Monday, February 28, 2011

Gaddafi Benficiaries Boycott Israel

I've been a bit lax with blogging recently. I expect I'll return by and by. In the meantime, you might be tickled to learn that along with the various English academic institutions who overlooked the entire truth about Saif al-Islam's identity as the son of a dictator in their haste to accept his money (or rather, the money his family has stolen), there are also some prominent boycotters of Israel. Israel being such a uniquely horrendous place, you see.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ernest Sternberg: Purifying the World

Today has been an offline day for me. However, I did find time to have a peek at a link suggested by Y.Ben David, who mentioned an article by Ernest Sternberg titled "Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For". I haven't yet had time to read it carefully, but at first glance Sternberg may have succeeded in tying together the many disparate strands of general nastiness that emanate these days from various parts of what we rather incorrectly call the "far Left". Whether they're Left or not, what they've got in common is a yearning for a pure, post-history world. Predictably, the two main enemies are the United States and Israel (previously known as the Big Satan and the Little Satan, if you remember your Iranian mythology).

There's a short online Sternberg lecture on the topic here.

Interestingly, Sternberg is a professor of geography, or urban planning, or something like that. You may remember that I wrote about his German predecessors of a century ago, just a few days ago. Apparently, some academic disciplines eventually redeem themselves totally.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Antisemitism in the UK, 2011

Normblog offers a description and demonstration of the Azzajew phenomenon.

One Toby Green - whom non-Brits have never heard of - has resigned from the Green Party - something else the non-Brits didn't know existed. His reason? The party has been taken over by Trotskyite antisemites. (Some of them commented on his post). Some of his explanation is too detailed and insider-ish for the rest of us to follow, but the general outlines are very clear, very convincing, and rather worrying. They can't do anything to Israel or the majority of Jews worldwide who support it, but rising antisemitism can't be a good thing.

How not to Stop Genocide

A few years back Samantha Power wrote an excellent book titled A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. A quick summary of the book would go like this. After WW2 Rephael Lemkin managed to convince the brand new United Nations to define Genocide, and to commit to take action against it. Ironically, the result was not an international willingness to stop genocide, but rather the opposite: a firm international determination never to recognize an event as genocide, not matter how horrible, since such recognition would require intervention, and no-one wants to intervene when faraway folks are being massacred (unless of course there's an obvious and immediate set of interests that do recommend intervention, but in that case the intervention is because of the interests, not the slaughter). Having set up the framework, Power then preceded to show how whichever American administration happened to be in power at the time of a genocide did everything in its power, including bending over backwards, not to recognize it as a genocide, so as not to have to intervene.

And the Americans, as a general rule, were better than anyone else, because they sometimes sort of did eventually do something, as in the Balkans in 1999 after years of European inaction. No-one ever intervened in the Congo, of course, which has had the worst slaughter anywhere in the world since the 1940s. No one had enough interests to care.

David Rieff has a thoughtful (if rather sardonic) article about a new American attempt to think through the issue of genocide prevention. He focuses on the United States Institute for Peace’s task force on genocide, chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen - two people, incidentally, who have track records of failing to deal with genocide in real time, in the days when they were powerful. Although a bit long, the article is worth the time it takes to read. The central insight I came away with is that there's a lot of chatter about multinational efforts, international law, and other fine words, but that the dynamic Samantha Power described is still with us and not about to change anytime soon. (I expect Rieff and Power may not be in the same political camp in American politics, but they're saying similar things).

Jackson Diehl, over at the Washington Post, asks why the Obama administration isn't doing much and certainly isn't being effective as governing Libyans kill civilians in the hundreds. Whats happening in Libya (at least so far) is not genocide, but it is mass murder. Diehl seems to understand the cynical aspects of intervention, which is why he asks what are the American interests that are informing the administration's policy, if any.

Seen from the perspective of a Jew, born after the Holocaust, and an Israeli, this all need not be a moral issue. Foreign countries generally don't intervene when large-scale violence happens, and only rarely do they do anything effective. This isn't because of an innate hatred of Libyans, Bosnians, Congolese, Cambodians and so on. It's because all those folks and many others are, well, ultimately not worth the effort. That's the way of the world. Only those who can take care of themselves will be taken care of.

Which is one reason among many why the endless international chatter and preaching about how Israel (or anyone else) must do this that or the other because the chatterers say so, must be resolutely shut out, not listened to, and never ever taken seriously.

"Europe is Worried about Israel"

Yesterday, February 22nd, some European diplomats published an announcement telling how worried they are by Israel's deteriorating democracy:
According to the statement, issued yesterday in Brussels after the meetings with Lieberman, the EU said it “recalls the importance of a vibrant NGO sector and civil society in general and the vital role they play in open and democratic societies.”
The statement also called on Israel to “promote its active NGO sector and to refrain from actions which may significantly curtail its freedoms. In this context, the EU is concerned about the proposed parliamentary inquiry committee to investigate NGO funding and the draft law on recipients of financial support from foreign political entities,” the statement said.
The EU statement touched on another issue Lieberman has focused on: Israel’s attitude toward its Arab citizens.
“The EU encourages Israel to increase efforts to address the economic and social situation of the Arab minority, to enhance their integration in Israeli society and protect their rights,” it read.
Let's see. The parliamentary investigation into NGOs, which indeed was a bad idea, was killed the day before the EU announcement was made, and this was widely publicized.

The idea that "the active NGO sector in Israel" needs "promoting" is quaint, seeing as there are more than 32,000 NGOs in Israel. (Yup. That's thirty two thousand, in a country with fewer than 8 million people.)

There is indeed need to address the economic and social conditions of Israel's Arab citizens, though their conditions are certainly better than those of the Roma in most European countries, and probably better than that of many of the 2nd generation immigrants, too. There isn't much need to protect their rights, however, as they enjoy the same ones as all Israeli citizens.

There seems to be intense European funding of a very tiny number of Israeli NGOs, many of which have in common that they represent a certain sort of political agenda which the Israeli electorate consistently democratically rejects. It's not clear why democratic Europe can't respect democratic Israel.

Of course, unelected EU bureaucrats in Brussels aren't actually important, but even knowing that no-one much listens to their verbiage, it's regrettable they feel the need to preach to us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Start -Up Nation

Last year Dan Senor and Saul Singer published Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. It's a great read, and doesn't require more than a few hours of pleasurable effort. The starting point for the book is that Israel is a world-class center of innovation, second only to Silicon Valley. There's more technological innovation happening here than on entire continents elsewhere, and the political and military turmoil of the past decade has never dented this. The authors set out to explain this.

First, they state their case, which turns out to be even more compelling than often recognized, since they look not only at the very long list of successful or wildly successful Israeli start-up companies, but also at the centrality of Israeli innovators to the development efforts of some of the world's largest technology companies - Intel, say, or Microsoft. The also show how it's not only high-technology, it's lots of other things, too, such as drip irrigation - not to mention the once famous and now defunct kibbutz movement, which was magnificent in its time, before the world moved on.

They compare Israel's economy to other economies, by way of attempting to identify what's unique about Israel. Since you ought to read the book I won't go through all its arguments, but the bottom line is that Israelis are anti-hierarchical, even in the army; they have no respect for accepted wisdom and even less for its representatives; they're brazen questioners of everything and everyone; but also they've got motivations to succeed that come from being proud of what they are and what they're doing. The Arab boycott and Charles De Gaulle's abrupt ban on military supplies days before the Six Day War, say the authors, must be given credit for at least part of Israel's prowess, since they shut the easy avenues to success, and forced the Israelis to forge new ones, and then, once they had the culture, to keep on forging them.

They also describe how early Israeli innovation was steered by the government, until that lost steam in the early 1970s; they are honest and clear-eyed about the wasted decades between the early 1970s and the early 1990s.

As I said, it's a fun book, and presents an Israel which is much more interesting - and real - than the one which the world's media obsesses about most days of the year (as does this blog). I do however have one significant quibble.

The technology sector of Israel may well be the economy's main motor, and the cultural characteristics which underpin it are all really there, very much thriving. Not all of Israel participates, however. The army really is a crucially important part of the story - but there are other parts of the army which do the exact opposite of encouraging innovation. Many Israelis really do fit the descriptions presented in the book - but more don't. Or at any rate, many don't: I wouldn't know how to quantify it. There are as many conservative and unimaginative plodders in Israel as anywhere else. Thankfully, they don't hamper the mad scientists and iconoclasts out to turn the world on its head; there are enough of them, however, to make Israel a place of growing inequality and considerable waste.

Finally, two minor comments: some of Israel's homegrown detractors, the folks I regularly dislike on this blog, have the same all-around gumption as their engineer cousins. It really is a cultural thing. Also, as anyone who has ever seriously studied the Talmud will attest, some of this ability comes from there. Spend 2,000 years studying Talmud, and it will be astonishing if you don't obsessively see things from novel perspectives and insanely unlikely vantages. 

Israel's FARA, Not a Threat to Democracy

America's FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act), passed in the late 1930s, regulates how non-American entities are allowed to fund political activities in the United States. You can read about it and see how it works at the official FRA Act website.

Yesterday the Knesset passed an Israeli version. Note that we got by without it for 62 years, until the foreign agents became so bold in their interventions in Israeli politics that some regulation became essential. Note that the Israeli law was consciously based on the American one. Note that the proposed law was watered down as it made its way through the legislative process.

Above all, note the it's a reasonable law, not a threat to Israeli democracy. Keep that in mind when you're told otherwise.

Pro-Israel Blog-Off

This blog is being voted on this week at Israellycool's site. The point is to have lots of people introduced to useful blogs they hadn't previously known about, so go, click on the various links, and vote as you will. Do the same next week, and thereafter.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Journalists and HRW got Libya Wrong

Omri Ceren, writing yesterday at the Commentary blog, told how Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson was all agog back in 2009 about how things in Libya were getting better. Her article appeared in Foreign Policy, and is now behind a paywall. Apparently, however, it contained the following paragraph:
What Fathi al-Jahmi died for is starting to spread in the country. For the first time in memory, change is in the air in Libya. The brittle atmosphere of repression has started to fracture, giving way to expanded space for discussion and debate [and] proposals for legislative reform… I left more than one meeting stunned at the sudden openness of ordinary citizens, who criticized the government and challenged the status quo with newfound frankness. A group of journalists we met with in Tripoli complained about censorship… [b]ut that hadn’t stopped their newspapers… Quryna, one of two new semi private newspapers in Tripoli, features page after page of editorials criticizing bureaucratic misconduct and corruption… The spirit of reform, however slowly, has spread to the bureaucracy as well… the real impetus for the transformation rests squarely with a quasi-governmental organization, the Qaddafi Foundation for International Charities and Development.
At about the same time, Libyan expatriate Mohamed Eljahmi, whose borther Fathi had recently died, wrote an anguished column about his death and the indifference of the American government, but also about Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch:
It's not just politicians who should reflect on how they handled Fathi's case. My brother's death should give prominent human rights organizations pause. For nearly a year, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch hesitated to advocate publicly for Fathi's case, because they feared their case workers might lose access to Libyan visas.
Only on the day of Fathi's death did Human Rights Watch issue a press release that announced what we had known for two months: That Fathi appeared frail and emaciated, could barely speak and could not lift his arms or head. When the researchers asked him on April 25 and 26 if he was free to leave prison, he said no. When they asked him if he wanted to go home, he said yes.
It's not just politicians who should reflect on how they handled Fathi's case. My brother's death should give prominent human rights organizations pause. For nearly a year, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch hesitated to advocate publicly for Fathi's case, because they feared their case workers might lose access to Libyan visas.
Only on the day of Fathi's death did Human Rights Watch issue a press release that announced what we had known for two months: That Fathi appeared frail and emaciated, could barely speak and could not lift his arms or head. When the researchers asked him on April 25 and 26 if he was free to leave prison, he said no. When they asked him if he wanted to go home, he said yes.
Perhaps because they still fear antagonizing Gaddafi, in their May 21 statement Human Rights Watch didn't call for an independent investigation and stopped short of holding the Libyan regime responsible for Fathi's death.
Amnesty International also compromised. They moved an April 2009 demonstration originally slated to occur in front of Libya's U.N. mission to the U.S. mission instead so as not to antagonize Gaddafi. For the same reason, they ignored pleas for a public statement about Fathi's deterioration. While an Amnesty delegation was in Libya when Fathi died, the Libyan regime refused it permission to travel to Libya's second largest city.
Experience has shown me that country researchers in marquee human rights organizations are vulnerable to the regime's manipulation. Sarah Leah Whitson is one of the Human Rights Watch researchers who last saw Fathi before he was rushed to Jordan. She wrote an article for Foreign Policy upon her return from Libya, where she described efforts by the Gaddafi Foundation for International Charities and Development, which is headed by the Libyan leader's son, Saif al-Islam, as a "spring." The organization is actively menacing my brother's family. Some family members continue to endure interrogation, denial of citizenship papers and passports, round the clock surveillance and threats of rape and physical liquidation.
Not all organizations compromised their principles. Physicians for Human Rights didn't compromise with the Gaddafi regime and called for an independent medical investigation after Fathi's death. One day, when free media penetrates Libya, my brother's friends and admirers will learn how the American Jewish Committee sought to rally world leaders to Fathi's cause.
When the American Jewish Committee is more active than Human Rights Watch in trying to save the life of an Arab human rights activist being killed by his government, you know the world is a strange place.

Anyways, all that was long ago, in 2009. Now it's 2011, and people look at Libya differently than they used to. Or rather, uninformed people do - journalists at CNN, Reuters, the Washington Post, Financial Times, the New York Times and others. Michael Totten, on the other hand, got it right all along. Omri has done the research for us, in an absolutely devastating post which should be taught at all journalism schools the world over, but never will be.

Maybe that's why Michael Totten was the only one who got it right; he didn't go to journalism school. Nor did he train as a human rights activist.

Israel's Robust Democracy

As I've often written, one of the characteristics of Israeli politics is that politicians seek to climb out of their anonymity by proposing outlandish laws, knowing full well they'll garner attention but the laws will never pass. Meanwhile, the opposition likewise garners attention and publicity from the same proposal, so everyone wins, and the dynamic never goes away. These days the government is notionally right-wing (as if the term means anything in Israel), so the squawking is being done by the lefties. All well and fine, so long as everyone understands those to be the rules of the game, and doesn't take seriously the sound-bites about how Israel is descending into fascism etc etc.

Two examples for today.

The proposal to make it hard for artists to receive public financing if they didn't serve in the IDF has been shot down... by the government. It never even made its way to discussion by the Knesset.

The proposal to have a panel of inquiry into the activities of radical left-wing NGOs has apparently been killed... because Likud MKs joined the opposition in rejecting it.

Don't expect the numerous media outlets who reported prominently on the inception of these proposals to report also on their demise, nor on the players who did the demising. (I know, there is no such word). That's not how it works. Still, as Jeffrey Goldberg once said in this context, Israeli democracy seems quite capable of defending itself from the viruses that sometimes attack it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Policy: Get Rid of Surplus People

In the years leading up to the First World War, German society was infused with the idea that diverse problems such as unemployment, urban planning and food supply would be best resolved by getting rid of spare people. This was not a Nazi idea - the Nazis hadn't been invented yet - nor was it particularly controversial; people of most political persuasions agreed on the principle. It was only many years later, in the 1990s, that a generation of young German historians looked back at the documentation and discovered that there had been a widely accepted conceptual infrastructure which was then used by the Nazis; since most people had accepted the idea, the Nazi policies encountered less resistance than they otherwise might have, and found more willing accomplices than they should have. The single best book on this was by Goetz Aly and Susanne Heim, Architects of Annihilation: Auschwitz and the Logic of Destruction, originally published in German as Vordenker der Vernichtung..

Exactly a century later, there is a different rising power which is using similar ideas in formulating policies: China. See for example the idea that if there's congestion or pollution in Beijing the solution must be to deport hundreds of thousands of people.

Now I'm not saying the Chinese are proto-Nazis, though the mainstream German intellectuals of 1911 would mostly have been horrified to hear where they were headed. History never precisely repeats itself, anyway. But nor does it end, or have permanent happy endings, or learn from the past.

Hawara Checkpoint Abandoned; Gideon Levy Can't Give Up

Gideon Levy may be the most prominent of Israel's radical lefties, because he's a regular columnist at Haaretz, which gives him a wide and international audience. He's also so antagonistic to his country that even most left-leaning Israelis wouldn't get anywhere near him.

Among other things, he writes a weekly column called "The Twilight Zone", in which he wanders around the Palestinian territories and repeats the stories he hears through translators (he doesn't speak Arabic). His trustworthiness is mooted: he claims no-one has ever refuted any of his facts, but there actually have been quite a number of such refutations; in a spat with Ben Dror Yemini last year, Yemini posted a list of alleged untruths Levy had published.

This week's Twilight Zone column told of the IDF checkpoints around Nablus, which have been fully open since 2009, and now are being dismantled. In the days when these checkpoints were operative, however, they saved many lives, including of course Palestinians lives. As recently as October 2008 the soldiers manning the checkpoint apprehended a teenager carrying a bomb. Back in 2004 a number of Palestinian teenagers were apprehended at the checkpoint wearing suicide bombs; one was shot. Here's a CBS report, and here are some YouTube videos:

Notice this isn't the first case, according to the report. Here's the second event of the same month, which ended without anyone getting killed:

So although the checkpoint was never a nice place, and there may have been unfortunate things that happened there, it was put there for a reason, and the reason was justified.

It was always Gideon Levy's right to choose to tell the story only from the perspective of the Palestinians who suffered at the checkpoint, just as it's our right not to take him seriously for doing so. It is however a wee bit strange that this week, when the only event happening at the long-defunct checkpoint is that Israel is dismantling it, he writes an entire column about all the evils the IDF committed there, never mentions the lives saved because of its existence, and also manages not to mention that only new part of the story, which is that it's being dismantled. This does take the art of propagandist writing to a new height.

"To Jerusalem we are heading, martyrs in the millions"

Mondoweiss has a story no-one else seems to be telling: the masses in Cairo have been yelling their willingness to die so as to liberate Jerusalem.

This may not be true. Mondowiess isn't scrupulously honest, after all, and that would explain why no sane media outlet has been carrying the story. But since it appears to be based on a YouTube film, it's possible Mondoweiss is telling the truth, and it's all the rest of the media which is lying. It wouldn't be the first time ever.

History has seen dramatic and exciting revolutions before. It has seen masses eager to rid the world of the Jews, too. There have even been cases when the two were juxtaposed. Offhand, however, I can't think of any case where the two phenomenon came together and there was a good ending to the story.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Qaradawi is Back (Yawn)

Yusuf al-Qaradawi has returned to Egypt from exile, and given the main speech at the large rally in a-Tahrir Square in Cairo today. If you're willing to accept the top media outlets as your guides to what's happening in the world, this isn't much of an event. Here's the BBC, one of the topmost media outlets anywhere:
Correspondents say there is a festive atmosphere, with a military band playing and people waving flags.
Leading Friday prayers at the square, a senior cleric called on Arab leaders to listen to their people...
Television pictures showed Tahrir Square full of people. People sang songs and chanted: "The army and people are united!"
Influential Egyptian Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi said the Arab world had changed and leaders should listen to their people.
He also called for the release of all political prisoners and for Egypt's new military leaders to form a new government.
"I call on the Egyptian army to liberate us from the government that Mubarak formed," Mr Qaradawi said.
That's it. The rest of the report is regurgitated verbiage from previous reports, and a very brief quotation from one of the demonstrators about how things need to get better.
CNN is another important and influential media organ. Here's their report, which is marginally better than that of the BBC:
Waving flags and beating drums, thousands gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday for a "Day of Victory" rally to celebrate the one-week anniversary of the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
In what was a symbol of the dramatic change taking hold across the society, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric banned from entering the country during the Mubarak years, delivered the Friday sermon to the throng and the startling appearance was broadcast on state television.
"O Egyptians, Coptic Christians and Muslims, this is your day, all of you. January 25 was your revolution," said Qaradawi, who has a program called "Shariah and Life" on the Al-Jazeera television network.
Qaradawi -- who returned to his Egyptian homeland on Thursday -- said the "youth of the revolution has lifted the head of this country and made us proud once again."
"They are the new partisans of God. These are the young people of Egypt. The revolution is not over yet. The revolution just began. We need to rebuild Egypt. Be aware of those who want to take it away from you," he said.
Qaradawi insisted that the money "stolen" by the Mubarak regime be returned to the Egyptian people and praised the "martyrs" who died in the upheaval and for the sake of the religion.
The New York Times, being a daily not a blog, hasn't reported on the matter yet; the Guardian has put up some pictures, including one that shows Qaradawi at the rally.

You'd expect top-notch news organizations to have someone in their editorial rooms who know something. Even if not, however, there's always Google, which might send one to this informative page about Qaradawi, as posted by the respectable Investigative Project on Terrorism. He has been banned from entering the United States, for example, and in the past two years alone he has publicly said all sorts of unsavory things. (For some reason I'm not managing to cut and paste, but you ought to read the whole thing anyway.)

Years ago I accepted that the media almost never gets its reports about Israel right. It's becoming increasingly clear that they have no particular interest in getting Egypt right, either, not the parts they might easily check, such as who this Qaradawi fellow is, not the parts that cry out to be explained, such as why he, of all possible religious people in Egypt is the main speaker at the event, and not the slightly deeper parts of the story, such as what cultural messages was he choosing when he chose those particular words; what his audience heard him say, rather than what CNN heard him say.

Meanwhile, over at the Economist, they've got this sentence in their Leader on the Arab uprisings, which explains why in spite of some obvious handicaps, liberal democracy may be about to bloom:
Society is suffused by contempt for the West and hatred of Israel.
Israel? Not the Jews, by any means? The hatred is merely of Israel? How does the Economist know this?
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who calls him a moderate
Submitted by lord garth, Feb 17, 2011 17:14
The article said some call him a moderate.
This should be more specific. I have found that religious scholar John Esposito and CAIR national director Nihad Awad have called him moderate. I suppose there are others.

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Read more at:
This week, a Brotherhood official was among eight people named to a panel charged with recommending changes to Egypt's suspended constitution. As the IPT has noted, the Brotherhood's bylaws continue to call for it "to establish Allah's law in the land by achieving the spiritual goals of Islam and the true religion." That includes "the need to work on establishing the Islamic State,

Read more at: for the opportunity to kill a Jew before his death. "The only thing that I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah."

  • Called on Muslims to acquire nuclear weapons "to terrorize their enemies."

  • Called jihad an Islamic moral duty and said Muslims are permitted to kill Israeli women because they serve in the army.

  • Affirmed his support for suicide bombings. "I supported martyrdom operations," he said, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). "This is a necessary thing, as I told them in London. Give the Palestinians tanks, airplanes, and missiles, and they won't carry out martyrdom operations. They are forced to turn themselves into human bombs, in order to defend their land, their honor, and their homeland."

  • Called the Holocaust a divine punishment of Jews "for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them - even though they exaggerated this issue - he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers."

  • Prayed for the opportunity to kill a Jew before his death. "The only thing that I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah

  • Read more at:

  • Called on Muslims to acquire nuclear weapons "to terrorize their enemies."

  • Called jihad an Islamic moral duty and said Muslims are permitted to kill Israeli women because they serve in the army.

  • Affirmed his support for suicide bombings. "I supported martyrdom operations," he said, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). "This is a necessary thing, as I told them in London. Give the Palestinians tanks, airplanes, and missiles, and they won't carry out martyrdom operations. They are forced to turn themselves into human bombs, in order to defend their land, their honor, and their homeland."

  • Called the Holocaust a divine punishment of Jews "for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them - even though they exaggerated this issue - he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers."

  • Prayed for the opportunity to kill a Jew before his death. "The only thing that I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah

  • Read more at:

    Diverse Links to Stuff

    Nir Rosen, a far left writer whom I'd never heard of until yesterday, has lost his job at NYU because he made some ugly comments about Lara Logan, a CBS reporter who was attacked by some Egyptian demonstrators last week. Apparently Rosen has spent years badmouthing Israel and America, while effusing about Hisballah and the Taliban. The moral of the story: freedom of speech is fine until you cross the line of political correctness. Lee Smith spells it out.

    Apropos the revolution in Egypt, Tim Martin says it wasn't. Not a revolution, since the military was and remains in power, and not millions of people demonstrating, either. Now they tell us.

    The brutal blockade of Gaza has been renewed. By Hamas, this time. Apparently the surfeit of Israeli goods severely crimped their income from taxing those tunnels. Of course, if the right (=wrong) folks come to power in Egypt, they'll throw open the Egyptian border to Gaza, and then Hamas will have to blockade them, too, which will be embarrassing. Meanwhile, Robin Shepherd is debating whether to hold his breath or not until the BBC, Guardian, David Cameron and all the other folks worldwide condemn the blockade. I certainly hope he decides not to hold his breath, since he's a good man and it would be a pity to lose him.

    The lack of interest in the Hamas blockade of Gaza reminds me of Treppenwitz' link to this very fine article by Brendan O'Neill in The Australian. According to O'Neill, the Arab street doesn't seem much to care these days about the Palestinians, while certain parts of the West care only about them, and about nothing else - except that this attention is pure narcissism, and has nothing to do with the real Palestinians or their lives. If you read nothing else today, read this article, and spread it far and wide.
    There is a profound narcissism in the pity-for-Palestinian movement. When American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, it gave rise to a play called My Name Is Rachel Corrie. The killing of British peace activist Tom Hurndall in Gaza in 2004 led to a film called The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall.
    This is clearly all about Us - the good and pure Westerners who went to find themselves in Palestine - rather than about Them, the actual Palestinians.
    In a related development, a group of British (and apparently other) academics is doing its best to define the war of 1948 as an Israeli genocide committed on the Palestinians. I always thought it was the other way around: the Arabs announced they were going to destroy the Jewish Yishuv, and sent their invading armies to do the job, but somehow along the way they lost the war they had started and so the second genocide of the Jews in one single decade was averted. Maybe when you see things from Britain they look different.

    Still following my stream of consciousness here, Ytzchak Reiter has a fine article about how the Palestinians since the 1930s, and ever more of the Arab world since then, are re-writing Muslim history so as to remove the Jews' connection to Jerusalem. Until the early 20th century it would never have occurred to Muslims to make this claim, but times change, and with them come needs for new perspectives.

    Finally, so as not to finish on such a glum note, Israellycool has a really funny comment on the otherwise not funny recent burning to the ground of Ikea's store near Netanyah.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Why is there No Revolution in Israel?

    Israel's economy is booming:
    The Israeli economy easily outstripped forecasts in last year's final quarter, achieving annualized growth of a stellar 7.8 percent. While growth rates in other developed countries range from vanishingly small to around 3 percent, Israeli gross domestic product grew 4.5 percent last year, the Central Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.
    This is yet another indication of the fact that things are going well in Israel at the moment. They don't always, and whenever they do they can be reliably counted upon not to by-and-by, and even when things are momentarily pretty good, they're never remotely perfect. Still, as such things go, Israel is doing well right now. Since reliable polls always tell that even when things aren't going well, Israelis tend to be proud of their country and confident about their future, you can see why this particular moment might not be a good time to bring masses of peeved folks onto the streets to kvetch about the government.
    Unless you live in the Israeli branch of the far-Left alternative universe, that is. If you do, your personal situation is probably fine, you're employed, you travel often to visit like-minded friends and colleagues in other lands, you haunt the usual eateries and cultural events where folks like you congregate and bemoan how bad things are, and you're convinced that the end of the world is nigh or if it isn't it ought to be. Recently you've had the added aggravation of living in one of the few Middle Eastern countries where the government can't be toppled by mass demonstrations. (Because the government routinely gets toppled at the ballot box, once every 3 years on average).
    As such folks go, Meirav Michaeli isn't particularly rabid. In the taxonomy of Israelis with odd positions, she's somewhere at the edge of reasonable left-wing, looking yearningly leftward over at the loonies and wishing she could join them, but not managing the trick since she's not fundamentally against the idea of a Jewish state. Nor, it must be said, can anyone castigate her for deep thinking. She's a secondary media celebrity, whose main distinction is a comical attempt to sanitize the Hebrew language of its gender conjugations. (David Ben Gurion also once tried to ban a useful Hebrew word, and was heartily laughed at by everyone, but in the meantime he also founded the state, won a war, brought in a million Jews from less hospitable climes, and generally kept himself busy).
    So, here's Michaeli agonizing about how the Israelis are too dumb to emulate the Egyptians. To be honest, I'm not certain I quite understand what she's trying to say, but it's sure to give you something to smile about, and that can't be bad.

    The Road to Fatima Gate

    Michael Totten's first book is about to be published. The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel. You can read the first chapter of the book and pre-purchase it directly from Michael. I haven't read it yet, though I expect I'll review it as soon as I have. If you like Michael's unique style of reporting, it's a safe bet the book will be better, since writing books and working with editors make for much higher quality content than mere blogging.

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    The Peace Agreement that was Never Near

    I recently linked to Bernard Avishai's description of the Israel-Palestinian negotiations of 2007-8. I was wary of Avishai but willing to accept most of the facts he presented. Sol Stern has now had a closer look, and says the facts either aren't new, or aren't true. Ron Radosh has some further comments (see the lower section of his article).

    Guardian: We Lied about Israel

    Well, that's not really what they say. Rather, the Guardian has mumbled something about how it slightly misconstrued something Tzippi Livni once said. No matter that what they did was to carefully edit a document so that it would say the opposite of the truth. Check it out yourself.

    Using the Guardian's method it would be possible to prove that Yassir Arafat was a Zionist, that Menachem Begin was a supporter of dismantling settlements, or just about anything you'd like to prove. I'm reminded of a joke I once saw in Mad Magazine, probably 40 years ago, where they showed how anyone can cut words out of a brutal review to demonstrate that the author loves your product. Back then, however, it was intended to be so ludicrous you'd have to laugh.

    The (No)Peace Conundrum

    Dr. Ayman Nur, a secular, liberal Egyptian who apparently sees himself as a potential leader of the country if it becomes a democracy, says the peace treaty with Israel is over. This from the liberal and secular wing of Egyptian society.

    I'm not of the camp that suggests we need to assume Israel will be at war with Egypt anytime soon. Rather on the contrary. I think Israel won't be at war with Egypt anytime soon, though I'm less sanguine about the stability we've enjoyed these past 35 years. An Egyptian government could easily stir up trouble with measures that are far less severe than outright war. The significance lies elsewhere. Back in 1978 Israel reached an agreement that largely addressed all of Egypt's demands. Evey inch of territory taken in 1967 was returned. Some 20 Israeli settlements were dismantled. True, Egypt had to accept the demilitarization of the Sinai, but the only reason they ever had to have an army there was to face Israel; other than that there's no reason for having military forces there. And of course, 35 years of peace haven't done any harm to Egypt, either, what with significant American aid, and even the simple lack of war and everything that goes with it. Peace remains an Egyptian strategic need, too, not only an Israeli one.

    Yet in spite of all this it's quite clear to everyone that a new Egyptian government might renege on the treaty, and almost certainly would be less friendly to Israel than the very icy friendship we've had since 1978. Some people - the Economist can plausibly represent the world media on this topic - are convinced the popular Egyptian enmity is because Israel hasn't yet made peace with the Palestinians. This causes so much aggravation, we're expected to understand, that it could easily explain why Egyptians might be willing to sustain strategic setbacks of its own, if the Israelis don't rectify it. As if it's the natural way of the world that societies willingly inflict suffering on themselves out of mere solidarity.

    The other explanation, that Egyptian enmity is not about Ariel and Maale Adumim, but rather is the result of Jewish sovereignty in the middle of the Arab world, is not mentioned. If any reader can demonstrate otherwise, I encourage them to do so: please show me links to mainstream Western media reports which tell about how broad masses of Arabs hate Israel for it's being there, not to mention that they hate Jews with intensity. The thing with reality is that it doesn't need to be reported on to be true. The New York times can studiously look away from it for as long as it chooses, and still it will be there. (The Guardian, of course, actively disseminates antisemitism). If the reality is that tens of millions of Arabs hate Israel for being a Jewish state, the rise of democracy will only make things worse. I'm a great fan of democracy, and wish it on the Arabs too, but don't see any advantage in pretending things aren't as they are.

    The conundrum, therefore, is this: If large numbers of Arabs hate Jews and cannot accept a Jewish state in their midst, Israel cannot make peace with them. It may be able to make peace with autocratic Arab governments, but the moment they get washed away in this or a future wave of democratization, the peace will be worthless. If, on the other hand, Israel insists on making peace only with democratic Arab regimes, there aren't many around at the moment, and refusing to deal with the autocrats will be castigated as refusing to make peace.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Yehuda Avner, The Prime Ministers

    If Yehuda Avner's new book The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership isn't yet on your reading list, put it there. If you don't have the time for a 700-page book, even if it's highly readable, stop reading this blog for the duration.

    Avner, born in Manchester, came to Jerusalem in 1947 as a 19-year-old and almost immediately was drawn into Israel's War of Independence. His description of the events of 1947-48 is immediate and moving. Shortly thereafter, however, he stops telling about himself, and instead tells about the four Israeli prime ministers he served - Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir as a speech-writer and media aide; Ytzchak Rabin both in Washington (where Rabin was ambassador) and in Jerusalem, during Rabin's first premiership, and most important of all, as a close aide to Menachem Begin. While the book tells about four prime ministers, it is really about Begin, who fascinated Avner from the moment he arrived in Mandatory Palestine, if not earlier.

    It's not a history book in the meaning of an attempt to tell a full tale of an event or series of events. Since Begin is the main protagonist and Begin was always a controversial man, the book is a bit odd in not telling us much about those controversies. It tells us Begin's version of the Altalena incident, when in June 1948 Ben Gurion ordered the brand new IDF to shell an Irgun weapons ship by that name on theTel Aviv beach. (I blogged about this event once from a very strange perspective, here). It never mentions Begin's attack on the Knesset of 1952, during the fraught controversy of restitution payments from Germany. It glosses over the anger against Begin during the (1st) Lebanon War of 1982. For that matter,it glosses over the anger against Golda Meir after the Yom Kippur War, and doesn't much explain why Labor and Rabin lost the elections in 1977.

    Perhaps more irritating, if you're looking for anything remotely like a comprehensive history of segments of Israel's tale, Avner never addresses the complexities of Israel's positions. He's an old-school Zionist, who knows the Jews needed a state, knows they still need it, and knows lots of people disagree. Hes not out to convince them of anything.

    It's a magnificent book if you're interested in coming closer to an understanding of how those four leaders understood the world they were in. How they saw themselves, how they related to interlocutors and adversaries. How Eshkol and Golda instinctively slipped into Yiddish. Begin, too. Rabin, not, being a sabra, yet he shared many of the same basic ideas, about how the Jews must have a state and that this wasn't yet a resolved issue. (Arguably, it still isn't, and I expect present-day Israeli prime ministers share the same set of sentiments, even though the general discourse seems to have moved on, and an Israeli politician using such language abroad will most likely be accused of distracting attention from the plight of the Palestinians).

    There's a memorable scene in which Eshkol discusses economic policy with a doorman. Not possible today. Golda talks about the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Not likely today. The chapter on Rabin and the Entebbe operation is riveting.

    And Begin. Lecturing to Jimmy Carter, then Sadat, then Reagan, and brushing off Lord Carrington, a British Foreign Secretary of the time. Energizing Jewish leaders, who in those days played a role they seem no longer to play. Engaging ordinary Israelis. Above all, being profoundly Jewish, though not strictly orthodox. Begin's Jewishness shine throughout the book.

    Then there are the negotiations, mostly with American leaders, from 1967 onwards. Avner supplies the details of what meetings between leaders look like, who says what, what the body language conveys, what is scripted in advance and what really isn't. It's fascinating.

    Also, troubling. Ever since the Six Day War, we learn, American leaders (not to mention all the others) are fixated on this version or that of having Israel hand over the territories it acquired in that war in return for peace. There is never (as told in this book) any discussion of what will keep the peace going once the agreement has been reached. There's this puzzle, and it can be resolved by moving these pieces in these ways... and what happens afterward? Well, there will be peace,of course, and nothing will threaten it ever, so no-one needs to think much about it; it will be gloriously boring. No-one in the book ever brings up the possibility that the conflict can't be resolved by Israel giving back those territories because the conflict was always about much more than them. It's not mentioned, not considered, not part of the discourse. To which one might add that in 1992 the author visited with the retired Margart Thatcher, who admitted that when she met Begin in 1980 (?) she had never given much thought to the Holocaust, and thus didn't know how important it was to Begin and most Jews.

    Not only is there abysmal ignorance about those strange Arabs; there's not much thought given to the Jews, either. Merely a mathematical solution for a conflict. Frightening.

    Masada: Myths, Archeology and Significance

    Last week I joined a tour pf Masada given by Dr. Guy Stibel, an archeologist who has been digging there for many years.

    Israel long ago got over its fascination with archeology, and Masada has lost much of its national glamor. IDF units no longer hold ceremonies there, no-one uses slogans such as "Masada will not fall again", and the national frenzy which accompanied the excavations there in the 1960s is, quite simply, inconceivable. Even the memory of those years is largely gone, though a faint bad taste lingers, for the way archeology was used for the creation of a national myth..Why, until the tour last week I had never given and thought to the fact that the excavation is still ongoing: who knew?

    So there wasn't anything surprising that Stibel spent the whole day talking about specific findings rather than meta-historical narratives. This area is where some Essenes lived; over here seems to have been the administrative center during the uprising against the Romans; most of the Jews on the mountain were Pharisees, lots of them simply refugees from the sacking of Jerusalem. The Roman siege lasted three months at the most. The artificial ramp was built on a natural outcropping, so it wasn't that hard to build. The pottery shards Yadin found with 11 names were probably not used for deciding who would be the last to commit suicide, since in recent years archeologists have found many additional such shards, which probably served some administrative purpose. And so on.

    Only on the way back to Jerusalem did he sum it up, and relate to the myth-making parts of the story. Did the defenders of Masada really commit mass suicide during the night before the final Roman attack? Well, probably yes. The general outline of the story also still stands: the mountain was essentially empty until Herod built his palaces there in the first century BCE. The Sacarii launched the revolt against the Romans by attacking the small garrison and taking over its armory. After the destruction of Jerusalem many hundreds of refugees converged there. In 73 CE Lucius Flavius Sylva and his legion X Fretensis laid siege and within a few months conquered it. With the exception of some Christian monks in the 5th century, no-one ever lived there again; indeed, the place never interested anyone until the 20th century.

    All of which I found rather comforting. It has always seemed to me that the most important part of the story is not if there was a mass suicide or not, but rather that nowadays it's Jews (and tourists to Israel) who stand atop the mountain and look down at the dusty remains of those Roman armies. The Roman victors dropped out of history 1,500 years ago but the Jews are still here to look at their remains. This is as true today as it was at the height of the myth-making years.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Recognizing a Jewish State

    Elder of Ziyon has been reading the Palestine Papers,and notices a discussion from November 2007 where the two teams discussed agreeing that the goal of the negotiations would be two national homelands. They didn't manage to agree:
    TL: I just want to say something. ...Our idea is to refer to two states for two peoples. Or two nation states, Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace and security with each state constituting the homeland for its people and the fulfillment of their national aspirations and self determination...

    AH: This refers to the Israeli people?

    TL: [Visibly angered.] I think that we can use another session – about what it means to be a Jew and that it is more than just a religion. But if you want to take us back to 1947 -- it won’t help. Each state constituting the homeland for its people and the fulfillment of their national aspirations and self determination in their own territory. Israel the state of the Jewish people -- and I would like to emphasize the meaning of “its people” is the Jewish people -- with Jerusalem the united and undivided capital of Israel and of the Jewish people for 3007 years... [The Palestinian team protests.] You asked for it. [AA: We said East Jerusalem!] …and Palestine for the Palestinian people. We did not want to say that there is a “Palestinian people” but we’ve accepted your right to self determination.
    TL is Tzipi Livni, AH is Akram Haniyeh.

    Elder comments that the Guardian never mentioned this document in their coverage, but they definitely saw it because they cherry picked one sentence from it. Which is all true, but I think it's only fair to add another observation: this is Livni demanding Palestinian recognition of a Jewish State, a year and a half before Netanyahu, newly installed as prime minister, raised the exact same demand and was universally condemned for daring to destroy the peace process with his outlandish position.

    The full document (as leaked) is here.

    Military Rule?

    I continue to say, as I've been saying for weeks, that I don't know what's going to happen in Egypt, just like no-one else knows. Having said that, Jon Alterman's reading of the situation makes sense to me, and I'm told he's regarded as a knowledgeable fellow:
    For Western governments, events in Egypt are a decidedly mixed blessing. For the United States in particular, which has long had close ties to the most senior Egyptian leadership, the military's heightened role means that familiar faces will be making the important decisions. Yet the White House has made clear publicly and privately that it viewed changes in Egypt as harbingers of an inescapable change sweeping the Middle East. Whereas some predicted as recently as Thursday that Egypt was moving forward, with the rise of the Military Command Council, Egypt seems to have reverted to 1952.
    On the other hand, who knows? Maybe Alterman has it exactly wrong.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    I'm Speechless

    From the New York Times:
    The administration appeared as taken aback by Mr. Mubarak’s speech as the crowds in Tahrir Square. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, testified before the House of Representatives on Thursday morning that there was a “strong likelihood” that Mr. Mubarak would step down by the end of the day.
    American officials said Mr. Panetta was basing his statement not on secret intelligence but on media broadcasts, which began circulating before he sat down before the House Intelligence Committee. But a senior administration official said Mr. Obama had also expected that Egypt was on the cusp of dramatic change. Speaking at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, he said, “We are witnessing history unfold,” adding, “America will do everything we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy.” 
    But also:
    “The administration has to put everything on the line now,” said Thomas Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, who has been among several outside experts advising the White House on Egypt in recent days. “Whatever cards they have, this is the time to play them.”

    Tariq Ramadan is a Liar

    Barry Rubin carefully read Tariq Ramadan's op-ed about how benign the Muslim Brotherhood is (I wrote about this yesterday here), and says it's full of lies. Given Ramadan's intellectual stature, there's no chance he didn't know this.

    Unless you can be intelligent, extremely well educated and an important public intellectual, and still not know when you're blatantly lying. Sadly, history teaches you actually can. Easily.

    Mubarak is an American-Israeli Pawn (John Bradley)

    A few hours ago Channel One of the Israeli television interrupted its program to show us a live speech of Barack Obama. We were told he was about to confirm the rumours that Egyptian  President Mubarak was resigning. Obama didn't quite say that, but given the framing, he did seem to be sayig something like it, talking about history happening before our eyes as the Egyptian people demands freedom, or something like that.

    An hour or two later Mubarak announced he wasn't resigning.

    The possibility that Egypt may have an antisemitic government sometime soon is unsettling. I'm beginning to fear, however, that the Americans have an inept government, quite over its head in international matters. To be honest, that frightens me more.

    Anyway, we can still hope the Egyptian drama will end with a liberal democracy.

    For the past hour or so I've been listening to Al-Jazeera in English. They're dumbfounded by the trun of events. OK, lots of people are. A few munites ago, however, they interviewed a fellow named John Bradly, who is the author of Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution. He had a clear explanation: the Americans and the Israelis are not willing to allow Mubarak, their puppet, to step down. He said this twice, so it wasn't a slip of tongue. He also expressed his outrage against the Israelis and the Americans for their behavior, noting that in terms of the numbers of participants in the demonstrations, the current Egyptian revolution stands next to the revolutions in Russia in 1917 and Iran in 1979, and how dare the Israelis and Americans try to stop history.

    I haven't made up my mind if Bradley is barking mad, or right on the nail, or both. Probably both.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Jew Hatred in Egypt, Europe, and America

    I continue not to know where Egypt is headed, just as President Obama and probably President Mubarak don't know. So I'm in fine company.

    There's the story of Wael Ghonim, until this week an anonymous young man who has been catapulted to the front ranks of the revolution, if a revolution it is. History can do that sometimes to people: they get their 15 minutes of fame and are never heard of again, or they get their 15 minutes and stay at center stage for the rest of their lives and beyond. It's hard to know. Should Mr. Ghonim turn out to be representative of the revolution, the world may well end up a better place - or at least it would be plausible to hope. (The funny thing is that I am separated from this fellow by only 2, or at most 3, degrees of separation.)

    On the other hand, John Rosenthal has been looking at pictures from A-Tahrir square, including pictures culled from mainstream Western media outlets, and is troubled by the antisemitic imagery which seems quite common there. (There's more here). We outsiders have no real way of knowing how representative this is, and how significant. What we can know is that the Western media is displaying some of these images with no comment, and seems to be editing out the more blatant ones, also without reporting that they're there. It's troubling.

    Judith Miller is reporting from the Herzliya conference, day by day. It's quite interesting, and depressing: apparently the Israeli establishment really is worried by the potential for mischief in Egypt. On the other hand, as Jonathan Spyer pointed out so convincingly (see my review here), the type of Israelis who convene at such conferences are not particularly representative.

    Finally, just to tie together the troubling news from Egypt with the troubling news from Europe (and America), here's Tariq Ramadan pontificating on the Muslim Brotherhood at the New York Times. Of course Ramadan is a scion of the Brotherhood, so to speak, but he's also a wildly popular European intellectual; the top of polite society, you might say.
    The Muslim Brothers began in the 1930s as a legalist, anti-colonialist and nonviolent movement that claimed legitimacy for armed resistance in Palestine against Zionist expansionism during the period before World War II. The writings from between 1930 and 1945 of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Brotherhood, show that he opposed colonialism and strongly criticized the fascist governments in Germany and Italy. He rejected use of violence in Egypt, even though he considered it legitimate in Palestine, in resistance to the Zionist Stern and Irgun terror gangs. He believed that the British parliamentary model represented the kind closest to Islamic principles.
    Pretty grim, isn't it.  The Zionist expansionism he so glibly castigates as being a worthy target of violence were, at the time, the small numbers of European Jews who were managing to escape, many of them destitute, as the Nazi boot ground their necks ever harder, and antisemites throughout the continent cheered them on and tried to emulate them, except in places like Poland where the local anti-Jewish policies were worse at that moment than in Germany. This was obvious at the time, and should be quite common knowledge since then, if there was ever any meaning to the refrain "never again". Yet Ramadan puts it on the pages of the New York times, and the editors encourage him to do so, as if history never happened.

    Antisemitism in Britain

    Who knew? It turns out that the English journalist Nick Cohen, isn't actually Jewish. Apparently the last time there was a Jew in his family it was his grandfather, and he wasn't interested. In spite of that, Nick says that the growing antisemitism in Britain is making a Jew of him:

    Today the old certainties have gone because there are two far-right movements: the white neo-Nazi parties that the Left still opposes; and the clerical fascists of radical Islam which, extraordinarily, the modern Left succours and indulges. I am not only talking about Ken Livingstone, George Galloway and their gruesome accomplices in the intelligentsia. Wider liberal society is almost as complicit. It does not applaud the Islamist far Right, but it will not condemn it either. From the broadcasters, through the liberal press, the Civil Service, the Metropolitan Police, the bench of bishops and the judiciary, antisemitism is no longer an unthinkable mental deformation. As long as the conspiracy theories of the counter-enlightenment come from ideologues with dark rather than white skins, nominally liberal men and women will not speak out.
    Fight back and you become a Jew, whether you are or not. [...]

    I would no longer protest that I wasn’t Jewish, and I don’t think Lawson should either. It is cowardly to stammer that you are not a Jew because you concede the racist’s main point — that there is something suspect about being Jewish — as you do it.
    In any case, my experience of left-wing antisemitism has changed the way I think and made me, if you like, more Jewish.
    I recommend reading the whole thing. Unless you're having a great day and don't want to be depressed, that is. In that case don't read it.

    If British Jewry interests you, on the other hand, the JCPA has a new survey about them. Not surprisingly, the only large group among them which is really thriving are the Haredi. Or actually, until recently this would have been very surprising, but these days observers of Jews have got to admit that the Haredi are on a roll, wherever they are.

    Demographic Trends of Israelis and Palestinians

    Yaakov Feitelson has a new study examining demographic trends in Israel and the Palestinians territories. His bottom line is that there are more Jews than there were expected to be, and fewer Palestinians. The latter sections of his study will probably be rejected by all sorts of people. I once took a course in demography, and occasionally dabble in it (as a reader, not a researcher), and if someone serious explains why his projections may not be solid I'll listen with an open mind. It's got a tendentious whiff to it.

    The front parts of the study, on the other hand, confirm everything I've seen over the past five years or so. The birthrate of the Israeli Arabs is declining, as is that of the West Bank and even the Gaza Palestinians, while the Jewish birthrate is inching up.

    The rise of the Jewish birthrate contradicts everything I've ever heard about how demography in developed society works, and it seems to be the result of four trends, all of which boil down to one.

    1. The stratospheric Haredi birthrate, which shows no sign of abating, even as the Haredi women join the workforce in ever growing numbers.

    2. The high birthrate of the modern orthodox, even though they are generally highly educated and middle class or above. They are however a smaller group than the Haredi, and they're not having the gigantic familes the Haredi have.

    3. The unusually high birthrate of the secular Israelis, when compared to most Western societies. Secular Israelis, as a general rule, get married and have two or three kids. They've been doing this for a number of generations, and seem intent on continuing. Compare that to the Italians, Iranians or Russians.

    4. The rise in the birthrate among the former Soviet Jews. These came here mostly about twenty years ago, with typical three-generation family units which were producing one, or at the most two, children. Once in Israel they managed to have grandma live somewhere else, not with her children; the children soon moved into Israel's middle class and adopted the mores of that group (see the previous paragraph about the secular Israelis).

    The common denominator of all four trends is that Jews in Israel feel good about their lives and their prospects, so they have children who will enjoy those prospects. It's a profound optimism which is at work, aided perhaps by the memories of recent catastrophe - which reinforces the optimism, since present and future are so obviously better than the past.

    Feitelson seems sort of to be saying the Jews can control all of Erez Israel and still remain the majority for the foreseeable future. This may be true but is politically unconvincing to me: even if he's right and in 2050 there will be a 60-40% majority of Jews, why would Zionism wish to have a country with 40% non-Jews? On the other hand, the implication that by then the ratio of Jews inside Israel itself (including Jerusalem, I'm assuming) will be 82% and rising is comforting, since with numbers like that there will be no contradiction between full democracy and a Jewish state.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    The Peace Agreement that Almost Was (or Wasn't)

    Bernard Avishai has been talking to the relevant people, and thinks he has pieced together the outlines of the peace agreement the Israelis and the Palestinians were close to reaching. Set aside Bernard's own politics and read his article: his description sounds plausible.

    The problem, to my mind, isn't if Abbas and Olmert could have reached an agreement. Perhaps they could have, the fact is they didn't. The problems are if both leaders would have been able to deliver their people, the two nations; and even if so, if the Arab/Muslim world would have been willing to live with a Jewish state, especially one which has been significantly weakened militarily and is open to infiltration, especially in the open city of Jerusalem.

    The story of Egypt - the next chapter of which we don't yet know - indicates the danger. More than 30 years after Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement, the one thing some people on all sides of the current Egyptian events agree on is that Israel is the ultimate evil. Now take that and multiply it by open borders between Israel and Palestine. Egypt, mind you, not Iran. I don't see any scenario in which that gamble can be negotiated away, and I don't see why it's worth taking.

    Though I do think Israel should dismantle Ariel.

    (h/t Saul)


    There's a new film out, Iranium, about how dangerous Iran really is, not only to Israel but to everybody else. I'm not an expert on the matter, but having spent years studying Nazism, I don't see any reason to think it inconceivable. On the contrary, it's eminently conceivable.

    The film can be watched here.

    America Screws Up on Egypt

    Somewhere deep in the bowels of the State Department, there's got to be an office with a few Arabic-speaking folks who spend all their lives monitoring Egypt. There's got to be. Across the Potomac, there's got to be another such team in the Pentagon. Not far off there must be another such team at Langley, the CIA. If you wish to look further afield, there are scholars at universities who spend their entire lives fretting about Egypt, past and present; they're known, not hiding. I'll bet there's a staff person at the Library of Congress who knows all about Egypt. Not to mention the think tanks: there's got to be someone at a Washington think tank who spends their life think tanking about Egypt. It's a big country, a recipient of large sums of American aid, which has this canal some American merchant and military ships sometime use. Also, it's in a region which keeps intruding on the international agenda.

    The NSC, if I understand its purpose, is supposed to know who all these folks are.

    So doesn't it make sense that if there's a sudden dramatic event in Egypt, say, a revolution or what have you, someone in the administration probably knows how to contact all those experts, get them into a room or an undisclosed secured location, and pick their brains? They won't be offended, on the contrary, they've been spending decades accumulating knowledge that normally doesn't much interest anyone; now that someone wants to listen, they'll jump at the opportunity to tell. Not that they'll necessarily know what's going on better than your run-of-the-mill twitterers, mind you, but they probably do know a bit more about the context, and the potential pitfalls.

    So how to explain that the responses of the administration are so cock-eyed?