Archive for May, 2012

Are Arab-Americans “disadvantaged?”

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Note: the following is not a parody. It is absolutely true and made me wonder if I’d stepped through a door into another dimension.

From The Hill,

The Commerce Department is considering naming Arab Americans a socially and economically disadvantaged minority group that is eligible for special business assistance…

The [American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee] petition cited “discrimination and prejudice in American society[,] resulting in conditions under which Arab-American individuals have been unable to compete in a business world.” The group claimed discrimination against Arab Americans increased after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001…

The ADC wants any “American who traces his or her ethnic roots to one of the countries in the Arab World, including Algeria, Bahrain, Djoubti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen” to be eligible for MBDA services. Palestinians would also be included.

The ADC lists such things as Arab names on no-fly lists as well as “harassment and racial profiling” as placing Arab-Americans at a disadvantage in business.

Are Arabs economically disadvantaged since 2001? Not measurably. Per Capita income for individuals reporting their ancestry as one of several Arab nationalities in 1999 was $24,061 ($31,492 in 2010 dollars), which put them just below the middle of the list. In 2010, it was $30,039 and their position on the list was precisely the same.

To put things in perspective, per capita income for all Americans reporting themselves as white in 2010 was $32,126 while African Americans received $18,342 and Hispanics only $15,638. Arab Americans are doing just fine.

As far as non-economic discrimination is concerned, in 2010 the FBI reported that 67% (1040) of religion-based hate crime victims were Jews, while only 12.7% (197) were Muslims. If we assume that there are about 3 times as many Jews as Muslims in the US, we can conclude that a Jew is almost twice as likely to be a hate crime victim than a Muslim. Of course nobody thinks an affirmative action program is needed for Jews.

On the other hand, maybe this is a program for Jews. After all, “Palestinians” are included, and we can trace our origins to the Land of Israel, sometimes called ‘Palestine’.

And that is more than many so-called ‘Palestinians’, whose ancestors migrated from Egypt or Syria in the 19th and 20th centuries, can do!

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The schoolyard scenario

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
Nuclear tools

Nuclear tools

Yesterday I described how Iran was making fools of the West, and why Israel cannot depend on the US to protect it.

Today, Brett Stephens reminds us that Iran has been doing the same thing since 1979, and our side keeps falling for it. In a highly memorable simile, he says

Altogether, the regime has treated the West the way a shark would a squid: with the combination of appetite and contempt typically reserved for the congenitally spineless.

He also makes another point, which had occurred to me too:

The Iranians may also be gambling that any Israeli strike will prove costly, unpopular and ineffectual, thereby tagging Israel as the aggressor while crippling its deterrent power in the long run. That’s more of a gamble, but from the Iranian perspective it may be one well-worth taking.

It is indeed a big gamble, taking on the Israeli Air Force and special forces. But on thinking further about it, it may not be as crazy as it looks.

Analysts agree that a strike against the Iranian facilities will delay, not prevent, the attainment of nuclear weapons. They also agree that the capabilities of Israel are more limited than those of the US. There is also the fact that Israeli leaders will hold back in order to avoid civilian casualties.

It is possible that the Iranians think that they can keep enough highly enriched uranium and other equipment safe from an Israeli attack that the delay in their program would be a matter of months rather than years. Keep in mind that we do not have perfect intelligence about the amount of uranium and its degree of enrichment that they have stockpiled.

Once Israel attacks Iran, it can respond with the full force of its own missile arsenal and Hizballah’s. Coordinated attacks, which could include a Palestinian uprising, could do serious damage to Israel’s economy and morale. On the diplomatic front, Israel would be branded as the aggressor, the US would be furious, and probably Israel would not be given an opportunity to strike a crushing return blow at Hizballah and Iran.

This is an old schoolyard trick: get your opponent to hit you, then hit him as hard as you can and fall down crying as adult supervision approaches.

Is this a likely scenario? Who knows?

One way to counteract this strategy is to pull Iranian teeth in advance by a broad-based attack on Iranian military and IRGC assets, rather than a simple surgical strike on the nuclear facilities. It would be necessary to hit both Iran and Hizballah. The question is whether Israel has the capability to do this with her conventional forces.

I’m glad that I’m not a member of Israel’s Security Cabinet, which has to take decisions like this.

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Buying time for Iran

Monday, May 28th, 2012
Negotiations between Iran and "P5+1" in Istanbul

Negotiations between Iran and "P5+1" in Istanbul

The talks last week between the Iranian regime and representatives of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany (the “P5+1″) went more or less like this:

P5+1: We’ll reduce sanctions if you stop enriching uranium.

Iran: How about we enrich uranium and you reduce sanctions?

Unnamed US official: “We’re getting to things that matter.”

Another meeting has been set for July 18.

Ho hum, almost another month, more uranium enriched to (at least) 20% and the Fordow facilities get more centrifuges and become more difficult to hit. I suppose that ultimately the P5+1 will get tough, and ‘force’ Iran to agree to something more substantial than yet another meeting date. But since their initial bargaining position was considered by many (including Israeli PM Netanyahu) inadequate to prevent Iran from preparing a “fast breakout” position in which weapons could be built on short notice, how much less adequate will the final deal be?

In an editorial, the Washington Post said,

For now, the crucial question is whether even an interim, time-buying deal is possible. The administration’s optimism was based on the notion that Iran would agree to cease its most advanced form of uranium enrichment, export the stockpile of that material to the West and stop operations at Fordow in exchange for several Western concessions, like the supply of spare parts for commercial aircraft and fuel for a reactor that produces medical isotopes. In Baghdad, Iran rejected that deal as one-sided; it appears to expect major sanctions relief in exchange for any freeze of advanced enrichment.

Who is buying time here, of course is Iran — or rather, it is being given to them gratis. The sanctions and concessions that are on the table are ludicrous, given the fact that acquisition of nuclear weapons has been among the most important objectives of Iranian policy for decades, one to which enormous resources have been dedicated. Imagine trying to induce the US to drop the Manhattan Project in 1944!

It is a good bet that the only way to stop Iran today is by force. A European oil embargo is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, but even that will leave loopholes. And there are other markets for Iranian oil, like Turkey and of course China, Japan, India and South Korea.

While the Iranian nuclear program is a problem for the US and for Israel, it is both more serious and more urgent for Israel.

The Obama Administration sent diplomat Wendy Sherman to Jerusalem on Friday to “reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.” And no doubt to deploy various carrots and sticks to keep Israel from taking matters into its own hands.

Will Israel violate its long-held principle that it cannot depend on others to guarantee its security? I doubt it, for two reasons. One is that the West has time and again violated its commitments to Israel:

  • Eisenhower’s 1956 promise to keep the strait of Tiran open was not honored by LBJ in 1967.
  • In 1991, G. H. W. Bush promised to destroy the Scud launchers in Iraq if Israel stayed out of the conflict. Israel stayed out, but the Scuds continued to fall on Tel Aviv.
  • During the Oslo period and the Second Intifada, Israel made numerous serious concessions and withdrawals in the name of peace, while the Arabs didn’t budge. Rather, Arafat started the Second Intifada and Hamas rocketed southern Israel from Gaza. Yet Western diplomatic pressure and condemnation of Israel increased.
  • The UN Security Council passed resolution 1701 to end the Second Lebanon War in 2006. It called for UN forces to block Hizballah’s return to South Lebanon, to interdict arms shipments from Syria and to disarm Hizballah’s militia. None of these things happened, and Hizballah has refortified South Lebanon and rearmed with weapons delivered through Syria.
  • The 1994 letter to then-PM Sharon from George W. Bush, which said that a “full and complete” return to 1949 lines and the settlement of Arab refugees in Israel were not “realistic,” was disavowed by the Obama Administration.

The second reason is specific to the Obama administration, which has shown itself remarkably unfriendly to Israel so far:

  • President Obama began his Mideast policy with a speech in Cairo in which he compared the Holocaust to Palestinian suffering in pursuit of a homeland.
  • Then he adopted the position — more extreme than that of the Palestinians themselves at the time — that any Israeli construction outside of the Green Line was an ‘obstacle to peace’, and in March 2010 orchestrated a break with Israel over the announcement by a local authority of plans to build apartments in an existing Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.
  • Obama then summoned PM Netanyahu to Washington and abandoned him in a White House conference room while he went to have dinner with his family. There were no photo-ops; the whole affair seemed designed to humiliate the PM in a way which was unprecedented.
  • In May of 2011, Obama produced a “peace proposal” which moved US policy significantly closer to the Arab position and away from Israel. If implemented, it would be a disaster for Israel. Netanyahu was on a plane to the US when the speech was delivered, and he did not receive a heads-up beforehand.

If you were PM Netanyahu and were deciding whether you could entrust the West in general, and this US administration in particular, with the physical survival of your country, what would you do?

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A lesson about peace from the Turks

Friday, May 25th, 2012

In the early morning of May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, which was carrying international activists in an attempt to break the blockade of Gaza. On board the ship was a contingent of approximately 40 members of the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), who met the Israelis with ‘cold’ but deadly weapons — metal bars and pipes, knives, axes, etc.

Due to poor intelligence the Israelis were not prepared for a violent reception, and actually landed on the deck carrying paintball guns and stun grenades. These ‘weapons’ had no effect on the IHH militants, and soon the Israelis found themselves in danger of their lives. Several were seriously injured. At this point they drew their deadly weapons and fired in self-defense. Nine of the IHH members were killed and one critically injured.

A UN commission ruled that the blockade and enforcement thereof were legal, but that Israel used ‘excessive force’. Since the alternative to the said use of force would have been the death of the Israelis, it’s hard to see how they could have done otherwise. Of course this is the UN, and the fact that they found the blockade itself legal under international law is remarkable.

As I wrote at the time, the commission bent over backwards to find some culpability on the Israeli side:

Deadly force was not used by the commandos until live fire (at least from guns taken from captured Israelis and possibly from other weapons, although this is still not clear) was directed at them. In other words, knives and metal bars were not initially considered deadly weapons, although of course they are. There is no doubt that some of the Israelis would have been killed if they had not used their guns.

Options could not have been ‘reassessed’ when seriously wounded commandos were already in the hands of the IHH thugs. Considering the degree to which the Israelis were outnumbered, that firearms were in the possession of the passengers, and that several of the Israelis had been captured, the decision to shoot to kill was understandable.

In any event, the Turks were and are furious.

On Wednesday an Istanbul prosecutor submitted an indictment seeking life sentences for four former Israeli military commanders in connection with the raid, including the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi…

The Turkish prosecutor proposed charging Ashkenazi, along with the heads of the Israeli navy, air force and military intelligence. They face nine consecutive life terms in prison for “inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing,” the Turkish news agency said…

The indictments will reportedly include a demand for 10 life sentences for each officer for their involvement in the deaths of the nine Turkish citizens and the critical injury of a tenth citizen, who was left comatose.

Israel supposedly offered to compensate the families of the dead and express ‘regret’. But the Turks want an admission of guilt.

Which they are not going to get, at least not from the Netanyahu government.

There is good reason to think that the Mavi Marmara affair was orchestrated at the highest levels of the Turkish government, in order to embarrass Israel and to weaken, if not break, the blockade. And in this it was successful, insofar as the US response was to force Israel to end the embargo on goods (except for actual military-use items) into Gaza, ending Israel’s attempt to bring down the Hamas regime by economic means.

But there is more to it than simple diplomatic warfare. Turkish pride implies that it is absolutely unacceptable for a Jew to kill a Turk, under any circumstances.

Indeed, this is an issue in the Arab and Muslim world generally. The Islamic principle of Muslim superiority is damaged — the world is turned upside down — when Muslims are defeated in warfare by Jews, Christians or infidels. So the fact that the Jews of Israel have beaten their Muslim enemies consistently since 1948 is infuriating and intolerable to them.

This is one of the reasons that the kind of compromise peace plans offered by the US and the Israeli Left are consistently rejected by the Arabs. The only end to the conflict acceptable to their ideology is a total surrender by the insouciant Jews. This is why Yasser Arafat chanted “with blood and with spirit we will redeem you, Palestine.” For Arafat, only blood would do.

The Arab (or Saudi) Initiative illustrates the Arabs’ need to restore the balance of the world. It requires Israel to take full responsibility for the conflict, accept an Arab majority, and place itself under Arab ‘protection’.

As long as Islamic ideology is ascendant in Turkey and the Arab nations, I don’t expect a rapprochement between Israel and its neighbors. The continued existence of the Jewish state will depend on its military superiority, and upon the weakness of its enemies stemming from the division and conflict in the Muslim world.

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Taking Netanyahu seriously

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Some days it seems that nobody gets a worse press in the US than Prime Minister Netanyahu. Israel’s left-leaning media and academic establishment hate him with a grand passion, they are articulate, speak English, and understand the importance of telling their story here. They are happy to cooperate with their counterparts in the US media, and often with the White House and State Department, where Bibi is seen as an obstacle on the road to a 1949-sized Israel. So Netanyahu is often presented in the US as a symbol of right-wing intransigence or worse.

But Time Magazine, which once helped us pronounce “Begin” by saying “rhymes with Fagin,” and whose cover much more recently explained “Why Israel Doesn’t Care about Peace,” has published a story (Bibi’s Choice, by Richard Stengel [subscription]) which is mostly  positive about the PM, despite its overall silly slant: “Will Netanyahu now make peace — or war?” the cover asks, as if ‘making peace’ were something an Israeli leader could do if he just chose to do so!

Nevertheless, Stengel makes it clear that Bibi has experience, brains and courage. And something else. Here he quotes Bibi:

When I became Prime Minister, I asked [my father] What attributes does one need to lead a country? He was older then and he asked me, What do you think? I said, You need convictions and courage and the ability to act. He said, You need that for anything. He then said what you need to lead a country is education, and by that he meant an understanding of history, the knowledge to be able to put things in perspective.

For an example of that understanding, see the PM’s Jerusalem Day speech delivered on Sunday:

We will preserve Jerusalem because an Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart.  It was on this hill, 45 years ago, that the heart that unites our people began to beat again with full strength; and our heart will never be divided again.

There are people who believe that if we just divide Jerusalem, which means eventually conceding the Temple Mount – they believe we will have peace.  They believe that, but they are wrong.  I am doubtful, to put it mildly, that if we grant other forces control over that square above the Temple Mount, we won’t see the situation deteriorate so quickly that will devolve into a religious and sectarian war…

Sustainable peace is made with strong nations, and an Israel without a unified Jerusalem will be like a body with a weak heart.  I want to say something else: a nation that is willing to sacrifice its heart will only convince its enemies that it lacks the willpower to fight for anything.

On this last point, he agrees with Israel’s most implacable enemies:

With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward. — Abbas Zaki, former PLO Ambassador

Unlike his predecessor Olmert (probably the worst PM Israel ever had), Netanyahu is not “tired of winning.” He understands, as Olmert did not, that the alternative to winning is disappearing.

While not a coronation, the recent coalition deal provides Bibi with much more freedom to maneuver. And despite what the noisy remnants of the Israeli Left say, most Israelis give him their support. He will need every bit of it to get Israel through what may be the most dangerous period in its history since 1948. Perhaps it will also finally persuade the American media to take him seriously.

What can I add? As an American I’m envious of Israelis, who have a leader who was a combat soldier and is also an intellectual, who actually knows something about history, war, economics and yes, even politics. We, on the other hand…

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US Strategy: stop Israel, not Iran

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

On Friday, the NY Times — which often speaks for the Obama Administration — published an article about the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. There is a message between the lines, and it is not very well hidden. Here are a few excerpts with added emphasis, in case it isn’t obvious:

With signs that Iran is under more pressure than it has been in years to make a deal, senior Obama administration officials said the United States and five other major powers were prepared to offer a package of inducements to obtain a verifiable agreement to suspend its efforts to enrich uranium closer to weapons grade…

The major powers’ initial goal is to halt the activity that most alarms Israel: the spinning of thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity, which is within striking distance of the level needed to fuel a nuclear weapon. That would buy time for negotiations…

For President Obama, the stakes are huge. A successful meeting could prolong the diplomatic dance with Tehran, delaying any possible military confrontation over the nuclear program until after the presidential election. It could also keep a lid on oil prices, which fell again this week in part because of the decrease in tensions. Lower gasoline prices would aid the economic recovery in the United States, and Mr. Obama’s electoral prospects

On Tuesday, the American ambassador to Israel, Daniel B. Shapiro, sought to reassure an Israeli audience that the United States not only was willing to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but had made preparations to do so…

Analysts said it was hard to gauge what kinds of concessions from the Western nations, Russia and China would draw a positive response from Iran, beyond lifting the oil embargo. European officials have suggested that the European Union could suspend a ban on insuring oil tankers that has had a far swifter effect on Iran’s sales elsewhere in the world than originally intended.

There is lots more, but that is more than enough. Is the message clear? If not, I’ll spell it out:

  1. The immediate problem, in the view of the Obama Administration, is that Israel might attack Iran, causing a spike in gas prices in the US and hurting the President’s chances for re-election. The Iranian program itself is a longer-term issue.
  2. Anything that can delay a confrontation is ‘good’. Negotiations can be used to stay Israel’s hand, not so much by holding out hope for a solution, but by undercutting support for Israel if she should attack while they are going on.
  3. Any kind of agreement with the Iranians, whether or not it is tough enough to be effective, will also isolate Israel if she chooses to attack.
  4. The strategy for obtaining agreement, rather than increasing pressure on Iran,  will be to make concessions, even reducing those sanctions which have proven effective. Since Iran and the administration have a common interest in preventing an attack, the administration can be hopeful that they will be ‘successful’.

Although the US has stressed that contingency plans for an American raid exist, the Iranians know that nothing short of a public test of a nuclear device could make it happen before the election (even that is uncertain). In the meantime, Iran hopes to push its program to the point that it will be immune to an Israeli attack. The regime is confident that it can stay behind the American red line after that, while still obtaining a capability to assemble weapons in a very short time frame.

Placing concessions on the table before serious negotiations even begin will be read as a sign of weakness. And the P5+1 (US, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany) demands are below what Israel considers the minimum to guarantee that Iran will not get a weapon. For example, Israel wants the Fordow enrichment facility dismantled, while the P5+1 only asks for activities there to stop. And this is before the hard bargaining.

These negotiations will not enhance Israel’s security. Rather, they will do the opposite. They represent a strategy of appeasement rather than the use of power. What should happen is that the West should deliver a credible ultimatum to fully dismantle the program or face sharply increased sanctions — or, ultimately, military action. Instead, they have chosen to weaken sanctions and to try to remove the only real military threat!

The fact that the negotiations are being conducted without the presence of the one party that is most threatened has a whiff of Chamberlain’s 1938 about it.

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Goodbye to the oil weapon

Friday, May 18th, 2012
Saudi checks out classic Rolls that his wives are not allowed to drive. Surplus Arab funds will soon be drying up.

Saudi checks out classic Rolls that his wives are not allowed to drive. Soon he won't be able to afford it, either.

Israel’s ambassador to to the US, Michael Oren, recently asked “what happened to Israel’s reputation?” He compared the picture of Israel presented by a Life Magazine article in 1973 with that in today’s media, and asked why — given the real sacrifices that Israel has made to buy the ‘peace’ that the Arabs aren’t selling — Israel is consistently vilified.

Oren’s answer was correct, but incomplete:

It began with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s 1974 speech to the U.N., when he received a standing ovation for equating Zionism with racism—a view the U.N. General Assembly endorsed the following year. It gained credibility on college campuses through anti-Israel courses and “Israel Apartheid Weeks.” It burgeoned through the boycott of Israeli scholars, artists and athletes, and the embargo of Israeli products. It was perpetuated by journalists who published doctored photos and false Palestinian accounts of Israeli massacres.

Actually, it began in the 1960′s, when the PLO — supposedly under the tutelage of the KGB — recast its message, presenting the vicious terrorist movement as a struggle for national liberation of an oppressed people, the ‘Palestinians’.

Liberals in the US, guilty about the racist mistreatment of black Americans, and Europeans suffering pangs of Holocaust guilt, ate this up. But while the trope was effective, it didn’t spread all by itself. It was nurtured (lubricated?) by one thing over all: Islamic oil.

This was manifest in numerous ways. The “oil weapon” itself was brutally used in 1973, to strike a massive blow at Western economies and influence the West to force Israel to give up the territories conquered in 1967, a theme that has become embedded in US and European policy ever since.  Of course “Israeli intransigence” was blamed for the pain.

A more subtle tactic was the creation of a hostile environment on American university campuses. Surplus Saudi dollars, tens of millions of them, are funding “Middle East Studies” departments at our most prestigious universities, staffed almost 100% by anti-Israel academics. There is also money from the Gulf Emirates and Iranian sources dedicated to this project.

Another use of oil money is for preemptive bribery of government officials, who are given to understand that if they behave properly while in office, they will be richly rewarded when they leave. Jimmy Carter is a well-known example, but there are many more.

Europe has been more addicted to Middle Eastern oil than the US, whose biggest source of imported oil is actually Canada. And their behavior in the face of pressure has been correspondingly more craven.

But this is about to change. And since the despotic regimes that rule the oil-producing countries — especially the Saudis — have done little with their windfall to develop alternate sources of income, they are going to have big problems as their monopoly erodes.

This is happening today. Dore Gold explains that new sources of oil and gas found in the US, Canada and South America are expected to make the Western Hemisphere energy self-sufficient by 2030. Even Israel has new sources of natural gas. And the rest of the world’s energy supply will no longer be hostage to the Mideast-dominated OPEC cartel.

So at long last we can say goodbye to the ‘oil weapon’ and to the use of surplus oil money to buy politicians and academics.

Middle Eastern nations, economies and cultures will have to stand or fall on their own. Which do you think Westerners will favor then — the kingdoms and dictatorships where misogyny, slavery and exploitation flourish, or the one really democratic state in the region?

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Hamastan is the Palestinian state

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Hamastan

Hamastan

It should be Hamastan. Why not? We are not corrupt. We are serving the poorer classes. We are defending our land. It should be Hamastan!Mahmoud al-Zahar, 2005

There already is a sovereign Palestinian state.

A sovereign state (or simply state) is classically defined as a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither dependent on nor subject to any other power or state …

In political science, sovereignty is usually defined as the most essential attribute of the state in the form of its complete self-sufficiency in the frames of a certain territory, that is its supremacy in the domestic policy and independence in the foreign one. — Wikipedia

No, it is not the “Palestinian Authority,” which has “supremacy in domestic policy” only in part of the territory it claims (areas A and B), and does not have independence in foreign policy anywhere.

Rather, Palestine exists in the Gaza Strip, sometimes called Hamastan. It is a well-developed Islamist state, with an army, a court system and a real economy. With the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the implosion of the Syrian regime, the Gaza-based Hamas leaders have now taken full control of their state. Jonathan Spyer tells us,

First, the Gaza leaders possess power, a key element that their rivals lack. They hold real political and administrative power and control over the lives of the 1.7 million inhabitants of Gaza and of the 365 square kilometers in which they live. Second: the upheavals in the Arab world — and specifically the civil war in Syria — have served to severely weaken the formerly Damascus-based external leadership, depleting the value of the assets they held in the competition with the internal Gaza leaders.

The nature of the regime created by Hamas in Gaza, and its strength and durability, has received insufficient attention in the West. This may have a political root: Western governments feel the need to keep alive the fiction of the long-dead peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. One of the necessary components of this is pretending that the historic split between nationalists and Islamists among the Palestinians has not really happened, or that it is a temporary glitch that will soon be reconciled. This fiction is necessary for peace process believers, because it enables them to continue to treat the West Bank Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas as the sole representative of the Palestinians.

But fiction it is. An Islamist one-party quasi-state has been built in Gaza over the last half-decade. The prospects for this enclave and its importance in the period ahead have been immeasurably strengthened by the advances made by Hamas’ fellow Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.

Hamas has created a unique, Sunni Islamist form of authoritarian government in the Gaza Strip. It has successfully crushed all political opposition. It has created a security system in which a movement militia, the Qassam Brigades, exists alongside supposedly non-political security forces which are themselves answerable to Hamas-controlled ministries. It has imposed the will of the Hamas government on the formerly PA-controlled judiciary, and has simultaneously created a parallel system of Islamic courts. [my emphasis]

There will not likely be a unification of the Gaza Strip with the Arabs of Judea/Samaria under the control of the PLO, which is weak, corrupt and generally hated. ‘Unity’, if it happens, will be a Hamas takeover.

So what should Israeli policy be?

First, to treat Hamastan as a hostile neighbor state, not a part of the Oslo-defined Palestinian Authority. It’s probably well past the point that Israel should have stopped supplying water and electricity to an enemy that almost daily fires rockets into its territory. Israel must not take any form of responsibility for Gaza.

Second, to assume that any independent entity in Judea/Samaria is likely to come under Hamas influence and to insist on maintaining control of at least those parts of the areas that are critical to security, such as the Jordan Valley, the high ground overlooking Israel’s coastal plain, etc.

The two-state dreams of the Obama Administration and the Europeans are just that — dreams. Reality, in the form of Hamas, has overtaken Oslo.

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Anti-Zionist cartoonist bites hand that feeds him

Monday, May 14th, 2012
A panel from an Eli Valley cartoon that appeared on the +972 website

A panel from an Eli Valley cartoon that appeared on the +972 website

Eli Valley is not a suburb of San Francisco.

No, Eli Valley is a vicious Israel- and Jew-hating cartoonist who draws things like the panel above, in which Bibi Netanyahu rapes Barack Obama in outer space, after first eating his arms and legs.

Really.

Apparently, the liberal Jewish Daily Forward, of which Valley is “artist in residence,” didn’t have the balls to publish this particularly emetic example of his work, so it appeared on the extreme anti-Zionist +972 website.

Eli Valley’s message is simple: Israel is an apartheid state, ruled by neo-fascists and fanatical religious fundamentalists. American Jews that support Israel are either dupes, or are cynically exploiting the fear and ignorance of other Jews to rake in the dough. The Jewish establishment in the US pushes the party line of Israel’s “right-wing” government, and viciously clamps down on dissent. Meanwhile, the Likud regime continues to victimize Palestinian Arabs and shun peace while manipulating — with the help of fundamentalist Christian fanatics — the US government, in best Elders of Zion fashion.

Valley’s style is imitative of R. Crumb and of 1950′s horror comics, although he doesn’t have the artistic talent of Crumb or Jack Davis, Will Elder, etc. His politics aren’t original either, being straight out of the Peter Beinart / J Street book. Much of the humor in his work comes from deliberate shock or vulgarity, as in the Bibi and Obama strip.

What distinguishes him, and titillates his Forward audience, is his effective projection of a visceral dislike of Jews, particularly observant Jews. Forget the words — just look at the pictures: for example this one:

Some of Eli Valley's Jews

Some of Eli Valley's Jews

Someone could try to explain Valley’s animus in terms of his biography: divorced parents, father a rabbi, etc. But who cares? It’s the essential characteristic of his work.

Valley suggests that corrupt mainstream Jewish organizations have conspired to hide the truth about Israel. In “Bucky Shvitz, Sociologist for Hire,” Valley invokes “casino mogul Milt Levy” (presumably Sheldon Adelson), who comes up with a suitcase full of money:

Ironically, in addition to his gig at the Forward, Valley has a day job as a writer and editor for The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, an organization created by hedge fund billionaire Michael Steinhardt, one of the founders of Birthright Israel. And another major contributor to Birthright ($100 million) is none other than “casino mogul” Sheldon Adelson!

But there’s more. One of the projects of the Steinhardt Foundation is called the Steinhardt Social Research Institute, which engages in exactly the same kind of research as Bucky Shvitz. And Steinhardt-funded research just happens to show that Jewish identity is positively related to support for to Israel. These findings directly contradict the argument of Peter Beinart that young American Jews are repelled by the reality of today’s Jewish state.

In other words, the same organized Jewish community that Valley attacks in his cartoons as corrupt, the very community that does see identification with Israel as the path to preserving Jewish identity, is Valley’s meal ticket!

And Valley’s cartoons not only attack the research funded by his employer, but even suggest that researchers have been bribed to reach pro-Israel conclusions!

This is one confused little anti-Zionist.

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Palestinian hunger strikers not innocent

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The UN’s Ban Ki-Moon cares about Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails:

9 May 2012 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the importance of averting any further deterioration in the condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody who are on hunger strike, and urged everyone concerned to reach a solution to their plight without delay.

“The Secretary-General continues to follow with concern the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, in particular those held in what is known as administrative detention,” according to information provided by his spokesperson.

“He stresses the importance of averting any further deterioration in their condition,” the spokesperson added. “He reiterates that those detained must be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees, or released without delay.”

More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike two weeks ago, on 17 April – Palestinian Prisoners Day – to protest against unjust arrest procedures, arbitrary detention and bad prison conditions, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).

Here are some things that Moon doesn’t mention:

According to Ofir Gendleman, PM Netanyahu’s Arab media spokesperson, only six of the more than 1500 prisoners who are striking are being held in administrative detention. All of the rest are convicted terrorists (there are a total of about 4,500 Palestinians imprisoned for terror-related activity, and of these around 300 are currently in administrative detention, according to ‘rights groups’).

Arnold and Frimet Roth, whose 15-year old daughter Malki was murdered in 2001 by a bomb built by one of the striking terrorists (Abdullah Barghouti, who has said that he “feels bad that [he] killed only 66 Jews”), provide some more information:

The two who began hunger-striking in March are men called Bilal Diab and Tha’er Halahlah who are administrative detainees, held so far for nine months and 22 months respectively. Their petition came before the High Court of Justice on Monday and was heard and rejected. The court pointed to the ongoing ties of the petitioners to terrorist funding and terrorism and that they are a clear and immediate security risk to Israeli citizens. It added (which is also significant) that the Israel Prison Service is meeting or exceeding the standards required by international law regarding prisoner treatment already.

Diab and Halahlah are in fact leaders in Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The angry voices are demanding that we think of them as unjustly shunted off to prison for the equivalent of failing to pay for a television license. The media and the ranks of ‘activist’ NGOs are currently filled with such voices.

Of the other strikers, almost all were charged, tried and convicted for the most serious offenses you can think of. Hundreds are in prison for murder. Quite a number of them are unrepentant multiple murderers.

You will recall that over 1000 prisoners, including some multiple murderers, were released in the ‘exchange’ (I call it a ‘jailbreak’) for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Many of the ones that are left were not part of the deal because they were considered more dangerous or because their crimes were more vicious.

Among the leaders of the strike are these (according to Israeli government sources):

  • Abbas a-Sayyid – Senior Hamas activist. He was sentenced to 35 life sentences for his role in the attack at the “Park Hotel” in Netanya on Passover eve in 2002 [30 dead, 140 injured].
  • Muhanned Sharrim – Senior Hamas activist. He was sentenced to 29 life sentences for his involvement in the attack at the “Park Hotel”.
  • Jamal al-Hur – Hamas activist who was sentenced to five life sentences for his involvement in terrorist attacks and murders. He was responsible for planning the attack at Café Apropo in Tel Aviv (1997) [3 dead, 48 injured].
  • Wajdi Joda – Senior activist in the ‘Democratic Front’. He was involved in the suicide attack in Geha interchange (2003) [4 dead, 16 injured].

Just your average ‘political prisoners’, for whom the hearts of numerous ‘human rights’ activists are bleeding.

Finally, I want to discuss the ‘administrative detention’ provision under which 6 of the 1500 strikers are being held, since it is being compared to the Soviet Gulag and worse by the prisoners’ supporters. Administrative detention is used when an individual is deemed to be an immediate threat and where a public charge sheet would have to reveal information about sources or otherwise compromise security. NGO Monitor explains,

Most NGO statements omit the fact that administrative detention is a common procedure used by democratic and rights-respecting states around the world in security-related cases, including the US and the UK. Israel’s detention law meets and often exceeds the due process standards required by criminal procedure and human rights law [Esp. including the 4th Geneva Convention -- ed.]

Contrary to the claims of NGOs, it is not true that administrative detention is “without charge.” The administrative detention laws require that the detainee be brought before a judge within a short period of time and any detention must be based upon credible evidence. All detainees have the right to challenge their detention to the Israeli Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice.

An official statement by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is here.

The release of all Palestinian Arabs imprisoned for terror-related crimes is one of the primary goals of all factions of the Palestinian movement. From an ideological and (in the case of Hamas, etc.) religious point of view, all such prisoners are ‘political’, and there is no legitimate Jewish authority anywhere in Palestine.

The truth is that these prisoners belong where they are. They are entirely responsible for their ‘plight’, and they can end it whenever they choose.

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Breaking: Israel gets unity government

Monday, May 7th, 2012
Shaul Mofaz, during his term as Chief of Staff (1998-2002)

Shaul Mofaz, during his term as Chief of Staff (1998-2002)

YNet reports:

No elections, Kadima joins government: In a dramatic move, the Likud and Kadima parties agreed on a unity government early Tuesday, averting the prospect of early elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz finalized the surprising unity agreement hours before the Knesset was expected to approve its own dissolution and set September 4th as the date of the next elections.

PM Netanyahu announced that Kadima’s Mofaz will be appointed deputy PM and minister without portfolio, while also being included in Israel’s security cabinet.

Shaul Mofaz, born in Tehran, came to Israel in 1957 and participated in all of Israel’s wars since 1967 (including the Entebbe raid). As chief of staff from 1998-2002 he was noted for the tough response to the Second Intifada, Operation Defensive Shield, in which Israel pacified Judea/Samaria. He recently defeated Tzipi Livni for the leadership of Kadima, the party which currently holds the largest number of seats in the Knesset (28), one more than Netanyahu’s Likud.

In the normal course of events elections would have been held in 2013. Netanyahu called for early elections to be held this September for multiple reasons. One of them may be that he doesn’t want a repeat of the election of 1999, when he lost a close race for a second term to Labor’s Ehud Barak, who received overt and covert support from the Clinton Administration. By getting the elections out of the way when the Obama Administration will be busy with its own election, Netanyahu would then be in a stronger position to face a hostile second-term Obama, should he be reelected.

But both Netanyahu and Mofaz (whose Kadima party is polling very, very poorly) are beginning to worry about the rise of a “non-ideological” party led by Yair Lapid, a former TV news anchor. The present coalition is also struggling to find an acceptable solution to the issue of military service for Haredim (“ultra-Orthodox” Jews); the new coalition agreement stipulates that a bill on this subject will be presented shortly. There are also agreements on budgetary issues. Finally, I think Netanyahu would like to add Mofaz, with his considerable military expertise, to the Security Cabinet.

Is there a connection to a possible strike on Iran? It seems that if there is to be such a strike, it will be before the US elections, while Obama is constrained from acting strongly against Israel. A unity government, which would give Netanyahu a massive 96 Knesset seats out of 120, would certainly clear the decks for action. New elections in September, on the other hand, carry a burden of uncertainty, even though Netanyahu’s Likud party is leading by a large amount in the polls. In any event they would be disruptive.

Mofaz has made public statements that Israel should let the US take the lead in dealing with Iran. But he has not been as aggressive in his criticism of the PM and Defense Minister’s purported plans as, for example, former Mossad head Meir Dagan and former Shabak boss Yuval Diskin.

There is reason to be distrustful of international efforts led by the US to deal with the Iranian nuclear program. For example, Amos Yadlin and Yoel Guzansky write,

An additional round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran about the nuclear issue is due to take place in Baghdad in May. Despite a decade of unproductive dialogue, it is important to both sides that negotiations take place: Iran seeks to prevent even harsher sanctions, while President Obama wishes to postpone difficult decisions at least until after the presidential elections. Both parties want to prevent an Israeli strike

A bad deal, one that the Iranians are likely to offer and that the international community would be tempted to accept, would include explicit legitimacy for Iran enriching uranium on its soil up to the 5 percent level but would not include removal of most of the already-enriched uranium from within Iran’s borders. The bad deal also would include not limiting the number or type of centrifuges and enrichment sites. Iran then would be able to continue securing its sites in a way that would make damaging them much harder than it is at present. With such a deal, Iran would be able to improve its chances of breaking out toward nuclear weapons in a relatively short time after making the decision to do so…

Israel would find it hard to live with a situation in which Iran could at any moment decide to break out toward rapid nuclear-weapons manufacturing thanks to an extensive nuclear infrastructure and a significant amount of enriched uranium. However, international recognition of the legitimacy of Iran’s nuclear capabilities would place Israel in a strategic dilemma. It would be difficult for Israel to justify any offensive move against these capabilities without support from America or important elements of the international community. [my emphasis]

The problem for Israel, then, is not only — as Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned — that Iran might reach a “zone of [physical] immunity” in which its nuclear facilities are sufficiently hardened that an Israeli attack would not be effective. There is also a zone of political immunity which would be created by Yadlin and Guzansky’s “bad deal,” one which will remove support from Israel without ending the Iranian nuclear threat.

One can’t minimize the importance of the domestic political considerations behind the decision to form a unity government and cancel early elections. On the other hand, I think that the development makes it more likely that Israel will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities before November 6, 2012.

Update [8 May 0852 PDT]: Some other comments that I’ve heard about this historic event that make sense:

  • Canceling the early election saves a bunch of money
  • The depth of the coalition means that special interest parties (e.g., Haredim) will not be able to hold it for ransom

Read a really good discussion of the winners and losers at the Muqata, here. And more from Caroline Glick, here.

Another excellent article that explains the somewhat Byzantine considerations of domestic politics in Israel is at Zion Square, here.

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Three irrational US Mideast policies

Friday, May 4th, 2012

I want to discuss three positions taken by the Obama Administration which are opposed to American  interests and make war, not peace, more likely.  There are many other issues that I could discuss, both about the Mideast and elsewhere, but these are emblematic of the general problem.

Position 1. Sanctions and negotiations can cause Iran to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The possession of nuclear weapons will give Iran the power to dominate the Muslim Middle East, economically and politically. This is the primary goal of the revolutionary regime. The Iranian leadership is not averse to any hardship that may be felt by the general populace, because 1) as a totalitarian regime they are not politically accountable to their people, and 2) any form of economic sanctions will always be ‘leaky’ enough to permit favored elements to receive the resources they need, especially since Russia and China will not be cooperative with the West.

The result of negotiations will, at best, be that the Iranian strategy will change from a straight-line effort to get deliverable weapons to a “just in time” strategy in which all the pieces except the final assembly of a weapon are put in place.

The only thing short of military intervention that could make them stop would be a credible threat thereof, combined with a thorough and effective inspection program. This isn’t going to happen in time. Meanwhile, the enrichment of uranium and other development continues.

Position 2. The threat against the West from radical Islam comes primarily from al-Qaeda, and not radical Islam in general.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not any less radical, from an ideological point of view, than al-Qaeda. Where it differs is that it thinks, quite rationally, that for it, today, violent jihad against the West is likely to be counterproductive. Once it cements its control over the most populous country in the Middle East, it may think differently.

The Obama Administration supports — or at least does not not oppose — the Brotherhood in Egypt, it allowed Hizballah to take almost total control of Lebanon, it restricts Israel from acting against Hamas in Gaza, and it applauds the Islamist Erdoğan regime in Turkey — with which it collaborates in working to replace the imploding Assad government in Syria with an Islamist regime (and I might add that before Assad’s difficulties, it called for ‘engagement’ with him).

On the home front, the administration does not consider radical Islam a threat, unless it is related to al-Qaeda. So it is supposed to be reassuring when someone is arrested for trying to explode a car bomb in Times Square and we are told that “he wasn’t a member of a recognized terrorist organization.”

The obsession with al-Qaeda, which, as Barry Rubin points out, doesn’t control countries with populations in the millions like Iran, Lebanon and Egypt, is worse than irrational — it causes us to ignore trends whose results will be disastrous in the near future.

Position 3. The Israeli-Arab conflict can be ended by withdrawal from the territories.

Although there is abundant evidence that the PLO is not prepared to end the conflict with Israel regardless of the amount of land it is given, and that anyway an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would likely lead to a Hamas takeover and missile attacks on the center of the country, the Obama Administration continues to insist that a “two-state solution” would bring peace.

The “land for peace” formula has been a failure, both in Gaza and increasingly with Egypt, thanks to the Islamist ideology that characterizes Hamas and is sweeping Egypt. While the PLO has a secular ideology, they are no less dedicated to reversing the nakba and recovering their ‘honor’ by eliminating the Jewish state.

Forcing Israel to make concessions encourages the Arabs to make more demands and to express their ‘frustration’ when no concession is enough by intifadas and terrorism, to which Israel is forced to respond. This is a path to war, not peace.

So why does the administration cleave to such irrational positions?

Unsurprisingly, the answer to this is also ideology. Barack Obama and many of his appointees share a New Left sensibility, which includes the ideas that colonialism and imperialism — particularly ‘US imperialism’ is the root of all evil, that it is meaningless to suggest that one culture could be morally superior to another, and that national interests should be subordinated to multilateral cooperation. Many of them accept “postcolonial” theory, in which the ‘colonized’  party — Iran, Muslims, the Palestinians — is considered morally superior to the ‘colonizers’ and is permitted to express itself violently if necessary to ‘resist’ colonization.

The challenge from Iran is a challenge to Western control of the region: for lack of a better phrase, to Western imperialism. While in principle this it is less than ideal, the world in practice would be a far worse place if the Middle East were dominated by radical Iranian imperialists. The administration is incapable of seeing this and loathe to employ traditional gunboat diplomacy to fix it.

The same ideology blinds it to the nature of radical Islam (all cultures are assumed to be of equal value, Muslim countries are ‘colonized’), as well as the Israeli-Arab conflict. In that case, we know that the Left sees it as the epitome of a struggle of national liberation from colonial bondage — which of course is almost exactly the opposite of the truth, which is that it is a reactionary attempt to crush the expression of Jewish self-determination.

Would a Romney Administration be different?

I strongly doubt that Mr. Romney and his associates share the New Left, post-colonialist ideology of the Obama Administration. So at least his policy would not be skewed by this particular perspective.

There is also another factor at work in connection with the Israeli-Arab conflict. It seems to be the case that Mr. Obama has a visceral dislike for Israeli PM Netanyahu. It was on display when he abandoned the Prime Minister to go to dinner in March 2010, when he publicly demanded Israeli withdrawal to 1949 lines while Netanyahu was en route to the US in May of 2011, and when he made his famous ‘open microphone’ remark to French President Sarkozy last November. Whether it is ideological in basis or just personal, there is no doubt that it is real. Romney, on the other hand, has known Netanyahu for some time and is said to have a good relationship with him.

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