Israel News | Zionism Israel Center | Zionism History | Zionism Definitions | ZioNation | Forum | Zionism FAQ | Maps| Edit

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Uri Avnery on Neve Gordon's boycott call

Why Uri Avnery opposes a boycott, and why Israel is not like "apartheid South Africa."
Uri Avnery
HOW MUCH did the boycott of South Africa actually contribute to the fall of the racist regime? This week I talked with Desmond Tutu about this question, which has been on my mind for a long time.
No one is better qualified to answer this question than he. Tutu, the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel prize laureate, was one of the leaders of the fight against apartheid and, later, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated the crimes of the regime. This week he visited Israel with the "Elders", an organization of elder statesmen from all over the world set up by Nelson Mandela.
The matter of the boycott came up again this week after an article by Dr. Neve Gordon appeared in the Los Angeles Times, calling for a world-wide boycott of Israel. He cited the example of South Africa to show how a world-wide boycott could compel Israel to put an end to the occupation, which he compared to the apartheid regime.
I have known and respected Neve Gordon for many years. Before becoming a lecturer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, he organized many demonstrations against the Separation Wall in the Jerusalem area, in which I, too, took part.
I am sorry that I cannot agree with him this time – neither about the similarity with South Africa nor about the efficacy of a boycott of Israel.
There are several opinions about the contribution of the boycott to the success of the anti-apartheid struggle. According to one view, it was decisive. Another view claims its impact was marginal. Some believe that it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that was the decisive factor. After that, the US and its allies no longer had any reason for support the regime in South Africa, which until then had been viewed as a pillar of the world-wide struggle against Communism.
"THE BOYCOTT was immensely important," Tutu told me. "Much more than the armed struggle."
It should be remembered that, unlike Mandela, Tutu was an advocate of non-violent struggle. During the 28 years Mandela languished in prison, he could have walked free at any moment, if he had only agreed to sign a statement condemning "terrorism". He refused.
"The importance of the boycott was not only economic," the archbishop explained, "but also moral. South Africans are, for example, crazy about sports. The boycott, which prevented their teams from competing abroad, hit them very hard. But the main thing was that it gave us the feeling that we are not alone, that the whole world is with us. That gave us the strength to continue."
To show the importance of the boycott he told me the following story: In 1989, the moderate white leader, Frederic Willem de Klerk, was elected President of South Africa. Upon assuming office he declared his intention to set up a multiracial regime. "I called to congratulate him, and the first thing he said was: Will you now call off the boycott?"
IT SEEMS to me that Tutu's answer emphasizes the huge difference between the South African reality at the time and ours today.
The South African struggle was between a large majority and a small minority. Among a general population of almost 50 million, the Whites amounted to less than 10%. That means that more than 90% of the country's inhabitants supported the boycott, in spite of the argument that it hurt them, too.
In Israel, the situation is the very opposite. The Jews amount to more than 80% of Israel's citizens, and constitute a majority of some 60% throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 99.9% of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel.
They will not feel the "the whole world is with us", but rather that "the whole world is against us".
In South Africa, the world-wide boycott helped in strengthening the majority and steeling it for the struggle. The impact of a boycott on Israel would be the exact opposite: it would push the large majority into the arms of the extreme right and create a fortress mentality against the "anti-Semitic world". (The boycott would, of course, have a different impact on the Palestinians, but that is not the aim of those who advocate it.)
Peoples are not the same everywhere. It seems that the Blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis, and from the Palestinians, too. The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath, as could have been predicted, but on the contrary: to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. Those who appeared before the commission and admitted their misdeeds were pardoned. That was in tune with Christian belief, and that was also in tune with the Jewish Biblical promise: "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)
I told the bishop that I admire not only the leaders who chose this path but also the people who accepted it.
ONE OF the profound differences between the two conflicts concerns the Holocaust.
Centuries of pogroms have imprinted on the consciousness of the Jews the conviction that the whole world is out to get them. This belief was reinforced a hundredfold by the Holocaust. Every Jewish Israeli child learns in school that "the entire world was silent" when the six million were murdered. This belief is anchored in the deepest recesses of the Jewish soul. Even when it is dormant, it is easy to arouse it.
(That is the conviction which made it possible for Avigdor Lieberman, last week, to accuse the entire Swedish nation of cooperating with the Nazis, because of one idiotic article in a Swedish tabloid.)
It may well be that the Jewish conviction that "the whole world is against us" is irrational. But in the life of nations, as indeed in the life of individuals, it is irrational to ignore the irrational.
The Holocaust will have a decisive impact on any call for a boycott of Israel. The leaders of the racist regime in South Africa openly sympathized with the Nazis and were even interned for this in World War II. Apartheid was based on the same racist theories as inspired Adolf Hitler. It was easy to get the civilized world to boycott such a disgusting regime. The Israelis, on the other hand, are seen as the victims of Nazism. The call for a boycott will remind many people around the world of the Nazi slogan "Kauft nicht bei Juden!" - don't buy from Jews.
That does not apply to every kind of boycott. Some 11 years ago, the Gush Shalom movement, in which I am active, called for a boycott of the product of the settlements. Its intention was to separate the settlers from the Israeli public, and to show that there are two kinds of Israelis. The boycott was designed to strengthen those Israelis who oppose the occupation, without becoming anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. Since then, the European Union has been working hard to close the gates of the EU to the products of the settlers, and almost nobody has accused it of anti-Semitism.
ONE OF the main battlefields in our fight for peace is Israeli public opinion. Most Israelis believe nowadays that peace is desirable but impossible (because of the Arabs, of course.) We must convince them not that peace would be good for Israel, but that it is realistically achievable.
When the archbishop asked what we, the Israeli peace activists, are hoping for, I told him: We hope for Barack Obama to publish a comprehensive and detailed peace plan and to use the full persuasive power of the United States to convince the parties to accept it. We hope that the entire world will rally behind this endeavor. And we hope that this will help to set the Israeli peace movement back on its feet and convince our public that it is both possible and worthwhile to follow the path of peace with Palestine.
No one who entertains this hope can support the call for boycotting Israel. Those who call for a boycott act out of despair. And that is the root of the matter.
Neve Gordon and his partners in this effort have despaired of the Israelis. They have reached the conclusion that there is no chance of changing Israeli public opinion. According to them, no salvation will come from within. One must ignore the Israeli public and concentrate on mobilizing the world against the State of Israel. (Some of them believe anyhow that the State of Israel should be dismantled and replaced by a bi-national state.)
I do not share either view – neither the despair of the Israeli people, to which I belong, nor the hope that the world will stand up and compel Israel to change its ways against its will. For this to happen, the boycott must gather world-wide momentum, the US must join it, the Israeli economy must collapse and the morale of the Israeli public must break.
How long will this take? Twenty Years? Fifty years? Forever?
I AM afraid that this is an example of a faulty diagnosis leading to faulty treatment. To be precise: the mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles the South African experience leads to a mistaken choice of strategy.
True, the Israeli occupation and the South African apartheid system have certain similar characteristics. In the West Bank, there are roads "for Israelis only". But the Israeli policy is not based on race theories, but on a national conflict. A small but significant example: in South Africa, a white man and a black woman (or the other way round) could not marry, and sexual relations between them were a crime. In Israel there is no such prohibition. On the other hand, an Arab Israeli citizen who marries an Arab woman from the occupied territories (or the other way round) cannot bring his or her spouse to Israel. The reason: safeguarding the Jewish majority in Israel. Both cases are reprehensible, but basically different.
In South Africa there was total agreement between the two sides about the unity of the country. The struggle was about the regime. Both Whites and Blacks considered themselves South Africans and were determined to keep the country intact. The Whites did not want partition, and indeed could not want it, because their economy was based on the labor of the Blacks.
In this country, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have nothing in common – not a common national feeling, not a common religion, not a common culture and not a common language. The vast majority of the Israelis want a Jewish (or Hebrew) state. The vast majority of the Palestinians want a Palestinian (or Islamic) state. Israel is not dependent on Palestinian workers – on the contrary, it drives the Palestinians out of the working place. Because of this, there is now a world-wide consensus that the solution lies in the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel.
In short: the two conflicts are fundamentally different. Therefore, the methods of struggle, too, must necessarily be different.
BACK TO the archbishop, an attractive person whom it is impossible not to like on sight. He told me that he prays frequently, and that his favorite prayer goes like this (I quote from memory):
"Dear God, when I am wrong, please make me willing to see my mistake. And when I am right – please make me tolerable to live with."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Moderate Palestinian HS graduates: "in the name of Palestine: Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, and our Arab Jerusalem."

A video is available at the link below
( Palestinian Authority Arab teens dedicated this year's high school graduation ceremony to "the Shahids (martyrs)... the prisoners... the stone and the rifle."
As part of the ceremony, sponsored by the Fatah faction led by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the graduates delivered a speech identifying Haifa, Akko, Yafo (Jaffa) and Jerusalem as "Palestine."
The Arabic-language festivities were translated by the media watchdog organization, Palestinian Media Watch, which monitors PA news and entertainment media.
The ceremony, broadcast July 28, 2009 on Al-Filistinya TV (Fatah), was held on a stage festooned with a sign that read: "Tribute to high school graduates under the auspices of Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah."
A transcript of part of the speech follows:
Male graduate: "In the name of the Shahids (Martyrs), in the name of the prisoners, in the name of the stone and the rifle."
Female graduate: "In the name of Fatah, the school that taught us the meaning of nationalism."
Male graduate: "in the name of Palestine: Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, and our Arab Jerusalem."
Female graduate: "In the name of Palestine: Gaza, the West Bank and the flag of national unity."
Male graduate: "Fatah is [still] with the rifle. And our rifles are not rusty even if they have fired thousands of bullets."

Labels: , ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Video and petition: Swedish Organ Stealing Story was invented in Palestine

A brief but well researched video notes that the Swedish accusation that IDF is stealing body parts of Palestinians for organ transplants first appeared in 2001 in the Palestinian Authority sponsored newspaper Al Jadeeda. It is one of a series of fantastic Palestinian accusations: Zionists are infecting Palestinians with HIV, Zionists are giving Palestinians cancer, Zionists are distributing poisoned bubble gum etc. none of which ever had the slightest basis in fact.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Facts versus the ant-Zionist narrative

This slighly obscure article of Anita Shapira (since removed from The New Republic) was published ten years ago. It is an exceptionally lucid presentation both of the Zionist narrative and of the agenda of post-Zionist historians, and deserves to be read again and again. In particular, perhaps this one passage, better than any other, will stand the test of time:
 Several of the new school's devotees labelled themselves "post-Zionist," and charged that the "lunatic" ambition of Jews to transform themselves into a people with a state of their own was senseless, and opposed to the natural inclinations of the Jews. They claimed that the Jews had never been a people until the Zionists muddled their thinking, and had no desire for nationhood. Post-Zionism turned out to be a peculiar form of anti-Zionism. In contrast with the anti-Zionism of an earlier era, the post-Zionists made their peace with Israel's existence as a state. (It is hard to argue with success.) But they sought to undermine the state's moral and philosophical foundations, to dismantle the Jewish identity of the state and reconfigure it as a state of "all its citizens."
The notion that the Jews are not a people is central to anti-Zionist thinking, and it finds expression also in the recent book by Shlomo Sand, negating the history of the Jewish people. That theme - the need to write the Jews out of history - is going to become increasingly important in post-Zionist (anti-Zionist) "historiography."
Ami Isseroff

The Past Is Not a Foreign Country

by Anita Shapira

Post date 12.01.00 | Issue Date 11.29.99
[Originally published in The New Republic]

Righteous Victims: A History
of the Zionist-Arab
Conflict, 1881-1999
by Benny Morris

(Knopf, 751pp.)

The Iron Wall: Israel and
The Arab World since 1948

by Avi Shlaim

(Norton, 704pp.)


In the fall of 1988, the journal Tikkun published an article called "The New Historiography: Israel Confronts Its Past." Its author was a relatively unknown historian named Benny Morris. A year before, Morris had brought out The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, a richly and rigorously detailed book that had not yet made much of a splash. His Tikkun article would fix that. In his article, Morris described himself and three of his confederates (Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe from academia, and Simha Flappan from political journalism) as "new historians," arguing that they had together undertaken to expose the skeletons in Zionism's closet, to declare war on the dogmas of Israeli history. The label stuck, and soon the Israeli media was abuzz about the "new historians," who were catapulted into notoriety.

Morris also accused Israel of creating the Palestinian refugee problem, a charge that he had not levelled in his book. In his view, Israel bore a terrible burden of guilt. The vehemence of his accusations, and the moralizing tone in which they were delivered, fell on receptive ears: Morris was writing in the inflamed days of the Intifada. It is unlikely that the scholarly tomes of Morris and his fellow revisionists had many readers, but many Israelis were exposed to their heterodoxies in the media, which relish positions that are brief and barbed. And in this respect the "new historians" certainly delivered the goods. Suddenly an argument raged over the true nature of what Israelis call the War of Independence, or what Palestinians call al-naqba or the Catastrophe, or what historians call, more neutrally, the 1948 war. That war furnished the founding myth of the state of Israel; and it is but a short step from questioning its justice to doubting Israel's very right to exist.

In fact, the ideas advanced by Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, and Ilan Pappe, the vanguard of the "new historians," were nothing new. An anti-narrative of Zionism, counterposed to the Zionist (and Israeli) narrative of Zionism, had existed since the very inception of the Zionist movement. Opponents of the movement, Jewish and non-Jewish, had created an entire literature explaining what was foul in Zionism and why Zionism was destined to fail, and later why the state of Israel was an illegitimate and unjust construct that had to be resisted. The Soviet propaganda machine excelled in developing this anti-narrative, and in proliferating it. Arab propaganda also did its work. And at the margins of the Israeli left, there had always been groups and currents that doubted the right of Israel to exist and stressed the wrongs that were perpetrated against the Arabs. Yet those heretical elements remained marginal in Israeli politics and culture, and failed to gain wide public support. The advent of the "new historians" changed all that. These views now gained a certain legitimacy, since they appeared in the context of a debate between ostensibly objective scholars.

Revision in history is salutary. A critical look at premises refreshes historical inquiry and helps to generate new understanding. Every generation reexamines the present and the past under the impact of changing realities. Sometimes revisionism is the result of a generational shift among historians, and sometimes it springs from dramatic historical developments that throw an unexpected light on the past. The Vietnam War led American historians to reconsider certain accepted accounts of the cold war. Forty years after the end of World War II, a heated debate flared among historians in Germany about how to interpret the Nazi era: was it a rupture in Germany's past, or evidence of its continuity? Some British historians have responded to the belligerence of Thatcherism by attempting to rehabilitate Chamberlain and the Munich agreement. To be sure, not all revisions are laudable; the denial of the Holocaust is also a variety of revisionism. But historical revisionism does not take place in a vacuum. It is surrounded by politics. The revisionist scholar feels obligated to a particular political purpose, and proceeds with his research, and sometimes with his ready conclusions, to substantiate that purpose.

The "new historians" of Israel have not exactly pioneered fresh critical approaches in Israeli historiography. Already in the 1970s, scholars had begun to develop new and sophisticated views of Jewish-British relations under the Mandate, of Zionism's relation to the Arab problem, of the rise of the Arab national movement, of the nature of Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. There was a tense and constant dialogue between collective memory and historical scholarship, as the new approaches slowly penetrated into the educational system and public consciousness. Since the advent of the "new historians," however, a new polarization has set in. For the "new historians" dismissed all previous historiography as apologetic. Whoever dares to oppose or to criticize the pronouncements of these self-styled iconoclasts is savagely maligned.

In 1996, for example, when the historian Ephraim Karsh charged that Benny Morris had falsified certain documents, Morris did not even deign to reply; instead he asserted that Karsh's article on "re-writing Israel's history" was replete with distortions and half-truths, and he went on to add: "His piece contains more than fifty footnotes but is based almost entirely on references to and quotations from secondary works, many of them of dubious value." A look at Karsh's notes indicates that thirty of his references actually refer to writings by Shlaim and Morris, and fifteen others cite primary sources, and the rest refer to studies by major historians such as Avraham Selah and to several books by journalists that Morris himself now adduces in his new book. Of dubious value, indeed.

The revisionist dispute quickly spilled over from history into sociology and cultural studies, as new topics and new heresies were added to those that treated the War of Independence and the relation to the Palestinians: the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine and its conduct during the Holocaust, the absorption of Holocaust survivors and Oriental Jewish immigrants, and so on. No longer were particular Zionist or Israeli figures impugned; Zionist ideology as a whole was now the real culprit. Several of the new school's devotees labelled themselves "post-Zionist," and charged that the "lunatic" ambition of Jews to transform themselves into a people with a state of their own was senseless, and opposed to the natural inclinations of the Jews. They claimed that the Jews had never been a people until the Zionists muddled their thinking, and had no desire for nationhood. Post-Zionism turned out to be a peculiar form of anti-Zionism. In contrast with the anti-Zionism of an earlier era, the post-Zionists made their peace with Israel's existence as a state. (It is hard to argue with success.) But they sought to undermine the state's moral and philosophical foundations, to dismantle the Jewish identity of the state and reconfigure it as a state of "all its citizens."

Academic disputes tend to thrive on their own momentum, even when the realities that gave rise to them have changed. The controversy about "the new historians" began during Yitzhak Shamir's tenure as prime minister, while the Intifada raged and Israeli politics was gridlocked. The debate fumed on during the Gulf war, when some Israelis with post-Zionist sympathies felt compassion for the embattled Iraqi ruler. It continued into the years of Rabin's premiership, as a kind of atonal accompaniment to the Oslo accords. But Rabin's assassination in 1995 took the wind out of the confrontation over the new historiography; and it is beginning to seem a little stale.

Now two new studies by major figures in the controversy have appeared. Benny Morris and Avi Shlaim appear to have mellowed, casting off their anti-establishment tunics for academic gowns. Shlaim is professor at St. Antony's, Oxford and Morris, who liked to portray himself as the innocent victim of the Israeli scholarly guild, currently holds an appointment as professor at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba. In both books, there are elements of Shlaim's and Morris's old and egregious views; but in both books there are also new elements, reflecting the changing times. About both books one can say that what is bad is not new and what is new is not bad.

Shlaim and Morris have both taken on the task, in a hefty tome each, of recounting the course of the Israeli-Arab dispute from its inception to the recent fall of the Netanyahu government. Shlaim devotes precious little space to the period prior to 1947, hastening on to the United Nations partition plan and the War of Independence; Morris accords nearly 200 pages to the period prior to the war in 1948. Shlaim is basically interested in political and diplomatic history, and minimizes his account of the wars; Morris treats the military operations in copious detail, in the War of Independence and in later conflicts.

Both studies are largely based on secondary sources. Only in those chapters that treat the subjects of their previous research do Shlaim and Morris ground their investigation on primary sources. The books do not pretend to scholarly innovation. They wish only to present an interpretive synthesis of the secondary sources. Such an approach is certainly valid, especially when the era involved is so close to our own--so close, indeed, that there are times when you cannot be sure whether today's headline might not up-end the chapter that you completed last night. In both books, the boundary between historical writing and journalistic writing eventually blurs.

One of the more serious charges raised against the "new historians" concerned their sparse use of Arab sources. In a preemptive move, Shlaim states at the outset of his new book that his focus is on Israeli politics and the Israeli role in relations with the Arab world--and thus he has no need of Arab documents. Morris claims that he is able to extrapolate the Arab positions from the Israeli documentation. Both authors make only meager use of original Arab sources, and most such references cited are in English translation.

Shlaim goes out of his way to praise the Israel State Archives for the access that it offers to scholars, unlike the archives of the Arab states, which are hermetically sealed to the outside. Yet the situation is really not that simple. In recent years, documents housed in the State Archives in Jordan have been made available to researchers. Many relevant memoirs published in Arabic have also appeared. And so one cannot attribute the scant use of the Arab sources in these two books solely to the relatively closed situation of research in the Arab world. Shlaim and Morris could have tried harder.

To write the history of relations between Israel and the Arab world almost exclusively on the basis of Israeli documentation results in obvious distortions. Every Israeli contingency plan, every flicker of a far-fetched idea expressed by David Ben-Gurion and other Israeli planners, finds its way into history as conclusive evidence for the Zionist state's plans for expansion. What we know about Nasser's schemes regarding Israel, by contrast, derives solely from secondary and tertiary sources. The same is true for the planning of defense ministers of Syria and their fantasies of a "Greater Syria." We are given no first-hand source for King Hussein's designs over the years other than what it was convenient for him to to tell Avi Shlaim in the ceremonious interview that he granted him not long before his death. (The somewhat fawning interview by this otherwise anti-Hashemite scholar appeared in The New York Review of Books last summer.) The upshot of all this methodological self-limitation is a history of the conflict in which one side completely disrobes, disclosing all its weaknesses and its flaws, while the other remains conveniently shrouded in the mystery of the veil.

Morris and Shlaim write diplomatic and military history, and hardly mention the political, social, and cultural dimensions of Israel and the Arab world. Can a conflict as profound as this one really be grasped without probing its psychological and cultural underpinnings? But Morris and Shlaim have chosen not to inquire into such realities--which is perfectly fair, except that they should also have chosen to adhere to high standards of factual accuracy even when treating topics with which they are not overly familiar. Lapses in accuracy are evident whenever the authors enter the realm of domestic and internal developments: Morris's account of the political landscape in the Yishuv during the 1920s is replete with errors, as is Shlaim's brief foray into Israeli politics at the end of the 1960s.

I will give only one example. Describing the political background of Levi Eshkol, who replaced David Ben-Gurion as prime minister in 1963, Shlaim tries to explain why Eshkol was consistently a liberal and a humanist who understood the need for dialogue with the Arabs. This is itself a dubious proposition; but Shlaim links Eshkol's alleged dovishness to his emigration to Palestine in 1914 as a representative of the left-wing youth movement Ha-Shomer ha-Tzair (The Young Watchman). But Ha-Shomer ha-Tzair was founded after Eshkol came to Palestine, and Eshkol was never a member of Ha-Shomer ha-Tzair, then or later.

Shlaim appears to have confused the moderate Palestinian political party Ha-Poel haTzair (The Young Worker), founded in 1905, with the radical Zionist youth movement Ha-Shomer ha-Tzair established in Galicia and Poland during World War I. This detail would not be worth mentioning, except that Shlaim bases an entire explanation, an unfounded explanation, on a patent error. This is reminiscent of the pseudopsychological interpretations to which the Israeli "new historians" sometimes resorted, as in their crude accounting for the moderation of Moshe Sharett (the foreign minister and second prime minister of Israel) by the biographical circumstance that when he was a boy his family lived for a time in an Arab village.

There is another striking similarity between Morris's book and Shlaim's book, and it is their very superficial treatment of the implications of the cold war for the Middle East. More serious attention to this dimension of the conflict could have led to an entirely different interpretation of the Israeli-Arab dispute: namely, that its worsening from the 1950s on was a by-product of the Soviet Union's penetration of the region beneath the cloak of radical Arab nationalism. It is a fact, after all, that a genuine window of opportunity for peace between Israel and the Arabs opened only after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its support to states and organizations on the hard-line front of rejection. Morris claims that one of the factors that led to a softening in the PLO's stance was fears about the influx of a million Jews from the former Soviet Union; but surely the buckling of the Soviet Union had something to do with that, too.

Blurring the aspects of superpower rivalry in the Middle East conflict makes it possible to present the conflict in isolation from world politics--that is, to present it moralistically. In both these books, there are two layers of research and argument: a deeper stratum, based on earlier research, that has a strong moralistic slant, and a newer level that expresses a more realistic approach to events. The older layer is far more ideological, and it is especially conspicuous in Shlaim's work. The evolution from moralism to realism is a reflection of the changing times in which these books were written, as the high tide of the peace process puts the past in a new light. These books start out as the story of the good guys and the bad guys, in the "new historical" manner, but somewhere along the way the plot thickens, as the writers' ideologies collide with the region's realities.


The title of Avi Shlaim's book is an allusion to an article called "On the Iron Wall," by Zeev Jabotinsky, the Zionist leader and ideologue who founded the Revisionist movement in 1925. (Jabotinsky's famous essay was published in Russian in 1923 and in Hebrew in 1933.) The Revisionist movement functioned as the militant right wing of Zionism, and the Likud party views itself as the rightful heir of Jabotinsky's mantle. The concept of the "iron wall" posited that it was impossible in Palestine, as in any country of colonization, to avoid a clash between the indigenous population and the settlers. The Arabs of Palestine were a separate people, and they would not surrender the land without a struggle. Consequently, Jabotinsky argued, the only path forward for the Zionist project was the path of force: to erect an "iron wall" in the form of a Jewish battalion in the British army, which would halt Arab resistance.

The basic problem with Jabotinsky's conception was not philosophical, it was practical: there was no chance at all that the British would agree to setting up a Jewish army in British khaki. Jabotinsky's opponents in the labor movement disagreed with him not only on Zionist priorities, as Shlaim mentions, but also on what was realistic in the circumstances. They wished to postpone the explosion of the Arab-Jewish conflict for as long as possible. They believed that the sooner the Jewish-Arab conflict reached the flashpoint, the worse the Jewish prospects for victory; but the later the moment of truth, the better.

In its time, "On the Iron Wall" was considered a little mad, and divorced from reality; but Shlaim believes that Jabotinsky's essay reads today like a very clear-eyed view of future Jewish-Arab relations. Contrary to what he claims, Jabotinsky and his ideas had only a marginal influence on the ideas of the political elite in the Yishuv generally, and on Ben-Gurion in particular. But Shlaim nonetheless seizes on the concept of the "iron wall" as an organizing paradigm to explain the evolution of the politics of the Yishuv and the state of Israel from the 1920s to the 1980s.

According to Shlaim, Jabotinsky's achievement was to have foreseen that Arab acceptance of Jewish settlement in Palestine would come only after the Arabs were finally persuaded that they could never throw the Jews into the sea. Only then would they learn to speak about compromise; and the compromise, according to Jabotinsky's essay, would take the form of a generous autonomy within the framework of the Jewish state. In his epilogue, Shlaim observes:

In a way, this is what has happened. The history of the state of Israel is a vindication of Jabotinsky's strategy of the iron wall. The Arabs--first the Egyptians, then the Palestinians, then the Jordanians--have recognized Israel's invincibility and were compelled to negotiate with Israel from a position of palpable weakness.

And so the revisionist endorses the Revisionist, and les extremes se touchent.

Shlaim's appropriation of the "iron wall" as the controlling idea of his book is far from coincidental. It is an effort by a "new historian" to get a handle on the highly fluid situation before his eyes, in which the old categories and the old enmities are changing and receding. The notion of the "iron wall" denotes a realistic perspective, and presupposes that the changes in Israeli and Arab consciousness are largely a function of power relations; and such realism implies that the making of peace between Israel and its neighbors was not the result of Israeli breast-beating, but the outgrowth of a mutual recognition that peace is desirable. Yet Shlaim balks at a full acceptance of realism and its implications, as he must; for it is deeply at odds with his older, more tendentious thinking. Deep down, Shlaim really does believe that the Middle East is Arab turf, and that the Palestinians are innocent victims, and that the Israelis are outsiders and intruders. Thus his book is sorely weakened by a kind of historian's cognitive dissonance. His recognition of the realities on the ground flies in the face of his deepest feelings. As a result, his book is divided against itself.

Shlaim's sentiments are revealed in his differing attitude toward Jews and Arabs. His approach to the latter is shaped by a kind of Realpolitik. After all, they are the indigenous inhabitants of the region; and so their actions require no justification, and are motivated by entirely understandable and self-evident interests. Yet Jews are repeatedly viewed through a moralistic prism: they are transgressors, and have come as invaders into the Arab East. Shlaim is prepared to accept the principle of national interest when it comes to the Arabs, but not when it comes to Israel. Israel's agreement with King Abdullah at the end of the war of 1948 is criticized for its instrumentality: "It was a striking example of the unsentimental Realpolitik approach that had dictated Israel's conduct throughout the first Arab-Israeli war." But Shlaim offers no criticism of Abdullah's takeover of the West Bank, or of Egypt's seizure of the Gaza Strip or of Syria's grab of territory west of the international frontier.

The same disparity obtains also for peace feelers. Shlaim assumes that it was legitimate for the Syrians and the Egyptians to demand from Israel half of the Sea of Galilee and portions of the Negev as the price for peace; but he deems Israel's refusal to agree to massive territorial concessions as sufficient reason to put the blame on the Jewish state for bungling the opportunities for peace. Shlaim is also sympathetic to Syrian views on the demilitarized zones along the Sea of Galilee. Even though this land was territory forcibly occupied by Syria in the War of 1948, Shlaim is vehement in castigating Israel for trying to extend its sovereignty over it. As a general principle, Shlaim rejects the right to seize land by force, when it is a question of Israel's territorial gains; but Syria's irredentism is different. Since the land that Syria seized was taken by a rightful Arab "owner," it should not be faulted. But all of Israel's territorial gains are illegitimate and have to be returned.

In Shlaim's book, Israel emerges as the neighborhood bully in the 1950s. The main villain is David Ben-Gurion, whose policy, in Shlaim's account, was essentially a harsh display of military muscle. The hero in the white hat, by contrast, was Moshe Sharett, the moderate foreign minister who is a darling of the "new historians." In truth, Sharett's perspective on the Israeli-Arab conflict did not differ in principle from Ben-Gurion's. He, too, did not believe in the prospects of peace in the foreseeable future. Yet he showed much greater respect for the United Nations, and he wanted Israel to avoid actions that would provoke international criticism. He also believed that Arab animosity could be diminished by Israel's refraining from aggressive military acts, hoping that eventually this would lead to a reconciliation.

In the Middle East in the 1950s, however, Sharett's approach hardly had a chance, considering the balance of power. Even in Shlaim's morally rigged account, the real situation of Israel in the 1950s is detectable. Between Shlaim's lines one can recognize a weak state, lacking in self-confidence, isolated. It had no source for the weapons that were necessary for its defense against the Soviet arsenal that began to pour into Egypt from the mid-1950s. Shlaim himself notes that Sharett's efforts to procure weapons came to naught:

He returned empty-handed and deeply disillusioned. His unsuccessful and highly publicized mission only served to underscore Israel's international isolation in the face of the rising tide of Egyptian military strength.

If this was indeed Israel's predicament, then maybe Ben-Gurion was right in his conviction that a bit of muscle-flexing by the fledgling state would prove useful.

In that same period, the Western powers treated Israel like a poor relative whose land they were trying to sell behind her back. In his famous Guild Hall speech in 1955, the British prime minister Anthony Eden demanded that Israel relinquish territory in the Negev in order to facilitate a land bridge between Egypt and Jordan. John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's secretary of state, entertained notions of finessing a peace deal between Israel and its neighbors, in which Israel would give up territory and agree to absorb 100,000 Arab refugees as the price for peace. Shlaim views those demands, which were really designed to strip Israel of territory that was allotted it by the United Nations in the partition plan of 1947, as legitimate demands. He does not utter a word about the questionable morality of the attempt by the great powers to violate massively the territory of a small state.

Shlaim recounts the Sinai Campaign as a grand conspiracy by Israel, France, and Britain. Israel is the main rogue in the cabal. And, as befits a moralistic tale, the bad guys lose. There is a pinch of malicious glee in Shlaim's account of the calamity of the belligerent Israelis, and of Ben-Gurion in particular, forced to climb down from the heights of victory to the pits of a forced pullback. Shlaim also tries his level best to prove that the Sinai war did not achieve its aims. He cannot deny that the Egyptian army was defeated, and the Straits of Tiran were opened, and the fedayeen bases in the Gaza Strip were destroyed. Still, he prefers to emphasize that Nasser was not removed from power, and Israel did not expand its territory, and a new order was not achieved in the Middle East. Shlaim makes no reference to the fact that in the wake of the Sinai Campaign, Israel enjoyed a decade of relative calm on the Israel-Egyptian frontier, and that the port of Eilat indeed remained open to international shipping, and that Israel's standing in the international arena was significantly enhanced. After 1956, schemes that resembled Eden's Guild Hall speech disappeared.

1958 was a stormy year in the Middle East. In Iraq, an army coup toppled the pro-Western government. In pro-Western Lebanon and Jordan, there were Nasserite attempts at subversion. President Eisenhower dispatched the Marines to Lebanon in order to forestall a possible collapse of pro-Western forces there. Israel was requested to allow British overflights for transporting troops to aid the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Shlaim takes a neutral stand when commenting on the subversive actions by pro-Nasserite forces. There are no "conspiracies" or "plots" here; he reserves those dark terms for the relations between Israel and King Abdullah, and for the Sinai Campaign. Nasser, after all, was an indigenous leader in the Arab East, and in Shlaim's eyes internecine Arab intrigue is not a fit subject for condemnation. Yet Shlaim is astounded that Israel should be so brazen as to even consider requesting recompense for having permitted Western powers to use its airspace: "Israel was not being asked to do anything to help Jordan, except to permit the use of its airspace. Nevertheless, Ben-Gurion earnestly hoped to get something in return for helping the Western powers."

The Americans and the British refused to bargain with Ben-Gurion about a military or political reward for his compliance with their requests. Yet when the Soviets threatened Israel for having opened its airspace to Western forces, and Ben-Gurion, deeply distressed, tried to cancel the permission for overflights, he was strongly rebuked by Dulles. The incident pointed up Israel's fundamental weakness, and its desperate search for allies against the threat posed by Nasser and Nasserism--and it pointed up also the exploitative attitude of the United States and Great Britain toward Israel at the time. In Shlaim's portrayal, however, Israel's positions are presented as demanding and immoderate. With another pinch of glee, he notes that Ben-Gurion's hopes for strategic cooperation with the West against the forces of radical Arab nationalism came to naught.

It was not until 1964 that an Israeli prime minister was officially welcomed at the White House, when Lyndon Johnson received Levi Eshkol. In their joint statement at the conclusion of the visit, Johnson proclaimed the need to maintain the territorial integrity of all the states in the region. Shlaim remarks that this was the first time Washington abandoned the idea of changing the borders of the 1949 armistice line. Such a fact, you might think, casts a different light upon Israel's search during those years for allies and arms. If even a government as friendly to Israel as the government of the United States was not prepared during that perilous time to guarantee the 1949 borders (what today is called the "Green Line"), then Israel's situation was in truth fraught with great danger, and Ben-Gurion's obsession with Israel's fragility was not illusory.

Shlaim's tendency to assume an air of objectivity toward Arab actions and to point a scolding finger at Israel is also conspicuous in his account of the deterioration that led to the Six-Day War. Meeting in Cairo in 1964, the Arab League resolved to divert the waters of the Jordan River, which are vital for Israel's existence. At that same conference, there was a public declaration of the intention to destroy Israel, and the PLO was founded. Shlaim avoids any judgment of those bellicose moves against Israel's very existence: after all, one must not berate the virtuous Arab determination to extirpate the foreign body from their midst.

Instead Shlaim dwells on the Israeli responses to the attempts to divert the Jordan River, responses that he deems disproportionate to the provocation. He blames the deterioration of the situation on those escalating Israeli responses--Israel used its air force to destroy the Syrian positions, and bombarded the Syrian water diversion project, after which the Syrians bombarded the kibbutzim along the Jordan--and on truculent statements by Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol against the Baath regime in Damascus. Yet he fails to make any mention of the role played by Moscow in inciting Nasser to send his army into Sinai by supplying the disinformation that Israel was concentrating "huge armed forces" near the Syrian border.

The Six-Day War is correctly portrayed by Shlaim as a defensive war; but he does not permit Israel to enjoy the laurels of a just victory for very long. From the outset, Shlaim is skeptical about Israel's readiness to relinquish land in return for peace. Thus, in his calendar of red-letter dates, he does not bother to note the Israeli government decision of June 19, 1967 declaring its willingness to pull back from conquered territory in return for peace. In marked contrast, Shlaim's presentation of the resolutions at the Arab summit conference at Khartoum in September, 1967--"no to recognition, no to negotiations, no to peace"--suggests that this thundering rejection actually disguised Nasser's readiness to reach a de facto agreement with Israel. Shlaim musters no real evidence for such a claim, aside from King Hussein's statement in his interview with Shlaim that Nasser had authorized him to seek a comprehensive peace; but the king's remark can be read differently--namely, that Nasser was cautioning Hussein in this way about daring to go it alone in attempting to conclude a separate peace with Israel. And even if we assume that Shlaim's reading of Hussein's remark is right, this is excellent evidence that nothing clears the mind like defeat: what Nasser was unprepared even to think about before the war, he was now ready to act on.

Beginning in 1967, Israeli-American relations passed through a dramatic transformation. The poor relative whom everyone wished to disclaim now became the recognized ally of Washington in the Middle East. Shlaim tells the story of this strategic transformation, but he does not ask the obvious question. What was the cause of this striking shift? How was it that Eisenhower and Dulles treated Israel with such contempt, while Nixon and Kissinger provided it with a huge arsenal and a deterrent against the Soviet Union, bolstered by financial aid, as did all the American presidents who followed? Was Israel led with greater wisdom in the 1970s and 1980s than in the 1950s and 1960s?

Probably not. The war of attrition, the massive bombing in Egypt, the fumble of chances for reaching an interim agreement with Egypt in 1971, the Yom Kippur War, the war in Lebanon: in all these episodes, Israel made mistakes and Israel botched opportunities. It proved fully as obstinate as in the 1950s, maybe more so. And yet, wondrously, those errors did not lead to a worsening of the conflict and to greater Israeli isolation, as might have been expected from Shlaim's moralistic interpretations.

Indeed, the outcome was the opposite. Starting in the 1970s, and increasingly so after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, President Sadat of Egypt demonstrated it was possible to recognize the state of Israel, and to enter into direct negotiations with Israel, and even to discuss a final peace agreement with Israel. Shlaim had presented all those possibilities as impossibilities, as unshakable Arab taboos. Every time Israel came forward with such a condition, Shlaim depicted it as a mere tactic designed to blame the other side for the failure of negotiations. And then, all of a sudden, Israel and Egypt were prepared to act on what they had not even dreamed of a few short years before. The Israelis were ready to withdraw from all of Sinai, and the Egyptians were ready to reach a separate peace accord with Israel.

Shlaim does not ask how this extraordinary turn came about, because the answer is self-evident. The answer is that power did its sobering work, and realism came to be preferred to moralism. Initially, the military might that Israel demonstrated in the Six-Day War had opened Washington's eyes to the importance of this potential ally for stability in the Middle East, not least as a brake on Soviet influence in the region. After the Six-Day War, Israel became somewhat intoxicated with its own strength; but six years later the Yom Kippur War returned Israel to its senses, and put a stop to the triumphalist flights of fancy following the triumph of 1967. Concomitantly, the war in 1973 provided Sadat with the legitimacy to reach a separate peace with Israel, even as it demonstrated that Israel could not be coerced into an agreement. It seems that all sides involved in the Middle East conflict had recognized the validity of a realistic approach.

The realism of the "iron wall" also applied to the Palestinians. After all the terror acts perpetrated by Palestinian organizations in the 1970s and '80s, which Shlaim skips over nonchalantly, the Intifada erupted in December 1987. It demonstrated to Israelis and Palestinians alike that force was not the answer. The uprising led to a moderating of the PLO's hard-line positions: the Palestinians were now prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist and even to accept the U.N. decision of 1947 on partition--to accept the principle of two states and thus to renounce terror. Once again, then, what Shlaim believed was non-negotiable for the Palestinians became negotiable. It took four decades, to be sure; but four decades is not an unreasonably long time in the context of ethnic and religious and national conflicts.

Shlaim's fitful oscillation between ideological judgment and Realpolitik is manifest also in his account of the Gulf War. Israel acted with admirable restraint in that war, in not responding to the Scud attacks by Saddam Hussein. We would have expected Shlaim to give Israel a medal for good conduct. Instead he instructs that Israel's failure to act dented its reputation as a military great power in the eyes of its adversaries! In the event, Shlaim further observes, the United States shifted closer to the Arab states. When Israel pursues the moderate policies lauded by Shlaim, it forfeits its deterrent ability and its status as Washington's main ally in the region; and when it acts immoderately, it is simply villainous. Israel is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.

Shlaim has his loves and his hates, and he sticks to them. His profound contempt for David Ben-Gurion infuses his account of the man and his politics with a diabolical dimension. As a rule, the "new historians" like to associate everything evil with the figure of Ben-Gurion. He is identified more than anyone else with the establishment of the state and the policies that it has pursued.

Ben-Gurion created the self-image of a strong personality, a leader not afraid to defy the entire world. I would even conjecture that he regarded his image as one of the weapons in Israel's deterrent arsenal. But the truth about Ben-Gurion was more complicated and more humane. Behind the bravura was a man who feared for the fate of the young state. Not everything that Ben-Gurion did or said was worthy of praise; he sometimes made mistakes and he sometimes talked folly. But ultimately he was the man of the status quo of 1949, not the pugnacious ruffian of territorial conquest that Shlaim portrays.

Ben-Gurion was able to foresee--in the spirit of the "iron wall," though without any link to Jabotinsky--that the Arabs would try again and again to destroy Israel, until they finally despaired of a military solution and came to terms with Israel's existence. (The Revisionists were not the only Zionists who grasped the realities of power.) In the meantime, Israel had to remain strong, and build a solid and stable society, and grow demographically, and seek out allies among the great Western powers.

Despite pressure from the military, Ben-Gurion did not launch an operation to capture Mt. Hebron at the end of the War of Independence. A long process of persuasion was necessary before Moshe Dayan convinced him to embark on the Sinai Campaign, and even then he agreed to act only after he had been promised air cover by the French. He feared Soviet involvement, and Bulganin's threat in 1956 to dispatch "volunteers" to the Middle East was reason enough to order a pullback from the Sinai Peninsula. If ever Ben-Gurion entertained dreams of territorial expansion, they dissolved with the withdrawal from Sinai.

When Yitzhak Rabin, then chief of staff, came to seek Ben-Gurion's advice on the eve of the Six-Day War, Rabin was rebuked for having placed Israel in danger of possible war while the country lacked a great power ally. Ben-Gurion demanded that the army dig in, stay put, and not launch an attack on Egypt. After the war, he declared that all the land won in the war would be exchanged for peace, except for Jerusalem. He was very far from being the terror of the neighborhood that the "new historians" depict.

In contrast with Shlaim's enmity for Ben-Gurion, he is strangely enamored of the leaders of the right, Jabotinsky and Begin. Jabotinsky is presented as Ben-Gurion's veritable mentor and guide, which is a truly bizarre notion. Shlaim even has Jabotinsky exerting an influence on Rabin, though there is no doubt Rabin never read a page that Jabotinsky wrote. It is true that Jabotinsky was a liberal, and ready to guarantee the Arabs minority rights within the Jewish state; but in this respect he was no different from the other Zionist leaders. All of them, Ben-Gurion included, spoke in the same conciliatory spirit. There is no reason to believe Jabotinsky and not believe the others.

Shlaim shows a similarly inexplicable admiration for Menachem Begin. While he brushes aside Ben-Gurion's apprehensions about the fate of Israel with cynical skepticism, he musters profound understanding for Begin's fears. Shlaim argues that the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1982 was not carried out for electoral reasons; the timing of the Israeli action, he explains, was owed to Begin's genuine anxiety about Israel's future, to fears rooted in his own experience in the Holocaust. Shlaim accepts uncritically and at face value Begin's flagrant appropriation of images of the Shoah in the war in Lebanon; it is only on rare occasions that Shlaim criticizes Begin for exploiting the great Jewish tragedy for political gain. And many Israelis would be astounded to read about "Begin's Churchillian style of leadership."

Shlaim prefers the Israeli right to the Israeli left. After all, Jabotinsky looked the Arab problem straight in the eye, without flinching, and acknowledged the national character of the Arabs, and even sketched a model that would grant Arabs future rights. But the Israeli left (which includes Labor Zionism) is, in Shlaim's eyes, hypocritical and inauthentic, with all its moral perplexity and its overblown sensitivity, aspiring to a brand of Zionism with humanistic and socialist elements, and attempting to dodge the problem as long as it was not acute. For Shlaim, this camp, which founded the state, is ultimately responsible for the tragedy of the Palestinians.

Shlaim interprets Jabotinsky's "iron wall" as a two-stage scenario: first there would be conflict, when the Jews would curb and beat down the Arabs by military might, and then there would be reconciliation, when the Jews would grant the Arabs a mode of autonomy, including national rights. Now Shlaim has decided that the first stage, the nasty stage, is over. The time has come for reconciliation. But he evades the pivotal question in Israeli politics. When does the hour of peace arrive? For the left and the right do not have the same answers to this question. For the right, peace will come when Israeli sovereignty is guaranteed over the entirety of the Land of Israel, over Greater Israel. (That is how Jabotinsky and Begin, Shlaim's favorites, conceived the condition of peace.) For the left, peace will come when the Palestinians are prepared to assent to the principle of partition and to recognize the right of the existence of two peoples in the land west of the Jordan. For this reason, it is the heirs of the pragmatic tradition of Ben-Gurion and Weizmann--and not the heirs of the inflexible tradition of Jabotinsky--who are the genuine peacemakers today.

The old attempts to justify Arab rejectionism over the years, and to blame the frustration of peace initiatives on Israeli inflexibility, now seem outdated: all the things that symbolized Israeli "intransigence," all the things that were supposed to have made peace impossible (recognition of Israel, direct peace negotiations, bilateral agreements as against a comprehensive peace) are now possible, and even actual. Shlaim recognizes that the situation has fundamentally changed; but the older prejudices continue to tug at him. Thus, in the conclusion to his book, he returns to the hoary arguments that present the Israelis as foreign invaders:

The moral case for the establishment of an independent Jewish state was strong, especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust. But there is no denying that the establishment of the State of Israel involved a massive injustice to the Palestinians. Half a century on, Israel still had to arrive at the reckoning of its own sins against the Palestinians, a recognition that it owed the Palestinians a debt that must at some point be repaid.

It is not clear what Shlaim exactly has in mind by "sins." If he means the establishment of the state itself, well, he himself states that there was a strong moral case for its creation. If he is referring to the war of 1948, well, he himself notes elsewhere that the Arabs forced it upon Israel. If he is alluding to the fact that the Arab Palestinians did not establish a state in 1948, because they were stymied by Israel, surely he should place the blame for that first and foremost on the Palestinians themselves, and on their Arab brethren. Or was Israel supposed to take the initiative in creating a Palestinian state?

What remains is the refugee issue, a truly festering wound. And in this awful matter, there is a lot of guilt to go around. As Benny Morris argues, the blame for the misery of the Palestinian refugees must be shared by several parties. But the morally laden concepts mustered by Shlaim lay the guilt in no uncertain terms at one door only--at Israel's door. This passage reads like a remnant of an earlier time, a more inflamed and more brutal time that we should be glad to see gone.


The title of Benny Morris's book is something of a surprise. Who are the "righteous victims"? Is Morris ironically alluding to the tendency of both sides in the conflict to claim a monopoly on truth and justice, and to be deaf to the views of the adversary, as Morris himself says in one of his more incisive passages? Or are both sides right, and victims of the historical situation or their own nationalist aspirations? Morris does not explain.

Indeed, Morris's work is innocent of any attempt at conceptualization. His method is a sort of muddling through. In every chapter he presents the culprits and the casualties of the given moment. In most instances, the result is quite balanced. Thus, while Shlaim accuses Israel of consciously renouncing the various chances for peace after 1949, Morris contends that leaders on both sides failed to utilize the opportunities that presented themselves. Regarding infiltration in the 1950s, Shlaim claims that Arab countries did everything possible to curb the infiltrators; and he relies, for proof, only on King Hussein's comment in his interview with him: "We had done everything that we could to prevent infiltration and to prevent access to Israel." Surely a historian is obliged to find better evidence for his findings than the word of a king. Morris, by contrast, blames the Arab regimes for some of the infiltration activity, especially in the Gaza Strip, noting that Israeli reprisals induced the Egyptians and the Jordanians to take measures to stem infiltration.

While stressing every Israeli attack on ostensibly innocent Arabs, Shlaim avoids any mention of Arab atrocities against Jews. Morris, on the other hand, points to a number of cases of murder and violence perpetrated by Arab infiltrators and fedayeen in the 1950s, and even devotes an entire chapter to the secret war between Israel and the terror organizations. Unlike Shlaim, Morris is uninterested in the development of Arab nationalism. In his view, Nasser was not a hero but a dictator leading his people astray. For this reason, his account of the Sinai Campaign lacks Shlaim's moral fervor. Morris takes Nasser's threats against Israel seriously.

In describing the tense period of waiting in the run-up to the Six-Day War, Morris underscores the national hysteria that engulfed the Arab states, articulated in calls for Israel's destruction. Shlaim passes over the frenzy in silence. After the war, moreover, Morris does not flow with compassion for Nasser; he views him as a scoundrel and a failed tyrant. Morris's account of Israeli rule in the occupied territories is detailed and critical, and he does not conceal from the reader distressing events that illustrate the invidious influence of the "corruptive occupation"; but here, too, his moral judgements do not overwhelm his historiographical duty. "Though harsh and often brutal," he adds, "Israeli rule in general was never as restrictive or repressive as the Palestinians made out."

There is one topic on which Morris departs from his admirably matter-of-fact attitude: the notorious topic of "transfer." The notion of "transfer" was commonly accepted in the period between the two world wars to designate population exchanges such as occurred between Turkey and Greece in the 1920s. "Transfer" became a code word in contemporary Israeli politics after the emergence of the far right radical party Moledet (Homeland) in the 1980s, led by Rehavam Zeevi. Moledet advanced the idea of transfer, or the removal of the Palestinians from the West Bank, as part of its party platform; and in order to gain legitimacy for himself and his party, Zeevi declared that he was following in the footsteps of the founders of the labor movement from its very inception, that "transfer" was vintage Zionist thinking.

The attempt to attribute the sins of the present to Zionism's founding fathers is a hallmark of the politics of the Israeli right: thus the members of Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) present themselves as the rightful heirs to the pioneer heritage in the pre-state period. Zeevi seized on statements on transfer from the 1930s, articulated in substantially different circumstances, in order to justify such repulsive actions in our own time. And in this matter, it would seem, the interests of the Israeli right and the "new historians" dovetail. It is no coincidence that revisionist ideas were sympathetically received in the ranks of the right. The "new historians" are intent on demonstrating that there was never a golden age of simplicity and innocence in the Zionist movement, and that its founders were full of guilt and guile from the start; and those on the right are keen to show that what is repudiated today as immoral was not an idea that they invented, but rather a part of the Zionist heritage. In both cases, the result is the libeling of Zionism and the undermining of its moral foundations.

Morris addressed the question of transfer after he had published his important study on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948. His book's much-cited conclusion states that

[t]he Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or Arab. It was largely a by-product of Jewish and Arab fears and of the protracted, bitter fighting that characterized the first Arab-Israeli war; in smaller part, it was the deliberate creation of Jewish and Arab military commanders and politicians.

This is a balanced assessment that is corroborated by the evidence. But Morris was attacked by Arab historians, notably Nur Masalha, and even by his colleagues Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe, who argued that his own documentation justified a harsher verdict. Perhaps as a consequence of these criticisms, Morris undertook a partial revision of his findings. What in his earlier book was an ugly but unintended and even unanticipated by-product of war becomes in his new book one of the foundations of Zionism:

The transfer idea goes back to the fathers of modern Zionism and, while rarely given a public airing before 1937, was one of the main currents in Zionist ideology from the movement's inception.

According to Morris's new version, just as the idea of transfer attended Zionism from its inception, so did Arab fears of precisely such a scheme. The inference from this line of reasoning is that the Arabs resisted Jewish settlement not because they regarded themselves as Palestine's rightful owners and did not wish to share the land with a people whom they perceived as a foreign invader; nor because they were opposed to transforming Palestine from a land with a predominantly Muslim culture into a non-Muslim country steeped in Western culture. No, their motive was well-founded fear: they knew that the Jews intended in due time to expel them. As Morris writes, "the fear of territorial displacement and dispossession was to be the chief motor of Arab antagonism to Zionism down to 1948 (and indeed after 1967 as well)." In this way history is spun on its head, and the effect is made into the cause, and the result of war is promoted into the paradigm for the entire complex of relations between Arabs and Jews over several decades.

Zionist leaders always believed that the hoped-for Jewish majority in Palestine would materialize by means of massive Jewish immigration. It should not be forgotten that in 1920 the Arab population of Palestine numbered only some 600,000. The Zionist premise--which history has proven right--was that there was land aplenty in western Palestine for millions of Jews and Arabs. All the Zionist plans at the end of the 1930s envisioned the influx of a million Jews to Palestine within a decade. That magical number was geared to guaranteeing a Jewish majority, which is why the Arabs were so hostile to immigration: not because they were afraid of expulsion, but because they wished to prevent a demographic transformation.

Zionism has been one of the best documented and the most talkative of national movements. Its records are not limited to the sphere of political activity and diplomacy, on which Morris and the "new historians" tend to focus; they include also all the educational and propagandistic work over many years within all the warring fractions and currents that comprised the movement. Despite all this documentation, however, all the efforts by Morris and others to dig up actual evidence of the early roots of the "transfer" idea have unearthed only isolated and fragmentary statements--secret thoughts and wishes, but nothing remotely resembling a program.

The idea of transfer was broached in serious discussion for the first time in 1937, when the Peel Commission proposed to transfer the large Arab minority from the territory designated for the tiny Jewish state as part of the package deal that envisioned a partitioning of western Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab. In accordance with the Commission's proposals, the British were to carry out the transfer. Morris declares that "it is reasonable to assume that the Zionist leaders played a role in persuading the Peel Commission to adopt the transfer solution." There is not even a sliver of evidence to support such a claim, which is very far removed from what any credible historian may reasonably assume. It is perfectly legitimate for Morris to surmise that the Zionists did not lament the Peel Commission proposal, and even rejoiced at it. But such gladness is a long way from the unsubstantiated presumption that they were implicated in its formulation.

It is also true that Ben-Gurion and his associates welcomed the British idea to transfer Arabs from the small area set aside for the Jewish state. In Ben-Gurion's efforts at the Twentieth Zionist Congress in 1937 to drum up support for adoption of the partition plan, he made use of the concept of transfer in order to persuade his comrades to accept the tiny state proposed by the Commission, since the Jews would be a large majority there. The idea of transfer was a lure designed to convince Zionists to swallow the bitter pill of partition. In later years, Ben-Gurion warned of the dangers inherent in embracing the idea of transfer as a Zionist program, even after the British Labour Party had chosen to incorporate it in its platform.

Morris recalls that, over a prolonged period, Arab leaders declared that the true aim of Zionism was to uproot and to expel the Arabs, while the Zionists claimed there was ample room in Palestine for both peoples. But, as Morris adds,

the stark realities of the 1930s, with wholesale persecution in Central and Eastern Europe and with Britain closing the gates to Jewish immigration, seems to prove the Arabs right. Palestine would not be transformed into a Jewish state unless all or much of the Arab population was expelled.

Otherwise, Morris explains, a Jewish majority could not be achieved.

This argument boggles the mind. If we are speaking about the mandatory period, then the British, who did not permit Jewish immigration, most certainly would not have endorsed any plan of Arab transfer. If we are speaking about a future with Palestine under Jewish rule, then the Jewish authorities would have been able to bring in millions of Jews unhindered and thereby to resolve the question of the dominant majority without resorting to expulsion. What had fueled a massive wish to leave Europe was the calamitous situation of the Jews there, the "wholesale persecution" mentioned by Morris.

However you interpret it, in other words, there is not a shred of evidence that Zionist ideology changed in the 1930s; not a shred of evidence that the transfer idea supplanted the idea of immigration as a means to achieve a Jewish majority in Palestine. But still Morris claims that, starting with the Peel Commission, the idea of transfer enjoyed a general consensus in virtually all the Zionist bodies. His book lacks any notes indicating which deliberations (and how many deliberations) he is referring to, and it is thus impossible to determine whether the sources corroborate his contention.

In the same manner, Morris links the broaching of transfer within the context of the discussions on partition in 1937 with the creation of the refugee problem in 1948: "The idea was in the air from 1937 onward and without doubt contributed in various ways to the transfer that eventually took place, in 1948." Morris presents the expulsion as if it were the outcome of some Zionist master plan. There is no hard evidence for the existence of such a master plan, but never mind. The idea, "without doubt," was "in the air."

The Israeli-Arab conflict was not born as a consequence of anxieties about expulsion. It was born as a consequence of Arab resistance to the settlement of a foreign element in their land. The feeling of power among the Palestinian Arabs, who believed they were the rightful proprietors of Palestine and were unwilling to enter into any sort of compromise agreement with the Jews, contradicts the argument based on their alleged fears about eviction. The Palestinians did not go to war in 1948 because they were afraid the Jews would oust them; they went to war because they were not prepared to make their peace with the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine.

The Palestinian Arabs also believed that they would emerge the victors. The question of what they intended to do with the Jews in Palestine after a Jewish defeat on the battlefield is, of course, hypothetical. After the defeat, the flight, and the expulsion of the Palestinians, moreover, the subject is unmentionable: such questions are raised only about the victors. When the peace process comes to a conclusion, documents may be disclosed that shed valuable light on this point; but in the meantime the issue can be examined only in terms of the historical facts that we possess. And those facts, alas, are unequivocal: in all areas where the Jews went down to defeat at the hands of the Arabs, not a single Jew was allowed to return.

On both sides, Arab and Jewish, there was a composite of flight and expulsion. Jews fled in fear from mixed neighborhoods such as the border areas between Jaffa and Tel Aviv, and even from Jaffa itself. There were some 10,000 Jewish refugees in the early stages of the war. Gush Etzion, on the road between Bethlehem and Hebron, was captured by the Arab Legion and local Palestinian forces: the inhabitants were killed or taken prisoner and carried across the Jordan. Their settlements were completely demolished. The settlements Neveh Ya'akov and Atarot north of Jerusalem, also captured, were totally obliterated. All the residents of the Jewish quarter in the Old City in Jerusalem, conquered by local forces with the aid of the Arab Legion, were taken captive. No Jew was allowed to return to settle in the Old City--not even the ultra-Orthodox who detested Zionism and were prepared to live under Arab rule.

With the heightening of the national conflict between the two peoples, the prospect of living together one under the rule of the other became less and less palatable. Propaganda stoked mutual fears. The Jews were convinced that the Arabs were going to throw them into the sea, because that is what the Arabs said that they would do. The Arabs feared what the Israeli army might do to them, since Arab opinion-makers had painted the Israeli army in devilish colors.

The Arab panic led to exodus, and to the collapse of the institutions of Palestinian society. The more the magnitude of the exodus became clear, the more admissible and attractive the idea seemed to Israeli leaders and military commanders--not because the Zionist movement had been planning such an evacuation all along, but because a remote option (even if there were some who harbored such hankerings) gained acceptance in the context of the behavior of both sides during the war.

The process of Jewish-Palestinian reconciliation has been bound up with a readiness for mutual recognition, and for mutual assent to the co-existence of two states in western Palestine. Both sides found it difficult to recognize the existence and the legitimacy of the other. And historians also have their difficulties coming to terms with that reality. From the post-Oslo perspective, the question arises whether there could have been shortcuts in that process, as suggested by the allegation of the "new historians" that Israel missed various opportunities for peace in the past.

We must be careful not to view the outcomes of events as inevitable; but we must also not trivialize the conflict. It is doubtful whether a confrontation of such emotional and psychological depth as the Israeli-Arab dispute can be resolved solely by rational means, by appealing to the disadvantages that war entails for both parties. History shows that such conflicts usually have not been ended by reason and good will. They have usually been ended by weariness, as both sides were ground down by the death and the bitterness, and both sides came to realize that victory is unattainable. In a discussion of the development of Zionism since Herzl, the Israeli historian Jacob Talmon once adduced this observation by Friedrich Engels:

History is perhaps the cruelest goddess of all, and she drives her victorious chariot upon heaps and heaps of bodies, not just in time of war, but also during peaceful economic development. And alas, we men and women are such fools that we never dare to venture out for any real progress unless impelled to do so as a result of boundless suffering.

That is exactly the prospect today.

And so the dialogue between history and historiography will continue. If it turns out that the hopes for an Israeli-Arab peace were premature, then the picture of the past will also be soured, and the currents critical of Israel will almost certainly be strengthened. If the peace process is carried forward to a successful conclusion, and Israel is welcomed as a fully recognized polity among the states of the Middle East, then a perspective on the past will be reinforced whose rudiments are already evident, though only intermittently in the writings of Avi Shlaim and Benny Morris: the perspective of realism. When reality comes more closely to approximate our moral ideals, moralism will become redundant. We will see this thick and twisted conflict more accurately and more humanely. And the power of discourse may succeed where the power of arms has failed.

--Translated by William Templer

ANITA SHAPIRA, the Ruben Merenfeld Professor of the Study of Zionism at Tel Aviv University, is the author of Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948 (Stanford University Press).

Continued (Permanent Link)

Qassam rocket fired by 'Gunmen'

A Qassam rocket was fired at Israel, According to the report, "Palestinian gunmen fired a Qassam rocket from northern Gaza Strip at Israel early Saturday morning. The rocket exploded in an open field near a community in the Sdot Negev Regional Council after the Color Red alert was sounded." That's peculiar. "gunmen" use guns, not rockets. Shouldn't these people be called "rocket men" (or anything but terrorists?). No injuries or damage were reported in the attack.
The rocket launching took place only a day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moom called on the Palestinian factions to unite in order to help revive the Middle East peace talks, according to the story. Evidently, the definition of peace is when the rockets of the "gunmen" don't hit anyone.
Oh well, another day, another rocket.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, August 28, 2009

IAEA extends probe into alleged Syria reactor bombed by Israel

Last update - 00:00 29/08/2009       
IAEA extends probe into alleged Syria reactor bombed by Israel
By Reuters
United Nations inspectors are analyzing further evidence taken from a nuclear research plant in Syria's capital Damascus where unexplained uranium traces were found, the UN's nuclear watchdog said on Friday.
But the International Atomic Energy Agency said Syria was still blocking follow-up access to the desert site of what U.S. intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed nuclear reactor meant to yield atomic bomb fuel, before Israel bombed it to pieces in 2007.
In June, the Vienna-based IAEA said particles of processed uranium showed up in swipe samples taken by inspectors at the research reactor in Damascus and that it was checking for a link to traces retrieved from the bombed Dair Alzour site.
The IAEA said on Friday it carried out an inventory verification check at the Damascus Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) in July, collecting environmental samples of what Syria said was the source of the uranium particles.
The samples were now being analyzed with the results likely to be ready by November.
U.S. analysts have said the IAEA's findings raised the question of whether Syria used some natural uranium intended for the alleged reactor at Dair Alzour for experiments applicable to learning how to separate out plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.
Syria's only declared nuclear site is the Damascus research reactor and, unlike Iran, it has no known nuclear energy-generating capacity.
Syria has said that the uranium traces at Dair Alzour came with Israeli munitions used in the strike and that Israel's target was a conventional military building.
Damascus denies hiding anything from the IAEA. But the agency says Syria is withholding documentation and blocking access that inspectors need to clarify the case.
Syria, an ally of Iran which is under IAEA investigation over nuclear proliferation suspicions, has denied ever having an atom bomb program and said the intelligence is fabricated.
Damascus has complained that its case is being mishandled and questioned the IAEA's grasp of physics.
But the IAEA said earlier this year inspectors had found enough traces of uranium in soil samples collected in June 2008 at Dair Alzour to constitute a "significant" find.
They subsequently detected similar "manmade" uranium particles in test swipes at the Damascus research site which the IAEA knew about and checked routinely.
Friday's report said Syria, citing national security grounds, was still refusing IAEA requests for return visits to Dair Alzour and a look at three military sites, whose appearance was altered by landscaping after the IAEA asked to check them.
"However, there is no limitation in comprehensive safeguards agreements (between the IAEA and member states) on agency access to information, activities or locations simply because they may be military related," the report said.
"The fact that the agency has found particles of nuclear material of a type which is not in the declared inventory of Syria underscores the need to pursue this matter."
IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has said the allegations are serious and must be clarified. But he has also rebuked the United States and Israel for failing to alert the UN watchdog about the site before it was bombed to rubble, saying this had made the search for truth extremely difficult.
Friday's report said ElBaradei had urged states including Israel which "may possess information relevant to the agency's verification, including information which may have led them to conclude that the installation in question had been a nuclear reactor, to make such information available to the Agency."
Above all, the IAEA wants to examine equipment and rubble removed from Dair Alzour before investigators could get there.
But Syria told the IAEA the debris had already been disposed of so it was impossible to fulfill the agency's request, originally made over a year after the bombing, the report said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Paying for the Holocaust: Desmond Tutu is a Great Man Making a Grave Mistake

Desmond Tutu is a Great Man Making a Grave Mistake

Tutu to Haaretz: Arabs paying the price of the Holocaust.

Desmond Tutu is a great and admirable man without doubt. His sympathy for the Palestinians and his efforts to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are commendable. It is therefore a shame that he decided to do this by promulgating a falsehood. One that causes more harm than good to the cause of peace.

The Arabs did not pay a price for the Holocaust.

Certainly, we could speculate that if it were not for the Holocaust, fewer nations would have said yes to the 1947 partition plan -- a plan which was never actually implemented -- nor did any of these countries do anything to implement. However, we could also argue that since there was already a sizable Jewish minority in Palestine, the idea of partition was hardly far fetched. We could also speculate that perhaps less European Jews would have emigrated to Israel/Palestine if it were not for theHolocaust. However we could also argue that there would have been six million more Jews who could have emigrated. We could likewise speculate that some countries would not have recognized Israel after the 1948 war if it were not for the Holocaust. But then again, many countries and regimes are recognized by world governments all the time.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IAEA report: Iran refusing to cooperate regarding possible military dimensions of nuclear program

The hopeful suign is that IAEA is taking its role seriously. It is not clear that these assessments will find their way to formal reports to the UN.  
'Iran stonewalling IAEA about possible military dimensions'
Aug. 28, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Iran is stonewalling the UN nuclear watchdog agency about "possible military dimensions" to its suspect nuclear program, officials said Friday, urging the regime to clarify the mysterious role of a foreign explosives expert and shed light on other issues.
In its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has pressed the Islamic Republic to clarify its uranium enrichment activities and reassure the world that it's not trying to build an atomic weapon.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and geared solely toward generating electricity. The United States and key allies contend the country is covertly trying to build an atomic weapon.
Ahead of September 2 six-power talks on Iran - and a key meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board a week after that - the IAEA acknowledged that Tehran has been producing nuclear fuel at a slower rate and has allowed UN inspectors broader access to its main nuclear complex in the southern city of Natanz.
But the Vienna-based agency delivered a blunt assessment: "Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities."
"There remain a number of outstanding issues which give rise to concerns and which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program," said the text, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
It said the IAEA "does not consider that Iran has adequately addressed the substance of the issues, having focused instead on the style and form ... and providing limited answers and simple denials."
The report raised the specter of harsher international sanctions against Iran for not answering lingering questions about its nuclear activities.
US President Barack Obama has given Teheran something of an ultimatum: Stop enriching uranium, which - if done at a high level - can produce fissile material for the core of a nuclear weapon - or face harsher penalties. In exchange, it could get trade benefits from the six countries engaged in the talks: the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Iran that if it doesn't respond, it could face stronger sanctions in the energy and financial sectors.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meanwhile, suggested unspecified "severe" new sanctions against Iran if it continues its nuclear activities.
Despite the pressure, senior UN officials said Friday that Iran has been feeding uranium ore into its 8,300 centrifuges at a reduced rate, suggesting that sanctions already in place may be hampering its program.
"We need further explanations," said a Western diplomat, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the confidential report.
The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions against Iran three times since 2006 for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. The sanctions grew from fears that Iran is using the pretext of building a peaceful nuclear energy program as a guise to eventually make weapons-grade enriched uranium.
The country has also been placed on an international watch list to help limit the importation of nuclear materials, which could make it difficult to procure enough uranium oxide to feed its enrichment program.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egyptian FM: Freeze must include East Jerusalem, "Jerusalem is Arab and it will continue to be so"

It was so obvious that a settlement freeze would eventually be aimed at the issue of Jerusalem. Now people have forgotten all the Palestinian pleaders, who insisted that Israel was stealing all the land of the West Bank from them and therefore there could be no peace and more. In reality, it was not about land. It was about control of East Jerusalem, wasn't it?

'E. J'lem must be included in freeze'

Aug. 28, 2009
ap and staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

East Jerusalem must be included in a freeze of settlement activity before Middle East peace talks can restart, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said Friday.

Aboul-Gheit told reporters in Stockholm that Jerusalem is Arab "and it will continue to be so." He added that the Arab world expects the area to be included in a moratorium on settlements.

The Egyptian foreign minister warned that peace talks would last only as long as a freeze on settlement construction was held in place. "If the Israelis announced that the freeze will last six months, then negotiations will last six months as well," he stressed.

US officials have denied reports that Washington has agreed to leave east Jerusalem out of the agreement and settle for a nine- to 12-month freeze in the West Bank.

Aboul-Gheit's comments came a day after NGO Ir Amim said that plans Plans to move an additional 750 Jews into Arab areas of east Jerusalem have been advanced throughout the first half of 2009.

The process of moving more Jews into such neighborhoods, where there are already about 2,000 Jewish residents, has been accelerated specifically for areas that "lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," according to Ir Amim, a non-profit group that engages Israeli-Palestinian issues in the capital.

Abe Selig contributed to this report

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Remembering the Hebron Massacre

Read more about the Hebron Massacre. .
AUGUST 28, 2009
Remembering the Hebron Massacre

No theme is more deeply embedded in Jewish history than exile and return. The biblical exodus from Egypt to the promised land, the return from Babylonian exile, and, most recently, the establishment of the state of Israel all affirmed the enduring determination of the Jewish people to return to their homeland.
Ye t another wrenching exile and return, now rarely remembered, occurred 80 years ago this week. On Aug. 23-24, 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was exiled following a horrific pogrom. The tragedy is known as Tarpat, an acronym for its date in the Hebrew calendar.
Until 1929, Jews had lived in Hebron for three millennia. There, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land. Ever since, religious Jews revered Hebron as the burial site of their matriarchs and patriarchs. Conquered, massacred and expelled over the centuries, Jews always returned to this sacred place.
After 1267, under Muslim rule, no Jews were permitted to pray inside the magnificent enclosure, built by King Herod in the 1st century, that still surrounds the burial caves. But following the expulsion of Jews from Spain at the end of the 15th century, a small group of religious Jews rebuilt a community of study and prayer in Hebron.
In August 1929, that community was suddenly and brutally attacked. Incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—Arab rioters swept through Palestine. In Hebron, the carnage was horrendous.
It began on Friday afternoon when Arabs attacked Jews with clubs and murdered a yeshiva student. The next morning, joined by local villagers, Arabs swarmed through Hebron screaming "Kill the Jews." They broke into the home of Eliezer Dan Slonim, where many Jews had gathered for safety. There they wielded knives and axes to murder 22 innocents. In the Anglo-Palestine Bank, where 23 corpses were discovered, blood covered the tile floor. That day, three children under the age of five were murdered. Teenage girls, their mothers and grandmothers were raped and killed. Rabbis and their students were castrated before they were slain. A surviving yeshiva student recounted that he "had seen greater horrors than Dante in hell."
When the slaughter finally subsided, 67 Jews had been murdered. Three days later, British soldiers evacuated 484 survivors, including 153 children, to Jerusalem. The butchery in Hebron, Zionist and religious officials alleged, was "without equal in the history of the country since the destruction of the Temple." Sir Walter Shaw, chairman of an exhaustive British royal investigation, concluded that "unspeakable atrocities" had occurred.
Tarpat extinguished the most ancient Jewish community in Palestine. With synagogues destroyed, Jewish property converted into storerooms and barns for livestock, and the ancient cemetery desecrated, few signs remained that there had ever been a Jewish presence in Hebron.
But nearly 40 years later, after the Six-Day War of 1967, a small group of religious Zionists returned to Hebron to rebuild the destroyed community. "What was in the past in Hebron," declared their matriarch Miriam Levinger, "is what will happen in the future. Always!" So it would be.
The Jewish community of Hebron—some 700 people—recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of their return. This month they commemorate the 80th anniversary of Tarpat. All the other ancient peoples mentioned in the Bible have vanished. But Jews, a community of memory, still live in Hebron.
Hebron Jews are relentlessly vilified as fanatics who illegally occupy someone else's land. As religious Zionists, they are the militant Jewish settlers whom legions of Jewish and non-Jewish critics love to hate. It is seldom noticed that their most serious transgression—settlement in the biblical land of Israel—is the definition of Zionism: the return of Jews to their historic homeland.
—Mr. Auerbach, a professor of history at Wellesley College, is the author of "Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel," published in July by Roman & Littlefield.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Still want to engage Iran, President Obama?

Iran's Regime Chooses A Terrorist Who Has killed Americans as Defense Minister; Still Want to Engage Them, President Obama?

By Barry Rubin

It is beyond belief: Iran's government has named a wanted terrorist, Ahmad Vahidi, as its defense minister.

And even that's not all: Vahidi ran the Qods force in the 1980s and 1990s, making him responsible for liaison between Iran and foreign terrorist groups, you know, the people to whom a nuclear device might be given, exploded somewhere, and then Iran can disclaim responsibility.

And there's more: he was also involved in the June 25, 2006, car bombing attack on the Khobar Towers which killed 19 American soldiers and a Saudi civilian. More than 400 were wounded.

Even the European Union has him on their "no-talk" list.

Can you imagine all the terrorist operations he ordered and planned that we don't know about?

So please forgive me if I use capital letters:


This is the man who would have control over Iran's nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

And the United States has said…. And the Western reaction is….

I can't hear you!

Right, that's precisely the problem, and neither can Tehran.

But let's consider this development for a moment. In all other countries, the defense minister's job is to run the armed forces. He has to decide what weapons to buy, how to use resources, and how to conduct operations of regular soldiers.

In contrast, in Iran, the "military" forces being used are terrorists. Therefore, a background in terrorism is the best credential for defense minister. Terrorism is the projection of military force by Iran, to destroy its foes, expand its influence, spread revolution, and subordinate other countries to its will (and perhaps even rule).

Institutionally, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the extremely radical and highly ideological parallel force to the regular military, is the base of power for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To a large extent, it has become the ruler of Iran, that is with the permission of the leading figure, Spiritual Guide Ali Khamenei. Therefore, being a high-level IRGC operative is the best credential for being defense minister.

On July 18, 1994, the Jewish community center building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was attacked. Eighty-five people were killed, over 240 were wounded.

After an extensive investigation, the Argentinian government concluded in its October 2006 report that this attack was ordered by Iran's government and carried out by Lebanese Hizballah. Vahidi was one of five Iranian officials mentioned by name as having planned the attack. One of his tasks was to coordinate with Hizballah on the operation.  Interpol put him on its wanted list.

(A side note: You can often read in Western media and even European government statements that Hizballah is never involved in terrorist attacks outside Lebanon. Indeed, President Barack Obama's advisor on terrorism, John Brennan, portrays Hizballah as a moderate group. Remember this the next time you hear that nonsense. There is increasing eagerness in top British circles for engaging Hizballah, too. Soon Hizballah will enter into the Lebanese government and both Europe and probably the U.S. government will have some dealings with that terrorist group.)

One might think that the United States and its European allies would declare that they refuse to meet with any Iranian government official, allow any investment, block any trade, try to stop Iran from participating in any international event as long as it was openly and directly involved in terrorism.

I'm not talking about some type of crackpot or irresponsible response but rather the reaction which calm, responsible, seasoned policymakers and diplomats should make under the circumstances.

Note that since the Obama administration began talking about engagement with Iran, the regime has become more and more extremist. It is true that the U.S. government is increasingly coming to the conclusion that engagement with Iran is a waste of time, but this is a very slow process and the conclusion seems based more on the idea that Iran won't respond than to observing the steady radicalization of an already extremist regime.

Instead, the Western governments should be calculating that things are going to get a lot worse. Ahmadinejad has achieved a much higher level of control than before, the supreme guide is behind him, his IRGC allies are filling dozens of high posts, the election was stolen, the opposition (even within the ruling establishment) repressed, and show trials are being held.

Does this not signify that the regime is becoming bolder, less concerned about the costs, totally indifferent to restraining voices? From the pure standpoint of political analysis, alarm bells should be going off, strategies altered.

Beyond this, where is the shock and outrage? For the Iranian regime knows precisely what it is doing. Iran's government is "sticking it" to the West, "dissing" America and Europe, and you can find your own word for it. This is a test to how far they can go in terms of open aggression and threats. Such is the challenge not being met.

The Iranian regime might as well run up the skull-and-crossbones flag (the traditional flag of pirates) on the mast, put a parrot on their shoulders, and begin each sentence with, "Arghh!". In fact that's precisely what they're doing, in twenty-first century, Islamist terms.

Lest you think this article is strident, not at all. It's the facts and events which have become so far out, Western media and government reactions so out-of-phase.

To see the wanted poster for Vahidi, go

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. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

Continued (Permanent Link)

More confusion in Obama Administration Middle East Policy

Obama Administration's Arab-Israeli Policy Adjustment: Out of the Frying Pan Into the…Saucepan

By Barry Rubin

The Obama Administration is slowly adjusting its policy on Arab-Israeli issues but doing so in a way that ensures it still won't work. They understand they were doing it wrong, they still don't understand what they were doing wrong.

Briefly, in phase one the administration demanded Israel unilaterally stop construction on settlements in the West Bank, activity which not only all previous U.S. presidents in practice accepted but so did the Palestinians. By accepted, I don't mean the Palestinians didn't complain about it but that fact never stopped the negotiations' process for 15 years. Obama has now achieved a full stop to the bilateral talks.

Once the United States raised the bar, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states could do no less. Now negotiations are frozen while construction isn't.

In phase 2, U.S. policy did more unintentional damage, even though the shift was in the right direction. It asked Arab states and the Palestinians to give some confidence-building measure to Israel. They said "no," and probably they would have done so under any conditions. That was predictable but it leads to an interesting and extremely important point.

Everyone speaks of how popular President Barack Obama is, and when it comes to the Middle East this is exaggerated. But the key word here isn't "popular" but "credible."

"I like you but I'm not going to bet on you," is the way it could be expressed. If you are perceived as weak, it doesn't matter if they think you're a nice guy. In Middle East politics, nice guys really do finish last.

Once the whole Arab world plus Iran plus Israel defies you and you just smile and nod and don't do anything about it, you're credibility is even lower. Perhaps it will stay that way for four or eight years.

Now we are in Phase 3, characterized by bubbly optimism from Washington—everything's going well, everyone's cooperating—but still quite out of tune with reality. I have noted that false optimism--pretending progress is being made when it isn't--can in part be a good strategy. But the administration is going about it in a way that ensures failure.

How? In the "Godfather," Don Vito Corleone made people an offer they couldn't refuse. If they do, they know he will back up his proposals with power. Obama makes people offers they'll never accept. Not only do they know they'll get away with it but they can expect he will offer them even more afterward.

Don Corleone said, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Obama says, in effect, treat your friends badly and your enemies well. As a result, friends are going to think about moving into a less close relationship.

In addition, you don't set preconditions on Arab-Israeli negotiations if you ever want them to get started. Since both sides aren't eager to negotiate they will seize on the preconditions as excuses or use them to demand more. Successful negotiations--the first Camp David meeting, the 1991 Madrid conference--were held without any serious preconditions.

And so it sends the wrong signal when State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said August 27 that the United States would be flexible on pre-negotiation conditions for the parties because it is signalling that conditions can exist.

Middle East translation: I can use the fact that there are pre-conditions to say "no" and I can use the fact that you are flexible to ask for more.

President Obama, if you want negotiations, get rid of preconditions and bring the parties together. (It wouldn't work any way but you're the one who wants talks so make them happen.)

Crowley also said:

"We put forward our ideas, publicly and privately, about what it will take for negotiations to be restarted, but ultimately it'll be up to the parties themselves, with our help, to determine whether that threshold has been met."

Ah, so the administration is leaving it in Palestinian hands to decide if they've gotten enough to talk? That's an open invitation to get all sorts of demands from them. The problem that Obama hasn't understood yet is that when you basically renounce force and threats, apologize, and say that the United States is just another partner in the world, you've given away the power you need to get things done.

Finally, the administration has no idea that even if Israel were to give a partial freeze, the Palestinians would demand a full one. If Israel gave a full one, the Palestinians would make up stories about construction or add in a demand for no remodeling or renovations on existing apartments.

The situation regarding the Obama administration in the Middle East today is something like putting a child who is still learning the rules up against the world's greatest poker players. For the first six months of a new president that is an understandable problem but if it continues longer the feeble condition of this administration's foreign policy starts to seem permanent.

Reportedly, the administration wants a breakthrough in September. Why? It will look good during the UN General Assembly session and, more important, it will be in place when Obama asks for tougher sanctions against Iran.

Good luck.

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. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Why Lieberman took on Sweden

Here is a quite different take on Lieberman and Sweden
Last update - 11:37 28/08/2009       
Why Lieberman took on Sweden
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
Who takes the prize for the most breathtaking display of hypocrisy in the wake of the silly organ-trafficking story in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet? The tabloid's editors, who are still insisting that the half-baked "report" based on 17-year-old rumors should lead to an international inquiry? The Israeli government, which has persisted in transforming gutter journalism into a full-blown diplomatic incident? Or perhaps the Swedish foreign minister, who insisted that he was not going to condemn the report since freedom of the press is sacred (no one suggested he censor the paper), but took a different line when cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper were used by Muslims around the world to justify arson and murder?
To say that none of the players in this farce have shown any common sense would be a serious understatement. But there is another, just as disturbing aspect in this case. The reaction of some Israeli politicians, especially Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, with their wild accusations of anti-Semitism - against all of Sweden's media, government and society - broke a fundamental, unwritten rule in Israel-Diaspora relations.
The moment Israel officially brands a government or entire country as anti-Semitic, it automatically places the local Jewish community on a collision course with local society. Israel tends to have close ties with Jews around the world, and we take this for granted. But the fact that Israel sees itself not only as guarding its own citizens, but also Jews in other countries, is far from simple.
Defending Jews around the world isn't just about maintaining a safe haven in their hour of need, or even organizing an emergency airlift when famine or war threaten. It also means delicate diplomacy, keeping in mind that Israel's actions can have serious repercussions for Jews in other countries, whether or not they support Israel.
No more statistics
The government and Jewish Agency's joint task force on anti-Semitism stopped publishing the number of anti-Semitic incidents in each country in its annual report. They realized their publication was embarrassing other communities, which published widly differing statistics in their own reports.
With all respect to the Jewish state, it is up to local Jews to identify the acts of hatred that directly affect them. Private "watchdogs" can and will do whatever they like - after all, they need to fund-raise - but a government should exercise some degree of judgment and diplomacy. The only exception to this rule is regarding Jewish communities in dictatorships, who need others to speak for them.
By blaming the Swedish government for the organs story and its alleged indifference to anti-Semitism, and comparing it to a wartime government that ignored the Holocaust (in itself an historical inaccuracy), Lieberman has pushed Swedish Jews into a trap.
No one can accuse them of being anti-Israel, but since they have decided to live in Sweden, which is a democracy, they must be allowed to confront anti-Semitism in their own society on their own terms. Lieberman's accusations essentially give the local community a stark choice: Decide which side you're on.
Ariel Sharon and French Jewry
This isn't the first time a senior Israeli politician made this kind of mistake. Ariel Sharon and his foreign minister Silvan Shalom embarrassed French Jews when they called upon them to emigrate to Israel during the first years of the Second Intifada, but at least that seemed like an authentic emotional reaction to what was a real wave of anti-Semitism. Lieberman's outrage is everything but genuine.
If the foreign minister were really intent on fighting global anti-Semitism, he would find no better place to start than his own homeland, the former Soviet Union. Whether or not Donald Bostrom is a bona fide anti-Semite or just a singularly unprofessional journalist, in Russia, Ukraine and the other former Soviet republics, there is no shortage of newspapers, magazines and Web sites filled with the most primitive hatred of Jews, including specific references to blood libels. Some of these publications are officially sanctioned and funded.
But you won't hear Lieberman excoriating the leaders of these countries. After all, that's his personal stomping ground, the only place in the world where he is a welcome guest. But Sweden, which just happens to hold the presidency of the European Union, and is rather critical of the West Bank settlements, why not brand it anti-Semitic? Lieberman is never going to visit Stockholm on business after he retires from politics, and there are no Yisrael Beiteinu voters there.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Open season on Israel

Avigdor Lieberman has not always been skilful in representing Israel in the best light. However, his sometimes abrasive remarks are indicative of the often justifiable frustration of Israelis because of the incessant smear campaign being waged against Israel, and they play well to Liebermans domestic audience. The campaign did not begin recently, but it did reach a crescendo in recent weeks.
It's open season on Israel
By Israel Harel
Avigdor Lieberman is a nuisance - a nuisance to those who hide their heads in the sand and deny that a storm is raging around us. Lieberman broke official Israel's conspiracy of silence in the face of the worldwide smear campaign being waged by various media outlets and countless nonprofit organizations (including Israeli ones), which are preparing public opinion - and the governments that follow public opinion - to see the Jewish state as a virus that endangers world peace.
Only due to the uproar that Lieberman fomented did the public become aware of the anti-Israel zealotry of many of these nongovernmental organizations, which are financed, inter alia, by donations from Arab oil powers, huge western foundations like the Ford Foundation, countries such as Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and the European Union.
The assault on the Israel Defense Forces by a Swedish newspaper is part of a worldwide blood libel campaign. When this campaign's participants include organizations that present themselves as global guardians of human rights, it stops being merely absurd (the IDF traffics in organs and kills women and children waving white flags), and becomes another link in the chain of depredation.
Millions of people worldwide are deluged morning and evening with a flood of libelous op-eds and reports, broadcasts full of crude lies, and hate-filled caricatures. The language used to criticize the globe's worst tyrannies does not even come close to the hate-filled language used against Israel.
If a Swedish newspaper, albeit a tabloid, decided to publish this libel about organ trafficking, that means the author and the editor deem it conceivable that it really happened. If the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by an Israeli who urged a total boycott of his own country, there is only one possible conclusion: A global boycott of Israel would be perfectly legitimate.
Indeed, since the reports issued by Breaking the Silence (an Israeli organization) and Human Rights Watch (an international organization) include allegations of crimes against humanity committed by members of a nation that was itself a victim of such crimes just 70 years ago, it must be proper to impose a boycott. In the past, before the demonization had gained a foothold even in the serious press, no American paper would have dreamed of publishing an op-ed like this.
Lieberman's response in the affair of the Swedish paper was not the opening shot of a comprehensive campaign against the dehumanization of Israel. It seems doubtful that his statements will succeed in breaking the conspiracy of denial about the gravity of the problem, even within his own ministry. The Foreign Ministry, even if the minister assigns it this task, is not built - primarily due to lack of motivation and deep faith in the justice of Israel's cause - to wage a multipronged strategic campaign against the numerous tentacles of organizations whose main goal, and perhaps even their only one, is to bring about Israel's collapse. Fact: It is not the Foreign Ministry, with its hundreds of employees, that has gathered most of the information we have about these organizations, but NGO Monitor, a small nonprofit headed by Prof. Gerald Steinberg, which obtained this information via patient, diligent footwork.
Words, screamed Peace Now earlier this week, can kill. That is true. And what about the millions of words denouncing Israel that this organization, and others like it, export overseas, where they serve as weapons of propaganda against Israel? (In 2007, to take one example, the British government donated more than NIS 4 million to radical leftist organizations like Peace Now and Breaking the Silence in order to fund these words. And that is on top of the money from private donors, the European Union and various foundations.) Can these words not also kill?
As far as is known, Military Intelligence and the Mossad have not identified the globalization of anti-Israel hatred as a strategic threat. Nor has the "sextet" of key cabinet ministers ever dealt with this issue, even though each one of them personally understands that the delegitimization of Israel undermines the rest of the world's motivation to stand up to Iran's rulers over that country's nuclear program. Maybe now that the National Security Council, under Uzi Arad's leadership, is assuming both an authority and a strategic vision that it lacked before his arrival, there will be someone capable of correctly identifying the magnitude of the threat. But merely identifying it is not enough.
This ongoing, organized, global and completely unbridled campaign of demonization is liable (and who should know better than we?) to end in a new license for genocide - against us.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

US position on settlement freeze unclear

The US position on the settlement freeze is now totally unclear:

Crowley and other US officials denied Israeli media reports that Mitchell had agreed to leave East Jerusalem out of the agreement and settle for a nine- to 12-month freeze in the West Bank only that would also allow the completion of projects already under construction.

However, diplomats familiar with talks say that the administration has signaled it might be able to accept an "understanding" on East Jerusalem that would entail an Israeli promise not to take "any provocative actions" there.

Crowley also had these surprising comments:

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday that the US "position in these discussions remains unchanged," but he added that the US would be flexible on pre-negotiation conditions for all the parties involved.

"We put forward our ideas, publicly and privately, about what it will take for negotiations to be restarted, but ultimately it'll be up to the parties themselves, with our help, to determine whether that threshold has been met," Crowley said.

"Ultimately," he added, "this is not a process by which the United States will impose conditions on Israel, on the Palestinian Authority, on other countries," he added.

Hillary Clinton seemed to have had a quite different idea.


Ami Isseroff

US seen easing settlement halt demands

Aug. 28, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Obama administration appears to be backing down on its insistence that Israel halt all settlement activity as a condition for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.

While US officials insist their position on the matter has not changed, they are now hinting that a less blanket moratorium would be acceptable provided the Palestinians and Arab states agree.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday that the US "position in these discussions remains unchanged," but he added that the US would be flexible on pre-negotiation conditions for all the parties involved.

"We put forward our ideas, publicly and privately, about what it will take for negotiations to be restarted, but ultimately it'll be up to the parties themselves, with our help, to determine whether that threshold has been met," Crowley said.

"Ultimately," he added, "this is not a process by which the United States will impose conditions on Israel, on the Palestinian Authority, on other countries," he added.

The White House said Thursday it had nothing to add to Crowley's comments.

The administration's special Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, has been pressing Israel, the Palestinians and neighboring Arab nations to take specific confidence-building measures to lay the groundwork for a resumption in peace negotiations. The administration wants to have US President Barack Obama announce a breakthrough in the third week of September at or on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Getting Arab buy-in on such a deal will be difficult, particularly since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to resume negotiations with Israel until there is a full freeze on settlements. US officials said Thursday that they will continue to press Israel for as broad a suspension as possible.

But they also acknowledged that a compromise from the previous hard stance on settlements laid out by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may be necessary due to the equally firm line taken by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in recent talks with Mitchell.

Clinton said in May that Israel needed to apply a freeze on all new settlement construction, including so-called "natural growth" in existing projects in the West Bank. It would also apply to activity in east Jerusalem, notably the eviction of Palestinian families and demolition of Palestinian homes.

Mitchell met Netanyahu in London on Wednesday for talks that both sides said made unspecified "good progress" but did not produce an agreement on a freeze. Mitchell will hold follow-up talks next week with an Israeli delegation in the United States, although officials downplayed chances for a breakthrough.

Crowley and other US officials denied Israeli media reports that Mitchell had agreed to leave East Jerusalem out of the agreement and settle for a nine- to 12-month freeze in the West Bank only that would also allow the completion of projects already under construction.

However, diplomats familiar with talks say that the administration has signaled it might be able to accept an "understanding" on East Jerusalem that would entail an Israeli promise not to take "any provocative actions" there.


Continued (Permanent Link)

4% of Israeli Jews say Obama is pro-Israel

Israel is moving to the right and US is moving away from Israel. The big problem of the Obama peace initiative that everyone sees is that all the Israeli concessions would be futile, since there is no way to uproot Hamas and no way to get Hamas to agree to peace.

'4% of Israelis say Obama pro-Israeli'

Aug. 27, 2009

The number of Israelis who see US President Barack Obama's policies as pro-Israel has fallen to 4 percent, according to a Smith Research poll taken this week on behalf of The Jerusalem Post.

Fifty-one percent of Jewish Israelis consider Obama's administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, according to the survey, while 35% consider it neutral and 10% declined to express an opinion. The poll of 500 people representing a statistical model of the Jewish Israeli population had a margin of error of 4.5%.

A much-cited Post poll published on June 19 that put the first figure at 6% had been cited by top officials in both the White House and the Prime Minister's Office as the catalyst for recent American efforts to improve the American-Israeli relationship. But the new poll proves that those efforts have not improved Obama's reputation among Israelis.

The earlier poll, taken shortly after Obama reached out to the Muslim world in a landmark address in Cairo, found that 50% of those sampled considered the administration's policies more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli, and 36% said the policies were neutral. The remaining 8% did not express an opinion.

Obama's popularity among Israelis has been plummeting since a May 17 Post poll on the eve of a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama at the White House. In that poll, 31% labeled Obama pro-Israel, 14% considered him pro-Palestinian, 40% said he was neutral, and 15% declined to give an opinion.

The May poll found that Israelis' views of Obama's predecessor in the White House, George W. Bush, were nearly the opposite. Some 88% of Israelis considered Bush's administration pro-Israel, 7% said he was neutral and just 2% labeled him pro-Palestinian.

The new poll was taken on Monday and Tuesday, before reports that Obama had agreed to exclude Jerusalem from a deal with Netanyahu on a construction freeze and to allow construction of essential public buildings, such as schools, to continue in Judea and Samaria.

The poll asked Jewish Israelis whether they would support freezing settlement construction for a year as part of an American-brokered deal. Fifty percent said no, 41% said yes and 9% did not express an opinion.

The respondents' views on a settlement freeze followed closely the platforms of the parties they voted for in the March 10 election.

Among those who voted Likud, which opposed a settlement freeze during the campaign, 73% would oppose such a deal.

Two-thirds of Kadima voters said they supported a settlement freeze.

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

U.S. drops freeze in East Jerusalem

The question is, did the Palestinians drop the demand too?
Last update - 17:18 27/08/2009       
U.S. drops demand for Israel building freeze in East Jerusalem
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
BERLIN - The Obama administration has agreed to Israel's request to remove East Jerusalem from negotiations on the impending settlement freeze.
According to both Israeli officials and Western diplomats, U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has recognized the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot announce a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. The officials said the U.S. will not endorse new construction there, but would not demand Jerusalem publicly announce a freeze.
Netanyahu presented a proposal on Wednesday for resolving the ongoing Israeli-American dispute over construction in the settlements. In a meeting with Mitchell, Netanyahu suggested a temporary freeze, reportedly for nine months, on construction in the West Bank, a government source said.
Netanyahu also said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' reported willingness to meet with him was "a positive first step."
The Americans are slated to respond to Netanyahu's proposal at a meeting in Washington next week between Mitchell and two Israeli officials: Netanyahu's envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Mike Herzog.
Mitchell himself will return to Jerusalem in the second week of September with the goal of finalizing an agreement.
The new Israeli proposal will exclude some 2,500 housing units on which construction has already started.
Additionally, in special cases where it is necessary to keep "normal life," Netanyahu wants to be able to erect public buildings in the settlements - mainly kindergartens and schools.
Finally, Israel wants the freeze to have a clear "exit plan." In Israel's view, the freeze is a confidence-building measure that must be matched by reciprocal steps from the PA and Arab states. If these fail to materialize, Israel wants an American guarantee that it will not oppose renewed building.
Following their meeting, Mitchell and Netanyahu issued a brief joint statement saying that "good progress" had been made, and the talks would continue.
However, the statement also included that the two "agreed on the importance of restarting meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and working toward a comprehensive peace, and that all sides need to take concrete steps toward peace."
At his press conference, Netanyahu reiterated that good progress had been made at the meeting, but said some issues remained unresolved. The goal, he said, is "to strike a balance" that would meet the settlers' basic needs while also enabling peace talks to resume.
Responding to Palestinian reports that Abbas had expressed willingness to meet with him at next month's UN General Assembly session in New York, Netanyahu said that if Abbas "is behind this declaration, that would be progress. This is a positive thing, a positive first step."
Until now, Abbas has refused to meet with him unless he first imposes a total freeze on settlement construction.
Netanyahu said he is willing to discuss all the well-known final-status issues, such as Jerusalem, borders and the refugees, but also intends to raise issues of his own - primarily the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that any agreement explicitly declare the conflict over and bar any further claims.
"We also have core issues, and the issue of recognition is core, in my view," he said. "If we insist on the recognition, there will be a peace agreement."
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday for talks on efforts to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East.
The premier met with German head of state Horst Koehler on Wednesday, after talks with Mitchell in London.
On Netanyahu's agenda are garnering European support for a tougher stance against Iran and reaching a deal on settlement construction in the West Bank, the cessation of which is a key Palestinian precondition for going back to the negotiating table.
Netanyahu is due to meet German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the morning before being greeted by Merkel in the chancellery in the afternoon.
Merkel preceded the visit by calling for a greater readiness for compromise on Netanyahu's part, in an interview with German television.
Merkel told the N24 broadcaster on Wednesday that "we shouldn't let the window of opportunity pass," and renewed calls for the so-called two-state solution to be implemented.
"The time is absolutely right. Let us do everything to use it," Merkel said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Petition: Get the Red Cross to Visit Gilad Shalit

On the occasion of Gilad Shalit's birthday (August 28) we can make a small but meaningful gesture to tell the world that he is not forgotten, and to uphold the "international legitimacy" which is often cited in vain by anti-Israel groups. Tell the International Red Cross to fight for the right to vist Shalit, guaranteed to every prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention. Please Sign the petition started by the Jewish Agency:
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Two lies about Israel and Peace

We can add to these two lies from Sultan Knish, the American delusion that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will solve all the problems in the Middle East.
The Big Israel Lie

There are two interconnected lies that reside at the heart of any American discussion about Israel. The first lie is that the road to peace in the Middle East lies through Israel. The second lie is that Israel controls American policy toward itself. Those lies are not the product of ignorance or misunderstanding, they are the product of an effective propaganda campaign by the unofficial suit and tie spokesmen of the Saudi lobby who dominate American policy in the Middle East. The goal of that campaign has been to make Israel seem like the axis on which the Middle East and America turn, in order to put Israel on the firing line. And it is a campaign that has been wickedly successful up until now. 
Let's take a moment to examine those lies now.
Within the Middle East, Israel is physically insignificant. At 8500 square miles, Israel could not just fit comfortably into Pennsylvania, it is 1/5th the size of Jordan, 1/8th the size of Syria and 1/12th the size of Egypt. Simply put, Israel is smaller in land and population than every country that borders it. If you looked at the Middle East from space, you could easily put a fingernail across all of Israel.
Israel has beaten all of these countries in wars and has the best military in the region, but that is because if it didn't, it wouldn't exist. Israel's military is not the product of a will to conquer, but of an attempt to maintain its own territorial integrity and protect its citizens from attack. Israel's neighbors have never needed to work as hard or spend as much to maintain their own armed forces, because they don't truly need them. For them a strong army is not a survival strategy, it is optional.
All those who rant endlessly about Israel's settlements in the West Bank and Gaza as proof of Israel's desire to seize land, forget that Jordan annexed the West Bank only two years after its forces captured it in the 1948 War of Independence. Israel has not annexed the West Bank even after more than 40 years, and has continued to offer it in peace negotiations year after year. That is not the policy of an aggressive land hungry regime. It is not the behavior of a country that keeps its neighbors up late at night. While Israel's leaders have spent over half a century staying up late at night worrying about a war, Israel's neighbors know that war is their choice.
But what this means in practice is that Israel has very little influence beyond its own borders. With a small size, no expansionist program beyond its own territory, and as one of only two non-Arab states and the only non-Muslim state in the region... Israel's impact on the rest of the Middle East is surprisingly limited. To get a proper picture of Israel's role in the Middle East, imagine plopping Singapore in the middle of a wartorn part of Africa. It can be attacked, it can fight back, but it cannot have any real local influence.
That is why Israel remains an outsider in the political trends and turmoil of the region. The shift between Arab Nationalism and Islamism, the coups and the bloodletting between Shiite and Sunni, are all events that Israel watches from a distance. Israel is not a political participant in the ideological conflicts of the Middle East, because it does not share a common religion or ethnicity or much of anything with its neighbors. Its diplomatic relations are primarily formal, not intimate. As a result Israel has very little political influence on the Middle East, and what little influence it has, is on its immediate neighbors, such as Lebanon and Jordan, who are fairly small on the scale of the Middle East as well.
Furthermore Israel and its neighbors are in part of the Middle East that has become largely irrelevant because of its lack of oil. While Egypt and Jordan were once considered major regional players, both have long ago been sidelined by the oil rich Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE. None of these countries share a common border with Israel. While diplomats and pundits obsess over the West Bank and Gaza, what happens there has virtually no impact on what happens where the oil and power lie.
Not only does the road to peace in the Middle East not run through Israel, it doesn't even run anywhere near Israel.  A quick look at a map shows you just how off the beaten path Israel is when it comes to the true token of global power, oil. And it is not some Elders of Zion fantasy of the Israel lobby that defines global power to the Middle East, it is who has the oil. And  while Israel has plenty of olive oil, it has none of the kind of oil that the world is interested in.
Since the 70's, the Middle East's real power struggle has shifted to the oil rich states, to Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Iran and Iraq chose to build up their armies, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states instead built up their political influence in Washington D.C. and let the United States fight for them. This strategy paid off in the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom when Kuwait was liberated and Saudi Arabia got Saddam's boot off its throat. Israel was never at risk of anything more than bomb blasts and rocket shelling from Saddam. By contrast Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had their survival at stake.
With Saddam gone, Iran and Saudi Arabia are funding Sunni and Shiite insurgencies within Iraq in order to seize Saddam's oil. As a fallback position in case Iran manages to swallow Iraq and then moves on to them, the Sheiks and Princes continue buying huge stakes in American and European companies and property, in case they suddenly find themselves having to take a quick plane trip away from the region.
Remove Israel from the region, as so many diplomats and pundits would like to, and this picture remains exactly the same. How influential is Israel in the region then, and why does the path to Middle Eastern peace run through it? The answer is that it doesn't. Some diplomats choose to blame America's alliance with Israel for its image problems, but alliances are dictated by interests. American's alliance with Israel, much like Saudi Arabia's alliance with America, are the products of interests, not emotions. Iran's hostility to America is the product of religious hostility, historical animosity and its own desire to grab as much of the Middle East for itself as it can.
Let's turn to Washington then. The myth of the All-Powerful Israel lobby has been extensively marketed for decades. But let's actually take a look at how powerful this lobby is.
If the so-called Israel Lobby is so powerful, why after all these decades, has the United States failed to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital? Presidential candidates routinely visit AIPAC to promise that Jerusalem will be recognized as Israel's capitol. Bill Clinton did it, Bush promised that it would be one of his first acts in office, Obama implied it. And once in office, not only did they not keep the promise, but they routinely signed waivers to prevent Jerusalem from being treated as Israel's capital.
There is only one nation whose capital is not recognized by the United States. That nation is also the one who the wisdom of the mainstream media and many of the suit and tie unofficial members of the Saudi lobby, would have you believe controls America. The narrative of the powerful Israel lobby before whom everyone in D.C. trembles cannot be reconciled with this simple fact, or with many others.
For example, in every peace agreement completely under US mediation, Israel has given up land and never gained any permanent territory. If Israel were as expansionist and as in control of the United States government, should it not have been the other way around? Yet at Camp David, Carter pressured Begin into turning over land that was several times the size of Israel. Carter did not pressure Sadat to turn over land to Israel. The last four US administrations have pressured Israel into a peace process with the PLO that required Israel to transfer a sizable portion of land to their control. At no point in time were Egypt and Jordan expected to do the same. Does this sound like the product of an all-powerful Israel lobby.
Defenders of the "Israel Runs Washington" meme will argue that the US should have pressured Israel to do much more. As if Israel could do anymore without committing suicide. But then why hasn't the United States pressured Turkey to stop its occupation of Cyprus or demanded that Spain create a state for the Basque? Either the Turkish Lobby or the Spanish Lobby is far more powerful than the Israel Lobby, or Israel is singled out because of pressure from a much stronger lobby, the Saudi Lobby.
What the "Israel Lobby" mainly deals with is the back and forth arms trade between the United States and Israel, partially packaged as foreign aid, and non-binding congressional resolutions that have as much force as a municipal resolution naming Tuesday, Global Twig Day. Most congressmen identify as Pro-Israel, mainly because it's easy, costs them nothing and lets them pick up a few votes here and there. It is easy enough to vote on or co-sponsor the occasional pro-Israel resolution that does nothing but gather dust in the record cabinets, because it has no actual application. It is so ridiculously easy that even Barack Obama has done it. And it's so meaningless that no President takes them seriously. Any measure that actually has legislative force is routinely crafted so that the President can waive it or set it aside if it interferes with administration policy. Which is exactly what happens much of the time.
As a result most congressmen can mention a pro-Israel bill that they voted on or co-sponsored around election time to gullible Jewish audiences who fail to understand that the 2012 Israel Friendship Act or the 2043 No Money Given to Terrorists, We Really Mean It This Time Act, has as much practical utility as a cell phone in the Sahara. And few of these same congressmen are actually pro-Israel when it matters. They're pro-Israel when it's an exercise in public relations. That is not what a powerful lobby's grip on a government looks like. If you want to see that, take a look at the lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry or the cable industry. Or the Saudi lobby, which doesn't waste time holding rubber chicken dinners for politicians, but instead has built a massive contact base of unofficial suit and tie lobbyists, former politicians, diplomats and journalists who are expert at peddling the Saudi agenda.

To determine the power of a lobby, you look at what it can do when it matters, and when the odds are against it. The one direct collision between the Pro-Israel lobby and the Saudi lobby over the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia, ended with a Saudi victory, despite overall public and congressional opposition to the sale. The Pro-Israel lobby was vocal and public. The Saudi lobby was in control behind the scenes. And just as it had when Saudi Arabia took over ARAMCO, and forced the United States to pay for it too... the Saudi Lobby won.
That is what a lobby that controls Washington D.C. does. It doesn't put out a nameplate. It doesn't waste time on rubber chicken dinners. It instead funds a host of organizations officially headed up by Americans with influence and power in Washington D.C. It gives them the funds to cultivate ties, to build think tanks and to build relationships behind the scenes. It doesn't care whether it's dealing with Republicans or Democrats. Come one, come all. We can put you to use too. And it makes sure that nobody pays very much attention to what is going on. Instead it dips into well worn propaganda to spread the idea that the Jews control Washington D.C., knowing that there will be plenty of eager takers to polish and pass on the meme.
If you look at what some of the most powerful people in the last few administrations had in common, the simple answer is oil. Saudi oil. The woman in control of foreign policy in the second half of the Bush Administration, Condoleeza Rice, did not have her name on an Israeli oil tanker, but a Chevron oil tanker, the former parent company of ARAMCO. The man quietly dominating US foreign policy under Obama, James L. Jones did not serve on the board of directors of Manischewitz, he served on the same Chevron board of directors that Rice had formerly served on. And Rice did everything but outright appoint him as her replacement.
But of course no one could possibly believe a wild conspiracy theory like that, not when the obvious answer is that the Israel Lobby controls Washington D.C. and keeps demanding that administration after administration force it to hand over land to its worst enemies. And for some reason forces successive administrations to not recognize its own capital city, encourages them to constantly threaten it and prevent it from defending itself.
The Pro-Israel Lobby is a charade, a showpiece for people with too much time on their hands and too little subtlety. If half the claims about the Israel Lobby were true, Israel would be four times the size it is today, with secure borders and no terrorist problem. Instead Israel has been pressured like no other country has, to appease and accommodate terrorists at the expense of the lives of its citizens, its national security and even its survival... by a foreign policy crafted to fulfill Saudi interests.
The Big Israel Lie is that Israel is powerful in Washington and mighty in the Middle East. The real truth is that Israel is a tiny country that commands emotional affinity from a limited percentage of Jews and Christians, whose diplomacy abroad is clumsy, and whose regional influence is small, whose military is handicapped by liberal handwringing and whose leaders would rather negotiate than fight... until there is no other choice.
This lie is meant to make Israel seem strong, in order to place it at the center of every problem and turn it into the nail that needs to be hammered down for everything to stand straight. But the easiest way to clear up the lie is to simply look at the reality of the Middle East and see that Israel vanishes beneath a single fingernail.

Continued (Permanent Link)

No to Boycotts and Divestment

Larry Derfner is quite correct in identifying the Boycott Israel movement for what it is: A movement for peace without Israel, not peace with Israel. Neve Gordon's boycott call, actually expressing sentiments he has held for years, exposed him for what he is in more than one way. Apart from being an enemy of Zionism, there is really something more than a bit weird about someone who says "boycott me, please boycott me!" Is Gordon into S&M, too?
Rattling the Cage: The Zionist Left's red lines
Aug. 26, 2009
There's a lot I agree with, a lot I identify with, in Neve Gordon's recent Los Angeles Times op-ed "Boycott Israel." Like the Ben-Gurion University professor, I realize that Israel has become so right-wing that it's not going to end the occupation on its own. While I haven't lost all hope, as he has, that the Obama administration will force Israel's hand, I can't help seeing that Barack Obama and his team are wilting by the day.
Like Gordon, I look at my two sons and dread the future that's waiting for them in this country unless there's a radical change, which is seeming more and more unlikely.
But while I pretty much go along with his reading of where things stand, I want nothing to do with the solution he's chosen - throwing in with the Palestinian/international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. By doing so, he's joining a movement that is not out to "save Israel from itself," as he writes, but one that simply hates Israel's guts, that sees it as 100 percent guilty and the Palestinians as 100% innocent.
He's standing up for a cause that's rotten and destructive.
SUPPORTING THE BDS campaign is a very, very far cry from what the Zionist Left, myself included, have been doing: urging the Obama administration to pressure Israel into trading land for peace. The difference is that the Obama administration, like all of its predecessors and like the Zionist Left, is anti-occupation but pro-Israel. There may never have been a country that was as good a friend to another country as the US has been to this one. When we call on Washington to pressure Israel into ending the occupation, we do so knowing that Washington is not going to take any step that would damage this country's security.
We do it knowing that Obama and his team, even if they wouldn't put it in these terms, really do want to save Israel from itself.
But the BDS campaign? The 2008 "Bilbao initiative" that Gordon endorses, has as its stated goal the pressuring of Israel in a "gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity," whatever the hell that means.
Reading the Bilbao initiative, I don't see anything "gradual" or "sensitive" about the punishments its authors would visit on Israel, though I think I understand what they mean by "sustainable."
I think they mean "permanent."
The folks at Bilbao didn't just denounce the Israeli occupation. No, their initiative "exposes Israel as a state which is built on the massive ethnic cleansing of 1948." Since then, the indictment goes on, Israel has been "promoting exclusively Jewish immigration while barring the Palestinians' right to return."
The offense goes way, way beyond the West Bank settlements and the siege of Gaza - it's Israel's "regime," it's Israel's whole "system." On both sides of the Green Line. "Israel's regime is a system that uniquely combines apartheid, settler-colonialism and belligerent occupation."
The folks at Bilbao, by the way, included not only "Spanish solidarity groups" and "Palestinian civil society networks." "Also," the authors point out, "the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) was strongly present and endorsed this document."
Thank you so much. Somehow I have a feeling that if these people heard that they were out to "save Israel from itself," they'd be awfully insulted.
No, unlike the Obama team's approach, the BDS campaign isn't about tough love for Israel. It's about abuse.
Neve Gordon, like others in the movement, cites the campaign against apartheid South Africa as a model, a precedent for using strong, unpleasant medicine to heal a very sick, obstinate patient. Without going into all the differences - as well as the similarities - between apartheid and the occupation, I want to show briefly why the BDS campaign against apartheid South Africa was just, and why the one against Israel is just wrong.
The anti-apartheid movement's goal was absolutely fair to all South Africans: one person, one vote. When that goal was achieved, the country was cured.
But what is the goal of the BDS movement, aside from the "right of return" to Israel for 4.5 million Palestinian refugees? It's definitely not the two-state solution, not if one of those states is Zionist. So is the goal a binational state on the basis of one person, one vote? Under which government - a coalition of Likud, Kadima, Hamas and Fatah? Somehow I can't see it.
IT WAS one thing to expect South African whites to live in a country led by Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. It's another thing to expect Israeli Jews to live in a country led, or even jointly led, by Hamas and Fatah.
The logic of the BDS movement leads to this end. From his op-ed, I don't think this is what Neve Gordon wants, but this is what he's ended up supporting.
Like him, I think "Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures." There are possibilities. For instance, I like the one just proposed by Salam Fayad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority - to unilaterally begin building a state in the West Bank right now, with an eye to declaring independence in two years.
I can support that. I can support anything that furthers the goal of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and Arab east Jerusalem, alongside a Jewish, democratic Israel.
I won't support anything else because there is no other just goal.
I don't have much hope left that it will be achieved, but if I ever become completely hopeless, utterly despairing, then the right thing for me to do, politically, would be to leave this country. That would be the honorable decision.
Joining a movement that advertises its thoroughgoing malice for Israel, and that means to wreck it, not save it, is dishonorable.
This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Liebler: It could be worse

Of course, if, as Isi Liebler warns, Obama springs an unfavorable final settlement proposal on Israel without warning, it will be worse. Depending on the proposal, it could be very bad. On the other hand, he didn't do it yet, did he? Hope for the best, be propared for the worst.
Candidly speaking: There may be worse to come
Aug. 25, 2009
President Obama's naïve efforts to appease the Arabs by bullying and distancing the United States from Israel has backfired. However despite increasing unease extending to some of Obama's most fervent supporters, the administration has yet to signal any change in policy.
The futility of trying to appease tyrannies is evident everywhere; the thuggish behavior of the Iranian regime toward its own people makes a farce of Obama's efforts to reason with Ahmadinejad; in response to unilateral US overtures to the Syrians, President Assad visited the Iranian president, congratulated him on his bogus reelection and declared that their alliance had never been stronger; the North Koreans displayed utter contempt for Obama's friendly outreach; Arabs states all responded negatively to Obama's entreaties to provide a few crumbs of recognition in return for Israeli concessions; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was publicly humiliated by the Saudi Foreign Minister, who insisted there was nothing to negotiate unless Israel accepted all Arab demands.
The Palestinian response was even more noxious. Clearly emboldened, the Fatah General Assembly displayed contempt for any initiative that could further the peace process. Their intransigence again demonstrated the absurdity of the notion that this corrupt and duplicitous leadership could be a genuine peace partner. There were even elements of surrealism when the Fatah Assembly unanimously accused Israel of having assassinated Arafat and provided standing applause for a mass murderer.
They decreed that unless Israel acceded to all their demands, no further negotiations would take place and they could renew the "armed struggle." Far from encouraging Arab moderation, Obama's tough approach to Israel simply bolstered the hardliners.
The facts on the ground today make prospects for peace more remote than ever. The only clear message emerging from the Fatah Congress is that, as with Hamas, elimination of Jewish sovereignty in the region remains its ultimate objective. Were that not so, Mahmoud Abbas would have accepted Ehud Olmert's offer, which virtually granted him all his territorial demands and even hinted at a compromise over the Arab right of return.
Obama's advisers must have been bitterly disappointed when their diktats against Israel backfired. Indeed, their one-sided demands and bullying tactics can take credit for having created a rare consensus among the Israeli public, which today overwhelmingly supports Netanyahu.
To add to Obama's problems and despite predictions to the contrary, American Jewish leaders have begun to openly challenge some of his policies. There is a growing unease even among some Jewish Democrats that Obama is betraying the unequivocal undertakings he made during the elections to faithfully preserve the alliance with Israel.
This was exemplified in remarks made by Howard Berman, the influential Democratic chair of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, who in a closed meeting with Jewish leaders explicitly criticized the Obama administration's pressure on Israel over settlements. Berman said Abbas was now "waiting for the US to present him Israel on a platter". Steny Hoyer, the Democratic House majority leader visiting Israel, made similar comments at a Jerusalem news conference.
OBAMA MUST also have been stunned when his friend and loyal supporter Alan Solow, the Chairman of the Presidents Conference representing 52 major American Jewish organizations, condemned his demands to limit Jews settlements in Jerusalem and its suburbs.
In a full page New York Times advert Abe Foxman of the Anti Defamation League stated "The problem is not settlements, it's Arab rejection...Mr. President, it's time to stop pressuring our vital friend and ally". David Harris of the American Jewish Committee expressed similar feelings to a Congressional group. Whilst usually ritually reiterating their belief that Obama would not abandon Israel, Jewish leaders have begun openly criticizing the administration's behavior toward the Jewish state.
Obama's standing with American Jewish activists plummeted further when, contemptuously dismissing a rare virtually unanimous Jewish protest, he personally participated in the ceremony honoring former Irish president and 2001 UN Durban hate-fest convener Mary Robinson with the highest human rights award in the US. This was perceived as yet another manifestation of Obama's new love affair with the UN and its anti-Israel affiliates.
It must also have been disappointing for Obama's Jewish advisers promoting the J Street line when they became aware that despite expensive media promotions, opinion polls indicated that most Jewish activists remained contemptuous of the left-wing Jewish fringe groups urging Obama to force Israel to make further concessions.
However, as of now, while continuing to avoid any initiative which could irritate the Arabs, the US is maintaining its heavy-handed approach toward its erstwhile ally, Israel. While a face-saving compromise may soon eventuate, appreciating the unprecedented backing he currently enjoys from his constituency, Netanyahu would be unwise to capitulate to Obama's demands.
Alas, irrespective of the settlement issues, there may be worse to come from this administration. After Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's recent warm meeting with Obama in Washington, he effusively praised the policy changes introduced by the president and hinted of further impending "positive" US initiatives.
There are also chilling predictions that without prior consultations with Israel, Obama intends to unilaterally submit a US plan for a comprehensive settlement at the UN or elsewhere. It is rumored that this plan would use as a starting point the irresponsible offers made to Abbas by Olmert during the death throes of his tenure - offers which would unquestionably have been repudiated by the Knesset and people of Israel in a referendum. Such a move would be an unprecedented betrayal of a long-standing ally.
UNTIL SUCH time as a genuine Palestinian peace partner emerges, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cannot be expected to create a miraculous magic plan which would bring about a comprehensive final settlement. But his task now must be to preempt a disastrous imposed settlement by the Americans.
In doing so he must he speedily identify the red lines which his government, backed by the vast majority of Israelis, would never contemplate crossing.
To this end he should also marshal the support of the mainstream American Jewish leadership and encourage them to convey to their president that they too have red lines. They have already begun to signal that they will not remain passive if their government attempts to unilaterally impose a solution which could endanger the Jewish state.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ted Kennedy: Friend of the Jews and Israel

The late Edward Kennedy is remembered as a friend of the Jews and Zionism. According to JTA:
Kennedy "was one of the earliest, strongest champions on behalf of Soviet Jewry," said Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia. "He was always proactive and didn't wait for NCSJ and other organizations to come to him -- he was always looking to see where he could make a difference."
In his 2006 book, "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror," Natan Sharansky specifically mentions Kennedy as the first Western politician to meet with refuseniks "in a midnight meeting that was kept secret from the KGB until the very last moment."
And Levin noted that whenever Kennedy met with Soviet officials, in Washington or in the Soviet Union, he would bring lists of those he wanted to see released.
"He never forgot we were talking about individuals and families," Levin said.
Kennedy also will be remembered as a strong champion of Israel. Jewish organizational officials noted that he was a stalwart supporter of foreign aid, opposed arms sales to Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, and was a strong backer of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also publicly rebuked President George H.W. Bush when he linked settlements to U.S. loan guarantees for the emigration of Soviet Jews, and was a leading voice in speaking out against the Arab boycott of Israel.
Israeli official rushed to praise Kennedy, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the senator "an American patriot" and "a great friend of Israel," according to media reports.
And Israeli President Shimon Peres said Kennedy's death was "a very big loss to every sensitive and thinking person the world over."
"Kennedy was a clear friend of Israel the whole way, and in every place that he could help us he did help," he added.
The late senator drew praise from a broad range of Jewish organizations, including both the Orthodox Union and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. They noted that he had worked on a vast array of domestic issues over his 47 years on Capitol Hill, from religious liberty bills such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to his efforts on children's health insurance.
YNET tells us that AIPAC published this encomium:
"During his more than four decades in the US Senate, Sen. Kennedy consistently supported American assistance to Israel, particularly during the Jewish state's most trying times, in the wake of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War,"
And YNET continues:
ADL National Chair Abe Foxman also issued a statement of mourning that praised Kennedy for his "leadership on issues of voting reform, religious freedom, civil rights, hate crime protections and immigration reform."
"He fought against anti-Semitism, racism, prejudice and bigotry of all kinds. He was a staunch supporter of Israel and an outspoken advocate for Soviet Jews," wrote Foxman on behalf of the ADL.
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris commented that the late senator was a true friend of the Jewish people who could always be relied upon. "His support for the well-being of the State of Israel was always firm, as was his solidarity with vulnerable Jewish communities, particularly those persecuted in the former Soviet Union," said Harris.
Andrea Weinstein and Rabbi Steve Gutow, respectively chair and president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs said of the senator, "Within the Jewish community, Senator Kennedy will always be remembered as a friend of Israel and a supporter of Middle East peace. As an advocate for keeping our nation's borders open and fighting injustices around the world, he was a leading voice of support for Soviet Jewry. We join Senator Kennedy's family and a grateful nation in celebrating his life and mourning the loss of one of our greatest leaders."
And from CNN we have this poignant story of Kennedy's courage and attention to the needs of individuals:
 BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- She was called "the littlest refusenik," one of the many Soviet Jews denied permission to leave the Soviet Union because her father had been exposed to government secrets.
But the case of Jessica Katz was special because she was a baby born with a nutritional deficiency that stopped her from growing. She was a tiny baby dying in a Moscow hospital, getting weaker by the day.
It was U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy who, her parents say, eventually saved her life.
Jessica was born in Moscow in 1977 with malabsorption syndrome, which prevented her from digesting food or milk properly. All she needed was baby formula, but it wasn't available in the Soviet Union.
The Soviet doctors couldn't save her. Jessica's parents, Boris and Natalya, were desperate.
Jessica's grandmother had immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, with two of her sons and was campaigning to get her baby granddaughter out of the Soviet Union.
At first she helped urge American tourists to take baby formula to Moscow for the Katz family, and for a little while, it worked. It seemed to bring Jessica back from the brink. Video Watch more of the story of "the littlest refusenik" »
Don't Miss
    * In Depth: Edward M. Kennedy
    * Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy dies after cancer battle
But it wasn't enough. The Katz family knew they needed a permanent solution -- access to doctors in the West.
Eventually, the grandmother's campaign reached Kennedy's office, and the senator decided to step in. In September 1978, Kennedy traveled to Moscow for a meeting with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to urge him to let the Katz family -- or at the very least, Jessica -- leave the country immediately.
"If not for his intervention, I would have been arrested very soon [afterward] and it would have been too late for him to intervene," said Katz, recalling the fate of many of his Jewish friends. "So he saved Jessica, he saved me, he saved the rest our family."
The first the Katzes knew of it was late one night when they got a mysterious phone call. The caller invited Boris Katz to a midnight meeting with an unnamed guest -- and in Soviet Russia, Katz didn't dare ask who it was.
"You know in the Soviet Union not to ask too many questions over the phone," he said.
Katz arrived at the meeting and, much to his shock, in walked Kennedy.
"A bunch of KGB men came with him into the room and he just turned around and told the KGB men, 'Go away,'" Katz recalled. "This was clearly the first [time] ever I witnessed something like this. Here the all-powerful KGB men wanted to be at the meeting and the senator just told them to go away, and they looked at each other and just left. And that was, again, a powerful scene."
Kennedy spoke to other refuseniks already gathered in the room before pulling Katz aside.
"He said that earlier he had a meeting in the Kremlin with the Soviet leaders and that he specifically asked to allow us to leave the country for medical reasons," Katz said. "He said that they said yes."
At first, Katz said, he didn't believe him, sure that the Soviet authorities would find a way to scupper the plans. Katz went home and told his wife, who also didn't believe it, he said.
The next morning, a friend called Katz to say he heard Kennedy on the Voice of America radio network listing the names of people leaving the Soviet Union. The Katz family was on the list, the friend said.
Despite the report, however, the Soviet authorities denied it, Katz recalls.
"'We are telling you that this is not the case,'" he remembers them saying. "But this was just part of the game that they played."
About three weeks later, with no fanfare, a card arrived in the mail telling the Katz family to pick up their visa. They now had their ticket out of the country.
The exit wasn't straightforward -- the Katzes' second daughter, Gabriella, was born two days before they were due to leave, so they postponed their exit by five days. And they had to stop over in Vienna, Austria, where they were met by a Kennedy aide for the final leg of their trip.
On landing in Boston, Kennedy was the first person they met. They gave each other a big hug, Katz said.
"Jessica certainly would not have made it if not for his contribution, if not for him taking on the case, getting interested in the case, patiently talking to the Soviet authorities," Katz told CNN. "It was lucky for us. It saved the baby's life and created new life for Natalya and me and our children."
Kennedy's help for the family didn't end there. He helped Boris Katz, who had worked with computers, find a job at a computer software company. Today, Katz works at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is the principal research scientist at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
"He did it because he wanted to help," Katz told CNN. "I think that is what he does -- did -- for many other people. I went to a number of events where other people whom he helped gave various speeches and I learned many more cases [where] he helped people because he likes to help people. It is his job to help people."
Today, little Jessica Katz is 31 years old. She got engaged last year, on the same weekend Kennedy's cancer diagnosis was announced to the public.
Health Library
Inspired by Kennedy's life of public service, Jessica Katz works at finding housing for the homeless in New York City. She says she has no choice but to look after those less fortunate than she is, because Kennedy proved to her how much it means, and that it can work.
Jessica Katz lacks the cynicism about the government that many others in her generation may have. Kennedy, she said, proved that some politicians have a desire to accomplish good things and fight injustice.
"He saved my life. He could have spent his time doing anything," Jessica Katz said. "He's from the fanciest, most powerful family in Massachusetts, and probably in the country, and he decided to spend his time helping out me and my family."
That has instilled in her a deep sense of public service, she said. And that may be the best thing Kennedy has left behind.
"That that would be his largest, biggest part of his legacy -- as someone who cared deeply about people, who felt, I think, very deeply people's suffering and wanted to alleviate it and wanted to help," Jessica Katz said. "And I am pretty confident that this is how he will be remembered. He was an extraordinary individual and this is how he will stay, certainly in our memories and the memories of millions of others."
Ted Kennedy was one of ours.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian Authority chief Islamic Judge: Jerusalem was never inhabited by Jews!

Is this a "narrative" or psychopathological confabulation, and where do we draw the line?

PA judge: Jews have no history in J'lem

Aug. 27, 2009
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Palestinian Authority's chief Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, said on Wednesday that there was no evidence to back up claims that Jews had ever lived in Jerusalem or that the Temple ever existed.

Tamimi claimed that Israeli archeologists had "admitted" that Jerusalem was never inhabited by Jews.

Tamimi's announcement came in response to statements made earlier this week by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said that Jerusalem "is not a settlement," and that "the Jews built it 3,000 years ago."

"Netanyahu's claims are baseless and untrue," said Tamimi, the highest religious authority in the PA. "Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic city and it always has been so."

Tamimi claimed that all excavation work conducted by Israel after 1967 have "failed to prove that Jews had a history or presence in Jerusalem or that their ostensible temple had ever existed."

He condemned Netanyahu and "all Jewish rabbis and extremist organizations" as liars because of their assertion that Jerusalem was a Jewish city.

Tamimi accused Israel of distorting the facts and forging history "with the aim of erasing the Arab and Islamic character of Jerusalem." He also accused Israel of launching an "ethnic cleansing" campaign to squeeze Arabs out of the city.

"By desecrating its holy sites, expelling its Arab residents and demolishing their homes and confiscating their lands and building settlements in Jerusalem, Israel is seeking, through the use of weapons, to turn it into a Jewish city," he said. "This is a flagrant violation of all religious, legal, moral and human values."

In another development, Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Wednesday rejected the political platform of PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.

The platform, which was published on Tuesday, pledges that the Fayad government would work toward establishing a de facto Palestinian state within two years even if no agreement was reached with Israel. The platform talks about peaceful resistance against Israeli "occupation." The two Islamic groups said in response that the only way to establish a state was through "armed struggle." They said that Fayad's plan was unrealistic and unclear, adding that it would be impossible to establish a state "under occupation."

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Obama's Confusion

Keep in mind where this article was published. It is not the work of a "neocon Zionist," in the pay of the "Tel Aviv government." It is published in Beirut.  The author tells us:
As the president's accelerated pullout from Iraq begins to look increasingly ill-thought-out, as his engagement of Iran and Syria falters, as Arab-Israeli peace looks more elusive than ever, and as Americans express growing doubts about the war in Afghanistan, Obama is discovering that personal charisma is not enough to alter the realities of a Middle East that has whittled down better men than he...
Engagement of Iran and Syria has also come up short, though a breakthrough remains possible. However, there was always something counterintuitive in lowering the pressure on Iran in the hope that this would generate progress in finding a solution to its nuclear program. Engagement is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end among countless others. Where the Obama administration erred was in not seeing how dialogue would buy Iran more time to advance its nuclear projects, precisely what the Iranians wanted, while breaking the momentum of international efforts to force Tehran to concede something – for example temporary suspension of uranium enrichment. For Obama to rebuild such momentum today seems virtually impossible, when the US itself has made it abundantly clear that it believes war is a bad idea.
Attacking Iran is indeed a bad idea, but in the poker game he has been playing with Tehran, Obama didn't need to show all of his cards. He's virtually folded over Iraq, is stumbling in Afghanistan, and does not occupy himself very much with Lebanon, all places where the Iranians can and are hurting the Americans. By placing most of his chips on engagement, the president has failed to develop a more multifaceted strategy while relinquishing other forms of coercion that could have been effective in Washington's bargaining with the Islamic Republic.
Not "Zionist propaganda" but common sense that is obvious to everyone in the Middle East. It is not the fact that Obama cannot walk on water that disturbs us. It is the fact that he doesn't seem to have the sense to come in out of the rain. .
Ami Isseroff  
Obama's Mideast vision: Confusion
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, August 27, 2009
There is great discomfort these days among those who backed Barack Obama's "new" approach to the Middle East when he took office 10 months ago. That shouldn't surprise us. Everything about the president's shotgun approach to the region, his desire to overhaul all policies from the George W. Bush years simultaneously, without a cohesive strategy binding his actions together, was always going to let the believers down.
As the president's accelerated pullout from Iraq begins to look increasingly ill-thought-out, as his engagement of Iran and Syria falters, as Arab-Israeli peace looks more elusive than ever, and as Americans express growing doubts about the war in Afghanistan, Obama is discovering that personal charisma is not enough to alter the realities of a Middle East that has whittled down better men than he.
For the US president, the clearest articulation of his approach to the region was his speech in Cairo last June. However, there was always more mood to that address than substance. The president put out a wish-list of American objectives, padded with reassurances and self-criticism, but there was no solid core to what he said – a discernible sense of the values and overriding political ambitions the United States was building toward. As Obama himself admitted, no single speech could answer all the complex questions the Middle East has tossed up. However, American behavior on the ground has made things no easier to understand, which is why regional uncertainties are turning to bite the administration in the leg.
For example, what is the policy in Iraq? In recent weeks, following the American military withdrawal from Iraqi cities, the upsurge in devastating suicide attacks has threatened to reverse years of efforts by Washington to stabilize the country. Ultimately, Obama's priority can be summed up in one word, reflecting his psychological hesitation to commit to an enterprise that he associates, in a dangerously personalized way, with his predecessor. That word is "withdrawal," and Obama described his Iraqi policy this way in Cairo: "Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own."
Those were noble thoughts, but how do they square with other American concerns, such as the containment of Iran, the avoidance of sectarian conflict that might engulf the region, the stability of oil supplies, and much else? Obama feels that an America forever signaling its desire to go home will make things better by making America more likable. That's not how the Middle East works. Politics abhor a vacuum, and as everyone sees how eager the US is to leave, the more they will try to fill the ensuing vacuum to their advantage, and the more intransigent they will be when Washington seeks political solutions to prepare its getaway. That explains the upsurge of bombings in Iraq lately, and it explains why the Taliban feel no need to surrender anything in Afghanistan.
Engagement of Iran and Syria has also come up short, though a breakthrough remains possible. However, there was always something counterintuitive in lowering the pressure on Iran in the hope that this would generate progress in finding a solution to its nuclear program. Engagement is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end among countless others. Where the Obama administration erred was in not seeing how dialogue would buy Iran more time to advance its nuclear projects, precisely what the Iranians wanted, while breaking the momentum of international efforts to force Tehran to concede something – for example temporary suspension of uranium enrichment. For Obama to rebuild such momentum today seems virtually impossible, when the US itself has made it abundantly clear that it believes war is a bad idea.
Attacking Iran is indeed a bad idea, but in the poker game he has been playing with Tehran, Obama didn't need to show all of his cards. He's virtually folded over Iraq, is stumbling in Afghanistan, and does not occupy himself very much with Lebanon, all places where the Iranians can and are hurting the Americans. By placing most of his chips on engagement, the president has failed to develop a more multifaceted strategy while relinquishing other forms of coercion that could have been effective in Washington's bargaining with the Islamic Republic.
On Syria, the US has been more steadfast, particularly in trying to deny Damascus the means to reimpose its will in Lebanon. However, the Assad regime has shown no signs of breaking away from Iran, a major US incentive in re-engaging with the Syrians, even as it has facilitated suicide attacks in Iraq and encouraged Hamas' intransigence in inter-Palestinian negotiations in Cairo. The Obama administration can, of course, take the passive view that Syria is entitled to destabilize its neighbors in order to enhance its leverage; or it can behave like a superpower and make the undermining of vital US interests very costly for Bashar Assad. But it certainly cannot defend its vital interests by adopting a passive approach.
With respect to the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, Obama has taken Israel on over its settlements. It was about time, since the Bush administration's permissiveness on settlement construction neutralized its own "road map". However, there is more to Palestinian-Israeli peace than settlements. Obama is exerting considerable political capital to confront Israel, but it may be capital wasted at a moment when Hamas can still veto any breakthrough from the Palestinian side. In other words, Washington is working on a narrow front whereas its failure to weaken Hamas may render the whole enterprise meaningless. But how can the US weaken Hamas when improving relations with the movement's main regional sponsors, Iran and Syria, remains a centerpiece of American efforts?
Barack Obama's devotees may imagine that because he spent a few years abroad as a boy, he is well equipped to understand our complicated world. Perhaps he is, but his approach to the greater Middle East, shorn of the soaring rhetoric, has been artless and arrogant. The president is being tied up every which way by his foes, who can plainly see that the Obama vision is an unsystematic one. If ever the US has been close to achieving potentially terminal self-marginalization in the region, it is now.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian Kippot and Chinese Kaffiyot: Occupation has another meaning

Accoriding to an article entitles From Palestinian embroidery to Israeli skullcaps, Arab women in the West Bank are occupied. Their occupation is knitting Kippot (skull caps) for Orthodox Jews. The article doesn't say if the kippot have embroidered on them "Jerusalem" or other such messages. It tells us: 

Of all the cottage industries you might expect to find in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian crocheting of Jewish skullcaps may seem one of the oddest. In fact, it is no more incongruous than the global economy itself. Creating the colorful cap – known as qors (disc) in Arabic and a kippah (dome) in Hebrew – keeps hundreds of women busy in villages like Deir Abu Meshal. The village's women have been making the religious headgear for their Jewish neighbors for some 40 years, though before that they were renowned for their traditional Palestinian dress embroidery.
Almost every house in the village of 3,000 west of Ramallah makes the little caps. It's a social event as well as a helpful cash-earner. Women bring their wool and needles to each other's home to crochet and chat.
"We make qors while having a gossip," said Umm Ali, a mother of three whose husband is unemployed. "We meet each other and we make money at the same time."
The women make around five caps a day, worth about $3 each.
"Women here can't sit down without knitting," jokes Ruqaya Barghouthi. "We've gotten used to it."
Six Palestinian skullcap dealers distribute the wool, needles and the models to women in this village and 10 neighboring villages. The finished articles are collected each week and shipped to Israeli retailers. The skullcaps are also exported to the US.
"The kippah business is what makes my shop busy," said Riyad Ata, whose grocery store serves as a collection point for finished caps from some 100 women. "Women buy stuff from the kippah money they earn."
Observant Jews wear a kippah to cover the head in acknow­­ledgement of the supreme God.
The women of Deir Abu Meshal see it as a matter of business. They have no qualms about furnishing skullcaps for the people of the occupying po­wer, some say; the work is convenient and they don't have to travel.
Working for the occupier is hardly a new thing among Palestinians. Unemployment levels in the Israeli occupied territories, and among Palestinian citizens of Israel, are so high that they have been employed in a wide variety of apparently incongruous labor – from work in Israeli flag factories to building the Israeli separation barrier, which is being erected on expropriated Palestinian land.
"Without this knitting business, people here would be very poor," said Nema Khamis, 50, who passed on her skills to her daughters and daughter-in-law.
Palestinian weavers used to make the traditional keffiyeh, the chequered Arab headscarf late leader Yasser Arafat made a national Palestinian symbol. Much of that business has now gone to China, where costs are lower.
One meaning of "occupier" evidently, is "one who provides an occupation!
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iranian Show Trials - Reported by the BBC

Only fools are surprised and disappoined by the barbaric behavior of the Iranian regime. I remember in 1979, listening to the BBC excoriate the Shah and rant about the CIA and the colonialists that had support the Shah regime, totally oblivious to the monstrous nature of the regime that was replacing the Shah. At last, the world is waking up to the true nature of the Iranian regime. But it is not a new turn in the policy of the regime. It is just the true fact of what was always there.
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst
It was, as it was surely intended to be, a grim spectacle.
Iranian state television showed the defendants - sitting in rows in a courtroom in Tehran, dressed in pyjama-like prison uniforms - as they confessed to taking part in a plot to undermine the Islamic Republic.
They included some of the country's most prominent reformist intellectuals. Many looked tired and nervous in front of the cameras.
It was the latest of Iran's mass trials. In all, more than 100 people stand accused of provoking unrest after the disputed presidential elections in June.
'Maximum punishment'
One of the best known of those in the dock, Saeed Hajjarian, is so severely disabled his "confession" had to be read by another defendant.
"I committed big errors through my inaccurate analyses of the recent elections," the statement read, "and I apologise to the Iranian nation."
A former intelligence official, Mr Hajjarian survived an assassination attempt in 2000, when a gunman shot him in the head at point-blank range.
Since then, he has become an outspoken critic of the regime and one of the main ideologues of the reform movement.
According to the official Iranian news agency, he is charged with "acting against national security… spreading suspicion of vote-rigging… and provoking illegal protests".
One of the prosecutors has demanded that he receive the maximum punishment, which in such cases could mean a death sentence.
The former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami - himself a leading figure within the reform movement - has condemned the confessions heard in court as invalid.
He is far from alone in his reaction.
Many Iranians - as well as lawyers and human-rights activists abroad - believe these are Soviet-style show trials.
Crushing the reformists
The regime is sending a clear message.
On trial are not merely prominent individuals but the reform movement itself.
Prosecutors have called for two of the main reformist parties - the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution Mujahidin Organisation - to be outlawed.
Both flourished during the Khatami presidency (1997-2005) when, for a while, it seemed the reformist trend was unstoppable.
If these two parties are shut down, that will send an unmistakable message to the newest incarnation of reform in Iran - the Green movement that emerged to protest at the 12 June elections.
The movement, which has former President Khatami's support, is led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opposition candidate in the elections.
Arresting and putting on trial Mr Khatami and Mr Mousavi - as some hard-liners are demanding - would be a far riskier strategy than anything the regime has done so far.
But it is signalling that if the Green movement persists with its protests, it too will be crushed.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Freedom of the press? Only for insulting Israel

Freedom of the press is an important institution when discussing the freedom to print blood libels about Israel in Swedish newspapers. When it is a matter of cartoons about Muhammad it is a different story entirely (see Sweden, Blood Libel, and the unbearable variability of freedom of speech). The takeover of American Academia by the Sheikhs of Araby is a another depressing story.  

The American Market
by Martin Kramer 
Wexler-Fromer Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy 

            One of the most disturbing aspects of the Danish cartoons scandal at Yale University Press is the role of the university administration. When author Jytte Klausen was summoned by John Donatich, director of the press, to hear that it wouldn't publish the cartoons in her book about them, Donatich had company. Also present were the chair of Yale's Mideast center, Marcia Inhorn, and Linda Lorimer, Yale vice president and secretary of the Yale Corporation. Klausen now asserts that the university effectively forced the hand of press, by collecting almost "unanimous" opinions of "experts" warning that violence would erupt if the images were republished. Klausen: "Once the university had decided to collect these alarmist reports about the consequences [of including the pictures], there was very little the press could do. That is why I agreed to go ahead with it, [although] I disagree with it." The press has confirmed reaching its decision "after receiving the outside advice collected by the university." And that advice was collected from on high. Islamic art historian Sheila Blair, one of the outside experts (who recommended in favor of publication), says she was approached by an assistant in the office of Yale president Richard Levin. 

            What prompted the Yale administration to intervene? Roger Kimball and Diana West have already suggested that Yale University is foraging for funding from oil-soaked Arab sources. Yale's administration intervened not to prevent violence, but to prevent damage to its fundraising prospects in Araby. There's a stronge prima facie case for this, and it revolves around Yale's courting of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. 
Over the years, I've reported on Prince Alwaleed's efforts to buy up prime academic real estate in the United States. It was six years ago, in July 2003, that Alwaleed, then the world's fifth-richest man, announced his plan to go on what I called "an academic shopping spree." On a stop in Britain, Alwaleed revealed that "I am in the process of establishing centers of Arab and Islamic studies at select universities in the United States." I made a prediction: If you want a fabulously wealthy Saudi royal to drop out of the sky in his private jet and leave a few million, you had better watch what you say.… Prince Alwaleed's buying binge is liable to reduce the entire field [of Middle Eastern studies] to a cargo cult, with profs and center directors dancing the ardha in the hope of attracting the flying prince.… In the near future, don't be surprised to see grinning university presidents posing with Prince Alwaleed. They will say there are no strings attached. Puris omnia pura: To the pure all things are pure. 
 Sure enough, in December 2005, Harvard and Georgetown universities announced that they'd each received $20 million endowments from Prince Alwaleed—Harvard for an Islamic studies program and Georgetown for John Esposito's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Sure enough, a photographer captured Georgetown's President John J. DeGioia beaming alongside the Prince, and a Georgetown administrator made the inevitable assurance: "The funds are designated, but there are no strings attached." 

            The crucial thing to know about Prince Alwaleed is that he believes in "strategic philanthropy." He's not tied emotionally to particular universities, and he's not interested in honors. He seeks maximum return on investment. The two $20 million gifts he made in 2005 followed a semi-secret competition, in which half a dozen institutions put on their most Saudi-friendly face. Alwaleed later named some names in an interview with the New York Times: Harvard, Georgetown, Chicago, Michigan "and several of the Ivy Leagues" were in the running. The interviewer pressed for more names. "Please. Keep the other universities out," said Alwaleed. "I'd rather not embarrass them." 
            Who was spared embarrassment? The Yale Daily News asked President Levin if Yale had been in the race; Levin "said two University proposals had been in the final running." Finalist, but not a winner. 

            But everyone assumes that Alwaleed will run another competition. He isn't worth as much as he was a few years back, but according to Forbes, he's still worth over $13 billion. (In March, he summoned a Forbes reporter to spend a week with him, just to prove he's still living the opulent life. "Observing wealth on this scale, even for a seasoned billionaires reporter, was staggering.") And he's still in the academic market—so says Muna AbuSulayman, executive director of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation: "Because of what is happening (in the markets) people might think he is stopping his philanthropy; on the contrary he is fully committed to his charity goals no matter what happens." According to her, the Alwaleed Foundation has set aside $100 million for its Islam-West dialogue project, which endowed the centers at Harvard and Georgetown.

            This same Muna AbuSulayman is also Alwaleed's point person for his academic programs. "I used to work with him at Kingdom Holding, I was head of strategic studies, and I was given the assignment of doing the first centers in the U.S. I guess I did such a good job that he actually offered me the foundation." You can see her in this photo of Alwaleed with Georgetown's president, and in this one of Alwaleed with Harvard's provost (she's the one with the hijab). AbuSulayman continues to monitor the Alwaleed centers; in March, she convened their directors in London for their first joint planning meeting. (In this photo, she's surrounded by the directors of the endowed centers, including Georgetown's John Esposito and Harvard's Roy Mottahedeh. Look carefully for strings attached.) 

            Now it gets interesting. In April, Yale named Muna AbuSulayman a "Yale World Fellow" for 2009. This isn't some honorific, and she'll reside from August through December in New Haven. (Her Facebook fan page, August 16: "I need help locating a Town House/condo for short term leasing near Yale University... Anyone familiar with that area?") Can you imagine a better way to set the stage for a major Alwaleed gift? Hosting for a semester the very person who structured the Harvard and Georgetown gifts, and who now directs Alwaleed's charitable foundation? A stroke of genius. 

            Imagine, then—and we're just imagining—that someone in the Yale administration, perhaps in President Levin's office, gets wind of the fact that Yale University Press is about to publish a book on the Danish cartoons—The Cartoons That Shook the World. The book is going to include the Danish cartoons, plus earlier depictions of the Prophet Muhammad tormented in Dante's Inferno, and who-knows-what-else. Whooah! Good luck explaining to people like Prince Alwaleed that Yale University and Yale University Press are two different shops. The university can't interfere in editorial matters, so what's to be done? Summon some "experts," who'll be smart enough to know just what to say. Yale will be accused of surrendering to an imagined threat by extremists. So be it: self-censorship to spare bloodshed in Nigeria or Indonesia still sounds a lot nobler than self-censorship to keep a Saudi prince on the line for $20 million. 

            Yale has seen its endowment suffer billions in losses, and its administration has the mission of making the bucks back. Yale's motto is lux et veritas, light and truth, but these days it might as well be pecunia non olet: money has no odor—whatever its source. Still, that isn't the mission of Yale University Press, which seeks to help authors of exceptional merit shed full light on the truth. More than three years ago, I warned against "the deep corruption that Prince Alwaleed's buying spree is spreading through academe and Middle Eastern studies." If this is what caused Yale University to trespass so rudely against the independence of its press, then the rot has spread even further than I imagined. I've been a reader for Yale University Press, which I think publishes a more interesting list in Middle Eastern studies than any university press. But if editorial decisions are to be subjected to vetting and possible abortion by Yale's money collectors, why bother? 

            Ignore all the denials, and watch for a hefty gift from Arabia, perhaps for another Alwaleed program in Islamic apologetics. Fat endowments speak louder than words—or cartoons.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Barry Rubin on Middle East RealPolitick: Let's make believe we are making peace

There is a great deal to this explanation of what is happening in the Middle East. The question is, what is the best thing to do about it?

Let's Pretend We're Making Arab-Israeli, Israel-Palestinian Peace
By Barry Rubin

Here's one of my favorite stories explaining how the Middle East works. It was told by Muhammad Hussanein Heikal, the famed Egyptian journalist. Like all Heikal's stories, it may or may not be true, which is also part of the lesson being taught.

When Muammar Qadhafi first became Libya's dictator, Heikal was dispatched to meet and evaluate him by Egypt's ruler, Gamal Abdel Nasser. After returning to Cairo, Heikal was quickly ushered into the president's office.

"Well," said Egypt's president, "what do you think of Qadhafi?"

"He's a disaster! A catastrophe!"

"Why," asked the president, "is he against us?"

"Oh no, far worse than that," Heikal claims to have replied. "He's for us and he really believes all the stuff we are saying!"

The point was that the Egyptian regime took the propaganda line out of self-interest that all Arabs should be united into one state under its leadership, all the Arab monarchies overthrown, Israel wiped off the map immediately, and Western influence expelled, but it knew itself incapable of achieving these goals and to try to do so would bring disaster. Indeed, when Nasser had tried to implement part of this program in 1967, he provoked Israel into attacking and suffered his worst disaster.

Come to think of it, Arab regimes are still playing this game of systematically purveying radicalism, hatred, and unachievable goals to distract their populace, excuse their own failings, focus antagonism against foreign scapegoats and seek regional ambitions.

Western governments do this kind of thing a bit differently.

In this regard, recent statements by a number of leaders including President Barack Obama, prime ministers Gordon Brown and Benjamin Netanyahu, and others, establish an important principle:

Actually achieving Middle East peace is of no importance. The only thing that is important is saying that progress is being made and that peace will come soon.

I don't mean that as a statement of cynicism but as an accurate analysis of what goes on in international affairs at present. What's achieved by pretending there is progress and there will be success? Some very real and—in their way—important things:

--World leaders are saying that they are doing a great job, doing the right things, remaining active and achieving success.

--By saying peace is near, the issue is defused. Why fight if you are about to make a deal?

--Israel (and anyone else from the region who joins in—see below) shows that it is cooperating so others should be patient and not put on pressure.

--Since the West is taking care of business, Arab states supposedly will feel comfortable working with it on other issues, like Iran for example.

I want to stress that this behavior is not as silly as it might seem. Often this is how indeed politics do work. Moreover, pretending is better than a sense of desperation which would lead to very bad mistakes being made by energetically doing stupid and dangerous things. Certainly, it inhibits strong pressure or sanctions against Israel.

The freeze on construction within settlements is a scam. If Israel gives something on this issue, the Western governments declare victory and go home, so to speak. That doesn't mean there aren't reasons for not doing so, but the virtually open cynicism of the U.S. and European strategy is striking.

When the U.S. president portrays the possibility of two tiny states, Oman and Qatar, letting one-man Israeli trade offices re-open as a major triumph in confidence-building , despite being his sole achievement after months of top-level diplomacy, what can one do but snicker?

Finally, since Israel-Palestinian peace is not within reach, pretending it is while knowing the truth is not such a bad alternative. It is certainly progress since the Obama administration came into office and originally pursued a policy based on the idea that it could achieve peace in a matter of months.

What is the downside here?

There are three problems. The first is if Western leaders believe their own propaganda. Because if peace is "within reach" but isn't actually grasped, then someone must be blamed. That someone will, of course, be Israel.

Why? Because if the West blames the Palestinians, leaders presume that Arabs and Muslims will be angry and not cooperate on other matters. There could be more terrorism and fewer profitable deals and investments. They gain nothing.

But if they insist that everything is going well there is no need to blame anyone. This is the phase we are now entering.

The second problem, however, is that neither the Palestinians nor Arab regimes will join in the optimism. Their line is: The Palestinians are suffering! The situation is intolerable! Something must be done! And since we will make no concessions or compromises, the only solution is for the West to pressure Israel to give more and more while getting nothing in return.

Since this is not going to happen too much if Israel resists, they fall back on their alternative approach. Ok, so since you aren't forcing Israel to give us what we want you have to give us other things, like money and you cannot demand we help you.

The best outcome is that certain Arab states, since they have other interests at stake, will downplay the conflict altogether and focus on more pragmatic needs. The radicals—principally Iran and Syria—will never do so, of course, and will claim that the situation shows how the West cannot be trusted and must be defeated.

What's the third problem? That certain actions which might promote regional stability, or even Arab-Israeli peace, are not taken. These include two especially important tactics:

--More energetic efforts to overthrow the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. As long as Hamas is running about half the Palestinian territories and outflanking Fatah in militancy, there won't be any peace. Keeping Hamas from taking over the West Bank, isolating it, and maintaining sanctions against it is a good policy and can preserve the status quo. It is not, however, the best policy and the pressure on Hamas could erode over time.

--More pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to moderate and compromise. The PA and its positions are the main barriers to peace. As the PA possibly becomes more radical, the likelihood of violence increases. Thus, while in the short- to medium-run the "feel good" and status quo policy may work, it also has risks and limits.

Still, it is the best that can be expected at present.

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. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hariri: Hezbollah to join Lebanese government

Those who may have entertained illusions about the "freedom loving" March 14 movement of Sa'ad Hariri can forget it. Hariri is determined to form a government with the murderers of his father, ostensibly to spite "the Israeli enemy" but actually because he feels he has no choice evidently. In a crisis not too long ago, Hezbollah goons closed down Harir's television station and effectively put him under house arrest. That must've tamed his ardor for freedom a bit.
August 26, 2009

(JTA) -- Lebanon's prime minister-designate said Hezbollah will be included in the country's governing coalition.
Speaking during a Ramadan meal on Tuesay evening, Sa'ad Hariri said he was determined to include all factions in the next government, including Hezbollah, which Israel and the United States consider a terrorist group.
"The national unity government will include the [ruling] March 14 alliance, and I also want to assure the Israeli enemy that Hezbollah will be in this government whether it likes it or not because Lebanon's interests require all parties be involved in this cabinet," Hariri said, according to AFP.
Israel's prime minister has warned that if Hezbollah joins the government, Israel would hold the government responsible for any attack emanating from Lebanese territory.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran gathers support for bid to ban strikes on nuclear sites

Alas for Iran, General Assembly resolutions are not binding in international law.  
Last update - 17:49 26/08/2009    
Iran gets 118 states to back ban on striking nuclear sites
By The Associated Press
Iran has enlisted the support of more than 100 nonaligned nations in its push for a ban on attacks against nuclear facilities, according to documents shared with The Associated Press.
The 118-nation Nonaligned Movement backs Tehran in a letter submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency endorsing Iran's plan to submit a resolution on the topic when IAEA nations meet next month.
While Iran says the language of any resolution will be kept general, the move is clearly directed against Israel and to a lesser extent the United States.

Both nations - Israel more overtly - have not ruled out a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities as a last resort if the international community fails to persuade Tehran to freeze its nuclear activities.
Iran has defied three sets of UN Security Council sanctions aimed at pressuring it to mothball its uranium enrichment. It also is resisting an IAEA probe into reports it had drafted plans and conducted experiments for a nuclear weapons program.
Tehran insists its enrichment program is geared only toward generating fuel to produce nuclear energy, not nuclear arms.
The IAEA's 150-nation general conference convenes Sept. 14. The annual conference regularly pits Israel backed by the U.S. and its other Western nations, against Islamic states and other nonaligned countries seeking to censure Israel and its nuclear secrecy.
Israel is believed to possess nuclear arms but refuses to confirm or deny its status. Again this year, its rivals are pushing for conference resolutions demanding that Israel open up its facilities to IAEA perusal.
The Iranian proposal was revealed to the AP last week. That and the nonaligned support, outlined in a letter shared with the AP on Wednesday, aims to give Islamic nations additional leverage at the conference.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Survey: Israel veering to the right

A recent poll shows Israeli Jews veering far to the right in their opinions, beyond the stances of the current government, and in opposition to the demands of the US administration for participation in a peace intiative. Surveys often seem to reflect the ideology of those who initiated them. However, while the Maagar Mohot Survey institute may be biased and the questions were certainly not designed for impartiality, the results are too clear cut to be due only to artifact.
According to the survey, by 52% to 33%, Israeli Jews oppose a settlement freeze in the West Bank ("Judea and Samaria") and East Jerusalem in return for Arab gestures such as the opening of various Israeli representation  offices or granting of permission for Israeli flights to fly over Saudi Arabia on the way to the Far East. That is the deal that is rumored to be pending. Respondents agreed by a  margine of 47% to 25% that once Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu formally agrees to a settlement freeze President Obama will pressure him to continue the freeze indefinitely regardless of what the Arabs do.By a margin of 55% to 26% they agreed with the following statement: " Minister Moshe  "Bogie" Yaalon  warned last week that 'When you do things you don't believe in, you enter a slippery slope because they put pressure on you, and you keep rolling downwards.'  Do you think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is on a slippery slope with President Obama?"

The poll also found support by a margin of 51% to 24%  for Minister Moshe  "Bogie" Yaalon's call to legalize illegal outposts rather than dismantling them as Israel had agreed under the roadmap. The wording of the question almost certainly biased the responses. Respondents were not asked if they agreed to legalize illegal outposts that Israel had undertaken to dismantle. Rather, respondents were asked whether they agree "to complete the approval process of outposts in the West Bank  Judea and Samaria that were established with Israel's consent and whose approval process has yet to be completed."
Respondents also agreed by a margin of 63% to 22% that the Netanyahu government's "de facto freeze without cabinet approval" (no new building starts in the occupied territories) was "improper."  

Israeli Jews agree (41%:19%) that the Peace Now movement has caused damage to the State of Israel, in line with Deputy Prime Minister Yaalon's recent statement calling Peace Now a "virus."

Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

US source: In five years, absent US help, "Iraq will be a colony of Iran."

We are witnessing the Vietnamization of Iraq. America got tired of the war, and the Iraqis are abandoned to their fate.
By David Ignatius

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
As security deteriorates in Baghdad, there's a new cause for worry: The head of the U.S.-trained Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) has quit in a long-running quarrel with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- depriving that country of a key leader in the fight against sectarian terrorism.
Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, the head of Iraqi intelligence since 2004, resigned this month because of what he viewed as Maliki's attempts to undermine his service and allow Iranian spies to operate freely. The CIA, which has worked closely with Shahwani since he went into exile in the 1990s and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars training the INIS, was apparently caught by surprise by his departure.
The chaotic conditions in Iraq that triggered Shahwani's resignation are illustrated by several recent events -- each of which suggests that without the backstop of U.S. support, Iraqi authorities are now desperately vulnerable to pressure, especially from neighboring Iran.
An early warning was the brazen July 28 robbery of the state-run Rafidain Bank in central Baghdad, apparently by members of an Iraqi security force. Gunmen broke into the bank and stole about 5.6 billion Iraqi dinars, or roughly $5 million. After a battle that left eight dead, the robbers fled to a newspaper run by Adel Abdul Mahdi, one of the country's vice presidents.
Abdul Mahdi, once an American favorite, has admitted that one of the robbers was a member of his security detail but denied personal involvement, according to Iraqi news reports. Some of the money has been recovered, but the rest is believed to be in Iran, along with some members of the robbery team.
A second concern for Shahwani has been threats against his service's roughly 6,000 members. Maliki's government has issued arrest warrants against 180 Iraqi intelligence officers for alleged crimes that, according to Shahwani's camp, are really political reprisals for doing their jobs. Since the INIS was formally created in 2004, 290 of its officers have been killed, many targeted by Iranian intelligence operatives.
With Shahwani's resignation, the intelligence service is commanded by Gen. Zuheir Fadel, a former pilot in Saddam Hussein's air force. But some of Fadel's key officers are said to be fleeing for safety in Jordan, Egypt and Syria -- fearing that they will be targets of Iranian hit teams if they remain in Iraq.
The breakdown of order in Iraq was most dramatic in the truck bombings on Aug. 19 that targeted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies, and left more than 100 dead and 500 wounded. Here, again, there is evidence that government security forces may have aided the terrorists.
"I don't rule out that there was collaboration by the security forces," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said after the bombings. "We have to face the truth. There has been an obvious deterioration in the security situation in the past two months."
Who's to blame for the carnage? In today's Iraq, that's open to sectarian conspiracy theories. Maliki's Shiite-led government last weekend broadcast the alleged confession of a Sunni Baathist named Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim, who said the truck-bombing plot had been hatched in Syria and that he had paid security guards $10,000 to pass through checkpoints.
But forensic evidence points to a possible Iranian role, according to an Iraqi intelligence source who is close to Shahwani. He said that signatures of the C-4 explosive residues that have been found at the bomb sites are similar to those of Iranian-made explosives that have been captured in Kut, Nasiriyah, Basra and other Iraqi cities since 2006.
Iran's links with Maliki are so close, said this Iraqi intelligence source, that the prime minister uses an Iranian jet with an Iranian crew for his official travel. The Iranians are said to have sent Maliki an offer to help his Dawa Party win at least 49 seats in January's parliamentary elections if Maliki will make changes in his government that Iran wants.
As security unravels in Iraq, U.S. forces there are mostly bystanders. Even in the areas where al-Qaeda operatives remain potent, such as Mosul, the Americans have little control. Sunni terrorists who are arrested are quickly released by the Iraqis in exchange for bribes of up to $100,000, according to an Iraqi source.
Should the Americans try to restore order? The top Iraqi intelligence source answered sadly that it was probably wiser to "stay out of it and be safe." When pressed about what his country would look like in five years, absent American help, he answered bluntly: "Iraq will be a colony of Iran."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Kibbutz volunteer program reviving, but kibbutzim are not

Every kibbutz volunteer has fond memories of drinking ersatz coffee at 4 AM and similar. A bonding experience you won't ever forget. It is not surprising that the volunteer program is reviving, but kibbutzim, like everything else, are not always what they used to be.
Limited space for overseas kibbutz volunteers
Aug. 24, 2009
The Kibbutz Movement is trying to convince kibbutzim to reopen their gates to overseas volunteers.
Since the Six Day War, some 350,000 young foreigners have come to work in the fields, dairies and dining rooms of Israel's kibbutzim. At the height of the program's popularity, nearly every kibbutz hosted volunteers.
Changes in the kibbutz movement have also brought changes to the volunteer program. Most kibbutzim have long since deviated from the socialist ideology of "from everyone according to their abilities, to everyone according to their needs."
There are some 270 kibbutzim, 180 of which are referred to as "renewed kibbutzim." These usually have differential salaries for members, and they may lack shared facilities, like the once-ubiquitous dining room.
Many kibbutzim have been undergoing economic difficulties. Nowadays, as most can't afford to provide living quarters and jobs for temporary volunteers, and see foreign workers as a cheaper and simpler way to fill their needs for labor, only 25 host overseas volunteers.
But after hitting a low of only about 100 volunteers during the terror war in 2001, some 1,500 foreigners were hosted on kibbitzum in 2008.
The number of volunteer spots can't keep up with the demand from people who continue to seek the much-storied kibbutz experience.
This is why the new head of the Kibbutz Movement's Overseas Volunteer Program, Aya Sagi, has made it her goal to convince at least five kibbutzim to return to hosting volunteers.
However, the question remains - with all of the changes on kibbutzim throughout the country, how much traditional communal life is left for volunteers to experience?
Sagi still sees the program as important both for volunteers and kibbutzim, but realizes that the changing face of kibbutz life also means dealing with new challenges.
"[The program] is important from a Zionist perspective," she told the Jerusalem Post on Monday. "The volunteers come out of a desire to live the kibbutz experience at the same time as they are traveling and exploring Israel... When they go home, they become ambassadors for Israel."
"There are many advantages for the kibbutz [to hosting] young people with a different culture, different language... It brings life into the kibbutz, and [forces] those living on kibbutz to open their minds."
According to Sagi, one of the changes since the volunteer program's heyday in the 1970s is that the kibbutz isn't the "bubble" it used to be. "But [volunteers] still bring the kibbutz to life," she said.
Kibbutz Movement representative Aviv Leshem wrote, "Volunteers bring with them joie de vivre, a spirit of youth, and cultural variety, as well as assistance in different work areas, some of them temporary, which allows kibbutz members to do more permanent work. In this program, we see true Zionism. It gives a beautiful perspective of Israel for the youth of the world, who return to their home countries as supporters of Israel."
Many volunteers seek to live on "conventional" kibbutzim, said Sagi. "When there is a dining room, you can meet the population [of the kibbutz] in the dining room. When there is a pool, you can meet the population in the pool."
Kibbutzim without these shared features necessarily offer fewer opportunities for community life, and for volunteers to build personal connections with kibbutznikim. However, with "renewed kibbutzim" becoming the new reality, Sagi said she planned to try to bring volunteers there also.
An open mind and creative thinking are the keys to convincing kibbutzim to come back to the program, she said. Workplaces and accommodations for volunteers are the main obstacles, but Sagi said she plans to search the country for host communities and then help them to find ways to make it feasible to bring in volunteers - whether this meant bringing in trailers for volunteers to sleep in, or finding ways for them to work with the elderly kibbutz members.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Clearing up the controverversy about Iran's Israel policy

This should certainly be encouraging to J-Street and other advocates of dialogue with Iran: We can now clear up the controversy over what Ahmadinejad meant or didn't mean when he said that the "stain" of Israel must be eradicated. Remember that Juan Cole for example, insisted that he didn't say that, notwithstanding the fact that he was standing under a banner that read "A world without Zionism." It seems the conservative dailiy newpapers of Iran have settled the controversy for us. Conservative is now "in" in Iran and anything else is unhealthy, so this must be the government line. This is the position that is the basis for dialog: "The Palestinians must not accept anything less than Israel's annihilation."  Annihilation. Vernichtung. Jews understand that word well.
Three recent editorials in Iran's major conservative dailies Kayhan and Jomhouri-e Eslami gave a detailed account of Iran's position vis-à-vis the U.S. peace plan. It was claimed that the U.S. and Israel are trying to force on the Palestinians a plan that safeguards their own interests and perpetuates Palestinian inferiority, by activating the U.S.'s and Israel's proxies in the region - that is, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Arabs from the "conciliation camp." Jomhouri-e Eslami called on the Palestinians to reinforce their resistance front and to reject anything less than Israel's annihilation, calling it "a goal within reach." Kayhan purported that "the Arabs who are in favor of conciliation," whom it dubbed "hypocrites within the [Islamic] nation," "are collaborating in the implementation of the Zionist-American version of peace by giving a green light to the Americans." It added that "peace - whether according to the Arab or the American formula - is tantamount to recognizing the brutal and artificial Zionist regime," and said that "unless this regime is completely eradicated from the region's political map, no Middle East peace is possible." [1]
In another editorial, Kayhan called on the Muslim countries not to participate in the talks with the U.S. and the Zionists, which the U.S. has set for September 2009, concomitantly with the U.N. General Assembly, in order to discuss the U.S. comprehensive peace initiative in the Middle East. The paper reiterated that "a solution [in the Middle East] can be achieved only by completely annihilating the Zionist regime, which is the source of all insecurity in the region," and that "the establishment of two states, Palestinian and Zionist, would be the same as totally crushing the rights of the Palestinian people, rather than securing these rights for them." It was also stated that "the conflict [between the U.S. and Israel] is not genuine, but merely a fraud aimed at deceiving the Arabs from the conciliation [camp]." [2]
Following are excerpts from the Jomhouri-e Eslami editorial:
"Peace - Whether According to the Arab or the American Formula - Is Tantamount to Recognizing the Brutal and Artificial Zionist Regime"
"Official Palestinian recognition of the Zionist regime by the Palestinians is Israel's most cherished dream. It would deal a death blow to aspirations for a Palestinian state, grant everlasting legitimacy to the Zionist regime, and lay the ground for the attainment of its expansionist goals in the Middle East.
"The Zionists came close to fulfilling these aspirations when Yasser Arafat consented, by means of a disgraceful agreement [i.e. the Oslo accords], to eliminate [the article on] combating the Zionists from the Palestinian charter. But the Palestinian nation was not prepared to acquiesce in this disgrace; following the example of the Islamic Revolution, which has never stopped fighting the Zionist regime, it turned to Islam [for a solution].
"Yasser Arafat fell captive to the dirty games of the Zionists, the Americans, and the Europeans. He died having lost his hold over the Palestinian people and stripped of all his past triumphs as a fighter.
"As a mediator for the Zionists, [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak has found himself in the same predicament [as Arafat] - but there already is a file [with incriminating evidence against] him which grows heavier by the day. The obvious difference between the two is that, unlike Arafat, Mubarak has no past as an anti-Zionist fighter; moreover, he was trained by a U.S. intelligence apparatus.
"When, in a revolutionary [act], Khaled Al-Islambouli executed [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat, America hoisted Mubarak onto the throne as one of its capable agents, to rule over Egypt. For 28 years, they have been using him to promote their anti-Islamic and anti-Arabs goals. [3]
"The latest example of [Mubarak's] serving America and the Zionists was his [position] during the 2009 Gaza war: He supported the Zionist regime, especially regarding the Rafah crossing and the Rafah tunnels.
"U.S. President [Barack] Obama's and Egyptian regime head Hosni Mubarak's joint effort to [persuade] the Palestinians to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state… comes at a time when the Zionist regime is at its weakest, and when its leaders' morale needs boosting. The Palestinian jihad organizations, which have realized that [the Zionist regime] is in deplorable condition and that the American-Zionist plan is [essentially] imperialistic, have rejected the latter.
"The Palestinians Must Not Be Satisfied With Anything Less Than The Annihilation of the Zionist Regime - A Goal That [Today] Is Within Reach"
"This Palestinian position makes perfect sense, and will undoubtedly bear fruit. Judging by its two successive defeats in the 2006 Lebanon war and the 2009 Gaza war, the Zionist regime cannot withstand a war against it by the Palestinian people.
"It seems that the Palestinian people's warfare [against the Zionists] has found its mark, and [therefore] the Palestinians must not be satisfied with anything less than the annihilation of the Zionist regime - a goal that [today] is within reach." [4]

[1] Kayhan (Iran), August 1, 2009.
[2] Kayhan (Iran), August 22, 2009. Majlis speaker Ali Larijani said, in a similar vein, that the peace plan being formulated by Obama did not address even one of the Palestinians' basic rights, and called on the Muslim nations to be mindful of this deception. ISNA (Iran), August 25, 2009.
[3] In the original, the term is misspelled "anti-West."
[4] Jomhouri-e Eslami (Iran), June 23, 2009.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli-Palestinian peace - there must be a plan B, no?

Israeli Palestinian peace is a wonderful idea. We are already to take risks for peace. Actually, the process is practically risk free, since it ended in disaster on all previous occassions. If the outcome is guaranteed there is no risk, right? What happens if Israel gives up territories, uproots settlers, and in the end gets only more suicide bombers, rockets and mortars? Will the United States, or anyone, be there for us, or will we once again on our own and without recourse, blamed for the violent outcome, as happened after the disengagement?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanese border villagers repel Hezbollah men

Lebanese villagers kicked out the Hezbollah, but not too much significance should be read into this perhaps, as the village is close to the border, and villagers may have understood that Israel could monitor their movements. Still, a good sign, but not a substitute for disarming Hezbollah in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions, which Lebanon continues to violate.

Lebanese villagers repel Hizbullah men

Aug. 25, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

In what may be an indication of Hizbullah's waning influence over the residents of southern Lebanon, the security establishment released on Tuesday documented proof of Hizbullah operatives being forcibly prevented from entering a village near the Israeli border.

The grainy video showed residents of Kfar Manisim, which is only a kilometer from Israel, standing in front of a Hizbullah jeep and arguing with its occupants. The operatives, who had apparently tried to station arms in the houses of the villagers, resisted, and both sides began firing warning shots into the air. The incident eventually ended when the Hizbullah men turned around and drove away.

Following the confrontation, Lebanese army troops arrived at the village to ensure that order was maintained.

Israel has long maintained that Hizbullah has made a concerted effort to not only re-establish its presence in southern Lebanon, but also has consistently hidden weapons and fighters within the Lebanese civilian population. While the former charge would be a violation of UN Resolution 1701, the latter would be a violation of international law.

In July, a Hizbullah arms cache in southern Lebanon exploded, leading Israel to accuse the group of breaking the ceasefire agreement by stockpiling smuggled weapons in the southern part of the country. Hizbullah denied that the weapons were smuggled, saying that they had been stored prior to the Second Lebanon War.


Continued (Permanent Link)

New program trains Immigrants to Israel from English speaking countries to be teachers

Wanted: Anglo olim to teach English

Aug. 24, 2009

In an effort to tackle the shortage of English teachers, the Jewish Agency, together with the Education and Immigrant Absorption ministries, has opened a new program to encourage North American and British aliya, with the aim of training participants for jobs in the education system.

The English Teachers Project began two weeks ago with a group of 40 young people who recently arrived in the country. The first phase is an intensive ulpan.

The only prerequisite is that participants speak English as their mother tongue and have a college degree. Many of those taking part did not study education, and in October, will begin a 14-month training program, after which they will receive teaching certificates from the Education Ministry.

The program offers all of the benefits every new oleh is entitled to - including housing and a stipend to help with expenses - but also provides a structured framework that assists the immigrants as they integrate into society, work on their Hebrew skills and receive training, before guaranteeing them a job in a school.

"The idea is that without this program, Anglo olim would have to do all of these things on their own," Alex Selsky, who works with the Jewish Agency's spokesman's office, said on Monday. "Participants don't have to look for housing, they don't have to find a school for the teacher's certification and they don't have to look for a job. We do all of that for them."

Participants told The Jerusalem Post that the program had already answered a number of the needs that had come up as they were considering the move to Israel.

"I had always wanted to make aliya. I'm interested in teaching and it was really hard to find a job in New York City," said 23-year-old Deena Neustadter. "This covered all three of those things, and when I saw the advertisement it seemed like such a great opportunity."

Neustadter also said that while she knew some Hebrew before arriving here last month, she still had a "ways to go," but was looking forward to the experience.

"It's been great so far. I'm living in an absorption center with my fellow immigrants, and I feel like I have a community. We're learning together."

She has a degree in Judaic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After graduation, she had returned to New York and worked as a teacher's assistant.

"That was what sort of gave me the spark for teaching," she said.

Other participants have law degrees, had even worked in the profession for a number of years, but had always wanted to come to Israel, and were finally won over by the program's provisions.

"It's like a security blanket," said David Mizrachi, from Columbus, Ohio, who has a degree in law from Ohio State University. "You don't feel lost."

"I had been thinking about making aliya for eight years, and it seemed really daunting to have to go through the process on your own."

Mizrachi, whose father is Israeli, grew up speaking Hebrew in his home, and said he hopes to end up teaching somewhere in the Negev.

"I really love the desert," he said. "But another part of it is financial. Like other Israeli teachers, we get a salary bonus if we agree to teach in the periphery."

Anthony Selby, another lawyer who arrived from London at the beginning of the month, also said the program's safety net helped him make up his mind.

"I had been thinking about making aliya but didn't want to do it without a structure, without knowing that I'd be able to find a job," he said.

"I finished university six years ago, and worked in law for about a year, but decided it wasn't for me. After traveling around for a bit, and coming to Israel a number of times, I knew I wanted to come back, I just didn't know how I would do it," Selby said.

After perusing the Jewish Agency's Web site one day and seeing an advertisement for the English Teachers Project, he decided to make the jump.

Now in ulpan, Selby said he was a bit worried about his Hebrew level, but was ready for the challenge.

"It's an opportunity to learn something new," he said.

As far as salaries go, Selby said that coming into the program, he knew what to expect.

"They showed us on the Web site what the teachers' salaries are in Israel," he said. "No one pulled the wool over our eyes."

"Besides," he continued. "I don't think that anyone who came on the program is doing it for the money. These are people who wanted to come to Israel, they wanted to do something productive, and now they've found a way to do it."•

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, August 24, 2009

UN Watch's efforts to disqualify Chinkin from Gaza probe

In  a previous post regarding the attempt to disqualify Prof. Chinkin from the UN Gaza probe because of obvious bias ( UNWatch: Professor Chinkin should be disqualified from UN Gaza Probe), I noted that UN-Watch's protest comes a bit late, since I understood from the Jerusalem post article that this was the first time that UN Watch had raised the issue. 
I am happy to correct this error.  Mr Hillel Neuer of UN-Watch informs me:

I beg to differ.  Immediately after the Durban Review Conference we were the first ones to confront Prof. Chinkin at a Geneva meeting of NGOs; when the Mission held hearings in Geneva we filed a brief that was covered in AFP and DPA. We resubmitted that brief and published it this week. Details are below.

The issue should continue to be raised at every opportunity until and on Sept. 29, when the report will be presented.

I agree that the issue should continue to be raised. It is quite true that in July of 2009 UN Watch raised the issue. Though that was quite a while after my article last April, it may have been the first formal opportunity to register a complaint.  Judge Goldstone, in an interview then insisted that Prof. Chinkin did not disqualify herself from serving despite her letter in January announcing that Israel had committed war crimes before she had done any investigation. Goldstone's defense of Chinkin seems to have been based on the two propositions. The first is that it is not a judicial inquiry. If so, is Judge Goldstone implying that his inquiry does not have to be fair? The second is that he has known her for many years and is satisfied that she is not biased, which doesn't seem to have any relevance to the issue.  If he could not draw conclusions about her competence and fairness from the fact that she had judged the case and given a verdict in January, before she had ever set foot in Gaza or knew anything more about the case than anyone else, then it is not clear what value his long acquaintance may have had or on what he might base his satisfaction.
Mr Neuer also directs our readers to the UN Watch's recent posting on Chinkin  and the extensive legal brief filed August 20 explaining why Chinkin ought to be disqualified. Inter alia, this very valuable document destroys Judge Goldstone's defense of Professor Chinkin, among other reasons because "...[W]hether the Mission is judicial or quasi-judicial, it is
required under international law and United Nations standards to be both objective and impartial, and Justice Goldstone himself has repeatedly promised exactly this.
The filing also notes that Mary Robinson refused to chair this inquiry because of its one-sided mandate. Robinson, the former UN Human Rights head, is not known for her love of Israel.
My own feelings about this panel and its judges, and attempts to derail it from its predetermined conclusion, is that the attempts are rather like brilliant defense moves in a Soviet trial. There must be a defense. We must try. But the prisoner is guilty by definition and will be shot at the conclusion of the trial. Surely, everyone understands that.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

UNWatch: Professor Chinkin should be disqualified from UN Gaza Probe

A few months ago, in April, I noted that Professor Chinkin should be disqualified from the Gaza probe because she has already made up her mind that Israel is guilty of war crimes. It seens that now Hillel Neuer of UN Watch has had the same idea - a bit late in the day.
Ami Isseroff  
NGO: Academic should quit Cast Lead inquiry
Aug. 23, 2009
Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post correspondent in LONDON , THE JERUSALEM POST
A European non-government organization has called on the UN to remove a British academic from its recent inquiry into alleged human rights, over statements made rejecting Israel's right to self-defense against rocket attacks.
Geneva-based UN Watch submitted a 28-page legal brief to the UN last week calling on the UN fact-finding mission to disqualify London School of Economics law professor Christine Chinkin over prior statements she made that bring her impartiality in question.
According to the NGO, in previous statements Chinkin has "categorically rejected" Israel's right to self-defense against rocket attacks from Gaza and accused Israel of "aggression" and "prima facie war crimes."
UN Watch was referring to a letter published in the Sunday Times newspaper in January, during Operation Cast Lead, in which Chinkin - an expert in human rights, international and UN law - declares Israel as the aggressor and perpetrator of "war crimes."
The letter began by rejecting Israel's right to claim self-defense against Hamas rocket attacks, "deplorable as they are."
While the statement includes a passing reference to crimes committed by Hamas, says UN Watch, the entire statement is devoted to the thesis that Israel was guilty - the very accusations the inquiry is meant to impartially examine, the NGO said.
UN Watch said that under international law, fact-finders in the area of human rights must be impartial. This has been repeatedly emphasized by the inquiry members - that their terms of reference, as received from the president of the UN Human Rights Council, are impartial.
"International law and the rules of due process require fact-finders in the human rights field to be impartial," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. "That means being free of any commitment to a preconceived outcome.
"The legal requirement for impartiality as developed by international tribunals, whose principles fully apply to quasi-judicial fact-finders, is absence of bias or even the appearance of bias," Neuer added.
UN Watch has demanded that Chinkin immediately step down from the inquiry, or that she be disqualified by the other UN fact-finders, or by the new UN Human Rights Council president, Ambassador Alex Van Meeuwen of Belgium.
"The reasonable person would consider Prof. Chinkin to be partial after she publicly declared the guilt of one of the concerned parties on the very case and controversy under consideration. Therefore, if justice is to be done, and to be seen to be done, the only remedy is Prof. Chinkin's recusal, or her disqualification by the Mission or the Human Rights Council president," Neuer said.
With the enquiry set to assess if Israel has violated international human rights law and international humanitarian law during Operation Cast Lead, Chinkin has declared that Israel is guilty of both charges, according to the NGO. It said the mission cannot claim to be operating with an open mind when one of its members has already made up hers.
The petition cites authorities of international law, including a 2004 precedent of the international tribunal for Sierra Leone, in which Justice Geoffrey Robertson was disqualified by his fellow judges over the appearance of bias.
In published comments made prior to that case, Robertson had alleged that various war crimes were committed by an organization connected to the defendants. By coincidence, one of the lawyers who helped win that precedent is now a researcher for the Goldstone fact-finding mission, whose report will be presented to the council in September.
"The remedy applied in Sierra Leone should apply here," Neuer said. "Never in the history of international tribunals and fact-finding panels has there been a more overt case of actual bias in the form of an arbiter's prior determination of the merits of a particular case in controversy.
"Justice Goldstone has promised that the mission would be impartial," Neuer said. "Even if, somehow, one were to conceive of an argument as to how Prof. Chinkin has not demonstrated actual bias, there is nevertheless the objective appearance of bias."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Christians for Fair Witness Press Release: ELCA Resolution on Israel/Palestine


August 24, 2009

Contact: Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East

(212) 870-2320

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East Praises the ELCA Churchwide Assembly Action on Israel/Palestine

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ("ELCA") approved a resolution on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on Saturday August 22 at its Churchwide Assembly ("CWA"). The resolution included an amendment at Paragraph 2 which specifically stated that the church would:

Evaluate and refine its peace-making efforts to demonstrate as fully as possible the "balanced…care for all parties" expressed in the Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine (2005, §II.A), while continuing our unique relationship with and accompaniment of Palestinian Christians and the ELCJHL.

"The ELCA's 'Peace Not Walls' campaign must be more fully aligned with this 'balanced care for all parties' in the conflict in order for the church to act as a peacemaker," said Pastor Thomas A. Prinz of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Leesburg, Va.

According to Rev. Dr. Peter A. Pettit of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., which hosted a luncheon symposium on Israel/Palestine at the CWA, "the 'Peace Not Walls' campaign can now address more adequately criticism that has been leveled against it. Fear drives the conflict, and the campaign has in some cases heightened fears that the Lutheran church has taken sides against Israel."

Pettit pointed to an educational video, a "map of shrinking Palestine," and continuing focus on the separation barrier as problematic examples. "We need to hear mainstream Israeli views. We need to take the barrier seriously as a response to violence. We ought not endorse a disingenuous portrayal of a pre-1948 Palestine that never existed and a post-2000 Palestine that pre-judges final status negotiations. Otherwise, we serve our church poorly and heighten fear," he said.

"'Peace Not Walls' has unfortunately focused advocacy efforts disproportionately on the faults and accountability of Israel while minimizing those of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the Arab states," says Pastor Bruce McLaughlin of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod who voted for the amendment at the assembly. "We are now hopeful that this will be rectified as a result of this resolution."

Continued (Permanent Link)

When Israelis Denounce Israel: Legitimate Criticism of Israel or Arrogant Self-Delusion

When Israelis Denounce Israel: Legitimate Criticism of Israel or Arrogant Self-Delusion

Going beyond what they say to why they say it.

When Israelis Denounce Israel: Legitimate Criticism of Israel or Arrogant Self-Delusion

Dr. Alex Grobman

Dr. Alex Grobman is a Hebrew University trained historian. His is the author of a number of books, including Nations United: How The U.N. Undermines Israel and The West, Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? and a forthcoming book on Israel's moral and legal right to exist as a Jewish State.

Critics of Israel abound. Some are antisemites who seek the demise of the Jewish state. Others have legitimate concerns about particular Israeli policies. Among the most vocal are a number of Israeli intellectuals who challenge the country's raison d'être.

In an August 20, 2009 editorial in the Los Angeles Times, Neve Gordon, a professor of political science at Ben-Gurion University, accused Israel of being an apartheid state. He said a two-state solution was the "more realistic" way to end this inequity. Since only "massive international pressure," will bring about this state and thus save Israel, Gordon recently joined the Arab sponsored Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement founded in July 2005.1

Vilification of Israel by Jews is not a new phenomenon. As early as May 1, 1936 Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson asked: "Is there another people on earth whose sons are so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful, while every murder, rape and robbery committed by their enemies fills their hearts with admiration and awe? As long as a Jewish child…can come to the land of Israel, and here catch the virus of self-hate…let not our conscience be still."2

For Katznelson this was aberrant behavior, not the norm. Today, criticism of Israel has become ubiquitous among a significant portion of Israeli intellectuals.3

In the 1950s, psychologist Gordon Allport explained that Jewish self-hate is the process in which the victim identifies with his aggressor and "sees his own group through their eyes." The Jew "may hate his historic religion…or he may blame some one class of Jews…or he may hate the Yiddish language. Since he cannot escape his own group, he does in a real sense hate himself—or at least the part of himself that is Jewish."4

Self-hating Jews play a significant role in anti-Israel campaigns of the Western media. Historian Robert Wistrich noted that Jews highly critical of Israel are featured in the British media.5

Manfred Gerstenfeld, chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, found that the French elite and media adore Jews and Israelis who are highly critical of Israel. A number of marginal Jews, who are not known in Israel, are presented as part of the Israeli mainstream. 6

Israeli's condemnation of their country is a result of living under "a state of chronic siege," posits Kenneth Levin, a historian and psychiatrist. Israelis have been abused for so long, that they escape their pain by espousing anti-Israel sentiments. Appeasing the terrorists, they believe, will end hostilities. Israel only has to acquiesce to Arab demands, cease obsessing about defensible borders and other strategic issues, and peace would ensue and such concerns would become irrelevant.7

Sol Stern, a former editor of the New Left Ramparts magazine, adds that this assumes both sides act rationally. According to this scenario, when Israel's concessions are considered equitable, amity will compensate for any remaining differences. Didn't the enmity between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union end in détente? Hadn't President Richard Nixon gone to China? Aren't "the Arabs rational" people? 8

Any "peace process" is intrinsically superior to war. Regardless of all previously failed attempts, isn't another peace overture worth trying? To suggest there might be "something inherently violent and unreasonable in Arab Muslim political culture" could be interpreted as racist.9 Instead, Israeli intellectuals began disparaging their own culture and re-writing their country's history. When they concluded that the Arabs had legitimate grievances, they decided "it was time to try again to split the difference."10

In the 1980s and 1990s two different Israeli administrations offered "land for peace' to Syria, but were rebuffed. Under terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Israeli government permitted terrorist organizations to return to the West Bank and Gaza and gave tens of thousands of weapons to Yasser Arafat's security services, before he signed a peace treaty or an irrefutable security agreement. Arab failure to rescind the Palestine National Covenant's demand for Israel's demise and replacement by a Palestinian state was either ignored or minimized.11

"No nation in the world has taken so many mortal risks for a putative peace with its most implacable enemies," Stern observes. Even after the Oslo Accords were shattered when the Arabs began blowing up civilians in pizza shops and on buses, Ehud Barak offered another proposal at Camp David. Instead of accepting this offer, Arafat unleashed "yet another savage wave of extermination against Israel's civilian population" with weapons Israel had provided him.

Stern credits neoconservatives with understanding that Israel's right to exist as a democratic Jewish state has always been the main problem for the Arabs, not the "disputed territories." Arab attempts to bring their case to the attention of the world are not arbitrary. Suicide bombings are a cleverly planned strategy that has produced considerable advantages. After the first series of attacks against Israeli supermarkets, cafés, malls and buses, the Arab cause was championed by European governments and on American campuses.12 Israeli victims receive little sympathy, historian Tony Judt and a severe critic of Israel claims, because they are not seen as victims of terror, but as "collateral damage of their own government's mistaken policies."13

Israeli offers to exchange land for peace have not succeeded. Appeasement has only increased hatred of Israel. Yet Israel is continually pressured to make concessions. The reason, Stern believes, is that progressive critics cannot acknowledge a fundamental truth: "that there can be political movements, like Islamic terrorism—in which the jihad and the intifada merge—that are so pathological in their hatreds that we can solve the problems they purport to care about only after they are defeated." 14

Levin sees an element of arrogance in "this self-delusion" by Israelis who believe they can affect change. Jews assume a responsibility for something over which they have no control, to ward off despair. This is similar to an abused child who feels responsible for his plight and views himself as "bad." The child maintains, "the fantasy that if he becomes good enough," his father will stop hitting him, his mother will give him attention and whatever other form of abuse he suffered will end. In the same way, some Israelis are delusional when they assume they can control Arab behavior.


1. Neve Gordon, "Boycott Israel: An Israeli comes to the painful conclusion that it's the only way to save his country," (August 20, 2009).
2. Edward Alexander, "Israelis Against Themselves." In The Jewish Divide Over Israel: Accusers and Defenders. Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor, Eds. (ew Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2006), 35.
3. Ibid., 35-36.
4. Manfred Gerstenfeld, "Jews Against Israel," Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs No.30 (March 1, 2005).
5. Ibid.
6. Manfred Gerstenfeld, "European-Israeli Relations: Between Confusion and Change? An American Watching Anti-Israeli Bias in France, Interview with Nidra Poller." Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (September 2006).
7. Kenneth Levin, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege (Hanover, New Hampshire: Smith and Kraus Global, 2005), vii-viii, xv, xix-xx.
8. Sol Stern, "Israel Without Apology." City Journal. (Summer 2003), Online.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Tony Judt, "The country that wouldn't grow up." Haaretz. (May 5, 2006), Online.
14. Stern, op.cit.
15. Levin, op.cit. xvi-xx.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Voice of pragmatism in Hamas?

The "pragmatic" conclusion of this article is that more force is needed, not that there is a need for compromise. Nonetheless it is pragmatic in that at least it is ready to face reality.

Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad, who in the past has not been reticent in criticizing his movement, wrote in a July 1, 2009 article on that the Arabs and Palestinians must stop depicting their defeats as victories - referring primarily to Hamas's claim that it won the December 2008 Gaza war. Hamad also called on the Arabs to establish investigative commissions like Israel does. 1

The following are excerpts from his article:

"We Act out of a Partisan Strategy"

"It is always important to call things by their name, so that we do not blindly follow pompous slogans, fall victim to illusions, and then be shocked by reality. We really want victory over Israel. [We want] to defeat this hateful occupation and see it in retreat, under siege, and obliterated - but we want the facts and figures to speak for themselves.

"We do not want emotions and pompous slogans to push aside and take the place of facts, robbing them of their power to persuade [us] and to change the painful reality. Emotion and excitement, slogans, raucous voices, and rallies cannot create real victory - [only] an illusory victory.

"[We should remember] that Israel is not a weak state, but a state with material means, intelligence apparatuses, and international support, and it can handle many challenges. Thus, dealing with it demands immense effort, precise planning, and persistent activity, proportionate to the degree of danger [it poses].

"The need is not for improvisation or for [mere] reaction, because this path gives Israel supremacy in most arenas of the military and political conflict. It is clear that since its establishment, Israel has taken a permanent strategy (about which there is no dispute among Israel's political parties, despite the differences in their [political] inclinations). We, in contrast, act out of a partisan strategy, the main point of which is contradiction and bitter quarrels, not reconciliation or cooperation.

"For many decades, the Arabs have consistently made the mistake of falling for illusions. They deceived themselves and blindly followed nationalist slogans, raucous voices, and false justifications - until every claim to unity and steadfastness collapsed, and then all their strongholds and citadels collapsed [as well]."

We Called Our Defeats Victories

"...For years, we have been in a state of loss, living a life of illusory victory, until the small young state [Israel] dared to occupy Palestine, from the sea to the river. Then it bit off all of the Sinai, stole the Golan Heights from Syria, stole Lebanon's south, and stole part of Jordan's territory. Then, it destroyed the nuclear reactor in Iraq, and even infiltrated Tunisia by sea in order to harm the PLO leaders. Israel is still sowing mayhem and carrying out evil deeds.

"[All this time], we boasted of our glory and listened to raucous songs and revolutionary speeches that intoxicated us with the ecstasy of victory. Even when we sobered up and tasted the bitterness of reality, we became drunk on the song 'Where Are the Millions' [about the Arabs' failure to help the Palestinians].

"When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, reaching into the depth of the capital Beirut, and afterwards expelling the PLO, down to the last of its soldiers (as the entire world watched the ships carrying the fighters into exile) - we called it victory and steadfastness of mythological [proportions].

"When [Israel] impudently and arrogantly dared to invade Lebanon once again, in 2006, and destroyed infrastructure and forced Hizbullah to sign an agreement undertaking not to fire missiles into northern Israel (which it has also honored) - we [again] called this victory, and sounded the slogan, 'The era of defeat is past and the time of victory has arrived.'

"When [Israel] challenged the entire world and razed Gaza to the ground, committing grave crimes and then invading it by land and sowing in it destruction and ruin (just like in the 2006 Lebanon war), we called it victory.

"I don't want to get into numerical comparisons of the casualties on both sides (even though [the numbers] are significant), so as not to start an argument over the criteria for victory. The question that we must deal with is: What kind of victory do we want? Do we want real, tangible victory that will defeat the occupation with facts and figures? Or are we settling for a victory that strokes our [egos], quenches our thirsty souls, and provides us with wild ecstasy that fills our hearts, [so that] the walls are covered with pompous slogans and our streets are filled with raucous rallies...[?]"

Unlike Israel, We Haven't the Courage to Establish an Investigative Commission

"Oddly, we rejoiced greatly when we saw Israel establishing investigative commissions following every one of its wars in order to learn from its mistakes. The commissions summoned the prime minister, defense minister, and chief of staff and officers, to question them and to hold them to account. Moreover, Israel publicly acknowledges its mistakes and its failures - while we rejoice [its] 'failures'...

"We, [in contrast,] haven't the courage to establish such a commission - not a single one - to extract the naked truth from the fog of emotion and slogans, or to talk about it openly with the public. We haven't the real courage to acknowledge our mistakes; we cover them up with a sound and light [show]. Where is credibility, if truth is concealed or wrapped in cellophane?!

"When will we have the courage to be honest with this tormented people that yearns for it - particularly when its history is rife with pain, suffering and partisan and tribal schisms?

"The important question is how to defeat Israel. We all desire, and long with all our hearts, to see Israel beaten, destroyed, and humiliated. We all want the nightmare removed - but the important question (that has bedeviled us for 60 years) is - how? It makes no sense for us to continue to entertain ourselves with hopes of endless future victories..."

We Cannot Win When We're Divided

"It is true that we have stood fast and not waved a white flag; we have not broken in the face of Israel's might. But it is important to call things by their name, and not to float off into the realms of the imagination.

"Let's differentiate between victory and steadfastness or force of resistance. The many questions that always stir us up, keep us awake at night, and tear down our curtain of silence are: Can victory be won in a situation of hateful division and deep rifts? Anyone who thinks so is kidding himself. Anyone who thinks that victory is possible when partisan disputes overcome the national spirit will wait another 100 years. Anyone who thinks that victory can be attained by accusing others of treason, heresy, and [serving] a foreign agenda is like someone who weaves his home from spiders' webs...

"Victory over Israel will be won first of all by means of strong national unity that is cohesive and sincere (rather than contrived), and by means of a national vision of liberation and a clear plan (that combines resistance and political activity), in which everyone participates. It will be won by building the citizen and the society based on coexistence and tolerance, and on rejecting violence, hatred, partisan fanaticism, and incitement in the media - or else we will be spinning our wheels. We will spend the rest of our lives in illusion...

"We all know that our steadfastness, our strength, and our clinging to our land are a crushing blow to the Zionist enterprise that seeks to eradicate our identity and destroy our cause. We all know that the long and glorious history of the Palestinian resistance has greatly contributed to weakening and limiting the occupation - but we must use expressions that will increase our strength and our steadfastness, and will bring us to live in reality, not [in the realm of] exaggeration."

We Palestinians Cannot Win by Ourselves - We Need the Arab Peoples' Help

"We do not want the Arab peoples to live in illusion either. We do not want them to let the Palestinians fight and their blood be spilled [so that they can] then flood us with speeches, marches, rallies and humanitarian aid. Nor do we want to deceive them that everything is well with us in Palestine and that we can fight in their stead (as some ignorant people claim)... [The Arabs] must support us with greater force and boldness, going beyond marches, rallies, and funds.

"Unfortunately, some raucous and unacceptable speeches have misled the Arabs, exaggerating the victory that we [Hamas] achieved and lulling them to sleep with thoughts that [solving] the problem in Gaza requires only money, aid, rallies, and conferences. This is a grave mistake... because it has kept us in the same cycle now for 60 years."

[1], July 1, 2009.


Continued (Permanent Link)

J Street in Focus: Why is J Street supported by the Iranian lobby?

The revelation that J-Street is funded by the Iranian lobby may explain why J-Street recently asked its members to oppose Howard Berman's Iran fuel sanctions bill. The bill was an initiative of the Obama administration, yet J-Street asked members to "support the president" by opposing the bill. Even without knowing that the bill was an administration initiatives, is it possible to believe that a bill that simply gives the President power, at his discretion, to impose sanctions, is bad for the President?
Ami Isseroff

Lenny Ben David has written a wonderful article on the J Street fraud, the anti-Israel lobby with the thinnest guise of being a pro-Israel lobby, extensively promoted by the media and even the White House.
He provides a lot of specific examples of why this group is being seen as hostile to the country it pretends to support. Research is only beginning into this nefarious organization and already the results are shocking.
But let me add some points. After listing support for J Street from anti-Israel individuals, including donations by them, Lenny writes:
"Why should a National Iranian American Council board member give at least $10,000 to J Street PAC? Perhaps it is because of the very close relationship between the two organizations. In June the directors of both organizations coauthored an article in the Huffington Post, `How diplomacy with Iran can Work,' arguing against imposing new tough sanctions on Iran.
"The two organizations have worked in lockstep over the last year to torpedo congressional action against Iran. Why would a supposedly pro-Israel, pro-peace organization work so hard to block legislation that would undermine the Iranian ayatollah regime? Ostensibly, any step to hinder Iran's nuclear development and aid to Hamas and Hizballah would be a step toward regional peace. Deterring Iran through sanctions would lessen the need for military action against Iran. This, as well as championing Hamas's cause, just doesn't make sense."
But the situation is even worse than Lenny points out. The National Iranian American Council is widely viewed—and some researchers have presented evidence—as the unofficial lobby in America for the Iranian regime.
In other words, J Street is getting money and working with the group which supports President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the world's most powerful antisemite who seeks to wipe Israel off the map.
Does that suggest something rather phony about its aims and claims? Is this really a group that the Obama administration wants to be promoting, because to do so sends a very negative signal both to Israel and to American Jews.
But let me raise two other questions. The organization's leader is fond of saying that his group has supported Israel in the past. Yet I have never seen a single statement made or position taken which has backed the state of Israel on any issue or made any criticism of Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, Syria, or the Palestinian Authority.
What is astonishing is that the media has not pressed for such proof or researched the organization's actual record.
A second issue is: precisely who is connected with the organization in Israel. AIPAC is the lobby for Israel and, despite baseless criticisms; it has always supported the positions of the government in power, left or right.
The Israel Policy Forum was historically linked with the Labour party, though this connection has seemed to have weakened in recent years as that group has moved ever leftward. Peace Now is another legitimate organization, though one can certainly disagree with its positions which, at best, are badly outdated by events.
But who are J Street's supporters in Israel? Again, no indication is given and one is suspicious that there are no credible public figures who would take such a stance.
At least it does say something about the strong, popular American support for Israel that an anti-Israel lobby can only be organized effectively in Washington if it pretends to be the opposite.
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. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Boycotting Israel

Benjamin Pogrund no doubt makes cogent points in his defense against Israel boycotts below, but there are some other very important points to be made. The first question to ask is "why boycott Israel?" Why not boycott regimes like Iran, Libya and Sudan that really do practise racism, repression of women, state supported terror and even genocide? Why not boycott China for occupying Tibet and suppressing human rights there, or for its excesses against its own Muslim population? Why not boycott Russia for its inhuman suppression of the Chechens?
The reason is that the Israel boycott show was invented as a means of delegitimizing Israel by anti-Israel activists. It is not part of a grass roots campaign that is concerned to improve human rights practices, but rather part of a campaign to destroy a member state of the UN, for racist reasons. It is not a rights campaign, but a wrongs campaign. Pogrund asks why Israel is compared to apartheid South Africa. The answer is simple - it was a conscious and cynical decision by anti-Israel activists looking for the worst slogan they could find to delegitimize Israel. The strategy is to artificially turn the struggle of Palestinian extremists to destroy Israel into a "legitimate" human rights issue, and to destroy Zionism in the same way that the South Africa apartheid regime was destroyed. Of course, any country could be vulnerable to the same tactics. Spain does not recognize the legitimate right of the ETA to resistance and to Basque self-determination. France "discriminates" against the Hijab. Australia and New Zealand are countries "stolen" from their original inhabitants. Every country can look upon the Israel boycott campaign and say "there but for the grace of God goeth I." Nobody is immune. This sort of campaign is, at a national level, equivalent to libel and slander campaigns carried on against individuals. Everyone may have something in their past, that, cast in the wrong light, might destroy them if not hidden.
Neve Gordon, whose polemic is mentioned in Pogrund's article, disingenuously gave the impression that he has come to the conclusion that Israel must be boycotted only now. But he has held essentially the same views for many years - at least ten as far as I know. The reason "boycotts only harden Israeli opinion" is that like the "ZIonism is Racism" resolution, it is clear that boycotts are not directed at making peace with Israe, but rather at making peace without Israel - at destroying Israel.
Ami Isseroff
Boycotts only harden Israeli opinion
Far from saving this traumatised nation, boycotts are a gift to the fearmongers – we must educate and persuade Israelis instead

Benjamin Pogrund, Monday 24 August 2009 11.35 BST
The most inaccurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. That's the exact opposite of what Neve Gordon said on Cif last week. Level whatever criticisms you want against Israel – start with West Bank occupation and oppression of Palestinians, and go on to the domestic discrimination suffered by the Arab minority – but the simple fact is that none of it is the apartheid of the old South Africa. Abundant evidence of this is readily available, in the Guardian and elsewhere.
Why then is the comparison so often made? One reason, in a different context, is in the words of American comedian Stephen Colbert: "Remember kids! In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant."
For some, the apartheid accusation is the way to destroy Israel. If Israel can be linked with apartheid then it can be denounced as illegitimate as was white-ruled South Africa and hence be wide open to international sanctions.
Those who pursue this couldn't care less about facts. They have an agenda and are unscrupulous about distortion, lying and exaggeration. Their ultimate purpose is exposed by how they answer a basic question: whether or not they accept the fact of Israel's existence.
Others use the apartheid label because they are genuinely affronted and angered by Israeli behaviour – from the occupation to the attack on Gaza – and it seems an easy way to reduce to digestible size the complexities of the national-religious struggle between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians over a small piece of land. It's wrong and it's lazy but that's how many people behave.
It is surprising, and disappointing, to find Gordon in these ranks. He is a professor of politics at a good Israeli university and one expects a more informed approach. I have never met him but see from his writing that he is a man of conscience. He condemns Israeli misdeeds and has long worked for peace, although to be sure he seems to be at the outer fringe of Israel's peace camp. So active is he that rightwing extremists rant at him and try to pressure his university to get rid of him.
Now, however, not only does he take over the apartheid line but he supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement aimed at Israel. That presumably includes the academic boycott that he has previously opposed; he thus becomes both the arrow and the target. He still has to explain how he will resolve this personal contradiction.
Equally the "double standard" which he rightly describes as a problem. Why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights, he asks. To which he could add the US because of its many human rights sins, Greece and Romania for mistreating their Roma people, India for Dalits, Turkey for Kurds, Lebanon's denial of rights to Palestinians, Cuba, Libya etc etc. He puts a good question, but does not give an answer.
The explanation for his new outlook is: "The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost non-existent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right."
He is venting the left's despair. The left's influence has probably never been lower. Its efforts to foster peace with Palestinians are ignored. It has been ineffective in halting the rise of the right wing. It is powerless against an aggressively rightwing government whose leaders abusively blame it for Palestinian terrorism. Its warnings of settlement growth on the West Bank are trashed.
In dealing with this situation we are entitled to look to a professor of politics for insights and understanding of why it has happened, if only because therein lies possible solutions. It has not come about in a vacuum. But again, nothing.
However, the factors at work are obvious, such as the absence of a brave and visionary leadership (both Israeli and Palestinian). There is also, at bottom, the Jewish psyche shaped by history: the centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust, the triumph of the creation of Israel in 1948 and the immediate invasions by Arab neighbours to eradicate it and the unceasing rejectionism, wars and attacks since then.
The terrorism that Palestinians have resorted to has deeply traumatised Israelis. Suicide bombings have driven many or most Israelis to the right. Thousands of rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip and missiles by Hezbollah from Lebanon, add to the national anxiety. There is more than buffoonery in Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wanting to wipe Israel off the map: his nuclear ambitions are scary.
There is certainly Jewish over-sensitivity and over-reaction; some Jews misuse and manipulate antisemitism and the Holocaust to stoke up fears for their own purposes. But allowing for all this, the fact of antisemitism is still a potent and dangerous reality, whether in Arab bloodthirsty threats or the UN Human Rights Council singling out Israel for attack, or a stupid Swedish newspaper article alleging the stealing of human organs.
Day after day, Jewish paranoia is buttressed and justified: Jews see themselves in a world of menace in which their existence is always under threat. In this situation, boycotts, sanctions and divestment are not the way to persuade individual Israelis to change. To believe that it will do the trick is to fail to understand use of boycott as a tactic to achieve defined aims. Applied in this case it will harden Israeli opinion, and make people more determined to tell the world to go to hell. Far from saving Israel from itself, as Gordon wants, it will be a gift to the right wing who will trade on it to foster fear.
That doesn't mean all pressure is useless: it's of a different order when applied, for instance, by the US government through threat of withdrawal of loan guarantees or arms supplies, as has occurred in the past. Such action forces the leaders in government to justify themselves and explain to the public why they have landed the country in such trouble with its most powerful friend.
South Africa offers some lessons. Boycotts were but one of the measures that brought down apartheid and they had variable effects. Sports boycotts sapped the morale of whites; cultural boycotts mainly hurt elites who mostly opposed apartheid; disinvestment, causing loss of jobs, hit the black people whom it was intended to help; industry was not laid low – when Kodak left, Fuji came in; when Ford left, other car makers took over. The most effective action was probably the refusal by US banks in 1985 to roll over loans; that struck the foundations of the economy and was the beginning of the end. Then came the effects of the end of the cold war.
In the case of Israel, resorting to mass boycotts is an admission of failure. It's a cathartic response to despair and floundering. Israelis have turned their backs on Gordon so he blindly lashes out.
Yet there is an alternative. It's old-fashioned: educate and persuade. There is already a head start: opinion polls consistently show a majority of Israelis – and Palestinians too – accept a two-state solution as the means to peace. That must be built on: convince Israelis that they are not going to be murdered and thrown into the sea, and that their children – not only Gordon's two sons – can look forward to a secure future. Convince them that the world – or at least much of it – does not view them as more evil than any other people but wishes them well. Encourage and help maximum contact and co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians.
It's often boring, tedious work, with results that are not always immediately apparent. But it's an affirmation of hope about what can be achieved.

Labels: ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

What about the rights of Jewish refugees?

"My house is your house"

This is a guest post by Lyn Julius

A daughter of the wealthy Jewish Castro family from Egypt once attended a lecture by Anwar Sadat's widow Jehan in New York City.  Congratulating her afterwards on her excellent speech, the Egyptian Jewess exchanged pleasantries with Mrs Sadat. "But you must come back to visit (Egypt) and to show it to your children", Mrs Sadat said, adding the traditional Egyptian courtesy, beti betak - " My house is your house".

Little did she appreciate the irony, but the presidential villa Jehan Sadat lived in had literally belonged to the Castro family expelled by Nasser in 1956. Observers of the Middle East conflict frequently talk of trampled Palestinian rights, but suffer a blindspot when it comes to the  mass dispossession of a greater number of Jews across 10 Arab countries. Few Jews lived as opulently as the Castros, but all over the Middle East and North Africa, Jewish homes, shops and businesses were seized or sold for well under market value as fearful Jews left in haste. Schools, synagogues and hospitals were abandoned as some 850,000 Jews were scapegoated as Zionists after 1948.  A ghostly Jewish presence, a reminder of a more pluralistic, tolerant age, still haunts the Arab world today like a severed limb.

So reports last week that President Mubarak, paying his first visit to Washington since 2004, might have discussed with President Obama a plan for  Palestinian refugees to be compensated, in exchange for a waiver of their 'right of return', has left Jews exiled from the Arab world gasping: "what about us?"

The US-based Historical Society of Jews from Egypt fired off an open letter to President Mubarak seething with indignation:

"If Nasser had not persecuted us, stolen all our property, and expelled us ignominiously with only the shirts on our backs, we would still be living in Egypt and contributing to its greatness as we always have. Indeed, we care about our heritage and cherish it openly. It will be a good day when Egypt finally recognizes our many positive contributions to its history. Sadly, it does not appear this day is near. We wish to bring to your attention, again, as we have many times in the past, a number of grievances. So far, not only have they not been satisfied, but they have not even been addressed.The Egyptian establishment believes that if they just ignore us, we will simply go away."

Clauses in the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty allowing for the settlement of Jewish claims have never been implemented, perhaps because the Israeli government did not want to be blamed for sinking an already-floundering Egyptian economy. But Egypt is haunted that some day the Jews - once a community of 80,000 - will demand  their property back. In May 2008 a group of elderly Jews from Israel had their planned 'roots' visit to Cairo and Alexandria cancelled after just such scaremongering.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Middle East Arms Race

Saudi Arabia spent $36 billion on arms purchases. It is not clear from the article which figures are annual expenditurs and which are cumulative over several years. It is clear that Arab countries together are spending far more than Israel. Iranian expenditures are not mentioned.
Saudis, Israel to lead Mideast arms buys
Aug. 23, 2009
Defense expenditure in the Middle East will cross the $100 billion mark in the coming five years, mainly due to deals Gulf states are closing out of fear of Iran's nuclear program, the Frost & Sullivan consulting firm said, in a report released Sunday.
The bulk of spending is to come from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. In 2008, for example, Saudi Arabia spent close to $36b. on defense platforms and it will likely spend the same amount over the coming five years.
Israel is in second place and will have spent some $13b. by the end of 2009, according to the report.
"Israel's spending has been quite consistent as it has built a very effective and modern military with the most cutting-edge technologies," the report said. "It is still expected to keep spending to stay ahead of its regional adversaries in order to protect its interests."
Iraq is one of the major markets being targeted by defense companies. Control of the country is gradually being transferred from US forces to Iraqi troops. As this happens, the report claims, the "need for equipment and platforms for law enforcement would be increased."
Iraq will likely invest heavily in upgrading its military infrastructure in the first part of the next decade and could spend as much as $11b. by 2014, the report says.
The various countries are buying a wide range of platforms. Israel is interested in purchasing the stealth F-35 fighter jet as well as two new missile ships. UAE and Saudi Arabia have invested billions of dollars in recent years in ballistic missile defense systems, such as the THAAD, which was recently approved for sale to the UAE as the first customer outside of the US.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon notified Congress of a possible military sale to the government of Saudi Arabia of Communication Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management upgrades at an estimated cost of $1.5b.
The Saudis have also asked the US to buy Tactical Airborne Surveillance Systems at an estimated cost of $530 million. The UAE also recently asked the Pentagon for approval to purchase over 360 Hellfire missiles and accompanying hardware.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran - to cooperate or not?

Is Iran really cooperating with UN on its nuclear program  is a question that can only be answered at the end of the day, after the fact. A country can always be hiding a part of its nuclear program, and inspectors can only know what they are shown or what they are allowed to see. A "renovated" shrine can house a subterranean nuclear complex for example, or it can be hidden in the mountains. IAEA discovered neither the Iranian centrifuges nor the Arak reactor. Thus far there have been no requests to question personnel associated with the nuclear program, and some of the explanations, for example regarding blueprints for a nuclear warhead (also not discovered by IAEA) were less than satisfactory.
Here's the story for now, as presented by Reuters:
Iran will continue to cooperate with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday, appearing to confirm Tehran had let inspectors access a reactor under construction after blocking visits for a year.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is due to release a report on Iran's disputed nuclear programme this week. Last week diplomats accredited to the Vienna-based agency said Iran had allowed the IAEA to inspect the Arak heavy water reactor site.
The UN agency had urged Iran to grant access so it can verify that the site under construction is for peaceful uses only. The diplomats also said Iran had recently allowed an upgrade to monitoring at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
The moves were greeted with skepticism by the West, which suspects Iran is seeking to build nuclear bombs. Tehran says its nuclear work is to generate electricity. Uranium enrichment can have both civilian and military uses.
Asked about the reported Arak visit and whether there had been a change or improvement in Iran's relations with the IAEA, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told reporters:
"All our nuclear activities have been within the framework of the agency and the NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) ... (IAEA Director General Mohamed) ElBaradei has always confirmed Iran's cooperation with the agency.
"This trend will be continued in the future. What has been mentioned recently was in the same framework," he added, appearing to refer to the reported Arak visit.
The United States, Britain, France and Germany are expected to urge Russia and China in talks on Sept. 2 to consider a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran and the latest IAEA report will help form the basis for the discussions.
In Washington on Friday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Iran's latest moves at the IAEA fell short of what was required and that Iran must live up to its international obligations. Several diplomats from the six world powers said they were sceptical about Iran's latest move.
To avoid further sanctions, Tehran must stop enrichment, come clean about its past nuclear activities and sit down at the negotiating table, the diplomats said. Iran has repeatedly ruled out halting or freezing its nuclear program.
Western hopes that Iran would negotiate a cap on its nuclear work faded when it quelled unrest over alleged fraud in a June election which returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.
But the new head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi is seen by analysts as a mild-mannered politician in favour of resolving the nuclear row through talks.
Qashqavi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the West should revise its approach towards Iran and "try to resort to interaction instead of sanctions". He said such punitive measures could not stop Iran's nuclear activities.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Egyptian authorities react to charges of neglect of Jewish Synagogue

Egyptian authorities stung by charges of neglect over Jewish site

The Egyptian authorities have been stung by a critical open letter issued by Egyptian Jews as president Mubarak visited Washington this week, and pictures of a derelict Jewish site appearing on weblogs such as Point of No Return. They are at pains to state that the site is not a synagogue but a yeshiva.

To show that accusations of neglect of Egypt's Jewish heritage are unfounded, they are trumpeting their plans to restore the Maimonides* synagogue. This is not linked, they say in this AFP report, to the culture minister Farouk Hosni's bid to head UNESCO. Hosni once said he would 'burn Israeli books.'

CAIRO — Egypt denied on Thursday that it was restoring its Jewish antiquities only to help bolster a controversial bid by Culture Minister Faruq Hosni to head UNESCO.

Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass was responding to complaints by Jewish groups after recent pictures circulating on the Internet reportedly showed religious books scattered on the floor of a synagogue.

"There have been some pictures published in newspapers and on Internet sites implying that Egypt has neglected its duties towards Jewish temples and this is not true," Hawass told reporters at the Musa bin Maymun (or Maimonides) synagogue in Cairo?s ancient Jewish Quarter.

Continued here with a video: Egyptian authorities stung by charges of neglect over Jewish site

Continued (Permanent Link)

Afghanistan - blame it on the Jews

You can tell when Americans are getting tired of a war. They begin to blame it on the Jews. What happens to left over countries and left over wars when the US public gets tired of them? Vietnam was one example. Iraq might be a second example. And now Afghanistan. Will Obama be remembered as another President with an unpopular war - that would be ironic. See Gauging US policy: Afghanistan and Iraq. Will Israel and the Palestinian conflict be the next thing that makes Americans yawn? Do we just disappear off their TV screens and out of reality then?
Ami Isseriff

Continued (Permanent Link)

US Supported PA joins in Swedish blood libel against IDF

Hard to believe? Actually not surprising. The organ snatching story was probably originated by Yasser Arafat himself in 2002. The only part that is hard to believe is that these people are supposed to be "peace partners" and that they are supported by enlightened governments. Your tax dollars at work.  

Palestinian news agency 'confirms' organ snatching story

Aug. 23, 2009
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Bethlehem-based Palestinian news agency Ma'an published a report over the weekend which it said confirmed allegations that IDF soldiers kill Palestinian civilians to harvest their organs.

The charges appeared last week in Sweden's left-leaning Aftonbladet newspaper and have since been widely quoted in Palestinian and Arab newspapers.

"They plunder the organs of our sons," read the headline in Sweden's largest daily newspaper, which devoted a double spread in its cultural section to the article.

Ma'an, which is funded by Denmark and the Netherlands, headlined its feature: "Disappearances, Holding Bodies, Organ Theft - Intertwined Crimes."

The feature is based on an interview with Abdel Nasser Farwaneh, a former security prisoner in Israel who is described by the news agency as an "expert on prisoners' affairs."

Farwaneh is quoted as saying that the "findings" published by the Swedish newspaper are true.

"All the facts, evidence and testimonies over the past few decades regarding the way the occupation forces were treating and killing innocent civilians don't leave room for doubt about the credibility of the report in the Swedish newspaper," he said.

The "expert" claimed that hundreds of Palestinian and Arab prisoners have disappeared in Israeli detention centers and prisons.

"This policy of hiding prisoners is surely connected to what the Swedish newspaper published," Farwaneh said. "It's possible that all those missing prisoners, or a large number of them, were deliberately killed so that their organs could be stolen and used illegally. The remains of these prisoners are then hidden in secret cemeteries known as the Cemeteries of Numbers."

Farwaneh told the agency that there was also good reason to believe that the allegations were true because many bodies of Hizbullah gunmen that were returned by Israel were missing organs.

He also claimed that IDF soldiers had "executed" more than 50 civilians after arresting them during the second intifada, which began in September 2000. "This could be related to what the Swedish newspaper reported about organ harvesting," he said.

Farwaneh expressed deep admiration for the Swedish newspaper and the journalist who reported the allegations, Donald Bostrom, and called on the international media to follow suit and expose Israeli "atrocities and war crimes" against Palestinians.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Democratic Rep. Howard Berman hits Obama administration on settlement freeze pressure

Next thing you know, J street will say he is a "right wing Republican neo-con" and tell everyone to "support the president" by voting Berman out of office, right?  
The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said last week that the Obama administration is making a mistake in demanding Israel completely freeze construction in the settlements. Congressman Howard Berman, a Democrat from California, made these comments during a closed meeting with Jewish leaders in Los Angeles.
Berman said Israel and the U.S. are close to reaching an agreement that will "be face-saving for everyone."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to London tomorrow for a crucial meeting on Wednesday with special U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. The meeting is meant to determine Israel's future construction policy in the settlements.
The U.S. administration is keen to gain a freeze on settlement construction for at least a year, but so far Israel has only offered to stop building for six months. But Israeli envoys Yitzhak Molcho and Brig. Gen. Mike Herzog recently briefed a six-minister advisory panel on what they called the narrowing differences between Jerusalem and Washington on settlements.
However, Israeli officials said this weekend they believe Wednesday's meeting with Mitchell may not yield an agreement, and that several more meetings will be needed to solve the matter, which may even have to wait for the summit between Netanyahu and Obama planned for September.
A political source in Jerusalem said Friday that ultimately it is likely the freeze will be for nine to 12 months and would not apply to East Jerusalem or include most of the housing units already under construction.
On Wednesday afternoon, after the meeting with Mitchell, Netanyahu will travel to Berlin; on Thursday he is scheduled to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German Foreign Ministry issued a statement Friday in which it called for urgent progress on the issue of settlements so progress in the peace process will be possible.
Congressman Berman met on August 14 with Jewish leaders in Los Angeles. The senior congressman, who is in close touch with Mitchell and is updated regularly on developments in the Middle East, said during the meeting that the disagreement between Israel and the U.S. over the settlements will be resolved by the end of August in a manner that is satisfactory to both sides.
However, Berman was highly critical of the conduct of the Obama administration, saying the demand for absolute cessation of construction in the settlements was "mistaken."
Berman blamed the stance of the administration on the settlements for having hardened the Palestinian position unjustifiably. "Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is waiting for the U.S. to present him Israel on a platter," Berman told the Jewish leaders. The Congressional leader said that this was a mistake, adding that the PA has responsibilities too, such as countering incitement against Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Subscribe to
email newsletter for this site and others

Powered by

Feedblitz subcription
To this Blog only

You can receive our articles by e-mail. For a free subscription, please enter your e-mail address:

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Web Logs & Sites

This Site

Zionism & Israel
Zionation Web Log
IMO Web Log (Dutch)

ZI Group
Zionism-Israel Pages
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
Israël in de Media
MidEastWeb Middle East News and Views
MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log

Brave Zionism
Israel: Like this, as if
Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog

Friends and Partners
EinNews Israel
Israel Facts
Israel Proud Adam Holland
Middle East Analysis
Irene Lancaster's Diary
Middle East Analysis
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Israel Facts (NL)
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
Simply Jews
Fresno Zionism
Anti-Racist Blog
Sharona's Week
Z-Word Blog
Jewish State
Take A Pen - Israel Advocacy
Zionism on the Web
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
ZOTW's Blogs
Christian Attitudes
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Southern Wolf
Peace With Realism
Sanda's Place
Liberal for Israel
Realistic Dove
Blue Truth
Point of no Return
Christians Standing With Israel
Christians Standing With Israel - Blog

Encylopedic Dictionary of Zionism and Israel
Middle East Encyclopedia
Zionism and its Impact
Zionism & the creation of Israel
Zionism - Issues & answers
Maps of Israel
Christian Zionism Resources
Christian Zionism
Albert Einstein
Gaza & the Qassam Victims of Sderot
Zionist Quotes
Six Day War
Jew Hatred
Learn Hebrew
Arab-Israeli Conflict
International Zionism

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Israel Boycott
Boycott Israel?
Amnesty International Report on Gaza War
Boycott Israel?
Dutch Newspaper Reporting: A Study of NRC Handelsblad
Hamas (Dutch)
Dries van Agt (Dutch)
Isfake lobby

At Zionism On the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
ZOTW Forum

Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Ahava Products

Elsewhere On the Web
Stop the Israel Boycott


Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

RSS V 1.0

International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory