Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It never fails ...

Any time Israel takes a step for peace there is inevitably a violent response from somewhere in the Palestinian camp.

A few hours ago, four Israelis, two men and two women aged about 25 and 40 and apparently from the same family, were killed near Hebron in the West Bank. Terrorists shot at their car, and then approached and made sure they were dead. It's unclear at this time who exactly was responsible for the attack since no terror group has come forward to claim responsibility. It doesn't really matter.

No one should be surprised by this. Every single Israeli gesture is always met with violence. Every offer, every withdrawal, any step towards peace. It's the radicals way of claiming victory and making their "voice" heard.

This is what happens when people have the intention to kill. They walk up to a car with four innocent people and shoot until everyone is dead.

But some people don't understand that concept.

Earlier today Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zoabi told a UN Human Rights panel that the Israeli soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara intended to kill the passengers on board.

She said "We were very peaceful activists, but the commandoes came to kill."

She said this despite the fact that:
  • Activists on the ship had expressed their desire to die
  • Activists on the ship had threatened a violent confrontation if the IDF boarded the ship
  • Activists attacked the soldiers as soon as they reached the ship
  • Activists used live fire against the soldiers

And also that:
  • Soldiers boarded the ship with paintball guns
  • Three soldiers were captured and others badly injured
  • Five other boats were captured without incident
  • Deaths only occurred on the Mavi Marmara, where Zuabi was located
Zuabi is a liar, and everyone knows it, but she and the rest of the world go on playing the game in which she has something valuable to say.

This woman claimed that there were no armed activists on the boat and that she didn't see anyone with clubs or knives. She said this even after video appeared of her standing 10 feet from a group of men holding iron bars.

That is what people do when the have the intention to kill, they prepare weapons and declare their readiness to die. They don't board boats with paintball guns.

When people have the intention to kill, they spray bullets towards a car carrying innocent people, including a pregnant woman. Then they walk up to the car and shoot the people at point blank range to make sure they're dead.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A follow up post ...

Yesterday I highlighted the twisted logic of anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah's op-ed in The New York Times. Well today I found a great summary of the problems with the Northern Ireland analogy over at the 'Z' Word blog.

They do a much better job running down the inconsistencies in Abunimah's argument, and also highlight the overall problems with the analogy. Go read the whole thing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The unique anti-logic of Ali Abunimah …

I wasn't sure what I was going to post today until I wandered over to Mondoweiss and was directed towards what was described as "a great journalistic moment." Philip Weiss was simply giddy that his anti-Israel colleague, Ali Abunimah, was granted op-ed space in The New York Times.

What was Abunimah's main argument? That the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will be futile as long as Hamas is excluded from the process.

Abunimah, the founder of the Electronic Intifada website, BDS activist, author of various anti-Israel screeds, and all around pleasant fellow, made a comparison to the situation in Northern Ireland in order to prove his point. While I can understand this reference to a certain extent, since Abunimah was referring to U.S Middle East envoy George Mitchell's success in that region, he nevertheless draws completely the wrong conclusion. Color me surprised.

I have long argued that the situation in Northern Ireland will offer an observer exactly zero insight into the Arab-Israeli conflict. Without going into detail, the two are in no way related. Nevertheless, Abunimah finds considerable evidence there that Hamas should be engaged and involved in the peace process.

In regards to Northern Ireland Abunimah argues that it was "only by breaking with one-sided demands that Mr. Mitchell was able to help bring peace." Abunimah states earlier in the article that the U.S has imposed a similar set of one-sided demands on Hamas. It is interesting to read how those demands are described.
The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable …
Please note that Abunimah describes what any rational observer would list as the most basic, minimum requirements for Israel to engage Hamas as "strict" and "unworkable." What would there be to discuss? Will Israel continue to exist, will it not? Well according to Abunimah, that would be discussed.

Abunimah, as anyone familiar with him would know, does not recognize Israel's right to exist. In that regard he completely agrees with Hamas, making it no surprise that he wants them involved in the negotiations. But what is most remarkable about Abunimah's argument is what follows in the very next sentence.
Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?
This is perhaps the most perfect summary of the impossible logic of the anti-Israel community. As anyone familiar with the Arab-Israeli conflict knows, the implementation of the so-called "right of return" would effectively eliminate the State of Israel by inundating it with Palestinian Arabs. Abunimah and others admit this openly. This allows us to rephrase and simplify Abunimah's argument to see what he is really saying.
Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right [to eliminate Israel]?
Anyone looking for explanations why there isn't peace need look no further than Ali Abunimah.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The best spokesman for Israel ...

You need to read this speech given by one of the most eloquent spokesman for Israel around. The funny thing is, I bet you wont guess who gave the speech. I'll save the surprise for the end, but first some interesting highlights.
I often have a conversation about the West Bank which goes like this. Someone says:  Israel must lift the occupation. I reply: I agree but it has to be sure that when it does so, there will be security and a Palestinian force capable of preventing terrorism. They say: so you’re supporting occupation. I say: I’m not: I’m simply pointing out that if Hamas, with an unchanged position on Israel, were running the West Bank, Israel would have a perfectly legitimate right to be concerned about it’s security.

A constant conversation I have with some, by no means all, of my European colleagues is to argue to them: don’t apply rules to the Government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own country. In any of our nations, if there were people firing rockets, committing acts of terrorism and living next door to us, our public opinion would go crazy.  And any political leader who took the line that we shouldn’t get too excited about it, wouldn’t last long as a political leader. This is a democracy. Israel lost 1000 citizens to terrorism in the intifada ...
Pretty strong stuff right? Wait, it gets better.
Let me tell you why I am a passionate believer in Israel. This is a democracy. It’s Parliament is vibrant. Its politics is, well, not notably restrained, let’s say. Its press is free. Its people have rights and they are enforced. I had an argument with a friend about Israel. I said to them: ‘ok let’s assume you are charged with a crime you didn’t commit and the penalty is 20 years in prison.  And you’re a critic of the Government. Tell me: under which country’s legal system, in this region, would you prefer to be tried?’ He struggled for a bit and then said: ‘that’s not the point.’ ‘But it is’ I replied.

Look around the world about what we admire about the Jewish people: their contribution to art, culture, literature, music, business and philanthropy. It’s a spirit that is identifiable, open and rather wonderful.  Whatever bigotry is, it is the opposite of it.  It is a free spirit. On holiday I read the new biography of Einstein.  Having in early life taken not much interest in the issue, he became an ardent supporter of Israel. But look at the character of the Israel he supported: like Einstein himself – a free thinker, a rebellious thinker even, but one supremely attuned to the future.

That is the Israel people like me support. So guard it; keep it. I am a religious person myself. But the society I want to live in, is one that treats me no better as a result; makes my view one amongst many; and pursues science, technology and progress with vigour and without prejudice. The best answer to the de-legitimisation of Israel lies in the character of Israel itself and in the openness, fair-mindedness and creativity of ordinary Israelis. That character and those people built the State of Israel. They remain it’s guardians. They are why to de-legitimise Israel is not only an affront to Israelis but to all who share the values of a free human spirit.
Amazing, beautiful, poetic. This is one of the best arguments in favor of Israel that I have seen in a long time. It must come from an ardent, passionate Zionist. Perhaps a Jewish leader, a great Rabbi even.

No, the speech was delivered by former British PM Tony Blair at a conference on the de-legitimisation of Israel.

That Israel, and the wider Jewish, world lacks a single individual who can argue Israel's case so articulately, and so beautifully, is truly depressing.

That a gentile, and an important European leader, is willing and able to argue so well in favor of Israel, is one of the most inspiring things I've seen in a long time.

Read the whole thing, it's really amazing.

Hat tip Yourish.com.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

About those Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel ...

It's a bit of controversial subject, and one that I honestly haven't made up my mind about. But I have to admit that every time I've met these people they've been kind, courteous, and unapologetically supportive of Israel.

This article in Slate says that Jews just don't understand Christian Zionists, and that they just simply love us.
There's no question that they have different politics, rhetoric, and even culture from what we're used to seeing in the Jewish world. But they do seem to express a genuine love and care for Jews. "Being loved" is not something Jews take to easily (or, at least, this Jew doesn't), and it's still pretty awkward for me in personal conversations with Christians—but, awkwardness aside, this palpable sense of concern for Jewish welfare is the first that Jews have felt from such a large religious group in their history.
Is it a good thing that these people support us. In my opinion yes. In the situation Israel is in we can't afford to be picky about our friends. Plus, I think most of these people are decent, honest human beings who are simply committed to their faith.

They've gotten a bad rap in more liberal circles, but I think it's always a good idea for Jews to be open and tolerant to people they may not have trusted in the past.

Hat tip Elder of Ziyon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The most uplifting thing I've seen in a long time ...

This profile of an Arab-Israeli businessman is an amazing read. It shows one of the ways in which coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel is not a dream, but a reality.

Inas Said is the chief executive of Nazareth based Galil Software. His company is providing a much needed opportunity for the many qualified Arab engineers who have, unfortunately, been unable to break into the Israeli high-tech industry.

One of the more interesting points raised in the article is Said's perspective on why the Arabs have had trouble navigating Israel's high-tech sector.
The Israeli high-tech industry is like an old boys’ club, in which friends bring in friends and many people know each other from the Israeli army, in which Arabs typically don’t serve.
Many Israeli leaders have been looking at the Arab community in Israel as a potential source for new talent and new economic growth. I can't stress how important this is. If Israel can more successfully integrate the Arab community into its advanced economy, the results will be dramatic.

The standard of living of the Arabs is much lower than the Jews at present. There is therefore great potential to increase income, and spending in this community, and to reap the inevitable economic benefits that this would provide for the entire country.

Additionally, improving the economic situation of Israel's Arab citizens will help promote additional cooperation and support from this community and encourage a greater sense of belonging to the state

Monday, August 23, 2010

The non-crisis in Gaza goes mainstream …

If any label can be applied to The New York Times, mainstream is certainly it. The paper is widely regarded as THE American newspaper, the most respected throughout the nation, and the standard by which other papers are measured.

An article in the paper yesterday touched on the recently opened Gaza Mall, a small shopping center in the city that has received much attention from the pro-Israel blogosphere. In the article Ethan Bronner provides, in my opinion, one of the most succinct and honest descriptions of the situation in Gaza.
To the commentators who have never been here, certain points need to be cleared up. To those who contend the mall is proof that Gaza has construction materials: the building is 20 years old. To those who have described the mall as “gigantic” and “futuristic”: it is small and a bit old-fashioned. To Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, who wrote that the mall “would not look out of place in any capital in Europe”: it would.

But the broader point many of these advocates are making — that the poverty of Gaza is often misconstrued, willfully or inadvertently — is correct. The despair here is not that of Haiti or Somalia. It is a misery of dependence, immobility and hopelessness, not of grinding want. The flotilla movement is not about material aid; it is about Palestinian freedom and defiance of Israeli power.

“Gaza is not poor in the way outsiders think,” said Nida Wishah, a 22-year-old information technology student who was at the mall one recent afternoon. “You can’t compare our poverty with that of Africa.”
I think it must be said that this story would never had appeared but for the noise created by pro-Israel bloggers and Israeli government offices. For too long unfounded claims about Gaza - that there was a raging humanitarian crisis, or that it was a large prison or concentration camp – went unchallenged and were accepted by many as fact.

Examples of this kind of rhetoric are abundant. There was the recent statement by the British PM calling Gaza a prison camp, or this example from the BBC in which a Cardinal from the Vatican compared Gaza to a concentration camp
For a long time it was almost impossible to challenge this narrative. But slowly, the truth about Gaza was presented. Two blogs stand out in this regard; Elder of Ziyon and Israellycool. Both feature frequent posts highlighting the lack of devastating poverty in Gaza
I recall seeing comments from left-wing Israeli commentators deriding these assertions as "government propaganda." But now, the point has been made, and by The New York Times no less.

This is another example of the power of the blogosphere to shape to the public debate about the conflict, and it's an unquestionable win for those seeking to promote the Israeli perspective. This, along with the relative, but small, successes from the flotilla incident, shows the growing skill of the pro-Israel community to disseminate the truth about the situation
The pro-Israel community was certainly late to the game in terms of communications savvy. But it is learning fast, and has already produced tangible results.

However, pro-Israel bloggers need to be careful moving forward. We can not overstate the case. While it is true that the situation in Gaza is far from the disaster that was commonly presented in the media, it is also true that there is nevertheless a difficult situation there. Using terms such as "luxury mall" is unnecessary hyperbole. Presenting a truthful, but balanced perspective is always the best course of action, and in the end, it is the truthful narrative that will support Israel the most.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The negotiations are dead, long live the negotiations ...

So the big news about Israel internationally is the announcement that direct peace talks between us and the Palestinians are set to resume. This news flash was greeted by the Israeli public with a loud and resounding "meh."
Indifference to the peace talks in Israel is rampant, and expectations for a peace agreement are close to zero. The New York Times has a great analysis of the significance of the talks, which to me have no significance.

I saw a statement from the Obama administration that they believe an agreement can be reached within a year. This seems to me either insanely optimistic, or simply bluster meant to pretty up what is in reality a measly foreign policy victory.

Stating that peace is possible within a year is also a great way to doom the talks to failure. Any agreement that could be reached within a year would likely be rejected by the Israeli public. There is simply no way that the serious and substantive differences between the two sides can be breached in a year, if ever. Stating that peace is possible within a year sets unrealistic expectations, and guarantees that the talks will be looked at in some way as a failure.

I heard recently perhaps the best summary of the Israeli view on the negotiations from my girlfriend quoting her father. His perspective:
Israel has been negotiating over one soldier for more than four years now, and still hasn't reached an agreement. How are we ever going to negotiate peace?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Exports ...

I tend to freak out about things. For instance, the anti-Israel BDS movement scares the crap out of me. These people use the language of peace and justice as a means to destroy Israel, essentially to wage war against the world's sole Jewish state. It is truly perverse.

But every now and again I see something that helps me calm down. The latest was a piece of economic news out of Israel. It seems that despite all the anger and tension between Israel and Turkey, Israel still managed to increase its exports there.
Trade with Turkey is still higher than in 2009, even after the flotilla incident. Israeli exports to Turkey in July were 57% higher than the $81.6 million in July 2009, and imports from Turkey were 1.4% higher than the $136 million in July last year.
This does not bode well for those who aim to impose a truly effective boycott regime against Israel. Turkey would certainly be an easy target for the boycott Israel movement, with its Muslim population, sympathy for the Palestinians, and new found anger at Israel. However, the tensions have had no perceptible impact on trade between the countries.

While I would like to chalk this up to the heart felt affection the Turks have for us, this probably has nothing to do with it. The real reason probably has more to do with the fact that Israeli businesses aren't easily identifiable. Additionally, many of the largest Israeli companies don't sell their products directly to consumers.

A good example is Amdocs, which creates billing software. One of their big clients is AT&T. Essentially, in order to effectively punish the Israeli company, you would have to first boycott an American one. This is one example, but it speaks to the globalized and highly integrated nature of the Israeli economy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blogging update ...

I've been going pretty strong here in my "return to blogging" effort managing about a post a day except for Fridays and Saturdays. Most of my posts have focused on news and politics, but of course there is room for a whole lot of other things.

One of the mistakes that people often make about Israel is basing their impression of the country solely on what is reported in the news. This gives a horribly skewed view of the country, and fails to relate just how normal life is here.

I hope to work into future posts some more of the things that I love about Tel Aviv and the energy of the city. It's a really great place to live as a (somewhat) young person, with seemingly endless opportunities for good food and entertainment.

One of the fabulous features of the city is of course the beautiful beach and promenade that fronts the western side of town. I'm not much of a beach person, but the atmosphere and the scenery makes for a wonderful place to waste some time. Or, as I plan to do this evening, go running.

Speaking of running, in October, I'll be doing the Nike Night Run Tel Aviv 10k race. This will be my third time doing this run, and it is one of the few things that motivates me to keep running.

I hope to post some photos from the race once I'm done, and maybe update the blog with my progress in getting ready.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cruel and stupid ...

That seems to me the only way of describing the actions and reactions of the female Israeli soldier who posted photos to Facebook of herself posing in front of bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainees. Her comments to Israeli media seem to indicate that she really doesn't understand the significance of her actions.
"I still don't understand what's wrong," Abergil told Army Radio on Thursday, saying that the "pictures were taken in good will, there was no statement in them."

The former IDF soldier said the pictures, which she said were of Gazans who had been arrested while attempting to crossover into Israel, were meant to depict a "military experience," and were not intended to injure the detainees.

During the Army Radio interview, Abergil repeatedly said that it had never occurred to her that "the picture would be problematic," asking interviewer Ilana Dayan whether the media asked for detainees permission when they film them.

It's interesting to note that she doesn't see any statement in the photos she posted, or in the comments she later wrote on Facebook. This speaks to something that I have observed among some Israelis; a kind of ignorance and profound immaturity amongst a certain segment of the population.

Some have argued that this behavior is a result of Israel's control of the territories and the Palestinians. I'm not so sure. I have seen some Israelis behaving in equally crass ways to each other. Israelis are notoriously blunt, and will often speak their mind without considering the impact of their words or actions on other people.

Many Israelis simply believe it is more important to be straightforward than to be sensitive. The merits of this line of thinking are highly debatable.

The IDF has an important role to serve and valid reasons to be in the West Bank and Gaza. Detaining Palestinian's who attempt to cross into Israel, as apparently these individuals were doing, should be rightly prevented.

However, Israeli society must ensure that the task is carried out with appropriate sensitivity to the Palestinian population. In this case, it is clear that we failed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Israel keeps on growing ...

The good news out of Israel today is the announcment that the Israeli economy grew by 4.7% in the second quarter, and by 4.1% in the first half of this year.

Considering the awful economic situation in many parts of the world, and the bad news about the unemployment situation that I hear from my friends and family back in California, I think everyone here should be awful greatful that things are as good as they are.

I've been saying for a long time that Israelis don't know how good they've got it here. It's true that the economic picture isn't perfect, but it's actually ... pretty good. The situation looks even better when compared to the  complete havoc that has been unleashed on the U.S. and Europe because of the economic crisis and so-called "Great Recession."

This news is also critically important because wealth is one of the key advantages that Israel has vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Israel needs to continue to develop it's economic power to serve as a buffer from the eventual shocks to the country as the peace process moves forward, or collapses into another round of fighting.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Snobbery ...

I stumbled upon an interesting article in Haaretz the other day. It was a heavily sarcastic piece, deriding the recently renovated old Jaffa train station as a tourist trap. The writer could barely contain her displeasure at the quaint, but somewhat schmaltzy setting for a whole new set of typically Tel Aviv cafes, bars, restaurants, and stores.
Like every self-respecting tourist trap, Hatahana is also purporting to be the real thing. While the complex is marketed as a historic site "that preserved its original character," after not functioning as a train station for some time, what remains are prehistoric background props. This gives off an effect resembling the television series "The Flintstones," which created a kind of taste of the schizophrenia of modern life during the Stone Age.

No trains or vehicles travel along the train tracks, preserving their original character, while the station's surrounding facilities have been turned into cafes, boutiques, a souvenir shop and one store with nothing - which no self-respecting tourist trap would be without. The complex was mistakenly crowned "the next hot thing in Tel Aviv." But a tourist trap is a tourist trap; the cooler revelers will see through the forgery and stay away. Tourists from Paris or Rishon Letzion, however, will innocently wander through the refurbished area, scan through clothes selling for the price of a mortgage, search in vain for something else of interest and agree "Wow, look how nice they made this place."
When I first went there I did indeed remark that it had been renovated in quite a lovely way. I still like the place, and I'll hopefully get the chance to spend some more time over there in the near future. I don't pretend to understand the Haaretz writer's disdain for the new complex. Perhaps I'm just not sophisticated or "cool" enough to see what's wrong with the place.

Perhaps, I'm not the one with the problem. I recall a while back reading an article in Haaretz bewailing the fact that a prized architectural gem was going to be demolished in favor of a new apartment tower or some other modern development. The building in question was a classic example of the "Hideous" school of Tel Aviv architecture; a grey drab concrete building with no sense of decoration or style that was easily perceptible.

It seems that this Haaretz piece speaks more to that population that resists any and all attempts to develop Tel Aviv into something slightly more attractive than what it is today. The "old" Tel Aviv snobs claim that the city's ugliness is part of it's charm.

I love Tel Aviv and I love living in this city. But I don't feel threatened by the thought of adding a few coats of plaster or paint to some of the more disgusting and run down buildings here. If that means that a few more yuppies might move in than so be it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Go. Read. Goldberg ...

Well it seems like everybody, and I do mean everybody, is talking about Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic article on whether Israel will attack Iran.

Go read it. It's a brilliant piece of journalism that stands out in a generally crap field that has become inundated with ignorant, ideological bloggers. And I'm a blogger!

It does what journalism should; inform in an objective way, ask serious questions, and make you reconsider your perspective on the situation.

The anti-Israel crowd is pooh poohing it as "Zionist cheer leading"  for a strike on Iran. But you'd have to be a complete irrational idiot to take that away from the article considering the way Goldberg lays out the possible and horrifying repercussions of a strike.

What I take away from it is that this is a serious issue, and that it is rapidly coming to a head. Anyone who has a strong opinion on this subject should let their voice be heard now, because time is rapidly running out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More flotilla madness

This video was just released by Israel Army Radio. It shows Israeli Arab Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi talking in Hebrew with Israeli commandos about evacuating the wounded to Israeli hospitals. She makes it clear, as does another flotilla activist that the wounded "don't want to be taken to Israeli hospitals."

Many in Israel will take note of this video because it shows MK Zoabi's participation in the flotilla. I find it fascinating for another reason.

One of the claims made by the flotilla activists is that the IDF didn't allow them to care for the wouned, or that the IDF delayed treatment of the wounded. Yet this video provides additional evidence of the way the flotilla activists have lied about what happened.

The hatred these people have for Israel is so great, that they would rather sit and bleed rather than be treated by Israelis. I wonder, but seriously doubt, whether anyone will pay attention to this video and call the flotilla activists on their lies and hatred of Israel.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More houskeeping ...

Back when I decided to revive this blog I thought about laying out some general guidelines for this site - a mission statement of sorts. Well I'm happy to announce that I still haven't started it yet.

But I thought that with my post today I would flesh out some of the ideas I have on the subject.

It's important to reiterate that my desire to start blogging again came from my re-realization that there are many people in the world who are committed to Israel's destruction. I've known this for some time but it's one of those things that I find almost impossible to ignore. Every so often it comes back from that place in my mind where I tried to hide it away with all the other horrible things in the world and kicks me in the chest.

An additional motivating factor came from my understanding that Israel is the future of the Jewish people. I think that if you look at the world objectively, at the demographic trends, and at the other trends of Jewish identity, that there is no other conclusion that can be made. There are no alternate Jewish futures where Israel doesn't exist. The end of Israel equals the end of the Jewish people as we know it.

Faced with these two realities I concluded that anyone who cares about the Jewish people, and who wants to see it continue to exist, must therefore care about the continued existence of Israel. You may not like Israel, or its policies, but you must want to see it survive otherwise you don't want the Jewish people to survive.

I realize those are some bold claims and they really need a whole series of posts to explain, but that's my basic thinking. I hope to get my ideas organized and written soon, and then I'll start putting them up here.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Required reading ...

I don't know who Benjamin Kerstein is but I'd sure like to get to know him. I imagine we'd have a lot in common, what being American Olim in Israel and all. That, and in a recent interview he more or less summarized my politcal view on the situation here to a "T".

You can find the interview over at Michael Totten's blog, which really is required reading for anyone interested in the middle east. I read him pretty regularly a little while back before my two years of silence.

He's here in Israel right now and I'm looking forward to some more interesting posts from him in the coming days and weeks. He is one of the most in depth and thorough journalists around, and he is a true exception to the normally ignorant coverage of Israel that has been the standard from most media outlets.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

You're right, we are afraid ...

From that charming center of anti-Israel invective, Mondoweiss, comes this post on a recent fundraiser for another flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's blockade of Gaza. The post offers some interesting insights into the mindset of the Israel hating community. I found the following parts of a speech by Chris Hedges (as cited by site owner Philip Weiss) to be the most stimulating.
"I would like to remind them that it is they who hide in the darkness, we are in the light." And now their moment is coming to an end. "The arc of the moral universe is long... You may have commandos who descend on ropes... we have only our hands, our hearts, our voices... But note this, note this well: it is you who are afraid of us, not us who are afraid of you... When there is freedom in Gaza, we will forgive you..."
Regardless of the fact that Israel left Gaza completely, I have to admit that I agree with Hedges on one point. We, being Jews and Israelis, ARE afraid of you. What do you expect?

You seek our destruction, either physically in the case of Hamas, or politically in the case of the BDS and flotilla movements.

You openly and plainly announce that you seek the end of our state, couching your message in the rhetoric of peace and justice.

You slander us and state that we have inherited the mantle of the Nazis, of those who murdered us and burned us, who tried to destroy an entire people.

You treat Israel in a way that you would treat no other people on Earth, and announce in plain language that we are afraid of you. How can we not be when it is our very existence at stake?

While Hedges is seemingly proud of our fear of his movement, I believe that he neglected to highlight the matching emotion amongst the anti-Israel crowd. That emotion is of course hate. It is the overriding theme of the rhetoric used against Israel. Indeed it seems that the level of hate at the fundraiser was so high that even Weiss hinted at it in his post.
I felt that these people were excited to be recognized in an American venue, without judgment, and that this long-withheld recognition had allowed them to let out deep griefs and angers that, say, professors Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi were required to restrain when they addressed the same matters. There was talk of the dispossession that began 63 years ago; and I am sure that several of these Palestinians do not accept the existence of Israel. Myself, I am conflicted about these questions (and indeed a friend said later that the anger at times made her uncomfortable), but I find my own intellectual/political struggle less interesting/important than the presence of young Palestinian-Americans. (emphasis mine)
The Arabs have always been angry at Israel, and they have largely rejected any compromise with Israel or the presence of a sizable and thriving Jewish community in the heart of the Arab world. The extremists at Mondoweiss often discuss an invented ideology of Jewish superiority that they claim lies at the heart of Zionism.

Zionism at its heart, of course, is a rejection of Jewish exceptionalism. It is rather a call for equality for the Jewish people, by creating a nation-state that mirrors the nation-states of other peoples.

The solution to this conflict lies in the acceptance of the Jewish people, as a people, in their homeland. Until the Arabs and their supporters accept this equality, we will all have something to fear.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Now that's just silly

Andrew Sullivan in his blog just went off the rails. I know that he has been receiveing a lot of critiscm from pro-Israel circles lately and that he has taken a more critical tone on Israel, but this last comment was just stupid.

I'm not one of the those people who goes around throwing out the anti-Semitism card whenever someone says something bad about Israel. There are certainly people who do it though, so I can understand why Sullivan is sensitive about it.

But in a recent post Sullivan says that supporters of the two state solution are now being labeled as anti-Semites.
I'm against a one-state solution because I'm a Zionist. I want the Jewish state to endure, as a coherent, decent democracy. But this position - which includes the urgent necessity of ending the settlements and returning to something close to the 1967 borders - is now, apparently, anti-Semitic, or, at least, worth sabotaging to prevent Obama from having any foreign policy success.
I can't believe that a blogger as popular as Sullivan is so simple minded to think that any legitimate or rational observer of the Israel/Arab conflict would label support of the two state solution as anti-Semitic.

I guess Sullivan thinks that the pro-Israel crowd is labeling the overwhelming majority of both the international community and the Israeli public as anti-Semitic. That's just a ridiculous statement from someone who is apparently desperate for attention.

The other half of his idiotic statement somehow implies that Israelis or their supporters are willing to postpone their pursuit of the two state solution just to deny Obama a foreign policy success.

Yeah that's it ... Obama. Our lives, our future here as a people, our economic prosperity, the future of territory that is historically significant to us, the future of our spiritual capital and longing of 2000 years; yeah none of that is influencing our decisions. We just want "to prevent Obama from having any foreign policy success."

Andrew Sullivan, there is a real world out there, you are welcome to join it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

We can only guess ...

Many commentators on this region seem to be certain of the motivations behind the Lebanese Army's unprovoked attack against an IDF engineering unit yesterday. Many have said that it was a push by Hezbollah to divert attention away from the looming announcement that it was involved in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

Others surmise that is was simply a Lebanese commander that lost his cool and decided to take a shot at the Israelis. Perhaps it was all just a mistake, and Lebanese soldiers merely misidentified the location of the border.

I don't know what caused it, but I do know that there is no shortage of people ready to take a shot at a Jew.

But I'm trying not to jump to any conclusions. This region is too confusing and to dynamic to say much with certainty. But, I am certain that those that despise Israel will see whatever they want in this incident, and will use it as another excuse for their irrational and unabashed hatred.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The summer just got a little hotter ...

The news from the northern Israeli border is a little bit distressing. There was an exchange of fire a few hours ago between the IDF and the Lebanese army. At this point it's not exactly clear how it all got started, or what the end result will be, but it's pretty much the last thing anyone in Israel wanted this summer.

And on a completely separate note ... I've met Bradley Burston and I respect him. He was a really nice guy when I interned at Haaretz and his columns are always well thought out and realistic. He's a pretty far to the left of me, but I usually find something interesting and truthful in what he writes.

However, this last article he wrote, I just don't get. He goes back and forth about how he respects people who want to boycott Israel, but he doesn't believe in boycotts. Then he brings in the recent stupidity with the ADL ... I'm just not sure what to take away from the whole thing. Examine the passage below:
The boycott was the decision by the Olympia, Washington Food Co-op, to remove Israeli products from the shelves of its two stores.

In a move as courageous as it was overdue, the co-op also featured and published online a pamphlet strongly opposing manifestations of anti-Semitism in leftist movements.
So I guess he's saying that the part about the boycott that he likes is that they denounce anti-Semitism. He then goes on to explain why doesn't support boycotts.
Something else angered me as well - not the fact that some of the people who advocated boycotting Israel were actually against the idea of having a state of Israel, but the fact that for tactical reasons, they refused to come out and say so.

I remain opposed to boycotts, Olympia's included, first because I oppose collective punishment of all kinds, whether practiced by Israel against Gazans, or by progressives against Israelis as a whole. I also believe that boycotts against Israel tend to be self-defeating and play into the hands of the right.
So boycotts are still bad, but being honest about them is important. It's even more important to denounce anti-Semitism, especially when many of your supporters engage in it.

Bradley, I like you, I really do, but I just don't get you on this one.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Housekeeping and a few links ...

So I went ahead and changed the template of this site. I figure after two years I need to make a few changes to things. I also need to clean up the links in my side-bar as I don't read many of those sites anymore, and some of them just don't exist or are irrelevant.

I wanted to post to a few things I found online. The first is an interesting read on Yaacov Lozowick's site. He talks about the Mondoweiss post that I mentioned yesterday, and, as is his style, gives it an intelligent and dispassionate reading.

Also check out this funny post on Gawker about the congressional campaign that got called out for sending a list of "Jewish Money" to a newspaper in an attempt to smear their opponent. If you can wade through all the snark that accompanies anything on a Gawker site you'll find it quite amusing.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

To blog, or not to blog ...

So well, yeah, there was that.

What was "that?" It was about two years of nothing on this blog. In my real life it was very fascinating, a lot of changes. Maybe sometime I'll tell you about it.

But recent events have motivated me to try this again. A lot has happened in the last two years, both with me and with Israel. So let's give this a shot.

You might be asking what motivated me to come back and try and be a blogger again. Well, of course I love writing, I love sharing my opinions, and well on some level it's just plain fun.

But mostly, I need somewhere to vent. Israel has been dragged through the mud the last two years. A series of events (Cast Lead, the Dubai assassination, the Flotilla,) have seriously damaged Israel's image and standing in the world.

But those events on their own weren't enough to get me writing again. It wasn't until I stumbled upon a charming blog called Mondoweiss that I was inspired to pick up the keyboard again.

Like too many of the most popular anti-Israel sites, this one is run by a Jew. That in itself makes me depressed. But it was one specific post on the so-called Palestinian "Right of Return" that really got my Hamster wheel spinning.

It reminded me, yet again, that there are many people out there who are devoting all of their life's energies to destroying Israel. Realizing that, over and over again, is a unique experience, and one that has inexorably pushed me in one direction.

I remember reading a book about "Israeli Apartheid." That motivated me to become a pro-Israel activist. I remember hearing the rantings of Israel hater Amir Abdul Malik Ali, and that motivated me (partly) to move to Israel. Then there was this, and here I am, opening my mouth again, doing something, however small and insignificant, because I can't stand still and watch people working to destroy Israel and the Jewish people along with it.

So yeah, there was that, and here I am, again, wondering, is anybody listening?