Archive for October, 2010

Diplomacy is more like warfare than problem-solving

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

In the peculiar mental space of the ‘Palestinian’ movements — the PLO, Hamas and their supporters — there are some words that are used very differently from the way most Israelis and Americans use them. Here are some definitions to keep in mind when you read or listen to their statements:

Palestine — The entire land area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Palestinian land — All of Palestine as defined above.

Palestinian People — All Arabs that lived in Palestine in 1948 and their descendants, including those who migrated into the region from Egypt or Syria in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Jews — Adherents to the Jewish religion.

Jewish People — There isn’t one. Unlike Palestinians, the PLO and Hamas do not consider Jews a ‘people’.

Zionists — Jews who colonized Palestine.

Occupation — The presence of a Zionist colony on Palestinian land. The occupation began in 1948. It is illegitimate despite League of Nations and UN resolutions, either because it is a colonialist enterprise (the PLO) or for religious reasons (Hamas).

Palestinian Refugees — Those Palestinians who lived in the area of the Zionist colony and were displaced in 1948, and their descendants. There are 4.5 million of these, and they are the true owners of the land in the Zionist colony.

Palestinian Cause — To end the occupation and return all Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homes, as defined above.

Two-state solution — An outcome to the conflict which ends the occupation by declaring two states: one in Eastern Palestine which will be entirely populated by Arabs, and one in the part of Palestine occupied by the Zionists in 1949, where Palestinian refugees will return.

Although Hamas and the PLO diverge sharply on many issues, including the kind of state that should ultimately be created in ‘Palestine’ and the best way to end the ‘occupation’, they all agree on the definitions above.

If you keep these definitions in mind, you will have no trouble understanding:

The refusal of PA leaders and negotiators to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish People. For one thing, they don’t agree that there is a Jewish people (although with massive illogic they then insist that there is a ‘Palestinian’ people), and for another, this would declare the ‘occupation’ legitimate — in contradiction to the basic principle of the Palestinian Cause.

The rejection of the Camp David proposal in 2000  and Olmert’s offer in 2008. Both of these would have created a state of Palestine in the territories and included unprecedented concessions on Jerusalem. But they didn’t include return of ‘Palestinian refugees’ and contained various provisions that would safeguard and legitimize the ‘Zionist colony’. They would not have ended the ‘occupation’ and so contradicted the Palestinian Cause.

The derisive response to PM Netanyahu’s statement in support of a two-state solution. Netanyahu’s position represented a significant departure from previous Likud principles that it would not accept a Palestinian state, and caused him internal difficulties with his supporters on the Right. But since he insisted on demilitarization and did not accept the ‘return’ of ‘refugees’, this was not considered a legitimate ‘two-state solution’.

The continued rocket and suicide terrorism of Hamas after Israel withdrew from Gaza. Hamas considered the withdrawal as a victory in the battle to end the ‘occupation’, brought about by its policy of violent resistance. Therefore it chose to continue this successful policy to end the rest of the ‘occupation’.

And of course, the persistence of the conflict.

Most Israelis and Americans, including — one hopes — the Obama Administration, believe that Israel is legitimate and that it is the nation-state of the Jewish people. They use the word ‘occupation’ to refer to territories occupied in 1967, and they imagine a two-state solution as one in which an Arab state of Palestine lives peacefully alongside a Jewish state of Israel. All of these usages are significantly different than the ‘Palestinian’ definitions above.

Those who — deliberately or from ignorance — deny these ambiguities may say things like “everybody knows what the general outlines of a solution are; we just need to work out the details.” But that’s far from true.

Communication is impossible without agreement on the meanings of words. As long as systematic ambiguity about basic concepts remains, the conflict cannot be ended by negotiation.

So why don’t negotiators agree on terms?

The answer is that they are not trying to end the conflict. Diplomats love ambiguity, because it allows them to pretend to be making progress so they can demand concrete concessions from the other side or from third parties.

The dirty little secret about diplomacy is that it is more like warfare than problem-solving.

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Fighting hunger or fighting Israel?

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Today I took part in an event to raise funds to feed hungry people. The sponsoring agency was Church World Service (CWS), founded after WWII by various Christian denominations to help feed the population of devastated Europe.

Participants included members of our local Reform Jewish congregation, many Protestant churches and a mosque. I was assured that the event was entirely non-political, intended only to fight hunger.

Sounds great, and there are certainly plenty of hungry people today in Africa, Pakistan, etc. But when I looked at the CWS website, I discovered that CWS not only fights hunger, but also advocates and lobbies for ‘peace and justice’.

Uh-oh. It’s a sad state of affairs that these words must set off alarm bells, but they do. And sure enough, here’s what I found:

Contact your members of Congress and urge them to support the Obama Administration’s efforts toward a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Tell them that you appreciate the Administration’s encouragement of both sides to get serious about meaningful negotiations, and you support its efforts to end Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

And more: CWS presents with approval a vicious 2009 statement from some Christian Arabs, the “Kairos Document,” which begins as follows:

We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation, with a cry of hope in the absence of all hope, a cry full of prayer and faith in a God ever vigilant, in God’s divine providence for all the inhabitants of this land.

Inspired by the mystery of God’s love for all, the mystery of God’s divine presence in the history of all peoples and, in a particular way, in the history of our country, we proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging – a word of faith, hope and love.

It gets much worse from here on, blaming Israel for all the misfortunes of the Palestinian Arabs, especially the Christians — whose numbers are rapidly shrinking as they emigrate to escape the conflict and religious persecution by Muslims, attacking Jewish rights in the land of Israel, providing theological justification for ‘resistance’, etc. Incidentally, various versions of this document appear all over the web, on anti-Zionist and antisemitic sites.

Snookered again! Here I wanted to feed the hungry and ended up supporting those who would like to feed the Jewish state to the lions.

This started me thinking: what caused the ‘Palestinization’ of all of these organizations that were originally intended simply to help those in need or the truly oppressed?

CWS is just one of numerous charitable NGOs that have gone this way. Amnesty International (AI) was founded in 1961 to help ‘prisoners of conscience’ — people imprisoned for purely political or religious reasons. Human Rights Watch (HRW) was created to monitor human rights provisions of the 1978 Helsinki Accords, which called for “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”

But recently AI and HRW cynically cooperated with the corrupt UN Human Rights Council to give birth to the tendentious Goldstone Report, which maliciously demonized Israel.

In some cases, political slants can be predicted by looking at funding sources. HRW, for example, gets most of its money from left-leaning foundations, including the Open Society Institute of George Soros; and last year it held a fund-raising dinner in Saudi Arabia. Other NGOs are funded by the European Union and other governmental sources which have a stake in pressuring Israel.

In the case of CWS, it’s not that easy. Surprisingly, 43% of its income comes from the US government, probably to pay for CWS’s work resettling Haitian and Cuban refugees in the US. It’s likely that its anti-Israel ‘advocacy’ is inspired by activists among its leadership. This is the same phenomenon which causes groups like trade unions, the Presbyterian Church, city councils, etc. to consider and sometimes pass ‘boycott Israel’ resolutions.

Most of the people who vote on these resolutions are not particularly interested in the Israeli-Arab conflict, but they have a general idea that Israel is oppressing some third-world people, and can be convinced to do the ‘right’ thing, since there is little effort involved and no personal consequences.

As a board member of a non-profit myself, I am well aware that members have pet projects, and that sometimes a director will support another’s project in return for a vote for his own.

All that’s required is at least one persistent, dedicated ideologue to introduce ‘Palestine’ as a cause, to get grants from sympathetic sources and hire like-minded staff, etc. In some cases, like HRW, it seems that issues concerning Israel come to crowd out most of the others.

There is no shortage of activists in the 36 member denominations of CWS, which include the Orthodox churches that most ‘Palestinian’ Christians belong to, as well as some others which themselves have passed anti-Israel initiatives.

I am certain that CWS does a great deal of good. But in fiscal year 2008-9, it also sent over $2 million to unspecified recipients in the Middle East (grants outside the US are not listed in detail on the form 990), and spent about $3 million on ‘education and advocacy’ — including lobbying — on issues including ‘justice and peace-building’, climate change, hunger, refugees, immigration, etc.

Next time I feel like fighting hunger, I’ll make a donation to a local food pantry.

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NPR: cowardice or treason?

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Bin Talal and Soros earn their official Car Talk coffee mugs

Bin Talal and Soros earn their official Car Talk coffee mugs

The flap over NPR’s outrageous firing of news analyst Juan Williams won’t go away. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller dug herself even deeper into the manure pit when she said that Williams should discuss his feeling “with his psychiatrist or his publicist — take your pick,” a quip for which she later apologized.

It may be true that Williams didn’t follow instructions about not mentioning his position at NPR when he appeared on Fox. It may be true that NPR management was really uncomfortable about his gig with its sworn enemy. I haven’t seen his contract and I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not prepared to argue about whether they had a right to fire him.

The usual pinwheels are madly spinning that it’s all a right-wing plot, pointing to Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Jim DeMint. It’s not a surprise that conservative politicians would take an opportunity to attack NPR, which clearly does have a liberal bias. But raising this point only distracts attention from the main issue.

All of the above is irrelevant except this:

Monday: Williams makes a remark which violates the unwritten commandment that Thou Shalt Not Piss Off Muslims No Matter How Touchy They May Be.

Wednesday: CAIR (and who knows who else) complains. Shortly thereafter, NPR fires Williams, issuing a statement which specifically refers to the remark in question.

Schiller claimed that she hadn’t seen CAIR’s complaint. Of course that doesn’t imply that she didn’t know about it, or that she hadn’t received any calls about it.

She also said that NPR had concerns about Williams for some time. Again, so what? This was what they chose to fire him for.

Barry Rubin argues that the real significance of this event is that the victim was a liberal, showing that the establishment — in this case NPR — actually has a far left, not liberal, orientation. He may be right.

But here is what I think we should take away from this:

Today the West is struggling with radical Islam, which wants to supplant it as the dominant world culture and impose its own mores and legal system. If you think that the principles of the Enlightenment — which, by the way, guided Madison and Jefferson when they wrote our Constitution — represent an advance over those of seventh-century Arabia, then it must be possible to have a public discussion in which you can say that.

When news media allow themselves to be castrated and censor discourse about Islam — and when the arbiters of what is acceptable or not are groups like CAIR, which are associated with radical Islamists — then it isn’t possible to depend on these media to report reliably on the conflict we find ourselves in today.

The problem is not “liberal bias.” There is nothing liberal about shutting down free speech and punishing dissidents. The problem is either that NPR is afraid to allow its commentators to speak freely, or it supports the triumph of radical Islam over the West.

In other words: cowardice or treason.

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Juan Williams and the suppression of free expression

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Juan Williams. Canned for political incorrectness.

Juan Williams. Canned for political incorrectness.

Yes, I too have an opinion about the Juan Williams affair, even though in the world of blogs, something that happened four days ago is ancient history.

Juan Williams had a job as a ‘news analyst’ for NPR, a news organization that I’ve criticized numerous times (see also here). Williams also appears on Fox News, and had a conversation with Bill O’Reilly on Monday in which he said this:

I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

[The Times Square bomber] said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

Two days later (and after a complaint from CAIR) he was fired by NPR, which said in an official statement that

his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.

Fox News quoted NPR President Vivian Schiller who explained further:

Schiller issued an internal memo on Thursday saying that Williams was fired for violating an NPR principle that states that on other networks “NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist,” reads the memo obtained by Fox News.

“News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation,” she added.

Many comments supporting NPR equated Williams with radio personality Don Imus (who was fired for calling the members of a girls’ basketball team “nappy-headed ho’s”) and compared his remark to “when I walk down the street and see a black person I get nervous,” which they view as clearly racist.

Let’s look at this.

Violent crime peaked in New York city around 1990, and muggings were particularly prevalent. People reported robberies on a regular basis, sometimes in the same place by the same person. The perpetrators were overwhelmingly young black males. Would it be racist at that time and place to say “young black males make me nervous” — or would it just be common sense?

Schiller’s and NPR’s responses do not accuse Williams of racism or ‘Islamophobia’. They say that as a news analyst it hurts his credibility when he expresses a personal view on a controversial subject. The view he expressed is certainly personal.

But is it controversial that terrorism by radical Muslims in the name of Islam is frequent and bloody today? I don’t think so, no more than saying that New York’s muggers were predominately young black males. These are just facts.

‘News analysis’ is something between straight news and opinion. I haven’t succeeded in finding a definition of it, although almost every media outlet claims to do it. An analyst, I suppose, would take the factual story provided by a reporter and explain how that story might develop, what its relationships are to other stories, why it is important (or not), and ultimately how it might affect people’s lives.

It’s hard enough for a news reporter to keep his interpretation out of a story. Could an ‘analyst’ make the value judgments, extrapolations, and even guesses that are essential to his job without letting his personal opinions show? I don’t think so, and of course NPR’s analysts do it all the time — and guess what, so do their news reporters.

There is something about Williams’ comment that crossed a red line at NPR. What was it? Here are some of the explanations people have offered:

  • NPR is obsessed with political correctness for ideological reasons.
  • NPR is uncomfortable with Williams appearing on Fox News.
  • NPR is afraid of CAIR.
  • NPR is afraid of some large contributors. George Soros recently gave them $1.8 million. Since their donor list is not public, it’s possible — actually, I would bet on it — that it receives recycled Arab petrodollars, too.
  • NPR is following what Daniel Pipes calls ‘Rushdie rules’.

I don’t know for sure which of these explanations may be true. Probably all of them.

I do know that in the US today, free expression about the subjects of Islam, Islamism, and both violent and nonviolent jihad is strongly discouraged.  This comes from the top, with both the Bush and Obama Administrations issuing guidelines that restrict the way government spokespersons can talk about these things.  NPR and my own local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, seem to have adopted the same approach.

I want to one more quotation, to which I can agree from personal experience.

Most people would not call Williams a right-winger. Overall, it seems to me that he has “called them as he sees them,” and the fact that he could work for both NPR and Fox supports this. He made this remark last year, also to O’Reilly:

When I say something that doesn’t hold to the orthodoxy of the far left, they are far more vicious and personal, ad hominem…than anything on the right.

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The bad dogs

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Here is something that appeared today on the Palestinian Media Watch site:

A clip broadcast seven times in three days on PA TV labeled Palestinian terrorists as “heroes” for having murdered six Israelis in two terror attacks. PA TV showed the clip to coincide with the anniversary celebrations of the Palestinian Arab Front (formerly Arab Liberation Front), the organization that carried out the attacks in 1975 and 1980.

The TV clip glorified the terror attacks by showing two pictures of the terrorists who committed the attacks, with captions that read, “The heroes of the Kfar Yuval operation” and, “The heroes of the Misgav Am operation.”

The attack on Kfar Yuval
On June 15, 1975, terrorists from the Arab Liberation Front penetrated the Israeli village Kfar Yuval near the Lebanese border. Four terrorists seized control of one of the homes and held its inhabitants hostage. Three Israelis were killed.

The attack on Misgav Am
On April 7, 1980, five terrorists from the Arab Liberation Front took control of the children’s house in Kibbutz Misgav Am in northern Israel, holding the children hostage. They killed two adults and one child [four other children were wounded — ed.] before they were subdued by the Israeli army.

I remember the Misgav Am attack quite well, since it occurred about a year after I moved to Israel. I lived on a kibbutz not unlike Misgav Am, and my son, who is 33 today and has two small children of his own, lived in a children’s house not unlike the one on Misgav Am. So the story made a big impresion on me.

This particular children’s house was a peuton, whose residents were perhaps two or three years old. An armed kibbutz member was present as night guard, a job that I had done numerous times. He was the first one killed.

I remember struggling through the Hebrew news accounts of the attack. What has stuck with me for thirty years was the way one of the surviving children described the incident: “The bad dogs barked.”

The Arab Liberation Front is now called the “Palestinian Arab Front” and is part of the PLO. The PA is the official incarnation of the PLO as a government, created by the Oslo Accords.

You can learn a lot about people by looking at their heroes.

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