Archive for March, 2008

The AP tells a non-story

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Here’s how the AP tells a non-story:

Israel to Build on Contested Land

JERUSALEM (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had barely left Israel on Monday after her latest peacekeeping mission when Israeli officials announced plans to build 1,400 new homes on land Palestinians claim for a future state…

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to keep building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, dismissing Palestinian claims that construction on contested land is the greatest obstacle to peace…

He continues to support construction in disputed areas, over the objections of the Palestinians and the U.S., because it allows him to keep his fragile coalition intact.

The Israeli construction plans threatened to make it even harder for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to overcome his people’s skepticism that diplomacy, not violence, would win them a state.

So we understand that Olmert, in defiance of the US, acts in a manner calculated to damage the possibility of peace, for political reasons.

Although I would be the last to deny that Olmert’s motivation for much of what he does is crassly political, in this instance he is doing nothing that in any way — other than by giving the AP and the Palestinians something to get excited about — should prejudice a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

No less than eleven paragraphs down in the AP story, we finally read what Olmert’s provocative act has been:

The city of Jerusalem said it planned to build 600 new apartments in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, which lies in the eastern sector of Jerusalem that Palestinians see as their future capital.

The Shas Party, a powerful partner in Olmert’s coalition government, said the prime minister had promised to revive frozen plans to build 800 homes in [Betar] Illit, an ultra-Orthodox settlement in the West Bank.

First of all, note that these are not “new settlements” in any sense. And they are ‘expansion’ only insofar as they are new construction. They do not represent any expansion of boundaries.

Second, everyone knows that if a two-state solution is possible, final borders will have to be drawn on the basis of Jewish and Arab populations. While outlying settlements might be abandoned (one wonders why ‘outlying’ Arab settlements within Israel will not), established Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem like Pisgat Ze’ev will have to be on the Israeli side. And settlements abutting the Green Line like Betar Illit will be kept. So who cares if there is construction there?

Third, since the parameters of a settlement have not been decided upon, why do the press and others automatically accept Abbas’ point of view that any settlement East of the Green Line is illegitimate?

Fourth, “Shas said that Olmert promised” is not exactly the same as “Israeli officials announced”.

And fifth, do we really think that the “greatest obstacle to peace” is some construction inside existing Jewish neighborhoods?

Or rather is it the dramatic way the Palestinians continue to express their ‘skepticism’ that diplomacy is more effective than violence?

Update [1 Apr 1238 PDT]: Our local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, ran this story today. But they only included the first 10 paragraphs of it.

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Protecting American interests

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Displaying the her remarkable ability to bury her head in the sand while ignoring the elephant(s) in the room,

…U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that the U.S. would be following up on Israel’s activities in the West Bank to verify if it was implementing its promises to ease access and movement for the Palestinian population…

The secretary of state said her visit is not intended to introduce any new American proposals for the peace talks, saying the negotiations have been “pretty fruitful” thus far and that introducing new ideas would not be “useful.” — Ha’aretz

The insistence that there is some possibility of a meaningful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians at this time is exceptionally absurd, even by the standards of diplomacy.

What the US seems to want is some kind of paper which will then be used to justify forcing Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, which can be handed to the illegitimate Fatah-run Palestinian Authority (after all, Hamas won the election and is far more popular than Fatah today) to declare a Palestinian state.

Then the architects of this policy will say “we solved the Israeli-Palestinian problem!”, take their Nobel prizes and promises of a comfortable retirement from Saudi Arabia, and go home.

Here are some of the elephants that Ms. Rice does not see:

  • Hamas
  • Hezbollah
  • Iran

But in less than a year she will be moving on, while the IDF fights a three-front war with the Iranian backed Hamas and Hezbollah — which by then will have taken over Lebanon as well.

By that time Iran will have nuclear bombs and the ability to deliver them all over the Middle East, and perhaps Europe as well. But the most important goal of this administration will have been achieved: a Palestinian state.

What a way to protect American interests.

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Remember the Captives

Friday, March 28th, 2008

The Arab struggle to destroy Israel includes an assault on the hearts and souls of the Jewish people as well as physical attacks on Israel and Jews.

Pidyon Shevuyim
Redeeming our 8 Captive Soldiers

By Maurice Ostroff

The captive soldiers

Top (L-R): Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, Ron Arad,Yehuda Katz
Bottom: Guy Hever, Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev

Article 70 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War clearly states that “Immediately upon capture, or not more than one week after arrival at a camp, every prisoner of war shall be enabled to write direct to his family”, and Article 71 stipulates clearly that prisoners of war shall be allowed to send and receive letters and cards. Click here for the full text.

Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz have been missing-in-action since June 11, 1982.
Ron Arad was shot down over Lebanon on October 16, 1986.
Guy Hever disappeared from the Golan on August 17, 1997.
Gilad Shalit was abducted on June 25, 2006.
Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were abducted on July 12, 2006.

In flagrant defiance of the Geneva Conventions and simple human decency, the families of these captives are deliberately kept in suspense about the fates of their loved ones. How can such purposely refined cruelty be ignored?

The case of Zachary Baumel epitomizes the suffering and anxiety that the families endure. In an exquisite refinement of torture in 1993, Arafat acknowledged that he knew details of the fate of the soldier’s and handed half of Baumel’s identity tag to Yitzhak Rabin, with a firm promise that more information regarding the MIAs would be forthcoming. He never kept his promise, but it is believed that other members of the Palestinian Authority shared the knowledge. They should be pressed to disclose whatever information they have, especially when we are negotiating the release of Palestinian prisoners.

It is unconscionable, that the UN, Amnesty International, The Red Cross and other organizations that promote Human Rights are conspicuously silent about the diabolically cruel denial of even the most basic human rights to the 8 Israeli soldiers.

According to Maimonides no religious duty is more meritorious than redeeming captives (Pidyon Shevuyim) and it is therefore fitting that when we celebrate Pesach this year, we share the pain of those families whose seder tables are incomplete.

During the forthcoming Passover, let’s remember that when world Jewry was struggling for the release of Soviet Jews, we set aside an empty place at our seder tables to represent our missing kin.

Instead of 8 empty chairs, we can place a large figure 8 on the seder table to symbolize the 8 captives while we hope and pray for that elusive peace we all yearn for, so that PG, next year we can celebrate Passover in true freedom from the strife that plagues us.

This article originally appeared here and is reprinted with permission.

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A perverse form of natural selection

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Recently I was preparing a presentation about why the Arab-Israeli conflict was so resistant to solution. One of the points that I made was that even so-called ‘moderate’ Palestinians, like Mahmoud Abbas, have never really accepted the idea of a Jewish state of any size and within any borders.

A logically prior question that I didn’t ask, but should have, is this: Why is the Palestinian ideological spectrum so skewed towards rejectionism? Where are the Palestinians who — while they might not exactly be Zionists — think that it would be better for Palestinian society to at least live alongside Israel than to be locked for generations in a violent struggle? Where are the Palestinians who think that the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees deserve better than to be cannon fodder?

Here’s how Elliot Jager, in his review of Hillel Cohen’s book “Army of Shadows — Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948” answers the question:

For more than 90 years, Arab radicals have been at war not only with with Zionism, but simultaneously with any Arab voice – Christian, Muslim, Druse or Beduin – advocating moderation and coexistence with the Zionist enterprise. So, where are the moderates?

They are dead – hacked up with axes, riddled with bullets, slaughtered with knives and exploded by bombs. That’s where the Arab moderates are. This book chronicles their story from the start of the British Mandate until the War of Independence.

Jager continues,

Cohen says that “as an Israeli Jew, I have no standing to determine who is a traitor to the Palestinian cause.” Well, as an Israeli Jew and a Zionist reading this book, I think the evidence is overwhelming: Arab fanatics are the real traitors to the Palestinian cause; it is they who prevented the creation of a Palestinian state in 1948, and it is they who have been doing everything inhumanly possible to foil the creation of a Palestinian state ever since.

Cohen tells us that hundreds of ‘collaborators’ were murdered before 1948; and all of us remember the scenes of summary executions by Arafat’s men during the Oslo period.

'Collaborator' dragged through the streets of Hebron

A ‘collaborator’ executed in Hebron

What seems to have happened is a perverse form of natural selection, in which the more violent and murderous elements must end up in control, because they are after all more violent and murderous, and better adapted to conflict.

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Picking the right guys for the job

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Richard A. FalkToday is apparently “pick the right guy for the job” day.

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday appointed American Jewish law professor Richard A. Falk – who has compared Israel to the Nazis – as special investigator on Israeli actions in the territories for a six-year term.

Falk, who formerly taught international law at Princeton University, replaces South African professor John Dugard, who was an expert on apartheid…

“In a recent article, [Falk] stated that he did not think it to be “an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with the criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity,” [Israeli UN/Geneva Ambassador Yitzhak] Levanon said.

“He has taken part in a UN fact-finding mission which determined that suicide bombings were a valid method of ‘struggle,'” Levanon said.

“He has disturbingly charged Israel with ‘genocidal tendencies,’ and accused it of trying to achieve security through ‘state terrorism,'” Levanon said. — Jerusalem Post

While I understand Levanon’s feeling that Falk might not exactly be a friend of Israel, I must point out that he is actually perfectly qualified for this particular job, which is basically defined as “Israel basher first-class”. As I wrote in a post about Dugard, his predecessor,

Nevertheless, one needs to understand that not only is he personally biased in favor of the Palestinians, but he is institutionally required to see only one side:

[Dugard writes] At the outset it is necessary to stress the scope and limitations of my mandate. I am required to report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Israel in the OPT. This means that it is outside my mandate to report on violations of the human rights of Israelis by Palestinians, on the violation of human rights by the Palestinian Authority, or on human rights violations in the OPT not caused by Israel.

So the UNHRC is not as dumb as it looks.

Now check out this job application (H/T to Lise):

Several weeks ago, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem received a proposal that [Jimmy] Carter and [Kofi] Annan come to Israel along with two other Elders, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Irish President Mary Robinson, to pursue a truce with Hamas and promote peacemaking with the Palestinian Authority.

After much deliberation, the offer was politely refused, Yediot Achronot reported Wednesday.

“Israel believes that at this time, it would not be right to introduce more players into a diplomatic process that is already in a complex stage,” the newspaper quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying in a letter to The Elders.

Would Israel have to pay their expenses?

“The Elders”, in case you don’t know, are “an international conflict-resolution group”. Does anyone else think that the name is pretentious beyond belief? And wonder if requirements for membership go past age to include senility?

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