Saturday, August 01, 2009

Hasbara 101

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Jul. 30, 2009, by Herb Keinon:

If you thought this week saw a big influx of visiting US government officials - and indeed it did, with visits from US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser Jim Jones and NSC Middle East adviser Dennis Ross - then hold your socks.

Over the next two weeks, some 60 US congressmen, nearly 15 percent of the 435-member House of Representatives, will be gracing our shores, most of them freshman representatives, all of them on trips sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The first group, the Republican delegation - arriving Monday for a week - will be headed by Eric Cantor of Virginia, the sole Jewish Republican in the House. Besides that distinction, Cantor is also the minority whip, which makes him the No. 2 Republican in the House, behind Minority Leader John Boehner.

A week later, the Democratic delegation will come to town, headed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Cantor, 46, is a name that appeared on the US national radar screen about this time last year, when he was part of Republican presidential candidate John McCain's "Veep Sweepstakes," one of the names being considered as a possible running mate. ...his name is regularly floated as a possible GOP candidate in the 2012 presidential race.

During their week-long stay here, Cantor and his delegation will be meeting the country's top leadership, including President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and opposition head Tzipi Livni. They will also be going to Ramallah to talk to top Palestinian Authority officials, including Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.

Before leaving the US, Cantor spoke by phone Wednesday with The Jerusalem Post about settlements, President Barack Obama, American Jews, Iran, Syria and the current status of Israel-US ties.

Follow this link for excerpts from that conversation....

CAN Barack Obama really bring peace to the Middle East?

From The Australian, August 01, 2009, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor:

...I still don't think Obama will bring peace to the Middle East, but a few interesting things are going to happen in the next few months.

... the Americans are coming to realise they have oversold the settlements issue. It's not the roadblock to Israeli-Palestinian peace or the key to the Middle East. At most, it's a symbol. Obama is moving beyond symbols.

Here are three big dynamic-changers we'll get in the Middle East in the next few months.

* Decision time looms regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions. Obama has set a new tough deadline of September for a serious response to dialogue offer. The Iranian regime is weakened by the election it stole, but also enraged, savage, fearful and full of spite. ...there will be tough sanctions against it or a military strike. Either way, it will mark a tough decision and the end of Obama's attempted universal love-in with all of America's enemies. Or, if the US response is meaningless, it will mark the beginning of a steep decline in Obama's international credibility.

* The international public face of the Israeli government will become friendlier. Controversial Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will be indicted on corruption charges. He will then leave the government. Whether unfairly or not, he is a visual roadblock to a better look for Israel. With the Iran issue up for decision, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, or some big faction of her party, may join Benjamin Netanyahu's government. This will make it easier for Obama to love the Israelis.

* The emphasis will switch from the Israel-Palestinian track to the Israel-Syria track for possible peace talks. In some ways now is a good time to pursue Palestinian peace negotiations because all the Arab nations, except Syria, are scared of Iran and therefore would help the US. But in reality talk of a Palestinian peace is meaningless right now. Nearly half the Palestinian population is controlled by the ultra-rejectionist, terrorist death cult Hamas.

More important, perhaps, all of Israel's neighbours, including the Palestinians, are fed a diet of anti-Semitic propaganda and hate material. A permanent peace with Israel means an end to all territorial claims against Israel and the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. For the moment, that's impossible.

But the US has real business to transact with Syria. Above all it wants Syria not to interfere with Iraq. Syria-Israel negotiations could provide cover for the US's business with Damascus. Syria's motivation is that its economy is a basket case. It wants an end to US sanctions. But a comprehensive Israel-Syria peace deal is unlikely. The minority Alawite tribe that rules Syria bases its entire legitimacy and justifies its emergency rule (in place these many decades) by its conflict with Israel. One incentive for Syria to do a peace deal is to take back the Golan Heights, but these are of little significance in themselves to Syria and their possession by Israel gives Damascus all the benefits of a permanent complaint. But look at the negatives. Israel will not give back the Golan Heights just for a peace agreement with Syria.

There would need to be a strategic realignment. Damascus would have to stop supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and would need to break with Iran. But Syria exerts regional influence only through its terror proxies and alliance with Tehran. Giving these levers of influence away is unlikely to look like a bargain to Damascus.

But engaging in a lengthy flirtation, a courtship destined never to be consummated, which allows all manner of minor functional co-operation, with reciprocal benefits, to take place -- that is a game Damascus understands.

...Obama's obsession with settlements in the West Bank and even in East Jerusalem, as if the entire Middle East, no, the entire Muslim world, hinged on this minor matter, is in the deepest sense irrational.

All of this presumably served Obama's purpose of establishing a therapeutic bond between himself and the Muslim and Arab world. But it is time to move back to rationality. Entering a patient's fantasy life can be a helpful therapeutic tool, but it confuses other people who overhear you.

As he moves to a compromise with Israel on settlements, gets down to business with Syria and ultimately confronts Iran, Obama will sound less and less like a therapist and more and more like a President. Good thing, too.

Arabs reject US appeals for confidence building gestures

THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 1, 2009 ,by AP and Herb Keinon:

"NO!!"...Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, Friday
Photo: AP
Saudi Arabia on Friday bluntly rejected US appeals for improved relations with Israel as a way to help restart Middle East peace talks. . .

President Barack Obama, Clinton and Mitchell all have been urging Arab nations to improve ties with Israel with confidence-building measures such as opening trade offices, allowing academic exchanges and permitting civilian Israeli aircraft to overfly their airspace as a way of demonstrating their commitment to peace.

US government sources have said in recent weeks that Obama's pressure on Israel to stop settlement construction has been accompanied by equal pressure on the Arab world to make some gestures of normalization toward the Jewish state at the beginning, and not the end, of the diplomatic process.

Obama's overtures to Saudi Arabia have, however, fallen on deaf ears so far, and a personal letter to Morocco's King Muhammad VI earlier this year to 'be a leader in bridging gaps between Israel and the Arab world' has not had any visible effect.

Clinton repeated the call in her remarks, saying the Obama administration wants "the Arab states, including our friends in Saudi Arabia, to work with us to take steps to improve relations with Israel, to support the Palestinian Authority and to prepare their people to embrace the eventual peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis."

"Saudi Arabia's continued leadership is absolutely vital to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace," she said.

A bipartisan group of more than 200 members of Congress delivered a similar message Friday to Saudi King Abdullah, urging him to drop opposition to the administration's appeal for intermediate confidence-building steps.

"We have been disappointed thus far to see the public reaction of your government to President Obama's request," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the monarch. "We urge you to assert a strong leadership role and help lead the Middle East to a new era of peace and reconciliation by stepping forward with a dramatic gesture toward Israel akin to the steps taken earlier by the leaders of Egypt and Jordan."

But Saud flatly ruled that out.... ....The Saudi stance is complicating Mitchell's efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Replacement Theology (still)

From BESA* Center Perspectives Papers No. 87, July 28, 2009, by Mordechai Kedar**:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state, or as the rightful homeland of the Jewish People, is a necessary condition of any future Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty – according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Arab and Islamic leaders have rejected this demand. The reason for Arab inability and unwillingness to consider Netanyahu's demand is the fact that the Islamic world is ideologically incapable of according legitimacy to the State of Israel, for deep-seated religious, nationalistic and historical reasons.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has set out five conditions for the conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal involving establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The first, and the hardest for the Arab world to accept, is Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state, or as the rightful homeland of the Jewish People. In fact, it is close to impossible, because Islam is intrinsically incapable of according legitimacy to the State of Israel for the embedded ideological reasons detailed below.

The First Component: Religion
According to Islam, the Jewish religion was invalidated by the birth of Christianity, which in turn was invalidated by the arrival of Islam. This concept was set down in the Koran: “Surely the true religion with Allah is Islam” (Chapter 3, Verse 19). Thus Allah does not recognize any other religion besides Islam. Islam – according to its own perception – brought the message of truth to the world, after the Jews and Christians changed and distorted the word of Allah given to them. In light of their conduct, Allah removed their religious role and theological message and passed it to the Muslims, who are the sole “believers.” Thus, Islam’s basic approach is not that it came to the world to exist alongside other religions as equal among equals, but to replace them.

A conclusion from this is that Judaism as a religion has lost its significance and role in the world. If so, how could one establish a Jewish state? And how could one claim that land can be holy to Judaism after this religion has been declared null and void? And since when do Jews – members of a meaningless religion – have the right to a state in any land, after they betrayed Allah and refused to accept Din al-Haqq "the religion of truth," Islam? In practice, Islam recognized the Jews as “people of the Book” and not as infidels, although on condition that they live under Islamic rule as "dhimmis" – protégés of Islam, and “pay the Jizya (per capita tax) with willing submission.” (Koran Chapter 9, Verse 29). However, once they conquered land, and killed and deported Muslims, they lost the privileges granted to them by the “Pact of Omar.”

Therefore, Israel’s demand that Islam recognize it as a state for the Jewish People contradicts the most basic tenets of Islam, which view Judaism as null and void. Israel’s demand actually requires Islam to recognize Judaism as a legitimate religion even though God himself stated in the Koran that “whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, will never be accepted” (Chapter 3, Verse 85).

The Second Component: Nationality
Judaism is perceived in the Islamic world as a communal religion, without either an ethnic or national basis. There are other instances of this. The people living in Iraq consist of many religious groups: Muslims, Christians, Sabaiis, Mandeans, Yazidis, and Jews. They are all members of the Arab nation, all sons of the Iraqi people and they all have a place in Iraqi land. There are Arab Iraqi Muslims, Arab Iraqi Christians and Arab Iraqi Jews, all members of religious communities which are part of the Iraqi people. The same goes for Yemen – which has Arab Yemenite Muslims and Arab Yemenite Jews, and for Morocco and the rest of the Islamic states, which have Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities. Furthermore, from an Islamic perspective this is a way to view other countries: the Jew in Poland is Polish from an ethnic perspective and Jewish from a religious perspective. The French Jew is a member of the French nation who practices Judaism. Thus, there are no ethnic Jews in the world, just as there are no ethnic Christians or Muslims.

Suddenly, Jewish communities declare that they are one people, sharing the same ethnic background, as if all the Jews in the world look alike, speak the same language, share customs and cuisine, and dress in similar fashion! This is the "great lie" of the Zionist movement, according to Islamists: creating a Jewish people out of nothing, and trying to convince the world at large that a Jewish People does indeed exist. Even worse, these Jewish communities have decided to migrate to Palestine, to "displace" the original inhabitants and to establish a state, whose name has no connection to the Jewish people but to the mythological Sons of Israel. So, from the Islamic perspective, how can one recognize this state as the "State of the Jewish People” – an ethnic group that does not really exist?

The Third Component: Land
Palestine was sanctified as Muslim land by two acts. The first was its conquest during the period of Khalif Omar bin al-Khattab in the third decade of the seventh century. This placed Palestine within the group of countries which were under Islamic rule, like Spain, Sicily and part of the Balkans, and which must be returned to the bosom of Islam. The second act was the Islamic tradition which claims that the Khalif Omar declared Palestine, from the sea to the Jordan, as Waqf (holy endowment) land, consecrated for all Muslim generations forever. So how can the Jews – whose religion is illegitimate and who are not an ethnic people – demand that the Muslims recognize the conquest of the land of Palestine which is holy to Muslims alone?

Ideological Realities
Thus, according to Islam, the State of Israel is not legitimate. From a religious point of view, Judaism is void. The Jewish nation is an invention of the Zionist movement. The land called "Israel" is considered Islamic Waqf land, consecrated for Muslims.

Netanyahu’s insistence on recognition of the state as a Jewish nation-state contradicts the Islamic faith, and questions the very essence of Islam, whose relevance is based on the invalidity of Judaism (and Christianity as well).

Therefore, there is no escape from the conclusion that Israel’s struggle for survival is religiously based, even if externally it assumes the form of a territorial struggle. It does not matter what its size, Israel will never gain recognition by the Arab and Muslim world as a legitimate state. Similarly, international documents which legitimize the "Jewish State," such as United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, are viewed by Muslims as illegitimate.

Many say: “You are turning a territorial conflict into a religious one,” when they mean to say that territorial concessions would facilitate the recognition of the Arabs and Muslims in the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Such a statement assumes that the Arab and Muslim world is as secular as our own, and shares our concepts, values and priorities. This is the result of Israeli and Western ignorance of all that is related to Islam and the Arab world, derived from the fact that Westerners do not understand Arabic and Arab and Islamic culture. Israelis and Westerners alike are not exposed to the harsh truths which are expressed in the local tongues, and are well-concealed by spokesmen of “inter-religious dialogue.”

Recognition of Israel as a legitimate Jewish nation-state has no hope or chance as long as Islam perceives itself – and itself alone – as “the true religion with Allah.”

*BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity of the Littauer Foundation

**Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a research associate at the BESA Center and a lecturer in the departments of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University, is a 25-year veteran of IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinians and Islamic groups.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

American Jewish Democrats: Stand up!!!

From The Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2009, by Isi Leibler:

Ignore the soothing denials; the reality is that the crucial Israeli-US relationship is at stake.

...The three principal agencies promoting Jewish interests to the public are directed by civil servants - Malcolm Hoenlein of the Presidents' Conference, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, all of whom are dedicated professionals.

... as political tensions intensified, the Presidents' Conference (representing 52 major Jewish organizations) requested a meeting with the president. The White House agreed, but insisted on determining who would participate. Without consultation, critics like Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America were excluded while Israel-bashing groups like J Street and US Peace Now were invited. The administration thus not only provided equal status to fringe groups, it obliged mainstream organizations to share a platform with groups whose raison d'être is to force Israel to make additional unilateral concessions. During Operation Cast Lead, J Street even publicly condemned Israel's campaign against Hamas.

The reluctance of the Presidents' Conference to reject this arrangement may be a major strategic blunder. It enables the White House to determine who represents the Jewish community, and apply divide-and-conquer tactics against them. In short, it provides a mechanism by which the Obama administration can create an "amen" environment free of troublemakers.

AMERICAN JEWS face a watershed. Nearly 80 percent of them voted for Obama. That surely strengthens their right to convey concerns to the president...

...At the meeting with Obama, most participants appear to have been overwhelmed. Press reports suggest that most lay leaders remained silent, with some even expressing support for Obama's policies. ...

  • No one raised concerns about the manner in which their president had embraced the Arab narrative and expressed moral equivalence between both parties.
  • No one responded to Obama's outrageously patronizing remarks about the need for Israelis to "engage in serious self-reflection."
  • No one pointed out that it was especially incongruous for the first African-American president to deny Jews the right to take up residence in Jerusalem, the cradle of Jewish civilization.
  • Nobody suggested that by distancing the US from Israel, Obama was effectively discouraging the Palestinians from making peace.
However there is a ray of light. The statement recently released by Alan Solow and Malcolm Hoenlein, chairman and executive vice president of the Presidents' Conference, condemning the administration for its heavy-handed treatment of Israel in relation to Jerusalem may be significant.

For Solow, until now a dedicated Obama supporter who had originally requested the meeting with the president, to publicly express such views may signal that Obama's negative attacks on Israel are at last beginning to affect his Democrat supporters.

Similar remarks by David Harris of the American Jewish Committee criticizing Obama to a congressional group also reflect rising distress among Democrats as they begin to absorb the hollowness of the president's stated concern for the welfare of Israel.

A public campaign must be launched. It is crucial that the case for Israel not rest exclusively with Jewish Republicans or Christian evangelicals.

Jewish Democrats must be at the forefront if the bipartisan approach which for decades has been the hallmark of US policy toward Israel is to be retained.

Democrat champions for Israel like Alan Dershowitz should explain to Obama why employing so-called "tough love" against Israel is both immoral and counterproductive.

The burden rests on American Jews. Hopefully they will succeed in persuading Obama that if he seeks to 'engage' with tyrants and enemies of freedom, he can do no less than behave likewise to the only democratic state in the region and stop bombarding them with diktats.

They must stand up and be counted. Jewish activists should make Obama understand that if he continues to appease Arabs by distancing the US from Israel and reneging on prior American commitments, the Jewish community, including many of his most devoted followers, will conclude that he betrayed them.

Six ways that Obama can regain Israeli trust

Let's hope that Obama takes this advice from Yossi Klein Halevi* published in The New Republic, Tuesday, July 28, 2009:

...According to one poll, only six percent of Israelis consider Obama a friend. That perception of hostility is new.

Israelis welcomed Barack Obama when he visited here in July 2008 and many responded enthusiastically to his election. But Israelis sense that Obama has placed the onus for restarting negotiations on Israel.

Worse, he is perceived as showing weakness toward the world's bullies while acting resolutely only toward Israel. Many Israelis--and not only on the right--suspect that Obama actually wants a showdown with Jerusalem to bolster his standing in the Muslim world. If those perceptions aren't countered, the Israeli public will reject Obama's peace initiatives.

On the assumption that the pessimists among us are wrong and the Obama administration isn't seeking a pretext to create a crisis in American-Israeli relations, here are some suggestions for Washington about how to reassure increasingly anxious Israelis.

1. Make clear that renewing the peace process requires simultaneous Israeli and Arab concessions.
The impression conveyed by the administration's relentless public focus on the settlements is that a settlement freeze is the sole prerequisite toward jump-starting peace talks. After the disastrous consequences of the Oslo process (which led to more than five years of suicide bombings in Israeli cities) and of the withdrawal from Gaza (which led to three years of rocket attacks on Israeli towns near the Gaza border), the Israeli public is in no mood for unilateral concessions.

The administration insists that its intentions have been misunderstood, that it expects the Arab world to offer gestures of normalization to Israel. But unlike its hectoring tone toward Israel, there has been little public rebuke directed toward Arab leaders. True, Secretary of State Clinton recently did note that America expects a more forthcoming Arab attitude toward Israel. But that statement has hardly resonated, and the media focus remains on the settlements as the main obstacle to renewing the peace process.

2. Reaffirm the Israeli status of the settlement blocs in a future agreement.
In weighing the future of the settlements, Israelis will be looking not only for tangible signs of Arab goodwill but also of American goodwill--specifically, a reiteration of the Bush administration's endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over the major settlement blocs as part of a peace agreement. In return, a future Palestinian state would receive compensatory territory from within Israel proper.

The administration is right to insist that the current Israeli government must be bound by the commitments of previous Israeli governments (a position that Prime Minister Netanyahu has in fact upheld). But that same principle should also apply to Washington. Obama should not dismiss previous administration promises to Israel--even those made by George W. Bush.

3. Actively confront Palestinian demonization of Israel.
In his Cairo speech, Obama called for an end to Palestinian incitement against Israel. A systematic culture of denial--denying any historical legitimacy to the Jewish presence in the land of Israel--is being nurtured not only by Hamas but by the Palestinian Authority. In recent months, for example, the Fatah media has promoted a campaign denying the historical attachments of Jews to Jerusalem.

Challenging that campaign of lies would be a good way for the administation to begin proving its seriousness on incitement. Negating any Jewish rights to Jerusalem reinforces the very rejectionism among Palestinians that led to the collapse of the Oslo proces--surely no less a threat to peace than building 20 apartments in East Jerusalem.

4. Affirm Israel's historical legitimacy to the Muslim world.
In his Cairo speech, Obama rightly noted that the key obstacle on the Arab side toward making peace is the ongoing refusal to accept Israel's right to exist. Crucially, he has made clear that he intends to carry the issue of Israel's legitimacy into his dialogue with the Muslim world. This presents an unprecedented opportunity for Muslims to hear Israel's case. So far, though, the president has failed to make it.

By referring only to the Holocaust, and ignoring the historical Jewish attachment to the land of Israel, the president has inadvertently reinforced Muslim misconceptions regarding Jewish indigenousness. The Holocaust helps explain why Israel fights, not why Israel exists. It doesn't explain why thousands of Ethiopian Jews walked across jungle and desert to reach Zion; nor for that matter why some Jews leave New York and Paris to raise families in a Middle Eastern war zone.

5. Make clear that the impending nuclearization of Iran, and not the Palestinian problem, is the region's most urgent crisis.
Continuing to publicly reprimand Israel over settlement building while only reluctantly and belatedly criticizing the Iranian regime for suppressing dissent has further alienated Israelis from the Obama adminstration. In one recent cartoon in the daily Maariv, Obama is depicted as a waiter serving Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Obama offers him two plates: On one is a carrot, and on the other--a carrot.

Israelis need to know that there is no substantive difference between Obama and Netanyahu on the need to prevent an Iranian bomb at all costs--or to put it more bluntly, that there is as much urgency over a nuclear Iran in Washington as there is in Riyadh and Paris.

6. Don't treat the Netanyahu government as a pariah.
For weeks Israelis have been reading in their newspapers about a near-total breakdown in trust between Washington and Jerusalem. For his part, Netanyahu has repeatedly praised Obama's friendship for Israel, and refused to attack his Iran policy. During his meeting with Jewish leaders, Obama reaffirmed his friendship for Israel but seems to have mentioned no words of friendship for Israel's prime minister. Israelis need to hear some words of warmth from the White House toward their elected leader. That's what one expects from friends, to say nothing of family.

*Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor of The New Republic and a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

Israel's Peace Plan Marks a New Era in the Country's History

From GLORIA, July 20, 2009, by Barry Rubin*:

...Israel has entered a new era of thinking and policy in which old categories of left or right, hawk or dove are irrelevant under a national unity government bringing together the two main ruling parties.

.... It goes like this: Israel wants peace but doesn’t hesitate to express not only what it wants and needs but also what’s required to create a stable and better situation...

--Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Without this step, the aftermath of any “peace” agreement would be additional decades of Arab effort to destroy Israel ...

--Absolute clarity that a peace agreement ends the conflict and all claims on Israel...

--Strong security arrangements and serious international guarantees for them...

--An unmilitarized Palestinian state...enough for internal security and legitimate defense but not aggression.

--Palestinian refugees resettled in [the new entity]. The demand for a “Right of Return” is just a rationale for wiping Israel off the map through internal subversion and civil war.

...Part of the new thinking is to understand that precise borders and east Jerusalem’s status, while important, are secondary to these basic issues. If those principles are resolved, all else can follow.

...The best outcome would be if this program was met by Palestinian cooperation. If they are suffering so under alleged occupation, if so desperate for their own state, there’s nothing in this offer they can’t accept.

If, however, they prefer rejectionism, exposing their claims as false, that, too, is acceptable. The truth would be known: the Palestinians and much of the Arab world can’t make peace with Israel because they don’t want peace with Israel. And that is because they don’t want Israel to exist. Period...

... More risks, concessions, and the establishment of an unstable and hostile Palestinian state--the most likely outcome at present--would make things worse.

Equally wrong is the notion that time is against Israel, a strong and vibrant society surrounded by weak, disorganized neighbors...

... A new national consensus has emerged which will be strong, and durable. If the world pays attention to it, there might actually be some real hope for peace.

But as long as Western governments and media are only interested in two things--what the Palestinians demand and new concessions from Israel--the situation will remain frozen for many years to come.
*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

The Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik Neighborhood

From The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 27/7/09, by Nadav Shragai*:

  • The Sheikh Jarrah-Mt. Scopus area - the focus of a dispute between the Obama administration and Israel over building housing units in the Shepherd Hotel compound - has been a mixed Jewish-Arab area for many years. The Jewish population is currently centered in three places: around the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (a fourth century BCE high priest), the Israeli government compound in Sheikh Jarrah, and Hadassah Hospital-Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus.
  • During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, 78 doctors, nurses and other Jews were murdered on their way to Hadassah Hospital when their convoy was attacked by Arabs as it passed through Sheikh Jarrah. Mt. Scopus was cut off from western Jerusalem and remained a demilitarized Israeli enclave under UN aegis until it was returned to Israel in 1967. The area discussed here has for decades been a vital corridor to Mt. Scopus.
  • To ensure the continued unity of Jerusalem and to prevent Mt. Scopus from being cut off again, a chain of Israeli neighborhoods were built to link western Jerusalem with Mt. Scopus, and Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital were repaired and enlarged. Today both institutions serve hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Arab residents of the city.
  • Many observers incorrectly assume that Jerusalem is comprised of two ethnically homogenous halves: Jewish western Jerusalem and Arab eastern Jerusalem. Yet in some areas such as Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik, Jerusalem is a mosaic of peoples who are mixed and cannot be separated or divided according to the old 1949 armistice line.
  • In the eastern part of Jerusalem, i.e., north, south and east of the city's 1967 borders, there are today some 200,000 Jews and 270,000 Arabs living in intertwined neighborhoods. In short, as certain parts of eastern Jerusalem have become ethnically diverse, it has become impossible to characterize it as a wholly Palestinian area that can easily be split off from the rest of Jerusalem.
  • Private Jewish groups are operating in Sheikh Jarrah seeking to regain possession of property once held by Jews, and to purchase new property. Their objective is to facilitate private Jewish residence in the area in addition to the presence of Israeli governmental institutions. The main points of such activity include the Shepherd Hotel compound, the Mufti's Vineyard, the building of the el-Ma'amuniya school, the Shimon HaTzadik compound, and the Nahlat Shimon neighborhood. In the meantime, foreign investors from Arab states, particularly in the Persian Gulf, are actively seeking to purchase Jerusalem properties on behalf of Palestinian interests.

*Nadav Shragai is the author of Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - An Alternative to Separation from the Arab Neighborhoods (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008); At the Crossroads, the Story of the Tomb of Rachel (Jerusalem Studies, 2005); and The Mount of Contention, the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Jews and Muslims, Religion and Politics since 1967 (Keter, 1995).

Read the Entire Article

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Diplomatic Odyssey

From GLORIA, July 20, 2009, by Barry Rubin*:

...And what do [the Sirens: US and Europe] sing to Israel?

More! More! More concessions; take a risk; take a chance; prove you want peace.
  • If you make a deal with Arafat;
  • if you give control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip;
  • if you offer to come down from all the Golan Heights;
  • if you withdraw from south Lebanon, if you withdraw from the Gaza Strip,
  • if you offer a state,

...then we will love you and help you and you will live in peace! We know the future and it will be a future of peace if you only heed us, you silly, stubborn people!

... Blessed are those Israelis who make unilateral concessions for they are called “moderates.” And cursed be those Israelis who don’t make unilateral concessions, for they will be called “hawks” and “hardliners.” sooner is a concession given, a risk taken, that it is forgotten ... And so is the promise of support.

Remember the 1990s’ version of the Sirens’ song? Here’s the plan: Create a Palestinian Authority, give them lots of money and guns. Let them bring in tens of thousands of Palestinians. Turn over more and more of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. And by governing they will learn responsibility. And Yasir Arafat will become moderate, and a statesman. And there will be no more terrorism or incitement to terrorism. And there will be a two-state solution.

And what about the 2006 song: Stop the war with Hizballah and the UN will establish a strong force to patrol south Lebanon. Hizballah will not be able to return or to build military installations. Arms smuggling will be halted. For we are the entire international community, almost 200 nations strong.

And each time, the chorus goes: if this doesn’t work out, we will support you. We will recognize the risks you have taken, and the concessions you have given, and the losses you have suffered. And the name of Israel will be exalted as a great peacemaker. And the media will say nice things about you.

...If Israel’s leaders and people believed that a freeze in settlement construction would actually bring benefits--either for real peace or for at least real and full Western support based on an understanding that the Palestinian leadership didn’t want peace and that Arab states would do almost nothing to bring it about—it would happen despite all the political obstacles.

But the Israeli public is, for good reasons, doubtful.
...the Israeli public is, for good reasons, doubtful.
...the Israeli public is, for good reasons, doubtful.

If only, we were told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would accept a two-state solution, how we will appreciate you! And he did. And they didn’t.

How many weeks after the freeze, for example, would the Europeans find some new reason to stop advancing toward Israeli integration with the European Union?

...Repeatedly ...I have raised this issue in private conversations—What about your unfulfilled promises in the past? What about the risks we’ve taken unrewarded? What about all the other concessions that have backfired?--to Western political figures and diplomats. Not a single one responds.

Let me emphasize that: they don’t deny, they don’t apologize, they don’t even make a counter-argument. They simply go on without any reference to what I’ve just said. Not once have I ever heard an effort to address this issue from anyone in an official position. That’s no exaggeration.

... if they refuse even to acknowledge the consequences of their past demands and advice, why should we listen to their latest versions of the same tune?
*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

PA continues to deceive the world

From PMW Bulletins, July 26, 2009, by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook:

[PA (Fatah) Member of Parliament] Dahlan:
"Arafat would condemn [terror] operations by day while at night he would do honorable things ... Resistance [terror] is our right, a legal the proper place and at the proper time"

PA (Fatah) Member of Parliament Muhammad Dahlan has publicly stated that Yasser Arafat was deceiving the world when he condemned Palestinian terror. Dahlan made these comments after defending the Palestinian Authority's "right" to use terror, and citing Arafat's behavior as an example:

"Arafat would condemn [terror] operations by day while at night he would do honorable things."

Dahlan said this in the context of defending the use of Palestinian terror, which he called a "legal right." He advocated that this "legal right" be implemented carefully "in the proper place and at the proper time," and only by the "leadership" of the PA.

It is interesting to note that the forces that will be available to fight Israel, if and when the PA leadership decides the timing is right, are the soldiers being trained by US Lt. Gen. Dayton.

The strategy of engaging in a diplomatic process while continuing to embrace violence or planning to use it in the future is a common theme expressed by PA leaders.

Abbas himself told the Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustur last year that the PA was not involved in terror operations because it was "unable," but added that "in the future stages, things may be different."

"Now we are against armed conflict because we are unable. In the future stages, things may be different. I was honored to be the one to shoot the first bullet in 1965 [Fatah terror against Israel began in 1965], and having taught resistance to many in this area and around the world, defining it and when it is beneficial and when it is not... we had the honor of leading the resistance. We taught everyone what resistance is, including the Hezbollah, who were trained in our camps [i.e. PLO camps in the 60s]."
[Al-Dustur, Jordan, Feb. 28, 2008]

Neither Arafat nor PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ever condemned terror because it is wrong, but only because it is ineffective or because it damages Palestinian interests...

Follow this link to read the transcript of the interview with Dahlan.

Dumb US power

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 23, 2009, by Saul Singer:

"We are determined to channel the currents of change toward a world free of violent extremism, nuclear weapons, global warming, poverty and abuses of human rights and, above all, a world in which more people in more places can live up to their God-given potential."
- US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, July 15

"...the world of terrorists and other violent extremists - of insurgents and IEDs - is with us for the long haul... Iran's going to have the capability to deliver nuclear weapons to the people in their region a lot sooner than they're going to have the capability to deliver them to us."
- US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, July 16

The Obama administration is torn between the audacity of hope and the morass of realism. One moment the rhetoric soars, the next it tugs rudely down to earth.

. . . "We need a new mind-set about how America will use its power to safeguard our nation [and] expand shared prosperity," Clinton said last week. The key, she said, was to use "smart power," which she defined previously as using "the full range of tools at our disposal - diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural - picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation."

. . .Obama's idea of "smart power" seems to consist of expecting less of friends and foes alike...

[However] Obama has taken positions so far outside the Israeli consensus that even the opposition has refused to take his side. Obama's use of dumb power has had a circle-the-wagons effect here, while gutting the potential effect of any tough talk toward the Arab side. The Arab states know they need to do nothing so long as the pressure is on Israel to deliver.

The smart power way would be to take the exact opposite approach: start by concentrating public pressure on the Arab states to move toward Israel. Arab normalization would create much more pressure on the Israeli government to reciprocate than what the US is doing now.

. . .What needs to be understood is that the constellation of threats that face the world now - primarily the nexus of terrorism and nuclear weapons - is no less of a bubble than the one whose collapse just left the global economy in shambles. Speculative bubbles look solid and endless when you are in them and then disintegrate in the blink of an eye. The world of terror is such a self-reinforcing yet fragile edifice.

The Green Revolution in Iran shows just how fundamentally weak the terrormasters . . . The mullahs' crackdown, while perhaps superficially succeeding, has set off a wave of internal and external pressure that is just beginning to gather force.

. . . now is not the time to grasp the mullahs' bloodied hand and relegitimize their regime, but to refuse to recognize the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-led government while offering to embrace any new government that abandons the road of oppression, nukes and terror.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Arab leaders are responsible for refugee problem

From PMW Bulletins July 23, 2009 by by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik:

"The radio stations of the Arab regimes kept repeating to us: 'Get away from the battle lines. It's a matter of ten days or two weeks at the most, and we'll bring you back to Ein-Kerem [near Jerusalem].' And we said to ourselves, 'That's a very long time. What is this? Two weeks? That's a lot!' That's what we thought [then]. And now 50 years have gone by." [PATV, July 7, 2009]
With these words an Arab resident of a refugee camp recounts the reason why his family left Israel in 1948, in an interview broadcast on PA TV this month.

In recent years, Palestinian leaders, writers and refugees have spoken out in the Palestinian media, blaming the Arab leadership for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. According to these accounts, and contrary to the Palestinian myth that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were deported by Israel in 1948, the vast majority of the Arab exodus from Israel was voluntary, and the result of orders by the Arab leadership.

Furthermore, the fact that this information has been openly discussed by public figures and refugees in the Palestinian Authority media itself suggests that awareness of this responsibility may be widespread - even though Palestinian leaders continue to blame Israel for "the expulsion" for propaganda purposes.The following statements in the PA media shed significant light on the events of 1948 and counter the attempts by the Palestinian Authority to hide this part of history.

1. Arab resident of refugee camp:
"This picture was taken a week before we left Ein-Kerem [near Jerusalem] in June 1948, in front of our house. The radio stations of the Arab regimes kept repeating to us: 'Get away from the battle lines. It's a matter of ten days or two weeks at the most, and we'll bring you back to Ein-Kerem.' And we said to ourselves, 'That's a very long time. What is this? Two weeks? That's a lot!' That's what we thought [then]. And now 50 years have gone by."
[PATV, July 7, 2009]

2. Jawad Al-Bashiti, Palestinian journalist in Jordan:
"Remind me of one real cause from all the factors that have caused the 'Palestinian Catastrophe' [the establishment of Israel and the creation of the refugee problem], and I will remind you that it still exists... The reasons for the Palestinian Catastrophe are the same reasons that have produced and are still producing our Catastrophes today.During the Little Catastrophe, meaning the Palestinian Catastrophe, the following happened: the first war between Arabs and Israel had started and the 'Arab Salvation Army' came and told the Palestinians: 'We have come to you in order to liquidate the Zionists and their state. Leave your houses and villages, you will return to them in a few days safely. Leave them so we can fulfill our mission (destroy Israel) in the best way and so you won't be hurt.' It became clear already then, when it was too late, that the support of the Arab states (against Israel) was a big illusion. The Arabs fought as if intending to cause the 'Palestinian Catastrophe'."
[Al-Ayyam, May 13, 2008]

3. Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Palestinian journalist in PA official daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida:
"The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the 'Catastrophe' in 1948 that the duration of the exile would not be long, and that it would not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees would return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those "Orkubian" promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events..." [The term "Orkubian" invokes Orkub, a figure from Arab tradition who was known for breaking his promises and for his lies.]
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 13, 2006]

4. Asmaa Jabir Balasimah, woman who fled Israel in 1948:
"We heard sounds of explosions and of gunfire at the beginning of the summer in the year of the 'Catastrophe' [1948]. They [Arab leaders] told us: The Jews attacked our region and it is better to evacuate the village and return after the battle is over. And indeed there were among us [those who fled Israel] those who left a fire burning under the pot, those who left their flock [of sheep] and those who left their money and gold behind, based on the assumption that we would return after a few hours."
[Al-Ayyam, May 16, 2006]

5. Ibrahim Sarsur, Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel:
An Arab viewer called Palestinian Authority TV and quoted his father, saying that in 1948 the Arab District Officer ordered all Arabs to leave Palestine or be labeled traitors. In response, Ibrahim Sarsur, now Arab Member of Israeli Parliament Knesset, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, cursed those Arab leaders, thus acknowledging Israel's historical record.
Viewer: "Mr. Ibrahim [Sarsur]: I address you as a Muslim. My father and grandfather told me that during the 'Catastrophe' [in 1948], our District Officer issued an order that whoever stays in Palestine and in Majdel [near Ashkelon - southern Israel] is a traitor, he is a traitor."Ibrahim Sarsur, now MK, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel: "The one who gave the order forbidding them to stay there bears guilt for this, in this life and the Afterlife throughout history until Resurrection Day."
[PA TV April 30, 1999]

6. Fuad Abu Hajla, senior Palestinian journalist:
Fuad Abu Hajla, then a regular columnist in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote an article before an Arab Summit, criticizing Arab leaders. One of the failures he cited, in the name of a prisoner, was that an earlier generation of Arab leaders had "forced" them to leave Israel in 1948.
"I have received a letter from a prisoner in Acre prison, to the Arab summit: To the [Arab and Muslim] Kings and Presidents: Poverty is killing us, the symptoms are exhausting us and the souls are leaving our body, yet you are still searching for the way to provide aid, like one who is looking for a needle in a haystack or like the armies of your predecessors in the year of 1948, who forced us to leave [Israel], on the pretext of clearing the battlefields of civilians... So what will your summit do now?"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 19, 2001]