Friday, August 20, 2010

The policeman's a good guy

David Wilder
August 20, 2010

A couple of months ago I had a little shouting match with some of the border police next to Ma'arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. After a little while - when we had reached a dead-end - one of the regular police, a little older than the others, came over put an arm around my shoulders, pulled me over to the side and explained to me why I was wrong and they were right. I listened, and finally acquiesced to their demands, and the issue came to an end. This might sound fairly normal and logical, but then again, it must be remembered that this is Hebron. Had the same incident occurred seven or eight years ago, I am sure the ending would have been quite different. The relationship between police and civilians in this holy city was very different. Back then if a police officer approached me, it would not have been to put an arm around my shoulder, it would have been to handcuff, arrest, and start legal proceedings against me - and who knows what else.

However, things have changed. That's not to say that we live in utopia, but at present I certainly do not look at our local police force as enemies. I can truthfully say that I consider some of the police officers to be friends - and to a great degree, the emotions are mutual. Last week a policeman called me a Tzaddik (righteous person). Now, I bear witness that I'm surely not righteous, but hearing those words from a policeman in Hebron left me with the impression that we really are approaching the days of the Messiah!

It should be kept in mind that such episodes cannot be taken for granted. Not too long ago the relationship between police and Hebron citizens could easily have been defined as something similar to open warfare. The police were used as an extended arm of the Israeli political system, and utilized to victimize, oppress and even terrorize us. It wasn't enough that the community had to deal with Arab terror and leftist harassment. Every once in a while, while looking back through photos eight and nine years old, it's difficult to believe that we really had to deal with such brutality. And of course, people in the community didn't 'turn the other cheek,' causing major confrontations, which were quite messy, to say the least.

A few years ago, as the political scene began to change, so did the people comprising Hebron's police force. I was very surprised and to be honest, very suspicious. But over a period of time it became clear that somewhere, someone decided to attempt to change the rancid atmosphere which poisoned the relationship between the police and Hebron's Jewish population. And I can quite happily say that for the most part, it has worked.

For example, yesterday afternoon, Hebron's police sponsored a 'Police-Community Day.' True, not all the kids attended; it was very hot, some were on vacation, and others still have trouble digesting the fact that the police are not out to get us. But a nice group did show up, and enjoyed a fascinating exhibit of police dogs in action, were able to play-drive in a police car (complete with siren -every boy's dream), wear a police vest, carry around a police baton and receive a police hat.

I know this might not sound like much, but to even attempt to carry out such a program in Hebron would once have been thought of as something out of 'Alice in Wonderland.' But it did happen, and I enjoyed it very much.

Alas, innocence is a thing of the past. I'm very well aware that conflict can still arise. So what? Tension between police and civilians is not exclusive to Hebron. It's fairly common all over the world. In Hebron we face, frequently, unique situations which are liable to cause friction between the people in blue uniforms and the civilians. But today, I know that I'm dealing with normal, rational people who are not looking to break our bones because we're Jews living in Hebron - and that's very very important. I can only hope and pray that such a rapport continues, because it makes life much more pleasant and relaxed when you know that the policeman walking down the street really is a nice guy.

"Short and Sweet"

Arlene Kushner

Short, because my time pre-Shabbat is limited this week, and not because there is little to write about -- there's plenty.

Sweet because I begin with a great piece by commentator George Will -- "Skip the lecture on Israel's 'risks for peace.'" He speaks on our behalf with exquisite understanding:

"In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America's eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, which began 10 Septembers ago, Israeli parents sending two children to a school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take 'risks for peace.' "During Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's July visit to Washington, Barack Obama praised him as 'willing to take risks for peace.' There was a time when that meant swapping "land for peace" -- Israel sacrificing something tangible and irrecoverable, strategic depth, in exchange for something intangible and perishable, promises of diplomatic normality...

"The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state since the Romans arrived. And if the Jewish percentage of the world's population were today what it was when the Romans ruled Palestine, there would be 200 million Jews. After a uniquely hazardous passage through two millennia without a homeland, there are 13 million Jews.

"In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called "the Arab world," Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene." (emphasis added)


A couple of brief corrections from yesterday's posting:

I wrote, that:

"Berman says that the enrichment plants are the real backbone of Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons capability; his own well-informed speculation is that these reactors would be Israel's primary targets."

That was my paraphrase of Berman's statement. I have been advised that enrichment plants are not technically the same as reactors, and so, if there is an error here, it is mine, and certainly not Berman's.

And then, I referred to the situation in Iraq 19 years ago. But we hit the Osirak reactor 29 years ago, in 1981. Guess time flies when you're having fun, or something.

(Thanks, Jeff)


After Shabbat there will be more to say about Quartet plans for "peace" negotiations and the issue of our hitting Iran.

For now I leave you with a link to a lovely video about the atmosphere, with regard to Jewish-Arab relations, in Hadassah hospital. I've written from time to time about how a visit to one of our hospitals most vigorously puts the lie to charges that we are an apartheid state. This video is from the video newsmagazine "Israel Up Close":


And a laugh before Shabbat from Dry Bones. The White House has put out material indicating that Obama prays every day and is a Christian, because a percentage of Americans are convinced he is Muslim. This is the Dry Bones response:

Obama's Religion : Dry Bones cartoon.


see my website

Obama to attend Mideast talks in Washington


World powers to invite Israelis and Palestinians to begin direct talks on September 2 in US capital, diplomatic source says. According to new draft, negotiations expected to conclude in 12 months Reuters
08.20.10, 07:10 / Israel News

World powers facing a fateful deadline in the Middle East peace process will invite Israelis and Palestinians to begin direct talks on September 2 in Washington, a diplomatic source said on Thursday.

Envoys from the so-called Quartet of powers – the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations – have been discussing a draft statement inviting the two sides to talks intended to conclude a treaty in one year, diplomatic sources said.

Postpone peace for later / Gadi Taub
Op-ed: To save Zionism, we can make do with unilateral withdrawal, long-term truce
Full story

Envoys from the Quartet agreed to the details on Thursday, one source told Reuters. A formal statement is slated to be issued on Friday.

"They've got an agreement that the talks will start on September 2 in Washington," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Israelis and Palestinians were expected to agree to attend, and President Barack Obama would be present at the talks, the source said.

The White House declined to comment late on Thursday. Obama is currently on vacation in Massachusetts.

The Quartet said in June that peace talks would be expected to conclude in 24 months, but the new draft says 12 months. The Palestinian Authority government intends to have established all the attributes of statehood by mid-2011.

Diplomats say the idea that a unilateral declaration of statehood could win support if talks do not start or collapse in the next 12 months is gaining interest.

The peace process resumed in May after a hiatus of 19 months but is stalled over the terms of an upgrade from indirect talks mediated by US envoy George Mitchell to direct negotiations.

Israel insists it is ready for direct talks provided there are no preconditions. The Palestinians are ready provided there is a clear agenda. Israel says an agenda means preconditions.

Resolving the snag over terms is crucial, diplomats say.

The "invitation to talks" statement by the Quartet has been awaited since Monday.

Face to face

Obama wants face-to-face talks started well before September 26, when Israel's 10-month moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank is due to end. Full-scale return to settlement construction could sink the talks for good.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by telephone with the Quartet representative, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh Thursday as Washington kept up pressure for talks to resume.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said: "We believe we are getting very close to an agreement to enter into direct negotiations. We think we're well positioned to get there. But we continue to work on the details of this process."

Clinton also spoke to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak about the peace process on Thursday afternoon, Crowley noted.

The Quartet draft reaffirms a "full commitment to its previous statements." Quartet statements from Moscow, Trieste and New York this year called for a halt to settlement building.

The draft, however, does not explicitly repeat that demand, which would be rejected by right-wingers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's center-right coalition.

It simply says that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should "lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation ... and results in" a state at peace with Israel.

It says negotiations "can be completed within one year." Success will require the sustained support of Arab states, it adds.

Netanyahu may benefit from a move to direct talks, countering the notion abroad that he is not a genuine peace-seeker.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, by contrast, has a lot to lose politically. He could be destroyed if he emerged from the process after months of talking as a failed appeaser.

If accepted by Netanyahu as the basis for talks, the Quartet invitation could give Abbas the backing he needs.

Few Palestinians or Israelis believe direct talks would lead to a peace treaty soon, or that one would be quickly implemented if it were ever agreed.

In Israel's coalition, attention is focused on the September 26 settlement moratorium deadline, with a majority of Netanyahu's inner cabinet opposed to extending the settlement freeze, but a minority seeking some compromise that Abbas could swallow.

One idea is to allow building in big established settlements that Israel expects to keep in a peace deal but not in those it would hand over in a land swap with the Palestinians.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Israel: The Canary in the Coalmine

Norma Zager

“I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations…” John AdamsWhy in the world should anyone care about Israel? Even many Jewish people are “over it.”

I mean what’s the point? Sure they invent great stuff there, but there are Jews everywhere so who needs Israel? It just causes more trouble for us all. Aren’t most people convinced without Israel the world would be one big party?

I can visualize the celebration. Ding-dong the Jews are dead.

Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il dancing in the streets. Every disease would suddenly be eradicated. Everyone would be rich and no more children would be murdered in Darfur. No women would be stoned in Afghanistan.

Those darn Jews. All these problems, and if they would only go way, we could all be so darn happy.

Talking to someone the other day the subject of Israel was broached.

My support for Israel is well known, but my reasons perhaps not, so I will explain.

Aside from the fact I feel compelled as a Jew to honor the hope that Israel represented to the survivors of the Holocaust, the real purpose Ari and I fight so vehemently to ensure its survival is not religious.


The existence of Israel is proof that even after the greatest evil man has known, for one brief fleeting moment, the world’s better nature glowed with compassion and gave the Jewish people back their homeland. This is the symbolic flame of goodness that burns inside man.

Israel is, and will remain, the last hope that evil can be stopped. If the people and country most reviled in the world can survive surrounded by such enemies, it will serve as proof of mankind’s better nature.

Israel is a light among nations and that light is goodness. It is concrete evidence that no matter how evil seeks to destroy its opposite, good will always overcome.

True and unfortunate that too many often suffer before evil is stopped, but the better nature of man always remains victorious and standing in the end.

It is interesting that most of the world’s religions identify the Jewish people as the lawgivers. The Torah is a basis for law among civilized cultures. The Ten Commandments are the core principals of humanity and human treatment toward one another. Yes, we were designated to deliver the laws. However, we were also designated to be the canary in the coalmine of civilization.

Why are the Jewish people so hated? It is because the Lord, or whatever divine spirit controls our world, selected them. Jews are the living proof of God’s protection and mercy on earth.

After all the serious attempts to wipe them off the earth, the fact they are still here despite all odds speaks volumes. Their existence has little to do with tenacity on the their part, but a purpose and design far greater.

If Israel is destroyed it will signal the victory of evil and the end of goodness.

From that moment on humankind will begin a slow but unstoppable deterioration into the depths of self-destruction.

Israel is not about religious shrines, not about the tiny piece of land on which it sits, or even the craziness and political everyday foibles that occur among its politicians.

It is a light, a beam and indisputable proof we are destined for good. That man’s better nature is dominant and must be so. That as we evolve, we evolve to a higher state that separates us further from the animals.

You don’t have to be religious to care if Israel survives. Christian, Muslim, Atheist, it matters not. Purpose transcends all spirituality.

The relationship between the US and Israel is symbiotic.

The United States has always been a force for good. We are the protectors. We fight the playground bullies. We protect the hated, the outcast, the Israel.

We don’t always care as much about the law as the law’s effect on man.

We place kindness and human dignity above all else.

This is why America has thrived and became the greatest nation.

Why it grew so quickly to overcome all others.

And sadly, why it now is falling from Grace.

America needs to stand by Israel, because Americans want their country to do so. It is in the DNA and at their core.

Their feelings transcend religious differences and are based on the principals of our founding fathers. Their hopes for what this nation should, could and would become.

Israel can never be totally protected in the world. It is destined to play its role as the hated, the stepchild, the despised, as a reminder of our responsibility toward safeguarding goodness and human dignity.

Whether one is deeply religious, spiritual or believes in nothing at all, no one can ever deny evil’s existence.

To some it has a name, many names, but whatever its title, it is a power to be reckoned with forever.

As long as humankind exists, good and evil will battle for the souls of man and within him.

Israel is living proof our side is still winning.

I will give Rabbi Menachem Mendle the last word.

“Intolerance lies at the core of evil. Not the intolerance that results from any threat or danger. But intolerance of another being who dares to exist. Intolerance without cause. It is so deep within us, because every human being secretly desires the entire universe to himself. Our only way out is to learn compassion without cause. To care for each other simply because that 'other' exists.

© “Postcards from Israel—Postcards from America,” August, 2010


The ‘disengagement’ disaster, five years on

Jeff Jacoby | Five years ago this week, the Gaza Strip was forcibly purged of its Jews. In the largest non-combat operation in the history of the Israeli Defense Forces, 50,000 troops were deployed to expel some 9,000 residents and destroy the 21 pioneering communities in which some of them had lived for nearly four decades. (Four communities in northern Samaria on the West Bank were also evacuated.) The name given to this expulsion by Israel's government, then headed by Ariel Sharon, was "disengagement." The name implied, and a majority of Israelis appeared to believe, that by totally withdrawing from Gaza they would no longer be trapped in a dysfunctional relationship with Gaza's hostile and sometimes violent Arabs.

"What will we have gained by destroying thriving communities, dividing Israeli society, and embittering some of our most idealistic citizens?" one thoughtful Israeli commentator, Yossi Klein Halevi, wrote at the time in The Jerusalem Post. "The most obvious . . . gain is what we will lose: We will be freeing ourselves from more than a million Palestinians."

Many Israelis -- and many supporters of Israel internationally -- bought this argument, persuaded, perhaps, by the Sharon government's sweeping vision of the blessings that would flow from so radical an act of ethnic self-cleansing. "It will be good for us and will be good for the Palestinians," forecast then-Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was to succeed Sharon a few months later. "It will bring more security, greater safety, much more prosperity, and a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East." Olmert prayed that with disengagement, "a new morning of great hope will emerge in our part of the world," and that Israelis and Palestinians together would make the Middle East "what it was destined to be from the outset, a paradise for all the world."

Had any of this actually come to pass, the trauma and destruction of the Gaza expulsion might have been justifiable. In fact, disengagement was a staggering failure, a disaster in every respect. It was seen by most Palestinians not as a courageous act of goodwill and an invitation to peace, but as a retreat under fire, much like the Israeli flight from southern Lebanon five years earlier. It led therefore not to less terrorism but to more, as Palestinian militants vastly expanded their arsenal of rockets, guns, and explosives, and launched thousands of attacks over the border into Israel.

Far from encouraging Palestinian moderation, disengagement energized Gaza's most extreme and hateful irredentists. Five months after the Jewish residents left, Hamas swept to victory in the Palestinian Authority elections; a year later, it seized total control in Gaza, routing Fatah in a savage civil war.

The fruit of disengagement was not the "new morning of great hope" that Sharon and Olmert -- and their countless enablers in the West -- envisioned. Instead, it was an erosion of respect for Israeli strength and deterrence. It was the Second Lebanon War of 2006 and the three-week Israel-Hamas war that began at the end of 2008. It was the entrenchment of Iran, via Hamas and Hezbollah, on Israel's northern and southern borders. It was the burning of Gaza's synagogues and the trashing of its famous greenhouses. It was the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, who has been a hostage in Gaza for more than four of the five years since Israel abandoned the territory to its enemies. It was the further blackening of Israel's international reputation. It was the immiseration of Gaza's Palestinians under a fundamentalist Hamas dictatorship.

Most Israelis who supported disengagement now express regret. But too many of them remain in the grip of the "peace process" delusion -- the Oslo chimera that peace with the Palestinians is achievable through diplomacy, concessions, and transfers of land. It isn't, and Israel and its friends must start saying so. Rather than endlessly professing its willingness to negotiate and its appetite for a "two-state solution," Israel should tell the truth: Peace will never be possible with "partners" that refuse to accept the permanent legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East.

Disengagement was an abomination for a lot of reasons, but for one above all: It began from the premise that any future Palestinian state must be wiped clean of Jews. Did Israel really need to learn the hard way that peace will never lie down that road?

PA town square memorial honors suicide terrorist and his attack as "heroic"

by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

On June 11, 2002, a Palestinian suicide terrorist walked into a restaurant in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya, and detonated a bomb that killed 15-year-old Hadar Hershkovitz and injured 16 others.
The town square in the West Bank town of Madama where the terrorist lived features a monument honoring "the heroic Martyrdom-Seeker" and his "heroic Herzliya operation." The monument has pictures of the suicide terrorist and of Yasser Arafat.

The text above the terrorist's picture is a verse from the Quran, urging Muslims to fight the non-believers and promising that Allah will "lay them low":

[Picture of suicide terrorist and Arafat on monument in town square in West Bank town Madama. [PA TV, May 15, 2010]
"Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands,
lay them low and give you victory over them,
and heal the hearts of a believing people." [Quran, 9,15]

Below his picture are the words:
"The heroic Shahada - Seeker (Martyrdom- Seeker, PA term of honor for suicide terrorists) Omar Muhammad Ziyada (Abu Samed) who carried out
the heroic Herzliya operation
on June 11, 2002"

In December 2009 and again in March 2010, PMW reported on the naming of another square after the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who killed 37 in a bus hijacking in 1978. World condemnation was unequivocal:

US State Department Spokesperson Phillip Crowley:
"We also strongly condemn the glorification of terrorists. Honoring terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians, either by official statements or by the dedication of public places, hurts peace efforts and must end. We will continue to hold Palestinian leaders accountable for incitement." [April 8, 2010]

US Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff, U.S. Deputy Representative to the UN, in the Security Council:
"We strongly condemn the glorification of terrorists, either through official statements or by the dedication of public places." [April 14, 2010]

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, commented on the naming of the square after Mughrabi:
"... glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones over the years in this conflict." [AIPAC Conference, March 22, 2010]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Historical Fiction

Dore Gold

The argument that Israel is a colonialist entity is often marshaled to undermine the Jewish state’s legitimacy. The theme has certainly permeated Western academia, almost uncritically. For decades, it has been employed against Israel in one international forum after another. In 1973, the U.N. General Assembly gave initial momentum to this idea when it condemned the “unholy alliance between Portuguese colonialism, South African racism, Zionism, and Israeli imperialism.” That association of Israel with colonialist regimes set the stage in 1975 for the most insidious resolution ever adopted in the General Assembly against Israel, which stated that Zionism was a form of racism. It helped cement the Afro-Asian bloc behind both the resolution and the movement to delegitimize Israel. Even when, in 1991, the General Assembly finally overturned the resolution, comparisons between Zionism and colonialism persisted, arguably becoming even more strident.

Speaking in Johannesburg in 2008, Azmi Bishara, a former member of the Knesset, explained another way that accusing Israel of being a colonialist entity has real political utility. Bishara, who today does not miss an opportunity to question Israel’s legitimacy before audiences abroad, explained that two points had to be established to show that Israel was an apartheid state: first, that Israel practiced racial separation; and second, that it was a product of colonialism.

Of course, anyone who visits the emergency rooms in Israeli hospitals, or the classrooms at any Israeli university, or the voting booths on election day, to say nothing of the Knesset itself, would see both Jewish and Arab doctors, patients, professors, students, voters, and parliamentarians mixing together in a way that utterly disproves the charge of apartheid. That leaves Bishara with mainly the claim of colonialism to make his case.

Unlike the charge of racial separation, the tag “colonialist” cannot be refuted simply by looking around modern Israel. It is a historical charge about how Israel came to exist: In effect, it amounts to the claim that Israel was established as an outpost of another distant power imposing itself on the territory and its native inhabitants. But the fact is that while modern Israel succeeded the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine, it was created by neither the British nor any other occupying power.

The Jews were already asserting their right to self-determination well before the British and the French dismantled the Ottoman Empire. For example, the Jewish people had already re-established their majority in Jerusalem by 1863. Decades later, Britain and the rest of the League of Nations considered Jewish rights in Palestine beyond their power to bestow because those rights were already there to be accepted. Thus the League of Nations gave recognition to “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” In other words, it recognized a pre-existing right. It called for “reconstituting” the Jewish people’s national home. And the rights recognized by the League of Nations in 1922 were preserved by its successor organization, the United Nations, which in Article 80 of its charter acknowledged all rights of states and peoples that existed before 1945.

The accusation that Israel has colonialist roots because of its connection to the British Mandate is ironic, since most of the Arab states owe their origins to the entry and domination of the European powers. Prior to World War I, the Arab states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan did not exist, but were only districts of the Ottoman Empire, under different names. They became states as a result of European intervention, with the British putting the Hashemite family in power in two of these countries.

Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states, meanwhile, emerged from treaties that their leaders signed with Britain. By means of those treaties, the British recognized the legitimacy of local Arab families to rule what became states like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. A similar British treaty with the al-Saud family in 1915 set the stage for the eventual emergence of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

Moreover, during Israel's War of Independence, Arab armies benefited directly from European arms and training—and even manpower. The Arab Legion initially fought in Jerusalem with British officers, while the skies of the Egyptian Sinai were protected from the Israeli Air Force by the Royal Air Force. Indeed, Israeli and British aircraft clashed in 1949.

William Roger Louis, one of the foremost historians of British imperial strategy, uncovered an extremely revealing document from the British foreign office that puts into perspective Israel’s relationship with the European colonial powers at its birth. In his 1984 book, The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-1951, he describes a meeting on July 21, 1949 of senior British officials at the end of Israel’s War of Independence. Sir John Troutbeck, head of the British Middle East Office, said, “We were in a position to control the Arab governments but not Israel.” He then expressed fear that “the Israelis might drag the Arab States into a neutral bloc and even attempt to turn us out of Egypt.” The original Foreign Office document also expressed concern that the British would lose their airbases in Iraq. In 1956, Israel briefly made common cause with Britain and France against Nasser’s Egypt, but this could not alter the fact that, for the imperial powers, Israel was an obstacle, not an outpost.

Nevertheless, in recent years, the effort to portray Israel as a colonial entity has expanded. For many Palestinian spokesmen, in particular, it became important to deny the historical ties of the Jewish people to their land and to portray them as recent colonialist arrivals to the region—in contrast to the Palestinians, who were portrayed as the authentic native population.

This effort reached an audacious peak when Yasser Arafat denied that the Temple had ever existed in Jerusalem at the end of the July 2000 Camp David Summit with President Clinton. Many of his deputies—from Saeb Erekat to Mahmoud Abbas—have since picked up the same theme. Speaking on November 12, 2008, at a U.N. General Assembly “Dialogue of Religions and Cultures,” the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, addressed the historical connections of Islam and Christianity to Jerusalem, but noticeably did not say a single word about Judaism's ties to the Holy City.

In a similar vein, Arafat used to tell Western audiences that the Palestinians are descendents of the Jebusites, with ancient roots in the land. But in Palestinian society, one establishes one’s status by claiming to be a relative latecomer, whose ancestors were from the Arabian families that accompanied the Second Caliph Umar bin al-Khatttab when he conquered and colonized Byzantine Palestine in the seventh century. Even at that time, the Jews were still a plurality—and, perhaps along with the Samaritans, a majority—in the land, six hundred years after the Romans destroyed their ancient Temple and the Second Jewish Commonwealth. This emerges from Professor Moshe Gil’s monumental 800-page A History of Palestine: 634-1099.

Ascertaining the truth has never been the objective of those trying to paint Israel with a colonialist brush. They have been determined simply to conclude that the Jews came as an alien force to Palestine, to advance European interests, rather than see them as a people recovering their historical homeland, where they had deep, indigenous roots.

Dore Gold is an Israeli statesman who has served in various diplomatic positions under several Israeli governments. He is the current President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Obama and the mosque

Op-ed: President's endorsement of Ground Zero mosque unwise but consistent with his worldview

Eytan Gilboa
Israel Opinion

Barack Obama's endorsement of the construction of a Muslim community center, including a mosque, two streets away from Ground Zero is commensurate with the president's worldview and his strategy for fighting Islamic terror. Obama's worldview espouses historic reconciliation between the United States and the Muslims and Arab world; his strategy distinguishes between moderate Islam, which can be engaged in dialogue, and radical and violent Islam, which should be fought.

Ground Zero
In order to realize this strategy, Obama delivered reconciliation speeches in Cairo and in Ankara at the beginning of his presidential term; he frequently talks about the need to avoid generalizations that position all Muslims in one anti-American camp.

The plan to establish the Muslim center ignited an emotional controversy. On the one hand we have the Muslims who seek to realize their right for freedom of religion and Jewish Mayor Michael Bloomberg who backed their request; on the other hand we have the victims' families and an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who object to establishing the center so close to Ground Zero, where radical Muslims demolished the Twin Towers and killed about 3,000 civilians.

At a dinner on the occasion of Ramadan, Obama used the opportunity to take a position and endorsed the plan. After sustaining criticism from all directions he took a step back and attempted to argue that he merely intended to endorse freedom of religion, rather than the specific plan. Yet this clarification is deceptive.

We are not dealing with religious freedom here. Nobody prevents Muslims from building mosques in the US. The problem pertains to the establishment of a Muslim center close to Ground Zero. The families of victims argue that building the mosque would hurt their feelings while most New Yorkers feel the plan rubs salt on their wounds. Had the Muslims offered to build the center in another area of New York, nobody would disapprove.

Obama's strategy utter failure
The war over the mosque erupted a few weeks ahead of the elections for Congress. Obama's Republican rivals were quick to exploit the opportunity and slammed him harshly. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich compared the building of a mosque near Ground Zero to the placement of a Nazi swastika near the Holocaust museum.

Democratic politicians also disapproved of Obama's statements. Why did he step into a confrontation that was local in nature thus far, making a statement that may prompt more voters to shun his party?

The answer has to do with ideological and strategic devotion. This is what Obama thinks, and he usually says what he thinks. His supporters argue that establishing the center in Ground Zero would contribute to the war on Islamic terrorists and al-Qaeda by bringing moderate Muslims closer. Obama's rivals respond that the plan will be interpreted by the radicals and those sitting on the fence as yet another victory in undermining the US.

Thus far, Obama's strategy of wooing the world's Muslims has been an utter failure. Despite the prominent dispute vis-à-vis Israel, the reconciliation speeches, and the warm embrace for America's Muslims community, recent polls in Muslim states showed that hostility towards the US and doubts towards Obama are back to pre-election rates.

In light of the above, the argument that building a mosque near Ground Zero would contribute to the war against al-Qaeda seems unfounded. While the harm to victims' families and New Yorkers is substantial and immediate, the expected strategic outcome is rather questionable. It would have been better for all parties involved to come up with another site that would grant Muslim freedom of worship while being endorsed by the families and New York residents.

Professor Eytan Gilboa is an expert on US affairs and serves as director of Bar-Ilan University's Center for International Communication

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Dave Rich *
UK reactions to the Gaza War have left many mainstream Jews in Britain feeling isolated and demonized, while the hardening of attitudes toward Israel allows antisemitic language to seep into anti-Israel discourse. Israel faces a long-term strategic threat from political campaigns to undermine its legitimacy, which are moving from the margins to the mainstream in Britain.

Britain is a country that favors the underdog and likes to see itself as the custodian of the basic principles of fair play. As such, the Gaza War of December 2008-January 2009 and the ongoing blockade, as viewed through media coverage in Britain, has damaged Israel’s image for many British people. There are many reasons for this: the disparity in firepower, higher Gazan casualties; the daily news pictures during the Gaza War of Israeli planes being able to overfly the area and drop bombs without being subject to attack; the allegations of war crimes, actively pursued and promoted by parts of the British media; and the economic blockade on a Gaza Strip considered to be an impoverished, desperate place. In the framework of British thinking, this does not appear to be the kind of fight it favors.

The purpose of this article is to explain the impact that the campaign to delegitimize and isolate (and, for some, to ultimately destroy) Israel has on Diaspora Jewry. Looking from Britain, it seems obvious that this campaign is gathering momentum and poses a strategic threat to Israel.

The Mavi Marmara episode of May 31, 2010, showed the legacy of the Gaza War on public impressions of Israel. In general, people in Britain are less willing to listen to Israel’s reasons for action or give the Israeli government the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong. Where this has always been the case with Israel’s hardened opponents, it has become an increasingly unchallenged attitude in mainstream UK politics and media, and especially within trade unions and NGOs. The narrative of Israel’s opponents is now heard in those arenas much more than previously, and calls for economic sanctions, cultural boycotts, and diplomatic isolation are no longer confined to the margins.

The sheer quantity of media coverage that events involving Israel receive leaves many British Jews feeling uneasy. There are rational explanations for the amount of coverage--for instance, that the conflict is an important one that affects Britain’s national interests; that there are significant constituencies in Britain (including British Jews) with a strong interest in the conflict; that Israel is an open society full of English speakers, in which journalists can operate with ease; the expansion of online news coverage; but added together these do not fully explain why, for example, the Guardian website (shared with its Sunday newspaper the Observer) published 95 different news articles, cartoons, photo galleries, videos, rolling news blogs, and opinion pieces on the Mavi Marmara story in just five days. There are some parts of the media that seem to have an emotional investment in the Israeli/Palestinian issue that does not apply to any other conflict not involving British forces. The Guardian, in particular, gives the impression of not only reporting on the plight of the Palestinians but actively campaigning on their behalf, through both their editorial content and news reporting.

Complaints that this is unfair to Israel may be right, but they won’t change this reality. Nor is this just about paying more attention to Israel’s PR. The consensus among Israel’s supporters that the outpouring of anger over the Mavi Marmara episode could have been assuaged by better Israeli PR in its aftermath is wrong, and misses the point. In asymmetric warfare, PR is the battlefield, and victory and defeat are not measured by traditional means. The Mavi Marmara is a perfect example of this: While Israel achieved its military objective of preventing the ship from reaching Gaza, this was a battle that Israel lost nonetheless.[1] To view events on the ship and the PR fallout afterwards as separate and distinct is itself a fundamental mistake. While Israel is engaged in a conflict with Hamas that requires the regular use of armed force to protect Israeli citizens, each use of force by Israel outrages (and thereby energizes) Israel’s opponents in Europe and elsewhere. In other words, actions taken by Israel to weaken short-term threats on its doorstep are strengthening a long-term threat that is growing overseas. The recent Reut Institute report Building a Political Firewall Against Israel’s Delegitimization, which called for a reorientation of Israel’s policies to take this threat into account, could not have been more timely.[2]

It is important to separate the impact that the Gaza War had on people who were already hostile toward Israel from the impact on the much larger number of uncommitted people in the middle ground. In short, the war motivated, energized, and radicalized the former; it made the latter more receptive to the idea that Israel is the “bad guy,” without mobilizing them--as yet--in significant numbers toward political action. For both groups, there is less patience with Israel when it is perceived to have misbehaved, less willingness to listen to Israeli explanations for their actions or positions, and more haste to assume that Israel behaves in bad faith, acts out of cruelty, and has no interest in making peace.

There are still many people in Britain who sympathize with Israel’s position. Most people do not pay that much attention to the conflict, much less have a fixed view of it. It is also important not to overstate any consequent anti-Semitism. Opinion polling shows that attitudes toward Muslims, for instance, are much more negative than those held toward Jews. However, it would be complacent to assume that anti-Israel agitation will come to nothing. The idea that Israel is out of control and needs to be reined in by international action is commonly voiced among opinion-forming elites during moments of crisis. A growing number of people are fed up with the seemingly endless conflict and blame Israel, as the sovereign power, for the lack of a solution. Many in Europe reject the use of force to solve any problem (even in self-defense) and do not understand the concept of an ideologically-motivated enemy, committed to total victory, and impervious to compromise, much less accept that such a thing exists. This applies when Israel uses military force against Hamas, and even more so when Israel uses force against foreigners in international waters. The humanitarian narrative, which is the dominant framework through which British audiences understand Israel and Gaza, overshadows complicated and hard-edged geopolitical explanations for Israel’s actions. The more incidents such as the Mavi Marmara that take place, the more likely it is that Israel will be treated like a pariah.

The fact that anti-Israel campaigns make many Jews feel uncomfortable does not make them antisemitic. As Anthony Julius writes in Trials of the Diaspora, “It would be a mistake in analysis to regard confrontations with Zionism and Israel as taking place between Jews and anti-Semites alone.”[3] What is the case is that the hardening of attitudes toward Israel has opened the door to more extreme, and sometimes antisemitic, language when Israel or Zionism is discussed. To give just a few examples from the past 12 months involving British parliamentarians:

* In December 2009, then-Respect MP George Galloway, having initially refused to believe allegations that Israel harvested the organs of Palestinians, offered the Swedish journalist who first made the claim a public apology in his newspaper column and accused Israel of “playing mini-Mengele on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.”[4]
* In February 2010, Liberal Democrat Baroness Jenny Tonge, who has a record of slipping into unconscionable language in the course of her pro-Palestinian activism, called for an investigation into allegations that the IDF harvested organs in Haiti under the cover of their relief efforts. Tonge did say that she thought the allegations were baseless, but nonetheless said that they should be investigated. Tonge was sacked as the Liberal Democratic spokeswoman on health as a result.[5]
* In March, two Labour MPs, Martin Linton and Gerald Kaufman (the latter a longstanding Jewish critic of Israel) used a pro-Palestinian meeting in Parliament to argue that people should vote Labour in the forthcoming general election because the Conservative Party was controlled by pro-Israeli and Jewish money. Linton alleged that, “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends”; Kaufman claimed that, “Just as Lord Ashcroft owns one part of the Conservative Party, right-wing Jewish millionaires own the other part.”[6]

More generally, the comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany has, in some quarters, overtaken the comparison with apartheid South Africa.

All four of these current and former parliamentarians have a long record of anti-Israel activity. For those who already thought ill of Israel, it is more than ever seen as an aggressive, even genocidal, racist state, at the heart of every problem relating to the Middle East, terrorism, extremism, and human rights. Bob Marshall-Andrews, who visited Gaza as a Labour MP[7] in March 2010, on a trip organized by a pro-Palestinian group, wrote: “This ruthless, genocidal repression is the worst in today’s world. It is worse than the Sudan, worse than the Congo, worse than Burma--a large claim but true, and that truth lies not in the identity and suffering of the victims but in the identity and nature of the perpetrators.”[8] Marshall-Andrew’s argument was that Israel is a democracy, allied to America, and therefore its alleged crimes outweigh the millions killed in civil wars or massacres in Congo or Sudan. This hints at another frustration of Israel’s opponents. The election of Barack Obama was greeted with widespread acclaim in Britain, where George W. Bush was reviled as the architect--with the UK’s own Tony Blair--of the Iraq War, which caused huge amounts of anger and resentment on all parts of the British political spectrum and a particular sort of shame for the British left. This plays into British post-colonial guilt over the Balfour Declaration and a sense of rising impotence over Britain’s failure to right this historic “wrong.”

For supporters of Israel--meaning not its professional advocates, but rather the large majority of British Jews who identify to some degree with Israel as a country and a nation--the Mavi Marmara was another episode that left their sense of well-being and belonging somewhat bruised. This is a process that began some years ago, but which continues to be fueled by attitudes toward Israeli policy in Gaza. Throughout the autumn and winter of 2009-2010, a large number of people--mainly young Muslims--have appeared before the courts for acts of violence and severe public order offences committed at anti-Israel demonstrations in London during the 2009 Gaza War. Sentencing has been strong, and many have been sent to prison. Those politicians and parts of the media who support the protestors have warned of the impact that such stiff sentencing will have on British Muslim political participation. Yet few of the protestors or their supporters seem to have considered the chilling effect that the violence had on British Jews. This lack of empathy with Jewish feelings and concerns, borne in part out of the post-Gaza assumption that Israel is pretty much always in the wrong, has had a damaging impact.

Various factors have mingled together in the consciousness of many ordinary British Jews to create a sense of uncertainty and fear for the future: hostile media coverage of Israel; over-the-top language, sometimes straying into antisemitism, from some high-profile figures; and totally unrelated events such as a High Court ruling that the system of Jewish school admissions was unlawful. Some of the worries are well-placed and some are not. It is not always easy, in this atmosphere, to separate the legitimate from the illegitimate. Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard has written of his despair at people who see antisemitism behind every hostile media report or government action relating to Israel. The British intellectual scene, particularly in the media and academia, is dominated by a liberal left worldview that sees the Palestinians as the underdog and Israel as little America. This is different from antisemitism, even if it sometimes looks similar. The growing campaign against the Gaza blockade and the inevitable flashpoints it throws up will continue to feed this view, with all that it entails for public policy and debate.

*Dave Rich is Deputy Director of Communications for the Community Security Trust, which provides security and defense services and advice to the UK Jewish Community.


[1] For more on the Mavi Mamara, see Dave Rich, “The Mavi Marmara Metaphor,” Standpoint (July/August 2010),

[2] Reut Institute, Building a Political Firewall Against Israel’s Delegitimization (March 2010),

[3] Anthony Julius, Trials of the Diaspora (Oxford, 2010), p. 4

[4] George Galloway, “Dark Echoes of Holocaust,” December 28, 2009

[5] Simon Rocker & Martin Bright, “Tonge: Investigate IDF stealing organs in Haiti”, Jewish Chronicle 11 February 2010.

[6] Martin Bright and Robyn Rosen, “MP: Israel's Tentacles Will Steal the Election,” Jewish Chronicle, March 29, 2010.

[7] Marshall-Andrews stepped down as an MP at the 2010 general election.

[8] Bob Marshall-Andrews, “Speechless in Gaza,” March 6, 2010,
MERIA Journal Staff
Publisher and Editor: Prof. Barry Rubin
Assistant Editors: Yeru Aharoni, Anna Melman.
MERIA is a project of the Global Research in International Affairs
(GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary University.

Hamas on Killing Spree in Gaza.

Alex Fishman

News about bodies occasionally found at sea are published by Gaza newspapers. The number of such bodies isn't huge, yet not all those drowning victims chose to go swimming voluntarily. The Gazans who found their death at sea include mid-level officials at sensitive government ministries. Some of them were shot in the head before being sent on their swim. There is a common denominator to these deaths: All of the victims were designated as traitors by the secret service of Hamas' military wing in charge of counter-espionage and executed as collaborators. And these are not just simple collaborators, but rather, people who penetrated deep into Hamas' government; so deep that Hamas leaders are embarrassed to expose the failure and prefer to make these people disappear, with or without a brief court-martial.

...These are clear signs of distress for Hamas' regime... The group failed to breach the naval blockade, failed to breach the obstacle of global recognition (Hamas flirts with the Norwegians and Swiss, who make great promises without the ability to deliver) and failed to breach the obstacle of Arab recognition... Meanwhile, the religious pressure keeps building up inside the Strip. Religious laws are becoming stricter and expand: Beardless men feel unease, while women are not allowed to smoke nargilas and must don a burqa, and so on. Gaza's streets are becoming Iran-like.

...Hamas' frustration already comes with a price: The recent rockets fired at Ashkelon and Sderot were shot by Hamas' military wing, without notifying the group's political leadership. There is no doubt that this fire aimed to destroy the calm and reignite the conflict against Israel & However, Hamas suffered a greater embarrassment following the delusional rocket attack on Eilat, which ended up killing and wounding people in Jordan's Aqaba of all places.

Food for Thought. Steven Shamrak

Some people fear unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinian Authority. This will never happen, as they still want all Palestine, including Israel and Jordan. Their masters in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia are interested only in prolongation of the Arab-Israel conflict and instability it creates. Unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state will completely expose their true intentions and will give Israel green light to implement the alternative solution to the conflict!

No Accountability, No UN Investigation! The German magazine Der Spiegel reported that German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that show that PKK fighters in Turkey were killed by chemical weapons in September 2009. Turkey has long been suspected of using chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels. Since 1984, more than 45,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in the conflict.

New True Friend or Another User? Romanian President Traian Basescu said that in the event of a confrontation with Iran, Romania would stand with Israel, and with NATO, which also opposes Iran 's nuclear development program.

"Israeli" Serial Killer Suspect is Arab. American media have reported that the Israeli citizen who was arrested Thursday for 20 stabbings, including five fatal ones, is 33-year-old Elias Abu-El Azam of Ramle, southeast of Tel Aviv. Law enforcement authorities are convinced that the stabbings are racist hate crimes. (Many publications initially omitted the fact that he is an Arab from Israel. They are over sensitive about offending feeling of Muslims, but do not care about offending Jews by insinuation!)

Still Nobody Cares about Kurdistan. 1) Turkey distanced itself further from the West by signing a pact with Tehran for the exchange of intelligence in real time in their offensives against Kurdish separatists. 2) Syrian troops are locked in battle with Kurdish fighters since Assad's army blasted four northeastern Syrian Kurdish towns in late June. (There are up to 35 million Kurds who, unlike fake "poor Palestinians", used to have their own state, Kurdistan ! Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syrian are still occupying their land. The UN is silent about their rights for statehood!)

Power Fight b/w the Houses of Terror. The Hamas rulers of Gaza and Jihad Islami have called up their military wings to fight it out in a quarrel reflecting the strains in Lebanon between the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian factions over the Saudi Arabian move to pull Damascus away from its support for the Lebanese Hizballah and Iran's counter-moves.

Hypocrisy in Action:

"Obama: Israelis suspicious of me because my middle name is Hussein" - The implementation of anti-Israel policies, his disrespect and obnoxious behaviour toward the Prime Minister of Israel has nothing to do with mistrust? Political opportunists and Jew-haters have always been blaming Jews for the outcome of their despicable anti-Semitic behaviour!

Nobody Objects the US Military Help to Lebanon. America cuts funding to Lebanese army after Israeli clash. Two key Democrats, Nita Lowey and Howard Berman, announced they were holding up $100 million (£63 million) that has been approved for Lebanon's army but not yet spent.

Should Jews Fund Basque Separatists? Spain will fund Israeli left's NGO campaign to continue the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria.

Barak has Completely Lost It! Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered IDF troops not to eat while patrolling IDF checkpoints in Judea and Samaria during the month Ramadan. The Samaria Residents Council said that "it is sad to see that Barak has become an expert on Islam, as he sends IDF soldiers and border troops to tear down synagogues, beat up rabbis, issue orders to demolish Yeshivot, and arrest Jewish youths..."

With the Friend like this... A US State Department advisory issued on Friday warning Americans against visiting Israel, but not Jordan , following last week's rocket attacks on Eilat and Akaba raised the ire of Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov. It was not the first time that American travel advisories had discriminated against Israel .

Hypocrisy of the Headlines:

Israel "must open Gaza borders" - BBC. Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief - Has any country done it? I wonder, why this 'respectable' politician isn't demanding that Saudi Arabia and Iran allow freedom of religions, respect for human rights and stop sponsoring terrorism! Wouldn't it be nice?
Who is the Occupier?
by Steven Shamrak.

It has become very common and trendy to say and write that Israel is an occupier of Arab land. Unfortunately many true Zionists are exhausted after challenging this baseless Arab and anti-Israel propaganda rhetoric year after year. Therefore even many Jews start to believe this lie!

I prefer to rely on facts not emotional or politically motivated fantasies. I would say, and historical facts support it, that Arabs are occupiers of Jewish land.

As part of the Palestine mandate: Trans-Jordan, Golans, Judea, Samaria and Gaza were allocated for creation of the Jewish State. The British government was appointed as a custodian of the mandate. After Jews started to return to their homeland in the 1880's and created agriculture and industries in the desolated land of Palestine , economic migration of Arabs followed. Later, the British helped to facilitate the politicly motivated migration of Arabs/Muslims to Jewish land. Jews were not allowed to live in Trans-Jordan, but Arabs were encouraged to move and live on the Western bank of the river Jordan .

In 1922 the British illegally separated Trans-Jordan from mandate in exchange for control of Sinai and gave the Golan Heights to France. The League of Nations-controlled by UK and France-rubber stamped the 'deal'. So, I would like to ask you now - Who is the real occupier?

We must stop believing in the lies of Jewish enemies! We must set our own goals and regain the rightful ownership of the Jewish land! Jewish people and Israel have spiritual, historical, moral and legal rights to all Jewish land! We must ignore the 'legal' illegality imposed on Jews by, generally, an anti-Semitic and oil dependent International community.

Thanks Steven Shamrak

Monday, August 16, 2010

"One Thing and Another"

Arlene Kushner

Whom does Abbas fear more?

Eleven "militant" groups in Syria -- including the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- met at the home of Hamas politburo chief Maashal Khaled to discuss the pressure being put on Abbas to agree to direct talks. Warning against "concession and compromise," they came out (as would be expected) solidly against those talks. In a joint statement they released, they charged that "the U.S. and the 'Zionists' were aiming to wipe out the national rights of the Palestinians and to cover up the practices of the occupation, settlement expansion and Judaizing the land."

Putting aside for a moment the actually physical danger to Abbas from an infuriated member of one of these groups, should he agree to talks, consider how he would appear to the Palestinian street: As a sell-out, a traitor, someone who cooperated in wiping out Palestinian national rights.

And consider, even beyond this, whether he would have any sort of latitude whatsoever to actually negotiate a deal in this climate.

Abbas has met with an assistant to George Mitchell, and plans to meet with the PLO Executive Committee, either later today or tomorrow, before making his decision.


Defense Minister Ehud Barak has made a decision (to be brought to the Security Cabinet) to purchase F-35 Joint Strike Fighter planes from the US. The F-35 is a fifth generation stealth jet that reportedly is able to evade all radar and anti-aircraft missile systems.

Said Barak, "The F-35 will provide Israel with continued air superiority and help retain its qualitative military edge in the region."

The Pentagon has agreed to sell us 75 planes, but for the first stage, we will be purchasing 20, at a price tag of $2.75 billion, including simulators, spare parts and routine maintenance. Delivery is expected to begin in 2015.

This purchase has been a long time in coming: a major stumbling block was the opposition of the US to integration into the planes of Israeli systems. The first stage of planes that will be delivered will be configured roughly according to US Air Force specifications, but planes in the second stage will be designed according to Israeli specifications, and will include Israeli designed and manufactured systems.


The purchase of the planes will be offset by an agreement by the US to purchase $4 billion worth of military supplies from Israel.


While Israel will be the first foreign country granted permission to purchase these planes, but it is anticipated that in time nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt might also be permitted to purchase them. Thus there are those in the Air Force who favored the deal because this was deemed necessary for maintaining our strategic balance.

However, there is another perspective advanced by some critics: If Saudi Arabia and Egypt might also have these stealth jets in time, it might be more important for us to spend money designing a system that would provide defenses against this plane.


Speaking of selling weaponry to Saudi Arabia, Lee Smith writing in Newsweek , addresses the upcoming sale by the US of additional F-15s. At one time, he says, this would have been greatly distressful to Israel. But now, once we were assured that the planes would not be equipped with certain long-range offensive capabilities, we "relented.":

"The balance of power in the Middle East has changed and may yet change again before long. If Israel and Saudi Arabia aren’t exactly headed toward rapprochement, the old enmities are not what they used to be."

And the bottom line here is mutual concern about Iran:

"A few months ago, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal explained to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that sanctions against Iran did not offer the immediate solution required to stop the revolutionary regime’s push for a nuclear weapon. This sentiment was echoed a few weeks back by the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, who calculated that bombing Iran was preferable to an Iranian bomb. Even as the ambassador later backtracked, the Middle East’s worst-kept secret was now in the public record: the Arabs are even more concerned than the Israelis about an Iranian bomb. After all, the Jewish state allegedly has its own nuclear deterrent, while Arab nations finally depend on Washington to protect them—no matter how many arms we sell them...To preserve the American-backed regional order, Arab nations expect us [the US] to stop the Iranians, a security arrangement that has been clear since the Carter administration. What’s new is that if we don’t step up, the Arabs’ unlikeliest ally, Israel, may have to do it."


This echoes what I've encountered from a number of sources, including the editorial in today's JPost, which says that "Israel and the Saudis are on the same page as far as Teheran is concerned." The JPost cautions, however, that "it should not have to fall to Israel to act alone on behalf of Saudi-US-Israeli interests."

Indeed, but what "should not be" and what may yet be are not necessarily the same.


Hezbollah is in the news in couple of different contexts:

The IDF is continuing to release information on Hezbollah's new border deployment, in which it is setting up a network of bunkers, arms warehouses, and fighters in command posts in villages in south Lebanon (where, according to UNSC Resolution 1701, it is to have no presence). This reflects a change in strategy for Hezbollah from the 2006 war, when it operated mainly in wooded rural areas.

Just a month ago, we released details of a Hezbollah takeover of the village of Khiam, and now the IDF is making similar charges regarding the village of Aita al-Shaab. According to an officer in our Northern Command, several civilian buildings (perhaps most notably a home for mentally handicapped children) are being used as guerilla command posts -- with fighters able to move between buildings via underground tunnels.

According to this officer, the guerillas now have 5,000 fighters between the border with Israel and the Litani River, and an arsenal of some 40,000 rockets.


There is speculation that this information is being released for two reasons: First to let Hezbollah know exactly how much intelligence we have. And then, to let the world know that if hostilities break out civilians will die because of these actions by Hezbollah.

Scant documentation is being provided by the IDF because this would compromise its sources -- although some maps and photos were released with regard to Khiam. Information probably comes from surveillance flights, spy satellites, and Lebanese agents.

UNIFIL, unsurprisingly, says there is "no evidence" for the Israeli charges.


Meanwhile, Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst, has written a piece regarding his sense that "something ominous is in the air, involving Hezbollah." It may that Hezbollah is gearing up for a confrontation with Israel, but it may be something else very different: "the Shi'ite organization could be about to launch a domestic power grab...Hezbollah has the military capacity to do this, as it's the only militia in Lebanon."

See the analysis in detail here:


I've gotten a large number of enraged e-mails concerning what appears to be Harvard's divestment from all Israeli companies, as reported by Globes. The full picture seems to be more complex, however, than what one might assume at first glance. (There is certainly an anti-Israel atmosphere prevalent on many US campuses, and Harvard's predilections in certain regards seem consonant with this atmosphere.)

The story, however, as it's come to me from reliable sources, is this: The Harvard fund in question -- MSCI fund for emerging markets -- is one that invests in "developing nations." Since Israel joined the OECD, it is no longer "an emerging market." The Harvard investment fund still has Israel holdings in its developed markets sections that were not covered by its recent filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission -- which is what Globes was reporting on.

(With thanks to Bob G. for the informative running commentary, and research, on this.)


"The Good News Corner"

Because we desperately need to hear good news.

[] Five physicians and 12 nurses who were trained in Jerusalem in a collaborative effort, are now doing circumcisions on adult males in South Africa for HIV prevention. Circumcised males are considerably less likely to become infected with HIV.

[] It has been known for some time that dogs can be trained to sniff out cancer because of certain molecules created by a tumor are exhaled in a person's breath.

A researcher at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has developed an "electronic nose" -- which is very close to a dog's olfactory system -- that is able to detect early stages of lung, breast, colon and prostate cancer. Not only can the device accurately detect minute amounts of chemicals emanating from tumors, it can also track improvement in patients' condition as they undergo treatment.

The value of this device is now being recognized, as it was described in the British Journal of Cancer; it has potential to save many lives.

In both of these instances, it occurs to me how something very simple in conceptualization can make an enormous difference.


see my website


Arlene Kushner

That's what we're hearing: that the pressure on the PA has been such that it's likely that Abbas will agree in the next few days to come to the table. I'm not going to speculate about this unduly, preferring to wait to see what evolves.

I think Sarah Honig, writing in the JPost magazine on Friday, assessed the situation very well: "[If] Obama and crew did indeed twist Abbas's arms, we ought to be outraged. The very notion of dragging an unwilling interlocutor to the negotiating table should be unthinkable. "...The bottom line result will be the same whether Abbas is coerced into a talkathon or whether he is allowed to avoid the ordeal. No peace will emerge in any case...You can pull Abbas to a conference room somewhere but you can't make him sign on the dotted line, and more so, you can't make him deliver."


Part and parcel of the expectation that Abbas will agree to negotiate is a plan that the Quartet (the US, the EU, the UN, and Russia) is slated to release shortly. Our government believes that this plan is an attempt to provide him with the cover that will allow him to agree to direct talks. It is anticipated that three things are likely to be mentioned by the Quartet: the need for an extension of the building freeze, acknowledgement of the '67 line as the border of a PA state, and a time limit for negotiations.

Our inner cabinet (septet) met for three hours today in order to discuss this situation. The decision, according to several news sources, is that we will not to accept any preconditions. Please G-d let this hold! This is of more than a little significance.

According to at least one source, there is expectation that the US will subsequently be releasing a plan that does not set out preconditions.



I would like to recommend another opinion piece from the JPost, this one by Shalom Helman, who is director of Hadar-Israel: "Reclaiming Israel's Narrative of Freedom."

"Israel has lost the plot. To be precise, we have lost our plot. We are like tragic characters trying to find the story line in an absurd existentialist play. We have forgotten our narrative. Whether from self-imposed amnesia or a wistful yearning for “normality,” we are no longer able to articulate our remarkable story to ourselves or to the world.

"...Public diplomacy will not succeed until we can unabashedly declare the story of who we are and why we are here."


In closing today, I provide the juxtaposition of two different video-recorded statements on the mosque at Ground Zero.

First a dignified and straight-talking Muslim, Raheel Raza, an author ("Their Jihad...Not My Jihad") and board member of the Muslim Canadian Congress. How, she asks does building a mosque on the site where Muslims killed so many Americans show sensitivity. It's a slap in the face of all Americans. Mayor Bloomberg and other "bleeding heart white liberals" make it harder for moderate Muslims, she says.

(Thanks Stephanie W.)


And then, the president of the United States defending the building of that Ground Zero mosque, because it reflects American values.

He later qualified his position, saying that he was defending the right of Muslims to build, but this didn't mean that he was advocating it. He does a lot of qualifying. But his statement here is vintage Obama, replete with the history of how Muslims have always participated in America.

see my website

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hispanic Media Turn Against Obama

Hispanic voters largely supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election after he vowed to influential Univision anchor Jorge Ramos that he would draft an immigration reform bill during his first year in office.

More than a year has come and gone, no immigration bill has been forthcoming, and Obama is increasingly coming under criticism from Hispanic media figures — including Ramos himself. “He has a credibility problem right now with Latinos,” said Ramos, an anchor on Univision — the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network — for more than 20 years who has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media.

He told Politico, “Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Obama, and they expected him to keep his promise, and he broke his promise.

“If he was able to get 60 votes for financial reform, if he can get 60 votes to extend unemployment benefits, how come he can’t get 60 votes for immigration reform?”

Ramos is not alone. Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart complained on ABC’s “Meet the Press” in April that Obama’s campaign vow, known as “La Promesa de Obama,” has gone unmet.

After Obama said in May that he would send 1,200 guards to the Mexican border, an editorial in El Diario La Prensa asked, “Who’s in charge in Washington?”

Following Obama’s immigration speech in July, La Opinion, the nation’s largest Spanish-language daily, titled an editorial, “Words are not enough.”

And Andres Oppenheimer, a columnist for El Nuevo Herald, declared, “Obama came up short.”

Hispanics voted 67 percent for Obama versus 31 percent for Republican John McCain, according to an analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center. But Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics dropped from 69 early this year to 57 percent in May, according to the Gallup Poll.

Members of the Obama administration “know they are in trouble with the Hispanic community, and the problem in November is the Hispanic vote may be up for grabs again,” Ramos told Politico. “My fear is they might not vote. They don’t feel protected or supported by either party.”

Turkish Opposition Rejects Regime Policy on Gaza Flotilla

Barry Rubin

In a sign of its deepening involvement in the Iran-Syria-Hamas-Hizballah alliance, the Turkish regime is now apparently letting Iran ship arms directly through Turkey for the Hizballah forces in Lebanon. That the Ankara government is actively participating in providing aid for an anti-Western terrorist group should be a matter of concern, especially since it furthers Tehran's strategic expansion.

TwoTurkish legal experts, in separate articles, have criticized the Mavi Marmara jihad operation over the last few weeks, pointing out that Turkey has no jurisdiction over the issue, that the Gaza flotilla organizers acted wrongly, and Israel had the right to seize the ship. What's significant over this new development is that people within Turkey are beginning to stand up against the wave of religious and nationalist demagoguery unleashed by the current Islamist regime. Indeed, the opportunity to make such political gains at a time when the regime is increasingly unpopular and faces potentil defeat in next year's elections was one of the main reason why the Turkish government sponsored the operation that it almost certainly knew would end in violence.

And the most important point o all is that one of these articles--the most critical one--quotes a former minister of justice and is published in the official organ of the Republican People's Party (CHP), the main opposition party and the likely winner of next year's election. The article ends with a sharp attack on Prime Minister Recep Erdogan:

"We hope that the arrogant Sultan Fatih [conquering sultan, a sarcastic reference to Erdogan] "will be directly updated by genuine events occurring in the world and will not drag us into the morass of the Middle East."

Clearly, the party made a political decision to take this stance. In contrast to Erdogan's position--Turkey has been insulted and several of its citizens murdered--the opposition view is that the regime is acting recklessly, endangering Turkish interests, and acting as if it is ready to pull Turkey into a war.

In practice, the current regime's view is in contrast to that of the republic's founder Kemal Ataturk's famous dictum of peace at home and peace abroad. But this isn't surprising since the government seeks to destroy the secular republic that has served Turkey so well and brought it so much progress for more than 70 years. I'll bet Turkish voters agree with that critique at the polls next year and throw out a regime whose main (arguably its sole) foreign policy achievement is to ally with Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah against the West.

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). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at