Monday, May 31, 2010

Flotilla Propaganda

Stratfor has published a free, must read piece on the political and propaganda impact of the flotilla event. The essay has multiple strong points, employing useful parallels to the Exodus ship, employed to good effect by the early Zionist leadership against a British-enforced blockade on Jewish migration to Israel, the overall propaganda strategy of anti-Israel groups and possible Israeli counters. Read it twice and let's discuss.

Savagery at Sea

Information continues to stream in about the barbarity encountered by Israeli naval commandos as they embarked to commandeer ships violating a maritime quarantine of Gaza. Peaceful activists? White flags? Watch these savages mercilessly beat unsuspecting Israeli forces, whose explicit orders were to avoid harm and injury, and to steer the ships to Israel, where their cargo could be unloaded for the benefit of Gazans.

As more and more details emerge, those of us who care about Israel should aim our anger not at the violent extremists, but at an Israeli naval command that, despite assurances they were prepared for various contingencies, did not anticipate facing hostile resistance on the ships, and thus did not prepare accordingly. Instead of careening to prepared clubs and knives, Israeli soldiers should have first pacified the decks using standard crowd control measure - smoke and flash bang grenades.

attempts to throw cigarettes, spitting, cursing, etc.

The naivete of the Israeli navy's command in preparing and executing this operation, believing that radical extremists would be content to submit to the authorities without a struggle, is astounding. Again and again, in Palestinian villages, in Lebanon, in Gaza and now on the high seas, Israeli soldiers enter combat situations completely unaware of the danger to which they are being exposed, and unprepared for the first acts of violence directed against them, trusting fellow human beings to act in a reasonable way. This complacency must end.

Update: I've seen scattered reports that Israeli soldiers embarking on the boats were armed with paintball guns! Did someone forget the water balloons and cotton candy? It's confirmed, the first waves of Israeli personnel were armed with paintball guns and sidearms, which they were forbidden from drawing without a direct order. This was sheer incompetence: guys going in with NO IDEA what they were in for, thinking that at worst they would be pushed or spat at, falling into the arms of a mob armed with clubs and knives beating the crap out of them, people trying to take away their sidearms, throwing them overboard from one deck to another.

This was an operational disaster, but it happened first and foremost because Israel behaved naively, believing they were dealing with humanitarian activists, and completely failed to plan for a hostile engagement. That lack of planning endangered lives, it cost lives and injuries, and Israeli commanders must be held accountable.

Tragedy at Sea

The details of what happened are still sketchy, but the outline of this tragedy is becoming clear. Defying multiple orders by Israeli naval forces to be accompanied to an Israeli port, where their humanitarian cargo would be unloaded and distributed, a radical group of extremists attempted to penetrate a maritime quarantine of Gaza. As Israeli commandos, having exhausted methods of persuasion, attempted to board the boats in order to enforce the quarantine while achieving the purported humanitarian aims of the flotilla, violent extremists ambushed soldiers with bats and knives. At least in one case, in the melee that ensued, a soldier's weapon was stolen from him, and then fired at the Israeli contingent. Soldiers responded to suppress the gunfire in the tight confines of a crowded boat, facing hostile combatants, resulting in casualties.

As is clear from the video, the extremist violence was organized in advance and concentrated on causing bodily harm to Israeli naval personnel in the performance of their duties. Various reports put the fatalities between 10-16 illegal combatants, with another 30 injured, while 4-6 Israeli personnel were reportedly injured, including from stab and bullet wounds. Israeli hospitals are treating the injured.

In light of the violent extremism encountered by Israeli forces in preserving the maritime quarantine of Gaza, in place to limit the ability of the Islamist terrorist group Hamas to resupply its weapons arsenal, it remains to be seen what responsibility the organizers of the flotilla, and their political supporters, including Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, will bear for this completely avoidable and tragic loss of life. At every instant of this episode, from before the flotilla sailed to the moment Israeli forces boarded the ships, it was communicated without fail to the extremists, and their political supporters, that humanitarian aid is welcome through Israeli land crossings, pending inspection for contraband. The insistence on violating established norms of humanitarian relief and challenging the Israeli navy on the high seas sets a dangerous and unacceptable precedent that directly reflects on the reckless, irresponsible agenda of the flotilla's supporters.

It remains to be seen who among the flotilla's leadership or their supporters authorized the illegitimate use of force against embarking Israeli commandos, as is clearly seen in the video footage, thus precipitating this tragedy. This deplorable bloodshed should serve as a sobering moment to those who reject moderation and accommodation, preferring escalation and hostility, without concern for the consequences.

Update: Savagery at sea.

Maybe they thought they were in Paris, or Milwaukee, where violence against Jews goes unanswered.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Science and Faith

Every once in a while, a scientific discovery or advance in technology is used to support the atheist view of a G-dless universe. With the limitless promise of human achievement, some argue, faith is the domain of unwashed barbarians. Indeed, a belief in some magical, white bearded grandfather in the clouds, vain enough to need our adulation, is comical in the context of relentless scientific progress, which promises to transform our world, on our terms.
Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell. The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell. The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA.
Such sentiments have simmered in the public discourse of the world since at least the European Enlightenment, and have tested Jewish intellectual and spiritual resilience in each subsequent generation. By and large, I think the verdict is in; Jews have inhaled the natural sciences, advanced and directed academic inquiry and pushed the boundaries of human potential, all while maintaining and reaffirming our Covenant with G-d, as we did once again this past Shavuot. Certainly, there are Jews estranged from our traditions and practices, to various degrees, but I struggle to think of one, no matter their social standing or professional prowess, who does not believe in something of spirit.

This latest celebrated advance of science brings to mind a hassidic joke that well frames the Jewish response, not to scientific progress, but to its hijacking by atheism. It was perhaps first told fifty years ago, perhaps one hundred a fifty years ago, but has never more relevant than in the present, as it always was. It goes something like this:

Scientists decided to create a human being from scratch, to demonstrate how far humanity had come, that we didn't even need G-d to create life itself. So, they gathered the best minds, equipped them with the latest in technological instruments, and set to work. Just as in the Bible, they took dirt, formed it to exact specifications and fashioned all of a human being's inner workings, down to the finest detail. They even found a way to breathe life into this mound of dirt, and believe it or not, it all worked! After years of painstaking efforts, they presented their newly created human being, rightly proud of their incredible achievement.

"That's pretty good," said G-d, looking over their work. "Now go get your own dirt."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Silly Saudi

Earlier today, this blog received it's first visit from Dammam, Ash Sharqiyah, Saudi Arabia. The visitor had performed a yahoo search for "blogspot+naked+women", and instead clicked on the post I wrote about Israel's highly praised relief efforts in the wake of the recent disaster in Haiti, with an accompanying video from BiG Productions demonstrating the participation of Jews from Yesha settlements in the rescue operations.

The internet is a funny place. Not to disappoint our future visitors from Saudi, here are some women they can drool at.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jumanah Imad Albahri

Remember Jumanah Imad Albahri, the UCSD student who, while debating David Horowitz, supported genocide against the Jewish people? It's hard to forget such a clear, unambiguous display of hatred, now seen by some 340,000 people and counting. Here's the memorable recap of the verbal exchange:
Horowitz: I am a Jew. The head of Hizbollah has said that he hopes that we will gather in Israel so he doesn’t have to hunt us down globally. For or Against it?

Jumanah Imad Albahri: For it.
Enough said. Or is it? After such a performance, a normal person (you know, the kind that doesn't support genocide) would either issue a heart-wrenching apology and crawl into intellectual rehab, or change their name to Betsy Clark and join a burlesque group in Vegas.

Jumanah Imad Albahri, however, is not a normal person. Sure, she is special, but not in the way we all suspect. Today, she released an extensive statement on her Orwellian-named blog, "For Truth For Justice", where she made a superhuman effort to dig her genocide-supporting hole deeper, and to keep this story alive longer. She is a victim, you see, just a stupid little girl victimized by the sinister tricks of a professional public debater. The determined tone she used in support of mass murder was actually in reference to a question from two minutes earlier in the exchange. She doesn't hate Jews, not at all, she abhors all violence! How could she be anti-Semitic when she herself is a Semite?! As we can clearly see, such a thing is technically impossible, no matter how much anti-Semitic genocide one preaches. Perhaps most importantly, we should just drop calling Jumanah names, because she's getting pretty upset about it.

What we need to understand is that she got angry, and where she comes from, when people get angry, Jews die. Look, it's not her fault; she's a human being like the rest of us. She can't be expected to stay in control of her feelings at a moment when the option of murdering Jews - in this case, a lot of Jews, "the motherload", as it were - is on the table.

Reading through this rationalization of a call to genocide, I am struck not by what's present, but by what isn't. In particular, three words do not appear to be part of Jumanah Imad Albahri's vocabulary - "sorry", "mistake", "apologize". I get it, people say stupid things all the time. Emotions flare, tempers rage, genocidal fantasies simmer just below the surface of a seemingly privileged, educated American woman. That's life.

I don't expect Jumanah to love Jews. Really, I don't even expect her to want to live in peace with Jews. I have low expectations, I admit. What I do expect, is for her to rub two brain cells together and understand that she is no longer in Ramallah or Zarqa. Espousing a second Holocaust is not acceptable here in America.

I'm going to be following this special treasure (her name means "pearl" in Arabic), who is simply tripping over herself to become a symbol of genocidal Islamist fanaticism in America - that sounds unfair, until I watch her on video, again and again, and realize it's not. I pity her poor family, whose name and honor she is single-handedly dragging through the mud.

Update: Two groups have now launched on Facebook. One to expel Jumanah from UCSD. One to not expel Jumanah from UCSD. The groups have attracted around three hundred members each at time of writing.

Update: A petition drive has launched to demand that UC Chancellors condemn Jumanah's genocidal hate speech at UCSD.

Update: The University of San Diego has issued a press release on the matter. Interestingly, they seem to have another version of Jumanah's statement than what she posted on her blog. The new statement reads the following (an excerpt, as I don't have a source for this alternate statement):
“Let me be clear that I condemn genocide, racism, terrorism, and violence in any form, and firmly believe that such things run counter to my faith as a Muslim. I also condemn Mr. Horowitz’s exploitation of my well-intentioned question, and his exploitation of this situation as a whole. I did not hear Mr. Horowitz’s question, specifically his references to genocide. Had I understood the nature of the question, I would never have responded the way that I did by providing an answer that misrepresented my beliefs. I would like to apologize for the remarks I inadvertently made at the forum. It was never my intent to offend anyone.”
Laudable as it is for Jumanah to now apologize, sort of, this new statement being waved around by UCSD only raises more questions. First, why hasn't her entire new statement been made available? Second, is Jumanah deaf? Looking at that video again, she seems quite in control of her faculties, given that two second pause as she relishes the moment before answering in favor of genocide. Third, why did it take Jumanah an entire week to clarify her remarks, instead of apologizing to David Horowitz then and there or the day after? Certainly, watching the audience at the event, no one else seems to have had any questions about what transpired. Finally, why does Jumanah's official blog list a far more unrepentant statement than what she provided to the University Administration, and is UCSD Administration familiar with this statement?

Update: The question Jumanah says she DID answer "For it", was with regards to whether she supports Hamas. In that case, perhaps she should explain how the Hamas Charter, which relies on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and advocates the apocalyptic, global extermination of Jews conforms with her "faith as a Muslim". For it or against it, Jumanah?

Update: The Facebook group urging that UCSD expel Jumanah has been deleted by Facebook.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Good Shabbos!

Lieberman is an Asset

One of these days, I'll write about the bigotry and arrogance inherent in degrading Israel's Foreign Minister as just "a Moldovan bouncer". It is a derogatory phrase employed by people who resent the notion that Jews of the Soviet Union are sophisticated enough to think for themselves in matters of politics, just as they belittled the Arab Jews fifty years prior.

The reason why Lieberman is popular with Israel's Russian-speaking community, and indeed with Russian speaking Jews all over the world, is his no-nonsense approach to dealing with matters of policy. I may not agree with every policy position of Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman's party, nor do I think he is an altruistic individual without a personal stake in his growing his political constituency, but every time he speaks I appreciate his simple, forceful candor, and I see Russian Jews around me nodding in agreement, even as "civilized" leftist Jews go berserk.

Take the following interview by Haaretz. I encourage you to read it in full, though I will quote only a few select passages.

On the Proximity Talks:
That is, from your point of view, there's no room to make a goodwill gesture with regard to these talks?

I think we've made many gestures and all we've gotten in response are slaps in the face. As you remember, we took the unilateral step of deciding on a moratorium, a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria. We recognized two states for two peoples. We removed a dramatic number of roadblocks and allowed Fatah to hold a conference in Bethlehem.

Cooperation with Tony Blair led to [economic] growth of 8 to 9 percent in Judea and Samaria, while the rest of the world was in crisis. I think we made countless gestures, and what did we get in return? The glorification of terror, streets named after Yihyeh Ayash and Dalal Mughrabi. And they try to incite against us and cut us down in every international forum.

The day before Israel's acceptance by the OECD, [Palestinian Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad approached dozens of countries with a request to sabotage that acceptance. They keep going on with their stories about war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. After all, [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas himself called and asked us, pressured us to continue the military campaign and overthrow Hamas. And how many days later did he complain to the International Court in The Hague? And they keep on doing this.

On the PA unilaterally declaring a Palestinian State:
How do you feel about Fayyad's announcement that he is working to unilaterally establish a Palestinian state?

I'm not interested in what Salam Fayyad declares. His pronouncements are not aimed at establishing a Palestinian state but rather to augment his political power. It's no secret that there's a lot of tension between Salam Fayyad and Fatah, and it's clear that all his pronouncements are meant to build his personal position, and political power for Salam Fayyad. It's clear that he has a lot of political ambition and he has apparently started to come out publicly and build a position for himself.

Which means you don't believe that a state will materialize?

He no doubt knows better than anyone that it's very much not worth it to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state. It's obvious to him, and he is aware of this better than you or me. He only stands to lose from such an event.

Why? Even if Europe recognizes it?

Never mind, he's on top of things and believe me he's very well aware of reality and there's no reason to think he'll act unilaterally.

I don't see what he has to lose.

The moment he starts unilateral actions, we will too, and it's obvious that on balance he will lose.

What kind of unilateral actions?

There are enough, we have a large arsenal of steps, you don't need examples.

Annexing territory?

Never mind, but believe me he knows for sure.

Wow. Have you spoken to him yourself?

No, God forbid.

Why 'God forbid'?

Because I don't think now is the right time for talks.

On war with Syria:
The prime minister says that Iran is trying to provoke a war between us and Syria. What do you think about this statement?

It's nothing new. The Iranians are always trying to tell Syria directly, and by passing on lies through Hezbollah, that we're going to attack at any moment. There's no doubt that they are happy that the attention given to their nuclear developments is moving on to a quarrel between us and Syria. I think the penny has dropped for the Syrians, too, and they understand these tricks.

It's not in the Syrians' interest?

No, definitely not.

More like this, please. No other Israeli diplomat has dared to communicate on the issues he did in this interview. Why is that so? Why must everything be decided behind closed doors, the rest of us relying on an incompetent media that has lost all professionalism, publishing the equivalent of press releases by biased parties, with little unvarnished analysis. Is he rough around the edges? Yes, and it should be the role of those professional career diplomats around him to soften those edges to enhance his effectiveness, not undermine him with leaks and barely veiled contempt, which is internalized by malicious parties. Lieberman is an asset to Israel, and it's long past time for us to start treating him that way.

Arizona and Immigration

Here in the US, the subject of illegal immigration has received quite a bit of coverage lately, the most since 2005, mostly owing to the State of Arizona passing what some see as draconian state laws, which essentially enforce federal immigration laws on a local level.

Controversy has focused on the racial aspect of the laws, which seem to target minorities most likely to be illegal migrants. From what I understand, the law doesn't actually endorse racial profiling, but it gives local law enforcement the authority to challenge the immigration status of any individual they deem suspect. Given that most illegal immigrants in Arizona are Hispanic, it's doubtful that individuals of Asian or European ancestry will find themselves pulled over, being forced to produce a valid social security card, passport or birth certificate (which most people don't carry on their persons).

Individuals, communities, even entire states have called for economic and political boycotts of Arizona, at times to ridiculous levels. A friend of mine, unusually dark-skinned for a Palestinian and well connected in leftist circles, who is contemplating leaving Wisconsin for warmer pastures at summer's end, yesterday commented that Arizona is out the question, "because of the racism".

Clearly, with emotions running high, the laws of the land in tatters and politicians jostling for soundbites to ride the wave of anticipated street protests and counter-protests (the law will go into effect in July), there has never been a better time for me to jump in on an issue I don't feel strongly about and make some enemies.

Personally, ideally, I support naturalizing the 10-20 million illegal migrants that are currently in the country. Presumably, they’re employed, somewhere, so they are already contributing to the economy and filling holes in the low skill labor market that our more lazy low income citizens, sitting pretty on government handouts refuse to fill. More importantly, I think kicking people out of their homes, splitting families and destroying lives is always a bad solution. I could draw some interesting comparisons between Israeli settlers and illegal Mexican migrants, and demand that those who support the rights of the later also support the rights of the former, but we'll leave that for another time.

We should understand, there are no good solutions here. We’ve tried naturalizing millions of illegal migrants in the past. As long as our border with Mexico is porous, and as long as Mexico is verging on the brink of failure as a state, millions of migrants will attempt to come here, seeking work and a better life for their families. A Mexican friend once said to me that it’s so bad in Mexico that even the trees run across the border.

Without sealing that border, no solution is viable or permanent. Legalizing 10 million means nothing when there are 1-3 million people crossing into the US illegally every year. However, sealing that border is also a massive technical and political challenge, given our trade commitments under NAFTA and the potential for unintended consequences. With 10-20% of their citizens living in the US and sending money back to feed and clothe their families, it’s not clear if Mexico could survive us sealing the border. In effect, we act as a safety valve, draining the building pressure on their society. A failed Mexican state is clearly not in anyone's interest, as it would only multiply the many problems that exist now with human trafficking, drugs, crime and poverty, on both sides of the border.

The current situation is in many ways a balance of bad options, an unhealthy, but manageable status quo, which is why you don’t see anyone in authority rushing to fix it. Idealism, sloganeering and demagoguery is fine from the sidelines, but as Bush and now Obama have discovered, pragmatism often wins out.

Unfortunately, that status quo has also imposed a tremendous financial and social cost on the border states, Arizona in particular. The recent law is an attempt by local politicians to address the demands and pleas of their constituents; to close a gaping wound that is growing, draining state coffers, taxing local law enforcement, education and public services to breaking point. Arizona doesn’t need scoffing and boycotts, it needs understanding and material assistance from the federal government, and from all of us who haven’t born the financial and social burdens of migration.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Modern Assault on Pluralism

The context really doesn't matter to me, as it shouldn't matter to any free-thinking individual that values a pluralistic society, so I won't write about it. Two people were arrested. Perhaps this is my Soviet upbringing getting the better of me, but I think they arrested the wrong people. When you're surrounded by a mob screaming "Allakhu Akhbar" at the top of their lungs, pumping their fists in the air and displaying body language indicating they're going to rush you, kill you and mutilate your remains - it's an experience I think we all should have, at least once - focusing on the individuals actually engaging in violence is, well, insufficient.

See, in Russia, they would understand that it's not the two or three idiots throwing punches at the cops who are the real problem, but that woman shrieking "Allakhu Akhbar" in the back, goading the Muslim men into a religious frenzy by challenging their commitment to defend their faith and their prophet. So, in Russia, yes, they would have "beat the stupid" out of the two or three guys who actually attacked police officers - would they try such a thing in an Arab country? - but they also would have cracked a baton against that woman's skull, you know, by accident, until she stopped shrieking and calmed down. People don't play games when they know there are immediate and painful consequences for their actions. But that's Russia, and we're in civilized western societies, where instead of offenders fearing police, it's the police running away!

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that incidents of violence by radical Muslims directed against people they don't agree with have been rising of late, and are relentlessly penetrating the media's cowardly blackout. An Israeli Ambassador was attacked in broad daylight in Britain. A Jewish student was punched in the head during a celebration of Israel's 62nd birthday, his assailant arrested in my hometown of Milwaukee. Attacks on French Jews, and even Jewish looking people in France have become commonplace. Individually, these are mere unconnected incidents. Yet, taken globally, with attacks increasing around the world, avoiding obvious conclusions - that these are no statistical anomalies, but the products of a culture that will not tolerate dissent - is proving more difficult.

What's more, it's becoming clear that Islamist and Arabist radicals are bolstered by each act; indeed, their violence serves to monopolize and radicalize the conversation within their own communities. Their sense of impunity grows with each attempt by authorities to calm the situation and dismiss the violence as simple hooliganism. Such weakness is seen for what it is, an almost tacit approval, for if a government with a monopoly on force truly wished to burnish its will, goes the reasoning, it would do so. Hooliganism - a preoccupation of intemperate youth - as we're increasingly learning, this is not. Nor is the growing violence propagated by uneducated people who have a problem articulating themselves in English, or who are merely concerned by the wrongs or excesses of Israeli policies.

Any questions?

Would Aladdin be made today?

From the comments on Youtube:

No I feel the purpose of this video is to make arabs look as though they are victims of great injustice and that they should be treated different from other groups of people. It's just 5 minutes of whining. It's no different than the arab response to the muhammed cartoons. What he's saying is "arabs and muslims should be shielded from all satire and critique and always be portrayed as peaceful and civilized because we all are". That's not acceptable.

So, I don't know if Aladdin, an animated film I still enjoy watching, would be made today. Someone might sue the studio for defamation of an ethnic group. However, I do know what the Turks and Arabs are watching today, to high acclaim, and no lawsuits.

When the Jews complained, they ended up being forced to apologize for causing a diplomatic incident. Aladdin, that's the problem? Really?

A whole new world. Outrageous. Where are the Koranic verses inciting vicious violence against civilians, the clitorectomies, the king's torture chambers for political dissidents? Had Aladdin been made true to "Arab" life, Jasmine would have been honor killed by her father and unceremoniously buried in the back yard without a headstone. Outrageous indeed! When the Arabs make Aladdin-style movies about Jews, we'll talk about Arab stereotypes in Hollywood.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hussein Ibish and Jewish Settlements

If you aren't reading Hussein Ibish, you should be. A leading member of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), he is at the center, indeed a driver, of current American policy with regards to the Palestinian Authority and the peace process. Importantly, and uncharacteristically for a Palestinian leader (though he is more thinker than leader), he is consistent, in English and Arabic, in front of a microphone and behind closed doors. To the extent that I understand the internal Palestinian-American struggle over the direction of the Palestinian national movement - a cauldron of Islamists, Marxists, nationalists, tribalists, Baathist fascists, and even a few liberal democrats - Hussein Ibish is the closest to a pragmatic Palestinian moderate a pro-Israel American Jew could conceive of. If I sound like I'm singing his praises, I'm not, though he deserves praise for a variety of reasons I won't elaborate here. I'm afraid this is all the background I'll give you at this time, with an encouragement to read him regularly, as we need to move on to the reason I brought him up to begin with.

Some time ago, I decided to ask Dr. Ibish a series of questions on the matter of Palestinian attitudes towards Jewish settlements in Yesha. The questions reflected what I felt was a good deal of confusion on the subject, the consequence of conflicting statements and actions by Palestinian and Israeli officials. Not only did he respond, but he did so publicly, on his blog, as one of a series of responses to a variety of questions asked of him. They're all worth reading, but my focus remains on my original questions, which were these:
Q: What is the official PA posture on existing Jewish villages in Yesha? On the one hand, the diplomatic track has anticipated their dismantlement. On the other hand, high ranking individuals within the PA - including Salam Fayaad - have indicated the villages will be incorporated into a Palestinian state. Still, on other days you'll find the same Salam Fayaad burning economic products produced in the settlements. Please shed some light on Palestinians expectations and intentions in with regard to settlements outside the three or four major settlement blocks near the green line.

This Dr. Ibish did, and you can read his response on his site (scroll down about 3/4ths). To paraphrase his response, though you should read it in full, the Israeli government wishes to evacuate the settlements in order to prevent settlers from drawing it back into the West Bank during or after a final status deal with the Palestinians. The logic goes that radical settlers would attack Palestinians, inviting retaliatory violence against Jewish communities, and then demand that the Government of Israel protect Jews by invading the new Palestinian state. At the very least, a preemptive evacuation of remote Jewish settlements would take any such possibilities out of the equation, freeing the Government of Israel from such messy contingencies.

Moreover, and what is vital, is that Dr. Ibish views the dismantlement of Jewish settlements as an Israeli imperative(!), not a Palestinian one. He's not advising Israel what is in its best interests, but describing how the Israelis themselves present their interests to him.

The following is a letter I wrote him in response. I don't believe there is an expectation of privacy in my exchange with him, so I'm publishing the letter, and may publish his response, if he offers one.
Hello Dr. Ibish,

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Immediately after I first submitted my comments, I went through a good portion of the material you've published on Ibishblog and, feeling quite foolish, found many of the answers I sought, though your present response is more comprehensive.

Your insight into the Israeli leadership thinking behind large-scale settlement evacuation was novel to me, and it certainly has a logical heft to it. On the matter of settler violence being a motivator for settlement destruction, the sequence of events would appear to be in reverse. The vast majority of Jewish residents in the West Bank are peaceful - even the residents of Kyriat Arba, which you mentioned in your response, have been behaving themselves of late - and Israel currently exercises controls through detentions, restricting entry and deporting troublemakers; controls that could be expanded and coordinated with Palestinian security forces and international peacekeepers. Indeed, international peacekeepers can serve as a buffer to ensure the Jewish residents of a Palestinian state are served equitably by Palestinian security forces, while being justly held to the law of the land. Settler violence against Palestinians, and vice versa, is a problem with reasonably manageable solutions, in the context of a final settlement.

Furthermore, the potential violence you foresee being instigated by a small group of extremist settlers to scupper the peace process, in my experience, is not so much a consequence of them rejecting residing in a Palestinian state, as resisting being forcibly removed from their homes. The very outcome the Israeli government is seeking to avoid - settler violence - and which you describe, it is enabling by pursuing settlement dismantlement. As you rightly note, there is no legitimate reason why Jews should not also have a right to live in a Palestinian state, which itself is centered in a historical heartland of ancient Israel. Whatever one's personal religious or political beliefs, it's axiomatic that a majority of Jews have a real emotional and religious attachment to this land. To the extent that any Jewish settlers harbor notions of a political Great Israel, the divestment of Likud from this ideology, a process now complete, renders them devoid of political, and thus material support. The Jewish residents of Shiloh are in no position to start building a political Greater Israel without support from the Knesset, and they are under no illusions about this. While many settlers are religiously inclined, and indeed there is such a positive commandment for Jews to inhabit the land, this has no bearing on the geopolitical ownership of the land. So, individuals and communities of Jews have sought to settle and work the land throughout two millennia, with no antipathy or resentment towards the political power in control at the time.

In summation, Jewish settlers are not incompatible with a Palestinian state, and it is the very process of threatening the destruction of their communities which may direct them to attempt a sabotage of the peace process - an outcome Israelis and Palestinians seek to avoid. It may be emotionally satisfying, but not factually correct to portray settlers as irreversibly committed to irridentist ideology. Indeed, the most potent way to neutralize whatever threat extremist settlers pose to the peace process is by welcoming Jewish communities of the West Bank into a Palestinian state with open arms, perhaps quietly and privately at first, to negate blowback among Palestinian constituencies. Nor is this an exercise in generosity, as Jewish communities in the West Bank feature highly developed infrastructures, diversified economies, strong familial and business links to the largest economy in the region and foreign markets, and already engage in various social, environmental and economic cooperative ventures with nearby Palestinian villages. Peaceful Jewish communities in the West Bank are a tremendous and obvious national asset to a nascent Palestinian state.

On the one hand, you state that Palestinians are not opposed to integrating Jewish communities in a Palestinian state, and indeed some Palestinian leaders even welcome this. On the other hand, you dismiss this outcome outright as not in the interests of the Israeli government and not even mildly likely, despite Palestinian acquiescence. One is left with the impression that you actually do wish the dismantlement of the settlements, but have created a self-serving narrative by which Israel is held responsible for the policy. If I am overly sensitive on this point, it is because you make a leap of policy without substantiation. After all, if Palestinians are so accommodating in welcoming Jewish settlements into a Palestinian state, as PM Fayaad says, then let them convince the Israeli government not to dismantle the settlements. Can we imagine such a conversation between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators? Or, do Palestinians make such remarks, as you do, knowing that the Israelis won't call them on it? This is the one point of confusion in your statements I have not been able to resolve.

Finally, and perhaps this is more abstract than my previous remarks, as a liberal individual committed to the development of a democratic society that respects the rule of law, it's actually quite reasonable to support retaining Jewish communities in the West Bank as allies against conservative and Islamist threats to liberal Palestinian society. As someone who has spent a good part of my 20s engaging with western-educated Palestinian marxist-nationalists, I don't feel I'm going off on a limb by stating that many Palestinians are ardently fighting for a one-state solution precisely because they fear the conservative and religious forces, highly illiberal forces, within Palestinian society, and are ironically counting on six million Israeli Jews to aid them in holding these forces in check. In other words, their goal is still the dismantlement of Israel and, in the final analysis, a Palestinian Arab state, but one that leverages a large constituency of mostly liberally-minded Jews and liberally-minded Arabs to maintain democratic rule.

In working towards a two state solution, a similar analysis can apply. The past century is replete with experiments in democracy gone tragically wrong, with numerous examples in Arab lands. No matter the good intentions and respectable backgrounds of those who presently give their lives for a just Palestinian state to emerge, experience has proven that a cultural commitment to pluralism can take decades to form, hold and resist subversion. To supporters of a liberal, democratic Palestinian state, a substantial Jewish minority with an interest in preventing its own political disempowerment, which would be a natural first target for illiberal conservative forces, could serve not merely as an ally in confronting those forces by democratic means, but as the proverbial "canary in the coalmine'. Threats against Jewish communities could then be seen as precursors to threats against other politically vulnerable groups, and against the democratic system itself, enabling corrective action to take place sooner. I believe multiple studies of the role of Jews in European history can be useful in this regard, considering, of course, that such grim scenarios are possible in a Palestinian state. Certainly, many Palestinian supporters of the one-state solution believe this to be the case.

Once again, thank you for responding to my questions. I appreciate and value your perspective on the Palestinian approach to Israel and the peace process. ATFP has come a long ways since that early feud with Ali Abunimah, when some of my Palestinian marxist friends dismissed you as Israeli collaborator quislings. I don't know to what extent this is true for you, but I also think you take on a certain personal risk in making the sorts of coherent, unequivocal policy statements that you do in support of the two state solution and the peace process, and I respect you as an individual and a Palestinian committed to peace for doing so.

Best regards,
-Victor Shikhman

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