Sunday, 13 December 2009

Perplexing Holiday

Perplexing Holiday

David Brooks writes about how confusing a holiday Hanukkah is. The closer you look, the more confusing the story is: who are the heroes, and once you've decided, are they the kind of people you'd invite over to your house for a spot of munching on oily foods? Maybe not, huh? Especially as the ultimate yardstick to determine seems to be the historical outcome - hardly a morally pleasing measure.

I remember when I first took a close look at the historical story, I was surprised to learn that even the outcome wasn't what I'd thought. After a few glorious military battles, the triumphant warriors all ended up dead; the reason the one surviving Hasmonean brother, Simon, eventually wound up attaining something close to political independence (twenty some years later) was because he turned out to be a past master at political intrigue and skulduggery. Hummph.

At the risk of crossing Jeffrey Goldberg, I've got to admit Hanukkah isn't that important, so far as I can tell. Nor do I think Israelis give it much thought in the context of how they understand history, their part in it, lessens that need to be learned from it and so on. Parents of young children can't overlook it because their offspring have no school for a week and it's too cold outside simply to send them out to play, if children still do that these days. The rest of us sort of walk around it and keep on doing our regular stuff.

Luckily for Hanukkah it happens in December. The Christians have Christmas, the Afro-Americans invented Kwanzu, economists have sales figures, and the Jews - how convenient - have Hanukkah. Except for the thorny part, that it's not a very ecumenical holiday, if you're going to look beyond the candles-and-presents part. Which is why you've got to credit David Brooks: he's figured out how to write a column about Obama's Nobel Prize speech without ever using any of the words you'd expect necessary for that sort of a column.
Originally posted by Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

Barkat Caves in On Arab Illegal Construction - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

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IDF Busy With Freeze, Less Time to Fight Terrorism - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

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Arab Terrorist Stabs Jewish Woman at Gush Etzion - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

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US Pressures Israel to Leave Ghajar - Inside Israel - Israel News - Israel National News

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Israel Condemns Mosque Vandalism - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

National Priorities: Netanyahu Gives In - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

National Priorities: Netanyahu Gives In - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Rabin Secretary Interview Sheds New Light on Video - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Rabin Secretary Interview Sheds New Light on Video - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

RubinReports: Why is the West So Easily Fooled by Middle East Dictators? Case in Point: Syria's "Independent" Media is Owned by the Regime

Why is the West So Easily Fooled by Middle East Dictators? Case in Point: Syria's "Independent" Media is Owned by the Regime

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By Barry Rubin

It's remarkable how easy it is for Middle Eastern dictatorships to fool the West. Iran has been stringing along Europe and the United States for seven years on the pretense that it is ready to make a deal on its nuclear weapons' drive. The Palestinians persuade the West that they really do want to make peace but just need a better offer. And so on.

Sometimes the foolishness is due to ideology or bias, but ignorance is often a major factor. The assumption that Middle East dictatorships or Islamist revolutionaries really want to be moderate, that they're just victims and everything is the West's fault, or that a solution of conflicts is just a concession away overwhelms anything like a sense of history, research, or comprehension of what's going on.

Here’s an example, only one among hundreds. What makes it so symbollic is because it would have been so easy to get this story right. Since Bashar al-Asad inherited the family dictatorship eight years ago, there have been an endless stream of stories on how he is a really nice guy and just wants to be friends. Stories about the regime's sponsorship of terrorism and extremism--visible in every speech Bashar and his colleagues make in Arabic and all that appears in the Syrian state-controlled media--don't get much coverage. Neither does the fate of democratic dissidents.

Syria, of course, is a brutally repressive dictatorship where non-violent dissenters are consistently arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. It also sponsors terrorism in all directions, against Americans and Iraqis in Iraq; against Lebanon where it murdered about a dozen people in recent years including former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri; against Israel by sponsoring Hamas and Hizballah; and periodically against Jordan.

But the comedy of errors regarding MIddle East drama never ends. Now a Guardian columnist praises the launch of a new English-language newspaper in Syria, Baladna English, as “the latest stage in the liberalization of Syria's media.”

In this case, it might be worth asking who owns this new, supposedly independent newspaper? Answer: The son of Bahjat Suleiman, formerly the head of [wait for it] Syrian intelligence, named in the international investigation as a prime suspect in the Hariri murder, and a close pesonal friend of the dictator. In fact, Bahjat was one of the main architects of Bashar al-Asad's consolidation of power.

And what was the previous stage in the “liberalization of Syria’s media”? The creation of the first “ïndependent” Syrian newspaper in Arabic, al-Watan. And who owns that one? Rami Makhluf, the regime's top money guy and brother of the powerful current head of Syrian intelligence, Hafiz! Oh yes, he’s also a cousin of President Bashar al-Asad.

Here’s the write-up on Rami from the U.S. Treasury Department:

“Rami Makhluf is a powerful Syrian businessman who amassed his commercial empire by exploiting his relationships with Syrian regime members. Makhluf has manipulated the Syrian judicial system and used Syrian intelligence officials to intimidate his business rivals...[and is] one of the primary centers of corruption in Syria.”

This is the face of press freedom for Syria? No wonder many in the West can’t identify terrorists, sponsors of terrorism, tyrants, and dedicated enemies.

For even more on this story see From Beirut to Bayside.

RubinReports: Why is the West So Easily Fooled by Middle East Dictators? Case in Point: Syria's "Independent" Media is Owned by the Regime

RubinReports: Why Can't H. Clinton Bring Israel-Palestinian Peace? Look at What B. Clinton Offered which the Palestinians Rejected

Why Can't H. Clinton Bring Israel-Palestinian Peace? Look at What B. Clinton Offered which the Palestinians Rejected

Please subscribe for original articles and reportage

By Barry Rubin

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an interview to al-Jazira television, December 10, which reminds us of something exceptionally important for any discussion of the Israel-Palestinian conflict: what her husband offered the Palestinians—the last time a comprehensive deal was proffered—and was turned down almost exactly nine years ago.

How does Clinton explain the lack of a peace agreement? She blames it on George W. Bush:

"I regretted that there was a lull in it after my husband left office because we were poised to make such progress, and if we had been able to get it over the goal line, there would have been a Palestinian state for nearly a decade now.""

When her husband left office there wasn't just a "lull." Bill Clinton had spent two terms working hard to achieve a peace agreement and he failed because the Palestinians rejected every offer he made and then launched a massive terrorist-based war on Israel that lasted five years. The beginning of understanding the issue is to admit that the reason there hasn't been a Palestinian state for nearly a decade is because the Palestinian leadership turned it down.

Until that admission happens, all of this running around is a wasted effort.

Besides, if it is so easy then why has the Obama Administration made zero progress. Not only, of course, has it failed even to get negotiations going--yes, it has been in power for less than a year--but there isn't the slightest shred of evidence to believe that anything is going to change in the rest of its term.

Even al-Jazira’s interviewer noted that regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, "Everything seems to have stalled since January just before President Obama came into office.” This signals not only that the failure is obvious to everyone but also that enough time has passed that the Obama Administration must be judged on its own merits rather than blaming the current situation on its predecessor, which can be a legitimate excuse during the earlier days.

Obviously, for an al-Jazira audience, Clinton is eager to show how supportive she is of a Palestinian state, though one that must come from bilateral negotiations with Israel:

“I have been committed to a two-state solution, a Palestinian state for more than 10 years. I was the first person associated with any American administration who said that the Palestinians deserved and should be given their own state. So I am very committed to both the Palestinian state to fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and security for the Israelis so that they would be given the guarantee of their own future.”

The word “deserved” here is worth noting. It implies that the Palestinians have earned a state of their own. While one can justify this on the basis of consciousness and conditions, it is ironic to think of such an idea in light of Palestinian political performance in the last sixty years which has consisted all too largely of saying “no” and a rather large element of terrorism.

I’m making this point not to try to score points or cast aspersions but rather to highlight the reason as to why this “deserved” gift has not been bestowed, which might have happened at many points in history beginning with 1948 when the Palestinians themselves turned down the UN plan to give them a state through 2000 when the same thing happened in their rejection of what was called, ironically the Clinton Plan. That was Bill Clinton.

Apparently, it was that plan to which Hillary was referring when her husband called for a Palestinian state for the first time in official U.S. policy. Incidentally, Israel did so as well, something else often forgotten or lied about.

On December 23, 2000, the United States proposed the creation of a “non-militarized” Palestinian state on 95 percent of the West Bank, plus three percent more traded to it by Israel, plus all of the Gaza Strip, with its capital in east Jerusalem. In other words, this would have been equivalent to about 99 percent of the pre-1967 territory then ruled by Egypt and Jordan.

Israel would have annexed small areas including three areas with large populations of Jewish settlers: Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim, and Ariel. All of east Jerusalem would have become Palestinian--including the al-Aqsa Mosque--except for post-1967 Jewish neighborhoods, the Western Wall, and the Jewish Quarter. Israel would have gotten an existing access road—which is about ten feet wide—to the quarter. There would be an international observer force in the Jordan Valley, along the Palestinian-Jordan border, to see that heavy arms or foreign soldiers were not being smuggled into Palestine.

In addition, though this was not spelled out in the specific proposal, the level of aid and compensation to the Palestinians then being talked about by the United States was at around $21 billion.

On December 28, 2000, the Israeli government approved of the offer with only one condition: that the Palestinians accept it, too. For the record, I supported that plan, too.

Yasir Arafat turned it down.

What was the most important reason he gave for doing so? That he also demanded what Palestinians call “the Right of Return.” That is, he insisted there could be no deal unless all Palestinian refugees who so wished to go and live in Israel. He also rejected the observer force and demanded control of the entire Western Wall, the remnant of the Jewish Temple.

And yet there are those who say that Israel doesn’t want peace and never made the Palestinians a good offer. Many of them might add the claim that the United States had never done so either.

Let’s examine the implications of this proposed solution. If Arafat had accepted the deal, there would now have been a Palestinian state for many years. All those who died or were wounded since then would be whole. Hamas would not have taken over the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians would have roughly $40,000 for each child, woman, and man to spend or misspend.

Why was this offer turned down? Because it would have given up one percent of the land claimed? Because the Palestinians so want the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall? Because they would rather not have a state if they couldn’t have an air force and tanks? Or for some other minor reason of detail?

Is this a credible argument?

Arafat could have expressed his eagerness for the deal but offered something in order to get something else he wanted. Also, in the ordinary way international affairs works, the Palestinians were not bargaining from a position of strength. They could only get everything they wanted by deciding that they’d prefer to fight on for decades and sustain many losses rather than make the tiniest compromise.

But, of course, the real reason was, as explained by Faruq Qaddumi, the PLO and Fatah’s second most powerful man, on November 25, 2000 in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper, al-Hayat al-Jadida: “We are adopting the strategy of the Vietnamese who negotiated and fought the Americans at the same time until [they] defeated them.”

This was a revealing precedent to choose. The Vietnamese revolutionaries had taken control over part of the country and then used it to wage a war that won them the rest. Finally, they maneuvered the United States into an unconditional withdrawal through a campaign combining armed force, international pressure, and domestic dissent. Finally, they violated their agreements to seize the entire country.

As for the Right of Return demand, it was in line with something Qaddumi had said in March 2002: "The Right of Return of the refugees to Haifa and Jaffa is more important than statehood."

No one ever remarks on the absurdity of supposed Palestinian nationalists wanting to export people who could be used to build a strong and stable state of their own. Admitting one or two or three million Palestinians into Israel would, of course, lead to violence, bloodshed, chaos, and the collapse of Israel. That was, after all the intention.

Gaining total victory and destroying Israel was more important than getting a Palestinian state, ending the “occupation” and all the real or alleged terrible suffering of Palestinians we constantly hear about. So it was, so it remains.

And that is why all of Hillary Clinton’s commitment to a Palestinian state will not bring about a diplomatic solution. She wants it, Israel wants it, and the Palestinian leadership doesn’t want it.

Many people will try to make that last paragraph sound ridiculous. It certainly doesn’t seem to accord with common sense, does it? And yet that is what history and the evidence shows. Given that proposition, everything that has happened and is happening makes sense. Without it, even incredible contortions and distortions of fact still cannot account for the facts.

Can anyone honestly examine what the United States and Israel offered the Palestinian Authority nine years ago and not conclude that the narrative blaming Israel--and often the United States--for the continuation of the conflict is nonsense? No. And that's why it isn't talked about very much.

Yet how can there be any discussion of these issues without noting what President Bill Clinton and Israel offered the Palestinians nine years ago, why this offer was rejected, and what it should teach everyone?

Failing to see who is at fault for the persistent failures, which really go back more than thirty years, after all, is the fatal flaw of Western policy on Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. Until this is remedied, no one should be surprised that there won't be any peace and very little progress.

RubinReports: Why Can't H. Clinton Bring Israel-Palestinian Peace? Look at What B. Clinton Offered which the Palestinians Rejected

Lemon Lime Moon - Global Scam

Lemon Lime Moon - Global Scam

Israel Matzav: Overnight music video

Overnight music video

I thought this was a pretty neat rendition of Ymei HaChanuka (the Days of Chanuka) for the Saturday night of Chanuka.

Let's go to the videotape.

Israel Matzav: Overnight music video

Israel Matzav: Surprise: Anti-Semitism abounds at HuffPo, Salon and Kos

Surprise: Anti-Semitism abounds at HuffPo, Salon and Kos

A survey of posts at three of the largest 'progressive' blogs - Huffington Post, Salon and Daily Kos - shows widespread and classical anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitic commentary on the three progressive blogs in question falls into three categories.

1. Excessive Jewish Control/Power over Society/Government

The claim that Jews wield disproportionate power and influence over culture, the economy, media, and especially the institutions of government, a power that is injurious to the nation - often rising to the level of a Jewish conspiracy - is clearly anti-Semitic in nature. The U.S. State Department's 2008 Report on Global Anti-Semitism[9] notes that anti-Semitism includes "stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective-such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions."

Within polite circles Jews are no longer accused of "poisoning the wells." Yet they are still often accused of running Hollywood, controlling the financial system, and manipulating U.S. foreign policy and public debate to blindly support Israel. This latter claim, in particular, is all too common in the commentary reviewed in this article.

2. Dual Loyalty: Jews More Loyal to Israel than to the United States

One of the oldest anti-Semitic staples is that Jews are not sufficiently loyal to the countries where they reside and instead are more loyal to Israel. Indeed, this notion underlay the failure of European emancipation. From the Dreyfus Affair in France through the Nazis' rise to power, Jews - no matter how devoted they actually were to their host countries -were viewed as outsiders lacking in national loyalty.

Such ad hominem attacks against American Jews who support Israel are common within the blogs in question. The "Working Definition of Anti-Semitism" of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia defines as anti-Semitic: "accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations."

3. Israel as Nazi Germany

Since Israel has only been a state for sixty-one years, this is a much more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism. In most working definitions of anti-Semitism, however, charges that Israel's behavior can be compared with the actions of Nazi Germany are considered anti-Semitic. A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League shows that such comparisons are increasingly common among anti-Israeli activists.[10]

Protests against Israel's Gaza offensive in 2008-2009 included banners and slogans likening Israeli soldiers to German troops, the Gaza Strip to Auschwitz, and the Star of David to the swastika. As the U.S. State Department Report notes: "the demonization of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders, sometimes through comparisons with Nazi leaders, and through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them, indicates an anti-Semitic bias rather than a valid criticism of policy concerning a controversial issue."


There is even evidence to suggest that the outright anti-Semitism featured in this report is consistent with the increasing identification with such views among the American progressive community as a whole. A Stanford University poll[65] in May-June 2009 gauged the extent to which anti-Semitism was increasing as a result of the U.S. economic crisis. Respondents who were self-described Democrats were nearly twice as likely as those who identified themselves as Republicans to agree that Jews, as a group, were primarily responsible for the economic meltdown. The authors called this finding "somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party's electoral coalition."

Seemingly, even for those who deny that hatred of the Jewish state represents a new form of anti-Semitism it would be difficult to defend the manifestations of classic anti-Semitism - staples of dual loyalty, Jewish control, and so - seen in these blogs. Such sentiments hearken back to the racially and religiously based anti-Semitism of centuries past, a historically lethal force that self-styled progressives should ostensibly be in the forefront of resisting. And yet, a blogger with a large national following such as Glenn Greenwald, among others, can bemoan the corrosive effects of "Jewish money" and still be considered a progressive in good standing. This is despite the fact that progressive politics is supposed to entail a commitment to combating bigotry of all kinds and a sensitivity to even subtle negative stereotypes.

Likening anti-Semitism to pollution, in a Jerusalem Post interview Manfred Gerstenfeld[66] makes a distinction between that "which comes out of a chimney and spreads over a huge area" and that "which comes from the exhaust pipes of millions of cars, each one contributing its little bit." The former, he says, was characteristic of the Nazi era with its "leader," Adolf Hitler, as the central cause of the anti-Semitic smoke the world over. The latter, Gerstenfeld claims, characterizes today's postmodern form of the phenomenon: global but fragmented, with no single leader. Indeed, this aptly describes the new, diffuse media with its myriad of political blogs that lack any central and readily identifiable address, or "boss." This situation enables the new media to escape the regular and focused scrutiny that previously existed.

It is impossible to know just how much harm such rhetoric emanating from progressive blogs is causing. But it is time for principled progressives to take a stand against those in their own ideological community who claim to oppose all forms of intolerance but exhibit it blatantly toward Israel and Jews.

During an appearance by Martin Luther King at Harvard University, a student stood up and made a sharply hostile comment about Zionism. King responded: "When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism."[67]

Such moral clarity is needed to confront the increasingly acceptable hatred of Israel - and Jews - within the American progressive community.

Read the whole thing. You might want to shower afterward.

Israel Matzav: Surprise: Anti-Semitism abounds at HuffPo, Salon and Kos

Israel Matzav: Why are Americans pro-Israel?

Why are Americans pro-Israel?

Jeff Jacoby wonders why Americans are pro-Israel when seemingly no one else in the world is. He give four reasons and then sums it up:

Why are Americans so pro-Israel? For reasons practical and idealistic, religious and strategic. They are linked by the kinship of common values -- an affinity of strength and decency that reflects the best of both nations, and sets them apart from the other nations of the world.

Israel Matzav: Why are Americans pro-Israel?

Israel Matzav: Siemens shipped compressors to Iran?

Siemens shipped compressors to Iran?

Der Spiegel reports that German customs have discovered a shipment of compressors from Siemens to Iran. The compressors were for use in Iran's nuclear facilities (link is a Google translation from German - original German is here).

In Hamburg harbor customs has imposed a load of turbo compressors, which can be used to estimate the investigators for the Iranian missile program. The high-tech goods should have a value of 16 million euros and be part of an overall package worth 80 million euros. The show was apparently taken by a Siemens branch in Sweden on the way and was destined for an Iranian company. In another case, British marines stopped a vessel from China to Dubai, the so-called Teleperm-control technology for the Iranian Kalaye Electric Company had on board. The computers that are required, inter alia, for the control of nuclear power plants, Siemens is said to have previously delivered to a Chinese address. The controversial exports are being discussed in the export committee of the Federal Government, the matter was very sensitive in some states intern Siemens sees no violation of the Foreign Trade Law, "Our business activities in Iran is intended solely for civilian purposes and are in accordance with international law," says a company spokesman.

Yeah, right.

Israel Matzav: Siemens shipped compressors to Iran?
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