Saturday, December 07, 2013

Why Should Anyone Believe Kerry?

From Commentary, 7 Dec 2013, by Jonathan Tobin:

Secretary of State John Kerry was back in Israel today with a three-part task. One was to reassure the Israeli government that the weak nuclear deal the administration cut with Iran is not threat to the Jewish state’s security. The second was, as I wrote on Wednesday, to present the Israelis with a detailed plan about the future of the West Bank after a peace deal with the Palestinians is achieved. The third was to convince the Palestinian Authority to play along and to accept the scheme that theoretically guarantees Israel’s security by the stationing of U.S. or other foreign troops along the Jordan River.

Kerry may be still riding the rush he got from succeeding in persuading the Iranians to sign a deal that he has tried to represent as a diplomatic triumph, but he’s likely to strike out on all three counts in the Middle East–and for reasons that are not unrelated to his diplomatic coup. The Israelis now have even less reason to trust Kerry and the U.S. than they did before. And having watched how the Iranians were, despite the enormous economic and military leverage the U.S. had over them, able to hold out and retain all of their nuclear infrastructure and stockpile, there is absolutely no reason for the Palestinians not to be just as patient with Kerry, confident that they need never give up their demands for territory, Jerusalem, lack of security guarantees for Israel, and even right of return for refugees. Though he can pretend that he has made the world safer with his Iran deal and contend that the peace negotiations he has promoted will also solve the region’s problems, the parties involved no longer believe a word he says.

Leaving aside the obvious shortcomings of the Iran deal from the point of view of those who believe that it does nothing to prevent the Islamist regime from gaining a nuke in the long term, there is tremendous irony in Kerry arriving in Israel to ask the Netanyahu government for more concessions on the heels of the Geneva signing. For years the Israelis had been told that if they were more accommodating to the Palestinians, it would convince the West to do its best on the Iranian nuclear threat. Though the logic of such linkage was faulty, it was at least a coherent argument. But after having trashed years of American pronouncements (including President Obama’s campaign promise to force the Iranians to give up their nuclear program) by legitimizing Iran’s nuclear program and right to enrich uranium, Kerry has effectively destroyed that argument. Having embarked on what appears to be a misguided attempt to achieve d├ętente with a hate-spewing, terrorist-sponsoring nuclear scofflaw state, the U.S. assurances about having Israel’s back ring hollow. While there is no alternative to the U.S. alliance, the Netanyahu government knows that it is on its own with respect to security issues in a way that it may not have felt in decades. As much as Israel has always been dubious about putting its safety in the hands of anyone, this is hardly the moment to be selling it on the notion that it can rely on Washington.

By the same token, the Palestinians have also been paying attention to the Iran talks. And the evidence for this came almost as soon as Kerry arrived when it was reported that the Palestinians rejected the security measures that the U.S. envisions out of hand. Palestinian sources told the Times of Israel that the plan, which was predicated on the notion of a complete Israeli withdrawal from strategic areas of the West Bank along the 1967 lines and a new partition of Jerusalem, was unacceptable because it would prolong “the occupation.” That should alert the Americans to the fact that the Palestinians have little interest in peace talks since in this context “occupation” seems to be referring to pre-1967 Israel and not to West Bank settlements. Nor, as I wrote earlier this week, are the Palestinians budging from their refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, something that would signal the end of the conflict rather than merely a pause in it.

If the Palestinians’ genuine goal is a two-state solution and peace, their rejectionist attitude is as crazy as their previous three refusals of statehood. But even if we were to believe despite abundant proof to the contrary that they do want a two-state solution, with Kerry on the other side of the table, why should the Palestinians be any less tough in these talks than the Iranians were in theirs?

Kerry’s ego may have been stroked by the Iranian deal, but his already shaky credibility is shot. There is no reason for Israel to believe American assurances and even less reason for the Palestinians not to think that they have more to gain from saying no than yes. But the consequences of this diplomatic farce are more far-reaching than the souring of relations between Israel and the United States.
By setting the Middle East up for certain diplomatic failure, Kerry has set the stage for a third intifada and threatened the Israelis with it himself. He may think he can blame Israel with the violence that may come after the negotiations blow up but, like the almost inevitable Iranian betrayal of the nuclear talks, what follows will be largely on his head.

Mandela's ambivalent relations with Israel

From JPost, 6 Dec 2013, by Steve Linde:

...Mandela voiced his vehement opposition to Israel's control of the territories it had “occupied” in the Six Day War, and he urged it to concede land to the Palestinians and Syrians, just as it had done with the Egyptians, for the sake of peace.

“My view is that talk of peace remains hollow if Israel continues to occupy Arab lands,” he said. “I understand completely well why Israel occupies these lands. There was a war. But if there is going to be peace, there must be complete withdrawal from all of these areas.”
He did, however, acknowledge Israel¹s legitimate security concerns, declaring: “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.”
One of Mandela's greatest strengths was his ability to bury but not forget ­ the bitterness of the past, and actively work for a fairer future.
He did so when, upon his release from 27 years in jail, he emerged without exhibiting any signs of anger, reconciling with president F.W. de Klerk (earning them both Nobel peace prizes) and even sipping tea with Betsie Verwoerd, the 94-year-old widow of apartheid's architect, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd.
He did so when he became president of the new democratic South Africa in 1994 and set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, pitting perpetrators of apartheid crimes against its victims and their families.
He did so when he went to watch the Springbok team beat the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup in 1995, depicted in the Clint Eastwood film, Invictus.
And he did so when, at the age of 81, he paid what was termed “a private visit” to Israel for two days after completing his five-year term as president and handing over the reins to his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, in June, and choosing to fly first to Iran, Syria and Jordan.
The peace overtures of then-prime minister Ehud Barak had paved the way for Mandela ­- a devout Christian ­- to make his first and only pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After taking a jab at the Jewish state for being the only nation not to invite him when he was appointed president, and then refusing several invitations to travel here, this trip was aimed at burying the hatchet­ or, in his words, “to heal old wounds” both with Israel and South African Jews.
Mandela had an ambivalent, almost love-hate relationship with Jews and Israel. Like Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi before him, his first job had been with a Jewish law firm in Johannesburg, and some of his closest friends, political advisers and business associates were Jewish. When he needed advice or money, they were the first people he called upon.
Many South African Jews had supported him, but others had openly backed or implicitly endorsed apartheid. One of his close Jewish friends, Arthur Goldreich, provided refuge to Mandela and other ANC leaders at his farm in Rivonia, later made aliya and became a professor at the Bezalel Art School.
On the other hand, Percy Yutar, the chief prosector at the infamous Rivonia treason trial at the end of which Mandela was given a life sentence, was Jewish too.

Mandela resented Israel's military relationship with apartheid South Africa, and passionately supported the PLO, which he saw as a liberation movement similar to his own ANC.
He supported Israel's right to exist as a democratic Jewish state, yet felt closer to its enemies: the PLO's Yasser Arafat, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Iran¹s Mohammed Khatami and Syria's Hafez Assad. ...

...In his talks with Levy at the Foreign Ministry, Mandela shared his impression during his visit to Iran that the country had become more “moderate” under then-president Khatami. He said he had received assurances that the trial of 13 Iranians Jews arrested earlier that year on charges of spying for “the Zionist regime,” which was of great concern then, would be “free and fair.” Levy protested politely against Mandela¹s reading of the situation, telling him that Iran, which backed terrorist groups targeting Jews and the Jewish state, was certainly not giving the 13 Jews a fair hearing.

In July 2000, after a closed trial that violated international legal norms, 10 were given harsh sentences, while three others were acquitted. Levy had been right, Mandela wrong.
Following his visit to Israel, Mandela flew to Gaza, where he enthusiastically embraced Arafat and endorsed Palestinian statehood, but made a point of urging Arab acceptance of Israel.
...While he supported Zionism in principle, he believed that if there was to be peace in the Middle East, Israel must negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians and avoid becoming a binational “apartheid state” ­ or risk becoming an international pariah like apartheid South Africa.
A humble hero, Mandela was the first to acknowledge that he wasn't always right, but as an advocate of justice for all, he was always ready to stand up and fight for what he believed was right, even when his views were not popular....

Opinion: Mandela Was an Enemy of Israel

From Israel National News,6 Dec 2013, by Giulio Menotti*:

Nelson Mandela has already been mourned by many Jews around the world. And for good reasons. When Mandela was released from prison by de Klerk, he showed statesmanship and reconciliation rather than revenge.
But his biography reveals that he was an enemy of the Israeli people.
A post-apartheid Pretoria that joins in boycotting Jerusalem is one of the more powerful victories for the boycott and divestment campaign. And it’s Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

Historically, black leaders in South Africa such as Desmond Tutu viewed the Jews as a part of the “capitalist camp”, and therefore exploitative of the blacks. Neo Mnumzama, chief representative of the ANC (Mandela’s party) at the United Nations, called Zionism an “ally of apartheid” and “an accomplice in the perpetuation of the crimes of Pretoria against the South African people”.

In Mandela’s twisted version, Israel and South Africa - both, in his view, under apartheid rule - were small bastions of Western interests surrounded by a larger and non-Western people; both governed hostile majorities, using force and denying rights to subjugate them; both were run by nationalistic, racist governments unwilling to grant rights to these people but anxious to exploit labor.
Mandela always made it clear that those who are the enemies of the Jews are not necessarily his enemies.

In 2000, the American Jewish Committee canceled a Washington luncheon scheduled to honor Mandela after he said that 13 Jews tried for “espionage” in Iran were receiving a “fair trial”.
Mandela laid a wreath on the grave of Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the Iranian revolution, warmly greeting his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “We are indebted to the Islamic Revolution”, Mandela proclaimed. It is the same Mandela who claimed that Communist Cuba had achieved the “systematic eradication of racism”.

In 1990, Mandela likened Israel to a “terrorist state” and declared that “we do not regard the PLO as a terrorist organization. If one has to refer to any parties as a terrorist state, one might refer to the Israeli government because they are the people who are slaughtering defenseless and innocent Arabs in the occupied territories”.

Mandela should have raised Jewish eyebrows when in 1990 he embraced Arafat in Lusaka, Zambia, likening the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the struggle against South African apartheid. “If the truth alienates the powerful Jewish community in South Africa, that’s too bad”, said Mandela.
During a trip to Libya, Mandela declared that “we consider ourselves to be comrades in arms to the Palestinian Arabs in their struggle for the liberation of Palestine. There is not a single citizen in South Africa who is not ready to stand by his Palestinian brothers in their legitimate fight against the Zionist racists”.

In September 1990, addressing the Reform congregation of Johannesburg, Mandela said: “If Zionism means the right of the Jewish people to seize territory and deny the Palestinian people the right to self-determination, we condemn it”.

In 1999 Mandela supported the Palestinian Arab use of violence. With Arafat seated next to him in Gaza, Mandela declared:
“All men and women with vision choose peace rather than confrontation, except in cases where we cannot proceed, where we cannot move forward. Then if the only alternative is violence, we will use violence”.

A few weeks later, the Palestinian Arabs began the Second Intifada. 2,000 Jewish civilians have since been killed in suicide attacks and shootings. When the terrorist Arafat died, Mandela called him “outstanding freedom fighter”.

Then Israel’s President Ezer Weizmann said of Mandela: "He calls Arafat by his first name, Yasser. They embraced, and he said he and Arafat were brothers. I said: ‘Then, Mr. President, we are cousins’”.

Nelson Mandela might be a symbol of goodness for many, but for Israel’s Jews he has been an enabler of anti-Semitism.

*Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He has just prblished a book about the Vatican and Israel titled "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Rare Victory: Israel’s Admission to UN Regional Group

From the Times of Israel, 1 December 2013, by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, Switzerland:

    Hillel Neuer

GENEVA, Dec. 1 – After decades of being excluded from all of the UN Human Rights Council’s regional groups in Geneva, Israel will be formally invited to join the Western group on Monday.
This is a rare and historic victory for the cause of equality at the United Nations, a memorable milestone moment, and an important step forward in the long struggle against institutionalized injustice at the world body.
Israel is to be saluted on its special diplomatic achievement.
Special recognition must go to Canada, the UK, France, Germany and the US for playing a key role in ending an egregious form of bias within the existing pattern and practice of anti-Israel prejudice at the UN.
For two decades UN Watch fought publicly and privately to overturn the blatantly discriminatory practice whereby the Jewish state was segregated — in direct violation of the UN Charter’s equality guarantee — into a category of its own, the only nation excluded from a regional group.
That is why it so gratifying to see this victory today. Given all of the obstacles, one might even call it a Hannukah miracle.
Contrary to several news reports, however, admission to WEOG in Geneva is unrelated to membership on the 47-nation council. Israel remains an observer state just like 145 other nations in Geneva, all of whom are entitled to participate in the council’s proceedings but not to vote on resolutions.
And regrettably this advance will not detract from the Arab states’ continued ability to target Israel in resolutions, urgent sessions and a special agenda item.
Rather, WEOG admission will allow Israel to participate together with all 192 other UN member states in receiving regular briefings, and to have its small say in the selection of council investigators, known as special rapporteurs.
More than anything, what regional group admission means for Israel is a sign of equal treatment — the removal of a symbol of bigotry and of an ugly stain upon the reputation of the UN.

The Palestinian Naqba was self inflicted

Physical map of the State of Israel.
This week marks the 66th anniversary of one of the more celebrated events in modern Jewish history: 
The United Nations General Assembly decision to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two independent states – one Jewish and the other Arab, adopted Nov. 29, 1947.
The Arab world with one voice bitterly condemned what was called “the Partition Plan” and threatened to destroy the Jewish State if it was declared. 
In fact, the Arab side did not wait until that date, sixth months later, but attacked Jewish Palestine the following day, launching what Israelis call the War of Independence and the Palestinians call the “Naqba” (the catastrophe), what Arabs see as their dispossession and loss of patrimony.
Ever since then, shifting coalitions of Arab and non-Arab forces, have waged continuous war against Israel, both on and off the battlefield. No less relentless has been the propaganda war.  This propaganda war, supported by some Americans  and Europeans, includes attempts to distort and obfuscate the historical record regarding Israel’s founding.
One of these tactics is to attempt to propagate “creation myths” intended to give the false impression that Israel is an artificial entity wrongfully imposed by outside powers on a unfairly victimized Arab population.
Below four of these myths are discussed:

Myth No. 1: The UN created Israel.
The UN is an international organization of nation-states created by treaty shortly after World War II, with the primary purpose to prevent war.  It has two main governing bodies, the General Assembly and the Security Council.  Most of the authority rests with the Security Council, the only body that can create binding obligations for member states. The General Assembly can only make recommendations or general policy declarations.
In May 1947, the British government announced it would end its 30-year rule over Palestine and requested the UN decide its future. On Nov. 29, 1947, the General Assembly passed Resolution 181 , the Partition Plan. Res. 181 was a suggestion. It had no binding force.  The Arab side rejected the resolution and, as mentioned above, launched a war of annihilation against Jewish Palestine, and then Israel.
The Security Council could have supported the General Assembly with its own resolution and sent forces to keep the peace, but it did not.  No nation, or group of nations or any UN organ took steps of any kind to prevent or punish the Arab aggression. Indeed, when the armies of five Arab nations invaded the newly established State of Israel, they flagrantly violated the UN Charter, which forbids wars of aggression, but the Security Council still did nothing.
In the end, no nation or group of nations took any concrete political or military steps to stop the Arab armies.  No foreign army came to Israel’s defense, not in 1948 and not ever.
Myth No. 2:  The US created Israel.
President Truman was in office in 1947 and 1948.  He was personally sympathetic with plight of Jewish Holocaust survivors (see further discussion below), but his Secretary of State favored adopting the same Pro-Arab stance the British government had adopted.  So, while the US supported partition (at least at first) and became the first nation to extend formal recognition to the new government of Israel, it refused to extend any assistance and, in fact, imposed a facially neutral arms embargo on all of the warring parties. The embargo, however, favored the Arab side as it received all the arms it needed from the British or other handy sources.  Contrary to what many people think, the US did not become Israel’s chief supporter and military supplier until after the 1967 Six Day War.
The only world power willing to aid Israel is one that may surprise some readers: the Soviet Union, which allowed its satellite state, Czechoslovakia, to sell desperately needed arms to Israel.  While Stalin was no Judophile, to put it mildly, he saw the real politik advantage to helping Israel beat back its Arab allies, which it was only able to partially do after months of long and bitter fighting. Britain, a Soviet rival, thereby suffered loss of prestige and influence in the Arab world.  (Only a few short years later, Britain and the Soviet Union would be on opposite sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the Soviets backing the Arabs and Britain backing Israel.)
In the end, Israel created itself, as did the US and as many other nations, through the ultimate exercise of a popular will seeking self-determination and, especially, self-preservation against the Arab onslaught.  No outside power can take credit-or blame-for Israel’s existence.

Myth No. 3:  Israel was created as a result of or in compensation for the Holocaust.
This is a particularly oft-repeated myth by Israel’s enemies, e.g. Iran’s Ahmadinejad, in order to negate the truth that the State of Israel is a natural, organic result of a national group exercising its will.
The Holocaust and its aftermath certainly played a catalytic role, in that it galvanized the Jewish people, both inside and outside of Palestine, to unite, organize and rebel against British rule to achieve independence, and this, in no small part, to provide a refuge for the tens of thousands of survivors trapped in Displaced Persons Camps. The existence of these camps also created a certain amount of sympathy in Europe and the US, especially in light of the reluctance of any government to take in large numbers of these refugees.  Beyond that, the Holocaust played no role in Israel’s founding. In fact, the number of Holocaust survivors who actually made it to either Palestine or Israel were but a fraction of the number of Jewish immigrants (olim) who arrived both before and after the founding of the State.
As already explained, it is simply untrue that any nations or group of nations “imposed” the Israeli state at all, whether due to the Holocaust or for any other reason.

Myth No. 4:  Israel could not exist but for the lands and property stolen from dispossessed Arabs in 1948.
This one is such a whopper that even smarter Arab propagandists know better than to repeat it.  But given how much ignorance and misinformation is spread about Israel, especially on the Internet, it needs addressing. First, the underlying premise, that the Jews willfully and maliciously dispossessed the entire Arab population, is false at many levels.
A significant portion (about one third) of Palestine’s Arabs were dispossessed but as result of a war their side started.
A detailed analysis of the causes of Arab dispossession is beyond the scope of this article. It will just be noted that fighters on both sides committed atrocities and civilians on both sides suffered terribly, including losing their homes.
The suffering that was caused, however, is largely the fault of the Arab side that launched and perpetuated the war, as it continued to do long after 1948.  Blaming Israel for the Palestinian “Naqba” is a classic case of blaming the victim for the bad outcome incurred by the would-be victimizer whose evil designs are thwarted.
But assuming, for the sake of argument only, that Israel was to blame, this myth would still be a lie because it ignores the basic fact that those parts of Palestine that became “The State of Israel” were developed mostly by the Jews who lived there. Jews founded Tel Aviv, most of Haifa, and Western Jerusalem and hundreds of smaller towns and villages long before 1948. Yes, the Israelis did acquire and use abandoned Arab property and even built a few villages over abandoned Arab villages, but these made up a tiny percent of privately owned Jewish property, or state lands acquired through independence.
Had there been no war, there would have been no dispossession, and yet, there still would have been a thriving Jewish State in former Palestine. Arab property was neither coveted nor needed before the war, although occasionally it was plundered and appropriated afterward. (But the same is true for thousands of Jewish homes and property that ended up in Arab-controlled Palestinian areas, i.e, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, not to mention the millions of Jews plundered in Arab countries in revenge for the “Naqba.”)
To conclude, many  currently existing nation-states, besides the US, “willed” themselves into existence often by throwing off the rule of a foreign power (e.g. Greece, India, Pakistan) or were born out civil war (e.g., South Korea, Eritrea).  Israel is no different, and has no less of a right to exist than any of those nations. And all of the claims that somehow Israel is an artificial entity with no right to exist is just a myth.
The world has been sorely remiss in remaining silent in or acquiescing to the blatant lies the anti-Israel forces spread.  The issue is not simply historical accuracy and fairness. Palestinian Arab hatred, intransigence and violence is fueled by this false narrative of Israel’s illegitimacy.  Peace will only be possible when Palestinian leadership and its supporters are forced to confront and acknowledge the truth:  The Palestinian Naqba was self inflicted. It’s time for Palestinians to own up to that fact, to put an end to their “righteous” warfare, and for them to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors.