Archive for June, 2010

NPR ignores its own watchdog

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

You may recall that I ripped NPR a new, er, antenna, a couple of weeks ago because of their over-the-top bias against Israel. I pointed out that their reporter

  • used the Emotive Bias Technique to ensure that the Arab side of the story would stick with the listener while the Israeli side would be forgotten,
  • used the Selective Omission Technique to mislead without explicitly lying, and
  • quoted false statements without comment or challenge.

I sent a link to the local Public Radio station — which, by the way, was in the middle of one of its periodic schnorrs fund drives. I pointed out that NPR gets a great deal of funding from the local stations and that maybe they would clean up their act if the stations complained. I wasn’t surprised when I did not even get a “your opinion is important to us” in return, because I’m sure the local management is quite happy with NPR’s ideological slant.

I also sent it to NPR. They did send a response, and although it was boilerplate that did not relate to my specific concerns, it’s worth a further look. After saying that “there’s no room for bias in our organization” and drawing attention to their code of ethics, they add,

…in an effort to continually monitor the way we cover the Middle East, NPR has hired a freelance researcher to conduct quarterly reviews of our coverage. The reports are prepared by John Felton, a former foreign affairs reporter and NPR foreign editor who covered international affairs and U.S. policy for more than 30 years, and submitted to NPR’s ombudsman.

So I looked at some of Felton’s reports. While he claims that NPR coverage is fair overall, many of his specific reports are damning. For example, here is one about a story aired in March 2009 (emphasis is mine):

In a March 26 piece for Morning Edition [Eric] Westervelt reported on several allegations that the Israeli army used excessive force during the war. Westervelt’s piece centered around two reports in the Israeli news media: A March 21 report by Israel’s Channel 10 quoting an Israeli officer, in briefing his soldiers, as expressing little or no regard for the lives of Palestinian civilians; and reports in [left-wing papers -- ed] Haaretz and Maariv on March 19-20 quoting Israeli soldiers as citing accounts of unprovoked killings of civilians.

Westervelt’s piece also quoted Yehuda Shaul, director of a leftist veterans group, Breaking the Silence, who said he had interviewed soldiers who told similar stories of abuses of civilians during the war. In addition, the piece dealt with allegations that the army’s chief rabbi and his aides had encouraged soldiers to show no quarter when dealing with Palestinians. Finally, the story cited Human Rights Watch allegations that the Israeli army improperly used white phosphorous as an illuminating device, injuring innocent civilians when the phosphorous descended to the ground…

Although I am glad that NPR brought this story to its listeners’ attention, I do have concerns about this particular piece:

– The piece relied heavily on Shaul’s accounts without telling listeners that he is an active, vocal campaigner against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Shaul is far from an unbiased source. While the information Shaul collected might well be true, he had an agenda in making this type of information public. Listeners should have been told more about him and his agenda.

– The central element of the Israeli atrocities allegations came from a February 13 meeting of Israeli veterans of the Gaza war held at the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Haaretz, and later Maariv, published stories on March 19-20 based on that transcript. Israeli soldiers told several stories, including accounts of the unprovoked shootings of an elderly Palestinian woman and of a woman and child. Westervelt cited both incidents but did not make clear (as additional Israeli media reporting had found prior to March 26) that the soldiers recounting these incidents had not witnessed the events and had only heard about them.

– In the days after Haaretz first broke the story (on March 19) about Israeli soldiers accusing colleagues of committing atrocities, subsequent stories in the Israeli news media began to cast doubt on some allegations. The Jerusalem Post, YNet news, and other Israeli news organizations quoted soldiers as disputing both the specific atrocity accounts and the general idea that soldiers had disregarded Palestinian lives. Westervelt’s piece, however, did not mention any of these subsequent reports, which emerged before the piece was aired.

Westervelt’s piece did quote an Israeli army spokesman, Major Avital Leibovich as saying the alleged atrocities were under investigation and suggesting that the soldier’s accounts were “hearsay” [the effect was to make the IDF appear evasive -- ed].

Five days after the piece aired, the army’s judge-advocate general closed his investigation into misconduct allegations during the war, saying the newspaper reports were based on “hearsay” and had proven to be false. The soldiers who made the allegations had not actually witnessed or participated in the events they had described, the judge-advocate general said. Several human rights groups protested the ending of the investigation and suggested it was a whitewash.

Westervelt reported the closing of the investigation in a [short --ed] news spot that aired on March 30.

In short, the NPR reporter parroted accusations of murderous atrocities made by highly biased sources — sources which he should have known were biased — and then NPR aired the report after the horrific allegations had been shown to be false!

I well remember my fury when I woke to hear this dishonest story, and posted this: “NPR’s shocking lack of journalistic integrity“.

But apparently the NPR brass doesn’t pay attention to Felton, because they keep doing the same thing, again, and again, and again.

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US PR firm paid to demonize Israel

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Think about this: there is at least one American business that is paid to demonize Israel.

The employees, well-paid professionals, go to work every day and think up ways to make Israel look like a moral monster, a rogue state dangerous to world peace for which the only remedy — as in the case of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan or apartheid South Africa — is more than just regime change, rather, a fundamental change in the nature of the polity which can only be effected by force.

They are creative people and they know their jobs. Their trade is building or wrecking the public images of politicians, products, organizations, companies and even nations.

Today their goal is to prevent the Jewish state from defending itself by creating a mass of public opinion that sees its self-defense as war crimes. To prevent the Jewish state from defending itself, so that its enemies can finally succeed in doing what they have been trying to do since Israel was born, destroy it.

They are Fenton Communications, and they are working on their current project as diligently as they did for MoveOn.org, The Body Shop, Greenpeace, Ben and Jerry’s and numerous other clients:

Fenton Communications, which has offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco, signed two contracts last year with Qatar to develop “a communications action plan for an 18-month campaign” aimed at delegitimizing Israel and generating international support for the Hamas-run Gaza strip, documents filed with the Department of Justice show.

The campaign, known as the “Al Fakhoora Project,” has a very visible Web presence that boasts of rallying 10,000 activists “against the blockade on Gaza.”

Fenton signed the contracts, worth more than $390,000, with the Office of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the wife of the Qatari ruler, and a separate foundation she chairs. The contracts are ongoing, according to Fenton’s Foreign Agent registration forms…

The cash from Qatar bought a sophisticated U.S. media campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion to generate support for the Hamas-led government and the people of the Gaza strip.

It also included a full-scale fundraising effort aimed at generating a war chest of up to $100 million in addition to the money the Qatari sheikha provided. — Ken Timmerman

You can see Fenton’s registration as a foreign agent here (h/t: The Israel Project). I’ve extracted the part which describes more work to be performed by Fenton this year:

Extract from Fenton contract for Al Fakhoora project

Extract from Fenton contract for Al Fakhoora project

Here is the top-notch website built for Her Highness by Fenton.

Fenton specializes in what they call “The Active Idea”: in this case the idea appears to be that Israel’s naval blockade and other restrictions on Hamas-controlled Gaza obstructs the ‘right to learn’ of Gaza’s children, thus denying them their human rights. In fact, the campaign has little to do with education per se, and everything to do with demonizing Israel.

A video statement made by Al Fakhoora’s director, Farooq Burney, describes his experiences as a passenger on one of the ships of the Free Gaza Flotilla (I presume that it was the Mavi Marmara, because he claims to have been next to a ‘peaceful activist’ who was shot to death). He claims that the passengers were attacked, etc. and asks that people ‘pressurize’ [sic] their governments to ‘punish’ Israel and to ‘bring them to justice’. He also asks that we sign a declaration demanding that all ships be allowed to land at Gaza without interference. So much for education.

Fenton also worked with The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in 2005 to “improve public understanding of the American Muslim community, promote pluralism, and inject the points of view of American Muslims into the national conversation.” Note that CAIR has been shown to have close connections with Hamas.

Of course, it’s entirely irrelevant to mention that Jeremy Ben Ami, director of the fake ‘pro-Israel’ group J Street, was a Senior Vice President at Fenton immediately before joining J Street.  Right.

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Friedman moves even farther to the dark side

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Thomas Friedman is judged by many to be both knowledgeable and fair-minded about the Israeli-Arab conflict. After all, he’s been to the region many times and has been writing on the subject for years. He served as a correspondent in Lebanon from 1979 to 1989, and his book “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, published in 1989, is considered a classic.

But his most recent piece in the NY Times shows that he’s prepared to pour blood guilt on Israel with the rest of the mob:

Israel today is enjoying another timeout because it recently won three short wars — and then encountered one pleasant surprise. The first was a war to dismantle the corrupt Arafat regime. The second was the war started by Hezbollah in Lebanon and finished by a merciless pounding of Shiite towns and Beirut suburbs by the Israeli Air Force. The third was the war to crush the Hamas missile launchers in Gaza.

What is different about these three wars, though, is that Israel won them using what I call “Hama Rules” — which are no rules at all. “Hama Rules” are named after the Syrian town of Hama, where, in 1982, then-President Hafez el-Assad of Syria put down a Muslim fundamentalist uprising by shelling and then bulldozing their neighborhoods, killing more than 10,000 of his own people.

In Israel’s case, it found itself confronting enemies in Gaza and Lebanon armed with rockets, but nested among local civilians, and Israel chose to go after them without being deterred by the prospect of civilian casualties.

There is absolutely no similarity between Assad’s mass murder and Israel’s self-defense — not in the intentions of Assad and Israel, and not in the degree of civilian damage.

Assad deliberately killed as many people as he could in order to send a message that insurrection against his regime would not be tolerated — and to exact satisfactory revenge for attacks on his loyalists (including an assassination attempt) by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The IDF, especially in Gaza, made an effort to reduce harm to civilians as much as possible, and despite a journalistic and propaganda industry devoted to proving the contrary, succeeded quite well under the circumstances. The operations were all intended to stop terrorist activities, not to get revenge.

Friedman knows the difference. Why did he join Israel’s enemies in their demonization project? Maybe he’ll write a comment to this post explaining that.

There is something in common between the three wars that Friedman cites, though, although it’s not what he suggests. It’s this: In all three cases, the “international community” (primarily in the person of the US) stopped the fighting before Israel could finish off its enemies.

In 2002, Arafat was allowed to remain barricaded in his Muqata. In 2006, Hezbollah was allowed to rearm and rebuild. And in 2009, the planned third phase of Operation Cast Lead, which would have brought Israeli soldiers into Hamas’ headquarters in Gaza city, was aborted before Hamas’ capabilities were seriously damaged, and without rescuing Gilad Shalit — who has just suffered his fourth year in Hamas captivity.

So in addition to Friedman’s coinage “Hama rules,” referring to the vicious kind of example-making practiced by Hafez al-Assad and by the Russians in Chechnya, we need another phrase for the phenomenon of intervention to prevent Israel from bringing its conflicts to a winning conclusion. There are many possibilities drawn from almost every conflict that Israel has engaged in: 1956 rules, 1967 rules, 1973 rules, 1982 rules, 2002 rules, 2006 rules, 2009 rules, etc.

I prefer ‘Gaza rules’, because this conflict best exemplifies the combination of an imposed end to the conflict and the use of pseudo-evidence to indict Israel of every imaginable crime, and to punish her for defending herself.

Friedman continues his argument by saying that Israel’s ‘legitimacy’ is put at risk by these wars, and so Israel should stop fighting them — that is, stop defending herself — and instead protect herself by making concessions to the Palestinian Authority (PA):

But Abbas and Fayyad will not be able to sustain this timeout if Netanyahu resumes settlement-building in September, when the partial freeze expires, and if Israel doesn’t soon start gradually transferring control of major West Bank Palestinian towns to the Palestinian Authority.

Bottom line: Israel needs to try to buy its next timeout with diplomacy, which means Netanyahu has to show some initiative. Because the risks to Israel’s legitimacy of another war in Gaza, Lebanon or the West Bank — in which Israel could be forced to kill even more civilians to squash rocket attacks launched from schoolyards by fighters who wear no uniforms — will be staggering.

Somehow, the small matter of Hamas has been removed from the equation, as has the fact that the PA has found even overly generous terms insufficient in the recent past.

I offer the following challenge to Friedman:

  • Prove that Israel’s intention in three recent wars has been to harm civilians. You can’t.
  • Explain how concessions to the PA will bring peace, especially in the presence of Hamas. You can’t.
  • Explain why Israel is the only state in the world whose ‘legitimacy’ is in question. You don’t want to try.

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Winning the war you can win

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

A poor idea whose time has come:

Ahead of a potential new conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the IDF has drawn up plans to evacuate entire Palestinian villages and refugee camps from areas of conflict in the event of an Israeli incursion, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

During Operation Cast Lead, in the winter of 2008/2009, the IDF dropped millions of flyers over areas it planned to invade and made over a quarter of a million phone calls to private homes and mobile phones warning people to leave…

According to the new operational doctrine for the Gaza Strip, ahead of an invasion of the Jabalya refugee camp in a large-scale operation, for example, the IDF would give prior notification to residents and designate an amount of time they would be given to leave. The IDF would also enter potential conflict zones more slowly to permit residents to evacuate the area. — Jerusalem Post

What’s wrong with this picture?

The Goldstone report contained hundreds of accusations that Israel deliberately harmed civilians, and indeed even falsely concluded that the object of the operation was to hurt and kill civilians. The accusations were based mostly on hearsay evidence collected from Gaza residents by biased NGOs (Human Rights Watch, etc.) often with the assistance of Hamas-provided guides and translators.

It seems to me that the new guidelines would not prevent a similar ‘Goldstoning’, which is by nature a disingenuous process, a diplomatic lynching.  Indeed, by increasing the degree of contact with civilians — if, for example a village had to be evacuated — they would increase the probability of incidents which could be spun as brutality.

It also seems that this would provide an opening to create Mavi Marmara-like events in which ‘civilians’ would ‘resist’ the IDF’s attempt at ‘ethnic cleansing’, bringing about violent clashes.

Finally, it would give Hamas fighters an opportunity to set their booby traps and ambushes and fade away.

This is reminiscent of the approach to war-fighting now taken by the US in Afghanistan, in which the use of firepower and air support is being strictly limited in order to try to eliminate collateral damage. Of course the problems faced by the US and Israel are different in important respects, but the idea that reducing harm to civilians is higher priority than killing the enemy is similar.

This approach tackles the challenge of asymmetric warfare in exactly the wrong way, a way which amplifies the advantage of the side that uses irregular troops, deliberately fights from among friendly civilians, and ‘wins’ by getting outside powers to clamp down on the other side.

Some have forgotten that the object of war is victory, to crush the enemy, whatever that takes. Things like building civilian infrastructure may be projects that can and should be undertaken, but not as part of war, and not by soldiers. In actual fighting, all reasonable efforts which do not stand in the way of victory should be made to prevent harm to civilians, but these cannot override considerations of winning the battle and the war.

Israel can’t win in the UN no matter what it does. But it can win the war on the ground, and it should not sacrifice the latter for the former.

Yes, it sounds cruel and irrational. But war is the ultimate cruel and irrational activity — humans ought to build, not to destroy. Sherman’s dictum that “war is hell” is correct, and nobody should want to create hell on earth:

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. — Gen. W. T. Sherman, Sept. 1864

Hamas and the forces arrayed against Israel brought the last war and will bring the next one. They have tried, and to some extent succeeded, to turn the truth on its head and convince many that the Jews of Israel are the aggressors. But lying doesn’t make it so.

Those that make war on a nation that desires peace, as Sherman implied, are responsible for the consequences.

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Hi, I’m not dead yet!

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber, has made a truly remarkable recovery. As you may remember, in December 1988 a bomb exploded in the cargo hold of Pan American flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, causing the aircraft to break into several pieces in the air. 270 people in the plane and on the ground died of decompression, massive trauma and fire.

Megrahi, allegedly a Libyan intelligence officer, was indicted in 1991 but it required the UN to apply sanctions to Libya and protracted negotiations with Libyan dictator Qadaffi before he was finally handed over to Scottish authorities in 1999. In January 2001, Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing.

Now it gets interesting. An appeal was denied in 2002, and a second appeal was filed in 2007. During the trial of this appeal in 2009, Megrahi asked for release on ‘compassionate grounds’, which may be granted under Scottish law when a convict can be shown to have three months or less to live.  His lawyer claimed that he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer and would not survive three months. On August 2009 he was released from prison and flew home to Libya where he received a hero’s welcome.

After his release, Megrahi was supposedly given chemotherapy, which appears to have been more effective than expected. In February  2010, the UK Telegraph reported that

Prof Sikora, one of the examining doctors who was paid a consultancy fee last July [2009] to examine Megrahi, told The Sunday Telegraph this weekend: “My information from Tripoli is that it’s not going to be long [before Megrahi dies].

“They stopped any active treatment in December and he has just been going downhill very slowly at home. He is on high doses of morphine [a painkiller] and it’s any day now.”

Prof Sikora said that he suspected that Megrahi was still alive because he had received a “psychological” boost from returning to his homeland and being reunited with his family…

Prof Sikora said it was just possible that Megrahi would be alive in several years time but added: “It’s highly unlikely. There is a 90 per cent chance he will die in the next few weeks.

Well, here it is June and he’s still hanging on.

Today there is an unexpected topical connection. When Megrahi was released there were claims that the British government pressured Scottish officials to approve the release because of considerations relating to trade — in particular, an oil deal. And guess what oil company was involved?

In his interview today [Sept. 4, 2009], [Foreign Secretary Jack] Straw admits that when he was considering in 2007 whether the bomber should be included in a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Libya, Britain’s trade interests were a crucial factor.

Documents published this week showed Mr Straw originally promised that a PTA would only be reached with Libya if Megrahi was excluded. But he later caved in to Libyan demands to include Megrahi. It followed a warning from BP that a failure to include the bomber could hurt the oil giant’s business interests.

When asked in the interview if trade and BP were factors, Mr Straw admits: “Yes, [it was] a very big part of that. I’m unapologetic about that… Libya was a rogue state.

“We wanted to bring it back into the fold. And yes, that included trade because trade is an essential part of it and subsequently there was the BP deal.” …

A spokesman for BP said the company had raised concerns with the Government about the slow progress in concluding the PTA, but denied mentioning Megrahi.

“Like many others, we were aware that a delay might have negative consequences for UK commercial interests, including ratification of BP’s exploration agreement,” he added.

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Israel just can’t do enough for UNRWA — and Hamas

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Here’s another illustration that Israeli concessions are never, ever enough.

As a result of the Mavi Marmara incident, in which Israelis were forced to fight for their lives, Israel has agreed to loosen restrictions on materials being transferred to Gaza (I discussed the illogical aspect of this earlier). Now only weapons and “war-supporting material” are prohibited from passing through the crossings; dual-use items such as cement will be allowed in if they are used for Palestinian Authority approved projects under international supervision.

As Barry Rubin has pointed out, although this does not represent a big modification in behavior for Israel, the significance of the internationally mandated change is that Israel gives up

[t]he entire strategy of trying to reduce Gaza’s economy and the rewards that Hamas can give its supporters. In other words, while Hamas’ military capacity is kept as low as possible it can politically consolidate and stay in power for decades.

What this tells us is that the international establishment (the agreement was negotiated by Tony Blair) admits that Hamas is here to stay, not quite legitimate but still immune from Israeli pressure — even peaceful pressure.

But that’s not enough. Along comes Chris Gunness of UNRWA, the ‘temporary’ agency set up in 1949 to help refugees from the 1948 war (theoretically, Jews who were ethnically cleansed from East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria should be included) and which has worked tirelessly to encourage the growth of the ‘refugee’ population — along comes Gunness and tells us that he’s not satisfied:

Only a complete lift of the Gaza blockade will satisfy UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees said to Reuters on Monday.

“We need to have the blockade fully lifted,” said spokesman Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, “the Israeli strategy is to make the international community talk about a bag of cement here, a project there. We need full unfettered access through all the crossings.”

There is absolutely no question that if there were no restriction on materials transferred to Gaza that Hamas would bring in weapons and explosives, as well as materials to build bunkers and tunnels.

In particular, as a result of a great number of smuggling tunnel operators bringing in huge quantities of cement, the price of cement in Gaza recently dropped precipitously, and the tunnel operators are now concentrating on iron. Unsurprisingly, aerial photographs do not show any significant civilian construction activity, but rather show that Hamas is rebuilding military infrastructure.

But helping Hamas is consistent with the previous actions of UNRWA and Gunness. You can read more about UNRWA here, and a little about how Chris Gunness sticks up for Hamas here.

So when he says “We need…,” what he really means is “Hamas needs…”

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Another Mideast hijacking

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

It’s remarkable what you can do with a little bit of Arab and Iranian money, some naive-to-the-point-of-stupidity liberal Jews, a friendly administration, and the terminally fractious World Zionist Organization (WZO):

(JTA) June 17, 2010 — The World Zionist Congress passed a resolution endorsing a two-state solution and a West Bank settlement freeze.

The vote in Jerusalem came a day after some opponents of the resolution walked out of a meeting of the 36th Congress’ settlement committee. Following the walkout, the remainder of the meeting was chaired by Hadar Susskind, the vice president of policy and strategy at J Street, which favors U.S. pressure on Israel toward a two-state solution.

The resolution endorses a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calls on the Israeli government to extend its freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and calls on Israel to stabilize ties with the United States…

The World Zionist Congress elects the officers and ostensibly sets policy for the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

It’s certain that such a resolution would not pass if presented to the general Israeli public, a majority of which understands that there is no honest partner for a two-state solution today and which views the construction freeze, especially in Jerusalem, as an attack on Israeli sovereignty.

Even Yasser Arafat never pulled off such an audacious hijacking. Susskind and J Street turned the ship of Zionism around and sailed it to Gaza.

The WZO has been around since 1897, when it was founded at the First Zionist Congress, organized by Theodor Herzl. Since then it has become somewhat less relevant; today almost nobody takes it seriously. Who does care are the Orthodox factions that want Zionism to be defined in religious terms, the liberal ones who want Israeli government money for Reform and Masorati institutions, and the numerous minor Israeli politicians who suck from the teat of the Jewish Agency and other vestigial organs of the Zionist enterprise. Now those masters of reality inversion, the phony Zionists of J Street, have joined the party.

Whether the WZO is worth anything or not, its name and history carry some weight. This hijacking grants legitimacy to J Street as a Zionist or pro-Israel organization — which it is not. It tarnishes whatever remains of the name of the WZO, and further muddies the definition of ‘Zionism’ as the movement of the Jewish people to realize self-determination in their own land.

J Street serves several masters. One is the Obama Administration, which calls on it whenever it needs to argue that American Jews support some policy — like a construction freeze in Jerusalem — which might appear on the face of it to be contrary to the interests of Israel. J Street never disappoints, slavishly toeing the administration line.

When it was revealed that some of the contributors to the J Street PAC — a related group which distributes money to political candidates and hence is subject to strict disclosure requirements — had connections to Saudi Arabia and Iran or were associated with pro-Arab groups, and that some of J Street’s Advisory Council members (e.g., Rob Malley and Henry Seigman) are outspoken anti-Zionists, I thought that J Street’s pro-Israel mask had finally been torn off. Unfortunately I underestimated the degree to which ideology — the naive liberal ideology I referred to before — overrides inconvenient facts.

J Street also serves Israel’s declared enemies by working to prevent Israel from exercising its right to defend itself against attack. So it called for the imposition of an immediate cease-fire on the first day of the Gaza war (despite paying lip service to the right of self-defense). It is presently campaigning for Israel to reduce restrictions on Gaza by recycling false complaints of privation in Gaza. Quite simply, this position helps Hamas.

There will be repercussions for the WZO, which gets funding from diverse segments of world Jewry.

One can say that this was no big deal because the WZO has little power or importance. But symbolically, what has happened is that the interests struggling to control the heart of official Zionism have managed to tear it to pieces.

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Intransigence is the best policy

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Caroline Glick (in a piece that is scary, even for her) wrote,

The Mavi Marmara demonstrated that on the one hand the IDF cannot enforce its blockade of Gaza without the use of force. On the other hands [sic] it taught Israel’s enemies that by forcing Israel to use force, Iran, Turkey and their allies incited a UN-EU-US lynch mob against Israel.

One thing that is clear about the lynch mob is that its members don’t believe the story that Israel acted ‘disproportionally’ or worse. It is certainly 100% clear to the intelligence services of the US and the European nations that the incident was a trap set at the highest levels of the Turkish government.

Therefore, we have to conclude that the incident is being used in the West to advance predetermined strategic goals: to prevent Israel from defending herself, to force more concessions to the Palestinian Authority, and — in the case of the European players (and we hope not the US) to legitimize Hamas.

Israel has already agreed to loosen restrictions on goods being transferred to Gaza and the US, in return, has made a statement that it really would be nice of Hamas to return Gilad Shalit to his family. Of course the US has zero leverage on Hamas. The loosening of restrictions will probably have little direct effect on security, but does reduce Israel’s bargaining power with regard to Shalit. So on balance, Hamas wins and Israel loses.

The UN’s investigation of the incident will certainly be a Goldstoning, and will be used in the same way as the Goldstone report. The announcement of Israel’s own investigation — even including foreign participation — predictably had no effect on UN plans.

The lesson for Israel is that it should not have tried to placate its critics for the Mavi Marmara episode. They already know Israel was attacked. Their complaints are disingenuous.

The appropriate response would have been to go on the offensive, to call for an international investigation of Turkey, and to offer to reduce restrictions on Gaza only in response to the release of Gilad Shalit.

Now that the flotilla has been shown to be effective,  there will be more flotillas — from Turkey, Iran, etc. — and there may be more attempts to provoke Israel. As Glick points out, this could be enormously dangerous, even providing pretexts for war. The thought of war involving Iran and Turkey in addition to the usual suspects of Hamas, Hizballah and Syria is more than just ‘scary’.

Such an eventuality would be very bad for everyone in the Middle East, and indeed for the whole world. And I think that all of the major players know this.

Which bring us to what I think is the real threat facing Israel today. Despite the bellicose rhetoric coming from Turkey, Iran and Syria, all would prefer to avoid a shooting war. Along with the Europeans, Russia and the US, they want to ensure that oil and natural gas keep flowing, although Iran would not be averse to the oil costing a bit more. And despite its size and relatively competent military, even Turkey would be badly mauled in a war with Israel.

In my opinion, Iran, Syria and Turkey want to bring the region to the brink, but not push it over. The real damage will be done by the more ‘responsible’ powers, in response to the crisis that the radical states will provoke.

I expect that they will spring into action to promote ‘peace in our time': a mostly-Western diktat that will all but dismember Israel.

The sponsors of a latter-day Munich compact will not want to take Israel’s interests into account any more than Czechoslovakia’s were in 1938, but in the US it will be sold as an effort to ‘save Israel’ and world peace. I expect that the Turks, Iranians, etc. will make maximal, even crazy, demands and the US, Russia and Europeans will offer to split the difference, with the result being doubleplus ungood for Israel.

My suggestion is that Israel should respond to all of this — the flotillas and the diplomatic attacks — with strength, not weakness. Policymakers should keep in mind that acquiescence to demands will only bring further demands. Compromises will never be enough; there will always be another compromise required.

But Israel has a few more cards that it can play than Czechoslovakia did. For one thing, it is still the most capable military power in the Middle East.

Israel is always falsely being accused of intransigence, when in fact it is overly accommodating. I am suggesting that the best policy is real intransigence.

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Why the blockade must be maintained

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As a result of the attack on Israeli naval commandos by Turkish mercenaries, there is increased pressure on Israel from the US and other international actors to loosen restrictions on movement of people and materials into and out of Gaza.

  • Israelis are viciously attacked by Hamas supporters while enforcing a legal blockade of the hostile Hamas regime
  • Therefore, the blockade should be ended in accordance with Hamas’ demands

Yes, I know it’s illogical. But never mind. That’s logic in the age of delegitimization: Israel is forbidden to defend herself, no matter what.

Israel has a good reason to keep access to Gaza tightly controlled. Here’s what Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s Internal Security Service told the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee this week:

“Lifting the naval blockade on Gaza would constitute a very dangerous development for Israel…”

Diskin said terror organizations in the Gaza Strip “continue to arm themselves, both through production and smuggling.”

He noted that Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Strip have some 5,000 rockets with a range of up to 40 km. Most of the rockets were produced in the Strip, but dozens of projectiles were smuggled into Gaza as well, said Diskin, adding that the terror groups also have a few rockets which are “capable of reaching Gush Dan [the Tel Aviv area].”

“Even if vessels headed for Gaza will be inspected by foreign security personnel, this (lifting blockade) will be a major security breach,” said the Shin Bet chief…

“Lifting the naval blockade would constitute a very dangerous development. A port in Gaza would be a major security breach, despite the option of inspecting vessels prior to their arrival.”

“Sinai attracts al-Qaeda (terrorists) who come from Iraq through Jordan. Terror abettors from Gaza also make their way (to Sinai), as do people who are aiding Hezbollah. The Sinai Peninsula is a vast area, and it is very difficult to control who enters it…” —  YNet

His words have already been borne out. During the recent crisis, Egypt opened its Rafah crossing to Gaza (the subject of a recent NPR news report that I wrote about recently). And here is the result:

IDF Spokesperson:

On Wednesday morning (June 16), IDF forces identified a group of armed men infiltrating Israel from the Egyptian border, approximately 40 km north of Eilat. Israel Army Radio reports that one of the men was shot and killed by the IDF forces.

The other suspects left an explosive device on Israel territory and returned to Egypt. The explosive device is currently being identified and neutralized by IDF forces. The entire process is being carried out in cooperation and coordination with Egyptian forces.

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Why I have a problem with NPR

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The following is on its way to the program director of KVPR, my local Public Radio station.

Dear Jim,

As you might remember, I stopped supporting your station in 2006, after becoming outraged at NPR’s biased coverage of the war in Lebanon. But a couple of years ago I “rejoined” because, after all, I listen to it.

So here’s my latest complaint (you can read a few of my previous ones here, here, here, here, and especially here).

NPR provides arguably the best, most complete radio news coverage widely available in the US. But it consistently portrays events in the Mideast with a steep anti-Israel tilt. And since one of the most important sources of funding for NPR is the fees paid by local stations, those of us who have a problem with NPR also have a problem with the local stations.

For example, this morning’s newscasts carried a piece by Peter Kenyon, reporting from the Egyptian side of the border between Egypt and the Gaza strip.  Kenyon slanted his story in several ways:

  1. He used the Emotive Bias Technique to ensure that the Arab side of the story would stick with the listener while the Israeli side would be forgotten
  2. He used the Selective Omission Technique to mislead without explicitly lying
  3. He quoted false statements without comment or challenge

Let’s look at some of it.

DEBORAH AMOS (host): The Gaza Strip doesn’t get many high profile visitors since the Islamism group Hamas took over three years ago and Israel imposed a blockade. But the territory is now back in the spotlight. International pressure has been building on Israel to end, or at least ease, the blockade. The head of the Arab League Amr Moussa was in Gaza yesterday to express solidarity with the people of Gaza. NPR’s Peter Kenyon traveled to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and sent this report.

PETER KENYON: Gazans were heartened by Amr Moussa’s visit and were glad to hear him repeat the Arab Leagues call for lifting the blockade.

Mr. AMR MOUSSA (Leader of Arab League): (Through translator) The position of the Arab League is clear: the siege must be ended. The Palestinian people deserve to be supported, not only by the Arab states, but by the whole world now.

KENYON: But on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border yesterday, international support wasn’t translating into much more than a trickle of Gazans making their way into Egypt. Those who did make it through, like Mohammed Awul Anane(ph), said the rest of the one-and-a-half-million Palestinians in Gaza were watching their economy and their society suffocate under the Israeli sanctions.

Kenyon and Amos have suggested that the “trickle” of traffic is due to the Israeli blockade. But this is the border with Egypt. What is omitted here is that Egypt has also closed its border with Gaza, because Hamas is aligned with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which is trying to subvert the Mubarak regime and install a radical Islamist one. These are the same folks that murdered Anwar Sadat for trying to make peace. This counts as selective omission.

The listener is also left with the assumption that Gazan society is ‘suffocating’, because  a Palestinian says so. But actually there is a huge amount of international aid reaching Gaza, plus a vibrant smuggling economy. Nobody is suffocating, but Kenyon doesn’t comment on this false implication.

Mr. MOHAMMED AWUL ANANE: (Through translator) How can I describe it? There’s no other word for it but tragedy, a tragedy. People are living as if they’re already in their graves.

KENYON: Israel defends the blockade, saying it has no intention of letting Gaza’s Hamas rulers acquire new weapons and military-style fortifications so they can resume firing rockets at southern Israeli towns. Israeli officials have also defended their decision to send an elite naval commando unit to raid a Turkish-registered aid ship two weeks ago. The raid left eight Turks and a Turkish-American dead and sparked an outcry that has evolved into mounting international pressure to at least ease the blockade and perhaps allow in items such as cement and steel to help rebuild Gaza’s shattered infrastructure.

This is wonderful! First, notice how the Palestinian complaint is put in the mouth of a real person, who speaks with emotional intensity, while the Israeli position is presented in one dry sentence. It’s a paradigm case of the Emotive Bias Technique.

Now look at the statement about the interception of a Turkish ship attempting to break the legal blockade of Gaza. Kenyon omits the most important facts about the incident, which are that the Israeli boarding party was viciously attacked by a group of thugs who boarded the ship separately from the other passengers, who did not undergo security checks, who were well-organized and armed with pipes, knives, axes, slingshots and other weapons, wore gas masks and ceramic vests,  who took over the upper deck of the ship and attempted to tear the Israelis to pieces as they landed (you can read more about it here and here or watch the video here).

Saying that the raid “left eight … dead” obscures the fact that the Israelis acted in self-defense — the dead were killed while trying to commit murder. That’s one hell of a selective omission!

The piece continues:

KENYON: Twenty-five-year-old Mohammed Howaja(ph) has a slightly dazed look as he steps onto the Egyptian side of Rafah. It’s the first time in his life that he’s set foot out of Gaza, he says, and he’s off to Alexandria to study law. When asked how he got approval to leave, he said as with many of his fellow travelers, he paid someone off.

Mr. MOHAMMED HOWAJA: (Through translator) Five times this month I tried to get a permit, and each time I was turned down. Finally, I brought money. I paid in order to come out.

KENYON: When asked how many Gazans would leave if they had the chance, he immediately said all of them. And it was hard to tell if he was joking.

Keep in mind that this is the Egyptian border. He paid Egyptians, Hamas people, or both; not Israelis. And we are not sure that he wants to leave because of the blockade: maybe he’s secular, Christian, a Fatah supporter, gay, or any number of things that would make life under Hamas quite literally impossible.

It concludes:

At the moment, support for the Palestinians of Gaza seems to be on a rare upward trend, while analysts say Israel is looking increasingly isolated. Israel’s defense minister canceled a trip to Paris – in part, officials said, because of difficult questions he might face. But as far as 35-year-old Palestinian Essam Ellion(ph) is concerned, Gazans have a long and forlorn history of trying to live on kind words of solidarity, and it’s not working.

Mr. ESSAM ELLION: (Through translator) As far as I can tell, it’s just empty talk, just words piled on words. I’m without hope right now. There’s nothing real, nothing we can touch or see on the ground when it comes to ending the siege.

KENYON: These Palestinians who have just walked out of a tiny, overcrowded coastal strip where 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, say that kind of pessimism may be one of the few things growing in Gaza these days.

Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, canceled his trip to Paris not because of  the possibility of “difficult questions,” but rather because anti-Israel activists were planning to embarrass him by filing trumped-up “war crimes” charges against him in French courts.

Regarding the long-suffering Gazans, keep in mind that all Hamas would have to do to end the blockade (it is not a ‘siege’, there is plenty of food, medicine, etc. getting in) is to stop the continuous attempts to infiltrate and tunnel into Israel in order to kill Israelis and take hostages, to stop firing rockets into Israel — yes, they are still doing that — and last but not least, release Gilad Shalit, who has been held incommunicado in an underground bunker by Hamas for four long years.

Jim, I think this makes it clear why I have a problem with NPR. I am suggesting that you and the station take it up with the network, because they certainly don’t care what I think.

But I hope that you do.

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Neighborhood Bully

Monday, June 14th, 2010

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Bob Dylan fan site has blocked users inside Israel from accessing the site in what the site operator calls a cultural boycott in response to Israel’s interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla.

Users with an Israel IP address are directed to webmaster Eyolf Ostrem’s blog.

His message to Israeli users reads: “As a contribution to a cultural boycott of the state of Israel — a long overdue reaction to the absurd inhumanity that is demonstrated in its actions and that goes against everything that I and this site stands for — access to dylanchords has been blocked for visitors from Israel…”

Ostrem, a Danish music expert, continues the discussion on his blog, calling Israel “a fascist, belligerent regime.”

Neighborhood Bully, by Bob Dylan

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully

Copyright © 1983 by Special Rider Music

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Antisemitic craziness for beginners

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Question: which Hamas leader wrote the following this past week?

… the full lunacy and vileness of this latest Israeli war crime is becoming clear to all who can read. Israeli propaganda has worked overtime, based on the kidnapping of the activists, isolating them from the whole world, confiscating all their material evidence, on top of the brutalities of maiming and murdering many of them. This meant that for the last few days, only the the voice of Israeli propaganda was available to the international media. Fictional narratives, more complex than most Hollywood scripts, were woven and reinforced by what must be the largest propaganda machine anywhere.

Of course, this matter [sic] little now. The facts are now coming out, and many inquiries will be conducted and will establish the full horror of this murderous piracy. The world will not be fooled by this anymore…

The resolution of this conflict will only be reached by the annulling Zionism and its racism, its military and ‘civil’ racist machineries, the total removal of all settler communities, and the return of Palestinian refugees, as well as the payment of full compensation to all those who were hurt by the Zionist enterprise over the last few decades.

Give up?

Haim Bresheeth

Haim Bresheeth

No Hamas leader, not even a Turkish Hamas supporter! It was an Israeli Jew and a child of Holocaust survivors, Professor Haim Bresheeth (h/t, Israel Academia Monitor), Chair of Media and Cultural Studies, Deputy Dean of School, University of East London, formerly of Sapir College in the Western Negev — not far from Sderot, a favorite Hamas target. Maybe the din of Qassams landing addled his brain (in case you think he makes sense, the truth about the boarding of the Mavi Marmara is here, here and here).

Bresheeth is the author of several books, including one actually titled “Holocaust for Beginners,” (also translated into Turkish and Croatian!) and numerous articles.  Here is another example of his writing, from in article in the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram (2006):

A sorry tale of collusion emerges from almost every leading newspaper, every hour of quality radio, every current affairs television programme. It is well known that many Jews front numerous media outlets and discourse on the continued Middle Eastern saga of pain, violence and propaganda, yet no one seems to think this strange. There are no Arabs, or even influential Muslims, in similar positions in the British or American media. That in itself is worrying, but would have been less so if we had examples of a wide variety of positions taken by influential Jews — if some were, for example, doing better than mouthing Israeli propaganda, and imaginatively representing the Palestinian, Arab or Muslim perspective, or being sometimes critical of Israel’s positions, especially when they are so obviously not just immoral, but counter- productive. That day has not yet come, it seems.

So the Jews control the media, there are no anti-Israel Jews among Jewish news personalities, and there are no Arab or Muslim commentators heard? The mind boggles.

In 2002, after literally hundreds of Israelis were killed in a series of bloody suicide bombings which followed Arafat’s rejection of the Camp David peace proposals — it seemed at times that every few days there was a new atrocity, 20 or 30 dead — Israel embarked on Operation Defensive Shield, in which the IDF entered the Palestinian-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria and rooted out the terrorists. One of the most effective counter-terrorist operations ever, it ended the string of bloody attacks.

Naturally, there were howls of protest and condemnation from Palestinians and their supporters who saw their best weapon taken from them. Bresheeth did his part, comparing Israel’s self-defense to Nazi genocide  in an article called “The ghetto is calling“:

At this time Jews who remember the Holocaust should stand up and be counted. They should clearly say that they are totally against Israeli occupation and totally for liberation of the Palestinians from the Israeli yolk [sic]. If the future life of people in the region is dear to them, they should help Israel to free itself from the diseased and debilitating cycle of brutality that they have plunged themselves and the Palestinians into. They should clarify that Israel has not got them on its side, and is not acting in their name. It is not the Palestinians who need to be under pressure after all these years of atrocities, but the short-sightedness of the Israeli public, and its refusal to face reality.

What must come now are sanctions of every kind, withdrawal of help and cooperation from Israeli organisations, up to the point of sending an international force into the region to force the evacuation of the territories. The time has come to take a stand.

If, despite the pressing need to force an end to the violence by ending the occupation, nothing will be done — well, we know well enough what will follow. We have seen it time and again on our screens in the former Yugoslavia. Do we want to wait until all is lost? Our Palestinian friends are calling out to us. Please, let us not abandon them as European society of the 1940s abandoned my own family to their fate.

But that’s nothing. Bresheeth wrote an article in 1989, which now appears on the viciously antisemitic “Radio Islam” web site, called “Zionism and the Holocaust.” In it, he argues that German Zionists colluded with the Nazis, that “Zionism agrees with the basic tenet of anti-Semitism, namely that Jews cannot live with non-Jews,” and that Zionists helped the Germans exterminate the Hungarian Jews. This one, and the site that it appears on, is so vile that I won’t link to it. Google it if you must.

Anti-Israel Jews aren’t news, especially when they are Israeli academics. But Haim Bresheeth is notable because he is also an antisemite, and because the rubbish that he writes is far out even for its genre.

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