Monday, December 19, 2011

Sampler: MJ Rosenberg Does Al Jazeera Proud, J Street (Re)Defines "Pro-Israel" and Israel's Case In 6 Paragraphs

Mideast Media Sampler 12/18/2011

by DG

1) Your daily dose of irony

Where do the following paragraphs appear?
Can anyone argue with the assertion that, for neocons, Obama is always wrong and Bibi is always right? Not only that, they denounce those who dare criticise Netanyahu over anything while never ever letting up on Obama. How can it be that the prime minister is always right but the president is always wrong?
But I need to offer a clarification. By the term "Israel firster", I do not mean that right-wingers and neocons who advance bellicose Middle East policies are putting the interests of Israel first. 
Far from it. They are putting the interests of Binyamin Netanyahu and his hardliners first. After all, if they were putting Israel first, they would not be promoting policies (such as war with Iran or the perpetuation of the occupation) that could very easily lead to Israel's destruction or, at least, to the loss of its Jewish majority. 
The people I call "Israel firsters" are, in fact, Netanyahu firsters.
In the latest column by M J Rosenberg at Al Jazeera.

Worse, is the fact that LA's Jewish Journal reproduces Rosenberg's columns too. The latest there, is called The “pro-Israel” right loses it, and in it Rosenberg praises Thomas Friedman for being pro-Israel! How anyone who willingly has his columns republished on an Islamist website can accuse others of losing it is extremely ironic; not that Rosenberg possesses the self-awareness to recognize that. But I wanted to focus on part of the defense of Friedman:
The Friedman quote that absolutely drove the pro-Likud right crazy was directed at Binyamin Netanyahu:
I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.
For this, Commentary called Friedman a practitioner of the “new anti-Semitism,” with virtually all of the usual suspects following suit.
Tom Friedman an anti-Semite! Imagine.
I'm sure his readers in Qatar and the Gulf will love the "Israel Lobby" line.  Friedman and Rosenberg just confirmed their darkest fear! (Does Al Jazeera translate these article into Arabic?)

2) Who is pro-Israel?

Jeremy ben-Ami, founder of J-Street, explains What pro-Israel should mean (h/t LennyBoyUSA):
Unfortunately, there is not enough debate over what it means to be “pro-Israel” and little frank discussion of the fundamental, even existential, choice facing Israel and the United States at a strategic fork in the road. 
Down one path, Israel maintains the status quo. Settlements beyond the Green Line continue to expand, and doubts regarding the existence of a true partner for peace are used to justify continued procrastination in taking meaningful steps toward a two-state solution. 
All too quickly on this path it will become clear that there no longer is a Green Line. Rather, there will be one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean left to grapple with how to remain a democratic, Jewish nation when a majority of the people living there are not Jewish.
Now a short response would be that if someone advertises that you are pro-Israel on Al Jazeera, you probably are not.

I was thinking of writing a response to Ben-Ami's column, but Barry Rubin's latest Jerusalem Post column rejects Ben Ami's arguments - or similar ones with:
I’m not in the least bit joking and honestly don’t think I’ve exaggerated the above points covering what the American and European left (including its Jewish components) thinks should be the proper Israeli policy. 
Nevertheless, I don’t see the Kadima or Labor parties adopting such a program. I think it would be most amusing to go down to the corner of, for example, King George and Dizengoff streets to quiz random Israeli pedestrians about what they think of this plan. 
As always, since the mainstream Western media generally does not allow a real response to the ridiculousness of the program it advocates for Israel you won’t be reading any of the points made above in such places. People will just be left to believe that the current government is just unreasonably reactionary; that most Israelis support Obama (or if they don’t they deserve what they get); and if Israel just let the American far left choose its government than everything would be just fine. In fact, every public opinion poll in Israel backs up my points. 
Indeed, if anyone left-wing blogs or the mass media does remark on this article it will only be to brand it “right-wing.” Not at all. It's just right.
And I would add that Jackson Diehl's observations about Mahmoud Abbas are as devastating a refutation as any to Ben Ami and his fellow travelers.

3) Israel's merits 

Recently one of my state legislators visited Israel. While I suspect that he generally is in agreement with J-Street, I don't believe he has a formal affiliation with the group.

In one of his posts he wrote:
One of the things impressed upon us by many of the leaders and thinkers we’ve met with these past four days: the unwillingness of politcal figures on both sides to come to the “damn table,” as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said. 
As an Israeli academic put it at the end of the day, “You can’t prematurely create a Palestinian state under the wrong conditions.” 
Israel must demonstrate the merits of that argument to the Jewish Diaspora and the rest of the world.
He, of course, is misinformed. And that won't stop him from presenting himself as pro-Israel in 2014, when he's up for re-election. (He presents himself as pro-Israel to the roughly 30% of his constituents who are Jewish - mostly Orthodox.)

If he were pro-Israel, he would be able to demonstrate those arguments. One need not be a scholar; this isn't ancient history.

In 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords. In his exchange of letters with Prime Minister Rabin, Yasser Arafat committed himself to rejecting terrorism and devoting himself to negotiations for peace. Over the next several years Israel withdrew from territory, freeing more than 90% of the Palestinians from Israel rule. Even "right wing" Prime Minister withdrew Israeli forces from most of the Jewish holy city of Hebron. Still President Clinton viewed Netanyahu as an obstacle to peace and worked to undermine him politically.

After Netanyahu was defeated in 1999 and succeeded by Ehud Barak, efforts were made to resolve final status issues. In July 2000, Arafat rejected an unprecedented offer from Barak to settle all the issues at Camp David Maryland. Two months later Arafat launched the "Aqsa Intifada," using the pretext of Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.

In response Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield to destroy the terror infrastructure that Arafat had built in Judea and Samaria. Despite Israel's success in defeating the major terror groups it faced there, hundreds of Israelis were killed during this terror war.

Earlier in 2000, Israel completely withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon, which, according to the conventional wisdom provided Hezbollah with its raison d'etre. But Hezbollah quickly violated the international border, kidnapping and killing three Israeli soldiers - a violation that was covered up by the UN. Hezbollah used the next six years to build up its capacity to strike Israel (and launched occasional attacks against Israel throughout.) When the threat became too great, Israel was forced to fight to destroy the infrastructure that had been built over the previous six years.

With the Israeli capture of the Karine A, Arafat was discredited. International pressure forced his second in command, Mahmoud Abbas into the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. While he hasn't been as involved in terror to the same degree as Arafat, Abbas has proven himself to be just as corrupt. Later Salam Fayyad became the Prime Minister of the government, however this "moderate" face has no real constituency in the Fatah Central committee, which is still ideologically committed to the destruction of Israel. Furthermore Abbas refused a peace offer from Ehud Olmert in 2008 - one even more extensive that Barak's eight years earlier - claiming that (East) Jerusalem was non-negotiable.

In addition to the withdrawals from much of Judea and Samaria (or, if you prefer, the West Bank) and from southern Lebanon, in 2005 Israel withdrew all soldiers and civilians from Gaza. Hamas was the beneficiary of this withdrawal and was able to win legislative elections in 2006 and then a brutal power struggle with Fatah a year later, consolidating its hold on Gaza. In late 2008 after thousands of rockets were fired at southern Israel, Israel fought back with Operation Cast Lead to destroy Hamas's infrastructure.

This is Israel's case in six paragraphs. Over the past 18 years Israel has undertaken significant risks and made substantial material concessions for peace. Its efforts have been met with indifference at best, or even terror. Despite these risks and concessions, Israel is still portrayed as fundamentally responsible for the absence of peace. Even Israel's efforts to protect itself against outrageous attacks of terror are met with criticism not sympathy.

If MJ Rosenberg, or Jeremy Ben Ami or my legislator were truly pro-Israel they'd acknowledge all this. Instead their insistence that Israel is fundamentally responsible for the lack of peace or even (as my legislator seemingly argues) equally responsible, only excuses the intransigence of the Palestinians.

4) Clarification

I wrote on Friday, that PM Netanyahu's adviser, Ron Dermer, was incorrect about when Judge Goldstone's op-ed had appeared in the New York Times. Here's the full text:
Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.” 
The only "positive" piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid.
I mis-read the initial excerpted report, and thought that Dermer had written that the op-ed appeared in September.
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