Commentary Magazine


Topic: Palestinians

Palestinian Rock Throwing and the Humanity of a Jewish Child

One of the more familiar themes of those seeking to rationalize or even justify Palestinian rock throwing is to treat it as a largely harmless activity, especially when compared to the force the Israeli Defense Forces can bring to bear when it is engaged in combat. But earlier this week we received yet another reminder of how dishonest these arguments can be. On Tuesday, four-year-old Adele Bitton lost a fight for her life that began in March 2013 when rocks thrown by Palestinians into a car driven by her mother near the West Bank city of Ariel sent the vehicle crashing into a truck. She had been unresponsive since the attack due to neurologic injuries suffered in the attack. But little Adele bravely held on until she finally died of a respiratory infection. She is not the first Jew to be murdered as a result of this practice and probably won’t be the last. Palestinians may treat it like a national sport but rock throwing is a murderous terrorist crime, not a mere protest tactic.

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One of the more familiar themes of those seeking to rationalize or even justify Palestinian rock throwing is to treat it as a largely harmless activity, especially when compared to the force the Israeli Defense Forces can bring to bear when it is engaged in combat. But earlier this week we received yet another reminder of how dishonest these arguments can be. On Tuesday, four-year-old Adele Bitton lost a fight for her life that began in March 2013 when rocks thrown by Palestinians into a car driven by her mother near the West Bank city of Ariel sent the vehicle crashing into a truck. She had been unresponsive since the attack due to neurologic injuries suffered in the attack. But little Adele bravely held on until she finally died of a respiratory infection. She is not the first Jew to be murdered as a result of this practice and probably won’t be the last. Palestinians may treat it like a national sport but rock throwing is a murderous terrorist crime, not a mere protest tactic.

Like the justifications heard for the rockets launched indiscriminately at Israeli cities, towns and villages, apologists for the Palestinians say they should be allowed to throw rocks because they don’t have tanks or an air force. For Palestinians, the sight of a Jew in a car living in a place where Arabs would prefer no Jews to live is enough to justify a rock thrown at a moving vehicle. But whatever one thinks about West Bank settlements, the rocks are lethal weapons. When used in this manner they are a practice that any American who was subjected to similar treatment on a U.S. highway would consider attempted murder.

The rocks thrown by Palestinians are neither acts of peaceful disobedience or a plea for Israel to withdraw to the June 1967 lines. To the contrary, like the rockets launched by Hamas, they are a visceral expression of the Palestinian belief that any Jew living anywhere in the country, whether in the West Bank or pre-1967 Israel are fair game for murder. Those who throw them may be depicted as kids just engaging in youthful pranks or conducting a protest against Israeli policies. But the truth is that they are part of a process by which Palestinian youths are desensitized to the humanity of their Jewish neighbors.

The death of this child wasn’t mourned, let alone mentioned in the Western press. Israel’s critics don’t care about her because she was a “settler” and therefore worthy of being singled out for murder. But, like the Palestinian children who are used as human shields by Hamas terrorists, she was a human being whose right to life deserved to be respected. May her memory be for a blessing and may those responsible for her death and the many other Israelis who have been injured and terrorized in this fashion be punished for their crimes.

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Elie Wiesel and the Defense of Jewish Life

Like a lot of Jews, Peter Beinart says Elie Wiesel’s writings helped influence his development as a thinker and a writer. The same could be said of me. At this point, the Nobel Laureate Wiesel has made his mark on more than one generation of Jews who were raised on his novels and memoirs exploring both his experience in the Holocaust as well as Jewish traditions and the dilemma of modern Jewish life. But, as he writes in his latest Haaretz column, Beinart has no patience for Wiesel these days. Why? Because Wiesel has written a public letter, published as an ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post, supporting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to speak to Congress about the nuclear threat from Iran.

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Like a lot of Jews, Peter Beinart says Elie Wiesel’s writings helped influence his development as a thinker and a writer. The same could be said of me. At this point, the Nobel Laureate Wiesel has made his mark on more than one generation of Jews who were raised on his novels and memoirs exploring both his experience in the Holocaust as well as Jewish traditions and the dilemma of modern Jewish life. But, as he writes in his latest Haaretz column, Beinart has no patience for Wiesel these days. Why? Because Wiesel has written a public letter, published as an ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post, supporting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to speak to Congress about the nuclear threat from Iran.

According to Beinart, this is just one more example of Wiesel being “blind to the harm that Jews cause.” Whatever your opinion about the wisdom of Netanyahu’s decision to give the speech (and I’ve repeatedly questioned it), the notion that an Israeli leader speaking up to urge the world to stop Iran obtaining the ability to threaten or to carry out another Holocaust is causing “harm” is not only outrageous. It speaks volumes about the mindset of Beinart and others like him who view Jewish self-defense with more alarm than the continued efforts of those who seek to slaughter Jews.

I think Netanyahu made a terrible tactical mistake by choosing to inject himself into a debate over Iran sanctions that the side he supported was already winning. President Obama’s efforts to spike those sanctions was given a major boost when, fairly or not, Netanyahu’s alleged breach of protocol became the issue, diverting the nation from the administration’s indefensible efforts to promote détente with Iran. But since Netanyahu is determined to go ahead with the speech, his critics are not so much focused on his blunder as on their desire to silence all discussion about the Iranian nuclear threat so as to give more room for Obama’s push for appeasement.

Beinart claims Wiesel made two unsupported statements in his letter. The first is that the U.S. and Iran are on the verge of a “terrible” deal. The second is that an Iranian nuclear weapon could mean the “annihilation and destruction” of Israel. Yet there’s not much to Beinart’s objections here.

There’s not much dispute about the terms the U.S. is currently offering Iran. Discarding his 2012 campaign promise to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, President Obama has already put on the table an offer that would allow the Islamist regime to retain thousands of centrifuges for enriching uranium as well as letting them keep control of their stockpile of nuclear fuel. Administration apologists claim that this is the best that the West can do in any bargain with Iran, but Beinart doesn’t even bother to make that weak argument but simply writes as if the much discussed terms of the negotiations are a mystery that will only be revealed at the signing ceremony. Such terms would not be much of a deterrent to stop Iran from building a bomb; the only question being whether a nuclear “breakout” would take a year or, as many intelligence sources insist, far less time. Nor does he deign to dispute that even if Iran initially abided by those terms, it would make Tehran a nuclear threshold state that would make this terrorist sponsoring government more powerful, aiding its drive for regional hegemony.

Even less convincing is Beinart’s claim that an Iranian nuke wouldn’t be an existential threat to Israel. Though he can quote some retired Israeli security officials downplaying the threat, he knows very well that the dispute in those circles is not so much about the danger but about the best way to counter it with many deprecating the possibility of an Israeli military strike.

Though Iran might not use such a weapon to destroy Israel, their possession of one does raise such a possibility for two reasons. One is that they are building ballistic missiles that could deliver such a bomb. The other is that leading figures of this unabashedly anti-Semitic regime have repeatedly stated their desire to annihilate Israel.

Put in that context, Wiesel’s assertions are unexceptionable. Indeed, if one goes back and reads many of President Obama’s statements about an Iranian weapon in his first term during which he pledged never to allow such a development to take place, Wiesel’s position actually seems in concert with that of the administration.

But Beinart’s real agenda here isn’t to make weak arguments in defense of the administration’s efforts to build a new entente with Tehran. Rather, it is to denounce Wiesel’s instinct to defend Israel’s government against efforts to delegitimize its attempts to defend the Jewish state. Because he thinks, or at least at one point thought, about the writer as a symbol of concern for human rights, Beinart is appalled that Wiesel thinks Israel shouldn’t be forced to make unilateral concessions or that Jerusalem should be divided. He thinks he should be in the forefront of those flaying Israel for its policies on the West Bank rather than defending its current government as he has its predecessors led by both Likud and Labor prime ministers.

But again, this tells us more about Wiesel’s grasp of the essence of the conflict than any alleged insensitivity to the sufferings of the Palestinians. To the contrary, Wiesel has always been outspoken about the need to respect the humanity and the rights of Palestinians. But at the same time he has celebrated Israel’s control over a united Jerusalem because that means for the first time in its history, all faiths have access to their holy places.

Moreover, Wiesel’s defense of Israeli efforts to defend its people against a continuing campaign of Palestinian terrorism isn’t insensitive to non-Jews. He grasps that it is the Palestinian national organizations that have perpetuated this conflict despite repeated Israeli offers of peace and independence that have been turned down flat by both Fatah and Hamas.

Beinart rightly senses that so long as an icon of humanity like Wiesel is willing to stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself and to not be forced into unilateral and suicidal concessions, non-Jews will understand that the Jewish state’s rights should be respected. Whatever one may think of the current government of Israel, the notion that its efforts to preserve the existence of the state and the security of its people “defile” Wiesel’s ideals is a monstrous distortion of the truth. For those who have wrongly come to view Israel as the villain in the Middle East conflict and who reflexively deny the Palestinians’ rejection of peace and coexistence, any defense of Israel is too much, even when it comes from someone whose bona fides as an authority on human rights dwarf those of a Peter Beinart.

In the context of the politics of either Israel or the United States, Wiesel is a not right-winger or an opponent of compromise, assuming that peace with the Palestinians were ever possible. He is, rather, a centrist who simply sticks to consensus issues like Iran and a united Jerusalem. But to the likes of Beinart, even those positions are anathema.

Beinart’s current niche in the secular media is as a Jewish writer who can be relied upon to denounce Israel’s government so it is little surprise that he would defend appeasement of Iran. But when he matches his puny stature as a critic of the Jewish state against Wiesel’s standing as an advocate of Jewish life, he is out of his depth. By bashing the famous survivor in this manner, he is doing more to damage his own tattered reputation than undermining that of Wiesel.

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The Palestinian Victims of the West’s Israel Obsession

I’ve written frequently about how the West’s obsession with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians helps perpetuate global misery by diverting attention from people in far greater distress (think Syrians or South Sudanese). Yet this obsession also perpetuates suffering among the one group it’s ostensibly supposed to help–the Palestinians. Three Jerusalem Post reports over the last week show why.

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I’ve written frequently about how the West’s obsession with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians helps perpetuate global misery by diverting attention from people in far greater distress (think Syrians or South Sudanese). Yet this obsession also perpetuates suffering among the one group it’s ostensibly supposed to help–the Palestinians. Three Jerusalem Post reports over the last week show why.

One warned that a leading Palestinian hospital is at risk of closure because of a $30 million debt. A major reason for this debt is that for years, the Palestinian Authority has failed to pay Mokassed Hospital for many of the patients it treats. This isn’t because the PA lacked money; it has ample funds to pay generous salaries to thousands of terrorists sitting in Israeli jails. Rather, it’s a matter of priorities: On the PA’s scale of values, paying terrorists for killing Israelis is evidently more important than paying doctors for healing Palestinians.

Almost 40 percent of the PA’s budget consists of foreign aid, with the vast majority coming from Western countries. The West is therefore uniquely placed to pressure the PA to alter its spending priorities. But it has never tried to do any such thing, because it only cares about what Israel does or doesn’t do.

Thus one factor that has recently exacerbated Mokassed’s problems has elicited worldwide condemnations: Israel’s withholding of tax revenues from the PA over the last two months in response to the latter’s egregious violations of the Oslo Accords, including joining the International Criminal Court. Yet even if Israel handed over that money tomorrow, there’s no reason to think the PA would suddenly start using it to pay Mokassed when it never did so in all the years before Israel halted the transfers.

In short, pressuring Israel won’t actually solve the problem; only pressuring the PA would do that. But since the West doesn’t care what the PA does, Palestinian patients will continue to suffer.

In the second report, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon criticized the PA for failing to take control of Gaza’s border crossings as it promised to do after last summer’s war. This failure, he noted, has greatly delayed Gaza’s reconstruction, since the reconstruction mechanism devised by the UN and Western donors mandated PA control of the crossings in an effort to minimize diversions of dual-use materials to Hamas’s war machine.

But because Israel has never sealed its border with Hamas-controlled Gaza completely–it has sent in 62,000 tons of construction supplies since August despite the PA’s absence from the crossings–the real hardship has occurred along the Egyptian border. The Rafah border crossing is Gaza’s main gateway to the world, but it has been closed almost hermetically for months, because Cairo considers Hamas a terrorist organization and refuses to reopen Rafah as long as Hamas controls it.

A particularly horrific consequence ensued in November, when an 11-year-old Palestinian died because the Rafah closure prevented her from entering Egypt for needed medical treatment. So why didn’t she go to Israel instead? Because Hamas refuses to talk to Israel directly, so requests for medical entry permits from Gaza are sent through the PA. But according to Razan al-Halkawi’s relatives, the PA refused to forward her request because it was embroiled in one of its periodic spats with Hamas.

In short, the PA refused to do what was needed to enable al-Halkawi to get treatment in either Egypt or Israel. And so she died.

As the PA’s major donor, the West could be pressing the Palestinians to live up to their post-war commitments. But it won’t, because if Israel can’t be blamed, it doesn’t care.

Report number three: Thousands of Palestinians who bought homes in the new Palestinian city of Rawabi can’t move in because the city isn’t connected to the water system. Why? Because all West Bank water projects need approval by the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, which the PA has refused to convene for the last five years. Evidently, it would rather deprive its own people of better housing than agree to meet with Israeli officials.

Here, too, the West could use its financial leverage to press the PA to convene the panel and let Rawabi open. But it hasn’t, because if Israel can’t be blamed, it’s not interested.

In short, in numerous cases where the West could use its leverage over the PA to better the lot of ordinary Palestinians, it has refused to do so, because it only cares about Israel’s actions. And thus the biggest victims of the West’s Israel obsession have ended up being not Israelis, but the Palestinians themselves.

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Israelis Have Noticed Obama Is Still Interfering in Their Elections

One of the running jokes about Barack Obama’s practice of repenting for past American meddling in other countries’ affairs has been that Obama came to office opposing regime change everywhere but Israel. This was a case of it being funny (only) because it was true. Obama has continued to ally with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s electoral opponents, and Israeli voters, according to a poll released today, don’t think he’s being all that subtle about it.

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One of the running jokes about Barack Obama’s practice of repenting for past American meddling in other countries’ affairs has been that Obama came to office opposing regime change everywhere but Israel. This was a case of it being funny (only) because it was true. Obama has continued to ally with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s electoral opponents, and Israeli voters, according to a poll released today, don’t think he’s being all that subtle about it.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli public opinion continues to show that Israelis are proficient observers of the American political scene, especially with regard to President Obama:

Sixty-two percent of respondents said the Obama administration is interfering, 31% said it is not interfering, and 8% did not know.

A majority of respondents, 56%, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is correct in principle in his desire to address Congress on the Iranian nuclear threat, while 36% said he is not right, and 8% had no opinion.

Nevertheless, only 41% said that the prime minister should actually deliver the address, while 36% said he should not go to Washington at all, 17% said he should go, but speak only at the AIPAC policy conference, and 6% did not know.

As Jonathan Tobin has been pointing out, Netanyahu did nothing wrong by accepting the American invitation to address Congress and he is also correct in the intent and content of his speech, but once the Obama White House turned it into a partisan issue and even, embarrassingly, injected race into the discussion, Netanyahu’s better play was to cancel or postpone the speech. Israeli voters seem to generally agree.

As for the question of Obama’s interference, it’s actually surprising that only 62 percent thought so. The State Department is funding a group bankrolling an anti-Netanyahu campaign, and a former Obama campaign official is playing a leading role in the American left’s “Anyone but Bibi” efforts.

Additionally, Obama himself has telegraphed his intentions. Aaron David Miller acknowledges this over at Foreign Policy, but the headline and subheadline (probably added by an editor, not Miller) don’t get the story quite right. The column is titled “Obama Is Pursuing Regime Change in Israel,” which mostly correct; it would be right on target to say “Obama Is Still Pursuing Regime Change in Israel.” He has been doing so since the beginning of the first term of Netanyahu’s current premiership.

But the subheadline works too hard to water down Obama’s meddling: “Angered by Netanyahu’s invitation to address Congress, the White House is now quietly working to unsettle the prime minister before elections in Israel.” Again, this could be fixed with a minor word substitution. It could say “Angered by Netanyahu’s very existence…” since Netanyahu’s recent acceptance of his American invitation to Congress obviously had nothing to do with Obama’s two-term project of ousting Bibi.

In fact, the only thing this speech did was give Obama and his defenders in the media a pretext. As CNN reported earlier this week, one of the nuggets in David Axelrod’s memoir is that Obama planned to go “Bulworth” in his second term by doing things that might be unpopular but would at least be more honest. And stepping up his attacks on Netanyahu was part of the list.

Here’s how the president saw his post-election strategy:

These are things “I’ll want to work on in my second term,” the president told his top staffers, as one of them referenced the Warren Beatty movie Bulworth, in which a candidate goes on a reckless spree of truth-telling. “Some of them may make you guys nervous. But Axe keeps saying I should be ‘authentic.’ So maybe I should go out there and just let it rip.”

So what does it mean for Obama to be “authentic?” Here’s CNN:

In addition to revealing his actual position in favor of legal same-sex marriages, and working on immigration reform and to combat climate change, the president singled out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Axelrod wrote. Specifically, he wanted to be tougher on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Just to put this in perspective, Obama had been working to collapse Netanyahu’s government almost immediately. What Obama was saying was that trying to collapse the duly elected Israeli government was his way of pulling punches, of not being tough enough on Netanyahu. It’s easy to see why Obama thought this might make some of his advisors nervous.

But it’s also not much of a revelation, is it? And the irony is that if Obama is successful and Isaac Herzog’s Labor wins the next election, the president and the Western media will be forced to reckon with their characterization of Israeli politics but without the benefit of having a right-of-center leader to scapegoat. The press loves to talk about Netanyahu’s supposed intransigence on the peace process by saying that his “right-wing” coalition partners wouldn’t stand for certain concessions.

If people think Bibi is hostage to his coalition partners, they would be absolutely terrified by the political reality that would face Herzog. In order to govern, he needs not only to win the election but to put together a coalition. To even have a chance, he’d have to construct a rickety coalition dependent on center-right parties. And he’d have almost no margin for error.

Which is to say that Obama’s “Bulworth” strategy against Israel is not just morally bankrupt and ill advised. It also risks further eroding Israelis’ already-low trust in Obama for what would probably be negligible gain. Obama’s strategists might have pointed that out, though it’s unlikely the president would have listened.

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How Different Would Herzog Be From Bibi?

With a little more than a month to go before Israel’s Knesset election, there isn’t much doubt that the White House is hoping and praying that Israeli voters reject Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bid for a third consecutive term in office. With Obama using Netanyahu’s plan to speak to Congress on Iran sanctions only weeks before the vote and the prime minister speaking of his “duty” to inform the world about the mistaken policy being pursued by the administration, tensions between the two governments are at fever pitch. While the impact of Netanyahu’s speech on Israeli voters is a matter of speculation, he remains favored to win. But what will really change if Obama gets his wish and, instead, the Labor Party’s Isaac Herzog emerges from what is likely to be a protracted period of negotiations as Israel’s next prime minister? The answer is that while the atmospherics between Washington and Jerusalem will undoubtedly be a lot better, the substance of the arguments between the two governments won’t change much. Nor will, despite the assumptions on the part of Netanyahu’s many critics, Israel be any closer to peace under Herzog than it is under the incumbent.

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With a little more than a month to go before Israel’s Knesset election, there isn’t much doubt that the White House is hoping and praying that Israeli voters reject Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bid for a third consecutive term in office. With Obama using Netanyahu’s plan to speak to Congress on Iran sanctions only weeks before the vote and the prime minister speaking of his “duty” to inform the world about the mistaken policy being pursued by the administration, tensions between the two governments are at fever pitch. While the impact of Netanyahu’s speech on Israeli voters is a matter of speculation, he remains favored to win. But what will really change if Obama gets his wish and, instead, the Labor Party’s Isaac Herzog emerges from what is likely to be a protracted period of negotiations as Israel’s next prime minister? The answer is that while the atmospherics between Washington and Jerusalem will undoubtedly be a lot better, the substance of the arguments between the two governments won’t change much. Nor will, despite the assumptions on the part of Netanyahu’s many critics, Israel be any closer to peace under Herzog than it is under the incumbent.

To listen to Herzog and his new partner Tzipi Livni, who merged her defunct Hatnua Party with Labor to form what they call the Zionist Camp, the differences will be significant. Herzog has spoken of his commitment to the peace process. It’s likely that he would encourage a renewal of the talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry that collapsed last year after Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas.

But would the terms he is willing to offer Abbas differ from those that the Palestinians have already rejected?

Herzog has danced around the question of a divided Jerusalem. Though he is saying now that he wants to keep the city united, in the past he has endorsed the Geneva Initiative’s plans for a division. That waffling is in stark contrast to Netanyahu’s adamant refusal to partition Israel’s capital. But in practice, Herzog might still find himself locked in disputes with the Obama administration on Jerusalem. That’s because Obama considers the 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods built in parts of the city that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 to be little different than the most hilltop encampments in the West Bank where Jews are living. To the administration, both are “settlements” and obstacles to peace. Any Herzog-Livni government would be a coalition with centrist parties, including relative hardliners like Avigdor Lieberman, and not Labor’s allies to the left or the Arab parties. It is inconceivable that any such government would agree, as the president almost certainly will demand, for a building freeze in Jerusalem.

Herzog is also deeply committed to a two-state solution, something that is music to Obama’s ears and will be the selling point used by Kerry when he tries to entice Abbas back to the negotiating table should Labor win. But here again, harsh reality will intrude on Obama’s fantasy about a change in the prime minister’s office being a guarantee of peace.

Abbas has already rejected a two-state deal that included a Palestinian state in Gaza, almost all the West Bank, and a share of Jerusalem when Ehud Olmert offered him such an accord in 2008. He refused to even negotiate seriously with Netanyahu even though the prime minister accepted the two-state concept in 2009. Livni knows this because she was Netanyahu’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians for the past two years and has publicly complained that Abbas showed no interest in making a deal.

Will that change simply because Netanyahu isn’t in office? It’s theoretically possible, but given that the dynamic of Palestinian politics remains unchanged, it’s hard to see how things will be different. With Gaza still in the hands of Hamas and Abbas fearful of elections in the West Bank that he might lose (he is currently serving in the tenth year of a four-year term), it is highly unlikely. After years of avoiding being put in a position where he would have to commit political suicide by making peace, Abbas has no incentive to change now. So long as he and his people are unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, it doesn’t matter if the Likud, Labor, or any other Zionist party leads Israel, the outcome will be the same.

One would also expect a change in tone in discussions about Iran if Netanyahu doesn’t win. Yet Obama would be mistaken to think that Herzog would be any happier with a deal that allows the Islamist regime to become a nuclear threshold state than Netanyahu has been. Despite the carping at Netanyahu from many in the security establishment, there has always been a consensus among Israeli mainstream figures about the serious nature of the nuclear threat from Iran. The mild-mannered Herzog may express his disagreement with Obama in more measured tones, but the divide between the two countries over the desirability of détente with Iran is not one that will disappear with a Labor-led government. The same holds true about Iranian adventurism in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and even Gaza.

Those hoping for a Netanyahu defeat shouldn’t get their hopes up too high. The latest polls still show the Likud leading Labor. Moreover, even if Labor ties the Likud or earns a slight edge, it won’t be easy for Herzog to put a new government together. Though he has a path to a 61-seat majority, it is a precarious one involving discarding his Meretz ally and the Arab parties and making deals with centrist parties that are more natural partners for Likud. For that to be considered likely, Herzog’s party, which just fired its campaign strategist (always a bad sign this close to the voting) will have to beat Netanyahu’s Likud handily, something that doesn’t seem particularly likely at the moment.

But even if he does somehow win, the change will be one of personalities rather than on substance on the peace process. So long as the Arabs exercise their veto on peace, it really doesn’t matter who is prime minister of Israel. Neither Netanyahu nor Herzog will make peace with the Palestinians and there’s nothing Obama can do about it.

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European Anti-Semitism Starts from the Top

The Obama administration’s inexplicable denial that last month’s attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris could possibly be anti-Semitic overshadowed yesterday’s other interesting tidbit from the anti-Semitism front: German Jewish organizations are furious because a blue-ribbon panel set up by the German government to advise it on fighting anti-Semitism doesn’t include a single Jew. It’s hard to imagine that a panel on, say, prejudice against Muslims or blacks would exclude representatives of the targeted community. But the more serious concern is that a panel without Jews will ignore one of the main manifestations of modern anti-Semitism, as exemplified by another German decision just last week: a judicial ruling that there’s nothing anti-Semitic about torching a synagogue to protest Israeli actions in Gaza.

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The Obama administration’s inexplicable denial that last month’s attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris could possibly be anti-Semitic overshadowed yesterday’s other interesting tidbit from the anti-Semitism front: German Jewish organizations are furious because a blue-ribbon panel set up by the German government to advise it on fighting anti-Semitism doesn’t include a single Jew. It’s hard to imagine that a panel on, say, prejudice against Muslims or blacks would exclude representatives of the targeted community. But the more serious concern is that a panel without Jews will ignore one of the main manifestations of modern anti-Semitism, as exemplified by another German decision just last week: a judicial ruling that there’s nothing anti-Semitic about torching a synagogue to protest Israeli actions in Gaza.

The case involved two German-Palestinian adults who threw Molotov cocktails at the Wuppertal synagogue in July, causing 800 euros worth of damage. The court decided the attack wasn’t anti-Semitic and therefore let them off with suspended jail sentences and community service. And why wasn’t it anti-Semitic? Because, said the court, the perpetrators were simply trying to bring “attention to the Gaza conflict” then raging between Hamas and Israel. And of course there’s nothing anti-Semitic about attacking Jews in one country to “bring attention” to acts by other Jews in another country; they’re all Jews, aren’t they? Doubtless the court would be equally understanding if Israelis torched a German church to “bring attention to” this abhorrent ruling.

Nor is the ruling an aberration; it’s quite representative of elite German thought. Last year, Prof. Monika Schwarz-Friesel of the Technical University of Berlin published a study that analyzed 10 years’ worth of hate mail sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli embassy in Berlin. To her surprise, only 3 percent came from right-wing extremists, while over 60 percent came from educated members of “the social mainstream.” And these letters weren’t mere “Israel criticism”; they contained classic anti-Semitic statements like “It is possible that the murder of innocent children suits your long tradition” or “For the last 2,000 years, you’ve been stealing land and committing genocide.”

Needless to say, educated elites in other European countries aren’t much better. Last month, for instance, a BCC reporter drew fire for implying that the kosher supermarket attack in Paris was somehow justified because “Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.” And just last week, Britain’s Sky News “apologized” for showing footage from the Gaza war above a strip saying “Auschwitz remembered” during a Holocaust Memorial Day interview with Britain’s chief rabbi; the “apology” defended the original decision as “logical” even while admitting that in retrospect, it was “unfortunate.” After all, what could be more logical than implicitly comparing a war that killed some 2,100 Palestinians (and 72 Israelis) to the deliberate extermination of six million Jews?

Indeed, this comparison is so “logical” to many educated Westerners that during the Gaza war, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum felt the need to publish a special FAQs section on its website explaining why the war wasn’t comparable to the Holocaust, why Palestinians aren’t victims of genocide, and why Gaza isn’t a ghetto. You’d think this would be self-evident, but in a world where 35 percent of Germans say Israel treats Palestinians just like the Nazis treated Jews, and where Britons loathe Israel more than any other country except North Korea, it clearly isn’t.

In short, modern anti-Semitism can’t be fought without addressing a problem that too many members of Europe’s educated elites refuse to see: The propagators of today’s anti-Semitism come primarily from their own Israel-obsessed ranks, not from the far-right fringes. And one can’t help wondering whether Jews were left off Germany’s blue-ribbon panel precisely because they might have the temerity to point this out.

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We Have to Talk About Obama’s Ignorance

In the wake of the controversy over President Obama’s offensive labeling of anti-Semitic violence as “random,” it became clear that regardless of whether he chose his words carefully, he certainly chose his audience carefully. He was not challenged by his interviewer at Vox for his undeniably false characterization of the Paris attacks. And now, having given an interview to BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith, he has continued exposing his own ignorance in the hope that he would continue not to be called on it by his interviewers. He was in luck yet again.

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In the wake of the controversy over President Obama’s offensive labeling of anti-Semitic violence as “random,” it became clear that regardless of whether he chose his words carefully, he certainly chose his audience carefully. He was not challenged by his interviewer at Vox for his undeniably false characterization of the Paris attacks. And now, having given an interview to BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith, he has continued exposing his own ignorance in the hope that he would continue not to be called on it by his interviewers. He was in luck yet again.

BuzzFeed has posted the transcript of the interview, and when the subject turns to Russia, Obama said this:

You know, I don’t want to psychoanalyze Mr. Putin. I will say that he has a foot very much in the Soviet past. That’s how he came of age. He ran the KGB. Those were his formative experiences. So I think he looks at problems through this Cold War lens, and, as a consequence, I think he’s missed some opportunities for Russia to diversify its economy, to strengthen its relationship with its neighbors, to represent something different than the old Soviet-style aggression. You know, I continue to hold out the prospect of Russia taking a diplomatic offering from what they’ve done in Ukraine. I think, to their credit, they’ve been able to compartmentalize and continue to work with us on issues like Iran’s nuclear program.

As people pointed out immediately, Obama is wrong about Putin and the KGB. Ben Judah, a journalist who recently wrote a book on Putin’s Russia, responded: “The interesting and informative thing about Obama’s view on Putin is how uninsightful and uniformed it is.”

Putin ran the FSB–the successor agency to the KGB–and the difference matters. But what also matters is the emerging pattern for Obama’s view of the world: he has no idea what he’s talking about. The president, as Sam Cooke sang, don’t know much about history. And it’s evident in each major area of conflict the president seeks to solve and ends up only exacerbating.

It is not my intention to run down a list of all Obama’s flubs. Everybody makes mistakes, and any politician whose words are as scrutinized as the president’s is going to have their share of slip-ups. Yes, Obama is a clumsy public speaker; but that’s not the problem, nor is it worth spending much time on.

The problem is that Obama tends to make mistakes that stem from a worldview often at odds with reality. Russia is a good example. Does it matter that Obama doesn’t know the basics of Vladimir Putin’s biography and the transition of post-Soviet state security? Yes, it does, because Obama’s habit of misreading Putin has been at the center of his administration’s failed Russia policy. And it matters with regard not only to Russia but to his broader foreign policy because Obama has a habit of not listening to anyone not named Jarrett. Obama appointed among the most qualified American ambassadors ever to represent the U.S. abroad in sending Michael McFaul to Moscow. But with or without McFaul, Obama let his own naïveté guide him.

Obama has also run into some trouble with history in the Middle East, where history is both exceedingly important and practically weaponized. The legitimacy of the Jewish state is of particular relevance to the conflict. So Obama was criticized widely for undermining that legitimacy in his famous 2009 Cairo speech, puzzling even Israel’s strident leftists. The speech was harder to defend than either his remarks to BuzzFeed or Vox because such speeches are not off the cuff; they are carefully scrutinized by the administration. When Obama could say exactly what he meant to say, in other words, this is what he chose to say.

It wasn’t the only time Obama revealed his ignorance of the Middle East and especially Israeli history, of course. And that ignorance has had consequences. Obama has learned nothing from the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fact which was reflected quite clearly in his disastrous mishandling of the negotiations and their bloody aftermath. He didn’t understand Palestinian intentions, Israeli political reality, or the lessons from when the U.S. has played a beneficial role in the conflict in the past. The president can simply move on, but Israelis and Palestinians have to pay the price for his learning curve.

And the Vox errors echo throughout the president’s mishandling of the other great security challenge: Islamic terrorism. Such terrorism has contributed a great deal to the undoing of many of the gains in Iraq and the international state system. Here, for example, is a map tweeted out last week by Ian Bremmer, which shows, in his words, “Statelessness overlapping with radical Islam.” We can certainly argue over the chicken-or-egg quality to such an overlap, but the threat radical Islamic violence poses to global order is fairly obvious.

Yet it’s not just the history of Islam and of anti-Semitism that the president gets wrong when trying to spin away the threat of Islamist terror. He also created a firestorm with his faux history of the Crusades in order to draw a false moral equivalence that only obscures the threat.

In other words, it’s a comprehensive historical ignorance. And on matters of great significance–the major world religions, the Middle East, Russia. And the president’s unwillingness to grasp the past certainly gives reason for concern with Iran as well–a country whose government has used the façade of negotiations to its own anti-American ends for long enough to see the pattern.

They’re not just minor gaffes or verbal blunders. They serve as a window into the mind of a president who acts as if a history of the world before yesterday could fit on a postcard. We talk a lot about the defects of the president’s ideology, but not about his ignorance. The two are related, but the latter is lately the one causing a disproportionate amount of damage.

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What Keeps Palestinian Lovers Apart? It’s Their Leaders’ War, Not Israel

Who doesn’t sympathize with the plight of two lovers separated by a heartless bureaucracy? Certainly not Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times who, with the assistance of one of the paper’s stringers in Gaza, wrote a story published yesterday in which the star-crossed romance of a Gaza woman and a Nablus man serves to highlight Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinians between the Hamas-run strip and the West Bank. The situation of teacher Dalia Shurrab and social media marketer Rashed Sameer Faddah is worthy of sympathy. But as much as the story Rudoren has written casts the Israelis as the villain of the piece, the real culprits are not to be found in the Jewish state. Palestinians who would like to see more liberal travel policies should address their anger to their leaders whose war on Israel is responsible for their inconvenience. Those who would like the borders of these areas to resemble the ones that separate Canada from the United States can’t at the same time support the ongoing war to extinguish the existence of the Jewish state.

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Who doesn’t sympathize with the plight of two lovers separated by a heartless bureaucracy? Certainly not Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times who, with the assistance of one of the paper’s stringers in Gaza, wrote a story published yesterday in which the star-crossed romance of a Gaza woman and a Nablus man serves to highlight Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinians between the Hamas-run strip and the West Bank. The situation of teacher Dalia Shurrab and social media marketer Rashed Sameer Faddah is worthy of sympathy. But as much as the story Rudoren has written casts the Israelis as the villain of the piece, the real culprits are not to be found in the Jewish state. Palestinians who would like to see more liberal travel policies should address their anger to their leaders whose war on Israel is responsible for their inconvenience. Those who would like the borders of these areas to resemble the ones that separate Canada from the United States can’t at the same time support the ongoing war to extinguish the existence of the Jewish state.

There’s no doubt that Shurrab and Faddah appear to be innocent victims of a struggle that has nothing to do with the efforts of two individuals to find happiness. But when you are a citizen of an area ruled by a terrorist group pledged to fight a genocidal terrorist war against your neighbor, is it really fair to cry foul when the government of that country isn’t particularly interested in facilitating your travel?

Palestinians and their foreign supporters apparently think so. They believe that Israel should let Palestinians from Gaza come and go as they please and settle in the West Bank if they like. In a better and more peaceful world, that shouldn’t be a problem. Indeed, if the Palestinian Authority that runs the West Bank and/or the Hamas government in Gaza were ever prepared to make peace with Israel, it might be possible. As Rudoren points out, a commitment to facilitating free travel between the two Palestinian areas was part of the original Oslo Accords. That seems to paint the Israelis as not only hard-hearted but also treaty breakers. But the truth is a little more complicated than that.

Were Israel and the territories as peaceful as the Israelis who helped draft the Oslo Accords assumed they would be once their deal was signed then free passage might make sense. But the reality of Oslo was very different from the “New Middle East” fantasies popularized more than 20 years ago by Shimon Peres and others who championed the accords. Under PA leader and arch terrorist Yasir Arafat, both regions became hotbeds of terror and incitement. Free passage, which was a matter of course during the pre-Oslo period of Israeli rule, was impossible under those circumstances. Once Arafat turned down then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s two offers of statehood and independence in 2000 and 2001 and launched a terrorist war of attrition, it become even less likely. After Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007, even Western nations that were not sympathetic to Israel agreed that the area had to be kept in quarantine lest the terrorists exploit travel to further their bloody ends.

It is in that context that any restrictions on the ability of Palestinians to move between the West Bank and Gaza must be seen. It is true that Israeli authorities have adopted passport policies regarding the West Bank that are not liberal with respect to the ability of Palestinians to come and go as they please. But is there another country in the world locked in a mortal struggle against an adversary that would be more lenient with respect to such policies? The answer to that question is a resounding “no.”

The Palestinians and their foreign friends consider all of the West Bank and Jerusalem as sovereign Palestinian territory from which the Israeli must be evicted. But there has never been such a sovereign Arab state there and Jews have rights there as well. Even if the current Israeli government and its predecessors have signaled a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal from much of this land, that does not mean it has no right, in the absence of a peace treaty, to ensure that Palestinian travel from the Gaza terrorist enclave should be only allowed for humanitarian purposes such as visits to hospitals.

Perhaps one could argue weddings should also constitute such an exception. But does Israel really want to be put in the position of verifying that every Palestinian couple that seeks such a waiver is actually going to be married rather than part of a ruse that might be used to facilitate illegal action? Israel has enough problems dealing with the West Bank without becoming the moral equivalent of American immigration inspectors trolling for information to deny illegal immigrants green cards obtained under false pretenses.

But the bottom line of this issue is not about Israeli rules. It’s about a Palestinian people and its leadership that has consistently rejected every opportunity for peace including four times in the last 15 years. When the Palestinians are prepared to give up their dream of Israel’s extinction and recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, free passage between peaceful countries won’t be an issue. Until then, Palestinian lovers stuck in the two areas should send their complaints to Fatah and Hamas and not to Israel via the New York Times.

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Illegal Settlements Must Be Stopped

The European Union’s opposition to Israel’s West Bank settlements is well known. Preventing Jews from having homes on the biblical hills of Judea and Samaria is apparently a top foreign-policy priority for Brussels. Of course in attempting to justify their fixation with this matter the Eurocrats generally appeal to international law, making mention of its stipulations in the gravest tones. But now it turns out that the EU has been flouting international law and backing illegal West Bank settlements after all. In fact, it’s been funding and building them directly. Only these West Bank settlements aren’t for Jews, they’re for Palestinians. So apparently the rules don’t apply.

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The European Union’s opposition to Israel’s West Bank settlements is well known. Preventing Jews from having homes on the biblical hills of Judea and Samaria is apparently a top foreign-policy priority for Brussels. Of course in attempting to justify their fixation with this matter the Eurocrats generally appeal to international law, making mention of its stipulations in the gravest tones. But now it turns out that the EU has been flouting international law and backing illegal West Bank settlements after all. In fact, it’s been funding and building them directly. Only these West Bank settlements aren’t for Jews, they’re for Palestinians. So apparently the rules don’t apply.

A report by the Israeli NGO Regavim has revealed that in recent years the EU has funneled millions of euros into constructing more than 400 housing units in 17 illegal settlements. Somewhat bizarrely these outposts fly the EU federal flag and are staffed by EU personnel boldly dressed in EU uniform. But unlike Israel’s West Bank settlements which have a disputed legal status, there can be no doubt that these EU settlements are in clear and open breach of international law.

The settlements in question have been built by the EU in Area C of the West Bank. Under the Oslo II agreement signed in 1995, clause 2 of article 27 gives Israel full and exclusive authority over all planning and construction within Area C of the West Bank. This is an agreement that not only the Palestinian Authority signed up to, but one that the European Union is a signatory of as well. As such, that treaty has the status of binding international law which the EU is obliged to uphold. Worse still, these illegal settlements are guarded by aggressive EU workers who have been caught threatening Israeli soldiers and onlookers with rocks.

So what does the EU have to say in its defense? Well according to Jake Wallis Simons who broke this story for the Daily Mail, Brussels spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic simply denied that any of the above is taking place. And when presented with the photographic evidence of the EU flag fluttering over the illegal hilltop outposts she refused to make any further comment. Welcome to the Orwellian world of Brussels federalism.

Unfortunately for Maja Koncijancic, her EU comrades on the ground are not so tight lipped. When Simons questioned a spokesperson for the EU in the West Bank and Gaza, this time the spokesperson not only accepted that the construction was taking place but openly justified it on political grounds as part of an effort to secure the territory for a Palestinian state. A similar response came from Oxfam—a very worthy UK charity which like several others now seems to have gone rogue on the Israeli-Palestinian issue—which has also been involved with the EU’s illegal settlement project. An Oxfam spokesperson justified the illegal construction on “humanitarian” grounds. But it turns out that by humanitarian he actually just meant that in Oxfam’s opinion not enough construction permits were being issued to Palestinians in Area C. But if that counts as reason enough to break the law in Oxfam’s eyes, then every time there’s a construction freeze on Israeli settlements, the good people of Oxfam should be helping Israeli settlers build more housing units, all on “humanitarian” grounds.

It is of course baffling that at a time when Europe is so totally cash strapped and when a war rages in its own backyard (Ukraine), Brussels is funneling millions into illegal West Bank settlements. And all the while EU officials and European governments use accusations of settlement building to lambaste Israel. But what this really exposes is that all of the EU’s highminded talk about international law is just an excuse and a means of dressing up contempt for the Jewish state in acceptable language. Its own illegal settlement project demonstrates that the EU cares nothing for international law in the West Bank.

For some time now there has been something very disconcerting about the European Union’s activities in the West Bank. Back in 2013 when a French diplomat was filmed attacking an Israeli soldier, one couldn’t help but think that with so few Jews left in their own countries, those Europeans with the urge are now having to make the arduous journey to the West Bank to get into scuffles with Jews. Indeed, Tuvia Tenenbom’s exposure of how Germany in particular is funding a vast apparatus of anti-Israel NGO activity in the West Bank makes one wonder why it seems to be so impossible for these people to just leave the Jews alone.

Europe has been accused of hypocrisy before regarding its obsession with the settlement issue. Allegations that the EU has failed to muster the same fierce opposition to Moroccan settlements in occupied Western Sahara have simply been shrugged off by Brussels. But now that it turns out the EU has its own illegal settlement project in the West Bank, the hypocrisy allegation should really be made to stick.

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How to React to Algeria’s Diversion of Humanitarian Aid?

Within both the United States and Europe, foreign aid has become a feel-good operation more successful at creating jobs for bureaucrats and consultants in Washington and Brussels than in achieving real success among its targets. This shouldn’t surprise since so often the metric of success used by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is money spent rather than results achieved. A decade ago, for example, it emerged that 95 percent of the money which the United States spent to “fight” malaria in Africa was actually being spent on consultants, and only five percent was making it to Africa itself to counter Africa’s most deadly disease. Lots of malaria experts bought new cars, but it didn’t do the public health in Africa much good.

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Within both the United States and Europe, foreign aid has become a feel-good operation more successful at creating jobs for bureaucrats and consultants in Washington and Brussels than in achieving real success among its targets. This shouldn’t surprise since so often the metric of success used by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is money spent rather than results achieved. A decade ago, for example, it emerged that 95 percent of the money which the United States spent to “fight” malaria in Africa was actually being spent on consultants, and only five percent was making it to Africa itself to counter Africa’s most deadly disease. Lots of malaria experts bought new cars, but it didn’t do the public health in Africa much good.

For both the foreign or humanitarian aid industries, refugees have become a particular cash cow. The Palestinians have received more per capita in aid than any other people, but have little to show for it, except perhaps the inflated bank accounts of UNRWA officials and the tremendous mansions built by Palestinian politicians, from both Fatah and Hamas. And as for those with their hands out on behalf of their people? Let’s just say that Palestinian spokesmen like Hanan Ashrawi (a speech for whom I once handled while working at Yale University) don’t often fly economy class or stay at the Hampton Inn. The main victims of the refugee industry become the Palestinians themselves, who are used as diplomatic distractions and pawns for others’ enrichment.

Alas, the Palestinians are not alone. I have written before about the Tindouf refugees camps over which the Polisario Front and its self-styled “Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic” rules with an iron fist. Tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees remain stranded in the desert with their voluntary return to Morocco prevented so that Algeria and the Polisario can profit off them. And almost a year ago, I wrote here how the Polisario Front and its Algerian backers were diverting and smuggling humanitarian aid.

Now it seems the European Union is catching on. Last month, Le Monde reported on a new report out of Brussels which confirms what has become obvious: Algeria has been actively colluding with the Polisario Front to divert international aid, using the remaining refugees as humanitarian pawns while enriching themselves. According to Le Monde, the diversion of humanitarian aid begins in the Algerian port of Oran, but assistance gets diverted along the almost 1,000-mile route into Tindouf. It’s really no different from how the North Koreans diverted food and fuel aid in the 1990s.

Alas, just as the State Department sought to bury talk of North Korean cheating, the Pentagon actually for a time thought it wiser to classify corruption rather than eliminate it, and the United Nations sought to bury investigation into its multi-billion-dollar oil-for-food corruption scheme, the European Commission is so far keeping its full report under wraps. In every case, the bureaucratic response is without fail to excuse corruption and protect the reputations of incompetent administrators even at the expense of helping those in need.

So what to do? The European Commission should release its full report. And, with proof of Algerian and Polisario embezzlement, it should also first demand restitution and reimbursement of the diverted funds—perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars over the years—from Algeria and, second, investigate and explain the failure of checks and balances that led the criminal scheme to continue for so long. Accountability should never be a dirty word. Foreign assistance should never be an entitlement, and it should never occur into perpetuity lest as with the cases of Tindouf, North Korea, and Gaza, it becomes an obstacle to conflict resolution rather than a solution to humanitarian crises.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The “Nonviolence” of the BDS Movement

Among the strategies the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement uses to disguise its extremism from unsuspecting potential converts is to insist on its nonviolence. As Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, a leading American academic advocate of BDS explains, “the Palestinians have tried four decades of armed revolt, three decades of peace negotiations, two intifadas, and seven decades of waiting. They have taken up BDS as a non-violent tactic.”

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Among the strategies the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement uses to disguise its extremism from unsuspecting potential converts is to insist on its nonviolence. As Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, a leading American academic advocate of BDS explains, “the Palestinians have tried four decades of armed revolt, three decades of peace negotiations, two intifadas, and seven decades of waiting. They have taken up BDS as a non-violent tactic.”

Tactic is the key word. It is hard to claim that nonviolence is at the center of one’s movement when your foremost spokesperson is Ali Abunimah, whose support for Hamas is well-documented. But no one has been more explicit about the relationship between nonviolent BDS and violence than Leila Khaled. BDS-South Africa is now advertising her “fundraising tour” on its behalf (h/t Haaretz). Khaled, a member of the “Political Bureau” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is still living off of the vapors of two hijackings, one successful, she participated in 45 years ago. An old glamor photo of Khaled, machine gun in hand, graces the BDS-South Africa ad. Although Khaled insists she was instructed not to hurt anyone during the hijackings, the PFLP has been committed to violence, including violence against civilians, not only in Khaled’s youth, as in the Lods Airport Massacre, but also more recently, as in November’s murder of four worshippers and a policeman at a Jerusalem synagogue, dubbed a “heroic operation” by the PFLP. But if you find yourself in South Africa next month, you can have dinner with, as the ad put it, this “wife, mother, hijacker, and Palestinian freedom fighter.”

However that may be, Khaled reveals to anyone who cares to listen exactly how she understands the role of BDS. BDS “of course, on the international level [is] very effective. But it doesn’t liberate, it doesn’t liberate land. If there’s BDS all over the world, and the people are not resisting, there will be no change.” In apartheid South Africa, she claims, boycotts “helped the people who were holding arms. But if they were not holding arms it may have affected them politically, but it would not have liberated, not on the ground.” BDS is a way of supporting an armed resistance. As Khaled sees it, BDS is the propaganda arm of groups like her own PFLP.

Rather than distancing themselves from Khaled and the terrorist organization for which she continues to labor, the purportedly nonviolent BDS-South Africa celebrates what they plainly regard as her praiseworthy legacy. Rather than denying that they happily march arm in arm with the likes of PFLP, they quote approvingly an unnamed source that calls Khaled the “poster girl of the Palestinian struggle,” and invite us to dine with her.

You might almost think that they are auditioning for the role—of propagandists to ease the way for the people with guns—Khaled has assigned them.

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65 Percent of Israeli Arabs Say They’re Proud to Be Israeli

It feels almost tasteless to be writing about good news while France is mourning a horrific terror attack. Yet there’s been so much good news from Israel over the last week that my biggest dilemma has been which item to pick. Having discussed immigration yesterday, it’s time to move onto Israel’s Arab minority–specifically, the stunning new Israel Democracy Institute survey in which 65 percent of Arab citizens said they were either “quite” or “very” proud to be Israeli in 2014, up from 50 percent the previous year.

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It feels almost tasteless to be writing about good news while France is mourning a horrific terror attack. Yet there’s been so much good news from Israel over the last week that my biggest dilemma has been which item to pick. Having discussed immigration yesterday, it’s time to move onto Israel’s Arab minority–specifically, the stunning new Israel Democracy Institute survey in which 65 percent of Arab citizens said they were either “quite” or “very” proud to be Israeli in 2014, up from 50 percent the previous year.

To be fair, the poll was conducted between April 28 and May 29–meaning after the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down, but before the summer’s war in Gaza, the shocking murder of an East Jerusalem teen by Jews, and other difficult events of the past several months. Thus had it been taken today, the number might well be lower.

Nevertheless, given the torrent of accusations of “racism” and “apartheid” that have been hurled at Israel for years now from both inside and outside the country, it’s quite remarkable to discover that as of eight months ago, 65 percent of Israeli Arabs were “proud” to be citizens of that “racist,” “apartheid” Jewish state, and 64 percent said they usually felt their “dignity as a human being is respected” in Israel. This raises the obvious question of whether perhaps Israeli Arabs know something about Israel that its detractors don’t.

In this regard, it’s worth considering some of the survey’s other surprising findings. For instance, 57 percent of Israeli Arabs said they have faith in the Israel Police–second only to the Supreme Court (60 percent), and significantly higher than the proportion of Jews who said the same (45 percent). This reflects the fruit of a decade-long effort by the police to rebuild trust with Arab communities after the nadir reached in October 2000, when policemen killed 13 Arabs in course of suppressing massive, violent Arab riots. Since then, police have tried hard to recruit more Arabs to the force, open more stations in Arab towns, and maintain a regular dialogue with Arab community leaders. And as the survey shows, this effort is working.

Even more astounding is that 51 percent of Arabs expressed confidence in the Israel Defense Forces–aka the “occupation army” that, according to Israel’s detractors, ruthlessly oppresses their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank. This exceeds the level of confidence Israeli Arabs expressed in the Knesset, the media, or their religious leadership and suggests they don’t buy the canard of IDF brutality enthusiastically swallowed overseas. I also suspect the IDF–and Israel as a whole–benefited from comparisons with the real atrocities being perpetrated in Syria and the heavy-handed tactics used by Egypt’s military: The contrast with the meltdown in much of the Arab world can’t help but make Israel look more attractive.

Yet Israeli Arabs’ pride in Israel also reflects the concerted efforts to improve integration and narrow Jewish-Arab gaps that successive governments have made over the past two decades.

For instance, an affirmative action program launched in 2007 quadrupled the proportion of Arabs in the civil service over the space of just four years. It’s still significantly lower than their proportion in the workforce, but nevertheless constitutes dramatic improvement.

Similarly, a government program to subsidize employment of Arab high-tech workers helped quadruple the number of such workers between 2010 and 2013. And in Israel’s premier technological university, the Technion, Arabs now constitute 21 percent of the student body–slightly higher than their share of the population–thanks to a special program to recruit Arab students and give them extra support while they are there.

The gap between Jewish and Arab matriculation rates hasn’t disappeared, but it did shrink by more than a third from 1996-2012. Arabs remain underrepresented among master’s and Ph.D. students, but the percentage of master’s degrees awarded to Arabs more than doubled from 2005-2013 and the percentage of Ph.D.s rose by 40 percent. Concerted efforts to build more Arab schools have brought average class sizes down to the same level as in secular Jewish schools. And so on and so forth.

In short, while gaps and discrimination still exist, Israel has been working hard to reduce them, with considerable success. And Israeli Arabs have responded with growing pride in being citizens of the democratic Jewish state.

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The Palestinian ‘Quest for Statehood’ Is Designed to Prevent Statehood

I often criticize the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the New York Times, and especially Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. But credit where it’s due: in an otherwise silly “news analysis” about the Palestinians’ strategy of getting international organizations to pretend the territories are a full-fledged state, Rudoren hits on a crucial aspect to the Palestinian farce. In the process, she sheds some light on PA head Mahmoud Abbas’s true intentions.

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I often criticize the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the New York Times, and especially Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. But credit where it’s due: in an otherwise silly “news analysis” about the Palestinians’ strategy of getting international organizations to pretend the territories are a full-fledged state, Rudoren hits on a crucial aspect to the Palestinian farce. In the process, she sheds some light on PA head Mahmoud Abbas’s true intentions.

The story, headlined “Palestinians Seen Gaining Momentum in Quest for Statehood,” mostly misses the point, as usual. The truth is that the Palestinians could have had a state already–not only in the course of Israel’s existence but several times since 2000 alone–and turned it down. They were also the ones to blow up the last series of peace talks. So any story that takes the idea that the Palestinians are on a “quest for statehood” at face value is showing its bias right off the bat.

What the Palestinians are doing, instead, is trying to join international organizations as a way to get the world to increase its pressure on Israel to retreat to the nonexistent borders of the pre-June 1967 lines. This is not a quest for statehood; it’s just another way to take advantage of the anti-Israel mood of much of the world. Rudoren writes:

When the Palestinians sought statehood at the United Nations in 2011, it was widely dismissed as a symbolic gambit to skirt negotiations with Israel and Washington’s influence over the long-running conflict. But the Palestinians have begun to translate a series of such symbolic steps, culminating in last week’s move to join the International Criminal Court, into a strategy that has begun to create pressure on Israel.

While many prominent Israelis have called for unilateral action to set the country’s borders, it is Palestinians who have gained political momentum with moves made outside of negotiations. The Palestinians are, in effect, establishing a legal state. International recognition, by 135 countries and counting, is what Palestinians are betting could eventually force changes on the ground — without their leaders having to make the concessions or assurances they have long avoided.

That bit about the Palestinians “establishing a legal state” is absurd. There is an operative definition in international law of a state. The Palestinian territories do not yet meet that definition. Additionally, as the Montevideo Convention plainly states: “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.”

The Times story is thus far too credulous toward the Palestinians, and sets the “analysis” off immediately in the wrong direction. But somewhere along the line it finds its way back to reality long enough to make clear what Abbas’s gambit is all about:

There is also a sense that Mr. Abbas could benefit if the Palestinians’ unilateral approach bolsters Mr. Netanyahu and other conservatives in the upcoming Israeli elections. Some analysts say his center-left opponents, more clearly committed to the two-state solution, would be more palatable to Europe and force the Palestinians back to negotiations.

The rest of the story is just noise. This is the point. Abbas is so opposed to peace with Israel that even his cheerleaders at the Times point out that he actually benefits from any move that pushes the two sides farther apart. Once upon a time, commentators scolded Israel for supposedly elevating Palestinian rejectionists and extremists. But now by their own account Abbas is the Palestinian extremist. He is the one who benefits from any development that prevents peace.

Of course, the Times is probably overstating any prospective change in Israeli foreign policy, another of the Western media’s hobbyhorses. Even if Netanyahu’s “center-left” opponents win the election, they would struggle to form a governing coalition because of the simple fact that Netanyahu is a centrist in the modern Israeli political sphere. If any party other than Likud won the election, they would have to form a coalition with parties to their right. Netanyahu was the one who brought in Labor when he formed a governing coalition in 2009 and tried to get Kadima in as well. He then brought in Livni in his second term and let her run peace talks, despite the fact that she only won a few seats in the Knesset.

Indeed, a Likud-led government that lets peace processers like Livni lead negotiations is basically the ideal government from the perspective of those who support the two-state solution. It mutes some of the opposition from the right while putting a dedicated peacenik in the driver’s seat, in effect letting the left have a say in important matters of state even though they weren’t elected to do so. It does a pretty good job of approaching a consensus.

Could the left have such a free hand in a weak, partisan coalition, or in a coalition that is stronger but depends on the right to stay afloat? Doubtful. But Abbas doesn’t even want to take the chance. And until he does, all talk of a Palestinian “quest for statehood” merely feeds Abbas’s appetite to prevent it.

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Is Wiping Israel Off the Map Just the Price of Doing Business in the Middle East?

Much is said here and elsewhere about Palestinian incitement and how the Arab world’s rejection of Jewish rights, if not Jewish existence altogether, has poisoned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Much is also written about the international community’s toleration of Arab anti-Semitism, and the many forms it takes. But we should single out for special attention those who seek to make a buck off this deadly hate, as a major publishing house was recently caught doing.

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Much is said here and elsewhere about Palestinian incitement and how the Arab world’s rejection of Jewish rights, if not Jewish existence altogether, has poisoned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Much is also written about the international community’s toleration of Arab anti-Semitism, and the many forms it takes. But we should single out for special attention those who seek to make a buck off this deadly hate, as a major publishing house was recently caught doing.

The Washington Post highlighted the indefensible actions of HarperCollins when the company was discovered to have been publishing an atlas for schools in the Arab world whose maps did not include Israel. HarperCollins literally wiped Israel off its maps. The Post explains:

For months, publishing giant HarperCollins has been selling an atlas it says was “developed specifically for schools in the Middle East.” It trumpets the work as providing students an “in-depth coverage of the region and its issues.” Its stated goals include helping kids understand the “relationship between the social and physical environment, the region’s challenges [and] its socio-economic development.”

Nice goals. But there’s one problem: Israel is missing.

There’s Syria. There’s Jordan. There’s Gaza. But no mention of Israel. The story was first reported by a Catholic publication, the Tablet.

How and why did this happen? They knew their audience:

Collins Bartholomew, a subsidiary of HarperCollins that specializes in maps, told the Tablet that it would have been “unacceptable” to include Israel in atlases intended for the Middle East. They had deleted Israel to satisfy “local preferences.”

Yes, “local preferences.” The Jewish people just keep ending up on the wrong side of “local preferences.” Of course, the Arab world teaches its children such hateful propaganda because Israel’s enemies hope to make HarperCollins’s maps one day reflect reality. How does HarperCollins feel about profiting from being used as a marginal tool in a genocidal quest? They’re sorry! Really, really sorry:

“HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas,” HarperCollins UK said on its Facebook page. “This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offense it caused.”

Wiping Israel off the map gets the classic Facebook apology. But hey, no worries. Happens all the time. You have to make a living somehow, right?

To the Washington Post’s great credit, they wouldn’t let HarperCollins off the hook just yet. The publishing house, the Post noted, was not sorry to have done what it did: it wasn’t a mistake, but rather policy. HarperCollins was sorry, oh so sorry, to have been caught.

As the Post’s education writer pointed out in a follow-up story:

Sorry? Given that the omission was a deliberate decision to appease customers who wish Israel didn’t exist, one thing we can be pretty sure of is that HarperCollins is sorry that somebody noticed the omission outside the countries where these maps were welcome.

Those are strong words, and they are entirely correct. Once again, good for the Post. We should all be able to agree that genocide is bad. Go stand in the corner, HarperCollins.

Of course there’s a larger point here, and since this is about education, it’s especially pertinent. And the Post didn’t miss that point either: “But it isn’t the only publishing company that wiped Israel off the map. Scholastic Inc., the large children’s book publisher, did the same thing in books for kids in 2013.” Not to mention what goes on in Gaza:

In any case, those aren’t the only maps and books that omit Israel. Many textbooks in Mideast countries don’t show Israel in maps, and this November 2013 story in the New York Times reported that Hamas, the movement that controls the Gaza Strip, was introducing new textbooks that would be used “as part of a broader push to infuse the next generation with its militant ideology” and that don’t recognize modern Israel. So much for geographic accuracy.

I don’t think there are many in the Middle East outside Israel who are all that concerned about “geographic accuracy.” And for those who are, my guess is that geographic accuracy is trumped pretty easily by “local preferences” every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

But we can and should zoom out even more. As I wrote in November, UNRWA–the UN agency dedicated to keeping Palestinians living like refugees in perpetuity–has been embroiled in its own scandals with revelations that it employs as educators and directors anti-Semites who openly root for the murder of Jews. UNRWA then does its part to facilitate that by somehow ending up housing Hamas weapons in its schools. (Surely some kind of administrative oversight.)

Arab children are being educated to hate Jews not only by their own warped state propaganda machines but by the United Nations and Western textbook publishers. It’s true that HarperCollins didn’t invent this market for anti-Jewish capitulation. And obviously the company plays a very minor role in all this. But as long as such hate finds ready suppliers in the mainstream West, none of this will change.

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The PA, the ICC, and a Moral Inversion of Staggering Dimensions

As readers of this website know, the Palestinians announced earlier this week that they are joining the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against the Jewish state of Israel.

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As readers of this website know, the Palestinians announced earlier this week that they are joining the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against the Jewish state of Israel.

This action was so reckless that even the Obama State Department, in the person of  spokesman Jeff Rathke, said the U.S. was “deeply troubled” by the Palestinians’ “escalatory step.” He said it was “entirely counterproductive and does nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent state.” Coming from the most anti-Israel administration in history–worse, even, than the Carter administration–this is quite telling.

As one would expect, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to the move by the PA was forceful and appropriate. “We expect the International Criminal Court to completely reject the hypocritical act by the Palestinian Authority, because the Palestinian Authority is not a state. It is an entity in an alliance with a terrorist organization, Hamas, that commits war crimes,” he said. Israel, Netanyahu pointed out, is by contrast a “law abiding state with a moral army that upholds international law.”

The idea of the Palestinian Authority taking Israel to court over war crimes is among the most grotesque and absurd developments imaginable, a moral inversion of staggering dimensions. The PA and Hamas, for example, intentionally target civilians–including using Palestinians as human shields–whereas Israel takes extraordinary steps to protect them.

The fact that this issue is even being considered points to how corrupt many international organizations are. (Why on earth should we have to debate why a malevolent organization doesn’t have the standing to condemn a nation characterized by excellence and extraordinary moral achievements?) In addition, the U.S. should certainly cut funding to the Palestinian Authority, to whom it currently provides more than $400 million in annual aid.

But beyond all that, this latest move by the PA is an example of the persistent unwillingness to address the pathologies that grip Palestinian society. These pathologies are the core reason for the tensions and conflict with Israel–and rather than dealing with them, the leadership of the Palestinians is, if anything, falling even deeper into denial. The more they fail, the more they blame Israel for their failures. This is an assault on reality, a slander of Israel, and a massive disservice to Palestinians. It would be helpful if more nations, starting with the United States, said so.

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