Archive for December, 2011

On murderers and car thieves

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
Akiva Eldar. Apparently he prefers murderers to car theives

Akiva Eldar. Apparently he prefers murderers to car theives

Ha’aretz writer Akiva Eldar described himself thus in a 2008 article:

The prominent Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in November 2000 (in a publication of the Israel Democracy Institute) that “there are Israeli reporters who do not pass the ‘lynch test.'” These, he wrote, are journalists who could not bring themselves to criticize the Arabs even when two Israelis were savagely murdered by a mob in Ramallah. Barnea, who last year was awarded the Israel Prize for journalism, went on to argue that our support for the Palestinian position is absolute. He concluded, “They have a mission.” I was honored to be mentioned as one of those journalists, alongside my fine colleagues Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.

What he wrote yesterday was even more revealing. In an article entitled “Abbas should change his locks before next wave of Palestinian prisoners freed,” Eldar tells us that many of the Arab prisoners to be released in the second phase of the exchange for Gilad Shalit will be “car thieves and petty criminals.”

Now get ready … here is Eldar’s unique take on this:

After being compelled to give Hamas a healthy offering of security prisoners, including “heavy” terrorists, Netanyahu is determined this time to release a low-fat fare.

This isn’t the first time that Netanyahu is converting an agreement to release Palestinian prisoners into either a bonanza or boondoggle for the Palestinian leadership. Twelve years ago, during his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu sent Yasser Arafat mainly prisoners who were incarcerated for criminal – not security – offenses…

Abbas now claims that then prime minister Ehud Olmert promised him he would release two Fatah prisoners for every one prisoner returned to Hamas. Netanyahu suggests that Abbas go to Olmert and ask him for these prisoners.

Eldar is actually criticizing Netanyahu for cheating the PLO by not releasing more murderers! He seems to suggest that Netanyahu is behaving dishonorably toward Abbas by violating some kind of understanding.

Let’s remember that Israel is not releasing these prisoners, who by all rights should serve out their sentences, because it lost a bet on a football game to Hamas and the PLO. They are being released in payment of ransom, to free a kidnap victim who was held incommunicado for more than five years.

In a previous post, I suggested that we refer to the Shalit deal as a ‘jailbreak’ and not a prisoner exchange. There is no difference between this and a situation in which gang members free their confederates by holding a gun to the head of a hostage. The idea that one could behave dishonorably toward the gang in that situation is absurd.


This is so illogical, so crazy, that I looked more carefully at Eldar’s confessional 2008 article. What could make a Jewish Israeli, one who isn’t stupid, think like this?

There are many Jews who believe that there is no difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv, or between West and East Jerusalem. As far as they are concerned, the Land of Israel was promised solely to the People of Israel. Yet anyone who perceives the West Bank (and not “Judea and Samaria”) and East Jerusalem as occupied territories cannot accept the policies of Israel’s governments for the past forty years. Occupation does not have two sides. There is no symmetry between the occupier and the occupied. This is true even if the occupied fight the occupier with despicable and contemptuous methods.

There are two important threads here.

One is a deliberate blindness to historical facts. Why does he say “not Judea and Samaria?” These were the accepted names until 1950, when the Jordanians, having invaded and occupied the territory that formerly was part of the Palestine Mandate renamed them for political reasons.

Certainly there is a difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv, but the implication of Eldar’s statement is that the difference is that Jews may live in Tel Aviv and not Hebron. But — as Melanie Phillips has written — Jews lived in Hebron for centuries until they were expelled by a murderous pogrom in 1929, and then again by the Jordanians in 1948.

Prior to 1967, the last time these places were under Jewish control was that of King David. Afterwards, a succession of foreign conquerors — occupiers? — controlled them until, with the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the ‘international community’ recognized that a tiny piece of it, their historical home, could be set aside for the Jewish people.

Incidentally, at the same time, several Arab states were created out of former Ottoman colonies. None of them are free or democratic.

Since then, the Arab world — indeed, the Muslim world — has had no higher common purpose than to snuff out this tiny Jewish island in a sea of Arab and Muslim states. When President Roosevelt met with King Saud in February 1945, he was treated to a diatribe on the subject of Jewish immigration to Palestine. Why did Saud care so much about a territory that didn’t border Saudi Arabia at a time of geopolitical upheaval everywhere?

The reason is simple, and it is the same as what animates the conflict today: the possibility of Jewish control of ‘Arab (or Muslim) land’.

In other words, religious hatred and racism.

The second thread is what is called postcolonialism. This is the radical position that morality is politically determined. A ‘colonist’ or ‘occupier’, always European or North American in origin, oppresses a ‘colonized’ people. Because of the inherent power imbalance, the colonized people has a ‘right’ to ‘resist’ by any means available, even terrorism.

In addition to the logical incoherence of this idea — if morality is political, then it is not morality as we know it — the paradigm of European colonialism does not apply to Israel (nor to Israeli Jews, many of whom are of Middle Eastern origin). Indeed, if anyone was an oppressed people that overthrew a European colonial power and established self-determination in their homeland, it was the Jews of Palestine.

Eldar says that he is not opposed to the State of Israel, he just thinks “it [is] better to live in a small but beautiful country than in a large and ugly one.” But his postcolonialist argument leads to a slippery slope. What, indeed, is the difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv? How would he respond to the Arab argument that ‘the occupation’ began in 1948, not 1967?

Not only is he blind to history and ideologically impaired, he is entirely naive about the intentions of the PLO, with whom he wishes to make ‘peace’. He writes,

I have condemned those Israeli policies that reinforce Hamas and weaken the chances for a peaceful settlement: the faltering negotiations for a permanent agreement, the invasive layout of the separation fence, the hundreds of roadblocks and the dozens of illegal settlement outposts.

That was three years ago, but I would have hoped that by now he would understand that any agreement that Israel makes with the PLO will not be peaceful or permanent. And even that will be moot if Hamas replaces the PLO as ruler of the territories, quite likely if Israel withdraws.


Eldar’s ideology and lack of historical sense has led him to oppose his own, Jewish people in their struggle with those that hate and want to destroy them, so much so that he doesn’t see the irony in his call for Netanyahu to release murderers — one of those that Abbas would like to see out of jail is Marwan Barghouti, serving 5 life sentences for murder — instead of car thieves!

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Why they aren’t at “the damn table”

Monday, December 5th, 2011
Leon Panetta: his fury is misdirected

Leon Panetta: his fury is misdirected

One of the themes of the Obama Administration’s policy is that Israel is responsible for the non-progress of the ‘peace process’ between Israel and the PLO.

For example, last week the US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, said this directly:

“I understand the view that this is not the time to pursue peace, and that the Arab awakening further imperils the dream of a safe and secure, Jewish and democratic Israel. But I disagree with that view,” Panetta said.

He said Israel needed to take risks, including by breathing new life into moribund peace talks with Palestinians. When asked by a moderator what steps Israel needed to take to pursue peace, Panetta said: “Just get to the damn table.”

But yesterday, as if more evidence were needed, a Palestinian Authority/PLO spokesman proudly announced that it was they who did not want to sit at the table with Israel:

The Palestinian Authority reiterated Sunday its opposition to holding direct peace talks with Israel and pointed out that the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – had called for separate negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The PA’s announcement came in response to remarks by US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, who said last Friday that Israel and the Palestinians must start direct talks before there can be any negotiation on borders and security.

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed surprise at Washington’s call for direct talks.

He said that the Quartet called last September for separate talks with the two parties, during which Israel and the Palestinians would present their positions on security and borders…

The PLO official said that the Palestinians would agree to face-to-face talks only when Israel halts all settlement construction and accepts the pre-1967 lines as the borders of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. [my emphasis]

Given that this has been the US position since time immemorial, and given that the PLO signed the Oslo agreement which calls for such direct negotiations, Erekat’s expression of surprise is disingenuous. Of course, the PLO has already breached the Oslo agreement by applying to the UN for unilateral statehood, and by allying itself with the unrepentantly terrorist Hamas.

On the other hand, Israel’s PM Netanyahu has called for direct negotiations without preconditions on numerous occasions.

Erekat’s interpretation of the Quartet’s September 23 statement is also disingenuous to the point of outright lying. The statement says that

The Quartet reiterated its urgent appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions.

It is correct that the Quartet also said that it will convene an international conference “at the appropriate time.” But what doesn’t Erekat understand about “direct bilateral … negotiations without delay or preconditions?”

Israel quite reasonably will not agree to the Palestinian preconditions, insisting that borders, Jerusalem, and the fate of ‘settlements’ are among the issues that must be negotiated. And apparently there are even more preconditions:

The Palestinian Authority is set to demand that the Quartet pressure Israel to release prisoners in fulfillment of a pledge made by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, senior Palestinian sources told Haaretz on Monday…

Now the PA wants to present the demand ahead of a possible renewal of negotiations with Israel.  — Ha’aretz, Oct. 26

The Palestinians know that they would have to concede something — security arrangements, recognition of the Jewish state, right of return, end of conflict, etc. — in serious negotiations. They cannot or will not do that, so they prefer to have the US force Israel to give them what they want as preconditions. Then all that will remain to negotiate will be how fast Israel leaves the territories.

And for some reason, the Obama Administration seems to be going along with their plan.

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Israeli democracy? Or US elections?

Sunday, December 4th, 2011
Hillary Clinton complaining that Israel is becoming undemocratic

Hillary Clinton complaining that Israel is becoming undemocratic

One of the themes beloved by Jewish-American critics of Israel like Peter Beinart and Rabbi Richard Jacobs has been that Israel is insufficiently democratic. This is also a staple for the Israeli Left whenever Israel’s democratically elected government does something they don’t like.

In particular, the Knesset has been debating several possible approaches to ending or at least reducing foreign funding of Israeli NGOs that delegitimize or demonize the state, interfere with its security, engage in ‘lawfare’ against it, and so forth.

Naturally the individuals for whom these organizations — which have very little indigenous Israeli  support — constitute a meal ticket, are screaming bloody murder.

Now the US Secretary of State has joined the crowd:

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced deep concern on Saturday over a wave of anti-democratic legislation in Israel and in particular a bill proposing to limit donations to human rights organizations. Clinton also criticized the growing exclusion of women from Israel’s public life…

Clinton, a longtime advocate for women’s rights, noted she was shocked at the fact that some Jerusalem buses have assigned separate seating areas for women. “It’s reminiscent of Rosa Parks,” she said, referring to the black American woman who refused to give up her seat to white passengers in the 1950s.

Referring to the decision of some IDF soldiers to leave an event where female soldiers were singing, she said it reminded her of the situation in Iran. [my emphasis]

It should be made clear that neither of the phenomena related to women mentioned are government-sanctioned or widespread like bus segregation was in the US. They are confined to ultra-observant communities (in one case, observant  IDF soldiers and the other, hareidi neighborhoods in Jerusalem). Israel’s government and legal system operate on secular principles, and feminism is a powerful force in Israel. I think we can depend on Israelis to solve this one by themselves.

As a feminist and secularist, Clinton should be concerned about the appearance of an association for “the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” that is being organized in newly-‘democratic’ Tunisia. Or perhaps she could comment on the report of a ‘high-level advisory group’ in Saudi Arabia that allowing women to drive would “threaten the country’s traditions of virgin brides.”

The issue of foreign funding for NGOs, however, is quite a serious matter, and it is very disappointing to hear the US echoing the frustrated, disenfranchised Israeli Left. After all, the US has a Foreign Agents Registration Act to ensure transparency of funding for organizations in the US.

Israel is a small country and a few tens or hundreds of millions of dollars here and there can have a strong effect on its conduct of foreign affairs and internal politics, and could even tip the balance in a close election (here are some examples of funding from European governments — note that it doesn’t include church organizations or the US-based New Israel Fund, major contributors to anti-state NGOs).

Another example of “anti-democratic” legislation is a bill which would increase the limit on penalties for libel without damage to $80,000 from its present limit of about $13,000. Proponents say that the present low limits are not a deterrent to media assassinations of public figures.

Finally, there is a bill which will change the way the justices of the Supreme Court are chosen. Today the 9-member selection committee includes three members of the Court itself, two cabinet ministers, two representatives of the Bar Association, and two Knesset members (one from the coalition and one from the opposition).

The Court members plus the Bar Association have managed to dominate the committee in recent history, leading to a self-perpetuating ideologically left-wing court.  The bill wants to require that the Bar Association members also be split between the coalition and the opposition.

Whatever you think of these bills — and I think they represent a much-needed correction in the degree to which the unelected left-wing media and judiciary, along with foreign-funded NGOs, influence Israeli governance  — they are not anti-democratic.

And they are most certainly not the business of the US State Department or the Obama Administration.

What is behind this sudden surge of concern for Israel’s democracy? In the past few days we’ve heard the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, blame Israel for the lack of progress in the worse-than-useless ‘peace process’, and now Ms. Clinton gives aid and comfort to the left-wing opposition to PM Netanyahu.

My interpretation is that this is an effort to a) pressure Netanyahu to make more concessions to the PLO — anything to get an appearance of ‘progress’ to boost Obama’s pretension of being a successful leader in foreign affairs, and b) to keep Democratic Jewish voters and contributors in line despite his increasingly anti-Israel policies.

In other words, it’s all about November 2012.

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Ambassador Gutman to Jews: it’s your own fault!

Sunday, December 4th, 2011
Ambassador Howard Gutman explains Obama policy to stunned Smurfs

Ambassador Howard Gutman explains Obama policy to stunned Smurfs

Last week a conference was held in Brussels to develop a legal strategy to fight antisemitism :

Almost 100 people from 16 countries gathered in the capital of Europe to discuss means to confront growing anti-Semitism and its new forms, anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel, particularly in some European countries where the issue of Jew-hatred appears to be more acute and where legal weapons do not yet exist.

One of the speakers was Howard Gutman, the (Jewish) Ambassador of the US to to Belgium. His remarks reportedly ‘stunned’ attendees, who heard him blame the Jews and Israel for antisemitism:

He said “there is and has long been some amount of anti-Semitism, of hatred and violence against Jews, from a small sector of the population who hate others who may be different or perceived to be different, largely for the sake of hating.” “Those anti-Semites are people who hate not only Jews, but Muslims, gays, gypsies, and likely any who can be described as minorities or different. That hatred is of course pernicious and it must be combated…”

He sees growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East.

Peace in the Middle East, he said would significantly reduce this form of anti-Semitism in Europe. “The  solution for this second type of problem – too often lumped under a general banner of anti-Semitism – is in the hands of Israel, the Palestinians and Arab neighbors in the Middle East,” the ambassador declared.

In Gutman’s world, there are only two kinds of antisemites: those that also hate Muslims, gays, etc. — neo-Nazi xenophobes — and those who hate Jews and Israel because of the conflict with the  Palestinians.

Note that this is in keeping with the Obama Administration’s rule book: it is forbidden to say anything bad about Islam or Muslim culture. You cannot say that it is imbued with antisemitism, which it is, and which in fact makes antisemites out of many Muslims. So Muslim antisemitism must be in some way justified.

Gutman seems to think that Muslim antisemitism sprang full-grown from the head of the Israeli-Arab conflict, in 1967 or perhaps as as early as 1948. If this conflict could be solved, he suggests, then suddenly Muslim and left-wing antisemitism would vanish, leaving us only the neo-Nazis to worry about.

He ignores Muslim Jew-hatred which goes back to the Quran and other teachings of Mohammad, and which, like the Christian variety, was often expressed quite brutally, long before there was an Israel, and indeed before Zionism was a gleam in the eye of Theodore Herzl.

Yes, there were times and places where Jews could accept a second-class dhimmi status and live alongside Muslims relatively unmolested. But the antisemitic teachings were always there, ready to explode in violence if the Sultan owed money to Jewish merchants or simply decided that there were too many of them.

Pogroms were not rare in the land of Israel, even before Zionist immigration. For example, in 1834 — the First Aliyah began in 1881 — there was a murderous pogrom in Tzfat, which went on for 33 days:

The forgotten pogrom in Tzfat was a regular pogrom, a dreadful yet familiar experience to Jews in both the Islamic world and in Christian Europe. Like all pogroms it was an act of senseless brutality, where the victims were totally helpless. It had no political agenda or motive behind it. There was no ‘Zionist entity’ whose existence served as an excuse to murder civilians; it was motivated by pure greed. The Palestinian Arabs of the Eastern Galilee took advantage of a regional crisis, the war between Egypt and Turkey, to attack their Jewish neighbors and strip them of everything they had, clothes, property, houses, and the like. In the process people were beaten in the streets, many times to death, synagogues destroyed and holy books desecrated.

— Dvar Dea, The Forgotten Pogrom of Tzfat

Later, Arab hate made it impossible for them to live together peacefully with the Jewish immigrants. Despite the fact that Zionist development of the land made it capable of supporting more and more inhabitants — and more Arabs came to enjoy the benefits of it — the Arab world fought diplomatically, and the Palestinian Arabs violently, in anti-Jewish riots in the 1920’s and 1930’s, to keep Jews out.

The WWII period was particularly fruitful for cross-fertilization of the Muslim and European streams of hate, with the Palestinian Arab leader al-Husseini visiting Hitler and laying plans for his own hoped-for Holocaust in the Middle East.

After the war, many Nazis found refuge in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, etc. where their ideology was congenial.

Today a good example of contemporary Muslim antisemitism can be found in the Hamas Covenant, which quotes the sayings of Mohammad as well as ideas from the European “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

If you read the Hamas Covenant, or pay attention to the statements of the PLO leadership (whose ideology comes from al-Husseini via Yasser Arafat), you can  see that no possible withdrawals or other concessions could possibly mollify them.They will have no Jewish state of any size in what they consider “Arab (or Muslim) land.”

Gutman has it backwards. Antisemitism is not a result of the Israeli-Arab conflict. It is its cause.

The view that the Jews cause antisemitism by their actions is an old one. A 1942 article in Der Stürmer by one Ernst Hiemer begins thus:

Anti-Semitism is as old as Jewry itself. The Jew was a liar, a swindler, an exploiter, a troublemaker, a poisoner of the blood, and a murderer from the beginning. The non-Jewish peoples thus responded to this people of criminals throughout history with contempt and rejection.

Although Gutman suggests that the solution “is in the hands of Israel, the Palestinians and Arab neighbors in the Middle East,” the position of the Obama Administration that he represents is that the conflict continues because Israel refuses to meet Arab demands. For example, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressed this view last week.

Gutman, a Washington lawyer, raised at least $500,000 for the Obama campaign in 2008. He was appointed Ambassador in 2009 .

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Dangerous new weapons delivered to Syria

Friday, December 2nd, 2011
Russian 'Yakhont' supersonic anti-ship cruise missile

Russian 'Yakhont' supersonic anti-ship cruise missile

News item:

Russia has delivered supersonic cruise missiles to Syria despite the violence shaking the Arab country and Israel’s furious condemnation of the deal, a news report said on Thursday.

“The Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles have been delivered to Syria,” a military source told the Interfax news agency without disclosing when the shipment was made.

Russia signed a contract reportedly worth at least $300 million (222 million euros) in 2007 to supply its traditional Arab world ally with a large shipment of the cruise missiles. Reports said Russia intended to deliver 72 of the missiles to Syria in all.

The deal immediately angered Israel, which fears the weapons may fall into the hands of Hezbollah militants in neighbouring Lebanon…

Another Russian official told Interfax that the missiles, which operate as part of the Bastion mobile coastal defence system, “will be able to protect Syria’s entire coast against a possible attack from the sea.”

Let’s see: Either they will “fall into the hands” of Hizballah, or if Assad survives he can use them against Israel himself. Or perhaps an Islamist successor to Assad will do so.

Although these weapons were ordered before the start of what has become a civil war in Syria, one would think that the present situation would be a good reason to delay the delivery — unless Assad and his Iranian patron (who certainly paid for the missiles) are thinking to deter Western or Turkish intervention.

Another possibility is that they are intended as a deterrent against an Israeli attack on Syrian missile bases which might precede one on Iran.

Russia has stationed naval units at Latakia and Tartus, Syria, providing very important direct access to the eastern Mediterranean (nearby Russian ports are in the Black Sea, requiring passage through the Turkish-controlled Dardanelles and Bosphorous straits). This area has taken on great strategic significance with the discovery of large reservoirs of natural gas. So doubtless the missile system is wanted to defend the Russian base as well.

The gas discovery is almost a mixed blessing. Now in addition to the ideological hatred of the Muslim world, Israel finds that it also has to protect its natural resources against the piracy of great powers like Russia and Turkey (which is motivated by both greed and Islamist ideology).

Shabbat shalom.

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