Michael Oren hits the nail exactly on the head. How can the world expect Israelis to make huge sacrifices for peace and reconciliation, risking their children's' lives, when the court of world opinion denies them the basic human right of self-defense and self-protection?
see also Alan Dershowitz and Ehud Barak below
G'mar chatimah tovah and a meaningful fast!
Ironically, the greatest victim of the UN report is not Israel’s ability to wage a moral war but its willingness to make an historic peace. If asked to take immense risks for peace, Israelis must be convinced of their internationally recognized right to self-defense should that peace be broken. Deprived of that right, even after being subjected to years of murderous rocket attacks, an Israeli electorate will understandably recoil from such risks.
UN Report a Victory for Terror - Michael Oren
Just as the U.S. entered Afghanistan in response to an unprovoked attack on American civilians in 2001, so, too, did Israel's intervention, which followed more than 7,000 Hamas rocket and mortar strikes on Israeli towns and villages since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Given the UN Human Rights Commission's silence in the face of this aggression, and Hamas' rejection of Israeli offers to renew a cease-fire, Israel exercised its unassailable right to defend its citizens.
The UN report is not about justice. Rather, it is the latest initiative designed to delegitimize Israel and deny its right to self-defense. The UN report not only endangers Israel. It bestows virtual immunity on terrorists and ties the hands of any nation to protect itself.
The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (Boston Globe)
Goldstone Report Is a Barrier to Peace - Alan Dershowitz
There are many things wrong with the Goldstone report, which accuses Israel of deliberately targeting civilians in order to punish the people of Gaza. First, its primary conclusions are entirely false as a matter of demonstrable fact. Second, it defames one of the most moral military forces in the world, along with one of the most responsive legal systems and one of the freest nations in the world when it comes to dissent. Third, it destroys the credibility of "international human rights," and proves that this honorable concept has been hijacked for political purposes directed primarily against one nation - Israel.
But fourth, and most important, it has set back prospects of peace by making it far more difficult for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. If Israel were to leave, rockets fired from the West Bank would endanger far more Israeli civilians and threaten to close Ben-Gurion Airport. Israel now knows that if it were to try to defend itself against such rockets, it would once again be condemned by the UN. (Hudson Institute New York)
At the UN, Terrorism Pays - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak
The UN Human Rights Council produced a 600-page report alleging that Israel carried out war crimes in Gaza. Enduring eight years of ongoing rocket fire, thousands of Israeli children living in southern Israel had to study, play, eat and sleep while being preoccupied about the distance to the nearest bomb shelter. When I accompanied then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on his visit to the shelled city of Sderot, he said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing." When the Goldstone mission gathers testimony from local residents in Hamas-ruled Gaza, but forgets to ask them whether they happened to notice any armed Palestinians during the Israeli operation, or didn't realize that its impartially chosen witnesses happened to be known Hamas operatives according to Israeli intelligence, I begin to question the methodology of such a "fact-finding" effort.
The time has come for us to put an end to this calculated erosion of common sense. Democracies should be concentrating on defending themselves from extremism - not from accusations by kangaroo courts. (Wall Street Journal)
Friday, September 25, 2009
Michael Oren hits the nail exactly on the head. How can the world expect Israelis to make huge sacrifices for peace and reconciliation, risking their children's' lives, when the court of world opinion denies them the basic human right of self-defense and self-protection?
Friday, September 18, 2009
The Hypocrisy of the Goldstone Report: Asymmetric Warfare, Democracies & the Inalienable Right to Self-Defense
Just how would Richard Goldstone have liked Israel to respond to 8 years of unrelenting missile attacks on its civilian population? At what point does a democracy reserve the right to defend its citizenry from the sort of daily terror that gives children 15 seconds to find refugee in bomb shelters whenever a siren goes off?
In early June of 2006 (just weeks before Hamas' ambush of Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of Gilad Shalit) Ambassador Dennis Ross spoke to Media Fellows for The Israel Project in D.C.
He emphasized that there must be consequences for the side that rejects peace and the only way to move forward was for all parties to accept responsibility for their actions and inactions. That there must be accountability. He noted that it was completely unconscionable that Qassam rockets continued to rain down on southern Israel after a 100% withdrawal from that territory by the Israelis the previous summer. Yet the international community remained silent, when there needed to be unequivocal condemnation for those brazen attacks against a sovereign state and member of the United Nations. The 'international community' bears responsibility, along with Hamas, for allowing rocket terror attacks to continue unabated, increasing in frequency and intensity after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005.
Below, Ari Shavit points to the double-standard used against Israel. Other insightful articles follow.
Shana Tovah to all
UN Must Hold U.S. to Same Standard as Israel - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)
Two weeks ago American airplanes fired on two oil tankers in northern Afghanistan at the request of a German military officer, killing some 70 people. The U.S. and Germany are responsible for the attack, together with NATO members Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. If the international community is committed to international law and universal ethics, it should investigate the assault.
If the U.S., Germany and NATO refuse to cooperate with investigators, the UN should consider transferring the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It may be necessary to put the U.S. president and the German chancellor on trial for committing a severe war crime that did not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Absurd? Yes.
The U.S. has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the last few months encouraged Pakistan to make an extremely brutal military move in its Swat Valley. The U.S. was not required to account for it because everyone understands that this is the price of the terrible war on terror.
Only Israel is required to uphold a moral standard no superpower or Middle Eastern state is required to uphold.
The Goldstone Report
President Peres: Goldstone Report Makes a Mockery of History - Roni Sofer
Israeli President Shimon Peres responded to the UN Goldstone Report saying that it "makes a mockery of history" and that "it does not distinguish between the aggressor and the defender." "War is crime and the attacker is the criminal. The defender has no choice. The Hamas terror organization is the one who started the war and also carried out other awful crimes. Hamas has used terrorism for years against Israeli children....The report gives de facto legitimacy to terrorist initiatives and ignores the obligation and right of every country to defend itself." (Ynet News) See also Justice in Gaza - Richard Goldstone (New York Times)
UN Investigation of Israel Discredits Itself and Undercuts Human Rights - Alan M. Dershowitz
The report commissioned by the notorious UN Human Rights Council is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it could have been drafted by Hamas extremists. In effect, it actually was. Members were accompanied on their investigations in Gaza by Hamas activists who showed them only what they wanted them to see. The group was eager to find or manufacture "evidence" to support what the Human Rights Council itself had directed them to find, namely that Israel committed "grave violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip." This conclusion was reached before any investigation. The lowest blow and the worst canard is the claim that the Israeli judicial system "has major structural flaws that make the system inconsistent with international standards." This is a direct attack on the Israeli Supreme Court by a lawyer who knows full well that there is no country in the world that has a judicial system that demands more accountability than the Israeli system does. There is no judicial system in the world that takes more seriously its responsibility to bring its military into compliance with international law. The report is not intended to establish general principles of international law, applicable to all nations. It is directed at one nation and one nation only: the Jew among nations - Israel. (Hudson Institute New York)
IDF Judge-Advocate General: Israel Right Not to Cooperate with Goldstone - Yaakov Katz
The distorted and one-sided UN report proves that Israel had been right not to cooperate with the Goldstone mission, IDF Judge-Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit said Wednesday. "From an initial review of the report it is clear that it is biased, astonishingly extreme, lacks any basis in reality and is a sharp deviation from the mandate given to the mission." Mandelblit spoke of a new "legal front" that the IDF was facing and warned of attempts by numerous NGOs - and possibly European countries which support them - to deter Israel from launching future military operations by threatening its officers with legal action. Prof. Asa Kasher, author of the IDF's code of ethics, noted that "this report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that unfairly deals mostly with Israel. These are anti-Israel politics that contain a level of anti-Semitism in them." Kasher noted how the report opened with a detailed description of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. "It is as if this is how it all started," he said. "They did not bother to ask why there was a siege, which was done out of self-defense." (Jerusalem Post)
UN Smears Israeli Self-Defense as "War Crimes" - Gerald M. Steinberg
The tendentious and extremely biased report succeeded in angering Israelis from across the political spectrum. The report condemned every Israeli response to the 8,000 rockets fired by Hamas, but its recommendations did not include any steps to end this aggression. And while Israel is accused of committing acts of terror, the report never acknowledges that Hamas committed acts of terror, even though it is legally banned as a terrorist organization by the U.S and EU. The Goldstone report will increase Israeli cynicism regarding the viability of international institutions and guarantees of Israeli security and fair treatment. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
The Moral Inversion of the Goldstone Report - Melanie Phillips
The Goldstone report does worse than establish a moral equivalence between the instigators of genocidal violence and those who were attempting to defend themselves against it. It presents Israel, the victims of such aggression, as war criminals and the Palestinians, the actual instigators of terror, as its victims. This is not moral equivalence but moral inversion. Even worse, Goldstone presents the Palestinian aggressors as victims of Israel, requiring Israel to make reparation to those from whose houses and streets it was attacked. No reparations to Israel are required from any Palestinians, even though Goldstone accepts that Hamas committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by firing thousands of missiles at its civilians. This disreputable piece of work will embolden and empower Hamas and Palestinian terrorism, provide the jihadis of the UN and their accomplices with the means further to persecute Israel and endorse its genocidal attackers, and incite the Arab and Muslim world still further to aggression and to war. (Spectator-UK)
The Goldstone Report: 575 Pages of NGO "Cut and Paste"The 575-page Goldstone report is primarily based on NGO statements, publications, and submissions, in numerous cases simply copying false and unsubstantiated allegations. (NGO Monitor)
Will U.S. Now Let Goldstone into Afghanistan? - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)
Friday, September 11, 2009
Also, Hirsh Goodman's eloquent statement of the obvious: Israel is not an Apartheid State. He should know; he came from one. It's abhorrent to compare the willful, racist atrocities committed against South Africa's Black majority and and Israel's security measures imposed on a Palestinian minority who Israel is endlessly negotiating with to make accommodations.
Back in Toronto, sane voices are demanding to be heard. "Several prominent members of the film industry have spoken out against these attempts to isolate and disparage Israel while ignoring films from countries such as China and Iran. They include Minnie Driver, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Ivan Reitman, Robert Lantos, Saul Rubinek and Simcha Jacobovici. Their quotes on the distasteful attack against Israeli artists and the deligitimization of Israel appear in a news release issued by UJA."
Please click on read more at the bottom of this post
The Boycott Revisited - Uri Avnery
When I receive a missive that is dripping with hatred of Israel, that portrays all Israelis (including myself, of course) as monsters, I fail to envision how the writer imagines peace. The view of Israel as a monolithic entity composed of racists and brutal oppressors is a caricature. Israel is a complex society, struggling with itself. Reading some of the messages sent to me, I get the feeling they are not so much about a boycott on Israel as about the very existence of Israel. Some proposals, like those for a "One State" solution, sound like euphemisms. If one believes that the State of Israel should be abolished and replaced by a State of Palestine or a State of Happiness - why not say so openly? Of course, that does not mean peace. Peace between Israel and Palestine presupposes that Israel is there. (Dissident)
Israel Is Not an Apartheid State - Hirsh Goodman
Since the first Durban Conference in August 2002, it has become fashionable to use the word "apartheid" as an adjective to Israel. We have the "apartheid wall" and "apartheid roads" and are regularly called an "apartheid state," as alluded to by former President Jimmy Carter in his recent book Peace not Apartheid. Israel is not an apartheid state. I know. I came from one. To compare Israel to apartheid South Africa demonstrates ignorance and, in many cases, malevolence. There is a clash of nationalisms over territory, not the imposition of economic and social slavery though a codex of laws aimed at discrimination for the benefit of a tiny minority of the country's population. Yes, in some places there are separate roads for Palestinians and the separation barrier is hideously ugly, but these are responses to security problems, not the imposition of a pre-meditated discriminatory system. Apartheid South Africa meant total economic exploitation by two million whites who enslaved and systematically discriminated against people ten times more numerous than them. Apartheid South Africa carried out more judicial hangings than any other country on earth. It was a place where people disappeared into the night never to be heard of again if they opposed the regime, including anti-apartheid activists from among the Jewish community. It was a dark, horrible regime of fear with no intention of ever making peace with the black people. Say what you may about Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, at least the sides are engaged in some form of conciliatory process, at least people on both sides can see a theoretical resolution of the problem. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 9 Sep09)
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) officially opens today amid a cloud of controversy created by a group that opposes TIFF's spotlight on movies from Tel Aviv. Group members say that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, even though Tel Aviv is celebrating its 100th anniversary and the city's first neighbourhood was founded in 1887, long before the establishment of the State of Israel. They also say that TIFF is participating in an Israeli propaganda campaign by highlighting Tel Aviv films. It would be hard to think of anything more insulting to Tel Aviv's talented film makers.
Now several prominent members of the film industry have spoken out against these attempts to isolate and disparage Israel while ignoring films from countries such as China and Iran. They include Minnie Driver, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Ivan Reitman, Robert Lantos, Saul Rubinek and Simcha Jacobovici. Their quotes on the distasteful attack against Israeli artists and the deligitimization of Israel appear in a news release issued by UJA.
The anti-Israel position taken by opponents of the TIFF City to City program has also received the cold shoulder from several newspaper editorials and writers. Please see below for editorials in the Globe and the Star, today's column by Star entertainment reporter Peter Howell and the powerful opinion piece in today's Globe written by Robert Lantos.
Tel Aviv tiff at TIFF
Artists for Censorship
Give these movies a chance
Theres justice and then theres propaganda
Since we last wrote to you and urged our community to purchase as many tickets as possible for the Israeli films featured at the festival, sales have been brisk and tickets were, for a time, sold out. A new block of tickets has opened up and we urge you, once again, to see as many Israeli films as possible in order to stand with Israel against untruthful and unwarranted attacks. Please contact the TIFF box office by clicking below. http://tiff.net/boxoffice
Thank you for your support and you can be assured UJA Federation will continue its intensive efforts, throughout the festival, to battle those who seek to boycott and damage Israel.
David Koschitzky,Chair, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto
below are the anti-israel signatories:
Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel; Elle Flanders, filmmaker, Canada; Richard Fung, video artist, Canada; John Greyson, filmmaker, Canada; Naomi Klein, writer and filmmaker, Canada; Kathy Wazana, filmmaker, Canada; Cynthia Wright, writer and academic, Canada; b h Yael, film and video artist, CanadaEndorsed By:Ahmad Abdalla, Filmmaker, EgyptHany Abu-Assad, Filmmaker, PalestineMark Achbar, Filmmaker, CanadaZackie Achmat, AIDS activist, South AfricaRa'anan Alexandrowicz, Filmmaker, JerusalemAnthony Arnove, Publisher and Producer, USARuba Atiyeh, Documentary Director, LebanonJoslyn Barnes, Writer and Producer, USAHarry Belafonte, Musician/Actor, USAJohn Berger, Author, FranceDionne Brand, Poet/Writer, CanadaDaniel Boyarin, Professor, USAJudith Butler, Professor, USADavid Byrne, Musician, USANoam Chomsky, Professor, USAJulie Christie, Actor, USAGuy Davidi Director, IsraelNa-iem Dollie, Journalist/Writer, South AfricaIgor Drljaca, Filmmaker, CanadaEve Ensler, Playwright, Author, USAEyal Eithcowich, Director, IsraelLynne Fernie, Filmmaker and Programmer, CanadaSophie Fiennes, Filmmaker, UKPeter Fitting, Professor, CanadaJane Fonda, Actor and Author, USADanny Glover, Filmmaker and Actor, USANoam Gonick, Director, CanadaMalcolm Guy, Filmmaker, CanadaRawi Hage, Writer, CanadaAnne Henderson, Filmmaker, CanadaMike Hoolboom, Filmmaker, CanadaAnnemarie Jacir, Filmmaker, PalestineGordon Jackson, Jazz Musician, South AfricaFredric Jameson, Literary Critic, USAJuliano Mer Khamis, Filmmaker, Jenin/HaifaBonnie Sherr Klein Filmmaker, CanadaJoy Kogawa, Writer, CanadaPaul Laverty, Producer, UKMin Sook Lee, Filmmaker, CanadaPaul Lee, Filmmaker, CanadaYael Lerer, publisher, Tel AvivMark Levine, Professor, USAJack Lewis, Filmmaker, South AfricaKen Loach, Filmmaker, UKArab Lotfi, Filmmaker, Egypt/LebanonKyo Maclear, Author, TorontoMahmood Mamdani, Professor, USAFatima Mawas, Filmmaker, AustraliaAnne McClintock, Professor, USATessa McWatt, Author, Canada and UKViggo Mortensen, Actor, USACornelius Moore, Film Distributor, USAYousry Nasrallah, Director, EgyptJoan Nestle, Writer, USARebecca O'Brien, Producer, UKPratibha Parmar, Producer/Director, UKAnand Patwardhan, Documentary Film Maker, IndiaJeremy Pikser, Screenwriter, USAJohn Pilger, Filmmaker, UKShai Carmeli Pollak, Filmmaker, IsraelIan Iqbal Rashid, Filmmaker, CanadaJudy Rebick, Professor, CanadaDavid Reeb, Artist, Tel AvivB. Ruby Rich, Critic and Professor, USAWallace Shawn, Playwright, Actor, USAEyal Sivan, Filmmaker and Scholar, Paris/London/SderotElia Suleiman, Fimmlaker, Nazareth/Paris/New YorkEran Torbiner, Filmmaker, IsraelAlice Walker, Writer, USAThomas Waugh, Professor, CanadaChristian Wiener Freso, President – Union of Peruvian Filmmakers, PeruDebra Zimmerman, Executive Director Women Make Movies, USAHoward Zinn, Writer, USASlavoj Zizek, Professor, Slovenia Sent from my Verizon Wireless
A concert for tolerance and peace? For shame!
The National Post
Chris Selley: Posted: September 08, 2009, 10:30 AM by NP Editor
Something big is happening in Tel Aviv on Sept. 24, and it's making a lot of people very angry. Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) says, "This ill-conceived project ... is clearly intended to whitewash Israel's violations of international law and human rights." The Palestinian NGO Network believes it "legitimiz[es] the abnormal situation in Palestine, and especially in Gaza, where war crimes were committed by Israel a few months ago, and remain unpunished."
"If you had just emerged from three weeks of unfettered bombing from land, sea and air, with no place to hide and no place to run, your hospitals overwhelmed, sewage running in the streets and white phosphorous burning up your children, what would the news [of the event] say to you?" asked four British university professors in an open letter. "[It would tell the Palestinians] that their suffering doesn't matter."
The event, if you can believe it, is a concert by Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen -- enemy of human rights, obstacle to peace, reminder of suffering. I consider myself pretty jaded, but these are astonishing smears. Cohen is a 74-year-old mensch of the first order, and author of some of the most universally appealing, enduring and, it must be said, all-but-completely apolitical popular songs ever written.
It's interesting to compare Cohen's upcoming trip to the Holy Land to the one Madonna recently undertook. Madge's latest world tour, which wrapped up last week in Tel Aviv, was called "Sticky and Sweet." All evidence suggests the proceeds went toward expanding her inestimable fortune. Cohen's upcoming gig is entitled "A Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace." Proceeds will go to a fund of the same name, established by Cohen, whose mission is "to provide financial support for organizations and individuals working to achieve reconciliation, tolerance and peace between Israelis and Palestinians and thereby advance the recognition and full expression of human rights in this region." Among the beneficiaries will be The Parents Circle -- Families Forum, which unites bereaved Palestinian and Israeli parents, and generally promotes peace by arranging positive encounters between people who might otherwise have considered each other enemies.
On the PACBI website, disapproving references to Cohen's concert about reconciliation, tolerance and peace outnumber those to Madonna's concert about nothing by a score of 84-2. When Cohen decided he wanted to play a show in Ramallah as well, the boycotters' screeching only intensified. Under no circumstances should he play the West Bank, some insisted, while more charitable types thought the show acceptable on the condition he cancel the one in Israel. How can these people possibly claim to be working in the interests of peace? And as if this wasn't bad enough, Amnesty International shamefully bailed on administering the fund last month, claiming it wasn't the boycott but "the lack of support from Israeli and Palestinian NGOs" that changed its mind. The distinction is lost on me, I'm afraid.
Cohen's ongoing world tour, his first in 15 years, began as a moneymaking enterprise. While he was in repose at a Zen monastery on Mt. Baldy, near Los Angeles -- something I think very few people other than Cohen could pull off without seeming like a total wanker -- his former manager basically cleaned him out. But the shows soon took on a beautiful life of their own, as anyone who's seen one can attest. "I don't recommend losing everything as a spiritual discipline," Cohen told Maclean's Brian D. Johnson early in the tour. "But if it happens to you, there are some features that are quite surprising and quite nourishing."
I saw Cohen in Toronto last summer. It sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. Historically, it has sometimes fallen to other artists to rescue Cohen's songs from dubious, synthesizer-laden (if strangely endearing) album arrangements. But on this tour, Cohen and his band are laying down the definitive versions of many of his best songs -- notably a lush, rootsy, vocally gutsy take on Hallelujah. But it wasn't just the music --it might not even have been mostly the music. In review after rapturous review pouring in from around the world, you read of audiences that are profoundly appreciative of being in the presence of a uniquely brilliant, generous, gentlemanly soul.
For the record, I'm not saying Leonard Cohen can solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It's just enormously depressing to see people politicizing his manifestly apolitical efforts to do his part to help. Twin appearances in Tel Aviv and Ramallah could only have produced goodwill among those lucky enough to attend, while the boycotters danced with rage outside. It's a tragic, if ultimately minor, missed opportunity. It's tough to think of a song that more desperately needs playing on both sides of the security wall than Anthem:
Every heart, every heartto love will comebut like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ringForget your perfect offeringThere is a crack, a crack in everythingThat's how the light gets in.
We don’t feel like celebrating with Israel this year
The Globe and Mail
September 8, 2009
When I heard the Toronto International Film Festival was holding a celebratory “spotlight” on Tel Aviv I felt ashamed of my city. I thought immediately of Mona Al Shawa, a Palestinian women's-rights activist I met on a recent trip to Gaza. “We had more hope during the attacks,” she told me, “at least then we believed things would change.”
Ms. Al Shawa explained that while Israeli bombs rained down last December and January, Gazans were glued to their TVs. What they saw, in addition to the carnage, was a world rising up in outrage: global protests, as many as a hundred thousand on the streets of London, a group of Jewish women in Toronto occupying the Israeli Consulate. “People called it war crimes,” Ms. Al Shawa recalled. “We felt we were not alone in the world.” If Gazans could just survive them, it seemed these horrors would be the catalyst for change.
But today, Ms. Al Shawa said, that hope is a bitter memory. The international outrage has evaporated. Gaza has vanished from the news. And it seems that all those deaths – as many as 1,400 – were not enough to bring justice. Indeed Israel is refusing to co-operate even with a toothless UN fact-finding mission, headed by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone.
Last Spring, while Mr. Goldstone's mission was in Gaza gathering devastating testimony, the Toronto International Film Festival was selecting movies for its Tel Aviv spotlight, timed with the city's 100th birthday. There are many who would have us believe that there is no connection between Israel's desire to avoid scrutiny for its actions in the occupied territories and this week's glittering Toronto premieres. It's quite possible that Cameron Bailey, TIFF's co-director, believes it himself. He is wrong.
For more than a year, Israeli diplomats have been talking openly about their new strategy to counter growing global anger at Israel's defiance of international law. It's no longer enough, they argue, just to invoke Sderot every time someone raises Gaza. The task is also to change the subject to more pleasant areas: film, arts, gay rights – things that underline commonalities between Israel and places such as Paris and New York. After the Gaza attack, this strategy went into high gear. “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits,” Arye Mekel, deputy director-general for cultural affairs for Israel's Foreign Ministry, told The New York Times. “This way, you show Israel's prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
Toronto got an early taste of all this. A year ago, Amir Gissin, Israeli consul-general in Toronto, explained that a new “Brand Israel” campaign would include, according to a report in the Canadian Jewish News, “a major Israeli presence at next year's Toronto International Film Festival, with numerous Israeli, Hollywood and Canadian entertainment luminaries on hand.” Mr. Gissin pledged that, “I'm confident everything we plan to do will happen.” Indeed it has.
Let's be clear: No one is claiming the Israeli government is secretly running TIFF's Tel Aviv spotlight, whispering in Mr. Bailey's ear about which films to program. The point is that the festival's decision to give Israel pride of place, holding up Tel Aviv as a “young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity,” matches Israel's stated propaganda goals to a T.
It's ironic that TIFF's Tel Aviv programming is being called a spotlight because celebrating that city in isolation – without looking at Gaza, without looking at what is on the other side of the towering concrete walls, barbed wire and checkpoints – actually obscures far more than it illuminates. There are some wonderful Israeli films included in the program. They deserve to be shown as a regular part of the festival, liberated from this highly politicized frame.
This is the context in which a small group of us drafted The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration Under Occupation, which has been signed by the likes of Danny Glover and Ken Loach (we will be unveiling hundreds of new names on the first day of TIFF). Contrary to the many misrepresentations, the letter is not calling for a boycott of the festival. It is a simple message of solidarity that says: We don't feel like partying with Israel this year. It is also a small way of saying to Mona Al Shawa and millions of other Palestinians living under occupation and siege that we have not forgotten them, and we are still outraged.
Jon Voight Accuses Jane Fonda of "Aiding and Abetting Those Who Seek the Destruction of Israel"- Michael PosnerActor Jon Voight is accusing actress Jane Fonda - his co-star in the Oscar-winning anti-Vietnam war film Coming Home - of "aiding and abetting those who seek the destruction of Israel." In a letter released Tuesday, Voight said, "Jane Fonda is backing the wrong people again" by signing her name to a letter of protest against the Toronto International Film Festival's decision to shine a cinematic spotlight on Tel Aviv and ten Israeli filmmakers. Voight, 71, maintains that "people like Jane Fonda and all the names on that letter are assisting the Palestinian propagandists against the State of Israel....Jane Fonda's whole idea of the 'poor Palestinians,' and 'look how many Palestinians the Israelis killed in Gaza,' is misconstrued. Does she not remember what actually took place in Gaza? Did Israel not give the Palestinians of Gaza the hope that there could be peace? In response, did Hamas not launch rockets from Gaza into Israel, killing many innocent people?" "Time and again, [Israel] offered the Palestinians land. They always refused. They don't want a piece of the pie, they want the whole pie. They will not be happy until they see Israel in the sea." (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Monday, September 7, 2009
Another Tack: It's not the settlements, stupid
As Sarah Honig shows, without understanding history, it's impossible to make informed judgements regarding the current U.S.-Israel settlement impasse. "Changes on the ground," curtailment of Jewish immigration (the White Paper), repudiation of a national Jewish homeland...or as Honig puts it, "The bete noire that once was aliya is today called settlement. But intrinsically the two are one and the same - antagonism toward Jewish presence." read on...
Besides its draconian curbs on Jewish land ownership, the Neville Chamberlain government's White Paper also set a limit of 10,000 Jewish immigrants annually for a five-year period. It magnanimously allowed an additional 25,000 quota for the entire five years to allow for "refugee emergencies." Any post-1944 Jewish entry would necessitate Arab permission. It must be recalled that Jews were at the time fleeing in all directions to escape Hitler's hell. The White Paper encompassed all the goodwill the international community could reluctantly muster, lest "changes on the ground" occur that would rile the Arabs in and around the Jewish homeland.
During all that time, it needs to be stressed, immigration into British mandated Eretz Yisrael hadn't stopped. Only Jewish immigration was targeted and impeded. Arab immigration continued unhindered. Itinerant Arab laborers streamed here from the entire Arab-speaking world - from the Maghreb to Syria. The Jews created what was dubbed locally as "prosperity." Arabs drifted to partake in it. But nobody objected. They were counted as natives. The UN actually recognized as "Palestinian refugees" any Arabs who sojourned here two years prior to 1948. Much of the Arab population on Israel's Coastal Plain, for example, is originally Egyptian and arrived with British acquiescence. Hence the Mandate-era recorded a population explosion in some Arab villages, ranging quite unnaturally between 200 percent and 1,040%, according to Prof. Moshe Prawer's research into Arab migration here from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc. The Brits and their allies didn't consider the Arab influx as "changing facts on the ground," possibly because enlightened Jews didn't riot. The bete noire that once was aliya is today called settlement. But intrinsically the two are one and the same - antagonism toward Jewish presence.
The Jews are anathema, as is any habitat for them. If both are curtailed then Jewish existence is undercut. That was and still remains the Arab endgame aim. Today's unofficial settlement freeze won't satisfy Israel's supposed peace partners, just as the British White Paper proved insufficient for their 1939 forebears. The ultimate White Paper goal was the creation of a single binational state with power-sharing according to the proportion of Jews to Arabs as would exist in 1949. Restrictions on Jewish immigration would preclude any "changes on the ground" until then - just what Obama purports to prevent with the ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. The Arab Higher Committee rejected said White Paper, demanding "a complete and final prohibition" on all Jewish immigration and unequivocal absolute repudiation of the Jewish national home. Translated into today's diplomatic parlance, this is equivalent to "the unconditional end to all settlement activity" and the refusal to recognize the right of a Jewish state to exist. What was is what is. It's just not about the settlements.
Another Tack: It's not the settlements, stupid
Without historical context there can be no real understanding of existential issues, certainly not of essential continuities. That's why those who seek to obfuscate and skew do their utmost to erase telltale fundamental perspectives and present whatever they focus upon as cogent isolated concerns.
Case in point: US President Barack Obama's fixation on settlements, whether they be a collection of squatters' makeshift lean-tos on a stony hill in the middle of a barren nowhere or entire populous urban quarters of Jerusalem.
The real issue is a layer deep beneath surface palaver. It's a layer which Arabs implicitly understand, which Jews pretend (or prefer) not to understand, and which Obama righteously denies. To paraphrase what Bill Clinton hectored during his first presidential campaign: "It's not the settlements, stupid."
Settlements are mere transitory pretexts, alleged irritants which in fact conceal a far darker but basic truth.
Obama hints at it when he admonishes against creating "new facts on the ground" ahead of the deal he proclaims he's about to concoct. Peace is feasible providing Israelis effectively stay inanimate and refrain from altering reality beyond the non-border (1949's armistice line, a.k.a. the Green Line). Otherwise they jeopardize Obama's magic remedy to all that ails the region but which thus far eluded cure by lesser healers than himself. His unspoken apparent assumption is that whatever betokens Israeli/Jewish life and vitality perforce undermines harmony and bliss. Bottom line priority - weaken Israeli/Jewish interests.
THIS HAS been the Arab subtext since the very advent of Zionism, though at different intervals the casus belli assumed different facades. In all instances the pro forma grievance was that Jews were "changing facts on the ground," just as now.
On occasion, as currently, the outcry centered on settlements, or more specifically on land purchases. (Jews weren't always accused of robbing Arab land. Sometimes their crime was buying stretches of wasteland.) At times it was immigration.
Often, it was both, as in the days of the infamous White Paper, published by Britain just months before the outbreak of World War II, when the Holocaust was about to be kick-started. Germany's Jews were already shorn of citizenship and stateless. Hitler's threats were well recorded, shouted in the world's face and hardly kept a secret.
Besides its draconian curbs on Jewish land ownership, the Neville Chamberlain government's White Paper also set a limit of 10,000 Jewish immigrants annually for a five-year period. It magnanimously allowed an additional 25,000 quota for the entire five years to allow for "refugee emergencies." Any post-1944 Jewish entry would necessitate Arab permission.
It must be recalled that Jews were at the time fleeing in all directions to escape Hitler's hell. The White Paper encompassed all the goodwill the international community could reluctantly muster, lest "changes on the ground" occur that would rile the Arabs in and around the Jewish homeland.
The fault wasn't Britain's alone. Obama's White House predecessor was fully complicit. Franklin Roosevelt unreservedly shared the predispositions of his European counterparts. Likewise, Obama isn't the sole pro-Arab Western leader today. He is unreservedly in line with kindred European Union pompous pontificators. The unholy Allied prewar mind-set has been revived.
In his day Hitler tauntingly invited the world's democracies to take his Jews, if they were so fretful about them. He knew that for all their high-minded rhetoric, these countries wouldn't accept his provocative challenge. After 1938's Anschluss, their representatives met in Evian-les-Bains, on Lake Geneva's French shore, to decide what to do with Nazism's desperate victims, who were pounding on their gates in search of asylum. They never even called them Jews, lest they incur the fuehrer's wrath.
IT TURNED into a great Jew-rejection fest. Britain bristled at any suggestion of allowing Jews into Eretz Yisrael, mandated to it to administer as the Jewish national home. Progenitors of today's Palestinian terrorists made sure endangered Jews wouldn't be sheltered, and his majesty's government appeasingly assented. The vast empty spaces of Canada, Australia and New Zealand were likewise off bounds. American humanitarianism consisted of tossing the undesirable hot potato into the international arena, because the Jews weren't wanted in the land of the free either.
Indeed, FDR toyed with the notion of shipping German Jews to Ethiopia or Central Africa. The UK favored the jungles of Venezuela or Central America. Mussolini changed direction northward. Instead of exposing Berlin's urbane Jews to the rigors of the tropics, he opined that the Siberian arctic might be a preferable hardship.
The competition was on: who'll suggest a more remote and less hospitable exile in which to dump those whom the British Foreign Office shamelessly labeled "unwanted Jews." The motivation wasn't much more beneficent than Hitler's initial choice of Madagascar.
During all that time, it needs to be stressed, immigration into British mandated Eretz Yisrael hadn't stopped. Only Jewish immigration was targeted and impeded. Arab immigration continued unhindered. Itinerant Arab laborers streamed here from the entire Arab-speaking world - from the Maghreb to Syria. The Jews created what was dubbed locally as "prosperity." Arabs drifted to partake in it. But nobody objected. They were counted as natives. The UN actually recognized as "Palestinian refugees" any Arabs who sojourned here two years prior to 1948. Much of the Arab population on Israel's Coastal Plain, for example, is originally Egyptian and arrived with British acquiescence.
Hence the Mandate-era recorded a population explosion in some Arab villages, ranging quite unnaturally between 200 percent and 1,040%, according to Prof. Moshe Prawer's research into Arab migration here from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc. The Brits and their allies didn't consider the Arab influx as "changing facts on the ground," possibly because enlightened Jews didn't riot.
The bete noire that once was aliya is today called settlement. But intrinsically the two are one and the same - antagonism toward Jewish presence. The Jews are anathema, as is any habitat for them. If both are curtailed then Jewish existence is undercut. That was and still remains the Arab endgame aim.
Today's unofficial settlement freeze won't satisfy Israel's supposed peace partners, just as the British White Paper proved insufficient for their 1939 forebears. The ultimate White Paper goal was the creation of a single binational state with power-sharing according to the proportion of Jews to Arabs as would exist in 1949. Restrictions on Jewish immigration would preclude any "changes on the ground" until then - just what Obama purports to prevent with the ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.
The Arab Higher Committee rejected said White Paper, demanding "a complete and final prohibition" on all Jewish immigration and unequivocal absolute repudiation of the Jewish national home. Translated into today's diplomatic parlance, this is equivalent to "the unconditional end to all settlement activity" and the refusal to recognize the right of a Jewish state to exist.
What was is what is. It's just not about the settlements.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
StandWithUs NW Regional Chair, Nevet Basker in Seattle Times: "Obama Administration's Approach to Israel and its Neighbors is ill-Conceived"
Obama administration's approach to Israel and its neighbors is ill-conceived
Obama administration's approach to Israel and its neighbors is ill-conceived
President Obama is disappointing many American Jews who voted for him, writes guest columnist Nevet Basker. "President Obama is especially misguided in pushing for a ban on Israeli construction in Jerusalem."
By Nevet Basker
Special to The Times
I AM an Israeli-American, a dual citizen, born and raised in Israel and living in the United States On the Israeli political spectrum, I am a moderate, pragmatic dove — and a longtime critic of the settlement movement. Like most American Jews, I voted for Barack Obama. And like many who care about Israel, I am now wondering why the president is embarking on a well-intentioned but ill-conceived effort to advance peace between Israel and its neighbors.
President Obama is especially misguided in pushing for a ban on Israeli construction in Jerusalem. Israelis have already proven their willingness to dismantle and remove settlements in the hope of achieving peace. They uprooted communities in the Sinai Peninsula as part of a peace agreement with Egypt in 1982, and unilaterally withdrew from Gaza four years ago. (The latter concession did not turn out so well; the result was not the desired progress toward peace but the establishment of a violent Islamic regime in Gaza and incessant rocket and mortar fire on cities and towns in southern Israel.)
Besides being on ancient Jewish land going back three millennia, the West Bank settlements are also not an impediment to a potential future two-state solution. There are more than a million Arab citizens of Israel, and there is no reason Israeli Jews cannot live in a future Palestinian state, just like I am an Israeli living in the U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's unequivocal proclamation that all settlement activity must stop is an uncharacteristic display of rigidity from an administration that, on other issues, is sensitive to nuance and advocates for dialogue and accommodation. Expropriating private Palestinian land to build a new settlement is not the same as adding a bedroom for a new baby in an existing community. The administration's absolutist position is a no-win proposition, leaving no room for negotiation.
Secretary Clinton's categorical statements also overlook the political and demographic realities of the region. The French Hill and Gilo neighborhoods of Jerusalem are not the same as Ma'ale Adumim, a city of more than 30,000 east of Jerusalem. Different again are Jewish neighborhoods in predominantly Arab cities like Hebron, frontier villages, and "wildcat" outposts. The U.S. administration is painting them all with the same broad brush stroke, condemning all "settlements" — including legal Jewish construction on Jewish-owned land on sovereign (if disputed) Israeli territory. This is not the kind of political acumen we have come to expect from Obama or his secretary of state.
Most dangerously, the indiscriminate approach ignores previous American commitments. In an April 2004 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President Bush acknowledged "realities on the ground" regarding the borders of a potential future Palestinian state. He explicitly noted, "It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
Reneging on this understanding is damaging to America's credibility and moral standing, and may have serious repercussions for broader international relations. Imagine the fallout if the U.S. were to arbitrarily dismiss and absolve itself from its commitments to NATO, Taiwan or NAFTA. Worse, President Obama's policy shift constitutes a double standard, as a key American requirement from any Palestinian government is that it abides by previous agreements.
Israelis are understandably skeptical of quick-fix "solutions" to the 60-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A "solution" that is based on disproportionate pressure on one side, views all settlements as similar and wrong, and ignores previous agreements is an obvious non-starter.
Nevet Basker is the Northwest regional chair of StandWithUs, an Israel education organization.
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