Media backtracks on Gaza (& UK Foreign Office chief’s PLO connection)

August 31, 2010

* Time magazine this month: “Gaza’s residents will concede that there is no hunger crisis in the Strip. Residents do love the beach, and the store shelves are stocked. But if you’re focused on starvation, they say, you’re probably missing the point.”

* Time magazine in 2008: “Please spare a thought for the starving Palestinians of Gaza. There are 1.5 million of them, most of them living hand to mouth.”

***

* New York Times this month: “The poverty of Gaza is often misconstrued, willfully or inadvertently. The flotilla movement is not about material aid; it is about Palestinian freedom.”

* Yet on at least 15 occasions in recent weeks, The New York Times described the ships sailing for Gaza as “aid ships.”

***

* Nobel peace-prize winner Jimmy Carter in 2008: Gazans are being “starved to death.”
* Jimmy Carter in 2009: “the people in Gaza are literally starving.”
* Jimmy Carter now: sudden silence on Gaza.

* Tom Gross: “If the media and NGOs had told the truth about the situation in Gaza earlier, Western governments might have sent a larger proportion of aid to where it is more urgently needed in Africa and elsewhere. The unnecessary flotillas that led to the tragic deaths of nine people might also have been avoided.”

***

New head of UK foreign office stepped down from previous government job after he became romantically involved with a PLO official. Yet only one of Britain’s two dozen Israel-obsessed newspapers bother to report on this.

***

In a predictable move (something like this happens every time “peace talks” about to start) there are reports that four Israeli civilians (including a pregnant woman and a mother of six) have been shot dead in the last few minutes by Palestinian gunmen.

 

UPDATE 11.45 pm

Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack and described it as a “heroic operation” on its website. This is the most deadly attack against Israeli civilians since the 2008 massacre of 8 Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem yeshiva. This evening’s shooting confounds recent Hamas signals that it might refrain from resuming attacks on Israeli civilians.

Below, Hamas supporters (including in the third photo, children) take to the streets of Gaza this evening to celebrate the murder of Israelis.

Please note how a Palestinian boy has been given a gun to hold by his father in the first of these photos. Amazingly, in its report the Associated Press suggests (without any concrete evidence at all) that the victims, including a pregnant woman, were “ultranationalist Jewish settlers” but employs no such adjectives to describe Hamas and its supporters.

Below, a Hamas supporter distributes sweets last night to celebrate the attack.

 

UPDATE 2: Sept. 1, 2010

MEDIC DISCOVERS WIFE’S BODY AT SCENE OF ATTACK

Zaka volunteer Maimon Ben-Haim was dispatched to the scene of the terrorist attack with his colleagues. “We saw a crying volunteer, and at first we did not understand what was happening – he has seen many disasters before,” Zaka volunteer Isaac Bernstein told The Jerusalem Post. “Then he started shouting, ‘That’s my wife! That’s my wife!’ We took him away from the scene immediately.”

Above: Maimon’s wife, Kokhava Even-Chaim, 37, a special education nursery teacher. She left behind an 8-year-old daughter.

 

Above: Hodaya Ames, 9, cries at her parents’ funeral after they were killed by Hamas terrorists. Hodaya’s mother was nine months pregnant.

 

UPDATE 3: Sept. 1, 2010, 11 pm

Two more Israelis have been wounded this evening, one critically, in the second West Bank shooting attack in two days.

 

UPDATE 4: Sept. 2, 2010

After The New York Times’s unfortunately predictable (but nevertheless disgraceful) “blame the victim” news coverage of the attack, they did print two critical letters of their own coverage today.

www.nytimes.com/2010/09/02/opinion/l02mideast.html

In summary:

For some, the terrorist attack in the West Bank on Tuesday killed four nameless settlers. For us, the attack snuffed out the life of the loving special education nursery teacher who greeted our developmentally delayed son with boundless love and dedication every day for the last two years.

Kochava Even Chaim was on her way home to her own family after attending the nursery’s “welcome back” party at which her adoring special students, who are incapable of understanding hate, decorated new school bags with her just one hour before her murder.

Jennie Goldstein, Neve Daniel

… Talk about [the Times’s] blaming the victim! Settlements are an issue that must be addressed in the peace negotiations, but doesn’t this incident underscore that Hamas must cease its unprovoked violence if we are to have any hope of regional peace? …

Amy N. Lipton, Greenwich, Conn.

 


 

CONTENTS

1. New UK Foreign Office chief left previous job over love affair with PLO official
2. NY Times finally covers the Gaza shopping mall (and links to my dispatch)
3. CNN, Time, NY Times and others suddenly backtrack on years of Gaza misreporting
4. Yes, there are poor areas of Gaza too
5. The New York Times tells it as it is about the West Bank too
6. More West Bank Progress
7. Ramallah’s fancy restaurants, bars and discotheques
8. From one of the most syndicated columnists in America
9. “The ‘two-state’ delusion” (By George Will, Washington Post, Aug. 22, 2010)
10. “Skip the lectures on Israel’s ‘risks for peace’” (By George Will, W. Post, Aug. 19, 2010)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

NEW UK FOREIGN OFFICE CHIEF LEFT PREVIOUS JOB OVER LOVE AFFAIR WITH PLO OFFICIAL

(This note was first written and sent to my smaller email list on August 1, 2010, the day on which this story appeared.)

The Sunday Telegraph of London reports that Simon Fraser, the new head of the British Foreign Office, stepped down from a previous position working for a Conservative party minister during the last Conservative government in Britain (that of John Major), after he became romantically involved and began living with an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). At the time, the PLO was officially classified by the British and other governments as a terrorist organization. (For those who don’t know, the Foreign Office is Britain’s foreign ministry.) Fraser was given another job by the Foreign Office that year, working for its policy planning staff.

Interestingly, although the Telegraph is one of Britain’s best-selling quality newspapers, to my knowledge no other British newspaper has bothered to follow up on this story in the last four weeks, despite their obsession with all things Israeli and Palestinian.

The Telegraph notes that “Having provoked anger with his description of Gaza as a “prison camp”, [Prime Minister] David Cameron’s latest appointment is likely to raise further suspicions among supporters of Israel about the direction of his policy in the Middle East.”

William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, announced Fraser’s appointment as the department’s Permanent Under Secretary last month. He will take up his position at the end of August (i.e. this week).

In 1992, David Mellor, one of Prime Minister John Major’s trusted Cabinet ministers, was forced to resign after it was disclosed that he had enjoyed a free holiday two years earlier as the guest of Mona Bauwens, a daughter of the late PLO official Jaweed al-Ghussein.

 

NY TIMES FINALLY COVERS THE GAZA SHOPPING MALL (AND LINKS TO MY DISPATCH)

(This note was first written and sent to my smaller email list on August 23, 2010.)

Since the opening of the Gaza shopping mall was revealed to an Israeli and international audience on July 17, a growing number of major media worldwide have written about and linked to this dispatch.

At the top of the dispatch, I suggested that The New York Times – the world’s most influential paper – show pictures of the mall and write about it, and I have repeatedly sent the dispatch to various New York Times editors. Today, the paper finally wrote about the mall (on page A7) and linked to my dispatch (in the sentence “How did they build a mall if no building materials are permitted into Gaza?”)

As The New York Times writes: “‘Gaza is not poor in the way outsiders think,’ said Nida Wishah, a 22-year-old information technology student who was at the mall one recent afternoon. ‘You can’t compare our poverty with that of Africa.’”

(The New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune also ran this story together with the photo of the shopping mall I had used in my July 17 dispatch, on page 2 of the IHT August 24 edition.)

Since the existence of fancy restaurants, crowded food markets for ordinary Gazans, Olympic size swimming pools, and other signs of prosperity in Gaza, were revealed, there has also been a noticeable and dramatic reduction in the number of newspaper reporters and commentators talking of a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, let alone of “starvation”.

Obviously, the political problems of Gaza remain, but that is another matter.

 

CNN, TIME, NY TIMES AND OTHERS SUDDENLY BACKTRACK ON YEARS OF GAZA MISREPORTING

It appears that The New York Times and other media – having misled readers about the situation in Gaza for years – are now trying to rewrite what they said.

Because they don’t want to look retroactively as though they weren’t telling the truth when they uncritically carried statements like those from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who said in 2009 that “the people in Gaza, who are literally starving” and in 2008 that Gazans are being “starved to death,” all of a sudden the international media are trying to suggest that they had never been implying to readers and viewers that Gazans were suffering mass hunger of some kind.

(No wonder, Hamas has repeatedly thanked Carter. See, for example, here.)

Yesterday on air, the CNN’s Middle East business correspondent, reporting from Gaza, admitted that “Gazan shops have always been well-stocked even in the worst days of unrest here.”

And here is what Time magazine’s reporter wrote this month:

“Gaza’s residents will concede that there is no hunger crisis in the Strip. Residents do love the beach, and the store shelves are stocked. But if you’re focused on starvation, they say, you’re probably missing the point.”

Could this be the same Time magazine that wrote in 2008:

“Please spare a thought for the starving Palestinians of Gaza. There are 1.5 million of them, most of them living hand to mouth.”

In previous reports, New York Times correspondent Ethan Bronner wrote of the “severe humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, but now in his piece about the Gaza mall he writes that “the poverty of Gaza is often misconstrued, willfully or inadvertently… The flotilla movement is not about material aid; it is about Palestinian freedom and defiance.”

Yet on at least 15 occasions The New York Times (in its news reports and pontificating editorials and columns by the likes of Roger Cohen) described the ships trying to sail to Gaza as “aid ships.”

This kind of media distortion, which has been going on for years, has been unhelpful, to say the least. It makes it much more difficult for policy makers to formulate good policy for the region for the benefit of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Just as it was unhelpful when they failed to report the truth about the non-existent Jenin massacre, or the death of Mohammed al-Dura, and so many other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

YES, THERE ARE POOR AREAS OF GAZA TOO

Obviously, there are many poor areas of Gaza too. There are also plenty of slums in Paris (and London and Rome and New York), but the media tend to focus their pictures on the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee instead.

Not so in Gaza where many journalists (who in private conversation, even more than in public, constantly disparage Israel) are doing their best to paint a distorted picture of the economic situation there, showing off the worst possible aspects – and using words like “devastated economy” (BBC) and “dire humanitarian situation” (Sky News) – in order to mislead everyone from the common reader right up to politicians such as British Prime Minister David Cameron into thinking conditions in Gaza resemble some kind of prison camp.


For more pictures of Gaza, please see:

The Islamic University of Gaza: www.iugaza.edu.ps/en
Gaza Al-Quds University: www.qou.edu/homePage/english/index.jsp?pageId=176
The Gaza Grand Palace Hotel: www.grandpalace.ps
The Al Deira Hotel: www.aldeira.ps

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES, TELLING IT AS IT IS ABOUT THE WEST BANK TOO

Today on a Page 1 cover story, The New York Times’s Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner (under the headline “Outlines Emerge of Future State in the West Bank”) notes many of the same things that I outlined in my article about Nablus last year for The Wall Street Journal (sub headlined “A promising, independent Palestine is quietly being developed, with Israeli assistance.”)

The New York Times today tells readers that “movie theaters are opening and public parks are packed with families late into the summer nights”. “I’ve never seen Nablus so alive,” it quotes one local as saying.

I also cited Palestinians saying “Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren’t ready to do so by themselves yet”.

And the Times today reports: “A Western security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said… he thought that the Palestinian forces, while making progress, were not yet able to take control.”

It is good that such a highly regarded journalist as Ethan Bronner is telling it as it is in the West Bank. Will correspondents for the BBC and other major media now follow suit?

 

MORE WEST BANK PROGRESS

On the eve of the resumption of direct peace talks with the Israelis in Washington on Thursday, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced some of the progress his government has made toward his two-year goal of laying the institutional foundations for a Palestinian state.

Fayyad told journalists that in the past year the Palestinian Authority has opened 34 new schools, launched 44 new housing projects and paved 16 roads. Fayyad said they plan to strengthen the justice system further, build new prisons, reinforce anti-corruption measures, modernize health and education, and empower women. Fayyad also said the PA was able to increase tax revenue by 20 percent.

All this was done with quiet help from persons such as Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel (with the encouragement of Benjamin Netanyahu and of Ehud Olmert before him), and without undue interference from Western politicians and diplomats and the UN. Let us hope that the resumption of the peace process that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have insisted upon doesn’t spoil the considerable advancements on the ground.

 

RAMALLAH’S FANCY RESTAURANTS, BARS AND DISCOTHEQUES

The article below by Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh (who is a longtime subscriber to this email list) adds weight to the various articles about the strong economic performance in the Palestinian territories, a performance which we can trace directly to the policies of recent years initiated by the Israeli authorities with the encouragement of the much maligned Bush administration.


‘Palestine’s new bride’
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Jerusalem Post magazine
August 20, 2010

Fancy restaurants, five-star hotels, glitzy bars, discotheques, luxury apartments and scores of new construction sites. Welcome to the new Ramallah, the de facto capital of Palestine.

It’s hard to believe that Orjuwan is located in the West Bank. Until a few years ago, Palestinians could have only dreamed about having an Italian bar and cuisine like this. But the Orjuwan Lounge in the fashionable neighborhood of Al-Masyoun in Ramallah has become a symbol of the dramatic change that has taken place in this city in the past three years.

Fatah gunmen and thugs who once used to roam the streets have been replaced by policemen and security officers who don’t hesitate to use an iron fist against anyone who breaks the law.

The improved security has encouraged Palestinians and foreigners to inject money into the city or even move to live there. Luxury apartments are on sale in most parts of the city. The prices are still very attractive. A three-room apartment in a new building was sold last week for $160,000. Three years ago, the same apartment would have been sold for half the price.

“I sell at least three apartments a month,” said building contractor and developer Hussein Mansour. “What’s helping us is the fact that local banks are now prepared to give mortgages to almost everyone. In the past, these banks refused to give mortgages to Palestinian Authority employees because there was no guarantee that they would continue to receive salaries.”

Tareq Abu Shousheh, a carpenter from Jerusalem, said he bought a new apartment in the Al-Masyoun neighborhood last month. “I paid only $140,000 for a wonderful apartment,” he said. “In Jerusalem I couldn’t even find a smaller apartment that cost less than that. It’s impossible to find a small apartment in an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem for less than $300,000.”

Abu Shousheh said many of his friends were now considering following suit and purchasing new homes in Ramallah or other Palestinian cities such as Jericho and Bethlehem. The famous Nazareth-based Mahroum Oriental Sweets recently opened a branch in the city, offering yet more traditional Middle Eastern pastries, fragrant with honey, pistachio paste, almonds and spices.

Sources in the Ramallah Municipality revealed that more than 100 Palestinians from Jerusalem have relocated their businesses to Ramallah in the past few months. “Here they pay less taxes and have more customers,” the sources said. “East Jerusalem goes to sleep at sunset and the streets are completely deserted.

East Jerusalem has become a ghost town, especially when you compare it with Ramallah.”

THE POPULAR Orjuwan restaurant and nightclub attracts a diverse crowd – young and old, Palestinian and Israeli, Americans and Europeans, as well as Christians, Muslims and even Jews. Orjuwan was opened less than a year ago by two brothers and a sister from the famous Sakakini family. The Orjuwan Lounge is among dozens of fancy restaurants, bars and discotheques that have cropped up in Ramallah in the past three years, in addition to scores of construction sites that may be seen in almost every neighborhood of the city. Another popular site is the Tche Tche Cafe and Restaurant, which has become a favorite spot among Ramallah’s young men and women. Tche Tche has at least 20 operational branches in the Middle East and is considered one of the leading chains of cafes and restaurants in the region.

Five-star hotels and gourmet restaurants are popping up like mushrooms. Many residents are already excited about the new Swiss-run Mövenpick Hotel, which is expected to open shortly. The new hotel is located about three kilometers from the city center and has a spectacular view overlooking the suburbs of Jerusalem. The hotel has 172 rooms and suites, as well as Italian restaurants, swimming pools and a shopping center.

The five-star hotel, like many businesses, is situated not far from the Al-Ama’ri refugee camp, home to thousands of disgruntled and unemployed Palestinians. Some residents of the refugee camp expressed anger over the Palestinian government’s failure to improve their living conditions. “They are building all these nice and expensive restaurants and bars for the rich people,” said Jamal Abu Kwaik, a local Fatah activist. “The Palestinian Authority has forgotten about the three refugee camps in the Ramallah area. You will never see a refugee eating or drinking in these places because we can’t afford to go there.”

The general mood in Ramallah these days is reminiscent of the one that prevailed immediately after the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

Then, Ramallah witnessed an economic boom as many investors from all around the world converged on the city and its surroundings with high hopes. But many of the investors ran away after discovering that the Palestinian government was, in the words of one Palestinian businessman, a “mafia.” Back then, many wealthy Palestinians ran back to the US and the Gulf countries because, they said, they had fallen victim to corrupt Palestinian government officials who were demanding kickbacks and commissions.

“You couldn’t open a business then without paying a commission to senior officials associated with [Yasser] Arafat,” said a restaurant owner. “Many businessmen ran away with their money because they could not put up with the corruption.”

The restaurant owner and other businessmen in Ramallah agreed that the situation today was different. “Today there’s less corruption,” said Omar Salman who, together with his brother, is planning to build a new boutique hotel in a Ramallah suburb. “Also, people today feel safer to invest their money in Ramallah because of the government’s efforts to restore law and order.”

“Ramallah is becoming the de facto capital of Palestine,” said Hani Saadeh, a local engineer.

“The city is the political and economic capital of Palestine.”

Sani Meo, publisher of This Week in Palestine, a popular magazine that covers cultural and economic events in the West Bank, says, “Capital or no capital, Ramallah has done well and Palestine is proud of its achievements.” Meo noted that while other Palestinian cities strive to compete, Ramallah has, in fact, “replaced Jaffa and has indeed become the new bride of Palestine. I only pray that the relative calm that the West Bank is witnessing is not the lull before another storm hits our area and that the enduring norm for people will be live and let live.”

But many Palestinians are wondering whether the transformation of Ramallah into a modern and flourishing city is part of an Israeli “conspiracy” to make them forget about Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. As the Ramallah publisher pointed out, representative offices that serve as embassies of many foreign countries already operate in Ramallah, the financial and political center of the Palestinians.

“The most that Palestinians can aspire to today is that Al-Quds [Jerusalem] become Bonn and Ramallah Berlin [prior to becoming reunited Germany’s capital again],” said Meo.

The presence of the “embassies” in Ramallah has only reinforced the feeling that the city has indeed become the internationally recognized capital of Palestine. Among the countries that have “ambassadors” and “representative offices” in the city are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Korea, South Africa, Norway, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, China, Poland, Portugal, The Netherlands, Russia, Jordan, Brazil, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, India, Japan, the Czech Republic, Canada and Mexico.

“Whether we like it or not, Ramallah has become the real capital of Palestine,” said Munir Hamdan, a local businessman and Fatah operative. “The president and prime minister have their offices here. So do the parliament and all the government ministries.”

Hamdan and other Palestinians accused the Palestinian Authority of “collusion” with Israel in turning Ramallah into the political and financial capital of the Palestinians. The latest project to build a government complex in Ramallah has left many residents here wondering whether their leadership has abandoned the dream to turn Jerusalem into their capital.

“If they are building a new government compound here, that means they have no plans to be based in Jerusalem,” complained Hatem Abdel Kader, a Fatah legislator from Jerusalem. “Unfortunately, the Palestinian government of Salam Fayyad has abandoned Jerusalem in favor of Ramallah.”

Abdel Kader is perhaps one of the few people who know what they are talking about when it comes to Jerusalem. About two years ago Fayyad appointed him as minister for Jerusalem affairs.

However, Abdel Kader resigned a few weeks later, saying he had discovered that his ministry did not even have enough money to buy a desk and a chair for him.

“I have to be honest with you and tell you that we have lost the battle for Jerusalem,” Abdel Kader lamented. “One of the reasons is because the Palestinian government doesn’t really care about Jerusalem.”

 

FROM ONE OF THE MOST SYNDICATED COLUMNISTS IN AMERICA

After a long absence from writing about Israel, George Will has produced a string of five columns written from Jerusalem.

Will says “The biggest threat to peace might be the peace process – or, more precisely, the illusion that there is one.”

I would like to remind readers that I don’t necessarily agree with all aspects of the articles I send out (including these by Will) but they are a counter-balance to the opinions that dominate the global media with the most wide-ranging influence, such as the BBC, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, and Economist. Or nonsense of the kind that dominated the Financial Times’s comment page last week written by the paper’s former opinion editor (and now international affairs editor) David Gardner.

Below, I attach two of the pieces by Will (who is a subscriber to this email list).

(All five pieces of his from Jerusalem can be read here:

The Mideast mirage (By George F. Will, August 26, 2010)
The ‘two-state’ delusion (By George F. Will, August 22, 2010)
Skip the lectures on Israel’s ‘risks for peace’ (By George F. Will, August 19, 2010)
Israel’s best defense (By George F. Will, August 15, 2010)
Israel’s anti-Obama (By George F. Will, August 12, 2010)

What is of interest is that George Will is believed to be the most syndicated newspaper columnist in America. But I wonder how many papers will run these latest columns of his.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

“RHETORIC ABOUT A ‘TWO-STATE SOLUTION’ IS DELUSIONAL, GIVEN RECENT EXPERIENCES”

The ‘two-state’ delusion
By George Will
The Washington Post
August 22, 2010

JERUSALEM – ‘Twas a famous victory for diplomacy when, in 1991 in Madrid, Israelis and Palestinians, orchestrated by the United States, at last engaged in direct negotiations. Almost a generation later, U.S. policy has succeeded in prodding the Palestinians away from their recent insistence on “proximity talks” – in which they have talked to the Israelis through American intermediaries – and to direct negotiations. But negotiations about what?

Idle talk about a “binational state” has long since died. Even disregarding the recent fates of multinational states – e.g., the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, the former Czechoslovakia – binationalism is impossible if Israel is to be a Jewish state for the Jewish people. No significant Israeli constituency disagrees with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders.”

Rhetoric about a “two-state solution” is de rigueur. It also is delusional, given two recent, searing experiences.

The only place for a Palestinian state is the West Bank, which Israel has occupied – legally under international law – since repelling the 1967 aggression launched from there. The West Bank remains an unallocated portion of the Palestine Mandate, the disposition of which is to be settled by negotiations. Michael Oren, now Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said several years before becoming ambassador:

“There is no Israeli leadership that appears either willing or capable of removing 100,000 Israelis from their West Bank homes. . . . The evacuation of a mere 8,100 Israelis from Gaza in 2005 required 55,000 IDF [Israel Defense Forces] troops – the largest Israeli military operation since the 1973 Yom Kippur War – and was profoundly traumatic.”

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.

The closest precedent for that bombardment was the Nazi rocket attacks on London, which were answered by the destruction of Hamburg, Dresden and other German cities. When Israel struck back at Hamas, the “international community” was theatrically appalled.

A senior cabinet member – Moshe Yaalon, strategic affairs minister and possible future prime minister – says “our withdrawals strengthened jihadist Islam,” adding, “We have the second Islamic republic in the Middle East – the first in Iran, the second in Gaza: Hamastan.”

Israel’s withdrawals include the one that strengthened the Iranian client on Israel’s northern border, in southern Lebanon. Since the 2006 war provoked by Hezbollah’s incessant rocketing of northern Israel, Hezbollah has rearmed and possesses as many as 60,000 rockets. Today, Netanyahu says, Israel’s problem is less the Israel-Lebanon border than it is the Lebanon-Syria border: Hezbollah has received from Syria – which gets them from Iran – Scud missiles capable of striking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A leader of Hezbollah says, “If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”

Because upward of a million immigrants have come from the former Soviet Union, today one-sixth of Israelis speak Russian. Israel has Russian-language newspapers and television. Russian Israelis are largely responsible for Avigdor Lieberman being foreign minister. Yoram Peri, professor of Israel studies at the University of Maryland, says these immigrants “don’t understand how a state that can be crossed in half an hour by car would be willing to even talk about relinquishing territories to its seemingly perpetual enemies.” These immigrants know that Russia’s strategic depth – space – defeated Napoleon and Hitler.

Netanyahu, who is not the most conservative member of the coalition government he heads, endorses a two-state solution but says that any West Bank Palestinian state must be demilitarized and prevented from making agreements with the likes of Hezbollah and Iran. To prevent the importation of missiles and other arms, Israel would need, Netanyahu says, a military presence on the West Bank’s eastern border with Jordan. Otherwise, there will be a third Islamic republic, and a second one contiguous to Israel.

So, again: Negotiations about what?

 

“PATRONIZING AMERICAN LECTURES ON THE REALITY OF RISKS AND THE DESIRABLENESS OF PEACE, WHICH ONCE WERE MERELY FATUOUS, ARE NOW OBSCENE”

Skip the lectures on Israel’s ‘risks for peace’
By George Will
The Washington Post
August 19, 2010

JERUSALEM – In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America’s eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, which began 10 Septembers ago, Israeli parents sending two children to a school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take “risks for peace.”

During Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s July visit to Washington, Barack Obama praised him as “willing to take risks for peace.” There was a time when that meant swapping “land for peace” – Israel sacrificing something tangible and irrecoverable, strategic depth, in exchange for something intangible and perishable, promises of diplomatic normality.

Strategic depth matters in a nation where almost everyone is or has been a soldier, so society cannot function for long with the nation fully mobilized. Also, before the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel within the borders established by the 1949 armistice was in one place just nine miles wide, a fact that moved George W. Bush to say: In Texas we have driveways that long. Israel exchanged a lot of land to achieve a chilly peace with Egypt, yielding the Sinai, which is almost three times larger than Israel and was 89 percent of the land captured in the process of repelling the 1967 aggression.

The intifada was launched by the late Yasser Arafat – terrorist and Nobel Peace Prize winner – after the July 2000 Camp David meeting, during which then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to cede control of all of Gaza and more than 90 percent of the West Bank, with small swaps of land to accommodate the growth of Jerusalem suburbs just across the 1949 armistice line.

Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.

In 1936, when the British administered Palestine, the Peel Commission concluded that there was “an irrepressible conflict” – a phrase coined by an American historian to describe the U.S. Civil War – “between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country.” And: “Neither of the two national ideals permits” a combination “in the service of a single state.” The commission recommended “a surgical operation” – partition. What followed was the Arab Revolt of 1936 to 1939.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations recommended a partition plan. Israel accepted the recommendation. On Nov. 30, Israel was attacked.

Palestine has a seemingly limitless capacity for eliciting nonsense from afar, as it did recently when British Prime Minister David Cameron referred to Gaza as a “prison camp.” In a sense it is, but not in the sense Cameron intended. His implication was that Israel is the cruel imprisoner. Gaza’s actual misfortune is to be under the iron fist of Hamas, a terrorist organization.

In May, a flotilla launched from Turkey approached Gaza in order to provoke a confrontation with Israel, which, like Egypt, administers a blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. The flotilla’s pretense was humanitarian relief for Gaza – where the infant mortality rate is lower and life expectancy is higher than in Turkey.

Israelis younger than 50 have no memory of their nation within the 1967 borders set by the 1949 armistice that ended the War of Independence. The rest of the world seems to have no memory at all concerning the intersecting histories of Palestine and the Jewish people.

The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state since the Romans arrived. And if the Jewish percentage of the world’s population were today what it was when the Romans ruled Palestine, there would be 200 million Jews. After a uniquely hazardous passage through two millennia without a homeland, there are 13 million Jews.

In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called “the Arab world,” Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.