Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Wednesday Ritual

Ari Bussel

Yitzchak (Isaac) and Talia Emes, 47 and 45 year old, recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with their six children, the oldest 24, the youngest 5. The family was looking forward to a golden anniversary in 25 years.

They studied together in the former Soviet Union, emigrated to Israel and built a home. Many of their friends are Russian-speaking. Despite economic difficulties, they did not complain but focused instead on building and giving. Every Wednesday, Yitzchak came to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, his area of expertise, a love and focus of his activities. He was part of a group of friends for whom saving the Temple Mount and restoring Jewish worship there was a way of life. This week he changed his weekly practice and traveled to Jerusalem on Tuesday instead.

On Wednesday afternoon he returned to Mount Olives overlooking the Temple Mount, the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount and the sealed Gate of Mercy in its center. The Gate was sealed half a millennium ago by an Ottoman ruler who wanted to prevent the coming of the Messiah, for it is believed the Messiah will arrive via this gate.

Yitzchak and his wife Talia were blessed with many friends and a close-knit community. More than a thousand people gathered around them to ensure they would not be alone as they traveled their last journey together.

Still together in death as they were in life, Yitzchak and Talia, may the Almighty avenge their blood, were brought to their final resting place on Mount Olives in Jerusalem. In Israel one is buried covered in shrouds, unlike the USA where one is buried in a coffin. Their 19-year-old daughter spoke, her voice breaking down into a cry several times, promising that her brothers and sisters would not be without a mother and a father.

I am certain, her parents were watching from the Third Temple in the heavens and were proud. Not because of the reporters and cameras, looking for a sound bite and a photo-op, but the true essence of life emanating from far below.

Talia and Yitzchak drove with two other people: 24 year old Avishai Shindler, married just a year ago, and 37-year-old Kochava Even Haim (Stone of Life) who had just concluded a meeting with the parents of her kindergarten class as it was the night before the start of the school year.

The four, Yitzchak and Talia, Avishai and Kochava were driving home when a car accelerated and passed them, shooting at chest and head level. More than 38 bullets were fired at them. The four were pronounced dead at the scene.

Kochava’s husband is a volunteer at ZAKA, the search and rescue organization that rapidly responds to any terror attack, accident or disaster and is known for collecting body parts in these events to bring them to proper burial. He responded to the call and found his wife among those executed.

Hamas terror organization, the democratically elected, true leader of the Palestinian people in their struggle to rid the Middle East of Jewish presence, immediately took credit and celebrated the terror attack. They stated this murder would be followed by a stream of similar attacks throughout Judea and Samaria and would clearly demonstrate their influence and control have extended beyond Gaza, despite “efforts” by the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli defense and intelligence establishment was caught off guard. There was no information that may have indicated a terror attack was being planned or about the one that would follow less than 24 hours later in much the same manner.

Four people were just executed. The usual condemnations followed, from France, the USA and even the Palestinian Authority (PA). You see, these executions are disturbing not because of the actual senseless act of taking lives, but because it is a simple matter of inconvenience for the PA.

It is also somewhat damaging to the PA’s pretense as a “moderate” element. It shows Hamas as the true Messenger and representative of the Palestinian people. Much like Hizbollah is the savior and protector of the Lebanese people, and only it can properly execute whatever is necessary to help the people of Lebanon against the Jewish aggressor, so here, Hamas wields the power, the clarity of vision and the determination to win at all costs.

Such condemnation stops short of being anything but lip service. It is void of any true meaning since it is uttered to only Western ears and aims to refocus the attention toward the true goal: increasing the international pressure on Israel to make further concessions, specifically the right of return for millions of Palestinians and the recognition of Jerusalem as Muslim Palestine’s eternal capital.

While Israel is losing ground and seems to be shrinking in size with each new concession, the Palestinians are gaining legitimacy at an ever-increasing pace. Soon they will declare, to the cheers of the world, the formation of Palestine among the member-nations.

Do Israelis care? Were droves of Israelis at the four funerals yesterday? Are Israelis listening to the Hamas message whose delivery system involved four dead young people? What is the focus of discourse in Israel 36 hours after this horrific event?

As the second day of the new school year starts and parents walk their children to school this morning, the only indication is the headlines in the major print papers. These will be read and then the paper put aside for recycling. So will the news for it is neither new nor unusual. At the funerals, other than reporters and politicians, heads were covered by knitted yarmulkes, while mainstream Israelis were noticeably absent. This absence spoke volumes.

Why the lack of interest? Is the blood of the slain not calling to us all from Mother Earth where it was spilled or from the heavens to where the four executed victims ascended? Is no one listening, seeing or realizing what is happening?

The world is immersed in a “new” peace process that has been going on for almost twenty years. Over this period, it has become clear that the Palestinian leaders do not want peace. Neither in word nor in action do they show any interest in peace or even the slightest effort to move in this direction. They are engaged in a war to destroy the Jewish State and will stop at nothing short of achieving this goal. In the meantime, they continue to gain progress.

The Palestinians reap the world’s sympathy as Israelis pay in blood. While the Palestinians murder, Jews argue among themselves. Surprisingly, most Israelis no longer care and even justify what has occurred, since these are “Occupied Territories.”

Such blood of “Settlers” is permissible, in fact—punishment is in order and justified. Even Israel’s more outspoken defenders, like Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, do not consider this a terror attack in their compilation of statistics of acts against the Jewish State since it occurred in “Occupied Territories.”

I stood amidst a thousand mourners, glancing every once in a while toward the sealed Gate of Mercy on the mountain. This House of God that has turned into a center of Terror and Hatred, the Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount. A celebration of life turned into a culture of death, with the world a willing participant.

The Turkish Sultan 500 years ago did not have to worry or take steps to prevent or delay the arrival of the Messiah. The Messiah will certainly not arrive any time soon while Jews and Israelis themselves become willing participants in the battle against the Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

You ask what you can do? Pray for the lives and safety of the 320,000 Jewish men, women and children in Judea and Samaria, the heartland of Israel. A place where God and Country intermingle, where values like family, mutual responsibility, giving, taking care of others’ needs as a community, respecting elders, education and seeking to live life as a good and decent human beings meld together.

May the four slain innocent souls so abruptly departed from among us now guide our steps as we battle to save the Jewish State along with the Western World and the rest of humanity as well.

The series “Postcards from America—Postcards from Israel” by Ari Bussel and Norma Zager is a compilation of articles capturing the essence of life in America and Israel during the first two decades of the 21st Century.

The writers invite readers to view and experience an Israel and her politics through their eyes, Israel visitors rarely discover.

This point—and often—counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.

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


Friday, September 03, 2010

A mess in progress

David Suissa

Is Israel going in the right or the wrong direction? If the glass of Zionism is half full, is it in the process of being filled or depleted? And how do we even define the "right" direction? These are the kind of questions that have been going through my mind as I've been reflecting on my 30-day journey to the Holy Land. In one respect, my trip was a failure. Before leaving, I swore to myself that I would be totally objective, that I would look at Israel's negative side with a cold eye, that I wouldn't let my Zionist emotions get in the way. I wanted to view Israel through the skeptical lens of a journalist, rather than the warm lens of familial love.

I failed royally. How could I not? How could I be unbiased about a country that touches me so deeply? A country Abraham Joshua Heschel calls "An Echo of Eternity"?

Every time I saw something that drove me nuts, my Zionist bias made me look for positive signs, for a redeeming feature, for a ray of hope.

If I saw a Charedi establishment that made it extremely difficult for non-Jews to convert to Judaism, I would find a courageous Charedi rabbi in the Knesset who is fighting for a more flexible interpretation of Jewish law.

If I saw signs of discrimination toward minorities, I would meet with people like Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, who would remind me about the numerous human rights organizations in Israel that use the Israeli legal system to defend the rights of Israeli Arabs and other minorities. Or I would see a demonstration to protest the deportation of illegal immigrants. Or I would see police officers lining the streets of Jerusalem to protect the rights of gays to parade in front of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

If I saw signs of tension between the many ethnic groups in the country, I would meet someone who would inform me that there are over 100 different nationalities in the Israel Defense Forces.

If I despaired about the ability of Jewish settlers to ever get along with Palestinians, I would meet settlers in the West Bank who are collaborating with their Palestinian neighbors over things like water conservation and getting more fire trucks.

If a Jewish university professor would drive me nuts by spewing anti-Zionist venom and supporting the international boycott of his own country, I would remind myself that it is to the credit of Israel that he has the freedom to spew that very venom.

It's true that viewed from the outside, Israel's image is heading south. Books like "Start-Up Nation" are nice, and so are signs of a recent thaw in the relationship between Israel and the Obama administration with the opening this week of direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

But those are minor causes for optimism in the face of the global movement to delegitimize the Jewish state, documented in excruciating detail by the Reut Institute. No matter how positively I viewed my Israeli experience, it was impossible to forget that the view from the outside is quite different. We could moan all day long that Israel is subjected to a nasty and unfair double standard, but that is still the reality.

This assault on Israel's legitimacy has created an almost hysterical polarization among the Jews of the Diaspora, and I understand both sides. One side feels the need to defend and push back against the assault; the other feels the need to reaffirm the Jewish ideals of self-criticism and self-correction. And both sides seem to be digging in their heels. As a result, two things are being lost - complexity on one side, and expressions of love on the other.

This is why I loved being in Israel. I saw both love and complexity. A perfect example was Micah Goodman, the head of the Israeli Academy of Leadership, Ein Prat, who is relentless in his critique of Israeli policies and the need to "renew Zionism," but who also overflows with love for Zionism and had this to say to keep things in perspective:

"The mark of a good idea is whether it works in extreme circumstances," he told me one morning in Jerusalem. "Liberals of the world should love Israel, because it proves that democracy works. Israel is a country under siege, in a state of permanent war, and, still, it manages to grant freedom of speech, freedom of religion and more human rights than most democracies."

So yes, Israel is a mess, a noisy, resilient, frustrating, vibrant, complicated mess. But it's also a mess in progress, not least because the most vicious critics of the state are free to be the most vicious critics of the state.

Will the rest of the world ever catch up to the balance and complexity of Micah Goodman's thinking, and to his deep and poignant love for Zionism? I doubt it.

But it'd be nice if the Jewish world could - and that includes emotional Zionists like yours truly.

David Suissa is the founder of OLAM magazine, and a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. He can be reached at

Thursday, September 02, 2010

At Mideast peace talk, a lopsided table

Hussein Agha and Robert Malley
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Israelis and Palestinians will be sitting at the same table on Thursday, but much more separates them than the gulf between their substantive positions. Staggering asymmetries between the two sides could seriously imperil the talks. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is the head of a stable state with the ability to deliver on his commitments. Celebrations of supposed institution-building notwithstanding, Palestinians have no robust central authority. Their territory is divided between the West Bank and Gaza. On their own, Palestinians would find it difficult to implement an agreement, however much they might wish to. Israel controls all material assets; Palestinians at best can offer intangible declarations and promises.

Netanyahu operates within a domestic consensus. On issue after issue -- acceptance of a two-state solution; insistence on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; rejection of a full settlement freeze including Jerusalem; refusal of preconditions for negotiations -- his stances resonate with the Israeli people. Neither the right, from which he comes, nor the left, whose peace aspirations he is pursuing, denies him the mandate to negotiate. Netanyahu is heading on his own terms to negotiations he has demanded for 20 months; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is being dragged there without any of his preconditions having been met.

The Palestinian leadership has never been more vulnerable. Participation in direct talks was opposed by virtually every Palestinian political organization aside from Fatah, whose support was lethargic. Abbas's decision to come to Washington is viewed skeptically even by those who back him. Netanyahu's is supported even by those who oppose him.

Palestinian views are well known. There is little to no distinction between their public, opening and final positions. Yet no one truly knows the Israeli stance. Netanyahu can start with maximalist positions and then climb down, exuding flexibility next to what inevitably will be couched as Palestinian obstinacy. Palestinians are likely to be frustrated, and the atmosphere poisoned.

Palestinian negotiators have logged countless hours on final-status questions since the 1990s. The reverse is true on the Israeli side. From Netanyahu down, only one leading figure has seriously tackled permanent-status issues, and it is unclear what role Defense Minister Ehud Barak may play. This disparity should favor the Palestinians; the experienced trumps the novice. But they will also be prisoners of their well-worn outlook, whereas the Israelis will be free to introduce new ideas. Yet again, Palestinians will confront the maddening task of beginning from scratch a process they have undergone on multiple occasions.

Neither Israel's mounting isolation nor its considerable reliance on U.S. assistance has jeopardized its ability to make autonomous choices, whereas the Palestinian leadership's decision-making capacity has shriveled. Most recent Palestinian decisions have been made in conformity with international demands, against the leadership's instinctive desires and in clear opposition to popular aspirations. Despite such deference, Palestinian leaders cannot count on international support. They feel betrayed by Arab allies and let down by Washington. In contrast, Israel has defied the Obama administration without endangering close ties to Washington. Palestinians will have to take into account the views of Arab and Muslim states; Israel can negotiate by and for itself, without reference to an outside party.

What happens should negotiations fail? The status quo, though sub-optimal, presents no imminent danger to Israel. What Israelis want from an agreement is something they have learned either to live without (Palestinian recognition) or to provide for themselves (security). The demographic threat many invoke as a reason to act -- the possibility that Arabs soon might outnumber Jews, forcing Israel to choose between remaining Jewish or democratic -- is exaggerated. Israel already has separated itself from Gaza. In the future, it could unilaterally relinquish areas of the West Bank, further diminishing prospects of an eventual Arab majority. Because Israelis have a suitable alternative, they lack a sense of urgency. The Palestinians, by contrast, have limited options and desperately need an agreement.

In any event, Abbas will return to a fractured, fractious society. If he reaches a deal, many will ask in whose name he was bartering away Palestinian rights. If negotiations fail, most will accuse him of once more having been duped. If Netanyahu comes back with an accord, he will be hailed as a historic leader. His constituency will largely fall in line; the left will have no choice but to salute. If the talks collapse, his followers will thank him for standing firm, while his critics are likely in due course to blame the Palestinians. Abbas will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Netanyahu will thrive if he does and survive if he doesn't. One loses even if he wins; the other wins even if he loses. There is no greater asymmetry than that.

Hussein Agha, a senior associate member of St. Antony's College at Oxford University, has been involved in Israeli-Palestinian affairs for four decades. Robert Malley is Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group and was special assistant to the president for Arab-Israeli affairs from 1998 to 2001.


Professor Louis René Beres
Faced with the daunting prospect of seemingly endless terrorism, and with staggering global opposition to any of its essential and altogether permissible forms of self-defense, Israel now requires a complex and capable counter-terrorism strategy merely to survive. Simultaneously, the major threats to Israel's physical survival lie in certain mass-destruction (biological and/or nuclear) attacks by enemy states. Ultimately, therefore, the Jewish State's actual continuance rests upon even more than successful counter-terrorism. It rests also upon the inherently fragile and unpredictable foundations of nuclear deterrence. Israel is tiny. For this beleaguered ministate, U.S. President Barack Obama's preferred "world free of nuclear weapons" would represent a harsh habitat of utterly radical insecurity. Here, amid a literally dreadful anarchy, Israel's enemies could now gratefully inflict mortal harms upon the "Zionist Cancer" without plausible fear of unacceptable reprisals. If, moreover, this particular preferred world were also to embrace Mr. Obama's "Road Map" to an independent Palestinian state, the resultant synergies and (using a productive military concept) force multipliers could further magnify the existential threats to Israel.

Significantly, this does not mean that a still-nuclear Israel would necessary be safe and secure. Nuclear deterrence, after all, depends in part upon enemy rationality. Where this requirement is not met, the nuclear retaliatory threat is immobilized.

Neither Israel nor the United States has been willing to act preemptively against Iran. Why? The answer is that they have chosen instead to rely upon hope.

It is a mistake as old as history. The ancient Greek historian, Thucydides, considering the uncertain fate of Melos during the Peloponnesian War, observed: "Hope is by nature an expensive commodity, and those who are risking their all on one cast, find out what it means only when they are already ruined."

Soon, Iran will almost certainly become a full nuclear weapons state. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama will then attempt, vainly, to achieve some form of stable deterrence with Tehran. Hoping that a new balance of terror can somehow be premised upon the earlier US-USSR model, Washington and Jerusalem will inevitably discover more-or-less catastrophic failure.

A core of Jerusalem's nuclear strategy has always been to keep its "bomb" in the basement. After Iranian nuclearization, however, there would be unacceptable risks of continuing with its policy of nuclear ambiguity.

Until now, ambiguity has "worked." Although it has done little to deter "ordinary" conventional enemy aggressions or certain acts of terror, ambiguity has succeeded in keeping Israel's enemies from mounting existential aggressions. These particular aggressions could have been mounted without nuclear weapons. There does come a point in any war when mass counts. Israel's enemies have always had an obvious advantage in mass. None of Israel's foes has "the bomb," but together, collaboratively, and possibly even including non-state proxies, they could still have acquired the capacity to carry out intolerably massive assaults.

Israel's policy of deliberate ambiguity will not work indefinitely. To be deterred, a fully nuclear Iran would need assurance that Israel's own nuclear weapons were both invulnerable (safe from Iranian first-strikes), and penetration-capable (able to punch through Iran's own active and passive defenses). Such assurance would be made more likely by particular Israeli steps toward nuclear disclosure.

Ironically, perhaps, Iranian perceptions of mega-destructive Israeli nuclear weapons could undermine Israel's nuclear deterrence. In some circumstances, Israel's deterrent credibility could even vary inversely with the perceived destructiveness of its nuclear arms. The more destructive Israel's nuclear weapons appear to prospective aggressors, the less likely they will actually be fired. An Iranian nuclear threat to Israel could also be indirect, stemming from any willingness in Tehran to share some of its nuclear components and materials with Hezbollah, or another kindred terrorist group. To prevent this threat, Jerusalem would need to convince Iran that Israel possesses a range of distinctly usable nuclear options. Here, too, continued nuclear ambiguity might not remain sufficiently persuasive to sustain Israel's nuclear deterrent.

Jerusalem will eventually need to move from nuclear ambiguity to nuclear disclosure. What will then need to be calculated by IDF planners and strategists is the precise extent to which Israel should communicate its relevant nuclear positions, intentions and capabilities.

Once faced with a nuclear fait accompli in Tehran, Israel would need to convince Iran's leaders that it possesses both the will and the capacity to make any intended Iranian nuclear aggression more costly than gainful. But, again, no Israeli move from ambiguity to disclosure would help in the case of an irrational nuclear enemy.

Were a religiously-driven Iranian leadership to expect a Shiite apocalypse, Iran could readily cast aside all rational behavior. Iran would thus become a nuclear suicide-bomber in macrocosm. Such a terrifying prospect is improbable, but it is not inconceivable.

To protect itself against enemy strikes, particularly those attacks that could carry existential costs, Israel will need to exploit every aspect of its still opaque nuclear arsenal. The success of Israel's efforts will depend not only upon its selected pattern of "counterforce" and "counter value" (counter-city) operations, but also upon the extent to which this choice is made known in advance to both enemy states, and their non-state surrogates. Before these enemies can be deterred from launching first strikes against Israel, and before they can be deterred from launching retaliatory attacks following a still-possible Israeli (non-nuclear) preemption, it will not be enough to know that Israel has the bomb. These enemies would also need to recognize that Israeli nuclear weapons are sufficiently invulnerable to any such attacks, and that some are pointed directly at high-value population targets.

Removing the bomb from Israel's "basement" could enhance Israel's strategic deterrence by heightening enemy perceptions of secure and capable Israeli nuclear forces. Such a calculated end to deliberate ambiguity could also underscore Israel's willingness to use these nuclear forces in reprisal for certain enemy first-strike and retaliatory attacks.

For now, Israel's bomb should remain ambiguous, if only to ward off insistent denuclearization pressures on Jerusalem from Washington. Still, no later than the moment that Iran is revealed to be finalizing its nuclear weapons capability, Israel must put an immediate end to its nuclear ambiguity. Simultaneously, of course, Israel must capably fight its protracted struggle against terrorism, with special reference to the prevention of a Palestinian state.

The worst-case outcome for Israel would be the simultaneous appearance of "Palestine" with a nuclear Iran. Such a portentous outcome must be avoided at all costs.

Professor Louis René Beres, Professor of Political Science at Purdue, was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). Born in Zurich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II, he is the author of many major books, monographs and articles dealing with international law, strategic theory, Israeli nuclear policy, and regional nuclear war. In Israel, where he served as Chair of Project Daniel, his work is known to selected military and intelligence communities.

Disclaimer: This article is the author's personal opinion and is not necessarily the opinion or policy of Myths and Facts.

First published in The Jewish Press on August 26, 2010.

"Deja Vu"

Arlene Kushner

As we contend with the details of the terrorist attack of last night, we ask ourselves, "Doesn't this sound familiar?" And the answer is that it does, because we've been here before, far too many times. Always, the human pain that we confront cuts like a knife. One of the worst details to emerge this time is the story of Momi Even-Haim, who is with Zaka, the volunteer medic/rescue unit that is routinely charged with gathering the bodies in situations like this. He was on the scene yesterday, when his fellow volunteers -- bewildered -- heard him crying. "That's my wife!" he moaned. Kochava Even-Haim, 37, was one of the victims of the attack, and so in this horrendous fashion her husband learned that she was dead. I believe Kochava was pregnant -- close to term, as it happens. Her ten year old daughter, Hodaya, survives her.


Kochava and Avishai Schindler, 24, were passengers in the car that was attacked. He leaves behind a young widow: they had been married only a very short time.

The car belonged to Yitzhak Aimes, 47, and his wife, Talia Aimes, 45. They had six children, the youngest of whom is only 1-1/2. At the funeral today, their daughter, Rut, told them:

“For 19 years you raised me... G-d, thank you for giving me wonderful parents..

“...I promise to look over our family, to keep doing the things that were important to you, and to keep the family together. I'll be there for the little ones, who will grow up with no mother or father.”

Everyone in the car was from Beit Hagai. Hamas has taken responsibility for the attack, which took place on route 60, south-east of Hevron, near Kiryat Arba.


From here in Israel, there have been vociferous calls for Prime Minister Netanyahu to walk away from the talks and come home. I seriously doubt that anyone really expected him to do this: It would not be Binyamin Netanyahu's style, to say the least. His position is that this attack is an attempt to derail the talks, and that this cannot be permitted to happen. Hillary Clinton observed that the talks are intended to help prevent such occurrences in the future.

This, you understand, is garbage, pure and simple.

If Hamas were a small fringe group, and Fatah were genuinely moderate, it might make a great deal of sense to refuse to cave to Hamas. But as it is, Hamas has huge power -- both in terms of influence in the street and ability to sabotage anything that is decided. Thus it must be asked how a genuine peace can be forged with a Fatah-led PA, when Hamas is opposed to a deal. It must further be asked what sort of ability (and desire) to control Hamas the PA possesses -- this question is at the heart of matters.

What is more, in the months and weeks leading up to the Washington meetings now to take place, we have been making "gestures" to the PA -- taking down roadblocks, loosening up on security control and giving PA security forces more authority, etc. All of this doesn't make things better, it puts innocent Israelis at greater risk.

Back in the time of Oslo, when there were terrorist attacks, Shimon Peres -- an originator and major promoter of Oslo -- referred to the innocent dead as "sacrifices for peace." By this he meant that as we were engaged in the process of pushing peace forward, such attacks, instigated by those opposed to the negotiations, were going to happen. I found that obscene. If innocents were dying in greater numbers as "peace" advanced, then it meant something was very very wrong indeed. What I pray is that by now we've learned that lesson.


Just days ago Defense Minister Ehud Barak had a very low key (clandestine?) meeting with Abbas in Amman, and there was talk then about "easing security conditions in the West Bank as a confidence building measure." What has happened now is that it will become more difficult to make such moves: the mood in this country will not allow it easily.

Netanyahu is talking about how it is obvious that security for Israel must be a priority and must be high on the agenda. Perhaps this will at least stiffen his back.


When I write about "deja vu," there is another element to this: the response of the PA. According to the PLO news agency WAFA, PA prime minister Salam Fayyad condemned the terrorist attack thusly:

"We condemn this incident, that is contrary to Palestinian interests, and the efforts of the Palestinian leadership to mobilize international support..." (emphasis added)

A typical PA statement, totally devoid of any moral condemnation. And, as Aaron Lerner pointed out when posting this condemnation on IMRA, if the day comes when terrorism is not contrary to "Palestinian interests," the PA will have no compunctions with regard to sanctioning it.


Abbas, it should be noted, condemned the attack without this qualification. But what choice had he, about to meet with Obama as he was?

Shortly before the attack, while he was on the Washington-bound plane, Abbas made another statement, as well. Speaking to the editor of the Ma'an news agency, he delivered a message to the "settlers":

"The settlers are sitting on lands that are not theirs. I tell them that this is not your land and you know that...the settlements are illegal and will be removed."


We'll see about that.

Plans were already in place in Judea and Samaria to begin building -- on projects for which approval had been secured prior to the freeze -- immediately upon the end of the freeze on September 26. And Netanyahu remains firmly on the record with regard to this, even in the last 24 hours in Washington: He told Clinton that building would resume.

Now, with the terrorist attack, there is a call in some quarters here for construction to begin on September 2 (that's tomorrow) -- the day of the meeting of Netanyahu with Obama and Abbas.

Each group does according to its inclinations, said one Yesha leader: they murder, we build. Such statements fill me with enormous pride. Israeli Jews are strong, and in the face of tragedy rally for good purpose.

Today Rebecca Kowalsky, in her Photography Newsletter, wrote the following:

"The beauty of our people and our land is vast. The beast of terror that resides among us kills in cold blood - the people who want to live in this land. With our shared deep pain and tears, we plant & build. Today, as the funeral procession passed, we lined the roads with our prayers, songs, & unity - never giving up on the dream for the people of Israel in the Land of Israel living by the Torah of Israel. May the mourners be comforted among the mourners of Zion."

Amen v'Amen

(Thank you, Jack G.)


Oh, the "talks" are going to go so smashingly well.

Abbas is claiming that they must begin where Olmert left off. We signed nothing however, and there is no legal basis for this demand. Netanyahu is quite unlikely to offer as much as Olmert did, when he included part of Jerusalem and more in the deal that was not accepted.

(My big worry here is what Ehud Barak -- who once DID offer part of Jerusalem and more when he was prime minister -- is saying.)


At the same time, Nabil Sha'th, a member of the Palestinian delegation to Washington, has said that there will be no recognition of territorial exchange and of settlement blocs, which are extremely dangerous due to their proximity to Jerusalem, and that the negotiations will stop if settlement construction is renewed.

While Fatah spokesman Ahmad Asaf said that Netanyahu's demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state will be rejected out of hand, because the demand is counter to international law and Resolution 194, which set out the Palestinian refugees' rights.

We should pay attention to this, because it was carried by MEMRI, which reports on what is being said in the Arab-language press, in this case, the PA's Al-Ayyam. It is in such Arabic sources that we are most likely to uncover true intentions.


Of course the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is not illegal: The Mandate for Palestinian gave us this land for a Jewish homeland in 1922, and even the UN General Assembly, when proposing (in a non-binding recommendation) the partition of Palestine, intended a Jewish state and an Arab state. As to Resolution 194, it did NOT set out the refugees' "rights," and I would like to return to this.

As to the "settlements" being "dangerous" because they are close to Jerusalem, I would note that this was one reason for building to the east and south of Jerusalem: to serve as a wall of defense.


Yossi Beilin, a far left Israeli politician who helped initiate the Oslo process, believes that the talks being sponsored by Obama will fail:

"If the negotiations fail, it will lead to more frustration and deeper skepticism that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved. The security arrangement between the two sides, which is guaranteeing the current state of calm, will be dealt a blow and there will be a danger of violent outbursts.

"If there were even the slightest chance of the talks succeeding, I would say it was worth making one more attempt. However, in this situation, there is almost no such chance...

"Netanyahu wasn’t voted in by the right wing to divide East Jerusalem or to resolve, even symbolically, the problem of Palestinian refugees...

"Abbas can’t implement a peace agreement with Israel because as long as Hamas retains control of Gaza, Gaza won’t be part of the solution..."

While I am most decidedly no fan of Beilin, and disagree strongly with some parts of his analysis in this article, he is on the mark with regard to what he anticipates now. His concerns should be noted because he speaks as someone who would so much want the talks to succeed.


However, Beilin's assessment of the dismal chances for success of the talks hasn't stopped him from giving it the old college try. The Geneva Initiative, co-founded by Beilin in 2003 to promote "peace," is behind a series of Israeli TV ads representing the PA leaders as true partners for peace, and suggesting that Israelis have to look at their own positions.

And guess who is sponsoring this? US AID. No surprise, really. A cheap gimmick and outrageous meddling.

See Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, on this:,7340,L-3947082,00.html

see my website

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Israel’s Bill of Rights

Ari Bussel

“Who is happy and blessed? He who is content with what he has!”

Israelis have so many rights that I almost envy this tiny democracy along the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean. She is only 63 year old and yet her people have amassed so many rights in such a short period of time. Israelis should celebrate, for riches beyond their wildest imagination. No, it is not the rich gas reserves recently discovered or the strength of the Israeli Exchange. It is not even the real estate market that continues to rise beyond expectations, or the ever-increasing number of tourists visiting Israel or Israelis vacationing abroad.

There is a very special treasure chest here in Israel and we are about to have a look inside. It is not necessary to obtain permission. There are no guards or supervisors and no cost to enter.

A new breed has developed here in Israel, a very special type of plant and a condition unlike any other. We are about to explore what it is.

Despite the claims of brutal Zionist occupation and the occupied territories not yet liberated, the siege and blockade that continue to surround Gaza and the ghettos that spring up all over, there exists a very special treasure—

rights and more rights.

Here in Israel I discovered freedoms the likes of which can be found nowhere else, not even in the United States of America.

Israeli Bedouin have the right to build illegally and, if police tear down the illegal construction, they re-erect, four times already.

Why bother with the rule of law? Simply claim the land is yours and build. Later ignore the court orders. Amos Oz, a leading Israeli literary figure, demonstrates against the rule of law.

Israeli artists have the right to protest against appearing in a new auditorium in the city of Ariel, alleging it is in “Occupied Territories.”

Gila Almagor, a leading figure in the stage and art world, defends the rights of artists to express their opinion.

Young Israeli artists recently held a group exhibition in a gallery in Tel Aviv depicting Minister Liberman, who won the third-most votes in the recent elections, in an extremely negative and unflattering manner.

In Israel, it is the young artists’ right to create art that depicts the minister as a pig and worse.

Israeli filmmakers supported by the State have the right to protest Israel, not only in the content of their work, but in statements and deeds when they are nominated for an Oscar. Suddenly, they no longer represent Israel (although they technically do, otherwise their participation becomes null and void).

The Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles held a special reception for them, expecting a win, promising all will be forgotten with time, all except the sought-after gold statue.

Israeli members of academia have the right to say whatever they want and to force their own political ideologies on their students.

Thus, a professor can call to BOYCOTT ISRAEL, her government, companies and institutions, and members of the academia at large go out in droves to protect “Academic Freedom.”

The same professor determined that Israel is Apartheid and the world follows suit, eager to punish and abolish, sanction and divest. The professor is Israel’s enemies’ new ally in the war against the Jewish State.

Israeli legal elite have the right to determine their successors, thus ensuring the anti-Israel, liberal stand remains in very capable hands.

They also have the freedom to overtake the executive and legislative functions of the government—and no one utters a word.

Israeli youth can decide if they want to serve in the military or not, since there are more pressing issues to pursue. They opt to go abroad or to school, or do something more constructive with their lives in lieu of working-essentially-for-free and be told what to do for two or three years. Quite an inconvenience that must be skipped, this military service is for them.

Those who have served and are now in reserve duty, and even those in active service, have the right to decide when and where they serve. Judea and Samaria and Gaza are absolutely excluded on conscientious grounds. Flying over certain territories is also prohibited and following orders, well, that depends.

Higher ups in the Military have the right, and some believe the obligation, to get involved in choosing the next Chief of Staff. What better way than involving the country as a whole? For that, public relations experts will be needed. How about some public input, like a good reality show on TV!

Members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee must inform their electorate of all discussions behind closed doors (it is the right to appear first in the news), so they rush to divulge and disclose things that are often classified and should remain secret.

Israeli Arabs have all the rights of citizens, but no obligations. They do not pay taxes yet receive all services. They are entitled to running water and sewage, build at will and generally ignore laws that are not designed for them to follow or respect. They constantly demand more and more.

Israeli Arabs do not serve in the military or even in national service, yet they demand equal rights and enjoy representation in the Knesset, at the Supreme Court and elsewhere throughout Israeli society. They want to be recognized as a minority with national aspirations to bring down the Jewish State, nothing less. It is, before all, their right!

Israeli Haredim (ultra-religious) have the right to sit and study all day, on the taxpayer’s account, but do not serve either in the military or in national service. The law supports them and secular Israelis must be sensitive and understanding to their needs. Miraculously, no reciprocation exists.

They also have the right to demonstrate, sometimes violently, against operating a parking lot, factory or manufacturing facility on the Sabbath.

But most of all, it is the Israeli Arabs who enjoy limitless rights, including the right to throw stones, aid terrorists and do whatever it takes to murder and maim the Jews. All is permissible – they lead by example.

Arab members of the Knesset have the right to participate in terrorist flotillas against the very country they represent. They knowingly break the law, fight Israeli soldiers attempting to execute their orders and call for the destruction of the Jewish State.

These same Arab members of the Knesset seem to think they are immune, as they truly believe the idea of a Jewish State, of which they are an integral part, is a racist idea. What can really happen to them? Whatever they do, they are still entitled to a pension and other benefits for life, whether they remain in Israel or flee.

Democracy, academic freedom, freedom of speech and a plethora of other rights all intermingle, creating an amazing mix the likes of which can be found nowhere other than in Israel. Apparently, there are enough rights to be spread around, no shortage of “obligations” of the state to the individual. The crazier the individual and the more outrageous the demands result in a greater public outcry of support. At times, I think I am dreaming, rubbing my eyes to wake up and prove this is not so.

Everything is permitted, and the more it rails against the Jewish State, the more acceptable it becomes. There is a right for every action, particularly those that would be abhorred by any rational thinking human beings.

Only in Israel have things become so convoluted that no one stops to think and evaluate: WHO WILL PROTECT ISRAEL’S VERY RIGHT TO EXIST AS A JEWISH STATE, a simple, humble, bashful right. Is it too much to ask?

If it is acceptable and permissible to do all the above, and if leading figures in Israel go out of their way to protect these freedoms, is there anyone protecting the rights of the minority? The less vocal – although larger in numbers – populace who know they have a right to live in a modern, Jewish state that belongs to no one else but them. They expect their elected officials to honor pre-election promises, but experience teaches them differently.

No one is responsible, no one is held accountable, everyone has rights and everything is permissible. This is a very sad state of affairs that cannot last long. The body cannot both thrive and continue to fight its very existence.

Funny, I thought that Israel’s Bill of Rights would actually focus on her right to exist in peace.

I must have received a bad education at home – I was always taught that with rights come responsibilities. Apparently, that is not so in Israel.

Is anyone surprised that Israel is losing ground in the raging battle to delegitimize her very being? There is one very basic right Israelis seem to neglect – everything is derived from Israel’s right to actually exist.

Israel as a modern country may soon disappear, gone to the dustbin of history. Like a person who enjoyed too much from a barrel of an exceptional vintage wine all at once rather than trying to make it last as long as possible. A pity.

The series “Postcards from America—Postcards from Israel” by Ari Bussel and Norma Zager is a compilation of articles capturing the essence of life in America and Israel during the first two decades of the 21st Century.

The writers invite readers to view and experience an Israel and her politics through their eyes, Israel visitors rarely discover.

This point—and often—counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.

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


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Obama's Appalling Mistreatment of Israel

David Limbaugh

As Israeli and Palestinian peace talks are scheduled to resume in Washington in a few days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland is an essential condition for peace. Completely reasonable, yet don't keep your fingers crossed, especially with the Obama administration's attitude toward Israel. In my new book, "Crimes Against Liberty" (I know, another shameless plug, but you'd do the same in my position), I dedicate an entire chapter to detailing the Obama administration's horrendous and unprecedented mistreatment of Israel. Can you believe we're even having a discussion about Israel's right to the land six-plus decades and numerous wars after the modern Israeli state was restored to the Jews?

It's bad enough when misfit countries oppose Israel's right to existence and always demonize Israel while downplaying the Palestinians' misdeeds, but it's shocking and disturbing when the president of the United States abuses our greatest ally in the Mideast.

It's mystifying to me that so many Jewish people in America have been so tolerant of Obama's behavior toward Israel, almost as if in denial, but what more evidence do we need?

During the campaign, it was widely suspected that Obama had strong ties with pro-Palestinian groups, not to mention his membership in the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church -- one that is known for its sympathy for the causes of certain terrorist organizations and the Palestinian position.

The Los Angeles Times reportedly possessed and protected a damning video of Obama toasting Rashid Khalidi, a former PLO operative and an outspoken Israel critic who, after the 9/11 attacks, referred to the media's "hysteria about suicide bombers."

Obama's official campaign website, Organizing for America, permitted the posting of a blog entry titled "How the Jewish Lobby Works." Though the post was eventually removed, it's suspicious that someone with posting privileges had these virulently anti-Semitic views. The post said: "No lobby is feared more or catered to by politicians than the Jewish Lobby. If a politician does not play ball with the Jewish Lobby, he will not get elected, or re-elected, and he will either be smeared or ignored by the Jewish-owned major media." NewsBusters cited numerous other links to similar anti-Jewish posts on the website, showing this was not an isolated event. How does one explain away that kind of climate in the bowels of the administration?

Once elected, Obama appointed James Jones as his national security adviser, a man The Lid said is "not known as a friend of the Jewish State." Jones assembled a team that reportedly intended to be tougher and "impose a solution on" Israel. Early in his term, Obama pledged more than $900 million to rebuild Gaza and to shore up the Palestinian Authority. The rationale was to strengthen Palestinian moderates, but many experts warned that much of this money could get into the hands of Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gratuitously denounced Israel's treatment of Palestinians in Gaza while ignoring the many Palestinian sins against Israel. The administration also demanded that Israel negotiate with Syria -- a primary sponsor of Hezbollah -- just two days after Syrian foreign minister Walid Mueller praised a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling Israel "the most cruel and repressive racist regime."

The administration has also applied fierce pressure on Israel to acquiesce on the matter of the creation of a Palestinian state, even to the point of conditioning our efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions on that Israeli concession. Obama directed our return to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which the Bush administration had left nine months before because the council had incessantly condemned Israel while ignoring the abuses of Mideast dictatorships. Obama snubbed Netanyahu and announced he would discontinue the established practice of hosting Israeli prime ministers when they are in Washington.

Obama's Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, adopted the controversial 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which called for Israel to withdraw from east Jerusalem, the entire West Bank and Golan Heights and also for Israel to accept the influx of millions of foreign Arabs as Israeli citizens as part of the "right of return." Mideast expert Caroline Glick says this would mean "Israel would effectively cease to be a Jewish state."

Vice President Biden engaged in a public temper tantrum and harshly "condemned" Israel for not bowing to the administration's demands that it discontinue its settlements in east Jerusalem. Rarely does the United States publicly condemn an ally, especially in such harsh terms.

We're just scratching the surface, but surely you get the picture. There is, however, one gratifying development in this ongoing saga. Finally, some Jewish Americans have had enough and are speaking up. As I chronicle in the book, former New York Mayor Ed Koch wrote two scathing editorials against Obama's appalling policies and called out his fellow Jews to speak up against them. Amazingly, Obama's stalwart supporter Sen. Chuck Schumer finally joined Koch in pushing back. Others, not just American Jews, need to wake up.

Israel praises Egyptian arms curb effort


Defense officials appreciate blocking of arms reaching Gaza.

Israeli defense officials praised the Egyptian military on Monday for its increased efforts in recent weeks to curb the flow of arms to the Gaza Strip, but questioned the veracity of reports that the forces had seized several hundred shoulder-to-air missiles in recent days.
The seizures reportedly took place in the Sinai Peninsula, which is the main thoroughfare for smuggling to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Most of the weaponry is transferred to Gaza via the network of hundreds of tunnels it has established along the border with Egypt – known as the Philadelphi Corridor – but a small amount also continues to arrive by sea.

In recent days, media reports have quoted Egyptian security officials claiming to have uncovered close to 10 different arms caches throughout the Sinai holding hundreds of kilograms of high-quality explosives, hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles as well as automatic rifles and ammunition.

Israeli defense sources said they were aware of Hamas efforts to obtain an anti-aircraft capability to impede the air force’s ability to fly freely over the Gaza Strip.

Due to the risk, Israeli aircraft already fly at higher altitudes and regularly release flares that can divert heat-seeking missiles.

Hamas is believed to already be in possession of a significant number of shoulder-to-air missiles, mainly SA-7s, an old Russian- made anti-aircraft missile.

If the reports are true, then the large number of missiles discovered by Egyptian security forces could indicate increased efforts by Hamas to bolster an anti-aircraft capability ahead of a future conflict with Israel.

Overall, Israeli officials confirmed that Egypt had recently increased its efforts to try to stop smuggling across the border. Earlier this year, Egypt began constructing a steel wall that it buried close to 20 meters underground along the 14- kilometer border, but the Palestinians, according to reports that have reached Israel, have succeeded in breaching the wall.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Arlene Kushner those meetings in Washington, which shouldn't be happening at all and can come to no good.

Let's look first at the words of peace from PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash, taken from his Friday sermon of two weeks ago:

"Jerusalem can ignite a thousand and one wars", he warned, and unless Jerusalem "returns" to the Palestinians, "its owners," and unless it becomes the capital of the Palestinian people, "there is no peace."If Jerusalem is dishonored, if Jerusalem is disgraced, if [Jerusalem] is lost, it may leave the door open to all possibilities of struggle, all possibilities of war. The term 'war' cannot be erased from the lexicon of this region as long as Jerusalem is occupied..."

This sermon was delivered in the presence of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. It ran on PA-TV on August 20, and is reported in translation by Palestinian Media Watch. (includes a video that shows Abbas present)

There should be no illusion.


For the record, and to dispel even the slightest doubt: Jerusalem never "belonged" to the Palestinian Arabs. Never.


I rather like Sarah Stern's citation of Henry Kissinger:

“When the pursuit of peace becomes the entire objective of foreign policy, it becomes a weapon in the hands of the most ruthless. It produces moral disarmament.”

This, of course, is what is going on with the Obama administration, and Stern, founder of EMET, tracks some significant history relevant to what's happening now and the dangers we face, in her excellent piece, "Here We Go Round the Cactus Bush":


On the eve of his departure for Washington, Prime Minister Netanyahu has released a statement via his office:

"We have insisted that these talks be held without pre-conditions and thus it will be."

So there's a "problem" to begin with, because (as I've noted before) Abbas insists he is willing to come to Washington based on the Quartet statement, which requires an extension of the freeze in building, among other things. Will things move beyond the "pre-negotiations" meeting on September 2? Will Abbas walk, or will Netanyahu, who still insists the freeze will not be extended, concede some "creative" solution?

Netanyahu says "Our goal is to seriously and responsibly advance a peace agreement that will be based on the following principles:

"First of all, the recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, the end of the conflict and of claims on Israel, that will stem from recognizing it as the national state of the Jewish People, and the establishment of tangible security measures on the ground so as to ensure that there will not be a repeat in Judea and Samaria of what happened in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip after Israel withdrew from these areas."

Not sufficient, but a solid beginning. If he were to solidly adhere to this, should there be negotiations, we would have no need to fear a "two state solution." Which does not mean the negotiations themselves are without dangers, as Stern, above, points out.


From this the prime minister launches into politically calculated nonsense about a peace for generations that can be achieved if "the Palestinian leadership approaches these talks with the same degree of seriousness."



It seems the right time, given the Abbas demands, to review once again the reasons why the Arabs cannot claim everything beyond the Green Line -- even though they have much of the world convinced that they can:

[] The very areas that the Arabs claim as "theirs" -- eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria -- remain at the heart of ancient Jewish heritage in the land. No spot on earth is as sacred to the Jews as the Temple Mount, where two Temples stood -- the presence on that Mount of a mosque today in no way changes this. (A mosque, it should be noted, that was placed specifically there with intent.) Within Judea and Samaria are such sites as Judaism's second holiest city, Hebron, with the Machpela, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb) and Shilo, where the Tabernacle was brought.

[] The Mandate for Palestine of 1922, confirmed within international law by the League of Nations and never superseded, acknowledges all of the land from the river to the sea to be part of a Jewish homeland. It was based on a recognition of this ancient Jewish heritage.

[] The Green Line was never a border, but only a temporary armistice line at the end of fighting in 1949. Written into Israel's armistice agreement with Jordan was an explicit understanding that this armistice line would not prejudice future negotiations on a final border for Israel.

[] After the war in 1967, when Israel took control of Judea and Samaria, UN SC Resolution 242, recognizing that the Green Line was not a secure border for Israel, required only partial withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. And this withdrawal only in the context of full negotiations.

Israel moved into Judea and Samaria in a defensive war, which provides further legal justification for not pulling all the way back: It is understood that in a defensive war acquisition of additional strategic depth is often necessary to reduce vulnerability and preclude further attacks.

[] All understandings -- Oslo, etc. -- require negotiations for determination of the final borders. No where is it written that the Green Line is the border or that the border should be agreed upon prior to negotiations.


As to the whole business about not building in "settlements":

[] The Palestinian Arabs managed to negotiate in 2000 (Arafat with Barak) and then in 2008 (Abbas with Olmert) without a prior stipulation requiring a freeze. This is a new addition to the Arab demands.

[] The bottom-line implication of this stipulation is that a Palestinian state would have to be Judenrein. Somehow the world accepts this, even though 20% of Israel is Arab. There is no logical reason why Jews could not remain in land that might become a Palestinian state.

[] The entire premise of the freeze is to prevent encroachment on what will -- in the PA conceptualization of matters -- soon officially become Palestinian land. But the parameters of that land must be negotiated and are not yet determined.

[] In light of the fact that the borders are not determined, there is an essential injustice at work: Arabs are permitted to continue building in what might, after negotiations, be part of Israel. Only Jews are inhibited from building.

(I trust that my readers understand that the above is hypothetical -- important for the sake of argument -- and in no way an expression of my expectation that a Palestinian state will emerge shortly.)


I end with this, one of the most eloquent and thoughtful essays I've read on the issue of the mosque at Ground Zero:

"The World Trade Center Mosque and the Constitution," by Mark Helprin, in the Wall Street Journal.

"The plan to erect a mosque of major proportions in what would have been the shadow of the World Trade Center involves not just the indisputable constitutional rights that sanction it, but, providentially, others that may frustrate it.

"Mosques have commemoratively been established upon the ruins or in the shells of the sacred buildings of other religions—most notably but not exclusively in Cordoba, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and India. When sited in this fashion they are monuments to victory, and the chief objection to this one is not to its existence but that it would be near the site of atrocities—not just one—closely associated with mosques because they were planned and at times celebrated in them.

"Building close to Ground Zero disregards the passions, grief and preferences not only of most of the families of September 11th but, because we are all the families of September 11th, those of the American people as well, even if not the whole of the American people. If the project is to promote moderate Islam, why have its sponsors so relentlessly, without the slightest compromise, insisted upon such a sensitive and inflammatory setting? That is not moderate. It is aggressively militant.

"Disregarding pleas to build it at a sufficient remove so as not to be linked to an abomination committed, widely praised, and throughout the world seldom condemned in the name of Islam, the militant proponents of the World Trade Center mosque are guilty of a poorly concealed provocation. They dare Americans to appear anti-Islamic and intolerant or just to roll over.

"...constitutionally...there is unquestionably a right to build...we have principles that we value highly and will not abandon. The difficulty is that the principles of equal treatment and freedom of religion have, so to speak, been taken hostage by the provocation. As in many hostage situations, the choice seems to be between injuring what we hold dear or accepting defeat. This, anyway, is how it has played out so far.

"The proponents of the mosque know that Americans will not and cannot betray our constitutional liberties. Knowing that we would not rip the foundation from the more than 200 years of our history that it underpins, they may imagine that they have achieved a kind of checkmate.

"Their knowledge of the Constitution, however, does not penetrate very far, and perhaps they are not as clever as they think. The Constitution is a marvelous document, and a reasonable interpretation of it means as well that no American can be forced to pour concrete. No American can be forced to deliver materials. No American can be forced to bid on a contract, to run conduit, dig a foundation, or join steel.

"And a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that the firemen's, police, and restaurant workers' unions, among others, and the families of the September 11th dead, and anyone who would protect, sympathize with and honor them, are free to assemble, protest and picket at the site of the mosque that under the Constitution is free to be built.

" reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that no American can be forced to cross a picket line in violation of conscience or even of mere preference. Who, in all decency, would cross a picket line manned by those whose kin were slaughtered—by the thousands—so terribly nearby? And who in all decency would cross such a line manned by the firemen, police and other emergency personnel who know every day that they may be called upon to give their lives in a second act?

"Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, says of those who with heartbreaking bravery went into the towers: "We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting."

"Mr. Mayor, the firemen, the police, the EMTs and the paramedics who rushed into those buildings, many of them knowing that they would die there, did not do so to protect constitutional rights. They went often knowingly to their deaths to protect what the Constitution itself protects: people, flesh and blood, men and women, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. Although you yourself may not know this, they did.

"The choice is not between abandoning them or abandoning the Constitution, for although the liberties the Constitution guarantees sometimes put us at a disadvantage even of self-preservation, they also make it possible for 300 million Americans to prevail—reasonably, peacefully, and within the limits of the law—against provocations such as this.

"They make it possible to prevent the construction of the mosque at this general location...not by force or decree but by argument, persuasion, and peaceable assembly. These are rights that the Constitution guarantees as well, and clearly it is one's constitutional right to oppose the mosque, not to participate in the building of it, and to convince others of the same."

Hopefully Americans are picking up on this theme and preparing now to respond as described. What a glorious victory it would be if picketing Americans in large numbers stopped mosque construction.

(Thanks, Gordon P.)

see my website

The unique anti-logic of Ali Abunimah …

Balfour St.

I wasn't sure what I was going to post today until I wandered over to Mondoweiss and was directed towards what was described as "a great journalistic moment." Philip Weiss was simply giddy that his anti-Israel colleague, Ali Abunimah, was granted op-ed space in The New York Times. What was Abunimah's main argument? That the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will be futile as long as Hamas is excluded from the process.

Abunimah, the founder of the Electronic Intifada website, BDS activist, author of various anti-Israel screeds, and all around pleasant fellow, made a comparison to the situation in Northern Ireland in order to prove his point. While I can understand this reference to a certain extent, since Abunimah was referring to U.S Middle East envoy George Mitchell's success in that region, he nevertheless draws completely the wrong conclusion. Color me surprised.

I have long argued that the situation in Northern Ireland will offer an observer exactly zero insight into the Arab-Israeli conflict. Without going into detail, the two are in no way related. Nevertheless, Abunimah finds considerable evidence there that Hamas should be engaged and involved in the peace process.

In regards to Northern Ireland Abunimah argues that it was "only by breaking with one-sided demands that Mr. Mitchell was able to help bring peace." Abunimah states earlier in the article that the U.S has imposed a similar set of one-sided demands on Hamas. It is interesting to read how those demands are described.

The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable …

Please note that Abunimah describes what any rational observer would list as the most basic, minimum requirements for Israel to engage Hamas as "strict" and "unworkable." What would there be to discuss? Will Israel continue to exist, will it not? Well according to Abunimah, that would be discussed.

Abunimah, as anyone familiar with him would know, does not recognize Israel's right to exist. In that regard he completely agrees with Hamas, making it no surprise that he wants them involved in the negotiations. But what is most remarkable about Abunimah's argument is what follows in the very next sentence.

Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?

This is perhaps the most perfect summary of the impossible logic of the anti-Israel community. As anyone familiar with the Arab-Israeli conflict knows, the implementation of the so-called "right of return" would effectively eliminate the State of Israel by inundating it with Palestinian Arabs. Abunimah and others admit this openly. This allows us to rephrase and simplify Abunimah's argument to see what he is really saying.

Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right [to eliminate Israel]?

Anyone looking for explanations why there isn't peace need look no further than Ali Abunimah.

"Out in Force"

Arlene Kushner

Not military troops, but the Obama-supporting "pro-peace" guys. Prior to the meetings in Washington, they're working overtime to convince people that everything is going to be just great, and that, with a proper application of "hard work," peace is going to break out any time soon now. Do not believe it for a second. The facts tell another story. Whatever these "experts" are saying, it is critical to hold fast to the reality, and share it in all possible venues.

Last week, a high profile David Makovsky, director of the project on the Middle East of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote a piece in the JPost -- “Quiet progress in the long quest for peace” -- in which he described how, in spite of problems, progress was being made by the PA.

One of the issues he touched upon was education in PA supervised schools, something I just happen to have some familiarity with. Makovsky wrote: "screening is also being conducted [by the PA] to weed out school teachers who support Hamas radicalism."

Sounds great, huh? After this effort is completed, all those teachers who support that nasty Hamas radicalism will be eliminated, and only teachers who support the moderate Fatah line will remain. This clearly is the "between the lines" message here. Except that there's a really major problem:

It is the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, and not Hamas, that produced the textbooks filled with incitement that the PA schools use. The textbooks that say Jews have no roots in the land, and that all of Israel is "Palestine," and that jihad and "martyrdom" are praiseworthy. So, even if all the Hamas-oriented teachers were eliminated, the message the kids were getting would still be the same. Some "progress."


Makovsky also wrote that, “The PA has begun reshaping the curriculum of Palestinian institutions that accredit imams..."

I don't know about imam education in the PA, and so I went to someone who knows quite well: Dr. Arnon Groiss, Director of Research for IMPACT-SE –- which monitors Arab educational materials; I greatly respect his knowledge and his integrity.

Dr. Groiss told me that he wishes it were so that the curriculum for imams was being revised, but he has heard nothing about this. The PA Ministry of Religious Affairs oversees ten schools that train imams. These schools use 25 texts in different religious subjects that are either published by or for the PA, in Jordan. Bearing the PA logo, they were all originally Jordanian.

More "progress."


Those who saw my letter to the JPost on Friday addressing this subject will find the above a repeat. But I considered this information important enough to merit being shared more broadly.


Then there was another heavy hitter -- Martin Indyk, the director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution -- whose piece in the NY Times appeared at the same time Makovsky's did in the JPost. His was entitled, "For Once, Hope in the Middle East."

No friend of Israel in the best of circumstances, Indyk made a series of dubious statements. It will suffice to examine a couple of the most significant:

"First, violence is down considerably in the region. Throughout the 1990s, Israel was plagued by terrorist attacks, which undermined its leaders’ ability to justify tangible concessions...Israelis came to believe that the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was playing a double game, professing peace in the negotiations while allowing terrorists to operate in territory he was supposed to control.

"Today, the Palestinian Authority is policing its West Bank territory to prevent violent attacks on Israelis and to prove its reliability as a negotiating partner...

"These efforts, combined with more effective Israeli security measures, have meant that the number of Israeli civilians killed in terrorist attacks has dropped."


The worst plague of terror attacks was not in the 90s, however. It was beginning in 2000, with the Palestinian Arab war known as the second intifada. The terrorism in the 90s hadn't inhibited Israeli leaders (such as they were) from making "tangible concessions." It was in 2000 that huge concessions were made by then PM Ehud Barak, which included such things as the sharing of Jerusalem and a very substantial pull back from Judea and Samaria. Only AFTER these tangible concessions were made did Arafat unleash the new wave of terror.


As to the PA "policing its West Bank territory," "policing" is probably the correct word. I understand, that they do effectively go after car thieves and the like. However, their ability and desire to pursue terrorists, while improved, is, shall we say, less successful. The bottom line is that terrorist attacks against Israelis are way down because in 2002 the IDF went back into Palestinian-controlled areas from which we had pulled back. And since 2002 we have maintained the right to go after terrorists in these areas, even in places where we have in recent times allowed more control by PA security forces. We operate at night, and, as I understand it (although the IDF has stonewalled my attempts to learn roughly how many operations occur nightly) there are multiple operations each night -- after specific terrorists, as well as weapons manufacturing and storage sites.

Please note that what is at the heart of terrorist control operations is mentioned peripherally by Indyk: "These efforts, combined with more effective Israeli security measures..."

If PA forces are attempting to prevent terror attacks against Israelis at the moment (a questionable proposition at best), it is because it is politically expedient to do so at this particular moment, and not because of any intrinsic concern for bringing peace to their Jewish neighbors. The bottom line is that Fatah will never move to totally take out Hamas in Judea and Samaria. In spite of the very real tensions and animosities between Fatah and Hamas, they are also bound together in many ways. In this traditional society, where allegiance to the clan remains strong, there may be Fatah and Hamas people within one clan. The fact remains (never addressed by people like Indyk) that more than 50% of the PA budget goes to Gaza, and thus finds its way, in some considerable measure, into Hamas hands.

This reality stands as a strong argument for not giving the Palestinian Authority a state in Judea and Samaria: There are many very savvy analysts who believe that if the IDF were to pull out, Hamas would move in.


Enough said here. The reader of analyses such as those by Makovsky and Indyk are advised to think twice.


I have repeatedly said that Abbas worries for his life, literally, with regard to his negotiating with Israel -- because a number of terrorist-oriented groups are opposed to his doing so, and they play very rough indeed.

Now we have something that gives additional credence to this:

Yesterday, Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya issued a warning to the PA with regard to negotiations. He said that "the Izz-a-Din al-Qassam Brigades [the Hamas military wing] will step on the heads of those who dare cede the right of return, Jerusalem, and Palestine."

I had always sort of envisioned a throat-slitting sort of threat, but stepping on heads makes the point just as graphically, or more so. What does it avail Abbas to sit at the table if he can safely make no concessions on "return," Jerusalem, or borders -- while indeed the US and the EU will be expecting him to do just that?


It's difficult indeed to read reports of the enormous enthusiasm with which Netanyahu embraces the idea of direct negotiations -- even as he adds the proviso that all of this depends on a cooperative PA. His latest was a suggestion that he and Abbas meet directly every two weeks. (Netanyahu has said he himself will head talks.)

Not only has Abbas already nixed this, he is attempting to set a scene that will make failure of those talks (that haven't started yet) our fault. Claiming that "Israel's security can't continue to be the excuse for continued occupation," he says he has already notified US and other international leaders that Israel will bear full responsibility for the failure of the peace talks if we don't extend the freeze on building.

Habayit Hayehudi leaders have said they will likely pull out of the coalition if the freeze is extended.

We're coming down to the wire, and all bets are off in terms of how this will play out.


I categorize this still in the realm of rumor, but one having significant enough import to merit a mention here: According to the Daily Telegraph (UK) yesterday, Obama will be visiting Israel as part of his "peace" push. Nothing official from either the US or Israel.

Fervently do I hope he stays away. I have no desire to see him curry favor at our expense. The major impact for me of his being here would be that his entourage and accompanying security would cause unbearable traffic snarls.


Another rumor making the rounds: That Obama intends to advance a "peace plan" that would be signed in a year but wouldn't be implemented for ten. This, if true, suggests that he knows darn well that the situation is not ripe for peace now, but that he wants the credit for having promoted it.

A very dangerous plan, reminiscent of the plan to be put on a shelf from the last administration. If the situation doesn't permit an agreement, no agreement should be made. Period. Who knows what will be in ten years?

A watch and see situation...


Let me return briefly to the issue of the string of photos that has been broadly sent out by e-mail, without attribution, represented as pictures showing a more upscale Gaza.

My original impression that all was not legit has been confirmed in a variety of ways. Let me pass by the fact that I located a photographer's name on one, but found, when googling him, only pictures he had taken of Dubai, and that the name of the hotel seen in another picture cannot be located on the Internet as being in Gaza.

One reader wrote to say that a very reliable acquaintance of hers identified one photo as being in Casablanca, where she grew up.

The British-Israel Group (BIG) has also issued a proviso, very similar to mine, with regard to these photos. Said BIG:

"These photos had NO context and NO description and were highly suspect.

"From research by Tom Gross, a correspondent whose articles we have used in the past, it appears that some of the photos are actually from Damascus or Beirut, and one we know for certain is from a beach in Ashdod."

Lastly I note that there has been a claim that there was a documenting source: that Arutz Sheva had presented this list of photos. But none of the e-mail transmissions I saw mentioned Arutz Sheva, and with good reason: Arutz Sheva showed 13 photos. The anonymous e-mails showed 36. Seems the original Arutz Sheva list of photos was borrowed as a starting point, with some creative additions then made.


A return, as well, to the issue of Z Street being held up on receiving status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which would permit tax exemptions for donations, essentially because Z Street's position on Israel doesn't comport with Obama's. This is a situation that has prompted Z Street co-founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus to bring suit against the IRS for interference with First Amendment rights.

According to Z Street: "An IRS agent told Z Street’s lawyers that the application was delayed because of a Special Israel Policy that requires greater scrutiny of organizations which have to do with Israel, in part to determine whether they espouse positions on Israel contrary to those of the current Administration." These cases are referred to a "special unit in the DC office."

If this doesn't scare the hell out of you, you're asleep at the wheel. Involve your organizations in protesting, without delay!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pirate Arab Water Connections Detached

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

Over 200 Arab pirate connections to Israel’s main water lines, siphoning off water to PA Arabs who do not pay, have been detached in a joint police-Mekorot action.

Mekorot Water Company workers, under close police protection, have completed an operation disconnecting 230 pirate Arab connections to Israel’s main water lines. The connections siphoned off much-needed water for the benefit of Palestinian Authority Arabs, who thus avoided paying for the commodity. In addition, the IDF’s Judea Region destroyed several small reservoirs in which stolen water was gathered in the Kiryat Arba-Hevron region.

On yet another front in the war against water thieves, police have begun laying ambushes, making several arrests and confiscating over 85,000 meters (53 miles) of piping used to pipe the stolen H2O to Arab fields and homes.

Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, who gave the order to take a stronger hand against the water thefts, expressed his satisfaction with the cooperation among the various bodies. “We plan to continue working to stop all water piracy, which affects the lives of all residents in the region," he added.

Residents of Kiryat Arba and neighboring communities, and Arabs as well, have suffered from lack of water in their faucets on numerous occasions, especially on especially hot days. The army has been frequently forced to deliver water to the towns. It has also been noticed, at the same time, that Arab fields along the roads of Judea appear to be extra green and thriving.

“Water theft is a grave phenomenon,” Landau said, “and it most manifest in Judea and Samaria. We have to deal with it seriously, especially in a country like ours where water is so precious.”

In a related item, the level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), Israel’s main water reservoir, is in the midst of its customary summer drop. It now stands at approximately 213.5 meters below sea level – slightly more than half a meter higher than it was last year at this time. However, it is also a half-meter below the level beyond which authorities strive not to let it drop. .

PA Freezes Netanyahu's Idea for Bi-Weekly Talks

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says he would like to meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas every two weeks in the framework of the direct diplomatic talks that are to begin next week. PA negotiator Saeb Erekat responds that the freeze is the main issue now, not the scheduling of the negotiations. The Associated Press reported that “the Israeli leader's proposal appears to indicate that he is serious about the talks and won't allow them to fizzle out after next week's meeting in the U.S.”

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat refused to commit himself, however, and said he would not accept it at the present time. "We are not against this in principle, it's just premature to talk about this now," AP quoted him as saying. Other reports said that Erekat emphasized that no progress could be made until Israel agreed to continue the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria.

Talks to Kick Off This Week

Netanyahu will be departing on Tuesday for Washington to take part in the first session of the renewed talks. He emphasized again on Sunday that the talks will be held without pre-conditions. The PA has demanded that Israel agree to continue the ten-month freeze, to which Israel agreed for the express purpose of getting the PA to agree to talks – which the PA refused to do until now.

“For [nine] months we have been waiting for the Palestinians to please come to the negotiations,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week. “They come at the last month - that’s their problem.”

No substantive issues are expected to be on the table between Netanyahu and Abbas; Netanyahu himself has said that the event will rather be more of a “White House Lawn” ceremony, including U.S. President Barack Obama, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Hussein.

Cabinet Minister Silvan Shalom, however, a former Foreign Minister, said Sunday morning that he now understands that the talks will be more of a ceremony and that the talks will actually begin in earnest this week.

PA, Yesha Council Pressures

Opposing pressures to end and retain the construction freeze continue to be exerted. While Fatah Central Committee member and PA minister Hussein A-Sheikh says that the PA will not accept construction even in the settlement blocs, the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria demonstrated outside the Cabinet meeting Sunday morning. Members of the Yesha Council sought to remind most of the Cabinet ministers of their previous pledges to resume construction on the date the 10-month freeze expires four weeks from now. They held signs with names of imaginary neighborhoods named after the Cabinet ministers in Judea and Samaria "who kept their word and enabled the end of the freeze in Yesha."

"I am convinced that if the Palestinian leadership takes these negotiations as seriously as we do,” Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday morning, “we can reach a stable agreement, and not just a deal for a ceasefire between wars.”