Archive for December, 2010

Western democracies: end the UN

Friday, December 24th, 2010

News item:

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday informed the US and EU of its intention to request a UN Security Council resolution that condemns construction in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem.

The announcement was made during separate meetings held by Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat with US Consul-General Daniel Rubenstein and EU representative to the Palestinian territories Christian Berger.

Erekat said that the PA was hoping that the resolution would condemn the construction as illegal and in violation of international law.

There are good arguments that the settlements are quite legal in international law. In any event, such a decision could not be made by a political body, like the Security Council. It would require an impartial court to consider the legal issues, which of course doesn’t exist.

Maybe it is finally time for Israel to consider leaving the UN.

On the one hand, such an action would be applauded by her enemies as an admission that the state lacks legitimacy. So it’s very unlikely.

On the other hand, the UN is dominated by non-democratic states. There is an automatic majority in the General Assembly for any anti-Israel resolution, and the UN actually has a ‘division’ set up to support the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. Here is a 2002 list of some of the ways the UN acts against Israel. It’s only gotten worse since then.

In truth, the UN has lost its ability to perform its intended mission, which is to prevent conflict. It has been incapable of dealing with several high-profile genocides or stopping numerous wars. Can you think of one conflict situation in which UN intervention has actually helped? I can’t.

UN agencies do perform useful functions in the area of health, disaster relief, coordination of various international standards, etc. But these could be done far more effectively and cheaply by independent agencies.

In recent years, UN efforts in the area of human rights have become politicized and controlled to a great extent by the violators of human rights. So resolutions are passed to protect ‘human rights’ in Gaza — that is, to prevent Israel’s legitimate self-defense against Hamas — while real rights violations committed by the numerous dictatorships who control the UN are ignored.

The UN is not quite as directly confrontational to the US as it is to Israel, but this is because we provide the major portion of its funding. It is not a good deal. In 2009, the US contributed $598,292,101 to the regular budget (22% of the total), plus an additional amount for ‘peacekeeping’ operations, some of which have been going on since 1978. In 2010, the US budgeted over $2 billion for ‘peacekeeping’!

One example of a peacekeeping operation is the UNIFIL in Lebanon. It failed to prevent Hizballah’s attack which led to the 2006 war, and then failed to enforce UN resolution 1701, which forbade Hizballah to rearm.  It did file protests regarding Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory.

UN Watch reports that near 3:00 AM today the General Assembly voted, over US opposition, to hold a “Durban III” conference on ‘racism’ in New York in September 2011, exactly one week after the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Like the first Durban conference, it’s expected to be primarily an opportunity to bash Israel and the US.

What if the US were to leave? Probably the UN would quickly collapse into well-deserved irrelevance. And then collapse altogether. Think of the improved parking situation in lower Manhattan!

I don’t think the UN, with its entrenched bureaucracy, can be fixed. What’s really needed is a new international organization in which a member state’s voting power depends in part on the number of people it democratically represents.  So for example, Saudi Arabia, whose delegation represents one family, should have much less influence than Israel, a democracy of several million people.

There’s not much chance of that, but I think it’s time for Western democracies — particularly the US — to say that they’ve had enough, to withdraw from the UN and create an international organization with less lofty goals, but which will have a method of governance that takes into account the legitimacy due to democratic nations, and which doesn’t espouse a radical pseudo-Marxist ideology which purports to favor the poor and oppressed, but which actually supports the worst dictators and murderers on the planet.

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Why Arabs hate land swaps

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

There is a guy named Dan Friedman who sends me (and numerous others) several e-mails a day. He is very, very right-wing, in his American politics and his views on Israel. I’m sure a lot of people dislike him, but he’s got a great sense of what’s important.

He often spots interesting  things, like this Newsweek interview with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — another smart guy that a lot of people dislike — in which Lieberman talks about land swaps:

Newsweek: You’re talking about drawing a line so that how many Israeli Arabs will no longer be part of Israel?

Avigdor Lieberman: At least half.

N: Polls suggest that 90 percent or more of Israeli Arabs don’t want that.

L: You have 20 percent of the population that’s the Arab minority. You have 80 percent that’s Jewish. From 80 percent of the Jewish population, 70 percent support this idea.

N: So even if a resident of [the Israeli Arab town] Umm al-Fahm, for instance, doesn’t want to become part of Palestine, if a majority in the country says he has to, he has no choice?

L: He can continue to live in his property, his house, his land [and become a citizen of Palestine], or he can move to Israel.

The idea of a land swap is that borders should be determined by the populations living inside them. So rather than arbitrarily dividing the land according, for example, to the 1949 armistice lines, borders are drawn as much as possible to separate Jewish and Arab populations. Rather than evacuating hundreds of thousands of Jews from ‘Palestine’ — interestingly, no one ‘respectable’ ever talks about evacuating Arabs from Israel — they can stay where they are and become part of Israel, while heavily Arab areas presently inside Israel can become part of Palestine.

Obviously, geographic considerations like contiguity make it impossible to create wholly homogeneous states, so a practical solution would either involve some people moving or some toleration of the minority culture within each state.

For some reason — perhaps because it is based on the admission that Jews and Arabs really can’t live together — the idea creates revulsion on the Left. And it makes Arab citizens of Israel, some of whom would become ‘Palestinians’ livid. Not just because they can see how ‘Palestine’ works in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and want no part of it, but because it presupposes that Jews have rights to some part of the land.

The usual two-state solution according to the 1949 lines does not. Since hundreds of thousands of Jews will be removed from Judea and Samaria, while Arabs within the Green Line will stay put, it can be read as a victory, albeit incomplete, for the Palestinian movement. And as the Arabs understand it, a two-state solution also includes the return of Arab ‘refugees’ to the area west of the line. It does not imply that the Jews get title to anything and is always seen as a step to total victory.

I am not inventing this. If you don’t agree that this is a correct account of Arab thinking, ask ‘Palestinian citizen of Israel’ Haneen Zouabi or Fatah official Abbas Zaki.

But the swap idea is different. Inherent in it is the idea that the Jews and Arabs are dividing the land between them, and the Jews will get to keep their part. It is an actual solution, not simply a withdrawal on the way to surrender.

I find it remarkable that this idea is dismissed as politically impossible or even morally offensive, while the unstable and unfair option of dividing the land according to the 1949 line is the preferred choice of the Israeli Left, the Obama Administration, and Europe.

Of course, having said that, it’s probably the case that no further partition of what used to be called “Western Palestine” according to any lines would yield either a viable Arab state or a secure Jewish one. The single-minded concentration on this idea by most of the world shows that most of the world does not want a stable solution — rather, they want to be able to say “we did our best” in the event that Israel is lost yet again and the Jews return to their ‘natural’ condition as a stateless, powerless, dispersed and persecuted people.

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Let him go

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Jonathan Pollard's passport. He was given Israeli citizenship in 1995. It's expired now, but it should be renewed -- and used.

Jonathan Pollard's passport. He was given Israeli citizenship in 1995. It's expired now, but it should be renewed -- and used.

So Israel will finally send an official letter asking the US to release Jonathan Pollard after 25 years.

I won’t go into the details of why he should be freed — how his sentence was disproportionate, how he was blamed for damage done to the US by spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, how he was offered a plea bargain and then hit with a life sentence, how he was treated in prison. I won’t discuss the speculation that he has been kept locked up because of what he knows about the US relationship with Saddam Hussein when he was our ‘ally’, or about the Iran-contra affair. You can find all of this and much more on the Justice for Jonathan Pollard site.

I’ll say that his release now, if it happens, may only mean that the gravely ill Pollard will die in Israel instead of the Federal Prison in Butner, NC. Wouldn’t that be ironic, considering that the Lockerbie Bomber, granted ‘compassionate release’ as a ‘dying man’ is alive and well in Libya a year and a half later!

This has been a dirty business ever since former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger submitted a secret memo to Judge Aubry E. Robinson Jr. that caused him to abrogate the plea agreement that Pollard would serve no more than 10 years, and to throw him in prison for life.

Several times Pollard’s freedom was mentioned as a bargaining point in various negotiations, including Wye River and Camp David. According to former Israeli diplomat Lenny Ben-David, he could have been released at the end of 2000:

…in my capacity as Israel’s number two diplomat in Washington, I drafted a confidential memo to Israel’s leadership early in 1999 presenting a comprehensive strategy for securing a presidential pardon for Pollard from the lame-duck president, Bill Clinton, during the three months of the American interregnum…

With a great sense of disappointment, I sensed that the strategies presented in my memorandum might have been redirected to securing the pardon of Marc Rich, an American financier who escaped to Switzerland in 1983 after being indicted for tax evasion, money laundering and illegal trading with Iran.

In the period leading up to the presidential interregnum, a major campaign was underway to secure Rich’s pardon. Israel’s prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, interceded with Clinton on Rich’s behalf, according to congressional testimony by then White House chief of staff John Podesta. Former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova told “Meet the Press” in February 2001: “When the prime minister of Israel, one of our closest allies, communicates with the president of the United States about a pardon, I would say to you that the president has a pretty good idea of how important the case is. The prime minister of Israel became deeply involved in this case, and he recommended a pardon.”

Rich was pardoned; Pollard was not.

Marc Rich's glamorous ex-wife, Denise, led campaign for Rich's pardon.

Marc Rich's glamorous ex-wife, Denise, led campaign for Rich's pardon.

One can speculate that at this point the US has no other reason to keep Pollard in prison except as a bargaining chip. If that’s true, then we are no better than Hamas, who hold Gilad Shalit for the same reason.

Let him go.

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US endorses absurd postcolonialist resolution

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
President Obama announces US endorsement of UN indigenous peoples declaration, Dec. 16, 2010.

President Obama announces US endorsement of UN indigenous peoples declaration, at White House Tribal Nations Conference Dec. 16, 2010.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 61/295, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This past week, the US endorsed the resolution, after initially voting against it along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand. All four nations have now endorsed it, making it unanimous.

The intent is purportedly to protect people like Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians against exploitation and denial of rights by the majority culture. In fact, it represents a breathtaking invasion of the sovereignty of any nation that contains a subculture that defines itself as ‘indigenous’.

The declaration has a long preamble and 46 articles. It does not contain a definition of ‘indigenous’, because

According to the Chairperson, Ms. Erica Irene Daes, Rapporteur of the Working Group, this was because “historically, indigenous peoples have suffered, from definitions imposed by others” (E/CN.4/Stib.2/AC.4/1995/3, page 3).

The ‘working group’ which developed the declaration did provide a definition, but it was never officially adopted by any UN body. Here’s part of it, which may give you an idea of their thinking:

Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them.

They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.

Naturally, the Palestinian Arabs claim to be an indigenous people. By way of illustration, if this claim were to be upheld, what would the declaration imply?

Article 3
Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 4
Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

Palestinian Arabs can declare autonomous enclaves in the territories or even in Tel Aviv. These Palestans may be financed by contributions from Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Article 15
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information.

Palestinian Arabs can write their own history, which must become part of Israel’s school curriculum.

Article 19
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

Israel can make no law or take any action that affects Palestinian Arabs without first getting their consent.

Article 26
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Lands that Palestinian ‘tradition’ says belong to them do in fact belong to them.

Article 36
1. Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with their own members as well as other peoples across borders.

Palestinian Arabs can communicate with Hizballah guerrillas if they want to.

The declaration and definition above represent the product of postcolonial political theory, according to which an ‘oppressed’ people is defined as always right, and is entitled to ‘resist’ its ‘oppressors’. Note that the working definition of ‘indigenous’ excludes the ‘dominant sector’ of society, even though a dictionary definition only refers to origin, not socio-political status.

Indeed, by a non-political definition, a good argument could be made that the Jewish people is indigenous to the land of Israel, since there has been some Jewish presence even from Biblical times. A large number of the ancestors of the present-day ‘Palestinian people’ immigrated into the area in the 1800’s and afterward — just prior to and concurrent with the Zionist immigration — and thus are much less indigenous than they would claim. But of course a non-political definition wouldn’t serve the purposes of the UN.

There are other groups that have a much better claim to being ‘indigenous’ than the Palestinians; for example, the Kurds. I find it hard to believe that Turkey, Iraq, Iran or Syria would be prepared to grant them their ‘rights’ under this document.

It is absolutely certain that the great majority of Americans would not agree with radical postcolonial theory. But our politically correct officials have decided to sign on to this absurd document, perhaps out of guilt for their historical mistreatment and subsequent betrayal of responsibility to their own indigenous population.

If the President and the Congress wanted to actually improve the conditions of Native Americans, they could do so in many concrete ways. Most of these cost money, so instead they chose a bit of theater.

The UN is more and more becoming a venue for the application of radical political principles by the cynical non-democratic states that dominate it, in order to weaken or damage Israel and the West. The US has continued to participate in and support this institution over the years on the grounds that overall it does more good than evil. I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that this is not so.

(h/t: Israpundit)

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Israel doesn’t have to be a big tent

Monday, December 20th, 2010

The favorite argument of the Left is the demographic argument: that unless Israel gives up the territories, it must choose between its democracy or its Jewish character. Either Israel lets all those Arabs vote or it doesn’t. Therefore, Israel must ‘make peace’ and give up Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem.

But analysis shows – and I’m not going to repeat it here, I and others have explained it thousands of times – that giving up land won’t bring peace, that the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and indeed the great majority of the Palestinian Arab population see Israeli concessions as indications of weakness and stepping stones to the ultimate replacement of Israel by an Arab state. The kind of settlement Barack Obama and the Europeans want to see would simply set the stage for yet another war.

The two-state solution, in other words, is a mirage. There could be two states (for a while), but it wouldn’t be a solution. So what to do?

There are hidden premises in the argument of the two-staters. They are 1) that the Jewish character of Israel and democracy that includes the Palestinian Arabs  are equally important, and 2) that ‘democracy’ means that every person must be a citizen regardless of his ideology.

I deny the first premise, and in fact I insist that the imperative of maintaining at least one Jewish homeland in a hostile world (and it is getting more hostile every day) is an overriding one. And I deny the second one: why can’t citizenship require a commitment to the basic principles of the state?

Israel has put itself between a rock and a hard place because it feels that it has to respect the wishes and even the ‘rights’ of the Palestinian Arabs, who as a matter of fact want to destroy the Jewish state.

On the face of it, this is absurd. It’s as if the US had decided to fight WWII while respecting the wishes and rights of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

Palestinian Arabs and their supporters make no bones about wanting Israel gone, even the so-called ‘moderates’. They don’t talk about the need for democracy in the ‘Palestine’ that they want to create from the river to the sea. They’ve been murdering Jews there for a hundred years, and are doing it (or trying) as I write. Why is it so important to compromise with them – especially since they won’t accept a ‘compromise’ that is less than a surrender?

“But you are suggesting that Jews and Arabs won’t have equal rights – that’s racist apartheid!” says the Left.

No. It has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with ideology. The proposal of a loyalty oath for everyone, Jews, Arabs and members of the Ha’aretz editorial board, is not a bad idea. Support the Jewish state and you  can vote, pay taxes, etc. Oppose it – either violently or by incitement – and please close the door on your way out, to an Arab country, to Europe, to the US.

“But how can you expect Arabs to support a Jewish state?” Well, if they like living in a modern state with modern conveniences like good health care and other benefits, perhaps this is more important to them than nationalist or Islamist ideology. Or perhaps not – but if not they can leave.

Israel, as many Americans don’t seem to have noticed, is in the Middle East. This is a place where democracy blind to ideology doesn’t exist. Look at Lebanon if you think it has a future. Most Middle-Eastern countries are dictatorships or monarchies which are not democratic in any respect. What I’m proposing could be called ‘limited democracy’, where the limitation is based on one’s decision to accept an ideology, not religion or race.

Sure, the devil is in the details, but the devil in the details of keeping control of the territories and Jerusalem is a smaller devil than the one that will be released by withdrawal from them.

Israel is a tiny country. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a big tent.

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