with the Palestinian Authority (PA) or Syria, then it will be the fault of the right-wing parties and their demands.

The truth, in the case of the Palestinians, is that they will not (and cannot) agree to terms that could be accepted by the Israeli people.  Barry Rubin has argued this point cogently and in detail (see “The Peace Recess“):

This conflict is not continuing because there is a dispute about the precise boundary line between Israel and a Palestinian state. It is going on because the Palestinian leaders — all of them — are either unwilling or unable to accept Israel’s permanent existence, the end of the conflict, the abandonment of terrorism, and the settlement of Palestinian refugees in a Palestinian state.

Olmert pushed as hard as he could for an agreement with the Palestinians and didn’t get there.  The Palestinians, for their part, hardened their stance — and exposed their intentions — when both Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad announced that they would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. And these are the ‘moderates’.

With Syria the situation is similar. The main obstacle is not in the exact delineation of the border or the mechanics of providing security for Israel without the Golan Heights, although these are difficult issues. The elephant in the room is that the Syrian regime does not find it advantageous to give up its fruitful relationship with Iran and its useful conflict with Israel in return for the Golan and a relationship with the US, which it sees as being pushed out of the region anyway.

Certainly Assad would like to possess the Golan, but he believes that he can get it without paying any price at all. In these circumstances, Israel would be well advised to avoid giving up real territory in return for paper, even if the paper is guaranteed by the US — because today the US is not in a position to enforce anything in the Mideast.

Livni knows full well that the ‘process’ is going nowhere and will go nowhere no matter what government Israel has. So why is she blaming the incoming administration in advance?

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Another blood libel proven false

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

CAMERA writes:

Charges of IDF “Wanton Killing” Crumble

The brigade commander of the unit linked to alleged “wanton killings” in Gaza launched his own investigation after hearing of the charges, speaking with actual eyewitnesses, all of whom said that the alleged killings did not took place. The original charges, based only on hearsay and rumors, have therefore been refuted and should be retracted.

The brigade commander’s findings were reported in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, in a story titled “IDF Investigation Refutes the Testimonies About Gaza Killings.” [Hebrew text here] According to the story:

Two central incidents that came up in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade…

Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander’s investigation cites the sniper: “I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, ‘Why did you shoot at them.’ I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots.”

Officers from the brigade surmise that [Israeli] fighters that stayed in the bottom floor of the Palestinian house thought that he hit them, and from here the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.

The other alleged incident, the killing by a sniper of an elderly woman, also seems not to have taken place:

Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.

Another blood libel, like the Mohammad al-Dura affair, like the Jenin Massacre, like the shooting of the truck drivers, and on and on.

But this time the perpetrator of the slander was not a Palestinian. It was an Israeli, Danny Zamir, along with the Ha’aretz newspaper and its reporter Amos Harel. Here’s what CAMERA had to say about Zamir:

Since, as Ha’aretz put it, Zamir “does not hide his political opinions,” it seems likely that his former students at the left-leaning Kibbutz-affiliated school knew what Zamir wanted to hear at the meeting, and that only a self-selected group attended. In any event, some of the attendees certainly did not disappoint Zamir, who had been imprisoned by the IDF in 1990 for refusing to serve in the West Bank. They recounted tales of “murder in cold blood,” including seemingly eyewitness accounts of a sniper shooting a woman and two of her children merely because they made a wrong turn, and another sniper killing an old woman.

Zamir wrote an article about the discussion for the academy’s newsletter, which he then provided to the Israeli newspapers Ha’aretz and Maariv, triggering in Ha’aretz alone multiple stories extremely critical of the Israeli army’s alleged conduct (here, here, here, here and here), as well as numerous stories in the foreign press, such as the New York Times, which put its initial report on page one above the fold (here and here). Both the Ha’aretz and the New York Times reports ignored detailed testimony by soldiers of exemplary conduct by the IDF, such as soldiers leaving an envelope of cash for the Palestinian homeowner whose house they had occupied.
(the complete article is here)

Now I’m going to repeat something that I wrote on February 6 in the article about al-Dura linked above. I can’t find a better way to say it:

Many important people in Israel have internalized the propaganda of Israel’s enemies. They are prepared to believe that IDF soldiers would continue to fire on a target like al-Dura and his father, who are obviously not firing back and not even armed, for 40 minutes. This is not the same as saying that ‘accidents happen’, it is agreeing that the IDF is either criminally negligent or deliberately murderous, which is what the Arab and European press constantly say.

It seems to me that some Israelis and Jews have a moral inferiority complex. Even though they would not admit this, deep down they are not sure that Israel has a right to exist. Although they understand intellectually that Israel is in a life and death struggle with the Arab world and Iran, emotionally there is a feeling that we are wrong.

I’ve often criticized people who seem prepared to believe anything bad about Israel, even if it doesn’t make sense, like the accusations that the IDF deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza.  Apparently many Israelis, even those that believe themselves to be Zionists, share this propensity.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

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Yes, the Armenians were victims of genocide

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Recently I’ve received some comments critical of my posts about the Armenian Genocide (there have been quite a few; you can search here). I have asserted that the events of 1915-17 do constitute genocide, and that Turkey should admit that a predecessor regime, the Ottoman Empire, is guilty thereof.

Start with the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) definition of ‘genocide’:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Did the Ottoman Turks do this to the Armenians in 1915-17?

Note that the following things are entirely irrelevant to this question:

  • If the Armenians living in the Ottoman empire were hostile to the Turks
  • If the Armenians collaborated with the Russians during WWI
  • If the Armenians were or are racist or antisemitic
  • If the Turks were or are friendly to Jews or Israel
  • Whether the Holocaust was ‘worse’ than what happened to the Armenians
  • If the Armenians ever committed massacres of their own
  • Whether partisans of either side are associated with right- or left-wing causes
  • Whether Hitler ever said “who remembers the Armenians?” (probably not)

We know — and most of those who disagree with calling the massacres ‘genocide’ agree — that hundreds of thousands died (estimates range from 300,000 to 1.5 million — Wikipedia). The question is, were they killed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such?”

This has two parts: was it aimed specifically at Armenians, as such (as opposed to, e.g., as revolutionaries),  and was there intent.

One way to determine if it was directed at Armenians qua Armenians is to ask if the victims included a great number of Armenians who were not in any sense combatants — e.g., children, old men, most women. And this was indeed the case, because entire Armenian populations were marched by foot over great distances, during which they died of hunger and disease, as well as deliberate murder. This is quite different from a non-genocidal massacre of political or war prisoners, for example.

There is a huge amount of similar eyewitness testimony to these events; to call it all “propaganda” is unreasonable.

What about intent? Clearly the meaning is the ‘intent’ of people who were in control of or made use of the mechanisms of the regime. So it could be argued that anti-Jewish pogroms in Czarist Russia were not actually genocidal, even though the regime was antisemitic, insofar as pogroms were initiated by local Jew-haters and not part of a coordinated policy promulgated by the regime.

In the case of the Armenians, laws calling for deportation and/or confiscation of property (for example, the Tehcir Law of 1915) were put into place and enforced by Turkish soldiers and police. The population displacement is thus seen to be a deliberate act of the regime, and not either local actions or a result of the disorder associated with war.

Even if the minimal estimate of Armenian deaths is accepted, it is still a substantial proportion of the population. It’s clear that Armenians were singled out because they were Armenians, and that the Armenians died as a direct result of orders and policies of the Ottoman regime and in particular the “Three Pashas“.

Therefore I conclude that the legal sense of the word ‘genocide’ is correctly applied in speaking of the Armenian Genocide.

Whether Jews ought to support Armenian political goals is another question, as is the appropriate attitude toward Turkey, whose new Islamist government is a reason for concern.

Note: like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s almost impossible to find historical material on the Armenian Genocide which is acceptable to both sides. I tried to base my argument only on generally agreed-upon historical facts.

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Info-war crimes

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Developments in the info-war:

IDF soldiers used an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza, a group of UN human rights experts said Monday. The army ordered the boy to walk in front of soldiers being fired on in the Gaza neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa and enter buildings before them, said the UN secretary-general’s envoy for protecting children in armed conflict.

Radhika Coomaraswamy said the incident on Jan. 15, after IDF tanks had rolled into the neighborhood, was a violation of Israeli and international law. It was included in a 43-page report published Monday, and was just one of many verified human rights atrocities during the three-week war between Israel and Hamas that ended Jan. 18, she said. Coomaraswamy accused IDF soldiers of shooting Palestinian children, bulldozing a home with a woman and child still inside, and shelling a building they had ordered civilians into a day earlier. — Jerusalem Post

Although I have so far been unable to find the actual report, one wonders exactly how the UN ‘verified’ the above stories. Did they just take Hamas’ word for it?

The war-crimes frenzy is even worse than I had imagined it could get, with every accusation — no matter how absurd — getting headlines in a gleeful anti-Israel press.

Meanwhile, at least 45 Qassam or Grad rockets have hit Israel so far this month, in a real, verifiable, honest-to-goodness war crime — one which seems to have gone completely unreported in the press.

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Moving toward Hamas?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Caroline Glick, today:

Today Hamas stands on the cusp of international acceptance. It may take a week or a month or a year, but today Hamas stands where Fatah and the PLO stood in the late 1980s. The genocidal jihadist terror group is but a step away from an invitation to the Oval Office…

…last Saturday, The Boston Globe reported that Paul Volcker, who serves as President Barack Obama’s economic recovery adviser, and several former senior US officials have written a letter to Obama calling for the US to recognize Hamas. As one of the signatories, Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser under president George H.W. Bush, explained, “I see no reason not to talk to Hamas.”

Scowcroft further argued, “The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process. Don’t move it to end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the US needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down.”

Congressional sources claim that Obama has selected Scowcroft to replace Chas Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

This last, if it turns out to be true,  is in one way shocking — Scowcroft, if anything, is even more anti-Israel than Freeman — and in another way unsurprising. After all, what did you think would be the reaction to a perceived defeat by the pernicious ‘Israel Lobby’?

But leaving this aside, Glick’s worries about a coming recognition of Hamas are very, very troubling. She continues,

The US and Europe said they would recognize Hamas if it announced that it forswore terror, accepted Israel’s right to exist, and committed itself to carrying out previous agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. The Americans and the Europeans undoubtedly viewed these conditions as a low bar to cross. After all, the PLO crossed it.

The West’s conditions were given with a wink and a nod. Everyone understood that the only thing it wanted was for Hamas to say the magic words. They didn’t have to be true. If Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh would just tell the US and Europe what they wanted to hear, all would be forgiven. Hamas – like the PLO before it – would be removed from the US and European terror lists. Billions would pour into the bank accounts of Hamas leaders in Gaza and Damascus. The CIA might even agree to train its terror forces.

It is obvious that all that the West wanted was for Hamas to lie to it, because that is all it ever required from the PLO. After Yasser Arafat said the magic words, the Americans and the Europeans were only too happy to ignore the fact that he was lying…

But Hamas, despite the urging of ‘pragmatists’ like Mahmoud Dahlan — read Glick’s whole piece, it’s good — won’t even pretend to find any outcome short of Israel’s destruction acceptable.

Here’s more about the letter to Obama, from the Boston Globe (linked above):

The bipartisan group, which includes economic recovery adviser Paul A. Volcker and former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, made the recommendation in a letter handed to Obama days before he took office, according to Scowcroft.

The group is preparing to meet this weekend to decide when to release a report outlining a proposed US agenda for talks aimed at bringing all Palestinian factions into the Mid east peace process, according to Henry Siegman, the president of the US/Middle East Project, who brought the former officials together and said the White House promised the group an opportunity to make its case in person to Obama.

Siegman said the letter, which was handed to Obama by Volcker but has not been made public, said the administration should “at least explore the possibility” that Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian territory of Gaza after elections in 2006, might be willing to transition into a purely political party and join with its rival, Fatah, which holds the Palestinian presidency in the West Bank. [! — ed.]

We know our friend Zbig, but who is Henry Siegman? A guy with a long history of Israel-bashing, of course, but look at this:

It turns out that much of the funding for the Council’s “U.S./Middle East Project” comes from overseas, including the European Commission, the government of Norway, Kuwaiti and Saudi businessmen, a Lebanese politician, and, for one year, an official of the commercial arm of the Palestinian Authority, Munib Masri.

Mr. Siegman tells us that his views have been consistent over his career and that his project’s funding sources — which he points out are a matter of public record — haven’t influenced his opinions. — NY Sun, 2005

Siegman, who is an Orthodox rabbi, escaped the Holocaust when his family fled Germany for Belgium when he was three years old. He was the Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978-1994. He claims that his experiences as a child gave rise to his understanding of the ‘plight of the Palestinians’. Right.

The increasingly evident influence on the Obama Administration by people who could reasonably be called anti-Israel or worse — Brzezinski, Scowcroft and others — has me worried. You should be, too.

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Speaking about releasing prisoners

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Jonathan PollardSpeaking about releasing prisoners, what about Jonathan Pollard?

I can’t possibly do justice to the story in a short post, but in a nutshell:

In his job as a naval intelligence analyst, Pollard provided classified information to Israel for several years, culminating in his arrest in 1985. What happened next was a “monumental miscarriage of justice” in the words of professors Angelo Codevilla, Irwin Cotler, Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Lasson:

First, Pollard was never charged with nor convicted of the crime of treason. Nor was there anything in his indictment to suggest he intended harm to America — or that he compromised the nation’s intelligence-gathering capabilities or caused injury to any of its agents.

Second, in lieu of a trial, the government entered into a plea agreement under which it promised not to seek life imprisonment in return for Pollard’s cooperation. The Justice Department acknowledged in court that he had cooperated fully. Nevertheless, chief prosecutor Joseph DiGenova said immediately after sentencing he hoped Pollard “never sees the light of day.”

Third, Pollard was sentenced on the basis of private statements to the judge that, for all anyone knows, may be lies. The secretary of defense (then Caspar Weinberger) presented the court with a secret memorandum that has never been subject to cross examination. Later he told the press that Pollard was one of the worst traitors in American history. But where’s the evidence?

Pollard received a life sentence, compared to an average sentence of seven years for others convicted of spying for allies.

There have been allegations that Pollard gave information to other governments, that Pollard was responsible for the exposure of US agents in the Soviet Union or the compromise of undersea cables, that Pollard gave away codes. None of this is true; those responsible were Aldrich Ames, John Walker and others. And certainly, none of this was part of the indictment.

Angelo Codevilla believes (see his bio here) that Pollard, a low-level analyst, primarily gave Israel satellite photos of Middle Eastern locales, intelligence which the US had been providing until it was cut off after Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. One use which Israel made of Pollard’s data was to bomb the PLO headquarters in Tunisia in 1985.

So why a life sentence? And why was he kept in solitary confinement for seven years, at the Federal Prison in Marion, Il., which at that time was a ‘supermax’ prison holding the most dangerous and desperate inmates?

There is only one possible explanation, which is that Pollard possesses embarrassing information. Here is what Codevilla suggested in a 1999 interview:

QUESTION: That leads to the next question, what was Caspar Weinberger’s motive in presenting to the judge a false memorandum?

CODEVILLA: This is the most interesting of questions, and it comes down to this: embarrassment over a dumb, failed policy, and moreover a policy in which he had a personal interest. The policy was building up Iraq, a policy to which Weinberger and much of the rest of the U.S. government sacrificed true American interests during the 1980s. Up until the very eve of the Gulf War the U.S. Government was still incredulous that Saddam Hussein would play anything other than the role which the best and the brightest of the Reagan and Bush administrations had assigned him…

CODEVILLA: … The main thing is we permitted, licensed and financed large American corporations to build plants [in Iraq], and we encouraged large European countries to build plants there. The infrastructure that is being bombed right now in Iraq and which was bombed during the Gulf War, is mostly American-built, financed, or licensed. Now we get to the deeply and personally embarrassing part. One of the companies involved was Bechtel, with whom Caspar Weinberger and George Schultz, Secretaries of Defense and State, had close personal relations.

QUESTION: How was this company involved?

CODEVILLA: They built one of the factories that later on made chemical weapons. Now, what is Jonathan Pollard’s role in all of this? He gave to Israel U.S. satellite pictures of these factories, together with U.S. intelligence assessments of what these factories were doing. These pictures and intelligence assessments contradicted what the U.S. government was officially telling Israel. So the Israelis were coming to America, and in official meetings were calling people like Weinberger liars, which of course these officials did not appreciate.

Weinberger was a director and General Counsel of Bechtel from 1975 until President Reagan chose him as Secretary of Defense in 1981, a post he held until 1987. Weinberger, despite his name, was not Jewish by any but Hitler’s criteria, having a paternal grandfather who abandoned Judaism — a fact about which he was reportedly ‘tense’. He died in 2006.

Israel formally agreed that Pollard was an Israeli agent in 1998. Over the 24 years that Pollard has been imprisoned, there have been several times at which it was thought that he might be released: as part of the Wye River agreement, or by executive clemency by Presidents Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II (Clinton did manage to free a Jew, fugitive financier Marc Rich).

Now there is yet another new administration, and it’s time to ask: After 24 years, is it not possible to examine the facts and the handling of this case, and consider letting this man, who has almost certainly been treated unjustly, go free?

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Hang them, don’t trade them

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

News item:

Among the proposals that the committee is expected to discuss, and which are to be brought to Sunday’s cabinet meeting, measures to make the conditions in Israeli jails for Hamas prisoners more difficult, including restricting visitation rights, phone and telephone [sic] access, and newspaper and television privileges, and perhaps depriving them of electricity at night. The rationale behind this would be to make the conditions facing the Hamas prisoners somehow similar to Schalit’s. — Jerusalem Post

Keep in mind that some of these prisoners — whose release is demanded by Hamas for Gilad Schalit — include the terrorist masterminds of the Park Hotel Passover Seder massacre (30 dead), the Cafe Moment bombing (11 dead), the Sbarro Pizza bombing (15 dead) and more. Many more.

Two of the prisoners are Abdallah Barghouti and Ahlam Tamimi, arrested for the Sbarro atrocity:

Several Hamas members were subsequently captured by the authorities, tried, convicted and imprisoned. The suicide bomber…was escorted to the restaurant by Ahlam Tamimi, a 20-year-old female university student and part-time journalist, who had disguised herself as a Jewish tourist for the occasion. Ahlam Tamimi was sentenced to 16 life terms. She later commented that “I am not sorry for what I did” and does not recognize Israel’s existence. The person who constructed the explosives was a man named Abdallah Barghouti. For his part in this and a string of other attacks, in which 66 civilians were killed, he was handed down 67 life sentences in 30 November 2004. — Wikipedia

They are allowed to watch television? To receive visitors and talk on the telephone?

Any other country in the world would have put them to death; US domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was executed (and quite speedily, by US standards — only five years after his offense).

I cannot understand why Israel does not charge these mass murderers with crimes against humanity and hang them. Objectively, they are only different from Adolf Eichmann in degree. Their goal, as Hamas members, is no less genocidal.

Is it because someone believes that they are actually political prisoners, that there is something to the Hamas point of view? Is it because someone believes that, while they are murderers, one can understand their need to murder?

Get over it. If the question of justice is not sufficient motivation, then maybe the practical considerations of holding these creatures so that they can be released in return for kidnapped Israelis should be taken into account. Here’s what Tamimi said about her prospects:

“Hamas has principles in connection with discussion with Israel,” she said. “Hamas wants to reach accomplishments without giving up on Palestine. I’m not sorry for what I did. I will get out of prison and I refuse to recognize Israel’s existence. Discussions will only take place after Israel recognizes that this is Islamic land. Despite the fact that I’m sentenced to 16 life sentences I know that we will become free from Israeli occupation and then I will also be free from the prison” — YNet

Hang them.

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