The following is a reprint of David Harris’ blog dated Tuesday May 17, 2011

Abbas in ‘The New York Times’: Rewriting history, rejecting peace

Opening The New York Times this morning, my jaw dropped as I reached the op-ed page. There, featured prominently, with accompanying artwork, was an article by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outlining the Palestinian strategy for a unilateral declaration of statehood this September at the UN General Assembly. The stunning piece says no to a negotiated peace with Israel and rewrites more than 60 years of history.

To begin with, he blithely ignores basic facts that have considerable bearing on the present situation.

Moreover, by declaring his determination to pursue UN recognition “of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border,” he is hurtling toward confrontation not only with Israel, but also with other key nations, including the United States, that have publicly declared their opposition to this shortsighted path. Such a strategy contributes not to the quest for peace, but rather its opposite – intensification of the conflict. Let’s be clear: this strategy will effectively end the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Among the astonishing elements in his op-ed, Abbas ignores the war unleashed by Arab armies in 1948 to obliterate the new State of Israel, following the recommendation of the UN General Assembly for the establishment of Jewish and Arab nations in the British-ruled Mandatory Palestine.

The Arab world, including Palestinian leadership, categorically rejected the 1947 UN recommendation, preferring war to peace. War, tragically, creates refugee populations. This was no exception, but it was also far from unique. What is unique is that the Palestinian refugee question has been kept alive for generations without any attempt at permanent resettlement.

Abbas also conveniently neglects to mention that there were two refugee populations, of relatively equal size, created by the Arab-initiated conflict. The other consisted of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries who were expelled or given little choice but to leave. Their plight has never been recognized by the Arab world.

The Palestinian leader also omits any reference to the fact that, from 1948 to 1967, the Palestinians could have had a state of their own in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and Gaza. All these territories were entirely in Arab, not Israeli, hands. Yet there was no move to sovereignty. Why?

He also fails to mention the efforts to resolve the fate of the disputed lands since 1967, when Israel became the unsought occupier of these very same territories after a war of self-defense.

Four Israeli prime ministers, beginning with Ehud Barak in 2000, have sought to negotiate a two-state agreement with their Palestinian counterparts. In every case, the Palestinians, offering one excuse or another, rejected the extended hand and refused to cross the goal line of peace together. Most recently, when Binyamin Netanyahu took the unprecedented step of a ten-month settlement freeze to show his good faith, Abbas was AWOL for the first nine months, unwilling even to return to the negotiating table.

Nor does Abbas address the newest complication – an accord between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas is committed in word and deed to the destruction of the State of Israel. It is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union. It seeks the imposition of Sharia law on all territory it occupies. Hamas cannot simply be airbrushed out of the picture for the benefit of readers of the New York Times.

Instead, he paints a rosy picture of the new State of Palestine as “a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

All noble aims, but a far cry from where the West Bank, much less Gaza, is today. Are we simply to take his word for it because he says it? Is Israel to risk its own security in what would become a country nine miles wide at its narrowest point because Abbas waxes poetic about a vision that is still, shall we say, rather far from the reality on the ground? The teaching of incitement, glorification of terrorists, torture, legal abuses, and failure to recognize Israel’s inherent legitimacy are still prevalent in land under Palestinian Authority rule, and Gaza, of course, is far worse.

The truth of the matter is that, despite what Abbas may allege, the only true path to Palestinian statehood is at the negotiating table with the Israeli government. Attempts to circumvent this critical process will only violate signed commitments that permanent-status issues must be agreed to by both parties. There is no easy way out, no quick fix for the hard work that has to be done.

Finally, Abbas’s words are a slap in the face to the United States. The American position, articulated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month, is: “We do not support any unilateral effort by the Palestinians to go to the United Nations to try to obtain some authorization or approval vote with respect to statehood. We think we can only achieve the two-state solution that we strongly advocate through negotiations.”

By the way, as an upcoming senator from New York in 2000, Clinton, witnessing a similar attempt by the Palestinians to do an end-run around direct talks with Israel, declared: “It must be clear that any unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood would be entirely unacceptable and should be met with a cutoff of United States assistance.”

AJC reaffirms its support for a negotiated two-state settlement based on direct talks between the parties involved. We believe it is an achievable goal if there is sufficient political will and courage.

Israel is ready. It has said so repeatedly and taken concrete steps to demonstrate its sincerity. With this op-ed, President Abbas has thumbed his nose at the entire process and done grave damage to the search for a lasting peace.

I came upon this link from a montage put together by MEMRI. It is chilling.
http://vimeo.com/16779150

March 21, 2011
By Elliot Jager

The recent uprisings in the Middle East seemed, at least at first, to send a reassuring signal to Western observers: not only did genuinely moderate Muslims exist, and not only were they capable of finding a political voice, but there was reason to hope that, given time to organize and grow in strength, they might succeed in winning out against the voices of repression and Islamist extremism.

As events have unfolded, this early optimism has faded. There is indeed still cause for hope, but clearly the struggle will be long and hard. And then there are also the lessons of history, and of contemporary experience, to consider. One such lesson, a bitter one, concerns the fate of all too many freethinkers in the Arab and Muslim world. Quite apart from the mass-casualty suicide bombings carried out by Muslims against their fellow Muslims, now obscenely routine in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, pinpoint assassinations intended to snuff out individual moderates have exercised a no less devastating impact on political reality in the Muslim world.

The list of such assassinations is long, and the targets include any number of figures in positions of power. The most recent such victim may have been Salman Taseer, the cosmopolitan governor of Punjab province in Pakistan, whose murder in January was the most significant since the 2007 killing of former premier Benazir Bhutto. (Taseer was followed to the grave in early March by still another moderate Pakistani politician, Shahbaz Bhatti, who had the distinction of being a Christian.)

Obliterated Muslim heads of state include Jordan’s King Abdullah, shot at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem in 1951 on suspicion of willingness to make peace with Israel, and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, murdered in 1981 for having actually done so. Algerian president Mohamed Boudiaf was shot dead in 1992 by an Islamist bodyguard, and Lebanon’s Sunni prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed in 2005 by Hizballah. (Lebanon’s president, Bashir Gemayel, another Christian, was assassinated in 1982 for meeting with Israel’s premier Menachem Begin.) Tehran, too, has a bloody history of wiping out its moderate leaders, including former premier Shapour Bakhtiar in 1991.

Particularly vulnerable, as the list suggests, are those who advocate coexistence with Israel, and most vulnerable of all are Palestinian Arabs inclined in that direction.

Historically, the leadership of Palestinian society was divided between fanatics led by the former mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and relative moderates whose ranks included notable families like the Nashashibis. The moderates had reluctantly concluded that the Zionists could not be defeated and that coexistence was in the Palestinian interest. But by the 1920s and 30s, efforts were already under way to radicalize Palestinian village leaders and incite violence against “collaborators.” The story, told by the researcher Hillel Cohen in Army of Shadows, culminated in a succession of murderous riots that, by the time Israel was established in 1948, had taken the lives of hundreds of Palestinian moderates.

The pattern continued after 1948. Twenty-five years ago this month, Zafer al-Masri, the forty-four year-old mayor of Nablus, was assassinated on the doorsteps of city hall by Palestinian gunmen on the supposition that al-Masri, said to have close ties to Jordan, was planning to negotiate with Israel under its auspices. The same intransigent political culture that regarded contact with Israel as an act of treason punishable by summary death would ultimately spawn not only Fatah and Hamas but also the allegedly moderate Palestinian officials running the West Bank today…
The systematic slaughter of genuine moderates, instead of giving pause to Western commentators, has instead led them to define moderation down. Only by that inverted yardstick can an obdurate Mahmoud Abbas, now two years into his boycott of negotiations with Israel, be labeled a “moderate.” As for the genuine moderates speaking out against the Hobbesian state of their existence in Arab lands, they all too often have found life to be not only solitary, poor, nasty, and brutish, but cut tragically short.

March 14, 2011: “A town square in the West Bank has been renamed in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, who was a terrorist responsible for an attack that killed 35 Israelis, including 13 children, in 1978. Palestinians, in an official March 13 ceremony, named a town square in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, for Mughrabi. Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction were on hand for the unveiling of the plaque in her memory.”

There has been increasing criticism of Israel lately for its continuing occupation of territory on the West Bank. It is a bêtes noire in Israel’s continuing commitment to democracy. But following on the heels of the massacre of five members of a Jewish family on the West Bank – parents and three children, the youngest of whom was three months old – this act seems to demonstrate that the Palestinians have no serious commitment to living in peace with Israel. While the Western world is uncomfortable by the execrable malice of Hamas in Gaza, it withholds public criticism of the Palestinian Authority in The West Bank, arguing instead that the Palestinians are the ones pushing for peace and willing to make realistic concessions while it is the Israelis who are recalcitrant.

The Palestinians, both in the West Bank as well as in Gaza, continue to teach their children the worst stereotypes and bigotry about Israel and Jews.

Israel needs to yield land to enable an Arab state to co-exist next door. But unless the Palestinians are willing to take seriously the same acknowledgment, Israel cannot make make that concession without sacrificing its own safety and existence.

By Lee Smith, Jan 12, 2011 from Tablet.com

Israel’s enemies are waging a relentless information war against the Jewish state, and Israel is losing. Some pro-Israel activists insist that Israel must play offense rather than merely defend against the constant stream of charges issuing from Palestinians, other Arabs and Muslims, and Western-funded non-government organizations. Still other friends of the Jewish state think it’s too late, that Israel has already lost the information war waged by its enemies—with the collusion of the Western press.
An example: Last week, the New York Times reported that a Palestinian woman named Jawaher Abu Rahmah had died from inhaling tear gas after participating in a demonstration against the separation barrier. In response, Israeli military officials, along with a group of pro-Israel bloggers, challenged the Palestinian account, and claimed they had evidence that she died from complications due to the medication she was taking for cancer. Among other tell-tale signs that something was amiss with the Palestinian version, there was the curiously worded cause of death: “Inhaling gas of an Israeli solider according to the family.”
The pessimists who think Israel’s case is hopeless have a point. It’s not clear why both the Times reporter, Isabel Kershner, and her editors at the foreign desk failed to treat the story with more circumspection: If the chances of dying from inhaling tear gas in an open space were not infinitesimal, wrongful-death suits would prevent police forces from using it as it they do throughout the United States and Europe to disperse riotous crowds.
If journalists won’t run narratives like the death-by-tear-gas tale through the most rudimentary BS-detector, it makes it harder not to conclude that they are willing to believe the worst about Israel. At the least, this is evidence of a lazy press corps that ought to take its work a little more seriously; at worst, it means that the Western media knowingly participates in a campaign to slander and libel a U.N. member state.
Outside of the Palestinian fable, floated in the late 1990s, about the Zionist chewing gum that made Palestinian women both sexually intemperate and sterile, it’s hard to think of a whopper that the Western media has not swallowed whole. Among other exaggerations and outright fabrications was the so-called “massacre” at the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002. The Western press dutifully followed the lead of the Palestinian news agency, Wafa, and reported that thousands, or hundreds, of Palestinian civilians were killed. Even as subsequent reports, including a U.N. investigation, revealed the truth of the matter—56 Palestinians were killed, the majority of them armed combatants—the narrative describing Israeli soldiers as war criminals and wanton murderers stuck.
Even more impressive is when images are attached to the narrative, like when a Palestinian cameraman in 2006 caught pictures of a young girl distraught on the same Gaza beach where, he reported, seven members of a her family had been killed by an Israeli Air Force onslaught. However, it seems now that a Hamas mine was likely responsible for the tragic deaths.
Most famous is the story of Mohamed al-Dura, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy believed to have been killed by Israeli gunfire on the Gaza Strip in September 2000. His last moments were recorded and flashed across the world, turning the boy into an international icon of Palestinian suffering and Israeli brutality. However, the Israelis didn’t kill Dura, and it’s not clear if he was killed instead by Palestinian gunfire or if the entire episode was staged by a French-Israeli journalist named Charles Enderlin and his Palestinian cameraman. Richard Landes, a Boston University history professor who has done extensive work on the Dura case, coined the term Pallywood to describe the “media manipulation, distortion and outright fraud by the Palestinians (and other Arabs, such as the Reuters photographer caught faking photos during the Second Lebanon War), designed to win the public-relations war against Israel.”
But this anti-Israeli misinformation is in fact part of a larger phenomenon. The Arabic word taqqiya is frequently used to denote the kind of dissimulation practiced by Muslims in the Middle East. Westerners tend to abuse the term, as if any Muslim who lies, for instance, about a car robbery, was practicing taqqiya, when he’s just trying to avoid arrest as any other suspect would. Taqqiya is a doctrine particular to the Shia, a Muslim minority who, because they have had much to fear over the last millennium from their more numerous Sunni neighbors, are permitted to lie under duress about their real religious sentiments. The concept, however, is a useful reminder that this is a part of the world where saying the wrong thing to the wrong person can be costly.
Nonetheless, Westerners are very sensitive to the idea that some cultures do not value truth-telling in the same way that we do. For reporters it can be embarrassing if your beat is to cover, say, the Palestinian Authority, since the bulk of your work is taking dictation from frequently malevolent fabulists and having to pass it off as though you were interviewing someone actually worth speaking to. But the convention of our press corps is to treat the utterances of Muamar Qaddafi with the same respect due the prime minister of Canada. To fact-check an entire political culture is beyond the pale of Western journalism, so instead we pretend that Arab societies respect the truth as much as we do, for to say otherwise is to sit in judgment over another culture.
Unfortunately, there is no getting around the fact that societies where the truth is just one among many possible narratives are going to fare worse than societies where truth is valued. In Western culture, truth has been virtually deified since the Enlightenment. Beginning in the early 19th century, Middle East reformers have rightly feared that a similar enlightenment in their society, a regime of Arab or Muslim reason, would threaten the entire ruling order, including God’s place in it. If reason is supreme, and everything must fall under the scope of the empirical method, then there is nothing to protect the supernatural or divine from the same rigorous investigation. The Muslim reformers looked at the West and saw a civilization to be admired for its scientific and technological progress and pitied for its spiritual malaise. Thankfully for us, even as the crisis of faith must inevitably follow enlightenment, it is only reason that guarantees technological progress.
Arab educators and other liberal intellectuals regularly decry the lack of critical thinking in Arab education, and yet the problem is not the ability to think critically but what it is possible to think critically about. You can’t speak critically of political authorities in the Arabic-speaking Middle East or security services will break your limbs and crack your skull, as they did this week in Tunisia. Obviously, religious topics are off-limits in a region where cartoons of a prophet can touch off widespread riots. Once you have circumscribed any limits to critical thought, you have inscribed red lines throughout your society. The reason the Arab countries do not lead the world in any field is not because they are any more violent or stupid or lazy than anyone else; rather, it is because the culture is set against the very principles of reason that make success possible. It is no mystery why Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah must come to New York for medical treatment—even though his country is more than wealthy enough to build first-rate medical facilities. The culture of the kingdom rewards students for memorizing the Quran, not for scientific explorations or pushing cultural boundaries; half of the country’s population is not even allowed to drive a car.
Western cyber-optimists argue that information technology like satellite television and the Internet will so inundate the Arabic-speaking Middle East with images and information that it will entirely reconfigure Arab societies. But this has it exactly wrong: Culture is more powerful than technology, and how a society uses any given technology is determined by its culture. This is why no one wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to have a nuclear bomb, but no one has a problem with France’s weapons program. This is also why the Internet is not going to open the eyes of those Arabs who are instead more inclined to use it to spread disinformation. Pallywood is nothing more than the nexus where an Arab culture of lies meets Western technology.
That is to say, the Arabs are not winning an information war against Israel, nor anything else for that matter. Rather, the stories and lies they tell to delegitimize the Jewish state are part and parcel of the war that they have been waging against themselves, and with stunning success. The tragedy is that everyone knows where the Arabs are heading, because the signs of failure and self-destructiveness couldn’t be clearer—poverty, violence, despotism, illiteracy, mistreatment of women, and the persecution of confessional minorities, like Egypt’s Coptic Christian population. The Western journalists and NGOs who repeat and credential these lies are doing no honor to either the values of their own society or those of the Arabs; they’re merely helping a culture kill itself.

December 5, 2010 by Dan Brown

The following is a reprint of an essay in eJewishPhilanthropy
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas political party, is at it again with intemperate remarks about Israeli suffering. Last night, in his weekly sermon, Ovadia Yosef claimed that the devastating Carmel fire was a result of insufficient Shabbat observance in the area: “Fires only happen in a place where Shabbat is desecrated,” he said.
And today, his mouthpiece, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (of the same ministry responsible for Israel’s lack of preparedness to deal with the forest fire) defended Ovadia Yosef’s comments.
When religious leaders speak like this, is it any wonder a recent poll found 80% of the Israeli public dissatisfied with the government’s policies on religion and state and 61% of non-haredi citizens supported the establishment of a Likud-Kadima government without Shas and United Torah Judaism?
And where are our Jewish leaders – the same ones who spoke forcefully and often about the proposed changes to the conversion law this summer? Don’t they realize the damage to both individuals facing devastating loss and the Jewish people being created by statements such as this? Don’t they realize the influence Ovadia Yosef carries among a not insignificant portion of the Israeli public? Don’t they realize the power Shas has to tip almost any piece of legislation?
These same leaders allowed Shas a seat at the WZO table this summer. Shas: the party that wanted to remove pluralism from the Jewish world agenda. Shas, the party that blames the fires on the desecration of Shabbat. Shas, the party that will ultimately carry the day in defining “who is a Jew”.
When will our communal leaders have the courage to speak out? When their own grandchildren are unable to produce four generations of satisfactory ketubot?
By then, it will be to late.

George Will has lately had a series of op-eds in The Washington Post that have come out squarely in defense of Israel. Well, sure, you’re thinking: he’s George Will. Never mind that it’s The Post. That’s what Conservatives do.

But it may be worth your consideration that ol’ George is not taking Israel’s side because of the usual “America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East” rant (even though, by the way, that is true, despite the constant swacks by The NY Times, my paper of choice and, need I mention, the paper that my son Dan makes a living through).

So here’s Mr. Will’s point: When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, “Twenty-one Israeli settlements were dismantled; even the bodies of Israelis buried in Gaza were removed. After a deeply flawed 2006 election encouraged by the United States, there was in 2007 essentially a coup in Gaza by the terrorist organization Hamas. So now Israel has on its western border, 44 miles from Tel Aviv, an entity dedicated to Israel’s destruction, collaborative with Iran and possessing a huge arsenal of rockets. Rocket attacks from Gaza increased dramatically after Israel withdrew. The number of U.N. resolutions deploring this? Zero.”
Israel, the “lone democracy in a sea of tyranny, assumes that the justice of its cause is so self-evident as to require no explanation.” (these are someone else’s quote, not George’s, but it’s too good not to use.) The Arabs, numbering in the hundreds of millions, have somehow successfully positioned themselves as being oppressed by six million Israeli Jews. All of this could account for why Israel, a thriving democracy where one million Israeli Arabs vote and have robust representation in the Israeli Knesset, is hated while its tyrannical, terrorist neighbors escape censure.


It seems evident to me that some prejudice must be in play
: The Turks bomb Kurdish independence fighters on a regular basis and continue to deny their genocide of more than a million helpless Armenians. Yet the international community overwhelmingly condemned Israel over the Gaza flotilla debacle. Hugo Chavez brutally dismantles Venezuelan democracy, imprisons his political opponents, locks up judges, and persecutes a free press that criticizes him. But his condemnation of a genocidal Israel is lauded by countries throughout the world. And the UN censures Israel on a monthly basis while countries like Libya sit on its Human Rights Council. I know, it’s OK to criticize Israel without being an anti-semite but hey, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck – well, you know.

Israel’s obviously not perfect. Like any moral democracy fighting for its very life it’s going to make mistakes. But compared to Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and so many other of its neighbors, it is positively angelic. Disagree? Let me turn to John F. Kennedy’s famous argument delivered in the summer of 1963 in his memorable ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’ speech: “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.”

If all of Israel’s most rabid critics were forced to choose to live either in Israel or under Hamas in Gaza, or under Assad in Syria, or under Ahmedenijad in Iran, or under Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, or in Communist China, or even in newly “democratized” Russia, which would they choose? In Israel, they would have the freedom to mercilessly assail their government on the radio, in print, and in public squares. In any of these other countries they would be locked up or, worse, stoned or beheaded. In Israel, females and gays enjoy absolutely full rights and equal protection under the law. In Iran or Saudi Arabia, females are systematically punished for not adhering to certain dress codes, and if openly gay, they would not escape with their lives.
So, yes, the Palestinians have it tough. I get it. But how come you all don’t get that objective polls say that 40% of Palestinians would rather continue living as they do than concede Israel its right to exist?