Friday, September 24, 2004

Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Hatima Tov

Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and the most solemn day in the Jewish year, starts at sundown this evening. (As of this writing it has already started in Israel.) For Jews around the world it is a time of fasting, prayer, and repentance. In Israel everything shuts down for Yom Kippur, from television and radio stations, to public transportation, to all non-emergency government services. Most Israeli Jews, even those who normally consider themselves secular, will be in a synagogue for Kol Nidre services tonight.

Sadly, Yom Kippur also means a high alert in Israel as the Palestinians always step up their campaign of terror during the Jewish High Holy Days. This week we have already seen two young Israeli border policemen, age 19 and 20, give their lives to stop a suicide bomber in the heart of Jerusalem, almost certainly saving dozens of lives and scores of injuries. We have seen injuries as Qassam rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza strip struck a school and a private home in Sderot, in Israel proper. Tiferet Trantner, a 24 woman was killed this morning in Neve Dekalim in Gaza, when mortars slammed into her home. She was a civillian, not a soldier, and her settlement, really a thoroughly modern town, is scheduled for unilateral withdrawal next year.

Of course, Israeli withdrawal and an end to occupation doesn't matter to the terrorists. Nothing short of the destruction of Israel will do. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, in hiding in Gaza, is quoted:

"The fact is that Palestine, all of Palestine, belongs to the Muslims. Any temporary plan that refers only to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem does not negate our absolute right to all of Palestine."

The sad fact remains that the 84 year old war between Israel and the Arabs is, was, and always has been about the expulsion or extermination of the Jewish people. It seems to me that peace with people who will accept no compromise and only want to be able to commit genocide and wipe out a nation is not a possibility. Despite this President Bush, together with the U.N., keep insisting that Israel make concessions prior to the Palestinians taking even one step to end terror attacks. Of course, asking terrorists to stop terrorism is a bit ridiculous. Would President Bush be willing to make unilateral concessions to al-Qaida in the hope that it might promote peace? I think not.

There is also a long tradition of attacking on the holiest day of the Jewish year. In 1973 all of Israel's neighbors thought Yom Kippur the perfect day to launch a war when Israel would be in prayer. Memorials to those who gave their lives 31 years ago to prevent the destruction of the Jewish state are also being held today.

Elsewhere around the world those who hate the Jewish people see the High Holy Days as a time to vent their anti-Semitism. In Ostrava, Czech Republic a Holocaust memorial was vandalized this week. Addressing the worldwide rise in anti-Semitism and the United Nations' perpetual one-sided and totally biased condemnations of Israel, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called on the world body:

" address the growth of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and intolerance."

On Thursday he called on the General Assembly to "refocus its priorities":

"I call on this assembly to end its obsession with Israel and to ensure that UN resources are allocated more equally and more effectively. We must not let the Palestinian desire to vilify Israel distract our global community from the obligation to address the needs of all peoples."

I fear his plea fell on deaf ears. Israel and the Jewish people have few friends in this world. In this time of reflection I ask that all of Israel's friends and supporters think about how we can better defend Israel and insure her continued existence.

I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Hatima Tov, a greeting for the Sabbath and an easy fast on this Yom Kippur.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

For a Better Middle East Policy: Elect John Kerry

American voters concerned about Israel find themselves in an enviable position during this election. One choice is an incumbent President who has shown himself to be a friend of Israel who has not minced words in condemning Palestinian terror. He also clearly understands that U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 never called on Israel to return to the 1949 armistice line and that the Green Line was never an acceptable or secure border. The other choice is a Senator who has been one of Israel's staunchest supporters for two decades. His campaign platform on Middle East issues, as detailed in his book with Senator John Edwards, "Our Plan for America", makes the same points the President makes but then goes farther, pledging support for keeping Jerusalem a united city as Israel's capital and has repeatedly supported moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a promise also made but subsequently broken by President Bush. Senator Kerry also pledges himself to combating anti-Israel propaganda in the media.

In an interview last week with IBA News anchor Yochanon Elron, former Foreign and Defense Minister Moshe Arens, a member of the ruling Likud party, stated that Israel's special relationship with Washington and the alliance between the U.S. and Israel will remain strong no matter who is elected President in November. I agree with Dr. Arens that this is true. One might conclude that pro-Israel voters can safely concentrate on other issues when making their choice in November. I, however, still believe there is a significant difference in how the foreign policies of President Bush and Senator Kerry will impact Israel, and I have come to the conclusion that it would be best for Israel if Senator Kerry is elected.

We cannot really know if President Bush decided to invade Iraq based on poor intelligence he received or if he was determined to make a case for invading Iraq from the start. We do know the consequences to date of the invasion and the subsequent decisions the President has made: Iraq is in a state best described as a civil war and has a very uncertain future. The invasion has flamed the fans of already strong anti-Americanism in the region. The United States is viewed as an aggressor and an occupier of an Arab state. While the invasion of Iraq may have been supported by the Israeli government I fear it has, in effect, made Israel far less secure and threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East.

In addition, President Bush and the United States as a whole are now mistrusted not only by Arab and Islamic states but by many of our traditional allies as well. The advantage Senator Kerry would have as President is that he will be in a position to rebuild trust and rebuild alliances in a way that is now impossible for President Bush. A Kerry administration would have the ability to open dialogs and resolve issues in a way the current administration simply cannot.

Equally important is Senator Kerry's placing a high priority on ending American dependence on Arab oil and developing alternative energy sources. That dependence forces the U.S. government to tread lightly when dealing with totalitarian, despotic, corrupt Arab regimes who often support terrorism. Senator Kerry writes:

We must insure that our dependence on Middle East oil no longer hampers our ability to act as a strong moral force in the world.

He also specifically addresses the issue of Saudi funding of terrorism, stating that as President he will:

End the Bush Administration's kid-glove approach to the supply and laundering of terrorist money in Saudi Arabia and demand that Riyadh shut down Saudi-based "charities" that finance al Qaeda and other terrorist networks."

Considering that over 50% of Hamas funding comes from Saudi Arabia this change in policy would, if implemented, have a dramatic effect in helping Israel fight Palestinian terrorism. There is no doubt that the constant need to avoid offending the Saudi royal family has hindered the wider war on Islamic fascism and radicalism as well.

It is abundantly clear that President Bush has had a pro-Israel foreign policy. However, there is a real question if that policy has been as effective as it can be in promoting and safeguarding American interests. I firmly believe that a strong, secure Israel is in America's interests . Senator Kerry's stated policies will enhance Israel's security. He may even be able to help bring about a situation in which the Palestinians may finally realize that continuing their war of terror will get them absolutely nowhere.

In the November election we have a choice between a President who has the best of intentions but a flawed policy and a Senator who has an approach to the Middle East which is extremely promising for those who desire stability. It offers a new hope for peace based on a realistic understanding of the politics and problems in the region. Electing John Kerry in November is, to me, the best thing for America's security and for Israel's as well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Who is the pro-Islamist left?

In my last article I decried the rather deliberate support Islamic fascist and terrorist groups are receiving from the hard left in the United States and Europe. I received dozens of responses: some insightful, some humorous, and some downright frightening.

Some used the article as justification for attacks on the Clintons and Senator John Kerry, all of whom are staunch supporters of Israel. President Clinton's forthrightness in laying the blame for the failure of Camp David and the so-called peace process directly on the shoulders of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians is especially important. Indeed, most Democrats in the Senate and Congress support Israel. Fritz Hollings and Cynthia McKinney are aberrations rather than being in the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

The hard left consists of far too many people to list here, but notable in the blame America, anti-Israel, pro Islamist crowd are Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader, "progressive" media outlets like Free Speech TV and Pacifica Radio, and the impressionable but ignorant young people who show up at Palestinian solidarity rallies and anti-globalisation protests. There is also a frightening number of university professors and intellectuals feeding ideas to these young people.

While these people are generally out of the mainstream of the American body politic they do have influence, do get to speak on mainstream media outlets, and worse, do help form the opinions of the next generation of American leaders. That, to me, is reason enough to speak out.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Why is the Left Embracing Islamic Fascism?

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks Christopher Hitchins wrote in the following in The Nation:

"The bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there's no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about "the West," to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don't like and can't defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state."

I really, really, really hate to quote Hitchens. Oh, he's intelligent and has a good pen. I saw him interviewed on Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered on PBS You the other night and he speaks well. His years as a defender of the Palestinian cause and his chronic misrepresentations of Israel and it's seemingly never ending fight against Palestinian terrorism has made me more than a bit ill on a number of occasions. Mr. Hitchens also happens to have, more correctly than anyone I have heard, identified the enemies of the United States as Islamic fascists. He has been doing so consistently for three years.

Mr. Hitchens also decries the left, with whom he once so strongly identified, for it's support of Islamic fascism. We have seen freedom, democracy, and pretty much all civil rights and civil liberties extinguished in any place the Islamists have taken power. Simply look at Sudan, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, or Iran for examples. This all seems so obvious. Yet the left turns around and makes excuses for the 9/11 terrorists and al-Qaida, for Palestinian terrorism, and indeed for many such movements around the world. The left talks of hopelessness, poverty, oppression, and so on as if it's some sort of excuse for the mass murder of innocents. Can anyone justify what happened in Beslan, Russia last week? Is the deliberate and cold blooded murder of children ever justified? I think not.

We saw people who see themselves as great liberals offer themselves up as human shields for Saddam Hussein. Now they endlessly protest American human rights violations, no matter how isolated, in Iraq and Afghanistan while ignoring the often brutal actions of insurgents in Iraq or the still dangerous Taliban. They continually bemoan wrongness of the U.S. led invasions. They do this despite the fact that Saddam Hussein had the blood of a million people on his hands or the oppression suffered by so many under the Taliban. The mass graves found in Iraq do not lie and are there for all to see. Whether or not the U.S. invasion was justified is neither here nor there. To me it seems clear that defending Saddam Hussein or the Taliban and ignoring their extreme abuse of human rights while chastising the United States in the worst kind of hypocrisy.

In Israel these similarly "high minded" leftists claim to be "peace activists" while aiding and abetting Palestinian terrorism. Those who join the International Solidarity Movement and groups like it are welcomed by Yasser Arafat, by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and all the other Palestinian terrorists who are more than happy to see these often young would-be peaceniks die so that their "martyrdom" can be used as a public relations weapon against Israel. Rachel Corrie was no hero. She was an ignorant young woman who was duped into getting herself killed.

Christoper Hitchens wrote in the same 2001 article:

"Does anyone suppose that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would have forestalled the slaughter in Manhattan? It would take a moral cretin to suggest anything of the sort; the cadres of the new jihad make it very apparent that their quarrel is with Judaism and secularism on principle, not with (or not just with) Zionism."

Three years later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a man the left loves to demonize, is indeed preparing a withdrawal from Gaza. In doing so he has alienated much of his own party and his base of support and turned his large ruling coalition into a minority government. Even many of Prime Minister Sharon's long time critics have been eloquent in their praise of the Prime Minister's plan. U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen called it "a bold step that should be welcomed by all the United Nations" and went on to say of Sharon: "no Israeli Prime Minister had previously had the vision to say he would remove settlers, as long called for by the international community, and initiate a plan for its implementation." Despite this the far left still casts the Prime Minister, and Israel as a whole, as the villain and continues to support those who continue to perpetrate relentless terror attacks upon innocent people.

I am forced to conclude that some on the left are so brainwashed to oppose anything from what they perceive as the right, so dedicated to their opposition, so desperately searching for a revolution to embrace that they sooner support fascism, even when the jihadist speaks openly of genocide on a scale not seen since Nazism fell. The far left has lost it's moral compass and it's collective soul. It is reduced to supporting a morass of totalitarianism, intolerance, and brutality.

Someone who truly believes in and espouses liberal values cannot help but stand against Islamic fascism as Hitchens now does. Indeed, I would argue that an impassioned defense of Israel, which cherishes freedom, democracy, justice, and ultimately human rights to a greater degree than most nations, should be well within the realm of liberal thought. For some, ranging from Alan Dershowitz to John Kerry, it clearly is. 9/11 forced many of us to reassess our positions in order to remain true to our values.

Those old leftists who fail to do so find themselves supporting the unsupportable and in doing so render themselves irrelevant. They sadly still manage to pass their ideas onto impressionable and ignorant young people who have never seen Israel or the Palestinians and who have no idea what the "Islamic paradise" of the Taliban really meant. They protest for peace by supporting those who only truly offer the peace of the grave. The result is that most Americans and Israelis alike recognize this and reject the left.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

9/11 and the Lies Terrorists Tell

Three years ago today Islamist al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four airliners bound for New York and Washington, crashing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A second target in Washington was spared when heroic passengers on a doomed flight attacked the terrorists and crashed the plane rather than allowing the attack to proceed. The 9/11 attacks awakened a sleeping giant. The United States mobilized for a new war. The truth is that the war had been going on for many years but few Americans had paid it much notice.

In the days after 9/11 and in speeches ever since President Bush has correctly characterized the enemies of America as those who hate our values, our culture, our freedom, and our democracy. This is exactly right. He also dubbed it the "War on Terror" and that is sadly inaccurate. Terrorism is a tactic, nothing more. It may be the most visible tactic used by the enemies of the United States. It may be the one and only tactic that was sufficient to awake the United States from it's long slumber. It's still just one tactic. Another tactic which has been incredibly effective is the manipulation of the media in the West. Even when painting radical Islamist terrorist groups as the enemy the press often unwittingly does their bidding.

This past Thursday three suicide bombers from Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorist group with strong ties to al-Qaida, blew up the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Yesterday the Associated Press reported that the terrorists had warned Indonesian police about the impending attack and demanding the release of a jailed Jemaah Islamiyah leader. When that didn't work they went ahead with the bombing and came up with an entirely different motivation. Today the group is claiming that the attacks were really designed to punish Australia for supporting the war in Iraq. This claim is almost believable. Australian Prime Minister John Howard is up for reelection and the war in Iraq is not popular in Australia. A similar attack, the Madrid railway bombing, directly contributed to the election of a government in Spain opposed to the war which subsequently withdrew Spanish troops and support for the U.S. Other acts of terrorism have caused the withdrawal of Thailand, Honduras, and the Phillipines from Iraq. So, certainly, the terrorists may have calculated that an attack on Australian interests would allow them to influence the upcoming Australian elections.

On the other hand, Jemaah Islamiyah is the same group responsible for the Bali bombing in 2002 that killed 202 people. 88 Australian tourists were among the dead. Back then we were told the attack was "to punish Australia for intervening in East Timor". So, is the freeing of East Timor the reason for the antipathy to Australia? I don't think so. I simply think the enemies of Australia, to paraphrase President Bush, hate Australia's values, culture, freedom, and democracy. They will always find an excuse du jour for an attack, whether it is on Australia, the United States, the French Jewish community, or Israel.

The press, on the other hand, will dutifully report that Jemaah Islamiyah claims to have attacked Australia for it's actions in Iraq, which in turn may indeed impact the Australian elections. They will, for the most part, make such reports without taking the time to put the statement in historical context and, in doing so, will unwittingly become complicit with those self-same terrorists.

Similarly the press will dutifully report that the latest attacks on Israeli civillians by Palestinian terrorists were to "end occupation". They will report that the Palestinians are fighting for independence. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. That is merely another big stripey lie by the Palestinians, just as the claim that the attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta is all about Iraq is a big stripey lie. Both are just excuses. If the Palestinians wanted independence they could have it. Indeed, they are protesting Prime Minsiter Sharon's moves to give it to them unilaterally without a peace agreement. The last thing the Palestinian Authority needs is to actually have to take responsibility for their own people. It would distract from their 83 year old war of terror against Israel and the Jewish people.

Yes, I said the war is 83 years old. That is when Yasser Arafat's predecessor as leader of the Palestinian people, his uncle Haj Amin al-Husseini, became Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and very quickly began working to end any cooperation between Arabs and Jews and began inciting Arab attacks against the Jewish people living in then British Palestine. His oft stated goal was the expulsion or extermination of the Jewish people, and he was eventually convicted at Nuremberg as a Nazi war criminal. The bloodiest year of the conflict to date was the period of the Arab Riots of 1936-37. 6,000 Jews were killed in that year. The Peel Commission report then recommended partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The Palestinian Arabs would have none of it. They rejected similar offers in 1948, 1967, at Camp David in 2000, and again later that year in Taba.

Yasser Arafat, for his part, called his late lamented uncle "our hero" as recently as 2002 in an interview by Al Sharq Al Awsat, a London Arabic daily. Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri as recently as last Wednesday stated that "the war will never end" until all Zionists (that means all Jews) are driven from all Palestinian lands (which, of course, includes all of Israel). The goals of the Palestinian leadership have not changed in the past 83 years. They hate the Jews, to paraphrase President Bush, because of our culture, our values, our freedom, and our democracy. Sound familiar? So long as the same family, the same leaders, control the Palestinians the chance of peace being negotiated with Israel is exactly the same as the chance that Osama bin-Laden will sign a peace treaty with President Bush. The press, in ignoring all the history that has gone before, will dutifully report the latest terrorist lie, whether from Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Jemaah Islamiyah, or al-Qaida, and will dismiss the oh-so-correct assessments by President Bush or Prime Minister Howard or Prime Minister Sharon as just so much political rhetoric.

As I said, it's all one war, it's all one enemy. It's western Jewish and Christian values, culture, freedom, and democracy versus the antithetical values of the radical Islamist, the jihadist, and the Arab nationalist.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

On Israeli technology and American outsourcing

I saw an interesting piece on Israeli television (IBA News in English, via satellite) claiming that Israel is the second most important technology center after Silicon Valley in California. The statistics cited were startling. The number of new technology startups in Israel is roughly 25% of the number of those in the United States. In addition, the amount of venture capital invested in Israeli technology startups is also around 25% of thet in the United States. What makes these numbers so amazing is that Israel is a tiny nation of six million people, compared to 275 million plus in the U.S. in a huge land area.

They went on to cite how ubiquitous Israeli technology is. One example: the computer I am writing on is based on an Intel Pentium CPU. The Pentium architecture was developed by Intel in Haifa. The list of examples went on and on, the upshot of which is that everyone in the world, even those in nations who hate Israel, use Israeli technology each and every day of their lives.

Based on my own experience I find the report totally believable. Israeli culture places a high value on advanced education. More Israelis have college degrees by percentage than Americans, and most middle class Israelis continue their education, a class here and a class there, througout their working lives. One thing Israel does not do is export it's high tech jobs. In the U.S. high tech hiring is expected to drop by 50% from 2003 levels this year. In contrast, in Israel, high tech is the fastest growing sector of the economy with hiring and wages surpassing all other industries.

I would argue that in outsourcing so much high tech to India and other Asian destinations the U.S. is likely to lose it's ability to produce cutting edge technology. In addition, many American innovations will end up in countries where patent law is not enforced and will be duplicated and sold at a deep discount.

Leadership in technological innovation is key to the economic future and national defense of both Israel and the United States. This is one area where the U.S. could learn a thing or two from Israel, or, more correctly, can relearn the lessons that were taught to Israel by the American example of technological innovation and entrepreneurship in the first place.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

So many lies, so little time

Every day I read the news from Israel, watch it on TV, and read the world's reaction. So much of the media has bought into the mythology and revisionist history sold by Palestinian propogandists it really does make me ill. For Americans, Europeans, and others throughout the world who have never been to Israel, who do not have any historical context on the conflict, and who do not get their news from a variety of sources tend to accept whatever their favorite media outlet says as the unvarnished truth.

Why should you believe me and not CNN, BBC, Reuters, Free Speech Radio/TV, or whomever you like this week? Well... try and decide if they have a bias and why. What is their political motivation? Do their reporters have the necessary historical context? Are they interested in sensationalism and ratings? Do they want to keep things simple so their audience understands?

What of the U.N. and European governments? Do they have political interests tied to the Arab world? Large Muslim minorities? Economic interests in the Arab world? A history of anti-Semitism?

The purpose of this blog, in part, will be to challenge perceptions and challenge you to think and do your own research. It will debunk and unspin the biased media reports I find.

A good place to start reading is Alan Dershowitz' excellent book, "The Case for Israel". He does a great job, with well referenced and researched facts, of laying out an accurate picture of the history of the region, the conflict, and the motivations behind the lies.

Am I biased? You bet! Of course I am! I still can try and be objective and try and stick to facts.