Archive for December, 2012

The same old tired nonsense

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Because of my business, which involves synagogues, I have accidentally been placed on many synagogue mailing lists. So I get to read about simchas and deaths, holiday parties, trips to Israel, building campaigns, etc. Most of this is uninteresting, relating to people I don’t know in places I haven’t been, but sometimes it’s revealing.

For example, I recently received a copy of a message from a Reform rabbi whom I won’t identify, but whose remarks can be paraphrased as follows:

The recent fighting between Israel and Hamas was terrible. Many innocent people on both sides were hurt. Why do we keep repeating this irrational behavior? Bellicose leaders on both sides are at fault. The only way to end the conflict is a two-state solution, to talk rather than fight.

I’ve left out a great deal, some of which I found so ‘evenhanded’ as to be offensive, as though the rabbi felt that if he criticized Hamas it would only be fair to criticize Israel harshly as well.

I’m sure the rabbi’s congregants expect him to be knowledgeable about Israel and the conflict that has always informed its existence. But he is representative of many Jewish leaders in that, to be as polite as possible, he seems to be talking about the Middle East located in the Upsilon Andromedae system rather than the one on earth.

He must be unaware of the recent Hamas ‘victory’ celebration where tens of thousands of Gazans cheered Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, who said,

Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land … We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take…

We will not rest until we liberate the prisoners. The way we freed some of the prisoners in the past is the way we will use to free the remaining prisoners…

[The right of return to Israel for Arab ‘refugees’] is sacred to us and we will not forfeit it…

And apparently he does not understand that Mahmoud Abbas of the PLO declared the Oslo ‘peace process’ null and void by unilaterally turning to the UN for statehood (and he doesn’t grasp that the General Assembly affirmed this denial of the only cooperative road to a two-state solution).

He seems to ignore the multiple times that the PLO rejected Israeli offers of almost the entire area of the 1948-1967 Jordanian conquest. The fact that no Arab leadership has ever given up the so-called ‘right of return’ of the descendents of Arab refugees to Israel — a ‘right’ for which there is no legal or historical precedent — does not dampen his enthusiasm for “two states.”

He doesn’t appear to ask if the hundred-year history of pogroms and terrorism by Arabs against Jews in the land of Israel, along with the vicious anti-Jewish hatred spewed by the Hamas and PLO media and educational systems, their maps that show ‘Palestine’ as including all of Israel, etc. — if all of this might imply that the Palestinians wouldn’t be satisfied even if they obtained pre-1967 boundaries?

Gazan child re-enacts bloody 2000 lynch of Israeli reservists

Gazan child re-enacts bloody 2000 lynch of Israeli reservists

He doesn’t bring up the fact that the Middle East has become an even more dangerous place than ever before, with a radical Islamist regime rising in Egypt, total chaos possible in Syria and a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. Is this the time for Israel to invite new security threats?

Although the rabbi doesn’t discuss the security issues that would be raised by an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, doesn’t the recent experience of withdrawal from Gaza make him think? Even if an agreement were made with a non-hostile Palestinian entity — although the idea that the PLO is non-hostile in anything other than its English statements is questionable — what would happen if (when) Hamas or hardline PLO factions take over, placing Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion airport, Jerusalem and more in the position of Sderot?

Keep in mind that if it doesn’t work out — if the Palestinians don’t keep their agreement (and they have broken numerous prior agreements) then getting the land back isn’t easy. Israel is expected to make real, concrete concessions in return for promises.

In short, why does the rabbi advise his congregants to ignore the lessons of history as well as everything that the Palestinian leadership says and does, and call for a ‘solution’ that doesn’t solve anything, but only makes the situation much worse?

I won’t even ask why the rabbi, as a Jewish leader, doesn’t even mention the fact that the parts of the land of Israel that would be abandoned in a two-state agreement are those with the most historic Jewish significance. Nor would I ask whether his evident compassion for Palestinians extends to the Jews — the settlers — that would be displaced (for an idea of how this would work out, see the former residents of Gush Katif). These questions are too personal.

After all that has happened since 1993 — the second Intifada, the disaster of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, the Hamas takeover and the two wars that has spawned, the intransigence of the PLO and its tolerance of terrorism, the continued incitement against Jews and Israel, the abrogation of the Oslo Accords, the radicalization of the Arab world, etc. — why do people like this rabbi continue to repeat the same, old, tired nonsense?

When can we finally put the idea of the “two-state solution” out of its misery?

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Why disproportionate response pays

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

A bit of video showing Israeli soldiers running from rock-throwing Arabs caused a stir last week. Some Israeli officials suggested that the problem was that rules of engagement were too strict. Others added that ‘activists’ with cameras were prepared to create legal and public-relations problems for Israel in the event that Palestinians were hurt (of course rock-throwing Palestinians were trying to kill the Israelis).

The problem isn’t a legal one and the concern with Israel’s image as a modern, humanitarian state is misplaced. Rather, I would say that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the human animal on the Israeli (and generally, Western) side, a misunderstanding that our enemies exploit to the fullest.

Humans are not motivated very much by logical arguments, and less so by logical arguments about moral issues. The Christian concept of turning the other cheek never got much traction, even among Christians, because it goes strongly against the atavistic gut feelings that actually do motivate us, and which we love to rationalize after the fact.

Imagine a man, even a UN diplomat, in a nice suit with nice hair. Then imagine inside of him a naked prehistoric ancestor. The ancestor doesn’t have concepts like moral reasoning — he is motivated by feelings like hunger and acquisitiveness, fear and hostility toward outsiders, perhaps respect for and fear of stronger members of his own tribe, etc.

Now understand that even the diplomat in the suit is driven by the same forces. The only difference is that he has layers of ‘culture’ and the ability to express himself in abstract language, to argue rationally in order to justify his preexisting feelings. This is a description of almost every modern human.

There is no way a Jewish state (or for that matter, the Jewish people) will ever generate feelings of love or even liking in the world, and not just among Arabs. Even Norwegians will not think to themselves, “it’s admirable that those Jews care about others.” They will respond to the non-rational ethnic hatred that boils inside of them, and rationalize it by talking about ‘stolen Palestinian land’, settlements, ‘international law’, etc.

I’m not going to discuss the roots of these sentiments now, but they are deep and entirely irrational. They can’t be changed by rational argument.

The Arabs understand this, which is why their propaganda includes viscerally racist anti-Jewish components and plenty of burned babies (even if the babies were burned by Syrian bombs). To ice the cake, they mouth words about justice and law, but that only serves to provide a handle for boycotts and UN resolutions. The real force is in the ugly stuff. It’s job is to feed the flames.

Israelis have gut-level motivations too, mostly the motivation to survive. But they seem to think that the best way to change the behavior of the world toward them is to explain, by appealing to actual facts and with logical arguments, that (for example) the IDF is the “most moral army in the world,” that Israel desires peace, and  the way to obtain it is to sit down with our enemies and talk through our differences.

This does not work with Norwegian diplomats, who will always come up with more reasons that Israel is an oppressive colonial power, because the logical arguments are just epiphenomena. The real motivation comes from a lower level, which rational Israeli arguments don’t touch.

And this is even less effective on Palestinian rock-throwers, who see Israeli attempts to not hurt them as simple weakness. If they could hurt us they would, they think, so if they don’t it’s because they can’t. These attacks are meant as much to humiliate IDF soldiers as to hurt them. When they succeed, they are emboldened to throw more rocks, to take even more risks (which have the side effect of demonstrating their manhood).

This is well-understood by Avigdor Lieberman, who said “There is no way that Palestinian policemen can punch and slap soldiers and live to tell about it.”

Lieberman’s statement was undoubtedly greeted with horror by less-astute but supposedly more ‘cultured’ people who find live fire a highly disproportionate response to a punch or slap (or thrown rock).

The fact is that the prehistoric ancestor within us doesn’t respond to proportionality. The way to get him on your side is not to explain how cultured you are, but to show him that if he messes with you he and his relatives will quickly be dead.

So Israel’s carefully measured surgical response to Hamas murder rockets, ending in a negotiated settlement, strengthened Hamas politically and psychologically, even while it destroyed its infrastructure. Infrastructure can be rebuilt and ammunition replenished, so the IDF’s actions achieved only a temporary advantage. Hamas’ victory celebration was not inappropriate, if we are talking about the psychological dimension.

In order to change the political landscape, it’s necessary to change the psychological one. The way to do this is not by careful surgical strikes, defensive strategies, and unbalanced concern for the welfare of those who are trying to kill IDF soldiers. It is by massive, disproportionate response to attacks.

While some are afraid that this would create legal and diplomatic problems, these problems appear anyway based on false and exaggerated ‘evidence’ — see the Goldstone report, for example.

Israel should hit its enemies hard. Deep down, even the Norwegian diplomats will understand.

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US media and the E1 controversy

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

On Monday, the NY Times published an editorial which included this:

[Netanyahu’s actions] could doom the chances for a two-state solution because building in the E1 area would split the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

Yesterday, NPR’s Philip Reeves, probably the single journalist most responsible for promulgating the 2002 “Jenin Massacre” blood libel against Israel, announced in a “news” broadcast that

There’s particular concern over plans, still at a preliminary stage, for an area called E1. If built, this would cut the West Bank in two. Diplomats say this would make a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict almost impossible.

And today, I was greeted by the following in an editorial in the McClatchy-owned Fresno Bee newspaper:

Yet Israel has decided to … prepare construction of a 4.6 square-mile project near Jerusalem known as E-1. That would effectively cut the occupied West Bank in two and make establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel with Jerusalem as a shared capital, impossible.

Folks, look at a map. If you didn’t see it in yesterday’s post, here it is again:

Do you see the “West Bank” cut in two? I don’t either. As I pointed out yesterday, if Israel annexes Ma’ale Adumim, the proposed Palestinian state will be wider at is narrowest point than Israel would be with pre-1967 borders!

If the problem is supposed to be that it will be harder for Palestinians to drive from Bethlehem to Ramallah, Israel plans a bypass road around Ma’ale Adumim for Palestinian traffic that would actually be faster, and would not require passage through the security barrier’s checkpoints. There are also plans for a 4-lane underpass to some Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem,  while others would not be affected at all by the planned construction.

Actually, the shoe is entirely on the other foot. If the E1 plan is not completed, then Palestinian construction in the area will cut off Ma’ale Adumim — a town of 46,000 that has been expected to remain part of Israel in all proposed  peace agreements with the Palestinians — from the rest of Israel. It will make it harder for Israel to keep control of the strategic Jerusalem-Jericho road, which would be necessary to transport troops and tanks to the Jordan Valley in the event of an attack from the east.

Every Israeli Prime Minister since Rabin has supported the plan, but it has never been carried out because of pressure from the US and Europe. Meanwhile, illegal Palestinian construction in the area — illegal under the Oslo agreements, not that the Palestinians have ever paid attention — continues. It has already narrowed the corridor for the E1 plan, and at some point will make it impossible.

In other words, the true situation is exactly the opposite of what Palestinians and their supporters claim!

It’s time to face reality, which is that there will not be a two-state solution that will meet Palestinian requirements, because these requirements are incompatible with the survival of a Jewish state. Much as I would like to see Israel retain all of Judea and Samaria, and much as the Palestinians would like to see a ‘Palestine’ from the river to the sea, these outcomes are unlikely.

What could happen is a realignment in which Israel retains places with large Jewish populations (like Ma’ale Adumim) and areas that are strategically vital (like E1), and withdraws from others. This would have to be implemented unilaterally, but then the Palestinians have already officially renounced a bilateral solution by turning to the UN.

What I find remarkable is the way the US media have swallowed the Palestinian story hook, line and sinker, when a simple glance at a map would show that it is wrong. Are they following the lead of the administration?

One wonders what they — and the administration — want: a strong American ally in a Middle East where allies are rapidly disappearing, or yet another radical Islamist base for anti-Western and anti-American terrorism?

Take your pick — because those are the options.

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Who killed the peace process?

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The so-called ‘peace process’ was based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and the most serious attempt to implement them on the ground was the Oslo Accords, agreements signed in 1993-95.

Although both sides complained about violations of the Oslo Accords — Israel complained about continued incitement and terrorism, which increased sharply after Arafat’s return from exile in Tunis, and the Palestinians complained that Israel was not withdrawing fast enough — the final nail of Oslo’s coffin was hammered in by Mahmoud Abbas, when he asked the UN to declare ‘Palestine’ a state.

Art. XXXI.7 of the 1995 Interim Agreement says “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations”). This is exactly what Abbas did, and he can’t blame it on unaccountable terrorist factions, as Arafat liked to do after his assassins murdered Jews.

Israelis always understood Oslo as a compromise — that neither side would get everything that it wanted. But the PLO always saw it as a surrender agreement, and became ‘frustrated’ (and everyone knows how Palestinians behave when that happens) when Israel didn’t simply withdraw from all of the territories in return for nothing.

The father of all peace processes was UN Security Council Resolution 242, which called for  Israel to withdraw from territories conquered in 1967, and for

Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

Land for peace and secure borders. At first the Arabs wouldn’t even consider an agreement that promised peace (see the “Three No’s“). But more recently, they proposed the “Arab Initiative,” which calls for complete Israeli withdrawal, assumption of guilt, and right of return for Arab refugees (what a deal!).

The decision of the UN General Assembly to grant Palestine non-member state status in all of the territories conquered in 1967 directly contradicts resolution 242 because it gives all of the territories to Palestine, without guaranteeing Israel secure boundaries or peace.

If we go back farther, the GA has also taken back the promise to the Jewish people made by its predecessor, the League of Nations, and embodied in the Palestine Mandate, to encourage “close settlement on the land” by Jews in their historic homeland.

It is interesting that although Israel has made great concessions since 1967 — withdrawing from the Sinai, withdrawing from Gaza, legitimizing the PLO, etc. — the Arab side has taken precisely one step since the Three No’s: it has agreed to talk, and this only because its military initiatives consistently failed.

Of course, General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding, and this one does not have consequences on the ground.

Which brings us to E1. Israel has announced plans to build housing in the area called E1, which is located between eastern Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, 4 miles away. This has stirred up a hornet’s nest in the anti-Israel camp. The NY Times (which accurately reflects the position of the Obama Administration) wrote in an editorial that this

could doom the chances for a two-state solution because building in the E1 area would split the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

Apparently the Times editorial board does not possess a map of the region or the ability to read one. I can help:

Ma’ale Adumim is one of those communities that were expected to become part of Israel in any negotiated settlement. Not only does it not cut the “West Bank” in half as the Times asserts, but the distance between the eastern part of Ma’ale Adumim and the Jordan is greater than the width of Israel at its narrowest point according to the pre-1967 borders!

So who doomed the “two-state solution?” If you mean a compromise solution in which neither side gets everything it wants, but in which both sides can have peace and security, as envisioned in UNSC 242, then it never had a chance, because this is not what the Arabs mean by the expression. The diplomatic ‘peace process’, worthless though it may have been, died on November 29, 2012 at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas.

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The historical fantasies of Mahmoud Abbas

Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the UN, November 29, 2012

Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the UN, November 29, 2012

In my post yesterday, I mentioned Mahmoud Abbas’ ugly speech to the UN. Of course the votes of all the representatives were predetermined, but the juxtaposition of Abbas’ remarks to the affirmative votes points up the international hypocrisy surrounding Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a striking ignorance of history.

Abbas began by describing the recent operation in Gaza, whose purpose was to end the missile bombardment of southern Israel and which was carried out with care and precision unprecedented in military history — certainly with far more care than has been employed by NATO in its operations in Libya and elsewhere — as “Israeli aggression,” and referred to “men, women and children murdered along with their dreams, their hopes, their future and their longing to live an ordinary life and to live in freedom and peace.”

He does not, of course, mention the hundreds of short and long-range missiles aimed at the civilian population of Israel before and during the war, a war crime which would have become a bloody atrocity as well had it not been for Israel’s ability to protect its people (albeit at great expense). Later he even suggests that the operation was in response to his UN initiative, and not to the rockets falling on Israeli towns!

He refers several times to Palestinian children, while he well knows that rockets were launched at Israel from residential locations in Gaza and near to schools, thus making human shields out of them.

Then he turns to the primal source of Palestinian resentment, the nakba, in full historical revisionist mode:

The Palestinian people, who miraculously recovered from the ashes of Al-Nakba of 1948, which was intended to extinguish their being and to expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence, which was rooted in the depths of their land and depths of history. In those dark days, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were torn from their homes and displaced within and outside of their homeland, thrown from their beautiful, embracing, prosperous country to refugee camps in one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history.

An account closer to the truth would be that the Palestinian Arabs viciously attacked the Jewish pre-state communities, because the prospect of Jewish sovereignty in any part of Palestine was unacceptable to them. Anti-Jewish pogroms inspired by Nazi collaborator al-Husseini escalated into war, at which point much of the educated and wealthy Arab leadership left Palestine for the duration, leaving the rest of the population to their own devices. After the end of the British Mandate and the declaration of the Jewish state in May 1948, the Palestinian Arabs were joined by their ‘friends’ from the neighboring Arab nations.

The Arab nations had no interest in an independent Palestinian state — they wanted to dismember Palestine and annex the territory. To this end, they encouraged Palestinians to leave their homes, adding to those who fled to avoid fighting or were frightened by atrocity propaganda. When they lost the war, the Arab nations forced Palestinian refugees on their territory into refugee camps, and ever since have prohibited them and their descendants from being repatriated to anywhere but Israel.

It is true that there were cases — in particular some hostile villages located above the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — where Arab residents were forced out of their homes by Jewish forces. But the numbers were small compared to those that left of their own accord.

Regarding the “depths of history,” the majority of today’s ‘Palestinian people’ is descended from Arabs that migrated to Palestine between about 1830, with the Egyptian Muhammad Ali’s campaign to conquer Syria, through the Mandate period, when they were recruited to work on construction projects by the  British, emigrated from Syria due to political unrest or drought, or were attracted by the economic development wrought by the Zionists.

Again it is true that there are some Arab families whose history in the region went back much farther. But it wasn’t a “beautiful, embracing, prosperous country.” As Mark Twain described it in 1869, it was a desperately poor and disease-ridden place, heavily taxed by its Ottoman Turk rulers.

Let me get back to Abbas. He continues,

In the course of our long national struggle, our people have always strived [sic] to ensure harmony and conformity between the goals and means of their struggle and international law and spirit of the era in accordance with prevailing realities and changes. And, our people always have strived not to lose their humanity, their highest, deeply-held moral values and their innovative abilities for survival, steadfastness, creativity and hope, despite the horrors that befell them and continue befall them today as a consequence of Al-Nakba and its horrors.

Could anything be more fantastic? Since 1948, the Palestinian cause has been pursued primarily by terrorism against civilian targets, including numerous attacks aimed at children. Palestinians popularized airline hijacking and suicide bombing; even their partisans admit that their struggle has been characterized by violence. Both the PLO and Hamas have developed educational systems that glorify martyrdom, and continually broadcast racist antisemitic propaganda against Israel and Jews. “Deeply-held moral values” indeed!

He finds it necessary to refer to Israel — three times — as a racist, colonialist apartheid state. This is untrue — viz. the 20% of Israel’s population that consists of Palestinian Arabs with full rights — and is in contrast with Abbas’ expressed desire to establish a state that will not contain Jews. But it is de rigeur in order to appeal to the international Left, which might otherwise notice that Palestinian society is deeply racist, misogynistic and homophobic.

He asserts that he wants reinvigorate the ‘peace process’, but he makes a maximalist demand that can’t possibly be acceptable to Israel:

We will accept no less than the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, to live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, and a solution for the refugee issue on the basis of resolution 194 (III), as per the operative part of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Neither UN resolution 242 or the Oslo accords envisions a Palestinian state on all territory occupied in 1967 — indeed, 242 calls for secure borders, which are definitely not pre-1967 lines. The Oslo accords require that borders be negotiated between the parties, and the expectation was that Israel would keep settlements close to the 1967 line. Finally, the Arab interpretation of 194 is that all refugees and their descendents will have a right to ‘return to their homes’ in Israel. Rather than reinvigorate it, this demand repudiates all of the ideas of the ‘peace process’, from 242 to the present.

A commenter on yesterday’s post said that nevertheless, Abbas “did speak openly about recognizing Israel, about two states, not about rejecting Partition.” I disagree. There is nothing about recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, or as the formulation has been made, “two states for two peoples.” As a matter of fact Abbas has categorically denied this, and there is nothing in this speech that suggests that he has changed his position. The only ‘recognition’ suggested here is that he is admitting that a state called Israel will exist — for now —  alongside Palestine.

Add to all of this the fact that the Palestinian Authority’s public statements have recently become more, not less, extreme.

I don’t see any reason to change my opinion that the likelihood of a negotiated end to the conflict is close to zero.

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