Archive for August, 2012

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.

Technorati Tags: , ,

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.

Technorati Tags: ,

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.

Technorati Tags: , ,

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.

Technorati Tags: ,

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.

Technorati Tags: , , ,