Archive for May, 2010

Will there be war?

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Recently a friend asked me if I thought there would be a war in the near future. Of course I don’t know. My contacts in the IDF aren’t on the General Staff, and I don’t know anybody in Hizballah, Hamas, Iran or Syria.

Guy Bechor, who is very well informed about the Arab world, thinks not. He thinks that Hizballah, Hamas and Syria, who will bear the brunt of the fighting, are afraid of Israel and wouldn’t purposely initiate hostilities. He writes,

Each side accuses the other one of intending to strike, and the explanation for this is as follows: Nobody has an interest in a new regional war. The opposite is true – the status quo is convenient for all sides involved, while the results of a war may be terrible. Hence, a war is not expected to break out this summer…

We scared Hamas so much in Operation Cast Lead that they have no interest whatsoever in prompting a new war. They got the message. We also scared Hezbollah so much that Nasrallah has been in hiding for almost four years now, fearing Israel’s long arm. He too got it…

So would Israel be the one to launch a war this summer? No chance. The deterrence that was created and the stability it prompted satisfy our defense and political leaderships. The status quo on all fronts is convenient for Israel.

Yaakov Katz, on the other hand, is more pessimistic:

Not many periods resemble this year in terms of military buildup among Israel’s enemies.  A quick glance along the borders demonstrates just how significant the current trend is – Hamas is re-arming at an unprecedented rate in the Gaza Strip; Hizbullah is doing the same in Lebanon; and Syria is also training its forces in guerrilla tactics in the event of a future war.

What will spark this future war is unclear, but IDF officers joke about how they will have to cancel their overseas vacation plans this summer.

And Caroline Glick believes that war is inevitable, and if so, she’d rather it be on Israel’s terms:

Israel’s political and military leaders have to take two considerations into account. First, the side that initiates the conflict will be the side that controls the battle space. And second, there is a real possibility that the Obama administration will refuse to resupply Israel with vital weapons systems in the course of the war…

In the coming war, Israel will have only one goal: to destroy or seriously damage Iran’s nuclear installations. Every resource turned against Iran’s proxies must be aimed at facilitating that goal. That is, the only thing Israel should seek to accomplish in contending with Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas is to prevent them from diverting Israeli resources away from attacking Iran’s nuclear installations.

Here’s what I think:

Iran wishes to destroy Israel insofar as the Jewish state is the main obstacle to Iran extending its hegemony throughout the Mideast. Israel is seen as a forward base of US power, as well as a threat to the Iranian nuclear program; and of course there are the traditional religious/ideological motives.

Note that this has nothing to do with the ‘peace process’, Palestinian nationalism, ‘The Occupation’, the ‘Siege of Gaza’, building in East Jerusalem, etc. It is all about Iran’s ambitions.

The Iranian strategy, as articulated by Ahmadinijad and others many times, is that Israel will be overwhelmed by its proxies.  To this end, Iran has spent a huge amount of money arming Syria, Hizballah and Hamas and helping them prepare for war. The tens of thousands of missiles of multiple types in the hands of these proxies combined with fortifications and other advanced weapons in their possession, now constitute more than a mere (though deadly) irritant, but rather a force that can cause serious damage and loss of life in all parts of Israel.

Although Iran is developing nuclear weapons, the one state that it will most likely not use them against is Israel, because Israel’s retaliation would certainly put an end not only to the regime, but to Iran as a modern state. Estimates of the result of such an attack have been in the neighborhood of 30 million dead. However, the Iranian weapon will be very effective as an umbrella for conventional aggression against other states in the Mideast, and as a threat to damage Israel in multiple ways (economic, demographic, morale, etc.). Iran will also be able to threaten Israel indirectly by threatening US and European interests.

I think we’ve already seen some of this effect on the Obama Administration’s policy toward Israeli-Palestinian issues.

There’s no question that the combination of the conventional forces aimed at Israel by Iranian proxies and the nuclear umbrella that will soon be in place represents an existential threat to Israel. In the event of war, I suspect that Israel would not limit its strikes to the proxies, but would also seek to damage the Iranian nuclear capability as much as possible. It is thus in Iran’s interest to delay hostilities until its nuclear capability is in place and hardened as much as possible.

Combined with the real fear on the part of Hamas, Hizballah and Syria that Bechor describes, this probably means that Israel’s enemies will not initiate a war in the very near future. And they are banking on Israel’s concern for the unavoidable death and destruction that would occur even if an Israeli attack were successful, to deter her from preempting — not to mention the international reaction, which might go past the point of the usual condemnations to Security Council-imposed sanctions or even military intervention. I don’t think Israel could count on a US veto of such action from the present administration.

Nevertheless, I think Glick is right and that Israel must preemptively strike the missile forces of the proxies and the Iranian nuclear facilities before Iran’s capability becomes operational, because the alternative is war on Iran’s terms, under her nuclear umbrella. The consequences of such a war would be disastrous, although Israel would probably prevail, and I think that the Israeli political and military leadership understands this.

I expect, then, that sometime before the Iranian nuclear capability is ready, Israel will defy the Obama Administration and strike first.

This promises to be a difficult and terrible struggle, and I blame the nations of the world. Had the US and others taken a tough stand against the rearmament of Hizballah (as called for by UNSC resolution 1701) or the Iranian nuclear program, there would be no war. But our administration prefers appeasement as a tactic, and others have not only enabled, but actually taken up the cause of those who would destroy the Jewish state.

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Mearsheimer gets FresnoZionism Reality Inversion Award

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Once in a while the Reality Inversion phenomenon is so wrenching that I’m (almost) at a loss for words. So I’ll just quote from the speech Dr. John Mearsheimer gave at the Palestine Center in Washington DC, and wonder if anyone can possibly think of another bit of rhetoric quite as twisted:

American Jews who care deeply about Israel can be divided into three broad categories.  The first two are what I call “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners,” which are clearly definable groups that think about Israel and where it is headed in fundamentally different ways.  The third and largest group is comprised of those Jews who care a lot about Israel, but do not have clear-cut views on how to think about Greater Israel and apartheid.  Let us call this group the “great ambivalent middle…”

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category.  The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few.  I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone.  Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

This is insulting on several levels. First, his use of the term ‘righteous Jews’. Of course he is familiar with the Righteous Gentiles, honored for protecting Jews threatened by the Nazi Holocaust; his use of the term is intended to suggest that Israel is guilty of a Nazi-like Holocaust against the Palestinians. Not only is this obscenely false, it is close to the precise opposite of the truth, which is that the Palestinian Arabs have been waging war against the Jews in the land of Israel with the intent of wiping them out since before the state was declared (they haven’t succeeded, but not through lack of trying).

Nothing is more revealing than his list of the ‘righteous’. What distinguishes most of them  is that they are haters.  Weiss, Finkelstein, Chomsky, Roy and Falk positively drip hatred for Israel in a way which is — yes — antisemitic, sometimes to the point of lunacy. They are literally deranged by hatred, and yet they are the ones that Mearsheimer calls righteous!

This is not surprising, given that their objects of love and pity, the ‘Palestinian people’, have built an entire culture on a foundation of hate. Don’t believe me? Palestinian Media Watch documents it here. Note that they are mostly talking about the Palestinian Authority (PA), the ‘legitimate’ Palestinian representatives with whom Israel is expected to make peace, and not radical Islamists of Hamas. The main difference between these groups in this connection seems to be that the PA broadcasts its hate mostly in Arabic, while Hamas is not ashamed to do it in English as well.

I do appreciate that “many of the individuals associated with J Street” were included among the Righteous along with Finkelstein, etc.  This validates my contention that J Street belongs with those who want to destroy the Jewish state.

Mearsheimer’s “new Afrikaners” are “individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state.” It’s ironic that this man who has made a career of parroting traditional antisemitic themes and Arab propaganda accuses his opponents of being robots. What does characterize them is that they are Zionists:  that is, that they believe that the Jewish people, like other peoples — including the recently created ‘Palestinian people’ — have a right to self-determination, and that the Jewish state is wholly legitimate and has a right to exist. This is quite different from supporting any actions the state might take!

Mearsheimer’s arguments show an appalling ignorance of the historical facts about the founding of Israel and the conflict that it has been embroiled in ever since. He says that in 1948 “the Zionists drove roughly 700,000 Palestinians out of the territory that became the new state of Israel, and then prevented them from returning to their homes;” but in truth the total number of refugees was significantly smaller, and only a small fraction of those were forced to flee by the Jews.

In fact, Ephraim Karsh has recently published a book called Palestine Betrayed which would be a good antidote for Mearsheimer’s ignorance (see Daniel Pipes’ review of it here), particularly in connection with the flight of the Arab refugees and the reasons that they did not return. Indeed, Karsh’s book was necessitated in part by the misinformation promulgated by ‘righteous’ Jewish revisionist historians like Ilan Pappé, Avi Shlaim and (until recently) Benny Morris.

So I’ve decided that Mearsheimer, a ‘distinguished’ professor at the University of Chicago and co-author of the antisemitic article and  book “The Israel Lobby,”  will get FresnoZionism’s first reality inversion award. There’s no prize associated with it, just the feeling of a job well done.

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Collective rights — or a competing nationalism?

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Arye Tepper, in a review of Yehuda Shenhav’s book “The Time of the Green Line”:

The issue that divides the two camps is Zionism. The Zionist left wants to consolidate a Jewish-democratic state within the “green line”—that is, the borders that existed from 1949, fixed by the armistice that ended Israel’s war of independence, until the June 1967 Six-Day war—and to help engineer a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The post-Zionist or “radical” left is in favor of a one-state solution, i.e., doing away with Israel as a Jewish state and creating a “state of all its citizens” in its stead.

To the Zionist left, the post-Zionist left isn’t so much post- as anti-Zionist. But to the post-Zionist left, the Zionist left isn’t liberal — or leftist — at all…

Shenhav puts forward two large claims about the Zionist left, the first being that it lives in a state of complete denial regarding the fundamentals of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. According to Shenhav, the Zionist left has persuaded itself that the basic point of contention in the conflict lies in the results of the Six-Day war, which ended with Israel having seized the Sinai peninsula (long since returned to Egypt), Gaza (now under Hamas), the Golan Heights (claimed by Syria), and, especially, the West Bank with its large Palestinian population. Therefore, reasons the Zionist left, once Israel hands back the West Bank, “1967” will have been reversed and peace will become possible.

To Shenhav, this is a delusion. Zero hour for the Palestinians, he contends, was and remains not 1967 but 1948: i.e., the founding of Israel itself. Averting its eyes from this fact, the Zionist left has fabricated an artificial starting point in time (1967) and space (the green line) in order to preserve to its own satisfaction the basic legitimacy of Israel’s establishment in 1948. The trouble is that the Palestinians will never agree to this construction of history, because it fails to take into account their most fundamental grievances. [my emphasis]

Shenhav’s second claim is that the Zionist left’s stubborn fidelity to the notion of a specifically Jewish state is inherently anti-democratic. How so? Democracy, writes Shenhav, is more than a matter of individual rights; it is also a matter of collective rights. So long as the collective rights of native Palestinians living within the state of Israel go unrecognized—and, in a state that calls itself Jewish, they are by definition unrecognized—that state, no matter how much it pretends otherwise, cannot be regarded as democratic in any meaningful sense.

You can read the rest of the review here (thanks to Israel Academia Monitor for bringing it to my attention).

The division on the Israeli Left is mirrored here in the US, with the traditional Zionist Left represented, for example, by the Union for Reform Judaism and the post-Zionists by groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, etc. I’ve argued that J Street pretends to belong to the former category in order to get liberal support but its policies — and the identity of some of its supporters — actually place it closer to the latter.

Shenhav is absolutely right about Palestinian grievances and goals. The Palestinian Arabs themselves have always been quite clear about them to anyone who is willing to listen. The non-Zionist Left has done Israel a great disservice by doing its best to obscure this fact, by promulgating the idea that there is a Palestinian partner for a two-state solution that would end the conflict when at best there are some Palestinians who would agree to establish a state as a stepping stone to replacing all of Israel with an Arab state.

Shenhav correctly realizes is that there can’t be a compromise between Zionism — the belief that there should be an independent state of the Jewish people in the land of Israel — and Palestinian nationalism, which denies that. But then he argues (unsoundly) that Zionism is incompatible with democracy and rejects it. What’s left, although the argument tries to obscure it with concepts like ‘a democratic state of all its citizens,’ is Palestinian nationalism.

This is where the post-Zionist position becomes dangerous, because it’s certain that such a state would be unstable:

Shenhav offers a number of one-state schemes for sharing the land, including something called “consociational democracy”; in doing so, he silently passes over the inconvenient fact that this fanciful arrangement has already been tried and found wanting in such distinguished islands of tranquility as Cyprus and Lebanon.  “Any reasonable person,” [Gadi] Taub sums up, “realizes that the one-state solution would constitute a chronic civil war,” a war from which posturing professors like Shenhav will be able to escape while those “with nowhere to go — both Jews and Arabs — will end up . . . drowning in rivers of blood.”

But Shenhav’s argument is unsound. The assertion that democracy requires the protection of “collective rights” as well as individual rights is false. If you replace “collective rights” with “national aspirations” — which is what is driving the Arab citizens of Israel who are demanding this — you expose his conflation of these ideas, and the source of the instability. Indeed I would argue that, on the model of the US constitution, Democracy is all about individual rights.

In the US, a sharp distinction has been made between movements to guarantee (individual) civil rights for minorities, which are supported by the great majority of citizens, and such things as black or Mexican-American nationalism which are generally regarded as inimical to democracy. One could even cite as an example the insistence by some southern states on a culturally-based right to hold slaves, probably the most destructive such demand in our history.

The idea of ‘collective rights’ — or should I say ‘competing nationalisms’ — has gained some traction in the West with regard to Muslims, where some have suggested that Muslim communities should be given special consideration where Sha’aria conflicts with civil law, etc. This is a very bad idea which contradicts the basic ideas of the Enlightenment, the ideas that gave rise to Western democracy.

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