Saturday, February 20, 2010


Dear Reader,

Below is the final editorial I have written for The Jerusalem Post in my capacity as Editorial Page Editor.

I am delighted to tell you that I have accepted a new job with the Jewish Ideas Daily website as managing editor. It is an ideas-driven (as opposed to news driven) site and I look forward to the challenge. I join an outstanding team of editors.

So, please visit Jewish Ideas Daily: and take a moment to register.

My thanks to all my friends and colleagues at The Post for nearly 11 fascinating years of creativity.


Passport ‘rage’

Dahu Khalfan Tamim now has a world-class reputation for detective work. The head of the Dubai police swiftly determined that Hamas’s Mahmoud Mabhouh did not die of natural causes at the five-star Bustan Rotana Hotel on Jan. 20. He was assassinated.

Let’s for the sake of argument grant that Israel did away with Mabhouh; that he was not killed by Iran or over some intra-Palestinian dispute, and that clues pointing to Israeli culpability are genuine.

Mabhouh certainly deserved to be assassinated by Israel. Hamas declared war on Israel. And he co-founded its military wing and was personally involved in the (separate) 1989 killings of IDF soldiers Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas.

Mabhouh was a key link in the unlawful syndicate which delivers Iranian weapons to Gaza. He was apparently tasked with importing an arsenal that would make life hellish for Israelis living in metropolitan Tel Aviv. He was, perhaps, Hamas’s equivalent to Hizbullah’s Imad Mughniyeh, whose car blew up in Damascus two years ago.

YOU CAN tell a great deal about the moral compass and political leanings of a society by observing its reaction to the Mabhouh liquidation.

There is unease in Europe because the purported assassins identified by Dubai were travelling under forged French, German, Irish and British passports; and identities of Israelis with dual-citizenship were utilized.

Even The Times of London, whose editorial page has been sympathetic toward Israel, expressed chagrin over the affair, saying this country had shown poor regard for the “future security of British passport holders overseas.” Frankly, there is little reason to think that the tradecraft employed in this assassination – which we will not second guess at this stage – jeopardizes anyone.

Actually, what troubles us is the question of whose passport Mabhouh was traveling under and why he was allowed to enter neutral Dubai on gun-running business.

Of course, that’s not how the British see it. The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen warned that if Israel had used British passports for “nefarious” purposes – meaning sending Mabhouh to his Maker – Bowen expected, or would it be more accurate to say, hoped for, “a crisis” in relations between London and Jerusalem.

The Guardian quoted a Foreign Office mandarin as gloating: “Relations were in the freezer before this. They are in the deep freeze now.” The paper then grumbled about the British government’s “supine” response to the assassination, editorializing against the government’s proposal to lift the threat of lawfare. The Guardian wants visiting Israeli ministers to continue to worry about facing Palestinian-inspired “war crimes” charges.

With the British media delighting in the assassination-passport kerfuffle – a Daily Mail headline screamed: “Dragged into a Mossad murder plot” – Menzies Campell, a routinely anti-Israel elder of the Liberal Democrats, declared that “Israel has some explaining to do.”

An anyway beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown intoned: “We have got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care.” Sentiments echoed by Opposition Leader David Cameron.

The most encouraging view – paradoxically – came from Robert Fisk, the Independent’s inveterate Israel-basher: He suspects that London and Paris colluded with Jerusalem in Mabhouth’s assassination, in a reprise of the 1956 Sinai Campaign. That explained, he wrote, the flawless biometric passports.

What an uplifting (if improbable) scenario: MI6 and the Directorate-General for External Security working in tandem with the Mossad to stop Iranian arms from reaching Hamas.

PERHAPS the shrill reaction in some (though certainly not all) British quarters is not rooted purely in anti-Israelism. Chances are that at least parts of the British intelligentsia and media would have reacted similarly if the man in that hotel room had been Osama bin Laden... or Adolf Eichmann. And this pigheaded refusal to acknowledge that sometimes the ends do justify the means reflects a moral impoverishment that’s not limited to Britain.

Some pundits here have also gone wobbly, asking whether the Mabhouh hit was worth the trouble; others are rashly calling for the resignation of Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

In fact, removing a Mabhouh or a Mughniyeh – agents of evil engaged in sensitive compartmentalized work – significantly disrupts Hamas and Hizbullah. It sows distrust within enemy ranks. And it forces whoever replaces them to dissipate their energies just trying to stay alive.

Friday, February 12, 2010 time runs out

The eleventh hour

The Islamic Republic of Iran celebrated its 31st anniversary yesterday with an enormous rally held in the shadow of the Azadi Tower. The monument was built by the Shah in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. The plaza surrounding the monument has been cynically renamed Freedom Square.

One day, when the Iranian people overthrow this evil regime, perhaps they will rededicate the square as a memorial to the victims of the Khomeinists – dissidents such as Muhammad Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, who were judicially executed last month. Of the 5,000 people arrested since the country’s June 2009 “elections,” 11 have met a similar fate.

A recent Amnesty International report tells the stories of some of the regime’s victims who were simply murdered: Amir Javadifar, a 25-year-old student of management at Qazvin Azad University, was beaten and tortured to death. Twenty-eight-year-old Taraneh Mousavi was raped and tortured before her burned body was dumped in an open field. Those who speak against the regime place not only themselves but also family members in jeopardy. This is true even for disillusioned Khomeinists.

ALL THIS helps explain why the regime’s celebrations went unmolested. Dissidents previously released from custody were warned to stay home. State-controlled media were reminded to watch what they disseminated. All images coming out of the country were carefully controlled by the regime. Foreign media outlets such as CNN and BBC have been banned from Iran. Internet and other new media (Twitter, Facebook) were disrupted.

Opposition figures who did try to rally supporters were intercepted by government thugs and intimidated into returning home; others were arrested. The AP, relying on opposition Web sites, reported on clashes between security forces and protesters away from the pro-government rally. Police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators, and paintballs to mark them for arrest.

Footage broadcast on YouTube showed small numbers of – undoubtedly courageous – opposition demonstrators waving green ribbons. But an unprecedented police clampdown appears to have snuffed out any hope that the opposition could parlay the regime’s party into a day of meaningful protest.

Instead, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad harangued – Castro-style – those who turned up for over an hour, telling them that Iran had already produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a 20-percent level. If true, it’s a step that brings an atomic bomb exponentially closer. In his next breath, the disingenuous dictator declared: “When we say we do not manufacture the bomb, we mean it.”

ON Wednesday, the Obama administration intensified existing US sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. It blocked the assets of an Iranian general and four companies affiliated with the IRGC.

The administration argues that its unsuccessful year-long effort to reason with the mullahs has given it the political capital to ask the UN Security Council to support a system of sanctions that would further hinder Iran’s banking, shipping and insurance industries. The world will soon learn whether Russia and China will feign cooperation while working to water down President Barack Obama’s proposed resolution.

David E. Sanger of The New York Times suggests Obama is gambling that a global agreement on sanctions will persuade the mullahs to stop spinning their centrifuges. We’d like the president to raise the stakes and press the UN to prohibit the export of refined petroleum to Iran.

Some say tough sanctions will send the masses into the arms of the government and undermine the opposition. But yesterday’s rally showed that the regime doesn’t have a problem putting on a show of support; and that the opposition is weak, fragmented and under siege.

The prospects of the opposition are unpredictable, regardless of what happens on the sanctions front. Pretending otherwise strikes us as a lame excuse for doing nothing.

We also understand that sanctions on gasoline could enrich the IRGC, which already controls Iran’s black market in commodities. Still, the debilitating impact on the regime of endless lines at petrol stations should not be underestimated.

Dawdling by two US administrations and by an international community preoccupied with immediate economic gratification has brought the world to this eleventh hour. It may already be too late for the real sanctions option.

But given the stark alternative – isn’t it worth a try?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Away with campus timidity

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful… The members of the Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine, condemn and strongly oppose the presence of Michael Oren on our campus… Oren personally participated in the Israeli Defense Force in wars that took place in Lebanon and Palestine…Oren and his partners should only be granted a speakers platform in the International Criminal Court...

IN THE name of demonizing the Jewish state, intimidating its supporters and making it ever more difficult to present Israel’s case, Muslim campaigners and their allies at the UC-Irvine campus on Monday repeatedly disrupted a talk by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. Eleven of the louts were detained, issued summonses and released.

In trying to silence Oren, they made a mockery of the university’s commitment to freedom of speech and treated its dedication to respectful dialogue with downright disdain. Yes, they probably discomfited our ambassador, but they shamed UC-Irvine and its alumni.

UNFORTUNATELY, what happened on Monday in southern California mirrors the experience of Israeli spokespeople on the European continent, in Britain and increasingly on liberal American campuses. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s address last October at the University of Chicago was disrupted by Muslim student organizations and their fellow-travelers. Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the Court of St James’s, described efforts in British universities to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state as a “daily obsession.”

Next month, Israel’s enemies on campus will hold a series of vitriolic, well-orchestrated events aimed at delegitimizing this country and hammering home the poisonous idea that the Jewish people has no right to self-determination or a national homeland. In the words of Jerusalem Post columnist Gil Troy, they will be continuing the campaign to “make Israel toxic.”

A colossal untruth promoted by the anti-Zionist camp – that Israel is “an apartheid state” – is starting to be believed by the gullible or intellectually dishonest. The old Arab boycott of Israel has been reinvigorated by calls for “divestment.”

Troy is right to argue that friends of Israel can hardly expect to sway those who have “swallowed the apartheid libel and drunk the anti-Israel Kool-Aid.”

The Zionist goal, he argues, should be bolstering “wavering Jewish students and the vast uninformed and uninterested middle.”

WE SUSPECT Jewish college students are doing a bit too much “wavering.”

It is true that Jerusalem speaks with many voices – but it has done so since the 1970s. Spurious efforts to “redefine” what “being pro-Israel means” are also not new.

Moreover, campuses have never been bastions of pro-Israelism. Not in the 1960s, when America’s black power movement became enamored with the Arab cause; not in the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter struggled in vain to conceal his contempt for Menachem Begin, and when Time magazine demonized our premier as a modern-day Fagin.

It was no picnic being on campus in the 1980s, when an NBC anchor stood on a Beirut rooftop, with smoke billowing in the background from burning PLO targets, and declared, “…Nothing like it has ever happened in this part of the world. I kept thinking... of the bombing of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War…We are now dealing with an imperial Israel.”

Nor did pro-Israel activism come easy in the early 1990s, when a “pitiless” Yitzhak Rabin expelled 415 Islamic fanatics to southern Lebanon; international pressure eventually forced him to rescind the move, setting the stage for the flowering of Hamas.

In the 21st century a difficult campus situation got even worse, partly due to an influx of Muslim students and the affinity of the anti-globalization movement for the Palestinian cause.

NONE OF this absolves the current cadre of Jewish student activists from stepping up to the plate. The Twitter generation even has the advantage of circumventing the silencing of Israel by utilizing new media.

Never has it been more important to cast timidity aside. To reassert that no one has a stronger claim to this land than the Jewish people; to denounce the notion that Israel’s “original sin” was being re-born after 2000 years; and to explain that the “occupation” and settlements are fundamentally red-herring issues that would fade away, were the Palestinians to negotiate in earnest for a two-state solution.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Viral irrationalism

More than 300 people in Monsey and New Square, two hassidic enclaves north of New York City, have contracted the mumps, a disease spread by coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include fever, headache and swollen glands. Now the disease has reached haredi communities in Brooklyn and New Jersey.

Epidemiologists suspect the outbreak started in August in a Catskills summer camp with an 11-year-old boy who brought the mumps to the US from England. In London, the Health Protection Agency reported over 800 cases in 2009 – a significant uptick over the previous year.

By age four, children ought to have been immunized against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, whooping cough, and several other diseases which strike in childhood, yet can have deleterious life-long consequences.

Unfortunately, a not-insignificant minority of parents are refusing to immunize their children, fearing vaccines contain harmful side effects and/or out of conviction that Mother Nature would not approve.

The Jewish community, here and in the Diaspora, is not immune to such irrationalism. Some people have been instructed by their clerics not to immunize; some have been swept up in the quagmire of medical quackery, while still others are convinced profiteering pharmaceutical companies are conspiring to promote unnecessary vaccines.

As a consequence, Israel’s Arab sector is, overall, better immunized than its Jewish population. Among Jews, unvaccinated children are thought to be found mostly among hassidim, back-to-nature secular bohemians, and their settler counterparts.

THE phenomenon of children not being immunized has increased in parallel with the growth of the Internet and the dissemination of junk science. Yet the medical community shares some of the blame.

In 1998, The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, published a study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield which linked vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) with autism. As The New York Times recently pointed out, the editors of the journal did not know that Wakefield had an interest in promoting a single measles vaccine and that he was being financed by a lawyer campaigning against the MMR combination vaccine. In any event, Wakefield’s sample group was only 12 children.

As a consequence of the publicity generated by the Lancet article – only now retracted – some parents decided against the prevailing view of the medical community and did not immunize their children. Equally tragic, many parents of autistic children were made to feel responsible for their children’s disability. The emotional damage to these parents is incalculable.

Obviously, no vaccine is 100 percent safe or 100% effective. But scientists insist that there is no causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.

On mumps, the blogosphere is full of rumors that even those vaccinated have been struck by the disease because there is an “unusual strain going around.” In fact, the mumps vaccine does not provide total protection; it does require a booster jab and failure to get this follow-up dose can leave a person exposed.

Not being immunized, however, leaves you 100% vulnerable.

Science is about probabilities. Case in point: Just because Israel was not hit by a swine flu pandemic does not mean that the Health Ministry was wrong to consider a worst-case scenario in its planning (even though it erred in its ultimate assessment and consequently overreacted). Immunizations against the regular flu and the swine flu are still indicated, say physicians.

IN NEW York City, which has one of the finest public health systems in the world, youngsters are not permitted to enter elementary school without proof of immunization. Unfortunately, proof of immunization is generally not required for admission by the various municipal school systems in this country.

Thankfully, most Israeli children are immunized through the Tipat Halav well-baby clinics. Under the health basket, childhood vaccinations are completely free. Boosters are provided (free) by school nurses. But lack of money is no excuse for failing to immunize.

We urge the Health Ministry to consider requiring parents to provide a child’s pinkas hisunim – immunization record – when they register their youngsters for school. The enforcement tool would be simple: Any municipality or stream, including most of the haredi sector, which is found to admit unimmunized children, would face loss of funding from the national government.
gohome print

Monday, February 08, 2010


Amr Moussa's missed opportunity

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa must be frustrated having to spend an inordinate amount of time holding together his fractious membership when, plainly, he’d rather be out bashing Israel.

Lately, to keep Libya as the venue for the March 27 Arab League summit, Moussa has had to soothe Lebanese feelings. Lebanon’s Amal Party holds a grudge against Col. Muammar Gaddafi for his suspected involvement in the disappearance of Musa Sadr, a venerated Shi’ite cleric, who went missing more than 30 years ago in Libya.

Still, over the weekend, the secretary-general made time to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo. The Associated Press quoted Moussa as hinting that a renewal of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations could be near, but he pledged that this time the Arabs would not be taken in by “Israeli trickery” – everything would be written down!

Moussa, who has headed the league since 2001, is a former Egyptian foreign minister purported to be popular at home, particularly for his strident anti-Israel line.

Supporters have put his name forth as the ideal man, in the fullness of time, to replace President Hosni Mubarak. Now age 74, Moussa could be presented as an interim rais when Mubarak leaves the scene – someone with international credentials, political savvy, and no ties to the Mukhabarat secret police or Mubarak’s family.

British journalist Patrick Seale, widely respected in the Arab world, wrote a laudatory op-ed about Moussa in the February 5 New York Times. Seale described Moussa as “tough, affable, plain-speaking” if occasionally grumpy.

Seale’s summation of Moussa’s positions, as we read it, is that the secretary-general would prefer that the Security Council impose a solution on Israel; meanwhile, he opposes a resumption of peace talks until there is total Israeli freeze on all construction over the Green Line; he’d like to see Western countries deal more openly with Hamas, and wants Egypt to lift its blockade of Gaza.

Moussa does not favor a nuclear-armed Iran, but his abhorrence of Israel exceeds his fear of the mullahs.

Seale appears disheartened that “For all his courage, clear thinking and prestige, Amr Moussa lies outside the mainstream of international decision-making.”

MOUSSA’S “clear thinking” was again on display at last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos when he warned that if Palestine is not established soon, the league would give up on the two-state solution.

In other words, if the Arabs can’t have their way – on boundaries, refugees, Jerusalem, demilitarization and their adamant refusal to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people – they’ll “have to resort – and soon... to a one-state solution.”

Moussa’s rhetoric feigns support for peace, though the conditions he sets actually return the Arabs to their classic rejection of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in this land.

Indeed, the league was established in 1945 to unify the Arabs against nascent Jewish independence. It rejected the UN partition of Palestine into two states. After failing to strangle Israel at its creation, the league declared a boycott of Israel, created a blacklist, and insisted that companies doing business with Arab states could not also trade with the Jewish state. By the late 1970s, thanks to US efforts and subsequent peace agreements between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians, plus the globalized economy, the league’s boycott lost its steam.

In 2002, with Moussa at the helm, the league adopted a Saudi-inspired peace initiative at its Beirut summit. It essentially asked the Palestinian Arabs to give up claims for citizenship anywhere outside of “Palestine.”

Of Israel it demanded a pullback to the hard-to-defend 1948-1967 Armistice Lines; a redivision of Jerusalem; and allowing millions of Arab refugees and their descendents wishing to return to their former homes in pre-1948 Israel to do so (or be paid compensation).

The initiative is not open to discussion, even though accepting it “as is” essentially requires Israel to commit suicide. If Israel were to agree, however, the league would “consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended.”

ISN’T IT too bad that the Arab League’s paramount envoy to the outside world, the man some say wants to be president of Egypt, could never bring himself to rise above such gamesmenship and help navigate his organization in the direction of genuine reconciliation with Israel?

Friday, February 05, 2010


Dear Reader,
Later this month, I will be leaving The Jerusalem Post to take on a new and exciting role at the Jewish Ideas Daily website. I look forward to telling you more about it soon.
Shabbat shalom

[What happens to the truce between Assad & the Muslim Brotherhood if he makes real peace with the Jewish state?]

Frustration in Damascus

Israel has completed its withdrawal from the Golan Heights as stipulated in the Syria-Israel Treaty of Peace; ambassadors have been exchanged; embassies opened; direct flights established; an exhibit of ancient artifacts from Jerusalem's Bible Lands Museum has been loaned to the National Museum in Damascus. Asma Assad and Sarah Netanyahu are engaged in a series of collaborative civil society initiatives…

Bashar Assad understands the price he and the ruling Alawite minority would have to pay, in a country that is 74 percent Sunni, for a genuine peace with Israel. That is why in this week’s New Yorker, Assad frankly told Seymour Hersh that even if Syria regained the entire Golan, Israel, “cannot expect me to give them the peace they expect.”

Indeed, if Israel got the peace we expected, Assad’s de-facto truce with the Muslim Brotherhood would come undone. He’d have to expel Hamas leaders from Syria, a step the Brotherhood would find insufferable. A bad divorce with Teheran would ensue. Hizbullah would reorient Lebanon’s policies accordingly.

In short, Assad would be going down the path taken by the late Anwar Sadat: carving out a separate peace with Israel while the Palestinian issue festered, albeit due to the Palestinians’ own intransigence.

Naturally, if Assad got the Golan Heights on his terms, the legitimacy of his regime would be bolstered. But no Israeli government – not Yitzhak Rabin’s and not Binyamin Netanyahu’s – can come down from the Golan in return for a sham peace.

Assad will not risk a real peace that would force Syria to rethink its ideological identity in the absence of the Zionist bogeyman. How could he justify continued authoritarian rule?

Moreover, real peace would open Syria to progressive influences. The regime could come under pressure from now dormant liberal reformers. The 18,000 Druse and 2,000 Alawites on the Golan would be reunited with their co-religionists, but decades of life under the Zionists will have created social, economic and, yes, political expectations that could “contaminate” the larger Syrian polity.

So a strong argument can be made that the last thing Assad really wants is peace with Israel.

Yet if this assessment is excessively cynical and Assad is prepared to take major risks for peace – he needs to come to Jerusalem and ask for the Golan. His appearance at the Knesset podium would likely create an inexorable momentum for a total Israeli withdrawal.

REGRETTABLY, Assad cannot afford to make real peace. Worse still, through a series of military and rhetorical miscalculations – inspired, perhaps, by Iranian mischief-making – Assad is blundering toward a conflagration with Israel.

Assad’s brinkmanship has worn down his opponents in the Arab world and the West. The destabilizing policies that made Syria a charter member of the Axis of Evil since the early 2000s are unchanged, yet European leaders flock to meet with him, and Washington is fixing to return its ambassador to Damascus.

The dictator has reason to feel cocky.

Syria has lately supplied Hizbullah with weaponry that practically dares Israel to take action. Indeed, Arab press reports speculate that Assad may have made a strategic decision – no doubt egged-on by the mullahs in Iran – that his alliance with Hizbullah and Hamas is worth a confrontation with Israel.

IT’S IN this context that we read Assad’s remarks Wednesday to visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos that Israel is not serious about achieving peace and that Israel is pushing the region toward war. Clearly, Assad is attributing to Israeli decision-makers the very behavior that is motivating him. His foreign minister, Waleed Mouallem, accused Israel of “spreading an atmosphere of war.” He threatened that “a war at this time will be transferred to [Israeli] cities.”

And with that, this disciple of Gandhi invited the Jewish state to “follow the track of peace.”

Syrian bellicosity has caused some Israeli pundits to appeal to their own government to make a peacemaking “breakthrough.” And so the prime minister repeated that he’s ready to negotiate with Assad without preconditions, anywhere, any time, also through suitable third party mediation.

Assad is accustomed to getting his way – except with Israel. Frustration, however, is a poor excuse to set in motion a series of events that is bound to end in tears for both sides

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


A new front?

Israelis were told yesterday that it was too dangerous to swim, sail or fish along the coast south of Ashdod.

Since Friday night, several explosives-laden barrels have either been heard detonating in the Mediterranean or have washed ashore in Ashdod and Ashkelon. It is not clear if these devices, originating in Gaza, were intended to be pre-positioned at sea for a terror attack against Israeli power stations or desalination plants, or if theycombat have been the exception.

Interestingly, none of these struggles are zero-sum. The Irish did not seek to overthrow the British monarchy; the Basques do not want to dismantle Spain, and the Kurds do not crave control over all of Iran, Iraq and Turkey. They are not fighting about worldviews. And all three movements have shown a readiness for compromise.

IN CONTRAST, even comparatively moderate Palestinians affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas have staked out rigid negotiating positions underpinned by their commitment to zero-sum struggle. That is why Abbas has not compromised on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state or abandoned claims for the “right of return.”

Long before al-Qaida come on the scene, Palestinian terror groups specialized in airplane hijackings and other forms of anti-civilian warfare. Ideologically, a chauvinistic Palestinian nationalism has combined with Islamist fanaticism to oppose the right of Jews to enjoy sovereignty anywhere in this land.

This bleak picture will change only when the Palestinian leadership genuinely acknowledges and internalizes Israel’s legitimacy and re-educates its people toward the idea of coexistence – the sooner the better for their sake and ours.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


The ‘Goldstoning’ of Israel

The Goldstone Report was born in bias and matured into a full-fledged miscarriage of justice.

On Friday, Jerusalem presented UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with its initial rebuttal of Judge Richard Goldstone’s bill of particulars on the way Israel fought in Gaza between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009.

A more comprehensive, point-by-point refutation is in the works.

“Gaza Operation Investigations: An Update” acknowledges that Israeli shells unintentionally hit the UNRWA compound in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood while gunning for Hamas forces positioned alongside the facility.

The update revealed that the IDF had disciplined a brigadier-general and a colonel for exceeding their authority, because they employed white phosphorus shells in a comparatively confined area where civilians could be jeopardized. In fact, three innocent people were wounded.

Compiled by the Foreign Ministry, the update also debunks a number of scurrilous war crimes charges leveled by Goldstone, saying:

• Israel did not purposefully bomb wells in Jabalya to deprive the people there of fresh drinking water. In fact, the wells were situated within a Hamas compound.

• Israel did not deliberately attack the wastewater treatment plant in Gaza City. But there is a good chance the plant was damaged by Hamas to hamper the movement of IDF soldiers.

• Israel did not blow up the Bader flour factory to create a bread shortage in Gaza. But the site was a strategic high point in a Hamas-fortified zone. It was not the IDF that set the plant ablaze.

• The destroyed Abu Askar family house was used to store Grad rockets. The family was telephoned and urged to leave before the house was shelled.

These are just some of the findings in the Foreign Ministry report, which says that the army has investigated or is currently investigating more than 150 separate incidents – not easy considering that the forensic scene is in enemy hands.

So far, 36 files have been referred to the Military Advocate-General Corps for criminal investigation.

We do not assert that our army made no tragic mistakes; what we do emphatically reiterate – based on Israel’s initial submission to the UN – is that no army engaged on multiple fronts against irregular forces, embedded among a supportive enemy population, is more ethical or takes greater care to avoid harming innocents than the IDF.

THE Goldstone Report was born in bias and matured into a full-fledged miscarriage of justice. So the inclination of mainstream Israelis is to dismiss its author as man who, perhaps not unwittingly, allowed his Jewish ancestry to serve as a cloak for a UN body predisposed to besmirch Israel. Israelis further resent the report’s dammed-if-you-do-dammed-if-you-don’t stipulation for an Israeli commission to examine IDF behavior during the Gaza war: If Israel refuses, Goldstone threatens further “lawfare” at the International Court of Justice in The Hague; if Israel does establish an inquiry commission it might imply Goldstone’s complaints have validity.

One option being weighed is to impanel a judicial review board that would examine how well the army has done in policing itself. Alternatively, the government could establish a formal investigative body. Or, lastly, a commission of inquiry could be established headed perhaps by former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak.

We worry that the latter two approaches could undermine army morale and inhibit split-second tactical decision-making necessary to protect Israel’s home front and citizen army. Our preference is that the Foreign Ministry’s forthcoming comprehensive rebuttal serve as Israel’s official – “case closed” – response to the Goldstone Report.

If Goldstone’s parameters for fighting terrorism are affirmed by the civilized world, other democracies would also be severely constrained in defending themselves against terrorist organizations specializing in anti-civilian warfare. Quarantining enemy territory; imprisoning captured terrorists; using sophisticated weapons against a less well-armed terror infrastructure; and bringing non-lethal pressure to bear on non-military targets to hasten the end of a conflict would all be considered “war crimes.”

As is Goldstone provides Hamas and Hizbullah with a legal alibi to fight from behind civilian populations.

WHILE Israel has been forced to justify what should be its inalienable right to stop Hamas from hurling thousands of flying bombs into its territory and traumatizing its civilian population, no UN-body has called to investigate the Palestinian leadership for culpability in the murders of 1,184 Israelis and the wounding of 8,000 others since September 2000.

Strange that.


China endangered?

China is never happy when weapons are sold to Taiwan, but this time Beijing threatened to boycott American companies, including Boeing and Raytheon, involved in the deal.

The People’s Republic of China reacted to Washington’s announcement on Friday that it will sell defensive weapons to Taiwan worth $6.4 billion with customary bluster. The Foreign Ministry protested to Jon Huntsman, the American ambassador, and announced that a range of military and economic programs between the two countries would be placed in abeyance.

China is never happy when weapons are sold to Taiwan, but this time Beijing threatened to boycott American companies, including Boeing and Raytheon, involved in the deal.

Since its 1949 civil war and the Communist takeover of the mainland, China has regarded Taiwan as a breakaway island. Beijing asserts that the arms sale “seriously endangers China’s national security.”

In fact, the Obama administration held back on selling fighter jets and submarines precisely because they could be construed as offensive weapons.

When the US broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan – the price of establishing ties with Beijing in 1979 – it assuaged its conscience by insisting that Taiwan’s future had to be decided by peaceful means. To that end, the US sells Taipei defensive military hardware.

Still, relations between the mainland and Taiwan have never been better, according to The Economist , with annual bilateral trade exceeding $100 billion. The Taiwanese argue that the sense of security which comes from having defensive weapons actually encourages them to move forward in developing relations with Beijing. Yet the fundamental issue of sovereignty remains unresolved.

ONE AREA where the Chinese say they will scale back cooperation with the US involves nuclear anti-proliferation. That would be shocking if China were not already playing the vanguard role in protecting Teheran from UN sanctions intended to pressure the mullahs into abandoning their drive for nuclear weapons. The reason for the Chinese policy is obvious: Trade with Iran stands at $25 billion; and Iran supplies 13 percent of China’s oil imports fueling its insatiable economy.

But for a superpower-in-waiting, China is conducting itself with unbecoming irresponsibility, not just on Iran but also on human rights, climate change and Internet freedom. (Google may be forced to reduce its presence in China due to government-orchestrated cyber-attacks.)

Nor does Beijing show concern that many of the weapons making their way into Hamas-controlled Gaza are of Chinese manufacture.

China’s leaders have become accustomed to getting what they want. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Beijing successfully kept Internet freedom off the conference agenda. And when China is challenged over, say, Tibet or human rights, it tends to respond uncompromisingly, using business and aid to reward those who kowtow, and haranguing those with the effrontery to challenge its policies.

OVER THE weekend, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined those who have been urging the Chinese to think less shortsightedly. A nuclear-armed imperial Iran will sooner or later insinuate itself in China’s own internal affairs by aligning with the country’s Muslim population.

Permitting nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of the mullahs will produce precisely the kind of unstable conditions in the Mideast the Chinese say they seek to avoid. A scenario in which a politically chaotic Iran has the capacity to intimidate its nervous neighbors could create a situation in which the flow of petroleum would be interrupted and commerce throughout the Gulf inhibited.

Following Washington’s lead on relations with China, Jerusalem abandoned principle for realpolitik. Today, the PRC has an embassy in Tel Aviv while Taipei has only an Economic and Cultural Office. In return, trade between Israel and China (a good deal of it reportedly in the military sphere) is a substantial $5b.-$7b. a year. Parenthetically, Jerusalem’s military ties to Beijing have been a source of tension with Washington, which now has a veto over that aspect of Israel’s China relationship.

Diplomatically, as a permanent Security Council member, China can invariably be counted on to vote the interests of the Arab and Muslim bloc. Plainly, the Israel-China relationship is strategically important, but Beijing’s insensitivity to core Israeli concerns does not fail to disappoint.

IS IT not absurd that China feels threatened because the US is selling Taiwan weapons that pose no threat to mainland security, while it shamelessly blocks international pressure aimed at keeping the atomic bomb away from Muslim fanatics?

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