Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Israel is a rogue state ...

This is just too good. I stumbled upon this at the headquarters of the International Conspiracy of Puppies, Sunshine, and Unicorns (thats' my pet name for Mondoweiss, which is a horrible site if you aren't familiar with it and didn't catch my sarcasm).

It seems about a week ago there was a Cambridge Union Society debate in which the proposition to be debated was "This House believes that Israel is a Rogue State."

In the end, the proposition was defeated, but the event didn't proceed without an unusual twist. It seems one of the members of the side in favor of the proposition, a student who was apparently selected at random (or not at random), decided to argue the point from a decidedly pro-Israel perspective.

As it turns out he has now been banned from the Union, although it seems there may have been other reasons.

Phillip Weiss (of Mondoweiss) made contact with the 19 year old student and received a copy of the statements he made. I'm going to copy the relevent sections of his post and paste the young man's statement in full simply because it's that good. If Gabriel Latner, the student who delivered the statement, sees this and wants me to remove it, I'll certainly comply. I just think people should have an opportunity to see what he had to say.

From Mondoweiss:

Below is Latner's argument before the Cambridge Union. It is (c) [copyright] Gabriel Latner; and he asked me not to "cherrypick" his argument but publish it in full. I do so because it is newsworthy and Latner is a smart kid who is likely to be around for a while. (The lack of paragraphs is because I lose paragraphs when I transfer copy from one program to another and don't have the time to stick them in.) Latner:
Please forgive any spelling or grammar errors, this was an oral presentation. Square brackets denote impromptu comments that were added into the text after the fact. I may have strayed from the text at a few points, but this was the gist of it. 
This is a war of ideals, and the other speakers here tonight are rightfully, idealists. I'm not. I'm a realist. I'm here to win. I have a single goal this evening – to have at least a plurality of you walk out of the 'Aye' door. I face a singular challenge – most, if not all, of you have already made up your minds.
This issue is too polarizing for the vast majority of you not to already have a set opinion. I'd be willing to bet that half of you strongly support the motion, and half of you strongly oppose it. I want to win, and we're destined for a tie. I'm tempted to do what my fellow speakers are going to do – simply rehash every bad thing the Israeli government has ever done in an attempt to satisfy those of you who agree with them. And perhaps they'll even guilt one of you rare undecided into voting for the proposition, or more accurately, against Israel. It would be so easy to twist the meaning and significance of international 'laws' to make Israel look like a criminal state. But that's been done to death. It would be easier still to play to your sympathy, with personalised stories of Palestinian suffering. And they can give very eloquent speeches on those issues. But the truth is, that treating people badly, whether they're your citizens or an occupied nation, does not make a state' rogue'. If it did, Canada, the US, and Australia would all be rogue states based on how they treat their indigenous populations. Britain's treatment of the Irish would easily qualify them to wear this sobriquet. These arguments, while emotionally satisfying, lack intellectual rigour.
More importantly, I just don't think we can win with those arguments. It won't change the numbers. Half of you will agree with them, half of you won't. So I'm going to try something different, something a little unorthodox. I'm going to try and convince the die-hard zionists and Israel supporters here tonight, to vote for the proposition. By the end of my speech – I will have presented 5 pro-Israel arguments that show Israel is, if not a 'rogue state' than at least 'rogueish'. Let me be clear. I will not be arguing that Israel is 'bad'. I will not be arguing that it doesn't deserve to exist. I won't be arguing that it behaves worse than every other country. I will only be arguing that Israel is 'rogue'. The word 'rogue' has come to have exceptionally damning connotations. But the word itself is value-neutral. The OED defines rogue as 'Aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time ', while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition 'behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way '. These definitions, and others, centre on the idea of anomaly – the unexpected or uncommon. Using this definition, a rogue state is one that acts in an unexpected, uncommon or aberrant manner. A state that behaves exactly like Israel. The first argument is statistical. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state alone makes it anomalous enough to be dubbed a rogue state: There are 195 countries in the world. Some are Christian, some Muslim, some are secular. Israel is the only country in the world that is Jewish. Or, to speak mathmo for a moment, the chance of any randomly chosen state being Jewish is 0.0051% . In comparison the chance of a UK lotto ticket winning at least £10 is 0.017% - more than twice as likely. Israel's jewishness is a statistical abberation. The second argument concerns Israel's humanitarianism, in particular,Israel's response to a refugee crisis. Not the Palestinian refugee crisis – for I am sure that the other speakers will cover that – but the issue of Darfurian refugees. Everyone knows that what happened – and is still happening in Darfur is genocide , whether or not the UN and the Arab League will call it such. [ I actually hoped that Mr Massih would be able speak about this - he's actually somewhat of an expert on the Crisis in Darfur, in fact it's his expertise that has called him away to represent the former Dictator of Sudan while he is being investigated by the ICC. ] There has been a mass exodus from Darfur as the oppressed seek safety. They have not had much luck. Many have gone north to Egypt – where they are treated despicably. The brave make a run through the desert in a bid to make it to Israel. Not only do they face the natural threats of the Sinai, they are also used for target practice by the Egyptian soldiers patrolling the border. Why would they take the risk? Because in Israel they are treated with compassion – they are treated as the refugees that they are – and perhaps Israel's cultural memory of genocide is to blame. The Israeli government has even gone so far as to grant several hundred Darfurian refugees Citizenship. This alone sets Israel apart from the rest of the world. But the real point of distinction is this: The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel.. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets. Compare that to the US's reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst – and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behavior anomalous is an understatement. My Third argument is that the Israeli government engages in an activity which the rest of the world shuns -- it negotiates with terrorists. Forget the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, a man who died with blood all over his hands – they're in the process of negotiating with terrorists as we speak. Yasser Abed Rabbo is one of the lead PLO negotiators that has been sent to the peace talks with Israel. Abed Rabbo also used to be a leader of the PFLP- an organisation of 'freedom fighters' that, under Abed Rabbo's leadership, engaged in such freedom promoting activities as killing 22 Israeli highschool students. And the Israeli government is sending delegates to sit at a table with this man, and talk about peace. And the world applauds. You would never see the Spanish government in peace talks with the leaders of the ETA – the British government would never negotiate with Thomas Murphy. And if President Obama were to sit down and talk about peace with Osama Bin Laden, the world would view this as insanity. But Israel can do the exact same thing – and earn international praise in the process. That is the dictionary definition of rogue – behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal. Another part of dictionary definition is behaviour or activity 'occuring at an unexpected place or time'. When you compare Israel to its regional neighbours, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbours. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle east- except for Israel. Of all the countries in the middle east, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality. In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions, and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded ant-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America. Israel's protection of its citizens civil liberties has earned international recognition. Freedom House is an NGO that releases an annual report on democracy and civil liberties in each of the 195 countries in the world. It ranks each country as 'Free' 'Partly Free' or 'Not Free'. In the Middle East, Israel is the only country that has earned designation as a 'free' country. Not surprising given the level of freedom afforded to citizens in say, Lebanon- a country designated 'partly free', where there are laws against reporters criticizing not only the Lebanese government, but the Syrian regime as well. [ I'm hoping Ms Booth will speak about this, given her experience working as a 'journalist' for Iran,] Iran is a country given the rating of 'not free', putting it alongside China, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Myanmar. In Iran, [as Ms Booth I hoped would have said in her speech], there is a special 'Press Court' which prosecutes journalists for such heinous offences as criticizing the ayatollah, reporting on stories damaging the 'foundations of the Islamic republic' , using 'suspicious (i.e. western) sources', or insulting islam. Iran is the world leader in terms of jailed journalists, with 39 reporters (that we know of) in prison as of 2009. They also kicked out almost every western journalist during the 2009 election. [I don't know if Ms Booth was affected by that] I guess we can't really expect more from a theocracy. Which is what most countries in the middle east are. Theocracies and Autocracies. But Israel is the sole, the only, the rogue, democracy. Out of every country in the middle east, only in Israel do anti-government protests and reporting go unquashed and uncensored. I have one final argument – the last nail in the opposition's coffin- and its sitting right across the aisle. Mr Ran Gidor's presence here is the all evidence any of us should need to confidently call Israel a rogue state. For those of you who have never heard of him, Mr Gidor is a political counsellor attached to Israel's embassy in London. He's the guy the Israeli government sent to represent them to the UN. He knows what he's doing. And he's here tonight. And it's incredible. Consider, for a moment, what his presence here means. The Israeli government has signed off,to allow one of their senior diplomatic representatives to participate in a debate on their very legitimacy. That's remarkable. Do you think for a minute, that any other country would do the same? If the Yale University Debating Society were to have a debate where the motion was 'This house believes Britain is a racist, totalitarian state that has done irrevocable harm to the peoples of the world', that Britain would allow any of it's officials to participate? No. Would China participate in a debate about the status of Taiwan? Never. And there is no chance in hell that an American government official would ever be permitted to argue in a debate concerning it's treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But Israel has sent Mr Ran Gidor to argue tonight against [a 'journalist' come reality tv star, and myself,] a 19 year old law student who is entirely unqualified to speak on the issue at hand. Every government in the world should be laughing at Israel right now- because it forgot rule number one. You never add credence to crackpots by engaging with them. It's the same reason you won't see Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins debate David Icke. But Israel is doing precisely that. Once again, behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal. Behaving like a rogue state. That's five arguments that have been directed at the supporters of Israel. But I have a minute or two left. And here's an argument for all of you – Israel willfully and forcefully disregards international law. In 1981 Israel destroyed OSIRAK – Sadam Hussein's nuclear bomb lab. Every government in the world knew that Hussein was building a bomb. And they did nothing. Except for Israel. Yes, in doing so they broke international law and custom. But they also saved us all from a nuclear Iraq. That rogue action should earn Israel a place of respect in the eyes of all freedom loving peoples. But it hasn't. But tonight, while you listen to us prattle on, I want you to remember something; while you're here, Khomeini's Iran is working towards the Bomb. And if you're honest with yourself, you know that Israel is the only country that can, and will, do something about it. Israel will, out of necessity act in a way that is the not the norm, and you'd better hope that they do it in a destructive manner. Any sane person would rather a rogue Israel than a Nuclear Iran. [Except Ms Booth]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And now for something completely different ...

I had always intended for there to be a mix of subjects here, and one of my favorites subjects is of course Apple.

This post from John Gruber about the continued woes of the Great White iPhone is absolutely hilarious and a must read.
Original iPhone: Look at you. You’re a fucking mess.

White iPhone 4: (Without looking up from poker machine.) Nice to see you too.

Original iPhone: Is that cocaine all over your face? Jesus Christ. You’re lucky I’m not picking you up in jail again.

White iPhone 4: Who gives a shit if you were? Who cares?

Original iPhone: Who do you think you are? You think all publicity is good publicity? You think you’re the bad-boy star? Lindsay fucking Lohan with a stainless steel frame and glass back? There’s a big difference between you and her. She’s made actual movies, which have sold actual tickets. She had an actual career to ruin. What have you done, at all, other than embarrass yourself? ...

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mondoweiss just makes stuff up ...

I realize I keep dwelling on it, but Mondoweiss seems to provide an endless well of lies and disinformation. This post is no exception. A small sample:
I went on a tour to photograph the Apartheid Wall that was built on the territory of the Palestinian village of Bil'in, located in the West Bank.

After a ruling of the highest Israeli Court, the path of which the first wall had been built had to be changed and now the Israel has to build a new wall: the new wall is a set of concrete cubes ranging in length up to eight meters tall. The old wall was an electric fence with barbed wire which would send an electric shock at the slightest touch. This first wall was set up by Israel on Palestinian land and has been extremely dangerous (in some cases deadly), not only to human beings but also to animals and other wildlife. Many animals lost their lives after running into the fence and being instantly electrocuted.
The first thing I love about this post is the verbal gymnastics ... no that's not the right term ... verbal drunken stumbling the author goes threw as he describes the barrier.
The old wall was an electric fence ...
Well, finally the anti-Israel propagandists have confirmed what we've been saying all along, the "wall" is a fence. Actually this semantic argument always made me laugh. Where the barrier is a wall it actually takes up much less space than where it is a series of fences and ditches. Of course Israel haters wanted people to think of the Berlin Wall or, as Norman Finkelstein once suggested, the wall around the Warsaw Ghetto, so they always said wall no matter what the truth was.

The above line from Mondoweiss is even more funny since apparently it was both a wall and a fence at the same time. Maybe this is a new application of the "uncertainty principle." But I digress.

The more interesting piece of information is that the author is implying that the fence is an electric fence that delivers electric shocks. As I understood it, the fence has electronic monitoring sensors, but was not an electric fence in the "crap that hurts" sense.

I will rely for a moment on that questionable source Wikipedia:
Most of the barrier (over 95% of total length) consists of a "multi-layered fence system".[31] The IDF's preferred design has three fences, with pyramid-shaped stacks of barbed wire for the two outer fences and a lighter-weight fence with intrusion detection equipment in the middle. Patrol roads are provided on both sides of the middle fence, an anti-vehicle ditch is located on the West Bank side of the fence, and a smooth dirt strip on the Israeli side for "intrusion tracking".
Here's another source, The Israel Project:
The fence, like the new crossings, are all state-of-the-art, relying on the latest technology. The apparatus consists of an electronic sensor fence lined by a patrol road, with barbed wire on either side. The fence is simply a sophisticated sensory device, whose goal is solely to alert Israeli security if someone tries to cross.  When the fence is touched, it sets off an alarm in the control center and a patrol is sent to check out if anyone tried to cross or tamper with it. It is not an electric fence and can do no bodily harm.
I haven't found a single non-propaganda site that makes the claim that fence delivers electric shocks. If I am wrong, someone PLEASE PLEASE correct me. But for the moment, I'll assume this is just more Mondoweiss BS.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ok, help me out here …

Can someone explain this discrepancy?

This is from an article posted today on Google from a service called "The Canadian Press." The article is discussing the friction between settlers and Palestinian Arabs during the olive harvest.
In a spat last week, Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights, which helps Palestinians harvest their olives in the West Bank, confronted Ben-Saadon and accused him of using land owned by Palestinians.
Ben-Saadon said he was farming on land given to Jewish settlers by the Israeli military. He said he had no ownership papers — but needed none.

"Our land deed is the Bible," Ben Saadon said.

This sounded awfully familiar so I looked and found this in a Haaretz article from last week.
Near Har Bracha, a verbal confrontation erupted yesterday between Jewish farmer Erez Ben Sa'adon and Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the head of Rabbis for Human Rights. Ascherman claimed Ben Sa'adon was harvesting olives that belonged to Palestinians from nearby Karyut. Ben Sa'adon, whose nearby vineyard had been destroyed by unidentified parties the previous night, said he had leased that plot for the past 12 years and the olives were his.
Civil Administration officials were called to resolve the dispute, and they summoned the mayor of Karyut - who admitted that the trees belonged to Ben Sa'adon.

Ok, this is apparently the same incident but it is described in dramatically different ways. The Canadian Press article repeats a lot of stereotypes about the friction between settlers and Palestinians and seems to take the typical mainstream media line on this issue. Haaretz is certainly not a friendly publication to the settlers. Both of these publications should be equally likely to take a position against the settlers.

If there is a discrepancy in a situation as simple as the one listed above, how much else are these media organizations messing up?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

May we always be cursed with such "problems" ...

Saw this in Haaretz. It is truly a terrible problem.
This month is shaping up to be the country's best month for tourism in a decade, approaching the record set in October 1999 on the eve of the second intifada, with more than 1 million hotel nights.

But the 350,000 tourists are maxing out the capacity of the country's hotels and placing incredible stress on service, which is suffering as a result, industry professionals say.
This is the headline of the article: Record-breaking tourism could spell problems for Israel

Haaretz once again demonstrates it is the news source that proves the saying "every silver lining has a cloud." Read the whole thing.

Anti-Israel activists are afraid of the truth …

Please watch the video below. It shows anti-Israel activists staging a walkout from a talk given by two Israeli soldiers at the University of Michigan.

This video is interesting for several reasons. First, the anti-Israel crowd scored a well organized and orchestrated propaganda point by filling the room with protesters and then walking out. On the video it looks very nice for them. They placed tape over their mouths and wear their signs that say "silenced" and then leave the room empty.

I would be curious to find out how many people weren't allowed to enter the room due to lack of space, and then entered the room after the protesters left, but for the sake of argument I'll assume there were no other students who were interested in seeing the soldiers' speech.

What I take away from this video is the sad fact that anti-Israel students are not only completely ignorant of the Israeli side of the story, but that they celebrate their ignorance. They are so proud of their unwillingness to listen to the other side that they promote it on YouTube.

I found the tape the activists place on their mouths to be ironic. Anyone who has spent any time on college campuses knows that the anti-Israel voice is everywhere. They certainly do not have a problem with being silenced. It would have been much more appropriate for those activists to place the tape over their eyes and ears for they are desperately afraid to hear the truth.

What truth are they afraid of? That Israelis are human beings. That Israelis are not the racist monsters that hate sites like Mondoweiss talk about. Notice how the soldiers practically beg them at the end of the video to stay and ask questions; to stay and maybe, just maybe, look at them as people and not as monsters.

This is the same blindness that led anti-Israel students to try and shut down the talk given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine. It is the sad and desperate effort to shut out any voice, any sign, that Israelis deserve the respect and dignity afforded to any human-being. It is a concerted effort to dehumanize Israelis and to strip them of the rights that freedom loving individuals grant to all people.

This is the sad state of Israel discourse on U.S college campuses today. Anti-Israel voices are promoted and celebrated, while Israel is libeled and disparaged to the point that even to propose it should granted equal standing to other nations is considered racist.
It is a truly depressing situation.

Friday, October 22, 2010

He's really screwed up here ...

Benjamin Kerstein does a much better job than I ever could of explaining just how bad a job Obama has done trying to guide the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama’s failure in this regard is not merely the result of the fact that he pushed for negotiations when conditions were far from ideal. In fact, Obama sabotaged the peace process from the outset, largely through his own incompetence. By opening his presidency with a demand for an Israeli settlement freeze, including in Jerusalem and its environs, he pushed both parties into a corner. Netanyahu could not agree to such a freeze without endangering his governing coalition, and Abbas could not negotiate without it. As a result, demands on both parties were too high before negotiations even began. The impasse at which we now find ourselves is the inevitable outcome.
Read the whole thing. Hat tip to Michael Totten.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Does not compute …

A lot of blogs have been talking about the recent 60 Minutes piece that aired about the situation in Jerusalem and specifically about the City of David archeological project and the Arab neighborhood of Silwan in which it is located.

If you haven't seen the 60 Minutes clip, I highly recommend that you check it out. It does an ok job of laying out some of the tension in the city and doesn't completely gloss over the complexity of the situation.

One of the themes from the piece is that Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, and many other Israeli leaders, believe that Jerusalem cannot be divided. They believe this for many reasons, most of them practical and logistical.

As Barkat claims in the video, "show me one example of a divided city that works, it doesn't exists."

This echoes some of the work done by Israeli blogger and historian Yaacov Lozowick. I pointed it out before, but you should read up on his posts about why Jerusalem can't and shouldn't be divided.

I used to be very much in favor of the Clinton parameters as the solution here, including the division of Jerusalem. Now I'm not so sure. Why I still believe firmly in a two-state solution, I'm coming around to the position that Jerusalem simply cannot be divided.

While I was influenced by Lozowick's position and his postings, I think the time I have spent in Jerusalem has been more persuasive. What that time has convinced is that Israel cannot divide Jerusalem because it doesn't belong to Israel. It doesn't belong to the Arabs either, nor does it belong to the Jewish people as we might wish to believe.

Jerusalem, more than any other group, belongs to the Haredim. You see it when you walk down the street in that city. The Haredim are the one community that has shown a complete and total commitment to the city. I'm not trying to place a value judgment on this fact; I'm simply describing the situation as I see it. The Haredim will never let Jerusalem, and by that I mean more or less the old city and the holy basin, slip out of Jewish control.

On the other hand, the reaction of the anti-Israel community to the 60 Minutes piece has been predictably nonsensical. Exhibit A, not surprisingly, is the headline from this post over at Mondoweiss.
‘60 Minutes’ marks the end of the two-state solution
This is a common staple of anti-Israel propaganda; that the failure to divide Jerusalem would render the two-state solution unworkable. To this I ask: why? Certainly the Palestinians would not agree to a peace treaty that didn't include Jerusalem. However, the lack of an agreement does not in any way render two-states an impossible outcome of the problem here.

I have recently been of the thinking that a Palestinian state will be created long before it reaches a peace agreement with Israel. Certainly a happy and peaceful division of Jerusalem would be preferable to the Palestinians. But I fail to see, and no one has made a logical (or truthful) argument as to why a Palestinian state would be unviable if it didn't include Jerusalem.

This argument necessitates the same logic that said that the inclusion of Ma'ale Adumim in Israel would somehow prevent a contiguous Palestinian state. It takes only a split second glance at a map to disprove that argument, and it takes only the most cursory examination of the situation here to know that a Palestinian state that didn't include Jerusalem would still be a completely viable basis for a state.

But hey, the anti-Israel crowd hasn't been making any sense for the last 60 years, why should they start now?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mondoweiss; promoting the Palestinian narrative at the expense of the truth …

I had already come to this conclusion, but a recent post at Mondoweiss demonstrates just how that site has become the epicenter for anti-Israel bigotry and Jewish self-hatred on the web.

The post is remarkable for its frankness, as is much of the content at Mondoweiss. The writers there, while completely dishonest in their discussions about Israel, are remarkably honest about their intentions.

The writer laments the pro-Palestinian Israeli left, complaining that they are somehow dishonest about their intentions because they are living on "stolen" Palestinian land. The following excerpt displays both the writer's hatred for Israel, and his profound ignorance of the truth.
Every time I would tell my girlfriend (she's Palestinian) about a famous Israeli activist or writer or she would ask why they still call themselves Israeli. She tells me things like, 'See. They still call themselves Israeli. When they use that word they are automatically erasing Palestine.'
Later on the writer continues …
But I have to ask Israelis the question: "If you feel so strongly about what is being done to the Palestinians, how can you continue to live in their stolen country?"
How can you go from a West Bank protest back to your Tel Aviv home, which very well may have belonged to a family member of your friends in the West Bank? Can you really be supporting someone when you live on the land which was violently seized from them?

If these Israeli activists truly believe what they say they should move to the occupied territories and live as a Palestinian.

Where do I begin???? Let's start with Tel Aviv as I happen to be a resident of that city.

The chances that an Israeli living in Tel Aviv is living in the former home of a Palestinian are remarkably slim. Tel Aviv, quite possibly the most authentic Israeli city in Israel, truly exemplifies the Israeli narrative. This city was built on empty sand dunes north of Jaffa. This is not a myth but is the unquestionable reality of this city. Additionally, the land that was used to build Tel Aviv was overwhelming land that was purchased specifically for the purpose of Jewish settlement.

Additionally, anyone familiar with the architecture of Tel Aviv and it's often unique style of building (read ugly), knows that the overhwelming majority of the city was built after the establishment of the state in a mad rush of building to accomadate the multitude of Jewish refugees who were settling in the country.

Tel Aviv is the single worst example of the Palestinian narrative in which Jews "stole" their country through force. Yet, this is specifically the city in which the writer chose to focus his accusations against "thieving" Israelis.

But, truth be told, I could tolerate blanket distortions of the truth if I believed that it somehow brought us closer to peace and reconciliation with our neighbors. Of course, as was so clearly demonstrated in the opening quote from the writer's girlfriend, the Palestinians and their international, American, and even Jewish supporters have no intention of making peace with Israel. They seek to dismantle it.

This is the equation that the Palestinians are offering to Israel, this is their version of "peace." This is what they are saying to Israelis:

Give up, surrender. One way or the other we are going to destroy your country. Your only option is to join our side and do as you're told, otherwise …

And it’s that last point that's left to our imaginations. Well, I have a rather vivid imagination, I don't much like what I see.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

While we're on the subject of this whole Jewish state business ...

There are two great articles out there today about why it is fundamental that the Arabs, and the world in general, recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The first comes from Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. His article in the New York Times articulately lays out why this is a critical step for peace. A highlight:
Affirmation of Israel’s Jewishness, however, is the very foundation of peace, its DNA. Just as Israel recognizes the existence of a Palestinian people with an inalienable right to self-determination in its homeland, so, too, must the Palestinians accede to the Jewish people’s 3,000-year connection to our homeland and our right to sovereignty there. This mutual acceptance is essential if both peoples are to live side by side in two states in genuine and lasting peace.
The second great argument in favor of this course of action comments from, of all places, Haaaretz. Left-leaning commentator Ari Shavit lays out seven reasons why recognition is crucial. Another highlight:
Second reason: This is the heart of the conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict stems from the fact that for a century, the Jewish national movement and the Palestinian national movement refused to recognize each other. In 1993, Israel recognized the Palestinian people and its rights. But to this day the Palestinians have not recognized the Jewish people and its rights.
Indeed. Hat tip Yaacov Lozowick.

Thanks for the traffic ...

Well it looks like I got someone's attention. I checked Google Analytics this morning and saw a considerable spike in traffic. By spike I mean there actually was traffic since practically no one reads this blog in the first place.

I checked for the source and apparently it came from Ali Abunimah's twitter stream. He was reacting to this post that I wrote about two earlier tweets of his. Here's what he wrote:
"The kind of racist defamation Zionist settlers sink to: 'Abunimah sees Jews as his dogs with no rights whatsoever"'"
Coming from him I'll take that as a compliment. To be honest I don't see how my comment could be construed as racism, considering I was referring specifically to Abunimah and not to any particular group of people. It could theoretically be viewed as defamation, although based on Abunimah's twitter stream alone I believe my description of him to be accurate.

I also find it amusing that I have somehow been elevated to the status of settler. Apparently Abunimah now views central Tel Aviv as a settlement. I suppose that says something about his perspective on the situation here.

In case anyone reading Abunimah's twitter stream is confused by his rhetoric I will state here clearly my opinion of the Palestinians. They are a people, and like all peoples should be afforded the right to live in peace and dignity. I believe that they deserve a state of their own, and I have no problem recognizing their legitimate right to self determination.

It would be nice if they, and Abunimah, were willing to confer the same right to the Jewish people. I believe that their denial of the Jewish peoples' legitimate right to self determination is the primary obstacle to peace in the region. But that's just my humble opinion.

At any rate, Abunimah did get one thing right. I am indeed a Zionist, and I'm proud to be one.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ali Abunimah's hypocrisy …

Rabid Israel hater Ali Abunimah posted the following tweets yesterday in response to the Obama administration's endorsement of Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.

He changed the White House statement in order to paint Israel as some sort of racist state.
#    "We recognize the special nature of the [Northern Irish] state. It is a state for the [Protestant] people." #Israel     about 14 hours ago  via bitly
# "We recognize the special nature of the [South African] state. It is a state for the [White] people." #Israel #apartheid

I humbly offer my own alternative and hope to see Abunimah post it on his twitter account in the near future.
"We recognize the special nature of the [Palestinian] state. It is a state for the [Palestinian] people."
I have to admit, I don't see anything wrong about that last statement. It actually makes a lot of sense to me.

Perhaps that's because I see Palestinians as human beings with legitimate aspirations for statehood, while Abunimah sees Jews as his dogs with no rights whatsoever.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

About that Jewish and democratic state thing ...

In case I wasn't clear yesterday, I don't support the proposed amendment to the citizenship law as it currently exists for several reasons. It seems to me unnecessary, ineffective, and it seems to be overly demanding of Israel's non-Jewish citizens.

However, none of my reasons include opposition to Israel's definition as a Jewish and democratic state. That is a completely non-controversial statement and definition, and one which has many parallels throughout the rest of the world.

But just in case there are people who do oppose that definition, I would like to propose several alternative texts to establish Israel's relationship to Judaism.

Proposal #1:
The prevailing religion in Israel is that of the Orthodox Jewish Rabbinate. The Orthodox Jewish Rabbinate, acknowledging the G-d of Israel, is inseparably united in doctrine with the Orthodox Jewish Rabbinates and with every other Orthodox Jewish community of the same doctrine, observing unwaveringly, as they do, the holy and sacred traditions as ordained in Halacha.
Well perhaps that might be too strong.

Proposal #2:
In the Name of the G-d of Israel, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Israel,

Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, the G-d of Israel, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,

Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,

And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.
Well, again that might be too many obligations to the Jewish G-d. Perhaps something simpler and more straightforward?

Proposal #3
The Israeli Government supports the Jewish religion.
Well, maybe I should take a look at what Israel's Declaration of Independence has to say on the matter. It is after all the founding document of the country that, along with the basic laws, has been interpreted as Israel's constitution. I'll include two key components of the declaration.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
You know what, that's pretty good. I think we should stick with that and forget about the alternatives. Of course you may be wondering where the alternatives came from. Well I thought maybe Israel should take a page from other countries, and base its laws on theirs. So I borrowed text from the constitutions of other countries.

Proposal #1 – Greece:

Article 3
1. The prevailing religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. The Orthodox Church of Greece, acknowledging our Lord Jesus Christ as its head, is inseparably united in doctrine with the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople and with every other Church of Christ of the same doctrine, observing unwaveringly, as they do, the holy apostolic and syn- odal canons and sacred traditions. It is autocephalous and is administered by the Holy Synod of serving Bishops and the Permanent Holy Synod originating thereof and assembled as specified by the Statutory Charter of the Church in compliance with the provisions of the Patriarchal Tome of June 29, 1850 and the Synodal Act of September 4, 1928.

Proposal #2 – Ireland:
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Éire,

Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,

Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,

And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

Proposal #3- Argentina:

Section 2.- The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Avigdor Lieberman is a douchebag ...

There has been a lot of shrill discussion, as there usually is, in Israel's media lately about the proposed amendment to Israel's citizenship law. The amendment would require individuals seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state." This amendment has been labeled as racist and fascist and all sorts of other "ists" by individuals within and outside of Israel.

When I stop to think of it, this amendment really doesn't seem that controversial to me. Israel has long defined itself as a Jewish and democratic state, so asking prospective citizens to swear allegiance to Israel as such should be obvious, right?

Well not necessarily. This bill seems largely superfluous and unnecessary. The amendment will apply almost exclusively to non-Jews who are seeking to immigrate, and won't apply to Jews making aliyah according to the law of return. Why shouldn't Jews also be required to take this oath? I'm not alone in feeling lukewarm about this amendment. Even members of the conservative Likud party are uncertain about its effect.
"This is the Jewish people' state. We've inscribed that in our Basic Laws. Do we really have to keep repeating it? It creates detrimental tensions," he said.
The second ramification Meridor warns of is the possible harm to Israel's international image: "We are in the midst of fighting a de-legitimization campaign against Israel, which is a huge danger. This fight has to be managed carefully and this is not helping us. No other nation mandates such a thing, why give anyone another thing to use against us?

I think the real reason this bill is seen as controversial is because of its source: Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party. Lieberman, and his party, have the uncanny ability to make even reasonable ideas sound racist and fascist. I personally believe this is related to Lieberman's embarrassing, amateurish, stupid, and thuggish performance as Foreign Minister. The man seems hell bent on making Israel seem as uncivilized and boorish as possible and Prime Minister Netanyahu has inexplicably given him the perfect office to do so.

At any rate, I believe a reasonable compromise will be reached. It will happen because most Israelis and most of their leaders are reasonable people. They are proud to live in a Jewish state, while recognizing the need to be sensitive to the minority population that lives amongst us. As for Lieberman, I pray every day that someone in this country comes to their senses and fires his stupid ass.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Actually, there is good news ...

For a long time the only positive news out of Israel was economic news. Then the global financial crisis hit and Israel was pulled down just like everyone else.

Well, now it seems that Israel has pulled itself back up again. Even the IMF has noticed.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts 4.2% GDP growth in Israel in 2010, up from 0.8% growth in 2009. The optimistic forecast is contained in the IMF's bi-annual World Economic Outlook report which was published today on the eve of the IMF conference in Washington DC.

The IMF forecast is higher than the Bank of Israel's 4% prediction, which was issued on September 29, having been revised upwards from its 3.7% forecast in April.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It happens once in a hundred years ...

Plastered throughout Tel Aviv there are larger banner ads promoting a mysterious and unnamed product. They feature different attractive looking people (and one dog) from various age groups looking happily towards the sky at some unseen magnificent sight.

What they're looking at is left to the imagination and they only clue given is the tag line "it happens once in a hundred years."

Well with a little searching I figured out this is an ad for "Gindi Tel Aviv," a new apartment project under development in Tel Aviv.

The Gindi project is part of the massive Wholesale Market Compound, a huge lot in central Tel Aviv that until a few years ago was occupied by the aforementioned wholesale market. A development plan was drawn up for the lot including four tall apartment towers, about ten low-rise apartment buildings, commercial space, and green open areas. All in all, the plan calls for some 1,125 residential units. You can read all about the project at the Tel Aviv Info website.

The Gindi Tel Aviv project represents the first stage of the plan, calling for the construction of the ten low-rise buildings. I have a hobby of reading about urban developments and towers here in Tel Aviv so I wandered over to the website and Facebook page of the developer.

They had some nice renders of the project and a photo gallery from their "gala announcement." It's all very classy. Of course any apartment in this project is certain to be super expensive so only a very select group of people will ever be able to even think about buying an apartment there.

This project is another example of how the Israeli economy continues to grow at a prodigious speed. Israeli is now outpacing most of the other developed economies in terms of growth. The situation here is certainly more robust than in the U.S. and I feel it when I talk to my friends and family back in the states.

But there is something about this project and its ads that … poked me somewhere inside my head. I realize that's a clumsy analogy but it’s the best I could do. This apartment project was advertised as if it were a rock concert. They weren't selling homes; they were selling a very clear idea, an idea that says "wealth, success, and opportunity."

It says something about the mindset of people here. I sit around most days worrying about all the people who hate Israel. Most Israeli's could care less, they're to busy living their lives and building an amazing, vibrant, and dynamic country.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Ummm? Actually no ...

I'm sure Desmond Tutu is a good man. He has worked tirelessly for the cause of freedom and human rights, and for that he deserves to commended. However, when it comes to Israel he has proven himself to be profoundly ignorant.

He recently supported a call for a South African university to sever ties with an Israeli university. Here is the justification he provided.
"Israeli universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice," Tutu wrote in an essay that appeared in a South African newspaper Sunday. "While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation."
I'm sorry, but anyone who knows even the slightest bit about Israeli universities knows that they are the sources of the most vocal criticism of Israeli society, of the Israeli government, and of Israel's policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

To suggest that Israeli universities "are an intimate part of the Israeli regime," whatever that means, shows a total failure to form even a rudimentary understanding of Israeli society. It shows a perspective that is based on the propaganda and distortions of Israel's most hateful critics, rather anything related to truth or fact.

Like most universities, Israel's institutions of higher learning are bastions for Israel's most liberal and progressive thinkers. They serve Jews and Arabs alike and provide a vital forum for the free flow of ideas and democratic values. Israel's universities have recently come under attack by more radical right-wing elements in Israeli society for the often biting criticisms and viewpoints that are produced there.

Anyone who attacks these institutions merely sets back those members of Israeli society seeking to promote dialogue and reconciliation, and ultimately harms the chances for peace.