Archive for December, 2009

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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