Friday, April 02, 2010

Obama, Biden, and Clinton: Can't Anyone Get The Facts About Israel Straight?

The history of the Middle East in general--and Israel in particular--is a long one. No one expects members of the Obama administration to know all of it forwards and backwards. However, there are basic historical and geographic facts that underly the policy decisions that the Obama administration makes.

And that is why the mistakes that Obama, Biden and Clinton make so disturbing.


President Obama

I know that that there are those who would argue that in some ways America has become a safe refuge for the Jewish people, but if you’ve gone through the Holocaust, then that does not offer the same sense of confidence and security as the idea that the Jewish people can take care of themselves no matter what happensThat makes it a fundamentally just idea. [emphasis added]
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. [emphasis added]

The fact is that Jewish communities have never ceased to exist in "Palestine"--even after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, there were Jewish communities in the land. Obama could have verified that fact with a simple check of Wikipedia.
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Biden, during debate with Palin, October 3, 2008
Here's what the president said when we said no. He insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, "Big mistake. Hamas will win. You'll legitimize them." What happened? Hamas won.

When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, "Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it."

Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.
Kathryn Jean Lopez quotes a foreign policy insider:
Joe Biden threw out a lot of bunk on foreign policy tonight, too bad Gov Palin didn’t have the foreign policy wonkishness to call him on it. Most ridiculous and downright strange was his contention that the Bush administration let Hezbollah into Lebanon, and then when “we threw them out” – whatever that means, he and Obama said NATO should go in but nobody took them up on it and now Hezbollah was all over Lebanon and that’s a problem. What?

Well, Hezbollah’s been there since the early 1980’s of course, blossoming throughout the 1990’s to become now over a third of the population of Lebanon with 2 cabinet members, a host of parliamentarians, and schools, clinics, and basically an entirely separate governance infrastructure in all of southern Lebanon and elsewhere. I suppose the throwing out of Hezbollah was the dismal and failed Israeli campaign of 2006 which dislodged nothing? Or was it Israeli’s occupation of Southern Lebanon from 1982 – 1999? Don’t remember an Obama position on NATO replacing Israeli occupation then. As for NATO going in after the 2006 debacle, well, I’m the one who rounded up 8,000 French and Italians and a few thousand other Euros to go into Southern Lebanon along with an assortment of others in August 2006 and while working that issue for about 40 straight days I don’t remember a peep from Biden or Obama about NATO – which wouldn’t be budged despite our intense pressure in Mons. So, we went straight to Rome and Paris. Que sera, sera.

In any case, he was all bluff and bluster and too bad she didn’t have time during debate prep to get his very mixed record on foreign policy stuff, he’s as good as he is bad at foreign policy and that is just a comment on his mastery, not on his policy positions…which have been more bad than good.
More recently, Biden claimed while in Israel:
The demographic realities make it difficult for Israel to be a Jewish homeland and a democratic country," said Biden in his speech to foreign dignitaries, Israeli officials and students at Tel Aviv University. "The status quo is not sustainable."
Paul Morland, who is writing his Ph.D. on demography, sets the record straight in an op-ed in Haaretz:
Demography has been used in Israel for decades by both left and right to advance and justify policies in the territories and regarding borders. Early advocates of a withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank, for example, cited, in addition to moral arguments, the fear that Arabs would eventually outnumber Jews in the land under Israeli control...

Whatever the rights and wrongs of these proposals, they should be argued on their merits and not on the basis of false assumptions and fears. Hence, it is important that the public at least have some idea of what the demographic reality actually is. There may be disputes about numbers in the territories, but within Israel itself the facts are clear, and they deserve to be more widely known.

In the early days of the state, the Arab minority underwent a "demographic transition," something that often occurs when traditional societies confront modernity. Health care and living standards improved rapidly, life expectancy rose and infant mortality fell, but, initially, family size remained large. As a result, Israel's Arab population expanded fast, and maintained or even increased its proportion of the population, despite the massive Jewish immigration to the state. In the 1960s, Israeli Muslim women were still having on average nine children.

However, after the first stage of demographic transition - a falling death rate, a persistently high birthrate and thus rapid population growth - invariably comes a second stage, in which birthrates fall. This is now happening within Israeli Arab society, and has been for some time. The average Israeli Arab woman is now having fewer than half the children she had in the 1960s, while the Jewish birthrate has recently stabilized and even risen. This is seen in the number of children actually born each year. In 2001, there were around 95,000 Jewish births in Israel and 41,000 Arab births. Just seven years later, in 2008, Jewish births had risen to over 117,000, but Arab births had declined to less than 40,000. In a period that constitutes barely a quarter of a generation, Arab births had fallen from around 30 percent of the total to around 25 percent. This has been a steady trend and, should it continue, it will only be a very short time before Jewish and Arab births each year are broadly proportionate to the overall balance of Jews and Arabs in the population as whole - that is, 4:1, or 80 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
This is not a new discovery, but is one of the more recent articles about a subject that has been well documented.

Considering the implications of Palestinian demography for US aid to the Palestinian Authority, the issue is important for the US just as it is for Israel.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech before AIPAC
When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones over the years in this conflict.
Elder of Ziyon corrects Clinton's error:
In a very, very narrow sense, she is right. El Bireh, the suburb of Ramallah that named a public square after Dalal Mughrabi, has a Hamas-majority city council. (So does Nablus and many other West Bank towns.)

But the naming of the square was purely a Fatah initiative and a Fatah celebration. Mughrabi was a Fatah terrorist. The entire episode was a damning indictment of Fatah - the party whose leader happens to be so-called "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas has nothing to do with it.

Which means that the US government is knowingly misinterpreting and downplaying the glorification of terrorism by Fatah.
The allies of the Obama administration are not doing any better.

Arlen Specter, Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania
What are the facts? It has been reported that there are 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of Israeli commitments.
Jennifer Rubin corrects Specter's error:
To the contrary, the apartment complex is not a “settlement,” nor is this part of an Israeli commitment. The Israeli government never pledged to forgo building in its eternal and undivided capital.
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Joe Klein, member of the Council of Foreign Relations and contributor to Time Magazine:
in the center of Hebron, the largest West Bank city and home to 500,000 Palestinians, there exists a colony of 400 Jewish extremist settlers--few of them native Israelis. They claim, correctly, that Hebron was a Jewish city 3000 years ago (as, of course, Arabs can claim evidence of their presence throughout the current land of Israel as least as long-standing...and, more to the point, a much stronger evidence of their presence, and the absence of Jews, far more recently).
Noah Pollak corrects Klein's errors:
There are not 500,000 Palestinians living in Hebron — there are about 163,000, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Klein is confusing the Hebron governorate with the city of Hebron. The Hebron governorate comprises around half the southern territory of the West Bank. This is like confusing the region of southern California with the city of Los Angeles.

But the best Kleinism is the block-quoted text above, in which he says that the Arabs have been in Hebron at least as long as the Jews. He apparently isn’t aware of the Arab conquests. You see, the Arabs originally came from Arabia, and after the death of Mohammad in the 7th century, they emerged from the Arabian peninsula and swept across the Middle East and North Africa, even into Spain, spreading Islam and Arabic in what today Joe Klein would call an illegal preemptive war to spread colonialism and empire.
If the members of the Obama administration cannot get the basic facts and history of the area right, why should Israel trust the policies that come out of that administration--let alone promises to preserve the security of Israel in that volatile region.

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