Commentary Magazine


Topic: food

PETA Red Cards an Octopus

PETA is a bunch of spoilsports. They hate zoos, aquariums, and especially circuses. They don’t approve of the term “pet owner,” because, well, I’m not sure why. But now they’ve gone too far:

Free Paul.

That’s the message the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sending to the owners of Paul the octopus, who has gained worldwide recognition for correctly picking the teams that would win matches during the World Cup.

“It is extremely thankless, imprisoning the intelligent octopus in order to use it as an oracle,” marine biologist Dr. Tanja Breining of PETA said in a release on the PETA Germany website.

Octopuses are “capable of complex thought processes, they have short- and long-term memories, use tools, learn by observation, show different personalities and are particularly sensitive to pain,” Breining said.

But how do they know Paul isn’t having the time of his life? After all, he seems to know more about soccer than most ESPN analysts:

To get two-year-old Paul to pick a winner, two boxes are lowered into his tank. Both boxes sport a competing country’s flag and have food inside. The box Paul opens first is the team predicted to win. Paul is rarely wrong and predicted Spain would beat Germany in the semi-final match Wednesday.

Enough of all that, says the PETA gang. They’d rather he died in the wild, soccerless and defenseless:

A Sea Life spokeswoman told news agency AFP that releasing Paul would be a bad idea.”Animals born in captivity are used to being fed and have no experience finding food by themselves,” she said. “It is highly likely that he would die.”

Perhaps the PETA people should be released into the wild and leave Paul to his great joy, picking soccer winners. Do you think he does midterm elections?

PETA is a bunch of spoilsports. They hate zoos, aquariums, and especially circuses. They don’t approve of the term “pet owner,” because, well, I’m not sure why. But now they’ve gone too far:

Free Paul.

That’s the message the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sending to the owners of Paul the octopus, who has gained worldwide recognition for correctly picking the teams that would win matches during the World Cup.

“It is extremely thankless, imprisoning the intelligent octopus in order to use it as an oracle,” marine biologist Dr. Tanja Breining of PETA said in a release on the PETA Germany website.

Octopuses are “capable of complex thought processes, they have short- and long-term memories, use tools, learn by observation, show different personalities and are particularly sensitive to pain,” Breining said.

But how do they know Paul isn’t having the time of his life? After all, he seems to know more about soccer than most ESPN analysts:

To get two-year-old Paul to pick a winner, two boxes are lowered into his tank. Both boxes sport a competing country’s flag and have food inside. The box Paul opens first is the team predicted to win. Paul is rarely wrong and predicted Spain would beat Germany in the semi-final match Wednesday.

Enough of all that, says the PETA gang. They’d rather he died in the wild, soccerless and defenseless:

A Sea Life spokeswoman told news agency AFP that releasing Paul would be a bad idea.”Animals born in captivity are used to being fed and have no experience finding food by themselves,” she said. “It is highly likely that he would die.”

Perhaps the PETA people should be released into the wild and leave Paul to his great joy, picking soccer winners. Do you think he does midterm elections?

Read Less

Success Without Victory

Developments with the war in Afghanistan are causing us to question our methods of warfare as we have not since Vietnam. Comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam are mushrooming, of course; Fouad Ajami has a useful one today, in which he considers the effect of withdrawal deadlines on the American people’s expectations as well as the enemy’s. But on Friday, Caroline Glick took a broader view of contemporary Western methods, comparing the U.S. operating profile in Afghanistan to that of the IDF in Lebanon in the 1990s.

As I have done here, she invoked the White House guidance report in December, according to which “we’re not doing everything, and we’re not doing it forever.” Such guidance, she says, “when executed … brings not victory nor even stability.” She is right; Fouad Ajami is right; and both are focusing where our attention should be right now, which is on the conduct of the war at the political level.

There’s a good reason why comparisons with Vietnam are gathering steam. It’s not the geography, the campaign plan, or the details of the historical context, alliances, or political purposes: it’s the behavior of the American leadership. As Senator McCain points out, President Obama has steadfastly refused to affirm that the July 2011 deadline is conditions-based. But I was particularly struck by the recent words of Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy for the “AfPak” problem, because they evoke a whole political doctrine of “limited war,” which dates back to the Vietnam era.

Holbrooke has been keeping a low profile. But he’s a crucial actor in this drama, and in early June he made these observations:

Let me be clear on one thing, everybody understands that this war will not end in a clear-cut military victory. It’s not going to end on the deck of a battleship like World War Two, or Dayton, Ohio, like the Bosnian war. …

It’s going to have some different ending from that, some form of political settlements are necessary … you can’t have a settlement with al-Qaeda, you can’t talk to them, you can’t negotiate with them, it’s out of the question. But it is possible to talk to Taliban leaders. …

What do [critics] mean by win? We don’t use the word win, we use the word succeed.

As an aside, I would have thought the Dayton process did, in fact, have relevance for the “peace jirga” process now underway with the Afghan factions, and that we might expect an outcome with some similarities to the Dayton Accords. But my central concern here is the virtually exact overlap of Holbrooke’s conceptual language with that of the Johnson-era prosecution of the Vietnam War.

That we had to seek a “settlement” with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong was received wisdom under Lyndon Johnson; in this memo from a key reevaluation of the war effort in 1965, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara leads off with it. His reference to “creating conditions for a favorable settlement” by demonstrating to the North Vietnamese that “the odds are against their winning” is a near-perfect statement of the limited-war proposition encapsulated by Henry Kissinger in his influential 1958 book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (quotations are from the W. W. Norton & Co. edition of 1969). Said Kissinger:

The goal of war can no longer be military victory, strictly speaking, but the attainment of certain specific political conditions, which are fully understood by the opponent. … Our purpose is to affect the will of the enemy, not to destroy him. … War can be limited only by presenting the enemy with an unfavorable calculus of risks. (p. 189)

Kissinger’s title reminds us that it was the emerging nuclear threat that galvanized limited-war thinking in the period leading up to Vietnam. But that was only one of the factors in our selection of limited objectives for that conflict. Another was an attribution to the enemy of aspirations that mirrored ours, with the persistent characterization of the North Vietnamese Communists – much like Richard Holbrooke’s of the Taliban – as potential partners in negotiation. A seminal example of that occurred in Johnson’s celebrated “Peace without Conquest” speech of April 7, 1965:

For what do the people of North Vietnam want? They want what their neighbors also desire: food for their hunger; health for their bodies; a chance to learn; progress for their country; and an end to the bondage of material misery. And they would find all these things far more readily in peaceful association with others than in the endless course of battle.

It was not, of course, what the people of North Vietnam wanted that mattered; this political factor was sadly miscast. The LBJ speech was beautifully crafted and full of poignant and powerful rhetoric. But the rhetoric could not ultimately hide the bald facts, which were that Johnson wanted a settlement in Vietnam, that he had no concept of victory to outline, and that his main desire was to get out.

The speech was recognized at the time as “defensive” in character. And we must not deceive ourselves that Holbrooke’s words from earlier this month are being interpreted abroad in any other way. I’ve seen no reference to his comments in a leading American publication, but media outlets across Asia, Europe, and Africa have quoted him. It’s interesting that in 2010, he feels no need to cloak his blunt observations – so consonant with Kissinger’s dryly precise limited-war formulation – in the elliptical, emotive language favored by the Johnson administration in its public utterances. In the 1960s, the limited-war concept of disclaiming all desire to “win” was still suspect. But, as much as we have criticized it in the decades since, we have internalized and mainstreamed it as well. Holbrooke apparently feels empowered to speak clearly in these terms, without euphemism or caveat.

There is no good record to invoke for pursuing the strategy of “peace without conquest.” It took almost exactly 10 years after the LBJ speech for the strategy to produce the total collapse of the U.S. effort in Vietnam; a wealthy superpower can keep “not-winning” for a long time. All but 400 of the 58,000 American lives given to Vietnam were lost in that 10-year period, along with the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives taken in the fighting and the Communist victory.

But there was a lot of success in that period too. U.S. troops won every tactical engagement, including the defeat of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Under Nixon, North Vietnam was isolated and driven to the bargaining table. Under General Creighton Abrams, the defense of the South had, with the exception of air support, been successfully “Vietnamized” when the U.S. pulled out our last ground forces in 1972. But these successes could not establish a sustainable status quo.

Vietnam is our example of what “success without victory” looks like. We should be alarmed that the current administration seeks that defensive objective in Afghanistan. Such a pursuit is, itself, one of the main conditions for producing failure – and failure that is compounded by being protracted and bloody. As for the reason why that should be, Dr. Kissinger, with his clinical precision, must have the last word:

In any conflict the side which is animated by faith in victory has a decided advantage over an opponent who wishes above all to preserve the status quo. It will be prepared to run greater risks because its purpose will be stronger. (p. 246)

Kissinger acknowledged when he wrote these words – having both Vietnam and the larger Soviet threat in mind – that this was a limiting factor the Western powers had not devised a means of overcoming. In Afghanistan today, meanwhile, by Team Obama’s affirmation, we are the side not animated by faith in victory.

Developments with the war in Afghanistan are causing us to question our methods of warfare as we have not since Vietnam. Comparisons of Afghanistan to Vietnam are mushrooming, of course; Fouad Ajami has a useful one today, in which he considers the effect of withdrawal deadlines on the American people’s expectations as well as the enemy’s. But on Friday, Caroline Glick took a broader view of contemporary Western methods, comparing the U.S. operating profile in Afghanistan to that of the IDF in Lebanon in the 1990s.

As I have done here, she invoked the White House guidance report in December, according to which “we’re not doing everything, and we’re not doing it forever.” Such guidance, she says, “when executed … brings not victory nor even stability.” She is right; Fouad Ajami is right; and both are focusing where our attention should be right now, which is on the conduct of the war at the political level.

There’s a good reason why comparisons with Vietnam are gathering steam. It’s not the geography, the campaign plan, or the details of the historical context, alliances, or political purposes: it’s the behavior of the American leadership. As Senator McCain points out, President Obama has steadfastly refused to affirm that the July 2011 deadline is conditions-based. But I was particularly struck by the recent words of Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy for the “AfPak” problem, because they evoke a whole political doctrine of “limited war,” which dates back to the Vietnam era.

Holbrooke has been keeping a low profile. But he’s a crucial actor in this drama, and in early June he made these observations:

Let me be clear on one thing, everybody understands that this war will not end in a clear-cut military victory. It’s not going to end on the deck of a battleship like World War Two, or Dayton, Ohio, like the Bosnian war. …

It’s going to have some different ending from that, some form of political settlements are necessary … you can’t have a settlement with al-Qaeda, you can’t talk to them, you can’t negotiate with them, it’s out of the question. But it is possible to talk to Taliban leaders. …

What do [critics] mean by win? We don’t use the word win, we use the word succeed.

As an aside, I would have thought the Dayton process did, in fact, have relevance for the “peace jirga” process now underway with the Afghan factions, and that we might expect an outcome with some similarities to the Dayton Accords. But my central concern here is the virtually exact overlap of Holbrooke’s conceptual language with that of the Johnson-era prosecution of the Vietnam War.

That we had to seek a “settlement” with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong was received wisdom under Lyndon Johnson; in this memo from a key reevaluation of the war effort in 1965, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara leads off with it. His reference to “creating conditions for a favorable settlement” by demonstrating to the North Vietnamese that “the odds are against their winning” is a near-perfect statement of the limited-war proposition encapsulated by Henry Kissinger in his influential 1958 book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (quotations are from the W. W. Norton & Co. edition of 1969). Said Kissinger:

The goal of war can no longer be military victory, strictly speaking, but the attainment of certain specific political conditions, which are fully understood by the opponent. … Our purpose is to affect the will of the enemy, not to destroy him. … War can be limited only by presenting the enemy with an unfavorable calculus of risks. (p. 189)

Kissinger’s title reminds us that it was the emerging nuclear threat that galvanized limited-war thinking in the period leading up to Vietnam. But that was only one of the factors in our selection of limited objectives for that conflict. Another was an attribution to the enemy of aspirations that mirrored ours, with the persistent characterization of the North Vietnamese Communists – much like Richard Holbrooke’s of the Taliban – as potential partners in negotiation. A seminal example of that occurred in Johnson’s celebrated “Peace without Conquest” speech of April 7, 1965:

For what do the people of North Vietnam want? They want what their neighbors also desire: food for their hunger; health for their bodies; a chance to learn; progress for their country; and an end to the bondage of material misery. And they would find all these things far more readily in peaceful association with others than in the endless course of battle.

It was not, of course, what the people of North Vietnam wanted that mattered; this political factor was sadly miscast. The LBJ speech was beautifully crafted and full of poignant and powerful rhetoric. But the rhetoric could not ultimately hide the bald facts, which were that Johnson wanted a settlement in Vietnam, that he had no concept of victory to outline, and that his main desire was to get out.

The speech was recognized at the time as “defensive” in character. And we must not deceive ourselves that Holbrooke’s words from earlier this month are being interpreted abroad in any other way. I’ve seen no reference to his comments in a leading American publication, but media outlets across Asia, Europe, and Africa have quoted him. It’s interesting that in 2010, he feels no need to cloak his blunt observations – so consonant with Kissinger’s dryly precise limited-war formulation – in the elliptical, emotive language favored by the Johnson administration in its public utterances. In the 1960s, the limited-war concept of disclaiming all desire to “win” was still suspect. But, as much as we have criticized it in the decades since, we have internalized and mainstreamed it as well. Holbrooke apparently feels empowered to speak clearly in these terms, without euphemism or caveat.

There is no good record to invoke for pursuing the strategy of “peace without conquest.” It took almost exactly 10 years after the LBJ speech for the strategy to produce the total collapse of the U.S. effort in Vietnam; a wealthy superpower can keep “not-winning” for a long time. All but 400 of the 58,000 American lives given to Vietnam were lost in that 10-year period, along with the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives taken in the fighting and the Communist victory.

But there was a lot of success in that period too. U.S. troops won every tactical engagement, including the defeat of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Under Nixon, North Vietnam was isolated and driven to the bargaining table. Under General Creighton Abrams, the defense of the South had, with the exception of air support, been successfully “Vietnamized” when the U.S. pulled out our last ground forces in 1972. But these successes could not establish a sustainable status quo.

Vietnam is our example of what “success without victory” looks like. We should be alarmed that the current administration seeks that defensive objective in Afghanistan. Such a pursuit is, itself, one of the main conditions for producing failure – and failure that is compounded by being protracted and bloody. As for the reason why that should be, Dr. Kissinger, with his clinical precision, must have the last word:

In any conflict the side which is animated by faith in victory has a decided advantage over an opponent who wishes above all to preserve the status quo. It will be prepared to run greater risks because its purpose will be stronger. (p. 246)

Kissinger acknowledged when he wrote these words – having both Vietnam and the larger Soviet threat in mind – that this was a limiting factor the Western powers had not devised a means of overcoming. In Afghanistan today, meanwhile, by Team Obama’s affirmation, we are the side not animated by faith in victory.

Read Less

The Real Victims of Unions’ Anti-Israel Boycotts

There is a direct and disturbing link between the growing anti-Israel radicalism of American unions that J.E. Dyer detailed yesterday and the horrific treatment of union activists in Iran described by columnist Sohrab Ahmari in both the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Ahmari told of Mansour Osanloo, who had his tongue slit for the crime of organizing “17,000 transport workers to form Iran’s first post-Revolution independent union” in 2005 and is still in jail today. And of teacher Farzad Kamangar, who was executed along with four others for the crime of organizing a nationwide hunger strike by teachers “to protest unpaid wages and the arbitrary detention of teachers who question state education policy.”

The article concluded with a plea: “The Iranian labor movement deserves the support of Western progressives, just as American unions spoke out in support of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity during the 1980s.”

Doing so, Ahmari noted, could help the entire Iranian people throw off the yoke of their repressive regime: Tehran brutally suppresses union activism precisely because “the mullahs know that it took a massive general strike by Iranian workers to finally topple the shah — and usher in their own rise to power.” But union leaders need not support this larger goal in order to feel sympathy for colleagues being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the crime of seeking higher wages and child-care allowances for female workers, as Osanloo was — or just for seeking to be paid at all, as Kamangar was.

At least, so one would think. But if any unions have responded to Ahmari’s plea, they have done so too far under the media radar for me to have noticed — or in other words, too quietly to make any difference.

In contrast, I can name a long list of labor unions worldwide that have loudly proclaimed planned boycotts of Israel, including Britain’s University and College Union (representing university lecturers), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario branch), the Swedish Port Workers Union, and an Italian food and retailing union (Flaica-Uniti-Cub). Yet Israel not only has dozens of independent and powerful labor unions of its own but also allows the free operation of dozens of independent trade unions in the “occupied territories.” Israel has not even interfered when Palestinian unions elected leaders affiliated with Hamas, despite deeming Hamas an illegal terrorist organization.

And this, of course, is precisely the problem. All human beings have limited time and energy. Thus if American and European union activists focus all their energy on Israel — where union organizers operate freely, with no fear of jail or torture — they have little to spare for those who need them most: their imprisoned, tortured, and executed fellow activists in Iran.

The irony is that Israel hasn’t even suffered much from all these boycotts. Instead, the price is being paid by the Mansour Osanloos and Farzad Kamangars of the world, whose cries for help are going unnoticed amid the din of all the anti-Israel noise.

There is a direct and disturbing link between the growing anti-Israel radicalism of American unions that J.E. Dyer detailed yesterday and the horrific treatment of union activists in Iran described by columnist Sohrab Ahmari in both the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Ahmari told of Mansour Osanloo, who had his tongue slit for the crime of organizing “17,000 transport workers to form Iran’s first post-Revolution independent union” in 2005 and is still in jail today. And of teacher Farzad Kamangar, who was executed along with four others for the crime of organizing a nationwide hunger strike by teachers “to protest unpaid wages and the arbitrary detention of teachers who question state education policy.”

The article concluded with a plea: “The Iranian labor movement deserves the support of Western progressives, just as American unions spoke out in support of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity during the 1980s.”

Doing so, Ahmari noted, could help the entire Iranian people throw off the yoke of their repressive regime: Tehran brutally suppresses union activism precisely because “the mullahs know that it took a massive general strike by Iranian workers to finally topple the shah — and usher in their own rise to power.” But union leaders need not support this larger goal in order to feel sympathy for colleagues being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the crime of seeking higher wages and child-care allowances for female workers, as Osanloo was — or just for seeking to be paid at all, as Kamangar was.

At least, so one would think. But if any unions have responded to Ahmari’s plea, they have done so too far under the media radar for me to have noticed — or in other words, too quietly to make any difference.

In contrast, I can name a long list of labor unions worldwide that have loudly proclaimed planned boycotts of Israel, including Britain’s University and College Union (representing university lecturers), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario branch), the Swedish Port Workers Union, and an Italian food and retailing union (Flaica-Uniti-Cub). Yet Israel not only has dozens of independent and powerful labor unions of its own but also allows the free operation of dozens of independent trade unions in the “occupied territories.” Israel has not even interfered when Palestinian unions elected leaders affiliated with Hamas, despite deeming Hamas an illegal terrorist organization.

And this, of course, is precisely the problem. All human beings have limited time and energy. Thus if American and European union activists focus all their energy on Israel — where union organizers operate freely, with no fear of jail or torture — they have little to spare for those who need them most: their imprisoned, tortured, and executed fellow activists in Iran.

The irony is that Israel hasn’t even suffered much from all these boycotts. Instead, the price is being paid by the Mansour Osanloos and Farzad Kamangars of the world, whose cries for help are going unnoticed amid the din of all the anti-Israel noise.

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Tuning Out Obama

It’s like the joke: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” “Yeah, I know — and such small portions.” Obama’s speech was widely panned, and he had such a small audience:

Barack Obama’s first address from the Oval Office delivered 32.1 million viewers Tuesday evening. The speech ranks as the president’s second least-watched major cross-network primetime event. … The 20-minute address was viewed across 11 networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TEL, UNI, CNN, CNBC, FOXNC, MSNBC, and TWC. The audience is down 33% from Obama’s first State of the Union address in January and down 21% from his last primetime speech announcing a strategy for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan last December. Of Obama’s major addresses, last night was the least-watched telecast yet. But the president’s health care reform press conference last July pulled a smaller audience, drawing 24.7 million.

In other words, Obama is no longer a draw, and the public is tuning him out — and off. It is a function of both his overexposure and his polarizing effect. Everyone who wants to see him has seen plenty of him, and many can’t bear to watch/listen to him. Others who are sympathetic no doubt find it painful to watch him flounder. In this case, the tune-out inclination was exacerbated, I think, by the fact that the public — which is much savvier than Obama thinks — understood that the president wasn’t going to say anything of substance. This was a “save Obama” speech, not a “save the Gulf” speech.

A more self-disciplined and introspective president would know that being omnipresent isn’t the way to retain the public’s interest and affection. Quite the opposite.

It’s like the joke: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” “Yeah, I know — and such small portions.” Obama’s speech was widely panned, and he had such a small audience:

Barack Obama’s first address from the Oval Office delivered 32.1 million viewers Tuesday evening. The speech ranks as the president’s second least-watched major cross-network primetime event. … The 20-minute address was viewed across 11 networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TEL, UNI, CNN, CNBC, FOXNC, MSNBC, and TWC. The audience is down 33% from Obama’s first State of the Union address in January and down 21% from his last primetime speech announcing a strategy for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan last December. Of Obama’s major addresses, last night was the least-watched telecast yet. But the president’s health care reform press conference last July pulled a smaller audience, drawing 24.7 million.

In other words, Obama is no longer a draw, and the public is tuning him out — and off. It is a function of both his overexposure and his polarizing effect. Everyone who wants to see him has seen plenty of him, and many can’t bear to watch/listen to him. Others who are sympathetic no doubt find it painful to watch him flounder. In this case, the tune-out inclination was exacerbated, I think, by the fact that the public — which is much savvier than Obama thinks — understood that the president wasn’t going to say anything of substance. This was a “save Obama” speech, not a “save the Gulf” speech.

A more self-disciplined and introspective president would know that being omnipresent isn’t the way to retain the public’s interest and affection. Quite the opposite.

Read Less

Hamas Won’t Let Supplies into Gaza; Media Blames Israel

The delegitimization war against Israel is at bottom a war on the truth itself. Two examples illustrate the dementia that has overcome many Western elites. The first is a short Pajamas Media video by Richard Landes showing the large quantities of food and medicine that are sitting on Gaza’s borders, waiting to be delivered — if only Hamas would let them in. Israel is awash in foreign correspondents whose job is to place the conflict under a microscope; why are none of them interested in these kinds of facts?

The second is the continued emergence of irrefutable evidence that a violent confrontation was exactly what the flotilla planners intended. The latest is a video taken on the Mavi Marmara before the hostilities broke out that records, in the background, two “peace activists” talking openly about the impending violence:

Voice A: “They get held hostage or they get chucked off”
Voice B: “Chucked off?”
Voice A: “They get chucked off — they get thrown off.”

A few minutes later, Voice A explains things further for Voice B:

Voice A: “These guys … these Turks … they’re not like us … [we] come from an easy life … [they are not] just on a boat to Gaza … they’re always ready for these things.”

After a pause, Voice B expresses his concern, which is dismissed by Voice A:

Voice B: “So they’re ready to fight?”
Voice A: “Whatever happens.”

You’d think this kind of thing would be headline news for all those who gave this story blockbuster treatment in its opening hours, when it was gleefully assumed in enlightened quarters everywhere that Israeli commandos had savagely massacred dozens of extremely peaceful humanitarian activists.

Yes, the Israelis are terrible at handling these crises, are incapable of staying ahead of fast-moving events, and lack competence in basic PR. But “optics” and proactive media relations only get you so far when the international media and the “international community” are so dedicated to manufacturing a false reality. As David Brog noted recently, Israel is guilty until proven guilty. So why even try?

The delegitimization war against Israel is at bottom a war on the truth itself. Two examples illustrate the dementia that has overcome many Western elites. The first is a short Pajamas Media video by Richard Landes showing the large quantities of food and medicine that are sitting on Gaza’s borders, waiting to be delivered — if only Hamas would let them in. Israel is awash in foreign correspondents whose job is to place the conflict under a microscope; why are none of them interested in these kinds of facts?

The second is the continued emergence of irrefutable evidence that a violent confrontation was exactly what the flotilla planners intended. The latest is a video taken on the Mavi Marmara before the hostilities broke out that records, in the background, two “peace activists” talking openly about the impending violence:

Voice A: “They get held hostage or they get chucked off”
Voice B: “Chucked off?”
Voice A: “They get chucked off — they get thrown off.”

A few minutes later, Voice A explains things further for Voice B:

Voice A: “These guys … these Turks … they’re not like us … [we] come from an easy life … [they are not] just on a boat to Gaza … they’re always ready for these things.”

After a pause, Voice B expresses his concern, which is dismissed by Voice A:

Voice B: “So they’re ready to fight?”
Voice A: “Whatever happens.”

You’d think this kind of thing would be headline news for all those who gave this story blockbuster treatment in its opening hours, when it was gleefully assumed in enlightened quarters everywhere that Israeli commandos had savagely massacred dozens of extremely peaceful humanitarian activists.

Yes, the Israelis are terrible at handling these crises, are incapable of staying ahead of fast-moving events, and lack competence in basic PR. But “optics” and proactive media relations only get you so far when the international media and the “international community” are so dedicated to manufacturing a false reality. As David Brog noted recently, Israel is guilty until proven guilty. So why even try?

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How Can Obama Boost Abbas While Appeasing Hamas on the Blockade?

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas trooped to the White House for his promised photo op and received presidential promise of a new $400 million aid package for the West Bank and Gaza that will, the White House hopes, go to pay for improving the Palestinians’ health and infrastructure needs.

The point of the visit is clearly to give a boost to Abbas, whom both Israel and the United States consider their preferred Palestinian negotiating partner. Washington touts Abbas’s credentials as a potential peacemaker but, like his predecessor and longtime boss, arch-terrorist Yasir Arafat, the PA president has repeatedly turned down Israeli offers of statehood and peace. But because the alternative is Hamas, the radical Islamist terrorist group that controls Gaza, Abbas must be propped up as much as possible.

But by joining those pushing to have Israel weaken its blockade of Abbas’s Hamas rivals, it’s not clear that Obama is doing much to help the Fatah party leader. As the Washington Post reported, with Abbas beside him, Obama declared, “The situation in Gaza is unsustainable.” While stopping short of expressing U.S. support for lifting the blockade, Obama said that arms should be kept out while food and building materials are let in. Of course, food is already let in, and Hamas’s desire for more construction materials has more to do with a desire to rebuild and strengthen its fortifications and tunnel networks than the needs of ordinary Gazans. And Obama said nothing about how the aid he promised the Palestinians or the goods he’d like to see pass through the weakened Israeli blockade will be delivered to the people there without Hamas taking what it likes.

Though the bulk of the administration’s focus on the peace process has been on pressuring Israel, to his credit President Obama did mention that he wanted more progress from the Palestinians on both security and incitement issues. The latter is a reference to the fact that the official Palestinian media, which is under Abbas’s control, continue to incite hatred against Israel and Jews.

In reply, Abbas made the usual pleasant noises in English about peace, coexistence, and a denial that his government and media have “anything to do with that,” referring to the incitement. However, a visit to the website of Palestine Media Watch quickly illustrates the mendacity of Abbas’s White House statement.

Abbas feels he must speak out about the blockade because his constituency demands that he do so. But he knows that any substantial lifting of the sanctions on Gaza will be seen as a huge victory for Hamas. Abbas’s term as PA president expired more than a year ago, an inconvenient fact that is never mentioned by either American or Israeli officials. But there is a reason why he doesn’t dare call a new election. If he did, Hamas might soon be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza. While Washington knows this, by paying lip service to the Palestinian propaganda campaign that has sought to demonize Israel’s legal and justifiable efforts to isolate Hamas in Gaza, the president may be doing more to help Hamas than to help Abbas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas trooped to the White House for his promised photo op and received presidential promise of a new $400 million aid package for the West Bank and Gaza that will, the White House hopes, go to pay for improving the Palestinians’ health and infrastructure needs.

The point of the visit is clearly to give a boost to Abbas, whom both Israel and the United States consider their preferred Palestinian negotiating partner. Washington touts Abbas’s credentials as a potential peacemaker but, like his predecessor and longtime boss, arch-terrorist Yasir Arafat, the PA president has repeatedly turned down Israeli offers of statehood and peace. But because the alternative is Hamas, the radical Islamist terrorist group that controls Gaza, Abbas must be propped up as much as possible.

But by joining those pushing to have Israel weaken its blockade of Abbas’s Hamas rivals, it’s not clear that Obama is doing much to help the Fatah party leader. As the Washington Post reported, with Abbas beside him, Obama declared, “The situation in Gaza is unsustainable.” While stopping short of expressing U.S. support for lifting the blockade, Obama said that arms should be kept out while food and building materials are let in. Of course, food is already let in, and Hamas’s desire for more construction materials has more to do with a desire to rebuild and strengthen its fortifications and tunnel networks than the needs of ordinary Gazans. And Obama said nothing about how the aid he promised the Palestinians or the goods he’d like to see pass through the weakened Israeli blockade will be delivered to the people there without Hamas taking what it likes.

Though the bulk of the administration’s focus on the peace process has been on pressuring Israel, to his credit President Obama did mention that he wanted more progress from the Palestinians on both security and incitement issues. The latter is a reference to the fact that the official Palestinian media, which is under Abbas’s control, continue to incite hatred against Israel and Jews.

In reply, Abbas made the usual pleasant noises in English about peace, coexistence, and a denial that his government and media have “anything to do with that,” referring to the incitement. However, a visit to the website of Palestine Media Watch quickly illustrates the mendacity of Abbas’s White House statement.

Abbas feels he must speak out about the blockade because his constituency demands that he do so. But he knows that any substantial lifting of the sanctions on Gaza will be seen as a huge victory for Hamas. Abbas’s term as PA president expired more than a year ago, an inconvenient fact that is never mentioned by either American or Israeli officials. But there is a reason why he doesn’t dare call a new election. If he did, Hamas might soon be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza. While Washington knows this, by paying lip service to the Palestinian propaganda campaign that has sought to demonize Israel’s legal and justifiable efforts to isolate Hamas in Gaza, the president may be doing more to help Hamas than to help Abbas.

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Mike Pence on Flotilla

Rep. Mike Pence isn’t confused about whether to side with Turkey or Israel. He took to the House floor and his comments included this straightforward  assessment:

The complicity of Turkey in launching a flotilla to challenge the blockade in Gaza, the ensuing violence that occurred, the grievous loss of life, is deeply troubling to those of us who have supported the U.S.-Turkish alliance in the past. A few things need to be said. We grieve the loss of life but Israel has a right to defend itself. And Turkey must know that America will stand with Israel in her inviolate right to defend herself. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Ten thousand tons of food and medical supplies are transferred into Gaza every single week. And the blockade has saved lives. Hamas used the Gaza strip to launch vicious and brutal attacks, thousands of rockets on civilians. It cost lives in Gaza, it cost lives in Israel. Turkey needs to count the cost. Turkey needs to decide whether its present course is in its long-term interest. But America will stand with Israel.

It’s impossible to imagine the administration doing anything remotely like this — either in public or private. The administration wants to gin up an international inquest to go after Israel but has said virtually nothing about Turkey’s complicity in this.

It is not that the administration is being “evenhanded.” That would be a vast improvement over where we are now. Instead, by egging on international bodies and by withholding unqualified support for our ally, Obama has thrown his lot in with Turkey, and by extension the patron and new puppeteer of the Middle East — Iran, of course. What’s next, cozying up to its junior partner in Syria? Oh, well, yes. Warning Israel not to strike Iran’s nuclear facility? Oh, yes. Only the most deluded or those willing to carry water for the administration while knowing full well the consequences of its policies (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross) can fail to recognize what is going on here.

Rep. Mike Pence isn’t confused about whether to side with Turkey or Israel. He took to the House floor and his comments included this straightforward  assessment:

The complicity of Turkey in launching a flotilla to challenge the blockade in Gaza, the ensuing violence that occurred, the grievous loss of life, is deeply troubling to those of us who have supported the U.S.-Turkish alliance in the past. A few things need to be said. We grieve the loss of life but Israel has a right to defend itself. And Turkey must know that America will stand with Israel in her inviolate right to defend herself. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Ten thousand tons of food and medical supplies are transferred into Gaza every single week. And the blockade has saved lives. Hamas used the Gaza strip to launch vicious and brutal attacks, thousands of rockets on civilians. It cost lives in Gaza, it cost lives in Israel. Turkey needs to count the cost. Turkey needs to decide whether its present course is in its long-term interest. But America will stand with Israel.

It’s impossible to imagine the administration doing anything remotely like this — either in public or private. The administration wants to gin up an international inquest to go after Israel but has said virtually nothing about Turkey’s complicity in this.

It is not that the administration is being “evenhanded.” That would be a vast improvement over where we are now. Instead, by egging on international bodies and by withholding unqualified support for our ally, Obama has thrown his lot in with Turkey, and by extension the patron and new puppeteer of the Middle East — Iran, of course. What’s next, cozying up to its junior partner in Syria? Oh, well, yes. Warning Israel not to strike Iran’s nuclear facility? Oh, yes. Only the most deluded or those willing to carry water for the administration while knowing full well the consequences of its policies (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross) can fail to recognize what is going on here.

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How to Stand Up to Israel-Bashers

On Fareed Zakaria’s show on CNN this morning Elliott Abrams faced off Peter Beinart and Zakaria (who, frankly, was the more virulent of the two Israel-bashers). He demonstrated how to engage and decimate those whose mission is now to propound in “polite” company the notion that Israel is a pariah state.

First, don’t let them define the terms of the debate:

ZAKARIA: Elliott, let me ask you — Peter, in a recent article — I think it was in “The Daily Beast” — points out that the Gaza blockade which Israel has imposed is not simply a blockade against munitions and arms. It blockades, among other things — these are the things Israel will not permit to enter into Gaza: cilantro, jam, sage, chocolate, dried fruits, notebooks. What is the purpose of a blockade of such goods?

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The purpose of the blockade of Gaza, of course, is to prevent Gaza, which is already “Hamastan,” from firing another 10,000 rockets and missiles into Israel.

ZAKARIA: And how will the jam and cilantro help them make those rockets?

ABRAMS: You know, I’m sure that you can find equal examples in the U.S. and U.N. blockade of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. You can always find in any government action some marginal activity, some list that you don’t like. That’s not the point.

The point is that Israel has stopped two Iranian ships from carrying arms to Gaza. Israel interfered, thank God, this week with a group of armed Turks who came prepared for a fight with iron bars, night vision devices, ceramic vests, despite what, frankly, are the lies that the Turkish foreign minister told on this show today.

Why is it that only Turks out of the 32 nationalities got hurt? It is because only Turks were involved in the violence.

If there is to be an international investigation, it needs to start where the ships started, in Turkey. We need to know what the Turkish government did in helping this armed group of men hijack what was supposed to be a humanitarian effort.

Second, debunk ridiculous arguments. Zakaria asks why Bibi isn’t agreeing to an international investigation. Abrams responds:

I mean, who is kidding whom, Peter? Peter knows, you know, Fareed, and [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu knows himself there isn’t going to be a fair international investigation. There wasn’t a fair investigation of the Gaza war. There isn’t going to be a fair international investigation of the Turkish role in this. Let us not kid ourselves about this. Israel, if it followed the whims of the international community, would have disbanded long ago after the international community voted at the U.N. that Zionism is a form of racism. It is not going to get fair treatment. I think everybody knows that. And the attitude of the Turkish foreign minister on this show today, simply denying the fact that there was a group of 40 or 50 armed Turkish jihadis on the largest ship, proves that there is really no room here for an international investigation that is going to be at all fair.

Third, counteract vile accusations with facts:

ZAKARIA: But that suggests you accept, Elliott, that the blockade is not nearly to prevent weapons from coming in, but to deliberately starve the people in Gaza to make them feel worse off.

ABRAMS: No, I would suggest that the purpose of the blockade is actually twofold.

First, security. And second, to get the kidnapped corporal, Gilad Shalit, out.

You know, those people on those ships last week were asked by Israel, by Israelis, to carry messages or food or solidarity to that boy who has been four years in solitary confinement, and they said no. That’s a real measure of what kind of humanitarians they are.

Can this blockade be improved, can it be better run? Sure. And it will be.

I have no doubt that there will be changes made. But let us not turn our selves into useful idiots here and make believe that those 50 or 40 or 30 armed Turkish jihadis were there because they believe in the cause of peace any more than the people on those ships who refused solidarity to Gilad Shalit were there because they believe in international solidarity. This was an anti-Israeli activity, and the Israelis had every right to prevent it.

And finally, go on the offense. Zakaria coos over Beinart’s column which asserted that liberals can’t back Israel because of Israel’s conduct. Abrams is having none of it, and turns the tables on Beinart (and, by extension, against the growing cohorts of weaselly critics who now vent Israel-hatred while asserting their Jewish bona fides):

ABRAMS: What Peter is forgetting, that Jewish liberals have never supported Israel. They didn’t support the founding of the state of Israel. The reform movement was anti-Zionist for decades and decades.

Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.

BEINART: In fact, that’s really not true.

ABRAMS: Well, it is really true.

BEINART: The Democrat Party, for generations, was a bedrock of support for Israel. And it’s these kids parents and grandparents. There is a significant generational shift going on.

ABRAMS: The significant generational shift is that more and more young American Jews are now Orthodox. The percentage under the age of 10 or 20 that is Orthodox is increasingly going, and they are fervently Zionists. If the Jewish liberals want to walk away from Israel, they’re free to do so, but not to blame Israel for it.

And as for Beinart’s assertion about the Democratic Party, he might want to take a look at current polling. It is the Republican Party – and the common sense and decency of average Americans — on whom Israel must rely for vocal support.

A final note on the Abrams interview. He dismembered his opponents without anger or ad hominem jibes. (Goodness knows how.) The secret actually to dismantling the left’s position with regard to Israel is to expose their anti-Israel talking points and gratuitous swipes as factually unsupportable and to reveal that they stem from their biases, not Israel’s conduct. And it helps to be as calm and prepared as Abrams.

On Fareed Zakaria’s show on CNN this morning Elliott Abrams faced off Peter Beinart and Zakaria (who, frankly, was the more virulent of the two Israel-bashers). He demonstrated how to engage and decimate those whose mission is now to propound in “polite” company the notion that Israel is a pariah state.

First, don’t let them define the terms of the debate:

ZAKARIA: Elliott, let me ask you — Peter, in a recent article — I think it was in “The Daily Beast” — points out that the Gaza blockade which Israel has imposed is not simply a blockade against munitions and arms. It blockades, among other things — these are the things Israel will not permit to enter into Gaza: cilantro, jam, sage, chocolate, dried fruits, notebooks. What is the purpose of a blockade of such goods?

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The purpose of the blockade of Gaza, of course, is to prevent Gaza, which is already “Hamastan,” from firing another 10,000 rockets and missiles into Israel.

ZAKARIA: And how will the jam and cilantro help them make those rockets?

ABRAMS: You know, I’m sure that you can find equal examples in the U.S. and U.N. blockade of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. You can always find in any government action some marginal activity, some list that you don’t like. That’s not the point.

The point is that Israel has stopped two Iranian ships from carrying arms to Gaza. Israel interfered, thank God, this week with a group of armed Turks who came prepared for a fight with iron bars, night vision devices, ceramic vests, despite what, frankly, are the lies that the Turkish foreign minister told on this show today.

Why is it that only Turks out of the 32 nationalities got hurt? It is because only Turks were involved in the violence.

If there is to be an international investigation, it needs to start where the ships started, in Turkey. We need to know what the Turkish government did in helping this armed group of men hijack what was supposed to be a humanitarian effort.

Second, debunk ridiculous arguments. Zakaria asks why Bibi isn’t agreeing to an international investigation. Abrams responds:

I mean, who is kidding whom, Peter? Peter knows, you know, Fareed, and [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu knows himself there isn’t going to be a fair international investigation. There wasn’t a fair investigation of the Gaza war. There isn’t going to be a fair international investigation of the Turkish role in this. Let us not kid ourselves about this. Israel, if it followed the whims of the international community, would have disbanded long ago after the international community voted at the U.N. that Zionism is a form of racism. It is not going to get fair treatment. I think everybody knows that. And the attitude of the Turkish foreign minister on this show today, simply denying the fact that there was a group of 40 or 50 armed Turkish jihadis on the largest ship, proves that there is really no room here for an international investigation that is going to be at all fair.

Third, counteract vile accusations with facts:

ZAKARIA: But that suggests you accept, Elliott, that the blockade is not nearly to prevent weapons from coming in, but to deliberately starve the people in Gaza to make them feel worse off.

ABRAMS: No, I would suggest that the purpose of the blockade is actually twofold.

First, security. And second, to get the kidnapped corporal, Gilad Shalit, out.

You know, those people on those ships last week were asked by Israel, by Israelis, to carry messages or food or solidarity to that boy who has been four years in solitary confinement, and they said no. That’s a real measure of what kind of humanitarians they are.

Can this blockade be improved, can it be better run? Sure. And it will be.

I have no doubt that there will be changes made. But let us not turn our selves into useful idiots here and make believe that those 50 or 40 or 30 armed Turkish jihadis were there because they believe in the cause of peace any more than the people on those ships who refused solidarity to Gilad Shalit were there because they believe in international solidarity. This was an anti-Israeli activity, and the Israelis had every right to prevent it.

And finally, go on the offense. Zakaria coos over Beinart’s column which asserted that liberals can’t back Israel because of Israel’s conduct. Abrams is having none of it, and turns the tables on Beinart (and, by extension, against the growing cohorts of weaselly critics who now vent Israel-hatred while asserting their Jewish bona fides):

ABRAMS: What Peter is forgetting, that Jewish liberals have never supported Israel. They didn’t support the founding of the state of Israel. The reform movement was anti-Zionist for decades and decades.

Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.

BEINART: In fact, that’s really not true.

ABRAMS: Well, it is really true.

BEINART: The Democrat Party, for generations, was a bedrock of support for Israel. And it’s these kids parents and grandparents. There is a significant generational shift going on.

ABRAMS: The significant generational shift is that more and more young American Jews are now Orthodox. The percentage under the age of 10 or 20 that is Orthodox is increasingly going, and they are fervently Zionists. If the Jewish liberals want to walk away from Israel, they’re free to do so, but not to blame Israel for it.

And as for Beinart’s assertion about the Democratic Party, he might want to take a look at current polling. It is the Republican Party – and the common sense and decency of average Americans — on whom Israel must rely for vocal support.

A final note on the Abrams interview. He dismembered his opponents without anger or ad hominem jibes. (Goodness knows how.) The secret actually to dismantling the left’s position with regard to Israel is to expose their anti-Israel talking points and gratuitous swipes as factually unsupportable and to reveal that they stem from their biases, not Israel’s conduct. And it helps to be as calm and prepared as Abrams.

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Hey Peter, There’s a Reason Why “Free Gaza” Doesn’t Help Shalit

Peter Beinart weighed in today with another column at the Daily Beast designed to bolster his standing as a “liberal Zionist” rather than as merely another member of the pack of jackals attacking Israel for trying to enforce the blockade against the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Of course, Beinart has not changed his mind about the attempts to isolate the Islamist terrorists who seized power in a bloody coup and who pose the biggest obstacle to the two-state solution to the conflict, which he says he wants. He still buys into the Palestinian myths about the situation in Gaza. And he is equally resolute in his determination to ignore everything that has happened in the Middle East since 1993, when Israel began a series of attempts to buy peace with the Palestinians by trading land for the hope of peace. Because it is only by pretending that 17 years of Israeli concessions never happened that can he hold on to the falsehood that the lack of peace is due to Israeli intransigence aided and abetted by American supporters.

But, at least to his partial credit, Beinart hasn’t forgotten the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas for four years. Beinart thinks the “Free Gaza” movement of foreign cheerleaders for Hamas ought to embrace Shalit’s cause and draw a moral equivalence between his plight and that of Palestinians trapped inside Gaza. He urges “Free Gaza” activists and others who are trying to aid Hamas by breaking the blockade to think of Shalit “as a Gazan — a caged, brutalized, Gazan Jew.” In doing so, he theorizes that they could gain the sympathy of Israelis who support the blockade in part because of Hamas’s refusal to free Shalit or even to allow the Red Cross to visit the prisoner. Beinart endorses Israeli journalist Eitan Haber’s proposal that the next ship that heads for Gaza be allowed through by the Israelis on the condition that it bring food to Shalit. That would, Beinart agrees, put the pro-Palestinian crowd to a test that would prove whether they are genuine humanitarians or merely Israel-haters.

Yet unfortunately for Beinart — and Shalit — the “Free Gaza” crowd has already been put to such a test. As I wrote last week, before the flotilla that Israel intercepted was launched in Turkey, the family of Gilad Shalit begged the organizers to take a package of letters and food to the Israeli being held in Gaza. In return, they promised to lend their voices to a call for lifting the blockade. Accepting this offer would have cost “Free Gaza” nothing and would only have given them good publicity and probably would have caused the Israeli government to seriously consider letting them through the blockade. But, in a decision that Beinart and other critics of Israel seemed to ignore, they refused the Shalit family.

Why? It’s not that hard to figure out even if your grasp of the Middle East is as dim as that of Peter Beinart.

First, they don’t care about Gilad Shalit. Like his Hamas kidnappers, the “Free Gaza” group is composed of anti-Zionists — people who don’t think there ought to be a Jewish state and that Jewish soldiers who defend it are, by definition, criminals who deserve what they get from Hamas. Most think the same about Israeli civilians who live under the threat of rocket fire and terrorist attack from Hamas.

Second, they are not humanitarians. They are Israel-haters. The goal of their Mediterranean cruise was not to help Gazans but to embarrass Israel. After all, if foreign sympathizers of the Palestinians really wanted to help the people of Gaza, they might oppose the rule of a tyrannical Islamist terror group, advocate for peace, not the destruction of Israel, and support efforts to resettle and absorb the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees elsewhere rather than keep them in place in Gaza, where they can serve to continue to fuel the conflict.

Beinart needs to understand that the “Free Gaza” movement won’t lift a finger for Shalit for the same reason that the Palestinian leadership has refused to make peace for the last 17 years: they aren’t interested in compromise or peace; they want to destroy Israel. Like the “Free Gaza” organizers, the Palestinian leadership has already been put to the test and failed. But I guess ignoring inconvenient facts is one of the membership requirements if you want to join Peter Beinart’s elite club of “liberal Zionist” writers who bash Israel.

Peter Beinart weighed in today with another column at the Daily Beast designed to bolster his standing as a “liberal Zionist” rather than as merely another member of the pack of jackals attacking Israel for trying to enforce the blockade against the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Of course, Beinart has not changed his mind about the attempts to isolate the Islamist terrorists who seized power in a bloody coup and who pose the biggest obstacle to the two-state solution to the conflict, which he says he wants. He still buys into the Palestinian myths about the situation in Gaza. And he is equally resolute in his determination to ignore everything that has happened in the Middle East since 1993, when Israel began a series of attempts to buy peace with the Palestinians by trading land for the hope of peace. Because it is only by pretending that 17 years of Israeli concessions never happened that can he hold on to the falsehood that the lack of peace is due to Israeli intransigence aided and abetted by American supporters.

But, at least to his partial credit, Beinart hasn’t forgotten the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas for four years. Beinart thinks the “Free Gaza” movement of foreign cheerleaders for Hamas ought to embrace Shalit’s cause and draw a moral equivalence between his plight and that of Palestinians trapped inside Gaza. He urges “Free Gaza” activists and others who are trying to aid Hamas by breaking the blockade to think of Shalit “as a Gazan — a caged, brutalized, Gazan Jew.” In doing so, he theorizes that they could gain the sympathy of Israelis who support the blockade in part because of Hamas’s refusal to free Shalit or even to allow the Red Cross to visit the prisoner. Beinart endorses Israeli journalist Eitan Haber’s proposal that the next ship that heads for Gaza be allowed through by the Israelis on the condition that it bring food to Shalit. That would, Beinart agrees, put the pro-Palestinian crowd to a test that would prove whether they are genuine humanitarians or merely Israel-haters.

Yet unfortunately for Beinart — and Shalit — the “Free Gaza” crowd has already been put to such a test. As I wrote last week, before the flotilla that Israel intercepted was launched in Turkey, the family of Gilad Shalit begged the organizers to take a package of letters and food to the Israeli being held in Gaza. In return, they promised to lend their voices to a call for lifting the blockade. Accepting this offer would have cost “Free Gaza” nothing and would only have given them good publicity and probably would have caused the Israeli government to seriously consider letting them through the blockade. But, in a decision that Beinart and other critics of Israel seemed to ignore, they refused the Shalit family.

Why? It’s not that hard to figure out even if your grasp of the Middle East is as dim as that of Peter Beinart.

First, they don’t care about Gilad Shalit. Like his Hamas kidnappers, the “Free Gaza” group is composed of anti-Zionists — people who don’t think there ought to be a Jewish state and that Jewish soldiers who defend it are, by definition, criminals who deserve what they get from Hamas. Most think the same about Israeli civilians who live under the threat of rocket fire and terrorist attack from Hamas.

Second, they are not humanitarians. They are Israel-haters. The goal of their Mediterranean cruise was not to help Gazans but to embarrass Israel. After all, if foreign sympathizers of the Palestinians really wanted to help the people of Gaza, they might oppose the rule of a tyrannical Islamist terror group, advocate for peace, not the destruction of Israel, and support efforts to resettle and absorb the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees elsewhere rather than keep them in place in Gaza, where they can serve to continue to fuel the conflict.

Beinart needs to understand that the “Free Gaza” movement won’t lift a finger for Shalit for the same reason that the Palestinian leadership has refused to make peace for the last 17 years: they aren’t interested in compromise or peace; they want to destroy Israel. Like the “Free Gaza” organizers, the Palestinian leadership has already been put to the test and failed. But I guess ignoring inconvenient facts is one of the membership requirements if you want to join Peter Beinart’s elite club of “liberal Zionist” writers who bash Israel.

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Want to Stop Iran? Hold Firm on Gaza Blockade

For many concerned about Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, the controversy over the Gaza flotilla has served as a disturbing and decidedly unhelpful distraction from the need to maintain pressure on the Obama administration to act to avert that awful possibility. The same theme was sounded in the past few months as the administration said that Israel must stop building housing in Jerusalem to free up Obama and the rest of the West to better resist Iran.

The swelling chorus of editorial pages, Western political leaders, and unnamed administration officials who want Israel to back down on Gaza claim that doing so will not only help the suffering inhabitants of the region but also remove an irritant that hampers Western diplomatic goals. The need for a “new approach” to Gaza was sounded by one such anonymous Obama aide in the New York Times yesterday, who said that this is “a broadly held view in the upper reaches of the administration.”

Despite the fact that the claims of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza are unfounded, the administration is following the lead of our Western European allies on this issue. “Gaza has become the symbol in the Arab world of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and we have to change that,” the senior American official said. Indeed, such a switch would reflect the same sensibility that guided Obama’s speech to the Muslim world a year ago in Cairo, in which the president showed that he cared about appeasing the violent prejudices of the Arab “street” more than he cared about articulating American values like support for democracy or the West’s strategic goals in fighting Islamist terror.

The blockade of Gaza restricts the importation of arms and construction materials that could allow the Hamas regime there to rebuild its defense. It does not restrict food and medicine. It was implemented in the wake of Hamas’s seizure of power in the strip, a bloody coup that took the lives of many Palestinians. Indeed, even the diplomatic Quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations vowed not to deal with Hamas until it recognized Israel’s right to exist and renounced violence. But having refused to do either, or to free an Israeli soldier who has been held captive since 2006, Hamas is hoping that Western sympathy ginned up by the flotilla incident will result in an end to the blockade and ultimately recognition for the Islamist regime they have established in Gaza and which they hope to eventually extend to the West Bank. Granting Hamas such a victory would do more than any Israeli settlement could ever do to undermine the rival Palestinian Authority led by Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas or the administration’s unlikely hopes for peace.

But just as important is the fact that Hamas — like Hezbollah, its terrorist counterpart in Lebanon — is a key ally of Iran. The West backed the blockade in the first place partially to prevent Gaza from becoming an armed Iranian enclave on the Mediterranean. Despite the claim that the blockade can be lifted without Iran or Hamas benefiting, it is hard to see how any alternative to the current restrictions will do anything but allow Hamas to freely import both arms and ammunition from its patron in Tehran and permanently establish its hold on power. Aside from the devastating impact this would have on hopes for more Palestinian moderation, it would give Iran even more leverage to resist international pressure on the nuclear issue.

Far from being a distraction from the faltering efforts of the Obama administration to assemble an international coalition to stop Iran’s nuclear program, handing such a triumph to Hamas will make it even more difficult to restrain the ambitions of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime in Tehran. If the West hasn’t the stomach to hold firm on the sanctions that have been imposed on Hamas-run Gaza, how will it do so in Iran? The Iranian regime is surely drawing dangerous conclusions about Western resolve from the way the administration is succumbing to the propaganda campaign orchestrated by its Hamas ally. Far from being obstacles to action on Iran, Israel’s attempts to preserve the blockade of Hamas is a fundamental element of any coherent strategy that aims at restraining Tehran’s influence.

For many concerned about Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, the controversy over the Gaza flotilla has served as a disturbing and decidedly unhelpful distraction from the need to maintain pressure on the Obama administration to act to avert that awful possibility. The same theme was sounded in the past few months as the administration said that Israel must stop building housing in Jerusalem to free up Obama and the rest of the West to better resist Iran.

The swelling chorus of editorial pages, Western political leaders, and unnamed administration officials who want Israel to back down on Gaza claim that doing so will not only help the suffering inhabitants of the region but also remove an irritant that hampers Western diplomatic goals. The need for a “new approach” to Gaza was sounded by one such anonymous Obama aide in the New York Times yesterday, who said that this is “a broadly held view in the upper reaches of the administration.”

Despite the fact that the claims of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza are unfounded, the administration is following the lead of our Western European allies on this issue. “Gaza has become the symbol in the Arab world of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and we have to change that,” the senior American official said. Indeed, such a switch would reflect the same sensibility that guided Obama’s speech to the Muslim world a year ago in Cairo, in which the president showed that he cared about appeasing the violent prejudices of the Arab “street” more than he cared about articulating American values like support for democracy or the West’s strategic goals in fighting Islamist terror.

The blockade of Gaza restricts the importation of arms and construction materials that could allow the Hamas regime there to rebuild its defense. It does not restrict food and medicine. It was implemented in the wake of Hamas’s seizure of power in the strip, a bloody coup that took the lives of many Palestinians. Indeed, even the diplomatic Quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations vowed not to deal with Hamas until it recognized Israel’s right to exist and renounced violence. But having refused to do either, or to free an Israeli soldier who has been held captive since 2006, Hamas is hoping that Western sympathy ginned up by the flotilla incident will result in an end to the blockade and ultimately recognition for the Islamist regime they have established in Gaza and which they hope to eventually extend to the West Bank. Granting Hamas such a victory would do more than any Israeli settlement could ever do to undermine the rival Palestinian Authority led by Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas or the administration’s unlikely hopes for peace.

But just as important is the fact that Hamas — like Hezbollah, its terrorist counterpart in Lebanon — is a key ally of Iran. The West backed the blockade in the first place partially to prevent Gaza from becoming an armed Iranian enclave on the Mediterranean. Despite the claim that the blockade can be lifted without Iran or Hamas benefiting, it is hard to see how any alternative to the current restrictions will do anything but allow Hamas to freely import both arms and ammunition from its patron in Tehran and permanently establish its hold on power. Aside from the devastating impact this would have on hopes for more Palestinian moderation, it would give Iran even more leverage to resist international pressure on the nuclear issue.

Far from being a distraction from the faltering efforts of the Obama administration to assemble an international coalition to stop Iran’s nuclear program, handing such a triumph to Hamas will make it even more difficult to restrain the ambitions of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime in Tehran. If the West hasn’t the stomach to hold firm on the sanctions that have been imposed on Hamas-run Gaza, how will it do so in Iran? The Iranian regime is surely drawing dangerous conclusions about Western resolve from the way the administration is succumbing to the propaganda campaign orchestrated by its Hamas ally. Far from being obstacles to action on Iran, Israel’s attempts to preserve the blockade of Hamas is a fundamental element of any coherent strategy that aims at restraining Tehran’s influence.

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RE: Peaceful, Humanitarian, Civilian Flotilla

As Noah points out, the flotilla was many things — ingenious, sinister, deceptive, etc. — but not peaceful. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren writes in the New York Times:

Peace activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.

Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these “activists” chanting “Khaibar! Khaibar!”— a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.

He also shares some additional information: 100 of the activists had large wads of cash; spent bullet cartridges of a type not used by the commandos were found on board; and there was a propaganda film “showing passengers ‘injured’ by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.”

He then dismantles the propaganda — eagerly regurgitated by the Times and others — according to which this was critical humanitarian aid:

Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.

This is why the organizers of the flotilla repeatedly rejected Israeli offers to transfer its cargo to Gaza once it was inspected for military contraband. They also rebuffed an Israeli request to earmark some aid packages for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas for four years.

In the recent past, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident, and peacefully boarded five of the ships in this week’s convoy. Their cargoes, after proper inspection, were delivered to non-Hamas institutions in Gaza. Only the Marmara, a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means such as fouling the propeller, violently resisted. It is no coincidence that the ship was dispatched by Insani Yardim Vakfi (also called the I.H.H.), a supposed charity that Israeli and other intelligence services have linked to Islamic extremists. …

Each day, Israel facilitates the passage into Gaza of more than 100 truckloads of food and medicine — there is no shortage of either.

The task of beating back the Palestinian PR machine is enormous. The left and the media (I repeat myself) feverishly lap up the “humanitarian” propaganda. But in the end, it’s not all that hard to figure out what’s going on. As  Sen. Joe Lieberman crisply puts it in a released statement that reads, in part:

We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self defense.

The blockade exists because Hamas, which is increasingly acting as a proxy for the Iranian regime, has fired thousands of rockets upon Israel even after Israel withdrew from Gaza. The flotilla was a clear provocation and was not an effort to improve the lives of the people of Gaza but rather an attempt to score political propaganda points. The Palestinian people have legitimate rights to a state that is a peaceful neighbor of Israel, but those who assist Hamas only undermine that goal and a peaceful resolution. Support of Hamas and its aims is not the humanitarian path to peace, but rather enables continued violence and conflict.

He adds that he appreciates it that “the Obama Administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”)

Lieberman also makes a key point about timing: “At difficult moments like this, it is more important than ever for the U.S. to stand steadfastly with our democratic ally, Israel.”  In the midst of the fray, it’s neither helpful nor fair, nor even possible, to begin the inquisition. As Israel has begun to do, it is critical first to  get the complete facts out concerning the flotilla terrorists so the analysis can be accurate and the madcap race to judgment can be slowed. I’m hardly one to complain about the 24/7 news cycle, which has tremendous benefits, but it also provides the opportunity for a great deal of foolishness.

As Noah points out, the flotilla was many things — ingenious, sinister, deceptive, etc. — but not peaceful. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren writes in the New York Times:

Peace activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.

Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these “activists” chanting “Khaibar! Khaibar!”— a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.

He also shares some additional information: 100 of the activists had large wads of cash; spent bullet cartridges of a type not used by the commandos were found on board; and there was a propaganda film “showing passengers ‘injured’ by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.”

He then dismantles the propaganda — eagerly regurgitated by the Times and others — according to which this was critical humanitarian aid:

Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.

This is why the organizers of the flotilla repeatedly rejected Israeli offers to transfer its cargo to Gaza once it was inspected for military contraband. They also rebuffed an Israeli request to earmark some aid packages for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas for four years.

In the recent past, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident, and peacefully boarded five of the ships in this week’s convoy. Their cargoes, after proper inspection, were delivered to non-Hamas institutions in Gaza. Only the Marmara, a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means such as fouling the propeller, violently resisted. It is no coincidence that the ship was dispatched by Insani Yardim Vakfi (also called the I.H.H.), a supposed charity that Israeli and other intelligence services have linked to Islamic extremists. …

Each day, Israel facilitates the passage into Gaza of more than 100 truckloads of food and medicine — there is no shortage of either.

The task of beating back the Palestinian PR machine is enormous. The left and the media (I repeat myself) feverishly lap up the “humanitarian” propaganda. But in the end, it’s not all that hard to figure out what’s going on. As  Sen. Joe Lieberman crisply puts it in a released statement that reads, in part:

We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self defense.

The blockade exists because Hamas, which is increasingly acting as a proxy for the Iranian regime, has fired thousands of rockets upon Israel even after Israel withdrew from Gaza. The flotilla was a clear provocation and was not an effort to improve the lives of the people of Gaza but rather an attempt to score political propaganda points. The Palestinian people have legitimate rights to a state that is a peaceful neighbor of Israel, but those who assist Hamas only undermine that goal and a peaceful resolution. Support of Hamas and its aims is not the humanitarian path to peace, but rather enables continued violence and conflict.

He adds that he appreciates it that “the Obama Administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”)

Lieberman also makes a key point about timing: “At difficult moments like this, it is more important than ever for the U.S. to stand steadfastly with our democratic ally, Israel.”  In the midst of the fray, it’s neither helpful nor fair, nor even possible, to begin the inquisition. As Israel has begun to do, it is critical first to  get the complete facts out concerning the flotilla terrorists so the analysis can be accurate and the madcap race to judgment can be slowed. I’m hardly one to complain about the 24/7 news cycle, which has tremendous benefits, but it also provides the opportunity for a great deal of foolishness.

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Bibi’s Speech

Bibi Netanyahu delivered a full-throated defense of Israel and an attack on her critics on Wednesday. (To our Israeli comrades, I can only offer one suggestion — do it in the first news cycle.)

He makes clear that the flotilla is not the beginning of the story:

Last year, Israel acted to stop Hamas from firing thousands of rockets into Israel’s towns and cities. Hamas was firing on our civilians while hiding behind civilians. And Israel went to unprecedented lengths to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. Yet it was Israel, and not Hamas, that was accused by the UN of war crimes. Now regrettably, the same thing appears to be happening now. But here are the facts. Hamas is smuggling thousands of Iranian rockets, missiles and other weaponry — smuggling it into Gaza in order to fire on Israel’s cities. These missiles can reach Ashdod and Beer Sheva — these are major Israeli cities. And I regret to say that some of them can reach now Tel Aviv, and very soon, the outskirts of Jerusalem. From the information we have, the planned shipments include weapons that can reach farther, even farther and deeper into Israel.

He reiterates Israel’s right of self-defense and doesn’t buy into the critics who from a safe distance sniff and declare that this was some abstract or unimportant matter:

This is not a theoretical challenge or a theoretical threat. We have already interdicted vessels bound for Hezbollah, and for Hamas from Iran, containing hundreds of tons of weapons.  In one ship, the Francop, we found hundreds of tons of war materiel and weapons destined for Hezbollah. In another celebrated case, the Karine A, dozens of tons of weapons were destined for Hamas by Iran via a shipment to Gaza. Israel simply cannot permit the free flow of weapons and war materials to Hamas from the sea.

I will go further than that. Israel cannot permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem.  And I would go beyond that too. I say to the responsible leaders of all the nations: The international community cannot afford an Iranian port in the Mediterranean. Fifteen years ago I cautioned about an Iranian development that has come to pass — people now recognize that danger. Today I warn of this impending willingness to enable Iran to establish a naval port right next to Israel, right next to Europe. The same countries that are criticizing us today should know that they will be targeted tomorrow.

Then he takes on the notion that the flotilla was needed for humanitarian reasons: “Humanitarian and other goods can go in and weapons and war materiel cannot. And we do let civilian goods into Gaza. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Each week, an average of ten thousand tons of goods enter Gaza. There’s no shortage of food. There’s no shortage of medicine. There’s no shortage of other goods. On this occasion too, we made several offers — offers to deliver the goods on board the flotilla to Gaza after a security inspection. Egypt made similar offers.  And these offers were rejected time and again.”

Then the details of the battle:

Our naval personnel, just as they landed on the ship — you can see this in the videos — the first soldier — they were met with a vicious mob. They were stabbed, they were clubbed, they were fired upon. I talked to some of these soldiers. One was shot in the stomach, one was shot in the knee. They were going to be killed and they had to act in self-defense.

It is very clear to us that the attackers had prepared their violent action in advance. They were members of an extremist group that has supported international terrorist organizations and today support the terrorist organization called Hamas. They brought with them in advance knives, steel rods, other weapons. They chanted battle cries against the Jews. You can hear this on the tapes that have been released.

This was not a love boat. This was a hate boat. These weren’t pacifists. These weren’t peace activists. These were violent supporters of terrorism.

As for the second-guessers and those who want to set parameters — before any review is conducted and before the full facts are known — for what is and is not permitted in the name of Israeli self-defense:

Once again, Israel is told that it has a right to defend itself but is condemned every time it exercises that right. Now you know that a right that you cannot exercise is meaningless. And you know that the way we exercise it — under these conditions of duress, under the rocketing of our cities, under the impending killing of our soldiers — you know that we exercise it in a way that is commensurate with any international standard. I have spoken to leading leaders of the world, and I say the same thing today to the international community: What would you do? How would you stop thousands of rockets that are destined to attack your cities, your civilians, your children? How would your soldiers behave under similar circumstances? I think in your hearts, you all know the truth.

Israel regrets the loss of life. But we will never apologize for defending ourselves. Israel has every right to prevent deadly weapons from entering into hostile territory. And Israeli soldiers have every right to defend their lives and their country.

He makes a plea then for a cessation of double standards and for Israel to be treated “just like any other state.”

Other than being a bit quicker with the statement, I have only one quibble: he should not apologize for the loss of life. Did we apologize in WWII when we killed Nazis? Do we apologize when we kill Taliban fighters? The notion that these are innocent bystanders in the war to destroy the Jewish state is wrong — they were participants. Yes, yes, it’s a small tip of the hat to public opinion , but we could do without any concessions to the howling mob right now.

I have neither the intelligence data nor the expertise — who but the Israelis do at this point? — to claim that there were alternatives to the raid. (Each situation is unique, so other really smart operations don’t necessarily work in different situations.) In due time –after the situation has cooled — we will have an assessment from Israelis with complete data. And as soon as Israel starts getting praised by the UN for restraint, I’ll argue it should show more. But for now, I’ll offer a hearty “Right on!” and suggest that in a nation using drone weapons to kill terrorists that inevitably kill civilians, we should promote the idea, not undermine it, that the international community doesn’t get to set the rules of war for democratic nations that have internal checks and balances and that respect the rule of law. In sum, Israel, like the U.S., gets to decide for itself, subject to its own laws and its own free press and democratic system, what is “proportional” and what is essential to its own security.

Bibi Netanyahu delivered a full-throated defense of Israel and an attack on her critics on Wednesday. (To our Israeli comrades, I can only offer one suggestion — do it in the first news cycle.)

He makes clear that the flotilla is not the beginning of the story:

Last year, Israel acted to stop Hamas from firing thousands of rockets into Israel’s towns and cities. Hamas was firing on our civilians while hiding behind civilians. And Israel went to unprecedented lengths to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. Yet it was Israel, and not Hamas, that was accused by the UN of war crimes. Now regrettably, the same thing appears to be happening now. But here are the facts. Hamas is smuggling thousands of Iranian rockets, missiles and other weaponry — smuggling it into Gaza in order to fire on Israel’s cities. These missiles can reach Ashdod and Beer Sheva — these are major Israeli cities. And I regret to say that some of them can reach now Tel Aviv, and very soon, the outskirts of Jerusalem. From the information we have, the planned shipments include weapons that can reach farther, even farther and deeper into Israel.

He reiterates Israel’s right of self-defense and doesn’t buy into the critics who from a safe distance sniff and declare that this was some abstract or unimportant matter:

This is not a theoretical challenge or a theoretical threat. We have already interdicted vessels bound for Hezbollah, and for Hamas from Iran, containing hundreds of tons of weapons.  In one ship, the Francop, we found hundreds of tons of war materiel and weapons destined for Hezbollah. In another celebrated case, the Karine A, dozens of tons of weapons were destined for Hamas by Iran via a shipment to Gaza. Israel simply cannot permit the free flow of weapons and war materials to Hamas from the sea.

I will go further than that. Israel cannot permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem.  And I would go beyond that too. I say to the responsible leaders of all the nations: The international community cannot afford an Iranian port in the Mediterranean. Fifteen years ago I cautioned about an Iranian development that has come to pass — people now recognize that danger. Today I warn of this impending willingness to enable Iran to establish a naval port right next to Israel, right next to Europe. The same countries that are criticizing us today should know that they will be targeted tomorrow.

Then he takes on the notion that the flotilla was needed for humanitarian reasons: “Humanitarian and other goods can go in and weapons and war materiel cannot. And we do let civilian goods into Gaza. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Each week, an average of ten thousand tons of goods enter Gaza. There’s no shortage of food. There’s no shortage of medicine. There’s no shortage of other goods. On this occasion too, we made several offers — offers to deliver the goods on board the flotilla to Gaza after a security inspection. Egypt made similar offers.  And these offers were rejected time and again.”

Then the details of the battle:

Our naval personnel, just as they landed on the ship — you can see this in the videos — the first soldier — they were met with a vicious mob. They were stabbed, they were clubbed, they were fired upon. I talked to some of these soldiers. One was shot in the stomach, one was shot in the knee. They were going to be killed and they had to act in self-defense.

It is very clear to us that the attackers had prepared their violent action in advance. They were members of an extremist group that has supported international terrorist organizations and today support the terrorist organization called Hamas. They brought with them in advance knives, steel rods, other weapons. They chanted battle cries against the Jews. You can hear this on the tapes that have been released.

This was not a love boat. This was a hate boat. These weren’t pacifists. These weren’t peace activists. These were violent supporters of terrorism.

As for the second-guessers and those who want to set parameters — before any review is conducted and before the full facts are known — for what is and is not permitted in the name of Israeli self-defense:

Once again, Israel is told that it has a right to defend itself but is condemned every time it exercises that right. Now you know that a right that you cannot exercise is meaningless. And you know that the way we exercise it — under these conditions of duress, under the rocketing of our cities, under the impending killing of our soldiers — you know that we exercise it in a way that is commensurate with any international standard. I have spoken to leading leaders of the world, and I say the same thing today to the international community: What would you do? How would you stop thousands of rockets that are destined to attack your cities, your civilians, your children? How would your soldiers behave under similar circumstances? I think in your hearts, you all know the truth.

Israel regrets the loss of life. But we will never apologize for defending ourselves. Israel has every right to prevent deadly weapons from entering into hostile territory. And Israeli soldiers have every right to defend their lives and their country.

He makes a plea then for a cessation of double standards and for Israel to be treated “just like any other state.”

Other than being a bit quicker with the statement, I have only one quibble: he should not apologize for the loss of life. Did we apologize in WWII when we killed Nazis? Do we apologize when we kill Taliban fighters? The notion that these are innocent bystanders in the war to destroy the Jewish state is wrong — they were participants. Yes, yes, it’s a small tip of the hat to public opinion , but we could do without any concessions to the howling mob right now.

I have neither the intelligence data nor the expertise — who but the Israelis do at this point? — to claim that there were alternatives to the raid. (Each situation is unique, so other really smart operations don’t necessarily work in different situations.) In due time –after the situation has cooled — we will have an assessment from Israelis with complete data. And as soon as Israel starts getting praised by the UN for restraint, I’ll argue it should show more. But for now, I’ll offer a hearty “Right on!” and suggest that in a nation using drone weapons to kill terrorists that inevitably kill civilians, we should promote the idea, not undermine it, that the international community doesn’t get to set the rules of war for democratic nations that have internal checks and balances and that respect the rule of law. In sum, Israel, like the U.S., gets to decide for itself, subject to its own laws and its own free press and democratic system, what is “proportional” and what is essential to its own security.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

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Embrace of Hamas’s Goal of Breaking the Blockade Dooms Peace Efforts

The hypocritical condemnations raining down on Israel from foreign critics in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident from those who oppose the very existence of a Jewish state within any borders have a certain logic, even if it is a perverse logic. For Greta Berlin, the founder of the so-called Free Gaza Movement, the effort to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled region isn’t really humanitarian; it’s political. As she told the New York Times in its story today about the effort to bring aid to the Islamist regime in the strip, she shares Hamas’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state, which in her mind seems to justify any effort to bring succor to its foes.

Her reasoning is repulsive to anyone who believes her goal of reversing the verdict of Israel’s War of Independence is inadmissible. But her opposition to the blockade of Gaza makes more sense than the caterwauling coming from American and Israeli leftists who are berating the Netanyahu government for its willingness to enforce the sanctions that were imposed on the region after Hamas seized power there in a bloody coup in 2007.

Yet for the J Street crowd and writer Peter Beinart, who has assumed the pose of a “more in sorrow than in anger” liberal Zionist critic of Israel, as well as Israeli leftists such as novelist David Grossman and academic Fania Oz-Salzberger, who have joined in the piling on against Israel in the last three days, their belief that the blockade of Hamas in Gaza must be lifted isn’t merely wrong-headed; it is utterly antithetical to their proclaimed goal of a two-state solution in which Israelis and Arabs will share the land in peace.

For Beinart, who sounded his now familiar if tired rant about American Jews being responsible for Israeli beastliness in a piece in the Daily Beast, the “corrupt” embargo is yet another obstacle to peace that if removed might help bring an era of sunshine and light to the region. His blithe dismissal of the verdict of Israeli democracy in which leftists were soundly defeated because of the Palestinians’ consistent refusal to make peace is matched only by his arrogant ignorance of the nature of Palestinian nationalism and politics, which deems recognition of a Jewish state within any borders as beyond the pale.

His denunciation of Netanyahu was matched by Grossman in the Los Angeles Times, who wrote that Israel’s blockade was a sign of the country’s decline. Oz-Salzberger, who proclaimed herself an “Israeli patriot” — no doubt to pre-empt the criticisms of her compatriots who may consider denouncing your own country’s efforts at self-defense in foreign venues to be in questionable taste — deemed the flotilla incident a “sin” and a source of “shame.”

But the problem with these pieces is that if Israel did as they wished, it would effectively doom any chance for peace with the Palestinians. Lifting the blockade and allowing the free flow of goods into the area — which will open the floodgates for not only food and medicine, which are already in plentiful supply in Gaza, but also for Iranian arms and “construction materials” that will strengthen Hamas’s fortifications — would be the final step toward establishing the sovereignty of the Hamas regime in Gaza. After all, the blockade was established by Israel and Egypt with the support of the West, not as an act of “collective punishment,” as the left claims, but rather in a targeted effort to bring down an illegal and violent radical Islamist terror regime that had seized a foothold on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

Granting Hamas such a victory is a blow to Israel, but despite all the crocodile tears being shed for the admittedly miserable lives being led by the Gazans, who suffer under the rule of this terror group, it is a worse blow to the Palestinians. The end of the blockade will strengthen Hamas’s grip on Gaza and make it all the more likely that they will eventually be able to extend it to the West Bank. If international pressure forces Israel to lift the blockade — which never stopped the flow of food or medicine to Gaza despite the false claims that there is a humanitarian crisis there — the biggest loser will be Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, not Benjamin Netanyahu. Actions that lead to Hamas’s winning the struggle for the Palestinian leadership mean that the already dismal chances for peace will be reduced to zero. Such a turn of events will make a two-state solution, even one in which Israel would be forced to surrender every inch of land it won in 1967, utterly impossible.

The temptation to bash Israel’s government and call for an end to the blockade may be irresistible to Jewish leftists, who can always be depended on to see the country’s efforts at self-defense in the worst possible light. Blinded by hatred for Netanyahu, they fail to see that giving Hamas such a victory means an end to the peace process they claim to support.

The hypocritical condemnations raining down on Israel from foreign critics in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident from those who oppose the very existence of a Jewish state within any borders have a certain logic, even if it is a perverse logic. For Greta Berlin, the founder of the so-called Free Gaza Movement, the effort to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled region isn’t really humanitarian; it’s political. As she told the New York Times in its story today about the effort to bring aid to the Islamist regime in the strip, she shares Hamas’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state, which in her mind seems to justify any effort to bring succor to its foes.

Her reasoning is repulsive to anyone who believes her goal of reversing the verdict of Israel’s War of Independence is inadmissible. But her opposition to the blockade of Gaza makes more sense than the caterwauling coming from American and Israeli leftists who are berating the Netanyahu government for its willingness to enforce the sanctions that were imposed on the region after Hamas seized power there in a bloody coup in 2007.

Yet for the J Street crowd and writer Peter Beinart, who has assumed the pose of a “more in sorrow than in anger” liberal Zionist critic of Israel, as well as Israeli leftists such as novelist David Grossman and academic Fania Oz-Salzberger, who have joined in the piling on against Israel in the last three days, their belief that the blockade of Hamas in Gaza must be lifted isn’t merely wrong-headed; it is utterly antithetical to their proclaimed goal of a two-state solution in which Israelis and Arabs will share the land in peace.

For Beinart, who sounded his now familiar if tired rant about American Jews being responsible for Israeli beastliness in a piece in the Daily Beast, the “corrupt” embargo is yet another obstacle to peace that if removed might help bring an era of sunshine and light to the region. His blithe dismissal of the verdict of Israeli democracy in which leftists were soundly defeated because of the Palestinians’ consistent refusal to make peace is matched only by his arrogant ignorance of the nature of Palestinian nationalism and politics, which deems recognition of a Jewish state within any borders as beyond the pale.

His denunciation of Netanyahu was matched by Grossman in the Los Angeles Times, who wrote that Israel’s blockade was a sign of the country’s decline. Oz-Salzberger, who proclaimed herself an “Israeli patriot” — no doubt to pre-empt the criticisms of her compatriots who may consider denouncing your own country’s efforts at self-defense in foreign venues to be in questionable taste — deemed the flotilla incident a “sin” and a source of “shame.”

But the problem with these pieces is that if Israel did as they wished, it would effectively doom any chance for peace with the Palestinians. Lifting the blockade and allowing the free flow of goods into the area — which will open the floodgates for not only food and medicine, which are already in plentiful supply in Gaza, but also for Iranian arms and “construction materials” that will strengthen Hamas’s fortifications — would be the final step toward establishing the sovereignty of the Hamas regime in Gaza. After all, the blockade was established by Israel and Egypt with the support of the West, not as an act of “collective punishment,” as the left claims, but rather in a targeted effort to bring down an illegal and violent radical Islamist terror regime that had seized a foothold on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

Granting Hamas such a victory is a blow to Israel, but despite all the crocodile tears being shed for the admittedly miserable lives being led by the Gazans, who suffer under the rule of this terror group, it is a worse blow to the Palestinians. The end of the blockade will strengthen Hamas’s grip on Gaza and make it all the more likely that they will eventually be able to extend it to the West Bank. If international pressure forces Israel to lift the blockade — which never stopped the flow of food or medicine to Gaza despite the false claims that there is a humanitarian crisis there — the biggest loser will be Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, not Benjamin Netanyahu. Actions that lead to Hamas’s winning the struggle for the Palestinian leadership mean that the already dismal chances for peace will be reduced to zero. Such a turn of events will make a two-state solution, even one in which Israel would be forced to surrender every inch of land it won in 1967, utterly impossible.

The temptation to bash Israel’s government and call for an end to the blockade may be irresistible to Jewish leftists, who can always be depended on to see the country’s efforts at self-defense in the worst possible light. Blinded by hatred for Netanyahu, they fail to see that giving Hamas such a victory means an end to the peace process they claim to support.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Israel, Trapped in Plato’s Cave

Like a rock emerging in a sea of lies, we know important facts about the confrontation that took place on Monday between Israel and a flotilla of ships making its way to the Gaza strip.

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt, by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Like a rock emerging in a sea of lies, we know important facts about the confrontation that took place on Monday between Israel and a flotilla of ships making its way to the Gaza strip.

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt, by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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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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The Limits of Anti-Israel Activists’ Compassion

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

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She’s a Liberal Jew and She Can’t Manage to Defend Israel

I thought this piece might have been a clever parody of American Jewry. (Not as clever as this one, but it’s a hard standard to meet.) But it’s for real and appears in the lefty Tablet magazine, home to many a whimpering, indecisive, and guilt-ridden liberal Jew who can’t quite manage to defend the Jewish state. (I use that phrase intentionally since they no doubt bristle at it.)

One Marjorie Ingall writes:

I am deeply ambivalent about Israel. Modern-day Israel, as opposed to historical Israel, is a subject I avoid with my children. Yes, of course I believe the state should exist, but the word “Zionist” makes me skittish. (I understand that I may be the Jewish equivalent of all the twentysomething women I want to smack for saying, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equal rights.”) I shy away from conversations about Israeli politics. I feel no stirring in my heart when I see the Israeli flag. I would no sooner attend an Israel Day parade than a Justin Bieber concert. Neither Abe Foxman nor AIPAC speaks for me. I am a liberal, and I am deeply troubled by the Matzav, Israeli shorthand for tension with the Palestinians, and I do not have answers, and I do not know what to do about it, and I do not know what to tell my children.

From her stack of books, her eight-year-old daughter chose one and came to her mother for advice:

I stumbled desperately through an explanation of why two peoples feel they have a legitimate claim to the same land.

“But having land is like having a seat on a bus,” Josie replied. “You can’t just push someone out of their seat, and you can’t just leave your seat and then come back to it after a long time and just expect the person who is sitting there now to give it to you.” [Smart child!]

My panicked reaction to her words surprised me. I found myself trying to convince her that Israel did have that right. But that’s not what I believe. But I’m not sure what I believe. I want my children to love Israel, but I don’t want them to identify with bullies. I was spinning in my own head like the desperate, overwhelmed woman in the Calgon commercial: J Street, take me away! . . .

Baby-boomer Jews seem wedded to a sepia-toned image of Jews as victims—in the shtetl, in the Holocaust, in Israel’s early wars. But in real life, victims can turn into bullies. Perhaps being the parent to girls, rather than boys, helps me see this—in Mean Girl dynamics, the power shifts back and forth almost every day. We want a bright clear line, but heroes and villains in the real world are much fuzzier.

You get the picture. (And you wonder why American Jewry is in trouble?) But there is good news: she confesses, “I’ve taught my children about Jewish identity through ancient history, through food, through songs and prayers, through the story of American immigration. I’ve left any Israel talk to their teachers.” Still, it gives her angst to know her child might be a — you know (and lower your voice) — Zionist!

But the better news comes in the comments, where a few less-confused Jews try to set her straight:

You’re just confused. You can’t imagine that anyone would want to spend the past 110 years wanting you and your people dead. Once you wrap your mind around that idea, you’ll stop being confused. As far as two people wanting the same piece of land, I suggest you go live on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma if you feel so strongly about the dispossessed.

Another advises: “Please don’t talk to your kids about Israel. Hopefully they will find out the truth from other more knowledgeable, less neurotic people or perhaps go to Israel on a Birthright trip and see it for themselves.” These and others restore some confidence that the wider Jewish community (even liberals reading that publication) is not completely out to lunch.

Well, Ingall is certainly ready for J Street membership — maybe a board post. And it is a reminder, as Bibi Netanyahu said in a recent AIPAC  speech, that the “future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.” He was referring to Churchill and FDR, but how much more true it is given the current White House occupant and the performance to date of mainstream Jewish organizations.

I thought this piece might have been a clever parody of American Jewry. (Not as clever as this one, but it’s a hard standard to meet.) But it’s for real and appears in the lefty Tablet magazine, home to many a whimpering, indecisive, and guilt-ridden liberal Jew who can’t quite manage to defend the Jewish state. (I use that phrase intentionally since they no doubt bristle at it.)

One Marjorie Ingall writes:

I am deeply ambivalent about Israel. Modern-day Israel, as opposed to historical Israel, is a subject I avoid with my children. Yes, of course I believe the state should exist, but the word “Zionist” makes me skittish. (I understand that I may be the Jewish equivalent of all the twentysomething women I want to smack for saying, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equal rights.”) I shy away from conversations about Israeli politics. I feel no stirring in my heart when I see the Israeli flag. I would no sooner attend an Israel Day parade than a Justin Bieber concert. Neither Abe Foxman nor AIPAC speaks for me. I am a liberal, and I am deeply troubled by the Matzav, Israeli shorthand for tension with the Palestinians, and I do not have answers, and I do not know what to do about it, and I do not know what to tell my children.

From her stack of books, her eight-year-old daughter chose one and came to her mother for advice:

I stumbled desperately through an explanation of why two peoples feel they have a legitimate claim to the same land.

“But having land is like having a seat on a bus,” Josie replied. “You can’t just push someone out of their seat, and you can’t just leave your seat and then come back to it after a long time and just expect the person who is sitting there now to give it to you.” [Smart child!]

My panicked reaction to her words surprised me. I found myself trying to convince her that Israel did have that right. But that’s not what I believe. But I’m not sure what I believe. I want my children to love Israel, but I don’t want them to identify with bullies. I was spinning in my own head like the desperate, overwhelmed woman in the Calgon commercial: J Street, take me away! . . .

Baby-boomer Jews seem wedded to a sepia-toned image of Jews as victims—in the shtetl, in the Holocaust, in Israel’s early wars. But in real life, victims can turn into bullies. Perhaps being the parent to girls, rather than boys, helps me see this—in Mean Girl dynamics, the power shifts back and forth almost every day. We want a bright clear line, but heroes and villains in the real world are much fuzzier.

You get the picture. (And you wonder why American Jewry is in trouble?) But there is good news: she confesses, “I’ve taught my children about Jewish identity through ancient history, through food, through songs and prayers, through the story of American immigration. I’ve left any Israel talk to their teachers.” Still, it gives her angst to know her child might be a — you know (and lower your voice) — Zionist!

But the better news comes in the comments, where a few less-confused Jews try to set her straight:

You’re just confused. You can’t imagine that anyone would want to spend the past 110 years wanting you and your people dead. Once you wrap your mind around that idea, you’ll stop being confused. As far as two people wanting the same piece of land, I suggest you go live on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma if you feel so strongly about the dispossessed.

Another advises: “Please don’t talk to your kids about Israel. Hopefully they will find out the truth from other more knowledgeable, less neurotic people or perhaps go to Israel on a Birthright trip and see it for themselves.” These and others restore some confidence that the wider Jewish community (even liberals reading that publication) is not completely out to lunch.

Well, Ingall is certainly ready for J Street membership — maybe a board post. And it is a reminder, as Bibi Netanyahu said in a recent AIPAC  speech, that the “future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.” He was referring to Churchill and FDR, but how much more true it is given the current White House occupant and the performance to date of mainstream Jewish organizations.

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Unemployment Insurance II

Liberals argue that extending unemployment insurance (now to 99 weeks) is necessary to prevent real hardship among American working families affected by the recession. They accuse conservatives of being heartless brutes, ready as always to step over the starving in the streets.

Conservatives argue that providing generous unemployment benefits indefinitely is a huge disincentive to going out and finding a job. They accuse liberals of trying to create a permanently dependent class by using the “bread and circuses” policy that eventually undid the Roman Empire.

To an extent they are both right. When a family’s main breadwinner is suddenly thrown out of work, that family can suffer real hardship unless it has substantial economic resources to fall back on. But if unemployment insurance is too generous, then workers become too picky about what new job they are willing to accept. After all, unemployment benefits and some off-the-books work on the side can add up to nearly what some families at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum were earning before the breadwinner lost his or her job.

So how about this as a way to help the unemployed while not disincentivizing them from actively looking for work: have the unemployment benefits decline — say 5 percent a week — until they disappear after 20 weeks. If there is a severe recession causing rising unemployment, the benefits could be renewed for another 20-week cycle.  This would keep food on the table but also give the beneficiaries a strong incentive to search for a job sooner rather than later and perhaps take one that is less than ideal.

Just a thought.

Liberals argue that extending unemployment insurance (now to 99 weeks) is necessary to prevent real hardship among American working families affected by the recession. They accuse conservatives of being heartless brutes, ready as always to step over the starving in the streets.

Conservatives argue that providing generous unemployment benefits indefinitely is a huge disincentive to going out and finding a job. They accuse liberals of trying to create a permanently dependent class by using the “bread and circuses” policy that eventually undid the Roman Empire.

To an extent they are both right. When a family’s main breadwinner is suddenly thrown out of work, that family can suffer real hardship unless it has substantial economic resources to fall back on. But if unemployment insurance is too generous, then workers become too picky about what new job they are willing to accept. After all, unemployment benefits and some off-the-books work on the side can add up to nearly what some families at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum were earning before the breadwinner lost his or her job.

So how about this as a way to help the unemployed while not disincentivizing them from actively looking for work: have the unemployment benefits decline — say 5 percent a week — until they disappear after 20 weeks. If there is a severe recession causing rising unemployment, the benefits could be renewed for another 20-week cycle.  This would keep food on the table but also give the beneficiaries a strong incentive to search for a job sooner rather than later and perhaps take one that is less than ideal.

Just a thought.

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The Other Side of the “Peace” Process

While most of the world rattles on about how Israel’s impudent decision to build apartments for Jews in an existing Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem will harm the peace process, the real obstacles to peace staged yet another demonstration of Middle East realities. In the last two days, Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets into southern Israel. Two landed near the town of Sderot in Southern Israel on Wednesday. One adult and a child suffered from shock from that blast. Then today, a rocket hit nearby Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, killing a worker from Thailand. Thirty such rockets have landed in southern Israel since the beginning of 2010.

Apologists for the Hamas terrorists, who run Gaza as a private fiefdom, were quick to blame the attacks on splinter groups beyond the control of the supposedly responsible thugs of Hamas. Two such groups claimed responsibility. One is an al-Qaeda offshoot, and the other is none other than the al-Asqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist wing of the supposedly moderate and peace-loving Fatah Party that controls the West Bank.

The rockets were an appropriate welcome to the Dame Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign-policy official, who was in Gaza for a visit. Though Ashton won’t meet with Hamas officials, her trip to Gaza is seen as helping the ongoing campaign to lift the limited blockade of the terrorist-run enclave even though Israel allows food and medical supplies into the Strip, so there is no humanitarian crisis. Those who would like to see this Hamasistan freed from all constraints say that the “humanitarian” issues should take precedence over “politics.” But their humanitarianism takes no notice of Israelis who still live under the constant threat of terrorist missile attacks. Nor do they think Hamas should be forced to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for an end to the blockade.

Such “humanitarianism” is also blind to why Israelis are leery of any further territorial concessions to the Palestinians – because they rightly fear that the ordeal of Sderot could easily be repeated in any part of Central Israel, as well as in Jerusalem, once Israel’s forces are forced to completely withdraw from the West Bank. Gaza is not just a symbol of the failures of Palestinian nationalism, as the welfare of over a million Arabs has been ignored as Hamas pursues its pathologically violent agenda of hostility to Israel. It is also a symbol of the failure of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal policy, which Americans once hoped would allow the area to become a zone of peace and prosperity.

For all of the recent emphasis on Israel’s behavior, Gaza stands as both a lesson and a warning to those who heedlessly urge further concessions on Israel on behalf of a peace process in which the Palestinians have no real interest.

While most of the world rattles on about how Israel’s impudent decision to build apartments for Jews in an existing Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem will harm the peace process, the real obstacles to peace staged yet another demonstration of Middle East realities. In the last two days, Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets into southern Israel. Two landed near the town of Sderot in Southern Israel on Wednesday. One adult and a child suffered from shock from that blast. Then today, a rocket hit nearby Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, killing a worker from Thailand. Thirty such rockets have landed in southern Israel since the beginning of 2010.

Apologists for the Hamas terrorists, who run Gaza as a private fiefdom, were quick to blame the attacks on splinter groups beyond the control of the supposedly responsible thugs of Hamas. Two such groups claimed responsibility. One is an al-Qaeda offshoot, and the other is none other than the al-Asqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist wing of the supposedly moderate and peace-loving Fatah Party that controls the West Bank.

The rockets were an appropriate welcome to the Dame Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign-policy official, who was in Gaza for a visit. Though Ashton won’t meet with Hamas officials, her trip to Gaza is seen as helping the ongoing campaign to lift the limited blockade of the terrorist-run enclave even though Israel allows food and medical supplies into the Strip, so there is no humanitarian crisis. Those who would like to see this Hamasistan freed from all constraints say that the “humanitarian” issues should take precedence over “politics.” But their humanitarianism takes no notice of Israelis who still live under the constant threat of terrorist missile attacks. Nor do they think Hamas should be forced to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for an end to the blockade.

Such “humanitarianism” is also blind to why Israelis are leery of any further territorial concessions to the Palestinians – because they rightly fear that the ordeal of Sderot could easily be repeated in any part of Central Israel, as well as in Jerusalem, once Israel’s forces are forced to completely withdraw from the West Bank. Gaza is not just a symbol of the failures of Palestinian nationalism, as the welfare of over a million Arabs has been ignored as Hamas pursues its pathologically violent agenda of hostility to Israel. It is also a symbol of the failure of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal policy, which Americans once hoped would allow the area to become a zone of peace and prosperity.

For all of the recent emphasis on Israel’s behavior, Gaza stands as both a lesson and a warning to those who heedlessly urge further concessions on Israel on behalf of a peace process in which the Palestinians have no real interest.

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