Sunday, May 29, 2011

Would you buy a used car from Israel's Left?

Since Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to the US Congress last week, Leftists in Israel have announced that the EU and the US should pressure Israel to withdraw back to 1949 borders ( called, euphemistically, the 1967 lines). At the same time, Opposition leader Tzipi Livni  calls for Israel to move quickly to a two-state solution.

However, something is missing from these calls--details. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but every time Leftists call for peace and withdrawal, they never discuss details. Have you noticed that? But if peace is our goal, we had better ask questions—and get answers-- before we sign anything.

You wouldn’t buy a used car without asking detailed questions. Why would you sign a peace accord that way?

Here are some questions the Left needs to answer:

1.      We see the word, ‘peace’ in the news virtually every week. Sometimes, in a good week, we could see the word ten times. It’s wonderful. We have so many Israeli columnists who love peace. The problem is, I can’t seem to find the same enthusiasm in our designated Arab peace partners. Instead, what I see from them  are such words as, ‘there will be no Jews in our new State,’ ‘we will destroy the Jewish entity’, ‘we will not recognize the Jewish State', and  ‘Jerusalem is ours’.

Question: How do you explain to the Israeli public that what appears to be an obvious disconnect between what Israel says about peace and what the Arabs say really means we have a trustworthy peace partner?

2.      The Arabs have declared that they want a Jew-free State. This would mean removing up to 400,000 Jews from the West Bank.  This is a problem because the Charter of the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi Germany’s leaders, after World War Two, stated clearly that the deportation or complete transfer of a population can be both a war crime and a crime against humanity—and the UN endorses this concept.

Question: Given the fact that we are already in trouble at the United Nations, why is it a good idea to tell the UN to help the Arab commit a government-sponsored crime against humanity?

3.      Recent history tells us that the Israeli government has not yet successfully rehoused, retrained and re-employed some 8,000 Jewish Gush residents who had been removed from Gaza in 2005.

Question:  If Israel cannot successfully move 8,000 people, how are they going to do a better job moving and rehousing up to 50 times that number?

4.      Every month, we see in news reports that the government has budget difficulties. Apparently, our government is not exactly flush with cash.

Question:   How will our government pay for moving up to 400,000 Jews?

 5.      My friends have trouble buying a house. They say real estate prices have skyrocketed because there aren’t enough houses to go around.

Question: What will happen to real estate prices—and our economy—if, suddenly, there were 90,000 displaced Jewish families looking for a place to live?

6.      The Arabs demand that Israel must move back to pre-1967 borders. Members of the IDF Command have claimed that such an arrangement would make defending ourselves almost impossible, for a variety of reasons.

             Question: How do you explain to the public that the IDF Command is dead wrong?

7.      The Arabs claim that there can be no peace with us unless we accept their ‘law of return’. This will bring up to 6 million Arabs into Israel.

Question: Where does the money come from to support the sudden influx of  6 million new immigrants who have no jobs, no place to live, cannot afford to pay for health care and  have never been to Ulpan?

8.      It seems that every time our government appears serious about peace, Mr Abbas of the Palestinian Authority seems to hold up another map of a new state of Palestine that displaces Israel.

             Question: How do you explain to the Israeli public that these new maps mean peace for Jews?

    9. Whenever someone on  the Left says,  'peace', someone on the Right says, 'peace is not possible', and when someone on the Right says that, the Arabs publish something that sounds like they want to kill Jews.

      Question: How do you explain to the Israel public that (1) the Right is wrong, and (2) the Arabs are not really talking about killing Jews?

10.  Our religious heritage teaches us that the land of Israel belongs to G-d.

Question: how do you justify giving away something that your own religion says does not belong to you?

Peace is wonderful.  Nevertheless, before you jump to join the Left, I have a suggestion: don’t buy anything until you get satisfactory answers to these questions.

You don’t buy used cars without details--and you don’t buy ‘peace’, either.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Goldstone Lessons

If Americans were shocked that UN investigators and human rights activists suggested earlier this month that the United States had violated international law when killing Osama Bin Laden, they might find it instructive to re-read the2009 UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (also called the ‘Goldstone Report’, after head-of-mission Richard Goldstone).
Goldstone and the United States?


At first blush, there seems to be no connection between Goldstone, Bin Laden and the US.

But in fact, there is a connection:  Goldstone teaches us how America can be targeted by activists.
First, the Goldstone Report represents perhaps the most up-to-date compilation of legal code on the topic of modern war, and what this compilation reveals is not good news for sovereign states who are terrorist targets.

What in 2009 looked simply like anti-Israel bias at the UN, has become a potential nightmare for all nations:  a terrorist attack against a sovereign state is ignored by both the UN and Right’s activists, but a sovereign state’s defensive retaliation against that attack becomes, because of existing international code, illegal. This is what happened with Israel, and it is exactly what can happen to the US with the Bin Laden killing.

The United States, Rights activists have claimed, has no legal defense for the killing of Bin Laden.


This may sound silly, for Bin Laden was a mass killer. But the activists are correct. The law is on their side.  

What’s happening here?
In 2009, the Goldstone Report demonstrated how international law and convention can be stacked against the sovereign state. Goldstone, in its detailed findings against Israel, clearly identifies the code, statue and Convention Article to cite in order to label any sovereign retaliation as illegal and contrary to current international law. The focus of Goldstone was, of course, Israel; but its scope, we can now see, is broader: all sovereign states who react to terrorist attack.

Since the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the nations of the world have essentially outlawed the kind of warfare sovereign states must wage to fight the modern terrorist. Targeted killing, attacking fighters who wear civilian clothing while hiding among civilians, tracking killers across borders—the main tactics for sovereign defensive warfare—can almost always be labelled ‘illegal’, given the definitions and statute we see Goldstone applying in his Report.

What Goldstone did in 2009, using international code against Israel,  Rights activists can attempt today to do against the US in the Bin Laden affair.

Goldstone lesson number one: wake up America; the sovereign state has become the outlaw.
The second Goldstone lesson has to do with crimes against humanity, which include crimes against entire populations.  While the Report concludes that Israel might have committed such crimes, it is clear from tone and text that international law has come a long way since World War Two. Indeed, the post-World War Two UN Charter takes careful note of crimes against entire populations. This is important for our region because the enemies of Israel repeatedly accuse Israel of crimes against the populations in Gaza and the West Bank.

But there is a consequence here which can help Israel:  while the nations of the world have worked hard to create new international law that seems perfect for accusing Israel of war crimes, they may have been too successful, because the law is blind:  if Israel can be accused of crimes against populations, so too might the Arab be accused--especially when Arabs demand the ethnic cleansing of up to 450,000 Jews in order to create a new Jew-free state.

Lesson number two: wake up Israel; your enemies might be ‘hoisted by their own petard’: as Goldstone used international law to accuse you, you can now use those laws to accuse the Arab.
The third lesson Goldstone teaches focuses on what happens when the UN fails in its responsibility to protect a sovereign state against aggression—a protection proffered by the very first paragraph of Chapter One,  Article One of the UN Charter. While everyone reading Goldstone was busy focusing on its accusations and its bias, they ignored the Report’s descriptions of the damage done to Gaza by Israel’s armed forces. While the Israeli attack was limited in scope and relatively brief in duration,  the devastation wrought on Gaza seems truly, utterly catastrophic.

As a sovereign state, Israel has the right to protect herself; but if the UN fails its obligation to help a sovereign state as 8,000-plus rockets are fired into her, then the UN is not exactly innocent when the sovereign finally, after three years of such attacks, reacts.

Lesson number three: wake up, UN;   if you push the lion into a corner, thereby emboldening the jackals to attack, the devastation that results could be Biblical in proportion.

Goldstone: you’ll be surprised what you can learn there. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Wrong Speech

On Tuesday, May 24, 2011, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of the US Congress. The speech, which took perhaps fifty minutes—with multiple interruptions for applause (and one heckler, who was ejected)—was even timed for a Regional audience: his speech started just after 6:20 pm Israel time.
Mr. Netanyahu knows how to control stage- center. He speaks well. He understands American values. He used all the right the words repeatedly: peace, democracy, liberty, freedom.

He repeated what might be his signature phrase for this American trip: Israel is not  what is wrong about the Middle East; Israel is what is right about the Middle East—democracy and freedom.
From many points of view, he gave a good speech, built exactly for his American audience.

But it was also the wrong speech, because he lost an opportunity to tell the truth.
Actually, there are four truths he missed.

First, the truth is, peace is not possible today in the Middle East. Peace is not possible among Arabs, and it is certainly not possible between Arab and Jew.  The concept of a peace accord between Arab and Jew is not just an illusion or a fiction—it is a lie. There is simply too much Arab hate that has been directed at the Jew for too long by too many clerics and too many TV programs for peace to grow. The words,  ‘kill’ and  ‘Jew’  do not go together so often by accident. The hate is 24/7. There is no ‘off-day’ and no vacation from it; the Arab culture is soaked in it.
The second truth is, there is no  ‘Palestinian’ people. There is no Palestinian history, no Palestinian archaeology, no Palestinian science or technology, no historic Palestinian philosophy or music or art.  The words  ‘Palestinian people’ are an invention of Yasser Arafat circa 1967-69. Mr Netanyahu referred repeatedly to  ‘Palestinians’  and to the’ Palestinian people’.  He repeats—and by repeating, legitimizes—a myth, a political lie. The Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank have no distinct culture, and they have no historic, distinctive ‘homeland’. Their ancient history is the story of the nomad.

They may want a state. But they have no homeland.
These people who have no homeland demand that we recognize them while they refuse to recognize us.  They demand a state—situated on their maps,  by the way, exactly where our state now is—as they call obsessively to ‘kill the Jew.’  They create legitimacy for their claims by lying about Judaism, Jews, and Jewish history.

Just ten days ago, Abbas declared that that Jews have no history in Israel, but that his Palestinians have a 9000-year history there.
In case you missed it, there is no record to support this claim. But there is abundant record to support Israel’s claims.

This is how an honest peace partner behaves?
The third truth is, Israel is not just about the democracy, freedom  and  Jewish homeland that Mr Netanyahu described; it is more. Israel is the cradle of Western religion and the nexus of Judaism. Israel does not exist because of the actions of US President Truman or the UN, or even because of its prowess at staving off war after war against attacking Arabs. Israel exists because that is the Will and the Promise of the G-d of Israel. The land of Israel is not an inheritance from G-d for us to dispose of as we please; it is a legacy from G-d, given to us to protect and preserve for the generations that follow us.

Israel is not just about Jewish people; it is about G-d’s Promise and G-d’s land.
Israel is about G-d.

If you are a Jew, Christian or Muslim, this is what your Holy Text tells you. It is part of your Faith.
The ugly truth is, in the public arena, when the Jew ignores his own story of Faith, he validates another’s story.

Finally, the truth is that if we continue to play this charade called ‘the peace process’, the world will suffer. We have already seen this game played  before, between Neville Chamberlain and Hitler in the late 1930’s—and we all know how that game ended: six million Jews dead, perhaps another fifty million dead around the world, and as many as one hundred million refugees, displaced and dislocated from home and loved ones.
The truth hurts. But in the end, the truth never hurts us as much as the lies we use to replace or hide truth.

 I believe that many will judge that Mr Netanyahu gave a good speech. He spoke the right words for his audience—for America and for American Jews.  But it was still the wrong speech—because he did not tell the truth.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Was the Bin Laden Killing illegal? Ask Israel

On May 3, 2011, the day after the United States announced that a US Navy SEAL team had killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, an American Human Rights lawyer posted an article online stating that this targeted killing was illegal.
The next day, news outlets published reports that rights activists were now declaring that the killing may have been an international crime.

An Australian Human Rights lawyer called the killing not only a perversion but a violation of international law. A Dutch-based international law specialist was quoted as saying, “the Americans say they are at war with terrorism and can take out their opponents on the battlefield.  But in a strictly formal sense, this argument does not stand up.”

In addition, reported that waterboarding was used during interrogations to get the information needed to find Bin Laden, and that such treatment, according to one former US official, met the legal definition of torture. At least one US Congressman asked if this use of torture has rendered the entire SEAL mission illegal.
On May 6, UN Human rights investigators called on the US to disclose all facts surrounding the killing, because, they said, it is uncertain if deadly force may be used in operations against terrorists.

American citizens’ reactions were unanimous: Bin Laden deserved to die; if any human rights violations occurred, it was the day Bin Laden ordered the 9/11 attack that killed nearly 3,000 innocent civilians; a terrorist never gives his victims any ‘human rights’ consideration, so he therefore deserves none himself.
Unfortunately, these Americans are wrong, despite US declarations that the killing was legal.

Part 2, Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court suggests that the killing could be illegal.
There may have been a time when the nations of the world supported America’s claim, but those days might be gone. As Israel herself learned in 2009 with the UN’s Goldstone Report, the world today does not view defensive military action by a sovereign state the way it once did.

Since the Fourth Geneva Convention outlined rules for war in 1949, the rules have been amended.
More important, the rules do not appear to have been altered in order to protect sovereign states. Instead, the rules seem to have been changed to make it criminal for a sovereign state to protect itself against ongoing non-traditional military attack.

At least, that’s the way it looks.
For Israel, even attempts to pre-warn Gazan civilians about pending air attacks was considered  irrelevant;  so, too, for America, the attempt to execute the raid at a time to minimize casualties has no weight for human rights activists:  both Israel and America, they claim, committed international crimes.   

Perhaps you missed this, but no human rights activists called news conferences to proclaim the criminal violation of human rights when two passenger planes were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. But for actions initiated by Israel and America to protect themselves, there were plenty of news conferences.
What we see happening today with America, has already happened to Israel: to attack the attackers is to violate international law and, perhaps,  international human rights codes.

That call by UN investigators is serious business for two reasons: first, there are laws now ‘on the books’ that make America’s actions potentially illegal-- and prosecutable; and second, human rights specialists take these rules, codes and statutes seriously.
Modern international law may unfairly handcuff sovereign states. To paraphrase George Gilder, writing in The Israel Test (2009), by allowing violent attack on civilized democracies to unfold without comment—while then condemning the necessary retaliatory defense—these writers of new war rules allow no solution but tyranny—and the tyrants know this.

The rules that make defense against asymmetrical war virtually illegal appear to be but another form of the asymmetrical war being waged against America and Israel.
In the up-side down dictionary of the new world order, Israel becomes the new Nazi who occupies and abuses entire populations, and America becomes the Perverted  Giant, whose military power illegally oppresses.

While we were sleeping, international law has been transformed: the law now seems designed to protect Bin Laden and his agents, not American civilians or Israel’s Jews.
Both Israel and the US—and any other Western nation who seeks to protect itself—are on notice: if you dare strike back, you will stand accused of crimes; you are advised to remain ‘legal’, even if that means you allow your enemies to remain free.

Indeed, current international law suggests that you must allow them to remain free.
With Goldstone, Israel was the first to learn this lesson. Now, through Bin Laden, we see that America is second.

Perhaps we should re-read Goldstone.
We might learn something.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Abbas and Goldstone? Beware the company you keep

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has recently published an op-ed essay in the New York Times entitled, ‘The Long Overdue Palestinian State.’

While many readers are justifiably outraged by two untruths-- that Muslims in Israel are denied access to their Holy places, and that Arab armies in 1948 attacked (“intervened”) only after Jews expelled Arabs at Israel’s birth in order “to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel”-- the overlooked news here is the legal twist Abbas suggests-- to internationalize this conflict “as a legal matter.”

The bad news about this announcement is that it suggests using the malodorous 2009 UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (known as the Goldstone Report, after head-of-Mission Richard Goldstone) as a weapon against Israel.

The good news is, If Abbas would use Goldstone as an attack tool, so can Israel.


The backround:  for decades, the Left has tried to label Israel as guilty of human rights violations, violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity; but they didn’t get much traction. The Goldstone Report changed that, because it not only appeared to validate their general claims, it gave those claims specificity and legal punch.

As I have written elsewhere, Goldstone lays out at least twelve portals to sue Israel, with detail. In Goldstone, Israel has violated Articles 2, 4, 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; article 42 of the Hague Regulations; Articles 6, 23, 59, 146, 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention; article 75 of the Additional Protocol I; articles 8(2) (a), 8 (2) (b) and 8 (2) (b) (iii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court—in addition to other International conventions and rules.

The specific code to cite when making accusations, the language to use—and the way to go to court—are all there. Moreover, in January 2009, the self-identified Palestinian state told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it recognizes the jurisdiction of ICC “for the purposes of identifying, prosecuting and judging the authors of acts committed in the Palestinian territories.”

Through Goldstone, the world is legally prepared to accuse and to judge. 

Abbas’ call to pursue “legal matters” echoes Goldstone’s gratuitous suggestion that a court could indeed find Israel guilty of a variety of international crimes and violations.

From Goldstone’s description of Israel’s violations, every Arab ever questioned or arrested (Goldstone estimates this number at over 700,000) might be able to sue Israel (and, possibly, individual police officers) for rights violations.

How many defense lawyers are there in Israel?

Remember, too--Goldstone also talks about reparations.

Abbas’ call to take legal action on the international scene is, therefore, not just rhetoric. Through Goldstone, all of us—Arab and Jew—can see what lawsuits Abbas can attempt  against Israel.

To read Goldstone is to learn precisely and exactly how to sue the state of Israel—and, too,  every Israeli citizen who has signed any state report concerning the ‘territories’.

Do Israelis who have been state employees—and, possibly, soldiers—have the money to hire lawyers?

Goldstone contains that kind of mischief.

Of course, the good news is, the knife that slaughters the goose can also slaughter the gander—if Israel takes off its blindfold.

Hamas in Gaza and the PA in the West Bank receive their own sections in Goldstone. For Goldstone, the Arab was not exactly an innocent victim in Operation Cast Lead. Both before and during that fighting, Arabs violated Human Rights and International Humanitarian laws. Arabs may also have committed war crimes. They, too, are described as potentially prosecutable, with details.

 Will Arab civilians bring individual lawsuits for human rights violations against the PA, or Hamas?

Probably not.

But Israel can.


Goldstone has the answer: universal jurisdiction. Universal jurisdiction means being able to sue anywhere in the world—so that, for example, if a state will not open criminal investigations where international rights laws have been violated, that case can be brought in any country whose laws allow for such lawsuits.

If the PA is threatening to use a Goldstone-style attack to bring potentially thousands of lawsuits in Palestinian courts—or at the ICC-- I suggest that someone in the US Congress should stand up immediately to pass legislation to expand the definition of universal jurisdiction in US courts, not only to assist Israel, but to protect America from cases being brought against it overseas in countries using more permissive definitions.

Israel must also examine its own definition of universal jurisdiction (it used it to prosecute Eichmann), to account for these new realities.

If Abbas wants peace (he says he does), then he should back off this legal threat, not only to demonstrate his commitment to peace, but also to protect himself from getting hoisted by his own petard.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Glenn Beck stands tall for Israel. What will Netanyahu do?

On May 19, 2011, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to the United States with a short published agenda: meet with US President Obama ; speak to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee  (AIPAC); and speak before a joint session of Congress.

On that same day, President  Obama gave an unscheduled speech.  He announced that the United States endorses a peace plan based on Israel retreating  to 1949 borders, ignored the question of Jerusalem—although 1949 borders means a divided Jerusalem—and ignored the question of the Palestinian demand that all Palestinian refugees return to Israel.

If, before arriving in the US, Israelis had questions about the Prime Minister’s courage, his comments after the President’s speech revealed that he (the PM) still had some ‘fight’ in him:  during the PM’s Friday meeting with Obama, the day after the President’s speech, Mr Netanyahu flatly rejected going back to 1949 borders and, so far as allowing Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, the PM declared, “it’s not going to happen.”

It was a strong showing for a beleaguered PM. But he is not out of the woods yet. He has several more days to get through before he leaves the US.

Curiously, with everything else he needs to think about, he now has an additional problem: Glenn Beck.

Glenn Beck is an American radio-TV personality who has come out strongly in favor of Israel. This past week, he increased his support: he began talking, not just about assisting one of the US’s last, strongest allies (his words), he began to talk about Jews.

In broadcasts on May 17 and 18, Beck spoke about how the world treated Jews in the years running up to the Holocaust. While discussing how all countries (except for Uruguay)barred Jews from finding safe haven, he quoted one national Western leader as summarizing everyone’s attitude: allowing one Jew into his country was one Jew too many. Beck’s point:  that’s why six million Jews were murdered. No one cared.  He described how the New York Times, in a 1933 article, treated Hitler with the same care it had just treated the Egyptian crowds in Tahrir Square in February 2011: look how wonderful things are. Okay, there is that ‘Jew-thing’. But other than that, isn’t this wonderful?

Two weeks ago, Beck told a rare studio audience that he spends over a million dollars a year of his own money for personal protection. By defending Jews so aggressively, he may need to increase that budget.

Why is Beck a problem for Netanyahu?

Because Beck is saying what many already see: the US is throwing Israel under the bus.  By turning against Israel, Obama endorses the people who stand in crowds all over the Arab world shouting, “Kill the Jew. Kill the Jew”.   Finally, as everyone understands,  you never have peace when populations and their leaders scream, “Kill the Jew.”

Appeasing people who want to kill does not lead to peace. Forcing Israel into a corner, to negotiate with those killers, does not lead to peace. As Beck said, that only makes the killers more frenzied.

Beck is interesting because he is not Jewish. He does not appear to have any explicitly religious agenda. He is genuinely outraged because he sees Israel as the keystone to the West; bring down Israel, and the West will fall.

And right now, no one cares about Israel.

He uses quotes and film clips of speeches to buttress his case for this connection, and he can be convincing.

The problem for Netanyahu is this:  as Israel’s leader, he is supposed to be our biggest booster, the one most articulate defender of who we are, what we stand for, and why our safety would be compromised by any talks with the current Fatah-Hamas  leadership. Until his reaction to Obama’s speech on Friday, May 20, he was not doing a very good job. In fact, at one point, in late February, 2011, after the US had to veto  a Palestinian attempt at the UN to get Israeli West Bank settlements termed, ‘illegal’, Netanyahu looked positively cowed and intimidated by an angry Obama.

Glenn Beck, a non-Jew, today upstages our own Prime Minister as the most public man willing to defend Israel.

He also has a large following.

If Netanyahu does not continue the stance he has presented so far on this US trip, he risks looking absolutely a coward compared to Beck’s outrage.

To the Middle East, being upstaged like this by a non-Jew could be proof-positive that Netanyahu does not have the cojones to lead; Israelis will see it; his Likud voters will see it; and most important, the Arab will see it.

Absolutely nothing good can result from showing himself looking like a coward compared to Beck.

Mr Netanyahu, don’t let Glenn Beck upstage you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Nakba: Commemoration or hatred? You decide

On Sunday, May 15, 2011, Palestinians marked what they call, Nakba, or catastrophe. The catastrophe they recall is not about land they lost in their 1967 war with Israel, nor is it about the war they lost in 1948. It is not about the failure of peace negotiations. The catastrophe they recall is the creation of the State of Israel.

The catastrophe is that Israel exists.

Western culture has no analogous commemoration. The West might remember a war fought—or lost; soldiers who served and/or died; a natural disaster or an unprovoked attack.  But to label the birth of another nation as a catastrophe?

Unheard of.

How does one respond to such a unique day?  It depends on what one reads.

Here are three version of Nakba, 2011. Read, and then decide which version you believe.

First, from the New York Times:   May 15 was a deadly day as thousands of Palestinians confronted Israeli troops  “to mark the anniversary of Israel’s creation”.

- At the Lebanese border, 10 Arabs were killed by Israeli soldiers and more than 100 wounded.

-At the Syrian border, Israeli soldiers fired on a crowd of Arabs, killing four.

-In the West Bank, scores of Arabs were injured by Israeli soldiers.

-At the Gaza border, Israeli troops fired into an Arab crowd, wounding dozens.

While the story appeared to present fact only, the facts seemed carefully worded, and the impact on readers was emotional-- and  negative: Israel was brutish and cruel, oppressively killing innocent protesters.

As if to support these reader comments, UN Under-Secretary-General  for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos  announced the same day (through a different news outlet) that innocents were being killed by Israel.

The second version of Nakba comes from Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described Nakba differently: it is a day that focuses on the existence of the State of Israel, he said, which the Arab sees “as a ‘catastrophe’ which has to be corrected.”  The next day, speaking to the Kenesset, he added that “the reason there is no peace is because the Palestinians refuse to recognize the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. This is not a dispute about 1967. This is a dispute about 1948, and the establishment of the State.” He then reminded his audience that  Nakba does not take place on June 5, the anniversary of the Six-Day War (Arabs demand that Israel pull back to 1967 pre-war borders).  Nakba takes place on May 15, the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

Nakba demonstrates for Netanyahu that Arab anger is not directed at Israel occupation or the absence of a Peace accord; it is focused on Israel’s very existence.

The inference is that Arabs celebrate Nakba with riots to declare that they do not want Israel to exist.

The third version of Nakba comes from the Arabs themselves.

In the days leading up to May 15, a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament,  Yunis al Astal, gave an interview on Al Aqsa TV. In that interview, he explained that Jews are more dangerous than all the world’s lethal birds of prey, dangerous reptiles and lethal bacteria combined; the Jews have been ingathered into the land of Israel so that the Muslim god would give the Arab the honor of annihilating them and their evil; and, finally, the Jews will soon understand that they were brought to Israel in order to be slaughtered in a great massacre.

Part of this interview appeared on the Glenn Beck program, on the Fox Channel, on May 17.

Two days before Nakba, Arab radio broadcast —for Israeli Arabs—a song about ‘Palestine’. The lyrics state that the Israeli Jaffa (part of Tel Aviv), Acre, Haifa, Lod, the Gallilee, the Golan, Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Ashkelon are all ‘Palestine’.

All of these places, except for the Golan, are within the 1947 Israel lines.  Nevertheless, in the song, they are ‘Palestinian’.

Finally, on May 13, during a festive outdoor gathering of hundreds of  Arabs, Hamas TV in Gaza interviewed a 92- year old woman  who, when asked what Nakba means to her, responded, ‘with god’s help you should massacre Jews with your own hands, the way we did in Hebron (in 1929). We, the people of Hebron, massacred the Jews.’

Part of her interview appeared on Glenn Beck, on May 19.

The day after Nakba, Saeb Erekat,   former Palestinian Authority negotiator with Israel, told a Tel Aviv conference that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are over.

Then, next day, Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud A-Zahar stated that the Hamas-Palestinian Authority government has no intention of negotiating with Israel.

Three versions of Nakba: each presents facts and/or quotes. Each suggests how one might feel about Israel and her Arab neighbors.

Which version do you believe?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How should Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak to the US Congress?

Note: at the end of this Post, I respond to a reader comment. Both Comment and Response have been adjusted for public posting.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before the US Congress next week.
There is speculation in Israel about concessions he might offer. There is concern about what he might give away.
I suggest he make no concessions.  Instead-- because US President Obama has stated that the Arab street wants democracy-- Mr Netanyahu should propose, a  “democracy concord ”—so that Jew and Arab together can transform the Middle East.
The concord agreements should begin with Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Mr Netanyahu should open with an overarching goal:  to reach an agreement that creates a win-win for both sides.
America understands ‘win-win’.
He should declare that his proposed “democracy concord” is built on three platforms: partnership, peace, and democracy.
To begin, each side must feel it can live beside the other as a trusted partner. There are many problems they will need to solve together: water, power generation, job training,  employment.
The IMF and the World Bank have already said that Israel and the Arab must work together.
They must be partners.
To become partners, there must be peace; nothing less is acceptable. Governance is not about empowering hate; it should be about protecting each citizen’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of individual accomplishment.
Is this not mankind’s dream?
It is certainly America’s dream.
Finally, there must be democracy, for democracy has the only proven track-record to support the dreams of man.
Why should Jew and Arab settle for less?
The general principles for this “democracy concord” are simple:
Every citizen should feel safe enough to walk down a street alone.
 Each citizen should have the right to vote.
 Each citizen should have total access to education.  
Each citizen should have freedom to pray as he pleases, without fear of being attacked.
Each citizen should know that his religion’s traditional and historic Holy Sites are safe.
Each citizen should feel that he has representation in the National Parliament.
After this introduction, the PM should repeat these principles as concord specifics:
1.       Each side must specify how Arabs in Israel and Jews in the PA will have:
-voting rights
-representation in their national Congress
-access to full medical care
-access to education
-safe access to Holy Sites

        2.   Each side must document that:
-each accepts the other’s right to exist
-each accepts the other’s right to peaceful borders
-each accepts the other’s right to religion and religious identification
-each removes all expression of hate from public documents, media and religion
        3.   Each must validate how Arabs in Israel and Jews in the PA can create political parties for National Representation.
        4.    Each must show how it will offer job training to Arabs in Israel and Jews in the PA.
          5.  Each must present how it will include the narrative of the other side in their own educational curriculum.
           6.  Each must present its plan to protect the human rights of Arabs in Israel, and to protect human rights of Jews in the PA.
            7.  Each must show how it will give Arabs in Israel and Jews in the PA a role to play in each judicial system.
 The requirements for democracy are clear and simple.
When implemented, this “democracy concord” will create a democracy model for the entire Region.
The key to success, our Prime Minister should suggest, is not simply announcing the existence of the “concord”, but monitoring its progress. To that end, Mr Netanyahu should tell America that he promises to report, in regular, monthly news conferences, how each side progresses on each of the concord’s elements.
In this peace-making process, he should warn, the world must see who validates and who resists—who seeks peace and who refuses, who accepts democracy and who rejects it.
Our Prime Minister should make it clear that Israel is committed to this process. Israel knows how to bring prosperity and individual liberty to its citizens, and she wants to offer her skills to her neighbors—but only when there is peace, partnership and democracy.
The ‘ball’ is in the PA’s court. Will they call for democracy—or will they call for war?
Israel calls for peace. Israel is not perfect. She knows that.  But she wants a partnership of peace with her neighbors, and she is ready to commit to this “concord”.
The Prime Minister can then conclude with a Biblical reference: let us now put down our swords and our hate. Let us now work together, as neighbors of good will, to create both peace and prosperity for our two peoples.
Personally, I believe that Mr Netanyahu can make this speech.
I believe that America would respond to it.
For Mr Netanyahu visiting America, that’s what counts.

COMMENT: Hamas and Fatah are back together, and  the Hamas Charter essentially nullifies Israel.
In addition, Haniyeh of Hamas has just renewed his call for Israel's end: we're all back to square one.

My reply:

First, you are right. With the Hamas-Fatah alliance, we would appear to be, as you suggest, back to square one. But I would suggest to you that there is also here a potential 'no'—we might not be back to the same old ‘square one’.
Why? Because right now the international geopolitical table has tilted away from Israel; at this stage in the Arab-Israel conflict, we are definitely on the defensive. Worse, we seem to be passive, without 'fight', without a leg to stand on.
Everyone tells us what we must do: give the Arab what he wants, and do it now. In response, we stand mute, seemingly embarrassed by some kind of guilt or inability to act. As the nations of the world incessantly demand that we surrender land, our apparent silence seems to prove to them that they are right and we are wrong. Very, very wrong.
 This "concord" concept, I think, has the potential to re-tilt the table because it alters the discussion of 'statehood' from 'we must give to you', to 'we will partner with democracy'.
 Remember, he who controls the definition of terms will control the debate, and he who controls the debate increases his odds of winning--and so far we have given up that control to everyone else; now, we strike back with our own definitions, and we create those definitions in terms of values America holds dear, and we do that in the House that counts--the US Congress, where those values were forged and built.
Hamas-Fatah rejection, in my opinion,  does not exactly drive us back to square one: Instead, I think that their rejection can, if we set this up properly, drive us to a new 'square one', a moral high ground we have recently ceded to our enemies:  YOU reject democracy; YOU reject becoming a trusted partner; YOU refuse 'life, liberty and the pursuit of individual accomplishment'; YOU reject religious freedom; YOU reject human rights; and YOU, by rejecting this call to peace and partnership, clearly and obviously reject peace.
Their rejection can become part of our battle cry: WE choose democracy; WE choose a commitment to citizen safety; WE choose peace. YOU reject, YOU disdain, YOU refuse, YOU are the ones who spit at America's call for democracy and YOU are the ones who spit in the face your brothers in Tunisia and Lybia, etc, who have called for democracy.
Does it matter here the Arab street's call for democracy--or Obama's interpretation of that call as the call for democracy--is probably not authentic or viable?
Because, at least for some observers, the conflict over statehood is part of a greater war against Israel—and  truth has already become a casualty.
Indeed, even if this idea of ‘war’ is not correct, truth has still become a casualty. Look at untruths we have seen from our ‘peace partners’ in just the last six or seven months: the Temple Mount never was Jewish; Rachel’s Tomb is a mosque; the Jew’s  ‘occupation’  of Palestine includes Haifa.
The truth is not important any more. What counts is perception.
In America, there is a saying: Perception is Reality.
The perception created by our enemies is that we are the bad guys; and right now, everyone seems to say that is the truth.
The perception we want to create is the one that says, 'You are the bad guys, not us'.
If you believe that, with the Hamas-Fatah alliance, we go back to square one, then I would suggest yes—we could go back to the original square one--1948-- which actually recognized who were the good guys, who not.
If we create a new 'square one' with this moral high ground-- well then, that is a better spot to be in vs where we are right now.
I think that the idea of a new 'square one' is possible.  I think we can change ' back to square one' to ‘our square'.
 Is that really possible?
 I do not know. But I do know this: right now, we are boxed in, with no place to go and very little to say in our own defense. This type of speech, however, this type of approach, could help us create--I would suggest-- a moral high ground we can believe in and fight for.
Will anyone else believe that?
 I am not concerned about ‘anyone else’. This moral high ground is not for them; it's for us, to give us something to fight for, something to believe in besides, 'we have no other choice right now'.
 I think a speech like this gives us a choice--we can define for ourselves and for the US Congress that the American concepts of peace, trust and freedom still live; more important, it says that Israel is willing to commit to these concepts (in fact, if you look at the list in the ‘speech’, Israel already lives by those requirements); just as Obama wants to do for the Middle East, we in Israel do today, as proof to our neighbors that democracy, peace and security are possible. Yes, Netanyahu can say, we commit to these values.
 Now we challenge the Arabs: what do you commit to?
Suddenly, they are the ones on the defensive, because we know—as you suggest--how they will respond. Well, let them respond that way--because then we can pound them as the cause of no peace, no trust, no safety, no partnership, and no democracy.
A speech like this would, I think, be fighting words, for sure; but right now, Israel has no 'fight' at all. I think right now we have nothing except, 'we surrender'.
So with one speech to the US Congress, Netanyahu might change everything.
Redefining the terms of our participation in the discussion of a new state could be the game-changer for us. It may not change the bid for statehood, but it could change perceptions.
 Remember: perception is reality.
That’s what makes America so great.
We might be wise to speak ’Americanese’ to America.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, Israel Independence Day--and Zion

On a recent Monday, at precisely ten am, all of Israel stopped: cars, taxis, buses, pedestrians.
Sirens wailed.
Everyone understood. Everyone stopped, stood—silent.
It was Yom HaShoah, the day and the hour and the moment to remember the Shoah, the Holocaust, when six million Jews were murdered because they were Jews.
As a new immigrant to Israel, I had never experienced this. I was impressed: the sirens’ wail, the cars askew on the road—passengers and drivers standing alongside—and a bus, seemingly frozen in mid-turn through a traffic circle.
For two minutes, nothing moved.
Later in the day, in our local mall, TV screens showed black-and-white documentary film from World War Two concentration camps. The images were stark, sobering.
They were images of strangely thin people —starving, caged, being herded (we now know) for death.
Our grandparents.
On that Monday, May 2, we honored the murdered with our sirens and our silence, to demonstrate that we do not forget.
One week later, sirens blare again, for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, when we remember the 22,684 soldiers who died fighting for Israel, and our 3,971 civilian terror victims. In America, these numbers would be ( based on today’s population)  1,180,000 fallen soldiers and 210,000 civilian terror victims.
The numbers are staggering.
Then, next day,  Tuesday, May 10-- Israel‘s Independence Day.
Our 63rd birthday.
Perhaps this is a moment to pause, to think about Zion.
Surely, we live in momentous times. The nations of the world seem hostile. The three hundred and forty million Arabs of this region seem daily to dehumanize Israel’s five million Jews. The language of hate permeates their media, their mosques and their schools. Iran threatens to annihilate us. The Arabs print maps of a new ‘Palestine’ in place of Israel. They announce that their new state will  be Jew-free.
The European Union and the United States scold, pressure and perhaps threaten us to give the Arabs what they want.
Arab media promotes Jew-hatred?
Doesn’t matter.
Just give the Arab what he wants.
Jews appear to have chosen two ways to respond to this pressure: Zion and anti-Zion.
 Anti-Zion wants to be like everyone else. Everyone else says, give the Arab what he wants.
Anti-Zion says, give the Arab what he wants.
For them, Zion is dead.  We must give up land.  The UN, EU and US say so. We have no choice. We must surrender land for peace.
They say, ‘peace’.
‘Everyone else’  hears, we ‘surrender’.
If we refuse, anti-Zion says, we will suffer an apocalypse, with all the chaos, confusion and fires of Hell.
An Israel newspaper, ironically called Haaretz, (’ the land’), declares that every Jew who embraces the land pushes Israel down ‘the road to Hell’.
But this apocalyptic vision is completely un-Jewish. It comes from everyone else. It derives from the idea that a Jewish national homeland is an impossibility: G-d has rejected the Jew. The Jew has no legitimate ‘Zion’.
We have no choice but to surrender.
The second approach is to embrace the land— the very thing anti-Zion fears.
This group is Zion.
Zion says, we do not surrender land.
The land is our destiny. 
It is our identity.
For some in Zion, ’land for peace’  appears indeed to be the UN’s perfect solution to the Arab-Israel conflict: the Arab gets the land and the UN gets the peace.
What will the Jew get?
Doesn’t matter.
The anti-Zion vision will bring a two-state solution and with that, as former Israel UN Ambassador Abba Eban once said, we will get Auschwitz borders.
It could be a Nazi’s dream for the modern Jew.
The Zion vision is different; it accepts no compromise on land.
What does that get us?
We do not know.
We do not ask.
We do not surrender.
In Zion, some believe that we do not hold onto this land because of our strength, might or power—or the UN; we hold this land because it is the will of the G-d of Israel.
The G-d of Israel spoke it-- and today, after the Holocaust of Europe, five million Jews live it.
We do not surrender what belongs to G-d.
G-d owns this land, not us. He gives it to whomever He pleases.
 He has promised this land to the Jew.
If everyone else complains about that, our Prime Minister should reply, “Can’t help you. I don’t own the land. Go talk to the Owner.”
 Zion knows what the Arab knows (and what anti-Zion refuses to accept): when the Jew removes himself from his religion, the Arab will separate him from his land.
It is that simple.
Perhaps this is why anti-Zion worries about Hell.
Perhaps it is why Zion is so energetic and strong.
Perhaps Zion is the reason we have a birthdate to celebrate.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Human Rights, the PA and the death of Ben-Yosef Livnat

On Sunday, April 24, 2011 five Breslov Chassidim drove into the PA-controlled city of Nablus, to worship at a Jewish Holy site, Joseph’s Tomb. It was the middle of Passover, a week-long celebration of the Jewish Exodus from Egyptian slavery more than three thousand years ago, during which time the bones of Joseph had been taken out of Egypt. What better way to honor Joseph than by praying at his Tomb? But in an incident that involved—according to the victims—the PA police, this day-trip turned into murder as PA police opened fire on their car, killing 25-year old Ben-Yosef Livnat, and wounding four others.
According to at least one news report, Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu has angrily demanded that the murderers be brought to justice. The PA, however, claims it has, “no leads”.
 When Israel signed the 1993 Oslo Accords, Joseph’s Tomb was to remain an Israel property—because of its religious significance. But in 2000, after an outbreak of Arab violence that left one IDF soldier dead, security at the Tomb was handed over to the PA. The Tomb is not off-limits to Jews.
Apparently, one justification for the killing of Mr Livnat is that this Breslov group did not coordinate their trip with the IDF; they travelled alone and unannounced.
With this killing, the PA is on trial. Despite the suggestion that failure to coordinate renders this assault somehow acceptable, the United Nations understands that this murder is a human rights violation (see below). This is important because UN documents state that the manner in which a governing body reacts to human rights violations committed by its agents clearly shows if it is willing to ensure effective protection of human rights.
More important still, the UN then takes this  ‘protection of human rights’  concept and links it explicitly to creating or breaking peace and international security.
 Today, we should hold the UN to its word.
If the PA does not respond to this murder with appropriate action, then our Prime Minister should tell both the UN and the US Congress  ( he is scheduled to  speak there soon)  four things about the PA: (1) it demands the privilege of statehood but arrogantly rejects a state’s responsibilities; (2) its systemic and institutionalized incitement to kill Jews (which may have played a role in this murder) is a crime according to Article III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide; (3) while the World Bank and IMF recently stated that the PA’s readiness for statehood depends upon gaining Israel’s cooperation, the PA seems more interested in killing than cooperating; and (4) by rejecting human rights, the PA rejects the above concepts of  peace and security.
To understand the extent to which the PA disdains human rights—even as it hypocritically accuses Israel-- consider the violations committed here:
(1) shooting indiscriminately at civilians: this is a violation of international law.
(2) the deliberate attack against civilians, with lethal outcome: termed a ‘serious’ civil rights violation that creates individual criminal responsibility.
(3) the use of unnecessary lethal force against unarmed civilians:  a violation of the PA’s  responsibility, under international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws, to protect civilians from violence.
(4) The killing of Ben- Yosef Livnat: arbitrary deprivation of life.
(5)The killing of Ben-Yosef Livnat: a violation of customary international law.
(6)The killing of Ben- Yosef Livnat: police brutalty (wording depends on code cited).
(7)The killing of Ben Yosef Livnat: the deprivation of life that involves the complicity or tolerance of a Governing body or its agents ( including death through the excessive use of force by police or security forces).
Furthermore, according to US State Department documentation on Human Rights, additional rights violations may also have occurred:
(8) racial discrimination:  the restriction of movement based on national origin.
(9) Destruction of property.
(10) deprivation of the right to exercise the freedom of religion.
(11) religious discrimination (could be separate from depriving the freedom of religion).
(12) failure to respect the cultural life of a group.
(13) failure to protect cultural heritage and cultural property
This is how the UN works—one incident; perhaps thirteen violations.
 The Arabs understand this ratio of violations-to-incident, and they have used this knowledge at the UN to accuse and slander Israel. Now, Jews should fight back.
The UN must apply the same standard to all.
Moreover,  Mr Netanyahu must demand that this attack not only be prosecuted, but linked to Palestinian statehood. The UN has already stated (above) that peace, international security and human rights are a package, one that the PA clearly rejects. To maintain world respect, the UN must defend its world-view:  there should be no statehood for those who disdain human rights, peace and international security.
This is how Mr. Netanyahu should speak for the Livnat family.