Friday, April 29, 2011

Fresh Roadkill: "Palestine 2011 or Bust"

If you really, absolutely, positively did not wish to see a State of Palestine created this year, for whatever reason, then this has been a very good week. Just when you thought Israel was on its last diplomatic legs, facing a united international community and an American President reluctant to stand in the way of Palestinian statehood, the Palestinians not only make it rain, they helpfully shoot themselves in both feet and nose dive off a cliff, for effect. Before we allow the excitement to rush to our heads, however, let's all calm down and think this through.

By signing a political reconciliation between the secular Fatah and the Islamist terrorist group Hamas, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has thrown his centrist supporters in Europe and the United States under a bus, and then lobbed a few hand grenades to finish the job. Instead of building international support for a Palestinian statehood resolution at the UN in September, Palestinian diplomats and Western advocates are now going to be spending the bulk of the summer trying to ensure that Western aid, totaling some $500 Million from the US and $1 Billion from Europe, annually, give or take, will continue to flow, keeping afloat the Palestinian government and economy. Then there's the matter of payments which Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, which amount to several hundred million more, and which the Israeli government will absolutely not release to a Palestinian government in which Hamas takes part.

Were any of this aid to cease, even temporarily, it would result in a swift fiscal crisis in Ramallah, cascading through the growing middle class of civil servants into the rest of the economy, and impacting the one Palestinian political party which owes much of its popularity and credibility to drawing in Western largess - Fatah - and just before national elections!

In fact, this is likely the argument that Abbas will use to avert a cut-off of aid, claiming that doing so will all but ensure Hamas' domination in next year's anticipated Palestinian elections. However, his arguments will ring all the more hollow, because the one individual actually trusted by Western officials, the man who best represents Western hopes for a peaceful, prosperous and secular Palestinian future, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, is slated to be booted from office under the terms of Palestinian reconciliation, at Hamas insistence!

So, not only is a Palestinian government that includes an unrepentant Hamas incompatible with Western political and financial support, but the one capable Palestinian technocrat trusted by the West who could have allayed Western concerns regarding not funneling American and European tax dollars towards Hamas' terrorist infrastructure is being eliminated from the equation. As Jeffrey Goldberg put it...

A New Vision for Progressive Jews: Making Peace with People not Tyrants

J.J. Goldberg of the Forward, himself a left-of-center mainstay of the American Jewish community, calls Sever Plocker "Yediot Ahronot’s widely respected and devoutly centrist economics editor and senior political commentator". I bring this up because, frankly, I hadn't heard of Sever Plocker, until today, when Mr. Plocker published a column on Ynet English, entitled, "I was wrong about Syria". You should read it in full, but here are some lengthy excerpts:
I was wrong and I admit it. Three times in the past three years I wrote articles in favor of a peace treaty between Israel and Syria. I wrote, based on numerous conversations with senior security officials, that Israel can achieve peace with Assad’s regime in exchange for willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights, whose security significance has become dubious, if not wholly non-existent.

While making this argument, I did not take into account the Damascus regime’s tyrannical character. I fooled myself. [...] I believed in peace so much to the point of being blinded to reality.

Would Israel’s current situation be worse with an Israeli embassy in Damascus and the Golan Heights mostly under Syrian sovereignty? I believe so. In that case, the Syrian rebellion would have taken a radical anti-Israel shape. The oppression and massacre by Assad’s troops against his own citizens would have been perceived as a means to enforce the peace deal. A new regime – and after all, such regime will eventually rise in Damascus – would have annulled such treaty at once.

In this respect, we should be looking at Egypt. Even though Mubarak was not toppled because of his (weak) hold on the peace treaty with Israel, and while peace did not play a key role in the revolutionary discourse, the belligerent attitude to Israel on the part of some of Egypt’s free media has been reinforced ever since democracy won. As result of the incitement, only about half of Egyptians support the peace treaty in public opinion polls.

A peace treaty with Assad would have fully collapsed a day after the Assad regime collapsed.
Mr. Plocker, in an attempt to exonerate himself from perceived complicity in legitimizing Assad, who is now murdering his people in the streets, makes one fundamental error. The notion of Israel making peace with dictators is not flawed because these leaders are brutal, ready and willing to murder their own people to maintain power. Yes, this is a moral concern, but not a rationale for not pursuing such treaties. From Israel's perspective, the problem is not that these dictators are brutal, which they are, but that they do not represent the will of their people.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Bearded Fanatics Will Beat Your Bearded Fanatics

A friend sent me this video. My response, with edits, is below, because sometimes it's just worth sharing.

The most tragic thing of all is that the West Bank Palestinians want nothing to do with the refugees in Lebanon or Syria or Jordan. Even if there is a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, they will not permit mass migration and build cities to house another two, three million of their own people. The PA has done nothing to dismantle or develop their own people's refugee camps near Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah... they are still one kilometer by one kilometer, the same size they were in 1948. The Lebanese blame Palestinian refugees for all their civil strife and want nothing to do with them. The Gulf Arabs kicked hundreds of thousands out after Afatrat (yes, I spelled it correctly) came out in support of Saddam during the First Gulf War. The Jordanian Hashemites are scared to death that the Palestinians will take over; they're already seventy percent or more of the population of Jordan.

People respond to the content in videos such as this in different ways - fear, apprehension. Watching these children, I feel sadness, anger; if only I could tear their parents and mentors to pieces. What a stomach turning waste of human life, like being forced to keep a count as madmen throw babies off a cliff's edge. There are governments, interests, policies, armies... and then I remind myself that I, too, am not helpless in the matter. That we were born for just such a purpose, to rid the world of gut wrenching horror.

There is a Chabad yeshiva in Morristown, NJ, filled with fundamentalists; real fanatics, not these Islamist wannabes you see on CNN. Oh, boo hoo, Mr. Jihad can kill innocent people in cold blood, big tough guy that he is. Amateur. My cat yawns. Try eating a kazayis of shmurah matzah in under 4 minutes, with a full serving of freshly cut maror, and then we'll talk.

I'm going to be visiting the yeshiva in late May, after an absence of three years, for a week, maybe two, or longer - it's a kind of pain-free, entry level summer program they have, called A Taste of Yeshiva (click on the picture for a Facebook link). Guys come from all over the country, all types of backgrounds and ages. My friend Adam says he'll join me, Matt just texted he's coming, and Michoel is already there with his wife and newborn son.

We have a government, an army, businessmen, lobbyists, and everything humanly possible is being done, but not everything. Evil, too, has its opposite, which is to not do evil, and to confront it. But to do good, that takes a different effort altogether, and an army of fanatical ninjas - strong enough to eat maror and savor it with mind and heart - the battle hardened Special Forces of love and hope, and those who join their ranks, even just for a week, maybe two, or more.

In light of Ambassador Michael Oren's substantive contribution this week to strengthening the US-Israeli relationship, I should point out that he, too, is just such a ninja, trained in the ancient Jewish arts of seeking and pursuing peace, a graduate of the Rabbinical College of America - the very yeshiva I'm returning to in May.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Manifest Destiny of Arab Zionism

I remember a particularly engaging lecture I attended while an undergrad on the modern iterations of manifest destiny. It is a term of mid-19th century vintage, originally used to describe the belief in a seemingly divinely sanctioned inevitability that pervaded and nourished American expansionist settlement into the central plains of North America and beyond. While originally intended to serve the ideological needs of mostly white, Anglo-Saxon culture, in more contemporary times, manifest destiny became a type of shorthand for the prevailing national sentiment and foreign policy - whether as gunboat diplomacy in cordoning off the Western Hemisphere for American dominion, making the world safe for democracy (and liberal capitalism), or insisting that representative government is the basic need and right of all humanity, extending into our own time.

Every people has a certain vision of itself. The French, Germans, Russians, Poles, British, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, all have a national ethos based on the dominant culture. The Japanese, for instance, believe themselves to be children of the gods, literally; their emperor a direct heir of divinity, and the rest of us gaijin (literally, foreigners, but more loosely, barbarians). And who are the French, if not the snotty global womb of cultural refinement and high society (just try to tell them otherwise), and ever the salacious Catholic penitents to boot. To whatever extent such notions of ethos and inherited mind are today relegated by the global-local Twitter generation to antiquated vernacular, they remain, borderless Europe and all, shaping the national character of societies.

It is only in the case of the Jews that the expression of a national movement born of a majority culture within the confines of a geographic locale - Zionism - is readily deemed especially sinister, and so implacably at odds with international norms and humanistic values as to challenge the foundations of legitimacy for peoplehood itself, to say nothing of national sovereignty. Absurdly, the one nation most clearly defined and longest persevering in the consciousness of Western civilization - indeed, the later in large part stems from the former - must now produce the proof, as no other people ever have, with an axe at its nape, that it exists!

Underlying all rhetoric about the innate racism of Zionism is a simple and undeniable fact - there are no structural impediments to Israeli-Arab enfranchisement, well-being or self-actualization in Israel, none. Dissenters should be pressed and cornered, for they will squirm, to cite the lawful statute which prevents "the Jewish State" from being presided over by an Israeli citizen of any faith, ethnicity or creed, should they gather the necessary votes. They can not find such a law, the miscreants, and therefore will not even seek it, instead retreating to a no less preposterous notion that human failings and moral frailty which permit discrimination the world over, even when prohibited by law, should not exist in one country among the rest, as though imperfect human beings do not reside in it as they do in all others.

To be sure, there are problems of minorities in Israel - poverty, lack of integration, etc. - among others, but these are present in every other Western society also. There is nothing particularly pernicious about minorities in Israel being worse off as compared to minorities in France or the USA being worse off. And if you say that population sub-groups face no such obstacles in the States, then I encourage you to take a Greyhound bus through the countryside of the fine states of Georgia, or West Virginia, and watch communities of trailers and run down makeshift shacks for whom the Balata refugee camp would objectively constitute a housing upgrade. These issues require remedial attention, yes, education, yes, multi-culti sensitivity training, yes of course, all of these, and who is saying otherwise? Such societal ills do not make Israel unique or special in the community of civilized and even affluent countries; they make the country normal.

That Israel is not now and never will be a Palestinian or Arab state is not a product of assertive ethnocentrism but a function of its majority culture, and that culture’s basic level of productive vitality, which has ensured and will continue to secure its majority status. I don’t know any Jews who bear children to fight a demographic war with the Arabs. Nowhere in the world, and certainly not among the Jews, do people conceive children out of fear; children are born out of hope for a better future. It says something about the substantive value of national sovereignty on the outlook of a people that Jews have more children in Israel, on average, than elsewhere in the world.

The very recent emphasis on Israel's "second-class citizens" is all the more peculiar now, when Arab enfranchisement in the Zionist project is growing, from year to year, and across all fields - linguistic, cultural, political and economic. The Arab Israeli activists who scream loudest about being second class Israeli citizens are repeatedly shown to be the least representative. Calmer Arab voices, often without European-funded human rights activists on their speed-dial, are quietly confessing their embarrassment at being denied integration into civic life, and the government resources that flow from it, by Arab radicals who are pursuing an agenda quite at odds with the basic interests of their own communities.

Is it so inconceivable that Arab Israelis will one day celebrate Chanukah, Passover and Independence Day as national holidays, and why should anyone well-meaning discourage them from doing so? Bearing in mind the Jewish diaspora experience, it is natural for a minority to desire a level of integration with the dominant, majority culture, to celebrate occasions of national joy with everyone else. Indeed, the American Jewish experience points to the mass of communal resources that must be expended to avert total assimilation and sublimation into an open and welcoming majority culture. If only a small group of misguided Jewish rabblerousers and populist Arab demagogues are kept from interfering in the process, future generations of Arab Israelis will increasingly integrate into Israeli society and rely less on the “resistance” of their parents to define their identity in opposition to the State. It is a process of normalization, of cultural diffusion, of assimilation that is irresistible in the long run, and in my opinion, in terms of Israel’s future, that of its Jews, and the future well-being of its Arab minority, this is all to the good.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chag Sameach Pesach!


I'm going to be spending my Pesach schlepping to and fro, putting on a seder for a community of elderly Russian Jews, then for some friends, and finally, with all the stringencies of Chabad minhag, for myself. It's my fifth year putting on a seder for the Russian Jews; the key is to take away their vodka early and to keep moving. Totally winging the friends seder; should have prepared some jokes or chassidic anecdotes... oh well.

Much wine will be spilled tonight in commemorating the physical liberation of our people from slavery. Lesser known is our spiritual liberation from the mentality of exile - an exile epitomized by Egypt, but born of the numbing prison which is this world to our spirit. This is all the more important today, when the prospect of physical bondage is remote, yet our spiritual servitude to wordly affairs grows unabated. Chassidus likens the state of our G-dly souls, the immense anguish and suffering borne by the spiritual within the material, to that of a man trapped in a heavy burlap sack, struggling to free himself from within its dark and stale confines.

This Pesach, the "Time of Our Liberation", may we achieve true freedom; to abandon the exile of our minds, the physical limitations of our lives, to be and live as Jews, absent doubt in our purpose, free of shame in our actions, serving our Creator with love and fear, awe and joy.

Next Year in Jerusalem!

Violence Only Begets More... Peace?

It is an axiom of modern Western culture that "violence only begets more violence". I was introduced to this concept quite early, in fact, over the course of my very first day in an American school, at the age of nine in fourth grade. Being just two weeks "off the boat", as it were, and without an inkling of the English language or American culture, I will probably never understand why a kid a foot taller than I hit me at recess.

True, I had been sporting late Soviet chic, itself a poor imitation of early 80s Western trends - a walking crime of fashion if ever there was - and there is a strong possibility that my socks didn't match, and they certainly weren't the approved American cotton whites, but to hit a kid from a foreign country on his first day at your school? Maybe he had something against handsome Jewish kids from Moldova, or perhaps he envied the spotlight I received that first day, a novelty which my "lower than grass" demeanor did nothing to encourage.

I sat there, sorting these issues out in my mind, thinking about the dressing down I was going to get at home for getting into a fight on my first day at school, all the while my knees pressed into his heaving chest, his arms pinned back by mine, the unmistakable red of an early bruise building on his cheekbone. He was squealing something at the top of his lungs, like a little girl. How strange are their customs, I thought, wondering if a headbutt would calm him down. Where I came from, the kid who lost the fight would retain some dignity and accept his shame in silence, not advertise it to the world. Towards the end of that school year, after I had learned the language, a school counselor got wind of our feud and brought us into his office for a conversation. "But Victor," he said, "violence only begets more violence." A revelation instantly discredited by the facts at hand - that kid never so much as raised his eyes at me again.

How uncouth, those schoolground rules, how uncivilized, and how very effective. Case in point, a survey of Palestinians examining attitudes in the immediate wake of Operation Cast Lead, and two years later, has drawn some unorthodox, and dare we say, heretical conclusions. Simply put, as the scale of the devastation wrought by provoking al Yahud sunk in to the consciousness of Gaza's residents, without a concurrent improvement in their daily lives, support for terrorist actions against Israel appears to have dropped. This change would seem to mirror attitudes of West Bank Palestinians after Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, which defanged Palestinian terror groups in Judea and Samaria.

Considerable numbers of Palestinians remain implacably and tragically committed to condemning their children to a senseless bloody war against the Jews. Still, a decade of firm and overwhelming Israeli military actions have now made it possible for barely more than half of Palestinians to view randomly murdering Israeli civilians as counter-productive, though apparently not immoral. This is a positive development, and strictly antithetical to the widespread belief, especially among Israel's closest and most critical friends in Europe and the United States, that fighting terrorism only breeds more terrorists, and that political concessions are the only way to end the "cycle of violence".

The peace pushers should now explain whether an even greater application of controlled violence against Palestinian terror factions will not bring, on a similar time frame, a commensurate increase in opposition to further violence directed against Israelis. Or, in purely mathematical terms, if the kinetic energy unleashed by Operation Cast Lead reduced by half the will of Gaza's Palestinians to murder innocent people, what level of devastation is required to, say, halve the portion that remains?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chabad in Sweden

Talar du svenska? I don't, but if you do, be sure to check out Från Sverige till himlen ("From Sweden to Heaven"), a show dedicated to examining faith in overwhelmingly atheist Sweden. The second episode spotlights a Chabad shaliach (emissary) family in Sweden, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Alexander and Leah Namdar, and their 11 (!) kinderlach. Talk about an aishes chayil (a "woman of valor"). In Wisconsin, some of us unwed Jews in their mid to late twenties have a joke about chassidic families that large (even as we hope to one day break their records); that they're trying to singlehandedly repopulate the planet (and G-d bless them!). And who wouldn't want their own basketball team? Anyway, here's the scoop from the news arm of
By the hundreds of thousands, Swedes tuned into SVT2, a station on Sweden’s biggest TV network last Wednesday to watch a new TV series, From Sweden to Heaven. Its second installment turned the cameras on the Chabad family in Gothenburg, and gave viewers a close-up of life in the religiously observant, lively Chasidic home of Rabbi Alexander and Leah Namdar.

In a predominantly atheistic country—a 2005 Eurobarometer poll found that 77 percent of Swedish citizens do not believe G-d exists—the show aims to provide viewers with a better understanding of religious life. The Namdars, Chabad representatives to Sweden, settled in Gothenburg in 1991 and today offer the country’s Jews a range of social and educational programs.

“This was a groundbreaking step for Jewish life in Sweden. The show touched the consciousness of Jews here,” said Leah Namdar, 41, and a vibrant mother of 11. After the program aired, the Namdars were inundated with a flood of calls, emails and texts from viewers, who were “happy to be Jewish and proud of their identity. It was an incredible opportunity to reach thousands of people.” [...]

One viewer from a small, far-flung village who had never been to Chabad, called the Namdars after the show, to reserve a place at their Passover Seder.
Watch the entire show. You can pretty much get the gist of it, even without speaking Swedish.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Educating to Love G-d

Today marks one of those "Days" (capital "D") on the American calendar that so few of us ever pay attention to - Earth Day, Dress up Your Pet Day (or as I prefer, Animal Abuse Day, Jan. 14th), Appreciate a Dragon Day (Jan. 16th), and so on. Although, to be fair, there are "Days" and there are "Days". Some are a cultural curiosity, a chance to decompress with some witty repartee around the water cooler at work. Others, however, are acts of Congress, commemorated yearly by the sitting Commander in Chief.

One such day is the Education and Sharing Day, first inaugurated by President Carter in 1978, and since then affirmed annually. It was created in recognition of the work of Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, although I'm sure it didn't hurt that by the late 1970s, the Chabad community was rising in both prominence and numbers, particularly in NY. Education and Sharing Day was affirmed into law by Congress in 1991, as Education Day. Falling each year on the birthday of the Rebbe, according to the Jewish system of months (11th of Nissan), this year we celebrate Education Day today, and President Obama, following in the tradition of five Presidents before him, has done his part.
On Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A., we celebrate the example set by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who dedicated his life to improving education and fostering goodwill for all people. His legacy continues to inspire individuals to carry forward his effort to build a brighter future. Each year, Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A. reminds us of our obligation to create opportunities for a better tomorrow—life lessons we pass on to all our children.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 15, 2011, as “Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A.” I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
It's a nice tradition, but again, one of those "Days" which passes us by with little notice, meaning or reflection. And so, in order to trip up your fast paced day, so that you fall nose first into a basket of freshly cut roses, here's an excerpt from the Rebbe's distilled teachings. You may read the entire article at
The question of how to educate is really the same as asking, How should we communicate? How should we do business? How should we live?

The answer is always the same: through love. Without love, education is at best incomplete and at worst, destructive. Love means sensitivity -- not to your ideas and your standards, but to your student's and, most important, to G-d's. Once young people grow familiar with an existence that is greater than themselves and acquire an aptitude and intellectual taste for the spiritual, they become attuned to their purpose in life. They become children who relate to their parents with respect and affection. Children who will not take property that doesn't belong to them. Children who reach out to help other people, and are generous with their time and love. [...]

Without the acceptance that morality is derived from G-d, morality -- and, therefore, education -- is guided by nothing more than human whim and conscience. History has shown us that a society can be extremely well educated and yet, if not guided by G-d's precepts, it may be steeped in immorality and evil.
For anyone interested, and in the interests of posterity, here are the Rebbe's original remarks on the founding of Education Day, of which I've selected a short excerpt:
Education, in general, should not be limited to the acquisition of knowledge and preparation for a career, or, in common parlance, "to make a better living." And we must think in terms of a '"better living" not only for the individual, but also for the society as a whole. The educational system must, therefore, pay more attention, indeed the main attention, to the building of character, with emphasis on moral and ethical values. (Need one be reminded of what happened in our lifetime in a country that ranked among the foremost in science, technology, philosophy, etc.?)

Education must put greater emphasis on the promotion of fundamental human rights and obligations of justice and morality, which are the basis of any human society, if it is to be truly human and not turn into a jungle.
With all that in mind, a Good Shabbos HaGadol ("the Great Shabbos").

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Examining Europe's Obsession with Palestine

Continuing my discussion of the Islamist wedge from yesterday, here is a relevant quote from an article in JIDaily examining the state of the bilateral relationship between Israel and Germany.
And since, for Germans, a solution to the Palestinian issue is practically a prerequisite for regional stability, they blame Israel, and definitely not the Palestinians, for the current diplomatic stalemate.
This notion, which is widely prevalent in European policy circles, needs greater emphasis and elaboration. Why do the Europeans consider a Palestinian state so central to regional stability? How do they see such a state serving European interests? Do the perceived gains to European interests warrant the considerable current expenditures of money and political capital on the Palestinian project? At what point does the perceived gain from pushing towards a Palestinian state become outweighed by unnecessary tensions with Israel?

We cannot simply agree to disagree with Europe, or blame it all on anti-semitism, Islamist appeasement or a growing European Muslim population. The Europeans are acting based on their perceived self-interest, one rooted in what they believe to be a policy-based approach to reality. We cannot discount irrational anti-Jewish or anti-Israel leanings among policymakers and bureaucrats, but on the whole, these don't seem to guide European policy, even if they do sometimes flavor it.

The Europeans don't see a Palestinian state as a fundamental threat or much of a security concern to Israel. They could be forgiven such notions, having been educated by two decades of Israeli leaders, and perhaps longer, about the necessity of a Palestinian state to Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic country. They are, therefore, rightly flummoxed by seeming Israeli intransigence in advancing what the Israelis themselves - the Israeli left, and then the Israeli right - first defined as a national and international interest, that being the creation a Palestinian state.

We need to understand the basis for European policies if we have any future hope of swaying them. Too many are locked in a reactionary pattern of trying to guilt, shame or write Europe off as anti-semitic and irrelevant, with little to show for it except growing bitterness and an apocalyptic bunker mentality. Others see salvation in appealing to anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, which is not only supremely ugly, but also happens to be nearly totally ineffective; and for it to be effective, would likely come hand-in-hand with mass human rights violations against Muslims in Europe, which is an odd direction of advocacy for Jews to be in.

To sway policymakers, we don't need to guilt them into capitulation, or appeal to their inner racist, which in any case aren't getting the job done. Instead, we need to understand how Europe sees a Palestinian state as serving European interests, and then demonstrate otherwise.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Identifying the Islamist Wedge

George Friedman of Stratfor published a free article today, entitled, The Arab Risings, Israel and Hamas. The analysis examines why Israel has not been a featured grievance of the many popular Arab protests over the past few months, and how Hamas is attempting to exploit the window of opportunity provided by regional instability to shake off its international (and regional) isolation. The article is well worth reading in full, however, only the last paragraph is of particular interest to me.
For the United States and Europe, the merger of Islamists and democrats is an explosive combination. Apart, they do little. Together, they could genuinely destabilize the region and even further undermine the U.S. effort against jihadists. The United States and Europe want Israel to restrain itself but cannot restrain Hamas. Another war, therefore, is not out of the question — and in the end, the decision to launch one rests with Hamas.
This is a very curious conclusion to the piece, which is only tenuously supported by the preceding paragraphs, and leaves much unsaid. What, specifically, about the union of these two groups is seen by the US and Europe to be so dangerous? Is it that the democrats can offer the Islamists popular legitimacy and insulate them from Western intervention? Is it that the democrats are able to neutralize autocratic leaders - who would normally crack down on Islamists, but can't do so against democrats for fear of drawing the ire of democracy-sympathizing Western powers - leading to an Islamist ascendancy? Is it because the West has no leverage over the interests of either group and that, once the goals of democrats and Islamists are aligned, the two constituencies can dominate Arab politics without internal or external constraints? As a concept, the notion that a merger of Islamists and democrats has the potential to damage Western interests seems to make sense, but looking at specifics to identify the reasons why this is so gets to be very muddy. I've emailed Dr. Friedman and will post his response, should he choose to write me back.

The Islamist wedge - by which I'm referring to Western efforts to isolate Islamists from other Arabs - for reasons that remain to me unclear, is a potent motivator in American and (especially) European strategic thinking. Most every policy decision taken by the Europeans with regards to the Palestinians, particularly in their increasingly strident support for the creation of a secular Palestinian state, is drawn from a determination to draw and deepen that wedge - to nurture a secular Arab buffer against the Islamists. (Note that, as with Syria - whose dictator Western governments have insulated from human rights critique for a decade - Europe is exerting no pressure in ensuring that the secular Palestinian buffer be a shining beacon of democracy and human freedom.)

We'll discuss European interests with regards to the settlements and Palestinian statehood more fully in future installments of the Settlement Strategy series. Identifying the root of this motivation to drive the Islamist wedge, not superficially and crudely - as in, Europeans might fear Muslims, so we should pander to their Islamophobia - but intimately, and leveraging that understanding, holds the key to generating diplomatic support for the preservation of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and potentially more.

There is one other point to be made, related to European and American efforts to restrain Israel from striking back at Hamas in an effort to preserve their own vital interests. Why should Israeli restraint under enemy attack come without cost for those who so desire it? The Americans, at least, are waist deep in financially subsidizing and politically defending Jewish security and sovereignty, respectively. However, I'm straining to see what the Europeans are bringing to the table, in exchange for which Israel should risk the lives of its citizens. What diplomatic support, perhaps with regard to that pesky Palestinian statehood resolution coming up at the UN General Assembly in September, are the Europeans willing to offer Jerusalem in exchange for holding back the dogs of war? I would hope that Israeli diplomats can see negotiating leverage when it smacks them in the face.

More Iron Dome Please!

I've been closely following the media, punditry and blogosphere's reception to Israel's Iron Dome short range missile defense system. On the whole, coverage has been positive, if reserved. The main hangup seems to be with the cost of the interceptors - estimates range from $20-50k/unit - in comparison to the inexpensive rockets being used by Hamas and Hezbollah. More than one drama queen is already predicting that Israel's enemies will bleed its defense budget dry in any future conflict by massing rockets against the system and forcing a high expenditure of interceptors. This newfound conventional wisdom, while certainly conventional, is not very wise at all.

Iron Dome signals a revolution in Israel's strategic posture. For half a decade now, ever since the Lebanon War in 2006, Israel has been forced to accept what the Resistance Bloc calls a "balance of terror" - a deterrent threat of mass retaliation against Israel's population centers in any future conflict. This capability, to substantively threaten the Israeli home front, and thus curtail Israel's freedom of action, took two decades of strategic planning and costly implementation by Iran and Hezbollah, with Syria as facilitator.

By the time Israel went to war against Hezbollah in 2006, the terrorist group's rocket arsenal was thought to be in the 10-20k unit range. If memory serves, Hezbollah expended some 150-250 rockets per day, over a 30 day conflict, meaning that around 6000 total rockets were launched at Israel in this period. The costs to Israel from absorbing those 6000 rockets were substantial, but even without taking into account the loss of life, medical treatment for the surviving victims, the ongoing psychological toll on children and families, destruction of property, the rise in insurance premiums, and so on, it's important to note that around one million Israelis were forced to evacuate or huddle in bomb shelters for the duration of the fighting.

For a country of six million people, having essentially 17% of your work force cease producing for 1/12th of the year is a considerable blow to the economy. In fact, let's crunch some numbers to get an idea of how big of a blow the Lebanon War was. Let's say Israel's GDP is in the range of $200 Billion, of which 17% is $34 Billion. Divide $34 Billion by 12 months, and we get $2.83 Billion, the contribution that one sixth of Israel's workers make to the country's economy over a one month period. We're talking nearly $3 Billion just in lost productivity, not to mention the war's impact on the investment climate, evacuation expenditures, etc.

Now, suppose Israel's Iron Dome system had been fully deployed during the 2006 Lebanon War. Iron Dome is designed to only intercept those missiles whose parabolic path puts civilian population centers at risk. During the Lebanon War, most of Hezbollah's rockets landed in open spaces, doing little to no damage. But let's assume that Iron Dome had been programmed to intercept every single one of those 6000 rockets. The cost to do that would be $50k/interceptor x 6000 rockets = $300 million, and that's at the highest cost estimate per interceptor. (If the interceptors are actually $20k each, we're talking a paltry $120 million.) Let's say we're being overly optimistic and more than triple our cost, from $300 million to $1 Billion, including the cost of the interceptors and individual batteries, luxury port-a-poties with gold-embroidered toilet paper for the soldiers who man them, wide-screen 1080p HDTVs with the special ESPN Football Package and so on, all included. Think of all the damage caused by the rockets. What government wouldn't pay $1 Billion to just make that all go away? Are we starting to get the picture how incredible of a bargain this really is?

Let's crunch some more numbers, to bring this home. Today, it's generally thought that Hezbollah's rocket arsenal has grown to some 40,000 rockets, the vast majority of which are of the unguided Grad type, with which the terrorist group had such great success in the last war against Israel - and precisely the kind Iron Dome was designed to intercept. $50k/interceptor x 40,000 rockets = $2 Billion. In other words, eliminating 100% of Hezbollah's rocket arsenal by shooting the suckers down one at a time would cost less than one year's worth of American defense appropriations for Israel. If we could just pay that now, and eliminate Hezbollah as a strategic threat to Israel, would we not readily pay that price in an instant? Is anyone still worried about cost?

Would Hezbollah keep firing rockets knowing that Israel is capable of knocking down any that may end up doing actual damage? Think of the investment in resources that was required to build that 40,000 rocket arsenal, all rendered worthless. Will Hezbollah expose itself and the country of Lebanon to massive retaliation in exchange for putting up a nice fireworks display for the Israeli home front? It's like declawing a cat; they might still paw at the furniture, but without the ripping and tearing bit, they actually look kind of cute doing it. You can't buy that kind of power, except that now, Israel can. So please, give the latest round of "conventional wisdom" the boot, and relish in the massive technological triumph that is Iron Dome.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Update on the Murders at Itamar

If you're wondering what's going on with the investigation into the murders at Itamar, watch the following video. This is about a week old, but the first time I'm seeing it.

To recap:

There were at least two attackers, and probably more who helped them over the electric fence. The attackers picked a foggy, rainy night, and chose a location at the fence which was not covered by the security camera. This required considerable pre-operational surveillance. The attackers are definitely from the nearby Palestinian village of Awarta. This was confirmed by tracking footprints - it was a muggy night - back to the village. In the village, a considerable quantity of weapons were discovered, in addition to a surveillance equipment and one of the bulletproof vests stolen from Itamar during the murders. Foreign workers had not been working at Itamar for months, so allegations that they were responsible for the murders are groundless.

Keep all that in mind as you read the hundreds of stories about the poor villagers of Awarta.

You can contribute to Itamar's future by donating at Friends of Itamar.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense in Action

With the deployment of Iron Dome, Israel's short range missile defense system, residents of Israeli cities within range of rockets fired by Gaza's Palestinian terrorist factions are now at the front line of an aerial war unlike any in human history.

Forward to the video (rough translation from Russian): The roar of rocket engines is booming. I run out to the balcony, knowing that since yesterday, Iron Dome successfully intercepted a Palestinian rocket, and this also happened before my eyes. Engine roar. A white contrail bisects the sky. A fireball in a black shell of smoke. The powerful sound of a detonation. It's unfortunate I wasn't able to catch it on video. And today, April 8th, 2011, at 5:44pm by Israeli time, a volley or rockets was fired on Ashkelon.
It takes several seconds for the sound of the detonation at intercept to reach the camera, but if you look closely you can see faint fireballs at the bottom of the screen. The last thing one of the women says before the video cuts off is, "And now ours will fly..." to go bomb the Palestinian terrorist launch teams.

At some $50,000/missile, Iron Dome is designed to intercept only those Palestinian rockets whose parabolic trajectory puts civilians in danger. Put another way, every time an Iron Dome interceptor launches, it is with the intention of preventing the attempted murder of innocent human beings, with aborting the culmination of a war crime. American tax money pays for the system and interceptors. The Europeans and the United Nations, who would be first to condemn a substantive Israeli military campaign to degrade the capabilities of Palestinian terror factions, while lavishly funding Palestinian Authority institutions and infrastructure projects, haven't contributed a dime to protect Israeli citizens. They should be shamed into doing so, subtracting equal funds from Palestinian appropriations for every Iron Dome interceptor that's launched.

Here's another video, of a single interception of a Palestinian rocket by Iron Dome:

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's Pocket Grenade Time You Hussy!

I am a heavy BlackBerry user. My contract with T-Mo is just about up, so I've been spending a bit of time taking a look at what's out there in terms of new smartphones, which have evolved dramatically since I picked up my heavily abused, functional but rather dated Curve 8900 some two years back. It seems I'll be waiting for mid to end summer for the new Blackberry Bold Touch, but that's not the reason for this post.

I was browsing various articles on the Boy Genius Report, a gadget-geek-techie site, when I came upon the latest, greatest from Sony Ericsson. It's not so great - the last thing I need is for my phone to help make wasting more of my time even easier - but it is funny:

Is that not great casting? There's more.

A Strategy for Settlements: Feedback - Exercising Sovereignty

It's been a few days now since I published Part II of the Settlement Strategy series. Predictably, I've run into some resistance, both in the comments, on the blogs of others and privately. What I hadn't anticipated was the direction this criticism took. I had thought I would be challenged on the substance of my ideas. Instead, I'm being asked, or rather told, why the ideas I'm presenting - while well-meant - are irrelevant. I'd like to therefore address some minor points, to elaborate on my general thought process.

There is a relatively common belief among supporters of Israel and the settlement movement - and dare I say more conservative, right or center supporters - that the key to getting Israel out of its current predicament lies in focusing on three essential considerations, or activities.

First, this group advocates that Israel must begin to fully Exercise Sovereignty. The argument goes that the State of Israel is an independent nation state, and as such, whatever actions it wishes to take within its sovereign territory is an internal matter for the state, not subject to approval or interference by foreign states or international bodies. Complementary to this idea that Israel must reject foreign meddling in its affairs is the notion that it must Exercise Sovereignty within the country's borders, encompassing the territories under its control. What this means, in practice, is the disbanding of the Palestinian Authority, the annexation of the West Bank, and the conferring of something like permanent residency, short of voting rights, "citizen minus" or "resident plus" status on the Palestinians of Shomron and Yehudah.

Proponents of Exercising Sovereignty, as with most settlement advocates, tend to be big on ideas and small on specifics, frustratingly so. For example, the conversation rarely, if ever, approaches the clarity with which I just outlined the final, practical meaning of this approach. I can count on my fingers how many such advocates can stop repeating the mantra of Exercising Sovereignty for long enough to discuss what their vision is for the Arabs of the territories - who, to put it lightly, are present in some considerable number, and are not passive actors but may feel they should have a say in the matter - to bring up a single complication.

Nor do proponents of this approach give a second thought to the diplomatic, economic and security consequences Israel may face as a result of taking such actions. National sovereignty has a strong foundation in international law, but it has never been absolute. There are other nations, larger, more populous and more resource-full than Israel, who have exercised their national sovereignty in ways the international community found distasteful, and these countries have often found themselves on the wrong end of international sanctions or worse. So I want to know, who assured advocates of Exercising Sovereignty that there would be no consequences? Which voice came down from heaven and made this promise? "Don't worry, nothing will happen", is not a plan a thinking person can accept.

I don't have a specific problem with Israel "fully" exercising its sovereignty, annexing the territories, offering permanent residency status to the Palestinians, but I recognize that for every such action there will be consequences, and the planning must anticipate and attempt to resolve those consequences. Who is doing this planning? The Yesha Council? I can tell you they are not. The IDF? Try again. Avigdor Lieberman? The Foreign Minister, like most Israelis, wants nothing to do with another 1.5 million Arabs. So until I see this planning, until I hear a single advocate of Exercising Sovereignty start speaking, comprehensibly, about "the day after", this notion that Israel will put its foot down and the world will cower is not a strategy, it is an arrogant, poorly thought out fantasy, and it is utter folly to pretend otherwise.

This first of the three points of resistance I encountered in feedback to the Settlement Strategy series has run a bit long, and Shabbos is coming, so I'll pause for now and continue next week. Again, as always, I welcome rational discussion. Tell me why I'm wrong, and try to do with without talking about Hitler and antisemitism.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Jewish Perspective on Relationships

Chassidus teaches us how to categorize and think about relationships - those which are based on a “something”, and those which are based on nothing.

In the normal way of things, when you meet a person, first you find out things to like about them - their body, their character, their intellect. Then you develop systems of personal payoff, for lack of a better term - money, status, satisfaction, companionship, personal pleasure, etc. This is the “get” the “something”, the conditions which make your affection for this individual possible. You’re not relating to who they are, but what they can do for you, and they are doing the same. Your relationship is dependent on conditions, and when those conditions end, the relationship ends.

In contrast, there’s something that psychology calls a “primary relationship”, as between a parent and a child. The commitment to the relationship was made unconditionally, before anything to base it on. In essence, the relationship was not based on a “something”, but on nothing. Almost counter-intuitively, the more a relationship is based on nothing, the more likely it is to endure, because it was never premised on a set of conditions which are liable to change.

You know how whenever someone is convicted of some terrible crime - cold blooded murder, let’s say - the media interviews the parents? What do the parents always tell us, without fail? “He’s such a good boy. He never meant to hurt anyone.” But your son is a murderer who certainly disappointed whatever expectations for his life you had, and will spend of the rest of his useless days in jail. How can you still love him? This is a primary relationship. It’s unconditional.

Now let’s think about our relationship with G-d. Really, when we approach having a relationship with G-d, we can do so in two ways. First, we can “begin” a relationship. We can say, “I want to have a relationship with G-d.” And how do we have a relationship with G-d? The Torah teaches us - we learn this and do that and think about so and so. Ok, that’s one way to do it.

Another way to think about it, is that we already have a relationship with G-d. When a father makes a choice to play with his young son, and not to watch a really important football game, the son may not understand the tradeoff his father made by playing with him, by loving him. In the same way, this entire time, our entire lives, we’ve been too busy playing to understand that G-d is having a relationship with us, an unconditional and loving relationship involving tradeoffs that we will never know.

We “start” a relationship with G-d because we want something from Him, something that we're missing and that we realize only He can provide - health, prosperity, but even without being so coarse, so grub, even in the most enlightened case, “spirituality”, self-actualization. These are tangible things He can give us - that “something”, that “get”, those conditions again. We’re not loving G-d, we’re loving what He can do for us.

There’s a Chassidic saying that goes something like, there are two ways to “use” the Torah. The first is for self-help, self-improvement. The second, for self-transcendence, to let the Torah use you.

G-d loves us unconditionally, as a father loves his son before he even sees his face. He always has loved us and always will, no matter our actions. Yes, as with a father, we can disappoint Him or make Him proud, but He won’t love us more if we study Torah and perform mitzvot, or less if we don’t. He doesn’t need us the way we need Him - there’s no co-dependency in this relationship. There is nothing we can complete in Him, nothing for us to fix in Him or bribe Him with in exchange for favor.

Yiddishkeit is not about starting a relationship with G-d, but recognizing the relationship which was always there, and engaging in it, in the relationship, without preconditions.

A husband engages in a relationship with his wife through action - from taking out the garbage to changing their son’s diapers. The relationship isn’t premised on him doing these things. If he stopped doing these things, his wife might be upset, disappointed, angry, but she won’t stop loving him. Doing these things comes from his desire to bring expression to the relationship, to manifest his affection for his wife in physical action. (On second thought, I accept the limits and flaws of this particular analogy. Most marriages are not based on unconditional love, but are a contractual (conditional) relationship in which unconditional love may develop.)

To a Jew, this is what Torah and mitzvot are - an expression of our relationship with G-d, a manifestation of our unconditional affection in physical action. This is why we say that “the reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah”. The reward is our own expression of affection for G-d, a fulfillment of our desire to connect with Him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Strategy for Settlements, Part II: Settlement Interests

In A Strategy for Settlements, Part I, we articulated the need for an intellectual, factual and interest-driven approach to developing a medium to long term strategy for Jewish communities in Shomron and Yehudah. The second in this continuing series focuses on the core priorities of the settlements themselves, and those of their residents.

When speaking about the interest of the settlement movement, we must make a number of necessary distinctions. First, we are not discussing ideology, theology, or the various other motivators which give the movement its inertia. Whether settlement residents moved to the West Bank out of a desire to fulfill a perceived divine commandment to settle the Biblical Land of Israel, a need to obtain affordable housing, or even if they were born in the territory, the personal beliefs and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of people matter less than their general intent and commitment to stay and grow their communities, along with their practical ability to do so.

The second distinction we must make, and which is not necessarily obvious, is that the interests of the settlement movement are not equivalent to those of the State of Israel, though they may often run parallel to one another. I will attempt to elaborate on this subject later on, but for now, in our discussion, we are considering the settlements to constitute a self-contained geopolitical unit.

When we remove the dual blinders of ideology and attachment to the Israeli state - political, administrative, emotional, etc. - an entirely different picture of the settlements emerges - that of a minority community with a cohesive set of very elementary, even universally applicable interests, existing in an environment of interdependence with other communities. And so, what are the core interests of the settlements? Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, they're very similar to those of other minority communities around the world, and throughout history.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wake Up Israel Advocates: Goldstone Reversed the Momentum!

I was troubled by Michael W's comment in my earlier post, The Goldstone Wedgie Campaign, so I just did a quick tour of all the pro-Israel blogs I value, and some that I don't. I'm astonished to say that not a single blogger, many of whom I deeply respect, has understood the full significance of Goldstone's retraction of portions of the report which bears his name; in the final analysis, exonerating Israel of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" in its conduct of Operation Cast Lead, even as he reaffirmed Hamas' continuing culpability for these crimes under international law.

If I may speak to the pro-Israel blogosphere directly for a moment, and paraphrasing comments I made on many of your blogs - guys and gals, you're caught up in the minutia of parsing Goldstone's words, trying to redress this or that minor point or fact. This is all worthwhile but irrelevant; Forget history - it's for historians! Goldstone's retraction is not a gift in the legal sense - because the legal case he's now adopted was made long ago, and was ignored - but a political one. The Washington Post editorial is no less than a tremendous and unexpected development, an earthquake with considerable ramifications, but only if we - yes, we - dare to make a difference.

We need to stop playing defense all the time, crying about our sad lot and all the anti-semites who are out to get us - and they are, but so what! - hoping that the few intellectually honest souls out there in the continents we long ago lost to Arab propaganda will echo back. How is it that really quite vile and hateful anti-Israel blogs, like Richard Silverstein, Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss, are able to set and advance the anti-Israel agenda with each post, to put forward a consistent vision that ties into a "big-tent" political platform? Meanwhile, for all our best intentions, most pro-Israel blogs function as news aggregators for Jewish and Israel happenings, doing nothing but informing an audience which already largely agrees with our message? Why is it that we cannot break out into the field of policy and generate grassroots enthusiasm for a particular "big tent" pro-Israel political platform which has a real impact in the real world? Is there nothing that enough of us can all agree on?

You all follow the news and know the situation no less than I. David Horovitz made the PA's near term agenda crystal clear in his recent JPost editorial, whose essential points were carbon copied by Ethan Bronner into the recent NY Times piece. The Palestinians are aiming to force the internationalization of the conflict, to embarrass and neutralize the United States by compelling it into using its veto in the Security Council, and then leveraging that veto into a General Assembly resolution authorizing the establishment of a Palestinian state on maximalist Palestinian territorial and political demands, skirting the need for negotiating any core issues with Israel. Once Israel is found in violation of occupying the territory of a UN member state, it will be exposed to a dual campaign of international pressure and sanctions (to force it out of Palestinian territory), and Palestinian incitement, provocations and violence (to force it back in), closing the Gordian knot, and pitting the Jewish state against the international community.

Don't underestimate the force of momentum in driving events. Over the past several months, the PA has been quietly and methodically pushing through a referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court, based on the UN's adoption of the Goldstone Commission's findings. Literally days after this story with Goldstone broke, there was to be a renewed diplomatic and media push by pro-Palestinian supporters to get the subject of Israeli war crimes, and the need to punish those crimes, back in the news and on the international agenda (Mondoweiss even wrote a book in a timely support of the cause).

Referring Israel to the ICC over the Goldstone Report has been a main plank in the delegitimization and isolation campaign that the Palestinians were counting on for buttressing their General Assembly statehood resolution in September. Goldstone's retraction knocks that lever out of their hands - not entirely, but sufficiently so - which is why they're scrambling to make known, all of a sudden, that Goldstone's "personal opinions" no longer matter. Whether we concede that point to them on a silver platter by moaning that "the damage is done" is our choice. The Goldstone Commission's conclusions were never strictly legal or judicial, they were political, and Goldstone's personal withdrawal of support for those conclusions ends their political life.

If in the past, we could count on Arab incompetence to foil their best laid plans for Israel's demise, today this is no longer the case. I, for one, am trusting the Palestinians at their word, and at their remarkable success at quietly generating diplomatic breakthroughs in the recent past, under Israel's nose. Their diplomats and strategists are competent, they have political direction from European elitists and Washington insiders, and a clear platform for moving forward. In addition, we also have to consider unanticipated forced and unforced Israeli errors between now and September, like that 20 ship flotilla coming in late May.

Planning for the worst is not a terrible habit to get into. If the Palestinian strategy can be broken in September, that will pull us through the 2012 presidential elections in the US, after which the Palestinians may be facing a very different occupant in the White House, or an American President disenchanted with Palestinian unilateralism, and will be forced to either moderate their positions and begin to negotiate in good faith, or stall with ever decreasing international political support. In short, the last six months in Israel advocacy were a vacation. The next six are going to be some of the most crucial in years.

With all this dire business in mind, I propose we not discard Goldstone's unintended gift, but treat it for what it is - an opportunity to regain diplomatic momentum at a crucial time for Israel and her supporters. We don't need to leverage Goldstone's retraction to redress the past - that's for historians - we need it to make an impact in the present and future. Rolling back the EU's year old (?) adoption of the Goldstone Report, which the European Jewish Congress is now attempting, is a great effort which deserves praise and encouragement, not only because it was a historic injustice for the EU to adopt the document, but for the inertia it can build to immunize EU states to Palestinian hyperbolics and increase diplomatic cooperation with an Israel which all now know never lost its moral compass, even if its European partners did.

It's time for the pro-Israel blogging community to do more than inform; to collaborate as never before, to create a "big tent" platform, where our individual interests and concerns overlap, and which we can advance together. To this end, I have a proposal. Is it not a consensus position that Hamas is a terrorist organization which nearly daily commits "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" against a UN member state and its civilian population? Would it not serve the cause of justice, then, that the one aspect of Goldstone's report which he did not condemn, an aspect of the report also accepted by the international community, the indictment of Hamas for obvious violations of war crimes and crimes against humanity SHOULD go forward at the UN, and be passed on to the ICC for criminal prosecution of the entire Hamas military and political leadership and bureaucracy? What is the EU or UN going to do, discredit itself by rejecting a portion of the Goldstone Report dealing with Hamas which it already accepted and adopted?

And if you say that the Arabs will ignore and oppose this, all the better. Let THEM play defense and design stalling tactics to avoid the long arm of international law. Let THEM denounce and disown the very international institutions which they now manipulate at will. Let THEM deal with the consequences of isolation and delegitimization. Let's focus on an issue and take it forward on a political level with practical consequences. Let's think strategically.

What would it do to Hamas to face international legal opprobrium, charges of war crimes, international warrants? The organization will do what the Palestinian Authority is hoping to force Israel to do - shut itself off from the outside world. How can the PA push through a resolution which establishes a Palestinian state when half the country it wishes to rule is under the control of a government indicted for war crimes? Are you starting to get the picture?

Can one blogger do it? No. What would it hurt for all of us to band together for a week and try, and push, and coral our readership, and get the attention of respectable media and friendly NGOs to take our policy platform to another level? Fine, you're all a bunch of ninny pessimists. But what would it hurt? Goldstone has given us an opening; it is our choice to use it or lose it. I welcome your comments.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Goldstone Wedgie Campaign

By now, most of you have read of the earth-shattering retractions made by Richard Goldstone in the Washington Post, repudiating key findings of a UN sponsored inquiry, which bears his name, into the lawfulness of Israeli military conduct during Operation Cast Lead. The race is on to find quotes by everyone who not so long ago boldly concluded, on the basis of assertions made in the Goldstone Report, that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza by intentionally murdering and terrorizing civilians, that the Goldstone commission performed a fair and unbiased inquiry, that civilian casualties were far greater than claimed by Israel, and so on. Once found, these quotes can and should be used to mount the largest campaign of rhetorical atomic wedgies ever enacted on G-d's green earth.

Oh how very heated were the debates and discussions when those of us who didn’t buy into the blood libel defended Israel and her armed forces against those who not only ate up the accusations (some with considerable relish, if memory serves), but made sure to tear an extra pound of flesh off to advance their own conceited agendas. How could so many well meaning people have been so very wrong? How could so much of the world's intelligentsia have misjudged Israel’s culture so much as to have jumped to the conclusion that her armed forces and the society that bore them would systematically and intentionally murder civilians in cold blood? Who will now retract those comparisons between Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto, between an Israeli army defending innocent life and an exterminationist Nazi machine hauling off humanity by the trainload to the slaughter? How could (primarily) Israeli "human rights" NGOs mislead the world to such an extent, and will anyone hold them accountable?

Goldstone is a big enough of a man to admit his failure. And let’s not split hairs here. The Goldstone Commission was the peak of this once-upon-a-jurist’s professional life, and he failed, miserably, reprehensibly, in a way that damaged international law, gave sanctuary to terror and advanced global Jew hatred. We knew, even in those difficult days, those of us who stood with Israel, that a day would come when Goldstone would have to atone for much before a global Jewish community he did so much to defame, and the nation which is its heart. Now that he’s begun this process - first by acknowledging his naivete in assuming an equivalence before international law between the democratic nation state of the Jewish people and Palestinian terror factions, and then by retracting his conclusion that Israeli deliberately targeted civilians - it is time to demand that the many others who rode the Goldstone tiger to Israel-bashing glory to join in with their own, searing self-criticism - the kind they had not so long ago demanded of Israel - while the teshuvah (repentance) is still piping hot.

As for you wily, spineless, despicable "we support Israel but never today" pundits and bloggers who brandished the Goldstone Report's revolting conclusions in an indignant, self-righteous crusading panoply of vitriol against the Jewish state, you deserve by far the balance of what righteous wrath remains. Every progressive convention you attend, every social justice outing you participate in, every Israel-related discussion you engage in must be used to reverse the damage you contributed to. The burden of culpability in the greatest smear of recent memory rests on your shoulders most of all, and it is your responsibility to do real justice for the slander you participated in, whenever the opportunity presents itself. You, more than others, will be held accountable if you do not hold yourselves accountable. For wasn't that the advice you offered Israel on the day of her unjust opprobrium?

Will you literary miscreants, who so diminished Israel's legitimacy in fighting back against mass acts of terror, now defend Goldstone as vigorously against charges that he’s capitulated to the right-wing militarist Zionist cabal, as you were two years ago in defending him from charges of pandering to anti-semites and Israel-haters? And now that Israel has been exonerated, and Hamas has been demonstrated by the world's favorite Jurist to be the unrepentant terrorist entity that it is, won't we all finally join in supporting Judge Goldstone’s implicit call for the UN to forward Hamas' “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” (two separate statutes, in the process of being violated almost daily by Palestinian terror groups) on to the International Criminal Court for adjudication and punishment?

Therefore, in light of all the above, to promote an atmosphere of sincere reflection and poignantly apologetic contemplation, I hereby initiate the Goldstone Wedgie Campaign. And lest I forget, on behalf of all true supporters of Israel, the many bloggers, twitter-ers, facebook-ers commentators, pundits and ordinary people who "put their backs into it" when it counted, who never doubted for a second the justness of Israel's cause, the goodness of her people, and the humanity of her army, because too many of them are far too reserved and diplomatic to say so, boldly and clearly to those who had once barricaded off the path of truth from the scales of justice, in vain...


Friday, April 1, 2011

The Zionist Barometer

The Syrians, Bahrainis, Jordanians and Yemenis are marching against their dictators in order to - let's not kid ourselves - replace them with dictators from a tribe or sect of Islam they like better. The Libyans are fighting a civil war that apparently every single Westerner, including yours truly, is too stupid to understand and know who to side with. The Egyptians are threatening they want "respect" in international relations; apparently they have no self-respect, and think that treating the rest of us the way they treat their wives will make them feel better about it. The Palestinians are advocating a march of millions to converge on Israel's borders, overcome its defenders and reconquer the land, but peacefully(!), because everyone knows that swarming a sovereign state with millions of people who want to destroy it is how you make peace. The Iranians are raping protesters, especially children, as a "Fath Al Moin (aid to victory)."

No matter who, what, where, how or why, the Jews are responsible - the eminent slur of first resort. Indeed, who prior to this "Arab Spring" ever suspected that the Middle East was one big Zionist enclave? The Jews are trying to topple Ghaddafi, who is then himself uncovered as a Jew. First Ahmadinejad, then Mubarak, now Assad and tomorrow it will be G-d knows which other Arab and Persian leaders are Zionist agents, putting down popular revolutions fomented by Israel! Who knew that the Jewish people had so many friends and allies, and why haven't they made themselves known to us before? If you read everything and listen to everyone, you'd think the region is embroiled in a Zionist civil war!

Islamists, Communists, Fascists, Tribalists, Arab Nationalists, Liberals, Shiites, Sunnis, Sufis, Salafis, Alawites - all rush to discredit their enemies as Jews and Zionists. This, my few but dear Arab readers, this Zionist obsession, is why many suspect that the "Arab Spring" is not the genesis of your liberty, not a cultural transformation to usher in a new golden age, but a mere reshuffling of your jailers and executioners - no doubt, themselves card carrying Zionists, to be uncovered shortly. Everything changes yet nothing does, but the rage, that insatiable rage lives on.

On My Bookshelf