Archive for December, 2011

Who really burned the mosque?

Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Delegation of left-wing Israelis visits damaged Tuba Zangaria mosque to 'make amends'. But what if it was torched by Arabs?

Delegation of left-wing Israelis visits damaged Tuba Zangaria mosque to 'make amends'. But what if it was torched by Arabs?

I have written about how the so-called ‘price tag’ actions have been a goldmine for anti-Israel propaganda. Although there seem to have been a few cases where vandals were actually caught, in others it seems as though the police have simply “rounded up the usual [right-wing activist] suspects.” After a burst of publicity about how they are doing their job, they are forced to release them for lack of actual evidence.

We know that the manufacturing of Israeli ‘crimes’ is a cottage industry for Palestinians. There was the notorious case of Mohammed Dura, the ‘Jenin massacre‘ in which nobody was massacred, the Gaza Beach incident (where navy ships allegedly fired on Palestinian picnickers), and countless incidents alleged to have occurred during Operation Cast Lead which found their way into the Goldstone Report. Hizballah also faked numerous ‘war crimes’, such as the rocketing of a Red Cross ambulance, etc.

So I think I can be excused for wondering how many of the ‘price tag’ actions were actually carried out by Jewish right-wing vandals and how many were ‘Paliwood’ productions. When a mosque was burned in the Arab village of Tuba Zangaria, I wrote this:

In addition to the fact that the act was morally wrong, it was unbelievably stupid. There is still a gag order on details of the case, but I’m sure that when we find them out, we will see that the perpetrator is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

The “price tag” attacks are supposed to deter Arabs from vandalism, terrorism and even murder by making them pay a ‘price’. This can’t possibly work, since it simply motivates the Arabs to respond in kind, something they are overjoyed to have an excuse to do.

So the strategy is both wrong and ineffective.

But there’s more:  it’s a huge gift to our enemies in the information war. It provides the grain of truth needed to validate the exaggerations and outright lies that will be told in order to establish that ‘both sides’ are at fault, even that ‘both sides engage in terrorism’.

Since then, several Jewish suspects were arrested and then released for lack of evidence.

Now an independent investigation has raised very serious doubts about the likelihood that ‘settlers’ were responsible for this attack.

It is interesting that in many of these incidents — al-Dura, Gaza Beach, and the mosque arson at Tuba Zangaria — the initial Israeli response was to apologize, before it was certain that Israeli Jews were in fact responsible (or, in the case of al-Dura, before it was known that the event in question had even occurred). What I said some years ago about the al-Dura affair is applicable here as well:

Many [Israelis] have internalized the propaganda of Israel’s enemies. They are prepared to believe that IDF soldiers would continue to fire on a target like al-Dura and his father, who are obviously not firing back and not even armed, for 40 minutes. This is not the same as saying that ‘accidents happen’, it is agreeing that the IDF is either criminally negligent or deliberately murderous, which is what the Arab and European press constantly say.

It seems to me that some Israelis and Jews have a moral inferiority complex. Even though they would not admit this, deep down they are not sure that Israel has a right to exist. Although they understand intellectually that Israel is in a life and death struggle with the Arab world and Iran, emotionally there is a feeling that they are in the wrong.

The ‘Price Tag’ actions do not benefit the ‘settlers’ in any way and they do not help the state. They are, in a sense, ‘too good to be true’ for Israel’s enemies. It is of utmost importance that the perpetrators be caught and exposed, and given the precedent for Arab manipulation of the media, the possibility that Arabs are responsible for many of them must be taken seriously by the police and Shabak.

Update [16 Mar 2012 0826 PDT]: Apparently, some Arab youth are not averse to including “death to Arabs” in Hebrew in their graffiti. Now why would they do that?

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Reports of Hamas moderation greatly exaggerated

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Every so often we hear that Hamas has decided to change its spots:

[Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal and the PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas]  held a November 24 summit meeting in Cairo where they reportedly agreed on main three points: a Palestinian state will be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; non-violent resistance will be the tool for achieving this goal; and legislative and presidential elections will take place on May 4, 2012. The first point tacitly acknowledges Israel’s right to exist and the second would align Hamas’ strategy with that of Abbas, who is committed to seeking a negotiated peace with Israel.

Jane’s Defence & Security Intelligence & Analysis was the first to report Hamas’ acceptance to give up armed resistance.

At their latest summit December 21, the two paved the way for Hamas to join the PLO, the Palestinian umbrella organization that to date has been dominated by the Fatah movement. Many observers took that as yet another signs that Hamas is moving to come closer to the Fatah position. — Mohammed Najib, Media Line

If this were true, it might be a problem for Ismail Haniyeh, the ‘Prime Minister’ of the Gaza Strip. Two days before the summit, he gave this speech:

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Perhaps he was just out of the loop? I don’t think so. A news release [links in Arabic and translated by Google] issued by Hamas in Gaza today and published in Palestine Today tells us,

Confirmed the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, on its adherence to the right of resistance in all forms, especially the armed resistance, even defeating the occupation has proven [the] path of resistance and jihad and martyrdom  [are] the only way to extract our rights and liberate our land and our Jerusalem and our holy places…

The Movement stressed the need to continue what has been the achievements on the road to achieving national reconciliation and to end the division and the consolidation of the national front of all forces and factions within the strategy of struggle unified, re-activation of the Palestine Liberation Organization on the basis of protecting the constants and the rights and sanctities, and achieve the aspirations of the Palestinian people for liberation and return.

The movement called  [on the] Arab and Islamic nation to continue its support and assigned to the steadfastness of our people and the valiant resistance, and the defense of Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque and the holy sites, and consider the Palestinian issue and the Liberation of Palestine and to address the criminal Zionist enemy …

The translation is slightly rough, but the meaning is clear. Hamas is prepared to join together with the PLO, but only to continue its jihad against the Jewish state. Indeed the idea is to get the PLO back on the jihad bus itself.

Hamas moderating? Nope. As always, reports of Hamas moderation have been greatly exaggerated.

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“How many times can they recall their ambassador?”

Monday, December 26th, 2011
Illustration from antisemitic site blaming Jews for the Armenian Genocide

Illustration from antisemitic site blaming Jews for the Armenian Genocide

I’ve written numerous articles over the past few years about Jews, Israel and the Armenian Genocide. The subject is current yet again, as the Knesset is discussing whether or not Israel should officially recognize it.

My position has always been that the Genocide is a historical fact and should be recognized as such. The US has never done so — during the cold war, Turkey was considered an integral part of the anti-Soviet alliance, and it is still considered by the Obama Administration too important an ally to irritate unnecessarily, despite agitation by Armenians in the US (and to no small extent in Fresno, which is one of the centers of Armenian population in the US).

The US State Department has been happy to suggest that the failure to pass bills calling for recognition has been the fault of the “Israel Lobby.” Last year a local Armenian activist published an op-ed in the Fresno Bee pushing this theory. The article went so far as to say that “the Jewish lobby was complicit” in genocide denial, and since “denial is the last stage of genocide,” in genocide itself.

The Middle East is a complicated place, and there are not just two sides. Iran, Turkey and Egypt all see themselves as replacing the US as the major power in the region. Turkey has aspirations to expand its influence as a Sunni Islamist power, which have put it in conflict with Iran, Hizballah and the Assad regime in Syria. The US may be fooling itself in thinking that Turkey is an ally in this respect. Insofar as it is acting in concert with the US, it is doing so for its own motives. Although Turkey would try to punish the US in some fashion, I doubt there would be any major change in policy if Congress finally passed a bill recognizing the Genocide.

In Israel there are still those who think that the relationship with Turkey can be repaired, although it seems evident that AKP Islamist ideology is moving in the opposite direction. One real concern is for the small Jewish community in Turkey. At the time of one of the previous debates in the US, the Turkish Ambassador suggested that antisemitism in Turkey might get out of control if Israel did not prevent Congress from passing the bill! In addition to the repulsiveness of holding this small mostly elderly community hostage, this plays into the stupid and offensive notion that the “Jewish lobby” has the power to control the US Congress — something that my Armenian activist friend apparently agrees with.

Interestingly, it’s mostly been the Left in both the US and Israel that has called for recognition. Perhaps I’m cynical, but this may change now that Turkey has moved farther on the road to Islamism and hostility to Israel and the US.

Those that take every opportunity to attack Israel find this issue congenial. If Israel does not recognize the Genocide, it’s because of ugly political expediency. If it does, then it’s only to punish the Turks for exposing Israel’s ‘mistreatment’ of the saintly Palestinian Arabs. A particularly offensive position commonly attributed to Jews is that recognition of the Armenian Genocide would diminish the importance of the Jewish Holocaust.

Kenneth Segal, a former rabbi of the local Reform Temple in Fresno once made an effort at rapprochement with the Armenian community and even got a resolution passed at the Reform movement’s biennial convention in 1989. Segal was unsparing in criticizing the state of Israel, as was the Armenian pastor he invited to speak at his temple. Apparently it was not considered possible to recognize that a crime was committed by Turks in 1915 without bashing Israel.

I think that its time for both Israel and the US to put the issue to rest and admit that it is appropriate to use the word ‘genocide’ to describe the policy that brought about the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.

As one member of the Knesset, Ori Orbach, said, “How many times can they recall their ambassador?”

Update [27 Dec 1405]: The Knesset Education Committee decided to end its session without a vote, apparently fearful of Turkish reaction. Very unfortunate.

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The Sherman plan

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

I would rather listen to a Hamas spokesman talk about Israel than President Obama or almost any European Union leader. This is because Obama and the Europeans insist that they are concerned with Israel’s security, and then try to force Israel to adopt policies that will wreck it. They cling to the idea that Israeli withdrawals will bring about peace, contrary to historical precedent or reasonable estimates of the intentions of Israel’s enemies. They make my head hurt.

The Hamasnik, on the other hand, does not pretend to care about Israel or Jews, except as targets, and honestly admits his intentions.

What both the Westerner and the Hamasnik don’t realize (or just don’t care about) is that while their policies haven’t resulted — yet — in the demise of the Jewish state, they have created a long and unmitigated disaster for another group that they pretend to be concerned about, the Palestinian Arabs.

The fact that the majority of the descendents of those Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 have been kept in concentration camps since then is not Israel’s fault. It is directly attributable to the inhuman plan of the Arab nations, aided and abetted by the West, who have paid for the unique institution of UNRWA, the UN agency dedicating to perpetuating the ‘refugee problem’. Since this can’t possibly help the ‘refugees’, the only reason for it is to hurt Israel.

Martin Sherman explains:

…the Palestinians are stateless because the Arabs have either stripped them of citizenship they already had, or precluded them from acquiring citizenship they desire to have.

In the “West Bank,” for example, up until 1988, all Palestinians, including the refugees, held Jordanian citizenship. This was annulled by King Hussein when he relinquished his claim to this territory. This abrupt and brusque measure was described by Anis F. Kassim, a prominent Palestinian legal expert, in the following terms: “… more than 1.5 million Palestinians went to bed on 31 July 1988 as Jordanian citizens, and woke up on 1 August 1988 as stateless persons.”

But Palestinians have also been prohibited from acquiring citizenship in their countries of residence in the Arab world, where they have lived for over half a century. The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to Palestinian Arabs resident within their frontiers, “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.”

Thus Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef conceded in an 2004 interview to the Los Angeles Times that Palestinians in the Arab world live “in very bad conditions,” but added that this official policy is meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity,” which apparently is incapable of existence without coercion. With breathtaking callousness, he went on to assert that “if every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine.” Indeed.  — “Note to Newt (Part I): Uninventing Palestinians

Everyone agrees that the conflict can’t be ended without solving the refugee problem. It should be obvious that an American/European style ‘two-state solution’, even if it explicitly calls for Arab ‘refugees’ to settle in the new state of ‘Palestine’ rather than Israel, cannot do so. Such a state would in effect be one big refugee camp, with several million Arabs that have no economic outlet seething in a pot next door to Israel, waiting for the opportunity to overrun it. A Gaza strip on steroids.

The PLO version of the ‘two-state solution’ is even worse, since it will not take in any ‘refugees’ — they can only go to Israel in the PLO plan! I’ve called this the ‘two Arab state solution’.

There is a way to solve the refugee problem, and the Isareli-Arab conflict as well. The only difficulty is that so many people are stuck on the American/European two-state non-solution, or the Arab ‘Israel gone’ solution that they won’t listen. Although this plan would provide security for Israel and a decent life for Palestinian Arabs, I expect howls of outrage from the Left and the Arab camp, since they don’t want either of the above.

Sherman spells it out with a three part plan. Abolish UNRWA, end discrimination against Palestinian Arabs in host countries (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan), and finally — the most contentious part:

While the first two elements of the proposed solution are directed toward addressing the plight of the Palestinians in the Arab world, this measure is aimed at those in Israeli-administered areas.

It involves allowing individual Palestinians free choice in charting their future and that of their families.

These efforts should focus on two elements: (a) Generous monetary compensation to effect the relocation and rehabilitation of the Palestinian Arabs residents in territories across the 1967 Green Line, presumably mostly – but not necessarily exclusively – in the Arab/Muslim countries.

(b) “Atomization” of the implementation by making the offer of compensation and relocation directly to the breadwinners and family heads, and not through any Palestinian organization that may have a vested interest in thwarting the initiative.  — “Note to Newt (Part II): Rethinking Palestine

Talk about howls of outrage, this will do it. I’m sure Sherman has already been greeted with accusations of racism, Hitlerism, genocidal intent, etc. Nevertheless, it seems to me the only one of the recent plans — the Obama plan, the Arab Initiative, etc. — that promises an actual solution.

Sherman’s articles represent a breakthrough in the direction of reason and humanity. The chance of anyone with the power to implement them taking them seriously is small.

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Mahmoud Abbas, feminist

Friday, December 23rd, 2011
Mahmoud Abbas with recently freed murderer Amna Muna, the 'terrorist temptress'

Mahmoud Abbas with recently freed murderer Amna Muna, the 'terrorist temptress'

Recently, there has been talk about Hamas joining the PLO. I know it’s a little confusing — you have the PLO, which is an umbrella organization of Palestinian Arab terrorists mostly controlled by Fatah, the organization founded by Yasser Arafat (among others). The Oslo accords recognized the PLO as the ‘sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people’, and created the Palestinian Authority (PA), controlled by the PLO, which rules the Arabs in those territories from which Israel withdrew during the Oslo process — except for Gaza, where Hamas overthrew the PA in a murderous 2007 coup, which included shooting Fatah members in the knees and throwing them off of tall buildings.

Mahmoud Abbas is the leader of Fatah and therefore PA ‘President’ except that his term ended in 2009 and new elections have not been held. Anyway the Oslo accords established a ‘chairman’, not a ‘President’, but it sounds better so that’s what they call him. He is also President of the State of Palestine since 2007, which is not a state, but is represented in the UN by the PLO. Is all that clear?

Fatah is supposedly a Marxist organization, since Yasser Arafat wanted support from the Soviet Bloc while there was an Soviet Bloc. In fact it is a collection of various clan mafias. All PA officials live in huge villas, and most Palestinian Arabs that are not related to them hate them. There is a Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who is a Western-educated technocrat that is the only one the Western donor countries consider honest enough to deal with. He has zero power in the PA (they keep him so that they can continue to get money from the stupid Western democracies). Hamas hates him and he is always an issue when they talk about unification.

The PLO has murdered more Jews than anyone since Hitler. Hamas and Hizballah envy its record.

Hamas is an Islamist organization which believes in killing Jews and liberating all of ‘Palestine’ by violent jihad. Actually Fatah believes in these things too, but tries to keep public statements of its position ambiguous. Hamas is usually quite honest in stating their goals in the strongest terms. Mahmoud Abbas has said on numerous occasions that he is opposed to violence, because it ‘hurts the Palestinian Cause’, which is to eliminate the Jewish state.

One of the ‘attractive’ things about Abbas is that he sees no contradiction between praising the glorious heroes and martyrs of the Palestinian Cause — that is, people who have murdered Jews en masse or in interesting ways — and claiming that he is opposed to violence. As I’ve said before, this is sort of like Kellogg claiming to be opposed to cornflakes.

In this area he is even sort of a feminist, especially praising female murderers as examples for Palestinian young womanhood. So he recently had a hug for Amna Muna, in Turkey, where she was banished after being released as part of the Shalit jailbreak (oops, ‘prisoner exchange’). Muna, of course, is the so-called ‘terrorist temptress’ who led a 16-year old Israeli boy to his death.

And then, of course, there is Dalal Mughrabi, leader of the terrorists who killed the greatest number of Israelis in a single incident, the 1976 ‘bus of blood’, in which 37 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were murdered. Her birthday is a PA holiday, marked by Abbas every year.

We should also not forget Ahlam Tamimi, one of the terrorists responsible for the Sbarro Pizza bombing in Jerusalem. She received 16 life sentences, but also got out in the Shalit jailbreak. She, too, is a hero of the PA, even though she committed her murders on behalf of Hamas. But what are tactical and religious differences when everyone’s working for the same ultimate goal?

You really have to hand it to the PLO, the way they empower women. No back of the bus for them!

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Ron Paul: anti-Zionist, racist, homophobe

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
Ron Paul on MLK day, 1992

Ron Paul on MLK day, 1992

More scans of Ron Paul’s newsletters, including racist and homophobic conspiracy theories can be found here.

Recent developments in the Republican contest for the presidential nomination have put Ron Paul in the leading position.

I never imagined that I would write the sentence above. Paul has always been considered an extremist, someone who might swing a race by attracting a few votes, but never a serious candidate for President of the United States. Many believe that it’s impossible for him to be nominated and even more so that he would be elected, but the increasing paralysis of our government, its inability to deal with even simple issues, the downward spiral of the world economy and its possible implosion, have angered and frightened many to the point that almost anything ‘different’ looks good — the more different, the better. And we all know historical precedent of yesterday’s extremist, even laughing-stock, becoming the leader of a great nation.

And Ron Paul is very different. Let’s just take his attitude toward Israel. Here’s what Philip Klein wrote recently:

Nearly three years ago, Israel launched a counterattack on Palestinian terrorists in Gaza who had been firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. In early January 2009, Paul released a web video in which he charged that Israel was launching a “pre-emptive war,” that Palestinians were living in a “concentration camp” and that they merely had “a few small missiles.”

He then repeated this claim on Press TV — the state-owned propaganda channel of Iran’s Islamist government. “To me, I look at it like a concentration camp, and people are making homemade bombs,” he said of the situation in Gaza, adding sarcastically, “like they’re they aggressors?”

Here’s the Iranian TV interview:

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Not good.

But there’s worse. Ron Paul tries to present a reasonable image today, and the Romney and Obama campaigns are happy to let him do it in order to draw support from candidates to the right of theirs. But Paul has a paper trail that is downright ugly. Here’s how James Kirchik described it in 2008:

Paul’s newsletters have carried different titles over the years–Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, Ron Paul Political Report, TheRon Paul Survival Report–but they generally seem to have been published on a monthly basis since at least 1978. (Paul, an OB-GYN and former U.S. Air Force surgeon, was first elected to Congress in 1976.) During some periods, the newsletters were published by the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education, a nonprofit Paul founded in 1976; at other times, they were published by Ron Paul & Associates, a now-defunct entity in which Paul owned a minority stake, according to his campaign spokesman. The Freedom Report claimed to have over 100,000 readers in 1984. At one point, Ron Paul & Associates also put out a monthly publication called The Ron Paul Investment Letter.

The Freedom Report’s online archives only go back to 1999, but I was curious to see older editions of Paul’s newsletters, in part because of a controversy dating to 1996, when Charles “Lefty” Morris, a Democrat running against Paul for a House seat, released excerpts stating that “opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions,” that “if you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be,” and that black representative Barbara Jordan is “the archetypical half-educated victimologist” whose “race and sex protect her from criticism.” At the time, Paul’s campaign said that Morris had quoted the newsletter out of context. Later, in 2001, Paul would claim that someone else had written the controversial passages. (Few of the newsletters contain actual bylines.) Caldwell, writing in the Times Magazine last year, said he found Paul’s explanation believable, “since the style diverges widely from his own.”

Finding the pre-1999 newsletters was no easy task, but I was able to track many of them down at the libraries of the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Of course, with few bylines, it is difficult to know whether any particular article was written by Paul himself. Some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him, though the vast majority of the editions I saw contain no bylines at all. Complicating matters, many of the unbylined newsletters were written in the first person, implying that Paul was the author.

But, whoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul’s name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him–and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing–but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

There’s lots more that could be said about Ron Paul (see here for example). But I’ve seen more than enough.

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Palestinian incitement hits the big time

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Palestinian cartoon equates the Israeli army with Nero, Hulagu (Mongol ruler), Bush, and Hitler. Text on helmet on skull reads "Israeli army moral values". Courtesy PMW.

Palestinian cartoon equates the Israeli army with Nero, Hulagu (Mongol ruler), Bush, and Hitler. Text on helmet on skull reads "Israeli army moral values". Courtesy PMW.

One island of stability in a sea of change has been the continuous, vicious incitement to hate and murder Israelis and Jews that issues from every mouthpiece — schools, media, mosques, summer camps, textbooks, etc. — of the PLO (and I am not even talking about Hamas).  Dore Gold tells us,

Formally, there are many clauses on incitement throughout the Oslo Agreements, especially the 1995 Interim Agreement. The parties are legally bound to abstain from incitement and hostile propaganda. They were supposed to foster “mutual understanding and tolerance.” The first phase of the 2003 Roadmap calls on “all Palestinian institutions to end incitement against Israel.” But in practice many of these clauses were dormant. Israeli governments put the greatest attention to the most politically explosive issues like borders and security. The most senior officials in the Prime Minister’s office were involved in those committees and not in the incitement committee. There were those who undoubtedly felt that if Israel complained about incitement, it would be perceived that it was looking for an excuse to get out of the peace process and not make any concessions.

But it ought to be a matter of the highest priority. “After all,” Gold asks, “what prepares a Palestinian terrorist to slit the throats of Israeli children and kill their parents in cold blood?”

Arafat and Abbas both promised to end it, and Abbas even announced that he had, but neither did. Although the PLO can make concessions to Israel when it sees an advantage, this seems to be something they will never concede, either because Palestinian honor demands it, or because indoctrinating the youth to create the next generation of murderers is too important.

The contrast between Israel’s ‘educating for peace‘ by replacing Zionist history with special ‘coexistence’ curricula, and the PA’s glorification of the worst terrorists has been stark.

Until recently, this issue was below the radar of the mass media. But Newt Gingrich’s recent comment about “the hatred [Palestinians] teach in their schools” (although Gingrich gave an example which apparently was not genuine) seems to have forced them to take notice. And the issue is impossible to ignore or deny, thanks to the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) organization, which simply records and translates material from the official Palestinian media.

The frustrating thing about PMW for those who try to blame Israel for the ongoing conflict is that what they present is cold, hard fact. They are recordings, not interpretations or arguments. Here’s a recent example, chosen at random:

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Now the NY Times’ Isabel Kershner has taken up the subject.

For years, many Israeli and Palestinian analysts have said that what Palestinian leaders tell their own people in their own language — as opposed to English-language statements tailored to opinion in the rest of the world — is the truest reflection of their actual beliefs. This has had the effect of further entrenching the sides to the conflict and undermining confidence that it can ever be resolved.

“There is no doubt in my mind that in the mainstream of the Palestinian national movement, Israel is not considered legitimate,” said Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reflecting a widespread sense of disillusionment. “This is the inner truth of the Palestinians,” he said. “They really mean it. It is not what they say on CNN, but it is what they teach their children.”

But for many, the subject of incitement and media monitoring has become as contentious as some of the messages, especially since these pronouncements are often used to score propaganda points.

Wait a minute — evidence of Palestinian duplicity is bad because it undermines confidence?  What about the more basic issue, which is that it shows that the whole project of trading land and security for ‘peace’ is misguided? The suggestion is that publicizing Palestinian dishonesty damages the Peace Process, which might otherwise succeed. From this point of view, of course the activities of PMW are ‘contentious’!

Am I going too far? Look at this, which appears later in the piece:

Some Israelis struggle with the practice of monitoring the Palestinian news media, acknowledging the importance of knowing what is being said in Arabic, yet disturbed by how its dissemination is exploited by those not eager to see Israel make concessions.

Not clear yet? Let me make it more explicit:

The delusional Israeli Left, which wants Israel to make concessions regardless of the likely consequences, finds exposing the truth about Palestinian intentions inconvenient.

Still, it’s hard to criticize someone for simply documenting reality. What to do? Any student of rhetoric knows: attack the messenger with a traditional ad hominem:

Mr. [Itamar] Marcus, who set up Palestinian Media Watch in 1996, says that he wants to foster genuine reconciliation. His critics, however, note that he is a settler who lives in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, a contested area of the West Bank that Israel intends to keep under any agreement with the Palestinians. [my emphasis]

Let me insert an aside, although of course the question of where Marcus lives is beyond irrelevant; if Marcus lived in the most flagrant of Judean hilltop caravans, his recordings would be no less accurate. The Gush Etzion region was settled by Jews long before 1948, when the Jordanian army expelled the Jews from the region (all but four of the defenders of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion there, founded in 1927, were massacred by the Jordanians).

In response to PMW items that show maps of the entire area from the Jordan to the Mediterranean as ‘Palestine’, Kershner tries to argue that Israel, too, is guilty of bending the truth:

While the Israeli government and news media usually say the same things in Hebrew and English, Palestinians and Israeli critics say they also do little to promote the idea of a Palestinian state. Official Israeli maps do not show the Green Line, the pre-1967 boundary that demarcates East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In Israeli officialdom, the West Bank is routinely referred to by its biblical names, Judea and Samaria. The Israeli education minister recently adopted a plan to take Israeli schoolchildren on trips to a historic Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Actually, I have an Israeli road map in my hand that does show the Green Line, and I’ve seen it on maps produced by the government as well. It may be true that maps do not show it as a border, but the position of the Israeli government (and that of the US) is that borders will be decided by negotiations between Israel and the PA. And while it is true that Israeli maps don’t include something called ‘Palestine’, there is a state of Israel and there isn’t, at least not yet, an entity called ‘Palestine’.

The ‘biblical names’ Judea and Samaria are the names that were used for these places by everyone, including Arabs and the UN, until 1950 when the Jordanians decided to rename them to make a political point. Should Israel follow them?

Finally, what exactly is the problem with Jewish children visiting a site in Hebron (incidentally, a place where Jews lived for centuries, until 1929 when they were forced out in a murderous pogrom)? Does Kershner think we should go back to the pre-1967 condition in which Jews were not permitted to visit their holy sites?

Finally, she adds,

This summer, the Israeli police briefly detained two rabbis for questioning over their suspected endorsement of a treatise co-written by a third rabbi that seemed to justify the killing of non-Jews, even babies, in wartime.

Perhaps this is intended to show that Jews  can also be guilty of incitement. But the difference is that these are extremists, not the official TV station of the Israeli government. And note — they were detained by police. They were an embarrassment for the government, not official heroes.

Kershner wants to show, in keeping with Times ideology, that Israel is as responsible for the lack of peace as much as the Arabs and that an agreement between Israel and the PA that creates a Palestinian state is the answer to the conflict. But she concludes with an anecdote that, I think, contradicts both of these ideas:

In one of the most egregious examples of Palestinian doublespeak, Yasir Arafat spoke in a mosque in South Africa in May 1994, only months after the signing of the Oslo accords, and called on the worshipers “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”

As the ambassador to Washington at the time, Mr. [Itamar] Rabinovich said he found himself in the awkward position of having to explain to anyone who would listen that jihad, usually translated as holy war, could also mean a spiritual struggle, in order to justify continuing the peace process.

Still, he said, it is not by chance that those focusing on Palestinian incitement and publicizing it are “rightist groups who use it as ammunition.”

Perhaps those “rightist groups” are on to something?

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More about Palestinian identity

Monday, December 19th, 2011

John E. Sununu, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, took issue with Newt Gingrich’s remark that the Palestinians were a [recently] “invented people.” Here is the main part of his argument:

With one callous statement he dismissed the plight of 4 million people and their desire for self-determination. Questioned about the controversial statement during a debate on Monday, he piled falsehood upon falsehood. The word “Palestinian,’’ he asserted, “did not become a common term until after 1977.’’ In denying the legitimacy of Palestinians’ identity, Gingrich’s only purpose was to deny any justification for a two-state solution for Middle East peace. If Palestinians are invented, the implication goes, so too must be their objection to the status quo.

During the debate, Gingrich claimed to “stand for the truth,’’ but that apparently does not require telling the truth. His statements are a complete fabrication. Documents prepared by the Arab Office in Jerusalem during the 1930s and ’40s refer frequently to “Palestinian Arabs,’’ “Palestinian Citizens,’’ and the potential formation of a “Palestinian State.’’ The 1973 CIA Atlas of Middle East Issues speaks of “Palestinians’’ and “Palestinian Refugees.’’

Contrary to Gingrich’s insinuation, Palestine is a real place found on maps of all kinds, created by people of all races, for hundreds of years; and the people living there have long been identified with it. The Official 1931 Census of Palestine, conducted under British auspices, counted 850,000 Palestinian Arabs – both Muslim and Christian – and 175,000 Jews. Gingrich noted that the Ottomans once ruled the region, as if that justified his statements. But the Ottoman Empire included Syria and much of the Balkans. Are they invented people too?

The name ‘Palestine’ comes from “Syria Palæstina,” a part of the Roman empire which included parts of present-day Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, extending from the Mediterranean to the land east of the Jordan. After the defeat of the Bar-Kochba revolt in 135, many anti-Jewish actions followed. The Romans chose to name the province after the Biblical enemies of the Jews, the Philistines, who were long gone by this time.

When the area was under Ottoman control, there actually was no vilayet (province) of ‘Palestine'; the area was divided into the sanjak (a semi-autonomous region) of Jerusalem and the vilayet of Beirut. With the end of the Ottoman Empire, its Middle Eastern possessions were transferred to the British and French. The British got the area of ‘Palestine’ including what is now Jordan; they quickly detached the eastern part of it and set it aside for an Arab state (Transjordan). The western part became the British Mandate for Palestine, intended as the site of a Jewish National Home.

This was the second time in history, after the Roman period, when the name ‘Palestine’ referred to a geographical entity.

During the Mandate period, everyone who lived in the area was called a ‘Palestinian’. There were Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews. My wife has a bag of buttons produced before 1948 in a Jewish factory, by the “Palestine Button Company,” in “Tel Aviv, Palestine.” The Jewish Brigade that fought with the British Army in WWII was composed of the 1st through 4th Palestine Regiments. The newspaper that is today called the Jerusalem Post was formerly called the ‘Palestine Post’. The fact that Sununu found correspondence referring to ‘Palestinian citizens’ (etc.) does not imply that there was a Palestinian people distinct from other Arabs.

Daniel Pipes places the birth of a Palestinian identity at December, 1920:

Until the late nineteenth century, residents living in the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean identified themselves primarily in terms of religion: Moslems felt far stronger bonds with remote co-religionists than with nearby Christians and Jews. Living in that area did not imply any sense of common political purpose.

Then came the ideology of nationalism from Europe; its ideal of a government that embodies the spirit of its people was alien but appealing to Middle Easterners. How to apply this ideal, though? Who constitutes a nation and where must the boundaries be? These questions stimulated huge debates.

Some said the residents of the Levant are a nation; others said Eastern Arabic speakers; or all Arabic speakers; or all Moslems.

But no one suggested “Palestinians,” and for good reason. Palestine, then a secular way of saying Eretz Yisra’el or Terra Sancta, embodied a purely Jewish and Christian concept, one utterly foreign to Moslems, even repugnant to them.

This distaste was confirmed in April 1920, when the British occupying force carved out a “Palestine.” Moslems reacted very suspiciously, rightly seeing this designation as a victory for Zionism. Less accurately, they worried about it signaling a revival in the Crusader impulse. No prominent Moslem voices endorsed the delineation of Palestine in 1920; all protested it.

Instead, Moslems west of the Jordan directed their allegiance to Damascus, where the great-great-uncle of Jordan’s King Abdullah II was then ruling; they identified themselves as Southern Syrians.

Interestingly, no one advocated this affiliation more emphatically than a young man named Amin Husseini. In July 1920, however, the French overthrew this Hashemite king, in the process killing the notion of a Southern Syria.

Isolated by the events of April and July, the Moslems of Palestine made the best of a bad situation. One prominent Jerusalemite commented, just days following the fall of the Hashemite kingdom: “after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine.”

Following this advice, the leadership in December 1920 adopted the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Within a few years, this effort was led by Husseini.

But as I’ve argued before, this doesn’t matter. Whether ‘Palestinian’ political identity was created in 1964 by the PLO, 1977 as Gingrich says, 1920 according to Daniel Pipes, or even goes back to the ancient Canaanites — someone recently quipped that that only connection between today’s Palestinians and the Canaanites is that both of them sacrificed their own children — the problem with the proposed “two-state solution” is that for the Palestinian leadership, both states are Arab states. The rejection of a Jewish state goes back to the Mandate period and hasn’t changed since then. The differences have only been in what Palestinian leaders say in English.

Today the PLO strategy is to get a foothold in the territories and then use it to continue the struggle, by diplomatic, legal, propaganda and ultimately military means, to finally dispossess the Jews from what the Arabs consider their land. Sununu says,

According to the CIA Atlas, the fighting that followed Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948 displaced 750,000 Palestinian Arabs. Several hundred thousand more were displaced in 1967. Israelis and Palestinians have struggled to find a path to a peaceful resolution since. My point here is not to litigate this struggle, but to recognize that the conflict is real, the people are real, and the grievances are real on both sides: Israel’s unquestionable right to security, and Palestinians’ right to self-rule.

Of course the Arab refugees were displaced in a war they started, after they rejected (several times) peaceful solutions that would have given them the right to self rule. Palestinians have not “tried to find a path to a peaceful resolution since”, either — rather they have waged terrorist warfare against the Jews before and since. It is disingenuous to claim that this conflict is about self-rule, unless you mean denying it to Jews.

Sununu says, correctly, that Gingrich’s statements “contradict over 40 years of bipartisan US policy.”

Maybe it’s time that we reconsidered that policy. It certainly hasn’t brought peace any closer.

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Europe: Hands off!

Saturday, December 17th, 2011
European Union officials. Fix your own problems, leave Israel alone!

European Union officials. Fix your own problems, leave Israel alone!

The European Union, as well as EU countries independently, provide millions of dollars annually to finance left-wing Israeli non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which could not survive on what they would get from the small number of Israelis that support them.

These organizations use their resources to try to influence Israeli policies, laws, actions and even elections. They sponsor anti-government demonstrations, protests against the security fence, etc. In addition, they present highly distorted ‘data’ to the UN and to the media outside of Israel. For example, the majority of the material cited by the Goldstone Commission to support its false and libelous conclusion that Israel deliberately targeted Arab civilians in Gaza came from these NGOs.

They have also participated in ‘lawfare’, instigating prosecutions in foreign countries of Israeli officials for ‘war crimes’ which did not occur, supported boycott-divestment-sanctions, encouraged anti-Zionist activities among Arab citizens of Israel, etc.

These groups are in the forefront of the effort to delegitimize the Jewish state from without and destabilize it from within, and there is an ongoing debate in Israel’s Knesset about how to control, or at least expose, their foreign funding. An excellent summary of the issue is provided by NGO Monitor here.

No nation likes it when others interfere in its internal affairs, and the massive scale of intervention in the case of Israel is remarkable. But recently an internal EU document has come to light which calls for an even greater attack on Israeli sovereignty:

The European Union should consider Israel’s treatment of its Arab population a “core issue, not second tier to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to a classified working paper produced by European embassies in Israel, parts of which were obtained by Haaretz.

This is an unprecedented document in that it deals with internal Israeli issues. According to European diplomats and senior Foreign Ministry officials, it was written and sent to EU headquarters in Brussels behind the back of the Israeli government.

Other issues the document deals with include the lack of progress in the peace process, the continued occupation of the territories, Israel’s definition of itself as Jewish and democratic, and the influence of the Israeli Arab population.

The original document also included suggestions for action the EU should take, but these were removed from the final version at the insistence of several countries.

Among these were the suggestion that the EU file an official protest every time a bill discriminating against Arabs passes a second reading in the Knesset, and that the EU ensure that all Arab towns have completed urban plans, “with each member state potentially ‘adopting’ a municipality to this end.”

There is no internal issue more pressing for Israel than the relationship between the Jewish population and the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arabs. Simplistic understandings of the admittedly difficult relationship as one of a powerful majority discriminating against a minority ignore the increasing perception of many Arabs that they are ‘Palestinians’, not Israelis (and the idea that ‘they are all disloyal’ is also simplistic and wrong).

Regardless of the details, the last thing that Israel needs is for the sanctimonious, hostile and (to a great extent) stupid European Parliament to stick its nose into the relationships between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Ironies abound here: the document was said to have been initiated by Britain, which did such a good job with Arabs and Jews during the Mandate! And the Europeans apparently fancy themselves experts on the question of integration of ethnic and religious minorities because they are doing it so successfully in their own countries!

But that’s not all:

VATICAN CITY (AFP) — Peace negotiations in the Middle East must tackle the issue of the status of the holy sites, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said Friday.

“There will not be peace if the question of the holy sites is not adequately resolved,” the Holy See’s former foreign minister said in response to a question on Jerusalem and the Israel-Palestinian problem at a Rome conference…

The Vatican says the answer is to have the global community regulate the sites — and it favours handing the task to a “large group” of states, rather than placing it in the hands of the United Nations Security Council or Europe.

There is really no ‘question of the holy sites’ that needs to be resolved. Israel, since 1967, has been guaranteeing access to all three major faiths to their sites for the first time in history. The problem is that Islamic radicals do not accept anything other than total Muslim sovereignty over the area, as shown by the recent fury over Israel’s actions to in closing a decrepit wooden bridge outside of the Temple Mount for repairs.

The fact that Muslims, and apparently some Christians, simply can’t bear the idea that these sites are in Jewish hands is not a legitimate reason to take actions that would almost certainly end in one or more religious groups being denied access.

So Israel is considered not capable of running its own politics, not capable of managing the relationship between its ethnic groups, and not capable of protecting the holy sites in Jerusalem. One would think that both the European Union and the Church ought to devote their energy to solving their own problems, some relatively serious, rather than Israel’s.

But unfortunately it seems that much of the world, while accepting without question the legitimacy and sovereignty of some rather tenuous ‘states’  (an extreme example being the recognition by many countries of ‘Palestine’) still does not think — after 63 years in which Israel has accomplished far more in science, medicine, literature, music, art, industry, standard of living and, yes, democracy than almost all of them — that Israel has a right to exist unmolested.

The message to them from Jerusalem should be simple:

Hands off.

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If not here, then where?

Thursday, December 15th, 2011
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh: men must not listen to women sing

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh: men must not listen to women sing

It’s getting harder and harder to insist that Israel is responsible for the conflict as Arab rhetoric and actions have become more and more aggressive. Mahmoud Abbas and others have admitted that they do not now and never will accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. It’s clear that the ‘two-state solution’ that they want is in fact two Arab states.

Hamas has been happily firing rockets at Israeli civilians in the south  — 32 so far this month — and Hizballah has also launched several rockets at northern Israel, as it prepares for war and tries to push out the practically useless UN peacekeeping force. At the same time, the threats come fast and furious from Syria and Iran.

Despite this, the Obama administration would like to tamp down popular support for Israel in order to justify its hard line against her. Following Jewish critics of Israel like Peter Beinart, Tom Friedman, etc., the administration and  the usual suspects in the media have been calling Israel ‘undemocratic’, to try to drive a wedge between Israel and democracy-loving Americans.

Hillary Clinton’s remarks a couple of weeks ago are an example. Comparing Israel to Iran, she mentioned the sex-segregated buses in Mea Shearim and the controversy about observant soldiers in the IDF walking out of a performance where women were singing.

It doesn’t improve matters when an institution like the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) provides ammunition for Israel’s political enemies in this country.

Here is part of an article by an American Reform Rabbi, Daniel Allen, the Executive Director of ARZA, the Reform Zionist association, which was distributed on the URJ’s “Ten Minutes of Torah” email list:

Israel is suffering from the role of religion in the state and in the lives of its people. Judaism, as administered by the official government rabbinate is coercive in the public domain.  The Israel Defense Forces is now under pressure to prohibit women from singing in the company of men. In the halachah this is known as Kol Isha which refers to an edict in Talmud from Rav Shmuel that states that it is forbidden for a man to hear the voice of a woman.

Leading Israeli Rabbis have recently said that if a male soldier is in a situation where a fellow soldier, a woman, is singing he must leave the setting even on pain of being court marshaled and executed. The basis of this judgment comes from several passages in the Talmud. In one such passage (Sotah 48a) Rav Joseph said “When men sing and a woman joins in, it is licentious, when a woman sings and men answer, it is like a raging fire.”

Can it be that the rabbis thought so poorly of men that they are viewed as incapable of controlling their own sexual urges? Must it be that in order for men to remain “pure” women must not be present in their public, civic, communal and religious lives lest men not be able to control themselves?

It is a demeaning view of men as well as women. It is a view that plays to the basest of human behavior rather than aspiring to the highest forms of human conduct.

One of the gifts of America to the world is the separation of religion and the state. We must share that gift with Israel.

Rabbi Allen’s  remarks are misleading in several ways. First, no one reasonably imagines that the IDF would “prohibit women from singing in the company of men.” The issue is whether highly observant soldiers will be permitted to leave a venue where there is such a performance. In the case that sparked the controversy, a soldier was dismissed from an officer’s course because he walked out of an event where a woman was singing, and Israel’s Supreme Court allowed the dismissal to stand.

Second, the rabbis who insisted that a soldier must leave regardless of the consequences (Rabbi Allen apparently refers to R. Elyakim Levanon, see previous link in Hebrew) did not speak in the name of the “official government rabbinate,” and even if they had, their words would have only moral force. Israel is not governed according to halacha [Jewish law] and the last time I looked, even a rabbi has the right to express his opinion on matters of conscience.

Finally — and I would like Rabbi Allen to think carefully about this, given his patronizing remark about sharing our gift — Israel is not America.

Israel is the one and only Jewish state. As I said before, this does not mean that it is governed according to halacha, but it does mean that it must be a place where Jews can express their Jewishness as fully as possible. Of course Israel is also a democratic and tolerant state, unlike the Iran to which Ms Clinton so inappropriately compared it. So sometimes, as in this case, it requires walking an exquisitely fine line in order to permit the highly observant Jew to follow his interpretation of the commandments without coercing others, even if a less observant one finds that interpretation objectionable.  It would be wrong to prohibit women from singing, but it would also be wrong to force someone to listen.

Yes, it’s difficult, and Israel has been struggling with these issues since its beginning. Recently, the Reform Movement’s arm in Israel has been pushing very hard against what it considers the unfair monopoly held by the Orthodox establishment in Israel on family law, against anything it regards as coercive — and also for government financial support of all forms of Judaism, including Reform.

Sometimes — as it did in the case of the Rotem conversion bill which it presented as an attempt to delegitimize Diaspora Jewry, and in the case of the soldiers, it has tried to apply pressure on Israel by stirring up American Jews with oversimplified and even disingenuous interpretations of complicated issues. Especially now, when the administration has picked up the “Israel isn’t democratic” line, this is unfortunate.

Israel is not America. Israel must be a place where every Jew can feel comfortable — secular Jews, Haredim, and yes, even Reform Jews. If not here, then where?

Rabbi Daniel Allen responds:

The final paragraph of my remarks are the heart of the matter;

“Israel is truly extraordinary by its very existence. This is all the more reason for us to work every day for a more inclusive, democratic, Jewish pluralistic Israeli society. Kol Isha v’Kol Ish – the voices of all men and women are needed to protect Israel and to enable her to thrive.”

You draw a distinction between those who are more observant and those who are less observant. I assume your reference is to traditional halachic Jewish practice. I appreciate that you did not suggest that differences in observance correlates to “being religious” or superior in any way. Pluralism, which is historically common  within the Jewish people( see Hillel and Shammai, Mitnagdim and Hassidim, Ashkenazim and Sephardim for a start) is the essence of the issue. It is not an easy task to create and sustain a Jewish democratic state living in a tough neighborhood. Yet, that is the privilege with which we are blessed in our time.

We have no desire to change the private practices of other Jews, nor do wish them to change our private practices. However, there must be equality, parity, and acceptance of all Jews in the public square. If Israel chooses to fund Jewish religious life, which is certainly a different decision than America, it must do so for all Jews. Israeli Orthodox Rabbis are paid by the State, congregational buildings are built by the state, schools are funded by the state – we  demand  the same funding based on our growing numbers.  Gender separation in the public domain is antithetical to the very essence of democracy. It must not be allowed.

Ours is a movement open to all, a big tent like that of our ancestors Abraham and Sarah. Israel must be more than a place where all Jew can feel comfortable. Israel must be a place where all Jews can thrive, where issues of personal religious status are not determined by only one segment of society, in this case Orthodoxy, and where equal funding based on levels of participation are normative. I agree that Israel is the one and only Jewish state. However there is not just one way to be Jewish, or to do Jewish, or to embrace and be embraced by our God.

— Rabbi Daniel Allen

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Salomon Benzimra responds

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Yesterday I reviewed the book The Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel, by Salomon Benzimra. I am very grateful to Mr. Benzimra for responding. Here are some of his comments on the review:

1. On the phrase “in all Palestine”: The third recital of the Preamble to the Mandate specifies the “connection of the Jewish people to Palestine.”  Article 2 of the Mandate makes the Preamble operative. There is no mention anywhere of “part of Palestine”, and this is in line with Article 5 (“…no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign power.”)  You state that the Palestinian Arabs would not consider themselves a “foreign power.”  That is true but every attempt to carve out territory in Palestine was done with the clear intention of creating eventually an Arab state which would be “foreign” in relation to the Jewish state, as it was originally conceived.  This happened in 1937 (Peel Report) and in 1947 (UN Resolution 181).  Therefore, my understanding of “foreign” is not related to “distant” or “established” but actually foreign in relation to the Jewish people, who were the sole recognized beneficiary at the San Remo Conference.  Otherwise, the drafters of the original Mandate would have specified the contours, within Palestine, of the area allocated to the Jewish National Home.  This never happened, except when the British introduced Article 25, a move [of] dubious legality.

2. On the connection between “national home” and “state”: It was the intention of Balfour to specifically mention “state” in his Declaration, but Nahum Sokolov and other members of the Zionist Organization believed it was not prudent to talk of a “state” in 1917, while WWI was still raging and the Ottomans were not yet defeated.

As you correctly mentioned, the Mandate for Mesopotamia clearly refers to a “state” but this document was drafted in 1920.  The question then arises as to why the word “state” was not included in the Mandate for Palestine, as it was confirmed by the Council of the League in 1922.

From the private correspondence of Balfour, it appears that as early as 1921 (and probably even earlier) Balfour interpreted the Declaration as meaning eventually the creation of a Jewish state, in opposition to Churchill’s interpretation (as reported by Sir Martin Gilbert in Winston S. Churchill: Companion Volume, Vol. 4, Part 3, April 1921-November 1922, p. 1559).  U.S. President Wilson, while at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, was also aware of the prevailing position of the League of Nations: “It will be the policy of the League of Nations to recognize Palestine as  Jewish State as soon as it is a Jewish state in fact” (reported by J.C. Hurewitz in The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: a Documentary Record, Vol. 2).

This is precisely the point:  the Jewish National Home could only turn into a democratic Jewish State when the Jewish population became large enough, which was not the case yet in the early 1920s.  A decade later, even the Peel Report recognized this fact (as mentioned in my book, in the section on the Peel Commission).

Finally, another aspect often ignored by many opponents to the Jewish State is to be found in the spirit and the letter of the fourth paragraph of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations which set up the Mandates System, specifically what is commonly known as “Class A” Mandates.  The text clearly shows that for those communities which already reached a certain “stage of development”, the natural outcome of the Mandate was to set up “independent nations [once] they are able to stand alone [after the Mandatory period].” Even “Class B” Mandates (applied to less developed populations of Africa) turned ultimately into independent states.  This is to say that the very institution of a Mandate for Palestine explicitly anticipated the creation of a state in due time.

3. “maximal Zionist position”: I do not believe the book presents a “maximal Zionist position.”  I have come across several positions taken by Zionists – some of them thoroughly documented –whose claims exceed what I think can be reasonably supported.  A case in point is presented in the section “The Mandate: first ‘partition’” where I explain my views on Transjordan.  I am sure you will find that my take on the Jewish claims to Transjordan are far more moderate than what you must have read elsewhere.

Having said that, I must commend you for your selection of excerpts, especially the two tables you reprinted.  I am sure your review will be useful to many readers of Fresno-Zionism who are acutely interested in the survival and well-being of Israel.

I was also very pleased to see your comments on the Kindle edition and the advantages it offers in accessing online references.  Other advantages include the “dynamic” Table of Contents for easier navigation; the quick search of any word or phrase as opposed to a tedious Index; the bookmarking, highlighting and insertion of comments; and the embedded Oxford Dictionary as you double-click any word…

As to the necessity of a printed edition, I fully agree with you.  Many people prefer to read on paper rather than on screen.  It is our intention to issue a print edition in English and in Hebrew (which we have already translated and is ready to be launched, pending the final decision from senior officials of the Israeli Government), as well as in French and Spanish.  We’ll certainly keep you posted on these developments.

Best regards,
Salomon Benzimra, P.Eng.
CILR – Toronto

Reactions to Gingrich miss the point

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Newt Gingrich. Apparently it's considered tacky or worse to insist on the truth.

Newt Gingrich. Apparently it's considered tacky or worse to insist on the truth.

Reaction to Newt Gingrich’s remarks about the Palestinians has been pouring in — from Republicans, Democrats, Palestinians, etc. — and they aren’t pretty. Mostly they have been the insults and name-calling that pass for political discourse today. I think it’s interesting that virtually all of his critics responded to Gingrich’s remark that the Palestinians are an ‘invented people’, and not, for example, to this one:

…you have Abbas who says in the United Nations, “We do not necessarily concede Israel’s right to exist.” You’ve had four PLA ambassadors around the world say flatly, “Israel does not have a right to exist.” In late November in India, the PLA ambassador said “Anybody who thinks there is a big gap between Hamas and Fatah is kidding themselves.” You know, and so you have to start with this question “Who are you making peace with?”

It’s a lot easier to take the cheap shot and call someone a ‘racist’ or ‘destructive’ than to deal with the brute fact that US policy is entirely disconnected from reality. So even when criticism is polite, it misses the point. Take this, for example:

But imagine, for the sake of argument, that what Gingrich says is true. So what? If Palestinians are just an undifferentiated group of Arabs who happen to live in the West Bank and Gaza, what are the implications of that?

Gingrich seems to think the implication is that Palestinians aren’t entitled to their own state, although he doesn’t quite say so. If he opposes a two-state solution, that puts him on the far fringe of both American and international politics. (His spokesman says he supports a two-state solution as part of a negotiated settlement.)

But more importantly, Gingrich is laying out a perverse definition of statehood. Does Gingrich think that states should be ethnocentric? The United States isn’t, although Gingrich’s appeal is largely based on white Christian ethnocentric nationalism. Israeli national identity is as much a twentieth-century invention as Palestinian identity.

There are several things to say about this:

1. Of course Gingrich does not think that all states should be nation-states (what the writer calls “ethnocentric” states). Israel is, France is, the US isn’t. Incidentally, the last sentence shows that he also has no clue about what a people is; Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, which has been in existence for several thousand years, and indeed maintained a nation-state in the land of Israel for longer than any other group. Nobody thinks there is an “Israeli people.”

2. The Palestinians are not simply asking for self-government for the residents of Judea and Samaria. If they were, they would not be able to insist that the Jewish communities there must be dismantled. They would not be able to demand that Arab refugees from 1948 and their descendents have a ‘right of return’ to Israel. They would not refuse to accept Israel’s own self-definition. They are demanding recognition as a nation and to establish a nation-state.

3. I can agree that whether the Palestinians are “just an undifferentiated group of Arabs” or a ‘people’ is not the only thing, or even the main thing, that is relevant to whether they should have a state. Since their state is planned to be next door to Israel, and indeed, if it is established it will be in the historical heart of the land of Israel, the attitude of this bunch of Arabs toward Israel and Jews is extremely important. As as Gingrich pointed out in some of the quotations that were not widely remarked upon, this attitude is anything but peaceful and neighborly.

5. There is also the question of intent. The Palestinian Arabs have for decades been doing their best to deny Jewish history, to substitute themselves for the Jews as the original inhabitants of the land, making the most outrageous claims (like being descendents of the biblical Jebusites), destroying archaeological evidence of Jewish provenance, claiming Jewish historical and religious sites as their own, etc. Arab lies are intended to delegitimize the historical right of the Jewish people to have a state, and to aid in the destruction of it. If  the ‘Palestinian people’ were invented, it was just for this purpose.

It seems that despite the lip service that is paid to historical truth, it is considered tacky or worse to point out that this particular emperor has no clothes. But in the real world, the US president has to make decisions. Good ones aren’t likely to come from fairy tales.

Theoretically — and I hope in fact it is true — the main objective of our Israeli/Arab policy is to end the conflict. This cannot occur as long as the history of it and a realistic understanding of the objectives of both sides, even an identification of all the players — it is not just Israel and the Palestinians — is not present. Our current president does not have this understanding, and indeed the administration’s Orwellian restrictions on language about the Middle East in general make it impossible for them to even speak about it sensibly.

Gingrich is a breath of fresh air in this respect.

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