hedonistic dementor

I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy — but that could change.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why should they get a state?

The Basques, Kurds, Catalonians, Corsicans, and Scots also have no state. Even the Native Americans, Flemish, the Copts and the Maronites have no state. With all the giant states in the Middle East, it is the Jewish State that is required to share with the Palestinians the little territory that Israel has.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Street corner named for courage

A midtown corner was renamed Thursday after a daring Polish diplomat who infiltrated a Nazi concentration camp and tried in vain to convince the west of the Holocaust's horrors.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We are all anti-Semites now

The signs are unmistakable. Anti-Semitism is becoming respeactable among the elites who shape public opinion.

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Ending Israel's conditional legitimacy

In the chanceries of Europe, the die has apparently been cast. The time has come to launch an all-out diplomatic war against Israel. That is, the time has come to begin to unravel EU acceptance of Israel's right to exist.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman

When was Israel at its strongest in terms of public opinion around the world? After the victory of the Six Day War, not after all the concessions in Oslo Accords I, II, III and IV. Anyone who wants to maintain his status in public opinion must understand that if he wants respect, he must first respect himself.

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Anti-Semitism and the Economic Crisis

When Jews gather Wednesday night for the Passover Seder, we will recite the words from the Hagadah, the book that relays the Israelite exodus from slavery in Egypt: "In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us." This year, they will resonate all the more ominously.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

'NY Times' trigger happy on Israel

When it comes to bad news from Israel, it is The New York Times that's guilty of bad judgment and being quick on the trigger. This unfair overemphasis on allegations of Israeli misdeeds relative to similar, and sometimes more credible, stories about Americans is, simply put, discrimination against the Jewish state.

In February 2009, a few veterans of the recently concluded Operation Cast Lead met to discuss what some of them felt was immoral conduct by the IDF. The soldiers exchanged war stories, including two specific allegations about unarmed civilians being killed in Gaza. Details of the now notorious meeting emerged the following month, when a transcript of the conversation was leaked to Israeli newspapers.

On March 20, just one day after the story broke in Israel, The New York Times covered the allegations in a front page, above the fold story. A follow-up piece the next day repeated the allegations. And a day later yet another piece dealt with the issue.

Almost exactly one year earlier, in March 2008, American veterans of the most recent Iraq war got together near Washington to publicly recollect their battlefield experiences. They told stories of indiscriminate fire, the killing of innocent civilians and systematic cover-ups of wrongful deaths.

Although these veterans' charges were clearly more relevant to American readers of The New York Times - they were, after all, about American soldiers, American policies and alleged American atrocities - the newspaper didn't cover it on its front page, as it did with the Israeli allegations. It didn't cover the Americans' accounts in three consecutive articles. It fact, although other mainstream news organizations covered the story, the Times didn't report on it at all.

THE TIMES isn't known for being soft on Americans. But this baffling discrepancy between the newspaper's handling of stories about Israeli soldiers and American soldiers is no fluke.

For example, when a US sniper testified before a military court in February 2008 that "he had ordered a subordinate to kill an unarmed Iraqi man who wandered into their hiding position near Iskandariya, then planted an AK-47 rifle near the body to support his false report about the shooting," The New York Times buried the story on page 8.

When the newspaper learned in August 2008 that two American soldiers confessed, in a signed statement to army investigators, to executing handcuffed and blindfolded Iraqi prisoners and dumping their bodies into a canal, the story ran on page 11. And when the soldiers were formally charged with murder a month later, it was noted on page 16.

Perhaps the most striking contrast is between the newspaper's treatment of the Gaza stories and its caution in dealing with allegations that American troops wrongfully killed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha. While The New York Times put on its front page the news that, in Israel, "the military's chief advocate general ordered an investigation into" the alleged Gaza killings, it's early 2005 report that the US military was "investigating whether a Marine squad... near the Iraqi town of Haditha committed wrongdoing" amounted to three short paragraphs hidden at the end of a long article on page 12. In fact, it wasn't until more than 10 weeks after Time magazine first scandalized the country by suggesting there may have been a massacre in Haditha - and only after US officials said the military investigation was expected to find that the marines indeed "carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians" - that The New York Times found the incident worth publishing on its front page.

It gets worse. Even before The New York Times published its three pieces about allegations of Israeli misconduct, those charges had been substantially discredited. Israel's Channel 2 television station reported that the source of one of the allegations admitted his story was based only on rumors. Yet none of the three Times articles mentioned this key point. On the contrary, they wrongly described the allegations as "testimony," "revelations" and "eyewitness accounts."

This unfair overemphasis on allegations of Israeli misdeeds relative to similar, and sometimes more credible, stories about Americans is, simply put, discrimination against the Jewish state.

It took more than a week for the Times to finally reveal, in a fourth article, that the core of what it reported in the three earlier pieces was nothing more than hearsay, and that Israeli investigators believe the charges are almost certainly false. But the damage was already done. The trigger happy The New York Times splashed dubious rumors on its front page, and in doing so caused irreversible harm not only to Israel's reputation, but also to the truth. (The newspaper's "retraction" - which was not described as a retraction - was published on page four.)

In prominently highlighting the false accusations, the newspaper seemed to be implying that IDF troops, in their fight against Hamas's guerrilla fighters, exhibited bad judgment and were too quick to kill Palestinians. But what the stories actually showed was that, when it comes to bad news from Israel, it is The New York Times that's guilty of bad judgment and being quick on the trigger.

The writer is a senior research analyst at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

There is no heart so warm that it doesn't have a cold spot for the Jews

Gaza and After: An Interview with Paul Berman

PAUL BERMAN IS A writer on politics and literature, an editor at Dissent and The New Republic, a professor of Journalism at New York University, and a preeminent public intellectual. He has written or edited eight books, including, most recently, Carl Sandburg: Selected Poems, edited with an introduction, published by the Library of America in 2006.

Many of Berman's political writings have analyzed progressive political movements and their ideas as well as the political movements and ideologies that have challenged these ideas in the modern era. In two of his books - A Tale of Two Utopias, published in 1996 and Power and the Idealists, published in 2005 - Berman analyzed the intellectual evolution of the student radicals of 1968, both in the United States and Europe. In Terror and Liberalism, published in 2003, Berman examined the ideas which underpin radical Islamist political movements and illuminated the connections between Islamist and European totalitarian ideologies.

In the wake of Israel's war against Hamas, I sat down with Paul Berman to discuss the war, the Obama Administration and the Middle East, and the persistence of antisemitism in our own time.

How have you judged Israel's actions against Hamas? Do you think Israel used disproportionate force against Hamas?

There is an obligation to live, which means that Israel has not just the right but the obligation to defend herself. Judging the proportionality of the Israeli actions runs into a complication, though - something of a logical bind.

It is now and then noted in the press that Hamas, in its charter, calls for the elimination of Israel - though, actually, the charter goes further yet, which is almost never noted. Article Seven of the charter, citing one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, makes clear that Hamas acknowledges a religious duty to kill the Jews. It's all pretty explicit. Which Jews in particular must be killed, in order to bring about, as the charter puts it, the "Last Hour?" Article Seven merely stipulates "the Jews" - which leaves open the possibility, I would think, of killing all of the Jews, or at least (judging from other sections of the charter) the Jews who inhabit any place that is now or used to be Islamic. In any case, the Jews of Israel.

History has some experience with political movements that proclaim in their founding documents the intention of killing the Jews

What is Israel trying to fend off, then? Two possibilities. First: it's not so hard to imagine that, if Hamas were allowed to prosper unimpeded, and if its allies and fellow-thinkers in Hezbollah and the Iranian government and its nuclear program likewise prospered, the goal announced in Article Seven could be largely achieved. History has some experience with political movements that proclaim in their founding documents the intention of killing the Jews. And so, a first possibility is that Israel is up against military enemies who have every intention of committing a genocide, and who might conceivably succeed. The possibility that Israel is defending itself against a genocide ought to lead any reasonable person to grant the Israelis a degree of latitude in judging what is a proportionate action - even if, as Michael Walzer points out, an invocation of genocidal dangers could also end up as a justification for doing too much.

However, a second possibility. The Hamas charter is full of wild language - not just the part about killing the Jews, but also the invocation of the Protocols of Zion and of an antisemitic theory of history. But maybe all of this stuff should be regarded merely as an overwrought cry of pain - an expression of powerlessness. Maybe there is a kind of pathos of victimhood and suffering in Hamas' ideas, and not much more.

I think that, around the world, a lot of people look at Hamas in that light. They see in Hamas the ugliness that clings to the powerless, and, out of compassion, they excuse the ugliness. Or they choose to overlook it, in the way that, out of courtesy, you might choose not even to notice a dreadful deformity on someone's face or body.

Now, if Hamas were, in fact, extremely weak and doomed to remain so - if Hamas were capable of nothing more than lobbing primitive rockets at Israel, which might kill a few people but not more than a few - well, the question of proportionality in Israel's military response would look a little different. Israel, in that case, would have acted just now in a grotesquely criminal way, like some deranged police force that, in its efforts to put down a street gang, has ended up leveling an entire city.

A lot of people...see in Hamas the ugliness that clings to the powerless, and, out of compassion, they excuse the ugliness

But which of these is the correct analysis - that Hamas poses a genocidal threat in the making? Or that Hamas expresses mostly the ugliness of the powerless, and poses a relatively small danger? Everything hangs on the answer to that question. People tend to assume that the proportionality of a military action should be measured against what has already taken place - that somebody who has been attacked has the right to counter-attack on roughly the same level. "The law of even-Steven," in Walzer's dismissive phrase. But it is the future that has to be taken into account.

Unfortunately, we cannot predict the future. We stand in the dark, and we make guesses. Those of us who look on the Gaza war from thousands of miles of away enjoy the luxury of speculating this way or that way. But if you were in the Israeli government, it wouldn't be so easy to gamble on the answer. So Israel is in a bind. No matter what the Israelis choose to do, they have to recognize that they might be tragically wrong - either in their failure to defend themselves, or in the suffering they inflict on other people.

One aspect of the proportionality debate has been pretty much ignored, and this has to do with the rest of the world, and not Israel - the rest of us. People ought to have noticed by now that any number of humanitarian catastrophes lie just over the horizon and are perfectly predictable - the catastrophes that will follow ineluctably from any future wars in Gaza or Lebanon, or from an attack that Israel, out of fear of the Iranian nuclear program, could conceivably launch on Iran.

No matter what the Israelis choose to do, they might be tragically wrong - either in their failure to defend themselves, or in the suffering they inflict on other people

Now, if the rest of the world really wants to worry and be upset over humanitarian disasters, there would be every reason to start worrying right now over the prospect of those future wars. A humanitarian logic ought to lead us to ask, how can those wars be stopped, pre-emptively, so to speak - instead of merely deploring them, after the fact. I know that a lot of people would say that, well, Israel ought to dismantle its West Bank settlements and do a thousand other things to allow their enemies to calm down. Me, I've never had any patience for West Bank settlements, and I can picture a lot of ways that Israel could improve.

Still, it would be disingenuous not to notice another obvious reality. An Iran without a nuclear program would be in no danger of Israeli attack. Here is an impending war that rests on a single variable. Why not alter the variable? Equally obvious: Israel is not going to launch a war against any of the groups on its own borders that remain at peace. Why not do everything possible to disarm those groups? Protests, moral pressures, diplomatic pressures, not to mention grand international alliances, not to mention human rights reports!. There are a lot of things that could be done. But it may be that, around the world, some of the people who weep over the sufferings caused by war would rather see still further wars than undertake even the simplest and most obvious steps to avoid the wars.

You laid out two interpretations of Hamas. Why do you think so many outside observers are wedded to the interpretation of Hamas as a weak, powerless organization?

It's human nature to believe that a political movement like Hamas is weak - or, if it is strong, that its wild language is merely blather, and not to be taken seriously.

Back in the 1930s, people used to assume that, once the Nazis had found their way into a position of responsibility for the well-being of Germany, they would stop saying wild things and would certainly think twice about putting their program into action. Power was supposed to sober the Nazis up. But maybe there is something about ideologies of group hatred that makes it hard to sober up.

Then again, I think that a certain number of people see nothing especially crazy or hateful in Hamas' arguments and goals. They see points that are fairly reasonable, even if Hamas' way of expressing those points seems a little crude. The Jews should not be killed, all reasonable people agree; but (so goes a very popular argument) neither do the Jews have a right to defend themselves. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is not a sophisticated document; but Walt and Mearsheimer's book "The Israel Lobby" is (in some people's view) a sophisticated document. And the sophisticated document makes the unsophisticated one seem like it is on to something. By reasoning in this fashion, people end up concluding that Hamas' doctrines have a purchase on truth - something that quite a few people believe. But they choose not to say it because they don't want to look unsophisticated or coarse.

Power was supposed to sober the Nazis up. But maybe there is something about ideologies of group hatred that makes it hard to sober up

Anyway, history does not lack for genocides, and we have to assume that a lot of people have figured that, for one reason or another, genocide is a good idea. The people who think in this fashion are not just the fanatics who engage in the massacres, but also a larger public that gazes from the sidelines without objecting, and sometimes even applauds.

During the Gaza conflict, there were several anti-Israel protests where Israel was routinely demonized as a Nazi or Apartheid state. Why do you think so many activists, especially on the left, demonize Israel? Is it a sign of antisemitism?

Oh, as Irving Howe said, "There is no heart so warm that it doesn't have a cold spot for the Jews." We like to think of hatred of the Jews as a low, base sentiment that is entertained by nasty, ignorant people, wallowing in their own hatefulness. But normally it's not like that. Hatred for the Jews has generally taken the form of a lofty sentiment, instead of a lowly one - a noble feeling embraced by people who believe they stand for the highest and most admirable of moral views.

In the Middle Ages, Christians felt they were upholding the principles of universal redemption, and they looked on the Jews as terrible people because the Jews had refused the word of God - had insisted on remaining Jews. And so, the loftiest of religious sentiments led to hatred of the Jews.

In the 18th century, the Enlightenment philosophers looked on the Enlightenment itself as the loftiest form of thought - the truest of all possible guides to universal justice and happiness. The Enlightenment philosophers detested Christianity because it was a font of superstition and oppression. But this only led them to despise the Jews even more - no longer because the Jews had refused the message of Christianity, but because the Jews had engendered the message of Christianity. And the damnable Jews insisted on remaining Jews, instead of repudiating religion altogether.

As Irving Howe said, "There is no heart so warm that it doesn't have a cold spot for the Jews"

The religious wars wreaked all kinds of damage on Europe. But the Treaty of Westphalia came along in 1648 and put an end to religious wars by establishing a system of states with recognized borders, each state with its own religion. The new Westphalian system embodied yet another Enlightenment idea of lofty ideals - the grandest guarantee of universal peace and justice. But the Jews were scattered throughout Europe, instead of being gathered together in a single state. The new state system was supposed to be a comfortable shoe, and the Jews were a pebble. And they insisted on remaining Jews, instead of helpfully disappearing. So one hated the Jews for failing to conform to the new system of states.

Today we have arrived at yet another idea about how to bring about universal peace and justice - the loftiest, most advanced idea of our own time. Instead of looking on well-established states with solid borders to keep the peace, Westphalia-style, we look on states as a formula for oppression and war. Lofty opinion nowadays calls for post-state political systems, like the European Union. Unfortunately, nowadays the Jews possess a state. Thus one hates the Jews in the name of lofty opinion, no longer because the Jews lack a state but because, on the contrary, they have a state. They seem keen on keeping their state. And once again the Jews are seen to be affirming a principle that high-minded people used to uphold but have now rejected as antiquated.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people with advanced ideas began to look on Christian hatred of the Jews as a retrograde prejudice - and the advanced thinkers embraced, instead, the pseudo-science of racism. They no longer hated the Jews on religious grounds - they hated the Jews on racial grounds. The word "racism" originally applied to hatred of the Jews. Racial hatred seemed up to date. Today, however, racism itself has come to seem like a retrograde prejudice. And so, people with advanced opinions hate the Jews on anti-racist grounds, and they regard the Jews as the world's leading racists.

And so forth. The unstated assumption is always the same. To wit: the universal system for man's happiness has already arrived (namely, Christianity, or else Enlightenment anti-Christianity; the Westphalian state system, or else the post-modern system of international institutions; racial theory, or else the anti-racist doctrine in a certain interpretation). And the universal system for man's happiness would right now have achieved perfection - were it not for the Jews. The Jews are always standing in the way. The higher one's opinion of oneself, the more one detests the Jews.

The political left has always been of two minds on these matters. An opposition to anti-Semitism (and to all kinds of bigotry) did use to be one of the pillars of the modern left. But the left has always rested on more than one pillar, and some of those pillars are a little wobbly. And there is the left-wing conceit that, today at last, the system for universal justice and happiness has been discovered, and should be embraced by all advanced thinkers. The cosmopolitan abolition of states, let us say. And here are the Jews resisting it. In short, nothing leads more quickly to a disdain for the Jews than a feeling of smug loftiness.

The Jews are always standing in the way. The higher one's opinion of oneself, the more one detests the Jews

To be sure, lofty disdain comes in different versions. In its respectable version, lofty disdain right now adopts a position of long-faced sadness over Israel for being such a reprehensible place, for existing at a moment when states ought to fade away, for being racist, for perpetuating religion, for being an example of European imperialism, and so forth. One shakes one's head in sorrowful regret that the Israelis are the way they are.

But the disdain takes another shape, too, which is cruder, though it follows more or less from the first version. In the cruder version, the Jews are not just regrettable for being retrograde. Much worse: the Jews have done something really terrible. By forming their state and standing by it, they have set out actively to oppose the principle of universal justice and happiness - the principle that decrees that a people like the Jews should not have a state.

So, yes, the comparisons to apartheid - or, more radically and these days more typically, to the Nazis. The comparison to the Nazis began to emerge in the 1970s in Western Europe and also in the Arab world, and by now it is pretty much everywhere you look.

It's a remarkable comparison in all kinds of ways, but I'll point out just one aspect. The Nazis are generally regarded as the worst, most evil political movement in all of history - a political movement that not only committed crimes but stood for the principle of crime. By comparing Israel to the Nazis, people mean to suggest that Israel is likewise one of the worst, most evil political institutions that could possibly exist. The accusation is cosmically huge. And the cosmically huge accusation makes perfect sense - if you keep in mind the venerable idea that the Jews stand in the way of mankind's achievement of a perfected system of universal justice and happiness.

From the standpoint of the venerable idea, Israel's problems with its borders and its neighbors do not resemble the difficulties that other states have with their own borders and neighbors. There is no point in making statistical comparisons - the comparisons that might show how many people have been killed in Israel's wars, or how many people have been displaced from their homes by Israel, compared to the number of people killed and displaced by other wars and other states around the world. The statistics, if you looked at them, would reflect the fact that Israel is a small place, and its borders none too large, and its wars and disasters are not among the hugest that have taken place in the last sixty years, or even the last six years.

In the end, [antisemitism] is the grand accusation against the Jews, in ever newer versions: the Jews as cosmic enemy of the universal good

But the statistics, as I say, are irrelevant, given the peculiar philosophical light that people shine on Israel. Israel's struggle puts it at odds with the entire principle of universal justice and happiness, as people imagine it - no matter how they choose to define the principle. Other countries commit relative crimes, which can be measured and compared. But Israel commits an absolute crime. In the end, it is the grand accusation against the Jews, in ever newer versions: the Jews as cosmic enemy of the universal good.

You sound like you might be talking about human rights activists. Are you suggesting that human rights activists are now acting in the service of an antisemitic agenda?

In the service of an antisemitic agenda? No, no, the phrase is wrong. The only conscious program in the human rights movement is a good program. I hugely respect the Israeli human rights activists. To try to keep track of what has taken place during the Gaza war and may still be taking place - this is totally necessary. We know very well that the IDF has done terrible things in Gaza - perhaps by not taking judicious care, or by falling into the temptations of blind hatred, but mostly because any kind of warfare at all is what it is. But how will we ever learn what exactly has been done, if the human rights groups don't work up their reports?

There is a human value merely in recording what has taken place. If I myself had suffered in Gaza, I would definitely want human rights groups to come record what I had been through. Anyway, the Israeli human rights groups help keep the IDF honest. And so forth with other human rights organizations - at least in principle, even if there is a lot to say about the practise.

Still, even those of us who think of ourselves as the friends and champions of the human rights movement - even we ought to be able to look around and, in a spirit of lucidity, notice a couple of peculiarities. I do think that, in some of the human rights reports on Israeli military action in the past, you could see a kind of in-built analytic distortion. The human rights investigators work up analyses of what they ascertain to be facts; but their notion of facts excludes political motivations. And yet, if you ignore the political reasoning behind certain kinds of violent acts, you really cannot account for what has happened. Once you have ruled out making an examination of political motivations, you are absolutely guaranteed to conclude that Israel has acted with disproportionate force. It's predictable in advance.

The human-rights investigators work up analyses of what they ascertain to be facts; but their notion of facts excludes political motivations

A further problem: the human rights groups make their reports or accusations - and, somehow or another, the reports and accusations end up resonating all over the world. During the Gaza war, the front page of every major newspaper in the world was filled with reports and photos of Israeli violence, which became, not for the first time, a world-wide controversy. The same thing will happen, on a smaller scale, when the human rights reports come out with their accusations of Israeli war crimes, in a few weeks or months. It is as if all the news organizations of the world have agreed that, if a major problem with human rights exists anywhere in the Middle East, it comes from the one country in the region that most obviously cares about human rights. The greater is someone's high-mindedness about this kind of thing, the more that person is likely to end up singling out Israel for its assault on human rights. Statistics make up a big part of the human rights picture of reality; and yet, judged statistically, something has got to be very odd in the repeated emphatic focus on a single place. These are the peculiarities of the human rights movement right now.

Some of the most serious criticisms of Israel and Zionism come from Jews themselves. How do you interpret this response?

Well, sometimes the criticisms are rightly made. But, yes, a very curious phenomenon does pop up now and then. An old phenomenon. Back in the time of the European ghettos, most of the Jews were stuck behind the walls, and were despised for being there. But some of the Jews got out, and they did their best to blend into the majority population, and they even did their best to highlight the difference between themselves and their despised ghetto brethren. I happen just now to be reading Bernard Lewis on Lessing, the German writer.

I quote Bernard Lewis: "Lessing, perhaps the greatest of European philosemites, subtly realizes this attitude. In one of his plays, a vulgar and loud-mouthed antisemitic servant, suddenly discovering that his revered master is a Jew, tries to atone for his previously hostile remarks by observing in defense of the Jews that 'there are Jews who are not at all Jewish.' Some Jews responded to this kind of defense and implied invitation with eager enthusiasm, others with outrage. Both kinds of responses can still be found among Jews in the present day."

Lessing lived in the 18th century, and Lewis wrote the lines I've just quoted in the 1980s, in his book Semites & Anti-Semites. But it's really about our own moment, isn't it? There do seem to be a fair number of Jews who are tremendously eager to show how innocent they are - unlike the other Jews, the guilty ones.

What does the election of Barack Obama mean for America? Do you think that American support for Israel will continue under his Administration?

I'm enthused by Obama. And, in my enthusiasm, I find myself thinking: this election has been the most inspiring event in American history. The American Revolution was inspiring, and the Civil War and Lincoln likewise, and Franklin Roosevelt and the victory over fascism, and all that - inspiring events because they signaled big forward steps for democracy. But there has always been something wrong with America, and the claim to be democratic has always contained an extra clause. And so, each of those big successes in the American past has been accompanied by a small, unobtrusive asterisk, which leads your eye to the bottom of the page, where you find the extra clause, which says: "Democracy is fine and good for most people, and yet, for various unfortunate reasons, one part of the American population is hereby excluded." The asterisk has meant that America is living a lie. Even at America's grandest moments. But no longer! Not on this one point, anyway. The election just now is the first large event in American history that can be recorded without an asterisk.

[T]his election has been the most inspiring event in American history

The old-fashioned antisemitic right-wing is completely on the outs, for now. As for the anti-Zionist left in America: The Nation magazine, the Answer movement, the professors who want to boycott Israel (now, that's an interesting phenomenon!) - these kinds of tendencies are pretty marginal, in America. The views of The Nation magazine on the Middle East are represented in the degree of about five percent in the Obama administration. We have every reason to believe that President Obama will be totally sympathetic to Israel's principle policy, namely, the policy of continuing to exist. I don't know everything that Obama will do - but he won't adopt his measures on the basis of an unstated antipathy to Israel.

Now, if the new administration were capable of taking a wider view of the problem in the Middle East than the Israelis themselves are sometimes capable of taking - would that be bad? It's good that Obama has expressed a compassion for the Israelis who have lately suffered - but also for the Palestinians.

As for the anti-Zionist left in America: "The Nation" magazine, the Answer movement... these kinds of tendencies are pretty marginal

There is every reason to weep for Gaza, even if we can understand why the government of Israel is not awash right now in those particular tears. And there is every reason for the United States to do whatever can be done to help the Palestinians to a better life, liberated from these pathological ideologies whose adherents keep condemning their fellow Palestinians to ever lower rungs of suffering and sorrow. I don't know how much the United States can do to help the Palestinians throw off Hamas and a number of other groups, but, however much it is, I hope that Obama does it. To be pro-Israel is good - but the United States should show herself to be pro-Palestinian, too, in the simple belief that, in the long run, a pro-Israel position has to be pro-Palestinian, too, and vice versa.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Geographic Imperative

Voters must keep in mind Israel's tiny dimensions when assessing parties’ platforms

Martin Sherman

If a Palestinian state is established, it will be armed to the teeth. Within it there will be bases of the most extreme terrorist forces, who will be equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft shoulder-launched rockets, which will endanger not only random passers-by, but also every airplane and helicopter taking off in the skies of Israel and every vehicle traveling along the major traffic routes in the coastal plain (Shimon Peres – Tomorrow is Now).

In a few days Israelis will cast their votes to elect a new government, which is likely to face what, in many respects, are unprecedented challenges in terms of their complexity and strategic significance. It is therefore crucial that as many voters fully comprehend the ramifications of the policies prescribed by the parties they intend to vote for.

With very few exceptions, it has become virtually unchallenged accepted wisdom that, eventually, Israel will have to withdraw from large portions - if not all - of the "West Bank". Invariably, it is the Demographic Imperative that is cited as the incontrovertible reason for such withdrawal being not only desirable, but unavoidable. While not wishing in any way to diminish the very real gravity of this problem and the threat it poses for the future of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, the public should be aware that there is another equally grave - and more immediate – imperative that militates strongly against such withdrawal.

This is the Geographic Imperative. As Hans Morgenthau - arguably the most prominent of the "founding-fathers" of the discipline of international politics as a field of intellectual endeavor given to systematic rational analysis - unequivocally points out, this is a crucial element in the national power of any state and comprises two components: territorial size and topographical structure. These factors determine to a large - albeit not exclusive – degree, the strategic vulnerability of a country i.e. the ease with which vital strategic targets within its borders can be struck.

Given Israel's minuscule territorial dimensions, this is a consideration that assumes acutely critical importance – and is one which needs to be adequately addressed before any responsible Israeli government can contemplate relinquishing control of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) to a Palestinian regime. For from the slopes of limestone hills that rise just beyond 1967 frontier and comprise much of the territory designated for the envisioned Palestinian state, all of the following objectives will be within easy range of weapons being used today against Israel from territories previously relinquished to Palestinian rule (or rather to Palestinian misrule?):

• Major airfields (civilian and military) including the country’s only international airport

• Major sea ports and naval bases

• Vital infrastructure installations (power transmission, water systems, and communication networks)

• Main land transport routes (road and rail)

• Principal power plants

• The national parliament and most government ministries

• Crucial centers of civilian administration and military command

• 80% of the civilian population and of the commercial activity in the country.

Indeed, the accompanying photographs are of areas designated for the Palestinian State envisioned in the “Peace Process.”

They graphically illustrate the grave significance of the Geographic Imperative and the potential perils involved in not addressing it. They reveal vividly just how exposed and vulnerable vital strategic locations and major urban population centers would be, should Israel transfer control of the highlands east of the coastal plan to a Palestinian regime – and dramatically underscore the commanding position the Palestinians would have over:

• Azrieli Towers and Central Tel Aviv

• Diamond Exchange Area, Ramat Gan

• The Hadera Power Station (Orot Rabin) and the adjacent approaches of Caesaria

In light of recent hostilities, the risk of these dangers materializing can no longer be dismissed as unsubstantiated speculation or malicious scaremongering by the extreme right-wing. Indeed, looking that this graphic evidence, it is not difficult to understand why even Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who held a

number of ministerial portfolios on behalf of the leftist Meretz faction, including the post of minister of education, once felt compelled to warn that a Palestinian state in these areas "is liable to be an arrow-head aimed at the very heart of Israel with the full force of the Arab world behind it."

So before you cast your vote, dear voter, you might want to re-examine the platform of your chosen party. You might want to inquire whether it presents a convincing program to contend with the dangers that might arise from the Geographic Imperative – other than simply hoping that they won't materialize.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hitler's Children

February 4, 2009:


While Arabs love to call Israelis "Nazis", it is the Arab world that is the true heir to the Adolph Hitler's vision of how the world should be. A major weapon in the Palestinian arsenal is anti-Semitism. For a long time, even before World War II, the racial hatred tactic was particularly popular in the Arab world. This was partly the result of Islamic radicalism, which pushed hatred of all non-Moslems, not just Jews. But as more Jews began moving into Jerusalem and surrounding areas in the late 19th century, more of the Moslem racial animosity was directed at Jews.

This was not the usual ethnic animosity found in Europe, but something more in line with the extreme violence of the Nazis. In fact, during World War II, the Nazis were very popular in the Arab world. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (the highest Islamic official in the area) spent the war in Berlin (to avoid arrest by the British). Iraq, which had become independent during the 1930s, declared itself a German ally in 1941 (and was promptly invaded and re-conquered by three British divisions, before the Germans could get many troops into the territory of their new ally). After World War II, the Arab language media continued Nazi-grade anti-Semitism. The Arabs had enough sense to tone down this race hatred, and pro-Nazi, line in their English language media.

Over the last few decades, and especially since the end of the Cold War, many Westerners have adopted the anti-Semitic angle in denouncing Israeli attempts to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism. Such self-defense measures are now seriously discussed as "war crimes" in the West. To the Arabs, the very existence of Israel is a "war crime," but the Arabs have been unable to do much beyond fanaticizing about destroying Israel. Now they have many political activists and progressive thinkers in the West fanaticizing along with them. Tangible gains from this ethnic hatred strategy have been scant. Many in the West are appalled by it, and the leadership in most Western nations does not buy into it. But much of the popular media does, and incidents of anti-Semitism, including assault and murder, are on the increase in Europe. Arabs see their anti-Semitism strategy as a success, as Arabs tend to take solace in symbolism, given their lack of substantial progress in destroying Israel. So every anti-Semitic attack in Europe is a victory, as is every European politician who denounces Israel for non-existent war crimes, or ignores the very real atrocities that the Arabs commit against each other. To many Arabs, living the fantasy is easier than dealing with reality.

The reality of Gaza is that the Israeli attack prompted Hamas to increase their terror operations against Fatah followers in Gaza. Hamas denies this sort of thing, but plenty of evidence is getting out. The official Hamas response to this is that all this violence is Israeli propaganda, and that, at most, there are family feuds or clashes between rival criminal gangs occurring in Gaza. Foreign backers of Hamas use this fiction to dismiss allegations that Hamas is trying to wipe out Fatah support in Gaza.

Relations with Turkey, and it's pro-Islamic government, have deteriorated. The Turkish government has taken the public position that Israel is all wrong about Gaza. Israel has responded that Turkey would do the same thing if attacked. Actually, Turkey is doing the same thing, regularly bombing PKK Kurdish terrorist camps inside Iraq, and sending in troops as well. While many Turks want continued good relations with Israel, the emotionalism of support for the Palestinians in the Moslem world leaves no room for logic or justice.

Palestinian terrorists continue to fire rockets, mortars and machine-guns into Israel. This happens daily, but usually to no effect. However, the rocket attacks usually trigger the Israeli rocket alert system, which sends thousands of Israelis scrambling for bomb shelters. The Israeli response has been some air raids on suspected tunnels on the Egyptian border, and missile attacks on known terrorists. Finding such targets has become more difficult, since the 22 day war revealed to Hamas a more extensive Israeli intelligence system inside Gaza than they had previously believed. As a result of this, Hamas has been going after anyone guilty of any suspicious behavior indicating they might be supplying Israel with information. This has led to a lot of innocent people getting beaten, killed or locked up in a basement (all the jails have been bombed by Israeli aircraft). Hamas is not too bothered by this, as most of the victims are from the rival Fatah party. In addition to the "no-snitch" campaign, Hamas personnel have gone into hiding. They move around a lot, trying not to work or sleep in the same place too many days in a row. This gets old pretty fast, and Israeli intelligence officers are getting more target information on Hamas leaders who are staying in one place. Meanwhile, Israeli air attacks are destroying locations where 24/7 UAV coverage and informants indicates rockets and other weapons are being stored. There are usually no casualties from these attacks, as the Israelis continue to call ahead, warning any civilians in the area to get out of the way before the bombs hit. No such warnings are given when the target is a Hamas operative, and that's where civilian casualties continue to occur.

Hamas is trying to have it both ways, by claiming that it cannot control the continued rocket and mortar attacks on Israel, and that Israel must open up the borders and allow goods to enter freely. But Israel is particularly sensitive about allowing materials (like pipes and certain chemicals) that can be used to build the Kassam rockets (pipes form the body of the missile, and chemicals are combined in makeshift labs to produce propellant and explosives for the warheads and detonators). Hamas tolerates the smaller terrorist groups, some of which are technically affiliated with Fatah, as long as they do not threaten Hamas rule of Gaza, and confine their activities to attacks on Israel. Publically, Hamas denies this connection, as a way of absolving itself of responsibility for the daily ceasefire violations. The fiction of high civilian losses during the 22 day war is believed in the Islamic world and by many in the West, thus reinforcing Hamas control of Gaza. In actuality, most of the 500 or so dead were Hamas members, and most of the damage was to Hamas facilities. Israel is in no hurry to allow more building materials into Gaza, since most of the rebuilding will be of Hamas headquarters, rocket building workshops and jails for Hamas opponents.

Israel is offering to allow more stuff into Gaza if Hamas frees Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit (kidnapped in June 2006). While Hamas has declared itself the victor of the 22 day war, it is now much worse off than before the war. Less stuff is getting into Gaza and many Hamas assets and personnel are gone. Hamas has a PR boost from its status as chief victim in this situation. But you can't eat PR, and long term, Hamas faces continued resistance inside Gaza. Israel appears to be seeking a longer term strategy to defeat Hamas. There are a lot of people in Gaza who hate Hamas, and the longer Hamas cannot do anything to improve the daily lives of Gazans, the more disliked the Islamic radical organization is. While many Israelis would prefer a quicker take down of Hamas, using military force, that would get dozens of Israelis killed, and Israeli politicians feel more comfortable with a more indirect approach. Israeli politicians have been dealing with Arab politics for a long time, and see this indirect approach as eminently doable. Time, as in weeks or months, not years, will tell.

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Barbarism has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society

Daniel Pearl and the Normalization of Evil

When will our luminaries stop making excuses for terror?

This week marks the seventh anniversary of the murder of our son, former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. My wife Ruth and I wonder: Would Danny have believed that today's world emerged after his tragedy?

[Commentary] Reuters/Corbis

Jimmy Carter.

The answer does not come easily. Danny was an optimist, a true believer in the goodness of mankind. Yet he was also a realist, and would not let idealism bend the harshness of facts.

Neither he, nor the millions who were shocked by his murder, could have possibly predicted that seven years later his abductor, Omar Saeed Sheikh, according to several South Asian reports, would be planning terror acts from the safety of a Pakistani jail. Or that his murderer, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now in Guantanamo, would proudly boast of his murder in a military tribunal in March 2007 to the cheers of sympathetic jihadi supporters. Or that this ideology of barbarism would be celebrated in European and American universities, fueling rally after rally for Hamas, Hezbollah and other heroes of "the resistance." Or that another kidnapped young man, Israeli Gilad Shalit, would spend his 950th day of captivity with no Red Cross visitation while world leaders seriously debate whether his kidnappers deserve international recognition.

No. Those around the world who mourned for Danny in 2002 genuinely hoped that Danny's murder would be a turning point in the history of man's inhumanity to man, and that the targeting of innocents to transmit political messages would quickly become, like slavery and human sacrifice, an embarrassing relic of a bygone era.

But somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.

I believe it all started with well-meaning analysts, who in their zeal to find creative solutions to terror decided that terror is not a real enemy, but a tactic. Thus the basic engine that propels acts of terrorism -- the ideological license to elevate one's grievances above the norms of civilized society -- was wished away in favor of seemingly more manageable "tactical" considerations.

This mentality of surrender then worked its way through politicians like the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In July 2005 he told Sky News that suicide bombing is almost man's second nature. "In an unfair balance, that's what people use," explained Mr. Livingstone.

But the clearest endorsement of terror as a legitimate instrument of political bargaining came from former President Jimmy Carter. In his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," Mr. Carter appeals to the sponsors of suicide bombing. "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Road-map for Peace are accepted by Israel." Acts of terror, according to Mr. Carter, are no longer taboo, but effective tools for terrorists to address perceived injustices.

Mr. Carter's logic has become the dominant paradigm in rationalizing terror. When asked what Israel should do to stop Hamas's rockets aimed at innocent civilians, the Syrian first lady, Asma Al-Assad, did not hesitate for a moment in her response: "They should end the occupation." In other words, terror must earn a dividend before it is stopped.

The media have played a major role in handing terrorism this victory of acceptability. Qatari-based Al Jazeera television, for example, is still providing Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi hours of free air time each week to spew his hateful interpretation of the Koran, authorize suicide bombing, and call for jihad against Jews and Americans.

Then came the August 2008 birthday of Samir Kuntar, the unrepentant killer who, in 1979, smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl with his rifle after killing her father before her eyes. Al Jazeera elevated Kuntar to heroic heights with orchestras, fireworks and sword dances, presenting him to 50 million viewers as Arab society's role model. No mainstream Western media outlet dared to expose Al Jazeera efforts to warp its young viewers into the likes of Kuntar. Al Jazeera's management continues to receive royal treatment in all major press clubs.

Some American pundits and TV anchors didn't seem much different from Al Jazeera in their analysis of the recent war in Gaza. Bill Moyers was quick to lend Hamas legitimacy as a "resistance" movement, together with honorary membership in PBS's imaginary "cycle of violence." In his Jan. 9 TV show, Mr. Moyers explained to his viewers that "each [side] greases the cycle of violence, as one man's terrorism becomes another's resistance to oppression." He then stated -- without blushing -- that for readers of the Hebrew Bible "God-soaked violence became genetically coded." The "cycle of violence" platitude allows analysts to empower terror with the guise of reciprocity, and, amazingly, indict terror's victims for violence as immutable as DNA.

When we ask ourselves what it is about the American psyche that enables genocidal organizations like Hamas -- the charter of which would offend every neuron in our brains -- to become tolerated in public discourse, we should take a hard look at our universities and the way they are currently being manipulated by terrorist sympathizers.

At my own university, UCLA, a symposium last week on human rights turned into a Hamas recruitment rally by a clever academic gimmick. The director of the Center for Near East Studies carefully selected only Israel bashers for the panel, each of whom concluded that the Jewish state is the greatest criminal in human history.

The primary purpose of the event was evident the morning after, when unsuspecting, uninvolved students read an article in the campus newspaper titled, "Scholars say: Israel is in violation of human rights in Gaza," to which the good name of the University of California was attached. This is where Hamas scored its main triumph -- another inch of academic respectability, another inroad into Western minds.

Danny's picture is hanging just in front of me, his warm smile as reassuring as ever. But I find it hard to look him straight in the eyes and say: You did not die in vain.

Mr. Pearl, a professor of computer science at UCLA, is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, founded in memory of his son to promote cross-cultural understanding.

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The Mother of Believers

'Mother' of Iraqi women bomber network arrested

LinkBAGHDAD (AP) — A woman accused of helping recruit dozens of female suicide bombers looked into the camera and described the process: trolling society for likely candidates and then patiently converting the women from troubled souls into deadly attackers.

The accounts, in a video released Tuesday by Iraq police, offer a rare glimpse into the networks used to find and train the women bombers who have become one of the insurgents' most effective weapons as they struggle under increasing crackdowns.

In a separate prison interview with The Associated Press, with interrogators nearby, the woman said she was part of a plot in which young women were raped and then sent to her for matronly advice. She said she would try to persuade the victims to become suicide bombers as their only escape from the shame and to reclaim their honor.

The AP was allowed access on condition the information would not be released until the formal announcement of the arrest.

The U.S. and Iraqi militaries have made past claims without providing much evidence about efforts by insurgents to recruit vulnerable women as well as children as attackers. Those included statements by the Iraqis that two women who blew themselves up last year in Baghdad had Down's Syndrome, accounts that were not supported by subsequent investigations.

It also was not possible independently to verify the claim that insurgents sent out people to rape women who could then be recruited as bombers in the volatile Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

But the suspect, 50-year-old Samira Ahmed Jassim — who said her code name was "The Mother of Believers" — has given unusual firsthand descriptions of the possible workings behind last year's spike in attacks by women bombers.

The Iraqi military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, said the suspect had recruited more than 80 women willing to carry out attacks and admitted masterminding 28 bombings in different areas.

Female suicide bombers attempted or successfully carried out 32 attacks last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. Most recently, a woman detonated an explosive under her robes that killed at least 36 people during a Shiite religious gathering last month.

The attacks reflected a shift in insurgent tactics: trying to exploit cultural standards that restrict male security forces from searching women and use the traditional flowing robes of women to hide bomb-rigged belts or vests.

In response, Iraqi security forces have tried to recruit more women. In last week's provincial elections, women teachers and civic workers helped search voters.

Al-Moussawi, the military spokesman, alleged Jassim was in contact with top leaders of Ansar al-Sunnah in Diyala, the last foothold of major Sunni insurgent strength near Baghdad. The group is one of the factions with suspected ties to al-Qaida in Iraq.

Al-Moussawi said Jassim "confessed to recruiting 28 female suicide bombers who carried out terrorist operations in different areas." He gave no other details on the locations or dates of the attacks.

In the video played for reporters, Jassim described how she was approached by insurgents to urge women to carry out suicide attacks. She said her first assignment was Um Hoda, a nickname meaning mother of Hoda.

"I talked to her a number of times," said Jassim, who has four daughters and two sons. "I went back to them and gave them the details on her. And they told me, bring her to us. ... And I took her to the police station, and that's where she blew herself up."

Another woman, whom she called Amal, was involved in long conversations, Jassim said.

"I talked to her many times, sat with her, and she was very depressed," she said on the video. "I took her to them, and then went back for her and she blew herself up."

Jassim gave no further information on the attacks or her role in the video.

In speaking with the AP — a week after her Jan. 21 arrest — Jassim repeated statements she had allegedly made to interrogators that insurgents organized rapes of women and that she would then try to coax the victims to become suicide bombers.

She said she was "able to persuade women to become suicide bombers ... broken women, especially those who were raped."

In many parts of Iraq, including conservative Diyala, a rape victim may be shunned by her family and become an outcast in society.

Police interrogators were not in the room during Jassim's interview with the AP, but they were in an adjoining chamber.

Jassim did not offer additional details on her alleged role in the attacks, but suggested she was pressured into working with the insurgency.

She claimed that Ansar al-Sunnah provided her a house in Diyala, where she operated a shop selling the traditional robes for women called abaya. She added, however, that Ansar al-Sunnah once threatened to bomb her house if she did not cooperate.

"I worked with (Ansar al-Sunnah) for a year and a half," she told the AP.

Women suicide bombers are uncommon, but not unknown, outside Iraq.

Among Palestinians, several woman have carried out suicide bombings for militant groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

There also have been cases of women in the West Bank attacking Israeli soldiers so they can be imprisoned after being accused of breaking traditional rules on sexual conduct. In the Palestinian territories, relatives can seek harsh punishments, including death, on women seen as dishonoring the family.

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Globe and Mail: Account of Israeli attack doesn't hold up to scrutiny

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

JABALYA, GAZA STRIP — Most people remember the headlines: Massacre Of Innocents As UN School Is Shelled; Israeli Strike Kills Dozens At UN School.

They heralded the tragic news of Jan. 6, when mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces killed 43 civilians in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The victims, it was reported, had taken refuge inside the Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys, a facility run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The news shocked the world and was compared to the 1996 Israeli attack on a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, in which more than 100 people seeking refuge were killed. It was certain to hasten the end of Israel's attack on Gaza, and would undoubtedly lead the list of allegations of war crimes committed by Israel.

There was just one problem: The story, as etched in people's minds, was not quite accurate.

Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.

While the killing of 43 civilians on the street may itself be grounds for investigation, it falls short of the act of shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers.

The teacher who was in the compound at the time of the shelling says he heard three loud blasts, one after the other, then a lot of screaming. "I ran in the direction of the screaming [inside the compound]," he said. "I could see some of the people had been injured, cut. I picked up one girl who was bleeding by her eye, and ran out on the street to get help."But when I got outside, it was crazy hell. There were bodies everywhere, people dead, injured, flesh everywhere."

The teacher, who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: "Inside [the compound] there were 12 injured, but there were no dead."

"Three of my students were killed," he said. "But they were all outside."

Hazem Balousha, who runs an auto-body shop across the road from the UNRWA school, was down the street, just out of range of the shrapnel, when the three shells hit. He showed a reporter where they landed: one to the right of his shop, one to the left, and one right in front.

"There were only three," he said. "They were all out here on the road."

News of the tragedy travelled fast, with aid workers and medical staff quoted as saying the incident happened at the school, the UNRWA facility where people had sought refuge.

Soon it was presented that people in the school compound had been killed. Before long, there was worldwide outrage.

Sensing a public-relations nightmare, Israeli spokespeople quickly asserted that their forces had only returned fire from gunmen inside the school. (They even named two militants.) It was a statement from which they would later retreat, saying there were gunmen in the vicinity of the school.

No witnesses said they saw any gunmen. (If people had seen anyone firing a mortar from the middle of the street outside the school, they likely would not have continued to mill around.)

John Ging, UNRWA's operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that "no one was killed in the school."

"I told the Israelis that none of the shells landed in the school," he said.

Why would he do that?

"Because they had told everyone they had returned fire from gunmen in the school. That wasn't true."

Mr. Ging blames the Israelis for the confusion over where the victims were killed. "They even came out with a video that purported to show gunmen in the schoolyard. But we had seen it before," he said, "in 2007."

The Israelis are the ones, he said, who got everyone thinking the deaths occurred inside the school.

"Look at my statements," he said. "I never said anyone was killed in the school. Our officials never made any such allegation."

Speaking from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as the bodies were being brought in that night, an emotional Mr. Ging did say: "Those in the school were all families seeking refuge. ... There's nowhere safe in Gaza."

And in its daily bulletin, the World Health Organization reported: "On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school ..."

The UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs got the location right, for a short while. Its daily bulletin cited "early reports" that "three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep. C Girls School ..." However, its more comprehensive weekly report, published three days later, stated that "Israeli shelling directly hit two UNRWA schools ..." including the one at issue.

Such official wording helps explain the widespread news reports of the deaths in the school, but not why the UN agencies allowed the misconception to linger.

"I know no one was killed in the school," Mr. Ging said. "But 41 innocent people were killed in the street outside the school. Many of those people had taken refuge in the school and wandered out onto the street.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ending the West's proxy war against Israel

Gunnar Heinsohn , THE JERUSALEM POST

As the world decries Israel's attempt to defend itself against the rocket attacks coming from Gaza, consider this: When Hamas routed Fatah in Gaza in 2007, it cost nearly 350 lives and 1,000 wounded. Fatah's surrender brought only a temporary stop to the type of violence and bloodshed that are commonly seen in lands where at least 30% of the male population is in the 15-to-29 age bracket.

In such "youth bulge" countries, young men tend to eliminate each other or get killed in aggressive wars until a balance is reached between their ambitions and the number of acceptable positions available in their society. In Arab nations such as Lebanon (150,000 dead in the civil war between 1975 and 1990) or Algeria (200,000 dead in the Islamists' war against their own people between 1999 and 2006), the slaughter abated only when the fertility rates in these countries fell from seven children per woman to fewer than two.

The warring stopped because no more warriors were being born.

In Gaza, however, there has been no such demographic disarmament. The average woman still bears six babies. For every 1,000 men aged 40-44, there are 4,300 boys aged 0-4 years. In the US the latter figure is 1,000, and in the UK it's only 670.

And so the killing continues. In 2005, when Israel was still an occupying force, Gaza lost more young men to gang fights and crime than in its war against the "Zionist enemy." Despite the media's obsession with the Mideast conflict, it has cost many fewer lives than the youth bulges in West Africa, Lebanon or Algeria. In the six decades since Israel's founding, "only" some 62,000 people (40,000 Arabs, 22,000 Jews) have been killed in all the Israeli-Arab wars and Palestinian terror attacks. During that same time, some 11 million Muslims have been killed in wars and terror attacks - mostly at the hands of other Muslims.

What accounts for the Mideast conflict's relatively low body count? Hamas and their ilk certainly aim to kill as many Israelis as possible. To their indignation, the Israelis are quite good at protecting themselves. On the other hand, Israel, despite all the talk about its "disproportionate" use of force, is doing its utmost to spare civilian deaths. Even Hamas acknowledges that most of the Palestinians killed by Israeli air raids are from their own ranks. But about 10%-15% of Gaza's casualties are women and minors - a tragedy impossible to prevent in a densely settled area in which nearly half the people are under 15 and the terrorists hide among them.

THE REASON for Gaza's endless youth bulge is that a large majority of its population does not have to provide for its offspring. Most babies are fed, clothed, vaccinated and educated by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Unlike the UN High Commission for Refugees, which deals with the rest of the world's refugees and aims to settle them in their respective host countries, UNRWA perpetuates the Palestinian problem by classifying as refugees not only those who originally fled their homes, but all of their descendants as well.

UNRWA is benevolently funded by the US (31%) and the European Union (nearly 50%) - only 7% of the funds come from Muslim sources. Thanks to the West's largesse, nearly the entire population of Gaza lives in a kind of lowly but regularly paid dependence. One result of this unlimited welfare is an endless population boom. Between 1950 and 2008, Gaza's population has grown from 240,000 to 1.5 million. The West basically created a new Near Eastern people in Gaza that at current trends will reach three million in 2040. Within that period, Gazans may alter the justifications and directions of their aggression but are unlikely to stop the aggression itself.

The Hamas-Fatah truce of June 2007 allowed the Islamists again to direct all their energy on attacking Israel. The West pays for food, schools, medicine and housing, while Muslim nations help out with the military hardware. Unrestrained by such necessities as having to earn a living, the young have plenty of time on their hands for digging tunnels, smuggling, assembling missiles and firing 4,500 of them at Israel since 2006.

While this gruesome activity has slowed the Palestinian internecine slaughter, it forced some 250,000 Israelis into bomb shelters.

THE CURRENT situation can only get worse. Israel is being pushed into a corner. Gazan teenagers have no future other than war. One rocket master killed is immediately replaced by three young men for whom a martyr's death is no less honorable than victory. Some 230,000 Gazan males, aged 15 to 29, who are available for the battlefield now, will be succeeded by 360,000 boys under 15 (45% of all Gazan males) who could be taking up arms within the coming 15 years.

As long as we continue to subsidize Gaza's extreme demographic armament, young Palestinians will likely continue killing their brothers or neighbors. And yet, despite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By generously supporting UNRWA's budget, the West assists a rate of population increase that is 10 times higher than in their own countries. Much is being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hizbullah and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza's untenable population explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war by proxy against the Jews of Israel.

If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking after their children themselves, without UNRWA's help. This would force Palestinians to focus on building an economy. Of course, every baby lured into the world by our money up to now would still have our assistance.

If we make this urgently needed reform, then by at least 2025 many boys in Gaza - like in Algeria - would enter puberty as only sons. They would be able to look forward to a more secure future in a less violent society.

If the West prefers calm around Gaza even before 2025, it may consider offering immigration to those young Palestinians only born because of the West's well-meant but cruelly misguided aid. In the decades to come, North America and Europe will have to take in tens of millions of immigrants anyway to slow the aging of their populations. If, say, 200,000 of them are taken from the 360,000 boys coming of age in Gaza in the next 15 years, that would be a negligible move for the big democracies but a quantum leap for peace in the Near East.

Many of Gaza's young - like in much of the Muslim world - dream of leaving anyway. Who would not want to get out of that strip of land but the international NGOs and social workers whose careers depend on perpetuating Gaza's misery?

The writer heads the Raphael Lemkin Institute at the University of Bremen, Europe's first institute devoted to comparative genocide research.

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I am a Zionist

Yair Lapid

I am a Zionist.

I believe that the Jewish people established itself in the Land of Israel, albeit somewhat late. Had it listened to the alarm clock, there would have been no Holocaust, and my dead grandfather – the one I was named after – would have been able to dance a last waltz with grandma on the shores of the Yarkon River.

I am a Zionist.

Hebrew is the language I use to thank the Creator, and also to swear on the road. The Bible does not only contain my history, but also my geography. King Saul went to look for mules on what is today Highway 443, Jonah the Prophet boarded his ship not too far from what is today a Jaffa restaurant, and the balcony where David peeped on Bathsheba must have been bought by some oligarch by now.

I am a Zionist.

The first time I saw my son wearing an IDF uniform I burst into tears, I haven't missed the Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony for 20 years now, and my television was made in Korea, but I taught it to cheer for our national soccer team.

I am a Zionist.

I believe in our right for this land. The people who were persecuted for no reason throughout history have a right to a state of their own plus a free F-16 from the manufacturer. Every display of anti-Semitism from London to Mumbai hurts me, yet deep inside I'm thinking that Jews who choose to live abroad fail to understand something very basic about this world. The State of Israel was not established so that the anti-Semites will disappear, but rather, so we can tell them to get lost.

I am a Zionist.

I was fired at in Lebanon, a Katyusha rockets missed me by a few feet in Kiryat Shmona, missiles landed near my home during the first Gulf War, I was in Sderot when the Color Red anti-rocket alert system was activated, terrorists blew themselves up not too far from my parents' house, and my children stayed in a bomb shelter before they even knew how to pronounce their own name, clinging to a grandmother who arrived here from Poland to escape death. Yet nonetheless, I always felt fortunate to be living here, and I don't really feel good anywhere else.

I am a Zionist.

I think that anyone who lives here should serve in the army, pay taxes, vote in the elections, and be familiar with the lyrics of at least one Shalom Hanoch song. I think that the State of Israel is not only a place, it is also an idea, and I wholeheartedly believe in the three extra commandments engraved on the wall of the Holocaust museum in Washington: "Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but above all, thou shalt not be a bystander."

I am a Zionist.

I already laid down on my back to admire the Sistine Chapel, I bought a postcard at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, and I was deeply impressed by the emerald Buddha at the king's palace in Bangkok. Yet I still believe that Tel Aviv is more entertaining, the Red Sea is greener, and the Western Wall Tunnels provide for a much more powerful spiritual experience. It is true that I'm not objective, but I'm also not objective in respect to my wife and children.

I am a Zionist.

I am a man of tomorrow but I also live my past. My dynasty includes Moses, Jesus, Maimonides, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, Bobby Fischer, Bob Dylan, Franz Kafka, Herzl, and Ben-Gurion. I am part of a tiny persecuted minority that influenced the world more than any other nation. While others invested their energies in war, we had the sense to invest in our minds.

I am a Zionist.

I sometimes look around me and become filled with pride, because I live better than a billion Indians, 1.3 billion Chinese, the entire African continent, more than 250 million Indonesians, and also better than the Thais, the Filipinos, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the entire Muslim world, with the exception of the Sultan of Brunei. I live in a country under siege that has no natural resources, yet nonetheless the traffic lights always work and we have high-speed connection to the Internet.

I am a Zionist.

My Zionism is natural, just like it is natural for me to be a father, a husband, and a son. People who claim that they, and only they, represent the "real Zionism" are ridiculous in my view. My Zionism is not measured by the size of my kippa, by the neighborhood where I live, or by the party I will be voting for. It was born a long time before me, on a snowy street in the ghetto in Budapest where my father stood and attempted, in vain, to understand why the entire world is trying to kill him.

I am a Zionist.

Every time an innocent victim dies, I bow my head because once upon a time I was an innocent victim. I have no desire or intention to adopt the moral standards of my enemies. I do not want to be like them. I do not live on my sword; I merely keep it under my pillow.

I am a Zionist.

I do not only hold on to the rights of our forefathers, but also to the duty of the sons. The people who established this state lived and worked under much worse conditions than I have to face, yet nonetheless they did not make do with mere survival. They also attempted to establish a better, wiser, more humane, and more moral state here. They were willing to die for this cause, and I try to live for its sake.

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I am a cantankerous man living and working in the Silicon Valley where reading books is an abomination that is virtually unheard of, frowned upon and may be detrimental to one's career. I avoid censure by never conceding that I ever read or owned a book in my life. If anyone accidentally glimpses my scant proficiency in any subject matter, I immediately accredit it to having glanced at DrudgeReport that day.

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