Archive for November, 2011

Hot springs, heavy drinkers, failed banks — and Palestine

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. A lovely setting for a very bad idea

Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. A lovely setting for a very bad idea

You may have noticed a news item in your local paper today about the parliament of Iceland passing a resolution recognizing the state of ‘Palestine’ according to pre-1967 lines.

Apart from the fact that Iceland is the first European country to do this impossible feat — that is, recognize a ‘country’ with borders that  make a hostile claim on the territory of another country, one with no economy except  the international dole, no single government (despite claims, Hamas and the PLO are not ‘unified’), and whose essence is to deny self-determination to another nation — there is another interesting fact about it.

You will not read this interesting fact in your paper, because it won’t mention it. It took Evelyn Gordon, writing in the so-called ‘neo-con’ Commentary magazine to notice it. Let me quote the resolution in full, which your newspaper or radio/TV newscaster won’t do:

“Alþingi [the Icelandic parliament] resolves to entrust the government to recognize Palestine as an independent and sovereign state within the pre-1967 Six Day War borders.

Also, Alþingi urges Israelis and Palestinians to reconcile through the means of peace agreements on the basis of international law and resolutions of the United Nations, including the mutual recognition of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

Alþingi reaffirms that the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and also recalls the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes in accordance with resolutions reaffirmed by the United Nations.

Alþingi demands that the conflicting parties in the Arab-Israeli Conflict cease warfare and acts of violence forthwith and respect human rights and humanitarian law.” [my emphasis]

So there you are. The Icelandic parliament believes that 5 million descendents of the 600,000 or so original Arab refugees have the ‘right’ to overrun the state of Israel, wiping out the right of self-determination of the Jews that live there (and probably their lives as well).

Apparently it was not considered relevant that in the history of international law there has never been a ‘right of return’ for refugees of any kind, not to mention their descendents!

The peace-loving legislators of Iceland, a country of hot springs, heavy drinkers and failed banks, probably didn’t stop to think about the violent aspects of the ‘Palestinian people’ or their single-minded dedication to their ’cause’, and how the entry of 5 million of them into a majority Jewish state would probably give rise to a vicious civil war.

Even if it could be done peacefully (it can’t), as Gordon points out the result would be not one new Arab-majority state, but two, one on either side of the line. This is what the Palestinians mean by a “two-state solution!”

Iceland’s Parliament: stupid or evil? You decide.

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The crystal and the shield

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

The device above is called a “Red Crystal.” It is the emblem that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) seem to have agreed that Israel must put on its ambulances instead of the traditional Magen David, if MDA is to be allowed to join the international organization (one wonders if MDA will have to change its name as well).

The story of the emblems is instructive. Emblems are practically important, because an ICRC-recognized emblem is ‘protected’ in wartime — shooting at a person or vehicle bearing a protected emblem is considered a war crime.

When the ICRC admitted Turkey and Egypt as members in 1929, they naturally did not want to use the cross, symbol of the hated crusaders, as their emblem; so they requested and got permission to use a red crescent.

But when MDA came along in 1931 and wanted its Magen David to be ‘protected’, the ICRC refused. “What if everyone wanted their own symbol?” they asked, in effect. Only the cross and the crescent were accepted (there is also a ‘red lion and sun’ emblem which nobody uses).

I don’t think I need to point out that it is notable that Muslim sensitivities about the cross were considered important, while Jewish ones — after all, Jews suffered at the hands of those bearing the cross no less than Muslims — were not.

Nothing changed until 2006:

Certain Arab nations, such as Syria, also protested the entry of MDA into the Red Cross movement, making consensus impossible for a time. However, from 2000 to 2006 the American Red Cross withheld its dues (a total of $42 million) to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) because of IFRC’s refusal to admit MDA; this ultimately led to the creation of the Red Crystal emblem and the admission of MDA on June 22, 2006.

The Red Star of David is not recognized as a protected symbol outside Israel; instead the MDA uses the Red Crystal emblem during international operations in order to ensure protection.

So there was a compromise: Israel could join but it couldn’t use a Jewish symbol.

I suggest that it was a very poor compromise. The symbolic significance of the Magen David is great, and when did Israel’s enemies worry about committing war crimes, anyway? But as always, the pragmatic Israeli attitude was that symbols don’t matter. This is a serious mistake in a world, and especially a Middle East, where symbols often matter a great deal.

The details of the compromise have not been made public until recently. And they are shocking.

Two weeks ago, Israel National News reported that they had obtained a copy of the memorandum of understanding between ICRC and MDA, which included the following:

“MDA and PRCS [Palestinian Red Crescent Society] will operate in conformity with the legal framework applicable to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967.”

“MDA and PRCS recognize that PRCS is the authorized national society in the Palestinian territory and that this territory is within the geographical scope of the operational activities and of the competences of PRCS”.

“After the Third Protocol Additional is adopted and by the time MDA is admitted to the …International Red Cross and Red Cresecent societies, MDA will ensure that it has no chapters outside the internationally recognized border of the state of Israel.”

Operational activities of one society within the jurisdiction of the other society will be conducted in accordance with the consent provision of resolution 11…”

“MDA and PRCS will use a distinctive emblem in conformity with the requirements of the Geneva conventions and its Third Additional Protocol.”

This implies that the land outside the 1949 armistice lines is “Palestinian territory,” something that contradicts relevant Security Council resolutions and agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, not to mention the positions of the Israeli and US governments.

Since the agreement puts Judea and Samaria outside the borders of the state of Israel, it does not permit the establishment of MDA chapters there, only that Israeli ambulances may travel there with the consent of the PRCS. Only the PRCS is ‘authorized’ in the area. Whether this will allow MDA ambulances or crews to be based in Judea and Samaria is not clear.

One wonders how this will affect service to Jewish communities in the territories. Will MDA have to get permission from Palestinians before picking up an accident  (or terrorism) victim there?

Israeli ambulances in the territories may not use the traditional Magen David emblem, but must use the crystal, because this is an ‘international operation’ according to the memorandum. And after the “Third Additional Protocol” goes into effect, it would seem that MDA, inside the Green Line, will be forced to replace its traditional emblem with a small Magen David within a crystal in order to comply with ICRC rules.

In addition, it has been alleged that MDA chapters received cash payments of $100,000 each to approve the agreement, and even that these payments went directly to chapter officials.

Lately ambulances in the territories have begun appearing with the new emblems, and residents have been protesting by covering them with Magen David stickers, refusing to volunteer, etc.

MDA officials are minimizing the issue:

Director-General Eli Binn of  Magen David Adom (MDA-Red Star of David) said, Sunday, that the emergency service will continue to operate as it has in Judea and Samaria. Speaking to Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew service, following a meeting with Member of Knesset Uri Ariel (National Union), Binn said, “MDA will continue to operate as long as the state of Israel decides that there are citizens there. As it was yesterday, so it will be tomorrow. Magen David Adom will continue to run proudly with its symbols without any change, not even on a point of the Red Star of David.”

Of course, they have already changed the emblems on the ambulances.

MK Ariel called Binn in for clarification after the Samarian Residents’ Council said its members found a document that promises the International Committee of the Red Cross that there will be differences in service between most of Israel and Judea and Samaria. MDA volunteers in the region have threatened sanctions over different markings on ambulances based in the area. Binn told Ariel that the documents were not binding and the two agreed that Ariel would attend the next MDA board meeting to hear what the board had to say about its commitment. Ariel said he would advance a bill to require MDA to give the same service in Judea and Samaria…

With all due respect, a bill to require the “same service” is not what is needed.

What ought to happen, in addition to an investigation of who received money from the ICRC and what they did with it, is that the compromise agreement with the ICRC is thrown in the mizbaleh [trash dump] where it belongs, along with the stupid and degrading ‘crystal’ emblem.

MDA has gone some 80-odd years without ICRC recognition, and if it isn’t possible to get it without agreeing to the territorial pretensions of Israel’s enemies, it may have to wait a bit longer.

A Magen David Adom ambulance, 1940's

A Magen David Adom ambulance, 1940's

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Islamism means immunity to solutions

Monday, November 28th, 2011

The damage to Israel-Arab relations growing from the “Arab Spring” cannot be exaggerated. For example,

The new [Islamist - ed.] Tunisian government is gearing up to ratify a new constitution, and its language includes a section condemning Zionism and ruling out any friendly ties with Israel…

Israeli officials are concerned that government-sponsored hatred of Israel in Tunisia will spread to other Middle East countries, such as Egypt, potentially destabilizing the entire region. The officials noted that Tunisia is considered a moderate Arab country and has maintained friendly relations with Israel since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.

A section of the constitution? As far as I know, this is the first time any nation has defined itself in terms of opposition to Zionism, something normally associated with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizballah. And Tunisia, which has never been at war with Israel and whose President called for the recognition of Israel in 1965, has been called “a voice for moderation and realism in the Middle East” by the US State Department. Not any more.

Tunisia was the Arab country that was considered most likely to have a democratic outcome to its “Arab spring” revolution. It did have a democratic election, but the Islamist ‘Ennahda ‘ party received a plurality of the vote.

Another (formerly) relatively moderate nation, Morocco, which had been relatively friendly to Israel, elected members of the Islamist “Justice and Development” party to a plurality of parliamentary seats on Nov. 26. Jonathan D. Halevi quotes an interview that its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, gave in Gaza in 2009:

The inhabitants of Arab Morocco do not think there is only a duty to identify with the Palestinians, but want to wage a jihad struggle alongside them … Most unfortunately, the political circumstances, the borders, the soldiers, and the legal and military barriers that exist between the Muslims prevent these feelings from being expressed as they should … The Moroccans see the Islamic resistance movement Hamas as the mother of resistance and steadfastness. The Moroccans very much love the Hamas movement … and they love to recall at every occasion the acts of heroism and sacrifice of this great and mighty movement … All of the Moroccans stand beside the Palestinians and the noble Al-Quds [Jerusalem], and if the borders are opened to the Moroccans and the obstacles are removed, you will see how the masses come to help Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds.

More recently, he referred to Israel as a “hostile state” unless it adopts a one-state solution “like South Africa”. Halevi also notes that Benkirane signed several manifestos calling for jihad against Israel and condemning the US.

Tunisia and Morocco are not major powers and are not likely to engage in hostilities against Israel. Egypt, which is voting for a parliament today, is much more critical (and will almost certainly end up with an Islamist-dominated regime). So we have Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt firmly in the Islamist circle or about to be, with the possibility that others will join them in the not-so-distant future.

Two things disturb me. One is that the Arab-Israeli conflict is becoming more and more an Islamist-Israeli or even Muslim-Israeli conflict. As a religious conflict, it becomes immune to  diplomatic solutions. There can be no territorial compromise with the position of Hamas — which is supported by Morocco’s Benkirane — that insists that there is no place for a Jewish state of any size on ‘Muslim land’.

But note that even a military solution short of total war is unlikely to end the conflict. Israel’s attempts to ‘teach a lesson’ to Hamas and Hizballah have failed, providing only a temporary respite while the terrorists rearm and prepare for the next round.

The other disturbing aspect of the situation is that while antisemitism was always a part of Islam to a greater or lesser extent — the contents of the Quran insure that it must be — the rise of Islamism is institutionalizing what can only be called — with deliberate irony — a crusade against the Jewish state.

The extreme Left — and even some not-so-extreme ‘progressive’ circles — in Israel and the West also seem to have absorbed this hatred as part of their conventional wisdom, something that is assumed as a starting point of discussion.

This comprises a huge challenge to Israel, both in terms of physical defense and in the information arena. One can only hope that there will be an ultimate recognition in Europe and America that Islamism is not only a problem for Jews, but threatens them as well.

Perhaps in that case the present situation — in which Europe and the administration in the US claim to be allies of Israel and concerned with its survival while actually working to undermine it and supporting Islamist takeovers — will change to one in which the West will truly become allied with Israel to create a united front against the forces that are working to propel the world back to the Seventh Century.

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Settlements are not the problem

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Recently the NY Times published a letter written in reaction to a beyond-irrational attack on Israel for ‘pinkwashing’ (I discussed the original remarkably stupid op-ed here).

The letter took strong issue with the op-ed. It could positively be counted as ‘pro-Israel’. And yet, it contained this:

Israel, like any other democracy, has its flaws. Its settlement policy is destructive, the occupation of the West Bank is untenable and its government is furthering the country’s isolation and distancing it from its original vision of being a “light unto the nations.”

Similarly, when a conversation I was having with a relative recently turned to Israel, he — certainly a ‘pro-Israel’ person by any definition — agreed with me about the dangers facing the country from so many directions, but added something like “…those settlements have to stop. And Netanyau is too stubborn.”

I’ve also been told, “don’t talk about the settlements. It’s the hardest thing about Israel to defend.”

Of course it is true that “like any other democracy,” Israel has flaws. But these aren’t them. What is happening, I think, is that certain false propositions are being repeated over and over from every direction — the UN, Europe, the media, the Obama Administration, the Israeli Left — to the point that almost anybody can be excused for thinking that they are true.

Here are some of them:

  1. Israel is actively taking ‘Palestinian land’
  2. Israel is occupying ‘Palestinian land’
  3. The ‘West Bank’ (Judea and Samaria) is ‘Palestinian land’
  4. Settlement expansion makes peace talks impossible
  5. If all the settlements were removed, a peaceful Palestinian state could be created

Israel has not significantly expanded the boundaries of existing settlements or established new ones in years. But the Palestinians say, and the media repeat, that every new apartment built or planned inside a town outside the 1949 armistice line, even in an existing Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, constitutes ‘settlement expansion’, which ‘prevents the establishment of a viable Palestinian state’.

So even if you find acceptable the racist idea that ‘Palestine’ cannot contain Jewish villages the way Israel contains Arab ones, construction in existing settlements does not change existing facts on the ground.

Even if you think there is such a thing as ‘Palestinian land’ and it starts at the Green Line (I most assuredly do not), Israel is not taking it.

Even if you think settlements would need to be removed in order to have a peace agreement, there were peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority from 1993 to 2009 in the presence of settlements.

And even if you would devoutly wish to see a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel, there is no Palestinian leadership that presently exists or is on the horizon that wants this.

Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, or Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, existed before 1948, when the Jordanians occupied those areas, forced the Jews out at gunpoint, and destroyed synagogues and yeshivot. In fact, there were Jews living in Kfar Darom in the Gaza strip before the War of Independence — they were expelled twice, once by the Egyptians in 1948  and then again in 2005 by their own army and police! (h/t EG).

Hevron, a town with great importance in Jewish history, had a flourishing Jewish community in 1929. Its Jewish inhabitants were killed or forced to flee in a vicious pogrom instigated by the Arab leadership. Some returned, only to be kicked out yet again by the Jordanians in 1948.

Did the conquest of these areas by the Jordanians and Egyptians, in a war of aggression — a war intended to wipe out the Jewish state — somehow render them Arab property where Jews are forbidden to live? Where did the supposed ‘right’ of the ‘Palestinian people’ (another concept that is less concrete than it appears) to the territories come from?

The right of Jews to settle anywhere in the Land of Israel was granted to them by the League of Nations at the same time that it created several Muslim Arab nations and a Christian one (Lebanon — it didn’t work out too well for the Christians) from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire. Since then, through several wars, there has been one principle that was accepted by all parties — that of UNSC resolutions 242/338 and restated in the Oslo agreement, the Road Map, etc. — that the permanent borders will be decided by negotiations between the parties.

Israel has been prepared — the supposedly ‘hard-line, right-wing, stubborn’ Netanyahu was actually the first Israeli Prime Minister to publicly say that Israel would agree to a sovereign Palestinian state in the territories — to negotiate such a settlement, to give up its rights in some of the territories in the interest of peace.

But the Palestinians have refused to talk without Israel first agreeing to demands about issues that would reasonably be the outcome of negotiations, not their precondition. The Palestinians have violated the principles of UNSC resolutions 242/338 and the Oslo agreements by unilaterally pursuing a state, and the PLO now claims to be in ‘complete agreement’ with the terrorist Hamas.

I am not sure exactly why the author of the letter quoted above thinks that “the [Israeli] occupation of the West Bank is untenable,” but what is the alternative? Turning over the high ground overlooking Israel’s population centers to hostile forces? Uprooting hundreds of thousands of people simply because they are Jews? Giving up all of the heartland of Jewish history?

It’s worth mentioning the systematic ambiguity of the word ‘occupation’ here. For Western liberals it means Jewish control of areas outside of the armistice lines. For Arabs, it means Jewish control of any land in the ‘Arab Middle East’.

Israel and the PLO are moving farther apart, not closer, and it is not because of settlements or because Netanyahu is stubborn. It is because the Arabs will accept only unconditional surrender (albeit piecemeal surrender). Only by Arab logic is it the case that the side that wins the wars is required to surrender!

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Dylan does the Arab spring

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Don’t miss this: The Arab Spring Choir covers The Times They Are A-Changin’. In English with Hebrew titles.

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

Courtesy of Latma TV.

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Time to take sides

Thursday, November 24th, 2011
No, it's not a toga party. It's (l-r) Hamasniks Ismail Haniyya and Khaled Mashaal with Mahmoud Abbas back in 2007 after one of their periodic 'reconciliations'

No, it's not a toga party. It's (l-r) Hamasniks Ismail Haniyya and Khaled Mashaal with Mahmoud Abbas back in 2007 after one of their periodic 'reconciliations'

The Palestinian Ma’an News agency tells us:

CAIRO (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal on Thursday said they had resolved all their differences, after a meeting in Cairo to implement a unity agreement.

“We want to assure our people and the Arab and Islamic world that we have turned a major new and real page in partnership on everything do to with the Palestinian nation,” Mashaal said.

“There are no more differences between us now,” added Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement.

Well, actually there are major differences, which, if Israel were to disappear tomorrow, would probably lead to bloodshed.

But what they are telling us is that with respect to their intentions toward Israel there is no difference. They have the same proximate goal, which is to eliminate the Jewish presence between the river and the sea. After that they can sort out who will be boss, and whether women will be allowed to walk around without their faces covered.

Abbas is saying in the clearest possible way that he is on board with the genocidal Hamas program.

The message that should be received in Jerusalem is that there is no peace process. There is no more need to make concessions to ‘strengthen Abbas’ because he is the same as Mashaal. There is no reason for Israel to collect import duties for the Palestinian Authority, because funding it is no different than funding Hamas.

Which would be no different than helping Hitler.

The Left which is concerned about the welfare of Palestinian Arabs, the various European-paid ‘Israeli’ organizations that look out for their rights, the international Human Rights industry, etc. all need to pay attention: the Palestinian leadership has staked its position as the deadly enemy of the Jewish state. Now it’s your turn to take sides.

Do you choose the path of the Palestinians, which is that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad?” (Hamas Covenant, Art. 13) Do you agree that every inch of ‘Palestine’ is an “Islamic Waqf” that must be governed by an Islamic regime? (Art. 11) How do you feel about the obligation of the ‘resistance movement’ to to kill Jews? (Art. 7)

If you agree with Mashaal and Abbas, come out and say it. To those members of  A Jewish Voice for Peace who call for boycott-divestment-sanctions against Israel and want to see Gaza open for weapons shipments from Iran — admit that you, too, agree that the Jews have to go. Maybe you can resettle them in Berkeley. How about it, Rabbi Brant Rosen and Rabbi Michael Lerner?

The EU and UN: go ahead, pass resolutions that “Israel must be destroyed.” If that’s what your policy aims at, why not say it?

I’m sick of the hypocrisy. If the Palestinian Arabs can admit how they feel about Israel, why can’t you?

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Pinkwashing again

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

There can be no better illustration of the lunatic obsession with Israel of the extreme Left than the issue of the treatment of gays and lesbians in Israel and the Arab and Muslim world.

The facts are simple: the majority of Israelis have a liberal Western sensibility. Although there certainly is a fundamentalist minority, they do not in general make the laws and they don’t set the tone in most places. As a result, LGBT people are not subject to discrimination in most venues, homosexuality is not illegal and — except in fundamentalist communities — not subject to social approbation or ostracism.

As I wrote a few months ago,

I think I can say unequivocally that the degree of tolerance for gays and lesbians in a society is directly proportional to the degree to which it is a free society. Israel is an (unfortunately rare) example of how it is possible for a religious tradition which opposes homosexuality to coexist with a temporal authority that does not interfere with the private lives of its citizens. In fact, you could call Israel the San Francisco of the Middle East, or — pardon the expression — the ‘Mecca’ for gay people of any ethnicity in the region.

On the other hand, most of the other countries in the region criminalize homosexuality. In some countries, gay sex is a capital crime. In others, informal sanctions include beatings and even murder.

The New York Times will apparently print anything that is anti-Israel no matter how stupid or illogical — viz. Roger Cohen, Thomas Friedman, and Nicholas Kristoff — or authored by terrorists, like op-eds by Hamas official Ahmed Yousef. Today it gave its anti-Zionist pulpit to Sarah Schulman, an activist from Jewish Voice for Peace, the only Jewish organization to make the ADL’s list of the top ten anti-Israel  groups in the nation.

Schulman wants to tell us that it is forbidden to use the facts mentioned above as a pro-Israel argument (this is not surprising, because for the pathological Israel-hater the only good thing about Jewish Israel is the most extreme fringe anti-state Left):

This message is being articulated at the highest levels. In May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress that the Middle East was “a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted.”

The growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation has named these tactics “pinkwashing”: a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life. Aeyal Gross, a professor of law at Tel Aviv University, argues that “gay rights have essentially become a public-relations tool,” even though “conservative and especially religious politicians remain fiercely homophobic.” [my emphasis]

I would call it a deliberate strategy to point out the truth, that Israel is a modern nation. And the fact that although there is a religious sector that is not comfortable with gay life, nevertheless Israel has managed to create a place where there is a flourishing gay culture — this speaks volumes about the tolerant and free nature of Israeli society.

She continues,

Pinkwashing not only manipulates the hard-won gains of Israel’s gay community, but it also ignores the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations.

I am happy to hear that there are Palestinian gay-rights organizations, but it may be more than a few years before there is a Gay Pride parade in Ramallah — and don’t even think about Gaza City! — as there is in Tel Aviv.

In essence, Schulman’s argument is just this: don’t mention the good things about Israel, because it might distract people from the only thing that we want them to think, which is that Israel is denying the Palestinians their human rights.

Of course I believe that the conflict is about the Arab and Muslim nations of the Middle East trying to deny the Jews their human rights. Now let’s see, what good thing about their societies can I think of that will distract people from that?

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The Arab Spring is an anti-American season

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Not the best policy, was it?

Not the best policy, was it?

News item:

Against the backdrop of a mass civilian uprising in Egypt, senior Egyptian diplomats have relayed a calming message to Israel declaring their commitment to preserving peace between the two countries, Army Radio reported Tuesday. The diplomats said the peace agreement with Israel was of strategic importance to Egypt.

Of course it is. Egypt can barely afford to feed itself — actually, it can’t even do this — and the last thing it needs is a war with Israel. But this doesn’t mean that when (not if) the Muslim Brotherhood takes complete control of the government and begins the process of replacing key military leaders with its own people — that’s the real ‘Turkish model’ — it will not begin to work closely with Hamas, providing arms and even volunteers.

Hamas is in fact an offshoot of the Ikhwan (Brotherhood) itself, and while it was happy to accept Iranian support in the days of Mubarak, it will be more comfortable with its own Sunni parent organization. It will also be important for Egypt to wean Hamas away from Iran; Egypt still sees itself as the preeminent power in the region and views Iran’s growing power as a threat.

Although it’s said that the turmoil in the Middle East is due to a desire of the masses for democracy, truly progressive forces are very much in the minority, and don’t stand a chance of taking over in any Arab country (surprisingly, I think that there might be hope for one non-Arab country — Iran, which has an educated middle class that is strongly opposed to the mullocracy!).

Here is a better explanation:

The US has bled itself almost dry in two wars and is struggling to maintain its role as regional boss. Although it hasn’t happened yet and it is not a forgone conclusion that it will, it’s possible to see America withdrawing the way Britain did after WWII.

Many of the regional players expect this. US influence has dropped like a stone everywhere that Islamists are becoming more powerful: Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, etc. The Arab Spring is really an anti-American season. Somehow the White House missed this when it helped overthrow Mubarak, and it is missing it now in its support of Turkey.

A contest for leadership is developing between three regional powers: Iran, which wants to control the flow of Persian Gulf oil and establish a Shiite caliphate; Egypt; and Turkey, which sees itself  — the Turkish foreign minister was quoted saying as much in a Wikileaks report — as the center of a new Ottoman empire.

This is playing itself out in various places, for example Syria, where Turkey is trying to help push Assad out so he can be replaced by an Ottoman-friendly Sunni Islamist regime, and Gaza, where Egypt is replacing Iran as patron of Hamas.

The Russians seem to be aligning themselves with Iran, both to help push the US out and because of their historic geopolitical rivalry with Turkey.

I wonder if the Obama Administration really understands where its policies are leading?

While Israel does not expect that Egypt will announce that it is abrogating the peace treaty and returning to Nasser-like confrontation any time soon, it is quite correct in beefing up its defensive capability in the South. And I don’t think it’s time yet to cut the defense budget.

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Israel: Kill UNRWA, end racist treatment of Arab refugees

Monday, November 21st, 2011
Students at an UNRWA school in Gaza (from the film “Palestinian Refugee Policy: From Despair to Hope”)

Students at an UNRWA school in Gaza (from the film “Palestinian Refugee Policy: From Despair to Hope”)

Israel plans to ask the UN to terminate the special UN agency for Palestinian Arab refugees, UNWRA.

As everyone knows, there are almost 5 million people who claim ‘Palestinian refugee’ status, although reasonable estimates of the number of Arabs who fled the area that would become Israel in 1948 range from 550,000 to 750,000.

No other refugee population has ever been granted the ability to pass down this special status — and the right to be maintained indefinitely on the international dole — except the Palestinian Arabs.

Think about that: all other refugee problems are by definition temporary. Wars and natural catastrophes create refugees, and the international community does its best to help them weather the crisis. There have been millions upon millions of refugees since the UN was created; Jews, Palestinian Arabs, Iraqis, Hmong, Somalis — the list is endless. What happens to them? Some are repatriated, some are resettled in other places, some die. Their descendants carry on, perhaps in new homes. The US and Europe are full of them.

But the Palestinian refugees are special, in two ways. One, it is forbidden to consider resettlement. The only way to end their refugee status is for them to ‘return’ to what is now Israel. And two, Palestinian refugee status is hereditary.

A consequence of the first special condition is, ironically, discrimination against Palestinians by host countries. Palestinians in Lebanon, for example, have been denied the right to work in many professions, own property,  go to school with Lebanese, vote, etc. They are restricted to refugee camps, many of which would better be called ‘towns’ — or ghettos — because they are built of permanent structures.

The Arabs living in these ghettos are provided with their needs by UNRWA, which feeds and clothes them, and builds schools and housing. Some 99% of UNRWA employees, of course, are Palestinians, so UNRWA is the main, and in some cases the only, employer of Palestinians in a refugee ghetto. Most of the ghettos are controlled by terrorist factions, and organized crime flourishes.

The hereditary nature of ‘Palestinian-ness’ means that this will continue forever, or until the Arabs succeed in overrunning Israel. Since UNRWA humanely provides assistance in proportion to the size of each family, this encourages the population to grow without bound. It also has given rise to a dangerously youthful demographic pyramid.

UNRWA was created in 1947 by UN GA Resolution 302, which clearly intended it to be temporary:

[The General Assembly] Recognizes that, without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 11 of General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948, continued assistance for the relief of the Palestine refugees is necessary to prevent conditions of starvation and distress among them and to further conditions of peace and stability, and that constructive measures should be undertaken at an early date with a view to the termination of international assistance for relief;

Needless to say, the idea that refugee status would be hereditary is nowhere mentioned in this resolution! Today, the UN  funds UNRWA’s budget ($1.2 billion in 2009) with money mostly donated by the US (the biggest donor) and the EU.

It is remarkable that the UN, which produced resolution 302, could later accept a concept that would extend the problem indefinitely into the future. Perhaps by then it was a different UN. But it is even more remarkable that it would accept the Arab insistence that nothing short of ‘return’ could end refugee status. Together they imply agreement with the Arab project to end the Jewish state.

The two special conditions together are a lethal concoction: the ‘refugee’ population is primarily young, alienated, and educated by highly ideological Palestinian teachers. The population is rapidly growing, but there are few outlets for youthful (or adult, for that matter) energy. The only hope held out to them is that some day they will rise up and take back what they believe to be their patrimony.

In other words, the UN has created a monster.

Israel believes that there are no more than 250,000 (in my opinion, this number is high) Arabs who qualify for refugee status by the UN’s traditional definition. It will propose that they be assisted by the usual UN mechanism (the UN High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR), and that the special status be ended.

I would hope that the proposal would also include a demand for an end to the racist policies of discrimination against Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, where the refugee ghettos exist. ‘Refugees’ that have lived all or most of their lives in these nations should be granted citizenship and full rights (ironically, the Palestinian Authority has said that it will not give resident refugees citizenship if it is granted statehood).

The chance of such a proposal being accepted, despite the fact that it is the only practical way to end the enormously expensive and dangerous Arab refugee problem, is near nil. This is because the root of the problem is not really Arabs, it is Jews. And when has the ‘international community’ ever been rational about Jews?

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PLO/Hamas reconciliation is not likely

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

News item:

Hamas and Fatah are expected to announce a new unity government on Thursday after reporting over the weekend that they had made a breakthrough in discussions toward a reconciliation agreement…

London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that the new Palestinian government would be headquartered in the Gaza Strip, and its new prime minister would also hail from Gaza. “Fatah and Hamas have concluded that the president’s compound and the parliament will stay in Ramallah. Hamas and Fatah are in complete agreement that the next Palestinian unity government will be seated in the Gaza Strip and its prime minister, too, will be from Gaza,” Hamas official Ahmad Yousef told the newspaper.

After the failure of the PLO attempt to get a Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood, or even to get admitted to a bunch of UN agencies, the latest tactic is to  threaten ‘unity’ with Hamas again.

One of the issues about which there are conflicting reports is whether Salam Fayyad, the US-educated Palestinian Prime Minister, will keep his post. Hamas calls him a tool of Israel and the US, suspecting that he would be happy to settle for a peaceful state alongside Israel — it’s interesting that they don’t seem to suspect Mahmoud Abbas of the same heresy. Of course Fayyad is the only one the Western donors that keep the Palestinian Authority afloat trust to not simply steal all of their money, so there are, er, practical reasons to keep him.

Having said that, it is important to realize that there can never be an actual ‘reconciliation’ between Fatah and Hamas. They have irreconcilable views of the nature of the ‘Palestine’ that they both hope will rise on the ashes of Israel — and plenty of personal blood feuds.

There are examples of radical Islamists putting aside their differences when there is a greater enemy. For example, Shiite Iran was prepared to supply and finance the Sunni extremists of Hamas, whose parent was the Muslim Brotherhood, one of Iran’s great rivals in the struggle for the Middle East. And Iran-backed Syria supported Sunni insurgents in Iraq who were fighting Americans and even attacking Shiite Iraqis! But I think working together in the same government will be more than Fatah and Hamas can manage for any length of tme.

Interestingly, the possible presence of Hamas in the Palestinian ‘government’ seems to make little or no difference to the EU, which — despite its own money troubles, and in the middle of a bruising budget fight — has decided to boost aid to ‘Palestine’ by another 100 million Euros! They either don’t know what Hamas is — and they cannot possibly be that stupid or ill-informed — or their anti-racist, peace-loving, genocide-opposing ideals don’t amount to more than a truckload of horse-pucky.

PM Netanyahu has said that the Palestinians can’t have both Hamas in the government and peace. Israel and the US have threatened to cut off cooperation and funding from the PA if it allows Hamas to join the government (unless Hamas agrees to the the ‘Quartet conditions’ of ending terrorism, recognizing Israel and accepting prior PLO agreements, like the Oslo accord. But this sounds quaint today).

The Obama Administration really doesn’t want to cut off the PA, and indeed recently convinced the head of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), to remove a hold on $200 million of aid which she had placed as a result of the PA’s UN maneuver. The administration produced 500 pages of documents, presumably to show that without the aid, the PA would collapse and Hamas would take over.

This is a game of diplomatic ‘chicken’. The PLO and perhaps the Europeans think that the the threat of legitimizing Hamas is enough to force Israel into precipitous concessions on issues like settlements, Jerusalem, etc. But the danger is that Hamas really might succeed in overthrowing the Fatah-run PA. One thing that is probably not in the cards is a stable unity government composed of Fatah and Hamas.

My guess is that the PA will keep Fayyad and keep its aid, and do little more than talk about reconciliation with Hamas.

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Why Iran will lose to Israel

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

In his book Carnage and Culture, Victor Davis Hanson argues that the success of the West in warfare is a consequence more of the nature of free societies than of resources, skill or bravery of individual warriors, or even technology.

Today, technology — including weapons technology — is available to the highest bidder, and is simple enough to be operated by anyone. A country doesn’t need to have engineers that can design a telecommunications system or a nuclear power plant in order to have one. Illiterate soldiers from tenth-rate powers, or even terrorist gangs, can possess and use weapons that can destroy a tank, bring down an aircraft or sink a ship.

But for an example of why Hanson’s argument still holds, consider the coming conflict between Iran, a nation of 1.6 million sq. km and 74 million people with large oil reserves; and Israel, 21,000 sq. km in area with a population of 7.5 million, and almost no oil.

Israel is a free society in which dissent, free inquiry and the values of self-reliance and adaptability are encouraged and flourish. Iran is a totalitarian theocracy. The combatants are entirely unmatched: Iran doesn’t stand a chance.

In an article with the somewhat silly title “Israel’s Secret Iran Attack Plan: Electronic Warfare,” Eli Lake explains some of the ways that Israel can take advantage of the scientific and technical culture that has developed in its free, capitalist society:

A U.S. intelligence assessment this summer, described to The Daily Beast by current and former U.S. intelligence officials, concluded that any Israeli attack on hardened nuclear sites in Iran would go far beyond airstrikes from F-15 and F-16 fighter planes and likely include electronic warfare against Iran’s electric grid, Internet, cellphone network, and emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers.

For example, Israel has developed a weapon capable of mimicking a maintenance cellphone signal that commands a cell network to “sleep,” effectively stopping transmissions, officials confirmed. The Israelis also have jammers capable of creating interference within Iran’s emergency frequencies for first responders.

In a 2007 attack on a suspected nuclear site at al-Kibar, the Syrian military got a taste of this warfare when Israeli planes “spoofed” the country’s air-defense radars, at first making it appear that no jets were in the sky and then in an instant making the radar believe the sky was filled with hundreds of planes.

Israel also likely would exploit a vulnerability that U.S. officials detected two years ago in Iran’s big-city electric grids, which are not “air-gapped”—meaning they are connected to the Internet and therefore vulnerable to a Stuxnet-style cyberattack—officials say…

The likely delivery method for the electronic elements of this attack would be an unmanned aerial vehicle the size of a jumbo jet. An earlier version of the bird was called the Heron, the latest version is known as the Eitan. According to the Israeli press, the Eitan can fly for 20 straight hours and carry a payload of one ton. Another version of the drone, however, can fly up to 45 straight hours, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.

This only scratches the surface of the potential of electronic warfare (it obviously doesn’t include any “secret” plans). But it’s easy to think of other lines of attack open to an adversary that understands the technology its enemy is employing.

The Stuxnet worm that damaged Iranian nuclear centrifuges, for example, required intimate knowledge of the Microsoft Windows system in which a “zero-day” vulnerability was exploited as a delivery system, and of the Siemens programmable-logic controllers that operated the centrifuges. This kind of expertise simply does not develop in most totalitarian societies.

I’ve used this cartoon before, but it’s as apropos as ever:

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The myth of occupation

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
It's all because of 'the occupation'!

It's all because of 'the occupation'!

Military occupation can be roughly defined as control over the territory of a state by a hostile army. Occupation can be legal under international law, as long as it can be distinguished from the acquisition of territory by force, which is frowned upon. An example of a legal occupation was the occupation of Japan by the US after WWII.

But the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is not an occupation in this sense. One might ask, “what state is occupied?” There is no such entity as ‘Palestine’ and never was. The Jewish people have a prima facie right to settle in the territory of the Palestine Mandate which was guaranteed by the League of Nations. The precise eastern border of the State of Israel has never been delineated. It is certainly not the 1949 armistice line (what is often incorrectly called the “pre-1967 border”), by any reasonable interpretation of UNSC resolutions 242 and 338, which called for “secure and recognized boundaries” which would be arrived at by negotiations between the parties in the dispute.

As a corollary, Israeli settlements east of the armistice lines are not, as the anti-Israel media are fond of saying, “illegal under international law.”

It should be clear by now that when Arabs and their supporters talk about “the occupation,” they are referring to the Jewish state, and not just the Jewish presence beyond the Green Line. Describing her experiences “occupying Birthright [see also here],” activist Kiera Feldman wrote recently:

Human mic speeches began, and my friends spoke eloquently about the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948—the occupation of Israel. We were joined by a crew of Palestinians from the Jenin Freedom Theater, a renowned institution in the West Bank. “Where is their Birthright?” shouted my friend Max [Blumenthal].

Palestinian Arabs, led by the PLO, have asked the UN Security council to admit them as a state, although their application does not specify its borders. If they should be successful, it’s certain that they would continue to press their claims against Israel diplomatically and legally (and of course by terrorism, although they don’t admit that) after the UN grants them a toehold.

Their claim is based on nothing more than their chutzpah. According to them there was a flourishing Palestinian society prior to 1948 before the Zionists came along and occupied their land. In fact, the ancestors of the majority of the Arab residents in 1948 arrived in the area of the Mandate since the mid-19th century, mostly from Egypt and Syria. Many came after British and Zionist development created economic opportunities not available under prior oppressive Ottoman rule.

Although they could have coexisted with the Zionists, their reaction to Jewish immigration was vicious and racist, especially after the rise of Haj Amin al-Husseini to Palestinian leadership. In 1947 they could have accepted partition, and created a state of ‘Palestine’. No Arabs would have had to leave their homes, either in the Jewish or Palestinian state.

Instead they chose the path of war, and failed to destroy the Jewish state and expel or kill its inhabitants as they had intended (Husseini himself, who had spent much of WWII in Germany under Hitler’s protection, had plans to establish Nazi-model death camps in Palestine).

After the war, they followed the path of rejectionism, preventing the resettlement of Arab refugees. With the creation of the PLO, they institutionalized terrorism, killing thousands of Israelis and others in hundreds of attacks. The establishment of the Hamas added a new, religious, dimension to the conflict, as well as increasing the level of violence.

Between 1950 and 1973, Arab nationalists, with help from the Soviets, instigated several regional wars. The result was that more territory passed from Arab to Israeli control, which only added to the Palestinian Arabs’ sense of dispossession.

We see, however, that “the plight of the Palestinians” is entirely a result of their actions and those of their allies. And their leadership — the PLO that is the heir to Husseini and Arafat, and the viciously racist and murderous Hamas — continues to reject the existence of a Jewish state in the traditional homeland of the Jewish people. Having learned nothing from their long losing streak, they still think they can eliminate Israel and the Jews.

Despite all this, the Israeli government is prepared to negotiate in good faith to relinquish some of the territory for a state of ‘Palestine’! But this could only happen if the Palestinians could be prepared to once and for all agree that the Jewish state is not ‘occupied’ and does not in fact belong to them, and end their state of war with it. Unfortunately, the chance of this happening with the current Arab leadership is nil.

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