Archive for April, 2013

You are a soldier. What do you do?

Friday, April 5th, 2013
Palistinian with Molotov cocktail

You are a soldier, face to face with this man. He is about to throw a bottle of homemade napalm directly at you. What do you do?

Most ordinary Americans are sympathetic to Israel. This is actually surprising, when you consider what the media pushes at them, day after day. For example, this morning my local Fresno Bee newspaper contained part of an article from the NY Times headlined “Palestinians Erupt in anger at Israel,” which began like this:

JERUSALEM — Days before Secretary of State John Kerry’s return to the region, anger and defiance continued to flare across the West Bank on Thursday as Palestinians buried two teenagers killed by Israeli soldiers during protests triggered by the death of a prisoner with cancer while in Israeli custody. …

Clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youths hurling stones and firebombs erupted there and in other West Bank locations for the third straight day, as Palestinian leaders accused Israel of escalating tensions in order to thwart Washington’s efforts.

“It seems that Israel wants to spark chaos in the Palestinian territories,” President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority told leaders of his Fatah faction at a meeting in Ramallah. “Israel on every occasion is using lethal force against peaceful young protesters, and peaceful demonstrations are being suppressed with the power of weapons. This is not acceptable at all.”

Although firebombs are mentioned, the Times article does not mention that the two “youths” (aged 17 and 18) who were killed were shot while throwing them at soldiers until the 17th paragraph. The excerpt in the Fresno Bee only included the first 8, so local readers did not get the benefit of even this:

The Israeli military said that the youths were hurling firebombs at an army post late Wednesday, and that soldiers responded with live fire; it is investigating the episode.

Here is another account of the incident, from Arutz Sheva, a right-wing Israeli source:

IDF soldiers opened fire on Wednesday night at two terrorists who approached an IDF position near the community of Einav in northern Samaria.

As the two terrorists approached the soldiers, they hurled a firebomb at them. The soldiers returned fire, killing one terrorist and wounding the other.

Personally, I prefer the second version. But even the first is better than the description of the “peaceful young protesters” presented by Mahmoud Abbas, which is all that Fresno Bee readers saw.

Now, a few words about the death of the prisoner, Maysara Abu Hamdiya, in Israeli custody. The Arabs claim that he died because Israel withheld medical care, and even provided a photograph of the poor man handcuffed to a hospital bed. Of course the photograph actually was taken last year of an insurgent in a Syrian hospital, but as you know, truth is all relative anyway.

Abu Hamidya had throat cancer. A prison service spokesperson said that

[He] had been treated since his diagnosis in February and that prison authorities applied to a parole board for his early release after he was found to be terminally ill. He died before the process could be completed…

Did he get good enough medical care? Who knows, but Arabs die in Palestinian Authority custody all the time and there are no riots or media coverage.

So why was Maysara Abu Hamidiya imprisoned in the first place?

In 2002, this retired general in the PA ‘security’ forces was arrested for dispatching a suicide bomber to the Café Caffit in the Emek Refaim neighborhood of  Jerusalem. The bomber was incompetent and walked in with disconnected wires dangling from his bomb. A waiter saw him and pushed him outside; his bomb did not go off. In 2004 there was another unsuccessful attempt at the same location.

Abu Hamidiya worked for both Fatah and Hamas, and was heavily involved in providing weapons, financing of terrorism and bombmaking, in addition to his role in the failed attack.

Now we understand why the Arabs are so upset over his death: clearly a true Hero of the Palestinian People!

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Two letters to the PM from American Jews

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Recently, a group of American Jews, including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ);Rabbi David Ellenson, President of the URJ’s Hebrew Union College and Jewish Institute of Religion; Rabbi Eric Yoffie, previous URJ head; and Rabbi David Saperstein of the URJ’s Religious Action Center, signed a letter to Israel’s PM Netanyahu. Joining them were several prominent Jewish philanthropists, academics and liberal politicians.

The letter lauds President Obama’s ‘leadership’ for helping to bring about Netanyahu’s apology to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara affair, which I and others believe to be a disastrous mistake.

And — almost incredibly, given the recent history of Israeli withdrawals and concessions answered only by war, terrorism and further demands — the letter has the chutzpah to call for Israel to make “painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.”

This point of view may have made sense thirty years ago, but the world, as they say, has moved on, with the rise of Hamas and its violent takeover of Gaza, the second Intifada, the 2006 Lebanon war and consequent re-arming of Hizballah, the abrogation of the Oslo accords by the PLO, the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Iranian nuclear program, the civil war in Syria … need I go on?

As always, the letter fallaciously conflates actual peace with the signing of a ‘peace’ agreement between Israel and the PLO and concomitant  concessions and withdrawals by Israel.

The endorsement of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish denomination in America, placed on this piece of obsequious stupidity is not surprising, considering that Rabbi Jacobs was an activist in the phony ‘pro-Israel’ group J Street as well as the New Israel Fund before being selected to head the URJ. Yet again the liberal Jewish establishment demonstrates that support for President Obama trumps concern for Israel’s survival.

The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), a conservative advocacy group which supports US political candidates and policies favorable to Israel, put it remarkably well in its own letter to Netanyahu, which I reproduce here:

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:

We know you don’t need our advice on how to handle the peace process – but given the decision by a group of self-described American Jewish leaders to call for you to make “painful territorial sacrifices,” we felt it appropriate to convey our own thoughts on the matter.

Be assured that they don’t speak for us or for a majority of Americans. We not only question the wisdom of their advice, we question their standing to issue such an admonition to a democratically-elected prime minister whose job is not to assuage the political longings of 100 American Jews, but to represent – and ensure the security of – the Israeli people.

Indeed, it’s puzzling to us why a small group of American Jews believes it appropriate to demand “painful territorial sacrifices” of Israelis, when those issuing the demand will not experience the pain, or be compelled to sacrifice anything, should their advice prove foolish – as it has so many times in the past. We affirm the words of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who recently asked an American Jewish audience to “respect the decisions made by the world’s most resilient democracy.”

The “American Jewish leaders” who deign to advise you today are largely the same leaders who rarely, if ever, demand “painful sacrifices” of Palestinian leaders – or even demand that they come to the negotiating table, which they have refused to do in any meaningful way since 2008. From the safety of America, in the past they have recommended trusting Yasser Arafat, dividing Jerusalem, surrendering the Golan Heights to Syria, and withdrawing from territory that today is controlled by Iranian-backed terrorist groups.

Before rushing to issue new recommendations, we suggest that these oracles of bad advice might pause to reflect on the wisdom of the recommendations they’ve already made.

We, too, have strong opinions on the peace process – but one thing we never presume to do is instruct our friends in Israel on the level of danger to which they should expose themselves.

We trust, of course, that you are under no misapprehensions about any of this. But we felt it important that you heard from a mainstream voice in addition to the predictable calls from a certain cast of American activists for more Israeli concessions.


William Kristol
Rachel Abrams
Gary Bauer
Noah Pollak
Michael Goldfarb

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‘Inner syntax’ of Amira Hass is incitement to murder

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

As incitement to hatred and violence, this is relatively good and probably effective:

Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable part − though it’s not always spelled out − of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement, and the unequal distribution of water sources. …

Even if it is a right and duty, various forms of steadfastness and resisting the foreign regime, as well as its rules and limitations, should be taught and developed. Limitations could include the distinction between civilians and those who carry arms, between children and those in uniform, as well as the failures and narrowness of using weapons. …

So why are such classes [in ‘resistance’] absent from the Palestinian curriculum? Part of the explanation lies with the opposition of the donor states and Israel’s punitive measures. But it is also due to inertia, laziness, flawed reasoning, misunderstanding and the personal gains of some parts of society. In fact the rationale for the existence of the Palestinian Authority engendered one basic rule in the last two decades − adaptation to the existing situation. Thus, a contradiction and a clash have been created between the inner syntax of the Palestinian Authority and that of the Palestinian people.

So someone is criticizing the PA, the Oslo-created ‘government’ of the Palestinian Arabs, for not doing a good enough job of encouraging them to throw stones at Jews.

Throwing stones — which are sometimes cement blocks or rocks as big as a person’s head — can have and has had deadly results. But the writer of the piece above, knowing this, believes that it is a “right and a duty.”

The implication is that murder is also a right and duty in these circumstances.

Stone-throwing is a perfect form of ‘resistance’ for ‘Palestinians’ since it is actually a traditional Muslim response to the presence of Jews, ‘occupiers’ or not. Daled Amos writes,

Keep in mind the long history of Arabs throwing rocks at Jews. In Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts Through the Ages, S. D. Goitein wrote in 1955:

In former times–and in remote places even today–it was common for Muslim schoolboys to stone Jews. When the Turks conquered Yemen in 1872, an envoy was sent from the Chief Rabbi of Istanbul to inquire what grievance the Yemenite Jews had against their neighbors. It is indicative that the first thing of which they complained was this molestation by the schoolboys. But when the Turkish Governor asked an assembly of notables to stop this nuisance,there arose an old doctor of Muslim law and explained that this stone-throwing at Jews was an age-old custom (in Arabic ‘Ada) and therefore it was unlawful to forbid it. [p. 76]

You might think that the person who wrote the original text, which is critical of the PA and which appeals to the Seventh Century sensibilities of radical Muslims, is a member of Hamas.

Nope. As you probably know already, the person calling for more rocks to be thrown through the windshields of Jewish vehicles as the “birthright and duty” of Palestinian Arabs, is Amira Hass, a Jewish employee of the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

Amira Hass

Amira Hass

Hass, who lives in Ramallah and claims to be a child of Holocaust survivors, is one of several writers who regularly present an extreme anti-state point of view in the paper.

Along with the ideological bent of editorialists like Hass, Ha’aretz manipulates straight news as well. Although its Hebrew print edition has a very small circulation in Israel, it has a large and popular English website, which is fine-tuned to mislead its worldwide audience of diplomats and media people:

Close reading of both print editions over the course of years has revealed an ongoing pattern. In preparation for the English edition, the Hebrew articles (most Ha’aretz stories are written first in Hebrew) are not merely translated – they’re often also whitewashed. In sometimes dramatic and sometimes subtle cases, time and again, information appearing in the Hebrew original concerning Palestinian militancy, violence and other Arab wrongdoing is downplayed or omitted entirely. In some instances, the English account is completely at odds with the original Hebrew. — CAMERA

This time they have gone too far. By publishing this straightforward piece of incitement, Ha’aretz and Hass have crossed over from ordinary propaganda to incitement to murder. Some Israelis agree, and have filed a complaint with the police.

Ha’aretz does a huge amount of damage, and should be closed down.

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Palmer stone-thrower convicted of murder

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
Asher Palmer and son Yonatan -- murdered by Arab terrorists

Asher Palmer and son Yonatan

News item:

In a groundbreaking decision, a military court found a Palestinian man guilty of murder for throwing a rock at an Israeli car, causing it to crash and killing the driver and his infant son.

The court at Ofer military prison on Tuesday found Wa’al al-Araji, 25, from Halhul, to be directly responsible for the deaths in 2011 of Asher Palmer and his 1-year-old son Yehonatan.

Palmer was driving from his home in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba towards Jerusalem when Araji and accomplices drove towards them in the opposite direction in another vehicle. As the two cars passed each other, Araji hurled a rock that smashed through the windshield, knocking Palmer unconscious. The car swerved off the road, killing its occupants.

The decision was unusual in that the Military Advocate generally does not seek a murder charge against stone-throwing Palestinians, even when their actions cause fatalities. However, the panel of three judges said that, in this particular case, there can be no doubt that the accused intended to kill and had practiced perpetrating similar — although less deadly — attacks in the past.

As I pointed out at the time of the murder,

Every single day, hundreds of rocks, blocks, stones, etc. are thrown at Jewish vehicles in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Arab towns or neighborhoods inside the Green Line. Sometimes photographers are informed in advance that there will be exciting opportunities to view the heroic resistance to occupation. Throwing ‘stones’ (sometimes as big as a person’s head) is what Palestinian Arab adolescents do for entertainment. Even the great Columbia University ‘scholar’ Edward Said symbolically threw a stone across the Lebanese border at Israeli soldiers.

Stone-throwers are rarely caught. In this case, it was several days before the police even admitted that a crime had been committed. And just a few weeks ago, there was a similar incident in which a three-year old girl was critically injured.

Sentence hasn’t been pronounced yet, but al-Araji faces the possibility of a life sentence. Unfortunately Israel does not apply the death penalty to terrorists, who are sent to prison where they are permitted to take correspondence courses and enjoy other benefits until they are released in exchange for hostages taken by other terrorists.

While in prison, he will be paid a salary by the Palestinian Authority, which, when he gets out, will treat him like a hero, a ‘political prisoner’ like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi or Mahatma Gandhi. Don’t be surprised — consider the treatment received by mass murderer Ahlam Tamimi, responsible for the Sbarro’s Pizza bombing in which 15 lives were snuffed out (including 8 children).

The release of prisoners has been an important demand made by the PLO, and at times has even been given by Mahmoud Abbas as a precondition for negotiations with Israel. It is an integral part of the Arab narrative that what they do — what we call ‘terrorism’ — is justified, akin to self-defense, a legitimate ‘resistance to occupation’.

At least, that’s the Western translation of their narrative, often dressed up in neo-colonial theory in which the ‘colonized’ are justified in resisting the ‘colonizers’ by any means (academics particularly eat this nonsense up).

Probably in Arab minds it is more like “they took our land and our honor, and we will get it back by killing them, especially the children they value so much.” That might be a little raw for Western sensibilities.

Update [3 April 0847 PDT]: Al-Araji turns out to have been a member of the PA ‘security’ forces, which have been armed and trained by the US in order to “fight terrorism.”

Update [3 April 0911 PDT]: To get an idea of what Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria (“Yesha”) face on a daily basis, read this.

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Guernica in the Middle East

Monday, April 1st, 2013
"Guernica" by Pablo Picasso

“Guernica” by Pablo Picasso

The discussion that follows deals with horrible things, in a (I hope) logical and dispassionate way. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think they are horrible.

Everyone knows that Hizballah has a lot of rockets, and that the next war will be very hard on Israel’s civilian population. For example, in a recent interview (subscription), Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, who is Israel’s “home front commander,” and responsible for preparing Israel’s people and infrastructure to survive the expected onslaught, said,

“…Before 2006, Hezbollah was capable of launching 500 warheads at Metropolitan Tel Aviv. The reason that didn’t happen is that the Iranian-made Fajr rockets were destroyed by the air force on the first night of the war, and the longer-range Zelzal rockets were destroyed in the days that followed. At present, Hezbollah has the capacity to launch about 10 times that number, with the warheads both heavier and more accurate.”

In practical terms, this means that in the event of a war with Hezbollah, the metropolitan Tel Aviv region “will come under a massive missile barrage. Hezbollah has at its disposal about 5,000 warheads, weighing between 300 and 800 kilograms each. In my estimation, the first days will be extremely difficult. I am preparing for a scenario in which more than a thousand missiles and rockets a day are fired at the civilian rear.”

Israel simply cannot afford to build antimissile defenses that could protect most of the population:

“I will recommend protecting the country’s functional continuity and the ability to maintain an IDF offensive effort over time, until the war is won,” he says. “That means protecting power plants and the air force bases before the big cities. Possibly in the future we will be able to do both. But as of now, with the order of battle of batteries and intercept missiles available to us, we will have to introduce an order of priorities in resources.

“We will have to make a tough, trenchant and clear decision,” he adds. “Afterward, we might be able to provide protection for the majority of the country’s population in the regions under threat. But that will happen with a model of ten-plus batteries, and we are not yet there.” …

“The threat is changing before our eyes. In the next war, for the first time, we might have more civilians killed on the home front than soldiers on the combat front.”

It’s frightening. But it ought to be far more frightening for the residents of southern Lebanon or wherever rockets will be launched from. Because Israel, with its small, densely packed population cannot allow this kind of attack and will use whatever degree of firepower is necessary to suppress it. And Israel definitely has the capability to deploy a massive amount of firepower, even if it has not done so in the past for political reasons.

Put simply, the restraints that the IDF operates under in order to protect  noncombatants in hostile territory will go out the window in the face of such a large-scale attack. ‘Proportionality’, in the sense of international law does not mean that civilian casualties on both sides should be equal — rather, it requires that the force used (and consequent collateral damage) be proportional to the military advantage gained.

In other words, even a tiny Qassam rocket fired at a civilian target is a ‘disproportionate’ use of force because it hurts or kills civilians while providing zero military advantage. And the use of a 1000-pound bomb that kills 20 innocent noncombatants would not be disproportionate if it were necessary in order to obtain an important enough objective.

A fundamental part of the argument over the use of the atomic bomb against Japan in 1945 can be expressed by asking “was it a proportionate use of force?” If the objective of forcing the Japanese to surrender could not have been achieved at much less cost in some other way, then it was.

Naturally, such questions can be very complicated. But in the case of Israel and Hizballah, considering also that Hizballah is a pure aggressor with nothing but invented grievances, that it has deliberately placed its rockets in civilian areas, and that if it were allowed to fire its 50 or 60 thousand rockets unhindered it would lead to the end of the Jewish state and the death of countless Israelis, there is no reason for Israel to restrain its response.

There is another consideration. We understand the concept of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) normally as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, because of the amount of damage they can do. But ‘conventional’ weapons in great enough number, can also be WMD — in fact, it’s said that the first use of the phrase was in reference to the bombing of Guernica, Spain, in 1937, by German and Italian aircraft on behalf of Spanish fascists.

Informed speculation about Israel’s policy is that it would not use its own (supposed) nuclear weapons except in the event of an attack on it with WMD or if the country was in danger of being overrun by conventional forces. The latter is hardly likely today, although it was a real consideration in the past. Now the thought is that Israel maintains its nuclear force as a deterrent against the use of similar weapons.

But how many rockets with thousand-pound warheads striking Tel Aviv, Haifa, oil refineries and power plants, etc. would it take for them to be considered “weapons of mass destruction?”

And then what would it take for Israel to answer them in kind?

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