Archive for August, 2010

Obama and Nixon would agree on this

Monday, August 30th, 2010

What’s he trying to do, say that we can’t play politics with IRS?… Just tell George [Schultz] he should do it. — Richard M. Nixon, August 1972

Recently I wrote (“First Amendment, anyone?“) about the difficulties a Zionist organization called Z-Street was having in getting tax-deductible  — 501(c)(3) — status from the IRS. Here are some excerpts from a suit filed against the IRS by Z Street (the whole complaint is here):

14.   In a letter dated May 15, 2010, IRS Agent Diane Gentry, to whom the Z STREET file had been assigned, sent an IRS Letter 2382 requesting additional information to aid her in her review of Z STREET’s IRS Form 1023 (the “Application”).  Z STREET, by its corporate counsel, submitted a response on June 17, 2010, providing all of the requested information, most of which had already been provided in Z STREET’s initial application, including information about each of Z STREET’s board members.  In fact, detailed personal information about each Z STREET board member had to be supplied to the IRS three times, a number in excess of the experiences of  Z STREET board members for any other board on which they sit…

21.   Agent Gentry also informed Z STREET’s counsel that the IRS is carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel.

22.   Agent Gentry further stated to counsel for Z STREET: “these cases are being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

23.   Z STREET, and its President, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, have publicly taken positions on issues relating to Israel that are inconsistent with positions taken by the Obama administration.

24.   The IRS’s admissions by Agent Gentry make clear that the IRS maintains an Israel Special Policy governing the processing of applications for tax exemption by organizations which are believed to be operated by persons holding political views inconsistent with those espoused by the Obama administration, and that the Israel Special Policy mandates that such applications be scrutinized differently and at greater length, and therefore that they take longer to process than those made by organizations without that characteristic, or even that the tax-exempt application might be denied altogether on that basis.

In my previous post, I mentioned some other organizations which had received 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, including unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing case CAIR and ISNA, as well as Codepink, a group which regularly accuses the US of war crimes and has called for support of the ‘Iraqi resistance’ and US military deserters.

This new policy is apparently not only being applied to organizations that are explicitly Zionist, like Z Street. It seems that just being a Jewish group is enough. Consider this anecdote, from a reliable source:

I told the CPA who handled the 501 exemption for my organization a couple of years ago about Lori’s lawsuit.  Today he sent me an email telling me that his office is working on a tax exemption for a major Jewish religious organization that holds prayer services and Torah classes where each center files for its own exemption. There is no mention of Israel in its application.  They rec’d a letter from the IRS with the following questions:

Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?  Describe your organization’s belief system toward the land of Israel.

Need I say that the determination of tax status on the basis of the degree of agreement to administration positions is as clear a violation of the First Amendment as can be imagined? Let’s look at some of the background to this.

In the past few months, we’ve seen the development of what could be called “the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) war.” Opening shots were fired by an Israeli Zionist student group named im tirtzu, which caused a stir when it reported that a large majority of the ‘documentation’ of  Israeli ‘war crimes’ in the tendentious Goldstone report on the recent war in Gaza came from 16 left-wing Israeli NGOs, all of which were supported by the US-based New Israel Fund (NIF).

Many of these groups can only be called ‘extremist’, and they are part of the movement to delegitimize Israel. In fact, the NIF’s guidelines did not disallow funding groups that advocate ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ (BDS) against Israel. Other NIF-supported groups include Arab organizations which call for the ‘de-Zionization’ of the state.

These NGOs also received millions from the European Union. The Knesset is now considering legislation to require greater transparency in funding of Israeli groups by foreign sources. NGOs are opposing it and have even asked the EU Parliament to consider this issue (talk about interfering with Israel’s sovereignty)!

There’s a cliché about poking a hornet’s nest. Did you ever hear the angry whine of, say, ten thousand disturbed insects? This pretty much describes the response to Im Tirtzu. Groups that benefited from the NIF’s largess, even the  Union for Reform Judaism (NIF supports its initiatives in Israel) screamed bloody murder.

But they did more: they counterattacked. In a coordinated campaign in early July including the New York Times and J Street, anti-Zionist forces blasted what they called “pro-settler charities” and suggested that they ought not to have tax-deductible status. The Times article included this:

The use of charities to promote a foreign policy goal is neither new nor unique — Americans also take tax breaks in giving to pro-Palestinian groups. But the donations to the settler movement stand out because of the centrality of the settlement issue in the current talks and the fact that Washington has consistently refused to allow Israel to spend American government aid in the settlements. Tax breaks for the donations remain largely unchallenged, and unexamined by the American government. The Internal Revenue Service declined to discuss donations for West Bank settlements. State Department officials would comment only generally, and on condition of anonymity.

“It’s a problem,” a senior State Department official said, adding, “It’s unhelpful to the efforts that we’re trying to make.”

We’ve learned that on matters relating to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Times, J Street and the Obama Administration speak with one voice. And they are telling us in no uncertain terms how they feel about ‘settlers’. But Z Street does not give money to settlements (even if it did, the argument to deny 501(c)(3) status would be tortuous). It’s an advocacy and educational group.

Nevertheless, the Obama Administration — like the Nixon Administration — seems prepared to use the IRS as an instrument to punish dissenters like Z Street.

The same Administration that passionately defends the absolute right of a Muslim group of questionable ideology and funding to build a mosque in a highly sensitive location in the US — some might call it ‘unhelpful’ — has done its best to prevent Jews from building even an extra bedroom in East Jerusalem or Judea/Samaria.

Now it is using its massive power to silence American Zionists who disagree with it.

Zionists are on his list, too.

Zionists are on his list, too.

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NY Times hits bottom, sticks

Sunday, August 29th, 2010
One view of the NY Times

One view of the NY Times

One would have thought that the New York Times could not possibly descend any lower, with regular columnists like Roger Cohen and Nicholas Kristoff — and then they strike the semi-solid layer of excrement at the bottom of the bubbling pool of filth in which they live and feed, and give a platform to Ali Abunimah.

Market forces will soon flush away this shitty little newspaper, as it well deserves. It can’t happen too soon.

Abunimah’s arguments are barely worth discussing. He draws  an analogy between Hamas and Sinn Fein, suggesting that the initial refusal of the British to negotiate with the latter can be compared with Israel’s shunning of the former.

Of course Catholic nationalists did not intend to rid Northern Ireland of Protestants, nor did they believe that God commanded them to murder Protestants wherever they could be found. They did not believe that Ireland was a Catholic waqf and that the only solution to the presence of any Protestants on Irish soil was violent jihad (Hamas says all this and more about Jews and Israel).

It is one thing to enter negotiations with a group that has committed terrorist acts. It’s another entirely to talk to one that believes that it is their religious duty to kill you, all of you.

It was possible to get the IRA to declare a cease-fire and to “permit Sinn Fein to enter into inclusive political negotiations” because there was an intersection between outcomes acceptable to Sinn Fein and the British government. There is no such intersection possible between Israel and Hamas, whose bottom line is simply that there must be no Jewish state — indeed, no non-subjected Jews — in ‘Palestine’.

He writes:

Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?

You must give Abumimah and his friends credit for chutzpah: first, they invent a ‘right’ — the repatriation of the descendants of refugees from a war that their own leaders caused — that has never existed in history, then they breed a whole population in misery for years to make a demographic weapon of mass destruction out of them, and finally they demand that they be allowed to use it to end the Jewish state. What will remain for them to ‘recognize’?

Naturally, he believes that the reason the US was tough on the British but will not get tough on Israel is the nefarious Jewish (OK, he says ‘Israel’) Lobby. Hamas knew about the Jewish Lobby all along. Here’s what they wrote in their charter:

For a long time, the enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained … With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.

They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it…

Today it is Palestine, tomorrow it will be one country or another. The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying. — Hamas Covenant, sections 22, 28, 32

Abunimah, like Hamas, knows what he wants: no more Israel. Israel, one hopes, knows how to deal with Hamas.

But what does the New York Times want?

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A world without Baronesses

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

News item:

PARIS — France wants the European Union to have a seat at the table during next week’s start of US-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Washington.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said it would be “too bad” if the EU were locked out — noting the bloc’s political involvement in the region and its role as a top contributor of financial aid to the Palestinians. — Jerusalem Post

Let’s see. We have the Obama Administration, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Now we need the EU? Let’s invite J Street, too. After all,we need someone to be ‘pro-Israel’.

Not only is the EU a ‘top contributor’ to the Palestinian Authority, it also finances numerous non-governmental organizations in Israel whose primary function seems to be to delegitimize or even destabilize the Jewish state.

And the EU doesn’t shrink from trying to directly intervene in the internal affairs of Israel. For example,

Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, an organizer of the weekly Friday protests at Bil’in of the West Bank security fence, was convicted Tuesday in an Israeli military court of inciting protesters to attack Israeli soldiers and for holding protests without a permit. He will be sentenced next month. The 39-year-old schoolteacher has been jailed since December.

EU representatives attended every day of the trial, and the body’s foriegn policy chief, Catherine Ashton, released a statement Wednesday expressing concern at the conviction, saying, “The possible imprisonment of Mr. Abu Rahmeh is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non-violent manner.”

“The EU considers the route of the barrier where it is built on Palestinian land to be illegal,” it quoted her as saying in a statement. — JTA

Where to start?

The weekly protests are anything but non-violent, with Arab and international organizers doing their best to physically destroy the separation barrier, and to injure or provoke Israeli soldiers and police who are trying to defend it. One of their goals is to place international ‘activists’ in harm’s way in order to generate sympathy overseas for their cause.  In several cases — for example the recent incident in which American student Emily Henochowicz lost an  eye when she was hit by a teargas canister — they have succeeded too well.

The land that Ashton refers to is not ‘Palestinian land’. It is land that happened to be east of the line that divided Israeli from Jordanian troops in 1949, and by international law it still awaits disposition by a peace treaty between the combatants — despite the fact that Jordan decided in 1988 to give it to the PLO — a terrorist organization.

Here’s an analogy: You and I both claim to own a car. You take possession of it by force (1949), I take it back (1967), and you transfer your claim on it to the Mafia (1988). Then (2010), the EU objects to my driving it because “it belongs to those Sicilian guys.”

Our original claim, by the way, is pretty good, consisting of the original League of Nations Mandate which calls for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Clearly this doesn’t mean that all of ‘Palestine’ of the Mandate must become the Jewish national home, but it certainly doesn’t limit it to any given part (not to mention that right off the bat the British gave away a good 70% of it to their ally, Abdullah, to create the state of Transjordan).

As an aside, if the area is in dispute and you don’t want to create facts on the ground, then nobody — not Jews and not Arabs — should build anything on it. Saying that only Jews are forbidden to build looks tacky.

Some people think that the EU, being a postnational entity itself, doesn’t take kindly to Zionism. World citizens like the Baroness Ashton think that nation-states based on ethnicity or even religion — although Zionism is not essentially a religious concept, clearly Judaism has something to do with it — are passé and dangerous. Nationalism, they would say, is the main cause of war.

They are wrong. These days, the most dangerous ideology is a universalist and anti-nationalist one: radical Islam.

But note that the proposed state of ‘Palestine’ is a nation-state based on ethnicity with an established religion.

Also, I thought I’d mention that in a world without nation-states there wouldn’t be any baronesses.

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Crazy college students irrelevant to issues surrounding Islam

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Tuesday’s incident in which a Muslim cabdriver was attacked in New York is being treated as emblematic of the controversy about the Ground Zero mosque:

The police said Mr. Enright had been drinking for much of Tuesday afternoon before getting in the cab and exchanging pleasantries with the driver, Ahmed H. Sharif, 44, who is originally from Bangladesh. He asked Mr. Sharif if he was Muslim and greeted him with “salaam aleikum,” an Arabic greeting that means “peace be upon you.” He even asked Mr. Sharif how his celebration of Ramadan was going before he began cursing at him and slashing him in his face, arm and hands with a knife, Mr. Sharif told the police. — NY Times

Here are some of the things being said about it:

  • It was the fault of Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk radio hosts who have stirred up Islamophobia
  • The perpetrator was a right-winger
  • No, he was a left-winger
  • It’s all about the mosque — this shows it should be built
  • It’s all about the mosque — this shows it should not be built

How about this: he was both drunk and crazy, and picked an issue that resonated in his drunk and crazy brain. It is entirely irrelevant to the mosque issue.

I spent a few months driving a cab in my youth and met more than a few crazy drunk passengers. None of them attacked me, but it could get scary.

Compare this to the Fort Hood shooter, whose history and actions showed a clear ideological motivation for his crime. As far as I know, the official explanation is still that he was mentally ill.

There is a huge amount of hysteria being voiced in connection with the mosque. Could we have some rationality? Here are a few good reasons not to build it at that location:

  • It will make a significant number of the 9/11 families unhappy
  • It will serve as a symbol of victory to radical Islamists, and be a selling point for the radical viewpoint in the ongoing struggle to define normative Islam
  • It will worsen relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in New York
  • Moving it will not injure Muslims or in any way prevent the free exercise of their religion

People are remarkably ready to accuse mosque opponents of horrible crimes, even of being Republicans. In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Russell Simmons calls opposition to the Mosque “fear-mongering or hate speech”. He mentions Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin in case anybody is insufficiently horrified.

Although a Democrat without political ambitions, I was accused of ‘hate speech’ myself after I pointed out that Imam Abdul Rauf refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization, and that Hamas’ self-described raison d’être was to wipe out the Jewish state and kill its Jewish inhabitants. Hate speech? I’d call it stating facts that are highly relevant to the question — which we are entitled to ask — of who Imam Abdul Rauf really is.

Here’s another point which has been forgotten in the controversy: insofar as Islam includes a blueprint (sharia) for social and political relationships, law, economic activity, etc. and prescribes this blueprint as the best possible form of social organization, everybody — Muslims and non-Muslims — has a stake in deciding to follow the prescription or not. This is a legitimate matter for discussion.

Additionally, the radical interpretation of Islam — which is rapidly gaining ground in the world — has a very aggressive and ambitious political program.  It is by no means the province of a few extremists, but promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates among Sunnis, and Iran among Shiites. One might even say it seeks world domination. Talking about this is not hate speech, but rather a conversation that could bear on our culture’s self-preservation.

We had our own “Islamophobic hate crime” a few miles up the road from here in Madera, where some anti-Muslim signs were posted at an Islamic center. This behavior was mean and stupid, and while probably the act of harmless adolescents… one never knows.

But this kind of thing, or mentally ill college students, should not distract us from a serious consideration of  Islam, radical Islam, and its relationship to Western culture.

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First Amendment, anyone?

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

The rules for 501 (c)(3) tax status — which allows the donations of US citizens to a non-profit organization to be tax-deductible — are remarkably lax. According to the IRS,

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

There is no requirement that a charity not take political stands, only that it is not ‘substantially’ a lobbying organization and that it does not support or attack specific candidates.

So, for example, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Students Association, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all can accept tax-deductible contributions. So can the left-wing Americans for Peace Now, Meretz USA, and even the relatively extreme Jewish Voice for Peace.

Incredibly, If Americans Knew, a group dedicated to demonizing the state of Israel is also a proud holder of 501(c)(3) status. And — to my further astonishment — so is Code Pink, whose members get arrested at anti-military demonstrations, support boycott-divestment-sanctions against Israel, invade the homes of people they don’t like, etc.

While the IRS seems to have drawn the line at Free Gaza — the people that organize the ‘flotillas’ to Gaza — they continue to allow a group called “American Educational Trust” which is a 501 (c)(3) to accept contributions and pass them on!

But there is apparently a problem for pro-Israel organizations:

Z STREET, a pro-Israel non-profit corporation, filed a lawsuit in federal court today charging that the IRS violated the organization’s First Amendment rights.  The suit was filed after Z STREET was told by an IRS official that its application for tax-exempt status has been delayed because an IRS policy requires consideration of whether a group’s views on Israel differ from those of the current Administration.

“Not only is it patently un-American but it is also a clear violation of the First Amendment for a government agency to penalize an organization because of its political position on Israel or anything else,” said Z STREET president Lori Lowenthal Marcus, a former First Amendment lawyer.   “This situation is the same as if the government denied a driver’s license to people because they were Republicans or Democrats. It goes against everything for which our country stands.”

Z STREET filed for tax-exempt status in January of this year and, despite having met all of the requirements for grant of this status, the application has been stalled.  An IRS agent told Z STREET’s lawyers that the application was delayed because of a Special Israel Policy that requires greater scrutiny of   organizations which have to do with Israel, in part to determine whether they espouse positions on Israel contrary to those of the current Administration. [From a Z Street press release. My emphasis]

I wonder if Code Pink’s views “differ from those of the current administration?”  Let’s see:

Code Pink demonstrator, San Francisco 2008

Code Pink demonstrator, San Francisco 2008

Even the present administration should be embarrassed by this one!

Even the present administration should be embarrassed by this one!

Your tax dollars at work. Berkeley, 2007.

Your tax dollars at work. Berkeley, 2007.

First amendment, anyone?

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Direct talks are dangerous

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Although the “direct talks” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot possibly lead to a peace agreement — here’s a good explanation of why — many observers think they are at least harmless.

They aren’t. The trouble is that the non-existent possibility of success will be used — is already being used — as a club to beat Israel. For example:

With the imminent onset of long-sought direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the US administration expects that neither side will take any measure to poison the atmosphere or derail the talks, a senior American official said on Tuesday.

The official, in a briefing in Jerusalem with Israeli journalists, was asked repeatedly, and in various permeations, how the administration would react to an end to the settlement housing-start moratorium on September 26. The official would not answer directly, but only repeated the mantra about Washington expecting that both sides not do anything to harm the atmosphere or derail the talks. The official then went to Ramallah for a similar briefing with Palestinian reporters.

On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the moratorium issue would be a topic of discussion when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to launch the direct talks next Thursday in Washington.

“We are very mindful of the Palestinian position and once we’re now into direct negotiations, we expect that both parties will do everything within their power to create an environment for those negotiations to continue constructively,” Crowley said when asked about the Palestinian threat to quit the talks if the moratorium was not renewed.

In other words, the US will not permit the official building freeze in Judea/Samaria or the unofficial one in East Jerusalem to expire, because that would tend to ‘derail’ the talks (prediction: the phrase ‘derail the talks’ will soon become as popular in administration-speak as ‘bolster Abbas’ and ‘end the settlements’).

And here’s another prediction: the PA will not be required to do anything. You might think that calling Jews apes and pigs would tend to derail things, but you can bet that this kind of vicious incitement will continue. Watch carefully and see. One might also think that the least the PA could do would be to admit that whatever will be left of Israel after the next partition will belong to the Jews, but they won’t even say that.

Once the pointless exercise begins, expect that any form of self-defense by Israel — intercepting new flotillas, shooting back at Hizballah, whatever — will immediately be met with a threat by the PA to leave the talks and American pressure to submit, lest a display of backbone cause a massive derailment, even a train wreck.

There is another problem. This is not the more-or-less toothless Bush Administration, or Bill Clinton, who quite honestly thought he could bring peace to the Middle East.

This is a White House suffused by anti-Zionist ideology whose objective is to get Israel back to the 1949 armistice lines regardless of the consequences for Israel’s security. We can expect that there will be an attempt to create a Palestinian state by fiat, while Israel’s security concerns will be met with some form of international guarantees. As has always happened in the past — the most recent example is UNSC resolution 1701, which was supposed to prevent Hizballah from rearming — such guarantees will prove to be worthless. Goodbye peace, hello war.

I assume that PM Netanyahu got into this in return for promises regarding American action against the Iranian nuclear program, which Jerusalem views as a much bigger threat than anything else. It remains to be seen if the US will live up to this commitment. Precedents aren’t good, starting with the US promise in 1956 to guarantee free passage for Israel in the Strait of Tiran, up to the promises made by President Bush to PM Sharon in 2004.

Frankly, if Jewish and Israeli history teaches us anything at all, it is that we have to rely on ourselves — not our friends, and even less so those who manifestly are not our friends. And that includes the present US administration.

Update [25 Aug 1635 PDT]: I said to watch carefully for continued incitement by the PA. Well, we didn’t have to wait long!

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J Street: slimier than we thought

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Jeremy Ben Ami’s job is to sell administration Middle East policy to Jews.

This is not so easy to do when said administration is the most anti-Israel one since 1948.  How do you sell a policy whose primary goal is to gain approval in Riyadh, the world capital of antisemitism, to Jews?

Actually, it’s easy when your customers are Jews who have had their collective Jewish historical memory wiped clean by the unprecedented paradise in which Jews have lived in the US since 1945. The American people gave us a tremendous gift by treating us more or less like anyone else legally, economically, politically and even socially — not to mention playing a major role in defeating Hitler. Many of them even like and admire us.

There has never been another time or place in Jewish history that even comes close. No matter how benign the ruler or how wealthy the community, diaspora Jews have never been able to forget that they were diaspora Jews. Until now. And now they are forgetting in droves.

Ben Ami had no trouble at all getting plenty of Jewish support for his phony “pro-Israel” group, J Street, from culturally amnesiac  ‘progressives’ of Jewish descent. And they happily do the administration’s work in promoting its Saudi agenda. For example, when it was convenient to manufacture a break in US-Israeli relations in order to impose a freeze on Jewish construction in Israel’s capital, J Street was there (see Lenny Ben-David’s investigative report):

The 1,600 Jerusalem apartments would become the anvil on which the administration would forge a pliant Israel. The message would have to be amplified, and for the White House, the pro-Obama, purportedly pro-Israel J Street was a perfect vehicle.

According to newly released White House visitor logs, J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, and vice president of policy and strategy, Hadar Susskind, came to the White House to meet with officials in the White House Office of Public Engagement, headed by Obama’s close friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett.

On March 11, and then again on March 12, the logs show Ben-Ami set a meeting for March 15 in the Old Executive Office Building with Danielle Borrin, who served on the vice president’s staff and in Jarrett’s office. On March 17, another meeting was set in the West Wing, the White House’s inner sanctum, for the next day with Tina Tchen, Jarrett’s principle deputy and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement…

On March 15, the day it met with Borrin, J Street issued a statement on the “escalation of U.S.-Israel tensions” warning that Israel’s “provocative actions undermine the peace process” and weaken the American attempts “to build a broad international coalition to address the Iranian nuclear program.” Parroting Emanuel’s strategy for crisis management, the J Street memo declared:

Bold American leadership is needed now to turn this crisis into a real opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The memo, in effect, called for an imposed American solution:

We urge the United States to take this opportunity to suggest parameters to the parties for resuming negotiations — basing borders on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, with the Palestinian state demilitarized and on territory equivalent to 100% of the area encompassed by the pre-1967 Armistice lines.

Serving as a stalking horse for the President, J Street came out in support of the construction of the ‘Ground Zero mosque’. This despite the fact that the project’s initiator, the supposed ‘moderate’ Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, will not say that Hamas is a terrorist organization, although Hamas is all about killing Jews and liquidating the Jewish state.

Not all of J Street’s support comes from progressive Jews. It gets plenty of help from Arab and Muslim donors who are not so confused about their interests. J Street has a PAC which supports candidates for public office. It is must report all contributions it receives, unlike the main J Street organization which is not required to do so. Look at some of the contributors to the J Street PAC here and ask yourself: why they would support a ‘pro-Israel’ organization?

Some of the donations are small, but remember we don’t know what they may have contributed to J Street itself. As of July this year the J Street PAC distributed more than $650,000 to 61 candidates, like Joe Sestak, who signed a controversial letter accusing Israel of ‘collective punishment’ in Gaza.

Wake up, American Jews. Don’t buy what J Street and Obama are selling. Don’t assume that the exceptional case of the past 65 years in America represents a new paradigm — look at Malmo, Sweden, for example, where Jews are fleeing because of rising antisemitism.

The best way to ensure the preservation of the Jewish people is to support a strong Jewish state. J Street would like us to abandon Israel, and put our trust in the good will of people like President Obama and even Feisal Abdul Rauf, the ‘moderate’ Muslim.

It isn’t a difficult choice when it’s put like that, is it?

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Everyone knows…or do they?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

…everyone knows what a two-state solution looks like and the general formula for getting there… the tough thing is marshaling the necessary political will.James A. Baker, one of the original sources of the Administration’s policy to force Israel and the Palestinian Authority into a ‘peace’ agreement, February 2010

So, it starts again. The US will sit the Israeli PM down with a Palestinian Arab ‘leader’ who represents almost no one, and whose regime is paid for by the US and protected by the IDF. Since its inception said regime has told its people that Jews are descended from monkeys and pigs, that the greatest Palestinian heroes are terrorists who murder Jewish children, that Palestinian children should aspire to martyrdom, and that in the future Israel will be destroyed and replaced by an Arab state.

This Palestinian Authority (PA) has said over and over that it will not recognize Israel as a state belonging to the Jewish people. It demands a ‘right of return’ to Israel for Arab ‘refugees’ and requires that any peace agreement must include a transfer of all the area of the Palestinian Mandate east of the 1949 armistice line, including all of East Jerusalem. It insists that every Jewish resident of this area be removed, while calling Arabs who live in Israel the ‘owners’ of the land.

Israel is prepared to agree to a sovereign Palestinian state in the region, although with a few limitations (demilitarization, retaining control of airspace, security presence in the Jordan Valley, etc). One would think that if the PA actually wanted a state, they would agree. After all, if ‘Palestine’ can live peacefully alongside Israel, one would expect that ultimately the restrictions would be lifted. Of course the PA rejects them out of hand.

Speaking of Palestinian demands, Israel has some demands too. For example, that an agreement recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, that so-called ‘refugees’ be resettled in ‘Palestine’ or Arab nations and that the Palestinians will finally agree to end their claims against Israel — to end the conflict.

Naturally, the PA categorically rejects all of these. It is probably true that no Palestinian leader could accept them and survive, politically or physically.

Finally (Barry Rubin calls this the “wooly mammoth in the living room”) there is Hamas, which controls all of the Gaza strip (40% of the Palestinian population) and has many friends in the area supposedly governed by the PA. Hamas doesn’t agree that Jews can be allowed to live anywhere in the Middle East, is committed to violent genocide and supported by Iran. They also oppose the PA — they killed a bunch of the Fatah opposition in 2005 when they took over Gaza — and would happily take over all of Judea/Samaria as well.

Only the IDF prevents them from doing that today. Who will protect a sovereign ‘Palestine’? The PA army being trained by the US? That plan is working so well in Iraq and Afghanistan, isn’t it! Or maybe the UN? Just look at the result of that approach in Lebanon. If Hamas takes over, what stops them from inviting in Syrian or Iranian forces? This is a formula for a bloody regional war.

Please, tell me again what “everyone knows.”

There is an asymmetry between the Israeli and Palestinian positions. Israel says “we think the Palestinian Arabs have as much of a right to a state as we do, and we’re prepared to compromise as long as it doesn’t mean committing suicide.” The PA, on the other hand — and I’m not even referring to Hamas here — thinks that a Jewish state is historically illegitimate, and it’s time for the US and the international community to give it over to its ‘rightful owners’.

The premise that the Palestinian Arabs have a ‘right’ to anything, given the historical record, is actually pretty dubious. But Israel has moved a long way toward an accommodation, even despite the vicious war of 2001-2003 — some call it the ‘Oslo war‘ — in which the Palestinians demonstrated their contempt for a previous offer of a sovereign state.

The difference in Israeli and Palestinian outlooks is nicely caught by Rubin, who writes,

Is “comprehensive peace” in the interest “of all people in the region?” [the words of US envoy George Mitchell] On one level that seems obvious but on the level of actual reality it is completely false. Consider this: having peace in Europe was arguably in the interests of everyone at all times between, say, between 1337 (start of the Hundred Year’s War between England and France) and 1990 (the Cold War’s end), yet nonetheless there wasn’t peace much of the time.

Why is that? Because there were ideologies, nations, and leaders who thought there was something more important than peace: gains, victories, land, glory, the will of the Creator of the Universe, and other things. Moreover, they perceived that triumph was easy and that they could have everything they wanted. This worldview does not characterize the position today of, at most, more than 10 percent of Israelis (or Americans and Europeans for that matter) but does characterize the position of more than 95 percent of Arabs, Middle East Muslims, and Palestinians.

Rubin thinks that the US is naive about the way in which ideology drives the Muslim nations of the Middle East, and projects Western views of interests where they are inapplicable:

An element of this doctrinaire, deterministic “even-handedness” and “mirror-imaging” practices by Western governments today is to misunderstand much about the Middle East (and Israel as well) to the point that they fail in their efforts and stumble into crises. This point also applies to their understandings of Islamism, Iran’s ambitions, the internal problems of Iraq and Afghanistan, and much more. These mistakes cost lives and produce strategic disasters.

Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, and most of the PA’s own Fatah rulers don’t think a “comprehensive peace” is in the interests of Palestinians, much less all the peoples of the region. They believe that anyone who does think so should be murdered. They are certain that the elimination of Israel, which they do not number among the “peoples of the region” is in everyone’s interest.

I think this is true to a great extent, but I’m a bit more cynical. I think that US officials understand the Palestinian Arabs better than they let on. I believe that much of what appears to be foolish naivete is actually pap for public consumption, masking the consistent US policy — strongly influenced by Saudi Arabia — to shrink Israel to 1949 lines with little regard for the cost to Israel’s security (think about James A. Baker’s business relationship with the Saudis).

These negotiations have very little upside for Israel. They are very unlikely to lead to a peace agreement for the reasons above. And if somehow there were an agreement it, would make the threat of a Hamas takeover and subsequent war greater rather than less. Although the obstacles to peace are primarily on the Palestinian side, efforts will be made — by the Arabs and anti-Israel elements in the US and Europe — to blame Israel, and to force concessions that at best will weaken her, and at worst will get people killed.

Here’s my advice for Israeli negotiators in what is probably a no-win situation: don’t give up anything without getting something in return. When they demand an extension on the freeze on construction east of the armistice line, you demand recognition that Israel is the state of the Jewish people.

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Our next president must be a strategic thinker

Friday, August 20th, 2010

It’s remarkable how bad we are at strategic thinking:

The US strategy was to bring democracy to Iraq and by doing so, inspire democratic revolutions throughout the Arab world.

Although inspiring, it was wrong first and foremost because it was predicated on ignoring one of the basic dictates of strategy. It failed to recognize that there were other forces in the region.

It failed to anticipate that every US move would be countered by an Iranian move. And in failing to recognize this basic strategic truth — even though it has been staring them in the face — the Americans aggressively pursued a strategy that became more and more irrelevant as time went by. — Caroline Glick

I’m not going to analyze the (wrong) decision to go to war in Iraq or the mistakes made afterward. I want to talk about strategic thinking and leadership in general.

There’s a kind of arrogance that often characterizes Western leaders: they think that they are the only actors. In their minds their opponents only absorb whatever is done to them, and don’t have the ability to respond creatively or to anticipate our moves.

Yes, I know that a great deal of energy supposedly goes into thinking about “if we do x, then they will do y, after which we can do z…” etc. But it doesn’t seem to show in practice. The debacle in Iraq is a perfect example. Or take Israel allowing the return of Yasser Arafat in 1993, and its evacuations of South Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005. What did they think the other side would do?

The problem is that policy in a democracy is made by politicians. By definition they are creatures of appearance rather than reality, of the next election rather than the longer term.

The developing struggle between the West and radical Islam is characterized by an unbalance of forces. We have a huge advantage in brute power. The US military can vaporize anything anywhere in the world on command — think about what a single aircraft carrier can do, even if limited to conventional weapons. On the other hand, the enemy has a different kind of advantage: they are patient (they think in historic terms, not only the next election) and their leaders are strategic thinkers.

Democracies select their leaders by their ability to be attractive to the appropriate coalitions. Dictatorships and terrorist groups vet them through a brutal process of intrigue. It’s only accidental — especially today, when candidates are sold to the public like long-distance carriers — when a US president happens to be capable of strategic thought. On the other hand, you don’t get to be the leader of Iran or al Qaeda — or Russia, for that matter — by being strategically challenged.

Maybe we should require candidates to demonstrate an ability at chess along with public speaking?

On 9/11, I thought: that’s it. Whoever did this is going to find out that they pulled the tail of a gigantic tiger. We are going to tear them up like we did the Nazis and Imperial Japanese.  But that isn’t the way it turned out, and the reason seems to be a failure of leadership — primarily, a failure to think strategically, but not only that.

I am not suggesting that we give up our democratic process in order to produce more effective leaders. We certainly don’t want an Ahmadinejad or a Stalin, regardless of their chess-playing skills (Stalin may or may not have been a strong player, though Soviet citizens were told that he was). But we need to stop electing people for stupid reasons, like ‘I would like to have a beer with this guy’, or ‘it’s time for a black president’.

We are entering a critical period for the West. US leadership will have a decisive effect on the outcome. Here is what I’m looking for in the next president (and may he come speedily in our day):

A sense of history: Middle Easterners — Arabs and Israelis both — are better at this than us.

Strength of character: what JFK learned from the Bay of Pigs: tell the ‘experts’ to go to Hell.

Involvement: think Truman or Nixon. Like them or not, they took the job seriously.

And of course, the ability to play chess better than the Persians, Arabs, Russians and Chinese.

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The BBC breaks out

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Despite the anti-Israel culture of the BBC, some journalistic blood apparently still flows in their reporter Jane Corbin, who presented a documentary about the Mavi Marmara affair called “Death in the Med” on the Panorama program this week.

Although the program gives far too much exposure to the repulsive American psychopath Ken O’Keefe, the facts of the events that transpired on May 31 are more or less correctly presented. Video of the ‘activists’ cutting up the ship’s rails for weapons, and of course the attack on the soldiers was shown. Near the end, Corbin says,

At the end of the day the bid to break the naval blockade wasn’t really about bringing aid to Gaza. It was a political move designed to put pressure on Israel and the international community. The price was high — nine people died — but the outcry assured that the flotilla achieved its aim: the IHH presented the dead as martyrs for the cause of Gaza.

Heavy stuff for the BBC!

Corbin allows Israeli Gen. Giora Eiland, who led the IDF investigation of the incident, to suggest that the Turkish government was well aware of the violent plans of the ‘activists’. She mentions the UN investigation, but does not draw the reasonable conclusion from the evidence in the program that the Turkish regime should be investigated — and held responsible for the deaths of the nine IHH ‘activists’ as well as the serious injuries to several Israelis.

Although one doesn’t normally congratulate someone for doing their job, the BBC is more like a drug addict that has been screwing his up for some time. It deserves credit for breaking free.

Of course, the usual suspects are absolutely livid. How dare Corbin and the BBC stick up for the Jew Among Nations, whose function is to be beaten bloody (like the naval commandos) for their satisfaction! You can see the comments here (the BBC has removed the usual obscene ones). Although  I didn’t count them, about 90% of them refer to the ‘shocking pro-Israeli bias’ of the show, etc.

O’Keefe, apparently a celebrity in the UK (he would be considered a clear nutcase in the US) plans to demonstrate at the BBC this Sunday.

Here are the two parts of the program, about 15 minutes each, if you care to watch.

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Who’s a bigot?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I recently had a conversation with a friend, who happens to be a lawyer. It went something like this:

Me: [argues that the Ground Zero mosque should not be built].

Friend: You are a bigot.

Me: Objection! Counsel can’t answer my arguments, so she resorts to ad hominem abuse!

Friend: I don’t have to listen to your arguments. You have no credibility because you are a bigot.

Yesterday, Eugene Robinson began his syndicated column by calling opposition to the mosque “Lies, distortions, jingoism, xenophobia…”. Then he conjured up the demons of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. End of story — it’s all a bunch of Republican political opportunism.

So this is the level of discourse we’ve reached on this subject!

It may be a waste of time in today’s overheated atmosphere, but I’m going to try to explain exactly how I’m ‘bigoted’. You can decide whether I’m more or less the same as the guys who burn crosses and desecrate graves.

Although I find the principles of Sharia which hold that there is an essential difference in the rights due to men and women, Muslims and non-Muslims, repugnant — I do not therefore hate Muslims.

Although many of the suras in the Quran apparently call for Muslims to be violent and hateful, I do not judge Muslims on the basis of this. The book dates from the Seventh Century, and there is plenty of unpleasant stuff in the Bible, too.

Here’s the problem: Islam’s holy writings lend themselves to an interpretation which includes an ideology and an expansionist political program, a program which calls upon Muslims to expand the lands under Islamic control by violence, subversion or both. While not all Muslims subscribe to this interpretation, it is by no means marginal. There is a struggle today in the Islamic world between this kind of radical Islamism — represented by the Iranian regime on the Shia side and the Muslim Brotherhood among Sunnis — and more conservative forms of Islam.

Barry Rubin and others explain that radical Islamism is no less a legitimate interpretation than less aggressive ones. It does not represent a ‘hijacking’ of some ‘real’ version of Islam, which is warm and fuzzy (this appears to be President Obama’s point of view). It is a competing interpretation, and one which has made major gains in the Muslim world in the past sixty years or so. There is reason to worry that it is rapidly becoming the dominant, normative form of Islam today.

This is the version of Islam which holds that an infidel has three options: conversion, submission or death. This is the version of Islam which inspired the Hamas Covenant. And its ideological component has no counterpart in any other major religion today. It pretty much corners the market on intolerance and bigotry.

Note that radical Islamists believe that it is honorable to deceive infidels in time of war (and they believe that they are at war with the West). So one can be excused for some degree of suspicion directed at someone like the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has refused to condemn Hamas. That’s sort of a litmus test, in my opinion — one which organizations like CAIR, ISNA, etc. regularly fail, by the way.

So there you are. I am opposed  to an ideological and political program that is considered the true interpretation of Islam by many Muslims, including some who claim to be ‘moderate’. I am concerned that this program is promoted by violent terrorism, by subversion and a combination of both. I see it as a real and present threat — to Israel, to Europe and to America.

Anyone who can explain how this makes me a ‘bigot’ is invited to do so.

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Short takes: Hamas likes mosque, AP distorts, Harvard doesn’t divest

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Hamas supports Ground Zero mosque

One of the objections to the proposed Ground Zero mosque has been that radical Islamists around the world will understand it as a triumphalist symbol of America’s defeat at the hands of Islam. Hamas’ Mahmoud Zahar didn’t exactly say that, but he came close:

Two days after President Obama came out in support of a plan to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero, the controversial project has received yet another high-profile endorsement – this one from the chief of the terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places,” stated Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas who is regarded as the chief of the group in Gaza.

Zahar said that as Muslims, “We have to build everywhere.”

It can’t be helpful to Barack Obama to find himself on the same side as Hamas!


AP blames Israel for Palestinian intransigence

Here’s what I read this morning in the Fresno Bee:

By Karin Laub, Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel will not accept conditions for resuming direct negotiations with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Cabinet ministers affirmed in a meeting late Sunday, reflecting a hard line just as invitations to the talks appeared to be near.

“Hard line?” Are you nuts, Karin Laub? Netanyahu has been agreeing to direct talks without preconditions for months. What could be less hard line than that? Isn’t the function of negotiations to, er, negotiate?

The Palestinian Authority (PA), on the other hand, has refused to talk unless their demands are met in advance. In Laub’s words,

Abbas wants Israel to accept the principle of Palestinian statehood in the lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast war with minor modifications, and wants all Jewish settlement building to stop during negotiations.

I’ll note yet again the deliberately misleading formulation “Jewish settlement building” to mean “any construction activity outside 1949 lines,” suggesting that Israel is building new settlements or even expanding the boundaries of existing ones, which has not happened for years.

The PA wants negotiations to pick up where they left off when various generous offers — the Clinton-Barak ideas of 2000-1, and Olmert’s 2008 proposal — were made. Of course, these were presented by Israel as absolute final offers, which were rejected by the PA as inadequate. It’s ludicrous for them to become starting points for new talks, in which the PA will demand even more — not to mention that the response to the Clinton-Barak offer was to start a war.

The AP’s original headline, “Israel: No conditions for talks with Palestinians” is not so  bad. My friends at the Bee changed it to this: “Israel refuses conditions on talks”, to make sure that everyone gets the message that it’s Israel’s fault.

What are my neighbors in Fresno likely to think when they read this propaganda disguised as news?


Harvard does not divest

Some blogs and even mainstream media sources have been saying that Harvard University’s endowment fund has ‘divested’ from Israel. Actually, what happened is that Israel’s economy is so good that its stocks have been shifted from an ’emerging country’ index to a ‘developed country’ one. Harvard rebalanced its portfolio by selling some stocks in Israeli companies and buying some from ’emerging’ countries.

And they probably had a nice capital gain, too.

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