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The specter of the Iranian nuclear threat continues to hover over Israel like a dark, foreboding cloud. It is an existential threat the likes of which Israel has not experienced since the early days of the fledgling state. Not since the late 30's has the Churchillean notion of "a gathering storm" posed such an imminent danger to the Jewish people. Iran's explicit call for the elimination of Israel coupled with the Islamic state's unceasing efforts to acquire nuclear weapons puts the Jewish state in an untenable--and unacceptable--situation. With the memory of the Holocaust burned into the psyche of Israelis, even those who veer more left in their worldview cannot countenance the idea of a nuclear Iran.
President Ahmadinejad promotes the idea that the faithful can hasten the return of the Hidden Imam, ushering in a new era of Shia Islamic dominance in the Middle East and the world beyond. The destruction of Israel would serve as a clarion call to millions of Muslims worldwide that such an apocalyptic vision can indeed be realized. While internally, the Iranian state may be imploding and poised for regime change, this may take several years, more time than Israel can likely afford.
Ahmadinejad has cleverly set the stage for a second Holocaust. First, he has questioned whether there even was a first Holocaust, erroneously--but effectively--casting doubt on the justification for the Jewish state's existence (in fact, Israel exists and was created not because of the Holocaust, but despite it). And second, he has followed the path of Nazi propagandists by dehumanizing Jews in his characterizations, thereby paving the way to the realization of a judenrein Middle East.
Will Europe, Russia and China join America and Israel in imposing and upholding sanctions on Iran that have real teeth? If the international community fails to act now, it will be responsible for leaving Israel with no choice but to take matters into its own hands at the moment of truth, before Iran reaches a nuclear capability of no return.
As the authors of "Israel's Worst Nightmare," Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael Oren conclude,
"If it fails, then Israel will have no choice but to uphold its role as refuge of the Jewish people. A Jewish state that allows itself to be threatened with nuclear weapons--by a country that denies the genocide against Europe's six million Jews while threatening Israel's six million Jews--will forfeit its right to speak in the name of Jewish history. Fortunately, even the government of Ehud Olmert, widely criticized as incompetent and corrupt, seems to understand that, on this issue at least, it cannot fail." See their poignant essay below.
For more on Iran and its military weaponry, click here.Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor to The New Republic and a senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Michael B. Oren is a contributing editor to The New Republic and a senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is the author most recently of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007
As the old joke has it, everything is related to "the Jewish problem." Jimmy Carter has added new urgency to the non-comical conflation of all the woes of Palestinian society to Israeli actions. According to Carter, in his latest sweeping attacks, the apartheid-like occupation is responsible for some of the worst human rights deprivations in the world. When pressed by an MSNBC reported to compare those deprivations to the sufferings of Rwandans in the last decade, Carter brushed the question aside, claiming he didn't want to discuss the "ancient history" of Rwanda. Never mind the ongoing genocide in Darfur. In Carter's strange universe, about the only thing the occupation isn't responsible for is the Avian flu.
It's important to see where Carter goes wrong. As Dennis Ross tersely puts it, "everyone is entitled to their own opinions. They're not entitled to their own facts." Excellent rebuttals to Carter's serial distortions of history can be found at http://israelproject.org/ and http://standwithus.org/
See articles by Alan Dershowitz, Mitch Bard, David Harris, Ethan Bronner, Jeffrey Goldberg, and many others. Perhaps most telling is the money trail; in Carter's one-way universe, being the recipient of millions of dollars from the Arab world in no way compromises his even-handedness, even as he laments how the American media and government are at the beck and call of nefarious Jewish power brokers (see "Ex-President for sale" http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474976879837). And on Al-Jazeera TV, Carter dismissed criticism of his book by declaring that "most of the condemnations of my book came from Jewish-American organizations." More on this in Deborah Lipstadt's excellent article, "Jimmy Carter's Jewish Problem."
A careful look at Carter's long political career shows that this is not a late-life aberration, but rather of a consistent thread with his courting and defense of despots on both the far left and right. Even in his much vaunted human rights crusades, he has conveniently looked the other way in places as extreme as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and of course the Palestinian territories. See Joshua Muravchik,s "Our Worst ExPresident" below
Ironically, Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," and his subsequent media statements, undermine his intentions of furthering the Palestinian cause of independence and statehood by miring them-and their supporters-in mythologies that retard rather than foster those goals.
Former IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon, in his address to the Herzilya Conference yesterday, devoted a significant portion of his lecture to countering the false assumption that ending the occupation of the West Bank will solve the conflict. He noted that the Palestinian government and Hizbullah are seeking Israel's destruction, not just the end of the occupation.
"The fact that Israel was attacked last summer from two areas it left strengthens the sense of a dead end, and proves that the root of the conflict is not the occupation of territories," Ya'alon said. And he pointed out that Hizbullah's aim was not to liberate Lebanon, but rather to destroy the State of Israel, and that the same was true of the Palestinian Hamas government with regards to the territories. Ya'alon criticized the UN for not punishing Hizbullah, Syria and Iran for their offenses during the Lebanon war.
Ya'alon also emphasized that the Arab world has much at stake in this conflict too. "The clash of civilisations is also going on inside the Muslim world. Not all Muslims are jihadists," Ya'alon emphasized. "They too see what is happening in Gaza, and recognize that the culture of death is destructive. The West and Israel must make contact with them."
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Judea Pearl highlights the crucial role Western news organizations must play in monitoring the content of Al Jazeera's new Western affliate, Al Jazeera English. As one who has suffered profoundly and personally at the hands of Islamic extremists, his call to scrutinize Al Jazeera English's broadcasts should grab our attentions. Ever careful to not suggest banning or censorship, Mr. Pearl does remind us that while we should "extend a hand to the network because it can be a force for good;" he also warns that it obliges our own news organizations to "let its viewers know when anti-Western wishes are subverting objective truth."
Another Perspective, or Jihad TV?
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Yes, we must speak out against the atrocities being committed in Darfur. But it is also our obligation in seeking "to repair the world" to speak out more forcefully as a community against the very real-and daily more imminent-threat of a nuclear Iran. Preventive medicine is often the most therapeutic, and the time to act is now.
"In the past month I have been to more than a dozen Jewish communities, and everywhere I go I see signs and wristbands that say “Save Darfur.” Time and again I am touched that our people understand that tikkun olam includes taking care of others.
But to be frank, if I go to yet another synagogue that has a sign about Darfur and nothing about the threat of Iran, I think my heart will break.
Worry about Darfur? Yes. But why can’t we worry about Iran — perhaps the greatest threat to Israel ever?
There are those in the Jewish community who say that because Iran is a threat to far more than Jews and Israel, we should not make Iran a Jewish or Israeli issue. However, when non-Jews hear the president of Iran both deny the Holocaust and say he wants to wipe Israel off the map and then they don’t see the Jewish community rising up in protest, they wrongly conclude that Iran must not really be a threat."
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
It is only through excruciatingly honest examinations of the past that we can hope to move forward. For the collective as for the individual; change and progress can only occur when we have acknowledged and fully internalized where our starting points are, and how we arrived at them. Dennis Ross' assessment of the misconceptions of what transpired at Camp David and what was contained in the Clinton agreements or parameters is an excellent case in point.
As he has said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. They are not entitled to their own facts."
"Why is it important to set the record straight? Nothing has done more to perpetuate the conflict between Arabs and Israelis than the mythologies on each side. The mythologies about who is responsible for the conflict (and about its core issues) have taken on a life of their own. They shape perception. They allow each side to blame the other while avoiding the need to face up to its own mistakes. So long as myths are perpetuated, no one will have to face reality."
Dennis Ross, NY TIMES; January 9th, 2007
Sunday, January 7, 2007
Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept of "repairing the world," is not just about doing good deeds, like building habitats and feeding the poor, noble and important as those endeavors may be. It is also about fighting the good fight against the darker forces that vie for pre-eminence in the world. Today, some of those are Islamo-Fascism, world Jihadism, and the restoration of a non-pluralistic Muslim Caliphate bent on world domination.
As Yossi Klein Halevi has forcefully argued, the Jewish people have been at the vanguard of the battles against totalitarian, fascistic ideologies, going back to the last century when we were both the victims of communism/totalitarianism, Nazism/Fascism, and later the champions in the wars against them. Today it is Islamo-Fascist Totalitarianism that we find ourselves confronting.
"Three times in the last century, the Jewish people has found itself on the front line against totalitarian ideologies with aspirations to rule the world, and which defined the Jewish people as its primary obstacle in fulfilling that goal. For Nazism, the Jew was not only the source of racial impurity but inventor of conscience, crippling humanity's survival instincts in an amoral world. For Soviet communism, the Jew was the source of capitalism, and Zionism the front line of imperialism. And now, for fundamentalist Islam, the Jew is the satanic enemy, and the Jewish state an abomination against God that must be destroyed."
To read more, http://www.tnr.com/docprint.mhtml?i=w060724&s=halevi072606 by Yossi Klein Halevi posted on TNR.
September 11th jolted my attention, but it was only after the Netanya Park Place Hotel Massacre during a Passover Seder in March of 2002 that I realized a fundamental shift in understanding would be required to integrate the new, impending realities on the world stage. The old paradigms could no longer sustain the changing landscape and an urgent reassessment of my beliefs, values and world view was in order. The dilemma was how to maintain a humanistic, pluralistic, open vision of society while recognizing that the new dangers facing western civilization had to be combated within an entirely new framework. How could the old hippie make room for the cautious realist who still wished to extend his hand in peace, but didn't want to foolishly leave it vulnerable to being bitten off in the process.
A Born Again Zionist
The suicide bombing of a Passover Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya at the end of March 2002 was the beginning of a major shift in attitude, if not consciousness, for me. By the time Sharon and the Israeli government began ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ that April, I understood that we were fighting a different kind of battle and that this was no longer a struggle about ‘Occupation.’ Slowly, I began to realize that the Palestinian leadership, if not a sizable portion of the populace, was not so interested in a shared vision of compromise. It was clear from the tactics being employed (the blowing up of bus after bus, pizzerias, discotheques, hotels, restaurants and any place where Israelis gathered in public), that Arafat and his minions had embarked upon a strategic war of terror. Instead of continuing on with negotiations, Arafat had turned to violence to achieve his goals. This was no small truth to accept and digest. I understood that it was not just extremist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad that were obstacles to peace. It was the leadership of the Palestinian Authority itself.
It became obvious that suicide bombings were not the acts of a desperate people, but rather, they were the calculated acts of war. Apparently, Arafat had concluded that there was no reason to accept the kind of compromise last offered by Barak at Taba in early 2001. Rather than going back to the bargaining table, Arafat opted to launch a strategic war of terror against Israel. Believing that Israel had gone soft and taking a page from Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in the summer of 2000, Arafat concluded that terror works. In retrospect, it would appear that pre 9/11, he was also betting that President Bush, with his oil business connections, strong family ties to the Saudis and by extension to the larger Arab world, would be far more sympathetic to the Palestinians, than he would be to the Jews. By the time of September 11th, the second intifada was already into its second year. And for Arafat there was no turning back.
All of this is a necessary backdrop to understanding how an American Jew who has always aligned himself with the Left, could find himself drifting away from that position. As a social worker and a Jew, my sensibilities have always led me to fight for justice, stand up for the downtrodden, and never lose sight of the essential humanity of all peoples. But by the time of the Netanya Massacre-and that is truly the only way to describe what happened at the Park Hotel during that Passover Seder when children and grandmothers alike were blown apart in one hellish moment-I had to allow for the fact that once again, in this very generation, there were those who were rising up to destroy us.
So the question became, what is a legitimate response? How does one maintain his
moral bearings and at the same time realize that there is an existential threat against his people that must be addressed? It seemed to me-and of course, to many like-minded Jews the world over-that Israel had to show its strength and military might in a decisive way. This was no longer Lebanon. Israel itself that was under attack. And Israel did show its muscle, re-entered the West Bank with its army and in no uncertain terms began to root out the terrorist infrastructure that had been operating there with virtual impunity. The world, and it seems, the Europeans in particular, with the French leading the way, was appalled. Israel was now the Goliath, the aggressor, the ‘Occupier’, and in the ugliest of slanders, the new Nazis. The Europeans were likening-and still do-Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians to their colonial past. The only problem with that analogy is that France never had any business being in Algeria (or Tunisia, Morocco, etc. and likewise for the other European colonialists). Jews, on the other hand, have a four thousand-year connection to the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. And forgotten too was that Israel was on the verge of relinquishing its claim to Greater Israel, not because it didn’t have any valid historical reasons for being there, but because it understood that only through compromise could it hope to live in peace in the middle of the Arab world.
Now it is certainly arguable that Barak’s final offer to the Palestinians was far less generous than the Israelis claim. However, what is undeniable is that a historic concession was being made by the victor of the two major wars (commenced by its adversaries) that put Israel in possession of the lands demanded by the Palestinians. There can be no doubt that both the Israeli government and the Israeli people were ready for difficult concessions and compromises. Clearly, the Palestinian leadership was not. As to the general Palestinian population, it is my belief that had the leadership done a better job preparing their people for compromise and reconciliation, they too would have shown a greater readiness for compromise. But the propaganda machines of the PA instead churned out one willing ‘martyr’ after another. As the war has waged on, the Palestinian leadership has shown no compunction to use teenagers, pregnant women, and lately, even children under ten years of age. And where is the outcry from the liberals and human rights activists in Europe and America against this kind of collective child abuse? Instead, the old canard is trumped out again and again that this is the only tactic left open to the Palestinians, suffering wretchedly under the yoke of Israeli occupation, rendered destitute and desperate by an Israeli superpower that attacks them at will from Apache helicopters. It is as if a collective amnesia has descended upon those who make such claims, because only that could explain how it is forgotten that the ‘Occupation’ was on the verge of extinction when Arafat launched his terror war. The Palestinians were already in virtual control of most of the land in the territories as part of the autonomy process put in place by Oslo. Which, of course, raises the uncomfortable question of why there continued to be ‘refugee camps’ run under the auspices of UNWRA, the United Nations Works and Relief Agency, established after 1948 and where third generation descendants of the original refugee population continue to languish over 50 years later, rather than being absorbed in their host countries. But these are questions for another discussion and another time.
The larger question looms: why is Israel singled out as the most egregious offender of human rights time and time again by resolutions in the United Nations? Why is not the occupation of Lebanon by Syria-and surely it is an occupation, with upwards of 35,000 Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon-decried by the loudest critics of Israel? And what of the 100,000 plus deaths of Arabs by Arabs in the Algerian civil war, after a contested national election in which Islamists won a majority but were denied the fruits of victory, at least in part through French interference? Where is the mass outcry over the genocide in the Sudan, where white Muslims are slaughtering black Africans by the droves? And why is it not acceptable to call the Palestinians to task, to demand accountability and responsibility? Poll after poll has shown significant sectors of the Palestinian population, if not outright majorities, in favor of continued terrorism against Israel, even after the creation of a Palestinian state (In June alone, already 11 attempted acts of terror inside Israel have been thwarted through the efforts of Israeli Intelligence and the security forces). Instead, we see logic turned on its head. The Palestinians cry victimhood, rather than demanding an end to a corrupt regime that fosters and perpetuates their misery. Why aren’t those in the Palestinian Diaspora demanding more of their own people? Where have the voices of reason and moderation been during the last four years in the Palestinian community, calling for an end to the barbaric and self-destructive acts of terror? Sadly, there are but a few and their tepid declarations offer too little too late. There has been a glorification of weakness and victimhood by the Palestinians, when legitimate assertions of power and strength were called for. Why have the Palestinians not yet had their ‘Altalena’ moment, reining in their multiple militias and armed factions under one authority, the only way to establish real legitimacy and sovereignty? And why has so much more energy been expended on the destruction of Israel at the expense of the creation of Palestine?
None of this is to say that Israel is without fault or sin. Unauthorized settlement outposts should be removed, olive trees of Palestinian farmers should not be destroyed, and the Israeli government should be more vigilant in enforcing its own laws respecting the rights of innocent Palestinians, to say the least. However, both the Israeli government and the vast majority of the Israeli people have shown themselves willing to make far-reaching concessions and compromises for the sake of peace. Can the same really be said for the Palestinians?
I will continue to keep an open heart and hold out my hand in search of peace and reconciliation. But I now do so with a guarded heart and hand. It is taught in the best of my traditions that we must always remember that we were once strangers in a strange land. Yet we must temper that compassion for the Other with the sanctity of the preservation and the flourishing of our own people in our own land.
History Moves On....
Opportunities for new political realities must be seized upon when myriad conditions align themelves, predisposing the players towards mutually acceptable, or even tolerable outcomes. 1947-48 was such a moment in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the early 90's again offered unique and propitious circumstances for a solution to be realized. Sadly, the Palestinians squandered that opportunity and the door has been closed shut; of late it has been sealed tightly with the advent of an unrepentant terrorist organization at the helm of their democratically elected government.
To presume that there is anything resembling a 'peace process' between Israel and the Palestinians right now is to venture into dangerously deceptive waters. History has once again moved on and new realities will have to first be established on the Palestinian side before we can hope to see a serious dialogue re-emerge. For the moment, it is an internal affair for the Palestinians to determine; of course, Israel has a stake in the outcome, but she cannot be expected to make things right. Deterrence and patience are the order of the day.
Israeli Arabs & Jews: Dispelling the Myths & Narrowing the Gaps
Professor Amnon Rubinstein, president of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, shows how contrary to popular assumptions, Israeli Arabs have made great strides in major indices of progress, notably health and education. While careful to not downplay decades of discrimination and inequalities, he amply demonstrates how the gaps between Arabs and Jews inside Israel have narrowed dramatically. This in stark contrast to countries like France and Britian, where the gap has actually widened between Arab and non-Arab citizens, regarding similar indices.
One of the central lessons to be drawn from the Holocaust is that when people proclaim that they're planning on killing us, it's a good idea to take them at their word. The Nazis were quite clear about their intentions, and they carried out those intentions as quickly and efficiently as possible. And they started on their genocidal rampage hoping to acquire better weaponery and technology in the process. By contrast, the Iranians are working towards the realization of those weapons before they launch their grand attack. Equipped with nuclear weapons, they could in fact commit 'instant genocide' if successful.
Words and intentions matter, and with the stakes this high, shouldn't the world understand that inaction amounts to the commission of sin by default.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide makes Ahmadinejad's pronouncements criminal and subject to prosecution. So why is he instead welcomed at the United Nations and other august institutions?