Archive for June, 2010

Investigate Turkish Treachery!

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

I know I promised not to write more about this, but it will not go away.

Speaking to CNN’s Larry King [last week], Obama said, “You’ve got loss of life that was unnecessary. So we are calling for an effective investigation of everything that happened. I think the Israelis are going to agree to that — an investigation of international standards — because they recognize that this can’t be good for Israel’s long-term security.  — YNet

I don’t know what he means by ‘of international standards’, but I agree that there absolutely needs to be an investigation.

However — and I say this in all seriousness — it is not Israel which should be investigated. It’s quite clear what Israel did (you can watch the video if you haven’t already), and why it was done.

What needs to be investigated is the vicious attack on the boarding party: who financed and organized the perpetrators, how they got on the ship, and what their connection was to the Turkish regime.

Here are some facts:

1. An initial analysis of statements taken from passengers aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara after it was towed to the port of Ashdod show that operatives belonging to the radical Islamic Turkish IHH led the violent confrontation with the IDF.

2. The statements confirmed that the violence met by the IDF soldiers was not spontaneous but rather an organized, premeditated action carried out by a hard core of 40 IHH operatives (among the 500 passengers). The operatives, who acted according to a clearly-defined internal hierarchy, boarded the ship in the port of Istanbul without undergoing a security inspection (as opposed to the other passengers, who boarded in Antalya after a full inspection).

3. The IHH operatives’ preparations included handing out walkie-talkies as they boarded the ship, taking over the upper deck, setting up a situation room for communications, and a briefing given to the operatives two hours before the confrontation by IHH head Bülent Yildirim, who was on board the ship and commanded his men. IHH operatives wore ceramic vests and gas masks, and were armed with large quantities of cold weapons which they had prepared from equipment found on board (knives, axes, metal cables, metal pipes used as clubs, wrenches, etc.). They were also equipped with box cutters which had been prepared on the upper deck in advance.

4. The passengers, including the IHH operatives, stated that there were close relations between the organization and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and that the Turkish government was involved in preparations for the flotilla. The statements reinforce the original assessment that the objective of the flotilla was not merely to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, but focused on provocation and a violent confrontation with Israel.

5. According to statements from the passengers, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan maintains close contacts with IHH. The flotilla set sail with the full knowledge and agreement of Erdoğan, who expressed personal interest in its success and his intention to exploit it promote his status in Turkey and the Arab-Muslim world. Passengers said that before the flotilla set sail, Prime Minister Erdoğan constructed a scenario based on a possible confrontation with Israel which he could use to further his own needs. The statements were supported by descriptions found in files on laptop computers belonging to the passengers.

There’s much more. I think that only a thorough, impartial international investigation can determine the facts. And if it is determined that elements of the Turkish regime were responsible or even knew about the plan in advance, they should be held to account — perhaps by the International Criminal Court.

But even this may not be the worst of it. Barry Rubin, who has excellent connections in Turkey, writes,

There is a widespread story, which cannot yet be verified but seems to be more than a rumor, for why this tragedy might have happened. People ask: Why did the Israeli soldiers land on a ship where they should have expected to be received with a violent attack?

According to some people who are in a position to know, here’s the reason: Erdoğan assured Israel that the ship’s passengers were peaceful and there would be no violence. That’s why Israel approached taking and diverting the ship in the manner it did.

Keep in mind that Erdoğan went into a full-bore diplomatic and propaganda attack immediately after the incident. If this report turns out to be true, then this affair will make its mark in the annals of diplomatic treachery.

Turkish PM Erdoğan explains his motives.

Turkish PM Erdoğan explains his motives.

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Reverse linkage

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I had a discussion with a friend the other day in which we talked about one-state and two-state solutions. She didn’t see how a two-state solution could work (neither do I), but a one-state solution is worse. What to do? My usual response is “do nothing and wait for the Arabs to change,” which is kind of unsatisfying, I admit.

Backing up a bit, the two-state solution won’t work mainly because the major Palestinian factions – roughly divided into the Arafatists and Hamas – don’t want it. Neither group can swallow a sovereign Jewish state of any size, although their ideas of the kind of Arab state that they would replace it with and their strategies for getting there may differ.

The Obama plan envisions either somehow getting the Palestinian factions together or having the Arafatists crush Hamas. In either case the resultant will continue to ‘resist’ the ‘occupation’ which began with the Zionist aliyah of the 1880’s. Either the administration is naïve, or it just doesn’t care about the result once it has discharged its obligation to create ‘Palestine’.

The fundamental problem is that the Palestinians think that they can win if they resist persistently enough. They like to use the example of the 200-year occupation of the Holy Land by the crusaders.

This is why the Oslo accord failed. The agreements proposed at Camp David and Taba called for an actual end to the conflict and did not include a ‘return’ of Arab refugees to Israel. In other words, they left the Jewish state standing. But Arafat thought that with more patience and sacrifice, he could reach his goal of no Jewish state.

Daniel Pipes explained this in one of the most widely (and deliberately) misunderstood remarks anyone has made about the conflict. He said that the Palestinians had to be beaten and humiliated, they had to lose hope on a large scale before there could be peace. He was accused of everything from Islamophobia to advocating genocide, but all he meant was that they had to stop believing that they could win everything before they would consider a compromise in which both sides would have something.

As long as the Palestinians continue to believe that the destruction of Israel is just around the corner – or at least inevitable – there will be no peaceful solution to the conflict.

They are encouraged in their intransigence by the international Left, which makes a huge amount of noise in their favor, and by Western governments that see some advantage in supporting them. And hatred of Israel has become a religious issue – a brand new ‘pillar of Islam’ – for many Muslims.

Recently the anti-Israel forces have a new primary patron, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran has changed the military balance of power in the region by arming Israel’s traditional enemy, Syria, by installing its Hizballah proxy in Lebanon, by arming and financing Hamas, and most of all, by developing nuclear weapons.

A very troubling sign is the movement of Turkey away from the West and Israel and toward the Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas bloc. Nothing made this more evident than last week’s Mavi Marmara incident.

The Palestinians see all this as vindication of their patient strategy and are positively salivating over the thought – voiced by Ahmadinejad this week – that Israel’s destruction is at hand. The hope that feeds Palestinian extremism is coming from Iran.

The Obama administration thinks that by forcing Israel to acquiesce to the creation of a Palestinian state it will reduce extremism and make it easier to deal with Iranian ambitions (this is called ‘linkage’). But as we’ve seen, weakening Israel only exacerbates extremism. And Iran is driving the Palestinians, not the reverse!

Most observers believe that the buildup of arms on Israel’s northern border, as well as in Gaza, will certainly lead to war at some point. Are they just going to pile up all of those rockets and not use them? It’s not likely.

Ahmadinejad and his new ally Erdoğan seem to enjoy predicting war and hinting that it will lead to big changes (by which they mean the end of Israel). But this can work both ways.

When war comes, there will be an opportunity to change the equation which has stymied all attempts at a solution of the conflict. This will require Israel to frame its war goals as not simply to repel the attackers and punish them enough to deter future attacks (for a while, anyway), but to fundamentally shift the balance of power in the region. But Israel can’t do this alone.

The most important goal must be to neutralize Iran as a destabilizing force. At the very least this implies that its nuclear weapons development capability must be destroyed. At the most it must include forcing a regime change. Iran must not be able to continue its role as ‘the arsenal of rejectionism’.

The Syrian missile arsenal, especially its non-conventional weapons, must be eliminated.

Hizballah and Hamas must be removed as military threats, and their leadership wiped out as well. Israel could have finished Hamas in 2008-9, but was prevented from doing so by US pressure. This simply can’t be allowed to happen again.

This is a massive task even for a major military power, which Israel is definitely not. Too bad that the Obama administration doesn’t realize that a humbled Iran would be the best thing that could happen for US interests.

Israel is only a sideshow for Iran, whose main goal is to kick US influence out of the Middle East so that it can control the oil supply and build its Caliphate. Indeed, one of the main reasons Iran is hostile to Israel is that it sees it as an American base (of course another reason is that to be the leader of the Muslim world, you have to be the biggest enemy of Israel, a lesson Turkish PM Erdoğan has taken to heart).

The Obama approach seems to be to withdraw from the Mideast while doing his best not to step on the toes of Iran and the Muslim world so that when the nuclear, oil-rich Caliphate becomes a major world power, it will let us alone. This of course misses the point that for religious-ideological reasons, it won’t let us alone.

But the US has the ability to set the Iranian nuclear project back a generation, or end it altogether, although there is a very small window of time within which this is possible.

Meanwhile, Israel could bring down Hizballah, which has been called Iran’s Foreign Legion, and which is one of Iran’s main tools for striking against the West. It would also be happy to neutralize Syria and Hamas.

By cooperating with Israel, an ally both practically and ideologically, the US has a chance to resist and even reverse Iran’s progress, and perhaps change the course of world history. And at the same time, by removing the driving force behind Palestinian extremism, Obama could actually achieve what he has promised to do: end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What a deal!

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Helen Thomas gets a D in History

Monday, June 7th, 2010

The interesting thing about Helen Thomas’ widely quoted remarks (video here)  is not that she has been revealed as an anti-Semite (or not). And the appropriate reply, much as it may seem unsatisfying to some, is not to bring up the Holocaust.

Why did she say that the Jews should go back to Poland and Germany?

The implication is that the Jews came and ‘occupied’   Palestinian land, dispossessing the former owners. The implication is that Israel is illegitimate and the Jews do not have the right to be there. Probably she would also say that “Palestinians should not have to suffer for European crimes,” suggesting that Israel was created to assuage European guilt for the Holocaust. This is a common theme in statements by Hamas and Iranian leaders too.

But a journalist of experience and reputation, as Thomas was, should have a better understanding of history. To coin a phrase, “she who doesn’t understand history is doomed to not understand current events either.”

Did she know that the majority of today’s ‘Palestinians’ are descended from Arabs of Syria and Egypt that migrated to the region in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many in the latter period, when the Zionist presence created economic opportunity? Was she aware that the father of Palestinian nationalism, Yasser Arafat, was born in Cairo, Egypt?

Did she sleep through the class where she could have learned that there were several hundred thousand Jews in ‘Palestine’ at the time of the Muslim conquest in the Seventh Century (Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed, Chapter 1)? True, this number was significantly lower until the 1880’s — thanks to the friendly Muslims — but Jews have been there since biblical times.

Did she know that the League of Nations Mandate was approving of Jewish self-determination, understanding it as something which needn’t prejudice the rights of others in the region? And that early Zionists — including both the Labor and Revisionist variety — fully envisioned it this way?

Wasn’t she aware, though, that cooperation between Jew and Arabs during the mandate period was sabotaged by the Nazi-aligned Mufti, who encouraged murderous pogroms? Did she know that at the same time, the Mufti’s family was making buckets of money selling land at exorbitant prices to the Jews?

Did she know that the Jews had built the complete infrastructure of a state long before it was possible to kick the British out?

Did she  know the story of the War of Independence — Karsh does a good job of telling it — and precisely how the behavior of their leadership, the Mufti in particular, ensured that the Palestinian Arabs did not get a state of their own?

Did she skip over the part about how the policies of the Mufti and the Arab nations bear the primary responsibility for the creation of 650,000 Arab refugees?

Did she know how the Arab nations conspired to create a permanently stateless group of nearly 5 million claimants to ‘Palestinian’ nationality, who must be supported forever on the international dole, as a club to beat Israel with?

Didn’t she notice how these same ‘Palestinians’, under the leadership of the aforementioned Arafat, tore apart the nation of Lebanon (from which Thomas’ parents emigrated to the US, incidentally)?

Did she also miss the greatest contribution made by the Palestinian people to human society, the popularization of terrorism as an implement of policy (or sometimes just for fun)?

Did she know that about half of the Jews in Israel are descended from Jews who lived outside of Europe, mostly in Arab countries? And that something like 800,000 of them were kicked out of these Arab countries between 1948 and the early ’50’s?

Whew. There’s a lot of history that Helen Thomas doesn’t seem to know.

Update [8 June 1122 PDT]: Thomas retired after a flood of criticism. But the criticism was almost entirely couched in the inappropriateness of her comments regarding Jews. It crosses the line to talk about Jews returning to Poland and Germany, where they were murdered.

The real thrust of her remarks was that Israel does not have a right to exist. I wonder if the reaction would have been the same if she had simply said that?

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A diplomatic and information Pearl Harbor

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

This is the last thing I’m going to write about the Mavi Marmara  incident (after all, it’s been almost a week).

As a military ‘disaster’, it was a very small one. There have been much bigger mistakes. In the 1916 Battle of the Somme, over 19,000 British soldiers were sent to their deaths in one day as a result of poor intelligence and command incompetence. In 1945, the RAF sank the Cap Arcona, Thielbek, and the SS Deutschland in Lübeck, Germany; the ships had 7,000 concentration camp survivors and (mostly Russian) prisoners of war on board. In 1999, the US accidentally bombed the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Belgrade, killing three Chinese citizens. One could go on almost indefinitely.

Last week, poor planning led to the injury of several Israeli naval commandos and the death of nine Turkish nationals who were either mercenary thugs recruited for the purpose or members of Islamic extremist groups, whose intention was to kill the Israelis. It would have been remarkable if the boarding had been effected without killing anyone given the circumstances, but Israel has carried out similar operations in the past, so I assume that it could have been done given better intelligence, etc.

Put simply, in the process of defending itself against Hamas — do I need to bring up the irony of the fact that Hamas deliberately targets civilians? — Israeli soldiers were attacked by ‘civilians’ who were in fact guerrilla fighters. Every one of the nine killed were among this group: no women, children or ‘humanitarian activists’ were hurt.

Israel officially regrets the death of the nine guerrillas. Personally, I wouldn’t regret the death of someone who was trying to beat my brains out with an iron pipe, but then I’m not a diplomat.

The real ‘disaster’ was the reaction of Turkish PM Erdoğan, the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, and numerous governments, including of course the intrepid Obama Administration. This diplomatic and media frenzy has as yet shown no signs of abating, even as Israel peacefully intercepts additional ships of the flotilla. Its goal is to weaken and demonize Israel, and to strengthen and legitimize Hamas.

It was a double ambush. First, her soldiers were attacked by thugs, and then Israel was attacked by Turkey and her allies diplomatically and in the media.

Israel has suffered a diplomatic and information Pearl Harbor —  a vicious sneak attack which used this incident as a pretext. Erdoğan has been looking for, and finding, pretexts for some time now, but this one seems to be the most effective yet. And he’s found numerous allies, such as the UN Human Rights Council, the folks that brought us the Goldstone Report, for whom ‘diplomatic lynch mob’ is too kind a description.

It’s hard to believe that the Turkish PM did not know in advance that there would be violent resistance to the Israelis:

The group behind the violent resistance, the IDF believes, was hired by IHH, the radical Turkish Islamic group that funded the flotilla. The 50 or so members of this violent group were not carrying identity cards or passports. Each of them had an envelope in his pocket with about $10,000 in cash. One member of the group, who appears to have been the ringleader, it is claimed, traveled to Bursa in northwest Turkey and allegedly recruited mercenaries there.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a known supporter of IHH and there are suspicions in Israel that he, or other government officials, may have personally instructed the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara to violently attack the soldiers. — Jerusalem Post

And it is equally hard to believe that the diplomatic pressure now being put on Israel via the UN, the Obama Administration, etc., spearheaded by Turkey, was not also preplanned.

Israel was caught in a trap, probably set at the highest levels of the Turkish government.

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Respect, not understanding

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called. — Leon Wieseltier

Many share his opinion. They say “If only intelligence had been better, if only the soldiers had been better prepared, if only the planning could have been more complete, etc.” Israelis and Jews are very good at beating themselves up.

Today they are doing a better job on themselves than the Turks did on Monday.

Certainly this operation could have gone more smoothly. Somebody screwed up, and somebody didn’t catch it. But the worldwide anti-Zionist hate machine is always primed and ready to go. It would have found something else, maybe next week or next month. Or lacking an actual incident, it would have invented one.

Consider Operation Cast Lead. As I and others (video here) have said, probably never in the history of urban warfare have so many precautions been taken and the actual civilian death toll been so low, especially given the deliberate use of schools, hospitals, mosques and other civilian structures by Hamas. But it didn’t matter — the hate machine ran 24/7 in overdrive and drowned out the truth.

The tender-minded say “We have to be better,” while the tougher prefer “we have to be smarter.” Both types miss the point:

It doesn’t matter what we do or say. We are not witnesses in some celestial court. We are fighting both physical and information wars here on earth with enemies who will do anything they can to get an advantage.

The truth has no importance in the information struggle. What counts is how many sign up on your side and how loud you can be. And yes, as we often see at our universities, how intimidating. The numbers are not on our side.

Sometimes when I hear Israeli officials or diaspora Jews explaining how Israel has a right to self-defense, etc., I am reminded of this scene in “Schindler’s list”:

Reiter: I’m a graduate of Civil Engineering from the University of Milan.
Amon Goeth: Ah, an educated Jew… like Karl Marx himself. Unterscharfuehrer!
Hujar: Jawohl?
Amon Goeth: Shoot her.
Reiter: Herr Kommandant! I’m only trying to do my job!
Amon Goeth: Ja, I’m doing mine.
(Hujar shoots, point blank. Reiter falls instantly)

You see, they are not listening. The UN ‘Human Rights’ Council, dominated by latter-day Goeths, cannot be expected to listen.

Wieseltier describes the PR failures, the slow reaction of the IDF in releasing the videos showing what actually happened, the amateurish way it was presented to the foreign press, etc. All of this is true and it should have been done differently.  But none of it will matter in the long run. Do you think the Turkish PM will call up Netanyahu and say “you know, I saw the videos and I’m sorry?” This is the guy who thinks Americans and Israelis conspired to steal organs from murdered Iraqis.

Yes, Israel should ‘get its act together’ where PR is concerned. And whoever was responsible for planning the boarding operation should be given a different job.

But we should not expect ‘understanding’ from the world. We should simply make sure we get respect.

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