Archive for July, 2013

Kerry plan tilts sharply toward Arabs

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Palestinians often complain that the US is “biased” toward Israel. This could be because their fundamental belief is that all of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean belongs to them. So they see any recognition of Israel’s legitimacy as ‘biased’.

But if we stipulate that Israel is is not going away, then we can make a good argument that the US position — particularly as articulated by the Obama Administration — is strongly biased toward the Arabs.

Here’s a recent account of Secretary of State Kerry’s diplomatic effort:

“Kerry is trying to pave the way for relaunching the peace process. He is serious and we encouraged him. He made progress and we hope he can conclude a deal in the coming week,” said one [Palestinian] official.

While Israel would not explicitly commit to returning to its 1967 lines, negotiations would be based on a May 2011 policy speech by President Barack Obama. That speech called for a border based on the 1967 lines, with modifications based on mutually agreed “land swaps,” while also urging the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Abbas has repeatedly rejected Israeli calls to recognize the country as the Jewish state, fearing it would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees displaced from properties inside Israel.

Kerry’s plan also calls on Israel to release about 100 of the longest-held Palestinian prisoners in its jails in several stages, and envisions a $4 billion international investment plan, conducted in various stages, to develop the struggling Palestinian economy.

The idea would be that within six to nine months the sides could pursue an agreement on all outstanding matters, including final borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees and resolving the competing claims to east Jerusalem.

Let’s leave aside all of the practical problems, like the fact that Abbas can’t speak for Hamas, the fact that there is no way to ensure that the Arabs would keep any bargain once Israel withdraws, the fact that  Palestinian ideology calls for continued ‘resistance’ until ‘all of Palestine’ is ‘liberated’ (and ideology trumps development), the continued Arab insistence that the descendants of Arab refugees are Israel’s problem, and last but definitely not least, the instability of Syria and Egypt. Let’s just look at the implications of Kerry and Obama’s approach to borders.

Historically, Israel — or rather, the Jewish people — had a prima facie claim to the land in question, as expressed by the Palestine Mandate. The land remained disputed while under Jordanian control after 1948, when both sides agreed that the armistice lines had no political significance.

But after 1967, when it finally came to physically possess the land, Israel agreed to relinquish some of the disputed area to the Arab nations in return for a peace treaty, by accepting UNSC resolution 242.

One can argue, and one might be right, that Israel should have told the UN to go to hell, annexed all of Judea and Samaria, and expelled those Arabs who would not agree to be loyal to the state. But that didn’t happen.

Somewhere in the years since 1967, the intent of UNSC 242 that an Israel-Arab peace settlement would include “secure” boundaries for all states, and that Israel is not required to withdraw from all territory captured in 1967, seems to have been forgotten.

The Obama Administration has taken the radical position that all of Judea and Samaria belongs to the Arabs, and that they must be compensated for any land outside the 1949 line that becomes part of Israel! This contradicts the commitment the international community made to the Jews when the Ottoman Empire was dismantled, the consensus that the 1949 lines were not borders, and the intent of UNSC 242. This is what I mean when I say that the US is biased in favor of the Arabs.

The administration position is much more pro-Arab than that of the Bush Administration, which recognized that any border agreement had to be based on the Jewish and Arab populations, and not arbitrary lines (and which also rejected ‘right of return’). Unfortunately, the State Department, in a significant betrayal of its ally, has walked back statements to this effect made by President Bush.

So much for living up to commitments.

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US backs wrong, evil, horse in Egypt

Thursday, July 4th, 2013
Egyptian demonstrator sends a message about US support of Morsy

Egyptian demonstrator sends a message about US support of Morsy

President Obama’s statement in response to the military coup in Egypt is remarkable:

As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people.  The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law.  Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.

The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.

Although the diplomatic language doesn’t specifically say that it would please the US if the military were to turn around and restore Morsy to power — it says “a democratically elected civilian government,” not “the … governmentand asks the army to avoid “arbitrary” arrests, presumably allowing ones for which the army can give reasons — it clearly expresses the idea that the coup is an unwarranted intrusion of authoritarianism to overthrow a democratic and legitimate regime.

Apparently for Obama, the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood attained power after a more-or-less free election outweighs the considerations that the Brotherhood’s own political principles are thoroughly anti-democratic, with the constitution it sponsored calling for clerical rule via shari’a, and inferior status for women and non-Muslims. It also condoned, if it it did not encourage, violence and murder against Christians, as well as employing torture and rape to suppress popular opposition. In addition, the impetus for the army’s action was nothing less than what has been called the largest political demonstration in human history.

All this can be ignored, it seems, because the regime came to power through an election, a distinction shared with Adolph Hitler and Hamas. Does anyone think that having achieved power, the Brotherhood would ever expose itself to a fair election again?

Although the official line is that the US was neutral, Barry Rubin explains what the Obama Administration did to help the Brotherhood:

Let us remember that four years ago Obama gave his Cairo speech sitting the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the front row. President Husni Mubarak was insulted and it was the first hint that the Obama Administration would support Islamist regimes in the Arab world. Then Obama vetoed the State Department plan for a continuation of the old regime without Mubarak. Then Obama publicly announced — before anyone asked him — that the United States would not mind if the Brotherhood was in government. Then Obama did not give disproportionate help to the moderates. Then Obama pressed the army to get out of power quickly, which the moderates opposed since they needed more time than the Islamists to organize.

Many will say that the president of the United States cannot of course control events in Egypt. That’s true. But he did everything possible to lead to this crisis.

Rubin suggested this question for defenders of administration policy:

Does it bother you that the United States is backing a regime led by anti-American, anti-Christian, antisemitic, anti-women, and anti-gay rulers who are unrepentant former Nazi collaborators?

Now that the regime is overthrown, there will need to be a new policy. Let’s hope that this time it agrees with the president’s stated goal of “opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people.”

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Cui bono?

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
"Price Tag" grafiti in an Arab village. The inscription says "a good Arab is a dead Arab" and "price tag"

“Price Tag” graffiti in an Arab village. The inscription says “a good Arab is a dead Arab” and “price tag”

L. Cassius ille quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat identidem in causis quaerere solebat ‘cui bono’ fuisset. — Cicero
[The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, ‘To whose benefit?’]

News item:

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Planning and carrying out “price tag” attacks in Israel will now be defined as “illegal organizing,” which puts the acts on the same level as Islamic terror groups.

The new designation announced Monday by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon means that the Jewish perpetrators of such violence [sic] would face the same legal repercussions as Palestinian terrorists.

The new designation will allow Israeli security services and police to hold suspects in jail longer, keep them under arrest until the end of legal proceedings and investigate without the presence of an attorney. Those who plan and fund price tag attacks will be subject to the same proceedings.

I would be the last to say that harsh treatment for Price Tag vandals isn’t justified, although calling it ‘violence’ is a bit exaggerated. It certainly doesn’t compare to throwing grapefruit-sized rocks through the windshields of moving cars.

It is interesting that there have been very few arrests, despite a huge amount of publicity and official hand-wringing.

But like Lucius Cassius and Lt. Colombo, I ask, cui bono, who benefits?

Certainly not the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria, when the incidents are used to demonize them as, for example, here:

“Price tag” crimes are attacks on Palestinians and Palestinian property by Israeli settlers, which are meant to both intimidate Palestinians into leaving Palestine and serve as payback for perceived setbacks to Israel’s colonization efforts. Officially promulgated by Israeli settlers in 2011, the price tag movement follows more than six decades of official and unofficial attempts to terrorize Palestinians into leaving their homeland. …

But the hooligan Israelis who carry out these price tag attacks are striving for the same goals as Messrs. Peres, Bennett, and Netanyahu: namely, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel/Palestine.  They merely use different means to accomplish that goal.  In fact, price tag vandalism, while indeed reprehensible, pales in comparison to the far more insidious and far more powerful policies that the Israeli government has long enacted and enforced.

Let me just say that if there is ethnic cleansing being carried out, it is highly ineffective, insofar as the Arab population of pre-1967 Israel and the territories have increased several times over since 1948. So much for the “insidious” and “powerful” machinations of the government!

But to return to the question: price tag activities, in fact, benefit no one more than those who wish to see ‘settlers’ portrayed as criminals, and who wish to see them, not the Arabs, removed from their homeland.

The recent vandalism in Abu Ghosh, a village that has been remarkably friendly to the state since 1948, was particularly damaging. Indeed, former Lehi activist and right-wing member of the Knesset Geula Cohen recently recalled that Arabs from Abu Ghosh helped her escape from a British prison in the 1940’s.

I’m sure that there are some Jewish vandals who don’t understand that what they are doing is beyond stupid. But I also am confident that some of these incidents, if fully investigated, would turn out to have been perpetrated by anti-state actors — leftists, anarchists or Arab extremists.

There are some cases in which there is evidence that the perpetrators were not right-wing Jews. For example, take the case of the mosque in the Israeli Arab village of Tuba Zangaria, which was damaged by fire in 2011. A local Arab later came forward and accused village residents of setting the fire and spraying the words “price tag” on the building to deflect suspicion. For his trouble, his house was sprayed with bullets.

One straightforward reason that there are few arrests could be that the police are looking in the wrong places. In the Tuba Zangaria case, a Jewish student was initially arrested (with a great deal of fanfare) and then released for lack of evidence.

But there is another possibility, a somewhat ugly one. It has recently become known that the Internal Security Service (the Shabak) has infiltrated right-wing Jewish groups and agents even took part in anti-Arab attacks:

The Esh Kodesh man reportedly gathered his friends and admitted to them that he had been working with the Shin Bet for some time, and had passed on much information on anti-Arab activity to the agency, including information that helped the group to thwart attacks. The man himself was complicit in several of the attacks he reported.

It wouldn’t be beyond imagination that elements in the Shabak who wanted to discredit the settlement enterprise encouraged this behavior in unstable members of extreme nationalist groups.

The tactic of provoking, or even faking, extreme behavior in order to discredit political opponents is not unknown in Israel. Shortly before the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, a Shabak agent invented a right-wing extremist group called ‘Eyal’, which did such things as display posters of Rabin in an SS uniform. The group received massive media publicity. All this was established by the Shamgar Commission, which investigated Rabin’s murder. Some Israelis think that the assassination of Rabin was actually intended to be a staged attack using blank cartridges that went wrong when the murderer, Yigal Amir, replaced the blanks with live ammunition.

This was far more serious than spraying slogans on mosques and flattening tires.

Is it possible that the vandalism in Abu Ghosh, for example, was not initiated by right-wing anti-Arab ‘settlers’? Yes, there is a precedent. Did it happen this way? Ask yourself: cui bono?

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