Commentary Magazine


Topic: IDF

Critics Struggle to Undermine IDF’s Social Media Blitz

This video of the Israeli strike on Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari was temporarily removed from the IDF’s YouTube page this morning for supposedly violating its “terms of service.” A short time later, it was put back up. My multiple emails to YouTube’s press office have been ignored, but All Things Digital managed to get this email response from a spokesperson:

“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”

This shows just how worried anti-Israel activists are about the online response to Operation Pillar of Defense, by far Israel’s most muscular and carefully-honed social media effort yet. Enough Israel detractors “flagged” the YouTube video as “inappropriate” yesterday that YouTube put up a note warning viewers that the clip might be considered offensive.

That attempt to censor the video — as well as the IDF’s Twitter account and websites — is a sign of panic. Israel has finally found a way to circumvent the pernicious media bias that has always favored anti-Israel groups, and it has these groups terrified and scrambling.

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This video of the Israeli strike on Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari was temporarily removed from the IDF’s YouTube page this morning for supposedly violating its “terms of service.” A short time later, it was put back up. My multiple emails to YouTube’s press office have been ignored, but All Things Digital managed to get this email response from a spokesperson:

“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”

This shows just how worried anti-Israel activists are about the online response to Operation Pillar of Defense, by far Israel’s most muscular and carefully-honed social media effort yet. Enough Israel detractors “flagged” the YouTube video as “inappropriate” yesterday that YouTube put up a note warning viewers that the clip might be considered offensive.

That attempt to censor the video — as well as the IDF’s Twitter account and websites — is a sign of panic. Israel has finally found a way to circumvent the pernicious media bias that has always favored anti-Israel groups, and it has these groups terrified and scrambling.

So far, the Israeli military’s public relations department hasn’t been fazed. They’ve rolled out a new Tumblr page, where they’ve been posting videos of IDF dropping thousands warning leaflets from the air above Palestinian neighborhoods and succinctly explaining the Hamas rocket attacks that sparked Operation Pillar of Defense. They’ve also launched a Pinterest, a Flikr page, an Instagram, and a GooglePlus account that they’ve been updating by the minute.

The Israelis have also been smart about the content. The video clips, images, and tweets are actually newsworthy, as opposed to the usual stale and timid statements on government social media accounts.

It’s by far the most cutting-edge combination of PR warfare and military warfare, perfectly packaged to go viral in the current media environment. BuzzFeed’s Matt Buchanan writes:

Much of the criticism of the American media during the height of the Iraq War focused on its role repeating White House talking points and propaganda. But using the tools of social media, as Israel is doing, reveals there’s no longer a need to rely a media middleman, or to filter the raw feed of war through an “embedded” — and, military officials hope, captured — journalist’s mouth or keyboard. A nation is officially tweeting its wartime activities. The military can broadcast exactly what it wants to, directly to its citizens, allies, and enemies. The IDF even appropriates the language of news, prefacing several tweets with “BREAKING” — and native social media, at one point saying “in case you missed it” before pointing to a YouTube video of it killing Ahmed Jabari in a missile strike. And unlike any propaganda machine before it, it’s inherently viral. It’s designed to spread. So the IDF spokesperson provides posters and YouTube videos and a constantly updated Flickr account; they’re more shareable than plain text. Its tweets are a mixture of documentation, saber rattling, sober reminders of the reality of war, and upbeat updates on the advanced state of its technology. All delivered direct to you. Please RT.

Israel has long struggled to get its message through the anti-Israel filter of the international media. It’s finally landed on the perfect solution: go over the media’s heads.

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Israel-Hamas War Opens a Second Front: The Web

Is this the future of warfare? While rockets continue falling across Israel, with air raid sirens being sounded in Tel Aviv for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, Israel is fighting back in more ways than one. Operation Pillar of Defense is ongoing, and now that citizens of Tel Aviv have found themselves in stairwells and basements, it is likely that the possibility of a ground invasion just increased exponentially. The second front in the offensive against Hamas’s aggression has formed on the web. This is the first time a war has been live-tweeted.

It began with an IDF tweet yesterday, soon after the targeted assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, the military commander of Hamas. The IDF’s official account tweeted:

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Is this the future of warfare? While rockets continue falling across Israel, with air raid sirens being sounded in Tel Aviv for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, Israel is fighting back in more ways than one. Operation Pillar of Defense is ongoing, and now that citizens of Tel Aviv have found themselves in stairwells and basements, it is likely that the possibility of a ground invasion just increased exponentially. The second front in the offensive against Hamas’s aggression has formed on the web. This is the first time a war has been live-tweeted.

It began with an IDF tweet yesterday, soon after the targeted assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, the military commander of Hamas. The IDF’s official account tweeted:

Soon after, the official account for Hamas responded:

That began a series of tweets from both accounts directed at each other. For the first time, each side could tell observers, without using the mainstream media as a channel, what they were fighting for and why. Unfortunately for Hamas, the increased scrutiny has made it much more difficult to get away with public relations antics it has utilized in previous conflicts. 

Yesterday the official Hamas feed tweeted a photo of dead child, held in the arms of a sobbing man without any reference about who or where the victims were. Unfortunately for Hamas, many Twitter users immediately recognized the photo. It wasn’t from Gaza and it wasn’t even that recent; it was from Syria. While the Hamas feed has continually claimed that its civilians are under attack by the Israeli military, the proof they provide has been much more easily fact-checked by millions of Twitter users. 

Israel is using social media to explain the morality of the war it is fighting in the Gaza strip, filled with civilians. From their official YouTube account, video has been posted of leaflets being dropped on residents, explaining how they can best protect themselves in the fighting between the terrorist organization and the Jewish state. On the IDF’s website, an entire blog post explained the lengths Israel goes to in order to minimize civilian casualties. In the war of information, Israel’s detailed accounts of its activities are much more persuasive than misleading pictures from Syria posted on Twitter by Hamas without context. 

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‘I Am the Girl in the Bunker’

Many young American Jews, especially those who are educated at Orthodox schools, often spend a year in Israel between high school and college studying. Talia Lefkowitz, a graduate of New York City’s Ramaz, instead has spent the past year with a paratrooper unit in Israel. She writes powerfully in limpid prose of her experience in the midst of rocket attacks this morning at Tablet:

Hours go by without a rocket, and I start to relax. Maybe it’s over. The media, even the Israeli newspapers, are saying that it is no big deal. I start to believe them. But then another bomb hits without warning, and this one falls just feet from us. It’s like an earthquake. The room sways, and I fall out of my bed. The next few minutes seem to move in slow motion. Screaming, frenzy, smoke. Everyone running. Hands covering their ears. Wiping their eyes. Holding tissues over their mouths and noses.

Read the whole thing.

 

Many young American Jews, especially those who are educated at Orthodox schools, often spend a year in Israel between high school and college studying. Talia Lefkowitz, a graduate of New York City’s Ramaz, instead has spent the past year with a paratrooper unit in Israel. She writes powerfully in limpid prose of her experience in the midst of rocket attacks this morning at Tablet:

Hours go by without a rocket, and I start to relax. Maybe it’s over. The media, even the Israeli newspapers, are saying that it is no big deal. I start to believe them. But then another bomb hits without warning, and this one falls just feet from us. It’s like an earthquake. The room sways, and I fall out of my bed. The next few minutes seem to move in slow motion. Screaming, frenzy, smoke. Everyone running. Hands covering their ears. Wiping their eyes. Holding tissues over their mouths and noses.

Read the whole thing.

 

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IDF, Activists Expose Anti-Israel Campaign

When anti-Israel lies are spread online, a lot of times they stick around for good. Even after the false claims are wholly debunked, it’s hard to get rid of them once they’ve seeped into the Twitter bloodstream.

But the Israeli Defense Force public relations office has improved its response efforts, and today it was able to push back fairly effectively against three disgraceful smears spread by anti-Israel activists and Palestinian officials about the current IDF operation in Gaza.

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When anti-Israel lies are spread online, a lot of times they stick around for good. Even after the false claims are wholly debunked, it’s hard to get rid of them once they’ve seeped into the Twitter bloodstream.

But the Israeli Defense Force public relations office has improved its response efforts, and today it was able to push back fairly effectively against three disgraceful smears spread by anti-Israel activists and Palestinian officials about the current IDF operation in Gaza.

The first was a photo posted on Twitter by anti-Israel activist Khulood Badawi, which she claimed showed a young girl who had been injured in Israeli air strikes over the weekend. It was subsequently spread around Twitter by hundreds of other users.

But in fact, as Avi Mayer pointed out, and the IDF blog explained, the photo was actually taken by Reuters in 2009, and had nothing to do with an Israeli air strike. The injured girl in the photo had reportedly fallen off a swing.

Anti-Israel activists also claimed that a second photo, showing a large aerial strike in Gaza, was taken yesterday. As the IDF blog points out, that turned out to be another old photo from 2009.

The third allegation – which has been reported as a fact by major news organizations – is that an Israeli strike killed a 15-year-old Palestinian school boy yesterday. The Israeli government denied that it conducted air raids at that location during the time the teenager was killed, and an AFP correspondent on the scene confirmed no sign of an aerial attack (via Avi Mayer):

The Israeli army on Monday denied it had carried out an air strike on northern Gaza which killed a teenager, with an AFP correspondent confirming there was no sign of an air raid. …

According to an AFP correspondent at the scene, there were no signs of any impact on the ground which could have been caused by a missile, with the most likely cause of his death being some kind of explosive device he was carrying.

The victim lost his legs in the blast and his body was covered with shrapnel wounds, he said.

While the record seems to have been corrected for the most part, some media outlets like MSNBC are continuing to report that the teenager was killed by an Israeli air strike.

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Israel Makes Preparations for War

Much of the attention about a potential conflict between Israel and Iran has focused on the decision-making process that could lead the Jewish state to act to forestall the creation of a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran’s Islamist leadership. But while the debate continues about what Israel’s government will decide to do and when they will do it, inside the country, preparations are under way for the aftermath of that decision.

On a cold morning in late January, ambulances raced around Haifa, Israel’s largest port city. There had been an attack with a “dirty bomb,” armed with radioactive cesium 137. Doctors and paramedics cleaned up the survivors, while the authorities informed the public the “unthinkable” had happened in the heart of the Jewish State. It was just a drill, but the exercise code-named “Dark Cloud,” was part of the Israel Defense Force Home Front Command’s plan to prepare the country in case of war with Iran.

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Much of the attention about a potential conflict between Israel and Iran has focused on the decision-making process that could lead the Jewish state to act to forestall the creation of a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran’s Islamist leadership. But while the debate continues about what Israel’s government will decide to do and when they will do it, inside the country, preparations are under way for the aftermath of that decision.

On a cold morning in late January, ambulances raced around Haifa, Israel’s largest port city. There had been an attack with a “dirty bomb,” armed with radioactive cesium 137. Doctors and paramedics cleaned up the survivors, while the authorities informed the public the “unthinkable” had happened in the heart of the Jewish State. It was just a drill, but the exercise code-named “Dark Cloud,” was part of the Israel Defense Force Home Front Command’s plan to prepare the country in case of war with Iran.

If Israel strikes Iranian nuclear facilities, Tehran has three major targets: the atomic reactor at Dimona, Haifa’s port and refineries, and the area of Zakariya, where Israel stored its missile arsenal. Eyal Eisenberg, head of the Home Front Command, recently declared, “Haifa will be flooded with 12.000 missiles.” Israel’s army estimates that Hamas and Hezbollah have 1,600 rockets capable of hitting targets with high precision. In the words of former Minister Matan Vilnai, in the event of such a war, Israel’s Defense Ministry building “will not remain standing.”

But Israel is no stranger to missile fire. Since 1948, the year of the founding of the state, more than 60,000 rockets have fallen on Israel. In 2006 during the second Lebanon war when Hezbollah rained missiles down on the north of the country, one million Israelis were forced to live in shelters for more than a month. There are estimated to be 200,000 missiles pointed at the country today. The situation is such that, according to a survey conducted by Tel Aviv University, 30 percent of those Israelis with a foreign passport are willing to leave the country. A few days ago, Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest circulation newspaper, published a list of “cities of refuge” where it is better to live “in case of emergency.”

Tel Aviv, where 60 percent of Israel’s population reside, is now facing Iran’s “judgment day.” Many security drills are termed “NBC:” nuclear, biological and chemical threats.

Syria is the “most advanced Arab country in the production of chemical weapons,” according to a report by the Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University. Though Syria’s government is preoccupied with the rebellion against the Assad regime, it is still an ally of Iran and might decide that joining in an attack on Israel would be a good way to divert public anger against the massacres of dissidents. Syria has produced hundreds of tons of chemical weapons and bombs filled with sarin and another lethal gas, VX. The idea is that botulinum, anthrax and other lethal pathogens can be used in conjunction with explosives. Just 100 grams of mustard gas would be enough to kill 500 Israelis.

With this sort of threat in view, Israel is preparing its bomb shelters. This week, the Foreign Ministry gave the embassies a list of bunkers available for the diplomats. Only Tel Aviv has as many as 240 bunkers. The Jerusalem railway station is able to accommodate 5,000 people. Even theaters, like Habima in Tel Aviv, will host thousands of people. In Safed, the first hospital-bunker for children is being prepared. Evacuation plans are ready for Ramat Gan, the populous suburb of Tel Aviv hit by Saddam Hussein’s rockets in 1991.

While many Israelis may take shelter in the Negev, up to half a million could take refuge in the Jewish settlements of Samaria. The commander of the Home Front, General Yair Golan, declared that “cities can be transformed into a battlefield” and that masses of people will be forced to flee to a “national refuge” in Samaria in the West Bank. The hospitals have emergency plans. The most important industries, such as the banks and the Bezeq phone company, are preparing alternative technologies in case of national collapse.

Meanwhile, in southern Israel, where Gaza-based terrorists have rained down thousands of missiles in recent years, bulldozers are hard at work building new shelters for the expected next round of shelling. In Sderot, the town that has been hardest hit by Hamas missile fire, virtually every street is already dotted with concrete huts. The government has promised to put a missile-proof security room in every home. Five thousand shelters are planned for a place with just 20,000 inhabitants.

In addition to the shelters, a new alarm system, located in the Negev desert, can calculate the exact trajectory of a missile. The plan is to use this information to alert all the mobile phones in the area via SMS, audio alert and display lighting.

Given the level of preparation for these attacks, these days the State of Israel looks like a bunkered Western outpost threatened with destruction by Iran. The countdown for war may have already begun. But as Israelis start thinking about heading to shelters, the question in their minds is: once the assault on their nation begins, will the West come to their aid?

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Turkel Commission Report: Israel Followed Law During Flotilla Raid

The Turkel Commission, an investigation launched by the Israeli government into the flotilla raid, has found that Israel acted in accordance with international law during the incident.

Nothing in the report comes as a major surprise, since it was what we all knew at the time: Israel’s enforcement of the naval blockade was legitimate, and IDF soldiers had the right to board the ship. The soldiers were attacked with deadly force by flotilla members and it was appropriate for them to defend themselves.

And while the commission heard testimony from all sides — including left-wing human-rights groups — it found the charge that Israel committed war crimes to be without merit.

Of course, the impact of the findings will probably be pretty inconsequential, at least from a public-relations perspective. Anyone who looked at the flotilla situation honestly and objectively already knew that Israel handled it appropriately. And the people who claimed that Israel’s acts of self-defense were “war crimes” are unlikely to be convinced by any investigation that disproves that notion — especially one that was carried out by the Israeli government.

In fact, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Erdogan, has already dismissed the findings, telling the press that the inquiry has “no value or credibility.”

With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if this report incites renewed calls for an “independent” investigation of the incident, probably led by the same NGOs that helped fund the flotilla in the first place.

The Turkel Commission, an investigation launched by the Israeli government into the flotilla raid, has found that Israel acted in accordance with international law during the incident.

Nothing in the report comes as a major surprise, since it was what we all knew at the time: Israel’s enforcement of the naval blockade was legitimate, and IDF soldiers had the right to board the ship. The soldiers were attacked with deadly force by flotilla members and it was appropriate for them to defend themselves.

And while the commission heard testimony from all sides — including left-wing human-rights groups — it found the charge that Israel committed war crimes to be without merit.

Of course, the impact of the findings will probably be pretty inconsequential, at least from a public-relations perspective. Anyone who looked at the flotilla situation honestly and objectively already knew that Israel handled it appropriately. And the people who claimed that Israel’s acts of self-defense were “war crimes” are unlikely to be convinced by any investigation that disproves that notion — especially one that was carried out by the Israeli government.

In fact, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Erdogan, has already dismissed the findings, telling the press that the inquiry has “no value or credibility.”

With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if this report incites renewed calls for an “independent” investigation of the incident, probably led by the same NGOs that helped fund the flotilla in the first place.

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J Street U Sponsors Anti-IDF Event

It looks like J Street’s new university chapter in Jerusalem, whose director’s anti-Israel statements have already ignited controversy, is taking more steps to align itself with the anti-Israel left. The organization is sponsoring an event with Combatants for Peace, a “bi-national movement of Israelis and Palestinians who have decided to lay down their arms and realize their vision of resolving the conflict by peaceful means.” In other words, it’s a group that encourages IDF soldiers to drop out of the military.

And as the Independent Media Review Analysis points out, the event appears to conflict with J Street U’s own statement of principles, which support Israel’s right to self-defense:

When J Street U states in its Statement of Principles that is supports “Israel’s right to defend itself against external threats” J Street U is supporting Israel’s right to have an army strong enough “to defend itself against external threats.”

#3 Now hold that thought and now consider the following evening sponsored by
J Street U Jerusalem:

J Street U Jerusalem presents Lochmim L’Shalom/Combatants for Peace Join us for an evening with Lochmim L’Shalom/Combatants for Peace. …

These are Israeli soldiers who declare that they will not participate in defending Israel against external threats.

#5. So while J Street U supports “Israel’s right to defend itself against external threats,” J Street Y’s Jerusalem branch sponsors an evening promoting a group that wishes to strip Israel of its ability to defend itself against external threats.

First, some background on Combatants for Peace. The CFP is one of those organizations that sound fairly benign on the surface but in reality promote some pretty destructive and phony narratives about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. For example, if you skim through the “personal stories” section of the Combatants for Peace website, you’ll find that the group’s Israeli and Palestinian members became involved in the program for very different reasons.

The typical Israeli members are former IDF soldiers, who claim that they left the military because it intentionally committed atrocious human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and illegally occupied Palestinian land. In contrast, the typical Palestinian members allege that they suffered years of inhuman cruelty at the hands of the IDF. This supposedly led them to commit small acts of violent resistance before they realized that peaceful resistance could bring about an even faster end to the illegal Occupation.

Most of the stories are chock-full of fantastical claims of Israeli military abuse, including allegations that soldiers lock Palestinians prisoners in water-filled coffins for days, snatch 10-year-olds from their beds at night on phony terrorism charges, and regularly shoot activists in the head for no reason.

One of the members, Chen Alon, even equates the IDF to suicide bombers:

There is a common thought in Israeli society that Palestinian mothers care less about their children – and the proof is that Palestinian mothers send their children to commit suicide attacks. And yet Israeli mothers are willing to sacrifice their children in exactly the same way by sending their children into the army. The mindset is no different.

You cannot be pro-Israel without supporting the existence of the Israeli military. Period. As J Street struggles to recover from its numerous political and financial scandals, I suspect that its Jerusalem university chapter is going to continue to be a thorn in its side.

It looks like J Street’s new university chapter in Jerusalem, whose director’s anti-Israel statements have already ignited controversy, is taking more steps to align itself with the anti-Israel left. The organization is sponsoring an event with Combatants for Peace, a “bi-national movement of Israelis and Palestinians who have decided to lay down their arms and realize their vision of resolving the conflict by peaceful means.” In other words, it’s a group that encourages IDF soldiers to drop out of the military.

And as the Independent Media Review Analysis points out, the event appears to conflict with J Street U’s own statement of principles, which support Israel’s right to self-defense:

When J Street U states in its Statement of Principles that is supports “Israel’s right to defend itself against external threats” J Street U is supporting Israel’s right to have an army strong enough “to defend itself against external threats.”

#3 Now hold that thought and now consider the following evening sponsored by
J Street U Jerusalem:

J Street U Jerusalem presents Lochmim L’Shalom/Combatants for Peace Join us for an evening with Lochmim L’Shalom/Combatants for Peace. …

These are Israeli soldiers who declare that they will not participate in defending Israel against external threats.

#5. So while J Street U supports “Israel’s right to defend itself against external threats,” J Street Y’s Jerusalem branch sponsors an evening promoting a group that wishes to strip Israel of its ability to defend itself against external threats.

First, some background on Combatants for Peace. The CFP is one of those organizations that sound fairly benign on the surface but in reality promote some pretty destructive and phony narratives about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. For example, if you skim through the “personal stories” section of the Combatants for Peace website, you’ll find that the group’s Israeli and Palestinian members became involved in the program for very different reasons.

The typical Israeli members are former IDF soldiers, who claim that they left the military because it intentionally committed atrocious human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and illegally occupied Palestinian land. In contrast, the typical Palestinian members allege that they suffered years of inhuman cruelty at the hands of the IDF. This supposedly led them to commit small acts of violent resistance before they realized that peaceful resistance could bring about an even faster end to the illegal Occupation.

Most of the stories are chock-full of fantastical claims of Israeli military abuse, including allegations that soldiers lock Palestinians prisoners in water-filled coffins for days, snatch 10-year-olds from their beds at night on phony terrorism charges, and regularly shoot activists in the head for no reason.

One of the members, Chen Alon, even equates the IDF to suicide bombers:

There is a common thought in Israeli society that Palestinian mothers care less about their children – and the proof is that Palestinian mothers send their children to commit suicide attacks. And yet Israeli mothers are willing to sacrifice their children in exactly the same way by sending their children into the army. The mindset is no different.

You cannot be pro-Israel without supporting the existence of the Israeli military. Period. As J Street struggles to recover from its numerous political and financial scandals, I suspect that its Jerusalem university chapter is going to continue to be a thorn in its side.

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Barak Pulls a Sharon

As Evelyn has noted, and in a move that surprised nobody except members of his own party, Ehud Barak today took a page from Ariel Sharon’s playbook, splitting from the ideologically founded movement he was leading to create a new centrist political party. Along with four other Labor members, the new party — it still doesn’t have a name — will remain committed to the current government, while in all likelihood the remaining members of Labor will, sooner or later, leave the coalition.

Before we dismiss the new party as yet another soon-forgotten splinter in Israeli politics, it’s worth considering the electoral reality Ehud Barak currently faces. When Sharon broke from Likud in 2005, he founded Kadima as a new centrist faction that would approve the disengagement from Gaza. Although he was joined by a few Labor icons like Shimon Peres and Chaim Ramon, many people saw in Kadima an incoherent collection of mostly moderate right-wingers and a few from the left. After Sharon’s stroke-induced departure from politics in early 2006, most people thought the party wouldn’t survive the next election.

They were wrong. Two leaders later, Kadima’s 28 seats is the largest single faction in the Knesset. This despite having few ranking members with serious governing experience, and despite the disgrace of its second leader, Ehud Olmert, and its finance minister, Avraham Hirschson, on corruption charges.

Why has Kadima survived? The answer should give pause to those who think Ehud Barak is on his last legs as an Israeli politician. For despite being essentially a Likud spin-off, Kadima has survived on the strength of a fairly large base of voters who traditionally saw themselves on the left — not the peace-process left of Yossi Beilin and Yossi Sarid, but rather the enlightened, heavily Ashkenazic, traditionally social-leaning yet nationalist left of David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin. These are the voters who turned to Kadima in droves after the intifada made security more pressing, and more plausible, than peace — people who could never vote Likud for cultural reasons, even if they embraced most of its principles.

Nobody stands to lose more votes to Barak’s new party than Kadima. For if disaffected Laborites turned to Kadima as the closest expression of their political will, they may find a far more congenial home in the new party. As former IDF chief of staff and current defense minister, Barak suddenly embodies the pro-security, classic-Labor stance that neither the more dovish, pro-business, still-in-Labor types nor Kadima’s leader, Tzipi Livni, can hope to offer. To emphasize this, he’s taken with him a top former IDF general, Matan Vilnai. And he’s declared that his party “will follow David Ben-Gurion’s legacy.”

Much of how this turns out depends on the kind of people Barak can pull together around himself before the next election. If former-Labor people in Kadima start defecting to his new party, Israeli politics may see a major shift on the center-left. Barak’s personality has historically made it hard to keep the loyalty of those around him. But the field is open for him. Stay tuned.

As Evelyn has noted, and in a move that surprised nobody except members of his own party, Ehud Barak today took a page from Ariel Sharon’s playbook, splitting from the ideologically founded movement he was leading to create a new centrist political party. Along with four other Labor members, the new party — it still doesn’t have a name — will remain committed to the current government, while in all likelihood the remaining members of Labor will, sooner or later, leave the coalition.

Before we dismiss the new party as yet another soon-forgotten splinter in Israeli politics, it’s worth considering the electoral reality Ehud Barak currently faces. When Sharon broke from Likud in 2005, he founded Kadima as a new centrist faction that would approve the disengagement from Gaza. Although he was joined by a few Labor icons like Shimon Peres and Chaim Ramon, many people saw in Kadima an incoherent collection of mostly moderate right-wingers and a few from the left. After Sharon’s stroke-induced departure from politics in early 2006, most people thought the party wouldn’t survive the next election.

They were wrong. Two leaders later, Kadima’s 28 seats is the largest single faction in the Knesset. This despite having few ranking members with serious governing experience, and despite the disgrace of its second leader, Ehud Olmert, and its finance minister, Avraham Hirschson, on corruption charges.

Why has Kadima survived? The answer should give pause to those who think Ehud Barak is on his last legs as an Israeli politician. For despite being essentially a Likud spin-off, Kadima has survived on the strength of a fairly large base of voters who traditionally saw themselves on the left — not the peace-process left of Yossi Beilin and Yossi Sarid, but rather the enlightened, heavily Ashkenazic, traditionally social-leaning yet nationalist left of David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin. These are the voters who turned to Kadima in droves after the intifada made security more pressing, and more plausible, than peace — people who could never vote Likud for cultural reasons, even if they embraced most of its principles.

Nobody stands to lose more votes to Barak’s new party than Kadima. For if disaffected Laborites turned to Kadima as the closest expression of their political will, they may find a far more congenial home in the new party. As former IDF chief of staff and current defense minister, Barak suddenly embodies the pro-security, classic-Labor stance that neither the more dovish, pro-business, still-in-Labor types nor Kadima’s leader, Tzipi Livni, can hope to offer. To emphasize this, he’s taken with him a top former IDF general, Matan Vilnai. And he’s declared that his party “will follow David Ben-Gurion’s legacy.”

Much of how this turns out depends on the kind of people Barak can pull together around himself before the next election. If former-Labor people in Kadima start defecting to his new party, Israeli politics may see a major shift on the center-left. Barak’s personality has historically made it hard to keep the loyalty of those around him. But the field is open for him. Stay tuned.

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From the Dept of Don’t Do Us Any Favors: Foreign Press Association Threatens to Boycott Israeli Officials

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

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Time Magazine Takes Its Israel Hatred to a New Level

Yesterday, I wrote that the recent controversial legislation at the Knesset would likely result in a full-fledged freak-out from the left over Israel’s supposed slide toward totalitarianism, and this morning Time magazine didn’t disappoint. How bad is it? Let’s just say that Time might as well save the money it spends on its Jerusalem-bureau reporters by publishing full press releases from the Elders instead.

The article, titled “Israel’s Rightward Lurch Scares Even Some Conservatives,” is packed full of misinformation and outright contempt for the Jewish state. The online version also includes links to alleged atrocities committed by Israel — i.e., “Watch video of Israel preparing to deport children of migrant workers,” “See photographs of young Palestinians in the age of Israel’s security wall,” “Watch video of the water crisis in the West Bank.”

It was written by Time’s Jerusalem-bureau chief, Karl Vick, who penned the November cover story about how Israelis were too busy living the 90210 lifestyle to worry about the peace process. The biased statements and factual inaccuracies in his latest piece are honestly too numerous to go through for a line-by-line rebuttal, but here’s a brief rundown of the worst of it.

1.    It claims — without evidence — that Jawaher Abu Rahma was killed by tear gas from IDF soldiers:

Last week, after a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops, army spokesmen mounted a whisper campaign suggesting she died of natural causes. The unlikely, anonymous explanation was played prominently by Israeli newspapers. Those who said otherwise stood accused of “trying to de-legitimize the Israel Defense Forces.”

I wrote a full roundup of the IDF’s investigation into Abu Rahma’s death — which Vick nonsensically characterizes as a “whisper campaign” — here.

2.   It reports factually incorrect information about the recent NGO law passed by the Knesset and compares Israel to authoritarian states:

“Just last week, the coalition prompted cries of McCarthyism when it moved to crack down on Israeli human rights organizations deemed suspicious by a government that increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty. Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions.”

There are good reasons to oppose the NGO law, but to say that the panel was appointed to investigate groups simply because they are “critical of government actions” is completely disingenuous and inaccurate. The panel was created to examine whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization movement were being funded by foreign governments. It’s fine to disagree with such a move, as the American Jewish Committee did, but there is no need to blatantly mischaracterize it as Vick does.

3.   It quotes a historian who stops just shy of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany:

Ron Pundak, a historian who runs the Peres Center for Peace, sees the current atmosphere of Israeli politics as the ugliest in the nation’s history. “It’s totally abnormal,” he says. “From my point of view, this is reminiscent of the dark ages of different places in the world in the 1930s. Maybe not Germany, but Italy, maybe Argentina later. I fear we are reaching a slippery slope, if we are not already there.”

Yes, Time has always been renowned for its anti-Israel bias, but this article takes it to a new level. This is the type of story you’d expect to find on the Electronic Intifada — and it’s shameful that a mainstream publication is stooping to that level.

Yesterday, I wrote that the recent controversial legislation at the Knesset would likely result in a full-fledged freak-out from the left over Israel’s supposed slide toward totalitarianism, and this morning Time magazine didn’t disappoint. How bad is it? Let’s just say that Time might as well save the money it spends on its Jerusalem-bureau reporters by publishing full press releases from the Elders instead.

The article, titled “Israel’s Rightward Lurch Scares Even Some Conservatives,” is packed full of misinformation and outright contempt for the Jewish state. The online version also includes links to alleged atrocities committed by Israel — i.e., “Watch video of Israel preparing to deport children of migrant workers,” “See photographs of young Palestinians in the age of Israel’s security wall,” “Watch video of the water crisis in the West Bank.”

It was written by Time’s Jerusalem-bureau chief, Karl Vick, who penned the November cover story about how Israelis were too busy living the 90210 lifestyle to worry about the peace process. The biased statements and factual inaccuracies in his latest piece are honestly too numerous to go through for a line-by-line rebuttal, but here’s a brief rundown of the worst of it.

1.    It claims — without evidence — that Jawaher Abu Rahma was killed by tear gas from IDF soldiers:

Last week, after a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops, army spokesmen mounted a whisper campaign suggesting she died of natural causes. The unlikely, anonymous explanation was played prominently by Israeli newspapers. Those who said otherwise stood accused of “trying to de-legitimize the Israel Defense Forces.”

I wrote a full roundup of the IDF’s investigation into Abu Rahma’s death — which Vick nonsensically characterizes as a “whisper campaign” — here.

2.   It reports factually incorrect information about the recent NGO law passed by the Knesset and compares Israel to authoritarian states:

“Just last week, the coalition prompted cries of McCarthyism when it moved to crack down on Israeli human rights organizations deemed suspicious by a government that increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty. Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions.”

There are good reasons to oppose the NGO law, but to say that the panel was appointed to investigate groups simply because they are “critical of government actions” is completely disingenuous and inaccurate. The panel was created to examine whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization movement were being funded by foreign governments. It’s fine to disagree with such a move, as the American Jewish Committee did, but there is no need to blatantly mischaracterize it as Vick does.

3.   It quotes a historian who stops just shy of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany:

Ron Pundak, a historian who runs the Peres Center for Peace, sees the current atmosphere of Israeli politics as the ugliest in the nation’s history. “It’s totally abnormal,” he says. “From my point of view, this is reminiscent of the dark ages of different places in the world in the 1930s. Maybe not Germany, but Italy, maybe Argentina later. I fear we are reaching a slippery slope, if we are not already there.”

Yes, Time has always been renowned for its anti-Israel bias, but this article takes it to a new level. This is the type of story you’d expect to find on the Electronic Intifada — and it’s shameful that a mainstream publication is stooping to that level.

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Morning Commentary

Concern is growing over China’s advancing military capabilities. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with civilian leaders in Beijing today, Chinese bloggers and news agencies produced photos that appear to show the country’s new stealth fighter taking its first test flight: “That message undercuts the symbolism of Mr. Gates’ visit, which is designed to smooth military relations ahead of a state visit to the U.S. next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.”

The insta-politicization of the Arizona shooting — by both Twitter activists and serious political leaders — is just another example of why Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with both the Republican and Democratic parties, writes Reason’s Nick Gillespie: “How do you take one of the most shocking and revolting murder sprees in memory and make it even more disturbing? By immediately pouncing on its supposed root causes for the most transparently partisan of gains.”

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin outlines the possible replacements for the top positions on Obama’s foreign-policy team in 2011. The most likely candidates to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who is expected to step down after early next spring — are John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michele Flourney, Gates’s current undersecretary for policy; and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

The IDF is fighting back at criticism over its use of tear gas at an anti-Israel protest in Bil’in, by launching a YouTube campaign showing demonstrators throwing rocks and attempting to tear down fences at the same rally.

A former ambassador to Lebanon responds to the New York Times’s shameful fluff story about a radical Lebanese, Hezbollah-praising newspaper: “Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chair of the Pakistan ruling party and son of the late Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to keep fighting the country’s blasphemy laws after the assassination of Salman Taseer: “‘To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you,’ he said at a memorial ceremony in London for Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own security guard last week. ‘Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.’”

Concern is growing over China’s advancing military capabilities. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with civilian leaders in Beijing today, Chinese bloggers and news agencies produced photos that appear to show the country’s new stealth fighter taking its first test flight: “That message undercuts the symbolism of Mr. Gates’ visit, which is designed to smooth military relations ahead of a state visit to the U.S. next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.”

The insta-politicization of the Arizona shooting — by both Twitter activists and serious political leaders — is just another example of why Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with both the Republican and Democratic parties, writes Reason’s Nick Gillespie: “How do you take one of the most shocking and revolting murder sprees in memory and make it even more disturbing? By immediately pouncing on its supposed root causes for the most transparently partisan of gains.”

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin outlines the possible replacements for the top positions on Obama’s foreign-policy team in 2011. The most likely candidates to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who is expected to step down after early next spring — are John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michele Flourney, Gates’s current undersecretary for policy; and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

The IDF is fighting back at criticism over its use of tear gas at an anti-Israel protest in Bil’in, by launching a YouTube campaign showing demonstrators throwing rocks and attempting to tear down fences at the same rally.

A former ambassador to Lebanon responds to the New York Times’s shameful fluff story about a radical Lebanese, Hezbollah-praising newspaper: “Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chair of the Pakistan ruling party and son of the late Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to keep fighting the country’s blasphemy laws after the assassination of Salman Taseer: “‘To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you,’ he said at a memorial ceremony in London for Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own security guard last week. ‘Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.’”

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New Facts Emerge in Abu Rahma Case

The IDF has released more details of its investigation of the bizarre death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, a Palestinian woman killed near an anti-Israel rally near Bil’in. Palestinian activists have blamed her death on tear gas fired at the protest by IDF soldiers, but that claim has seemed increasingly dubious as more information has come to light.

The investigation initially found that additional medical issues were likely involved, and now the IDF has reportedly concluded that the woman died from medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital immediately after the rally:

Jawaher Abu Rahma, the woman who Palestinians claimed was killed a week and a half ago by IDF-fired tear gas during a demonstration near Bil’in, died as a result of the medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital, the commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division said on Friday.

Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon said that the IDF’s conclusion was based on new medical documents it received from the hospital which indicated that the woman received doses of different types of medication completely unrelated to tear gas inhalation.

According to previous information released by the IDF, Abu Rahma was given drugs that are typically used to treat cancer, poison, or a drug overdose. This led some to wonder whether the woman was suffering from cancer long before she was allegedly exposed to tear gas. But based on the new evidence, it doesn’t appear that cancer was what killed her.

Of course, there have been so many contradictory reports on this issue that it’s probably unwise to speculate on the true cause of her death, at least until the IDF releases its final conclusion. But it’s been obvious for a while that tear gas probably wasn’t the culprit — especially considering that Abu Rahma was reportedly about 500 meters away from the rally, and inside a house, when the non-toxic gas was fired.

But despite the growing evidence, anti-Israel activists are continuing to use the incident as a political pawn. Last Friday, activists dedicated an anti-Israel march to Abu Rahma, and others are distributing petitions in her name to ban the supposedly deadly tear gas.

The IDF has released more details of its investigation of the bizarre death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, a Palestinian woman killed near an anti-Israel rally near Bil’in. Palestinian activists have blamed her death on tear gas fired at the protest by IDF soldiers, but that claim has seemed increasingly dubious as more information has come to light.

The investigation initially found that additional medical issues were likely involved, and now the IDF has reportedly concluded that the woman died from medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital immediately after the rally:

Jawaher Abu Rahma, the woman who Palestinians claimed was killed a week and a half ago by IDF-fired tear gas during a demonstration near Bil’in, died as a result of the medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital, the commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division said on Friday.

Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon said that the IDF’s conclusion was based on new medical documents it received from the hospital which indicated that the woman received doses of different types of medication completely unrelated to tear gas inhalation.

According to previous information released by the IDF, Abu Rahma was given drugs that are typically used to treat cancer, poison, or a drug overdose. This led some to wonder whether the woman was suffering from cancer long before she was allegedly exposed to tear gas. But based on the new evidence, it doesn’t appear that cancer was what killed her.

Of course, there have been so many contradictory reports on this issue that it’s probably unwise to speculate on the true cause of her death, at least until the IDF releases its final conclusion. But it’s been obvious for a while that tear gas probably wasn’t the culprit — especially considering that Abu Rahma was reportedly about 500 meters away from the rally, and inside a house, when the non-toxic gas was fired.

But despite the growing evidence, anti-Israel activists are continuing to use the incident as a political pawn. Last Friday, activists dedicated an anti-Israel march to Abu Rahma, and others are distributing petitions in her name to ban the supposedly deadly tear gas.

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Morning Commentary

President Obama’s peace-process failure is actually a political win for both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, writes Benjamin Kerstein: “The reason for this is a simple one: It is in the interests of both these leaders to preserve the status quo. Therefore the Obama administration’s insistence on renewing negotiations was a threat. That threat, for the moment, has been alleviated. Indeed, over the last several months, the entire negotiating process amounted to little more than pantomime, with both sides making the necessary gestures at progress while supplying the necessary obstacles to ensure that progress would not actually happen.”

Chile became the seventh South American country to recognize Palestine as an official state in the past month. The move is part of a campaign by the Palestinian Authority to take unilateral steps toward statehood and build pressure on the Israeli government.

“It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots,” said 20-year-old Daniel Hernandez. “But people needed help.” In the midst of the nonstop media coverage of the deranged Arizona gunman, take a minute to read the story of the courageous congressional intern who may just have saved Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s life.

As Rep. Giffords fights for her life in Arizona, friends and colleagues discuss her career as a “rising star” in Congress: “She always had that ‘it’ factor, that something extra that drew people to her,” [Michael Frias, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick aide] said. “Plenty of people succeed in politics, but you only meet a small few that have that extra spark. She’s the real deal. She’s Annie Oakley. Anything you can do, she can do better.”

And now the inevitable call to beef up security for members of Congress begins: “In many ways, the unprovoked shooting spree at a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event at a supermarket just north of Tucson was a terrifying nightmare come to life for elected officials who frequently find themselves face-to-face in uncomfortable conversations with angry and, at times, aggressive constituents. Rank-and-file lawmakers typically do not travel with security, and local police often are unaware of or do not send officers to their events.”

The Israeli government has approved a new law meant to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the IDF. While the proposal is meant to double the IDF’s haredim membership by 2015, some Kadima Party politicians who oppose the legislation claim that loopholes in the law will actually make it easier to evade service.

President Obama’s peace-process failure is actually a political win for both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, writes Benjamin Kerstein: “The reason for this is a simple one: It is in the interests of both these leaders to preserve the status quo. Therefore the Obama administration’s insistence on renewing negotiations was a threat. That threat, for the moment, has been alleviated. Indeed, over the last several months, the entire negotiating process amounted to little more than pantomime, with both sides making the necessary gestures at progress while supplying the necessary obstacles to ensure that progress would not actually happen.”

Chile became the seventh South American country to recognize Palestine as an official state in the past month. The move is part of a campaign by the Palestinian Authority to take unilateral steps toward statehood and build pressure on the Israeli government.

“It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots,” said 20-year-old Daniel Hernandez. “But people needed help.” In the midst of the nonstop media coverage of the deranged Arizona gunman, take a minute to read the story of the courageous congressional intern who may just have saved Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s life.

As Rep. Giffords fights for her life in Arizona, friends and colleagues discuss her career as a “rising star” in Congress: “She always had that ‘it’ factor, that something extra that drew people to her,” [Michael Frias, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick aide] said. “Plenty of people succeed in politics, but you only meet a small few that have that extra spark. She’s the real deal. She’s Annie Oakley. Anything you can do, she can do better.”

And now the inevitable call to beef up security for members of Congress begins: “In many ways, the unprovoked shooting spree at a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event at a supermarket just north of Tucson was a terrifying nightmare come to life for elected officials who frequently find themselves face-to-face in uncomfortable conversations with angry and, at times, aggressive constituents. Rank-and-file lawmakers typically do not travel with security, and local police often are unaware of or do not send officers to their events.”

The Israeli government has approved a new law meant to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the IDF. While the proposal is meant to double the IDF’s haredim membership by 2015, some Kadima Party politicians who oppose the legislation claim that loopholes in the law will actually make it easier to evade service.

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Is Israel’s Controversial NGO Law Simply a ‘Foreign Agent Registration Act’?

Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, has written a persuasive defense of the Knesset’s new inquiry panel that will investigate whether Israeli NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement are funded by foreign governments. Critics of the initiative have compared it to McCarthyism and say that it unfairly targets groups for their political beliefs. But Ayalon argues that the law is no different from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act:

The Knesset panel of inquiry is simply about transparency. If there are groups who receive funds from foreign nations then the Israeli public deserves the right to know. Some voices have mistakenly declared that this type of inquiry is reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act which is, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

But while FARA laws apply equally to all individuals and organizations, regardless of political affiliation, it’s unclear whether Israel’s new law will apply only to groups involved in the delegitimization movement. Plus, FARA rules put the onus on foreign agents to register and disclose their own affiliations, while the whole concept of an investigative government panel is much more proactive. The American Jewish Committee, which normally doesn’t comment on Israeli domestic policy, issued a harsh criticism of the new initiative yesterday.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a press release. “If there is a concern that foreign, and possibly malign, forces are funding civic or political groups in Israel, then let there be a debate on the advisability of requiring full disclosure of the revenues, and their sources, of all such groups across the political spectrum.”

I definitely applaud the idea of a FARA law for Israel, but I agree with the AJC that the policy shouldn’t be based on the politics of the organization. News reports have indicated that the law singles out left-wing delegitimization groups; but from Ayalon’s defense, I get the sense that it applies to all NGOs. Of course, the Knesset obviously doesn’t have time to investigate every NGO in Israel, and I’m sure politics will play a sizable role in which organizations ultimately get scrutinized.

Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, has written a persuasive defense of the Knesset’s new inquiry panel that will investigate whether Israeli NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement are funded by foreign governments. Critics of the initiative have compared it to McCarthyism and say that it unfairly targets groups for their political beliefs. But Ayalon argues that the law is no different from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act:

The Knesset panel of inquiry is simply about transparency. If there are groups who receive funds from foreign nations then the Israeli public deserves the right to know. Some voices have mistakenly declared that this type of inquiry is reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act which is, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

But while FARA laws apply equally to all individuals and organizations, regardless of political affiliation, it’s unclear whether Israel’s new law will apply only to groups involved in the delegitimization movement. Plus, FARA rules put the onus on foreign agents to register and disclose their own affiliations, while the whole concept of an investigative government panel is much more proactive. The American Jewish Committee, which normally doesn’t comment on Israeli domestic policy, issued a harsh criticism of the new initiative yesterday.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a press release. “If there is a concern that foreign, and possibly malign, forces are funding civic or political groups in Israel, then let there be a debate on the advisability of requiring full disclosure of the revenues, and their sources, of all such groups across the political spectrum.”

I definitely applaud the idea of a FARA law for Israel, but I agree with the AJC that the policy shouldn’t be based on the politics of the organization. News reports have indicated that the law singles out left-wing delegitimization groups; but from Ayalon’s defense, I get the sense that it applies to all NGOs. Of course, the Knesset obviously doesn’t have time to investigate every NGO in Israel, and I’m sure politics will play a sizable role in which organizations ultimately get scrutinized.

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Did the Media Get Played by New ‘Pallywood’ Hoax?

The reports of a Palestinian activist who allegedly died from inhaling IDF tear gas at a pro-Palestinian demonstration have sparked an outpouring of condemnation from the international community. But it looks like the story — or at least the version told by Palestinian activists — may have been a total fabrication. An IDF investigation revealed multiple inconsistencies in the woman’s medical report, and some officials now believe she may have been terminally ill long before the rally began:

Military sources said, however, that there was no evidence that Abu Rahmah even participated in Friday’s demonstration against the security barrier in Bil’in — nor that she died from inhaling tear gas.

Following repeated requests from Israel’s defense establishment, the Palestinian Authority on Monday turned over the medical report on Abu Rahmah’s death. IDF officials say the medical report contradicts the family’s version of events.

According to information obtained by Haaretz from Palestinian medical sources, in the weeks before Abu Rahmah’s death she was taking drugs prescribed for a medical condition. It is not known whether these drugs, combined with the tear gas and the “skunk bombs” used by the soldiers, could have caused her death.

Her family says Abu Rahmah’s death was caused by the Israel Defense Forces’ use of a particularly lethal type of tear gas, but they cannot explain why other demonstrators affected by the tear gas did not need medical care.

Rahmah’s brother also confirmed that she had been suffering health problems in the weeks leading up to the rally:

Abu Rahmah’s brother Samir said that for several weeks his sister had complained of bad headaches, mainly near one ear. He said she also had dizzy spells and problems keeping her balance and had unusual marks on her skin.

Whatever the cause of Rahmah’s death, it’s extremely premature to blame the IDF’s use of tear gas, to say the least. This case holds a striking resemblance to the 2000 Al Dura case, where the shooting of a young Palestinian boy was falsely blamed on the IDF. In light of that incident — and other similar “Pallywood” (Palestinian + Hollywood) hoaxes — the media should treat reports like this with proper scrutiny. Read More

The reports of a Palestinian activist who allegedly died from inhaling IDF tear gas at a pro-Palestinian demonstration have sparked an outpouring of condemnation from the international community. But it looks like the story — or at least the version told by Palestinian activists — may have been a total fabrication. An IDF investigation revealed multiple inconsistencies in the woman’s medical report, and some officials now believe she may have been terminally ill long before the rally began:

Military sources said, however, that there was no evidence that Abu Rahmah even participated in Friday’s demonstration against the security barrier in Bil’in — nor that she died from inhaling tear gas.

Following repeated requests from Israel’s defense establishment, the Palestinian Authority on Monday turned over the medical report on Abu Rahmah’s death. IDF officials say the medical report contradicts the family’s version of events.

According to information obtained by Haaretz from Palestinian medical sources, in the weeks before Abu Rahmah’s death she was taking drugs prescribed for a medical condition. It is not known whether these drugs, combined with the tear gas and the “skunk bombs” used by the soldiers, could have caused her death.

Her family says Abu Rahmah’s death was caused by the Israel Defense Forces’ use of a particularly lethal type of tear gas, but they cannot explain why other demonstrators affected by the tear gas did not need medical care.

Rahmah’s brother also confirmed that she had been suffering health problems in the weeks leading up to the rally:

Abu Rahmah’s brother Samir said that for several weeks his sister had complained of bad headaches, mainly near one ear. He said she also had dizzy spells and problems keeping her balance and had unusual marks on her skin.

Whatever the cause of Rahmah’s death, it’s extremely premature to blame the IDF’s use of tear gas, to say the least. This case holds a striking resemblance to the 2000 Al Dura case, where the shooting of a young Palestinian boy was falsely blamed on the IDF. In light of that incident — and other similar “Pallywood” (Palestinian + Hollywood) hoaxes — the media should treat reports like this with proper scrutiny.

Of course, it’s far too much to ask for some news outlets to behave responsibly, especially when it comes to demonizing Israel. One of the worst offenders on the Rahmah story was the NYT’s Isabel Kershner, who unquestioningly regurgitated the claims of Palestinian activists in an article headlined “Tear Gas Kills Palestinian Protester”:

A Palestinian woman died Saturday after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces a day earlier at a protest against Israel’s separation barrier in a West Bank village.

A hospital director, Dr. Muhammad Aideh, said the woman had arrived on Friday suffering from tear-gas asphyxiation and died despite hours of treatment.

The article didn’t question why one protester would die from non-toxic tear gas in an open, outdoor space while the hundreds of people around her remained unharmed. There was also apparently no attempt to get a comment on the death from any official Israeli sources.

Other outlets that blindly swallowed the original story were the Washington Post and the JTA.

But it wasn’t just the media that hyped the original allegations. Multiple NGOs were also quick to issue premature condemnations of Israel, according to NGO Monitor.

“NGO officials and media outlets made serious allegations about Jawaher Abu-Rahmah’s death, without verifying claims or checking the many inconsistencies in the reports,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, in an e-mailed press release. “We again see that NGOs issue statements and condemnations consistent with their own political agendas, but lack the ability to verify any of the details.” Some of these groups included B’Tselem, Yesh Din, and Physicians for Human Rights in Israel.

The fact that so many organizations and media outlets jumped the gun on this issue is revealing. They’re obviously eager, for whatever reason, to attack Israel whenever possible, no matter how shoddy the allegations. An immediate correction should be demanded from the New York Times and any other publication that picked up the original story.

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Should We Feel Encouraged About an Iranian Nuke in Three Years?

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, caused something of a stir on Wednesday when he told Israel Radio that he believed Iran would be capable of creating a nuclear weapon within three years. But as alarming as that may sound, it seems that Ya’alon, the former IDF chief of staff who currently also serves as strategic affairs minister, was sounding a note of optimism, since he credited the delay to “technological difficulties.”

This is being widely interpreted as meaning the Israelis believe the Stuxnet virus has dealt the Iranian nuclear program a serious setback. On Fox News, John Bolton speculated that this statement may mean “Stuxnet worked better than some of us thought.” While the former UN ambassador admitted that it was “hard to know the truth” about the state of Iran’s progress toward a nuclear capability, he said the one thing we do know about their program is “that they are determined” to achieve it.

Given that we know very little about Stuxnet or any other covert action undertaken by either the United States or Israel, it’s difficult to assess the current level of danger of an Iranian breakthrough. It may be that Israel is trying to dampen speculation about an imminent IDF attack on Iranian targets, but it is not clear whether such an attack would be launched in the face of almost certain American opposition.

While some may take comfort from Ya’alon’s statement, it is not exactly encouraging to know that, in spite of all the difficulties they have encountered, Iran is likely to be in possession of a nuclear weapon by the end of 2013. Even if we believe that Stuxnet has been a success, all it has accomplished is to push off the day of reckoning, and not by all that much. We already know that diplomacy won’t work; that serious sanctions are unlikely to ever gain international support; and, as we learned last week, that even the United States is not enforcing those sanctions against Iran that are already in place.

Bolton noted that “the Iranians have zero fear” of an American attack on their nuclear facilities so long as Barack Obama is president, and he is almost certainly right about that. The Iranians have taken Obama’s measure in the last two years, and their actions speak volumes about their lack of respect for the president and their belief that he is not to be taken seriously as a world leader. They have mocked U.S. efforts at diplomacy and disregarded America’s half-hearted attempts to mobilize world opinion against Tehran. So even if the virus or other clandestine operations have hampered the Iranians, the mullahs and Ahmadinejad have good reason to feel optimistic about their chances of ultimate success. If the best face we can put on this problem is the certain knowledge that in the absence of a U.S. and/or Israeli attack, an Iranian bomb will exist in three years, the Ya’alon announcement is no cause for celebration.

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, caused something of a stir on Wednesday when he told Israel Radio that he believed Iran would be capable of creating a nuclear weapon within three years. But as alarming as that may sound, it seems that Ya’alon, the former IDF chief of staff who currently also serves as strategic affairs minister, was sounding a note of optimism, since he credited the delay to “technological difficulties.”

This is being widely interpreted as meaning the Israelis believe the Stuxnet virus has dealt the Iranian nuclear program a serious setback. On Fox News, John Bolton speculated that this statement may mean “Stuxnet worked better than some of us thought.” While the former UN ambassador admitted that it was “hard to know the truth” about the state of Iran’s progress toward a nuclear capability, he said the one thing we do know about their program is “that they are determined” to achieve it.

Given that we know very little about Stuxnet or any other covert action undertaken by either the United States or Israel, it’s difficult to assess the current level of danger of an Iranian breakthrough. It may be that Israel is trying to dampen speculation about an imminent IDF attack on Iranian targets, but it is not clear whether such an attack would be launched in the face of almost certain American opposition.

While some may take comfort from Ya’alon’s statement, it is not exactly encouraging to know that, in spite of all the difficulties they have encountered, Iran is likely to be in possession of a nuclear weapon by the end of 2013. Even if we believe that Stuxnet has been a success, all it has accomplished is to push off the day of reckoning, and not by all that much. We already know that diplomacy won’t work; that serious sanctions are unlikely to ever gain international support; and, as we learned last week, that even the United States is not enforcing those sanctions against Iran that are already in place.

Bolton noted that “the Iranians have zero fear” of an American attack on their nuclear facilities so long as Barack Obama is president, and he is almost certainly right about that. The Iranians have taken Obama’s measure in the last two years, and their actions speak volumes about their lack of respect for the president and their belief that he is not to be taken seriously as a world leader. They have mocked U.S. efforts at diplomacy and disregarded America’s half-hearted attempts to mobilize world opinion against Tehran. So even if the virus or other clandestine operations have hampered the Iranians, the mullahs and Ahmadinejad have good reason to feel optimistic about their chances of ultimate success. If the best face we can put on this problem is the certain knowledge that in the absence of a U.S. and/or Israeli attack, an Iranian bomb will exist in three years, the Ya’alon announcement is no cause for celebration.

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Goldstone Book Author: Critics Refuse to ‘Discuss the Contents of the Report’

Here is Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of the upcoming book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, in next week’s Forward (sneering italics in the original, bold in mine):

Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout. … From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report. … Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it. But their strategy was complicated from the start by an inconvenient truth: Goldstone was one of them — a Jew, and not just any Jew, an exemplary one.

And here is a screenshot of “Understanding the Goldstone Report,” a project spearheaded by Richard Landes of Pallywood fame, where more than a dozen journalists and bloggers (myself included) picked apart the report paragraph by paragraph and often sentence by sentence. I’ve unscrolled the “Case Study” category on the menu bar to show where some of the distinct accusations — “the contents of the report” — were dealt with specifically. Read More

Here is Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of the upcoming book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, in next week’s Forward (sneering italics in the original, bold in mine):

Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout. … From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report. … Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it. But their strategy was complicated from the start by an inconvenient truth: Goldstone was one of them — a Jew, and not just any Jew, an exemplary one.

And here is a screenshot of “Understanding the Goldstone Report,” a project spearheaded by Richard Landes of Pallywood fame, where more than a dozen journalists and bloggers (myself included) picked apart the report paragraph by paragraph and often sentence by sentence. I’ve unscrolled the “Case Study” category on the menu bar to show where some of the distinct accusations — “the contents of the report” — were dealt with specifically.

goldstonereportorg_500

There are also pages documenting the broad procedural flaws of the investigation, the caliber of individual witnesses, the importance of concealed evidence, the role of anti-Israel mediators, the dynamics of human-shield accusations, plus about 30 other issues. Yet another section, maintained by Daled Amos, served as a clearinghouse for criticisms posted on related blogs, like Elder of Ziyon, which alone had more than 25 Goldstone-related posts digging through the text of the report.

In size and scope, the site rivals the IDF’s comprehensive Goldstone rebuttal — another document that, by the by, directly rebutted “the contents of the report.” It has so much material and is so on-point, in fact, that it’s the top result on Google for “goldstone report.” It ranks higher than the .pdf of the actual Goldstone Report, which continues to be the focus of an international anti-Israel feeding frenzy. SEO tricks might give a site a slight advantage on Google, but nothing can push irrelevant content to the very top of a very crowded field.

So one theory suggests that Pogrebin, in preparing for her book, never went so far as to type “goldstone report” into Google. Could be, and it’s something to bear in mind when her book inevitable gets cited as a definitive anti-Israel treatise.

Another theory holds that she found “Understanding the Goldstone Report” but has an idiosyncratic yet fortuitously self-serving interpretation of what counts as discussing “the contents of the report.” Maybe, though that wouldn’t bode well for her book’s relevance.

And then there’s the theory that Goldstone, Pogrebin, and their ilk willfully overlook substantive criticisms of the UN-sponsored blood libel lest they have to answer them. That, too, has the ring of plausibility and may warrant consideration.

All those theories aside, you do have to appreciate the formulation of the article’s opening sentence: “Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout.” Coming from the Goldstone crowd and from someone publishing a Goldstone-related book, this is the equivalent of setting a house on fire and then demurely mentioning that people are struggling to deal with the flames. How observant!

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Everyone Does Not Know What Everyone Supposedly Knows

For more than a decade, the guiding principle of the peace process has been that “everyone knows” what peace will look like: a Palestinian state on roughly the 1967 lines, with land swaps for the major Israeli settlement blocs, a shared Jerusalem, international compensation for the Palestinian refugees, and a “right of return” to the new Palestinian state rather than Israel.

A new poll conducted jointly by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace shows that the Palestinian public opposes such a solution by a lopsided majority.

The poll presented a package modeled on the Clinton Parameters: (1) an Israeli withdrawal from more than 97 percent of the West Bank and a land swap for the remaining 2-3 percent; (2) a Palestinian state with a “strong security force” but no army, with a multinational force to ensure security; (3) Palestinian sovereignty over land, water, and airspace, but an Israeli right to use the airspace for training purposes and to maintain two West Bank early-warning stations for 15 years; (4) a capital in East Jerusalem and sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods and the Old City (other than the Jewish Quarter and the “Wailing Wall”); and (5) a “right of return” for refugees to the new state and compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property.

The package was opposed by 58 percent of the Palestinians, with only 40 percent favoring it.

It was not a case of one or more individual elements in the package causing a problem. Each of the five elements was polled separately; not one of them commanded majority support.

Writing today in Yediot Aharonot, Sever Plocker asserts that while most Israelis are prepared to support a Palestinian state, they have in mind a state “not much different from the Palestinian Authority that exists today.”

Ask now in a poll how many Israelis are ready for the evacuation of 150-200,000 settlers from Judea and Samaria, an IDF withdrawal from bases in the Jordan Valley, the deployment of Palestinian border police between Kalkilya and Kfar Saba, a new border in Jerusalem and turning the territories into a foreign country that will absorb hundreds of thousands of militant refugees from the camps in Lebanon – and see how the numbers of those who support a “two-state solution” drop to near zero.

Interestingly, the new poll showed that Israelis supported the hypothetical package by 52 percent to 39 percent, demonstrating that a majority or plurality of Israelis (the poll has a 4.5 percent margin of error) would support a demilitarized Palestinian state, as long as the IDF is empowered to keep it that way, the state does not assert a “right of return” to Israel, and there is a land swap that does not require the mass uprooting of Israelis from their homes. Plocker’s assertion may show, however, that a lot depends on how polling questions are framed, and the implications of flooding the West Bank with refugees (as opposed to resettling them where most have lived all their lives) deserve further study.

But all this is hypothetical. The Palestinians rejected the Clinton Parameters in 2000 and effectively rejected them again in 2008 in the Annapolis Process. The new poll makes it clear they would reject them a third time, despite what “everyone knows.”

For more than a decade, the guiding principle of the peace process has been that “everyone knows” what peace will look like: a Palestinian state on roughly the 1967 lines, with land swaps for the major Israeli settlement blocs, a shared Jerusalem, international compensation for the Palestinian refugees, and a “right of return” to the new Palestinian state rather than Israel.

A new poll conducted jointly by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace shows that the Palestinian public opposes such a solution by a lopsided majority.

The poll presented a package modeled on the Clinton Parameters: (1) an Israeli withdrawal from more than 97 percent of the West Bank and a land swap for the remaining 2-3 percent; (2) a Palestinian state with a “strong security force” but no army, with a multinational force to ensure security; (3) Palestinian sovereignty over land, water, and airspace, but an Israeli right to use the airspace for training purposes and to maintain two West Bank early-warning stations for 15 years; (4) a capital in East Jerusalem and sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods and the Old City (other than the Jewish Quarter and the “Wailing Wall”); and (5) a “right of return” for refugees to the new state and compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property.

The package was opposed by 58 percent of the Palestinians, with only 40 percent favoring it.

It was not a case of one or more individual elements in the package causing a problem. Each of the five elements was polled separately; not one of them commanded majority support.

Writing today in Yediot Aharonot, Sever Plocker asserts that while most Israelis are prepared to support a Palestinian state, they have in mind a state “not much different from the Palestinian Authority that exists today.”

Ask now in a poll how many Israelis are ready for the evacuation of 150-200,000 settlers from Judea and Samaria, an IDF withdrawal from bases in the Jordan Valley, the deployment of Palestinian border police between Kalkilya and Kfar Saba, a new border in Jerusalem and turning the territories into a foreign country that will absorb hundreds of thousands of militant refugees from the camps in Lebanon – and see how the numbers of those who support a “two-state solution” drop to near zero.

Interestingly, the new poll showed that Israelis supported the hypothetical package by 52 percent to 39 percent, demonstrating that a majority or plurality of Israelis (the poll has a 4.5 percent margin of error) would support a demilitarized Palestinian state, as long as the IDF is empowered to keep it that way, the state does not assert a “right of return” to Israel, and there is a land swap that does not require the mass uprooting of Israelis from their homes. Plocker’s assertion may show, however, that a lot depends on how polling questions are framed, and the implications of flooding the West Bank with refugees (as opposed to resettling them where most have lived all their lives) deserve further study.

But all this is hypothetical. The Palestinians rejected the Clinton Parameters in 2000 and effectively rejected them again in 2008 in the Annapolis Process. The new poll makes it clear they would reject them a third time, despite what “everyone knows.”

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Anti-Israel Website Indirectly Funded by Dutch Government

The next time you come across an Electronic Intifada article alleging some devious Israeli plot to annex Palestinian olive groves, direct your eye-rolls toward The Hague. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Dutch government may have been unwittingly helping to finance the radical anti-Israel website for years.

The Post reported Friday that the Electronic Intifada is funded by the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, which is apparently being subsidized quite heavily by the Dutch government and the European Union:

The Dutch government has been funding the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, a Dutch aid organization that finances the Electronic Intifada website that, NGO Monitor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, is anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime.

NGO Monitor’s exposure of Dutch government funding for the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) prompted Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal to say on Thursday, “I will look into the matter personally. If it appears that the government subsidized NGO ICCO does fund Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me.”

The Post reports that the Dutch government provided €124 million to the ICCO in 2008, which the NGO Monitor says makes up 90 percent of the group’s budget. The European Union reportedly contributed another 6 percent.

The Electronic Intifada is one of the most prominent peddlers of anti-Israel demagoguery on the English-speaking Web. Founded and run by Ali Abunimah, its articles promote a one-state solution, accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” and regularly compare the Jewish state to Nazi Germany. Abunimah has also published the personal information of IDF soldiers, including home addresses.

Anti-Semitism is punishable by law in the Netherlands, and the Dutch foreign ministry said that the public prosecutor will look into whether the ICCO’s financing of the Electronic Intifada constitutes the promotion of anti-Semitism.

Random musing: If even the Dutch government thinks the Electronic Intifada is toxic, what does that say about the New York Times, which has published Abunimah’s columns and quoted him in news articles as an objective expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The next time you come across an Electronic Intifada article alleging some devious Israeli plot to annex Palestinian olive groves, direct your eye-rolls toward The Hague. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Dutch government may have been unwittingly helping to finance the radical anti-Israel website for years.

The Post reported Friday that the Electronic Intifada is funded by the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, which is apparently being subsidized quite heavily by the Dutch government and the European Union:

The Dutch government has been funding the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, a Dutch aid organization that finances the Electronic Intifada website that, NGO Monitor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, is anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime.

NGO Monitor’s exposure of Dutch government funding for the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) prompted Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal to say on Thursday, “I will look into the matter personally. If it appears that the government subsidized NGO ICCO does fund Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me.”

The Post reports that the Dutch government provided €124 million to the ICCO in 2008, which the NGO Monitor says makes up 90 percent of the group’s budget. The European Union reportedly contributed another 6 percent.

The Electronic Intifada is one of the most prominent peddlers of anti-Israel demagoguery on the English-speaking Web. Founded and run by Ali Abunimah, its articles promote a one-state solution, accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” and regularly compare the Jewish state to Nazi Germany. Abunimah has also published the personal information of IDF soldiers, including home addresses.

Anti-Semitism is punishable by law in the Netherlands, and the Dutch foreign ministry said that the public prosecutor will look into whether the ICCO’s financing of the Electronic Intifada constitutes the promotion of anti-Semitism.

Random musing: If even the Dutch government thinks the Electronic Intifada is toxic, what does that say about the New York Times, which has published Abunimah’s columns and quoted him in news articles as an objective expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

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The BDS Movement’s War on Hummus

As I wrote last week, the U.S. version of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been a resounding failure since its inception. Even the most radical college campuses have ignored its calls to divest from Israel.

Apparently realizing that traditional boycotts haven’t caught on, some BDS activists at Princeton University have launched a new campaign to increase “consumer choice” in the college food court. They say they want to expand the number of hummus brands sold on campus, arguing that the current product, Sabra, supports “crimes” against Palestinians:

The Princeton Committee on Palestine has sponsored a referendum in next week’s USG elections that asks Dining Services to sell an alternative to Sabra hummus in all its retail locations on campus.

PCP started a petition in support of the referendum last Thursday. More than 200 students have signed it, the threshold for getting a referendum on the ballot.

“The Princeton Committee on Palestine objects to the fact that Sabra is the only hummus brand that is offered in most University stores and that students who wish to eat this traditional Arab food are forced to buy a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians,” [PCP President Yoel] Bitran wrote in a statement concerning the issue.

“This lack of choice is particularly egregious and violent for Princetonians of Arab descent, who cannot eat the food that is quintessential to their culture unless they are willing to support crimes against their own people,” the statement continued.

According to BDS activists, Sabra contributes to “human rights violations” against Palestinians, since it is partially owned by a company that supports the IDF.

I see no problem with increasing the options of hummus brands at a university, but that’s not what this campaign is about — it’s about creating the false impression that Princeton students support the de-legitimization of Israel. Students voting on the referendum may not even realize that it has anything to do with the divestment movement, since its vague wording contains no hint of a political motive. The referendum reads that, “On behalf of the student body, the USG will make a formal recommendation to University Dining Services that it offer an alternative to Sabra hummus in all University retail locations.”

Despite the deceptive language, it looks like there is still a pretty sizable campus opposition to the referendum. A pro-Israel group called the Tigers for Israel has created a Facebook group opposing it, which had nearly 2,000 members as of last week.

And even though this campaign isn’t an actual boycott, expect BDS activists to make overblown claims about Princeton’s successful “divestment” from Israel if the referendum actually passes. Over at MondoWeiss, Adam Horowitz has already declared “another win” for the BDS movement, after DuPaul University announced that it would stop selling Sabra two weeks ago. (Alas, his enthusiasm was premature, as the school reinstated the sale of the hummus a few days later).

As I wrote last week, the U.S. version of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been a resounding failure since its inception. Even the most radical college campuses have ignored its calls to divest from Israel.

Apparently realizing that traditional boycotts haven’t caught on, some BDS activists at Princeton University have launched a new campaign to increase “consumer choice” in the college food court. They say they want to expand the number of hummus brands sold on campus, arguing that the current product, Sabra, supports “crimes” against Palestinians:

The Princeton Committee on Palestine has sponsored a referendum in next week’s USG elections that asks Dining Services to sell an alternative to Sabra hummus in all its retail locations on campus.

PCP started a petition in support of the referendum last Thursday. More than 200 students have signed it, the threshold for getting a referendum on the ballot.

“The Princeton Committee on Palestine objects to the fact that Sabra is the only hummus brand that is offered in most University stores and that students who wish to eat this traditional Arab food are forced to buy a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians,” [PCP President Yoel] Bitran wrote in a statement concerning the issue.

“This lack of choice is particularly egregious and violent for Princetonians of Arab descent, who cannot eat the food that is quintessential to their culture unless they are willing to support crimes against their own people,” the statement continued.

According to BDS activists, Sabra contributes to “human rights violations” against Palestinians, since it is partially owned by a company that supports the IDF.

I see no problem with increasing the options of hummus brands at a university, but that’s not what this campaign is about — it’s about creating the false impression that Princeton students support the de-legitimization of Israel. Students voting on the referendum may not even realize that it has anything to do with the divestment movement, since its vague wording contains no hint of a political motive. The referendum reads that, “On behalf of the student body, the USG will make a formal recommendation to University Dining Services that it offer an alternative to Sabra hummus in all University retail locations.”

Despite the deceptive language, it looks like there is still a pretty sizable campus opposition to the referendum. A pro-Israel group called the Tigers for Israel has created a Facebook group opposing it, which had nearly 2,000 members as of last week.

And even though this campaign isn’t an actual boycott, expect BDS activists to make overblown claims about Princeton’s successful “divestment” from Israel if the referendum actually passes. Over at MondoWeiss, Adam Horowitz has already declared “another win” for the BDS movement, after DuPaul University announced that it would stop selling Sabra two weeks ago. (Alas, his enthusiasm was premature, as the school reinstated the sale of the hummus a few days later).

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