Friday, April 23, 2010

The False Religion of Mideast Peace & Senior NY Senator, Schumer: Obama's Counter-Productive Israel Policy "Has to Stop"

Two important pieces. Aaron David Miller is a veteran intelligence analyst, policy planner, and advisor. Over the last 20 years he's been at the table of Middle East negotiations at the highest levels. When former devout believers like him are disabused of their prior convictions, it means that it's time for serious folks on the Left to reconsider their positions. Miller is no right-wing hardliner. His bona-fides as a left of center player are well established.

Readers should also take note of the senior DEMOCRATIC Senator of N.Y.'s remarks below. Schumer is about as straight a shooter as they come in politics. His advice to the administration is right on: we know your heart is in the right place, but your tactics are counter-productive. As long as the Palestinians see America as forcing Israel's hand, they'll sit back and sip tea, biding their time.

Miller's article is from Foreign Policy and worth reading in its entirety (16 pages). Nice read for a rainy Saturday morning (at least here in Seattle).
david brumer

Sen. Schumer: Obama's "Counter-Productive" Israel Policy "Has to Stop" - Ben Smith
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) harshly criticized the Obama Administration's attempts to exert pressure on Israel Thursday on a New York radio show. "This has to stop," Schumer said of the administration's policy of publicly pressuring Israel to end construction in Jerusalem. "I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk."
"Palestinians don't really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there. If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands, the Palestinians say, 'Why should we negotiate?'...You have to show the Palestinians that they are not going to get their way by just sitting back and not giving in." (Politico)

The False Religion of Mideast Peace and Why I'm No Longer a Believer - Aaron David Miller
I can't tell you how many times in the past 20 years, as an intelligence analyst, policy planner, and negotiator, I wrote memos to Very Important People arguing the centrality of the Arab-Israeli issue and why the U.S. needed to fix it. Today, I couldn't write those same memos or anything like them with a clear conscience or a straight face. The notion that there's a single or simple fix to protecting U.S. interests, let alone that Arab-Israeli peace would, like some magic potion, make it all better, is just flat wrong. In a broken, angry region with so many problems, it stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point to argue that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most critical issue, or that its resolution would somehow guarantee Middle East stability.
A brilliant, empathetic president has made America the focal point of action and responsibility for the Arab-Israeli issue at a time when the country may be least able to do much about it. The painful truth is that faith in America's capacity to fix the Arab-Israeli issue has always been overrated. It's certainly no coincidence that every breakthrough from the Egypt-Israel treaty to the Oslo accords to the Israel-Jordan peace agreement came initially as a consequence of secret meetings about which the U.S. was the last to know. The writer, an advisor on the Middle East to Republican and Democratic secretaries of state, is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. (Foreign Policy)

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Seattle Times Editorialist Repeats Falsehood that Qassam Rockets from Hamas controlled Gaza have not Killed anyone: Please ask for Retraction

Seattle Times editorialist Bruce Ramsey is certainly entitled to his opinions when it comes to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One would expect no less from an editorialist at the city's only major daily newspaper. What he is not entitled to are his own facts. Last week he published an opinion piece Congressman Brian Baird stands up for the people of Gaza which has several questionable premises. The article is very short and provides scant context for some of his assertions. Most egregious though is his repeated insistence that the rockets fired from Gaza haven't killed any Israelis. This is a bald-faced lie. I (and no doubt many others) pointed this out when Ramsey made this pronouncement last September in an opinion piece regarding an interview with Attorney General Rob McKenna (see below).

Ramsey's antipathy towards the Israeli narrative is his prerogative. What is unacceptable is that he continues to peddle the falsehood that the Qassam rockets have not resulted in any Israeli deaths. It behooves the editorial board of the Seattle Times to make the appropriate retraction and offer the community an apology for this egregious lack of oversight on the part of the paper. Please send your request for such a retraction to the publisher,
Frank Blethen:
and the Editorial page editor Ryan Blethen:

Note that B'Tselem, one of Israel's major NGO human rights monitoring organizations, counts at least 12 deaths resulting from Gazan Qassams just between June 2004 and May of 2007.
27 May 2007: Israeli civilian died of wounds inflicted by Qassam rocket

"B'Tselem again sharply condemns the Qassam rockets recently fired at Israeli communities by Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip, which had killed two Israeli civilians and injured several more in Sderot. Since June 2004, Qassam rockets have killed twelve Israeli civilians, five Palestinian civilians, and one foreign national. In addition, hundreds of persons have been wounded or suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of rocket fire.

Aiming attacks at civilians, regardless of the circumstances, is a "grave breach," a war crime, under international humanitarian law, and the perpetrators are subject to individual criminal prosecution. B'Tselem calls on the Palestinian Authority to impose its authority on the bodies engaged in firing rockets at Israeli communities, and to meet its obligations to prevent attacks against civilians. International humanitarian law requires the PA to take urgent and vigorous action to achieve this objective."

Even if the Qassam's killed no one, they are clearly meant as weapons of terror, and in that, they function superbly. As Yossi Klein Halevi points out, part of the sinisterness of the rockets is their very primitiveness. They aren't intended against military targets but only to terrorize civilians.
The perverse genius of the tactic is that it’s not strong enough to justify, for world opinion, an effective military response, but it is just powerful enough to make daily life unlivable.

Qassam rockets killed at least 14
my published letter on Friday, April 2nd

Bruce Ramsey’s column repeats the lie that the Qassam rockets fired at Israel (more than 6,000) “hadn’t killed any Israelis, but they might have.”

The rockets fired by these “hotheads” —presumably the same hotblooded types who threw fellow Palestinians off Gazan rooftops, blindfolded and handcuffed, during Hamas’ bloody coup in June 2007 — have in fact killed more than a dozen Israelis and wounded scores more. Less than two weeks ago, a rocket attack from Gaza proved fatal as a Thai farmworker was killed.

Downplaying the rockets’ deadliness by calling them “homemade pipe-bomb-type rockets” obscures the fact that the launching of these rockets at civilians is not only a war crime, but also a weapon of terror that has traumatized thousands of Israeli children and adults, in addition to murdering at least 14 people on Israeli soil.

— David Brumer, Seattle

my full letter, before edited by the Seattle Times

To the Editor:

Bruce Ramsey is at it again, distorting the historical record, making facile generalizations devoid of any meaningful context (Congressman Brian Baird stands up for the people of Gaza, 3/31). Most invidiously, he repeats the lie that the Qassam rockets fired at Israel (over 6,000) “hadn’t killed any Israelis, but they might have.” Having gotten away with this journalistic malpractice back in September (McKenna's Middle East adventure, Opinion, Sept. 2), he reiterates the falsehood, referring to the Islamist terrorists who fire the rockets as “Gazan hotheads.” Let me remind Mr. Ramsey that the rockets fired by these “hotheads” (presumably the same hot-blooded types who threw fellow Palestinians off of Gazan rooftops, blindfolded and handcuffed, during Hamas’ bloody coup in June '07) have in fact killed more than a dozen Israelis and wounded scores more. Less than 2 weeks ago, a rocket attack from Gaza proved fatal as a Thai farm worker was killed (see: Gaza rocket kills Thai farm worker in Israel).

Downplaying the rockets’ deadliness by calling them “homemade pipe-bomb-type rockets” obscures the fact that the launching of these rockets at civilians is not only a war crime but also a weapon of terror that has traumatized thousands of Israeli children and adults, in addition to murdering at least 14 people on Israeli soil. That Bruce Ramsey chooses to deny this can only be construed as moral depravity. That the Seattle Times publishes such bald-faced lies is scandalous.

David Brumer

AG Rob McKenna's letter about Israel's response to Gaza ignores broader issues
Ramsey's quote from article:
"I asked him whether 1,400 deaths were not excessive in response to rocket fire that had killed no one by the time the Israelis responded."

my published letter in response back in September

Times columnist is the one who ignores broader issues

Editor, The Times:

Bruce Ramsey has it exactly backward in his column ["McKenna's Middle East adventure," Opinion, Sept. 2] when he wrote, "AG Rob McKenna's letter about Israel's response to Gaza ignores broader issues."

In fact, the letter McKenna signed was quite narrow in scope, responding only to Israel's right to defend itself from thousands of rockets deliberately launched into its civilian population from Gaza, under Hamas leadership.

It is Ramsey who ignores the broader issues by avoiding any meaningful context that would shed light on Israel's actions.

Ramsey trots out the tired trope of disproportionality, displaying an ignorance of the rules of engagement in war. Legitimate self-defense is enshrined in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Furthermore, attacks are only prohibited if they cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects that is excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete military advantage of the attack.

Ramsey's statement that "rocket fire had killed no one" is factually incorrect and morally repugnant, even if it were true. Thousands of rockets fired at civilians is not only a war crime but a weapon of terror that has traumatized thousands of Israeli children and adults, incidentally killing more than a dozen people and wounding scores more.

As to the so-called blockade, Israel's partial siege of Gaza following Hamas' putsch in June of 2007 still allows literally tons of food, fuel and medical supplies into Gaza through daily border crossings.

Finally, it is scandalous to suggest that "the Gaza incursion was part of an election campaign." In fact, Hamas miscalculated, assuming Israel would not respond to increased rocket attacks precisely because of the status of a lame-duck government.
In this they were proven disastrously wrong at a tragic cost to their own people.

-- David Brumer, Seattle

Congressman Brian Baird stands up for the people of Gaza
By Bruce Ramsey

Seattle Times editorial columnist

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip รข€” The United States should break Israel's blockade of Gaza and deliver badly needed supplies by sea, a U.S. congressman told Gaza students.

The congressman was Brian Baird. Many of his colleagues go to Israel, few to Gaza, and none as often as he. The southwest Washington Democrat likes to see things for himself. He went to Iraq, and changed his opinion of U.S. strategy there.

Why Gaza? In an interview, Baird recalled a speech some years ago by Israel's current premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). To Baird, the speech was "thinly disguised racism" and he recoiled from it. When the crowd applauded, he and his wife walked out.

Then there was Rachel Corrie, who in 2003 was killed in Gaza while trying to block an Israeli bulldozer from wrecking a Gazan house. The Corrie family lives in Baird's district.

Many of his friends "are very distressed" with his criticism of Israel, Baird said. "But if they would see what I have seen and could meet the people I have met, they would change their position."

He recalled his visit to Gaza in February 2009, after Israel's invasion. The American International School had been "a beautiful school, with a Western curriculum." Israel had flattened it, Baird said, "using bombs made by us." A U.S. military man told him of finding a phosphorus shell from the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.

By Israel's count, the final death toll of the war on Gaza was 1,166 Gazans and 13 Israelis a kill ratio of 90-to-1. By the Gazans' count the ratio was 111-to-1.

Israel said it was defending itself, against rockets, homemade pipe-bomb-type rockets. These had been fired by Gazan hotheads against the Israeli town of Sderot to protest Israel's quarantine. The rockets hadn't killed any Israelis, but they might have.
All sides in war claim self-defense. Maybe because Baird is a psychologist he is less inclined to accept such claims at face value. He recalled the reaction of Israeli generals and rightist politicians when he disputed them: How dare you question us?

Keep pushing on them, he said, "and something more pernicious comes out." They will say, "Don't lecture us about humanity after all you've done."

Netanyahu once reminded an interviewer who was pushing him that the British and Americans had firebombed Dresden. Years ago, on a radio show, when I condemned Israel for taking Palestinian land, my host asked if I would give New Mexico back to the Mexicans.

It is a telling argument. A conqueror's argument. You don't hear it, though, unless you peel off the wrapping paper of "defense." And Congress won't do that.

Baird recalled the vote on the Goldstone report, in which jurist Richard Goldstone listed human-rights violations on both sides of the Gaza war. Goldstone has big credentials from his work in Bosnia and Rwanda. And he is Jewish. But he criticized the Israeli military and the House quickly voted to dismiss his report. All of this state's representatives voted against the report except Baird and Seattle Democrat Jim McDermott, a psychiatrist.

"Colleague after colleague denounced a report they had never read, about a place to which they had never been," Baird said. "I read the Goldstone report. All of it. I found it credible."

Baird is not running for re-election.

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N.Y. Times Bias Towards Obama/Against Israel: Barry Rubin & David Harris

This is a disturbing development, to say the least. As ideology continues to trump thoughtful analysis and accurate assessments of the facts, well-meaning Jews who support Israel in their hearts are internalizing messages that further alienate them from the Jewish State.
david brumer

NY Times Defends Obama, Not U.S. Interests; Blames Israel, Not White House or Palestinians for All Problems
The New York Times has now crossed the line from being a grossly slanted newspaper in its Middle East coverage to being one so partisan, blinkered, and defensive as to lose its value altogether. I do not write this lightly and have no wish to exaggerate. But the newspaper's editorial of March 26 is so mendacious, so made up to suit the political purposes of the Obama administration without any reference to the facts that it is a work of politically tailored fiction.

Basically, the themes or omissions are as follows:

--Israeli policy is the result of extreme right-wing politicians.

--Most Israelis support Obama rather than their own government.

--The U.S.-Israel agreement of last October never existed.

--The Palestinians don't exist and one doesn't need to mention their actions or the administration's total catering to them.

--Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done something so awful that it proves he doesn't want peace. What did he do? Precisely what he told the U.S. government he was going to do five months ago and which it then called a major step toward peace!

The Administration's and Times' goal is to portray the issue as not being one of Obama versus Israel but rather Obama plus the Israeli majority against a relatively small number of right-wing extremists who have hijacked the country.

If only such tactics were used against America's enemies.

Responding to the New York Times on Israel

David Harris
March 29, 2010

On March 27, the New York Times published a lead editorial entitled "Mr. Obama and Israel."

It was a bare-knuckled assault on Israel. That will bring joy to Israel's critics. But it did a disservice to the realities on the ground.

Of the editorial's twenty-six sentences, exactly one - "He [President Obama] must also press Palestinians and Arab leaders just as forcefully." - is devoted to Israel's neighbors.

That's the sum total given to other side of the peace-process equation. It reads like a throwaway line to cover that flank.

Of course, getting serious about peace, which is the editorial's nominal purpose, requires more attention to those who have rejected every serious overture - from the 1947 UN Partition Plan to the 2009 two-state proposal offered by Prime Minister Olmert.

And it necessitates a more thorough review of the past 14 months since President Obama took office - and of most of the Arab world's failure to respond to Washington's pleas for confidence-building measures.

Until early 2009, let's remember, direct Israeli-Palestinian talks were ongoing. No preconditions on settlements or anything else were set by either side. And, as suggested, Olmert offered a remarkable peace package, including a compromise on Jerusalem.

Now look where we are. The Obama Administration called for a settlement freeze as a way to restart talks. Why? That had never been the case before.

Suddenly, settlements became the centerpiece of the discussion - not as an outcome of the talks, but rather as a precondition for resuming them.

When Washington and Jerusalem finally agreed on terms, including a ten-month freeze on new building in the West Bank that Secretary Clinton called "unprecedented," the Palestinian Authority dug in its heels and insisted on a total freeze everywhere, including Jerusalem, before returning to the table.

Meanwhile, true to form, the PA mainly sat on its hands. Wait, that's not quite accurate. At just about the time of Vice President Biden's visit to the region, it was involved in naming a West Bank square for a terrorist, Dalal Mughrabi, responsible for the 1978 murder of 37 Israelis and an American.

The New York Times overlooks all of this, while focusing laser-like on eastern Jerusalem.

Yes, a big mistake was made during Biden's stop in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was unaware of the announcement of 1,600 new housing units, apologized to the vice president. The torrent of criticism from Washington that followed was striking.

But the truth is that the democratically elected Netanyahu had never pledged to stop building in eastern Jerusalem in order to restart talks. Moreover, the units are in an area that has thousands of Jewish residents and is placed inside Israel on every peace map, not in a new Palestinian state. And since 1967, each Israeli prime minister - right, left, and center - has strengthened the Jewish presence in a city that has embodied the Jewish people's physical and metaphysical center for more than 3,000 years.

The editorial also takes a big swipe at Netanyahu's commitment to peace.

Yet last year, the prime minister voiced his support for a two-state settlement, echoing the position of his immediate predecessors.

He has removed dozens of security checkpoints in the West Bank to ease Palestinian movement, even at risk to Israelis.

He has encouraged economic growth in the West Bank, arguing that peace is not a top-down process alone, but also bottom-up. The more Palestinians benefit from an improving economy - and the recent growth rate has been impressive - the more they are likely to have a stake in a new status quo.

And security cooperation between the Israeli military and U.S.-trained Palestinian forces is improving.

In other words, positive things are happening.

That said, if the prime minister doesn't believe an immediate peace deal is possible, it's not necessarily because of his "hard-line positions," as the Times asserts, but rather because he may deem the chances of reaching an accord now as slim.

With Palestinians divided between Hamas and the PA, and with President Abbas not showing sufficient courage, most Israelis don't see an agreement anytime soon. That doesn't make them anti-peace, only realistic analysts of the situation as it is.

Moreover, recent experience, besides the spurned Olmert offer, doesn't provide much hope.

President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak presented the Palestinians with a two-state deal. The response? A new intifada that claimed the lives of one thousand Israelis.

Barak withdrew Israeli forces from southern Lebanon. The response? Hezbollah filled the vacuum and posed a new threat to Israel.

Prime Minister Sharon pulled all soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005. The response? Hamas stepped in and increased its attacks on Israel.

But again, the context and countervailing facts are missing from the editorial.

Another thing.

The Times finds it "refreshing" that President Obama "has forced public debate on issues that must be debated publicly for a peace deal to happen."

Really? Why publicly?

Were the Camp David Accords of 1979, the Oslo Accords, and the Israel-Jordan talks, all of which involved immensely challenging and sticky issues, thrust into the public realm for a "refreshing" debate before agreement was reached? They were not.

And finally, the difficulty that arose during Vice President Biden's visit was not the first tough moment in American foreign policy for this administration.

So far, China has rejected new Iran sanctions, even as the U.S. has told Chinese leaders that this is our highest international priority. New reports indicate that Turkey may do the same.

France's president, speaking at the UN Security Council in September, condescendingly chided President Obama for seeking a nuclear-free world, reminding the American leader that "We live in a real world, not a virtual world ... and right in front of us two countries [North Korea and Iran] are doing the exact opposite."

Scotland, with possible acquiescence from London, released a convicted Libyan terrorist in the Lockerbie bombing that killed, among others, 190 Americans. Despite the special UK-U.S. relationship, there was no consultation with Washington. To add fuel to the fire, President Obama warned Libya to "make sure he is not welcomed back," which is precisely what happened.

Meanwhile, the U.S. restored ties with Damascus. No sooner had a senior State Department official left Syria with what he believed to be progress to report, than the Syrian president invited the Iranian president and the Hezbollah leader for a powwow - the diplomatic equivalent of giving Washington the finger.

And though it has never been reported, there are rumors that Prime Minister Putin sought to convey a message to President Obama in Moscow last year by making the American leader wait for nearly an hour while swimming laps.

The list goes on.

The point is that none of these insults to American foreign policy elicited anything approaching the sustained tongue-lashing Israel received, not to mention the rough treatment the Israeli prime minister got at the White House last week. Not even close.

And, needless to say, none was the focus of such a hard-edged editorial in America's newspaper of record.

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