Archive for November, 2011

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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Inside the Birthright protesters

Monday, November 14th, 2011
Liza Behrendt interrupts Steven Pease, who looks on bemused in the background

Liza Behrendt interrupts Steven Pease, who looks on bemused in the background

Yesterday I wrote about how a Birthright reunion in New York was disrupted by anti-Israel demonstrators. If you haven’t seen the video, watch it now. Far more unsettling than the accusations they hurled at Israel — by now I’m used to the lies and expressions of hatred that accompany such protests — was the combination of robotic “mic check” chanting along with the expressions of glee, even laughter, from the antisemitic — yes, I said antisemitic, and I will support this — activists, as they interrupted a talk by author Steven Pease, doing their best to impose their totalitarian vision of what may and  may not be heard on the audience.

So who were they? They were members of “Young, Jewish, and Proud” (YJP), the “youth wing” of the Jewish Voice for Peace organization, the only Jewish organization to make the ADL’s list of the top ten anti-Israel  groups in the nation.

As I mentioned yesterday, the male speaker in the video is Max Blumenthal, left-wing ‘journalist’ and videographer who is known for baiting pleasant evangelical Protestants and drunken students. Blumenthal has been responsible for some vicious anti-Israel slanders, including an incredible 2010 article which asserted that the use of deadly force on the Mavi Marmara was planned and intended in advance, in order “to lift the morale of the Israeli public while intimidating Iran and the Arab world.”

Another was Kiera Feldman, who wrote a snarky piece in The Nation about her own Birthright trip, suggesting that the main idea was “promotion … of flings among participants, or between participants and [Israeli] soldiers” as a form of Zionist mind control. Birthright sponsors admitted to her that bringing together young Jewish people tends to encourage marriage between Jews, which they think is a good thing (Feldman apparently doesn’t).

Her article is full of the usual clichés (Gaza is “the largest open-air prison in the world,” “illegal occupation,” etc.), and there is an air of dishonesty about it — she obviously played a friendly role when she interviewed the sponsors for her article, and of course she happily accepted her free ticket to Israel while planning to ‘expose’ the Zionist plot.

Feldman describes the events at the Birthright reunion in a blog post called “Consider Birthright Israel Occupied.” She seems to revel in deception, even when it’s unnecessary:

I did my best to smell and look expensive, like someone who would normally come out on a Monday night to hear “venture capitalist and turn-around CEO Steven Pease,” author of a 622-page book called The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement…

“Watch out for the microphone,” Steven Pease told me as I stepped over the cable, en route to the food table. He is a kindly gray-haired man, with a pair of glasses perched atop his head. “Aren’t Jews very accomplished at everything?” I goaded him on. “I thought we were the best at not tripping.” He smiled and answered, “Basketball, the Olympics—very good.” This man apparently cannot be satirized.

Birthright provided food for the attendees, and the gang happily abused their hospitality, in a way completely at odds with Jewish (or Arab, for that matter) tradition. They seem to count this as points for their side on the grounds that they are, or at least represent, the oppressed Third World; and therefore deception, theft, almost anything, is justified.

Feldman and Blumenthal, of course, have highly privileged backgrounds. Kiera Feldman graduated from Ivy-League Brown University in 2008 (in 2010, the total cost of a year at Brown was $51,360. No wonder she smells and looks expensive!) And Max Blumenthal is the son of Senior Adviser to President Clinton Sidney Blumenthal.

Then they began their chanting, which went on until they were, as Feldman says, “gently” removed.

Proud and happy about having made their point by silencing the opposition like fascist Brownshirts, they continued their protest outside, until the shoe was placed on the other foot:

Soon, we acquired a disgruntled passerby, an ultra-Orthodox man getting in our respective faces. He shouted down the human mic’s solo shouter, demanding a “dialogue” none of us wanted, utterly derailing the repetition by turning us into a confused clamor. In this way, the human mic is only human.

Chanting half-heartedly, we asked one another if it was time to go home. What’s the point now? Something hard and angry flashed within me as the shouting grew intolerable. As if I were watching an out-of-body experience, I saw myself jump the ultra-Orthodox man, but didn’t. Never before have I fantasized violence…

I suggest that it is telling that the man she so wanted to hurt was “ultra-Orthodox,” that is, someone whose Jewishness was out in front of him, a symbol of what Feldman, Blumenthal and the others so much don’t want to be. Do I assume too much? Listen to their chant:

We will not be fooled
by corporate CEOs
telling us
we are the Chosen People
and reinforcing
Jewish stereotypes.

Throughout history
Jews have been persecuted
as scapegoats for powerful bankers.
These memories
give us responsibility
to speak out
against corporate exploitation
and human rights violations.

The first verse refers to Steven Pease’s book, which suggests that Jews are disproportionately represented in many areas of human achievement. They can’t bear to hear this, because they are afraid it will make the antisemites angry. The Jew must keep a low profile. Despite their claimed ‘Jewish pride’ they actually have none — they accept the antisemitic stereotype of the Jew as a worthless creature and live in fear of the goyim.

But in the second verse, they accept the other antisemitic stereotype, that Jews are enormously powerful, especially in finance, and use their power to exploit the non-Jewish poor. For this reason they become crusaders against exploitation, including of course the ‘exploitation’ of innocent Palestinian Arabs. They will be better than these Jews and perhaps, they feel, the antisemites will see that they are not like other Jews, such as the “ultra-Orthodox man.”

Although they say they are struggling to prove the stereotype wrong, their fact-free approach to Israel, the way they are prepared to believe absolutely anything ugly about Jews, Israel and Israelis — viz. Feldman’s article about Birthright and Blumenthal’s fantasy about the Mavi Marmara affair — is evidence that they nevertheless believe the irrational stereotypes.

Their behavior fits precisely the description of a Jew in the grip of the Oslo Syndrome, as explained by Dr. Kenneth Levin in his book of that name. I summarized Levin’s thesis in a post last year:

…anti-Jewish attitudes in oppressed Jews result from a) internalizing  and coming to believe the antisemitic canards of their oppressors, and b) an unrealistic delusion that they have the power to change the behavior of the antisemites by self-reform — by ‘improving’ themselves so as to no longer deserve antisemitic hatred.

These mechanisms have led to an attenuation of Judaism itself, in which the focus on God, the Jewish People and the Land of Israel in traditional Judaism has been replaced with a universalist doctrine which minimizes national, ethnic and cultural divisions and espouses abstract ‘justice’ for all humankind as its highest goal — and which sees a transnational utopia as the ultimate Jewish goal.

Proponents of this universalist ethic see it as an evolution in Jewish ethical principles, a progressive improvement from a particularist and parochial past to a more modern, ‘higher’ form of ethics. But often — as when Jewish left-wing activists call for ‘justice for Palestinian Arabs’ while ignoring the context of the intermittent war being prosecuted against the Jewish state by the entire Arab world and Iran — universalist ethics provide a cover for anti-Israel positions.

This explains their contention (expressed by Blumenthal and another woman in the video) that a Jewish state cannot be democratic, and must be ‘racist’: particularism is bad, universalism is good.

And it also explains Feldman’s sudden fury at the “ultra-Orthodox man” — precisely the kind of Jew that excites hatred among non-Jews, that hatred that Feldman fears so much that it has pushed her into the arms of the antisemites themselves.

So in a sense, these ‘proud Jews’ are nothing of the sort. They are fearful Ghetto Jews, who have swallowed the antisemitic stories of their oppressors hook, line and sinker, and who are engaged in the (impossible) task of trying to prove themselves worthy to those who would as soon as murder them as look at them.

Update [15 Nov 1724 PST]: The woman in the picture, whom I had misidentified as Kiera Feldman, is apparently former Brandeis University student and JVP activist Liza Behrendt (she may be a Dostoyevsky fan, since her picture appears on a Facebook page as ‘Lizaveta Prokofyevna’). The real Kiera Feldman appears at 3:50 into the video.

Here’s another video of Behrendt and friends doing their thing, heckling Avi Dichter at Brandeis in April. They certainly believe in free speech, don’t they?

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Ignorant Israel-hating OWS-ers disrupt Birthright reunion

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Birthright is probably the most successful — one of the only successful — programs to connect Jewish young people in the US and other countries with Israel.  Participants get a free 10-day trip to Israel where they visit historical and religious sites, and most importantly meet Israelis from the same age group. The program seems to insulate participants to some extent against the more fantastic anti-Israel lies that are current in the media and academic world.

Today there is a struggle in America for the minds and souls of Jewish youth. The anti-Zionist Left understands that secular and religiously liberal Jews are often completely ignorant about Jewish history and the realities of the Middle East. At the same time, because of their liberal politics, they are especially sensitive to appeals on behalf of human rights, justice, anti-racisim, etc.

They too have been successful in recruiting young Jews, but to the Palestinian cause. For example, one of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) that placed Rachel Corrie in front of an IDF bulldozer, was the Jewish-born Adam Shapiro. Jews are enormously useful to them, because their presence supposedly demonstrates that the Palestinian cause is not antisemitic.

Sometimes, deliberately or through naivete, the actual Palestinian objective — the replacement of Israel by an Arab state — is ignored, and anti-Zionist groups present themselves as pro-Israel, wanting only to improve Israel by making it more democratic, more just, and less ‘racist’. This is the line taken by J Street and especially its campus group J Street U. Writer Peter Beinart has practically made a career out of saying that young American Jews are disconnected from Israel because it is theocratic, undemocratic and racist.

Naturally, they are out to get Birthright. In the video which follows, you will see some Jewish Israel-haters disrupt a reunion of Birthright alumni. I don’t recognize the women, but the young man (well, he’s 34) who stands up at 2:00 into the video and who later (2:44) continues speaking after being ejected is Max Blumenthal, who has made several viciously anti-Israel videos, including the famous one in which he provoked drunken American students in a Jerusalem bar to say rude things about President Obama.

Here are some things I noticed in the video:

Those who disrupted the meeting associate themselves with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. They use the now familiar “mic check” technique, developed because Zucotti Park protesters did not have a permit to use bullhorns or other amplification, and so the audience shouts back each phrase of their speaker. It is supposed to symbolize the unity of an anarchic, leaderless movement, but — particularly when it is used to disrupt — it appears chillingly totalitarian.

They refer to themselves in OWS terminology, as “the Jewish 99%.” The 1% is the mainstream Jewish leadership like AIPAC and the Jewish Federations, etc. who support Israel. This is essentially Beinart’s thesis, that the leadership is old and out of touch.

Blumenthal, who says that he went on a Birthright trip in 2002, calls an appeal for Jewish solidarity “the definition of racism” (3:40). He doesn’t discuss the attitudes of Palestinians, although he notes that he was told at an “official presentation” that they “teach their children to hate Jews” — as if this is something that hasn’t been exhaustively documented in studies of textbooks, children’s programs, summer camps, etc. in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-ruled Gaza. The woman who speaks immediately after asserts that she was

amazed…by how racist birthright and Israel really are…you can’t have a Jewish and democratic state. It’s just not possible.

Of course a different conclusion that she could have drawn was that it may not be possible for a democratic state to coexist with people whose national movement is committed to destroying it.

Watch the video and see if you too don’t find these people remarkably unappealing:

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Word of the day: Unsustainable

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Lately, we hear the word ‘unsustainable’ a lot. The US deficit, the Italian and Greek economies, celebrity marriages, etc. Here are two more situations, both in the Mideast, that are unsustainable. In both cases the crunch will come in a matter of months.


People think I’m a pessimist! Listen to David P. Goldman (‘Spengler’):

Egypt is about to turn into Somalia-on-the-Nile, with unlimited leakage of weapons to Hamas in Gaza. That makes an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians about as probable as the return of the Pharaohs. The simple inattention of the world community to Egypt’s impending catastrophe astonishes. Last week we learned that Egypt’s liquid foreign exchange reserves were down to about $13 billion, about two months’ import coverage in a country that imports half its caloric consumption. A huge current account deficit due to the collapse of the tourist industry and workers’ remittances is partly to blame, but billions are leaving the country each month in capital flight.

On May 27, Sarkozy hosted the leaders of the Group of 8 industrial nations in France. The G8 promised $20 billion in aid to Egypt and Tunisia, and Sarkozy said that the amount might double. Since then, the subject has dropped out the news. If aid to Egypt was on the agenda of the Group of 20 meeting in Cannes Nov. 3, where Sarkozy called Netanyahu a “liar,” it went unreported by the whole media. Last May’s emergency package evidently has been forgotten, because the Europeans are too busy figuring out how to bail out Italy and their own banking system, and Obama doesn’t want to defend a massive new foreign aid package in the 2012 elections.

To make things even worse, the pipeline carrying Egyptian natural gas to Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria was blown up yet again, for the seventh time since the fall of Mubarak, costing Egypt millions of dollars of lost revenue each day.

Israel will get needed fuel in some other way, and in a couple of years will be self-sufficient thanks to its newly-discovered Mediterranean gas fields. But the 81 million Egyptians will not be able to eat their gas.


Leaks about the IAEA report, which more or less recognizes what we have all known for years — that Iran is developing nuclear weapons — gave rise to a remarkable public debate in Israel about whether to attack Iran and try to at least delay its program, and also to numerous reports that such an attack, with or without the support of the US and the UK, is actually in the works. I think that the familiar cliché that “those who tell, don’t know; and those who know, don’t tell” is applicable here.

Nevertheless, there are some things that we can assume are true. One is that Iran’s threat to unleash Hizballah and its rockets in the event of an attack on its nuclear facilities is credible. Should this threat deter Israel in the event that Iran crosses the red line (wherever that may be)?

I think not. If Israel does not attack Iran because of fear of Hizballah, then the threat of Hizballah will not diminish, and Iran will proceed to develop nuclear weapons. At the end of the day, Israel’s position would be far worse.

Could Hizballah destroy Israel? Of course not. But Israel’s options vis-a-vis Iran are limited by the sword hanging over it from the north. Not only that, but with Hamas becoming more dangerous as Egypt falls into chaos, more resources will need to be committed to the south. And if war breaks out with Hamas, then Hizballah could become an additional front.

Maybe Israel’s planners think that Syria will fall to the Sunnis, supported by Turkey. Then perhaps Hizballah’s supply lines would be cut and it would wither away. Lebanon might fall into the Turkish orbit rather than Iran’s. My guess is that this would be better for Israel, despite Erdoğan’s flamboyance.

But who knows how long it would take? Less time than for Iran to go nuclear? I doubt it.

I think that Israel needs to deal with Hizballah preemptively, on its terms, not Iran’s. That means either before or at the same time as an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But keep in mind that an attack on Iran by Israel alone would require a major effort for Israel’s air force. It might be impractical to do both at the same time. The ideal tactic would be a simultaneous attack by the US on Iran — the US has the capability to do a much more complete job — while Israel goes after Hizballah. It’s not impossible, but I think it’s unlikely.

Note that even though Hamas is much weaker than Hizballah, it presents a unique problem which Hizballah does not: who will take over if Israel crushes Hamas? Israel does not want to re-occupy Gaza, nor does Egypt. But there are plenty of Lebanese who would be happy to see Hizballah’s power broken.

It seems to me that the logical thing for Israel to do is to remove the threat of Hizballah. As in 2006, I think that much of the Arab world and Turkey will tacitly support such an undertaking to the US, and therefore Israel — also as in 2006 — will be given time to complete the job. Of course it will not be able to completely screw up as it did in 2006, but I think the leadership and the Army are much better prepared now.

There are many dangers, such as direct Iranian intervention or — probably worse — Iranian sponsored terrorism against the US aimed at forcing the US to rein in Israel. The fact that Obama is perceived as weak would encourage this.

But I think it comes down to this: would Israel prefer to fight Hizballah now, or underneath an Iranian nuclear umbrella? It has a few months, at most, to decide.

The status quo is unsustainable.

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