Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Nakba Myth: the Arab excuse for rejecting every peace plan

From City Magazine [published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson] Northern Summer edition, by Sol Stern*:

The Palestinian national narrative is the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

... Nakba its current, expansive usage, ...connotes a historical catastrophe inflicted on an innocent and blameless people (in this case, the Palestinians) by an overpowering outside force (international Zionism).

The Nakba is the heart of the Palestinians’ backward-looking national narrative, which depicts the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as the original sin that dispossessed the land’s native people.

Every year, on the anniversary of Israel’s independence, more and more Palestinians (including Arab citizens of Israel) commemorate the Nakba with pageants that express longing for a lost paradise. Every year, the legend grows of the crimes committed against the Palestinians in 1948, crimes now routinely equated with the Holocaust.

Echoing the Nakba narrative is an international coalition of leftists that celebrates the Palestinians as the quintessential Other, the last victims of Western racism and colonialism.

There is only one just compensation for the long history of suffering, say the Palestinians and their allies: turning the clock back to 1948. This would entail ending the “Zionist hegemony” and replacing it with a single, secular, democratic state shared by Arabs and Jews. All Palestinian refugees—not just those still alive of the hundreds of thousands who fled in 1948, but their millions of descendants as well—would be allowed to return to Jaffa, Haifa, the Galilee, and all the villages that Palestinian Arabs once occupied.

Such a step would mean suicide for Israel as a Jewish state, which is why Israel would never countenance it.

At the very least, then, the Nakba narrative precludes Middle East peace. But it’s also, as it happens, a myth—a radical distortion of history.

If words have any meaning, it is certainly accurate to describe the outcome of the 1948 war as a catastrophe for the Palestinians. Between 600,000 and 700,000 men, women, and children—even more, depending on who is telling the story—left their homes. Palestinian civil society disintegrated. At the war’s end, the refugees dispersed to the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip, and neighboring Arab countries. Many lived in tents, eking out a bare subsistence, and were then denied the right to return to their homes by the new State of Israel.

During the 1948 war and for many years afterward, the Western world—including the international Left—expressed hardly any moral outrage about the Palestinian refugees. This had nothing to do with Western racism or colonialism and much to do with recent history. The fighting in Palestine had broken out only two years after the end of the costliest military conflict ever, in which the victors exacted a terrible price on the losers. By that, I don’t mean the Nazi officials and their “willing executioners,” who received less punishment than they deserved, but the 11 million ethnic Germans living in Central and Eastern Europe—civilians all—who were expelled from their homes and force-marched to Germany by the Red Army, with help from the Czech and Polish governments and with the approval of Roosevelt and Churchill. Historians estimate that 2 million died on the way. Around the same time, the Indian subcontinent was divided into two new countries, India and Pakistan; millions of Hindus and Muslims moved from one to the other, and hundreds of thousands died in related violence. Against this background, the West was not likely to be troubled by the exodus of a little more than half a million Palestinians after a war launched by their own leaders.

In the 1940s, moreover, most of the international Left actually championed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. It was widely noted that the new state would be led by self-proclaimed socialists.

...The Palestinians were also compromised by the fact that their leader in 1948, Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, had been a Nazi collaborator during the war.

In fact, I. F. Stone, the most revered left-wing journalist of the day, was one of the most influential American advocates for the Zionist cause. ... He writes of newborn Israel as a “tiny bridgehead” of 650,000 up against 30 million Arabs and 300 million Muslims and argues that Israel’s “precarious borders,” created by the United Nations’ November 1947 partition resolution, are almost indefensible. “Arab leaders made no secret of their intentions,”

Stone writes, and then quotes the head of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Azzam: “This war will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongol massacres and the Crusades.”

Palestinian leaders reminded Stone of the fascists he had fought with his pen since the Spanish Civil War. He ticks off the names of several Nazi collaborators prominent among the Arab military units that poured into Palestine after passage of the UN’s resolution. In addition to the grand mufti, they included the head of the Arab Liberation Army, Fawzi el-Kaukji, who took part in the fascist revolt against the British in Iraq in 1940 and then escaped to Berlin, where he recruited Balkan Muslims for the Wehrmacht. Another Palestinian military commander, Sheik Hassan Bey Salameh, was a “former staff officer under Rommel,” Stone writes. “Salameh had last appeared in Palestine in 1944 when he was dropped as a Reichswehr major for sabotage duties.” For good measure, Stone adds, “German Nazis, Polish reactionaries, Yugoslav Chetniks, and Bosnian Moslems flocked [into Palestine] for the war against the Jews.”

And how does Stone explain the war’s surprising outcome and the sudden exodus of the Palestinian Arabs? “Ill-armed, outnumbered, however desperate their circumstances, the Jews stood fast.” The Palestinians, by contrast, began to run away almost as soon as the fighting began. “First the wealthiest families went,” Stone recounts. “While the Arab guerrillas were moving in, the Arab civilian population was moving out.” Stone blames the grand mufti for giving explicit orders to the Palestinians to abandon Haifa, which had the largest Arab community of any city assigned to the Jewish state under the UN’s partition plan.

What is most revealing about the book is the issue that Stone does not write about: the fate of the refugees after their exodus. Stone undoubtedly shared the conventional wisdom at the time: that wars inevitably produced refugees and that the problem was best handled by resettlement in the countries to which those refugees moved. Stone surely expected that the Arab countries to which the Palestinian refugees had moved would eventually absorb them as full citizens. That outcome wouldn’t be perfect justice, but it would limit Palestinian suffering and open the doors to a reasonable and permanent settlement of the conflict. Stone also knew that Israel was in the process of absorbing an almost equal number of impoverished Jewish refugees from the Arab countries, most of whom had been forced out of their homes and lost all their property in places where they had lived for hundreds of years.

Stone could never have foreseen that for the next 62 years, the Palestinians would remain in those terrible refugee camps—not just in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but in Lebanon, Syria, and present-day Jordan as well. Nor could Stone have imagined that not one Arab country would move to absorb the refugees and offer them citizenship, or that the Palestinians’ leaders would insist on keeping the refugees locked up in the camps for the purpose of dramatizing their Nakba narrative.

Stone’s reporting on the 1948 war has turned out to be a pretty decent “first rough draft of history,” to quote publisher Philip Graham’s definition of journalism. But that’s a judgment that Stone himself discarded, as the Left gradually abandoned Israel over the next 30 years and accepted the Palestinians’ portrayal of their nakba as the Nakba—a capitalized instance of world-historical evil.

In Stone’s later writing about the Arab-Israeli conflict, he was at pains to forget what he had said in [his book called This Is Israel, distributed by Boni and Gaer, published at the time, based on Stone’s reporting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war].

Moving in lockstep with the Left, he had turned into a scathing critic of Israel by 1967, castigating the Zionists for “moral myopia” and lack of compassion in The New York Review of Books. His turnabout was so complete that by 1979, the West’s foremost champion of the Palestinians, Edward Said, paid homage to Stone and to Noam Chomsky as two of the few Jewish intellectuals who had “tried to see what Zionism did to the Palestinians not just once in 1948, but over the years.” The Columbia University scholar obviously didn’t know about, or didn’t want to know about, This Is Israel.

Revisionist historiography also appeared to nullify Stone’s earlier journalism. Starting in the mid-1980s, a group of self-styled “new historians” in Israel began debunking (or to use their favorite term, “deconstructing”) the official “Zionist narrative” about the 1948 war and the foundation of the state. The most influential of the revisionist historians was Benny Morris, whose 1987 book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem became an international sensation.

Using a trove of documents in the Israeli state archives, Morris showed that not all the Palestinian refugees fled their homes in panic or were ordered out by their leaders. For example, during fierce battles between Israeli and Arab forces around the strategic towns of Lydda and Ramla, the Israelis expelled thousands of Arab residents and put them on the road to the West Bank. Morris also presented documented cases of atrocities by some Israeli soldiers and revealed that David Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders had discussed the feasibility of “transferring” Arabs out of the areas assigned to the Jewish state by the UN.

Yet unlike most of his left-wing revisionist colleagues, Morris asserted that the Palestinian calamity and the refugee problem were “born of war, not by design.”

Morris was—and is—a committed Zionist of the Left. He believed that his work as a truth-telling historian might have a healing effect, encouraging Palestinian intellectuals to own up to their own side’s mistakes and crimes. The process might lead to some reconciliation, perhaps even to peace. But Morris was shocked when Palestinian leaders launched the second intifada, with its campaign of suicide bombings, just as President Clinton offered them a generous two-state solution at Camp David.

Morris was also dismayed to discover that his scholarship on the 1948 war was being used by Palestinian activists and Western leftist academics to build up the Nakba myth.

In a 2008 letter to the Irish Times, he wrote:

Israel-haters are fond of citing—and more often, mis-citing—my work in support of their arguments. Let me offer some corrections. . . . In defiance of the will of the international community, as embodied in the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 29th, 1947, [the Palestinians] launched hostilities against the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost; and one of the results was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes. . . . On the local level, in dozens of localities around Palestine, Arab leaders advised or ordered the evacuation of women and children or whole communities. . . .

...The displacement of the 700,000 Arabs who became “refugees”—and I put the term in inverted commas, as two-thirds of them were displaced from one part of Palestine to another and not from their country (which is the usual definition of a refugee)—was not a “racist crime” . . . but the result of a national conflict and a war, with religious overtones, from the Muslim perspective, launched by the Arabs themselves.

Coming from the dean of Israeli revisionist historians, this was a significant rejection of the Nakba narrative and, incidentally, an endorsement of Stone’s forgotten book.

Earlier this year, another pathbreaking work of historical scholarship appeared that, if facts mattered at all in this debate, would put the final nail in the coffin of the Nakba myth. The book is Palestine Betrayed, by Efraim Karsh, head of the Middle East program at King’s College London. Karsh has delved deeper into the British and Israeli archives—and some Arab ones—than any previous historian of the period. He deftly uses this new material to seal the case that the Nakba was, to a large extent, brought on by the Palestinians’ own leaders.

For example, using detailed notes kept by key players in Haifa, Karsh provides a poignant description of an April 1948 meeting attended by Haifa’s Arab officials, officers of the nascent Israeli military, Mayor Shabtai Levy, and Major General Hugh Stockwell, the British military commander of Haifa. Levy, in tears, begged the Arab notables, some of whom were his personal friends, to tell their people to stay in their homes and promised that no harm would befall them. The Zionists desperately wanted the Arabs of Haifa to stay put in order to show that their new state would treat its minorities well. However, exactly as Stone reported in This Is Israel, the Arab leaders told Levy that they had been ordered out and even threatened by the Arab Higher Committee, chaired by the grand mufti from his exile in Cairo. Karsh quotes the hardly pro-Zionist Stockwell as telling the Arab leaders, “You have made a foolish decision.”

In describing the battle for Jaffa, the Arab city adjoining Tel Aviv, Karsh uses British military archives to show that the Israelis again promised the Arabs that they could stay if they laid down their arms. But the mufti’s orders again forbade it. In retrospect, it is clear that the mufti wanted the Arabs of Haifa and Jaffa to leave because he feared not that they would be in danger but that their remaining would provide greater legitimacy to the fledgling Jewish state.

Unfortunately, no amount of documentation and evidence about what really happened in 1948 will puncture the Nakba narrative. The tale of dispossession has been institutionalized now, an essential part of the Palestinians’ armament for what they see as the long struggle ahead. It has become the moral basis for their insistence on the refugees’ right to return to Israel, which in turn leads them to reject one reasonable two-state peace plan after another.

In the meantime, the more radical Palestinians continue to insist that the only balm for the Nakba is the complete undoing of the historical crime of Zionism—either eliminating Israel or submerging it into a secular democratic state called Palestine. (The proposal is hard to take seriously from adherents of a religion and a culture that abjure secularism and allow little democracy.)

Nor will the facts about 1948 impress the European and American leftists who are part of the international Nakba coalition. The Nakba narrative of Zionism as a movement of white colonial oppressors victimizing innocent Palestinians is strengthened by radical modes of thought now dominant in the Western academy. Postmodernists and postcolonialists have adapted Henry Ford’s adage that “history is bunk” to their own political purposes. According to the radical professors, there is no factual or empirical history that we can trust—only competing “narratives.”, the Palestinian counter-narrative of the Nakba can now replace the old, discredited Zionist narrative, regardless of actual historical facts. And thanks to what the French writer Pascal Bruckner has called the Western intelligentsia’s new “tyranny of guilt”—a self-effacement that forbids critical inquiry into the historical narratives of those national movements granted the sanctified status of “oppressed”—the Nakba narrative cannot even be challenged.

This makes for a significant subculture in the West devoted to the delegitimization of Israel and the Zionist idea. To leftists, for whom Israel is now permanently on trial, Stone’s 1948 love song to Zionism has conveniently been disappeared....

Several years ago, I briefly visited the largest refugee camp in the West Bank: Balata, inside the city of Nablus. Many of the camp’s approximately 20,000 residents are the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of the Arab citizens of Jaffa who fled their homes in early 1948.

For half a century, the United Nations has administered Balata as a quasi-apartheid welfare ghetto. The Palestinian Authority does not consider the residents of Balata citizens of Palestine; they do not vote on municipal issues, and they receive no PA funding for roads or sanitation. The refugee children—though after 60 years, calling young children “refugees” is absurd—go to separate schools run by UNRWA, the UN’s refugee-relief agency. The “refugees” are crammed into an area of approximately one square kilometer, and municipal officials prohibit them from building outside the camp’s official boundaries, making living conditions ever more cramped as the camp’s population grows. In a building called the Jaffa Cultural Center—financed by the UN, which means our tax dollars—Balata’s young people are undoubtedly nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors’ homes by the Mediterranean Sea.

In Balata, history has come full circle. During the 1948 war, Palestinian leaders like Haj Amin al-Husseini insisted that the Arab citizens of Haifa and Jaffa had to leave, lest they help legitimize the Jewish state. Now, the descendants of those citizens are locked up in places like Balata and prohibited from resettling in the Palestinian-administered West Bank—again, lest they help legitimize the Jewish state, this time by removing the Palestinians’ chief complaint.

Yet there is a certain perverse logic at work here. For if Israel and the Palestinians ever managed to hammer out the draft of a peace treaty, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, would have to go to Balata and explain to its residents that their leaders have been lying to them for 60 years and that they are not going back to Jaffa. Which, to state the obvious again, is one of the main reasons that there has been no peace treaty.

*Sol Stern is a contributing editor of City Journal, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice.

Israel Hit by Rockets and Mortars

From The Israel Project, 30 July 2010:

Attack Comes a Day after Arab League OKs Direct Peace Talks

Terrorists in Gaza fired a Grad rocket into the Israeli town of Ashkelon Friday morning (July 30), hitting a residential area and sending several people into shock as well as damaging nearby cars and an apartment complex. A few hours later, terrorists launched two mortars that hit the western Negev. The explosions didn’t cause injuries.

Ashkelon, a port city of 125,000 people along the southernmost portion of the Mediterranean, is located seven miles (12 km) from Gaza and has been the site of numerous past Gaza rocket and missile attacks.

“Israel takes the firing on Ashkelon very seriously,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Friday.

The Ashkelon attack occurred a day after the Arab League met in Cairo and approved Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to engage in direct peace talks with Israel. Hamas said the League’s decision was a "political sin."

Last weekend, terrorists in Gaza fired four Qassam rockets and two mortar shells that hit the western Negev but didn’t cause any injuries.

Iran-backed Hamas’s Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades took credit for the Ashkelon attack. Hamas has been in full control of Gaza since launching a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority’s rival Fatah group in June 2007.

Terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza have fired 108 rockets, mortars and missiles from Gaza into Israel since Israel ended its defensive operation from December 2008-Jan. 9 to root out rocket launchers and weapons storage facilities Gaza.

That marks a significant decrease from the 7,000 rockets, mortars and missiles fired from Gaza since Israel withdrew all of its citizens and forces from the area in August 2005. Israel carried out the 2005 operation in hopes of paving the way for an independent Palestinian state....

Follow this link to the online TIP article to also see photos, statistics and access additional sources of information about this event.

Israel honours Australian Aboriginal elder for defying Nazis

From: The Australian July 31, 2010, by John Lyons :

AN Aboriginal elder is about to make history by becoming the first indigenous Australian to be honoured with his own memorial and garden at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

Alfred Turner, grandson of Aboriginal elder William Cooper (inset), in Melbourne yesterday. Picture: Aaron Francis Source: The Australian

(also see this previous posting on JIW, and links listed below to source documents about the history)

Following a year-long examination of records, historians at Yad Vashem have approved the memorial for the late William Cooper, who led a protest march in Melbourne against the treatment of Jews in Germany only weeks after Kristallnacht in 1938.

The memorial will be the Entrance Gate Garden at the entrance of the huge Yad Vashem complex.

Yad Vashem receives about one million visitors a year -- about 600,000 from overseas and 400,000 from inside Israel -- so the positioning of the memorial means a large number of people will be exposed to the story of Cooper.

...Cooper, from Footscray in Melbourne's western suburbs, was secretary of the Australian Aborigines League and it appears he had seen reports in Melbourne's papers about Kristallnacht and gathered as many people as he could for a protest.

On December 6, 1938, they walked down Collins Street to the German consulate where they attempted to present a petition to the German consul-general, D.W. Dreschler. Dreschler would not take the petition but the protest caused a stir. The petition protested the "cruel persecution" of Jews in Germany.

The decision to approve the memorial dedication follows a year of representations by Albert Dadon, a leading Melbourne businessman and founder and chair of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange.

The ceremony to open the memorial will be held on December 15. Yad Vashem has a thorough approach to examining the many submissions it receives each year.

The process began after Dadon visited Yad Vashem last year with Warren Mundine, former national president of the ALP and now head of the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce. ...Mundine this week described Cooper as "a giant".

"If only more people in the world had stood up in the 1930s like William Cooper," he said.

"What he did standing up for Jewish people makes him a giant among people."

...Cooper was born on a mission in Echuca, Victoria, in 1861 -- which means he was 77 when he led the protest.

He lived and worked on a reserve in the area doing everything from general labourer to picking up wool. He was said to be a good fisherman, at one stage opening a fish shop in Yarrawonga.

According to the Collaborating for Indigenous Rights website of the National Museum of Australia, he moved to Melbourne in 1933, aged 72, with others of Yorta Yorta descent, where they formed the Australian Aborigines League.  ...Cooper dedicated years to a petition to King George V asking for Aboriginal representation in federal parliament...


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Arabs and Muslims Prefer Israel

From Hudson New York, July 27, 2010, by by Khaled Abu Toameh:

Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have a dream: to work or live in Israel. Some even say they are prepared to pay large sums of money to obtain Israeli citizenship...

Many Palestinians feel that neither Fatah nor Hamas has done enough to alleviate their suffering. Many Fatah leaders who stole billions of dollars of international donations earmarked for the Palestinians have invested their fortunes in hotels, tourist resorts and real estate firms in the West. Hamas, on the other hand, prefers to spend millions of dollars on purchasing [and smuggling] large amounts of weapons, including rockets and ammunition.

It is a disgrace for Arab and Muslim dictators, particularly those who make billions of dollars from selling oil, that their constituents have to seek work and refuge in Israel and the West. It is also a disgrace for Fatah and Hamas that thousands of Palestinians cannot find jobs or a good life in the two Palestinian states in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Arab and Islamic regimes are spending billions of dollars on building new mosques and madrasas while nearly half of their people are illiterate and live under the poverty line. University graduates in these countries are forced to search for work in the West because of poor working conditions and lack of opportunities.

The absence of good government, transparency, accountability and democracy in these countries is driving Arabs and Muslims to seek work and a better life not only in North America and Europe, but even in places like Israel.

A wealthy Arab prefers to spend millions of dollars on a private zoo than building a hospital or a university. Why should he when he and his family members could travel anytime they wish to receive medical treatment at Mayo Clinic or study at Harvard University?

In many ways, these Palestinians are not different from the African immigrants who try to infiltrate Israel every day through Egypt. The immigrants come from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eretria, Nigeria and other African countries.

Like the Palestinians, the Africans are prepared to pay a lot of money to get into Israel. Egyptian traffickers charge up to $1,000 for each immigrant.

...Israel is not 100% perfect. But an African Muslim or Christian still prefers Israel to countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a "refugee" from Darfour, Sudan, who now lives in Tel Aviv, explained: "I feel more secure in the Jewish state than in Sudan or any Arab or Islamic country."

For many Palestinians, it is easier to find a job in Israel and Canada than in any Arab or Islamic country, most of which impose strict travel and work restrictions on them. Palestinians cannot enter most Arab and Islamic countries without a visa.

One can understand why a Palestinian needs a visa to enter the US or any European country. But why does a Palestinian need a visa to visit his relatives in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt?

Many Palestinians from the West Bank who visit Arab countries often find themselves thrown into detention centers for weeks, months and years without trial. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians are believed to be languishing in prisons throughout the Arab world, especially in Syria and Egypt.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Surprise meeting of Netanyahu and Abdullah (Jordan)

From The Associated Press (Canadian Press), 26 July 2010:

AMMAN, Jordan — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a previously unannounced visit to Jordan. ...his second to Jordan since he took office in February 2009.

...More than half of Jordan's nearly 6 million population is of Palestinian descent and the kingdom fears that deadlocked negotiations could lead to yet another influx of refugees from the West Bank.

A Royal Palace statement says King Abdullah II received Netanyahu for closed-door talks before the Israeli leader left for home.

It says the talks focused on ways for starting direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations but did not elaborate.

From Ynet News, 27 July 2010:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday [26 July 2010] that his secret meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II was "very good"...

...Netanyahu said he spoke with the Jordanian king about promoting peace and security with the Palestinians and the entire region.  ...He also noted that the parities discussed the possibility of cooperation in the fields of economy and energy.

...Netanyahu also addressed the importance of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. "The region where we live has a lot of instability and a lot of dangers. We had peace with Iran. For years we had ties with them, but this peace did not withstand the changes that took place within Iran."

He warned that caution should be used. "We must have peace agreements that include a solution to the threats against us, because we do not want to repeat what happened when we withdrew from Lebanon and got an Iranian military base in the north, and we do not want to have what happened in Gaza, where a southern Iranian enclave was created with increasing armament."

Netanyahu said that Israel must preserve its ability to defend itself in the frame of the new conditions to be created in the region.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dear Chronic, Compulsive Critic of Israel

From Huffington Post, July 25, 2010, by David Harris, Executive Director, AJC, and Senior Associate, St. Antony's College, Oxford University:

You just can't contain your rage against Israel, can you?

A mere mention of Israel and you're out of the starting gate in record time with another tirade accusing it, and its defenders, of every conceivable evil in the world - from Nazism to Apartheid, from blood libel to mass murder.

The facts be damned--they only get in the way of your outrageous assertions and gross distortions. You follow the approach recommended by Lenin: "A lie told often enough becomes the truth."

Your narrative is pre-cooked, airtight, and impervious to reason. It's filled with a hatred of Israel that eludes logical explanation, a blindness that shuts out any contrary evidence. For you, Israel can do no right other than to close up shop and call it quits, while the Palestinians, your hallowed victims on a pedestal, can do no wrong.

Strikingly, all this is done in the name of such vaunted values as democracy, legitimacy, and an end to occupation.

Yet you interpret and apply those values in rather strange ways.

Take democracy.

Israel is a democracy. Much as you may breathlessly try to dismiss the notion, it's a fact.
Israel has free and fair elections, smooth transfers of power, and an independent judiciary. It has a wide array of political parties, a freewheeling parliament, including members who have openly cavorted with the country's enemies, and a feisty press. It has a well-developed civil society and countless human-rights and civil-rights groups. It protects freedom of worship for all. It has a vibrant gay community. It has strong labor unions. And minority communities enjoy legal protections.

No, Israel may not be perfect -- and I would never suggest otherwise -- but, then again, what democracy is, especially one so young and subjected to so many challenges to its very existence? But democracies, by their very nature, invite self-criticism and improvement.

Now take a look at Israel's neighborhood.

For all your purported concern about defending democracy -- or freedom or human dignity -- why is your voice on mute?

Could it be that your real ideal is a Hamas-run society, with its all-enveloping political and religious suffocation, relegation of women to the status of virtual male property, intimidation of the tiny Christian community, unadulterated anti-Semitism, and reverence for the cult of violence?

If your world view is defined by the belief that Palestinians are mistreated, then why not a peep about their condition in, say, Lebanon?

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have lived in Lebanon for decades, yet by law they are excluded from working in dozens of professions, have no right to own property, and have limited access to healthcare. Is this acceptable to you? Have you petitioned the Lebanese government to respect their human dignity? If so, please don't keep it a secret.

In fact, why not go a step further and expose the absurdity of a flotilla heading from Lebanon to Gaza to "assist" the Palestinians? Whatever happened to the notion that "charity begins at home"?

And, dare I ask, when was the last time you spoke out in protest against the treatment of women, gays, religious minorities, labor activists, and human-rights defenders in the larger Middle East?

You talk about legitimacy, accusing Israel of being an "illegitimate" state.

Israel is an entirely legitimate state.

From the Balfour Declaration to the League of Nations Mandate, from the recommendation of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine to the overwhelming vote of the UN General Assembly, Israel's foundation is rock-solid. In fact, it's far stronger than that of most other countries.

And I'm not even invoking the Jewish people's ancient history and literature, and the findings of archaeology to support it, relevant though they are.

Not only is the nation entirely legitimate, but so is its government, a product of the periodic expression of the will of its people.

But if you're truly seized by questions of legitimacy, why not examine some of Israel's neighbors?

You'll discover a few uncomfortable truths.

First, their historical legitimacy is questionable, the result either of conquest or cynical European leaders drawing borders at will. And second -- as in Syria, for instance -- political legitimacy derives more from the bullet than the ballot, and from the entrenched notion of filial dynasties.

Either way, it doesn't do much for the legitimacy case.

And then there is the "end to occupation."

Since the 1967 war, Israel, unlike many nations victorious in battles of self-defense, has withdrawn from lands it seized.

It gave back to Egypt the vast Sinai region, with its oil fields and strategic depth, withdrew from Gaza, and yielded to Jordan on border issues. It has also pulled all its troops out of southern Lebanon and dramatically lowered its profile in much of the West Bank. And it has repeatedly declared its readiness to embrace a far-reaching two-state solution with the Palestinians that would entail further territorial sacrifices.

Israel, so small that it's barely a speck on world maps, has one overriding preoccupation -- security. Until the Palestinians finally get their act together and pursue peace seriously and credibly, Israel has every right to act against groups operating in Gaza and the West Bank that stockpile weapons and plot terrorist attacks.

Any other nation defending itself would act similarly -- or, perhaps, more ruthlessly and with less regard for the well-being of civilians cynically used by enemies as human shields.

But those of you in the chorus of chronic, compulsive critics of Israel blithely ignore Israel's withdrawals to date and repeated offers of peace, instead robotically hammering away at the "evils of occupation" -- by which you presumably mean Israel's very existence, irrespective of its borders.

Yet again revealing your rank hypocrisy, the chorus is strangely silent when it comes to other occupations.

Take, for instance, Cyprus. The island has been divided since 1974, there are tens of thousands of Turkish troops in the northern part, and it is an open secret that the Turkish government generously encourages thousands of settlers -- yes, settlers -- to move there from Turkey and shift the demographic balance.

Any chance that the chorus will speak up? It hasn't since 1974, and is unlikely to start now. After all, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has positioned himself as the champion of Hamas -- and, for the chorus, that must be a dream come true. Why jeopardize it?

Winston Churchill faced his own chorus of chronic, compulsive critics who willfully tuned out obvious truths when he sought to alert the world to the great dangers of the 20th century. He famously said:

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened."

Sounds as if he had people like you in mind.

Second Explosive Attack on Swedish Synagogue in Two Weeks

From, 26 July 2010, by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu:

Anti-Semites struck for the second time in two weeks Friday and attacked the synagogue in the Swedish city of Malmo, which has suffered a steady exodus of Jews because of anti-Semitism.

A written bomb threat had been taped to the synagogue Friday, when an explosion shattered three window panes but caused no injuries. Security at the synagogue was beefed up following the attack. An explosion also struck the house of worship two weeks ago, without causing injuries.

[There were] violent demonstrations in March when an Israel tennis [team] played in the Davis Cup in Sweden ...Swedish police arrested 10 rock-throwing attackers in the March violence, which succeeded in forcing the banning of spectators at the tennis match.

Anti-Semitism in Sweden was fueled last year, when a local journalist published claims that Israel soldiers harvested organs of Palestinian Authority terrorists.

The CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) media watchdog reported last Friday, “...Jews are fleeing Malmo [in Sweden] in droves as anti-Semitic attacks, perpetrated mostly by Muslim immigrants have increased substantially. Malmo’s mayor has failed to stop the attack, stating they are merely a consequence of Israeli policies in the Middle East.”

The Swedish English-language newspaper The Local reported that the number of anti-Semitic crimes reported in Sweden rose 57 percent last year.

PLO Mission to US upgraded to Embassy

From JPost, 26 July 2010:

... Late last week the [Obama] administration decided – apropos of nothing – to upgrade the diplomatic status of the PLO mission in Washington. ...the PLO will be allowed to fly its flag like a regular embassy. Its representatives will enjoy diplomatic immunity just like diplomats from states.

Indeed the PLO delegate in Washington Maen Areikat claimed that the administration’s move equates the PLO’s diplomatic status in the US to that of Canada and states in Western Europe.

..this step does not constitute US recognition of a Palestinian state in the absence of a peace treaty between the Palestinians and Israel, [but] it certainly sends a clear signal that this is the direction the US is heading. As such, it represents a dangerous step that will encourage continued Arab hostility.

...White House spokesman Thomas Vietor said, “This decision reflects our confidence that through direct negotiations, we can help achieve a two-state solution with an independent and viable Palestine living side by side with Israel. We should begin preparing for that outcome now, as we continue to work with the Palestinian people on behalf of a better future.”

Like the decision itself, Vietor’s explanation signals that the Obama administration has not embraced pragmatism over ideology. Vietor could never have made his statement if it had.

Any pragmatic analysis of the situation leads to the clear conclusion that there is little chance of the Palestinians agreeing to a settlement anytime soon. Just this past week Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas escalated still further his already unacceptable preconditions for direct negotiations.

Now in addition to his absurd demand that Israel agree ahead of time to withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, Abbas is demanding that it also agree to withdraw all of its forces to those lines and accept the deployment of foreign forces along its borders with the Palestinian state.

These are demands that no government in its right mind would accept in direct negotiations, let alone as a precondition for them.

And any pragmatic US administration upon hearing these demands would recognize that there is no chance that the Palestinians will agree to any reasonable offer of a peace treaty in the foreseeable future.

...The move makes sense only if the US is secretly preparing to help the Palestinians avoid negotiations and obtain a state that is not established in the framework of a peace treaty.

...This is the case because there is no Palestinian leader – not the US favorites Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad and not their competitors in Hamas – who accepts the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

...any state formed outside the framework of a peace treaty will be in a de facto state of war with Israel. Indeed, its legitimacy with the Palestinian people and other Arabs will be defined by its commitment to the eventual destruction of the Jewish state. upgrading the PLO’s mission, the Obama administration is actively encouraging just such an outcome...

Strike on Iran seems more likely now

From The Associated Press Sunday, July 25, 2010:

WASHINGTON -- A former CIA director says military action against Iran now seems more likely because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program.

Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, says that during his tenure a strike was "way down the list" of options. But ...such action now "seems inexorable."

He predicts Iran will build its program to the point where it's just below having an actual weapon. Hayden says that would be as destabilizing to the region as the real thing.

U.S. officials have said military action remains an option if sanctions fail to deter Iran...

Turkey and China throw lifeline to Iran

From FT (UK)July 25 2010, by Roula Khalaf and Delphine Strauss in Ankara:

Turkey could emerge as a new safety net for Iranian business as the government insists that it will abide by UN sanctions but not the more sweeping restrictions imposed on Tehran by the US and the European Union. Mehmet Simsek, the finance minister, told the Financial Times that Turkey would not shy away from promoting closer trade links with Iran.

...the International Energy Agency confirmed that a state-owned Turkish refiner, Tupras, had stepped in to supply Iran after several international companies stopped selling the country refined petroleum.

Meanwhile Turkey’s foreign economic relations board said the country’s ports, notably Mersin and Trabzon, would try to handle some of the trade with Iran that has been going through Dubai. The Gulf emirate is steadily restricting its economic ties with Tehran.

Samet Inanir, a strategy counsellor at the economic relations board, said Istanbul could also offer an alternative to Dubai for Iranian investors in real estate. He noted that more than 120 Iranian companies based in Dubai had recently applied to their country’s embassy for information about doing business in Turkey.

...Ankara was one of only two UN Security Council members to oppose Resolution 1929 which tightened sanctions on Iran last month.

... Chinese companies have also been supplying Iran with petroleum...

Israel and US to build Arrow III to tackle Iranian missiles

From Reuters et al, 25 July 2010:

Arrow type missile being launched in an IDF test site, 2006. [Photo by: IDF]

Israel and the United States have signed an agreement to [upgrade] the Arrow II ballistic shield ...The Arrow III will allow Israel "to deal with the threat of ballistic missiles with long range" and will give it "the ability to shoot down weapons of mass destruction outside the atmosphere", the [Israeli Defense] ministry said in a statement.

...The Arrow is jointly produced by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and the American firm Boeing Co. and has absorbed close to e1 billion in direct U.S. funds since its 1988 inception.

Israel's defense forces have been planning to eventually operate three anti-missile systems: Iron Dome to tackle rockets with a shorter range of up to 60 kilometers; David's Sling - known also as Magic Wand - which has a range of hundreds of kilometers; while the Arrow 3 is designed to shoot down missiles outside the earth's atmosphere.

All three will be operated by anti-aircraft units of the IAF, which has been working to coordinate the functioning of its layer-cake air defenses.

Last year, the air force said that the Arrow III would take more than four years to complete and that would depend on what resources were made available for the project.

Two weeks ago U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew J. Shapiro said the United States intended to expand its military aid to Israel in the hopes that such aid would allow Israel to reach tough decisions in its peace talks with the Palestinians.

Speaking at the Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington D.C., the assistant secretary spoke of the administration's intention to enhance the annual security aid it provides Israel, saying that in "2010, the administration requested [from Congress] $2.775 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history."

Specifically mentioning the in-development Arrow missile defense system, Shapiro had said that "given the threat Israel faces from short- and medium-range missiles, Israeli air and missile defense systems are an area of particular focus, including the Arrow Weapon System to counter long-range ballistic missile threats and David’s Sling to defend against short-range ballistic missiles."

"For our part, we are working with Israel to upgrade its Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, which was first deployed during the Gulf War, and have installed advanced radar systems to provide Israel early warning of incoming missiles," Shapiro added.

A day before that, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that the United States would continue to maintain Israel's military advantage as well as protect it in the diplomatic arena, adding that the American commitment to Israel's security was "not negotiable."

Israel warns Iran and Lebanon

From Washington Post Foreign Service, Monday, July 26, 2010, by Janine Zacharia:

TEL AVIV -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is due to arrive in Washington on Monday bearing two warnings for American policymakers:
  • Sanctions won't thwart Iran's push for nuclear weapons, and
  • Israel will strike directly at Lebanese government institutions if Hezbollah launches rockets at Israeli towns.

...Barak is ...the closest confidant of his former political rival, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, making what he says on matters of peace and war particularly relevant for the Obama administration. While in Washington, Barak is due to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and various intelligence officials.

On Iran, Barak said Israel and the United States share the same "diagnosis" that Iran is "determined to reach nuclear military capability." But he acknowledged "there are differences about what could be done about it, how it should be done, and what [is] the timeframe within which certain steps could be taken."

Among the timing issues are questions of how long to give sanctions the chance to work and the cutoff point after which it would no longer be feasible to neutralize Iran's uranium enrichment program with a military strike. ...Barak said " a certain point, we should realize that sanctions cannot work."

The United States and the United Nations have enacted recent rounds of sanctions, with the European Union expected to follow suit as early as Monday. Obama's December speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, ...Obama said there will be times when "the use of force" is "not only necessary but morally justified."

Another area where Israel believes force may be necessary is Lebanon. ...Hezbollah ...has built an arsenal of 40,000 missiles and rockets. Barak warned that the next time violence breaks out, Israel would strike directly at the Lebanese government, which he said is allowing Hezbollah to rearm.

If Hezbollah fires a rocket into Tel Aviv, "we will not run after each Hezbollah terrorist or launcher. . . . We will see it as legitimate to hit any target that belongs to the Lebanese state, not just to Hezbollah."

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said Israel is "trying to justify a war against Lebanon that it could launch when it wishes" and has complained of Israeli surveillance flights over Lebanese territory.

Tensions between Israel and Lebanon have escalated in recent days amid reports that Lebanese activists plan to dispatch aid ships to the Gaza Strip in violation of an Israeli blockade. Barak called the aid ships an "unnecessary provocation." ...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Woefully Ignorant or Willfully Misleading?

From, 26 July 2010, by Martin Sherman:
left-wing journalist Peter Beinart

In a polemic published last month in the New York Review of Books, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” the left-wing journalist Peter Beinart argued that American Jews, especially the younger generation, are turning their backs on Israel. In Beinart’s estimation, this is a most understandable and inevitable development. Beinart expounded on the points of his original essay during a recent lecture at Los Angeles’s Temple Beth. Just as in the original article, Beinart’s argument was profoundly flawed.

For anyone with a modicum of knowledge of Israeli society and the larger picture of the Middle East, the lecture was an astonishing display of ignorance and arrogance.

The following analysis of the lowlights of his talk shows how Beinart, like other Israel-bashers, rides roughshod over the truth in an effort to portray Israel as violent and inhumane and deserving of the increasing suspicion in which it is held by American Jews.

The “Radical Settlers”
Beinart stated as a matter of fact: “The same radical settlers who used violence against Palestinians used violence against an Israeli prime minister [Rabin].”

Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin was not assassinated by a “radical settler,” but by a law student from Herzilya, a coastal town adjacent to Tel Aviv.

Beinart gave no evidence in this part of his talk that he knew what percentage of the settlers were involved in violence against Palestinians. Or who has been subject to greater and more lethal violence. Is it Palestinians by settlers? Or settlers by Palestinians?

Nor did he mention that Palestinian movements have proven all too ready to use violence. Not only is this violence directed toward “radical settlers” and innocent Israeli citizens, but Palestinians have also embarked on a frenzy of fratricidal fury against themselves.

The Eviction of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah Quarter in East Jerusalem
On this matter, Beinart posed this rhetorical question:
Is what is happening in Sheik Jarrah, where Palestinians who were living in their homes for 50 years were forcibly evicted and are now living in the street, “kosher”?
This mirrors his claim in his New York Review of Books article that:
[In] the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, … a Palestinian family named the Ghawis lives on the street outside their home of fifty-three years, from which they were evicted to make room for Jewish settlers.
In fact, the Palestinians’ eviction was not a politically motivated initiative to dispossess hapless, helpless Palestinians as Beinart implies, but the result of a court ruling.

The courts (including the Israeli Supreme Court, which often — indeed more often than not — rules against the “radical settlers”) determined that the property in which the Palestinians were living in fact belonged to Jewish owners. In 1967, the court awarded the Palestinian families “protected tenant” status, whose right to reside in the homes was guaranteed as long as they paid rent to the legal owners.

In 1982, the legal owners sued 23 families for nonpayment of rent. According to an agreement reached between the lawyer representing the Palestinian families and the authorized representatives of the owners, the Palestinian families were indeed recognized as “protected tenants” whose occupancy in the buildings was ensured as long as they paid rent. However, most of the families refused to do so.

Does Beinart believe that Israel would be looked on more favorably if the rule of law was flouted, and legal property rights violated because of the ethnic identity of those ruled against?

Pikuch Nefesh and Reverence for Life Over Land
Beinart lamented:
One of the things that bothers me is [the undermining of] the great reverence for Pikuach Nefesh [preserving lives] and the recognition that it is acceptable to withdraw from land if it meant saving lives.
This is a statement that can only be explained by either total ignorance or total insincerity. For as anyone who follows the news or reads the papers must know, a dramatic inverse relationship exists between Pikuach Nefesh (preserving lives) and withdrawal from land.

Indeed, since the doctrine of “land-for-peace” was introduced into Israeli policy, fatalities have soared to unprecedented levels on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides. To suggest otherwise reflects a massive deficit of either information or integrity.

Double Standards
Regarding the conduct of his like-minded Israel-basher peers, Beinart pontificated: “There is something frankly silly to me about a Jewish community that feels so self-confident in how our values apply in Bosnia, the former Soviet Union, and Darfur, but is so timid in talking about how our values apply in the place we care about most [presumably Israel].”

So Israel’s attempts to defend its people are morally comparable to the wholesale slaughter in Darfur, the widespread massacres in Bosnia, and the oppressive brutality of the Soviet regime?

What a windfall for the assorted collection of Jew-baiting anti-Semites, Judeo-phobic Israel-bashers, and other hate-driven villains such thinking is. What greater endorsement could they hope for than Beinart’s exhortation that his fellow Jews relate to the Jewish State as if it were governed by the genocidal Janjaweed militias in Sudan, or by the brutish guards in the Siberian gulags, or the murderous perpetrators of the bloody events in Srebrenica.

Double Standards II
Beinart endorses double standards when they work to Israel’s detriment, and only dismisses them when they do not.

When a challenge was raised regarding the application of these double standards, Beinart’s rather glib and unoriginal response was to claim that while Israel was “far morally superior to North Korea, Syria, Libya and Iran,” these were not relevant criteria he would expect from a Jewish state. According to Beinart, he should not have to “compromise [his expectations from Israel] just because North Korea is worse.”

Such an approach might have some merit if Israel was being censured less severely, or even equally severely, for violations of liberal-democratic values similar to those perpetrated by North Korea, Iran, etc. But what is happening is altogether different. Israel is being censured far more harshly and frequently for infringements much less notable than those glossed over by the international community when committed by other nations.
Moreover, it is not only in comparison to the tyrannies in Tehran and Tripoli and the dictatorships in Damascus and the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) that Israel is being held to a double standard. Indeed, widely divergent criteria are used to judge the actions of Israel and those of the leading democratic countries that comprise NATO. This is true both with respect to military action in the Balkans and the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan.

In the Balkans, high-altitude bombing by NATO, including the use of cluster bombs, inflicted hundreds of civilian Serbian casualties during a military campaign in which not one single civilian in a NATO nation was ever threatened.

In Afghanistan, where military action was undertaken in response to a single terror attack on a single NATO member, estimates of civilian deaths caused directly by NATO military action since 2001 are in the range of 5000-8000, with additional indirect fatalities estimated at up to 20,000.

Why should the victims of Israeli actions taken to defend their citizens elicit a far greater expression of moral outrage on the part of the international community than actions taken to perpetuate regimes in East Asia, Central Africa, or in the Middle East?

Why should several families evicted because of failure to pay rent, after being afforded due process by the Israeli legal system, be more troubling to liberal Jews than the millions of victims of gender apartheid, creed apartheid, and gay apartheid across the Islamic world?

Israel’s Right to Defend Itself

Beinart magnanimously agrees that “to ask Israel to be willing to not defend itself would be wrong,” but predictably goes on to ask – rhetorically – “is every military action…does every Israeli policy contribute to Israeli defense..?”

To be sure, with the benefit of hindsight, some Israeli security measures may be criticized for one reason or another. But in a situation of such uncertainty, what would Beinart recommend as Israel’s working security policy: To err on the side of sober caution? Or on the side of reckless optimism?

Nothing could imperil liberal democratic values more than trying to foist on Israel unattainable standards of liberal democratic ideals that make the defense of these ideals impossible. These standards are not demanded or expected of any other country, much less from one faced with such grave existential threats.
Of course no one is disputing Beinart’s right to criticize Israeli policy. However, as someone who has chosen not to share the burden of living in Israel, he would surely understand that when he states that “as a Jew, I have a certain set of expectations… as to what a Jewish state might be,” some might interpret his approach as being more than a little presumptuous.

Indeed, it would be interesting to know what kind of Israeli military actions Beinart would condone as not offensive to his liberal sensibilities. Would they include the construction of the much maligned separation barrier? Targeted killings (with the lowest level of collateral casualties in military history)? Large scale campaigns (such as “Cast Lead”) to quell rocket and mortar fire on civilian populations?

Blockades and Balance
Beinart asks: “How did the Gaza blockade which banned a vast, vast number of consumer products that had nothing to do with making rockets…help Israeli security?” He added, ”It seems to me that all it did was lead to more and more and more hatred of Israel.”

Can Beinart really be unaware of the fact that the imposition of the blockade was a result of, not a reason for, Palestinian enmity; that it is a consequence, not a cause, of Palestinian hatred for Israel?
Is he really ignorant of the fact that whenever Israel has turned the other cheek, it has been resoundingly slapped by the Palestinians; that whenever Israel extended the hand of friendship, it has been brusquely brushed aside by the Palestinians?

Why should Israel be condemned by liberal democrats for imposing a blockade on Gaza, when the international community imposed a UN Security Council-sanctioned blockade against Iraq and its despotic ruler?

Why is the Gaza blockade more reprehensible than the U.S.-led, UN sanctioned Iraqi blockade that caused infant mortality to sky-rocket and banned importation of over 300 items – including painkillers, pencils, hearing aids, musical instruments, and shampoo?

Palestinians and Egypt oppose ending "the occupation"

From JPost, 26 July 2010, by JONATHAN D. HALEVI:

The Palestinians want to keep the lava of the refugee problem at full boil.

[A] plan to assist the Gaza Strip in becoming an independent entity has encountered wall-to-wall Palestinian opposition. The dual-headed Palestinian regime in Ramallah (Fatah) and in the Gaza Strip (Hamas) totally rejects [the] proposal to recruit the European Union to build power stations to supply electricity, desalination stations and a sewage treatment plant....

The arguments against exercising Palestinian independence resemble each other. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency in Ramallah, views [the] plan as a plot “against the Palestinian people’s aspirations for unity, liberty and independence” ...Ahmed Assaf, spokesman for the Fatah organization that props up the Palestinian Authority, argued that the Gaza Strip is still under “Israeli occupation” and so it will remain, because it constitutes a single geographic unit with the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Sami Abu Zuheiri, a Hamas spokesman, explained that “although Gaza was liberated in practice from the military and settlement presence, it is still from a legal and practical standpoint under occupation” and the ...initiative is “an attempt to elude the responsibility imposed on the occupation.” Abu Zuheiri argued that Israel, “the occupying country,” must continue to provide for the Gaza Strip’s needs including food, electricity and fuel.

THE HAMAS position exemplifies one of the major absurdities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, which took pride in liberating the Gaza Strip from the occupation via jihad, is struggling with all its might to preserve the “Israeli occupation” and obligate Israel to continue transferring supplies to an entity that avowedly declares that it will liberate all of Palestine, liquidate the State of Israel and kill and expel its Jewish inhabitants. Hamas receives support for its position from international human rights organizations (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch), Palestinians and Israelis. These, similar to Hamas, vigorously argue that Israel is still “an occupying force” and therefore it must concern itself with “the security and welfare of the Gaza residents.”

Unfortunately, the position of the human rights organizations on which Hamas relies raises substantial questions. If Israel is still an “occupying force” in the Gaza Strip, as they contend, why do these organizations not demand that Israel exercise its obligation to assure the security of the Gaza residents and operate against the Hamas regime that is gradually applying Islamic law while flagrantly trampling human rights, suppressing the opposition with an iron hand and by executions?

Furthermore, not a single one of the human rights organizations suggests the necessary conditions for the conclusion of the “occupation,” but all are demanding that it should be extended by a full opening of the border. This position constitutes a paradox, because if Israel was to lift the siege pursuant to the human rights organizations’ demands (including the naval blockade and control of airspace), then the occupation is presumed to have concluded, and therefore Israel will no longer be under the obligation to concern itself with the Gaza population.

Even currently there is no real effective Israeli “siege” and the Gaza Strip is not a “prison,” as the data of the Hamas government on the transit of goods (imports of $1 billion per year) and people (scores of thousands, including personnel of the Hamas military wing) via the border with Egypt will attest.

Egypt as well is interested in the continuation of the occupation and it once again warns Israel that it should not dare rid itself of it. The official explanation explicitly clarifies its policy: “Concurrence with the argument that posits that the Gaza Strip is considered liberated territory conveys reconciliation with the plan that attempts to impose the burden of managing the Strip on the neighbor who lives in proximity to it, namely Egypt. One must not agree to this, because this will provide Israel with an excellent escape outlet from the strait of the occupation and transfer its repercussions to Egypt, and this could result in the liquidation of the Palestinian problem.”

GIVEN THIS background, the question of why everybody is so enamored with the Israeli “occupation” is accentuated. Why are the Palestinians still adamant in their opposition to receiving total independence, at least at the first stage, on part of Palestinian territory?

... Five years have elapsed since the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Hamas government continues to preserve the refugee camps despite their crowded conditions and immense deprivation, and continues to demand international assistance to help them via UNRWA. ...

...the goal of both the PA and the Hamas government is identical, namely, to keep the lava of the refugee problem at full boil, as this constitutes the key to the ultimate objective of the historic Palestinian odyssey – the liquidation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the real reason behind the Palestinian love affair with the “Israeli occupation.”

Hamas wants to eat out of Israel’s hand and then proceed to eat the hand itself and the entire body.

Israel’s opposition to placing the noose over its neck with its own hands is depicted by Hamas as a violation of international law.

Arafat ignored an olive branch 10 years ago and nothing has changed

From The Australian, 24 July 2010, by Bren Carlill:

...This weekend marks 10 years since [talks at Camp David between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat] ended in failure ...Israel offered the Palestinians a state in 92 per cent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. Yasser Arafat rejected the offer and refused to make any counter-offers, quickly dead-ending the talks. 

...Throughout the peace process, Arafat promised Palestinians a full Israeli return to the "Green Line" (the West Bank and Gaza Strip borders) and a full "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Any Palestinian suggesting anything less was branded a traitor.

But Israel cannot fully withdraw to the 1949 borders. Most of the large settlement blocs straddle or lie just over the border and Judaism's holiest site is in the Old City of Jerusalem, occupied by Jordan until 1967. Minor border adjustments and land swaps are the offered alternative.

The arguments against a full "right of return" are more black and white. Just as the Palestinian constitution describes Palestine as Arab, Israel describes itself as Jewish. Flooding Israel with more than five million Arabs (descendants of Palestinian refugees) would end its Jewish majority.

In other words, border adjustments (92 per cent? 98 per cent?) can be negotiated, but the right of return demand is a deal breaker, and indicates for Israel the seriousness or otherwise of Palestinian peace overtures.

...Events in the decade since Camp David have further complicated chances of peace.

On September 29, 2000, two months after Camp David, the second intifada began.  ...Palestinian leaders later made clear (in Arabic) that violence had been planned from the moment Arafat left Maryland.

...Arafat was relying on Israeli military responses to Palestinian violence to generate international sympathy for Palestinians, thus alleviating criticism for walking away from Camp David. the past, violence against Israel had produced Israeli concessions. After all, the first intifada led to the Oslo agreements.

But in instigating the second intifada, Arafat didn't realise Israeli perceptions had changed. The first intifada made Israelis realise they didn't want to be occupiers, and that a political resolution to the conflict had to be found. But the second intifada saw Israel confronted with Palestinian violence after seven years of negotiations and offers of statehood.

Many Israelis came to the conclusion that Palestinian violence wasn't about Israel's occupation, but its existence.

Thus, rather than making Israelis more conciliatory, the second intifada drove Israel in the direction of unilateralism, and in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

By disengaging from Gaza, Israelis thought they had left Palestinians bereft of excuses. Palestinian spokespeople blamed Palestinian corruption, economic stagnation and violence on the presence of settlements and checkpoints. Disengagement removed these from Gaza. (The blockade, of which we have read so much in recent weeks, was still years away; in the months after Israel's withdrawal, Gaza-Israel trade continued as it had before.)

Instead of excuses, what came out of Gaza in increasing numbers were rockets. The Qassam rockets weren't a new phenomenon, having been first fired in 2001. But after disengagement, their number quadrupled. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. In 2004, 281 rockets were fired from Gaza. In 2006, there were 946 rocket attacks.

The rockets brought Israel to a significant conclusion: no withdrawal from the West Bank would be possible until a credible Palestinian leadership could prove willing and able to prevent rejectionist groups firing rockets.

Unlike the West Bank, Gaza abuts a relatively unimportant corner of Israel. This doesn't reduce the terror the residents living adjacent to Gaza continue to face, but it does mean the Gazan rockets aren't a strategic threat.

Rockets from the West Bank would be different: 80 per cent of Israel's population is within Qassam range of the West Bank, as are Israel's international airport, oil refinery and much of its industry.

West Bank rockets would bring Israel to a grinding halt. The reason they're not being fired is due to Israel's continuing military presence and renewed Israeli-Palestinian security co-operation.

While rockets ended Israel's flirtation with unilateralism, other factors were also changing.

In the 2006 parliamentary elections (the first since 1996), Hamas defeated the ruling Fatah, creating a situation where the Palestinian Authority (established by Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements) was run by a party sworn to Israel's violent destruction.

Neither Israel nor Hamas would talk to the other, leading to months of uncertainty that ended when a Hamas-Fatah unity government was established. Unfortunately, violence between Hamas and Fatah-affiliated militias led to the government not just collapsing but splitting in two within three months. In June 2007, Hamas violently seized control of Gaza. Fatah control survived in the West Bank only because Israel's military was still there.

The Gaza coup brought clarity to the Fatah leadership. It began co-operating with Israel, arresting hundreds of West Bank-based Hamas fighters, thus removing a significant threat to both Fatah and Israel. Israel responded by removing hundreds of checkpoints, thereby massively helping the West Bank economy.

These moves generated a measure of goodwill between Israel and the West Bank leadership. Although the relationship is far from good, the mutual threat of Hamas has some suggesting Israel and Fatah might be able to come to some sort of interim arrangement.

This would involve a partial Israeli withdrawal (thereby further improving the West Bank's economy and freedom of movement), the meeting of most of Israel's security needs, and continuing final status peace talks. (A full peace agreement, including a Palestinian state, is impossible while the West Bank and Gaza are politically divided.) This plan has two big impediments, which have existed since Camp David.

The primary reason given by Palestinians for voting for Hamas in 2006 was Fatah corruption. But since then, and despite promises, Fatah has done little to remove corruption from its ranks.

Moreover, Palestinian media have continued to sell Palestinians the pipedream that a full right of return for refugees and their descendants is inevitable and a minimum Palestinian demand. Just like before 2000, there has been zero preparation in Palestinian society for "two states, side-by-side", which is what the peace process is supposed to be all about.

The international community, including Australia, can help. It can demand the Palestinian Authority end corruption and anti-Israel incitement, or else lose substantial aid money. This pressure hasn't been forthcoming because the world hasn't wanted to pressure the only Palestinian faction willing to negotiate with Israel.

But pressure on just one party (Israel, over the settlements) only produces resentment. Successfully pressuring the Palestinian Authority to end corruption will facilitate the rise of a credible Palestinian leadership, which is a necessary precondition for a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another Flotilla of Idiots (even the UN is opposed)

From JPost 23 July 2010:

The Israel Navy went on high alert Thursday amid forecasts that a flotilla of two vessels from Lebanon was preparing to depart for the Gaza Strip in an effort to break the blockade by the end of the week....

...Not only is the navy on heightened alert, the officials said, but diplomatic messages have been passed through third countries with influence on Lebanon not to allow the flotilla to proceed. Israel has also made clear that it will not let the vessels break the blockade.

...and from also JPost, 23 July 2010:

...The UN said Friday that organizations wishing to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip should do so by land and not attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the territory by sea with flotillas, AFP reported.

..."Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established routes, particularly at a sensitive time in indirect proximity (peace) talks between Palestinians and Israelis," said Nesirky.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday that the planned Lebanese flotilla is an “unnecessary provocation” and Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible to prevent the ships from trying to sail to break the Israel-imposed sea blockade on Gaza.

Barak said that if the cargo the ships were carrying was of a humanitarian nature it would be allowed into Gaza via the Ashdod Port and land crossings Israel controls into Gaza....