17 March 2009

17 March 2009 - The worst outcome?

I have to agree with Jeffrey Goldberg here. The appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Israel's foreign affairs minister is both wrongheaded and just plain wrong.

It's wrong because of Lieberman's bigoted stance towards Israeli Arabs, whom he says ought to be required to take an oath of loyalty to the state. He also has views on democracy that are strongly objectionable, including his desire to increase the power of the executive relative to the judiciary.

It's wrongheaded because Israel is facing an unfavorable international climate, including an American administration whose commitment to Israeli security is uncertain and global public opinion that has already been inflamed against the Jewish state. Lieberman's views make him a poor choice as Israel's chief emissary.

Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu is gambling that Lieberman will soon be removed from his post anyway, due to criminal investigations against him. He may hope to hold Lieberman's party in the Likud's governing coalition even if its leader is gone (as happened with Aryeh Deri's Shas party).

Even so, it is a huge risk to take, and not worth the price of Israel's moral integrity. Some of Lieberman's ideas, such as territorial swaps with the Palestinians have some merit--provided that the resident populations agree. Israel Arab leaders also bear some of the blame for the mistrust that made Lieberman's success possible. Still, this appointment is a mistake.

Those are my initial thoughts. I look forward to comments on the above.

13 March 2009

13 March 2009 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Isfahan

Proof that the Iranian regime is dangerously, desperately mad.

09 March 2009

09 March 2009 - Another reason to cheer the demise of the New York Times

New York Times
columnist Roger Cohen is cheered by the fact that western countries are beginning to see terror groups like Hamas and Hizbollah as legitimate parts of Middle Eastern political systems.

He writes:

Britain aligned itself with the U.S. position on Hezbollah, but has now seen its error. Bill Marston, a Foreign Office spokesman, told Al Jazeera: “Hezbollah is a political phenomenon and part and parcel of the national fabric in Lebanon. We have to admit this.”


Precisely the same thing could be said of Hamas in Gaza. It is a political phenomenon, part of the national fabric there.

The use of "Hallalujah" in praising Islamist terror groups is either an attempt to be cute or a betrayal of Cohen's total ignorance about radical Islam. And never mind the fact that both groups are armed and funded by an outside imperialist force--Iran--or that both hold hostage their respective populations (Lebanese and Palestinians, respectively). No--their use of force against civilians entitles them to recognition.

Israeli force, on the other hand... even in self-defense...

Speaking of violence, it’s worth recalling what Israel did in Gaza in response to sporadic Hamas rockets. It killed upward of 1,300 people, many of them women and children; caused damage estimated at $1.9 billion; and destroyed thousands of Gaza homes. It continues a radicalizing blockade on 1.5 million people squeezed into a narrow strip of land.

At this vast human, material and moral price, Israel achieved almost nothing beyond damage to its image throughout the world. Israel has the right to hit back when attacked, but any response should be proportional and governed by sober political calculation. The Gaza war was a travesty; I have never previously felt so shamed by Israel’s actions.

"Sporadic" rockets? Try thousands of rockets and mortars over a sustained 7-year period. 1,300 people? Women and children? Estimated by whom? Blockade? I have never previously felt so shamed by America's "newspaper of record," not since Bob Herbert's bogus claims of racism and phallic imagery in last year's American presidential campaign. Cohen's swallowed the propaganda and regurgitates it for all to see.

Newspapers of all political stripes are suffering, but the Times's indulgence of this sort of terrorist fantasy is the main reason many readers like myself have become former readers. When you hold yourself out as the most objective source of news in the country, and then deliver garbage no different from what is screamed by foaming-at-the-mouth protesters in Harvard Square, you deserve to fail.

05 March 2009

05 March 2009 - Obama administration undermines justice for Hariri

In its foolish attempt to appease the Syrian regime and thereby to "pressure" Iran, the Obama administration is apparently prepared to throw justice and international law under the bus.

As his emissaries head to Damascus, they come bearing an offer: in exchange for Syrian "cooperation," the U.S. will allow Syria to undermine the special tribunal established by the UN Security Council in The Hague to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Not only is this strategy going to fail (how weakness towards one autocracy is meant to show strength to another is a mystery), but it is also going to undermine international law and cooperation in the pursuit of justice across national boundaries.

This administration came to office promising to change America's relationship with the world--to honor international law and human rights, and to represent the ideals embraced by all humanity, in a way it claimed its predecessor did not.

But the new White House has already thrown aside human rights in China and Burma, and now it is apparently prepared to crush any attempt to hold Syria accountable for its actions and discourage future assassinations.

The Obama administration treats its relationship with enemy dictators like Assad with greater urgency than it does the relationship with steadfast democratic allies like the UK. That is its prerogative; that is what he promised during the election, after all--and he won.

What cannot be excused is the Obama administration's attempt to throw democracy, human rights and international law overboard in its return to "realist" paleoconservatism dressed in the rhetoric of touchy-feely humanitarian internationalism.

It is a farce and it will set our world back twenty years. Diplomacy is great, but dictators should be come crawling to democracies to beg for talks, not the other way around, and not on the basis of demands for injustice.

05 March 2009 - Ishmael Khaldi rebukes the "apartheid Israel" crowd

Check out this excellent post by Israel's consul general in the Pacific Northwest, Ishmael Khaldi--an Arab, Muslim representative of the State of Israel--on the outrage that is the Israel-apartheid analogy (H/T IAS):

You deny Israel the fundamental right of every society to defend itself: You condemn Israel for building a security barrier to protect its citizens from suicide bombers and for striking at buildings from which missiles are launched at its cities - but you never offer an alternative. Aren’t you practicing yourself a deep form of racism by denying an entire society the right to defend itself?

Your criticism is willfully hypocritical: Do Israel’s Arab citizens suffer from disadvantage? You better believe it. Do African Americans 10 minutes from the Berkeley campus suffer from disadvantage - you better believe it, too. So should we launch a Berkeley Apartheid Week, or should we seek real ways to better our societies and make opportunity more available.

You are betraying the moderate Muslims and Jews who are working to achieve peace:
Your radicalism is undermining the forces for peace in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. We are working hard to move toward a peace agreement that recognizes the legitimate rights of both Israel and the Palestinian people, and you are tearing down by falsely vilifying one side.

To the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week I would like to say:

If Israel were an apartheid state, I would not have been appointed here, nor would I have chosen to take upon myself this duty. There are many Arabs, both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories who have taken great courage to walk the path of peace. You should stand with us, rather than against us.

05 March 2009 - Hillary buys a whopper

Hillary Clinton slammed Israel yesterday for its plans to destroy Arab homes in a section of East Jerusalem.

Anti-Israel activists have described the demolitions as "ethnic cleansing," yet another example of Israeli cruelty.

And Hillary bought it, saying that the move was "unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the 'road map'."

There's only one problem: the whole story is a lie.

According to Israel's left-wing daily, Ha'aretz, the homes are in fact an "illegal Palestinian outpost," built on an ancient site of acknowledged Jewish historical and religious significance.

They were built illegally, and in the face of attempts by the Israeli authorities to resolve the issue peacefully and fairly, anti-Israel groups used the issue to incite outrage.

Hillary Clinton bought their story, and their demonization of Israel. Not exactly "tough diplomacy." And not a good sign for the future.

04 March 2009

04 March 2009 - Why not just wear a swastika?

Adidas is not just using "communist chic" to sell its clothes; it's actively celebrating the Soviet Union in all its totalitarian awfulness:

The ad for the hat actually exhorts consumers to "Show your love for the former USSR." This goes beyond Beatles tongue-in-cheek humor to actual adulation.

Apparently, mass famine, executions, forced labor, antisemitism, environmental destruction, tyranny and political persecution are now fashionable.

04 March 2009 - SASHRIP's misleading website

I'm not going to blog much more about this crowd, but I think it's worth pointing out a misleading campaign on the "South Africans Supporting Human Rights in Israel and Palestine" (SASHRIP) website.

The title of the group's home page, and the apparent focus of its activism at the moment, is "Open Shuhada Street," which the site incorrectly describes as "the main street of Hebron."

Shuhada street is a main drag in the Israeli part of Hebron, which constitutes only about one-fifth of the whole city of Hebron. The 1997 Hebron Agreement, signed by the Palestinian Authority and Israel, grants control over the rest of the city to the PA. The vast majority of Palestinians in Hebron live under a Palestinian government in a zone where the main streets are Bir Al-Saba Road, Al-Salam Street and Jerusalem Road - not Shuhada Street as claimed on the SASHRIP website.

The website also neglects to mention the Palestinian suicide bombing on Shuhada Street in May 2003:

The main reason, historically, for the street's closure has been the desire to prevent violence between Jews and Arabs. To be sure, Arabs have borne the brunt of the cost of these preventative measures, but simply to leave facts like the suicide bombing out of the historical analysis is just intellectually dishonest.

In reality, Hebron presents many complex problems, in which human rights and conflict resolution are interwoven. But SASHRIP and its allies in the global anti-Israel movement use examples like Shuhada Street to reinforce the false "Israel=apartheid" analogy. The purpose of that analogy is to demonize, and ultimately dismantle, Israel. Whatever the intentions of the SASHRIP website, good or otherwise, its misleading characterization of Shuhada Street encourages intolerance, not peace.

03 March 2009

03 March 2009 - Subsidizing terror

Hillary Clinton and several other no doubt well-meaning foreign emissaries gathered in Sharm-El-Sheikh recently to discuss the future of Gaza. They pledged a staggering $4.5 billion in aid for the "rebuilding" of Gaza, $900 million of which will come from the US--in the midst of a profound economic crisis, mind you.

Amazing. Hamas provokes a war by launching rockets at Israeli civilians, then continues to do so at war's end, and instead of bearing the cost of repairing the damage--to Gaza and to Israel--the world rewards it with a massive sum of cash.

How much of that money will actually be spent on the needs of ordinary Palestinians? Hardly any, if the past is any indication. What's even more amazing is that $4.5 billion is more than twice the sum ($1.9 billion) that Palestinians themselves estimated they needed--and that figure is likely on the high end. This report by Yvonne Green suggests Gaza may not need much help at all: "From what I saw and was told in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead pinpointed a totalitarian regime's power bases and largely neutralized Hamas's plans to make Israel its tool for the sacrifice of civilian life," she writes. It was not a war that targeted civilian infrastructure.

The international community has pledged exactly $0, by the way, to fund the rebuilding of Sderot and Ashkelon and Beersheva , in Israel.

I'm not opposed to pumping billions of dollars in investment into a nascent Palestinian state. But to do so while terrorists are in charge--terrorists who, moreover, have a long track record of misappropriating aid for violent purposes--is simply stupid.

We are subsidizing terror with our tax dollars. And we will continue to do so until we demand that the Palestinian regime--whether Hamas or Fatah--bear responsibility for its actions and for the future of the people it governs.

01 March 2009

01 March 2009 - Obama's Durban double-cross

Once again, I spoke too soon. Yesterday I praised the Obama administration for pulling out of the Durban 2 conference. Taken alone, it was the right thing to do. But as Anne Bayefsky reports, not only has Obama offered to "re-engage" negotiations, but the administration has also announced that the US will be joinng the UN Human Rights Council as a consolation to anti-Israel groups.

So... we leave a conference whose sole purpose is to attack Israel, only to join an organization whose sole interest is attacking Israel. And while Jewish leasers are told one thing, Arab groups are apparently told another.

The administration is behaving as if it doesn't understand what's at stake here. And there really aren't any excuses anymore.