Monday, November 29, 2010

Delegitimization Poll Results: Carter Wins

In the interests of full disclosure, I confess that my attempt at polling my readers fell flat. Of the 300* or so post viewers, only 21 deigned to actually vote. From this I infer that it was either a dumb idea, or that the results were already so self-evident as to make it pointless to cast a preference. Nevertheless, they are as follows. Remember, readers were allowed to choose more than one Israel-basher:
  1. Jimmy Carter won with 61%
  2. Mearsheimer and Walt came in second with 33%
  3. Noam Chomsky and Desmond Tutu tied at 28% each
  4. Edward Said got a disappointing 23%
  5. Mahmood Abbas barely scraped by with 4%
So, herewith is one MSM example of Carter ranting about the "worst abuses of human rights in the world" by Israel against the Palestinians:

* OK, so it was a slow week for this 3-month and 1-day-old baby blog...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

If it's Thursday it Must be Turkey

Before wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving and hazarding the new TSA obstacle course by flying off to New England for family fun (I mean it), I wanted to share Judith Miller's comparison between Israeli and US airport screening costs:

Elderly traveler learning
the Dougie Dance at the airport
"Security experts love quoting Israeli security experts who say that their country does not rely on such expensive scanners and other high-tech solutions. Israeli security is brilliant and thorough, because it must be. But Israel has one major international airport. The United States has 5,000 airports with paved runways, 376 of which have regularly scheduled airline service. And Israeli security is hugely expensive compared to America's, according to Bloomberg News. By its analysis, Israel spends around 10 times more per passenger than the United States does –or about $100 million a year for security for El Al, or $76.92 per trip by its 1.3 million passengers (half of which is picked up by the Israeli government). United States, by contrast, spent in 2008 $5.74 billion to monitor and protect 735,297,000 passenger trips, or around $7.80 a passenger.

"Moreover, were America to try to adopt Israel's system, the TSA would probably become the nation's largest single employer. In a blog posted by Foreign Policy, Annie Lowrey estimated that subjecting each passenger flying through a U.S. airport to an average 10 minutes of questioning by one guard (Israel's average is 15-20 minutes) would require about 7.35 billion minutes, or 123 million hours, of work annually.

"We'd need 3 million full-time guards to perform it," she wrote. Or "200,000 more people than the total number of active and reserve military personnel, and twice the number of U.S. Wal-Mart employees." And that would also cost at least $150 billion a year."Finally, if you think that TSA officials are badly trained at what they do now, imagine trying to teach them how to use Israel's behavioral profiling based on intensive questioning. This is not going to happen."

Yeah, there are some awful stories floating around and it is absurd that my 81-year-old pacemaker-bearing mother gets the feel-up job each time she flies, but I find it so funny that both left and right-wing ideologues are so busy hawking libertarian objections to the new methods instead of providing serious, practical alternatives. So, let's just get over ourselves and stop holding up the lines. Especially those of us who are privileged enough to be able to fly to be with our families for the holidays.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Zogby: Islamophobia Exaggerated

Hats off to James Zogby for providing some perspective that surely was lost during the Park51 media scuffle. In his latest post at HuffPo, Zogby grudgingly concedes that Jewish power isn't up to Elders of Zion levels but does set the record straight about actual instances of hate crimes towards the Muslim and Arab communities:

"Another myth is that Americans are increasingly intolerant of Muslims and Arabs, and that America is a hostile and unwelcoming place. The reality is quite the opposite. It is true that we've had a spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hate crimes, but official statistics* establish that the numbers of these incidents still pale when compared, for example, to anti-Semitic acts directed against Jews and Jewish institutions."
(H/T: Huffington Post Monitor)

But back to Park51, John Avlon in the Daily Beast reports that the developer, Sharif El-Gamal, has applied for a $5 million federal grant from money set aside for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11th. Wow, how are the families of the victims of 9/11 gonna respond to this revelation?

Avlon and others wonder if El-Gamal and Imam Feisal are seriously tone deaf in gauging the sensibilities of New Yorkers in regards to this project. After all, the Park51 website claims to understand the need to “appeal to the undecided, and change the conversation about Muslims in America.”

So he spoke to someone who understands: "If Imam Feisal and his retinue want know why they're not trusted, here's yet another reason,” says Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam and Director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU, when I asked her about the grant proposal. “The New Yorkers I speak with have questions about Park51. Requesting money from public coffers without engaging the public shows a staggering lack of empathy—especially from a man who says he's all about dialogue."

Interestingly, the asked-for $5m is outside the range of $100,000 to $2m grants usually given out. "According to the two sources knowledgeable about the thinking behind the proposal, the strategy behind the $5 million ballpark was trying to yield a higher figure in the end," writes Avlon. Looks like El-Sharaf learned a thing or two about chutzpah since arriving in NY.

But as Avlon continues, "...the project likely doesn’t quality for a grant in the first place. Specifically, the grant criteria mandate a demonstration of a project’s financial feasibility, based on benchmarks set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The government will help complete development projects—but it does not provide seed capital. And in their last public financial statement, Park51 was found to have less than $20,000 in the bank for a project with a slated cost of $100 million."  Which brings us back to how this project will be paid for and will they be putting together a transparent structure to fund and operate this JCC-wannabe? 

This story may be heating up again and, one hopes, Zogby's reality test re Islamophobia will open the door for legitimate scrutiny and discussion without the previous demagoguery issuing from both sides of the debate.
(H/T: SH)

*Please read the latest FBI report on hate crimes to get the picture. As the Elder says, "There were 107 hate crimes recorded against Muslims in 2009, compared to 931 anti-semitic hate crimes."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cambridge Debating Society Hoisted by its Own Petard

I realize Gabriel Latner's brilliant speech delivered at the Cambridge University Debating Society has made the rounds of many blogs and news sites but the reason I too am posting it is twofold: the readership I am trying to build -- mostly left-of-center who get their Middle East news from American mainstream media -- may have not seen it yet. And my longed-for readership needs to see what happens when the delegitimization of Israel reaches scary proportions, as it has in the UK.
Gabriel Latner hamming it up for the toffs
As described in the Jerusalem Post, "Cambridge University’s prestigious student debating society hosted a debate last month on the motion “Israel is a rogue state.” Israel’s supporters bleakly anticipated another hostile, demonizing and divisive event, and braced, too, for acceptance of the motion in the final vote. But the motion was surprisingly and firmly defeated, with 74 percent of the votes opposing it.

"At the root of that thoroughly unexpected result was the extraordinary content of the speech delivered by one of the proposers of the motion – content that subsequently prompted students unsympathetic to Israel to protest the result and demand an apology from the Cambridge Union Society. For Gabriel Latner, a 19-year-old, second-year law student from Toronto, advanced an argument in support of the motion that “Israel is a rogue state” that would have made any Israeli diplomat proud.

"Proposing the motion was Lauren Booth, an arch anti-Israel activist and sister-in-law of the Quartet’s Middle East envoy, former prime minister Tony Blair. Booth recently converted to Islam after a religious experience on a visit to Iran. Alongside her were Mark McDonald, founder of the group Labor Friends of Palestine, and Latner. Opposing the motion were Ran Gidor, the Israeli Embassy’s counsellor for political affairs, Shiraz Maher, a former Islamic extremist, and and Paul Livingston, a third-year law student from Glasgow."

Click here and read his whole speech. It is beautiful in its subversion of Cambridge's nasty proposition in the first place. And that gets me to the point of this post: Demonizing Israel is now commonplace within the political establishment and the highest reaches of society in Britain.

For the likes of Oxbridge's posh students this is all just fun and games. Three years ago, Holocaust denier, David Irving, was invited -- invited -- to speak at the Oxford Union. So was Nick Griffith of the fascist British National Party. It goes without saying that so was Norman Finkelstein on behalf of the proposition that, "This house believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.” More recently, Hamas activist, Azim Tamimi gave a highly inflammable speech at Cambridge. In a 2004 BBC interview he declared he would carry out a suicide mission if that were possible: “If that is extremism, then I am an extremist. If that is terrorism, then I am a terrorist…I don’t give a damn about the future of Israel, and yes – I want to see Israel come to an end.” The list goes on and on.

Just this weekend, the British Law Society -- equivalent to the American Bar Association -- is hosting the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a kangaroo court with participation from the usual suspects stacked against Israel with no one speaking on its behalf.

New readers may not have heard of Baroness Jenny Tonge, a peer in the House of Lords, who has equated Israel's policies with the Nazis and helped spread vicious rumors about supposed harvesting of organs by Israeli medics who were providing emergency services in Haiti after the earthquake. She was sent down from the front benches but was never expelled from the Liberal-Democrat Party, the Conservatives' partner in government.

These examples and others like them would make American anti-Zionists green with envy and we haven't even discussed the other side of British society, the union movement, where Israel is anathema and calls for boycotts are never ending. While the US has its share of Israel deniers, particularly those protected by academic freedom, the situation hasn't yet deteriorated to the point where any defense of Israel is highly suspect and Zionism is commonly equated with the worst isms of the 20th century.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who's Who in Israel Delegitimization

I am starting a series of polls in order to understand what my readers think about various issues. This inaugural poll (to your right) asks you to choose whom among a short list of notables has had the most influence on delegitimizing Israel within mainstream public opinion. I picked very well known names that I believe have an international audience, but I know there are others. I would very much like your help in either editing this list or adding to it, so please write your suggestions -- and why -- in the comments section below and I will post a revised version next week.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Durban 3 in NYC: A Potential Teaching Moment?

UN mulling Durban III event for next

If it were April Fool's Day I might have expected it, but the big joke of the moment is that a resolution drafted by Yemen proposes to "commemorate" the first Durban Conference with "high visibility initiatives" during a 2011 UN General Assembly to be held in New York City. Last time I looked, commemorate meant, "The act of honoring the memory of or serving as a memorial to someone or something." Tis truly a parallel universe when it is thought worthy to commemorate a conference devoted to ending racism by singling out only one country as a racist entity: Israel.

We can all imagine the fireworks such a charade of human rights advocacy will unleash were this idea to be approved and NYC really became the proposed site. I can just hear the demagoguery and hate speech of both right and left -- Pamela Geller times 100 v. Naomi Klein times 100. But, it doesn't seem to me to be a good idea to make the fight only about a proposed US location, which is probably where all the ammunition will get used up. Because, perhaps, given enough time and preparation, intelligent anti-delegitimization initiatives could force a change of agenda. Anti-Durban 2 activism was mainly defensive. What if the next conference, taking place in "Hymie-town", gave us a chance to delegitimize the delegitimizers? 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Carter: Useless Idiot

Carter and Haniyeh march in lockstep
Elder of Ziyon: Carter praises PalArab democracy, slams Israeli democracy

This post from Elder of Ziyon is testament to why Jimmy Carter's nonsensical reputation as a peacemaker and human rights champion should finally be put to rest. As Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman regarding the latter's useful idiocy on behalf of Soviet Communism, "Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the," so it can be said of Carter regarding Hamas v Israel. Useful on behalf of terrorists, useless on behalf of democracy. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gandhi's Jewish Problem

Obama Loves Gandhi: Another Mendacious Delusion

Taking a break from nursing, I spent a little while reading through Martin Peretz's blog about Obama in India and the passionate comments from his stable of very knowledgeable readers. Our President, ever-ready to invoke the names of great historical figures in order to inflate his own standing, naturally called on Gandhi, whom it turns out isn't on every Indian's top ten list. Since I'm in a lousy mood, very impatient with Obama these days and always happy to deflate the unexamined reputations of great men, herewith is what George Orwell had to say about Gandhi's Final Solution to the Jewish Problem:

In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: "What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?" I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I have heard plenty of evasions, usually of the "you're another" type. But it so happens that Gandhi was asked a somewhat similar question in 1938 and that his answer is on record in Mr. Louis Fischer's Gandhi and Stalin. According to Mr. Fischer, Gandhi's view was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which "would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler's violence." After the war he justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly. One has the impression that this attitude staggered even so warm an admirer as Mr. Fischer, but Gandhi was merely being honest. If you are not prepared to take life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way. When, in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths.

And this is Martin Buber's open letter questioning Gandhi on his assertion that the Jews should not build a state in Palestine because, "Palestine belongs to the Arabs.":

What do you mean by saying a land belongs to a population? Evidently you do not intend only to describe a state of affairs by your formula, but to declare a certain right. You obviously mean to say that a people, being settled on the land, has so absolute a claim to that land that whoever settles on it without the permission of this people has committed a robbery. But by what means did the Arabs attain the right of ownership in Palestine? Surely by conquest, and in fact a conquest with intent to settle. You therefore admit that as a result their settlement gives them exclusive right of possession; whereas the subsequent conquests of the Mamelukes and the Turks, which were conquests with a view to domination, not to settlement, do not constitute such a right in your opinion, but leave the earlier conquerors in rightful ownership. Thus settlement by conquest justifies for you, a right of ownership of Palestine; whereas a settlement such as the Jewish — the methods of which, it is true, though not always doing full justice to Arab ways of life, were even in the most objectionable cases far removed from those of conquest — does not justify in your opinion any participation in this right of possession. These are the consequences which result from your axiomatic statement that a land belongs to its population. In an epoch when nations are migrating you would first support the right of ownership of the nation that is threatened with dispossession or extermination; but were this once achieved, you would be compelled, not at once, but after a suitable number of generations had elapsed, to admit that the land "belongs" to the usurper. . . 

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Long Pause

Family health issues have kept me from blogging this last week and may keep me busy for a while longer. If you run into a news report, feature, blogpost that you think we should all read, please do not hesitate to share it in the comments space. Till then...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

These People are Adults

Thanks to Richard Millet for reminding us how hateful are those who make the cause of Israel's destruction their raison d'etre. Gee, I wish that I still lived in Battersea so that I could have helped to throw useful idiot Martin Linton out of his parliamentary seat.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Obama Narcissismus

I know this is outside my beat but it may explain why Obama kept repeating the same mistake regarding the settlements and consequently brought about the peace process stalemate (not to mention this week's disastrous election results.) Hubris. Here's the evidence from David Remnick's new Obama biography, The Bridge. I know these two quotes from Politico are going to be all over the bloggosphere but I just can't resist joining in:

"In author David Remnick’s Obama biography, “The Bridge,” he quotes White House adviser and longtime friend Valerie Jarrett: “I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. ... He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. ... So, what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. ... He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”"

"A 2008 New Yorker article quoted Patrick Gaspard, now the White House political director, describing what Obama told him during the job interview: “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”"

Nuff said.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One Man's Ceiling is Another Man's Floor?

Mohammed T. Mehdi
It appears that the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee will be honoring Helen Thomas, she of the send-the-Jews-back-to-Germany and Poland, with its Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. What makes this a double whammy of a disgrace is that Mohammad Mehdi of whom the award is named was himself quite the bigot. Quoted in his 1998 NY Times obituary, Mehdi famously said,  '''We make a 100 percent difference between the person who is a Jew and that who is a Zionist. Zionists are neurotic, sick people. Most Jews are sick people and would benefit from Dr. Freud's couch.'' Dr. Mehdi has also been quoted as asserting that ''New York is a Zion town'' and ''the real father of Israel is Hitler."' Hymie Town, anyone?

I don't believe that ADL, AJC, AIPAC, ZOA, Bnai Brith, etal, have ever named an award for someone who uttered anything as repugnant as Medhi, nor bestowed that award upon the likes of Thomas. But, I may be wrong. Thoughts anyone?

H/T: Mick Hartley

David Grossman on Charlie Rose

David Grossman and son, Uri, who was one of the last killed in the
Lebanon War before a ceasefire was declared. 
A bit from the transcript of the interview that took place in October upon the American release of his book, To the End of the Land, but you should watch the whole thing. Say what you will about his politics, but if only the other side had his equivalent soul searching ruach there would be someone to talk to:

CHARLIE ROSE:  You know, I’m fascinated by the release of the
documents from the Israeli government about the ‘73 war and how close it
was.  You’re part of that conversation, you hear that conversation.  It’s a
big topic in Israel.  What is the -- it says how close it is always for
Israel -- in this case they were surprised by a war and also by the
tenacity of the Arabs. 

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  Yes.  This existential fear prevails all the time in
Israel.  I know that when you look at Israel from the outside, from what
you see on the TV screen, you see a kind of military fist, iron fist.  But
we see the palm of the hand and the fragility of Israel

            And, you know, in the book which is called "To the End of the Land" it
has this double meaning as well, yes. 

            CHARLIE ROSE:  What does it mean, "To the End of the Land"? 

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  First it means, Ora asks the Palestinian driver to
take her to the place where Israel ends.  But also it echoes this option
that terrifies us all the time, that there might be an end to this country,
which really freaks me out to think that after 62 years of independence,
sovereignty, having enormous strong army.  Yet our existence is not
guaranteed, is not solid. 

            And at a certain moment when Ora and Avram, they spend on the top of
the mountain and they look around at the wonderful view of Galilee, and she
tells him "Isn’t it always like that with Israel, that every encounter with
it is also bidding farewell to it?" This double-ness exists all the time. 

            You know, if you read in an American paper that America plans its road
plan for the years 2030, it sounds normal, yes, reasonable.  No sane
Israeli will make plans for such a long time in advance.  And I’ll tell
you, when I think of Israel 20 or 30 years from now I feel a twinge in my
heart as if I violated a taboo by allowing myself too much portion, a too
huge portion of future. 

            CHARLIE ROSE:  Too optimistic in your assumption that it will be

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  Yes.  And this must be corrected.  This must be
changed.  It’s impossible that we shall continue to live in this

            And I believe that only peace will allow us to enjoy this sequence of
generation and having a solid feeling of future and also something that is
maybe hard to understand, but I will call it solidity of existence, of the
people who is rooted in its own land, who has fixed borders between him and
his neighbors until now 62 years Israel does not have fixed borders.  Our
borders all the time are receding, expanding. 

            It’s like someone who lives in a room that the walls are moving all
the time or the ground is shaking under his feet all the time.  This cannot
go on like that forever.  Only peace we’ll allow us in Israel to have a
feeling of home, of real home, you know? 

            Israel was created so it will be the homeland of the Jewish people,
the Jewish people who never really felt at home in the world.  This is our
tragedy.  And we have Israel, and still it is not the home that we need and
we deserve and we yearn to.  Only peace will allow us to have home and
future and this solidity of existence. 

            CHARLIE ROSE:  Can you afford to think about what Israel would be like
if there was peace? 

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  I think a lot about it, and I think that even
thinking about it is obligatory, because most Israelis and Palestinians,
they so deeply misbelieve in the option of peace that they despair of this
possibility at all.  And I think it’s so necessary. 

            CHARLIE ROSE:  You have to believe in it? 

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  To believe in it, to insist on believing in that, to
make a kind of a massage to the reluctant consciousness, the terrified
consciousness.  So we shall know what is the alternative and remember that
there is an alternative, that there’s not any divine decree of orders to
live by the sword all our life. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

As If: Palestinian Utopia

Bernard Avishai who has a technocrat's ability to dream away political realities recently published this wishful-thinking study designed by the Rand Corporation. It depicts a Palestinian state created through economic and transportation solutions -- the day after a peace agreement.

As I posted in a comment at the time, "A lovely dream, an incredible video -- makes me what to live there. But the Palestinians have always been against practical solutions that would make everyday life better. And how would Hamas take to subsuming their grand plan under this master plan?"

When you consider that after 62 years the Palestinians are finally, finally making some infrastructure and economic investments in their 'state', one wonders how long it would take for the proposed utopia to be achieved. Am I the only one who found this article by Isabel Kershner in the NY Times so sad, so pathetic? It describes a mass wedding in Nablus in order to highlight the state-building-works that the PA has implemented recently thanks to Israel's easing of border restrictions and, let's face it, the monetary inducements and Israel/US insistence on the PA finally policing itself. What some militants have been calling collaboration is actually yielding movement towards a bettering of West Bank citizens' lives. Finally.

The PA will also finally make some infrastructure improvements to the Balata refugee camp. But as Kershner soft-soaps it, "The issue of improvement in the refugee camps has always been a delicate one. The Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants are careful about impressions of permanence, sticking to their demand for a right of return to their former homes in what is now Israel."

UNRWA Plans School Next to Hamas Arms Base

Israel Urges UN not to Build Palestinian School Next to Hamas Arms Base :: Hudson New York
From Tom Gross via Hudson New York: Israel is pleading with UNWRA not to build a school next to a Hamas military installation saying it would be highly irresponsible to do so:

"Israel attaches great importance to the UNRWA education system in Gaza and will continue to cooperate and assist as much as possible in helping UNRWA," one senior Israeli official said. "But we will not help Hamas use schools and turn the people of Gaza into human shields."

Because this is what happens (more often than the MSM will report). As the AP caption states:

A injured Palestinian schoolboy receives treatment at 'Al Najar' hospital in the southern Gaza strip town of Rafah, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010. A Hamas security official said a blast in a Gaza military compound has wounded women and children. The spokesman, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue, says five children, three women and another five residents were lightly injured by the explosion which shook through densely crowded neighborhood of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. He did not give a cause for the blast. View the rest of the photos here. 

And that's just a work-a-day occurrence. Nevermind the human shields Hamas threw into the mix in order to inflate the number of civilian casualties during Israel's Gaza offensive. We don't need the Hamas admission, that 200-300 of supposed policemen killed during the war were actually Hamas militia, to confirm that their war-time reports can never be believed and the world needs to stop swallowing their spin.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Let's Run Iran Out of the UN

Harry's Place URGENT: Sakineh will be executed on Nov 3 – Join us to save her life

Say No to Iran & Saudi Arabia Leading the U.N. Women's Rights Agency

On the one hand, Iran is reported to be planning to execute Sakineh tomorrow. On the other hand it, along with Saudi Arabia, has been nominated by the Asian group of ten states to sit on the governing board of the UN Women's Rights Agency. Please, tell me what planet this is. Please, read the two articles and follow directions.