Archive for the ‘Gaza’ Category

Michael Oren is one of my favorite writers. A great historian, he manages to compile long and complicated histories in a fairly simple, and easily digestible way. Despite it having sat on my shelf for a number of years, I finally read Six Days of War,” fairly recently. It is a history textbook, inundated with dates and figures, yet at the same time, it is a true page turner.

In addition to his writing, Oren is a charismatic speaker, as well. I recently heard him speak about the strategic threats that Israel faces today. The first of these threats, of course, is Iran. One argument that is raised against an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is that states are rational actors, and Iran would not benefit, to say the least, from sending nuclear missiles at another nuclear state.

As Oren illustrated, the issue is deeper than that. Were Iran to nuclearize, it would be able to put the region under nuclear alert, at whim. This sort of toying with Israel would have far reaching repercussions. Apart from destroying the tourist industry, the results of the IDF being on constant high alert would cost the state enormous amounts of money, all the while affecting a near total cessation of market activity, leading to an even greater economic disaster. This, of course, in addition to the arms race that would be launched among Israel’s neighbors, most of whom are not particularly friendly to the Jewish state (This was outlined in article for The New Republic, which Oren co-wrote with Yossi Klein Halevi).

Still on the subject of military threats, Oren addressed the issue of missiles. As mentioned, Israel’s north has been hit hard by missiles, most recently during the summer of 2006, and Hamas can now reach major Israel cities, shooting from Gaza. One of the strongest strategic arguments against Israeli withdrawals, one that was made in 2005, is that territory ceded will serve as a base for missiles that will be launched at Israeli residential areas.

Oren, a proponent of unilateral withdrawals, said that Israel has systems to thwart such attacks, and upon deployment of these systems in the near future, Hamas’s use of short range missiles will be neutralized. He mentioned two systems that will work in tandem to combat the missile threat. First, the Iron Dome, set to be operational by 2010, detects an incoming missile and launches an anti-missile missile to intercept it. The second, based on the M61 Vulcan, destroys incoming projectiles by shooting a high number of rounds per second, eliminating them in mid-air. However, even if these systems are effective, it seems the government has acted in typical Israeli fashion, and woken up very late.

With regards to prospects for peace, Oren briefly promoted the idea of developing Palestinian industry and education, and bolstering their moderate leadership. Again, I am confounded. No, he did not mention Mahmoud Abbas or Fatah as these moderates, but this statement nonetheless confounds me. But to which moderates is he referring? Assuming there are moderate figures somewhere in the Palestinian leadership, what good is it to help them if they have no public support? Did the numerous gestures towards Abbas serve as a moderating influence on Palestinian society? As Robert Kaplan asks, do they even want to be in a position in which statehood would be a real possibility?

Demographics are becoming more important every day. Jews represent only slightly over 75% of Israeli citizens. Most of the remaining quarter, do not recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, and Israel needs an overwhelming majority of Jews in order to maintain its status as the Jewish state. Nevertheless, Oren thinks that the shrinking birthrate of Arab-Israelis, alleviates cause for serious concern regarding Israeli citizens.

When looking at the entire populace between the river and the sea, Israel is approaching the day in which Jews will no longer be a majority. In order to address this problem and ensure a positive demographic balance within the area under Israeli control, Oren foresees a necessity for further Israel unilateral withdrawals from territory beyond the Green Line.

This does not add up. As he said, Israel deployed 55,000 security personnel in order to carry out the withdrawal from Gaza – the largest Israeli military operation since the Yom Kippur War. Within the framework of almost any future withdrawal plan, 80-100,000 Jews will need to leave their homes. Their homes, which are located in the heart of the Jewish ancestral homeland. As Oren himself acknowledged, in light of the difficulties encountered in Gaza, which will be compounded in any future similar action, any Israeli government is extremely unlikely to succeed in carrying out such a plan. Any unilateral withdrawal plan will probably be based on the route of the Security Fence, so unless Oren supports leaving large numbers of Israeli citizens in enemy territory, I am not sure what he is advocating.

All in all, though, Oren’s talk set a very optimistic tone. However, the limited question and answer period did not flesh out the logical gaps in the his illustration of Israel’s situation today. One issue he discussed which did inspire some confidence is water – largely due to the construction of a major desalination plant, Israel might finally be digging its way out of what is still a very dry hole.

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To Boycott or Not to Boycott, That Is the Question No it’s not. Stanley Fish, law professor, and NY Times blogger, appears reasonable in debating whether or not an academic boycott of Israel is a good idea. However reasonable, though, he does not come to a concrete conclusion about such a boycott until the very end where he briefly mentions that “those actions, [the boycott of South Africa].. were and are antithetical to the academic enterprise, which while it may provide the tools (of argument, fact and historical research) that enable good and righteous deeds, should never presume to perform them.”

What he does is attempt to rebut arguments of opponents of the boycott. One such argument is that such a narrow focus on Israel is dishonest and hypocritical. The claim presents the question: Where are the calls for boycott of, and divestment from Sudan and China, not to mention Saudi Arabia and Iran? Picking Israel is dangerously close to antisemitism (if not more dangerous).

Yet Fish says, “If you supported the boycott of South Africa and the disinvestment by universities from companies doing business in or with that country, you are obligated, by your own history, to support the boycott of Israeli academics.”

“Anti-boycotters” do not (nor should not) argue what Fish paraphrases. Such an argument is moot, if not harmful in the end, since South Africa was clearly apartheid.Israel, on the other hand, has, by and large, acted justly (if not a bit meekly).

Fish misses the point entirely. Whether or not the theoretical boycott of a criminal state may be an interesting philosophical question, but is irrelevant with regards to Israel. Fish’s starting point seems to be that Israel is wrong and has committed crimes – and that the problem at hand is how to address these crimes.

I should expect more from a law professor. I don’t, but I should. Over 2,000 words, and not one actually deals with the question of Israel’s culpability. Fish’s implies that whether or not Israeli academics are responsible, the Israeli government is wrong, and is criminal. Indeed, his starting point is that Israel’s actions today are as wrong as apartheid South Africa’s were.

Nowhere does he look at Israeli actions in Gaza this past December/January, actual attacks, what preceded them, Israeli aid to Gaza, whether there was a causus belli, Israel’s jus ad bellum and jus in bello, and examine them in light of relevant international law – the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, treaties to which Israel is a signatory. He just decides that 2009 Israel = 1948 South Africa. This is one academic that has definitely not performed “the tools of argument, fact and historical research.”

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Antisemitic plays in the guise of legitimate criticism of Israel are nothing new. In 2005, there was the British polemic about the “activist” Rachel Corrie. The most recent of these artistic expressions of racism, Seven Jewish Children, does not even make an honest attempt to mask its antisemitism.

Antisemitism will probably persist as long as the sun rises in the east, but what I learned from the NY Times today has truly managed to shock me. The JCC in Washington, DC is serving as a mouthpiece to this modern blood libel. This is not the first time the JCC has promoted “progressive causes,” and pretty crudely, too. This past September, Sandra Bernhard warned “Sarah Palin not to come into Manhattan lest she get gang-raped by some of Sandra’s big black brothers.”

This, however, is a new low. This is the JEWISH community center. On their blog, Theater J, run by the Washington DC JCC, Ari Roth, director of this trash, says “[t]he play is this year’s My Name is Rachel Corrie.” Of course it is. But is he really implying that is something positive?

He says the play is “problematic… [for] suggesting that there is a Jewish ownership—not merely an Israeli military’s responsibility—for the recent violence in Gaza.” I don’t even know where to start. Never mind that diaspora Jewish communities do not even come close to taking an active role in the welfare of the Jewish state, thinking that throwing money at “their brothers” is sufficient. Forget that those who Israel targeted were, and still are, trying to effect a genocide upon the Jews. But no, the play is only “controversial.”

Next time your local Jewish Community Center asks you for a donation – ask them if they, too, promote antisemitism.

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Michael Totten has long been required reading if one wants to keep up with international affairs, in my view. Recently he posted the transcript of a briefing with Khaled Abu Toameh. Of course, I don’t agree with Abu Toameh on everything, but his analysis is the best thing I’ve read in a while.

The West, either delusional, anti-Israel, or downright antisemitic, has long thought that a Palestinian state will solve everything. Abu Toameh, native of Tulkarem, seems to think that’s funny, and almost sounds like Nadia Matar:

Talking about a Palestinian state today is a joke. Where would that state be established? Israel controls nearly half of the West Bank. These PLO people can’t deliver. If Israel gives up the West Bank, you will have to go to Cairo or Amman to take a flight back to America because snipers will be sitting on the hilltops above Ben-Gurion airport.

Perception of power is important, very important, and I’ve harped on that topic enough times, but it really cannot be stressed strongly enough that leaving without the losing side surrendering, is the same as losing.

They think Israel ran away from Lebanon, that Hezbollah defeated them. They thought the Jews were scared and would not come into Gaza. They were really confident that Israel wouldn’t fight back. Really. They were.

Another common misconception is that economic improvement within Palestinian society will lead to peace. They will stop hating us, and the streets will suddenly be paved with gold. Well, no.

Max Boot: There does seem to be this sense that the West Bank has been doing better economically.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Yes.
Max Boot: Does that translate into better politics?
Khaled Abu Toameh: No.

Most of our neighbors do NOT like us. They will not start liking us anytime soon. They hate us and it has nothing to do with the fact that they are poor. Or that they are more religious or less religious. Or that they call themselves Hamas or Fatah.

I don’t think the majority would like to see aid from Norway, Switzerland, or Canada instead of from Iran and Hezbollah… You know what? Believe me, if you listen to Hamas and Fatah in Arabic there isn’t much of a difference, especially these days. Fatah fought alongside Hamas in Gaza. Today they said they lost 36 fighters and fired 900 rockets at Israel. Fatah.

The world loves to blame Israel. It’s not just our delusion. Sudan? Blame Israel. Gazans are hungry? Blame Israel.

Listen. The Egyptians are hypocrites. They are busy killing African refugees who are trying to get asylum in Israel. They opened fire on an African mother and son who were trying to run away from Sudan and were trying to seek refuge inside Israel. I haven’t heard that the Egyptians are destroying tunnels or anything. I haven’t heard it.

And finally, this is not the West. Stop trying to treat it like a Western issue with Western actors. It’s not going to end anytime soon.

General Tom McInerney, Fox News Military Analyst: Is there a solution to this problem?
Khaled Abu Toameh: You Americans are always asking us that. Why are Americans always asking me if there is a solution? A solution to what?
Michael J. Totten: The whole thing.
Khaled Abu Toameh: What is the whole thing?
Anthony Cordesman: Is there anything useful that could be done this year?
Khaled Abu Toameh: Listen. Look. We must stop dreaming about the New Middle East and coexistence and harmony and turning this area into Hong Kong and Singapore. If anyone thinks a Palestinian will wake up in the morning and sing the Israeli national anthem, that’s not going to happen. If anyone thinks an Israeli Jew will go back to doing his shopping in downtown Ramallah or to see his dentist in Bethlehem or eat fish in Gaza City, that’s not going to happen. There has been a total divorce between Jews and Palestinians. We don’t want to see each other.

It’s much longer, but it’s worth the time – go read.

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Those of you who grew up in Israel, might remember a children’s TV show, Yosef HaMespaer, starring a bald, heavyset man who sat on lots of pillows, Alladin style, and told fairytales. I actually don’t remember much of the show itself, but reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Martin Indyk, I felt like I was reading a fairytale.

The show’s opening “credits”:

Indyk outdid himself in this one. Even though not a single question was a tough one, he still managed to show that one’s tenure as an ambassador to the Middle East does not actually necessarily lead to any understanding of the region.

There is much more, here is just a taste. First, speaking about evacuating Jews who live on the other side of the fence:

I don’t believe that force would be necessary if the evacuation is presented to the Israeli public as part of a package that would include the following elements: financial compensation equal to that provided to the Gaza settlers; resettlement in the blocs that would be incorporated into Israel by agreement with the Palestinians; an end to the territorial claims of the Palestinians; security arrangements that ensure that all violence and terrorism against Israelis ceases; international guarantees of freedom of access for Israelis to Jewish holy places in Judea and Samaria; and peace with all the Arab states.

I’m not sure where to begin. The evacuation from Gaza in 2005 had overwhelming public support, and it did not go over very smoothly. Does Indyk truly believe the next one will be easier? The notion that the Arabs will cease to make any demands on Israel defies history. There is simply nothing to support it. There is even less evidence that if Jews do not control the area, ” international guarantees of freedom of access for Israelis to Jewish holy places in Judea and Samaria,” will be worth more than the paper they would be written on.

However, the subject most near and dear to my heart, ” financial compensation equal to that provided to the Gaza settlers.” So Indyk thinks there it will be easy to evict people from their homes if most Israelis support the plan, and if evictess themselves will be kicked to the curb, only to be tossed half a bone about a year later?

When asked which conflict would prove to be more “durable,” the Sunni-Shi’a dispute or the Arab-Israeli conflict, Indyk’s response seemed to rewrite history. Maybe the intra-religious conflict will last longer than the inter-religious conflict, but the “Arab-Israeli conflict has actually progressed toward resolution.” At least not in the way he thinks it has. For most of the conflict’s duration, it indeed has progressed towards being resolved – because the Jews decided winning was a good thing. However, since Israel’s leaders have decided capitulating to your enemy is a good idea, we have had two terrorist organizations sprout up around us (Hezbollah and Hamas), and continue to weaken Israel, daily, with something called the “peace process,” otherwise known as – “How to get the US President a Nobel Peace Prize.”

If it weren’t so damaging, Indyk’s stupid, yes, stupid, analyses would make for some good entertainment.

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The Realist summarizes Cast Lead, and I agree with much of what he said, including his conclusions about what needs to be done next. He says that the political situation needs to be stabilized before we know what will happen, of course – but unfortunately I do not see a real routing of Hamas happening in any case, for the following reasons:

  1. Netanyahu, who at this point is still poised to take over, come February, must be examined based on his actual experience. People do not change very much – and he already is a known quantity. Though he may be the lesser of many evils, he is a politician in the full, pejorative sense of the word, who is simply on the other side of the map from other like-minded elected officials. (The one exception is his economic worldview, based on his education, which he actually carried out fairly well while serving as minister). In any case, I don’t see him carrying such an operation out – I see him selling everything wholesale – the only mitigating factor now is Benny Begin, who actually is a true ideologue.
  2. Such an operation would probably take months – complete elimination of Hamas would require a very thorough examination of every house, street, school, alley in the entire Gaza Strip – Israel does not have the luxury of such an undertaking, largely due to world opinion the modern nature of real time media reports.
  3. Another consideration is the Israeli leadership’s tendency to conform to the popular theory that only the Left can wage war and only the Right can make peace, which Bibi certainly practiced when he was in office.

He also mentions the problem of smuggling, and that it ” is going to be incredibly difficult to stop entirely.” I think the idea of building a moat along the Philadelphi corridor is a good start.

In the end, however, The Realist is correct – “There is ultimately no alternative… In the end they have to be bombed into destruction.” I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.

“At the slightest sign of a return to the status quo ante bellum, this needs to happen.  Otherwise all of this was for nothing.” True. How sad.

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What Now?

I’m still trying to figure out how enormous of a mistake was committed by entering into this “unilateral truce.” I’m afraid that in our neighborhood, where image sometimes matters more than the facts on the ground, the politicos may have undone any good the IDF worked so hard to achieve.

Apart from all of the lives lost and hurt on the Israeli side, there were many civilians killed. Yes, legally, those responsible for those deaths are Hamas, and no one else. Nevertheless, those death were justified in the name of removing the threat against Israel. What does it mean if we did not remove the threat? If the government did not even really try? Israel’s political system is beyond corrupt and self-serving. There is no accountability (and no, there really isn’t a word for accountability in Hebrew). More on that, though, in another post sometime soon.

In the meantime go check out a few blog carnivals / roundups:

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