Archive for October, 2010

Ha’aretz kicks off the anti-Bibi season

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Israelis in general don’t read Ha’aretz — its circulation runs a poor third, after Yediot Aharonot and Ma’ariv.  It exists for its English Internet edition, which is apparently taken seriously by ‘important’ folks in Europe and the US, despite the fact that its extreme left-wing bias reflects the views of only a tiny minority of Israelis.

This makes it dangerous at worst, or annoying at best. Here’s an example of the latter, by Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz Editor at Large:

Netanyahu rejected Obama’s request for a two-month extension of the settlement freeze; the president had wanted quiet on the Middle East front while he concentrated on the midterm elections. For his part, Netanyahu explained that he needed to show “credibility and steadfastness” at home, and indeed the incentives promised by the U.S. president in exchange for the extension did not sway the prime minister. One can surmise that Netanyahu did not want to help Obama ahead of the U.S. elections, and thus annoy the president’s Republican rivals. [my italics]

Actually, one can’t surmise that at all, unless one is a fool — or, like Benn, is trying to make trouble. There are clear reasons having to do with Israeli, not American, politics that make it impossible for PM Netanyahu to extend the freeze any further, even if he wanted to.

For one thing, his centrist coalition would come apart as the parties on the Right fled. The general population, too, even those who are not normally called ‘pro-settlement’, understand that the freeze has not brought peace any closer and object to American interference in Israel’s sovereignty. And then there is the certainty that a renewed freeze would be met with massive disobedience, putting Netanyahu in the position of either ignoring it and getting attacked for being ‘anti-peace’, or putting it down by force. Not an appealing choice to have to make.

Not only are Israeli domestic issues overriding, the US connection doesn’t exist. Benn seems to suggest that Americans are concerned with the prospects of the ‘peace process’, but this is probably the least important issue in the minds of most, for whom domestic economic and social issues are paramount. My guess is that not one of a hundred million voters will say “hmm, Netanyahu didn’t extend the freeze, that means Obama’s a dork — I better vote Republican.”

Insofar as he actually believes what he says, Benn is displaying the egotism one often finds among peace processors, who don’t realize that most people — inside and outside of Israel — have understood at least since 2000 that the ‘process’ is wholly worthless and irrelevant.

If he doesn’t believe it, then he’s just trying to provide material for the NY Times editorial writers, administration and State Department personnel, European Parliament members and UN functionaries that comprise his audience, to help them sharpen the knives that they have had out for Mr. Netanyahu since his election.

Remember that President Obama tried to bring about regime change in Israel before, but had to hold off when he realized that too much pressure on Israel would be bad for relations with some important Democrats on election eve. He won’t have to worry about that after Tuesday, so this little jab from Benn at the ‘disloyal’ PM is an indication of the way things are going to go starting next week.

Update [1 Nov 0756 PDT]: Added link to the original Ha’aretz article.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

What’s next?

Saturday, October 30th, 2010
What's next?

What's next?

News Item:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted recently to officially declare Rachel’s Tomb to be a mosque. UNESCO director Irena Bokova had previously stated “concern” at Israel’s decision to treat the tomb as a heritage site.

The vote called for Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs – the burial site of the other Biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs – to be removed from Israel’s National Heritage list.

The Palestinian Authority has claimed that Rachel’s Tomb is holy to Muslims as the site of a mosque called the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque. The PA [Palestinian Authority] demands control over both the tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron, as well as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem….

Journalist Nadav Shragai, writing for Yisrael Hayom, noted that Muslims living in the land of Israel have historically referred to Rachel’s Tomb as “Kubat Rahel,” the Arabic term for “Rachel’s Tomb.” Under Ottoman rule, Rachel’s Tomb was a Jewish site. Only in 1996 did the PA begin to call the site the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, he said.

The recent nature of the Muslim claim to the site is documented by Elder of Ziyon here. And here is a picture of it from the early 1860’s:

Rachel's tomb, around 1860

Rachel's tomb, around 1860

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Quote of the week: the Muslim-Jewish conflict

Friday, October 29th, 2010

This week’s quotation is from a review of Martin Gilbert’s “In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands” by Jonathan Kay:

The creation of the Zionist movement radically changed the Western understanding of the Muslim-Jewish conflict — sweeping up generations of campus intellectuals who have projected upon it all their own obsessions with colonialism and class struggle. But in the Muslim world, Gilbert’s narrative shows us, Israel’s creation actually didn’t change the Muslim-Jewish dynamic as much as is commonly imagined. The rhetoric and barbarism hurled against Israeli Jews after the Zionist project began were not new but simply the old, more diffuse rhetoric and barbarism being redirected, as by a lens, toward a particular pinprick on a map. This is tied up with the reason that many Muslims refuse even to say the word “Israel,” preferring terms such as “the Zionist entity”: Deep down, they regard Israel not as a country in the proper sense but rather as a sort of soil-and-concrete stand-in for the stubborn, maddeningly ineradicable Jewish presence in Middle Eastern life since the age of Muhammad.

Kay’s review is titled “Fourteen Centuries of Hatred” and that about sums it up. Unfortunately, unlike the Catholic Church, which (perhaps as a result of the Holocaust) officially renounced and condemned the baseless hatred that had characterized its relationship to the Jewish people for centuries, Islamic authorities in general have not preached an end to antisemitism. Rather, as Kay suggests above, they have simply focused it more sharply.

This helps explain the persistent anti-Israel incitement that flows from Arab sources:

Jew eats Dome of the Rock in Jordanian cartoon

Jew eats Dome of the Rock in Jordanian cartoon

Hatred justified by an appeal to Islam persists even in the US: last month Kaukab Siddique, a professor at Lincoln University in rural southeastern Pennsylvania made a speech in Washington at which he said (in part),

The time has come that we must stir up our ‘religious leaders’ in this country to speak the truth about Israel. They must put their hands on the Quran and say that they do not recognize Israel as a legitimate entity. If they cannot do that, they must be branded as kaffirs [infidels]. It’s as simple as that. Because the Quran says – drive them out from where they drove you out.

For the Christians I say please pray for Gaza. For the Jews I would say see what could happen to you if the Muslims wake up. And I say to the Muslims, dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism. Each one of us is their target and we must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel if possible by peaceful means. Perhaps, like Saladin, we will give them enough food and water to travel back to the lands from where they came to occupy other people. There’s no question of just removing the settlements. These settlements are only the tentacles of the devil who resides in Tel Aviv…

Siddique also denies the Holocaust and expresses the view that Jews

…are a small minority in America, yet they have taken over this country by devious and immoral means. They control the government, the media, education, the libraries, the book chains, the banks, Hollywood, Wall Street, Madison Avenue.

Nevertheless, he claims that he doesn’t hate Jews, just the “behavior of the Jews who are governing the ‘state of Israel’ and all of the ones who support their current behaviors.” He follows this with a list of anti-Jewish quotations from the Christian Gospels (proving precisely what?).

Siddique’s attitude toward Israel is an absolutely perfect example of how present-day anti-Zionism is “the old, more diffuse rhetoric and barbarism being redirected, as by a lens, toward a particular pinprick on a map” — although in Siddique’s case, he remains partial to unredirected barbarism toward Jews as well.

Incidentally, Lincoln University’s president feels that tenured Associate Professor Siddique

is entitled to express his personal views in conversation or in public forums, as long as he does not present such opinions as the views of the University. Dr. Siddique has made it apparent that his opinions are his own and are not a part of his curriculum.  Like all professors, he is expected to adhere to an approved syllabus.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

J Street U teaches anti-Zionism

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

I thought it was impossible to find anything else to criticize about the self-described ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ J Street, after it was exposed for taking money from anti-Israel sources and lying about it (some of my previous posts on J Street are here), but apparently its perfidy is  bottomless.

J Street has a youth organization, J Street U, “The Campus Address for Middle East Peace and Security.” What does it teach American college students about Israel and the conflict?

J Street U has a new National Board President, a Middlebury College senior named Moriel Rothman. Here’s how he explains the controversy surrounding the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Sheik Jarrah:

…the Jerusalem municipality has been bending to the will of fanatic Jewish settlers, and producing -based on archaic documents from the Ottoman period and manufactured Israeli law– eviction notices to a number of Palestinian families, and in some cases -such as with three families in Sheikh Jarrah- acting on those eviction notices by force and removing those Palestinian families from their homes. The municipality’s actions are hugely problematic from a moral standpoint: not only are Jews buying up and/or stealing Arab land in East Jerusalem, but Arabs are moreover unable to buy land in the primarily Jewish West Jerusalem… These policies are also hugely problematic from the standpoint of peace, as East Jerusalem must be the capital of the future Palestinian state, and the Clinton Parameters, which state that Palestine will get control of Arab neighborhoods and Israel will control Jewish neighborhoods, are made harder and harder to implement with each infiltration of Jewish settlers into Arab neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.

I am not going to go into detail about the legal issues, except to mention that the Jewish ownership of the homes in question was decided by the left-leaning Israeli Supreme Court. Palestinian Arabs and their supporters have simply decided that the neighborhood will be theirs for political reasons, and the law be damned. I quote this passage in order to draw attention to Rothman’s tone. Not very ‘pro-Israel’, is he?

But at least they oppose the boycott-divestment sanctions (BDS) movement. Don’t they?  Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes,

…let’s take a close look at the single positive point about J Street raised in the articles by those who admit being disappointed by J Street’s lies but believe there’s still life in them thar liars.

Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for federations and Jewish Community Relations Councils, criticized J Street’s lack of candor [!] but said that he and some of his constituent agencies have praised the organization because J Street was “very helpful” as a “credible left-wing pro-Israel organization” that opposed divestment efforts on campuses…

BDS attempts to damage Israel economically, but far more significantly, to delegitimize it by placing it on the same moral level as apartheid South Africa, which was subjected to similar actions. Marcus notes that J Street U doesn’t seem to have a problem with this aspect of BDS:

But why doesn’t J Street favor divestment from Israel? Is it because an economically strong Israel is a healthy and safe Israel? Nope. Is it because an economic intifada is a danger to Israel’s existence? Nope. Is it maybe even that Israel isn’t so bad that it deserves BDS? Nope again.

The reasons appear in an email sent about a year ago from J Street U National Board member Tal Schechter (quoted in the abominable Mondoweiss blog at

To Jewish Israelis, divestment only reinforces the notion that they are constantly under attack, creating an environment in which it is harder to achieve peace, not easier.

For Palestinians who already suffer from a weak economy, divestment only puts their society more at risk.

Get it? It will make those irrational Israelis even more stubborn and it will damage the Palestinian economy. They oppose BDS because it is counterproductive, the same reason given by Mahmoud Abbas for (at least for the present) opposing terrorism.

That’s it. That’s the most ‘pro-Israel’ they get.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

The only worthwhile security guarantee

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

In my last post, I pointed out one of the reasons that peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is not just around the corner. Here’s another:

From “How the Changing Nature of Threats to Israel Affects Vital Security Arrangements,” by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland:

…events over the past ten years have revealed a marked change in the types of threats to be expected from a Palestinian state, if such a state comes into being, or from the existing Palestinian entity. This involves a switch to three types of weaponry that create problems that are very difficult to handle:

  1. Rockets and missiles of different varieties, positioned throughout the West Bank, would be easily able to cover the entire area of the State of Israel.
  2. Advanced anti-aircraft missiles would be capable of shooting down not only large passenger aircraft flying into Ben-Gurion International Airport, but also helicopters and even fighter planes.
  3. Anti-tank missiles that are highly effective up to a range of 5 km. can easily cover not only strategic positions such as Israel’s north-south Highway 6, but well beyond, including other sites that are crucial to Israel’s defense.

The common denominator among all three types of weaponry is that they all fundamentally contradict the guidelines discussed for security arrangements in any agreement with the Palestinians.

The Necessity of Controlling the Territory

Ten years ago it was said that the answer to coping with the Palestinian threat to Israel was a demilitarized Palestinian state. But what does this mean? If such a state is stripped of tanks, artillery, and aircraft, it is probable that a detailed agreement to that effect will be signed and a monitoring system will be instituted to oversee its enforcement.

However [today], the real threat comes not from tanks but from rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-tank missiles. The common denominator among all of these is the ease of smuggling and clandestine manufacture, as is taking place today in Gaza. No monitoring system that may be established will be able to prevent this.

For instance, in a convoy of tens or even hundreds of trucks carrying crates of agricultural produce, there is nothing to prevent missiles from being concealed. Nor would there be any problem in storing such weapons in houses and cellars in built-up neighborhoods of Tulkarm, Kalkilya, or Nablus in the West Bank, nor any way of knowing of their existence until they are used against Israel. The threat that these weapons pose to Israel is much more significant than that of tanks or airplanes. On the contrary, there are various excellent means of combating tanks and artillery, but no effective way of combating smuggling or the local production of missiles. That being so, the term “demilitarized state” is an almost meaningless concept, if not accompanied by a monitoring system. It is well known that even in the best possible scenario, the existing systems are able to monitor only standard military weapons. The only way to monitor the prevention of smuggling of such types of weapons into the West Bank, or prevent their manufacture within it, is control…

If Israel were to withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, then the area to the east of the Israel-Palestine border would be home not only to the Palestinian Authority, but to other potential enemies too, since an agreement with the Palestinians provides no guarantee of an agreement with Hizbullah or peace with Syria. The question of whether Israel is able to defend itself is relevant not only in relation to the Palestinians, but should also be examined in the not unreasonable scenario of a war with Syria, Hizbullah, and the Palestinians.

Until the definition of the Palestinian Cause (see my previous post) changes radically, the only guarantee of security is the practical ability to prevent or repel an attack.

Discussions about the ‘peace process’ seem to revolve mostly about what the Arabs will get. What will the borders be?  How much of Jerusalem will Israel give up? Lately, to a much smaller extent, there is talk about an Israeli demand for recognition. But the questions raised by Eiland are much more fundamental.

Maybe we should stop worrying so much about the political issues and more about the physical security of Israel.

Technorati Tags: , ,