Archive for December, 2009

Mohammad Bakri: ‘art’ is his shield

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Bakri's propaganda film is popular worldwide.

Bakri's propaganda film is popular worldwide.

Filmmaker and actor Mohammad Bakri, a ‘Palestinian resident of Israel’, may be prosecuted for criminal libel for his 2002 film “Jenin, Jenin”.

You may recall that in 2002, after a horrendous wave of bombings and shootings in which hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands injured, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank to root out the terrorists responsible for it. One of their strongholds was the city of Jenin,  in Northern Samaria. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the period of 2001-2002, 57 Israelis were killed and hundreds injured by terrorists based in or directed from Jenin alone. During April 3-11, 2002, IDF soldiers fought a fierce battle in Jenin with members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa brigades, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

After the first day, the fighting moved to the adjacent ‘refugee camp’, which had been heavily fortified and booby-trapped by the Palestinians. Nevertheless, in order to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible, IDF soldiers fought house-to-house instead of employing artillery and air strikes. As a result — as ultimately attested to by the UN — only 52 Palestinians were killed, almost all combatants; but 23 Israeli soldiers were lost, 13 of them in one ambush on April 9.

After the battle, Palestinian spokesmen such as Nabil Sha’ath, Hassan Abdel Rahman, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erakat, claimed that Israel had massacred hundreds of Palestinians, burying them in mass graves or leaving their bodies to decompose under the rubble. But unlike the situation in Gaza, the Palestinians did not control access to the area, and the truth ultimately came out (although, as CAMERA notes in the link above, the fact that they had lied through their teeth didn’t seem to hurt the credibility of the Palestinian spokesmen with the international press).

The anti-Israel media, particularly in the UK, took up the story of the ‘Jenin Massacre’ with glee, embellishing it with ever-more bloody details and accusations of wanton Israeli cruelty. Alleged body counts rose to the thousands. And Mohammad Bakri’s crude propaganda film won a film-festival prize for “Mediterranean Documentary Film-making and Reporting”.

The film consists of after-the-fact interviews with Palestinians who tell ever more horrible stories, and ‘visualizations’ of events such as tanks crushing Palestinians which even Bakri admits didn’t happen:

Bakri spliced together video footage shot during the offensive in which an Israeli tank [armored personnel carrier -- ed.] appears to trample a group of Palestinian prisoners. Bakri said there was no proof that incident ever took place, but that he was trying to demonstrate what an Israeli tank symbolized to Palestinians.Joshua Mitnick in the NJ Star-Ledger, from Electronic Intifada [my italics]

As I reported once before, my daughter met Bakri in Tel Aviv a few years ago and asked him if he really believed that his film was accurate. He responded that he was an artist and not a historian, and that although perhaps all the details weren’t accurate, the film was a true depiction of what Israel was doing to Palestinians. Bakri’s theory of truth seems a bit different from mine.

The definitive refutation of Bakri’s film is a short article by Dr. David Zangen, who was present during the battle as an IDF doctor, and even treated one of Bakri’s interviewees. It’s called Seven Lies about Jenin. Almost as interesting as his comments about the film is his account of the way the audience at a Jerusalem screening treated him.

The film was originally banned by Israel’s film board, but the ban was overthrown by the Supreme Court. Bakri was then sued for civil libel by five IDF reservists who had taken part in the operation. However, the suit was thrown out because the judge ruled that while the film libeled IDF soldiers as a group, it did not single out these soldiers, so they did not have standing to sue.

Now the soldiers have appealed to the IDF Advocate General, who asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to indict Bakri on criminal charges. Bakri’s response was typical: “This is the difference between me and the military advocate general: He is busy with murdering people and I am busy with art.”

Bakri is wrong. He is as much a soldier in the war against Israel as any Hamas bomber. It is unacceptable that he be allowed to use ‘art’ as a shield and to benefit from Israel’s free society as he does his best to destroy it. He should be indicted and held responsible for his actions.

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Israel’s nuclear traitor

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

‘Any other country in the world would…’ department:

Nuclear traitor Mordechai Vanunu

Nuclear traitor Mordechai Vanunu

Why is this man walking around free?

In 1985, Mordechai Vanunu, left his job as a  technician at Israel’s nuclear installation in Dimona. Before leaving he took several rolls of film and in 1986 helped the UK Sunday Times write a bombshell story (so to speak) exposing the extent of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Vanunu revealed that Israel had ten times the number of bombs heretofore thought, and that it was developing hydrogen and neutron weapons.

Vanunu was lured into a trap in Italy by a female Mossad agent; he was brought back to Israel and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for “transmission of secret information with the intent to harm state security, collecting secret information with the intent to harm state security and of aiding the enemy during a state of war”. When he was released in 2004, he was forbidden from leaving the country, meeting foreigners or even having a cell phone. I presume he is carefully watched day and night.

Born a Jew in Morocco in 1954 (but not, as Wikipedia says, the son of a rabbi), Vanunu converted to Christianity and now lives in an Anglican monastery in Jerusalem. He insists that he was incarcerated as punishment for his conversion. Right.

During the time that he worked at Dimona, Vanunu was also a part-time student at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, studying Philosophy and Geography.  According to www.vanunu.org, he experienced a “political awakening”, and “opposed [the] Israeli invasion of Lebanon and criticized the Israeli states [sic] militarism and policy toward the Palestinians in Israel and occupied territories.”

Vanunu is considered a martyr and a person of conscience by the usual suspects. Interviewed by the notorious Israel-hater Amy Goodman in 2004, Vanunu explained his motivation:

When I get out of the prison, I am saying many, many times that I am very glad, happy and proud to reveal its nuclear secrets to all the world and to let all the world to see the stupidity of Israel’s nuclear weapons policy and the danger of a nuclear weapons policy in secret by Israel. And I was not a traitor. The real traitors are Israel’s government who was behind this nuclear weapons policy for 40 years, and continues. They are betraying the Israeli citizens, and betraying the Arab community, and betraying all of humanity and the world, the human beings of all the world. They are the real traitors.

Vanunu continued that

This means Israel was ready to use nuclear weapons in the next war, in 1986 if it had war with Iraq, or Iran or Syria. It could use them against armies. That means the beginning by Israel using atomic bomb…. That was the most dangerous point in the Middle East: Israel, they could have used nuclear weapons like no other state there…

Since only the lunatic fringe would accuse Israel of wanting to expand beyond the post-1967 borders, any such use in war would be defensive. It’s notable that since Israel developed its nuclear arsenal in the late 1960’s, it has never been used, neither directly nor even as a threat. Instead it has been a last-resort deterrent, and an effective one, against enemies such as Syria, which have massive amounts of non-conventional weaponry. Vanunu’s view that it is a ‘danger’ for Israel to have a nuclear capability is entirely the opposite of the truth.

One wonders where his distorted ideology came from. But it’s possible to guess. Ben Gurion University of the Negev today is a center of leftist extremism in Israel, with faculty like Neve Gordon and others espousing positions similar to those of Vanunu.

Vanunu is now on house arrest after violating, for the nth time, the provisions of his release agreement. In an Arab country or Russia, he would be long dead. In the US, where the Rosenbergs were executed and where Jonathan Pollard continues to serve a life sentence for far less serious acts, he would still be in prison. But Vanunu wants — are we surprised? — to go to the US!

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Palestinians murder rabbi, complain to US

Sunday, December 27th, 2009
Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, z"l, teaches his kindergarten class at Shavei Shomron. Rabbi Chai was murdered by Palestinian terrorists on Thursday.

Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, z"l, teaches his kindergarten class at Shavei Shomron. Rabbi Chai was murdered by Palestinian terrorists on Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai was shot from ambush while driving on Route 557 between the settlements of Shavei Shomron and Einav, in Samaria.  He died at the scene from multiple head wounds, according to reports. Aged 40 or 45 (reports differ) and a teacher at the local school, Rabbi Chai left a wife and seven children. The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militia associated with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization, took credit for the murder.

On Friday night, acting on intelligence from the Shabak [general security service], Israeli soldiers from the Duvdevan unit attempted to arrest three al-Aksa members:

Nader Raed Sukarji, a 40 year-old inhabitant of Shechem [Nablus], was arrested in 2002 and suspected of being a top Al Aksa terror group brigade operative and participant in many terror attacks.  He also prepared bombs and helped establish explosives factories in Nablus.  He was released from prison in January 2009…

Ghassan Abu Sharkh, 39, was imprisoned by security forces in 1990.  His brother, Nayef, was the head of the Tanzim terror organization’s military  wing in Nablus. Nayef facilitated several terror attacks until being killed by IDF forces in June 2004.

Anan Suleiman Mustafa Subih, 36, resident of Nablus, was an operative of the “Shuhada al-Aksa” brigade, which was involved in extensive Tanzim military operations as a cell of Tanzim in Nablus.  The group was led by Nayef Abu Sharkh, until Nayef’s death.  Subih worked in trafficking weapons and supplies for use in terror acts.  Subih had recently been accepted to Israel’s amnesty program for Fatah gunmen.  His participation in Tanzim activity was a direct violation of that agreement. — Arutz Sheva

The three refused to surrender and were shot dead by the IDF troops. A rifle found in the home of Subih was identified as having been used in the ambush.

So what is notable about this skirmish in the hundred-year old war against the Jews of Eretz Israel?

One thing was the response of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel’s supposed ‘peace partner’, which presently refuses to negotiate with Israel because, according to them, the settlement freeze is inadequate to meet Israel’s Roadmap obligations  (the PA’s major roadmap obligation, it should be recalled, is to ‘fight terrorism’):

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the Nablus raid, as well as the killing of three Palestinians [Hamas operatives -- ed.] from the Gaza Strip who tried to cross the border into Israel, showed that Israel “does not want peace.”

“The policy of assassinations and the indiscriminate killings reveal that Israel has decided to destroy the stability and security of the Palestinians,” Abu Rudaineh said. “Israel is seeking to drag our people into a new cycle of violence to avoid growing international pressure on the Israeli government to fulfill its obligations toward the peace process…”

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official and a close adviser to [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas, accused Israel of “returning to its policy of executing innocent Palestinians and members of the Palestinian security forces.” Abed Rabbo claimed that Israel was preparing for a “comprehensive and bloody terror campaign” against the Palestinians and the PA.

He added that Saturday’s events were in the context of Israel’s attempt to distract attention for its “bigger crimes – the demolition of houses in Jerusalem and the construction of the racist wall.”

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that the Nablus operation was intended to destroy his government’s efforts to restore law and order to the city. He too accused Israel of escalating tensions to avoid fulfilling its obligations under the terms of the road map for peace in the Middle East. Fayyad and commanders of the PA security forces visited the families of the three Fatah gunmen to offer condolences.Jerusalem Post

I have not been able to find any comments by Fayyad, or any other Palestinian officials, that expressed even the slightest sympathy for the family of Rabbi Chai.

Moderate Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad pays condolences to families of murderers in Nablus. -- Maan News

Moderate Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad pays condolences to families of murderers in Nablus.

At the Fatah convention this August, the al-Aqsa brigades were formally endorsed as Fatah’s “military wing”. So official Palestinian concern for the murderers is understandable.

Keep in mind that the PA security forces are directly funded by the US, and are presently being trained by US General Keith Dayton. Which bring us to the next notable item:

The United States has demanded clarifications from Israel after IDF special forces killed three terrorists Saturday who murdered a civilian, Rabbi Meir Chai, on Thursday.

Calls were made to National Security Adviser Prof. Uzi Arad, apparently by senior U.S. Administration officials, in which he was asked to provide clarifications. The calls came from the United States after Palestinian Authority officials complained to the Americans that the IDF had carried out “executions.” — Arutz Sheva

One wonders if the US demanded ‘clarification’ from the Fatah-dominated PA about the actions of Fatah’s “military wing”? Nothing like support from an ally, is there?

Another thing: one of the terrorists was recently released from an Israeli prison in a ‘gesture to bolster Abbas’, while another one was a participant in a special program in which terrorists were asked to give their word that they would lay down their arms — another ‘gesture’. Can we learn anything from this?

And finally: I don’t know if the IDF could have arrested them without killing them, and in all honesty I don’t care. These are three murderers who will not be freed in some future ‘prisoner exchange’. Indeed, this action and similar ones should be viewed as the military operations that they are, and soldiers must not be judged by the standards applied to police officers operating in peacetime.

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Organs, organs

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

The following article is so important that I chose to reprint it here (with permission), in order to give it the widest possible distribution. I’ve taken the liberty of changing some of the links in the original version for more complete or authoritative citations — editor

Selective Outrage
A subject for an objective academic study
By Maurice Ostroff

China’s Grisly Practices
With the launching last month of David Matas and David Kilgour’s book “Bloody Harvest,” every fair minded person must wonder why there has been no public outrage at its gruesome revelation of wide-scale harvesting of organs from live prisoners of conscience in China. The authors estimate that 41,500 organ transplants using Falun Gong prisoners have been done in the past five years. Their vital organs were seized involuntarily for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries.

This is not merely a journalist’s report that can be taken lightly. Matas is a lawyer who received the Order of Canada for his human rights work, and Kilgour is a  former crown prosecutor and former Member of Parliament.

The allegations are not new. According to the British Medical Journal of Nov. 24, 2001 prisoners in China can be executed for crimes such as black market activities, in addition to murder. Ambulances wait at the site of the executions and the fresh organs from healthy young persons are harvested, to be transplanted into recipients from abroad.

10,000 African Albinos in hiding
And why, one must ask, is there no outrage at reports by the International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies, that 10,000 Albinos have gone into hiding in East Africa because of the common belief that body parts of albinos have magical powers?

India’s Black Market in Organs
And are we too indifferent to express outrage at India’s black market organ scandal as reported in Time magazine of Feb. 1, 2008, revealing an organ transplant ring that has been harvesting kidneys from poor Indian laborers, sometimes against their wishes? Doctors pay $1000 for the kidneys and sell them for $37,500. Another massive transplant ring in Punjab was uncovered in 2003. Police there believe at least 30 of the donors, died, despite promises that they would receive excellent post-operation medical care. Some donors were forcibly brought to clinics at gunpoint and forced to undergo operations that they didn’t want.

Even Britain
In 2000, pathologist Dick Van Velzen at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool confessed to removing hundreds of thousands of organs from children’s bodies and storing them in hospitals all over the country. In addition to over 2,000 hearts, there were a large number of brain parts, eyes taken from over 15,000 stillborn foetuses and perhaps most disturbingly of all, a number of children’s heads and bodies.

Gaza’s Grisly Trophies
And there was not even a hint of outrage when Mideast Dispatch Archive reported on May 11, 2004 that body parts of six murdered Israelis were paraded around in Gaza as trophies by Palestinian mobs, including members of the PA security forces. Some even played football with body parts in the street. One disembodied head was placed on a table so television cameras could film it close up.

But there is no lack of outrage when Israel is in the dock
How does one explain the glaring difference between the mild media reactions to the above well documented reports and the immediate frenzied response to the unsubstantiated inference that the IDF harvested body parts of Palestinians, in the article by Donald Bostrom in the Swedish Aftonbladet? And how does one explain the instant fame acquired by the author whose name suddenly achieved over 400,000 Google results.

Bostrom’s own words confirm that his accusations are based on flimsy inferences rather than evidence. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post on August 20, he said critics “think I’m accusing the IDF of stealing organs. That’s not what I’m doing. I just recorded the Palestinian families saying that.” He went on to say “I don’t think there is a connection between the New York thing and what happened in the West Bank in the 90s.” Astonishingly, Mr. Bostrom nevertheless used the NY story in his leading paragraph together with a prominent photograph of one of the accused, a bearded Mr. Rosenbaum. More egregiously, Mr. Bostrom omitted to tell his readers that there were only five Jews among the 44 people arrested in the NY corruption and organ brokering scandal, including two New Jersey mayors, an assemblyman, and a city deputy mayor.

Evidently, when Israel is in the dock, an accusation doesn’t need to meet even the minimum requirements of journalistic integrity to be widely accepted.

The tenuous nature of Bostrom’s accusations are all too obvious when one considers that he refers to hearsay incidents in 1992, to imply that the IDF harvested organs in the Cast Lead operation in 2008-9

Exaggeration
In enjoying his new fame, Mr. Bostrom is evidently not averse to exaggeration. On receiving an award for excellence from the National Federation of Algerian Journalists he casually increased the number of Palestinian victims whose body parts had been harvested, to more than 1,000.

Prof. Hiss
Most of the articles that followed Bostrom’s see a conspiratorial link between the IDF in 2009 and the unrelated 1990 incident in which Professor Hiss, who was then head of Israel’s forensic institute, admitted that he had harvested organs from cadavers without permission of their families. This incident closely resembles the Dick Van Velzen case in Britain cited above.

Israel’s Health Ministry responded that the guidelines at that time were not clear, but that they have been severely tightened and strictly enforced since then. Although Professor Hiss still works as chief pathologist, he was dismissed as head of the forensic institute.

Israel’s attorney-general Rubenstein at the time decided not to indict him since “there is no suspicion of corruption or profiteering on the part of Prof. Hiss, and the only interest he had was the advancement of medical research.”

There was a great deal of dissatisfaction with Rubenstein’s decision. Former Health Minister Dahan said he was sure that there was room for a criminal investigation but that there was at least one encouraging result, namely, that the questionable practices in the Forensic Institute would not continue.

Disgusting as this episode was, it is dishonest journalism to draw a false link from it to the IDF’s behavior in Operation Cast Lead.

Journalistic standards
Even one of Israel’s severest critics, Matthew Cassel, assistant editor of The Electronic Intifada, cannot close his eyes to the obvious defects in the Bostrom article. Cassel regards Bostrom’s baseless organ theft accusations as a propaganda gift for Israel. He wrote,

I support uncovering human rights violations and war crimes wherever they occur, especially in Palestine, where I have worked for many years. I do believe Bostrom’s intentions were to do much the same but that his process was highly irresponsible. The problem is not that he is accusing the State of Israel of wrongdoing, but that he is making accusations of what would amount to extremely serious war crimes while providing absolutely no evidence to support his claims…

The editors at the Swedish daily Aftonbladet who published this piece, should’ve sent it back to the author and told him to investigate the issue further until he found evidence to corroborate his claims.

Conclusion
Like all types of incitement to hate, this example of reckless journalism, is harmful to peace efforts. Like real viruses and computer viruses they spread and mutate and acquire long lasting lives of their own. Predictably, Boström’s story has spawned cartoons of Jews stealing body parts and drinking Arab blood. Algeria’s al-Khabar newspaper has fantasized Jewish-directed gangs of Algerians and Moroccans capturing children for harvesting of their body parts.

Even Al Jazeera Magazine has been infected with the hysteria. In a December 3, article it refers to an international Israeli conspiracy to kidnap children and harvest their organs and repeats a Pravda story that Israel has brought some 25,000 Ukrainian children into the occupied entity over the past two years in order to harvest their organs.

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Footnotes in historical fiction

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Massacres and wanton killings by Israel are a recurring theme in the Arab and Palestinian narrative. Deir Yassin, Ruach Shaked, Jenin, al-Dura, Sabra and Shatila (in which case the killing was done by Israel’s allies), and on and on. Now a graphic novel by Joe Sacco, “Footnotes in Gaza”  tells the story of another two incidents in which large numbers of Palestinian civilians were supposedly killed. In a very positive review in the NY Times, Patrick Cockburn wites,

The killings [allegedly -- ed.] took place during the Suez crisis of 1956, when the Israeli Army swept into the Gaza Strip, the great majority of whose inhabitants were Palestinian refugees. According to figures from the United Nations, 275 Palestinians were killed in the town of Khan Younis at the southern end of the strip on Nov. 3, and 111 died in Rafah, a few miles away on the Egyptian border, during a Nov. 12 operation by Israeli troops. Israel insisted that the Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces were still facing armed resistance. The Palestinians said all resistance had ceased by then.

Sacco’s book will undoubtedly do much to further inflame anti-Zionist hatred. His research consisted of interviewing Palestinian “witnesses and survivors” in 2002-3. Although I can’t prove this without asking him, I’m almost certain that he did not talk to Israeli soldiers who were present. According to this review, he did not identify the Israeli units involved in the alleged massacres. Surely this information is available and would have led him to witnesses on the other side.

Why this is important is that Palestinians have made an industry out of lying about, exaggerating, and entirely faking atrocity stories.

So given this history, it should be clear that ‘eyewitness testimony’ by Palestinians or other Arabs needs to be taken with a truckload of salt. A real historian or investigative journalist must take all possible steps to collect evidence from both sides involved in highly controversial events. Otherwise the product is historical fiction, not history.

Of course historical fiction is appropriate if your intention, like that of Goldstone, is to contribute to the demonization of Israel.

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Universal jurisdiction — a really bad idea

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Universal Jurisdiction sounds like such a great idea (well, to some people, anyway). One moral nation, acting for a moral world, can bring war criminals to justice, even when crimes are committed outside of its territory. You can understand why in principle this could be a good idea, especially if said war criminals are powerful enough in their own countries as to be untouchable. The concept has been supported by those watchdogs of international morality, the ‘human rights’ NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, etc.

Anybody that lives in the real world must know that the facts of international politics make the just application of this principle impossible. It would seem to me that anyone who has finished elementary school and read at least one history book would understand this, but apparently the people at the NGOs either don’t meet this standard or are dishonest. Judging by what they did with the war in Gaza, I vote for the latter.

The fatal defect of this idea is that it is based on analogy to criminal law inside a jurisdiction, where there is, at least in the best circumstances, a disinterested justice system and rules of evidence and of judgment intended to ensure fairness. For example, in our courts hearsay is not admitted as evidence, and juries are selected in ways designed to produce impartiality. Even rules for determining probable cause for an arrest are stringent. But this is exactly what isn’t the case in the international arena.

Take, for example, the Goldstone report, based on (read: copied from) mendacious NGO reports, which is cited as ‘evidence’ for the prosecution of various Israeli officials in such countries as the UK and Spain. Palestinian ‘witnesses’ spoke to NGO representatives in the presence of Hamas operatives, their words were taken as fact and duly appeared in the Goldstone report.

Now add to this the fact that we do not live in a normal time, with its ‘normal’ collection of more or less violent international conflicts. Rather, we live at a time which is gripped by a hysterical anti-Zionism, a product of

  • Muslim rejection of a Jewish state inside dar al-Islam,
  • the vestiges of Soviet polarization of the Mideast conflict,
  • Arab and Iranian use of conflict with Israel as a domestic issue,
  • Western interest in sucking up to Mideast oil producers,
  • the guilt-driven obsession of the Left to cleave to the oppressed of the third world,
  • European guilt for the Holocaust,
  • and a big helping of good old Jew hatred.

So the idea that Palestinian activists in the UK, for example, could file a complaint against Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli Foreign Minister, which could actually result in her arrest if she visits the UK, seems perfectly natural to the NGO-heads, British Muslims, and some feminists.

In attempt to turn the tables, some Israelis who were injured by Hamas rockets have petitioned Belgium to try Hamas leaders for their actions. I think that’s a really poor idea. The concept of universal jurisdiction is stupid whichever way it cuts.

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The correct choice is clear

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I think  it’s certain that Israel will agree to something like Hamas’ conditions for the release of Gilad Shalit:

After the nocturnal inner cabinet meeting ended overnight Monday, reports began emerging that the seven-member forum had reached its decision. Israel Radio cited an unnamed senior Israeli official as confirming one such report.

Former Fatah-Tanzim leader and terrorist Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences after being convicted in fatal attacks against Israelis, would be allowed to return to his West Bank home, a Palestinian close to the negotiations said. Hamas agreed that several other hard-core convicts would be deported, he said…

After more than four hours of talks, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released a statement early Tuesday morning [today] saying only that instructions were given to the negotiating team about “the continuation of efforts to bring Gilad Schalit home safe and sound.” There was no word of a decision, further meetings or steps. The decision to continue negotiations came in lieu of any final decision by the government to agree unequivocally to Hamas’s demands.

The inner cabinet met into the night Monday in what was described by insiders as a final marathon discussion on the prisoner-swap deal that would end Schalit’s Gaza captivity.

According to sources close to the deliberations, the proposal to release some 950 Hamas gunmen and activists, some of whom have been convicted of fatal terrorist attacks, for the 23-year-old soldier was expected to gain approval by the forum, after which it would be presented to the full 30-member cabinet. — Jerusalem Post

Israel — and it really is the whole country — is facing a “Sophie’s choice“. To let a young man rot in a Hamas bunker where he’s already spent more than three years of his life and where his life could end at any moment, or alternatively, to free 1000 of the worst of the worst murderers and terrorists, including Marwan Barghouti, who is now serving five life terms for masterminding at least that many murders, and who would quite likely become the next Palestinian Authority President if released.

This ‘prisoner exchange’ would be the culmination of a series of similar exchanges over the last few years, each one worse than its predecessors.

The terrorists who will be released will assuredly kill many more Israelis. In addition, tomorrow they can take another hostage. The damage they can do to the nation is immense. ‘Technical’ solutions like deporting them will have no effect. Everyone knows this, Israel and Hamas. There is no way to draw a line after Shalit.

What is being exchanged is one life today for more lives in the future. The near future. Maybe even the Jewish state. Maybe this will be the point at which people decide that continued sacrifice isn’t worth it.

If it were my son, who incidentally spent many days during his army service in Hezbollah-infested Lebanon, I would say “to hell with the state, just let my son free.” In a country where everyone’s son or daughter could be Gilad Shalit, a lot of people think this way, even if it’s someone else’s son. Maybe Jews have an overdeveloped sense of empathy.

May Hashem erase Hamas from the universe for committing this remarkably cruel crime. If Hashem is busy the IDF could do it too, given the political will.

I don’t think the will is there. I think there will be another surrender, with lots of explanations and rationalizations. And for a good cause, to save this boy. Did I say that he could be my son? And yet, the correct choice is clear.

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The political insanity of the settlement freeze

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

News item:

The military plans to use “paralyzing power” to demolish illegal settler construction where building has continued in defiance of the 10-month freeze on such activity, according to an IDF document obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night…

Under the moratorium, settlers and contractors working on projects in which the foundations had not been finished must stop work for 10 months. But many settlers have vowed to continue building, anyway.

The IDF, therefore, is planning a second phase of enforcing the freeze, which will involve entering settlements to demolish all illegal construction work…

Physical force would have to be used against the settlers, since it is assumed they would not peacefully stop work and evacuate construction sites when ordered to do so, the document states.

The settlers believe the moratorium is the start of a second disengagement and will do everything possible to prevent the demolitions, the document said. There is no concrete information that the settlers intend to take up arms, said the document, but it added that anything was possible.

The document goes into great detail, outlining different scenarios that could occur. It also distinguishes between “moderate” and “violent” settlements, such as Yitzhar.

Initially, the IDF would try to come to a verbal resolution with the settlers, but if that fails, they would surprise the settlers with what the army termed “paralyzing force.”

The air force is expected to get involved by doing reconnaissance flights over the area. The IDF plans to shut down cellular phone services during the enforcement operation and to ban reporters from the scene.

Somebody has lost his mind.

Israel faces an existential threat from Iran and her proxies, a war which could affect every inch of Israel more severely than any since 1948 could break out at any time, and this is what the government wants the IDF to do?

Instead of Hamas and Hezbollah, they are to be asked to fight their brothers and sisters!

The break between the state and the national-religious sector which has more and more come to bear the brunt of the conflict will now be made permanent. What about the soldiers who will be disciplined for insubordination when they refuse to take part in the operation? Will they be ready to risk their lives for this state?

And why? Because an American President has decided (either from ignorance or malevolent advice) to accept the demands of an antisemitic Arafatist who will always escalate them another notch, who has absolutely no intention of ending the conflict?

The Palestinians have had chance after chance to end the conflict and get a state. They always said “no, we want to fight until we get everything”. Does anybody actually believe that this time is different? How stupid is it possible to be?

Suppose the IDF succeeds in stopping the construction at the cost of only a few dead ‘settlers’. Then what? Does peace appear in the east like a beautiful sunrise? I don’t think so.

Israel’s enemies must be licking their lips as they see their victim tearing itself apart.

What must happen now is that every Israeli who thinks that there should be a Jewish state of Israel should work together to stop Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons and to destroy the ability of Hezbollah and Hamas to hold the nation hostage to their rockets.

That has to be the top priority, not the political insanity of the settlement freeze.

Update [10 Dec 0855 PST]: The IDF has responded to reports like the above in the Israeli press by saying that the document in question was ‘just a draft’ and that “the civil administration, the Israeli Police and the Border Police are the relevant authorities who deal with Israeli civilians, as is customary.” See story here.

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Another thought experiment

Thursday, December 17th, 2009
President Roosevelt meets King Ibn Saud in 1945, on the deck of the USS Quincy. Palestine was the subject of discussion.

President Roosevelt meets King Ibn Saud in 1945, on the deck of the USS Quincy. Palestine was the subject of discussion.

Recently while reading “A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel” by Allis and Ronald Radosh (a Hanukah gift from my wife, thank you!) I was struck yet again by the stubborn refusal of the Arab nations during that period — not just the Palestinian Arabs, but Ibn Saud, the Syrians, Iraqis, Egyptians, etc. —  to consider any kind of compromise on Jewish immigration into Palestine (not to mention a Jewish state). This despite the fact that there was clearly enough room and resources in the area to support both Jews and Arabs, and although the Jewish presence had already improved economic conditions greatly, even leading to an increase in the Arab population.

As everyone knows, their refusal to compromise ultimately led to war, and a much worse end result for the Palestinian Arabs. And the cynical use of the Arab refugees as a weapon against Israel by the Arab leadership from 1948 to today constitutes one of the most massive violations of human rights since WWII. What a scandal it would be if it weren’t for the remarkably twisted perceptions of those organizations concerned with human rights!

Arab opposition to Jewish immigration actually began at the beginning of the 20th century. It was usually expressed by saying that the Jews would ‘take over’ although the Arabs themselves had not been in charge for centuries. And  partition proposals which would have limited Jewish sovereignty to small parts of Palestine were violently rejected.

Today, sixty-one years after the founding of the state and (roughly) 120 years since the beginning of the Zionist enterprise, Arab opposition to it is probably stronger than ever. Even the fact that two Arab states have signed peace agreements with Israel does not disprove this — in practice the ‘peace’ is as cold as possible, antisemitic incitement continues, and only massive American bribes keep it in force.

The non-Palestinian Arabs often cite their concern for the condition of the Palestinian Arabs as the reason for their hostility. But Palestinian Arabs — refugees or guest worksers — are treated like dirt in Arab countries. Add to this the perpetuation of the refugees’ misery and the lack of financial support for the Palestinian Authority from Arab sources, and this explanation falls apart.

Sometimes they claim that the problem is due to ‘the occupation’. Since their vicious and violent hostility goes back before 1967, indeed before 1948, this can only mean that Jews are ‘occupying’ space where the Arabs would prefer them not to be.

An argument made by Ibn Saud in 1945 and often heard today is this: the European Jews were mistreated by Germans and other Europeans; why should Arabs pay the price?

Roosevelt and Truman in turn were surprised by his vehemence. Ibn Saud even suggested that he would go to war for Palestine, despite the fact that there was no common border. And the ‘price’ for letting more Jews in would not have been high — actually it could have been mutually beneficial for Jews and Arabs — if the Arabs had not been so hostile.

The argument is worse today. One embarrassing problem is that the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries who ended up in Israel were mistreated — OK, brutalized, robbed and kicked out — by Arabs. If you ignore the relatively recent Russian immigrants, a majority of Israelis fall into this category.

So what is the explanation?  I propose a thought experiment.

Suppose instead of Zionist Jews, the migrants had been, say, Kurds, or Shiite Muslims. There’s plenty of ethnic-religious  unpleasantness to go around in the Arab world; do you think that the degree of hostility, the persistence of the struggle, the way the whole world has gotten tied up in it — would it be the same?

I don’t think so either.

Ibn Saud expressed his point of view quite clearly to Ambassador William Eddy in 1945, when he said that the Jews were “accursed in the Koran as enemies of the Muslims until the end of the world” [Radosh, p.24]. His descendant, the present King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, is said to have responded with an antisemitic diatribe when President Obama asked that Saudi Arabia make some gesture in response to concessions made by Israel to the Palestinians.

I think that the explanation for the persistence and viciousness of the conflict lies here, in the historic enmity between Muhammad and the Jews. This comes out clearly and explicitly in the founding document of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas. And it explains why anti-Zionist hatred seems to go along with with devotion to Islam.

This doesn’t bode very well for a solution, does it?

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Planet Palestine

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
Mustafa Barghouti (r) smiles as irrepressable Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tells a joke at a press conference in Gaza, March 2007.

Mustafa Barghouti (r) smiles as irrepressable Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tells a joke at a press conference in Gaza, March 2007.

Mustafa Barghouti (not to be confused with convicted multiple murderer and possible next Palestinian President Marwan Barghouti), a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, lives on another planet.

In an op-ed written for the NY Times, Barghouti talks about freedom and non-violence like a 1960’s civil rights activist instead of a representative of a people which practically invented terrorism as its political strategy.

Through decades of occupation and dispossession, 90 percent of the Palestinian struggle has been nonviolent, with the vast majority of Palestinians supporting this method of struggle. Today, growing numbers of Palestinians are participating in organized nonviolent resistance.

Apparently on Planet Palestine, Hamas — whose charter calls for the murder of Jews and whose leader called for the ‘liberation’ of “all Palestine” just this Monday —  did not win a majority in the last Palestinian election. On Planet Palestine, it’s not the case that in 2007, 70% of Palestinian Muslims viewed suicide bombing as sometimes or often justified (Pew survey, 7/24/07) or that 77% of Palestinians say that “the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists” (Pew survey, 6/27/07). Planet Palestine is different from Earth.

On Earth there’s been violent terrorism against Jews by Palestinian Arabs since the early 20th century — long before the ‘occupation’ of Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and even before there was a Jewish state. I would like to know — Barghouti must have explained it to the Times’ fact-checkers — exactly what he defines as the ‘struggle’ which has been 90% nonviolent. Where is the ‘vast majority’ he mentions?

In the face of European and American inaction, it is crucial that we continue to revive our culture of collective activism by vigorously and nonviolently resisting Israel’s domination over us.

Translation: because Europe and the US cannot force Israel to make even more suicidal concessions than the near-surrender offered by Ehud Olmert in 2008 and Barak/Clinton in 2000 — concessions, like the ‘right of return’ that would be the end of Israel — then the Palestinians will continue to ‘resist’.

These are actions that every man, woman and child can take. The nonviolent movement is being built in the villages of Jayyous, Bilin and Naalin where Israel’s segregation wall threatens to erase productive village life.

Good one, bringing in the word ‘segregation’ along with ‘freedom’ and ‘nonviolence’. But what happens in Bil’in and Na’alin is not like what happened at lunch-counters and bus stations in the Alabama of the 1960’s. What happens there is that Palestinian ‘activists’, using extreme left-wing Israelis and foreigners as shields, try to physically destroy the barrier which was built in order to ‘segregate’ murderous terrorists on the other side of it from Israel, while Israeli police and soldiers try to stop them without killing them. This ‘nonviolent’ activity usually includes stones and firebombs.

Interestingly, Barghouti seems to have gotten the idea for his bad analogy from our President, of all people!

President Obama, perhaps unwittingly, encouraged this effort when he called for Palestinian nonviolence in his Cairo speech. “Palestinians,” he said, “must abandon violence. … For centuries, black people in America suffered…the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.”

The problem is that Palestinian goals — goals that are set forth in the founding documents of the main Palestinian political organizations, Fatah and Hamas, are somewhat different from those of black people in America. They are to destroy a state, to liquidate its people, to kill them and take their property and occupy their homes. Barghouti lies,

The demise of the two-state solution will only lead to a new struggle for equal rights, within one state. Israel, which tragically favors supremacy rather than integration with its Palestinian neighbors, will have brought the new struggle on itself by relentlessly pushing the settlement enterprise. No one can say it was not warned.

This is a lie because the inability to obtain a two-state solution has nothing to do with settlements. Israel has shown over and over that it is prepared to uproot its people in the name of peace. Olmert offered the Palestinians 97% of Judea and Samaria plus land swaps, the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and sovereignty over the Temple Mount… and they refused to take it.

Barghouti says that the struggle is about ‘equal rights’. So ask him if he agrees to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Ask him why the Palestinian Authority did not accept Olmert’s offer, or Barak and Clinton’s before that. What else did they want?

It is not a given that the demise of the two-state solution will be a disaster for the Jews. It could turn out to be a disaster for the Arabs, the second nakba that they fear so much.  Barghouti writes that “there comes a time when people cannot take injustice any more…” This applies to the Jews as well as the Palestinian Arabs.

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Naveed Haq: insanity or jihad?

Monday, December 14th, 2009
Naveed Afzal Haq. He thought that what he was doing was right.

Naveed Afzal Haq. He thought that what he was doing was right.

Today’s news contained an article about the second trial of Naveed Afzal Haq, the man who shot six women at the Seattle Jewish Federation in 2006, killing Pamela Waechter. Haq was tried last year, and acquitted on one attempted murder charge. The jury was unable to decide on the other charges, including the murder of Waechter, and now his second trial on these charges has been turned over to a jury.

In both trials, Haq’s lawyers argued that he should be acquitted by reason of insanity. There is no question that Haq suffered from some serious personality disorders, but the insanity defense requires more than that.

I’m not a law professor or even a lawyer. But the jury isn’t made up of law professors either, and they will have to decide what to do with Haq.

The State of Washington employs the well-known “M’Naghten Rule“, the original form of which is this:

Every man is to be presumed to be sane, and . . . that to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.

So in order for his client to be acquitted, Haq’s lawyer has to convince the jury that either he didn’t know what he was doing, or was too crazy to know that it was wrong. The lawyer, Christopher Swaby, is going for the latter. Here’s what he said:

He thinks that he did the right thing — that is, the inability to see right from wrong. and that is why he is not guilty by reason of insanity.

He thinks that he did the right thing.

If that’s good enough for insanity, then Nidal Hasan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and Osama bin Laden are insane too. Did any of them not think that they were doing the right thing?

Haq, a Muslim, told authorities he was angered by the war in Iraq and U.S. military cooperation with Israel...

According to a statement of probable cause, Haq told a 911 dispatcher: “These are Jews and I’m tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East.” — Washington Post

This of course is exactly what Bin Laden and other jihadists have said. Haq’s own jihad was on a smaller scale, and apparently he doesn’t belong to a recognized terrorist group, but both his motivation — a radical Islamic ideology — and the act he chose to express it — the random killing of people  somehow related to your enemy — were the same as those of more celebrated terrorists.

Both Hasan and Haq were unstable, unhappy people who perhaps sought a purpose that they were unable to find elsewhere in radical Islam. And both of them clearly knew what they were doing; indeed, each prepared carefully for his actions.  Haq bought his weapon in advance, observing the three-day federally mandated waiting period. And he carefully purchased hollow-point ammunition, in order to do the maximum damage.

But although neither of them believed that his actions were wrong, their lawyers will have to prove that they were “laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of mind” that they were unable to know this.

Haq’s lawyer referred to “the inability to see right from wrong” as if that were all there was to it, but there is a disease-caused ‘inability’  and an ideological one.

Only the former will get him acquitted. I hope the jury clearly understands this distinction.

Update [15 Dec 1215 PST]: Haq was found guilty on all counts!

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The lineup for the next war

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

I’ve suggested before that Iran’s nuclear plans do not necessarily include the use of such weapons directly against Israel.

Indeed, that would be stupid, given the well-known fact that Israel has a powerful second-strike capability that could cause tens of millions of casualties in Iran.

Rather, atomic weapons will serve Iran just as they served the US and the Soviet Union, as a deterrent and a threat. Their mere existence will  further Iran’s goal of regional domination and weakening the US.

On the other hand, Iran remains committed to Israel’s destruction, which it wishes to accomplish by means of proxies:

TEHRAN (FNA) Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said the Zionist regime suffered a very big blow to its very existence by the resistance of Lebanese and Palestinian nations.

He made the remark in separate meetings with Ahmed Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], and Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ].

During the meetings, the Iranian minister stressed the need for all-out support for resistance of Palestinian and Lebanese groups [Hezbollah] against the Zionist threats, the Islamic republic news agency reported.

He believed developments in the past decades proved that the spirit of resistance has not only failed to fade in the Palestinian nation but also reached a point where it has already weakened the Zionist regime, thanks to the strength, vigilance and bravery of both the Palestinian people and its leaders…

The Iranian defense minister also underscored Tehran’s support for the resistance in Palestine and Lebanon and said Iranians will stand by the Palestinian nation till the victory of oppressed Palestinians and liberation of the holy Qods [Jerusalem].

The PFLP and PIJ are smaller groups than Hamas, but equally nasty. PFLP is a secular Marxist group and PIJ grew out of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, but disagrees with Hamas to some extent on tactics. Iran is now the primary benefactor of these groups, and of course Hezbollah has been called “the Foreign Legion of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps“.

But Hamas, too, which has rebuilt its military capabilities since last year’s war, is an Iranian proxy:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday reiterated his support for Hamas, during a visit by the Palestinian group’s Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal, according to Iran’s official news agency.

“The government and the people of Iran will always stand by the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian people,” Ahmadinejad said during the meeting with Mashaal. “Today Palestine is symbol of the global front of freedom-seekers and militants.”

Mashaal was leading a Hamas delegation to Teheran, and was also set to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. — Jerusalem Post

The above are non-state proxies, highly dangerous — especially Hezbollah, which is said to have as many as 40,000 rockets of all types. But there is also another powerful Iranian ally to worry about, and this one is an actual state:

Iran and Syria signed a defense agreement on Friday, according to an Iranian Press TV report.

The document, signed by Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and his Syrian counterpart Ali Mohammad Habib Mahmoud, aimed to face “common enemies and challenges,” the report said.

Vahidi praised Syria’s great potential in the defense and military fields and said that “it is natural for a country like Syria – which has an inhumane and menacing predator like Israel in its neighborhood – to be always prepared [against possible foreign aggression].” — Jerusalem Post

Syria’s “great potential” is a large number of missiles of all kinds, some with chemical or biological warheads.

So that’s it — the lineup for the next major Mideast war. The question is not ‘if’, but rather ‘when, and exactly how’ it will start — unless of course there is an unexpected regime change in Iran. We can hope.

My advice to Israel (as a former reserve Corporal, I’m sure I will be listened to), is this:

If war is inevitable, then fight it on your terms. Preemptively.

The Iranian leadership seems to think it can sit back and ring down the curtain on Israel in perfect safety.  I don’t think so.

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