Saturday, July 03, 2010

What's Wrong: Demanding A Stable Compromise Peace or Refusing to Make Peace at All?

Barry Rubin

It's amazing how rarely any mainstream Israeli view--excluding the far left, which provides good anti-Israel ammunition, and, rarely, the far right, to make them look stupid--gets into many of the American media's most elite organs. I'm not referring here to regular news articles but opinion pieces, columnists, and editorials. Often, it is incredibly easy to give a strong, accurate, and persuasive response to claims being made or ideas being promoted by this media. Yet since no one is allowed to do so, these rather silly and ignorant arguments go largely unanswered. Here, for example, is the always anti-Israel Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times who writes:

"Israel has a point when it argues that relinquishing the West Bank would raise real security concerns. But we must not lose sight of the most basic fact about the occupation: It's wrong."

Even his opening sentence acknowledging that Israel has real concerns is a rarity. That's progress perhaps. But I'm not sure what the sentence "It's wrong" actually means. I can think of dozens of things in the Middle East, or in the world, that can said to be "wrong," yet what counts in international affairs is survival and reality, not the highly selective use of one-sided moral judgments.

For example, it's wrong to ask Israel to take dangerous risks and possibly commit suicide. It's wrong to take sides with radical movements and dictatorships against democracies. It's wrong to help establish on the Mediterranean Sea the long-term rule of a repressive revolutionary Islamist, antisemitic, genocidal, terrorist regime that oppresses women and Christians while being a client of Iran. Yet these wrongs for some reason don't seem to bother the current foreign policy establishment.

Moreover, the most basic claims made about Israel are simply inaccurate: There is no "occupation" (not in the way people in the West generally speak of it, which seems to assume the situation of 1967-1993 still prevails) and Israel's policy is quite right on this matter.

Despite a minority position within the country (which disappeared in the last 20 years), that Israel should annex that territory, the main basis of Israeli policy has always been a simple one:

Israel should hold onto an overriding control of this land until a peace can be negotiated that is stable, lasting, includes real Palestinian acceptance of Israel's right to exist, and ends the conflict forever.

If the Palestinian side were willing to do this, peace and a Palestinian state could be achieved within months. If not, no other gimmick will work. This includes the recently touted gimmick that Palestinian prosperity is sufficient to build peace without Palestinian political moderation.

Having said this, let's consider some details.

First, before 1993 Israel had total control of the West Bank. Since then it has withdrawn from almost all populated areas and a Palestinian Authority has been created which rules the people there, receives massive foreign aid, and has proportionately huge security forces. In a real sense, Israel doesn't "occupy" the West Bank. Indeed, if there were not terrorist attacks there would be even less presence.

Second, and this might sound strange at first but is quite true, whatever Israel is doing in the West Bank is not a non-consensual occupation but embodies arrangements accepted by the PLO and PA. They have signed numerous agreements which regulate the situation. True, after they sign agreements they often say they were unfair and demand more. But this is hardly a good omen for their abiding by any future agreements. The fact is, however, that the "occupation" ended in 1994-1996.

Third, as noted above, the PA can end the Israeli presence whenever it wants to do so simply by making a peace agreement.

In a sense, then, Kristof's stance, and that of the many who echo it, is based on a trick. The PA refuses to make a compromise deal, thus forcing the continuation of the "interim" arrangements, then complains that it is suffering. The solution is then to say that Israel's presences is "wrong" and should be ended even without the PA doing anything.

It is interesting to note that this conception of morality is based on the view, so popular nowadays, that suffering--even if self-induced--trumps every other possible consideration, from common sense, to keeping one's commitments, to existing law, to historic morality. Even terrorism is justified on the basis of the real or alleged suffering of those committing it, and even if the terrorism being committed makes a major contribution to the continuing of the suffering that supposedly created it in the first place.

Yet in the real world if the presence of Israel--settlements, etc.--is "wrong" the PA's refusal to make real peace--stop incitement, agree to a permanent end of the conflict, resettle refugees in Palestine, make a real effort to transform its ideology and public opinion in favor of peace with Israel--is equally wrong.

Finally, of course, Kristof deliberately doesn't mention the Gaza Strip. There the idea that Israel's occupation was "wrong," prevailed, Israel withdrew, and found itself with a revolutionary Islamist neighbor seeking to wipe it off the map. Something parallel could well happen if the "wrongness" of Israel's role on the West Bank were to set the tone of the situation.

Incidentally, if and when Kristof and such people decide that the Hamas coup in Gaza and the construction of a terrorist state there is "wrong" and they advocate the overthrow of Hamas, they might have a bit more credibility.

There is no doubt that the way Kristof presents the situation is widely accepted in the West, but that, too, is quite wrong. Indeed, this picture is so misleading and using it as the basis for policy is so dangerous that Israel only can--and will--ignore such foolish advice.

If I might put it bluntly: Just because you are stupid (having bad judgment) and ignorant (unaware of the facts and history) why should I have to die and see my country destroyed? That is very very wrong.

Note: One might consider a situation in which the Allied occupation of Germany and Japan after World War Two extended over a long period of time because the political movements and ideas that had led those two countries into aggression continued to prevail. If the dominant political forces in those countries refused to accept a peace on terms acceptable to the victors and openly spoke of conquering Europe and Asia, respectively, would the continued controls still be "wrong" merely because of the length of time involved or inconveniences to the Germans and Japanese?

Remember, too, that the Allies would be stronger than the Germans or Japanese who would thus be eligible for consideration as repressed underdogs. And then if a neo-Nazi or aggressive nationalist movement seized control in a large part of Germany or Japan, openly proclaiming that it was going to wipe out neighboring countries, would it be wrong to overthrow those regimes or, if that was not possible, to put embargos on them?

No analogy is perfect including this one. But given the support the Palestinians would enjoy from elsewhere for continuing their war on Israel and other factors, the West Bank case is actually stronger than even the Germany-Japan parallel in justifying Israel's refusal to unilaterally concede all the cards it holds.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (PalgraveMacmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Netanyahu Faces Nation: We Can't Pay 'Any Price' for Shalit

Gil Ronen
A7 News

As the march by First Sergeant Gilad Shalit's family and supporters neared Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took a step Thursday to preempt public pressure on him and gave a clear statement of his policy on freeing terrorists In a live news conference, Netanyahu said that Israel agreed to free 1,000 Hamas terrorists from its jails in exchange for Shalit, who was abducted four years ago. This, he said, is a heavy price to pay. However, he said, Israel would not compromise on two principles in the negotiations for Shalit: First, it would not free terrorists who had murdered people into Judea and Samaria, but rather – into Gaza or other countries. Second, it would not free “arch-terrorists” who killed dozens of people.

Freeing murderers into Judea and Samaria would strengthen the terror infrastructure there and lead to a surge in attacks on Israelis, he explained. The attacks would not be limited to Judea and Samaria but would reach central Israel and Tel Aviv, he reminded the Israeli viewing audience – a large proportion of which is concentrated in Israel's coastal plain.

Freeing the “arch-terrorists” would strengthen Hamas's leadership, he said.

Netanyahu noted that Israel had, in some cases, used force to free hostages. His brother, Yoni, he noted, was killed in an IDF raid for freeing hostages on an Air France jet that was hijacked to Uganda in 1976. He himself, he added, was hurt in an operation for freeing hostages on a hijacked Sabena jet (in 1972). But in some instances, he explained, Israel adopted a policy of freeing prisoners in exchange for hostages. He then told the story of the deal for freeing Elchanan Tenenbaum in 2004. The terrorists freed in that deal murdered 17 Israelis after their release, he said.

As Prime Minister, he said, he bears the responsibility for the security of the entire nation. He said that while he feels the pain in the eyes of the Shalit family – he also feels the pain in the eyes of terror victims' families. "The State of Israel is willing to pay a heavy price” for Gilad Shalit, Netanyahu said, but it cannot say it will pay “any price” for his freedom.

The Prime Minister's statement echoed themes that have been sounded over the past few years by terror victim families' representatives, which have done their best to balance the public relations machine that is operating in favor of accepting to Hamas's demands for Shalit. Victims' group Almagor has put together a mosaic of photographs of 180 Israelis murdered between 2000 and 2006 by terrorists released in swaps for hostages.

"Listen with Care"

Arlene Kushner

In my last posting, I referred to PA president Mahmoud Abbas wearing his "moderate" suit. Well, he's still wearing it. Abbas, reaching out to the Israeli public, is currently engaged in what Herb Keinon of the JPost refers to as a "charm offensive."

I caution you to be on your guard with regard to the sincerity of his words. They are no more than politically expedient surface, devoid of depth that will translate into action. In a briefing for Hebrew media given in Ramallah on Tuesday night, Abbas said he thinks of Netanyahu as a partner for negotiations: "My first and last partner is the Israeli government, that is the government that was elected and the one we will work with."

Asked about his (Holocaust-denying) doctoral thesis, "The Secret Connection Between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement," he responded, "You say that six million were killed, I don't deny it."


At the press briefing, Abbas declared himself ready for face to face negotiations when Netanyahu provides "answers" with regard to borders and security. Explaining his position, he said, "Answers like these are necessary to see if we are speaking the same language, and then it will be possible to continue. It is preferable that direct talks will not explode after 10 minutes, and then who knows when we will be able to renew negotiations again...Is there an agreement to discuss the border and security issues? We don't know."

This may provide a semblance of reasonableness, but on examination it is not reasonable at all. He is not insisting that he needs to know if Israel will discuss borders and security should the two parties come face to face. He, rather, wants to know if Israel will, up front, agree to his preconditions.

He has made it clear that the PA call is for a Palestinian state along the '67 border (sic). So "discussing" this means drawing the exact line, with alternations in the line based on a one to one ratio. That is, for every square kilometer of land Israel kept past the Green Line the PA would get an equivalent area inside Green Line Israel. That is what would need to be discussed.

Similarly with the issue of security: Netanyahu has spoken about the need to station Israeli troops on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state. Abbas says nothing doing -- this is not what's up for discussion. Rather, what could be discussed is which international party, such as UNIFIL (try to control your laughter), might be stationed there to provide Israel with security.

Abbas further said he would not compromise on the issue of Jerusalem, i.e., eastern Jerusalem as their capital.


It should be noted that in broad terms what Abbas is demanding is an agreement by Netanyahu to go back to the place where negotiations with Olmert left off. Netanyahu made it clear from the beginning that he would not do this. As nothing was signed, we have no obligation to do so. Not only is Netanyahu, for all his faults, not Olmert (praise Heaven), the current government would not sit still for this, nor would the populace of this nation.

Netanyahu -- with his eye undoubtedly on the upcoming visit with Obama -- is expressing great eagerness for face to face talks. But without preconditions.

Stay tuned.


Khaled Abu Toameh is a journalist whom I cite often, because I rely on the solidness of his research and his professional integrity. An Israeli citizen, he is an Arabic-speaking Muslim who identifies as Palestinian -- he can go places I cannot and secure information directly that I cannot.

Here I would like to share with you what he has to say about the peace talks and questions Washington should be asking:

"Even if Israel and the Palestinian Authority were to reach a peace agreement sometime in the near future, it is certain that the Palestinian Authority would not be able to implement it or sell it to a majority of Palestinians...

"Frankly, there is no way that Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas could accept anything less than what his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, rejected at the botched Camp David summit in the summer of 2000. Back then, Arafat refused to sign a document pledging to 'end the conflict' with Israel unless he got 100% of his demands.

"In addition, there are serious doubts as to whether Abbas would be able to persuade a majority of Palestinians living in refugee camps in the Arab world to accept any peace agreement with Israel that did not include the 'right of return' to their original villages in pre-1948 Israel.

"...Further, Abbas could not sign any deal that excluded the Gaza Strip; he would then be accused of 'solidifying' the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"Moreover, although the Palestinian Authority has said it would consider land swap, apparently many Palestinians are opposed to it.

"...Washington needs to ask...Do Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have enough credibility and support among Palestinians to be able to sell to a majority of them a peace deal with Israel?

"Abbas and the Palestinian Authority cannot go to the Gaza strip; they have limited control over the West Bank, and are still lacking in credibility, at least as far as many Palestinians are concerned.

"...Just recently Hamas declared that Abbas would not be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip unless he receives permission from its government. This means that when and if Abbas strikes a deal with Israel, he would not even be able to travel to the Gaza Strip to implement it or try to sell it to the Palestinians living there.

"Even though Abbas lives and works in the West Bank, many Palestinians have long been questioning whether he really has full control over the area. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether he and Fayyad, enjoy the support of a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank.

"...So what is the point in launching 'proximity talks' between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority while ignoring the fact that the partner in Ramallah would not be able to deliver his side of an agreement?

"Also, why do the Americans and the Europeans continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that the Palestinians already have two states – one in the Gaza Strip under Hamas and the second in the West Bank under Fatah?

"...The only way to move forward with any peace process is by insisting that the Palestinians first get their act together and end the infighting between the two Palestinian states..."

"Proximity Talks: Questions for Washington"


This, my friends, should be sent to every elected representative in Congress. Ask them why the government is investing time and prestige in a process that is doomed to fail?

For your Congresspersons:

For your Senators:


Back in the winter, at the Jerusalem Conference, Netanyahu advisor Ron Dermer spoke; I then shared a line of thinking he had advanced that I thought had considerable validity: Many progressives or centrist-left people in the US, he said, ardently support the Palestinian Authority, while ignoring, or remaining oblivious to, the fact that the Palestinian Arab culture embraces values that are the antithesis of what they -- the progressives, etc. -- support: women's rights, rights for homosexuals, etc.

What is required, he suggested, is a PR campaign that exposes the values of the Palestinian Arab culture, and promotes the liberal approach of Israel with regard to these issues. This, he thought, would turn around at least some progressives, etc. with regard to their attitudes towards Israel.

Now it turns out that Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist (and former editor of the JPost) Bret Stephens is thinking along the same lines. I share here a video in which he explains the approach he uses when speaking to groups that tend to be supportive of the Palestinians.

The advantage of Stephen's approach is that it can be activated by individuals and does not depend on a major PR campaign. Many of us may find that his technique is useful and that it yields positive results. We need every approach that is available to us in these difficult times:

see my website

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Only Good Jew is a...Muslim

Barry Rubin

Muqtedar Khan is a professor at the University of Delaware who should be notorious for his refusal to sit on an academic panel with a researcher solely because the latter had served in the Israel Defense Forces. And guess what happened? The University of Delaware didn't discipline Khan or invite someone else to participate insted of him, they uninvited the researcher and went ahead with the program. What more do you need to know about the state of American academia today? And there was no media shouts of outrage. What more do you need to know about the state of the American media today?

Khan has now written an item on an Internet site that is being sent around by people as an example of Muslim toleration and fairness toward Jews. The title is, "He was the Best of Jews said Muhammad." It is about the little-known story of a Jew named Mukhayriq who, according to some Islamic sources, actually fought for the Muslim side in Muhammad's battles.

So, contrary to the massacre of the Jews at Khaybar, is there a counter-case of a Muslim alliance with Jews, forged by that religion's creator and prophet no less? Well, not exactly.

Khan doesn't mention it but the Islamic sources that he read contained an important fact: Mukhayriq was a convert to Islam. "The best of Jews," indeed.

So Khan won't sit with someone who has fought to defend Jews, he prefers Jews who are no longer Jews at all. Perhaps this is his peace plan for Israel?

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

The main source for this story is Ibn Hisham's edition (ninth century) of Ibn Ishaq's biography (eighth-century) of Islam's founder. It was translated by Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: a Translation of Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah" (Oxford, 1955). Norman Stillman's book, The Jews of Arab Lands (Jewish Publication Society, 1979), mentions him..

Opinion: Proximity Talks: Questions for Washington

Khaled Abu Toameh
A7 News

Even if Israel and the Palestinian Authority were to reach a peace agreement sometime in the near future, it is certain that the Palestinian Authority would not be able to implement it or sell it to a majority of Palestinians.
Therefore the first and most important question that decision-makers in Washington and European capitals need to ask themselves these days is: Is there a majority of Palestinians who are prepared to make far-reaching concessions in the context of a peace treaty with Israel? Is there a Palestinian leader who is willing to make compromises on explosive issues such as Jerusalem, settlements and the "right of return?"

Frankly, there is no way that Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas could accept anything less than what his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, rejected at the botched Camp David summit in the summer of 2000. Back then, Arafat refused to sign a document pledging to "end the conflict" with Israel unless he got 100% of his demands.

In addition, there are serious doubts as to whether Abbas would be able to persuade a majority of Palestinians living in refugee camps in the Arab world to accept any peace agreement with Israel that did not include the "right of return" to their original villages in pre-1948 Israel.

Abbas, however, is not in a position to accept even a "partial" agreement on the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. No Palestinian leader has thus far dared to publicly make the slightest concession on this issue.

Further, Abbas could not sign any deal that excluded the Gaza Strip; he would then be accused of "solidifying" the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Moreover, although the Palestinian Authority has said it would consider land swap, apparently many Palestinians are opposed to it.

The second question that Washington needs to ask is: Do Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have enough credibility and support among Palestinians to be able to sell to a majority of them a peace deal with Israel?

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority cannot go to the Gaza strip; they have limited control over the West Bank, and are still lacking in credibility, at least as far as many Palestinians are concerned.

Three years ago, the Palestinian Authority was kicked out of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, thereby losing direct control over 1.5 million Palestinians.

The private and official residences of Abbas in the Gaza strip have been seized by Hamas, which sometimes uses them as interrogation and detention centers.

Just recently Hamas declared that Abbas would not be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip unless he receives permission from its government. This means that when and if Abbas strikes a deal with Israel, he would not even be able to travel to the Gaza Strip to implement it or try to sell it to the Palestinians living there.

Even though Abbas lives and works in the West Bank, many Palestinians have long been questioning whether he really has full control over the area. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether he and Fayyad, enjoy the support of a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank. Some Palestinians are convinced that if a free and democratic election were held tomorrow in the West Bank, Hamas would definitely emerge victorious. Hamas would win, they argue, mainly because most Palestinians still do not regard Abbas's Fatah faction as a better alternative to the Islamic fundamentalist movement.

The third question that the US Administration needs to ask itself is: Where is Abbas supposed to implement a peace agreement with Israel? In Tel Aviv?

So what is the point in launching "proximity talks" between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority while ignoring the fact that the partner in Ramallah would not be able to deliver his side of an agreement?

Also, why do the Americans and the Europeans continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that the Palestinians already have two states – one in the Gaza Strip under Hamas and the second in the West Bank under Fatah?

It is becoming increasingly hard to tell what the Palestinians exactly want. While once a majority of them appeared to support the idea of a two-state solution, many seem to think that the one-state solution, where Jews and Arabs would live together and not apart from each other, is not a bad idea after all. Then there is a third group that continues to believe that the only solution lies in the elimination of the Jewish state.

The only way to move forward with any peace process is by insisting that the Palestinians first get their act together and end the infighting between the two Palestinian states. Perhaps before we search for ways to make peace between Jews and Palestinians, we need first need to find a way to achieve peace between Palestinians and Palestinians.

(The author studied at Hebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliated newspaper in Jerusalem, but currently works for the international media, serving as the 'eyes and ears' of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.Abu Toameh's articles have appeared in numerous newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report and The Sunday Times of London. Reprinted with permission from

Legal Scholars Weigh in on Gaza Blockade, Flotilla Deaths
Erik Schechter

Nearly a month after its deadly naval raid on an aid flotilla, Israel refuses to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Still, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has loosened restrictions on the types of goods that may enter the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave. Likewise, it has set up a commission to examine the events of May 30-31. None of this, however, has squelched criticism of the Gaza blockade and the flotilla incident.
To recap, in late May, the Free Gaza Movement, a pro-Palestinian solidarity group, arranged for six ships loaded with humanitarian aid to breach the Israeli naval blockade. Anticipating arrival of this flotilla, the Israeli navy sailed out to the boats and warned them away from Gaza coastline, offering instead to have the cargo delivered to the territory via Israeli land terminals. However, the flotilla activists rejected the offer.
When the Free Gaza crew made it clear that they intended to run the blockade, Israeli navy commandos boarded the boats at night, in international waters, and subdued the passengers. This occurred, for the most part, without incident. However, on one ship, the MV Mavi Marmara, a large contingent of baton-wielding Turkish Islamist activists clashed with commandos, resulting in the deaths of nine passengers.

This bloody episode provoked a wave of outrage—and not just in the Muslim world. In the United States, conservative pundit Pat Buchanan denounced the Israeli naval action as "piracy," while progressive columnist Glenn Greenwald decried it as a "massacre." Meanwhile, a number of human rights groups reiterated their position that the blockade was a form of "collective punishment" and illegal.

Putting aside overheated rhetoric and pseudo-legal analyses, I asked a group of international law experts about the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the methods employed by Israel to enforce it. These are their answers:
Q. Did Israel commit piracy?
The short answer is no, states U.S. Navy Commander James Kraska, who teaches international humanitarian law (IHL, otherwise known as the Law of War) at the U.S. Naval War College. Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea defines piracy as "a private act, typically with some sort of pecuniary interest. And by private, that means it's not going to be a governmental act," he explains.
Accordingly, Israel—or any other state—cannot commit piracy, though in the past governments did issue Letters of Marque to privateers, who would raid enemy vessels. However, the Paris Declaration of 1856 banned this legal form of state piracy, and that prohibition has since taken root in international customary law. As such, privateering is a "historical artifact," says Kraska, and has no relevance to the Gaza flotilla incident.

Of course, even if not guilty of piracy, Israel may have still violated IHL. Therefore, to get at the root of the controversy, one must determine two things: Is the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip legal—in other words, can Israel ban ships from entering or leaving Palestinian ports? And did Israeli naval commandos use the correct amount of force when attempting to stop ships bound for the Hamas-run territory?

Q. Are naval blockades a legal form of warfare?
Though it has a negative impact on enemy civilians and neutral third parties, blockading a state is a "legitimate method of naval warfare," says Marko Milanovic, a legal scholar at Cambridge University. However, the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994), considered to be the consensus view of customary law on the issue, does contain a few caveats.
First, the state setting up the blockade must have some military rationale for its action other than just wishing to starve the enemy population or deprive it of goods necessary for survival. Second, the manual states that the blockade would be illegal if "damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade."

According to the San Remo Manual, Israel could—provided it adhered to the aforementioned conditions—impose a blockade on Lebanon in order to prevent Katyusha rockets from reaching Hizbullah, a local Shiite militia. Then again, Lebanon is an independent state and falls neatly into the legal category of international armed conflict. What does the law say about the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip?

Q. Can Israel blockade a foreign, non-state entity like Gaza?
In August 2005, Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip. However, since then, no independent state of Palestine has emerged—leaving the small evacuated territory in a weird legal limbo. This, in turn, makes adjudicating the Israeli naval action tricky because, while blockades clearly apply in the case of two states at war, the law falls silent with regard to non-state combatants like Hamas, notes Milanovic.

Now, were Gaza still under military occupation (as the UN considers it to be), there would be no problem blockading it. Indeed, Common Article 2 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that IHL extends to undeclared wars and occupied territory, says Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg, a law professor at the Viadrina European University. This being the case, the IHL rules governing naval blockades also apply to Gaza.

However, if Gaza is not occupied, as Israel claims, things get messy again.
Customary law provides little guidance because so few states in history have blockaded non-state actors. One rare case is France in the late 1950s. Seeking to intercept arms ships bound for the Algerian independence movement, France "established a so-called security zone, which extended up to 60 nautical miles into the Mediterranean," says von Heinegg. Interestingly, the international community accepted this action with little protest.

Another example is the Union blockade of the Confederacy during the Civil War. However, in that case, "the imposition of a blockade on the Confederacy was recognized by the European powers as a belligerent act and converting the insurrection into an international armed conflict," Kraska says, though others believe that this latter concept only emerged in the 20th century.
Whatever the case, the Confederates did go from being mere "insurrectionists" to legitimate "belligerents."

For now, the U.S. and European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist group. But should the Islamist militia gain belligerency status, its fighters—so long as they did not commit war crimes—could not be prosecuted for murder by Israeli authorities for actions taken on the battlefield, states Avi Bell, a law professor at Bar-Ilan University. Likewise, Hamas would have the right to block ships bound for Israel.
Of course, all this assumes that Gaza is comparable to the Confederacy or Algérie Française. It isn't, says Stefan Talmon, a legal scholar at Oxford University. Just as it is not a foreign state, Gaza is also not an Israeli province in rebellion. Still, he says one could argue that if a state can employ a naval blockade in such radically different cases, then "you must also be able to blockade territory that is somehow in the middle..."

Q. What goods must Israel allow through?
Following the diplomatic fallout over the MV Mavi Marmara killings, the Israeli cabinet drew up a new, expanded list of humanitarian items allowed into Gaza via border terminals. Previously, however, Israel kept transfers to a bare minimum. Innocuous items like toys, livestock, sewing machines parts, musical instruments, chocolate, and coriander had all been barred entry into the enclave, contends Gisha, an Israeli NGO that supports the "freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents."

Were such restrictions legal? International law experts are divided on the topic. Milanovic argues that one may only seize contraband, i.e. military and dual-use supplies. By contrast, von Heinegg and others contend that a blockade is designed to keep out all vessels and their cargo, not just a list of particular goods. Only when the blockaded population is faced with starvation must "essential" items be allowed in.

"Water, medical supplies, [and basic] food—that's what we're talking about," von Heinegg says.
Q. Is the Israeli blockade a form of collective punishment?
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross have all decried the Gaza blockade as collective punishment. In doing so, they all look to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states, "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited…"

This prohibition has its roots in the experience of German reprisal killings during World War II, Bell notes. Keeping that in mind, to then argue that Article 33 applies to the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza is "bizarre," he says, adding that there "has never even been a claim in any legal forum … that economic sanctions of any kind or blockades of any kind constitute collective punishment."

The collective punishment argument is likewise critiqued by other academics. Von Heinegg, for example, contends that it "has no basis in the law" because the only limits set for blockades are in San Remo. To be illegal, the Israeli blockade would have had to be instituted—not to stop the importation of rockets—but just to starve Gazans. Or, if, intentions aside, the blockade were to kill hundreds of innocent Palestinians.

Neither is the case, he explains.
Geoffrey Corn, a South Texas College of Law professor and retired U.S. Army lawyer, concludes that some, when confronted with the issue of Gaza, simply default to human rights principles. "They focus on the individual 'victim' of the Israeli decision-making process, which is the Gaza civilian." However, this approach, Corn believes, has a "perverse impact on the debate" because it nullifies the role of Hamas.
Q. Can Israel intercept a blockade-runner in international waters?

Speaking in a private capacity, Major John Dehn, a law professor at the West Point Military Academy, says that, if a state has instituted a legal blockade, then it can board neutral ships in international waters. However, there must also be a reasonable belief that "the vessel is trying to breach a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture."

In radio exchanges with Israeli navy personnel on May 30, the flotilla crew made it clear that they intended to run the Gaza blockade. Therefore, Israel was well within its rights to stop the boats. But what of proportionality? Did the Israeli naval commandos use the proper amount of force when boarding the MV Mavi Marmara and confronting resistance from a contingent of Turkish activists?

Though some video clips of the incident have been released by the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] Spokesman, nearly all the footage shot by flotilla passengers has been confiscated. In addition, the first-hand accounts of the clashes are vague or fragmentary. "It's really difficult to say [if the commandos used the right amount of forces," Kraska says, "because you don't know all the facts. You have to do a moment-by-moment tactical review."

Nevertheless, he thinks Israeli lawyers could make "a colorable claim" that their troops acted in self-defense.

Q. Can the Gaza blockade lose its legality over time?
Yes. Blockades do not stay legal forever, says Talmon. Case in point: Egypt and Israel, following the War of Independence. In 1949, the two countries signed an armistice agreement, yet Egypt continued to ban Israeli ships from the Suez Canal. Finally, two and a half years later, the UN Security Council declared the blockade to be an "unjustified interference with the rights of nations to navigate the seas."
Granted, Egypt and Israel signed a formal armistice, while the 2008-2009 Gaza War with Hamas ended with unilateral ceasefire declarations. Still, the scope of the violence has decreased significantly since then. "The question you would have to ask yourself is can you maintain this blockade indefinitely," Talmon states, adding that the Israeli blockade has already inched its way into a murky "gray area."

Copyright © 2010 Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kassam Roulette: Pre-Dawn Rocket Narrowly Misses Negev Workers

Tzv Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

Gaza terrorists attacked the Western Negev Wednesday morning with a Kassam rocket before workers arrived, but it heavily damaged a packing house that was knocked out of operation. Workers who had not yet arrived at work remained in their homes in the Sdot Negev area, south of Ashkelon. The explosion occurred around 4 a.m., seconds after the Color Red early-warning system shattered pre-dawn silence. The latest attack returned residents to the trauma of the constant spate of missiles explosions that have plagued Negev residents since the outbreak of the Second Intifada, also known as the Oslo War, in 2000.

No terrorist organization has taken responsibility for Wednesday’s rocket strike. Many of the packing house workers hurried to synagogue to recite the traditional prayer for their lives being saved from danger.

Last year’s Operation Cast Lead war against the terrorist infrastructure in Hamas-run Gaza severely reduced the number of attacks, but Hamas and allied terrorist groups have violated a number of declared ceasefire announcements.

More than 300 rockets and mortars have struck the Western Negev since the end of Cast Lead, and most of the attacks have been immediately followed by an IDF retaliatory strike. Most of the rockets have exploded in open fields, allowing a relatively calm atmosphere in foreign and mainstream Israeli media that ignore a large number of the terrorist attacks when no one is injured.

One major foreign news service reported this week that the Negev area has been "quiet" since the end of Cast Lead.

Lieberman: Stop Dreaming about a PA State

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Israel's straight-shooting Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Tuesday that one can only dream about a Palestinian Authority state by 2012. Lieberman, whose style of skipping over diplomatic niceties has earned him praise and criticism, said at a joint conference, “We can express interest, we can dream, but in reality, we are still far from reaching understandings and agreements on establishing an independent state by 2012."

PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib retorted, "Lieberman is issuing a challenge to the international community, which is in agreement on the two-year ceiling.” Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, previously have said that if the PA is not recognized as a country in two years, they will turn to the United Nations to unilaterally impose the state within Israel’s current borders.

Lieberman’s remarks captured extra attention because they coincided with the arrival of U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell who is trying to bridge gaps between Israel and the PA over the proposal for creating a new Arab state in place of Judea and Samaria, the Old City of Jerusalem and all of the neighborhoods that were restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.

The Quartet, which includes Russia, has been pressuring Israel to agree to most of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ conditions for the creation of the PA as a new Arab state.

Lieberman has been promoting his own recipe for a new PA state, based on a land swap with Israel whereby Israel would surrender heavily populated Israeli Arab cities in return for Arab recognition of Israeli sovereignty over large Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Virtually all surveys have shown that Israeli Arabs would suffer a serious loss in their economic status if they were to give up their citizenship in order to become part of a Palestinian Authority state.

PA continues to promote the denial of Israel's existence

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

The Palestinian Authority TV's weekly game show between competing Palestinian universities continues to deny Israel's existence through the questions posed to the quiz contestants. Last week, three different questions and matching answers on The Stars all reflected a world view in which Israel does not exist.

One PA TV quiz answer taught that the length of "Palestine's" coast was 235 km. Gaza's coastline is only 45 km. long and Israel's Mediterranean coastline is approximately 190 km. long. Presenting "Palestine's" coast as 235 km. presents a world in which all of Israel is "Palestine."

Another quiz answer described the Israeli city of Nazareth as a "Palestinian city." A third answer taught that the size of "Palestine" was 27,000 sq. km. - an area that includes all of the State of Israel, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The West Bank and Gaza Strip comprise less than 7,000 sq. km.

PA TV is under the direct control of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's office.

It should also be noted that PA TV displayed the EU logo as background throughout the quiz.

Click to view PA TV quiz show questions and answers

See recent PMW reports on:
PA TV quiz denying Israel's existence
PA TV documentary denying Israel's existence
The success of PA education of youth to envision a world without Israel

PA TV introduced The Stars TV program in November 2009. The first season was funded by the European Union and the quiz questions all related to Europe, covering such topics as history, geography, personalities, government, culture, arts, and sports. Each program featured competing representatives from two Palestinian Authority universities or colleges. The first competition ended in January 2010, and the last program showed a prize ceremony with the participation of Minister of Welfare Majda Al-Masri; Minister of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Karake; and director of the MAAN news agency, Nasser A-Lahham.

In May 2010, PA TV announced a new season of the program, which is being sponsored by the cell phone company Jawwal. Although the prominent use of the EU logo suggests that this season is also sponsored by the EU, Palestinian Media Watch has been unable to verify whether this is the case.

Following are the transcripts of the three questions denying Israel's existence on the PA TV quiz show The Stars:
TV host: "[True or false:] The Palestinian coast is 335 km long.
Palestine Polytechnic team - your answer was correct.
The answer is 'false.' It's 235 km.
[Note: 235 km is distance from southern Gaza to Israel's northernmost point.]
[True or false:] "The Palestinian city known as 'the Chamomile of Palestine' is Haifa.
The answer is 'false.' [Correct answer is] Nazareth.
[Note: Nazareth is an Israeli city.]
Here is a simple question. The area of Palestine is:
1. 27,000
2. 51,000 sq. km.
3. 81,000 sq. km."
Student: "The answer is 27,000 sq. km."
TV host: "Of course, we should all know the area of Palestine. 27,000 sq. km. That is the correct answer."
[Note: 27,000 sq. km. includes the area of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.]
[PA TV (Fatah), June 25, 2010]
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Gaza Terrorists Burn Down Second UN Camp, Handcuff Guards

Maayana Miskin
A7 News

Masked terrorists stormed into a United Nations children's camp in Gaza early on Monday morning, attacked and handcuffed the camp guards, and set the place on fire. UN workers said the facility sustained heavy damage.

The attack was the second of its kind this summer. In late May terrorists set fire to the United Nation's' largest Gaza summer camp and left behind bullets and a note threatening to kill John Ging, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) head in Gaza.
Ging responded to Monday's attack by calling to “change the circumstances on the ground that are generating such extremism.” He complimented Hamas' emergency responders for responding quickly to the incident.

Ging made similar remarks following the May attack. At that time, Fatah blamed Hamas for the incident, accusing the Islamic terrorist group of “targeting the education process and the UNRWA curriculum.”

Hamas has opened its own summer camps as an alternative to UNRWA. The Hamas camps focus on teaching the Koran and terrorist philosophy, including hatred of Israel. Many include paramilitary training. Approximately 100,000 Gaza children attend Hamas camps, while 250,000 attend the UN camps.

The UN camps have faced criticism from Islamist organizations other than Hamas, including Salafi groups that consider Hamas too moderate. Salafi terrorists have been behind previous attacks in Gaza, including dozens of bombings targeting music stores, restaurants, Internet cafes and pharmacies.

Our Secret Solution

David Wilder

Whatever the price, whatever the sacrifice, we will not back down. We will not give up one centimeter of Arab land
We are approaching ‘the three weeks’ as they are known, three weeks beginning on the Hebrew date, the 17th of Tammuz, thru the 9th of Av (the 29th of June – 20 July). These three weeks are a time of intense mourning, marking the destruction of the first and second Temples, the Beit HaMikdash, so many thousands of years ago. This period of time also represents the beginning of the end, as we approach the final days and weeks of the year, by the Hebrew calendar. This is also a time of introspection, usually accompanied by the word ‘Tshuva,’ which, loosely translated, is repentance. This, as we take up an accounting of the past year, both individually and collectively. How could we have acted better, both with our fellowman, and in our relationship with our Creator? Despite that fact that ‘officially’ this self-searching does not begin for over a month, actually it begins now. For our sages have taught us the reasons for the destruction of the two Temples: The first, due to idol worship, murder and adultery. And the second, caused by unadulterated, totally unnecessary, hate. In order to rectify these errors of the past, we must delve deep into ourselves, examining our own actions, trying to identify similarities to that behavior which brought about such destruction, spiritual and physical, and, if and when found, corrected.

As mentioned, this must be undertaken both individually and collectively.

How so, collectively?

To this, there are, I am sure, many answers from many diverse vantage points. I’d like to discuss one, which I believe is of the utmost importance.

Very frequently, when speaking with groups and with journalists here in Hebron, I find myself addressing the same issue: “What is the solution?” ‘The solution,’ of course, dealing with the continued war between Arab and Jew, be it in Hebron or throughout Israel. I’d like to present my answer, as repeated numerous, numerous times.

My response comprises several parts:

Of course, our enemies, our neighbors, must accept our legitimacy, our legitimacy as a people, and our legitimacy to live in our land, freely, as Jews. As of yet, this legitimacy is still denied us; they refuse to accept that Jews have any right to live in Israel; not only in Judea and Samaria, but in all of Israel, be it Tel Aviv, Haifa, or Beer Sheva.

This is nothing new. The Arab-Islamic rejection of Israel has existed from time immemorial. However, in order to reach any kind of ‘peace,’ this denial of Judaism and Israel must be changed, with the denial itself being rejected.

However, this is the least important element of the answer. Of course, one can rightly ask, how can this first objective be achieved?

Now we begin to touch on the essential issues, the first of which is that we, as a people, must accept our own legitimacy, our right to live as a people in our land. As surprising as it may sound, this self-legitimacy is not a given. In many circles this self-acceptance is rejected. I once debated a professor who declared that ‘if the cost of establishing the State of Israel was expulsion of any Arab people from their homes, then the State should not have been declared.’

This is, of course, very extreme. But it’s not too far from those people who question the Jewish right to Jerusalem, not to mention Hebron. There are many who really don’t know – perhaps it really ‘isn’t ours.’ Or perhaps ‘their right is no less than ours.’

This is reflected, here in Hebron, on an almost daily basis, when groups coming to visit, both Israeli and others, divide their days in half. Part of the day they spend with ‘Breaking the Silence,’ whose directors are infamous for having been responsible for involving Israel in Goldstone, having accused Israeli soldiers of war crimes during the last war in Gaza. Even Netanyahu brutally attacked them for their slander of Israeli soldiers. These people are not foreigners – they are Jews, Israelis, who have been accused by many of being traitors to their land and people, aiding and abetting the enemy. Only last week they ‘hosted’ in Hebron several Arab MKs, including Muhammad Baraka, one the most virulent Jew-Israel hating Arabs in the Knesset. Funded by the EU, Britain and other, this group has become a de facto ‘equal’ to the Jewish Community of Hebron. All groups, including Israeli pre-military academies wanting to hear ‘both sides of the story’ spend hours with them, as well as meeting with us. I’ve had to fight with numerous Jewish organizations who insist on ‘touring’ with Yehuda Shaul and Michael Menken, the two leaders of this group, this despite the lies and hatred spewed forth from their mouths. For example, how can one explain the photograph shown below, of Menken, smiling, shaking hands with Baraka, head of the Hadash, an Arab, anti Israel political party. Baraka was indicted four times, including for attacking police, but has not stood trial due to his Knesset immunity.

How is it that Jewish and Israeli organizations are willing to allow their youth to hear virtual enemies of Israel? What would happen to any American youth organization which insisted that, in the name of fairness and equality, their participants be allowed a few hours with people representing bin-Laden, in order to allow them to ‘hear both sides!?”

It is this very doubt, this craving for what seems to be, albeit only superficially, fairness, that is eating away at the very core of our being. Would parents allow their children to try ‘just a little poison’ in order to experience it?

This national doubt, which is expressed in such experiences, is a result of our inability to realize who we are, and where we are, summed up, perhaps, in realizing the source of our roots.

As a result, our enemies refuse to take us seriously, because we refuse to take ourselves seriously. For example, Anwar Sadat, speaking in 1972 said,” war is now inevitable. Whatever the price, whatever the sacrifice, we will not back down. We will not give up one centimeter of Arab land” Included in one centimeter of holy land was, of course, the sand of the Sinai desert. But, for Sadat, this was holy and not to be abandoned.

Closer to the present, I recall having read statements by Arab leaders to the tune that ‘if Israel is willing to give up any of its land, than they really don’t believe it belongs to them. For if they did believe it belonged to them, they wouldn’t think of abandoning any of it.’

In other words, the Arabs don’t think we’re serious. For good reason. We’re not serious. But not only because we are willing to divide our land and abandon major segments of it to our sworn enemies. There is an even better reason. If Jews really believe that this land, Eretz Yisrael belongs to them, then why don’t they live there? Why do they remain in other countries and not move to their land?

This too is a good question which expresses the lack of Jewish seriousness concerning Israel. It stands to reason that if we really did believe that this is our land, we would all be here. Hence, a simple conclusion – we don’t believe it’s our land; but some other ‘people’ does believe it’s theirs. And guess who wins….

In other words, if we don’t take ourselves seriously, why should anyone else take us seriously? We don’t know if it’s ours, and they do.

The solution – start to grow up and take life seriously. Today there are five and a half million Jews in Israel. The Arabs laugh. When there are 10 million, 12 million, they won’t laugh as much; neither will the rest of the world. It was easy to expel 9,000 Jews from Gush Katif. Had there been a population of 20,000, it would have been a different story. Ditto Judea and Samaria. Today’s numbers are not enough. The numbers today stand at over 300,000 with the highest percent of annual population growth in Israel. No surprise that Jews are expelled from buildings in Hebron, or building freezes stunt our growth. Because when 300,000 blossoms to 500,000 and growing, well, what are they going to do with us? The government still hasn’t figured out what to do with the thousands they uprooted from Gush Katif. What will they do with a half a million or more in Yehuda and Shomron?!

That’s the solution, and it’s up to us. When we do our thing, take on the responsibility, assuring that our neighbors understand that we really are serious, things will change. They won’t laugh any more. And they’ll understand that we’re not going anywhere fast. We’re here to stay.

Many years ago a journalist interviewed an Arab family adjacent to a Hebron Jewish neighborhood. The Arab said that he knew the Jews were here to stay. How did he know? He said that he saw the children, he saw their eyes, and he knew, we will never leave.

This is our secret weapon, our secret solution – this is our future - this is our answer to the three weeks commemorating the great destruction. This is the Tikkun, the rectification, repentance, tshuva, the return. This is Am Yisrael.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shin Bet Agent Breaks Cover in US for 'Son of Hamas'

Hana Levi Julian
A7 News

A Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agent has broken his cover in an attempt to help his former fellow agent avoid deportation from the United States.

Gonen Ben-Yitzchak, who left the service four years ago, worked for 10 years as one of the handlers of Mosab Hassan Yousef, author of the book “Son of Hamas.” Yousef is the eldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder of Hamas, and for a decade was also an informant for the Jewish State. The team was responsible for preventing countless terrorist attacks, among them assassination attempts on the life of President Shimon Peres and Shas party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Yousef subsequently emigrated to the United States, and converted to Christianity. But he now faces what might be a life-threatening situation, having revealed his identity to the American authorities in an application for asylum. The former agent said he did not realize that publishing the details of his life in his autobiography might jeopardize his chances of remaining there, rather than prove his intent to sabotage Hamas.

Ben-Yitzchak has avoided cameras up to this point and was known in the organization as “Captain Loai” or “G.” However, early last week he traveled to the United States to testify on his former protege's behalf at an immigration hearing. The intelligence operative will appear before a judge in San Diego on June 30.

Ben-Yitzchak allowed himself to be photographed on Wednesday at a Washington dinner honoring Yousef and others. The honorees received the Endowment for Middle East Truth's Rays of Light in the Darkness Award.

“He risked his life every day in order to prevent” terrorism,” Ben-Yitzchak said of Yousef. “The truth is Mosab always prevented killings. Mosab is not a terrorist!”

In his book, Yousef noted that many Shin Bet operations were canceled “because of [Ben-Yitzchak's] command” in order to avoid endangering his life. Numerous advocates for the former agent have said that his life would be endangered if he is deported to Judea and Samaria.

The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, has declined to comment on the case. Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO), another honoree at the dinner, said he had sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano also requesting that Yousef not be deported.