Archive for November, 2009

Outflank the UN

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Recently a friend sent me this video (the audio is in English with Hebrew subtitles). Many of you may have  seen it; the YouTube copy got over 426,000 hits since it was posted in 2007.

It shows Hillel Neuer, director of the UN Watch organization, eloquently denouncing the one year old UN Human Rights Council — which had been created because the previous version, the UN Human Rights Commission had been deemed ineffective, primarily because it was packed with nations notable for their disregard for human rights. The new Council is hardly better — unlike the Commission, Sudan and Zimbabwe are not members, but it still includes Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, and other states that are not exactly exemplars of regard for human rights.

The Council, like its predecessor, specialized in accusations against Israel while ignoring serious violations by others.

Neuer is a good speaker who reminded me of Abba Eban. The tone of the response by the then-President of the Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, is contemptuous as he tells Neuer that any similar comments in the future will be removed from the record.

So why do I bring this up?

Because it is increasingly true that eloquence, logic, and appeal to facts are irrelevant today. Only the point of view matters. Look at the Goldstone Report and the trashy NGO reports from which much of it was copied: patchworks of unsubstantiated accusations, used to support outrageous conclusions — primarily that Israel deliberately targeted civilians. But there is no real evidence for most of the accusations, and no logical connection to the conclusions. The report earns an F even if considered as investigative journalism, not to mention as a legal brief that might have consequences for Israel or IDF officers.

Nevertheless, this hit-piece, mandated  by the above-mentioned Human Rights Council to investigate Israel’s crimes alone is actually taken seriously!

The UN is worse than worthless — they just proved it again by throwing Anne Bayefsky out. Pro-Israel speech is either ignored — when it comes from Israel’s Ambassador — or stifled, when it comes from a representative of a non-governmental organization (NGO) like Neuer or Bayefsky. On the other hand, the UN has an entire apparatus devoted to advocacy for the Palestinians (read: defamation of Israel). Here’s what I wrote about it a while back:

Did you know that our UN contains a “Division for Palestinian rights“? Here are a few of the things it does:

  • Organizing the annual commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People;
  • Preparing studies and publications relating to the question of Palestine and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and promoting their widest possible dissemination, including in cooperation with the Department of Public Information;
  • Maintaining liaison with NGOs which are active on the issue;
  • Maintaining and developing the Web-based United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL).

UNISPAL is impressive, by the way, containing audio, multimedia, photographs, etc. There are no pictures of Qassam rockets, but here’s a nice one of a postage stamp.

Postage stamp from UNISPAL

Postage stamp from UNISPAL

You are now probably expecting me to say something like “Israel should quit the UN and the US should stop supporting it and kick it out of New York!”  But despite the UN’s defects, there needs to be a framework of some kind for international cooperation. And if  the US left the UN, there would be no restraints on its behavior at all. I have another idea.

Don’t attack it frontally; outflank it.

Establish a new international organization, called something like the “United Democratic Nations”. Invite only countries that have free and fair elections and more than one political party. No kingdoms, dictatorships or republics-in-name-only need apply. Do all the things that a UN does: pass resolutions, create organizations to fight hunger and disease, to promote literacy, etc.

Little by little, its members would shift their financial support from the old UN to the new UDN. Naturally, being made up of politically advanced nations, the UDN would actually solve problems instead of creating them.

One day the UN would simply be irrelevant. The NYPD would tow all of its diplomats’  illegally parked cars and what was left of it would vanish.

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But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Did you know that our UN contains a “Division for Palestinian rights“? Here are a few of the things it does:

* Organizing the annual commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People;

* Preparing studies and publications relating to the question of Palestine and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and promoting their widest possible dissemination, including in cooperation with the Department of Public Information;

* Maintaining liaison with NGOs which are active on the issue;

* Maintaining and developing the Web-based United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL).

UN postage stamp from UNISPALUNISPAL is impressive, by the way, containing audio, multimedia, photographs, etc. There are no pictures of Qassam rockets, but here’s a nice one of a postage stamp.

Absurd US position on Jerusalem isn’t constructive

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Here’s a perfect example of the misleading use of the settlement issue, from a Palestinian source. Ma’an News tells us that,

According to the [Israel channel 10] report, the US administration suggested, and Israel was preparing to allow, the following in exchange for a guarantee from Abbas that the PLO would re-enter talks.

• Weapons for Palestinian Authority security forces
• Release of 400 Fatah prisoners from Israeli jails before the Muslim holiday of Eid
• Extending the PA’s West Bank jurisdiction in Area B to full control and Area C to partial control

Channel 10 reported that Abbas rejected all of these offers, sticking instead to his insistence that there be no negotiations while Israel’s borders continue to expand.

One doesn’t need to be a Ph.D like Mahmoud Abbas (Patrice Lumumba U., Moscow) to know the difference between building some apartments — more correctly, talking about building some apartments — in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, and ‘expanding borders’. But this is the Palestinian excuse for refusing to return to negotiations with Israel.

The real reason, which is a quite good one and one with which I agree, is that they don’t want to negotiate since they know that their bottom line and Israel’s are so far apart. The PLO won’t — can’t — recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and will not accept a demilitarized Palestine. And they’ve also sold the idea that a ‘two-state solution’ includes the right of return. It really doesn’t matter if Abbas is ready to compromise on these issues or not, since he wouldn’t survive politically or physically if he did. So he prefers to blame it on Israel.

What I find particularly upsetting is our president and Secretary of State taking the same line. And they do, every time they use the highly misleading phrase ‘settlement construction’ to refer to any building activity — or even planning activity — in the area that was occupied by Jordan in 1948, especially Jerusalem.

There is a consensus in Israel that Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem are not settlements, regardless of where the cease-fire line happened to fall in 1949.

Recently there’s been some excitement over the fact that a US passport issued to a citizen born in Jerusalem — any part of it — will not say ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ but rather only ‘Jerusalem’ for the place of birth. This is consistent with the American point of view.

The UN and the US in point of fact, do not recognize that Israel has any rights in Jerusalem, East or West. But in this view, neither do the Palestinians! The original UN partition resolution of 1947 and UN General Assembly Resolution 303 of 1949 call for all of Jerusalem to be internationalized, and the US State Department still holds this position.

It’s easy to forget that in 1967 Israel did not capture Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem from the Palestinians. These were part of the Palestine Mandate, which included the Balfour Declaration — the charter for a Jewish national home. The Jordanian occupation of this area was illegal, the product of a war of aggression. Israel annexed Jerusalem in 1980, when it declared that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”

In his book  Power, Faith, and Fantasy, Michael Oren discusses the anti-Zionism of the professional diplomats of the State Department of the 1920’s – 1950’s, many of them descendants of Protestant missionaries whose restorationism had been rebuffed by stiff-necked Jews [p. 423]. There is still a strong Arabist influence, although Daniel Pipes suggests that it has been replaced by that of the ‘peace processors’ (an improvement in attitude that nevertheless hasn’t produced better policy). But the unfair and unrealistic attitude about Jerusalem may be the Arabists’ legacy.

If the US wishes to see itself as truly a friend of Israel it can drop this unique and insulting policy, not adopted toward any other nation in the world that I can think of, in which it denies a nation sovereignty over its own capital. This would not be inconsistent with the idea that some neighborhoods could change hands in a peace agreement, just as Israel’s annexation — which does not specify the boundaries of Jerusalem in detail — is not.

We could begin by having the President and the Secretary of State stop speaking in ways which they may think show sophisticated studied ambiguity, but really prevent clear thinking about important issues.

It wouldn’t hurt to put the US embassy in Jerusalem, either.

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Short takes: Assad, Iran, Nidal Hasan, Barack Obama

Friday, November 20th, 2009

How Assad negotiates

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris last week that he wanted to launch talks with Damascus without preconditions, according to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s top aide Bouthaina Shaaban…

However, she said that Assad had responded by saying that before talks could start, he wanted guarantees that Israel would return “Syria’s land” and restore the country’s “rights.”

According to Shaaban, Sarkozy replied, “That will be the result of negotiations,” to which Assad retorted, “No, that will result in negotiations, and the result of negotiations will be peace.” — Jerusalem Post

Brilliant, isn’t he? Here’s the plan:

  1. You give me everything I want
  2. Then we talk about me giving you something


The West is “disappointed” over Iran’s failure to respond positively to a UN-brokered nuclear deal, diplomats said in a statement Friday following a meeting of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany. However, no new sanctions were discussed during the meeting, according to an EU source.

“We urge Iran to reconsider the opportunity offered by this agreement … and to engage seriously with us in dialogue and negotiations,” the statement said, noting that Teheran had not responded positively to the proposal of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

An EU official said there was no mention of imposing further sanctions against Iran at the meeting. “These things are a matter of timing, and this was not the right time for it,” said the official who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Western officials said they would hold a follow-up meeting around Christmas. — Jerusalem Post

The impossible-to-understand deal in which Iran would send its uranium somewhere for some reason has fallen apart. Big surprise. How much time was wasted on that one? But this isn’t the “right time” for sanctions!

Nope, that will have to wait for Christmas. It’s pretty much a certainty now that Iran will become a nuclear power unless somebody bombs them.

The Ft. Hood Jihadist

The Army, Secretary of Defense Gates and the President have all refused to say that Maj. Hasan was motivated to murder by his radical Islamic belief. Daniel Pipes presents the argument for ideological motivation here, and Barry Rubin shows how Hasan more or less told us what he was going to do far in advance.

Asking “is he crazy or was it ideological” misses the point. Anyone who takes an action like Hasan’s for ideological reasons is abnormal by our standards. Possibly his difficulty in dealing with what was going on in his life or even a chemical imbalance in his brain weakened the inhibitions which usually prevent someone raised in a Western culture from behaving as he did (although in a different setting, like a battle zone, we think it’s normal to shoot people). But nothing is more clear, as Pipes and Rubin have shown, that he had a clear reason for what he was doing, and that reason was to engage in Islamic jihad.


Yesterday’s post brought me a lot of mail, much of it saying that I was too hard on Obama, that an enemy is someone like Nasrallah. Here is part of something I wrote in response to one of my correspondents:

I thought long and hard about this post and its title. As I wrote I’ve criticized particular actions and statements made by Obama before, but I never joined the chorus of the right wing here that called him an enemy, until now.

What pushed me over the edge was not so much his statement that continued building in E. Jerusalem was ‘dangerous’, although it’s disheartening to see him taking the Palestinian line and repeating their threats. It was that he used the phrase ‘settlement construction’ in connection with this, inflaming the issue by suggesting that 900 apartments in Gilo are no different from occupying a hilltop in Samaria and expropriating land that is being cultivated by Palestinians to do this!

Indeed, someone who doesn’t understand the issue (like most Americans) hears ‘settlement construction’ and thinks “they are building new settlements.” So he is actually doing Arab propaganda.

This line — that Israel is responsible for the failure of negotiations because “it keeps building settlements” — is entirely false and damaging. Here in the USA it leads people to withdraw support from Israel because they believe that Israel is expanding its occupation of “Palestinian land”. This is not something a friend would say.

No, Obama isn’t Nasrallah, but I do think that he is turning out to be the least friendly American President since 1948. And he’s not moving in the right direction: I had hoped that he would learn something from the behavior of the Palestinians and the other Arab nations, but instead of learning that he needed to get tough with them, he ‘learned’ that he had to push harder on Israel!

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Barack Obama is an enemy of Israel

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Until now, I’ve refrained from being sharply critical of President Obama. I’ve wanted to give him time to develop his policies, to learn from his experience that the real obstacle to peace in the Mideast is not Israel. I’ve assumed that his native intelligence would allow him — once he became involved in the process — to get past the unexamined left-wing worldview that came from his educational background and his associations, and to put aside the bad advice that he’s received. I’ve hoped that he would turn out to be a Truman or JFK, someone capable of thinking for himself as soon as he realized that the buck does in fact stop at his desk.

I’ve criticized some of his actions, true. I was upset by his early choice of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samantha Power, Rob Malley, and some others as advisers. I objected to his nomination of Chas Freeman as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. I found his Cairo speech offensive. I was unhappy with his embrace of the phony ‘pro-Israel’ group J Street. I strongly objected to his original call for a settlement freeze. I was dismayed by his treatment of PM Netanyahu when he visited the US recently.

But I kept hoping that he would someday ‘get it’. Not any more:

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) — Israeli plans to build 900 new homes in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, constructed beyond the city’s 1967 borders, could have “dangerous” consequences, President Barack Obama said today.

Obama said “additional settlement building does not contribute to Israel’s security,” according to a transcript of an interview he gave Fox News. “I think it makes it harder for them to make peace with their neighbors, I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous.”

Obama’s remark was echoed by the European Union, Ban Ki-Moon, and others.

Some background: Gilo is within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, on the southwest side of the city, next to the Arab town of Beit Jala and not far from Bethlehem. Some Jews lived there pre-1948. In 1967, the area was captured from the Jordanians along with the rest of East Jerusalem, and in 1980 it was formally annexed to Israel as part of Jerusalem. Today, about 40,000 Jews live in Gilo.

Gilo is highly strategic, providing a buffer between Jerusalem and Arab towns. In 2000-2002, Fatah Tanzim (Fatah — our ‘peace partner’) snipers occupied homes and churches in the Christian Arab town of Beit Jala, firing at Gilo daily. IDF response was limited in order to avoid harming the non-hostile population. Here’s a photo of a playground in Gilo — note the concrete barrier to protect the children from sniper fire:

Playground in Gilo. Note concrete barrier to protect children from sniper fire.

Playground in Gilo. Note concrete barrier to protect children from sniper fire.

The use of the word ‘settlement’ in connection with Gilo is a litmus test of attitude toward Israel’s rights in East Jerusalem. Although the Netanyahu government has indicated that it is prepared to consider evacuating settlements in Judea and Samaria as well as ceding some Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as part of a peace settlement, it considers neighborhoods such as Gilo an integral part of Israel, no less so than West Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. This is not a ‘right-wing’ point of view. Even Tzipi Livni, leader of the opposition in Israel, has said that “there is an Israeli consensus” on this.

Obama’s remark thus takes the Arab position that the status of East Jerusalem is no different than that of Judea and Samaria. It implies that a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem could well become part of ‘Palestine’ in some imagined agreement. His use of the phrase ‘settlement building’ is a deliberate attempt to blur the distinction between building a new settlement where none existed, and building some homes in a neighborhood of Israel’s capital.

A deliberate attempt, that is, to mislead. A lie.

Right now the Palestinians are focusing on Jerusalem, attacking Israel’s claim to sovereignty. This takes the form of incitement of Arabs to violently riot over nonexistent Israeli attempts to ‘storm’ the Temple Mount, at the same time that they demand — and the Obama administration supports this unprecedented demand — that Israel may not build anything in the eastern part of its capital. The Obama administration denies Israel sovereign rights in East Jerusalem.

Obama’s statement is not only deliberately misleading, it is deliberately threatening: “It embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous” Obama says, repeating and reinforcing the threats of the Palestinians, who always promise terrorism if they do not get their way.

Although Obama said this building activity “makes it harder to make peace”, he must know that this is not so; practically speaking no peace agreement could call for the evacuation of Gilo — even French FM Kouchner admits this! Therefore it only ‘makes it harder’ because it opposes maximalist Palestinian aspirations. Is his position always going to be that surrender in the face of threats is the best policy?

It’s time now to ‘call the child by his name’ (to translate a Hebrew expression) and admit: Our President is no friend of Israel. Barack Obama is perhaps the most anti-Israel President since Bush I or Eisenhower, and he may turn out to be the worst ever in this regard.

Just like J Street, the only thing pro-Israel about him is his insistence that he is. His primary policy goal in the Mideast is to create a Palestinian state in order to ingratiate himself with the Muslim nations — something, incidentally, that he has so far entirely failed to do — and Israel’s security is very low priority.

Obama has had his chance and he’s shown us that rather than learning from his experience, he’s flying in the face of it. Hopefully, he’ll only be doing it until 2012.

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Palestinians may declare state. So?

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

The latest Palestinian threat is that they will unilaterally declare a state:

Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – The Palestinian Authority is mobilizing international support for declaring statehood, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Saturday.

“The idea is clear and understandable,” Erekat told the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Ayyam. “Now we mobilize.”

Palestinians will bring the issue to a vote before the United Nations Security Council, which would declare a Palestinian state on the 4 June 1967 border with Israel, he explained.

This is supposed to strike fear into the heart of PM Netanyahu and his (not really so) right-wing government. But imagine the conversation:

Saeb Erekat: We are unilaterally declaring a state.

Binyamin Netanyahu: A state? But you could have had one in 2000. Why didn’t you accept it? Or what about the offer that Olmert made last year, supposedly even worse — I mean, more generous — then the Camp David and Taba ideas? He offered you 98.1% of  Judea of Samaria plus  a connecting passage through Israel from Gaza, most of East Jerusalem, and to allow 5,000 ‘refugees’ to enter Israel. Why didn’t you say ‘yes’ to that?

SE: Because we want all of East Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria. And we want all 5 million Arab refugees to have the right to return to their homes in Israel even if they never lived in them. And we aren’t going to say that Israel belongs to the Jewish people because it belongs to the Arabs that live there now and the ones who will return.

BN: That’s absurd. We’d never agree to that — it would mean the end of the Jewish state.

SE: Bingo.

BN: Well, declare whatever you want. But then you won’t get any land swaps, we won’t evacuate any settlements, and you won’t get ‘contiguity’ to Gaza. You will be in violation of all the agreements that you signed, and you’ll freeze the map as it is today, with no more territory in your hands. You’ll be Foreign Minister of Ramallah.

SE: But the Security Council will protect our new state. The UN will come and kick all 500,000 Jewish settlers [he’s including the Jewish population of E. Jerusalem — ed.] out of our land!

BN: So you are telling me that even the Obama administration wouldn’t veto a resolution to send UN troops to fight the IDF? Because that’s what it would take.

SE: We’ll have our capital in Holy Jerusalem!

BN: But if you won’t negotiate, you’ll get none of East Jerusalem. Even my administration, which is not as right-wing as some say, would agree to negotiate Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Declare a state unilaterally and you’ll just make the present status quo permanent. Is that really what you want?

SE: (losing it) What we really want is to end the occupation, from the river to the sea!

BN: Bingo. But you aren’t going to get that. So you can either keep things as they are today — either by unilaterally declaring a state or by just continuing to refuse to talk — or you can finally accept that “two-state solution” means that one of those two states will belong to the Jewish people, and make a deal.

Of course, they don’t accept that, and no member of the PLO — we are not even talking about Hamas — will ever accept it. The fundamental truth of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is this:

No Palestinian leadership can come to power or stay there today which is not committed to replacing Israel with an Arab state. There may be differences in approach — in particular, whether a state in the territories is a useful step on the way to eliminating Israel — but there is no divergence in goals. They don’t so much want a state as they want our state.

PM Netanyahu’s conditions for a peace agreement — that ‘Palestine’ be demilitarized, that Israel must be recognized as the state of the Jewish people, and that refugees may ‘return’ only to ‘Palestine’ — and the idea that boundaries should be drawn to put the Arabs on one side and the Jews on the other,  are intended to make coexistence possible. But coexistence is exactly what the Arabs don’t want, and that is why they insist on impossible preconditions even to return to discussions.

The PLO strategy until now seems to have been to take advantage of the Israeli propensity for wishful thinking, along with the desire of the US to push Israel back to 1967 borders, in order to get a state that could be used as a platform to conquer the rest, possibly with help from other Arabs — the so-called ‘phased plan‘ developed in 1974.

But several things happened to derail this. One was Hamas, which enormously complicated the process of creating the temporary state. Another was the fact that the PLO, following the lead of its spiritual father, Yasser Arafat, simply could not restrain its propensity to kill Jews and incite hatred. The Arafat intifada that began in 2000 and killed about 1,400 Israelis taught the ones who survived a strong lesson, which I expressed above. The wishful thinking that gave birth to Oslo was blown away by the bomb blasts of the intifada.

So now Israel elected a Prime Minister who thinks realistically. The PLO leaders are furious as they see their strategy dissolve, so they’ve come up with a new one. What is remarkable to me is how the media and foreign offices around the world continue to insist that the Palestinians want a state (of their own, as opposed to someone else’s) and that Israel is the obstacle to talks.

Israel can’t stop the PLO from declaring a state. But even if it receives UN recognition, the UN will not enforce its claimed borders any more than it succeeded in internationalizing Jerusalem in 1949. And the Palestinian Arabs will be farther from, not closer to, their goal.

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