Archive for May, 2010

The American Palestine Mandate

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Not satisfied with ordering Israel not to build new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem, the Obama Administration has now issued a diktat that Israel may not demolish illegally built Palestinian structures.

I know that the Arabs and their supporters will say that laws are applied unequally, they can’t get building permits,  etc. But as the Sheikh Jarrah controversy showed, even when Israelis carefully follow the law it doesn’t matter.  In that case, a long legal process — which culminated in a decision by the relatively left-wing Israeli Supreme Court — determined that Arabs were in fact squatters; but nevertheless the US has condemned Israel for evicting them.

The fact is that the Obama Administration has set itself up as regent over Israel, and intends to intervene in the administration of its laws whenever that suits the political goals of the US. Today those goals include the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state which will include East Jerusalem.

The US is now playing the role of the British during the mandate period, except that while the British were supposed to be working to create a “national home” for the Jews in the historic land of Israel (which goal, of course, they subverted in practice), the Americans are acting on behalf of a state for the ‘Palestinian people’. And I might add that while the British role was sanctioned by international treaties, the US has simply arrogated it.

As I’ve said before, the arguments for the need for such intervention (the “linkage theory“) do not hold water. I believe the administration is disingenuous about its motives. And I am convinced that a combination of interests and influence, from the powerful Saudi Arabian lobby — which is far more effective than the notorious “Israel Lobby” in the US — to the preponderance of left-wing academic backgrounds among administration officials, is driving it.

This policy is not in the interests of the US, which is in conflict with Iran for control of Middle Eastern oil resources and which, as a Western democracy and Enlightenment standard-bearer, should be struggling to push back the tide of Islamic radicalism which threatens to overwhelm Europe, and ultimately the world.

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From the folks that gave us the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact

Friday, May 14th, 2010

For many years the Mideast conflict was a proxy for the cold war. The USSR supported the Arab rejectionists and the Western bloc provided Israel with weapons and aid to defend itself. In 1972, Anwar Sadat expelled Russian military advisors and and began to move away from the Soviet sphere; in 1979, of course, he signed a peace treaty with Israel under the auspices of the US.

Now the Russians seem to be injecting themselves back into the region, and again they don’t intend to be helpful (at least, not from my point of view). Barry Rubin notes,

The recent visit of Russia’s President Medvedev with a huge entourage was a major step toward reestablishing the old Soviet-Syria relationship. There were broad economic talks, including the possibility of Russia building a nuclear reactor for the Syrian dictatorship…

Then there’s Medvedev’s visit to the newest member of the anti-American Islamist alliance: Turkey. In a joint statement the two countries’ leaders said that Hamas should be part of any regional negotiations. Turkish President Abdullah Gul, a hardline Islamist who was so feared that he had to promise before the last parliamentary election not to be a candidate for president. His AKP party won and within a few hours Gul was stepping into that office.

Gul explained in his joint press conference with Medvedev, who said the same exact thing: “Unfortunately Palestinians have been split into two… In order to reunite them, you have to speak to both sides. Hamas won elections in Gaza and cannot be ignored.”

A call for Hamas to be included in negotiations amounts to an endorsement of the genocidal Hamas program. Do I exaggerate? Read the Hamas covenant and consider what Hamas has done since Israel withdrew from Gaza. It really doesn’t matter if Hamas won an election, because even if the majority of Palestinian Arabs believe that Israel should be destroyed and all the Jews murdered, this is not a civilized position and it does not deserve a civilized response (to be precise, Hamas won an election, joined a coalition government, and then violently overthrew it  and set up a rump regime).

The Russians have a spotted history of civilized and not-so-civilized behavior, but this is particularly cynical considering that they are facing violent Islamic insurgencies themselves. Rubin suggests that they have made a deal with Iran that they will support the anti-American Iran-Syria-Turkey alliance in return for Iran’s withholding support for the Chechen and other Muslim separatists. Not terribly surprising, from the folks that gave us the Molotov-Ribbentrop nonaggression pact of 1939.

Anyway, this is not aimed specifically at Israel, although I doubt that the traditionally antisemitic Russians would be bothered by the negative side effects of their policy for Israel. The idea is to keep Iran off their backs and also to get on the winning side in the conflict between Iran and the US for influence in the Mideast.

It’s ironic — anti-Zionists in the US often argue falsely that we wouldn’t be a target of Islamic terrorism were it not for our support of Israel. Since the conflict in the Mideast today is at least in part driven by the Iranian desire to push out US influence from the region, one could say that Israel’s problems stem from its support of the US!

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The core of the conflict

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Some recent discussions have convinced me that I should take up this question again.

What is the core issue of the conflict that surrounds Israel?

Most people that I argue with tell me that it has to do with the Palestinian Arabs. Because of the 1967 occupation, because their rights are being violated, because they don’t have a state, because the security barrier impinges on their land, because of an unending list of grievances, there can’t be peace. If Israel will fix these problems, they say, there can be peace — between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and the Arab nations.

In the past I’ve always responded that the problem is not the occupation, but the fact that the Arabs do not accept the presence of a Jewish state of any size in the Mideast. It’s easy to prove this: all you need to do is to show that violent opposition to Israel started before 1967 — the PLO, for example, was founded in 1964 — and that the Palestinians have refused to accept very fair offers from Israel, in 2000 and 2008, to create an Arab state from the occupied territories.

The real issue, I argue, has been that the Palestinians — with support from the other Arab nations — will not be satisfied with less than a reversal of the 1948 occupation — the replacement of Israel by an Arab state.

Lately some of my opponents have started to agree. The problem is the 1948 occupation, they admit, and there should not be an Israel at all. The very existence of a Jewish state, they say, is incompatible with Palestinian rights. This is a harder argument to have, because you have to bring up lots of historical facts, and there is a whole mythology to refute. But at least they are being more honest about their goal.

But now there is an additional factor, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Palestinian Arabs, and it has come to be the overriding issue that prevents Israel from living at peace.

That factor is the Iranian program to dominate the region economically, politically and religiously. Iran wants to rid the Middle East of Western (mostly American) influence, and even grandiosely challenges the position of the US as the most powerful nation in the world. Iran’s influence is growing in Iraq, and it’s hard to see how the US will be able to withdraw from there without it quickly becoming an Iranian satellite. With the US gone, Iran will be able to dominate the conservative regimes like those of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which depend on it for protection.

This means that one-third of the world’s oil resources will be under Iranian control. It means that Iran will be able to spread its revolutionary Islamism, and perhaps establish the Shiite caliphate that the Mullahs so desire.

Soon Iran expects to have nuclear weapons to provide an ‘umbrella’ for its expansionist activities. There’s just one little thing standing in its way, and it’s not hard to guess what it is.

Israel perceives the Iranian nuclear bomb as an existential threat, and if the US will not act to stop it, Israel will. Israel is a check on the activities of Iranian proxies Syria and Hizballah in Lebanon. Israel props up the regimes in Egypt and Jordan, and prevents the radical Hamas from gaining total control of the Palestinians. Israel is a close ally of the US, and provides intelligence and maybe other kinds of assistance to it. Tiny little Israel is a big fat bone in the Iranian throat, and Iran wants to dislodge it.

So today Iran has replaced the Arabs as the primary enemy of Israel and the main cause of the continuation of the conflict. Iran supplies and supports Hamas and Hizballah, with whom Israel has fought two recent wars, and there’s no doubt that Iranian funds flow to other terrorist factions.

This has been happening for years: remember the Karine A, the ship full of weapons intended for Arafat’s terrorists that was intercepted in 2002? Iran has paid for the huge Syrian missile buildup in recent years. Even in the Palestinian Authority, hardliners are encouraged by their hope that Iran’s proxies will keep the IDF occupied, and weaken Israel.

If we assume that the Obama Administration wants to ‘solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’ it is going about it in the wrong way, attacking the symptoms — Israeli-Palestinian issues — instead of the cause, Iranian expansionism. Changing the approach would actually simplify US policy a great deal, because instead of trying to achieve its ends in the Middle East by creating a Palestinian state and then getting Arab support as a result — the incoherent ‘linkage theory‘ — the US could simply move directly toward its desired goal, which is (or should be) preventing the Iranian takeover of the region.

Effective action to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons would go a long way in this direction, as would real support for Iranian dissidents.

Israeli-Palestinian peace might be a byproduct.

The seized Karine A, stuffed with Iranian weapons, in port at Eilat

The seized Karine A, stuffed with Iranian weapons, in port at Eilat

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Omar Barghouti’s academic terrorism

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Omar Barghouti (not to be confused with convicted murderers Ahmed Barghouti or Marwan Barghouti) is a graduate student in Philosophy at Tel Aviv University. He is also a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the leaders of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Some have suggested that Barghouti, a ‘Palestinian citizen of Israel’ is behaving hypocritically by continuing to study at a university that he urges others to boycott; but as we will see, he’s no stranger to double- or even triplethink. There is a petition (in Hebrew) here which has been signed by almost 143,000 people who want to see him kicked out of Tel Aviv University.

Barghouti is often referred to as ‘moderate’ and ‘nonviolent’, which he is compared to Ahmed and Marwan, for example. But although he doesn’t launch terror attacks or even give speeches calling for Arabs to rise up and slaughter Jews, his goal is the same, to end the state of Israel.

Omar Barghouti is a man at home in the academic world who spins the ugly core that underlies all of Palestinian Arab ‘culture’ — burning hatred and a drive for bloody revenge — into perfectly formed academic English, providing a theoretical basis for educated Westerners to tap into their own darker impulses in the guise of an enlightened pursuit of justice, and in terms of the most modern post-colonial thought.

Let’s look at an abstract of a paper by Barghouti into which he weaves all of the required themes, which I’ve boldfaced (h/t to Israel Academia Monitor):

This paper argues for a secular, democratic state in historic Palestine as the most morally coherent solution to the century-old colonial conflict because it offers the best hope for reconciling the inalienable right of the indigenous Palestinians to self-determination and the acquired rights of the colonial settlers to live in peace and security, individually and collectively. Accepting colonists as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society is the most magnanimous offer any oppressed indigenous population can present to its oppressors, but for such to be attained, settlers must shed colonial privileges and character, accept justice, unmitigated equality, and conscious integration into the region. Building a just and lasting peace anchored in international law and universal human rights, conducive to ethical coexistence requires the ethical decolonization, or de-Zionization of historic Palestine. Such a process is premised on a revitalized, democratized Palestinian civil resistance movement with a clear vision for a shared, just society and effective worldwide support for reaffirming Palestinian rights and ending Israel’s violations of international law and universal rights. By emphasizing the equality of humanity as its most fundamental principle, this paper shows that the proposed secular democratic state promises to transcend national and ethnic dichotomies that now make it nearly impossible to envision reaching any just solution to the most intricate questions. [my emphasis]

In other words, if the ‘colonists’ (Jews) can be made to give up their ‘colonial privileges’ (security), the ‘indigenous’ population will magnanimously permit the creation of a truly ‘ethical’ and just society! Although this isn’t mentioned, I presume that if the ‘settlers’ do not freely choose to renounce their ‘privileges’, the ‘resistance’ won’t be so magnanimous.

Despite its appeal to some Western academics, whom Barghouti skilfully manipulates, the theory’s premises are false. They do violence to historical facts. And Barghouti’s constant references to ethics, justice, human rights, equality, etc. are so entirely inappropriate — especially in the context of historical Palestinian Arab behavior — as to be obscene.

I’m sure that I don’t need to repeat it yet again, but Israeli Jews are not colonists, most Palestinian Arabs are not indigenous, the post-colonialist framework doesn’t apply, and an Arab-majority one-state solution would become a bloodbath within hours of its birth.

But like Ahmed and Marwan, Omar wants a bloodbath. So he is doing his best to prepare the ground for it, by weakening Israel through BDS and by delegitimizing and isolating it from the Western democracies that might be expected to support it against its racist, undemocratic and brutal Arab and Iranian enemies.

And all the while he is nurtured by the institutions of the Israeli state that he wishes to destroy.

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Israeli nukes are legal and pro-peace

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

George Jahn of the AP writes,

VIENNA — Israel’s secretive nuclear activities may undergo unprecedented scrutiny next month, with a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency tentatively set to focus on the topic for the first time, according to documents shared Friday with The Associated Press.

A copy of the restricted provisional agenda of the IAEA’s June 7 board meeting lists “Israeli nuclear capabilities” as the eighth item — the first time that that the agency’s decision-making body is being asked to deal with the issue in its 52 years of existence…

The 35-nation IAEA board is the agency’s decision making body and can refer proliferation concerns to the U.N. Security Council — as it did with Iran in 2006 after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment, a potential pathway to nuclear weapons…

The latest pressure is putting the Jewish state in an uncomfortable position. It wants the international community to take stern action to prevent Iran from getting atomic weapons but at the same time brushes off calls to come clean about its own nuclear capabilities.

This article obscures an important point, which is that the IAEA — and the UN — have no authority over Israel’s nuclear capability. And it gives the impression that Iran and Israel’s nuclear programs are both in some way in violation of international law, and that if action is taken regarding Iran it should also be taken toward Israel. This is entirely false.

The IAEA was created in 1957 as “the world’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ agency.” The idea was that the IAEA would supply fissionable material and know-how to countries that wanted to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes in return for strict controls over how these would be used. To that end it set up a system of inspections; if a country was found to be using IAEA-provided materials for military purposes, the information would be passed to the Security Council for action.

The IAEA’s authorized functions are listed in its founding Statute. They do not include interference in nuclear activities that are not related to material supplied by the IAEA, unless the parties involved have voluntarily agreed to involve the IAEA, as was done with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In 1970 the NPT came into being. It recognized that five nations already had nuclear weapons — the US, Soviet Union, UK, France, and China — and in effect granted them a monopoly. Signatories on the treaty agreed that they would not develop nuclear weapons themselves or contribute to the proliferation thereof and would accept IAEA supervision over their peaceful use of atomic energy.

Israel already had several weapons in 1970 and chose not to sign the NPT. So it is not in violation of it. And it is not subject to IAEA inspection.

Indeed, Israel’s nuclear weapons are exactly as legal under international law as those of the US.

Iran, on the other hand, did sign the NPT. It is required to permit IAEA inspections of its nuclear installations, and the IAEA has determined that Iran is probably developing weapons in violation of the treaty, but Iran insists that its project is entirely for peaceful purposes. Nobody honestly believes that.

North Korea, which has tested (it’s not clear how successfully) a weapon was a party to the NPT, but withdrew from it. Two other nuclear states — India and Pakistan — did not sign the treaty and so are not bound by it.

Israel has always suggested — but not stated explicitly, since it has never admitted to possessing nuclear weapons — that they would only be used defensively and only when there was no alternative. The closest it may have come to doing so was in the early stages of the 1973 war, when there was a possibility of enemy penetration into Israel beyond the pre-1967 borders. Some believe that Israel armed some weapons in the knowledge that the US and USSR would detect this, both as a deterrent to intervention by the USSR and a spur to the US to resupply Israel with conventional weapons.

In 1991, it’s said that weapons were put on alert in the event that Saddam would fire Scuds with chemical warheads at Israel (he did not). Syria also has a large quantity of chemical warheads which have not been used, probably from fear of nuclear retaliation.

The IDF has multiple delivery systems, which include submarine-launched cruise missiles and IRBM/ICBM’s in hardened land installations, giving it a second-strike capability. As I wrote yesterday, an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, no matter how ‘successful’, would trigger a response that would in essence eliminate Iran as a modern state. Israel’s missiles can also reach far beyond the Middle East, a fact which was highly relevant during the period that the USSR was supporting the Arab nations.

One might say that the form that the Mideast conflict has taken since 1973 — a low-intensity war involving non-state proxies and terrorism combined with stepped-up political and economic pressure — has been determined by the presence of Israel’s nuclear deterrent. Not good, but better than the alternative.

So it’s not surprising that Israel’s enemies have recently begun a diplomatic campaign for Israel to sign the NPT, to declare the Mideast a ‘nuclear-free zone’, etc.

Bad idea. Israel’s nuclear weapons are probably the most ‘pro-peace’ factor in the entire Mideast equation. Probably the best policy for Israel is to continue its policy of official ambiguity along with continued development of low-fallout nuclear weapons technology — i.e., neutron weapons, electromagnetic pulse weapons, etc.

Jericho III ICBM

Jericho III ICBM

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