Archive for November, 2011

Hot springs, heavy drinkers, failed banks — and Palestine

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. A lovely setting for a very bad idea

Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. A lovely setting for a very bad idea

You may have noticed a news item in your local paper today about the parliament of Iceland passing a resolution recognizing the state of ‘Palestine’ according to pre-1967 lines.

Apart from the fact that Iceland is the first European country to do this impossible feat — that is, recognize a ‘country’ with borders that  make a hostile claim on the territory of another country, one with no economy except  the international dole, no single government (despite claims, Hamas and the PLO are not ‘unified’), and whose essence is to deny self-determination to another nation — there is another interesting fact about it.

You will not read this interesting fact in your paper, because it won’t mention it. It took Evelyn Gordon, writing in the so-called ‘neo-con’ Commentary magazine to notice it. Let me quote the resolution in full, which your newspaper or radio/TV newscaster won’t do:

“Alþingi [the Icelandic parliament] resolves to entrust the government to recognize Palestine as an independent and sovereign state within the pre-1967 Six Day War borders.

Also, Alþingi urges Israelis and Palestinians to reconcile through the means of peace agreements on the basis of international law and resolutions of the United Nations, including the mutual recognition of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

Alþingi reaffirms that the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and also recalls the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes in accordance with resolutions reaffirmed by the United Nations.

Alþingi demands that the conflicting parties in the Arab-Israeli Conflict cease warfare and acts of violence forthwith and respect human rights and humanitarian law.” [my emphasis]

So there you are. The Icelandic parliament believes that 5 million descendents of the 600,000 or so original Arab refugees have the ‘right’ to overrun the state of Israel, wiping out the right of self-determination of the Jews that live there (and probably their lives as well).

Apparently it was not considered relevant that in the history of international law there has never been a ‘right of return’ for refugees of any kind, not to mention their descendents!

The peace-loving legislators of Iceland, a country of hot springs, heavy drinkers and failed banks, probably didn’t stop to think about the violent aspects of the ‘Palestinian people’ or their single-minded dedication to their ’cause’, and how the entry of 5 million of them into a majority Jewish state would probably give rise to a vicious civil war.

Even if it could be done peacefully (it can’t), as Gordon points out the result would be not one new Arab-majority state, but two, one on either side of the line. This is what the Palestinians mean by a “two-state solution!”

Iceland’s Parliament: stupid or evil? You decide.

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The crystal and the shield

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

The device above is called a “Red Crystal.” It is the emblem that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) seem to have agreed that Israel must put on its ambulances instead of the traditional Magen David, if MDA is to be allowed to join the international organization (one wonders if MDA will have to change its name as well).

The story of the emblems is instructive. Emblems are practically important, because an ICRC-recognized emblem is ‘protected’ in wartime — shooting at a person or vehicle bearing a protected emblem is considered a war crime.

When the ICRC admitted Turkey and Egypt as members in 1929, they naturally did not want to use the cross, symbol of the hated crusaders, as their emblem; so they requested and got permission to use a red crescent.

But when MDA came along in 1931 and wanted its Magen David to be ‘protected’, the ICRC refused. “What if everyone wanted their own symbol?” they asked, in effect. Only the cross and the crescent were accepted (there is also a ‘red lion and sun’ emblem which nobody uses).

I don’t think I need to point out that it is notable that Muslim sensitivities about the cross were considered important, while Jewish ones — after all, Jews suffered at the hands of those bearing the cross no less than Muslims — were not.

Nothing changed until 2006:

Certain Arab nations, such as Syria, also protested the entry of MDA into the Red Cross movement, making consensus impossible for a time. However, from 2000 to 2006 the American Red Cross withheld its dues (a total of $42 million) to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) because of IFRC’s refusal to admit MDA; this ultimately led to the creation of the Red Crystal emblem and the admission of MDA on June 22, 2006.

The Red Star of David is not recognized as a protected symbol outside Israel; instead the MDA uses the Red Crystal emblem during international operations in order to ensure protection.

So there was a compromise: Israel could join but it couldn’t use a Jewish symbol.

I suggest that it was a very poor compromise. The symbolic significance of the Magen David is great, and when did Israel’s enemies worry about committing war crimes, anyway? But as always, the pragmatic Israeli attitude was that symbols don’t matter. This is a serious mistake in a world, and especially a Middle East, where symbols often matter a great deal.

The details of the compromise have not been made public until recently. And they are shocking.

Two weeks ago, Israel National News reported that they had obtained a copy of the memorandum of understanding between ICRC and MDA, which included the following:

“MDA and PRCS [Palestinian Red Crescent Society] will operate in conformity with the legal framework applicable to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967.”

“MDA and PRCS recognize that PRCS is the authorized national society in the Palestinian territory and that this territory is within the geographical scope of the operational activities and of the competences of PRCS”.

“After the Third Protocol Additional is adopted and by the time MDA is admitted to the …International Red Cross and Red Cresecent societies, MDA will ensure that it has no chapters outside the internationally recognized border of the state of Israel.”

“Operational activities of one society within the jurisdiction of the other society will be conducted in accordance with the consent provision of resolution 11…”

“MDA and PRCS will use a distinctive emblem in conformity with the requirements of the Geneva conventions and its Third Additional Protocol.”

This implies that the land outside the 1949 armistice lines is “Palestinian territory,” something that contradicts relevant Security Council resolutions and agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, not to mention the positions of the Israeli and US governments.

Since the agreement puts Judea and Samaria outside the borders of the state of Israel, it does not permit the establishment of MDA chapters there, only that Israeli ambulances may travel there with the consent of the PRCS. Only the PRCS is ‘authorized’ in the area. Whether this will allow MDA ambulances or crews to be based in Judea and Samaria is not clear.

One wonders how this will affect service to Jewish communities in the territories. Will MDA have to get permission from Palestinians before picking up an accident  (or terrorism) victim there?

Israeli ambulances in the territories may not use the traditional Magen David emblem, but must use the crystal, because this is an ‘international operation’ according to the memorandum. And after the “Third Additional Protocol” goes into effect, it would seem that MDA, inside the Green Line, will be forced to replace its traditional emblem with a small Magen David within a crystal in order to comply with ICRC rules.

In addition, it has been alleged that MDA chapters received cash payments of $100,000 each to approve the agreement, and even that these payments went directly to chapter officials.

Lately ambulances in the territories have begun appearing with the new emblems, and residents have been protesting by covering them with Magen David stickers, refusing to volunteer, etc.

MDA officials are minimizing the issue:

Director-General Eli Binn of  Magen David Adom (MDA-Red Star of David) said, Sunday, that the emergency service will continue to operate as it has in Judea and Samaria. Speaking to Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew service, following a meeting with Member of Knesset Uri Ariel (National Union), Binn said, “MDA will continue to operate as long as the state of Israel decides that there are citizens there. As it was yesterday, so it will be tomorrow. Magen David Adom will continue to run proudly with its symbols without any change, not even on a point of the Red Star of David.”

Of course, they have already changed the emblems on the ambulances.

MK Ariel called Binn in for clarification after the Samarian Residents’ Council said its members found a document that promises the International Committee of the Red Cross that there will be differences in service between most of Israel and Judea and Samaria. MDA volunteers in the region have threatened sanctions over different markings on ambulances based in the area. Binn told Ariel that the documents were not binding and the two agreed that Ariel would attend the next MDA board meeting to hear what the board had to say about its commitment. Ariel said he would advance a bill to require MDA to give the same service in Judea and Samaria…

With all due respect, a bill to require the “same service” is not what is needed.

What ought to happen, in addition to an investigation of who received money from the ICRC and what they did with it, is that the compromise agreement with the ICRC is thrown in the mizbaleh [trash dump] where it belongs, along with the stupid and degrading ‘crystal’ emblem.

MDA has gone some 80-odd years without ICRC recognition, and if it isn’t possible to get it without agreeing to the territorial pretensions of Israel’s enemies, it may have to wait a bit longer.

A Magen David Adom ambulance, 1940's

A Magen David Adom ambulance, 1940's

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Islamism means immunity to solutions

Monday, November 28th, 2011

The damage to Israel-Arab relations growing from the “Arab Spring” cannot be exaggerated. For example,

The new [Islamist – ed.] Tunisian government is gearing up to ratify a new constitution, and its language includes a section condemning Zionism and ruling out any friendly ties with Israel…

Israeli officials are concerned that government-sponsored hatred of Israel in Tunisia will spread to other Middle East countries, such as Egypt, potentially destabilizing the entire region. The officials noted that Tunisia is considered a moderate Arab country and has maintained friendly relations with Israel since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.

A section of the constitution? As far as I know, this is the first time any nation has defined itself in terms of opposition to Zionism, something normally associated with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizballah. And Tunisia, which has never been at war with Israel and whose President called for the recognition of Israel in 1965, has been called “a voice for moderation and realism in the Middle East” by the US State Department. Not any more.

Tunisia was the Arab country that was considered most likely to have a democratic outcome to its “Arab spring” revolution. It did have a democratic election, but the Islamist ‘Ennahda ‘ party received a plurality of the vote.

Another (formerly) relatively moderate nation, Morocco, which had been relatively friendly to Israel, elected members of the Islamist “Justice and Development” party to a plurality of parliamentary seats on Nov. 26. Jonathan D. Halevi quotes an interview that its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, gave in Gaza in 2009:

The inhabitants of Arab Morocco do not think there is only a duty to identify with the Palestinians, but want to wage a jihad struggle alongside them … Most unfortunately, the political circumstances, the borders, the soldiers, and the legal and military barriers that exist between the Muslims prevent these feelings from being expressed as they should … The Moroccans see the Islamic resistance movement Hamas as the mother of resistance and steadfastness. The Moroccans very much love the Hamas movement … and they love to recall at every occasion the acts of heroism and sacrifice of this great and mighty movement … All of the Moroccans stand beside the Palestinians and the noble Al-Quds [Jerusalem], and if the borders are opened to the Moroccans and the obstacles are removed, you will see how the masses come to help Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds.

More recently, he referred to Israel as a “hostile state” unless it adopts a one-state solution “like South Africa”. Halevi also notes that Benkirane signed several manifestos calling for jihad against Israel and condemning the US.

Tunisia and Morocco are not major powers and are not likely to engage in hostilities against Israel. Egypt, which is voting for a parliament today, is much more critical (and will almost certainly end up with an Islamist-dominated regime). So we have Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt firmly in the Islamist circle or about to be, with the possibility that others will join them in the not-so-distant future.

Two things disturb me. One is that the Arab-Israeli conflict is becoming more and more an Islamist-Israeli or even Muslim-Israeli conflict. As a religious conflict, it becomes immune to  diplomatic solutions. There can be no territorial compromise with the position of Hamas — which is supported by Morocco’s Benkirane — that insists that there is no place for a Jewish state of any size on ‘Muslim land’.

But note that even a military solution short of total war is unlikely to end the conflict. Israel’s attempts to ‘teach a lesson’ to Hamas and Hizballah have failed, providing only a temporary respite while the terrorists rearm and prepare for the next round.

The other disturbing aspect of the situation is that while antisemitism was always a part of Islam to a greater or lesser extent — the contents of the Quran insure that it must be — the rise of Islamism is institutionalizing what can only be called — with deliberate irony — a crusade against the Jewish state.

The extreme Left — and even some not-so-extreme ‘progressive’ circles — in Israel and the West also seem to have absorbed this hatred as part of their conventional wisdom, something that is assumed as a starting point of discussion.

This comprises a huge challenge to Israel, both in terms of physical defense and in the information arena. One can only hope that there will be an ultimate recognition in Europe and America that Islamism is not only a problem for Jews, but threatens them as well.

Perhaps in that case the present situation — in which Europe and the administration in the US claim to be allies of Israel and concerned with its survival while actually working to undermine it and supporting Islamist takeovers — will change to one in which the West will truly become allied with Israel to create a united front against the forces that are working to propel the world back to the Seventh Century.

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Settlements are not the problem

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Recently the NY Times published a letter written in reaction to a beyond-irrational attack on Israel for ‘pinkwashing’ (I discussed the original remarkably stupid op-ed here).

The letter took strong issue with the op-ed. It could positively be counted as ‘pro-Israel’. And yet, it contained this:

Israel, like any other democracy, has its flaws. Its settlement policy is destructive, the occupation of the West Bank is untenable and its government is furthering the country’s isolation and distancing it from its original vision of being a “light unto the nations.”

Similarly, when a conversation I was having with a relative recently turned to Israel, he — certainly a ‘pro-Israel’ person by any definition — agreed with me about the dangers facing the country from so many directions, but added something like “…those settlements have to stop. And Netanyau is too stubborn.”

I’ve also been told, “don’t talk about the settlements. It’s the hardest thing about Israel to defend.”

Of course it is true that “like any other democracy,” Israel has flaws. But these aren’t them. What is happening, I think, is that certain false propositions are being repeated over and over from every direction — the UN, Europe, the media, the Obama Administration, the Israeli Left — to the point that almost anybody can be excused for thinking that they are true.

Here are some of them:

  1. Israel is actively taking ‘Palestinian land’
  2. Israel is occupying ‘Palestinian land’
  3. The ‘West Bank’ (Judea and Samaria) is ‘Palestinian land’
  4. Settlement expansion makes peace talks impossible
  5. If all the settlements were removed, a peaceful Palestinian state could be created

Israel has not significantly expanded the boundaries of existing settlements or established new ones in years. But the Palestinians say, and the media repeat, that every new apartment built or planned inside a town outside the 1949 armistice line, even in an existing Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, constitutes ‘settlement expansion’, which ‘prevents the establishment of a viable Palestinian state’.

So even if you find acceptable the racist idea that ‘Palestine’ cannot contain Jewish villages the way Israel contains Arab ones, construction in existing settlements does not change existing facts on the ground.

Even if you think there is such a thing as ‘Palestinian land’ and it starts at the Green Line (I most assuredly do not), Israel is not taking it.

Even if you think settlements would need to be removed in order to have a peace agreement, there were peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority from 1993 to 2009 in the presence of settlements.

And even if you would devoutly wish to see a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel, there is no Palestinian leadership that presently exists or is on the horizon that wants this.

Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, or Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, existed before 1948, when the Jordanians occupied those areas, forced the Jews out at gunpoint, and destroyed synagogues and yeshivot. In fact, there were Jews living in Kfar Darom in the Gaza strip before the War of Independence — they were expelled twice, once by the Egyptians in 1948  and then again in 2005 by their own army and police! (h/t EG).

Hevron, a town with great importance in Jewish history, had a flourishing Jewish community in 1929. Its Jewish inhabitants were killed or forced to flee in a vicious pogrom instigated by the Arab leadership. Some returned, only to be kicked out yet again by the Jordanians in 1948.

Did the conquest of these areas by the Jordanians and Egyptians, in a war of aggression — a war intended to wipe out the Jewish state — somehow render them Arab property where Jews are forbidden to live? Where did the supposed ‘right’ of the ‘Palestinian people’ (another concept that is less concrete than it appears) to the territories come from?

The right of Jews to settle anywhere in the Land of Israel was granted to them by the League of Nations at the same time that it created several Muslim Arab nations and a Christian one (Lebanon — it didn’t work out too well for the Christians) from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire. Since then, through several wars, there has been one principle that was accepted by all parties — that of UNSC resolutions 242/338 and restated in the Oslo agreement, the Road Map, etc. — that the permanent borders will be decided by negotiations between the parties.

Israel has been prepared — the supposedly ‘hard-line, right-wing, stubborn’ Netanyahu was actually the first Israeli Prime Minister to publicly say that Israel would agree to a sovereign Palestinian state in the territories — to negotiate such a settlement, to give up its rights in some of the territories in the interest of peace.

But the Palestinians have refused to talk without Israel first agreeing to demands about issues that would reasonably be the outcome of negotiations, not their precondition. The Palestinians have violated the principles of UNSC resolutions 242/338 and the Oslo agreements by unilaterally pursuing a state, and the PLO now claims to be in ‘complete agreement’ with the terrorist Hamas.

I am not sure exactly why the author of the letter quoted above thinks that “the [Israeli] occupation of the West Bank is untenable,” but what is the alternative? Turning over the high ground overlooking Israel’s population centers to hostile forces? Uprooting hundreds of thousands of people simply because they are Jews? Giving up all of the heartland of Jewish history?

It’s worth mentioning the systematic ambiguity of the word ‘occupation’ here. For Western liberals it means Jewish control of areas outside of the armistice lines. For Arabs, it means Jewish control of any land in the ‘Arab Middle East’.

Israel and the PLO are moving farther apart, not closer, and it is not because of settlements or because Netanyahu is stubborn. It is because the Arabs will accept only unconditional surrender (albeit piecemeal surrender). Only by Arab logic is it the case that the side that wins the wars is required to surrender!

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Dylan does the Arab spring

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Don’t miss this: The Arab Spring Choir covers The Times They Are A-Changin’. In English with Hebrew titles.

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.

Courtesy of Latma TV.

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