Archive for June, 2011

US policy is on the wrong side of the conflict

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

It’s time to start over.

The “Arab-Israeli conflict” is apparently a problem for many who are neither Arabs nor Israelis. This isn’t necessarily because of their humanitarian instincts, or because they are afraid a war will start in the Mideast and spread to where they live. In some cases the reasons that they ‘care’ are pretty ugly. But let’s leave all that aside for now.

It’s a problem for the Palestinian Arabs because they want to possess all the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and — after all these years and wars — they don’t. It’s easy to prove this  — if the problem were only that they don’t have a state, that could have been solved many times in the recent past. Let’s leave this aside too.

In my judgment, the biggest problem is for the Israeli Jews, who are sick and tired of Arabs and now Iranians trying to murder them in big and little ways.

The entire thrust of debate about how to end the conflict up to now has concentrated on the first two aspects, with lip service at best paid to the third. So the US and Europe are working hard to solve their problem, to appease their oil suppliers by forcing Israel back to pre-1967 lines.

And everybody is so concerned about the poor Palestinian Arabs, a people created out of a disparate population of Arabs by a combination of 1960’s-era Soviet propaganda and huge amounts of welfare assistance, combined with Arab-imposed restrictions on a captive population of ‘refugees’. This ‘people’ has given much to the world, having popularized hostage-taking, airline hijacking and suicide bombing as means of political expression, but their situation is usually described as their ‘plight’.

It seems, though, that nobody has tried to solve the third problem, that of the Israeli Jews. Oh, President Obama is fond of swearing up and down that the US is absolutely committed to Israel’s security, but the policies of his administration belie this. Security implies defensible borders, and this is exactly what he would like to deny Israel.

My thought is that I really don’t much care about the issues of the US and Europe with their oil suppliers. That is their problem to work out. And to be honest, while I wish the Palestinian Arabs well, I don’t think their desire to violently destroy the state of Israel and murder much of its population ought to be indulged.   I also don’t think that their behavior for the past hundred years or so implies, as President Obama has said, that they deserve a state —  surely no more so than the Kurds or any number of stateless peoples. And they certainly don’t deserve one at the expense of the one and only Jewish state.

I suggest that we need to start looking for a solution to the conflict in a different place. Instead of the primary objective being bringing a Palestinian state into being — as it seems to be for the Obama Administration and the Europeans — we need to see it as protecting and preserving the Jewish state.

In fact, it seems clear that the establishment of  a ‘Palestine’ along the 1949 armistice lines (with or without swaps) that refuses to accept the right of a Jewish state to exist would be inimical to the continued health of said Jewish state. So not only are they tackling the wrong part of the problem, they are doing it in a way that is likely to make the conflict worse rather than better.

Instead of asking for concrete Jewish concessions of land and security, I suggest we start by asking for Arab concessions. Let’s see them unambiguously announce in all relevant languages, that they recognize and accept the presence of a Jewish state, a state that belongs to the Jewish people, with defensible borders, between the river and the sea.

Let’s see them stop whipping up hatred and incitement to murder among their people, stop teaching their children that they should grow up to be martyrs and vicious terrorists.

Let’s see them agree that a solution for the Arab refugees will have to be found outside of the Jewish state.

And there’s no reason that only the Palestinian Arabs should make all the concessions. The various countries in which Palestinian Arab refugees reside must agree to remove the apartheid-like restrictions placed on them, and to assist any of them that want to to integrate into their societies.

If they can’t do these things — and I’m sure they can’t today — then the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict may not come about for another 63 years. It will be up to the Arabs. But until that time, Israel should be provided with the means to protect herself and should be allowed to do so when attacked.

Countries that share Israel’s democratic principles should make every effort to pressure Israel’s enemies to desist from their aggression. There is no justification for the massive arrays of missiles in Lebanon and Syria aimed at Israel. The US, for example, should stop sending military aid to Lebanon — now controlled by Hizballah — and should support the forces trying to overthrow Syria’s Assad.

Of course I don’t think the present US administration will take the path that I’m advocating. Even if the President and his advisers could see things clearly, it would take courage to act against the forces arrayed against Israel in the world. This administration is remarkably craven in dealing with its enemies (who, incidentally are mostly the same as Israel’s enemies).

Today, although rhetoric is not anti-Israel, US policies are squarely on the side of her enemies.

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Quote of the week: Tom McMaster as Amina Arraf

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Borders mean nothing
When you have wings.

— Tom MacMaster, American pro-Palestinian activist pretending to be a Syrian lesbian.

I admit it, I missed this story. When I first saw the “Gay Girl in Damascus” blog, I said to myself: “what a load of crap. I bet this is written by a 40-year old straight male American grad student” (OK, actually I thought it was an undergraduate).

In any event, I didn’t give it another thought. Who would be stupid enough to take this seriously? Just another hoax in the place where “nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Well, lots and lots of people, including some who work for the ‘real’ media believed this moron.

One of the reasons he did it was to make his rantings against Israel and the US more believable. Who’d listen to a white guy attacking Israel and the US? But an attractive Syrian lesbian — now that carries authority!

I’m not sure I follow his reasoning. After all, his character, “Amina Arraf,” was a Syrian Muslim, who might be expected to think like one. I guess what he meant was that nobody would listen to him, but his persona’s blog got hundreds of thousands of hits, was quoted in The Guardian, Time, CNN, NPR, etc. So he had a much bigger audience for the usual ugly lies.

Well, his cleverness got him kicked out of the University of Edinburgh’s History program. And it got the Jews, the Arabs and the LGBTQ crowd all seriously pissed off at him. I think his wife is also annoyed.

The really best part of the whole story was something I didn’t know about until this afternoon when a friend mentioned it. It seems that Amina Arraf was a frequent commenter on a lesbian blog called (sorry) “LezGetReal,” which was run by a Paula Brooks, with whom Arraf sometimes exchanged flirty remarks.

Of course — how could it be otherwise? — “Paula Brooks” turned out to be another middle-aged straight male named Bill Graber.

This could have made a good Jack Lemmon movie, if it weren’t for the vicious political purpose behind MacMaster’s deception.  The ‘Gay Girl’ blog is down now, but some of ‘her’ writing is quoted here:

As soon as I post this, I know, the defenders of the Holy Nation will come and denounce me, will ask why it is that I do not see their cause as holy and my own people, my own heritage, my own history, as nothing more than the squawkings of baboons.

Don’t laugh; I am sure they will come. And they will again and again demonstrate their arrogance and their ignorance. When not claiming that their innate superiority in all things means that democracy is not for the likes of me (after all, how else to justify their state?) or that we are all needing just a firm, pale hand to guide us, they will show their ignorance of history.

I for one know my own history. And I know my own country. I know that Jaulan [the Golan Heights] was lost after the Syrians had agreed to cease fire. I know who started that war; it wasn’t us. I know that the Israelis hold Jaulan because they would steal our water and need a nice platform to keep Damascus in their gunsights. I know that there is no difference between what keeps them there and what took Saddam to Kuwait … I know of American sailors who died to keep the world from knowing … I know that their own generals admitted that all the ‘vicious wicked Syrian attacks’ were provoked by them, not us …

I know also of the ethnic cleansing that they undertook up there; 131,000 people made homeless so that Russian migrants might have a place to illegally live.

Bad, bad writing. And worse history.

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The New Israel Fund — the bad and the ugly

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

The following is from an article by Anne Hertzberg of the intrepid NGO Monitor:

…a group of NGOs, primarily funded by European governments, the EU, and the New Israel Fund (NIF) have initiated a campaign to denigrate the Israeli justice system in order to bolster efforts to have Israelis arrested for “war crimes” in Europe, and in order to support the PLO’s application to the International Criminal Court for an investigation of Israel.

They also play an integral role in the PLO strategy to use UN frameworks, not to resolve the conflict, but to “internationalize the conflict as a legal matter” and to “pave the way for (the Palestinians) to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice” as Mahmoud Abbas tellingly revealed in a May 17 New York Times op-ed…

Adalah, an Israeli NGO heavily funded by the NIF and the EU, is a leader of this strategy. At a 2008 conference in Brussels funded by the Swedish government, Adalah’s General Director Hassan Jabareen recommended that Palestinian activists “should try to portray Israel as an inherent undemocratic state” and “use that as part of campaigning internationally.”

Adalah has implemented this strategy in many submissions to UN committees, including the Human Rights Council. Additionally, in 2009, Adalah filed an “expert” opinion on behalf of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in a lawsuit brought by the group in Spain seeking the arrest and imprisonment of seven Israeli officials for alleged “war crimes” arising out of the killing of a senior Hamas terrorist, Salah Shehade.

In 2007, Adalah presented its proposal for a “Democratic Constitution” for Israel. In its introduction, Adalah begins by demanding that

The state of Israel must recognize, therefore, its responsibility for the injustices of the Nakba and the Occupation; recognize the right of return of the Palestinian refugees based on UN Resolution 194 [understood by Arabs as return of any ‘refugees’ who choose to do so — ed]; recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; and withdraw from all of the territories occupied in 1967.

The constitution proposal also contains several options for providing the Arab minority with a veto over all decisions of the Knesset. There is lots more, and it’s clear that the adoption of this constitution would mean the end of the Jewish state.

As Hertzberg wrote, Adalah is supported in part by the New Israel Fund (NIF). In fact, Adalah received more than one million dollars from the NIF between 2006 and 2010.

This is the same NIF that was a center of controversy last year when it was revealed that the great majority of NGO’s that contributed ‘evidence’ for IDF ‘war crimes’ to the Goldstone report — most of which consisted of the repetition of unsubstantiated charges made by Gaza residents in the presence of Hamas officials and translators — received funding from the NIF.

This is also the same NIF that made news again this year when it became known that the NIF funded an extremist group called “The Coalition of Women for Peace” which had little to do with women or peace but a great deal to do with demonizing and promoting the boycott of Israel.

Its 2008 IRS form 990, the most recent one that I have, shows that the NIF distributed more than $20 million in grants in 2008. Not all of the NIF’s projects are anti-state, and these programs are pointed to by its defenders to justify their support. For example, there is a grant for “support for women suffering battering or sexual abuse.” There are numerous grants for “religious pluralism” which I presume means support for non-Orthodox Judaism. There are grants for environmental purposes (although in many cases ‘protecting the environment’ means opposing the security fence).

But the overwhelming thrust of the NIF’s grantees is antagonism to Israeli society as it is. Over and over one sees grants for promoting or protecting ‘rights’ for various groups (mostly Arabs, but also women and some Jewish immigrants). There are a great many grants for ‘community organizing’, and for ‘promoting equality’ in one or another realm. The overall impression is that Israel is oppressive and undemocratic, and NIF funds are used to pressure the ‘establishment’ into changing its ways, following the example of the civil rights movement in America.

And then of course there are things like a grant of $140,000 to “promote peace” (there are numerous large grants for this purpose) and $700,000 for “protecting human rights of all populations in Israel”, $308,000 for “protecting the human rights of the Arab minority in Israel”, and multiple grants totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for “protecting human rights in the occupied territories”. There was even a grant of $458,500 for “promoting democracy and human rights in the media”. Could Israel’s media possibly be made more democratic?

The NIF is big business.  Its 2008 income was almost $35 million in contributions and grants (the Ford Foundation gave it $5 million). Its CEO in 2008, Larry Garber (the present CEO is Daniel Sokatch), was paid more than $228,000 in that year, a consultant named Aaron Back was paid $235,000 for ‘program management services’, and there were seven additional employees with annual salaries over $100,000. Just because it’s a non-profit doesn’t mean that nobody profits!

This huge enterprise is focused on one tiny, embattled democratic country, aiming to remake it in accordance with the fantasies of an ideal society as imagined by liberal American Jews.

This is bad enough, but it also funds a darker enterprise, which is to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. I’m sure its supporters would claim that they are only trying to bring about peace (by opposing the policies of its democratically elected government), but the effect is to weaken the state and strengthen its enemies.

Oh — did I mention that this is the same NIF as the one of which Rabbi Richard Jacobs, the incoming president of the Union for Reform Judaism, is a board member? The URJ has said that Rabbi Jacobs will step down from his outside board positions for the first years of his presidency,  “in order to focus his energies on the task ahead of him.”

What he should do is resign from the NIF altogether, insofar as that organization is hurting, not helping, the state.

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Hizballah cements control over Lebanon

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

In January of this year, Hizballah and its allies brought down the coalition of Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri. A new PM, Najib Mikati, was designated, but he had not been able to put together a coalition until yesterday.

The new Lebanese cabinet of 30 ministers includes 18 members of the Hizballah-led “March 8 Alliance,” (the name refers to an anti-Western demonstration held in 2005). That’s a majority, folks, and it includes the justice and defense ministries.

This means that Iranian-Syrian proxy Hizballah has even more power over Lebanon than before.

Is it time for the US to stop sending aid, particularly military aid, to Lebanon?

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in response that Washington should cut off the funding for Lebanon.

Hezbollah led the toppling of the government of Saad Hariri while the former prime minister was on a visit to Washington in January. The group was upset with Hariri’s support for a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister’s father.

Hezbollah had two Cabinet positions in the Hariri government [there still are only two ministers who are members of the party, but their ‘alliance’ partners have grown from 11 to 18]. U.S. lawmakers last year mulled withholding the roughly $100 million in military aid to Lebanon because of Hezbollah concerns but reversed course after classified briefings indicated the Lebanese military was able to handle the assistance responsibly. — UPI

Here’s an example of the way the Lebanese Army has acted “responsibly:”

On August 3rd, 2010, Lebanese Army snipers shot and killed an Israeli officer who was directing a routine tree-clearing operation on the Israeli side of the border. Another officer was seriously wounded.

There is no doubt that this was a deliberate provocation by Hizballah to divert attention from the indictments that were shortly expected (they are still ‘expected’) of the UN Special Tribunal looking into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

In the next war, Hizballah rockets from Lebanon will kill Israelis. There’s no doubt about this either.

Now it is even more important that the US stop supporting the Lebanese Army, which — far from checking Hizballah in accordance with UN resolution 1701 — acts on its behalf.

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A new king arose … who did not know Joseph.

Monday, June 13th, 2011
A new king arose ... who did not know Joseph.

A new king arose … who did not know Joseph.

By Vic Rosenthal

The history of the Jewish people in exile tended to repeat itself, following a pattern first described in the Torah, in the book called shemot [Exodus].

The people of Israel find themselves in a place where they are tolerated, perhaps a place where the ruler is friendly or finds them useful. They do well, multiply, accumulate wealth and prestige. Many of them take on customs of the people among whom they live, and some even forget who they are.

But the local population doesn’t forget. They become jealous of the success of the children of Israel (later called Jews). And something happens — perhaps the friendly ruler dies and is replaced by one who “did not know Joseph.” Laws and customs change, rights and privileges are taken away, and suddenly the Israelites have the stark choice between leaving their homes, perhaps the only ones they’ve known, finding another place where they can start over, or being wiped out.

It happened in Egypt, and it’s been happening everywhere since then, in the Christian and Muslim worlds, in the Europe of  the Middle ages and after the Enlightenment. It happened in 20th Century Germany, where Jews lived as privileged an existence as anywhere in the world.

Hitler’s defeat and the worldwide revulsion against Nazi ideology were expected to end the cycle in Europe, but today Jews are more and more beginning to realize yet again that they do not have a future there.

There are only two places today where significant Jewish populations live without fear of being thrown out: the US and Israel. The US, because of its unprecedented tradition — developed as a result of the interplay between the heterogeneous Christian sects that founded it, and the multiplicity of peoples that comprise it — in which tolerance is the highest value. And Israel because it is a Jewish state.

Unfortunately new Pharaohs — both a man and an ideology — have arisen who “did not know Joseph.” And they threaten the Jewish people in both of these safe havens.

The ideological Pharaoh is an anti-rational postmodernism, in which all truth is political, combined with a naive leftist politics in which the West is always wrong and any group defined as ‘oppressed’ is always right — and is permitted anything. Although it sees itself as tolerant, it is only tolerant of certain kinds of differences.

This ideology is taught in our great American universities, and more and more it is becoming the dominant one among our intellectual and political elites.

The old American ideology would have allowed Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to speak his piece at UC Irvine, because freedom of speech is one of its highest priorities. The new ideology defines ‘freedom’ as the right to shut down discussion that is politically unacceptable.

On many US campuses, Jewish students are afraid. Although they are attacked for being pro-Israel, they are attacked in antisemitic terms. It is the primacy of politics over tolerance which makes this possible.

This ideology bears the seeds of a new and dangerous antisemitism, the kind that America has almost never known.

***

In order to understand how Jews in Israel are threatened, we need to shift our point of view from the Jewish people within a particular state to the Jewish state in the world. We need to move from the Jew to the Jew among nations.

The parallels are clear. The Jewish state came into being as a third-world nation. She struggled through wars and privation, absorbed millions of penniless immigrants, built the structure of a modern state from almost nothing.

Her neighbors weren’t happy. They were jealous of the success of the Jew among nations, and they blamed their problems on her. They made up myths about how she had taken what was rightfully theirs. They wanted to destroy her and take what she had built.

But Pharaoh protected her, or, more correctly, permitted her to protect herself. American Pharaohs came and went, some more and some less friendly to the Jew among nations. Nevertheless, none were openly hostile to her.

But now a new Pharaoh has arisen, our first postmodern President, Barack Obama. And he did not know Joseph.

A product of the New Left, Obama personifies the new ideology — thus his sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs, the paradigm case of the oppressed third-world peoples (despite the fact that they live better than 90% of the world’s population).

And this new Pharaoh has spoken: he’s taken away the understandings that Israel had depended on — the provision of secure and recognized borders agreed on between the parties of UNSC resolution 242, the promises of prior presidents regarding borders and the unacceptability of a right of return for Arab refugees.

He’s demanded that Israel shrink herself to a degree that no American president has ever done. And he’s demanding it now, when her neighbors are more dangerous than ever. And those neighbors are slavering with anticipation, thinking that they are going to receive their heart’s desire, after 63 years, on a silver platter.

He is demanding that Israel give away every one of its bargaining points, in return for words. These words, whether from the Arabs or a US President, have been shown to be worthless more than once.

The new Pharaoh is a product of the New Left, but he’s also a product of another tradition, that of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He’s not stupid enough to get caught verbalizing his attitude, but his cold hatred came through like a searchlight when he spoke to the representative of the Jew among nations, Binyamin Netanyahu.

***

American Jews have a problem, which can only be solved if it is recognized for what it is — a destructive ideology. Unfortunately, too many of them, smug in what they think is the protective bosom of American tolerance, are flirting with it themselves instead of opposing it.

Israel’s problem is more immediate. Its solution depends on her ability to hold off her neighbors, who are bent on raping her while Obama, the UN, the Europeans, etc. hold her down.

Now we get to the point that the analogy breaks down. Diaspora Jews were powerless. They had to depend on the good will of the ruler. Faced with a vicious one, they had no choice but to flee or die. But the Jew among nations has a world-class military capability, which can defeat the forces lined up against her.

The success of this effort will depend on a lot of things, but from a psychological point of view, the most important is the understanding that there will be no help from Pharaoh. For planning purposes, Barack Obama must be placed in the ‘enemy’ column.

We can only hope that very soon, a new king will arise in America.

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