Archive for March, 2009

Livni blames Bibi — in advance

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Tzipi Livni:

Livni said that she hoped the new government would reach peace deals with the Syrians and Palestinians, adding, however, that she was skeptical in light of the coalition agreements.

“For the country, I wish that this government brings peace for the Israeli people, but when I look at the agreements, the matter doesn’t appear in them,” she said. “From my discussions with Netanyahu, I don’t believe that’s what he’s striving for, but I hope he doesn’t miss opportunities.” — Jerusalem Post

I think I would call this statement “not constructive”.

The implication is that if the new government does not reach a ‘peace deal’ with the Palestinian Authority (PA) or Syria, then it will be the fault of the right-wing parties and their demands.

The truth, in the case of the Palestinians, is that they will not (and cannot) agree to terms that could be accepted by the Israeli people.  Barry Rubin has argued this point cogently and in detail (see “The Peace Recess“):

This conflict is not continuing because there is a dispute about the precise boundary line between Israel and a Palestinian state. It is going on because the Palestinian leaders — all of them — are either unwilling or unable to accept Israel’s permanent existence, the end of the conflict, the abandonment of terrorism, and the settlement of Palestinian refugees in a Palestinian state.

Olmert pushed as hard as he could for an agreement with the Palestinians and didn’t get there.  The Palestinians, for their part, hardened their stance — and exposed their intentions — when both Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad announced that they would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. And these are the ‘moderates’.

With Syria the situation is similar. The main obstacle is not in the exact delineation of the border or the mechanics of providing security for Israel without the Golan Heights, although these are difficult issues. The elephant in the room is that the Syrian regime does not find it advantageous to give up its fruitful relationship with Iran and its useful conflict with Israel in return for the Golan and a relationship with the US, which it sees as being pushed out of the region anyway.

Certainly Assad would like to possess the Golan, but he believes that he can get it without paying any price at all. In these circumstances, Israel would be well advised to avoid giving up real territory in return for paper, even if the paper is guaranteed by the US — because today the US is not in a position to enforce anything in the Mideast.

Livni knows full well that the ‘process’ is going nowhere and will go nowhere no matter what government Israel has. So why is she blaming the incoming administration in advance?

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Another blood libel proven false

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

CAMERA writes:

Charges of IDF “Wanton Killing” Crumble

The brigade commander of the unit linked to alleged “wanton killings” in Gaza launched his own investigation after hearing of the charges, speaking with actual eyewitnesses, all of whom said that the alleged killings did not took place. The original charges, based only on hearsay and rumors, have therefore been refuted and should be retracted.

The brigade commander’s findings were reported in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, in a story titled “IDF Investigation Refutes the Testimonies About Gaza Killings.” [Hebrew text here] According to the story:

Two central incidents that came up in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade…

Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander’s investigation cites the sniper: “I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, ‘Why did you shoot at them.’ I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots.”

Officers from the brigade surmise that [Israeli] fighters that stayed in the bottom floor of the Palestinian house thought that he hit them, and from here the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.

The other alleged incident, the killing by a sniper of an elderly woman, also seems not to have taken place:

Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.

Another blood libel, like the Mohammad al-Dura affair, like the Jenin Massacre, like the shooting of the truck drivers, and on and on.

But this time the perpetrator of the slander was not a Palestinian. It was an Israeli, Danny Zamir, along with the Ha’aretz newspaper and its reporter Amos Harel. Here’s what CAMERA had to say about Zamir:

Since, as Ha’aretz put it, Zamir “does not hide his political opinions,” it seems likely that his former students at the left-leaning Kibbutz-affiliated school knew what Zamir wanted to hear at the meeting, and that only a self-selected group attended. In any event, some of the attendees certainly did not disappoint Zamir, who had been imprisoned by the IDF in 1990 for refusing to serve in the West Bank. They recounted tales of “murder in cold blood,” including seemingly eyewitness accounts of a sniper shooting a woman and two of her children merely because they made a wrong turn, and another sniper killing an old woman.

Zamir wrote an article about the discussion for the academy’s newsletter, which he then provided to the Israeli newspapers Ha’aretz and Maariv, triggering in Ha’aretz alone multiple stories extremely critical of the Israeli army’s alleged conduct (here, here, here, here and here), as well as numerous stories in the foreign press, such as the New York Times, which put its initial report on page one above the fold (here and here). Both the Ha’aretz and the New York Times reports ignored detailed testimony by soldiers of exemplary conduct by the IDF, such as soldiers leaving an envelope of cash for the Palestinian homeowner whose house they had occupied.
(the complete article is here)

Now I’m going to repeat something that I wrote on February 6 in the article about al-Dura linked above. I can’t find a better way to say it:

Many important people in Israel have internalized the propaganda of Israel’s enemies. They are prepared to believe that IDF soldiers would continue to fire on a target like al-Dura and his father, who are obviously not firing back and not even armed, for 40 minutes. This is not the same as saying that ‘accidents happen’, it is agreeing that the IDF is either criminally negligent or deliberately murderous, which is what the Arab and European press constantly say.

It seems to me that some Israelis and Jews have a moral inferiority complex. Even though they would not admit this, deep down they are not sure that Israel has a right to exist. Although they understand intellectually that Israel is in a life and death struggle with the Arab world and Iran, emotionally there is a feeling that we are wrong.

I’ve often criticized people who seem prepared to believe anything bad about Israel, even if it doesn’t make sense, like the accusations that the IDF deliberately targeted civilians in Gaza.  Apparently many Israelis, even those that believe themselves to be Zionists, share this propensity.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

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Yes, the Armenians were victims of genocide

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Recently I’ve received some comments critical of my posts about the Armenian Genocide (there have been quite a few; you can search here). I have asserted that the events of 1915-17 do constitute genocide, and that Turkey should admit that a predecessor regime, the Ottoman Empire, is guilty thereof.

Start with the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) definition of ‘genocide’:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Did the Ottoman Turks do this to the Armenians in 1915-17?

Note that the following things are entirely irrelevant to this question:

  • If the Armenians living in the Ottoman empire were hostile to the Turks
  • If the Armenians collaborated with the Russians during WWI
  • If the Armenians were or are racist or antisemitic
  • If the Turks were or are friendly to Jews or Israel
  • Whether the Holocaust was ‘worse’ than what happened to the Armenians
  • If the Armenians ever committed massacres of their own
  • Whether partisans of either side are associated with right- or left-wing causes
  • Whether Hitler ever said “who remembers the Armenians?” (probably not)

We know — and most of those who disagree with calling the massacres ‘genocide’ agree — that hundreds of thousands died (estimates range from 300,000 to 1.5 million — Wikipedia). The question is, were they killed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such?”

This has two parts: was it aimed specifically at Armenians, as such (as opposed to, e.g., as revolutionaries),  and was there intent.

One way to determine if it was directed at Armenians qua Armenians is to ask if the victims included a great number of Armenians who were not in any sense combatants — e.g., children, old men, most women. And this was indeed the case, because entire Armenian populations were marched by foot over great distances, during which they died of hunger and disease, as well as deliberate murder. This is quite different from a non-genocidal massacre of political or war prisoners, for example.

There is a huge amount of similar eyewitness testimony to these events; to call it all “propaganda” is unreasonable.

What about intent? Clearly the meaning is the ‘intent’ of people who were in control of or made use of the mechanisms of the regime. So it could be argued that anti-Jewish pogroms in Czarist Russia were not actually genocidal, even though the regime was antisemitic, insofar as pogroms were initiated by local Jew-haters and not part of a coordinated policy promulgated by the regime.

In the case of the Armenians, laws calling for deportation and/or confiscation of property (for example, the Tehcir Law of 1915) were put into place and enforced by Turkish soldiers and police. The population displacement is thus seen to be a deliberate act of the regime, and not either local actions or a result of the disorder associated with war.

Even if the minimal estimate of Armenian deaths is accepted, it is still a substantial proportion of the population. It’s clear that Armenians were singled out because they were Armenians, and that the Armenians died as a direct result of orders and policies of the Ottoman regime and in particular the “Three Pashas“.

Therefore I conclude that the legal sense of the word ‘genocide’ is correctly applied in speaking of the Armenian Genocide.

Whether Jews ought to support Armenian political goals is another question, as is the appropriate attitude toward Turkey, whose new Islamist government is a reason for concern.

Note: like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s almost impossible to find historical material on the Armenian Genocide which is acceptable to both sides. I tried to base my argument only on generally agreed-upon historical facts.

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Info-war crimes

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Developments in the info-war:

IDF soldiers used an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza, a group of UN human rights experts said Monday. The army ordered the boy to walk in front of soldiers being fired on in the Gaza neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa and enter buildings before them, said the UN secretary-general’s envoy for protecting children in armed conflict.

Radhika Coomaraswamy said the incident on Jan. 15, after IDF tanks had rolled into the neighborhood, was a violation of Israeli and international law. It was included in a 43-page report published Monday, and was just one of many verified human rights atrocities during the three-week war between Israel and Hamas that ended Jan. 18, she said. Coomaraswamy accused IDF soldiers of shooting Palestinian children, bulldozing a home with a woman and child still inside, and shelling a building they had ordered civilians into a day earlier. — Jerusalem Post

Although I have so far been unable to find the actual report, one wonders exactly how the UN ‘verified’ the above stories. Did they just take Hamas’ word for it?

The war-crimes frenzy is even worse than I had imagined it could get, with every accusation — no matter how absurd — getting headlines in a gleeful anti-Israel press.

Meanwhile, at least 45 Qassam or Grad rockets have hit Israel so far this month, in a real, verifiable, honest-to-goodness war crime — one which seems to have gone completely unreported in the press.

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Moving toward Hamas?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Caroline Glick, today:

Today Hamas stands on the cusp of international acceptance. It may take a week or a month or a year, but today Hamas stands where Fatah and the PLO stood in the late 1980s. The genocidal jihadist terror group is but a step away from an invitation to the Oval Office…

…last Saturday, The Boston Globe reported that Paul Volcker, who serves as President Barack Obama’s economic recovery adviser, and several former senior US officials have written a letter to Obama calling for the US to recognize Hamas. As one of the signatories, Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser under president George H.W. Bush, explained, “I see no reason not to talk to Hamas.”

Scowcroft further argued, “The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process. Don’t move it to end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the US needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down.”

Congressional sources claim that Obama has selected Scowcroft to replace Chas Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

This last, if it turns out to be true,  is in one way shocking — Scowcroft, if anything, is even more anti-Israel than Freeman — and in another way unsurprising. After all, what did you think would be the reaction to a perceived defeat by the pernicious ‘Israel Lobby’?

But leaving this aside, Glick’s worries about a coming recognition of Hamas are very, very troubling. She continues,

The US and Europe said they would recognize Hamas if it announced that it forswore terror, accepted Israel’s right to exist, and committed itself to carrying out previous agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. The Americans and the Europeans undoubtedly viewed these conditions as a low bar to cross. After all, the PLO crossed it.

The West’s conditions were given with a wink and a nod. Everyone understood that the only thing it wanted was for Hamas to say the magic words. They didn’t have to be true. If Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh would just tell the US and Europe what they wanted to hear, all would be forgiven. Hamas – like the PLO before it – would be removed from the US and European terror lists. Billions would pour into the bank accounts of Hamas leaders in Gaza and Damascus. The CIA might even agree to train its terror forces.

It is obvious that all that the West wanted was for Hamas to lie to it, because that is all it ever required from the PLO. After Yasser Arafat said the magic words, the Americans and the Europeans were only too happy to ignore the fact that he was lying…

But Hamas, despite the urging of ‘pragmatists’ like Mahmoud Dahlan — read Glick’s whole piece, it’s good — won’t even pretend to find any outcome short of Israel’s destruction acceptable.

Here’s more about the letter to Obama, from the Boston Globe (linked above):

The bipartisan group, which includes economic recovery adviser Paul A. Volcker and former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, made the recommendation in a letter handed to Obama days before he took office, according to Scowcroft.

The group is preparing to meet this weekend to decide when to release a report outlining a proposed US agenda for talks aimed at bringing all Palestinian factions into the Mid east peace process, according to Henry Siegman, the president of the US/Middle East Project, who brought the former officials together and said the White House promised the group an opportunity to make its case in person to Obama.

Siegman said the letter, which was handed to Obama by Volcker but has not been made public, said the administration should “at least explore the possibility” that Hamas, which took control of the Palestinian territory of Gaza after elections in 2006, might be willing to transition into a purely political party and join with its rival, Fatah, which holds the Palestinian presidency in the West Bank. [! — ed.]

We know our friend Zbig, but who is Henry Siegman? A guy with a long history of Israel-bashing, of course, but look at this:

It turns out that much of the funding for the Council’s “U.S./Middle East Project” comes from overseas, including the European Commission, the government of Norway, Kuwaiti and Saudi businessmen, a Lebanese politician, and, for one year, an official of the commercial arm of the Palestinian Authority, Munib Masri.

Mr. Siegman tells us that his views have been consistent over his career and that his project’s funding sources — which he points out are a matter of public record — haven’t influenced his opinions. — NY Sun, 2005

Siegman, who is an Orthodox rabbi, escaped the Holocaust when his family fled Germany for Belgium when he was three years old. He was the Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978-1994. He claims that his experiences as a child gave rise to his understanding of the ‘plight of the Palestinians’. Right.

The increasingly evident influence on the Obama Administration by people who could reasonably be called anti-Israel or worse — Brzezinski, Scowcroft and others — has me worried. You should be, too.

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