Archive for February, 2011

Four principles of Zionism

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The story of the Jewish people (yes, there is a Jewish people) from its expulsion from Judea by the Romans until 1948 can be characterized as one of contingency. What I mean by that is that the quality of life (or indeed life itself) for Jews was almost entirely dependent on good will of the majority cultures among which they lived.

Jews were allowed to exist, sometimes to thrive and sometimes to merely subsist, insofar as they were useful to whatever regime controlled their place of residence. Jews were always seen as a separate people with special restrictions placed on them, and if a pro-Jewish prince were to lose power, they could be expelled or massacred as a group. There were always anti-Jewish forces (in the Christian world, usually the Church) waiting for an opportunity to punish the Jews for imagined crimes, from killing Christ to poisoning wells.

In the Muslim world, Jewish life was no less contingent. Although there were well-publicized ‘golden ages’, there were also vicious pogroms. Of course Jews were always dhimmis, second class citizens with few rights. And one mustn’t forget the mass expulsions after 1948.

The Holocaust, often seen as a one-of-a-kind event of unparalleled horror was primarily notable because of its extent and the technology that made it possible. Murderous expressions of Jew-hatred have occurred regularly throughout history. One of the lessons of the Holocaust, however, was that the Jewish people can’t depend on others to help them, even when help could be provided at little cost.

Even in 20th century America, probably the most permissive Diaspora environment in which Jews have ever lived, informal restrictions — where they could live, the professions they could enter, the colleges in which they could study — were commonly placed on Jews until at least the 1950’s.

Today, although antisemitism is frowned on in the West (in the Muslim world it is embraced), antisemitic forces lurk in the shadows, waiting for an opportunity. Some of it has mutated into extreme anti-Zionism, such as that which is common in the UK and on college campuses in the US. There are even elements in the Catholic Church which, in rejection of Vatican II’s nostre aetate, want to go back to the bad old days of hating and persecuting Jews.

Antisemitism has always waxed powerful in difficult times, such as the period of the Black Death, the Great Depression, etc. Here in the US, I expect conditions to get much worse before they get better, a result of internal and external forces and incompetent political leadership. While there is deep-seated tradition of tolerance in our culture, there are troubling signs.

The fact that the Jewish people has survived at all in the diaspora is remarkable. Some consider it miraculous. But it is not prudent to plan for future miracles.

One way of looking at Zionism is that it is intended to put an end to the contingent existence of the Jewish people. That is not to say that the Jewish state guarantees that its people will continue to exist, but rather that it places the responsibility for the existence and quality of life of the Jewish people squarely in their own hands, for the first time in 2000 years.

In view of this I propose the following Zionist principles:

  1. The responsibility for the continued well-being of the Jewish people must be borne by them. It is not rational to depend on others.
  2. The Jewish people has a right to defend itself.
  3. The concrete realization of the above principles is the Jewish state, the only place where the Jewish people does not live on the sufferance of others.
  4. The Jewish state is not only a physical place of refuge for Jews, but a symbol of Jewish self-defense and permanence. Therefore it strengthens the position of Diaspora Jews.

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Israel derangement syndrome at the UN

Sunday, February 20th, 2011
UN Security Council debates anti-Israel resolution. Oops, no, it's a demonstration against the regime in Yemen.

UN Security Council debates anti-Israel resolution. Oops, no, it's a demonstration against the regime in Yemen.

On Friday, Hizballah-controlled Lebanon introduced a Palestinian-drawn resolution stating that Israeli settlements outside the 1949 lines, including eastern Jerusalem, are illegal according to the Geneva Convention. The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, cast the sole vote against it, dooming it by virtue of the veto power held by the five permanent members of the Council.

Ms. Rice then made a statement which essentially approved the resolution except for the replacement of the concept of ‘illegal’ by ‘illegitimate’. “While we agree with our fellow Council members, and, indeed, with the wider world about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians,” she said (statements after the vote are here).

Talmudic distinctions like this are often drawn by diplomats. Their only importance is that one side or the other sometimes uses them as an excuse for doing what they want. But they would do that anyway.

Her more important point is that the US thinks that an agreement should be arrived at by the parties themselves and not be dictated by the UN. At the same time, the policy of her government is a) to artificially prop up one of the parties, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which represents only a minority of Palestinian Arabs and which does not have the power to deliver its end of a bargain anyway, and b) to dictate a ‘solution’ itself. So her protest is a little disingenuous.

She should have said this: “Yes, we want the Jews out as much as anyone else here, but our Congress would throw a fit if we let this pass.” The usual suspects will blame ‘The Lobby’, but most Americans still want the US to support Israel, and our representatives know this.

The US statement was mild in comparison to some others. Last May, Brazil signed an agreement with Israel’s enemy Iran, and rapidly-becoming-enemy Turkey,  to reprocess Iranian nuclear fuel. This was widely seen as an attempt to help Iran bypass UN sanctions. The Brazilian representative’s remarks, absurd beyond belief, reflect its new alignment:

Council President MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), speaking in her national capacity, said that a peaceful resolution of the “question of Palestine” was arguably the single most important question for peace and security in the world today, while Israel’s ongoing settlement activity had become the most important obstacle to a comprehensive solution. It was, therefore, only natural that the Council address the matter, in line with its Charter-mandated responsibility to ensure international peace and security…

Indeed, upholding international law must always be seen as acting in the service of peace, she said, adding that the Council could not settle for less, she continued, adding that the peace process must be accelerated.  Only dialogue and peaceful coexistence with all neighbours could truly advance the Palestinian cause, and including more countries in the peace process, including developing countries, would “breathe fresh air” into the negotiations.  In a time of potential unprecedented change in the Middle East, it was more urgent that ever to press for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, she emphasized.

Those of us whose primary residence is not located on Mars can see that the ‘potential unprecedented change in the Middle East’ illustrates just the opposite: the true irrelevance of the “Palestinian issue” to matters of war and peace in the Middle East.

Just to put the ‘change’ in perspective, none of the uprisings in Arab countries appears to be headed in the direction of democracy. In Tunisia, a caretaker government which is being criticized for keeping remnants of the old regime is providing protection for brothels against Islamic activists who want to burn them down. In Libya, the regime is machine-gunning protesters; in Bahrain a majority Shiite population is fighting to throw out a Sunni monarchy; and in Egypt, the largest and most important nation in the Arab world, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi has returned and is preaching Islamism to the masses. In a telling incident, Wael Ghonim, the young Google executive considered by many the face of the pro-democracy movement was not allowed to speak at Tahrir Square by Qaradawi’s guards. He departed with his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.

But despite the escalating region-wide violence and the probable move of at least some of the formerly conservative (or liberal, in the case of Tunisia and Morocco) Arab nations into the Islamist camp, the Brazilian government still sees the Arab campaign to kick the Jews out of a tiny piece of their historic homeland as “the single most important question for peace and security in the world today,” and Israel’s construction within existing settlements — that’s the only ‘settlement activity’ that’s gone on for years — as the ‘most important obstacle’ to a ‘solution’!

That’s brilliant.

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Quote of the week: Anne Bayefsky; other stuff

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Quote of the week

Anne Bayefsky:

Iranians are rioting today against a vicious government that stones women for alleged adultery, murders homosexuals for the crime of existing, amputates limbs by judicial decree, brutalizes anyone wanting free speech, and is currently holding two Americans hostage for hiking. Is there a Security Council resolution in the works on the dying and the dead in Iran? Bahrain? Libya? Tunisia? Egypt? Algeria? Not the slightest possibility.

The only thing on the table at the UN is a statement that it is illegal for any Jew to live on any land that is claimed by Palestinian Arabs. Not only is this a racist recipe for an apartheid Palestine, it is also a direct violation of the American and UN-sponsored “Middle East Roadmap.”

Incidentally, there are at least 20 dead in Libya. Unconfirmed reports (via Twitter) say that the regime has used aircraft to shoot demonstrators.

Yesterday, the Obama administration offered to support a slightly watered-down resolution that asserted that ‘continued settlement activity’ was ‘illegitimate’.  But the Palestinians refused:

The [Palestinian] draft would have the 15-nation council ‘reaffirm that the Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.’

The draft would call on Israel, ‘the occupying power, to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respects all of its legal obligations in this regard.’

There has been a huge amount of speculation regarding whether the US will veto the resolution or not. I’m not optimistic. We’ll know soon.


Lara Logan

I wasn’t going to write anything about the CBS correspondent who was raped in Cairo. There’s more than enough written already. Just this: many commentators are saying that the crowd was shouting ‘Jew’ as she was attacked, and that in fact she was not Jewish, as if to say ‘those dumb Arabs don’t even know who they’re raping’.

First, ‘Jew’ is a vulgar epithet in Egypt. I recall reading an account by a Jewish woman who spent some time in Egypt studying Arabic and kept her Jewishness a secret. One day a good friend cursed someone — a thief, an aggressive beggar, I don’t recall — by calling him a Jew. Clearly the object of the curse wasn’t Jewish. ‘Jew’ is what you call someone when you want to degrade them.

Second, maybe the gang was making a statement, something like “this is what we do to Jews.” I urge the Jewish Israelis that support the “one-state solution” to keep this in mind when they think about how they will integrate the 4.5 million Arab ‘refugees’ that they believe have a right to ‘return’ to the homes in Israel where 99% of them never lived. My guess is that they like Jews even less than Egyptians do.


Who likes chaos in Egypt?

Somebody well-organized does:

Egyptian industrialist Shafik Gabr was in Davos, Switzerland, when the revolution began. It was January 26, the second day of protests in Tahrir Square, and from 1,600 miles away at the World Economic Forum — teeming with financiers, celebrities, and heads of state in the crisp, Alpine air — it didn’t look much like a revolution.

But by the time Gabr arrived in Cairo on Friday the 28th — having cut short his schmoozing to rush home on his Gulfstream 200 — the planet’s most populous Arab country had changed forever…

“There was a serious plan to scare the populace, no question about it,” he said. “There was a huge number of police stations that were torched all at the same time, all in the same manner. I cannot attribute it to any party. I can say very honestly that there were factors playing a major role beyond the youths in Tahrir Square, to torch, attack, break cells in the prisons for prisoners to be released, to steal police uniforms, to steal armaments, in the very same exact manner across Egypt, not just Cairo. And that requires planning. It’s almost like one of those movies where you have sleeper cells.” (h/t: CSK)

Hamas, Hizballah, the ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood]? Nobody’s telling.

Shabbat shalom.

Update [1420 PST]: The US vetoed the UNSC resolution! But it was ugly. Everyone else piled on Israel and the US made a statement that settlements are ‘illegitimate’ anyway. More analysis tomorrow evening. Now really Shabbat shalom.

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Anti-Zionist Holocaust survivor speaks at Sacramento mosque

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

This is close to home:

Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer makes the 11th stop on his national “Never Again for Anyone” tour at the Sacramento League of Associated Muslims Islamic Center at 7 p.m. [Feb. 16].

Meyer has equated the Holocaust to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, drawing intense fire from Sacramento’s Jewish community and the Anti-Defamation League.

“Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is repugnant, anti-Semitic and defiles the sacred memory of millions who perished during the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Reuven H. Taff, president of the 13-member Board of Rabbis of Greater Sacramento, in a civil but emotional exchange of letters with SALAM’s Imam Mohamed Abdul Azeez…

“The event is not going to be canceled,” said Azeez, who encouraged “any of our friends in the Jewish community to attend, ask questions and engage the speakers.”

Azeez noted that eight national organizations and nine local organizations are sponsoring it, including the Florin Japanese American Citizens League and the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace…

“You have a Holocaust survivor talking for the first time to the Muslim community about the Holocaust and putting it in a modern context that the rights of all people should be respected,” Azeez said. “The world is changing, and it’s time for us to have more dialogue about these untouchable idols,” such as the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

The Imam’s response included this very strange distinction:

Azeez agrees that the rabbis raise a legitimate concern – “any attempt to equate the Holocaust with what is happening in Palestine is an atrocity.” Azeez said SALAM’s management will not allow the speakers to compare Israel to the Nazis. — Sacramento Bee

Apparently he thinks that it is fine to accuse Israel of perpetrating a Holocaust against the Palestinian Arabs, but atrocious to compare them to Nazis! I won’t try to understand this.

The premise of “Never again for anyone” is that Israel’s actions in self defense — like the recent mini-war in Gaza — are comparable in intent, if not in scale, to the Nazi Holocaust against European Jews.

This is a lie. It is an invention from whole cloth, without even a shred of truth behind it.

It is being told over and over in the UN, by Israel-hostile NGOs, etc. For example, the UN ‘Human Rights’ Council’s Goldstone report asserts that it was IDF policy to hurt and kill Gaza residents as ‘punishment’ for their support of Hamas. Exactly the opposite is true. But that is normal when the ‘big lie’ technique is employed.

Indeed, the truly genocidal intent belongs to the Palestinian Arab Hamas organization.

The big lie is supported by a whole collection of smaller lies, some of which I listed on Tuesday:

…the IDF shot Mohammad Dura in cold blood, the IDF kills Arabs and takes their organs, thousands were massacred in Jenin in 2003, AIDS and Measles are spread by Jews, Israelis have trained sharks to attack tourists off Egyptian beaches, the IDF shot hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war in the Sinai in 1967, Ariel Sharon himself shot children to death in Sabra/Shatila, the IDF went into Gaza with orders to kill as many civilians as possible, Israeli soldiers landed on the deck of the Mavi Marmara shooting… I could go on and on.

Hajo Meyer’s experience may qualify him to talk about Nazis, but it does not make him an expert on Zionism and the Palestinian Arabs. In fact, there are perhaps psychological reasons that Holocaust survivors are easy prey for those who distort present-day reality.


The tour is sponsored by American Muslims for Palestine, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) and the Middle East Children’s Alliance. On their highly professional, multilingual website, the IJAN’s charter describes it as

…an international network of Jews who are uncompromisingly committed to struggles for human emancipation, of which the liberation of the Palestinian people and land is an indispensable part. Our commitment is to the dismantling of Israeli apartheid, the return of Palestinian refugees, and the ending of the Israeli colonization of historic Palestine.

Simply: the dissolution of the state of Israel and its replacement by an Arab-dominated state. In practice the implementation of their program would result in a bloody Arab-Jewish war. Rhetoric follows the extreme left-wing post-colonial model. For example,

We pledge to: Oppose Zionism and the State of Israel

Zionism is racist. It demands political, legal and economic power for Jews and European people and cultures over indigenous people and cultures.  Zionism is not just racist but anti-Semitic. It endorses the sexist European anti-Semitic imagery of the effeminate and weak “diaspora Jew” and counters it with a violent and militarist “new Jew,” one who is a perpetrator rather than a victim of racialized violence. Zionism thus seeks to make Jews white through the adopting of white racism against Palestinian people…


Let’s return to Hajo Meyer:

Meyer, in an exclusive interview with The Bee, said he survived 12 years under Hitler and 10 months in Auschwitz. “I have a number on my arm and they dare to call me an anti-Semite?” he said.

Meyer’s anti-Zionism, expressed here as a litany of false or context-free accusations against the state of Israel and his stated commitment to the principles of IJAN calling for the elimination of the Jewish state, clearly meets the Sharansky 3D test for antisemitism (see also my article here).

Meyer thinks that his number somehow immunizes him against accusations of antisemitism. Logically, that’s nonsense.

Is he an antisemite? My answer is yes.

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Today’s Foolish Friedman

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Here’s today’s Foolish (Tom) Friedman remark, analyzed bit by bit:

The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion.

He is correct that Arab tyrants feed hatred of Israel as a diversion from the economic and social problems caused by their corrupt and incompetent rule. But they also hitch a ride on the existing Arab and Muslim hatred for Jews and Israel. No Arab leader has ever become more popular by getting along with Israel, and of course there is the example of Anwar Sadat who lost his life as a result.

If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner.

Israel cannot ‘finalize a deal with the Palestinians’ for many reasons. The main one, which I have discussed numerous times, is that there is no Palestinian Arab leadership and not even any significant fraction of the population (as shown by various polls) that is prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state of any size in ‘Palestine’. No deal will be ‘final’, it will only be another territorial concession that will increase insecurity.

It’s also true that Friedman’s optimism about the democratic Arab world isn’t justified yet.  Did he notice that the same army that put Mubarak into power ultimately removed him? And then told the pro-democracy Facebook generation to go home?

There is also an irony here: Palestinian Authority (PA) ‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas (whose term expired two years ago) is a traditional non-democratic Arab leader. The PA claims that democratic elections will be held this Fall, but Hamas, the only significant opposition, will not participate. So how will such a deal bolster Arab democracy?

Not because everyone will suddenly love Israel (they won’t). But because the voices that would continue calling for conflict would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people’s priorities, which are for more schools not wars. — Thomas Friedman, NY Times (h/t: David Gerstman)

Democratic or non-democratic Arab leaders are not proposing to their people that they go to war with Israel. They are proposing that the state of Israel be dissolved and be replaced by an Arab state, although the precise way this should happen varies. There is no conflict between building schools and supporting the worldwide delegitimization campaign, even if one expects that there will need to be a final violent push from Hizballah or Hamas to finish the job.

Egyptian reform leader Ayman Nour recently said that the Camp David accord was ‘finished’ and needed to be ‘renegotiated’. He is not telling Egyptians that they should attack Israel next week, simply agreeing with them that Israel is illegitimate and even the cold peace is more than it deserves. This is perhaps the most ‘moderate’ position that can be expected from any Arab leader today.

But like the Obama administration for which he appears to be a mouthpiece, for Friedman absolutely everything that happens in the Mideast has to be an argument for getting Israel out of the territories regardless of the consequences.

Why limit it to the Mideast? I am waiting for the Friedman op-ed claiming that it is necessary to create a Palestinian state in order to solve the problem of climate change and get texting drivers off the street.

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