Archive for December, 2010

UN, J Street, Hitler, fight for Palestinian rights

Sunday, December 12th, 2010
'Cultural performance' by al-Ashtar theater group at UN on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

'Cultural performance' by al-Ashtar theater group at UN on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. UN photo.

This is going to be an easy post for me to write, since I will let my friends at our United Nations write most of it for me:

In 1975, by its resolution 3376 the United Nations General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and requested it to recommend a programme of implementation to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights to self-determination without external interference, national independence and sovereignty; and to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced. The Committee’s recommendations were endorsed by the Assembly, to which the Committee reports annually. The Assembly established the Special Unit on Palestinian Rights (later redesignated as the Division for Palestinian Rights) as its secretariat and, throughout the years, has gradually expanded the Committee’s mandate.

As far as I know, no other ‘people’ has a committee to help them exercise their inalienable rights — certainly not the Jewish people, or the Kurdish people or the Tibetan people or anyone else. To make sure that nobody forgets the ‘plight’ of the sainted Palestinians,

Assisted by the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Committee organizes international meetings and conferences, cooperates and liaises with civil society organizations worldwide, maintains a publications and information programme, and holds each year on 29 November or around that date a special meeting in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 November).

November 29, 1947, as everyone knows, is the date that the UN General Assembly passed the partition resolution which would have created — for the first time in history — a state for the ‘Palestinian people’!

That must be why they’re celebrating it, of course — oops, no, they are commemorating the nakba, the ‘catastrophe’ which came about because the peace-loving ‘Palestinian people’ started a war with the Jews in the Mandate — not because they wanted a Palestinian state but because they didn’t want a Jewish one! And they got their neighbors to join in.

By the way, those neighbors — Transjordan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon — didn’t want to create a Palestinian state either, but they too didn’t want a Jewish state, so they invaded the area of the Mandate and tried to get the territory for themselves. This is how Jordan came to control Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem for 19 years.

But to almost everyone’s dismay, the Jewish state came into being. One of the most dismayed was the exiled leader of the ‘Palestinian people’, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had expected the Hitler would nip the Jewish state in the bud by murdering the Palestinian Jews. Here is a snippet from a NY Times report on revelations from newly declassified documents:

In chilling detail, the report also elaborates on the close working relationship between Nazi leaders and the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who later claimed that he sought refuge in wartime Germany only to avoid arrest by the British.

In fact, the report says, the Muslim leader was paid “an absolute fortune” of 50,000 marks a month (when a German field marshal was making 25,000 marks a year). It also said he energetically recruited Muslims for the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military command, and was promised that he would be installed as the leader of Palestine after German troops drove out the British and exterminated more than 350,000 Jews there.

On Nov. 28, 1941, the authors say, Hitler told Mr. Husseini that the Afrika Corps and German troops deployed from the Caucasus region would liberate Arabs in the Middle East and that “Germany’s only objective there would be the destruction of the Jews.”

The report details how Mr. Husseini himself was allowed to flee after the war to Syria — he was in the custody of the French, who did not want to alienate Middle East regimes — and how high-ranking Nazis escaped from Germany to become advisers to anti-Israeli Arab leaders and “were able to carry on and transmit to others Nazi racial-ideological anti-Semitism.”

“You have an actual contract between officials of the Nazi Foreign Ministry with Arab leaders, including Husseini, extending after the war because they saw a cause they believed in,” Dr. Breitman said. “And after the war, you have real Nazi war criminals — Wilhelm Beisner, Franz Rademacher and Alois Brunner — who were quite influential in Arab countries.”

Too bad for Husseini and his ‘Palestinian people’, but Montgomery, Eisenhower and the Red Army stopped the Afrika Corps and Hitlerism before they were given their ‘inalienable rights’ to a judenrein ‘Palestine’.

Apparently our United Nations has taken up Husseini’s cause, now that Hitler is gone. The UN has set up a “Civil Society Network” that non-governmental organizations can join if they really care about helping the Palestinians get their inalienable rights.

Want to join? Here is all you need to do:

(a) be a recognized local, national or international non-profit organization;

(b) support the Charter of the United Nations, the principles of international law and the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily its right to self-determination;

(c) have demonstrated that it has concrete programmes or the serious intent to establish such programmes in support of the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

And our United Nations also publicizes the activities of organizations working for this humanitarian goal. For example, here is the North American calendar of “NGO Action News” for the past week:

Jewish Voice for Peace, Adalah-NY, Brooklyn for Peace, Code Pink, Jews Say No!, and Students for Justice in Palestine-Columbia held a demonstration on 10 December at TIAA-CREF’s offices in New York, to protest the financial service’s investment in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. Supporters who were unable to join the protest are invited to sign a related petition.

The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) has launched its Winter Bazaar 2010, which will run until 21 December, in Washington, DC. Proceeds from sales of Middle Eastern maps, manuscripts and art, will benefit the ATFP as well as the American Charities for Palestine.

CODEPINK will lead a delegation to Gaza from 30 January to 6 February, to get a firsthand look at conditions on the ground.

J Street will hold a conference on peace in the Middle East called “Giving Voice to our Values,” from 26 February to 1 March, in Washington, DC.

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation urges Americans to tell their Members of Congress to put US — and not Israeli — interests first, when it comes to budget decisions.

Creative Nonviolent Resistance against Injustice and are selling Fair-Traded Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Palestine in order to benefit Palestinian farmers. All profits will be donated to the newly created Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University. For more information, contact Dennis Loh at:

J Street: pro-Israel and pro-peace. Right.

Oh, an aside: the UN’s Committee claims to support a “two-state solution.” But nowhere do they say anything like “two states for two peoples” or mention the Jewish people. Combined with the call for a right of return for ‘Palestinian refugees’, this implies that their vision of “two states” is the same as that of Mahmoud Abbas (which ultimately is the same as that of Husseini and Hitler): A Jew-free ‘Palestine’ alongside a former ‘Israel’ overrun by 4.5 million ‘refugees’.

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Introducing Moty & Udi

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

“Moty & Udi” makes its debut today as a regular weekly feature in Moty, Udi and their friends are drawn by Judah Rosenthal, who puts food on the table as a firearms instructor while he writes and illustrates the definitive Israeli graphic novel. We hope you’ll get to know and like them as they provide a window into the lives of young people in one of the most exciting and sometimes difficult places in the world.

Judah Rosenthal was born in New Jersey, grew up in Israel, went to high school in Fresno, and then returned to Israel when he was 19, in time to serve in one of those ‘elite combat units’. During the Second Intifada, he spent five years with a police counter-terrorism unit.

His greatest wish is to work as an artist and illustrator who has nothing to do with security.

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Cohen, Beinart, ignorant and arrogant

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Yesterday in my review of  Jonathan Spyer’s The Transforming Fire, I mentioned Roger Cohen and Peter Beinart as examples of writers who don’t have a clue about Israel. On cue, Cohen — who is actually worse than the others, really quite vicious — wrote his weekly Israel-bash in which he quoted Beinart approvingly!

I think I understand what the problem is with Beinart, Cohen et al. I touched on it yesterday when I talked about the new elite that is taking up the burden of maintaining the Jewish state, as the tired left-wing establishment contents itself with sniping from the pages of Ha’aretz (read the review, if you haven’t already).

Here in America the sniping comes from people like Beinart, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and of course J Street (also praised by Cohen this week). And what they are all saying is that Israel isn’t ‘liberal enough’ for them. They tend to focus on the conflict between the “Women of the Wall” and Orthodox Jews, Israel’s stubbornness in not bowing to Arab demands for settlement freezes, the alleged ‘racism’ of Avigdor Lieberman and his Russian immigrant supporters, discrimination against and mistrust of Arab citizens, the growing influence of ultra-Orthodox haredim, and the more prominent position of — gasp — observant Jews — in the army.

With all due respect, we’re missing a few things over here. First and foremost, Israel is not part of the US or Europe. Perhaps it was closer to that once, before years of war and massive immigration from Arab countries and the former Soviet Union made it something else — a very unique kind of nation, really, but now it’s becoming more Middle Eastern than European or American.

There is also the very important fact that Israel is tiny. Really, really tiny and vulnerable. If the US continues along its present path, it may well collapse, but it will take decades (it took the Roman Empire 500 or even 1000 years to entirely go away). Israel could be destroyed in a week. So we need to understand that Israelis may have different priorities than we do.

Try looking at some of the issues that so exercise the Beinarts and the Cohens through an Israeli lens. Most secular Israelis absolutely believe in women’s rights, and strongly dislike the Orthodox religious authorities. But they wonder why the Women of the Wall deliberately provoke Orthodox Jews at the Kotel. They are also bemused — much to the annoyance of the URJ  — by attempts to interest them in Reform Judaism, which they view as even sillier than more traditional forms of Judaism. These issues are at the top of what American Jews want to talk about, and near the bottom of the list for Israelis.

More importantly, consider the mistrust of Arab citizens. Regularly, Jews are stoned or attempts are made to lynch them, forests set on fire, cars stolen, etc. by Arabs. Arab villages often don’t receive the same benefits from the government as similar Jewish towns, but tax avoidance is the rule rather than the exception in the Arab sector. Arabs don’t get as many building permits as Jews, but Arabs commonly (and sometimes massively) build without permits. And I haven’t even mentioned the subversive activities and violence of the Islamic Movement of Raed Saleh, or the nationalistic riots that periodically break out, or the calls for the “de-Zionization” of Israel from Arab intellectuals and groups.

Another issue is settlements. My local newspaper runs a news item almost every day which describes the struggle of our intrepid President to “get talks moving” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), and how Netanyahu’s “hardline right-wing” coalition is preventing that by refusing to “stop settlement construction.”

This is far from reality. Most Israelis know that the PA isn’t the slightest bit serious about a ‘peace agreement’, and view the talks as something that Israel is going through because the Americans want them to. Most Israelis know that no new settlements have been built for years and that freezing construction within existing settlements, or, worse, Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, is just a way to make the statement that Israel is not sovereign in these places.

Most Israelis also know that if elections were held today, the resulting Knesset would probably be even farther to the right than today’s is. Although J Street, Beinart, and Cohen suggest that somehow Israeli democracy has been ‘hijacked’, the truth is that Israelis learned something (the hard way, in the form of more than a thousand dead Jews) from the serial failures of the parties that advocated concessions as a road to peace. The parties of the Left have democratically sunk into oblivion as a result, and all that remains of them is the constant din emanating from the university faculties and Ha’aretz — which every day grows more extreme.

There isn’t much to say about the make-up of the army. Today, draft-dodging among well-to-do Tel Aviv youth has reached 60%. The people who fight and die for Israel, as Jonathan Spyer made clear in his book, are more and more the national-religious youth — many of whom live East of the Green Line — the non-Jewish Druze and some Bedouins, Russian immigrants, and the descendants of the Jews kicked out of the Arab countries after 1948, the Mizrachi Jews who were often treated with contempt by the left-wing Ashkenazi elite.

It is possible that Israel is not the country that Cohen or Beinart wish that it were. But it is what it is — a Middle Eastern Jewish state, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. If by some magic they could convert it into the little Belgium or Berkeley that appeals to them, probably it wouldn’t last ten minutes in its neighborhood.

A young friend of Roger Cohen’s told him that Israelis were “unaware or unconcerned [about] Palestinian humiliation.” On the contrary, they are quite aware of the struggle that continues between Jews and Arabs over who will remain in the land of Israel, but focusing on “Palestinian humiliation” is like suggesting that the most important part of the history of WWII was the US internment of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast. It’s not that it didn’t happen, it’s just that the whole picture is so much larger.

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Conflict transforms both Israel and foes

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Review: The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict, by Jonathan Spyer. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4411-6663-0.

By Vic Rosenthal

I read a lot of books and articles about the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I can’t remember when I read anything as exciting and relevant as Jonathan Spyer’s The Transforming Fire.

This is a remarkable book, in which Spyer blends academic and journalistic analysis with his own experience as an IDF reservist called up during the Intifada and the Second Lebanon War. It’s so well-done that I had difficulty putting it down.

Spyer explains the rise of Islamism in the region and the way it has taken up the flag of ‘resistance’ from the corrupt and exhausted secular Arab nationalist movements. He explains the revolutionary optimism that inspires the Islamists, and their view that Israel is an ‘abnormal’ entity in the Middle East, one which has lost its ideological foundation and the ability to sacrifice. They are sure it is decaying from within and are prepared to fight a war of attrition for as long as necessary until it collapses.

But just as the face of Arab rejectionism has changed in the crucible of conflict, Israel is changing too, and not all segments of Israeli society are moving in the direction that the Islamists think. Although the left-wing Ashkenazi Zionist elite, the source of most of Israel’s political and cultural leadership for many years, is indeed ‘privatizing’ — turning inward, away from involvement and sacrifice, there are other segments of Israeli society that are gaining influence and control, and they are prepared to fight for their survival as a Jewish nation. Spyer writes,

What is happening … is not the general decline into fractiousness and ennui which the ideologues on the other side would like to see. Rather, as the old elite steps back into self-privatization, its place is being taken by new forces, formerly marginal or hardly heard from in Israeli society…

Most important and most visible of these groups is the national religious community. Religious Zionists, with their distinctive knitted skull-caps, are emerging as the dominant group in the fighting units of the IDF…

Other population groups, meanwhile, increasingly over-represented in front-line units of the IDF, are new immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, members of Israel’s Druze community, and lower-class Israelis of North African and Asian origin…

Involvement in combat and elite units of the military, of course, is only one gauge of public commitment. But in a society entering a long period of protracted struggle against an enemy committed its destruction, it is a fair measure of which population groups remain most committed to the the society’s professed goals.

What is taking place in the Israeli military is that the long-established elite of secular Israelis of European origin is giving way to something new. A new elite, more Jewishly observant, perhaps more narrowly nationalist, less European in origin and in outlook. (pp. 77-78)

This transformation is somewhat harder to see from the outside, because the left-wing elite still has a firm grip on Israel’s academy, media and arts, and their point of view is heard — especially in English — more loudly than others.

This leads to absurdities like a recent article by Peter Beinart — widely considered important among liberal US Jews but ignored in Israel — in which he blames the very groups cited by Spyer as holding the key to a reinvigorated Zionism as guilty of creating an illiberal, undemocratic, morally defective Israel. Beinart could not be more wrong, but it’s understandable that he takes this position: the Israeli ‘authorities’ he quotes include Yaron Ezrachi, Ze’ev Sternhell, Shulamit Aloni and David Grossman, all members of the establishment that is in decline.

But Spyer, who made Aliyah to Israel from the UK in 1991 and has had the opportunity to serve in the IDF is in a much better position than someone whose main source of information about Israel is the English edition of the left-wing Ha’aretz newspaper, where post-Zionist intellectuals write from the Tel Aviv ‘bubble’! Perhaps this is where Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah gets his ideas about Israel’s ‘weakness’?

Spyer’s analysis — both of the Islamists and of Israel — is fascinating and explains much, from the behavior of Hizballah and Hamas to that of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who famously said

We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies [speech at Israel Policy Forum in 2005]

Spyer’s friend Alon Smoha, who lost his life in Lebanon a year later thanks in part to Olmert’s incompetence, would not have agreed with him. His brother Dekel put it this way:

This nation has passed through the exodus from Egypt, countless wars in conquering the land, the destruction of two Temples, the Holocaust, and this nation is alive and living and breathing. While empires rise up and live and fall, this nation goes on living. (p. 86)

This is an important book, light-years closer to reality than the imaginings of writers like Thomas Friedman, Roger Cohen and of course Peter Beinart. Buy it and read it if you want to understand Israel’s enemies — and Israel.

Jonathan Spyer (right) waits to cross Lebanese border, 2006

Jonathan Spyer (right) waits to cross Lebanese border, 2006

For more about Spyer, see this interview by Michael Totten.

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Hamas asks Allah to kill Jews, Christians, communists

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Every so often there is a report that Hamas is moderating, or that what appear to be exhortations to genocide against Jews in the Hamas Covenant are just religious rhetoric. Some say we should bring Hamas into ‘peace’ negotiations, or encourage them to reconcile with Fatah and rejoin the ‘Palestinian Authority’ (PA).  After all, didn’t the ‘Palestinian people’ give Hamas a majority in 2006 elections?

The economy in Hamas-controlled Gaza is “heading for 8% growth this year” mostly due to foreign support. Life is good in Hamastan:

Food and other products flow into Gaza with hardly any restrictions. What doesn’t come from Israel, because the price is too high, continues to flow in through the Rafah tunnels.

“There are a slew of products here, and beautiful restaurants. Is this the Gaza we have been hearing about?” A Sudanese official, who arrived in the Strip about a month ago with hundreds of visitors from Arab countries on the “Viva Palestina” aid convoy, was quoted by Palestinian news agency Maan as saying.

“Where is the siege? I don’t see it in Gaza. I wish Sudan’s residents could live under the conditions of the Gazan siege,” he reportedly added.

One of the main characteristics of the economic change in the Strip is the renovation and construction drive. Buildings are being built in every corner. Hamas is renovating the public buildings destroyed in Israeli air raids during Operation Cast Lead, including the bombed Legislative Council building on Omar al-Mukhtar Boulevard and the police headquarters.

Money flows from various sources: Iran, the UN, the EU, the Gulf states, and the US. American taxpayers help directly, in the form of direct aid to rebuild Gaza after the 2008-9 war, as well as indirectly through the US-supported PA. The PA pays the salaries of 70,000 government workers in Gaza, even though the ‘government’ was replaced by Hamas in 2007 by a violent coup.

In January 2009, Israel was poised to invade Gaza City and take down Hamas. A combination of pressure from incoming Obama Administration personnel and a lack of will on the part of the Olmert government in Israel aborted the war prematurely, and Hamas has come back with a vengeance (so to speak). Since the end of the war, 214 rockets and 108 mortar shells from Gaza have landed in Israel.

After the Mavi Marmara affair, in which an Israeli intelligence failure allowed naval commandos to drop into a vicious ambush from which they were forced to use deadly force to extricate themselves, the US pressured Israel yet again, this time to drop restrictions on most goods entering Gaza, thus granting even more legitimacy to the Hamas regime and removing the last leverage Israel had to bring it down.

New ‘flotillas’ to Gaza and other pro-Hamas actions are promoted by activists in Europe and the US daily, it seems.

So every once in a while it’s necessary to remind people exactly who Hamas is. I thank Palestinian Media Watch for drawing my attention to this 41 second hating, broadcast Dec. 3 on the Hamas official “al-Aqsa TV” channel:

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Allah, oh our Lord, vanquish Your enemies, enemies of the religion
[Islam] in all places.
Allah, strike the Jews and their sympathizers,
the Christians and their supporters,
the Communists and their adherents.
Allah, count them and kill them to the last one, and don’t leave even one.

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