Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Charles Jacobs on Jewish Anemia when it Comes to Fighting Against Vilification & Demonization

For its long-term security, what matters is how the Jewish state is viewed and valued in the world, especially in the Jewish community, and the skill set required for this fight – what we now call “the information war” – seems congenitally absent from the Jewish collective.

In 1911, Ze’ev Jabotinsky had it perfectly right. “Every accusation causes among us such a commotion that people unwittingly think, ‘Why are they so afraid of everything? Apparently their conscience is not clear.’ Exactly because we are ready at every minute to stand at attention, there develops among the people an inescapable view about us, as of some specific thievish tribe. We think that our constant readiness to undergo a search without hesitation and to turn out our pockets, will eventually convince mankind of our nobility; look what gentlemen we are – we do not have anything to hide! This is a terrible mistake.”

Charles Jacobs reminds us of the urgency, now more than ever, to fight the good fight. To stop apologizing for ourselves, and, as Ruth Wiesse points out, get over our 'moral solipsism.'
david brumer

Jewish malware


The dynamic between Israel’s negative portrayal in the media and academia, and the inadequate fight against it, is something akin to the Stuxnet virus.

Reports surfaced last week that Stuxnet, the virus mysteriously implanted in the computers running Iran’s nuclear sites, is still wreaking havoc, despite claims by Teheran that it has been contained. No one knows for sure how much damage is being done, or if it can be stopped, or who is the culprit – but Israel has been mentioned as a prime suspect. When it was found that the name of a key file in the computer worm’s code is easily a cognate for Queen Esther, many imagined that the Jewish genius who delivered the poison pill to the Persian plotters did it while poetically recapitulating the Purim story – in malware. Compared to that feat, the WikiLeaks gambit is child’s play, simple pilferage.

But even if this is true, and Israeli technological genius can thwart or mitigate a looming disaster – just as its military genius has done in the past – Jews cannot afford a truly needed rest, because the sobering reality is that Jewish technological and military prowess has proved inadequate – necessary but not sufficient – to safeguarding Israel. For its long-term security, what matters is how the Jewish state is viewed and valued in the world, especially in the Jewish community, and the skill set required for this fight – what we now call “the information war” – seems congenitally absent from the Jewish collective.

Far from being geniuses, when it comes to rhetorical combat with defamers, or creating a culture of discourse that is honest and fair, world Jewry seems, tragically, imbecilic.

Compared to almost every nation, but particularly compared to its adversaries and accusers, Israel is a stellar state. Yet it is branded and portrayed in the media, on campuses and in increasing swaths of civil society in the West as among the cruelest of nations. How can this be?

THE DYNAMIC is something akin to the virus that flummoxes Iran’s computers. Jews may be susceptible to a particular type of rhetorical virus, so devastating that once implanted it prevents them from acting in their own self-defense and turns otherwise eloquent people into stuttering blockheads. The worm is simple, and ancient. It’s called “accusation.”

Accuse the Jews. Accuse them unfairly and with such disproportionate frequency that anyone who wishes to can see there’s an agenda at work that has little to do with the actual charges raised. Accuse the Jews and they instinctively, like moths fly to candles, start believing they can cleverly explain themselves, and convince their accusers of their innocence and their goodness.

I bring this up because the Jewish Week’s editor, Julie Wiener just reported that the major Israel advocacy organizations have done a major rethink and are now calling for a “more open, critical approach to teaching about Jewish state.” “Even centrist players,” Weiner wrote, “like Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the David Project and people in the Jewish federation system are calling for more open, critical discussions about Israel.”

Why? Because much of our youth feels that Israel advocacy as it is now taught, makes them “check their liberalism at Zionism’s door.”

And so, rather than lose the kids who have fantasy notions about international politics, Jewish educators now think (I’m hoping Weiner got it wrong) students shouldn’t be advocates for Israel, but referees or judges in the Middle East contest. Their lessons will no longer be: “Israel is imperfect but fundamentally right, and the obstacle to peace is nothing more and nothing less than the Arab/Islamic refusal to abide Jewish sovereignty.”

Instead it will be “on the one hand the Israelis say X, and on the other hand, the Palestinians say Y. Can’t we all get along?”

So the net result is that the radical leftist professors and the growing Muslim student population are permitted to be advocates and propagandists for the Arabs, while Jewish students rise above the fray to contemplate the conflict. The vast student body will still only receive a mostly one-sided version which will demonize Israel and the next generation of American leadership will be less likely to empathize with the Jewish state – like the man in the White House.

But what’s really happened in the discourse is that authentic Jewish liberalism has been paralyzed – not by Zionism, but by anti-Zionism. Inserting the “accuse the Jews” worm into the discourse, anesthetizes the Jewish instinct to fight the good fight. Infected, Jewish students forget the ideals and the history of valiant battling for a universal standard of human conduct, of fighting for precisely those victims abandoned by the “civilized world.”

Instead of explaining to our students the dynamic of “accusation” that has been used to hobble Jews from time immemorial, we teach them to sit in the dock. Instead of exploring with them just how Israel is under a massive ideological assault which masquerades as legitimate criticism, we teach them to keep the focus of discourse on Jewish conduct, Israeli behavior, which is exactly what our adversaries want. Instead of turning our fingers back on the tyrannical Arab/Muslim world whose criticism of Israel defines chutzpah, we answer its charges.

Instead of exposing the hypocritical Western liberal elites – the “human rights” establishment, the media and the professoriate – who have abandoned for reasons of political correctness whole classes of people in the worst of circumstances: women, gays, apostates, Christians, democrats in the Islamic realm, we accept playing the the role of defendant.

In other words, instead of making the subject of this entire discussion the actual world tyrannies and the execrable Western hypocrites who aim to destroy us, we are bitten by the “accusation” virus, and we simply lose our minds.

Yes, it is not easy to educate a generation, brought up to believe that everyone has his own truth, about a global campaign to defame the Jewish state. And it is not easy to tell the hard truths about the world of radical Islam to students who are taught the multi-culturalist dream, taught even that to suspect another culture of being supremacist is itself “racist.”

And yes it is not easy to include in pro-Israel education an honest representation of the Palestinian narrative, so that it can be truly understood and seen for what it is. Pro-Israel organizations need to learn (with the help of our thus-far mostly silent professors, please!) to do all this. But pro- Israel organizations must first deal with the “accuse the Jews” killer virus.

In 1911, Ze’ev Jabotinsky had it perfectly right. “Every accusation causes among us such a commotion that people unwittingly think, ‘Why are they so afraid of everything? Apparently their conscience is not clear.’ Exactly because we are ready at every minute to stand at attention, there develops among the people an inescapable view about us, as of some specific thievish tribe. We think that our constant readiness to undergo a search without hesitation and to turn out our pockets, will eventually convince mankind of our nobility; look what gentlemen we are – we do not have anything to hide! This is a terrible mistake.”

You’d think all the smart Jews would’ve figured that out. By now.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Israeli War Crimes' signs to go on Seattle Metro buses: That's Right: Not Hamas War Crimes, but Israeli

Ed Mast, the self-styled "peace activist" for the Palestinians is at it again. This time, as a spokesperson for the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign. The group is paying for billboards to be plastered on Seattle Metro buses, starting on the 27th of this month, to "protest" Israeli war crimes. What are those crimes?
The Israeli response two years ago to unrelenting Hamas rocket attacks into southern Israel. Over 8,000 such rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel, thousands after Israel's total withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005.
In a bizarre, Orwellian twist of logic, it is Israel who is being accused of war crimes for defending its citizenry from unprovoked attacks against its civilian population. For the historically challenged, over 250,000 Israeli citizens in southern Israel lived under constant terror from Kassam rockets and mortar fire from Gaza. Children and families had literally 15 seconds from the sound of a siren announcing the launching of another salvo to go to the safety of a bomb shelter.
It would seem to the average Martian who visited planet earth that the real war criminals are the leaders of Hamas, a terrorist organization with a charter avowing the destruction of Israel.
These leaders deliberately target civilians, firing their rockets from residential areas in Gaza, making it excruciatingly difficult for the Israelis to retaliate without causing inadvertent civilian casualties on the other side. Sounds to me like double war crime behavior on the part of Hamas.
But then, this is a group who, in their bloody coup against their rivals Fatah, back in the summer of 2007, threw their political opponents off of rooftops, blindfolded and handcuffed.
Hamas make no bones about their political agenda. Destroy the 'Zionist entity' by any means necessary.
Israel, fighting an asymmetric war against jihadist fundamentalists, makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties. In fact, by Hamas' own reckoning, the vast majority of those killed in "Operation Cast Lead," Israel's defense against those rocket attacks in late December, 2008, were Hamas operatives. Israel's track record in avoiding civilian casualties on the other side is unrivaled in modern warfare.
But so much for truth and an honest appraisal of the situation. For Ed Mast and his ilk, any tactic is acceptable, including a callous disregard for the facts.
One would think that fighting for the liberation of the Palestinians would necessitate identifying the true enemy of the Palestinians: Hamas, not Israel.
That these ads should appear on Seattle buses is as disgraceful as it is disingenuous.
David Brumer
'Israeli War Crimes' signs to go on Metro buses

SEATTLE – "Israeli War Crimes," the enormous advertisement reads. "Your tax dollars at work."

To the right of the image is a group of children -- one little boy stares out at the viewer, the others gawk at a demolished building, all rebar and crumbled concrete.

It's an ad you'll be seeing soon on a handful of Metro buses in downtown Seattle.

A group calling itself the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign has paid King County $1,794 so that 12 buses will carry that message around town, starting two days after Christmas. That's December 27: the two-year anniversary of Israeli attacks on Gaza, aimed at stopping rocket attacks and weapons smuggling.

Ed Mast, a Seattle man who is a spokesperson for the group, says it’s not meant to be an anti-Israel message, but a message designed to generate discussion and awareness.

"I wouldn't say it's an anti-Israel message any more than any complaint about a country is anti-that country. We would like Israel to stop violating human rights. We would like Israel to give equal rights to its Palestinian citizens and its Palestinian subjects who live under occupation," said Mast.

At the Pacific Northwest office of the Anti-Defamation League, the ad campaign is seen quite a bit differently.

"We're dismayed," says Community Director Hilary Bernstein, who calls the bus-born advertisement grotesquely one-sided. "Citizens young and old will be seeing this sort of propaganda, this very one-sided distortion. It's unfortunate."

So, is the side of a public bus the right place for this kind of attack? Are the issues that regularly inflame one of the most flammable hot-spots in the world appropriate fare for people strolling the sidewalks of Seattle?

As far as King County is concerned, it's not really up to them what appears on the side of their buses, as long as it fits specific guidelines regarding:

•Tobacco, and
•As long as the images and material used don't interfere with public safety or insult specific groups to the point that a riot could be incited, vandalism could occur or public safety could be threatened.
King County Metro Transit spokesperson Linda Thielke acknowledges some people will be offended by the campaign, but that is not enough to prevent the rolling billboards from hitting the streets.

"As a government, we are mindful of the provisions in state and federal constitutions to protect freedom of speech. So, we can't object these campaigns simply because they offend some people," said Thielke.

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign has targeted their advertising so that the buses carrying their message will run mostly on Seattle routes.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Steinberg on Bernstein: Exposing the Human Rights Facade

Exposing the Human Rights Facade
Important piece once again documenting the extreme biases of too many human rights NGO's when it comes to anything relating to Israel. We need more courageous voices like Bernstein to speak out against this travesty. The stakes are ever higher with the growing international demonization and delegitimation of Israel epitomized by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
david in seattle

The people and institutions that claim to uphold human rights and democracy are in fact nullifying these core moral principles.

At 87, Robert Bernstein, founder of Human Rights Watch, began his second life. Thirty- three years after he founded Helsinki Watch in 1976, which evolved into HRW and became one of the most influential human rights organizations in the world, he disowned his earlier creation. In October 2009, in an explosive column published in The New York Times, Bernstein denounced HRW and its leaders for distorting and exploiting human rights to attack democracies, and for playing a central role in turning Israel into a “pariah state.”

Now, Bernstein has gone further in working to reverse the moral failures of HRW and the wider network of highly politicized groups that use the fa├žade of human rights to attack moral principles. Delivering the Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights at the University of Nebraska at Omaha [published in full on page 13 of today’s Jerusalem Post], he contrasted Israel’s democratic values with their notable absence in the Arab regimes and Iran. But most of HRW’s humanrights accusations are directed at Israel. Bernstein demonstrated that these “human rights organizations, including the one I founded,” as well Amnesty International, the Carter Center and other groups, are leading the political war against Israel by working closely with corrupt UN frameworks.

His involvement in free speech grew out of his background as a book publisher. In the 1970s, he went to the Soviet Union to negotiate copyright issues, and met the dissident scientist Andrei Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner. Bernstein encouraged Sakharov to write an autobiography, and provided support as he came under increasing harassment, including exile to Gorky. (Natan Sharansky was jailed and sent to the gulag for his work with Sakharov.) The Soviet regime revoked Bernstein’s visa in a failed attempt to end this support.

This was the beginning of Helsinki Watch, which grew into HRW.

After the Cold War, Bernstein turned his attention to human rights issues in China, leaving HRW in the hands of cynical leaders who played a leading role in exploiting human rights principles to attack Israel. As the assault grew, amid the carnage of Palestinian terror bombings that killed more than 1,200 Israelis, Bernstein returned to an active role, joining HRW’s Middle East North Africa Advisory Board and observing its cynical manipulation of moral rhetoric.

He quickly noted the close cooperation between HRW and the UN Human Rights Council, which was “so critical of Israel that any fair-minded person would disqualify them from participating in attempts to settle issues involving Israel.” The UNHRC sought out “prominent Jews known for their anti-Israel views,” such as Richard Falk. (Falk had written an article comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to Hitler’s treatment of Jews in the Holocaust.) When Israel objected, HRW “leaped to his defense, putting out a press release comparing Israel with North Korea and Burma in not cooperating with the UN.”

The text defending Falk was written by Joe Stork, deputy director of HRW’s Middle East Division. As Bernstein reminds us, Stork had been an editor of a notorious pro-Palestinian newsletter before being hired by HRW.

Most of HRW’s accusations against Israel were not based on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights but on subjective interpretations of the laws of war, the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. But HRW has “little expertise about modern asymmetrical war.” Noting that Israel was responding to terror attacks from Iran’s non-state proxies – Hizbullah and Hamas – Bernstein relates the ways in which HRW’s reporting on this conflict consistently “faulted Israel as the principal offender.”

At first, Bernstein, like most journalists, diplomats and academics, was “inclined to believe what Human Rights Watch was reporting.

However, as I saw Human Rights Watch’s attacks on almost every issue become more and more hostile, I wondered if their new focus on war was accurate.”

THE BLOW that led a reluctant Bernstein to break publicly with his organization was HRW’s central role in promoting Richard Goldstone – one of executive director Kenneth Roth’s closest allies and an HRW board member – to lead the UN’s assault following the Gaza war.

“Human Rights Watch has been by far the biggest supporter” of this campaign to “bring war crimes allegations against Israel – based on [Goldstone’s] report.”

As Bernstein observed, HRW has ignored “many responsible analyses challenging the war crimes accusations made by Goldstone,” as well as detailed refutations of HRW’s own reports, which were filled with unverifiable and false claims.

Referring to the unresolved Marc Garlasco affair, Bernstein noted that “a military expert working for Human Rights Watch who seemed to wish to contest these reports was dismissed and... is under a gag order. This is antithetical to the transparency that Human Rights Watch asks of others.” (Galasco was also exposed as having something of a fetish for Nazi memorabilia, yet ironically, he was one of HRW's most objective analysts when it came to Israel--see Minority Report: TNR--db)
And he recalled that when HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson went to Saudi Arabia in 2009 to raise funds by selling its support for Goldstone’s attacks on Israel, it is doubtful that she discussed textbooks published by the Saudis calling Jews “apes and pigs.”

Bernstein’s painful accounting regarding the organization he founded has of course been summarily rejected by this corrupt human rights priesthood and its acolytes. As a result, the people and institutions that claim to uphold human rights and democracy are in fact accelerating the tragic destruction of these core moral principles.

The writer heads NGO Monitor ( and is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seattle AJC: Addressing Israel's Future: Akiva Tor, Yehudit Barsky on BDS & "Lebanon"

Last Thursday evening, on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, the American Jewish Community and the Consulate General of Israel co-sponsored “Addressing Israel’s Future,” a program discussing new challenges and threats to Israel and the world Jewish community. The night also featured a private screening of Lebanon, winner of the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.

The program was promoted as a “BUYcott Israel” event, and the sold out audience was encouraged to join the anti-boycott movement and strike back at the forces behind BDS, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that has been gaining traction worldwide. The Pacific Northwest has become a lightning rod for the BDS movement, where the first successful boycott of a food co-op in America took hold in July at the Olympia Co-op.

Akiva Tor, the Consul General for the Pacific Northwest spoke about the importance of countering BDS, a movement whose agenda promotes the vilification and delegitimation of Israel, under the guise of promoting justice and freedom for the Palestinians. Tor described the groups supporting BDS as fringe organizations on the far left. Though lacking any real political power, he cautioned that the danger they pose is significant because of the power of symbols. And by deeming Israel as illegitimate, by extension, a shadow is cast on those who support it.

He applauded the efforts of the AJC, both locally and globally, educating the public to the insidious nature of these attacks against the Jewish State. Tor talked about the imperative to be proactive, citing the work the AJC and groups like StandWithUs have done, challenging the Administration at Evergreen College to secure a safe and normative educational environment for its beleaguered Jewish students, and the achievement of thwarting the proposed boycott at the Port Townsend Food Co-op.

Yehudit Barsky, director of AJC’s Division on Middle East and International Terrorism was also on hand, speaking about recent threats to the Jewish community, when two parcels containing bombs were recently intercepted in Dubai and Britain, with addresses earmarked for synagogues in Chicago. She noted that the media gave short shrift to fact that both targets were against Jews, with news reports downplaying the anti-Semitic intent of those behind the attempted terror attacks. Barsky, who is fluent in Arabic, described the work her division does around the clock, monitoring publications and websites of extremist groups like the ones behind the failed parcel bombs. While in Seattle, she met with the FBI and local police intelligence to discuss the growing risks posed by such terrorist organizations, particularly against Jewish targets.

Before the screening of Lebanon, Akiva Tor invoked the memory of the late Yitzchak Rabin, paraphrasing remarks Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu made at the memorial service held at Herzl cemetery in Israel. Bibi described how Rabin united the Israeli populace, evolving from a security hawk to a peace-seeking, and more importantly peace-believing dove. Despite media portrayals to the contrary, Netanyahu emphasized that Israel is less polarized today than it was when Rabin was its leader. Living through the collective trauma of the collapse of Oslo and the Second Intifada, the Right understands the Left better today, with the reverse being equally true. He ended by noting that the country is in fact more like Rabin today.

Tor then gave the sold out audience a brief historical backdrop to Israel’s war with Lebanon from 1982-1985. He explained the rationale for Israel’s initial incursion into Lebanon (the effort to eradicate the stepped up terrorism emanating from the PLO against northern Israel) and the problematic nature of the conflict, with Israel quickly finding itself in the quagmire of the Lebanese civil war. Tor spoke of how that war came to define his generation, and how that generation went on to come of age and produce powerful artistic testaments to that period, most notably through literature and film. Movies like Yossi and Jaeger, Beaufort, and Waltz with Bashir have all received international critical acclaim, with Beaufort and Waltz both nominated for Best Foreign Film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Lebanon, Samuel Maoz’s first feature film, is a virtuoso addition to that already impressive body of work. A stunning artistic achievement, the film is shot entirely from the perspective of the inside of a tank (with the exception of the first and last shots). Psychologically riveting, cinematically daring and excruciatingly honest, Lebanon offers an unfiltered look at the chaos, confusion and terror experienced by four young Israeli soldiers thrust into battle on the first day of the war. Only through their periscope are we given a window to the fog of war outside the dank and darkened interior of the tank. And that window is filled with the horrific carnage that all wars leave in their wake. In fact, it is the universality of the soldiers’ experience that lends the film its distinctive humanity, despite the graphic, brutal violence it portrays. In the second to last scene, one of the Israeli soldiers performs an act of inordinate compassion to their Syrian prisoner. In those moments, when the two meet eye to eye, the essential humanity of the other trumps all else.

Israel can be proud that it fosters a culture which is willing to be that self-reflective, unafraid to look at itself, warts and all, and in the process produce such transcendent works of art.

David Brumer
Co-Chair, AJC Seattle Jewish Film Festival
Seattle AJC Executive Committee Member

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Friday, October 15, 2010

YK Halevi on Why Settler Issue is More Complicated than it Appears & Oren & Shavit on Recognition of Israel's Jewishness as Existential Issue

Why Israel Won't Abandon the Settlers - Yossi Klein Halevi
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is attempting to legalize two houses in a tiny West Bank settlement called Hayovel that were built without government permission and face possible demolition. The houses were built by two war heroes. Major Eliraz Peretz fell in a skirmish on the Israeli-Gaza border a half year ago; Israelis were especially touched by his story because his older brother died in Lebanon 12 years ago. The second hero, Major Ro'i Klein, was killed in Lebanon in 2006 after leaping onto a grenade to save his men. Fallen soldiers have a sacrosanct status in Israel. Demolishing the houses that Peretz and Klein built for their families seems to Israelis, whatever their politics, an unbearable act of ingratitude.
Increasingly, Israel's military elite is coming from West Bank settlements and, more broadly, from within the religious Zionist community that produced the settlement movement. Perhaps 40% of combat officers are now religious Zionists (not to be confused with ultra-orthodox Haredim), nearly three times their percentage in the general population. The newly appointed deputy chief of staff, Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, is a religious Zionist.
The "settler" has assumed a near demonic image around the world, but most settlers are part of the mainstream. Crucially, few Israelis regard settlers as interlopers on another people's land. The political wisdom of the settlement project is intensely debated, but only a fringe denies the historic right of Jews to live in what was the biblical heartland of Israel. If the international community wants to understand why the Israeli public doesn't share its antipathy toward the settlers or its urgency to uproot settlements, a good place to begin is with Mr. Barak's effort to legalize two houses on a West Bank hilltop. The writer is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (Wall Street Journal)

Good minds think alike. Lozowick beat me to the punch, posting on both articles below before I ever got around to doing the same.

That Pesky Jewish State

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Michael Oren Exhorts American Jewry to Stand with Israel in these Ominous, Trying Times: YK Sermon at D.C. Shuls

Ambassador Michael Oren posits that there are no easy choices here for Israel. Israelis live and die by their leaders' decisions. With history as a guide, he points to the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't scenarios Israel faces. He also reminds us that Israel remains a robust democracy against daunting odds. And he beseeches us to respect the decisions the Israeli people make through their elected leaders and to respect the grave risks that they take in the name of peace. At the very least, they deserve our support, respect and gratitude.

On Yom Kippur we read the Book of Jonah, one of the Bible's most enigmatic texts. It is also one of the Bible's shortest texts, weighing in at a page and a half, which is quite an accomplishment for this holiday. And it features one of our scripture's least distinguished individuals. Jonah--a man whose name, in Hebrew, means dove--not dov, as in Hebrew for bear, but dove as, in English, pigeon.

Yet this same everyman, this Jonah, is tasked by God with a most daunting mission. He is charged with going to the great city of Nineveh and persuading its pernicious people to repent for their sins or else.

Not such an unusual task, you might think. Twenty-first century life is rife with people who warn of the catastrophes awaiting us if we fail to modify our behavior one way or the other. Today we call them pundits, commentators who, if proven correct, claim all the credit but who, if proven wrong, bear none of the responsibility.

Jonah, though, cannot escape the responsibility. Nor can he dodge his divinely ordained dilemma. If he succeeds in convincing the Ninevehians to atone and no harm befalls them, many will soon question whether that penitence was ever really necessary. Jonah will be labeled an alarmist. But, what if the people of Nineveh ignore the warning and the city meets the same fiery fate as Sodom and Gomorrah? Then Jonah, as a prophet, has failed.

Such is the paradox of prophecy for Jonah, a lose-lose situation. No wonder he runs away. He flees to the sea, only to be swallowed by a gigantic fish, and then to the desert, cowering under a gourd. But, in the end, the fish coughs him up and the gourd withers. The moral is: there is no avoiding Jonah's paradox. Once elected by God, whatever the risks, he must act.

As such, the Book of Jonah can be read as more than morality play, but also a cautionary tale about the hazards of decision-making. It is a type of political primer, if you will, what the medieval thinkers called a Mirror for Princes. The Talmud teaches us that, in the post-Biblical era, the gift of prophecy is reserved for children and fools. In modern times, we don't have prophets--pundits, yes, but no prophets. Instead we have statesmen who, like Jonah, often have to make fateful decisions for which they will bear personal responsibility. If not a paradox of prophecy, these leaders face what we might call the quandary of statecraft.

Take, for example, the case of Winston Churchill. During the 1930s, he warned the world of the dangers of the rapidly rearming German Reich. The British people ignored Churchill- worse they scorned him, only to learn later that he was all along prescient and wise. But what if Churchill had become Britain's Prime Minister five years earlier and had ordered a pre-emptive strike against Germany? Those same people might have concluded that the Nazis never posed a real threat and that their prime minister was merely a warmonger.

Or consider Harry Truman who, shortly after assuming the presidency in the spring of 1945, had to decide whether to drop America's terrible secret weapon on Imperial Japan. Today, many people, including some Americans, regard the dropping of the atomic bomb on two Japanese cities as an act of unrivaled brutality, but what if Truman had decided otherwise? What if the United States had invaded the Japanese mainland and lost, as the US Army estimated at the time, more than a million GIs? Truman, the decision-maker, was either the butcher of Japanese civilians or butcher of young Americans. Either way he lost.

The quandary of statecraft: every national leader knows it and few better than Israeli leaders. They, too, have had to make monumental--even existential--decisions.

On May 14th, 1948, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion had to determine whether to realize the two-thousand year-long dream of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. But, by doing so, he risked an onslaught by overwhelming Arab forces against a Jewish population half the size of Washington, DC today armed mainly with handguns.

Another example: my personal hero, Levi Eshkol. On June 5th, 1967, Eshkol had to decide whether to unleash Israel Defense Forces against the Arab armies surrounding the Jewish State and clamoring for its destruction or whether to alienate the international community and especially the United States and be branded an aggressor.

Ben-Gurion's decision resulted in the creation of the State of Israel and Eshkol's in the immortal image of Israeli paratroopers dancing before the Kotel. Nothing is inevitable in history and in both cases the outcome might have been tragically different. Like Churchill and Truman, Ben-Gurion and Eshkol confronted the quandary of statecraft.

They also have to answer to their citizens. Unlike the prophetic leaders of antiquity, presidents and prime ministers are not selected by God but rather elected by the majority of their peoples through a democratic process. In America, the system was modeled on the Roman Republic in which citizens empowered senators to represent them in the distant capital. In tiny Israel, with its multi-party consensual style of democracy, the model is not Rome but rather ancient Athens. The American president, it has been said, represents 300 million constituents; Israeli prime ministers represent 7 million prime ministers.

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel's democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world's existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable--even fatal--to government by and of the people, Israel's democracy thrives.

Democracy in Israel is not only personal and vibrant, but also grave, because the stakes are so enormously high. Recalling Jonah's paradox, the leaders we elect are confronted with grueling decisions.

Consider the case of terror. Israel today is threatened with two major terror organizations: Hamas in Gaza and, in Lebanon, Hizbollah. Both are backed by Iran and both call openly for Israel's destruction. And, over the past five years, both have acted on that call by firing nearly 15,000 rockets at Israeli towns and villages.

Next imagine that you're the prime minister of Israel. You know that in order to keep those thousands of rockets out of Hamas's hands you need to blockade Gaza from the sea. The policy is risky--people may get hurt, especially if they're armed extremists--and liable to make you very unpopular in the world. But you have to choose between being popular and watching idly while a million Israelis come under rocket fire. You have to choose between popular and being alive.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah has nearly quadrupled the rockets in its arsenal. They're bigger, more accurate rockets, with a range that can reach every Israeli city, even Eilat. Worse: Hizbollah has positioned those rockets under homes, hospitals, and schools, confident that if Israelis try to defend themselves from those missiles, they will be branded war criminals.

Imagine, again, that you're Israel's prime minister. Do you wait until Hizbollah finds a pretext to fire those rockets or do you act preemptively? Do you risk having the much of the country being reduced to rubble or having that same country reduced to international pariah status?

The terror threat is a very poignant example of the quandary of statecraft in Israel, but an even thornier case is posed by the peace process.

Yes, the peace process, with its vision of two peoples living in adjacent states in a relationship of permanent and legitimate peace. What could be so hazardous about that?

Well, let's return to that Kafkaesque scenario in which you wake up one morning and find yourself transformed into Israel's prime minister.

You know that to create that neighboring state that you're going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel's dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

You could opt for maintaining the status quo, with the risk of deepening Israel's international isolation or you could specify a vision of peace that significantly reduces its perils. You could, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done, insist that the future Palestinian State be effectively demilitarized, without an army that could bombard Israeli cities or an air force that could shoot down planes landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. You could insist that the Palestinian State reciprocally recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and so put an end to all future claims and conflicts.

Even then, of course, Israel will be running incalculable risks, for what if the Palestinian state implodes and becomes another Gaza or Lebanon? What do you do if, a week after the peace treaty is signed, a rocket falls on Tel Aviv?

More than Gaza, more than peace, the ultimate quandary of statecraft centers on Iran.

This is the radical, genocidal Iran whose leaders regularly call for Israel's annihilation and provides terrorists with the means for accomplishing that goal. This is the Iran that undermines governments throughout the Middle East and even South America, and an Iran that shoots its own people protesting for freedom.

Iran does all this without nuclear weapons--imagine what it would do with the nuclear arms it is assiduously developing. And imagine what you, awakening once again as the Israeli Prime Minister, will decide. Do you remain passive while Iran provides nuclear weaponry to terrorist groups, targets Tel Aviv with nuclear-tipped missiles, and triggers a nuclear arms race throughout the region? Or do you act, as Israel has now, joining with the United States and other like-minded nations in imposing sanctions on Iran, hoping to dissuade its rulers from nuclearizing? And, if that fails, do you keep all options on the table, with the potentially far-reaching risks those options entail?

The issues of terror, the peace process, and Iran evoke strong emotions in this country and around the world, and often spark criticism of Israeli policies. Yet it's crucial to recall that those policies are determined by the leaders elected through one of the world's most robust and resilient democracies. Recall that the people of Israel--not of Europe, not of the United States--bear the fullest consequences for their leaders' decisions.

There is no escaping the responsibility--as Jonah learned thousands of years ago--and that responsibility is borne by our leaders and by the majority of the people they represent. Israel today faces decisions every bit as daunting as those confronting Jonah, but we will not run away. There is no gourd to hide under or fish to swallow us whole. Terror, the peace process, Iran--our Ninevehs--await.

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

The message of the Book of Jonah is one of personal and collective atonement, but it is also a message of unity and faith. "In my trouble I called to the Lord," proclaims Jonah, "VaYa'aneini" - "and He answered me."

Let us--Israelis and the American Jews--united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge--no paradoxes, no Ninevehs--can defeat us.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

BDS and the Pacific Northwest: The Seattle Community “Anti-Delegitimization” Task Force

The trends are not encouraging.
This week's Time Magazine Cover Story is titled Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace.
Nevermind that the Israeli Prime Minister met last week at the White House with a most reluctant Palestinian "peace partner," Mahmoud Abbas. According to Time, Israelis are otherwise engaged, soaking up the last rays of summer and busy making money. The BDS movement is alive and well, having successfully staged the first food co-op boycott of Israel-made products, right here in Washington State. Not to be outdone, California "activists" are ready to jump on the bandwagon.
California Activists Launch Ballot initiative to divest from Israel
Californians committed to peace and justice for Palestine-Israel will launch the statewide campaign of California ballot Initiative 10-0020 with a signing ceremony in front of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles on Wednesday, September 8, 2010. Although California has adopted policies requiring divestment from Sudan, Iran and other nations, this is the first ballot measure in the nation aimed at changing Israeli policies through divestment by State agencies. It directs California’s large public employee and teacher pension funds to be consistent with their responsible investing policies and to divest from companies that violate the human rights of Palestinians...

The handwriting on the wall is clear. This is the time to stand up and denounce these insidious tactics, whose purpose is the delegitmizing of the Jewish State.

The Seattle Community “Anti-Delegitimization” Task Force

ADL Pacific NW Region - Hilary Bernstein
AJC Seattle – Wendy Rosen
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle – Rachel Schachter
Hillel UW – Jeremy Brochin
StandWithUs Northwest – Rob Jacobs
Community Leaders: Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg, Adam Goldblatt, Sandy Berger, David Brumer, Carolyn Hathaway, Nevet Basker

Today, we in the Jewish community are faced with a serious threat. It’s important enough to bring up while we’re in the Yamim Noraim, the days of awe.Here in the Pacific Northwest, regardless of how we may feel about Israel’s policies, we are facing a real and concerted effort to delegitimize Israel, to convince Americans that we’d be better off if there were no Jewish state, no Jewish homeland. It’s an internationally organized effort to get you and other individuals, companies, universities and other organizations, to boycott all Israeli products, to divest from companies doing business with Israel and to push for sanctions against Israel.It’s called the “BDS movement.” “BDS” stands for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions.Although we are all hopeful that the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will end in a lasting peace agreement, we recognize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one between two peoples with indigenous ties to the land and that both sides will have to make painful sacrifices to ensure that a two-state solution, the only viable result, is implemented. The BDS movement is premised on the assumption that Israel is always in the wrong, no matter what it does.
Supporters claim that a boycott is a non-violent way to bring peace to the Middle East. While this sounds reasonable, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.Why? Because these boycott initiatives ignore context and history, are counter-productive to the current peace talks, and would effectively end Israel as a Jewish state. Nearly all of their efforts insist that Israel accept a complete right of return for all Palestinians. They require that Israel allow 4.8 million Palestinians to take possession of the homes and land that their grandparents either fled or were forced to leave during a war initiated by the five Arab states against the day-old state of Israel.Instead, they say a boycott is necessary because Israel is a genocidal, apartheid state intent on continuing a 60-year policy of ethnic cleansing. The BDS speakers, along with the handouts at the co-ops and on college campuses, claim that Israel regularly commits atrocities.
Wherever the supporters of the BDS movement push for boycotts, they vilify Israel. The local newspapers report their allegations. And there is often little or no public outcry or visible response from the local Jewish community.And the BDS movement has been gathering momentum both locally and around the world. Two years ago we faced Initiative 97, an effort to have the City of Seattle divest from companies doing business with Israel. This year we saw an effort to have the Madison Market boycott all Israeli products. This year, nearly 78 percent of Evergreen State College students voted to divest from companies doing business with Israel. Less than two months ago, the Olympia Food Co-op did boycott all Israeli products. Now numerous other co-ops are considering boycott proposals.If false allegations are made often enough, they become someone’s truth. Now even Time Magazine’s cover continues the delegimization of Israel with “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” inside a Star of David. We’re in changing times and we cannot remain silent. Criticizing Israel is not wrong. As Jews, we care deeply about the suffering on both sides of the conflict. But vilifying Israel and making it into a pariah state is wrong and we cannot keep silent any longer. We read on Rosh Hashanah, “tein kavod le-amekha,” restore dignity to Your people. It will take more than head shaking and silent response to do that in the face of these lies. Our silence in the face of falsehoods appears to validate these libels. We need to speak out. Now. This is an assault on each and every one of us. For if Israel is deemed illegitimate then, by extension, so too is supporting it.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Yossi Klein Halevi: How To Solve the Mosque Controversy: An Open Letter to My Friend, Imam Feisal Rauf

Most eloquent, measured, balanced perspective on the Mosque Controversy. How the project may yet be transformed into something truly inclusive, inspirational, and transcendent.

If You Build It...
YK Halevi
Dear Imam Feisal,

Ramadan Kareem. I pray that you are bearing up under the strain of recent months. I write as a well-wisher and friend. Though we met only briefly, our encounter turned out to be at a fateful moment, and, for me at least, was of lasting significance. We met, you will recall, on September 5, 2001, at a symposium on a book I was about to publish recounting my journey into Islam and Christianity in the Holy Land. (The book was actually released six days later, on September 11.) You appeared on the panel offering a Muslim response to my journey. I was deeply moved by your presence—it wasn’t easy finding a Muslim cleric willing to appear publicly with an Israeli—and by the warm words you had for the book itself, which was written from a position of deep Jewish attachment to the land of Israel. I felt grateful for the courage you showed then, supporting my call for the Muslim world to come to terms with the Jewish return home. And I recall you beaming with gratitude when I spoke of my experience in joining the Muslim prayer line and the reverence—the love—I felt for its choreography of surrender to God.

In recent weeks, in discussions with friends in the American Jewish community about your initiative to build a mosque and Muslim community center near Ground Zero, I’ve found myself repeatedly defending your integrity as an interfaith partner. If you are not a worthy dialogue partner for the Jewish community, then there is almost no one in Islam with whom we can speak.

When our mutual friend and veteran of Muslim-Jewish dialogue, Yehezkel Landau, spoke on your behalf at the Community Board public hearing recently held over your proposed project, I felt it was a gesture of what Jews call kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name. Yehezkel told the hostile audience that, as a former Israeli soldier whose son is now serving in the Israeli army, he affirms that you are “a spiritual ally, not an enemy.” Though other speakers on your behalf were heckled, Yehezkel was greeted with respectful silence.

That small moment of grace revealed how Muslims and Jews can help each other. As Judea Pearl—father of Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded by jihadists—has put it, Muslims can provide legitimacy for the Jewish people in the East and Jews can provide legitimacy for Islam in the West. I know that same sentiment inspires your longtime outreach to the American Jewish community. You told me that the model for Islamic modernization you sought was exemplified by modern Orthodox Judaism. That you would find inspiration in one aspect of the Jewish response to modernity says much about your openness toward Judaism and friendship toward the Jewish people.

I don’t deny being troubled by some of your statements on the Middle East. You have publicly called yourself a supporter of Israel—and how many Muslim clerics have dared speak those words?—yet you’ve also endorsed a “one-state solution,” code for the destruction of the Jewish state. You have rejected the subterfuge of some Muslim clerics who condemn terror against “innocent civilians” but exclude Israelis, yet you’ve refused to condemn Hamas.

Sometimes it seems that you want to be all things to all people—a liberal to non-Muslim Americans, upholder of Muslim grievances to traditionalists—and that you simply deny the resulting dissonance, as if every contradiction can be healed by your goodwill. Some of your statements about America and the Muslim world—partly blaming U.S. foreign policy for September 11, or saying that America has killed more Muslims than Al Qaeda has killed innocent non-Muslims, as if the terrorists and their targets were morally equivalent—pander to the most simplistic sentiments within your community. But where some see hypocrisy, or even a hidden agenda, I prefer to see the struggles of a good man who wants to help his community enter the American mainstream, while reassuring the faithful of his loyalty.

I believe that you intend to create a center of Islamic moderation near Ground Zero. And it is precisely for that reason that I am turning to you with a plea to reconsider your plans to build the center in its current form. Instead, I urge you to consider turning the site into a center for interfaith encounter. Build the mosque—but do so together with a church and a synagogue and a center for common reflection for all three faiths and for those with no faith. Do this, Imam Feisal, not to surrender to your critics but to honor their pain, and, in the process, to honor Islam.

My own point of reference in this controversy is the Auschwitz convent. You will recall that, in the mid-1980s, a group of Carmelite nuns established a convent on the grounds of Auschwitz. For Jews around the world, the convent was perceived as an attempt to “Christianize” the Holocaust, to deny the Jewishness of the overwhelming majority of the victims of Auschwitz.

In 1989, I went to Poland and discovered to my shock that the Jewish critics were wrong. The convent was founded in Auschwitz I, a slave-labor camp and administrative center for Auschwitz II, or Birkenau, the death camp whose purpose was the destruction of the Jewish people. The distinction was crucial for Poles: Thousands of Polish Catholics died in Auschwitz I, and the nuns were there to pray for their souls and counter the evil that had been done on Polish soil. There was, in other words, no intention to Christianize the Holocaust. Yet Pope John Paul II seemed to realize that, even if Jews had misunderstood the nuns’ intentions, their sensitivities toward that ground deserved respect. And so the Polish pope ordered a convent of Polish nuns out of Auschwitz—in the process sending an extraordinary message of spiritual generosity.

I am urging you to rise to your moment of spiritual greatness. You have dedicated your life to helping Islam enter the American mainstream. In its current form, though, your project will have the opposite effect. The way to ease Islam into the American mainstream is in the company of its fellow Abrahamic faiths. The great obstacle to Islam’s reconciliation with the West is the adherence of even mainstream Muslims to a kind of medieval notion of interfaith relations. Muslim spokesmen often note how, during the Middle Ages, Islam provided protection for Christianity and Judaism. But that model—tolerance under Islamic rule—is inadequate for our time. The new interfaith theology affirms the spiritual legitimacy of all three Abrahamic faiths. Whether or not we accept one another’s faiths as theologically true, we can affirm them as devotionally true, that is, as worthy vessels for a God-centered life.

What will define a genuinely American Islam will be its ability to embrace this modern notion of interfaith relations. A 15-story Islamic center near Ground Zero will undermine that process. In the Muslim world, as you well know, architecture often buttresses triumphalist theology. Throughout the Holy Land, minarets deliberately tower over churches. However inadvertently, your current plan would be understood by large parts of the Muslim world as a victory over the West. Merely adding an interfaith component to the proposed Islamic center would not counter that distorted impression. Instead, it would likely reinforce the medieval theology of extending “protection” to Christianity and Judaism under the auspices of Islam. But an interfaith center in which the three Abrahamic faiths are given equal status would send the message that I believe you intend to convey.

There is no more appropriate place to assert the emergence of an American Islam than Ground Zero. And no American Muslim leader is better positioned to birth that process, dear Imam Feisal, than you.

With respect and blessings,

Yossi Klein Halevi

Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor to The New Republic and a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He is the author of At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Mosque near Ground Zero, Tolerance, Bigotry, Decency, and Questionable Intentions

Raise pertinent questions about the construction of the mosque near Ground Zero, or dare to object to the project and you're immediately labeled a bigot, Islamophobe, and anti-democratic. But the game is rigged.
I've referred people to thoughtful arguments made by Christopher Hitchens here and Charles Krauthammer, Sacrilege at Ground Zero, Mark Helprin, The World Trade Center Mosque and the Constitution , Andrew McCarthy here and Charles Jacobs here. The response is usually that 'they're cranks, right wing nuts, fanatics, etc.'
Well, here's Judea Pearl on why the mosque may not be such a stellar idea.
Hard to throw him to lions as a man of intolerance!

The psychology behind the Ground Zero mosque
By Judea Pearl
Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit.
I have been trying hard to find an explanation for the intense controversy surrounding the Cordoba Initiative, whereby 71 percent of Americans oppose the construction of an Islamic Center and a Mosque next to Ground Zero. I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a recent “right wing” blitz against one Imam or another.
Americans are neither bigots, nor gullible.

Deep sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims was cited as yet another explanation, but, this, too, does not answer the core question. If one accepts that the 19 fanatics who flew planes into the Twin Towers were merely fake Muslims who, by their very act, proved themselves acting against the tenets of “true Islam,” then building a Mosque at Ground Zero should evoke no emotion whatsoever; it should not be viewed differently than, say, building a church, a community center or a druid shrine.

A more realistic explanation is that most Americans do not buy the 19-fanatics story, but view the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti-American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with anti-Americanism.

The Ground Zero Mosque is being equated with that ideology, not with the faith or religious practices it aims to house. Public objection to the mosque thus represents a vote of no confidence in mainstream American Muslim leadership which, on the one hand, refuses to acknowledge the alarming dimension that anti-Americanism has taken in their community and, paradoxically, blames America for creating it.

American Muslim leadership has had nine years to build up trust by taking proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies, here and abroad. Evidently, however, a sizable segment of the American public is not convinced that this leadership is doing an effective job of confidence building.

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live in and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, prisons, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. Affirmation of these conspiratorial theories sends mixed messages to young Muslims, engendering anger and helplessness: America and Israel are the first to be blamed for Muslim failings, sufferings and violence. Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan), Spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g, Shaikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism, Hamas and Hezbollah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist,” Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

True, we have not helped Muslims in the confidence-building process. Treating home-grown terror acts as isolated incidents of psychological disturbances while denying their ideological roots has given American Muslim leaders the illusion that they can achieve unreserved public acceptance without engaging in serious introspection and responsibility sharing for allowing victimhood, anger and entitlement to spawn such acts. Opponents fear the construction of the Ground-Zero Mosque would further prolong this illusion and thus impede, rather than promote healing and reconciliation.

If I were New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg I would reassert Muslims’ right to build the Islamic Center and the Mosque, but I would expend the same energy, not one iota less, trying to convince them to consider an alternative project: a community-run multi-faith center in honor of the 9/11 victims. Given the current intensity of emotions, fellow Muslim Americans will benefit more from co-ownership of consensual projects than sole ownership of confrontational projects.

Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after his son. He is a co-editor of “I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl (Jewish Light, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Of Boycotts, Selective Products and Selective Memory: published as long lte in Seattle's JT News: original version below that

August 20th, 2010
Dubious distinction

The Olympia, Washington Food Co-op has the dubious distinction of being the first within the grocery co-op movement in America to boycott Israeli-made products. This is unsurprising, because Olympia is a beehive of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist activities, from the classrooms of Evergreen State College to its churches and town hall. With no public notice to its members, let alone a healthy debate about the merits of such a motion, on July 15 the Olympia Food Co-op damned Israel, in effect placing the entire onus of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israel. Nothing short of the “right of return” of all Arab refugees from the 1948 War — a war initiated by five Arab armies and the Arab leadership of Palestine at that time—will suffice to end the boycott. Of course, this is code for the “disbanding” of the Jewish State of Israel.Never mind that Israel is being singled out as the one country whose wickedness and depravity is so great that its very existence is deemed a topic demanding of discussion. Not so with North Korea, Sudan, Libya, China, Russia, Syria or scores of other countries whose human rights abuses are apparently so commonplace as to be unworthy of mention.Never mind that Israel has shown itself willing to make painful sacrifices for peace, from its withdrawal from all of Sinai, its evacuation of all Jews from Gaza and other settlements in the disputed territories of the West Bank, to Ehud Barak’s and later Ehud Olmert’s offers to relinquish upwards of 96 percent of the West Bank in return for peace with its neighbors. Never mind that an economic boycott sends exactly the wrong message to both Israelis and Palestinians striving to reach an accord, because it penalizes Israeli Christian and Muslim Arabs (who comprise 20 percent of Israel’s population), emboldens Palestinian extremists to adhere to maximalist demands, and makes it less likely that Israelis will trust that the international community that supports one-sided boycotts is acting in good faith.If the boycotters and their supporters were to really act in good faith, or at least to be consistent, they wouldn’t stop at boycotting grocery products. They’d boycott Israeli products across the board. This would include most computers, since Israel helped to develop the Intel Pentium chip, Windows MP, XP and Vista as well as Microsoft Office. They’d have to boycott Google and cell phones developed in Israel by Motorola, as well as voice mail and camera phones. Thousands of products that were developed through technological innovations in Israel, in agriculture, aerospace, energy, pharmaceuticals, and bio-medicine would also be off limits. But naturally, the self-righteous boycotters and their legions of supporters aren’t interested in such banalities. Because their intentions are much grander and insidious. The boycott is part of a broader movement to ostracize Israel from the family of nations, to demonize the Jewish State, and ultimately set the stage for either its destruction or its dissolution.
David Brumer

The Olympia, Washington Food Co-op has the dubious distinction of being the first within the grocery co-op movement in America to boycott Israeli-made products. This is unsurprising, because Olympia, Washington is a bee-hive of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist activities, from the classrooms of Evergreen State College to its churches and town hall.
With no public notice to its members, let alone a healthy debate about the merits of such a motion, on July 15th the Olympia Food Co-op damned Israel, in effect placing the entire onus of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israel. Nothing short of the “right of return” of all Arab refugees from the 1948 War--a war initiated by five Arab armies and the Arab leadership of Palestine at that time—will suffice to end the boycott. Of course, this is code for the “disbanding” of the Jewish State of Israel.
Never mind that Israel is one of the few modern states with internationally sanctioned legitimacy, first from the League of Nations nearly 100 years ago and more recently by United Nations Resolution 181, on November 29th, 1947.
Never mind that Israel is being singled out as the one country whose wickedness and depravity is so great that its very existence is deemed a topic demanding of discussion. Not so with North Korea, Sudan, Libya, China, Russia, Syria or scores of other countries whose human rights abuses are apparently so commonplace as to be unworthy of mention.
Never mind that the current, fractured Palestinian leadership is incapable of even sitting down in direct face to face talks with the Israelis. Or that this leadership doesn’t even represent half of its constituents, the residents of the Gaza Strip who are ruled by the anti-nationalist Islamists of Hamas.
Never mind that Ariel Sharon’s government evacuated every last Jew, dead and alive, from Gaza in the 2005 Israeli withdrawal, only to be answered with over 10,000 missiles and rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli population centers over the internationally recognized blue line.
Never mind that Palestinian Media Watch documents weekly examples of incitement to violence and hatred against Jews on Palestinian state sponsored television, in their mosques, and in school textbooks, where the State of Israel cannot be found on a map.
Never mind that Israelis, perhaps more than any other people on earth yearn to raise their children in peace because they have known war and terrorism and bloodshed almost unceasingly in the modern Jewish State’s 62 years of existence.
Never mind that Israel has shown itself willing to make painful sacrifices for peace, from its withdrawal from all of Sinai, its evacuation of all Jews from Gaza and other settlements in the disputed territories of the West Bank, to Ehud Barak’s and later Ehud Olmert’s offers to relinquish upwards of 96% of the West Bank in return for peace with its neighbors.
Never mind that an economic boycott sends exactly the wrong message to both Israelis and Palestinians who are striving to reach an accord, because it penalizes Israeli Christian and Muslim Arabs (who compromise 20% of Israel’s population), emboldens Palestinian extremists to adhere to maximalist demands, and makes it less likely that Israelis will trust that the international community that supports one-sided boycotts is acting in good faith.
In fact, if the boycotters and their supporters were to really act in good faith, or at least to be consistent, they wouldn’t stop at boycotting grocery products. They’d be boycotting Israeli products across the board. This would include most computers, since Israel developed the Intel Pentium chip, Windows MP, XP and Vista as well as Microsoft Office and AOL. They’d have to boycott Google and cell phones that were developed in Israel by Motorola, as well as voice mail and camera phones. Thousands of products that were developed through technological innovations in Israel, in agriculture, aerospace, energy, pharmaceuticals, and bio-medicine would also be off limits.
But naturally, the self-righteous boycotters and their legions of supporters aren’t interested in such banalities. Because their intentions are much grander; and insidious. The boycott is part of a broader movement to ostracize Israel from the family of nations, to demonize the Jewish State, and ultimately set the stage for either its destruction or its dissolution.
Unlike the “peace activists” on the Turkish flotilla last month who brandished knives, clubs, sticks, and pipes, the boycotters’ weapons are “non-violent” ones. They are wielded with more cunning but no less deadly intent.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Skip the Lecture on Israel's "Risks for Peace"

George Will puts it well.
The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state. In the 62 years since Israel was founded on one-sixth of 1% of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called "the Arab world," Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

Skip the Lecture on Israel's "Risks for Peace" -
George F. Will (Washington Post)
In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America's eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, Israeli parents sending two children to school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take "risks for peace."
There was a time when taking risks for peace meant swapping "land for peace" - Israel sacrificing something tangible and irrecoverable, strategic depth, in exchange for something intangible and perishable, promises of diplomatic normality.
Before the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel within the borders established by the 1949 armistice was in one place just nine miles wide, a fact that moved George W. Bush to say: In Texas we have driveways that long. Israel exchanged a lot of land to achieve a chilly peace with Egypt, yielding the Sinai, which is almost three times larger than Israel and was 89% of the land captured in the process of repelling the 1967 aggression.
Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.
The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state. In the 62 years since Israel was founded on one-sixth of 1% of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called "the Arab world," Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Schism in the Jewish Psyche: The Jewish Divide Over Israel...Revisited

I came across this review I wrote, just over 4 years ago. In the current climate of 'Rifts' and 'Shifts,' tectonic and Intra-Jewish, it seemed apropos to republish on this blog.
Excerpts are offered below and the review in its entirety, first published in Congress Monthly, is linked to below.
david in Seattle

Schism in the Jewish Psyche: Defending Israel's Right to Exist

The Jewish Divide Over Israel: Accusers and Defenders. Edited by Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor. Transaction. 310 pages. $39.95

Reviewed by David Brumer

The publication of The Jewish Divide Over Israel: Accusers and Defenders, edited by Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor, could not be more timely, given the recent ascent of the unrepentant terrorist organization Hamas, the fevered rantings of the President of Iran calling for the elimination of Israel, and the recent Harvard publication of Professors Mearsheimer and Walt’s “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.”
While Israel’s external enemies continue their unabashed war against the very existence of a Jewish state, within our own ranks dwell many who also harbor grave doubts about the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise in its modern configuration. They argue that Israel today is an abnormality among modern nations, an historical mistake, and an anachronism on the modern stage of nations.
The Jewish Divide Over Israel alerts us to a pernicious trend, where extremists like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, the late Israel Shahak, and scores of others debase, demonize and de-legitimize Israel to the point where we as Jews find ourselves in the bizarre position of having to defend our very right to exist as a sovereign, legitimate nation, something no other country, no matter how much a threat to the world, has ever been called upon to do.
Other books have been published in the recent past, addressing this very issue, the two most notable being Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel and the lesser known, but vital Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel’s Wars by Yaacov Lozowick. Cynthia Ozick, who has contributed the opening essay to The Jewish Divide Over Israel, hails Lozowick’s Right to Exist as “one of the most important political histories of our generation.” She goes on to point out that the “the title alone—the scandal of calling into question a living nation’s existence—ought to shame the prevaricators and defamers, whether they be professors in universities, media distorters, ‘peace activists’ who justify terror, morally deformed intellectuals, self-deceiving unconfessed haters, or merely the herd of the easily led.”

The editors of The Jewish Divide Over Israel contend that there is a conspicuous correlation between progressive Jewish politics in Israel and the West and the tendency to blame Israel for the predicament it finds itself in. In other words, it’s not enough that most of the Arab world, including a majority of the Palestinians, and much of Europe see Israel as the main culprit in the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; adding insult to injury, legions of Jewish intellectuals concur.

Why are so many Jewish intellectuals unable to make the logical connections-or distinctions-between cause and effect, restraint and disproportionality, the arsonist and firefighter? Why can’t they sift out the blatant propaganda or at the very least, be discerning enough to demand a single standard of behavior from all the players? In Kosovo, NATO bombed from the safety of 35,000 feet in the air. In contrast, Israel sacrificed the lives of 23 of her own soldiers because she would not carpet bomb from the air during the Jenin incursion of April 2002, even though Jenin was a well-established hotbed and incubator of terrorists, a “refugee” camp under the supposed oversight of the United Nations. At the end of the day, 53 Palestinians lay dead (the majority combatants), yet the cries of massacre and genocide are still heard today. In fact, Israel’s exercise of self-defense became known in progressive circles as Jeningrad.
Today, after the war with Lebanon, once again we hear much more about Israel’s supposedly ‘disproportionate’ response than we hear about Hezbollah’s practice of hiding among civilians and using innocent people as human shields. Their deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians in the north was in direct contravention of the often-cited Geneva Convention, yet it is Israel alone who has repeatedly been accused of war crimes.
Paul Berman points to this perverseness and the convoluted, twisted logic that seeks to blame the victim, when he writes in his book, Terror and Liberalism: “Each new act of murder and suicide testified to how oppressive were the Israelis. Palestinian terror, in this view, was the measure of Israeli guilt. The more grotesque the terror, the deeper the guilt…And even Nazism struck many of Israel’s critics as much too pale an explanation for the horrific nature of Israeli actions. For the pathos of suicide terror is limitless, and if Palestinian teenagers were blowing themselves up in the acts of random murder, a rational explanation was going to require ever more extreme tropes, beyond even Nazism.”

But is there a whiff of overkill in these rebuttals of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist rantings? After all, so many of Israel accusers are at the far end of the political and intellectual world’s spectrum. Co-editor Paul Bogdanor’s devotion of three chapters to the likes of Chomsky, Shahak and Finkelstein, seemed perhaps a bit excessive and repetitive. After all, who listens to these fringe voices of extremism? But in fact, sadly, tragically, the answer is that there are legions who do listen, pay very close attention, and cite the outrageous pronouncements of these prevaricators and distorters of reality as the gospel truth. One begins to appreciate the extent of the damage these supposedly ‘fringe” voices wreak on public discourse when we note that Walt and Mearsheimer cite both Chomsky and Finkelstein on several occasions in their “working paper” on “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”.

In conclusion, The Jewish Divide Over Israel is much more than the sum of its parts. Taken as a whole, it reflects a deep schism in the Jewish psyche.
Disputations, passionate debates, and wrestling with ethical dilemmas are part of our proud Talmudic tradition. But these essays are about something far more insidious than healthy disagreements within a tribe. The kinds of self-flagellation, self-abnegation, and yes, self-hatred that are displayed on some of these pages calls for an urgent reassessment of who we are, who speaks for us, and who we wish to become as a people-about knowing the difference between healthy internal debate and self-destructive words and deeds.
These are not just academic matters, ivory-tower squabbles or harmless philosophical differences. These schisms pose existential dangers to our collective ability to both define and defend ourselves in an increasingly dangerous and hostile world, a world where Iranian mullahs are perilously close to realizing their dream of having the means to incinerate another six million Jews. With the kind of threats that exist in today’s world, it behooves us to pay close attention to whether or not we are aiding and abetting those committed to our destruction. Yes, we face grave problems within Zionism: issues of social justice, corruption, and the like.
But we can only tackle those pressing issues when we stand unified as a people, exposing the illegitimacy of any and all who call into question our very Right to Exist.

David Brumer
May 24, 2006

Congress Monthly, July/August 2006: Defending Israel's Right to Exist

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

While the World Weighs in on Israel's 'Imperfection,' Iran Inches Closer to Attaining the Bomb

One of the dire consequences of the world's obsession with Israeli behavior (see the Goldstone Report, Peter Beinart's disappointments with the Zionist state, the Flotilla, etc.) is that while Israel is held up to an impossible standard of perfection, real rogue states like Iran get a pass. Behind the smoke screen of supposed Israeli transgressions of international law (and decency, according the ubermoralists), Iran edges ever closer to nuclear capability.
Conventional wisdom now holds that we may have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran, and that it may not be such a bad thing. Even moderates like Fareed Zakaria are arguing that "deterrence worked with madmen like Mao, and with thugs like Stalin, and it will work with the calculating autocrats of Tehran."
The new mantra is 'Containment' or 'Deterrence.' Below, two cogent arguments against that proposition and why the cost of being wrong will prove so deadly. Of course, the risks to Israel are gargantuan and existential, which is why it is all the more maddening that not only the "international community" but also so much of American Jewry are giving this issue such short shrift. In the very year that Iran may go nuclear if unchecked, the real failure of the American Jewish establishment, with notable exceptions like the American Jewish Committee (AJC), is its unwillingness to stand solidly with Israel. Instead, we see hand-wringing and hair-splitting over Israel's less-than-perfect comportment. In Jews and Power, Ruth Wisse describes this self-destructive tendency as "moral solipsism," an obsessive regard for our own moral performance with a stunning indifference to the performance of those who wish us ill. It's time we understand the implications of such narcissistic behavior. The stakes couldn't be higher.

Can a Nuclear Armed Iran be Deterred? - Amitai Etzioni (Military Review)
Increasing evidence that Iran has embarked on a course that will lead it to develop nuclear arms in the near future has reintensified the debate about the ways the world should react to such a danger. Engagement has been tried, sanctions are deemed an unreliable tool, and military strikes are said to be likely to fail. Hence the growing interest in deterrence.
But for deterrence to work, the leaders of the nations that command nuclear arms must be rational. However, leading sociologists point to a major category of human behavior where people act in response to deeply held beliefs. People have long shown that they are willing to kill for their beliefs, even if they will die as a result.
Objections to the efficacy of bombing nuclear sites points to a different military option that seeks not to degrade Iran's nuclear capacities but to compel the regime to change its behavior, by causing ever-higher levels of "pain." This would entail bombing of Iran's nonnuclear military assets (such as the headquarters and encampments of the Revolutionary Guard, air defense installations and radar sites, missile sites, and naval vessels that might be used against oil shipments).
The location of these assets is known, it matters not if one misses some, they are not well hidden nor well protected, and bombing them will not unleash radioactive materials. Above all, we cannot delay action much longer if we are to prevent Iran from crossing a threshold after which a military option will become much more dangerous to implement.
The writer is professor of international relations at George Washington University.

Iran Cannot Be Contained - Bret Stephens (Commentary)
Quietly within the foreign-policy machinery of the Obama administration - and quite openly in foreign-policy circles outside it - the idea is taking root that a nuclear Iran is probably inevitable and that the U.S. must begin to shift its attention from forestalling the outcome to preparing for its aftermath with a policy of long-term containment and deterrence.
Many of containment's current advocates are former supporters of engagement with Iran. Having invested their hopes in President Obama's "outstretched hand," they now understand that Iran's hostility to the U.S. was not merely a reaction to the policies of the Bush administration but rather is fundamental to the regime's identity. The Islamic republic, it turns out, really means what it says when it chants "Death to America."
The Marxist-Leninist regimes of the Cold War era were never great believers in the virtues of martyrdom. That is not the case with Shiism, which has been decisively shaped by a cult of suffering and martyrdom dating to the seventh century. During its war with Iraq, Iran sent waves of child soldiers, some as young as 10, to clear out Iraqi minefields. Tens of thousands of children died this way.
To suggest that there is some universal standard of "pragmatism" or "rationality" where Iran and the rest of the world can find common ground is a basic intellectual error. The Iranian regime has stood out since its earliest days for its willingness to pick fights with powerful enemies, to undertake terrorist strikes at great range, to court international opprobrium and moral outrage, to test international diplomatic patience, and to raise the stakes every time the world seemed ready to come to terms. The Iranian regime has consistently been willing to take apparently reckless risks for the sake of its objectives - and would most likely take many more such risks if it had a nuclear arsenal at its disposal.
A nuclear Iran would be unlike any nuclear power the world has known. It would be dangerous and unpredictable in moments of strength as well as in those of weakness. While it could well be that the regime would not consider using its arsenal if it believed it could get its way through other means, the calculus could change if it felt threatened from within. Indeed, the closer the regime got to its deathbed, the more tempted it would be to bring its enemies along with it.

Comic Relief--Iranian style
and The One About Hamas

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Taking Goldberg Up on the Need for More Seichel: 3 Creative Approaches to Ending the Blockade: Plus,other Sane, Centrist POV's

Much has been written this week regarding the Gaza flotilla, including Jeffrey Goldberg's take on the need for the greater exercise of Jewish seichel. The general consensus, at least in Israel, is that the commando operation may have been ill-conceived and lacking in more imaginative tactics, but the essential morality of the mission is largely unquestioned.
To outsiders, Israel's siege of Gaza may seem cruel and capricious, but to Israelis familiar with Hamas' charter calling for Israel's destruction, the organization's virulent anti-Semitism, its history of murderous suicide bombings, and the launching of over 10,000 Qassam rockets into Israeli civilian population centers, the blockade is understood as a safeguarding of Israeli human rights, the primary one being the "right to life."
Contrary to much of the media hype decrying a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the truth is there is no starvation or even a lack of basic amenities in the Strip. Thousands of tons of food, medical supplies and other goods cross into Gaza from Israel every week, as photos and eyewitness reports attest to. What most of the media chooses to ignore is that the primary purpose of the blockade is preventing weapons smuggling from Iran, Syria and other nations hostile to Israel. The fear is that if weapons are freely transported into Gaza, the inevitable next round of fighting will see Israeli population centers all over the country in firing range of the longer range Scud and Grad missiles.
Ironically, the self-proclaimed "peace activists" on board the flotilla, align themselves with the misogynistic, repressive, anti-democratic, anti-nationalist, theocratic thugs of Hamas. Not a peep is heard about the human rights of Gilad Shalit, who has languished for four years now as Hamas' prisoner, with no contact permitted with the outside world, including the International Red Cross. So much for their stand on universal human rights.

--Below, three very interesting and creative suggestions on how to either end the siege of Gaza, or at least to shed some light (and quell the stench of mendacity, in the case of Liat Collins' aromatic approach) on the gross hypocrisy and double standards. And below that, excellent assessments by centrist voices like Yossi Klein Halevi, Daniel Gordis, Michael Oren, Gil Troy, Yaacov Lozowick, Liat Collins, and others
david brumer

Time to Leave Hamastan to Its Own Devices - Aluf Benn
Israel should inform the international community that it is abandoning all responsibility for Gaza residents and their welfare. The Israel-Gaza border would be completely sealed, and Gaza would have to obtain supplies and medical services via the Egyptian border, or by sea. A target date would be set for severing Gaza's water and electricity systems from those of Israel. The customs union with Israel would end, and the shekel would cease to be Gaza's legal tender. This isn't pleasant, but it is legal. A sovereign state has the right to close its borders, especially when its neighbors are hostile and hate-filled. Israel would also make it clear that it will exercise its right to self-defense by inspecting suspicious cargo on the high seas in order to thwart arms smuggling. That is also how the Western powers behave: They search cargo ships for nuclear weapons and missile components. And if we are shot at from Gaza, we will shoot back - with intent to cause harm. We have already proved that we can do so. This is Israel's opportunity. Instead of arguing with the international community, it should tell it: You want Gaza? Fine. Take it. (Ha'aretz)

It’s not Israel that is curtailing freedom in Gaza. Liat Collins
But not all real war is fought on the ground, at sea or in the skies any more. It’s waged in cyberspace and the world media.When I mentioned to friends and colleagues my “think roses not guns” idea regarding the ships, it raised a smile, but, with more vessels on the way, I still think it’s worth considering. I suggested Israel physically block the boats so that it would be the so-called peace seekers who’d have to ram Israeli ships rather than the Israelis “attacking” them. And then, instead of sending soldiers rappelling down onto the decks – where it was clear that they would not be met with hugs – I proposed that Israel bombard them with pamphlets informing them about Hamas-dominated life in Gaza, the missile attacks on Sderot and the South and the fate of Gilad Schalit. And I suggested we should drop quantities of roses on the participants. Bloodshed would be limited to the occasional prick (you can interpret that any way you like) while the cameras would have a decent image to spread around the world – not more warlike Israeli soldiers. Roses – the sweet smell of non-defeat.I doubt it would have persuaded many on the ships to change their opinions of Israelis, but it would have prevented the sickening waves of international condemnation screened on Israeli TV alongside the footage of soldiers being beaten, stabbed and in at least one case thrown from the deck of the Mavi Marmara by the ostensibly nonviolent protesters.

Diplomatic Entebbe Yaacov Lozowick
Benjamin Netanyahu should make a phone call to Obama, and tell him that he's about to make the following short speech:
Israel recognizes that the blockade of Gaza is causing human suffering, and wishes to end it as soon as possible. Since there are no Israeli forces or citizens in Gaza, and the border between it and Israel is undisputed, all that remains for Israel to fully desist from any sort of intervention in the lives of the Gazans is that they not interfere in the lives of Israelis. This means they must return the single Israeli still in Gaza, Gilad Shalit; they must desist from any form of aggression against Israel; and they must pay the bill for whatever services they receive from Israel such as electricity or medical bills of Gazan citizens. Should these terms be met, the blockade will be lifted completely and immediately.
Israel now turns to the United States, to Turkey, and to the United Nations. We hereby announce that it is our urgent wish to lift the blockade from Gaza so as to enable the Gazans to live their lives independently of us. We will take this measure as soon as you can assure us of the following:
1. There will be no attacks from Gaza on Israel.
2. Imports of aggressive weapons into Gaza will not happen.
3. Gilad Shalit has returned to his family.
Israel has decided that Gaza is the test for the continuation of the peace process. Should the international community in collaboration with the Palestinians be able to deliver the three simple conditions described above, Israel will be eager to move forward in negotiations regarding the West Bank. If these three simple conditions cannot be met by the Palestinians, or cannot be guaranteed by the US, Turkey and the United Nations, how can Israel lower its defensive abilities on the West Bank?The onus is now on you: Gazans, the United States, Turkey, and the United Nations. Please hurry, since the populace of Gaza is suffering, and we wish to end our part of that suffering as soon as possible. As Prime Minister of Israel, it is my intention to repeat this short speech once a week, every Monday morning New York/Washington time, until we are able to lift the blockade.

Israelis Wonder: Has the World Lost Its Mind? - Yossi Klein Halevi (Wall Street Journal)
The U.N. Security Council urgently convenes to create yet another anti-Israel kangaroo court—even as the sanctions effort against Iran's nuclear program falters.

The assumption that Israel was right to stop the flotilla - and right to maintain its siege on Hamas-led Gaza - is largely a given in Israel. How, Israelis wonder, can pro-Hamas activists wielding knives be confused for peace activists?
What is pro-peace about strengthening Hamas' grip on Gaza and thereby reducing the likelihood of a two-state solution? For that matter, what is pro-Palestinian about condemning the people of Gaza to jihadist rule?
Most Israelis believe that their country, under Labor and Kadima governments, made repeated efforts to achieve a two-state solution, only to be rebuffed by Palestinian leaders.
Israelis watch with cynical astonishment as the UN Security Council urgently convenes to create a Commission of Inquiry - yet another anti-Israel kangaroo court - even as the sanctions effort against Iran's nuclear program falters. They contrast the banner headlines in the world's media over the flotilla with the barely noted news item of recent days that Tehran now has enough uranium for two nuclear bombs.
And as some self-described friends of Israel are publicly wondering whether the Jewish state needs to be "saved from itself," Israelis reciprocate the outrage and ask: Has the world lost its mind?

To The Free Gaza Movement
David Harris
According to your website, you describe yourselves as a "human rights movement."You proclaim: "We respect the human rights of everyone, regardless of race, tribe, religion, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship or language."And yet nowhere is there evidence of your respect for the human rights of Israelis, who've been the targets of massive human rights violations by Hamas and other terror groups operating freely in Gaza. Are human rights indivisible, or only permitted for the groups you preselect? Actually, you answer that question at a deeper level when you assert that: "We recognize the right of all Palestinian refugees and exiles and their heirs to return to their homes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.... This is an individual and not a collective right, and cannot be negotiated except by the individual."In other words, not only do Israelis, who want nothing more than to live free of missile and mortar attacks from Gaza, have no such right, but the country in which they live has no right to exist. That's precisely what your formula means.

Why Does Israel Blockade Gaza? - Akiva Tor
Why does Israel maintain a blockade on Gaza and subject itself to international outcry? Simply put, we don't have much choice. After Hamas evicted the Palestinian Authority from Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007, rocket fire escalated, depopulating Israel's southern towns and kibbutzim. This forced us to supervise goods entering Gaza to prevent the import of rocket and munitions components. Eventually, we had to launch Operation Cast Lead to stop rocket attacks on our population. We now maintain a naval blockade in the hope that we won't have to fight again. Israel could invade Gaza and unseat Hamas by force, causing large casualties and much destruction in the process. Or Israel can isolate Hamas through a blockade until it changes its policies or is replaced by the Palestinian Authority. If we allow unfettered access to Gaza, it will become an Iranian-armed missile base on our doorstep, much as Lebanon has become under Hizbullah. Egypt's position does not differ greatly from our own. This is why we maintain a blockade. Our naval team, armed with paintball guns, planned to encounter political opponents, not a lynch mob armed with sharpened rods, knives and firebombs. The video evidence is unambiguous: When the force commander understood it was dead soldiers or bad PR, he made the only correct choice and authorized live fire. How did our intelligence fail? Maybe we read too many e-mails from peace activists. The moral selectivism of the Free Gaza Movement is troublesome. Why are they embracing Hamas - a movement that hates Jews, Christians, secular Muslims and any semblance of liberal values - rather than acting to strengthen the moderate Palestinian leadership? Where will their moral outrage be when a Scud missile shipped into Gaza lands in the center of Tel Aviv? The writer is the Israel consul general in San Francisco. (San Francisco Chronicle)

An Assault, Cloaked in Peace - Michael B. Oren
PEACE activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.
There are several curious aspects Israeli authorities are now investigating. About 100 of those detained were carrying immense sums in their pockets - nearly a million euros in total. Israel discovered spent bullet cartridges on the Mavi Marmara of a caliber not used by the Israeli commandos, some of whom suffered gunshot wounds. Also found on the boat were propaganda clips showing passengers "injured" by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (New York Times)

A Botched Raid, a Vital Embargo - Daniel Gordis
In the last few days, Jerusalem has been blanketed by an unusual combination of humiliation and steely determination.
Yet, despite widespread criticism at the way the raid was conducted, few here doubted that stopping the flotilla was the right thing to do. Life in Gaza is unquestionably oppressive; no one in his right mind would choose to live there. But there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; if anyone goes without food, shelter or medicine, that is by the choice of the Hamas government, which puts garnering international sympathy above taking care of its citizens. Israel has readily agreed to send into Gaza all the food and humanitarian supplies on the boats after they had been inspected for weapons.
Israelis are resigned to the fact that reason will not shake the world's blatant double standard. Our blockade of Gaza is "criminal"; yet nobody mentions that Egypt has had a blockade of Gaza in place since 2007, and has never hesitated to use lethal force against those trying to break it. Israel's geographic vulnerability means that we do not have the luxury of caving in to the world's condemnation. We will have to gird ourselves for the long, dangerous and lonely road ahead, buoyed by hope that what ultimately prevails will be not what is momentarily popular, but rather what is just. The writer is a vice president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (New York Times)

Gaza Flotilla in Context
The end of the story is that the attempt to divert a Turkish ship from breaking Israel's blockade of Gaza was a fiasco. Israel churned out video and testimony showing that the boarding force thought it was facing a ship full of naive Western Hamas supporters intent on grandstanding, while in reality it was a ship of Turkish and Arab thugs eager to participate in the war against the Jewish State, as if this would somehow win us the case. It won't. It will of course be important widely to disseminate these videos and reports, so as to bolster the base (in which spirit, I'm linking to Solomonia who seems to have the single best one-post roundup, while Elder of Ziyon has a raft of interesting posts reflecting his trawling of Arab sources. Many others also did fine work). Yet let us not delude ourselves: the operation was a failure. It caused a tidal wave of condemnation of Israel; it may yet lead to harmful diplomatic fallout; and while it achieved the narrow goal of upholding the blockade, it strengthened the resolve of our enemies, and enhanced the distaste many observers feel towards us. It may have been justified, but it wasn't wise. Most people will ask what Israeli troops were doing on the ship in the first place, thus canceling the impact of all those videos, and they'll ask why there's a blockade on Gaza that anyone needs to break, thus accepting the basic premise of the flotilla's organizers. We need to step back and remind ourselves of the broad picture of the concentric circles at whose center we live.

Armed Pacifists Vs. Paintball Commandos Gil Troy
The strange and sobering world of the Middle East conflict has now introduced a new phenomenon, the armed “peace activist,” seething with hate, professing pacifism, masquerading as an humanitarian, pounding away at another human being with a metal pole. The American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Amid all the indignant denunciations of Israel, with the Jewish state’s flag being burned the world over, it is nevertheless possible to hold two, seemingly opposing, groups of ideas at once. First: Israel’s commando raid was ill-conceived and poorly executed. The tragic human casualties and Israel’s diplomatic catastrophe should have been avoided. And the party with the greater firepower holds the greater responsibility, especially when it is a democracy. But at the same time, these alleged “peace activists” pulling weapons rather than pulling a Gandhi should give us pause. This was not a humanitarian operation but a power play. And the violence that began – on one boat – was clearly planned and intentional.

Israel’s Strategic Failure
Walter Russell Meade
Outrage reigns as Israel writhes, impaled on the horns of the same old dilemma once again.
It is an old and familiar story. Pursuing its security in a hostile environment, Israel takes a risky and perhaps a radical step. Something goes awry and people are killed. Waves of international outrage flood the globe. In the Arab countries, the Islamic world generally and increasingly in Europe, there are demonstrations, denunciations and protests. The United Nations debates condemnations of Israel. The United States, almost alone, stands aside, negotiating to soften any Security Council resolutions and expressing sympathy if not always full support of Israeli actions.

It’s not Israel that is curtailing freedom in Gaza. Liat Collins
I have decided to join the Free Gaza movement. My first goal is to make sure that every last Israeli soldier leaves Gaza. Well, admittedly there is only one IDF soldier there, but it has been proving very hard to get Gilad Schalit out. If we can persuade Hamas to release Schalit four years after it abducted him, Gaza will be free of an Israeli military presence. This won’t be easy, especially because even the human rights activists willing to risk their lives to reach Gaza weren’t prepared to ask that Schalit be allowed to meet with Red Cross officials or receive a care package from his family.Next, I want the women of Gaza to feel free. I’m not known for either my feminism or my dress sense but I can see that a state in which Hamas heavies are forcing schoolgirls to cover up cannot be healthy. Again, I might be fighting a losing battle: Almost lost among the media coverage of the May 31 flotilla affair – with its nine fatalities – was an item on the five brave women journalists who quit Al Jazeera rather than give in to the Qatar-based network’s demands that they wear head scarves and forgo makeup
.Also, it is clear to me (although not apparently to the flotilla’s participants) that parents should be free to choose which summer camp their kids attend. Last month, masked gunmen torched the premises of a UN-run summer camp in Gaza and left behind three bullets and a note threatening to kill top UN aid officials unless they cancel activities for some 250,000 Gaza children. Hamas runs its own summer camps, which seem to stress militancy for boys and modesty for girls but are a little lacking in the arts and crafts department.
The writer is the editor of The International Jerusalem Post.

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