Monday, December 07, 2015

Obama's Speech: Neither he nor his Republican Critics Offer a way Forward

American politics-- like Israeli politics—too often offers citizens choices rooted in false premises. 

Any side that throws uncomplicated Trump-like solutions at a problem has the advantage in appealing to the masses. And thanks to social media – we've all become  "the masses that are asses." 

Long before we allow ourselves time to contemplate an issue, friends – real & virtual— "share" the thoughts of one or another ideological pundit and we're seduced into our designated amen corner.

President Obama refuses to reference 'radical Islam.'
That, too, is how President Barack Obama's speech to the American people has been received. 



I am no admirer of Obama's handling of the Arab-Israel conflict. 

By signaling almost from day one of his administration that little would be expected from the Palestinians, and by breaking a commitment made in writing by president George W. Bush on the contours of any future peace deal, namely, that Israel would not be expected to pull back to the 1949 Armistice Lines, Obama torpedoed all prospects for serious bargaining between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.

On the war against the Islamist menace, the president has sought to find the elusive good Islamist camp. He's looked for it in, among other places, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood -- just as Europeans have looked for good Islamists inside Hezbollah and Hamas.

But in connection with the war on the so-called Islamic State, Obama has it more right than wrong.

Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook didn't need to be card-carrying ISIS members to embrace its agenda, suicidal tactics, and call to action.

It would have been right for Obama to say that what the San Bernardino couple did was an act of Islamist terrorism – but, regrettably, the president is loath to put the words "Islam" (in any conjugation) and "terrorism" in one sentence.

Hawks believe that the US and European bombing campaign against ISIS targets is too cautious out of fear that innocents will be killed. Perhaps this is true.

But one can hardly accuse Syria's Bashar Assad, Russia's Vladimir Putin or former-Lebanon's Hasan Nasrallah with fighting ISIS with an eye to concern for innocent Sunni civilians. 

In other words, air bombing has its inherent limitations.

The president said the US will provide training and equipment to Sunni Arabs willing to fight ISIS. Obviously, most of these forces are themselves dodgy, but you play with the cards you're dealt. He spoke of his "accelerated" use of US special forces. Is he employing them efficiently and effectively?  I do not know.

Instead of condemning Turkey for aiding and abetting ISIS and, seemingly, deliberately flooding Europe with millions of Sunni Muslim refugees, Obama said lamely that his administration was "working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria." 

For Obama, Turkey's rulers represent the "good" Muslim brothers.

It used to be that if you didn't want to act or didn't know what to do you'd form a committee. These days national leaders form coalitions like the 65 countries "fighting" ISIS.

But the president is constrained by hard realities. There is no draft in America. The country has no appetite to go on a mobilized war-footing. It lost thousands of soldiers and squandered billions of dollars on a misguided war in Iraq that helped unleash ISIS and paved the way to Iran's suzerainty over parts of the former Iraq.

It sold billions of dollars worth of the most advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states yet they are helpless to battle ISIS and their populations are probably conflicted over whether they even should. The Saudis are focused on fighting against the Shiites in Yemen.

***

Conservatives in the US have made a strange fetish out of gun rights. Many US states make semi-automatic weapons practically as accessible as milk and cheese. Obama isn't wrong to suggest that Congress should make it a tad harder for US-based terrorists and garden variety thugs to get Big guns. 

***
On Sunday night Obama said, "We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want."

This is precisely what I mean by false choices.   

What he could have said is: "This is a war between America and radical Islam." And then added, "We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam."

Why? Because it is a Western strategic interest to dissociate Muslims from Islamists.

And it is not easy to do.

But Obama is wrong not to make the nature of the conflict far more explicit. Yet he's right that setting up the conflict as a war of civilizations won't help Western civilization win. Europe, for one, doesn't seem to feel it has a civilization worth fighting for.  

Of course there is a war of civilizations, but it is a one-way war with Western civilization in denial.
   
In all likelihood the president intentionally downplayed the attractiveness of radical Islam to "more than a billion Muslims around the world" including millions in the US.

He's right that "the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim."

If this is what Muslims do to Muslims... But just imagine a scenario in which the ISIS types prevail and turn their full attentions against the West. 

It would have been proper had Obama said that the war right now is mostly within Islamic civilization for the soul and direction of Islam. It would also have been accurate for him to acknowledge that Islamist forces are ascendant.

Instead, he could only say that "an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities." That Muslims must confront "the crisis."

Actually, what Muslims need to confront is the prevailing, mobilizing, expanding Islamist menace. 

The president, sadly, refuses to be explicit.

He keeps claiming, as do many in Europe, that violence is a perversion of Islam. 
What utter nonsense.

Anyway, all religious dogma is malleable depending on the epoch and prevailing mores.

What he should have said is that the Muslim clergy and theological formulators need to find interpretations of Islam that are compatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

In other words, in Islam's battle against modernity he should side openly with the tiny moderate minority that wants the civilization to adapt and evolve. 

He asked Americans "to reject discrimination." But when Americans say, now isn't the time to welcome en masse tens of thousands of Muslims, this stance is not bigotry, it is prudence. 

He should have said that 65-member coalition -- with the US and Russia in the lead -- ought to provide safe areas within Syria and Iraq rather than transfer the Sunni Arab population of the Middle East to the US Middle West or to Western Europe.

But if Obama's framing of The Long War disappointed there was little his Republican critics offered that suggested any of them would be more adept at dealing with the challenges posed by the long-term and complex Islamist threat.

To talk of "defeating" or "absolute victory" over the mobilizing strain in a religion of a billion people makes little sense. But that's the mantra you hear from some hawks.

"People are really scared and worried," Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said accurately. He claimed Obama appeared to be "completely overwhelmed" by ISIS. "He honestly believes that there is a coalition fighting against ISIS. This is absurd. There is no such coalition. A lot of countries that have put their names on a piece of paper."

OK. That's transparently obvious. But what in concrete terms would Rubio do? 

The Donald's strategy is encapsulated in his Tweet: "We need a new President — FAST!"  

God help America if the best it can offer to succeed Obama is The Donald.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was right that the president needs to start to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism."  You do need to define the enemy. He said Obama didn't lay out "a plan for decisive action for victory over evil." 

But here is the Cruz Doctrine: As president he would "direct the Department of Defense to destroy ISIS."

Well, why didn't anyone else think of that?

Jeb Bush said that the US had put "self-imposed restraints" on its intelligence and military. "This is the war of our time. It should not be business as usual. We need a wartime commander-in-chief who is ready to lead this country and the free world to victory."

This is a nice bunch of words strung together. It would have been nice to hear what his secret plan for "defeating" ISIS is. Why wait?

Injecting some unintended humor, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's solution is: "We should be advocating for more concealed carry ability for law-abiding Americans and an end to unconstitutional gun-free zones." 

Obama ended his speech with the traditional "God bless America."

I hope He starts by blessing it with 2016 presidential candidates who can do more than offer false choices and empty platitudes to what is the major crisis facing Western Civilization.



Monday, November 30, 2015

Haaretz Watch - Week of November 29

Sunday –   Newspaper's TV critic bemoans Channel 10's expose of ties between the Palestinian Balad Party— the platform of Knesset members Basel Ghattas, Jamal Zahalka, and Hanin Zoabi – and Hezbollah.

Implying that the party, which openly declares it wants to replace the one Jewish state in the world with a 24th Arab country, is being tarred and feathered because it is strident.

The head of the party, the man who still pulls the strings and funnels Islamist money from abroad is Azmi Bishara. He fled when his role as a foreign agent was exposed. He lives in Qatar.

Monday -  There's a good piece that commemorates today's anniversary of the anti-Jewish riots in the Arab world, including the WWII-era pogrom in Iraq. 

All this obviously well before the 1948 establishment of Israel.

But there is also an article in which a parallel is drawn between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Both, writes Zvi Barel, are insincere in their apologies, both refuse to pay compensation (he means for the Mavi Marmara ) and both refuse to put the guilty responsible on trial. 

You don't have to be an admirer of our Napoleonic-leaning premier to find such an association revolting.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Look for my December 14th cover story in The Jerusalem Report
Have Reform Jews given up on Israel? 
You may be surprised to learn that...well, let me keep you in suspense.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Tuesday - Last night Channel 2 led with a report that there was a very big story involving the police and Shin Bet but they couldn't tell us what it was about due to a court order.

This morning Haaretz heds with same report but adds that what they can't tell us involves Jewish terrorism.

In his column Moshe Arens argues that the best way to help Palestinian Arabs is not by granting them work permits to labor within the Green Line but to develop and expand industrial zones in Judea/Samaria where they can earn Israeli-like salaries and benefits. Of course the EU is against this approach and is undermining West Bank economy in the hope of pushing Israel back to the 1949 Armistice Lines. The real victims of EU policy are the Palestinians who suffer from high unemployment and low pay in the WB. Naturally, the Palestinian Authority and UN could help them but easing the situation would indirectly benefit Israel so they'd rather see the Pals suffer.

Pals in Gaza are complaining that Gazans aren't getting enough visas to enter Israel for free medical treatment. No these complaints aren't directed at Hamas for creating a state of war but at Israel for not ignoring the state of war.

Finally, Haaretz reports that now that they've been paid more money by EU, Turkey limiting some illegal migrants from entering Greece.    
Nothing outstandingly outrageous today in section one today.

Wednesday Not much to kvetch about in today's Haaretz front page.  The lead is again about the news they can't report connected to the Jewish terror gang that carried out the murders in Dura.  The page 1 main photo shows the smiling dimwit responsible for the arson attack on a dual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem. He's shown in court for his sentencing. I suppose Haaretz's message is that Jewish terror is no less a threat than Arab terror.


And in a sense they're right. In fact, Jewish terror while on the margins of Israeli society and claiming few victims is nonetheless a frontal assault on Zionist values and institutions from within. A sort of fifth column.

There's no point in quibbling about today's editorial and op-ed pages which are best simply skipped.  Haaretz has two pages of out-and-out opinion articles – on page 2 and on page 15 –wrapped around a viewspaper that also carries straight news.

Goes back to the beginning: I find myself surprised to be in agreement with the paper's TV critic who is smitten by the opening music to the Danish hit The Bridge. I also liked the dark serial and the sound of its music. Not sure I understand the lyrics. Sounds like a bunch of words strung together, as my buddy Gershom Gale used to say when he read copy that made no sense.

Incidentally, Israel Today (Wed) covers what The New York Times reported Tuesday about the extent of the butchery carried out in 1972 by a Palestine Liberation Organization squad that attacked Israel's Olympic athletes in Munich. Preceding the Islamic State by decades the Palestinian Arabs tortured and castrated some of the Israelis.  None of those who carried out the attack lived to collect their PLO pensions (saving EU taxpayers some money).

ThursdayHaaretz is back in its groove today after an off-day yesterday.
Page One carries a story about how ostensibly pro-Israel German lawmakers are worried about bilateral relations should groups funded by Berlin, Europe states, and the EU be required to report their activities and finances because these organizations basically serve as agents of foreign governments.

Groups like Peace Now would have to reveal their sources of income under some bills now before the Knesset.

Obviously the money defines policy. The policy is to drive israel back to '49 armistice lines.

Also on page One is a campaign waged by Haaretz columnist and Channel 10 advocacy journalist Raviv Drucker to use the courts to undermine distribution of the country's only non dovish/non populist, non-demagogic tabloid Israel Hayom.

So-called leftish Knesset members tried to essentially outlaw the paper via legislative action and failed,

So much for freedom of expression.

I know I said that I don't read the official leader / editorial on page 2, but today's supports another foreign funded lobby called Breaking the Silence in its efforts to undercut Israeli morale in the war under the guise of helping soldiers report illegal or immoral behavior by their comrades.

The UN which has done so much to spread peace around the world has a fellow stationed in Occupied Palestine to solve the Palestinian conflict with Israel. Haaretz reports that he's concerned that the Jewish terrorists responsible for Duma have not been brought to justice. 

Speaking of which, Silverstein, the (ahem) self-described pro-Israel 😉 blogger reported the names of the terrorists in custody -- he's often given stuff by leftish Israeli journalists barred by court order from reporting sensitive details of ongoing investigations.

He's supposedly funded by his readers. I know it because a fellow I bought a bridge over the East River told me so. 

Anyway, and more importantly, now the question arises: are we dealing with another Avishai Raviv cock-up. Was the Shin Bet running a sting operation that got away from it?  That's what's being openly talked about on TV.  Time may not tell.
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Friday, October 30, 2015

Is There a Future for The American Jewish Diaspora?

Dear Readers,

I have a piece in The Jerusalem Report  dated Nov. 16 entitled Is the Diaspora dying?
While the piece is behind the magazine's paywall -- do contact me if you'd like a preview.

Shabbat shalom
Elliot

    


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Netanyahu - Mufti Kerfuffle: Ask Yourself Why Doves are Enraged

Here is what you need to know about Amin Husseini.

He was born in 1895 and died in 1974. He was appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem by the British Mandate authorities.

And, he is infamous in Jewish history as a collaborator with the Nazis.

He was a proponent of militant violence against Jews and against any Arabs who were willing to make peace with the Zionist enterprise. 

When WWII broke out he made his headquarters in Iraq and tried to establish a pro-Nazi regime there. When that didn't work out, he moved to Italy (an Axis power) and then to Germany.

He openly supported the Final Solution – this is not in doubt.

He helped the Nazis set up Bosnian-Muslim Waffen-SS battalions. He lobbied the Nazis to bomb Tel Aviv and to extend the net of the Holocaust to Sephardi Jews in Arab lands. 

He vehemently opposed any tactical deals ("trucks for Jews," etc) that would have even temporarily spared Jewish lives.

After the war he was welcomed and given refuge by Nasser in Egypt.

Now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the World Zionist  Congress in Jerusalem yesterday (Oct. 20) garnered criticism for supposedly misstating the Mufti's role in the Shoah.

Here's what the PM said:

"...And this attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution.

"He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews.

And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, "If you expel them, they'll all come here." "So what should I do with them?" he asked. He said, "Burn them."

****

Now, the point of the reference to the Mufti is that he was among the first to claim that the Jews wanted to destroy al-Aksa mosque.

Netanyahu did not say that the Mufti convinced Hitler to annihilate the Jews. 

It is simply true that as the destruction of European Jewry evolved from 1933 until 1945 the Nazis tried different approaches to solving the "Jewish problem."

 And yes, there was a stage when in parallel to killing Jews haphazardly (clubbing, shooting, etc) and well before the industrial destruction had been perfected, the Nazis did consider expulsion.

According to Joseph Schechtman's The Mufti and the Fuehrer, the mufti began his outreach to the Nazis on July 21, 1937 via the German cousul in Jerusalem.

Keep in mind that at the time, the Nazis still had hopes to keep Britain out of any war so didn't want to rock the boat in British-controlled Palestine.

Nonetheless, the mufti sent an agent to Berlin to lobby the Nazis.

In fact, Adolph Eichmann was dispatched to Palestine to study the situation in response to the Mufti's lobbying efforts.  He was also in contact with Husseini.

Actually, there is some evidence that already in 1936, the Nazis were helping the Arabs in Palestine.

Obviously, there is much more to be said about the Mufti and the Nazis.

But what matters in 2015 is this:

(1) The claim that the Jews want to change the status quo on the Temple Mount dates back at least to the Mufti's days.

(2) The fierce criticism by dovish Jewish journalists, pundits, and politicians (and of course the foreign media and the Arabs) of Netanyahu is intended to undermine his not-so-subtle implication that Arab intentions then and now are much the same.

That is the crux of the issue.

If you believe the conflict is about boundaries and settlements then you want to play down the extraordinary consistency of Arab intentions. 

Why? Because it is almost too painful to imagine that the Palestinian Arabs today really want what the Palestinian Arabs of 1933 or 1929 wanted.

So if you think that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah are not disciples of the mufti's values then you need to be offended by Netanyahu's efforts to link the Nazis to the Palestinian cause. Of course, you also need to keep your eyes tightly closed.

-------
Dept of Correction. I mistakenly wrote Netanyahu's speech was at the World Jewish Congress when I meant the World Zionist Congress.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Morning Wrap: Israelis are so anticipating arrival of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (just kidding)

I'll start with the good news.

1.     It seems it is possible to report on events in Jerusalem with fairness. I just watched the Monday night edition of the PBS Newshour with a report by Martin Seemungal that struck me as balanced. Yes, Palestinian Arabs (leaders and man-on-the-street) are allowed to tell fibs – but the viewer is allowed to come to their own conclusion.

2.     The east Jerusalem wall. There is no wall. Just three large cement blocks placed hig·gle·dy-pig·gle·dy to keep Jabel Mukaber Arabs from effortlessly hurling firebombs into the backyards of their Jewish neighbors in east Talpiot. Just about everyone with an agenda lied on this story wrong.

3.     Have jet will travel. Disregarding the damage to the environment, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be landing shortly in Israel for meetings with Premier Netanyahu and PLO leader Abbas. 

     Since the UN and Ban are reflexively hostile to Israel this is one of those events that you kind of want to be behind you even before it begins. I don't blame Ban. He knows arithmetic. There is one Jewish state and ...something like 57 Muslim states. Israel has a couple of allies  (one less after the Canadian elections yesterday) and the Arabs and Muslim have friends galore. 
     Ban made a video to pave the way for his "surprise" trip in which he insinuated that the Palestinian Arabs should get back to aggressive civil disobedience (you know, given their legitimate frustration) but to abjure knifing and shooting Jews. It doesn't play well. You don't want Jews looking like victims, do you? Presumably, Ban will tell the Pals no beheadings as requested by ISIS. 
     Rock-throwing? Oh, why not? Let off a little steam. Just try not to kill the driver when shattering her windshield.  
     He will also recite the mantra that were there the illusion of momentum of a "peace process" the "cycle of violence" could be broken. 
     Don't let the door slam you in the ass on the way out, Mr. Ban.

4.      Now for the "Which European Country is Most Hostile to Israel Contest?"
France maybe?  They are pushing a Security Council resolution calling for a multi-national force on the Temple Mount. You know, like the one that is doing such a grand job keeping Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. Besides Israel, Jordan and the Obama administration are opposed.
     Ah, but maybe Sweden? Sweden's tripped over itself to recognize Palestine. Now, besides funding a slew of anti-Israel NGO's in the West Bank, allowing anti-Israel diatribes on local Arabic radio, I hear that Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has announced plans to stop serving Israel – supposedly because the route is unprofitable and because of instability in the region. But me suspects it is yet one more instance of trying to force Israel back to the 1949 Armistice Lines by embracing the old Arab boycott strategy in stages.
Well, I am retaliating but not buying a 2016 Volvo! Take that.








Friday, October 16, 2015

Good Morning. It's Another 'Day of Rage' in the Middle East


 JERUSALEM- Friday morning at 4:40 the muezzin's amplified call-to-prayer heralded a freshly-declared Day of Rage.

But it's always a Day of Rage somewhere in the Muslim and/or Arab world. It's as if the civilized world was up against an Islamist theology-on-crack.

Foremost, Islam is at war with itself. 

For now, the Middle East's Western-imposed state-system is unraveling. Most noticeably, in former-Syria and former-Iraq. In Syria, Sunnis are Shiites and battling; the Shiites are backing the schismatic Alawites of Bashar Assad. The Sunnis in Syria take time out to kill each other too (ISIS versus al-Qaida-affiliated Arabs).

The Shiite Persians have arrived in the form of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The Shiite Arabs of Hezbollah, from former-Lebanon, are on the scene to help the Alawites and Hezbollah's Persian patrons.

About 210,00 people have died in Syria.

Millions have fled or been dislocated. Tens of thousands have now made their way to Europe. 

Compare what is happening in Syria to the ongoing 100-year-long Arab-Zionist conflict.

"Israeli police kill more Palestinians in Jerusalem. Latest killings bring death toll to 32 as Israel orders deployment of soldiers and sets up checkpoints," according to Al Jazeera (whose reporting, incidentally, is hardly less egregious than the BBC's or CNN's, the wire services or, on an average day, The New York Times').  

Even if that number were accurate, and even if most of the "32" were not killers or foiled murderers – all of them died because of Arab-initiated violence.

Notwithstanding seeing what Islamist and Arab fanaticism has wrought in the surrounding countries – and despite enjoying a comparative utopia under Jewish "occupation" the Palestinians as a society have again embraced militant intransigence and terrorist violence.

It might as well be 1929 all over again, given the nonsensical claims that the Jews want to destroy Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount.

Could someone please tell the Palestinians to open their eyes; to set aside blind rage  and feel around for reality.

In former-Yemen, Shiite Houthis are battling Saudi-backed Sunnis; al-Qaida Sunnis are fighting all the Shiites and select Sunnis too. 

Saudi Arabia is on the outs with al-Qaida after having provided some of its initial start-up capital.  The Saudis are bombing the Shiites in Yemen. The Islamic State (Sunni) wants to capture Yemen as part of its Caliphate. The Persians (who fancy a Shiite Persian-led Caliphate) are backing the Houthi Arabs.

Some 6,000 people have been killed in the latest round of the long-running Yemen conflict.

Head-spinning! No wonder it is just easier to stand in "solidarity with Palestine" as opposed to actually understanding the nature of unrest in the Middle East.

Israel is a comparative oasis. From the Mediterranean to the River Jordan the "occupied" Palestinians (citizens and non-citizens) are safer, freer, and economically better-off than their compatriots in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria – and in the Hamas-controlled Gaza (a noxious petri-dish experiment for Palestinian statehood).

The main population centers in the West Bank are self-administered by the Arabs. Until the second intifada's suicide bombings, a Palestinian could drive from Ramallah to Tel Aviv for lunch.

I suppose the Palestinian Arabs are lucky to have the Jews as their enemies. This brings them support from Europe's "liberals" and leftists, from its rightists and fascists. The Persians and Turks (who have no particular love for the Arabs or each other) can agree to champion the Palestinians.

On Thursday, nearly 50 worshippers were killed in a Nigerian mosque by Boko Haram – formerly acolytes of al-Qaida now siding with a more winning horse, ISIS.

So far, some 17,000 Nigerians have been killed and about 2.5 million made homeless due to Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

There are 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – 57 countries that seek to be regarded as Muslim political societies! 

But God help Israel for asking the Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state. Of OIC members 22 are also members of the Arab League, though some are not genuine states (Palestine) and others are failed and unraveling polities (Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen etc.). 

The Palestinians might also consider what's going on in some of the more prominent non-Arab Muslim states: Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Pakistan, for instance, has been helping to orchestrate the upheaval in Afghanistan. Iran is the world's top champion of anti-civilian warfare. Its nuclear program threatens the entire region. Afghanistan is a hopeless non-state and a roach motel for terrorist groups seeking a base of operations.

Is that really what Palestinians want for the West Bank? 

While "32" Palestinians have purportedly died at the hands of the Jews in "occupied" Palestine and "occupied" Jerusalem, elsewhere this week Muslims have bombed Muslims in Turkey and Chad taking scores more lives. And unlike the "32" it is unlikely any of these dead tried to stab anyone or blow anyone up or run their cars into anyone waiting for a bus.

This week, the murky picture of who was responsible for the 1988 destruction of Pan Am flight 103 got a bit clearer. It seems new evidence ties the former head of Libya's intelligence service and his top bomb-maker to the crime. It is not clear if Libya was subcontracting for Iran or acting on its own.

All this is just part of the context for today's Palestinian day of rage.

The rage began even before daybreak when Palestinians rampaged through Joseph's Tomb (a Jewish shrine) in Palestinian Authority-controlled Nablus. Shamefacedly, Mahmud Abbas has denounced the attack – which obviously detracts from his canard that Muslim shrines under Israeli jurisdiction are endangered.

The Arabs have tried pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism and regular nationalism; now they're back to pan-Islam.

Bottom line: The Palestinian Arab struggle against Israel is hardly about "settlements" or the "occupation" or the Temple Mount or "east" Jerusalem. It is not aimed at creating a Palestinian state "alongside" Israel.

Nor is it about Palestinian "frustration" or the lack of a "peace process" (see my Oct. 9, 2015 post).

It is about the refusal of Islamists to allow any other people a slice of sovereign space anywhere in the Middle East.

Israel's dovish journalists / analysts seem momentarily gutted over Abbas's deportment; particularly his transparent lie claiming that Israel has a methodical policy of "extrajudicial" killings of innocent Arab children, women, and men in the guise of self-defense. 

The lame-stream press has sought to Photoshop Abbas's mendacity employing headlines such as: "Conflicting Accounts of Jerusalem Strife Surround a Wounded Arab Boy;" and referring to stabbers as "suspects." 

The New York Times reports (ahem) that Israeli officials "jumped" on Abbas's "apparent misstatement."

But the Israeli dovish media is not willing to give Abu Mazen a pass .. at least for now even if the apparent, alleged, purported, suspected Times is.

Few doubt that the latest outbreak of Palestinian violence has been "spontaneous."

Though the combustible environment for the spontaneity was made inevitable by Abbas's Fatah. Abbas himself said Jews had been defiling the Temple Mount. That's a message Palestinians have been hearing also from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Knesset Caucus, Raed Salah's so-called northern branch – in short, from their entire Palestinian Arab leadership.

They've been abetted by "Palestine's" semi-official Fatah and Hamas media. (Some of the Fatah media is actually funded by EU monies.)

Thus, it is in this context that the current uprising is taking place. Young Palestinians are echoing in their social media the messages heard in their mosques, from their elders, and from political elites.

The need for Jews to defend themselves effectively and efficiently has left not only the State Department spokesman uncomfortable over "excessive" use of force, it has left some Diaspora Jews even more discomfited. 

Some of the uncomfortable are wondering why the Diaspora Jewish establishment is not treating both sides -- Israelis and Palestinians -- in a evenhanded manner. 

After all, in their world there is no "right or wrong;" such notions are passe. 

In other circles it is fashionable in a sort of smug, willful way, to embrace naiveté and talk about feeling the pain of the enemy. 

On this Day of Rage though, what Israelis are in practice nervous about and some are feeling is an enemy knife in the stomach. 








Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hapless Herzog Invokes Out-of-Tricks Abbas

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog had a golden opportunity at the opening of yesterday's Knesset session to demonstrate statesmanship and his leadership meddle.

He could have said that now was the time to pull together. Now is not the time for partisan party politics.

He could have said that though he is uncomfortable with the policies and – yes – the slippery personality and character of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu …now is nonetheless to pull together.

Now is the time for a national unity government to boost morale during an ever expanding security crisis. It is not the time to talk in pointless cliches. It is time to face the harsh reality of Palestinian Arab intentions.

But what did Herzog do? He followed the advice of his media advisors who've told him he should stop talking like a wobbly wonk and act tough.

So,  facing Netanyahu he declared that there is "no reason to join your failed government, a government that badly failed in handling the matter of the Iranian nuclear program, that brought us to international isolation, to an impasse and to zero percent growth of the Israeli economy and which embarked on an all-out war on freedom of speech and on the Israeli media. Netanyahu and [Jewish Home Party head Naftali] Bennett, you have to go home. Your path is what has failed. It is your policy that led us to a dead end."

He's right that this is a failed government – in no small measure because after the elections he refused broaden it. No less than Netanyahu, Herzog put politics over country. 

He's right that Netanyahu mishandled the Iranian dilemma – but no one imagines that Herzog would have done better on the substance of the issue. 

Though he would probably not have alienated the US administration as Netanyahu has done. Herzog would have gone in the opposite extreme.

That line about "war on freedom of speech" might seem unintelligible. I think what he means is that the government has expressed interest in having better oversight for groups funded aboard that act as agents of foreign governments (the US has a foreign agents registration act). 

Or he might mean that his own undemocratic efforts to stop publication of the single newspaper in the country that is pro-Netanyahu have been stymied. I really don’t know.  

Staring at Netanyahu (as sirens and ambulances were traversing the city responding to the stabbing by Palestinian Arabs in Pisgat Zeev) Herzog said he doesn't "need to be a minister in your dead-end, vision-less government. The conflict that you have been managing in recent years has turned into a knife in the back of Israel’s citizens. A knife in the back of Israel's citizens everywhere in this country. You, who promised to be Mr. Security and defense minister, have failed."

I'm no Netanyahu fan. But no one seriously imagines that Herzog has any answers. His one contribution would have been to broaden the government. He's got a bit of talent on the Labor bench that could have contributed some wisdom to the cabinet.

What would Herzog do if he were prime minister?  

About the only trick up his sleeve is that Mahmoud Abbas speaks to him. He told Netanyahu: "I updated you and the public that Abu Mazen was worried, that he warned of the possibility of the outbreak of a new, third, young people's intifada, incited by Facebook and Twitter. He told me: 'I fear a loss of control over my young generation, which has lost all hope for change.' And I [Herzog] feel as if I'm sitting down with prime minister Golda Meir before the Yom Kippur War. The person who rejected every peace proposal earlier. The writing is on the wall, and you are like the three monkeys: you don’t hear, don’t see, don’t speak."

Slightly incoherent, I know. But that's Herzog.

As Dennis Ross's new book shows Netanyahu was himself willing to make massive concessions but couldn't get Palestinian agreement on security or on recognizing Israel's existence as a Jewish state. The Palestinians say the Jews have no legitimate right to be in Israel. 

If Israel had pulled back to more or less the 1949 Armistice Lines (from whence the 1967 war commenced) as Herzog advocates even today, young Palestinians would have admired Abbas as bringing them closer to Israel's destruction in stages. He means that just as Golda didn't listen to her generals (not quite accurate but, no matter) Netanyahu didn't listen to General Herzog.

It is true that Abbas can't control his young people but he CAN incite them. 

That's what he did in his UN speech; that's what he did earlier when he spoke of Jews polluting the Temple Mount with their feet, and that's what he does when his (EU funded) media circulate articles and images and sermons that are anti-Semitic and inculcate hatred of Jews.

Abbas and Herzog share one thing:  both are ever more irrelevant to what's happening on the ground.






Friday, October 09, 2015

What Ben Rhodes Doesn't Understand About Hope, Horizons & Palestinian Intentions

I heard Ben Rhodes, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, talking to Ilana Dayan on Army Radio Thursday morning, while I was driving to a meeting in the Tel Aviv area.

Rhodes is one of President Barack Obama's most loyal aides – Dayan (who is a top notch journalist and leans in the dovish direction) noted his longevity which is atypical -- most of the original White House crowd is long gone.

In addition to the customary bunch-of-words-strung-together you'd expect to hear from a professional wordsmith, Rhodes commented that one of the reasons the Palestinian Arabs had (again) turned to murderous violence is that there is no diplomatic solution on the horizon; there is a sense of hopelessness. If only there were a horizon of hope, he implied, this would not be happening.

That sounds reasonable. Only that it is wrong and shows how little he (and the administration he speaks for) understands Palestinian Arab sentiment.

Back on September 13, 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords known as the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. 

This was the apex of hope for Palestinians (and many Israelis). Here was something more than a diplomatic horizon. Here was a blueprint for the creation of Palestinian Arab interim self-government. In return, the PLO (supposedly) recognized Israel and (supposedly) committed to stop terrorism (i.e. anti-civilian warfare).

So, most reasonable folks would agree that September 13, 1993 might be a good starting point to gauge the correlation between "hope" or political horizon and Palestinian behavior.

What happened next?

Sep 24 93 - Yigal Vaknin was stabbed to death in an orchard near the trailer home where he lived near the village of Basra. A squad of the HAMAS's Iz a-Din al Kassam claimed responsibility for the attack.

Oct 9 93 Dror Forer and Aran Bachar were murdered by terrorists in Wadi Kelt in the Judean Desert. The Popular Front and the Islamic Jihad 'Al-Aqsa Squads' each publicly claimed responsibility.

Oct 24 93 Two IDF soldiers, Staff Sgt. (res.) Ehud Rot, age 35, and Sgt. Ilan Levi, age 23, were killed by a HAMAS Iz a-Din al Kassam squad. The two entered a Subaru with Israeli license plates outside a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, whose passengers were apparently terrorists disguised as Israelis. Following a brief struggle, the soldiers were shot at close range and killed. Hamas publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Oct 29 93 Chaim Mizrahi, resident of Beit-El, was kidnapped by three terrorists from a poultry farm near Ramallah. He was murdered and his body burned. Three Fatah members were convicted of the murder on July 27, 1994.

Nov 7 93 Efraim Ayubi of Kfar Darom, Rabbi Chaim Druckman's personal driver, was shot to death by terrorists near Hebron. HAMAS publicly claimed responsibility for the murder.

Nov 9 93 Salman 'Id el-Hawashla, age 38, an Israeli Bedouin of the Abu Rekaik tribe who was driving a car with Israeli plates, was killed by three armed men driving a truck hijacked from the Gaza municipality, in a deliberate head-on collision.

Nov 17 93 Sgt. 1st Cl. Chaim Darina, age 37, was stabbed by a Gazan terrorist while seated at the cafeteria at the Nahal Oz road block at the entrance to the Gaza Strip. The perpetrator was apprehended. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the murder.

Nov 24 93 Maurice (Moshe) Edri, age 65, was killed in a terrorist attack in Netanya

Dec 1 93 Shalva Ozana, age 23, and Yitzhak Weinstock, age 19, were shot to death by terrorists from a moving vehicle, while parked on the side of the road to Ramallah because of engine trouble. Weinstock died of his wounds the following morning. Iz a-Din al Kassam claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that it was carried out in retaliation for the killing by Israeli forces of Imad Akel, a wanted HAMAS leader in Gaza.

Dec 5 93 David Mashrati, a reserve soldier, was shot and killed by a terrorist attempting to board a bus on route 641 at the Holon junction. The Islamic Jihad Shekaki group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Dec 6 93 Mordechai Lapid and his son Shalom Lapid, age 19, were shot to death by terrorists near Hebron. HAMAS publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.
Dec 22 93 Eliahu Levin and Meir Mendelovitch were killed by shots fired at their car from a passing vehicle in the Ramallah area. HAMAS claimed responsibility.

Dec 23 93 Anatoly Kolisnikov, an Ashdod resident employed as a relief watchman at a construction site there, was stabbed to death while on duty.

Dec 24 93 Lieut.Col. Meir Mintz, commander of the IDF special forces in the Gaza area, was shot and killed by terrorists in an ambush on his jeep at the T-junction in Gaza. The HAMAS Iz a-Din al Kassam squads publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.

 Dec 31 93 Chaim Weizman and David Bizi were found murdered in a Ramle apartment. ID cards of two Gaza residents were found in the apartment, together with a leaflet of the Popular Front 'Red Eagle' group, claiming responsibility for the murder.

Jan 12 94 Moshe Becker of Rishon Le-Zion was stabbed to death by three Palestinian employees while working in his orchard. The Popular Front claimed responsibility for the murder.

Jan 14 94 Grigory Ivanov was stabbed to death by a terrorist in the industrial zone at the Erez junction, near the Gaza Strip. HAMAS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Feb 9 94 Ilan Sudri, a taxi driver, was kidnapped and murdered while returning home from work. The Islamic Jihad Shekaki group sent a message to the news agencies claiming responsibility for the murder.

Feb 9 94 Shai Shuker, aged 22 of Herzliya, was killed in a terrorist attack in Tira
Feb 10 94 Naftali Sahar, a citrus grower, was murdered by blows to his head. His body was found in his orchard near Kibbutz Na'an.

Feb 13 94 Noam Cohen, age 28, member of the General Security Service, was shot and killed in an ambush on his car. Two of his colleagues who were also in the vehicle suffered moderate injuries. HAMAS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Feb 17 94 Yuval Golan, stabbed on December 29, 1993 by a terrorist near Adarim in the Hebron area, died of his wounds.

Feb 19 94 Zipora Sasson, resident of Ariel and five months pregnant, was killed on the trans-Samaria highway in an ambush by shots fired at her car. The terrorists were members of HAMAS.

Feb 25 94 Sam Eisenstadt, age 80, was assaulted with an axe in the center of Kfar Saba. He died of his wounds shortly afterwards.

I want to interrupt this litany (it is only partial) to sadly acknowledge that on February 25, 1994 Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 unarmed Palestinian Arabs at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Back to the Arabs. 

On Mar 23 94 Victor Lashchiver, employed as a guard at the Income Tax offices in east Jerusalem, was shot and killed near Damascus Gate on his way to work. The Popular Front claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mar 29 94 Yitzhak Rothenberg, age 70 of Petah Tikva, was attacked on a construction site by two residents of Khan Yunis by axe blows to the head. He died several days later of his wounds. The murderers, apprehended the next day, stated that they carried out the attack in order to clear themselves of suspected collaboration with the Israeli authorities.

Mar 31 94 Yosef Zandani, age 28 of Bnei Ayish, near Gedera, was found murdered in his apartment. Near the body was a leaflet of the DFLP "Red Star", explaining that the murder was carried out in revenge for the shooting of one of its members by an Israeli citizen. The Israeli acted in self-defense.

Apr 6 94 Asher Attia, 48, of Afula, bus driver; Vered Mordechai, 13, of Afula; Maya Elharar, 17, of Afula; Ilana Schreiber, 45, a teacher from Kibbutz Nir David; Meirav Ben-Moshe, 16, of Afula; Ayala Vahaba, 40, a teacher from Afula; and Fadiya Shalabi, 25, of Iksal were killed in a car-bomb attack on a bus in the center of Afula. HAMAS claimed responsibility for the attack. Ahuva Cohen Onalla, 37, wounded in the attack, died of her wounds on April 25.

Apr 7 94 Yishai Gadassi, age 32 of Kvutzat Yavne, was shot and killed at a hitchhiking post at the Ashdod junction by a member of HAMAS. The terrorist was killed by bystanders at the scene.

Apr 13 94 Rahamim Mazgauker, 34, of Hadera; David Moyal, 26 of Ramat Gan, an Egged mechanic; Daga Perda, 44, who immigrated from Ethiopia in 1991; Bilha Butin, 49, of Hadera; and Sgt. Ari Perlmutter, 19, of Ir Ovot in the Arava were killed in a suicide bombing attack on a bus in the central bus station of Hadera. HAMAS claimed responsibility for the attack.

So within the first six months or so of being offered an unprecedented political horizon the Palestinian Arabs barely took a break from their blood-lust.

Ben Rhodes might want to take a closer look at Palestinian intentions. If he did he'd understand that this issue isn't hope or horizons or the illusion of momentum the peace process offers Europeans and Americans. It isn't about settlements (there were no settlements between 1948 and 1967). It is "original sin" or as the Arabs call it the "nakba" -- the creation of Israel within any boundaries,

When Arafat proposed the phased destruction of Israel to his comrades and his polity -- they balked. Many would not even suspend the "struggle" because, what if, what it they stopped the killing and practiced coexistence and then lost their will to kill....the will to return to the "struggle" somewhere down the line once Israel pulled back to the 1949 Armistice Lines.

Simply put, the Palestinians are engaged in a zero sum struggle.

Until Ben Rhodes comprehends Palestinian intentions he will continue to offer well articulated banalities about finding horizons to end the "conflict."

He means well, no doubt. But it is our lives that are at stake.

PS. Please don't excuse the violence with the mantra that the extremists were trying to torpedo Oslo. You can't have it both ways: You can't credibly argue that when there is no hope some Palestinians turn to violence, but when there is hope other Palestinians turn to violence.  






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