Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nachum Segal Interviews Malcolm Hoenlein, March 27, 2009

On Fridays, Nachum Segal interviews Malcolm Hoenlein:
Nachum interviewed Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who called in live for the latest Weekly Update. Nachum and Malcolm began with an in-depth discussion of the formation of the new Israeli Government. Nachum also asked Malcolm to address the undetonated car bomb that was discovered in Haifa this week, filling in any information gaps there may be. They covered several other important issues including: Questions regarding Israel posed to President Obama by the press, the January strike of an arms convoy in Sudan...and who perpetrated the strike, the Israeli rocket defense system, Syria's supposed willingness to negotiate with the West, what is holding up the Gilad Shalit deal, Malcolm's visit with the Mayor of Jerusalem, the UN resolution on defamation of religion, and much more. Click the link to listen.

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IDF Soldiers Share Their Stories

Contact: Michael Dickson
Director, StandWithUs Israel Office
Cell: (+972) 52 409 9957



JERUSALEM (March 29, 2009) – Israeli soldiers launched a website on March 29
to share their personal experiences of serving in the Israel Defense Forces
(IDF). Their testimonies contrast sharply with recent media reports of alleged
IDF misconduct.

Calling themselves “Soldiers Speak Out,” the group provides video testimony
at ( www.soldiersspeakout.com) highlighting their personal accounts of the
IDF’s moral code.

StandWithUs, an international education organization, created the website in
response to IDF members in its student programs who felt they had to speak out.
This independent initiative is not coordinated with either the IDF or the
Israeli Government.

“We created this website because a few isolated allegations from
‘anti-war’ Israeli soldiers are being used to defame the IDF. Yet the IDF
has over a 700 thousand soldiers and reservists who try to live up to the
IDF’s high ethical standards. The IDF impartially judges all alleged
violations, and punishes offenders,” explained Roz Rothstein, International
Director of StandWithUs.

The soldiers share experiences rarely told by the international media. Nina, a
25 year-old IDF medic who served in Gaza, recounts how she and other IDF
soldiers treated wounded Palestinian men, women and children and arranged for
them to be flown to Israeli hospitals for medical care. She explains that IDF
medics are taught not to see nationality, but rather to treat the wounded with
the severest injuries first, even if they are terrorists.

Amir, a military reserve paramedic in the Givati unit in Gaza, confirms Nina’s
account. “I was present when injured Palestinians were flown out by IDF
chopper to Israeli hospitals. Imagine the cost of that helicopter, but we
believe that human life is of the highest value – their identity doesn’t
matter.” Amir’s video relates how he helped a pregnant Palestinian woman in
labor while he was searching for terrorists in Gaza.

The soldiers also describe the challenges of fighting terrorists who use
inhumane tactics. Inon, a 25 year-old lieutenant in the Golani brigade, recalls
that during the 2006 Lebanon war, he and his unit spotted an elderly woman
shouting in pain. As they tried to help, they realized that Hezbollah had wired
her with a suicide bomb belt and was using her as a human trap for the Israeli
soldiers. "This is what we are up against."

“We had no shortage of volunteers,” said StandWithUs Israel Director Michael
Dickson, “Many feel that the media has been skewed. Many soldiers feel a deep
sense of injustice, including those who risked their own lives in Gaza to
protect Palestinian civilians. These young soldiers are deeply moral and
recognize that their service is vital to a country like Israel, which is
constantly endangered by terrorists and hostile neighbors.

“All the soldiers we met illustrate the IDF’s moral code with first-hand
experiences. The media may not always report on it, but by putting the
soldiers’ stories on the Internet, they can speak to people directly. I
anticipate that there will be many more soldiers speaking out,” said Dickson.

· The Soldiers Speak Out website is at www.soldiersspeakout.com
· It will officially launch on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
· The soldiers are prepared to conduct interviews by request –
please email mdickson@standwithus.com or call +972 (0)52 409 9957.

StandWithUs, an international, non-profit Israel education organization, hosts
speakers and conferences, offers website resources and creates brochures and
materials about Israel that are distributed globally. Based in Los Angeles, the
organization has offices across the U.S. and in Israel and the UK. SWU was
founded in 2001 in response to the public’s need and desire for mainstream
information about the Arab-Israeli conflict. StandWithUsCampus helps college
students challenge anti-Israel bias.
http://www.standwithus.com and http://www.standwithuscampus.com

Avi Posnick
Outreach Coordinator
StandWithUs East Coast
Office: (212) 398-2524
Fax: (212) 842 0161
Cell: (516) 698 3449


"Follow StandWithUs on Twitter"

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Mr. Bagel Is Back!

Maybe I am just the last one to know, but Mr. Bagel is back--and has added a new timely blog as well!

Now you can catch Mr. Bagel at his regular blog, and catch him at his new blog: The War In Iran.

Mr. Bagel has been away for too long; Welcome Back!

And Mazel Tov, on the birth of a son! (um, that is a different Baleboosteh--thanks to Soccer Dad for pointing that out.)

Rabbi Arrested For Observing Birkas HaChamah--In 1897 (Updated)

A friend emailed this to me: an article from The New York Times from April 28, 1897 (click to enlarge)

Same Article In Larger Print

UPDATE: Baruch Who? pointed out to me that Jameel beat me to this by a week--in a post that also includes news about saying Birkat HaChamah on Har HaBayit.

Check it out.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Will Obama Apply The Same Kind Of Pressure On Israel As He Did On GM?

J.G. Thayer writes about the consequences of being beholden to the US government:

When the Godfather helps you out, you owe the Godfather. And you’d better comply when the favor is called in. That appears to be the model the Obama administration is following when it comes to companies that accept federal bailout money — and, in one case, the “favors” owed are being called in.

General Motors accepted $9.4 billion dollars in bailout money, and has a request pending for another $16.6 billion. The latter hasn’t been granted, but we now see some indication of the unwritten price for those loans.

First up, the obligatory human sacrifice.

That sacrifice of course is GM CEO Rick Wagoner. This is a domestic case--what about an international one? Just how much influence does Obama think he has, and how much obedience is due, based on the US support of Israel? If Obama seriously believes that the path to peace--both in the Middle East and beyond--goes through Israel, who knows what kind of pressure he will be willing to apply.

The same Obama who in November denied any interest in backing the Saudi peace plan, but by January

called on Arab governments to “act on” the promise of a Saudi-led 2002 Arab peace initiative by supporting the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas “taking steps towards normalising relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all.”

Shmuel Rosner notes that the Saudis are now pressing the US to apply pressure on Israel:

If the US wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact - especially its “special relationship” with Saudi Arabia — it will have to drastically revise its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine.

...The peace initiative being proposed today will not be on offer for a long time. Arab commitment to this initiative is dependent on Israeli acceptance.

Will Obama press Israel to accept the Saudi initiative?

Back in 1982, Menachem Begin responded to the threat of a cut in US aid this way:

Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats.

Netanyahu has a tough act to follow.

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UN Human Rights Council Resolution--The World Is In The Best Of Hands

Ilya Somin writes at The Volokh Conspiracy about the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on "Defamation of Religion"--and the kinds of countries that consistently seem to be in favor of such measures:

The UN Human Rights Council resolution also exemplifies a crucial procedural weakness of international human rights law: the extensive role of repressive authoritarian states in determining its content. Most of the nations that voted for the Human Rights Council resolution are oppressive dictatorships, whereas most liberal democracies opposed it. As I explained in this post, the same thing happened when a similar resolution passed the UN General Assembly in 2007. Obviously, authoritarian regimes like the resolution because they can use it to suppress criticism of religions they seek to promote. For example, the present resolution was sponsored and promoted by the Organization of Islamic Countries; most OIC members are dictatorships that have Islam as their official religion and they have an obvious interest in suppressing critics of Islam or even advocates of more liberal interpretations of Islam that view it as compatible with individual freedom and democracy.

Yeah, funny how that works out.

I also thought this point Somin made was interesting:

As John McGinnis and I discuss in this forthcoming article, it afflicts many other aspects of international human rights law as well. Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, usually considered the most important international human rights treaty, includes repression-justifying provisions inserted at the behest of Joseph Stalin and his communist allies. Indeed, Article 7 of the UDHR (inserted because of Soviet influence) can easily be used to justify banning "defamation of religion," since it forbids speech that incites "discrimination" and any speech critical of a religious doctrine might inspire "discrimination" against that religion's adherents.

Read the whole thing.

Forbidding the harrassment of Religion is not a magical cure--no more than creating a second Palestinian state. But try telling them that.

[Hat tip: Instapundit]

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From YU: Pesach To-Go 5769

From an email:
Pesach To-Go 5769
Download the entire packet (PDF)

Individual Articles download

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

StandWithUs: How the United Nations Sponsors Terrorism with YOUR Tax Dollars

From an email:
RSVP TODAY - How the United Nations Sponsors Terrorism with YOUR Tax Dollars

StandWithUs Presents
How the United Nations Sponsors Terrorism with YOUR Tax Dollars

Guest Speakers: Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ)
and Investigative Journalist Joel Mowbray

Rep Steve Rothman has introduced legislation demanding transparency from UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency which operates all Palestinian refugee camps and related schools. His bill would require a screening of all employees for connections to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and terrorist organizations, as well as posting of all UNRWA textbooks for inspection.

Award winning journalist Joel Mowbray will introduce Rep. Rothman. Mowbray has extensively covered the UN and the State Department. His reporting has spurred multiple congressional hearings and subsuquent changes to the law. His work has been widely published by the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, National Review, New York Post and FoxNews.com. Mowbray has made over 300 appearances on TV news programs.

UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency) has promoted extremism for years. It hires people who are openly affiliated with terrorist organizations. The result has been that the vast majority of suicide bombers have come out of UNRWA schools.

Learn how Rep. Steve Rothman is trying to reform the system.

Join us for a StandWithUs exclusive event:
March 30, 2009, at Noon
Fifth Avenue Synagogue
5 E 62 Street
New York, NY 10065

A light kosher lunch will be served

For more information, contact StandWithUs' NY Community Coordinator
Avi Posnick at avip@standwithus. com or at 212 398 2524
For security reasons, you MUST RSVP. Space is limited.

StandWithUs is an international Israel education organization - www.standwithus.com
Avi Posnick
Outreach Coordinator
StandWithUs East Coast
Office: (212) 398-2524
Fax: (212) 842 0161
Cell: (516) 698 3449

www.standwithus. com
www.standwithuscamp us.com
www.learnisrael. org

"Follow StandWithUs on Twitter "

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Haveil Havalim #210--The Locke, Hurley and Starbuck Edition

This week Jack is hosting Haveil Havalim #210: The Locke, Hurley and Starbuck Edition, featuring a wide and eclectic range of posts from around the JBlogosphere.

Next week's Haveil Havalim will be hosted by Ima on (and off) the Bima.

For information about hosting, email Jack at talktojacknow-at-sbcglobal-dot-net. You can submit your post to the next edition of haveil havalim using the carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found at the blog carnival index page.
Listed at the Truth Laid Bear Ubercarnival.

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Palestinian Arabs Not As Good At PR As We Thought?

The way it is supposed to work is that Israel is supposed to be bad at PR while the Palestinian Arabs are good at PR and at manipulating the media.

But that does not seem to be true over the last couple of weeks.

From the AP on March 18:

Arab child's sickbed is part of the battleground

Asil Manasra, a 6-year-old Palestinian girl, was in her eighth month of intensive treatment at an Israeli hospital for complications arising from a long bout of tuberculosis when she was abruptly forced to stop the visits.

A week after she was discharged, she died.

It's impossible to know how much longer Asil might have lived, but her family is convinced she is the first victim of a Palestinian decision that has cut hundreds of people off from proper medical care and has led Israeli hospitals to turn away those in need.

...Fathi Abu Moughli, the Palestinian minister of health, abruptly halted the arrangement following Israel's assault on Hamas militants in Gaza, which Palestinian officials say killed some 1,300 Palestinians and wounded thousands more.

Initially, Abu Moughli insisted the ruling was limited to those wounded in the war. He said more than 1,000 injured Gazans were transferred to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morocco and other Arab countries so that they would not have to be treated by the same country that harmed them.

But in an interview with The Associated Press, he acknowledged that the edict was far more comprehensive, aiming to cut costs, rid Palestinians of their need for Israeli medicine and deny the Jewish state a "propaganda" campaign that improves its world image while the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority foots the bill.
From The Jerusalem Post, March 29:
PA dismantles W. Bank youth orchestra

Palestinian authorities disbanded a youth orchestra from a West Bank refugee camp after it played for a group of Holocaust survivors in Israel, a local official said on Sunday.

Adnan Hindi of the Jenin camp called the Holocaust a "political issue" and accused conductor Wafa Younis of unknowingly dragging the children into a political dispute.

He added that Younis has been barred from the camp and the apartment where she taught the 13-member Strings of Freedom orchestra has been boarded up.

...Ramzi Fayad, a spokesman for various political factions in the Jenin refugee camp, also condemned the participation of the teenagers in the Holocaust event, saying all the groups were strongly opposed to any form of normalization with Israel.
Well, that's good to know.

The concert took place at the Holocaust Survivors' Center-- as part of "Good Deeds Day"--which just goes that it's true what they say: no good deed goes unpunished.

Of course neither of these stories are going to result in bad PR for the Palestinian Arabs, for the simple reason that PR is neither good nor bad until it gets exposure, until the media covers it--and neither of these events is going to get that kind of coverage.

After all, Israel is not the one who did it.

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One Jerusalem: End of Week Review: March 29, 2009

From an email from One Jerusalem:
End of Week Review: March 29, 2009

Dear Friend of Jerusalem,

Here are the latest headlines from the One Jerusalem Blog:

Obama's Dance With The Mullahs Picks Up Speed: During the race for President of the United States, Barak Obama advocated a policy of engaging the radical Islamic regime of Iran in high level talks to bring about a normalization of relations and a curtailment of Iran's nuclear program.In... (read more)

Olmert Admits He Offered to Divide Jerusalem including Western Wall: Over the years One Jerusalem has reported that Prime Minister Olmert was offering to give away parts of Jerusalem. Now the outgoing Prime Minister is confirming this story that he had denied.Olmert has told Israel's press that he offered Abbas... (read more)

What Is Netanyahu's Plan?: From the first reports that Benjamin Netanyahu's objective was to form a government with his political enemies through last night's decision by the Labor Party to join his government, some friends of One Jerusalem have voiced their concerns about the... (read more)

Sincerely, The One Jerusalem Team

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Friday, March 27, 2009

From The OU: Jewish Community Services Expo

From an email:

The OU Job Board along with our co-sponsors proudly presents:

Learn which services are available to you and your family- Free of Charge
Meet one on one with various Social Service organizations, Chesed organizations, Government services and more that can provide and offer you free benefits and walk you through the existing system.

These services are NOT JUST for the Unemployed!

Help does NOT have to cost you money- it's available NOW free for your benefit!
When: April 26th, 2009
Where: Lander College for Women 227 W 60th Street, NYC (Gym)
Time: 12:00PM-4:00PM

This day's event will deal with credit card resolution, interest free loans, employment services, unemployment benefit information, food programs, training, vocational training, health and medical services and initiatives, e-learning program, disability services, services for the deaf, services for "special needs", job placement tools, services for the ageing, referral services throughout the metropolitan area, family and psychological services, Medicare services, resume re-writing event, workshops and much morel

You do NOT have to be Unemployed to enjoy benefits that are available today.

Meet with 30 + Social Service and Chesed Networks in a comfortable venue and working area!
Please join us now and register ASAP at www.oujobs.org

Some of the participating organizations:

Chasdei Chaim Tutoring Gemach
The Eliezer Project
Credit Advocate Counseling Corp.
Hebrew Free Burial Association
Queens Jewish Community Council
The Eliezer Project
Lakewood Resource And Referral Center
Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
Oneg Shabbos
Jewish family Service of Bergen County N
Jewish Community Council of WashingtonH
United Jewish Council
Relief Resources
crown heights jewish community council
Medicare Rights Center
Hebrew Free Loan Society
Bensonhurst CoJo
National Council of Young Israel
Ohel Children and Family Services
Ohel Children and Family Services
Shorefront Jewish Community Council
United Jewish Council of the East Side
EPI Networking
Jackson Heights Kehillah (JCCWQ)
Jewish Community Council of GCI
Uri L'tzedek
Jewish Community Council of Washington H
COJO Flatbush
Westchester Jewish Council
PCS Agudas Israel
PCS Agudas Israel-Lakewood
Jewish Board of Family & Children's Services

More to be announced!
PLEASE JOIN US. Simply sign up for this event and you are in!
Please copy & paste the following link into your browser

Have a Great Shabbos

Srulie Rosner-OU Job Board

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mr. Oliphant, Don't You Think The Snake Head Is A Bit Over The Top? (Updated)

Ed Morrissey and Gothamist are among those who have been covering Oliphant's cartoon.

My question: no one seems to mention that among the other disgusting imagery Oliphant uses, it seems that the body symbolizing Israel has a snake head.

Doesn't it?

So what's that all about?

UPDATE: Here is an article by Barry Rubin that distinguishes between the misunderstanding and the outright hatred in the Oliphant cartoon.


By Barry Rubin

It is silly to say that the Pat Oliphant Cartoon in the New York Times and many newspapers around the world is antisemitic. But it’s also a bad mistake because the cartoon deserves serious analysis to show just how dangerous and wrong it is, in ways that not only hurt Israel but all Western democracies.

You can see the cartoon at this URL or view it at the end of this article:


Let’s deconstruct the cartoon to show the basic ideas that underlie it and that make it lie.

  1. To begin with, it is not a very good cartoon and bears a striking resemblance to anti-Israel propaganda cartoons in its crudity and one-sidedness. Aesthetic decline has accompanied political crudeness. It doesn’t just say: these people are wrong but these people are 100 percent evil and hateful. The next step is, of course, they deserve to die and their state deserves to be wiped off the map. Is that what Oliphant thinks? Who cares? That’s what he said.

  2. On the left is a huge figure. On the right is a small figure. The implication that need not be spoken here is that the big figure—the powerful side—must be wrong. Oliphant like many or most Western intellectuals, academics, and policymakers, still doesn’t understand the concept of asymmetric warfare. In this, a weaker side wages war on a stronger side using techniques it thinks can make it win. What are these techniques? Terrorism, indifference to the sacrifice of its people, indifference to material losses, refusal to compromise, extending the war for ever. This is precisely the technique of Hamas: let’s continue attacking Israel in order to provoke it to hit us, let’s target Israeli civilians, let’s seek a total victory based on genocide, let’s use our own civilians as human shields, and with such methods we will win. One way we will win is to demonize those who defend themselves, to put them in positions where they have a choice between surrender and looking bad. This cartoon is a victory for Hamas. But it is also a victory for all those who would fight the West and other democracies (India, for example) using these methods. Remember September 11?

  3. The big figure has no head, and hence is not a human being. Israelis are not human. Moreover the headless figure is irrational. We are to believe that Israel attacked Gaza for no reason. Forget about thousands of rockets, hundreds of mortar shells, and scores of cross-border attacks. The tiny figure on the right is no threat. So there is no reason to attack it. Attacking is immoral and irrational. The same could—and has—been said about al-Qaida, Hizballah, Pakistani terrorists striking at Mumbai, etc.

  4. Dehumanization: The figure on the left is a monster, a robot. Monsters and robots deserve no sympathy; they have no right to self-defense. If tomorrow an Israeli child or civilian is killed in a terrorist attack, how can one have sympathy for these people since they are not people?

  5. Goosestep: The leg is raised In a Nazi goosestep; the shoe is a jackboot. Thus, Israel is a Nazi power. But why is it a Nazi power? Because it isn’t human and just attacks women and children for no reason at all. And what happens then? Since Israel is said to be Nazi, any sympathy for 2000 years of Jewish suffering—including Arab terrorist attacks—is thus erased. Incidentally, this is all being done when there is still no proof (not even weak proof) for a single Israeli soldier having committed a single atrocity. Where, then, is the rationality here?

  6. Sword: Ironically, the sword is the weapon used by Islamists to behead people. Why a sword? Because it is a primitive weapon for a primitive people. The hand which is very hairy—again the ape, dehumanized image—holds the sword at a 45 degree angle reminiscent of a Nazi salute. See point 5 above.

  7. The Magen David is Israel’s symbol. Therefore, despite the fact that it is also a general Jewish symbol, it is not antisemitic to use it. Of course, the context matters, too. But that is not what is most important in this cartoon. Still, the author could have labeled the monster “Israel.” Note, however, that “magen” means shield, and the name of Israel’s army is the Israel Defense Forces. In Gaza, they were acting in a defensive manner but that of course escapes much of the media coverage and things said about the war. What strikes me as most bizarre about the usage of this symbol is that it is being wheeled forward, as if Israel seeks to install itself in the Gaza Strip. But Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, openly stating that it wanted peace. The symbolism is to make the action purely offensive, an aggressive war to annex territory, which of course is untrue

  8. The shark is to me the most offensive part of the cartoon because it shows that the cartoonist has lost any sense of his tradition. Aren’t all the other elements enough to show his theme? The “over-kill” puts it into the category of Arab propaganda cartoons. It says: Israel is innately aggressive, that the whole state of Israel is permanently aggressive and exists for no other reason. If the cartoonist had shown Israel doing mean things to helpless Palestinians, the suggestion is that the Gaza War is a terrible thing. The way this cartoon is done it suggests that Israel’s existence is a terrible thing.

  9. Palestinians are portrayed as only women and children. There are no fighters. Was there no army in Gaza, no 20,000 Hamas men under arms? Did Israel attack a defenseless area? Again if the cartoonist wanted to portray Israel carelessly attacking into a civilian area, the implication would be that it used excessive force or insufficient care. I would disagree but the extremism of the cartoons suggestion, and its falseness, exceeds the usual bounds of Western rationality.

  10. The evil Israel is heading right toward the Palestinians and they are running in fear. Here is an accurate way to describe the war: After Hamas unilaterally announced it was cancelling the ceasefire, it launched even more rockets and mortars at Israel than it did during the “normal” ceasefire. Their range was increasing and the lives of one million Israelis became impossible. Hamas leaders openly bragged that Israel was afraid to fight back and they would keep escalating. Israel then attacked, the Hamas forces retreated into the middle of highly populated civilian areas. After some fighting, where civilians were used by Hamas as human shields, Israel had no intention of going into the most densely populated neighborhoods. It thus ended the war, and withdrew. Hamas then came out of hiding and bragged that it had won a great victory. The fantasy Israel created by Oliphant and others would have continued the war, wiped out Hamas, and retaken the Gaza Strip. In military terms, Israel could have done this with minimal casualties for its own side. Far from proving anti-Israel claims, the history of the Gaza War proved the opposite.

This is, then, a loathsome cartoon. But to dismiss it by the single word “antisemitism” will foreclose thought as to why it is a loathsome cartoon. It will allow its defenders to avoid facing the real problems with this cartoon and the worldview it represents. And worst of all: that argument implies that the only problem was using the ambiguous Mogen David, that it would have been acceptable if he had just written the word “Israel” on the Nazi monster he created to represent the Jewish state.

Finally, this cartoon represents the mentality that will plague every Western and democratic state in the coming years. Imagine the exact same cartoon but with the Magen David replaced by the Stars and Stripes—the evil America attacking the Taliban or al-Qaida, or Iraq, or Muslims in general. Indeed, this is the kind of cartoon which has appeared aimed against America or the West in general. It is part of the merging of much Western fashionable intellectual and cultural thinking with that of extremist Third World, and especially radical Islamist, propaganda.

The cartoonist doesn’t hate Jews; he probably doesn’t even hate Israelis. What is involved here is a lack of understanding so enormous that it will both incite hatred; cause violence and death; and block policies needed to help people—including Palestinians who, are supposedly the object of its sympathy but thus doomed to suffer under a repressive regime with a permanent war policy.

Antisemitism? Ask not for whom the bell tolls because Israel, the canary in the mine—the one who first they came for—can tell you that you are all next.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org

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Do Livni And Obama Still Share The Bolshevik Dream?

Elyakim Haetzni writes about the need to give up on faded dreams whose time--even if it ever came--has clearly gone:
In Moscow’s Red Square, what is left of the believers of bolshevism still rally sometimes, under the faded red flags and Stalin’s portraits. They remind me of Tzipi Livni’s staunch, pathetic attachment to the notion of a Palestinian state.
Haetzni quotes left wing Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami, who said in an interview that the entire idea of a two-state solution is not only no longer relevant--the idea itself no longer has the support of either Israelis or Palestinians that it once did.
Today, there is no longer a Palestinian national movement, Ben-Ami added. There are two camps, a non-existent PLO and the Hamas majority; and Hamas does not accept the two-state notion.
Haetzni also quotes former Mossad Director Efraim Halevy, who comes to a similar conclusion based on more pragmatic considerations:
In a recent interview he presented the minimal terms that must be imposed on a Palestinian state: Disarmament, ban on signing international agreements, control over the aerial and electromagnetic space, and monitoring of water sources.
Halevy bases his assessment on American intelligence estimates whereby it is possible to have a rule over “territories” that is not a state entity. Netanyahu has a similar list, in addition to Israeli monitoring of such “state’s” entry and exit points.

As Haetzni points out--there is now way that a new Palestinian state is going to agree to these terms, and it is equally clear that the world will back the new Palestinian state on that:
As usual, instead of scoring some points for concessions over our historical homeland, we shall be hit with condemnations over our abuse of the nascent poor state.
Said state being controlled by the same inept and corrupt leadership that has drawn the world's pity and dollars till now.

Obama, of course, is no less enamored of the idea of a second Palestinian state as Livni is. It is an idea that just seems so right--just as his economic plans no doubt sound to him as he pushes ahead to follow the European model. At this point, both Obama's economic and Mideast plans seem to be headed towards a similar outcome.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

[Hat tip: P. David Hornik]

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Netanyahu's Unity Coalition: Does Anyone Win?

Seems like everyone loses something. Is that politics, or an outright mistake?

P. David Hornik writes at Pajamas Media:
One loser is undoubtedly Netanyahu’s Likud Party itself. Likud members are outraged at the number of cabinet posts Labor has received, along with those posts allocated to Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, and a non-party professional as justice minister. This leaves very few positions for those within Likud, even though Likud’s 27 mandates make it by far the largest party. As a result, talented and popular Likudniks like former Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon and former Minister Benny Begin have been left out of the top posts. In his zeal to include Labor, Netanyahu has in fact handed his own colleagues a raw deal.

Beyond the Likud Party, though, the Israeli electorate isn’t exactly getting what it voted for. Although polls show a large majority of the public in favor of a national-unity government of some kind, Labor, with its lowly 13 seats — and, moreover, as part of the center-left bloc roundly defeated by the center-right bloc — is getting far more than its electoral due. This stems from Israel’s difficult parliamentary system, where people vote solely for parties of widely varying descriptions and sizes, and never for individual leaders or geographic representatives.
Of course, Labor too loses something as well--even with the power it now has within the coalition, within Labor itself there is a potential split with those who oppose joining the coalition and might even split off to form a new party. 

Would they join Kadimah in the opposition?

Of the three party's it would seem that only Kadimah could brag of having stuck by their principles--even if it does leave them on the outside and isolated.

If Netanyahu cannot stand up to the coming US pressure on creating a second Palestinian state, the point will be moot.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Roger Cohen Wants To Impose Peace On Israel Something "Fierce"

Roger Cohen has another op-ed in the New York Times (The Fierce Urgency of Peace), advising on the right way to deal with Israel, based on a Bipartisan Statement on U.S. Middle East Peacemaking.

One problem is that before even getting to the report itself, one has to wade through the inaccuracies of the report's introduction, which Cohen unquestioningly passes on to us:
Deploring “seven years of absenteeism” under the Bush administration, they call for intense American mediation in pursuit of a two-state solution
Seven years of absenteeism?

It would have been unfathomable that four months after 9/11, the United States would commence a war on terrorism by insisting that its closest Middle East ally try to make peace with a man who was writing checks to suicide bombers.
One might suggest that in the midst of what the Obama claims is the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression, maybe there are other issues that should take priority for his undivided attention.

But going a step further--the claim of seven years of absenteeism is simply not true:
Far from ignoring the Arab-Israeli issue, Bush did the following: (1) became in 2002 the first U.S. president to endorse a Palestinian state as a matter of official policy; (2) translated the policy in 2003 into a Road Map approved by the UN, the EU, Russia, the Palestinian Authority and Israel; (3) negotiated with Israel in 2004 on the Gaza Disengagement Deal (and got West Bank settlements dismantled to demonstrate it would not stop with Gaza); (4) supported a Palestinian election in 2005 to endorse a new leader pledged to dismantling terrorist groups; (5) permitted all parties to participate in the 2006 elections to give Palestinians a choice between the “peace partner” party and the premier terrorist group; (6) scuttled the first two phases of the Road Map in 2007, in order to keep the process going, even after the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group; (7) convened a worldwide conference in Annapolis in 2007 to begin a year-long period of final status negotiations; and (8) had his Secretary of State make umpteen trips in 2006-2008 to push the negotiations.
One can only hope that these mandarins--as Cohen refers to them--have a better grasp of the Middle East than they do of recent American History. More to the point, what is the chance that the lack of objectivity and out right politicizing they demonstrate against the Bush administration will manifest itself in their retread of the two-state solution, leading to a second Palestinian state.

Let's not forget that the chair of this group is Brent Scowcroft, who--as I have blogged about many times--made a truly bizarre statement about the Middle East during a discussion noted in The Washington Post in October 2005:
Scowcroft, in his interview, discussed an argument over Iraq he had two years ago with Condoleezza Rice, then-national security adviser and current secretary of state. "She says we're going to democratize Iraq, and I said, 'Condi, you're not going to democratize Iraq,' and she said, 'You know, you're just stuck in the old days,' and she comes back to this thing that we've tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth," he said. The article stated that with a "barely perceptible note of satisfaction," Scowcroft added: "But we've had fifty years of peace." [emphasis added]
Fifty years of peace in the Middle East?

Now let's see. Between 1953 and 2003, here are the Mideast wars we can think of off the top of our head: the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, the two Palestinian intifadas against Israel, the Algerian Civil War, the Yemen Civil War and two Sudanese civil wars. That doesn't even count acts of terror against non-Mideastern countries, from the Iranian invasion of the U.S. Embassy to the attacks of 9/11.

What do you call someone who describes this as "50 years of peace"? A "realist."
Actually, the Middle East is even more violent than Taranto's list for the past 50 years. Raphael Patai, in an updated chapter in his bookThe Arab Mind has his own list of Arab conflicts--not including Israel--taking into account just during the 13 years from 1970 to 1983:
1. Intermittent disputes involving border warfare and assassinations between South Yemen on the one hand, and North Yemen and Saudi Arabia, on the other since the early 1970's. A brief but fierce border war between the two Yemens took place as recently as March, 1979.

2. A major and bloody, albeit brief, conflict between Jordan and Palestinian guerrillas in 1970, complicated by Syrian intervention.

3. Fighting between the Kurds and the Iraqis, which lasted several years.

4. A bloody conflict between Northern and Southern Sudan, 1956-1972.

5. Clashes between South Yemen and Oman, linked to the Dhofar rebellion, 1972-1976.

6. A tripartite conflict between Algeria on the one hand and Morocco and Mauritania, on the other, over the control of the former Spanish Sahara, beginning in 1976 and subsequently transformed into guerrilla warfare against Morocco by the Polisario, the freedom fighters of the Western Sahara, supported by Algeria and Libya, which was still in progress in 1982.

7. Intermittent hostility, and actual border fighting, including air attacks, between Egypt and Libya in 1977.

8. The Lebanese civil war, which began in 1975, involving two outside parties, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization, still unresolved in early 1982.

9. The invasion of Chad by Libya in 1980.

10. The war between Iraq and Iran, which began in the fall of 1980, in which Iraq is supported by Jordan and Iran by Syria, making it in effect, an inter-Arab conflict. It was still in progress in early 1982.

11. In February, 1982, a conflict flared up between the Syrian government and Muslim fundamentalists in the Syrian city of Hama, in which several thousands were killed and major parts of Hama were destroyed. [p.357-358]
Do these 'mandarins' really believe that these intra-Muslim wars and conflicts are due to Israel--assuming that, unlike Scowcroft, they are actually aware of the nature of the region?

Let's go a step further--the website TheReligionOfPeace.com tracks the Islamist attacks since 9-11 and thus far, according to its list there have been12,614 deaths and injuries from those attacks.

According to its detailed list of Islamist Terror Attacks in 2008, these attacks during the year 2008 took place in 41 different countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Chechnya, China, Dagestan, Denmark, Dubai, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Gaza, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ingushetia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, UK, USA and Yemen.

Do the mandarins believe that these attacks will stop once their 'peace agreement' is foisted upon Israel?

The necessary comprimises to make this work are:
•Two states, based on the lines of June 4, 1967, with minor, reciprocal, and agreed-upon modifications as expressed in a 1:1 land swap, to take into account areas heavily populated by Israelis in the West Bank;[Peace is supposed to be achieved by creating a state for Palestinians who have never had their own state and so far have demonstated a distinct inability to govern themselves--and this is supposed to add to the stability of the region?]

•A solution to the refugee problem consistent with the two-state solution, that does not entail a general right of return, addresses the Palestinian refugees' sense of injustice, and provides them with meaningful financial compensation as well as resettlement assistance; [what exactly is a resettlement "
that does not entail a general right of return"? That is left unsaid. ]

•Jerusalem as home to both capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods falling under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, with special arrangements for the Old City providing each side control of its respective holy places and unimpeded access by each community to them;[This is an idea that neatly avoids addressing the issue of the Temple Mount--will Jews have unimpeded access there? Will the wakf now stop destroying archaeological finds?]

•A non-militarized Palestinian state, together with security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty, and a U.S.-led multinational force to ensure a peaceful transitional security period. This coalition peacekeeping structure, under UN mandate, would feature American leadership of a NATO force supplemented by Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis. We can envision a five-year, renewable mandate with the objective of achieving full Palestinian domination of security affairs on the Palestine side of the line within 15 years.[Just how many years is this force supposed to remain? After all, we all know how well the UN force has been in Lebanon preventing Hezbollah from re-arming itself]
The point is, these mandarins are merely government officials who want one more shot in imposing an agreement without regards to the political, historical and cultural realities of the area--and Roger Cohen is cut from the same cloth.

For example, they all promote the idea of talking to Hamas: to provide inducements "in ways that might help clarify the movement’s views and test its behavior"--because their charter expressing their desire to destroy Israel and their continued bombing of schools is not clear enough. They claim that isolating Hamas makes it stronger, as if uniting Hamas and Fatah would not result in Abbas and Fatah being overpowered--politically if not militarily.

The animus these people have towards Israel is transparent. They are certainly entitled to their opinion. However, they are not entitled to allow their animus to direct them to give bad advice to President Obama. 

That is why it is not surprising that there are other experts who disagree with both Roger Cohen and the report.

Now there are indications that other voices closer to home are joining the chorus, from unexpected places during a February meeting Obama had with Clinton and George Mitchell and Mideast experts.

Among them was Robert Malley, an Obama adviser during the campaign until he was let go. At the time, he was viewed with suspicion by the Jewish community. In the February meeting, he opposed the aggressive approach that Cohen and the report favor. 

According to Mally:
"The basic agreement, I think, is that none of us is going to recommend, and, in fact, all us will recommend against, rushing towards a grand, comprehensive, end-of-conflict deal between Israelis and Palestinians," he said. "I think you will hear that we don't think that the time is ripe at this point for an end-of-conflict, comprehensive agreement between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people."

Malley said that all of the parameters that guided the Clinton administration's peace efforts in the 1990s have shifted. He said there are no longer two coherent entities that could sign a peace treaty, if one were forged. He noted Israel's election next Tuesday, with polls showing hardliner and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the frontrunner. But Malley also cited the fact that there is no longer a national Palestinian movement with which to negotiate.
Another adviser there was Aaron David Miller, who recently wrote a piece for Newsweek entitled If Obama Is Serious He should get tough with Israel. He was also an advisor to 6 different Secretaries of State from 1978-2003.

According to Miller:
"This region, as best I can understand it, hates big ideas. Particularly those big ideas imposed, crafted or orchestrated from outside. And frankly, transformative diplomacy was the essence of the previous administration's approach to this region. Regime change, democratization, grand bargains, grand rhetoric, one-size-fits-all," he said.

Instead, Miller called for "transactional diplomacy" based on small, pragmatic steps like getting Israel to open up Gaza for reconstruction efforts. Miller said President Obama should save his "big ideas" for dealing with the economic crisis in the United States, and take small, incremental steps in the Middle East.
These comments come from 2 people who would have been expected to advise Obama to pursue an aggressive approach imposing a peace agreement on Israel.

The third adviser, Robert Satloff, the Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy advised Obama:
"Don't pursue the peace process for the wrong reasons. Don't pursue the peace process for illusionary, romantic reasons. The peace process is not a solution to the problem of global terrorism. The peace process will not dry up recruits to al-Qaida in Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia," he said.

Satloff said the Obama administration should also learn from the mistakes of past U.S. administrations and not try to look for a "perfect" Palestinian leader.

"Don't play the Palestinian leadership game," he said. "Don't try to identify, pick, and put on a pedestal our chosen Palestinian leader. We have tried this. This is always a losing effort."
The point Satloff makes about the illusory effects that a comprehensive peace in the Middle East will provide dovetails with a separate article Malley co-wrote entitled How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East. There, Malley goes so far as to suggest:
basic issues should first be addressed. Among them are the reasons for recurring failures, the effectiveness of US mediation, the wisdom and realism of seeking a comprehensive, across-the-board settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, or even the centrality of that conflict to US interests and the benefits that would accrue to America from its resolution.
Considering the where Mally and Miller are coming from--namely the same position as Cohen and the report--their advice should be taken at least as seriously as the report suggestions.

Whether Obama agrees, only time will tell.

As for Cohen, he should realize that "The Fierce Urgency of Peace" should not lend itself to skipping over the facts.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Obama's Persistence Is A Hobgoblin Too

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is that any less true of persistence?

According to The Washington Post, during his press conference Obama emphasized the them of patience and determination, that

"whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I'm going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come as long as I'm in this office. I'm a big believer in persistence."

Abe Greenwald notes that Obama is not always persistent:

How curious that this constitutional persistence should appear now. After all, we have been engaged in a difficult war in Mesopotamia for six years, and through it all, Barack Obama has been extolling the virtues of quitting. Change, I suppose.

One could easily argue that Greenwald is being less than fair--Obama would claim that he disagreed with both the war in Iraq in general and with the surge as well: which would indicate that Obama does not believe in pursuing a 'foolish persistence'--it would also remind us that his opposition to the surge was wrong.

A similar persistence is Obama's dedication to the idea of the two state solution, of creating a second Palestinian state.

The key to the success of persistence is to understand the reason for the failure--otherwise there is another quote that is applicable:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not In Office Yet And Netanyahu Is Already Compromising

Israel's incoming prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Wednesday promised to resume peace talks with the Palestinians after he takes office, saying his government will be a "partner for peace."

The comments were the latest sign that Netanyahu is trying to temper his image as an opponent of the peace process. The Palestinians welcomed Netanyahu's words, but said his words must be matched by actions.
Because after all, it's not as if Israel has not been making compromises left and right to bolster Abbas's image. Left unsaid, of course, is just when Abbas starts making compromises.

But the key thing is Netanyhau's turnaround--perhaps to have been expected--that he will negotiate with the Palestinians after all. This is not what he was saying all during his campaign:
Netanyahu led his Likud Party to a strong showing in last month's parliamentary election by campaigning on a message that was harshly critical of the outgoing government's peace efforts. He said the Palestinians were not ready for independence, and said he would limit his efforts to developing their economy while continuing Israel's military occupation of the West Bank.
Once it was revealed that Labor would join the coalition, it was inevitable that Bibi would switch tracks...
Speaking at an economic conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said his development plan is not a substitute for political negotiations. "It's a complement to them," he said, calling a strong economy a "strong foundation for peace."
But keep in mind that Netanyahu has not taken the leap to actually endorse the idea of a 2 state solution. He has not yet made any mention of the creation of a second Palestinian state and has said that he will allow the settlements that already exist to expand.
In order to court Labor, Netanyahu promised to maintain peace negotiations. However, their deal was ambiguous about what exactly Netanyahu is prepared to offer. [emphasis added]
In the end, Netanyahu may very well end up disappointing both the Israelis that elected him as well as the members of Labor who have joined his coalition.

Whatever negotiations Netanyahu may be open to, the Palestinians will have their own version of what is negotiable and what is not:
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat cautiously welcomed Netanyahu's comments, but said the new government must commit to establishing a Palestinian state.

"Any Israeli government that accepts the two-state solution, negotiates with us on all core issues without exception, and agrees to stop settlement activity ... will be a partner," he said. "It's time for deeds from both sides as far as their commitments are concerned, not words."
Everything is negotiable--except for the settlements.
Everything is negotiable--including allowing Palestinian Arabs back into Israel.

It is all very well for actions to be taken, but Erekat avoids the fact that thus far the deeds have come from the Israeli side. There has been no indication that the PA and Abbas have any inclination to concede anything on their part.

If that is because Abbas does not have the support among his own people to make concessions, then the peace negotiations are a joke--and it is time to make that admission openly.

If Netanyahu can present himself as truly interested in honest and pragmatic negotiations--instead of slavishly invested, as Olmert was--maybe we can get to somewhere.

Check out Israel Matzav for implications of Labor's involvement in the coalition.

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