Archive for July, 2010

Israelis were attacked with live fire on Mavi Marmara

Monday, July 12th, 2010

The IDF has just announced the results of its investigation of the events that took place when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara on May 31. Note that this is the internal military investigation — there will still be a formal Israeli inquiry, the Turkel Commission, which will include foreign observers.

Maj. Gen (res.) Giora Eiland’s briefing included the following (paraphrased by a member of the IDF Spokesperson staff who was present):

There were at least 4 incidents where Mavi Marmara passengers shot at IDF soldiers. There is good reason to believe that the first incident of live fire shooting on the ship was by passengers of the Mavi Marmara.

A senior IDF official said that the first incident of live fire occurred when the second commando who landed on the deck was shot with a gun that had been taken either from him or the previous soldier. Another soldier was shot in the knee by a weapon which was not IDF issue. Shell casings from non-IDF weapons were also found on the deck.

He also said that three soldiers, all injured, were taken hostage and taken to a lower deck. Two of them managed to escape, jumping into the sea where they were picked up. The third was very seriously injured, and he was rescued by other soldiers.

According to the official, all the soldiers who fired their weapons did so because they were in life-threatening situations.

I don’t expect to hear this on NPR or read it in an AP report in my local newspaper.

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Fenton’s mistake

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago “US PR firm paid to demonize Israel” became by far the most popular post ever on this blog, with over 2400 hits within a couple of days. I understand it was distributed by various email lists as well.

Based on information developed by The Israel Project, it described the role of Fenton Communications, a PR firm specializing in liberal causes ( was a client) in supporting the Free Gaza flotilla.

Fenton has apparently decided that it can’t take the heat:

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.S. public relations firm said it will not renew its contract with a pro-Palestinian group that helped to organize the flotilla that aimed to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The announcement from Fenton Communications, which specializes in PR for not-for-profit groups, followed The Israel Project’s distribution of a news release publicizing Fenton’s representation of Fakhoora on June 23.

The release noted Fakhoora’s role in helping to organize the flotilla of six aid ships…

According to its website, Fakhoora is a campaign to help improve education for children in Gaza. The organization is supported by the second wife of the emir of Qatar, whose office paid Fenton to represent Fakhoora from March 1 to Aug. 31.

Fenton distributed materials on the Fakhoora’s website, such as a “flotilla action alert,” and helped spread the organization’s message through social networking sites such as Facebook.

The Fakhoora website developed by Fenton was slick, attractive and state-of-the-art, with links to Twitter and an active, well-developed Facebook page.  The focus on education did not obscure the message, which was to demonize Israel and support the aims of Hamas.

Fenton’s mistake was probably to provide too much information with its Foreign Agent Registration form. Live and learn.

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Release the Obama-Khalidi tape!

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Barry Rubin recently posted an article on the Obama-Israel relationship here. He makes some good points, but what caught my attention was an offhand remark:

By the way, note that the Los Angeles Times has still not released the video of Obama speaking at a Palestinian meeting. Why not? Surely if his speech was so banal there would be no reason to withhold that evidence. We know about Reverend Wright and a lot more as well. But if the policy in the White House had been different, no one would be dwelling on that now.

What video?

The event in question was a 2003 going-away party for Obama’s friend, Rashid Khalidi. In an April 2008 article, the LA Times described it thus:

CHICAGO — It was a celebration of Palestinian culture — a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.

A special tribute came from Khalidi’s friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi’s wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.” …

And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor’s going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.

Their belief is not drawn from Obama’s speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.

At Khalidi’s 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, “then you will never see a day of peace.”  …

Among other community events, Obama in 1998 attended a speech by Edward Said, the late Columbia University professor and a leading intellectual in the Palestinian movement. According to a news account of the speech, Said called that day for a nonviolent campaign “against settlements, against Israeli apartheid.”

The use of such language to describe Israel’s policies has drawn vehement objection from Israel’s defenders in the United States. A photo on the pro-Palestinian website the Electronic Intifada [see below — ed] shows Obama and his wife, Michelle, engaged in conversation at the dinner table with Said, and later listening to Said’s keynote address. Obama had taken an English class from Said as an undergraduate at Columbia University…

At Khalidi’s going-away party in 2003, the scholar lavished praise on Obama, telling the mostly Palestinian American crowd that the state senator deserved their help in winning a U.S. Senate seat. “You will not have a better senator under any circumstances,” Khalidi said.

The event was videotaped, and a copy of the tape was obtained by The Times. (my emphasis)

In October 2008, a mini-media furor erupted. The McCain campaign demanded a copy of the video, but the Times refused, with editor Russ Stanton claiming that “it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it…”

The Times claimed that it had done its duty to inform the public by describing the party in the original article. But while the article transcribes some militant anti-Israel statements made by others, Obama’s remarks as quoted are scrubbed clean of any political content. Only his opinion of Mona Khalidi’s cooking remains.

Can we believe that he made no comments whatever about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speech? Even the Times doesn’t assert that. Conservative bloggers (see also here) and commentators demanded that the Times at least release a full transcript of Obama’s words at the event, but the Times refused — even though such a transcript would not violate its promise to its source any more than the original article did.

The election is long over, and Bill O’Reilly et al seem to have forgotten about the tape. But the question of Barack Obama’s intentions in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issue burns even brighter today than it did in 2008. Obama has been called everything from a staunch friend of Israel to an anti-Zionist who has made a secret agreement with the Saudi king to “deliver Israel”.

Obama’s remarks to pro-Israel audiences have been made public. Now it’s time to find out what he says to his Palestinian friends.

It’s time for the LA Times to release a transcript of Barack Obama’s remarks at the 2003 meeting, or adequately document the agreement which prevents it from doing so — if there is one, which I doubt.

Michelle and Barack Obama with Edward Said and his wife Mariam at a 1998 event in Chicago -- from Electronic Intifada.

Michelle and Barack Obama with Edward Said and his wife Mariam at a 1998 event in Chicago -- from Electronic Intifada.

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Queers for Palestine: Stockholm Syndrome by proxy

Friday, July 9th, 2010
QUIT banner, San Francisco (courtesy ZombieTime)

QUIT banner, San Francisco (courtesy ZombieTime)

Some of the strangest phenomena in the admittedly strange landscape of the Left are “Queers for Palestine” (or QUIT — Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism), “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” (QuAIA), etc.

Many commentators have pointed out the irony in the fact that gays and lesbians cannot live openly in either the Hamas or Fatah dominated areas of ‘Palestine’, where homosexuality is — officially or unofficially — punishable by torture, prison or death, and that many gay Palestinian Arabs have fled to Israel.

These groups respond that they identify with the Palestinians because gays and Palestinians are both persecuted. And, absurdly, that Israeli security measures are bad for gay Arabs because they make it hard for them to escape Palestinian homophobia!

Just take for example the fact that there is no place on earth, not one square foot where a queer Palestinian citizen of Israel, a queer from Gaza, the West Bank, and a queer Palestinian refugee could meet. Gazans are under siege and cannot leave, people in the West Bank need permits to travel, Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot go to Gaza or the West Bank and many refugees cannot go anywhere. So before we criticize Palestinian homophobia, we need to look at the challenges facing activists there, and remember that there are activists there. We need to ask how can we best support queer Palestinian social movements? The answer to us is clearly that we fight Israeli apartheid.  — QuAIA FAQ

Not only that, but Palestinian mistreatment of gays is Israel’s fault in the first place:

There can’t be freedom of gender and sexuality without freedom from daily violence and the right to love who you choose, live where you choose, and attend groups, meetings and political activities without persecution.  Road blocks, military checkpoints, house demolitions, curfews and the apartheid wall are all part of the daily reality for all Palestinians, regardless of their orientation.

And it can’t be fixed until Israel is out of the picture:

Queer struggles against homophobia in Palestine will never flourish as long as Palestinians live under the intolerable conditions of occupation, violence, and Israeli state terror that disrupt and regulate their daily existence.

These groups marshal all of the usual (specious) reasons to hate Israel, but they never explain why it’s important to express their opinion as gays and lesbians. A gay person can be as pro-Palestinian as anyone, but why specifically in terms of sexual identity — especially in the face of overwhelming evidence that the object of support would as soon murder them as talk to them?

I’ll take a stab at an explanation.

The simplest one is that the members of these groups are honestly convinced that Palestinian Arabs are victims of racism and oppression, etc. Social acceptance of homosexuals in the US and Canada is a relatively new and somewhat spotty thing (the murder of Matthew Shepard took place in 1998). Most have personal stories, some horrifying. So they could be expected to identify with a supposedly persecuted minority.

But this doesn’t explain why there isn’t, for example, a “Queers for Darfur,” or any number of oppressed peoples. I think there’s another psychological reason: I think that the sheer brutality of the treatment of gays in Arab society is too much for some people to deal with. By supporting the Palestinian cause they don’t have to think about how some Arabs suffer because they are gay — just like they are. Rather, they think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is comfortably far away.

This is similar to the Stockholm syndrome, in which a victimized person gains comfort by identifying with the victimizer. In this case, Palestinians are victimizing people with whom the subject feels kinship. Indeed, but for the accident of geography, it could very well be the subject who is beaten to death for the crime of being gay. We can call it “Stockholm Syndrome by proxy.”

Indeed, I think a lot of Jewish anti-Zionism could be explained the same way.

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A stupid, worthless charade

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

PM Netanyahu met Obama this week with smiles, photos, expressions of love between Michelle and Sara, and so forth. And as always, the content of the discussion was “what concessions will Israel make in order to ‘move the peace process forward’?”

In an interview with the irritating George Stephanopolus on ABC this morning, the conversation went this way:

Stephanopolous: So you’re open to extending the [settlement] freeze?

Netanyahu: I’m open to beginning peace negotiations now, and that’s what I want to do. And by the way, I’ve been open for the last year and a quarter. I think we’ve wasted a lot of time with these kinds of excuses, preconditions, all sorts of things that are packed in the way of a simple action.

You know, you’ve seen these pictures of peace conferences. Let’s put it in the Middle East as a peace tent. We’re sitting in the tent, we’re waiting for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, to sit on the other side, across the table, in the tent. And the Palestinians say, we won’t even enter the tent before the tent or the one before that tent as well.

I say, just fold the tents, get into the main arena, engage in negotiations. Let’s not waste our energies on ancillary things, on minor things. Let’s try to resolve the issues of security, territory, refugees, water. These are huge issues. I think, I’m confident that if I’m convinced that our security needs are met, I think I can bring the peace that the majority of the people of Israel will support. And what we’d really like to see is that the Palestinians understand that we expect them to end the conflict. That the state that they will receive will not be a platform for additional conflicts against Israel, but an end to the conflict with solid security.

The last sentence is almost the whole story. And it is part of the reason that the whole process is a stupid, worthless charade.

The official Palestinian Authority (PA) position, as expressed by the Palestinian Arab media and educational system — for details ad nauseum, see Palestinian Media Watch — is that all of ‘Palestine’ from the river to the sea belongs to them:

So-called 'moderate' PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with map showing 'Palestine'

So-called 'moderate' PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with map showing 'Palestine'

President Abbas with another map. Note that although the names of neighboring countries appear in English, there is no mention of Israel.

President Abbas with another map. Note that although the names of neighboring countries appear in English, there is no mention of Israel.

Palestinian Arab heroes are men and women who have murdered Jewish men, women and children in the name of ‘Palestine’:

Israeli athletes murdered at Munich Olympics, 1972. Palestinian officials, including Abbas, recently eulogized perpetrator Abu Daoud.

Israeli athletes murdered at Munich Olympics, 1972. Palestinian officials, including Abbas, recently eulogized perpetrator Abu Daoud.

Abbas has never said that a peace treaty would end the conflict, and he has never agreed to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. He has only said that under certain conditions he would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories.

These are not technical issues like water rights and delineation of borders. They represent a non-acceptance of the idea of peace, and point to the likelihood of continued violence and terrorism — from a far more dangerous strategic position.

Today’s ‘peace process’ is the direct descendant of the Oslo accord, which I believe to be one of the greatest policy errors Israel has made since 1948 (another was the decision to place control of the Temple Mount in the hands of the Muslim waqf in 1967). Israel agreed to accept the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian Arabs, and resurrected Yasser Arafat, giving him weapons, power and money. Arafat — the political heir of the Nazi Mufti al-Husseini, simply lied ahout his intentions, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. And Abbas is the heir of Arafat.

But as I said, this is only part of the reason that the process is stupid and worthless.

The other part is Hamas. Hamas, unlike the PLO, doesn’t even pretend to want to end the conflict and is quite outspoken about its antisemitic ideology. Hamas is far more popular among Palestinians than Fatah, the party of Arafat and Abbas, and much more powerful militarily. The US is trying to train Abbas’ forces to the point that they will be able to resist Hamas, but — like similar attempts in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan — you can’t buy the kind of zeal that animates the Hamas fighters. So even if the Palestinian Authority soldiers don’t end up fighting Israel, it’s highly unlikely that they will risk their lives to prevent a Hamas takeover once the IDF is out of the territories.

Netanyahu knows all this, but he is being forced to go through the motions by Obama.

The original motivation of the Israeli Oslo planners and President Clinton was to bring about peace. They were unfortunately naive about their partner, who not only did not intend to end the conflict, but did his best to educate the Palestinian Arabs, especially the youth, to hate Jews and Israelis and prepare to fight them (and this effort continues under Abbas).

But the motivation today of the outside players — the US, the Europeans, etc. has changed.

It is no longer to bring about peace. The primary objective now is to create a Palestinian state. This is justified by post-colonialist ideology, the misuse of the idea of human rights, and other left-wing political theory. It is also probably motivated by a desire to appease one of the perennial sources of anti-Jewish hatred, Saudi Arabia (yes, I said anti-Jewish, not just anti-Zionist).

Israel has chosen to to pretend that everyone involved wants peace. But this is ineffective as public relations, because then Israeli objections to the concessions demanded make it look as though it is Israel that’s obstructing progress. Perhaps a better strategy would be to expose the motivations of all of the parties.

This article claims that there is an agreement between Obama and the Saudi king. Is it true? I don’t know, but certainly Israel’s Foreign Ministry can find out.

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