Tuesday, 27 April 2010



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By Barry Rubin

Today’s public culture focuses a lot more on categorization than though processes. The immediate question that arises after various incidents is whether or not they meet the criterion of categorizing something as objectionable rather than considering what it actually tells us. So it is with the joke General Jones, national security advisor to President Barack Obama.

Should General Jones be fired or resign because of the joke? Of course not. He should be fired or resign because he hasn't been doing a very good job as national security advisor.

Actually, the speech itself was a good one. The goal was to mark the end of the U.S.-Israel rift after a secret understanding by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop construction in Jerusalem for a while. It is also meant to mark a need to shore up growing criticism about the administration's policy on Israel and ineptness at getting sanctions on Iran. The joke should not be allowed to block an understanding of the administration's regional policy and political maneuvers.

But it does show why the administration is in so much trouble at home and abroad in the first place and may soon be again.
Here is a brief summary of Jones's version of the joke. The scene: southern Afghanistan. Hungry Hamas militant, raving hatred against Israel, asks Jewish merchant for food. Jew counters on Israel and refuses to sell it to him. Tells him instead he will sell him a tie. Hamas guy confused. Eventually goes onward, then returns. Now I see why you wanted to sell me a tie. Your brother won’t let me into his restaurant without one.

Ha! Presumably the merchant sold him at a tie at an exorbitant price or, to use the old term for such things, the merchant “Jewed” him, a word in many dictionaries until recently.

It is no secret that Jones is one of the administration officials most hostile to Israel. Thus, the joke is put into the context: is it or is it not antisemitic? That is the least interesting issue. What is fascinating and more important points is what it reveals about Jones’s world view.

The incident also reminds us of something many people would find shocking but is true: Many members of the Western political and cultural elite know far less about Jews than about the “exotic” minorities that they deal with abroad or as immigrants to their countries nowadays. The ignorance about Jews springs, of course, from the assumption that they know so much. It is also augmented by assimilationist Jewish intellectuals, including those in the elite, who have never known, forgotten, or prefer not to disclose much about their own people.

Of course, one shouldn’t read too much into a joke. But as another joke puts it, the issue is not just that Jones told the joke but the way he told it.

Let’s first run through the introductory points:

--Jones decided to tell the joke. The issue is not whether the joke is objectively objectionable, that’s a matter for debate. What’s really impressive is that neither he nor his staff considered it risky. Here’s a man considered to be hostile to Israel, and perhaps to Jews, involved in very delicate issues, showing poor judgment in walking along the edge of the precipice in an era where people are obsessively—I’d say insanely—sensitive to any nuance of prejudice.

Even if one concludes that the joke is not truly objectionable, it shows poor judgment in a man whose job requires dealing with the fate of millions of people, including millions of Israelis. It makes me wonder how smart and able to understand situations Jones could possibly be. And if you respond that if he weren’t exceptional he wouldn’t hold his current job you’ve spent considerably less time around Washington than I have.

--How does one evaluate the joke? This is a typical kind of Litvak Jewish joke designed to show cleverness. But in its origins the joke was sensitive. After all, the implication is that these wily merchants were taking advantage of Eastern European peasants or others in their business dealings. It was for stereotypes like this that pogroms took place, including ultimately the biggest pogrom of them all. Thus, the basic structure of this joke has both typical Jewish and antisemitic features.

This is not atypical of “ethnic” humor and what makes it different when spoken by a member of the group and someone who isn’t. If you don’t believe that, listen to African-Americans or others telling jokes about their own people and try repeating one yourself. In the current climate, you will soon be looking for a new job. For some reason, this doesn’t seem to apply to dealings with Jewish sensitivities.

But all of this is the least interesting aspect of the situation. I could talk about more but let me focus on two that I think are inescapable and have policy consequences. It is interesting to note that both aspects relate to changes Jones made in the way the joke has been told by Jews.

First, the story is set in Afghanistan. Why there of all places where there have never been any Jews and there is only one in the whole country today? When it has appeared on Jewish sites, the joke was set in the Sahara Desert. Note also Jones insisted--part of the joke but also revealing--that it was based on a "true" story.

Well, Afghanistan is the main theatre of operations for the U.S. military, especially if one takes into account future plans. So it shows that even in Afghanistan, there are people obsessed with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. (That’s not true by the way.) The idea that the conflict is the central issue in the world determining everything has become a theme of Obama Administration foreign policy. True, it is a Hamas guy and not a Taliban guy. Yet one cannot help but make the connection.

Second, instead of an individual Jew, the focus of the story is switched to Israel by making it a Hamas guy, putting in references to Israel, and making an Afghan Jew describe Israel as "my country."

The Jew, now made into a representative of Israel--in effect--rather than a generic Jew, seeks to charge (presumably overcharge) for letting the Hamas guy in to get what he needs. Indeed, Israel does demand an admissions’ fee into peace for Hamas and also the Palestinian Authority: that they must show they are serious about peace as well as make compromises.

The tendency of the current U.S. government and of Europe is—and I don’t want to overstate this—to say that such a barrier is unnecessary. End the sanctions on the Gaza Strip, they say, let Hamas into the talks (I’m not saying the Obama administration endorses this idea), give the PA a state. Then everything will be okay and peace will prevail.

The adaptation of this into the joke is to let the Hamas guy in without a tie and trust him to pay at the end of the meal. Indeed, that if you do so he will stop cursing Israel and want to be friends. After all, most restaurants today have given up their tie and jacket requirement.

Now here’s the joke I’ll tell when they ask me to speak at the National Security Council:

An Israeli is walking through a dangerous desert, beset by enemies on every side. He comes upon an American general who is national security advisor. “Please help me,” says the Israeli, “I’m out of ammunition.”

“I’d love to help you,” says the general, “but I can only sell you a tie. It’s because I’m helping you that they are all out to get me!”

“No thanks on the tie,” says the Israeli, “I’d rather have your support as an ally against those antisemitic, anti-American totalitarian forces which are out to destroy you any way.”


RubinReports: How Foreign Subsidies are all that's Keeping Two Palestinian Governments from Collapse

How Foreign Subsidies are all that's Keeping Two Palestinian Governments from Collapse

In a new article, "A Tale of Two Palestinian Authorities," my colleague, Jonathan Spyer, points out--in an article well worth reading--the fragility of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an entity that is hardly able, if it were willing which is also a problem, to make a comprehensive peace with Israel.

But here's the most stunning point:

"Veteran Palestinian political analyst Yezid Sayigh recently noted that both the Gaza and Ramallah governments are dependent for their economic survival on foreign assistance. The Fayyad government has an annual $2.8 billion budget, of which one half consists of direct foreign aid. The Hamas authorities, meanwhile, announced a budget of $540 million, of which $480 million is to come from outside (Iran)."

In addition, remember that, as I have noted, the Hamas regime also depends on Western aid provided through the Palestinian Authority.

Tale of Two Palestinian Authorities

By Jonathan Spyer*

April 27, 2010

RubinReports: How Foreign Subsidies are all that's Keeping Two Palestinian Governments from Collapse

RubinReports: The Direction of Europe: Netherlands: Opposition to Holocaust Education; UK: Voting Trends

The Direction of Europe: Netherlands: Opposition to Holocaust Education; UK: Voting Trends

The Dutch magazine Elsevier has published on its website its findings on the current teaching about the Holocaust in the Netherlands. Of the 339 high school history teachers surveyed, twenty percent say they have encountered hostility, mainly from Muslim students, which made conducting the lesson difficult or even impossible.

In the run-up to the United Kingdom parliamentary elections, Islamic organizations have been trying to organize a bloc vote to support anti-Israel candidates, with a strategy of gaining influence in the small Liberal Democratic party which may hold the balance of power in forming a government.

RubinReports: The Direction of Europe: Netherlands: Opposition to Holocaust Education; UK: Voting Trends

Elder of Ziyon: Honest Reporting looks at BBC bias

Honest Reporting looks at BBC bias

Honest Reporting published an exhaustive look at BBC bias for just the first three months of the year. Here's the executive summary:

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the largest broadcasting organization in the world. It is funded principally by an annual television license fee charged to all United Kingdom households, companies and organizations using equipment capable of receiving television broadcasts. Based on its influence and dependency on public funding, one would expect extremely high standards in terms of objectivity from the BBC. However, our in-depth analysis of articles published on the BBC website during the first quarter of 2010 shows that the BBC's coverage is filled with an anti-Israel bias that is reflected in both the style and substance of its daily reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This research demonstrates:

• Daily coverage tends to focus on Israeli actions deemed as undermining the peace process while Palestinian actions violating peace agreements are either ignored or downplayed. The issue of Israeli housing construction in Jerusalem gets wide coverage by the BBC while constant and ongoing Palestinian glorification of terror, a major breach of every agreement, is almost ignored.

• Articles often lead with the Palestinian perspective or bring in partisan, agenda-driven Israeli organizations that take a position critical of the Israeli government for “balance,” representing a small number of Israelis.

• Complex historical issues are often presented without proper context. To say that Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967 without referencing the 3,000 year Jewish history of the city misleads more than it informs.

• Inaccurate terms are often used for fear of passing judgment on the people and events being described. The BBC refers to Hamas terrorists as “militants” or “fighters.” Ironically, that is in itself a judgment. Another example is that the term "right wing" is used frequently when referring to the Israeli governing coalition of Benjamin Netanyahu. By using this term (which we have never seen applied by the BBC to even the most extreme Palestinian political parties,) isn't the BBC passing its own judgment?

Especially considering the fact that "right wing" is usually used as a pejorative rather than simply descriptive label, it has no place in objective journalism.

This report is part of our continuing series that examines the daily coverage of influential media organizations. A single story that is based on a gross distortion of an event may be easier to identify as biased. Yet it is the soft but no less corrosive bias that pervades day to day coverage that has a greater impact on the way Israel is perceived by the general public.

Elder of Ziyon: Honest Reporting looks at BBC bias

Elder of Ziyon: The latest desecration of Al Aqsa - semi-naked women!

The latest desecration of Al Aqsa - semi-naked women!

The Al Aqsa Heritage Foundation has added another unspeakable crime to the many it has already documented against Jerusalem's Islamic sites.

As they say, "The Israeli occupation began in recent days to deliberately desecrate the area in question [south of the Temple Mount] through the organization of foreign and Jewish tourists, in addition to organizing noisy concerts involving hundreds of people who were semi-naked or dressed inappropriately.

"The area south of Al-Aqsa Mosque is a holy land belonging to the campus of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Israeli occupation deliberately desecrates it...We stress that this region is a sincere Islamic Waqf and will remain so, as the practice of desecration will not change the fact that the sanctity of this area clean, and the day will come soon, which will end when the occupation of the area to return to the full and complete purity."

Elder of Ziyon: The latest desecration of Al Aqsa - semi-naked women!

Elder of Ziyon: If NGOs applied the same standards to Arabs as to Israel...

If NGOs applied the same standards to Arabs as to Israel...

If "human rights" organizations put Palestinian Arabs under the same microscope they put Israel, we'd probably see reports like this every week or so:


Palestinian Pollutant Watch
April 27, 2010


Palestinian Pollutant Watch is deeply concerned over the increase in pollutants being released into the air during Palestinian Arab protests, specifically the burning of tires.

The number of tire burning incidents has increased alarmingly in recent months, both in the West Bank and Gaza. When tires are burned it releases a large number of noxious and carcinogenic particles into the air.

In addition, burnt tires leave behind toxic waste that can damage local water supplies.

Here are only some of the recent protests that produced unacceptable levels of pollutants in the air of Palestine:

The tire burning is especially difficult for innocent children, pregnant women, farm animals and pets that are forced to breathe these noxious fumes. Their human right to clean air and water is being compromised.

The protests are sanctioned by both the Palestinian Authority and the de facto Hamas government of Gaza , as public statements by the leaders of the PA have called for non-violent protests, which include the horrid scenes we have shown here.

The long term effects of these protests of pollution are as of yet unclear. The funding to properly research these crimes against the innocent human and non-human population of Palestine has been slow in coming.

The PPW calls on the Palestinian Authority to regulate tire-burning protests. We recommend that an independent agency be created to monitor and report back on these protests with details on exactly what materials (brand names of tires and sizes) are being burned and in what quantity.

We also call on the PA to undertake a comprehensive study of the short and long-term effects of the air pollution on its population, and to regulate the activities in these protests so as not to impinge on universal humanitarian laws, including the right to clean air and the right to clean water.

We call on Hamas to denounce tire burning as a danger to the Gaza population and to take specific steps to reduce the number of protests that involve burning tires.

We request that the UN Human Rights Council take up debate on this important issue that affects the lives of so many.

A full 169-page report on the tire-burning incidents over the past two years is forthcoming, with over 500 footnotes detailing every known incident, filed with references to our interpretation of the Geneva Conventions and international law.

h/t My Right Word for the idea.

Elder of Ziyon: If NGOs applied the same standards to Arabs as to Israel...

Elder of Ziyon: Hamas warns of new Israeli intel schemes

Hamas warns of new Israeli intel schemes

Abu Abdullah, director of internal security for Hamas in Gaza, has warned of new schemes used by Israeli intelligence to gather information from Gazans.

He mentions phone calls that are set up to sound like surveys about how Gazans feel about, say, the electricity shortage, and then moving into more sensitive topics.

He also mentions that Israelis are attempting to contact Gazans through the Internet, and that Hamas is trying to monitor these attempts.

Another article talks about how the Shin Bet is using Twitter and Facebook to communicate with young Palestinian Arabs. They will gather existing information and then befriend the Palestinian Arabs to gain more intel, often by pretending to offer them employment.

All of this is quite believable. People don't realize how much personal information they give out over social networking sites, and the methods described here are often used in corporate espionage, let alone internationally.

Elder of Ziyon: Hamas warns of new Israeli intel schemes

Elder of Ziyon: Egypt skeptical about Pal unity; scuttled plan to help Gazans

Egypt skeptical about Pal unity; scuttled plan to help Gazans

Yesterday I mentioned that Qatar has given up on any chances for Hamas/Fatah reconciliation, and now Egypt seems to be on that same path.

Palestine Press Agency quotes Egyptian media, with high-ranking Egyptian officials saying that neither Hamas nor Fatah have any real inclination to make peace with each other. They also mentioned, as an aside, that Egypt rejected an idea to help provide Gazans with basic goods.

One official said that Hamas leader Khaled Meshal will not agree to any deal, as "it poses a dilemma for him...he will continue to fabricate pretexts to avoid signing conciliation paper."

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman said that the unsigned agreement is only a first step, not a final agreement, but the "journey is long and thorny, and there are major political differences between the two sides."

"Even if they signed the paper, reconciliation will not be achieved because they have no real intent and reconciliation is not in the interest of both sides," Suleiman said. "Despite the fact that Fatah signed the agreement, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not currently seek to complete the reconciliation due to the current stalemate in the peace process and the failure of the U.S. administration to exert pressure on the current Israeli government. Any reconciliation with Hamas, if only in name, will feed in [Hamas'] own interests and strengthen its position in the West Bank at the expense of Abbas's standing."

The official also points out that Hamas does not want to lose its power over Gaza, nor its money supply from Iran, which would disappear if there was an agreement. In addition, after any unity government, the PA would be able to investigate on Hamas' abuses in Gaza, and Hamas wants to keep itself immune from criticism of its egregious acts towards Gazans.

Egypt also said that it considered creating a market for Gazans at the Rafah border to help ease the blockade, with EU representatives there to ensure that no weapons cross into Gaza, but the idea was ruled out. The fear was that it might play into Israeli plans to not have any responsibility over Gaza altogether and it would saddle Egypt with taking care of the population that it ruled for 19 years.

So, better to let their Gazan brethren rot.

Elder of Ziyon: Egypt skeptical about Pal unity; scuttled plan to help Gazans

Elder of Ziyon: Fatah council urges more government control over the media

Fatah council urges more government control over the media

At a weekend Fatah Revolutionary Council meeting, attended by Mahmoud Abbas, the PA was urged to exert more control over the already less-than-free press in the territories.

In a statement, the Fatah Revolutionary Council stressed "the need for changes in the media so as to enhance the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the face of challenges."

The meeting will conclude today.

Elder of Ziyon: Fatah council urges more government control over the media

Elder of Ziyon: TNR on HRW


The New Republic has a report about the problems at Human Rights Watch.

While it is critical of HRW, the article is not a hatchet job by any means - it gives much needed context. Yet when all is said and done, it is clear that there is a strong anti-Israel bias at HRW, and there has been for a long time:

In September 2000, HRW’s board of directors took a vote that still, a decade later, infuriates Sid Sheinberg, a legendary Hollywood mogul (he discovered Steven Spielberg) and current vice-chairman of the board. At the time, Bill Clinton was trying desperately to broker a peace agreement between Yasir Arafat and Ehud Barak, but one of the major sticking points was the right of return. It was an issue that even the most left-wing Israelis did not feel they could compromise on: If Palestinians were permitted to return to Israel en masse, it would imperil the country’s future as both a Jewish state and a democracy.

Sheinberg believed strongly that HRW had no business endorsing the right of return. “My view is that the most essential human right is the right to life,” he says. “And anybody who sees a deal about to be made where there’s been war for fifty or sixty years should think hard about shutting up.” The board, however, did not agree. “The vote was something like twenty-seven to one,” Sheinberg recalls. “Bob [Bernstein] voted against me, for which he’s apologized on a number of occasions.” That December, Ken Roth, HRW’s executive director, would send letters to Clinton, Arafat, and Barak urging them to accept the organization’s position. The right of return, he wrote, “is a right that persists even when sovereignty over the territory is contested or has changed hands.”

But something telling had happened to Sheinberg immediately following the meeting in September. “I go to my apartment—I have an apartment in New York—and, when I get to my apartment, the phone starts to ring,” he recalls. “And I get a number of phone calls from a variety of board members who tell me, ‘Sid, we really agree with you ... but we didn’t want to go against management.’” Another board member, David Brown, confirms that he and others shared Sheinberg’s reservations, if quietly. “Sid is very vocal, but he wasn’t the only one,” he says. “There were a number of people upset.”

Author Benjamin Birnbaum managed to quantify HRW's obsession with Israel and to interview many staffers at HRW:

With Palestinian suicide bombings reaching a crescendo in early 2002, precipitating a full-scale Israeli counterterrorist campaign across the West Bank, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division (MENA) issued two reports (and myriad press releases) on Israeli misconduct—including one on the Israel Defense Forces’ assault on terrorist safe havens in the Jenin refugee camp. That report—which, to HRW’s credit, debunked the widespread myth that Israel had carried out a massacre—nevertheless said there was “strong prima facie evidence” that Israel had “committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions,” irking the country’s supporters, who argued that the IDF had in fact gone to great lengths to spare Palestinian civilians. (The decision not to launch an aerial bombardment of the densely populated area, and to dispatch ground troops into labyrinthine warrens instead, cost 23 Israeli soldiers their lives—crucial context that HRW ignored.) It would take another five months for HRW to release a report on Palestinian suicide bombings—and another five years for it to publish a report addressing the firing of rockets and mortars from Gaza, despite the fact that, by 2003, hundreds had been launched from the territory into Israel. (HRW did issue earlier press releases on both subjects.)

In the years to come, critics would accuse HRW of giving disproportionate attention to Israeli misdeeds. According to HRW’s own count, since 2000, MENA has devoted more reports to abuses by Israel than to abuses by all but two other countries, Iraq and Egypt. That’s more reports than those on Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Algeria, and other regional dictatorships. (When HRW includes press releases in its count, Israel ranks fourth on the list.) And, if you count only full reports—as opposed to “briefing papers,” “backgrounders,” and other documents that tend to be shorter, less authoritative, and therefore less influential—the focus on the Jewish state only increases, with Israel either leading or close to leading the tally. There are roughly as many reports on Israel as on Iran, Syria, and Libya combined.

HRW officials acknowledge that a number of factors beyond the enormity of human rights abuses go into deciding how to divide up the organization’s attentions: access to a given country, possibility for redress, and general interest in the topic. “I think we tend to go where there’s action and where we’re going to get reaction,” rues one board member. “We seek the limelight—that’s part of what we do. And so, Israel’s sort of like low-hanging fruit.”

The 2006 Lebanon war is a perfect example of HRW's jumping to criticize Israel without checking all the facts, but its reluctance to do the same for other regional actors:

During the third week of the five-week war, the organization published a report on “Israel’s indiscriminate attacks against civilians. (A report on Hezbollah rocket fire would not come out for another year, although, again, HRW did issue press releases on the subject in the interim.) The report said there was evidence suggesting that, in some cases, “Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.” Critics, such as Alan Dershowitz and Bar-Ilan University Professor Avi Bell, jumped on the report and related documents, arguing that some of their assertions were highly questionable. HRW ceded no ground, accusing Dershowitz and Bell of “armchair obfuscations.” But, when it issued its more comprehensive report on Lebanese fatalities a year later, the organization admitted that the first report had indeed gotten key facts wrong. For example, an Israeli strike in the village of Srifa—the second-deadliest attack described in the first report—turned out to have killed not “an estimated 26 civilians” (as HRW had originally claimed) or “as many as 42 civilians” (as Roth later wrote), but 17 combatants and five civilians. [E]yewitnesses were not always forthcoming about the identity of those that died, and in the case of Srifa, misled our researchers,” HRW wrote. Elsewhere in the new report, HRW acknowledged that the original had missed mitigating factors that cast some Israeli strikes in a different light.

Yet at the time they were adamant about their methods, just as we saw in their dismissal of criticisms about their 5 long reports bashing Israel for Operation Cast Lead:

Robert James—a businessman, World War II veteran, and member of the MENA advisory committee who has been involved with HRW almost since its inception—calls the group “the greatest NGO since the Red Cross,” but argues that it is chronically incapable of introspection. “Bob is bringing this issue up on Israel,” he says. “But Human Rights Watch has a more basic problem. ... They cannot take criticism.”

A parenthetical section of the article is interesting:

When I asked Roth in a February interview at his office about HRW’s refusal to take a position on Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel, including his famous call for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” Roth quibbled about the way the statement had been translated in the West—“there was a real question as to whether he actually said that”—then told me that it was not HRW’s place to render judgments on such rhetoric: “Let’s assume it is a military threat. We don’t take on governments’ military threats just as we don’t take on aggression, per se. We look at how they behave.

This from the same person who misquoted Israeli leaders specifically to support his specious assertions that Israel intended to indiscriminately kill civilians in Gaza!

The article goes on to note the irony that two of the people at HRW who were the least anti-Israel were Richard Goldstone and Marc Garlasco.

Sarah Leah Whitson is mentioned as having inherent biases againt Israel (she has a poster of a film humanizing suicide bombers hung up in her office) even as she is described as being one of the more competent leaders of their Middle East division. Her dependence on Garlasco as a supposed military expert is telling:

Whitson told me that Garlasco (who was one of only a handful of people at HRW with military experience) brought unique skills to the organization and enhanced its credibility. “He could look at the plumes in the sky and know exactly what weapon that was,” she says. “He could look at a canister and know what kind of a munition it was. He could look and see where the guidance system is.”

This is far from the truth, as at the same time that HRW specifically criticized the IDF on not being able to distinguish between rockets and oxygen canisters in a video during a war when split-second decisions must be made, but their own "military experts" didn't notice the differences for six months.

Garlasco comes off as the most sympathetic figure at HRW:

Garlasco had larger critiques of HRW. He thought that the organization had a habit of ignoring necessary context when covering war, he told Apkon; and he told multiple sources that he thought Whitson and others at MENA had far-left political views. As someone who didn’t have strong ideological commitments of his own on the Middle East, this bothered him. “When he reported on Georgia, his firm feeling was he could report whatever he wanted,” says one source close to Garlasco. “And, when he was talking to headquarters, the feeling was, let the chips fall where they may. He did not feel that way dealing with the Middle East division.” In addition, Garlasco alleged in conversations with multiple people that HRW officials in New York did not understand how fighting actually looked from the ground and that they had unrealistic expectations for how wars could be fought. To Garlasco, the reality of war was far more complicated. “He looks at that organization as one big attempt to outlaw warfare,” says the person close to Garlasco.

The entire report is well worth reading.

Elder of Ziyon: TNR on HRW

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Don't Divide Jerusalem: Context

Don't Divide Jerusalem: Context

Jerusalem cannot be divided without havoc and bloodletting. I hope to offer a series of posts to demonstrate why. Today's post looks at the geography and at borders.

I'm assuming anyone who knows how to read a blog also knows how to use Google Earth, so the images I've downloaded should be merely a guide to your own viewing. Let's start with a screen-shot of central Israel, an area smaller than Los Angeles.
You can see (sort of) that Jerusalem sits on the top of a north-south ridge of hills. Directly to its north is the town of Ramallah, directly to its south the town of Bethlehem. Directly to its east is the Judean Desert. Since Google has helpfully added the Green Line of 1949-1967 (in red), to the west of the city you can see the Jerusalem Corridor, a finger of territory that connects the city to the rest of Israel, while jutting into the West Bank. Before 1967 Jerusalem was not only divided, it was surrounded on three sides by hostile enemy territory. From its vantage points on the high peaks of Nabi Samuel to the north, and Beit Jallah to the south, the Jordanian army could see just about the entire city below.

Let's get closer to the city itself.
I've marked two significant points. To the north is the Atarot airstrip (circled in light blue), and down to the right, the Holy Basin. Each plays a different role in the story. First, the airstrip.

Between 1949 and 1967 West Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and it grew significantly. East Jerusalem wasn't the capital of anything, and didn't grow. In June 1967 when Israel took over the entire town, the Jordanian "half" of it was a small area, almost completely inside the yellow frame. To the north, well outside town, was a small airstrip, near where there had been a Jewish village of Atarot until it was conquered by the Jordanians in 1948. In June 1967 a team of three Israeli generals - Uzi Narkis, Shlomo Lahat, and retired general Moshe Dayan - were told to draw a new municipal line. They felt the airstrip had to be inside it, and so they invented a new definition of the city which had no history and not very much logic.(Source for the map) This artificial town had a population of about 250,000, 70,000 of them Palestinians from the Jordanian side, many of whom did not know they were in Jerusalem until the Israelis told them. Had you asked them they'd have said they lived in Um Tuba, or Kfar Akeb, and so on. Israel then proceeded to annex the area inside the line, to offer citizenship to it's populace (they mostly didn't take it), and to "force" upon them the benefits of permanent residents such social security and later universal health care, when we all got it. (Those they did take).

Since 1967 the city has roughly trebled in size, to about 800,000, of them some 250,000 Palestinians. The Palestinians spread out from their villages, some of which connected to each other and to the center. The Jews spread out in the west, and added 10 new neighborhoods in the new areas beyond the old border. Nine of them appear on the above map, and one (Ramat Shlomo), the most recent, doesn't. They are, north to south: Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Eshkol (including Sanhedria), French Hill, the Jewish Qurter of the Old City, East Talpiot, Gilo, and Har Homa. There's also an industrial area of mostly Jewish-owned companies way to the north, next to the airstrip, but no-one lives there. The airstrip, by the way, is defunct. So much for that miscalculation.

The historical heart of Jerusalem is called the Holy Basin. It's a new name, which first entered the political discussion in the Camp David discussions of summer 2000: Ehud Barak was willing to consider handing over the outer Palestinian neighborhoods, the Um Tubas and the Kfar Akebs which probably should never have been defined as Jerusalem in the first place, but was loth to divide the truly historical heart of Jerusalem. There is no official definition of what precisely fits into the Holy Basin, but it's more or less the area between Mount Scopus to the north and the Hill of Evil Council to the south, or perhaps less, depending upon whom you ask. (The Hill of Evil Council, by the way, is a New Testament name, upon which the British built their government house, and the UN sits until this very day. I spoof you not).The center of the Holy Basin is the Old City, which actually isn't the oldest part of town. To it's north I've marked the Sheikh Jarrah area, and to its south I've marked the City of David-Silwan area - which is the oldest part of the city, predating the wrongly named Old City by about 2,000 years.
I've marked five sections of the Old City. Green for the Muslim Quarter, red for the Christian Quarter, blue for the Armenian Quarter, fuchsia for the Jewish Quarter, and yellow for the Temple Mount, called Haram el-Shariff by the Muslims. Jerusalem not being New York, the resolution offered by Google Earth becomes less helpful when you get closer than this altitude above the city, but maybe in a future post, when I try to show the silliness of dividing the city, I'll try none-the-less.

Proposed borders: Jerusalem hasn't been divided, nor has anyone ever officially agreed on how to divide it. Yet since 2000 there has been much discussion of such a division, and of course a total international consensus that it must happen (except for those who disagree). For the purpose of my future posts on the matter, in which I shall try to show why the city cannot feasibly be divided, I'm following the contours of this international consensus. Its principles were formulated by President Bill Clinton on Dec. 24th 2000, and they're very simple: areas where Jews live in will be in Israel, areas where Palestinians live in will be in Palestine. The Temple Mount-Haram elSharif will be in Palestine because the Palestinians really really want it and there are mosques on it. Where possible - open areas, for example - the border will be the Green line of 1949-67.

The folks who agreed on the Geneva Initiative have gone to a lot of effort to make detailed maps of the various sections of town and who they'll belong to; compare their polished output to my slap-dash ones and you'll be impressed, I assure you. The whole 10-piece series is here. Their lines are pretty much what Clinton had in mind, and I expect his wife and her boss agree. So my task in the coming posts will be to show what the reality will look like, and why you wouldn't want anyone you know to have to live in it.

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Don't Divide Jerusalem: Context

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: The Jews ARE to Blame for the Volcano, After All

The Jews ARE to Blame for the Volcano, After All

Don't say you didn't see this coming. Judeosphere has the story.

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: The Jews ARE to Blame for the Volcano, After All

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Fred Halliday, 1946-2010

Fred Halliday, 1946-2010

Fred Halliday died yesterday, and I first heard of his existence, via Normblog, today. The Guardian has an obituary, which as you'd expect casts Halliday as one of them, in the negative meaning of the term. Yet Norm is more serious than the Guardian, and if he's mourning the passing of an important scholar, I decided to look a bit further. It took only a few minutes to find this list of articles he's written in recent years. David Hartman taught me many years ago that the best way to show respect for the passing of a scholar is to read something he or she has written (this was on the death of Gershom Scholem), so I picked two of Halliday's articles from the list. This one, about Palestine Tibet and other entities that did or didn't attain statehood, and this one in which he reported his thoughts on a visit to Auschwitz.

The articles demonstrate a breadth and depth of knowledge which are mostly lacking in public discourse. More important, they express an ideological commitment tempered by rational investigation. I get the feeling that he and I might have disagreed on some rather important matters in the areas where our expertize overlapped (he knew about lots of things I don't, and I know about some things he didn't). Yet we would have been able to disagree on rational grounds; indeed, we'd have been able to explain to each other in calm tones where our differences came from, and we'd each have come away from the discussion at least with an intellectual acceptance of the sources of the other fellow's positions. We could have had a rational discussion, in short.

Not something to take for granted, unfortunately. So may he rest in peace, but his intellectual example continue to reverberate.

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Fred Halliday, 1946-2010

DoubleTapper: Life in the Middle East

Life in the Middle East

The Burkini, is made from UV and water-protected polyester. It covers the whole body except for the feet, hands and face.

Muslim fashion designer Aheda Zanetti (L) makes adjustments
 to her Islamic swimsuit worn by Australian model Mecca Laalaa (R) at 
her shop in Sydney, 12 January 2007 (AFP, AFP/Getty Images / January 12,

Israel's beaches look nothing like this!

Hat tip DamnCoolPics

DoubleTapper: Life in the Middle East

Chesler Chronicles » Netanyahu Freezes Building in East Jerusalem; Hamas on Buying Spree in West Jerusalem

Netanyahu Freezes Building in East Jerusalem; Hamas on Buying Spree in West Jerusalem

According to the Associated Press, Prime Minister Netanyahu has just “frozen” all building in East Jerusalem.

“Israel’s prime minister has effectively frozen new Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, municipal officials said Monday, reflecting the need to mend a serious rift with the U.S. and get Mideast peace talks back on track.”

This is, no doubt, meant to help the United States and Obama’s reputation as a tough negotiator, if not in Teheran than in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; perhaps this will allow Israel and America to return to the negotiating table where Israel can, yet again, be treated as America’s vassal state and punching bag.

Jewish families waiting outside their homes to be evacuated by Arab troops. Jerusalem, Israel. June 1948. John Phillips

Alright — fine. Can someone ask our president to look into the purchase by Hamas of property and territory in West Jerusalem — and for that matter, into the motivation or rewards to the Israeli Arab citizens who are fronting the deal for Hamas? Wealthy Gulf Arabs have also been buying up private land in Israel.

Fine. Let them… go, let Hamas’s people go, let their people return to South Syria, Egypt, Transjordan, Jordan too. Does Obama and company truly understand who the Palestinians are, and once were?

Some Israeli legislators are not sure what a “de facto” freeze on building really means. Some believe that Netanyahu was just trying to save face after caving in. Others believe that it was just a bureaucratic snafu.

God only knows.

The Life magazine photographic archives of Jerusalem, 1948, may be found here.

Rubble lying in the streets after Arab looting of Jewish homes. Jerusalem. June 1948. John Phillips

Collectively, the archive paints a haunting and instructive picture of Jews being evicted from the Jewish quarter, their homes and synagogues destroyed, their elderly rabbis being shot at and held hostage by the Jordanian Arab Legion. Please see with your own eyes how Arabs treated Jewish human beings and their holy sites in Jerusalem–long before they again attacked them in 1967.

I am grateful to Ben Atlas for mounting this website and to Yehuda for sending it my way.

Chesler Chronicles » Netanyahu Freezes Building in East Jerusalem; Hamas on Buying Spree in West Jerusalem

Syrian-Turkish Joint Army Drill Intensifies Threat to Israel - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Syrian-Turkish Joint Army Drill Intensifies Threat to Israel - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Demand that Hebrew U. Dismiss Judge Goldstone from Board - Jewish World - Israel News - Israel National News

Demand that Hebrew U. Dismiss Judge Goldstone from Board - Jewish World - Israel News - Israel National News

Actor Turns 'Conscientious Objector,' Gives Up Anti-IDF Role - A7 Exclusive Features - Israel News - Israel National News

Actor Turns 'Conscientious Objector,' Gives Up Anti-IDF Role - A7 Exclusive Features - Israel News - Israel National News

Sixth Time: Forces Raze Jewish Neighborhood - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Sixth Time: Forces Raze Jewish Neighborhood - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

The Week's Assistance to Gaza: April 27, 2010 - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

The Week's Assistance to Gaza: April 27, 2010 - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

First Israeli in NBA Visits Israel Excited to be Home - Jewish World - Israel News - Israel National News

First Israeli in NBA Visits Israel Excited to be Home - Jewish World - Israel News - Israel National News

Obama's Security Advisor Apologizes for Greedy Jews Joke - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News#replies

Obama's Security Advisor Apologizes for Greedy Jews Joke - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News#replies

RonMossad: Wear white for Gilad Shalit 4/27/2010

Wear white for Gilad Shalit 4/27/2010

Tomorrow in Israel is official "wear white for Gilad Shalit" day.

For those of you unaware of who Gilad Shalit is, he is an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped from Israeli soil by Hamas terrorists FOUR years ago. To this day he is still in captivity where he has been subjected to starvation, torture and God knows what else. Hamas refuses to let him go home unless Israel releases approximately 1,000 of their terrorists, many with innocent blood on their hands and who have vowed to kill again, in exchange for him. Hamas will not let the Red Cross examine him and generally refuses to give any information on him to his parents Noam and Aviva Shalit.

The capture of Gilad is hailed as a tremendous victory in Gaza, where murals depict him in jail as if kidnapping a human being were something to be proud of.

The following video was released by Hamas about 6 months ago to prove that he was still alive at the time. In order for the video to be released Israel was forced to hand over 20 of its prisoners. FOR A VIDEO.

Not much to editorialize there...the man's pained voice and face speaks for itself. Note the difference between the picture of Gilad before his abduction to the man in the video.

The Gilad Shalit saga has been a very painful one for Israel and Israelis. His parents have become semi-celebrities after all their appearances on Israeli television begging for the government to do something to get their son released. Demonstrations calling for his release happen often. This past Passover in Israel and around the world, Jews left an empty chair at their holiday feasts as a quiet reminder that Gilad had yet another Passover in hell.

And still the time goes by...and still Gilad Shalit waits. And waits. And suffers. And waits.

Hamas, not content with simply shooting rockets into Israel, starving and killing their own people and sitting on this prisoner for FOUR YEARS recently put out this video, essentially mocking the captive's father by throwing it in his face that he'll most likely never see his son alive again.

The video is clearly designed to get an emotional reaction out of him and other Israelis in order to get them to pressure the government into caving into appeasing Hamas. Ironically in the video, even though Noam is still wandering the streets of Israel for 30, 40 years or so waiting for his son, the signs and advertisments are still in Hebrew, the newspapers are the same as today, the prime ministers are still Israelis - the country is clearly still ruled by Jews! Even the Erez crossing into Gaza is still intact and maintained by Israeli soldiers.

I think that it's EXTREMELY telling that even in this Hamas fantasy they're STILL not ruling over Israel (which is their stated purpose for existing). It really speaks to the fact that deep down they know they're never actually going to win, nor do they particularly want to...but I digress...

Noam Shalit, in response to this video has this to say:

Hamas leaders would do better if instead of producing films and performances, they would worry about the real interests of the Palestinian prisoners and the ordinary citizens of Gaza who have been held hostage by their leaders for a long time.

Right on Noam.

So wherever you are tomorrow, I urge you all to wear white in solidarity with Gilad and his family - and if anyone asks you why you're dressed in white make sure you tell them...

...that it's for Gilad. And his family.

RonMossad: Wear white for Gilad Shalit 4/27/2010

Israel Matzav: Overnight music video

Overnight music video

Here's Mordechai Ben David singing Kulam Ahuvim (All are loved) from the daily prayer service. This is a fairly new song.

Let's go to the videotape.

Israel Matzav: Overnight music video

Israel Matzav: Labor loses more votes

Labor loses more votes

Israeli Kibbutzim are mostly in the Labor party camp when it comes to elections. The Labor party arranged for astounding land grants to the Kibbutzim, which they were allowed to keep even when they stopped farming the land. But in the Jordan Valley, the Kibbutzim are not pleased with the Labor party's Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, and they say they won't be voting for the Labor party anymore. Here's why.

Maariv correspondent Daliya Mazori reports in today’s edition that members of Kibbutz Almog and Beit Ha’arava in the Jordan Valley say that they are abandoning the Labor Party in protest of the demolition on Thursday of foundations for homes for the sons of Kibbutz members at the instruction of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The foundations were almost completed prior to the construction freeze and the kibbutzim promised not to continue construction until the freeze ended – and to date honored their word.

DM Obama ordered that the foundations be demolished because they were not completed before the freeze.

“He insisted that they be demolished. We met with Barak several times. I told him, we honor the law and won’t play around, but please leave the foundations alone. He stood his ground. The claim we heard from him was that Obama wanted to see that construction is being demolished everywhere it takes place and not just in the settlements.” Mordechai Dahman, the head of the Megilot Dead Sea Regional Council said.

By the time this is over, Israel may not have a Jewish Zionist Left. Good riddance.

Israel Matzav: Labor loses more votes

Israel Matzav: US expats giving up citizenship

US expats giving up citizenship

The New York Times notes a large increase in the number of Americans abroad giving up citizenship.

Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.

“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”

The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.

Still, 502 was the largest quarterly figure in years, more than twice the total for all of 2008, and it looms larger, given how agonizing the decision can be. There were 235 renunciations in 2008 and 743 last year. Waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.

Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

Here in Israel, the domestic tax rates are so high that for most people, the US taxes are more than offset by the foreign tax credit. And over the past few years, more and more expats have been registering their kids as US citizens and filing US tax returns for the first time in years, because the Bush tax credits are also paid to expats (yes, an expat can actually get money from the US by filing his tax return even though he paid $0 in taxes to the US). But if Obama repeals the Bush tax credits (which I believe he has) and if we have to start paying a penalty for not having US health insurance (which was in the Senate version of Obamacare), that will all change. And when the US made having a foreign bank account without reporting it a felony, it caused panic here last September.

I think you're going to see a huge backlash of people giving up their citizenship if things continue this way.

Israel Matzav: US expats giving up citizenship

Israel Matzav: Egyptian foreign minister calls Israel an enemy

Egyptian foreign minister calls Israel an enemy

Isn't that just great? Thirty years after Israel gave them the Sinai (which Israel had won in a defensive war and defended through another one) with all its oil in return for 'peace,' Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit went to Beirut on Saturday and referred to Israel as an enemy. He also promised that Egypt would stand by Lebanon and Syria (whatever that means) if they were attacked by Israel (Hat Tip: Israellycool).

Aboul Gheit said concerns expressed by Israel and the United States on the alleged transfer of Scud missiles from Syria to Hezbollah were "ridiculous".

"Anyone who is familiar with the (Scud) missile knows that it cannot be smuggled or concealed," he said.

Following talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister 'Ali Al-Shami, Aboul Gheit was asked whether he was visiting Beirut in order to convey a warning from Israel.

The Egyptian minister said in response that the purpose of his trip was not to relay messages "from the enemy to a sister Arab state."

Aboul Gheit also said Cairo would stand by Lebanon and Syria in case they were attacked.

His statement made the headlines of a number of Arab newspapers, including the London-based Al Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi daily Al-Madina and Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai.

Keep that in mind as we're asked to give up more land for 'peace.'

Israel Matzav: Egyptian foreign minister calls Israel an enemy

Israel Matzav: Effect of 'peace' between Israel and 'Palestinians' exaggerated

Effect of 'peace' between Israel and 'Palestinians' exaggerated

What's important about this article is not so much what is said (which is really nothing new), but who is saying it. This op-ed from the Wall Street Journal, which is accessible to all for a change, is by Richard Haass. Mr. Haass is the Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, probably the most important foreign policy think tank in the United States.

The danger of exaggerating the benefits of solving the Palestinian conflict is that doing so runs the risk of distorting American foreign policy. It accords the issue more prominence than it deserves, produces impatience, and tempts the U.S. government to adopt policies that are overly ambitious.

This is not an argument for ignoring the Palestinian issue. As is so often the case, neglect will likely prove malign. But those urging President Obama to announce a peace plan are doing him and the cause of peace no favor. Announcing a comprehensive plan now—one that is all but certain to fail—risks discrediting good ideas, breeding frustration in the Arab world, and diluting America's reputation for getting things done.

As Edgar noted in "King Lear," "Ripeness is all." And the situation in the Middle East is anything but ripe for ambitious diplomacy. What is missing are not ideas—the outlines of peace are well-known—but the will and ability to compromise.

Haass' argument is an argument for the status quo - at least for the foreseeable future. And it's one that will be very difficult for Obama's brain trust to ignore (although he may try to have them do that anyway).

Read the whole thing.

Israel Matzav: Effect of 'peace' between Israel and 'Palestinians' exaggerated

Love of the Land: Muddling the Iran Issue

Muddling the Iran Issue

Jonathan Schachter, Emily B Landau
and Ephraim Asculai
Insight No. 177
26 April '10

On April 17 the New York Times revealed that in January US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote a memo to National Security Adviser James Jones on the need to develop policy options regarding Iran’s drive to develop nuclear weapons. One senior White House official is quoted as describing the memo, which came after President Obama’s end of 2009 diplomatic deadline had come and gone, as “a wake-up call” testifying to the US's lack of a workable long term policy for confronting the Iranian nuclear challenge. The day after the Times’s publication, Gates acknowledged that he had indeed written the memo, but disputed the characterization of its content and intent, saying that his goal was “to contribute to an orderly and timely decision-making process.”

The absence of a clear American strategy to deal with an aggressively nuclearizing Iran has been apparent for some time, and thus this revelation comes as no surprise. In addition, Gates’s own description of the memo strongly suggests that “an orderly and timely decision-making process” was eminently lacking. The only real surprise, it seems, is the blunt assessment coming from within the administration.

It is possible that the memo was leaked in order to document Gates’s concerns about the increasing likelihood that Iran would achieve nuclear weapons capability before long and on his watch. It is also possible that as an appointee of President George W. Bush, Gates might be setting the stage for his own resignation. Alternatively, the memo might reflect simple disagreement or for that matter much more heated battles between the Pentagon’s civilian and military leadership. Whatever the true reason or reasons, the leak of the memo and the multiplicity of plausible interpretations and explanations are indicative of the real problem with US policy on Iran: mixed and confused messages.

(Read full report)

Love of the Land: Muddling the Iran Issue

Love of the Land: As if they’d never left

As if they’d never left

NOW Lebanon
New Opinion
26 April '10

(Another insightful article from NOW Lebanon.)

Five years ago today, after a brief ceremony in the border town of Aanjar that tried to paint a patina of respect on a total of 29 years of military and security “presence”, the last Syrian soldier left Lebanese soil. Until that moment, and for more than a decade after the Lebanese civil war ended, it was hard for first-time visitors to Lebanon to determine who actually ran the country.

From the moment they landed at Beirut Airport to when they reached their hotels, tourists would see that the walls and roads of Beirut were dotted with portraits of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, sometimes alongside those of his then-Lebanese counterpart, Elias Hrawi, but in many instances alone.

Even more mystifying to the neophyte would have been the three days of mourning for Assad’s son and heir, Basil, who was killed in a car accident in Damascus in January 1994. Soon after, a statue of Basil in uniform on one of his beloved horses was erected at the entrance to the Bekaa town of Chtoura.

And all the while the Syrian army lived in abandoned buildings and controlled the strategic intersections around Beirut and the rest of Lebanon. There was very little respect or courtesy from the occupying army. Shopkeepers would be careful not to fall foul of their neighbors, while at the checkpoints, petty extortion was practiced on commercial vehicles. Elsewhere anxiety was added to humiliation as drivers would be “asked” to give lifts to Syrian soldiers. Then there were the summons for those who dared speak out against the presence. They could range from a verbal reprimand to abuse and intimidation that could last for days.

The events leading up to the withdrawal have been well documented. Rafik Hariri, the man who had come to represent post-war Lebanon, had been murdered in an outrageous assassination that took the lives of 21 others, and this time the Lebanese were not going to take it like they had with previous killings. They took to the streets, blaming Syria for the murder. This time, with the US army camped in Iraq and a US administration that would not brook any insolence from the region’s despots, there was no crackdown on the huge and unprecedented demonstration of people power, arguably the biggest in modern Arab history.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: As if they’d never left

Love of the Land: James Jones Apologies for Jewish Joke

James Jones Apologies for Jewish Joke

Jennifer Rubin
26 April '10

As I noted in this morning’s Flotsam and Jetsam, James Jones made a tasteless Jewish joke last week at the 25th anniversary of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Fox News reports: “Interestingly, it was not included in the official White House-provided transcript of the speech.” Indeed.

(Click here for video)

There has been some additional reaction — New York Magazine has a roundup of those who have commented on it. Now, sensing the brewing storm, Jones has apologized. Politico provides Jones’s statement today:

I wish that I had not made this off the cuff joke at the top of my remarks, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it. It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct.

Ben Smith also reports, “White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that the White House had ‘no intention to deceive’ in leaving the remarks off a transcript off the event, which he said were in fact the prepared text. He said the White House hadn’t asked for Jones’ apology which ‘rightly speaks for itself.’”

Let’s unpack this. First of all, I don’t believe the joke was made up on the spur of the moment. That’s not how these things work. As a reader pointed out to me, it’s quite likely that not only Jones but also a speechwriter or two thought there was nothing much wrong with this. Second, for an administration under criticism for insensitivity or outright animus in relation to Israel, why play with fire? If nothing else, this confirms the criticism of Jones — he’s a bit of a buffoon.

And finally, why didn’t the president demand an apology? Was he not alarmed that his national security adviser is cracking Jewish-merchant jokes?

It’s another reminder that what is said and done in this White House with regard to Israel would not be said or done in virtually any other administration.

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Love of the Land: James Jones Apologies for Jewish Joke

Love of the Land: Israel's Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland

Israel's Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland

Salomon Benzimra
American Thinker
26 April '10

The U.S. regularly reiterates its support of Israel's security, but it says nothing about Israel's legal rights. These legal rights originated at the San Remo Conference, and the Resolution passed on April 25, 1920 is enshrined in international law. The commemoration of the ninetieth anniversary of this event will certainly open a new vista on the Middle East conflict.

Our calendars are strewn with special dates that link us to the past. In March we celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of Chopin's birth. Every Fourth of July, we celebrate Independence Day. Remembrance days are important, whether they pay homage to greatness or they unite people in national pride.

But there have been momentous events in recent history that remain unnoticed, if not entirely forgotten. One such event redrew the map of one of the most politically contentious regions of the planet, it shook the preexisting world order, it proclaimed the rebirth of a nation, and it marked the end of the longest foreign occupation in history. Yet few people have ever heard of it.

That event took place ninety years ago in the wake of World War One at the Italian resort town of San Remo. On April 25, 1920, after two days of intense discussions, prime ministers and high ranking diplomats of the victorious Allied powers signed the San Remo Resolution and sealed the destiny of the former Turkish possessions in the Middle East.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Israel's Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland

Elder of Ziyon: Reuters caves to Hamas

Reuters caves to Hamas

I mentioned yesterday that Hamas was upset at an on-line ad that was seen at the Reuters Arabic service site, offering a $10 million reward for information on the whereabouts of Gilad Shalit.

Reuters' response to the terrorist group is instructive.

Palestine Today reports that Reuters responded to the criticism, saying that it was an automated ad placed there by Google Ads, and not - Allah forbid! - placed by any Reuters staffers. After all, an ad that seeks to free a prisoner illegally held in an unknown location without any access to the Red Cross would be thoroughly offensive to any Reuters employee, right?

Reuters then cravenly added that they immediately acted to remove the ad, and "we are now taking steps to ensure non-recurrence of such things in the future."

Reuters additionally wrote back to the offended terrorist organization that Reuters has a long history of covering the Middle East in a neutral and accurate manner, stressing that they are committed to continuing this approach, they wrote "We are clear and faithful to our principles of integrity, independence and distance from bias."

Elder of Ziyon: Reuters caves to Hamas
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