Plenty of room at the inn

March 14th, 2014

How many times have you heard that early Zionists came to a land already populated, and found the inhabitants ‘invisible’ in their European arrogance? “A land without a people for a people without a land,” they supposedly said, and then proceeded to kick out the people that they hadn’t noticed, in order to get their land.

This is the basis of the Palestinian narrative, and we hear it from their apologists as well, who love to talk about the ‘indigenous’ Palestinians and the ‘European colonialist’ Jewish ‘settlers’ that ‘dispossessed’ them.

The hidden assumption here is that there was only enough land for one people. The conflict had to be a zero-sum affair: if the Jews came in, the Arabs would have to get out.

Nobody denies that there were more Arabs than Jews living in the land when the Zionists began their immigration. But what if there was plenty of land for both peoples? What if the conflict grew out of something other than a struggle over land?

Israeli-born sociologist Amitai Etzioni was disturbed by Ari Shavit’s apparent acceptance of the zero-sum thesis in his book, My Promised Land:

I knew that a fundamental aspect of Shavit’s thesis was deeply flawed, but I was reluctant to give voice to my criticisms, because they were based on personal observations. I then realized that there is strong statistical data to support my conclusions. But first, a brief account of what I saw and experienced in the days before Israel existed as a state.

I was born as a Jewish child in Germany in 1929. In 1935, as Nazi influence grew, my family escaped, joining four other families of the same background to form a new settlement in Palestine in 1936. They named it Kfar Shmaryahu (it’s next to Herzliya). The five families occupied 600 “dunams,” [a dunam is about 1/4 acre] cleared the rocks, drilled a water well, paved a road before erecting a bunch of modest homes and farming the land. All this was done on previously unoccupied land — land that was lying fallow next to an Arab village called Sidney Alley. …

The relationship between my parents’ village and Sidney Alley varied over the years, ranging from comfortable to tense. However, as far as I recall, no shots were fired, and most assuredly, no one was driven off land or out of a home. Those who lived unmolested in Sidney Alley until 1948 left at that point. We were told that they took with them keys to our homes that they somehow acquired, and had agreed among themselves who will get which of our homes after the seven Arab militaries that attacked the weak and newborn Israel defeated it. I never saw any evidence that supports this tale, but I know firsthand that no Israeli forces drove out the people of Sidney Alley.

Because it was personal and local I was reluctant to draw any conclusions from this experience, until I realized that there was clear evidence to show that there was plenty of room in Palestine for Jews and Arabs. Here is what the data show: At the end of 1946, just before the United Nations’ declaration that led to the foundation of Israel, there were 1,267,037 Arabs and 543,000 Jews in Palestine. By the end of 2012 there were 1,647,200 Arabs in Israel (and nearly 6 million Jews). That is, the numbers of Arabs increased by nearly 400,000. Since 1946 many more Jews and Arabs found a home in this blessed land.

Shavit makes it sounds [sic] like Palestine was a small home that was taken, that there was no room at the inn. Actually it was more like a motel that had plenty of empty rooms, although surely some were taken. True, some Arabs were driven out. And way too many Arabs and Jews died at each other’s hands. But the tragic reasons for these developments is not, the data unmistakably show, that there wasn’t enough room for both peoples.

I should add that in 1880 there were far, far fewer Arabs between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, maybe 500,000 at most, and many of those came to those vilayets (provinces) of the Ottoman Empire that would be called ‘Palestine’ in the 1830s with Muhammad Ali’s invasion from Egypt. Mark Twain’s 1869 Innocents Abroad describes the land as mostly barren and underpopulated, its Arab and Jewish residents living in terrible poverty and abysmal health conditions.

Zionist development of the land created economic opportunities for Arabs, and this — combined with political strife and droughts in Syria — brought more of them. Finally, the British imported Arab workers for various projects, including building railroads, etc.

And the Zionists didn’t dispossess the Arabs. Ami Isseroff tells us that

Zionist immigrants did not displace Palestinian Arabs in mandatory Palestine. Quite the opposite, the Arab population of Palestine grew at a tremendous rate between 1922 and 1948. In 1922, at the start of the British Mandate there were some 589,000 Muslim Arabs and  71,000 Christian Arabs in Palestine, a number that is probably an overestimate. By 1945, there were well over 1.2 million Arabs in Palestine and perhaps over 1.3 million by 1948. The Arab population of Palestine had about doubled during the years of the mandate. If the Zionists were plotting and planning to evict the Arabs of Palestine, the supposed Zionist policy would have to be judged a miserable failure.

At the same time, the Jewish population grew to over 600,000. The land that had held 753,000 people in 1922,  held about 1.9 million in 1948. The “full box” of Palestine turned out to have very elastic walls. As it has done elsewhere in the world, immigration to Palestine stimulated the economy and resulted in a higher standard of living for everyone. The immigration of Jews and the investment of Palestine were due directly to Zionism and its impact. …

So not only was there still room for both Jews and Arabs in 1946, but those Arabs that were there were not significantly more indigenous than the Jews. The difficulty then, as now, was that the Arab leadership would not countenance Jewish sovereignty for religious and cultural/ethnic reasons.

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US weakens stance on recognition of Jewish state

March 9th, 2014
State Department spokesman Jen Psaki: "No one is talking about an obligation"

State Department spokesman Jen Psaki: “No one is talking about an obligation”

Watch carefully as the US tilts more and more in the PLO direction:

Barack Obama, March 3, 2013:

Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security.

American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, February 21, 2014:

It’s too early to know what compromises and concessions both sides will make … But we do believe … that Israel deserves recognition as a Jewish state. That has always been US policy — that Israel is a Jewish state and should remain a Jewish state. That will be one of the elements of the framework we’re working on.

But here is State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on March 7, 2014:

MS. PSAKI: … And if you look at the issue of a Jewish state and whether Israel will be called a Jewish state, that’s been our position, as you know, for a long time, but that doesn’t reflect what the parties will agree to, which I know you know, and of course there are many issues like that that are being discussed as part of the framework. …

QUESTION: Okay. My question to you is: Why the Palestinians are obligated to recognize Israel as a Jewish state when all the other states that have relations with Israel and have recognized Israel since day one did not do the same?

MS. PSAKI: No one is talking about an obligation. We’re talking about a discussion and what’s being compromised as part of a discussion on a framework for negotiations.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. So you don’t see this as a precondition, then?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’m done with your line of questioning.

Yeah, you can trust these guys, Mr. Netanyahu!

Let me add a word about why recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as the state of the Jewish people is important. We often hear the argument — even Abbas himself has made it — that Israel can define itself as whatever it wants and does not need the Palestinians to agree. Or, as the unnamed reporter above put it, why should the Palestinians be required to do more than other countries that have recognized the State of Israel?

The answer to the question “why does Israel think recognition as a Jewish state is necessary” lies in why Mahmoud Abbas refuses to grant it. And that is because after an agreement that gives Palestinians a state, it is his intention to press on for the remainder of their ‘rights’ — in particular, the admission of millions of descendents of Arab refugees into Israel.

The PLO position, expressed daily in its official media, is that Israel is an illegitimate colonial entity squatting on land that ‘belongs’ to a historic ‘Palestinian’ civilization. Abbas wrote in the NY Times in 2011 that if Palestine were admitted to the UN, he intended to continue to pursue its objectives in whatever forums were available:

Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.

It would be no different after an agreement with Israel, unless that agreement specifically included the termination of such claims, particularly the so-called ‘right of return’ for the descendents of refugees. That ‘right’ is premised on the claim of Arab ‘ownership’ of the land of Israel — which is precisely what recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people (even an Israel truncated to pre-1967 size) would relinquish.

The reason that negotiations between Israel and the PLO-based leadership of the Palestinian Arabs have failed since Oslo is that the aims of the sides are entirely different. Israel would like to trade land for an agreement to end the conflict, while the Arabs would like to obtain land for a base from which to continue the conflict. These are mutually exclusive.

Keep in mind also that except for careful statements made in English such as Abbas’ op-ed, we have no reason to believe that the conflict would not continue in its violent aspect as well as its diplomatic one after an agreement was signed — and a great deal of evidence that it would.

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Iranian regime puts its people at risk

March 5th, 2014
The Klos-C, Iranian container ship intercepted by Israeli Navy carrying weapons bound for Gaza

The Klos-C, Iranian container ship intercepted by Israeli Navy carrying weapons bound for Gaza

Early this morning it was reported that Israel’s Navy intercepted a vessel, the Klos-C, on its way to Port Sudan with a cargo intended for terrorist organizations in Gaza — a cargo including M-302 missiles, some versions of which which have a range of up to 150 miles. This would allow Hamas (or whoever had control of them) to target virtually all of Israel. IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner, in a conference call this morning, said that “dozens” of M-302′s had already been found on the ship (along with other weapons), even before the IDF finished searching the ship.

According to the IDF, the missiles were manufactured in Syria, shipped by air from Damascus to Tehran, and then over land to Bandar Abbas where they were loaded on the ship. The ship stopped at an Iraqi port on the way to Sudan, and then was intercepted in international waters, almost 1000 miles from Israel. Now it is proceeding to Eilat, where the weapons will be removed.

I’m sure that the details of the operation — which involved the Navy and Air Force — the intelligence collection leading up to it (Lerner said it had been going on for “months”), the possible assistance of Egypt, etc. would be fascinating. But this is what I want to say about it:

The consequences of these missiles having reached their intended destination would have been catastrophic. Supplying this kind of weapon to terrorists with genocidal aims is a violation of international law of course, but morally speaking it is a seriously evil act. The Iranian regime is guilty of attempted mass murder, and in a just world its leaders would be tried, convicted and imprisoned.

We don’t live in that kind of world, so the Iranian president will continue to be described as ‘moderate’ and treated with respect at the UN. But where there isn’t official justice, sometimes it can be obtained by direct action. The Iranian revolutionary regime has been killing Jews all over the world since the 1980s — it destroyed the Asociación Mutual Israelita building in Argentina in 1994, armed Hizballah in Lebanon before and after the 2006 war, bombed a tour bus full of Israelis in Bulgaria in 2009, and now is developing nuclear weapons while its ‘Supreme Leader’ calls Israel a “rabid dog.” Would it be surprising if at some point Israel decided that the regime should pay for its past actions and be deterred from future ones?

Even the US State Department has called Iran the “most active state sponsor of terrorism” in the world. Ordinary Iranians, who by all accounts are mostly not fanatics, should understand the position that the regime has placed them in. If it succeeds in fielding a nuclear weapon or in some other way precipitating  a confrontation with Israel, it may be too late for a ‘surgical’ response, and the Iranian nation as a whole would suffer the consequences.

Update [2004 PST]: I had previously said the Klos-C was Iranian-owned. This is not the case. It is registered in the Marshall Islands, where documentation requirements are minimal.

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Israeli building as “aggressive” as Bakersfield

March 4th, 2014
Artist's conception of how the new Palestinian city of Rawabi will look when finished

Artist’s conception of how the new Palestinian city of Rawabi will look when finished

…we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long timeBarack Obama, interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, March 2014

US and European officials obsessively cite “settlement construction” as an “obstacle to peace.” PLO negotiators use it as an excuse to refuse to sit down with Israelis:

The chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat, on Friday called the construction plans “a slap to Mr. Kerry’s efforts and a clear message by Israel’s prime minister: ‘Don’t continue with your peace efforts.’ ”

“Israel Doubled West Bank Settlement Construction in 2013″ screams the headline of a Time magazine article. “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited,” warns (or threatens) Obama.

Two things. First, a point about language. President Obama and most of the journalists who use the expression “settlement construction” are native English speakers. Yet they persist in using this misleading expression, which anyone who didn’t know differently would think means “building (new) settlements.” But in fact, the construction they are referring to is construction of houses and apartments within the boundaries of existing communities.  The truth is that there have been virtually no new settlements established since the 1990s, except for unauthorized outposts which the government often demolishes by force.

Is there a deliberate intent to deceive? Certainly those who suggest that such construction “gobbles up land” are simply lying. The President carefully avoids saying this, referring only to his position that “settlements are illegitimate” (Europeans say “illegal”) and are “unhelpful” to the process, although he or other officials never explain exactly what “illegitimate” means or why the Palestinian claim on the land is justified.

Second, are new homes springing up like weeds? Based on the urgency expressed by the President, the Europeans and the Palestinians, one would think so. So how many new homes and apartments are being built? Time tells us:

Israel began work on 2,534 new housing units in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] in 2013, according to the report — more than double the 1,133 units built in 2012.

This is an area with a Jewish population of more than 300,000, and a birthrate greater than 3 children per (Jewish) woman, in a country with a booming economy. For comparison, Bakersfield, California, with about the same population, a lower birthrate, and a somewhat depressed economy, built 2238 privately-owned dwelling units in 2013. I don’t see any aggression here, do you?

Keep in mind that Palestinians are also building “aggressively,” including a new “high-tech” city near Ramallah. There is also European-funded Arab construction throughout Area C, the part of the territories supposedly under complete Israeli control by the Oslo agreements. And there is continuous illegal building there as well.

You will recall that the Palestinians began insisting on freezing Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem in 2009, following the lead of none other than President Obama.

So not only is this a manufactured issue, but the biggest factory is in Washington, DC!

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Obama does it again

March 2nd, 2014

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting with President Obama tomorrow. In a long interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, the President revealed — or at least presented the public face of — his thinking on the Palestinian question, Iran, Syria and other Mideast issues.

If what he told Goldberg truly reflects his thinking, it is profoundly depressing, because his remarks display both ignorance and prejudice. And the timing, when Bibi is already on his way, is ugly.

Ignorance:

…with each successive year, the window is closing for a peace deal that both the Israelis can accept and the Palestinians can accept — in part because of changes in demographics; in part because of what’s been happening with settlements; in part because Abbas is getting older, and I think nobody would dispute that whatever disagreements you may have with him, he has proven himself to be somebody who has been committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue. We do not know what a successor to Abbas will look like.

The “time is running out” theme is pervasive (Goldberg headlines the interview with it). But “changes in demographics,”  at least if you exclude Gaza, are definitely in favor of Israel. The Jewish birthrate is high, and the Palestinian one is declining. There are far fewer ‘Palestinians’ than official numbers would have it. “What’s happening with [Jewish] settlements” — a few additional homes within existing communities are planned — is irrelevant, and one can even argue that illegal European-sponsored Arab construction in Area C is more significant as a fact on the ground.

Most important is this: the fact that Abbas is relatively (stress that word) moderate compared to his likely successors has precisely the opposite implication than the one Obama suggests. What good would a deal reached with Abbas be if (when) he is replaced by an extremist who will tear it up?

[Netanyahu] has an opportunity also to take advantage of a potential realignment of interests in the region, as many of the Arab countries see a common threat in Iran. The only reason that that potential realignment is not, and potential cooperation is not, more explicit is because of the Palestinian issue.

So the Saudis and Kuwaitis who still hate Palestinians for their support of Saddam; the Lebanese who maintain an apartheid system in which Palestinians residing there cannot go to Lebanese schools, own property or work in numerous professions, and who fought a vicious mini-war against a Palestinian militia in one of the refugee camps several years ago; the Egyptians who are enthusiastically collapsing Hamas tunnels — these Arabs would jump at the chance to cooperate with Israel if only it were nicer to the Palestinians?

Yes, they are scared to death of the prospect of a nuclear Iran, but the idea that nations which have historically (long before ‘occupation’) made opposition to Jewish sovereignty an ideological pillar of their regimes would suddenly go public about any cooperation with Israel is ludicrous.

But here’s what I know from my visits to the region: That for all that we’ve seen over the last several decades, all the mistrust that’s been built up, the Palestinians would still prefer peace. They would still prefer a country of their own that allows them to find a job, send their kids to school, travel overseas, go back and forth to work without feeling as if they are restricted or constrained as a people. And they recognize that Israel is not going anywhere. So I actually think that the voices for peace within the Palestinian community will be stronger with a framework agreement and that Abu Mazen’s position will be strengthened with a framework for negotiations.

Maybe a few short visits weren’t enough. He seems to have missed the ideological indoctrination in the Palestinian media that calls for an unending struggle until there can be a complete victory, an ideology in which martyrdom for the Palestinian cause is the highest value, and in which Jews are compared to the Crusaders, who even after hundreds of years were expelled from ‘Arab land’.

And he has missed the surveys of Palestinian popular opinion that show that, for example, in 2011, “Only 7% agreed that ‘Israel has a permanent right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people’ while 84% thought that ‘over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state’”. So much for the Palestinians recognizing that “Israel is not going anywhere!”

Prejudice:

Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?

When I read this, I wonder what ‘Israel’ he’s talking about. The one I know has reduced restrictions on Palestinian movement in recent times, to the point of endangering security (and released murderers, if that counts). It also treats Israeli Arabs as well as any national minority is treated anywhere in the world.

So it is not realistic nor is it my desire or expectation that the core commitments we have with Israel change during the remainder of my administration or the next administration. But what I do believe is that if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time — if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.

Aggressive settlement construction? Nobody is building settlements, except perhaps Arabs in Area C. Why does he keep hitting this nonsensical issue? Only because it is a reason to blame Israel for the inability to reach an agreement, and to set the stage for the threats to follow. The man is a bully — except with Iran, which he is afraid of.

Here he becomes a pussycat. “Time is running out” to give the Palestinians a state that they certainly ought not to have, but

… the most important thing that I have said to Bibi and members of Congress on this whole issue is that it is profoundly in all of our interests to let this process play itself out. Let us test whether or not Iran can move far enough to give us assurances that their program is peaceful and that they do not have breakout capacity.

If, in fact, they can’t get there, the worst that will have happened is that we will have frozen their program for a six-month period. We’ll have much greater insight into their program. All the architecture of our sanctions will have still been enforced, in place. Their economy might have modestly improved during this six-month to one-year period. But I promise you that all we have to do is turn the dial back on and suddenly –

There are several paragraphs of rationalizations, but I’ll spare you. The sanctions regime is dead. It cannot be brought back to life. It was leaky before, and now it has a iceberg-sized gash in it and is listing 70 degrees. He’s given the Iranians the time they need to do precisely what they want, which is to get the “breakout capability” that will make it impossible to stop them. That is “the worst that will happen,” and it will happen for sure, unless someone bombs them.

Providing this interview on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit is reminiscent to his 2011 announcement calling for an agreement “based on pre-1967 lines” while Bibi was, like today, on his way to the White House. This tactic is an embarrassment. David Horovitz wrote,

The timing could not have been any more deliberate — an assault on the prime minister’s policies delivered precisely as Netanyahu was flying in to meet with him, and on the first day, too, of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual tour de force conference across town.

At the very least, that might be considered bad manners, poor diplomatic protocol, a resounding preemptive slap in the face: I’ve just told the world you’re leading your country to wrack and ruin, Mr. Prime Minister. Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?

Did I say he was a bully?

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What have the Palestinians done for the USA?

February 28th, 2014
The Al Quds Brigades, one of the many terrorist gangs among the Palestinian Arabs

The Al Quds Brigades, one of the many terrorist gangs among the Palestinian Arabs

Put simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own. — Barack Obama, March 21, 2013

Here I go again. But this time I do not intend to discuss all the reasons that a Palestinian state carved out of the historic homeland of the Jewish people would be a bad thing for what would be left of Israel.

No, today I want to talk about what the Palestinian Arabs have done for America — and what a Palestinian state might do.

Let’s start around the time the ‘Palestinian people’ were invented by Yasser Arafat and the KGB, 1968. On June 5, Palestinian terrorist Sirhan Bishara Sirhan murdered Senator Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles, an act that arguably changed American history. Kennedy had just won the California Democratic primary election, and many believe that he would have been elected President that November. Paul Kujawsky explained,

Sirhan blamed America for his lack of success and hated the country for its support of Israel. His anger gradually fixed on Robert Kennedy, who promised to send 50 fighter jets to Israel if elected president. He wrote in his notebook: “Kennedy must die by June 5th” — the first anniversary of the Six-Day War. …

According to [Mohammed T Mehdi, secretary-general of the Action Committee on American-Arab Relations], Sirhan’s act had a rational rationale: “The one and only reasonable explanation for Sirhan’s decision is to bring the tragedy of Palestine to the attention of the American people so that the people of the United States would not continue the strange policy of helping Zionist Jews of Europe and elsewhere go to the home of Christian and Moslem people of Palestine.”

Mehdi concluded that Sirhan had acted in justifiable self-defense: “[W]hen Robert F. Kennedy supports Israel against the Arabs, he is assuming the role of an Israeli high ranking official… Sirhan was defending himself against those 50 Phantom jets Kennedy was sending to Israel.”

I recall the event well, and I also remember that the political aspect of it was not widely discussed. Sirhan was described as a “mentally unstable Jordanian.” But his statements and writing before and after the murder clearly evidenced his political motive: the Palestinian Cause.

Another well-known case was the 1973 murder of the US Ambassador to the Sudan, Cleo Noel; his deputy George Moore, and Guy Eid, the Belgian Ambassador. They were killed by the Black September faction of Fatah. The terrorists took ten hostages, and interestingly, one of their demands was that the US release Sirhan. In 2006, the State Department declassified a report indicating that the ‘father of Palestine’, Yasser Arafat, was personally responsible. Joseph Farah wrote at the time,

The document, released earlier this year, with no fanfare, makes it clear the Khartoum operation “was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval” of Arafat, a frequent visitor to the White House throughout the 1990s who died in 2004. …

The admission comes 33 years after James J. Welsh, then the National Security Agency’s Palestinian analyst, saw a communication intercepted from Arafat to his terrorist commandos in Sudan.

There were also many ordinary Americans who lost their lives as a result of Palestinian terrorism. Here is a page that lists American terror victims. Other than those who died on 9/11, the overwhelming majority — hundreds — were murdered by Palestinian Arabs or by other terrorists on behalf of the Palestinian Cause.

Palestinians did not invent the airline hijacking. There have been hundreds of hijackings going back to at least the 1950′s, by criminals, political dissidents, mentally ill individuals and simply desperate people. But beginning with the Dawson’s Field hijackings of 1970 by the PFLP, carefully planned hijackings to achieve political goals became one of the favorite tactics of the Palestinian Arabs, and the idea seized the imaginations of terrorists and would-be terrorists, especially Arab and Muslim ones.

Neither did the Palestinians invent suicide terrorism, but in recent times, their exploits in this area have been remarkable. Between 1989 and 2008, there were at least 160 suicide attacks by Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and other Palestinian gangs, causing more than 800 fatalities and countless injuries.  The much-vaunted Tamil Tigers (137 suicide attacks between 1987 and 2009) come in second.

So what do you get when you combine hijacking and suicide terrorism? Of course, the Palestinians didn’t do 9/11, much as they cheered the perpetrators on that day (and yes, the footage of Arabs dancing in Gaza streets was real). But isn’t it likely that the success of these techniques in the hands of the Palestinians served as an inspiration for the architects of 9/11?

Leaving all of this aside, could a Palestinian state possibly become a valuable ally or trading partner for the US (like, for example, Israel)? Hardly. For one thing, Palestinians don’t like us. In a survey of attitudes toward the US in 39 countries, the Palestinian Authority came in tied for third from the bottom with Egypt (only in Jordan — which has a majority of Palestinians itself — and Pakistan were we liked less). Israel was second from the top, slightly behind the Philippines, despite the recent pressure from President Obama.

The Palestinian Authority is non-democratic, without an independent judiciary or most of the institutions required for an even partly free country. Freedom house rates both Gaza and the PA as “not free.” Its ‘president’ has overstayed his term by 5 years. It is ridden by crime and corruption, and home to an alphabet soup of terrorist gangs. Palestinians have been the largest recipients of international aid for decades, and much of this aid is simply stolen or used for weapons and explosives. What kind of state could it become?

Rather than try to bring ‘Palestine’ into being despite the cost, the US should is oppose the creation of yet another oppressive failed state, a base for terrorism and an economic and human rights disaster.

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The good cop and the bad cop

February 27th, 2014

May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us! — Rabbi, in “Fiddler on the Roof”

Mark Landler, in the administration’s favorite newspaper, writes,

WASHINGTON — President Obama, after avoiding a hands-on role in Middle East peacemaking since the setbacks of his first term, plans to plunge back into the effort, his advisers said this week, starting with an urgent appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

When he welcomes Mr. Netanyahu to the White House on Monday, these officials said, Mr. Obama will press him to agree to a framework for a conclusive round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that is being drafted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Later in March, Mr. Obama is likely to meet with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to make the same pitch. The goal, officials said, is to announce the framework, a kind of road map for further talks, by the end of April, the nine-month deadline that Mr. Kerry set last summer for a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

In response to the failure of the Kerry mission — Kerry is an object of derision in Israel, while Mahmoud Abbas has referred to his proposals as “insanity” — the administration seems intent on salvaging its latest effort to push Israel out of the territories by bringing in its biggest gun.

This raises the question, yet again, of American priorities. In a world containing Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, Iran, Venezuela, etc., how can forcing Israel to commit suicide be so important as to require direct presidential involvement? We all have our theories.

I think, though, that this development doesn’t bode well. If anything characterized Kerry’s approach, it was naivete. According to Palestinian sources,

The top American diplomat reportedly offered for Abbas to form a Palestinian capital in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina, not all of East Jerusalem, as the Palestinians have demanded.

Kerry also suggested that Israel keep 10 settlement blocs as part of any territorial exchange, according to Al Quds, the most widely read Palestinian daily, on Wednesday.

The Jordan Valley would not be part of a future Palestinian state, Palestinian sources told the paper, nor would there be an international force stationed there. And Kerry reportedly demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Only someone who believes that Abbas and his PLO are actually interested in ending the conflict and living at peace with a Jewish state could propose such ‘radical’ concessions! Yasser Arafat would turn over in his grave if Abbas were to agree to such a framework.

The Palestinian narrative, which is explained every day in their media and schools, implies that all the land between the river and the sea belongs to them. The magnanimous Abbas is prepared to agree to establish a state today in all of Judea and Samaria, including eastern Jerusalem, rather than insisting on all of the land at once. But by no means will this end the conflict, which will continue by diplomatic and legal means, as Abbas has said in English — and by armed struggle, as Palestinian media say daily.

Kerry apparently didn’t understand this. Far better deals, including the re-division of Jerusalem and the evacuation of the Jordan Valley, were rejected by the PLO in 2001 and 2008, mostly because of the refugee issue (recognizing Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people means, among other things, that the descendents of refugees do not have a right to ‘return’).

The heart of the impasse between Israel and the PLO has always been the same. Although it is not unimaginable that Israel could have reached an accommodation with the Palestinian Arabs in the early 1990′s, it could not have done so — as events showed — with the PLO, whose very reason for being is opposition to Jewish sovereignty. Unfortunately, the PLO, Hamas and even more extreme elements have been able to suppress any moderate elements, and to establish their rejectionist ideologies as preeminent through their control of media, culture and educational systems. Today there is no partner for an agreement that leaves Israel able to defend herself.

The President will have to bring more than his pretty face to the negotiations if he wants to get the PLO to sign onto some kind of deal. And unfortunately, from what we can glean about his beliefs, particularly when we consider his background and associations, there is reason to think that he will lean more in the direction of the PLO than Kerry apparently has.

The NY Times report seems to suggest that Obama will apply more pressure to Israel to make an even more PLO-friendly deal. It’s hard to see how PM Netanyahu can give up on the only issue that matters.

It’s possible that the ‘framework’ will be so ambiguous as to be vacuous. Nevertheless, such an agreement can give more legitimacy to the PLO, and foreclose Israel’s option to end the process and take unilateral action.

We’ve had the good cop. Now we are going to get the bad cop.

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Why Zionism is unpopular with younger Jews

February 26th, 2014

I was having a discussion with a friend about J Street, the recent BDS resolution at UCLA (which was defeated, but still…), disturbing trends in college Hillel groups, and similar examples of why some of the worst enemies of the Jewish people are Jews — especially young Jews. The question came up, as it always does: why?

Here are some answers:

The Oslo Syndrome, a coinage of Kenneth Levin in his book of the same name (which I discussed here): a disorder in which the sufferer, a Jew afflicted by powerlessness in the face of Jew-hatred, decides that the problem resides in himself rather than the Jew-haters. Thus he regains the power to affect the situation, by changing himself so that he stops being an object of hatred. This can take the form of trying to remove Jewish characteristics (nose jobs), renouncing religious observance, and of course opposing the Jewish state. The joke is on him, of course, since the Jew-haters will continue to hate him regardless.

Left-wing credentials. Since the 1960′s, when the KGB explained to Yasser Arafat that he would have more success with Western public opinion if he presented his cause as a national liberation movement for an oppressed people, rather than as the racist and genocidal project that it really is, it has been de rigeur for anyone aspiring to a leftist identity to adopt anti-Zionism as an article of faith. The need became even stronger with the Durban conference of 2001, in which Israel was equated with apartheid South Africa. Many Jews are attracted to left-wing or ‘progressive’ politics, and need the credentials to be accepted there.

Moral narcissism.

…the tendency of members of the well-meaning, intellectual elite to align with causes and ideological positions which are based, not on the actual viability or justice of a cause, but on how the moral narcissist feels about him- or herself by committing to a particular cause or movement. (R. L. Cravatts attributes this use of the term to Richard Landes)

Since the anti-Zionist position is often disguised as a moral concern for human rights, ending ‘oppression’, anti-racism, etc. (the double standard associated with its application to Zionism confirms that it is in fact a disguise), its adoption provides an emotional boost for susceptible individuals — and young Jews, especially those brought up in liberal religious and political traditions, are very susceptible.

Academic indoctrination. The large proportion of college teachers with left-wing politics, along with activist Middle Eastern students and ‘Middle East Studies’ programs, has created a strongly anti-Zionist atmosphere on many campuses. In addition, the influence of ethnic and gender studies in which politics and academics seem to have merged has made it more acceptable for teachers to use their classrooms for political indoctrination. Students strongly want to ‘belong’, and to fight the current is to risk ostracism. Together these factors have created loci of Israel-hatred like Evergreen State College.

The conventional wisdom. Jews are people like anyone else. They read newspapers, watch TV, listen to the radio. Here in the US, some of the most popular media among Jews — the NY Times, NPR, MSNBC, etc. are strongly biased against Israel. In many countries — certainly in the US — political leaders are anti-Israel. Even if a person tries to avoid it, he can’t help getting it by osmosis. Some time ago, a friend who is definitely pro-Israel said to me “if only that Netanyahu weren’t so stubborn about the settlements, there could be peace.”  When I asked him why on earth he thought that, he didn’t know.

To a great extent, these forces act on the emotions, and only peripherally by reasoned argument. Even the media coverage, which could be seen as describing facts, correctly or incorrectly, is often crafted for its emotional effect. As Jonathan Haidt argued in his insightful book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are divided by Politics and Religion (which I wrote about in more detail here), judgments of right and wrong are based on ‘intuitions’ — innate triggers of emotional responses — and only later justified by rational argument. This explains why it’s so hard to persuade someone to make this kind of judgment by citing facts and giving logical reasons.

These are some of the reasons Zionism is losing support among Jews, especially younger ones. In a forthcoming post, I will suggest ways to overcome them.

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Freedom of worship — for Jews in Israel

February 25th, 2014
The Temple Mount

The Temple Mount

News item:

A first-of-its-kind debate over the right of non-Muslims to enter, and pray at, the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem was held at the Knesset on Tuesday, with over 30 MKs from both right wing and left wing parties requesting to voice their opinion on the divisive topic. Almost all of the parliament’s Arab members chose not to attend the discussion in protest over the decision to hold it. …

“The Israeli leadership is shirking its calling,” [MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud)] said at the opening of the session, during which he called for Jewish freedom of worship at the site where the first and second Jewish temples once stood.

“Behind the back of our people we gave up on any vestige of Israeli sovereignty at the Mount. Every terrorist organization can wave their flag there, but the flag of Israel? It must not be mentioned. Reciting a psalm is grounds for arrest. Even wearing a skullcap [at the site] is inadvisable by police standards.”

There is no question that the Temple Mount itself is the holiest site in Judaism, far exceeding the Western Wall. But when the Old City was captured in 1967, the decision was made by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to place the responsibility to administer it in the hands of the Muslim Wakf of Jerusalem, although Israel claims national sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Jews are not permitted to pray on the Mount “for fear that they will provoke a violent reaction from Muslims.”

Rabbi Shlomo Goren, IDF Chief Rabbi at the time, opposed the decision and wanted to construct a synagogue on the Mount. Although it is commonly thought that Goren also wanted to blow up the Muslim holy places, it is almost certain that this is a politically-motivated lie (see Shalom Freedman, Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General, ch. 37).

This was once-in-a-millennium opportunity. The Muslims understood that they were defeated, and would have had to deal with Jewish religious rights on the Mount, especially when they it became clear to them that they too would be able to pray there and that their structures would not be destroyed (I’m sure in the first days, they fully expected it — it’s what they would do, after all).

But Dayan prevailed, and the chance was lost.

Freedman wrote,

…by leaving the total religious control of the Temple Mount in the hands of the Wakf, Moshe Dayan in effect taught them that they need not recognize any Jewish rights on the Mount. This … appears to be obviously linked with the failure of the Muslim world to recognize Jewish rights to any part of the Land of Israel. [p. 125]

Since then, the Wakf — as anyone could have predicted — has exercised its authority in ways intended to weaken Israeli sovereignty. For example it has ignored Israeli laws regarding safeguarding antiquities, digging in the area and discarding material of great archaeological significance, especially when it might suggest a historical Jewish presence there.

On a regular basis, riots and other violence are incited by the Islamic Movement, Hamas or PLO officials on the pretext that Jews are ‘storming’ the Mount, preparing to destroy the mosques, or even merely praying there. The Arabs claim that the Second Intifada began because Ariel Sharon dared to visit it (in fact, the Intifada was carefully planned in advance; but the fact that Sharon’s visit can be used to justify a murderous uprising is significant).

Anyone who understands Arab attitudes knows that an enemy that shows fear or even consideration is seen as weak and invites further aggression. So, naturally,

MK Zahava Gal-on of the left-wing Meretz party stated that though she believes Jews have a right to pray at the Temple Mount, such a right must be expressed only after consulting with Palestinian and Arab representatives. Feiglin’s proposal, Gal-on said, was “a match that could ignite the powder keg on which the Middle East rests,” and implementing it “would harm the peace process.”

What a combination of cowardice and ignorance! But that’s the Israeli Left.

There is really no good reason that Jews should not be allowed to share this holy place with Muslims, especially since many Jews died in order to secure the city (even though Dayan, like Gal-on, might have preferred to see it remain in Arab hands). It’s ironic that Israel, the Jewish state, takes pains to provide freedom of worship for Muslims while denying it to Jews.

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Goodbye, Facebook

February 21st, 2014

We know Facebook is the Evil Empire of the Web. Its tentacles are everywhere; it is intrusive and exploitative. I admit that I always feel like I need a shower after visiting Facebook.

No more. A friend pointed me to this vile, Jew-hating page in Facebook: Jewish Ritual Murder. What could be a more blatant example of hate speech, than a page dedicated to the vicious libel that has incited countless pogroms?

So I ‘reported’ the page to Facebook. And here is the response I got:

Screen-2014-02-19_22-11“Ask Jewish ritual murder to remove this page!” Damn, why didn’t I think of that?

I like the part about “community standards.” What community has standards that approve of telling stories that incite violence, even genocide? None that I want to belong to.

I’m gone from Facebook. Now I can go back to taking only one shower a day.

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Sandra Korn’s academic totalitarianism

February 19th, 2014

I’ve often said that the best thing about Hamas is that they say what they think. None of the two-faced English vs. Arabic stuff we get from the ‘moderate’ PLO. They say they want to kill us, because they mean it.

So for the same reason, I enjoyed the Harvard Crimson piece by Sandra Y. L. Korn, “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom.” Korn is not ashamed to put forth the idea that academic freedom should be limited when it conflicts with the political prejudices of the “university community”:

If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

And how does it “ensure” this? She provides examples, such as disruption of classes “with a bullhorn and leaflets” and the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. The irony in advocating coercive action to oppose research or speech that she and her peers consider politically incorrect is palpable, especially since the bullhorns and boycotts are reminiscent of the SA tactics of the 1930s.

While she understands that the purpose of academic freedom is to see to it that research is not “restricted by the political whims of the moment,” she apparently fails to grasp that the reason for this is that political whims are just that — whims. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Chinese students took the lead in what Ms Korn must (at least, we hope she must) admit were terrible injustices. Their views were doubtless shared by most of the “university community,” but so what?

The principle of academic freedom does not require, as Ms Korn’s “academic justice” does, an omniscient and perfectly good community to decide which ideas may be discussed and which not. It says in effect “don’t suppress any ideas, let them compete on their merits,” because we are not smart enough to decide a priori (Korn thinks she and her friends are).

The fact that she chooses a boycott of Israeli universities as an example of a just limitation of academic freedom is a perfect example of the defect in her approach, because as a matter of fact, the ‘oppression’ of the ‘Palestinians’ is at bottom a whopper of a lie intended to cover up the desire of the Arabs to eliminate the state of Israel, and even in many cases to perpetrate a genocide of the Jewish population (viz., Hamas Covenant), something I am sure Korn would disapprove of.

Probably all of Ms Korn’s friends agree that only a right-wing Zionist nut would believe that. Maybe this is because the only voices that they hear are those of, er, left-wing anti-Zionist nuts. Academic freedom is intended to allow all (scholarly) points of view to be heard, in order to help us avoid precisely this situation.

Korn’s “academic justice” is more like academic totalitarianism!

This seems blindingly obvious to me, who did not go to Harvard (but like Ms Korn, did study the history of science, in which I learned about politically incorrect scholars like Galileo Galilei). So why doesn’t she get it?

Her bio indicates that she is “a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator.” And there could be the explanation: perhaps whatever she learned in her History of Science classes was overwhelmed by the main lesson taught in gender and ethnic studies, which is that there is no such thing as objective truth, there are only the political consequences of belief.

To illustrate, consider the example that opens her essay:

In July 1971, Harvard psychology professor Richard J. Herrnstein penned an article for Atlantic Monthly titled “I.Q.” in which he endorsed the theories of UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen, who had claimed that intelligence is almost entirely hereditary and varies by race. Herrnstein further argued that because intelligence was hereditary, social programs intended to establish a more egalitarian society were futile—he wrote that “social standing [is] based to some extent on inherited differences among people.”

SDS then got out their bullhorns, to Ms Korn’s great approval. But does she approve of trying to stifle Herrnstein because she believes that his research was bad (how would she be able to tell if he were drowned out by the bullhorns)? Or is it enough for her that she believes that it “promotes or justifies oppression?” Does she also reject the theory of evolution on the grounds that it can be used to support social Darwinist policies that she (justifiably) dislikes?

I began by mentioning Hamas, and I should apologize to Ms Korn for comparing her to them, even in respect to their honesty. I’m sure she has never fired a rocket at a civilian population in her life. But there is something else that she shares with Hamas, which is a belief in ideology above all.

That is about as pernicious an idea as you can get.

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Palestinian autonomy: an idea whose time has come

February 18th, 2014

Yesterday, I wrote a post advocating that Israel recognize the failure of the process leading to a sovereign Palestinian state, and unilaterally treat the Palestinian Authority as an autonomous, but less than fully sovereign, entity. There would be a Palestinian government, legal system and economy; but ‘Palestine’ would be demilitarized. Israel would continue to control its borders and airspace, and would retain the ability to enter Palestinian territory to take action in response to terrorism.

I argued that this unilateral step would be justified under the provision of the UN Charter that permits states to act in self-defense. Can anyone deny that PLO actions and stated intentions represent a threat to Israel’s existence?

Today an article appeared by Yossi Ben Aharon, former Director-General of the office of PM Yitzhak Shamir, which makes almost exactly the same suggestion. Ben Aharon writes,

Let’s assume that once a sovereign “Palestine” is formed its government strikes a “friendship treaty” with Iran or North Korea, and a few hundred “experts” visit it to consult on issues such as training the “national guard” or the formulation of an intelligence system; or that the Palestinian government would be willing to take in a few thousand refugees and with the U.N.’s assistance, houses them in refugee camps set up within view of Jerusalem or Petach Tikva; or that the Shin Bet security agency realizes that a few hundred jihadis have found their way to these refugee camps and have set up terror cells; or that Palestine holds general elections and Hamas wins and sets up a government in Ramallah. There are endless plausible scenarios. What will Israel do? Invade Palestine? Demand U.N. Security Council action? Ask the U.S. for help?

As a sovereign state, Palestine would enjoy immunity under international law and by the grace of the U.N. Any unilateral steps taken against it would be in gross violation of international law and Israel would be faced with censures and boycotts as a result, as well as Security Council sanctions. Anyone who thinks that the Security Council would notice that it was the Palestinian state which violated the peace deal and therefore should also be sanctioned is sorely mistaken. …

As fate would have it, both the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and late Prime Minister Menachem Begin indicated — each in his own time and words — that the only possible solution is an autonomous Palestinian regime under an Israeli umbrella. The Palestinian Authority is already autonomous. All that is lacking now is to formally set it as such, leaving it with opportunities for improvement — if and when its credibility, and with it calm and security, proves solid.

It is time for Israel to stop being blown about by the winds from Washington and Europe, to take its own security into its own hands, and to unilaterally end the phony ‘peace process’. There already is a ‘Palestine’, which can succeed or fail as an autonomous entity, depending on its inhabitants’ ability to create a functional government and a viable economy (and they would get a great deal of help in this enterprise).

They have what they need to create ‘Palestine’. All they lack — and of course, everything that the present Palestinian leadership wants — are the tools to express the overwhelming hatred that characterizes all aspects of their culture, and destroy the state of Israel. Why give this to them?

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