Archive for August, 2009

Parallel universes for Jews and Arabs

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Recently Israel’s education ministry decided that the description of the founding of the Jewish state as a nakba — catastrophe — would be removed from textbooks in state-funded Arab schools.

“In the past five months since its formation, the government, along with the Education Ministry, has announced a number of dangerous decisions,” the head of the Follow-up Committee on Arab Education in Israel said at a press conference. “Such as a prohibition to commemorate the Nakba of the Arab people in schools, the changing of road signs, forcing the singing of the ‘Tikva’ national anthem at schools and setting the promotion of military service or national service as a criterion for rewarding schools and staff.”

“We reject these decisions outright,” Atef Moaddi said. “And we stress that if an attempt is made to carry them out in Arab schools – the response will be refusal and civil disobedience…”

Moaddi told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that [Education Minister Gideon] Sa’ar’s decision was nothing less than a “political gimmick” aimed at denying the Israeli Arab community their identity.

“For Israeli Arabs, who consider themselves a part of the Palestinian people, the Nakba is not up for debate, it is a historical fact,” Moaddi said. “But if Sa’ar thinks that by taking this narrative out of the textbooks, he will somehow absolve himself – as both a representative of the State of Israel and as a human being – of responsibility for the Nakba, he is wrong…”

He also talked about discrimination against Arabs, more resources going to the Jewish school systems, etc. But those are fixable problems.

It is not fixable when one out of every five citizens of a state considers him or herself the citizen of a different nation, one co-extensive in space and time with the other, two parallel universes in which history is fundamentally different. Especially when the difference is that one group believes that everything the other has really belongs to them.

“Our position has always been that both narratives – the Jewish, Zionist narrative and the Arab, Palestinian narrative – should be taught in both Jewish and Arab classrooms,” he continued.

This is literally insane. Both narratives should be taught? Teach that the world is round and that it’s cubical? Teach that the Jews reestablished their nation in the land where — despite the fact that there was room for all — the Arabs tried again and again to kill them, and at the same time teach that the Jews dispossessed the Arabs and expelled them?

“But the Arab pupil is not stupid. He or she will learn about the Nakba from a variety of other sources, be it on the Internet or on the street. But our position is that we prefer for them to learn about it in the educational framework of the classroom.”

For example, they can learn their ‘narrative’ in the Baladna (Our Land) youth group, funded by money from Europe and the New Israel Fund.

The ‘narratives’ are incompatible and they make the people who believe them incompatible. Which, of course, is precisely why the Europeans and the New Israel Fund support the anti-Zionist narrative.

A novel idea would be that there is only one truth, and both Jews and Arabs should learn it.

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Ehud Olmert, the anti-Churchill

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

News item:

An indictment against former prime minister Ehud Olmert was served at the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday afternoon in three out of the four corruption-related cases standing against him: ‘Rishontours’, ‘Talansky’ and the ‘Investment Center’.

The indictment, filed by State Attorney Moshe Lador and Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel, includes severe charges against Olmert, among them fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate documents and tax evasion. However, the former prime minister is not charged with bribery.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this were the last we had to hear of this man: an ‘accidental’ Prime Minister who wasn’t up to the job and also turned out to be a common thief!

Although there was plenty of blame to go around for the débacle that  was the war against Hezbollah in 2006, Olmert deserves a lot of it. Unfortunately what was not done then will need to be done in the future, and another PM will face a much tougher challenge than Olmert did in 2006.

Olmert was also — at least nominally — PM during Operation Cast Lead. While the full story of its premature termination has not yet surfaced — what was Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told when she flew to Washington in mid-January immediately before Obama’s inauguration? — one wonders whether the outcome would have been different if someone else had been PM. This will also have to be done over again at greater cost.

Olmert was the anti-Churchill. In 2005, he expressed his wish that the disengagement from Gaza would lead to peace thus:

We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors, and I believe that this is not impossible… That it is within reach if we will be smart, if we will dare, if we will be prepared to take the risks, and if we will be able to convince our Palestinian partners to be able to do the same.

What an unprecedented combination of defeatist rhetoric, bad politics, and fundamentally wrong analysis!

By comparison, the US is a big country with huge resources and the capacity to survive a really rotten administration once in a while (although we don’t want to make a habit of it). But Israel is small, things happen fast, and her existence is much more precarious than many people think. One jerk in a high place can do a lot of damage.

Goodbye Mr. Olmert, good luck in court, and good riddance.

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Israeli Left: don’t confuse us with logic

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

When I first read the following story, I thought it might be satire. But who could make this up?

The Israeli Left reacted with dismay over the weekend to the results of a Jerusalem Post-sponsored Smith Research poll published on Friday that found only 4 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that US President Barack Obama’s policies are more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian.

The survey, which was featured prominently on Fox News in the United States and picked up by media outlets around the world, reported that 51% of Jewish Israelis considered Obama’s administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, 35% called it neutral and 10% declined to express an opinion…

“It is terrific for Israel that there is an American president with vision, and it is a pity that most Israelis don’t realize that,” Meretz faction chairman MK Ilan Gilon said. “Israelis think that Christian evangelists who rubber-stamp everything Israel does are the only Americans who are pro-Israel. But what is really good for Israel is a solution to the conflict, and Obama is doing what it takes to bring it about.”

In other words, he thinks that Jewish Israelis don’t know what’s good for them — well, maybe 4% of them do — and need to be forced to accept a solution! Of course, that solution will meet the priorities of the Obama administration, not Israel.  And high on Obama’s priority list seems to be improving American relationships and image in the Muslim world.

One outspoken representative of Israel’s Left seems to agree with me, but still thinks it’s good for Israel:

Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer said what mattered more at this stage of the peace process was Obama’s reputation in the Arab world, and not in Israel. [my emphasis]

“Despite the results of the poll, the Israeli interest is that Obama will be popular in the Arab world, so he could bring about a peace agreement with Israel,” Oppenheimer said. “Bush was popular in Israel and hated around the world, and his policies did not help Israel end the Palestinian conflict or quell the Iranian threat. If he succeeds in his goals of advancing Middle East peace, I am sure he will become much more popular with Israelis.”

Earth to Gilon and Oppenheimer: An important goal for Arab regimes and Iran is to weaken Israel so as to hasten her demise. Really making peace would work against that, so there’s reason to be suspicious of policies that make them happy.

Regimes like those in Syria and Iran — as Barry Rubin has argued persuasively —  find the conflict with Israel very useful for their own internal goals, such as keeping a lid on reformers and justifying repression and economic exploitation of their population. They are not motivated to give it up. Remember, the interests of the people of Syria, for example, are not the same as the interests of Bashar al-Assad and his circle, but it’s the latter that makes policy.

Oppenheimer seems to be suggesting that Israel should make concessions to demands like the settlement freeze so that Arabs will like Obama, and thus be more disposed to make peace with Israel. Huh? Good for him that he never took my logic class.

The real explanation of what’s behind Obama Administration policy is not obvious to me yet. There are those who think that the Saudi tail is wagging the American dog, and others who think that the administration is simply naive. Yesterday I suggested that maybe they are getting bad advice. As I said to a commenter on the previous post: are they dumb, ill-advised, or evil?

Tune in again in a few weeks or months to find out.

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On experts

Friday, August 28th, 2009

The situation regarding the Obama administration in the Middle East today is something like putting a child who is still learning the rules up against the world’s greatest poker players. For the first six months of a new president that is an understandable problem but if it continues longer the feeble condition of this administration’s foreign policy starts to seem permanent. — Barry Rubin, “Obama Administration’s Arab-Israeli Policy Adjustment: Out of the Frying Pan Into the… Saucepan

I have a theory about this. It’s not that Obama and his immediate advisors are dumb, although Obama himself has very little experience with Mideast diplomacy (he should ask Bill Clinton, who learned the hard way). It’s that they trust ‘experts’ too much.

JFK had the same problem. He listened to experts and invaded the Bay of Pigs.

The thing about experts is that to a certain extent their reputations are made by holding novel or even extreme positions. It has little to do with being right more often than wrong. And in fact the personal consequences of being wrong in academia or the CIA (as in the Bay of Pigs case) are rarely serious.

So ‘experts’ like Scowcroft and Brzezinski can present bad ideas like the ‘linkage theory’ and be applauded in the really, really uniformed media and by those who understand that it’s nonsense but see it as a way to weaken Israel. Whereas if the President adopts this theory and then makes policy which results in a disaster, he’s blamed.

I recommend the Rubin article linked above.

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Max Blumenthal is a video terrorist

Friday, August 28th, 2009
Max Blumenthal -- Oops, no, its Josef Goebbels. I always mix them up!

Max Blumenthal -- Oops, no, it's Josef Goebbels. I always mix them up!

Max Blumenthal is a video terrorist. His target is the Jewish state and like many terrorists he is driven by hate — it oozes from his work — and he really doesn’t care what ethical principles (in this case, basic journalistic ones about truth and fairness) he needs to violate in order to kill his enemy. Blumenthal is a ‘journalist’ like Goebbels was a journalist.

He began his career by making fun of the Christian Right in the US, but he became really well-known for his intrepid interview with dangerous drunken American students in a Jerusalem bar.  His footage of scheming Zionist racists pronouncing the words “Fuck Obama!” before passing out is classic investigative journalism. In response to complaints that, after all, they were drunk, American, and to a certain extent idiots, he turned to tricking Israelis with poor English skills into saying embarrassingly right-wing things on camera.

His early work was quite amateurish but he apparently has professional help now, because his latest effort — a trailer for a documentary called “Israel’s terror inside” is slicker than snot and just as objective. His point — which I’m sure the full documentary will belabor effectively — is that Israel is not a democracy, it’s ruled by fascists who want only to to commit genocide against innocent indigenous Palestinians.

You know — this really isn’t all that funny. The trailer is 5 minutes 48 seconds of lies, false implications and slander. It is really well put together — he probably had generous funding from the usual suspects — and I presume the documentary is also. I absolutely guarantee that my friends at Peace Fresno will be showing it to everyone they can get to watch it, college teachers will show it to their classes, etc. Despite the fact that it will be unmitigated rubbish, people will be influenced by it.

Meanwhile, I want to address myself to Blumenthal himself:

You probably know that you are producing pure propaganda and claiming that it’s journalism. The slander in your work is compounded by the lie that what you are doing is honest work. Probably you think that’s justified, that the end of helping the oppressed Palestinians makes it OK to bend the truth a little. Maybe you ask, “what is truth, anyway?” or think about it in a postmodern way in which truth is relative to politics.

Or maybe you like the funding that you can get for doing the devil’s work [note: no, I don’t believe in the devil. It’s a figure of speech]. Maybe you like to see your name in print, and like seeing those fat numbers of views on YouTube. Maybe being famous helps you meet interesting women. Whatever.

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? — Joseph Welch, to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, June 9, 1954.

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(Thanks to Dvar Dea for bringing this to my attention).

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