Archive for August, 2012

Rachel Corrie and Evergreen State

Thursday, August 30th, 2012
Shrine to St. Rachel Corrie at an Olympia art studio

Shrine to St. Rachel Corrie at an Olympia art studio

I recently wrote about the tragedy of Rachel Corrie (it’s always tragic when a young person dies, more so when she dies for a mistaken cause, and even more when she is cynically brainwashed by a group like ISM which is directly connected to terrorist groups).

Rachel was a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, when she proposed an independent study project for her senior year to establish a sister-city relationship between Olympia and Rafah, a town that lies directly on the border between the Gaza strip and Egypt, a nexus of conflict between the IDF and terrorists smuggling weapons into Gaza.

Evergreen is a paradigm of the progressive cause-based model of education, where you can get what author Howard Jacobson (The Finkler Question) called a “modular degree.” For example, the home page for the “Gender and Sexuality: History, Culture and Politics” program includes this bemusing note:

Enrollment is open to any Evergreen student with sophomore through senior standing. It is likely that many students will have a sexual or gender identity, but this is not a prerequisite for enrollment. If you have such an identity, switching it out at any time is also perfectly fine.

Hmmm… everyone that I know has a “sexual of gender identity,” although they don’t “switch it out” too often (not that there would be anything wrong with that).

Among the many courses in gender and ethnic studies, activism, etc., I did not find anything like a course in Western Civilization. The closest to one in American History was “The Formation of the North American State,” described thus:

This program will examine the movement of the North American colonies in their separation from Britain to the emergence of the United States through the election of 1800. It will investigate the conflict; the social, racial and class divisions; and the distinctly different visions of the proper social, economic and political system that should predominate in the new nation.  Much conflict surrounded the separation of the settler colonies from Britain, including a transatlantic revolutionary movement, development of slave-based plantations and the birth of capitalism. Capitalism was not a foregone conclusion. …

I just bet it wasn’t.

Rachel didn’t get her sister-city project off the ground, although it is presently being pursued in her name. What she did do on arrival was join up with several ISM activists (Olympia and Evergreen have provided a disproportionate number of members to the ISM) for a training session, then traveled to Gaza, where she did her (unfortunately effective) best to throw herself against the machine of Occupation.

Shockingly, Evergreen State College is proud of her, and offers an annual scholarship in her name:

Rachel Corrie, a lifelong Olympia resident, Evergreen student and community activist was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza, on March 16, 2003, while defending the home of a Palestinian family against unlawful demolition.

This [$2,000] scholarship is for students dedicated to gaining a better understanding of the Middle East and to working locally or internationally to further Middle East peace. Applicants must show how they will use their studies to promote human rights and social justice through community activism and/or political advocacy.

Areas of interest related to the Middle East may include: Arab culture and Arabic language, US Policy in the Middle East, and peace, justice and conflict resolution studies.

There has been some speculation about the faculty members who encouraged her and perhaps approved her “independent study.”  Simona Sharoni, who called Rachel her “beloved student and friend,” and Steve Niva, who “met with Rachel Corrie before she left for Gaza,” appear to have been among them.

Sharoni is aggressively anti-Zionist. Now department chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh, she coined the term “compassionate resistance” as she

…struggled to reconcile my grief, frustration and anger with the empathy, love and compassion I felt for people who put their bodies on the line to resist oppression.

I could find no expression of empathy, love or compassion in her writing for the Jewish victims of Palestinian terror, except insofar as she sees them as misguided. Indeed, she criticizes left-wing Israelis who are involved in dialogue with Palestinians because they don’t sufficiently understand that the needs of the occupied Palestinians take priority over those of the Jewish occupiers, even leftist anti-occupation types.

Steve Niva is a professor in Political Science and Middle East Studies, and a long-time boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) activist. He’s a frequent contributor to the viciously anti-Israel (and anti-American) “Counterpunch” newsletter. A list of some of Niva’s courses will give you an idea of his ideology:

Spring 2012. US Foreign Policy and the Roots of Terrorism. This program examined debates over the nature and causes of terrorism in the Middle East and considered alternatives to the policies adopted in the  “war on terror.”

Fall/Winter 2013-14: Alternatives to Capitalist Globalization. This program will explore and critically analyze the diverse social movements and alternative visions for creating more just global and national institutions and societies.

Spring, 2013: Beyond Protest:  New Theories and Practices of Political Action. This program will explore the theory and practice of new forms of oppositional political action that go beyond familiar modes of public protest.

Both Sharoni and Niva are mentioned several times in Rachel Corrie’s Journals, and clearly they were important in her decision to go to Gaza. The radical community in Olympia/Evergreen has beatified Rachel Corrie while demonizing Israel; Rachel is not the only one who bought the Palestinian story hook, line and sinker.

Doubtless those adult mentors believe that they are free of guilt for her death. They are not. Rachel Corrie’s Journals mentions a “Joe F.” who was her Arabic teacher — there is a Joe Fahoum teaching Arabic at Evergreen — who, according to a footnote (provided by the family), urged her not to go to Gaza.

Possibly he understood the real nature and objectives of the ISM and the danger Rachel would be in, and unlike the others, cared enough to see her as a young woman with a future rather than as a pawn to be sacrificed in the war against the Jewish state.

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Today’s media failures (mostly NPR)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
Before and after Corrie's death. Different bulldozers, different time of day.

Before and after Corrie’s death. Different bulldozers, different time of day.

Here are three examples of what is either utter incompetence, deliberately slanted reporting, or both. I’m going for ‘both’.

***

This morning’s news mentioned that France was preparing to open a homicide inquiry into the death of Original Terrorist Yasser Arafat, based on the allegations of his porcine widow Suha that he was poisoned by Polonium 210.

Simple arithmetic proves that even if there had been an impossibly large amount of Polonium 210 in Arafat’s underwear that Suha tenderly saved for 8 years, it would be undetectable today. Anyway, his symptoms were not consistent with polonium poisoning.

Yet the New York Times and NPR report this insanity with a straight face!

***

NPR struck again with this report from Sheera Frankel in Haifa:

Rachel Corrie was crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer as she stood trying to block the demolition of Palestinian homes, in Rafah, Gaza. Today, a panel of judges ruled that she could have saved herself by moving out of the way. And they dismissed her family’s lawsuit against the government.

In a document released by the court, the Haifa district court judges said that they found no negligence on the part of the army of the State of Israel. The judges called Corrie’s death a regrettable accident, and noted that she had ignored repeated warnings to leave the area.

Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, said she was saddened by the verdict and the seeming impunity of the Israeli military. The family averred that Rachel was clearly visible to the driver of the bulldozer, in her bright orange vest and loudspeaker. Corrie’s family fought a nine-year battle in Israel’s courts, arguing that the military never launched a full and credible investigation into the case. The Corrie family lawyer said they would appeal the case to Israel’s Supreme Court.

First, Corrie wasn’t ‘crushed’. The court established, based on testimony from other ‘activists’ as well as IDF personnel, that she became entangled in a pile of dirt that the bulldozer was pushing, and probably died after her head was struck by a piece of concrete. Yes, she’s still dead, but the emotional content of ‘crushed’ is much greater.

Second, she wasn’t trying to “block the demolition of Palestinian homes.” The bulldozer was clearing debris in a place where numerous tunnels used to smuggle weapons and explosives across the Egyptian border to terrorists in Gaza were located. Many of the ‘homes’ nearby were covering tunnel exits.

Third — and most important — the piece doesn’t mention that court very carefully examined the question of whether the bulldozer operator could have seen Corrie and concluded that he could not. It quotes the family’s contention that she was holding a bullhorn and in plain view, but this is based on a deliberate photographic fraud. Eyewitnesses said that she was immediately in front of the bulldozer’s blade where she could not be seen when she was hit (see yesterday’s post for a summary of the court’s decision).

One would think that a reporter on the scene would be able to do better with the simple facts. The piece also employs the usual NPR technique of emphasizing the emotional content of the anti-Israel side and barely mentioning opposing views.

***

A couple of weeks ago, an anti-Israel blogger copied a fanciful scenario about an Israeli cyberattack on Iran from a discussion forum, and claimed it was an actual war plan ‘leaked’ to him by an Israeli official. He managed to fool a few media outlets with it, even the BBC.

It was quickly debunked (see also here and here).

But guess who picked it up this week? Apparently NPR’s reporter Tom Gjelten found it too delicious to ignore, despite the fact that it was 100% bull pucky. Do they ever check this stuff?

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Dear Craig and Cindy

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
Craig and Cindy Corrie receive a portrait of their daughter from the Original Terrorist

Craig and Cindy Corrie receive a portrait of their daughter from the Original Terrorist

An Israeli court has ruled (an English summary of the decision is here) that the death of Rachel Corrie in 2003 was accidental. Some of the critical points made by the judge are the following:

  • The incident happened in a place that was a “site of daily warfare,” which civilians were forbidden to enter.
  • While supposedly a nonviolent organization, “[The ISM] exploits the dialogue regarding human rights and morality to blur the severity of its actions, which are, in fact, expressed through violence.”
  • The bulldozer was “leveling the ground and clearing it of brush in order to expose hiding places used by terrorists, who would sneak out from these areas and place explosive devices with the intent of harming IDF soldiers,” and not destroying Palestinian homes.
  • The IDF tried to distance the activists from the bulldozer, warning them, exploding stun grenades and firing warning shots, but they did not comply.
  • Corrie was not visible to the driver (see here and here).

Here is the judge’s description of the actual event that caused her death:

When the decedent saw the pile of dirt moving towards her, she did not move, as any reasonable person would have. She began to climb the pile of dirt. Therefore, both because the pile of dirt continued to move as a result of the pushing of the bulldozer, and because the dirt was loose, the decedent was trapped in the pile of dirt and fell.

At this stage, the decedent’s legs were buried in the pile of dirt, and when her colleagues saw from where they stood that the decedent was trapped in the pile of dirt, they ran towards the bulldozer and gestured towards its operator and yelled at him to stop. By the time the bulldozer’s operator and his commander noticed the decedent’s colleagues and stopped the bulldozer, a significant portion of the decedent’s body was already covered in dirt.

The decedent’s entire body was not covered in dirt. In fact, when the bulldozer backed up, the decedent’s body was seen to free itself from the pile of dirt and the decedent was still alive.

The decedent was evacuated to the hospital [in Gaza] and after 20 minutes, her death was declared.

Dear Craig and Cindy Corrie,

As a parent, I can’t imagine an experience that could compare with the loss of a child. I know that if it happened to me I would be desolated. I thought about the possibility constantly during the period of the Second Intifada, when my son volunteered to serve in a special counter-terror unit and traveled around Israel on a daily basis to try to intercept terrorists — many of them sent by the same Hamas organization that your daughter defended — on their way to kill Israelis.

Some of these succeeded despite the efforts of my son and his comrades, and hundreds of Israelis, many of them children with parents like you and me, were burned to death, penetrated by nails and ball bearings, or had their lungs destroyed by blast.

I thank God that my son survived, that the bullets, grenades and mortar shells that were deliberately aimed at him missed. Other Israelis, soldiers and civilians, were not so lucky.

You’ve worked hard to place blame on Israel and the IDF for your daughter’s death. That’s understandable, because if Israel wasn’t responsible, who was? I can only suppose that you struggle to keep from blaming yourselves.

You [Cindy] told the Guardian,

It felt a little unnerving … At first we hoped it wouldn’t happen. But Rachel was 23 years old, and was very much making her own decisions, as we thought she should. We had always supported our kids in whatever steps they wanted to take. Some people say: ‘Why did you let her go?’ That was not ever something I felt was my role.

You’re right. I didn’t tell my son not to do what he did, either.

So whose fault is it? The court said that the immediate responsibility lay with Rachel:

The decedent put herself in a dangerous situation. She stood in front of a large bulldozer in a location where the bulldozer’s operator could not see her. Even when she saw the pile of dirt moving towards her and endangering her, she did not remove herself from the situation, as any reasonable person would have.

But if I had to blame someone for making this terrible event happen, it would not be the bulldozer operator, the IDF or Israel, which is in a life-and-death struggle with its enemies. I would blame the ISM, which specializes in brainwashing Western young people, sending them into a war zone and placing them in harm’s way — in full knowledge that the Palestinian cause will benefit if one of them is injured or killed.

Rachel made a choice and took a side in a conflict that she did not fully understand. She had a right to do that, but to a certain extent she was manipulated and exploited.  She chose the wrong side, and she paid a terrible price.

You have chosen to honor her memory by taking her side.  As I said, it’s understandable, but it doesn’t validate the ideology that got her killed in order to further its goals of still more death and destruction.

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It is an indifferent cruel and stupid world

Monday, August 27th, 2012

I don’t think I’ve ever published a poem before. This one was sent to me by Shalom Freedman, who, in addition to being a frequent commenter on this blog, has written several books on Jewish and moral subjects as well as poetry, reviews, etc.

It is an indifferent cruel and stupid world

by Shalom Freedman

It is an indifferent cruel and stupid world —
The Ayatollahs preach genocide
And a hundred nations are hosted by them —
The U.N. Secretary General dignifies them by his presence
Though they have consistently deceived and lied to him and his predecessors —

They preach a medieval  doctrine of  world domination
as they conceal their race for weapons of mass destruction
and are traded with and toasted by the Chinese and Russians —

They promise to continue the Nazis work by other means
And the allegedly non-aligned do not contend with them —

Shame on these racist haters
And shame on their collaborators
Shame on Humanity
For our having such contemptible creatures among us.

Confronting the unpleasant truth

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Sometimes the truth is more than just ‘inconvenient’. Sometimes it is downright unpleasant, even ugly. But nevertheless, it is what is and we need to deal with what is, not what we would like it to be.

Martin Sherman sees the unpleasant truth and, unlike so many others, draws the logical conclusions. He has written a series of articles in the Jerusalem Post in which he has exposed the sheer insanity of the Left’s two-state solution (TSS), as well as the failure of the Right to propose real alternatives.

Now Sherman has taken up the challenge to provide a practical alternative. In his most recent article — which I urge you to read in its entirety, since I can’t do justice to it with a few snippets — he writes,

To survive as the permanent nation-state of the Jewish people Israel must address two fundamental imperatives:

• The geographic imperative
• The demographic imperative

It is self-evident that if either of these is inadequately addressed, Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people will be gravely jeopardized, eventually becoming unsustainable.

The mainstream discourse invariably – and deceptively – presents Israel’s only choice as being between accepting the TSS – which would make Israel untenable geographically, or the OSS (one-state solution) – which would make it untenable demographically.

Neither comprises an acceptable policy-paradigm for anyone whose point of departure is the continued existence of Israel as the permanent nation-state of the Jews.

This, as we will see, compels us to the inexorable conclusion that between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there can – and eventually will – prevail either exclusive Jewish or exclusive Arab sovereignty…

While addressing the geographic imperative requires Israel to maintain control of all Judea and Samaria (or at least of sufficiently large segments to make the TSS unviable), addressing the demographic imperative means that the Arab population of these areas cannot be permanently incorporated into the population of Israel…

We are left to confront a brutally simple choice: Either forgo the Jewish nation-state or address the need to significantly diminish the scale of the Palestinian-Arab population.

Whether one relates to this stark dilemma with a sense of moral outrage or equanimity will not affect the inexorable logic that led to its deduction, or the necessity to acknowledge its inevitability. Trying to evade the bleak nature of this inescapable choice by reformulating it in less forbidding terms would be no more than an exercise in hypocrisy or self-delusion…

So, for those who find the prospect of forgoing the Jewish nation-state unacceptable, the grim decision is whether to address the problem of diminishing the Palestinian-Arab population by coercive or by non-coercive means.

Right now the screaming about racism, transfer, ethnic cleansing, etc. begins. I won’t discuss why this automatically follows any discussion of Arabs moving but not Jews, nor the numerous Palestinian expressions of their intention to have a Jew-free state if the TSS is implemented. I’ll only emphasize that the alternative is no Jewish state at all.

If your idea of morality is such that yet another Jewish diaspora — undoubtedly accompanied by a bloody war — is preferable to some Arabs living between the river and the sea moving to one of the 22 Arab Muslim states in the region, then you have chosen sides and I don’t have anything to say to you.

Sherman believes, and promises details in a forthcoming article, that a non-coercive population transfer — yes, I am using that word because that is what it is — is the morally preferred option and that it can be made practical.

I have my doubts about the practicality of such a solution. But I am convinced that Sherman is right and that survival of a Jewish state requires both geographical and demographic domination of the area between the river and the sea. I remain to be convinced that this can be accomplished peacefully.

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The method in Iranian madness

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Why does Iran issue ugly threats against Israel on an almost daily basis, saying that Israel will be annihilated, that it is a cancerous tumor that must be cut out, and so forth? After all, if they want to avoid an Israeli attack, shouldn’t they be a little less open about their intentions?

Maybe this News item will help us understand:

[Der Spiegel's] investigative report said that a few months after the Munich Massacre, then Foreign Minister Walter Scheel held a secret meeting with representatives of the terrorist organization in order to create what was termed a “new basis of trust.”

The German government, according to classified documents obtained by Der Spiegel, did not demand that the terrorists completely stop terrorist activities, but only asked that they avoid attacking in Germany. In return, said the report, the terrorists sought to upgrade the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) political status.

German authorities also avoided prosecuting those involved in the terror attack on the Israeli athletes, the report said. Three of the terrorists who were captured alive were released after two months, after terrorists from “Black September” hijacked a Lufthansa plane.

It is typical for terrorists to try to split the nations opposed to them by promising immunity against further atrocities to one or another country. The Iranian regime employs terrorism as a major part of its foreign policy, so why shouldn’t it take the same approach to diplomacy as Black September?

By effectively making their nuclear program appear to be primarily a threat against Israel, Iran sends a message to the  Europeans and the US that they are safe. We are just going to kill some Jews, they suggest, and you don’t want to go to war over Jews, do you?

I’m sure the message is being transmitted explicitly in private as well, along with threats that if the US and Europe do not go along, then bad things could happen to them as well. And there are a lot of bad things that Iran can do cheaply.

The Iranians know that they can’t persuade Israel that a nuclear weapon in their hands is not an existential threat. But they may be able to persuade the US and Europe that the real problem is not an Iranian bomb, but the Israeli reaction to it. And that is what they are trying to do.

Their objectives are a) to prevent a US attack and b) to get the US to prevent a Israeli one, until their program is complete.

This is exactly why the Israeli doctrine that its defense must not be placed in the hands of any other nation or organization is so important, and must not be abandoned under any circumstances.

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Understanding Palestinian language

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Daniel Gordis wrote,

An honest American broker would no longer ignore blatant Palestinian myopia. Just this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Jerusalem a Muslim and Christian city, insisting that there will be no peace until the Jewish occupiers depart. The Jews, he said, wish to “destroy the Al Aqsa mosque and build the alleged Jewish temple.”

Gordis is  correct of course, although I would not use the word ‘myopia’, which implies a defect of vision, a handicap. The Palestinians talk like this deliberately, because they use language to create reality.

Their concept of truth is not what the philosophy teachers call a ‘correspondence’ theory. Rather, it is an ideological one. It doesn’t matter if in fact there was a Jewish Temple, because the concept of an objective historical fact is meaningless to them. If a proposition supports Islamic or Palestinian national objectives, then it is only right that people should believe it, that contrary archaeological evidence should be destroyed, that friendly academics should write books and articles repeating it.

When Palestinians say ‘there was no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem’ it is not a proposition that can be true or false in the usual sense, it is an action — a verbal act of jihad, as it were. It is a seizure of the historical narrative.

They are not even lying. Is it a lie to tell your enemy to go to hell?

This is something that most Westerners don’t understand. It isn’t that Arabs are stupid, uneducated or ‘myopic’. They are simply using language in a wholly different way than what we think of as discourse about history.

But there’s more. Gordis continues,

In Palestinian discourse, even the Temple is “alleged.” Compare that stance to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s politically risky acknowledgement of Palestinian rights to a sovereign national homeland.

Let’s indeed compare them.

If the Palestinian position is an act of verbal jihad, Netanyahu’s is an act of verbal submission. To Western ears the Palestinians are simply ignorant, while Netanyahu’s position comes across as  reasonable, willing to compromise, to honor everyone’s rights, etc. A laudable statement made from a position of strength. But an Arab hears weakness and lack of resolve.

Palestinians are often reported to be ‘frustrated’. Maybe some of the frustration comes from the mixed message they receive from Israel. Israelis speak submissively, but then they don’t submit!

We are not going to adopt their theory of truth, but we need to understand the “performative” subtexts of both sides’ statements, respond clearly to theirs and make ours unambiguous.

In the case of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, for example, Israel should both make policy statements and take concrete actions to strengthen Jewish sovereignty there.

The so-called ‘peace process’, in which Israel makes successively more submissive statements in response to Palestinian aggression — verbal and physical — needs to end.

Here, Israel can follow the example of former US Secretary of State James Baker: give the Palestinians Netanyahu’s phone number, with instructions to call when they are prepared to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state.

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Will Obama repudiate support from anti-Israel rabbis?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I’ve been away for a couple of days, and today’s news is ugly. Hizballah is practicing for an invasion of Israel, Iran is enriching uranium even faster than hitherto thought, and more than 600 rabbis have endorsed Obama’s reelection.

OK, that last one is not as alarming as the first two. They are almost all Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis, and we know that they tend to be Democrats.  Many of them probably prefer Obama for other reasons than his policy towards Israel.

But several Jewish bloggers have noted that eight or nine of them are associated with A Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), one of the ADL’s “Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in America,” the only Jewish organization on the list, and one that aggressively pushes boycott-divestment-sanctions of Israel on campuses and municipalities, and among liberal Christians.

JVP also calls for a ‘right of return’ for millions of Arabs claiming Palestinian ‘refugee’ status, which means an end to the Jewish state (and doubtless to many lives in the ensuing civil war).

The JVP rabbis include Lynn Gottlieb of Berkeley. Gottlieb, despite the daily threats of annihilation and vicious, Hitlerist anti-Jewish rhetoric coming from Teheran and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah (not to mention the non-rhetorical rockets from Gaza), continues to see an equivalence between the aggressors and Israel. She told a Ha’aretz reporter recently,

We’ve been living with a nuclear Israel which used conventional weapons on people. We’ve been living with nuclear India, with nuclear Pakistan, nuclear United States. Do we want to live with any government having nuclear power? I don’t think so. I personally do not want to live in a world with nuclear weapons, period. It’s unfortunate that we have been valuing militarism and war over diplomacy and peacemaking. It’s a choice, a human choice. War is not inevitable. It is a choice. Are we doing everything we can to prevent war? I would like to see all our politicians act differently in this regard.

The fact that they are trying to kill us is irrelevant, of course.

Another is David Mivasair of Vancouver, BC. While Gottlieb may be deluded about the intentions of Israel’s and our enemies, this guy is nothing more or less than their spokesperson, blaming Israel and the US for the terrorist attacks they have experienced.  Here is what I wrote about him last year, and here is a recent quote from his blog:

I believe we all would be better off if we hold out as our goal getting past the ethnic state which has been and will continue to be the cause of so very much conflict and suffering — as well as the distortion and debasement of Judaism.  I used to love the State of Israel and thought that it needed to exist.  I no long[er] think that.  In fact, I want our shared vision and goal to be enabling Jews to live in the Jewish homeland in a way that enables everyone there to be fulfilled as equal citizens of whatever state is organized by those people there to meet their common needs, i.e. not a “Jewish” state.

Yet another is Brant Rosen of Evanston, IL, who organized a “righteous fast” — against Israel’s blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. Rosen believes that the Jews stole Palestine, and should give it ‘back’. Here’s a snippet from a 2010 blog post:

…as a Jew I am growing increasingly heartsick that this [Israeli] culture has been and continues to be created on the backs of others. I am having a increasingly difficult time getting past the fact that our Jewish national rebirth has come at the expense of the Palestinians. And I am even more painfully considering whether these problems are not mere “blemishes” on an otherwise noble national project, but rather something fundamentally problematic with the Zionist enterprise itself.

Apparently Obama’s people didn’t check who these rabbis were when they published their list. They should have. Most pro-Israel voters see JVP as an extremist anti-Israel organization.

Will the President denounce JVP and its representatives?

I doubt it. Consider the example of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom Obama did not repudiate until several months after his anti-American and racist attitudes became public knowledge. This was a much bigger deal than a few pro-Israel Jews and Evangelical Christians who probably wouldn’t vote for him anyway.

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The center of Jewish culture is already in Israel

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

A particularly pessimistic article about the future of France’s Jews — that is to say, about the lack of one — has prompted me to think about the future of the Jewish people everywhere.

Two major centers of Jewish culture disappeared during the 20th century, in Eastern Europe and the Muslim Middle East. Now there is pressure on what is left of the Jewish populations of Western Europe.

A general explanation for this phenomenon can and does fill books, but a quick summary is that traditional forms of antisemitism that developed in the Christian and Muslim worlds came together and exchanged DNA during the Nazi period, making both strains more virulent. Then, after 1948 and in the cauldron of the Cold War, political anti-Zionism combined with simple Jew-hatred to produce today’s particularly dangerous pathogen, which is as deadly as Nazism and as easily transmissible as left-wing politics.

Jews today are concentrated in Israel and in the US. There’s no need to discuss yet again the external and internal threats Israel faces (although I’m confident that it will prevail in the current confrontation with Iran). What about the Jewish population of the US?

America is different from Europe or the Muslim world. America defines itself as a nation of immigrants, so the Jew is not automatically an ‘other’ as in France, for example. America has an aggressive tradition of institutionalized religious tolerance which is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

The influence of Muslims is less of a problem than in Europe. American Muslims are a much smaller percentage of the population than in Europe, and they tend to be more educated, assimilated and likely to accept Western values.

That is not to say that there isn’t a certain amount of Jew-hatred here, either the more traditional “paleo” kind represented by Pat Buchanan or David Duke, or the so-called “new antisemitism” that hides behind an anti-Zionist political facade. But the great majority of Americans find these attitudes offensive. While ugly stereotypes about Jews are common, they rarely result in overt behavior. All this could change, but not easily and not quickly.

But there are other factors at work that will reduce the importance of American Jews. The Jewish community in the US is shrinking (by 5% since the 1990’s) because of a low birth rate and high degree of intermarriage among secular and Reform or Conservative Jews, who are close to 80% of the total. It is much harder for secular or liberal Jewish families to maintain Jewish cultural identity in the majority non-Jewish US than in Israel.

Orthodox Jews, on the other hand, are increasing numerically and as a percentage of the Jewish population. At least half of those are considered Hareidi (“ultra-Orthodox”), which is the fastest growing subgroup.

I think that these trends will gradually result in less Jewish influence on American culture and politics because of smaller numbers and the tendency of the more observant Jews — especially Hareidim —  to participate less in the public sphere. While I don’t think we will see a surge of antisemitism here, I expect that the Jewish community will become smaller proportionally and less involved in American life and politics.

The center of Jewish culture — spiritual, scientific, entrepreneurial, artistic — is today, as it should be, Israel. This was not the case in 1948 or 1967, but it is true now, and I can only expect it to become more true as time goes by. Which means that the future of the Jewish people depends on the survival and prosperity of the Jewish state.

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More bad ideas on Iran

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

The quantity of “information” in the Israeli and US media regarding Iran’s nuclear project and possible action against it is enormous. It includes deliberate disinformation, propaganda intended to discredit the Israeli PM (always a goal of the Israeli Left), uninformed speculation, and — like the publication by mainstream outlets including the BBC of total nonsense provided by anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein — sheer journalistic incompetence.

Some of it comes from what might be reasonable sources, but doesn’t make a lick of sense. Take this, reported in today’s NY Times:

JERUSALEM — A former Israeli national security adviser said Wednesday that the prime minister and the defense minister told him this week they had not yet decided to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and could be dissuaded from a strike if President Obama approved stricter sanctions and publicly confirmed his willingness to use military force.

“There is a window of opportunity,” said the official, Uzi Dayan, a former deputy chief of staff in the military. “This window is closing, but if the United States would be much clearer and stronger about the sanctions on one hand and about what can happen if Iran won’t make a U-turn — there is not a lot of time, but there is still time to make a difference.” …

While Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak have been criticized as “messianic” in their thinking on the Iranian nuclear issue and are widely viewed as ready, if not eager, to take military action to stop it, Mr. Dayan said they would prefer that the United States led any attack, even if that meant waiting until after the November presidential election. But “they have to make the decision whether to strike or not before November,” he said, so they need to hear from Mr. Obama “in the coming two weeks, in the coming month.”

In other words, Dayan is suggesting that if President Obama will increase sanctions (which is not entirely in his hands and which won’t work anyway) and promise to use force after the election if Iran doesn’t “make a U-turn,” then Israel will hold off.

I’ve already discussed at length why sanctions will not cause Iran to dismantle its program. So we are talking, essentially, about a promise to use force. Can Israel depend on such a promise? Even if Barack Obama were the most pro-Israel president in history (and in fact he is the opposite), there are external forces that could make it impossible to keep it. For example, suppose he is not reelected. Could a lame duck President initiate military action (it would be called ‘starting a war’) on behalf of another country?

Not only that, there is the question of what constitutes a “U-turn.” Israel has said that it cannot tolerate Iran having a ‘nuclear capability’ while the US has said that its red line is something like a decision to build a weapon. Would the US accept Israel’s definition? Even if it did, what if US intelligence on Iranian progress doesn’t agree with Israel’s?

Taking all this into account, would Bibi, the son of Benzion Netanyahu, abandon a cornerstone of Israel’s strategic doctrine and place the defense of Israel, against what he assuredly believes to be an existential threat, in the hands of the US — the US which has broken promises to Israel  before, even with friendlier presidents?

I don’t think so.

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Moral behavior and Jewish rights

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Recently I wrote about how important it was for Israel to insist on its legitimate rights under international law, rather than allowing its enemies to define the terms of the discussion. The recent Levy Commission report — perhaps many years late — tries to reestablish these rights:

“According to international law, Israelis have a legal right to settle all of Judea and Samaria, at the very least the lands that Israel controls under agreements with the Palestinian Authority,” Levy stated. “Therefore, the establishment of Jewish settlements [in Judea and Samaria] is, in itself, not illegal.” …

The committee issued its report on [July 10, 2012], which was subsequently handed over to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein. In the report, Levy wrote that “upon completing the committee’s tasks, and considering the testimonies heard, the basic conclusion is that from an international law perspective, the laws of ‘occupation’ do not apply to the unique historic and legal circumstances surrounding Israel’s decades-long presence in Judea and Samaria.”

“Likewise,” the report said, “the Fourth Geneva Convention [relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War] on the transfer of populations does not apply, and wasn’t intended to apply to communities such as those established by Israel in Judea and Samaria.”

The government still has not adopted this report. Apparently it presents an “inconvenient truth” for those who believe, for whatever reason, that Israel needs to withdraw from all or most of Judea and Samaria.

It needn’t. The fact that Jews have as much right to live in these areas as Arabs (and even that Israel has a prima facie claim on these disputed territories stronger than the Palestinian Authority) does not prevent Israel from ceding some of its rights in the event that an Arab leadership capable of being a real peace partner were to appear.

Accepting the report is not tantamount to annexing Judea and Samaria, as the hysterical Left claims.

But what is the opposing view? That Jews do not have a right to live east of the 1949 boundaries and that the Israeli presence there is an illegitimate occupation of “Arab land.”

In the first case, Israel can theoretically negotiate a compromise with the Arabs in which it gives up land for an end to belligerency. There is a flavor of extortion here, but nevertheless Israel has a position from which to negotiate.

But if Israel begins negotiating from the position that it is occupying someone else’s land, then the only thing there is to negotiate is the timetable for withdrawal. This is precisely the Palestinian position, and it is also reflected in the Arab League Peace Initiative.

Oslo syndrome sufferers love this, because it supports their position that everything is the Jews’ fault, and that the solution is to make ourselves ‘better’ so that the antisemites will come to love us. Of course, this is precisely as insane as it sounds.

Israel should always try to act in accordance with moral principles. But it should behave morally not only towards Arabs, but toward its ‘stockholders’, the Jewish people. And that means not surrendering their right to self-determination in the land of Israel.

Here is an example of what has come of the Israeli government allowing its enemies to rewrite history and invent international law:

Since 2005, Israeli exporters to EU countries have had to list zip codes and place names from where goods were manufactured. Under the EU-Israel free trade agreement, Israeli products are allowed duty-free entry into the EU, but not goods made in the settlements. EU products coming into Israel also enjoy a duty-free status.

Israeli officials said that amid protests from various European NGOs and parliamentarians, who claimed that a number of goods were slipping through the cracks, the EU decided to publicize the list of locales and zip codes from which duties must be levied. The policy itself is not new, only the publication of the names.

Nevertheless, it elicited an angry reaction from the Foreign Ministry for two reasons: the move was carried out even though Israel and the EU have been in consultation about it for a number of weeks, and it included three zip codes – 71724, 71728 and 71799 – in Modi’in, Maccabim and Re’ut.

“For anyone who deals in reality, there is not the slightest doubt that the Modi’in, Maccabim and Re’ut localities are an integral part of Israel, and their future is not in question,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

So first the Foreign Ministry signed a free-trade agreement that in effect made borders out of the 1949 cease-fire lines, and now it is having humiliating arguments over what zip codes are included within these non-borders!

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Obama, not Israel, “outrageously cynical”

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

I’ve been asked why I bother writing about anything in the NY Times. Don’t I know that they are predictably biased against Israel? Haven’t I seen David Gerstman’s analyses of Times op-eds (which last month came out 5 anti-Israel to 1 pro-Israel)?

Well, yes. But the Times is important because its positions are so closely correlated with those of the Obama Administration. At least on foreign affairs, the Times is Obama’s Pravda.

Right now the administration is being very, very careful about saying what it thinks about Israel, not wanting to upset the electoral applecart. But the Times isn’t afraid to let it all hang out, as it did in today’s editorial on Israel and Iran:

Israeli leaders are again talking about possible military action against Iran. This is, at best, mischievous and, at worst, irresponsible, especially when diplomacy has time to run.

Let’s see: recent intelligence reports are said to put Iran closer to the bomb than ever. Diplomacy has been ongoing with Iran for a decade, and Iran has made steady progress towards nuclear weapons. Sanctions — which “have not set back the Iranian program by one iota,” according to PM Netanyahuare best compared to Swiss cheese, with 20 nations, including all of Iran’s major trading partners, having received waivers, and rogue financial institutions facilitating their violation.

Time, and therefore continued diplomacy, is on Iran’s side. Considering that the attainment of nuclear weapons is seen as a top-priority national goal, and understanding that  unhappiness on the part of the Iranian middle class isn’t likely to deter a regime that is prepared to shoot down demonstrators (as it did in 2009), the Times’ contention that diplomacy and sanctions may yet stop Iran is what’s “irresponsible.”

Let’s not leave out estimates, well known to Israeli leaders, that Israel would suffer greatly from the consequences of attacking Iran — both casualties and major economic damage. They would not contemplate such action unless they believed that the alternative was far worse.

The editorial continues:

It is impossible to know what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning or why he has ignored American entreaties to give diplomacy a reasonable chance. There is, however, persistent speculation in Israel that Mr. Netanyahu wants to attack in the coming weeks in the belief that President Obama will be forced to support the decision because of his political needs in his re-election campaign. Such a move would be outrageously cynical.

Boy, do they have it backwards. Clearly the White House is applying maximum pressure (more than mere ‘entreaties’) to prevent Israel from doing anything upsetting before the election, regardless of Israel’s security imperatives. This is what is “outrageously cynical!” Unfortunately, Israel feels that it must strike in self-preservation before the hostile Obama has free rein to act on his demonstrated anti-Israel beliefs.

The editorial continues with some remarkably weak arguments against Israeli action. I won’t bother to quote any more; you can read it yourself. The important thing to keep in mind is that Israel would not undertake this, with all the possible negative consequences and dangers, foreseen and unforeseen, unless its leaders felt that there was no other alternative consistent with the continued survival of the Jewish state.

The Obama Administration has made the judgment that the danger to Israel is more than offset by the danger to the President’s reelection.

And its Pravda chimes in.

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