Archive for March, 2013

Is this guy for real? Unfortunately, he is.

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Steve Clemons (center) with Chuck Hagel

Steve Clemons (center) with Chuck Hagel

While writing about Jonathan Pollard, I came upon something that more or less took my breath away for its sheer mean-spiritedness.

A creature called Steve Clemons wrote this in The Atlantic, which I remember as a serious magazine (but that was years ago):

In my book, Pollard should die in prison for his deeds that betrayed his fellow citizens and only be released if he became a bargaining chip in a scheme moving forward America’s strategic interests.  That means if folks want Pollard out of prison, then Prime Minister Netanyahu and his associates like Bob Wexler can ‘do much more’ to engineer a close to the ulcerous, toxic mess of the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations standoff.

The piece, from August 2011, was called “Jonathan Pollard’s Only Remaining Value: Strategic Bargaining Chip.”

Now there are very few people that I would like to see die in prison, and they are all very vicious criminals indeed. Clemons wants Pollard to suffer because, in his words (in a blog post of January 2011),

As one former Reagan administration official stated, Pollard ferreted away and transferred to Israel, which allegedly passed along the information to the Soviet Union, the “crown jewels” of America’s national security strategy.

I presume Clemons’ tax return says ‘journalist’ on it, so you would think that he would know that this view of the matter is at the very least highly controversial, if not almost certainly false. A competent journalist would have read a little about the case before declaring that this human being, despite his flaws, had no value other than as a bargaining chip.

So what would Clemons like to see Obama get in return for freeing Pollard? His blog post continues,

Convicted spies can be bargaining chips. If Netanyahu were to commit to collapse his government, reassemble with sensible pragmatists in the Knesset, and deliver definitively on an internationally-accepted two state arrangement between Israel and Palestine, then I would support releasing Pollard to the Israelis.

There is nothing less than that that would suffice as the price for the release of this person who betrayed his nation. Israelis and Palestinians say that they could do a deal — if both were serious — in just a few months.

If so, then do the deal — and release Pollard after the leaders have signed the pact and the Quartet and Arab League have blessed the arrangement.

Do I have to write “the mind boggles” yet again? Netanyahu should collapse his government, and invite the extreme Left (“sensible pragmatists”) to join him in implementing a solution acceptable to the Arab League? The mind, … er, never mind.

But despite his political naiveté and journalistic laziness, Clemons is “Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live.” He is also a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, a ‘progressive’ think tank funded by the biggest names in liberal philanthropy, including Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt (of Google), and — yes — several George Soros-connected donors.

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Bret Stephens is wrong: let Pollard go

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Israeli demonstrators call for Pollard's release, 2005

Israeli demonstrators call for Pollard’s release, 2005

Bret Stephens, whose writing I admire and with whom I usually agree, has come out against freeing Jonathan Pollard (subscription):

Regarding the Israeli interest: It does not help Israel to make a hero of a compulsive liar and braggart, fond of cocaine, who violated his oaths, spied on his country, inflicted damage that took billions of dollars to repair, accepted payment for his spying, jeopardized Israel’s relationship with its closest ally, failed to show remorse at the time of his sentencing, made himself into Exhibit A of every anti-Semitic conspiracy nut, and then had the chutzpah to call himself a martyr to the Jewish people.

Nor does Israel do itself any favors by making Pollard’s case a matter of national interest, and therefore a chip to be played against other concessions. As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin has noted, “That a man who claimed his crime was committed to enhance the Jewish state’s security would have his freedom bought with concessions on territory or settlements that undermine the country’s ability to defend itself must be considered a bitter irony.” All the more so given that it’s right-wing Israelis who have been most outspoken on Pollard’s behalf.

Regarding the American interest: What’s inequitable about Pollard’s sentence isn’t that his is too heavy. It’s that the sentences of spies such as Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and Robert Kim have been too light. Particularly in the age of digital downloads, WikiLeaks and self-appointed transparency crusaders, the U.S. needs to make harsh examples of those who betray its secrets. That goes especially for those who spy on behalf of friendly countries or, as Bradley Manning imagined, in the ostensible interests of humanity at large.

What Stephens says about Pollard’s character is true, although he is probably wrong that Pollard “inflicted damage that took billions of dollars to repair.” Pollard’s life sentence was disproportionate precisely because of a misapprehension of the amount of damage that he caused. Recently released documents show that it was even less than supposed, and far less than implied by Defense and CIA officials at the time. Although Stephens seems to think that spying on behalf of an ally is as bad or worse than doing so for an enemy, the courts have not treated it as such (at least not until Pollard).

There is also the issue of the double-dealing by the court, which agreed to a plea bargain and then ignored it and sentenced Pollard to life imprisonment. There are good reasons to believe that this came about because of anti-Israel prejudice on the part of the judge in the case, which was played upon by unknown individuals in the Justice Department.

The reason to release Pollard after 28 years, then, is not that he is an admirable human being or a great hero of the Jewish people (although the information he provided was of great value to Israel’s security), but simply that justice demands it.

The fact that Pollard, a Jew spying for Israel, received a far greater sentence than any other person convicted of spying for an ally, and even greater than most of those who had spied for enemies like the Soviet Union, Cuba and East Germany during the cold war — saying he was ‘persecuted’ would not be too harsh — leads to the inescapable conclusion that there is something special about Jews and Israel. Part of the reason for being of a Jewish state is precisely to end this kind of ‘specialness’. This makes his release a matter of importance from Israel’s point of view.

It would be cynical and ugly if the US made him into a bargaining chip to extract concessions from Israel on territory, settlements, etc., and it would be wrong for Israel to agree to such a deal.

But this doesn’t change the moral imperative that Netanyahu should demand his release, and Obama should let him go.

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The two-paint solution

Monday, March 18th, 2013

By Vic Rosenthal

The best way to explain hard concepts is by making analogies to everyday things. Of course you have to be careful that the essential part of the analogy fits. When I was in school, I was told “the map is not the territory” — in other words, in any analogy there will be things that are different from the reality one is trying to describe. You just have to know what’s essential.

So I am going to make one more try at explaining why the “two-state solution” is not a solution, and why the people who claim to want one are either terminally uninformed or evil. Here is my analogy:

One day I was down at the lab when a young scientist came running up to me. “Dr. Fresno!” he called. “Eureka! Eureka! I have invented an automobile that does not require fuel, or even batteries!”

“Great,” I said. “You have solved an important problem. How does it work?”

“Simple. You just paint half of the roof of the car with solar paint. When light strikes it it produces electricity, which operates the electric motors that run it.”

“Hmm,” I said. “But how does it work at night, or on an overcast day? You said there were no batteries.”

“That’s the other half of the roof. You paint it with anti-solar paint. When dark strikes it, it produces electricity…” he began.

“That’s amazing,” I told him. “How on earth do you make paint like that?”

“Oh, I have no idea. But wouldn’t it be a wonderful solution?

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Monday, March 18th, 2013

Do you remember “Kremlinology,” the study of what was actually going on behind the walls of the Soviet citadel? Experts would scrutinize photos of Soviet officials to see who was standing closest to the leaders, who had moved farther away, or, ominously, who was not present at all. Since the Soviets were not exactly transparent about their policies, a known ‘hawk’ moving closer to party chiefs might signal a threat.

A free society is expected to be more transparent. Officials should announce policies, which are more or less the policies that the government then tries to carry out.

But in the America of today — and particularly with regard to Middle East policy — this is not the case. At least the pro-Israel community finds it necessary to microscopically examine the behavior of important officials, to try to determine what the administration intends. At times like this — immediately preceding the presidential visit to Israel — speculation reaches a high pitch. We find ourselves engaged in Obaminology.

There are some simple methods that can be employed. First, what doesn’t work: it is usually a waste of time to listen to the President’s actual words. As we can see by his recent comments to “Jewish leaders” and to representatives of American Arab organizations, he will tell his audiences what they want to hear. Such statements are carefully calibrated so that they will be technically true but either vacuous or open to multiple interpretations.

One useful technique is to look at the ‘friendly’ media. For example, the New York Times often presents the official line or floats trial balloons for the administration. And the Times has run no less than four anti-Israel op-eds or stories in the past seven days: the Joseph Levine piece arguing that Israel did not have the right to exist as a Jewish state (which I commented on here); an op-ed by Columbia professor and Palestinian apologist Rashid Khalidi which claims the US has enabled Israel’s “apartheid” policies; a long story in the magazine by Ben Ehrenreich, blaming the IDF and ‘settlers’ for provoking ‘resistance’ by saintly Arab residents of Nabi Saleh; and a front-page news story by bureau chief Jodi Rudoren critical of Israel for allowing Jews to live in what she calls “Arab East Jerusalem.”

All of these articles had this in common: they are intended to reduce sympathy for Israel, to establish the ‘Palestinian’ narrative of both historical and current events, and to weaken the Jewish one.

This is nothing new for the Times, but the concentration of coverage makes one wonder. And it is not only the Times: this weekend NPR presented an interview with Khalidi making the same points as his op-ed.

If the President’s words are not useful in sniffing out his intentions, his actions are. Wednesday, President Obama will be visiting Israel, where he will snub the democratically elected Knesset by speaking at a nearby convention center, unlike Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush, who chose to speak at Israel’s parliament. This is apparently because of the unprecedented lengths to which the Obama Administration has gone to deny Israel’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. To add insult to injury, students from one of Israel’s accredited universities — the one that happens to be located in Ariel, east of the armistice line — were left out of the invitations offered to students at other universities.

I believe that the administration believes that it has set all of its ducks in a row for the upcoming visit. I do not believe that it will be “merely a photo-op,” as some have suggested, because Obama has no need for a photo-op today. The visit is costly and complicated, and will have objectives that the President and his advisers think are important.

It has also been suggested that the President will concentrate on issues involving Iran and the Syrian civil war rather than the question of the Palestinian Arabs. But this is not what is implied by the media offensive and the deliberate snub of Israel’s parliament and government.

Obaminology tells us that these objectives will be related to the ongoing effort to force Israel to withdraw from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Probably there will be renewed pressure to freeze construction east of the armistice lines, including Jerusalem. It would not surprise me if support for Israel in possible future actions against Iran were conditioned on concessions in the Palestinian arena.

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Is the Unbreakable Bond an abusive relationship?

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

News item:

The US Embassy has excluded Ariel University, located in the West Bank [Samaria – ed.], from the invitation list for President Barack Obama’s speech to Israeli students during his visit next week.

According to student union representatives, the embassy contacted the other seven accredited Israeli universities, all of which are located within the pre-1967 lines, but not the sole Israeli university located in the West Bank.

Ariel University Student Union head Shay Shahaf said he hoped the omission was an error that can be corrected rather than a political statement with respect to their location.

He noted that his school became Israel’s eighth accredited university in December and that there still might be confusion over its students’ status.

Shahaf is being polite. Don’t hold your breath for a correction — this is the State Department that can only mumble when asked what the capital of the state of Israel is.

Which brings us to this:

U.S. President Barack Obama has decided not to address the Knesset during his visit to Israel next week. Senior U.S. officials said that, after long deliberations and discussions, the White House decided that the president will address students from universities in Israel at the ICC (Binyaney Ha’uma) in Jerusalem.

That initial snub did not go unnoticed. The Prime Minister’s Office and a number of Knesset members passed messages to the White House saying they would be much happier if the speech took place in the Knesset. But senior U.S. officials have insisted that Obama decided to deliver his messages directly to the Israeli public, especially the younger generation, not just to politicians in the Knesset.

This is beyond weird. Where else but the Knesset, the seat of the government of Israel, would such an address be appropriate? When Netanyahu came to the US, he spoke in front of Congress, not at, say, Georgetown University.

But you just have to think like a state department official and it becomes clear: the Knesset is the seat of Israel’s government, and the Knesset is located in … Jerusalem! So speaking before the Knesset constitutes de facto recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That wasn’t hard, was it?

The message sent by these and numerous other incidents is that the US does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state, a state with the power to accredit universities, and to declare that the city which has been the seat of government for the 65 years since its founding is in fact its legitimate capital.

The case of the abused wife with a rich husband who gives her everything she wants except her autonomy is a cliché of fiction, but certainly exists in real life.

When does the Unbreakable Bond become an abusive relationship?

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