Archive for August, 2009

The implications of the settlement freeze

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Although the details are not public knowledge — or perhaps they have not been finalized — a ‘temporary’ freeze on new Jewish construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is in effect. Israeli PM Netanyahu will be meeting with US envoy George Mitchell on Aug. 26 to discuss this, among other issues.

Despite the fact that the Israeli government is presenting this as an expedient ‘to get peace talks moving’, there are several implications that cannot be ignored. Keep in mind that this comes immediately after the Fatah congress, in which the Palestinian faction with whom Israel is expected to negotiate has shown itself to be committed to hardline policies which will keep such ‘peace talks’ from getting anywhere. So what does the freeze tell us?

  • It shows that Israel cannot or will not say no to the US. Netanyahu has no illusions about the possibility of fruitful talks, and he understands the domestic political difficulties of agreeing to freeze Jewish construction everywhere in the area occupied by Jordan from 1948-67, including East Jerusalem. And yet he agreed.
  • It weakens Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. By agreeing to the demand, Israel compromises its position, expressed in the Basic Law–Jerusalem of 1980, that Jerusalem is an integral part of Israel.
  • It sets the stage for a further collision with the US when, in 2010 or whenever, the ‘temporary’ period is up and there still has not been substantive progress in negotiations.
  • It illustrates the asymmetry fundamental to the US conception of a ‘two-state solution’. Although Arab citizens of Israel increasingly consider themselves ‘Palestinians’, suggestions for a freeze on Arab construction within Israel, or — God forbid — Arabs being encouraged to move to the Palestinian state, are considered racist. But Palestinian demands that Jews evacuate the West Bank and East Jerusalem are tacitly approved by the US.
  • It encourages the Palestinians and their allies to press for more concessions as preconditions for talks. Obama has already asked for a minimal gesture from the Arabs as a quid-pro-quo for the settlement freeze and so far has gotten nothing.

One wonders if there have been other concessions — for example, regarding construction of the security barrier — that have not attracted attention yet.

Update [26 Aug 0925 PDT]: See “Will Israel not build barrier for Obama?” in today’s Jerusalem Post.

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Quotation of the day

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

One of my favorite bloggers, Elder of Ziyon said something yesterday that comfortable liberal American Jews really should take to heart (but probably won’t):

If there are to be any lessons for Jews from the past hundred years, it is that being slightly paranoid is probably a much more accurate posture than feeling overly secure, and that it may be a fatal mistake to believe otherwise.

If you have a strong stomach, read the post that this is taken from here.

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Birds of a feather: Donald Bostrom and Human Rights Watch

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Recently I published a Barry Rubin article about allegations in a Swedish newspaper that the IDF was stealing the organs of dead Palestinians under the title “How low they can go“.

Guess what? I was wrong. Israel-hating Swedes can go much lower.

One of the bright spots in the story was the Swedish ambassador to Israel, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, who said that the article was

…as shocking and appalling to us Swedes as it is to Israeli citizens. We share the dismay expressed by Israeli government representatives, media and the Israeli public. This embassy cannot but clearly distance itself from it… Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are freedoms which carry a certain responsibility. It falls on the editor-in-chief of any given newspaper.

Israel had hoped that the Swedish government itself would agree. But now it’s reported that the Swedish Foreign Ministry has distanced itself from her remarks:

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said a response by the Swedish Embassy in Israel to a report by the Aftonbladet news saying IDF soldiers killed Palestinians in order to harvest their organs does not represent the government’s stance.

The embassy had stated that the report was “appalling”. But the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman said, “The embassy in Tel Aviv responded in accordance to Israeli public opinion, however the Swedish government is committed to freedom of the press…”

Another Swedish government spokesperson, Anders Jorle said, “The Foreign Ministry would not have acted in the same way” as the ambassador…

[Opposition] Green Party spokesman Per Gahrton said Borsiin Bonnier should be recalled and taught the basics of Swedish freedom of speech.

Like the tendentious Human Rights Watch report that accused Israel of shooting unarmed Palestinian civilians in cold blood, the article was based on reports from Palestinian “eyewitnesses”. The author of the piece, Swedish free-lance journalist Donald Bostrom, tried to say it was just a news report about Palestinian beliefs:

What I experienced during this day is many people from Israel who called me haven’t read the article. So they think I’m accusing the IDF of stealing organs. That’s not what I’m doing. I just recorded the Palestinian families saying that. And I think it should be further investigated, either to kill the rumor once and for all, or if it happens to be true, then to start the legal actions…

But the article did far more than this. Jonah Levy explains that

Bostrom’s article reads more like an opinion article than a straight journalism piece, and it attempts to connect claims he heard in the West Bank in 1992 that Israeli soldiers were illegally removing organs from Palestinians killed in fighting with a campaign for Israeli organ donors, supposed illegal purchases of organs in Israel in the early 2000s, and the recent story of American Levy Izhak Rosenbaum who was accused of illegally trafficking Israeli organs.

“We know that the need for organs in Israel is large, that an extensive illegal organ moving is ongoing and has been for a long time, that it is done with the blessing of the authorities, the senior doctor at the major hospital is involved, as well as officials at various levels. And we know that the Palestinian young men disappeared, they were back five days later in secrecy at night, sewn up,” Bostrom wrote in the conclusion of his story.

Bostrom and the newspaper’s lawyers have been careful to not make any specific defamatory statements that could expose them to lawsuits.

But repeating unsubstantiated allegations, juxtaposing them with unrelated — but suggestive — facts, and leaving the reader to draw his own defamatory conclusions is a a time-honored technique of scum like Bostrom to smear their targets.

Now read the last paragraph again, substituting “Human Rights Watch” or “Amnesty International” or “B’tselem” or “Breaking the Silence” for “Bostrom”.

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Fake pro-Israel groups cooperate

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Every so often I find myself writing a “with Jews like these…” post, about J Street, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, etc.

No more.

I have finally understood that there is no connection, at least in the US, between Jewishness and support for Israel (or its opposite). I was prompted to start thinking about this by the news that J Street has been caught taking money from those who are, shall we say, less than supportive of the continuing existence of a Jewish state; and today, that J Street and Brit Tzedek are planning to cooperate, and perhaps merge.

I couldn’t think of a nicer couple! These groups are similar in that they both have mostly Jewish members, they both claim to be pro-Israel, but both advocate policies that oppose those of the state of Israel — and which in my opinion are inimical to its survival.

The fact is that there are those who support Israel, those who don’t care and those who hate Israel passionately, and it has little to do with whether one’s parents were Jewish or not. The correlation between Judaism and support for Israel exists only for certain Orthodox denominations, which represent a small minority of American Jews.

In the US, part of the platform of much of the Left includes the position that Israel is an apartheid nation which is colonizing land that belongs to indigenous Palestinian Arabs. Our own local ‘peace’ group, Peace Fresno, calls for a Palestinian right of return. Some ‘peace’ that would bring!

Many Jews belong to Peace Fresno and similar organizations. They got there by different routes. Some simply have no interest in Judaism or belong to the aggressively anti-religious left-wing tradition, and therefore don’t have to deal with the contradiction between their position and the biblical relationship of Jews to the Land of Israel.

Others may be affiliated with Reform or Reconstructionist congregations. These movements have de-emphasized ‘ritual’ commandments and belief in the historicity of the Torah, and emphasized ‘ethical’ commandments. Many of their adherents — even some rabbis — have slid down the slippery slope from ‘ethical commandments’ to ‘progressive politics’. Some have given up on Judaism and become Unitarian Universalists.

So, no more grumbling from me about Jews that hate Israel.

But in return, please don’t tell me that a Jew’s opinion about the Middle East carries any more weight than anyone else’s. Especially when that Jew happens to be a member of the anti-Zionist J Street or Brit Tzedek organizations (or Neturei Karta , for that matter).

I have just now discovered that Daniel Pipes said almost exactly the same thing yesterday. As usual, he said it better than I did:

…it’s inaccurate to assume Jews support Israel. That assumption also has two regrettable implications: it privileges anti-Zionists among them (“I’m Jewish but … “) even as it marginalizes non-Jewish Zionists.

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How low they can go

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Recently a Swedish newspaper published an article reminiscent of medieval blood libels, and about as likely to be true.  Of course it was “criticism of Israel” and not “antisemitism”, so — no problem.

I didn’t write about this at the time because I didn’t think there was anything I could add. Every pro-Israel blog had already jumped on this. And another thing: I’m sick of this garbage. I had to take a shower after reading, for example, the recent Human Rights Watch report which was also nothing but disgusting slanders masquerading as investigation.

I have a 19-year old cat who has started making ‘mistakes’.  19 is very old for a cat and she’s been a good friend over the years, so I just clean up the ‘mistakes’… several times a day. This is how I am starting to feel about the ‘mistakes’ in the press and those made by the ‘human rights’ groups. Except that I like the cat.

But in the interest of disseminating the truth to those who still want to hear it, I present the following:

Stop the presses: Blood Libel Goes Mainstream: Swedish newspaper proves antisemitism is anti-Zionism is now acceptable

By Barry Rubin

We are not talking about a Saudi newspaper or Hamas radio station but a Swedish newspaper. We are not talking about a neo-Nazi rag but a daily closely tied to the Swedish Social Democratic Party. And we are not just talking about an obscure item but an article that received top billing.

On August 18, Aftonbladet, which claims 1.5 million readers, published an article by a man named Donald Boström. The editor responsible is named Åsa Linderborg. She is the newspaper’s cultural affairs’ editor.

This was no random decision for her. When asked once: “What do you wish for most in life right now?” She answered: “What a simple question. What I want is a free Palestine.”

And what did this article say? That Israel’s army deliberately kidnaps Palestinian civilians and then murders them so it can cut out and sell their organs to sick people needing transplants.

Read the rest of Barry Rubin’s article here…

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