Saturday, October 01, 2011

Islamizing Journalism School: “Covering Islam in America"

Atlas Shrugs

Judith Miller at FOX has picked up on my coverage of islamizing journalism: "Islam on Main Street" for reporters – and aspiring reporters – covering Muslim communities in America. and this back in January,The Society of Professional Journalists: Why We Never Get the Straight Story on Islamic Jihad

Miler signed up for a journalism class, “Covering Islam in America," and was shocked, (shocked, I tell ya) to find the whitewashing of jihad. Miller calls out Poynter Institute and the professors teaching the course. And while Miller believes that "there are excellent individuals in CAIR" (who?) at least she is covering this critical issue and calling out the propagandists.

Journalism Class That Urges 'Context' in Reporting on Jihad Misses Point: Motive Matter by Judith Miller

The respected Florida-based Poynter Institute, whose mission is to improve journalism in support of democracy, is trying to help journalists cover Islam more effectively by offering a new on-line course free of charge. So I registered.

And I learned, among other fairly uncontroversial facts about what has been among the world’s fastest growing religions, that while approximately 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, approximately 15,000 people in the U.S. are murdered each year.

I also learned that in most years, “jihad organizations” have accounted for “well under 1 percent” of the half million people who are murdered annually. At its “peak” – of what, University doesn’t tell us– the jihad groups have accounted for under 2 percent of the toll.Poynter’s professors – Lawrence Pintak and Stephen Franklin, both former foreign correspondents – also tell me that 500,000 individuals die each year from “nutritional deficiencies,” (I suppose in layman’s English, they mean hunger and related causes) “more than 800,000 from malaria, and two million from HIV/AIDS.”

So “jihad is not a leading cause of death in the world,” the course states, “even in the three countries that account for the bulk of the casualties: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.”

The professors offer these helpful comparative death tolls to give the 9/11 death toll “some context,” they say. But the implicit message of the course seems obvious enough: 3,000 dead Americans, (and they might have looked up the actual death toll) have been over-covered. Why don’t journalists spend more time covering malaria, or hunger, or especially HIV/AIDS, which the last time I checked, was hardly being ignored by the nation’s media?

For that matter, why aren’t the media investigating bathtub deaths, since according to “Overblown,” John Mueller’s attack on what he regards as the government’s obsessive focus on terrorism, more Americans die in bathtub accidents each year than in terrorist attacks?

The answer should be fairly obvious to such an august institution as Poynter: just as the press covers murders rather than traffic fatalities, which far outnumber killings in America each year, it covers terrorism intensively because motive matters. “If it bleeds it leads,” may be a rule-of-thumb in journalism, but how and why the person died still determine the importance of the story. Terrorism is not just run-of-the-mill murder; It attempts to strike at the heart of who and what we are as a nation. And to compare the numbers who died in the deadliest terror strike in our nation’s history with the annual homicides, which occur in all countries and cultures, is to miss the point of what happened in and to America on that fateful day.

Just what kind of journalism is Poynter promoting?

Terrorism was legitimately “the” story of the past decade. And we need only look at today’s newspapers – though no longer on the front pages of most of them – to appreciate the potential threat it still poses, despite America’s impressive gains against this intractable scourge.

As Poynter was recruiting journalism students for its mediocre course on Islam, real journalists were reporting that a “26-year-old man” from “a town west of Boston,” as The New York Times described him in its first graf, was being charged with plotting not only to blow up the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol using remote-controlled aircraft filled with plastic explosives, but also to supply Al Qaeda with detonation devices and weapons to kill American soldiers overseas. The suspect, Rezwan Ferdaus, the Times continues, is “an American citizen” with “a physics degree from Northeastern University in Boston.”

Are those facts about him more important than something that is never reported in the story – the fact that he is a Muslim? The story dances all around religion, of course. It quotes the FBI affidavit as saying that Ferdaus considered Americans “enemies of Allah,” for instance. But nowhere does it say that he is part of a tiny, but growing, worrisome trend among Muslim Americans – those who are being radicalized here at home by real-life and on-line radical Islamist clerics and by myriad other factors that are still poorly understood.

The Poynter course, “Covering Islam in America,” barely mentions the proliferation of such “home-grown” Islamist terrorism in its discussion of important trends and facts about Islam. Its omissions – documented in detail by the conservative Media Research Center – are legion. Among them are the death fatwas issued by militants Muslims against Salman Rushdie (perhaps that is by now too ancient an outrage to include) or the more modern day threats against Kurt Westergaard, whose cartoon about the Muslim prophet Mohammed sparked riots around the world.

Although just this week Saudi women were just promised the right to vote – albeit in a municipal election four years from now – the new course gives short shrift to the Wahabism in the kingdom which makes women unable to make basic decisions about their lives – to travel, work, get educated, or open a business – without the permission of a male guardian. It says nothing, as MRC notes, about the fact that the Saudis executed a Sudanese worker last week for the Islamic crime of “sorcery.”

Its list of individuals and organizations for journalists to consult include such groups as CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which the FBI has shunned for a time, and other dubious, self-appointed “spokespersons” for Islam. While there are excellent individuals in CAIR and at several of the other organizations the course lists, there are also some extremely radical voices. But Poynter’s free, on-line tutorial on Islam offers few such caveats. (You get what you pay for, I suppose.)

Click here to read rest of article

Friday, September 30, 2011

This Week in History: The failed assassination of Mashaal


On September 25, 1997, two would-be Mossad assassins attempted to take Hamas's political leader down in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

On September 25, 1997, two men approached Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal with a small device outside a building in Amman, Jordan. One of the men put the device next to the Hamas leader’s ear and injected him with an unknown poisonous substance. The coming days would see the most intense and perhaps dangerous flurry of diplomatic and intelligence activity between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom since the countries made peace just three years earlier. According to then-Mossad chief Danny Yatom, Israel been requesting that King Hussein shut down the Hamas offices in Jordan for years, arguing that the group was planning deadly terror attacks against Israelis from its Amman headquarters. However, assuring Jerusalem that it was better to have the Islamic group in Jordan where his Mukhabarat (intelligence services) could keep an eye on it than somewhere else, the King refused. But the group continued to plan and execute suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks.

In the midst of a wave of attacks at the time, then-prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened his security chiefs in 1997 and ordered them to formulate a plan to strike a top-level Hamas target. After some debate and objections, it was decided that Mashaal would be the target.

Because Jordan and Israel were at peace, the operation was planned as a “quiet” assassination. Six Mossad agents were dispatched to Amman, two of whom comprised the team that would strike Mashaal and four others with various other support roles.

The two men in the strike team followed Mashaal for days, but only had a proper opportunity to make their move on September 25.

Armed with a special device and a poisonous substance, one of the men approached the Hamas leader outside his office and placed the device next to his ear, successfully delivering the dose of poison. But Mashaal’s security team had spotted them.

The Hamas security men immediately gave chase to the two would-be assassins. The Mossad agents made their escape in a waiting car, but mistakenly believing that they had not been followed, quickly ditched their vehicle. The Hamas security man found a plainclothes Jordanian policeman and the Mossad agents were detained and brought to a local police station.

Mishka Ben David, one of the auxiliary Mossad agents in Amman as part of the mission later recalled to Yedioth Aharonoth, “I was in the hotel swimming pool and all of a sudden I saw someone who wouldn't have been there if things had gone according to plan. I could tell by his expression that something had gone dreadfully wrong.”

The former Mossad chief, Yatom, recalled to Al Jazeera last year that immediately after being told of his agents’ arrest, he “took a plane and went to see King Hussein and told him the entire story and that we had an antidote.”

The four Mossad agents in Amman at the time that had not been arrested had by that time managed to make their way to the Israeli embassy in the capital, where they were holed up.

As part of negotiations to secure the six agents’ release, Israel – reportedly under significant pressure from then-US president Bill Clinton – quickly agreed to administer the antidote to Mashaal and release a number of the terror group’s operatives and leaders, including spiritual leader and terrorist mastermind Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, from Israeli prisons. Yassin was assassinated by in the Gaza Strip seven years later.

“We offered him - I offered him - the antidote, because I understood that if Mashaal was going to die after our people were caught, it was only likely to make the situation more complicated,” Yatom told Al Jazeera.

With the prisoners’ release secured and Mashaal brought back from near-certain death, the Israeli agents were allowed to return home.

While the attempted assassination of the Hamas leader did perhaps bolster Israel’s deterrence by showing its ability to reach its enemies wherever they may be, it was also one of the Mossad’s most public failures.

Speaking in the aftermath of the episode, Netanyahu said of his decision to order the attempted assassination: "As prime minister I have the duty, the supreme duty, to fight in every possible way against this dreadful terror.”

Addressing the failure, however, he said: "Every now and then, as in every war, there are failures, and there are risks.”

But Mashaal, at least publicly, had a different and more defiant take on the attempt on his life. “"Israeli threats have one of two effects: some people are intimidated, but others become more defiant and determined. I am one of the latter."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gaza and Gas

Stephen Brown

The Turkish-Israeli dispute over natural resources under the eastern Mediterranean’s seabed may soon enter a new and much more dangerous phase.

Last week, it appeared Turkey was going to make good on its threats to stop a joint Israeli-Greek Cypriot venture to explore for natural gas in Greek Cypriot waters and at the same time, militarily challenge Israel’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. But as the Texas-based Noble Energy company moved a rig from Israeli waters into position off of Greek Cyprus’ south-eastern coast to begin drilling, Turkish naval vessels and warplanes limited their actions to shadowing the transfer operation, keeping outside of Greek Cypriot waters and airspace. Turkey now appears resigned, at least for the moment, to halting the project through the offices of the United Nations (UN). But the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood at the UN carries an even greater risk of igniting a Turkish-Israeli military confrontation. While the political consequences to Israel of a separate Palestinian state have been much discussed, a lesser known economic factor that is attracting Turkey’s attention also threatens Israeli security and regional peace and stability. Like in Greek Cyprus, that factor is natural gas.

“Deposits worth an estimated four billion dollars lie off the Gaza coast,” a German newspaper reported.

Four billion dollars in natural gas is probably something worth fighting over for an energy-poor country like Turkey. Analyst Boris Kalnoky, writing in the German newspaper Die Welt, believes the gas constitutes the main reason behind Turkey’s belligerence towards Israel regarding Gaza rather than any alleged Palestinian suffering. The supposed Palestinian distress is simply the excuse Turkey is using to justify its threats to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Turkish government has said its warships would escort the next aid flotilla to the Palestinian enclave, thus risking war with Israel.

“That natural gas plays a central role in the dispute with Israel was indicated in a[n] additional comment of [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan: Turkey will not allow Israel to exploit ‘one-sided’ the giant natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean,” wrote Kalnoky.

And those gas deposits are truly gigantic. They are located in what is called the Levant Basin that stretches from Egypt to Syria and includes the waters around Cyprus. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the coastal areas from Israel’s border with Egypt north to Syria alone contain 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. They also may hold “an estimated 1.7 billion barrels of undiscovered, recoverable oil,” which, if true, would certainly add fuel to the current Israeli-Turkish tension.

Israelis reportedly joke that Moses took a wrong turn when leading his people out of the wilderness, taking them to the only place in the Middle East that didn’t have oil. But Israeli discoveries of natural gas offshore in Israel’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), described as the largest natural gas finds worldwide in the last decade, have helped make up for Moses’ sense of direction. Israel’s two big EEZ gas discoveries are the Leviathan and Tamar fields. The deposits in the Tamar field alone will make Israel self-sufficient in natural gas, thus increasing Israeli security. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2013.

And this couldn’t have come at a better time. Israel presently imports from Egypt 40 percent of its natural gas needs. But this source is becoming more and more unreliable due to Islamist attacks on the Sinai pipeline carrying the gas. As if to emphasise the fragility of this supply, the pipeline was blown up again by terrorists on Tuesday, making it the sixth attack since last February. Such interruptions only increase the importance and the blessing the Tamar field has become.
While the Tamar field will supply Israel’s domestic needs, the even larger gas deposits from the Leviathan field will be sold abroad starting in 2017. For the first three years, the Swiss bank UBS estimates this field will earn $3 billion a year for Israel. After that, the revenue for the gas will double to $6 billion annually, a very significant amount, making Israel an important gas exporter internationally.

“The exploration of its natural gas resources has become a strategic priority for Israel, particularly given the political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, and specifically in Egypt, which provides Israel with 40 percent of its gas-fired power needs and 20 percent of its electricity generation needs,” read the UBS report.

But it will be much more difficult for Israel to exploit offshore natural resources and increase its security if the Palestinian Authority manages to get recognition for a Palestinian state by the UN. The new state would lay an immediate legal claim to the 3.5 billion cubic meters of gas off its Gazan shore. This development would not only make Israel’s search for and use of gas deposits more problematic, it would strengthen the hand of Hamas, one of Israel’s most bitter enemies.

“Until now, Israel has always known to prevent any use of the gas deposits off Gaza, for it regards its utilization by Hamas as a threat to its national security,” writes Kalnoky.

By challenging Israel and threatening to break the Gaza blockade with its warships, Turkey obviously hopes to receive a share of those deposits from a grateful Palestinian government, much like France and Great Britain are the major recipients of oil deals in Libya for having helped the anti-Gaddafi rebels. Turkey’s insistence that Turkish Cyprus, which the Ankara government controls, receives benefits from the Greek Cypriot-Israeli gas exploration venture is also behind its opposition to that project. Turkey obviously wants a piece of the Levant Basin fields.

That is because Turkey badly needs energy resources and would probably risk war to get them. In its quest to implement its new neo-Ottoman foreign policy and become the major power in the Middle East, Turkey must challenge Iran and Israel. But these countries have oil or gas or both, the one ingredient missing in Turkey’s bid for regional dominance. Gaining a foothold in Gaza’s offshore gas fields would help level the playing field in this respect. And an internationally recognised Palestinian state that would grant Turkey this position would also help immensely. With Turkish support, further Palestinian claims to Levant Basin gas fields would be sure to follow.

So look for Turkey to send its warships with the next aid flotilla to Gaza. In contrast to its dispute with Israel and Greek Cyprus, there would be no American oil company in the way that could provoke an unwelcome confrontation with America’s Sixth Fleet. And since it is unlikely President Obama would place the Sixth Fleet between the two sides, a clash between Israel and Turkey would be highly likely with the status of regional power as the prize.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We're living here for you

Emily Amrousi

Do you know that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed 193 members of the U.N. and dedicated half his speech to me? International concern over the settlements, which altogether constitute an area slightly larger than Central Park, is mind-boggling. Every newborn settlement here gets an automatic 15-minute spotlight, which is actually alarming, not flattering. It's not easy to be a settler. Especially if you read Israeli newspapers. Last week, Asher Palmer and his son Yonatan were murdered near Kiryat Arba. It took the media here three days to treat their deaths as a terrorist attack, despite clear-cut evidence at the scene of the crime. Last month, a special police unit entered homes through windows, at 3 a.m., to remove the residents and destroy their homes. This didn't happen in the Bedouin village of el-Arakib, but in the Jewish village of Migron. That's why the media didn't point out that these were actual homes, in which children were thrown out of their beds into the cold, dark night, without prior warning.

In addition to Arab terror, we are subjected to persecution from within as well. We endure a corrupt justice system, selective enforcement, housing and construction discrimination that doesn't occur in other sectors, life under military rule, faulty infrastructure, blocked roads, lack of public services, censorship, harassment at locations designated as secure areas, and character assassinations in the media, theater, literature, satire, social protests, and everywhere else.

When an enemy leader speaks at the U.N. about “Palestinians who cannot reach hospitals and settlers who set their dogs upon them,” the commentators chime in immediately and point out that Palestinians are treated well in our hospitals, which is true, of course. But one doesn't need Abbas to be shocked by false descriptions -- it's enough to listen to the news in Hebrew. Which leads us to the question: Why do we do this to ourselves?

Today is the day of judgment. Today the world was born, and every human being will be judged. It's between you and the Judge. There is to be no passing of notes to your attorney, and no witnesses. The evidence was gathered during 24-hour surveillance, which is hard to escape from.

Some say that one should not ask for personal favors on this day. A direct spotlight focused on yourself is not a good idea when your soul is trembling on the witness stand, and the trick to obtain exoneration is to ask forgiveness for others. Jewish New Year prayers are not about the private, but the public. Instead of private confessions, we say, “Rule over the entire world, with your honor.” We beseech God to “keep us alive,” and Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi explains: Let me live for all those around me, keep me here so that I can help someone in need. We will merit another year only if we ask to be allowed to help others.

So why do we still camp out in the mountains? Good question. There are advantages to settlements, but I still haven't found a single personal benefit that can compete with the fear, distance, isolation and cost.

I have the audacity to say out loud that people living in the West Bank are not living there for themselves, but for the good of all. And when we all have no more strength to continue, they still carry on.

Perhaps that is what will save us in the end from destruction. “Keep us alive,” for another year, for many years to come, not for ourselves.

Withdrawal – a Demographic Threat

The Yesha Council explains that withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and not settlements, is a demographic threat to Israel.

By Maayana Miskin

The Yesha (Judea and Samaria) Council has followed up on previous PR successes with a new video explaining why the “demographic threat” allegedly posed by Israeli life in Judea and Samaria is a myth. The idea that Arab natural growth outpaces Jewish growth and will eventually make Israel a majority-Arab state is a myth based on decades-old data, explains the star of the short film, actor Golan Azoulai. At one point, Arab women gave birth to an average of nine children, but today, the average Arab woman in Israel has 3.5 children, while the average Arab woman in Judea and Samaria has 3.2, he reveals. Jewish families have an average of just under 3 children each.

The film also notes that both Jewish birth rates and total Jewish births are on the rise, meaning, as Azoulai declares, “Time is working in our favor.” Net rates of immigration and emigration also strongly favor the Jewish majority, he notes.

However, he warns, there is a demographic threat to the Jewish majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean – the possibility of an Israeli withdrawal from historically Jewish regions in Judea and Samaria. If Israel withdraws in order to allow the PA to establish a new Arab state, the new state is expected to invite millions of foreign Arab “refugees” descended from those who fled Israel in the 1940s to seek citizenship – leading to an Arab majority in the region.

The demographic arguments raised in the video are not new, and have been explained in the past by experts such as demographer Yoram Ettinger. However, the new video has successfully made them easily understood and available to the public at large. It was released shortly before Rosh HaShanah, the New Year, to allow viewers to confirm the arguments made using the data published annually at this time on Israeli demographics.

Watch the video here (Hebrew):

Holocaust truth is told on Muslim soil

Michael Berenbaum

While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was spewing hatred and denying the Holocaust from the floor of the United Nations, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were trading charges as to who is responsible for the nonexistent peace process, I was attending a small but significant event taking place at Al Akhawayn University, an elite English-language college in the picturesque ski resort town of Ifrane, Morocco. It was the first Holocaust Conference — nondenial Holocaust Conference — on Arab soil. A word about the Moroccan initiative: The conference is the product of the University’s Moadon Mimouna (as their logo says in Hebrew). The Mimouna Club is a student organization dedicated to the study and experience of Moroccan Jewish culture and history ... and the study of Hebrew. It was founded and headed by a young student, Elmehdi Boudra, who has a special interest in Morocco’s Jewish heritage and in intercultural dialogue. This was the third “Moroccan Jewish Days,” exploring Jewish life in Morocco sponsored by Boudra and his colleagues, and the first to tackle the difficult subject of the Holocaust. The club’s name, Mimouna, was chosen deliberately. When more than a quarter of a million Jews lived in Morocco, it was the custom of Muslims to bake bread and pastries and bring them to their Jewish neighbors as darkness fell at the end of the eighth day of Passover, the first moment when chametz was permissible. This evening is known in Morocco as Mimouna.

Boudra partnered with Peter Geffen, the dynamic founder and executive director of Kivunim, a gap-year program that brings American high-school graduates to Israel for a year of study and international travel. They study Hebrew and Arabic, Jewish history and Arab culture, and they visit Central and Eastern Europe, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey, India and Morocco. A veteran of the civil-rights movement and the scion of a distinguished rabbinic family – Geffen’s Atlanta-based grandfather gave the hechsher to Coca-Cola almost a century ago — Geffen, the son of a rabbi and father of two rabbinical students, broke with his family tradition. Among his other accomplishments, he founded the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Manhattan. Geffen had previously negotiated the inner labyrinth of Moroccan society and politics, organizing the United Nations tribute to Morocco on International Holocaust Commemoration Day on Jan. 27, 2010. He brought his organizational skill and significant contacts in the Moroccan community to the conference planning committee. He invited me to participate.

Jews in Morocco, under the colonial rule of Vichy France, fared far better than the Jews in Vichy France, who faced a collaborationist regime that hunted its Jews. Throughout last week’s conference, stories were shared by the now-aging sons of prominent Jewish leaders, who related conversations between their fathers and the wartime King Mohammed V, who expressed concern for all his subjects, without excluding Jews, a stance so rare during the Holocaust that as I listened to these stories, images of Denmark came to mind. Danish leaders had famously said: “We have no Jewish problem in our country.” Their heroism was to treat Jews as fellow citizens under attack from a hostile occupying force — nothing more and nothing less. Thus, rescue was natural, not the stuff of righteousness but of ordinary decency.

The Jewish leaders of Morocco today, the sons of World War II communal leaders, related stories of regional governors who gave Jewish leaders matches and told them to burn the list of the names, addresses and assets of local Jews. Without lists, it was more difficult to deport the Jews and confiscate their assets.

Like Robert Satloff, who wrote “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust’s Long Reach Into Arab Lands” on Moslems who saved Jews, Geffen believes the best counterweight to Holocaust denial in the Arab world is to celebrate those in Arab lands who helped Jews and thus provide a positive role model to contemporary Muslims. Let them deny the decency of their people. He described King Mohammed V as a Righteous Among the Nations. Yet because of the specificity of Yad Vashem’s criteria — a non-Jew who saved without monetary reward or its expectation, or at risk to his own life — the king is unlikely to be so designated by Yad Vashem, as it would be difficult to document that his life was at risk.

Unbeknownst to many, including me, King Mohammed VI, the young and reformist-minded king of Morocco, has issued a proclamation on the Holocaust, a specific and deliberate refutation of Holocaust denial. He said: “Amnesia has no effect on my understanding of the Holocaust or that of my people.”

He proclaimed in 2009: “We must together endeavor to reassert reason and the values which underpin the legitimacy of a space of coexistence where the words of dignity, justice and freedom will express themselves in the same way and will coexist with the same requirements, regardless of our origins, cultures or spirituality. This is our interpretation in Morocco, of the duty of remembrance dictated by the Shoah.”

Notice the word “Shoah”; notice also the word “amnesia.”

After an opening ceremony and greetings, the first presentations began in the presence of faculty and, more important, students. Simon Levy, director of the Museum of Moroccan Jewry in Casablanca, spoke on the situation of Jews in Vichy France and in Morocco. Simon Levy, director of the Museum of Moroccan Jewry in Casablanca, spoke on the situation of Jews in Vichy France and in Morocco.

Although this was an academic conference, my own presentation was anything but academic. Whereas presenters at scholarly conferences normally are expected to bring new research to the fore, my assignment here was perhaps more difficult. In the allotted 45 minutes, I was to present an overview of the Holocaust to students who had no background in the Holocaust, none in the study of European history, and none in films and books newspapers and television, which have given the average American and European student considerable knowledge even before they enter the classroom. I was also to speak of the uniqueness of the Holocaust to an audience more aware of Holocaust denial than of history, and who have a natural reluctance to confront the Holocaust because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so dominant in the news, particularly on the days we met. Let others judge my success, suffice it to say that I had complete academic freedom — no one asked to see a copy of my remarks in advance, no one pressured me on what I could and could not say. I spoke exactly as I would speak elsewhere of Zionism and Israel as a haven and a refuge, and I tried to present an overview of the Holocaust that was respectful of a scholarly faculty while informative to the students in the audience.

After my presentation, Elisabeth Citron, a Hungarian survivor of Auschwitz, spoke. We are the last generation to live in the presence of survivors, and while the engagement with those who were at Auschwitz is quite familiar to American, Israeli and European audiences, this was the first time most in the room heard from someone who was there. Citron was a 12-year-old girl when she was deported to Auschwitz, where she survived the selektion; her mother was not so fortunate. An elegant and eloquent Swedish woman, who only began to speak of the Holocaust when Holocaust deniers gained attention in her adopted homeland, her testimony was riveting. She described hiding in a latrine, suspended by her arms in human waste, to avoid detection as the Nazis searched for young inmates. One could feel the air being sucked out of the room. Her testimony was treated with the respect it merited. The conclusion of her remarks left the room in stunned silence.

After the break, two of the most prominent Jews in Morocco spoke, Ambassador Serge Berdugo, an ambassador-at-large for the King of Morocco and president of the Moroccan Jewish Communities, and Andre Azoulay, the king’s senior adviser. More important, for the purposes of this conference, Berdugo spoke as the son of his father, who was the wartime president of the Jewish community of Mekness and involved with secret meetings with King Mohammed V. Azoulay plays the same role in the king’s court that Larry Summers played in President Barack Obama’s White House, but with greater success, as Morocco has an enviable growth rate of 4.5 percent. Both Berdugo and Azoulay are deeply involved in interfaith relations, both committed Moroccans and committed Jews who see multiculturalism and mutual respect as essential to Morocco’s well-being and indispensible to Jewish survival in Morocco. Morocco is oriented to the West. The elite speak French. They have major economic ties to Europe, and businesses are open on Friday so that they can trade with their European counterparts.

The question-and-answer session was polite but intense. I was asked about the extent of Jewish power during World War II and to address the charge that Jews had collaborated with the Nazis in their own destruction — frank and important questions essential for this audience to confront. To the former, I responded that Jews have never been as powerful as our enemies have imagined us to be and with a few exceptions — the Holocaust being the most important — never as powerless as we imagined ourselves to be. I went through the choiceless choices that Jewish leaders confronted during the Holocaust and the difference between collaboration and coercion.

The students also confronted the Jewish political leaders on a basic question: Why did Moroccan Jews leave? Once a community of 280,000 strong, 99 percent of the Jews have left Morocco for Diasporas in France and Canada and, of course, in Israel. Every immigration movement is defined by a push-pull phenomenon, by the perceived necessity to leave one’s native land and an attraction, political, economic, ideological or religious, to go elsewhere — and if the push is strong enough, to go anywhere. The political leaders were “diplomatic” in their answers, not untruthful but overtly cautious. The truth is that Moroccan Jews left with the establishment of the State of Israel and after political turmoil in the Arab world following Israel’s wars in 1956, 1967, 1973 and during Intifada I and II. But some remained, along with strong communal institutions — schools and synagogues, kosher butchers and bakeries, Jewish clubs and multiple kosher restaurants. Their presence, even as a small remnant of a community, is noticeable even today. More important, Moroccan Jews living elsewhere return home for visits, and Moroccan Jews are free to visit Israel and Israelis to visit Morocco. The situation is radically different than in some other Arab countries, where a Jewish presence is unwelcome and where the land is Judenrein — without Jews.

A clear illustration of the respect shown to the Jews and to the conference was that a kosher meal was served and Jewish leaders from throughout Morocco came to the festive dinner. And that evening, the university auditorium offered a concert by a Moroccan Jewish performer. Students danced and celebrated Jewish culture and Moroccan culture. Most women were dressed in secular and rather attractive garb, but Muslim head coverings and scarves were also noticeable among the attendees.

The Conference resumed in Casablanca with a visit to the Museum of Moroccan Jewry and a series of presentations on the issue of multiculturalism as a progressive, Europe-oriented Muslim nation grapples with how to deal with its Jews and Christians in a world where polarization seemingly overshadows cooperation and mutual respect. The Muslim curator of the museum, Zhor Rhihel, whose salary is paid by the Ministry of Culture, spoke on how to preserve Jewish culture and the Jewish presence as part of Moroccan national history. Forsan Hussein, CEO of the Jerusalem YMCA, was invited to make a presentation. A handsome and articulate thirty-something Israeli Arab, he described himself, as a “Moslem CEO of a Christian Institution in a Jewish state married to a women whose father was the first ArabIsraeli to serve as an Israeli Ambassador – it doesn’t get better than that.” A graduate of Brandeis, where, when he began his undergraduate studies during Intifada II, he was the full extent of the Palestinian community, Hussein also has advanced degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is the embodiment of the multicultural possibilities and sensibilities, a veritable case study in bridging divides.

We also learned of the efforts of the High Atlas Foundation to address poverty by empowering the Mountain people in rural Morocco and of their reverence for their unique rural Jewish heritage. That evening we listened to a concert by Vanessa Paloma, who came from Los Angeles to Morocco as a Fulbright Scholar to study its Jewish Musical heritage, married a Moroccan Jewish man and stayed, now becoming not only a talented student of the past, but an integral part of the Moroccan Jewish Musical future.

There was something eerily familiar about Morocco. Like Poland and other countries that once had thriving Jewish communities, Morocco must deal with the paradox of “the presence of absence and the absence of presence.” Jews were an integral part of Morocco’s past. Each city has a mellah — a walled ghetto — adjacent to the King’s Palace, where the Jewish community was centered and where Jews sold salt and sugar as part of the richness of the country. Jewish homes are still there. One notices the indentations of mezuzot in many buildings in the Jewish quarter, the place where they once marked the doorpost of a Jewish home. Jews have lived in Morocco since the destruction of the First Temple; many trace their roots to the megurashim, those who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and found a haven in Morocco. Yet, unlike Poland, there is not the same sadness, not the same guilt. Jews migrated, but they were saved, not murdered.

The conference was counter-testimony to our world of hatred and polarization. The Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is the shadow that does not allow the un-ambivalent embrace of this Jewish history, this essential part of Moroccan history. Asked how the Holocaust should be taught to Moroccan students, Rhihel, the curator of the Moroccan Jewish Museum, immediately replied: “It cannot be taught in our schools until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.” The Moroccan students who were in dialogue with alumni of Kivunim who attended the conference were far more flexible.

Still, I had a sense of purpose being there to help kindle a ray of light, however fragile, away from the venom that, even as we studied together, marked Jewish-Muslim relations at the United Nations.

Michael Berenbaum is professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Ethics at American Jewish University.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Palestinians Want Peace -- Just Not With a Jewish State

Dennis Prager

About five years ago, I was invited by the Hoover Institution to lecture at Stanford University over the course of a week. Coincidentally, Israel's Independence Day fell during that week, so I was invited to speak at the celebration held by pro-Israel students. In my talk, I noted that the crux of the problem in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was that most Palestinians wanted Israel to cease to exist. After my talk, a woman walked over to me and introduced herself as a peace activist. She told me that she could not agree with me because Palestinians, in her view, were quite willing to accept Israel's existence.

As it happened, about 50 feet behind the pro-Israel celebration was an anti-Israel demonstration led by Palestinian students. So I told the woman to go over and introduce herself to the Palestinian students as a peace activist -- that way they would immediately trust her -- and ask them if they were willing to acknowledge the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist. I told her that I would bet her $5 that they would not answer in the affirmative.

She accepted the bet and walked over the Palestinian students.

After about 10 minutes, she returned.

"So," I asked her, "who won the bet?"

"I don't know," she responded.

"I don't understand," I replied. "Didn't they answer you?"

"They asked me, 'What do you mean?'" she answered.

I told her she owed me $5 but that I wouldn't collect.

Earlier this month in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, I interviewed Ghassan Khatib, director of government media for the Palestinian Authority and the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. I asked him the same question: Do the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state?

He was more direct than the Palestinians students at Stanford.

His long answer amounted to: "No."

There is no Jewish people, he told me, so how could there be a Jewish country? The Palestinian position is that there is a religion called Judaism, but there is no such thing as a Jewish people. (Interestingly, the Jews are referred to belonging to a religion only once in the entire Hebrew Bible -- in the Book of Esther, by the anti-Semite Haman.)

In other words, Palestinians -- people in a national group that never existed by the name "Palestine" until well into the 20th century -- deny the existence of the oldest continuous nation in the world, dating back over 3,000 years. Now, that's real chutzpah.

Indeed, the Palestinians deny that the Jews ever lived in Israel. That is why Yasser Arafat could not even admit that Jesus was a Jew; rather, according to Arafat, "Jesus was a Palestinian." To acknowledge that Jesus was a Jew would mean that Jews lived in Israel thousands of years ago, in a Jewish state, moreover -- long before Muslims existed, long before Arabs moved there, and millennia before anyone called himself a Palestinian.

In the Palestinian president's speech to the United Nations last week, this denial of Jewish history was reaffirmed. Thus, in a speech about Israel and the Palestinians, he never once uttered the word "Jew" or "Jewish."

Here is an example of Abbas's Jew-free view of the history of Israel/Palestine:

"I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) ..."

No mention of Jews. Apparently, only Christians (Does Abbas know that Jesus was a Jew?) and Muslims have lived in "the Holy Land." And for Abbas, the Holy Land is not Israel, it is Palestine. That it was the Jews who made that land Holy is a fact of history denied by the Palestinians.

Israel, in the Palestinian view, is an Israeli state, not a Jewish state.

As Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, wrote in The Washington Post this past Friday:

"Two Israeli peace proposals, in 2000 and 2008 ... met virtually all of the Palestinians' demands for a sovereign state in the areas won by Israel in the 1967 war -- in the West Bank, Gaza and even East Jerusalem. But Palestinian President Yasser Arafat rejected the first offer and Abbas ignored the second, for the very same reason their predecessors spurned the 1947 Partition Plan.

Each time, accepting a Palestinian State meant accepting the Jewish State, a concession the Palestinians were unwilling to make.

That is the issue. Not settlements. Not boundaries.
The Palestinians, like most of their fellow Arabs and like many Muslims elsewhere, have never acknowledged that the Jews came home to Israel because they have never acknowledged that the Jews ever had a national home there. And they don't even acknowledge that the Jews are a people.

Do the Palestinians want peace? I have no doubt that they do. Just not with the Jewish state.

Dennis Prager hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show and is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is the author of four books, most recently "Happiness Is a Serious Problem" (HarperCollins). His website is

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Do-Nothing Strategy

It's time for Obama to realize that with the 2012 elections in the offing, expending any effort on a Middle East peace process is a losing battle.

Governing is about choosing. And a much-diminished American president has made his choice. Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking isn't and shouldn't be Barack Obama's top priority. Getting reelected is. And that means carefully husbanding his eroding political currency and expending it on matters domestic and economic. Despite all the kerfuffle at the United Nations this week, the last thing he needs to do is pick an unproductive fight with Israel or the Republicans on an Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has been dead for some time now. The "sky is falling" crowd bemoaning the loss of American influence on the peace process ought to stop whining. There's no deal now that anyone can broker. The president is right to protect his political flanks. This isn't cheap or dirty politics; it's smart. If Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas presents a bid for U.N. membership in the Security Council this week or next month, Obama should veto it and sleep well that night.

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way. First, Palestinians deserve an independent state living in peace and security alongside Israel. They've suffered enough; their cause is just and compelling. Abbas is a good man who has eschewed violence and together with his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has begun to create the infrastructure and institutions of statehood. The Palestinians' desire to change the paradigm by shifting from an arena where they have limited influence (bilateral negotiations with Israel) to the international arena where they have more is as understandable as it is unwise. Indeed, nothing that will happen in New York this week or next that will bring Palestinians any closer to realizing real statehood; it could, in fact, take them farther away.

Second, we can blame everything on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from morning to night -- but it would be an unfair and dishonest analysis. There's no doubt that Israeli settlement activity and inflexible positions on Jerusalem, borders, refugees, and security have made this Israeli government a tough and often recalcitrant partner in the peace process. Still, the last time I looked, this Israeli government is a legitimate result of political and coalition realities in a democratic polity; and, I might add, with 32 governments since independence (the average length being 1.8 years) it's also proving pretty durable.

To put the entire blame for the current impasse on Netanyahu just doesn't add up. The gaps on the core issues, particularly the identity issues -- Jerusalem and refugees -- have been unbridgeable for more than a decade now -- in Ehud Barak's negotiations with Yasir Arafat back in 2000 and Ehud Olmert's with Abbas in 2010. Furthermore, the current Palestinian polity is more Humpty Dumpty than an authoritative, cohesive political partner. A significant part of it (Hamas) sits in Gaza and competes with the one that sits in Ramallah -- not just over seats in a parliament, but on the basic issue of where and what Palestine should be. The current PA lacks a monopoly over the forces of violence, political strategy, resources, even people. And no Israeli government will be willing to make a deal with a partner that doesn't control and silence all of the guns of Palestine.

Third, while the long arc of history may smile kindly on the North African uprisings in regard to democracy, gender equality, human rights, and the rule of law, the so-called Arab Spring these days looks more like a winter in places such as Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain. Even in Egypt -- a success story -- seven months later, the vast majority of people seem less secure, less prosperous; and with the military reimposing emergency regulations, it may be that they're also less free to criticize their leaders. The Egypt-Israel relationship has also taken some serious hits, as the mob attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo this month attests. If that relationship goes south in a serious way, you can forget about Israeli-Palestinian peace. The fact is, the changes in the Arab world that Obama so breathlessly referred to in his General Assembly speech actually have added uncertainty and complications to Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

Fourth, there is no conflict-ending agreement now available to Israelis and Palestinians. The gaps are just too big, the suspicions too deep, and the regional environment too uncertain; and the capacity of an American (or any other mediator) to serve as an effective broker is just too implausible. The last thing we need right now is a cleverly worded French, American, or Quartet statement to launch a negotiation that will raise false hopes once again and lead to a collapse. Such an outcome would in many ways be worse than a General Assembly resolution upgrading the PLO to nonmember observer status -- further dragging down American credibility and reinforcing the notion that diplomacy and negotiation simply can't work.

Into this mix enters Obama, reeling in the polls and being battered by all sides. But the president isn't responsible for failing to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Bill Clinton under more auspicious circumstances couldn't. What Obama is responsible for, however, is raising expectations: focusing on a settlements freeze that was unachievable, backing down when Netanyahu refused to agree, and failing to make up his mind about whether he wants to pander to the Israeli prime minister or punish him. If it was simply a personal matter, Obama would probably choose the latter: He sees Bibi as a con man; he's deeply frustrated with his intransigence; and accordingly he has failed to create much of a relationship. Nearly three years into the Obama administration, we find ourselves with no negotiations, sagging American credibility, and no prospects of an agreement.

Did the president have an alternative? Could he have done things differently these many months? I have close friends, former colleagues whom I respect and admire greatly, who argue yes. He could've laid out a U.S. plan, been tougher with Israel, empowered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take control of this process (though I suspect her political instincts told her all along that this dog wouldn't bark and wanted to steer clear). In short, the president could have made Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking a top priority -- the sine qua non for any serious initiative.

I don't agree with any of this, of course. Neither Abbas nor Netanyahu would be willing to pay the necessary price required for a deal. But who really knows in the wonderful world of counterfactuals?

But here we are. It's September in New York. And as Ella Fitzgerald sang, a time for "dreamers with empty hands/they sigh for exotic lands." Add to this a level of hysteria, muddled thinking, perceived crisis, and unrealism that I haven't seen in three decades. This sad state of affairs is driven by a perfect storm of factors: the Arab Spring/Winter, growing Israeli isolation, Palestinian frustrations, and election-year calculations. It almost certainly won't have a happy ending.

The outcome is likely to be lose-lose for just about everyone. A veto would be bad for U.S. interests in the region; a false start to another round of negotiations might be worse. Actually, a General Assembly resolution (if it were properly crafted) might be the least-bad outcome; but that would require everyone to rise to a new level of enlightenment rarely seen on Arab-Israeli issues. The real crisis, of course, will come the day after, when the sad, grim reality -- the absence of a true conflict-ending agreement -- still confronts us all. And don't be surprised if the forces of history and conflict slowly overcome the forces of diplomacy.

Still, amid all the fog and confusion, the road for this American president has never been clearer. Foreign policy will do very little to boost his credibility. It will either be neutral or drag him down. Against the backdrop of diminished credibility, a failing economy, and polls indicating that 70 percent of the American public thinks the country is headed in the wrong direction, neither the killing of Osama bin Laden nor a successful policy toward Libya has done much to boost Obama's sagging prestige. His problem is at home, and it is strategic. He cannot allow himself to be diverted and distracted by costly fights with important domestic constituencies; nor can he give his Republican opponents easy issues with which to hammer him. Most American Jews will still vote Democratic, but in a close election (Florida is a recurring dream/nightmare) nothing should be taken for granted. In such a campaign, you can't afford to give the opposition any ground, least of all a way to mobilize its own base by raising money and exploiting highly combustible issues like Israel.

A veto, should it come to that, will be bad for American interests. The president's credibility in the Arab and Muslim world is already low. The United States is neither admired, feared, nor respected as much as it needs to be in a part of the world vital to its national interests. I'm not even sure that the Israelis respect the United States anymore. But at the moment, an unproductive fight over a U.N. resolution that means little, criticizing a close ally in Israel, or a risky initiative that alienates an important domestic constituency is just not a vital national interest. If you're a Democrat, frightened by the possibility of a Republican victory in November 2012, then increasing the chances of Obama's reelection is a vital national interest. And even for those Democrats who happen to dream of a Middle East peace, reelecting Obama next year -- not trying to cobble something together now -- should be the primary goal.

On balance, the president is right to attend to his domestic political interests at a time when there is little or nothing he can do to pursue the Arab-Israeli process. After all, that peace process, however grim its prospects may be, will be around for some time to come; Barack Obama may not.

Aaron David Miller is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former U.S. Middle East negotiator. His new book, Can America Have Another Great President?, will be published in 2012.

The Return of the Prodigal Son

David Solway

I grew up in a Jewish anti-Jewish household dominated by my father who never once attended synagogue and refused to associate with any of the Jewish inhabitants of the town we lived in. My father hated Jews with a passion — although I should mention that he hated just about everybody with a passion. Jews, however, for reasons I could never fathom, received an extra share of his animadversion. Perhaps this was because, despite his overweening selfishness and high self-esteem, he also detested himself and simply acted out the venerable cliché, going through the motions of classic psychological projection. He was not a lovable man. But whatever the deep interior motive at work in his lava-spewing psyche, I was taught to regard my fellow Jews with unwavering suspicion. My father was not a leftist, so there was nothing “red diaperish” about my early education. I learned only that Jews of any stripe — left or right, observant or secular — were to be avoided. But even without such indoctrination, I was ripe for apostasy. I naturally disliked Jewish cooking. The sound of Yiddish was like gristle in my ears. The complacent and self-important worshippers I mingled with during my occasional visits to the synagogue left me cold. With only a few exceptions, I could not tolerate my Jewish relatives. I lived in fear of my uncle Snetzi, who would suddenly rush into the house and fling himself under a bed, whimpering, “They’re after me, they’re after me.” My uncle Aby was a good-natured philanderer who never had a serious thought in his life. Eventually he suffered an aneurism and spent his days shambling aimlessly about the streets, grinning inanely. My auntie Rosie, during her occasional descents upon our hospitality, would install herself in the bathroom and spend long, devoted hours rinsing out her lingerie, over and over again, like a working-class Lady Macbeth fascinated by invisible spots. My auntie Ida was partial to oily slabs of carp wrapped in greasy newspapers, which she would serve up at indigestible dinners. What had I to do with these people, I used to wonder. I was a Jew and yet I wasn’t.

The circumcision rite had to be performed on the sly, thanks to the fortunate collusion between my mother and the mohel conspiring behind my father’s back. I was given Hebrew lessons as a child during one of those rare periods when my father accommodated my mother’s wishes. Regrettably, this interval lasted only a short while — though long enough for me to pick up the rudiments. But I never had a Bar Mitzvah. Instead of attending Hebrew School to simulate what passed for correct pronunciation and learn my prayers (for the most part, phonetically), a chore my mother insisted upon despite my father’s glowering disapproval — this was the only other concession he ever made to her — I would stop off to play hockey with my schoolmates on my way to the synagogue. After several months of such enjoyable truancy, the rabbi belatedly telephoned my mother to inquire as to my whereabouts, but by then it was far too late to catch up. My mother was mortified and my father was euphoric. I continued to play hockey and though I’d devolved into a bad Jew, I evolved into a pretty good goaltender.

Later on during my university days and for many years thereafter, I grew somewhat more sophisticated in my anti-Jewishness, adopting the political positions favored by the anti-Zionists. I was perfectly aware that for many of the people I knew, anti-Zionism was merely an expedient substitution for antisemitism, but I persisted nevertheless. My father had died but I carried on the family tradition, or at least his side of it.

I was in sync with Hannah Arendt’s supercilious disdain of the Ostjuden (Eastern European Jews) whom she regarded as lower-class banausics. Had the BDS scandal, or the Apartheid Week orgies, or the “peace” NGOs existed then, I would probably have participated in their malignant festivities. I was so fervently pro-Palestinian that my mother disinherited me. I would not have thought to question the pseudo-history of an indigenous Palestinian people who formed a long-established nation, a microbial fable and, in the words of Middle East scholar David Meir-Levi, a “pernicious tradition to which more and more of our mainstream media and academia fall prey.” And I would have approved Benny Morris’ revisionist libel of Zionism in Righteous Victims as a “colonizing and expansionist ideology,” rather than affirmed it for what it really was and is, a legitimate, historical movement to reclaim, re-establish, and perpetuate the allodial legacy of the Jewish people in the land of their fathers, as I do now. I might even have worn a keffiyeh rather than a kippa. It would have been “the thing to do” and would have confirmed me in my recidivism, aside from allowing me to remain in good standing with the antisemitic aristocracy of the like-minded. I was certainly no paragon of sechel, the partly untranslatable Yiddish word — Saul Bellow’s favorite — usually rendered as “smarts.”

The shock to my system and to my congenial beliefs came with 9/11, which represented my personal crossing of the Red Sea from the captivity of unreflected notions and crude prejudice to the freedom of real, independent thinking and impartial research. I was at that historic moment trapped on a small Greek island with no way of leaving since all maritime transportation had been suspended. I gradually understood this situation as an allegory of my own prior state of mind, snared in an insular delusion without the intellectual means of deliverance or extrication.

For the next several weeks, stunned by the images I had seen on the television screen in the village café, I submitted myself to a relentless analysis of the values and convictions I had accepted as gospel. How solidly grounded in authentic knowledge were the political convictions I habitually expressed? What were the sources of my attitudes, ideas, and judgments? Why was I almost instinctively anti-Israeli in my sentiments? Why did I wish to reject my kinship with Jewish thought, Jewish communion, Jewish antiquity? Why did I march in my thoughts with the Palestinians, the anti-globalists, the welfare socialists, the Peace Now movement? Was I somehow complicit with the demonic forces that wished to bring down America and destroy Israel, that worked against my own survival and the survival of those I loved? Did I really want to become like my father? Could I be so easily brainwashed? What the hell was wrong with me?

They were not Jews who brought down the Twin Towers, but the very people I and my cohort had empathized with. These were the people responsible for the Munich massacre, for myriad airplane hijackings, for suicide bombings, for random acts of terrorism, for the slaughter of innocents, which we had risibly explained away as legitimate acts of “resistance” against the “Zionist entity” and the American hegemon, as expressions of the quest for freedom and justice. In the wake of the 9/11 cataclysm, such frivolous justifications would no longer hold up to scrutiny. New York had been the current target. The next might be Montreal where I lived, or London, or Paris, or Tel Aviv.

I came to the conclusion that I had felt and acted out of mere rote behavior and fortuitous conjecture, out of an unexamined desire to think in accordance with the inferences and presuppositions of my friends and colleagues, my intellectual contemporaries, who were all either members of the international Left or, at any rate, exhibited leftist inclinations. We had embraced the multicultural pieties of the era, were duly anti-colonialist, anti-corporatist, anti-American, and obviously anti-Zionist.

Many of these social paladins and millennial protagonists bivouac’d comfortably in university departments, upscale condos, and tony suburban neighborhoods. Their Molotov cocktails were the proverbial lattes over which they would discuss their resonating ideals, plan politically biased academic courses, deplore Islamophobia (even before the factoid), raise consciousness of the plight of the Palestinians and the machinations of the Israelis, and in effect conspire against the very democratic institutions and cultural norms that provided them with the sinecures they blithely took for granted. To my everlasting shame, though I did not go to the same lengths, I hobnobbed with professors in the English Department who would teach their courses from the standpoint of an irreal utopianism, believing in the freedom and autonomy of the aesthetic as a prototype of human possibility in a harmonious and compassionate world. This meant a collectivist future without America and certainly without Israel. They had no difficulty surrendering their intellects to such puerile and noxious fantasies. And they had no idea that they were eventually in for a very bumpy ride that would send their double-doubles all over the upholstery.

It is not that different today and perhaps even worse. When not slamming capitalism, the free market, corporations, and the economic infrastructure that pays their salary, they are busy meddling in Israeli affairs. Even as I write, the members of the left-oriented faculty association of my former college, executing a hypothetical mandate for which they have neither expertise nor authority and utterly oblivious to the historical record as well as the decrees of international law, are indefatigably circulating anti-Israel propaganda and joining with those who seek to ostracize the Jewish state. The job for which they were elected is to represent a group of teachers in issues relating to working conditions and contractual negotiations with the local administration, not to involve themselves in affairs for which they are not qualified and which remain completely outside their proper purview. It is rather curious that, even as they insist on abusing their remit, there are several ongoing incendiary crises in the Islamic world they studiously ignore: the upsurge of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the implementation of Sharia in Gaza, the slaughter of Syrian citizens in the thousands by Bashar Assad, the uncountable dead and displaced in Sudan, the vicious tyranny in Iran, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the massacres in Libya, and the famine in Somalia exacerbated by the al-Shabaab terror group. But on such matters, a preternatural silence reigns. The quackery and bad faith, indeed, the unctuous stupidity, is almost beyond moral and rational conceiving.

All this was already prefigured in the political climate of ten and twenty years ago. For a considerable while I was a peripheral part of such benighted and hypocritical symposia. As I reflected on the nature of my previous affiliations, I recognized that we were, quite simply, credulous fools. And the anti-Zionist Jews were the worst fools of all. For no matter what lengths of disavowal they might go to, no matter how earnest or cunning or unscrupulous they might be in their collaboration with the enemies of the Jewish state, they were also in the firing line and would not be spared should worse come to worst. As Israel comes increasingly under attack, so does every Jew in the diaspora, where, as history instructs, there is no perduring guarantee of security.

Perhaps George Steiner said it best in Language and Silence: “If Israel were to be destroyed, no Jew would escape unscathed. The shock of failure, the need and harrying of those seeking refuge, would reach out to implicate even the most indifferent, the most anti-Zionist.” Israel’s fate is, in the last analysis, the fate of every Jew. Rabbi Berel Wein, director of the Destiny Foundation, is also right when he reminds us that the conflict in the Holy Land is not “a nice modern day dispute that lends itself to creative diplomacy” but is “in reality a biblical epic” that has “hardened over centuries.” A biblical epic is not a political soap opera. Rabbi Wein has expressed a harsh but necessary certitude, and concludes by citing the Talmud which teaches the restorative obligation of “seeing a problem realistically and without wishful thinking and false assessments.”

A fresh point of view was plainly necessary. I would have to give myself over to genuine study and to check my susceptibility to the infectious notions that percolated in the atmosphere of the times. I would have to remember anew that as a Jew I was and always would be at risk; as Anglican minister and scholar William Nicholls wrote in Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, “The forces that led to the Holocaust are still active. Until they are identified and eliminated from society, there is no enduring safety for Jews.” It thus behooved me not only to acquire a deeper familiarity with my own tradition, but with the subtle and not-so-subtle maneuverings of the antisemitic Left, if I was not to fall terminally prey to the imbecility and subliminal bloodthirstiness of my presumptive friends. I could no longer consort with a sodality of self-infatuated intellectuals so naively and fecklessly allied with the terrorists, so prone to appeasing evil.

Even more surprising, I came to realize that I was a Jew even as I learned to disown my heritage during the years when I found the question entirely irrelevant to my existence. I see now that this is a deep and self-conflicted aversion the Jew must labor to surmount if he is ever to become whole. What one dislikes in the Jew is only what one dislikes in other people but makes the Jew the repository of, especially if the caviler is a Jew in revolt from his suspected “essence” and who thus expels himself from his own community. Clearly, this auto-expulsion can take many forms. It can lead to assimilation or conversion, as with the celebrated Russian poet Osip Mandelstam who derided almost everything Jewish, fled from the perceived stigma of lower-class Ashkenazi life, and converted from Judaism to Christianity, as we learn from his quasi-autobiography, The Noise of Time. It may express itself as a braying renunciation of Zionism and the Jewish state. It can manifest as a process of psychological antisepsis in which the “self-loathing” Jew tries to expunge the effigy with which he has come to be identified.

Such memes and tropes are amply documented in what Sander Gilman in Jewish Self-Hatred (titled after Theodor Lessing’s seminal 1933 book) calls the “historiography of self-hatred,” a lengthy chronicle of Jews committed to “altering their sense of self,” to neutralizing the power of the demeaning cultural stereotype of the Jew “as if it were a valid set of descriptive categories,” and to becoming “what they wish themselves to be.” Of course, many observers have claimed that the term “Jewish self-hatred” is misleading and platitudinous — the serpentine Anthony Lerman writing in the Jewish Quarterly (Number 210) regards it as “bankrupt” and a form of “demonising rhetoric.” Others with a taste for satire say that those to whom it has been applied are actually “Jewish self-lovers,” that is, people who love themselves, their appetites and conceits, more than they cherish the virtues of honor or dignity or loyalty or truth. Perhaps, but the term seems to me accurate enough for, as Gilman points out, such people are in reaction against the social perception of what counts as “typically Jewish,” an image with which they have inwardly identified and are determined to annul. They will do everything possible to expunge the twilit awareness of their inner Jew.

Speaking of leftist Jews in particular, Israeli novelist Benjamin Kerstein, who at one time belonged to this perverse school of thought and behavior, confides that “we were taught to be essentially self-hating. If we didn’t hate ourselves and hate Israel, we were told that we were racist.” Young people indoctrinated in this way are the victims of “psychological abuse” and their preceptors subject to a kind of “auto-totalitarianism.” For Kerstein, such reflexive loathing is nothing short of a “psychosis.” And there can be no doubt that this is a specifically Jewish phenomenon. Who ever heard of a self-hating Muslim?

True, nonviolent activist Murad Bustami ironically titles an article for Common Ground News Service “A ‘Self-Hating’ Palestinian?”, which is not intended seriously. Bustami believes that “resistance” should be conducted peacefully, which puts him at odds with his fellows. In a rather different vein, Chronikler journalist Khaled Diab facetiously refers to himself as a self-hating Arab, but he doesn’t mean it for a second. In a rather silly and self-serving article on the subject, Diab gets the concept of self-hatred totally upside-down, asserting that “many of the people who fire off accusations of self-loathing are usually self-righteous” and that “the only thing these alleged self-loathers hate is injustice…and…should, instead, be called justice lovers.” I can think of no better way to justify cowardice and betrayal than to mount an argument like Diab’s or Lerman’s mentioned above.

Most deceptively, this spiritual deformation can manifest as a presumed endorsement of the “universal values” of the Jewish faith at the expense of the particular value of staying alive — a peculiar form of transference. Naturally, such recreants and especially Jewish critics of Israel will cover their tracks by arguing, as Canadian columnist Robert Fulford puts it, “that they are [Israel’s] best friends, urging it toward a higher moral position,” as if a country that tolerates Arab anti-Zionists in the Knesset, treats its enemies in its hospitals (180,000 in the last year alone), sacrifices its soldiers to avoid civilian casualties in anti-terror operations (as in Jenin), and leaflets potential targets (as in Gaza) did not already stake out a “higher moral position.”

Further, such preachments may lead to self-immolation and the embrace of killer ideologies. Thus we may be reminded by our ostensible betters of the exhortation from Deuteronomy 10:19, “Love ye therefore the stranger” — even if that stranger has his sights set on your life and the obliteration of your family. But we are supposed to show sympathy and understanding for his difficult circumstances as he schemes our destruction. We are urged to engage in “dialogue,” to make concessions, to acknowledge the misery of those who desire one’s extinction, to provide an example of disinterested righteousness for the rest of humanity. One recalls the great Jewish patriot Ze’ev Jabotinsky writing about the deluded Jews in Old Russia who, during the disturbances of the time, “considered it their duty to support the autonomist efforts of their enemy, on the ground that autonomy is a sacred cause.” The upshot? “Jewish heads are smashed.” “This sort of thing,” he continues, “is not morality, it is twaddle.”

Today, such twaddle will often come from Golus Jews who live in comfort and enjoy the luxury of exalted rumination, or as we have noted, even from Israelis, almost universally of the Left, who linger in an alternate reality. “There are those,” writes Deputy News Editor of the Jerusalem Post Israel Kasnett, “who claim they must save Israel from itself…if only Israelis would see through the Left’s prism.” What is the ultimate difference, after all, between the ferocious Canadian-Jewish critic of Israel Naomi Klein and the leader of the Kadima party Tzipi Livni, both of whom pursue lucrative careers while sanctimoniously working against the survival of the Jewish state? At the same time, they like to see themselves as laboring virtuously for the benefit of the poor, the downtrodden, the deprived and the excluded, chiefly among their enemies. But this species of moral commutation is only a slippery evasion of conscience, one of the most effective pretexts to be found in the vast App Store of Jewish alibis, subterfuges, and extenuations.

Was Arthur Koestler right when he remarked that, for the Jew, treason is the highest form of patriotism? He was surely being ironic — though articulating a bitter, antiphrastic truth. Such tergiversators were and are guilty of what in Hebrew is called Chilul HaShem, defined as a violation of the Lord’s command by abandoning or betraying Judaism to enhance one’s social status. This was not for me, or at least not any longer. My emotional and intellectual axis had shifted decisively. Although I once shared Mandelstam’s asperities, I have come to realize that I was still a Jew when I fatuously disparaged Yiddish as a plebian excuse for a language, refused to observe our defining holidays, and took up the Palestinian cause as a sign of my supposed even-handedness — before I gave myself the trouble to study the issue more closely and arrive at conclusions more in agreement with reality. I was a Jew when I inveighed against the hardening of the arteries associated with shtetl piety or excessive halachic orthodoxy and felt a vicarious shame and embarrassment for the sallow and asthenic physical specimens of the Hasidic communities with whom I had nothing in common. I was still a Jew when for a time I rashly accepted the arguments of our intellectual clerisy which in the name of the “community of mankind” sold out its cultural dower to the enemies of civilization — who, it turns out, were and are resolutely anti-Jewish.

And I remain a Jew though unable to say with assurance whether Jewishness can be reduced to a matter of belief, ethnicity, genetics, illusion, duty, allegiance, or cultural attitude. After all, what does an Ethiopian Falasha have to do with a Russian émigré or a Chinese votary or an ultra-Orthodox rabbi from Galicia or the Bnei Menashe in India and Burma or facile entertainers like Jon Stewart (né Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) or assimilated bigots like Richard Falk and Richard Goldstone or a sodden philosopher like Martin Buber with mulch for a mind or true heroes like Theodor Herzl and Ze’ev Jabotinsky? It has been said, I believe correctly, that Jews do not share a religion so much as a history, even if that history has been repudiated. In the same way, Jews are always in danger of sharing a particular kind of future — one which those on the Left, and those who have gambled on the shelter of assimilation, censure from recognition.

Moreover, I am a Jew, as I now realize, because the world will never let me conclude otherwise. Traitors, assimilationists, court Jews, sycophants, basement cowerers, prodigal sons and daughters, Sabbath Jews, men and women of faith, the noble and the contemptible — they may all find themselves at some fateful moment in time splayed in the crosshairs. Ultimately, the dubious among them cannot quibble their way past endemic hostility or fall back on convenient sophistries. My uncle Snetzi was surely on to something. Paranoia may well be the Jew’s only sane response to the world’s perennial enmity. In the long run, strenuous attempts at forgetting or denial or glossing over are a losing proposition.

Today, in the midst of the renewed outbreak of antisemitism around the globe, as the “Norway syndrome” goes viral, I have come to accept Freud’s affirmation in a speech delivered on the occasion of his seventieth birthday to the B’nai B’rith Lodge in Vienna: “I myself was a Jew, and it always seemed to me not only shameful but downright senseless to deny it.” I have come consciously to incorporate Emil Fackenheim’s “614th Commandment,” which in his major work, To Mend the World, he added to the 613 mitzvot or commandments contained in the Pentateuch, namely, of not giving Hitler a posthumous victory. As I wrote in Hear, O Israel!, this injunction has become my Shamash candle, the “helper candle” used to light the Hanukkah menorah in memory of the miracle of endurance. And even the way I hear spoken Yiddish has changed, so that it now seems to me unaffected, dulcet, and heimische.

According to Jewish tradition, since I never solemnized a Bar Mitzvah, I am not yet a man. But I hope that I have become a mensch.
David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, and is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon. His new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, has just been released by Mantua Books.

"And So?"

Arlene Kushner

On Friday, Mahmoud Abbas, putative president of the PA, spoke at the UN General Assembly.

I won't belabor his words unduly. They were pretty much as we might have expected -- a justification of his intention to unilaterally pursue membership in the UN for a Palestinian state.

"We aspire for and seek a greater and more effective role for the United Nations in working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in our region that ensures the inalienable, legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people...

"The support of the countries of the world for our endeavor is a victory for truth, freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy, and it provides tremendous support for the peace option and enhances the chances of success of the negotiations...

And so forth... Of course, there was a great deal with regard to Israel's obstinacy and the fact that Israeli policies represent the true obstacle to peace.

"...we did not give up and did not cease our efforts for initiatives and contacts. Over the past year we did not leave a door to be knocked or channel to be tested or path to be taken and we did not ignore any formal or informal party of influence and stature to be addressed...But all of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly wrecked by the positions
of the Israeli government...

"The core issue here is that the Israeli government refuses to commit to terms of reference for the negotiations that are based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and that it frantically continues to intensify building of settlements on the territory of the State of Palestine.

"Settlement activities embody the core of the policy of colonial military occupation of the land of the Palestinian people and all of the brutality of aggression and racial discrimination against our people that this policy entails. This policy, which constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions, is the primary cause for the failure of the peace process...and the burial of the great hopes that arose from the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993..."
If you would like to see the full text of Abbas's remarks, they are here:


Just in case there might be someone reading this who ascribes validity to these statements by Abbas, I will state once again that they constitute unmitigated nonsense. Israel is not conducting herself in defiance of international law in any regard whatsoever. Israel does not maintain an "occupation" in Judea and Samaria (never mind a "colonial" occupation, which implies that Israelis are interlopers). Key UN resolutions never forbid settlements and neither did the Oslo Accords.

This talk is replete with lies and misrepresentations. Allow me here to share one misrepresentation that is particularly nauseating and reprehensible:

"When we adopted this program [a 'peace plan' in 1988], we were taking a painful and very difficult step for all of us, especially those including myself who were forced to leave their homes and their towns and villages, carrying only some of our belongings and our grief and our memories and the keys of our homes to the camps of exile and the Diaspora in the 1948 Nakba -- one of the worst operations of uprooting, destruction and removal of a vibrant and cohesive society that had been contributing in a pioneering and leading way [to] the cultural, educational and economic renaissance of the Arab Middle East."

Wow! Sort of takes the breath away, doesn't it? With its absolute audacity, that is.

This is the Palestinian Arab narrative of the "right of return," here painted in neon vivid colors.

He speaks about being one of those who was forced to flee -- he likes to represent himself as a "refugee." But the fact of the matter is that he has written about how he and his family left Sfat voluntarily.

This narrative, at its core, is about the Palestinian Arab claim to all of the land between the river and the sea. That's why he's talking about 1948 and not 1967. The "peace plan" was painful because it would have given the Palestinian Arabs less than the everything they claim they are entitled to.


Herb Keinon, writing in the JPost today, made an observation that is on the mark. Abbas in his speech, says Keinon, was not addressing Israel, trying to convince Israel to negotiate with the PA. He was speaking to Gabon, Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina -- attempting to convince them to vote "yes" in the Security Council on the issue of the state, rather than abstaining.


Following Abba's talk, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke.

I had been looking forward to this speech, which had been promoted as one that was going to tell the truth about Israel's situation, and I accessed it eagerly after Shabbat.

It wasn't a bad speech, in fact it was a good one in many ways and made significant points -- but I think it could have been even better.


Netanyahu had courage. In the halls of the UN, he identified that institution for what it is:

"It's the theater of the absurd. It doesn't only cast Israel as the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles: Gaddafi's Libya chaired the UN Commission on Human Rights; Saddam's Iraq headed the UN Committee on Disarmament. You might say: That's the past. Well, here's what's happening now -- right now, today, Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon now presides over the UN Security Council. This means, in effect, that a terror organization presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world's security.

"You couldn't make this up.

"So here in the UN, automatic majorities can decide anything. They can decide that the sun rises in the west. But they can also decide -- they have decided -- that the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest place, is occupied Palestinian territory.

He spoke of the bias with which Israel is treated:

"It's here, year after year, that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It's singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel -- the one true democracy in the Middle East."


But, he said, "if only for a few minutes, in a hall that for too long has been a place of darkness for my country," he wanted to shine the light of truth:

"The truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that in the Middle East at all times, but especially during these turbulent days, peace must be anchored in security. The truth is that we cannot achieve peace through UN resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties. The truth is that so far the Palestinians have refused to negotiate. The truth is that Israel wants peace with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want a state without peace. And the truth is that you shouldn't let that happen."


Saying, " the prime minister of Israel I cannot risk the future of the Jewish state on wishful thinking," Netanyahu went on to catalogue the concessions and offers Israel has made only to be rebuffed. And he described the risks to Israel that are entailed in the additional concessions people would like Israel to make now.

"People say to me constantly: Just make a sweeping offer, and every thing will work out. You there's only one problem with that theory. We've tried it and it hasn't worked."

"Thousands of missiles have already rained down on our cities [from Gaza, which Israel left]. So you might understand that, given all this, Israelis rightly ask: What's to prevent this from happening in the West Bank?...

"...Would any of you bring danger so closer to your cities, to your families? Would you act so recklessly with the lives of your citizens?

"...These critics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel's security...

"So in the face of the labels and the libels, Israel must heed better advice. Better a bad press than a good eulogy, and better still would be a fair press whose sense of history extends beyond breakfast, and which recognizes Israel's legitimate security concerns."


He then proceeded to examine what SC Resolution 242 says regarding secure borders, and to outline Israel's legitimate needs, such as stationing of forces in the Jordan Valley long term, protecting Israeli airspace, and more.

Good stuff, legitimate stuff told straight, as far as it goes. The message here is that we are not going to cave in the name of peace and the world had best consider itself forewarned in this regard.


My problem is that only security issues were dealt with for the bulk of this talk. I kept on waiting for a truthful discussion of Israel's legitimate rights in the land, and that was a long time in coming.

Then finally, he spoke about the implications of Abbas's absolute refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state. And from this point segued into a discussion of our ancient heritage in the land:

"I often hear them accuse Israel of 'Judaizing' Jerusalem. That's like accusing American of Americanizing Washington or the British of Anglicizing London. You know why we're called Jews? Because we come from Judea."

He described a signet ring he has in his office, with an ancient seal from a Jewish official of 2,700 years ago, found next to the Western Wall. The name on the ring is Netanyahu.

"...That's my last name. My first name, Benjamin dates back 1,000 years earlier to Benjamin --Binyamin -- the son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel. Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Samaria 4,000 years ago, and there's been a continuous Jewish presence in the land ever since.

"...As the prime minister of Israel, I speak for a hundred generations of Jews who were dispersed throughout the lands, who suffered every evil under the sun, but who never gave up hope of restoring their national life in the one and only Jewish state."


All right then!

But then Netanyahu launched into what is apparently perceived as de rigueur: a heartfelt plea to Abbas to come negotiate peace.

"In the last few weeks American officials have put forward ideas to restart peace talks...

"...with all my reservations, I was willing to move forward...

"President Abbas, why don't you join me?"

And then:

"President Abbas, you've dedicated your life to advancing the Palestinian cause. Must this conflict continue for generations, or will be we speak in years from now about how we found a way to end it?"

"...even though my door has always been open to you...If you wish, I'll come to Ramallah. Actually, I have a better suggestion. We've both us flown thousands of miles to New York...So let's meet here in the United Nations today. Who's there to stop us?"


By this point I wanted to tell my prime minister to pack it in. For he had reverted from truth telling to political posturing. He knows full well Abbas won't meet with him. And these pleas from the UN podium are designed to do no more than show the world what a great player Israel is.

He did tell it like it is for one moment again at the end of his speech, when he cited the old Arab saying that you cannot applaud with one hand, and then drew the parallel of being unable to make peace alone. That should have been it. The final statement should have circled back to the beginning. "Ladies and gentlemen. This, then, is my final truth from this podium. There is no evidence that the PA has good will with regard to a true peace. Not only will Israeli concessions not make the difference, it would be suicidal for us to pursue a process with an adversary bent on destroying us."

But that would have been more truth than anyone was prepared to handle. And so, instead, we had:

"President Abbas, I extend my hand -- the hand of Israel -- in peace. I hope that you will grasp that hand. We are both the sons of Abraham."


You can see the text of the full speech by Netanyahu (plus some commentary by Aaron Lerner) here:

And his address on video here:


On Friday, Abbas did deliver a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who then passed it on to the Security Council.

The Council declared, as had been expected, that it would take it under advisement, which could take months. The PA then indicated that it "expected" an answer within two weeks. And if not?


I have seen no public indication of the precise wording of that letter or exactly what the PA was requesting. And here is the quandary, the reason why everyone has been so vague with regard to how this will play it.

Legal experts have declared time and again that the UN has never declared a state into existence and is not empowered to do so. The SC only considers requests for membership from states that already exist.

And yet, even though there has been no official announcement of statehood by Abbas, he asks for membership in the UN. It's as Netanyahu said: UN majorities can decide anything. So, we'll have to sit tight as we await the results on this.


The other news with regard to this situation came from the Quartet -- the UN, the US, the EU and Russia -- on Friday.

After a meeting held at the UN by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton; and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a statement was released. It appealed to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions. To help this process along, it put forth a time-line:

Within a month there would be a preparatory meeting between the parties to agree an agenda and method of proceeding in the negotiation.

At that meeting there would be a commitment by both sides that the objective of any negotiation would be to reach an agreement by the end of 2012. The parties would be expected to come forward with comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and to have made substantial progress within six months.

To assist in moving matter along, the Quartet would convene an international conference in Moscow, in consultation with the parties, at the appropriate time.

There would also be a Donors Conference at which the international community would give "full and sustained support to the Palestinian Authority state-building actions developed by Prime Minister Fayyad under the
leadership of President Abbas."


Shades of Sarkozy -- who suggested a timeline the other day. This plan with a limit of 15 months maximum for Israel and the PA to come to terms on all issues is nonsense. A joke.

As might be expected, Abbas has indicated to reporters that any proposal that didn't spell out a priori that the '67 line would be the basis for negotiations and that all settlement construction had to stop would not be dealt with. In the words of PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki, it would be an "incomplete" proposal, you see.

PA officials have hedged to the degree of saying that they'll consider the proposal in coming days, but their final response is expected to be negative.


Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli government, however, have tentatively responded in a positive way. The prime minister said he wants to bring it to the Cabinet ministers before arriving at a final answer.

Can't say this is exactly a thrilling state of affairs. We have to assume, once again, that Netanyahu is betting on the negative response from Abbas. This is his MO -- negotiating that slippery slope. Dangerous stuff.

There is no question in my mind but that Netanyahu is ready to consider agreeing to this precisely because there are no a priori stipulations. Agreeing doesn't tie Israel into any particular negotiating parameters. Except for that nonsense about the timeline. But if Israel held tight in negotiations, even as spelled out in Netanyahu's UN speech, they would go nowhere. That's the final key here: Real red lines that the prime minister would hold tight to.

Given his pronouncements about being ready to start talks any place and any time, as long as there were no conditions, refusing this proposal becomes difficult for him.

It is very likely this will come to nothing. But we're back to waiting to see.

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

See my website at Contact Arlene at

This material is transmitted by Arlene only to persons who have requested it or agreed to receive it. If you are on the list and wish to be removed, contact Arlene and include your name in the text of the message.