Sunday, July 11, 2010

Don't See Israel!

A young woman named Leah Molayem, who seems first to have visited Israel a few years ago with a Birhtright tour, has now returned and is disappointed to learn that Israelis are pushy. Why weren't we told this, she complains.

Israelis are pushy, of course. That's why they've created such a miraculous country in the face of such resistance. It's part of the same story: it's hard to have a society that pushes against all odds for generations, without people being pushy.

Molayem's basic point however is more substantial. All these young American (and other) Jews who come on Birthright tours don't really see Israel as it is. Yet it's hard to blame Birthright for this: Israel is here, 75-80% of American Jews have never visited, and when they finally come for a short 9 days, the idea is to have them leave with great memories. Maybe someday they'll come back and see the more serious stuff (of which the pushiness isn't).

Staying at home and reading the New York Times won't do the trick. Case in point: Nicholas Kritstof's recent trip. He wrote at least three columns for his paper in one quick trip, all slanted.

First, he reported from the West Bank. A large majority of Israels actually agree with him that the settlement project is wrong and should be ended, but you'll not learn that from this column. On the contrary: there are some brave Israeli human rights activists facing down their country, lots of Palestinian victims, and that's it. Any pieces of the picture missing?

Kristof's second report was again from the West Bank, this time a paean of praise for Rabbi Arik Ascherman, head of Rabbis for Human Rights. Again, no real context, certainly no explanation of the fact that while there's that majority of Israelis who'd love to leave the West Bank, there are a reason or two to make them pause. Nothing. By implication, there's a Jim Crow Israeli majority, and some Freedom Riders standing up to them. (Kristof's imagery).

Finally, Kristof traveled to Gaza. There's no starvation, he found, and actually things are better than his last visit (which was when, I'm curious to know but he doesn't tell), but the Israeli siege is counter productive. It has made Hamas popular. No mention of the fact that Hamas won an election six months after Israel left Gaza entirely, when there was no blockade - that wouldn't fit the narrative, would it - nor of the fact that the last time Israel really and fully left occupied Arab territory Hezbullah filled it with rockets, then shot them at Israel, and since then has filled it again in flagrant contravention of UNSC 1701.

Kristof, unlike the Birthright kids, could have seen and talked to whomever he wished. He's a NYT columnist, no-one would have turned down the opportunity. He might have learned a bit about Israel, and then taught his readers. But no. In all his columns he never cites any of the 99% of Israelis (literally 99%, not a rhetoric exaggeration) who are to the right of B'Tselem and Rabbi Ascherman.


Victor said...

Which is why you should try to get published in the NYT.

Anonymous said...

there are lots who should get published in the NYT but somehow the oh so all powerful "Israel Lobby" doesn't seem to be up to it.

and again: great new picture ;-)


Lebanese Michael Young says this about this and your last post - isn't it amazing the only people in a hostile country business might be done with are treated as if they were Israelis and by Israel's greatest ally to boot.

"That’s the difficulty in the “talk to Islamists” scheme. It is entirely America-centric, built on an assumption that the obstacles come from Washington and have nothing to do with the ideology and convictions of the Islamist groups themselves. It also rests on a Yankee notion that everyone secretly yearns to talk and that dialogue can resolve most issues. That’s not innovative thinking; it’s a case of transposing America to the minds of others, which is either naive or astonishingly smug."

Lee Ratner said...

I agree with Victor, you need to get a wider audience Dr. Lozowick. You should try getting an article or two or three published on one of the more mainstream English language blogs. You have the credentials to at least make a credible attempt.

Lee Ratner said...

I did Birthright at the late age of twenty-seven, I actually had to apply for special permission because I was over twenty-six but it was granted. Generally, I think it was a good experience. My birthright program was a special one for people in graduate school or who were already working. This made our trip slightly different. We even had to young women who converted to Judaism, for reasons not related to marriage, on our trip.

The main problem was that everything was rushed and you really could only get a theme park version of Israel on the tour. I would have liked the ability to explore Jerusalem and Tel Aviv more. A better way to expose Diaspora Jewish kids to Israel and Israeli Jewish kids to the Diaspora might be year long student exchange programs in high school and university.

Anonymous said...

I undrstand Yaacov is doing this in his spare time for naught, so why not lobby some prominent English language bloggers to do guest posts here and also to link and link and link

i.e. I'd much prefer Yaacov to become a must-read English language blog, than him being all over the place with all the workload that will entail.

The NYT which hopefully still pays people for work done is of course another story.

Empress Trudy said...

I've been thinking far left American Jews need to mount their own birthright program. One that boycotts Israel, protests all things Jewish and ultimately converts everyone to Islam or something quite like it.

NormanF said...

Ya'acov, I think the Palestinians' behavior is every reason why it is necessary to bring more Jews to Yesha. A Palestinian state is dangerous to Israel and the sooner this nonsense is dispensed with, the better off both the Arabs and the Jews will be.

RK said...

His previous visit was two years ago, as he notes in his blog post, which also discusses Hamas's popularity after the elections (he thinks it's less popular, but admits he's mostly speculating).

I think your objection to his Gaza column is misplaced. He talked about Hamas seizing power during his 2008 columns, but the point of his recent column—that the blockade is strengthening Hamas—isn't logically inconsistent with Hamas winning the election. It fits the narrative fine. The reason he doesn't mention it, presumably, is because everyone already knows Hamas won in 2006.

(The reason I don't post saying "I agree with this, I agree with this" is because that would get boring fast. But I agree with your complaint about his West Bank reporting, FWIW. I was also annoyed by his apparent sense that "lucid unraveling of Israel's founding mythology" and "critiques of Israel's historical claims" are valuable for their own sake, rather than based on whether they're, you know, true.)

4infidels said...

My guess is that Kristoff could have written the articles without ever leaving his desk at the NY Times. They are nothing more and nothing less than what one would have expected from him, given his ideology, his approach to Israel and his style of "investigating" complex issues. He could have easily obtained his Arab narrative, Israeli NGO background info and his heroic lefty Israeli quotes through email. Instead he flies in and see exactly what you would expect him to see, talks to the same old suspects and makes it all fit within the standard narrative and NY Times conventional wisdom.

He's mediocre in every way, save for his arrogance and overblown sense of self importance.

Kristoff's review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Nomad" is a perfect example of this. It drips with condescension when not full of the usual b.s. The most galling statement is when he compares the beating she suffered growing up with the corporal punishment he experienced in rural Oregon. Really? I don't you had your skull fractured. Or perhaps you missed that bit of information in reading the book prior to writing your putrid review. Here is the link:

4infidels said...

Kristoff's true work of genius was his column in defense of Sami al-Arian, the :"rumpled academic" as he called him, who was portrayed by Kristoff as your slightly eccentric but harmless uncle who was persecuted for a few little unfriendly statements he made about Israel.

At the time of his column, it was well known that there was a letter written by al-Arian praising heroic martyrdom operations in "Palestine" and video of him calling for "death to Israel" and saying Jews were sons of pigs and monkeys. Nonetheless, Kristoff made the story about academic freedom, with al-Arian being persecuted by a powerful pro-Israel machine for his political views.

Of course, we all know how the story ended up. Al-Arian pled guilty to supporting terrorism and it was uncovered in the trial that he was the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in North America, using his professorial office as a front to raise money for suicide bombings. I believe the charges from the U.S. gov't alleged that he was a co-conspirator in over 100 murders in Israel.

You know, just your typical absent minded professor, a "rumpled academic" who was unfairly persecuted by the Jews for exercising his academic freedom.

Sylvia said...


In Israel, the two-state solution is the consensus. Like it or not. And the people in Yesha know that very well. It is a fact that they didn't take to the streets and no one among them voiced any protest when Netanyahu made his Bar-Ilan speech.
I live in Israel in a Likud voters stronghold and I don't know anyone opposed to a Palestinian state. You should get used to it.

Sylvia said...


Evil works fast. Anti-zionist birthright trips already exist.

4infidels said...


How do you imagine a two-state solution would work? How would it actually improve the situation on the ground?

It is one thing for reasonable people, whether Labor, Likud, Kadima or another party, to say that the two-state solution is a logical way to divide the land and give each side an independent state, ending the conflict through a peace-treaty worked out in the spirit of compromise.

Reality says that the Arabs don't believe in compromise and have no interest in being reasonable and working out a permanent solution. Are they motivated by finding a logical win-win solution or by hatred, revenge and religious dogmatism? All the evidence favors the latter set of motivations!

Ed said...

"Finally, Kristof traveled to Gaza. There's no starvation, he found, and actually things are better than his last visit . . . . the Israeli siege is counter productive. It has made Hamas popular."

People are still laughing at Krauthammer for saying there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Will Kristof meet the same fate? No because he still manages to criticize the arms embargo.

Has does he know that Hamas is popular? Just who is going to risk his life to tell him otherwise? He can't move freely in Gaza and he doesn't know Arabic. There is no free speech in Gaza.

Anonymous said...

Jon Stewart made fun of Krauthammer for that

I'm still cross with him for his Flotilla piece, now would be the time for him to make good ...


Lee Ratner said...

4Infidels- Practically nobody who advocates a two-state solution believes that it would initially be anything but a cold peace at best. We still believe that it is the best solution in that it will free Israel of millions of Palestinians and the associated costs plus with the Occupation over take a lot of will out of the Western faction of the pro-Palestinian movement. This would end a lot of the attempts to boycott and otherwise harm Israel.

Israel can't realistically hold on to the West Bank for much longer without undergoing a lot of damage internationally. Eventually, a solution will be imposed for outside to the detriment of Israel rather than by Israel or with Israel having say in the final outcome.

Your fears about a vast and mighty Muslim horde invading Israel and the rest of the non-Muslim countries is nothing more than a fantasy. Muslims are not of one hive mind. Most acts of Islamic terrorism are committed against other Muslims, not non-Muslims. Considering this, the idea of all Muslims getting together to wage war against non-Muslims is laughable because they'd never get along with each other.

Anonymous said...

do you know how callous you sound?

I hope not.

Muslims are more interested in Muslims and so Israel would be safe because they would attack only one by one - that one by one young men will be dying for it that's sad and that is it?
The ignorance of what war means for people who were never close to it amazes me no end and yes even short and limited war means dead and injured fathers (and mothers)

I guess your assessment of the military situation for Israel is just as sound and well-founded as your assessment of the situation of Muslims in Europe was.

the 6-day-war is just a bit over 40 years ago and you assume that everything has changed?

ah and then there was Yom Kippur again they attacked only one by one and Israel could pick them off with comfort and at will ;-(

How easy one forms an opinion of things like that if one lives in a country that was never invaded but experienced only terror attacks.

Victor has a piece up about American Palestinians. What he describes is eerily similar to what our mostly Turkish nutters are up to and they seem to be getting more numerous which means that pressure to join on the decent ones in their parts of town will increase

and this piece which gives a bit of an impression of what Jihadists are up to these days


Lee Ratner said...

My response to Victor's article is so what? Regardless of the feelings of the Palestinian Diaspora community, an independent Palestine will boon to Israel rather than a dagger. The advantages won't be warm and fuzzy feelings but diplomatic and financial. I've also encountered many Diaspora Jews who are similarly militant, who think that Israel should just drive every Arab out of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza without much of a concern over the overall results. Extremist militancy in the Diaspora is not limited to the Palestinian part of the equation.

Financially, Israel won't be responsible for anything in an independent Palestine. The settlers and settlements won't have to be protected. Healthcare and a myriad of other services will no longer have to be provided. This will save Israel a lot of money. Diplomatically, the non-Muslim nations will no longer be pressuring Israel to do something about the Palestinians and most of the radicals will find something else to get fussy over just like after Apartheid ended, most of them moved on to other causes. If the Palestinians press on for West Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth, and Beer Sheva than the world will grow exasperated with them and abandon them.

Finally, I think everybody is overestimating the stomach of the leaders of the various Muslim countries for war against Israel. Even Hamas and Hizbollah are probably going to think twice least they receive another licking.

4infidels said...


I posted this a couple months ago in a comment in which I argued that the Palestinians don't really want an independent state alongside Israel...

The mindset of the Palestinians--informed first and foremost by their Islamic identity--is that Israel is a dagger in the heart of the Arab/Muslim world and must be destroyed. Obviously there are enlightened exceptions, but those in power--those with the guns and the money and the mosques and the microphones--all seem to be saying that destroying Israel is more important than having independence in part of Palestine. The leadership has consistently declined any opportunities to improve the lives of their people under the assumption that as long as their situation can be blamed on Israel, it serves their interests for their people to be in refugee camps and to keep the story alive of a "people driven out of their homeland." If anything, the Palestinians view offers of a two-state solution and Western or Israeli aid as nothing more than a devious plot to deprive them of their highest purpose, which is to end Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. It is a zero-sum game for the Arab-Muslim side, and in that respect, independence, governing and nation building will weaken the devotion to jihad, and thus be a betrayal to the Palestinian cause.

Lee Ratner said...

4infidels- I believe that you are wrong with your theory that Islamic identity overwhelms national identity for the various Muslim-majority nationalities. The Muslim world is not even close to being a monolithic bloc. Its filled with factions that hate each other and do not get a long. Hence, the recent comment from the U.A.E. about a preemptive strike against Iran is better than Iran getting the bomb. The Arabs are about as enthusiastic about a nuclear Iran as Israel or anybody else is, not very. You also don't against for the Sunni-Shiite split and the vast amounts of Muslim on Muslim alliance. A working and effective Muslim alliance against Israel is an impossibility because of all the factionalism in the Muslim world.

I also don't that the various Muslim-majority nations are as enthusiastic about submitting their national identities to an overarching Muslim government as you think they are. Otherwise, it would have happened already. Look at the troubles the Europeans have with setting up the E.U and the lack of enthusiasm among a good chunk if not most Europeans about it. Indonesia has less in common with Algeria than most European countries have with each other. Even the various Arab countries have histories of fighting each other more than Israel after 1948.

So giving up the West Bank or Gaza or even East Jerusalem won't weaken Israel. The various enemies of Israel will engage in some rather immature chest thumping but the West Bank won't be filled with millions, hundreds of thousands or any amount of jihadists lining up for the final battle because they really don't get along that well.

AKUS said...

For a brief moment I thought Crustal was reporting from a native American reservation ... then I realized he was writing about Gaza and Bedouin ...

Gentle Zionist said...

Lee, you over-estimate the effect of internal Islamic squabbles.

The long enmity of Sunni and Shia has not prevented Iran and Hezbollah from collaborating with Syria and Hamas in plotting the demise of Israel - and obtaining the arms to do it.

Sylvia said...


The “two state solution” was meant to achieve two things”:
a)to provide Israel with a manageable, defensible border that will replace the unreliable 1967 porous line, through land swaps and by negotiated settlement. This has always been a priority and for us this is vital.

b)to provide the Palestinians with a VIABLE state.

Only now are the conditions of viability of a Palestinian state being met. They have built institutions, acquired technologies and know-how, built a strong economy, set-up American-trained "police" force,learnt self-governance. So they’re ready.

However, Abbas has so far been stalling with regard to negotiations: freeze first, indirect talks, asking the international community to recognize the 1967 line, having his Prime Minister test the idea of unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

“Two-state solution” also means that without negotiated agreement on the border, settlement construction continues and the settlers remain.

A two-state solution shouldn’t be expected to bring about an American style “peace”. That will never happen because Muslims never abandon their territorial claims, whether real or perceived, even among Muslim states (Iraq and Kuwait, Syria and Lebanon, Syria and all of mandate Palestine, Iran and Iraq, etc.). And the Europeans know that too as evidenced by their actions: Spain, for example, controls the Straits of Gibraltar separating the EU from Morocco, and even maintains two fortified enclaves in Northern Morocco with walls that would put our fence to shame, precisely for that reason.

And – as I have already indicated here, in 2002 the PA Parliament has voted on a draft Constitution that declared the future Palestinian State an Islamic State, with Sharia as its principal legal system.

And there is always the possibility of Hamas winning the elections in the West Bank.

All the more reasons to stand firm on the matter of a secure border.

4infidels said...


I think you overstate the case when it comes to the institutions of statehood on the West Bank. The Palestinian PM is largely powerless, gangs still roam around terrorizing the population and corruption is as commonplace as anti-Semitism. The PM may be trying to do the right thing, but there is a long way to go and the progress is not as far along as PA apologists claim. Furthermore, many of the security personnel being trained by the Americans are also active in al-Aqsa Brigades, while the PA media, schools and mosques continue with the same old incitement.

And then you have the little problem that an improved economy and accountable government institutions don't change what is written in the Koran or the example of the Prophet...

4infidels said...


You can't imagine that Muslims could argue and war amongst themselves for political advantage and over their different interpretations of their faith, yet also work together to defeat common enemies, most especially Israel?

What world do you live in? Everything isn't black and white. It is possible for Muslims to have more than one identity as do non-muslims. Bernard Lewis wrote a book about it called "The Multiple Identities of the Middle East." One can see themselves as an Saudi Arabian and want his Kingdom to be the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds. He can also want Shiite Iran to be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons, even if the infidels are the ones who do it. He can fight with his brothers, cousins and the tribe in the next village. And he can want the entire Sunni world to unify in a caliphate that he hopes will be led by the Saudis, while hoping that Muslims of all varieties do destroy Israel, a blight on the honor of every Muslim.

Muslims are very good at holding more than one thought, even contradictory thoughts in their minds at the same time. The same folks who compare Israelis to Nazis also deny that the Holocaust occurred. One one hand, Hitler was a great man for killing many Jews; on the other hand, he should be cursed for not finishing the job; on the third hand, the Holocaust is a Jewish invention to gain sympathy for their schemes in, how many hands is that....

The fact that they may sometimes pursue seemingly contradictory goals doesn't make Israel any safer than if they had a single-minded purpose. Does it really matter whether the goal is to destroy Israel to bring honor to their individual nation-state so that it becomes the leader of the Arab world or whether the goal is to destroy Israel because Islam does not allow for land to revert to infidel rule once conquered by Islam? Perhaps both reasons could exist side-by-side.

Anonymous said...

Lee at 2:16 "so what?"

how convenient to always leave out the military aspect of it
- why?
because it is so uncomfortably tied to undeniable geographic realities? Even Jeffrey Goldberg posits that there is indeed a problem while you instead are dreaming up a scenario that leaves out those uncomfortable realities entirely.
The "radical" Jews in the US may become silenced if peace should break out that the Palestinians do the same I very much doubt, those parts of our Turkish population who are into grievance mongering, victim competition and "respect" demanding will find new reasons to chant the old slogans. No matter what Israel, being a state with humans in it, will remain fallible and so they'll find reasons.

Lee at 5:51 "they won't unite"

have the last military push-backs Israel had to do to protect its citizens not produced enough maimed and dead Israelis for you that you envision a scenario of one by one as such a desirable one?
what if Israel should happen to misjudge in pushing back one and appear as weak?
Do you think the others would stand by?
Or would their appetite to grab a piece of it for themselves make them join in?
i.e. first of all your scenario neglects the fact that they don't have to unite first to be willing to pitch in one after the other.
Get yourself a bit of military thinking education - there are some very smart guys worth to listen to out there, even a creep like Max Hastings has to tell a lot of instructive stories as long as he stays with talking about British conundrums when they were up against us.

Gentle Zionist
as may be read here Sunni-Shia split has also not kept Saudi-Arabia to go back to shmoozing with Syria - a curiously underreported story btw - is it interesting only to the Lebanese or why else is that so?

I am with Sylvia on the defensible border argument
- as long as you don't budge or blink on that you may be very generous in saying nice things about what has been achieved in the West-Bank - and if I follow my "advisors" on defensible borders then there are some indispensabilities the landscape has to offer which may not and should not be blinked on unless Palestinians AND their backers become rational AND reliable actors, proving their One-Man-One-Word-reliability over a period of time
an easy to do first step in the right direction would be to make the media peace conducive.

4infidels at 7:45
they don't HAVE TO unite to pitch in one after the after before Israel has had time to regroup, if ever any of Israel's neighbours should even seem to have a chance at getting the upper hand every one of them, precisely BECAUSE they are not united will hurry to grab a piece before the other gets it all
- that's why as much as Michael Young, being at the receiving end of it in Lebanon, may have a right of calling Israelis brutal, I bet on Israel's right doing it that way, Shock and Awe despite all usefullness of COIN is not superfluous and Israelis seem to me to be pretty good at both which is how it should be. Had they opted for more Shock and Awe on the Marmara two young men less would have had to suffer.


4infidels said...


Thanks...very well said.