Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shalit, Pollard and Jewish Leadership

30 December 09

On the surface, it looks like Netanyahu said no to the Hamas – albeit not explicitly. If that assessment is correct and Netanyahu is not simply employing delaying tactics to avoid releasing a particular terrorist, then we have witnessed a turning point in Israeli mentality. Israel is in the process of shedding the "peace process" mindset that has been forced upon it in the last generation. As long as we are in the midst of a peace process, what is wrong with freeing terrorists so that we may put an end to the suffering of the Shalit family? But if we are not in a peace process, but rather in a sophisticated form of war, then freeing terrorists is illogical.

Netanyahu saw the polls and knows that the general public is in favor of the deal to release a thousand terrorists for Shalit. But he also saw that he will receive no political dividends from the deal. On the contrary – according to the polls, the public's faith in him will actually decrease.

It is like a young child who is pestering his parents to give him a candy that will also give him a stomach ache. If we would take a poll, we would discover that the child is in favor of the candy – but that he is also opposed to the stomach ache. In any event, his thanks to his parents for the candy will quickly be transformed into anger over his stomach ache.

Both Gilad Shalit and Jonathan Pollard can be quickly redeemed without endangering our soldiers. But for that to happen, we need Jewish leadership that will proudly and fearlessly take the simple steps necessary to release our captives.

Until Israel connects to its Jewish values and mentality, we will not be able to release our captives.
Click here for Moshe Feiglin's article "Why Isn't Gilad Shalit Home Yet?"


The 45th anniversary of...what?

Elder of Ziyon
31 December 09

Mahmoud Abbas will be giving what is billed as an important speech tonight, marking the 45th anniversary of the "start of the Palestinian revolution."

What momentous event happened 45 years ago?

Yasir Arafat co-founded Fatah in 1954 along with a number of other people, mostly Palestinian Arabs who were working in Gulf states and who went to college in Cairo. The PLO was founded in May,1964 and Fatah did not join it until 1967. There were other, mostly small, Palestinian Arab "liberation" groups that formed in the 1950s and 1960s.

So what, in Mahmoud Abbas' mind, was the seminal event that occurred 45 years ago?

(Read full post)

Another Year, Another Peace Process

Rick Richman
31 December 09

Carl in Jerusalem has a perceptive analysis of Secretary Clinton’s statement on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, addressing some of the concerns in my post about the omitted phrase “defensible borders” — a diplomatic term of art that has been dropped without explanation from the lexicon of the Obama administration.

Carl notes another significant omission, this time on the Palestinian side: Clinton referred to the goal of an “independent and viable” Palestinian state but omitted a word that has been insisted upon by the Palestinians:

There’s a key word missing here: contiguous. I have argued many times on this blog that if a ‘Palestinian’ state is contiguous, then by definition the Jewish state would be neither contiguous nor secure. Thus Clinton’s omission of the word contiguous from her formulation, if tracked in the [potential] letter to the “Palestinians,” is significant.

There may be a connection here. If a “contiguous” Palestinian state is not consistent with an Israeli one with “defensible” borders — and vice versa — Clinton may have simply ducked the issue by leaving both words out of her statement.

As the year ends, it is time for a broader look at the peace process, which has to date produced three Israeli withdrawals (from Lebanon, Gaza, and part of the West Bank); three Israeli offers of a Palestinian state (at Camp David, in the Clinton Parameters, and during the Annapolis Process); three Palestinian rejections; and three wars – one from each area of the withdrawal. The enterprise is apparently too big to fail, even though it repeatedly does.

(Read full post)


Obama's 2010 Policy and Iran: Misconceptions Guarantee Failure

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
31 December 09

A friend of mine is angry, saying I’m too tough on President Barack Obama and that nothing he does pleases me. Well, I wish he’d do more that pleases me, and disconcerts America’s enemies.

True, he has done three good things lately: his Nobel speech, which sounded like it was actually given by a U.S. president; his remarks on the demonstrations in Iran (better six months late than never), and his tough verbal stance about investigating the mistakes that led to the near disaster (though I worry they’re less about dramatic change and more just a show to reassure the public that something will be done). I also pointed out that the administration’s relationship with Israel was pretty good overall.

Yet on the single most important Middle East issue, Iran’s nuclear program and its aggressive ambitions, hints about his policy are getting worrisome both because of what this administration isn’t doing and what it’s obviously thinking. The year has now ended with no major public move toward imposing serious sanctions.

True, there are a few statements you can dig out indicating a turn in that direction. Yet what should have happened was a major public speech by December 31 about the administration’s sanction plans. After all, it set that date as a deadline for action ten months ago yet let it pass with no visible action.

There are other bad signs that the administration still doesn’t comprehend the problems it faces. The likely sending of Senator John Kerry to Tehran is a terrible idea. It signals to the Tehran regime U.S. desperation to make a deal and chooses a highly unqualified envoy with too big an incentive to get some hint of agreement at any price. (Meanwhile, further weakening the Western hand, an 11-member EU parliamentary delegation is visiting Tehran and will make clear how eager the Europeans are to make concessions in exchange for Iran offering some kind of deal.)

Of even more concern is the strategy revealed by officials in interviews with the Washington Post: that the sanctions are focused “against discrete elements of the Iranian government, including those involved in the deadly crackdown on Iranian protesters….” In other words, they’ll put sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its front companies.

(Read full article)

Code Pink's "Gaza Freedom" Mockery

Eric Trager
30 December 09

If you've been following CODEPINK's so-called "Gaza Freedom March" on the blogosphere, then you probably know what it is against.
First and foremost, it is against the "siege of Gaza." We don't know whether it was similarly against the thousands of rockets that Hamas fired onto Israeli civilians that preceded this "siege," but we are left to assume CODEPINK's indifference -- because, as its most erstwhile participants have indicated, the "Freedom" marchers are overwhelmingly against Israel's very existence.

So, no, the "Freedom" marchers don't support U.S.-led efforts at forging a two-state solution because -- surprise, surprise! -- they are also
against U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, on Monday, the marchers protested in front of the American embassy in downtown Cairo. Of course, they are hardly the first people to protest against the U.S. in Egypt's capital -- but they are probably the first to spend over $1000 on plane tickets to do so.
And now that the Egyptian government is blocking CODEPINK from traveling to Gaza, guess what? They're against the Egyptian government, too. Of course, you never heard from CODEPINK when the Egyptian government was imprisoning opposition leaders, beating bloggers, or televising bigoted programming. That's because CODEPINK's leaders only get angry when autocracy impinges on them.

The 'Israelification' of airports: High security, little bother

Cathal Kelly
Toronto Star
30 December 09

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience.

"It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."

That, in a nutshell is "Israelification" - a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

"The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport," said Sela.

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

(Read full article)

Related: Sometimes MSM loves the Sabra experts

Sometimes, the MSM Loves Sabra Experts

Honest Reporting/Backspin
30 December 09

It's interesting how people naturally relate to "Jewish wisdom" when an Israeli is interviewed about something other than politics or the Mideast conflict. It's been awhile since I've seen a "watchable sabra" on the air.

Just listen to the interplay between the Fox interview team and Isaac Yeffet.

Related: The "Israelification" of airports

In defiance of demographic fatalism

Yoram Ettinger
30 December 09

In 1948, prime minister David Ben-Gurion declared independence in defiance of demographic fatalism, which was perpetrated by the country's leading demographers. He rejected their assumptions that Jews were doomed to be a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, that a massive aliya wave was not feasible, that the Jewish fertility rate was declining to below reproduction levels and that the Arab fertility rate would remain the highest in the world, irrespective of modernity.

Instead, Ben-Gurion highlighted demographic optimism and aliya as top national priorities, coalesced a solid Jewish majority and planted the seeds that catapulted Israel to a Middle East power, highly respected for its civilian and military achievements.

In 2005, in capitulation to demographic fatalism, prime minister Ariel Sharon retreated from Palestinian terrorism, uprooting 10,000 Jews from Gaza and Samaria. Sharon abandoned his lifelong ideology of defiance, subordinating long-term strategy and security concerns to doomsday demography. Thus, he facilitated Hamas's takeover of Gaza and its ripple effects: slackened posture of deterrence, intensified shelling of southern Israel, the 2006 Second Lebanon War, 2008's Operation Cast Lead, the Goldstone Report and the exacerbated global pressure on Israel.

DEMOGRAPHIC ASSUMPTIONS have played an increasing role in shaping national security policy since 1992. But what if these assumptions are dramatically wrong? For example, since the beginning of annual aliya in 1882 - and in contradiction to demographic projections - the Jewish population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean has grown 238-fold, while the Arab population increased only sixfold. Since 1948, the Jewish population has increased almost tenfold, and the Arab population has expanded threefold.

(Read full article)

From shelled to sheltered: Sderot's new reality

Jeff Abramowitz
Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Sderot Media Center
24 December 09

Sderot, Israel (DPA) - This winter, Eli Asayag has opened the windows of his cafe. A year ago they were tightly shuttered, hopeful protection against rockets that were raining down onto southern Israel and especially on Sderot, located about three kilometres from the Gaza Strip.

Sderot residents are breathing easier today, 12 months after last winter's war between Israel and Gaza militants. Israel had launched the campaign after years of rocket fire from Gaza on its southern towns and villages.

However, even though rocket fire is no longer a feature of daily life in Sderot and other towns and villages close to the Gaza Strip, it is not yet a distant memory. Rockets are still launched from the salient, but in far, far fewer numbers.

"This last year was one of the calmest in the last 10, possibly even 20 years. Only 284 missiles were launched at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, compared to 3,200 in 2008," says Noam Bedein, who heads an NGO in Sderot.

"We feel the conflict has not ended 100 per cent, but we do feel a difference," notes Sderot supermarket owner Yakov Dahan.

"At last our children can go out onto the streets, to join in outdoor activities," he says.

Yet for all the palpable sense of relief residents say they feel after Israel's offensive, the trauma of the past decade, when a total of 12,000 rockets were launched at southern Israel, remains.

(TY to :"Israel Patriot" for Youtube suggestion)

Residents still remember the fear that the constant threat of rocket attacks used to bring.

(Continue article)

UNRWA's John Ging Exaggerates Gaza Destruction

30 December 09

First it was Jimmy Carter and then came Gideon Levy. Now UNRWA's John Ging jumps on the bandwagon, wildly exaggerating the number of Gaza homes destroyed and damaged during Israel's Operation Cast Lead. A Dec. 29, 2009 UN News Centre report states:

“The Israeli blockade has meant that almost no reconstruction materials have been allowed to move into Gaza even though 60,000 homes were either damaged or completely destroyed. So we in UNRWA have been saying ‘let's lift this senseless blockage,’” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told UN Radio.

It seems that Mr. Ging has not been doing the requisite U.N. reading homework. Paragraph 1238 of the U.N.'s Goldstone report reads:

Figures about the overall damage to residential housing vary according to the source and time of the measurement as well as the methodology. The human rights NGO Al Mezan reports that a total of 11,135 homes were partially or fully destroyed. According to the human rights NGO Al-Dameer-Gaza, 2,011 civilian and cultural premises were destroyed, of which 1,404 were houses that were completely demolished and 453 partially destroyed or damaged. A UNDP survey immediately after the end of military operations reported 3,354 houses completely destroyed and 11,112 partially damaged.

(Read full post)


A right of return to what?

Seth Frantzman
Terra Incognita
29 December 09

One of the holy grails of the Palestinian movement is the "right of return," and it is one that always haunts any peace agreement. Alongside it is one of the most vilified pieces of Israeli legislation, the Absentee Property Law, which has provided more grist for the academic mill of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than anything else. Even after 60 years of conflict, there is very little understanding by Palestinians or others of either the concept of "return" or that of absentee property - which together represent an idea and the thing to which people might return.

It is important to begin with something that should seem undisputed. Why is there such a dispute as to the total number of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948? The UN claimed, based on British estimates, that there were 1,076,000 Muslims, 13,500 Druse and 145,000 Christians in Palestine in 1947. After the War of Independence there were 32,000 Christians, 90,000 Muslims and 14,000 Druse. Some 507,000 people lived in the West Bank and Gaza before 1948. No more than 592,000 people could have become refugees, and that is using the Mandatory government's population estimate, which was probably an exaggeration. It is the descendants of those people who today claim a right of return.

THERE ARE many Palestinians who, clinging to their ancient keys and documents relating to some property in Israel, have come to visualize a return to a place that is a fantasy. I've spent enough time traveling around the country with educated Palestinians to come across this distortion of memory. Palestinians have an attachment to things that they believe relate to their ancestors, such as old mosques that remain in many places. But they also have an attachment to things that they assume are Palestinian, such as Nahlaot in Jerusalem. The area, built from stone, seems to many Arabs to remind them of the Old City, and they wrongly assume that it must have been an Arab area. Thus some of the "right of return" relates to areas that were never Arab, but which Arabs imagine must have been Arab because of the way they look.

(Read full article)

AP Photo Caption Errs on Roads "For Jews"

30 December 09

Rehashing an old canard (see here and here) that there are West Bank roads that are for "Jews only," an AP photo caption from yesterday reads:
443 jews only.jpg
FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 4, 2008 file photo, Palestinian, Israeli and foreign protesters run from tear gas fired by Israeli troops, bottom, during a demonstration on Highway 443 near the West Bank village of Beit Horon outside Jerusalem. Israel's Supreme Court ordered the military on Tuesday Dec. 29, 2009 to allow Palestinians to travel on the part of Highway 443 that runs through the West Bank, handing Palestinians their biggest victory yet against Israel's practice of reserving some roads for Jews. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
As documented earlier by CAMERA, while there are some West Bank roads prohibited to Palestinian traffic, there are no roads either in Israel or the West Bank reserved only for Jews, as this caption claims. The difference is significant -- while most Palestinians may not travel on Highway 443 (this will change in the next five months) and certain other West Bank roads, Israeli Arabs -- Christians and Muslims -- most certainly may.
AP's Amy Teibel accurately described the restriction in her article yesterday, saying that "Israel has created a system of roads in the West Bank restricted to Israeli use." Moreover, AP corrected this very same error last year.
See here and here for other recent AP photo miscaptions.

The double standard exposed: Iran v. Israel

Meryl Yourish
30 December 09

Iranians are being murdered in the streets. The sister of Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel peace laureate who is not currently in Iran, was arrested and imprisoned apparently for the crime of being Shirin’s sister. The Iranians are beating protesters, hanging protesters, torturing protesters, and have been doing so since last year.

And the world’s outrage this month is focused on—Israel. At Human Rights Watch, the last comment on Iran was Dec. 10th, where there is an article titled “Iran: Stop harassing Shirin Ebadi.” There is nothing to date about the current wave of protests, beatings, and murders.

The UN website is concentrating on Gaza. And Gaza. And Gaza. And Gaza. Four news releases in the last week on Gaza. How many on Iran? You’re kidding, right? Because the last one was over a month ago, and it was about Iran’s nuclear violations.

(Read full post)


Hassan Nasrallah made four mistakes

Michael Young
Daily Star (Lebanon)
31 December 09

In his Ashoura speech this past weekend, Hizbullah’s secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, irritated many Christians. He recommended that they take stock of their situation, especially, as he described it, the mistaken wager that some Christians once placed on Israel; but also, Nasrallah implied, their more recent dependence on the West in general and the United States in particular.

Nasrallah urged Christians “not to accept that some of them push [the community] toward suicide built on artificial fear and the [fear] of a bogeyman raised constantly and daily.” He went on to advise that Christians engage in “a calm dialogue between themselves … over their present and future choices to benefit from the experiences of the past.”

At one level, Nasrallah’s statements were interpreted as a warning to those Christian parties, above all the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb, who have opposed the government’s legitimization of Hizbullah’s weapons. It is in this vein that Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces, responded that Nasrallah’s comments suggested that there was no need for a national dialogue over the weapons, even though such a process was approved during the Doha conference of May 2008.

However, there was something far more disturbing in what Nasrallah said, much more illustrative of Hizbullah’s impossible relationship with the Lebanese system. Echoes of this we heard several weeks ago, when the secretary general read his party’s new program. It is that Hizbullah today is challenging a key foundation of post-Independence Lebanon as a place between East and West, belonging to neither but also – and this was always understood – open to, and ambiguously even a part of, both.

There has long been in Hizbullah’s actions and public discourse a desire to turn Lebanon against the West, or at least to widen the rift between the two. Nasrallah’s mention of Israel was but a pretext, since Christians long ago, and quite sensibly, gave up on an Israeli alliance. The assault on Lebanon’s Western sympathies began during the 1980s when Hizbullah and its precursors abducted Americans and Europeans in Beirut, several of whom were murdered or allowed to die; and it continued during the postwar period, when the party used resistance against Israel as a byword to justify the broader rejection of American and European influence in Lebanese affairs. At the time this found favor with Syria, which saw the attitude as reinforcing Syrian exclusivity in shaping Lebanon’s future.

After 2005, and the Syrian withdrawal, Hizbullah went a step further. Because the party was obliged more than ever before to anchor itself in Lebanese realities, without a Syrian Army protecting its back and allowing it to focus on the conflict with Israel, it became imperative for Hizbullah to mobilize anti-Western sentiment nationally. The endeavor was mostly unsuccessful, until the party was rewarded when it pushed Michel Aoun and his Christian followers into a confrontation with the United States and, to a lesser extent, with the Europeans, by forcing the general to make a priority of defending his affiliation with Hizbullah.

(Read full article)

Rundown on the Silencing of Darwish at Princeton

"Under God's power she flourishes."

30 December 09

A few weeks after Nonie Darwish, Egyptian, former Muslim and founder of Arabs for Israel, was prevented from speaking at Princeton University, Princeton's Conservative paper, The Princeton Tory, published a piece detailing what caused the last minute cancellation of Darwish's lecture.

Imam Sohaib Sultan, Muslim Life Coordinator and Chaplain at Princeton University, took offense at quotes he attributed to Nonie Darwish and felt she attacked all of Islam in her presentations. Comparing Darwish to a "neo-Nazi," Sultan called on the sponsors to reexamine the invitation, and they did.

Writing in the Tory, Aaron Smargon ’11 observed:

Sadly, if only [those opposed to Darwish's appearance at Princeton] had listened to even twenty seconds of Nonie Darwish's prepared speech, they may have learned something: "I want to stress that I am not here to offend the good and peace-loving Muslims; but I am speaking out and trying to expose horrific human rights violations in Muslim countries, allowed under Sharia law. How can we ignore suppression of freedoms of speech and religion, and the demonizing of whole groups of people such as Jews and Christians in the Middle East?"

A Nov. 23, 2009 letter to the Daily Princetonian, co-authored by CAMERA's Aviva Slomich, defended Nonie Darwish's right to speak on campus:

(Read full post)


World's Largest Desalinization Plant comes On-line in Israel

Charlie Ettinson
Thoughts: A Buck Each
30 December 09

The world's largest water desalinization plant has begun operation in Hadera, in Israel. The plant should be able to provide 300 million cubic meters of water every year which is just shy of one third of the water Israel's National Water Carrier currently provides. The new facility will be the cornerstone of Israel's new national water carrier which, rather than relying on natural sources of water such as the Sea of Galilee--already under heavy strain--will rely on desalinized water.

As a first point, it may not be true that this plant is the largest in the world.
This article, for example, suggests that the largest water desalinization plant in the world just opened in Saudi Arabia. It's possible that this plant has overshadowed the Saudi one, or perhaps it's a different type of facility. It really is immaterial, but could nonetheless be an error in the original article.

Secondly, though desalinization can have negative environmental effects, this is a project that should be welcomed. Given the extreme damage being done to the sea of Galilee by the large amount of water being withdrawn from it, any small environmental impact in the Mediterranean could be eclipsed by the benefits of reducing pressure on the Sea of Galilee and on the Jordan river and Dead Sea which it feeds.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Security for Israel, By Israel

Rabbi Meir Chai Hy”d

Report #: 950
28 December 09

[Note: at the Sunday funeral of the three men, thousands of Palestinians chanted anti-PA slogans, accusing the Palestinian Authority of "collusion" with Israel to arrest, disarm and kill Fatah military operatives. A largely unreported story is the unhappiness of Palestinians with the ruthlessness of the PA security forces in hunting down its internal enemies-Hamas, to be sure, but recalcitrant Fatah members and others as well. The United States and international "human rights" organizations have been completely and utterly silent about vicious abuses taking place inside the PA. It may be that the Palestinian public is reaching the limits of its patience with its own security force.]

On Thursday, three Palestinians murdered teacher and father of seven Rabbi Meir Chai in the West Bank. On Friday, Israeli forces surrounded the Nablus homes of the three suspects, all members of Fatah's al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, and demanded they surrender. Israeli intelligence had identified the men and cautioned that all three were armed. One came out holding his wife in front of him. The second refused to come out of his house, which was filled with family members. The third went to his attic and was shouting "Allah Akhbar" as the Israelis came upstairs. All three, but no others, were killed.

According to Ha'aretz, the Obama Administration, acting on complaints from the Palestinian Authority, requested that Israel "explain." The Palestinians had asked the United States to condemn the raid as a violation of Palestinian authority in Area A, saying Israel should have asked the PA security forces to arrest the three. American officials received both the intelligence information and the details of the operation, and thus far at least, the administration has declined to offer an opinion.

Which is wise, as there are bigger issues at play here.

(Read full report)

Blaming Israel First

P. David Hornik
30 December 09

From Van Jones to Valerie Jarrett, the Obama has made a series of politically extreme personnel appointments that it has since come to regret. Its latest hire bids fair to continue the pattern. President Obama has appointed an “anti-Semitism czar,” Hannah Rosenthal, who appears singularly unqualified for the job. Her first target of criticism has not been an anti-Semitic exponent or event. Rather, it is Israel’s Jewish ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, who has drawn her ire for the offense of disparaging a liberal group with which Rosenthal has been affiliated.
Not surprisingly for a liberal-Democratic administration, Rosenthal has a liberal-Democratic background. She worked for the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, and in 1992 and 1996 was a leader of the Wisconsin Clinton-Gore campaigns. From 2000 to 2005 she was executive director of the liberal Jewish Council for Public Affairs. More recently she’s been on the advisory council of the ostensibly “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J Street and JStreetPAC.
Ideally, it shouldn’t matter. Isn’t “to monitor and combat anti-Semitism”—from the “anti-Semitism czar’s” official job title—a bipartisan concern for Jews and a consensus concern for all decent people? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Some Jews define themselves highly invidiously in opposition to other Jews. Rosenthal appears to be one of them.

Book Review: "The Invention of the Jewish People"

Ricki Hollander
Media Analysis
30 December 09

The Invention of the Jewish People
Shlomo Sand, Translated by Yael Lotan
Verso, London New York, 2009

When it comes to undermining the legitimacy of the Jewish state, there is no thesis too absurd to be published. In fact, one can assume that any book attacking the idea of Jewish nationalism will gain a following (and even garner awards), regardless of how preposterous the underlying thesis.

Such is the case with "The Invention of the Jewish People" a book by Shlomo Sand who teaches French history at Tel Aviv University. The thesis: There is no such thing as a Jewish people; today's Jews have no connection to biblical Israelites or to Jews who inhabited Israel during the time of the Second Temple; rather, they are descended from disparate groups of people who converted to Judaism and had no ties to the land of Israel. Conversely, there was no exile of Jews from the land of Israel; most Jews remained in the land, converted to Islam and were the progenitors of present-day Palestinians.

Sand acknowledges his mission is to prove invalid the foundation of Zionism – the idea of a Jewish state built on a Jewish ancestral homeland -- and to promote instead the idea of a single non-Jewish state of Arabs and Jews. His qualifications for this project lie – not in Jewish history scholarship (his field is French nationalism and cinema), but – in his communist, anti-nationalist and anti-Zionist background and politics (which he proudly mentions in the book's preface). His thesis whereby Arabs – and not Jews– are the rightful inheritors of the land provides the support for his political argument.

What about the earlier historical writings that negate his theories? Sand discards them as the fabrications of 19th and 20th century Jewish historians who fabricated "myths" and constructed "memories" of Jewish nationhood. Moreover, he contends the invented version of events was kept alive in Jewish history departments throughout Israel, the U.S. and Europe by Zionists who "created an iron-jawed vise that prevented any deviation from the dominant narrative."

The author does not pretend to reveal any new primary source material. His conceit is that he is keener and more honest than the "authorized" experts in Jewish history whom he disparages, and that he, by contrast, is uncovering "surprising connections" and offering "unexpected insights."

(Read full review)

Related: Review by Simon Schama

Donald Macintyre's Tunnel Vision

Honest Reporting/Backspin
30 December 09

Donald Macintyre looks at Gaza one year after the war in a special dispatch written for The New Statesman. One particular statement startles me, because Macintyre has been covering Israel for The Independent for several years. He writes:

The war was started with the stated purpose of ending the surge of rocket attacks on southern Israel by Gaza militants. These began when a ceasefire broke down, after an Israeli raid in November.

After discovering a 245 meter tunnel leading into Israel, which the Palestinians intended to use to kidnap IDF soldiers, the army launched an incursion to destroy the tunnel. Hamas responded with 35 Qassam rockets.

For those of us not afflicted with Macintyre's tunnel vision, the cease fire broke down when Hamas dug that tunnel.

UPDATE Dec. 30: The article was trimmed down, and this particular snippet isn't there anymore. Looks like I happened to get a peek at some content that wasn't intended to be published online; here's the note at the bottom of the page:

To read the full version of this piece, pick up a copy of this week's New Statesman, available in all good newsagents.

Israel, State and Nation

Daniel Greenfield
Sultan Knish
30 December 09

It is difficult to comprehend the extent to which the left has inserted appeasement into the culture and the educational system of the State of Israel. From the youngest ages children are taught to pursue appeasement dressed up as peace, with the same enthusiasm and verve that Palestinian Arab children are taught to pursue Jihad. The anniversary of the assassination of leftist Prime Minister Rabin is treated as an extended series of events that seems to stretch on forever, as leftist politicians call for peace with Arab terrorists "at any cost" and denounce the right for inciting the murder of Rabin by criticizing his creation of a terrorist state within Israel's borders. Not the anniversary of Israel's independence nor the commemoration of the Holocaust has the moral stature anymore that Israel's left has invested into "Chag Rabin".

And the results of the left's propaganda campaign can be seen in the falling recruitment numbers and the rise of draft dodging. As much as a quarter of Israeli men now dodge the draft, and a far larger number of women. This is all the more shocking in a country where a generation ago draft dodgers were held in contempt and found leading a normal civilian life nearly impossible. The credit for this transformation belongs to the left, whose politicians had preached to a new generation that the army was irrelevant, whose reporters smeared soldiers at every turn, whose activists stood guard at checkpoints to prevent IDF soldiers from doing their jobs, who treated draft dodgers as heroes for refusing to serve in the "Occupation Army".

The sharp rise in draft dodging by the sons and daughters of the left, from former Prime Minister Olmert's own son down, has moved the burden of service over to the Religious Zionist community, the patriotic sector of Israel that has not been infected by the left's agenda. While the left complained that their sons were forced to die for the settlements, the Settlers became the IDF, fighting and dying for Ashkelon and Haifa. The heroes of the last Lebanon war, such as Major Roi Klein, who threw himself on a grenade to protect his men, and the casualties, increasingly came from the settlements. While Olmert's sons were living abroad, it was the sons of the settlements, from the families of men and women living on Israel's frontier with Islamic terror, who went out and fought.

Unsurprisingly this also paralleled the left's war against the Religious Zionist community, from the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish communities of Gaza, to the criminalizing of political dissent for children as young as 13 and a constant demonization campaign by the domestic and international media. With the burden of military service increasingly coming down on Religious Zionist soldiers, even as the left was working feverishly to crush Religious Zionists for representing an obstacle to their plans for Israel, the resulting paradox in which the left needs Religious Zionist soldiers to crush Religious Zionist communities has touched off a feverish debate within Israel.

(Read full article)

What Happened to “Defensible Borders”?

Rick Richman
29 December 09

The Jerusalem Post reports that George Mitchell will return to the Middle East in early January and quotes an Arab diplomat saying that Mitchell will present “two draft letters of guarantee, one for Israel and one to the Palestinian Authority” as a basis for renewing negotiations. The Post reports that a senior Israeli diplomatic source said “the terms of reference Mitchell is reportedly bringing would probably closely resemble [Hillary Clinton’s] statement” last month, which read as follows:

We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Letters of assurance have previously played an important part in the peace process. In 1997, Secretary of State Christopher wrote to Israel to assure it that the U.S. supported “defensible borders” for Israel as the conclusion of the peace process. In 2004, President Bush reassured Israel of the “steadfast commitment” of the U.S. to defensible borders. In his “Let Me Be Clear” address to AIPAC in 2008, Barack Obama stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders,” reflecting the longstanding U.S. commitment.

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Yehoram Gaon: Proposal for Peace

Excerpted from Yehoram Gaon Marks 50 Years in Show Biz
by Hana Levi Julian
29 December 09

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Gaon observes that the current order to freeze Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria is not really feasible. “You cannot freeze settlements – it is impossible to freeze life,” he points out. “If a child is age three, you can’t tell him to stop growing because you want to ‘freeze’ him a few months. It was the state that also sent the settlers to live there [in those communities,],” he says. But he also notes that “on a practical level, I do not approve of angering the entire world. We’re not living alone [on this planet], and we depend on other countries as well.”

His proposal for peace, surprisingly, is to try something not tried before – do nothing. “I recommend something no one has ever done – and I know that unfortunately no one will ever do it. I suggest we take a break,” he says. “For 50 years, no negotiations, and we won’t conduct discussions with committees.

“During that timeout, we build ourselves. Look at how we are battered between ourselves, within our own society. If the Arabs try to attack us – fine. We already know how to protect ourselves, and we will manage.”

After the “break,” says Gaon, “we’ll see how the Arabs will treat us differently. Today, everything is about “now.” Everyone is saying ‘Peace NOW.’ It’s a problematic statement. You want everything now, without waiting. You have to understand that at the moment, there is no one to talk to.

“Sometimes I ask myself whether the hareidi-religious Jews aren’t right, when they argue that it was a mistake to go up to the [Temple Mount]. Maybe just as there are opinions that the Temple will come down from heaven, so too will peace also descend upon us from the sky,” he says hopefully.

Victims of Dictatorship Unite: Why Central Europeans, Jews and Israelis Should Cooperate, Not Compete

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
30 December 09

Note: This article is a response to an op-ed by Ephraim Zuroff in the Jerusalem Post. To show my respect for Mr. Zuroff, I gave a blurb which is on the back cover of his latest book. But it is necessary to rethink the relationship between Jews and the peoples of Central Europe—including Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and other countries—regarding the events of the World War Two era. Rather than compete over our sufferings in that period, we should join forces in exploring and exposing the traumas of that period.

Central to Mr. Zuroff’s argument is the claim that any emphasis by Central European countries regarding their own sufferings during World War Two—especially if it focuses on the oppression of the Stalinist USSR—is somehow a challenge to the uniqueness and importance of the mass murder of Jews in those countries. Indeed, it is implied that this effort borders on or even exemplifies antisemitism.

I think this argument is fallacious and a strategic mistake. It is never a good idea to concea history. Due to the existence of the Soviet Union and Soviet bloc until 1991, the truth about the terrible oppression of Lithuanians, Latvians, Poles, Ukrainians, and others was hidden away from the world until recently. As part of their national reassertion, these peoples want to highlight what happened to them and the full horror of their sufferings.

They have every right to do so. And why should we oppose this as long as it does not come with the ignoring or justification of the Shoah? Is our highest priority to set up a competition of suffering , in which we define these oppressions as conflicting rather than mutually reinforcing? Instead, we should fully participate, as Jews and Israelis, in this process for several good reasons.

One factor is that many Jews were among the victims of Soviet repression. In the Lithuanian museum in Vilnius housed in the former KGB headquarters, it is pointed out that about ten percent of those deported by the Soviets in 1940-1941 were Jews. One of them was Menahem Begin. Although being sent to Siberia saved those who survived those camps, this was not the intention. Almost 1,000 Jews were massacred by the KGB in the Katyn forest along with thousands of Poles. Is the blood of these Jews and the tens of thousands who perished in the Soviet Gulag of lesser value than those murdered by the Germans?

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