Archive for November, 2010

Israeli Jews sick of Arab bad behavior

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

“Let’s see you explain this,” say my friends:

The Israel Democracy Institute released the results of its Israeli Democracy Ranking and poll on Tuesday, revealing that 53 percent of Jewish Israelis say the government should encourage [Israeli] Arabs to emigrate from Israel, and only 51% believe Jews and Arabs should have equal rights. — Jerusalem Post (the poll data is here)

Well, I’m going to try. The usual suspects will claim that this shows that Israeli Jews are racists. But there’s other information in the poll that indicates otherwise. For example,

We … posed the question: “Would it bother you to have as your neighbor: immigrants from the Former Soviet Union; ultra-Orthodox Jews; former settlers; a homosexual couple; foreign workers; an Arab family (asked of Jews)/a Jewish family (asked of Arabs); mentally retarded individuals; Ethiopian immigrants; mentally ill individuals in community treatment; people who do not observe Sabbath or holidays?” … For all groups cited, more than half the Jewish respondents answered that having such a neighbor would not bother them (the average of those who responded that they would be bothered is 23%).

That doesn’t sound very racist to me. But there is one kind of question about Arabs that Jews responded in a uniformly negative way: 70% of Jews disagreed with the statement “In your opinion, should more Arabs be appointed to senior positions in Israel?” 86% of Jews think that a Jewish majority should be required for decisions “fateful to the state,” and 62% that “as long as Israel is in a state of conflict with the Palestinians, the views of Arab citizens of Israel should not be taken into account on security issues.”

What is going on here seems to be that many Israeli Jews have come to believe believe that Arab citizens of Israel do not have the best interests of the Jewish state at heart.  Consider that one Israeli Arab member of the Knesset (Azmi Bishara) recently fled the country to escape prosecution for, among other things, providing targeting information to Hizballah during the 2006 war, and another  (MK Haneen Zouabi) — sailed on the Mavi Marmara and calls for the dismantling of the Jewish state.

In recent years the degree to which the ‘Israeli Arabs’ (who prefer now to be called ‘Palestinian citizens of Israel’) identify with Israel’s enemies has sharply increased. Sometimes this is expressed violently and sometimes not, sometimes politically — as in Zouabi’s calls for Israel to be ‘de-Zionized’ — and sometimes in the form of criminal activity.

But apparently the periodic riots and other expressions of anti-Zionism have convinced the Jewish public that the experiment in coexistence that is today’s Israel, in which 20% of the population is Arab, is not working as well as Ben-Gurion hoped it would.

In other words: Israeli Jews aren’t racists, they’re just sick of Arab bad behavior.

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Insult a Muslim, go to jail

Monday, November 29th, 2010

I am going to quote something which most Americans know by heart and even think is unexceptional:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. — The First Amendment to the US Constitution

It is, however, very exceptional. For example, there is no corresponding freedom of speech in liberal, democratic Europe. There, the European Parliament reserves the right to determine what kind of speech is acceptable and to jail anyone that speaks in an unacceptable way.

Now, you might say that Holocaust denial, for example, is very bad and should not be permitted, not to mention the huge amount of truly vicious racist material available on the Internet. But as Madison and Jefferson realized, laws are blunt instruments and have to be applied with human discretion. All you need is the wrong human and what was intended to protect individuals can be turned to oppress them.

Europe’s response to the racist policies of the Nazis was to criminalize certain kinds of speech. But ironically, the forces that are taking advantage of this are the ones whose intent most closely parallels that of the Nazis — radical Islamists.

In 2008, the EU adopted a ‘Framework Decision‘ to reconcile the treatment of speech-crimes (my phrase) by its various members in regard to “racism and xenophobia.” It went into effect yesterday. In part, it says

1. Each Member State shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable:

(a) publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin;

(b) the commission of an act referred to in point (a) by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;

(c) publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite to violence or hatred against such a group or a member of such a group;

2. For the purpose of paragraph 1, Member States may choose to punish only conduct which is either carried out in a manner likely to disturb public order or which is threatening, abusive or insulting.

3. For the purpose of paragraph 1, the reference to religion is intended to cover, at least, conduct which is a pretext for directing acts against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.

Now consider what this could mean in practice. Take the Goldstone Report, which concluded — by a combination of falsehoods and unsound reasoning — that the IDF committed war crimes in Gaza, deliberately harming Palestinian Arab civilians in order to ‘collectively punish’ them for supporting Hamas. Although the report itself is simply a badly-done slander produced by the most Israel-hostile circles in the UN and NGOs, it was officially adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.

So the Goldstone Report can be used as ‘evidence’ that publicly defending Israel is a crime under 1(c) above!

Further, a literal reading of the EU decision implies that speech that is ‘insulting’ to a religious group may be ‘inciting to hatred’ and therefore unlawful. Unlike the criterion of inciting to violence, which is somewhat objective, something can be said to be ‘insulting’ if the ‘victim’ of the speech-crime claims to be insulted.

There is no doubt that many Muslims found the famous Danish cartoons insulting, so it appears that the cartoonist and publisher would have also committed a crime. Is there any doubt that they would be prosecuted today?

Note that the truth or falsity of the speech is irrelevant here. If it is construed to be ‘insulting’ or ‘abusive’ then it doesn’t matter.

Europeans sometimes comment on the ‘obsession with individual freedom’ that characterizes the US. I remind them that Fascism was invented there.

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Airport security is the war in microcosm

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Here is a quick calculation by Dana Milbank (h/t: IsraelMatzav):

El Al, Israel’s national carrier, reported spending $107,828,000 on security in 2009 for the 1.9 million passengers it carried. That works out to about $56.75 per passenger. The United States, by contrast, spent $5.33 billion on aviation security in fiscal 2010, and the air travel system handled 769.6 million passengers in 2009 (a low year), according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That amounts to $6.93 per passenger.

Hmm, you get what you pay for, apparently. Milbank’s point is that the overall cost would be astronomical, while IsraelMatzav says that passengers could simply be asked to pay an extra $50 or so per ticket. Two ways of looking at the same number.

While our government is capable of throwing a large amount of money and other people’s inconvenience (for an absolutely incredible example, watch the video below) at the problem, it can’t be solved by the present system.

The TSA employs standard procedures that are applied to everyone “by the book.” Officers are obviously not encouraged or permitted to exercise initiative with respect to the procedures that are documented. The terrorist, on the other hand, has no difficulty in learning exactly what these procedures are and has complete freedom to think creatively about how to circumvent them.

It’s no contest. Humans dominated the earth’s ecosystems by using their large, creative brains. A rule book, no matter how carefully crafted, can’t possibly compete with a human brain.

The Israeli system — profiling in many dimensions, using screeners who talk to the passengers and look for behavioral clues to escalate the degree of scrutiny, multiple levels of security, methods that are not disclosed, etc. — is designed to pit intelligence against intelligence.

Milbank suggests that we cannot use the Israeli system because of the cost. But I don’t think that’s the major obstacle. As IsraelMatzav suggested, there ways to pay for it. I think the problem is that we’ve developed a culture in which anything discriminatory is taboo (and invites lawsuits). And the discrimination need not be racial or ethnic — you are simply not allowed to single anyone out, ever, for anything, unless it’s done by a legal proceeding.

The Israeli system is inherently discriminatory, because only by discriminating in some way is it possible to focus enough to have a good chance of detecting an actual terrorist. Apparently our government thinks that it’s easier to break the taboo on strangers touching your genitals than the one against discrimination. Which might be true, but it’s still ineffective.

Airport security is a much larger issue in microcosm: the difficulty of fighting an asymmetric war. Airline terrorism is only a small part of the war between the West and radical Islam. What’s important about it is that it may be giving rise to the first time the larger society in the US has actually had to deal with explicitly giving something up as a result of the war.

Some of the confusion is due to the fact that our government hasn’t faced the reality, named the enemy, acknowledged the need for sacrifice, and taken steps to spread it around in a more equal way. Until we begin to see the struggle we are in clearly, we are going to continue to be frustrated and angry — and we won’t prevail.

I promised a video. Take some people who not paid very well to do a job  that they know is impossible with the tools they are given. Tell them that a byproduct of the Sisyphean task they are charged with is  that their ‘clients’ are likely to also be frustrated, annoyed and hostile. Here’s the result:

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

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Dutch government supports hate-Israel site

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Ali Abunimah is a dedicated anti-Israel activist. His website, Electronic Intifada, is widely read (US traffic rank around 106,000) and linked to (more than 2000 sites). Abunimah gives speeches, appears on panels and is often quoted on the radio. He claims to have met Barack Obama numerous times, and is responsible for this notable quote:

As he came in from the cold and took off his coat [Chicago, 2004], I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.” He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, “Keep up the good work!” — Ali Abunimah

By the “3D test” of Natan Sharansky — Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization — or by the European Union’s working definition of antisemitism, Abunimah’s website and many of his remarks are antisemitic. Here is what NGO Monitor wrote about Electronic Intifada:

…the organization known as Electronic Intifada is very active in BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] efforts, routinely abusing terms like “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing.” Nigel Parry, a cofounder of EI, conflates victims of terror with terror leaders, and justifies Palestinian mortars fired into Israeli settlements by stating: “The dilemma in which the Palestinians find themselves is like that of a man who, falsely imprisoned for most of his life and demonized by society, finds himself in a dark room being raped by a highly decorated prison guard, when… he suddenly notices a rocket launcher lying within reach.” Parry also compared Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas head Ahmed Yassin to a “bus bombing.”

EI’s other founder, Ali Abunimah, who appears on many campuses to promote BDS, calls for a one-state solution, meaning the elimination of Israel. Abunimah also compares Israel to Nazi Germany, referring to the Israeli press as “Der Sturmer.”

All this activity is expensive. Where does the money come from? Surprisingly (or not), a great deal of it comes from a Western liberal democracy:

BERLIN – The Dutch government has been funding the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation [ICCO], a Dutch aid organization that finances the Electronic Intifada website that, NGO Monitor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, is anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime…

That government funding amounted to €124 million in 2008. The European Commission also funds ICCO…

The ICCO website devotes a page to Electronic Intifada, praising its work as “an internationally recognized daily news source” that provides a counterweight to “positive reporting” about Israel. ICCO’s website notes its three-year funding pledge for Electronic Intifada… — Jerusalem Post

This is not the first time European states and the EU have been caught paying for the demonization of the Jewish state. In fact, they are apparently the largest source of funding for left-wing Israeli NGOs which are such big contributors to the the international hate-Israel movement.

The Dutch seem to prefer that their nation remain a liberal democracy, and have reacted quite strongly to attempts by radical Islamists to change that. It’s ironic that their government seems to support the same kind of aggression against someone else’s democracy.

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Lies, big and little

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

A Dutch filmmaker, George Sluizer, recently claimed to have seen Ariel Sharon shoot two ‘toddlers’ in Lebanon during the Sabra/Shatila massacres. His story was published in the third-largest newspaper in the Netherlands, the Volksrant. The story is impossible for numerous reasons, not to mention the fact that Sharon would never have done such a thing.

When Hizballah was implicated in the murder of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri, they immediately denied it and claimed that Israel had killed Hariri. There is no possible way that Israel could have benefited by Hariri’s death, and most objective observers believed (and still believe) that the plan was hatched in Syria.

In August 2009, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published a story by one Donald Bostrom which accused the IDF of deliberately killing young Palestinians in order to steal their organs. Despite the fact that it is impossible to harvest organs from dead bodies and despite the fact that Bostrom himself admitted that his story was entirely based on “what Palestinian families told [him],” the story has persisted and is widely believed today.

The UN’s Goldstone report claimed that one of the official objectives of Operation Cast Lead was to kill or injure as many Palestinian noncombatants as possible. Goldstone’s commission came to this conclusion despite Israel’s very visible efforts to protect civilians, and despite the fact that Israel’s interests were clearly harmed by the perception that it wanted to hurt civilians.

In November 2002, Prince Nayef of Saudi Arabia, said “It is impossible that 19 youths carried out the operation of September 11, or that bin Laden or Al Qaeda did that alone. … I think [the Zionists] are behind these events.” This, and many similar statements by other important Arabs and Muslims are quoted here.

Do you see where I’m going? There are many, many more examples, some trivial and some vicious.

It is possible to say absolutely anything about Israel, its leaders, its people and its army. It may be published in ‘legitimate’ media, and it will be believed in the worldwide community of Israel-haters. There are numerous internet sites and blogs that exist only to be repositories for this kind of story.

Most Americans think the slanders above are false. How could anyone believe them? And yet, in some places in the world almost everyone believes them. Here in the US it’s the less theatrical ones that tend to be believed, like the one that says that most of the casualties of Cast Lead were civilians (especially children), that ‘settlers’ run wild in Judea and Samaria uprooting olive trees and burning mosques, that there are starving people in Gaza, that “Israel is not interested in peace,” etc. But these are equally false.

Some of the US and Soviet propaganda of the Cold War era was equally vicious, at least if we ignore the echoes of ancient antisemitic blood libels in the attacks on Israel. What is unprecedented is the way these attacks are aimed in only one direction and emanate from so many sources: the Arab world, Iran, Europe, the UK, the international Left, etc.

It’s like schoolyard bullying, the way it’s focused on a particular target. A misfit nation, a Jewish nation in a place where Jews are despised, Israel is singled out in a historically unique way.  But it’s not simple sadism.  It has a purpose, which is to crush any sympathetic feelings toward Israel, both to stymie her political initiatives in peacetime and to justify actions to prevent her from making any gains or even defending herself in the event of war.

I don’t know what the solution is. It takes zero effort to make up a story like the one about Sharon, but it’s harder to prove that something didn’t happen. Anyway, the people that believe these tales are not persuaded by logic or evidence. Ultimately, the stories make it into the ‘conventional wisdom’, the things everyone accepts without question.

I’m sure the President of the US doesn’t believe that Sharon shoots toddlers or that Zionists perpetrated 9/11. But I wonder what stories he does believe?

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