Friday, May 27, 2011

Move Over AIPAC Confab: A Gigantic Yawn

As I returned to blogging after a week off I wondered if I had missed the seismic shift in US policy towards Israel resulting from the AIPAC counter confab organized by Code Pink. Nope. The several-dozen-strong event didn't gather any serious press consideration, apart from reports of the pathetic disruption of Netanyahu's speech to Congress by one woman. And of the 'much-anticipated' speeches given by Mearsheimer and Walt there was no MSM mention whatsoever. In fact when I went on YouTube to watch Mearsheimer speak (mike in hand in what seemed to be a church basement somewhere) I found myself preceded by only two earlier viewers.

Successful agitprop this was not and one need only look at the conference endorsers to see what they mean by trying to change US Middle East Policy. It doesn't matter what you think about Netanyahu's speech, this confab's participants were only interested in one thing: the death of the two-state solution hastened by the elimination of Israel.At least for now, this particular foray did not succeed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Obama's Speech Round-Up

Those 'monitoring' the reporting and punditry on Obama's Middle East speech today could be forgiven for thinking that Netanyahu was the only party-pooper speaking out. But have a look-see at how Hamas and friends reacted and ask yourself why you didn't hear about it on CNN, etc. Blogosphere reviews have been mixed with most pro-Israel-ers thankful that Obama reiterated calls for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, threw cold water on the Palestinian UN recognition gambit, rued the Fatah/Hamas Unity deal and pressed for an end to the delegitimization campaign waged by the Arab world (and others.)

Although those were excellent points, they did not balance the insistence on Israel returning to the mythical 1967 lines (which are really 1949 armistice lines.) Is he, for example, saying that Israel really has to swap land in order to retain the Western Wall and other areas in Jerusalem that Jordan conquered in 1948 and ethnically cleansed of all Jews? And what about the Palestinian demand for the Right of Return of all refugees and their descendants? Why say nothing about that? Surely without a commitment to end that claim, any border issues would be rendered moot?

Anyway, here is a mixed bag of links to round out what I'm sure will be the predictable MSM if-only-Israel-would-give-peace-a-chance assessments:

Alan Dershowitz: President Obama's Mistake

Elder of Ziyon: Obama's Speech was a Rebuke to JStreet and Arab Hardliners

Yaacov Lozowick: Obama on the Middle East, Again

Marc Tracey: Bibi Gets What He Wants Replies With Scorn

Jeffrey Goldberg: Nuttiest Comment on Obama's Speech So Far

CS Monitor: Obama's Speech Missed Historic Opportunity Say Many Arabs

Ynetnews: Hamas - Obama Speech Total Failure

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Anti-Israel Booker Prize Judge Quits Over Philip Roth Award

Just a little something that may be a glimpse into the unconscious anti-Israel mind: Carmen Callil, part-Lebanese publisher of Virago Press and Booker Prize judge quit the awarding committee today because she was against giving the International Booker Prize to Philip Roth.

"I don't rate him as a writer. I made it clear I wouldn't have put him on the long list, so I was amazed when he stayed there. He was the only one I didn't admire – all the others were fine. He goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe."

The 'Jewish Condition' has been the subject of Roth's oeuvre from the very beginning, and although he has a complex relationship with Israel, he is deeply connected to it.

Callil had a run-in with “The Elders” several years ago when she made a very inane comparison between the Israeli treatment of Palestinians with the terror inflicted upon Jews in Vichy France:

From Haaretz:

“A party in honour of Bad Faith, Callil’s account of Louis Darquier, the Vichy official who arranged the deportation of thousands of Jews, was to have taken place at the French embassy in New York last night but was cancelled after the embassy became aware of a paragraph in the postscript of the book. In the postscript Callil says she grew anxious while researching the “helpless terror of the Jews of France” to see “what the Jews of Israel were passing on to the Palestinian people. Like the rest of humanity, the Jews of Israel ‘forget’ the Palestinians. Everyone forgets.”

Callil said the party was canceled after 'a series of letters from various Jewish fundamentalists complaining. They take a view that that no one can say anything about Jews that is not 100 percent complimentary.' She did not identify the letter writers by name. Callil defended the postscript to her book.

'I think the people in Gaza live in poverty huddled up in a very small territory ... because people don't like their government," she said. 'But if you persecute people, they will rise up against you.' Asked if she feels the current Israeli government oppresses Palestinians, she replied, 'Yes.'"
Was this payback time? Just wondering.

**Addendum: I specifically didn't focus on the feminist angle (Callil founded Virago, the premier publisher of women's literature) because I seriously believed that the days of hating Roth for his supposed misogyny were over. However, Marc Tracy in Tablet does provide a very specific example of Callil's personal problem with Roth: 

"The odd judge out, Carmen Callil, is not merely not a fan of the Zuckerberg books. She is the founder of Virago Press, a British house which is the largest publisher in the world dedicated to bringing out women’s writing. Hence, perhaps, “sitting on your face”—a freighted image that implicitly conjures charges of misogyny and/or of an over reliance of sexual scatology (both of which are charges that have been levied plentifully at Roth in the past). Moreover, Halford notes, in 1996 Virago published the English actress Claire Bloom’s memoir, which included a detailed account of her failed marriage to Roth; Roth later fictionalized the experience of having your ex-wife write a memoir about your break-up in his novel I Married A Communist (which is also the name of the ex-wife’s memoir in the book; it’s set in the 1950s, during the Red Scare). “It’s perhaps inevitable that today’s Prize announcement would have been met with drama of some sort,” Halford argues. “But it’s also ridiculous: Agreeing to serve as a judge on a panel with two other people means agreeing to respect the decision of the majority, especially if one has known for months that the decision was a possibility.” As we say on the Internet: Co-sign."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nakba Day: Getting Some Perspective

Nakba Day performance art.

I'll be honest with you: the accumulated confusion, disgust, loss of morale over events in the news these last weeks -- the Arab 'Spring', the Fatah/Hamas 'unity' deal, the Palestinian independent 'state' declaration -- have worn me out and I will be taking a break from blogging for the next two weeks in order to regroup and take care of some important personal and business issues. It is fitting that I break off on the day that the thoroughly cynical, so-called Nakba Day erupted with such venom and with the collusion of the tyrannical regimes that really ought to be the objects of such violence. Here are a few links to things Nakba, old and new, so you'll know how I really feel:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Rips Noam Chomsky on Bin Laden

Chomsky: all that learning for just one idea -- American imperialism
is the beginning and end of all the evil in this world. 

I read Noam-Chickens Coming Home to Roost-Chomsky's predictable piece about the Bin Laden killing in Guernica today and wondered what to do with it; where to even start. Luckily the great Mr. Hitchens came to the rescue. There's still gold in them thar hills:

"Anybody visiting the Middle East in the last decade has had the experience: meeting the hoarse and aggressive person who first denies that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center and then proceeds to describe the attack as a justified vengeance for decades of American imperialism. This cognitive dissonance—to give it a polite designation—does not always take that precise form. Sometimes the same person who hails the bravery of al-Qaida's martyrs also believes that the Jews planned the "operation." As far as I know, only leading British "Truther" David Shayler, a former intelligence agent who also announced his own divinity, has denied that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, took place at all. (It was apparently by means of a hologram that the widespread delusion was created on television.)
"In his recent article for Guernica magazine, however, professor Noam Chomsky decides to leave that central question open. We have no more reason to credit Osama Bin Laden's claim of responsibility, he states, than we would have to believe Chomsky's own claim to have won the Boston Marathon."
Read the rest here.

What's the main difference between these two? Chomsky with all his book-learning has only ever propounded one idea -- American imperialism is responsible for all the world's woes, whereas Hitchens' erudition encompasses so many as to boggle the mind. As Hitchen's says, "This is the sum total of what has been learned, by the guru of the left, in the last decade." 

Asma al-Assad Escapes to London

Asma al-Assad met the Queen in happier days. She is back in London
out of harm's way while hubby crushes Syria's democracy movement.

It seems that Asma al-Assad has escaped to London where she was brought up, leaving her husband to wipe out the Syrian regime's opposition without the fig leaf she once provided. Even as recently as April 4th, she was the subject of an adoring portrait in the Daily Mail: Could Asma Al-Assad, a doctor's daughter from Acton, stop the bloodshed? . Apparently 'Fleet Street' hadn't yet learned the lesson of Vogue's shameless puff piece (no longer available online):

"Most intriguingly, this product of Eighties Acton could now hold the key to Syria’s future. As her president husband’s closest confidante, it is Asma al-Assad who is most likely to lead him towards reform and help stave off the type of revolution that has erupted in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya."

Apparently, she alone of all the ME dictator's wives, "seems to have escaped censure, despite having impressed the Western fashion world with her willowy and unglitzy style."

"Throughout Syria, portraits of Asma’s dour-looking husband dominate shops and schools, but it is his wife Asma who is acknowledged as the fresher and more beautiful face of the country. Her possible role as an agent for social change has suddenly come under the international spotlight. No one knows if Asma al-Assad from Acton can help her husband propel Syria forward. But she is certainly his best bet."

Should the wife suffer for her husband's villainy? Absolutely in this case. Asma, as all of her PR wants you to know, is a sophisticated, well-educated woman who knowingly fabricated an idealized version of reform in Syria. Whoever fed the Daily Mail this Cinderella story did a fine job convincing them of some rather preposterous ideas. We haven't heard from her since her return, but will Asma will be used as a propaganda tool to further humanize the regime? Read the rest of the fairy tale here.

Yom Hazikaron: Silence Is The Most Powerful Scream

For Yom Hazikaron


Getty Images


I don't know if this happens in any other country, but these images of the two minutes when Israel goes silent tells you all you need to know about the impact of lost lives on just about every family there.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tony Kushner Row Threatens Legitimate Anti-Boycott Advocacy

Yesterday I wrote that the Tony Kushner debacle was a waste of pro-Israel political capital. Today I want to go even further: denying Kushner an honorary degree on the basis of his politics is equivalent to silencing pro-Israel speech and boycotting Israeli academics and cultural events. In my opinion it is no different than the ugly intimidation tactics of PACBI, BDS, etc. 

For goodness sakes, Israeli universities employ the largest number of Jewish anti-Zionist academics in the world. We may hate their work but the discourse we must engage in is to challenge their ideas, not silence them. We can't claim to promote Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East and then turn around and abuse the freedoms democracy grants all speech.

As former NYC Mayor Israel supporter, Ed Koch, said yesterday, “I can’t think of a dumber academic action. What does Kushner receiving an award have to do with criticism of the State of Israel? I am a well-known supporter of that nation. What if I were denied an honorary degree because of my strong support for that state? That would make as much sense as denying Mr. Kushner a degree.”

Furthermore, this pathetic strong-arm action initiated by Republican patron Jeffrey Wiesenfeld threatens to 1) make a mockery of legitimate challenges to institutional anti-Zionism, 2) allow right-wing politicians to own the pro-Israel position, giving anti-Zionists an opportunity to exploit that partisanship, 3) Kushner and anti-Zionists, for all their huffing, are enjoying the attention this gives their position, 4) there are far bigger fish to fry, eg, the Methodist Church's new document on Israel and Palestine.

Already, the media is jumping on this story and efforts to demonize legitimate anti-anti-Zionist critiques are emerging. It may start with honorary degree holders renouncing their awards and will, no doubt, end with petitions and letters claiming that the pro-Israel community is holding critics of Israeli policies hostage; think Move Over AIPAC and accusations of Israel Lobby manipulations.

Nevertheless, CAMERA, has a concise précis of Kushner’s position and it’s worth reading in order to counter its many, many flaws. Also worth reading are Jeffrey Goldberg's interesting observations as well as quotes from a conversation with Jeffrey Wiesenfeld.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Riverdance to Defy Israel Boycotters

It didn't seem to bother anyone when Riverdance performed in China.
In the face of the Tony Kushner debacle, which in my opinion was a waste of pro-Israel political capital, we must remember that the other side -- the demonizers -- are continuously on the prowl for another opportunity to pursue the cultural isolation of Israel.

So, we have the recent announcement that Riverdance is planning a September tour of Israel and, naturally, PACBI and friends have already loaded their guns. They've enlisted Riverdance's set designer, Robert Ballagh, who signed an Irish artist's pledge to boycott Israel explaining it thus in an open letter:

"I, along with many other Irish creative and performing artists, signed a cultural boycott pledge not to visit Israel. This was a positive response to the call by Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural organisations for a cultural boycott of Israel. I believe that this non-violent cultural boycott will contribute to the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people.
“Because I have signed up to support the cultural boycott I will not be travelling to Israel with Riverdance.” 
Ballagh said his decision to support the boycott was inspired by a meeting with Nelson Mandela, who told him the sporting and cultural boycott of South Africa was an essential weapon in the struggle against apartheid.
For they're part, Riverdance's management have issued the following statement in defiance of the boycott:
"The upcoming inaugural visit by Riverdance to Israel follows an invitation by an independent concert promoter to perform in three cities next September and this tour will allow all Israeli citizens experience a show that has been seen live by over 22 million people across 35 countries for the past 16 years.
"Riverdance supports the policy of the Irish Government and indeed the policy of every other EU state that cultural interaction is preferable to isolation."
So, there.

Update: I hadn't realized that the ever-lovin', Israel-hatin' Anglican vicar, Stephen Sizer, is urging Riverdance to boycott Israel. Now I'll be watching this story diligently for further news.

Tariq Ramadan: Bin Laden Killing was Obama PR Exercise

Tariq Ramadan was interviewed by Tony Jones about the Osama Bin Laden killing on Australian Broadcasting's Lateline. Here is his claim that it was Obama's PR stunt:

"At the end of the day, the way it has been done and all these versions and all this political statements that we have gives the impression that it's very much used as a PR exercise, putting the president Barack Obama in a situation where he is strong and he is showing how much he is protecting the country, because he has been criticised on that side by the neo-con and the Tea Party, saying that he's not good for the job in Iraq, in Afghanistan and even for security reason." 

And here he is truthing about 9/11 and 7/7:

"TONY JONES: You talked earlier about the conspiracy theories which have driven - have been driven throughout the Muslim world by people who say September 11 didn't really happen or it didn't happen in the way that - it didn't happen in the way that everyone in the United States and the West generally accepts that it did. 

Do you accept the evidence that Osama bin Laden, at the top of the chain of command of Al Qaeda, ordered the September 11 massacre in New York, and in point of fact many other terror attacks around the world as well?

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes. I accept that. I don't have a - you know, between the conspiracy theory on one side and everything it should be clear on the other side, in between still there are lots of questions. There was no independent, you know, inquiry about what happened, and still now there are questions to be raised. And the first questions that we have is about what happened two days ago. So I think that ...

TONY JONES: No, can I just interrupt you there. We'll just stick with September 11 for the moment because are you saying there are still questions about what happened there? Because you were quite equivocal about this 10 years ago when you were first asked about it. You said, "Perhaps bin Laden is a useful bugbear, like Saddam Hussein." What did you mean by that? 

TARIQ RAMADAN: No, the first reaction that you are talking about is the week after, when we, for example, heard that with all what happened, we find two passports almost completely clean and with nothing, and I think, "OK, what's that?" I had questions, yes, with silly people leaving a car in a car park with things in Arabic when we all know that the pilots are reading things in English. 

I think that these are questions that have to be asked, and it doesn't mean that we are saying that bin Laden is not behind and Al Qaeda is not behind. And if you are a serious citizen, you have the right to ask, and this is what I did also in the UK after 7/7, asking: we need an independent inquiry, we need to know what happened, we need transparency on all these things, because the way afterward it was used by the Bush administration is to go to kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan who were not supporting bin Laden and not supporting the Taliban and they paid a price. And this innocent people would ..."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On Bin Laden, Palestinians Play Good Cop/Bad Cop

Gazans protesting the killing of Bin Laden
Here are the PA’s representatives on the killing of Bin Laden:

Salaam Fayyad viewed the killing as, “a major, mega landmark event, ending the life of a person who was involved in egregious acts of terror and destruction.” He hoped this would “mark the beginning of the end of a violent era.”

PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said, "Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods -- the violent methods -- that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world.”

By contrast, Hamas’ Ismail al-Ashqar opined that it was, “state terrorism that America carries out against Muslims.” And Ismail Haniyah condemned it as, “as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood." Furthermore, “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs."

In the NY Times article, Hamas Condemns the Killing of Bin Laden; Fares Akram wondered at Hamas' timing of such audacious statements given its current mission to make nice with Fatah and win international approval of a self-declared state:

“Though the Islamic group Hamas is also defined as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and others, its denunciations were surprising to many, given their timing. Just two weeks ago, Hamas forces stormed a building in Gaza where Al Qaeda inspired extremists accused of kidnapping and killing a pro-Palestinian Italian activist were holed up. Two died and Hamas arrested the third. And on Wednesday, Hamas is expected to sign a preliminary reconciliation deal in Cairo with its secularist, mainstream rival Fatah, which is now based in the West Bank. The West Bank leadership is currently trying to win Western support for the deal and the unified interim government that is supposed to emerge.”

So, what’s going on? I think that the PA and Hamas are playing a tag-team, good cop/bad cop game in order to test the West’s mettle in drawing a red line on what is considered acceptable in the composition of a new Palestinian ‘entity.’ Let it not be forgotten that Bin Laden has always been most popular among Palestinians as compared to other Muslims.

As Yehuda Misky writes in, Jewish Ideas Daily, “…there are certain elemental red lines that should mark the outer boundaries of what can be deemed legitimate progress on the part of democratizing societies. These include non-belligerence; a fundamental respect for human rights; the demonstrated will to implement the basics of republican government and the institutions of civil society; the acceptance of existing states' right to exist and the willingness to negotiate territorial and other disputes in good faith. All these are of a piece with the oft-stated requirements of the so-called Middle East Quartet (made up of the U.S., the European Union, the UN, and Russia): namely, commitments by both Fatah and Hamas to previous agreements, renunciation of terror and violence, and recognition of Israel.

“If, in the emerging coalescence of Hamas and Fatah, the Quartet as well as individual Western and other governments were to insist on these red lines, they would at least show, to Israel and above all to themselves, what they stand for and what they will neither tolerate nor subsidize. The awful question raised by this latest development, and by the awaited response to it of the Western democracies, is whether any red lines remain at all.”

Jackson Diehl echos these concerns regarding Hamas’ chutzpah: “These may seem like predictable reactions by known terrorist organizations. But they ought to be deeply troubling for a host of Western diplomats who lately have been promoting the idea that both the Taliban and Hamas are suitable partners for peace negotiations.

“Haniyeh’s comments will be even more concerning, as they come days before a planned meeting in Cairo at which Hamas and the secular Fatah movement are to agree on a reconciliation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas long ago renounced violence against Israel, and his West Bank security forces are funded and trained by the United States.

“Now Abbas will find himself agreeing to form a joint Palestinian government with a man who has just condemned the U.S. killing of “Arab holy warrior” bin Laden. The broker of the deal, Egypt, has been pressing the Obama administration to accept the accord and to put forward a plan for Palestinian statehood in response.

“Should the mourner of bin Laden be recognized as a worthy partner for peace with Israel, or a potential leader of a new Arab state? Haniyeh’s comments won’t leave the White House -- which has been weighing how to respond to the Palestinian unity deal -- with much of a choice.”

I wonder. Let’s wait and see what conditions the White House and the Quartet place on the Fatah/Hamas nuptials. I’m not optimistic.

Yaacov Lozowick has a cute way of putting it: 

"I suppose it's not surprising that Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, responded to the killing by stating that the operation is 'the continuation of the American oppression and shedding of blood of Muslims and Arabs.' Still, surprising or not, from now on whenever someone tells us Israel must accommodate itself to Hamas, we need to put on a puzzled face and say something along the lines of 'Hamas? Weren't they the ones who condemned the Americans for killing Bin Laden? That Hamas?'  If needed, one can add that Haniya is often described as a moderate Hamas fellow, not one of your militant types at all actually.'

This just in: H/T Harry's Place: Fatah Military Wing Calls Bin Laden Killing "Catastrophe"

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead

Just for the record, here is a screen shot of the New York Times homepage of  May 2, 2011:

And front page in print:

Read the story.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"There is No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza" - Update

In 2010, before Fatah and Hamas tied the knot, Azzam al-Ahmed
of the PA in the West Bank claimed there was no humanitarian
crisis in Gaza. Who you gonna believe?

As a relatively new blogger, I still haven't fully conditioned myself to check for spammed comments to my posts. But, today I did and saw that a reader tried four times to contradict my post about the Red Cross assertion that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. This is what s/he wrote:

"The article regarding Red Cross: there is no a humanitarian crisis and Mathilde Redmatn Red Cross Official is a false report. I called the ICRC Headquarters and they could not find a Mathilde Redmatn in their directory and said there is no such title as "Deputy Director of Gaza". I reported this to other leading organizations associated with the Red Cross to request they send out an accurate statement in response to this article circulating."

Well, I got a little upset about it, immediately did a Google check and found that several anti-Zionist bloggers, including Mondoweiss, jumped on this allegation without doing their own fact-finding.

Turns out there is a perfectly good explanation for a misunderstanding and CAMERA Snapshots has the answer. It pays to be vigilant with so many Hamas groupies trolling the blogosphere:

"April 28, 2011

Turning a Misspelling into a Fabrication

People can get pretty desperate. One example of how desperate they can get played itself out on Snapshots, when a commenter attempted to discredit an article we linked to a few days ago. The original article quoted an official from the Red Cross as stating there was no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. The person quoted is named as Mathilde Redmatn, deputy director of the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip.

A few hours after CAMERA posted a link to the article, a commenter stated that the article was false because there was no one by the name of “Mathilde Redmatn” working for the Red Cross. A similar statement appeared on the Mondoweiss blog.

Interestingly enough, even the Mondoweiss blog entry acknowledged that there was someone working for the Red Cross with a similar name. A commenter, who disagreed with the premise that there was no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip still had the presence of mind to acknowledge that Redmatn’s name got misspelled in the course of the article being translated from Hebrew into English.

Given Snapshots' interest in the accuracy of the article in question, CAMERA contacted both the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jerusalem and the IDF website article’s author, Rotem Caro Weizman. The ICRC confirmed that it does in fact have a Mathilde De Riedmatten in its employ – and her title is ICRC Deputy Head of Sub Delegation in Gaza.

And Ms. Weizman confirmed that the name ‘Mathilde Redmatn’ was indeed mistranslated from the Hebrew into English.

Ms. Weizman stands by her story and barring a denial from the Red Cross, it seems reasonable to conclude that the quote is, in fact, accurate.

As to the complaints about a humanitarian crisis taking place in the Gaza Strip, commenters should take it up with Mathilde De Riedmatten." -- CAMERA Snapshots

What lends the story further credibility is that the IDF published the extended interview with De Riedmatten in which she was rather critical of Israel's handling of the blockade.