Thursday, June 17, 2010

Music You Can Hear at a Wedding

Foreign observers can be forgiven for thinking Israel is teetering on the edge of a slope that will drop it to its destruction. (Some hoping gleefully, others fearing the worst). I'm not even going to collect any links, since you've all seen lots of them on your way over here; there are piles of them everywhere.

Though this particular article, by Gadi Taub who is a very reasonable and respectable Israeli observer, is worth reading. His thesis: Netanyahu and Barak are managing things so extremely poorly that the world is now convinced that Hamas is the victim, and Israel the aggressor; in Taub's opinion this is an existential threat for Israel. He's spot on about our leaders, and all wrong about the existential threat. (h/t Norm)

May I cautiously suggest that if the threat was so existential, we'd not be so up in arms about our Haredi cousins, see the previous post?

Yesterday the number crunchers announced that the economy is growing even faster than expected, and the initial forecasts weren't bad compared to the rest of the developed world. If the economy is booming, where is the falling apart supposed to come from? A society tearing itself apart, perhaps?

Last night we were at a wedding, an event which convenes hundreds of people from various camps, most of whom don't know most of the others, and has them collaborate on making a memorable event for two young folks to cherish for the next fifty or seventy years. We got there from the side of the groom, though our original connection is through his stepmother. The groom's family is from Georgia (in the Caucus, not the American South) but they've been here for a century or so. The stepmother's family used to be Old Yishuv, which means Ashkenazi Haredis who have been here for 200 years, or 300, or who knows how long. Most of their descendants are of course mainstream Israelis, not Haredi. The bride's family were mostly Yemenite, who came here either in the late 1880s, or in the 1940s, or both. The rabbi was North African.

The bride is a number cruncher, the groom a lawyer, and his father, if you're into cool stories, is an engineer whose company sells world-class special equipment in outlandish places like Columbia Germany and Pakistan. If you've ever heard stories about how Israeli society is divided along discriminatory ethnic lines, the wedding would have been a bracing experience.

The most interesting part for me was the music. The band offered the whole gamut, from a few hassidic tunes, through the standard modern-orthodox religious music, all the way into Yemenite music, some of it with Greek overtones. Most of it had been adapted to sound like Mizrachi music, irrespective of its origin. At one point, however, the band did a solid 15 minutes of a Yemenite dance, and the Yemenite celebrators, teenagers to grandfathers, responded in an intricate set of steps that I wasn't even able to capture as an observer; with the exception of the groom's family, none of us non-Yemenite tried to join.

I'll bet 98% of the guests have never heard of the Guardian, not would they care one way or the other if an aggrieved columnist there thinks that past English crimes have enable the greater crimes of present day Zionism. She and her ilk do not touch upon their lives in measurable way. (h/t Hawkeye for that laugh).


Anonymous said...

This story is probably the best way to show the world, we will not fall, our country is not in any existential danger and even more so, the high quality of people we have in our little country.


Barry Meislin said...

It's certainly convenient to blame Bibi and Barak.

Would everything be hunky dory if different leaders were in power?

Realizing that that's a tough quiestion, let's do a thought experiment (or try to):

Let's pretend (I know it's hard, but it can be done) that Ehud Olmert was Prime Minister and Amir Peretz was Defense Minister. Can you imagine the love affair that would ensue?

But let's not stop there. No, let's imagine that Ehud Olmert was PM and Ehud Barak was DM. More love and adulation, clearly.

Now what about if Ariel Sharon were PM and, oh whats-his-name was DM. Sheer unstinting love, no question.

But wait a minute, what if Ehud Barak were PM and ummmm....Ehud Barak was also DM? (You know---zany Israeli politics, but it does make things a whole lot easier to imagine, or at least to remember). In such a case, who could doubt that there would be a deluge of love? A tsunami?

I guess Taub must be right though. It's quite obviously a matter of Israeli leadership.

(File under: The things we do for love"?)

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading Mr. Gaub here:
"Israel blindly stepped into a p.r. campaign orchestrated by Turkey and Hamas"

It wasn't a p.r. campaign it was an attempt at murder and kidnap supported by NATO-member Turkey and considered inconceivable before it happened much more than let's say that Montgomery thought the Germans didn't still have the battle of the Bulge attack in them.

as to the in my view "smart-aleck" attitude of the Gaubs of this world I say that I doubt very much that now is the right time to go after Israel's government from the outside.

in the corporate world whenever another department is eyeing some of your own's department work-load one rallies unquestioningly behind even the most idiotic boss as long as he defends "our" property and as long as the danger lasts. Anybody who considers herself in a time like that to be "enlightening" people to no matter how rightfully critique worthy stuff is considered to be a fool (the chat in the kitchen and the toilet ante-room is another story)
- if one doesn't want to rally behind one may apply for a job in the other department

- I grant that the world of politics is not quite that simple, still one should keep in mind that Sebastian Haffner a very shrewd observer of pre-WW2-Germany came to the conclusion that the brown-shirts had such an easy task of finishing off left groups because these groups couldn't agree to put up a unified resistance.

The inner Israel-squabbling is one thing but outside observers advising that now would be the time to change or criticize horses seem suspect to me.


Gavin said...

I've been doing some research this last month or so of various international laws, the legal arguments against Israel, and general snooping around some of the forums where legal types gather. My conclusion is that Israel has a fundamental problem of law. The enemies of Israel; the NGos, UN and various media organisations.... are all reading a different lawbook to the IDF (and Israel).

The whole lawfare business revolves round the issue of occupation. The foes regard Gaza as occupied, Israel regards it as a hostile autonomous territory. The international laws that govern the military occupier of a territory are completely different to the international laws that govern the rules of war between two beliigerents. Israel reads one law book, the enemy reads a different one. This just cannot be underestimated, people don't seem to comprehend how important it is in the context of all the hostility and accusations against Israel.

What it boils down to is that every military action which Israel takes will be deemed illegal by the squawkers because a military occupier cannot go to war against the territory it is occupying. It can only take 'police' actions against specific offenders. All the claims about disproportionality, collective punishment etc are from the 4th Geneva convention which dictates the (legal) duties of an occupying power. No matter what Israel say to defend military actions the opposition discard it because Israel are not using the 4th Geneva convention as their guiding rulebook when fighting Hamas. The other side is using it when judging Israel's actions.

Nothing Israel can do or say will will stop the relentless accusations of 'illegality' unless the issue of occupation is settled. In my view Israel needs to go all out on attack on that front. Confront every pseudo-legal expert who claims Gaza is occupied, challenge the biggest mouths publicly, even get some lawsuits going. They need to stop Gaza being labelled an occupied territory, or alternatively begin framing military operations consistent with the 4GC. (which would probably cost a lot more IDF soldiers lives)

Cheers, Gavin

Anonymous said...


thanks for the pin-downing and high-lighting of that one

my own impression from very superficial reading on the lawfare is that a law that evolved to regulate state on state action is now applied by all kinds of self-aggrandizing "experts" to where it was never supposed to be applied to without any real experts ever taking the trouble of coming up with a truly honestly worked through revision (a clerk's perfect idea of a super nightmare). And I have to date come across nothing from the "without-borderers" of any ilk (that includes Umma-istas as well as all encompassing Christian denominations) that I would consider to be even remotely respectable on the subject.

here's a very remote analogy example of a "misused" law - both to how "misuse" is made to happen in the first place and the long shelf life of it:

when Iceland's finances crashed the Brits wanting to shield their own found that they had an anti-terrorist-law somewhere which might help them. Iceland did a "beautiful" public outcry "Imperial" Brits label courageous little Icelanders as terrorists and to get the juices flowing they almost never failed to remind the world of the cod "wars".

Any person amenable to reason would side with the Brits having done their best in an emergency but not the punditry - to this day I come across accusations of the vile Brits labelling the virtuous Icelanders as terrorists.

So even though I agree fully that Israel has to work at cutting through the legal mess I think the chances are very slim in a world where it is after just 2 weeks deemed acceptable to woe Erdogan again (see Walter Russell Mead of all people)

The lesson I draw from the Iceland/UK analogy is that one must usurp the role of the underdog, the David, which in my world might still serve as a powerful pro-Israel image (the story is probably still told from kindergarden on and for the secular adults there is Michelangelo)

- but how to pose as David while keeping respect for one's military intact seems a PR-job fit for a genius.


Anonymous said...

here is more music from Israel from the "We con the world" crowd - admirable, adorable and funny!
don't miss it - football or soccer or not
I promise you, Funicula will never be the same ...

Latma presents: The Three Terrors

Gavin said...

Silke there's an endless procession of 'experts' on international law when it comes to Israel, but when someone makes a claim that an action is illegal it's necessary to examine which specific law prohibits that practice. All illegal actions have a law which forbids it. As you'd know if it isn't forbidden by statute then it's not illegal. The laws that are being referred to when accusing Israel of war crimes etc are mostly the laws of occupation (4th Geneva Convention)

The dispute between Israel and the UN is like two people speaking different languages. Israel defends its actions based on the laws of warfare. The UN accuses Israel based on the laws of occupation. They can't both be right.

All the arguments & legal talk are just posturing & manouvring. It comes back to whether Gaza is occupied territory or not. If it is not then Israel has not broken any international laws. If it is then Israel has entered a very grey area of the law and possibly stepped over that line at times.

This blockade is a prime example. Under the laws of warfare Israel owes Gaza nothing, it's a hostile & belligerent neighbour. The blockade is a perfectly legal weapon of warfare, Israel doesn't have to provide a thing except allow the basic minimum of humanitarian aid through the blockade. It does't have to provide fuel, electricity, food or anything else. It just has to let the likes of food through the blockade. Under the laws of occupation however it does have to provide all that. An occupying power cannot subject the population of the occupied territory to any undue suffering.

If you examine all the parties who line up to accuse Israel you'll find they all stick fiercely to the occupied territory claim. They do that because they know that Israel cannot be accused of war crimes if Gaza is not under Israeli occupation. Their entire cause revolves around Gaza being occupied. Until Israel combat that they cannot (succesfully) defend against the accusations.


Anonymous said...

thanks for saying it again differently

I meant in no way to distract from your argument.
I just meant to add that the clear distinction which was thought to be applicable when the two different categories evolved have now been murkied even further than they have always been due to cross-border actors.

and of course you are perfectly right in demanding that there is to be an argument worth to be fought by focussing on these 2 very different approaches.

But being forever the clerk I am forever on the look-out of what one can do to keep going while (not instead of) the big issues are being battled over.

today I had a glimpse at a Kofi Annan piece in the NYT - it seems they will have a shmoozing event on genocide in Austria. No matter how many decent people may go there the outcome will probably be you know what

(still singing Funicula)

Anonymous said...

what would you say in the light of the knowledge you have acquired:

- is Israel endangering its right to the law of warfare by pampering Gaza the way it does?


- is Israel supporting the law of occupation clamouring side by pampering Gaza the way it does?

i.e. have you come across anything indicating that they are after something akin to what our lawyers call "konkludente Handlungen" (= concludenting actions) ?


Gavin said...

There's lot's of different approaches Silke. I like to keep it simple and start at the beginning. It all starts with occupation and from there it's a fork in the road where each party goes in different directions. The further down the paths they go the further apart they get.

A concise answer to an accusation about war crimes is; "The law which forbids that only applies to a party defined as an occupying power. Gaza is not under military occupation by Israel so your accusation is baseless."

That argument tends to end up in a dispute over what occupation means, and the arguments for Gaza being occupied by Israel are very, very weak.

Cheers, Gavin.

Gavin said...

Pampering Gaza Silke? They're not pampering them, they are suffering it's just a question of who is ultimately responsible for that suffering. If Gaza is a hostile belligerant, with Hamas as the governing authority in a state of war with Israel, then Hamas are entirely responsible. If Hamas are just a 'resistance movement' in an occupied territory then I guess Israel as the occupyinhg power is (legally) responsible

As for weakening or strengthening, I don't know. I'm a conceptual thinker, I figure out how things work. I leave the finer details to others, all I'm any good at is erecting the framework.


Anonymous said...

compared to what other powers come up with or came up with towards belligerent neighbours Israelis are pampering Gazans.

Of course there are innocent Gazans galore just as I was innocent when in a bunker under Nuremberg's castle with bombers overhead doing their best but it was the majority of MY people who had made that choice and it was a majority of Gazans who opted for even then known for Islamisms Hamas.

that they did it to teach corrupt Fatah a lesson is not a valid excuse

- you pay for the mistakes your community makes no matter how unjust that may be for lots of individuals and no matter how many individuals wanted it to be otherwise.
You competed, you lost, you pay with the rest of them and if you haven't even been born at the time of decision or were 50 or 80 that doesn't make one hoot of a difference.

Outsiders may and should do their very best to help you correct that mistake but first of all it is suffering inflicted on you by your very own and no, not evil other Hamas or Nazi, your very own are the ones who failed and brought you that misery.


Anonymous said...

oops Gavin
I got carried away and forgot the most important sentence

I agree without any reservation and wholeheartedly that you are indeed very very good at erecting a framework

You sound like the kind of boss it would have been a pleasure to work for :-)


Barry Meislin said...

Gavin has explained why it is essential for Hamas that Gaza continue to insist that it is occupied.

In other words, he has explained why Israel can never be seen as NOT occupying Gaza:

The conflict must continue, and its continuation must be defended.

Until the bitter end.

He has also explained, by inference, why it is essential that the PA in the West Bank also continue to insist that it is occupied.

In other words, he has explained why the Palestinian Authority can never agree to a situation which officially ends Israel's occupation of the West Bank. There is no basis for any compromise there. The conflict must continue.

Israel can insist on secure borders; but since the Palestinian definition of "occupation" is the accepted one, Israel's demands/requests/claims must fall on deaf ears.

The conflict must continue.

And it will continue, since the Palestinian definition of "occupation" is the one that is accepted. And it must continue also, because one of the Palestinian demands is the right of return (as well as Jerusalem, as well as the return to the May 1967 borders).

The conflict must continue.

And it is in the Palestinians' interest that the conflict continue.

They continue to "suffer". They continue to get tons of money. Most importantly, they, as the underdogs, command global sympathy and they continue to demonstrate to Israel and Israelis that there is no hope for Israel and Israelis.

Water dripping on rock. Drip, drip, drip.

But there's more. All of Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is occupied.

And it will always be occupied for as long as Israel exists.

Endless conflict.

Justified by the Palestinian definition of "occupation" of "justice" of "truth".

So that the onslaught against the existence of the Jewish State is supported by everyone.

Which is why, Gavin, your (most reasonable) plea that Israel define its position will likely never amount to anything.

But it must, nevertheless, be attempted.

Gavin said...

Israel has defined its position Barry, but Israels leaders appear to have wilfully ignored the fact that it's enemies at the UN, NGOs etc have rejected that position. I'd opine that it needed the likes of the US and other allies to relentless pressure the UN at every meeting to have Gaza reclassified. The horse may have bolted there, I don't know.

I'm not a great one for explaining things but the fundamental issue is that the laws of occupation are so restrictive in terms of permitted military action that Israel can do little to combat Hamas, and stay within international law, while Gaza is defined as occupied territory. Israel does what it has to do and inevitably comes under fire again for breaching humanitarian & international law.

If you want an example of just how important it is to Israels enemies; The ICRC used to label Gaza as an autonomous territory after Israel pulled out. (that's a reasonable and fair description) Less than a week before the Goldstone report ws released the ICRC removed every trace of the word 'autonomous' from their website and other documentatuion & went back to calling Gaza part of the occupied territories. Goldstone relied heavily on the laws of occupation with his accusations of war crimes, he also went to great lengths to state how Gaza was under occupation by Israel. The ICRC stance was counter to that so someone high up at the ICRC was complicit in scheming against Israel.

(NGO Monitor can confirm the autonomous territory and ICRC facts)

What to do? Well events are transpiring that may well make it all moot, but Israel needs to combat the occupation issue. Possibly they can use occupation laws to their advantage, ie enforce the requirement for providing law & order to Gaza. It's a tricky one but I think a good start would be for every representative of Israel to get aggressive on it. Challenge the critics at every step. Forget the Hasbara. Get angry.

Cheers, Gavin.

Anonymous said...

"someone high up at the ICRC was complicit in scheming against Israel."

pity them Gavin ;-)

they have to find some smoke screen for the continuous humiliation that they are not allowed to visit Gilad Shalit (and that their dear Red Crescent sisters in alms don't even try?)

which proves to me that the world of the Red Crescent doesn't care one hoot about their "western" sister organization (what about links from them to IHH?)

As lower orders in a body tend to not swallow humiliation from outsiders in good grace management delves into fairy-taling their "stupid know-nothings".


Gavin said...

By ICRC I meant Red Cross Silke. It's interesting that a lot of the archived information is now back on their site. You might find this interesting, see if you can find the difference between the maps on the first page of each report... pre-Goldstone & apre-Goldstone

Also... try & find the word autonomous anywhere in the 2009 report.


Anonymous said...


- I dive into that later, for now:

I am aware that the ICRC is the Red Cross but when around the last Lebanon war I digged around on their site I found to my amazement that they treat the Red Crescent like their dear sibling while hiding Magen David Adom many clicks further back in obscurity
- at least that's how I remember the "investigation" that led to my back then putting them in "that" corner.


Anonymous said...

I just listened to the BBC-interviews of Mark Regev on May 31 and the Israel's British ambassador on June 1 (the ambassador has a voice to swoon for)

Thanks to you I now listen to the word international with totally different ears and it seemed that both Israelis glided over it. As my experience is that verdicts on bureaucratic behaviour no matter how clear it may seem more often than not misses vital aspects I wonder if maybe Israelis have good reasons not to clarify the distinction you found.

Assuming that that is so, I wonder why journalists don't start quizzing them on it? Again something our know all-judge everything darlings don't know?

- should we, the public, start to quizz them or should we trust Israeli officials to have good reasons for not doing it?

Both btw did IMHO excellent jobs, unflappable, reasonable, compassionate you name it - they made the interviewers sound plain hysterical - The interviewers btw on both days tried by all means to introduce machine guns into the conversation. disreputable thugs they are nothing better
- As a rule I like the persistent style in which the Brits do interviews but these two sounded so out of hand to me that I started fantasizing about doing some very bad things to them.


Gavin said...

They possibly have got their reasons Silke, it's been a touchy subject especially in regards to the West Bank and the settlements. But I can say with 100% certainty that Israel would have gotten the UN and most NGOs off their backs as far as Gaza is concerned if Gaza had been declared an autonomous territory and not an occupied one. The UN can't make laws up when it condemns Israel, it has to follow it's own lawbooks. Here you'll find a devils list of all the 'crimes' Israel regularly gets accused of (scroll down to "The main rules of the law applicable")....

Note that the Red Cross are acknowledged as the foremost authority on the Geneva Conventions.

Barry Meislin said...

Let's play, "Spot the Contradiction." Anyone can play. It's easy! And fun! (And terribly satisfying?)

OK, you start:
The UN can't make laws up when it condemns Israel, it has to follow it's own lawbooks.

Excellent throw! You get another turn:
The ICRC used to label Gaza as an autonomous territory after Israel pulled out. (that's a reasonable and fair description) Less than a week before the Goldstone report ws released the ICRC removed every trace of the word 'autonomous' from their website and other documentatuion & went back to calling Gaza part of the occupied territories.

OK, can you spot the contradiction!? (Granted you might say that on the one hand, the UN is the topic and on the other hand, it's the ICRC---I say, "So what?...and it's MY game, so there!"

The fact is, they can, and they do make up their own rules and change them when required. One is not exactly talking here about organizations that value integrity over politics....

P.S. Regarding,
...the likes of the US and other allies to relentless pressure the UN at every meeting to have Gaza reclassified....

...kindly note that the US, at least the current US administration, is no longer an ally of Israel.

This is the only way to make sense of events of the past 18 months (i.e., without going through some fairly impressive contortions).

(You see, everyone creates their own games, presumably for their own edification....)

Anonymous said...

I have a question about the occupation/not occupation issue, and am hoping someone with more legal knowledge can help.

If someone claims that Israel is an occupying power, then doesn't that mean that Israel must provide for public order and the safety of the inhabitants? And if that is true, then if Hamas kill a Fatah person in Gaza, doesn't then Israel not only have the right, but the obligation to bring the Hamas person to justice?

It seems to me that those who claim that Israel is occupying Gaza try to point out some of the obligations of an occupying power, but purposefully ignore other obligations of an occupying power because it does not suit them.


Anonymous said...

judging from my listening to the BBC interviewing Mark Regev on May 31 and the ambassador Ron Prosor(?) on June 1 journalists throw around the term "international law" as if they knew all about it.

Whoever yells "international law" in anything more than a strictly defined sense is into propaganda - so why did Regev and Prosor not ask the BBC-thugs to specify?

I assume that there is probably no way one can do it without seeming smart-aleck and to get people to understand that there are two totally different contexts getting intertwined all the time takes a lot more time than a sound bite - I doubt even "In Our Time" would be enough to make it stick.

Also Israel may have muddied the water herself, after all it is at least more than 60 years of back and forth with the law by now being applied to fields it was never meant to cover at its origins. (the Red Cross started with the demand to be allowed to tend to wounded friend and foe on a battle field indiscriminately - now they have decided to go for bias - why? because that guarantees bigger donations? - from where? - where there is money ideals go for the dust bin?)

As to Gavin's lesson: even I with my professional background will have to go back and re-read Gavin on it more than once until I'll be able to "use" it in my own words elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

"One is not exactly talking here about organizations that value integrity over politics...."

Israel's foes seem to be very much into the game of calling out Israel on fake or real contradictions. It is probably futile to do it on the UN no matter how much I cherish UNWatch

but the Red Cross is something else - no matter how big the donors are who have convinced their current tops they still depend on mass contribution and thus on public opinion and for that they must keep up the mirage of integrity.

So spreading their dishonest tamperings with their language does seem worth at least a try.


Anonymous said...

"to bring the Hamas person to justice?"

I guess the int'l community would agree with you here and imagines a preferably unarmed Israeli Bobby to stroll into Gaza and serve the warrant to the killer.

I am not making fun of you - quite the contrary I think you have put your finger spot on the issue

the int'l community wants Israel to keep Hamas in check as if it were a belligerent while at the same time clamouring that they should all get trials where denial of lollypop at an early age is considered proof of child abuse and a mitigating circumstance.


Barry Meislin said...

Aside from throwing opponents off rooftops (and killing and mutilating them by far more conventional means)...and aside from shooting rockets, missiles and mortars into Israeli communities to kill, maim and terrorize the population living there, two words should indicate, to anyone who cares, exactly how Hamas views international law.

"Gilead Shalit."

One might add that the free pass given to Hamas over this brazen disregard of all norms of conduct (but of course, that's the point, isn't it) by the international community (and I mean free pass, despite some the occasional ritualistic condemnation) says reams about that same international community, their attitudes, abilities and priorities.

As they say, "Nuff said."

Anonymous said...

to add to it all there is presently a German minister going on about his visit to Israel trying to come to prominence in the int'l community:

he is smack into the middle of a heinous PR-slander
Haaretz of course has it


Mr. Niebel’s ministry website informs in a press release dated yesterday of what he wants to do while visiting – no mention of Gaza whatsoever and no translation available!!!

i.e. IMO he does misinformation trying to sail under the language barrier radar and made all the German sunday news with it (on top of it he had church luminaries in tow – remember our “misspeaking” dear bishops from some years back?)

please spread this press release if you know anybody who can make good use of it:

My guess is that he sprang the demand on the Israelis as a surprise or at least on such short notice that well you know that yourself (trying to do a "Chomsky"?)

Mr. Niebel is a member of the same party as our foreign minister i.e. FDP


Anonymous said...

for Barry

nothing in our news this morning indicates that Mr. Niebel demanded visiting rights for anybody to Mr. Shalit

btw Shalit is the main prism I look through whenever I may be in doubt about a writer's intentions.


Gavin said...

Victoria. You are absolutely correct. The occupying power has all those duties and not a one of the UN, NGOs or anyone else demand that Israel restore law & order to Gaza. The ICRC link I posted earlier has a Q&A about occupation.

There is little real sense in the claims about Israel being an occupying power. The sole purpose for maintaining that status is because it permits the UN to accuse Israel of crimes. No occupation... nothing in international law they can accuse Israel of breaching. (well they'd always find something but nothing serious)

NB: Barry. Occupation is more a question of fact rather than law. Even if it's an illegal occupation it's still covered by occupation laws. Once occupation has been established... then the UN can use the lawbooks to condemn Israel.

Cheers, Gavin