Archive for May, 2009

“Israel is an abomination”, say ‘activists’

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

This afternoon I attended the “Free Gaza” presentation at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fresno, the presentation that I wrote about last week (“Pro-Hamas activists to speak in Fresno“). About 50 people, mostly church members, attended.

Donna and Darlene Wallach

I stood at the door before the event and handed out flyers, which read in part:

The speakers today will tell you that they are fighting for the Palestinian people. But their actual goal is to assist the genocidal Hamas organization.

The Gaza Strip is currently ruled by Hamas (The Islamic Resistance Movement) which took control of the area from the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup in 2007.

Hamas’ reason for being is to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. Its methods are the most violent possible. Since 2000, Hamas has murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians by bombings, shootings and rocket and mortar attacks.

The ‘occupation’ they talk about is the ‘occupation’ that began with Israel’s creation in 1948, not the 1967 war.

The so-called Free Gaza Movement is part of a propaganda apparatus which tries to portray the Iranian-financed proxy war being fought against Israel by Hamas and other extremist groups as a human rights issue. It is not – it is an asymmetric war in which the concept of human rights is cynically used by some of the world’s most intolerant, hateful extremists to try to prevent Israel from defending herself.

What you will hear and see today will be a combination of exaggerations, lies, and – most importantly – partial facts presented without context.

I followed this with some excerpts from the Hamas Covenant, so everyone would know who Hamas is.

The presentation was strange, sort of a throwback to a 1950s anti-communist B-movie. The room was festooned with Palestinian flags, the lectern draped with a keffiya. Donna and Darlene were, if anything, more robotic and humorless than their picture  suggests.

It began with two music videos, one sort of lyrical, praising the courage of the Palestinian people and predicting their ultimate triumph (in nonspecific terms), the other a hip-hop rant:

Israel is a terrorist state!

Free Palestine!

Free Palestine!

Donna and Darlene then proceeded for one hour and 45 minutes to do exactly what I had predicted in my flyer. Mostly they provided partial facts without context. For example, they showed a video of an Israeli patrol boat firing into the water near a Palestinian fishing boat and finally dousing it with a water cannon. Just an example of the sadistic Israelis torturing the poor fishermen, they said.

Clearly the explanation was that the Palestinians were testing the limits, and the Israelis were (non-lethally) enforcing them. But the limits are imposed “in order to deny them a livelihood”, they insist. No, there are limits because otherwise the fishing boats will smuggle weapons, explosives and terrorist operatives into Gaza.

Everything that Israel did was presented as motivated by a desire to torture, starve, humiliate and perpetrate a genocide on the Palestinians — as if there could be no other reason for these actions, no history of Palestinian (and particularly Hamas) terrorism against Israel, no need for security measures.

They took questions.

I asked how they — Jews themselves — came to adopt the Palestinian cause. Donna told me that she had lived some time in Israel and was shocked by the racist attitudes of Jews toward Arabs. Palestinians, she said, were different, they were not racists, not full of hatred, they were reacting in the only way an oppressed people can.

Not racists? Tell it to the ones who yelled itbach al yahud [slaughter the Jews] when they lynched the Israeli reservists who got lost in Ramallah in 2001. Not full of hatred? What else can you call it when you swing an ax at an Israeli child because he is an Israeli (or a Jew)?

A local rabbi spoke for about one minute — while a Palestinian woman tried to shout him down — and asked whether they would have supported the 1947 UN partition resolution. Should there be a Jewish state at all?

“No,” Darlene said. “Israel is an abomination.”

Update [3 Jun 0721 PDT]:

Apparently it is not only in Fresno where Unitarian Universalist churches provide a venue for radical anti-Israel and even antisemitic expression. See this report by BlueTruth about the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists for an even worse example.

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The US squeezes Israel — for nothing

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

What’s the big deal about freezing “settlement activity”? Israel is only talking about building within the boundaries of existing settlements, and most of these ‘settlements’ are in East Jerusalem or right on the Green Line. It’s hard to imagine how this can be a practical impediment to a peace agreement.

Yet the Palestinians are insisting that there can be no discussion until such activity stops, and multiple American spokespersons have made it clear that the US also takes this issue very seriously. Why?

From the Palestinian point of view it’s simple. First, it’s a great talking point. They can say “Israel refuses to stop building settlements, so they are not serious about peace”. The distinction between building homes in Gilo (between West Jerusalem and Bethlehem) and colonizing a hilltop in Samaria is lost on the media, but they are more than ready to conclude that Israel is the real obstacle to peace if given an excuse.

Second, if the Americans can be persuaded to go along it could be a weapon against the Netanyahu government:

Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze — if he did, his center-right coalition would almost certainly collapse. So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. “It will take a couple of years,” one official breezily predicted. — Jackson Diehl, Washington Post

Netanyahu was pushed from power in a similar way during his first term as Prime Minister (1996-1999), when American demands  led him to concede control of Hebron and to sign the Wye River Agreement promising further concessions to the Palestinians. The consequent erosion in support from his base was part of the reason he was defeated by Ehud Barak.

But the interesting question is “why are the Americans pushing so hard?” Some possible answers:

  • They also want Netanyahu out. But Obama can’t wait the interminable months for a new Israeli government to be up and running, so I doubt this.
  • They want to put pressure on Netanyahu short of bringing him down. They know he can’t accept a freeze so they can use it as a bargaining point to get something else.
  • They have promised other Arab nations — Saudi Arabia comes to mind — that they will make ‘progress’ on the settlement issue.

What is frustrating to me is the energy being expended by the US over the non-issue of a settlement between Israel and the increasingly irrelevant Palestinian Authority.

The real issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict are the huge military threats from the Hezbollah and Syrian rocket stockpiles, the popularity of Hamas among Palestinians, and of course the ever-spinning Iranian centrifuges.

All of these come down to one: Iran’s project to eliminate the Jewish state.

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No right of return: in principle as well as practice

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Jackson Diehl, Washington Post:

In our meeting Wednesday, Abbas acknowledged that Olmert had shown him a map proposing a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank — though he complained that the Israeli leader refused to give him a copy of the plan. He confirmed that Olmert “accepted the principle” of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees — something no previous Israeli prime minister had done — and offered to resettle thousands in Israel. In all, Olmert’s peace offer was more generous to the Palestinians than either that of Bush or Bill Clinton; it’s almost impossible to imagine Obama, or any Israeli government, going further.

Abbas turned it down. “The gaps were wide,” he said.

The idea that Israel could “accept the principle” of  “right of return” but somehow not allow it in practice is a popular one. Proponents say that this would allow Palestinian leaders to save face among their constituency while still agreeing to a deal that Israel will accept.

This is one of those issues — like whether Israel should demand recognition as a Jewish state — that looks to some like a verbal quibble with no practical consequences. Why not agree (assuming that Palestinians would as well) and move forward?

Actually, like the question of the Jewishness of the state it is of supreme importance and Israel must never agree to anything like it.

To “accept the principle” means to accept the following:

  • Israel is responsible for the creation of the refugees — despite the fact that the Palestinian Arabs started (and the Arab nations continued) the war that resulted in the flight of 700,000 refugees.
  • Israel is responsible for the condition of today’s ‘refugees’ — despite the fact that the Arab nations (and to some extent the UN) have turned the original refugees into almost 5 million claimants of refugee status who have not been resettled.
  • Israel was born in injustice, which must be reversed — Other refugees who fled their homes as a result of war (or even persecution or expulsion, like the 850,000 Jews from Arab countries who became refugees beginning in 1948) can be resettled, but Palestinian Arab refugees must ‘return’, because Israel must reverse the Nakba (catastrophe) it visited upon them.

In other words, ‘accepting the principle’ means accepting the entire Arab narrative of the conflict, in which Israel bears all of the guilt. Only after an abject confession will the aggrieved Arabs be prepared to permit her to continue to exist (for a while, anyway).

As a commenter on my previous post mentioned, this is closely related to the Arab refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state. The principle of ‘right of return’ implies that the refugees, not the Jews, are the actual “owners” of the land.  So just as the Palestinians will not compromise on one, they will not compromise on the other. And as I pointed out, if Israel does not belong to the Jewish people, why is there a state of Israel at all?

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The demand for recognition is essential

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Uriel Heilman said,

There is something of the absurd in the recent flurry of activity in Israel to ensure that it is recognized as a Jewish state…

Is Israel so insecure about its identity that it needs others, particularly its adversaries, the Palestinians, to tell it what kind of a country it is? If Israel wants to be a Jewish state, let it be so. It shouldn’t need anyone else to affirm it. Israel should worry more about its own citizens, Arab and haredi, who have a problem with its self-declared identity.

On the contrary, it is not only not absurd, it is absolutely essential.

The Arabs and others who refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — or, in another formulation, as the state of the Jewish People — do so because they refuse to admit that there is a Jewish people.

Here are some Palestinian comments made last month in response to PM Netanyahu’s  statement that there would be no progress in talks with Palestinians until they recognized Israel as a Jewish state:

Omar al-Ghul, an adviser to PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, said that Netanyahu’s demand was aimed at transferring the Palestinians to another country.

“No Palestinian leader can ever accept this demand even if the whole world recognizes Israel as a Jewish state,” he stressed. “The state of Israel belongs to all its citizens, the Palestinians [sic] owners of the land and the Jews living there.”

Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA’s daily mouthpiece, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, said that Netanyahu’s demand was aimed at expelling the Arab citizens of Israel and turning Jerusalem into a Jewish city.

“Netanyahu wants to replace the Palestinian kaffiyeh with a Jewish kippa,” Barghouti said. “This is an irrational and absurd request. No country in the world has ever demanded that it be recognized on the basis of its religion and not political entity.” (my emphasis)

Palestinians have been consistent in their insistence that ‘Jews’ means ‘practitioners of the Jewish religion’ and nothing else. If there were no Jewish People, this would be very convenient for the Palestinians, because it would indeed make no sense for a ‘religion’ to ask for a state. Zionism, which demands self-determination for the Jewish People, would be meaningless. By denying that there is a Jewish people, the Arabs are denying Jewish self-determination.

Unfortunately for the Palestinian Arabs — whose own claim to peoplehood is far more tenuous — there is a history and tradition of the Jewish People over thousands of years.  19th-century Zionists, many of whom (including Herzl) were entirely secular, called for a Jewish state to solve the historical problems facing Jews — religious and secular — living among other peoples. The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate, the UN Partition Resolution and Israel’s Declaration of Independence — not to mention the practical self-defense of Israel since then — all declare that there must be a homeland for the Jewish People.

We need to understand the Palestinian position in the context of all of their demands, including ‘right of return’. Practically speaking, what it means when Palestinians deny a Jewish People is that they see Israel as just another Middle Eastern state, which happens to be under the control of Jewish colonialists. But of course the real ‘owners’ will ultimately repossess it.

As long as they do not accept Israel as a Jewish state — a state of the Jewish People — they continue to claim it, and to assert the right to ‘resist’ its ‘unjust’ occupation.

This is actually the first thing needed for peace: an unambiguous admission that we have a right to be here. The rest would be a matter of details.

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The Scuds of 1991 and Jewish self-defense

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Iraqi Scud explodes in Tel Aviv

Iraqi Scud explodes in Tel Aviv

In January and February of 1991, 38 Iraqi Scud missiles landed in Israel (four others fell short and landed in the West Bank). The bombardment started on January 18, when Tel Aviv and Haifa were hit by 8 Scuds, and continued for several weeks. Six missiles fell in the Negev, apparently aimed at the nuclear reactor in Dimona. All of the Scuds had conventional warheads, although Saddam had previously used Scuds with chemical warheads in his war with Iran. The Scuds were of Soviet design, based on the German V-2 developed for Hitler by Werner von Braun.

Israelis put on gas masks and huddled in sealed rooms during the attacks. Only one Israeli was killed directly (this has been termed ‘miraculous’), but “15 died of heart attacks, suffocation in their gas masks or reaction to a chemical-weapon antidote that some took in a panic” [Time]. There was great fear of chemical attacks, especially since the Scuds’ propulsion system used red fuming nitric acid as an oxidizer, which was extremely irritating when inhaled or on the skin.

The Bush I administration requested (i.e., ordered) Israel not to take any military action against Iraq, because the presence of Israel would damage the anti-Saddam ‘coalition’ that included such countries as Syria, the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. Of course the lion’s share of the actual fighting was done by Western nations, particularly the US.

In other words:

Saddam invaded Kuwait and directly threatened Saudi Arabia. The US and other Western nations, with token ‘participation’ by some Arabs (Saudi Arabia committed the most forces, but was little help) liberated Kuwait and defended Saudi Arabia. Because of Arab sensibilities, Israel was told to hold still and absorb what — but for incredible luck or divine intervention, take your pick — could have been a catastrophic attack.

What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with a situation in which the Jewish state, which was created and maintained at great cost, in part so that the Jewish people would no longer experience pogroms or worse, was prevented from acting in self-defense — because the Arabs’ rejectionist ‘honor’ apparently was more important to Bush I than Jewish lives?

Like the 1930’s when the British chose to restrict Jewish immigration into Palestine and to condemn hundreds of thousands of European Jews that might have been saved rather than annoy the Arabs, we know that our concerns are not the same as those of the great powers. But that’s why we Jews have — or thought we had — a sovereign state.

The US promised to take care of the Scuds for Israel. They deployed highly ineffective Patriot missiles and flew numerous sorties into  Iraq, including intensive B-52 bombing raids, with little or no results. The mobile missile launchers were elusive and could be set up and fired quickly.

Part of the problem was that in the beginning, Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. Army general who ran the war, underestimated the Scud. After all, the crude, 40-ft. Soviet-designed missile, which is in the arsenals of some 25 nations, has a bull’s-eye a mile across. Schwarzkopf called it a “mosquito” that was “clumsy and obsolete.” He resisted sending commandos into Iraq to hunt down the Scuds. — Time

He was probably sorry on February 25, when an army barracks in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, was hit by a Scud, killing 25 Americans and wounding over 100.

The situation today is somewhat parallel. The US is saying to Israel, “Trust us, we’ll take care of Iran”, although it is doubtful that the US has the means to do so diplomatically or the will to do so militarily.  And in no uncertain terms Israel has been told, “there will be big trouble” if it acts unilaterally. Not only that, but by refusing to sell certain weapons and systems to Israel, the US has even damaged Israel’s ability to threaten or deter Iran from attacking Israel, directly or by proxy.

The difference is that today many Arab nations would be happy to see Israel  attack the Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. It is primarily the US and Europe, worried about Iran’s ability to create disturbances in the oil supply, who are obstructing Israel’s right to self-defense.

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Abbas Zaki, Zionist

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Abbas ZakiI love this guy. Abbas Zaki is a member of the Fatah central committee and the PLO representative in Lebanon. He understands the importance of Zionism, and unlike his boss Mahmoud Abbas, he likes to speak clearly about Fatah goals and principles.

When you examine the statements that follow, please note that he represents the ‘moderate’ Palestinian wing that the US is arming and funding in the name of ‘peace’ and a two-state solution (all boldface emphasis was added by the Editor).

— April 2008: On the use of violence and PLO policy

We believe wholeheartedly that the Right of Return is guaranteed by our will, by our weapons, and by our faith…The use of weapons alone will not bring results, and the use of politics without weapons will not bring results. We act on the basis of our extensive experience. We analyze our situation carefully. We know what climate leads to victory and what climate leads to suicide. We talk politics, but our principles are clear. It was our pioneering leader, Yasser Arafat, who persevered with this revolution, when empires collapsed. Our armed struggle has been going on for 43 years, and the political struggle, on all levels, has been going on for 50 years. We harvest U.N. resolutions, and we shame the world so that it doesn’t gang up on us, because the world is led by people who have given their brains a vacation – the American administration and the neocons…

The PLO is the sole legitimate representative [of the Palestinian people], and it has not changed its platform even one iota. In light of the weakness of the Arab nation and the lack of values, and in light of the American control over the world, the PLO proceeds through phases, without changing its strategy. Let me tell you, when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Israeli ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine. — MEMRI

— July 2008: On Yasser Arafat’s Oslo intentions, help for Hamas rockets

When the Palestinian Authority returned to Gaza [in 1994], Hamas did not have even 20 guns, weapons, and Fatah did not have even 100 guns. Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat], Allah’s mercy upon him, flooded everybody with weapons, and sent our experts to produce missiles and weapons for whoever who wanted to fight.

One of our people, General Abd Al-Mu’ti Al-Sab’awi, was martyred when he was making a rocket for them and it went off. He was developing missiles for them. Unfortunately, they [Hamas] have turned their backs on us now. — IMRA

— May 2009: On the two-state solution, Jerusalem and Zionism

With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward. — IMRA

Finally, in case the Obama Administration has not noticed:

— November 2008: on Israel and the US, and the honesty of Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas Zaki: “We consider the U.S. to be an enemy because its only strategic alliance is with Israel...”

Interviewer: “Israel ceased being an enemy once you signed a peace treaty with it. I don’t know how it could be your enemy. Do you talk to the Israelis as if they were your enemies? Do you talk to Israel as a friendly or enemy country?”

Abbas Zaki: “An enemy country, which owes us certain things. The heroic Vietnamese used to negotiate with the French, while they were slaughtering them.

Interviewer: “I can assure you that in his speeches, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] says the U.S. is a friendly country.”

Abbas Zaki: “Well, this isn’t true. Perhaps Abu Mazen, in his position, needs to use diplomatic language, but he is the greatest critic of the U.S.”  — IMRA

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Lessons of recent wars

Monday, May 25th, 2009

(Updated 2114 PDT)

I’ve recently been reading Anthony Cordesman’s  “Lessons of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah War”. There are many lessons, and the performance of the IDF in Gaza last winter showed that it has learned several of the technical ones.

But one of the things Cordesman emphasizes is the need to pay as much attention to the information war that is fought in the world’s media parallel to the military one.

In particular he says that,

Israel fought its media battle largely in terms of an effort to influence its own political parties and public as well as its strongest outside supporters. Its information operations were parochial and were based on the assumption that it could not alter the perception of Arab, European, and other neutral and hostile media [p. 40].

He discusses what he considers the overriding importance of minimizing civilian casualties and damage, as well as justifying the use of force and the degree of force used. He calls for real-time response to inaccurate reports of collateral damage and atrocity stories, but also an entirely new way of fighting aimed as much at not hurting civilians as it is at killing the enemy.

Cordesman suggests that the information war is important because wars are fought to attain political objectives. If you defeat your enemy in every battle but the political situation after the war has not improved, you have failed. And the information aspect may have as much or more effect on the political outcome of a war as the actual fighting.

There is no doubt in my mind that these considerations were taken very seriously by decision-makers in the government and the IDF before the recent Gaza war. Absolutely unprecedented efforts were made to warn civilians away from targets before they were bombed; the IDF spokesperson’s office implemented a video blog that very effectively showed how weapons were hidden in mosques and rockets were fired from schoolyards. Although there were some failures — Palestinian casualty figures were disputed but inadequate documentation was provided, sometimes responses were agonizingly slow, etc. — there was a huge improvement since 2006.

And yet…

Israel’s information defeat in the Gaza war was total. Where there were PR failures, they were exploited. Where there were not, Israeli-provided information was simply ignored. The IDF spokesperson’s video blog wasn’t even close to a match for Al-Jazeerah (it didn’t help that Israel was trying to present verifiable facts and the other side just made things up).

It might even be the case that Israel’s hesitancy about the political consequences of its actions was partly responsible for the way the war stalled without entering ‘phase 3′, the deep penetration into the Hamas strongholds in Gaza City, which might have been successful in eliminating Hamas as a military threat. In other words, Israel might have taken PR concerns too seriously, to the point of failing to achieve important objectives.

Israel really is in a special situation in the world, completely isolated politically from so many other nations and at a PR disadvantage after years of continuous vilification by a multiplicity of enemies. What Israel actually does may not matter at this point. Cordesman asssumes that the propaganda battle can be won, both by changing the way the army fights and by improved PR techniques. But what if he’s wrong? Then the very attempt to win the information war works against the effort to win the military one.

Part of the strategy of asymmetric war is to take advantage of a modern army’s need to pull punches for political/information reasons. A force like the IDF is thus forced to fight on the level of Hezbollah or Hamas. But if the propaganda battle is essentially unwinnable, maybe the way to win such wars is to ignore the PR considerations and apply overwhelming force; to play to one’s strength and the enemy’s weakness. It seems to have worked for the regime in Sri Lanka.

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Responsibility for ending conflict lies with Palestinians

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

The responsibility for ending the conflict with the Palestinians does not lie with Israel.

How can it when the most popular political party among Palestinians is Hamas, whose founding document calls for killing Jews and which contains language from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

How can it when the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership, the official representative of the Palestinian people to the world insists that there is no Jewish people and refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

How can it when every time Israel withdraws from occupied territories, the response is war and terrorism?

How can it when Hamas, the PA and their allies don’t let up for a moment in their barrage of hateful antisemitic propaganda, lies about Israel and incitement to violence against Jews and Israel?

How can it when negotiations go nowhere because the PA won’t compromise on borders — insisting on “not one millimeter less” than the the boundaries established by the 19-year Jordanian occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, an occupation that began when the Jordanians killed or drove out every last Jew in the area — nor on a right of ‘return’ to Israel for millions of hostile descendants of 1948 refugees, an unprecedented ‘solution’ to the problem they and their allies created, which by the way would end the Jewish state?

How can it when in 2007 70% of Palestinian Muslims viewed suicide bombing as sometimes or often justified? When 76% of Palestinians have a favorable view of Hezbollah (Pew survey, 7/24/07)? And when 77% of Palestinians say that “the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists” (Pew survey, 6/27/07)?

But the US acts as though it does.

The Obama administration has, as far as we know, not made any demands on the Palestinians. It has not demanded that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state — although Prime Minister Netanyahu mentioned this in his recent meeting with President Obama. It has not insisted that the Palestinians stop their antisemitic incitement. It has not told the Palestinians that the ‘right of return’  is off the table, although Obama has suggested in the past that in his view this is impractical. It has not even fulfilled its promise to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — even though the seat of government is in undisputed West Jerusalem.

No, what the Obama administration has done is to demand that Israel stop construction of homes in existing settlements, even those which are neighborhoods of East Jerusalem that any reasonable border compromise would place in Israel.

And let us not forget that — even before they officially took power — Obama’s people forced a premature end to the Gaza war, saving Hamas and thus ensuring that the peaceful “two-state solution” it calls for cannot be implemented!

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Logic, facts and history washed away in hate

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Some loosely related thoughts for today:

Someone recently said that the way to tell the difference between criticism of Israeli policy and antisemitism is to watch for the froth at the corners of the speaker’s mouth.

Here is an example of a comment on a NY Times op-ed by Roger Cohen. It is chosen almost entirely at random; there are thousands more like this. The first sentence is a quote from Cohen, and the commenter has supplied the transition to antisemitic ranting:

One view of Israel’s continued expansion of settlements, Gaza blockade, West Bank walling-in and wanton recourse to high-tech force would be that it’s designed precisely to bludgeon, undermine and humiliate the Palestinian people until their dreams of statehood and dignity evaporate! This is not a view! This is official, blatant, arrogant Israeli policy since before America blundered into allowing these Zionist to steal these lands. murder these peoples, and prevent any peace in Palestine! Few of these Jews are victims or children of Nazi or even Russian atrocities; but all are dedicated Zionists with a single goal of stealing back the lands their God of blood and genocide gave to his chosen people; chosen to kill it seems!

Logic is not relevant to the special case of Israel. It’s all about hating.

By the way, have you noticed that the Nigerian army is — right now — slaughtering civilians in the Niger Delta? Or that at least 80,000 people have been killed in the 26-year Tamil Tiger intifada, which has finally been put down by the Sri Lankan army operating with little regard for collateral damage. These events are being reported, but without the ranting, and any outrage will be gone by next week.

Another phenomenon of the treatment meted out to the Jew among nations is a willingness to believe all Palestinian stories, which cannot be refuted once told, like the one that Israel bombarded a school and  killed 42 innocents inside (when actually only 12 people were killed, outside the school, and 9 of them were confirmed Hamas fighters). Or the oft-quoted Palestinian figures for civilian casualties in the Strip, perhaps four times too high.

Facts, too, can be ignored in this special case. Certainly they will be next week when the ‘Eyewitness Gaza activists‘  come to town to describe the entirely manufactured ‘siege of Gaza’.

In some ways even worse than lies about current events is the falsification of history, the deliberate attempt to wipe out Jewish provenance and rights in the land of  Israel. Our rabid anti-Zionist friends eat this stuff up: the Palestinians are said to be descended from the biblical Canaanites (instead of mostly from people who migrated to the region in the 19th and early 20th centuries), there was no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and today’s Jews are actually Khazars anyway. Sheer nonsense, but nonsense designed to erode Jewish political rights today.

A good example is the entirely unjustified Palestinian claim that any part of the land that was under Jordanian control from 1948-1967 belongs to them, and any Jewish presence there is a ‘settlement’ that must be extirpated:

…the Palestinians consider that “East Jerusalem” is also part of the “occupied territory.” That includes not only the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, but also the cemetery in Mt Olives and the Old City Jewish quarter, from which Jews were ethnically cleansed in 1948 (See Ethnic Cleansing of Jerusalem. It also includes areas that were formerly border areas and no-mans land such as the Ramat Eshkol Area. The disputes over the places where the settlement freeze applies will de facto create a consensus about what might be annexed to Israel and what belongs to the Palestinians. So we have to ask, if the Palestinians will raise a ruckus when a Jew dies and wants to be buried in Mt. Olives Cemetery, or when Israel wants to add some buildings to the Hebrew University campus on Mt. Scopus, or build in the Ramat Eshkol area or French Hill or other such neighborhoods.

More important, we should be asking if any such activities will bring down the wrath of Hillary Clinton on the Israeli government. Regarding the Palestinians, we do not have to ask, as we already know the answer. The Palestinians will fight for every millimeter that was under Jordanian sovereignty for the precious 19 years between 1948 and 1967 that in retrospect were turned into a sacrosanct period in international law. They are busy building an “alternative narrative” in which no Jews ever lived in Jerusalem prior to 1967.  — Ami Isseroff

This stuff, as well as the atrocity stories and even the antisemitism, all works its way into common discourse and becomes conventional wisdom. Logic, facts and history — all three dishonored.

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The Deserving

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

News item:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters Tuesday that she reiterated the U.S. government’s commitment to a two-state solution and its demand that Israel halt construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“Underlying that commitment is the conviction that the Palestinians deserve a viable state…”

An interesting concept, to deserve a state.  Other groups also say they deserve a state. The Kurds, for example, but nobody seems interested in giving them one. Possibly some Francophone Canadians. And the Tamil Tigers, at least before they were wiped out.

Somehow the Palestinian Arabs’ struggle seems to have caught the imagination of the world in a way the others didn’t. Is this because they are more deserving? Let’s look at some reasons that might make a person or group deserving of something and see if any of them fit the Palestinians.

One is that someone had something which was unfairly taken from him and he deserves to get it back.

This is a common Palestinian theme, the claim that they were dispossessed by the Jews, and are entitled to their land back. But let’s look at what really happened.

Palestine (called southern Syria) in the 19th century was a backward part of the Ottoman empire — in no way was there a Palestinian state or even a geo-political entity of Palestine. Arabs and a smaller number of Jews lived there. Ottoman policies and taxation made it very difficult to make a living. The Jews purchased land and began to develop it.  But analysis shows that Jewish immigration before 1948 did not dispossess or displace Arabs:

Every indication is that there was net Arab immigration into Palestine in this period [1880-1948], and that the economic situation of Palestinian Arabs improved tremendously under the British Mandate relative to surrounding countries. By 1948, there were approximately 1.35 million Arabs and 650,000  Jews living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, more Arabs than had ever lived in Palestine before, and more Jews than had lived there since Roman times. Analysis of population by sub-districts shows that Arab population tended to increase the most between 1931 and 1948 in the same areas where there were large proportions of Jews. Therefore, Zionist immigration did not displace Arabs. — MideastWeb, “Population of Ottoman and Mandate Palestine, Statistical and Demographic Considerations

After WWI under the British Mandate, conditions improved drastically. But especially under the leadership of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the unfortunate choice of the British for Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Palestinian Arabs perpetrated anti-Jewish riots and pogroms throughout the period, including the bloody Hebron Massacre in 1929.

In November 1947 the UN Partition Resolution called for the division of Western Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state (the larger eastern part had already been given by the British to the Hashemite Abdullah in 1921, creating the state called Jordan today). The Palestinian Arabs responded by attacking Jewish towns and farms, starting the war we know as Israel’s War of Independence. In May 1948, when the British pulled out and Israel declared independence, the Palestinians were joined by troops from five Arab states.

As we all know, Israel won this war and about 700,000 Arabs became refugees. The Arabs claimed that they were ‘expelled’, but in truth they left for a spectrum of reasons, with only a small minority — primarily the population of towns on the road to Jerusalem from which attacks were launched against convoys attempting to supply beseiged Jerusalem — actually forced to leave. Some well-to-do Palestinians left before the war to wait it out in comfort, others were frightened by atrocity propaganda, and still others fled actual fighting.

I would argue that the responsibility for creating these refugees lies with the Palestinians and their allies, who — instead of accepting partition — started and lost the war. And certainly the responsibility for making impossible their return or, later, the resettlement of their descendants, lies with the Arab nations who for sixty-one years have chosen to use them as a tool to try to reverse the outcome of the war.

The land which would have become the Palestinian Arab state was gobbled up instead by Jordan and Egypt, which held it for 19 years. So there was no ‘Palestine lost': rather there was a missed opportunity to create one.

Another reason is that someone has shown by his actions that he is capable of managing something constructively and thus earned the right to do so.

By 1948 the Jews had built all of the institutions of a modern state including political, educational, legal, health care, etc. institutions. Today the Palestinian Authority is corrupt and enjoys support from only a small portion of the population, while Hamas has an explicitly racist and genocidal program.

Over the years Palestinian behavior has not met the standards expected of a political entity that aspires to statehood. Terrorist attacks on Israelis have been a constant since before the founding of the state. The Palestinian leader who more than anyone else represents the Palestinian national movement, Yasser Arafat, did more to popularize terrorism against civilians as an instrument of policy than anyone else in recent times.

The murderous Arafat Intifada of 2000, begun in response to an offer of statehood — which was real and generous, despite self-serving Palestinian statements to the contrary — is an example of Palestinian behavior, as is the continuous rocket war waged against Israel by Hamas from Gaza.

Finally, one indication that someone deserves something is that he is willing to give up something significant to get it.

Israel, for example, gave up the Sinai Peninsula, which was highly strategic, had oil and other mineral deposits, resorts,  settlements and important military installations, to Egypt in return for what turned out to be a minimal peace treaty. But the Palestinian authority will not give up its demand for Israel to absorb millions of refugee descendants, will not accept Israel as a Jewish state, and will not compromise on receiving all of East Jerusalem.

Of course the real elephant in the room is the systematic ambiguity about what they ‘deserve’. Ms. Clinton thinks that it is the territories that were occupied by Jordan and Egypt in 1948.  But — as Jeff Jacoby points out — Palestinians have always spurned this, believing that they ‘deserve’ all of the land ‘from the river to the sea’ as they are fond of saying.

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Linkage, shminkage

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

For some time I’ve been struggling with the ‘linkage theory’, the idea that “ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is necessary (or helpful) for solving other problems in the Mideast”. Its most recent proponent, of course, has been Barack Obama, who said this yesterday:

To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians – between the Palestinians and the Israelis – then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat… Imagine how much less mischief Hizbullah or Hamas could do if, in fact, we had moved a Palestinian-Israeli track in a direction that gave the Palestinian people hope. And if Hizbullah and Hamas [are] weakened, imagine how that impacts Iran’s ability to make mischief and vice versa. — Jerusalem Post

Linkage is not new.  For example here is a comment by Richard H. Curtiss, a retired State Department official and one of the most anti-Israel guys you’ll find west of Gaza:

By usurping the Palestinian cause, Saddam Hussain captured hearts and minds in the Middle East, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and even the United States. If the US allows him to go down in history as a hero of the still homeless Palestinians, Americans will lose the peace. This means our Arab allies will, eventually, be undermined. Our relations with all of our NATO allies will suffer. And US troops will someday be back in the Middle East, but very likely without either Arab or European allies. — “After the Gulf War, Linkage Means Winning the Peace“, 1991

The Iraqis themselves, apparently, believed in linkage. Here’s a snippet from a 2002 CNN broadcast during the run-up to the Iraq war:

Paula Zahn (CNN anchor): And how much have you heard from Iraqi officials lately about Palestine or a Palestinian state?

Jane Arraf (CNN Baghdad correspondent): Every day, that is the overriding issue, not just in Iraq, Paula, but in this region as well, and is really overshadowing U.S. plans for any intervention in Iraq. The feeling is, that as long as there’s simmering and as long as the United States is seen to be siding wholeheartedly with Israel against the Palestinians, it really is going to be very difficult to get a coalition here to launch any sort of action against Iraq.

It’s worth mentioning that 2002 was the height of the Arafat Intifada, a year in which literally hundreds of Israelis were blown to bits by Palestinian suicide bombers.

Linkage was also a favorite theme of Saudi agent James A. Baker, and appeared in the Iraq Study Group report he co-authored.

I’ve argued that linkage is profoundly illogical and that in fact the US administration does not even believe it — that it is simply being used as an excuse to force Israel to make concessions, with the implied threat that otherwise the US will not help deal with Iran.

But although the administration would like to use linkage as a club to beat Israel with, US actions against the Iranian nuclear program cannot possibly be waiting on ‘progress’ on the Palestinian Issue. Evidence for this is that Sunni Arab states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are quite concerned about Iran, and you can bet that they are not holding their breath until there’s peace in the Holy Land. Certainly Obama is telling them that the issues are independent.

So if the Palestinians are actually irrelevant and everyone knows this, why is a Palestinian state presented as such a high priority for the US? There are several reasons:

  • Domestic political considerations: a large proportion of the funding for Mr. Obama’s campaign — and many of his advisers — came from the ‘progressive’ wing of the Democratic party (and indeed, from progressives who might not even associate themselves with the Democrats). The Palestinian issue is very big in these circles.
  • The US image in the Muslim world: Obama would like to reverse the general impression among Muslims throughout the world that the US is their enemy. One of his first interviews as President was with Al Arabiyah. What better way to score points than to take on probably the biggest symbol of ‘Muslim oppression’ in the world, the Palestinian issue?
  • The State Department and the Saudis: almost since Rav Goren blew the shofar at the Temple Mount in 1967, State policy — possibly a result of strong Saudi influence — has been that the US should do its best to shrink the map of Israel back to what it was before.
  • Europe: The Europeans love the idea, because it plays so well at home and helps them avoid considering the Iranian threat — for now.

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Pro-Hamas activists to speak in Fresno

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Fresno will shortly be treated to a film and a visit from a pair of pro-Palestinian — actually, it is probably more correct to call them pro-Hamas — activists.

Donna and Darlene Wallach

I’m really tempted to make fun of their costumes, but unfortunately we need to take them, or rather the phenomenon that they represent, seriously. Let me quote from their website:

Darlene Wallach and Donna Wallach, Jewish anti-zionist social justice activists, recently returned to the Bay Area after living in Gaza Strip, Palestine from August – December 2008. Along with 41 other human rights workers they broke the Israeli blockade of Gaza onboard the two Free Gaza movement boats, SS Liberty & SS Free Gaza, which arrived to Gaza in August 2008. Darlene and Donna remained in Gaza with four other international volunteers and re-established International Solidarity Movement Gaza Strip. While accompanying Palestinian fishermen and farmers, and living among the people, they witnessed Israeli occupation force soldiers constantly violate the six month June 2008 ceasefire, and perpetrate collective punishment on the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza. Listen to them speak about the spirit, resilience, kindness, generousity [sic], and sense of humor of the Palestinian people and the peaceful ways they survive the brutal and genocidal Israeli blockade and Occupation.

Just a few comments on the above:

There was never a ‘blockade’ of Gaza in the sense of an attempt to prevent necessities like food and medicine from reaching the Palestinians. On several occasions crossing points were closed in response to Hamas mortar attacks against the crossings. Israel tried to prevent access by sea — although it allowed the ‘free Gaza’ boats entry — due to concern about arms and explosives being smuggled into the Strip. During the period that the ‘activists’ were in Gaza, the ‘Sinai Subway’ — literally hundreds of tunnels under the Egyptian border with Gaza — flowed with everything from ammunition and explosives to consumer goods to zoo animals. Here’s a picture of British ‘activist’ Lauren Booth in a Gaza grocery store during the ‘genocidal blockade':

Lauren Booth in Gaza grocery

The cease-fire was broken in November 2008 when Israeli soldiers entered Gaza to destroy a tunnel that had been dug close to the border with the intent to capture Israeli soldiers, like Gilad Shalit who has been held since June 2006. Six Hamas terrorists were killed in the operation, which culminated in a huge explosion as a booby-trapped building over the tunnel entrance exploded. Should Israel have waited for Hamas to put the tunnel to use? I should add that the cease-fire was accompanied only by a reduction in, not a cessation of,  rocket fire into Israel.

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

is a Palestinian-run organization which recruits ‘internationals’ (mostly Europeans and Americans) to take part in demonstrations, interfere with IDF activities, sabotage the security fence, etc. This serves a dual purpose: they can get away with activities for which Israeli citizens or Palestinians would be arrested, and they become passionate advocates of the Palestinian cause in their home countries. Rachel Corrie was an ISM member.

In the US, the ISM is known as the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, or PSM. It has connections to other anti-Israel groups such as al-Awda (”the right of return”) and others. It employs a highly effective propaganda approach in which support for the destruction of Israel is linked to themes popular among young people, such as environmentalism, human rights, civil rights, and opposition to the Iraq war. It presents Israel as a racist apartheid state.

ISM/PSM turns the truth upside down, and uses the language of peace, freedom, human rights, anti-racism, justice, and nonviolence to support a project which is being implemented by means of terrorism, which is genocidal in its goals, and whose practitioners are racist, sexist and homophobic. — FresnoZionism, “The ISM: ‘non-violent’ support of terrorism

The ISM especially seeks out Jewish conscripts, both because of the propaganda value of Jews denouncing Israel and because many Jews have a highly-developed social conscience and sense of empathy.

Something which Donna and Darlene did not put in their description was the word ‘Hamas’. Hamas is the Islamic fundamentalist organization which controls Gaza, having seized power in a bloody coup during which they shot Palestinian opponents in the knees before pushing them off tall buildings. Hamas explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel — not just the return of occupied territories — and the murder of Jews everywhere. According to Hamas, all of historical Palestine is Islamic territory and the only way to redeem it is by violent Jihad. All of the above and more  can be found in the Hamas covenant, here.

Hamas, despite being an offshoot of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, has allied itself with Shiite Iran, which sees American-allied Israel as an obstacle to expanding its influence in the region. Although ideologically diverse, they share the desire to wipe out Israel; and today Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah are the major weapons in Iran’s proxy war against Israel.

Since 2000, Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis by suicide bombings, rockets, mortars, shootings, etc. Hamas established itself in Gaza when Israel withdrew from there  in 2005 and took complete control in 2007. Since then it has waged both a military and information war against Israel, combining rocket fire — over 1,500 in 2008, despite the 6-month cease-fire — with highly effective propaganda, such as the manufactured ‘siege of Gaza’.

In December 2008, Israel launched a military campaign to finally put an end to the rockets. Although the IDF took measures unprecedented in modern warfare to reduce civilian casualties and unnecessary damage, Hamas conducted a campaign of exaggeration and outright lies, accusing Israel of war crimes and deliberate brutality. This was lapped up by anti-Israel media and non-governmental organizations, which repeated Hamas fabrications as fact.

Because of a combination of Israeli timidity and US pressure, the war was ended before significant practical gains could be made against Hamas’ military capability. The information war waged by Hamas, however, was wildly successful.

One of the most effective anti-Israel techniques has been to present the conflict as a struggle for human rights for weak, victimized Palestinians against a powerful colonialist power, rather than as a large cooperative enterprise to eliminate the Jewish state. Hamas understands well that while it cannot defeat the IDF on the battlefield, it can manipulate Western nations to force Israel to make concessions.

This presentation is part of the information war being waged against Israel. The film and speakers will doubtless focus on Palestinian suffering, real and invented, while ignoring or excusing the racist and murderous nature of Hamas, and without reference to the context of the Iranian-financed campaign to destroy the Jewish state.

Darlene and Donna’s presentation is being sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, along with Peace Fresno and the Center for Nonviolence. Since it serves Hamas, an organization devoted to violent jihad, one wonders if any of them have the slightest idea of what they are doing.

Update [9 Jun 2009 2207 PDT]:

I went to the event. Here is my report.

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