Archive for October, 2011

Their essence is confrontation

Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Hamas supporters celebrate their "historic victory"

Hamas supporters celebrate their "historic victory"

The ‘prisoner exchange’ — that is, the ransom payment for Gilad Shalit — is a reality.

Hamas is celebrating its “historic victory” and threatening more kidnappings:

Abu Obaida, spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam said that Schalit, who is set to be released as part of a prisoner exchange deal, “will not be the last solider kidnapped by Hamas as long as Israel keeps Palestinian prisoners detained” …

Tuesday night [Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal]  called the deal to exchange Schalit for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners a “great achievement.” “We are happy with this great achievement and we thank our God for that. But our happiness is mixed with sorrow because we were not able to gain the freedom of all prisoners,” Meshaal said from Damascus, speaking in a televised speech. Hamas presented the prisoner exchange agreement as a “historic victory,” saying Israel has accepted all the demands of the captors.

Of course this is not true — Israel held out on some important points — but it is a victory nevertheless.

This affair is a small thing overall (not for Gilad and his family, of course) but it illustrates something about Israel’s situation.

The big picture is that vicious aggressor entities — Hamas, Hizballah and the PLO — have been allowed to take root in Gaza, Judea / Samaria, and Lebanon. None of these will coexist with the Jewish state. They cannot be negotiated, bribed or ‘engaged’ into accepting coexistence. Their essence is confrontation.

This didn’t have to happen. Historic mistakes were made — in 1993, 2005, 2006 and 2008-9.* But now, it, too, is a reality.

There are three possibilities:

  1. The status quo will continue forever. That means that the aggressors will continue to build their military capabilities while engaging in a war of attrition with Israel (the Gilad Shalit affair is an example). This is inherently unstable, so this option is impossible.
  2. Hamas, Hizballah and the PLO will be replaced by a leadership prepared to accept the existence of Israel. Practically speaking, this can only be accomplished by force — defeating them so completely that the course of peace, which they presently despise, will be left as the only option.
  3. The Jewish state will disappear.

Many Israelis and Diaspora Jews have in essence chosen option 3. They understand that 1) is not a viable option. And they can’t stomach 2) — or they believe that “the world won’t allow it.”

Sometimes they try to escape the dilemma by proposing to change their enemies into friends by preemptive surrender. They will say that “Israel must take risks for peace” meaning that if Israel makes some huge concession, the aggressors will suddenly change and stop wanting to destroy Israel. But why should they? A concession is proof that their program is succeeding. Remember what I said:

Their essence is confrontation.

Just as the prisoner exchange is seen as a huge victory for Hamas, every Israeli concession is a victory for the other side. They are playing a zero-sum game. There are no ‘win-win solutions’ that benefit both sides.

Palestinian and Hizballah politics, media, literature, art, education, religious expression are all about destroying Israel. Why should what they see as a victory make them repudiate their ideology? The opposite is the case!

The extreme Left in Israel already realizes this and explicitly calls for the end of the Jewish state. Some are cynically planning to flee to Europe or the US, while others appear to have convinced themselves of the comical proposition that Jews will live in safety in an Arab-majority state.

There’s no escape from option 2, other than surrender. If you think that there should continue to be a Jewish state, then understand that the only way to keep it is to defeat its enemies.
* I refer, of course, to the Oslo Accords, the withdrawal from Gaza, the botched Second Lebanon War, and the premature end of Operation Cast Lead.

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The wrong deal, but Shalit is coming home!

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
Aviva and Noam Shalit, Gilad's parents, with NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg (2009)

Aviva and Noam Shalit, Gilad's parents, with NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg (2009)

As everyone knows by now, Israel signed a deal with Hamas, and the Cabinet signed on, to trade 1000 prisoners in Israeli jails for Gilad Shalit.

All the details, particularly whether some of the worst terrorists are on the list, are not clear. There are conflicting reports about whether Marwan Barghouti (5 life sentences) or his cousin, Hamas bomb-maker Abdallah Barghouti (67 life sentences) are included. There are also reports (and denials) that Shalit is now in Cairo.

At this point, all that can be reported for certain is that there is a deal for 1000 prisoners. Many of them are murderers.

As the father of three children who served in the IDF, I know what it is to worry about a soldier. I cannot know what the Shalit family has suffered. I’m sure my nightmares, vivid as they were, did not compare to their reality. I understand this. I know that if my son were in their Gilad’s place I would do absolutely anything, no matter how irrational, to bring him home. I admit it, even if I thought it would bring down the state, I would do it. That’s the way parents are.

But the Prime Minister of the State of Israel can’t act irrationally. He has the responsibility to protect all Israelis. Like a military commander who sometimes gives orders that he knows will result in the death of some of his soldiers, he must make choices — even when there is no acceptable choice.

But the choice the PM and his government have made is the wrong one. The deal will:

1. Encourage more kidnappings.
2. Eliminate fear of imprisonment as a deterrent to terrorism.
3. Give Hamas a huge political victory (they are already claiming it).
4. Boost Hamas morale and recruitment.
5. Wreck the morale of our security people, who risked their lives to capture these terrorists.
6. Free vicious terrorists who will kill again.*

Some say there is a Jewish moral imperative to rescue captives. But like most moral problems, this is one of conflicting imperatives. The deal is a trade: one young man’s life today for the lives of future terror victims — and we may not have to wait long for that future.

Others argue that terror organizations are always trying to kidnap soldiers (and other Israelis) and this won’t change. But it’s reasonable to think that the striking success of this kidnapping — one of the major Palestinian goals enunciated by Mahmoud Abbas in his recent speech to the UN was to free prisoners — will result in more resources being devoted to this tactic.

A prospective terrorist can contemplate murder, even multiple murders, knowing that if he escapes from the scene of the crime, he can expect at most a few years imprisonment (under relatively good conditions), until the next ‘swap’. Then he will be a hero of the Palestinian people.

I spoke to a person who was a member of the security forces that stopped hundreds of potential terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada, intercepting terrorists on their way to their targets. He personally arrested some of those who may be freed, including one of those responsible for the Hebrew University bombing. He said “you work for years to accomplish something, and then it all disappears.”

Ahlam Tamimi, the woman who drove the Sbarro restaurant bomber to his target, is one who will be released (all women prisoners are included). She received 16 life sentences. She said “I’m not sorry for what I did. I will get out of prison and I refuse to recognize Israel’s existence.” Another female prisoner is Amna Muna, who lured an Israeli teenager to his death by computer chat. She isn’t sorry either.

Nevertheless, it is important that we keep our perspective about who is responsible for the enormous evil that has transpired here: the evils of past and future terrorism, and the evil done against Gilad Shalit, his family and all of Israel and the Jewish people. The Palestinian terror movements (not just Hamas) are responsible, and should be made to pay in the strongest possible way.

I’ve often called for a death penalty for terrorist murders. There is a downside: every execution will become an international crisis. But there may be no other way to deter it (not all terrorists are suicidal, after all, especially the ones who plan and order the attacks).

There has been criticism of the Shalit family for the pressure that led to this deal, even talk of demonstrating outside of their home when the inevitable consequences of it come to pass. The criticism is misdirected and the idea of demonstrating reprehensible. They have suffered far more than enough.

I have had a banner hanging above my front door for some time with a picture of Gilad Shalit, calling for his freedom. We also have placed his picture at our Passover seder table for several years. We will remove the banner with great happiness, along with trepidation.

Update [0945 PDT]: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Strategic Affairs Minister and former IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon, and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau are the only cabinet members who voted against the deal. Pick the next Prime Minister from that list.

* I posted this list of reasons on an email list, and I see that some other bloggers have used it. That’s fine, but I want to make clear that I didn’t copy it from anyone.

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Quote of the Week: Today’s antisemitism

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Hosni Mubarak as a Jew. In the Muslim Middle East there's no difference between hating Israel and hating Jews.

Hosni Mubarak as a Jew. In the Muslim Middle East there's no difference between hating Israel and hating Jews (the picture is from an Iranian site).

The Quote of the Week is back:

This … is what sets post-World War Two anti-Semitism apart from its historic roots. Today’s anti-Semitism is all about denial: denial of the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish movement to reclaim the land of Israel; denial of a Jewish history in connection to the holy land and, in particular, the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people; denial of the Holocaust (while at the same time accusing Jews of Nazism); and denial of Jews to live free of anti-Semitism, hate and intolerance. — Avi Benlolo, “Canada Gets Tough on Anti-Semitism

In the Muslim Middle East, they don’t make fine distinctions. Antisemitism is indistinguishable from anti-Zionism. Most of the countries in the region have already gotten rid of their Jews, so of course they hate Israel — it’s the Jewish state, the last remaining pocket of Jews. They hate Jews and Israel alike, the people and the state that so humiliated them. And they have the tools to do so, traditional Quranic antisemitism and the imported, modern European variety.

In Egypt, where there are at most a hundred Jews today, practically nobody has met a Jew. Yet “Jew” was used as an epithet to shout at foreign journalists during protests, and it’s probably a rare Egyptian that hasn’t heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (which was made into a TV series) or Hitler’s Mein Kampf, a runaway best-seller.

Here in North America, we speak more carefully. Our obsession with any form of racism — a reaction, I think, to both the very real anti-black racism that was institutionalized in the US until recently, and to the Holocaust — gives rise to a cultural taboo against saying anything even borderline antisemitic in public. The anti-Jewish animosity that people, including no small number of Jews, feel in their hearts expresses itself as ‘criticism’ of Israel, and political ‘criticism’ is allowed. What gives it away is the viciousness.

Everyone will admit that the situation of Israel is special. More media attention, way more UN resources devoted to attacking it, every mildly left-wing group calling for a boycott of it — sometimes I want to ask, “hey guys, aren’t there any other issues?”

There are other things that are explained by the relation between antisemitism and anti-Israel policies. For example, can anyone understand why the Palestinian Arabs, of all the ‘oppressed’ groups in the world (I was going to say ‘peoples’, but they are less a people than the Kurds or Tibetans) have become the overwhelming cause célèbre among progressives and other do-gooders?

For example, how about the Kurds? Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us:

Other stateless peoples deserve independence as well, even those who don’t have Jewish adversaries, without whom the Palestinians would be just another unhappy group of Muslims in search of a token measure of political satisfaction. In other words, they would be Kurds, except less numerous and less subjugated. Oh, if the Kurds only had Israel as an enemy, the UN might acknowledge their existence!

But of course they don’t, and it’s unlikely that the Security Council will be voting on independence for Kurdistan in the near future.

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A two-step plan for peace

Monday, October 10th, 2011

News item:

The US is the number one enemy of the Palestinians because it supports Israeli “oppression” against the Palestinians, Tawfik Tirawi, a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee, said on Sunday.

Tirawi, former commander of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Force in the West Bank, also said that Fatah has not abandoned the armed struggle option against Israel. “Fatah hasn’t thrown the rifle aside,” Tirawi told thousands of university students during a rally in Hebron.

Tirawi’s anti-US remarks came only days after a Palestinian protester tossed a shoe at US diplomats who arrived in Ramallah to attend a cultural event. The Palestinians were protesting against US President Barack Obama’s refusal to back the PA’s statehood bid at the UN and US threats to cut off financial aid to the PA.

I have certainly not held back from criticizing the Obama Administration, which I think has significantly shifted the US position away from Israel’s and closer to the Palestinians’. But this is not good enough for the Palestinians, who feel betrayed because the US did not facilitate their strategy of gaining territory and statehood without negotiating with Israel.

The US Congress has held up the transfer of $200 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) because their action violates previous agreements, because of their cooperation with Hamas, and because they refuse to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people (the administration is doing its best to pressure Congress to release the money before the pipeline dries up).

Some other reasons that our representatives may or may not have taken into account include the fact that the PA pays a monthly ‘salary’ to 5000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, even those who have been convicted of murder. This includes members of Hamas, as well as Fatah! They also pay their ’employees’ in the Gaza Strip — in particular, ‘security’ personnel. Since Gaza is entirely controlled by Hamas, either these employees are doing nothing or they are working for Hamas.

In addition, there is a huge amount of corruption in the PA, with cronies of powerful politicians reaping benefits from PA-sponsored monopolies, etc.  And if Fatah decides to ‘pick up the rifle again’, no doubt international aid will pay for it.

Now the EU has decided to allocate another 100 million Euros (about $133 million).

It seems to me that the greatest obstacle to peace between the Arabs and Israel is not Israeli settlements. It is not even Arab rejectionism — although perhaps that is the proximate cause.

No, the biggest obstacle is Western meddling, which has enabled a corrupt terrorist organization like the PLO to obtain and cling to power, and which has encouraged them to think that it will help them kick the Jews out of the Middle East.

The West has also prevented Israel from dealing with Hamas, a group which deserves no more or less than to be wiped off the face of the earth. Yet Israel has had to walk a tightrope between doing nothing and engaging in highly limited military operations, always prepared for accusations of war crimes coming from European-funded NGOs. Even an economic strategy to bring down Hamas was short-circuited by the US after the Mavi Marmara affair.

Under UN protection, Hizballah has rebuilt itself to an even better strategic position than prior to 2006. And whether or not you think Israel has the ability to knock out the Iranian nuclear program, there is no doubt that pressure from the US is one of the greatest obstacles that would have to be overcome to do so.

Here is my two-step plan to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict:

  1. Stop funding, supporting, catering to, protecting, coddling, and pretending to not understand the real intentions of the PLO, Hamas, Hizballah, etc. Stop funding anti-Israel NGOs, too.
  2. Understand that Israel’s self-defense and Western interests are aligned, and allow Israel to do what it needs to do without interference.

This plan is both inexpensive — it saves hundreds of millions of dollars — and would result in both a secure Israel and a possibility that the Palestinian Arabs can develop leadership that is more interested in improving the lives of Arabs than in killing Jews.

The longer we wait, the more it will cost — in money and lives.

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NIF doesn’t condemn Arab rejection of Jewish rights

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

The NIF-sponsored declaration about the Tuba Zanghariya incident, signed by 1000 rabbis, makes it clear that they oppose bad behavior by Israelis:

We condemn those in Israel who exacerbate conflict and strife, and who insist that only one people or religion belongs to this land. (my emphasis)

But why do you think those two boldfaced words are there?

Perhaps the NIF didn’t want to contradict the official Palestinian Authority (PA) TV station which, shortly after Mahmoud Abbas’ appeal to the UN for statehood, broadcast this map, showing all of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean (except the Golan Heights) wrapped in a Palestinian flag (the key symbolizes Palestinian Arab ownership of the land they were ‘expelled’ from in 1948).

Statements like this one are crafted very carefully. I do not believe that those two words are there by accident. They are there to tell us that the statement does not condemn those outside of Israel — which includes all of the Palestinian leadership, the PLO and Hamas — who think that only the Arabs “belong to the land” (a strange locution in itself).

This isn’t surprising in light of the Wikileaks cable which quotes an NIF official as saying that “the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.”

I wonder if any of the liberal American rabbis (some of whom I know) who signed the statement noticed this?

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