Archive for April, 2010

Abbas and Obama

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

News item:

Aides to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas say the Palestinian leader could meet with US President Barack Obama soon.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the Palestinians requested such a meeting and were told by Obama’s envoy that the US leader would see Abbas in the near future. Erekat said Sunday that no date was set.

Another aide, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Palestinian radio that “there is talk about an invitation for President Abbas to visit Washington,” possibly next month.

Will there be a photo-op with the press for this ‘leader’ who has zero support from his own people except those that are paid with US dollars? Will he be offered more of those dollars even though he represents Fatah, a terrorist organization that has killed more Israelis than any other, and which still — despite promises and signed agreements — swears to erase Israel from all of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean?

Will there be a special halal dinner served to this man who wrote a book based on his doctoral dissertation called “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” in which he wrote

A partnership was established between Hitler’s Nazis and the leadership of the Zionist movement… [the Zionists] gave permission to every racist in the world, led by Hitler and the Nazis, to treat Jews as they wish, so long as it guarantees immigration to Palestine.

And this,

Having more victims meant greater rights and stronger privilege to join the negotiation table for dividing the spoils of war once it was over. However, since Zionism was not a fighting partner — suffering victims in a battle — it had no escape but to offer up human beings, under any name, to raise the number of victims, which they could then boast of at the moment of accounting…

It seems that the interest of the Zionist movement…is to inflate this figure so that their gains will be greater. This led them to emphasize this figure in order to gain the solidarity of international public opinion with Zionism. Many scholars have debated the figure of six million and reached stunning conclusions — fixing the number of Jewish victims at only a few hundred thousand.

PM Netanyahu, who had to enter the White House by a side door and who did not get a photo-op or dinner (did Obama expect him to stop for a Big Mac on the way home?) has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state for the ‘Palestinian people’ alongside Israel and called for immediate negotiations with the Palestinians to this end, with no preconditions.

Abbas, for his part, has refused to talk unless Israel stops all construction in East Jerusalem, even in established Jewish neighborhoods, because — as the media invariably report with a straight face — the Palestinians ‘want East Jerusalem for the capital of their state’. And our president humiliated PM Netanyahu because he would not accept this demand, because he refused to give up sovereignty in his own capital because Abbas — whom, you recall, refuses to accept the idea of a Jewish state at all, anywhere —  ‘wants’ it!

After the manufactured ‘insult’ to the US during the Biden visit, Hillary Clinton called PM Netanyahu and made a series of new demands on Israel; stop all building in East Jerusalem, extend the freeze in Judea and Samaria, make further concessions on security measures, etc.

Will Abbas get the same treatment? Will Obama demand that the Palestinian leadership finally say — publicly, in Arabic — that a peace agreement with Israel will be with a state that belongs to the Jewish people, and send him out for a Big Mac if he refuses?

Nah, I’m betting that Obama treats him like a king.

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Quote of the Week

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Most people recognize the quotation from Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the House from 1977-87, who said “all politics is local.” But in many places the truth is that almost all politics are ethnic or religious.

Take Iraq for example, where there are Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, Assyrian, Turkmen, Yezidi and probably other such parties. In Lebanon, which may have the most political parties of any nation on earth, the great majority of its MP’s represent parties associated with ethnic or religious groups.

Israel has a few smaller religious parties, several Arab parties, and some which are favored by ethnic groups — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu [Israel is our home] party is considered the ‘Russian’ party — but the majority of political discourse (except in the case of the Arab parties — and that’s a problem) crosses these lines. In the US, the phenomenon is practically nonexistent.

In some places this is considered desirable. Islamist parties that advocate Shaaria-based law in effect favor a system which institutionalizes bias against non-Muslims. Not only do they see nothing wrong with this, they see it as appropriate and desirable. In Western democracies ethno-religious politics is generally considered a bad thing, because it leads to politically powerful groups obtaining special privileges for their members. Ethnic politics is also highly divisive and often violent (viz. Lebanon).

Even on a smaller scale — for example, when Hispanic voters in the US vote for a Hispanic candidate because he or she is expected to look out for their narrow interests — it tends to skew priorities in a suboptimal way. The best interest of the society as a whole is usually not the same as the sum of the interests of organized ethnic or religious groups.

Which brings us to the Quote of the Week, a parenthetical remark from Barry Rubin’s blog:

…this story, told to me first-hand, really shook me up. A doctor regularly receives referrals from the local office of the Immigration Service. One day a patient was sent over because, the officials said, he needed to get a certain shot to stay in the United States. The man insisted he didn’t need it, but the doctor pointed out that, according to the regulations, he did. The man said to the doctor, “You’re Jewish, aren’t you? You don’t like Syrians.” Just like that the whole Weberian, rational, laws-not-man, equal-treatment-under-law infrastructure that holds up Western civilization collapsed and the Middle Ages had returned.

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The Jewish rebellion against Barack Obama

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Former NY Mayor Ed Koch

Former NY Mayor Ed Koch

Shmuel Rosner asks,

What’s with all those new “Jewish ads” against Obama?

I understand the frustration with Obama, but can’t quite see the logic behind the ads. It only raises the stakes and makes Obama less prone let Netanyahu off the hook. An American President can’t lose an internal battle to a foreign leader – and the ads (Lauder, Wiesel) makes this an internal battle.

In addition to the Lauder and Wiesel advertisements, we should include this article by Ed Koch, former New York Mayor. Koch is important because he is a Democrat who strongly supported Obama in 2008; Lauder is a Republican who has been reported to be a possible challenger to NY Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, while Wiesel’s public persona is apolitical.

So why have high-profile Jews of various political stripes found it necessary to take Obama to task over Mideast policy?

It’s Obama who started the latter day Jewish Wars when he empowered his own personal Jewish Lobby, J Street. Invited to the White House while “right-wing” groups like the Zionist Organization of America were dis-invited, J (Judenrat) Street pumps out propaganda in the form of misleading polls and press releases whose purpose is to give the impression that most American Jews are behind Obama and his policies — especially including his anti-Zionist stance.

The intent is to bolster support for his position among non-Jews — who, after all, are 98% of the population — who reason that if even Jews support Obama’s efforts to forcibly create a Palestinian state, reestablish 1949 borders and divide Jerusalem, then it must be the best thing for the region as a whole, including Israel.

At the same time, the administration has begun to hit below the belt, leaking implications of dual loyalty among Jewish supporters of Israel — or even Jews who argue for fair treatment of Israel — as well as suggestions that American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are endangered because of Israeli intransigence!

So I think that what’s happened is that Jews like Lauder, Wiesel and Koch are beginning to feel that the moral obligation to stand up for the state of the Jewish People overrides the possible dangers. Who wants to be remembered in history like those Jewish leaders who supported Roosevelt’s inaction toward the Holocaust or opposed Truman’s recognition of Israel? In the words of Ed Koch,

What bothers me most of all is the shameful silence and lack of action by community leaders — Jew and Christian. Where are they? If this were a civil rights matter, the Jews would be in the mall in Washington protesting with and on behalf of our fellow American citizens. I asked one prominent Jewish leader why no one is preparing a march on Washington similar to the one in 1963 at which I was present and Martin Luther King’s memorable speech was given? His reply was “Fifty people might come.” Remember the 1930s? Few stood up. They were silent. Remember the most insightful statement of one of our greatest teachers, Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Rosner naturally sees it from an Israeli point of view, simply as a conflict between Netanyahu and Obama. But Obama apparently wanted a fight with American Jewry as well, and now he has one.

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One question for Bradley Burston

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Bradley Burston published a passionate attack on “The Occupation” yesterday, in honor of Israel’s Independence Day. Here’s some of it:

In a country where polls show that nearly two-thirds of the population would cede the West Bank under a future peace deal, Israelis are hostages to the nightmare scenario of permanent Occupation…

The Occupation has become the greatest single threat to the social fabric of the Jewish state. The Occupation causes division, strife, tension and alienation in Jewish families and Jewish communities the world over.

Nothing causes Israel more diplomatic damage than the Occupation, and its outrider, the siege of Gaza.

Nothing delegitimizes Israel more in the eyes of the world – and in the eyes of many Jews – than the nation’s unwillingness or inability to dismantle and end the Occupation…

What will permanent occupation mean for Israel? Not only that the nation will cease to be a democratic state, disenfranchising millions of Palestinians. In the end, permanent Occupation will see to it that Israel will cease to be a Jewish state as well. Israel will have delegitimized itself out of existence.

It will have knowingly opted for and adopted apartheid, and, in the end, either through democracy or through fire, and, thanks to the Occupation, the world community will see to it that an Arab-ruled Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River will finally come into existence.

I have a question which I hope Burston will answer. Because it is just impossible for me to understand his mindset, or that of others who say the same sort of things. Here it is:


Given that most Israelis would prefer the Palestinian Arabs as “neighbors” or “true cousins”, how do you propose to get there from here?

How do you propose to end the “siege of Gaza” when it is in the hands of fanatics insane with hatred who make no secret of their desire for blood? What precisely do you propose? Open the crossings tomorrow? Make a deal with them? On what terms? Be specific.

You said,

In a country where polls show that nearly two-thirds of the population would cede the West Bank under a future peace deal, Israelis are hostages to the nightmare scenario of permanent Occupation.

Whom should Israel cede it to? The Fatah gang, who won’t even agree that the part that they don’t get belongs to the Jewish people (whose existence they deny)? Who still insist on ‘repatriating refugees’ into Israel? Who refuse to say that Israel’s withdrawal will put an end to their claims? What does that tell us about their intentions?

And afterwards — after all the ‘settlers’ are removed from ‘Palestinian land’ because Arabs are allowed to live in Israel but Jews may not live in ‘Palestine’ — after Israel has ethnically cleansed its own people, then how will the question of Hamas be resolved? Will Hamas become the rulers of our “true cousins,” or will Fatah reach an accommodation with them? Which would be better? Explain exactly why our “neighbors” will not simply continue their war against the Jews who, after all, are still ‘occupying’ land that they believe is theirs. Will they change their minds about Haifa, Acco, Yafo, Tel Aviv? Be specific.

You said,

The pro-settlement right — let us, for once, call it what it is: the Movement for a Permanent Occupation — taught anyone who would listen, that it is peace moves that provoke terrorism; that it is the peace process that has led us, time and again, to war; that to question the act of settlement is to be anti-Israeli.

Please explain how the ‘peace process’ has not led to war. Explain how Oslo’s resurrection of Yasser Arafat did not bring about terrorism. Explain how the abandonment of South Lebanon to Hizballah did not lead to war — a war which is only on hiatus and will shortly return. Explain how the complete withdrawal of every last Jew from Gaza brought peace. Be specific.

And while you’re explaining how Israel can end the occupation without allowing its enemies to end Israel, please explain how Israel’s standing in the “world community” would improve if it did not occupy Judea, Samaria, and the Golan heights. Would there be a peaceful relationship with Syria? With Iran? With Hizballah-Lebanon? Would public opinion in the UK, in Norway, in Sweden or the University of California, Irvine, suddenly become massively pro-Israel?

You’d like to discount all of this as the ranting of a member of the “Movement for a Permanent Occupation,” but none of it is based on religious ideology, racism, territorial maximalism, or a desire to rule over Palestinian Arabs. It’s just a practical question.

You want to end the occupation. How?

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A synergy of evil motives

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

A lot has been written about the apparent paradox expressed in the recent American Jewish Committee (AJC) poll of American Jews. The poll was taken on March 23, a week after the blowup during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel.

55% answered that they approve of the Obama Administration’s handling of US-Israel relations, while only 37% disapprove. At the same time 57% approve of PM Netanyahu’s handling  of the Israel-US relationship, while only 30% disapprove. And 61% think that Israel should not “be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction,” with only 35% saying that it should.

Huh? Netanyahu and Obama are clearly at odds over the status of Jerusalem. The administration wants to divide the city, and the flap over Ramat Shlomo indicates that it may even favor a return to 1949 lines, which is far more than any Israeli government would be prepared to accept.

On the Iranian nukes,  a whopping 68% thought that there was “little chance” or “no chance” that sanctions and diplomacy would prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons (only 5% said there was a “good chance” and 27% picked “some chance”). 53% would support American military action  to stop Iran and 62% would support Israel doing it.

But at the same time, 47% said they approved and 42% disapproved of the Obama administration’s ‘handling’ of the issue!

So what can this 47% be thinking? They don’t think sanctions would work, but the administration can’t even apply sanctions. A series of empty threats, missed deadlines and wishful thinking on its part has brought us to the point that Iran could have a weapon within months.

And the 62% that would support an Israeli attack on Iran — do they understand that administration spokespersons have said on several occasions that such an action would be a disaster from the US point of view, and that the US would do its best to prevent it? Do they remember that Zbig Brzezinski, one of the architects of Obama’s nascent plan to impose a settlement on Israel and the Palestinians, once suggested in the crudest terms that the US should use force to stop an Israeli attack, if necessary?

There is only one interpretation of these results that makes sense, and that is that most of the poll respondents do not understand the actual attitudes and policies of the Obama Administration.

Left-wing commentator Rachel Maddow refers to “Obama derangement syndrome,” by which she means unreasonable hatred of the president by the Right (conservatives made a similar point about ‘Bush derangement syndrome’ during his administration). I think, however, that the derangement actually works in the opposite direction — a ‘reality distortion field‘ in which many Democrats (50% of the survey respondents identified as Democrats, with only 15% Republicans and 32% Independents) simply cannot accept the true nature of the administration that they elected — that in 2008 they replaced a corrupt, incompetent center-right regime with an equally corrupt and incompetent one — but one whose ideology is far more skewed to the Left than they expected or are comfortable with.

Actually, I think the Republicans are in part responsible. When they call every Democratic opponent, even centrists like the Clintons, “radical leftists” then nobody believes them when a real radical leftist comes along.

Of course the Obamists’ extreme ideology is mitigated in some areas, like health care, by their corruption. So they came up with a health care plan which will actually change very little for consumers, since it is designed not to hurt — even to help — the corporate interests that own them no less than the Republicans (it will also be bad for the deficit — that’s the competence part).

Unfortunately, where Israel policy is concerned there is a synergy of evil motives. Obama and his people, as is the fashion in academia, strongly favor the ‘oppressed’, ‘third-world’ Palestinian Arabs. But add to this the fact that they can be bought by Saudi oil money, and you have a bad situation indeed. The Bushes were quite close to the Saudis, but (at least in the case of G. W. Bush himself) there was an understanding and sympathy for Israel as a democracy.

While I’m at it, let me throw another dart at the Republicans. If they want to replace Obama in the hearts of American Jews — and others that voted for him — they will have to provide an alternative to incompetence and corruption, not just ideology. In particular, the know-nothing wing of the party, as examplified by Sarah Palin, does not engender confidence in its ability to produce a competent administration.

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