Friday, October 09, 2009

Iran: "A Moment Of Truth", CNN Style

This article is part of this week's Jerusalem Post Submission Contest. You can rate my post and affect the outcome of the contest here.

Last Sunday Fareed Zakaria, the host of GPS on CNN, opened his program with an analysis of the Iranian nuclear crisis. He started by saying:
A moment of truth is arriving on the Iran Issue. Western countries will have to face up to the fact that there are only really two choices with Iran: one, a military strike, effectively preventing the country from continuing to expand its nuclear capacity; or, secondly, learning to live with such a capacity."

Up to this point Zakaria was 100% correct in his assessment. The current talks with the Iranian regime have produced no concrete results and based on comments by the Iranian government they never will. I can understand why President Obama wants to give diplomacy every reasonable chance at success. If nothing else it provides the U.S., and perhaps by extension Israel, some diplomatic cover with the rest of the West when the inevitable war with Iran comes.

Zakaria went on to describe some of the consequences of a strike by either the U.S. or Israel on Iran. Once again he was spot on:
Now, I think striking Iran would have the first effect of uniting the country behind the regime. It happens in every country that is attacked from abroad. George w. Bush's approval ratings on September 10, 2001, were around 40 percent. In one month, after 9/11, they had risen to 93 percent. Iranian dissidents warn that the day after an American attack or an Israeli attack, they would all have to come out in support of the regime.

The political spillover from such an attack in Arab countries would also be large, and the military spillover in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Iran still funds militias, would probably take the lives of American and European soldiers. The price of oil would skyrocket, and, at best, such a military strike would delay the Iranian program, not end it, and probably delay it by just a few years.

It's all true. Indeed, the consequences to both Israel and some Sunni Arab nations, which Iran would likely attack to disrupt oil supplies, would be very high indeed. Let's also not forget the loss of innocent lives among Iranian civillians. Iran has placed it's nuclear and missile launching facilities in populated areas. Yes, the cost of a war with Iran will be terrible for all involved and many nations will get dragged in.

The rest of Zakaria's analysis is seriously flawed. Worse, it seems to reflect and reinforce the thinking of some in the Obama adminstration, which makes it downright dangerous. Zakaria continued:
Is it possible to live with a nuclear Iran? I would argue yes. Living with it is not a passive option. Iran's behavior will make it possible to maintain, perhaps even expand, sanctions on it. It will strengthen western resolve and, more importantly, make most Arab states ally themselves far more closely with the United States and Europe than ever before. The great strategic threat in the region would no longer be Israel but Iran.

These countries, the Arab countries, would make vigorous efforts to contain Iran's influence militarily and politically, as would western nations. We could press for more sanctions, inspections of all kinds. And, finally, Israel's vast nuclear arsenal, 250 nuclear weapons by most accounts, plus that of the United States would act as a deterrent on Iran. It would not use its nuclear weapons because it would clearly trigger an overwhelming response.

This is not a perfect option. But, in the real world, it seems to me a far more sensible one than a gamble that attacking Iran would solve this problem.

I don't believe for one moment that the Islamic religious fanatics who run the Iranian regime would be deterred by Israel's weaponry or any likely retaliation.

Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, often referred to as a "moderate" in the press, called for a nuclear attack on Israel on December 14, 2001. His comments included the following:
If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world

We are all aware of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's repeated calls to destory Israel. For the Iranian leadership this is an ideological and religious imperatives. Against such imperatives conventional deterrence simply does not work.

Zakaria went on to interview three "distinguished experts", none of whom expressed the idea that Israel may have no choice but to preemptively strike Iran to avoid their own destruction. When PBS' Newshour With Jim Lehrer has a panel on issues like this they make sure to have all views represented. Even unabashedly left-wing MSNBC has had balanced panels where the idea that Israel may have absolutely no choice but to act if it is to survive has been clearly voiced. Not so on CNN. I couldn't help but remember a discussion some years ago on CNN hosted by Christiane Amanpour where her idea of differing viewpoints, left and right, meant that she had Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former Carter administration National Security Advisor, a Democrat, and Brent Scowcroft, the former National Security Advisor to President George H. W. Bush, a Republican, as her guests. Both men are notoriously anti-Israel and spent significant parts of the segment complementing each other's analysis of why everything wrong in the Middle East is Israel's fault. Zakaria's guests weren't so blatant but none disagreed with Zakaria's analysis.

In his next segment Zakaria went on to interview Judge Richard Goldstone of the infamous Goldstone report, a report widely seen as denying Israel any reasonable right of self-defense.

CNN no longer seems to be engaging in the in-your-face anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attacks like the August, 2007 two hour "Special Investigations" piece called "G-d's Jewish Warriors", also hosted by Christiane Amanpour. They have learned to be slightly more subtle. Still, there is no mistaking the purpose of a program that first presents the awful consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran and then trots out the Goldstone Report, no matter how reasonable and erudite the smiling Mr. Zakaria may seem.

CNN may be willing to gamble the lives of 7.28 million Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, on the belief that the Iranian regime is sane and can be deterred. They may be willing to gamble the lives of my family in Israel. Americans should not be. First, friends don't ask friends to die in a nuclear holocaust. Second, once Israel is gone, can some attempt to destroy "The Great Satan" be far behind? Didn't President Ahmedinejad chair a conference on the world without the United States? If deterrence doesn't work as Mr. Zakaria suggests it would what would the consequences for all of the West be?

We need to remember CNN's long history of anti-Israel bias and take all their reporting on the Iranian nuclear threat with an appropriately large grain of salt. We need to remember that the CNN agenda will undoubtedly include blaming Israel for any and all consequences of a conflict with Iran.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Boycott Britain

Anyone who knows me knows I like tea. I drink a lot of it. I always buy loose leaf tea of all sorts. One of the least expensive brands of loose leaf tea, and one that sells excellent English and Irish Breakfast Tea blends, is Twinings, a British company. Today I went shopping and walked right past the Twinings tea. I am buying tea from American companies, imported Chinese tea, anything but British. Today I started my personal boycott of all things British and I urge everyone who supports Israel to join me.

In case you haven't following the news the British are increasingly boycotting Israeli goods and services. Major British trade unions have been boycotting Israel since 2007. AISH has published an alarming report about the rise of anti-Semitism, not just anti-Zionism, in the UK and how it is no longer taboo to express hatred and loathing for the Jewish people in Britain. Even the BBC, which has repeatedly stoked the flames of anti-Semitism with its strong anti-Israel bias, reported a record rise in UK anti-Semitism in the first half of this year. In the spring of last year Hebrew University historian Robert S. Wistrich, who was himself educated at Cambridge Univesity stated, ”Britain has become the center for the meeting of anti-Semitic trends in Europe.” The sharp rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic attacks in Britain has been reported every year since 2005.

So.. if the British hate me and my family just because we are Jewish why should I support them, their businesses and their economy? If the British hate Israel, where much of my family lives, with a passion, why on earth would I want to send my hard earned money to that dispicable country? I'd rather buy American or Israeli products. When it comes to products that aren't made or grown in the U.S. or Israel, like tea, then I'll support almost anybody else before I'll support the UK. I'm enjoying a wonderful cup of Blooming apricot flavored black tea from China right now.

Please follow the links I've provided and read up on this for yourself. If you're Jewish, a supporter of Israel, or just plain think that anti-Semitism is as disgusting as any other form of ethnic or religious intolerance or racism, please join me in this boycott.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Amazing and Twisted Right Wing Smear Campaign Against President Obama

NOTE: This has been submitted to this week's Jerusalem Post Submission Contest. You can rate it and vote on it here.

This is from an e-mail circulating around the Internet which someone in my family received:
HB 1388 PASSED !!

You just spent $20,000,000 to move members/supporters of Hamas, a terrorist organization, to the United States ; They get housing, food, the whole enchilada.


Whether you are an Obama fan, or not, EVERYONE IN THE U. S. needs to know.....

Something happened.... H.R. 1388 was passed, behind our backs. You may want to read about it.. It wasn ' t mentioned on the news... just went by on the ticker tape at the bottom of the CNN screen.
Obama funds $20M in tax payer dollars to immigrate Hamas Refugees to the USA . This is the news that didn ' t make the headlines...

By executive order, President Barack Obama has ordered the expenditure of $20.3 million in "migration assistance" to the Palestinian refugees and "conflict victims" in Gaza . (...including by contributions to international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations...") The "presidential determination", which allows hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with ties to Hamas to resettle in the United States , was signed and appears in the Federal Register.

It sounds really sinister, doesn't it? Thankfully it's all a pack of lies designed to mislead the ignorant.

If it's a House Resolution (H.R) it passed in the House of Representatives and is not an Executive Order. It would also have to pass the Senate and be signed by the President to become law. This person is mixing apples and oranges. Whatever they are concerned about can be either an Executive Order or a bill that passed Congress, not both. For someone who knows anything about how the American legislative process works that should be the first obvious clue that something is very wrong with this e-mail.

So, let's take a look at H.R. 1388 and see what it's all about. The title of the bill is: "The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, an Act to reauthorize and reform the national service laws." It's an extension and expansion of the National and Community Service Act of 1990, first signed by President George H.W. Bush. In 1993 this was expanded with the founding of AmeriCorps, created by by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, signed by President Clinton and expanded by 50% by President George W. Bush. H.R. 1388, which was signed into law back in May, is about Americans doing national service: public service work for the country. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Middle East or Palestinians or Hamas. After repeatedly mentioning H.R. 1388 the e-mail has no specifics and completely misrepresents the bill.

OK, maybe the author got his or her numbers wrong and really wants us to look at an Executive Order. He or she was even kind enough to provide a link to the Federal Register, so naturally I followed the link to see what it's all about. I assume the author was hoping that either nobody would actually follow the link or that they simply wouldn't bother to read the details. The Presidential determination in question, which I do remember well, spent funds already allocated for refugee assistance. It is dated January, a full eight months ago, and has nothing to do with any bill currently before Congress or which passed Congress recently. Second, the idea, as I read it, was to help people flee Hamas, not help Hamas. These are refugees from Hamas, not Hamas supporters. If you followed the news at the time you know that Hamas used the conflict with Israel as cover for arrests, torture, and murder of Fatah members in Gaza and any remaining non-Muslim Palestinians (mainly Christians) in the territory. The idea of helping these people did have support from members of Congress of both parties: the same members of Congress who voted unanimously to support Israeli defensive actions in Gaza just three weeks earlier.

The author goes on to list a bunch of other horrible things that President Obama has done, from closing Guantanamo (which hasn't actually happened) to federally funding abortions (which also actually hasn't happened). It ends with the ominous line: "We are losing this country at a rapid pace." Actually, the far right and the know-nothings among the conservative movement haven't figured out that they lost the 2006 and 2008 elections. They already lost the country as the American people have rejected their agenda.

What is so galling about this is that it's all lies. Nothing new has passed Congress, President Obama hasn't signed any new laws or issued any new executive orders regarding Hamas or the Palestinians. If he had I'd be the first to write about it. If this President supported Hamas in any way, shape, or form I'd be up in arms about it. Here's reality: it never happened. It's just part of the right wing smear campaign, the hatred directed at President Obama, which goes on each and every day in this country. It absolutely disgusts me.

NOTE: This is rare cross-post from my Ever Increasing Entropy (personal) blog.

Friday, August 21, 2009

US Congress Should Cut Off Aid To Palestinians

NOTE: The following piece was first published as part of this week's Jerusalem Post Submission Contest earlier today. You can rate and vote on this piece here.

When the Bush administration laid out the Roadmap peace plan it, together with the United Nations, Russia, and the European Union, clearly laid out three conditions that Hamas would have to meet to be included:
  1. Recognition of Israel
  2. Renunciation of terrorism and violence
  3. Acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap
Hamas has never accepted any of the Quartet's conditions and, as a result, remains classified strictly as a terrorist group by the United States and most of the West.

Further attempts at a peace process were based on the idea that the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority did meet this conditions and had, in fact, agreed to them as part of the Oslo Accords. This has also been the basis of all U.S. aid to the Palestinians, including the training and arming of security forces.

Since March of this year we have seen one senior Palestinian Authority official after another make clear, in no uncertain terms, that they don't accept any of the three conditions either. It started with Muhammed Dahlan, a former Palestinian security chief and senior Fatah official, during a March 17 interview on Palestinian television:
"I want to say for the thousandth time, in my own name and in the name of all of my fellow members of the Fatah movement: We do not demand that the Hamas movement recognize Israel. On the contrary, we demand of the Hamas movement not to recognize Israel, because the Fatah movement does not recognize Israel even today."

Rafik Natsheh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee who also serves as chairman of the faction's disciplinary "court," expanded on Dahlan's comments during an interview with Al-Quds Al-Arabi last month. He stated that Fatah has never recognized Israel's right to exist and it has no intention of ever doing so, effectively closing the door to any future peace agreement. He also made clear that Fatah intends to launch a new intifada or "armed struggle."
"All these reports about recognizing Israel are false. It's all media nonsense. We don't ask other factions to recognize Israel because we in Fatah have never recognized Israel.


I am certain that we will hinder all the traitors who wish to remove the resistance option from the movement's charter. Let all the collaborators [with Israel] and those who are deluding themselves hear that this will never happen."

Finally, at the sixth Fatah General Assembly earlier this month these positions were formalized and reiterated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In effect the Palestinians have abrogated the Oslo peace agreement signed by Yasser Arafat. The Fatah-run Palestinian authority no longer meets any of the three conditions placed on Hamas. Why, then, is Fatah still somehow defined as "moderate" and treated differently than Hamas?

Back in December, 2007 I wrote that absent a recognition of Israel's right to exist as defined by both the League of Nations Mandate and by the United Nations in Resolution 181, which means as a state for the Jewish people, there was no basis for any negotiations with the Palestinians. Now, nearly two years later the Netanyahu government has made clear that it is ready for negotiations without any preconditions. The Palestinians, emboldened by President Obama's shortsighted and ill advised pressure on Israel over settlements, are demanding unilateral concessions from Israel before even agreeing to sit down and talk. Rather than bring Israel and the Palestinians closer to peace the Obama administration has foreclosed any chance of meaningful negotiations.

Right now the American taxpayer is footing the bill for arming and training security forces aligned with or which are part of Fatah, even as Fatah makes clear that those arms will be turned on Israel. We are, in effect, arming one terrorist faction while snubbing another. We are doing so in a time of huge budget deficits. Does this make any sort of sense?

In the United States the President determines foreign policy. However, that power is not absolute. The U.S. Constitution put in place a system of checks and balances. Congress controls the purse strings. Israel enjoys overwhelming support in Congress from both political parties. It is time that Congress acts to cut off all aid to the Palestinians until they meet the three clear conditions set out by the international Quartet. Doing so will stop the arming of unrepentant and unreformed Palestinian terrorists who seek to destroy Israel and send a strong and unequivocal message to President Obama that his Middle East policies, which are increasingly seen as pro-Arab and anti-Israel, have little or no support.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shabbat and Respectful Blogging

Anyone who has read my blogs and other writing over the years has almost certainly figured out that I am not religious and certainly not Orthodox. I went to a mixture of Conservative and Orthodox congregations growing up and I was part of a modern Orthodox congregation for a time when I was in my twenties. I am not ignorant when it comes to Orthodox Judaism but there are elements of it that I am just not comfortable with or which just do not match up with my own beliefs. I do feel comfortable with the Conservative (Masorti) movement.

A couple of years ago I wrote posts for this blog whenever I had time. If that was on Shabbat then that was when I posted. Some of you may have noticed that I haven't posted on Shabbat for quite some time now. No, I haven't begun observing the sabbath in a religious sense. My work pretty much requires me to be available 24x7. So long as I want to succeed in IT (computer work) in the U.S. that won't change.

Religious views in my family range from pretty much atheist, albeit with a Jewish ethnic identity, to ultra-Orthodox. When I was in Israel I stayed with a modern Orthodox cousin and his wife over Shabbat. I must say that I think a day each week without computers or cell phones, without driving or work, without shopping or television, without all the stress of modern life, is actually very refreshing. I think being Shomer Shabbat is probably very healthy. I have written before that I believe that when I make aliya I may very well observe the sabbath. I think it would be a very positive change in my life.

In the meanwhile, though, I still do what I need to do. I do post to other blogs whenever I have time. However, I will continue to refrain from my Zionist writing or publishing on Shabbat out of respect to my Orthodox readers. I look at the divisions between religious and non-religious in Israel and in the wider Jewish community and I think that all we really need is a bit more respect for each other to get past our differences. We are all Jews. The anti-Semites out there don't make such distinctions.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why American Jews Voted For President Obama

Mark Gold wrote a piece published on the right-wing Israpundit website on August 6th titled "Were Jewish Obama Voters Fooled?". He also submitted the post to The Jerusalem Post blogging contest. I originally wrote a brief comment objecting to his assertions but the more I through about what he wrote the more I realized just how insulted and offended I was by his article. I decided a longer and more forceful response was in order.

The principle assertion made by Mr. Gold is that "Obama’s Jewish voters were not fooled by his campaign, but rather that, unfortunately, Israel is just not a major concern or issue to them." Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Gold also claims that none of his Jewish acquaintances have any regrets about voting for President Obama. Perhaps that is because the Republican alternative still looks, in retrospect, even more likely to have done serious harm than the Obama administration, even with its current misguided policies towards Israel.

Mr. Gold's claims that Israel is relatively unimportant to American Jewry or that American Jews continue to blindly support the President and his policies is belied by an article in today's Jerusalem Post with the headline "Most US Jewish Obama backers oppose his Israel policies". The article quotes frequent Fox News contributor Dick Morris:
"Democratic Jews in the United States strongly support Obama, but also strongly support Israel. Asked explicitly to choose between Obama's position and that of the Israeli government on issues such as construction in the settlements, or the two-state solution, they back the Israeli view by more than two to one. To me this indicates that the jury is still out and that a backlash may yet develop against Obama's policies."

Sorry, Mr. Gold, but two to one in support of Israel and opposed to the President's policies vis a vis Israel among Jewish Democrats indicates, to me, that Israel remains a major concern for most of us.

The alternative Mr. Gold presents, that we were "fooled" by the Obama campaign, is also completely wrong. As a religious minority we watched John McCain sell his soul to the religious right of the Republican party. We watched him select Sarah Palin, an incompetent and absolutely unprepared less than one term governor from Alaska as his Vice Presidential choice. Mrs. Palin is also an overtly right wing evangelical Christian. Jewish Americans who aren't wedded to the Republican Party or the conservative movement still distrust evangelicals with good reason. First, they seek tirelessly to convert us to Christianity and strip us of our Jewish religion, traditions, and culture. Second, for many evangelicals their support for Israel includes a prophetic view of the future in which the Jewish people either accept Jesus or are slaughtered in a coming apocalypse. Consequently they support the most right wing and intransigent forces in Israel who work against any hope of peace at any time in the future. Sorry, but to most American Jews these people are not our friends. The prospect of Mrs. Palin, who shares those views, a heartbeat away from the Presidency was truly frightening.

We saw a right-wing Republican campaign as contrary to the liberal values most American Jews, and indeed the majority of Jews in Israel, share. We saw Senator McCain and Governor Palin, and the prospect of their likely Supreme Court nominations, as a direct threat to our religious freedom in America.

American Jews were faced with a difficult choice. We looked at Barack Obama's record in the U.S. Senate, which was staunchly pro-Israel. We wondered if it was sincere or merely a necessity to be elected Senator from Illinois. We looked at his statements while in the Illinois Senate which also were positive. We heard his campaign statements and we heard reassurances from Joe Biden, whose record of support for Israel is long and impeccable. We watched other strongly pro-Israel Democrats line up behind Obama.

After all that many of us still had our doubts but looking at the candidates and hearing the reassurances about Mr. Obama we made what seemed to be the less onerous choice. I am still not at all sure it was the wrong choice. Yesterday I wrote about the power of Democrats who support Israel to influence the President and help to change his policy towards Israel. I will remind my readers once again that both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were seen as anti-Israel early in their respective administrations. Early in the Bush administration when Prime Minister Sharon visited the President pro-Israel voices in the press colorfully stated that the Prime Minister had been "bushwhacked." The Prime Minister then famously warned President Bush that Israel is not Czechoslovakia in 1938, to be sacrificed to appease the Arabs. The President's policies changed and Mr. Gold is one of those that still sees Mr. Bush as the best friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.

Much as an assessment based on the first six months of the Clinton or Bush administrations would have reached the wrong conclusion about how these Presidents would shape American policy towards Israel, so too might Mr. Gold's assessment of President Obama prove false. The truth is we just don't know yet. I also find it interesting that Mr. Gold is attacking American Jewry for a lack of loyalty to Israel. Didn't Mrs. Palin, a candidate he supported, characterize anyone in areas which weren't supporting her candidacy as essientially un-American? I wonder how Mr. Gold reconciles that with condemning American Jews for putting American interests ahead of his notion of Israeli interests. That is the assertion Mr. Gold is making.

Simply put, Mr. Gold's article does not pass the smell test. I wrote yesterday that Republicans and conservatives who see political gain in discrediting President Obama will always throw proverbial stones regardless of the policy. They will always find fault. It is in their political interest to do so. If we ignored Republican warnings about Mr. Obama during the campaign it was simply because the source of those warnings was not trustworthy. Democrats, liberals, and moderates are not interested in condemning the President. We are more interested in meaningful policy change towards Israel. Mr. Gold, as a conservative Republican, is in no position to castigate and condemn Jewish Democrats when his true agenda has less to do with what is right for Israel than it does with pushing a conservative Republican agenda, one most American Jews simply do not agree with.

I am an American Jew of Israeli heritage. Much of my family lives in Israel. I am actively planning aliya. My love for the State of Israel and my support of Israel could not be stronger. I also love the United States of America and all the opportunities this country has given me. I don't see a conflict or a tension between the love of these two countries. I am also a Democrat who voted for President Obama. I don't think I made the wrong choice. As such I find Mr. Gold's article questioning my values and loyalties and those of other Jewish Democrats offensive and insulting.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Israel Must Live Up To Its Commitments If Israel's American Supporters Hope To Change Obama Policy

NOTE: First published as part of The Jerusalem Post blogging competition earlier today

It seems that every day I read an editorial piece in a right-leaning or overtly right-wing publication or blog about the deteriorating relations between the Obama administration and Israel. The President has been, without any doubt, increasing pressure on Israel to halt all construction over the green line including eastern Jerusalem. Those on the political right continually portray President Obama as hostile to Israel. For example, Anne Bayefsky, writing for National Review Online, characterized the administration's policies at the U.N. as "a new strategy for throwing Israel to the wolves."

It is becoming increasingly difficult for those on the political left to simply dismiss these comments as just so much more Republican or right-wing anti-Obama rhetoric. Many of us in the American Jewish community who voted for President Obama did so with real reservations about his commitment to Israel. Candidate Obama did all he could to reassure the American supporters of Israel: Jewish, Christian, and others, and for many of us it was sufficient to allow us to focus on other issues when we entered the voting booth. When President Obama did meet with Jewish leaders he chose to exclude those who did not agree with his policies, even though that meant excluding the largest Jewish and Zionist organizations in the United States. Rather than reassuring American supporters of Israel the President further alienated those with legitimate concerns about his policies.

Israeli Deputy Premier Dan Meridor, speaking to reporters on July 21, correctly pointed out that agreements between Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush regarding settlement construction should be binding on the two countries:

"We never had an agreement with the previous administration. We had an agreement with America. The agreement we had with the Americans is binding on us and them [...] They should keep to the agreement. [...] It was agreed that the Israelis can go on building within certain parameters. That's what happened, and no word was said against it in six years."

There is still plenty of support for Mr. Meridor's position among Democrats and those left of center in the United States. Support by political leaders of both parties, as demonstrated by the unanimous support for Israel in both houses of Congress during Operation Cast Lead, remains as strong as ever. Many Congressional Democrats have been quietly or not so quietly expressing concerns about the President's policies in the Middle East.

Mr. Meridor speaks about the U.S. keeping agreements. That means that Israel must do the same. The most obvious example of where the Netanyahu government and, indeed, prior Israeli governments have not done so, or at the very least have dragged their collective feet and moved as slowly as possible, is in meeting the commitment to remove illegal settler outposts. Oh, and before someone challenges my use of the word "illegal", I mean illegal under Israeli law. Prime Minister Sharon, Prime Minister Olmert, and now Prime Minister Netanyahu have all committed to building no new settlements and to removing unauthorized ones set up by far right settlers.

Yes, I am aware that two small outposts were evacuated in May. I am also aware that the IDF has denied there are plans to quickly evacuate the remaining 23 outposts. The Chinese news agency Xinhua is reporting that evacuations will take place in September, citing the Jerusalem Post as a source. However, I have repeatedly read of plans for evacuating all the illegal outposts over the years and it never seems to happen.

Obviously I would like to see Mr. Meridor's words taken to heart by Democrats who can influence the President and hopefully bring about a policy change. However, it will be difficult if not impossible to convince the President to honor American commitments if Israel does not honor similar commitments.

I will remind people who see no point in even trying to influence the Obama administration of a little history. Initially President Clinton was seen by some to be hostile towards Israel. Relations between the Clinton administration and the first Netanyahu government were rocky at first. In the end President Clinton's efforts at peacemaking failed. His view on Israel evolved during that process and he placed the blame for that failure where it belongs, squarely with the Palestinians. It didn't take long before President Clinton was seen as a friend of Israel.

Early in the Bush administration when Prime Minister Sharon visited the President pro-Israel voices in the press colorfully stated that the Prime Minister had been "bushwhacked." The Prime Minister then famously warned President Bush that Israel was not Czechoslovakia in 1938:
"We are currently in the midst of a complex and difficult diplomatic campaign. I turn to the western democracies, first and foremost the leader of the free world, the United States. Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938, when the enlightened democracies of Europe decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for the sake of a temporary, convenient solution. Don't try to appease the Arabs at our expense. We will not accept this."

After 9/11 President Bush found common cause with Prime Minister Sharon and relations improved to the point that some called the President the best friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.

Republicans and conservatives who see political gain in discrediting President Obama will always throw proverbial stones regardless of the policy. They will always find fault. It is in their political interest to do so. Democrats, liberals, and moderates are more interested in meaningful policy change. History argues that it may be possible to bring about that change and that it is far too early to judge President Obama's administration. However, if we are to insist on change in a meaningful way we can't ask of American what Israel itself fails to do. If commitments are to be met they must be met by both countries.

NOTE: You can rate this article or comment on it as part of the competition.

Jerusalem Post Blogging Competition

I received an e-mail today about a blogging competition sponsored by The Jerusalem Post. Top rated entries will be included in both the online and print editions of the newspaper. I was invited to join the competition based on my posts here. I've recently run into increasing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism (more about that soon) and had already decided that I really needed to get back to blogging about Israel and Jewish issues as I have done in the past. The invitation was well timed and one I simply could not resist.

My first post is entitled: Israel Must Live Up To Its Commitments If Israel's American Supporters Hope To Change Obama Policy. There appears to be no rule against cross posting so I will also publish the piece here shortly.

The contest has five or six days to run. My intention is to publish at least high quality piece per day. With any luck I can maintain something close to that pace after the contest ends. If you create an account with BloggerBase you can vote on my articles and help me get published in The Jerusalem Post. Obviously I'd love it if you could take the time to do that.

UPDATE: It now appears I can only submit one post for the contest, at least for now. That didn't stop me from writing a second article. I am happy with the one I submitted yesterday in any case.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Iran

If you haven't seen Prime Minister Netanyahu's interview last Sunday on Meet The Press it really is "Must See TV", to borrow NBC's slogan. (NBC is the network that broadcasts Meet The Press in the U.S.) For those of you who prefer to read the transcript you can find it here.

A few high points:
Obviously, you see a regime that represses its own people and spreads terror far and wide. It is a regime whose real nature has been unmasked, and it's been unmasked by incredible acts of courage by Iran citizens. They go into the streets, they face bullets and, I tell you, as somebody who believes deeply in democracy, that you see the Iranian lack of democracy at work, and I think this better explains and best explains to the entire world what this regime is truly about.


Andrei Sakharov, the great Russian scientist and humanist, said that a regime that oppresses its own people sooner or later will oppress its neighbors and, certainly, Iran has been doing that. It's been calling for the denial of the Holocaust. It's threatening to wipe Israel off the map; it's pursuing nuclear weapons to that effect; it's sponsoring terror against us but throughout the world. So I think what everybody would like to see is a change of policy, both outside and inside.


I don't subscribe to the view that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is a status symbol. It's not. These are people who are sending thousands and thousands of missiles to their terrorist proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas, with the specific instruction to bomb civilians in Israel. They are supporting terrorists in the world. This is not a status symbol.

To have such a regime acquire nuclear weapons is to risk the fact that they might give it to terrorists or give terrorists a nuclear umbrella - that is a departure in the security of the Middle East and the world, certainly the security of my country. So I wouldn't treat the subject so lightly."

Watch the full interview:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carter on Settlements: Gush Etzion Will Remain Israeli "Forever"

Yesterday former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited Neveh Daniel and met with Shaul Goldstien, who leads the Gush Etzion Regional Council, in Goldstien's home. Here are some of President Carter's comments as reported by The Jerusalem Post:
This particular settlement area is not one I ever envision being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory."

He added that the Jewish communities in Gush Etzion are among a number of West Bank settlements "...that I think will be here forever." The former President also thanked the Gush Etzion residents he met with:
I recognize that their suffering is taking place in an area where strife and misunderstanding and animosity exists. I have been fortunate this afternoon in learning the perspective that I did not have. I explained to those listening of my long-time commitment to Israel. The most important element in my life in the last 30 years is to bring peace...

What makes this statement so important is the fact that it came from President Carter, a political leader widely considered to be strongly pro-Palestinian and who has wrongly compared Israeli policies to South African apartheid. I have been harshly critical of Mr. Carter in the past but this time he absolutely gets it right.

President Carter has come to the same realiztion that Presidents Clinton and Bush have reached: the 1949 armistice line, to so-called "pre-1967 borders" were never intended to be borders at all and simply are not defensible. Israel can never return to those "borders" and the intransigent Palestinian position of refusing to budge from the armistice line or engage in land swaps is a real obstacle to any hope of peace in the future.

Even the use of the term "settlements" is often inaccurate and misleading. Here is what I wrote about the history of the Etzion bloc in March, 2006:
Gush Etzion and pretty much the entire Etzion bloc were Jewish property and Jewish towns prior to 1948. Israeli forces had to evacuate the population when the Jordanian army conquered the area during Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence. Why does 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation turn Israeli Jewish towns into colonies? Why was Jordan's occupation deemed somehow legitimate and Israel's subsequent control of the area for the next nearly 39 years somehow illegitimate?

The fact is that all "settlements" are not equal. They do not all have the same history and are not somehow stolen Palestinian land. President Clinton recognized this in regard to the Jewish community in Hebron as well. From the same March, 2006 piece:
...the Jewish community of Hebron lived for many centuries in peace with their Arab neighbors. It was only the violence incited by then Palestinian Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, the British appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and the subsequent Hebron massacre of 1929, that drove the Jewish community out. The "settlers" in Hebron have simply reclaimed homes and property that was Jewish for centuries and restored a community in a city that is holy to the Jewish people. Hebron is, after all, the site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. President Bill Clinton recognized this, proposing at Camp David in 2000 that Palestinians lease the Jewish enclaves in the city to the Jewish inhabitants and/or Israel indefinitely. His idealistic vision was one of Jews and Palestinian Arabs once again living together in peace. Does either the terrorism and slaughter of 1929 or the Jordanian occupation of Hebron from 1948 until 1967 negate the Jewish claims in the city and centuries of continued Jewish presence there?

Sadly it does not appear that President Obama understands this history in his call for a freeze to all settlement activity. If he was calling for no further expropriation of land from the Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria I'd agree with the President. If he was talking about not expanding settlements geographically I'd agree that such expansion would be damaging to any prospects for a meaningful peace process. That isn't what the President is talking about. He is opposed even to natural growth within Jewish towns and cities on land within those communities. President Obama is critical of Israel at a time when Israeli policies have allowed for negligible settlement growth or, in some cases, actual declines in population and as the Netanyahu government forcibly evacuates illegal outposts.

It is high time President Obama stops trying to determine the outcome of peace talks in advance at a time when the Palestinian leadership seems to have little or no interest in compromise or peace. It is particularly important that the President learns more of the history of the Jewish communities in question and comes to the same realizations that President Clinton, President Bush, and now even President Carter have come to. There are Jewish communities beyond the Green Line that are legal, legitimate, and here to stay.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iranian Opposition Arrests Are For "Traffic Violations"

I watched part of the press conference today by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad today. I heard his claim that the reporting of what was essentially a stolen election was "slander" by Western journalists. He claimed that the arrests and violence with riot police seen beating protesters was just the normal sort of thing that happens when people "leave a soccer stadium". I listened to him claim that everyone is equal in Iran and that the people arrested were being "fined" by the police for violating traffic laws. He repeatedly claimed that 40 million people voted in Iran and that "safeguards" the elections. He insisted that there is "no partisanship" in Iran as in the West, that everyone remains friends and nobody asks who you voted for in Iran. All of this was to justify his government's claim that President Ahmadenijad was reelected with 63% of the vote despite the fact that they have not released any vote tallies and that all polls and press reports prior to the voting indiciated a likely opposite result.

Despite President Ahmadenijad's claims to the contrary it is clear to all the world that is willing to look at Iran honestly that what exists is a theocratic totalitarian state, not a democracy in any sense of the word. This is, of course, the same President Ahmadenijad who denies the Holocaust and wants to wipe Israel off the map and says so to thunderous applause at the U.N. This is the same President Ahmadenijad who sees his country's quest for both nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology as a "right".

Today The New York Times and The Jerusalem Post are reporting that President Obama is still determined to enter into direct talks with Iran in spite of the stolen election. This makes the previous report that that the U.S. administration is not accepting the election results ring hollow. It is time for President Obama and his administration to end their timid, almost acquiescent, approach to Iran. If the President ever needed a justification to change his policy towards Iran he has it in this stolen election. U.S. policy needs to return to one that recognizes that Iran simply will not engage in any meaninfuly negotiations and is effectively immune to diplomacy. If Iran does enter into any talks with the West in general or the United States in particular it is simply to buy time to allow the nuclear and missile programs to be completed.

Three and a half years ago I used this blog to call for U.S. military action to end the Iranian nuclear program. The point I made then is that the consequences for the U.S. and the world as a whole would be much less severe and fewer lives would be lost if the U.S. rather than Israel took such action. I still believe that is true but I also believe that the Obama administration will never do any such thing. We know that last September Israel was prepared to go ahead with such an attack. It has been widely reported that President Bush effectively vetoed the action and that Prime Minister Olmert decided not to act without American support. Earlier this month we had the spectacle of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman assuring the Russians that Israel will not attack Iran and that this is an international problem, not an Israeli one per se. Never mind that the international community, as demonstrated in April at the U.N. Durban II conference, would be perfectly content to see Israel destroyed and that Iranian leaders have promised to do just that.

The "election" in Iran demonstrates clearly that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is very much in charge and that Iran's President will be whomever Khamenei decides will be President. The people of Iran, whom President Ahmadenijad insists have "total freedom", have no say whatsoever. The aftermath of the election, with internet services blocked, newspapers shut down, and the opposition either arrested or under threat of arrest, signals clearly that nothing is going to change in Iran. Their desire to destroy Israel and to have a leadership that proclaims that openly has not changed.

What needs to change is the timid response by the United States and the equally timid response by Israel at America's behest. Americans need to remember that there is only one nation that the Iranian leadership hates more than Israel: the "Great Satan", the United States. With a theocratic regims that believes that an apocalyptic battle will set the stage for the return of the 12th Imam, the Islamic messiah, it would be foolish to believe that given nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them that Iran would not use them. This sham election should serve as a reminder than nothing short of military action will prevent that. I said it three and a half years ago and I repeat it now.

At the very least President Obama needs to untie the hands of Israel's leadership. Failing that it is time that Prime Minister Netanyahu realizes that he cannot count on the United States to prevent Israel's destruction. Israel must act to safeguard her citizens and her survival with our without U.S. approval.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

President Obama Hosting Passover Seder

Barack Obama will become the first American President ever to host a Passover seder at the White House.

While the story has received minimal mainstream media coverage here in the U.S. it was much bigger news in the Jewish and Israeli press. The historical significance was not lost on The Jerusalem Post:
'I'm really happy to hear about it,' said Steve Rabinowitz, who once led a staff Seder in the Clinton White House but didn't know of any White House Seder in which the president had personally taken part before now. 'It's been an extremely open White House to all faith communities, certainly including ours.'

William Daroff, who runs the United Jewish Communities' Washington office, recalled that former president Franklin D. Roosevelt snuck out the back door of the White House in 1943 to avoid seeing rabbis marching out front to demand US action to save European Jews from the Nazis.

'Sixty-six years later the President of the United States is spending Thursday evening with his friends and family celebrating the liberation and survival of the Jewish people,' Daroff noted, calling the event 'a testament to how far we have come as a Jewish people in America.'

In a bit of irony former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) chose today to declare that the Obama administration is "anti-religious". He was referring to the appointment of Harry Knox, a former Methodist minister and an outspoken gay rights advocate to the White House advisory council on faith-based initiatives. Apparently Mr. Gingrich believes anything other than right-wing evangelical Christianity isn't worthy of consideration as a religion. There are any number of liberal and tolerant Christian denominations. Reform Judaism is openly supportive of gay rights as are many in the Conservative (Masorti) movement.

I'm often asked why Jews tend to vote Democratic by conservative friends who see liberals as insufficiently supportive of Israel. While many European leaders were issuing warnings and thinly veiled threats to the new Israeli government even before Prime Minister Netanyahu officially took office President Obama chose that day to declare America's "unwavering support" for Israel. Support for Israel among Democratic leaders is not lacking.

Many right-wing Republicans, on the other hand, are very tied to Christian fundamentalism. Mr. Gingrich also accused President Obama of being "intensely secular". As a Jewish woman and a member of a religious minority in this country I am more comfortable with a secular government than an intolerant fundamentalist Christian one. My mainstream Jewish values are very different than those of the American Christian religious right.

I, for one, am grateful to President Obama's support for Israel even if I have some reservations about specific elements of his foreign policy. I think Mr. Gingrich's comments on the day before the President is taking part in a truly historic Jewish religious observance illustrate very well why I can't support his views.

To President Obama, and to all my readers:

Hag Sameach! Happy Passover!

A Breath Of Fresh Air From The Israeli Foreign Ministry

The rather right-wing One Jerusalem website, in an April 2nd article, characterized new Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as having the right message but of being the wrong messenger. They describe the vilification of Lieberman in the media:
Critics of Lieberman included the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, western public officials, editorial boards, and most anyone else involved in foreign affairs.

In the vast majority of the reports Lieberman is depicted as a 'racist' who hates Arabs. He is also seen as an international outlaw who is challenging the very foundations of Middle Eastern international relations.
The Jerusalem Post covered Lieberman's speech to his new staff at the foreign ministry. Here are a few highlights:
I think that we have seen the cheapening of many concepts, first and foremost of the word 'peace.' The fact that we say the word 'peace' 20 times a day will not bring peace any closer. There have been two governments here that took far-reaching measures: the Sharon government and the Olmert government. They took dramatic steps and made far-reaching proposals. We have seen the disengagement and witnessed the Annapolis accord. I read in the newspaper about the far-reaching proposals made by the prime minister to the other side, which I do not think have ever been made, outside of Barak's visit to Camp David.

Israel Beiteinu was not then part of the coalition; Avigdor Lieberman was not the foreign minister. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't have hampered bringing peace. But I do not see that it brought peace. To the contrary. It is precisely when we made all the concessions that I saw the Durban Conference, I saw two countries in the Arab world suddenly sever relations, recalling their ambassadors - Mauritania and Qatar. Qatar suddenly becoming extremist.

We are also losing ground every day in public opinion. Does anyone think that concessions, and constantly saying 'I am prepared to concede,' and using the word 'peace' will lead to anything? No, that will just invite pressure, and more and more wars. 'Si vis pacem, para bellum' - if you want peace, prepare for war, be strong. We certainly desire and want peace, but the other side also bears responsibility."

Am I the only one who is cheering these words? The Foreign Minister is absolutely correct that Israeli concessions have been interpreted as weakness, both in the Arab world and among Israel's critics in Europe and elsewhere. Withdrawing unilaterally from Gaza didn't bring the opening for peace that Prime Minister Sharon hoped for. It only brought more bloodshed: bloodshed initiated by Hamas. It also brought more international condemnation. It didn't matter that not a single Israeli remained in Gaza. It didn't matter that Egypt also controls a border with Gaza. Somehow Israel was still guilty of "occupation" and "oppression" because it wouldn't allow the free flow of goods, including weapons, and people, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.

Foreign Minister Lieberman is also right to put the onus for peacemaking on the Palestinians. Palestinian President Abbas is boycotting the new Israeli government even as Prime Minister Netanyahu is talking about strengthening the Abbas-led Fatah government and moving ahead with the peace process. To me the speech is a breath of fresh air. It's about time Israel had a Foreign Minister who is not timid and not afraid to speak the truth.

One Jerusalem has its own objections to Foreign Minister Lieberman. He is an outspoken proponent of a two state solution who has said that he would gladly give up his West Bank home for peace. One Jerusalem doesn't support a two state solution.

Usually if you are criticized from both the left and right you are doing something right. Next week I'll look at Foreign Minister Lieberman's record and statements in more detail. While some respectful criticism of and concern about the Foreign Minister is certainly justified much of the media attacks on him are certainly not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fatah: "Hamas Are Criminals"

It seems the criticism of Hamas, including blaming Hamas and its supporters for the current death and destruction in Gaza, isn't limited to Israel and its supporters. A Fatah official in Ramallah, speaking on condition on anonymity to the Jerusalem Post on Sunday, said, in part:
"The Iranians and Syrians are using Hamas to undermine the Palestinian Authority and other moderate Arab governments. Victory for Hamas in this war would mean victory for Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. This is something we need to prevent."

So it seems even moderate Palestinians want an Israeli victory in Gaza. The anonymous official also hopes that Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh would be tried before a Palestinian court as "war criminals." The Hamas leaders, he charged, were responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians.
"Ever since they came to power, they brought death and destruction to our people."

Funny, if you listen to the U.N. and some media outlets you'd think that Israel was responsible for all the killing and only Israelis could ever be considered war criminals. It seems that objective and honest people, even Palestinians, see things differently.

On the record Abdel Rahman, a senior advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, mocked claims made by Hamas leaders about their successes against Israel. He added:
"The Gaza Strip belongs to the Palestinian people. The Gaza Strip is part of Palestine and not a Hamas-owned estate."

I will repeat my contention that the only hope for peace to ever be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians depends on an Israeli victory in Gaza, not the premature ceasefire the U.N. is pushing for. Hamas must be removed from power and Gaza must be returned to Palestinian Authority control under international supervision.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

International Law and the Fighting In Gaza

Earlier today the Global Law Center issued a report titled International Law and the Fighting In Gaza. The report finds that Hamas has repeatedly violated international law and also cites "Israel's exemplary conduct." Here are a few key excerpts:
"Each one of the 6,000 rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian terrorists on civilian targets in Israeli towns is a war crime. Both the terror squads carrying out the attacks, as well as their commanders, bear criminal responsibility."


"A consortium of Palestinian terrorist groups have held Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit incommunicado and out of reach of the International Committee of the Red Cross since 2006. This is a clear violation of international law concerning prisoners of war."


"The Palestinian attacks must be seen as terrorist attacks under the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, which makes it a crime to bomb public places (such as city streets) with the intent to kill civilians. Under this Convention, the Palestinian attackers are considered international terrorists and Israel is required to assume criminal jurisdiction over them."


"The Hamas attacks fall within this definition of genocide. The Covenant of Hamas explicitly advocates a religious holy war aimed at creating a regional Islamic entity encompassing the territory of Israel and the disputed areas."


"In contrast to the illegal Palestinian attacks from Gaza, Israeli counter-measures have been legal. Indeed, Israel’s responses to Palestinian terrorist attacks and war crimes have been limited to far less than the full measure of actions Israel could legally have undertaken. In fact, Israel’s responses may be properly criticized on the grounds of international law, if at all, for being insufficient rather than excessive.

Many of the legal criticisms of Israel are implicitly based upon misinterpretations of the relevant international law. Moreover, many of the charges are disingenuously based upon misstatements of fact or misuse of legal terminology."


"Under international law, it is certain that Israel has the right to use force in defending itself against Palestinian attacks from Gaza. If Gaza is an independent sovereignty, and entitled to all the rights of states under jus ad bellum, Israel would be entitled to use force against Gaza by authority of the inherent right to self-defense referenced by Article 51 of the UN Charter. Gaza would have lost its general immunity from attack by repeatedly striking at its neighbor state and Israel’s use of force would therefore be permissible on the grounds of self-defense."


"At the same time, it is clear that Palestinian actions in conducting military operations from within built-up civilian areas, thereby increasing Palestinian casualties, constitute war crimes. It is important to note that Israel is not required to refrain from attacking Palestinian combatants simply because they have chosen to hide behind civilians. As Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention makes clear, the presence of civilians 'may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.' The article also makes Palestinian attempts to use civilian shields unlawful. "

All of the accusations made against Israel to date have come from organizations with a long history of an anti-Israeli bias. These include Arab sources, the United Nations, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The U.N., in particular, stands accused of conducting a diplomatic and political war against Israel in an editorial published in last Thursday's New York Daily News by Anne Bayefsky of Eye On The U.N. Ms. Bayefsky believes that the 63 "Islamic [states] chokehold on the UN" leaves the organization incapable of even defining terrorism. She points to all the various condemnations of Israel and notes that the General Assembly has never found fault with other nations even in clear cases of genocide.
"The same Assembly never managed to hold a single emergency session on the 800,000 people who died in the Rwandan genocide, or the 3 million who are dead or displaced in Sudan."

A former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross once equated the Jewish Star of David with the Nazi swastika. Enough said.

Unfortunately much of the international media seems to share the anti-Israel agenda and serve as willing accomplices in the attempt to strip Israel of any ability to defend itself. Consequently I expect the Global Law Center report will get little or no media coverage. Both the organizations making the war crime changes against Israel and many in the media count on the fact that most people just aren't educated about international law or what it really has to say. We can't have the truth actually get out to people, can we? Rather the media assumes that a lie, repeated enough times, will become the truth.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Great Example Of Why I Love The United States: Today's Senate Resolution

Today the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution supporting Israel's right to defend itself against the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza. The resolution was cosponsored by the normally unlikely duo of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Senator Reid (D-NV) stated that the resolution would :
"..."strengthen our historic bond with the State of Israel by reaffirming Israel's inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."

Senator McConnell (R-KY) made perhaps the strongest statement about why the United States continues to back the Israeli military action in Gaza, saying that Israel
"...responding exactly the same way [the US] would if rockets were being launched into the United States from Canada or Mexico."

This is a perfect example of why I love the United States. The U.S., like Europe, has strong commercial interests in the Arab world, not to mention U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would be expedient to criticize Israel to protect those perhaps larger interests in the Muslim world. The U.S., unlike Europe, rarely if ever does that. There is an understanding of the history involved and a moral clarity that transcends the almighty dollar or partisan politics. There is a certain dishonesty in those who would condemn Israel and yet would demand action much like that taken by Israel if their own nations and families were under fire.

Sadly this resolution by the U.S. Senate today received little or no coverage in the American media. I had to go to the Jerusalem Post to find the story.

UPDATE: The Senate resolution actually passed unanimously, as did an identical resolution in the House of Representatives. Every single U.S. member of Congress, without exception, voted to support Israel.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

On Gaza: It's Time The World Sees What American Leaders See So Clearly

Last July President-elect Barack Obama visited Sderot, the Israeli town which has suffered most from Hamas rocket attacks eminating from Gaza. His words then were clear and unequivocal:
If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

In terms of negotiations with Hamas, it is very hard to negotiate with a group that is not representative of a nation state, does not recognize your right to exist, has consistently used terror as a weapon, and is deeply influenced by other countries.

President Bush has been equally clear. On Monday he spoke about the current fighting:
The situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas. Instead of caring about the people of Gaza, Hamas decided to use Gaza to launch rockets to kill innocent Israelis. Israel's obviously decided to protect herself and her people.

Democratic leaders in Congress have been almost uniformly taking exactly the same position. This is perhaps the one and only issue in American politics today where there is no partisan divide. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has been a particularly forceful voice:
Israel is acting in clear self-defense in response to heinous rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza. As a sovereign nation, Israel has an unequivocal right to take action to ensure the security and safety of her citizens. Indiscriminate attacks by Hamas are a serious detriment to the peace process in the region.

There are very few, even among Israel's harshest critics, who would deny the fact that the current crisis was started by unprovoked rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas. They, however, ignore this issue, reciting tired old lines about Palestinian grievances against Israel to justify Hamas terrorism and decry "Israeli aggression". The usual suspects on the far left and in the international media highlight Palestinian deaths and show us pictures of crying Palestinian children to tug at the heartstrings and turn public opinion against Israel. Outside the United States and Canada they have largely succeeded.

Maintream American media, thankfully, has been more balanced. CNN's Anderson Cooper showed the same disturbing images from Gaza but followed them with photos of Hamas rockets and destruction in southern Israel. PBS program "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer" has, as always, shown both sides of the conflict. This seems to me to be the main reason why American public opinion is so different from that in the rest of the world. Americans have all the facts at their disposal, something those who rely on more biased media simply do not have.

The most interesting reaction has been from the Arab world. Oh, the streets and most media outlets have been denouncing Israel steadily, using extreme language and exaggeration together with graphic images to stoke passions against the Jewish state. This is to be expected. Every Israeli action is a new "genocide" or "holocaust". Those words have been so cheapened in that part of the world that they have almost lost any meaning, a tragedy in and of itself.

The reaction from Arab leaders has been far more muted for good reason. Moderate, mainly Sunni Arab leaders know that Hamas is their enemy as well and a proxy for Iran. Douglas Bloomfield, writing in the Jerusalem Post, calls these leaders "Israel's reluctant allies:"
From this tendency of Arab leaders to speak out of both sides of their mouths, one might get the impression that they suffer from a collective case of schizophrenia, but it's actually fear mixed with hypocrisy.

None of these dictators is a candidate for the next edition of Profiles in Courage. They are scared of the influence of the militant Islamists and the popularity of the Palestinian cause on the Arab street. Iran and its allies have focused on creating animosity to the entrenched and repressive Sunni regimes which, in the age of satellites and the Internet, can no longer turn public emotions on and off like a water tap.

That's why they are praying so hard for an Israeli victory.

Defeating Hamas now will certainly result in a tragic loss of life. Many innocent people, the majority of them Palestinians, will certainly die. However, it is time that the bleeding hearts on the left in both North America and Europe realize that dislodging Hamas now will prevent repeats of this war and bloodshed in the future and might, just maybe, revive some slim hope for peace in the future. In the long run letting Israel finish what it has started will save lives. My biggest fear is that world leaders, including American leaders, will allow images from Gaza and public sentiment to sway them into pressuring Israel to end the conflict prematurely.

I also ask those who only mourn Palestinian casualties to think about President-elect Obama's words. What would you want your government to do if missiles were raining down on your home and your family? Can any of you honestly say that you wouldn't want your government to do anything and everything necessary to stop the rockets and save your family?