Saturday, August 7, 2010

The False Issue of "Race" in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The False Issue of "Race" in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

By Barry Rubin

As the waitress whose family had come from Ethiopia put the pizza on the table at the Tel Aviv restaurant, I contemplated the ridiculous misuse of "race" as a factor in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Regardless of skin color, we belong not only to the same country by way of citizenship but also to the same nation and people in a very profound way that isn't true for countries that are merely geographical entities.

Among the scores of ridiculous things said, thought, and written about the Arab-Israeli conflict, the pretense that it has something to do with "race" ranks high among them. This has been interjected for two reasons. First, this is a blatant attempt to demonize and delegitimize Israel.

Second, as part of that point but also due to trends in Western intellectual discussions, there is a conflation of nationality and race. Often, there is an attempt nowadays to portray any form of nationalism in the West as racist, though this is never applied to Third World nationalists situations. Neither the internal conflicts in Iraq (among Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds) nor in Lebanon (among numerous groups) are about race but rather arise from national, ethnic, and religious (sometimes all rolled up into one) conflicts.

One of the most basic lessons in looking at foreign or international affairs is to understand that countries just don't think alike about issues. America, and in a different way Europe, has been obsessed with race. That doesn't mean everyone else is racially oriented. Israelis don't think about skin color as such and are well aware that Jews, while having a common ancestry, have been affected by many cultures and societies.

With intermarriage rates between Jews whose ancestors came from Europe and those who came from the Middle East approaching half in Israel today, there is no way to classify people. In fact, Israelis are far less interested than other countries about people's ancestral travels.

Moreover, what does one say about such "darker-skinned" Israelis as my Hungarian-Yemenite colleague or my Syrian-origin pianist neighbor (whose wife is from Poland by way of Argentina? There is absolutely no issue involved here. And many Israelis of European origin are not exactly "white" in their appearance.

Indeed, Israel has more "blacks" among its Jews (from Ethiopia) than do the Palestinians by far. Israeli media never use racial stereotypes or epithets while Arab and Palestinian media have had numerous racist remarks and cartoons about such American leaders as Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and now even Barack Obama. In a recent radio interview one of the leaders of the Islamist movement in Israel, in other words from the Arab minority here, said that it was a disgrace that a black Israeli soldier could ask for the identity document of an Arab Muslim. Yet such racism from the Arab/Palestinian side is ignored in the Western media.

While there have been some incidents in reaction to the arrival of Jews from Ethiopia, these have been few and universally rejected. Moreover, Israel has given refuge to the American "Black Hebrew" movement when it easily could have deported them.

It is officially estimated that at least 19 asylum seekers have been shot dead by Egyptian forces in Sinai. To my knowledge no one in this category has ever been injured in Israel.

I have had friends, mostly Filipinos, who were illegal workers (they overstayed work permits) deported from Israel and they simply accepted it and were soon working in another country. None of them bears any grudge against Israel, quite the contrary they could serve as citizen ambassadors on its behalf. None of them ever reported a single case of "racial" mistreatment and I don't believe there has ever been--and workers' advocacy groups have never reported--a racial assault or even insult on any foreign worker in Israel. The problem, of course, is that there is at times terrible economic exploitation by unscrupulous employers, which is in no way atypical in the world today.

The Israel-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts are in no way "racial." National identity is something quite different from "race" generally. Israelis and Arabs are not easily distinguished by skin color, though of course there are exceptions.I was in an Israeli government agency meeting a high-ranking official whose skin shade was darker than that of Barack Obama. This was only something I noted because I was planning to write the article you are reading now.

I arrived at the meeting mentioned above by taking a cab from my neighborhood taxi stand. I gave the address and the driver went back to speaking on his mobile phone in Arabic, which is the only reason I realized he was an Israeli Arab. I couldn't tell just by looking at him.

The attempt by anti-Israel slanderers to inject a racial aspect is ludicrously nonsensical. If you have ever travelled in Syria you would find that the average skin color of people there is lighter than that of Israelis on average. Generally speaking, there is less variation in "racial terms" between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs than there is among member states of the European Union.

It just doesn't apply to conditions here. ‎'While Palestinian Arabs are on average a shade or two darker than Israelis you can find wider variations within the EU member states.

But if you can label someone as a "racist" because they are engaged in a conflict with another nation or group automatically "proves" they are in the wrong. If the conflict is a national one, however, you actually have to think about it. Who's right in the following conflicts: Irish Catholics or Protestants; Basques or Spain; Bosnians or Serbs; Russians or Chechens, Somalis or Ethiopians; Iraqi Sunni, Shia, or Kurds; India or Pakistan; Azerbaijan or Armenia, and so on?

The answer cannot be deduced automatically. But label one side as racist and the discussion is over. This, then, is a trick for deceiving, not a tool for understanding.

The ridiculousness of attempts to transfer American or European situations to Israel was embodied in an American student asking an Israeli professor how many blacks were on his university's basketball team. Actually, there are many on the professional teams but they are all, of course, from the United States, though I believe one or two had converted and remained in Israel.

I don't think there's any question of the fact that there is far far more racism in Europe or in the Arabic-speaking world than in Israel--and that's an understatement.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at

Three-quarters of non-Muslims believe Islam bad for Britain

94% believe that Islam oppresses women. I wonder what gave them that impression?
  Muslim organisation calls for efforts to improve awareness as four-fifths of those polled admit to little knowledge of the faith

Three-quarters of non-Muslims believe Islam has provided a negative contribution to British society, according to a new poll, which has prompted calls for Muslims to help improve the perception of their faith.

The study for the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) also found that 63% of people surveyed did not disagree with the statement "Muslims are terrorists" and 94% agreed that "Islam oppresses women". It included qualitative as well as quantitative data. One respondent said: ""If I had my way I'd kick them all [Muslims] out of here."

The results follow an online YouGov poll, published in June, that found 58% linked Islam with extremism and 69% believed it encouraged the repression of women.

Despite the widespread negative perceptions of Islam, iERA believes the fact that most opinions were formed in ignorance of the faith indicates that Muslims can positively influence them.

Four-fifths of those polled said they have less than very little knowledge about Islam, while 40% did not know who "Allah" referred to and 36% did not know who the Prophet Muhammad was.

iERA's senior researcher Hamza Tzortzis said: "We wanted to do something positive with the survey results rather than just say, 'It's so sad'. So, the organisation's strategy is to give a new realm of possibility for people to comprehend Islam, have a proper respect for Islam and see the human relevance of the faith."

The organisation has made a number of recommendations on how to spread knowledge of Islam and the Muslim community through education and audiovisual materials. It also advocates "promoting Muslim women as ambassadors of change" to counter the impression that they are oppressed.

Although the survey indicated people may not be willing to listen – 60% said they preferred not to receive any information about religion, while 77% did not agree in any way that Muslims should do more to teach people about their faith – Tzortzis believes they will if they are shown that religion is relevant.

"We need to show that it [Islam] encompasses all the things in your life whether social or practical," he said.

"We had one of the biggest economic crises and we had no Islamic scholar saying the Islamic [financial] model wasn't as affected and might be relevant."

The study, carried out for iERA out by DJS Research, used face-to face questionnaires to ascertain the views of a "statistically robust" sample of 500 randomly selected non-Muslims.

Mahmoud 'Abbas: The Recent Arab Summit Discussed War, reiterates vow never to recognize Jewish state

PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas recently gave an interview to a group of Egyptian newspaper editors. The following are excerpts from the interview, as published July 30, 2010 in the Egyptian dailies Al-Masri Al-Yawm and Al-Ahram: 

The Delegates at the Sirte Summit Counted Tanks and Planes

"... At the recent Arab summit, in Sirte, [Libya], the delegates said: 'We will fight [Israel].' They counted tanks, and concluded that [the Arabs] have more tanks than Israel does. They did the same with planes, and said: 'We have 3,000, while Israel has [only] 1,500, so we can defeat it.' Whoever talks this way is forgetting that Israel has 250 munitions factories, [whereas] the Arab states – which of them can manufacture [so much as] a bullet?

"[Nevertheless] I told them, 'If you want war, I am with you.' Later I [repeated], 'I am behind you.' They replied, 'We do not want to fight; that is not our intention.' As for resistance, I told them: 'As the one responsible for a part of the Palestinian people, I do not welcome resistance, and the same is true for Hamas. It does not want resistance [either, as evident from the fact that] it calls [the firing] of missiles 'treason' and 'non-national [activity].' [Then the delegates] fell silent and there was no more talk of war..." [1]

Hamas Capitulates to Iran; The PA Does Not Capitulate to U.S.

"Hamas is refusing to sign the reconciliation [agreement] in response to a direct request from Iran, not from Syria... They accuse us [i.e. the PA] of capitulating to American pressures. [Yet] we did not comply with the U.S. request to refuse to sign the [reconciliation] document, even though they threatened us with siege. [Moreover,] before the [2008] Damascus summit, I was approached by [then]-U.S. vice president Dick Cheney, who asked me not to attend the summit, [but] I refused. He told me: 'I'll get angry,' and I replied, 'Go ahead and get angry.' In other words, I do not [capitulate] to American pressure, even though they give me 450 million dollars a year..."

No Palestinian State without Gaza

"There could have been progress [in the talks with the Israelis] had they responded to our proposal regarding the security and borders. We asked the American [mediators] to inform us of Israel's response to our demand for a commitment to the 1967 borders and a complete [halt] to construction in the settlements. The Israeli side replied that there may be a halt to construction in the settlements, but not a permanent one. As for commitment to the 1967 borders, the Israeli side gave no response at all...

"There will be no solution unless Gaza is restored [to PA rule]... We know that Israel uses the inter-Palestinian division as an excuse to renege on its commitments, but there will be no Palestinian state without Gaza..."

I Will Not Call Israel a Jewish State

"I was the first [Arab leader to meet with] the Jewish lobby in the U.S.. No Arab leader had done so before me, because the extremism [of this lobby] makes it dangerous to meet with [its members]. Everyone advised me not to go; even the U.S. administration did not encourage me, out of concern that [the lobby members] would wait for a misstep on my part, which could be a disaster. But eventually I did go... I was asked 27 questions, the first of which was, 'What is your stance on [Israel as] a Jewish state?... I told them: You can call yourselves whatever you wish, even 'The Great Hebrew Zionist Empire,' but I refuse to call you by any name [of this kind]...

"[About the issue of Palestinian incitement against Israel, I told them:] True, there is [Palestinian] incitement, but when we established a tripartite committee in 1988 to discuss this issue, the Netanyahu government had objections. [The lobby members] asked me about security, and I replied that I had no objection to [the presence of] a third party [i.e., an international force] after the establishment of the [Palestinian] state. They asked me if I would agree to the presence of Jews in this force, and I answered that I wouldn't mind it [even] this force had a Jewish-American colonel or general, but I would object to the presence of an Israeli – [even] a Muslim [Israeli citizen] – because this would mean perpetuating the occupation, and the [international] force is meant to withdraw at some point..." [2]

Al-Qaradhawi Does Not Understand a Thing about Religion

Responding to a fatwa recently issued by Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, which prohibits Arab officials from visiting Jerusalem as long as the occupation exists, 'Abbas said: "If Al-Qaradhawi says that visiting Jerusalem is prohibited, he does not understand a thing about religion. Palestinian Religious Endowments minister Mahmoud Al-Habbash pointed out to him that coming to Jerusalem was mentioned in the Koran and the Sunna, saying, 'Give me one piece of evidence that it is forbidden to visit [this city],' and [Al-Qaradhawi] could not produce a single piece of evidence."


[1] The PA media published slightly different versions of Abu Mazen's interview. The PA's official news agency WAFA gave the following version of this passage about the Sirte summit: "At the Arab summit, [the delegates] told me, 'We will go to war.' I told them, 'If you all fight, we will fight [too].' They replied, 'Don't get us wrong. We do not want to fight, we are talking about resistance.' I said to them, 'Neither the PA nor Hamas want resistance. Hamas describes the missiles [fired at Israel] as treasonous and non-national. It has thus surpassed me [in the harshness of its language], because I described the missiles as [merely] unhelpful. So if neither the PA nor Hamas want resistance, who does? You Arabs? Go right ahead. They fell silent, [and did not continue to talk] about resistance or war." WAFA (PA), July 28, 2010.

The PA dailies Al-Quds and Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, which also published parts of the interview, citing WAFA as their source, did not include any of this passage about the Sirte summit. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), Al-Quds (Jerusalem), July 30, 2010.

[2] WAFA's version of this passage: "I do not oppose the presence of a third-party force in the stage following the establishment of the [Palestinian] state, and I do not object to this side being NATO or any other element, but I will not have any Israeli – even a Muslim [Israeli] – on our soil. I will not have any Israeli on my soil..." WAFA (PA), July 30, 2010.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and Al-Quds gave the following version: "I am willing to accept the presence of a third-party [force] that will [serve in a] supervisory [capacity] after the reaching of a solution – for example a NATO [force]. [But] I will not agree to the NATO force including Jews, and I will not accept even a single Israeli living in our midst, in the PA territories. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA),  Al-Quds (Jerusalem), July 30, 2010.

Israel Innovation

A film about Israeli, science, technology and struggle against surrounding hatred since 1948.

Lebanon: Abandoned and betrayed


By Tariq Alhomayed
Our airplane arrived at Beirut airport prior to the arrival of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque's private plane, and as soon as we landed we immediately travelled to [Baabda] palace which is located far from the airport. As soon as we entered the special hall in the palace which was allocated for receiving guests, we found ourselves face to face with the faces of the Lebanese political crisis. Everybody was present in the hall and awaiting the arrival of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Syrian President, and their host the Lebanese Prime Minister, with the exception of [Lebanese Forces leader] Samir Geagea, [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah, and [Phalange party leader] Amine Gemayel; as only Lebanese members of parliament and former prime ministers were invited to attend, sparking a major controversy in Lebanon.

This is my first visit to Lebanon since the assassination of Rafik Hariri. This is also the first time that I met with certain Lebanese political figures, even if I had had some limited contact with some of these figures over the phone. This was also an opportunity to meet with well-respected and appreciated Lebanese political figures, and of course there was also meetings and handshakes with parties that are considered to be hugely politically divergent, including [meetings] with some members of Hezbollah.
I wish that there was a camera that could broadcast live on air the meetings that took place on the sidelines and what was said there, and how many Lebanese politicians meet and joke with one another, and then easily and generously hit one another below the belt. For as you shake one Lebanese politician's hands, he introduces you to another Lebanese politician; you then find these two politicians arguing with one another, even if they are on the same side, or members of the same political trend! You would also hear a well-known Lebanese figure asking the Iranian ambassador [to Lebanon] – and this is something that I heard with my own ears – "Have you seen so-and-so? What do you think about him?" The Iranian ambassador looked at one of the Lebanese politicians and laughed, saying "it seems that you haven't visited Lebanon for a while!" I wish that I could say everything that I know and hear, however council has its privacy, and a situation is governed by its provisions.

In the hall, I said to one of my friends, imagine how relieved Lebanon and the Lebanese people would be if they locked all of these Lebanese politicians in this hall, and then transferred them by airplane to a land faraway? He replied without thinking or even meeting my eyes "similar politicians will emerge to take their place within the month" whilst smiling and extending his hand to shake the hand of one of his own [political] rivals, before hugging him.

In summary, what I heard and sensed from everybody in Lebanon, regardless of their sect or political background, is that the country is under threat, and the future might be even worse than the past. Even the most optimistic politicians were concerned about what would happen in the coming days, and how could they not when Hezbollah official for southern Lebanon, Nabil Farouk, issued a statement saying "the resistance considers any accusation of its leadership or cadres to represent a form of aggression against it, more serious than the 5 May 2008 decision [calling for Hezbollah to dismantle its communication network]. Hezbollah is committed to defending its achievements and the good name of its fighters to the last and until the end." Farouk's statement, of course, means to remind the Lebanese that they will be facing the same fate as the 7 May 2008 Hezbollah armed coup of Beirut. This is something that would be expected in the event of the [Hariri tribunal] issuing the expected decision accusing Hezbollah of being responsible for Rafik Hariri's assassination.
We said goodbye to Beirut, saying: God help Lebanon and its people, they are facing a long night!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Killing Christians in Pakistan

Here are two of the many reports about killing of Christians by Muslims:
A group of masked men opened fire on the faithful gathered to talk about security. Since 2008, members of extremists group threaten non-Muslims: "they pollute the land they live on and must leave."

Sukkur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A dozen masked men opened fire against five Christians, killing them instantly as they left their church (see photo). The massacre occurred on 15 July, two months after threatening letters were sent to the church by a group of Islamic extremists outlawed by the government. The victims are Pastor John Aaron, Rohail Bhatti, John Salman, Abid Gill and Shamin Mall, all the faithful of the Church of the Gospel. Five other faithful were wounded in the attack.

Shahid John, son of Pastor Aaron says: "The five were gathered in the church along with others to discuss the security problem. After leaving, a group of armed men opened fire against us".  He escaped with a wound to the arm: "The area is steeped in fear. The police arrived 45 minutes after the attack, and we had to wait another 45 minutes for an ambulance",,,

Indian Muslim condemns the murder of Christian brothers accused of blasphemy

by Nirmala Carvalho
Asghar Ali Engineer, head of Mumbai's Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, calls the murder a horrible crime that is also against Islam. He blames Muslim clerics for using the blasphemy laws to promote their own interests. "I am completely against the blasphemy laws; there is nothing in Qur'an about it," he said.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – "The murder of the two Christian brothers is a horrible crime and such criminal acts are repeatedly taking place in Pakistan. I received the news with deep sorrow and regret," said Asghar Ali Engineer, an Indian Muslim who heads the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai. "I am completely against the blasphemy laws; there is nothing in Qur'an about it," he added.

Two Christian brothers, Rashid Emmanuel e Sajid Masih Emmanuel, were gunned down yesterday as they left a courthouse in Faisalabad (Pakistan). Police had arrested them on blasphemy charges, but they were acquitted by the cour


Sukkur [Pakistan], five Christians killed outside church

Sukkur, five Christians killed outside church,-five-Christians-killed-outside-church-19102.html
A group of masked men opened fire on the faithful gathered to talk about security. Since 2008, members of extremists group threaten non-Muslims: "they pollute the land they live on and must leave."

Sukkur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A dozen masked men opened fire against five Christians, killing them instantly as they left their church (see photo). The massacre occurred on 15 July, two months after threatening letters were sent to the church by a group of Islamic extremists outlawed by the government. The victims are Pastor John Aaron, Rohail Bhatti, John Salman, Abid Gill and Shamin Mall, all the faithful of the Church of the Gospel. Five other faithful were wounded in the attack.

Shahid John, son of Pastor Aaron says: "The five were gathered in the church along with others to discuss the security problem. After leaving, a group of armed men opened fire against us".  He escaped with a wound to the arm: "The area is steeped in fear. The police arrived 45 minutes after the attack, and we had to wait another 45 minutes for an ambulance".

Last May, the Sip-e-Sahaba (Islamic extremist group, also known as Sipah-e-Sahaba) had threatened the Christians to leave the area before it was too late. Kiran Rohail, wife of Rohail Bhatti (one of the wounded) said: "They told us that we are not welcome, that we pollute the land." The group is composed of members of a local madrassa (Islamic school), which has been threatening non-Muslims since 2008.

Naila John, widow of pastor killed in the attack, recalls: "In that year a group of Muslim students began threatening us, they wanted our land. Out of fear, only 55 Christian families remained in the area. " Local police "took our complaints but did not initiate any investigation. It is clear that threats from Muslims convinced them to stay out of the question".  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tell Olympia Food Co-op what you think About BDS

The Olympia Food Coop has initiated approved a boycott of Israeli goods -- all Israeli goods. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel is about ending Israel and Zionism, not "ending the occupation." The Olympia board knows that, but they blue-washed their support for genocide with a silly statement claiming they are just criticizing Israel.
Tell the Olympia Food Coop they are obstructing peace in the Middle East and supporting genocide.
Here are BDS people in their own words:
Interview with single-state and BDS activist Dr. Haidar Eid

Haidar Eid : As a One Democratic State supporter, it is amongst the corollaries of such a belief that Israel is a settler colonialist, Apartheid state and the methods- or, tools of struggle- used against Apartheid South Africa can be used as a model in our struggle against Apartheid Israel."

We are opposed to imperialism, sectarianism, and Zionism. (Bay Area Committee to End Israel Apartheid)
Here is a video about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions:

Lebanon-Israel: This is our fourth anniversary

Leave it to the expert, Ronen Bergman, to point out what is staring us in the face. The attack in Lebanon came on the anniversary of the end of the Second Lebanon war. It was clearly planned, and clearly intended to send a message. As to what the President or Prime Minister of Lebanon want, that is irrelevant. Lebanon is run from Tehran and Damascus.

Ronen Bergman: Hezbollah and the Lebanon Dilemma –

Originally at Wall Street Journal  
On Tuesday afternoon, several hours before a highly anticipated televised speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Lebanese army snipers fired at an Israeli military detail that was trimming trees on the Israeli side of the border. The premeditated attack, which killed a colonel and left another officer severely wounded, came exactly four years since the end of the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The question now is whether this incident could spark a chain reaction that results in another war.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Michael Totten on what Israel and Israelis are really like

"The Greatest Collection of Nightmares on Earth"
August 4, 2010 - by Michael J. Totten
TEL AVIV — I learn most of what I know about the Middle East from the people who live here, and I was a bit shocked when I discovered, years ago, that many reporters—especially wire agency reporters—absorb most of what they know, think, and believe about the region from other journalists. I didn't know anyone, local or foreign, in the Middle East when I first got here, and I initially had to rely on the people I met randomly in cafes and bars and in person via the Internet to teach me what's going on and how the place works. All my information came from the street. Most of my understanding still comes from the street—not from on high, not from newspapers or press releases, and not from foreign reporters who do not live here. Eventually I worked my way up to the prime minister's office in Lebanon, and I've almost gotten that far now in Israel, but my real education has taken place during long sessions in cafes and bars with Arabs, Kurds, and Israelis.
Benjamin Kerstein's name will appear on the Acknowledgements page of my book when it comes out in the spring because he has taught me an enormous amount about Israel during the time I have known him. I met him five years ago when I first came here from Lebanon, when Israel was still a partially Arabized abstraction in my eyes. He was one of the first people who humanized the place for me, and he taught me more than he knows about the Israeli people and how they see themselves and their place on earth and in history. The parts of my book that take place here are better than they would be if I did not know him.
It finally occurred to me during this trip that I should meet him for coffee and record our conversation so you can learn about Israel the way I do.
MJT: So what's it like to read about Israel in the foreign press?
Benjamin Kerstein: Surreal.
MJT: How so?
Benjamin Kerstein: It rarely bears any resemblance to the country I live in, mainly because it either deals only with the conflict or because the news is produced by people who live in the English-speaking Jerusalem bubble.
MJT: Tell me about the English-speaking Jerusalem bubble.
Benjamin Kerstein: There's a large population of English speakers in Jerusalem. The people who speak English tend to gather around each other, especially if they're in the higher reaches of government or the media. They tend to hang out with other English-speaking people. They go to the places where such people congregate, they read English-language newspapers, and they watch English-language television. They have very little contact with the rest of Israel, which is predominantly Hebrew-speaking.
Tel Aviv is quite cosmopolitan, but if you go to the development towns in the south or to the towns in the north and in the Galilee, there are Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking populations there. Journalists have almost no contact with this world. What they portray as Israeli is a corner of a corner of a corner of this country.
So when we read about Israel in the foreign press—especially if we know about the English-speaking bubble in Jerusalem, or if we've ever dealt with the media in Jerusalem—we recognize almost instantly the same themes over and over and over again. All you usually get is the view of a closed subculture, which is not even interesting in my opinion.
MJT: A lot of these journalists don't even socialize with English-speaking Israelis. I know they don't because I've met some of them. I know who they hang out with and how disconnected they are. They hang out with each other and with other foreigners. That strikes me as bizarre because almost all my friends here are Israelis. Likewise, most of my friends in Lebanon are Lebanese.
Benjamin Kerstein: You find this sort of thing everywhere. People with shared interests and a shared language congregate. Hebrew isn't a supremely difficult language to learn, but if you don't have to learn it, you won't. There are people who have lived in Jerusalem for thirty years who haven't learned Hebrew because they don't have to. This affects their opinions, it affects their view of the world, and it affects how they write about it.
There are Hebrew bubbles, as well, of course. Tel Aviv is a different sort of bubble. We even refer to it as ha'bua which literally means "The Bubble" in Hebrew. This problem isn't something that only afflicts foreign language journalists. There are bubbles throughout Israeli society.
MJT: What's the difference between the English-speaking bubble in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv bubble?
Benjamin Kerstein: There are actually a lot of bubbles inside Tel Aviv. When we say "the bubble," we're generally referring to the wealthy and upper-middle class people associated with the high-tech boom. Some use the term to refer to the more freakish elements of Tel Aviv—the artists, the musicians, and the homosexual population that's way more "out" than any other in Israel, and certainly more "out" than in any other place in the Middle East. [Laughs.]
MJT: Without a doubt.
Benjamin Kerstein: So the phrase is used as a catch-all to describe the high-fashion avant-garde population of Tel Aviv that is actually somewhat parochial. Tel Aviv is the New York City of Israel. It's at once very cosmopolitan and very parochial.
MJT: Yes, New York is like that.
Benjamin Kerstein: People outside New York will refer to a New York mentality, but at the same time, inside New York there are a billion different subcultures. It's the same in Tel Aviv.
MJT: Right.
Benjamin Kerstein: The religious movement here also has a bubble of its own. The settler movement lives in a bubble. The Hebrew-speaking media lives in one of its own, especially the television media.
MJT: What is it that outsiders tend not to understand about Israel? I'm not asking because I want to pick on them, but because I don't want to be clueless myself.
Benjamin Kerstein: The first thing visitors notice is that Israelis are prickly. Native-born Israelis are called sabras. The sabra is a cactus fruit that has prickly thorns on the outside, but is soft and sweet on the inside. That's how Israelis view themselves. We can be aggressive and rude, but once you get to know us, we love you and we want you to marry our sisters and brothers.
What outsiders first encounter is that, and they often tend to base their view of Israelis on that first impression. And they either react negatively or are enthralled by it. They either see us as boorish, violent, and obnoxious, or as honest, tough, and straight-talking but also sentimental and lovable. But either way, they rarely see what's underneath.
Amos Oz once gave the best description of us. He said there is an Israel of the day, and an Israel of the night. Israel during the day is a prosperous and cosmopolitan Mediterranean society, but at night it's the greatest collection of nightmares on the face of the earth. Everyone here, at one point or another, has seen the devil.
Although there's a general awareness of the Holocaust, I'm not sure outsiders are aware of the depth of the sense of trauma in Israeli society. We're a people who really are deeply wounded. Around seventy percent of the people who moved here were forced out of the places they came from. That's true of almost all the Jews from the Muslim world. It's true of most of the Jews from Europe who fled persecution before the Holocaust, during the Holocaust, or after the Holocaust. Very few people came here out of free choice.
MJT: Mostly just Americans, right?
Benjamin Kerstein: People from the Anglo-Saxon world, yes. Even Jews who are coming here now from France are coming to escape anti-Semitism. The Jewish community in Turkey right now is undergoing a kind of silent exodus. Initially these people come here with a feeling of liberation. They release a lot of themselves. But they also have a strong sense of trauma and resentment because of what they had to go through. Particularly in the regards to the Jews from the Muslim world, there is hardly any understanding of this on the part of outsiders. There is almost no recognition of it. Outsiders are gloriously unaware of this side of Israeli history.
Most people come here and see the conflict. They come here originally as conflict tourists, like you and me. [Laughs.] They come here for the action. They go to the West Bank, they see the checkpoints and the shootings and the riots. And they develop a loyalty to one side or the other.
There are other people who come here to see the country and have a good time. My sense is that they are astonished at the sense of normalcy here. They're amazed that there aren't bombs going off every day.
It's important to understand that outsiders come here with preconceived notions.
MJT: Of course they do. I did. It's impossible not to. I probably still haven't kicked some of them.
Benjamin Kerstein: Some people come with preconceived notions and are changed very quickly. Others hold onto their preconceived notions and won't ever change. Unfortunately I see that with journalists a great deal. [Laughs.] It's a result of becoming better ill-informed, if you know what I mean. They know more than they used to after spending some time here, but they still don't get it. They see what they've come to see and that's it.
MJT: What about governments? The US and European government have their opinions about and positions on Israel, and most of their officials have never been here. They hardly know anything. They're the ultimate outsiders, way more than conflict tourists or journalists who have at least spent some time in the place.
Benjamin Kerstein: I'm not really qualified to talk about how American and European policymakers view Israel. So much goes on behind closed doors. I don't know how much of it is for show. I don't know how much of what they say about Israel in public is just to protect their interests in the Arab world.
MJT: Feel free to speculate. Everyone else does.
Benjamin Kerstein: My guess is that Europe and America have a pretty simple attitude: they want a solution to the conflict. It's a pain in the ass for them, and they'd like it to go away.
MJT: Of course. Aside from Hamas, Hezbollah, and so on, who doesn't want it to go away?
Benjamin Kerstein: But I also think officials in the US, Europe, and elsewhere are much less naïve than their public statements make them appear. I don't think many of them believe that the peace process, for instance, is nearly as easy as they say it should be. They say things like, "If we could just get the Israeli and Palestinians to sit down and talk, we could reach a solution."
I think most of them are smart enough to know that isn't true. I also think they're smart enough to know that a lot of it isn't Israel's fault, but by blaming most of it on Israel they can buy themselves leverage in the Arab world. I think the Arab world understands this perfectly well, that it's the politics of the gesture.
I have to say, though, that when foreign governments say Israel has to make concessions and take responsibility for the conflict, Israelis take it all very seriously. The charge of disproportionality during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, the Goldstone Report—Israelis do not take into consideration the possibility that these may just be gestures. Israelis take it personally, and they become very angry. Israelis feel very strongly that the world is against them.
MJT: Why do you suppose that is?
Benjamin Kerstein: Most Israelis are here because they fled from Muslim and European countries. They don't feel that either of those blocs have the right to lecture them about anything. Why should a country where your parents were expelled or killed have the right to tell you how to conduct yourself in a war against people who are trying to kill you today? This is something hardly any non-Israelis understand. They don't understand how galling we find this.
Israelis are often accused of being arrogant, but they find it extremely arrogant for Europeans and Arabs to lecture them about morals, especially during a war. What has Israel ever done that is as brutal as what Europe did to the Jews, or what Arabs routinely do to even each other during armed conflicts?
I suspect, though, that a lot of the rhetoric is just that. It's just rhetoric. If you look at what Europe actually does, in a lot of cases it's better than what the rhetoric would suggest.
I do think Europe retains an insufficiently pessimistic attitude about the Palestinian national movement, which is perhaps out of desperation. They have to go with either Fatah or Hamas. There is no other option. Most politicians, however ideological they may sound, are basically pragmatists. They think that if Hamas has to be out of the picture, they're going to have to rehabilitate Fatah. Otherwise, there won't be anybody to talk to. They might be right about that, but I think they are overly optimistic about Fatah signing an agreement.
I think the smart leaders in Europe are trying to lessen the tension here now, and I think they're doing a much better job than America is. Barack Obama actually seems to believe that he can end the conflict. He doesn't seem to be trying to lessen the tension. He seem to be willing to exacerbate tensions if he thinks it might bring results.
MJT: What's he doing to exacerbate tension that Europe is not?
Benjamin Kerstein: Calling for a settlement freeze.
MJT: But the Europeans have been doing that all along.
Benjamin Kerstein: Yeah, but it has less bite to it. They don't have much clout here. They have never been able to produce any results. When the US says it, though, the Palestinians are forced to respond to it. If Obama calls for a settlement freeze, Mahmoud Abbas can't negotiate until after a settlement freeze. When Europe calls for a settlement freeze, Abbas can dismiss it as irrelevant and remain in peace talks with Israel, but he can't be softer on Israel than America is.
MJT: How would you distinguish between fair criticism of Israel—and even unfair criticism of Israel, for that matter—and outright anti-Semitism?
Benjamin Kerstein: I think a lot of it is a question of rhetoric. A lot of the criticism is fair, but we often hear criticism which is frankly psychotic—that we're using poison gas, for instance, or poisoned candies to kill Palestinian children. That we poisoned the water in Gaza to prevent reproduction. That sort of thing.
Sometimes the rhetoric is so over-the-top and so vitriolic that it seems to be motivated by a violence that can't be explained away as strident criticism. Comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany, for instance. Accusations of genocide. Accusations that are clearly—and this, I think, is the most important—accusations which are clearly drawn from the vocabulary and iconography of classic anti-Semitism.
The "Israel Lobby" trope is a big part of this. You can criticize a group of people who are seeking to influence the United States government, but if you read what is actually being said by the critics of the so-called "Israel Lobby," it comes straight out of the classic anti-Semitic myth of overwhelming Jewish power. I think that's where the distinguishing factor comes in.
There is also a great deal of criticism of Israel that isn't criticism. Criticism implies a certain degree of rationality, analysis, and objectivity. Much of what is regarded as criticism is actually an assault. It is intended to wound and cause pain. It is intended to demonize. The way, for example, some people off-handedly accuse Israel of genocide, as if this is not even in question. This, to me, is obviously intended to be as hurtful as possible. I can't even begin to explain to you how offensive the Nazi comparison is.
MJT: Try.
Benjamin Kerstein: It's like a person who raped and murdered your child stands up in court and says you did it. That's what it feels like. It's difficult to even respond because it's so unthinkably cruel to say something like that. To compare us to our worst enemies, enemies who decimated us, our fathers, our grandfathers within living memory—it's not just that this isn't within the realm of rational discourse, it isn't even in the realm of human decency.
The issue of human decency is a big one. It may be difficult to define, but whenever criticism crosses that line, that, to my mind, is where anti-Semitism begins. Anti-Semitism ultimately is a refusal to accord basic human decency to the Jewish people. It's a refusal to relate to a certain group of people with the common human decency with which you would relate to anybody else.
That's what racism is, essentially. If you saw someone being beaten up in the street, you'd try to stop it if you were capable. At least you would think it was bad.
MJT: You would call the police.
Benjamin Kerstein: Exactly. But a racist would see a black person being beaten up in the street and be indifferent to it or even think it's a good thing.
MJT: What do you think about people who say they aren't anti-Semitic, just anti-Zionist? They don't have a problem with, say, Jews in New York, but they intensely hate Israel. I know many Arabs like this.
Benjamin Kerstein: Again, you have to look at what they're saying. Do they even have any idea what they're criticizing? A great deal of what I see out there that's referred to as anti-Zionism doesn't actually make any reference to Zionism. They don't know anything about Zionism. They have a few quotes from Theodore Hertzl, a few quotes from David Ben-Gurion, and the rest is your standard "Israelis are racist, Israelis are genocidal, Israelis are Nazis." And this is called anti-Zionism. Legitimate anti-Zionism would have to engage in some way with Zionism.
MJT: "Zionist" is often just used as an epithet.
Benjamin Kerstein: Exactly.
MJT: So can you briefly define Zionism for people who aren't really sure what it is?
Benjamin Kerstein: Zionism is a group of ideologies which try to deal with the question of what it means to be Jewish in the modern world and how the Jewish people should deal with being in the modern world. The answer Zionism has almost always advocated is that the Jewish people need political sovereignty in a nation-state. There was a small group in the 1920s and '30s who wanted a bi-national state with the Arabs and believed Zionism could be fulfilled that way, but they were very much on the fringe, and since the founding of the State of Israel, those non-state variations have pretty much fallen by the wayside. Since 1948, Zionism has been more or less defined by the nation-state of Israel.
It's more complicated than that, obviously, but here are the basics of Zionism: First, the Jewish people are a people, and because they are a people, they are entitled to self-determination in their own homeland by right and not by sufferance. And that homeland is the land of Israel. There's a debate within Zionism itself about whether the Jewish state can be in only part of the land of Israel and what exactly is the land of Israel in terms of borders, but it has to be in the land of Israel.
MJT: It can't be in Uganda.
Benjamin Kerstein: Exactly.
MJT: Would you say that those who describe themselves as anti-Zionist are saying, whether they intend to or not, that Israel has no right to exist?
Benjamin Kerstein: That would be true by definition.
Now, you could say that Gandhi's anti-Zionism was at least internally consistent with his pacifism and other aspects of his ideology. I would say he was historically wrong, but you can make the argument that he was anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic. And you can certainly say that certain Haredi groups who base their entire worldview on the Torah and oppose a secular state of Israel for religious reasons are not anti-Semitic.
But I don't see how you can support self-determination for Palestinians while declaring yourself anti-Zionist—and therefore opposing self-determination for Jews—without being anti-Semitic. If you support self-determination for one people, you cannot deny it to another. And I do not accept that the Jewish people are not a people. It's historically wrong, it's culturally wrong, it's objectively wrong on every level.
I also don't see how someone can support the self-determination of other non-Jewish peoples while describing themselves as anti-Zionists and say they aren't anti-Semitic.
But you can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic if you say, for instance, that you're opposed to the idea of the nation-state in general. I think you'd be unrealistic, a utopian dreamer with a totally irrelevant argument, but I could believe that you're not an anti-Semite. But I think there are very few people out there who genuinely believe that. Maybe some anarchists feel that way.
MJT: What do you think of people who say the Palestinians have a fake made-up identity? Some insist the Palestinians are just part of a monolithic undiversified Arab mass.
Benjamin Kerstein: It's not my business to tell the Palestinians whether or not they exist. It's also not their business to tell me whether or not I exist. If I demand that from them, they have the right to demand that from me.
I think people who say the Palestinians don't exist are…myopic, to put it delicately.
Some of this, though, is just reciprocity, people throwing rhetorical hand grenades back and forth. They say we don't exist, so some of us say they don't exist. The Palestinian national charter says very straightforwardly that the Jews are not a people. Now, there are some Israelis who say the Palestinian national identity didn't exist until after 1948, which is not necessarily untrue. You can make the argument that Palestinian national identity as we know it is basically a product of the Nakba.
MJT: Before 1948, the Palestinians of Gaza said they were Egyptians. Today, though, they're different. Gaza is not a distant suburb of Cairo. Over time it has become something else. Egyptians think so, too. Egyptians don't look at the people of Gaza and see themselves. Egypt is walling them off.
Benjamin Kerstein: Either way, it's not my right to define other people. To say they aren't a people doesn't strike me as an honorable argument. I have to agree that the Palestinians have the right to self-determination, but I also have the right to say that they don't have the right to determine themselves upon the destruction of Israel.
MJT: Zionism doesn't have anything to say about Arabs, does it?
Benjamin Kerstein: Not a great deal. Zionism is concerned with Jewish rights and sovereignty in the modern world. Its efforts have always been in that direction. It doesn't have any position on Arabs. None of the things that all forms of Zionism share have much to do with the Arabs or any other non-Jews. This is true of almost all national liberation movements. They tend to be very parochial and inward-looking.
MJT: The Palestinians are a bit unusual.
Benjamin Kerstein: In what sense?
MJT: They define themselves in opposition to you.
Benjamin Kerstein: Yes, they do.
MJT: The Lebanese identity, for instance, has nothing at all to do with Israel. There is an Egyptian national identity that would be the same even if Israel didn't exist. The Palestinian identity, though, was defined in opposition to Israel.
Benjamin Kerstein: Yes. One of the biggest obstacles to peace is the degree to which that's true. Making peace with Israel might feel like losing part of their identity to a certain degree, or at least losing any sense of coherence to their identity. I don't know how relevant this is, though. The Palestinians believe themselves to be a people, and therefore they are. I don't have the right to argue with them about it. I only have the right to say their rights are not unlimited, that we have rights, too, and they need to recognize ours. I won't go any farther than that. I'm not going to say Palestinian identity is a conspiracy or a lie. This goes back to the issue of common human decency. It simply demands that you extend a certain amount of reciprocity to someone else.
MJT: How optimistic are you about resolving this conflict within your lifetime?
Benjamin Kerstein: I don't know. Anything can happen in the Middle East. Everything can change tomorrow, but I'm pessimistic. I don't expect to see it during my lifetime. It's always best to gamble on pessimism in this part of the world. Things fall apart here. Instability is the norm. Stability is temporary and can only be achieved and maintained with great effort. Order here tends toward collapse.
I am a long-term optimist, though. The conflict does reach states that are manageable for certain lengths of time, and it seems like these are increasing. The outbreaks of violence get less severe as time goes on. There hasn't been a major war since 1973.
MJT: The war in Lebanon in 1982 wasn't major?
Benjamin Kerstein: No, because Israel wasn't facing the full weight of an enemy army during that war. There hasn't been a full-on war, with the marshalling of all available resources between the states in this region since 1973. All the wars since then have been limited to a certain degree. And the Second Lebanon War was less severe than the first one.
MJT: It was, but the next one will probably be a lot worse. Everyone thinks it will be worse, in both Lebanon and in Israel.
Benjamin Kerstein: We may be taking a terrible turn. I hope not, but it's a real possibility.
MJT: But you're also right that anything could happen. If the Iranian people remove their government, it could change everything.
Benjamin Kerstein: That may ultimately be the only solution, but nobody knows. Nobody really knows anything.

Bejjani: The Israeli-Hezbollah War is Inevitable

A war might be inevitable, since it appears that is what Iran has planned. It is unlikely that the United States or any country will join in on the side of Israel. The war will happen when Iran chooses for it to happen. Even if Israel wins such a war, it will not free Lebanon, since the Lebanese proved repeatedly that they are not willing to do anything to secure their freedom.

Ami Isseroff

The Israeli-Hezbollah War is Inevitable
By Elias Bejjani

August 04/2010

Most Middle East analysts and political observers are more than sure that the war between Israel and the West on one side, and Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas and Iran on the other front is inevitable. Its occurrence has become just a matter of time. The Middle East is in the eye of the storm and, apparently, no one can avert the confrontation that has become necessary for the agendas of all parties involved.
According to observers, the predisposing factors that build for a war are precipitating in the Middle East. Ali Hmade, the renowned Lebanese political analyst, shed light on some of these factors in his last Tuesday's column published in An Nahar Beirut Daily. Meanwhile, other American, European, Arab and Israeli analysts have written extensively on these tensions and added other pivotal factors to the Israeli-Hezbollah war formula. Below are some of these factors:
The recent fiercest border clashes since 2006 on the Lebanese - Israeli border in which three Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist ,and an Israeli officer were killed accompanied by the loud threats made by Hezbollah's General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah a few hours after the end of the clashes.

The serious internal conflict amongst Lebanese sparked by Hezbollah's bold attacks against the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Hezbollah is threatening to retaliate against Lebanon and its people with a possible coup in case the unlawful and terrorist dictates of Hassan Nasrallah are not fulfilled by Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, Saudi Arabia, and the United Nations (UN).  Nasrallah is demanding that the tribunal be totally abolished.  He alleges it is a tool of the Israeli-American conspiracy set to target his organization through indicting a score of its members and leaders in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri.

The statement made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on his country's Army Day in which he said: "The specter of real peace in the region is disappearing and the possibility of war is increasing."
Assad and the Saudi King made a joint visit to Beirut on July 30th 2010.  Both officials held extensive meetings with the country's leadership in a bid to calm down the war rhetoric of Hezbollah in face of the STL. Meanwhile, Assad seems to be playing on many ropes and appears even more scared of the STL than Hezbollah. Reliable American sources unveiled this week that Syria is behind the so-called "STL leaks" and not Israel or other Arab countries.
Hamas' resumption of firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, and the retaliation of Israeli warplanes by bombing Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the targeted killings of Hamas militants. In response, Hamas is threatening to reignite the cycle of violence.
Hamas' opposition to the direct negotiations between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israelis brokered by the United States, the Arab League, and the majority of the Arab countries.  Hamas seems well -prepared to ignite a war against both Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to abort the negotiations.
The firing of rockets from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where Islamic militants have operated in the past, hitting the Israeli and Jordanian Red Sea port resorts of Eilat and Aqaba. These attacks killed one Jordanian civilian and injured three others. Israel claimed the rockets used were made in Iran.
The mysterious terrorist explosion aboard a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.
The renewal of skirmishes in Yemen between government forces and the pro-Iranian Houthis after a series of cease-fire violations and exchanges of accusations.
The increasingly loud calls on the US administration to be more decisive in its Middle East policies and the numerous recommendations for a pre-emptive war against Iran and Hezbollah. "The US should work to avoid another Hezbollah-Israel conflict, but could benefit from pre-emptive military action in Lebanon..." according to Israel's former Ambassador to Washington. A report authored by Daniel Kurtzer, written for the US Council on Foreign Relations, warns that Hezbollah's proliferating weapons stockpile could bring Israeli aggression to far outweigh the bombardment of Beirut and southern areas during the 2006 summer war. "Hizbullah has steadily rearmed in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1701," Kurtzer wrote. "Israel could decide the security threat posed by Hezbollah has reached intolerable levels and take pre-emptive military action."

President Obama's approval of recommendations for a European missile shield made by US military leaders to shift focus to defending Europe against Iran's short and medium-range missiles. "This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems, and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack." Under the new plan the U.S. would initially deploy ships with missile interceptors and in a second phase, would field land-based defense systems. The confirmation made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen to the NBC network: "The United States has a viable military plan to attack Iran and its nuclear facilities, though, such a strike was probably a bad idea."  Mullen has often warned that a strike against Iran would have serious and unpredictable ripple effects around the Middle East. At the same time, he has said that Iran developing a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) warnings of a devastating Middle East war. A new Israel-Lebanon conflict is likely to be far more violent, inflict greater damage to civilian and government infrastructure, and lead to the direct embroilment of other regional actors warned a new report released by the ICG. "A new conflict will also likely affect greater parts of the country, especially the Bekaa Valley, and will not be isolated to the south or the Shiite areas of Beirut which were systematically targeted in 2006," said the report entitled Drums of War: Israel and the 'Axis of Resistance.' The Lebanese Government is advised to take immediate steps to significantly increase troop numbers in the south and to improve the range and quality of military training and equipment available to its troops as a bulwark against a slide to war. Although conflict is far from imminent and many inhibiting factors continue to prevent the escalation of menacing rhetoric on both sides, the political roots which led to the outbreak of the 2006 war remain unaddressed and the regional situation could prove explosive. "Today, no party can soberly contemplate the prospect of a war that would be uncontrolled, unprecedented and unscripted," said the Project Director Peter Harling of Crisis Group Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, "but the underlying dynamics of the logic of deterrence carry the seeds of possible breakdown."
The alarming information leaked from high-level sources in Europe reporting that a number of prominent EU and Arab leaders foresee in the horizon a destructive regional war in the Middle East between Israel and "Axis of Evil" countries and organizations.
The ongoing Iranian threats to burn Israel and set the whole Middle East ablaze if Iran's nuclear facilities are attacked by either the US or Israel. "If the Americans make the slightest mistake, the security of the region will be endangered. Security in the Persian Gulf should be for all or none," threatened the deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Yadollah Javani. "Tehran will burn down Tel Aviv" in response to any attack, said Mohammed Khazaee, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations.
Based on all of the above facts, and on many other factors, another devastating war between Israel and Hezbollah that could also involve Hamas, Syria and Iran seems to be inevitable. Sadly, Lebanon is again going to be a battlefield in this coming war.
Hopefully, this time Israel backed by the Western and moderate Arab countries will push Hezbollah out of Lebanon as it did in 1982 with the PLO. The region deserves a lasting peace that cannot be achieved while Hezbollah holds the Lebanese people hostage, Syria breeds and exports terrorists while oppressing its own people, Hamas enslaves the residents of Gaza residents by aborting all peace initiatives with Israel, and Iran endeavors to own a nuclear bomb with dreams of reviving the Persian Empire by terrorism and mass destruction.
History tells us that peace prevails only in the aftermath of wars. This is what happened after the World Wars. Once again, peace will be the fruit of the coming Middle East war if Israel, the West, and moderate Arab countries stand tall and courageously execute  a well planned war to defeat the "Axis of Evil" countries and their terrorist proxies.

*Elias Bejjani
*Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
*Web sites &
*Mailing phoenicia group

Report: Iran has obtained the S-300 missile system from Belarus

Haaretz reports:
Fars news agency says Tehran signs deal with Belarus after Russia reportedly refused to provide Iran with the surface-to-air system over recent UN sanctions.
By The Associated Press and Haaretz Service
A semiofficial Iranian news agency says Iran has obtained four S-300 surface-to-air missiles despite Russia's refusal to deliver them.
The Fars news agency said Wednesday that Iran has obtained two missiles from Belarus and two others from another unspecified source.
Russia signed a contract in 2007 to sell the missiles to Iran but said in June that new UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran prevent delivery. The sale would have substantially boosted the country's defense capacities, raising Israeli fears it would tip the military balance in the Middle East.
In June, a senior Iranian official said that that if Russia persisted in its refusal "to deliver the systems, we are well capable of producing missile defense systems that are very much similar to Russia's S-300 apparatus."
Since the recently approved UN sanctions resolution against Iran, Russia has released several contradicting reports regarding it missile deal with Iran.
The senior Iranian official added that if Russia eventually refused "to deliver the systems, we are well capable of producing missile defense systems that are very much similar to Russia's S-300 apparatus."
Since the UN sanctions resolution against Iran was approved last Wednesday, Russia has released several contradicting reports regarding it missle deal with Iran. Russia said on Thursday it was in discussions with Iran on possible new nuclear power plants in the Islamic state, the country's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters

Israel and the United States have asked Russia not to deliver the missile systems, which can shoot down several aircraft or missiles simultaneously and could potentially be used to protect nuclear facilities.
Western diplomats in Moscow believe Russia is eager to keep the deal in reserve as a bargaining chip. Iran has expressed increasing frustration over the unfulfilled contract.
More on this topic

Is Israel's Lebanese intellingence network collapsing?

Are so many spies getting arrested because their cover was blown, or is there just a really large number of Israeli espionage agents in Lebanon, or are the charges bogus?
Ami Isseroff
Latest update 14:16 04.08.10

Lebanon has already charged two employees working for state-owned mobile telecoms firm Alfa with spying for Israel, a charge that carries the death penalty.
By Reuters
Lebanese authorities have detained a high-ranking army officer, a Christian party member and a telecom firm employee, in the latest round of arrests of people suspected of spying for Israel, a security source said.
The suspects were detained as a result of different security operations over the past week, the source said on Wednesday. The party member was also a retired army colonel.
"They [Lebanese intelligence] are not sure yet if they were giving information to Israel. That is why they are questioning them now," he said.
Lebanon has already charged two employees working for state-owned mobile telecoms firm Alfa with spying for Israel, a charge that carries the death penalty.
The employee arrested last week worked for the state fixed-line operator Ogero.
The arrests of the Alfa employees shocked the country and sparked debates on how deeply Israel had infiltrated Lebanon's telecoms and security sectors.
Two other Lebanese have been sentenced to death for spying for Israel. President Michel Suleiman has called for severe punishment for spies and said if he receives a death sentence verdict he will sign it.
Lebanon began a wave of arrests in April 2009 as part of an espionage investigation in which dozens of people have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel. A brigadier general of the General Security directorate was among the high profile detentions. More than 20 people have been formally charged.
Israel has not commented on any of the arrests.
Senior Lebanese security officials have said the arrests dealt a major blow to Israel's spying networks in Lebanon and that many of the suspects played key roles in identifying Hezbollah targets that were bombed during the 2006 war.
Lebanese courts have until now handed down what were widely seen as light sentences against nationals who worked with Israeli occupation forces and their local militias. Israel ended its 22-year occupation of mainly Shi'ite south Lebanon in May

Ahmadinejad attacked in suspected assassination attempt - Iran blames "Zionists"

Latest update 14:00 04.08.10
Ahmadinejad convoy attacked in suspected assassination attempt
Conservative Iranian website says handmade grenade explodes near Iranian president's convoy in west of country.
By The Associated Press and Haaretz Service 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was unharmed by an attack with a homemade explosive device on his motorcade during a visit to the western city of Hamadan on Wednesday, a source in his office said.
The source said Ahmadinejad's convoy was targeted as he was travelling from Hamadan's airport to give a speech in a local sports arena. The president was unhurt but others had been injured in the blast. One person was arrested.
"There was an attack this morning. Nothing happened to the president's car," the source told Reuters. "Investigations continue ... to find out who was behind it."
Ahmadinejad, who has cracked down on opposition since a disputed June 2009 presidential election, appeared on live Iranian television at the sports stadium in Hamadan. He was apparently well and made no mention of any assault.
The populist, hardline Ahmadinejad has accumulated enemies in conservative and reformist circles in the Islamic Republic as well as abroad.
Al Arabiya television said an attacker had thrown a bomb at Ahmadinejad's convoy before being detained. Dubai-based Al Arabiya cited its own sources as saying the bomb had hit a car carrying journalists and presidential staff.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
On Monday, during a speech to a conference of expatriate Iranians in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said he believed he was the target of an assassination plot by Israel. "The stupid Zionists have hired mercenaries to assassinate me," he said.
Ahmadinejad's government is facing economic pain as new foreign sanctions imposed over Iran's disputed nuclear energy program bite on the world's fifth biggest oil exporter.
The reported attack comes after last month when at least 21 people, including members of the elite Revolutionary Guards, were killed and 100 wounded in two suicide attacks at a prominent Shi'ite Muslim mosque in the southeast Iranian city of Zahedan.
The Sunni Muslim rebel group Jundollah said it was behind the attacks, telling Al Arabiyeh television in an email that it had carried out the two bombings in retaliation for Iran's execution of the group's leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, in June.
Last year, Iran's intelligence minister accused Israel of conspiring to assassinate Ahmadinejad during last year's tumultuous election campaign,
According to AFP, Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie told state media in Iran that Israeli officials had met members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, an exiled opposition group, twice to plan Ahmadinejad's assassination.
"The Zionist regime had met with the [PMOI] on the sidelines of [a meeting in[ Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt and in Paris to assassinate Mr. Ahmadinejad," Ejeie said.
The intelligence minister said the group agreed to cooperate on condition that it be removed from a U.S. "terror black list," according to AFP.
"The enemies even approached the rebels in east of the country to achieve this aim," said Ejeie, who was referring to armed Sunni dissidents.
Last year, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff and current minister for strategic affairs, Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon, was quoted as saying by an Australian newspaper that the West must consider all options necessary to stop Tehran's nuclear program, including assassinating Ahmadinejad.
An associate of Ya'alon said, however, that the former IDF chief's comments on the necessity of considering assassination were taken out of context.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Albion and Israel - In the Same Boat, or Running Aground

Sultan Knish tells us:
Albion and Israel - In the Same Boat, or Running Aground

The British press is naturally outraged that Shimon Peres dared suggest that the British political establishment was pro-Arab and anti-Israel, and that MP's cowardly courted Muslim votes first. Peres has already been forced to apologize for his understatement. And an understatement it is, coming in the same week when British PM David Cameron visited Turkey, a Muslim country that has over 10,000 political prisoners, and continues to occupy Cyprus-- yet his only mention of human rights was to condemn Israel for defending itself against a Turkish provocation.

So first let's look at what Peres actually said, because everyone in the British press from the Daily Mail to the Telegraph, are paraphrasing what he said, rather quoting or than linking to the original interview.

Peres: Our next big problem is England. There are several million Muslim voters. And for many members of parliament, that's the difference between getting elected and not getting elected. And in England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment. They abstained in the [pro-Zionist] 1947 U.N. Partition Resolution, despite [issuing the pro-Zionist] Balfour Declaration [in 1917]. They maintained an arms embargo against us [in the 1950s]; they had a defense treaty with Jordan; they always worked against us.

Morris: But England changed after the 1940s and 1950s. They supported us in 1967, there was Harold Brown and Mrs. Thatcher [who were pro-Israeli].

Peres: There is also support for Israel today [on the British right].

There's more to it, but aside from Peres' quip about anti-semitism, this is the significant part. Yet there's absolutely nothing here that can be factually denied. MP's do cater to Muslim voters, even at the expense of Englishmen. If the British political establishment sells out its own people for Muslim favor, is it any surprise that it does the same to Israel?

The same British press that constantly bashes Israel has predictably tried to spin this as the President of Israel attacking England, as opposed to the England's political establishment. What Peres actually said, is that England panders to Muslims because of a large Muslim population, and that it has a history of opposing Israel. Again, both are unarguably true, and Peres' statements are a mild version of the story.

For a much stronger quote on the topic, we can go back to the first US Ambassador to Israel, back to 1948.

"Facing (Ernest) Bevin across the broad table, I had to tell myself that this was not Hitler seated before me, but His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs... By this time he was in full swing and turned his attack upon the Jews. What extraordinary demagoguery! Banging his fist on the table, at times almost shouting, he charged that the Jews were ungrateful for what Britain had done for them in Palestine..."

From the Diary of James G. McDonald, My Mission to Israel, Page 25

Mind you, this is an American diplomat comparing the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Adolf Hitler... in 1948. It was not a compliment, and the language was far harsher than anything that Peres has said.

That sort of comparison seems outrageous, until you actually delve into the ugliness of British policy toward Israel at the time. Despite the Palestine Mandate, the goal of British foreign policy had become to prevent Israel from being created by any means necessary. That included reversing prior commitments, inciting Muslim massacres of Jews, blocking Jewish refugees from the Holocaust from escaping to Israel, arming and organizing Arab armies to invade Israel.

During Israel's War of Independence, Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb (aka Glubb Pasha) and Brigadier Norman Lash commanded the Jordanian Legion. During the war it was Glubb who cabled Lash with the message, "I have decided to intervene in force in Jerusalem".

This is how the scene was described in "O Jerusalem" by Larry Collins and Dominique Lappiere.

A few minutes later, Colonel Bill Newman, the Australian commander of the Legion's Third Regiment, and Major Bob Slade, his Scottish deputy appointed to lead the task force, assembled their Arab officers... Spreading his maps in the white glare of a storm lantern, Newman stabbed his finger at Jerusalem. "That's where we're going," he said. An explosion of joy and shrieks of delight drowned his words.

Once the Arab Legion helped ethnically cleans the half of Jerusalem they captured of its Jewish inhabitants, England was the only country to recognize the Jordanian annexation of the city.

After the war British forces conducted aerial provocations and attempted to use those to stage an invasion. Jordan's King Hussein had a piece of paper handed to him, a request for British troops. Only when it was clearly evident that there was no support back home for renewed hostilities, was further violence averted.

To summarize, during and before the War of Independence, England played much the same role in regard to Israel and the Arabs, that the Soviet Union would later play. Both direct and indirect hostilities took place between British and Israel forces. British commanders oversaw the ethnic cleansing and annexation of East Jerusalem, the Kfar Etzion massacre and many more. There is a great deal of history here, and too much of it to go into.

Considering the hostility of the English political and cultural establishment to Israel in the present day, when unions and academic groups call for boycotts of Israel, when judges allow vandalism on the ground that Israel was the target, and when Baroness Jenny Tonge claims that Jews harvested organs in Haiti-- Peres' remarks are if anything an understatement.

There are reasons for this behavior. Cynical and cruel ones, but reasons.

In the 30's and 40's, the British political establishment decided that the way to secure their control over the region was through a series of backward Arab Muslim client states. So it decided to bar Jews from Israel to keep the Muslims happy and avoid any independent State of Israel. There were many in England who disagreed with that policy and spoke out against it. And the aftermath of that policy was disastrous. Israel was reborn regardless, and the Arab client states were overthrown and turned into Arab Socialist dictatorships, who made common cause with the USSR.

England protected Egyptian forces in the Sinai, despite the fact that Egypt had already demonstrated its hostility to their presence. A few years later, England would be describing Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser as another Hitler, and covertly trying to work together with Israel to reclaim the Suez Canal.

Iraq and Syria became Baathist dictatorships. Today both have fallen under the shadow of Iran, which carried out attacks on British troops in Basra, took British sailors prisoner, paraded them around, and then sent them back home. Jordan exists only because Israel and the US took over, where Britain left off. One day, it will also fall. Egypt is on its last legs of the Mubarak dynasty, which is likely to be succeeded by the Muslim Brotherhood.

England may be the next step for a Muslim Brotherhood take over. But rather than stimulating rational behavior, it has only stimulated more anti-Semitism, as if bashing Israel can somehow avert the inevitable. Of course it cannot. And will not. Pandering to Muslims will not preserve England. It will only put the very people who want to destroy England in positions where they can better control the political process. Meanwhile Cameron rushes ahead to demand that Turkey be allowed into the EU, because the disaster won't be complete until 30 million more Muslims flood European cities.

In the 30's and 40's, the British policy was to pander to Muslims and bash the Jews in the hopes of controlling the territory of the Palestine Mandate. Today it is still policy to do the same... in the hopes of controlling England itself.

It is easy enough to see how a policy that at least held some hope of useful gain has now become nothing short of desperate appeasement, masked by outbursts of frenzied hatred, that all involved pretend are completely normal. Attacks on Jews have hit a new high, much of that no doubt the work of Muslims. But the dialogue being carried on by the cultural and political leaders is nearly as bad.

I am no friend of Peres. I am actually a fierce critic of his, but he did not say anything that is not plain knowledge, or that can't be verified by numerous polls and articles. The response of the British press to run headlines such as "Fury as Israel president claims English are 'anti-semitic'" only demonstrates the level of bias, in the British press particularly in an article which does not actually manage to quote a single "furious" person.

As Cameron's latest visit to Turkey has shown, the political establishment continues to feel that pandering to Muslims and bashing Israel is in their interest. That is their unfortunate choice. There is plenty of history between Israel and England, both good and bad. And which is which has often depended on its leaders. The lack of leadership means that the behavior of a Brown or a Cameron are not surprising. But that same political establishment should ask themselves, what exactly have 80 years of pandering to Muslims brought them, except war on their own soil? And all the plays of Caryl Churchill and the films of Michael Winterbottom will not change that.

It is past time, that this very same establishment was forced to confront the bitter truth that its policies on the Middle East have backfired badly, that pandering to Muslims has turned its cities into war zones, and that worse is yet to come. England is coming into the same boat as Israel. Only as it has done before with Rhodesia, it is trying to sink the boat, rather than help bail it out. If England could work together with Israel when the Suez Canal was endangered, yet cannot when its own cities are endangered, one wonders exactly where its priorities are, and whether that is not exactly the same kind of misplaced priorities that has placed it in such peril today.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Center that treats rocket trauma hit by repeat rocket fire

Rehabilitation center treating post-traumatic stress, victims of hostilities hit by rocket for fourth time
Ilana Curiel
Published:  08.01.10, 20:18
Less than 24 hours after sustaining a direct hit from a Qassam rocket, the hydrotherapy rehabilitation center in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council has nearly returned to business as usual.
"Though people were hesitant and there were some who cried, we are at 100% capacity. Even after a day like that, people who were wounded in the past by Qassam rockets and hostile acts came here," said the manager of the center's rehabilitation ward, Irit Tzedek.
This is the fourth time since rockets have started being fired at the western Negev that the rehabilitation center – which treats handicapped IDF veterans, victims of terrorist attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder patients – has sustained a direct rocket hit. Funding for fortifying the building, it should be noted, was raised by center employees themselves without any assistance from government authorities or the Defense Ministry.
For many patients, the rehabilitation center is like a second home. Amos Lilo, a handicapped IDF veteran wounded during the Second Lebanon War, believes the hit to the center is worse than destroying a house. "Please excuse the comparison, but this is a place for treating the handicapped. It's like damaging a hospital," he said.
Lilo, who uses crutches to get around, insists on walking up to the second floor to see with his own eyes the destruction incurred by the rocket. "It is very painful. I am stunned by the damage. I am even more stunned by the personal insult. Targeting a center like this is like targeting my caretaker. At first, I didn't understand that the rocket hit here, even though I know that this is an area prone to misfortune. It is a little stressful to hear a siren every few hours, especially for trauma victims."
Danny Lazmi, a Sderot firefighter whose house was twice hit by a Qassam, did not forego taking a dip in the hydrotherapy pool. "I was debating whether to come or not because it takes you back to the time when rockets rained down. Today you can never know. We don't rely on anything and we always have some sort of question mark. There is no security. There is no place in this region that has not been damaged by rockets. This problem needs to be solved already."
"There are some people that don't show it, but we know it's going to come. We've been through this before, and we know that even if there are no signs now, it will hit them later," added Tzedek.
The center's manager, Itay Tzuri, also noted that the bulk of dealing with the rocket hit is not in the necessary repairs, but in returning to a routine. "Despite this, we expect the State to take responsibility and provide us with proper fortification," he said.

In light of the recent increase in rocket attacks and shelling, the Shaar Hanegev, Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, and Sdot Negev regional councils plan on petitioning the High Court to order the State to provide fortification for public institutions. In addition, the regional councils are demanding that the Iron Dome missile defense system be deployed immediately.