O Little Near-By Town of Bethlehem: Christmas 2012

The following was published on Dec. 24 at Times of Israel by Judy Lash-Balint

Every Christmas I make the 15-minute drive from my Jerusalem home to Bethlehem for a reality check on the beleaguered town five miles away.

This year, contrary to the customary gloomy reports from the international media, things were bustling in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Bright blue skies and comfortable temperatures help make things more pleasant than in previous years when a cold, grey drizzle dampened spirits.

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Driving up to the Rachel’s Passage checkpoint in my car with Israeli plates, a quick check of my press credentials is all that’s needed to get waved through. Tour buses and private cars get the same summary but courteous treatment by the Israeli soldiers stationed at the checkpoint.

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In Bethlehem on the other side of the security barrier, the most striking thing this year is the massive presence of Palestinian police and other security personnel. Two uniformed men are stationed on every corner, at every intersection, and every 50 yards along the narrow streets leading from the checkpoint to Manger Square. Dozens of police cars, army vehicles, jeeps and assorted other cars with flashing lights are dotted all over town.

Palestine security personnel out in force on the streets of Bethlehem

Palestine security personnel out in force on the streets of Bethlehem

The European and Asian-funded restoration projects in Bethlehem’s old city have mostly now been completed, and Star Street that leads into Manger Square is a lovely pedestrian walkway lined with Ottoman-era buildings.  Flower-lined alleyways; interesting courtyards and steep, winding stairways lead off the street.

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Inside the Church of the Nativity, scene of the 39-day siege by Arab terrorists in April 2002, lines form to get into the crypt. As sunlight pours in through the windows just below the ornate ceiling, tour guides lead their groups around the marble pillars and under the brass lamps adorned with Christmas baubles, while those selling candles do a brisk business among the predominantly Asian pilgrims.

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This year, the center of Manger Square is packed with media and tourists, averting the scene I witnessed back in 2004 when hundreds of Moslems poured out of the mosque at the edge of the square and took over the area directly in front of the Church of the Nativity for midday prayers.

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Another thing missing from previous years—the pictures of Yasser Arafat.  One or two small pictures of Yasser are still to be found on official buildings, but images of current Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are nowhere to be seen, apart from on the window of one cop car.

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And the ubiquitous martyr pictures of recent years?  A few hang forlornly on some shuttered shopfronts, but there are far more posters for upcoming concerts.

We get to Paul VI Street just in time to catch the traditional Palestinian bagpipe parade, where some fifty smartly uniformed musicians march through town squeezing their bagpipes to the accompaniment of several oversize booming drums.

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Mid-afternoon, the local faithful are to be found at prayer in the Santa Caterina church in the grounds of the Church of the Nativity. Several thousand worshipers wait reverently to take part in the ritual as the voices of the choir resonate from the tall arched walls. Apart from a large presence of nuns, almost everyone in the church is Christian Arab. It’s clear from their dress and their bearing that they’re from the dwindling upper strata of Bethlehem society.

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 In the Bethlehem Peace Center that houses the tourist information office in Manger Square, the standard Palestinian propaganda is on display.

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On the way out of town, the Rachel’s Passage checkpoint has closed for some reason and we’re re-routed via picturesque Beit Jalla, a once-friendly village of ancient Christian origin that became the launchpad forArafat’s attacks on Israeli civilians in neighboring Gilo during the second intifada.  Today, Beit Jalla, like Bethlehem, is under Palestine Authority control and the streets are lined with PA security forces.

The road winding down from Beit Jalla to the Ein Yael checkpoint near Jerusalem’s Malcha train station boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the area and provides time to adjust to re-entry to western Jerusalem, where it’s just another Monday in December.

[All photos © Judy Lash Balint.  All rights reserved]

You don’t need to know Hebrew to write Israeli history backwards at the Guardian

A guest post by AKUS

As you know, Hebrew is written from right to left, not left to right. But the mere fact that the letters are arranged in the opposite direction should not imply that the logic is.

Apparently, however, when writing to the Guardian, it helps to transcribe the letters from left to right, but have the logic go backwards.

In a recent letter to the Guardian, arguing for a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution against the one-state solution proposed in an article by   Rachel Shabi declaring the “Two-State Solution  Dead”, Dr. John Jennings wrote (my emphasis added):

“The opening sentence in Rachel Shabi’s article (The death of the two-state solution gives fresh hope, 24 October) underlines its central weakness. We are told: “We could argue who killed it but what’s the point.” But exaggeration aside, this is precisely what we should do, since it immediately highlights the principal cause: A COMPLETE ABSENCE of a sustainable high-powered PALESTINIAN resistance movement on the ground for over TWO DECADES and counting.

The literature on resistance in asymmetric conflicts over the last 100 years shows that, for the weaker protagonist, up to 50% of such conflicts are successful, not so much in the classical Castro sense, but more with respect to a meaningful and substantive reconfiguration of the power between the parties. Then and only then can negotiations become “realistic”, as the stronger party, succumbing to the cost factor, inevitably becomes attuned to the reality of a robust protagonist.

A classical paradigm is the Vietnam war, but PALESTINIAN RESISTANCE, especially in the late 1980s, is even more pertinent, since it effectively drove RABIN to the negotiating table, AS HE HIMSELF ADMITTED. The great pity was that Arafat threw away all the advantages of this initial success by disbanding the very resistance that prompted the Palestinian breakthrough in the first place.

In my view, a comprehensive, robust, nonviolent core resistance on the ground in Palestine, coupled with an international campaign akin to the boycott movement, in conjunction with an equally robust negotiating strategy will lead to an independent Palestinian state.”

Now, how about this version?

“We could argue who killed it but what’s the point.” But exaggeration aside, this is precisely what we should do, since it immediately highlights the principal cause: THE EMERGENCE OF A high-powered JEWISH/ZIONIST/ISRAELI resistance movement on the ground for over SIX DECADES and counting that led to an Independent Israeli state that could not be coerced into accepting an Arab fiat creating a Palestinian state under conditions unacceptable to Israel.

The literature on resistance in asymmetric conflicts over the last 100 years shows that, THE VASTLY OUTNUMBERED JEWISH STATE, was the best example of how to create a meaningful and substantive reconfiguration of the power between the parties.

A classical paradigm is NOT the Vietnam war, waged by the Vietnamese against foreign powers. ISRAELI FORTITUDE, especially in the late 1980s, is even more pertinent, since it effectively drove EGYPT AND JORDAN to the negotiating table, as THEY THEMSELVES admitted.

Any impartial reading of the last 64 years, since the State of Israel was founded, and also the 30 -40 years before that, must show that Israelis pulled off a textbook example of using self-reliance, economic development, willingness to sacrifice and flexibility in negotiations to achieve goals the Palestinians have never been able  to achieve. If one seeks a classic example of “asymmetric resistance” in the face of a vastly superior enemy, it is Israel’s ability to resist conquest by its Arab enemies.

Jennings’ call for the Palestinians to emulate the Vietnamese in order to create a Palestinian state is ludicrous and a complete misreading of the two conflicts. There is not the slightest resemblance to the Vietnam situation. In Vietnam, an existing nation beat off the armies of foreign powers led by the USA that came from thousands of miles away for ideological reasons (anti-Communism) to support a corrupt regime that had taken over half the country.  Obviously, Israel in this scenario is not in any sense a remote country under no threat from its opponent  like the USA and its allies in Vietnam, and certainly is not trying to support the corrupt and divided Palestinian regime. Moreover, Israel is not going to go away when the going gets tough.

Rather than having a “robust negotiating strategy” the Palestinians have either walked away from negotiations or refused to negotiate with a stronger power, Israel.  When Jennings proposes “a comprehensive, robust, nonviolent core resistance on the ground” he is dreaming. The only person to seriously attempt to implement this has been Salam Fayyad. He is regarded almost if not in fact as a traitor to “the cause”, which is really the destruction of Israel, not the creation of Palestinian State on the West Bank (and possibly in Gaza). The concept of “resistance”, in the Palestinian context, means the use of terror tactics against Israeli civilians, not non-violence.

Furthermore, Jennings’ proposal for a sort of “asymmetric” jiu-jitsu, i.e. an “international campaign akin to the boycott movement,” has been tried and like the BDS cult, has failed. The Palestinians can go to the UN as often as they like, but it is not the UN they must negotiate with, and the UN will not force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank in its entirety which is the only thing that might satisfy the Palestinians.

The Palestinians are not the Vietnamese or Cubans. They have not been a “robust opponent” able to “drive”  Israel to the negotiating table. On the contrary, Israel has begged the obdurate Palestinians to negotiate – which means accepting some compromises for both sides – and they have refused. One could argue, I suppose, that Israel has not been able to “drive” the Palestinians to the negotiating table – is this a measure of Palestinian power and success? It certainly does not seem to be.

The problem the Palestinians have is not how to “drive” Israel to the negotiating table. The most “unrealistic” aspect of the Palestinians’ aspirations for a Palestinian state (other than their desire to take over Israel) is that they have not learned how to say “yes” when offered 95% of the West Bank. But perhaps the problem is that what lies behind the “one-state” concept is that it is not even 100% of the West Bank that would satisfy them – it is 100% of Israel that they dream of taking.

 Israel is not America, the Palestinians are not a good example of a resistance or national liberation movement but Israel is, and they have no need of a “robust resistance”. If it is an “independent state” they want, as Jennings seems to believe, they can have 95% of what they want tomorrow if they can only bring themselves to take it.

What is becoming increasing apparent, hence the futile calls for the impossible “one-state solution”, is that the Palestinians are incapable of creating the conditions under which they will achieve a Palestinian state on the West Bank.  The conclusion seems to be that this is not what they want even if Jennings  and others think it is what they should want.

On the other hand, despite Shabi, since the “one state solution” requires Israelis to agree to it, they are unlikely to get that either. If one accepts that their leaders understand that, and are unwilling to negotiate with Israel, one can only assume that they do not, in fact, want an independent state. The true “one-state” for the West Bankers is federation with Jordan – a logical idea which is becoming more openly discussed by West Bank intellectuals and Jordanian leaders. The West Bank leadership should say so, and open negotiations with Jordan, with Israel entering the final status negotiations under the terms of the existing peace agreement with Jordan once those two parties have formulated their proposals.

As long as you can write the logic backwards, reinvent history, draw false analogies and make improbable claims about how to create a Palestinian state other than simply saying “yes” it appears that, like Dr. Jennings, you too can have a letter published in the Guardian.

Judith Butler, more Palestinian than the Palestinians

Cross posted by Alan Johnson

Judith Butler

In 2006 the rock star left-wing academic Judith Butler said that “understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.” (See 16:24 in this video.)

Butler’s remark expressed all that’s wrong with the new style of “Palestinian solidarity work.”

Viewing the two-state solution as a sell-out, Butler attacks the PA application to the United Nations for recognition. The bid’s only value, she argues, is that it allows the left to jump up and down on grave of the “sham of the peace negotiations” and celebrate the “break with the Oslo framework.”

She wags her finger at Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas. By seeking a deal with Israel they are “abandon[ing] the right of return for diasporic Palestinians” and “potentially abandon[ing] Gaza.” If they succeed, “half of all Palestinians may well be disenfranchised.”

The Guardian newspaper sounded the same note when it published the leaked “Palestine Papers” from the Olmert-Abbas Annapolis talks, with distorted editorial gloss, and called Palestinian negotiators “craven” for engage seriously in final status talks.

The London Review of Books routinely denounces Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, as a collaborator. “Fayyad’s critics,” wrote Adam Shatz, “call him a ‘good manager of the occupation,’ a ‘builder of apartheid roads,’ ‘the sugar daddy who got us hooked on aid,’ and it’s all true.”

The Palestinian national movement is being policed from the “left,” and from the coffee shops and seminar rooms of London and New York by people who consider themselves more Palestinian than the Palestinians.

Butler gives an outraged “No!” to Abbas. She will not “sacrifice of the right of return for millions of Palestinians outside the region.” But think about that “No!” It is a program for the dismantling of the Jewish state. “The loss of demographic advantage for the Jewish population in Israel would surely improve prospects for democracy in that region,” she writes (optimistically, shall we say) in her new book, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism. As Leon Wieseltier wrote in the New Republic back in 2003, “the one state solution is not the alternative for Israel. It is the alternative toIsrael.”

The new style treats negotiations as useless. Butler claims the Oslo years have seen only “the indefinite deferral of all ‘permanent status issues’—effectively establishing the occupation as a regime without foreseeable end.” Quite as if there never was Camp David at which Ehud Barak offered the shop, ’67 borders more or less, settlements uprooted; nor the Clinton-era proposals which Barak accepted and Arafat rejected; nor Annapolis at which Olmert offered all of that and more, including a shared capital in Jerusalem.

Another part of the new style is to pose an entirely literary “alternative” to the two-state solution. Butler talks of “Palestinian self-determination … without external interference,” “the right of return for diasporic Palestinians,” “the one-state solution.” Refusing to travel to Israel, so with no feel for Israeli society, and with a prose style that secured her first prize in the “Philosophy and Literature Bad Writing Contest” Butler’s answers are, literally, literary. More importantly, Butler gets wrong what the conflict is actually about. Two highly developed and distinct societies, Israeli and Palestinian, each based on a powerful sense of national identity, must divide the land. When there are strong desires for national self-determination, the one-state idea collapses. Brit Shalom, the bi-national Zionist movement of the 1920s, could not know this. We can’t not know it.

To divide the land, each people needs to feel confident and secure if it is to make excruciating compromises. For that, each people must feel itself to be understood as a permanent feature of the Middle East. Butler’s one-statism does the opposite. It proposes to resolve a national question by denying the right to national self-determination of both peoples.

 [Editors' note: Please also see A. Jay Adler's post on Butler, 'Impenetrable: The hallow rhetoric of Judith Butler']

Phoebe Greenwood continues Guardian tradition of dishonest reporting about Palestinian incitement

Media lies are rarely as simple as publishing a story which makes a claim that is explicitly untrue, and which the journalist knows to be patently false.

Rather, most such ethical breaches involve contextualizing a story in a way which obfuscates, ignores or otherwise blurs a politically inconvenient fact or reality.

A recent report by the the Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood (Newt Gingrich condemned for calling Palestinians terrorists, Dec. 11) is a classic example of such a distortion.

Greenwood jumped on one assertion by Newt Gingrich about the culture of antisemitism in Palestinian society to obfuscate the broader undeniable reality of such incitement (and the glorification of violence against Israeli civilians) in their education system and, indeed, throughout their culture.

Writes Greenwood:

“The Republican frontrunner insisted at a candidate debate on Saturday – to warm applause from the audience – that “these people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, if there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left? We pay for those textbooks through our aid money.”

Adds Greenwood:

“Palestinian officials said Gingrich’s allegations were based substantially on material produced by an Israeli organisation, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which has published a long list of entries on its website under the heading ‘Promoting Violence for Children’. An article from 2007 describes Palestinian textbooks paid for with US aid money that deny Israel‘s right to exist.

Xavier Abu Eid, a senior adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said…”[Gingrich] is welcome to come to Palestine so he can stop speaking from talking points and speak about reality. If he can produce a Palestinian textbook that proves his point, then he should do it. But they don’t exist in our schools – he’s quoting propaganda.”

The suggestion that PMW represents “propaganda” is itself an example of cynical political propaganda, as nobody has ever seriously disputed the accuracy of PMW’s Arabic translations.  Further, the fact that the group is based in Israel is of no relevance to assessing the overall rigor of the group’s research. 

PMW translators are experts in Arabic with many years of study and work behind them.  Indeed, for some, Arabic is their mother tongue.  (Additional evidence of antisemitism promoted by the PA, which corroborates the analysis by PMW, can be found at MEMRI.)

As such, Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, noted in today’s Jerusalem Post, the following regarding the row over Gingrich’s comments:

Here, Gingrich was correct in principle but his example was not. The PA schoolbooks do not include that particular math question. Instead the PA Ministry of Education does something far worse: It glorifies murderers and terrorists. The PA Ministry of Education has two of its schools named after Dalal Mughrabi…the woman who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history, the Coastal Road massacre bus hijacking in which 37 civilians were killed.

What exactly is the PA message to its children regarding terror? Terror and killing Israelis is not only justified but is even worthy of honor.

Two [PA] summer camps for children this past summer had groups named after her, and one of the camps was sponsored by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The entire environment the PA has created for its children envelopes them in glorification of terror.

The PA, it seems, learned that the world would no longer permit it to directly call to kill Israelis, for to do so would cause it to lose American and European funding. So instead of promoting the terror, it glorifies the terrorists; instead of Palestinian children learning that they must kill Israelis, they learn that whoever kills Israelis will become a Palestinian hero.

[Further], the PA educates its children with this dual message that Israel exists but has no right to exist, as expressed in a PA school book for grade 12: “Palestine’s war ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and established the State of Israel.” (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p. 104)

Defining Israel as being created after “Zionist gangs stole Palestine” is the definitive expression of denying Israel’s right to exist. Significantly, this rejection of Israel is not just found in Palestinian schoolbooks but is a central part of the ongoing Palestinian discourse.

When the American congressional candidates criticized the PA for promoting terror among Palestinians they were absolutely correct. When they accused the PA of denying Israel’s right to exist they were merely exposing authentic PA ideology.

Greenwood, by framing the story in a way which sows doubt about such ongoing (and continually documented) Palestinian incitement, again demonstrates why the Guardian continues to excel at ideologically influenced dishonest reporting.

The Insanity of the Middle East: A Handy Guide

This was written by Barry Rubin

Every day in the Middle East, terrible things take place.

The worst are the material acts of violence and oppression. The second-worst are the lies and distortions of truth that help ensure things don’t get better.

Every day in the West, the lies are echoed, amplified, and invented. This also helps ensure things don’t get better in the Middle East and that they do get worse in the West.

Now I’ve found, from the most unexpected place, a single sentence, an ancient proverb, that explains it all. It comes from the Navahos and it goes like this:

You cannot awaken someone who pretends to be sleeping.

In other words, you cannot convince someone who is not merely mistaken but is deliberately lying. They have abandoned professional ethics, democratic and intellectual norms. They have embraced being propagandists and supporters of authoritarian and bloody regimes.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone, and in those others are the hope for something better. It is those people, who honestly don’t realize that their leaders follow foolish policy, their newspapers all too often lie, and their universities (or at least significant sections of them) have abandoned the pursuit of truth in favor of the manufacture of lies.

If that seems extreme, perhaps that means you fall into that last category of the decent but deceived. Let’s look at some specific cases.

The newspaper.

If there would ever be a last straw for me regarding what was once the English-speaking world’s greatest newspaper, it is this one, the New York Times editorial of October 19, 2011:

“One has to ask: If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate with Hamas—which shoots rockets at Israel, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and, on Tuesday, vowed to take even more hostages— why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to help keep the peace in the West Bank.”

What has one thing have to do with the other? Israel isn’t negotiating with Hamas on a political level but to save the life of a young Israeli who has been in horrible captivity for five years. And this is one with no illusion that Hamas will continue to wage terrorism.

But what’s really disturbing here is the idea that it is Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who have been refusing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority rather than the other way around. It is frequently repeated in the mass media and it is so obviously absurd that it must now be considered a deliberate lie by propagandists rather than an honest or ignorant or ideologically driven error.

Funnily enough, within hours of this editorial claim we have…

The “Moderates”

The ultimate Palestinian “moderate,” Prime Minister Salam Fayyad,explained:

“We want to see an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. We want the Palestinian people to live with dignity. Fayyad said the Palestinians are committed to resolving the conflict, but that “the conditions are not right to resume talks.”

In other words, even when the Palestinian prime minister openly rejects talks and even after dozens of previous rejections by him and Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas, and dozens of documented acceptances of negotiations by Netanyahu and Israel, the lie that Israel doesn’t want to negotiate and the PA does is repeated.

Obviously, this is not a misunderstanding but a lie. One reason for this lie is that if the truth were to be told it would have to be explained why the “poor,” “desperate,” “victimized” Palestinians don’t want to negotiate. And the answer would have to be an uncomfortable truth:

Their leaders don’t’ want peace, compromise, or a two-state solution but total victory.

And that truth would require a change in the Western policy and understanding of the issue.

Finally, note the reaction of the leaders of the two Palestinian regimes:

Abbas told the released prisoners:

“You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland.”

And Hamas deputy leader Abu Marzouk insisted:

“The rest of the prisoners must be released because if they are not released in a normal way they will be released in other ways.”

By murdering Israeli civilians, both the “moderate” and the “radical” explain, these people have done nothing wrong and are free—even encouraged—to do so again in future. You cannot build a democratic state on the basis of calling terrorists “freedom fighters” (and note the “secular” Abbas’s reference to jihad).

And you cannot compromise with another side when you continue to urge and justify the deliberate murder of its civilians.

What the Guardian won’t report: Palestinian PM Honors terrorist bombers, then condemns terror bombing

This report, by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik at Palestinian Media Watch, about a Palestinian leadership which often condemns attacks on Israelis while speaking in English to the Western media, but routinely glorifies such terrorist violence when speaking to their own citizens in Arabic, is among the most important political dynamics feeding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, yet is virtually ignored by The Guardian and most of the MSM.

Palestinians in Al-Bireh, abutting Ramallah, decorating a town square with a poster depicting terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, March 13, 2011.

On Wednesday afternoon, Palestinian Authority Prime Minster Salam Fayyad condemned as “terror” the bomb at a Jerusalem bus stop that killed one woman.

On Wednesday morning, Fayyad honored Palestinian women terrorists, including two who drove suicide bombers to terror attacks killing five. He also honored a terrorist who placed a bomb in a bus station, an action identical to the one he condemned just a few hours later.

Fayyad condemned Jerusalem bombing Wednesday afternoon:

“I condemn this terror operation in the harshest terms, no matter who stands behind it.”

Fayyad praised Palestinian terrorists Wednesday morning:

“I will not fail to mention with honor and admiration the resolve of the female prisoners, the fighters, and of all the prisoners of freedom who are imprisoned in the Israeli prisons, experiencing indescribable suffering. This requires that all of us intensify the effort to ensure their liberation from the occupation’s chains and from the abuse of its [Israel's] executioners.”

In a radio speech, Fayyad then specifically named the following terrorists:

  • Qahira Al-Sa’adi, who drove suicide bomber to attack killing 3 in Jerusalem in 2002.
  • Irena Sarahneh, who drove suicide bomber to attack killing 2 and injuring dozens, in Israeli city Rishon LeZion in 2002.
  • Iman Ghazawi, who in 2001 placed a bomb at the central bus station in Tel Aviv that was discovered before it exploded.
  • Latifa Abu Zara’a, who in 2003 smuggled a bomb into Israel for suicide terror attack that was uncovered before it was implemented.

Read the full post, here.

She’s baaaack

Harriet Sherwood is back online to give us the benefit of her “wisdom” on the terror attack in Jerusalem.

The article is a mixture of statements of the obvious – I give you,

“… Its impact will be felt far beyond the people injured in the blast and those who witnessed the explosion….”

Well, yes…

As well as (curiously enough, given that it’s Harriet writing), a glimmer of understanding of why the IDF was engaged in acting against Hamas-linked terrorists in Gaza.

She even acknowledges that Hamas was responsible for the firing of the 50 or so mortar shells into Israel (although she couches it in somewhat equivocal terms).

She goes on to refer to the pressure on Hamas to do something for the armed struggle in order to satisfy the Palestinian people, (and here, totally unwittingly, she alludes to the fantasy ideology which has driven much of Hamas’ mad and fruitless acting out, which I have discussed in-depth elsewhere on CiF Watch).

So far so mediocre and hardly her usual offensive self, but let us not forget that she writes for the Guardian and sure enough later in the article out it comes:

“…. It is far too early to say what Wednesday’s bus blast heralds. But, at the very least, it is bound to reinforce Netanyahu’s belief that Israel has “no partner for peace”, a phrase that brings bitter laughter from observers who say Israel shows little sign of wanting to make peace…. “

Pardon me?

Is Harriet seriously trying to argue that Netanyahu is WRONG to believe that Israel has no partner for peace in the PA?  Dear Harriet, permit me to offer a little lesson in reality testing since you and your colleagues at the Guardian seem, (how shall I say?) somewhat deficient in this area:

You yourself admitted that there was a terrorist act in Jerusalem (OK you didn’t actually call it a “terrorist” act, unlike William Hague, the British Foreign Minister who condemned it in those terms, but you compared it to the terror attacks during the second intifada)

You then, quite correctly, named Hamas as the main culprits in the shelling of southern Israel. So far so good but hang on in, because this is where it may get difficult for you to understand:

True, Abbas condemned the massacre at Itamar, but on the day after that massacre he dedicated a town square to the memory of a suicide murderer!

Is this the action of a man who (a) tells the truth or (b) says only what he thinks his audience want to hear, and on the strength of that (c) can be trusted to mean what he says and (d) is therefore a reliable partner for peace?  The man is a proven liar.

In light of the foregoing, how on earth can the Israeli government possibly believe that the PA means to make a lasting peace with Israel? How can Abbas be trusted as a partner for peace, whether in quotes or not, or whether it evokes “bitter laughter” or not from observers?  It seems more and more likely that the bombers in the latest atrocity came from the West Bank, and if so they were very probably cranked up by his public adulation of terrorism!

Now, stay with me Harriet, because there’s more which underlines the nonsensical nature of what lies beneath your statement above:

Let’s go back to the Jerusalem bombing and more particularly to the Palestinian reaction to it.

So far as I am aware there have been no street celebrations or handing out candy as there was in Ramallah after the Fogel family were murdered, but Elder of Ziyon’s blog tells us the following, which ought to reinforce the belief that Israel actually has no partner for peace and which ought to convince even you:

Elder quotes from the Palestine Times which is a Hamas mouthpiece, but no matter:

…. Despite condemnation by the Fatah leadership, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and described that operation as “terrorist”, there was joy in the street despite the pain experienced in the cities of the West Bank.

Upon hearing the news of a bus bombing in Jerusalem, citizens hurried to the coffee shops to follow-up on television news channels and radio stations to track the latest developments.

Abu Mohammed from Nablus, sitting in a café, said: “By God, it’s about time for such operations, which warms our hearts and the hearts of all who [suffer] from the oppression of the occupier recently.” ……

There are those who expressed their joy of such events. Samira from Ramallah: “When I saw the breaking news on one of the satellite TV news and there was an explosion on Jerusalem, the joy made my heart stop.”

A young man recalled happy memories of Tulkarm for operations similar to what happened today…

Others Palestinian citizens went into social networking sites like Facebook and forums on the World Wide Web, to express their joy and the news firsthand….” (emphases added)

So, what do we have, Harriet?

Abbas, a confirmed liar, who condemns barbarism out of one side of his mouth whilst out of the other he praises the perpetrators of such barbarism, and also the ordinary people of the West Bank, whose opinions are, we are meant to believe, representative of the majority and who feel joy and warmth in their hearts when Israeli Jews are killed and injured.

However, you may be able to redeem yourself, Harriet.

To do so you must write an intelligent, thoughtful and analytical article, based on fact and in objective reality about why you think Netanyahu is wrong to believe that Israel has no partner for peace in the West Bank, and supply us with evidence for your conclusions rather than your own half-baked opinions.

Then, who knows, you will be entitled to call yourself journalist.  Though, you may subsequently be sacked from the Guardian.

Is Palestinian Statehood in the near future a realistic proposition?

This is cross-posted by Hadar Sela and Eli E. Hertz at the site, Myths and Facts.

There is a saying in the medical world that an x-ray is only as good as the doctor reading it. The interpretation of information differs according to pre-existing factors such as knowledge and experience, with mistakes in diagnosis having the potential to be tragic. It is true even when the given information is accurate and unquestionable, but when its reliability is not assured, precise interpretation and analysis become nearly impossible.

In December 2010, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council stated that it would recognize a Palestinian Arab state “when appropriate” on the basis of assessments made by the World Bank, that the Palestinian Authority “is well positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future.”

In order to determine whether this assessment is correct, and therefore potentially justified and actionable, it is important to understand exactly how it came about.

The source of this assessment regarding Palestinian readiness for statehood is the September 2010 World Bank report to the Quartet’s Ad Hoc Liaison Committee which apprises on the subject of the Palestinian Authority’s progress in implementing the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan initiated in 2007. It is also known as the “Fayyad Plan” after the Palestinian caretaker Prime Minister by whom it was authored.

The international community, as represented by Quartet Members, the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, has been monitoring the progress of the three year Fayyad Plan through the reports of its representative on the ground, the World Bank, which runs a “country team” in the region.

Three basic problems emerged from the study of the regularly issued World Bank reports. The first involves methodology – the information upon which the reports are based is gathered mostly from politically biased NGOs working in the region, some of which are actually funded by countries from Quartet members. These include organizations such as B’Tselem, UN OCHA, Peace Now, HaMoked, Amnesty International, Gisha, Yesh Din and IPCRI. The World Bank uses consulting services from Ben-Or Consulting, a company associated with several of the above organizations and with connections to politically motivated groups both in Israel and abroad.

The second basic problem is that the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan is limited largely to reforms which may be termed financial, economic and administrative. Components of civil society within a functioning state such as the rights and protection of women, children and minorities, labour rights and trade unions, freedom of the press or prevention of torture are not within its scope.

Thirdly, in the approach taken towards Palestinian reform by both the Palestinian Authority and the Quartet, the subject of dealing with the ideological and religious causes of continuous Palestinian terror, is clearly absent.

Under such circumstances, the European Union’s haste in declaring itself ready to recognize a Palestinian state contrasts dramatically with its cautious approach to the accession of Turkey to its own ranks. In that case, a country already deemed sufficiently trustworthy to be a veteran member of NATO has been obliged to engage in a 10 to 15 year process of reform and overhaul of all its systems and institutions – economic, financial, judicial, political, civil and social. The process is overseen by the European Union itself and is both strictly performance-based and will have an iron-clad reversibility clause if Turkey fails to live up to its promises.Only when all criteria have been met will the subject of Turkey joining the European Union actually be brought up for vote by the existing members.

Soon after its foundation, the Quartet initiated the Roadmap which was also intended to be a performance-based process leading to Palestinian statehood and an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, even the first clause of the Roadmap has not been fulfilled and yet it now appears that the European Union, relying upon questionable assessments, is ready to abandon its own blueprint for the peace process in favour of a Palestinian Arab state which comes nowhere near the criteria it demands for its own members.

Read the full essay, here.

J St. Pro who? Pro what?

This essay was written by Hadar Sela.

The recent ‘Palestine papers’ leaks have ensured that even if the current caretaker Palestinian government does not collapse as a result of their revelations, it will now be exceedingly difficult  to resume the much-needed peace negotiations.

From the media commentary surrounding the leaks, it is also perfectly obvious that such a situation is far from undesirable for some, and in particular Hamas, which rejected and did its best to sabotage the latest round of discussions. The rejectionist stance, as taken by Hamas, was expressed by its representative Osama Hamdan in a recent op-ed in the Guardian.

“The Palestinian negotiators named and quoted in these documents have betrayed their people and the Palestinian cause. We are in no doubt that, as a result of these revelations, they have lost their credibility for good. It is unthinkable that the Palestinian people will ever approve any deal concluded with the Israelis by this team of negotiators, for they will always be suspected of selling out and of betraying the cause. The Palestinian people can never believe that what these individuals pledge in public reflects how they bargain or deal in private.”

However, the following quote dated September 2010  – four months prior to the ‘Palestine papers’ revelations and close to the commencement of the recent talks  – does not come from a Hamas website.

Many commentators expect the direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians to fail. But there is a much worse scenario: What if they “succeed?”

These are the words of a California-based think tank known as Al Shabaka or the Palestinian Policy Network, or alternatively  the Middle East Policy Network, which was established in April 2010 and engages in writing ‘policy briefs’ with the aim of ‘strategy development’ which in some cases is clearly designed to circumvent the Palestinian National Authority.

“Instead, next year is likely to see a grand ceremony where Palestinian leaders will sign away the right of return and other Palestinian rights in an agreement that would change little on the ground. The plan of the PA’s appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to declare a Palestinian state in 2011 could unwittingly contribute to this outcome by providing the appearance of an “end of conflict” while the reality remains unchanged. If the rest of the world sees that the government of “Palestine” is satisfied with international recognition and a U.N. seat, they will be happy to move on to other problems leaving the Palestinians at Israel’s mercy.”

Al Shabaka boasts within its ranks many Palestinian academics and activists (a considerable number of whom are based abroad) including the leader of the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement Omar Barghouti, ‘electronic Intifada’ founder and member of Al Awda Ali Abunimah, Anis Kassim who helped present the Palestinian side in the 2004 ICJ ruling on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence, and Ameer Makhoul who was recently sentenced to nine years in prison for spying for Hizbollah.

Currently, Al Shabaka members are engaged in two main fields of action. One is trying to discredit the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the ‘Palestinian papers’ leaks and their op-eds have appeared in a variety of media outlets.  Co-director Nadia Hijab recently wrote that

“The leaks have let the sunshine in. They confirm what most Palestinians already feared, that a major sell-out of their rights, including the right to return and Jerusalem, was planned.”

The other focus is engagement in lobbying the US government to give up its veto in the UN Security Council on the subject of the pending resolution to pronounce Israeli towns and villages beyond the ‘Green Line’ illegal. This is part of a wider strategy to replace face to face negotiations with UN centered ‘lawfare’, as laid out in an article by Al Shabaka member Mouin Rabbani, formerly of Al Haq.

“Here, going to the Security Council to reconfirm the illegality of settlement in and annexation of occupied territory could prove pivotal. It would be extremely difficult for the U.S. to veto, and virtually impossible for European governments to ignore. Such a resolution could help generate a new wave of demands for action in European parliaments, particularly if paired with a Palestinian campaign of mass protests and diplomatic activity to translate the resolution, the ICJ opinion on the West Bank Wall and Goldstone Report into practical consequences.”

At what would logically appear to be the other end of the spectrum, another lobbying organisation is also campaigning for the US to abandon its right of veto at the UNSC. J Street, which describes itself as ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ and yet recently stated:

“While we hope never to see the state of Israel publicly taken to task by the United Nations, we cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy.”

Read the rest of the essay, here.

What the Guardian isn’t telling you (Part….oh heck; I’ve lost count..)

In keeping with its self-declared progressive and liberal credentials, the Guardian devotes considerable energies to its Environment section of CiF.

One would think, therefore, that the news of a ‘green revolution’ in one of the world’s most talked-about armies would be worth a few paragraphs. Apparently not.

It seems that the cognitive dissonance of coming to terms with the fact that Israelis (and even worse; the Israeli army) might be doing something positive about addressing environmental issues is just too much for the average Guardianista to bear.

So here’s a short film about some of the steps being taken by the IDF in order to reduce its carbon footprint.

In fact, there’s an awful lot of environmental news coming out of Israel. From electric cars, through massive solar energy projects and innovative methods of water conservation to name but a few, Israelis have been playing their part in developing the technologies needed to secure the world’s environmental future for quite some time.

But if you do a Google search on the words Guardian, environment and Israel, all you will get is less than a handful of bad news stories which reinforce the stereotypical Guardian World View of Israel and Israelis.  A search for Guardian, environment and military produces only articles about the US army and environmental issues.

How predictable.