Archive for November, 2010

Israeli Jews sick of Arab bad behavior

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

“Let’s see you explain this,” say my friends:

The Israel Democracy Institute released the results of its Israeli Democracy Ranking and poll on Tuesday, revealing that 53 percent of Jewish Israelis say the government should encourage [Israeli] Arabs to emigrate from Israel, and only 51% believe Jews and Arabs should have equal rights. — Jerusalem Post (the poll data is here)

Well, I’m going to try. The usual suspects will claim that this shows that Israeli Jews are racists. But there’s other information in the poll that indicates otherwise. For example,

We … posed the question: “Would it bother you to have as your neighbor: immigrants from the Former Soviet Union; ultra-Orthodox Jews; former settlers; a homosexual couple; foreign workers; an Arab family (asked of Jews)/a Jewish family (asked of Arabs); mentally retarded individuals; Ethiopian immigrants; mentally ill individuals in community treatment; people who do not observe Sabbath or holidays?” … For all groups cited, more than half the Jewish respondents answered that having such a neighbor would not bother them (the average of those who responded that they would be bothered is 23%).

That doesn’t sound very racist to me. But there is one kind of question about Arabs that Jews responded in a uniformly negative way: 70% of Jews disagreed with the statement “In your opinion, should more Arabs be appointed to senior positions in Israel?” 86% of Jews think that a Jewish majority should be required for decisions “fateful to the state,” and 62% that “as long as Israel is in a state of conflict with the Palestinians, the views of Arab citizens of Israel should not be taken into account on security issues.”

What is going on here seems to be that many Israeli Jews have come to believe believe that Arab citizens of Israel do not have the best interests of the Jewish state at heart.  Consider that one Israeli Arab member of the Knesset (Azmi Bishara) recently fled the country to escape prosecution for, among other things, providing targeting information to Hizballah during the 2006 war, and another  (MK Haneen Zouabi) — sailed on the Mavi Marmara and calls for the dismantling of the Jewish state.

In recent years the degree to which the ‘Israeli Arabs’ (who prefer now to be called ‘Palestinian citizens of Israel’) identify with Israel’s enemies has sharply increased. Sometimes this is expressed violently and sometimes not, sometimes politically — as in Zouabi’s calls for Israel to be ‘de-Zionized’ — and sometimes in the form of criminal activity.

But apparently the periodic riots and other expressions of anti-Zionism have convinced the Jewish public that the experiment in coexistence that is today’s Israel, in which 20% of the population is Arab, is not working as well as Ben-Gurion hoped it would.

In other words: Israeli Jews aren’t racists, they’re just sick of Arab bad behavior.

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Insult a Muslim, go to jail

Monday, November 29th, 2010

I am going to quote something which most Americans know by heart and even think is unexceptional:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. — The First Amendment to the US Constitution

It is, however, very exceptional. For example, there is no corresponding freedom of speech in liberal, democratic Europe. There, the European Parliament reserves the right to determine what kind of speech is acceptable and to jail anyone that speaks in an unacceptable way.

Now, you might say that Holocaust denial, for example, is very bad and should not be permitted, not to mention the huge amount of truly vicious racist material available on the Internet. But as Madison and Jefferson realized, laws are blunt instruments and have to be applied with human discretion. All you need is the wrong human and what was intended to protect individuals can be turned to oppress them.

Europe’s response to the racist policies of the Nazis was to criminalize certain kinds of speech. But ironically, the forces that are taking advantage of this are the ones whose intent most closely parallels that of the Nazis — radical Islamists.

In 2008, the EU adopted a ‘Framework Decision‘ to reconcile the treatment of speech-crimes (my phrase) by its various members in regard to “racism and xenophobia.” It went into effect yesterday. In part, it says

1. Each Member State shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable:

(a) publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin;

(b) the commission of an act referred to in point (a) by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;

(c) publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite to violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a group;

2. For the purpose of paragraph 1, Member States may choose to punish only conduct which is either carried out in a manner likely to disturb public order or which is threatening, abusive or insulting.

3. For the purpose of paragraph 1, the reference to religion is intended to cover, at least, conduct which is a pretext for directing acts against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.

Now consider what this could mean in practice. Take the Goldstone Report, which concluded — by a combination of falsehoods and unsound reasoning — that the IDF committed war crimes in Gaza, deliberately harming Palestinian Arab civilians in order to ‘collectively punish’ them for supporting Hamas. Although the report itself is simply a badly-done slander produced by the most Israel-hostile circles in the UN and NGOs, it was officially adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.

So the Goldstone Report can be used as ‘evidence’ that publicly defending Israel is a crime under 1(c) above!

Further, a literal reading of the EU decision implies that speech that is ‘insulting’ to a religious group may be ‘inciting to hatred’ and therefore unlawful. Unlike the criterion of inciting to violence, which is somewhat objective, something can be said to be ‘insulting’ if the ‘victim’ of the speech-crime claims to be insulted.

There is no doubt that many Muslims found the famous Danish cartoons insulting, so it appears that the cartoonist and publisher would have also committed a crime. Is there any doubt that they would be prosecuted today?

Note that the truth or falsity of the speech is irrelevant here. If it is construed to be ‘insulting’ or ‘abusive’ then it doesn’t matter.

Europeans sometimes comment on the ‘obsession with individual freedom’ that characterizes the US. I remind them that Fascism was invented there.

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Airport security is the war in microcosm

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Here is a quick calculation by Dana Milbank (h/t: IsraelMatzav):

El Al, Israel’s national carrier, reported spending $107,828,000 on security in 2009 for the 1.9 million passengers it carried. That works out to about $56.75 per passenger. The United States, by contrast, spent $5.33 billion on aviation security in fiscal 2010, and the air travel system handled 769.6 million passengers in 2009 (a low year), according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That amounts to $6.93 per passenger.

Hmm, you get what you pay for, apparently. Milbank’s point is that the overall cost would be astronomical, while IsraelMatzav says that passengers could simply be asked to pay an extra $50 or so per ticket. Two ways of looking at the same number.

While our government is capable of throwing a large amount of money and other people’s inconvenience (for an absolutely incredible example, watch the video below) at the problem, it can’t be solved by the present system.

The TSA employs standard procedures that are applied to everyone “by the book.” Officers are obviously not encouraged or permitted to exercise initiative with respect to the procedures that are documented. The terrorist, on the other hand, has no difficulty in learning exactly what these procedures are and has complete freedom to think creatively about how to circumvent them.

It’s no contest. Humans dominated the earth’s ecosystems by using their large, creative brains. A rule book, no matter how carefully crafted, can’t possibly compete with a human brain.

The Israeli system — profiling in many dimensions, using screeners who talk to the passengers and look for behavioral clues to escalate the degree of scrutiny, multiple levels of security, methods that are not disclosed, etc. — is designed to pit intelligence against intelligence.

Milbank suggests that we cannot use the Israeli system because of the cost. But I don’t think that’s the major obstacle. As IsraelMatzav suggested, there ways to pay for it. I think the problem is that we’ve developed a culture in which anything discriminatory is taboo (and invites lawsuits). And the discrimination need not be racial or ethnic — you are simply not allowed to single anyone out, ever, for anything, unless it’s done by a legal proceeding.

The Israeli system is inherently discriminatory, because only by discriminating in some way is it possible to focus enough to have a good chance of detecting an actual terrorist. Apparently our government thinks that it’s easier to break the taboo on strangers touching your genitals than the one against discrimination. Which might be true, but it’s still ineffective.

Airport security is a much larger issue in microcosm: the difficulty of fighting an asymmetric war. Airline terrorism is only a small part of the war between the West and radical Islam. What’s important about it is that it may be giving rise to the first time the larger society in the US has actually had to deal with explicitly giving something up as a result of the war.

Some of the confusion is due to the fact that our government hasn’t faced the reality, named the enemy, acknowledged the need for sacrifice, and taken steps to spread it around in a more equal way. Until we begin to see the struggle we are in clearly, we are going to continue to be frustrated and angry — and we won’t prevail.

I promised a video. Take some people who not paid very well to do a job  that they know is impossible with the tools they are given. Tell them that a byproduct of the Sisyphean task they are charged with is  that their ‘clients’ are likely to also be frustrated, annoyed and hostile. Here’s the result:

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

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Dutch government supports hate-Israel site

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Ali Abunimah is a dedicated anti-Israel activist. His website, Electronic Intifada, is widely read (US traffic rank around 106,000) and linked to (more than 2000 sites). Abunimah gives speeches, appears on panels and is often quoted on the radio. He claims to have met Barack Obama numerous times, and is responsible for this notable quote:

As he came in from the cold and took off his coat [Chicago, 2004], I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.” He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, “Keep up the good work!” — Ali Abunimah

By the “3D test” of Natan Sharansky — Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization — or by the European Union’s working definition of antisemitism, Abunimah’s website and many of his remarks are antisemitic. Here is what NGO Monitor wrote about Electronic Intifada:

…the organization known as Electronic Intifada is very active in BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] efforts, routinely abusing terms like “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing.” Nigel Parry, a cofounder of EI, conflates victims of terror with terror leaders, and justifies Palestinian mortars fired into Israeli settlements by stating: “The dilemma in which the Palestinians find themselves is like that of a man who, falsely imprisoned for most of his life and demonized by society, finds himself in a dark room being raped by a highly decorated prison guard, when… he suddenly notices a rocket launcher lying within reach.” Parry also compared Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas head Ahmed Yassin to a “bus bombing.”

EI’s other founder, Ali Abunimah, who appears on many campuses to promote BDS, calls for a one-state solution, meaning the elimination of Israel. Abunimah also compares Israel to Nazi Germany, referring to the Israeli press as “Der Sturmer.”

All this activity is expensive. Where does the money come from? Surprisingly (or not), a great deal of it comes from a Western liberal democracy:

BERLIN – The Dutch government has been funding the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation [ICCO], a Dutch aid organization that finances the Electronic Intifada website that, NGO Monitor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, is anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime…

That government funding amounted to €124 million in 2008. The European Commission also funds ICCO…

The ICCO website devotes a page to Electronic Intifada, praising its work as “an internationally recognized daily news source” that provides a counterweight to “positive reporting” about Israel. ICCO’s website notes its three-year funding pledge for Electronic Intifada… — Jerusalem Post

This is not the first time European states and the EU have been caught paying for the demonization of the Jewish state. In fact, they are apparently the largest source of funding for left-wing Israeli NGOs which are such big contributors to the the international hate-Israel movement.

The Dutch seem to prefer that their nation remain a liberal democracy, and have reacted quite strongly to attempts by radical Islamists to change that. It’s ironic that their government seems to support the same kind of aggression against someone else’s democracy.

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Lies, big and little

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

A Dutch filmmaker, George Sluizer, recently claimed to have seen Ariel Sharon shoot two ‘toddlers’ in Lebanon during the Sabra/Shatila massacres. His story was published in the third-largest newspaper in the Netherlands, the Volksrant. The story is impossible for numerous reasons, not to mention the fact that Sharon would never have done such a thing.

When Hizballah was implicated in the murder of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri, they immediately denied it and claimed that Israel had killed Hariri. There is no possible way that Israel could have benefited by Hariri’s death, and most objective observers believed (and still believe) that the plan was hatched in Syria.

In August 2009, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published a story by one Donald Bostrom which accused the IDF of deliberately killing young Palestinians in order to steal their organs. Despite the fact that it is impossible to harvest organs from dead bodies and despite the fact that Bostrom himself admitted that his story was entirely based on “what Palestinian families told [him],” the story has persisted and is widely believed today.

The UN’s Goldstone report claimed that one of the official objectives of Operation Cast Lead was to kill or injure as many Palestinian noncombatants as possible. Goldstone’s commission came to this conclusion despite Israel’s very visible efforts to protect civilians, and despite the fact that Israel’s interests were clearly harmed by the perception that it wanted to hurt civilians.

In November 2002, Prince Nayef of Saudi Arabia, said “It is impossible that 19 youths carried out the operation of September 11, or that bin Laden or Al Qaeda did that alone. … I think [the Zionists] are behind these events.” This, and many similar statements by other important Arabs and Muslims are quoted here.

Do you see where I’m going? There are many, many more examples, some trivial and some vicious.

It is possible to say absolutely anything about Israel, its leaders, its people and its army. It may be published in ‘legitimate’ media, and it will be believed in the worldwide community of Israel-haters. There are numerous internet sites and blogs that exist only to be repositories for this kind of story.

Most Americans think the slanders above are false. How could anyone believe them? And yet, in some places in the world almost everyone believes them. Here in the US it’s the less theatrical ones that tend to be believed, like the one that says that most of the casualties of Cast Lead were civilians (especially children), that ‘settlers’ run wild in Judea and Samaria uprooting olive trees and burning mosques, that there are starving people in Gaza, that “Israel is not interested in peace,” etc. But these are equally false.

Some of the US and Soviet propaganda of the Cold War era was equally vicious, at least if we ignore the echoes of ancient antisemitic blood libels in the attacks on Israel. What is unprecedented is the way these attacks are aimed in only one direction and emanate from so many sources: the Arab world, Iran, Europe, the UK, the international Left, etc.

It’s like schoolyard bullying, the way it’s focused on a particular target. A misfit nation, a Jewish nation in a place where Jews are despised, Israel is singled out in a historically unique way.  But it’s not simple sadism.  It has a purpose, which is to crush any sympathetic feelings toward Israel, both to stymie her political initiatives in peacetime and to justify actions to prevent her from making any gains or even defending herself in the event of war.

I don’t know what the solution is. It takes zero effort to make up a story like the one about Sharon, but it’s harder to prove that something didn’t happen. Anyway, the people that believe these tales are not persuaded by logic or evidence. Ultimately, the stories make it into the ‘conventional wisdom’, the things everyone accepts without question.

I’m sure the President of the US doesn’t believe that Sharon shoots toddlers or that Zionists perpetrated 9/11. But I wonder what stories he does believe?

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J Street calls for imposed map

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

The main thing to keep in in mind about the phony ‘pro-Israel’ lobby J Street is that it is a creature of the Obama Administration.

So what are we to make of the latest J Street initiative, which appears to call for the US to impose a map on Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA)?

…whether direct talks resume or not, we believe the time has come for American efforts to shift from a heavy focus on getting the parties to decide whether to keep talking – to one that puts fundamental choices squarely before the parties about whether and how to end the conflict.

Therefore, we believe that it is time for the Obama Administration to adopt a “borders and security first” strategy that focuses on delineating a permanent border between Israel and a future state of Palestine, based on 100 percent of the land beyond the 1967 Green Line with one-to-one land swaps, as well as finalizing the necessary security arrangements for a two-state agreement.  Such a strategy should be adopted with or without a 90-day extension of the limited moratorium on settlement construction.

Setting an agreed-upon border would both create positive momentum to address other final status issues and eliminate the issue of settlements as a barrier to continued negotiations, as Israel and the Palestinians would be able to build where they please within their established borders.

Let’s look at what they are asking for:

First, J Street is prepared to give up on the idea of direct talks, which means they realize (correctly) that there is no intersection between Israeli and Arab bottom lines, and that therefore the talks cannot succeed.

This is because the Arab leadership doesn’t accept the existence of any Jewish state, and so the only way to proceed is to keep (more or less) the status quo while helping the Arabs learn that they need new and different leaders. But of course neither J Street nor the administration gets this.

So they are suggesting that the border be delineated now. This is the important part of the proposal (I’ll get to the “security arrangements” later). Once a map has been drawn and somehow given legitimacy, then the argument that the 1949 lines are not borders goes away. One side is Israel, the other becomes Palestine. At this point there would be no obstacle to declaring the Arab state.

One would expect that the land swaps would be defined so as to keep some of the large settlement blocs in Israel. At best, perhaps a hundred thousand Jews would have to leave their homes in what would be ‘Palestine’. Of course, no Arabs will be forced to move, regardless of boundaries. After all, that would be racism [sarcasm alert].

Needless to say, this is a bad outcome for Israel, which loses control of the territory in return for basically nothing: no recognition of Israel as Jewish state, no renunciation of further claims or ‘right of return’, and no end of conflict. Consider also that only about 8,000 Israelis were evacuated from Gaza, and the social repercussions continue today. Multiply that by at least 12. And I haven’t even mentioned Jerusalem, the holy sites, etc.

Although they say that it will create “momentum to address other final status issues” it will do the opposite. Once Israel relinquishes control of the land, the Arabs have no reason to give up anything. What would it get them?

What about the “security arrangements?” Well, this is supposedly what Israel gets. Israel’s concerns about a Gaza-like terror state being established a couple of miles from its international airport can’t be denied. Unlike the Gaza strip, it would be an internationally recognized state which can make treaties and invite foreign armies, etc. So there has to be a way to guarantee Israel’s security, or at least to pretend to do so, once she has been forced to live within indefensible borders.

This is especially true because once the IDF leaves the territories, there will be nothing to prevent a takeover by Hamas (the ‘Palestinian security forces’ will not stand for a day).

So there will be some kind of guarantee, perhaps involving NATO peacekeepers or even Americans. But none of these will be prepared to die for Israel, and either they will be gone after the first large-scale terror attack against them, or they will be as ineffective as UNIFIL is in enforcing the arms blockade against Hizballah.

Understand that the concern for security is lip service. What is important is to create ‘Palestine’. That is the objective of the Obama Administration.

So the interesting question is “why is J Street floating this idea?” Are they announcing the administration’s intent? Or is it just a threat — this is what will happen if we don’t get a freeze?

My guess is that it is actually the position of the administration. The freeze seems to be a non-starter, with the PA refusing to accept it unless it explicitly mentions Jerusalem. Not to mention the fact that the Palestinians have no incentive to restart talks if the alternative — as J Street suggests — is an imposed map!

What I would like Israel to do is agree to the freeze on condition that the Arabs commit in advance that any agreement must include the following:

  • Recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people
  • Renunciation of all Arab claims against Israel, including for ‘right of return’
  • Agreement that the treaty marks the end of the conflict

It seems to me that these principles represent the minimum requirements for a treaty that will actually be a peace agreement, and not simply the document of surrender that the Arabs have been demanding. Otherwise, talking about borders is premature.

The Arabs seem to have defined the problem as Israel’s possession of Arab land. Israel needs to take control of the story and bring it back to reality, which is that the problem is Arab aggression against the legitimate state of Israel.

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Worms then and now

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Pirkei Avot (Chap. 5, Mishna 8 — h/t Lise):

Ten things were created at twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath:
the mouth of the earth (Numbers 16:32);
the mouth of the well (Numbers 21:16);
the mouth of the ass (Numbers 22:28);
the rainbow;
the manna;
Aaron’s staff;
the Shamir, writing;
the inscription on the tablets of the Ten Commandments;
and the tablets themselves.
Some also include the evil spirits, the grave of Moses, the ram of Abraham; and others add the original tongs, for tongs must be made with tongs.

So what is the Shamir? Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld explains,

The shamir was a type of worm which produced a highly corrosive substance. The Talmud writes that it was used to hew stones for the Temple’s construction or engrave inscriptions on the stones of the High Priest’s garments (Sotah 48b). It used a force which emanated directly from G-d, and was used in the construction of the Temple — the structure which enabled G-d’s Divine Presence to dwell in the physical world.

Wikipedia provides this additional speculation:

For storage, the Shamir was always wrapped in wool and stored in a container made of lead; any other vessel would burst and disintegrate under the Shamir’s gaze.

The Shamir was either lost or had lost its potency (along with the “dripping of the honeycomb”) by the time of the destruction of the First Temple at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

Noting the conditions under which the Shamir was stored when not in use, controversial theorist Immanuel Velikovsky posited that the Shamir’s true nature was radioactive. Velikovsky hypothesized that the Shamir was a small sample of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope, possibly radium, though he fails to explain how this would cut material.

Worms are in the news today

Iran’s nuclear project is suffering serious technical problems, evidenced by the recent shutdown of hundreds or even thousands of its uranium-enrichment centrifuges. Analysts suggest that the Stuxnet computer worm is the cause. Stuxnet has turned out to be far more sophisticated and targeted than heretofore thought:

Technical analysis shows that Stuxnet contains two different digital warheads that are obviously unrelated. The warheads are considerably different in structure and run on different platforms…

It appears that warhead one and warhead two were deployed in combination as an all-out cyber strike against the Iranian nuclear program. None of the targets, which are detailed below, can be categorized as critical infrastructure; both are dedicated military targets.

Warhead one is running on Siemens S7-315 controllers. It contains the much-quoted DEADFOOT sequence, first discovered by us on Sep 16 2010, where control is temporarily taken away from the legitimate program. Code analysis shows that warhead one manipulates an array of up to 186 high-speed drives attached to up to six Profibus segments. In essence, the manipulation is cycling drive speeds (RPM) between low values and high values. For a gas centrifuge, this will sooner or later result in cracking the rotor, thereby destroying the centrifuge…

Warhead two is running on a Siemens S7-417 controller. It has no obvious relation to warhead one in structure, configuration and timing. The configuration that warhead two is looking for matches that of a steam turbine controller as it is used in power plants, such as the Bushehr nuclear power plant. — Ralph Langner, German software engineer (h/t,Yochanan Visser)

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NY Times comes out against democracy

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

The NY Times doesn’t even pretend to hide its bias any more:

JERUSALEM — Israel’s right-leaning Parliament approved legislation late Monday that could hamper the leadership’s ability to seal future peace deals with the Palestinians or Syria.

The measure requires that any peace deal involving the ceding of territory annexed by Israel — namely East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights — must be put to a national referendum.

The West Bank, which Israel never annexed, does not fall within the scope of the legislation, but it would include other pieces of sovereign Israeli territory that might be ceded in the context of land swaps in a peace agreement.

East Jerusalem became part of Israel in 1980, with the passage of the Basic Law — Jerusalem. Although the Golan Heights was not actually annexed, Israeli law and administration was extended to it in 1981.

The new law says that if the Knesset approves such a deal by a simple majority but by less than a 2/3 vote, there must be a popular referendum before it can be implemented.

Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat is opposed because,

Ending the occupation of our land is not and cannot be dependent on any sort of referendum.

Translation: “It’s mine, give it to me.” We’ve seen this argument before.

Opposition politicians are opposed because, in the words of Kadima leader Tzipi Livni,

It is about decisions that should be taken by the leadership that understands the scale of the problems and is privy to all their aspects… The people are not a substitute for such leadership.

Translation: “We know what’s good for you.” But the history of the ‘peace process’ and the wars that followed showed that they don’t. In the famous words of Barack Obama, “elections have consequences,” and the Israeli electorate expressed their clear belief that the left-wing parties did not have their confidence after the débacles of Oslo and Gaza.

The NY times dislikes the idea, because it might “hamper” the God-given right of the Obama Administration to squeeze Israeli politicians until the blood flows.

You see, the administration’s bullies can threaten the Prime Minister and others in private, with actions that the American people — and Congress — would find repulsive. We’ve seen hints of this already in suggestions that the US might not veto a Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1949 lines, something that could lead to economic sanctions or even military force against Israel.

A referendum would wreck this strategy. Any threats would have to be public ones.

The Times faithfully reflects administration thinking on this issue, and the attitude toward democracy is telling.

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Logic and peace

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

The mysterious Elder of Ziyon, one of the smartest guys around, has written an excellent article called “The If-Then Fallacy.”

The fallacy consists of inferring that if Israel makes some kind of concession, then the Arabs — and the interested bystanders such as the EU, UN, media, US administration, etc. — will respond positively. Mr. Ziyon gives several examples in which this did not occur, the withdrawal from Gaza being a prominent one.

It was suggested that if Israel would withdraw, then not only would Gaza no longer be Israel’s problem, but Israel would be rewarded diplomatically for taking risks for peace. Israel did withdraw, at great social cost — a price the former residents of the settlements there are still paying. The result was that Hamas stepped up its rocket attacks, bringing about a war for which Israel was blamed (and unfairly vilified). And the world still believes that the Gaza strip is Israel’s responsibility!

The unsound inference made in such if-then propositions depends on a hidden premise: that the Arabs have some positive objective in their relations with Israel like peace, economic development, a Palestinian state, etc. If that were the case, then perhaps Israeli concessions would lead to an improvement in relations.

But this premise is false. Neither the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs — Hamas or Fatah — nor the majority of the ‘Palestinians in the street’ has these things as a primary goal. This is obvious with Hamas, who enjoy publicly saying it, but it is not hidden very deeply by the leaders of Fatah either. Their overriding policy objective is the elimination of Israel and the establishment of Arab control over all the territory presently occupied by it.

This was the objective in 1948, and it was Arafat’s objective. Nothing has changed.

This is why all of the peace processing and all of the initiatives by Israel and the West have been fruitless. This is why the Obama Administration’s plan to create a Palestinian state by pressuring Israel will either fail or will be disastrous for Israel. It is irrational to try to negotiate borders while one party remains committed to the destruction of the other party.

And this is the reason that it is essential that a prospective peace partner be prepared to say, in Arabic as well as English, that Israel is the state of the Jewish people.

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Why I am pro-settler

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I have something to tell you: I am pro-settler.

OK, you are not surprised. But considering the amount of vitriol poured out every day on settlers and settlements, I thought I needed to explicitly say this.

For example, here is how Naomi Paiss of the putatively pro-Israel New Israel Fund (about which I wrote yesterday) justifies boycotting ‘settlement’ products and artistic activities beyond the Green Line:

The settlements are not in Israel. They represent not “just” a blot on Israel as a just and decent nation, and a terrible danger to its survival, but also the waste of billions of shekels for security, expensive bypass roads, government-subsidized construction and mortgages, and more. Those are shekels that could be used to build a more prosperous and socially just Israel. Refusing products and services made in the settlements, and opposing government expenditures there, is well within the rights of every organization and individual who intends to influence the Israeli government to finally abandon the quixotic and immoral settlement enterprise.

I think even members of the pro-Zionist Left (I think NIF has crossed the line, although they would deny it) more or less share this viewpoint. Here’s a snippet from Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). Keep in mind that Rabbi Yoffie is much closer to the center than Paiss and even some other members of the URJ leadership:

Settlement leaders are idealistic, often brave, and deeply committed to their goals. But what they are fighting for is not the State of Israel, whose urgent political and diplomatic needs they ignore. It is not the citizens of Israel, whose lives and future are endangered by the path that the settlers advocate. And it is not Zionism, which calls for democratic principles that they reject.  What they are fighting for is settlements – which have become their god.

There are lots of threads here. One is that settlements are ‘not Israel’. Another is that they are bad for Israel. Yet another is that they — and by implication, those who live in them — are ‘immoral’.

The source for the ‘not Israel’ theme is the obligatory mantra chanted in every BBC report or NY Times article that mentions settlements, that they are “illegal under international law.” I am not going to present a detailed argument in opposition; it has been done competently with appropriate historical background by Nicholas Rostow here. Rostow gives both sides of the argument, and it’s clear which would prevail before an unbiased judge. Suffice to say that the terms of the mandate gave Jews a right to settle in these areas which has not been revoked; that the armistice lines established in 1949 have never been recognized as permanent borders; and that the fourth Geneva Convention — neither in language nor in intent — does not apply.

So they are legal. Are they ‘bad for Israel’? Yoffie seems to think they are because they are an obstacle to peace. This too, is a tired argument which is easily refuted. Has not Israel dismantled settlements and withdrawn from territory in the name of peace? Has not Israel proposed, at least twice in the last ten years, to withdraw from almost all of Judea and Samaria in return for peace, and have not the Arabs refused these offers, primarily because they did not include a return of ‘refugees’ to  pre-1967 Israel?

A recent poll of Palestinian Arabs has shown that 60% of them view a ‘two-state solution’ as a stepping stone to the replacement of Israel with an Arab state, 58% believe that “now is a time for armed struggle”, only 23% believe that Israel has a permanent right to exist, and 66% believe that “over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.” Perhaps we are looking for obstacles to peace in the wrong place?

Although Paiss and Yoffie call settlements ‘dangerous’, the evacuation thereof without a true peace partner would be much more dangerous to security, as the withdrawal from Gaza illustrated.

It may be that what most of those who say that settlements are dangerous mean is that permanent possession of the territories would either make Israel ultimately become an Arab state or lose its democratic character.  But there are lots of possible solutions to this problem, whereas there’s no solution besides war to a terror state next door to the most populous part of Israel.

So finally, they are left with the ‘immorality’. That might mean that they think it’s ‘Palestinian land’ that the settlers have ‘stolen’. Which is mostly nonsense, since almost all settlements are built on state or purchased land, the armistice lines aren’t borders, etc. Naturally, the Arabs claim that everything is theirs and it was all stolen, but that goes for Tel Aviv, too.

Another reason settlers might be ‘immoral’ is that they “deny the Palestinian Arabs dignity and self-determination.” But they don’t — they simply want to live in peace in the historic Jewish homeland, alongside the Arabs, who have been trying to murder them for at least a hundred years, whose leaders refused every offer of partition or compromise. In fact the Arab struggle against Jewish self-determination is the initial cause of the conflict and what sustains it.

Historically, whenever the Arabs had the upper hand, they massacred Jews (as in Hebron in 1929 or Gush Etzion in 1948) or drove them out (the Old City in 1948). The Jordanians made stables out of synagogues and latrines out of Jewish gravestones. Who is trying to deny what to whom?

According to Yoffie, settlers can’t be Zionists because they reject democracy. Should they embrace ‘democracy’ in the form of giving up their own rights, accepting the rule of the Arabs whose heartfelt desire is to kill them or kick them out of the land of Israel? That wouldn’t be very Zionistic, would it?

The anti-settler people would probably say that I’m a racist, just like the settlers. But who denies Jews the right to live in the area “they want for their future state?”  Who has decreed a death penalty for those who sell land to Jews? Who does drive-by shootings on the roads (hence the ‘bypass roads Paiss criticizes), and who stones Jewish vehicles and tries to lynch their occupants? Who broadcasts anti-Semitic propaganda in their official media?

Who are the racists here?

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NIF tries to walk between raindrops, gets soaked

Saturday, November 20th, 2010
A two-faced policy on BDS

A two-faced policy on BDS

This January, an American charity, the New Israel Fund (NIF), was accused of funding most of the Israeli NGO’s that provided the documentation for the Goldstone Report.  And the NIF supported organizations dedicated to the delegitimization of Israel for long before that.

As a result of pressure from the organization “NGO Monitor”, the NIF agreed to change its funding guidelines, to now include the following restrictions (my emphasis):

Organizations that engage in the following activities will not be eligible for NIF grants or support:

  1. Participate in partisan political activity
  2. Promote anti-democratic values
  3. Support the 1967 occupation and subsequent settlement activity
  4. Violate the human rights of any group or individual, advocate human rights selectively for
    one group over another and/or reject the principle of the universality of human rights
  5. Condone or promote violence or use violent tactics
  6. Employ racist or derogatory language or designations about any group based on their
    religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
  7. Works to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel, or to deny the rights of Palestinian or other non-Jewish citizens to full equality within a democratic Israel.
  8. Engage in activities at odds with the positions, principles, or vision of the New Israel Fund.

But some of the NGOs supported by NIF clearly do violate no. 7 above. And we were led to believe that NIF would stop funding them. NGO Monitor tells us that

On September 16, 2010, in a JTA report published shortly before Yom Kippur, the guidelines were presented as a fundamental change in NIF’s funding policies. NIF Director Daniel Sokatch told the news agency that NIF “would prohibit proposals for a binational constitution of the kind that two NIF grantees submitted several years ago.” (The grantees in question, Adalah and Mossawa, each proposed constitutions in 2007 calling for Israel to abandon its definition as a Jewish state. NIF grantee Mada al-Carmel’s “Haifa Declaration” is similar.)

Almost immediately thereafter, NIF officials began to backtrack:

…in a later JTA story, Sokatch “clarif[ied]” that, in the cases of Adalah or Mada al-Carmel, a text denying Israel’s Jewish character “would have to be central to an organization’s activities in order to result in a suspension of funding, and that NIF would be the one to make the determination over whether or not that threshold had been reached.” [my emphasis]

So, as long as a group can claim that denying Israel’s Jewish character is merely incidental to their activity, no problem. Back right up to the money bin and fill up. Naturally, all of the organizations named above claim that their central activity is working for Arab rights, and only incidentally denying those of Jews.

More recently, the question of NIF support for groups promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement [BDS] has been raised. Back in April, I quoted the following from the NIF website:

Although we will continue to communicate publicly and privately to our allies and grantees that NIF does not support BDS as a strategy or tactic, we will not reduce or eliminate our funding for grantees that differ with us on a tactical matter. NIF will not fund BDS activities nor support organizations for which BDS is a substantial element of their activities, but will support organizations that conform to our grant requirements if their support for BDS is incidental or subsidiary to their significant programs.

It’s still there, and Jeffrey Goldberg understands it this way:

The way I read this, the NIF does not support the attempt by anti-Israel activists to turn the world’s only Jewish country into a pariah state, and Jews into a target — once again — of a broad-based economic boycott. Except when it does, a little.


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The moral confusion of the Obama Administration

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Daniel Gordis:

Until this week, we might have thought that while America and Israel could disagree on certain policies, when it came to defending Israel’s fundamental legitimacy, there could be no doubt as to what the US would do. Now, the pretense is over. This administration will protect the Jews and their state only if the Jews accede to American demands that Washington thinks it needs to advance its own diplomatic agenda abroad. That is the sign neither of a trustworthy ally nor of a country animated by principle.

The Obama Administration is animated by ‘principle’ to be sure, but the principle involved is not the moral vision of our Founding Fathers, which is grounded in Judaism, Christianity and the principles of the Enlightenment. Rather, this administration adheres to the ethical system of left-wing academe, in which the highest values are multiculturalism and political correctness (PC).

This is why our government places a nation like Israel on the scales with political entities that behave like the Barbary Pirates or worse, and finds it moral to be ‘even-handed’ in its treatment of them. And this is why our President treats despots like the King of Saudi Arabia with exaggerated respect, despite the fact that this unelected tyrant rules a kingdom which violates our basic ideals of equal rights for people of different race, sex or religion, and chops off the hands of petty thieves.

But it would be very un-multicultural to note that these Saudis (and others) are uncivilized barbarians with noisome habits and ugly attitudes, so we pretend that they deserve the same respect as Israelis or Americans.

Nothing illustrates the way in which we’ve allowed our principles to be subverted than the current flap about invasive airport security. In order to avoid the act or appearance of profiling — a serious violation of PC — the TSA is prepared to violate a much older and important social taboo by invading the personal space and privacy of travelers in an unprecedented way.

Full-body scanner image. There are better ways to spot a terrorist.

Full-body scanner image. There are better ways to spot a terrorist.

The cost of the technology is enormous, and there is a large group of people — the ones whose values differ the most from those of our administration, by the way — who will at least be humiliated and at most placed in a mortifying bind.

Not only is this expensive and socially explosive, it represents closing yet another barn door after the horse has been carried away. Having caused us to jump through another hoop, terrorists will now find a different method or target to attack.

Nevertheless, an alternative known to be effective — a rational system of profiling and psychological screening like Israel uses — is absolutely ruled out for moral reasons! But like the people who cling to their guns and their religion, the ones who object to having their bodies viewed or their ‘junk touched’ will just have to get used to it.

It’s ironic that the culture of the ‘Palestinians’ or the Saudis is considered so worthy of respect, while that of socially conservative Americans is treated with disrespect and condescension.

The administration isn’t even consistent in its multiculturalism!

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