Archive for December, 2010

Not my grandfather’s Camels

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

One of my earliest memories was of my grandfather sitting in his armchair, smoking his Camels and reading his Yiddish newspaper, the Forward (פֿאָרװערטס). It was a big deal in our neighborhood one day when he was elected to a post in The Union, and a tiny picture of him (with Camel, of course) appeared in its columns.

The Forward was always a socialist paper, but that was before this necessarily implied anti-Zionism. Today the Forward rarely misses an opportunity to dump on Israel. But I’m still shocked when what is supposed to be a responsible newspaper prints something which is obviously, demonstrably false:

From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report — which concluded that during the 2008-2009 Gaza war, Israel (as well as Hamas) may have committed war crimes — Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it. — Letty Cotton Pogrebin, “The Un-Jewish Assault on Richard Goldstone”

I don’t know what Ms Pogrebin was smoking when she wrote this, but it was definitely not my grandfather’s Camels!

The Goldstone report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, a UN body dominated by countries belonging to the Islamic bloc. It was based on reports from hostile non-governmental organizations financed to a great extent by the European Union and left-wing foundations, and accompanied by Hamas representatives during their ‘fact-finding’. Hamas inventions were uncritically accepted as true reports, and casualty figures — especially civilians and children — were massively inflated. Worse, a vicious lie — the accusation that it was official IDF policy to harm civilians in order to ‘punish’ them for supporting Hamas was promulgated.

Pogrebin is correct that the Goldstone report was immediately attacked by Jews and others who were outraged at the slander, reminiscent of medieval blood libels. But she is clearly flying beyond the orbit of Pluto when she says that they did not discuss the contents of the report.

One of many pro-Israel bloggers who attacked the contents of the report is the one called ‘Elder of Ziyon’, who wrote more than 25 in-depth articles detailing factual and legal errors in the report, articles totaling more than 21,000 words. In addition. he and several others performed an exhaustive analysis of claimed civilian casualties, and showed that the great majority were indeed combatants (see here and here).

A great deal of the research carried out by these writers appears on the Understanding the Goldstone Report site.

True, there is criticism of Judge Goldstone himself. How could there not be, given the profound dishonesty of the report that bears his name? And yes, it matters that he is a Jew, just as it matters that Pogrebin is, because both  of them trade on their Jewishness as a qualification for their anti-Zionism.

But please don’t tell us that Goldstone’s critics ignored the contents of the report and attacked him ad hominem, while you do precisely that to them!

And to the Forward’s editors: whatever happened to editorial judgment and fact-checking?

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A diplomatic cable

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

News item:

A diplomatic cable from the UK embassy in Tel Aviv, dated May 4, 1980, warned “the situation in the region is deteriorating and with it Israel’s dangerous mood of isolation and defiance will grow. If they are to be destroyed they will go down fighting this time. They will be ready to use their atomic weapon. Because they cannot sustain a long war, they would have to use it early.”

The other time, of course, was the Holocaust. We don’t know what the man was thinking, so we don’t know if there is admiration here, or if he simply wishes ‘they’ would let themselves be destroyed without making a radioactive mess. Or maybe it’s just a straightforward analysis.

Thatcher said of Begin that she “had never had a more difficult man to deal with.” When she told Begin that his West Bank settlement building policy was “unrealistic” and “absurd” his reply had been “Judea and Samaria had been Jewish in biblical times and that they should therefore be so today.”

And Mrs. Thatcher’s argument that they should be Arab was somehow more to the point?

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Should we have stayed in Egypt?

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I have a problem with this.

Gil Troy denounces what he calls “Zionist racism”:

…in a strange perversion whereby victims of a smear absorb some characteristics bigots attribute to them, an ugly strain of Israeli racism is festering, threatening to delegitimize Zionism from within. Silent centrists must not stand by, idly watching racist rabbis in Tsfat ban selling houses to Arabs, young Jewish hooligans in Jerusalem beat Arabs, and loud bigots rally against Arabs and immigrants in Bat Yam and Tel Aviv.  Zionists must reject these immoral and outrageous acts as unwelcome in our otherwise big broad Zionist tent devoted to building a thriving, democratic Jewish state in the Jewish people’s traditional homeland.

Jewish racists betray Judaism and Jewish history. Having taught the world how humane and open religion can be, we must never forget Judaism’s sensitivity to others. Having suffered from discrimination, we must never practice it.

Similarly, Zionist racists betray Zionism and the Zionist mission.  Zionism’s rise is intertwined with liberal democratic nationalism, mixing ethnic and civic nationalism. And Zionism’s mandate to end anti-Semitism must never degenerate into discrimination against others.

First of all, I want to say that Troy is a Zionist and I often entirely agree with him. But this is unhelpful.

I really don’t want to get too deeply into a dissection of the concept of ‘racism’, but there is one thing that is essential to it: it is dislike or maltreatment of an ‘other’ simply because he is an other. And that’s not what’s going on here.

There is a problem between Jews and Arabs and it isn’t related to race, or language, or even — at least on the Jewish side — religion.

It’s based on the fact that the Arabs believe themselves to be the owners of the land, all of it, and they don’t want the Jews on it. This leads to all kinds of unpleasant behavior, from terrorism, to serious or petty crime, to demographic pressure, to merely trying to humiliate Jews in various ways.

This unsurprisingly creates a reaction among the Jews. The poorly-educated ones respond by becoming hooligans, a form of self-defeating behavior. The over-educated ones respond by internalizing the point of view of the Arabs and becoming traitors, also self-defeating.

But the struggle to stay on the land is real. Every neighborhood has a ‘Jewish character’ or not. If enough neighborhoods lose this character, then Israel isn’t a Jewish state any more.

In North America this doesn’t make sense (but in Europe it is beginning to). Here in California there is some hostility to immigrants. As more of them arrive, the culture changes. But California is both a patchwork of cultural enclaves and a melting pot. A new culture grows out of the meeting between the original residents and the immigrants. Things change, but it’s not an ideological struggle. Nobody in his right mind sees this as a conflict for possession of land.

Zionism is about self-determination for the Jewish people in the land of Israel. The ‘Palestinian cause’ is about expelling the Jews and taking the land, by whatever means works. Polls have showed time and again that the great majority of Palestinian Arabs, citizens of Israel or living in the territories or in the ‘Palestinian Diaspora’, support this cause.

The assumption that the behavior of the rabbis of Tzfat or even the hooligans of Jerusalem is entirely motivated by racism, if at all, is suspect. There are much better reasons to want to discriminate against Arabs (but not to beat them up, of course).

So it is probably wrong to do as Troy does, and hysterically accuse Israelis of racism, along with the legions of Israel-haters, like the ones in this video.

There can’t be a “thriving, democratic Jewish state in the Jewish people’s traditional homeland” if we allow ourselves to be pushed out of it.

This reminds me of a recent discussion in which a friend said that she found the violence of the struggle between Israel and the Canaanites repellent. So I asked her, “out of concern for the Canaanites, should we have stayed in Egypt?”

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Avigdor Lieberman is right again

Sunday, December 26th, 2010
Avigdor Lieberman

Avigdor Lieberman

News item:

In the harshest public words by an Israeli minister toward Turkey in months, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday that Ankara’s demand for an apology over the Mavi Marmara incident is “beyond chutzpa.”

“There will be no apologies, and if so, we’re waiting for one from Turkey,” Lieberman said at an annual gathering of Israel’s ambassadors and counsel-generals at the Foreign Ministry. Ankara needed to apologize for its cooperation with terrorists, such as the IHH – which organized the violent incident aboard the Mavi Marmara – Hamas and Hizbullah, he said…

Lieberman’s comments came on the same day that some 10,000 people welcomed the Mavi Marmara back to Istanbul. Hundreds of balloons were released as the ship sailed into Istanbul’s Sarayburnu port, following repairs at a port on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. The activists, mostly members of pro-Islamic groups, waved Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanted “Down with Israel” and “Allah is Great” as they greeted the vessel. Protesters also boarded boats to welcome the approaching ship, which was adorned with a poster of the nine Turks killed during the raid.

Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog [Labor Party] took issue with Lieberman’s comments, issuing a statement saying that as foreign minister Lieberman does not understand that his job was to “open doors,” not slam them shut.

Herzog said that [Turkish FM] Davutoglu’s comments in their entirety showed that he was interested in reconciliation with Israel and indicated that a “window of opportunity has been opened to renew relations between the two countries.”

Herzog said Israel did not have the “privilege” to miss this opportunity, even if it “demands Israeli flexibility,” and that a way to repair ties with Turkey needed to be found, even if it entailed “bypassing” Lieberman.

In many ways nations aren’t like people. Applying ideas that normally apply to relations between individuals to relations between nations can be what philosophers call a ‘category mistake’.

One of the concepts that’s often abused in this way is that of ‘friendship’. Between people, it means a warm relationship, a relationship that allows one to let down one’s guard, to trust, depend on, and to confide in the other. Perhaps diplomats may feel friendship in this sense for other diplomats, but nations do not. Between nations, ‘friendship’ means a congruence of interests which allows them to work in concert. A good example might be the relationship of the US and the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1945, when they worked together to defeat Hitler. After 1945, ‘Uncle Joe’ was no longer our ‘friend’, he was our ‘enemy’. But what changed?

FDR meets "Uncle Joe" Stalin (probably Teheran 1943)

FDR meets "Uncle Joe" Stalin (probably Teheran 1943)

This particular logical fallacy is of great use to a regime that needs to get its population on its side to support its policies. So a great deal is made about the relationship of Turkey and Israel being ‘warm’ or ‘cool’.  Turkey, says PM Erdoğan, requires an apology — the nation was ‘insulted’ by the Mavi Marmara affair (in which Turkish thugs tried to kill Israelis and got killed themselves).

Nations cannot be insulted. That is a category mistake. But nations can hold general elections, and that is what Turkey will be doing in 2011. So Erdoğan’s strategy is to create a lot of anger and then to force Israel to ‘apologize’. Thus he proves that he is strong, that he is the champion of Islam and the Palestinians, that he defends the ‘honor’ of Turkey and humiliates the hated Israel. And gets re-elected.

Since Erdoğan’s Islamist AK party took over in 2002, relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated as Turkey positions itself closer to the Iranian bloc and farther from the US. In 2009, Erdoğan took the opportunity of the war in Gaza to demonstrate his righteous anger at Israel by stomping off a stage he shared with Israel’s Shimon Peres at Davos, Switzerland.

The AK party has also repressed Turkey’s armed forces, accusing generals of conspiracies against the state.  Some of them are being tried now, and face up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted. The military has traditionally been a secularizing influence, and has overthrown governments in the past, so a coup isn’t impossible, although some of the charges are fantastic.

The Turkish military is also the group that has seen the most advantage from a relationship with Israel, buying weapons and sharing intelligence, providing another reason for Turkish Islamists to attack Israel.

Israel should not try to appease Turkey in the present crisis. For one thing, it’s impossible. Erdoğan’s goal is to get re-elected and reconciliation with Israel would remove a hugely effective issue. An apology would be spun as a triumph over a despicable foe, would help Erdoğan’s prospects and would not improve relations. Israel’s objective with Turkey should be to defeat the AKP, not enable it.

Just because nations don’t have emotions doesn’t mean that the emotions felt by individuals aren’t dangerous. The demonization of Israel so widespread in Arab countries, Turkey, Iran and even the UK motivates terrorists to act, against Israel if they can, or against softer Jewish targets. Probably more important, the overall climate of opinion created by the overwhelming volume of anti-Israel propaganda makes it easier for countries to justify actions against Israel — actions taken, as always, in emotion-free pursuit of their perceived interests.

An apology or anything that even looks like one will be a lost battle in the infowar. It will imply that Israel lied about the incident and present Israel as impotent and fearful. A weak horse. A loser.

So Lieberman is right and Herzog is wrong, in the information realm as well as the diplomatic one.

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In many ways nations aren’t like people. Applying ideas that normally apply to relations between individuals to relations between nations can be what philosophers call a ‘category mistake’.

One of the concepts that’s often abused in this way is that of ‘friendship’. Between people, it means a warm relationship, a relationship that allows one to let down one’s guard, to trust, depend on, and to confide in the other. Perhaps diplomats may feel friendship in this sense for other diplomats, but nations do not. Between nations, ‘friendship’ means a congruence of interests which allows them to work in concert. A good example might be the relationship of the US and the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1945, when they worked together to defeat Hitler. After 1945, ‘Uncle Joe’ was no longer our ‘friend’, he was our ‘enemy’. But what changed?

FDR meets "Uncle Joe" Stalin (probably Teheran 1943)

FDR meets "Uncle Joe" Stalin (probably Teheran 1943)

This particular logical fallacy is of great use to a regime that needs to get their population on their side to support their policies. So a great deal is made about the relationship of Turkey and Israel being ‘warm’ or ‘cool’.  Turkey, says PM Erdoğan, requires an apology — the nation was ‘insulted’ by the Mavi Marmara affair (in which Turkish thugs tried to kill Israelis and got killed themselves).

Nations cannot be insulted. That is a category mistake. But nations can hold general elections, and that is what Turkey will be doing in 2011. So the strategy is to create a lot of anger and then to force Israel to ‘apologize’. Thus Erdoğan proves that he is strong, that he is the champion of Islam and the Palestinians, that he defends the ‘honor’ of Turkey and humiliates the hated Israel. And gets re-elected.

Since Erdoğan’s AK Islamist party took over in 2002, relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated as Turkey positions itself closer to the Iranian bloc and farther from the US. In 2009, Erdoğan took the opportunity of the war in Gaza to demonstrate his righteous anger at Israel by stomping off a stage he shared with Israel’s Shimon Peres at Davos, Switzerland.

The AK party has also repressed Turkey’s armed forces, accusing generals of conspiracies against the state.  Some of them are being tried now, and face up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted. The military has traditionally been a secularizing influence, and has overthrown governments in the past, so a coup isn’t impossible, although some of the charges are fantastic.

The Turkish military is also the group that has seen the most advantage from a relationship with Israel, buying weapons and sharing intelligence, providing another reason for Turkish Islamists to attack Israel.

Just because nations don’t have emotions doesn’t mean that the emotions felt by individuals aren’t dangerous. The demonization of Israel so widespread in Arab countries, Turkey, Iran and even the UK motivates terrorists to act, against Israel if they can, or against softer Jewish targets. Probably more important, the overall climate of opinion created by the overwhelming volume of anti-Israel propaganda makes it easier for countries to justify actions against Israel — actions taken, as always, in emotion-free pursuit of their perceived interests.

Moty and Udi: Moty watches Palestinian TV

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

There’s lots more, too. The story of the Palestinian ‘Jesus’ is here, and more examples of invented history are here,  as recorded from the official Palestinian Authority (PA) TV station by Palestinian Media Watch.

It may appear absurd and funny to us, but many people believe this stuff, just like they believe stories about Israeli ‘war crimes’ in Gaza, or that the Israeli naval commandos landed on the Mavi Marmara with guns blazing, or that Israel plans to occupy the Middle East from the Nile to the Euphrates, etc.

The Arabs believe that if they print enough maps on which Israel does not appear and tell enough lies about ancient and recent history, they can cause Israel to disappear (with a little help from Hizballah and Hamas, of course).

There are also attempts to spread less-obviously wacky — but still perniciously false — stories in Israel and the West.  For example, the organization “Peace Research in the Middle East” (PRIME) publishes a high school textbook in Hebrew and Arabic called “Learning Each Other’s Historical Narrative” which purports to present the Israel and Palestinian Arab “narratives” side by side.

In fact, it presents neither — you’d think the Israeli narrative would include a mention of the cooperation between the Grand Mufti al-Husseini and Hitler, or that Jews fought to kick the British out of Palestine, or that the British often helped the Arabs in the pre-state period — but none of these facts are mentioned. The Zionist enterprise is presented as an extension of Western colonialism, and Arab rejectionism as a struggle against colonization.

Unsurprisingly, two of the consultants who worked on this project were ISM founders Huweida  Arraf and Adam Shapiro. Now there’s an unbiased pair! By day they try to bring Israeli Jews and Arabs together, while by night they make naive foreigners like Rachel Corrie into human shields for Hamas and Fatah terrorists.

Oh, did I mention that

This project and publication of this booklet have
been made possible by:
The Public Affairs Offices of
The United States Embassy, Tel Aviv,
The United States Consulate General, Jerusalem.
The Wye River Foundation.

I just did.

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Western democracies: end the UN

Friday, December 24th, 2010

News item:

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday informed the US and EU of its intention to request a UN Security Council resolution that condemns construction in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem.

The announcement was made during separate meetings held by Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat with US Consul-General Daniel Rubenstein and EU representative to the Palestinian territories Christian Berger.

Erekat said that the PA was hoping that the resolution would condemn the construction as illegal and in violation of international law.

There are good arguments that the settlements are quite legal in international law. In any event, such a decision could not be made by a political body, like the Security Council. It would require an impartial court to consider the legal issues, which of course doesn’t exist.

Maybe it is finally time for Israel to consider leaving the UN.

On the one hand, such an action would be applauded by her enemies as an admission that the state lacks legitimacy. So it’s very unlikely.

On the other hand, the UN is dominated by non-democratic states. There is an automatic majority in the General Assembly for any anti-Israel resolution, and the UN actually has a ‘division’ set up to support the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. Here is a 2002 list of some of the ways the UN acts against Israel. It’s only gotten worse since then.

In truth, the UN has lost its ability to perform its intended mission, which is to prevent conflict. It has been incapable of dealing with several high-profile genocides or stopping numerous wars. Can you think of one conflict situation in which UN intervention has actually helped? I can’t.

UN agencies do perform useful functions in the area of health, disaster relief, coordination of various international standards, etc. But these could be done far more effectively and cheaply by independent agencies.

In recent years, UN efforts in the area of human rights have become politicized and controlled to a great extent by the violators of human rights. So resolutions are passed to protect ‘human rights’ in Gaza — that is, to prevent Israel’s legitimate self-defense against Hamas — while real rights violations committed by the numerous dictatorships who control the UN are ignored.

The UN is not quite as directly confrontational to the US as it is to Israel, but this is because we provide the major portion of its funding. It is not a good deal. In 2009, the US contributed $598,292,101 to the regular budget (22% of the total), plus an additional amount for ‘peacekeeping’ operations, some of which have been going on since 1978. In 2010, the US budgeted over $2 billion for ‘peacekeeping’!

One example of a peacekeeping operation is the UNIFIL in Lebanon. It failed to prevent Hizballah’s attack which led to the 2006 war, and then failed to enforce UN resolution 1701, which forbade Hizballah to rearm.  It did file protests regarding Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory.

UN Watch reports that near 3:00 AM today the General Assembly voted, over US opposition, to hold a “Durban III” conference on ‘racism’ in New York in September 2011, exactly one week after the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Like the first Durban conference, it’s expected to be primarily an opportunity to bash Israel and the US.

What if the US were to leave? Probably the UN would quickly collapse into well-deserved irrelevance. And then collapse altogether. Think of the improved parking situation in lower Manhattan!

I don’t think the UN, with its entrenched bureaucracy, can be fixed. What’s really needed is a new international organization in which a member state’s voting power depends in part on the number of people it democratically represents.  So for example, Saudi Arabia, whose delegation represents one family, should have much less influence than Israel, a democracy of several million people.

There’s not much chance of that, but I think it’s time for Western democracies — particularly the US — to say that they’ve had enough, to withdraw from the UN and create an international organization with less lofty goals, but which will have a method of governance that takes into account the legitimacy due to democratic nations, and which doesn’t espouse a radical pseudo-Marxist ideology which purports to favor the poor and oppressed, but which actually supports the worst dictators and murderers on the planet.

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Why Arabs hate land swaps

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

There is a guy named Dan Friedman who sends me (and numerous others) several e-mails a day. He is very, very right-wing, in his American politics and his views on Israel. I’m sure a lot of people dislike him, but he’s got a great sense of what’s important.

He often spots interesting  things, like this Newsweek interview with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — another smart guy that a lot of people dislike — in which Lieberman talks about land swaps:

Newsweek: You’re talking about drawing a line so that how many Israeli Arabs will no longer be part of Israel?

Avigdor Lieberman: At least half.

N: Polls suggest that 90 percent or more of Israeli Arabs don’t want that.

L: You have 20 percent of the population that’s the Arab minority. You have 80 percent that’s Jewish. From 80 percent of the Jewish population, 70 percent support this idea.

N: So even if a resident of [the Israeli Arab town] Umm al-Fahm, for instance, doesn’t want to become part of Palestine, if a majority in the country says he has to, he has no choice?

L: He can continue to live in his property, his house, his land [and become a citizen of Palestine], or he can move to Israel.

The idea of a land swap is that borders should be determined by the populations living inside them. So rather than arbitrarily dividing the land according, for example, to the 1949 armistice lines, borders are drawn as much as possible to separate Jewish and Arab populations. Rather than evacuating hundreds of thousands of Jews from ‘Palestine’ — interestingly, no one ‘respectable’ ever talks about evacuating Arabs from Israel — they can stay where they are and become part of Israel, while heavily Arab areas presently inside Israel can become part of Palestine.

Obviously, geographic considerations like contiguity make it impossible to create wholly homogeneous states, so a practical solution would either involve some people moving or some toleration of the minority culture within each state.

For some reason — perhaps because it is based on the admission that Jews and Arabs really can’t live together — the idea creates revulsion on the Left. And it makes Arab citizens of Israel, some of whom would become ‘Palestinians’ livid. Not just because they can see how ‘Palestine’ works in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and want no part of it, but because it presupposes that Jews have rights to some part of the land.

The usual two-state solution according to the 1949 lines does not. Since hundreds of thousands of Jews will be removed from Judea and Samaria, while Arabs within the Green Line will stay put, it can be read as a victory, albeit incomplete, for the Palestinian movement. And as the Arabs understand it, a two-state solution also includes the return of Arab ‘refugees’ to the area west of the line. It does not imply that the Jews get title to anything and is always seen as a step to total victory.

I am not inventing this. If you don’t agree that this is a correct account of Arab thinking, ask ‘Palestinian citizen of Israel’ Haneen Zouabi or Fatah official Abbas Zaki.

But the swap idea is different. Inherent in it is the idea that the Jews and Arabs are dividing the land between them, and the Jews will get to keep their part. It is an actual solution, not simply a withdrawal on the way to surrender.

I find it remarkable that this idea is dismissed as politically impossible or even morally offensive, while the unstable and unfair option of dividing the land according to the 1949 line is the preferred choice of the Israeli Left, the Obama Administration, and Europe.

Of course, having said that, it’s probably the case that no further partition of what used to be called “Western Palestine” according to any lines would yield either a viable Arab state or a secure Jewish one. The single-minded concentration on this idea by most of the world shows that most of the world does not want a stable solution — rather, they want to be able to say “we did our best” in the event that Israel is lost yet again and the Jews return to their ‘natural’ condition as a stateless, powerless, dispersed and persecuted people.

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Let him go

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Jonathan Pollard's passport. He was given Israeli citizenship in 1995. It's expired now, but it should be renewed -- and used.

Jonathan Pollard's passport. He was given Israeli citizenship in 1995. It's expired now, but it should be renewed -- and used.

So Israel will finally send an official letter asking the US to release Jonathan Pollard after 25 years.

I won’t go into the details of why he should be freed — how his sentence was disproportionate, how he was blamed for damage done to the US by spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, how he was offered a plea bargain and then hit with a life sentence, how he was treated in prison. I won’t discuss the speculation that he has been kept locked up because of what he knows about the US relationship with Saddam Hussein when he was our ‘ally’, or about the Iran-contra affair. You can find all of this and much more on the Justice for Jonathan Pollard site.

I’ll say that his release now, if it happens, may only mean that the gravely ill Pollard will die in Israel instead of the Federal Prison in Butner, NC. Wouldn’t that be ironic, considering that the Lockerbie Bomber, granted ‘compassionate release’ as a ‘dying man’ is alive and well in Libya a year and a half later!

This has been a dirty business ever since former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger submitted a secret memo to Judge Aubry E. Robinson Jr. that caused him to abrogate the plea agreement that Pollard would serve no more than 10 years, and to throw him in prison for life.

Several times Pollard’s freedom was mentioned as a bargaining point in various negotiations, including Wye River and Camp David. According to former Israeli diplomat Lenny Ben-David, he could have been released at the end of 2000:

…in my capacity as Israel’s number two diplomat in Washington, I drafted a confidential memo to Israel’s leadership early in 1999 presenting a comprehensive strategy for securing a presidential pardon for Pollard from the lame-duck president, Bill Clinton, during the three months of the American interregnum…

With a great sense of disappointment, I sensed that the strategies presented in my memorandum might have been redirected to securing the pardon of Marc Rich, an American financier who escaped to Switzerland in 1983 after being indicted for tax evasion, money laundering and illegal trading with Iran.

In the period leading up to the presidential interregnum, a major campaign was underway to secure Rich’s pardon. Israel’s prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, interceded with Clinton on Rich’s behalf, according to congressional testimony by then White House chief of staff John Podesta. Former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova told “Meet the Press” in February 2001: “When the prime minister of Israel, one of our closest allies, communicates with the president of the United States about a pardon, I would say to you that the president has a pretty good idea of how important the case is. The prime minister of Israel became deeply involved in this case, and he recommended a pardon.”

Rich was pardoned; Pollard was not.

Marc Rich's glamorous ex-wife, Denise, led campaign for Rich's pardon.

Marc Rich's glamorous ex-wife, Denise, led campaign for Rich's pardon.

One can speculate that at this point the US has no other reason to keep Pollard in prison except as a bargaining chip. If that’s true, then we are no better than Hamas, who hold Gilad Shalit for the same reason.

Let him go.

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US endorses absurd postcolonialist resolution

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
President Obama announces US endorsement of UN indigenous peoples declaration, Dec. 16, 2010.

President Obama announces US endorsement of UN indigenous peoples declaration, at White House Tribal Nations Conference Dec. 16, 2010.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 61/295, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This past week, the US endorsed the resolution, after initially voting against it along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand. All four nations have now endorsed it, making it unanimous.

The intent is purportedly to protect people like Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians against exploitation and denial of rights by the majority culture. In fact, it represents a breathtaking invasion of the sovereignty of any nation that contains a subculture that defines itself as ‘indigenous’.

The declaration has a long preamble and 46 articles. It does not contain a definition of ‘indigenous’, because

According to the Chairperson, Ms. Erica Irene Daes, Rapporteur of the Working Group, this was because “historically, indigenous peoples have suffered, from definitions imposed by others” (E/CN.4/Stib.2/AC.4/1995/3, page 3).

The ‘working group’ which developed the declaration did provide a definition, but it was never officially adopted by any UN body. Here’s part of it, which may give you an idea of their thinking:

Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them.

They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.

Naturally, the Palestinian Arabs claim to be an indigenous people. By way of illustration, if this claim were to be upheld, what would the declaration imply?

Article 3
Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 4
Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

Palestinian Arabs can declare autonomous enclaves in the territories or even in Tel Aviv. These Palestans may be financed by contributions from Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Article 15
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information.

Palestinian Arabs can write their own history, which must become part of Israel’s school curriculum.

Article 19
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

Israel can make no law or take any action that affects Palestinian Arabs without first getting their consent.

Article 26
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Lands that Palestinian ‘tradition’ says belong to them do in fact belong to them.

Article 36
1. Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with their own members as well as other peoples across borders.

Palestinian Arabs can communicate with Hizballah guerrillas if they want to.

The declaration and definition above represent the product of postcolonial political theory, according to which an ‘oppressed’ people is defined as always right, and is entitled to ‘resist’ its ‘oppressors’. Note that the working definition of ‘indigenous’ excludes the ‘dominant sector’ of society, even though a dictionary definition only refers to origin, not socio-political status.

Indeed, by a non-political definition, a good argument could be made that the Jewish people is indigenous to the land of Israel, since there has been some Jewish presence even from Biblical times. A large number of the ancestors of the present-day ‘Palestinian people’ immigrated into the area in the 1800’s and afterward — just prior to and concurrent with the Zionist immigration — and thus are much less indigenous than they would claim. But of course a non-political definition wouldn’t serve the purposes of the UN.

There are other groups that have a much better claim to being ‘indigenous’ than the Palestinians; for example, the Kurds. I find it hard to believe that Turkey, Iraq, Iran or Syria would be prepared to grant them their ‘rights’ under this document.

It is absolutely certain that the great majority of Americans would not agree with radical postcolonial theory. But our politically correct officials have decided to sign on to this absurd document, perhaps out of guilt for their historical mistreatment and subsequent betrayal of responsibility to their own indigenous population.

If the President and the Congress wanted to actually improve the conditions of Native Americans, they could do so in many concrete ways. Most of these cost money, so instead they chose a bit of theater.

The UN is more and more becoming a venue for the application of radical political principles by the cynical non-democratic states that dominate it, in order to weaken or damage Israel and the West. The US has continued to participate in and support this institution over the years on the grounds that overall it does more good than evil. I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that this is not so.

(h/t: Israpundit)

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Israel doesn’t have to be a big tent

Monday, December 20th, 2010

The favorite argument of the Left is the demographic argument: that unless Israel gives up the territories, it must choose between its democracy or its Jewish character. Either Israel lets all those Arabs vote or it doesn’t. Therefore, Israel must ‘make peace’ and give up Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem.

But analysis shows – and I’m not going to repeat it here, I and others have explained it thousands of times – that giving up land won’t bring peace, that the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and indeed the great majority of the Palestinian Arab population see Israeli concessions as indications of weakness and stepping stones to the ultimate replacement of Israel by an Arab state. The kind of settlement Barack Obama and the Europeans want to see would simply set the stage for yet another war.

The two-state solution, in other words, is a mirage. There could be two states (for a while), but it wouldn’t be a solution. So what to do?

There are hidden premises in the argument of the two-staters. They are 1) that the Jewish character of Israel and democracy that includes the Palestinian Arabs  are equally important, and 2) that ‘democracy’ means that every person must be a citizen regardless of his ideology.

I deny the first premise, and in fact I insist that the imperative of maintaining at least one Jewish homeland in a hostile world (and it is getting more hostile every day) is an overriding one. And I deny the second one: why can’t citizenship require a commitment to the basic principles of the state?

Israel has put itself between a rock and a hard place because it feels that it has to respect the wishes and even the ‘rights’ of the Palestinian Arabs, who as a matter of fact want to destroy the Jewish state.

On the face of it, this is absurd. It’s as if the US had decided to fight WWII while respecting the wishes and rights of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

Palestinian Arabs and their supporters make no bones about wanting Israel gone, even the so-called ‘moderates’. They don’t talk about the need for democracy in the ‘Palestine’ that they want to create from the river to the sea. They’ve been murdering Jews there for a hundred years, and are doing it (or trying) as I write. Why is it so important to compromise with them – especially since they won’t accept a ‘compromise’ that is less than a surrender?

“But you are suggesting that Jews and Arabs won’t have equal rights – that’s racist apartheid!” says the Left.

No. It has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with ideology. The proposal of a loyalty oath for everyone, Jews, Arabs and members of the Ha’aretz editorial board, is not a bad idea. Support the Jewish state and you  can vote, pay taxes, etc. Oppose it – either violently or by incitement – and please close the door on your way out, to an Arab country, to Europe, to the US.

“But how can you expect Arabs to support a Jewish state?” Well, if they like living in a modern state with modern conveniences like good health care and other benefits, perhaps this is more important to them than nationalist or Islamist ideology. Or perhaps not – but if not they can leave.

Israel, as many Americans don’t seem to have noticed, is in the Middle East. This is a place where democracy blind to ideology doesn’t exist. Look at Lebanon if you think it has a future. Most Middle-Eastern countries are dictatorships or monarchies which are not democratic in any respect. What I’m proposing could be called ‘limited democracy’, where the limitation is based on one’s decision to accept an ideology, not religion or race.

Sure, the devil is in the details, but the devil in the details of keeping control of the territories and Jerusalem is a smaller devil than the one that will be released by withdrawal from them.

Israel is a tiny country. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a big tent.

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We don’t have to — we’re Google!

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) plays an essential role in debunking Hamas’ and Fatah’s claims to moderation or even legitimacy.

By monitoring, translating and giving exposure to the vicious antisemitic rantings that appear in Palestinian Arab media, especially TV, PMW makes it impossible for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to hide who and what they are.

Now, in an Orwellian fashion, Google’s YouTube has removed PMW’s main video channel — Palwatch — because it allegedly violates terms of service with respect to hate speech!

This is what you will see if you try to access Palwatch videos like “PA cleric: Kill Jews, Allah will make Muslims masters over Jews” formerly at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjuDTO8fgqM, or “Hamas suicide terrorist farewell video: Palestinians drink the blood of Jews” formerly at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSftYIGH6-w:

Sorry indeed! As a former teacher of logic, let me point out that YouTube is committing the classic fallacy of confusing the use of a linguistic entity with its mention. In other words, Palwatch is not engaging in hate speech — rather it is describing it and in fact advocating against it.

If YouTube or its parent Google really wanted to help reduce the incidence of hate speech in the world, they would promote Palwatch’s exposure and shaming of those who use this kind of hateful propaganda to attack others.

The inversion of ethical guidelines to punish the victim rather than the perpetrator is apparently popular today. This case is remarkably similar to the recent IRS ruling that a pro-Israel group seeking tax-exempt status must be vetted by special criteria because “Israel is one of many Middle Eastern countries that have a ‘higher risk of  terrorism.'”

There is another problem, and this is the self-service model adopted by YouTube and Google. These media — I don’t know if ‘medium’ is the right description for Google, but it’s the only word I can think of — are hugely powerful. They can make or break a commercial enterprise, a nonprofit, or perhaps even a country. Yet their terms of service state that users have no rights of any kind, especially the right to contact a human being when they feel that they have been treated improperly.

As of today, Itamar Marcus of Palwatch has been unable to find an email address to complain to YouTube.

Not that an email address is likely to help. This blog has an unresolved problem that Google’s Blog Search stopped indexing it in August 2009, although posts appear in the normal web search. I’ve re-submitted it, requested ‘reconsideration’ (although from what I don’t know), read pages of ‘help’ and forums, and sent emails to every address I could find.  I have never received an answer, and short of showing up at their headquarters driving a tank, I’ve run out of ideas.

It’s reminiscent of the famous Laugh-in skit featuring Lily Tomlin:

We don't have to -- we're Google!

We don't have to -- we're Google!

Update [1933 PST]: Some or all of the videos — including the ones I’ve linked to above are available again! This issue was mentioned in many blogs and other media — perhaps someone noticed?  Let’s hope they all come back, permanently.

Update [2041 PST]: Lily Tomlin played telephone operator Ernestine on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in (1969), not Saturday Night Live. Memory is s broken reed.

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Moty and Udi: California vs. the Middle East

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Moty and Udi remind us of a point that I’ve made before, and just the other day Daniel Gordis expressed it beautifully. He writes,

This week, real wisdom hid between the extreme positions so commonly staked out in this country. There was the fatwa against Israelis who would “dare” rent or sell their homes to Arabs. Dozens of rabbis have signed the letter forbidding such sale, while a smaller number have also had the courage to reject it outright. But virtually no one has pointed out that the choice isn’t a simply one between racism and human rights. It’s more complicated.

Obviously, it is mortifying to live in a country where “religious” leaders speak about Arabs the way that the enemies of the Jews spoke about us for centuries in Europe. And yes, as some observers have noted, it is virtually impossible to imagine a rabbi in the US saying anything remotely similar.

But the US isn’t Israel, and America does not need to struggle to guarantee its Christian nature. Our society, though largely Jewish now, could easily become something very different with time. If that is what these rabbis meant to say, they were right.

Apply the ethnicity-blind standards of American life here, and in a generation or two, Israel’s Jewish quality might be gone.

Why, after all, are most Israelis and American Zionists opposed to the Palestinian “right of return”? Isn’t that also a human rights issue? The answer, of course, is that on that issue, people recognize that the country’s Jewish character is at stake. Allow the refugees to return, and Jews become a minority almost overnight. (That is precisely why the Palestinians insist on it.)

Israel is a tiny speck of Jewishness in an ocean of Arabs and Persians in the Middle East, and to be clear about it, the ocean doesn’t appreciate the speck. How often do the Islamists of Hamas or Iran talk ab0ut ‘cleansing’ the land of its Jewish ‘infestation’!

Possibly I’ve repeated the same message enough that it’s boring some, but — especially for readers in the US — it needs to be emphasized:

Israel is not California, and the USA is not in the Middle East.

Arab and Islamic rejectionism hasn’t stopped trying to crush the idea of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the Middle East for a hundred years. The war has multiple aspects where battles take place simultaneously: that of conventional and semi-conventional warfare, of terrorism, of subversion and sabotage (often seen simply as ‘crime’), of psycho-war, and finally, of demographics.

The US faces threats too, particularly that of terrorism. But there is nothing comparable to the demographic struggle.

Fully one-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Arabs. They are increasingly becoming ‘Palestinized’, that is, sharing the objective of the Palestinian Arabs in the territories to replace Israel with an Arab state. Some of them are secular nationalists and some (increasingly) are radical Islamists.

There may have been a time when Israel’s Arab citizens were reconciled to living in a Jewish state, where they would aspire only to equal rights and benefits as citizens, along with Jews and other groups. Today, as Jonathan Spyer has argued, the rise of Islamism and its ‘optimistic’ prediction that a corrupt and weak Israel will be defeated in the long run has reawakened hope, even among secular Arabs, that they can succeed in reversing the outcome of the 1948 war. Paradoxically, this has worked against the realization of full rights and benefits for Arabs.

In any event, the demographic front is alive, with Arabs from the territories wanting to live within the Green Line both to obtain the very real benefits of living in a Westernized, democratic and abundant society as well as to work to change it into an Arab state (they do want to keep the abundance, if possible).

There are other concerns than Arabs. There are hundreds of millions of inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa who are living in unbelievable poverty under dysfunctional, kleptocratic, murderous ‘governments’. Many of them would like to live in secure, abundant Israel. Should Israel open its borders? How long would it continue to exist as a modern state if it did that? Even the US can’t sustain unlimited immigration.

Here in America, particularly in liberal Jewish America, discrimination of any kind is considered equivalent to racism. The outcry against the rabbis that signed that ‘fatwa’ was predictable and entirely misses the point.

Why is Israel’s ‘Jewish character’ so important anyway, ask my California friends. Surely that kind of ethnic nationalism is outdated, they say.

There are 22 or 23 (if you count the Palestinian Authority) Arab states in the Middle East.  They take up the overwhelming portion of the land area and resources of the region. None of them are true democracies, none have anywhere near the tolerance found in Israel for religious, ethnic, or sexual-preference minorities. None come close in provision of equal rights for women. They have in general cooperated in creating the ‘Palestinian Refugee Problem’, started wars and supported terrorism. Indeed, they gave birth to al-Qaeda and other groups now threatening the West.

Many of these countries do not allow Jews to live within their borders at all.

This is not a question of civil rights for Palestinian Arabs. It’s a question of survival for Israeli Jews. If Israel loses its Jewish majority and Jewish character then it becomes just another Arab state, with all that implies.

Israeli Jews would be killed, subjugated or expelled. Jews around the world would no longer have a homeland — not just a refuge from antisemitism, but a symbol and sometimes active agency against antisemitism. One can imagine the world of 1939, in which no place on earth would provide a safe haven for Jews that nobody wanted.

We’re not prepared to let that happen again.

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