Archive for October, 2010

Ha’aretz kicks off the anti-Bibi season

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Israelis in general don’t read Ha’aretz — its circulation runs a poor third, after Yediot Aharonot and Ma’ariv.  It exists for its English Internet edition, which is apparently taken seriously by ‘important’ folks in Europe and the US, despite the fact that its extreme left-wing bias reflects the views of only a tiny minority of Israelis.

This makes it dangerous at worst, or annoying at best. Here’s an example of the latter, by Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz Editor at Large:

Netanyahu rejected Obama’s request for a two-month extension of the settlement freeze; the president had wanted quiet on the Middle East front while he concentrated on the midterm elections. For his part, Netanyahu explained that he needed to show “credibility and steadfastness” at home, and indeed the incentives promised by the U.S. president in exchange for the extension did not sway the prime minister. One can surmise that Netanyahu did not want to help Obama ahead of the U.S. elections, and thus annoy the president’s Republican rivals. [my italics]

Actually, one can’t surmise that at all, unless one is a fool — or, like Benn, is trying to make trouble. There are clear reasons having to do with Israeli, not American, politics that make it impossible for PM Netanyahu to extend the freeze any further, even if he wanted to.

For one thing, his centrist coalition would come apart as the parties on the Right fled. The general population, too, even those who are not normally called ‘pro-settlement’, understand that the freeze has not brought peace any closer and object to American interference in Israel’s sovereignty. And then there is the certainty that a renewed freeze would be met with massive disobedience, putting Netanyahu in the position of either ignoring it and getting attacked for being ‘anti-peace’, or putting it down by force. Not an appealing choice to have to make.

Not only are Israeli domestic issues overriding, the US connection doesn’t exist. Benn seems to suggest that Americans are concerned with the prospects of the ‘peace process’, but this is probably the least important issue in the minds of most, for whom domestic economic and social issues are paramount. My guess is that not one of a hundred million voters will say “hmm, Netanyahu didn’t extend the freeze, that means Obama’s a dork — I better vote Republican.”

Insofar as he actually believes what he says, Benn is displaying the egotism one often finds among peace processors, who don’t realize that most people — inside and outside of Israel — have understood at least since 2000 that the ‘process’ is wholly worthless and irrelevant.

If he doesn’t believe it, then he’s just trying to provide material for the NY Times editorial writers, administration and State Department personnel, European Parliament members and UN functionaries that comprise his audience, to help them sharpen the knives that they have had out for Mr. Netanyahu since his election.

Remember that President Obama tried to bring about regime change in Israel before, but had to hold off when he realized that too much pressure on Israel would be bad for relations with some important Democrats on election eve. He won’t have to worry about that after Tuesday, so this little jab from Benn at the ‘disloyal’ PM is an indication of the way things are going to go starting next week.

Update [1 Nov 0756 PDT]: Added link to the original Ha’aretz article.

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What’s next?

Saturday, October 30th, 2010
What's next?

What's next?

News Item:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted recently to officially declare Rachel’s Tomb to be a mosque. UNESCO director Irena Bokova had previously stated “concern” at Israel’s decision to treat the tomb as a heritage site.

The vote called for Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs – the burial site of the other Biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs – to be removed from Israel’s National Heritage list.

The Palestinian Authority has claimed that Rachel’s Tomb is holy to Muslims as the site of a mosque called the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque. The PA [Palestinian Authority] demands control over both the tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron, as well as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem….

Journalist Nadav Shragai, writing for Yisrael Hayom, noted that Muslims living in the land of Israel have historically referred to Rachel’s Tomb as “Kubat Rahel,” the Arabic term for “Rachel’s Tomb.” Under Ottoman rule, Rachel’s Tomb was a Jewish site. Only in 1996 did the PA begin to call the site the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, he said.

The recent nature of the Muslim claim to the site is documented by Elder of Ziyon here. And here is a picture of it from the early 1860’s:

Rachel's tomb, around 1860

Rachel's tomb, around 1860

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Quote of the week: the Muslim-Jewish conflict

Friday, October 29th, 2010

This week’s quotation is from a review of Martin Gilbert’s “In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands” by Jonathan Kay:

The creation of the Zionist movement radically changed the Western understanding of the Muslim-Jewish conflict — sweeping up generations of campus intellectuals who have projected upon it all their own obsessions with colonialism and class struggle. But in the Muslim world, Gilbert’s narrative shows us, Israel’s creation actually didn’t change the Muslim-Jewish dynamic as much as is commonly imagined. The rhetoric and barbarism hurled against Israeli Jews after the Zionist project began were not new but simply the old, more diffuse rhetoric and barbarism being redirected, as by a lens, toward a particular pinprick on a map. This is tied up with the reason that many Muslims refuse even to say the word “Israel,” preferring terms such as “the Zionist entity”: Deep down, they regard Israel not as a country in the proper sense but rather as a sort of soil-and-concrete stand-in for the stubborn, maddeningly ineradicable Jewish presence in Middle Eastern life since the age of Muhammad.

Kay’s review is titled “Fourteen Centuries of Hatred” and that about sums it up. Unfortunately, unlike the Catholic Church, which (perhaps as a result of the Holocaust) officially renounced and condemned the baseless hatred that had characterized its relationship to the Jewish people for centuries, Islamic authorities in general have not preached an end to antisemitism. Rather, as Kay suggests above, they have simply focused it more sharply.

This helps explain the persistent anti-Israel incitement that flows from Arab sources:

Jew eats Dome of the Rock in Jordanian cartoon

Jew eats Dome of the Rock in Jordanian cartoon

Hatred justified by an appeal to Islam persists even in the US: last month Kaukab Siddique, a professor at Lincoln University in rural southeastern Pennsylvania made a speech in Washington at which he said (in part),

The time has come that we must stir up our ‘religious leaders’ in this country to speak the truth about Israel. They must put their hands on the Quran and say that they do not recognize Israel as a legitimate entity. If they cannot do that, they must be branded as kaffirs [infidels]. It’s as simple as that. Because the Quran says – drive them out from where they drove you out.

For the Christians I say please pray for Gaza. For the Jews I would say see what could happen to you if the Muslims wake up. And I say to the Muslims, dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism. Each one of us is their target and we must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel if possible by peaceful means. Perhaps, like Saladin, we will give them enough food and water to travel back to the lands from where they came to occupy other people. There’s no question of just removing the settlements. These settlements are only the tentacles of the devil who resides in Tel Aviv…

Siddique also denies the Holocaust and expresses the view that Jews

…are a small minority in America, yet they have taken over this country by devious and immoral means. They control the government, the media, education, the libraries, the book chains, the banks, Hollywood, Wall Street, Madison Avenue.

Nevertheless, he claims that he doesn’t hate Jews, just the “behavior of the Jews who are governing the ‘state of Israel’ and all of the ones who support their current behaviors.” He follows this with a list of anti-Jewish quotations from the Christian Gospels (proving precisely what?).

Siddique’s attitude toward Israel is an absolutely perfect example of how present-day anti-Zionism is “the old, more diffuse rhetoric and barbarism being redirected, as by a lens, toward a particular pinprick on a map” — although in Siddique’s case, he remains partial to unredirected barbarism toward Jews as well.

Incidentally, Lincoln University’s president feels that tenured Associate Professor Siddique

is entitled to express his personal views in conversation or in public forums, as long as he does not present such opinions as the views of the University. Dr. Siddique has made it apparent that his opinions are his own and are not a part of his curriculum.  Like all professors, he is expected to adhere to an approved syllabus.

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J Street U teaches anti-Zionism

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

I thought it was impossible to find anything else to criticize about the self-described ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ J Street, after it was exposed for taking money from anti-Israel sources and lying about it (some of my previous posts on J Street are here), but apparently its perfidy is  bottomless.

J Street has a youth organization, J Street U, “The Campus Address for Middle East Peace and Security.” What does it teach American college students about Israel and the conflict?

J Street U has a new National Board President, a Middlebury College senior named Moriel Rothman. Here’s how he explains the controversy surrounding the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Sheik Jarrah:

…the Jerusalem municipality has been bending to the will of fanatic Jewish settlers, and producing -based on archaic documents from the Ottoman period and manufactured Israeli law– eviction notices to a number of Palestinian families, and in some cases -such as with three families in Sheikh Jarrah- acting on those eviction notices by force and removing those Palestinian families from their homes. The municipality’s actions are hugely problematic from a moral standpoint: not only are Jews buying up and/or stealing Arab land in East Jerusalem, but Arabs are moreover unable to buy land in the primarily Jewish West Jerusalem… These policies are also hugely problematic from the standpoint of peace, as East Jerusalem must be the capital of the future Palestinian state, and the Clinton Parameters, which state that Palestine will get control of Arab neighborhoods and Israel will control Jewish neighborhoods, are made harder and harder to implement with each infiltration of Jewish settlers into Arab neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.

I am not going to go into detail about the legal issues, except to mention that the Jewish ownership of the homes in question was decided by the left-leaning Israeli Supreme Court. Palestinian Arabs and their supporters have simply decided that the neighborhood will be theirs for political reasons, and the law be damned. I quote this passage in order to draw attention to Rothman’s tone. Not very ‘pro-Israel’, is he?

But at least they oppose the boycott-divestment sanctions (BDS) movement. Don’t they?  Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes,

…let’s take a close look at the single positive point about J Street raised in the articles by those who admit being disappointed by J Street’s lies but believe there’s still life in them thar liars.

Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for federations and Jewish Community Relations Councils, criticized J Street’s lack of candor [!] but said that he and some of his constituent agencies have praised the organization because J Street was “very helpful” as a “credible left-wing pro-Israel organization” that opposed divestment efforts on campuses…

BDS attempts to damage Israel economically, but far more significantly, to delegitimize it by placing it on the same moral level as apartheid South Africa, which was subjected to similar actions. Marcus notes that J Street U doesn’t seem to have a problem with this aspect of BDS:

But why doesn’t J Street favor divestment from Israel? Is it because an economically strong Israel is a healthy and safe Israel? Nope. Is it because an economic intifada is a danger to Israel’s existence? Nope. Is it maybe even that Israel isn’t so bad that it deserves BDS? Nope again.

The reasons appear in an email sent about a year ago from J Street U National Board member Tal Schechter (quoted in the abominable Mondoweiss blog at

To Jewish Israelis, divestment only reinforces the notion that they are constantly under attack, creating an environment in which it is harder to achieve peace, not easier.

For Palestinians who already suffer from a weak economy, divestment only puts their society more at risk.

Get it? It will make those irrational Israelis even more stubborn and it will damage the Palestinian economy. They oppose BDS because it is counterproductive, the same reason given by Mahmoud Abbas for (at least for the present) opposing terrorism.

That’s it. That’s the most ‘pro-Israel’ they get.

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The only worthwhile security guarantee

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

In my last post, I pointed out one of the reasons that peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is not just around the corner. Here’s another:

From “How the Changing Nature of Threats to Israel Affects Vital Security Arrangements,” by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland:

…events over the past ten years have revealed a marked change in the types of threats to be expected from a Palestinian state, if such a state comes into being, or from the existing Palestinian entity. This involves a switch to three types of weaponry that create problems that are very difficult to handle:

  1. Rockets and missiles of different varieties, positioned throughout the West Bank, would be easily able to cover the entire area of the State of Israel.
  2. Advanced anti-aircraft missiles would be capable of shooting down not only large passenger aircraft flying into Ben-Gurion International Airport, but also helicopters and even fighter planes.
  3. Anti-tank missiles that are highly effective up to a range of 5 km. can easily cover not only strategic positions such as Israel’s north-south Highway 6, but well beyond, including other sites that are crucial to Israel’s defense.

The common denominator among all three types of weaponry is that they all fundamentally contradict the guidelines discussed for security arrangements in any agreement with the Palestinians.

The Necessity of Controlling the Territory

Ten years ago it was said that the answer to coping with the Palestinian threat to Israel was a demilitarized Palestinian state. But what does this mean? If such a state is stripped of tanks, artillery, and aircraft, it is probable that a detailed agreement to that effect will be signed and a monitoring system will be instituted to oversee its enforcement.

However [today], the real threat comes not from tanks but from rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-tank missiles. The common denominator among all of these is the ease of smuggling and clandestine manufacture, as is taking place today in Gaza. No monitoring system that may be established will be able to prevent this.

For instance, in a convoy of tens or even hundreds of trucks carrying crates of agricultural produce, there is nothing to prevent missiles from being concealed. Nor would there be any problem in storing such weapons in houses and cellars in built-up neighborhoods of Tulkarm, Kalkilya, or Nablus in the West Bank, nor any way of knowing of their existence until they are used against Israel. The threat that these weapons pose to Israel is much more significant than that of tanks or airplanes. On the contrary, there are various excellent means of combating tanks and artillery, but no effective way of combating smuggling or the local production of missiles. That being so, the term “demilitarized state” is an almost meaningless concept, if not accompanied by a monitoring system. It is well known that even in the best possible scenario, the existing systems are able to monitor only standard military weapons. The only way to monitor the prevention of smuggling of such types of weapons into the West Bank, or prevent their manufacture within it, is control…

If Israel were to withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, then the area to the east of the Israel-Palestine border would be home not only to the Palestinian Authority, but to other potential enemies too, since an agreement with the Palestinians provides no guarantee of an agreement with Hizbullah or peace with Syria. The question of whether Israel is able to defend itself is relevant not only in relation to the Palestinians, but should also be examined in the not unreasonable scenario of a war with Syria, Hizbullah, and the Palestinians.

Until the definition of the Palestinian Cause (see my previous post) changes radically, the only guarantee of security is the practical ability to prevent or repel an attack.

Discussions about the ‘peace process’ seem to revolve mostly about what the Arabs will get. What will the borders be?  How much of Jerusalem will Israel give up? Lately, to a much smaller extent, there is talk about an Israeli demand for recognition. But the questions raised by Eiland are much more fundamental.

Maybe we should stop worrying so much about the political issues and more about the physical security of Israel.

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Diplomacy is more like warfare than problem-solving

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

In the peculiar mental space of the ‘Palestinian’ movements — the PLO, Hamas and their supporters — there are some words that are used very differently from the way most Israelis and Americans use them. Here are some definitions to keep in mind when you read or listen to their statements:

Palestine — The entire land area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Palestinian land — All of Palestine as defined above.

Palestinian People — All Arabs that lived in Palestine in 1948 and their descendants, including those who migrated into the region from Egypt or Syria in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Jews — Adherents to the Jewish religion.

Jewish People — There isn’t one. Unlike Palestinians, the PLO and Hamas do not consider Jews a ‘people’.

Zionists — Jews who colonized Palestine.

Occupation — The presence of a Zionist colony on Palestinian land. The occupation began in 1948. It is illegitimate despite League of Nations and UN resolutions, either because it is a colonialist enterprise (the PLO) or for religious reasons (Hamas).

Palestinian Refugees — Those Palestinians who lived in the area of the Zionist colony and were displaced in 1948, and their descendants. There are 4.5 million of these, and they are the true owners of the land in the Zionist colony.

Palestinian Cause — To end the occupation and return all Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homes, as defined above.

Two-state solution — An outcome to the conflict which ends the occupation by declaring two states: one in Eastern Palestine which will be entirely populated by Arabs, and one in the part of Palestine occupied by the Zionists in 1949, where Palestinian refugees will return.

Although Hamas and the PLO diverge sharply on many issues, including the kind of state that should ultimately be created in ‘Palestine’ and the best way to end the ‘occupation’, they all agree on the definitions above.

If you keep these definitions in mind, you will have no trouble understanding:

The refusal of PA leaders and negotiators to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish People. For one thing, they don’t agree that there is a Jewish people (although with massive illogic they then insist that there is a ‘Palestinian’ people), and for another, this would declare the ‘occupation’ legitimate — in contradiction to the basic principle of the Palestinian Cause.

The rejection of the Camp David proposal in 2000  and Olmert’s offer in 2008. Both of these would have created a state of Palestine in the territories and included unprecedented concessions on Jerusalem. But they didn’t include return of ‘Palestinian refugees’ and contained various provisions that would safeguard and legitimize the ‘Zionist colony’. They would not have ended the ‘occupation’ and so contradicted the Palestinian Cause.

The derisive response to PM Netanyahu’s statement in support of a two-state solution. Netanyahu’s position represented a significant departure from previous Likud principles that it would not accept a Palestinian state, and caused him internal difficulties with his supporters on the Right. But since he insisted on demilitarization and did not accept the ‘return’ of ‘refugees’, this was not considered a legitimate ‘two-state solution’.

The continued rocket and suicide terrorism of Hamas after Israel withdrew from Gaza. Hamas considered the withdrawal as a victory in the battle to end the ‘occupation’, brought about by its policy of violent resistance. Therefore it chose to continue this successful policy to end the rest of the ‘occupation’.

And of course, the persistence of the conflict.

Most Israelis and Americans, including — one hopes — the Obama Administration, believe that Israel is legitimate and that it is the nation-state of the Jewish people. They use the word ‘occupation’ to refer to territories occupied in 1967, and they imagine a two-state solution as one in which an Arab state of Palestine lives peacefully alongside a Jewish state of Israel. All of these usages are significantly different than the ‘Palestinian’ definitions above.

Those who — deliberately or from ignorance — deny these ambiguities may say things like “everybody knows what the general outlines of a solution are; we just need to work out the details.” But that’s far from true.

Communication is impossible without agreement on the meanings of words. As long as systematic ambiguity about basic concepts remains, the conflict cannot be ended by negotiation.

So why don’t negotiators agree on terms?

The answer is that they are not trying to end the conflict. Diplomats love ambiguity, because it allows them to pretend to be making progress so they can demand concrete concessions from the other side or from third parties.

The dirty little secret about diplomacy is that it is more like warfare than problem-solving.

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Fighting hunger or fighting Israel?

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Today I took part in an event to raise funds to feed hungry people. The sponsoring agency was Church World Service (CWS), founded after WWII by various Christian denominations to help feed the population of devastated Europe.

Participants included members of our local Reform Jewish congregation, many Protestant churches and a mosque. I was assured that the event was entirely non-political, intended only to fight hunger.

Sounds great, and there are certainly plenty of hungry people today in Africa, Pakistan, etc. But when I looked at the CWS website, I discovered that CWS not only fights hunger, but also advocates and lobbies for ‘peace and justice’.

Uh-oh. It’s a sad state of affairs that these words must set off alarm bells, but they do. And sure enough, here’s what I found:

Contact your members of Congress and urge them to support the Obama Administration’s efforts toward a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Tell them that you appreciate the Administration’s encouragement of both sides to get serious about meaningful negotiations, and you support its efforts to end Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

And more: CWS presents with approval a vicious 2009 statement from some Christian Arabs, the “Kairos Document,” which begins as follows:

We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation, with a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God’s divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land.

Inspired by the mystery of God’s love for all, the mystery of God’s divine presence in the history of all peoples and, in a particular way, in the history of our country, we proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging – a word of faith, hope and love.

It gets much worse from here on, blaming Israel for all the misfortunes of the Palestinian Arabs, especially the Christians — whose numbers are rapidly shrinking as they emigrate to escape the conflict and religious persecution by Muslims, attacking Jewish rights in the land of Israel, providing theological justification for ‘resistance’, etc. Incidentally, various versions of this document appear all over the web, on anti-Zionist and antisemitic sites.

Snookered again! Here I wanted to feed the hungry and ended up supporting those who would like to feed the Jewish state to the lions.

This started me thinking: what caused the ‘Palestinization’ of all of these organizations that were originally intended simply to help those in need or the truly oppressed?

CWS is just one of numerous charitable NGOs that have gone this way. Amnesty International (AI) was founded in 1961 to help ‘prisoners of conscience’ — people imprisoned for purely political or religious reasons. Human Rights Watch (HRW) was created to monitor human rights provisions of the 1978 Helsinki Accords, which called for “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”

But recently AI and HRW cynically cooperated with the corrupt UN Human Rights Council to give birth to the tendentious Goldstone Report, which maliciously demonized Israel.

In some cases, political slants can be predicted by looking at funding sources. HRW, for example, gets most of its money from left-leaning foundations, including the Open Society Institute of George Soros; and last year it held a fund-raising dinner in Saudi Arabia. Other NGOs are funded by the European Union and other governmental sources which have a stake in pressuring Israel.

In the case of CWS, it’s not that easy. Surprisingly, 43% of its income comes from the US government, probably to pay for CWS’s work resettling Haitian and Cuban refugees in the US. It’s likely that its anti-Israel ‘advocacy’ is inspired by activists among its leadership. This is the same phenomenon which causes groups like trade unions, the Presbyterian Church, city councils, etc. to consider and sometimes pass ‘boycott Israel’ resolutions.

Most of the people who vote on these resolutions are not particularly interested in the Israeli-Arab conflict, but they have a general idea that Israel is oppressing some third-world people, and can be convinced to do the ‘right’ thing, since there is little effort involved and no personal consequences.

As a board member of a non-profit myself, I am well aware that members have pet projects, and that sometimes a director will support another’s project in return for a vote for his own.

All that’s required is at least one persistent, dedicated ideologue to introduce ‘Palestine’ as a cause, to get grants from sympathetic sources and hire like-minded staff, etc. In some cases, like HRW, it seems that issues concerning Israel come to crowd out most of the others.

There is no shortage of activists in the 36 member denominations of CWS, which include the Orthodox churches that most ‘Palestinian’ Christians belong to, as well as some others which themselves have passed anti-Israel initiatives.

I am certain that CWS does a great deal of good. But in fiscal year 2008-9, it also sent over $2 million to unspecified recipients in the Middle East (grants outside the US are not listed in detail on the form 990), and spent about $3 million on ‘education and advocacy’ — including lobbying — on issues including ‘justice and peace-building’, climate change, hunger, refugees, immigration, etc.

Next time I feel like fighting hunger, I’ll make a donation to a local food pantry.

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NPR: cowardice or treason?

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Bin Talal and Soros earn their official Car Talk coffee mugs

Bin Talal and Soros earn their official Car Talk coffee mugs

The flap over NPR’s outrageous firing of news analyst Juan Williams won’t go away. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller dug herself even deeper into the manure pit when she said that Williams should discuss his feeling “with his psychiatrist or his publicist — take your pick,” a quip for which she later apologized.

It may be true that Williams didn’t follow instructions about not mentioning his position at NPR when he appeared on Fox. It may be true that NPR management was really uncomfortable about his gig with its sworn enemy. I haven’t seen his contract and I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not prepared to argue about whether they had a right to fire him.

The usual pinwheels are madly spinning that it’s all a right-wing plot, pointing to Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Jim DeMint. It’s not a surprise that conservative politicians would take an opportunity to attack NPR, which clearly does have a liberal bias. But raising this point only distracts attention from the main issue.

All of the above is irrelevant except this:

Monday: Williams makes a remark which violates the unwritten commandment that Thou Shalt Not Piss Off Muslims No Matter How Touchy They May Be.

Wednesday: CAIR (and who knows who else) complains. Shortly thereafter, NPR fires Williams, issuing a statement which specifically refers to the remark in question.

Schiller claimed that she hadn’t seen CAIR’s complaint. Of course that doesn’t imply that she didn’t know about it, or that she hadn’t received any calls about it.

She also said that NPR had concerns about Williams for some time. Again, so what? This was what they chose to fire him for.

Barry Rubin argues that the real significance of this event is that the victim was a liberal, showing that the establishment — in this case NPR — actually has a far left, not liberal, orientation. He may be right.

But here is what I think we should take away from this:

Today the West is struggling with radical Islam, which wants to supplant it as the dominant world culture and impose its own mores and legal system. If you think that the principles of the Enlightenment — which, by the way, guided Madison and Jefferson when they wrote our Constitution — represent an advance over those of seventh-century Arabia, then it must be possible to have a public discussion in which you can say that.

When news media allow themselves to be castrated and censor discourse about Islam — and when the arbiters of what is acceptable or not are groups like CAIR, which are associated with radical Islamists — then it isn’t possible to depend on these media to report reliably on the conflict we find ourselves in today.

The problem is not “liberal bias.” There is nothing liberal about shutting down free speech and punishing dissidents. The problem is either that NPR is afraid to allow its commentators to speak freely, or it supports the triumph of radical Islam over the West.

In other words: cowardice or treason.

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Juan Williams and the suppression of free expression

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Juan Williams. Canned for political incorrectness.

Juan Williams. Canned for political incorrectness.

Yes, I too have an opinion about the Juan Williams affair, even though in the world of blogs, something that happened four days ago is ancient history.

Juan Williams had a job as a ‘news analyst’ for NPR, a news organization that I’ve criticized numerous times (see also here). Williams also appears on Fox News, and had a conversation with Bill O’Reilly on Monday in which he said this:

I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

[The Times Square bomber] said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

Two days later (and after a complaint from CAIR) he was fired by NPR, which said in an official statement that

his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.

Fox News quoted NPR President Vivian Schiller who explained further:

Schiller issued an internal memo on Thursday saying that Williams was fired for violating an NPR principle that states that on other networks “NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist,” reads the memo obtained by Fox News.

“News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation,” she added.

Many comments supporting NPR equated Williams with radio personality Don Imus (who was fired for calling the members of a girls’ basketball team “nappy-headed ho’s”) and compared his remark to “when I walk down the street and see a black person I get nervous,” which they view as clearly racist.

Let’s look at this.

Violent crime peaked in New York city around 1990, and muggings were particularly prevalent. People reported robberies on a regular basis, sometimes in the same place by the same person. The perpetrators were overwhelmingly young black males. Would it be racist at that time and place to say “young black males make me nervous” — or would it just be common sense?

Schiller’s and NPR’s responses do not accuse Williams of racism or ‘Islamophobia’. They say that as a news analyst it hurts his credibility when he expresses a personal view on a controversial subject. The view he expressed is certainly personal.

But is it controversial that terrorism by radical Muslims in the name of Islam is frequent and bloody today? I don’t think so, no more than saying that New York’s muggers were predominately young black males. These are just facts.

‘News analysis’ is something between straight news and opinion. I haven’t succeeded in finding a definition of it, although almost every media outlet claims to do it. An analyst, I suppose, would take the factual story provided by a reporter and explain how that story might develop, what its relationships are to other stories, why it is important (or not), and ultimately how it might affect people’s lives.

It’s hard enough for a news reporter to keep his interpretation out of a story. Could an ‘analyst’ make the value judgments, extrapolations, and even guesses that are essential to his job without letting his personal opinions show? I don’t think so, and of course NPR’s analysts do it all the time — and guess what, so do their news reporters.

There is something about Williams’ comment that crossed a red line at NPR. What was it? Here are some of the explanations people have offered:

  • NPR is obsessed with political correctness for ideological reasons.
  • NPR is uncomfortable with Williams appearing on Fox News.
  • NPR is afraid of CAIR.
  • NPR is afraid of some large contributors. George Soros recently gave them $1.8 million. Since their donor list is not public, it’s possible — actually, I would bet on it — that it receives recycled Arab petrodollars, too.
  • NPR is following what Daniel Pipes calls ‘Rushdie rules’.

I don’t know for sure which of these explanations may be true. Probably all of them.

I do know that in the US today, free expression about the subjects of Islam, Islamism, and both violent and nonviolent jihad is strongly discouraged.  This comes from the top, with both the Bush and Obama Administrations issuing guidelines that restrict the way government spokespersons can talk about these things.  NPR and my own local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, seem to have adopted the same approach.

I want to one more quotation, to which I can agree from personal experience.

Most people would not call Williams a right-winger. Overall, it seems to me that he has “called them as he sees them,” and the fact that he could work for both NPR and Fox supports this. He made this remark last year, also to O’Reilly:

When I say something that doesn’t hold to the orthodoxy of the far left, they are far more vicious and personal, ad hominem…than anything on the right.

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The bad dogs

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Here is something that appeared today on the Palestinian Media Watch site:

A clip broadcast seven times in three days on PA TV labeled Palestinian terrorists as “heroes” for having murdered six Israelis in two terror attacks. PA TV showed the clip to coincide with the anniversary celebrations of the Palestinian Arab Front (formerly Arab Liberation Front), the organization that carried out the attacks in 1975 and 1980.

The TV clip glorified the terror attacks by showing two pictures of the terrorists who committed the attacks, with captions that read, “The heroes of the Kfar Yuval operation” and, “The heroes of the Misgav Am operation.”

The attack on Kfar Yuval
On June 15, 1975, terrorists from the Arab Liberation Front penetrated the Israeli village Kfar Yuval near the Lebanese border. Four terrorists seized control of one of the homes and held its inhabitants hostage. Three Israelis were killed.

The attack on Misgav Am
On April 7, 1980, five terrorists from the Arab Liberation Front took control of the children’s house in Kibbutz Misgav Am in northern Israel, holding the children hostage. They killed two adults and one child [four other children were wounded — ed.] before they were subdued by the Israeli army.

I remember the Misgav Am attack quite well, since it occurred about a year after I moved to Israel. I lived on a kibbutz not unlike Misgav Am, and my son, who is 33 today and has two small children of his own, lived in a children’s house not unlike the one on Misgav Am. So the story made a big impresion on me.

This particular children’s house was a peuton, whose residents were perhaps two or three years old. An armed kibbutz member was present as night guard, a job that I had done numerous times. He was the first one killed.

I remember struggling through the Hebrew news accounts of the attack. What has stuck with me for thirty years was the way one of the surviving children described the incident: “The bad dogs barked.”

The Arab Liberation Front is now called the “Palestinian Arab Front” and is part of the PLO. The PA is the official incarnation of the PLO as a government, created by the Oslo Accords.

You can learn a lot about people by looking at their heroes.

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US angry at Netanyahu for being a Zionist

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

We are really going to get it after the election, leaks the administration:

Behind the scenes, the Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month.

The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho…

“’We put our asses on the line,’” the sense of dismay among the U.S. Middle East team at Netanyahu’s rejection of the U.S. package was described. “’We worked with your defense minister and gave you this amazing deal, all the cover you needed to extend the freeze. And you not only rejected it, but put forward a counterproposal [demanding Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state] pandering to the right and a stalling tactic.’” — Laura Rozen, Politico

In other words, the ‘team’ is furious that Israel did not accept its package of bribes and promises (here is a sympathetic assessment that details the offer) in return for not insisting that the Palestinian Authority (PA) affirm that an agreement with them is more than a stepping-stone to the replacement of Israel by an Arab state.

Indeed, the ‘team’ views the idea that Israel is the state of the Jewish people as a right-wing idea — when in truth it is Israel’s reason for being. This is like saying that the ideal of individual freedom in the US is a ‘right-wing’ idea!

On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was established as  “a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel”, and it was immediately recognized by the US. The Palestinian Arabs, who had been at war with the pre-state Jewish settlement for some time, of course refused to accept this. For 62 years they have continued to fight against what they see as ‘occupation’ of ‘their’ land.

The so-called ‘peace process’ is supposed to end this conflict by means of yet another partition of the area of the League of Nations Mandate (the first partition occurred in 1922 when Britain gave 70% of the land to Abdullah, the great-grandfather of the present King Abdullah of Jordan, for an Arab state).

But the conflict will not be ended simply by creating another Arab state if that state and the rest of the world continue to insist that the Jewish state of Israel is illegitimate.

The Obama administration doesn’t put a high priority on ending the conflict. Their immediate objective is the creation of ‘Palestine’, and they will worry about what happens afterward — afterward. They would hate the comparison, but a previous administration made a similar error when it decided to overthrow Saddam Hussein first and worry about the aftermath later.

So now they’re mad at Netanyahu for being a Zionist — how inconvenient — and will need to find some other way to create ‘Palestine’. The leakers continue,

No new plan B is likely to emerge before the November mid-terms. One possibility being mulled — but not decided on – is the administration eventually putting forward American ideas for the basis of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

In a meeting last week, high level U.S. State Department and NSC officials were asked what’s to stop Netanyahu saying no to such a plan. The answer the officials gave was there are ways to put things forward that he can’t say no to.

Some analysts also see a possibility that Netanyahu might be pushed to consider eventually bringing opposition Kadima leader Tzipi Livni into his governing coalition if he wants to move forward on the peace track. Quiet feelers and conversations have been described taking place.

In other words, the US will dictate terms and force Netanyahu to accept them (if Rahm Emanuel were still there, he could send Bibi a dead fish). Note that despite the fact that the US provides a large part of the subsidy that keeps the PA alive, it is unable or unwilling to pressure it to accept Netanyahu’s condition for extending the freeze — otherwise it would have done that already.

Another option will be to force regime change in Israel, to gain a more cooperative government. This seems to be based on the assumption that the only reason Netanyahu insists on recognition is that he is afraid of the right-wing members of his coalition. I doubt this.

If the sources quoted here really represent the thinking of the administration (and we’ll soon find out), then there is a message for every country that considers itself an ally of the US:

These guys don’t have allies, they have satellites.

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A unilateral declaration of statehood?

Monday, October 18th, 2010
Secretary of State Clinton with a Palestinian flag. What would the US do?

Secretary of State Clinton with a Palestinian flag. What would the US do?

There has been a certain amount of talk about the possibility of a unilateral declaration of the state of ‘Palestine’ within the 1949 armistice lines. Nobody knows what would actually happen if the Palestinian Authority proceeds along this course, but some interesting questions come up:

The Arabs have enough votes in the UN General Assembly to pass almost any resolution that they want. But the Security Council, which is the only UN body that can actually enforce a resolution — by means of sanctions or even military force — is subject to the veto of any of its permanent members: the US, UK, France, Russia and China. What would these nations do?

What would the US do? Barry Rubin says that some Israeli officials expect that the Obama Administration will go all-out to ‘solve’ the Arab-Israeli conflict after the midterm elections. Since this is defined almost entirely in terms of getting a Palestinian state, and there is no overlap between Arab and Israeli positions that can bring this about through negotiations, the US might choose to support a unilateral declaration — or at least abstain.

Would Gaza be part of ‘Palestine’ and if so would Hamas be part of its government?

How many countries would recognize ‘Palestine’?

What would happen next? Would Palestinian authorities immediately demand that all Jewish settlements be evacuated? Would there be a time limit? Would the Palestinians try to expel Jews by force, as the Jordanians did in 1948? Would it try, in particular, to take possession of East Jerusalem (a casus belli if I ever saw one)?

If ‘Palestine’ becomes a sovereign state, it will have the ability to make alliances and even invite foreign troops into its territory to ‘defend’ it.

Such a declaration would be advantageous for the Arabs — if they could pull it off — because it would get them territory without requiring any concessions at all to Israel. ‘Palestine’ could continue to demand that refugees be allowed to ‘return’ to Israel, it could militarize, it could defend its airspace, etc. And it could continue to engage in ‘resistance’ against Israel.

‘Palestine’ already has a constitution, which has gone through several drafts. It tries to take into account the competing visions of Arab nationalism and Islamism that characterize the various factions in Palestinian Arab politics:

Article (1)

The State of Palestine is a sovereign, independent republic. Its territory is an indivisible unit based upon its borders on the eve of June 4, 1967, without prejudice to the rights guaranteed by the international resolutions relative to Palestine. All residents of this territory shall be subject to Palestinian law exclusively.

Article (2)

Palestine is part of the Arab nation. The state of Palestine abides by the charter of the League of Arab States. The Palestinian people are part of the Arab and Islamic nations. Arab unity is a goal, the Palestinian people hopes to achieve.

Article (3)

Palestine is a peace loving state that condemns terror, occupation and aggression. It calls for the resolution of international and regional problems by peaceful means. It abides by the Charter of the United Nations.

Article (4)

Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine and seat of its public authorities.

Article (5)

Arabic and Islam are the official Palestinian language and religion. Christianity and all other monotheistic religions shall be equally revered and respected. The Constitution guarantees equality in rights and duties to all citizens irrespective of their religious belief.

Article (6)

The Palestinian flag, motto, seals, emblems, and national anthem shall be determined by law.

Article (7)

The principles of Islamic Shari’a are a major source for legislation. Civil and religious matters of the followers of monotheistic religions shall be organized in accordance with their religious teachings and denominations within the framework of law, while preserving the unity and independence of the Palestinian people.

Some things are notable here:

Although the leadership has firmly and consistently rejected the idea of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, ‘Palestine’ is defined as having an ‘official religion’ and its laws will be based on Shari’a! Note also that Article 3 condemns ‘occupation’. I don’t think they were thinking of the Chinese occupation of Tibet when they wrote this.

Hindus and Buddhists, who are not considered “monotheists,” will not be “revered and respected” in ‘Palestine’, should they choose to live there. Article 7, if interpreted in keeping with the traditional principles of Islam, implies that the monotheists will pay a special tax while non-monotheists will be required to accept Islam or leave.

Article (12)

Palestinian nationality shall be regulated by law, without prejudice to the rights of those who legally acquired it prior to May 10, 1948 or the rights of the Palestinians residing in Palestine prior to this date, and who were forced into exile or departed there from and denied return thereto. This right passes on from fathers or mothers to their progenitor [sic — they mean ‘progeny’]. It neither disappears nor elapses unless voluntarily relinquished. A Palestinian cannot be deprived of his nationality. The acquisition and relinquishment of Palestinian nationality shall be regulated by law. The rights and duties of citizens with multiple nationalities shall be governed by law.

Article (13)

Palestinians who left Palestine as a result of the 1948 war, and who were denied return thereto shall have the right to return to the Palestinian state and bear its nationality. It is a permanent, inalienable, and irrevocable right.

The state of Palestine shall strive to apply the legitimate right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, and to obtain compensation, through negotiations, political, and legal channels in accordance with the 1948 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 and the principles of international law.

According to this document, there will be even more ‘Palestinians’ than are recognized today by UNRWA, which allows Palestinian status to descend only to those with ‘Palestinian’ fathers. And the state of ‘Palestine’, as part of its constitution, calls for a right of return.

It’s interesting that Article 13 says that ‘Palestinians who left Palestine as a result of the 1948 war’ will have the right of return to the Palestinian state. There were between 550,000 and 700,00 of them in 1948, and there are far fewer today. The rest of the 4.5 million Arabs with refugee status, therefore, will either go to Israel or stay in refugee camps. This is consistent with the Arab position since 1949 — ‘refugees’ will never be allowed to have a home until Israel is destroyed.

Will they do it? My guess is quite possibly, if they think they can get US support. Remember, their goal is the replacement of Israel with ‘Palestine’, not a state alongside Israel. A partition agreement that Israel could accept to would include demilitarization, various security features, and limitations on sovereignty, at least for a time. It would also rule out an influx of ‘refugees’ and would put the Arabs on the wrong side of international law if they violate it.

And the US? Who knows? Foreign policy under this administration is neither consistent nor rational.

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