Archive for May, 2010

Playing Chess with the Persians

Friday, May 28th, 2010

The consensus of opinion is that the sanctions to be applied against Iran’s nuclear project will not stop it. Even if they were truly ‘biting’ (to use one of our President’s favorite expressions), one has only to consider the importance of nuclear weapons to Iran’s overall goal to realize that they would have to bite really, really hard to outweigh this.

And these sanctions barely nip. Now the talk is about the best way to ‘contain’ the nuclear Iran.

Israel’s position seems to be that the costs for it to strike Iran will be so high and the benefits so temporary that it will not do so unless there is a clear and present danger of a weapon being used against it. This may well be correct.

To be honest, although the outcome is vital for Israel, Israel is only a minor player in the game, which is about the expulsion of Western influence from the Middle East, representing the defeat of the United States of America by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It seems to me that we are at one of those watershed moments. Future historians will point to it and say “this is when the Pax Americana ended and the Second Islamic Conquest began.”

I am not exaggerating. Despite the fact that the armed forces of the US could smash Iran like an eggshell today, the struggle is taking place in an era of post-conventional war in which military power does not guarantee victory, because for various political and psychological reasons it is not employed.

At some point, the formerly superior party wakes up to the fact that the power it restrained — supposedly out of strength — is actually gone. Something like this may have already happened on Israel’s northern border, where the failure to crush Hizballah in 2006 and the inability to prevent its rearmament has created an enemy with the capability of deterring — or at least making much more expensive — future action against it.

The Iranian plan is clear: with a nuclear umbrella to ward off effective responses, the Islamic ‘Republic’ will will install Hizballah as the government of Lebanon (it is already more than halfway there), subvert conservative Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt, etc., and cement its control over more than a third of the world’s known oil reserves. It will greatly increase its influence in other parts of the world, including South America (where there is more oil)  and Europe.

In addition to deploying its terrorist ‘foreign legion’, Hizballah, Iran has also shown a pragmatic ability to work with ideologically disparate groups such as Hamas and al-Qaeda. Thanks to the open society of the US and its remaining Western allies, terrorism provides a huge force multiplier for the anti-Western side.

The West is also weakened by the moral decay and lack of ideological strength that characterize its elites — for example, consider the academic preoccupation with ‘postmodern’ modes of thinking that place ethnic politics above reason. Such ideas are finding their way into government and even the military.

At the same time, national ideologies like Zionism in Israel and American patriotism in the US, ideologies that made it possible for the Jewish state to come into being and for the US to play its role in winning WWII, respectively — these ideologies are considered passé and even pernicious by many academics and media people.

Of course, the radical Islamists are prepared to die for their ideology.  They prove this almost every day.

Although the course of history is often changed by unpredictable events — epidemics, inventions, natural disasters or changes, even exceptional people — it seems clear to me that other things being equal, the balance of power will shift massively to the east in the next decade or two unless the US takes action to prevent it.

That action must start with the destruction of Iran’s nuclear capability. Israel’s role, most likely, will be to neutralize Hizballah and Hamas.

The Persians and Arabs were among the earliest enthusiasts of the game of chess. As anyone who has played knows, it’s possible to quickly squander even a great advantage by making pointless or ineffective moves. And suddenly you see that your opponent hasn’t been idle.

But by then, there’s no way out.

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‘Free Gaza’ exposed

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

This says it all:

The Schalit family on Thursday asked for assistance from international left-wing activists due to arrive in the Gaza Strip later in the day.

If the left-wing activists pressure Hamas to allow international organizations to bring letters and food packages to Gilad Schalit, the kidnapped soldier’s family has agreed to support the international expedition’s attempt to dock, Army Radio reported Thursday.

Lawyer Nick Kaufman presented the offer to the organization “Free Gaza,” one of the organizers of the flotilla headed for Gaza, which promptly refused the offer.

“We are disappointed that the organizers of the flotilla have refused to also provide basic humanitarian assistance to our son, who has been held in Gaza four years in contradiction of international law,” said the Schalit family.

Like the leadership of the Palestinians and Arab nations, the international Left has shown that it is far more important to them to hurt Jews than to help Arabs.

They have shown that their pious concern for international law goes no further than the extent to which they can use it against Israel.

They have shown that they are entirely aligned with Hamas, an openly terrorist organization that explicitly espouses genocide against Jews.

Israel has said that it intends to intercept the flotilla, board the ships and bring them to an Israeli port where the ‘aid’ will be inspected and ultimately transferred to Gaza (in addition to the 14,000 tons of aid that Israel sent to Gaza last week). The ‘activists’ on board will be held until they can be deported.

I have a suggestion, and it’s completely serious.

When the ‘activists’ and the cargo have been removed from their vessels, the latter should be taken to the open sea and sunk, in order to deter similar operations in the future. Then the ‘activists’ should be conducted to underground cells, one cell for each ‘activist’, where they will be held incommunicado until Gilad Shalit is freed.

I thought about suggesting also that Israel should follow Hamas’ lead in making videos and putting on plays in order to dramatize the plight of the internees for their families and friends, but this is probably unnecessary.

Update [0904 PDT]: IDF Spokesperson reports: “Top level Islamic extremists linked to Gaza flotilla“.

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Obsequiousness and brutality

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

The Jerusalem Post reports today that a young Israeli man was seriously beaten up yesterday outside a club in Jerusalem, by assailants who turned out to be employees of the American Consulate there. The perpetrators were arrested, but released because of diplomatic immunity. It remains to be seen what action, if any, will be taken.

In January 2008 there was an incident in which the US Consul, Jacob Walles, refused to open the doors of his vehicle at a checkpoint near Ramallah. In November 2009, diplomats from the Jerusalem Consulate refused to show their passports when trying to enter Israel from the Palestinian Authority; they held up traffic for several hours until American officials arrived from Tel Aviv and convinced them that they really did need to show their IDs:

“There are always provocations at the roadblocks with people from the consulate in Jerusalem,” said yesterday [2009]  a security official who was involved in the incident. “Their cars are driven by drivers from East Jerusalem who insist not to be inspected, despite the fact that they don’t have diplomatic immunity. We need to make sure that the people in question are diplomats, but that can’t be done through opaque black windows.”

Apparently there have been other such incidents.

The consulate in East Jerusalem provides services for American citizens who reside in Jerusalem, the ‘West Bank’ and Gaza (other Americans must go to the embassy in Tel Aviv). Here’s a description of the scene from 2005, quoted by Daniel Pipes:

The two U.S. consulates in Jerusalem could not be more different. The one in a Jewish neighborhood has ample parking facilities but does not provide consular services and so does not deal with the public. The one in an Arab neighborhood provides those services but has no parking available nearby. Ironically, of the tens of thousands of U.S. citizens who live in Jerusalem and surrounding communities, nearly all are Jews. This means that any citizens needing to renew a passport, report a birth, deal with Social Security, etc. must go there, at least part of the way on foot. Also, despite the fact that most American citizens in the Jerusalem area are Orthodox Jews with large families, no strollers are allowed. Babies and toddlers must be carried.

As far as one can see, nearly the entire staff at the consulate dealing with the public are Arabs, including the security guards, clerks, ushers, cashiers, et al. The only reading material available in the waiting area is the State Dept’s, Hi International magazine – in Arabic, of course. The whole set-up feels like a slap in the face to the American citizens it is meant to serve.

The East Jerusalem consulate has always been the de facto American embassy in ‘Palestine’. Last year the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) called on the consulate to

…revamp its Web site so that it contains information about Israelis and Israel, which is where the Consulate General is located.  Presently, the Consulate General’s Web site contains information exclusively about the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinians – even though the PA has no authority in Jerusalem under any signed agreement – suggesting that the Consulate General itself is biased against Israel.

Naturally, the protest was ignored, since the US does not accept Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem (even West Jerusalem). One would think that even given this position there would some mention of Jews or Israel on the website, since the great majority of Americans in the consulate’s area of responsibility are Jews, and often dual citizens of the US and Israel.

Like the recent self-conscious use of the name “al-Quds” for Jerusalem by the president’s clueless ‘counter-terrorism advisor’ John Brennan, the attitude of the consulate is a slap against Israel and a genuflection to the Arabs. Since the consulate is under the authority of the hostile State Department, it has been this way even under more or less friendly administrations such as those of Clinton and Bush. But the Obama administration seems to be on the same page as the State Department, and sees itself as the new Mandate power in the region.

I suppose the beating in Jerusalem will be put down as just another case of drunken Americans behaving badly. But it is not too different than the bullying approach of the administration, which — like most bullies — seems to combine obsequiousness to its ‘betters’ with brutality to those in its power.

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Peter Beinart does Obama’s dirty work

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

On Monday I mentioned an especially tendentious article by Peter Beinart. It demands a more complete response.

Beinart’s vicious attack is presented as criticism of the failure of the organized Jewish community in the US to relate to Jewish youth, but its real purpose is to bash the Netanyahu government. J Street has been pushing it on its websites and email lists. This isn’t surprising — Beinart encapsulates the J Street / Obama Administration (they are joined at the hip) position nicely.

In a nutshell — as it were — here’s Beinart’s thesis:

American Jewish students (at least the non-Orthodox majority), according to Beinart,

…were liberals, broadly defined. They had imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights. And in their innocence, they did not realize that they were supposed to shed those values when it came to Israel. The only kind of Zionism they found attractive was a Zionism that recognized Palestinians as deserving of dignity and capable of peace, and they were quite willing to condemn an Israeli government that did not share those beliefs.

The Jewish establishment — AIPAC, ADL, etc. — on the other hand, “defend… virtually anything any Israeli government does.” And Beinart devotes the major part of his essay to tying to show that the current Israeli government is dominated by fascist, racist, anti-democratic religious fundamentalist settler-lovers.

Israel, he says, used to be the liberal democratic state that the Jewish establishment presents it to be. But recently, thanks to

…an ultra-Orthodox population that is increasing dramatically, a settler movement that is growing more radical and more entrenched in the Israeli bureaucracy and army, and a Russian immigrant community that is particularly prone to anti-Arab racism…

it has become something else. And to prove it he quotes Shulamit Aloni, Avram Burg, Yaron Ezrachi and Ze’ev Sternhell. I’ll come back to them.

He also misrepresents the position of that punching bag for the left wing, Avigdor Lieberman, as well as that of PM Benyamin Netanyahu, whom he accuses of arguing that Israel should not make more concessions to the Palestinians because Israel has given up its right to Jordan!

Yes, it is true that over the years Israel has changed. Let’s look at how and why.

Israel’s government was a monopoly of the Labor party until 1977, when Menachem Begin of the Likud was elected. This happened in part because many Mizrachi Jews felt that Labor represented the Ashkenazi establishment that had treated them badly, because of scandals and official corruption, and because of the traumatic failure to anticipate the Yom Kippur war. Begin was followed by another right-wing PM, Yitzhak Shamir, and then several unity governments. In 1992, however, Itzhak Rabin took the reins and led the country into the era of the Oslo ‘peace process’.

Begin’s ‘revolution’ had shocked the left-wing establishment, but by 1992 its policy to negotiate a two-state settlement with the Palestinian Arabs was firmly ensconced. But another political earthquake occurred in 2000, when the Barak-Clinton proposals were summarily rejected by Yasser Arafat and the peace process morphed into violent war. In 2001 this resulted in the election of Ariel Sharon, anathema to the Left. Another blow to what remained of the ‘peace process’ occurred in 2007 when Hamas took control of Gaza and lobbed thousands of rockets into Israel.

These events crushed the Labor party and other left-wing parties because moderate and centrist Israeli voters drew the conclusion that it was not possible to negotiate a viable two-state solution with the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority (not to mention the explicitly genocidal Hamas). They moved in droves to the Likud, electing Binyamin Netanyahu. At the same time Netanyahu moved closer to the center, agreeing in principle to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, what remained of the Left became more extreme. Many have become anti-Zionist (like the four quoted by Beinart), opposing the Jewish state and calling for a single secular ‘democratic’ state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, something which in practice would set off a bloody civil war. Israeli academics like Ezrachi and Sternhell have been in the forefront of this anti-Zionist movement, which in many cases has crossed the line from dissent to treason.

It is this extreme anti-Zionist — you could even say anti-Israeli — element with whom Beinart identifies. He paints a picture of an Israel dominated by a fascist cabal of right-wing extremists, but actually the majority of Israelis support Netanyahu’s policy. Polls have shown that a majority of Israelis would happily approve of a negotiated two-state solution, but they see that today there is no partner that can or will deliver this.

Beinart writes,

Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American Jewish challenge of our age.

But “Liberal Zionism” is already dead, killed by the suicide bombers of the Intifada and the Qassams of Hamas. Israeli voters, who have experienced these first-hand, know this and have elected a government which above all is politically pragmatic and understands the security challenges the state faces. Certainly there are right-wing extremists in Israel, but they are not setting the tone of the Netanyahu government as Beinart and the left-wing extremists he quotes want us to think.

Beinart — like J Street — is doing the dirty work of the Obama Administration, which would like to see Netanyahu’s coalition replaced by a more pliant one which would acquiesce more easily to the artificial two-state solution that the administration wishes to impose. Such a ‘solution’ is not a solution and will not bring peace. Americans who actually care about Israel should follow the lead of the majority of Israelis and realize this.

The American Jewish establishment does have a problem relating to young Jewish people, but it’s not because they are anti-Zionist. See Ami Isseroff’s take on this here.

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A good book, and a bad essay

Monday, May 17th, 2010

I’ve just started reading the new book by Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed. I’ll write a review at some point, but there is a good one by Daniel Pipes here.

Karsh refutes the revisionist view of the history of the state of Israel that has become the standard version taught at American (and other) universities, according to which early Zionists advocated expulsion of Palestinian Arabs and then the Hagana, Etzel and Lehi carried it out. In fact — and Karsh carefully documents this — Ben Gurion, Jabotinsky and others did not call for or desire ethnic cleansing in Palestine, and most of the exodus of Arabs in 1947-49 was  not directly caused by the actions of the Jews. The nakba (catastrophe), presented in Arab mythology as an unprovoked mass expulsion on racial grounds, Karsh argues, is exactly that — a myth.

Further, he argues that the disaster that overtook the Palestinian Arabs was entirely caused by the stubborn insistence of their leadership, particularly the antisemitic, Nazi-admiring Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, to oppose any accommodation with the Jews in Palestine. The violence that characterized the pre-state period, he shows, was almost entirely provoked by these leaders, who cynically fostered hatred and suspicion of the Jews and disseminated antisemitic propaganda while profiting massively from the sale of land to those same Jews whose death or expulsion they called for daily.

In the years since 1948, the view of the ‘new historians’ has almost entirely replaced that found in contemporary accounts, and has done enormous damage to Zionism and Israel. Today most American university students accept as given that the state was founded in a racist, colonialist act of oppression in which most of the indigenous population was expelled and the remainder exploited. Their opinions on today’s events — and their decisions about whom to believe — are built on the foundation of this myth. An ironic thanks is due to Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappé, etc., the dishonest historians who, in part because they are Jews — Israeli Jews — did so much to arm Israel’s academic and media enemies.

The fact is that if you already believe that Israel’s founders were scoundrels, then it is easy for you to believe that today’s leaders are also. If you believe that  Jewish forces made a habit of massacring Arabs in 1948, it’s easy to believe that the IDF did the same in Jenin in 2002 and Gaza in 2009. And if you don’t believe that the Palestinian Arabs perpetrated systematic terrorism against Jews in 1947 and before because they accepted a genocidal, antisemitic ideology, then perhaps you can believe that today’s conflict is about borders, and that today’s terrorism is best described as a ‘cycle of violence’.

In a particularly offensive article in the New York Review of Books, Peter Beinart claims that there are two kinds of Zionism; one that is fascist, racist, uncaring about human (Palestinian) suffering, overwhelmingly Orthodox, concerned only with parochial Jewish issues and obsessed with Jewish victimhood. The other is secular, liberal, open, pro-peace, committed to human rights and Palestinian self-determination.

Guess which one Beinart thinks characterizes Israel’s government, encouraged by the American Jewish establishment? And guess who opened his eyes?

You can see this spirit in “new historians” like Tom Segev who have fearlessly excavated the darker corners of the Zionist past and in jurists like former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak who have overturned Knesset laws that violate the human rights guarantees in Israel’s “Basic Laws.” You can also see it in former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s apparent willingness to relinquish much of the West Bank in 2000 and early 2001.

The “darker corners of the Zionist past.” Possibly if his education had shone some light into the dark corners of Arab Jew-hatred, if he knew more about Husseini’s extended love affair with Nazism, or if he understood better about why Ehud Barak’s “apparent willingness” was not good enough for Husseini’s heir, Yasser Arafat, he might understand why some Zionists are less optimistic than he that Jewish territorial compromise can be an answer to atavistic Arab hate.

I recommend Karsh’s book for a start.

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