Archive for April, 2010

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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One-state tour visits our town

Monday, April 12th, 2010

One of our local churches is hosting a program on Wednesday entitled “[The] Costs of War on Israeli Society.” The speakers are a Jewish Israeli and what used to be called an Israeli Arab but now has become a “Palestinian citizen of Israel.” The suggestion seems to be that war is bad for both sides, and if they could just be reasonable everyone would be better off.

The church is collecting donations in return for admission, and all proceeds will go toward their tour and the sponsoring groups.

I would like church members to understand exactly whom they are helping when they collect funds.

The costs of war on Israeli society are dear indeed. Think of how much more Israel could have accomplished if it had not been the victim of a continuous war waged against it since its founding. All of the lives lost, the huge amounts of time and money wasted on activities which are essentially unproductive. I know that my son would have much preferred to have spent 8 years of his life developing a career as an illustrator and graphic novelist than in military and other security-related jobs.

Unfortunately, for Jews in the Middle East, such unproductive uses of human and material resources are essential to life in their neighborhood.

The speakers do not see it in this way. Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, a journalist and the Jewish speaker* on the program (see herehere and here), is an anti-Zionist who appears to hold in contempt almost everything about the Jewish state in which she grew up and was educated. Like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, she does not accept the idea of a ‘Jewish People’, only a Jewish religion. And she sees Judaism as a contradiction at the heart of Zionism which makes the idea of a democratic Jewish state impossible.

She describes the state as “fascist and racist” because of “a legal system that blatantly accords positive discrimination to Jews at the expense of non-Jews.” She is opposes the state’s “militarism” and advocates “resistance” to the draft. She is disgusted by political corruption, inequality of wealth in Israeli society, the influence of Orthodox rabbis, etc. She sees the state as a total failure to realize the dreams of its founders — or, more accurately, to realize her conception of an ideal democracy. But most of all, she thinks the state discriminates against its Arab citizens and oppresses the Arabs of the territories.

The details are not simple, but this characterization is highly misleading.

Take “militarism” and the draft. Does anyone really think that unilateral disarmament will bring peace to a nation which has been attacked over and over again by her neighbors, is constantly under pressure by terrorism from multiple militias, and which is surrounded by Iranian proxies with which it fought two vicious wars in the last four years?

Let’s consider the Arab citizens of Israel. It’s important to distinguish between civil rights and national aspirations. There is no doubt that they cannot realize the latter living in a country defined as the state of the Jewish people, any more than a Turk living in Germany can feel German national pride (I’ll come back to this).  Can they, however, have civil rights — the right to vote, to work, to have access to educational and health services, etc?

The goal is that they should, and as a matter of fact Arab citizens of Israel exercise more civil rights and receive far more services from the government than citizens of any Arab nation. There are reasons why this is not entirely realized, and they are not particularly racism or fascism. There are benefits to be gained from military service, and most Arabs choose not to serve — although they are not excluded by law and some Bedouins and most Druze do serve. There are practical matters, like the fact that Arab towns are governed according to traditional clan relationships and resources are often allocated locally. There are also issues that stem from the fact that Israel has been at war with its neighbors and with various terrorist groups for six decades.

It should be noted that this war against the Jewish people in the Mideast — which has consistently been accompanied by genocidal pronouncements by Arab leaders, and whose rationale is expressed in genocidal terms in the founding documents of the terrorist groups which form the basis of Palestinian politics — is also a form of oppression, which Yeshua-Lyth doesn’t mention.

Her recitation of problems related to Orthodoxy is obsessive. As the father of a daughter that had to convince the Israeli rabbinical authorities that she was Jewish in order to get married in Israel, I can sympathize with Yeshua-Lyth’s anger at the Orthodox establishment. But she exaggerates its power in areas other than what we call ‘family law’.

And it is unreasonable to say that there cannot be a state of the Jewish people, just like any number of ethnic groups — French, Germans, Norwegians — have states. It is also telling that she finds the concept of a state for a people so hateful when it applies to Israel, surrounded as it is by Arab states which are far more nationalistic, theocratic, aggressive, racist and fascist.

Of course if there is no Jewish people, then there is no meaning to ‘Jewish state’ other than a theological one. One would think that it would be simpler to reduce the power of the Rabbinate — permitting civil marriage would be a good start —  rather than to to abandon the idea of a Jewish, democratic state. But Yeshua-Lyth believes that the Jewish state of Israel is past saving and must be thrown out.

Let’s look at the her solution. She is opposed to the two-state solution favored by the Zionist Left — the solution envisaged in the Oslo Accord and that which presently forms the basis of US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.  The idea is to partition the original Jewish National Home yet again to provide a place for a realization of Palestinian aspirations to their own state and a separation between Arabs and Jews. But,

Advocates of the “Two States Solution” [sic] ignore the fact that in this scenario the serious faulty legal and ideological infrastructure of the present Jewish State will not be dealt with. As a result, the serious inner schisms that tear Israeli society apart will continue to put pressures on whatever political structures the “Two States” situation should materialize.

Next to it, there is little chance for a non-nationalistic, non-religiously belligerent Palestinian State. The Two States Solution – which is non-viable anyway – is at most a program for the creation of two very unpleasant, mutually hostile, political entities.

Therefore she calls for one secular, democratic state, for Jews and Arabs from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Although it’s not explicit in the material I’ve found, she certainly means to include Arab ‘refugees’ and the population of Hamas-ruled Gaza in this ‘democracy’.

Presently, only one state exists in the area between the Jordan River and the Sea, in the area Jews call Israel and Arabs know as Palestine. Surely the most efficient, affective way to improve life for the millions who live in this area goes through reforming and correcting this state, opening it up to all the inhabitants under its military and sovereign control. Turning Israel into a secular and democratic state is a precondition to the liberating of Palestine, if one accepts that shedding more blood is not the way to solve the region’s problems.

Unfortunately, she’s right that a two-state solution would not create a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel. No Palestinian leadership which accepts a solution that does not include bringing all of the land under Arab control could survive. At least today, with these players, there simply is no way to achieve both a secure Israel and a Palestinian state.

But her proposal — which is consistent with her pathological hatred for the state of Israel — is, in effect, to get rid of the Jews.

No, that’s not what she said. But it is the consequence of her ‘solution’. Suppose that the one-state of ‘Palestine’ were declared between the river and the sea. The state would immediately have a large Arab majority, many of them descendants of refugees (and others who claim this status) who have been prevented from integrating into the Arab world and who have irredentist claims against Israeli Jews. There are about 4.5 million Arabs that fall into this category. What would happen when these claims were pressed against the Jews who presently live in Israel?

Consider trying to integrate the ‘military’ forces of Fatah and Hamas with the IDF.  I suppose we would even have to include the Islamic Jihad and the Fatah al-Islam guerrillas who are presently fighting with the Lebanese army in the refugee camps. How many armies would there be and who would command them?

Yeshua-Lyth expects that the new state would be democratic. Some Arab-majority states have elections, but are any of them democratic? How is the concept of a multi-ethnic state working out in Lebanon? How are the Palestinians governing themselves in Gaza? Does she think the Islamists of Hamas, Hizballah, the Islamic movement, etc. would sit back and allow a secular state to be created?

Surely Yehsua-Lyth has some idea of the genocidal ideology of Fatah, Hamas, et al. Surely she knows that even the most moderate elements among the Israeli Arabs believe that all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan belongs to them, and that the creation of Israel was a nakba, a catastrophe which must be reversed. How does she see these ideologies fitting in with a continuation of Jewish presence in the land?

She says that the conflict is not over land, that it is a religious conflict. I agree with her that land is not the issue, but it has nothing to do with the practice of Judaism. Like Hitler’s war against the Jews of Europe, the Arabs are fighting the Jewish people in the Mideast. Would they make peace if everyone was secular? Did Hitler ask for a rabbinical certificate before murdering a Jew? Of course she doesn’t believe that there is such a thing as a Jewish people.

If a state like she envisions (in her dreams) could be created it would be an Arab state, it would not be democratic, and Jews would find themselves without property or protection against those who have sworn to kill them or drive them away. But in practice, it could not get that far. The attempt to create such a state would result in a civil war, on a scale probably greater than the bloody 15-year Lebanese civil war. It is hard to imagine that outside forces like the Iranian-controlled Hizballah would not intervene.

This is a formula for death and destruction in the Middle East beyond anything in recent history. If the Jews win the civil war, it will be another nakba for the Palestinian Arabs. If the Arabs win, the best outcome would be that the Jews scatter throughout the world to any place that will take them, as happened in 1492.

The worst would be another Holocaust.


* I am only discussing the opinions of Yeshua-Lyth in this post because the Arab speaker, Ismail Kharoub, hasn’t published his, as far as I can tell.

Interestingly, Yeshua-Lyth is a representative of a feminist group. I wonder how she reconciles this with the misogyny prevalent in the Islamic world and the poor treatment of women even in nationalist Arab societies.

By the way, note the irony in referring to her as Jewish. She despises Judaism, so she is certainly not Jewish by religion. But she doesn’t admit any other sense of ‘Jewish’! So what is she?

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Organized antisemitism growing in the US, too

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

News item:

The past year has seen a marked rise of anti-Semitism, increasing over 100 percent throughout the world, the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism of Tel-Aviv University outlined on Sunday, on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day.

According to the institute, violent anti-Semitic attacks, ranging from vandalism and arson against Jewish targets to beatings of Jews, increased in 2009 by a startling percentage. The report underlined the severe increase in anti-Semitic attacks, specifying that 2009 displayed the highest amount of attacks recorded in over 20 years…

The report illustrated that that this year was particularly charged due to international reactions to Operation Cast Lead, which resulted in anti-Jewish demonstrations around the world.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress — which sponsored the report — said that the rise of anti-Semitic sentiment in Western Europe can be blamed on forces outside the region.

“This new phenomenon is financed and organized by pro-Islamic, pro-terrorist organizations and states,” Kantor said.
[my emphasis]

I was present at a local demonstration at the time of Operation Cast Lead, which illustrated this (on a smaller scale, of course):

  • The participants in the demonstration expressed themselves in strongly antisemitic — not just anti-Zionist — ways.
  • Although there was no actual violence — it was close at times, but local organizers prevented it — the intent was clearly to frighten and intimidate the small group of counter demonstrators.
  • A massive number of demonstrators, who appeared to be mostly high school and college age and of Middle Eastern origin, were brought in from out of town by the organizers.
  • This occurred shortly after the start of the operation, and long before the various ‘human rights’ groups and Goldstone produced their tendentious reports.

This demonstration was significantly larger and more confrontational than a similar one held in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War. I expect this trend to continue.

The degree of organization involved in anti-Israel ‘happenings’ of all kinds seems to be increasing. It’s instructive to look at the way the disruption of Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at UC Irvine was carefully planned and orchestrated by the Muslim Student Union there (and also to note their baldfaced lie that it was ‘spontaneous’). If you haven’t seen the evidence, look at the link above; it’s fascinating.

These organized activities have several purposes:

  1. In time of war, to generate immediate pressure on the US administration to step in to protect Israel’s opponents, even if they are terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizballah;
  2. In time of peace to erode support for Israel’s self-defense by portraying it as illegitimate;
  3. All the time to silence those — like Oren — who can effectively present Israel’s case (absurdly, the Israel-haters insist that it is we who try to silence them!).

I don’t recall where I saw this, but someone recently said that the extreme Left and the extreme Right have actually gotten to the point of coordinating their activities on the one issue that they can agree about — Jews and Israel.

While the more sophisticated Western anti-Zionists have usually been careful to try to express themselves in a way which is not overtly antisemitic — after all, so many of them are Jews — this is not the case among immigrants and students from the Middle East. As a result, antisemites of various stripes are encouraged to join in. As this kind of expression becomes more common, it becomes more mainstream.

Especially in academic environments and among young people, there is a sort of competition for who can express themselves in the most extreme way. This, I think, is because in these cases there are no negative consequences for being an extremist — while it attracts the attention of peers.

There is also the encouragement US anti-Zionists draw from the perception that the US administration is on their side. When the Obama administration treats Israel’s PM like the leader of an enemy, and when suggestions like “Israeli intransigence … was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region” are made by those close to the administration,  the uglier players respond more strongly in their own way.

Here’s my prediction: when the next armed conflict with Hamas or Hizballah occurs — and it is inevitable — we will see a big increase in antisemitism in the US, even outside of traditional hot spots, like universities and cities like San Francisco. I expect that even the local demonstrations here will be more unpleasant.

I expect those American Jews who insist that there is no connection between Jews and Israel — or even blame Israel for antisemitism — to be outraged. I’d like to think that it will be a lesson for them, but probably they’ll draw the wrong conclusions.

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The Most Dangerous Woman in Israel*

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

A female soldier takes documents allegedly showing that the IDF violates supreme court decisions on procedures for targeted assassinations, gives them to a reporter who writes a shocking story; the Shabak [General Security Service] places her under house arrest and slaps a gag order on the press.

Anat Kam

Anat Kam

A shocker: Interference in the public’s right to know, the army using its power to hide despicable violations of the law, the persecution of a honest whistle-blower. A perfect subject for a true-to-life Hollywood treatment: courageous, attractive young girl risks her freedom and perhaps her life to follow her conscience, the dashing reporter, too, is in danger — but they do the right thing anyway, and fall in love (this didn’t happen in real life as far as I know but is a must for a successful movie), tragically, ultimately to be crushed by the massive power of the military and secret police.

The world media and the left-wing Israeli media concentrated on her ‘secret arrest’ and the ‘suppression of free press’ angle. Here’s the lead from a story in The Daily Beast that captures the feeling:

A 23-year-old journalist is under arrest for exposing a secret Israeli assassination plot, and another has fled to London, afraid for his life. Judith Miller talks to insiders who have been gagged by the government about the scandal rocking Tel Aviv, and Israel’s slide toward Iranian-style censorship.

Not exactly.

Anat Kam did far more than provide information about whether proper procedures were followed when the army killed terrorists. According to the charges, as part of her military job at the IDF’s Central Command from 2005-2007, she had access to documents of all kinds, including

plans of military operations, summaries of discussions within the IDF, deployment and order of battle (ORBAT) of IDF forces, summaries of internal IDF inquiries, IDF situation estimates, IDF targets, and so on and so forth…

During this period she systematically copied files; when she was about to leave the service she moved them to several CD’s which she took home. She is charged with having copied over two thousand documents and an unspecified number of ‘presentations’. Over 700 of the documents were classified ‘secret’ or ‘top secret’.

She is being charged with espionage, and if convicted can be sentenced to a long prison term.

Ha'aretz reporter Uri Blau

Ha'aretz reporter Uri Blau

She gave some of the documnts to Ha’aretz reporter Uri Blau, who wrote several articles based on them, including one in 2008 which accused the IDF of killing Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Malaishi in Jenin in 2007 when he could have been captured, in violation of a Supreme Court ruling. Blau alleged in his piece that high officers, including the Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, had known about and sanctioned the killing.

Blau returned  some 50 documents, but Kam had admitted to having given him more; authorities believe that he may still have them. Meanwhile he is doing his writing for Ha’aretz from London and apparently is staying there to avoid having to answer further questions.

The army really wants all of the documents out of circulation. Yuval Diskin, head of the Shabak said that the documents could cause “grave damage to state security” and were “the kind that any intelligence agency would be delighted to get its hands on.” I see no reason to doubt this. The news that the army had killed a terrorist murderer when it might have been possible to capture him would not shake the foundations of the government and army, and anyway it has already been announced that Ashkenazi will not be continuing as Chief of Staff.

I think what’s notable about all this is the kid gloves with which the Shabak and the police handled Kam and Blau. After all, she was held on house arrest, not thrown into prison and tortured; and Blau was allowed to escape the country — something that many are very critical of the Shabak for having allowed to happen.

Kam is reported to have said that she did what she did for ‘ideological’ reasons (her lawyer seems to think this is a mitigation of guilt). In other words, sheer political arrogance led her to think that it was acceptable to violate the trust that the nation and the army placed in her. Yaakov Lozowick, not a right-winger by any means, put it this way:

“Ideology”, of course, means left-wing dissatisfaction with Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians and the way Israel defends itself from its enemies. Let us be clear about that. Yet another incident in which some people on Israel’s Left cannot accept actions of its democratically elected executive or official organs.

Blau and the Ha’aretz newspaper share her arrogance. Ha’aretz is really remarkable. It is the ‘newspaper of record’ in Israel, often compared to the NY Times or Washington Post, but it maintains what can only be called an extreme left-wing editorial policy. Now, as Lozowick points out, the newspaper is paying to support a fugitive.

Israel is a small country and it is quite vulnerable. What Kam and Blau did really could end up killing people.

*The title of this post recalls the movie about Daniel Ellsberg called “The Most Dangerous Man in America.”

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