Archive for October, 2009

Gold vs. Goldstone: a test case for free speech

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Richard Goldstone, author of the infamous Goldstone Commission report, which accuses Israel of war crimes in Gaza, will debate Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, at Brandeis University on November 5. The proceedings will be streamed live to the internet from the site.

The Goldstone report is full of inaccuracies and falsehoods (see also here as well as here), as well as making the very serious and completely unsubstantiated claim that the IDF intentionally caused civilian casualties and damage as a form of collective punishment — when of course the opposite was true.

The UN mandate of the commission was only to investigate Israel. Goldstone himself announced that it would be broadened to include anything that anyone did in the context of the war, and the report did contain a statement that Hamas “may have” committed war crimes by firing rockets at Israeli civilians — something that was ignored by the UN Human Rights Council in the wholly anti-Israel resolution by which it adopted the report.

The methods used by the commission were so biased as to be laughable:  evidence and testimony were chosen selectively. Pro-Israel testimony was discredited Even when the same person presented testimony that included anti- and pro-Israel components, the pro-Israel ones were discarded. Accusations made by Hamas or Hamas-linked groups were accepted as fact, while IDF rebuttals were deemed non-credible. Much of it was simply copied from reports published by highly anti-Israel NGOs like Human Rights Watch.

Richard Goldstone has said that “ours wasn’t an investigation, it was a fact-finding mission,”  and “if this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.” However, at the same time he defends the process, and calls for a more ‘investigations‘ to give further prominence to the libelous charges in his report.

Dore Gold is a smart guy, and a good speaker. He will be prepared.

What should happen is that Goldstone will apologize to Gold, the state of Israel and the Jewish people, and then ceremonially disembowel himself. This is unlikely.

What will happen if it is a fair fight is that Gold will cut Goldstone to ribbons.

Caroline Glick thinks that it will not be a fair fight:

In an e-mail to a campus list-serve, Brandeis student and anti-Israel activist Jonathan Sussman called on his fellow anti-Zionists to disrupt the event that will pit the “neutral” Goldstone against Gold with his “wildly pro-Zionist message.” Sussman invited his list-serve members to join him at a meeting to “discuss a possible response.”

As the young community organizer sees it, “Possibilities include inviting Palestinian speakers to come participate, seeding the audience with people who can disrupt the Zionist narrative, protest and direct action.” He closed his missive with a plaintive call to arms: “F**k the occupation.”

The problem is that Sussman’s planned “direct action” against Gold is not an isolated incident. On college campuses throughout the US, Israelis and supporters of Israel are regularly denied the right to speak by leftist activists claiming to act on behalf of Israel’s “victims,” or in the cause of “peace.” In the name of the Palestinians or peace these radicals seek to coerce their fellow students into following their lead by demonizing and brutally silencing all voices of dissent.

I’m with Glick. Having personally experienced the tactics of the Zionophobic alliance of radical Muslims and left-wing extremists, I think that no effort will be spared to prevent this debate from taking place, and if it does to shout down or in some way silence Dore Gold.

This event will be a test case for the proposition that the constitutional guarantee of free speech is still upheld in the United States of America.

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To URJ: Israel is not the USA

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

News item:

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — A newly restructured and slimmed down Union for Reform Judaism will focus on interfaith relations and the rights of Israeli Arabs at its biennial convention Nov. 4-8 in Toronto…

“The union has long held that Israel should live up to its Jewish values and its democratic values for all citizens,” said Rabbi Elliott Kleinman, director of Advancing Reform Judaism, a position created this summer to coordinate Union for Reform Judaism activities worldwide.

With all due respect, this is not an appropriate path for an American Jewish denomination to take.

There’s no doubt that there’s inequality in the treatment of the Arab minority in Israel. The average American, on hearing this, will think: it’s just like our own civil rights struggles. Israeli Arabs are like African-Americans, and the solution is just to force Israel, like Mississippi, to give them their rights.

It is nothing like that. Not at all.

For one thing, some of the perceived differences between Jewish and Arab towns may not be due to discrimination. If a road in an Arab town isn’t paved, is it because the money hasn’t been allocated or because the mayor of the Arab town has different priorities, like projects benefiting members of his own clan?

For another, Canada and Mexico are not populated by hostile cousins of our African-Americans. The US has not recently fought several major and numerous minor wars with them. Mexican and Canadian blacks are not firing rockets into our cites, kidnapping our soldiers or infiltrating our borders to blow us up.

Israeli Arabs are not descended from slaves (unless some of them were slaves of other Muslims), and they had the ability to vote from 1948,  before many American blacks did. There was no  Reconstruction and counter-Reconstruction, no Jim Crow laws, no segregated buses or lunch counters. There is no tradition of lynching Arabs who look at Jewish women — the lynching that sticks in my mind happened to Jewish reservists. And there is no long history of terrorism by African-Americans.

African-Americans are not demanding that the US change its flag or its national anthem, or that a ‘black caucus’ have a veto power over all acts of Congress. They are not demanding a change in our national identity.

There have been riots by African-Americans in our cities — after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., after the Rodney King beating, etc. It’s clear where the frustration that led to these riots came from, even if there was a criminal element that may have exploited the chaos.

There have been Arab riots, too. There was a ‘riot’ in 1834 in Tzfat, in which an entire Jewish community was destroyed. Arabs have rioted periodically in response to incitement about the al-Aqsa Mosque. This happened in 1929, when hundreds of Jews were murdered, long before there was an Israel to ‘discriminate’ against them; it happened in 2000 after Yasser Arafat threw Israel’s offer of a sovereign state back in its face; and it happened a couple of weeks ago. The politically correct view is that this happens because Arabs are ‘frustrated’ about being ‘second class citizens’, but what they are actually frustrated about is not being in possession of all of Jerusalem (and Israel).

There is plenty of tension between Jews and Arabs in Israel, but it is only to a small extent a question of civil rights. A whole lot of it has to do with a trend for Arab citizens of Israel to more and more identify as ‘Palestinians’, not just alienated from but actively hostile to the Jewish state. Unsurprisingly, the solution does not lie in — why does this seem so familiar? — forcing Israel to accept Arab demands.

It’s incredibly arrogant and insulting when Rabbi Kleinman (above) calls for Israel to “live up to its Jewish values and its democratic values for all citizens,” implying that Israel does not live up to said values.

But what word characterizes liberal American Jews better than ‘arrogant’? The J Street approach, that a bunch of ‘progressive’ American Jews can and should tell the democratically elected government of Israel how it ought to act — during a time that is probably no less perilous than any since 1948 —  is an example.

Another is the New Israel Fund, which collects money from well-meaning American Jews and uses it to support groups that are actually working to destroy the Jewish state, also in the name of ‘civil rights’.

Americans — including Jews — don’t understand Israel very well, and insist on applying American paradigms where they don’t fit. How can you discuss the relationship between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel without considering the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict, or indeed, the 100-year Arab war against Israel?

Lest they make fools of themselves and hurt Israel at the same time, I suggest to the URJ that their people concentrate their efforts on helping poor people and solving social problems here in the USA. That’s enough to keep them busy for years.

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Jones at J Street

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

“Why are you so down on the Obama Administration?”  asks a friend.

Here’s an example of why:

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Advancing Israel-Palestinian peace is the “epicenter” of U.S. foreign policy, the White House national security adviser said.

“If there was one problem I could recommend to the president if he could solve one problem, this would be it,” James Jones said Tuesday in Washington during an address to the first conference of J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby. Bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would create “ripples” around the world, Jones said. “The reverse is not true. This is the epicenter.”

Oh really? How about solving the problem of Iran? I bet that almost any Arab leader, speaking candidly, would agree that this is more urgent than peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Iranian regime is

  • Exporting its revolution everywhere possible by means of its Hezbollah proxy
  • Preventing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by supporting Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.
  • Providing arms and support to Syria, which is helping insurgents in Iraq and subverting Lebanon
  • Developing nuclear weapons

I agree that Iran would be a hard nut to crack, but guess what — so is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly if nothing is done about Iran. It should be clear that the chain of causality starts in Tehran, not Jerusalem.

Jones is expressing the so-called ‘linkage theory’, the really absurd idea that all the problems of the Mideast would be on the way to solution if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would only end.  There’s also the corollary to this that the conflict is entirely Israel’s fault, and the way to solve it is to force Israel to give in to all Arab demands. This is more or less the Saudi point of view, and it isn’t surprising to see James L. Jones pushing it.

After he retired from the marine Corps, Gen. Jones served as president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy — an industry-funded lobby and PR organization; and in 2008 he joined the board of Directors of the Chevron Corporation, which has large operations in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. He was appointed “security coordinator” for the Bush Administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and in 2008 issued a report which was not released, but which purportedly made “Israel look very bad”. He also proposed that security should be guaranteed by NATO troops after an Israeli pullout from Judea and Samaria.

This is the guy who is one of the top advisors to the President on foreign policy, perhaps the most influential!

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Prosecution of IDF officers cynically twists truth

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Ha’aretz reports:

Human rights lawyers and pro-Palestinian activists in a number of European countries hold lists with names of Israel Defense Forces soldiers allegedly linked to war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Existing legislation enables arrest warrants to be issued against these officers if they enter those countries.

Lawyers in Britain and other European countries have been collecting testimonies of Palestinians and other data from Gaza since January, which they maintain proves that war crimes were committed by the IDF during the offensive. The evidence is linked to IDF officers holding ranks of battalion commander and higher, who were in command during various stages of Cast Lead.

The other nations who have lawyers collecting information on the matter include the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Norway, whose laws, as well as Britain’s, allow the issuance of arrest warrants against foreign citizens suspected of war crimes.

All very official, not unlike ‘official’ Nazi legal procedures for confiscating Jewish property, etc.  Naturally only the highest standards of ‘evidence’ will be used:

[British attorney Daniel] Makover said that the Goldstone report on the fighting in the Gaza Strip will bolster the efforts of the activists, and said that some of the instances mentioned in the report were already known to the attorneys. Makover is part of an unofficial network of attorneys operating in various countries in Europe, exchanging and sharing information so that suspected officers may be arrested in those countries.

Imagine my relief to know that the same careful forensic methods and the same standards of fairness that characterize the Goldstone report and NGO ‘investigations’ will now drive an international manhunt to capture the criminals who have violated Rule No. 1:

Other public-spirited individuals will help assure that the ‘perpetrators’ do not escape ‘justice':

The information is often received from pro-Palestinian activists who follow Jewish or pro-Israel groups that invite IDF officers to deliver lectures. In some instances, this information is relayed to border controls…

A number of human rights groups are busy working to create an international organization that would enable closer surveillance of those they suspect of war crimes and torture, as well as seek warrants for their arrest.

It also renews my faith in my fellow man to know that they are not depending on the authorities to bring these miscreants to justice. No, a network of ‘pro-Palestinian activists’ and ‘human rights groups’ will make sure the none of them slip away!

It would be unbelievable, if it were not true, that language, organizations and laws that originally came into being as a result of the horrific persecutions of Jews by the Nazis are being used today to aid the Palestinian Arabs — who were allied with the Nazis during the war — as they take part in the 100-year old war against Jews living in eretz yisrael.

The cynical twisting of truth that facilitates this is really a triumph of modern media manipulation in the supposedly ‘advanced’ countries of Europe. Göbbels himself would have to admire it.

There are other ironies. In the Warsaw Ghetto 66 years ago, Jews who tried to defend themselves were hunted down. Then, as now, the ‘authorities’ had the enthusiastic help of ‘activists’, Ukrainians, Latvians and some Poles (although in fairness, the Polish underground aided the Jews).

Imagine the empowerment of today’s ‘activists’, who in addition to demanding boycotts of Israeli products and professors can now actually help lock up a real live IDF officer!

Sometimes human behavior is so perverse, so ignorant, stupid and evil that the usual rhetorical tools, like irony, can’t begin to describe it. For years after, historians, novelists and poets struggle to explain the apparent pandemic insanity of a time or collection of events, like the Crusades or the Nazi era.

Today, when half the world is obsessed with the desire to stamp out a tiny nation with a tiny population, a nation with no significant natural resources except Jewish brains, is truly one of those times.

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Honest students vs. J Street hypocrisy

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Here is who is representing ‘Jewish activism’ to our kids at American universities:

J Street’s university arm has dropped the “pro-Israel” part of the left-wing US lobby’s “pro-Israel, pro-peace” slogan to avoid alienating students.

That decision was part of the message conveyed to young activists who attended a special weekend program for students ahead of J Street’s first annual conference, which began on Sunday…

“We don’t want to isolate people because they don’t feel quite so comfortable with ‘pro-Israel,’ so we say ‘pro-peace,'” said American University junior Lauren Barr of the “J Street U” slogan, “but behind that is ‘pro-Israel.'”

Barr, secretary of the J Street U student board that decided the slogan’s terminology, explained that on campus, “people feel alienated when the conversation revolves around a connection to Israel only, because people feel connected to Palestine, people feel connected to social justice, people feel connected to the Middle East…”

Yonatan Shechter, a junior at Hampshire College, said the ultra-liberal Massachusetts campus is inhospitable to terms like “Zionist” and that when his former organization, the Union of Progressive Zionists (which has been absorbed into J Street U), dropped that last word of its name, “people were so relieved.”Jerusalem Post

I’m not going to analyze J Street’s positions any more to try to show that they are the opposite of ‘pro-Israel’. I’m not going to quote Ambassador Michael Oren about J Street’s positions being bad for Israel’s interests. I am not going to try to analyze J Street’s funding sources or even director Jeremy Ben-Ami’s previous anti-Israel work — Lenny Ben-David has done a tremendous job of that here.

My (somewhat random) comments:

  • The Arab world, and now Iran, has been prosecuting a war against Israel for more than 60 years. Palestinian Arabs have been trying to drive Jews out of the region for almost 100 years. What does it mean to say “Jewish students feel connected to Palestine”? Do Armenian students feel connected to Turkey? Should they?
  • The Big Lie about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that it is a human-rights or social justice issue rather than part of a regional war.
  • Maybe “[students] were so relieved” when the left-wing Union of Progressive Zionists dropped the word ‘Zionists’ because — unlike Ben-Ami and the J Street leadership —  they were uncomfortable with the hypocrisy of calling themselves ‘Zionists’ and at the same time bringing the anti-Zionist ‘Breaking the Silence’ organization to campuses.
  • Why does Jeremy Ben-Ami make me so angry? Not because of his left-wing anti-Israel position, which is common in many quarters today, and not because he holds it despite having Jewish parents. It’s because he claims the role of advocate for Israel, even as a spokesperson for an American Jewish perspective, while doing his best — as a paid agent of Israel’s enemies — to weaken American support for Israel.

I would be overjoyed if J Street, too, would follow the lead of the far more sincere students, come out of its closet and unabashedly drop the phrase ‘pro-Israel’ from its self-description.

Of course, not doing this is their whole point, isn’t it?

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Israel should not investigate Goldstone claims

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

I can’t think of a single good reason that Israel should set up a commission to investigate the IDF’s actions in Gaza on the basis of the Goldstone report, or even, as PM Netanyahu seems to have suggested at one point, to create a ‘team’ (this is supposed to be less than a ‘commission’) to ‘reevalute’ the IDF’s examination of its own behavior.

On the other hand, there are many good reasons not to do so.

1) The main one, as I’ve argued before, is that to deny wild accusations is to suggest that, while false, they are not so wild. It is to suggest that they could be true. Otherwise, why investigate them?

The most damning accusation in the Goldstone report, of course, is that Israel intentionally hurt and killed noncombatants and destroyed civilian infrastructure in order to ‘collectively punish’ Palestinians. That this was not collateral damage, but deliberate damage. That this was part of Israel’s strategy.

The Goldstone report claims to prove this, but actually presents no evidence. Further, it can be shown that it cannot be true. Why, then should this libel be given even the weight of a hypothesis?

2) An investigation of Goldstone’s claims would imply that the report’s method — which was apparently to accept Palestinian ‘witness’ testimony as prima facie true, or to repeat claims made by organizations such as HRW or even Hamas-related groups who did the same — was capable of reaching unbiased conclusions. It would imply that the mandate of the commission and its makeup could produce a fair result. None of these is the case, and that can be shown without an investigation.

3) An investigation by anyone except the IDF itself, which is already investigating numerous incidents that occurred during the war, implies a lack of confidence in the IDF. But the government, which was aware of the precautions army commanders took to minimize civilian casualties, has no reason except for the clearly biased Goldstone report to second-guess the IDF. To do so would not only be unfair, but would have a chilling effect on officers’ initiative in future campaigns.

4) No Israeli investigation will be taken seriously by any UN body. Remember the International Court of Justice decision that the Security Barrier was ‘illegal under international law’, a decision which did not mention terrorism even once? An investigation will not protect Israel from hostile acts of the UN.  Since unfriendly European governments will likely take their cues from UN resolutions, it won’t protect Israelis against local ‘war crimes’ prosecutions either. So why incur the damage described in 1-3 above?

Here is another idea: Investigate the investigators, and the defective process by which the report came about.

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HRW, meet Ismail Haniyeh

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

News item:

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Human Rights Watch called on Hamas to open an investigation into alleged war crimes.

The organization sent a letter Tuesday to Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh calling on Hamas to launch a “credible investigation” into the alleged violations highlighted in the United Nations’ Goldstone report, according to reports.

Can you stop laughing? I can’t.

Imagine the conversation:

HRW: We want you to launch an investigation of the allegations that you “may have committed war crimes” when you fired 10,000 rockets and mortar shells into Israel over a period of 8 years.

Ismail Haniyeh: Ma pitom!* It’s not Hamas that committed war crimes, it’s the yahood! We are just following our Hamas Covenant when we launch Qassams, where it says “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.”

HRW: But you aren’t supposed to wage jihad against unarmed civilians.

IH: Oh yes we are! Our covenant says “Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people. May the cowards never sleep.” That means all Jews, in uniform or not.

HRW: So you want the Jews out of the lands they unjustly took in 1967?

IH: No, we want them out of all occupied territory, from the river to the sea. That’s what the covenant means when it says “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.” No Crusaders or yahood allowed.

HRW: Oh, I see. Sort of like what our Saudi donors are always saying. But what will become of the Jews when you drive them out?

IH: Who cares? They are responsible for everything bad in the world. After all,

With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.

They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.

HRW: (shocked) The Lions Clubs? Is there no limit to their perfidy?

IH: No. “We should not forget to remind every Muslim that when the Jews conquered the Holy City in 1967, they stood on the threshold of the Aqsa Mosque and proclaimed that “Mohammed is dead, and his descendants are all women.”

HRW: OK, you may be justified if they are as bad as all that. But if I can give you a tip, be careful what you say about women. Sexism is out today.

IH: That’s just dumb political correctness! Next you’ll be objecting to anti-yahood-ism. Like this important part of our covenant:

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree,  would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”


Shabbat shalom to everyone.

* Useful Hebrew expression, literally ‘what, suddenly?’ Here it means something like ‘are you kidding?’

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Whose responsibility?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
Arabs riot in Umm el-Fahm, October 2000

Arabs riot in Umm el-Fahm, October 2000

News item:

The State of Israel has agreed to compensate seven families of the October 2000 riots fatalities.

According to an agreement reached Wednesday between the Northern District Attorney’s Office and relatives of seven out of the 13 Arabs killed in the riots, the state will pay each bereaved family NIS 1,100,000 [about $298,000]. The deal requires a court’s approval, and according to Army Radio, nullifies any future legal claims the families might have against Israel.

During the 10 days of riots, the 13 men were shot and killed by police and other security forces at various locations in the Galilee, and a Jewish motorist was killed in a crash after his car was stoned on the coastal road near Jisr e- Zarka.

At the beginning of 2008, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced that no police officers would be indicted in connection with the killing of the men during the riots. The largely expected ruling, which was decried by Israeli Arabs, followed a decision by the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department in September 2005 to close the case due to lack of evidence.

The riots at the start of the Second Intifada sparked renewed concerns among Jews that the country’s 1.4 million Arab citizens were a fifth column. In September 2003, the Or Judicial Commission of Inquiry found that both the government and the police, taken by surprise by the rioting of Israeli citizens, failed to handle the situation properly.

The police, who were heavily outnumbered, later said they had not had enough nonlethal crowd dispersal gear.

The about 800-page Or report was highly critical of the police, and most likely some policemen would have been indicted if it had been possible to connect particular officers with the shootings.

In all-too-typical fashion, the report included a mea culpa:

The establishment did not show sufficient sensitivity to the needs of the Arab population, and did not take enough action in order to allocate state resources in an equal manner… The state did not do enough or try hard enough to create equality for its Arab citizens or to uproot discriminatory or unjust phenomena. Meanwhile, not enough was done to enforce the law in the Arab sector, and the illegal and undesirable phenomena that took root there. As a result of this and other processes, serious distress prevailed in the Arab sector in various areas. — quoted in Ha’aretz

The ‘riots’, which were the Israeli Arab — or ‘Palestinian citizen of Israel’, as they increasingly prefer to be called — side of the Second Intifada. Here is an excerpt from an Israeli account of events:

Yaffo, the southern part of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, was cut off, for a day or two. You couldn’t get to Bat-Yam via Yaffo, the shorter route, when coming from inner Tel Aviv. You had to go right round, through Holon. Even when the road was opened, people were afraid to drive that way.

The riots in the north of the country were the worst. Main roads leading to the north of the country were sporadically blocked by rioters, effectively cutting off the north from the rest of the country. People were scared to go home.

Jews living in secluded villages and small towns in the north were afraid that they were going to be attacked (Bish reminds me that people traveling on slip roads leading to secluded villages and small towns, such as Lotem and Misgav, in the Galilee, actually were attacked by their longtime Arab neighbors, who they had formerly seen as their friends, and the Jewish inhabitants were placed under protective curfew).

A man was killed from a stone thrown at his car, while he was driving along highway #2, the main road from Tel Aviv to Haifa, near the Arab village of Jisr a-Zarqa, a bit north of Hadera. Thus the road connecting the main Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa seemed to have become as dangerous as roads leading to remote West Bank settlements.

There was a decided feeling of alarm and emergency. It felt like the terrible 1948 war was coming alive again before our eyes. Would we have to travel in armed convoys from now on, in the middle of the country, like we did back then? The whole country was in shock. Suddenly people realized how dangerous the Israeli Arabs could be if they chose, and it looked like they were choosing.

Here’s another:

And pogroms these were in all ways. Jews were attacked and beaten everywhere. The entire Galilee and other parts of Israel became scenes  reminiscent of the late 1940s, where Arab gangs blocked roads, laid siege to Jewish towns, beat Jewish families randomly, grabbing random passing Jews out of their cars, stoning every Jew they could find, murdering at least two Jews inside Israel. These were not Palestinians living across the Green Line, but second and third generation Israeli Arabs, with their European standards of living, health and education levels, and their Scandinavian-style social welfare benefits…

Throughout the country, small teams of Israeli police were confronted by hordes of thousands of violent Arabs, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at them, and sometimes shooting guns. Armchair commentators today insist that the police should have exercised infinite tolerance and patience at the time, but such people have never been confronted by a mob of thousands of screaming violent pogromchiks.

Three of the Arab fatalities occurred in the Arab town Umm el-Fahm. At least one of them was due to the snipers of the Israel Police counter-terrorism unit, YAMAM. Arab sources claim that they were sent to suppress the demonstrations, or even to ‘take out the leadership’. But this is nonsense. I spoke to a member of YAMAM, who told me

There were thousands of rioters and a much smaller number of riot police who tried to contain them. The riot police are mostly unarmed — they have shields and clubs, maybe the officers have pistols, but they’re mostly unarmed. The YAMAM snipers were sent to protect the police, to keep them from getting killed.

In one case [in Umm el-Fahm], the police were lined up against the front of a building, a two-or three-story building. One Arab was on the roof and he had a long metal bar or pipe. He was prying loose big concrete blocks from the wall in an attempt to make them fall on the police below. Anyone hit would have been killed, or at least severly injured. That’s why he was shot.

Our rules of engagement were not to fire unless someone’s life was in danger, and that’s what we did.

This appears to describe the shooting of Misleh Hussein Abu Jarad on October 2, 2000, at the entrance to Umm el-Fahm.

Despite its apparent desire to lay the primary blame on Israeli officials, police and ‘discrimination’, the Or Commission also cited incitement by Israeli Arab leaders, including MK Azmi Bishara (who has since fled Israel, accused of treason for helping Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon war) and MK Abdul Malik Dehamshe. And there was another familiar name:

On September 18, 2000, two weeks prior to the outbreak of violence, more than 35,000 Israeli Arabs attended the seventh annual Northern Islamic Movement “peace” rally on the theme: “Al Aksa [Mosque] is in Danger,” hosted by Um el Fahm Mayor Sheikh Raed Salah. While the Or Commission declined to recommend legal action against Salah despite proven inflammatory statements before and during the crisis, he is currently [2004] in Israeli police custody for allegedly passing large sums of money to the Hamas terror group. Salah reportedly told the crowd, “the Islamic world has exclusive rights to all the holy sites in Jerusalem and Israel has none.” The crowd responded with the chant, “In spirit and blood, we shall redeem Al Aksa.” Islamic affairs expert Dr. Guy Bechor noted that the entire rally took place as an act of incitement against the very existence of the State of Israel. — Dan Diker, Lessons from the Or Commission

Salah, of course, was the driving force behind the recent demonstrations around the Temple Mount. It’s interesting to note that the 1929 ‘riots’ — which many prefer to call ‘pogroms’ — in which hundreds of Jews were murdered, were incited in a similar way. Today, Salah plays the role of Haj Amin al-Husseini, who then accused the Jews of wanting to take possession of the Temple Mount and destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque:

The Islamic Movement’s tendency to throw fuel on the fire of Arab-Jewish tensions dates back many years. Salah was accused by the Orr Commission – set up to investigate the October 2000 Israeli Arab riots – of praising violent acts and demonizing the State of Israel in his speeches.

In 2003, Salah and a number of other suspects from the Islamic Movement’s northern branch were convicted of abetting Hamas, communicating with a foreign agent, and membership of a terrorist organization. Salah was imprisoned for a year and a half.

In 2007, Salah cited anti-Semitic blood libels in his speech, accusing Jews of using blood in the preparation of foods.

This past June, he addressed Muslim students at the University of Haifa who are members of an Islamic-Movement-affiliated group on campus known as IKRA, and claimed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was seeking to “build the Temple” on the Temple Mount. Calls for Muslims to rally to protect the Temple Mount from so-called “Jewish threats” have become a staple of Salah’s rhetoric. — Jerusalem Post

By compensating the families of ‘victims’, who were actually participating in an insurrection, the government of Israel unfortunately accepts the contention of the Arab community that the responsibility for their death lies with Israel. But there is a great deal of evidence for a different thesis:

The October 2000 riots were to a great degree the result of incitement and ideological radicalization of the Israeli Arab sector by local Arab political and religious leaders, the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic Movement in Israel, and foreign radical Islamic groups. — Dan Diker, Lessons from the Or Commission

If anyone can determine the names of the seven whose families will receive compensation, I would like to know them for further research.

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Confessions of an ethical cretin

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

When you are criticized by someone you respect, it hurts. But when you are called names by someone who is an ignorant buffoon, it can be a badge of honor. So I may get a t-shirt inscribed “Another Ethical Cretin for Israel”.

I’m referring, of course, to the buffoonish Michael Lerner:

I recently met a leading representative of the foreign ministry of Israel who acknowledged to me “off the record” that Israel had made a tremendous blunder in refusing to cooperate with the UN Commission led by Judge Richard Goldstone, which investigated the charges of Israeli and Palestinian war crimes in the invasion of Gaza last December and January. Judge Goldstone, an internationally respected jurist whose Zionist credentials include being a member of the governing board of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wanted to hear Israel’s account of what happened, but Israel blocked that inquiry so Goldstone could only report what the victims of Israel’s attacks sought to convey.

Unfortunately, Israel’s predictable choir of ethical cretins around the world have joined in condemning Goldstone and the UN instead of urging Israel to investigate the charges by creating an impartial, objective and open process in which the victims can testify and the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

Lerner’s assertion that Israel’s refusal to cooperate with Goldstone was the cause of the report’s bias is laughable. First of all, the original mandate of the commission, as specified in UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution S-9/1, was for

…an urgent, independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression, and calls upon Israel not to obstruct the process of investigation and to fully cooperate with the mission;

Only the ‘occupying power’ (see my note on postcolonialism) was to be investigated. Even Goldstone himself found this a bit much, and the report does suggest that Hamas ‘may have’ committed war crimes by firing rockets at Israeli civilians — although the UNHRC resolution that adopted the report does not even mention Hamas (it does accuse Israel of various invented ‘crimes’ in East Jerusalem)!

Goldstone did have the opportunity to hear evidence favorable to Israel, but chose not to. In particular, it was suggested that he invite Col. Richard Kemp, who gave an interview to the BBC in January in which he said

…I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.

He chose not to do so, as well as to ignore other relevant material that was submitted to him. The report’s bias is overwhelming, but even worse than its treatment of unverified Palestinian stories of specific incidents as fact is the accusation that “disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy,” something which the report does not — and cannot — prove.

Should Israel take seriously every wild charge and libel? Should there be an ‘investigation’ of alleged organ-stealing by the IDF? What about the suggestion that Jews caused the Plague by poisoning wells? If I spread a rumor that Michael Lerner habitually has sex with chickens, should he appoint a blue-ribbon commission to investigate this? Would that help or hurt him?

Would Israel have been better off by cooperating with the Goldstone Commission in the first place? I don’t know for sure but I doubt it, given the stacked deck presented by resolution S-9/1.

Does Michael Lerner habitually have sex with chickens? Ah, that’s the question. I’m looking forward to “an impartial, objective and open process in which the victims can testify and the perpetrators can be brought to justice.”

Ignorant buffoon Michael Lerner looking the part. Chickens?

Ignorant buffoon Michael Lerner looking the part. Chickens?

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Goldstone finally said something I agree with

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Now there’s a ‘controversy’ over whether the Goldstone report will kill the ‘peace process’. Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu says yes, and, unsurprisingly, Judge Richard Goldstone says no.

I greatly admire Netanyahu, and I’m afraid I would have to say that I despise Goldstone. But Goldstone was actually correct when he said,

What peace process are they talking about? There isn’t one.

Of course, I’ve taken this out of context. Goldstone goes on to blame Israel for this, and to call for an investigation of all the lies, calumnies and blood libels in his tendentious report.

But unfortunately the only ‘peace process’ out there is in the minds of the Obama Administration and some others who appear to think that they can ‘visualize world peace’ into existence by really, really wanting it.

Presently there are no negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu says that he is prepared to start talking without preconditions, but that any agreement will need to include

  • A demilitarized Palestinian state, and
  • Recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

These are not outrageous demands on the face of it. Surely recent history amply justifies demilitarization, and what is Israel if not the state of the Jewish people?

The Palestinian Authority (PA) under the ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas, accepts neither of these principles, and refuses to even begin negotiations unless all Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem stops. Indeed, the representative of ‘Palestine’ to the UN walked out during Netanyahu’s speech. If you would like to understand why, pay attention to what was said at the Sixth Fatah Congress this August.

So yes, Goldstone is correct, there’s no peace process. Look at the PA’s objections:

The demand for a settlement freeze is explained by saying that Israel is creating ‘facts on the ground’ which will prejudice the outcome of border negotiations. But no additional area will be added to existing settlements. And if Israeli building is said to prejudice the outcome, why is the same not true of Palestinian building? It makes absolutely no sense as a precondition for negotiations unless it is seen as a symbolic statement that all of Judea and Samaria and — especially — East Jerusalem is ‘Palestinian’. Talk about prejudging!

The Palestinians have trouble with a demilitarized state, too. Well, of course they do, since they want to keep the option of armed ‘resistance’ open. Here’s Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at the Fatah congress linked above:

When we stress that we espouse the option of peace and negotiations based on the U.N. resolutions, we retain our fundamental right to legitimate resistance guaranteed by international law. This right is also linked to our perception and to the national consensus, which is what must determine the appropriate forms of the struggle and the proper timing for [each]…

Finally, and most important, is their rejection of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Israel doesn’t have the slightest difficulty saying that the Palestinian state will belong to the ‘Palestinian people’, so why is this considered non-negotiable by even the most ‘moderate’ Palestinian officials, like PM Salaam Fayyad?

There are two reasons. One is the Palestinian wish to settle millions of hostile descendants of Arab refugees inside Israel in order to destroy its Jewish character (and provoke a civil war in which Jews will be killed or driven out), and this is contradicted by the idea of a Jewish state. The other is that the Palestinians believe that even if there is a ‘peace’ agreement, the land on which the state of Israel exists belongs to them!

Here’s a comment made by Omar al-Ghul, an adviser to Salaam Fayyad, which makes this crystal clear:

“No Palestinian leader can ever accept this demand [for recognition as a Jewish state] 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.”

The Palestinians are telling us that what they mean by ‘peace’ and a ‘two-state solution’ is this: a state of ‘Palestine’ in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in which Jews are forbidden to live, and a state of ‘Israel’, where — at least temporarily — Jews are permitted. This is why Abbas has said several times that “Netanyahu doesn’t accept the two-state solution.” Bibi’s two states are not the same as those of Abbas!

Aside from official statements, wouldn’t one expect that a regime that wanted to make peace would try to prepare its population by the use of its media and educational system? During the Oslo period, for example, Israel’s government went to great lengths to explain to its people its commitment to finally end the conflict with the Palestinians. But the Palestinian Authority has done nothing of the kind, instead maintaining a high-level of vicious anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda, designed to whip up violent hatred and opposition to compromise — and to raise a generation ready to lay down their lives in order to replace Israel with an Arab state.

Palestinian goals have not changed a bit since the PLO was founded in 1964. And it never ceases to amaze me that those who insist that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ because of  security measures like the fence, fail to notice the racist, apartheid character of the PA’s demands!

Note that I haven’t even mentioned Hamas — whose control over the Gaza Strip and uncompromising antisemitic, genocidal position makes a meaningful ‘peace process’ impossible.

So Goldstone’s point is well taken. What is surprising is that despite all of the evidence — the Fatah convention, the official statements of Mahmoud Abbas, Salaam Fayyad and others, the continued vicious incitement of hatred from the official PA media, educational and religious systems — the US continues to try to pretend that there is a peace process!

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It’s Judea and Samaria

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Names, words, language. Their importance in shaping reality as perceived can’t be minimized. Do we say ‘Palestine’ or eretz yisrael? Is there a ‘security fence’ or an ‘apartheid wall’?

As someone who writes about the Mideast almost every day, I make lots of decisions like these. Although I’m not likely to say ‘apartheid wall’, I might struggle with ‘fence’ vs. ‘barrier’. What I’m looking for are expressions that are neutral — not polemical in themselves; I want my explicit argument to carry the weight of (I hope) convincing the reader.

What I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of days is the area between the Green Line and the Jordan River, not including East Jerusalem. And what I think is that I’ve been making a mistake for the last three years.

There’s a whole continuum of terms, each with its connotations:

  • Judea and Samaria
  • Disputed territories
  • West Bank
  • Occupied territories
  • Occupied Palestinian territories

I’ve been using ‘West Bank’, thinking that it was the most neutral possible term. Wrong. Here’s what “Philologos” wrote in 2006:

What, after all, is “the West Bank”? It is a translation of the Arabic term al-daf’a al-gharbiya — which is a rather odd term for Judea and Samaria when you consider that the “bank” in question is that of the Jordan River and that these territories are both separated from that river by the Jordan Valley and are not on its bank at all. And in fact, this was not a term ever used for them by their inhabitants or, for that matter, by anyone at all, until King Abdullah’s Arab Legion occupied them when it crossed the Jordan westward in its 1948 war against Israel.

In 1950 Abdullah annexed the “West Bank,” a move that was protested by the rest of the Arab world as a land grab over the heads of the Palestinians. Already, the previous year, he had changed the official name of his country from The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to indicate that it now comprised territory on both sides of the Jordan River rather than only on its eastern side. And to drive home this point, the Jordanians encouraged the use of the terms “East Bank” and “West Bank” as a way of stressing that theirs was a single country that straddled a river running through it. Eventually, “West Bank” became a term used by the “West Bankers” themselves, as well as by the rest of the world.

On the other hand, ‘Judea and Samaria’ [an anglicization of יהודה ושומרון, yehuda veshomron] dates to biblical times, and was used exclusively to describe this area in maps, documents and books up to about 1950.

So rather than being neutral, ‘West Bank’ is a hostile creation that obscures the Jewish connection to the land.

[A]fter the 1967 war it became bon ton among Israeli intellectuals on the anti-annexationist left to refer, too, to Judea and Samaria as “the West Bank,” as if these were areas devoid of Jewish historical associations and Jewish memories. And because it was the annexationist right that continued to use the traditional Hebrew words Yehuda and Shomron, it was assumed by the ignorant that these had been yanked crudely from the mothballs of a distant biblical past to justify expansionist policies.

I’ve been told not to say “Judea and Samaria” because it will immediately identify me as a member of the extreme Right, and nobody will take anything I say seriously.

But this is exactly how the political corruption of language progresses; soon, only ‘Palestinian territories’ will be acceptable, and how can one say that ‘Palestinians’ shouldn’t have sovereignty over Palestinian territories?

(Which brings us to the word ‘Palestinian’ itself. Before 1948, when someone said ‘Palestinian’ he or she was as likely to be referring to a Jew as to an Arab. By arrogating the term to themselves, Palestinian Arabs try to imply that they are the indigenous inhabitants of the land and the Jews are interlopers, something I discussed yesterday. Even the word ‘Palestine’ was invented by the Romans for political purposes).

Already, to many people the word ‘Zionism’ has come to mean ‘Jewish racism’  (see the correct definition here).

In any event, I intend to stand firm and not retreat in the face of  linguistic aggression.

It’s Judea and Samaria from now on.

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Postcolonialist dogma doesn’t fit

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

The following illustrates an argument I hear a lot:

The Palestinian Authority would not oppose the prosecution of Hamas militants on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court, Israel Radio on Saturday quoted the PA’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva as saying.

Ibrahim Khraishi reportedly made the comments after the UN Human Rights Council’s voted in favor of his motion to endorse a report accusing both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the December-January hostilities in Gaza.

Speaking in an interview with Israel Radio, Khraishi said he had no problem in saying that legal proceedings against Israel over alleged human rights abuses should also be instigated against Palestinians. But he was quoted as adding that occupiers must not be confused with the occupied.

It’s not surprising that the PA would like to see Hamas suffer! But what I’m interested in is the phrase I boldfaced at the end.

It represents a  ‘postcolonialist’ ideology, traceable to Frantz Fanon and Edward Said, that enshrines a double standard for behavior as applied, for example, to Israel and the Palestinians.

Postcolonial theory asserts that there are ‘settler countries’ and ‘non-settler countries’, and of course you can imagine who are supposed to be the good guys. A great deal of effort is expended by the Arabs and their supporters to place Israel in the first group, with the Zionists in the position of colonizers of the ‘indigenous’ Palestinian Arabs. Honest historical analysis shows that in fact this is not accurate, but it’s important for them to say this in order to take advantage of the special dispensations granted to the ‘colonized’.

Here’s an example of the reasoning, as expressed in an article by Nir Rosen, an American-born journalist:

Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors…

Attacking civilians is the last, most desperate and basic method of resistance when confronting overwhelming odds and imminent eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli civilians with the expectation that they will destroy Israel. The land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they respond in whatever way they can to apply pressure on Israel…

Haaretz reported that a Palestinian woman blinded an Israeli soldier in one eye when she threw acid in his face. “The terrorist was arrested by security forces,” the paper said. An occupied citizen attacks an occupying soldier, and she is the terrorist?

The argument depends on the “overwhelming odds”, the disparity in power between the ‘colonizer and colonized’. Edward Said, the high priest of applying postcolonial theory to Israel and the Palestinians, never tired of mentioning that Israel was a “nuclear power”, as if this had some relevance to its responses to Arab terrorism!

Once it is established that one party is a ‘colonizer’ and the other ‘colonized’, the game is over. For the postcolonialist, nothing that the colonizer does to defend himself is permissible, and anything that the colonized does in the name of resistance is justified.

This is insisted upon despite the actual power relationship between the sides, which — because of the actions and constraints of outside powers and the force-multiplying effect of asymmetric warfare — may be much closer to equal than the postcolonialist wants us to think.

The postcolonialist point of view is endemic to the academic world — google ‘postcolonialism’ and you will be overwhelmed by the huge mass of professorial careers that have been built on it — but it has little applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite Said’s struggle to make it appear so.

Like most grand theories — those of Marx or Freud, for example — postcolonialism gets its explanatory power when an apparently chaotic situation can be shown to be a special case of some general principles. Most such theories are inspired by a particular paradigm case; for Fanon it was the French in Martinique. Said, who was comparatively an intellectual lightweight, saw the huge power of the postcolonial metaphor to promote his own — Palestinian — cause.

But it’s difficult to beat this conflict into the mold.

First, the history of the development of the Arab and Jewish populations in Ottoman and Mandatal Palestine during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th is much more a story of parallel development than of invasion and conquest. Although there were more Arabs than Jews in Palestine when the early Zionists arrived in the 1880’s, many of those Arabs were relative newcomers to the region themselves, originating in Egypt and arriving with the Muhammad Ali expedition to ‘Syria’ (which included much of what was to become the Palestine Mandate area) in 1831.

Palestinian Arab nationalism and Zionism — and Arab and Jewish populations — both grew together until 1948, when the Zionists succeeded in establishing their state. The fact that many Arabs became refugees of the war was due almost entirely to bad choices made by their leadership — particularly the Nazi-allied Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini. And the fact that they stayed refugees after the war was a result of the intransigence of the Arab nations, particularly Egypt, which found their stateless condition useful.

Second, there’s no colonial power whose colonists settled in Palestine. ‘International Jewry’, a convenient whipping boy, was always — and still is — sharply divided on the subject of Zionism. It’s more correct to see Zionism as primarily an indigenous — there’s that word — movement; in fact, Zionists among Palestinian Jews often had (and still have) serious disagreements with Diaspora Zionists.

And third, as I suggested before, there is not such a great disparity of power between Israel and the forces arrayed against it, which include the Arab nations and an increasingly powerful Iran. Israel’s support from the rest of the world, which now seems to come from only the US and nations like Kiribati, is more tenuous than it has been in a long time.

The colonizer-colonized metaphor clearly does not apply to Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.

Even if it did, isn’t there something repugnant to the argument that absolutely any violent behavior — like throwing acid in the face of a conscript who was doubtless performing a police function, or blowing up a civilian bus, or breaking into a house and murdering its occupants, men, women and children — is justified in the name of ‘liberating an oppressed people’?

Especially if the aim of such such ‘liberation’ is, as often happens, the establishment of an even more oppressive and/or incompetent regime, like that in Zimbabwe?

The other side of the coin is that for the postcolonialist, the ‘settler country’ isn’t allowed to defend itself. Because of the great disparity of power that the ‘settler’ has by definition, anything that it does is ‘disproportionate’. The only moral option for ‘settlers’ is to flee or lay down and die.

Sound familiar? This is what lies behind the Goldstone report and the multitude of NGO slanders that led up to it. Because the people behind them are steeped in postcolonialist ideology, they don’t have to prove that Israel committed war crimes. They know a priori that Israel is guilty, because it is a ‘settler country’, an ‘occupier’.

Postcolonial theorist Edward Said throws a stone at Israeli soldiers across Lebanese border in 2000. He missed.

Postcolonial theorist Edward Said throws a stone at Israeli soldiers across Lebanese border in 2000. He missed.

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