Archive for January, 2010

US charity paid for Goldstone spadework

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Alan Dershowitz begins his massive, detailed rebuttal of the Goldstone Report thus:

The Goldstone Report, when read in full and in context, is much worse than most of its detractors (and supporters) believe.  It is far more accusatory of Israel, far less balanced in its criticism of Hamas, far less honest in its evaluation of the evidence, far less responsible in drawing its conclusion, far more biased against Israeli than Palestinian witnesses, and far more willing to draw adverse inferences of intentionality from Israeli conduct and statements than from comparable Palestinian conduct and statements.  It is worse than any report previously prepared by any other United Nations agency or human rights group.

As I have mentioned before, the particularly evil aspect of the report is what Dershowitz calls the “inferences of intentionality”, that is, the conclusion drawn that Israel intentionally targeted civilian lives and property in order to inflict collective punishment on the residents of Gaza. Dershowitz writes,

At bottom the report accuses the Jewish state of having implemented a policy in Gaza that borders on genocide.  It blames the civilian deaths that occurred during Operation Cast Lead not on the fog of war, not on the use of human shields by Hamas, not on the inevitability of civilian casualties when rockets are fired from densely populated urban areas, not even on the use of “disproportionate force” by Israel.  Instead it blames the Palestinian civilian deaths on an explicit policy devised at the highest levels of the Israeli government and military, of killing as many Palestinian civilians as possible. It concludes that Operation Cast Lead was not designed to stop the rocket attacks on Israel’s civilians—more than eight thousand over a nine year period.   Instead, the rocket attacks merely served as an excuse for the Israeli military to achieve its real purpose: namely the killing of Palestinian civilians.

What can be called the ‘Goldstone project’ is a contrivance to delegitimize Israel and preempt international support from Israel’s future attempts to defend herself against certain-to-come attacks from the Iranian-supported Hamas and Hizballah. It is part of a strategy whose goal is to eliminate the Jewish state.

The 503-page work of slander rests on two pillars. One is the elaborate edifice of illegitimate inference in which conclusions are drawn by unsound arguments; and the other is the collection of false evidence upon which those arguments are based. This material was primarily gathered by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the usual suspects like Human Rights Watch, but also many Israeli NGO’s like the Physician’s Committee for Human Rights — Israel.

These groups laid the groundwork for the report; they are the sources that are referenced in most of the report’s footnotes and they are the ultimate source of its authority.

Now Elder of Zion has drawn our attention to a remarkable study that points out an interesting ‘coincidence': no fewer than 92% of Goldstone’s footnotes from Israeli sources that are judged to be negative toward the IDF are sourced from NGO’s supported by the American New Israel Fund (NIF).

Here is the original Hebrew text of a Ma’ariv article describing the study, done by a Zionist student group called “Im Tirtzu” [from Hertzl’s im tirtzu ain zo agada, “if you will, it is no legend”], and here is a machine translation of it. The translation is often somewhat unclear, so here is my own translation of a key paragraph:

The Goldstone report contains 1208 footnotes including 1377 references to various sources. “Im Tirtzu” checked all of these references and came to this astonishing conclusion: Close to half — 42% — of the citations in the Goldstone report from Israeli sources come from organizations supported by the New Israel Fund. When one considers only the negative ones, on which the various accusations and charges against the IDF and its officers are based, the conclusion is even more astonishing: 92% of them come from the same organizations.

The 16 Israeli NGOs listed by Im Tirtzu received a total of $7.8 million from the NIF in 2008-9. Since its founding in 1979, NIF has distributed $140 million in grants. Although some of its money comes from other foundations (it has received at least $40 million from the Ford Foundation, for ‘peace and justice’ projects), it actively solicits individual donors — even I have received literature from it.

Like J Street, the NIF (about which I’ve previously written here, here, and here) targets liberal Jews in the US, giving them the warm feeling that they can ‘help Israel’ while maintaining their commitment to ‘peace and social justice’.

It’s interesting to see how the trail starts from liberal feel-good philanthropy and ends up helping the bloody murderers of Hamas and Hizballah.

Incidentally, we’ll be hearing more about Im Tirtzu. This weekend it held a demonstration in front of the home of NIF President Naomi Chazan, which earned it a rebuke from… J Street!

Im Tirtzu demonstrators, dressed as Hamas terrorists in front of the home of NIF President Naomi Chazan. The sign reads "thank you, New (Israel) Fund".

Im Tirtzu demonstrators, dressed as Hamas terrorists, in front of the home of NIF President Naomi Chazan. The sign reads "thank you, New (Israel) Fund".

Update [1951 PST]: Someone asked me “what’s with the horn?” I don’t know for sure, but the  “New Israel Fund” in Hebrew is “keren hachadasha” (literally “new fund”). The word for ‘fund’ is keren [קרן], which also means ‘horn’.

Incidentally, it also means ‘ray [of light]’, and it’s said that St. Jerome’s mistranslation of this word in Ex. 34:29 where it says “keren or panav” (usually rendered “his skin was radiant”) led to the medieval belief that Moses had horns growing from his face.

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Who decides in the Middle East?

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

News item:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a Tehran conference Saturday that whoever controls the Middle East controls the world, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

In a speech during a conference marking 30 years to the Islamic Revolution, Ahamdinejad reportedly implied that Iran is the top power in the Middle East. “Now the question is who has the last say in the Middle East? Well, of course, the answer is clear to every one,” Ahamdinejad said.

Before WWII, the answer was ‘Britain’. And from 1945 until Barack Obama, the answer has been ‘the US’. But in his Cairo speech, Obama more or less announced that the US, like Britain before it, was withdrawing from the region. And his inability or lack of will to resist Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons guarantees that Ahmadinejad will soon have the answer he desires.

OK, you can blame the bungled US reaction to 9/11, which included an unnecessary and hugely expensive war and a remarkably stupid followup to a military victory if you want to pin it on the Bush Administration, but shouldn’t Obama have at least made an effort to turn things around before slinking away?

It’s not such a long story. The US cultivated — indeed, armed and supported — Saddam Hussein as a counter to Iran. To a certain extent this served the interest of the Saudi regime, which, with its effective lobby and  the help of supportive oil interests, has had an inordinate influence on US policy since the 1930’s. When Saddam got too big for his britches, invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, Bush I slapped him down — but not hard enough to remove him.

With the Bush II Administration, everything changed. Bush II crushed Saddam’s military and replaced his regime with… nothing. Iran stepped in, and when US troops leave, there is no doubt that ‘independent’ Iraq will become an Iranian satellite.

Lebanon is also losing its last vestige of independence, as Iran’s proxy Hizballah consolidates its hold on that unfortunate nation. Here the fault is shared with Israel, which was given a green light in 2006 by the US and Saudi Arabia to crush Hizballah but failed to do so.

Syria has thrown in its lot with Iran, in a mutually advantageous deal to supply Hizballah, threaten Israel and exploit Lebanon.Turkey under Erdoğan has been moving closer to Iran and Syria and distancing itself from Israel.

This leaves the conservative Arab regimes of Saudi Arabia and Egypt in a precarious position, facing Islamist subversion from within (encouraged by Iran) as well as the direct threat from Iranian nukes. The Mubarak regime is particularly unstable, with no clear successor waiting in the wings.

Israel is a remaining island of pro-Western power in the region, but it will soon be fighting Hizballah and Syria in the north and Hamas in the south — all Iranian proxies of course  (yes, I am convinced that war is not far away).

Is it likely that Obama will reverse direction, support Israel in its struggle with Iran’s proxies, and do whatever is needed to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons? So far there’s no reason to think so. The administration’s policy until now has been to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians and to keep missing deadlines for applying sanctions to Iran.

The Iranian opposition might be a ray of hope, but even if it succeeds in overthrowing the regime — a long shot, given the repressive tactics that are being employed against it — there’s no reason to assume that it will not pursue at least some of the geopolitical goals of the present regime.

Today it can be said that we are right at one of those times that future historians will write about as important turning points: the American withdrawal from the Middle East.

No wonder Ahmadinejad is confident about the answer to his question.

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Short takes — letters, potshards and human rights

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

The McDermott/Ellison letter

News Item:

Fifty-four members of the U.S. Congress have signed a letter [the text is here — ed.] asking President Barack Obama to put pressure on Israel to ease the siege of the Gaza Strip.

The letter was the initiative of Representatives Jim McDermott from Washington and Keith Ellison from Minnesota, both of whom are Democrats. Ellison is the first American Muslim to ever win election to Congress.

McDermott and Ellison wrote that they understand the threats facing Israel and the ongoing Hamas terror activities against Israeli citizens but that “this concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.”

“We ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts,” they wrote, adding that the siege has hampered the ability of aid agencies to do their work in Gaza…

Ellison has harshly criticized the House of Representatives decision to reject the Goldstone report, arguing that the report “only presents facts and raises recommendations for the future.” He cast doubt that members of Congress who voted to reject the report even took the time to read it and that the rejection hurt the Obama government’s role as an honest broker in the Middle East conflict.

The letter was also signed by those paragons of pro-Israel-ness, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.

Although the letter pays lip service to Israel’s ‘fear of terrorism’, it calls for the removal of restrictions on people moving into and out of the strip, the shipment of construction materials, etc. which would directly lead to such terrorism.  There is only one solution, and that is the removal of the Hamas terrorists from power there.

The Left has been gleeful, of course, while the Right has pointed out that the signatories are Democrats.

I have just one tripartite thought:

  • Where is the all-powerful ‘Israel Lobby’ which supposedly controls the Congress?
  • Where is the iron hand of AIPAC, which can allegedly destroy any elected official that steps out of line?
  • Why don’t the supposedly Jewish-controlled media step in?

Meanwhile, some Israelis have written a far more extreme letter…

More suicidal intellectuals

Yes, I should stop giving them exposure. But here is a letter from a bunch of Israelis, most of them academics, including Dr. Rachel Giora about whom I wrote yesterday, in advance of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ visit to Germany.

The letter accuses peace advocate and ‘architect of Oslo’ Shimon Peres of “numerous violations of human rights”, repeats Hamas and Hizballah atrocity stories, suggests that Israel mistreated nuclear traitor Mordechai Vanunu (in fact, he should have been hanged), and asserts that Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons — without which those who signed the letter would be dead or living in Los Angeles — is unacceptable.

But not all Israeli academics are idiots…

More evidence for early Jewish presence in Israel

A University of Haifa scholar has deciphered an inscription in Hebrew from the 10th century BCE:

A breakthrough in the research of the Hebrew scriptures has shed new light on the period in which the Bible was written. Prof. Gershon Galil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa has deciphered an inscription dating from the 10th century BCE (the period of King David’s reign), and has shown that this is a Hebrew inscription. The discovery makes this the earliest known Hebrew writing. The significance of this breakthrough relates to the fact that at least some of the biblical scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time…

Prof. Galil’s deciphering of the ancient writing testifies to its being Hebrew, based on the use of verbs particular to the Hebrew language, and content specific to Hebrew culture and not adopted by any other cultures in the region. “This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans. It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asah (“did”) and avad (“worked”), which were rarely used in other regional languages. Particular words that appear in the text, such as almanah (“widow”) are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages.

The content of the inscription is interesting because is shows a traditional Jewish concern for human rights:

The content itself was also unfamiliar to all the cultures in the region besides the Hebrew society: The present inscription provides social elements similar to those found in the biblical prophecies and very different from prophecies written by other cultures postulating glorification of the gods and taking care of their physical needs,” Prof. Galil explains.

Hebrew inscription from 10,000 BCE

Hebrew inscription from 1000 BCE

Here it is, with his translation:

1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

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Israeli intellectuals and the BDS movement

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Yesterday I talked about the remarkable death wish exhibited by some Jewish Israeli intellectuals. Today I want to amplify that with a discussion of their support for the enemy on one particular front of the continuing war against Israel.

The BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — movement has become a major part of the 100-year war against a Jewish state in the Mideast. It has two purposes, one direct and one indirect:

  1. To weaken Israel economically by getting consumers worldwide to avoid Israeli products, and
  2. To contribute to the delegitimization of Israel in order to reduce international support for Israel when conflicts — violent or diplomatic — occur.

BDS is part of an overall strategy to end the Jewish state that also includes propaganda, diplomacy, terrorism and war. These work together to multiply their effect. For example, the false atrocity propaganda surrounding the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead makes it harder for Israel to seek international support for future wars of self-defense.

The indirect effects of  BDS — delegitimization — may be more important than the cost of any economic boycott, which is why the BDS movement expends great effort on boycotting Israeli academics, athletes, films, etc.

The primary argument is based on the false analogy with apartheid South Africa, whose regime was changed in part by a worldwide application of BDS. It is held that Israeli treatment of Palestinians is intended to prevent them from exercising their human rights, to ‘colonize’ and exploit them, and is based on racism. Much support for this argument is drawn from “post-colonial theory” which has become a staple of conventional wisdom in academia. It is this dogma which obscures the fundamental differences between Israel and South Africa, and makes the analogy seem plausible (although I think stupidity, ignorance and antisemtism also play a role).

Without going into detail, I’ll just mention some of the obvious ways in which Israel is not South Africa before 1990:

  • There are no race-based laws. Israelis and Palestinians are both racially diverse populations who are actually genetically similar.
  • Arab citizens of Israel have, de jure, all the rights of Jewish citizens. To the extent to which this is de facto not true, it is due to the external conflict, cultural differences, and the conflation of civil rights with national aspirations.
  • Palestinians living in the territories are not citizens of Israel, and in Gaza they can be said to constitute a hostile population. Security measures to prevent terrorism by Palestinians (e.g., the separation barrier) are exactly that: security measures.
  • South Africa was not continuously at war with its neighbors from its founding as Israel has been.

Although there has been an official Arab economic boycott of Israel — even the pre-state Jewish yishuv — since 1945, the organized popular boycotts seem to have begun around 2000, corresponding to Yasser Arafat’s decision to reject a state in the territories and to launch the al-Aqsa Intifada instead. The proposal for an academic boycott was made at the September 2001 Durban Conference on Racism, where discussion about actual racism took a back seat to attacks on Israel.

The BDS movement has received a large amount of support from extreme left-wing Israeli academics. I’ll let one of them, Prof. Rachel Giora of the Linguistics Department at Tel Aviv University,  tell you in her own words why such support is important:

The major role of the Israeli BDS movement has been to support international BDS calls against Israel and legitimize them both as clearly not anti-Semitic, as not working against Israelis but against Israeli governmental policies

But is it in fact inconsistent that an Israeli Jew could support policies that are antisemitic or contrary to the well-being of Israeli Jews? Unfortunately not — all it takes is a leap to irrationality. For example, Prof. Giora and 34 other Israelis initiated a petition in 2001 which read, in part,

We call on the world community to organize and boycott Israeli industrial and agricultural exports and goods, as well as leisure tourism, in the hope that it will have the same positive result that the boycott of South Africa had on Apartheid. This boycott should remain in force as long as Israel controls any part of the territories it occupied in 1967. Those who squash the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians must be made to feel the consequences of their own bitter medicine.

In March 2002, at the height of  a wave of murderous bombings, the month of the Passover Seder Massacre in which a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 30 Israeli civilians and injured 140, an Israeli “feminist author” named Reza Mezali called for an end to US military aid to Israel, saying,

Arms are the motor of militarization. Please reciprocate the young people inside Israel saying “NO” to the deployment of their bodies and souls, in the service of the occupation. Please join them by saying “NO” to arming it with your dollars.

What could illustrate more clearly the writer’s desire to hurt the state and help its enemies than an effort to disarm it in the face of ever-increasing military threats? But even this isn’t the worst — that honor belongs to journalist Michael Warschawski, whose positions are not that different from those of the deceased Yasser Arafat. He too supports the BDS strategy:

For us Zionism is not a national liberation movement but a colonial movement, and the State of Israel is and has always been a settler’s colonial state. Peace, or, better, justice, cannot be achieved without a total decolonization (one can say de-Zionisation) of the Israeli State; it is a precondition for the fulfillment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians –- whether refugees, living under military occupation or [as] second-class citizens of Israel… any attempt for reconciliation before the fulfillment of rights strengthens the continuation of the colonial domination relationship. Without a price to be paid, why should the Israelis stop colonization, why should they risk a deep internal crisis?

This is where the BDS campaign is so relevant: it offers an international framework to act in order to help the Palestinian people achieving its legitimate rights, both on the institutional level (states and international institutions) and the civil society’s one… The BDS campaign was initiated by a broad coalition of Palestinian political and social movements. No Israeli who claims to support the national rights of the Palestinian people can, decently, turn his or her back to that campaign.

Of course the achievement of ‘justice’ for the Palestinians for those such as Warschawski would end the Jewish state. Probably  those Israeli Jews without relatives in Europe or the US would then experience life as a Jew in an Arab state. Precedents aren’t encouraging.

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Israel’s traitorous intellectuals

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

The phenomenon of Israel-hatred among Jewish Israeli academics and journalists has gone far beyond what can be explained by the distribution of Jewish Israelis across the political spectrum. Here in the US, it seems to me that Jewish attitudes toward Israel are more or less the same as those of the general population, with a few exceptions in either direction like the anti-Zionist Hasidic sects and the pro-Zionists of the Young Israel movement. For most other American Jews, their position depends on their overall political orientation, with the Left tending to be anti-Zionist and the right pro-Zionist. Only a small number hold extreme positions, and even fewer seem to be activists.

This makes me unhappy — I think there should be a natural tendency for Jews to be Zionists — but it is far from the pathological death wish found among Israeli academics and media elite:

Dr. Anat Matar of [the Tel Aviv University] Philosophy Department will be speaking on February 17 at London University’s School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) – a campus renowned for anti-Israel activity. [link added by editor]

Matar’s talk is to be titled “Supporting the Boycott on Israel: A View from Within.”

She is taking part in a series of events over the coming weeks organized by the Palestinian societies at five University of London campuses – University College London, SOAS, Imperial College, Kings College and Goldsmiths – as well as at the University of Westminster.

In an article in Haaretz in August, Matar accused her own university of being complicit with the “occupation” and questioned Israel’s stance on Palestinian academic freedom and basic education…

The series of events is titled, “Gaza: Our Guernica,” in reference to the bombing of a Basque town during the Spanish Civil War. The 1937 attack caused widespread destruction and civilian deaths, with 1,650 reportedly killed…

The series of events opened last Thursday with a candlelight vigil at University College London, recently in the headlines after it was discovered that failed Detroit airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a former president of the Islamic Society there.

Two other Israelis are taking part in the series. On Monday, journalist Daphna Baram spoke at SOAS in a talk titled, “Besieged in Self-Righteousness: Israeli public discourse after the last invasion of Gaza.”

Next Wednesday, Israeli academic Avi Shlaim, professor of International Relations at Oxford University, will speak about “Gaza: Past and Present” at Goldsmiths. — Jerusalem Post

This is in addition to Prof. Neve Gordon of Ben Gurion University who recently called for an international boycott of Israel like that of apartheid South Africa, to “save Israel from herself.” In addition, we can’t ignore Ha’aretz pundits Akiva Eldar, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, etc. And then there are the Jewish workers in Israeli NGOs such as the European-funded B’Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights — Israel whose activities directly support the campaign to delegitimize the state.

Everyone agrees that free speech has limits. During time of war — and Israel has been at war since its founding — the limits are even narrower. And these Jewish Israelis, especially since they speak to foreign audiences, clearly cross the line. Dr. David Hirsh, who is British and no right-winger, said this:

Israeli anti-Zionists boast that their country carries out the most important and horrific genocides in the world… The delusions of grandeur of Israeli anti-Zionists are as puerile as those of the most naive and proud nationalists. But it is dangerous to tell Europeans that the Israelis are a unique evil on the planet, because this lie finds a resonance in the collective memory and it feels plausible to some contemporary Europeans.

Regarding the obscene comparison of Israel’s action to the Nazi bombing of Guernica, Hirsh added some historical dimension:

In April 1937, on a market day, the Nazis attacked Guernica from the air, first with bombs and then with incendiaries. Fighter planes followed the bombers to machine-gun survivors. It was the first time anybody had launched an attack from the air to kill a civilian population. A third of the population was killed or seriously injured in an afternoon.

This, of course, is how the Gaza operation is portrayed by Hamas and its sympathizers, but the reality — an operation in which unprecedented care was taken to reduce civilian casualties and damage — was exactly the opposite. This reality has by now been almost entirely obliterated in  the public mind by a massive disinformation campaign, of which the notorious Goldstone report is emblematic.

Nothing is more effective in this campaign than its support by Israeli Jews. And since the object of it is to pave  the way to the destruction of the state, these Israelis are in effect guilty of treason.

Of course I don’t expect them to get their just deserts, but it is unacceptable that there are no negative consequences for them at all.

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The Greeks had a word for it: hypocrisy

Friday, January 22nd, 2010
Theodoros Pangalos: doesn't condone theft -- but how about murder?

Theodoros Pangalos: doesn't condone theft -- but how about murder?

Theodoros Pangalos is Deputy PM of Greece and a member of the Greek Parliament for the PASOK socialist party.  In 2008, Pangalos returned a Christmas gift of wine from the Israeli Ambassador. In explanation, he issued the following press release:

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

Thank you for the 3 bottles of wine that you sent me as season’s greetings. I wish to you, your family and everybody in the Embassy a happy new year. Good health and progress to you all.

Unhappily I noticed that the wine you have sent me has been produced in the Golan Heights. I have been taught since I was very young not to steel [sic] and not to accept products of theft. So I can not possibly accept this gift and I must return it back to you.

As you know, your country occupies illegally the Golan Heights who belong to Syria, according to the International Law and numerous decisions of the International Community.

I take the opportunity to express my hope that Israel will find security into its internationally recognized borders and the terrorist activities against Israel territory by Hamas or anybody else will be contained and made impossible, but I also hope that your government will cease practicing the policy of collective punishment which was applied on a mass scale by Hitler and his armies.

Actions such as those of these days of the Israel military in Gaza remind the greek [sic] people holocausts such as in Kalavrita or Doxato or Distomo and certainly in the ghetto of Warsaw.

With these thoughts allow me to express to you my best wishes for you, the Israeli people and all the people of our region of the world.

Was he also taught not to murder or allow others to do so? Perhaps not:

PASOK was in power under Andreas Papandreou from 1981-89 and from 1993-97, and Pangalos was a cabinet minister in both governments. During the first period, Greece pursued a relationship with radical Arab forces, particularly Syria, Libya, Iraq and the PLO. Cooperation was such that terrorists were allowed to operate in Greece with minimal interference.

In 1984, American and British agents captured Abdallah Fuad Shara, a member of the murderous “May 15″ organization, which

…specialized in the use of sophisticated suitcase bombs and plastic explosives, and focused on American and Israeli targets, and in particular means of transportation — ships and planes. The organization’s is charged with the attack on the Greek ship Orion in Haifa Port (December 1981); attacks on American and Israeli airliners in the years 1982-83, and attacks on crowded hotels and restaurants for the purpose of wholesale killing.

The PASOK government released him and gave him free passage to Algeria. He was finally arrested in 1990 and taken to Israel, where he received a 25-year sentence.

Another member of the May 15 group, Mohammed Rashid (or ‘Rashed’), was arrested at the Athens airport in 1988. After Papandreou was replaced by Constantine Mitsotakis, he was finally sentenced to 15 years in prison in Greece. But 8 years later, after Papandreou and PASOK returned to power, Rashid was freed for “good behavior”. He too was later rearrested, and this time taken to the US, where he ultimately was sentenced to an additional 7 years.

Numerous terrorist incidents occurred in Greece on PASOK’s watch, including the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, in which an American, Robert Stethem, was brutally murdered. Papandreou adopted the policy at first in order to curry favor with Arab nations where Greece had business interests and to get support from Arabs for his anti-Turkish and anti-American policies. Later, he apparently felt that appeasement was the best way to protect Greece from terrorism.

So the highly moral Pangalos apparently has less trouble belonging to governments which have condoned terrorism than he does drinking wine produced in a territory that was occupied as a result of a defensive war!

Do I smell hypocrisy? ( a good Greek word!)

***

Update [24 Jan 1051 PST]: Some bloggers have said that this story was a hoax. Actually it did occur, but in December 2008, at least according to Pangalos’ personal website. See the link preceding the quotation.

Update [25 Jam 0835 PST]: This post originally referenced an article in the Jerusalem Post by Jonny Paul. This article was removed by the Post, possibly because it did not make clear that the events described happened 13 months ago.

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Don’t give up Golan for a promise

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Yossi Alpher, a well-known analyst of the Israeli-Arab conflict and, despite his left-wing orientation, someone who should know better, wrote this:

[R]enewal of the peace process between Israel and Syria deserves more and better attention from the US and the moderate Arab states. Unlike in the Palestinian arena, here the parameters of a process are clear, most of the negotiating has already been done and Syrian President Bashar Assad is able to deliver. Obviously, success in the Israeli-Syrian arena is not guaranteed. But if achieved it would reduce Iran’s regional influence and weaken Hamas, thereby improving the chances for fruitful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – when circumstances are more favorable than today.

Alpher correctly understands that while Hamas controls Gaza and while PA President Mahmoud Abbas is committed — by ideology and by fear of his constituency — to maximal demands on borders, refugees, Jerusalem, etc., there can be no secure peace agreement with the Palestinians. So, maybe for lack of anything else to do, he thinks Israel should pursue an agreement with Syria.

“if achieved it would reduce Iran’s regional influence and weaken Hamas”, he says. Well, if Bashar Assad would honestly make peace with Israel, then it might do these things. But that’s like saying that flying pigs would revolutionize air transport.

Here are some of the problems with the idea:

Syria today has a very close relationship with Iran, which provides weapons and economic benefits. It works closely with Iran’s proxy, Hizballah, in exploiting Lebanon. Recognition of the Jewish state would put Syria on the US/Israeli side of the struggle for control of the region, imperil all of this and make enemies out of Iran and Hizballah.

In addition, Syria uses the conflict with Israel for domestic political purposes. As Barry Rubin argued in his book “The Truth About Syria“, the continual state of war with Israel provides an excuse for the Syrian regime to suppress both reformist and Islamist opposition, as well as for the economic difficulties of the population.

But the Golan is extremely strategic, even in this day of missile warfare. If Israel had not controlled the Golan in 1973, there’s no doubt that Syrian tanks could have penetrated deeply into Israel’s heartland. And while the Assad regime would prefer not to make peace, it would very much want to get the Golan back. So the obvious danger is that there might be a peace agreement, one that Assad or a successor would renege on. Who would or could guarantee it? Israel’s experience with multinational or UN forces indicates that no one could.

As always, Israel is asked to make a concrete concession of a strategic asset in return for a promise. “Assad is able to deliver”, says Alpher. But would he really, and could he deliver a possibly Islamist successor in advance?

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Amreeka, a movie review

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

This is a delightful film, which I recommend to everyone.

Yes, it’s a Palestinian film, from the Palestinian perspective and where it touches on Israel it does not do so sympathetically. Palestinians are hassled at checkpoints, and ‘occupation’ is blamed, not terrorism. Americans for the most part come off cold, naive and xenophobic. But it is one of the most honest films that I’ve seen in a while.

The plot is simple. Muna, a divorced Christian Palestinian woman with a teenage son, Fadi, feels that he has no future in the territories and emigrates to a small Illinois town where her sister lives. Her encounter at the airport with US immigration personnel is priceless: “Occupation?” asks the official, and Muna replies “Yes, it is occupied, for forty years.”

The year is 2003, Americans are worried about terrorism and teenagers are …teenagers, which makes it hard for Fadi, whom they creatively call ‘Osama’. Muna’s sister Raghda and her doctor husband Nabeel have money and marital problems as Nabeel’s practice suffers when fearful or biased patients leave. And the educated Muna, a former bank employee, struggles to find a job, ultimately flipping burgers at White Castle.

There’s no sex, no violence more serious than kids punching each other, and only the barest whiff of the inevitable Hollywood ‘love interest’.

Here’s what I liked about it:

The Palestinian Arab actors. Americans do a bad job playing Arabs — what can I tell you?

Linguistic realism. They spoke Arabic (with subtitles), English, and a mixture of English and Arabic that reminded me of my own family’s mixed English and Hebrew.

The view of America — good and bad — from the ‘outside’. Anyone who’s been unemployed will recognize Muna’s experiences looking for a job. When I came back to the US after almost a decade in Israel, I felt a similar disconnect, despite my good English and cultural understanding. There is a warmth about Middle Eastern people that came through clearly.

The de-emphasis of politics. It’s not a Zionist film, I didn’t expect one, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with Palestinian victimhood.

There’s nothing deep about it, but it’s well-done and entertaining.

Netflix subscribers can watch Amreeka here, and you can read Roger Ebert’s review here. Here’s the trailer:

[myspace] http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=60258244 [/myspace]

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A world of propaganda

Monday, January 18th, 2010

This past Saturday night (January 16), our local public radio station, KVPR, aired the most anti-Israel 55 minutes that I’ve heard anywhere. And that is saying something, because KVPR’s competition in the listener-supported radio world carries the Pacifica network, home of Amy Goodman.

The weekly program is called “A World of Possibilities”, and is produced by an outfit called Connexus Communications”, which is supported by grants from ‘progressive’ foundations, especially the Ford Foundation. It’s provided free for download and broadcast by anyone who wants it.

Saturday’s episode was called “Victims No More: Seeking the Middle Way in the Middle East,”  but there was no “middle way” or balance about it. The host, the snotty Mark Sommer — who often peppers his remarks on unrelated programs with anti-Israel comments (in a program about Darfur, he said conditions were “as bad as the Palestinian territories”) — interviewed five guests. Let’s look at what each one contributed to the program:

Amal Jadou, deputy chief of the PLO mission in Washington spoke for about fifteen minutes, delivering an unrelieved rant about the horrors of occupation, all the humiliations suffered by the Palestinians, whom she calls “the Jews of the Jews” in support of her offensive position that Jews have persecuted Palestinians just as they themselves were persecuted in Europe. Need I remind you that Jadou’s PLO practically invented terrorism as a political tool and has murdered thousands of Israelis, more than any other terrorist group?

Rami Khouri, a Palestinian/Jordanian journalist living in Beirut, also got about 15 minutes. Khouri, educated in the US, speaks excellent English and specializes in sounding moderate while delivering his zingers, such as talking about Israel’s “colonization program,” saying that “the Israelis have shifted very sharply to the right,”  that “both sides fight in vicious and barbaric ways,” that the “core of the [Mideast] conflict” is the Palestinian question, that the US has not historically been a “fair mediator” but has leaned toward Israel, that the US has “echo[ed] the views of the right wing in Israel,” and that Israel “overreacts[!]” to Iranian threats.

Haleh Esfandiari, a Iranian/American scholar who was imprisoned in Iran got about 7 minutes. She didn’t talk about Israel or the Palestinians at all, and — because of her opposition to the Iranian regime — seems to have been included as a form of balance.

Motti Cristal, an Israeli who served as a negotiator when Palestinian terrorists invaded and occupied (and damaged and desecrated) the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for 40 days in 2002, had his seven minutes of fame. He explained his theory of “interest-based” negotiation and the power relationships between Israel and the Palestinians. Nothing earthshaking, and I wasn’t sure why he was included until he dropped his payload, in response to a question from host Sommer: “in order to reach a comprehensive settlement … you have to include representatives of Hamas in any negotiation table set between Israel and the Palestinians.” You could almost see Sommer licking his lips with glee.

Josh Weiss, an academic and ‘negotiation consultant’, had the final 5  minutes. Weiss’ contribution was the idea that the issues on both sides were primarily ‘symbolic’. Palestinians didn’t want to actually exercise a right of return, he said, they just wanted to overcome their sense of “being wronged.” You could have fooled me. But Weiss really shone when host Sommer, apropos of nothing, asked him about ‘occupation’. “When I go [to Israel], you know, I feel it, I feel the connection to that, to being part of the occupier. In some way it’s like what white South Africans might have felt,” Weiss said.  Why thank you, Josh.You can go back to your Harvard office now.

“Most people on both sides are victims of an argument they had no part in creating,” says Sommer in conclusion, ignoring the fact that the Palestinian leadership, by refusing to accept any solution that implies the end of the conflict and the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, has played a very big part in keeping the argument alive. Indeed the whole thrust of the program is to repeat the mantra “both sides, both sides, both sides,” ignoring  small asymmetries like the fact that Israel’s goal is to live peacefully in the Middle East and the Palestinian goal is to prevent this!

KVPR, as I mentioned before is a listener-supported station. I do not believe for a moment that most of its listeners share the vicious point of view of Mark Sommer, or think that a program composed of blatant anti-Israel propaganda belongs on the schedule. If your local public radio station carries “A World of Possibilities,” please write to it (in Fresno, you can contact KVPR Program Director Jim Meyers — I intend to) and tell them that this is not the way you want your donations used.

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Who’d bother to kill Mahmoud Abbas?

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

News item:

Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, current chairman of the Palestinian Authority, claims that Israel is trying to assassinate him. Abbas told an Egyptian news agency this week that Israel had murdered his predecessor,Yasser Arafat – despite Arafat’s commitment to peace – and that he is afraid of suffering the same fate.

The man is beyond belief, and the US keeps paying him!

The implication is that he is for peace and a two-state solution, and Israel, which does not want peace, might kill him for his courageous stance, like his mentor Arafat.

In the real world the PA is doing its best to avoid negotiations with Israel, because it knows that its bottom lines — strict 1949 borders, return of ‘refugees’ to Israel, no recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, etc. — are unacceptable to either Israel or the US.

This is because they do not represent a compromise; they represent the whole ball game. Even Barack Obama has ruled out a right of return, has called for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and has favored land swaps.

So Abbas insists that the fact that Israel will not extend its building freeze to East Jerusalem means that it is impossible to talk. Of course, extending the ill-considered freeze would prejudge the status of East Jerusalem, something which is theoretically part of the theoretical negotiations. It’s bad enough that a cloud has been cast over all the rest of Judea and Samaria.

In any event, Israel is not building new settlements and there’s no connection between construction anywhere and the possibility of holding negotiations.

Israel understands quite well that neither Abbas or anyone else associated with the PA wants a ‘peace’ agreement that would be anything other than a complete capitulation to all of their demands. Even if someone did, he would receive no backing and probably be in physical danger from more extremist elements.

So killing Abbas would get Israel exactly nothing, just as killing Arafat in 2004 would not have. Israel could have and should have killed Arafat in 1982, but that’s another story.

The legend about Israel having poisoned Arafat — most authorities think it more likely that he died from complications of AIDS or was poisoned by Palestinian rivals — has joined Arab mythology along with the one about the Mossad’s responsibility for 9/11. It’s a good story, though, and Abbas used his interview to get in another lick at Israel.

The so-called ‘peace process’ which the US is bound and determined to ‘restart’ yet again is a diversion from more serious issues — Iran — as well as an excuse for the US and Europe to slice bits off of Israel in pursuit of their real policy goal. That is to shrink Israel as close to the 1949 lines as possible in order to appease Saudi Arabia, which has been pressuring the US to oppose a Jewish state in Palestine at least since Ibn Saud met with Roosevelt in February of 1945.

Apparently the plan goes just this far, with a sort of hazy idea that security problems will be ironed out after the main goal has been attained. This is the same kind of reasoning, by the way, that brought us the disaster in Iraq.

How to make the tiny Palestinian state viable, how to defuse the terrorists in Judea and Samaria when the IDF pulls out, what to do about Hamas, what about the crime and corruption-ridden Palestinian society and politics, what about the influence of Iran by way of its proxies Hamas and Hizbullah, etc. — all of these issues are ‘handled’ by wishful thinking, just like the problems of post-Saddam Iraq.

In truth, the US and Europe care as little for Israel and the Palestinians as they did for the Iraqis. Peace can come only when the outside forces — in this case the West, Iran and Saudi Arabia leave the area alone. Without the ‘encouragement’ that today leads Palestinian Arabs to believe that they will succeed in getting the Jews out of the region,  perhaps a realistic  leadership could arise that will accept the idea of a state alongside Israel. But I’m not holding my breath.

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Israel sends aid to Haiti — Arabs and Turks don’t

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Following the disaster in Haiti, China, the US, Canada, Britain, Spain, Iceland, Portugal, Russia, Taiwan, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, France, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and of course Israel all have medical or rescue personnel on the ground there, or on the way. IDF medical teams who will set up a field hospital are already in the air.

The nations listed above and many others as well as international organizations, India, Australia, Norway, Italy, the EU, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, and South Korea have all pledged tens of millions of dollars and Euros (the US is tied for the biggest pledge with the World Bank at $100 million each).

But what’s missing? How about the countries swimming in our petrodollars, Saudi Arabia, Iran? The UAE has promised fifty tons of supplies. Nothing so far from any other Arab or Muslim nations. Where is that great humanitarian Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was so concerned about the ‘disaster’ in Gaza, now that a real disaster has occurred? Oh, he’s sent Turkey’s ‘condolences’! Does he remember that after a deadly earthquake in 1999, Israel sent its rescue and medical teams to Turkey as well?

It is ironic that Israel, almost universally vilified on ‘humanitarian’ grounds, and despite its small size and lack of resources, is in fact always among the first to help in natural disasters worldwide!

Update [18 Jan 1931 PST] Various Turkish news sources now state that the government of Turkey has decided to send significant aid to Haiti.

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Arming Lebanon is arming Hizballah

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

A few days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, on July 14, 2006, Hizballah fired an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile, making a direct hit on the Israeli Navy’s corvette Hanit. The ship was seriously damaged; four sailors were killed and several others injured.  It was remarkable that the Hanit managed to stay afloat, and even returned to Ashdod under its own power. Although the ship had sophisticated anti-missile capabilities, the systems were turned off, either because the crew did not believe that Hizballah had such a missile, or because they wanted to reduce the chance of accidentally firing at nearby Israeli aircraft. Several officers were disciplined as a result of the affair.

The damaged INS Hanit, at Ashdod.

The damaged INS Hanit, at Ashdod.

A short time later, the IAF bombed several coastal radar stations belonging to the Lebanese army. It’s thought that they provided tracking data to Hizballah. In 2006, Hizballah had far less power and control in Lebanon than it does today. Nevertheless, probably one-third of the Lebanese Army in 2006 consisted of Shiites who might be sympathetic at least to Hizballah.

Today Hizballah has complete freedom of action in Lebanon, and all but controls the government — and the army. It is hard to believe that arms supplied to the Lebanese army could be kept from Hizballah:

In early December, the Lebanese parliament gave a vote of confidence to the government of Saad Hariri and approved a government platform that allowed Hizbullah to maintain its arms in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

From that time, which also included a declaration that Hizbullah had a mandate to defend Lebanon from Israel, “there has been a great deal of concern here,” one [Israeli] official said.

The main concern, the official said, is weaponry being provided or pledged by the US. The issue is likely to be raised during the expected meetings here Tuesday with US National Security Advisor James Jones.

The US has long provided military assistance to Lebanon. Over the past years this military assistance has included aircraft, tanks, artillery, small boats, infantry weapons, ammunition, Humvees and cargo trucks. The US is expected to provide the Lebanese army with 12 Raven unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft in the coming months. — Jerusalem Post [my emphasis]

Since 2006, under the worthless nose of the UN, Hizballah has been rebuilding and rearming with weapons supplied by Iran through Syria. Most analysts believe that Hizballah is far stronger, both in its short, medium and long-range rocket forces and in its ground fortifications, than it was in 2006 (of course Israel has learned lessons from that conflict too).

Barring an unforeseen stroke of luck, like a revolution in Iran which would pull the rug out from under her proxies, a further conflict between Israel and Hizballah is inevitable (if you think Hizballah will become moderate in middle age, see Barry Rubin’s argument to the contrary here).

So it would behoove the US administration, if its protestations about caring for Israel’s security are actually meaningful, to find another market for military hardware than Lebanon.

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