Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Settlements Canard

Charles Krauthammer

Friday, June 05, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Obama the Humble declares there will be no more "dictating" to other countries. We should "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions," he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."

An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone -- Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: "a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions."
What's the issue? No "natural growth" means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them -- not even (BEG ITAL)within(END ITAL) the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns -- even before negotiations.

To what end? Over the last decade, the U.S. government has understood that any final peace treaty would involve Israel retaining some of the close-in settlements -- and compensating the Palestinians accordingly with land from within Israel itself.

That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. After all, why turn towns to rubble when, instead, Arabs and Jews can stay in their homes if the 1949 armistice line is shifted slightly into the Palestinian side to capture the major close-in Jewish settlements, and then shifted into Israeli territory to capture Israeli land to give to the Palestinians?

This idea is not only logical, not only accepted by both Democratic and Republican administrations for the last decade, but was agreed to in writing in the letters of understanding exchanged between Israel and the United States in 2004 -- and subsequently overwhelmingly endorsed by a concurrent resolution of Congress.

Yet the Obama State Department has repeatedly refused to endorse these agreements or even say it will honor them. This from a president who piously insists that all parties to the conflict honor previous obligations.

The entire "natural growth" issue is a concoction. It's farcical to suggest that the peace process is moribund because a teacher in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is making an addition to her house to accommodate new grandchildren -- when Gaza is run by Hamas terrorists dedicated to permanent war with Israel and when Mahmoud Abbas, having turned down every one of Ehud Olmert's peace offers, brazenly declares that he is in a waiting mode -- waiting for Hamas to become moderate and for Israel to cave -- before he'll do anything to advance peace.

In his much-heralded "Muslim world" address in Cairo Thursday, Obama declared that the Palestinian people's "situation" is "intolerable." Indeed it is, the result of 60 years of Palestinian leadership that gave its people corruption, tyranny, religious intolerance and forced militarization; leadership that for three generations -- Haj Amin al-Husseini in 1947, Yasser Arafat in 2000, Abbas in December 2008 -- rejected every offer of independence and dignity, choosing destitution and despair rather than accept any settlement not accompanied by the extinction of Israel.

In the 16 years since the Oslo accords turned the West Bank and Gaza over to the Palestinians, their leaders -- Fatah and Hamas alike -- built no schools, no roads, no courthouses, no hospitals, no institutions that would relieve their people's suffering. Instead they poured everything into an infrastructure of war and terror, all the while depositing billions (from gullible Western donors) into their Swiss bank accounts.

Obama says he came to Cairo to tell the truth. But he uttered not a word of that. Instead, among all the bromides and lofty sentiments, he issued but one concrete declaration of new American policy: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," thus reinforcing the myth that Palestinian misery and statelessness are the fault of Israel and the settlements.

Blaming Israel and picking a fight over "natural growth" may curry favor with the Muslim "street." But it will only induce the Arab states to do like Abbas: sit and wait for America to deliver Israel on a platter. Which makes the Obama strategy not just dishonorable but self-defeating.

Useful links about antisemitic expressions

Bernard Lewis on The New Anti-Semitism
"Unfortunately, hatred and persecution are a normal part of the human experience.
....special feature of anti-Semitism, which is much more important than differing standards of judgment, is the accusation against Jews of cosmic evil. Complaints against people of other groups rarely include it. This accusation of cosmic, satanic evil attributed to Jews, in various parts of the world and in various forms, is what has come to be known in modern times as anti-Semitism............................
Demonization, as distinct from common or garden-variety prejudice or hostility, began with the advent of Christianity and the special role assigned to the Jews in the crucifixion of Christ as related in the Gospels. Christianity started as a movement within Judaism, and the conflict between Christians and Jews had that special bitterness that often makes conflicts within religions more deadly than those between religions. The Christian message was presented as the fulfillment of God's promises to the Jews, written in what Christians called the Old Testament. The rejection of that message by the Jewish custodians of the Old Testament was especially wounding.
An important concern of the early Christians was not so much to blame the Jews as, for understandable reasons, to exculpate the Romans. Jewish guilt and Roman innocence, the two interdependent, became important parts of the Christian message, first to Rome and then beyond, with devastating effect on popular attitudes toward Jews, especially at Easter time."

THE REVERSAL OF VALUES: Jews as Nazis, Terrorists as victims
".... Ironically, Holocaust survivors have been found among the victims of the Palestinian suicide bombs. Genocide is indeed the terrorists' agenda. Every Jewish civilian, regardless of age or role in society, is a target. The terrorists' openly stated purpose is to destroy the State of Israel by killing as many Israelis as they can and sending the rest into flight. Nevertheless it is Israel who stands accused of racism and Nazism. How can we explain this reversal of basic human values, the application of the Nazi label by those who would perpetuate the spirit of Nazism against those who were the victims of Nazism? . "
The Nazi Comparison
"This article was written at the height of the anti-Zionist hysteria, in one of the worst periods of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, when suicide bombers were blowing up almost every day in Israel, and Israelis were being called Nazis for the crime of defending themselves. At that time "Zionism = Nazism" was a common slogan, and Zionist leaders were pictured with swastikas in cartoons and regularly sued for "war crimes" by pro-Palestinian groups in European courts. The vile accusation persists. It has not gone away. The vile, nauseating, perverted slogans and themes of Zionism=Nazism and Jews = Nazis slogans and themes are repeated without end in Arab media op-eds and cartoons, at "pro-Palestine" demonstrations by "liberals" and equally, by anti-Semitic literature and Web sites. Generally, the people who use these slogans are themselves Holocaust deniers, racists (David Duke is one example) and not much different from actual Nazis in their beliefs. "
"Written in 2003, this article is unfortunately still relevant today."
The truth behind the evil Zionist Gaza siege
"Some differences between Gaza and Warsaw Ghetto that occur to me: Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto did not declare that they wanted to murder all the Germans .
-Jews did not fire rockets and mortars into surrounding civilian areas.
-Jews did not take power in a bloody coup and murder opponents.
-Arabs in Gaza are not being rounded up for transport to death camp.
-Most of the Arabs in Gaza are alive and unharmed and evidently well nourished.
-Almost every Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto was murdered in a concentration camp, killed in the revolt, starved to death or died of disease."
Anti-Semitism versus Criticism of Israel
"Anti-Semitism should not be confused with legitimate criticism of Israel or Israeli policy. A person may be opposed to particular Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic. It depends how the opposition is expressed, and whether the criticism is reasonable. "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas" is not a "legitimate criticism." "Israelis are worse than Nazis" is not a legitimate criticism, unless someone can find evidence that Israelis are committing mass genocide. When it is alleged that "Zionists" or the "Israel lobby" is all powerful and controls the governments of the world, or that Israel committed atrocities similar to those committed by the Nazis, it is obvious that the motivation for the criticism is racist and unrelated to facts. Very often the same persons or organizations or Web sites will be involved in Holocaust denial, descriptions of the Talmud as a dangerous document and other clear manifestations of anti-Semitism. "
 Language as a Tool against Jews and Israel - An Interview with Georges-Elia Sarfati
"Discourses are formulated on the basis of ideological views. The idea that speech is transparent is a belief rather than a scientific fact. When analyzing Judeophobia, one finds an archive of words to be used against the Jew, which aims to criminalize all forms of Jewish identity.
Soviet propaganda began using the term "anti-Zionism" systematically after the Six Day War. Before then, it was employed, at most, sporadically.
From the point of view of language, anti-Zionism has become an ideology. A number of key equations dominate its discourse. The master one is "Zionism equals Nazism." "
"..."It was the Soviet Union's ministry of information which began to use the expression 'anti-Zionism' systematically after the Six Day War. In addition to being employed in the Soviet press, it then also was appearing regularly in the media of the French extreme left. Prior to that, the word's use was sporadic, at most. It did not appear in dictionaries until the 1970s. Anti-Zionism's major 'canonic' texts are first and foremost Soviet fabrications. One of the Supreme Soviet's ideologists, Trofim Kitchko, published several anti-Semitic books between 1963 and the beginning of the 1980s. His first one, Judaism Unembellished, was sponsored by the Academy of Sciences."
Israel's right to Self Defense Questioned
"Written in 2002, this article is unfortunately still relevant today. Something is very odd in world politics today regarding the Middle East. In spite of the demonstrable insincerity of the Palestinian leadership and the continuing war of terror, it is Israel that receives by far the bulk of the world's condemnation. "
Israel's case: Why we are fighting in Gaza - 14.01. 2009
"The constant malicious spread of disinformation about Israel's Gaza operation must be countered by a simple statement of the facts. This is what I tell people who ask. I hope you find it useful. If you do use it, or parts of it, please credit the source. "
Ami Isseroff
Germans calling Jews Nazis
"Using Nazi genocidal language for Israel's actions is another tool of Holocaust inversion. The most effective way to sanitize Germany's immense crimes is to accuse Israel of acting similarly. "
Judeophobia -  Anti-Semitism, Jew-Hate and anti-"Zionism"
Scroll down the page on the previous link for a table of contents: 16 chapters.......
"These pages are adapted by the kind permission of Dr. Gustavo Perednik. They  are based on a twelve-lecture Internet course prepared for "The Jewish University in Cyberspace." During 2000 and 2001, the book by Gustavo Perednik "Judeophobia" was published in Spanish. This course summarizes the core ideas of the book. It presents a comprehensive and unique analysis of the development of Jew hate (Judeophobia or anti-Semitism) throughout history. It tries to answer the question "why the Jews?" - why have Jews been particularly singled out for ethnic, racial and religious persecution, and it traces the relationship between anti-Zionism and racist Judeophobia or so-called 'anti-Semitism.' "
Weblog managed by Israel-Holland.
In the upper-right hand corner of the page you have a search field that can be used to identify articles with information about major matters related to Israel and Zionism.
Weblog with contributions of Middle-East op-eds and articles

Iran to produce new air defense missile

Another day, another Iranian missile. However, it is clearly not a "missile defense system as Jerusalem post claims, but an anti-aircraft missile. The question is not how fast it can travel, but whether or not its radar homing system can be foiled by Israeli countermeasures.
Iran announces missile defense system
Jun. 6, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Iran has started the production of a new ground-to-air missile system that is able to hit enemy aircraft at supersonic speed, Iranian media reported on Saturday.
"The range of this defense system (missile) is more than 40 km and it is able to pursue and hit the enemy's airplanes and helicopters on a smart basis and at supersonic speed," Iran's Fars News Agency quoted Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar as saying.
According to Reuters, Iranian media reported that the production of the Shahin (hawk) missile defense system was one of the "most important and complex projects" undertaken by the country's defense industry since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iran's Press TV said all parts of the Shahin missile were produced in the country, which is under UN and US sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.
The announcement, which could be seen as an attempt by Teheran to deter Israel from striking Iran's nuclear facilities, comes less then a week before the country's June 12 elections.

Lebanon: Shi'ite happens

Walid Jumblatt used to be an outspoken critic of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, but he has learned to live with the Shi'ites in Lebanon. He explains that there is no other choice, as Christrian power is waning, the West is making overtures to the Hezbollah, and nobody will defend the Druze. The so-called Lebanese majority that fought Syrian and Iranian takeover is evidently collapsing as the West and Israel have abandoned Lebanon to its fate.
Walid Jumblatt in Closed-Door Meeting with Druze Sheikhs: :'We Have No Choice But to Coexist with the Shi'ites'

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt recently held a closed-door meeting with a small group of Druze sheikhs loyal to him; the transcript of the meeting was published in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar. In the meeting, Jumblatt conveyed a clear and unequivocal message, namely that in light of the growing power of the Shi'ites in Lebanon and the decline in the power of the Druze, the latter must accept the new reality, stop fighting the Shi'ites, and coexist with them.

In support of this position, Jumblatt cited the demographic and political changes in the country. He said that the Shi'ites are growing stronger, both in numbers and in power, while the Sunnis are "more dangerous" than the Shi'ites and the Christians are "dying out." He also explained that the reality, as well as the attitude towards the Shi'ites, are changing not only in Lebanon but throughout the world, as manifested by Britain's recent contacts with Hizbullah and the U.S.'s dialogue with Iran; consequently, the Druze too must be realistic and think of the future.

The sheikhs clearly had difficulty in accepting Jumblatt's position and the new path he urged them to take, but he repeatedly insisted that there was no other choice.

Jumblatt's statements are a reflection of the current demographic, sectarian and political situation in Lebanon: the waxing power of the Shi'ites, the apprehension this arouses in the other sects in the country, and their attempts to maneuver within this new reality and to deal with it. The Lebanese pro-Hizbullah daily Al-Akhbar, which published the transcript, stated that this document was destined to become a key page in Lebanese history, adding that the sentiments expressed by Jumblatt reflected not only the Druzes' fears, but the apprehensions felt by all sectors in Lebanon in light of the shifting situation in the country. Al-Akhbar added that Jumblatt's considerations were similar to the considerations that had motivated Maronite leader Michel Aoun, head of the large Christian party Free Patriotic Movement, to opt for a political alliance with Hizbullah in 2006.

Jumblatt's statements also shed light on his political course in the past year, which has been characterized by his drawing closer to the opposition, in particular to Hizbullah. This was manifested in meetings held by Jumblatt and his representatives with Hizbullah officials, and in his taking a more moderate and conciliatory tone regarding Hizbullah and its weapons. In recent months, it was even reported in the Lebanese media that Jumblatt means to leave the March 14 Forces and join the opposition. It should be noted that Jumblatt's rapprochement with the opposition became noticeable especially following the takeover of Beirut and of other areas of Lebanon by Hizbullah gunmen on May 7, 2008, which was accompanied by violent clashes between Druze and Shi'ites in the Mount Lebanon region.

Following are excerpts from the transcript of the meeting: [1]

"We [Druze] Must Live with the Shi'ites"; "[In] South Lebanon, They Are the Majority, and We Are in the Middle"

"Today, our alliance with the March 14 [Forces] and with some of the Christian leaders isn't very stable. That does not mean that we want to change things, but it does mean that we need to pay attention… Amir Talal [Arslan] [2] is now [allied] with Syria, while I am against Syria. But we must look to the future. Perhaps the opening provided by Amir Talal will help with Syria and help our people up there [i.e., the Druze in Syria]… Syria will continue to exist, and as for Israel, we shall never turn to it. We never turned to it in the past, and we will not turn to it [in the future]… I am sure that none of us believes that Israel will defend anyone [except for itself]. Israel has its own interests, and does not protect anybody [else]. Therefore, I am going to leave a [parliament] seat in 'Aley [province] for Amir Talal, [and refrain from running a candidate of my own there].

"As for our relations with the Shi'ites… we have extracted ourselves from a dead end, but the atmosphere is still not good, and I need your help. The atmosphere among the Druze is not good. There are still what I call areas of friction. We do not want the areas where we and the Shi'ites live together - such as Shuweifat, Dir Qoubal, and 'Aramoun - to remain areas of friction. In these places, the Druze attitude is still not good.

"The Shi'ite reality has imposed itself through [demography], through money, through [the relations with] Iran and [through the Lebanese Shi'ite diaspora in] Africa. [The Shi'ites] buy land and fill the empty spaces, because nature abhors a vacuum.

"On the coastal plain, there is competition between Sunnis and Shi'ites. There is a Sunni area and a Shi'ite area. But we [Druze] should live together with the Shi'ites. We must live with the Shi'ites… When [the Shi'ites] tried to come to the mountain [regions that are dominated by the Druze], everybody [there] blocked their way. But in the coastal plain we must live together.

"I still notice negative attitudes among some [Druze] circles, both political and religious, and we cannot go on like this. Because last time [there was friction between Shi'ites and Druze], we escaped only by a miracle. We were lucky, [really] lucky. I have seen the [Druze] youth and heard some of the sheikhs declare that they want to kill [Shi'ites] indiscriminately. [By doing this], we would launch a war which has a beginning but no end. I want to remind you that when we started the war against the Maronites in 1975, we finished it [only] in 1989, and in 1991 the Syrians came and put an end to the matter. That war cost us dearly.

"We have no interest in fighting the Shi'ites. To find a way to preserve our existence, we must find a way to hold dialogue with them. How to accomplish this at the present time, I do not know. I know that, at the moment, Syria does not permit Hassan Nasrallah to meet with me. I know this. But we must find ways, [with the help of Shi'ite leader] 'Abd Al-Amir Qabalan and others, [or] through [the leader of the Shi'ite Amal Party, parliament speaker] Nabih Berri. We must communicate.

"Today, Shi'ites constitute one-third of the country; there are 1,200,000 of them. As you know, from the southern border of Syria to South Lebanon, they are the majority, and we are in the middle."

"The Christians Will Never Come Back [to Power]... They Are Dying Out"

"The Christians will never come back [to power]. That's it. They are dying out. The Sunnis are [still] there, but the big Sunni sea is not close to us. It's up there in the north, in 'Akar. Therefore, I want you to help me in easing the hostility [between the Druze and the Shi'ites]. Now is not the time to remember our war with the Shi'ites in the days of Fakhr Al-Din [in the 16th and 17th centuries]… Once, there was a Druze emirate, but [now] it's gone. What can we do?... If we do not communicate with them somehow, what else can we do? Clash [with them]? And then what?... I need your help…"

A sheikh: "We have never attacked them."

Jumblatt: "That's not true. Let me tell you, dear sheikh, there was [a case in which] we attacked them. And I tell you that I expect you to provide guidance [to the public]. I will work with [my] party. I am complaining to you about the Progressive Party, of which I am the head. I am complaining about the sectarian hostility [in my party] against the Shi'ites. We cannot carry on this way. If there is some incident - started by us or by them - it must not take on the nature of a Druze-Shi'ite [conflict]."

"Sunni Fundamentalism is on the Rise, as Is Happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan"

"I'll say more than this. With the Shi'ites, you can find a way, even if partial, to deal with the problem, but with the Sunnis it's a different matter. At present, there is S'ad Al-Hariri and what is known as the moderate camp among the Sunnis. But as you know, a new climate is emerging, and as a result, Sunni fundamentalism is on the rise, as is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Sheikh: "This is dangerous."

Jumblatt: Now tell me who is more dangerous. You know [the answer]."

Sheikhs: "Sunni fundamentalism is more dangerous."

Jumblatt: "Good, we should know where we are headed."

Responding to a question about whether establishing contact with the Shi'ites would not expose Druze figures to accusations of treason, Jumblatt replied: "Nobody will accuse anybody of treason. I am asking you to establish contact with the Shi'ites. I will go to Nabih Berri, but I want this atmosphere to percolate down to the people, even if all we ask [of them] is to reduce extremist behavior…

"There are areas that are no longer ours… but there are some areas that we share with the Shi'ites. How shall we continue? Shall each of us bear arms against the other, or shall we reach an understanding? You tell me, what should be done in areas like [these]?... I am willing to buy land there, but there are areas where the Druze and Shi'ite population is [completely] intermingled"…

"What should we do? We must strengthen [the Druze] presence where we live, and we must buy land where we are present. We must [improve] our economic position and strengthen our institutions. However, in those areas where the population is mixed, we must live with [the Shi'ites]. If you have another solution, [you are welcome to] tell me about it… There are mixed [areas], so tell me, what are we to do? Give me an alternative solution, other than coexistence in mutual understanding"…

A sheikh: "But are the Shi'ites ready to coexist with us?"

Jumblatt: "Before we put the question to them, I [need to] ask you if you are ready for coexistence."

Sheikhs: "It wasn't us who who started it. Politics is to blame. Before May 7, [2008], this level of hostility did not exist on our part. We are not the ones who created [the hostility]."

Jumblatt: "They are the ones who started it in Dir Qoubal. [3] Okay, [but] now can we put an end to it? Or do you want us to create a Druze Karbala? [4] The Sunnis have [already] invented [their own] new Karbala. There was the [original Shi'ite] Karbala of Hassan and Hussein, and now the Sunnis have created a new Karbala called May 7 [out of] the three people who were killed in Beirut. I ask you: shouldn't we Druze put an end to this matter? They have killed some of our people, and we have killed some of theirs. Shall we stop, or shall we continue the killing? That is the question"…

"On May 7, 2008, the Sunnis Brought in 1,000 Men from [the North]; They Did Not Last More than 15 Minutes [Against Hizbullah] - We Cannot Start a Religious, Psychological and Political War with the Shi'ites"

"[In 2007-2008, when we argued about who would replace Emil Lahoud as president]... I met with what's-his-name, [Maronite military leader] Samir Geagea. He wanted war. The Christians wanted us to start a war with the Shi'ites so that they could look on from the sidelines, and even some of the Sunnis wanted there to be a confrontation between the Shi'ites and ourselves. We saw the Sunnis in Beirut [on May 7, 2008]. They brought in 1,000 men from 'Akar, but they did not last more than 15 minutes [against Hizbullah]. We cannot [afford to] start a religious, psychological and political war with the Shi'ites. Look at those [fundamentalist Sunni Islamists] who shave their mustaches and grow their beards…"

Sheikhs: "They are more dangerous [than the Shi'ites]."

"Britain Has Launched [a Dialogue] with Hizbullah, and America with Iran... So Let's Be Realistic"

Jumblatt: "Islamic Beirut is all around us. What can we do? Up in the mountains, things are still under control, but on the coast, what can we do?"

A sheikh: "That's the reality. We should work to change it."

Jumblatt: "There will soon be elections, [but] they will bring no essential change. Our tragedy today is that Walid Jumblatt is unable to form a [candidate] list in the Shouf Mountains, because the fanatic separatism has come back, and those wretches [i.e. the Maronites] unfortunately remain wretched. If anyone knows the Maronites, it is we Druze and [especially] the Jumblatt family. Isn't that right?

"As for the Shi'ite issue, you need to understand the current situation: Britain has launched [a dialogue] with Hizbullah, and America has launched [one] with Iran, because they [both] need to confront the danger of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. [Likewise, Saudi] King 'Abdallah has started negotiating with Syria. So let's be realistic...

"I wish [Amir Talal] had strength and supporters like mine. But we must support him, because he [provides] an opening [to Syria], and will help to protect the Druze in Syria. [Even] I am saying this - I, Walid Jumblatt, who is against the Syrian regime. We must think in a way that takes into consideration the interest of our people up there [in Syria]… So here's the question. Will we turn the page on May 7 or not?"

A sheikh: "True, but the Shi'ites must [also] understand this. They are making fierce attacks on our areas."

Jumblatt: "So what are we to do? [Even] in our own regions, our numbers are dwindling, while the Shi'ites and the Sunnis [are growing]. Look at the 'Aramoun and Bishamoun [areas]. Today there are Shi'ite and Sunni areas [in these areas]. What are we to do? We have no choice but to live together, because of the geographical [reality] and the expansion of the Shi'ites. The source of their power is not only Iran. [Look at] Beirut, which we call 'Sunni Beirut.' Nothing is left of [Sunni Beirut] except New Road. If we go to Al-Hamra Street, which use to belong to the Armenians and [Maronite] Christians, [we find that] it is now Shi'ite… [The Shi'ites] are buying land and real estate… They also have bases of influence and power in West Africa, from Nigeria to Sierra Leone, and they have a lot of money. They work there and have high incomes.

"Things are changing, even in Beirut... I am not looking for a magic solution. I am looking for a way to communicate [with the Shi'ites] and to reduce the hostility between us…"

Fighting the Shi'ites "Means Entering a Cycle of Bloodshed without End"

A sheikh: "…But the Shi'ites have a grand plan [to take over Lebanon]. It's not a temporary issue that can simply be bypassed. They have attacked our areas, and there is blood between us… Thank God, we have managed to confront them and break their skulls…"

Jumblatt: "So what now? Excuse me, is this a military matter or a political one? If it is merely a military [matter], it means that we are entering an endless cycle of bloodshed. It will destroy our areas, our economic standing, and our institutions. This whole campaign has no future.

"I fought in the war. I was with you. I secured the road from the Soviet Union through Syria, Hamana, and Al-Mukhtara to Beirut. [But] today, the equation has changed. We are in favor of protecting our honor, but at the same time handling matters with political prudence. There is a reality that must be faced, and it is an Islamic reality, both Sunni and Shi'ite. It is not only Shi'ite…

"Let me say something. We have fulfilled our obligation towards ourselves and [former Lebanese prime minister] Rafiq Al-Hariri. As for the international tribunal, nobody knows how it will rule, but we mustn't continue to make a bigger and fiercer issue [out of this]. The tribunal will rule whether [Syrian President] Bashar [Al-Assad] is responsible [for Al-Hariri's murder,] or else is innocent. This is for the tribunal to decide.

"Furthermore, what did Sa'd Al-Hariri say? He said: 'If the Syrian regime turns out to be innocent, I will be willing to apologize.' Okay, he is [Al-Hariri's son]. I for my part am not going to apologize. [As for the] issue of [my father] Kamal Jumblatt [who was assassinated by Syria] - I closed the book on it a long time ago. I went and shook the hand of [former Syrian president] Hafez Al-Assad for the sake... of the Arab identity of the Druze, and for the sake of our [continued] existence.

"Amir Talal is pursuing a wise policy and we have to help him, because by helping him we are helping ourselves. We should work to strengthen [him], so he will protect us. Even I [now] say this."

[1] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 28, 2009.

[2] Talal Arslan, a Druze leader from the Lebanese opposition, was Jumblatt's rival until a few years ago. Following the violent clashes of May 2008 in Beirut, Jumblatt decided to reconcile with him in order to unite the ranks of the Lebanese Druze. As part of this move, he gave up a ministerial position in the cabinet reserved for one of his representatives in favor of one of Arslan's representatives, and promised to give up running a Druze parliamentary candidate in the Aley province in favor of an Arslan candidate. Arslan, for his part, has been mediating between Jumblatt and figures in the opposition, especially in Hizbullah, and, according to reports, he has also been mediating between Jumblatt and Syria.

[3] This probably refers to the Shi'ite attacks on the Druze in Dir Qoubal as part of the May 2008 Hizbullah takeover of Beirut and other areas of Lebanon.

[4] The Battle of Karbala (680 AD), in which Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson and the son of Caliph 'Ali bin 'Ali Talib, was murdered, is a seminal event in Shi'ite history and a symbol of martyrdom.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bernard Lewis on The New Anti-Semitism


Almost anything by Bernard Lewis is worth reading. His narrative of the evolution of anti-Semitism and particularly Arab Anti-Semitism is valuable because it corrects some popular misconceptions and myths about Golden Ages and Dhimmitude, and adds a chapter to our knowledge of the evolution of Arab antagonism to Jews in modern times. Lewis also does a creditable job of separating "anti-Semitism" from "legitimate criticism of Israel" and even plain old hate.

Ami Isseroff

The New Anti-Semitism
Bernard Lewis
(first posted apparently at )

The American Scholar - Volume 75 No. 1 Winter 2006 pp. 25-36

There is a well-worn platitude that we have all heard many times before: it is perfectly legitimate to criticize the actions and policies of the state of Israel or the doctrines of Zionism without necessarily being motivated by anti-Semitism. The fact that this has been repeated ad nauseam does not detract from its truth. Not only do I accept it, but I would even take it a step further with another formulation that may perhaps evoke surprise if not shock: it is perfectly possible to hate and even to persecute Jews without necessarily being anti-Semitic.

Unfortunately, hatred and persecution are a normal part of the human experience. Taking a dislike, mild or intense, to people who are different in one way or another, by ethnicity, race, color, creed, eating habits--no matter what--is part of the normal human condition. We find it throughout recorded history, and we find it all over the world. It can sometimes be extraordinarily vicious and sometimes even amusing.

Not long after World War II, the Danes were seething with resentment against two of their neighbors: the Germans, for having occupied them, and the Swedes, for having stood by with unhelpful neutrality. A Danish saying current at the time was: What is a Swede? A German in human form. Another double-barreled insult, this one from the British army in the late 1930s, when it was concerned about two different groups of terrorists: What is an Arab? A toasted Irishman. I quote these not in any sense with approval or commendation, but as examples of the kind of really nasty prejudice that is widespread in our world.

Anti-Semitism is something quite different. It is marked by two special features. One of them is that Jews are judged by a standard different from that applied to others. We see plenty of examples of this at the present time. But there too one has to be careful. There can be different standards of judgment on other issues too, sometimes even involving Jews, without anti-Semitism or without necessarily being motivated by anti-Semitism.

For instance, in mid-September 1975 in Spain, five terrorists convicted of murdering policemen were sentenced to death. European liberal opinion was outraged that in this modern age a West European country should sentence people to death. Unheard of! There was an outcry of indignation, and strong pressures were brought to bear on the Spanish government. But in the Soviet Union and its satellite states during the same period, vastly greater numbers were being sentenced to death and executed; and, in Africa, Idi Amin was slaughtering hundreds of thousands, a large part of the population of Uganda. Hardly a murmur of protest in the Western world.

The lesson is very clear. Right-wing governments (General Francisco Franco was still in charge) are not allowed to sentence offenders to death; left-wing governments are. A further implication: slaughter of or by white people is bad; slaughter of or by people of color is normal. Similar discrepancies may be found in responses to a number of other issues, as for example the treatment of women and of ethnic or other minorities.

These examples show that even a wide disparity of standards of judgment is not necessarily in itself evidence of anti-Semitism. There may be other elements involved. For example, the comparison is sometimes made between the world reaction to the massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Christian militiamen at Sabra and Shatila in September 1982, where some 800 people were killed, and the massacre earlier in the same year in Hama in Syria, where tens of thousands were killed. On the latter, not a dog barked. The difference, of course, was in the circumstances. In both cases the perpetrators were Arab, but in the case of Sabra and Shatila, because of the dominant Israeli military presence in the region, there was a possibility of blaming the Jews. In Hama, this possibility did not exist; therefore the mass slaughter of Arabs by Arabs went unremarked, unnoticed, and unprotested. This contrast is clearly anti-Jewish. In a different way, it is also anti-Arab.

We see other instances of differing standards and methods of judgment nearer home and in a perhaps less alarming form. We hear a great deal, for example, about the Jewish lobby and the various accusations that are from time to time brought against it, that those engaged in it are somehow disloyal to the United States and are in the service of a foreign power.

The Jewish lobby is, of course, not the only lobby of its kind. Consider three others: the Irish, Greek, and Armenian lobbies. The Irish lobby, which campaigned against the United Kingdom, America's closest ally, and the Greek and Armenian lobbies, which campaigned against Turkey when Turkey was a crucial NATO ally, were seen as pursuing their legitimate concerns. I don't recall accusations against any of them of disloyalty or even of divided loyalty.

The other special feature of anti-Semitism, which is much more important than differing standards of judgment, is the accusation against Jews of cosmic evil. Complaints against people of other groups rarely include it. This accusation of cosmic, satanic evil attributed to Jews, in various parts of the world and in various forms, is what has come to be known in modern times as anti-Semitism.

In the Western world, anti-Semitism has gone through three clearly distinct phases. Some people have written and spoken about anti-Semitism in antiquity, but the term in that context is misleading. We do indeed find texts in the ancient world attacking and denouncing Jews, sometimes quite viciously, but we also find nasty remarks about Syrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, and the rest. There is no great difference between the anti-Jewish remarks and the ethnic and religious prejudices expressed against other peoples, and on the whole the ones against Jews are not the most vicious. The Syrian-born Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, for example, speaking of the Saracens, remarks that they are not to be desired either as friends or as enemies. I don't recall, in the ancient world, anything said about the Jews quite as nasty as that.

Polytheism was essentially tolerant, each group worshiping its own god or gods, offering no objection to the worship of others. Indeed, one might have been willing to offer at least a pinch of incense to some alien god, in courtesy as a visitor or, even at home, in deference to a suzerain. Only the Jews in the ancient world insisted—absurdly, according to the prevailing view of the time—that theirs was the only god and that the others did not exist. This gave rise to problems with their neighbors and their various imperial masters, notably the Romans. It sometimes provoked hostile comments and even persecution, but not the kind of demonization that has come to be known as anti-Semitism. The tendency was rather to ridicule the Jews for their faceless, formless god in the clouds and for such absurd and barbarous customs as circumcision, the rejection of pig-meat, and, most absurd of all, the Sabbath. Several Greek and Roman authors noted that because of this comic practice the Jews were wasting one-seventh of their lives.

Demonization, as distinct from common or garden-variety prejudice or hostility, began with the advent of Christianity and the special role assigned to the Jews in the crucifixion of Christ as related in the Gospels. Christianity started as a movement within Judaism, and the conflict between Christians and Jews had that special bitterness that often makes conflicts within religions more deadly than those between religions. The Christian message was presented as the fulfillment of God's promises to the Jews, written in what Christians called the Old Testament. The rejection of that message by the Jewish custodians of the Old Testament was especially wounding.

An important concern of the early Christians was not so much to blame the Jews as, for understandable reasons, to exculpate the Romans. Jewish guilt and Roman innocence, the two interdependent, became important parts of the Christian message, first to Rome and then beyond, with devastating effect on popular attitudes toward Jews, especially at Easter time.

For many centuries, hatred and persecution of Jews, and the ideology and terminology used to express them, were grounded in religion. Then came the phase when religious prejudice was discredited, seen as not in accord with the ideas of the Enlightenment. It was seen as bigoted; worse, as old-fashioned, out-of-date. That meant new reasons were needed for hating Jews. They were found.

The process of change began in Spain when large numbers of Jews—and also Muslims—were forcibly converted to Christianity. With a forcible conversion there was inevitably some doubt, especially among the enforcers, as to the sincerity of the converts. And this doubt was well grounded, as we know from the phenomenon of the Marranos and the Moriscos, the sometimes dubious converts from Judaism and Islam. Thus the practice arose of examining the racial origins of the so-called new Christians. We even find statutes in 16th-century Spain about purity of blood, la limpieza de sangre. Only people who could prove Christian descent for a specified number of generations could be accepted as genuine Christians. "Purity of blood" was required for certain positions and certain offices.

This is where the racial form of anti-Semitism began. It was systematized in Germany in the 19th century, when for the first time the term "anti-Semitism" was invented and adopted.

"Semitic" was first used as a linguistic, not as an ethnic or racial, term. Like "Aryan," it was coined by philologists to designate a group of related languages. Aryan included languages as diverse as Sanskrit, Persian, and, by extension, Greek, Latin, and most of the languages of Europe. Semitic, similarly, brought together Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, and Ethiopic. Already in 1872 the great German philologist Max Müller pointed out that "Aryan" and "Semitic" were philological, not ethnological, terms and that to speak of an Aryan or Semitic race was as absurd as to speak of a dolichocephalic (long-headed) language. "What misunderstandings, what controversies would arise," he said, from confusing the two—a correct if understated prediction.

Despite these warnings, "Semitic" was transferred from its original linguistic meaning to a new racial meaning and became the basis for a new and different bigotry. The people who advocated this bigotry spurned religious prejudice because they saw themselves as modern and scientific. Their hostility to Jews, they claimed, was based on observed and documented racial otherness and inferiority.

And then, just as religious hostility was spurned by the Enlightenment and replaced by modern and "scientific" racial hostility, so racial hostility was discredited by the Third Reich and its crimes, by the revelations after its fall of the appalling things that it had done. This discrediting of racism left a vacancy, an aching void.

This is where the third phase of anti-Semitism arises, which for want of a better term we might call political-cum-ideological Judeophobia. Race? Oh no, we wouldn't have anything to do with that. Religious prejudice? Oh no, we're far beyond that. This is political and ideological, and it provides a socially and intellectually acceptable modern disguise for sentiments that go back some 2,000 years.

Turning from the Christian to the Islamic world, we find a very different history. If we look at the considerable literature available about the position of Jews in the Islamic world, we find two well-established myths. One is the story of a golden age of equality, of mutual respect and cooperation, especially but not exclusively in Moorish Spain; the other is of "dhimmi"-tude, of subservience and persecution and ill treatment. Both are myths. Like many myths, both contain significant elements of truth, and the historic truth is in its usual place, somewhere in the middle between the extremes.

There are certain important differences between the treatment, the position, the perception of Jews in the pre-modern Islamic world and in the pre-modern and also modern Christian worlds.

The story of a golden age of complete equality is, of course, nonsense. No such thing was possible or even conceivable. Indeed, among Christians and Muslims alike, giving equal rights or, more precisely, equal opportunities to unbelievers would have been seen not as a merit but as a dereliction of duty. But until fairly modern times there was a much higher degree of tolerance in most of the Islamic lands than prevailed in the Christian world. For centuries, in most of Europe Christians were very busy persecuting each other; in their spare time, they were persecuting Jews and expelling Muslims—all at a time when, in the Ottoman Empire and some other Islamic states, Jews and several varieties of Christians were living side by side fairly freely and comfortably.

The comparison has often been made between the Cold War of the 20th century and the confrontation between Christendom and Islam in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. In many ways the comparison is a good one. But one has to remember that in the confrontation between Christendom and Islam, the movement of refugees, of those who, in Lenin's famous phrase, "voted with their feet," was overwhelmingly from west to east not from east to west.

This was tolerance and no more than that. Tolerance is by modern standards an essentially intolerant idea. Tolerance means that I am in charge. I will allow you some though not all of the rights and privileges that I enjoy, provided that you behave yourself according to rules that I will lay down and enforce. That seems a fair definition of tolerance as usually understood and applied. It is, of course, an intolerant idea, but it is a lot better than intolerance as such, and the limited but substantial tolerance accorded to Jews and other non-Muslim communities in the Muslim states until early modern times was certainly vastly better than anything that was available in Christendom.

Prejudices existed in the Islamic world, as did occasional hostility, but not what could be called anti-Semitism, for there was no attribution of cosmic evil. And on the whole, Jews fared better under Muslim rule than Christians did. This is the reverse of what one might expect. In the canonical history, in the Qur'an and the biography of the Prophet, Jews come out badly. The Prophet had more encounters with Jews than with Christians, so we find more negative statements about Jews than about Christians. The biography of the Prophet records armed clashes with Jews, and in those encounters it was the Jews who were killed. Muslims could therefore afford a more relaxed attitude toward Jews in the ensuing generations.

The other advantage for Jews was that they were not seen as dangerous. Christianity was recognized as a rival world religion and a competitor in the cosmic struggle to bring enlightenment (and with it, inevitably, domination) to all humanity. This cosmic competition had important consequences. Local Christians were dangerous in that they were a potential fifth column for the Christian powers of Europe, the main adversary of the Islamic world. Jews were not suspected of being pro-Christian. On the contrary, they were seen as being reliable and even useful. It was not merely tolerance or good will—though these were essential preconditions—that led the Ottoman sultans to admit so many Jewish refugees from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and elsewhere. Jews, especially those of European origin, were active in trade and industry, and from many documents in the Ottoman archives it is clear that they were valued as a revenue-producing asset. They were not just permitted; they were encouraged and even on a few occasions compelled to settle in Ottoman lands, especially in newly conquered provinces.

Obviously, this is not equality, but it is not anti-Semitism in any sense of the word either. The Ottomans' treatment of the Jews even included a kind of respect. We do of course find expressions of prejudice against the Jews, as against any group of people that are different, but their general attitude was of amused, tolerant superiority.

An interesting difference in hostile stereotypes can be found in anecdotes, jokes, and the like. The main negative quality attributed to Jews in Turkish and Arab folklore was that they were cowardly and unmilitary—very contemptible qualities in a martial society. A late Ottoman joke may serve to illustrate this. The story is that in 1912, at the time of the Balkan war, when there was an acute threat to the Ottoman Empire in its final stages, the Jews, full of patriotic ardor, decided that they, too, wanted to serve in the defense of their country, so they asked permission to form a special volunteer brigade. Permission was given, and officers and ncos were sent to train and equip them. Once the Jewish volunteer brigade was armed, equipped, and trained, ready to leave for the front, they sent a message asking if they could have a police escort, because there were reports of bandits on the road.

This is a very interesting human document. Is it hostile? Not really. It shows a sort of amused tolerance, at once good-humored and contemptuous, that may help us to understand the bewilderment and horror at the Israeli victories in 1948 and after. We have some vivid descriptions at the time of the expectations and reactions of 1948. Azzam Pasha, who was then the secretary-general of the Arab League, is quoted as having said: "This will be like the Mongol invasions. We will utterly destroy them. We will sweep them into the sea." The expectation was that it would be quick and easy. There would be no problem at all dealing with half a million Jews. It was then an appalling shock when five Arab armies were defeated by half a million Jews with very limited weaponry. It remains shameful, humiliating. This was mentioned at the time and has been ever since. One writer said: "It was bad enough to be conquered and occupied by the mighty empires of the West, the British Empire, the French Empire, but to suffer this fate at the hands of a few hundred thousand Jews was intolerable."

The Western form of anti-Semitism--the cosmic, satanic version of Jew hatred—provided solace to wounded feelings. It came to the Middle East in several stages. The first stage was almost entirely Christian, brought by European missionaries and diplomats. Its impact was principally on the local Christian minorities, where we find occasional recurrences of the previously little known blood libel. In the 15th and 16th centuries this had indeed been explicitly rejected in orders issued by Ottoman sultans. It was now revived on a massive scale.The first major case was the Damascus blood libel in 1840. This kind of anti-Semitism continued to grow, at first on a small scale, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, with a limited response. At the time of the Dreyfus Affair in France, Muslim opinion was divided, some against Dreyfus, some supporting him. A prominent Muslim thinker of the time, the Egyptian Rashid Rida, wrote defending Dreyfus and attacking his persecutors, accusing them not of fanaticism, since they had no real religious beliefs, but of prejudice and envy. Despite this response, one consequence of the affair was the first translation into Arabic of a batch of European anti-Semitic writings.

Then came the Third Reich, with connections to the Arab world and, later, to other Muslim countries. Now that the German archives are open, we know that within weeks of Hitler's coming to power in 1933, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem got in touch with the German consul general in Jerusalem, Doctor Heinrich Wolff, and offered his services. It is interesting that the common image of the Germans pursuing the Arabs is the reverse of what happened. The Arabs were pursuing the Germans, and the Germans were very reluctant to get involved. Dr. Wolff recommended, and his government agreed, that as long as there was any hope of making a deal with the British Empire and establishing a kind of Aryan-Nordic axis in the West, it would be pointless to antagonize the British by supporting the Arabs.

But then things gradually changed, particularly after the Munich Conference in 1938. That was the turning point, when the German government finally decided that there was no deal to be made with Britain, no Aryan axis. Then the Germans turned their attention more seriously to the Arabs, responding at last to their approaches, and from then on the relationship developed very swiftly.

In 1940 the French surrender gave the Nazis new opportunities for action in the Arab world. In Vichy-controlled Syria they were able for a while to establish an intelligence and propaganda base in the heart of the Arab East. From Syria they extended their activities to Iraq, where they helped to establish a pro-Nazi regime headed by Rashid Ali al-Gailani. This was overthrown by the British, and Rashid Ali went to join his friend the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in Berlin, where he remained as Hitler's guest until the end of the war. In the last days of Rashid Ali's regime, on the first and second of June 1941, soldiers and civilians launched murderous attacks on the ancient Jewish community in Baghdad. This was followed by a series of such attacks in other Arab cities, both in the Middle East and in North Africa.

While in Berlin, Rashid Ali was apparently disquieted by the language and, more especially, the terminology of anti-Semitism. His concerns were authoritatively removed in an exchange of letters with an official spokesman of the German Nazi Party. In answer to a question from Rashid Ali as to whether anti-Semitism was also directed against Arabs, because they were part of the Semitic family, Professor Walter Gross, director of the Race Policy Office of the Nazi Party, explained with great emphasis, in a letter dated October 17, 1942, that this was not the case and that anti-Semitism was concerned wholly and exclusively with Jews. On the contrary, he observed, the Nazis had always shown sympathy and support for the Arab cause against the Jews. In the course of his letter, he even remarked that the expression "anti-Semitism, which has been used for decades in Europe by the anti-Jewish movement, was incorrect since this movement was directed exclusively against Jewry, and not against other peoples who speak a Semitic language."

This apparently caused some concern in Nazi circles, and a little later a committee was formed that suggested that the Führer's speeches and his book Mein Kampf should be revised to adopt the term "anti-Jewish" instead of "anti-Semitic" so as not to offend "our Arab friends." The Führer did not agree, and this proposal was not accepted. There was still no great problem in German-Arab relations before, during, and even for a while after the war.

The Nazi propaganda impact was immense. We see it in Arabic memoirs of the period, and of course in the foundation of the Ba'ath party. We use the word "party" in speaking of the Ba'ath in the same sense in which one speaks of the Fascist, Nazi, or Communist parties—not a party in the Western sense, an organization for seeking votes and winning elections, but a party as part of the apparatus of government, particularly concerned with indoctrination and repression. And anti-Semitism, European-style, became a very important part of that indoctrination. The basis was there. A certain amount of translated literature was there. It became much more important after the events of 1948, when the humiliated Arabs drew comfort from the doctrine of the Jews as a source of cosmic evil. This continued and grew with subsequent Arab defeats, particularly after the ultimate humiliation of the 1967 war, which Israel won in less than a week.

The growth of European-style anti-Semitism in the Arab world derived in the main from this feeling of humiliation and the need therefore to ascribe to the Jews a role very different from their traditional role in Arab folklore and much closer to that of the anti-Semitic prototypes. By now the familiar themes of European anti-Semitism—the blood libel, the protocols of Zion, the international Jewish conspiracy, and the rest—have become standard fare in much of the Arab world, in the schoolroom, the pulpit, the media, and even on the Internet. It is bitterly ironic that these themes have been adopted by previously immune Muslims precisely at a time when in Europe they have become an embarrassment even to anti-Semites.

What encouraged this development was what one can only describe as the acquiescence of the United Nations and, apparently, of enlightened opinion in the Western world. Let me cite some examples. On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the famous resolution calling for the division of Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone of Jerusalem. The United Nations passed this resolution without making any provision for its enforcement. Just over two weeks later, at a public meeting on December 17, the Arab League adopted a resolution totally rejecting this UN resolution, declaring that they would use all means at their disposal, including armed intervention, to nullify it—an open challenge to the United Nations that was and remains unanswered. No attempt was made to respond, no attempt to prevent the armed intervention that the Arab League promptly launched.

The United Nations's handling of the 1948 war and the resulting problems shows some curious disparities—for example, on the question of refugees. At the end of the initial struggle in Palestine, part of the country was under the rule of the newly created Jewish state, part under the rule of neighboring Arab governments. A significant number of Arabs remained in the territories under Jewish rule. It was taken then as axiomatic, and has never been challenged since, that no Jews could remain in the areas of Palestine under Arab rule, so that as well as Arab refugees from the Jewish-controlled areas, there were Jewish refugees from the Arab-controlled areas of mandatary Palestine, not just settlers, but old, established groups, notably the ancient Jewish community in East Jerusalem, which was totally evicted and its monuments desecrated or destroyed. The United Nations seemed to have no problem with this; nor did international public opinion. When Jews were driven out, no provision was made for them, no help offered, no protest made. This surely sent a very clear message to the Arab world, a less clear message to the Jews.

Jewish refugees came not only from those parts of Palestine that were under Arab rule, but also from Arab countries, where the Jewish communities either fled or were driven out, in numbers roughly equal to those of the Arab refugees from Israel. Again, the response of the United Nations to the two groups of refugees was very different. For Arab refugees in Palestine, very elaborate arrangements were made and very extensive financing provided. This contrasts not only with the treatment of Jews from Arab countries, but with the treatment of all the other refugees at the time. The partition of Palestine in 1948 was a trivial affair compared with the partition of India in the previous year, which resulted in millions of refugees—Hindus who fled or were driven from Pakistan into India, and Muslims who fled or were driven from India into Pakistan. This occurred entirely without any help from the United Nations, and perhaps for that reason the refugees were all resettled. One could go back a little further and talk about the millions of refugees in Central and Eastern Europe—Poles fleeing from the Eastern Polish areas annexed to the Soviet Union and Germans fleeing from the East German areas annexed to Poland. Millions of them, of both nationalities, were left entirely to their own people and their own resources.

Some other measures adopted at the time may be worth noting. All the Arab governments involved announced two things. First, they would not recognize Israel. They were entitled to do that. Second, they would not admit Israelis of any religion to their territories, which meant that not only Israeli Jews but also Israeli Muslims and Christians were not allowed into East Jerusalem. Catholic and Protestant Christians were permitted to enter once a year on Christmas Day for a few hours, but otherwise there was no admittance to the holy places in Jerusalem for Jews or Christians. Worse than that, Muslims in Israel were unable to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. For Christians, pilgrimage is optional. For Muslims it is a basic obligation of the faith. A Muslim is required to go on pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina at least once in a lifetime. The Saudi government of the time ruled that Muslims who were Israeli citizens could not go. Some years later, they modified this rule.

At the same time, virtually all the Arab governments announced that they would not give visas to Jews of any nationality. This was not furtive—it was public, proclaimed on the visa forms and in the tourist literature. They made it quite clear that people of the Jewish religion, no matter what their citizenship, would not be given visas or be permitted to enter any independent Arab country. Again, not a word of protest from anywhere. One can imagine the outrage if Israel had announced that it would not give visas to Muslims, still more if the United States were to do so. As directed against Jews, this ban was seen as perfectly natural and normal. In some countries it continues to this day, although in practice most Arab countries have given it up.

Neither the United Nations nor the public protested any of this in any way, so it is hardly surprising that Arab governments concluded that they had license for this sort of action and worse. One other example: unlike the other Arab countries, the Jordanians were at that time willing to accept Palestinian refugees as citizens, and the Jordanian nationality law of February 4, 1954, offered Jordanian citizenship to Palestinians, defined as natives and residents of the mandated territory of Palestine—"except Jews." This was clearly stated. Not a murmur of protest from anyone, anywhere.

These examples may serve to illustrate the atmosphere within which the new Arab anti-Semitism grew and flourished. After the 1967 war, the Israelis came into possession of the former Arab-occupied Palestinian territories, including a number of schools run by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. These schools were funded by the United Nations. When the Israelis had a chance to look at the Syrian, Jordanian, or Egyptian textbooks that these UN-funded schools used, they found many examples of unequivocal anti-Semitism. Although the Israelis could do nothing about anti-Semitism in textbooks in Arab countries, they felt that they could do something about anti-Semitism in textbooks used in schools funded and maintained by the United Nations. The matter was referred to the UN, which referred it to UNESCO, which appointed a commission of three professors of Arabic—one Turkish, one French, and one American. These professors examined the textbooks and wrote a lengthy report saying that some textbooks were acceptable, some were beyond repair and should be abandoned, and some should be corrected. The report was presented to UNESCO on April 4, 1969. It was not published.

For those who needed it, all this provided an up-to-date, intellectually and socially acceptable rationale for what ought to be called anti-Semitism but, since that word isn't acceptable, might be called Jew-baiting, Jew-hating, or generally being unpleasant to Jews.

The rationale has thus served two purposes—one for Jews, the other for their enemies. In anti-Semitism's first stage, when the hostility was based in religion and expressed in religious terms, the Jew always had the option of changing sides. During the medieval and early modern periods, Jews persecuted by Christians could convert. Not only could they escape the persecution; they could join the persecutors if they so wished, and some indeed rose to high rank in the church and in the Inquisition. Racial anti-Semitism removed that option. The present-day ideological anti-Semitism has restored it, and now as in the Middle Ages, there seem to be some who are willing to avail themselves of this option.

For non-Jews the rationale brought a different kind of relief. For more than half a century, any discussion of Jews and their problems has been overshadowed by the grim memories of the crimes of the Nazis and of the complicity, acquiescence, or indifference of so many others. But inevitably, the memory of those days is fading, and now Israel and its problems afford an opportunity to relinquish the unfamiliar and uncomfortable posture of guilt and contrition and to resume the more familiar and more comfortable position of stern reproof from an attitude of moral superiority. It is not surprising that this opportunity is widely welcomed and utilized.

The new anti-Semitism has little or no bearing on the rights and wrongs of the Palestine conflict, but it must surely have some effect on perceptions of the problem, and therefore on the behavior and perhaps even on the policies of both participants and outsiders. Nor is the offense all on one side. One might argue that when Arabs are judged by a lower standard than Jews, as for example the minimal attention given to the atrocious crimes committed at Darfur, this is more offensive to Arabs than to Jews. Contempt is indeed more demeaning than hatred. But it is less dangerous.

Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, is the author, most recently, of From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East. This essay is based on a lecture delivered at Brandeis University on March 24, 2004.

Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

MKs Respond: 'Zionist Vision is Stronger than Any President'
by Hillel Fendel

( As the Israeli government convenes to discuss the ramifications of U.S. President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo, other Israeli politicians have lost no time in responding to it. Excerpts:

MK Danny Danon (Likud): "The president has crossed all lines. His implied comparison between the Israeli government and the Nazi regime said everything. He has made a covenant with the Arab world and rewarded it for more than 60 years of aggression."

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union): "Obama makes a shocking parallel between the destruction of European Jewry and the suffering that the Arabs of Israel brought upon themselves when they declared war on Israel."

MK Eldad: How dare Obama compare Arab refugee suffering to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust?

"If Obama does not understand the difference between them, perhaps he will understand it better when he visits the Buchenwald concentration camp in the comings days. And if he doesn't understand it even there, then Islam will once again teach it to him, just as it taught his predecessor on 9/11."

Regarding Obama's praise of Islam, Eldad said, "Obama spoke more from his own heart and less from genuine understanding of the direction Islam is taking around the world. Whoever thinks that the establishment of a Palestinian state will stop the war in Darfur, India, Chechnya, and Europe will apparently soon learn that Israel is not willing to be the 'pound of flesh' that he wants to throw to the Muslims."

MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said: "The Zionist vision of the rebuilding of the Land of Israel is stronger than any president or government. We outlasted Pharaoh, and we will outlast Obama."

Obama said, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. It is time for these settlements to stop."

Ben-Ari said, "Everyone can now see that Obama is not interested in Maoz Esther, but in Jerusalem.

MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home): "The speech arouses fears and concerns regarding the future of American relations towards Israel. I fear an erosion of the traditional American commitment to Israel's security needs and its very existence and independence. Our response must not be to cave in, but rather to have dialogue with, and persuade the Administration, while waging an emergency call-up of all the resources of Israel and the Jewish nation. "

MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor): "Though things might be understood differently, I believe that Israel can be the big winner from the American change in approach. I am sorry that he said nothing about the return of Gilad Shalit as one of the confidence-building gestures that should be implemented."

MK Zev Boim, formerly of the Likud - where he nominally opposed the Disengagement - and now of Kadima: "Obama's stance on the Palestinian issue is identical to that of Kadima. It is too bad that Netanyahu, because of narrow political considerations, is unable to join the idea of two states for two peoples, which is the only idea that can guarantee Israel's existence as a Jewish state."

Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev told Channel One television news, "Obama's speech was very professional and peace-seeking. But he quoted our Sages, which he attributed to the Quran, and the same Sages and sources have spoken of the Jewish People's right to this Land. Just as he said that the State of Israel will not disappear, the same is true about the settlements in Judea and Samaria."

Yogev added, "Though the speech was not inflammatory, I am sure that it will give a push to the settlement effort throughout Judea and Samaria, and we will grow even stronger than the five percent growth rate we already enjoy."

Meretz Party chairman MK Chaim Oron: "The speech was inspired, optimistic, and heralded a new spirit that seemed to have disappeared from the region."

Palestinian Authority distorts Obama speech into racist apartheid harangue

Most people who heard President Obama's speech in Cairo thought it was an inclusive message of peace and brotherhood. President Obama said, inter alia,
All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
Not everyone understood that.  According to the official PLO WAFA news agency, Palestinian Presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeina :
...pointed [out] that the US President's call for Israel to stop colonization and for establishing a Palestinian state, and that Jerusalem is for Muslims and Christians...
Perhaps something got lost in the translation, due to cultural differences.
Ami Isseroff

Obama: The speech is the message

 It is not what he said, but how Barack Obama said it and who he is that determine the effectiveness of a speech that was meant to reach out directly to the people of the Middle East.

El Rais Obama?


Those looking for definitive policy statements in Barack Obama's Cairo speech will be mostly disappointed. Barack Obama's Middle East policy is still relatively unformulated or unannounced. If he has a detailed plan for foiling Al-Qaeda, for meeting the challenge posed by Iran and for bringing peace to the Israelis and Palestinians, he has not told us about it.

There was at least one great departure from traditional US policy, couched in most peculiar and ungrammatical language, but clear enough:

The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Presidential speech writers must know that "settlements" are not a verb, and they cannot stop. There are no new settlements, and in fact, it is disputable whether or not the construction violates any agreements. The point is however, that this is the first time a US official has questioned the legality of settlements or settlement activity. The writing is clearly on the wall for settlement construction, if not for the settlements themselves.

Obama talked about "Palestine" rather than a "future Palestinian state," which might also be a departure. Other than that, there was not much new. He reaffirmed US support for a two state solution, hardly a surprise, and included the ritual condemnations of terror. He kept a low profile regarding Iran, and while one might think that the North Korean nuclear test would have implications for US policy everywhere, Obama wasn't about to mention it. Nothing else he said that related to policy was really surprising, including his statement that Iran should have access to nuclear materials.

Continued: El Rais Obama?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Reader's Guide to Israeli "Settlement Activity"

Why the settlements are important.  Excerpts from two characteristically incisive comments by military and intelligence analyst J. E. Dyer at Jonathan Tobin's contentions post yesterday:

The most consistent position from Israeli leaders . . . is that the West Bank is a holistic national defense issue, of which the settlements are an integral element. No aspect of the settlements is divorced from the question of defensible borders for Israel . . .

Without occupying the summits that look down on Israel's eastern border, Israel can't defend her narrow territory against attack from the East. That is the defensible borders issue with the West Bank, and was demonstrated clearly in the '67 war. The significance of holding these summits has only increased with time, and the expanded range of man-portable missile systems.  . . .

One thing is certain. Everyone in the Middle East understands the military/defensive value of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. They fully understand there that the beef the Palestinians have with the settlements is precisely that the settlements deny the Palestinians access to the summits that look down on Jerusalem, and the rest of Israel's eastern border.

If Israel did, in fact, abandon that territory in terms of occupation and military defense, there is no natural or political barrier at the perimeter of the West Bank that would prevent outside support to the Palestinians there from quickly turning the threat to Israel — within 2-3 weeks — into the same level of threat posed to Israel from Lebanon, and from the other side of the Golan Heights.

There is no reason whatsoever to imagine that Jordan would (or even could) do anything to prevent the development of such a threat. If Israel did not address it promptly by reoccupying the West Bank, it could build very quickly after that into a full-blown military threat.

Why "settlement activity" is a non-issue.  Excerpts from Elliott Abrams' April 7, 2009 article in the Washington Post:

For one thing, most settlement activity is in those major blocs that it is widely understood Israel will keep. For another, those settlements are becoming more populated, not geographically larger. . . . population growth inside settlements does not [take land that Palestinians own or use, or interfere with Palestinian mobility or agricultural activity]. For the past five years, Israel's government has largely adhered to guidelines that were discussed with the United States but never formally adopted: that there would be no new settlements, no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements and no new construction except in already built-up areas.

Why ceasing all Israeli "settlement activity" would unfairly affect final status issues.  Excerpt from Vel Nirtist's May 31 article at American Thinker:

Israelis are not the only ones who build on the disputed land to accommodate for 'natural growth,' thus "pre-judging" the outcome of diplomacy. Palestinians do, too -- and the Obama administration, to be fair or at least consistent in its concern that "facts on the ground" should not adversely affect final-status negotiations, should put equal pressure on the Palestinians to stop all their building in the West Bank, too -- for when the Palestinians build in the West Bank, they also create "facts on the ground," erecting their structures on the land which Israelis may want to be part of their state. . . .


Because the West Bank is a disputed territory . . . It is worth repeating yet again that before the West Bank was "occupied" by the Israelis in 1967 when they beat off the Arab aggression, it was under Jordanian occupation that started in 1948, and that prior to that it was occupied by the British who had the mandate to do so from the League of Nations; and that prior to that it was part of the Ottoman Empire. "Palestinian state" never existed, and cannot claim any territory as legitimately its own.

To recap:  (1) the major settlements are on the high ground overlooking pre-1967 Israel, and whoever holds that high ground holds the military assets necessary either to defend or attack Israel; (2) Israeli settlement activity for the last five years has been largely limited to growth within the geographical limits of those settlement blocs, which will be kept by Israel in any conceivable peace agreement; and (3) the entire West Bank is disputed territory, as to which Israel has historical and religious connections, legal claims arising out of the documents that established the British mandate, and the military necessity to insure it cannot become the staging area for the kind of attack that nearly destroyed Israel in 1967. 

Israel's connections, claims and necessities can be negotiated by Israel in return for a Palestinian and Arab commitment to recognize Israel within defensible borders -- but to suggest that the current major settlements are "obstacles to peace," or that stopping settlement activity within them would lead to peace, is to suggest that an Israel with defensible borders is an obstacle.  There will be no peace (even if a "peace agreement" were signed) if Israel does not have defensible borders, and the freedom to live within them.  In fact, a "peace agreement" without such borders or freedom would lead to a new war.

Which is why settlement activity will continue in the same fashion it has for the last five years.

Posted by Rick Richman | Permalink

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Think about if people began referring to Arab communities inside pre-67 Israel as "settlements". Could they eventually be frozen? Dismantled? Their population expelled? All for peace?

And to expand on #3: territorial compromise has been a constant element of proposed solutions - TransJordan was lopped off in 1923; Peel Commission suggested a further partition of territory in 1937; Woodhead the same the following year; the 1939 White Paper canceled the "Jewish national home reconstitution" essence of Balfour and substituted a "Palestine state"; in 1947, the UN recommended a "Jewish" and an "Arab" state to come into existence with a further territorial reduction for the Jews. In 1994, Israel gave over to Jordan territory. In the Oslo Process, the Pals. received "A" area. In 2005, all of Gaza was completely de-Judaized.

Nothing of this has worked or solved the true basic issues.

To achieve peace, the Arabs insist on emptying out their territory of a Jewish presence. For an 'absolute' peace, going back to my first point, should Arabs be emptied out of Israel? Is that rational and humane? And the opposite is good statesmanship?

Groups silent in face of Obama calls for settlement freeze

By Eric Fingerhut · June 2, 2009
President Obama, since his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington on May 18, 2009, has stepped up public pressure on Netanyahu to stop settlement activity in the West Bank. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90/JTA)


Other Media

President Obama, since his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in Washington on May 18, 2009, has stepped up public pressure on Netanyahu to stop settlement activity in the West Bank. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90/JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Even as it publicly stakes out a hard-line position against Israeli settlement expansion, the Obama administration is avoiding serious criticism from most U.S. Jewish groups and pro-Israel Democratic lawmakers.

Key pro-Israel Jewish Democrats have backed the president on the importance of an Israeli settlement freeze while also suggesting there is room for a compromise between the Netanyahu government and the White House.

Meanwhile, the major Jewish centrist organizations -- including the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and AIPAC -- have refrained from issuing statements criticizing the Obama administration on the issue.

Some Jewish leaders said that while worries had been growing in recent days, the community wanted to wait until after President Obama's speech Thursday in Cairo to fully assess the situation.

Their concern spiked after what they saw as "stark" comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week in which she said that "with respect to settlements, the president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here: He wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions."

In subsequent interviews, Obama has reiterated the call for a settlement freeze, but also stressed that "it's still early in the conversation" and that "patience is needed." The president also has stressed the White House's continuing commitment to Israel's security, isolating Hamas and fighting to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

While the Bush administration also called for a settlement freeze, observers said the Obama administration's tone and seeming willingness to follow up marks a significant change from the previous White House. The key flashpoint surrounds the issue of "natural growth," which often is understood to encompass any kind of building and construction to accommodate growing families -- from building an extra room to a house to additional schools, community services and synagogues in growing neighborhoods.

Last month, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams publicly confirmed the existence of an unwritten agreement that then-President George W. Bush and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reached in 2004, stating that Israel could continue to build in large Israeli settlements in the West Bank that the Jewish state was likely to keep in any final peace deal.

The Obama administration reportedly has backed away from that understanding -- but, as some observers and unnamed U.S. officials have pointed out, only after Netanyahu refused to echo his predecessors' endorsement of a two-state solution.

"There would usually be a great deal of deference if he did his part," said the Middle East Forum's Steve Rosen, formerly the longtime foreign policy director at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But without such an affirmation for a two-state solution by Netanyahu, "it weakened his ability to play that card."

Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, said the organized Jewish community was still treading cautiously, not wanting to "push any buttons and exacerbate the situation" in order to see what the president says in his speech to the Muslim world this week.

"It's a crisis in formation" -- but not yet a crisis, said Foxman.

"Everybody is holding their breath until after Thursday," he said.

The chairman of the Conference of Presidents, Alan Solow, also said it was "too early to come to any conclusion" on how the settlement discussions will play out.

"I'm watching very carefully to see that the American leadershp and the Israeli leadership have a candid exchange of views," said Solow, an early Obama supporter during the campaign.

While Jewish lawmakers and centrist Jewish organizations have steered clear from directly critcizing the Obama administration, more than 75 percent of the members of the House of Representatives have signed on to an AIPAC-backed letter to the president stating, among other things, that the United States should seek to settle its disputes with Israel in private.

Some Jewish leaders have expressed puzzlement at the administration's willingness to bring the argument out in the open so quickly.

"It's not clear what's to be gained by this public exchange on settlements, especially because there's not much likelihood of a deal at this point" and "a private channel exists," said an official at one Jewish organization who did not want to be identified.

Even Republican Jews, who attacked Obama throughout the presidential campaign for his positions on Israel, have been relatively quiet in recent days.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said his organization was waiting until after the Cairo speech to make a formal statement in order to have a "full sense of what's going on," although he said the group was "deeply concerned about the path this administration is taking."

Left-wing pro-Israel groups, which have been encouraging Obama to press for a settlement freeze since his inauguration, were pleased that the White House appears to be sticking to its demands.

Americans for Peace Now spokesman Ori Nir said the shift is "sweeping, if in fact the administration will stand behind its words and enforce these positions."

The Zionist Organization of America criticized the settlement freeze proposal immediately after last month's Obama-Netanyahu meeting, saying "it simply penalizes Jews, because they are Jews, from living in the ancestral heartland of the Jewish people."

Late Tuesday, the Orthodox Union weighed in with a letter to Obama, saying it was "deeply troubled" by his approach to settlements because his typical "nuanced approach" was "glaringly absent."

"To the contrary, this policy has, to date, reflected a blunderbuss, one-size-fits-all attitude toward everything from building a new house on an empty lot in the midst of the city of Ma'ale Adumim, to erecting new houses on an empty hilltop in Samaria," wrote leaders of the Orthodox Union, which has increasingly aligned itself publicly with the settler movement in recent years.

According to multiple reports, Netanyahu and his aides were shocked to discover in a meeting last month with Jewish members of Congress the degree to which they sided with Obama. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) said it was the first time during such a meeting that he recalled an Israeli prime minister being pressed on the settlement issue in his 13 years in the House.

"Those people who have been some of Israel's staunchest and most vocal supporters in the past and would be in the future are advocating this policy and supporting the president because it is a policy in best interests of the United States and Israel," said Wexler, an early supporter and outspoken Jewish surrogate for Obama during the presidential campaign. "I'm convinced Netanyahu feels the same way. He just has to figure out the dynamic that will support it and we have to give him the time and room to do that."

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) said he still wanted the Obama administration to more clearly define what exactly it meant by "natural growth," but generally backed the idea of stopping settlements.

"We're not talking about dismantling settlements, we're talking about a settlement freeze," said Ackerman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. "Settlements have proven to be one of the things that have been problematic."

Ackerman said he still wanted to hear specifically whether the administration's definition of natural growth was all about buildings, or also included people.

"I don't know how you can tell families they can't have children," he said, but expanding the "footprint" of a settlement through building or other construction was problematic.

"I think there is room for compromise," he said.

Wexler offered his own idea for a compromise, suggesting that the Jewish state offer to freeze all natural growth of settlements on the Palestinian side of the security fence as a "credible first step." He said Israel needed to make some sort of movement on the settlement issue as a way to test whether the Arab world is serious about peace with Israel.

"American Jews or Israel should not be concerned" by the recent tension over settlements, he said.

"All of this is within the context of empowering the president of the United States to extract from the Arab world normalization measures that the Arab world has never contemplated before," Wexler said.

Two of the more hard-line Jewish Democrats in Congress, Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Shelly Berkley (D-Nev.), did voice some concerns this week.

"My concern is that we are applying pressure to the wrong party in this dispute," Berkley said in an interview with Politico. "I think it would serve America's interest better if we were pressuring the Iranians to eliminate the potential of a nuclear threat from Iran, and less time pressuring our allies and the only democracy in the Middle East to stop the natural growth of their settlements.

"When Congress gets back into session," she added, "the administration is going to hear from many more members than just me."