Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saudis in the Saddle

The Middle East is a complicated place, a land where allies become enemies and interest converge and diverge in a chaotic fashion. The very multiplicity of actors, particularly those able and willing to direct violence, all chafing at the bit for survival and power, their relative position in perpetual motion, strains coherent, focused and lasting analysis. Amid the disorder we seek structure, a framework that satisfies the need of a public to understand, and of a government to function in a pragmatic fashion - a paradigm.

The standoff over the Iranian nuclear program is one such well-worn paradigm. The Iranians have operated a clandestine nuclear development and nuclear weapons programs for over a decade, at times concealing this fact outright, and when such subterfuge became impossible, sheltering their nuclear ambitions under the guise of civilian power generation.

No one would much have cared - as few did when, say, Japan or Brazil flirted within sight of a nuclear weapons threshold - were Iran to be a peaceful member of the international community, and particularly, a stabilizing actor in its own neighborhood. Instead, whether owing to its Islamist ideology, regime preservation or an imperial vision for the Middle East - all three being quite compatible with one another - Iran has sought to destabilize its periphery, unnerve its neighbors and threaten the interests of distant powers.

What has particularly galvanized attention in the US and Europe are implicit and overt Iranian threats against Israel. Iranian nukes may be an irritant to a Europe that no longer has the capacity or will for power projection, and a regional concern, but not an existential one, to a distant America. The Iranians are being provocative, but Europe is far away, and America is sufficiently insulated to risk a war that disrupts oil supplies over the Iranian nuclear pimple.

However, everyone understands that a Jewish state threatened with extermination and having a capability to preempt its demise, even in a fashion that turns the world on its head, will. The main threat is to Israel, goes the paradigm, and it is Israel's catastrophic response that the world wishes to avoid, and which negotiations are designed to avert or delay. It is little wonder, then, that so many view Israel, and not the Iranian nuclear program, as the real problem. Iranian nukes many in Europe and the US are willing to live with; an Israeli attack that sets off Iranian counters that destabilize the global economic system is another matter. For those understanding of Israel's predicament, restraining Iran is a noble effort to secure the Jewish people from a second genocide in less than a century. For others, it is Israel that must be contained, for it is the Jewish state's actions which will precipitate global calamity, not those of the Iranians. So goes the paradigm.

What if the paradigm is wrong? Or, as is so characteristic of popular Middle East vignettes, incomplete. Yes, the threat to Israel may be acute, but no more so than that of Saddam's biological and chemical weapons stockpiles in the late 1980s. Yet, it was not on Israel's behalf that an international coalition ripped to pieces the Iraqi army, the fourth largest in the world. Indeed, thinking back on sixty years of war, I am hard pressed to identify a single American military action to defend the Jewish state. When we look at both great American military incursions in the region, in 1991 and 2003, there is only one nation that stands as the principal focus of American interest - Saudi Arabia.

The first Gulf War was launched, quite explicitly, to break Iraq's conventional military capability - particularly its expeditionary potential - which had swallowed Kuwait and threatened Saudi oil fields. Gulf War Two, ill-defined though it was against Saddam's WMD capabilities, constituted an American response to 9/11, a massive demonstration of power designed to extinguish any doubts about American will and capabilities and to coerce compliance in the war against violent Islamist networks. It is easy to forget how central Saudi Arabia once was to the jihadist effort as ideological nursery, financier, recruiting ground and safe haven. Indeed, there were those among the Washington establishment who, arguing outright for invasion, thought that the Saudis, and not Saddam, should bear the brunt of American tanks. Certainly, it can be said that the Saudis took their counter-terrorism efforts more seriously after the positioning of 150,000 American troops in neighboring Iraq.

As paradigms go, then, given America's age-old entanglement with the House of Saud, and the blood and material already shed by the United States to maintain this relationship, it is reasonable to suggest that if American forces were ever deployed against the Iranians, it would not be to safeguard Israel - a nation for which not a single American soldier or bullet have been expended - but to preserve the Saudi Kingdom. A less romantic paradigm, I admit, than one which places the Jewish people on the verge of catastrophe, again, but also one more credible than the notion of an Israel holding the world hostage to war with Iran.

The primacy of Saudi interests in American planning, not to the exclusion of Israeli concerns, but complementary to them, becomes crystallized once one digests George Friedman's latest piece on Stratfor - Rethinking American Options on Iran. With the Israelis as "bad cop" and the Saudis as the busy-bodied silent partners, argues Friedman, Washington is hard at work dismantling Iranian contingency planning in response to American attack - defanging Shiite proxies like Hezbollah, stabilizing the Iraqi government against Iranian meddling and developing a strategic bombing campaign to neutralize Iran's interdiction capabilities against Gulf oil shipping and reduce Iran's conventional military assets to prevent expeditionary campaigns (or the threat of such campaigns) against the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia in particular.

What emerges is an American policy sophisticated, mature, far from helpless, and largely irrelevant to the public debate over the Israel-bombing-Iran paradigm now raging in the press. One can only hope.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Long Hard Slog

One of my great pleasures, in recent months, has been unraveling the early story of the Zionist cause and struggle. Born in the former Soviet Union, I was not reared on, shall we say, optimistic Zionist literature that has so influenced my American peers, at times not for the better. So many moving pieces fit, so many men and women, of talents great and greater, spurred by necessity, buttressed by destiny, converged with a single-minded purpose and resolve that it seems unimaginable today. By what hairs and threads it all hung, that dream of Jewish sovereignty. From sleepless generals being shuffled from front to beleaguered front to French Socialists pressing every leverage of their careers to Jewish operatives scouring Europe for any usable war material to be smuggled back home to British Zionists beating their heads against the anti-Semitic hostility of PM Bevin to fifteen year old boys and girls repelling Arab tanks and half-tracks with Molotov cocktails at Degania to the tattooed refugees weeping and dancing as they approached the port of Haifa, this is a story of national liberation as broad and varied as one's heart and mind could bear. Here is one piece of this story.

Summer, 1948. With the waves of Arab armies beaten but not broken on the fledgling rock of a nation they had once sworn to exterminate, a different kind of battle was being waged for Israel's survival at Lake Success, Long Island, New York, a temporary residence of the recently founded United Nations while a permanent structure was being constructed. Abba Eban, a Cambridge-educated British officer turned Zionist diplomat, catapulted to high profile by the tumult of nation-building back in Tel Aviv, presided over Israel's mission to the United Nations, at the ripe age of 33.
Meanwhile, I could not have regarded our international position as satisfactory. We lacked the kind of diplomatic status that would be needed for effective resistance to hostile pressure. In a dramatic Security Council meeting I had declared that "Israel is an immutable part of the international landscape; whoever plans without it is building delusions on sand." This sounded well, especially in my own ears, but not everyone agreed that we were all that "immutable". Our foot was barely in the door of the world community. Every time that I came to the Security Council table I was made aware that our diplomatic business was unfinished. Before me stood the nameplate describing me as the representative of "the Jewish Agency". I found it intolerable that Israel's name should be forbidden for use in the international forum. How could we expect Arabs to get used to the idea of "Israel" if the highest international bodies still saw us as a vague, indeterminate entity? The United Kingdom delegate, Sir Alexander Codagan, had even taken to addressing us as "the Jewish authorities in Palestine."

To remove this insult we would have to get seven of the eleven members of the Security Council to agree to call us "Israel" at the Security Council table. Unfortunately, we were not sure of having seven votes. At this point I hit upon an alternative device. If the rotating chairman would routinely invite the "representative of Israel" to take his seat the the table, the opponents of this action would need seven votes to override his ruling. Ambassador Philip Jessup [of the United States], conspiring with me against his legalistic habit, informed me that our adversaries did not have seven votes to overrule the chairman, any more than I had seven votes to make a successful positive motion.

Accordingly I laid ambush to our adversaries by suggesting to Gromyko [Soviet Union's representative to the UN] that his colleague Dmitri Manuilsky of the Ukraine, as the next president of the Security Council, should invite "Israel" to the table at the next Council meeting and then challenge members of the Council to overrule him. Gromyko, in a humorous flight, informed Gideon Rafael and me that he thought he had "some influence over the Ukrainian delegate".

Our stratagem worked. The Security Council met. The Ukrainian president called upon the "representative of Israel" to take his seat at the table. I almost ran to the table as if I expected to be physically obstructed. An official of the secretariat promptly affixed the plaque ISRAEL before me and retired. Cadogan [UK representative to the UN] led a chorus of dissent, stating that the president had acted prematurely and irresponsibly. Other Council members took up the cry. Manuilsky asked in a show of presidential indignation, "Does the Council challenge my ruling?" He asked the question in an incredulous voice, as if he were a pope asking if anyone objected to the doctrine of immaculate conception. The vote was taken. There were only six votes for a challenge.

Argentina had caused me a tremor of apprehension. Its delegate, being certain that we would carry the day, had "invested" his vote harmlessly in friendship for the Arabs. We were now irreversibly "Israel" in Security Council discussions.
Personal Witness: Israel through my Eyes, Abba Eban, pg. 172-173

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why Dov Harari Was Murdered

A human being, husband, father of four, was laid to rest yesterday, because things got out of hand in the process of Arab leaders measuring the length of each others' genitals. Can you imagine a European Parliamentary debate over social welfare policy, where one speaker pulls out a gun, drags in an innocent bystander from the street, a husband and father of four, and shoots him in the head, to the applause of the other Parliamentarians? Absurd! But is that so different from what happened on the Lebanon-Israeli border?

Arabs killed an Arab politician - Rafik Hariri - demanded that his Arab executioner be brought to justice, and in the context of debating which Arab party is more guilty than the rest, then murdered an innocent Jewish bystander who was gardening nearby, to the united applause of all Arabs. Dov Harari's life was ended not for what he or his country did, but for the viciously violent neighbors he and his country have.

If Israelis, Americans, Europeans, Russians, Chinese, Turks, Indians and a hundred other nationalities can't learn that lesson, then the senseless murder of an innocent human being was truly for nothing. May Dov Harari's murderers be brought to justice, in this life and the next.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Justice for the Murder of Dov Harari

Dov Harari, 45 years old, husband, father to four children, is dead. Why? He was not slain by terrorist action, by murderers acting outside the rule of law, but by a deliberate, unprovoked attack by the official armed forces of Lebanon. For longer than I can remember, those of us who stand for peace and justice have asserted that there exists a double standard in the system of global relations and the application of international law which brandish Israel an aggressor for defending its sovereignty and protecting the lives of its citizens. A real life test of that assertion is unfolding before our eyes. Were Israel to have murdered a Lebanese soldier in an unprovoked attack across an international border, the global political and public outcry would reverberate for weeks and months. Will Lebanon be judged on the same basis, and held to the same standards? We're about to find out.

An innocent man is dead today. Dov, who stood 300 meters behind the border, on Israeli land, was struck down by a Lebanese Army sniper's bullet. To date, the Lebanese government has not issued an apology for the criminal actions of its armed forces. Nor have foreign governments weighed in to condemn blatant, state-sponsored murder of an innocent human being, conducted in broad daylight and before the cameras across an international border. The United Nations has not issued a call for an investigation into the reckless rules of engagement of the Lebanese forces patrolling the border. International human rights groups have yet to call on Lebanese politicians to account for the criminal acts of their military. No compensation has been paid to the Harari family, their husband and father stolen from them in cold blood.

An innocent man was murdered on August 3rd, 2010. Why? Dov Harari's memory, his family, his country, his people, and all who value human life demand justice for this act of barbarism.

Update: This is disgusting.
A senior IDF officer said last night that intelligence information indicates the ambush was planned and carried out on the orders of a Lebanese company commander. The Lebanese Army's high command, he said,apparently did order the troops to create an incident to impress the various media outlets present, but told them only to fire in the air. The local commander then decided on his own initiative to escalate the incident by targeting the Israeli soldiers directly.
A human being is dead. Who in the Lebanese Army's high command authorized this violation of international law and national sovereignty? Which local commander chose to demonstrate murderous initiative? Who fired the bullet that robbed a family of their husband and father?

Update: A good summary of events from CIF Watch, complete with a high definition photograph of the area in question. (H/T Silke)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Death of a Hero, Part 1

Some time ago, I was conversing with a friend, when they brought up a historical documentary they had seen about a biblical Jewish hero. Based on what they had seen in the documentary, they proceeded to assail this individual's character, leveling charges upon charges of sickening impropriety. Their criticism distressed me not for its factual basis, which lacked a holistic understanding of the subject matter and could be rectified with study, but for the anger and disdain I felt in their tone. Their temper was ignited by the betrayal they had felt, having long looked to the individual in question as a righteous human being. Watching that documentary, I am sure their heart fought for the honor of this person, searching desperately for exculpatory evidence, only to be crushed by the weight of the charges. I cut them off.

Our lives are defined by imperfection. We judge our cars by how often they break, our relationships by how often we quarrel, our performance by how often and how spectacularly we fail. Born to a world of wonder and potential, we quickly learn to disappoint ourselves, and to be disappointed, in turn, by others. We reflect the negativity we experience into abstraction, honing our appreciation for tragedy and misfortune until we are soothed by their comfortable familiarity. It is the way of the world, we tell ourselves and one another, relishing the hard won depth of our understanding, the sickly sweetness of bitter experience.

Into this cauldron of disaster, a world of pain we've learned to love, steps a hero, righteous and true - an abomination of existence. Pure, good and just, our hero is intolerable, for such characteristics represent that which we are not, and see ourselves as incapable of achieving, having given up long ago. We must first break the hero, to sully his purity, to question his goodness, to muddy the justness of his cause and actions. Only then, when all shred of human perfection is extinguished, do we find something magnificent and worthy of exaltation, with which to raise our hero on a pedestal. For it is no longer the hero who has achieved greatness - the character deconstruction we've engaged in have made sure of that - but it is we, through our own efforts, who have found greatness in him. It is we who are made great, the real heroes, for forgiving a hero's failings - they are only human, after all, we tell ourselves. The pretense of greatness is more appealing than true distinction, less threatening, for what we have given - the wink-wink ignorance of impurity and impropriety - we can always take away. The hero on whom we lavish praise is within our power to reduce to dust and dishonor, should they ever forget their place and challenge the comfort with which we approach our own misdeeds.

Character assassination, however, is not our only form of herocide. Flawed as they may be, we are still left to contend with the actions heroes leave behind. Instead of seeking to emulate heroes, to do as they did, today we've reversed this process. We seek to find portions of a hero's experience that emulate us, that resemble our actions, words and thoughts. We find meaning in the hero not in the way we connect to them, but in the way they connect to us. Our experience, our dreams and desires take priority, with the hero's purpose reduced to affirming our narrative of self. We find great comfort in a hero's perceived moral failing not for the lessons they teach, but for the precedent in justifying our own moral failure they set.

Our heroes are dead. We have murdered them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Late Night Confessions of a Ranter, Writing

Not surprisingly, I tend to write about the things that interest me, among them my family's history, the Jewish people, our enduring and ever tested faith in G-d, and the national expression of our right to self-determination, defense and communal life - the State Israel.

As a minority, born in the former Soviet Union and educated in the United States, I have a deep respect for and interest in promoting widely the values which underpin American society - representative government, a free market economy and religious, cultural and political pluralism. At times, these interests coincide, in that the self-proclaimed and erstwhile enemies of the Jews tend to be those for whom the liberal tradition, in thought, culture, religion and polity, constitutes heresy. More often, however, my passions for freedom, its maximum responsible expression, and a commensurate distaste for uninvited noble schemes to interfere in the affairs of human beings, usually forced through the apathetic, blunt and often bloody apparatus of government bureaucracy, have little to do, in their grinding daily implementation, with my identity and faith and people.

Despite some evidence to the contrary, I have chosen to focus my thoughts on a purview that fate and grit have chiseled into insight, too often fledgling, fleeting and nevertheless yearning for expression. In writing, I find there are two forms of nothing - one voluminous yet vain, the other silent and still. As I confront the urge to spill a thought on everything and resist the dark, sundering pull of saying nothing, I rarely find some point of clarity - a satisfaction of language, compelling interest and justifiable necessity - to warrant laying writ to mind and heart.

Infrequently still, I even act on these rare instances of purpose, though making a habit of insight and clarity, and their coherent expression, more than the utilitarian documenting of the past and present, or the dabbling in interests, presents challenges to overcome. The fusion of passion and precision, of interest and integrity to self and truth, are ultimately why I read, and sometimes write.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Biting the Jew that Fed You

When you lead a horse to water, don't be surprised when it drinks. I was watching my new Twitter account this morning, learning the ropes of this new (for me) medium, when I was informed that an Alton_Ellis, an opponent of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and a supporter of Palestinian violence and BDSD, was now following me - not physically, I hope. Oh joy! Well, in the labyrinth that is the world of Twitter, some clicks into his tweets, I came up on this site, Desert Peace, run by a Steve Amsel, currently residing in Jerusalem, Israel.

From his seemingly tireless efforts to disassociate Jews with Zionism, I was left with the impression that either Mr. Amsel is a Jew himself, or he understands how damaging Jew-hatred, pandemic in the anti-Israel community, is to the international cause celeb of Palestinian jihad. Then I read more, and learned that Steve is, in fact, a Jew - am Yisrael Chai! - that he made aliyah to Israel some two decades ago from the US, and currently resides in the beautiful French Hill community of East Jerusalem, from which Jordanian soldiers will never again direct sniper and artillery fire against Jews. That would make Steve a more extremist, or certainly a more practicing Zionist than even yours truly, as I have not yet made aliyah to claim my stake in the Land of Israel - the right of any Jew by faith and law, which is how Steve got there - and do not yet reside on land violently contested by the Arabs. Here's to hoping though!

Anyway, the reason for this silly post is a matter rather more serious. Reading through his blog, I find Steve to be a likable guy. I don't agree with him on many issues pertaining to Israel's conflict with the Arabs. Sure, in his recent scribbles on Israel's Gaza airstrikes - which killed one Palestinian, a Hamas commander - he could have mentioned that they were preceded by well-targeted Palestinian Grad rocket attacks on Ashkelon, a city of 100,000 Israeli civilians. Yet, misguided though I believe him to be, I appreciate his belief in fighting for what he sees as right and just, and maybe even Jewish. Which is why, comedic though his crusade against Zionism may be, I take no pleasure in exposing the wretched vermin among which he now crawls.

You see, in a recent attempt to walk that fine line between Jew-hatred and criticism of Israeli policies, Steve took a strong, principled stance against clear and vile anti-Semitic screed. After all, how many people would contest that the Spanish Inquisition remains a stain on human history? Having earned his lapels in the anti-Zionist community, pummeling the Jewish State day by day with brave words of "truth to power", Steve likely never anticipated the response his post precipitated from his loyal readership.

Wrong Wrong Wrong–I myself get regular emails from the rebel network. Compare that to any USA rabiid media–no differance in hatred. Obvious Ashkenazism cult members hate muslims and Gentile Americans are meedia trained to hate and want Muslims and perssians to be killed. What does it take for abused Americans to wake-up/ At least Winkler from Rebel news is a town Crier–wake-up fools.What if 9/11 attacks were all planned and done by Isreal–would the Rabiid media go after the monsters–no but rebel would and has a right to free speach–just as Fox and Washingtonpoop–to lie to lie :^/

At this point, Steve is perplexed. On the one hand, judging from his picture, he himself is an Ashkenazi Jew. On the other hand, he clearly doesn't fit the description of Ashkenazim being offered by the commentator. Nor are Jews named, by name, so to speak. Surely, then, if he were to simply dissociate himself from the Ashkenazi label, he could remain a Jew in "good standing". So far, queasy but palatable, and altogether understandable, given the confusing and prolific crimes of the all powerful Zionists. Moving on then...

Define “Jewish.” If it’s a religion that teaches that nonJews are subhuman animals, then I hate Jews. If it’s a race, then I don’t hate Jews. However, it’s not a race. The only people who think it’s a race are Nazis and Zionists. If it means Zionist, then I hate Jews. It doesn’t mean Zionist though.

If it means some vague collection of traditions and rituals that some secular person likes to continue because they think of themselves as a “secular jew,” then I would have would kinda chuckle and think “yeah right, but what do you think about Israel?”

The fact is this. Any Jewish person can wake up tomorrow and say “you know what; i’m not “jewish”; i’m a human being!” A black person cant wake up and say they are white. A blue-eyed person cant wake up and be a brown-eyed person. But *anyone* can relieve themselves of the burdens of religion and culture put upon us by history.
Oh boy. All you have to do is renounce being a Jew, and all will be swell, old chap! You have to understand, poor Steve just woke up, and already he has to parse, contort and misinterpret the commentary of his fellow pro-Palestinian activists simply to retain the sanity necessary to fry a couple of eggs without breaking down in tears. If only it would stop there, but it doesn't...
AntiNazi is spot on. Nobody should hate anybody for things that are literally beyond their control – hating the retarded, for example, or women, gay people, blacks or Chinese.
But Jewishness is a choice, and the Stone Age tribal-supremacist narrative that underlies the entire religion is reprehensible: anybody who was raised to believe that they are inherently superior to the rest of humanity by dint of their religious affiliation is obliged to slough off that vile thinking the moment they learn to think for themselves.

Otherwise we are saying that if one is raised by a child molester, it is perfectly alright to be a chld molester as an adult: not that it is a MITIGATING circumstance, but that it is EXCULPATORY. That is just plain wrong.
And as for that piece on RebelNews, I find it very hard to disagree with much of it: it’s strongly worded, and to an extent I think it’s tough on Neturei Karta and JewsAgainstZionism (both organisations whose work I have liked in the past)… but at bottom, if JAZ and NK want to retain a Jewish identity, then they are retaining an identity based on stupid Stone Age tribal racist dogma… and that should be dispensed with.

In other words, RebelNews is refusing to adopt that old saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

Cheerio, are we, Steve? How are those eggs coming along? Now you, a Jew, are being likened to a child molester. Are we still talking about Israel, here? Nevermind that the imbecile in question doesn't know the first thing about Jews or our faith. I suppose it would be akin to arguing with the concentration camp guard about whether Monopoly is permitted on Shabbos, even as he forces your child in the oven. The child you raped - competing the metaphor - owing to your Jewish nature, whose timely death prevented him or her from raping others, as we Jews do.

Forget the eggs, Steve; just pour yourself a glass of milk, walk out on your terraced French Hill veranda and look out over "the land of milk and honey", the magnificent vistas of golden Jerusalem before you - a beautiful and good land growing more beautiful and good - secure in the knowledge that fellow Jewish men and women will spare nothing to keep you safe from the daring freedom fighters you have nurtured. How resplendently proud must you be, and sad, how very sad.

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