Commentary Magazine


Topic: Israel

Steven Salaita Sues

I have written here before about the case of Steven Salaita. The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign withdrew its offer of a tenured position in American Indian Studies to Salaita, an offer that had always been contingent on the approval of the Board of Trustees. That happened in August, after a series of disgusting public statements by Salaita, including one that wished Jewish settlers dead, came to the attention of the administration and the board. Salaita has now, not surprisingly, sued, hoping to compel the university to hire him. The university has announced that it will defend itself against Salaita’s “meritless claims” and has restated its position that “Dr. Salaita lacks the judgment, temperament and thoughtfulness to serve as a member of our faculty in any capacity, but particularly to teach courses related to the Middle East.”

Read More

I have written here before about the case of Steven Salaita. The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign withdrew its offer of a tenured position in American Indian Studies to Salaita, an offer that had always been contingent on the approval of the Board of Trustees. That happened in August, after a series of disgusting public statements by Salaita, including one that wished Jewish settlers dead, came to the attention of the administration and the board. Salaita has now, not surprisingly, sued, hoping to compel the university to hire him. The university has announced that it will defend itself against Salaita’s “meritless claims” and has restated its position that “Dr. Salaita lacks the judgment, temperament and thoughtfulness to serve as a member of our faculty in any capacity, but particularly to teach courses related to the Middle East.”

It is a legitimate matter of controversy whether the University of Illinois, for which trustee approval of faculty appointments is so routine that it frequently occurs after the prospective hire has already started teaching, is liable, as a matter of contract law, for some of the losses Salaita suffered as a result of U of I’s actions. But Salaita is not just suing the University of Illinois. He is also suing unnamed donors to the University of Illinois.

It has long been a contention of Salaita’s supporters that he was undone not by his own recklessness but by wealthy (read: Jewish) donors who pressured the university to dump him. There is no question that a few people claiming to be large donors, along with many other students and alums, objected strenuously in writing to the hire of Salaita. Those few also suggested that they would stop supporting the university if it persisted in hiring Salaita. Chancellor Phyllis Wise also met with at least two donors who wanted to discuss Salaita with her. The complaint, however, offers no evidence that donor influence was decisive. Indeed, team Salaita’s smoking gun is a meeting that took place between a donor and Wise the day Wise issued a letter to Salaita informing him that she would not be sending his appointment to the board. But, as the complaint acknowledges, the board had already decided to “support a decision to terminate Salaita’s appointment” a full week before the meeting in question.

From these letters and meetings Salaita’s lawyers make out a complaint that the donors and administrators “conspired to accomplish an unlawful purpose by unlawful means.” Moreover, the complaint charges that the donors, who “had knowledge of the university’s contract with Professor Salaita and their commitment to complete his appointment,” are liable, under Illinois law, for “tortious interference with contractual and business relations.”

I am not a lawyer, but it does not take a lawyer to see that these charges are baseless. To prove the conspiracy charge, Salaita’s lawyers would have to show that the donor and administrator defendants reached an agreement and acted in concert to deprive Salaita of his rights. Though the complaint alleges precisely this, it does not even attempt to present evidence of agreement or concerted action. It is preposterous to describe the donors who complained about Salaita and the administrators and trustees who ultimately decided to part ways with him as engaged in a conspiracy. As for tortious interference, with contractual relations, the plaintiffs under Illinois law would presumably have to show, among other things, “(1) the existence of a valid and enforceable contract between the plaintiff and another; (2) the defendant’s awareness of the contractual relationship; (3) the defendant’s intentional and unjustified inducement of a breach of the contract; (4) a subsequent breach by the other caused by the defendant’s wrongful conduct.” But in this case, whether Salaita had an enforceable contract at all, in the absence of approval by the Board of Trustees, is a matter of dispute among legal experts.

Even in the case of tortious interference with business relations, on which the lawyers do not focus, the plaintiff would have to establish that the interference was independently wrongful conduct. Although Salaita’s lawyers would like to establish that threatening to stop providing charitable contributions to an organization is intimidation under the law, it hardly seems likely that they will be able to do so.

Presumably, Salaita’s lawyers want to send a message to donors; don’t demand anything of the colleges and universities to which you donate. Even someone who thinks, as I do, that colleges and universities should not allow donor pressure to influence their decisions on curricular or personnel matters, cannot but be struck by the audacity of Salaita and his radical supporters. It is as if they are saying not only to colleges and universities, where they rightly enjoy academic freedom, but also to society at large: “I loathe you and seek to destroy you. Now pay me.”

Perhaps philosophy and law professor Brian Leiter is right that the Salaita team is counting on the fact that even weaker elements of the complaint, if they survive the expected motion to dismiss, will allow discovery, requiring the university to disclose things about its interactions with donors it would rather not disclose. That prospect may induce U of I to settle with Salaita on more favorable terms than it is presently willing to offer him. May the court put a stop to it.

Read Less

America’s Anti-Israeli President

I wanted to add to Jonathan’s post on President Obama and Israel, but perhaps sharpen some points just a bit.

Read More

I wanted to add to Jonathan’s post on President Obama and Israel, but perhaps sharpen some points just a bit.

The Obama administration is unusually petty and sophomoric. The attacks leveled against Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, are part of a troubling pattern in which officials in the Israeli government–including and especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu–are vilified.

No world leader has been treated by President Obama and his administration with the contempt they have shown Prime Minister Netanyahu–from this snub in 2010 to being called a “coward” and “chickens*** prime minister” by senior administration officials.

But the problem goes much deeper than a personality clash. President Obama is, quite simply, anti-Israel. In every conceivable situation and circumstance, the president and his aides give the benefit of the doubt not to Israel but to its enemies. This despite the fact that Israel is among America’s longest and best allies, democratic, lawful, takes exquisite steps to prevent civilian deaths in nations committed to destroying it, and has made extraordinary sacrifices for peace. No matter; the pressure that’s applied is always applied most against Israel–even when, as in last year’s conflict with Hamas, Israel was the victim of lethal attacks.

This is morally shameful. In a world filled with despotic leaders and sadistic and ruthless regimes–North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, and on and on–which nation alone does Mr. Obama become “enraged” at? Which is the object of his disdain? Which provokes his white-hot anger?

Answer: Israel. Has it struck you, as it has struck me, that with every other nation, including the most repressive and anti-American on earth, Mr. Obama is careful never to give offense, to always extend the olive branch, and to treat their leaders with unusual deference and respect? Except for the Jewish State of Israel. It always seems to be in the Obama crosshair.

Because this attitude is so detached from objective circumstances and the actions of Israel and the actions of the adversaries of Israel, something else–and something rather disquieting–is going on here. Mr. Obama wouldn’t be the first world leader to have an irrational animus against Israel. He’s not even the first American president to have an irrational animus against Israel. (See: Jimmy Carter.) But it is fair to say, I think, that no American president has been this consistently hostile to Israel while in office or shown such palpable anger and scorn for it and for Israel’s leader.

Perhaps given President Obama’s history–including his intimate, 20-year relationship with the anti-Semitic minister Jeremiah Wright–this shouldn’t come as a surprise. But that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

Read Less

Outsourcing Israel’s Security to Peacekeepers

Following yesterday’s attack by Hezbollah on an Israeli military convoy, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed, there have been growing concerns of a major escalation along the Lebanese border. During the exchange of fire between the IDF and Hezbollah that followed the attack, a United Nations peacekeeper was also killed. As fears grew that the attack by Hezbollah might signal the beginning of a major new conflagration to Israel’s north, the death of the peacekeeper was a reminder that in such circumstances the UN forces would be completely impotent in preventing such an escalation. Worse still, the UN in Lebanon will have contributed to the severity of any hostilities by allowing Hezbollah to have proliferated under its watch. This too should be a reminder of the ineffective nature of any international forces deployed on Israel’s borders.

Read More

Following yesterday’s attack by Hezbollah on an Israeli military convoy, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed, there have been growing concerns of a major escalation along the Lebanese border. During the exchange of fire between the IDF and Hezbollah that followed the attack, a United Nations peacekeeper was also killed. As fears grew that the attack by Hezbollah might signal the beginning of a major new conflagration to Israel’s north, the death of the peacekeeper was a reminder that in such circumstances the UN forces would be completely impotent in preventing such an escalation. Worse still, the UN in Lebanon will have contributed to the severity of any hostilities by allowing Hezbollah to have proliferated under its watch. This too should be a reminder of the ineffective nature of any international forces deployed on Israel’s borders.

UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which was created during Israel’s first Lebanon war, was subsequently emboldened with a reinforced mandate following the second Lebanon war in 2006. As well as maintaining the peace in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL was also tasked with assisting the Lebanese army in consolidating Lebanese government sovereignty throughout that part of the country. This presumably should necessitate the rolling back of the mini-state that Hezbollah terrorists have created for themselves in Lebanon’s south. Yet not only has UNIFIL utterly failed in that regard, but there are also serious questions about whether or not UNIFIL has in fact been complicit in assisting Hezbollah in various ways. Most egregious of all was UNIFIL’s conduct during the second Lebanon war itself, when UNIFIL publicly broadcast the movements of the IDF, knowingly exposing Israel’s troops to attack by Hezbollah fighters.

Ever since 2006 Hezbollah has been remilitarising well beyond the levels it had reached prior to the second Lebanon war, and it has been doing it directly under UNIFIL’s noses. UNIFIL therefore has not only failed to assist with reasserting the authority of the Lebanese state in the south of the country; it has allowed for the unfolding of a situation that will almost inevitably undermine a key aspect of UNIFIL’s mandate: to ensure peace and security in that territory.

Even before war broke out in Syria, Hezbollah had–with the assistance of Iran–been drastically increasing its stockpiles of weapons, the range and force of its missile capabilities, and the numbers of trained fighters within its ranks. Then, when Hezbollah was brought into Syria to help Assad retain power, a new channel for the flow of weapons opened as Hezbollah was able to move some of Assad’s weaponry into Lebanon itself. Indeed, from the outset of UNIFIL’s renewed mandate in 2006, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had always made clear that the force wouldn’t intervene to stop the flow of weapons from Syria unless specifically instructed to do so by the Lebanese government.

Just as UNIFIL would be completely incapable of preventing the outbreak of another war in Lebanon, so too have the UN personnel utterly failed in the Golan. This of course is in part because the international forces in that case primarily have an observational role. As such the strikes into the Israeli part of the Golan by Syrian rebels, and the Israeli retaliatory strikes, went on completely unimpeded by the UN troops there. However, the UN observer forces were at least supposed to keep the peace and prevent infiltration of the buffer zone that they control. Not only did they fail in this when the Syrian army began to engage rebels in the buffer zone, but in March 2013 21 Filipino peacekeepers managed to get themselves abducted by Syrian rebels. When the same happened to 45 Fijians in August of last year the UN’s forcers pulled back to the safety of the Israeli side and now carry out their work from Israeli lookout posts.

Given this abysmal record it is hard to believe that there are still those who would readily outsource Israel’s security to still more international peace keeping forces. Following this summer’s war in Gaza there had been talk of creating an EU force to police the Philadelphi corridor through which the majority of weapons are smuggled into Gaza from the Sinai. Still more alarming had been the proposal made during Kerry’s last round of peace talks that advocated for the IDF in the Jordan Valley being replaced with a foreign fighting force that would supposedly prevent a Palestinian state in the West Bank from becoming yet another terror hub.

From May 1967, when the UN willingly withdrew its peacekeepers from the Sinai so that General Nasser could remilitarize the territory in preparation for a war of annihilation against the young Jewish state, Israelis have always known that they need to be able to defend themselves by themselves. Quite apart from the fact that the UN appears to have a total disregard for the safety of Israelis–as seen with both UNIFIL and UNRWA–it will always be the case that international forces acting on behalf of international organizations, as opposed to national self-interest, will be woefully ineffective. A catalog of recent genocides are a sorry testament to the way UN forces are much better at observing and monitoring atrocities than they are at preventing them.

On the whole, most countries are simply not inclined to put their own troops at risk for the sake of other people’s peace and security. Israel knows this and should resist any pressure to outsource its security to coldly disinterested international forces in the future.

Read Less

U.S. Must Connect the Dots Between Iran Talks and Hezbollah Violence

The instinct in Washington is to dismiss the latest flare-up in violence along Israel’s northern border as just another incident in a long-running cycle of violence involving Hezbollah and the Israel Defense Forces. The State Department will condemn the attack on Israel but it will call for restraint and calm. Their expectation, echoed in much of the media, is that once the smoke clears, the combatants will return to an armed and hostile truce enabling diplomats to concentrate on more important things like the administration’s pursuit of détente with Iran. But whether or not the shooting continues in the coming days, this incident, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed by terrorists firing over an international border, must be understood as intrinsically connected to the broader issue of U.S. relations with Iran and its nuclear program. The fighting is a wake-up call to the West alerting it to the fact that Tehran’s real purpose is not, as President Obama hopes, “to get right with the world,” but to dominate the region and threaten Israel and moderate Arab nations.

Read More

The instinct in Washington is to dismiss the latest flare-up in violence along Israel’s northern border as just another incident in a long-running cycle of violence involving Hezbollah and the Israel Defense Forces. The State Department will condemn the attack on Israel but it will call for restraint and calm. Their expectation, echoed in much of the media, is that once the smoke clears, the combatants will return to an armed and hostile truce enabling diplomats to concentrate on more important things like the administration’s pursuit of détente with Iran. But whether or not the shooting continues in the coming days, this incident, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed by terrorists firing over an international border, must be understood as intrinsically connected to the broader issue of U.S. relations with Iran and its nuclear program. The fighting is a wake-up call to the West alerting it to the fact that Tehran’s real purpose is not, as President Obama hopes, “to get right with the world,” but to dominate the region and threaten Israel and moderate Arab nations.

The border violence is generally being reported as part of a tit-for-tat exchange between Hezbollah and Israel. Today’s incident, in which anti-tank shells were fired at Israeli vehicles travelling on a civilian road from three miles away inside Lebanon, is seen by many as retaliation for Israel’s strike at a Hezbollah missile base inside Syria last week in which, among others, an Iranian general was killed. Iran has warned Israel that it would retaliate and it is thought that today is proof that they meant what they said.

But there is more to this than the need for Hezbollah to do the bidding of its Iranian paymasters or even for it to gain revenge for the death of the terrorists slain with Tehran’s ballistic missile expert, one of whom was the son of a slain commander of the group. The point of setting up that base in Syria, near the Golan Heights, was to create a launching pad to hit the Jewish state without bringing down the wrath of the Israel Defense Forces on Lebanon, as was the case during the 2006 war that was set off by similar cross-border raids. But the reason why Hezbollah and Iran were so interested in strengthening their ability to rain down destruction on Israeli civilian targets is that Tehran sees itself as being locked in a permanent war with Israel as well as with Arab states in the region.

This is more than obvious to anyone who pays the slightest attention to Iranian policy as well as its use of terrorists to advance its policy goals. Hezbollah is an arm of Iranian foreign policy as proved by its use as shock troops in the effort to preserve the rule of Tehran’s ally Bashar Assad in Syria.

This exposes the fallacy that lies at the heart of the current U.S. approach to Iran. President Obama is convinced that sooner or later he will be able to persuade the Islamist regime to accept a weak nuclear deal that will enable him to withdraw sanctions on the regime and start working toward an amicable relationship. The idea of such an entente is ludicrous since the ideology of the Iranian regime is implacably hostile to the United States. Moreover, their goal is not integration into the region but rather domination of it, something that will be facilitated once it becomes clear it is a threshold nuclear state (even if no bomb is actually constructed) as well as by its use of its Hezbollah auxiliaries and a renewed alliance with Hamas.

Seen from that perspective, the administration’s zeal for a deal with Iran is not merely misguided because Iran has no intention of abiding by any agreement and that it will use the nuclear infrastructure that the West seems poised to allow it to keep to continue a pursuit of a weapon. Rather, what makes it truly disastrous is that an embrace of Iran will encourage its adventurism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, as well as along Israel’s northern and southern borders. An Iran that is permitted to become a nuclear threshold state will not only be vastly more powerful than it is today but in a position to directly threaten Israeli security and that of Jordan and perhaps even Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The fighting along Israel’s northern border is just a tease of what may come once Hezbollah is protected by an Iran that believes the U.S. has granted it impunity to pursue its aggressive agenda.

Instead of dismissing the border fighting, the White House should be realizing that it is headed down a perilous path in its pursuit of friendship with Iran. If it doesn’t turn back soon, today’s violence may be just a foreshadowing of the atrocities that will follow.

Read Less

Presumed Guilty Until Proven Innocent

One of the worst things about many “human rights” organizations is the way they actually undermine some very fundamental human rights. A prime example is B’Tselem’s new report on Palestinian civilian deaths during this summer’s war in Gaza. Few people would disagree that the presumption of innocence is an important right, but when it comes to Israel, B’Tselem simply jettisons it. In fact, the group states with shocking explicitness that it considers Israel guilty until proven innocent.

Read More

One of the worst things about many “human rights” organizations is the way they actually undermine some very fundamental human rights. A prime example is B’Tselem’s new report on Palestinian civilian deaths during this summer’s war in Gaza. Few people would disagree that the presumption of innocence is an important right, but when it comes to Israel, B’Tselem simply jettisons it. In fact, the group states with shocking explicitness that it considers Israel guilty until proven innocent.

Take, for instance, one incident the report discusses, an attack on the a-Dali building in Khan Yunis. B’Tselem doesn’t mention any combatants being present, but an alert Jerusalem Post reporter recalled that Amnesty International had identified one fatality as a combatant. He asked about this discrepancy, and here’s his account of B’Tselem’s response:

Without addressing the specific incident, a B’Tselem representative said there were cases where the group suspected that fighters may have been involved, but it was only reporting their involvement where the evidence was hard and clear.

In other words, if B’Tselem isn’t certain whether the victims were combatants or civilians, it lists them as civilians and then accuses Israel of war crimes. In fact, it does this even if it “suspects that fighters may have been involved.” In short, it presumes Israel’s guilt unless proven otherwise.

Moreover, the report stressed repeatedly that B’Tselem “has no way of knowing” why Israel struck any particular target, and evidently, it doesn’t care. But as NGO Monitor pointed out, the “why” is crucial: If, say, the building was used to store weapons or launch rockets at Israel, then it was a legitimate military target. Without knowing whether the building was targeted legitimately or indiscriminately, it’s impossible to accuse Israel of war crimes–unless, of course, you simply presume Israel’s guilt.

But B’Tselem goes beyond merely presuming Israel’s guilt; it also deliberately omits exculpatory evidence. Take, for instance, the attack on the Kaware home in Khan Yunis. As the report accurately says, the family left after receiving an IDF warning, but other civilians subsequently entered, and the IDF realized this too late to abort its strike. What B’Tselem left out, however, was that those civilians came deliberately to serve as human shields for the building, which the IDF claimed was a Hamas command center. The surviving Kawares said this explicitly, and several prominent media outlets reported it at the time. “Our neighbors came in to form a human shield,” Salah Kaware told the New York Times. Yet this all-important fact–that civilians had deliberately returned to serve as human shields, a development the IDF couldn’t have predicted–was simply omitted from the report.

The same goes for the bombing of Beit Lahiya. As the report correctly notes, the IDF warned residents to evacuate, and many did. But others stayed, and some were killed. B’Tselem blames the IDF for this, saying, “Many had nowhere to go, as the military was conducting strikes throughout the Gaza Strip.”

But Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid offered a very different explanation in a lecture at last month’s Limmud conference in England. According to his sources in Gaza, armed Hamas gunmen arrived and warned that anyone who left town would be considered a collaborator. And Hamas, as is well known, executes collaborators. So faced with a choice of certain death at Hamas’s hands or possible death at the IDF’s hands, residents who encountered those gunmen returned home.

Perhaps B’Tselem truly didn’t know this–in which case either its research is shoddy or its sources in Gaza are unreliable. Or perhaps, as in the Kaware case, it deliberately omitted this information. But either way, the result is the same: B’Tselem blamed Israel for a crime actually committed by Hamas. Had Hamas not prevented the evacuation, those civilians wouldn’t have died.

The report did acknowledge that Hamas stored arms in civilian buildings, launched rockets from civilian areas, and otherwise violated international law; it even admitted that this made it “extremely challenging … to avoid harming civilians.” So how was Israel supposed to have surmounted this challenge? That’s not B’Tselem’s problem; it “does not purport to offer the Israeli government or the military any operative plans for conducting armed conflict in Gaza.”

In other words, it admits that preventing civilian casualties under these circumstances is nearly impossible, but declares that unless Israel can accomplish the impossible, it effectively has no right to defend its citizens against a terrorist organization. And self-defense may be an even more fundamental human right than the presumption of innocence.

But in B’Tselem’s view, evidently, Israelis have no rights. They are only and always guilty.

Read Less

Kerry’s Diplomatic Protection Racket and Netanyahu’s Reelection Campaign

The U.S. political scene churns out quite a number of battle-tested campaign strategists. And we export them. Hence, when the dust settled on Israel’s surprising 2013 Knesset elections, the Forward noted that the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat were felt acutely by several Americans: “[Mark] Mellman led Yesh Atid’s campaign; Finkelstein and his partner, George Birnbaum, worked on Netanyahu’s campaign; the Labor Party relied on the services of Stanley Greenberg, and Kadima hired David Eichenbaum.” So the newsworthy part of the revelation that an Obama campaign field director is in Israel working against Netanyahu’s reelection this year is not that fact itself, but rather that this group has been receiving money from John Kerry’s State Department.

Read More

The U.S. political scene churns out quite a number of battle-tested campaign strategists. And we export them. Hence, when the dust settled on Israel’s surprising 2013 Knesset elections, the Forward noted that the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat were felt acutely by several Americans: “[Mark] Mellman led Yesh Atid’s campaign; Finkelstein and his partner, George Birnbaum, worked on Netanyahu’s campaign; the Labor Party relied on the services of Stanley Greenberg, and Kadima hired David Eichenbaum.” So the newsworthy part of the revelation that an Obama campaign field director is in Israel working against Netanyahu’s reelection this year is not that fact itself, but rather that this group has been receiving money from John Kerry’s State Department.

As our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman notes over at the Free Beacon, Haaretz this week broke news that an American organization called OneVoice International has joined up with an Israeli organization called V15. OneVoice has received two State Department grants in the past year, and Jeremy Bird, a former national field director for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, will be working with the effort from an office in Tel Aviv, according to Haaretz. The groups are believed to be behind the “anyone but Bibi” mantra floating around left-of-center political circles in the leadup to the election. Goodman writes:

While V15 has not endorsed any particular candidates, it is working to oppose Netanyahu in the March elections.

“We’ve formed a partnership with [V15], but it’s important to know we’re absolutely nonpartisan,” Taler told the Washington Free Beacon. “Our biggest emphasis and focus right now is just getting people out to vote.”

OneVoice said in a press release on Tuesday that it is teaming up with V15 because Israel “need[s] a prime minister and a government who will be responsive to the people.”

It is tempting to see this story in light of the ongoing feud between Obama and Netanyahu in which both men have stumbled in trying to win each news cycle devoted to the drama. But if Obama even knows who Bird is, it’s doubtful he’s taking any direction from the president. It’s not inappropriate for Bird to follow in the footsteps of numerous other campaign veterans to find some work in Israel during American off-years.

What is more interesting is that the group involved has been receiving grants from the State Department. OneVoice didn’t have a convincing rejoinder to the news, so they gave Goodman the following canned response:

Taler said the group is not using this money for its Israeli election-related efforts.

“No government funding has gone toward any of the activities we’re doing right now whatsoever,” she said.

It’s silly, because of course money is fungible. But what could she say? More concerning is that this fits into a topic we’ve covered here extensively: the peace process, especially as led by John Kerry, resembles nothing so much as a diplomatic protection racket. There was his claim to Israeli TV that the alternative to more Israeli concessions was a “third intifada,” giving the prospect of anti-Semitic violence dangerous credibility. (The country seemed on the verge of just such an intifada after Kerry’s talks predictably failed.) And then there was the American warning that Kerry’s diplomatic initiative was the only thing holding back EU sanctions against Israel. Should Kerry come away without a deal, there would be no stopping European retaliatory actions against Israel.

The message coming from the State Department was always clear. What gave the threats teeth was the fact that Obama has been trying to unseat Netanyahu from the beginning. It wasn’t just about European sanctions or whitewashing Palestinian violence. It was also about the Obama team’s personal obsession with undermining Bibi.

And this obsession is shared widely. Last year I quoted a disturbing anecdote from an August column by Chemi Shalev, who wrote: “a very senior Washington figure recently told an Israeli counterpart that each step or statement made by Netanyahu is a-priori examined by the White House to see if it helps the Republicans or if Sheldon Adelson might be behind it.” Now compare that with what Jeremy Bird—the Obama campaign field director involved in the campaign to unseat Netanyahu—said when Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress: “What do you think Adelson promised GOP in exchange for this insane BiBi House visit? Blatant attempt to bolster Israeli PM before elections”.

The same paranoia and psychological projection seems to infect all those involved in Obama’s political campaigns: they assume American Jewish donor money is behind all opposition. It does appear to be an escalation, however, for the State Department to be pressuring Netanyahu into making concessions to the Palestinians while funding groups working to defeat him. I would say it’s a conflict of interests, but it’s more like a concert of interests—all the levers of the Obama administration’s anti-Netanyahu efforts pulling in the same direction.

Read Less

American Jewry, the Holocaust, and the End of History

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and with it will come the usual raft of stories that fall into two categories. There are the stories marking the day’s solemnity, and the stories in which grouchy academics tell Jews, not in quite so many words, to get over it. Today also marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a stark reminder of the aging of the generation of survivors. And this year it’s Shaul Magid who has stepped into the fray to tell American Jews that they are not Europeans and they are not Israelis, and so they should stop frowning so much.

Read More

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and with it will come the usual raft of stories that fall into two categories. There are the stories marking the day’s solemnity, and the stories in which grouchy academics tell Jews, not in quite so many words, to get over it. Today also marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a stark reminder of the aging of the generation of survivors. And this year it’s Shaul Magid who has stepped into the fray to tell American Jews that they are not Europeans and they are not Israelis, and so they should stop frowning so much.

In an essay at Tablet, Magid, author of American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society, takes up the cause of Jacob Neusner and what he believes is Neusner’s “central thesis on American Judaism: The reception and in some cases mythicization of the Holocaust in American Jewry prevents American Jews from actualizing the distinct potential that exists for them to move beyond an identity founded on oppression and persecution, or ‘negative Judaism,’ and toward a new identity that trusts the world enough to view itself as an integral part of an open society.”

It’s a long essay, so I hesitate to try to summarize it here. It’s also meandering, unsteady, and not quite able to stand on its own two feet, so I don’t want to attribute to it a clarity it doesn’t possess. But here is a coherent enough excerpt to get the point:

What is perhaps more distinctive to American Jewry is the second condition: the way the disappearance of anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism as an imminent threat has obviated the need for a parochial social structure (I do not speak of the diminution of anti-Semitism worldwide, but only in America). When the need for social cohesion is removed, the perpetuation of collective identity must be generated from within. … Neusner argues that contemporary America, a society not plagued by anti-Semitism, is a new landscape that Jews must navigate in order to find resources other than pure ethnicity (ethnos) or negativity (the Holocaust) so as to construct a lasting sense of Jewish identity.

Given these two conditions, Jews in America have not abandoned the need, or desire, for a Jewish identity or “survival”; in fact, ironically, the notion of survival has arguably become an American Jewish obsession, as we can see by the collective Jewish hand-wringing that followed the 2013 Pew Poll. That is to say, survival becomes the primary concern, and even a dogma, of a collective void of any positive raison d’etre.

We’ll come back to the false, though mostly irrelevant, claim that survival is not a “positive raison d’etre.” The key here is that this argument is based on the conclusive idea that America is different. On its face, this is inarguable. But Magid, perhaps unintentionally, reveals what is so dangerous about this. He writes of the “Holocaust-Israel nexus” supposedly holding American Jews back: “it creates a Judaism whose foundations lie elsewhere (prewar Europe or Israel) making American Judaism ‘a spectator sport … spectators at someone else’s drama’.”

Well yes, American Judaism’s foundations lie elsewhere: Judaism is more than a few centuries old. American Judaism isn’t a separate religion—though many left-wing Jews in America do follow a politicized “Torah of Liberalism,” as Norman Podhoretz so accurately termed it. Judaism is not just its own history; Judaism is, in many ways, history itself. “Writing a history of the Jews is almost like writing a history of the world, but from a highly peculiar angle of vision,” wrote Paul Johnson in the introduction to his History of the Jews. “It is world history seen from the viewpoint of a learned and intelligent victim.” What’s more, Johnson adds that writing a history of the Jews enabled him to reconsider the very question, “what are we on earth for?”

He was able to do this, he writes, because he was examining a history spanning 4,000 years. Pace Magid and Neusner, a Judaism that looks back on its history is not a “negative Judaism.” It is a Judaism of self-knowledge and inspirational, miraculous persistence. And a Judaism that looks ahead (to Israel, for example) is not a Judaism unhappy in its present moment but rather one that embraces the future and its own capacity for turning darkness into light.

In the Mishnaic book Ethics of the Fathers, the Jews are taught: “Do not separate yourself from the community.” This is precisely what an American Judaism that self-consciously differentiates itself from the Jews of Europe and the Jews of Israel would do. Magid, Neusner, and others may see in Jewish history a depressing series of calamities. But that’s an incomplete interpretation that stems from giving up the “obsession” with survival. The full Jewish story is one of repeated triumph, courage, and piety against all odds.

That story is not a version of “negative Judaism,” and neither is a focus on survival. Too much intellectual and emotional distance from the Holocaust would not only erode Jews’ ability to see danger coming, if indeed it does. It would also downplay the real theme of Jewish history: our people’s ability to come out the other side.

Non-Jews tend to see this better than we do ourselves—historians like Johnson, but also politicians like Britain’s Daniel Hannan, who yesterday wrote that “Israel has its problems, but it will still be around when the EU is one with Nineveh and Tyre.” That is the lesson of both Europe and Israel, dismal as the landscape might appear at times. Today we commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. Critics of American Jewry’s Holocaust commemoration habits would be well served by remembering not only Auschwitz, but its liberation.

Read Less

The Delirium of Anti-Zionism

Last week many were quick to hail the United Nations conference on anti-Semitism as a hopeful step forward. The fact that just 37 of the 193 UN member states even bothered to send delegates should be demonstration enough of just how little many countries care about the modern-day revival of global Jew hatred. There was, however, one moment in the proceedings that particularly stood out. During his address to the conference, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy identified demonization of Israel as key component of contemporary anti-Semitism, referring to what he termed “the delirium of anti-Zionism.” It was a particularly satisfying irony to hear these words spoken in a chamber that has so often played host to the worst trashing of the Jewish state. And yet the international consensus, as well as the consensus in the West, is largely deaf to that irony. Most still fail to see the extent to which anti-Zionism is the primary expression of hostility against Jews today.

Read More

Last week many were quick to hail the United Nations conference on anti-Semitism as a hopeful step forward. The fact that just 37 of the 193 UN member states even bothered to send delegates should be demonstration enough of just how little many countries care about the modern-day revival of global Jew hatred. There was, however, one moment in the proceedings that particularly stood out. During his address to the conference, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy identified demonization of Israel as key component of contemporary anti-Semitism, referring to what he termed “the delirium of anti-Zionism.” It was a particularly satisfying irony to hear these words spoken in a chamber that has so often played host to the worst trashing of the Jewish state. And yet the international consensus, as well as the consensus in the West, is largely deaf to that irony. Most still fail to see the extent to which anti-Zionism is the primary expression of hostility against Jews today.

That the United Nations has long provided one of the chief forums for castigating Israel can hardly be in doubt. The current General Assembly session (2014-2015) has so far passed 20 resolutions against Israel, and just three against events elsewhere in the world. The unhinged obsession with condemning the Jewish state is plain enough for all to see. And yet what even those world leaders who do speak out against anti-Semitism still often refuse to see is that those 20 UN resolutions against Israel represent the modern expression of an age-old Jew hatred.

Shortly after the Paris attacks, Natan Sharansky was interviewed by the BBC in his capacity as the head of the Jewish Agency. When asked about the rise of anti-Semitism Sharansky attempted to refer to the liberal circles in Europe where Israel receives almost uniform hostility. At that point the BBC anchor interjected, surely Sharansky did not mean to equate those who are “very critical” of Israel with anti-Semites? That would be a “dangerous” comparison the BBC man asserted. When Sharansky then attempted to clarify the distinction between reasonable criticism and the tendency to treat Israel unfairly the BBC presenter dismissively responded that he didn’t want to get into a discussion about Israel.

But for those who still can’t–or won’t–understand this phenomenon for what it is, and who would subsequently find Henri-Levy’s reference to anti-Zionism during a conference about anti-Semitism puzzling, perhaps they might direct their attention to another event that took place in New York last week. Anyone wishing to see the delirium of anti-Zionism in practice need only refer to Thursday’s storming of a New York City Council session by anti-Israel activists during a commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz.

As the 40 demonstrators were being made to exit the public gallery one young woman hatefully screamed into a recording camera: “Palestinian lives Matter!” Well, quite. But try telling that to Hamas. And besides, however much Palestinian lives do matter, what on earth has that got to do with commemorating the Holocaust? This was in fact another theme picked up by Henri-Levy during his address: the phenomenon of both Holocaust denial and resistance to the Holocaust’s commemoration.

In 1975, when the UN infamously declared that Zionism is a form of racism, Daniel Patrick Moynihan defiantly stood before the General Assembly and informed the delegates that the UN had just granted “symbolic amnesty” to the murderers of the six million Jews. The increasingly common accusation that Israel is in some way replicating the crimes of Nazi Germany is certainly in part an effort to give that same amnesty, as well as to belittle the Nazi crime itself. This effort by anti-Israel activists to hijack Holocaust commemorations with an anti-Zionist message is of course a vicious–albeit clumsy–attempt to invalidate Israel’s very right to exist. These people inhabit a historically illiterate narrative in which they wrongly believe that the world powers simply handed the Jews someone else’s country as an afterthought following the Holocaust. By distracting from Nazi atrocities against Jews while accusing Jews of equal crimes against Palestinians, they seem to believe that they are nullifying the Jewish claim to statehood.

It is a similar ignorance about the history of anti-Semitism that allows everyone else not to see how this is nothing less than the latest manifestation of an ever-mutating Jew hatred. This malady has an unending appeal because of the way it always promises to liberate mankind, in one way or another, by “solving” the Jews. It was with great optimism that a former minister of the Dutch government recently expressed the opinion that transferring all the Jews from Israel to the United States would herald a new era of world peace. Of course, by the same logic it is the selfish Jews clinging to their state who bear ultimate responsibility for entrapping mankind in the ongoing horrors of war.

Anti-Semitism always expresses itself through the prevailing value system of the time. In Nazi Germany it was pseudo race-science, and in the Soviet Union Marxist doctrines, that were employed against the Jews. In the Middle Ages it was the teachings of the Church that fulfilled this role. Today, as human rights and international law are being hijacked to demonize the Jewish state, the UN is assuming a similar role to the one that the medieval papacy once had. It was encouraging then to hear Bernard Henri-Levy denouncing the delirium of anti-Zionism from the General Assembly chamber, voicing a truth that is all too rarely expressed.

Read Less

Jewish Voice for Peace Disrupts Auschwitz Liberation Commemoration

In an act of stupefying disrespect, a coalition of New York groups, including the New York City Branch of Jewish Voice for Peace, disrupted a meeting of New York’s City Council on Thursday. The disruption began as the council was “concluding a vote on a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.” The coalition demands that the New York City Council respect the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Fifteen Council members plan to travel to Israel next month on a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA Federation of New York.

Read More

In an act of stupefying disrespect, a coalition of New York groups, including the New York City Branch of Jewish Voice for Peace, disrupted a meeting of New York’s City Council on Thursday. The disruption began as the council was “concluding a vote on a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.” The coalition demands that the New York City Council respect the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Fifteen Council members plan to travel to Israel next month on a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the UJA Federation of New York.

I suppose that Jewish Voice for Peace can claim to be more politically savvy than the other still more marginal groups (Marxist-Leninists? Really?) with whom it has allied itself. At least it has occurred to JVP that it may have been bad optics to be observed yelling at council members as they attempted, as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito put it, to “honor the memories of millions of Jews and other persecuted minorities who were so senselessly slain, and … the strength and fortitude of the survivors who endured in the face of such terrible pain and loss.” So not long after the protest, JVP-NYC issued this statement on its Facebook page: “We are proud to be part of a coalition organizing for Palestinian rights and strongly oppose the City Council’s JCRC-sponsored trip to Israel. We were not aware that the action organized by the #‎DontTourApartheid‬ coalition would coincide with the introduction of a resolution on Auschwitz liberation; this was a mistake and extremely unfortunate.”

This hedged statement, which does not say whether others in the coalition were aware of what would be going in at the council meeting, which does not explain why they went through with the protest anyway, and which does not really apologize, cannot be taken seriously. The boycott-Israel movement of which JVP is a part has long trafficked in the odious comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. From that deranged perspective, when Melissa Mark-Viverito votes to honor victims and survivors of the Holocaust, it is our right, indeed our duty, to yell “Melissa, you hypocrite!” because she is willing to set foot in Israel.

The completely unapologetic stance of the New York branch of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, another member of the coalition, was therefore more honest than JVP’s half-hearted admission that a “mistake” that was “unfortunate” had been made by someone or another. In response to the revelation that the protesters had disrupted the council as it was voting to commemorate the liberation of the freeing of prisoners from Auschwitz, QAIA snarked “Oh the irony,” by which they meant that a council morally compromised by the intent of some of its members to take a trip to Israel has no business moaning about the Holocaust. But perhaps even QAIA felt they’d been caught at something, since they also claimed that the council agenda was a secret, which isn’t true; however, they also suggested that their action would have been appropriate, even if they had known (“Still:”).

Today’s protest was disgusting, but it was not an aberration. It is what the boycott movement stands for.

Read Less

Iran Looking for Missile Base Against Israel, Not Nuclear Peace

What was an Iranian general doing hanging around on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border with Israel? The answer is that, along with several high-ranking figures in the Hezbollah terrorist group, General Mohammed Ali Allahdadi, a reputed ballistic missiles expert, was there helping to set up a missile base from which the terror group would, with Iranian aid and instructions, strike at the State of Israel. But before he completed his mission Allahdadi was killed along with some of the Hezbollah personnel in an Israel strike on their base near the town of Quenetra. The mission nipped the Iranian scheme in the bud but it’s doubtful that anyone in the Israeli government is under the impression that the strike ended the threat of attack from Iranian forces and their auxiliaries. But the revelation of the Iranian effort near the Golan is significant because it illustrates how deeply involved Iran is in fomenting a new terror war against Israel as well as the peril presented by Western policies that would, at best, make Iran a threshold nuclear power in the years to come.

Read More

What was an Iranian general doing hanging around on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border with Israel? The answer is that, along with several high-ranking figures in the Hezbollah terrorist group, General Mohammed Ali Allahdadi, a reputed ballistic missiles expert, was there helping to set up a missile base from which the terror group would, with Iranian aid and instructions, strike at the State of Israel. But before he completed his mission Allahdadi was killed along with some of the Hezbollah personnel in an Israel strike on their base near the town of Quenetra. The mission nipped the Iranian scheme in the bud but it’s doubtful that anyone in the Israeli government is under the impression that the strike ended the threat of attack from Iranian forces and their auxiliaries. But the revelation of the Iranian effort near the Golan is significant because it illustrates how deeply involved Iran is in fomenting a new terror war against Israel as well as the peril presented by Western policies that would, at best, make Iran a threshold nuclear power in the years to come.

The purpose of the Iranian effort wasn’t just to make mischief for the Israelis under the cover of the chaos engendered by the Syrian civil war. The point of the plot was to allow Hezbollah to create a missile base from which it could rain death and destruction down on Israelis without involving the country of Lebanon. Hezbollah is still smarting from the negative feedback created by the 2006 war it started with Israel and which left much of that country in ruins. So what the group and its Iranian masters wanted is a secure base from which it could pepper Israel with rockets from the north in much the same manner that Hamas has done from the south. But, fortunately, as it has with various other terror plots involving Hezbollah in Syria, Israeli action has made the execution of this plot more difficult if not impossible in the short run.

But the significance of this goes beyond the threat to Israel’s missile defense efforts or its desire to keep the north peaceful even as Hamas stirs the pot in the south.

It’s no surprise to learn that senior Iranian military personnel are wandering around loose in Syria. Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel have been deployed to Syria to aid efforts to preserve the rule of dictator and Iranian ally Bashar Assad. But what is also now becoming clear is that the Iranians are looking to use their entry into Syria as part of an effort to, at the least, revive a northern front military option against Israel.

That this effort involved a ballistic missile export should, however, interest observers. While it is possible that the initial hopes for Allahdadi’s efforts were limited to attempts to launch the kind of middle-range rockets Hamas lobbed at Israel last summer, it is impossible to ignore the implications of Iran expanding its ballistic missile program to Syria.

While the world has focused its attention on Iran’s nuclear program and the effort to force the Islamist regime to abandon its ambitions for a bomb, relatively little notice has been paid to Iran’s ballistic missile program. Indeed, the Iranians have been as reluctant to discuss their rockets as they have been to reveal the details about their military research on nuclear material. But if Tehran is already sending generals to the border with the Golan to build up a missile threat against the Jewish state, it doesn’t take much imagination to think what will happen once the U.S. drops sanctions on the regime as part of a new and weak nuclear deal that let the Iranians keep their program and its infrastructure.

That puts the effort by the Obama administration to appease Iran and to work for a new détente with the regime rather than pressing it to give up its nuclear capability in a very different light. Previously, when one spoke of Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism, it brought to mind their using Hezbollah operatives to launch atrocities such as the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires or the attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. But now when we link Iran and terror, it must be acknowledged that it is possible that one day the primary Iranian threat to Israel will be nuclear and that missiles based in Syria will be the method by which Tehran will cause trouble and perhaps even launch a nuke at Israel.

If Israelis are more nervous about Iranian intentions in nuclear talks that Tehran has been, it is not just because they may think President Obama has proved himself a terrible negotiator in the peace talks. Rather, it is due to a sensible fear about Syria becoming nothing more than a launching pad for rockets in the same way Gaza has been transformed into a bastion of terror. Throw in the potential for nuclear weapons and you have a formula that ensures chaos and future bloodshed. Unless the U.S. wakes up to this threat and the folly of its stance toward Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Read Less

How the World Encourages Hamas to Recruit Child Soldiers

Hamas is currently recruiting thousands of Palestinians aged 15 to 21 into its new “Liberation Army” in Gaza, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reported today. So on top of the fact that it’s spending its money on a military buildup even as thousands of residents of Hamas-controlled Gaza remain homeless with no help in sight, half the age cohort Hamas seeks to recruit consists of people under 18, whom the United Nations and international human-rights groups define as children. Recruiting child soldiers is generally considered a gross violation of human rights. Yet far from condemning this behavior, the “international community” is actively encouraging it.

Read More

Hamas is currently recruiting thousands of Palestinians aged 15 to 21 into its new “Liberation Army” in Gaza, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reported today. So on top of the fact that it’s spending its money on a military buildup even as thousands of residents of Hamas-controlled Gaza remain homeless with no help in sight, half the age cohort Hamas seeks to recruit consists of people under 18, whom the United Nations and international human-rights groups define as children. Recruiting child soldiers is generally considered a gross violation of human rights. Yet far from condemning this behavior, the “international community” is actively encouraging it.

After all, you don’t hear much about Hamas’s recruitment efforts from the UN, the EU, the media or major human-rights organizations. But if those child soldiers are someday killed fighting Israel, all of these bodies will vie over who can condemn Israel for “killing children” most vociferously. And it’s precisely that reaction that makes recruiting child soldiers a win-win for Hamas: By so doing, not only can it significantly expand its fighting forces, but it can also ensure that Israel suffers international vilification whenever a war breaks out–all without suffering any negative consequences to itself.

In fact, it’s a triple win for Hamas, because this tactic doesn’t only endanger the child soldiers themselves; it also endangers innocent 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds. After all, if Hamas is recruiting children this age into its “army,” then Israeli soldiers have to treat every male in that age range as a potential combatant. And in the fog of battle–where it’s often hard for soldiers to tell exactly who is shooting at them, especially since Hamas operatives don’t wear uniforms and frequently open fire from amid civilians–anyone who looks like a potential combatant is more likely to be killed. Thus Israel will be accused of killing even more children.

During last summer’s war in Gaza, for instance, the “official” UN statistics reported worldwide asserted that almost a quarter of the Palestinian fatalities–24 percent–were children. Most people, hearing a figure like that, are shocked and appalled, and immediately conclude that Israel was at best guilty of using excessive force and at worst of war crimes. Consequently, Hamas benefits when this figure is inflated; Alan Dershowitz aptly termed this Hamas’s “dead-baby strategy.”

But it only works because the UN, the media, human-rights groups, world leaders, and all the other sources people depend on for information collaborate with it.

One way they do so is by neglecting to mention that some of those children–we’ll probably never know how many–were actually killed by misfired Hamas rockets or secondary explosions of the weaponry Hamas routinely stores in civilian houses; all Palestinian casualties are automatically blamed on Israel. Another is by neglecting to provide comparative data that would illustrate the difficulty of preventing civilian casualties while fighting terrorists in a dense urban environment, like the fact that the proportion of children killed in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq was much higher, at 39 percent.

A third reason, however, is that the UN carefully doesn’t mention how many of those “children” were males aged 15, 16, or 17; it defines everyone under age 18 as a child and lumps them all together in one grand total. Given Hamas’s known habit of recruiting teenagers, at least some of those killed “children” were certainly either actual combatants or people Israeli soldiers had valid reason to suspect of being combatants. But you’d never know that from the UN, the media, human-rights groups, or world leaders.

You might call this the “dead teenager” variant of Hamas’s strategy: Fan international hatred of Israel by recruiting child soldiers whose deaths will be reported worldwide as “Israel kills innocent children.” And as long as the international community keeps collaborating with this strategy, Hamas will have every incentive to keep right on recruiting child soldiers.

Read Less

Beauty Pageant Selfie Provides a ‘Middle East for Dummies’ Tutorial

The Miss Universe Pageant is a rather silly made-for-television event owned by entrepreneur and celebrity Donald Trump. But this piece of junk food for the mind has nevertheless provided the universe, or at least the portion of it that includes this planet, a tutorial in the realities of the Middle East that one cannot get from reading, say, the editorials of the New York Times or the statements about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that come out of the mouths of people like President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. And all it took was one selfie from Miss Israel.

Read More

The Miss Universe Pageant is a rather silly made-for-television event owned by entrepreneur and celebrity Donald Trump. But this piece of junk food for the mind has nevertheless provided the universe, or at least the portion of it that includes this planet, a tutorial in the realities of the Middle East that one cannot get from reading, say, the editorials of the New York Times or the statements about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that come out of the mouths of people like President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. And all it took was one selfie from Miss Israel.

The controversy arises from an incident during a photo session before the Miss World festivities began during which the contestants were also talking photos of each other. Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, took a photo of herself and a few other participants, including Saly Greige, Miss Lebanon, in which the young ladies are all smiling while dressed in shirts with their country’s names. The photo was predictably circulated on social media but the reaction involved more than the usual appreciation for the sight of a few pretty girls. Lebanese who saw it were enraged at Greige, who was reviled for treason for being depicted as engaging in normal friendly relations with an Israeli.

This sort of thing had happened once before when the 1993 version of Miss Lebanon was pictured next to that year’s Miss Israel. She was subsequently stripped of her title and ostracized as a traitor.

So to save herself from such an ignominious end, Greige claimed that she had been photo-bombed by the Israeli and then posted a new version of the same picture with Matalon cropped out. Perhaps that lame story will be enough to keep her out of the soup in a country that is dominated by terrorist militias like Hezbollah and where hatred for Israel and Jews is endemic. In response, Matalon merely said she was “sad” that her Arab counterparts were not allowed to put aside official hostility for even the three weeks of the event.

But there’s more to this story than just an embarrassing and potentially dangerous moment of fraternization for one Lebanese woman.

The exchange encapsulated the essence of why peace in the Middle East has eluded generations of diplomats.

The problem between Israel and Lebanon, which is a more cosmopolitan place than many other Arab countries, isn’t a matter of borders or disputes over settlements. Many Lebanese may hold grudges about Israel’s intervention in their civil war and its occupation of a portion of that country that ended in 2000. But any umbrage about that must be tempered by the knowledge that the dispute was caused by the willingness of the Lebanese to let the southern portion of their country be used as a terrorist base of attack by the Palestinians, who operated a state within a state in the south, for many years. The same is true now of Hezbollah, which embroiled all of Lebanon in a pointless and bloody war against Israel in 2006 because of their cross-border terror raids.

Nor are the Lebanese particularly exercised about Israeli settlement policies or the plight of Palestinians in Hamas-run Gaza. Indeed, the Lebanese are, as a result of their own experiences with armed Palestinian militias and terror cadres during the civil war, even less sympathetic to the Palestinians than Israelis.

The problem is a spirit of intolerance and rejection for the idea of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. That is a hatred so deep that it can’t be bridged by creative diplomacy or gestures of goodwill, such as those that infuse international events like the Miss Universe contest.

It is a cliché for contestants at such competitions to say they wish for world peace when asked for their opinions about the issues of the day. But what happened to Miss Lebanon illustrates that the divisions of the Middle East run so deep and are so primal that no amount of global hooey like a beauty contest is enough to make the Arab and Muslim world forget about their antipathy for Israelis.

That one picture was worth a million words of nonsense about the Middle East conflict being a misunderstanding or a problem that could be solved with enough good will on the part of both sides. The State Department should consider it a free “Middle East for Dummies” tutorial. Until Lebanese beauty contestants are not afraid to have their pictures taken with Jews, the diplomats should not bother trying to pretend their efforts will be enough to solve the problem.

Read Less

UN, EU Think Oslo Accords Bind One Party Only – Israel

Between Friday’s announcement that the International Criminal Court has opened a “preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine” and Sunday’s airstrike that killed six Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian general, a seemingly minor Israel-related item at the United Nations Security Council last Thursday has been largely ignored. But it shouldn’t be, because it goes to the heart of what’s wrong with the world’s handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: According to both the UN and the European Union, signed Israeli-Palestinian agreements are binding on one party only – Israel.

Read More

Between Friday’s announcement that the International Criminal Court has opened a “preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine” and Sunday’s airstrike that killed six Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian general, a seemingly minor Israel-related item at the United Nations Security Council last Thursday has been largely ignored. But it shouldn’t be, because it goes to the heart of what’s wrong with the world’s handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: According to both the UN and the European Union, signed Israeli-Palestinian agreements are binding on one party only – Israel.

At Thursday’s Security Council briefing, Assistant Secretary-General Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen slammed Israel for freezing tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, declaring that this was “contrary to Israel’s obligations under the Paris Protocol of the Oslo Accords.” The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, made an identical claim 10 days earlier.

Though the claim is probably false, let’s assume for a moment that it’s true. The fact remains that Israel’s alleged violation of its “obligations under … the Oslo Accords” was in response to far greater violations of the Palestinians’ obligations under those same accords. Yet far from meriting any equivalent condemnation by the UN or the EU, the Palestinian violations were actively supported by both parties.

According to Article 31(7) of the 1995 Oslo II agreement (formally titled the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” This isn’t some trivial technicality; it constitutes the very heart of the Oslo Accords: that Israel and the Palestinians will resolve their differences through negotiations, not unilaterally.

Nevertheless, the Palestinians have grossly and repeatedly violated this clause, including by obtaining UN recognition as a nonmember observer state in 2012, applying to the Security Council for full UN membership last month and joining the ICC as a state party earlier this month. All these moves are aiming at unilaterally changing the status of the West Bank and Gaza from territories whose future will be determined through negotiations to territories belonging to a Palestinian state. Yet no UN or EU official has ever criticized these moves for violating Palestinian obligations under the Oslo Accords, and in fact, both the UN and the EU actively supported them.

It was the UN General Assembly that accepted “Palestine” as a nonmember observer state, with half the EU’s 28 members voting in favor and only one voting against. In last month’s Security Council bid, two of the council’s four EU members voted in favor and none voted against. And when “Palestine” applied to the ICC this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediately announced that it qualified for membership and would join on April 1, although technically, the court itself should make this decision, as it did when the Palestinians first tried to join in 2009.

In other words, both the UN and the EU think it’s fine for the Palestinians to ride roughshod over their core obligations under the Oslo Accords, but it’s unacceptable for Israel to violate even the most minor element of those accords. And Israel’s violation, if it existed at all, was indeed minor, since the Paris Protocol stipulates the existence of “procedures for the set-off of financial obligations between the two sides, including legal entities under their control or management.” In short, Israel has the legal right to withhold some of the billions of shekels the PA owes to state-owned Israeli entities like the Israel Electric Corporation, and it has always formally justified freezes of tax transfers under this clause. At most, it was guilty of violating the proper procedures for doing so.

All of the above leads to one obvious question: If the UN and EU are going to deem Israeli-Palestinian agreements binding on Israel in every particular but not binding on the Palestinians at all, why on earth would Israel ever sign another?

Read Less

Which Palestinian State Do They Want?

In the last week, Islamist terror in Europe has at least temporarily distracted the continent from its habitual foreign-policy obsession: the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But in spite of the current focus on domestic terror, there can be little doubt that Europe’s parliaments and diplomats will soon be back campaigning to recognize a state of Palestine and for pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions in order to make that state a reality. But as a story in today’s New York Times illustrates, those in the international community that are so intent to pretend that a Palestinian state already exists and is need of international recognition need to figure out which one they are backing. Is it the Hamas terrorist state in Gaza? Or the corrupt Fatah state in the West Bank?

Read More

In the last week, Islamist terror in Europe has at least temporarily distracted the continent from its habitual foreign-policy obsession: the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But in spite of the current focus on domestic terror, there can be little doubt that Europe’s parliaments and diplomats will soon be back campaigning to recognize a state of Palestine and for pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions in order to make that state a reality. But as a story in today’s New York Times illustrates, those in the international community that are so intent to pretend that a Palestinian state already exists and is need of international recognition need to figure out which one they are backing. Is it the Hamas terrorist state in Gaza? Or the corrupt Fatah state in the West Bank?

The Times focuses on one tragicomic example of the dysfunctional world of Palestinian politics. At the Beit Hanoun crossing point between Israel and northern Gaza, there are two Palestinian border checkpoints a half-mile apart. Those who seek to enter Gaza from Israel must pass through both, enabling both Fatah and Hamas to pretend to control the area. When Hamas sought to set up its own makeshift facility at the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority site, the system broke down and no one other than foreigners or Palestinians with emergencies was able to pass. Hamas backed down yesterday and the situation returned to normal but the anomalous situation remains as two governments attempt to carry on operations.

This was supposed to have been solved last year when PA leader Mahmoud Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas that would bring both areas under joint control. But the pact was more of a ruse intended to blow up the peace negotiations with Israel the PA had been forced into by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry than an actual attempt at unification. Though the two rival groups actually have much in common—principally a commitment to ongoing conflict with Israel and an aversion to recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn—they are bitterly divided by conflicting financial interests as well as ideologies.

Both lack democratic legitimacy. Hamas won elections but to speak of a terrorist group coercing a population to back them is antithetical to any notion of the rule of law. Though hailed as moderates by the international community, Abbas and Fatah are even worse in that respect, as they have shunned elections for years for fear of losing to Hamas because of the latter’s better credentials in terms of shedding Israeli blood. Abbas still calls himself PA president, but that is more a matter of courtesy than anything else since he is serving in the 10th year of a four-year term to which he was elected.

Both promote hate against Israel in their official media and schools making peace less likely with each generation of children more steeped in the violent language of the conflict and a sense that all violence against Jews is to be condoned than the one that preceded it. What the two also have in common is a corrupt political system. Both rule by distributing money to large numbers of no-show or no-work government employees. Spreading the wealth around in this manner means that a huge percentage of Palestinians are directly dependent on either the PA or Hamas. This frees up the elites of both groups to loot the vast sums donated to help the Palestinians by foreign governments for either personal use or to pay for terror activities. Thus while Fatah runs a kleptocracy that saps the economy of the West Bank and stifles development, the more religious Hamas thieves use their international aid for rockets and terror tunnels rather than personal enrichment. The former is despicable, but the latter is certainly more dangerous.

But the division between the two is real, as Hamas operates an independent state in all but name and Fatah runs most of the West Bank with Israel only intervening to try to hunt down terror suspects.

The point of drawing attention to this division is not just to understand that sovereignty over a single Palestinian state is a myth and would not be resolved by international recognition. Rather, it is to bring to the attention of the world that by empowering either or both, they are laying the foundation for generations of future conflict rather than peace.

The common Palestinian political culture both Hamas and Fatah share is one in which their national identity is inextricably tied up with a war against Zionism. Though Fatah can sound more moderate than Hamas, especially when its leader is addressing the international and Israeli press rather than domestic audiences, it is just as locked into the idea that making peace on any terms would be a betrayal of their basic principles.

Giving more power to either or both would be to ensure more war for the Middle East. In the case of the West Bank, that would mean a repeat of the experiment whereby Israel withdrew every last soldier, settler, and settlement and instead of getting peace, saw the strip transformed into a terrorist launching pad/fortress.

All of which takes us back to our original question. If European governments and their parliaments are so concerned about the wellbeing of ordinary Palestinians, instead of pouring more money directly into the hands of Fatah or indirectly to Hamas via aid groups, they should insist on reform of both. More to the point, they should refrain from creating one or two more terror states that will strengthen the very forces of Islamist intolerance that have brought bloodshed to their streets. Sympathy for the Palestinians is understandable. Seeking to further empower Hamas and/or Fatah is a prescription for chaos and violence.

Read Less

Western Media Have Forgotten that Only the Truth Shall Set Us Free

One of the most insightful commentaries I’ve read about last week’s terror attacks in France was Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Ynet yesterday. Yemini pointed out that someone who gets all his news from mainstream Western media would have no reason to believe Islamic extremism was a problem–not because the words “Islamist terror” aren’t used, but because the vast majority of the attacks themselves aren’t reported.

Read More

One of the most insightful commentaries I’ve read about last week’s terror attacks in France was Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Ynet yesterday. Yemini pointed out that someone who gets all his news from mainstream Western media would have no reason to believe Islamic extremism was a problem–not because the words “Islamist terror” aren’t used, but because the vast majority of the attacks themselves aren’t reported.

The handful of attacks on Western targets get extensive coverage, alongside a few particularly egregious attacks in non-Western countries, like last month’s assault on a Pakistani school. But the “routine” attacks that occur almost daily in the Muslim world, which have killed hundreds of thousands of people in recent years, go largely unreported.

Thus, for instance, the New York Times did report an exceptionally bloody Boko Haram attack last week that may have killed up to 2,000 Nigerians. But buried in the 12th paragraph is the shocking fact that Boko Haram killed around 10,000 people last year alone. How many of the thousands of attacks that produced those 10,000 victims did the Times report? Almost none.

Similarly, Al-Arabiya’s Hisham Melham noted last week that 74,000 people were killed in Syria last year, while in Iraq, the death toll averaged about 1,000 a month. But how many of the thousands of attacks that produced those grim totals did the mainstream Western media report? Again, almost none.

Yet the problem doesn’t end there, Yemini argued–because alongside its failure to report on Islamic terror, the mainstream media obsesses over Israel. And this has consequences not just for how people view Israel, but for how Muslims view the West.

To understand why, a brief illustration might help. On the Times’s website, the article about Boko Haram killing up to 2,000 people merited 540 words. By comparison, an article last month about a Palestinian who died at an anti-Israel demonstration (whether due to ill-treatment or a heart attack remains disputed) merited 1,040 words. Thus one Palestinian allegedly killed by Israel merited 4,000 times as many words as each Boko Haram victim–and the ratio would be much higher if you included all of the latter who never get reported at all. And every Palestinian killed or allegedly killed by Israel gets similarly extensive coverage.

Thus a Muslim who relies for information solely on the mainstream Western media would rationally conclude that Israel, not Islamic extremism, is the greatest source of death and destruction in the world today, Yemini argued. And in fact, though he didn’t mention it, listening to any Western leader would produce the same conclusion: All spend far more time condemning Israel than they do, say, Boko Haram or Syria’s Iranian-supported regime.

Yet when that same Western Muslim looks at his government’s policy, Yemini said, he sees that its actions contradict the rational conclusion he drew from the media. After all, Western countries are currently bombing ISIS, not Israel. And they imposed economic sanctions on Syria, not Israel. Thus the rational Muslim news consumer would conclude that Western governments are not only hypocrites, but anti-Muslim hypocrites: They engage in military and economic cooperation with Israel while employing military and economic force against Muslims, even though Israel, judging by Western media, would seem to be a far worse offender. And such anti-Muslim hypocrisy rightly makes this rational Muslim angry, Yemini wrote.

Of course, Western governments’ policies are actually far more closely aligned to reality than the distorted impression our hypothetical Muslim gets from the media. But he really has no way of knowing that, because the people he depends on for information–the media–consistently tell him the opposite.

Once upon a time, Western liberals understood the critical importance of truthful information. They genuinely believed, as the New Testament proclaims, that “the truth shall set you free.” That’s precisely why the West invested so heavily in media outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe during the Cold War: Many Westerners genuinely believed that letting Eastern Europeans and Soviet citizens hear the truth, rather than the propaganda published in Soviet media, would help bring the Iron Curtain down. And history proved them right.

But today, it seems, Western liberals no longer believe in the power of truth. If they did, they would realize that the road to defeating Islamic extremism starts with reporting faithfully on all its victims, day in and day out. For only when people know the truth about the carnage this extremism has wrought might they begin to turn against it.

Read Less

What Binds Our Hearts to the Jewish State

I want to commend COMMENTARY’s powerful and bracing editorial, “The Existential Necessity Of Zionism After Paris.” In its words:

Read More

I want to commend COMMENTARY’s powerful and bracing editorial, “The Existential Necessity Of Zionism After Paris.” In its words:

The battle lines are drawn. The French elite may occasionally condemn anti-Semitism, as did Hollande after the attack on the kosher market. And on January 11, Hollande, arm-in-arm with world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, led more than a million people in a march supporting the victims of the January attacks and condemning hate.

But there are no substantive signs that France’s leaders are prepared to stop the radical Islamists who have declared war on French Jewry. Meanwhile, members of the French working class are coming to see the Jews more and more as a hindrance to their own economic well-being. And Europe’s steady turn against Israel has sharpened anti-Semitism of all stripes.

… For every French Jew at risk, for every Jew everywhere at risk, and for every Jew who chooses, Israel is home. Its existence before the Holocaust would have saved millions. Its existence after the Holocaust saved and created millions. Seventy years after the Holocaust, Jews in Europe are in need of it again.

This editorial should be alongside of this front-page story in the New York Times that begins this way: “French Jews, already feeling under siege by anti-Semitism, say the trauma of the terrorist attacks last week has left them scared, angry, unsure of their future in France and increasingly willing to consider conflict-torn Israel as a safer refuge.”

The rise of anti-Semitism in France–most especially the Muslim attacks on French Jews, of course, but also the tepid and equivocal response by the French government–is a moral disgrace. In one respect, it’s staggering to see the rise of anti-Semitism on the continent that produced the Holocaust. In another respect, I suppose, it’s not, as history demonstrates that there is no half-life to anti-Semitism. Its lethally corrosive evil may be contained now and then, but it usually finds a home. And this explains in part why the Jews need their home, too. That home has been, and must ever be, Israel. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen,” the prophet Amos wrote, “and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”

The Jewish people deserve a Jewish state. As a non-Jew, I simply want to add that the founding of the Jewish state also touches my heart because it is an unbelievable human drama, a transcendent story of hope and redemption, a nearly miraculous testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. Israel is a place and a state. But it is also a story, among the most riveting and inspiring ever written. For many of us it is that story, its beauty and wonder, its defiance and courage, that further binds us to the Jewish state. First and foremost, the fate of the Jewish people is tied to Israel. But not their fate alone.

Jews are in need of Israel. So are the rest of us.

Read Less

Terror, Israel, and France’s False Unity

The narrative of “unity” in Paris yesterday was quickly punctured by reports that French President Francois Hollande tried to prevent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in the rally against terror. According to Haaretz, Hollande’s national security advisor relayed the message to his Israeli counterpart. There are, clearly, several things wrong with this picture, foremost among them the gratuitous insult to a Jewish community in mourning that the head of the Jewish state is not welcome in Paris. But if the report is correct, the reasons given for the attempted exclusion compound the offense.

Read More

The narrative of “unity” in Paris yesterday was quickly punctured by reports that French President Francois Hollande tried to prevent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in the rally against terror. According to Haaretz, Hollande’s national security advisor relayed the message to his Israeli counterpart. There are, clearly, several things wrong with this picture, foremost among them the gratuitous insult to a Jewish community in mourning that the head of the Jewish state is not welcome in Paris. But if the report is correct, the reasons given for the attempted exclusion compound the offense.

First, there is the following explanation, relayed by Haaretz, for why Hollande didn’t want Netanyahu there:

Audibert explained that Hollande wanted the event to focus on demonstrating solidarity with France, and to avoid anything liable to divert attention to other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Audibert said that Hollande hoped that Netanyahu would understand the difficulties his arrival might pose and would announce that he would not be attending.

Anyone who hoped the French might get serious about the terrorism and anti-Semitism plaguing their country will have their hopes dashed by that paragraph. A refresher: the march for unity was held after a two-pronged terror attack, the latter half of which centered on Islamic extremists specifically targeting Jews. In the wake of that attack, Jews were warned to hide any outward appearance of their Judaism and the famed Jewish quarter of the Marais became a ghetto regulated by fear.

To this, the French president says that he doesn’t want the response to include “other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations.” In fact, “Jewish-Muslim relations”–a mild way of describing French Islamists’ murderous anti-Semitism and pogromist instincts–is currently tearing Paris apart. What Hollande doesn’t want to talk about is what’s actually happening to his country. If the Jewish presence atop the Islamists’ target list can’t be acknowledged even in the wake of terror, then Hollande is really making no room for it at all. Hollande’s head is still in the sand.

Netanyahu was at first open to Hollande’s unreasonable request. But then he changed his mind, and informed Hollande he would attend. Here is the apparent response from the French government:

According to the source, when Cohen informed Audibert that Netanyahu would be attending the event after all, Audibert angrily told Cohen that the prime minister’s conduct would have an adverse effect on ties between the two countries as long as Hollande was president of France and Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel.

But the foot stomping wasn’t over. Hollande had to publicly convey his opposition to Israel’s head of government participating in a “unity” event. Both attended an event at the Grand Synagogue: “Hollande sat through most of the ceremony, but when Netanyahu’s turn at the podium arrived, the French president got up from his seat and made an early exit.”

There is another explanation, however, for Hollande’s decision to disrespect the Jews in the Grand Synagogue. In an unsigned piece at Tablet, a video is provided of the arrival first of Hollande and then of Netanyahu at the Grand Synagogue. Netanyahu receives a hero’s welcome.

This is not all that surprising. I recommend watching the video of Netanyahu’s entrance into the synagogue; it is more compelling than it might appear. The simple fact is that Netanyahu’s presence is a reminder to the Jews of Paris and the Jews of the world that when their home countries repay their love and loyalty with hatred and abuse, the existence of Israel provides an inspirational counterpoint–even for Jews with no intention of making aliyah. Tablet notes:

One of the great lessons of the Holocaust for the Jewish people and for all other peoples who have since been threatened with genocide by fanatics—Cambodians under Pol Pot, Bosnian Muslims, and the Tutsi of Rwanda—is that the world will always talk a good game but will do precious little to save you. If you don’t stick together, you will die alone. The fact that the State of Israel exists means that the Jewish people will never be radically alone. That’s why the people in the Grand Synagogue of Paris are cheering.

And thus it is also something of a reproof to the host country. The presence of an Israeli prime minister in a Western capital that has proved incapable of protecting its Jews provides a contrast that does not benefit Hollande. In that sense, though Hollande’s behavior is not defensible, neither is it incomprehensible.

But the attempt to prevent Netanyahu from attending the march is also delegitimizing to the Jewish state. Jews were killed because they were Jews, and with the partial pretext of the Jewish state’s self-defense. Excluding the Israeli leader is a divisive act–literally, as it divides the Jewish people–and also treats Israel, which is a Western country on the front lines of fighting such terror, as an outsider looking in on the free world. Netanyahu was right to attend, and by the looks of it, the besieged Jews of Paris agreed.

Read Less

BBC Reporter Blames Jews for European Anti-Semitism

With those murdered during Friday’s hostage taking at a Parisian kosher supermarket not yet buried, you might have thought that the media would allow the Jewish community a short grace period. Not if you’re the BBC. In the middle of yesterday’s “Unity March” in Paris, a BBC anchor began lecturing the daughter of Holocaust survivors on what Jews had done to provoke the anti-Semitism they are now experiencing in France. And quite apart from the fact that the BBC’s Tim Wilcox seemed to want to drag in the Palestinians and the Middle East at a completely inappropriate time, Wilcox’s conflation of “Israel” and “Jewish” certainly blows out of the water media claims that being anti-Israel has nothing to do with attitudes toward Jews.

Read More

With those murdered during Friday’s hostage taking at a Parisian kosher supermarket not yet buried, you might have thought that the media would allow the Jewish community a short grace period. Not if you’re the BBC. In the middle of yesterday’s “Unity March” in Paris, a BBC anchor began lecturing the daughter of Holocaust survivors on what Jews had done to provoke the anti-Semitism they are now experiencing in France. And quite apart from the fact that the BBC’s Tim Wilcox seemed to want to drag in the Palestinians and the Middle East at a completely inappropriate time, Wilcox’s conflation of “Israel” and “Jewish” certainly blows out of the water media claims that being anti-Israel has nothing to do with attitudes toward Jews.

During yesterday’s rally in Paris—which reporters were eager to stress had a “carnival” atmosphere, with the coming together of many religions, ethnicities, and nations—the BBC interviewed a number of people from the crowd. Among those put on camera was a Jewish woman who was asked about her experience of anti-Semitism in France. When asked whether she felt secure in France the woman, referred to simply as Chava, expressed her fear that Europe was returning to the mood of the 1930s. However, when she began to insist that Jews must not be afraid to come out and say that they are the ones who are being targeted now, Tim Wilcox quickly shut her down. Interrupting, Wilcox put it to her: “Many critics, though, of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

It was clear that at the very moment that someone was attempting say that Jews must not be afraid to say they are being targeted, the BBC correspondent attempted to shame the speaker into silence. Clearly taken aback, Chava attempts to respond by explaining that these two issues can’t be so easily amalgamated, but once again Wilcox interjects to shut her up. This time he tells her: “But you understand everything is seen from different perspectives?” Whose different perspective is he referring to? The people who carry out attacks on French Jews? The people who think Jews deserve to be attacked because of the things that Israel is alleged to be doing?

The fact is, no BBC correspondent would have told the friends or family of the murdered cartoonists or policemen, “but you understand that everything is seen from different perspectives?” Indeed, if Muslims were being attacked–taken hostage and murdered–even if in a reprisal for last week’s atrocities, no BBC reporter would be lecturing a member of the Muslim community on how others had suffered at “Islamic hands.” Yet for Jews it is different. Apparently, just forty-eight hours after the murder of Jews in a supermarket, it is thought appropriate to lecture Jews on how they are responsible for causing people to hate them.

Even if Wilcox was not attempting to directly justify the attacks, it sounded a lot like he was telling a Jewish woman not to complain about anti-Semitism; doesn’t she know what “Jewish hands” are doing to Palestinians? Whatever Wilcox’s actual agenda here, it reveals an unpleasant undertone present throughout much of the European and liberal media’s attitude to Jews and Jew-hatred.

Read Less

BDS Hasn’t Hurt Israel’s Economy, New Report Shows

Yesterday, Jonathan Marks dissected the lie of the BDS movement’s alleged commitment to nonviolence–a lie underscored by the South African chapter’s launch of a “fundraising tour” starring Palestinian airline hijacker Leila Khaled. But another lie about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement was also exploded this week: the lie that it is having an increasing impact on Israel. The truth, according to a new study released yesterday by the Knesset Research and Information Center, is exactly the opposite: Not only has BDS not dented Israel’s economy overall, but Israeli exports have surged even in places where the movement is most active, like Europe.

Read More

Yesterday, Jonathan Marks dissected the lie of the BDS movement’s alleged commitment to nonviolence–a lie underscored by the South African chapter’s launch of a “fundraising tour” starring Palestinian airline hijacker Leila Khaled. But another lie about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement was also exploded this week: the lie that it is having an increasing impact on Israel. The truth, according to a new study released yesterday by the Knesset Research and Information Center, is exactly the opposite: Not only has BDS not dented Israel’s economy overall, but Israeli exports have surged even in places where the movement is most active, like Europe.

Overall, the study reports, Israeli exports rose by 80 percent from 2000 to 2013, with exports to Europe rising even more sharply, by 99 percent. But the bulk of this increase has taken place since 2005–i.e., in the years when BDS was most active. From 2005-2013, despite a sharp drop during the global financial crisis of 2009, annual exports to Europe averaged $15.6 billion. That’s almost double the preceding decade’s annual average of $7.8 billion.

Foreign direct investment in Israel has also risen steeply, posting an increase of 58 percent over the last four years alone–precisely the years when BDS was supposedly having its biggest impact.

Most surprisingly, exports from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, which are the primary focus of boycott efforts, rose even faster than exports overall. Consequently, they constituted 3.1 percent of total exports in 2013, up from 0.5 percent in 2000–and the overwhelming majority of that increase also stemmed from exports to Europe. A handful of industries, like Jordan Valley date farmers, have taken a hit, but the impact on Israel as a whole has been negligible.

As the report acknowledged, this is largely because “A major portion of Israeli exports are intermediate products, like electronic components, that sit inside the final products of well-known global companies.” That makes them hard to boycott: How do you boycott the insides of your computer or cellphone?

But it’s also worth noting that even in Europe, where BDS has gained most traction, the movement’s strongholds are found among academics, trade unionists, and unelected EU bureaucrats–i.e., people with no responsibility for the performance of national economies. In contrast, BDS has few champions among elected politicians in national governments, because these politicians are responsible for delivering economic growth to their constituents and view Israel’s innovative tech sector as a potential contributor to this effort.

Consequently, while BDS was making noise in the press, European governments were quietly working to deepen economic ties with Israel. A particularly notable example is the British Embassy Tech Hub, brainchild of British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould. Founded in 2011, the Hub essentially functions as a matchmaking service between British and Israeli firms, giving the former access to Israeli high-tech and the latter access to partners who can help them grow their businesses and enter new markets. It’s been so successful that other ambassadors in Israel are now consulting Gould on how to replicate his model at their own embassies.

The bottom line is that for all the hype about BDS, its efforts to strangle Israel have been a total failure. BDS may be thriving in the media and on college campuses, but out in the real world, what’s thriving is Israel’s economy.

Read Less

Palestinians Should Be Wary of ICC Gambit

In the wake of their failed attempt to get the United Nations Security Council to vote to recognize their independence without first making peace with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has begun the process of joining the International Criminal Court, where they will, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, become full members on April 1. Their goal is to use this platform to harass Israel and to launch war-crimes trials against the Jewish state. This is widely seen as a credible threat against the Israelis who have been unfairly assailed for their conduct when fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza. But the PA shouldn’t be so eager to head to court. The efforts of Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center to charge Palestinian leaders with war crimes could turn the tables on them in a way that may cause them to regret their decision.

Read More

In the wake of their failed attempt to get the United Nations Security Council to vote to recognize their independence without first making peace with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has begun the process of joining the International Criminal Court, where they will, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, become full members on April 1. Their goal is to use this platform to harass Israel and to launch war-crimes trials against the Jewish state. This is widely seen as a credible threat against the Israelis who have been unfairly assailed for their conduct when fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza. But the PA shouldn’t be so eager to head to court. The efforts of Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center to charge Palestinian leaders with war crimes could turn the tables on them in a way that may cause them to regret their decision.

Though the U.S. has rightly argued that as a non-state, the PA cannot actually be part of the ICC, the UN has gone along with this farce. This will allow the Palestinians to begin making mischief for the Israelis by filing suits that will publicize a raft of specious charges all aimed at branding it as an “apartheid state” run by war criminals. This gambit not only helps the Palestinians avoid peace talks where they might be forced to either make peace with Israel or admit that they will never do so. It also aids their ongoing efforts to delegitimize Israeli self-defense against terrorist attacks like Hamas’s use of tunnels for cross-border kidnapping/murder raids and the launching of thousands of rockets at Israeli cities.

But the PA has opened up a Pandora’s box that they may not be able to close before it damages their own cause.

Shurat HaDin has gained an impressive reputation in the last decade for its vigorous efforts to use the law to hold Palestinian terror groups responsible for their crimes. It has successfully sued Palestinian groups and their backers for their involvement in terrorism. That has placed funders of terrorism and banks which make such actions possible in peril as their victory in federal court in New York showed last September when Jordan’s Arab Bank was held responsible for its role in passing along funds to Hamas. It is also poised to land another blow to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization after a federal appeals court ruled this week that it could proceed with a $1 billion suit filed by the group on behalf of dozens of U.S. citizens and their families that were victims of Palestinian terrorism during the second intifada.

But even as the PA readies its efforts to attack the Israelis at the ICC, Shurat HaDin is preparing its own assault on both Fatah and Hamas. On Monday, it filed charges of war crimes, terrorism, and human-rights offenses against three members of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party: PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, minister Jibril Rajoub, and PA intelligence chief Majad Haraj. Prior to this, it had filed similar charges against Abbas as well as Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Skepticism about the willingness of any international agency to deal fairly with Israel is justified. The UN is a stacked deck against the Jewish state and it is possible that the ICC will prove to be just as biased. But as a judicial body, the ICC isn’t quite as easy to manipulate as other UN agencies. That means that evidence and truth will play a far larger role in their proceedings than at the UN General Assembly. And that is very bad news for the Palestinians.

After all, the actions of Hamas and Fatah in carrying out terror attacks, using civilians as human shields, and violating international law are not open to much dispute. Nor is the fact that the PA and Hamas violently oppress their own people.

As Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told the Times of Israel:

“Abbas and his friends in terror organizations believe that the courts can be used as a weapon against Israel, while at the same time, the Palestinian leadership carries out crimes with utter impunity against their own people and against Israeli civilians.

“The PA and Hamas have to understand that the International Criminal Court is a double-edged sword,” Darshan-Leitner said. “Years of murder, acts of terrorism and incitement will now be brought before prosecutors for investigation.”

False prosecutions brought against it in the ICC may well tie up Israel. But the same can just as easily be said about the Palestinians. Though they may have an international community that has proved tolerant of anti-Semitism on their side, the Palestinians need to understand that they are at least as vulnerable as the Israelis if not more so. The world’s hypocrisy when it comes to attacks on Jews has convinced them that they have nothing to lose. By putting their own actions under a legal microscope, there’s little chance that the PA will come out of this unscathed, let alone victorious.

Though these cases are likely to be dragged out over the years, the Palestinians may come to regret their decision to use the UN to wage lawfare against Israel. Before it’s done, Shurat HaDin’s successful record in various courts may make Abbas and his cronies wish they had never heard of the ICC.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.