Archive for April, 2010

Turning the clock back to 1948

Friday, April 30th, 2010

US policy toward Israel has always been ambivalent, at best. Truman struggled with his State Department, particularly Secretary George Marshall, to recognize the state of Israel. Eisenhower was furious when Israel conspired with France and England to invade the Sinai in 1956, and threatened economic sanctions to force a withdrawal (he also promised that the US would guarantee free passage through the strait of Tiran, a promise the US broke in 1967). Ronald Reagan sold AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia against strident Israeli objections, and George H. W. Bush forced Israel to take no action while Iraqi Scud missiles were crashing into Tel Aviv.

The US has never accepted Israeli rights to Jerusalem — even West Jerusalem — and since the 1970′s, policy has been to try to undo the results of the 1967 war and return Israel to the 1949 armistice lines.

Having said that, the US was generous with military aid after 1967, particularly during the Cold War when Israel served as a bulwark against Soviet influence in the region. But keep in mind that aid money was spent to buy weapons from US contractors, so this was not all done out of love for the Jewish state.

There is reason to think that the present administration has decided to implement an even more aggressive policy. Apparently it’s been decided that it is not possible to undo 1967 without also undoing 1948.

The failure of Oslo, of Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal and of other diplomatic initiatives have produced a consensus in Israel that today there is no practical way to implement a two-state solution. At the same time, Fatah has escalated demands rather than becoming more moderate (or perhaps Fatah’s mask of moderation has fallen away). And of course, Hamas controls Gaza and 40% of the Palestinian population.

In any event, the Obama administration seems to have come to the conclusion that a sovereign Israel can’t be cajoled or even  pressured to accept an agreement with the Palestinians that it regards (correctly) as suicidal. So the approach will be to remove Israel’s independent volition — in effect to go back to the solution the State Department had pushed in 1948, a US-controlled “Trusteeship.”

This is what is meant in practice by the “American peace plan” which was created by Obama’s highly Israel-hostile Mideast team of Jones, Scowcroft, Brzezinski, Berger, Kurtzer, Power, etc.

Here is how Eliyakim HaEtzni explains it:

Alex Fishman, in an article in “Yediot Achronot” from April 9th, details what Obama presented to Netanyahu for his
signature [at their last meeting]:

  • The withdrawal of the IDF from all the Arab cities of Judea and Samaria and a large proportion of the countryside, precluding all future Israeli military operations in those areas (pretty much the only way of preventing terrorist attacks against Israeli targets);
  • Allowing the Palestinian Authority to resume operations unhindered in Jerusalem;
  • Obligating Israel to cease any present or future building in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, amounting to the de facto division of the capitol [sic].

In addition, Obama demanded that Netanyahu continue the building freeze in Judea and Samaria indefinitely and hand over parts of Area C to the Ramallah authorities, changing its status to Area A, which prohibits Israelis from setting foot there. Obama required Netanyahu to relinquish the northern Dead Sea and parts of the Jordan Valley to enable the PA to develop tourism there.

All this must take place immediately, before the beginning of negotiations, while the negotiations themselves will determine the final border and, according to the American timetable, will be signed and sealed within two months….

First by forcing Netanyahu to create in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria conditions under which the territory is de facto handed over to the Arabs, and then by giving him a few months to play at the farce of negotiations, with the predetermined result of arriving at the American “peace plan.”

And that’s not all. There’s the Quartet’s declared intent to base the forced “peace” on foreign armies. The Americans and Europeans are offering Israel the services of foreign troops as a beneficence in response to Israel’s complaint that it will no longer be able to defend itself within the borders of the Green Line. Their answer to this is “security guarantees” backed up with a military presence in the Jordan Valley and along the Green Line. They tell us that their intention is to defend us from the Arabs while they tell the Arabs that their intention is to defend them from us. In effect, this military presence will tie our hands and will prevent the Israeli government from taking any independent military action. From then on, Israel will be a sovereign nation in name only. In fact, Israel will be a protectorate under international control, led by America.

HaEtzni is a right-winger, a “settler advocate.” Nevertheless, his analysis can’t be faulted. Given the incompatibility between Palestinian demands and Israeli security, there is no way that the Palestinian state so sought by the Obama Administration can be brought into existence except against Israel’s will.

Obama has threatened that if the “proximity talks” don’t bear fruit by September/October he will produce the “American proposal” and call for a summit led by the hostile Quartet to beat Israel into submission. Perhaps he thinks that a foreign policy ‘success’ (he has never had one) will help the Democrats in November’s election.

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The NIF and the BDS movement

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Do you remember the New Israel Fund (NIF), the US charity that was recently the center of controversy when an Israeli Zionist group, Im Tirtzu, claimed that they funded the organizations responsible for the majority of the ‘documentation’ of alleged IDF crimes in the notorious Goldstone report?

The ‘moderate’ Left, including the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center, rushed to their defense. Im Tirtzu was accused of being composed of right-wing extremists or worse.

But let’s see who the real extremists are.

The BDS movement  (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) attempts to delegitimize Israel as a state, calling for boycotts in every area, economics, academics, sports, culture, science, etc. The campaign is designed on the model of the boycott of apartheid South Africa, the implication being that the Jewish state is equally immoral and illegitimate. The boycott is to be continued until Israel meets the following conditions:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

One would think that a pro-Israel charity would not fund groups calling for the ‘return’ of 4.5 million hostile ‘refugees’, something which, if it happens, would certainly mark the end of the state of Israel and the beginning of a bloody civil war. So what is the policy of the New Israel Fund with regard to BDS? Here is an excerpt from their FAQ (h/t: Israel Academia Monitor):

What is NIF’s position on boycott, divestment and sanctions?

NIF supports an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories as a central tenet of the strategic framework in which we operate.  The tactics known as ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ (BDS) are designed to pressure Israel to end the occupation, but NIF believes these tactics to be unproductive, inflammatory and ineffective because of the difficulties in defining an approach that is not overly broad, does not delegitimize Israel and will achieve the long-term goal.

So far, so good. Very moderate, if leftish. But it continues,

Although we will continue to communicate publicly and privately to our allies and grantees that NIF does not support BDS as a strategy or tactic, we will not reduce or eliminate our funding for grantees that differ with us on a tactical matter. NIF will not fund BDS activities nor support organizations for which BDS is a substantial element of their activities, but will support organizations that conform to our grant requirements if their support for BDS is incidental or subsidiary to their significant programs.

In other words, if an organization claims that its main goal is to improve the condition of Palestinian women but also supports BDS — no problem. And in fact there are numerous groups like this, since the universal Palestinian Arab position is that all of their problems are a direct result of ‘occupation’ — that is, the existence of Israel — and have no other cause.

So it’s clear that the NIF does fund groups working to delegitimize Israel — as long as they don’t say that this is their primary purpose!

Like J Street and others, the NIF trades on the Jewish commitment to social justice and helping others to turn the resources of the Jewish community against its own interest, the preservation of the state of Israel.

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JFools and JKnaves

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I don’t know how many posts I’ve written about anti-Israel Jews — J Street, Israeli intellectuals, leftist anti-Zionists, etc. I even thought about creating a special category called “With Jews like these, who needs Arabs?”

The inimitable Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine, for example, recently gave an award to Richard Goldstone because… get ready for this — “the peace community both in Israel and around the world see Justice Goldstone as upholding the best ethical values of the Jewish community”. Ethical values?

It doesn’t work anymore to say “Oh, Michael Lerner (or Chomsky, or Finkelstein, or half the faculty of Tel Aviv University, etc.) is crazy. If the problem is mental illness, it’s an epidemic.

The latest is a new European organization called “JCall“. Like J Street, JCall claims to be “unfailingly” committed to the Jewish state, but nevertheless holds that “Systematic support of Israeli government policy is dangerous and does not serve the true interests of the state of Israel,” and calls for the EU and the US to “put pressure on both parties” to achieve a “solution” to the conflict.

I suppose it’s worth saying again why ‘putting pressure on both sides’ won’t end the conflict (a more complete argument is here):

  • While it’s possible to force Israeli concessions — viz. the recent ‘secret’ Jerusalem construction freeze — they are never matched by any softening of the Palestinian side, which will not even go so far as to agree that the Israel that will be left will belong to the Jews.
  • As long as Hamas is in control of Gaza where 40% of the Palestinian Arabs live, no agreement will be worth anything.
  • The Palestinian Authority has very little support. It’s famously corrupt, and is dominated by the Fatah ‘old guard’. There is almost no  interest in permanent peace with Israel among any of the Fatah members, old or young, who tend to see agreements only as a stepping stone to ultimate victory.
  • Therefore, an imposed agreement would not ‘solve’ anything. Rather, it would simply create another hostile entity right next to the most heavily-populated part of Israel, making a three-front war almost a certainty.

This is not rocket science. If you are pro-Israel, you do not invite the 1000-pound gorillas of the EU and the US to sit on Israel and impose a solution that serves their own narrow interests.

As Barry Rubin pointed out in the ‘freeze’ article linked above, Israel’s government is in essence a unity government which includes the left-wing Labor Party of Ehud Barak. It is not a right-wing extremist government whose policy doesn’t serve the “true interests” of the state, as JCall implies. Israelis, who elected this government and who either fight to defend the state or send their children to do so, don’t need European Jews to tell them their business.

But the fact is that J Street, JCall, Tikkun, etc. are not pro-Israel, even though some of their donors are uninformed or stupid enough to accept their facile arguments. Their fully conscious members have to realize this, just like Richard Goldstone has to realize by now that he was snookered; and if he really were deserving of an ethics award he would admit it.

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Crashing an airliner into American culture

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The US Supreme court recently struck down a law banning animal abuse videos, videos so bad that just the idea is nauseating. I was distressed, but I understood. The principle of free speech is one of the foundations of our free society, and there is probably no place in the world where it is taken more seriously.

Some time ago I went to a talk by a Holocaust denier in my own neighborhood. That, too, was nauseating. But I understood why it was impossible to prevent this person from speaking. Unfortunately, this is the price we pay for the kind of society we want. Other nations have made different choices; Holocaust denial can get you put in jail in some European countries.

So when a young man warned the producers of South Park (of which I am not particularly a fan) that they might end up dead for depicting the Prophet Mohammad, he in effect crashed an airliner into one of the most important edifices of our American culture (please read what Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who should know, wrote about this).

Threats of lawsuits, boycotts, nasty blogs, etc. are one thing. They may or may not have what lawyers like to call a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech. But threats of murder are something else entirely, especially since there are numerous precedents that threats like this will be carried out. Think of Salman Rushdie, Theo Van Gogh, Kurt Westergaard, Hirsi Ali herself, etc. Indeed, Comedy Central bleeped out the mention of the name ‘Mohammad’ in a follow-up episode.

The first episode did not actually present an image of Mohammad, but had his voice come from inside a bear suit. In the same episode, Jesus is shown watching porn and Buddah snorting cocaine. The relatively mild treatment of Mohammad may already imply a degree of self-censorship.

Mohammad in a bear suit on South Park

Mohammad in a bear suit on South Park

The individual who made the threats, as well as publishing the names, addresses and pictures of the producers, is Abu Talhah al-Amrikee — Abu Talhah the American — who used to be called Zachary Adam Chesser, and was a student at George Mason University. His nom de guerre is ironic, since his actions are about as anti-American as anything one can imagine. And it doesn’t matter how marginal or crazy he is. It doesn’t take a sane man to pull a trigger.

Abu Talhah al-Amriki

Abu Talhah al-Amriki

The strategy of responding to self-defined insults with murderous violence is  an attack on a principle that Western culture has developed over several centuries at great cost; as I said, a foundation of our free society. The intent is to propel us back into the Middle Ages, where radical Islam lives.

It must be resisted as strongly as we resist attempts to crash airliners into our physical structures.

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At best, irrational; at worst, treasonous

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Ami Isseroff gives us a convincing description of the most likely scenario if Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon is not stopped:

By “nuclear Iran,” I mean an Iran that at least makes a convincing case that it has or could have nuclear weapons – that it has completed the fuel cycle. They needn’t test an actual bomb. They will use their military muscle as an umbrella to further their two goals: eliminating the Great Satan, the USA, from influence in the Middle East, and eliminating the Little Satan, Israel. They will create a Hezbollah movement in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for example, where there are aggrieved Shi’ite populations (a majority in Bahrain) and a lot of oil. They will certainly gain control of Iraq, as well as tightening their grip on Syria and Lebanon.

They will control most of the oil reserves of the Middle East and demand a price for the oil. That price will be, as their leaders have stated, a “referendum” about the future of “Palestine” (meaning Israel) in which all the “Palestinian Arabs” in the world are allowed to participate. As there are a very large number of candidates for eligibility as “Palestinian Arabs” if criteria are sufficiently lax and imaginative, there is little doubt as to what the result of the referendum would be. Mr. Obama might be able to “live” with that for a while, but of course that would not be the end of Iranian demands, since their ultimate goal as Mr. Ahmadinejad announced, is a “world without the United States and Zionism.”

There are various things that might derail this plan, but an imposed Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace’ agreement is not one of them. Indeed, such a deal with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and in the presence of Hamas will simply create a hostile entity — another Gaza, if you will — next door to Israel’s heartland, completing its encirclement by Iran-linked enemies, and threatening a three-front war.

While the Iranian leadership obviously has religious and ideological reasons to want to eliminate Israel, there are also geopolitical ones: 1) Israel is the only state in the Middle East that is strong enough to be a threat to Iran’s plan to dominate the region, and 2) insofar as it is an ally of the US, it serves as a way for the US to project its power in the region.

It’s been suggested that an anti-Israel policy will get the conservative Arab regimes on our side, which will strengthen our hand with Iran. But those regimes will be the first targets of Iranian expansionism and they are already ‘on our side’ with regard to Iran (interestingly — although they will never say so publicly — some in the Arab world are hoping that Israel will solve the Iranian problem for them).

Israel is the keystone of Western interests in the region. If it’s removed, the structure will fall.

Can you imagine a world in which a third of the oil reserves — more, if you include Venezuela in the anti-US bloc — is under the control of Iran, where political speeches invariably close with shouts of “death to America!”?

US policy to contract and weaken Israel actually aids Iran, a declared enemy of the US. This policy is at best irrational and at worst treasonous.

————————————————————

Just because someone is irrational doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have motives. Hitler lost the war in part because his irrational desire to wipe out the Jews of Europe at all costs interfered with rational decision-making.

There’s no shortage of important people who oppose Israel. There has always been a strong element, primarily in the State Department, that believes that the relationship between Israel and the US is an embarrassment, forced upon us by the Jewish Lobby. Truman recognized the state of Israel in 1948 in defiance of this group. It’s safe to say that there’s more than a bit of antisemitism among them.

There is also a Saudi-paid army of former officials and lobbyists that push this view. Chas Freeman, Jimmy Carter, James A. Baker, etc. are examples. Whatever their arguments, there’s a strong element of simple self-interest here.

More recently they’ve been joined by left-wing anti-Zionists, who consider the Palestinians third-world ‘people of color’ (never mind the actual colors of representative Israelis and Palestinians) who have been ‘colonized’ by Israel; these types suffuse the Obama Administration and apparently set the tone for White House attitudes. This is most likely Obama’s own view, although he plays his cards close to the vest. In recent years this group has also begun to be characterized by antisemitism.

Probably the only way to improve this administration’s policy will be to replace it.

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By “nuclear Iran,” I mean an Iran that at least makes a convincing case that it has or could have nuclear weapons – that it has completed the fuel cycle. They needn’t test an actual bomb. They will use their military muscle as an umbrella to further their two goals: eliminating the Great Satan, the USA, from influence in the Middle East, and eliminating the Little Satan, Israel. They will create a Hezbollah movement in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for example, where there are aggrieved Shi’ite populations (a majority in Bahrain) and a lot of oil. They will certainly gain control of Iraq, as well as tightening their grip on Syria and Lebanon. They will control most of the oil reserves of the Middle East and demand a price for the oil. That price will be, as their leaders have stated, a “referendum” about the future of “Palestine” (meaning Israel) in which all the “Palestinian Arabs” in the world are allowed to participate. As there are a very large number of candidates for eligibility as “Palestinian Arabs” if criteria are sufficiently lax and imaginative, there is little doubt as to what the result of the referendum would be. Mr. Obama might be able to “live” with that for a while, but of course that would not be the end of Iranian demands, since their ultimate goal as Mr. Ahmadinejad announced, is a “world without the United States and Zionism.”

Abbas and Obama

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

News item:

Aides to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas say the Palestinian leader could meet with US President Barack Obama soon.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the Palestinians requested such a meeting and were told by Obama’s envoy that the US leader would see Abbas in the near future. Erekat said Sunday that no date was set.

Another aide, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Palestinian radio that “there is talk about an invitation for President Abbas to visit Washington,” possibly next month.

Will there be a photo-op with the press for this ‘leader’ who has zero support from his own people except those that are paid with US dollars? Will he be offered more of those dollars even though he represents Fatah, a terrorist organization that has killed more Israelis than any other, and which still — despite promises and signed agreements — swears to erase Israel from all of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean?

Will there be a special halal dinner served to this man who wrote a book based on his doctoral dissertation called “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” in which he wrote

A partnership was established between Hitler’s Nazis and the leadership of the Zionist movement… [the Zionists] gave permission to every racist in the world, led by Hitler and the Nazis, to treat Jews as they wish, so long as it guarantees immigration to Palestine.

And this,

Having more victims meant greater rights and stronger privilege to join the negotiation table for dividing the spoils of war once it was over. However, since Zionism was not a fighting partner — suffering victims in a battle — it had no escape but to offer up human beings, under any name, to raise the number of victims, which they could then boast of at the moment of accounting…

It seems that the interest of the Zionist movement…is to inflate this figure so that their gains will be greater. This led them to emphasize this figure in order to gain the solidarity of international public opinion with Zionism. Many scholars have debated the figure of six million and reached stunning conclusions — fixing the number of Jewish victims at only a few hundred thousand.

PM Netanyahu, who had to enter the White House by a side door and who did not get a photo-op or dinner (did Obama expect him to stop for a Big Mac on the way home?) has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state for the ‘Palestinian people’ alongside Israel and called for immediate negotiations with the Palestinians to this end, with no preconditions.

Abbas, for his part, has refused to talk unless Israel stops all construction in East Jerusalem, even in established Jewish neighborhoods, because — as the media invariably report with a straight face — the Palestinians ‘want East Jerusalem for the capital of their state’. And our president humiliated PM Netanyahu because he would not accept this demand, because he refused to give up sovereignty in his own capital because Abbas — whom, you recall, refuses to accept the idea of a Jewish state at all, anywhere –  ‘wants’ it!

After the manufactured ‘insult’ to the US during the Biden visit, Hillary Clinton called PM Netanyahu and made a series of new demands on Israel; stop all building in East Jerusalem, extend the freeze in Judea and Samaria, make further concessions on security measures, etc.

Will Abbas get the same treatment? Will Obama demand that the Palestinian leadership finally say — publicly, in Arabic — that a peace agreement with Israel will be with a state that belongs to the Jewish people, and send him out for a Big Mac if he refuses?

Nah, I’m betting that Obama treats him like a king.

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Quote of the Week

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Most people recognize the quotation from Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the House from 1977-87, who said “all politics is local.” But in many places the truth is that almost all politics are ethnic or religious.

Take Iraq for example, where there are Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, Assyrian, Turkmen, Yezidi and probably other such parties. In Lebanon, which may have the most political parties of any nation on earth, the great majority of its MP’s represent parties associated with ethnic or religious groups.

Israel has a few smaller religious parties, several Arab parties, and some which are favored by ethnic groups — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu [Israel is our home] party is considered the ‘Russian’ party — but the majority of political discourse (except in the case of the Arab parties — and that’s a problem) crosses these lines. In the US, the phenomenon is practically nonexistent.

In some places this is considered desirable. Islamist parties that advocate Shaaria-based law in effect favor a system which institutionalizes bias against non-Muslims. Not only do they see nothing wrong with this, they see it as appropriate and desirable. In Western democracies ethno-religious politics is generally considered a bad thing, because it leads to politically powerful groups obtaining special privileges for their members. Ethnic politics is also highly divisive and often violent (viz. Lebanon).

Even on a smaller scale — for example, when Hispanic voters in the US vote for a Hispanic candidate because he or she is expected to look out for their narrow interests — it tends to skew priorities in a suboptimal way. The best interest of the society as a whole is usually not the same as the sum of the interests of organized ethnic or religious groups.

Which brings us to the Quote of the Week, a parenthetical remark from Barry Rubin’s blog:

…this story, told to me first-hand, really shook me up. A doctor regularly receives referrals from the local office of the Immigration Service. One day a patient was sent over because, the officials said, he needed to get a certain shot to stay in the United States. The man insisted he didn’t need it, but the doctor pointed out that, according to the regulations, he did. The man said to the doctor, “You’re Jewish, aren’t you? You don’t like Syrians.” Just like that the whole Weberian, rational, laws-not-man, equal-treatment-under-law infrastructure that holds up Western civilization collapsed and the Middle Ages had returned.

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The Jewish rebellion against Barack Obama

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Former NY Mayor Ed Koch

Former NY Mayor Ed Koch

Shmuel Rosner asks,

What’s with all those new “Jewish ads” against Obama?

I understand the frustration with Obama, but can’t quite see the logic behind the ads. It only raises the stakes and makes Obama less prone let Netanyahu off the hook. An American President can’t lose an internal battle to a foreign leader – and the ads (Lauder, Wiesel) makes this an internal battle.

In addition to the Lauder and Wiesel advertisements, we should include this article by Ed Koch, former New York Mayor. Koch is important because he is a Democrat who strongly supported Obama in 2008; Lauder is a Republican who has been reported to be a possible challenger to NY Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, while Wiesel’s public persona is apolitical.

So why have high-profile Jews of various political stripes found it necessary to take Obama to task over Mideast policy?

It’s Obama who started the latter day Jewish Wars when he empowered his own personal Jewish Lobby, J Street. Invited to the White House while “right-wing” groups like the Zionist Organization of America were dis-invited, J (Judenrat) Street pumps out propaganda in the form of misleading polls and press releases whose purpose is to give the impression that most American Jews are behind Obama and his policies — especially including his anti-Zionist stance.

The intent is to bolster support for his position among non-Jews — who, after all, are 98% of the population — who reason that if even Jews support Obama’s efforts to forcibly create a Palestinian state, reestablish 1949 borders and divide Jerusalem, then it must be the best thing for the region as a whole, including Israel.

At the same time, the administration has begun to hit below the belt, leaking implications of dual loyalty among Jewish supporters of Israel — or even Jews who argue for fair treatment of Israel — as well as suggestions that American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are endangered because of Israeli intransigence!

So I think that what’s happened is that Jews like Lauder, Wiesel and Koch are beginning to feel that the moral obligation to stand up for the state of the Jewish People overrides the possible dangers. Who wants to be remembered in history like those Jewish leaders who supported Roosevelt’s inaction toward the Holocaust or opposed Truman’s recognition of Israel? In the words of Ed Koch,

What bothers me most of all is the shameful silence and lack of action by community leaders — Jew and Christian. Where are they? If this were a civil rights matter, the Jews would be in the mall in Washington protesting with and on behalf of our fellow American citizens. I asked one prominent Jewish leader why no one is preparing a march on Washington similar to the one in 1963 at which I was present and Martin Luther King’s memorable speech was given? His reply was “Fifty people might come.” Remember the 1930s? Few stood up. They were silent. Remember the most insightful statement of one of our greatest teachers, Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Rosner naturally sees it from an Israeli point of view, simply as a conflict between Netanyahu and Obama. But Obama apparently wanted a fight with American Jewry as well, and now he has one.

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One question for Bradley Burston

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Bradley Burston published a passionate attack on “The Occupation” yesterday, in honor of Israel’s Independence Day. Here’s some of it:

In a country where polls show that nearly two-thirds of the population would cede the West Bank under a future peace deal, Israelis are hostages to the nightmare scenario of permanent Occupation…

The Occupation has become the greatest single threat to the social fabric of the Jewish state. The Occupation causes division, strife, tension and alienation in Jewish families and Jewish communities the world over.

Nothing causes Israel more diplomatic damage than the Occupation, and its outrider, the siege of Gaza.

Nothing delegitimizes Israel more in the eyes of the world – and in the eyes of many Jews – than the nation’s unwillingness or inability to dismantle and end the Occupation…

What will permanent occupation mean for Israel? Not only that the nation will cease to be a democratic state, disenfranchising millions of Palestinians. In the end, permanent Occupation will see to it that Israel will cease to be a Jewish state as well. Israel will have delegitimized itself out of existence.

It will have knowingly opted for and adopted apartheid, and, in the end, either through democracy or through fire, and, thanks to the Occupation, the world community will see to it that an Arab-ruled Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River will finally come into existence.

I have a question which I hope Burston will answer. Because it is just impossible for me to understand his mindset, or that of others who say the same sort of things. Here it is:

How?

Given that most Israelis would prefer the Palestinian Arabs as “neighbors” or “true cousins”, how do you propose to get there from here?

How do you propose to end the “siege of Gaza” when it is in the hands of fanatics insane with hatred who make no secret of their desire for blood? What precisely do you propose? Open the crossings tomorrow? Make a deal with them? On what terms? Be specific.

You said,

In a country where polls show that nearly two-thirds of the population would cede the West Bank under a future peace deal, Israelis are hostages to the nightmare scenario of permanent Occupation.

Whom should Israel cede it to? The Fatah gang, who won’t even agree that the part that they don’t get belongs to the Jewish people (whose existence they deny)? Who still insist on ‘repatriating refugees’ into Israel? Who refuse to say that Israel’s withdrawal will put an end to their claims? What does that tell us about their intentions?

And afterwards — after all the ‘settlers’ are removed from ‘Palestinian land’ because Arabs are allowed to live in Israel but Jews may not live in ‘Palestine’ — after Israel has ethnically cleansed its own people, then how will the question of Hamas be resolved? Will Hamas become the rulers of our “true cousins,” or will Fatah reach an accommodation with them? Which would be better? Explain exactly why our “neighbors” will not simply continue their war against the Jews who, after all, are still ‘occupying’ land that they believe is theirs. Will they change their minds about Haifa, Acco, Yafo, Tel Aviv? Be specific.

You said,

The pro-settlement right — let us, for once, call it what it is: the Movement for a Permanent Occupation — taught anyone who would listen, that it is peace moves that provoke terrorism; that it is the peace process that has led us, time and again, to war; that to question the act of settlement is to be anti-Israeli.

Please explain how the ‘peace process’ has not led to war. Explain how Oslo’s resurrection of Yasser Arafat did not bring about terrorism. Explain how the abandonment of South Lebanon to Hizballah did not lead to war — a war which is only on hiatus and will shortly return. Explain how the complete withdrawal of every last Jew from Gaza brought peace. Be specific.

And while you’re explaining how Israel can end the occupation without allowing its enemies to end Israel, please explain how Israel’s standing in the “world community” would improve if it did not occupy Judea, Samaria, and the Golan heights. Would there be a peaceful relationship with Syria? With Iran? With Hizballah-Lebanon? Would public opinion in the UK, in Norway, in Sweden or the University of California, Irvine, suddenly become massively pro-Israel?

You’d like to discount all of this as the ranting of a member of the “Movement for a Permanent Occupation,” but none of it is based on religious ideology, racism, territorial maximalism, or a desire to rule over Palestinian Arabs. It’s just a practical question.

You want to end the occupation. How?

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A synergy of evil motives

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

A lot has been written about the apparent paradox expressed in the recent American Jewish Committee (AJC) poll of American Jews. The poll was taken on March 23, a week after the blowup during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel.

55% answered that they approve of the Obama Administration’s handling of US-Israel relations, while only 37% disapprove. At the same time 57% approve of PM Netanyahu’s handling  of the Israel-US relationship, while only 30% disapprove. And 61% think that Israel should not “be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction,” with only 35% saying that it should.

Huh? Netanyahu and Obama are clearly at odds over the status of Jerusalem. The administration wants to divide the city, and the flap over Ramat Shlomo indicates that it may even favor a return to 1949 lines, which is far more than any Israeli government would be prepared to accept.

On the Iranian nukes,  a whopping 68% thought that there was “little chance” or “no chance” that sanctions and diplomacy would prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons (only 5% said there was a “good chance” and 27% picked “some chance”). 53% would support American military action  to stop Iran and 62% would support Israel doing it.

But at the same time, 47% said they approved and 42% disapproved of the Obama administration’s ‘handling’ of the issue!

So what can this 47% be thinking? They don’t think sanctions would work, but the administration can’t even apply sanctions. A series of empty threats, missed deadlines and wishful thinking on its part has brought us to the point that Iran could have a weapon within months.

And the 62% that would support an Israeli attack on Iran — do they understand that administration spokespersons have said on several occasions that such an action would be a disaster from the US point of view, and that the US would do its best to prevent it? Do they remember that Zbig Brzezinski, one of the architects of Obama’s nascent plan to impose a settlement on Israel and the Palestinians, once suggested in the crudest terms that the US should use force to stop an Israeli attack, if necessary?

There is only one interpretation of these results that makes sense, and that is that most of the poll respondents do not understand the actual attitudes and policies of the Obama Administration.

Left-wing commentator Rachel Maddow refers to “Obama derangement syndrome,” by which she means unreasonable hatred of the president by the Right (conservatives made a similar point about ‘Bush derangement syndrome’ during his administration). I think, however, that the derangement actually works in the opposite direction — a ‘reality distortion field‘ in which many Democrats (50% of the survey respondents identified as Democrats, with only 15% Republicans and 32% Independents) simply cannot accept the true nature of the administration that they elected — that in 2008 they replaced a corrupt, incompetent center-right regime with an equally corrupt and incompetent one — but one whose ideology is far more skewed to the Left than they expected or are comfortable with.

Actually, I think the Republicans are in part responsible. When they call every Democratic opponent, even centrists like the Clintons, “radical leftists” then nobody believes them when a real radical leftist comes along.

Of course the Obamists’ extreme ideology is mitigated in some areas, like health care, by their corruption. So they came up with a health care plan which will actually change very little for consumers, since it is designed not to hurt — even to help — the corporate interests that own them no less than the Republicans (it will also be bad for the deficit — that’s the competence part).

Unfortunately, where Israel policy is concerned there is a synergy of evil motives. Obama and his people, as is the fashion in academia, strongly favor the ‘oppressed’, ‘third-world’ Palestinian Arabs. But add to this the fact that they can be bought by Saudi oil money, and you have a bad situation indeed. The Bushes were quite close to the Saudis, but (at least in the case of G. W. Bush himself) there was an understanding and sympathy for Israel as a democracy.

While I’m at it, let me throw another dart at the Republicans. If they want to replace Obama in the hearts of American Jews — and others that voted for him — they will have to provide an alternative to incompetence and corruption, not just ideology. In particular, the know-nothing wing of the party, as examplified by Sarah Palin, does not engender confidence in its ability to produce a competent administration.

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Obama officially divorces Israel

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The administration-friendly New York Times today published a story entitled “Obama Speech Signals a U.S. Shift on Middle Eastdictated by attributed to “unnamed White House officials” which I think we can take as an ‘official’ statement of the administration’s policy. It’s worth dissecting the key portions.

When Mr. Obama declared that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a “vital national security interest of the United States,” he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests.

Mentioning the need to “balance support for Israel against other American interests” tells us two things:

  1. our interests not only diverge from those of Israel, but in some sense are at odds with them; and,
  2. we intend to change the degree to which we support Israel.

By “other American interests,” what is meant is the desire to improve relations with the Arab nations and perhaps Iran; the administration appears to believe that this can be accomplished by reducing our support for Israel.

Saying that the “vital national security interest of the United States” is involved also tells us two things:

  1. that the administration is (at least publicly) maintaining that there is a ‘linkage‘ between the Palestinian issue and other conflicts in the region, in effect a causal connection; and,
  2. that the US will go to almost any length to achieve its aims (‘vital’ means vital).

The Times’ article continues,

This shift, described by administration officials who did not want to be quoted by name when discussing internal discussions, is driving the White House’s urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own proposed parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.

If the problem is that they “cannot come to terms”, then it won’t help to ‘propose’ parameters. Neither side will accept them unless they are forced to. This is a threat to do that.

Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Here is the linkage again. And if the reason the conflict is not solved is that Israel is not giving up enough — and we’ve seen that despite all the evidence, the administration insists that this is the case — then Israel is responsible when our soldiers are killed and wounded. The next step is to hint that anyone who disagrees cares more about Israel than the US — oh wait, they’ve already done that.

Our problems in Iraq and Afghanistan — which are going to get much worse, soon — are therefore Israel’s fault rather than a product of the  political incompetence of the last two administrations. How convenient.

One of Mr. Obama’s first acts of foreign policy, even before he became President, was to let Israel know that the IDF had better be out of Gaza before his inauguration. And it was.

Then he made a massive effort to turn toward the Muslim world, in particular in his Cairo speech when he compared the Palestinian longing for a homeland with the Holocaust.

In his first six months, President Obama traveled to more foreign countries than any previous president, including Saudi Arabia (where he famously bowed deeply to King Abdullah), Egypt, Turkey and Iraq. Recently he has been in Qatar and Afghanistan. Since he became president, he has been on every continent except South America and Antarctica. Despite the alleged close relationship between Israel and the US and the importance attached to the Israeli-Arab conflict, he has not visited there as president.

He did, however, send Vice President Biden, whose visit provided an opportunity to  engineer a break with Israel over a trivial issue, and use it as an excuse to press demands for further concessions to the Palestinians.

When PM Netanyahu visited the US a week later, he was deliberately and publicly humiliated.

Until now, the administration has said that there was no change in policy toward Israel, that there was simply a ‘disagreement among friends’, etc. Of course the President’s behavior sent an entirely different message.

This morning, the administration made it official.

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Israel will preempt

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The recent disclosure that Syria has transferred Scud missiles to Hizballah marks a significant turning point. If war on Israel’s northern border could have been avoided — and perhaps it was already a forgone conclusion — that  is clearly not the case now.

With the addition of these missiles, which are capable of carrying chemical warheads, Hizballah changes from an irritant to an existential threat to Israel. It is now sufficiently dangerous that it cannot be permitted to strike first. Additional deliveries, such as advanced antitank and antiaircraft weapons — even intelligence that indicates that they will be delivered in the near future — may trigger a premptive response.

In my opinion, the US administration’s tilt away from Israel has caused Iran, Syria, etc. to think that they will be able to hit Israel hard enough to hurt her badly, while the US will step in immediately and prevent Israel from doing more than an acceptable amount of damage in return. And probably Israel’s decision-makers think so too. So this is another reason for Israel to choose to preempt.

We can be certain that in order to get the US and Europe to rein in Israel, Iran will take steps to cause the price of oil to hit the ceiling and splatter. Israel will have to act swiftly and without giving the hostile US administration advance knowledge. The US will make Israel pay for this, but the alternative is worse.

The US administration’s response to the delivery of the Scuds has been to make statements deploring it, while continuing its policy of ‘engagement’ with Syria. US policy is pushing the region toward war rather than away from it.

The simple fact that we don’t seem to be able to get straight is that the weaker we look, the harder they push.

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