Sunday, March 23, 2008

Barack Obama, the Elephant (in the Living Room) and the American Problem

Barack Obama gave a brilliant speech in Philadelphia last Tuesday in response to inflammatory video clips of Reverend Jeremiah Wright that flooded the airwaves over the prior weekend. His speech was remarkable for its insights on race relations which have plagued America throughout its history. Obama is uniquely qualified to expound on those troubled relations, being the product of a white American mother and a truly African-American father.

One of Obama's great strengths is that he is a post-civil rights candidate and black man, who has premised his candidacy on the promise of transcending race. He is not a victim of the injustices of segregation and Jim Crow laws; rather, he is a shining example of everything that is right and good about America, her promises and possibilities. Only in America could Obama use his formidable intelligence, skill and personality to rise to those heights where he is now perched.

It is that America which had a place for him as the first black president of The Harvard Law Review, arguably the most prestigious Law Review in the country. And it is that America, itself maturing and looking more like the mosaic of peoples and colors which it represents that is seriously considering Barack Obama as its first African-American president.

This is precisely why his close association with Reverend Wright and his refusal to sever those ties and leave Trinity Church is all the more troubling. Tuesday's speech was a landmark oratory on the painful legacy of race in America, from a man who understands racial sensitivities from both sides of the divide. He once again proved why he is uniquely equipped to lead America into the future in many important ways. Everything was on the money except for how he handled the issue that propelled him to make the speech in the first place: what to do about Reverend Wright.

It's true that the cherry-picked excerpts from Wright's now infamous sermons need to be seen and understood in a larger context. But his remarks from the pulpit five days following September 11th, even if initially uttered by Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq on Fox News, reflect a gross insensitivity to the newly dead victims, some of whom still lay under the smoldering rubble at Ground Zero. And some of Reverend Wright's remarks, no matter how generous an interpretation we accord them, are simply beyond the pale of civilized discourse in America. In Obama's own words during Tuesday's speech, he notes that

"the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country--a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."

And yet Obama still cannot find it in himself to do what would be the truly courageous thing and say that as painful and difficult as it is, I must sever my ties with this former spiritual mentor of mine. Perhaps it is because Obama finds himself in an insuperable dilemma of his own making. He has called Wright his inspiration and as recently as January 2007, he told the Chicago Tribune:

"What I most value about Pastor Wright is not his day to day political advice. He's much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I'm not losing myself in some of the hype and hoopla and stress that's involved in national politics."

That is the same man whom Obama now tells us he strongly disagrees with and whom he has publicly censured. Yet until the recent firestorm, Obama has seen Wright as a central figure in his life, a spiritual mentor and guide. And what is a spiritual advisor if not someone who imparts the totality of his worldview? And if that worldview is as tainted with bigotry and hysteria as any sober reading of many of Wright's sermons suggest, how can it not contaminate Obama's political worldview?

Obama may have initially selected Trinity Church as his place of worship for many reasons, and no doubt it has helped shore up his support and credibility within the black community of Chicago (and beyond) where he has done important work as a community activist and leader. But he is now playing on a national stage and he must assure all Americans, white, black, Muslim, and Asian of where he stands. That podium has no room for the likes of Reverend Wright, and Obama should say so unequivocally.

Obama can't continue to have it both ways. Pronouncing what is good and great about America is incompatible with maintaining an alliance with a man and a church that gave its most prestigious award last year, the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness," Louis Farrakhan. Without dwelling on the obvious, for most Americans, Farrakhan epitomizes racism, especially in its anti-Semitic manifestation. One only need ponder how it would be received if a Jewish presidential candidate had as his twenty-year long rabbi and spiritual mentor a religious leader who gave the synagogue's 'Man of the Year Award' to Meir Kahane.

Obama must clearly articulate to the American public where he chooses to align himself, if it is not already too late. And he must do this with more than words. He must take decisive actions, starting by severing his ties with Wright and publicly leaving Trinity to put to rest the nagging doubts that many of us still harbor. Those actions, even if largely symbolic, would truly reflect a 'profile in courage.' While words and ideas have enormous power and can inspire us to greatness, it is ultimately our actions that determine who we are and how we should be judged. Obama must still more fully answer the questions of who he is and what he stands for. Only decisive actions can accomplish that task.

david brumer


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Conflicting Worldviews: Gershon Baskin vs.Yossi Klein Halevi: The Importance of Critical vs. Wishful Thinking

One of the casualties of the Jihadists' War against Israel and the Jews has been critical thinking. In their earnest efforts to promote 'peaceful co-existence' and to move things forward between the Palestinians and the Israelis, many in the 'peace camp' have turned a blind eye to inconvenient realities that fly in the face of their prescriptions for peace.
It has been the overriding contention of this blog that while we all strive towards a solution to the conflict that will bring peace to the two peoples, we will actually sabotage those efforts by not confronting the painful truths that underlie the conflict.
I have chosen two recent pieces, one by Gershon Baskin of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research & Information and the other by Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow at the academic research institute, The Shalem Center in Jerusalem to illustrate these differences.

According to Baskin, there is an ongoing 'cycle of violence' that must be stopped.
"The mutual calls for revenge continue to feed this horrific cycle of death and destruction. Many of our political leaders, on both sides, follow the mob response calling for more death, more blood, and more revenge. How many more families on both sides must bury their dear ones before we all wake up and realize that this must end?"
Both sides must come to their senses, put an end to the wanton killings, and realize that the only way forward is to come to mutually agreed upon political compromises. Baskin elevates Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to some sort of prophet of peace.
"Fortunately Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the recent violence positively stating: 'Despite all the circumstances we're living through and all the attacks we're experiencing, we insist on peace. There is no other path'." And again, at the end of his piece, playing the role of Israel's leader; I have a partner in President Abbas who continues to show his moral commitment and courage to lead his people to peace."

But this is sheer folly. Surely Baskin knows that there isn't really a cycle of violence between two rational, reasonable players but rather a cold, brutal and unprovoked attack by a Jihadist entity--Hamas--against a sovereign state, with the new weapons of terror, the unpredictable Qassam--and now Katyusha--rockets, calculated to hit at the heart of Israeli population centers in the south, in range of approximately a quarter million Israeli civilians. When the launchers of these rockets 'hide' in densely populated civilian areas--schools and hospitals are not off limits--of their own people, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the leaders of the Jihadists see a huge public relations windfall in the unavoidable deaths of their own people (Baskin's estimates, which he conveniently borrows from unnamed Palestinian sources, that of the more than 100 Palestinians killed last week, "more than half of them civilians," is viewed by Israeli authorities as grossly inflated, but either way, it points to the dilemma a democracy faces in battling an enemy that willingly uses its own people as human shields, if not human sacrifices).
And surely Baskin is aware that President Abbas is not the saintly figure he portrays him as. Even if his recent statements were more for internal consumption, to maintain some semblance of authority among his own people, they should still give us pause. In an interview in Jordan last week he reiterated his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State and noted that he reserved the right to return to resistance (code for terror); he also indicated that he has no problem with Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.
Abbas: PLO Taught Everyone How to Resist
Turning to Hamas, Abbas said he has no problem with their not recognizing Israel's right to exist; he simply wants them to join a unity government to negotiate the issue. Abbas added that he would never accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. "We negated that concept in the Annapolis peace conference, and it almost ended because of it," he said. "They wanted us to state, in the closing statement, that we recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but we wouldn't hear of it," he said. Abbas also said that while he's against resuming an armed conflict with Israel at this time, he doesn't rule it out in the future.

But leaving all that aside, the fundamental reality is that Abbas, whatever his true intentions, is a weak and ineffectual leader. His Fatah party was decimated by Hamas in Gaza last June. Barely fighting back, they were toppled in a matter of days. Serious analysts of the current situation are fully aware that the only thing that stands in the way of Hamas executing a similar coup in the West Bank is the IDF. If Israeli forces (and intelligence on the ground) withdrew, Abbas and Fatah would fall to Hamas in no time. And what would that mean for Israelis? Nothing short of having Ben Gurion airport, all of Jerusalem, not to mention Tel Aviv held hostage to the Jihadists and their rockets.
To assess the situation in any less stark terms borders on the irresponsible.

Yossi Klein Halevi offers us the more unpalatable, sober assessment of where we truly stand, pointing out that we are not just battling Hamas and other Jihadist factions, but rather, Iran. The Iranians are employing Hamas, just as they continue to use Hezbollah, to wage a proxy war with Israel that started under Arafat, and continues unabated to this day.
"The Palestinian struggle is no longer about creating an independent state. It is about being a front-line participant in the Iranian-led jihad to destroy Israel, evolving from a nationalist to a religious war. The thousands of celebrants in Gaza who, following the yeshiva massacre, offered prayers of thanksgiving in the mosques and distributed candies to passersby weren't only indulging in feelings of revenge for Israel's recent military incursion but heralding the coming jihadist victory over the enemies of God. A real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be reached by dealing with its primary instigator: Iran."
Halevi points to the importance of understanding, and naming what we are up against before we can effectively confront it.
"The jihadist war against Israel has shifted from one front to another--suicide bombings inside Israeli cities until 2004, Katyushas on Haifa in the north in 2006, and now Katyushas on Ashkelon in the south. All are battles in the same war. So far, it is a war without an all-encompassing name, and that linguistic failure reflects a larger Israeli failure to treat this as a unified conflict. We still refer to the suicide bombings of 2000-2004 by the Palestinians' misnomer, "the second intifada"--which falsely implies a popular uprising, like the first intifada, rather the orchestrated slew of terror attacks that it was. Awkwardly, we call the 2006 battle against Hezbollah "the second Lebanon War," a name that places the conflict in the wrong context--the first Lebanon War against Palestinian nationalist terrorism in the early 1980s rather than one more front in the Iranian war against Israel. And now we are calling the daily rocket attacks against southern Israel "the war of the Qassams," even as the Qassams are augmented by the far more deadly KatyushasIn contending with Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel is trying to treat the symptoms, rather than the cause."
Halevi prescribes a dose of realism: "To deal effectively with the jihad requires an awareness that Israel is in fact at war with the Iranian regime, which manipulates proxies along Israel's borders, supplying them with weapons and training, and energizing them with the promise of imminent victory."
The well-intentioned may persist in their fantasies that if only we were to negotiate harder and with greater flexibility, we could achieve what we all want; two states for two peoples living in peace. But Halevi cautions us against such wishful thinking. Without first dealing with the Jihadists, it's all pie-in-the-sky.
"Following the yeshiva massacre, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speculated that the gunman was attempting to "derail" the peace process. Brown's implication, widely shared in the West, is that the best way to defeat the jihadists is to create a Palestinian state.But a viable Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel will not be possible without disconnecting Iran from these groups who are attacking Israel on its behalf. This may require destabilizing the Iranian regime--hopefully through intensified sanctions against its nuclear program, and by military force against its nuclear installations if sanctions fail. Without stopping the momentum of the Iranian-led jihad against Israel, the appeal of Hamas among Palestinians will grow. So long as the international community tries to create a Palestinian state without seriously confronting the jihadists, Iran and its proxies will continue to make peace impossible--not by "derailing" negotiations, but by making those negotiations irrelevant."
david brumer

The Iranian-Israeli War - Yossi Klein Halevi
Regardless of the affiliation of the actual perpetrator of the massacre of eight students in a yeshiva library in Jerusalem last week, the ultimate responsibility for this attack, as for almost all the terror attacks on Israel in recent years, lies with Iran. The Palestinian struggle is no longer about creating an independent state. It is about being a front-line participant in the Iranian-led jihad to destroy Israel, evolving from a nationalist to a religious war. A real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be reached by dealing with its primary instigator: Iran. After Yasser Arafat launched a war against Israel in September 2000, he initiated an alliance with Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Until then, Iran's only client within the Palestinian national movement had been the Islamic Jihad, the smallest of the Palestinian terrorist factions. According to a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, Arafat promised the Iranians that he would turn Gaza into a second southern Lebanon, and Iran began providing weapons and funds to Arafat's Fatah. In January 2002, Israel intercepted the Karine A, a ship carrying Iranian-supplied Katyusha rockets and mortars and C-4 explosives for use in suicide bombings. Three years ago, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal orchestrated a formal alliance and today Hamas is an integral part of the Iranian war against Israel. Iran has trained hundreds of Hamas operatives - and continues to fund individual members of Fatah's Al Aqsa Brigades. The writer is a senior fellow at the Adelson Center for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (New Republic)

The moral majority for peace
Mar. 10, 2008
Reaching a peace agreement by the end of the year seems almost impossible. The violence between the sides is once again in full gear and the rage on the streets of both Israel and Palestine is on the rise. Israel killed more than 100 Palestinians in the last "operation" in Gaza - more than half of them civilians, say Palestinian sources. Palestinian celebrations in Gaza after the murderous attack in Mercaz Harav and crowds of Israelis calling "death to the Arabs" once again demonstrates that we have not learned anything. Jews and Arabs have been killing each other over this land for 100 years. The mutual calls for revenge continue to feed this horrific cycle of death and destruction. Many of our political leaders, on both sides, follow the mob response calling for more death, more blood, and more revenge. How many more families on both sides must bury their dear ones before we all wake up and realize that this must end? Fortunately Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the recent violence positively stating: "Despite all the circumstances we're living through and all the attacks we're experiencing, we insist on peace. There is no other path."
Israeli leaders have been less explicit. This is most unfortunate. The leaders on both sides should sound a voice of morality recognizing that the violence on both sides of the conflict will continue as long as there is no political agreement that will lead us to the end of the conflict.
I find it completely beyond comprehension that people on both sides actually believe that the way to put and end to the violence of the other side is to hit them with more force and bring more suffering on them. How can any thinking person believe that if we kill more of "them" that they will simply surrender? Would we? If the Palestinians continue to kill us in a wholesale manner would we consider surrendering our rights? Would we lay down our arms and make concessions on our rights for liberty, freedom, statehood, and justice because we suffer losses?
Palestinians are no different than us on matters concerning their national dignity, dreams of statehood and demands for freedom, liberty and justice. If we were occupied and denied our freedom would we lay down our arms? Would we adopt strategies of non-violence? I doubt it.
NO, IT IS not easy to reach a negotiated end to this 100 year conflict. Both political systems are so weak, divided and dysfunctional that it is almost impossible for the political leaders to find the courage to make the leap that is necessary to give each other the minimum concessions that are needed to produce an agreement.
In our weak and divided political systems, the "spoilers" of peace on both sides have more power to destroy than the leaders have to negotiate. The public outcry for revenge by crowds and by politicians on both sides is the food that energizes the spoilers. The leaders have almost no support. They must stand against the tide of cynicism and the real sense of despair that peace is not possible.
Reaching a peace agreement, however; is possible. An agreement cannot be reached in any kind of public forum. An agreement cannot be reached by negotiating each of the issues separately. The issue of Jerusalem cannot be detached from the issue of borders, refugees, security or even economic relations. Each one of the issues is inter-connected and inter-dependent. The agreement will be a package deal with trade-offs on the various issues. The agreement will provide each side with at least the minimum of what is defined as their key national security and strategic interests. Both sides will need to feel that they got the most that was possible. Both sides will have to feel that they have achieved some sense of justice for their demands and for their people. Both sides will have to sell the agreement to their people in some form of democratic process.
If I were in the Israeli leadership I would be conducting secret negotiations since July 2007. I would engage only my closest confidantes in those talks. I would know that if even an inkling of the concessions being considered were to be known the coalition would collapse, elections would take place and under the current political mood, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and the right-wing would take over and lead us to more doom, death and destruction.
I would understand that I need until the end of the year gifted to us by President George W. Bush and his Annapolis summit. I would use each and every one of those remaining days to produce the best agreement possible.
I would even agree to a one year cease-fire with Hamas that would provide us with the quiet that we need to negotiate. The cease-fire would put an end to the rocket fire in the south. Yes it would tie our hands in our ability to respond militarily to potential dangers and risks in Gaza and in the West Bank. It would require that we significantly increase our security and even intelligence cooperation with the security forces of Abbas (which is in our interest to do anyway).
It would require us to understand that Hamas will continue to smuggle weapons into Gaza and that we would have to increase our cooperation with Egypt in the hope that the Egyptians will be more effective in finding and destroying the tunnels into Gaza. It means that we would have to end our strangulation of Gaza policy for the coming year. The cease-fire cannot be kept in place if the people of Gaza continue to feel under siege as the private sector in Gaza is brought to total bankruptcy.
I WOULD understand that once I have an agreement in hand, I would call for new elections in Israel. I would be convinced that the overwhelming majority of Israelis will support the agreement. I would know that because the silent majority of Israelis desire life and peace. I would hope that Abbas will also lead a democratic process in Palestine that even if limited to the West Bank would produce a moral majority that would be significant enough to demonstrate that the Palestinian people support peace. I would understand that the implementation of the agreement will take place over a number of years and that eventually the political situation in Gaza will enable it to be implemented there as well.
I would understand that we need to work together to create the conditions on the ground that will enable significant improvements in the daily lives of Palestinians. If security conditions did not allow for the removing of many check points right now, I would already work with the Palestinians to transfer to them all of the civil and administration control over all of the areas that I already know will no longer be part of Israel, including most of what is know as area "c". There is no need for Israel to continue to control planning and building, for example in most of the West Bank. I would understand that I hold the keys that open many doors of hope for the Palestinians and for the Israelis. No, I could not do it alone, but fortunately I have a partner in President Abbas who continues to show his moral commitment and courage to lead his people to peace and I would stand tall knowing that I too had the courage and the moral commitment to lead the people of Israel forward to peace.
The writer is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.

Weapon of Terror: The Kassam Rocket - Margaret Weiss
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Kassams and other rockets have transformed the strategic balance between Israel and the Palestinians, giving terrorist groups an alternative means of attacking Israeli civilians and raising the level of fear among a large fraction of the Israeli population. In the long term, the presence of these rockets will force all parties to rethink the security arrangements for a permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement, since this threat did not exist during previous peacemaking efforts at Camp David and Taba.

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Deadly Jokes: The Implications of Media and World Body Broadsides Against Israel

Dan Rather, Katie Couric & an Israeli Sergeant

Dan Rather, Katie Couric, and an Israeli sergeant were all captured by terrorists in Iraq. The leader of the terrorists told them that he would grant them each one last request before they were beheaded.
Dan Rather said, "Well, I'm a Texan, so I'd like one last bowlful of hot, spicy chili."The leader nodded to an underling who left and returned with the chili. Rather ate it all and said, "Now I can die content."
Katie Couric said, "I'm a reporter to the end. I want to take out my tape recorder and describe the scene here and what's about to happen. Maybe someday someone will hear it and know that I was on the job till the end." The leader directed an aide to hand over the tape recorder and Couric dictated some comments. She then said, "Now I can die happy."
The leader turned and said, "And now, Mr. Israeli tough guy, what is your final wish?"

"Kick me in the ass," said the soldier."
"What?" asked the leader? "Will you mock us in your last hour?" "No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me in the ass," insisted the Israeli. So the leader shoved him into the open and kicked him in the ass. The soldier went sprawling, but rolled to his knees, pulled a 9 mm pistol from under his flack jacket, and shot the leader dead. In the resulting confusion, he jumped to his knapsack, pulled out his carbine and sprayed the terrorists with gunfire. In a flash, all terrorists were either dead or fleeing for their lives. As the soldier was untying Rather and Couric, they asked him, "Why didn't you just shoot them in the beginning? Why did you ask them to kick you in the ass first?""What?" replied the Israeli, "And have you two jerks report that I was the aggressor?!

This grim humor reflects a world where Israel, a sovereign country which has endured literally thousands of rocket attacks on its southern territory over the last few years, is still bizarrely seen as the aggressor when it fights back in self-defense. Since evacuating Gaza of every Israeli, dead and alive, back in the summer of 2005, Israel has borne the brunt of Qassam missile attacks on Sderot and adjoining Negev communities almost without interruption for over 2 1/2 years. Several thousand of these crude weapons of terror have landed in southern Israel, and this week, the coastal city of Ashkelon has been bombarded as well. Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 residents, is also home to power plants that supply 1/3 of Israel's electricity needs. And Ashkelon is over 11 miles from the Gazan border. Hamas has launched both a more sophisticated version of its Qassam rockets with a longer trajectory and the more advanced Katyusha rockets. To date, over a dozen Israeli civilians have been killed by missile attacks, hundreds have been injured, and thousands have been traumatized, including many children already bearing the scars of PTSD. And what does the world say?

I awoke this morning to a report on NPR radio describing casualties that the IDF inflicted on Gazans in air and land strikes today. No mention of the unrelenting barrage of missiles being shot into southern Israel by Hamas, with over a dozen rockets again hitting Ashkelon. No mention that the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal called Israel's military response to the rocket attacks in northern Gaza a 'real Holocaust' while he also accused Israel of exaggerating the Holocaust and using it to blackmail the world.

Earlier this week, a report commissioned by the United Nations noted that Palestinian terrorism is the "inevitable consequence" of Israeli occupation. The report went on to say that while Palestinian terrorist acts are deplorable, "they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation." John Dugard, South African attorney, long time critic of Israel, and rapporteur on the UN's Human Rights Council, made this mind-boggling qualification about terrorism: "Common sense dictates.... a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by al-Qaida, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation... As long as there is occupation, there will be terrorism."

And the media is filled with accusations of collective punishment that Israel is meting out, how Israel is responsible for a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and why Israel is responsible for the welfare of Gazans. Below, NGO-Monitor does an excellent job of exposing the vacuousness and farcical nature of these accusations. Yet, in the topsy-turvy, post-modern world we inhabit, the joke I started this posting with rings all too true. Let's hope the West starts to understand that Israel is the 'canary in the coal mine' before it's too late.
david brumer

False Claims of "Collective Punishment" in NGO Campaigns on Gaza
February 28, 2008
NGO Monitor's January 2008 report: "Analyzing the NGO Campaign on Gaza – Beyond the Rhetoric," focused on the role of NGOs in promoting false claims of "collective punishment" and "war crimes" regarding Israel's responses to the Hamas attacks from Gaza. However, the NGO manipulation of the language of international law in this and other cases, is being increasingly recognized and critiqued.
Following Erik Schechter's January 2008 op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, which challenged the double-standards of NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Gisha, Avi Bell (Bar-Ilan University, Visiting Professor at Fordham University Law School), Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Michael Kraus, Professor of Law, George Mason University have also analyzed and discredited these NGO claims.
Avi Bell's February essay, "Is Israel Bound by International Law to Supply Utilities, Goods, and Services to Gaza?" refutes the NGO argument that Israel is failing to fulfill its obligations under international law:

"Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention … only requires Israel to permit passage of food, clothing, and medicines intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers, and maternity cases. Moreover, Israel would be under no obligation to provide anything itself, just not to interfere with such consignments sent by others. Article 70 of the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1977 creates a slightly broader duty …,but it does not list fuel and electricity as items for which passage must be permitted.
Dependence on foreign supply - whether it be Gazan dependence on Israeli electricity or European dependence on Arab oil - does not create a legal duty to continue the supply. …
There is no precedent that creates legal duties on the basis of a former military administration. … Furthermore, control of airspace does not create a legal duty to supply goods either. "

Bret Stephens' February 26, 2008 article, "The Sderot Calculus" explains the farcical logic of NGO calls for a "proportionate" response to rocket attacks:

"Conditions in Gaza, in so far as they are shaped by Israel, are a function of conditions in Sderot. No Palestinian Kassams (or other forms of terrorism), no Israeli 'siege.'…. The more vexing question, both morally and strategically, is what Israel ought to do about Gaza. The standard answer is that Israel's response to the Kassams ought to be "proportionate." What does that mean? Does the "proportion" apply to the intention of those firing the Kassams -- to wit, indiscriminate terror against civilian populations? In that case, a "proportionate" Israeli response would involve, perhaps, firing 2,500 artillery shells at random against civilian targets in Gaza. Or should proportion apply to the effects of the Kassams -- an exquisitely calibrated, eye-for-eye operation involving the killing of a dozen Palestinians and the deliberate maiming or traumatizing of several hundred more? Surely this isn't what advocates of proportion have in mind. What they really mean is that Israel ought to respond with moderation. But the criteria for moderation are subjective. Should Israel pick off Hamas leaders who are ordering the rocket attacks? The European Parliament last week passed a resolution denouncing the practice of targeted assassinations. Should Israel adopt purely economic measures to punish Hamas for the Kassams? The same resolution denounced what it called Israel's "collective punishment" of Palestinians. Should Israel seek to dismantle the Kassams through limited military incursions? This, too, has the unpardonable effect of resulting in too many Palestinian casualties, which are said to be "disproportionate" to the number of Israelis injured by the Kassams."

Michael Kraus's "Collective Punishment and Newspeak" article appeared in the "American Thinker" on February 24, 2008. He responds to the charge by "Israeli and Palestinian civil rights groups" that Israel's reduction of fuel and electricity exports to Gaza constitute collective punishment.

"But this claim is nonsense, and makes a mockery of international law. This is so for the following reasons: It conflates failure to aid with active criminal harm. ……The bar on collective punishment forbids the imposition of criminal or military penalties (imprisonment, death, etc) on some people for crimes committed by other individuals. But ceasing trade with a country is not inflicting a criminal or military penalty against that country's citizens, not least because those citizens have no entitlement to objects of trade that they have not yet purchased. If Canada tolerated and celebrated car-bombings of Buffalo from Fort Erie, Ontario, the United States could cease exporting cars to Canada - such cessation of trade was never contemplated as collective punishment, because it is not a military or a criminal sanction. The United States quite legally froze trade with Iran after that country committed an act of War against the USA following the 1979 Revolution. Even prevention of access of goods coming from third parties is not collective punishment: the U.S. blockade of Cuba after they installed nuclear missiles directed at the United States was not a collective punishment of the Cuban people, it was a non-violent act of war in self-defense. In any case, Israel has made no effort to prevent Gaza from receiving electricity from Egypt; it has merely declined to furnish this assistance itself. Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions clearly does not outlaw such acts. The current misuse of the term in the Security Council would have exactly that effect. The electricity withheld from sale was a military tool. Article 52 of the 1977 Amendment to the Geneva Convention explicitly countenances attacks on legitimate military objectives, which are "those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage."

As Israel has pointed out, its (minor) reduction in electricity sold means that "Hamas will have to decide whether to provide electricity to hospitals or weapons lathes." Diesel will be allowed in to fuel ambulances, sewage pumps, generators and garbage trucks, but gasoline will be restricted. According to estimates, Israel still exports approximately US$500 million worth of goods and services into the Gaza Strip each year. The claim is Newspeak. The charge of collective punishment is appropriately leveled against one side in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute; but that side is not Israel.

As Joseph Klein recently pointed out in a Front Page Magazine article, the innocent Israeli women and children slaughtered while going about their daily lives in homes, schools, on buses and at shopping malls are not warriors against the Palestinian people. They are in large number the victims of the Hamas' measures of collective punishment against Jews -- intimidation and terrorism, which violate their most basic of human rights - life itself. Indeed, Israel has targeted the perpetrators of these atrocities individually, entirely in conformity with its international obligations. When Israel kills such targets, precisely the people who have individually committed acts of war against Israel, it highlights the difference between legal force and collective punishment."

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