Archive for August, 2009

Saudi and Israeli annexations compared

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Everyone knows that Mecca and Medina are the holy cities of Islam, and that they are in Saudi Arabia. But this is a relatively recent development:

From 1517 to 1918, the Hejaz [where Mecca and Medina are located — ed.] was a province of the Ottoman Empire. Control of the Hejaz entitled the Ottoman Sultans to add the title Caliph to their collection of titles.

In 1916 Sharif Husain bin Ali began what is generally known as the Arab Revolt. While the Ottoman forces, until the end of the war, held on to Medina, most of the Hejaz was under the control of the rebels. From June 1916 Sharif Husain was addressed as King of the Hejaz. In 1924-1925 the Hejaz was conquered by the troops of Ibn Saud, Sultan of Nejd…

At the Paris Peace Conference, the Hejaz was represented by Prince Faisal, son of Sharif Husain; Faisal was assisted by T.E. Lawrence. Here British and Hejazi interests collided, and even more so, Hejazi and French interests.

The French ousted Prince Faisal from Damascus in 1920; in 1921 he was installed by the British as King of Iraq. His brother Abdallah was installed by the British as King of Jordan, also in 1921. The Paris Peace Conference left the Hejaz in the possession of Sharif Husain bin Ali.

Hejaz was a founder-member of the League of Nations — WHKLMA

Flag of the Kingdom of Hejaz in 1925

Flag of the Kingdom of Hejaz in 1925

The Kingdom of Hejaz was short-lived:

Ibn Sa’ud began organizing the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] in 1912 with hopes of making them a reliable and stable source of an elite army corps. In order to break their traditional tribal allegiances and feuds, the Ikhwan were settled in colonies known as hijrahs. These settlements, established around desert oases to promote agricultural reclamation of the land, further forced the Bedouin to abandon their nomadic way of life. The hijrahs, whose populations ranged from 10 to 10,000, offered tribesmen living quarters, mosques, schools, agricultural equipment and instruction, and arms and ammunition. Most important, religious teachers were brought in to instruct the Bedouin in the fundamentalist precepts of Islam taught by the religious reformer Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab in the 19th century. As a result the Ikhwan became archtraditionalists. By 1918 they were ready to enter Ibn Sa’ud’s elite army…

In 1924, when Husayn was proclaimed caliph in Mecca, the Ikhwan labelled the act heretical and accused Husayn of obstructing their performance of the pilgrimage to Mecca. They then moved against Transjordan, Iraq, and the Hejaz simultaneously, besieged at-Ta’if outside Mecca, and massacred several hundred of its inhabitants. Mecca fell to the Ikhwan, and, with the subsequent surrenders (1925) of Jiddah and Medina, they won all of the Hejaz for Ibn Sa’ud. — On War

The British recognized the new state, including the Hejaz, with the treaty of Jiddah in 1927. In 1932, the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz became Saudi Arabia, which was admitted to the League of Nations that year. Oil was discovered in 1938.

Why do I bring this up? For comparison to Israel’s history, of course.

Ibn Sa’ud invaded the sovereign Kingdom of Hejaz, where the holy places of Islam were located, and violently seized control of it. When Husain’s army fled from at-Ta’if, the civilian male inhabitants of the town were massacred by the Ikhwan — one can assume that the lucky women and children were enslaved.

In contrast, Israel did not invade a sovereign nation and seize territory by force. There was never anything analogous to the Kingdom of Hejaz in Palestine, and when Israel declared independence in the land which formally was part of the Ottoman empire, she was invaded by several Arab nations.

She also had the authority of the Balfour Declaration, as incorporated in the League of Nations Mandate, to create a Jewish National Home in Palestine, and of course the authority of the UN partition resolution of 1947 to declare a state. Although it’s true that Jerusalem wasn’t included in the Partition Resolution, it was obtained as a result of two defensive wars — and it was not seized from a sovereign state as Mecca and Medina were.

But today nobody (as far as I know there is not an irredentist Hashemite movement) claims that Mecca and Medina are not legitimate parts of Saudi Arabia. Nobody says that the occupation and annexation of the Hejaz were  illegal (although some are not happy with the way the Saudis are taking care of the holy cities).

So why is Israel’s possession of Jerusalem questioned?

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Jerusalem is the capital of Israel

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Steve Rosen, talking about the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the US over the settlement freeze, has this to say about one of the most difficult issues:

Israel will not accept the principle that any part of Jerusalem inside the juridical boundaries of the city that were recorded in the “Basic Law–Jerusalem” in 1980 be treated as merely “administered territory” like the West Bank. The United States has never recognized Israel’s law as binding, and in fact voted for U.N. Security Council Resolution 478 (1980) which described it as “Null and void…a violation of international law.” How will the U.S. explain the exclusion of Jerusalem from the terms of a settlement freeze?

This is a conflict whose time has come. Since 1948, the US has held the position that Israel does not have sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem — Israel’s capital city, referred to in the Torah as “the place where God will cause his name to dwell”, a place where other major religions which came after Judaism understood its its transcendent nature (or if you prefer, its mythic significance) and built their holy places.

Yasser Arafat insisted that there had never been a Jewish Temple, the Muslim Waqf that Israel allows to govern the Temple Mount tries to wipe out archaeological evidence for it, and the Palestinian Authority talks about “Arab East Jerusalem” as if there were no Jews living there before they were kicked out in 1948.

Nevertheless, plenty of Jewish blood was shed to get it back, and the “Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel” is an expression of the importance attached to it.

Although it is imaginable that Israel could transfer some Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinians in a peace agreement, it is inconceivable that the city could be redivided along 1948-67 lines. And it is even more inconceivable that Israel would entertain for a moment the postion of the State Department that denies her sovereignty over her capital.

Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel goes along with recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. These are Zionist bottom lines.

If Barack Obama is truly committed to the continuation of the Jewish state — as the President has said on several occasions — and if he wants some real leverage with the Israeli government , then now is the time for him to have a word with the Arabist State Department bureaucrats who are responsible for this absurd, ahistorical and insulting policy.

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Jeremy Ben-Ami: “Nasser was pro-Israel”

Sunday, August 16th, 2009
Jeremy Ben-Ami explains the meaning of pro-Israel

Jeremy Ben-Ami explains the meaning of 'pro-Israel'

He didn’t actually say this  — as far as I know — but he certainly could do so without self-contradiction.

Recently I wrote about Ben-Ami’s J Street organization — an allegedly “pro-Israel” group which was found to be taking contributions from Arab and Muslim sources.

I thought the exposure would be enough to kill them. After all, since most of their money comes from liberal Jews who support Israel to some extent — even if, in my opinion, the policies they promote would hurt Israel if implemented — surely these contributors might ask themselves what this tells them about the goals of the organization, which called for an immediate cease-fire at the start of Operation Cast Lead, advocates negotiating with Hamas, supports a complete settlement freeze, the Arab (or Saudi) Initiative, etc.

As yet, I’ve seen no mention of this in the mainstream media other than the Jerusalem Post story. The only reaction so far has been bloggers writing that critics of J Street are far-right neo-con racists, and that J Street’s policy recommendations really are good for Israel.

Let me dismiss the ‘racist’ label: the problem is not that the donors are Arab or Muslim (some of them aren’t, but they just happen to work for the Saudi Embassy, for example). It is that the donors are people who normally spend their good money in ways that advance Arab and Iranian interests (big surprise). And — have you noticed? — these interests are opposed to those of Israel!

Listed as having given $10,000 or more are Richard Abdoo, a board member of Amideast (an organization primarily financed by Saudi and oil interests) and former board member of the Arab American Institute, and Genevieve Lynch,  a member of the board of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). Although these groups do not have banners on their websites demanding that the Jews be thrown into the sea, does anyone doubt that they are not exactly friendly to Israel?

Ben-Ami, J Street’s Executive Director, meanwhile continues to pretend that there is absolutely nothing wrong with claiming to be pro-Israel (by his very quirky definition) while taking contributions from people who are decidedly not pro-Israel:

I don’t actually see it as an accusation. I see it as a truth. A small percentage of money J Street raises comes from people who are non Jewish … I’m thrilled to see there are non-Jews who are pro-Israel who see that Israel’s future depends on making peace with the Palestinians. [my emphasis]

I wonder what the implications are for any effort to reach a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if you really believe that anyone whose religion happens to be other than yours can’t share a common agenda.

As if ‘religion’ has anything to do with it!

This appears so astonishingly stupid that it must mean something else. And I think it does: I think Ben-Ami shares the view of Mahmoud Abbas that ‘Jewish’ only refers to a religion; there is no ‘Jewish people’, so there can’t be a Jewish state.

Unfortunately, it may be the case that many of J Street’s Jewish supporters belong to the “we must destroy the state in order to save it” crowd. If you want to be convinced of this, look at the J Street Facebook page.

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J Street’s treason exposed

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

News item:

The J Street political action committee has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as from several individuals connected to organizations doing Palestinian and Iranian issues advocacy, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Additionally, at least two State Department officials connected to Middle East issues have donated to the PAC, which gives money to candidates for US Congress supported by J Street. The organization describes itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby pushing for more American involvement and diplomacy in resolving the Middle East conflict…

The funds that come from these sources indeed constitute a small fraction of the year-and-a-half-old organization’s political fundraising, which totaled around $844,000 in 2008 – a key election year – and $111,000 so far in 2009. They comprise several dozen of the PAC’s 4,000-5,000 donors.

But some of the contributors play key roles in the organization. The finance committee’s 50 members – with a $10,000 contribution threshold – include Lebanese-American businessman Richard Abdoo, a current board member of Amideast and a former board member of the Arab American Institute, and Genevieve Lynch, who is also a member of the National Iranian American Council board. The group has also received several contributions from Nancy Dutton, an attorney who once represented the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Smaller donors include several leaders of Muslim student groups, Saudi- and Iranian-born Americans, and Palestinian- and Arab-American businessmen who also give to Arab-oriented PACs.

My goodness, this explains a lot.

  • It explains how Zionophobe Rob Malley can be a J Street Advisory Council member.
  • It explains how a “pro-Israel” organization could have called for an immediate cease-fire at the start of Operation Cast Lead.
  • It explains how  J Street could support a Washington DC theater group’s production of the antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children” while “taking no stand on the content” of the play.
  • It explains why J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami spoke in favor of a settlement freeze at the White House.

Even Bernie Madoff didn’t try to justify what he’d done, but Ben-Ami is spinning until the end. Explaining why his organization took money from sources known to be hostile to Israel, he said,

We are so clearly pro-Israel, and we are an organization that is grounded in and based in Jewish values and a Jewish desire to support the State of Israel, that if someone wants to choose to do their political giving through us, it’s more a question for them: Do they want to be seen to be giving their money through us. If they do it, that’s the statement they’re making.

Let’s see. Your organization’s positions oppose those of the state of Israel, even in time of war; you don’t object to — and indeed support — antisemitism, you have advisors who are Israel-haters, and you take money from — for example — Saudi — sources. But you can say that you are “clearly pro-Israel … an organization that is grounded in and based in Jewish values and a Jewish desire to support the State of Israel”?

Why doesn’t your head explode?

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A Blood libel disguised as an investigative report

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

This report has been extensively revised on Aug. 15, for clarity.

HRW blood libel

News item:

A Human Rights Watch report claiming IDF soldiers killed 11 Palestinian civilians holding white flags in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead is “based on unreliable witness reports,” the IDF said in a statement released Thursday.

“Moreover,” the statement continued, the international human rights organization “didn’t bother to give the report to the IDF before releasing it to the public via the media, to allow for in-depth investigation.”

The army stressed that soldiers were under orders to “honor the ‘white flag’ as a sign of surrender… and to avoid harming” anyone raising such a flag.

HRW presented its report at a press conference on Thursday morning, alleging that most of the 11 were women and children and that they were killed in seven separate incidents during Operation Cast Lead.

“In each case, the victims were standing, walking, or in a slow-moving vehicle with other unarmed civilians who were trying to convey their non-combatant status by waving a white flag,” the 61-page report entitled “White Flags Death,” said.

The allegations in the report are truly shocking. According to “eyewitness testimony” which is “corroborated” by “ballistic evidence” and “forensic medical examinations”, Israeli soldiers shot and killed unarmed Palestinian civilians, including children, while they waved white flags.

Most people don’t read beyond the executive summaries which present the conclusions of such reports. And they are truly horrific. But if you read the presentation of the details of specific incidents, another picture emerges. Large amounts of scientific-sounding ‘evidence’ are presented, but much of it is totally irrelevant to the conclusions drawn.

Careful reading shows that the case rests entirely on the testimony of Palestinian ‘witnesses’, to whom the investigators are led by Palestinian organizations, whose personnel also provide translators. Sometimes the interviews were even done in the presence of Hamas operatives!

HRW did not have staff on the ground in Gaza during the war. All investigations were done after the fact, and they also relied on medical reports from Physicians for Human Rights–Israel.

Of course not only is it in the interest of Palestinians to lie and exaggerate, there is a history of them doing so, in those cases in which the stories can be checked. By then the damage is done, and anyway nobody pays attention to the later reports calling attention to the fraud.

In response to criticism, HRW is now going to great pains to present what they do as actual investigation. Let’s look at one claim in the HRW report, chosen almost at random:

In one case documented in the report, on January 7 in eastern Jabalya, two women and three children from the ‘Abd Rabbo family were standing for a few minutes outside their home—at least three of them holding pieces of white cloth—when an Israeli soldier opened fire, killing two girls, aged two and seven, and wounding the grandmother and third girl.  “We spent seven to nine minutes waving the flags and our faces were looking at them [the soldiers],” said the girls’ grandmother, who was shot twice.  “And suddenly they opened fire and the girls fell to the ground.”

Eyewitness accounts, tank tracks, an ammunition box and bullet casings found at the scene, and an examination of the grandmother by forensic experts indicate that an Israeli soldier fired upon identifiable and unarmed women and children. [my italics]

This is what one reads in the summary portion of the report, and it sounds damning. “forensic experts” tell us that the Israelis have committed what appears to be a war crime, or a least a case of callous disregard, etc.

Now let’s look at the details, later in the report:

In the early afternoon of January 7, 2009, four days after the start of Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza, Israeli tanks stopped at the house of Khalid ‘Abd Rabbo, who lives at the eastern end of al-Quds Street in Jabalya’s ‘Abd Rabbo neighborhood.[9]  According to three family members who witnessed the incident, an Israeli soldier fired on two women and three young girls who had come out of the house holding makeshift white flags.  Two of the girls died; the grandmother and the third girl were wounded, the girl seriously.  Ballistic evidence found at the scene, medical records of the victims, and examinations by foreign doctors of the two wounded survivors corroborate the witnesses’ account… [my italics]

“Ballistic evidence” usually means that a bullet found at a crime scene can be matched to a weapon which can be tied to the alleged perpetrator; and there are all kinds of medical examinations that can bear on the determination of how and by whom a crime was committed. But neither of the above is the case here. When you read the rest, ask yourself if anything is proven by the ‘evidence’ presented except two things:

  1. Some Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds, two of whom allegedly died, and
  2. The survivors and family members claim that they were shot by Israeli soldiers.

According to Khalid, his brother, and his mother, on January 7 at least one IDF tank pulled up to the western side of the house.  When visiting the house on January 25, 2009, Human Rights Watch saw the tread marks of what appeared to be more than one tank, probably the IDF’s Merkava, in an area about 10 meters from the house’s western side.  About one dozen spent 7.62 x 51 millimeter bullet casings littered the ground, as did an empty ammunition box with Hebrew writing for 230 7.62mm bullets.  The 7.62 x 51 bullet is fired from the FN MAG 58, a machine gun used by Israeli infantry troops and also mounted on tanks and armored personnel carriers.

This detailed ‘evidence’ is irrelevant. We know that at some time a tank or other treaded vehicle was present.  We do not know that the cartridge cases or the ammunition box had anything to do with the tank or the incident — it is after all, a war zone — or even if they were placed there later.

According to all three family members, around noon the family heard the tank outside their house and then a soldier on a megaphone calling on them to come outside.  Afraid to send out any men, two women and three female children gathered at the door, at least three of them holding pieces of white cloth.  They stepped outside and saw an Israeli tank about 10 meters away with its turret pointed at the house.  On the front steps stood Khalid’s mother, Su’ad, 54, his wife, Kawthar, 26, and their three girls, Su’ad, 7, Samar, 4, and Amal, 2.  Khalid’s mother Su’ad explained what happened next:

We saw one tank and we saw others behind.  We were with the white flags in order to make them see that we were civilians.  We spent seven to nine minutes waving the flags and our faces were looking at them.  And suddenly they opened fire and the girls fell to the ground.  Su’ad fell and when I saw her I turned to my right and when I turned I got hit… The shooting came from where the tank was but I don’t know who shot.  Su’ad was wounded in the neck and chest.  Amal was hit in the chest and abdomen and her intestines came out.  Su’ad died immediately.  We took Amal inside and she died in there because the ambulance could not come.  Samar was injured in the chest and the shots exited her back, leaving large holes and damaging the spine.  She is now paralyzed….

Interviewed separately, Khalid and his brother, who had both remained inside the house, confirmed this version of events.  According to Khalid, the women and girls were outside for about five minutes when an Israeli soldier emerged from the top of the tank and without warning opened fire with automatic gunfire.  The women and girls managed to scramble back inside the house, some of them bleeding badly, he said.

The suggestion is that the firing was done by Israeli soldiers with their personal weapons, or possibly from a machine gun mounted on the tank.

The statement that they were “interviewed separately” is irrelevant, since the handpicked “witnesses” had plenty of time to discuss their stories beforehand. One wonders also about the translators, as well.

Now we get to the “forensic experts”:

On February 2, Human Rights Watch brought two forensic pathologists, Dr. Jørgen Lange Thomsen from Denmark and Dr. Shabbir Ahmed Wadee from South Africa, to examine Su’ad ‘Abd Rabbo, who was recovering at her relative’s home in Jabalya.[18]  The doctors told Human Rights Watch that Su’ad’s wounds were consistent with having been shot twice, once in the left arm and once in the left buttock.  The bullets were not large caliber, they said, based on the absence of extensive internal injuries.  According to Drs. Thomsen and Wadee, who gave their assessments in each other’s presence, the entry and exit wounds on Su’ad’s left arm were indistinguishable due to the healing.  The other bullet, they said, had entered the left buttock and exited the front of the left flank.  This was consistent with Su’ad’s claim that she turned to her right towards the house when the shooting began.

They state that “the bullets were not large caliber” as though this establishes something about the circumstances of the shooting. Since the Kalashnikov rifle commonly used by Hamas also fires a 7.62mm bullet (although it is shorter than the MAG ammunition), what exactly would this prove? Since the spent bullets themselves were not recovered, it is not possible to tell if they were IDF MAG or Hamas AK47 ammunition.

And there is no way to correlate them with  cartridge cases or ammunition boxes found around the house. Real forensic ballistics would involve matching a spent bullet to the barrel of the weapon that fired it. HRW is simply talking nonsense. There is no “ballistic evidence” here!

These ‘findings’ only prove that these people got shot somehow, in the middle of a war. They also may prove that they were not shot by Wyatt Earp, who carried a .45.

But there’s more:  had the Palestinians been shot by an Israeli wielding the standard issue M-16 rifle — which uses an even smaller 5.56mm bullet — there probably would have been severe internal injuries and a large exit wound, because of the tumbling effect characteristic of this type of ammunition. So we do know that they were probably not shot by an IDF soldier with his personal weapon. We also can conclude that these “forensic experts” lack expertise with gunshot wounds from military weapons.

The HRW report continues,

Human Rights Watch also spoke by telephone with the doctor treating Samar in Brussels, Dr. Said Hachimi Idrissi.  He said that, as of March 6, Samar had undergone three surgeries, one in Gaza and two in Brussels.[19]  The first surgery in Gaza removed the bullets, so Dr. Idrissi could not comment on the caliber of bullets that had hit her.  The two subsequent surgeries in Brussels were to clean up a serious infection that Samar had developed around her spinal cord.  A July 22 television report on Samar by the BBC said the girl was paralyzed from the waist down due to her spinal injury.[20]

Which proves… that the girl was shot.

The whole business about the caliber of the bullets is a red herring. It has no bearing at all on who shot the victims, although it is presented as if it does. The HRW report is profoundly dishonest.

The only actual ‘evidence’ that these people were shot in cold blood by Israeli soldiers is the testimony of the Palestinian family members.

HRW and Physicians for Human Rights–Israel, who reported this incident have few if any staff that speak Arabic. The PHR report in which the “forensic” medical examinations are reported  states that

It was agreed after negotiation with the [Palestinian] Ministry of Health that the team should be enabled free and undisturbed work in order not to compromise its mission as an independent fact-finding team. The team therefore relied heavily on the fieldworkers of NGOs AlMezan (a Gaza-based human rights organization) and PMRS [Palestinian Medical Relief Society] in order to reach witnesses and sites [and for translation — ed.]. It should be noted that in some parts of the tour a representative of the de facto government (Hamas) accompanied some members of the team and observed their work.

Is it not possible — even likely —  that testimony from interested parties obtained under such conditions would be untrue in a large proportion of cases?

HRW and similar organizations are going to greater lengths to make their blood libels sound like real investigative reports, but they still have a way to go before they are convincing.

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