Archive for May, 2009

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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Friday, May 15th, 2009

Take your blood pressure meds before reading the article by Philip Weiss that I quote here:

Alissa Wise

On the eve of Nakba remembrance day, a young rabbi led an observance of the catastrophe “that cannot be denied, ignored, or wished away” in Union Square in New York last night before a largely-Jewish group. She said that four rabbis in four other American cities were also marking the event.

Alissa Wise, who is about to graduate from rabbinical school, told the Jews who had gathered that they had made a “courageous choice,” to face the truth that “Israel’s founding is inextricably bound up with the dispossession of hundreds of thousands.” She seemed charged with an awareness of Jewish history when she said that four other rabbis were leading similar remembrances in the Bay Area, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia.

She then led the group of about 60 people in a ceremony that echoed the Passover seder, or liberation festival of Jewish tradition, including the ritual reading of the names of Arab villages that were removed from the Israeli map in the early days of the Nakba, May 9-16, 1948.

“These are 63 of the 531 villages that were destroyed,” Wise said, “the violence that began in 1948 continues to this day,”

As the names were read aloud, to the bang of a drum, you could hear New York Jewish voices struggling with Arabic, and Arab-Americans pronouncing the names with authority.

Wise led a reading of the Jewish litany, Dayeinu, or “Enough,” which is chanted at Passover, but these “Enough”s marked signal events of the Nakba, like the massacre at Deir Yassin and the expulsions of Palestinians from the cities of Haifa, Lydda, and Jaffa. [my emphasis]

Dayeinu indeed!

Enough of Jews who exploit their Jewishness to lend authority to the propaganda projects of the enemies of the Jewish state and people.

Ms. Wise thinks that she understands enough about the history of Jews and Arabs in the land of Israel — not to mention the politics of the region today — to take the positions that she does.

She does not.

Ms. Wise is very concerned about justice for all peoples, which is an important qualification for a rabbi, so she really should study the actual history of the region so that she can be sure that she is not shortchanging her own people. She should consider

  • The historical connection of Jews to the land
  • The origins of the Palestinian Arabs resident in 1948
  • The behavior of said Arabs toward Jews before the founding of the state
  • Who started the war in 1947-48
  • The various reasons that Arabs abandoned their homes in 1948
  • The reasons that few of the actual refugees were able to return
  • The behavior of the Arab world toward the state of Israel since its founding, and particularly that of the Palestinian Arabs and their leader, Yasser Arafat
  • The real facts behind the atrocity stories that she hears from Palestinians
  • The attitudes of today’s Palestinians, their support for Hamas, their adulation of Samir Kuntar, etc.
  • The present security situation, in which the Palestinian Arabs comprise the point of the Iranian spear aimed at the Jewish state
  • What it would be like for Jews if there were no Jewish state

In addition, I suggest that she should be a little more cynical about the intentions of her Arab friends when they say that all they want is justice.

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The two-state slogan

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Just about everyone — the administration and some liberal Jewish groups in the US, the Pope, Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan, and others — are pressing Prime Minister Netanyahu to ‘commit to a two-state solution’. But what does this mean? And does it make sense?

One way this has been understood is as a commitment to the goal of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel. It implies that Israel will negotiate a peace agreement which transfers some of the territories to Palestinian sovereignty (in particular, that of the Palestinian Authority [PA]). This has been the position of the Israeli government since the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993. Neither PM Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Lieberman — despite accusations to the contrary — has rejected this.

Then there is the interpretation of Abbas’ PA: Israel will withdraw to pre-1967 lines, including all of East Jerusalem (and especially the Temple Mount area), grant a right of return to ‘refugees’, etc. Nothing less is on the table. Obviously, Netanyahu will not ‘commit’ in advance — or ever — to anything like that.

The Israeli position, which will be clearer when Netanyahu meets Obama next week, seems to be that Israel will talk to the PA but will demand some concrete concessions from them, as well as US action against Iranian proxy aggression (i.e., Hamas and Hezbollah) before making an agreement to cede land.

The US administration seems to be somewhere in between,  demanding a prior commitment to a Palestinian state, although allowing land swaps so that Israel can retain some settlements and rejecting the settlement of ‘refugees’ in Israel. The US also rejects the idea that the Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah problem needs to be solved first.

I think it’s not unreasonable to refuse to prejudge the outcome of negotiations. For example, can Netanyahu agree today that the negotiations will produce a Palestinian state if  Abbas is not prepared to compromise on ‘right of return’ or anything else?

It’s also a little disingenuous for the ‘two-staters’ to pretend that there is no Hamas and that Israel’s jeopardy from Syria and Hezbollah’s rockets and Iran’s soon-to-be nukes may be ignored.

Can Israel be expected to transfer the West Bank to the PA when there is no reason to think that it won’t come under Hamas control — either by bullets, ballots or subversion? Hamas is more popular and stronger than the PA, and today only the presence of the IDF in the West Bank prevents a replay of the Gaza takeover. Shouldn’t there be some guarantee that the hostile Iranian proxy presence to the north and south will not be replicated in the east?

To a great extent, the ‘two-state solution’ is a slogan which in itself means little. The goal of PM Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama should be concrete proposals which do not simply demand a Palestinian state while eliding the real security problems caused by the Iranian war-by-proxy.

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NY Times blames Bush and Israel for…everything

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

In an otherwise unexceptional editorial bashing Prime Minister Netanyahu for ‘resisting’ the two-state solution, the NY Times has managed to produce the single stupidest sentence about the Mideast since “Moses, life was better in Egypt”.

Here it is:

We have seen how former President George W. Bush’s delay in engaging seriously on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts sabotaged United States interests in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran by giving Al Qaeda and other extremists a rallying point for anti-Americanism.

I was not a great fan of Mr. Bush’s policy during the last few years of his administration, although for different reasons than those of the Times’ editorial writer, but the suggestion that his sluggishness in forcing Israel to give up strategic land to a Palestinian Authority (PA) complicit in terrorism and ripe to be taken over by Hamas is somehow a cause of the advance of the jihadists in Afghanistan, etc. is more than ludicrous. But Bush is always an easy target.

As if the US was making clear progress in winning hearts and minds among the Taliban, the Iranian Mullahs and Osama bin Laden’s crowd when suddenly this progress was sabotaged! As if the Taliban and friends had nothing to rally the troops with, no anti-American phrases to stir up the ‘street’ until Bush infuriated them by his delay. And now look where we are, all because we didn’t throw Israel overboard quickly enough.

Let me remind you that during the period that Bush was ‘delaying’, Hezbollah and Hamas killed hundreds of Israelis and provoked two wars, while Hamas demonstrated exactly what Israel could expect if she vacated the West Bank as she did Gaza. PA negotiators were insisting on a total withdrawal to pre-1967 boundaries, including all of East Jerusalem, and a right of return for millions of ‘refugees’. And nobody was agreeing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

One might describe the situation by saying that it was (and is) the Palestinians who resist ‘serious engagement’  for peace.

By perversely blaming Iranian expansionism, radical Islamic aggression and hatred of the West on Israel’s resistance to dismemberment, the Times joins the worst of the cynical Israel-haters. It’s surprising that they have not (as yet) followed the lead of Hamas and others in blaming Israel for AIDS and Swine Flu as well.

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