Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 31, 2010

Useful Idiots at Sea

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a very good summary of points about the Hamas-backed attempt to break the maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31. The summary includes links on the Turkish “aid” group, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and its associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and all the usual suspects of Islamist terror (including the Millennium bombing plot in 1999). There is convincing video footage of the fight mounted by the peace activists – using knives, metal pipe, handguns, stun grenades, and incendiary devices – against the Israeli commandos boarding M/V Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ferry used as the flotilla’s flagship. Probably the best compliment I can give Ed’s post is that it doesn’t adopt the credulous, pro-activist editorial perspective of virtually all the mainstream media outlets.

There is good reason not to. For one thing, the fingerprints of Hamas are all over this blockade-running attempt. IHH, a key organizer of the flotilla, has longstanding ties to Hamas that include establishing an IHH office in Gaza and setting up celebrated meetings between its leader, Bulent Yildirim, and Hamas leaders Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, British participation in the flotilla was organized by British Hamas leader Mohammed Sawalha, among other Hamas links to the European flotilla participants (laid out here).

Flotilla spokesmen told Islamic media repeatedly in the weeks before the attempt that their purpose was to break the blockade. Israel, of course, regularly allows aid convoys into Gaza; the Israelis offered to accept the humanitarian cargo in Ashdod and have it convoyed into Gaza over land. But IHH leaders stated that they hoped to widen the rift between Israel and Turkey by inciting Israel to take military action against the flotilla.

The Israelis advised Turkish and European envoys beforehand of their intention to use naval forces to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The outrage now being shown by European politicians certainly isn’t based on surprise at the course of events; the Israelis did exactly what they said they would do. In fact, some reports suggest that European governments joined Israel last week in pressuring Greek Cyprus to prevent the departure of flotilla participants who were using Cyprus as a staging area. In the days since Mavi Marmara’s departure from Istanbul on May 22, Europeans have been watching the flotilla’s dilatory progress much more closely than Americans have. The truth about the dramatic climax off Gaza on Monday is that the whole event has unfolded in slow motion – and with the full cognizance of all the relevant governments.

From a military operational perspective, it seems to have been a tactical error that the Israeli commandos didn’t go in with sufficient force. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again. If they had conducted the boarding on the premise that it would be “non-compliant” (the U.S. military term), they would have been prepared to stabilize the situation at the outset with the threat of deadly force. In conditions like the ones the commandos faced today, that usually means actual force is less likely to be necessary.

But in the end, what matters to Israeli national security is that the flotilla participants were armed and determined to break the blockade. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, the territory’s sea access is a major vulnerability for Israel and has to be controlled. Repeated attempts have been made in the last few years to deliver weapons from Iran to Hamas by sea (see here, here, here, here, and here); Israel can’t permit the coastline of Gaza to become the path of least resistance for weapons deliveries.

It will be up to the U.S. and Europe whether the waters off the Gaza coast, short miles from the Suez Canal, become a source of maritime instability due to incitement by Hamas. The EU leadership, tacitly accepting the Hamas narrative cloaked in Europe’s trademark parlor activism, is behaving with a fecklessness for which it deserves strong rebuke. It is not to the advantage of any respectable nation to carry Hamas’s water. Only Hamas and its fellow jihadists stand to benefit from Israel losing control of its maritime borders. The sooner Europe’s leaders confront that fact and take a responsible view of their own interests, the better.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a very good summary of points about the Hamas-backed attempt to break the maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31. The summary includes links on the Turkish “aid” group, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and its associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and all the usual suspects of Islamist terror (including the Millennium bombing plot in 1999). There is convincing video footage of the fight mounted by the peace activists – using knives, metal pipe, handguns, stun grenades, and incendiary devices – against the Israeli commandos boarding M/V Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ferry used as the flotilla’s flagship. Probably the best compliment I can give Ed’s post is that it doesn’t adopt the credulous, pro-activist editorial perspective of virtually all the mainstream media outlets.

There is good reason not to. For one thing, the fingerprints of Hamas are all over this blockade-running attempt. IHH, a key organizer of the flotilla, has longstanding ties to Hamas that include establishing an IHH office in Gaza and setting up celebrated meetings between its leader, Bulent Yildirim, and Hamas leaders Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, British participation in the flotilla was organized by British Hamas leader Mohammed Sawalha, among other Hamas links to the European flotilla participants (laid out here).

Flotilla spokesmen told Islamic media repeatedly in the weeks before the attempt that their purpose was to break the blockade. Israel, of course, regularly allows aid convoys into Gaza; the Israelis offered to accept the humanitarian cargo in Ashdod and have it convoyed into Gaza over land. But IHH leaders stated that they hoped to widen the rift between Israel and Turkey by inciting Israel to take military action against the flotilla.

The Israelis advised Turkish and European envoys beforehand of their intention to use naval forces to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The outrage now being shown by European politicians certainly isn’t based on surprise at the course of events; the Israelis did exactly what they said they would do. In fact, some reports suggest that European governments joined Israel last week in pressuring Greek Cyprus to prevent the departure of flotilla participants who were using Cyprus as a staging area. In the days since Mavi Marmara’s departure from Istanbul on May 22, Europeans have been watching the flotilla’s dilatory progress much more closely than Americans have. The truth about the dramatic climax off Gaza on Monday is that the whole event has unfolded in slow motion – and with the full cognizance of all the relevant governments.

From a military operational perspective, it seems to have been a tactical error that the Israeli commandos didn’t go in with sufficient force. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again. If they had conducted the boarding on the premise that it would be “non-compliant” (the U.S. military term), they would have been prepared to stabilize the situation at the outset with the threat of deadly force. In conditions like the ones the commandos faced today, that usually means actual force is less likely to be necessary.

But in the end, what matters to Israeli national security is that the flotilla participants were armed and determined to break the blockade. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, the territory’s sea access is a major vulnerability for Israel and has to be controlled. Repeated attempts have been made in the last few years to deliver weapons from Iran to Hamas by sea (see here, here, here, here, and here); Israel can’t permit the coastline of Gaza to become the path of least resistance for weapons deliveries.

It will be up to the U.S. and Europe whether the waters off the Gaza coast, short miles from the Suez Canal, become a source of maritime instability due to incitement by Hamas. The EU leadership, tacitly accepting the Hamas narrative cloaked in Europe’s trademark parlor activism, is behaving with a fecklessness for which it deserves strong rebuke. It is not to the advantage of any respectable nation to carry Hamas’s water. Only Hamas and its fellow jihadists stand to benefit from Israel losing control of its maritime borders. The sooner Europe’s leaders confront that fact and take a responsible view of their own interests, the better.

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J Street Weighs In

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Jeremy Ben-Ami:

With details still emerging and propaganda spinning furiously on all sides — one simple truth stands clear to us: today’s events are the natural outgrowth of the larger, ongoing failure to resolve this conflict peacefully through a two-state solution. …

J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed and dozens more wounded (including Israeli soldiers) this morning as Israel intercepted a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery. …

This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. [Emphasis added]

I am puzzled — what exactly is Ben-Ami referring to as “propaganda”? There are claims that the Islamist lynch mob aboard one of the ships is actually a group of “peace activists.” Mahmoud Abbas says that the IDF “slaughtered” the “peace activists.” J Street should explain precisely which claims made by the Israeli government are “propaganda.” When the Gaza war started in 2008, J Street said that there was no difference between terrorists trying to murder Israeli civilians and the Israeli military trying to stop those attacks. Here we have another easy slide into moral equivalence.

It is a classically demented J Street product: there is moral equivalence; the refusal to place blame on the guilty party; the eager repetition of Islamist propaganda by classifying terrorists as civilians; outright sympathy with the lynch mob, which J Street incorrectly says was composed of civilians, and the expression of condolences for those who tragically lost their lives as they tried to beat and stab Jews to death; and, ultimately, the laying of blame on Israel, which created this whole situation in the first place with its cruel and pointless Gaza blockade.

This is your pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby.

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Jeremy Ben-Ami:

With details still emerging and propaganda spinning furiously on all sides — one simple truth stands clear to us: today’s events are the natural outgrowth of the larger, ongoing failure to resolve this conflict peacefully through a two-state solution. …

J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed and dozens more wounded (including Israeli soldiers) this morning as Israel intercepted a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery. …

This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. [Emphasis added]

I am puzzled — what exactly is Ben-Ami referring to as “propaganda”? There are claims that the Islamist lynch mob aboard one of the ships is actually a group of “peace activists.” Mahmoud Abbas says that the IDF “slaughtered” the “peace activists.” J Street should explain precisely which claims made by the Israeli government are “propaganda.” When the Gaza war started in 2008, J Street said that there was no difference between terrorists trying to murder Israeli civilians and the Israeli military trying to stop those attacks. Here we have another easy slide into moral equivalence.

It is a classically demented J Street product: there is moral equivalence; the refusal to place blame on the guilty party; the eager repetition of Islamist propaganda by classifying terrorists as civilians; outright sympathy with the lynch mob, which J Street incorrectly says was composed of civilians, and the expression of condolences for those who tragically lost their lives as they tried to beat and stab Jews to death; and, ultimately, the laying of blame on Israel, which created this whole situation in the first place with its cruel and pointless Gaza blockade.

This is your pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby.

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“Liberal Zionists” Must Choose: Hamas or Israel

The confrontation at sea this morning between pro-Palestinian activists seeking to end the international blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israeli forces seeking to enforce the closure has put the State of Israel in a difficult position. Despite the fact that the aim of the so-called “freedom flotilla” was to bring aid to the terrorist regime running Gaza, the deaths of several persons on board one of the ships that resisted Israeli commandos who boarded the vessel has created a public-relations bonanza for the anti-Zionist groups that organized the effort. The chorus of condemnations raining down on Jerusalem only hours after the incident shows the depth of anti-Israeli passion around the world, as governments, NGOs, and UN officials are all chiming in with the usual refrains about the use of “disproportionate” force, as well as the myth about the ships’ seeking to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in a region where food and medical supplies are not barred by the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, which is aimed at forcing Hamas to either step down from power or recognize Israel.

But while Israeli spokesmen will be scrambling to tell their side of the story in the coming days, the spotlight on “liberal Zionists” will be crucial in determining not only the way American Jewry responds to the crisis but also the reaction from the Obama administration.

As with the case of Israel’s December 2008 counterattack on terrorist strongholds in Gaza after years of ceaseless missile attacks on its southern towns and villages, today’s naval confrontation offers American Jews a stark choice. They can back Israel or Hamas.

Despite the drumbeat of condemnations against Israel that will be heard in the coming days over this event, the fact is the Gaza flotilla was inspired and supported by Hamas as the presence of several Hamas leaders at its launch in Turkey revealed. The convoy’s supposed goal of bringing succor to starving Palestinians in Gaza is a lie. The Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Hamasistan has not halted the flow of food and medicine to the region. The blockade is aimed at preventing “construction” materials from flowing into Gaza, since Hamas uses these materials to strengthen its military defenses as well as its homegrown arms industry. Talk about aid to suffering Palestinians is nothing but a cover for efforts to aid the Islamists of Hamas, whose ruthless hold on the district was achieved by a bloody coup.

Moreover, the supposedly peaceful intent of the volunteers on the ships is given the lie by an Al-Jazeera news report from the flotilla yesterday that was publicized today by Palestine Media Watch. In the tape, the so-called humanitarians chant Islamist slogans about killing the Jews as they invoke the example of Khaibar, where the Prophet Mohammed’s forces slaughtered the Jews in the year 628. Another participant speaks of their goal being either “martyrdom” or Gaza. It appears that by shooting at Israelis boarding at least one of the ships, some have achieved the former goal. The question of whether Israel’s forces might have been better prepared to subdue them is one for Israelis to consider, but it is not germane to the question of whether the blockade is justified or the contention that those on board the ships were innocent humanitarian victims considering that the Hamas supporters’ goal was to provoke bloodshed no matter what the Israelis did.

The question now is whether self-proclaimed liberal Zionists — to use the phrase made popular by the controversy over Peter Beinart’s Israel-bashing essay in the New York Review of Books — such as J Street will use this incident to bolster their campaign for American Jews to distance themselves from Israel. In December 2008, J Street stood virtually alone as it condemned Israel’s counterattack on Gaza, exposing its extremist nature. President Obama has belatedly realized that this left-wing lobby is not representative of American Jewry, as his May “charm offensive” toward Jews, which sought to back away from a policy of confrontation with Israel, revealed. But with J Street renewing its call for an end to the blockade of Hamas in a statement that echoes the rhetoric of anti-Zionist groups about Gaza and for America to force Israel into more concessions to Hamas, American Jews, especially those who consider themselves liberals, must decide whether they stand with a group that essentially backs the short-term goals of Hamas and its supporters or an Israeli government that was elected by its people. At a time when Israel needs American support as much as it ever did, liberals must understand that the administration will be looking to them to see whether they can abandon Israel with impunity.

Americans who are looking to excuse themselves from the more difficult task of explaining the truth of Israel’s dilemma to a hostile world may seize upon the convoy deaths as a fresh rationale for quitting the ranks of country’s supporters. But if that is what amounts to liberal Zionism these days, then its adherents must be judged as, at best, fair-weather friends and, at worst, little different from open anti-Zionists who implicitly support the Palestinian terror organization’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state. If liberal Zionism in 2010 amounts to the backing of Hamas’s propaganda campaign and the delegitimization of Israeli self-defense, then it is time to admit that such liberals have left the Zionist camp altogether.

The confrontation at sea this morning between pro-Palestinian activists seeking to end the international blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israeli forces seeking to enforce the closure has put the State of Israel in a difficult position. Despite the fact that the aim of the so-called “freedom flotilla” was to bring aid to the terrorist regime running Gaza, the deaths of several persons on board one of the ships that resisted Israeli commandos who boarded the vessel has created a public-relations bonanza for the anti-Zionist groups that organized the effort. The chorus of condemnations raining down on Jerusalem only hours after the incident shows the depth of anti-Israeli passion around the world, as governments, NGOs, and UN officials are all chiming in with the usual refrains about the use of “disproportionate” force, as well as the myth about the ships’ seeking to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in a region where food and medical supplies are not barred by the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, which is aimed at forcing Hamas to either step down from power or recognize Israel.

But while Israeli spokesmen will be scrambling to tell their side of the story in the coming days, the spotlight on “liberal Zionists” will be crucial in determining not only the way American Jewry responds to the crisis but also the reaction from the Obama administration.

As with the case of Israel’s December 2008 counterattack on terrorist strongholds in Gaza after years of ceaseless missile attacks on its southern towns and villages, today’s naval confrontation offers American Jews a stark choice. They can back Israel or Hamas.

Despite the drumbeat of condemnations against Israel that will be heard in the coming days over this event, the fact is the Gaza flotilla was inspired and supported by Hamas as the presence of several Hamas leaders at its launch in Turkey revealed. The convoy’s supposed goal of bringing succor to starving Palestinians in Gaza is a lie. The Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Hamasistan has not halted the flow of food and medicine to the region. The blockade is aimed at preventing “construction” materials from flowing into Gaza, since Hamas uses these materials to strengthen its military defenses as well as its homegrown arms industry. Talk about aid to suffering Palestinians is nothing but a cover for efforts to aid the Islamists of Hamas, whose ruthless hold on the district was achieved by a bloody coup.

Moreover, the supposedly peaceful intent of the volunteers on the ships is given the lie by an Al-Jazeera news report from the flotilla yesterday that was publicized today by Palestine Media Watch. In the tape, the so-called humanitarians chant Islamist slogans about killing the Jews as they invoke the example of Khaibar, where the Prophet Mohammed’s forces slaughtered the Jews in the year 628. Another participant speaks of their goal being either “martyrdom” or Gaza. It appears that by shooting at Israelis boarding at least one of the ships, some have achieved the former goal. The question of whether Israel’s forces might have been better prepared to subdue them is one for Israelis to consider, but it is not germane to the question of whether the blockade is justified or the contention that those on board the ships were innocent humanitarian victims considering that the Hamas supporters’ goal was to provoke bloodshed no matter what the Israelis did.

The question now is whether self-proclaimed liberal Zionists — to use the phrase made popular by the controversy over Peter Beinart’s Israel-bashing essay in the New York Review of Books — such as J Street will use this incident to bolster their campaign for American Jews to distance themselves from Israel. In December 2008, J Street stood virtually alone as it condemned Israel’s counterattack on Gaza, exposing its extremist nature. President Obama has belatedly realized that this left-wing lobby is not representative of American Jewry, as his May “charm offensive” toward Jews, which sought to back away from a policy of confrontation with Israel, revealed. But with J Street renewing its call for an end to the blockade of Hamas in a statement that echoes the rhetoric of anti-Zionist groups about Gaza and for America to force Israel into more concessions to Hamas, American Jews, especially those who consider themselves liberals, must decide whether they stand with a group that essentially backs the short-term goals of Hamas and its supporters or an Israeli government that was elected by its people. At a time when Israel needs American support as much as it ever did, liberals must understand that the administration will be looking to them to see whether they can abandon Israel with impunity.

Americans who are looking to excuse themselves from the more difficult task of explaining the truth of Israel’s dilemma to a hostile world may seize upon the convoy deaths as a fresh rationale for quitting the ranks of country’s supporters. But if that is what amounts to liberal Zionism these days, then its adherents must be judged as, at best, fair-weather friends and, at worst, little different from open anti-Zionists who implicitly support the Palestinian terror organization’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state. If liberal Zionism in 2010 amounts to the backing of Hamas’s propaganda campaign and the delegitimization of Israeli self-defense, then it is time to admit that such liberals have left the Zionist camp altogether.

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Flotilla Fiasco (UPDATED)

The details of what happened on the boat leading the flotilla trying to enter the Gaza Strip are still coming to light. CNN in the U.S. is speaking about “conflicting accounts,” though the videos it keeps playing seem to vindicate the Israeli side. (You see an Israeli soldier dropping into the deck, and then you seem him getting attacked. There is no indication that the IDF soldier had opened fire. The same video appears on an Israeli website here.) And yet, none of this has prevented worldwide international condemnation, including the hauling in of Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, and Turkey. And the grim results seem very clear: between nine and 15 people on board killed, and at least two Israeli soldiers in critical condition with stab and gunshot wounds.

Veteran Israel journalist Ron Ben-Yishai at YNet describes IDF soldiers who were ill-prepared for having to disperse a violent response. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” the soldiers yelled to each other as they were attacked, picked off one by one as they landed on the deck, still believing they were dealing with innocent ideologues rather than orchestrated violence. “Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one,” Ben-Yishai reports, “yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly.” Later on, caches were found on board containing more weapons. What’s clear is that these people were prepared for a fight — peace activists, indeed.

But beyond the question of what happened on the boat, and the more serious questions of the evolving nature of pro-Palestinian activism and the IDF’s apparent failure to prepare for a violent response, the event is also an important test case for how Israel is doing at adapting itself to the new rapid-information media world. The answer: so-so. On one hand, it’s clear that the Israelis, and especially the IDF, have made major advances in internalizing the message that the media battle is a crucial and — more often than not — decisive element in modern warfare. They released videos that would have remained classified not too long ago; they cleared a commando who took part in the raid to interview with the Associated Press and CNN; and they have emphatically made the case that the people on board planned to use force in advance. All these facts suggest a sea change in the way the IDF deals with the media, one that we already saw in the last Gaza war with the creation, for example, of a YouTube channel for the IDF. The result has been that, at least here in the United States, television coverage has been somewhat balanced.

At the same time, Israel is still far behind the Palestinians in real-time rapid response and pre-event preparedness.

I spoke this morning with a senior producer for one of the major network news divisions in the United States. “This morning, I received a well-phrased press release from the office of [PA spokesman] Saeb Erekat,” he told me. “I got it at 4:36 a.m. It was obviously prepared in advance. Now it’s 11 a.m., and I still have got nothing from the Israeli government.” Predictably, that news release, which was sent out to key journalists around the Western world, was full of half-truths (like the assertion that the passengers on the ship were “unarmed civilian activists” who were “savagely attacked” by the IDF), but the point is that for all of Israel’s rapid response, it was wildly outmaneuvered by the Palestinian media commandos. As CNN pointed out, the pro-Palestinian activists were live-streaming the event and sending messages via Twitter throughout. “Despite everything they’ve been through,” he continued, “the Israelis seem to have been taken utterly by surprise. It’s always react, react, react — never proactive.”

UPDATE: A good friend of mine is a nurse who was on duty in the emergency room at a Jerusalem hospital when some of the injured “activists” were brought in. She tells me that many of them are wearing camouflage. “Not sure they were official Turkish army clothes,” she says, “but they weren’t civilian dress, that’s for sure.”

The details of what happened on the boat leading the flotilla trying to enter the Gaza Strip are still coming to light. CNN in the U.S. is speaking about “conflicting accounts,” though the videos it keeps playing seem to vindicate the Israeli side. (You see an Israeli soldier dropping into the deck, and then you seem him getting attacked. There is no indication that the IDF soldier had opened fire. The same video appears on an Israeli website here.) And yet, none of this has prevented worldwide international condemnation, including the hauling in of Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, and Turkey. And the grim results seem very clear: between nine and 15 people on board killed, and at least two Israeli soldiers in critical condition with stab and gunshot wounds.

Veteran Israel journalist Ron Ben-Yishai at YNet describes IDF soldiers who were ill-prepared for having to disperse a violent response. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” the soldiers yelled to each other as they were attacked, picked off one by one as they landed on the deck, still believing they were dealing with innocent ideologues rather than orchestrated violence. “Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one,” Ben-Yishai reports, “yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly.” Later on, caches were found on board containing more weapons. What’s clear is that these people were prepared for a fight — peace activists, indeed.

But beyond the question of what happened on the boat, and the more serious questions of the evolving nature of pro-Palestinian activism and the IDF’s apparent failure to prepare for a violent response, the event is also an important test case for how Israel is doing at adapting itself to the new rapid-information media world. The answer: so-so. On one hand, it’s clear that the Israelis, and especially the IDF, have made major advances in internalizing the message that the media battle is a crucial and — more often than not — decisive element in modern warfare. They released videos that would have remained classified not too long ago; they cleared a commando who took part in the raid to interview with the Associated Press and CNN; and they have emphatically made the case that the people on board planned to use force in advance. All these facts suggest a sea change in the way the IDF deals with the media, one that we already saw in the last Gaza war with the creation, for example, of a YouTube channel for the IDF. The result has been that, at least here in the United States, television coverage has been somewhat balanced.

At the same time, Israel is still far behind the Palestinians in real-time rapid response and pre-event preparedness.

I spoke this morning with a senior producer for one of the major network news divisions in the United States. “This morning, I received a well-phrased press release from the office of [PA spokesman] Saeb Erekat,” he told me. “I got it at 4:36 a.m. It was obviously prepared in advance. Now it’s 11 a.m., and I still have got nothing from the Israeli government.” Predictably, that news release, which was sent out to key journalists around the Western world, was full of half-truths (like the assertion that the passengers on the ship were “unarmed civilian activists” who were “savagely attacked” by the IDF), but the point is that for all of Israel’s rapid response, it was wildly outmaneuvered by the Palestinian media commandos. As CNN pointed out, the pro-Palestinian activists were live-streaming the event and sending messages via Twitter throughout. “Despite everything they’ve been through,” he continued, “the Israelis seem to have been taken utterly by surprise. It’s always react, react, react — never proactive.”

UPDATE: A good friend of mine is a nurse who was on duty in the emergency room at a Jerusalem hospital when some of the injured “activists” were brought in. She tells me that many of them are wearing camouflage. “Not sure they were official Turkish army clothes,” she says, “but they weren’t civilian dress, that’s for sure.”

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Nice Guys Finish Last

To my mind, the most astonishing thing about the flotilla disaster is that the IDF sent its elite naval commandos into a highly charged potential combat situation that was being closely scrutinized by the world media — armed with paintball guns.

The intent, of course, was to show that Israel wished to avert escalating the confrontation and merely sought to bring the ships to port, transfer their cargo to Gaza, send the “peace activists” home, and bring this mini-drama to a close. But the results were catastrophic.

Instead of proving Israel’s good intentions, the commandos found themselves unable to take control of the terrorist blockade runners, who knew, of course, that any bloodshed and violence that followed the Israeli boarding party would be laid at the feet of the Israelis. Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do — take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.

But the Israeli commandos obviously could not establish complete control. They fast-roped into an ambush and were beaten and stabbed. Would this have happened if they had real guns in their hands? Probably not.

Those who sent an elite unit into a hostile confrontation armed with toy weapons made an incredibly stupid decision. And a uniquely Israeli one. In recent memory, Israeli military action has been violent but not decisive, bloody enough to provoke the outrage and condemnation of the world (at this point, a stubbed toe will do), but not enough to actually change facts on the ground (the Hamas and Hezbollah wars being prime examples). These halfhearted wars and battles have earned Israel demerits in world opinion without enough to show in improved strategic position. Exit question: How many new flotillas to Gaza are being planned right now in Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East?

To my mind, the most astonishing thing about the flotilla disaster is that the IDF sent its elite naval commandos into a highly charged potential combat situation that was being closely scrutinized by the world media — armed with paintball guns.

The intent, of course, was to show that Israel wished to avert escalating the confrontation and merely sought to bring the ships to port, transfer their cargo to Gaza, send the “peace activists” home, and bring this mini-drama to a close. But the results were catastrophic.

Instead of proving Israel’s good intentions, the commandos found themselves unable to take control of the terrorist blockade runners, who knew, of course, that any bloodshed and violence that followed the Israeli boarding party would be laid at the feet of the Israelis. Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do — take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.

But the Israeli commandos obviously could not establish complete control. They fast-roped into an ambush and were beaten and stabbed. Would this have happened if they had real guns in their hands? Probably not.

Those who sent an elite unit into a hostile confrontation armed with toy weapons made an incredibly stupid decision. And a uniquely Israeli one. In recent memory, Israeli military action has been violent but not decisive, bloody enough to provoke the outrage and condemnation of the world (at this point, a stubbed toe will do), but not enough to actually change facts on the ground (the Hamas and Hezbollah wars being prime examples). These halfhearted wars and battles have earned Israel demerits in world opinion without enough to show in improved strategic position. Exit question: How many new flotillas to Gaza are being planned right now in Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East?

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RE: U.S. Chooses International Consensus over Israel

As Jen mentioned, the United Nations passed a resolution on Friday demanding a nuclear-free Middle East and singling out Israel as the intransigent party instead of Iran. The Obama administration supports the decision, which makes about as much sense as disarming the Iraqi police right now in the name of a violence-free Baghdad. College sophomores might think these are brilliant ideas, but mature adults shouldn’t, especially not mature adults who make policy for a living and must account for the consequences.

The Israelis have had nuclear weapons longer than I’ve been alive. Never once have they even admitted to having them, let alone used them. While several Arab states say they’ll build or buy nuclear weapons to counter a Persian bomb, no Arab state has ever scrambled for nuclear weapons of its own to counter the Zionist bomb. Even they, as hysterical as they sometimes can be, know perfectly well that Israel does not threaten to nuke anybody and never intends to nuke anybody.

Marty Peretz at the New Republic is contemptuous. “Ostensibly,” he wrote, “this would de-nuclearize the Middle East. A pig’s ass, it would. Tehran wants a bomb, no matter what. And, then, the big Arab states will join the race. To be sure, Saudi Arabia will not make it. It will buy it. There’s more money in the country than brains. There will be a big bomb race in the region… and not because of Israel.”

I am just old enough to remember the Cold War during the years before perestroika and glasnost, when the possibility of nuclear war was real, and it kept me up at night during my childhood. I was worried sick about the potential imminent end of the world. It made an impression that still hasn’t left me and might not ever.

Like President Obama — and unlike Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei — I wish nuclear weapons didn’t exist and that nobody had them. I also wish humans weren’t violent, that war could be dispensed with as some day cancer may be, that police officers did not need to carry guns and sometimes shoot people to keep my neighborhood safe, and that even grown-up countries like the U.S. and Israel did not need an arsenal of the world’s worst weapons to keep the world’s worst people in check, but these wishes are no more realistic than terraforming the sun.

The president acts sometimes like he’s running the country from his dorm room, and it looks increasingly likely that he will not stop until something explodes.

As Jen mentioned, the United Nations passed a resolution on Friday demanding a nuclear-free Middle East and singling out Israel as the intransigent party instead of Iran. The Obama administration supports the decision, which makes about as much sense as disarming the Iraqi police right now in the name of a violence-free Baghdad. College sophomores might think these are brilliant ideas, but mature adults shouldn’t, especially not mature adults who make policy for a living and must account for the consequences.

The Israelis have had nuclear weapons longer than I’ve been alive. Never once have they even admitted to having them, let alone used them. While several Arab states say they’ll build or buy nuclear weapons to counter a Persian bomb, no Arab state has ever scrambled for nuclear weapons of its own to counter the Zionist bomb. Even they, as hysterical as they sometimes can be, know perfectly well that Israel does not threaten to nuke anybody and never intends to nuke anybody.

Marty Peretz at the New Republic is contemptuous. “Ostensibly,” he wrote, “this would de-nuclearize the Middle East. A pig’s ass, it would. Tehran wants a bomb, no matter what. And, then, the big Arab states will join the race. To be sure, Saudi Arabia will not make it. It will buy it. There’s more money in the country than brains. There will be a big bomb race in the region… and not because of Israel.”

I am just old enough to remember the Cold War during the years before perestroika and glasnost, when the possibility of nuclear war was real, and it kept me up at night during my childhood. I was worried sick about the potential imminent end of the world. It made an impression that still hasn’t left me and might not ever.

Like President Obama — and unlike Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei — I wish nuclear weapons didn’t exist and that nobody had them. I also wish humans weren’t violent, that war could be dispensed with as some day cancer may be, that police officers did not need to carry guns and sometimes shoot people to keep my neighborhood safe, and that even grown-up countries like the U.S. and Israel did not need an arsenal of the world’s worst weapons to keep the world’s worst people in check, but these wishes are no more realistic than terraforming the sun.

The president acts sometimes like he’s running the country from his dorm room, and it looks increasingly likely that he will not stop until something explodes.

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Will the Media Let Obama off the Hook on Sestak?

The White House lawyer hasn’t even convinced mainstream news reporters that nothing untoward occurred regarding the Joe Sestak job offer. On Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post remarked:

I think there are also some still real unanswered questions here. And the biggest one, of course, is what exactly did President Obama know and when did he know it. I mean, his response in the news conference just saying, “Well, nothing improper occurred,” well, gosh, that almost raises more questions in my mind. So far, from what we’ve seen, we know this was not unprecedented. Governor Rendell actually made sort of a remarkable acknowledgment in your interview, Chris, saying, “Oh, yes, I did a similar thing a few years back.” So it’s certainly politics as usual. But as your clip illustrates, that becomes a political problem for the White House.

There are two more factors that, as Connolly said, add to the “general sense of business as usual.” First, there may be a second job-to-get-out-of-the-race deal. Last September, the Denver Post reported:

Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

The White House denied any job was offered to Romanoff, but “several top Colorado Democrats described Messina’s outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration.”

Second, in his statement on Friday, Robert Bauer admitted:

Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.

When everyone returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see how aggressively the White House media corps pursues this with Robert Gibbs and other administration figures. What went on in those conversations, which Bauer said were also conducted through a cutout, namely Bill Clinton? When Obama gives his next interview or news conference, will he be grilled? The media is no longer so infatuated with the president, so we may actually see some dogged questioning. But don’t get your hopes up. Expect the questions to be brushed off with, “We already answered questions about all of this.” It’s the sort of thing the media, if it wants to get back its collective manhood and reputation from deep storage, shouldn’t let Obama get away with.

The White House lawyer hasn’t even convinced mainstream news reporters that nothing untoward occurred regarding the Joe Sestak job offer. On Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post remarked:

I think there are also some still real unanswered questions here. And the biggest one, of course, is what exactly did President Obama know and when did he know it. I mean, his response in the news conference just saying, “Well, nothing improper occurred,” well, gosh, that almost raises more questions in my mind. So far, from what we’ve seen, we know this was not unprecedented. Governor Rendell actually made sort of a remarkable acknowledgment in your interview, Chris, saying, “Oh, yes, I did a similar thing a few years back.” So it’s certainly politics as usual. But as your clip illustrates, that becomes a political problem for the White House.

There are two more factors that, as Connolly said, add to the “general sense of business as usual.” First, there may be a second job-to-get-out-of-the-race deal. Last September, the Denver Post reported:

Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

The White House denied any job was offered to Romanoff, but “several top Colorado Democrats described Messina’s outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration.”

Second, in his statement on Friday, Robert Bauer admitted:

Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.

When everyone returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see how aggressively the White House media corps pursues this with Robert Gibbs and other administration figures. What went on in those conversations, which Bauer said were also conducted through a cutout, namely Bill Clinton? When Obama gives his next interview or news conference, will he be grilled? The media is no longer so infatuated with the president, so we may actually see some dogged questioning. But don’t get your hopes up. Expect the questions to be brushed off with, “We already answered questions about all of this.” It’s the sort of thing the media, if it wants to get back its collective manhood and reputation from deep storage, shouldn’t let Obama get away with.

Read Less

U.S. Chooses International Consensus over Israel

Eli Lake reports on the document that the U.S. signed off on last Friday at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference:

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran’s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

Understandably, Bibi is not pleased and issued a statement blasting the document. (“It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. … Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”) So where was the United States, which the administration keeps telling American Jews is there to stand up for Israel in international bodies? Apparently Obama simply caved:

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, “We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.”

Not all that hard, however.

Now, Obama has apparently told Bibi that the secret understanding that has existed between the U.S. and Israel remains in effect.  (“In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.”) But by allowing the document to single out Israel, the U.S. has revealed its priorities — again. A Republican staffer tells Lake that “this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America’s traditional role as protecting Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.”

Bibi will have his time to raise this in his meeting with Obama. And once again, we wonder, where are the Jewish pro-Israel groups? It seems they have ceased to object to much of anything this administration does. So long as the administration doesn’t insult Bibi in public, mouths some platitudes, and continues the kabuki dance of pursuing sanctions (albeit totally ineffective ones), they remain mum.

Eli Lake reports on the document that the U.S. signed off on last Friday at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference:

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran’s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

Understandably, Bibi is not pleased and issued a statement blasting the document. (“It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. … Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”) So where was the United States, which the administration keeps telling American Jews is there to stand up for Israel in international bodies? Apparently Obama simply caved:

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, “We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.”

Not all that hard, however.

Now, Obama has apparently told Bibi that the secret understanding that has existed between the U.S. and Israel remains in effect.  (“In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.”) But by allowing the document to single out Israel, the U.S. has revealed its priorities — again. A Republican staffer tells Lake that “this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America’s traditional role as protecting Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.”

Bibi will have his time to raise this in his meeting with Obama. And once again, we wonder, where are the Jewish pro-Israel groups? It seems they have ceased to object to much of anything this administration does. So long as the administration doesn’t insult Bibi in public, mouths some platitudes, and continues the kabuki dance of pursuing sanctions (albeit totally ineffective ones), they remain mum.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Associated Press or National Review? On SestakGate: “Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power. … Obama has a political problem. Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently. The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.”

American Spectator or Politico? “The White House’s failure to designate a single spokesperson — with a corresponding schedule of media updates to show the administration in action — may have been intended to convey an all-hands-on-deck approach to the BP oil spill. Instead, it has created a public relations vacuum, being filled by critics of the president’s approach. And the one man who might have filled that role — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — already has had a pair of high-profile stumbles, with not one, but two of his comments effectively retracted from the White House podium.”

Maureen Dowd or Michael Gerson? “Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it. … Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.”

A Hamas spokesman or a liberal Democrat candidate for the House? “For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There’s no safety or security in barring people from their homeland.”

The mayor of the city attacked on September 11 or a CAIR spokesman? On the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero: “I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. … And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

The Onion or the Associated Press? “The case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will not focus on whether they were members of a terrorist group, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. … The trial is ‘going to be about whether these guys were going to blow something up,’ Assistant US Attorney David Raskin.”

“Constitutional conservative” or Constitutional radical? “Rand Paul’s interview with the Russian government propaganda channel Russia Today is getting a lot of attention today for his assertion that he opposes the American tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born in the United States.” And what’s he doing talking to a Russian propaganda outfit?

Bill Clinton or spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation? On labor unions attacking Blanche Lincoln: “National labor unions [have] decided to make Lincoln ‘the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them. … In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states.'”

The Associated Press or National Review? On SestakGate: “Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power. … Obama has a political problem. Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently. The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.”

American Spectator or Politico? “The White House’s failure to designate a single spokesperson — with a corresponding schedule of media updates to show the administration in action — may have been intended to convey an all-hands-on-deck approach to the BP oil spill. Instead, it has created a public relations vacuum, being filled by critics of the president’s approach. And the one man who might have filled that role — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — already has had a pair of high-profile stumbles, with not one, but two of his comments effectively retracted from the White House podium.”

Maureen Dowd or Michael Gerson? “Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it. … Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.”

A Hamas spokesman or a liberal Democrat candidate for the House? “For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There’s no safety or security in barring people from their homeland.”

The mayor of the city attacked on September 11 or a CAIR spokesman? On the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero: “I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. … And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

The Onion or the Associated Press? “The case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will not focus on whether they were members of a terrorist group, a federal prosecutor said yesterday. … The trial is ‘going to be about whether these guys were going to blow something up,’ Assistant US Attorney David Raskin.”

“Constitutional conservative” or Constitutional radical? “Rand Paul’s interview with the Russian government propaganda channel Russia Today is getting a lot of attention today for his assertion that he opposes the American tradition of granting citizenship to everyone born in the United States.” And what’s he doing talking to a Russian propaganda outfit?

Bill Clinton or spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation? On labor unions attacking Blanche Lincoln: “National labor unions [have] decided to make Lincoln ‘the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them. … In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states.'”

Read Less




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