Archive for October, 2013

Syria, Iran and US policy — what it means for Israel

Monday, October 21st, 2013
You can tell the 'good guys' because they wear the white turbans. Hassan Rouhani (l) and Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.

You can tell the ‘good guys’ because they wear the white turbans. Hassan Rouhani (l) and Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.

The quote of the week this week comes from Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post:

President Bashar al-Assad’s promise to dismantle his regime’s chemical arsenal inflicts greater strategic damage on Syria’s rebel forces than those weapons could ever achieve on the battlefield. He has drawn the world’s attention — and the hopes of increased U.S. support — away from the opposition’s grim struggle to liberate their Arab nation.

He has, in fact, made himself indispensable to the West, which now can’t afford to be seen sabotaging him.

From Israel’s point of view, this is good and bad. The good news is that the main purpose of those chemical weapons has always been to deter or someday attack Israel. If they can really be taken away from him — and that is a very big ‘if’ (see also here) — the balance of power between Israel and Syria will change in Israel’s favor.

In addition, Assad has always been a secular, rational actor who can be deterred, and whose ideology is primarily about staying in power. Rebel forces overwhelmingly are radical Islamists with irrational motives who may not be averse to suffering large casualties in order to achieve ideological/religious goals, including attacking Israel.

The bad news is that Assad’s Syria is a pipeline of all kinds of support from Iran to Hizballah, the point of Iran’s spear against Israel, a  a critical part of Iran’s plans.

This is because Iran could not use its bomb against Israel and survive. One well-regarded analyst wrote in 2007 that a nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran could result in 16 – 28 million Iranian dead. How much more practical for Iran to build up Hamas and Hizballah under its nuclear umbrella, and then try to break Israel by means of conventional rockets and terrorism?

It seems to me that the best strategy for Israel toward Syria is to try to reduce Assad’s strategic capabilities as much as possible, while keeping him in power. Getting rid of his chemical weapons falls in this category.

But the head of the snake is in Iran. Israel needs to prepare for war with Hizballah and an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. While it is probably too late to wipe out Iran’s program, it can still be set back enough to allow breathing room to deal with Hizballah and Hamas.

US policy, although not consistent or effective,  presents obstacles. The Obama Administration seems to be tilting towards the Sunni Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s AKP, and against the military regime of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel, all of which fear a nuclear Iran.

It seems to believe that the historic (since 1979) enmity of Iran toward the US can be defused. Iran, for its part, is running a “good cop, bad cop” routine, with Rouhani playing the white-turban role. It seems to be working.

As I wrote two weeks ago, the US seems to believe that an Iranian bomb is inevitable, and it has stopped and continues to constrain Israel from taking unilateral action. Israel’s biggest challenge now is to get free enough from American control so that it can take the necessary steps to ensure its survival.

The administration seems to feel that Islamism is the Next Big Thing in the Middle East, and is positioning itself to align with the Sunni and Shiite versions of it.

Of course this is diametrically opposed to the Enlightenment values on which the USA was founded, but that must be what Obama means by “change.”

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He should know

Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Poster by agent-provocateur Avishai Raviv showing Yitzhak Rabin in a Nazi uniform

Poster by agent provocateur Avishai Raviv showing Yitzhak Rabin in a Nazi uniform

News item:

…the Shin Bet head during the time of Rabin’s assassination, Carmi Gillon, warned on Wednesday that “price-tag ‘incidents’ could lead to assassination attempts on prime ministers in the future.”

Speaking at the Holon Technical Institute, Gillon said: “Today it is called ‘price-tag’ because currently there is no real threat of returning land [to the Palestinians], but this is where the ideals for the next assassin of a prime minister who chooses to return land are formed.”

Yes, he is correct. It is a bad idea to incite hatred.

Carmi Gillon should know. Under his direction, the Shabak paid agent provocateur Avishai Raviv to tar the Right with the brush of violent extremism. Here is a description, short and not so sweet:

Under orders from the Shin Bet Raviv created [the fake right-wing organization] Eyal to perpetrate acts of violence to discredit the Israel right wing. Raviv recruited Yigal Amir, a religious law student from Bar-Ilan University, who fiercely opposed the Oslo Accords.

At one protest, Raviv was filmed with a picture of Rabin in an SS uniform prior to Rabin’s murder. Raviv allegedly knew of Yigal Amir’s plans to assassinate Israel’s prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, based on a controversial classification of handing over “Jewish land” in the category of “din rodef” (“law of the pursuer”).  …  Uri Dan, a journalist close to Ariel Sharon, wrote that witnesses heard Raviv tell Amir: “Be a man! Kill him already!”

After Rabin was assassinated, the journalist Amnon Abramowitch revealed that Raviv was an agent of the Shabak.

Raviv was brought to trial in 2000 for not preventing Rabin’s assassination. Raviv mounted a successful defense on the grounds that he had just been doing his job and events had spun out of control.

Gillon resigned after the assassination, taking responsibility for the failure to protect Rabin. When asked later what the Shabak’s fatal mistake was, he said,

Yigal Amir is alive today due to a mishap … He should have died that night after firing the first shot, definitely after the second.

I’m sorry to say the security guards did not act in accordance with the lessons we taught them. They failed, because they didn’t shoot him like a dog, like any despicable terrorist. From a security point of view, it was a failure. …

If they would have killed him on the spot, he wouldn’t have become a symbol for the radical right. By becoming a symbol, he pours fuel on the fire, giving energy for the next political murder.

My personal view is that the fatal mistake was made long before Amir fired his shots. The mistake was to in effect create violent extremism in an effort to discredit the very legitimate opposition to Oslo, which — in hindsight — was quite correct.

Would Amir have murdered Rabin if there had been no Avishai Raviv? Who knows?

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DC Jewish Federation supports Tantura massacre libel

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

One of the favorite techniques of Israel’s enemies is to invent an atrocity. Naturally it is much harder to prove that something did not happen than it is to claim that it did, and Israeli denials are met with further inventions, until the invented story becomes a controversy, something with two sides that can be debated endlessly. This is the same method used by Holocaust deniers, and it works because irrational Jew-hatred or its direct descendent, Israel-hatred, predisposes its subjects to believe these stories.

“A lie can go halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes,” said Mark Twain. Here are some examples of lies sent around the world by the enemies of Israel:

The ‘death’ of Mohammad al-Dura

The “Gaza beach incident

The Red Cross ambulance story

The Jenin ‘Massacre’

The Tantura ‘Massacre’

There are others. Sometimes they are based on a nucleus of truth that is wildly exaggerated (Deir Yassin), and sometimes they are simply made up from whole cloth.  And in the non-Western world there are even worse ones, like claims that Israel perpetrated 9/11 or has biological weapons able to selectively kill Arabs.

No matter how many times they are refuted, they never go away. It’s especially ugly when the promulgators of these libels are Jews, like Ilan Pappé, the renegade Israeli academic who was primarily responsible for spreading the Tantura story. Pappé famously said “I am not as interested in what happened as in how people see what’s happened,” and in his writing he often presents the latter as if it were the former.

But it is still worse when organizations dedicated to supporting the Jewish people become complicit. “The Admission” is a play by left-wing Israeli writer Motti Lerner which lightly fictionalizes the Tantura allegation, and which created a furor when a DC Jewish theater group planned to put it on.  The Washington Post reports,

Officials at the D.C. Jewish Community Center (DCJCC), where Theater J performs and gets other cost-defraying support, in tandem with Theater J’s artistic director, Ari Roth, have decided to pull back “The Admission” from a 34-performance, full-production run in March. It will now be presented in what they are describing as a “workshop” run, lasting 16 performances, in proposed repertory with “Golda’s Balcony,” a biographical play about the late Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.

Like Ilan Pappé, Lerner believes that there is a more subtle ‘truth’ than one based on mere historical facts:

Playwright Lerner, who grew up in Zichron Yaakov, not far from Tantura, said he recalled hearing stories of the massacre from neighbors. He issued his own statement saying that “the play is not an attempt to make a historical judgment based on the materials I collected, but an attempt to explore how Jews and Arabs in Israel have created their historical memories as a means for survival.”

Translation: it’s bullshit, but bullshit that Arabs like to believe — so we need to take it seriously. This is precisely the argument used by Israeli Arab filmmaker Mohammed Bakri whose film “Jenin, Jenin,” a purported documentary about the “Jenin Massacre,” was composed of made-up atrocity stories (and like the master’s thesis which began the Tantura libel, was the subject of a lawsuit by outraged Israeli soldiers).

The DCJCC received over $400,000 in 2012 from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. One can understand that some of the donors to the Federation — which in years past supported efforts to get Jewish refugees from Europe to Palestine, and later helped Soviet Jews leave the USSR — were angry.

It’s offensive for the performance, even in ‘scaled down’ form, to be supported by Jewish funds. The Palestinian Authority paid for the legal defense of Teddy Katz, Pappé’s student whose master’s thesis introduced the Tantura libel. Perhaps it ought to finance this performance as well?

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Crime as a form of terrorism

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

On Friday, I mentioned the brutal murder of Sariya Ofer by Palestinian Arabs, who beat him to death with metal bars and axes.

The police have arrested several Arabs, two of whom have confessed. But the police have not said whether the motive was ‘nationalistic’ — in other words, terrorism — or criminal.

There is no difference, in any sense.

Since the time of Mohammed, criminal activity against infidels has been a form of warfare. Islamic banditry and piracy strangled Mediterranean commerce in the second half of the first Millennium of the Common Era, so much so that it lead some writers to argue that it was the major factor that brought an end to the classical era and ushered in the dark ages.

The so-called “Barbary Pirates,” whom the US Marines fought on the “shores of Tripoli” continued the tradition. These pirates, who captured ships primarily to take infidels as slaves, also raided coastal areas for the same purpose. The similarity with today’s terrorists — for example, the adoption of Western technology — and the huge scope of the problem are notable:

Corsairs captured thousands of ships, and long stretches of coast in Spain and Italy were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants, discouraging settlement until the 19th century. From the 16th to 19th century, corsairs captured an estimated 800,000 to 1.25 million people as slaves.  Some corsairs were European outcasts and converts such as John Ward and Zymen Danseker. Hayreddin Barbarossa and Oruç Reis, the Barbarossa brothers, who took control of Algiers on behalf of the Ottomans in the early 16th century, were also famous corsairs. The European pirates brought state-of-the-art sailing and shipbuilding techniques to the Barbary Coast around 1600, which enabled the corsairs to extend their activities into the Atlantic Ocean, and the impact of Barbary raids peaked in the early to mid-17th century [and continued until the French conquest of Algiers in 1830].

In today’s Israel, Muslim banditry takes the form of arson, theft of agricultural products, animals and equipment, stealing cars, robbery, burglary, rape, etc.

The Palestinian Arabs are characterized by a pervasive sense of victimization and lost honor which serves to ‘justify’ criminal actions (“they stole my land so I can take their cars”). There is the element of satisfaction that comes from humiliating their enemies, as violently as possible. Then we add a cupful of personal gain, along with the ability to present harming Jews as an idealistic act done for ‘the Palestinian cause’ even if the initial motivation was just to steal a car or rape a woman.

So can we really distinguish between crime and terrorism? Should we bother to try?

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Why I love the BBC

Friday, October 11th, 2013


A Jewish man was murdered yesterday, beaten and hacked to death by two Arabs with metal bars and axes. Here is a bit from the BBC news item:

The incident happened in a part of the Jordan Valley which Israel captured in the war of 1967 where the construction of Israeli homes and businesses is widely considered a breach of international law – something Israel does not accept, says the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem.

The dead man is the third Israeli to be killed in what Israel characterises as “terror attacks” in the last month in the West Bank. Two serving soldiers have also died.

So what exactly does what is “widely considered” have to do with this murder?

It is also widely considered — by many authorities in international law, not just ‘Israel’ — that construction of such buildings is not illegal. In fact, before the Jordanian occupation of this area in 1948, nobody said that Jews couldn’t build in this area.

Then — in actual violation of international law and the UN Charter — Jordan invaded the area, annexed it, and ethnically cleansed it of its Jewish population. The only country that recognized the annexation was the BBC’s homeland, the UK. But I don’t recall protests against illegal Jordanian construction.

In 1967, in a defensive war, Israel reversed these illegal acts. The least the international community could do would be to say thanks! Instead, it became “widely” thought that it was illegal for Jews to live there.

Is it being insinuated that the victims (the man’s wife was injured but escaped) deserved what they got? Or that the murders were somehow justified, or if not justified, understood?

Incidentally, the word ‘murdered’ does not appear in the piece. Only ‘killed’.

Shabbat shalom!

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