Saturday, July 30, 2005

Disengagement Begins Tomorrow

Disengagement, as Prime Minister Sharon calls it, or unilateral separation, as former prime Minister Ehud Barak called it, or withdrawal, or whatever other term you like, begins in earnest tomorrow when settlers from Gush Katif will be moved to Nitzanim as part of Israel's pullout from Gaza. Interior Minister Ophir Pines (Labor) gushed about the preparations for the evacuees in Nitzanim, which are, in reality, double wide mobile homes.

Let's be honest about disengagement: this is definitely what Prime Minister Sharon meant by "painful concessions", with an emphasis on the word "painful". It has caused deep divisions in Israeli society and among Jews the world over. The Prime Minister himself called the decision to pull out from Gaza "the most difficult decision" he has ever made and it has resulted in scorn and protest from many who were once his staunchest supporters.

I have been a strong supporter of both the Prime Minister and of disengagement. I have no illusions that it will lead to peace. I don't believe for a minute the current Palestinian leadership is at all interested in peace. (See my blog entry of July 28, 2005.) I have believed the so-called Roadmap has been a non-starter from the beginning because the Palestinians have done nothing to ever live up to any of their commitments. I also believe there is no way that Israel can sustain ruling over millions of hostile Arabs, nor can they fight the terrorists among the Palestinians with little Jewish communities in the midst of Palestinian population centers.

This piece, though, is not for those who support disengagement. It's really for those who do not. Like it or not the Israeli government, in the person of the Prime Minister, in the Cabinet, and in the Knesset as a whole has approved this withdrawal. It is legal, it is a decision that was arrived at by the majority of the democratically elected representatives of the Israeli people, and it has been upheld at every turn by Israel's courts. Polls in Israel show that it is still supported by a majority of Israelis.

Now that disengagement is arrived we need to respect this decision, allow it to happen, and put our differences behind us. Our enemies do not distinguish between Jews who support disenagegemnt and those who oppose. They don't distinguish between religious and secular. We're all Jews and/or Israelis and they will kill us regardless of where we stand politically given the chance. Disengagement is here and all legal and peaceful means to stop it have been turned aside. What the consequences, positive or negative, of pulling out of Gaza will be continue, at this point, to be mere speculation. Only time will tell. The consequences of not remaining united and standing firm against Arab and Islamic terrorism can only be negative.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Palestinian Terms for Peace

The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct 'Palestinian people' to oppose Zionism.
-- PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein, March 31, 1977

Let us, for the sake of argument, assume Mr. Muhsein's statement was and still is accurate. There is certainly plenty of independent evidence to support it. Look for the term "Palestinians" in any writing dating from prior to the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. The term, at that time, most often referred to Jewish resident of Palestine, most of whom had no other country to call home. There were certainly references to both Jewish and Arab Palestinians at the time, but when talking about nationality the terms Jew and Arab were the two existing national identities.
Without Jerusalem there will be no peace. Peace starts in Jerusalem and ends there. Peace starts by recognizing our right to return, to self-determination, the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and the cessation of settlement. construction
--Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, July 26, 2005

Mr. Qurei (a/k/a Abu Ala) is demanding that millions of Palestinian Arabs must be allowed to settle in Israel. This is what "right of return" means. He also insists on "self-determination". We must assume that should Palestinians become a majority in Israel they are demanding the right to run the country. The are also demanding Jerusalem, of course, which is holy to the Jewish people. The last time part of Jerusalem was under Arab rule the courtyard of the Western Wall was used as a garbage dump.

It would seem Prime Minister Qurei adheres to Mr. Muhsein's vision. First a "two state solution" as called for under the Roadmap, and then the Palestinians take over the Jewish state and eliminate Israel as we know it.

The terms for peace Prime Minister Qurei and President Abbas continue to demand amount to an offer to Israel of only one sort of peace: the peace of the grave. If you don't believe me ask one of the leaders of the Israeli left. Yossi Sarid is a Member of Knesset (MK) from Yahad, the farthest left party in the parliament. Under Prime Minister Ehud Barak he, along with party leader Dr. Yossi Beilin, were part of the "peace cabinet" working for an agreement with Yasser Arafat. Here is what MK Sarid, then Minister of Education, had to say in 2000:
There is one issue that can topple everything, and that is the right of return. It is very important that they understand and internalize this. The meaning of the right of return means Israel's suicide. As far as I know, we don't have any plans to commit suicide.
Those are indeed the terms for peace with Israel demanded by the Palestinians: commit suicide. In light of this, and the myth of longstanding Palestinian national identity, why is the Bush administration now again pushing the Roadmap? The Palestinians themselves continue, on a daily basis, to insist they have no interest in peace unless peace is a euphemism for the destruction of Israel. Surely that isn't what the President wants, is it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

British Bias Corporation

Every so often I get into an online or telephone discussion with British friends or just folks who hang on the same lists I do about the BBC. I frequently hear from them how the BBC is not biased against Israel. I almost always do a double-take. These are generally intelligent, reasonably open minded, fair minded and often liberal people. They sincerely believe what they are saying.

I will admit any day of the week that I am a news junkie. I spend an inordinate amount of my free time keeping up on the news. I am especially interested in the news from Israel and the Middle East as a whole for a very simple reason: much of my family lives there. Therefore it is very much in my personal interest that whatever will allow Israel to live in peace and security happens. Like most sane people I don't want to bury a family member, someone I grew up with and care about.

The reason the BBC is important is that it was, and for many still is, a highly regarded and trusted source for news. Not for me. Not anymore.

Oh, and just to admit my oh-so-obvious bias again up-front: I am pro-Israel. I am a Zionist. I am, by birth, an Israeli. My father fought in the 1948 War of Independence. My great uncle moved to what is now Israel in 1926. I have very deep roots there and I plan to move there myself at some point. Honest enough for you?

That does not mean I am oblivious to the suffering of Palestinian Arabs who no more want terrorism or war than I do. I have no objection to the BBC or anyone else factually reporting on that suffering. I tend to blame the Palestinian leadership for prolonging their suffering. I know enough about the conflict and Israeli government policy to know that if the Palestinians wanted to live in peace side by side by Israel they could do so.

The idea that the BBC is biased and, at times, outright fabricates stories to support their agenda is nothing new. I am not at all the first to bring up such an idea. Trevor Asserson, a British lawyer, has been asserting just that. His views are seen in an interview titled What Went Wrong at the BBC. Mr. Asserson, along with Lee Kern, is responsible for a site dedicated to BBC bias called Now I do expect some to dismiss these assertions and websites as right-wing propaganda. The fact is that my own viewing, listening, and reading of BBC versus other media from around the world tells me that they are, in fact, quite accurate.

On February 18, 2005 the BBC apologized for a false report claiming an Arab IDF soldier had been jailed for refusing to shoot Muslim children. Such reports are not only false but add fuel to the fire of the intifada. Many studies have shown that long after such apologies and retractions the original stories are still believed. If this was an isolated case it could easily be forgiven. Sadly it is anything but a single error. A March, 2003 BBC film titled Israel's Secret Weapon, dealing with Israel's nuclear weapons program, made the patently false claim that nerve gas was used against the Palestinians. The BBC never apologized for this falsehood, and in the words of the BBC's Richard Sambrook, "...we stand behind the veracity of the film".

Bias can also be seen in choosing which events to cover and which to leave out of a news program. David Margolis, in his piece titled Bad News: Why Israel is Losing the Media War reports how, in 2001, the BBC's Paul Adams was roughed up twice. Once was by Palestinians in Bethlehem; the second time was in Elon Moreh by right-wing Jewish settlers. Both events, in my view, were wrong and worthy of coverage. The BBC chose to include the incident in Elon Moreh in its report but not the incident in Bethlehem. Why? Is there an agenda here?

I could list dozens of additional examples to back up my view that the BBC does, in fact, have an anti-Israel agenda. Would it convince my British friends and correspondents? I doubt it. They've grown up believing in the BBC much as I grew up believing in the New York Times. The difference is that I know the Times has bias. Oh, and for what it's worth, I have given kudos to both the New York Times and the BBC when they have done a good job. It's really a pity that I spend much more time taking both to task.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Justifying the Fence: A Surprising Source

The New York Times is often harshly critical of Israel. OK, not all the time. Much of their reporting is factual. Some, however, does seem to have a bias. Today, however, there was a truly excellent article titled In Most Cases, Israel Thwarts Suicide Attacks Without a Shot. Yes, there are successful attacks, most recently on July 12 in Netanya. To quote a relevant point:

Israel is also building a separation barrier - an electronic fence and in some places a huge concrete wall - to make it harder for would-be bombers to enter Israel.

That, of course, is the whole point of the fence: to stop terrorism and save lives. "Unilateral separation", as former Prime Minister Barak termed it, or "disengagement", to use current Prime Minister Sharon's preferred term, is all about making the conflict nearly impossible by keeping the two sides apart. Ehud Barak's famous line "Us here, them over there" is often portrayed by apologists for Palestinian terrorism as racism. It is the Palestinians who want the territories to be Judenrein and Israel is accommodating that wish, at least in Gaza. It is portrayed as an "apartheid fence" yet Israeli Arabs, who comprise 18% of the population, are full citizens of Israel. The Palestinians wish to expel the Jewish population from the territories much as Jordan and Egypt did in 1948. Gush Etzion was Jewish before 1948 yet it is unacceptable to the Palestinians that there are Jews there now.

Of course the Palestinian leadership opposes separation because it prevents their armed struggle. It saves lives on both sides but the Palestinian leadership, who could have had a state in 1967, in 2000, and could have one in short order now, seem to be more interested in terrorism. The PA website still shows all of Israel as part of "Palestine". Who is guilty of apartheid? Who is guilty of terrorism? Of racism?

I commend the New York Times for portraying the fence correctly for a change. It's about time. To quote Ariel Sharon: "If there was no terrorism there would be no need for a fence."

The real victims, of course, are ordinary Israelis and Palestinians who would like nothing better than to live in peace and get on with their lives. Who is responsible for this victimization: those who try to stop the violence by building a fence or those who carry out terrorist attacks and can't accept the existence of Israel?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Another Accusation of European Appeasement

In private e-mail my recent post accusing the European Union, or at least its leadership, of apeasement or even collaboration in the War on Terror received some fairly harsh replies from friends and family who, like me, are on the left side of the political spectrum. Europe, I was told, is only doing what's in it's own interests. Why is destroying Israel or funding terrorism in Europe's interest? Well... they have a large Muslim immigrant population, I'm told. OK, add pandering to appeasement and collaboration in my list of accusations.

To emphasize the point, former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, accused the E.U. of appeasement during a visit to Israel last month:

Europe likes appeasement very much; this is one of the most important differences between us and the States.


In Europe, Israel is not very popular, not only this (Sharon) government, all governments. Most Europeans support the Palestinian cause.

The article went on to quote Mr. Aznar as saying that the motivation for European policy toward the Middle East is to "distinguish itself" from the United States. This, in more politically correct diplomatic language, echoes former European Union M.P. Ilke Schroeder's accusation of Europe deliberately funding Palestinian terrorism to fight a proxy war against the United States.

We see these accusations coming from knowledgeable European politicians on both the right and left. Isn't it time we stop ignoring them? Isn't it time we stop making excuses for our European "friends and allies"?