Category ►►► Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls
April 27, 2011
So That's Been the Problem All Along!
At long, long last, the key to true and lasting peace in the Middle East has been discovered:
Palestinians have reached initial agreement on reuniting their rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza, officials from both sides said Wednesday, a step that would remove a main obstacle in the way of peace efforts with Israel....
The internal rift has prevented the Palestinians from speaking in one voice. That, in turn, has made it next to impossible to move ahead with peace efforts with Israel. Talks have been stymied for months over a dispute about Israeli construction in West Bank settlements, but the unity issue has lurked prominently in the background.
As we know, a final solution to Palestinian victimization -- i.e., the withdrawal by Israel back to its pre-1948 borders -- is the magic wand that will end all these uprisings and mass murders throughout the Moslem Middle East. Yet Israel still seems a bit sulky, unless it's just Benjamin Netanyahu being a dadburned obstructionist again:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a quick rejection of a Hamas role in a Palestinian unity government. Israel refuses to deal with Hamas, which does not recognize a place for a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East and has sent dozens of suicide bombers and thousands of rockets into Israel.
"The Palestinian Authority must choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas," Netanyahu said in a statement. "Peace with both is impossible because of the Hamas goal of destroying the state of Israel, which it expresses openly," he said, pointing to the ongoing rocket attacks.
"I believe the whole concept of reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority," he said, raising the prospect of a Hamas takeover of the West Bank as well as Gaza.
Thankfully, our own Administration is neither so recalcitrant nor dewy-eyed about this monumental breakthrough in the annals of world brotherhood:
In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the U.S. supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms that promote peace, while cautioning that "Hamas ... is a terrorist organization which targets civilians." He said any Palestinian government must recognize Israel and renounce violence.
As Vietor's boss might put it, the Hamas-led new "unity" government must recognize Israel; and if it doesn't, then the president might become downright testy and issue a sterner proclamation: Hamas must go!
That should wrap up any concerns on Israel's part, so the dismantling can proceed.
May 7, 2009
Jew Hatred and Other EuroLeft In-Jokes
I cannot more strongly urge everyone to read Mark Steyn's piece Israel Today, the West Tomorrow. A few snippets:
"Israel is unfashionable," a Continental foreign minister said to me a decade back. "But maybe Israel will change, and then fashions will change." Fashions do change. But however Israel changes, this fashion won’t. The shift of most (non-American) Western opinion against the Jewish state that began in the 1970s was, as my Continental politician had it, simply a reflection of casting: Israel was no longer the underdog but the overdog, and why would that appeal to a post-war polytechnic Euro Left unburdened by Holocaust guilt?
Fair enough. Fashions change. But the new Judenhass is not a fashion, simply a stark reality that will metastasize in the years ahead and leave Israel isolated in the international "community" in ways that will make the first decade of this century seem like the good old days.
The problem is not simply European boredom with Holocaust haranguing but a combination of three trends:
- The demographic expansion of the Arab and Moslem populations, coupled with the decline of the population of (Old World) Christendom. (Christendom is expanding in Latin America, Asia, and Africa; but so far, they have not entered the lists in the battle of civilizations.)
- The aggressive expansion of radical, militant Islamism -- whether of the Salafist, Wahhabist Sunni variety or the Iranian-controlled Qom Shia flavor: Recently, both strains of terrorism-wielding militancy have allied in a war against the "Dar al-Harb," or "House of War" (also called Dar al-Garb, House of the West)... meaning any country that is not run as a sharia state; Shiite Iran now controls Sunni Hamas, for an example of such ecumenicalism.
- The recent suicidal alliance between the atheist, intellectual Left and radical Islamism: The former seem to believe that they can temporarily team up with the Moslem militants to overthrow democracy, Capitalism, and Christendom (and Judaism); then they'll quickly brush the mullahs and caliphs aside, so that the New Marxism -- that is, liberal fascism -- can reign supreme.
The reality of point 3 above, of course, is that the opposite will happen: It is the Islamists who will fall upon their secularist "allies" and rend them to pieces, leaving only the former to reign over the ruins. The Left, especially the EuroLeft, whose "intellectual" ideology still rules the roost over Chinese and Latin American strains, is in fact intellectually bankrupt and enervated. All the passion, energy, and revolutionary fervor comes from the Moslem militants (hence the name).
Back to Steyn... who is, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, the actual subject of this post...
Brussels has a Socialist mayor, which isn’t that surprising, but he presides over a caucus a majority of whose members are Muslim, which might yet surprise those who think we’re dealing with some slow, gradual, way-off-in-the-future process here. But so goes Christendom at the dawn of the third millennium: the ruling party of the capital city of the European Union is mostly Muslim.
I find this astonishing; not because I was unaware of the trend, but just as Steyn anticipates, because I had no idea we were so far along the trendline. This goes beyond "disturbing" to "time to push the Panic Button." But there's more to come:
One Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, a group wearing "BOYCOTT ISRAEL" T-shirts entered a French branch of Carrefour, the world’s largest supermarket chain, and announced themselves. They then systematically advanced down every aisle examining every product, seizing all the items made in Israel and piling them into carts to take away and destroy. Judging from the video they made, the protesters were mostly Muslim immigrants and a few French leftists. But more relevant was the passivity of everyone else in the store, both staff and shoppers, all of whom stood idly by as private property was ransacked and smashed, and many of whom when invited to comment expressed support for the destruction. "South Africa started to shake once all countries started to boycott their products," one elderly lady customer said. "So what you’re doing, I find it good."
Others may find Germany in the ‘30s the more instructive comparison. "It isn’t silent majorities that drive things, but vocal minorities," the Canadian public intellectual George Jonas recently wrote. "Don’t count heads; count decibels. All entities -- the United States, the Western world, the Arab street -- have prevailing moods, and it’s prevailing moods that define aggregates at any given time." Last December, in a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing power and wealth, Pakistani terrorists nevertheless found time to divert one-fifth of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building. If this was a territorial dispute over Kashmir, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Because Pakistani Islam has been in effect Arabized. Demographically, in Europe and elsewhere, Islam has the numbers. But ideologically, radical Islam has the decibels -- in Turkey, in the Balkans, in Western Europe.
How long before Europe's liberal-fascist rulers seize upon such "boycotts" as government policy, to placate (appease) the rampaging "Asian youths" in their cities -- and to distract the rest of their population away from the EuroLeft's own abysmal economic, social, and police failures? How long before the "boycott" extends from Israel to "unregistered Israeli agents"... that is, Jews? Please pardon me if I don't have much faith in the ability (or willingness) of leftist intellectuals to take the high road, and not blame some convenient minority group for all of the Left's incompetencies.
(Note the sarcasm-quotes around boycott. A real boycott is voluntary: Charles Parnell did not force anyone to shun landlord Charles C. Boycott. But these Carrefour rioters, which is what they actually are, prevent other people from buying Israeli products.)
I think I can only quote one more passage and remain within the "fair use" exemption to copyright infringement, so I shall choose carefully. Consider this; Steyn postulates :
So it will go. British, European, and even American troops will withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a bomb will go off in Madrid or Hamburg or Manchester, and there will be nothing left to blame except Israeli "disproportion." For the remnants of European Jewry, the already discernible migration of French Jews to Quebec, Florida, and elsewhere will accelerate. There are about 150,000 Jews in London today -- it’s the thirteenth biggest Jewish city in the world. But there are approximately one million Muslims. The highest number of Jews is found in the 50-54 age group; the highest number of Muslims are found in the four-years-and-under category. By 2025, there will be Jews in Israel, and Jews in America, but not in many other places. Even as the legitimacy of a Jewish state is rejected, the Jewish diaspora -- the Jewish presence in the wider world -- will shrivel.
And then, to modify Richard Ingrams, who will dare not to damn Israel? There’ll still be a Holocaust Memorial Day, mainly for the pleasures it affords to chastise the new Nazis. As Anthony Lipmann, the Anglican son of an Auschwitz survivor, wrote in 2005: “When on 27 January I take my mother’s arm -- tattoo number A-25466 -- I will think not just of the crematoria and the cattle trucks but of Darfur, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Jenin, Fallujah.” Jenin?
Jenin, you will all recall, is the fake massacre that many accused Israeli forces (without a shred of evidence) of committing in April 2002, during an incursion into the West Bank called Operation Defensive Shield. Despite wild allegations that Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers wantonly slaughtered civilians and machine-gunned prisoners, bulldozed houses and entire apartment buildings with families inside, and tied Palestinians to the front of Israeli tanks as human shields (!), subsequent investigations by the United Nations and even Israel-hating Amnesty International debunked all the claims except two:
- There was indeed a battle in Jenin; but it was between the IDF on the one hand and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Yassir Arafat's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades on the other. Nearly everyone killed on both sides during the Battle of Jenin (and in the larger operation) was an armed soldier or militant.
- When Israel took control of Jenin, they followed their longstanding and pretty effective policy of bulldozing houses of the families of suicide bombers -- but specifically, only those houses that had been granted to those families by the PLO or Fatah or Hamas (depending on the era) as a reward for the suicide bombing (eras may go and come, but Jew hatred abides).
Palestinian "leaders" hope to encourage even more suicide bombings, as sons kill themselves so that their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters can live in a nice house that otherwise the bomber could never afford. By bulldozing such houses, Israel removes that incentive. Amnesty International, however, considers any bulldozing of "civilian" housing to be a "war crime," no matter the provenance of said house.
War crime it may be, in the technical sense. But to lump Jenin in with the real genocides in Darfur and Rwanda is utter madness, especially for a man whose mother is a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Perhaps when the sharia court comes to hang Mr. Lippman, he will lend them the rope, in an effort to show his "interfaith multiculturalism."
Israel is vitally important to the West not only because it's the Jewish homeland, not only because it's one of only two democracies in the Middle East (the other being the rather recently democratized nation of Iraq), but because Israel is a bellwether, the "canary in a coal mine" that previews what is to come for the rest of the non-Moslem world. As Israel goes, so goeth Dar al-Harb.
Israel is going -- going under for the second time, though not yet the third. An increasing portion of the world sees Israel as the greatest threat to world peace... not because anyone expects Israel to attack Antwerp or Brussels, but rather because the very existence of Israel so enrages Dar al-Islam (the "House of Peace") that they can think of nothing but war and bloody human sacrifice.
The non-American world (plus the Barack H. Obama administration) thinks of Israel as a threat to world peace because of how Moslems insist upon reacting to Israel: "Look what you made me do!"
And they see world peace arising from Israel's suicide as an act of spiritual propitiation, rendering it consistent for militant Moslems to allow everyone else to live in relative peace, as dhimmi, second-class citizens in a sharia state. Thus, secular leftists around the globe argue, we bring about world peace by joining in violent attacks upon the only peaceful culture in the most violent part of the world.
Welcome to the monkey house.
February 25, 2009
The Louse of Saud
Foreign Policy magazine announced last week that a fellow named Chas W. Freeman, current (or former) president of the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), will be President Barack H. Obama's pick to chair the National Intelligence Council, the lead group in creating the National Intelligence Estimates that drive policy on intelligence issues. The NIC reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), currently Dennis Blair; it is not an inconsequential group within the intelligence community.
Who is Chas W. Freeman, jr.?
He is a former ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the Clinton presidency. He serves on the MEPC with such luminaries as George McGovern, top executives from Boeing, ExxonMobil, and the Carlyle Group -- all of which have multibillion-dollar investments in Saudi Arabia -- a CIA consultant, and a Palestinian immigrant named Talat Othman, who came to our attention most recently in 2002, when he vigorously protested against the FBI raids of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, created in 1981 by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Freeman may not be the best fit for this critical job, however:
- The MEPC, hence Freeman himself, is funded by the House of Saud to lobby on behalf of the Kingdom, which it does frequently in its journal, Middle East Policy.
Chas Freeman is of the opinion that China's real sin in dealing with the demonstators at Tiananmen Square was that they were too lenient and "overly cautious": "[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than -- as would have been both wise and efficacious -- to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China."
To put it bluntly, Freeman is an authoritarian crank who believes that "domestic tranquility" is more important that freedom of speech.
Freeman and the MEPC were the first in America to publish the anti-Israel and antisemitic screed "the Israel Lobby" by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer; even one of Freeman's supporters, David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy magazine, calls that paper "frail intellectual framework" and a "jihad" against American support of Israel.
Here is Freeman enthusing, crowing even, about his accomplishment in bringing this frail framework to American readers (from an interview with the Saudi-US Relations Information Service, SUSRIS): "Our Fall issue will contain a revised, updated, and unabridged version of the controversial paper by Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt on "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article, given the political penalties that the Lobby imposes on those who criticize it. So we continue to do important things that are not done by anybody else, which I think fill some gaps."
The inner Freeman
But it's not simply that Freeman sucks up to Red China and King Abdullah of the House of Saud and opposes American support for Israel; he opposes Israel itself, seeing it as the source of all problems in the Middle East.
The MEPC website posts a speech Freeman gave to the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs in 2007; the spech concludes:
[T]he problem of terrorism that now bedevils us has its origins in one region -- the Middle East. To end this terrorism we must address the issues in the region that give rise to it.
Principal among these is the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending. Arab identification with Palestinian suffering, once variable in its intensity, is now total. American identification with Israeli policy has also become total. Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs. For its part, Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them. Palestinian retaliation against this policy is as likely to be directed against Israel's American backers as against Israel itself. Under the circumstances, such retaliation -- whatever form it takes -- will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture.
The Palestine problem cannot be solved by the use of force; it requires much more than the diplomacy-free foreign policy we have practiced since 9/11. Israel is not only not managing this problem; it is severely aggravating it. Denial born of political correctness will not cure this fact. Israel has shown -- not surprisingly -- that, if we offer nothing but unquestioning support and political protection for whatever it does, it will feel no incentive to pay attention to either our interests or our advice. Hamas is showing that if we offer it nothing but unreasoning hostility and condemnation, it will only stiffen its position and seek allies among our enemies. In both cases, we forfeit our influence for no gain.
There will be no negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, no peace, and no reconciliation between them -- and there will be no reduction in anti-American terrorism -- until we have the courage to act on our interests. These are not the same as those of any party in the region, including Israel, and we must talk with all parties, whatever we think of them or their means of struggle. Refusal to reason with those whose actions threaten injury to oneself, one's friends, and one's interests is foolish, feckless, and self-defeating. That is why it is past time for an active and honest discussion with both Israel and the government Palestinians have elected, which -- in an irony that escapes few abroad -- is the only democratically elected government in the Arab world.
Remember, this speech was given in 2007 -- after several successive democratic elections in Iraq brought that government to power. Remember also that, while Hamas may have been elected, those elections were hardly fair and certainly not free... unless we imagine that gangland assassinations of one's political opponents creates no "fear factor" among those opponents' supporters.
So let's sum this up:
- Israel's "occupation" of Palestine is responsible for all the terrorism launched against the United States (which would be news to Osama bin Laden, who thought it was our presence on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia);
- Israel also controls American policy (Freeman has wholly absorbed the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis of the "Israel Lobby," through which the Jews pull the puppet strings of the world;
- That's why everybody hates America and cheers on Islamic terrorism;
- Israel is unreformable and must be destroyed;
- Hamas is Democratic, honest, and reasonable, and is only responding in a reasonable way to our "unreasoning hostility and condemnation," which is forced upon us by our Israeli puppeteers.
- (And by omission, Iraq is an undemocratic puppet government of the United States -- hence a grandpuppet of Israel.)
Mr. Freeman's Israel delenda est rant is not a one-shot; here he is in 2005, discussing (what else?) the "Israeli occupation":
[A]s long as such Israeli violence against Palestinians continues, it is utterly unrealistic to expect that Palestinians will stand down from violent resistance and retaliation against Israelis.
I certainly agree with that last point! But I draw my concurrance more from the nature of Palestinian and Arab mass psychosis than from the mad idea that Israel should commit national suicide so that people will think well of the Jews.
Freeman does not confine his hatred to Israel; he sees not only Israel's "American backers" as enemies to be reviled, but America itself; we, he says, are to blame for all the troubles in Iraq... Iraq was, one presumes, a calm and peaceful place -- before Americans mindlessly invaded:
In Iraq, the problem is not now – if it ever was – weapons of mass destruction, bad government, or even terrorism; it is the occupation. The occupation generates the very phenomena it was intended to cure. In that respect, the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq has come to have much in common with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. In Iraq, as in Palestine, ending the occupation is the prerequisite for reversing the growth of terrorism and restoring peace.
Like Solla Sollew, there were no problems -- or at least very few -- in Iraq before we inexplicably invaded the peaceful Land of Two Rivers and overturned its democratically elected leader. On instructions from Israel, no doubt.
As to his perspicacity about events that are at the very core of his field of interest, here is Freeman's 2005 prediction of "the best outcome still possible in Iraq":
The best outcome still possible in Iraq, it now seems, is a Shia-dominated state with a largely autonomous southern region heavily influenced by Iran and a Kurdish region independent in all but name.
Or, perhaps, a stable democratic state with deep and widespread participation by every ethnic group and all tribes, firmly accepted by the people as representative of their interests. And with Muqtada Sadr driven into exile in (where is that again?) Iran. Oh, wait; that wasn't one of the buttons on Mr. Freeman's voicemail.
The two most vital duties of the chairman of the National Intelligence Council are presidential gatekeeping and unbiased analysis: controlling what intel the president sees and what he thinks about what he sees.
But Freeman is not unbiased; he has a dog in the fight. He has chosen up sides. Freeman supports Saudi Arabia, the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian Authority, and Iran's primary source of military equipment, the People's Republic of China; and he vehemently opposes Israel and a strong American presence in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. Freeman's biases have already led him to make frankly risible pronunciamentos that sound like something from CAIR's website.
These interests are not only ideological but financial as well: Freeman won't be in government service forever, and he has once and future patrons to placate.
And this is the man who will determine what intel gets to the desk of President Barack H. Obama -- who is himself already ambivalent about Israel, the Arabs, and America's role in that volatile region. Suppose the NIC comes across intelligence of a looming terrorist attack on the homeland by a bunch of Saudis or Palestinians (this is not exactly a far-fetched scenario); but suppose the intel comes from Mossad, and it's hotly denied by Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the head of the Saudi intelligence service. Would Freeman pass it on to the president? Or would he roll his eyes, give a Chris Matthews-like "oh God," and bury it in the "nothing to see here, time to MoveOn" file?
How can we ever be sure that Chairman Freeman is being guided by an unbiased evaluation of conflicting intelligence claims, rather than by the hand of King Abdullah the Munificent?
I realize this may be a rhetorical question, but is this really who America wants heading up the main intelligence evaluating committee advising both the president and the DNI?
But at least Samantha Power and Zbigniew Brzezinski will have congenial company at the Durban II antisemitism rally; they can all sit about and discuss Palestinian resistance with the representatives of Iran, the KSA, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
UPDATE: Two thoughts with but a single mind between them... (But I like my title better!)
June 29, 2008
Olmert On a Nutshell: Yesterday's Dead Outweigh Tomorrow's Victims
In a "prisoner" swap stunning in its pointlessness and inhumanity, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet have agreed to release several live terrorists -- including a notorious Lebanese killer of Jews, whose crimes include one of the most horrific murders of the long Palestinian war against Israel -- in exchange for the bodies of two dead Israeli soldiers:
Israel’s government voted on Sunday to trade one of the most notorious convicts in its prisons, a Lebanese murderer, for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers whose cross-border capture led to and partly motivated its month-long war with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.
After a wrenching national debate which served to drive hesitant officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, into accepting the deal, the cabinet voted 22 to 3 to trade the prisoner, Samir Kuntar, along with four other Lebanese, for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two Israeli soldiers....
Mr. Kuntar was part of a cell that in 1979 raided the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, shooting dead Danny Haran while his daughter Einat, 4, watched, then smashing the girl’s head, killing her as well. Mr. Haran’s wife, Smadar, hid with their 2-year-old daughter and accidentally suffocated her to death in an effort to stop her from crying out.
Thus, Olmert signals that he is willing to sacrifice future generations of Israeli Jews in order to comfort the families of the dead.
While I understand the anguish that must enshroud those families, as much as can a person who has not personally experienced such tragedy, I have enough clarity of mind to realize that, as important as it is to retrieve the remains for proper burial, it's far more important to protect future innocent lives.
Goldwasser and Regev were captured alive; the terrorists bestially butchered them, even while they continued negotiating with Israel for their "release." The negotiation by Hezbollah was a farce of utter mendacity, and Olmert now insures that this pattern will happen again and again: Terrorists now have a green light to kill their cake and sell it, too.
This deal is a perscription for disaster; make no mistake, by releasing Kuntar and the other Palestinian terrorists, Olmert has made the world a more dangerous place:
- Olmert and his coalition have condemned an indeterminate number of innocent Israelis to death; Kuntar and his fellow butchers will see their release as a reward from Allah, and they will instantly dive into yet another murderous plot, and another and another.
- The Olmert government has prolonged the war with Iran and its proxies; the release will embolden Hamas and Hezbollah, and through them Iran, giving them heart to redouble their efforts to "cancel" the "Zionist project."
- The deal has handed a huge propaganda and morale coup to Hamas and Hezbollah, while endangering America and the West; the rest of the Moslem world will once again start to see radical Islamic terrorism as the "strong horse;" Israel will be weakened in the eyes of the world; it will be so much harder for the West to sustain the fight, knowing that we no longer have a reliable ally in Israel.
- And Olmert and his cabinet have declared open season on capturing or kidnapping Israeli soldiers and civilians, even making bodysnatching into a viable Palestinian military strategy: The more dead Israelis Iran's puppets hold, the more of their most brutal and effective terrorist serial killers the Israelis will release. Hamas now understand that they can kill their own prisoner, Gilad Shalit, knowing his death will not diminish his value in trade.
Even the Israeli government seems to realize that this deal is a dreadful mistake that they will never be able to justify to Israelis:
“Despite all hesitations, after weighing the pros and the cons, I support the agreement,” Mr. Olmert was quoted by his spokesman as telling his cabinet at the start of the meeting. “Our initial theory was that the soldiers were alive... Now we know with certainty there is no chance that that is the case.” He added, “There will be much sadness in Israel, much humiliation considering the celebrations that will be held on the other side.”
So why did he accept it? Very simply, he hadn't even enough spine to stand up to the families of Goldwasser and Regev.
Olmert hadn't enough courage to look the families in the eye and say, "I feel your loss, as I feel the losses of all the men who died during the war in 2006. But we cannot jeopardize everything that Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev fought and died for. Of all people in the world, those two brave heroes would not have asked what you are asking, and they would never have accepted such a trade. I'm sorry."
The celebrations will be boisterous and sustained in Gaza City... and in Ramallah, Beirut, Damascus, and Tehran. Palestinians and Israelis alike will see this as capitulation by Israel. More attacks will follow, more rockets and greater destruction will rain down upon Sderot and other cities.
It's hard to imagine a stupider and more self-destructive strategy; if Iran threatens to desecrate and cremate the bodies of Israeli soldiers, will Olmert agree not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities? Is that all it takes to ensure a nuclear-armed Iran? If he has insufficient courage to say No to the Goldwasser and Regev families, has he even a prayer of standing up to Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Zahar, Bashar Assad, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Perhaps Ehud Olmert can make things better by proclaiming that by trading a half-dozen live terrorist murderers, hands still dripping blood, for two dead Israeli soldiers, he has secured "peace in our time." Though I doubt this peace will last as long as did the Munich Agreement of 1938.
January 25, 2008
Hamas Invades Egypt; Israel Blamed
For what I believe is the third time in as many days, Hamas militants breached the wall separating Egypt from the Gaza Strip, this time using bulldozers in full view of the Egyptian national police:
There were small clashes throughout the day, with short episodes of rock-throwing. Egyptians fired guns into the air and aimed water cannons above the heads of the those in the crowd to keep them back. The new breaches in the wall were large enough for cars and trucks to drive through, and some Egyptian guards then retreated.
But why is this peculiar thing happening at this moment in time? Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has the explanation:
Egypt is under pressure from Israel and the United States to restore the international border and regulate it, but does not want to use excessive force against the Gazans, whom the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, has insisted are starving under the pressure of Israeli restrictions on imports and travel.
Darn those Jews! For no reason at all -- other than a few thousand rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli cities -- the wicked Zionist Entity has ceased donating food, fuel, and medical supplies to the utterly helpless and impoverished Palestinian people who are currently attacking Israeli cities.
Therefore, Hamas has no choice but to bomb, tear down, or drive bulldozers through the border wall... so that the helpless, starving, impoverished Palestinians, with not a pair of shekels to rub together, can race through the gap by the hundreds of thousands... to bazaars in Egypt, where they buy millions of dollars worth of necessities, comforts, and luxuries.
If somebody can offer a better explanation to me than the obvious one -- that Gaza, led by its Hamas government, has noisily invaded Egypt, while the corrupt Egyptian police stood by and did nothing (and Mubarak blamed the Jews) -- I should like to see it.
But such a non-response on Egypt's part is likewise fraught with peril; as the Times asks, at what point does Mubarak worry that...
- Inviting Hamas to visit is altogether a different thing than inviting them to leave;
- Palestinians, around whom human sacrifice flows like water around a fish, are not exactly the most stable group to grant permanent right of access;
- And at what point, by simple custom and propinquity, does the "responsibility" for feeding, fueling, and treating millions of Palestinians -- who cannot ever seem to feed, fuel, or treat themselves -- devolve from Israeli shoulders to Egyptian?
Of course, Israel is no happier about these repeated breachings of the wall than are the Egyptians:
Hamas is trying to push Egypt into an agreement to regulate the border without having it sealed, as it had been from the time Hamas took over Gaza in early June. A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said, “The gaps shouldn’t be closed because they provide urgent assistance to the Palestinians.”
Israeli officials have expressed increasing concern to the Egyptian and United States governments that Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups are using the border breach to import military supplies and to send out fighters for training or terrorism.
Israel has raised its security alert for the Sinai and warned its citizens not to travel to the region’s popular beaches, fearing attacks there, and is saying it has credible reports of new efforts to smuggle gunmen and suicide bombers through the Sinai into Israel. The last suicide bombing in Israel, in the southern resort town of Eilat a year ago, was carried out by a militant who had traveled there through the Sinai.
There is, of course, no wall along the border between Egypt and Israel; the two countries have been at peace since the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, the only treaty ever signed between Israel and an Arab state that has actually worked... oddly enough, pushed through by President Jimmy Carter, the worst American president of the twentieth century. Thus, if Hamas terrorists can freely travel into Egypt, they can bypass the walls between "Hamastan" (Gaza) and Israel to carry out murderous bombings.
The precarious Israeli government led by Ehud Olmert of the Kadima Party is widely believed to be already fallen in all but name; an election today would very likely bring Likud to power, possibly even in the first majority government in Israel's history. And one major reason for this is the government's relentlessly ham-fisted policy towards the Palestinians; at the moment, for the latest outrageous example, Olmert is toying the with idea of handing over control of the crossings between Israel and Gaza itself -- to Hamas:
Mr. Olmert is expected to discuss the Gaza crisis along with peace talks in his Sunday meeting with Mr. Abbas. Israel is considering the possibility of granting the request of Mr. Abbas and the prime minister based in Ramallah, Salam Fayyad, to let the Palestinian Authority [Hamas] control the crossings between Israel and Gaza, allowing them to reopen. [I suspect that we should read "Olmert and his Kadima-led coalition is considering," not all of Israel.]
Israel had previously rejected the idea, because it would loosen the economic squeeze on Hamas, which intensified last week when Israel decided to cut off shipments into Gaza, including fuel for the local power plant, in response to rocket attacks from Gaza. That move produced international protests and the Hamas decision to breach the border with Egypt.
When Israel says "let the Palestinian Authority" control the crossings, that means Hamas; Fatah has no toehold left in the Gaza government, so any PA soldiers would actually be Hamas militants.
It may be worth noting that Hamas was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who led the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood... the parent organization of many other terrorist groups, including not only Hamas but Egyptian Islamic Jihad (whence came Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda number two), al-Qaeda, and many others. It's difficult to determine whether the MB is itself a terrorist organization on the same scale as Hamas or EIJ, or whether it simply serves as a "gateway drug," a way station through which prototerrorists pass en route to forming their own, much more violent terrorist organizations.
However, the spiritual and political center of the Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt... which is yet another reason to be worried at the recent chumminess between that country and Hamas-controlled Gaza.
November 29, 2007
JoshuaPundit Sounds the Horn...
Wall fails to tumble; film at 11:00.
I can understand JoshuaPundit devoting an entire, long blogpost to arguing with a recent Big Lizards post; the only wonder is that more bloggers don't do it! After all, if our actual impact on the 'sphere matched our colossal ego, why, the whole wide web would be bristling with pro- and con-lizardly bloguations.
What's a bit puzzling is that he would choose to nominate that particular post for the Watcher's Council award. I think it a bit odd, considering how many of his points against us are not simply wrong but so easily proven wrong by past posting. Seems like such a waste.
After all, regardless of my irritation whenever he goes on a tear after George W. Bush and American foreign policy for being insufficiently pro-Israel and anti-Arab, in fact, I am perfectly capable of voting for JoshuaPundit's posts in first place... even when I'm the only one to do so.
Back to the blog-bate. Let's start with JP's basic, flawed premise... that I think Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is morally wrong, and that's why they should give them up. Says he:
If the Arabs made the choice to attack and lost some territory as a result, it's hardly an injustice or an `occupation'.
But I've never said there was anything wrong with Israel occuping those territories. It's perfectly fine with me. "Occupation" is descriptive, not disparaging.
True, Israeli Jews have no "claim on history" for those territories... but neither do Arab Moslems. I don't support the very idea of historical land claims; I believe land ownership is decided by possession, defense, and development.
Israel possesses those territories now; it has successfully defended them from all comers; and it developed them far beyond what the Arabs ever did (which was, as JP points out, virtually nothing). Ergo, those territories belong, morally and politically, to Israel, to do with as they please.
I suggest they let them go -- not because the world, the Arabs, the Arab-Palestinians, or U.N. Secretary General Nanki-Poo have any say in the matter, but because it's in Israel's best interest to rid themselves of such pestiferous hellholes.
In the same piece in which I recommended pulling out of Gaza and the West Bank (this is more than two years ago, back when I was a guest blogger on Captain's Quarters), I also recommended treating any further aggression from either place -- under Arab rule -- as one would treat similar military attack from Syria, Egypt, Iran, or any other country: With overwhelming retaliation.
In fact, I predicted that's what Israel would do after Hamas took over and launched an attack. I was right on 2/3rds of that prediction: Hamas took over; they, in concert with Hezbollah, launched an attack; but Israel fought a lousy, half-hearted war and -- while they didn't lose, exactly, they certainly didn't win, exactly, either. (In my defense, I had no idea Ariel Sharon would go and have a stroke, leaving a buffoon like Ehud Olmert in charge.)
I can only quote Larry Niven again: "Not responsible for advice not taken."
Somehow, this doesn't seem to jibe with JoshuaPundit's analysis of my psyche:
The main premise of people like Big Lizards is that appeasement of the Arabs and enfranchising the Palestinians will lead to peace in the region. The sad reality is that the Arabs are mainly concerned with weakening Israel so as to speed its demise...and what's more, they've never made a secret of it.
I blink and wonder if we have a deranged, blogospheric identity-thief slithering around using the name Bum Gizzards or somesuch.
But no; the most likely explanation is that, like many who take an extreme position, JoshuaPundit simply cannot imagine a person disagreeing with him -- unless that person is a mendacious villain or the dupe of mendacious villains. It never occurs to him that I may have a unique position on the Israeli-"Palestinian" situation, one that doesn't fit into the standard range somewhere between that of Mier Kahane and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Had Israel chosen to formally annex Gaza and the West Bank, then ethnically cleanse all the Arabs out and encourage Israeli Jews to flood the lands... I would have had no problem with that. That, at least, would have been a workable solution. But given the fecklessness of what they have done (or rather, failed to do), it's completely unworkable to maintain an occupation of a hostile population with access to outside agencies who can arm them... as the Brits discovered to their chagrin in India and elsewhere. Since there is now no option of annexation and repopulation, best let them go -- but defend the bloody borders a hell of lot better than we've seen so far.
Another major faux pas was committed by "Freedom Fighter" (aside from his studied refusal to use my name, Dafydd ab Hugh, despite the fact that it's easily discoverable from (a) reading the top and bottom byline on every post, and (b) clicking the "Who are these 'Big Lizards' guys anyway?" link found in the right sidebar of every page on Big Lizards). Steadily, and throughout, FF mistakenly assumes that I also want Israel to give up East Jerusalem:
This blogger [he means us] goes on and makes the point that Israel never annexed Judea, Samaria or East Jerusalem and therefore has no claim. He's incorrect when it comes to East Jerusalem....
Well, that blogger is incorrect when he claims I said Israel has no claim on East Jerusalem. The full annexation of East Jerusalem would not only be the most easily justifiable annexation Israel could make, I actually think it would be a good idea. It would make it clear to the world that Jerusalem would never be divided, nor would ever become the capital of a second Palestinian state.
But he keeps throwing East Jerusalem into the mix, perhaps to make us look like Israel-haters or even worse... Mearsheimerites; e.g.:
He then further states that Jews were never a majority of the population in Judea, Samaria or East Jerusalem and that these areas always had a majority Arab population....
As we never said a word about East Jerusalem (or West, South, or North Jerusalem; read our post), this seems a bit thick. I have no idea where he got such a notion; I certainly never said any such a thing; nor do I believe it. And not only do I think Israel should annex East Jerusalem, I also totally opposed the withdrawal from the Lebanon security zone north of the border... and I still think it was a bad idea. And Israel should hang onto the Golan Heights until the cows come home to roost.
(That grinding noise you hear is the sound of Freedom Fighter's head spinning around like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist, as he tries to squeeze the Lizardly white paper on Israel into the narrow confines of his imaginative suitcase.)
Of course, none of JoshuaPundit's claims about my ignorance of Israel's history are accurate; but that's just my assertion... I can't prove it. Though I'm sure I've made references here and there through the years that would demonstrate at least a grasp of the main points -- for example, that Jews had purchased a lot of land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem prior to the establishment of the modern nation of Israel... which Freedom Fighter seems to believe is news to me.
Then there are some claims of his that are simply tedious in their attempt to divert the debate from what we actually wrote to a cockamamie caricature of what we wrote. For one example (among many), we published the following:
As you may have guessed by now, "Freedom Fighter" at JP is one of those Israel boosters (I don't know where he posts from, here or there) who is so wrought up in the battle that he considers George W. Bush -- the most pro-Israeli president America has ever had -- to be Israel's enemy.
JP seizes upon one line there and twists it to make us sound like Borat-style "throw the Jew down the well" antisemites:
Big Lizards starts out by referring to me as `one of those Israel boosters' and wonders whether I'm posting `from here ( meaning the US) or there'(meaning Israel). I hate to disillusion anyone, but this site does not originate from Mossad headquarters, and there's no `dual loyalty' or question of my patriotism involved here.
Freedom Fighter... just as a frolic, perhaps you could try -- taking me literally? Dude, there is nothing on your blog indicating your nationality or where you post from. Perhaps if I read every post assiduously, I would spot something... but for all I know, you could be the heir to the principality of Monaco and posting from your winter castle in the island of Fernando Póo (now called Bioko Equatorial Guinea). You have a Blogger blog; you don't seem to list your real name anywhere (or perhaps I just haven't found it); I don't recall you mentioning identifying information in any of the posts of yours I've read.
The only clue I see is that your main banner includes an American bald eagle nibbling on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ear... but that might just be political commentary -- a Swiftian "modest proposal" for simultaneously ridding the world of its number-one terrorist and also providing a meal for an endangered species.
Regardless of one's position on the disposition of the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip -- or as Freedom Fighter would say, Judea, Samaria, and, ah, the Gaza Strip, I guess -- the central analogy of the JoshuaPundit post, that Gaza and the West Bank are to Israel as California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are to the United States, is inappropriate and silly. The distinctions far overwhelm any superficial similarities.
The most basic one is easy to spot: The United States does not rule over any hostile populace. No seething, terrorist populations that hate us with a passion. No territories held by force, when the majority living there would rather die to kill an American than live with the thought that we live as well.
In reality, the Palestinian-flavored Arabs hate Jews and love death more than they love life, even the lives of their children. And that's not my prejudice talking... they proudly announce it themselves.
Americans are sensitive plants. The moment there is any hint of disharmony among even 30% of the population of some territory we frequent, we immediately saddle the campfire, pee on the horses, and up stakes for warmer climes. We know when we're not wanted! The only exceptions I can think of are Afghanistan, Iraq, and of course, the Civil War... though the first two are short-term fights that we'll soon win, ending with far less than the magic 30% figure; and in the last, there was a moral principle involved: abolishing slavery.
One cannot find 30% of the population in the four American border states demanding to be returned to Mexico. One cannot fine 3%. One cannot even find 0.03%. In fact, not even 0.03% of the Hispanic population of those states. The entire membership of MeCHA that really wants those states to be swallowed up by Mexico as the state of "Aztlan" would probably fit into the Whiskey A-Go-Go nightclub.
While in the Israeli-occupied territories, the percent of the population that wants to be free of Israel and judenrein is, oh, about 100%. That's a pretty significant distinction between the analogy and the analogized!
That was the point of our earlier post; I have no idea what was the point of Freedom Fighter's post, other than a cri de cœur arising from generalized angst. But what the heck; read what we wrote, then read the JoshuaPundit post, and form your own opinion which of us is more convincing.
I'm all eyes...
November 7, 2007
David Samuels Speaks Out
David Samuels has done us the kindness of responding with a comment to our most recent post on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and what she did or did not say to someone who raced to pass it along to Aluf Benn for condemnation. Our two recent posts on this topic were:
Given Mr. Samuels' respected position in the journalistic community -- and the relatively obscure state of things here at Big Lizards -- we are of course rather flattered. Despite my rather colossal ego and preening narcissism, I attribute his response to a desire to set the record straight, as he sees it, about what he said, rather than concluding that he is a regular Big Lizards reader.
But surely his dogged defense of his column deserves an equally thoughtful response; and it's a good excuse for another post, anyway. As Samuels offered his response as a public comment (under the handle "DS"), I feel free to quote big chunks of it in this post, for ready reference. (Throughout, I accept that this is the authentic David Samuels, which I believe because of diverse tests.)
His first point is one that I thought I myself made in the previous post; but Samuels would like to stress it:
In the space alloted me in the article that was republished in FrontPage, I am careful to distinguish between two distinct possibilities:
A. Condoleezza Rice has said things -- either directly to Aluf Benn or to a political source he trusts -- that cite her own personal experience as a black girl in the South as a proof of her empathy for Palestinian suffering in the West Bank and Gaza.
B. Condoleezza Rice means what she says, in a heartfelt, deeply personal way.
I strongly believe that A is true, while I think that B is nonsense. I think the reasons are quite clear from the text of my article, which was intended as a commentary on Rice rather than a close reading of Aluf Benn's column in Haaretz.
I certainly understood that point; Samuels' article is well and clearly written. That is what I sought to convey by dividing my own response into two phases:
- Phase 1, in which I praised Samuels for his rejection of point (B) above, and especially for his rejection of the standard conservative theme that Rice is freelancing, and that she has somehow bullied or bamboozled President Bush into going along against his better judgment.
- Phase 2, in which I noted that he nevertheless unreservedly accepts part (A), that she said what Benn claims she said -- comparing PA President Mahmoud Abbas to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. -- despite the fact that neither Benn nor anybody else has presented the least bit of evidence that she did -- other than hearsay evidence from an anonymous source.
I will make one caveat: Unlike David Samuels, I am agnostic about whether she actually said it; but having a scientific frame of mind, I am unwilling to accept claims that have no evidence behind them, requiring me to believe a person I don't know, who says he correctly heard what another person that none of us knows (and who goes nameless, to boot), about what the second chap thinks he heard from Condoleezza Rice.
I can state with some assurance that I have never heard Dr. Rice say what Benn says she said (to someone else, not him); and that it doesn't seem likely that she would say it (she's not an ass). Benn himself says she never says such things in public... so why should we believe she says them in private?
But let us sail on...
1. Aluf Benn is a very reputable Israeli journalist who operates at a very high level in his profession, has interviewed Rice a number of times and has never been accused of fabricating a story before.
Nor has he been now; and I'm perfectly willing to accept that Aluf Benn is very reputable.
But so too was Dan Rather... and yet he broadcast an obvious fabrication. Nevertheless, I don't accuse Rather of fabricating the story: I am utterly certain he believed the "Killian memos" were authentic when he broadcast them. I suggest rather that Rather was fooled by his own biases into believing something silly... and that he dug in his heels when confronted with evidence of his own wild error. And that is also what I suggest may be the case with Aluf Benn (the first part; I have no idea whether he would double down if somehow confronted with evidence that his claim was wrong).
Again, I thought I was fairly clear that I was not claiming that Benn made the whole thing up, as Samuels seems to think I said. (Samuels writes, "From your post, you appear to believe in an entirely different possibility -- Possibility C -- namely, that Aluf Benn made up his entire column and the sources behind it as part of a left-wing plot to make Condoleezza Rice look bad.") In fact, I took no position on that, merely noting the possibilities (in the earlier post, the first one linked above, not the most recent):
Finally, we have convincing evidence that either somebody, God knows who, told Mr. Benn that Rice in private says Abbas is like Dr. King; or else that Benn himself made it up. We certainly have no evidence whatsoever that she actually did say such a thing... and by now, you'd think we would have, wouldn't you?
Again, I did not say he fabricated it; I said that either he fabricated it, or else someone told him that she said that (the latter being Benn's claim). I expressed no opinion on which was the case -- not knowing Aluf from Adam -- but those really are the only two options, aren't they? But in neither case do we have even the remotest evidence of accuracy.
Let's assume that Benn did not fabricate the story:
- His source could have misheard or misunderstood what Rice said (is Benn's source a careful listener?)
- Benn himself could have misheard or misunderstood what his source said (do we know whether his anonymous source is a careful speaker?)
Condoleezza Rice could have been tired and said something she doesn't believe and didn't mean to say (do we know -- well, yes, we do know she is a human being, for all that).
My grandmother use to do it all the time. She was the first among her set to buy a couch with a hide-away bed (this was in the 1940s, I think); she brought her club over to see it... and then proudly informed them, "And the nicest thing about this couch is that if you pull off the cushions and tug on this strap, it opens up into a full-course dinner!" Needless to repeat, that was not what Grandma meant to say.
Any one of these three strong possibilities utterly undercuts the claim that she intentionally said what Benn claims she said, and what Samuels ends by accepting uncritically -- after first treating it skeptically.
I think Samuels also shoots a bit wide with this point:
It is not at all clear to me that causing a fuss about Rice among fervent right-wingers would in any way further Benn's own political agenda. I am inclined to believe that the opposite is true. Benn's story is confirmed by the right-wing journalist David Bedein -- which argues against the idea that this story was fabricated to serve a left-wing agenda. Undermining Rice at this moment seems like the agenda of the hard right.
First, it should be fairly clear that "undermining the Bush administration" is rather high on the agenda of all left-wingers, no matter what country they inhabit; they hope it will lead to President Hillary.
That it also happens to play into the hands of the Israeli Right (they malign Bush and especially Rice with great frequency) is unsurprising... because we see that same pseudo-alliance here in America, where the internationalist Left joins with the isolationist Right to attack Bush's foreign policy -- usually dumping on the black chick in the process.
Again, Samuels barks up the wrong tree by believing I'm trying to prove Benn made it all up; I think it far more likely that Benn believed what he was told precisely because it fit his preexisting bias against Condoleezza Rice, and indeed against many "right wingers".
I have noticed that a lot of Israeli lefties still think that conservatives hate Jews and side with the Arabs every chance they get. Thus it would be unsurprising for an Israeli leftist to readily believe it when a source tells him that the "hard right" Condoleezza Rice is an antisemite who sees Israeli Jews as Jim-Crow Klansmen oppressing the innocent-as-a-lamb Palestinian minority.
In the same way, Dan Rather was poised to readily believe it when Mary Mapes told him that light Col. Jerry Killian said he was being "pressured" to give Lt. George Bush better marks than he had earned and to pretend Bush had been present when he was AWOL. Rather didn't set out to lie; he simply accepted a fraudulent set of documents because nothing in them raised alarm bells... they perfectly fit what Rather already believed about Bush.
That is my best guess about Aluf Benn: His source told him something he already believed... and now he had the "proof" of what he'd known all along! So he ran with it.
And even you admit he is reckless -- which rather conflicts with your near-simultaneous claim that he "operates at a very high level in his profession;" I assume you mean more than that Benn is successful... you mean that he's a good and careful reporter, right? Yet you yourself write:
2. Benn himself clearly distinguishes the nugget of reporting that he presents as fact (Rice made a comparison between Palestine and the American South), and his further "guesses" about Rice's "personal feelings" -- which I label as "incendiary," and which are probably unsupported by anything besides Benn's imagination (although its always possible that Rice said those things, too).
While I hate to judge before all the facts are in, I tend to think that a careful reporter operating at a very high level -- one whose very word we should accept, even when his only source is anonymous -- shouldn't be making "incendiary" claims that are "probably unsupported by anything besides [his own] imagination." Call it a quirk of mine.
3. I have interviewed Rice several times and she made a point of discussing the subject of race or the experience of her girlhood in Alabama each time, without my prompting her.
Yes, I've heard her do that, too... but that's not the point, is it? The point is whether she compared Israeli Jews to the Bull Connorses and Sheriff Clarks of her youth... and compared Mahmoud Abbas to Martin Luther King.
And Mr. Samuels still has not responded to my basic point, which I supported with four examples from his FrontPage piece. I quote myself, as I am wont to do at the drop of a hatpin:
This is an old bugaboo of mine: The interlocutor begins with "it mighta happened," soon talks himself into "it prob'ly happened," and ends by working himself into a veritable frenzy of "it rilly did happen!" -- while never presenting a scrap of evidence beyond the sonorous sounds of his own sweet soliloquy.
I still want to know how Samuels gets from noting that Benn "never cited any source" to Samuels' virtual certainly that Benn correctly understood what his source was saying, that Benn's anonymous source was accurate, and that Rice really did say what Benn claimed she said -- that Abbas was like King. Was Samuels truly impressed, as a journalist himself (which I am not), by "I cannot name my sources.... But I rely on firm ground?"
After all, Samuels wrote in his comment:
While I am confident that Rice did say something similar to what Benn suggests that she said [i.e., that Abbas is like Dr. King], I also see no reason to believe that ANYTHING Rice says as Secretary of State... has any necessary relation to how Condoleezza Rice actually feels inside.
All right, I understand he believes she was lying when she "said" that. But again, what makes him think she even said that? Do we even know that Aluf Benn's source wasn't Emily Litella?
I would encourage you to read more carefully in the future, to avoid logic-chopping, and to be more judicious in your citations of other people's work.
If I may speak directly to Mr. Samuels... thank you; I do always strive to rise to the level of the elite media, even if I sometimes fall short. But never for lack of trying! I hope to always read carefully; I would be ashamed of my math background if I caught myself "logic-chopping" (I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but it sounds pretty bad); and I try to exercise judgment whenever I cite other people's work.
I very much appreciate your comment... and I hope you will respond once more to answer the burning question above: What, besides Aluf Benn's say-so, causes you to believe that Condoleezza Rice compared Mahmoud Abbas to the Rev. Martin Luther King, jr.? Have you ever heard her specifically make such a comparison?
November 6, 2007
Some Respect for the Lady
This David Samuels article from FrontPage Magazine takes a couple of small steps forward to rein in the hysterical Condi-bashing by so many conservatives; but it takes one giant leap backwards by perpetuating the most irritating part of the media charade: Accepting as uncontested fact an anti-Condi whispering campaign orchestrated by a "respected left-wing [Israeli] journalist" with a class interest in portraying Condoleezza Rice as biased towards Palestinians.
Here is the part that is reasonable and perceptive:
At the same time, it is also important to remember that Condoleezza Rice is not a talk show host but the U.S. secretary of state -- which is not a job that leaves very much room for personal moments. Her private rhetoric (if “off the record” conversations with foreign politicians and journalists can even remotely be considered private) is simply rhetoric -- that is to say, words intended for a purpose. Every word she speaks embodies the political will of the most powerful nation in the history of the planet – a nation currently having a bit of trouble in the Middle East.
Rice is a skilled political tactician who is fantastically loyal to President Bush, who has repeatedly declared his intention to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza before he leaves office.
This echoes the point we ourselves made three days earlier:
Honestly, we don't know what Condoleezza Rice thinks about, e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian "roadmap" nonsense, except that clearly it doesn't bother her enough to cause her to resign from the administration. It's possible she's 113% in synch with President George W. Bush's enthusiasm about a Palestinian state living "side by side" with Israel and at peace. But it's likewise possible that she thinks it's doomed to failure... but since that's the foreign policy the president wants, she may believe strongly enough in the unitary executive that she's willing to push hard even for something she opposes.
To put this as bluntly as I can, this is not Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's personal foreign policy. She is not a latter-day Svengali, mesmerizing George Bush (playing Trilby O'Ferrall?) with her eyes; she's not a zuvembie, casting a voodoo spell to suborn the president's will to her own, turning him into the walking dead.
She is ably and honestly representing the foreign policy of President George W. Bush, which is precisely the duty of every cabinet member; if a secretary can no longer represent and further the president's policies, because he (or she) disagrees so strongly on a moral or political level -- then he has the duty to resign.
Those are the only two choices... be the mouthpiece of the president, or go find another job. The only thing we know about Dr. Rice's personal position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that she doesn't disagree with Bush so strongly that she feels compelled to resign. Nothing more. As we also said, sometime after January 20th, 2009, we will likely find out her own position on a whole host of issues -- when she runs for office, writes a book, and/or gives post-administration interviews.
But here, illustrated better by this David Samuels article in FrontPage than I've ever before seen, is the essentially absurd dichotomy of all this speculation. How does the vague and unsourced Benn accusation here:
Though Benn never cited any source for his description of Rice’s deep personal identification with the Palestinian national cause, he has interviewed Secretary Rice before and obviously felt his source was good enough for print. He went on to "guess" that Rice’s feelings were based on the similarity between the separation fence and checkpoints in the West Bank and the Jim Crow laws that prohibited blacks from exercising their most basic civil rights. For good measure Benn also threw in the suggestion that Rice often confuses Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with Martin Luther King...
Benn’s off-the-record/on-the-record “hint” that Rice might be personally sympathetic to Palestinians has naturally excited Jewish right-wingers, who fear a sell-out at the upcoming peace conference in Annapolis, just as it pains left-wingers, who worry that she might think that they, too, are racists, the worst sin in the liberal “Al Cheyt...
...Abruptly transmaugrify, without visible evidentiary means of support, into the utter certainty of this:
While the intent of Aluf Benn’s “guesses” about Rice’s innermost feelings about the Palestinian cause is clearly incendiary, I have little doubt the secretary and her aides have whispered sweet nothings into the ears of Israeli and Palestinian politicians and even to Aluf Benn himself, suggesting that she can empathize with the Palestinian sufferings under Israeli occupation by virtue of having been born black in Alabama...
At the same time, it seems highly unlikely that Secretary Rice’s sudden empathy for the Palestinian cause is anything more than a tactical maneuver....
The paradox of Rice’s conduct...
Yet there is still something disturbing about the remarks Rice is reported to have made, however direct or vague they might have been, and however tactically clever they might seem to their author. Offhand analogies between Palestinians and Southern blacks or Israelis and Southern whites make a mockery of real pain and suffering by ignoring the specificity of actual historical experience. Comparisons of Palestinian “freedom fighters” with the American civil rights movement would merely seem ridiculous (imagine the membership of Hamas and Fatah joining hands and singing “We Shall Overcome”) if they were not also part of a bullying assault on historical specificity that has come to characterize much recent political discourse in America....
Condoleezza Rice, the political science professor and provost of Stanford University, would likely judge such bullying and divisive rhetoric harshly, as the product of a second-rate mind afraid to engage in reasoned discussion and debate. When she returns to private life, she will feel ashamed of herself.
This is an old bugaboo of mine: The interlocutor begins with "it mighta happened," soon talks himself into "it prob'ly happened," and ends by working himself into a veritable frenzy of "it rilly did happen!" -- while never presenting a scrap of evidence beyond the sonorous sounds of his own sweet soliloquy.
And then to cap off this eye-popping extravaganza of phantasmapalooza, the Samuels piece thuds back to earth with this final and self-referential awakening from the dream:
That said, I don’t see the slightest bit of evidence that the secretary of state actually believes Mahmoud Abbas is Martin Luther King in disguise, or that she has flashbacks to her childhood in Birmingham every time she sees the Separation Fence on her way to Ramallah. But a whisper or two can’t hurt, right?
No, Mr. S., it can't; nor is there any way that a put-upon Secretary of State -- "an accomplished black woman with a Ph.D. in political science, who plays the piano, who grew up as a little girl in the South and lost a friend when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the churches in Birmingham" -- can respond to such churlish insolence and impudence, such an attack on her basic honor, integrity, and decency, without seeming the fool for getting into a literal "he said, she said" back and forth with some lefty reporter about who knows better what is really in Condoleezza Rice's heart.
Good Lord, everyone; get a grip: We do not have any believable evidence that Dr. Rice ever said any such a thing. So let's stop the show trial and confine ourselves to complaining about what we do know... which is that the president's policy (not Condi Rice's policy) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shifted from demanding that the Palestinian-Arabs live up to their earlier agreements -- an essential component of Bush's own "Roadmap to Peace" -- to now offering them inducements and enticements, compromises and concessions merely to blight Annapolis with their presence.
But that is Bush's fall from grace, not Condoleezza Rice's.
November 2, 2007
Time to Fisk - er - Power Line?
My favorite blog, Power Line, has spent the last few years firing rockets and mortars at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, seemingly blaming her for every State Department initiative they dislike -- and by and large dismissing the possibility that Rice might not be a Col. Kurtz-like rogue agent but actually representing the foreign policy of the president. I have said several times that I think they're theorizing beyond the evidence, which Sherlock Holmes dubbed a cardinal sin.
Honestly, we don't know what Condoleezza Rice thinks about, e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian "roadmap" nonsense, except that clearly it doesn't bother her enough to cause her to resign from the administration. It's possible she's 113% in synch with President George W. Bush's enthusiasm about a Palestinian state living "side by side" with Israel and at peace. But it's likewise possible that she thinks it's doomed to failure... but since that's the foreign policy the president wants, she may believe strongly enough in the unitary executive that she's willing to push hard even for something she opposes.
(Such selfless advocacy is hardly unprecedented, even in Foggy Bottom; Colin Powell pushed very hard to bring our allies along for the Iraq ride, even though he personally abhored the policy.)
My point is this: We won't know what Condi Rice thinks until, like John Alden, she can speak for herself. In 2009 and later, when the Bush administration has run its course, Rice may run for public office (perhaps governor of California when Arnold Schwarzenegger's term expires in 2010). Even if she doesn't, she would be a fool not to write a book and cash in on her (relatively) low-paid years in government service and at Stanford (low-paid compared to what she could have earned in private industry).
At that point, we'll finally learn what she really thinks about this; I can't imagine a campaign or memoir that didn't address what has occupied much of the time she has been at State and before that as National Security Advisor. But until then... well, what we have is a lot of rumor and inuendo by people who have a class interest in shiving her, such as the folks at Haaretz and self-proclaimed Zionists such as Boker tov, Boulder! (the clock on the blog shows Jerusalem time, though the blog presumably emanates from Colorado).
Sadly, the lads at Power Line often seize hold of such iffy, flakey "evidence" as more ammunition for their artillery barrage -- as today:
The latest round of diplomatic buffoonery includes a recurrence of Seceretary Rice's characterization of the Palestinian cause as a civil rights issue in the image of the one she grew up with in Birmingham, Alabama. As Joel Fishman recently reported:Last week in Jerusalem, U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, articulated some of her personal views which ultimately found their way into the press. For Dr. Rice the struggle of the Palestinians is analogous to that of the Afro-Americans for civil rights and she identifies with the Palestinians. She recalled what it meant to travel in segregated buses as a little girl in Alabama. She also compared the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to Reverend Martin Luther King, because, in her mind, both were committed to peace. According to reporter Aluf Benn, Rice views Abbas as committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence and, like Martin Luther King, opposed to terror and violence (Haaretz, October 16, 2007). Independently, David Bedein reported Rice's statements in The Bulletin (Philadelphia, October 17, 2007).
At the end of the post, Scott Johnson notes finally received a link to the Haaretz piece itself from a reader, and he links to it. Let's turn to the original to see what evidence "respected left-wing Israeli reporter" Aluf Benn actually cites:
When Condoleezza Rice talks about the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel, she sees in her mind's eye the struggle of African Americans for equal rights, which culminated in the period of her Alabama childhood.
Rice is very aware of political sensitivity, and avoids making such comparisons in public speeches and interviews, where she keeps to the official list of talking points. But in private, she talks about the
[Sic; the paragraph actually ends hanging with this sentence fragment]....
Now, Rice is comparing Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayad, to Martin Luther King. Abbas is committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence, and like Abbas he is opposed to terror and violence. Just as Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy and former British prime minister, compares the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tothe conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, so does Rice recall the struggle for civil rights in the United States when she speaks about the Palestinian boy who needs new hope instead of aspiring to commit a suicide attack. Rice's current visit to the Middle East is one of the most important in her term as secretary of state, perhaps the most important.
Please pardon my bluntness, but what the hell kind of evidence is this? Benn simply asserts, without even hinting at his sources, that Rice equates Abbas with Martin Luther King and the Palestinian conflict with "the struggle for civil rights in the United States" -- and Scott accepts the assertion uncritically. Why? I believe because it fits his preconceived storyline on Condoleezza Rice.
I cannot help but suspect that if Aluf Benn published a piece where he asserted, equally unsourced, that Rice had forcefully demanded that the Palestinians live up to their previous agreements before she would offer a new one, Scott Johnson would be very skeptical and demand to see something more substantive; he is convinced of the opposite. Thus doth conviction make convicts of us all.
At least one anti-Rice blogger, Boker tov, Boulder!, who is favorably linked by the Power Line post, thought the sourcing was thin enough that he (or she) e-mailed Benn to inquire what he actually had. BtB appears to find the following response very reassuring:
UPDATE: I wrote to Aluf Benn and asked for any substantiation of his comments on Secretary Rice. He very kindly responded immediately:I cannot name my sources, and as I have written, Rice did not speak in public about these matters. But I rely on firm ground.
Well! Who could argue with that? "Firm ground," indeed.
But come now; if a leftist reporter at, say, the New Republic offered his reliance on firm ground as sole authority for the flat claim that Bush told friends "in private" that he wanted to launch a ground invasion of Pakistan -- would Power Line accept it? Would any of us?
Scott uses a rhetorical trick to try to further discredit the Secretary of State:
These themes have become a motif in Secretary Rice's discussion of Palestinian statehood. She articulated them most egregiously last year in an astonishing speech before an American-Palestinian group. In that speech Rice likened the Palestinian struggle to the American struggle for independence and to the American civil rights movement. Rice said:I know that sometimes a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel must seem like a very distant dream. But I know too, as a student of international history, that there are so many things that once seemed impossible that, after they happened, simply seemed inevitable. I've read over the last summer the biographies of America's Founding Fathers. By all rights, America, the United States of America, should never have come into being. We should never have survived our civil war. I should never have grown up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama to become the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
But what "themes" does Scott mean? The theme in the previous attack was that Rice thinks Mahmoud Abbas is like Martin Luther King; but this theme is that she still has hope that rationality can prevail and a peaceful Palestinian state could eventually emerge.
First, I don't know about you guys, but those seem awfully different "themes" to me. But second, what of Scott's characterization that the passage "likened the Palestinian struggle to the American struggle for independence and to the American civil rights movement"? There is no question she compares them; but "compare" needn't mean "equate." I can compare elections in Iran to elections in the United States without likening them or saying they're the same.
In the sense that, if such a peaceful Palestinian state comes into being, it might be seen as something that "seemed impossible" right up until it "seemed inevitable," such a circumstance would be very much like the United States; but that's a far cry from saying Yassir Arafat was like George Washington or that Mahmoud Abbas is like Martin Luther King. I can say that many people thought it would have been impossible for the United States to lose a war (or a peace) to primitive North Vietnam; but by the time it happened, it sure seemed inevitable to me. Yet surely this doesn't mean I equate Ho Chi Minh to George Washington or even Martin Luther King, jr.
Like Anne Frank in her last days, Condoleezza Rice still has hope in the future and in people. What is Scott Johnson's hope? Does he not hope that the Palestinians can eventually come to their senses?
What are the alternatives? I see only two: that Israel runs the entire Arab population out of Gaza and the West Bank and annexes them as "Judea and Samaria," or that Hamas eventually expunges Israel. I think the first would so enrage the Arab world -- heck, the entire Moslem world -- that the war on global hirabah would become vastly more dangerous to us.
And of course the last is unthinkable. So honestly, I have great sympathy for Dr. Rice's hope that the Palestinians return to the land of sanity sometime, because it's really the only solution.
And for heavens sake, Rice was speaking "at the American Task Force on Palestine Inaugural Gala." She was talking to an audience of Palestinian-Americans! She called upon them to help in the task of liberating the PA from terrorist violence and the "humiliation" of being just a territory or "authority," not quite a state. What is she supposed to do -- tell that audience that Israel should annex the territories and expel all the Arabs?
So which of Power Line's claims have convincing evidence behind them?
- That Condoleezza Rice hopes for Palestinians to reject violence and create a peaceful state;
- That she considers Mahmoud Abbas a "moderate leader" -- which, since moderate is a comparative, means "moderate compared to his rivals in Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (which appears to despise Abbas, despite being part of Fatah, Abbas's party), Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda;"
- And that she wants to persuade Palestinian-Americans to join in the effort to nudge the PA in a more democratic and peaceful direction.
Finally, we have convincing evidence that either somebody, God knows who, told Mr. Benn that Rice in private says Abbas is like Dr. King; or else that Benn himself made it up. We certainly have no evidence whatsoever that she actually did say such a thing... and by now, you'd think we would have, wouldn't you?
That gruel of truth seems a bit thin to make the big buffet breakfast of Condoleezza bashing Power Line serves us.
They're still my favorite blog, of course; I will always aspire to their pinnacle of posting (near) perfection. But decades ago, I became pathologically obsessed with truth; and in this case, I must point out a few "inconvenient truths" about the animus that so many conservatives have against Condoleezza Rice.
Besides, she is a true lady (and a hottie), and I must therefore rise in defense of her honor.
September 24, 2007
Cindy Sheehan's Day of Out-of-Tunement Manifesto
I rarely do this, as you know: I rarely link to some piece and say simply "read this." (I'm too in love with the sound of my own fingers typing on a keyboard.)
But here's an exception. Read Cindy Sheehan's Yom Kippur "sermon," delivered at Michael Lerner's Beyt Tikkun "synogogue;" you will be -- if not exactly glad, then at least agape. (Rabbi Lerner is Hillary Clinton's mentor, author of the Politics of Meaning and other works of Socialist agit-prop masquerading as theology.)
My response (I love this) is entirely contained in the list of categories I had to attach to this post.
(Well, one more thing. It has always been my understanding that Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a day for each person to atone for what he, personally, has done wrong -- not "atone" for his enemies failing to live up to his own lofty standards, apologize for all the times America hasn't followed his lead, or wallow in self-righteous indignation that nobody listens to him. 'Nuff said; read the list of categories above.)
September 19, 2007
Israel Finally Listening to Big Lizards' Advice
A long time ago (in blog years -- June 2005), I wrote a piece on Patterico's Pontifications called "Words of Wall," which I later reposted here on Big Lizards. As I wrote in the introduction to the repost:
This is the post where I first laid out the Lizard Doctrine: Israel should withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank, not because it will pacify the Palestinians (which I correctly predicted it would not), but because it would allow Israel at last to "give war a chance."
The Doctrine requires two steps; without both steps being undertaken, it is not the Lizard Doctrine, and I disclaim all accountability for problems that result from implementing only one or the other step: "Not responsible for advice not taken," as Larry Niven likes to say at the drop of a space helmet. The stages are:
- That Israel fully withdraw all soldiers and settlers from Gaza and the West Bank;
- That Israel subsequently treat Gaza and the West Bank as if they were separate, independent countries -- and respond accordingly to any future military aggression.
Step 2 is just as important as step 1, and it boils down to this: If Syria fired missiles from Syrian territory at Israel, or even if it allowed Hezbollah or Hamas to shoot missiles from Syrian territory, how would Israel respond? I think it would brush aside any considerations of how thoroughly Bashar Assad controls the Syrian frontier... and it would simply bomb the Baathist state in retaliation. And the bombing would cause far more damage to Syria than Syria had caused to Israel, as a deterrant (which may or may not deter).
Thus, under the Lizard Doctrine step 2, when the government of Gaza or the West Bank fires rockets or missiles or launches any other attack against Israel, or allows any other group to do so, from Gazan or West Bankian territory, Israel must respond by bombing them or taking some equivalently harsh military action against them: tit for tat, with the response being much more severe than the provocation.
Alas, this is the part where Israel, in the person of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cronies, has fallen asleep at the switch: The only military action they launched in response to literally hundreds of rockets and missiles fired into Israel by Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Fatah-controlled al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, and from Palestinian-controlled territory (without the least attempt by the Palestinian Authority to punish the attackers, thus proving complicity), was a feckless and ultimately stalemated invasion that destroyed a lot of the terrorist groups' weaponry -- but ultimately did nothing to punish the PA itself for giving the terrorists safe haven.
And of course, ever since the last elections in the PA, the government itself has been controlled by a known terrorist organization, Hamas. Again, as the rocketry continued during and after the war, Israel has made no move to punish the PA as it would Syria, Egypt, or Jordan, were the shoe on that hand.
Rather, Israel has carried out "airstrike assassinations" only against specific individuals. While I think they're a great idea -- keep it up! -- this, too, fails to punish Gaza and the West Bank as if they were enemy states, which is what the Lizard Doctrine requires.
But today, for the first time, I have hope that Israel is finally getting around to implementing step 2:
Israel declared the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip an "enemy entity" on Wednesday and said it would cut utilities to the territory, complicating the U.S. plan to relaunch peace talks aimed at establishing a separate Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel made the provocative decision hours before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived for talks setting up what President Bush hopes will be a pivotal international Mideast peace conference this fall. Rice neither endorsed nor criticized Israel's move.
First of all, it's outrageous that evidently, all this time, Israel has been supplying electricity, water, and other utilities to a geographic entity that has been at open war with Israel. What imbecile made that decision? For that matter, even were the PA at peace with Israel, why would it be Israel's duty to give them free electricity and water, build roads for them, give them cash money, or perform any other infrastructure improvements? Do we give free electrical power and drinking water to Mexico and Canada?
But it's absurdity on a bagel that they continue doing so while Gaza busily gnaws away at the hand that's feeding it. It's no wonder that the Olmert government polls about as low as the Democrat-controlled Congress in America!
Still, better late than not at all; and I welcome Israel's sudden awakening to its own idiocy... "light dawns on marblehead," and all that. Thank goodness Ehud Olmert is finally listening to the Lizard's advice:
The Israeli designation covers all of Gaza, not just Hamas militants who took control of the territory in June. The United States and Israel regard Hamas as a terrorist organization and refuse to deal with it.
[Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi] Livni said Israel was not obliged to deliver anything to Gaza beyond humanitarian aid.
"When it comes to the humanitarian needs, we have our own responsibilities," Livni said. "All the needs which are more than humanitarian needs will not be supplied by Israel to Gaza Strip."
Perhaps I'm a bit cold-hearted and harsh; I've been called that plenty of times before. But I dispute that Israel has even the most minimal humanitarian obligations to a country or other geopolitical entity with which it is at war. This changes if Israel, or any other nation, occupies a territory; when you take over, you assume certain duties... and this was the major reason the Lizard Doctrine called for Israel to divest itself of the occupied territories: so that any such moral obligation would cease, and the PA could be let alone to sink or swim as it will.
I'm irked and distressed that even this minimal bit of common sense eludes the Israeli leadership. Israel no longer occupies Gaza by even the most expansive definition; and even the West Bank is by and large independent; why was Israel still paying money to keep either entity afloat? Surely that is the responsibility of the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians.
And until they are forced, life or death, to shoulder those responsibilities, they will remain in the infantile stage that allows them to consider the cessation of welfare a violation of their human rights:
Israel did not announce a date for cutoff of services. The decision is likely to reinforce perceptions among Palestinians and their Arab backers that Israel will do as it sees fit regardless of the cost to civilians, and that the U.S. will not block Israel's hand....
Livni said the decision is legal, but international aid groups called it unacceptable to blame civilians for the actions of rogue militants.
Gisha, a human rights group that works for greater freedom of movement in Gaza, called the action "immoral and illegal, constituting prohibited collective punishment of civilians."
Sorry, Gisha; "punishment," as used in the legal phrase "collective punishment," means violent assault or the seizure of property; it does not include the decision not to continue giving gifts to the enemy. See, for example, this vigorously anti-Israel article in Counterpunch, objecting to last year's invasion of Gaza:
Attacks on a civilian population as a form of collective punishment violate article 50 of the Hague Regulations, which provides: "No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible."
The Fourth Geneva Convention also prohibits collective punishment. Article 33 says: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed." The Convention requires all states party to it to search for and ensure the prosecution of perpetrators of the war crime of "causing extensive destruction ... not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly." Amnesty International called the deliberate attacks by Israeli forces against civilian property and infrastructure war crimes.
Collective punishment is likewise forbidden by Article 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. As four US Supreme Court justices agreed in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld last week, Article 75 is "indisputably part of the customary international law."
Protocol I (which Israel, the United States, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have never ratified), Article 75 does not explicitly define "collective punishments;" but the examples it cites of prohibited actions are all obvious violent assaults or the theft of property.
Again, "prohibited collective punishment of civilians" has never, in all of human history, been defined so expansively as to include the refusal to give humanitarian aid to an enemy entity that is attacking you.
My hopes are still low for the current administration, and I hope that some parliamentary maneuver can be carried out to force elections soon. Such elections would certainly spell the doom of the Kadima Party of Olmert and, most likely, the election of Likud (possibly even a pure Likud majority), making Binyamin Netanyahu the prime minister once more.
But until then, at least Ehud Olmert is shaking himself partially awake and beginning, just beginning, to assume the most basic responsibility of any government leader: to preserve, protect, and defend from violent attack the very country he leads, whether from other countries or even external quasi-governmental entities.
July 16, 2007
...By Definition, Also Still "Lesser"
It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that Fatah -- the political party of Palestinian "president" Mahmoud Abbas -- is a terrorist organization. The dead giveaway is when a political party boasts a "military wing" (in this case, the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade) that commits terrorist acts with the sanction of the party leadership.
So why on earth does President George W. Bush treat Abbas and Fatah as if they were serious partners in the "Roadmap to Peace?" Why does he babble about today being "a moment of clarity for all Palestinians?" And what does he mean by saying "and now comes a moment of choice?"
Believe it or not, there is a realistic and rational reason why that sort of fancification may be a very good policy for the United States to follow. Let me explain...
I said before that we know Fatah is a terrorist organization because it has a military wing, al-Aqsa, that commits acts of terrorism sanctioned by Fatah.
But this brings up an intriguing comparison to another conflict: Both the two major Shiite political parties in Iraq also have (or used to have) military wings: The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- recently renamed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the largest political party in Iraq -- certainly used to operate the Badr Brigades, which were pro-Iranian terrorists during the Iran-Iraq war; while the Islamic Dawa Party has a historical connection to the Mahdi Militia and its onetime leader, Muqtada Sadr.
And thereby hangs our tale: When the SCIRI changed to the SIIC, that signalled a significant change in their attitude. They have made serious efforts to rein in the Badr Brigades/Organization, successfully enough that it's been a long time since we've even heard from them.
Similarly, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, once a close ally of Sadr, has by and large severed ties with Sadr and the militia he once headed (I consider his leadership dead since his failed attempt to return to Iraq and subsequent flight back to Iran).
Not completely; and Maliki still tries, now and again, to prevent Coalition soldiers from aggressively searching the Shiite slums of Baghdad. But in many very visible ways, Maliki has surrendered to the American demands that we be allowed to go anywhere, anytime, without warning -- and in concert with Iraqi army units (including those from Sunni areas) -- and that is why Sadr has fled Iraq: He knows he can no longer rely on his one-time ally.
This is why I added the caveat above that both parties "have (or used to have) military wings." Though both once did, and both once functioned as official terrorist parties (particularly in assassinating thousands of Sunnis suspected of collaborating with al-Qaeda), today they are clearly disassociating themselves from the militants: Badr is more or less defunct, while the Mahdi Militia has lost its Iraqi partonage and relies more and more on Iran. The separation is not perfect, it's not complete -- but it's unquestionably underway.
Similarly, as we saw in Anbar, Diyala, and Baghdad provinces, some Sunni terrorist-supporting tribes have likewise turned on their erstwhile allies, to the extent of actually going to war against them.
So what does all this have to do with Fatah? Simply this: The central point upon which the Bush administration hangs their policy of engagement with Fatah is that they are the lesser of two evils. As many sententiously point out, the lesser of two evils is still evil; but on the other hand, by definition, it's also still lesser.
Why does the president believe Fatah is the LOTE? Because the mere fact that they pay lip service to moderation indicates they understand the rest of the world does not support the idea of nakedly announcing the imminent destruction of Israel and driving the Jews into the sea. And even though Fatah's actions often belie their words, that still puts them one better than Hamas, which flatly and openly advocates the final solution to the Jewish problem.
If you like dueling aphorisms, here's one: Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. In the present instance, the mere recognition of the importance of international opinion as a check on overt aggression more than makes up for the clandestine nature of Fatah's continued attacks -- especially since everyone knows what they're really doing; they're not fooling anyone.
Another analogy: A man who commits murder by stealth at least acknowledges that what he is doing is evil by the rule of society, and he acknowledges that those rules are important enough for him to hide his activies.
But a man who simply walks up and brazenly murders his enemy without the least concern for society's reaction thereby tells us that he believes he is beyond good and evil as enunciated by society. He tells us that he doesn't give a fig what anybody thinks; he's just going to do whatever the hell he wants. That man is both more evil and more dangerous in my opinion, because he recognizes no behavioral limit whatsoever. Think of bin Laden boasting to the world about 9/11.
And our experience with Iraqi terrorist supporters indicates that when people recognize that something they are doing is shameful enough that they must hide it... then there is always the possibility that at some point, when concealment becomes impossible, they will stop doing it altogether.
Of course, there are several factors that make it much less likely that Fatah will ever reform the way the parties in Iraq have done (thus much less likely that the Bush "Roadmap to Peace" will actually work):
- First and foremost, we're talking about Palestinians. Palestinian culture is uniquely violent, irrational, and fanatical; no other culture even comes close in terms of the perpetual war of all against all. (Some other countries have brief spasms of staggering chaos; but the Palestinian Authority's entire existence is one long, violent spasm.)
- The Iraqis required a seminal event to wise up to their self-inflicted terrorist wounds: The invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party. There has been no such seminal event in Arafatistan.
- The current terrorism in Iraq is now widely see among Iraqis as being the result of two outside forces: Iran and al-Qaeda. Thus, opposition to terrorism joins synergetically with nationalism. Palestinian terrorism, though financed by various outside sources, is quite locally driven by groups such as Hamas, al-Aqsa, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and so forth.
- Iraq has existed as an independent and sovereign state since the early 1930s; they have experience with running a country: first a monarchy, then a republic, then a one-party dictatorship, and now a parliamentary republic again. By contrast, the Palestinians have never had to face the reality of running a country; like Blanche Dubois, they have always depended upon the kindness (or protection money) of strangers. Thus, like teenagers who have never had to work for a living, they make absurdist demands and enunciate grandiose schemes that they will implement as soon as they think they have the power.
These are all serious problems... but except for the first, each is surmountable and could change, and change rapidly, under the right circumstances:
- A "seminal event" could occur if a new Israeli government actually fights back seriously against Hamas and al-Aqsa, inflicting such a devastating defeat on them that their worldview is shattered. While picking up the broken pieces, they may decide to leave some lying on the floor, including governance by terrorism.
- Iran could begin to "cash in" its investment in the Palestinian terrorist groups by trying too overtly to seize control of Gaza and the West Bank. This could cause a huge reaction by more nationalistic Palestinians.
Countries giving aid to the Palestinian government(s) could follow the American lead and make that aid conditional upon behavioral change. While one can argue (as I do) that we don't go far enough along those lines, we certainly go farther than does, e.g., Saudi Arabia or even the EU; if countries start witholding funds from the PA, and if the latter turns to Iran or Syria for the missing funds, this could accelerate (3) above.
It's also unlikely that the Iranian pockets are infinitely deep; they have their own economic and political troubles. Eventually, the squeeze will force the PA either to start accepting their own responsibilities for running a sovereign nation... or they will collapse. Either would be an improvement over today.
Not much one can do about (1), but it's not clear whether this quality is implicate in Palestinian culture (in the David Bohm-ian sense of "enfolded") or grew from political necessity, given the circumstances.
In any event, Fatah seems much further along the "nation-building" curve than Hamas; and it makes a lot of sense to support the former at the expense of the latter. Too, even if it doesn't work, supporting one party and not the other in a dispute will inevitably fuel the civil war between the two of them, weakening both. Even though this may be a serendipitous side effect, rather than one of the prime reasons for the policy, I would still find it hard to believe that nobody on the Bush team has thought of it.
The alternative would be to label all Palestinian parties as terrorists and refuse to differentiate between them, thus ensuring their continued existence in perpetuity... or until the Millennium comes, and they are all somehow magically "wiped out" or ethnically cleansed from the region (by whom?). As I find that possibility even more remote than the chance that Fatah will moderate its behavior to more or less match it's public (non-Arabic) discourse, I think the Bush approach can be a useful, if rather minor, adjunct of a rational American foreign policy.
(Yes, Virginia: Sometimes lying is a better foreign policy than telling the strict truth at all times. That's why we have diplomats in the first place.)
I do agree the president seems to attach all too much importance to it; and there is little evidence that he has the realistic viewpoint I enunciate above. Still, whether through clever statecraft well-hidden behind Bush's poker face, or though inadvertently stumbling on the right policy for the wrong reason, I emphatically believe the Bush approach will work better, over the long term, both for us and for the Israelis, than would the approach advocated by many conservatives: adamant, angry confrontation with all Palestinian parties, without exception, all the time.
June 12, 2007
Palestinian Civil War in Gaza; UN Declares It's Bush's Fault
I never was able to get the software working to allow readers to vote on Dhimmi of the Month, but I thought this might be a propitious time to dust off the concept (if not execution) for this incredible story.
Here is the sequence of steps:
- Israel decides to evacuate from Gaza.
- Israel sends troops into Gaza, not to attack Palestinians, but to herd several thousand Jewish settlers into buses and trucks and ship them back into Israel. No Jews left in Gaza (no live ones, anyway).
- Palestinian voters decide to thank Israel by electing Hamas.
- The European Union, the United States, and many other countries decide to boycott the Palestinian Authority, now officially run by a mob of thugs on everybody's list of terrorist groups.
- Fatah gets angry at losing power.
- Hamas and Fatah begin to fight.
- Fighting escalates.
- Fighting escalates.
- Fighting escalates; recall this war is between rival Palestinian terrorist groups fighting each other over the "spoils" of the Gaza Strip (which seems to me like fighting a duel over a hooker, but you know).
- Fighting escalates.
- United Nations Middle East Envoy Alvaro de Soto writes a secret report to U.N. Secretary General Nanki-Poo; declares that George W. Bush is to blame!
I rib you not; here is the Guardian story.
You just can't make this stuff up. Evidently, it's America's fault for urging civilized nations to boycott Hamas, which every national and international body agrees is a gang of terrorists. If only we had embraced Hamas, worked with them to exterminate the Jews, and not riled them up, then surely all this wouldn't be happening now. Oh, a few Juden might be killed here and there, Israel might be obliterated... but we wouldn't have the dreadful spectacle of Arabs killing Arabs.
So... it's Bush's fault. Remember that for next time.
January 2, 2007
The First Victim of the "Big Lie"
Paul at Power Line has an interesting post up about the persistence of blindness by the drive-by media to the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel Jr. and his chargé d'affaires Curtis Moore back in 1973... a hit that appears to me to have been personally ordered by Yasser Arafat. (Paul links to a post last June by Scott Johnson, in which he goes into more detail about crime and evidence.) Please read these first before continuing...
All right, this is the line Paul wrote that caught my eye:
[W]hy has our MSM which prides itself on exposing government cover-ups ignored almost totally the cable...?
The answer... is that Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world and is, therefore, information that it would prefer the public not know.
I think Paul may be overestimating the role played by mendacity and underestimating the will to deny on the part of the elite media -- and indeed all of humanity: I don't think journalists consciously keep this information from the public; I believe they're unconsciously keeping it from themselves.
I can't believe my eyes
In my early youth, I used to dabble in magic (prestidigitation, not sorcery; sorcery was in my middle youth). I was never very good -- no patience -- but I was a magic junkie who watched every live and broadcast magic show I could find... scores of them by the time I was fifteen, perhaps a hundred individual acts or more. After a while, I caught onto the big secret of magic: the "gimmick," the actual working of the trick, typically takes place in plain view.
So why doesn't the audience see it? Because the magician tells them not to. He doesn't come out and say, "see here now, close your eyes for this bit." Instead, he misdirects their attention to this side, when the gimmick is taking place on that side.
The great magicians (Herrmann, Thurston, Kellar) were sheer artists at misdirection. It was said of Harry Kellar that when he was performing, a brass band could march across the stage behind him, followed by a half-dozen elephants, and the audience would later swear he was alone.
This demonstrates what I call "the will to disbelieve." Your eyes may see, but your brain does all the observing... or in this case, the unobserving.
Everyone who goes to a magic show wants to be fooled. Haven't you noticed that most people, if you tell them how a trick is really done, are not satisfied but instead rather disappointed? That's because, even though they asked, they really didn't want to know.
The hard-headed skeptics are especially desperate to be fooled; they're always the easiest to misdirect. (The hardest to fool are children: they haven't yet learned the knack of willful blindness. By nature, they tend to look in exactly the right place, which is exactly the wrong place for a magician!)
It may twist and turn, but this post has not careered out of control; I'm actually going somewhere with it.
Magic is a universal indicator. It's a synecdoche, which can mean many things: in this case, a small part that stands in for the whole. We all want to be fooled; the world is awash in pandemic credulity.
Song of myself
Every one of us has a "story," the story of himself. This narrative takes all the myriad observations, expectations, and subtle indications our brains receive and arranges them into a more or less coherent plot. In reality, we can say only that A precedes B. It takes a narrative to say that A causes B.
The narrative includes both "facts" and inferences. I use quotation marks around "facts" because, pace John Adams, facts are actually squirmy, gelatinous things that we only experience second-hand, by observing the effect of the fact upon us -- for example, we don't see a Ford Mustang; we observe the light reflected from the Mustang, and our brain draws the inference that a Mustang exists at that spot. But the inferences are the interesting things, because they control or modulate everything we sense... everything we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch is really an inference we have drawn from a stimulus to some part of our brains.
In mathematics -- therefore in everything else -- inferences imply rules of inference: we must have internal rules that tell us when we can take A and B and conclude C. For example, you see a Mustang speed past you and tear around a corner. Seconds later, you hear a terrible crash. Do you draw the conclusion that the Mustang you just saw has wrecked?
Probably; I would. My rules of inference tell me that it's unlikely that a completely unrelated car just happened to have an accident at that second. But of course, I'll be wrong sometimes -- such coincidences do, in fact, happen.
The best is enemy of the workable; as Mason said to Dixon, you gotta draw the line somewhere. (This whole subject is part of the branch of philosophy called epistemology, by the way: "how we know what we know.") Everybody's rules of inference are probability based: it's pretty likely that the speeding Mustang wrecked and was responsible for the accident... so that's what we tell the cops.
Believing is seeing
But the weird part of the internal narrative, the story of ourselves, is the way that the brain constantly edits the file of sensory inputs to match the eventual conclusion drawn: in our little thought experiment of the speeding Mustang, the most likely outcome is that, when the actual civil trial occurs and you're called as a witness (or even earlier, when you talk to the cops), you will say that you saw the speeding Mustang crash into the Volvo!
And you know what? You won't be lying... you will actually remember it that way. As Isaac Asimov put it in one or another of his autobiographies, we remember things the way they should have happened, not necessarily the way they actually did... which, in the absolute sense, is unknowable anyway.
Out of mind, out of sight
Which brings us back, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, to the Human Consciousness Editor.
Let me quote a man I've never read (I can't get past page 5 of anything Friedrich Nietzsche wrote!): "We are all greater artists than we realize." (Actually, I have no idea if he actually said it. Or wrote it. But it's always arrtibuted to him. And anyway, the idea is the important thing, no matter who said it... what are you, a wisenheimer?)
Memory is not like a movie film; it's more like a writable DVD that is constantly being edited by the brain, to bring memory into congruence with the story of ourselves. This applies to everybody -- not just liberals. Quite literally, if an observation simply cannot exist within the central narrative of the brain... then the brain erases it from existence. "if out of sight, then out of mind" is a trivial observation; the deeper version is "if out of mind, then out of sight." In a vivid, real, and literal sense, you cannot see what you cannot believe.
We can't handle the truth
Which brings us back to journalism, the elite media, and Arafat's hit on Noel and Moore (actually, this more or less explains absolutely everything, if you think hard enough about it): Paul was wrong; it's simply not plausible that --
Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world and is, therefore, information that it would prefer the public not know.
The far more likely explanation is that Arafat's role in killing American diplomats runs counter to the MSM's narrative about our world, and therefore the journalists' brains erase such "knowledge" from their memory banks. It's not that they know and they're concealing it from the rest of us; it's that we look at A, B, and C and conclude that Arafat ordered the hits -- while the MSM look at A, B, and C and conclude that Arafat didn't know a thing about it and was distressed when he found out.
We cannot even say we're right and they're wrong; scientifically, about the best we can do is that our reading requires much less editing of verifiable sources than theirs!
They literally don't see it. When liberals say that there is a "100% chance" that Gore actually won the vote in Florida and that Bush stole the election, they're not lying... they really believe it. Just as most Americans actually believe there is an invisible man with a long, white beard who knows when they are sleeping, who knows when they're awake, who knows if they've been bad or good -- and who sends the bad ones to Hell (I'll bet you were expecting someone else).
Tom Tancredo probably looks at a Mexican family crossing our border and literally sees enemy soldiers invading our country; judging from some of the comments when I talk about immigration, I reckon quite a few of you see the same reality Tom does. I see a bunch of potential entrepeneurs and consumers, but that "reality" is as much a product of my own internal narrative as your "reality" is of yours. "We are all greater artists than we realize."
That is the real dilemma of speaking to the enemy: it's not that he hasn't seen all the facts, and as soon as we enlighten him, he'll come round to our point of view. Rather, we don't even agree on what "facts" are on the table: we see one set of facts (while another batch remain stubbornly invisible); and he sees several of our invisible fnords while being unable even to detect some of our critical facts. Neither party will likely be convinced, because each draws rational conclusions from self-cooked data.
Members of the MSM literally sees no connection between Arafat and the murders, just as liberals literally see no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda; and every "fact" that "comes to light" (every observation their brain-modulator allows them to see) simply confirms those non-connections. Conservatives stubbornly refuse to see any connection between liberty and sexual deviance; libertarians refuse even to notice any connection between duty and survival; the religious see a rigid cause-effect relationship between faith and morals, while the irreligious see absolutely no connection whatsoever, unless it's an inverse relationship.
Can't we all just get a loan?
So how can we communicate?
- The first step is to recognize that each of us lives in his own reality net, his own bubble of "fact" and inference, held together in a coherent shape by the web of narrative spun by our own brains. It's counterproductive to say "I'm right and you're wrong;" it's much more effective to demonstrate that my model typically predicts future events with great success, while yours typically fails.
- Recognize that some gaps cannot be bridged; concentrate on those that can.
- Start your voyage of discussion from islands that exist both in your disputant's reality sea and your own: find overlapping subsets of reality and try to expand outward from there; that makes it harder for him to dismiss you out of hand.
- Learn to argue from within the other person's reality net: it works much better. Tell a conservative that holding a job builds character; tell a liberal that holding a job connects one to the community.
- Learn to laugh. It's the best defense mechanism against screaming.
- Remember that you're not alone in being all alone; you're part of a vast community of people who share being all alone together.
- Finally, in a more practical vein, if you want your own reality net to prevail (as who doesn't?), then make it more interesting, joyful, and hope-filled than the reality next door: people who are bored or frightened by one reality net will simply change the channel... and yes, it is that easy. Keep their attention, and they'll keep watching!
That last is the biggest problem the Democrats have: their reality net is one of defeatism and fatalism, two very unpleasant modulators. That's why, even when the Democrats win, they lose: they won the 2006 election, but nobody really thinks they can solve any of our problems. (And to be blunt, they're not even trying... they're simply campaigning for 2008.)
That's the secret weapon of Republicans, whether libertarian-Republican, conservative, neoconservative, or Giuliani-Republican: hope and pride. That is what, in the end, will reel 'em back in. Fill yourself with hope and pride and always aggressively follow your bliss -- not your decadence, your bliss. That way, even if you go down, you'll die a hero's death... and hey, that's something, isn't it?
October 29, 2006
I think we're beginning to see a new phenomenon among conservatives: CDS, or Condi Derangement Syndrome. Like its near namesake BDS, it's diagnosed by several recognizable symptoms:
- Reflexively gainsaying anything Condoleezza Rice says, disparaging everything she does;
- Reading every statement of hers in the worst possible light (preferably one that fulfills the descriptor "treasonous");
- Toadstool-picking statements to prove the above;
- Imputing astonishing conspiracies to her malignant influence;
- Caricaturing Ms. Rice as (a) a liberal, (b) a Socialist, or (c) feeble-minded.
Some of the kindest, most intelligent, and otherwise fairest people have fallen into the Carvillesque trap of CDS... including, sadly so, my friends over at Power Line. The latest example: in an interview, which Scott Johnson quotes and dismisses as "tripe," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the following:
[Cal] Thomas [for Jewish World Review] asks Secretary Rice what evidence she has that the denizens of such an independent state would give up the dream that actually seems to drive them -- the dream of eliminating Israel:
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you can look at any opinion poll in the Palestinian territories and 70 percent of the people will say they're perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace. And when it comes right down to it, yeah, there are plenty of extremists in the Palestinian territories who are not going to be easily dealt with. They have to be dealt with -- Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories -- they're terrorists and they have to be dealt with as terrorists.
But the great majority of Palestinian people -- this is -- I've been with these people. The great majority of people, they just want a better life. This is an educated population. I mean, they have a kind of culture of education and a culture of civil society. I just don't believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers. I think the mothers want their children to grow up to go to university. And if you can create the right conditions, that's what people are going to do.
QUESTION: Do you think this or do you know this?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think I know it.
QUESTION: You think you know it?
SECRETARY RICE: I think I know it.
(Look, I may be hysterically overstating things; but it is Sunday morning, after all... the very time for histrionics and overstatement.)
Scott Johnson derides Dr. Rice's answers. But why? What exactly is wrong with what she said? One can (if one chooses) interpret them as ludicrously suggesting that all it takes is another peace-process agreement, and all will be well. But that's not the only, or even the most plausible, way to take her position -- especially considering later parts of the same interview that Scott did not quote.
Let's turn it around. Suppose Scott is right, and Rice's answers to Cal Thomas are completely, ludicrously wrong. What, then, must we conclude?
- That Palestinians are unique among all the people of the world in their irrationality;
- That while others, from Rwanda-Burundi to the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany, eventually come to their senses, act rationally for their own enlightened interest, and stop killing one another -- Palestinians are incapable of doing so;
- That their incapacity cannot be cured; nothing can be done; hence, it must be a genetic mental deficiency that prevents them from thinking rationally, even if reality were to be clearly separated from the decades of propaganda and privation that have warped and twisted their thinking.
This is, to say the least, a rather odd way of looking at the problem. The last point -- that it's genetic -- is implicit in the idea that nothing can be done to awaken the Palestinians to the reality of their situation... so why bother trying? This belief is the inversion of Condoleezza Rice's faith:
[T]hat kind of ideology of hatred and hopelessness does not have a chance against an ideology of hope and a better future. We just have to realize that because of the way that the politics of the Middle East has developed for the last 60 years, that ideology of hope and a better future has not been there.
She says, that is, that Palestinians have not had the opportunity to make a rational choice; when forced to choose between several irrational choices, they pick an irrational one. Scott chose not to quote this answer; I presume he considers it as foolish as the ones he did quote.
that people are really good at heart.
A lot of conservatives believe precisely the opposite: they believe that humans are born corrupted and evil, or at the best, utterly amoral, and that without careful watching and frequent walloping, any of us is one meal away from instigating an intifada.
The is a dour, neo-Calvinist view of the world, utterly at odds with rational-choice theory:
Rational choice theory assumes human behaviour as guided by instrumental reason. Accordingly, individuals always choose what they believe to be the best means to achieve their given ends. Thus, they are normally regarded as maximizing utility, the "currency" for everything they cherish (for example: money, a long life, moral standards). As the modern formulation of much older descriptions of rational behaviour, Rational choice theory belongs to the foundational theory of economics. Over the last decades it has also become increasingly prevalent in other social sciences.
Rational choice theory is an individualistic methodology and as such conceives of social situations or collective behaviors as the result of individual actions. However, rational choice theory is not only applied to individual human actors. Often, the same pursuit of cherished values is assumed for collective entities, for example corporations or national governments.
Neo-Calvinism presumes final collapse is predestined. They take Yeats as their prophet:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
But predictions of imminent obliteration litter the ground like broken leaves in October. The patron saint of American conservatism, Ronald Reagan, never bit into the dessicated wafer of neo-Calvinism; he was always exuberent, joyous, excited and hopeful. He was very much like Condoleezza Rice is today; perhaps some have forgotten?
When Reagan called upon Mr. Gorbachev to "open this gate" and "tear down this wall," Reagan's own closest advisors thought he'd gone loopy. Surely he knew the Soviet Union would last a thousand years; it was predestined! Only a madman (or a Reagan-era Sovietologist like Condoleezza Rice) could hope for the impossible.
But what does Rice actually mean when she says that "hatred and hopelessness does not have a chance against... hope and a better future?" What must happen? What timescale is she thinking of? Here is the illuminating rest of her answer from that same interview by Calvin Thomas:
I don't believe that most people in the Middle East really want to blow themselves up and believe in this ideology any more than most Russians actually wanted to believe in international communism. There are always extremists who are going to do that. There are always ideologues who are going to believe and they are always going to recruit from a pool of disaffected people. So you both have to lessen the pool of disaffected people, give them alternatives, and people choose other paths. I just don't see a society yet where that hasn't been the case.
She is not being Pollyanna; she is a realist of the old Cold-War school... but one who chose the Reagan model of hope over the Buckley model of fatalism.
She knows the monumental difficulty of what she asks; but she is unwilling to concede defeat before the endgame is even in sight. Rice does not say that Hamas can lie down with Israel next Thursday after lunch; but that the way to the future is ultimately through capitalism and individualism -- the only Godzillas strong enough to defeat the Monster Zero of jihadism. Militant Islamism will ultimately die because it is a religion of death, and the worship of death. If there is any predestination, it is that final darkness cannot defeat the light.
(Of course, if darkness does win, you lot won't be around to say "I told you so!" So I'm on firm ground here.)
IIII Recessional and Exeunt
To paraphrase the president, you're either with the rational-choicers, and you believe that if you remove the beam from the eyes of the Palestinians, they will, in the end, discover that they love their children more than they hate the Jews.
Or you're with the neo-Calvinists, who believe that we're all destined to fall at Ragnarok, and the best we can hope for is that we dwellers in Asgard drag the giants of Jotunheim down with us when we go.
We who live in a world of hope may be wrong; but hope does not make us fools, or at least not utter fools.
October 13, 2006
On Provoking Ponderous Ponderings of Pyongyang and Palestine
Paul Mirengoff of Power Line has a great post up, "On Talking With the Enemy." Paul takes up the question of whether "I believe in talking to your enemies," as James A. Baker III, co-chair of the newly formed Iraq Study Group, likes to say, is a workable policy -- or just a mindless liberal slogan. Sorry for the redundancy. Paul's conclusion:
We should, of course, make an effort to find out the real views of our enemies. And if those views indicate the possibility of negotiations that hold a reasonable promise of a beneficial outcome for us, we ordinarily should hold such negotiations. But it's pointless at best, and dangerous at worst, to hold publicized negotiations when we know that the enemy's bottom line is one that we cannot accept. Indeed, while critics of the Bush administration like to remind us that we talked with the "evil empire" Soviet Union, we actually learned through bitter experience to avoid holding major summit-style talks unless there was reason to believe they would succeed in advancing our interests.
Paul considers this point in the context of the bilateral talks with North Korea that many Democrats, including Republican Baker, demand the Bush administration undertake, hoping for the same wonderful outcome we had when the Clinton-Carter team agreed upon the Agreed Framework (hence the name) with Kim Jong-Il in 1994. The net effect of the Agreed Framework, along with South Korea's Sunshine Policy of "engaging" North Korea, was described in the Washington Times by Dr. Yearn Hong Choi (and quoted in yet another Power Line post) thus:
North Korea kidnapped South Korean fishermen from the open sea and Japanese citizens from the seashore of Japan, and bombed a South Korean plane. The DPRK sold opium and produced counterfeit U.S. dollars. It has been starving its own people. But it has produced nuclear bomb(s) and long-distance missiles in order to threaten South Korea, Japan and the United States....
The appeasement policy and Sunshine policy just helped the North Korean dictator sustain his power, rather than have his country go bankrupt.
I really like Paul's criterion: no negotiations with the enemy if his bottom line is utterly unacceptable. It leads to quick resolution of a lot of thorny issues. Here's one:
- The bottom-line position of both ruling Hamas and opposition Fatah in the Palestinian Authority is the destruction of Israel and expulsion of the Jews;
- This is clearly unacceptable to Israel and to the United States;
- Therefore, negotiations between Israel and the PA, or between the United States and the PA, are utterly pointless and should be broken off.
I have long agreed with the Power Line crew that President Bush's "Roadmap to Peace" is a farce, his worst foreign-policy program... and not coincidentally, completely at odds with his stance on all other terrorist organizations, including, oddly enough, Iran's proxy, Hezbollah: Bush does not demand Israel commence negotiations with Hassan Nasrallah on how much of northern Israel should be ceded to Hezbollah.
What could change the climate on negotiations with the PA? Only a change in their bottom line. If something forces the PA to drop the idea that they will ever be able to destroy Israel -- perhaps a horrific war, such as the civil war now looming in Gaza -- and they truly accept the inevitability of a two-state solution, then and only then would negotiations be feasible.
But you cannot negotiate your way to useful negotiations. You cannot negotiate your enemy's unacceptable bottom line into being acceptable, thus permitting negotiations. They have to change the goals first; and they will certainly need an external event to do so.
Until then, let the Palestinians stew in their own juices.
September 16, 2006
Great Writing For Our Times
On Friday, the New York Times carried this incisive piece on the remarks of Pope Benedict, which all lament. While most readers only marvel at the completed newspaper product, comparing it favorably to the writings of Saroyan and Ionesco, not to mention the fine linework of Mondrian, sometimes it's educational to glance "behind the greatness," as it were, and see how such remarkable literary sketches and essays get that way.
Ordinarily, such excursions are off our diets. We rarely have access to the original draft submitted to the 36-person editorial board, nor to the voluminous comments they offer to the writer to guide him in his professional development. After (if!) the story is printed in an edition of the Times, all of this early paperwork is normally sent to the Vault in Bakersfield, California for permanent archive.
(A codicil to the will left by Henry Jarvis Raymond, founder and first editor of the newspaper and the inventer of bathing, also obligates the Times to send a mimeographed copy of each marked-up manuscript to a very puzzled Henry Kissinger, who seems still to be unaware that he is the only surviving heir of Mr. Raymond's beloved housekeeper, Frenzy. Make of that what you will.)
But clandestine sources within the Times, who spoke only on condition of anonymity and will be named only upon written request, have furnished us with the original, unedited version of the Times story, including all the bits that the editors excised for space purposes. (Actually, only editor Stoland Nebbish III and night janitor Felicia Elicia Gilhoolie "Goldie" Horsepapper made the "on request" offer; our third source, Times subaltern Wanda Bar of East Orange, New Jersey, insisted her identity remain absolutely classified, and we shall honor her request).
Merely for purposes of seeing how a great newspaper finds places to cut a story that comes in too long, here are the original versions of those paragraphs that were substantially edited. (We do not show those paragraphs edited only to bring them more or less into line with the English language. Note to writer Ian Fisher: (a) you should feel darned lucky you have editors, and (b) "antichrist" is not a verb.)
You may compare these original paragraphs to the published versions at your leisure. I prefer to spend my leisure time raising yak.
In Britain, source of many recent suicide bombers, Gaza, home of the infitada and Hamas, Iraq, which allows followers of Iranian accolyte Muqtada "Cuddles" al-Sadr in the cabinet, Syria, which funnels arms to Hezbollah, and Indonesia, which has never punished al-Qaeda affilliate Jemaah Islamiya more seriously than by pinching their tea things, Muslim leaders registered their protest.
Note how short this sentence becomes after removing these unnecessary adjectival phrases. Good writing must be concise.
The Parliament in Pakistan, which just released 2,500 Taliban fighters from prison to return to their units in Afghanistan, passed a resolution against the pope’s statements, and the government later summoned the Vatican envoy to express official displeasure by throwing rubber bands at his face, pointing to the Pakistani flag, and shouting incomprehensibly in Pashtun.
Once again, the parenthetical phrase adds little to the story, beyond turning New Yorkers against the nation of Pakistan... which could be construed as violating the Times' longstanding policy against hate speech towards any racial, sexual, ethnic, religious, philosophical, or hobby-based group, and also the policy favoring Democrats. The last subordinate clause is just a waste of ink, and they don't have "rubber bands" in Pakistan anyway. Whoever told the writer this bit of "local color" probably also supplies photographs to Reuters. Think and think again before attacking the keyboard!
(Before we go any further, I must convey this note which the chief copy-editor penciled in the margin of page 2: "whiel we appreciatew your attempt to 'bring some life to the old graylady,' as you put it, we have told you before time and Again that the TIMES DOes not use any colour ink but black. For stories. And we would like to know where you got the colored typewriter ribben, as we thot. we had put them all away." Perhaps I should have mentioned earlier that the blue type was in the original as submitted.)
And emotion spilled over in Islamist Turkey, where Benedict has scheduled a visit in November, as a top official in the Islamic-rooted ruling party said that the pope is “going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini.” In 2003, acting to aid Moslem mass murderer and anti-Semite Saddam Hussein, Turkey reversed its committment at the last second and blocked American troops from invading Iraq from the north, thus lengthening the war and causing unnecessary American casualties.
Come, come. Here the writer is just being mean. The Iraq war has nothing to do with the offensiveness, or not, of the pope's remarks. The pope is not a rhinoceros.
Reaction to the pope’s remarks — in which he quoted a description of Islam in the 14th century as “evil and inhuman” — unlike today, when the religion of peace has learned to restrict its slaughter to infidels (including Moslems of a different sect than one's own), blowing up rival mosques, practicing slavery, killing one's own daughter because some busybody in the village said he saw her perusing a Max Factor catalog, and attempting to conquer the entire world through terrorism and by opening falafel stands in Paris and on the Ginza — has presented Benedict with the first full-blown crisis of his year-and-a-half papacy.
The writer should have known that the Times does not allow an M-dash parenthetical comment within another M-dash parenthetical comment. This far and no farther. It's common sense.
Many Muslims are also comparing his comments with the unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which stoked deep Muslim anger earlier this year. On an entirely unrelated note, eight new judges have been added to conduct a preliminary review of the more than 80,000 entries in the Iranian-sponsored "Holocaust cartoon" competition; also, a fifth category of prize has been added, the Sash Verdant, for the most moving depiction of Jewish persons with porcine features.
1. If the note is "entirely unrelated," why did the writer relate it? 2. Some readers of the Times in Brooklyn and Miami might be made uncomfortable by the reference to pork, which is of course forbidden, or "traif," and to the inappropriate use of the offensive term "Jewish persons" for persons of Hebraic ancestry; and some of our Moslem readers might be made uncomfortable by the reminder that persons of Hebraic ancestry still exist. For these reasons, this sentence was best expunged.
But unlike the cartoons crisis, the reaction has been verbal rather than violent. In Gaza, a grenade was thrown today at one of the gates of the Roman Orthodox church, though no one claimed responsibility and it was unclear if the incident was related to the pope’s statements.
The Times understood the writer's attempt at gentle irony here; but it was too heavy handed, and they were forced to remove it. The New York Times has no place on its august pages (or September) for slapstick or farce; subtlety should be the writer's watchword.
Alas, through a printer's error (I think he was drunk following hijinks with the fire extinguisher), the excised passage was accidentally printed. A correction forthcomes on Monday.
“I am convinced the pope did not mean to assume a position against Islam,” a leading German cardinal, Walter Kasper, told the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica. "The Church bureaucracy is no longer so exclusionary as to insist upon itself as the only true religion. We now accept that all religions are equally valid, including Wicca and Scientology; we are a tolerant faith these days." Glancing over his shoulder, Cardinal Kasper continued. "In fact, His Holiness has often expressed a desire to convert to Islam himself, if only it didn't involve so much praying."
The editors expressed some doubts as to the provenance of the excised remarks, as the writer claimed his tape recorder "ran out of tape" and only caught the first part. Since the recorder was actually digital, and had recently been given fresh batteries and a wax and lube, the Times editors were dubious.
Benedict, a respected theologian, is said to write many speeches, limericks, and sea chanties himself, and some commentators in the Italian press speculated that the Vatican would be forced into a more stringent review of his statements in the future, beginning with fines for venial offenses. 250,000 to 380,700 Lira was recommended for the use of divisive language about Jesus, the wearing of overtly sectarian jewelry (id est, an ostentatious cross or Vatican-flag earrings) when meeting with Moslems, and of course for wardrobe malfunctions. Mortal offenses — exempli gratia, noting the irony between what offends Moslems if one says it contrasted with what fails to offend them when fellow Moslems do it — may lead to a harsh penance of ave Marias, paternosters, and press-ups.
Besides the main offense -- the Times considers it inappropriate to resort to Latin phrases in a story about the pope -- there is the obvious threat of the overly detailed description of dangerous projects: children may attempt to imitate what they see, doing themselves an injury.
The rest of the writer's copy was allowed to proceed unedited, owing to the spread of the print-room hijinks (notably, the "out of ink" fountain-pen wheeze) to the editors' suite. A copy-editor swallowed some ink and had to be resuscitated. Then a spirited game of Pin-the-Führer-Mustache-On-the-President broke out in the break room, and all work was adjourned for the day. The Friday New York Times did not come out until three o'clock Saturday afternoon.
Allow to cool before opening.
September 14, 2006
The Topology of Lincoln
(Chafee, not Abraham)
Scott Johnson of Power Line posted the letter that Sen. Lincoln "12%" Chafee of Rhode Island sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on September 7th. It includes two amusing lines. First, this one:
Chairman Lugar decided to hold the vote over to a later date, and I support that decision.
As Friend Lee pointed out, it's hardly a shock that Chafee supported this delay... since Dick Lugar (R-IN, 88%) was simply acceding to Lincoln Chafee's own request! Thus, this sentence translates to, "Chairman Lugar granted my request to hold the vote over, and I support his decision in my favor."
But the more ominous passage comes two paragraphs later:
One of the key issues with many of our allies is the situation with the Palestinians. I support the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with its neighbor Israel. I believe progress on this front would be beneficial for the Palestinians, and futher America's, and Israel's security.
With Dr. Rice's PhD, she is probably better able to read a map than is Mr. Phillips Academy. But it's really not hard. Here, take a look-see:
Map of Israel
I believe I already explained this in Contiguationness, on Captain's Quarters... but as we can plainly see, there are only two ways to make the Palestinian Authority "contiguous":
- You can create a weird, narrow corridor of land that hugs the southern "V-cut" along the Israeli borders with Egypt and Jordan, connecting Gaza to the West Bank. But this is silly -- how wide should it be, just enough for a north-going Zax and a south-going Zax to pass without having to turn sideways?
- You can create an aggressive spit of land that cuts straight across Israel to connect Gaza and the West Bank. In that case, "Palestine" would be contiguous, but Israel wouldn't be. You would have sliced it neatly in half.
I'm not exactly sure how chopping Israel in half would "further Israel's security," but maybe Chafee can explain it to me someday.
A simple glance at the map shows why a "contiguous" Palestinian authority won't fly. Not to beat a dead hearse, but when Lincoln drives, who is the navigator?
July 21, 2006
A Tale of Two Madams and One Mister
No, not that kind of madam! I mean a pair of "Madam Secretaries of State," Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice.
The first Madam Secretary, appointed by Bill Clinton for no reason other than to be the first president to appoint a woman as secretary of state, was an unmitigated disaster. Albright embraced Yassir Arafat, was bamboozled by Kim Jong-Il, tricked by Iran, cozened by Saddam, and turned a blind eye to Osama bin Laden while he and al-Qaeda prepared the most massive terrorist attack ever to occur on American soil. A magnificent and enviable record of failure and disachievement!
But let's contrast "Madam," as she insisted upon being called, with the other Madam Secretary, Condoleezza Rice. Here is Secretary Rice today, discussing her upcoming trip to the Middle East:
In her briefing for reporters on her trip, Rice said the United States was committed to ending the bloodshed, but didn't want to do it before certain conditions were met.
The United States has said all along that Hezbollah must first turn over the two Israeli soldiers and stop firing missiles into Israel.
"We do seek an end to the current violence, we seek it urgently. We also seek to address the root causes of that violence," she said. "A cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo."
Rice said that it was important to deal with the "root cause" of the violence, echoing what has been the U.S. position since last week.
And what is that "root cause?" Everybody uses the phrase, but each means a different thing. Most people in Europe and most Democrats in D.C., when they say "root cause of Mid-East violence," mean the presence of Jews in the ummah... which could easily be corrected.
If Israel would just do the manly thing and commit national suicide, then the world would think well of the Jews... briefly. But what does Condi mean by "root cause?"
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled out a quick "false promise" cease-fire in the Middle East Friday and defended her decision not to meet with either Syrian or Hezbollah leaders in her upcoming visit to the region.
"Syria knows what it needs to do and Hezbollah is the source of the problem," Rice said at the State Department as she previewed her trip, which begins on Sunday with a first stop in Israel.
What a rare moment of truth and candor from the Department of State! Of course, with John Bolton at the U.N., such moments are starting to come as thick and as fast as oysters. How I'm going to miss this president when his term expires.
(Oh, and notice where her Mid-East trip begins: Israel. In the previous administration, it would have begun with a quick obeisance in Ramallah, some backhanding in Damascus, and an apology-trip to Sabra and Shatila, where Madam would have laid a wreath and danced a foxtrot with Sheikh Nasrallah.)
But here is my favorite statement, and why I still hope that someday, Dr. Condoleezza Rice changes her mind and decides to run for public office:
Resisting calls from the United Nations, Europe and the Arab world, she said an immediate ceasefire would produce a "false promise" that would allow Hizbollah to re-emerge in the future to attack Israel, the top U.S. ally in the region.
"An immediate ceasefire without political conditions does not make sense," she said.
"If you simply look for a ceasefire... we will be back here in six months again," she added. "What I won't do is go to some place and try to get a ceasefire that I know isn't going to last."
I've been scratching my brains for days now, wondering exactly what a "ceasefire" means when one party is a terrorist group. And for more clarity on that point, listen to Ambassador Bolton (it's from an press conference outside the UN Security Council in Foggy Bottom, New York City; I have paragraphed it, so I can refer to Bolton's specific points; via Power Line):
Well look, I think we could have a cessation of hostilities immediately if Hezbollah would stop terrorizing innocent civilians and give up the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. So that to the extent this crisis continues, the cause is Hezbollah.
How you get a ceasefire between one entity, which is a government of a democratically elected state on the one hand, and another entity on the other which is a terrorist gang, no one has yet explained.
The government of Israel, everybody says, has the right to exercise the right of self-defense, which even if there are criticisms of Israeli actions by some, they recognize the fundamental right to self-defense. That’s a legitimate right.
Are there any activities that Hezbollah engages in, militarily that are legitimate? I don’t think so. All of its activities are terrorist and all of them are illegitimate, so I don’t see the balance or the parallelism between the two sides and therefore I think it’s a very fundamental question: how a terrorist group agrees to a ceasefire.
This is like demanding a "ceasefire" between the United States government on the one hand -- and the Salvadoran drug gang Mara Salvatrucha. What the heck is that supposed to mean? Do they negotiate exactly how many kilos of cocaine MS-13 is allowed to smuggle into the country?
You know in a democratically elected government, the theory is that the people ultimately can hold the government accountable when it [agrees to] something and doesn’t live up to it.
How do you hold a terrorist group accountable? Who runs the terrorist group? Who makes the commitment that a terrorist group will abide by a ceasefire?
Say, that is a good question, isn't it? So how come nobody else seems to be asking it besides John and Condi? And here's another good question:
What does a terrorist group think a "ceasefire" is?
Does it really understand a ceasefire as a cessation of hostilities, to be followed by honest negotiation to settle the differences that led to the war in the first place? I think it more likely Hezbollah's understanding of ceasefire is "a pause to reload;" and the ceasefire will last as long as it takes for them to obtain replacements from Iran, through Syria, for all the missiles that Israel destroyed... maybe "six months," as Secretary Rice suggested.
Finally, Bolton finishes his answer with a nice summation of the main point:
These are - you can use the words “cessation of hostilities” or “truce” or "ceasefire.” Nobody has yet explained how a terrorist group and a democratic state come to a mutual ceasefire.
Those are all good questions, and here's another: if Israel were to ink such a ceasefire with Hezbollah... wouldn't that elevate the terrorist group to the level of a sovereign nation? What would be the next demand -- that Israel negotiate a trade agreement with Hezbollah? Perhaps an agreed-upon procedure for releasing Hezbollah killers promptly upon the kidnapping of future IDF soldiers, to avoid all the brouhaha in the future?
Or would Hezbollah be admitted to the United Nations (and probably invited to join the new UN Human Rights Council)?
Israelis should get on their knees and thank the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that at this critical turning point in their existence, their greatest ally has such clear-sighted and morally decent appointees running the United States Department of State. And Americans should thank whatever God we hold dear that we have an Israel that is finally willing to stand up to Hezbollah and Hamas: maybe President Bush can start listening to Israel, Condi, and John; then he himself can begin treating those Iranian-controlled terrorists the way he treats terrorists in al-Qaeda.
July 17, 2006
The Word On the "Street"
From Dafydd: N.Z. Bear, he of the Truth-Laid Bear fame, has a marvelous aggregator page of bloggers from all across the Middle East, plus some important and powerful bloggers right here in the United States -- movers and shakers, opinion-mongers, and "pundants" (such as Big Lizards): Crisis In the Middle East. This page is a must-view.
For many years now, Moslem dictators have used the same old trick: whenever their domestic policies hit a wall, they turn around and point a finger at the nearest Jew.
"It is not the time to squabble amongst Moslems. We need to unite against the Israeli aggression. We need to mobilize for freedom. We need to focus on defense." Never mind the economy is in a shambles due to the corruption, incompetence, and stupid policies of the Arab leadership. A quarter of their citizens unemployed and starving, bandits and police working hand in hand intimidating citizens to extort money and favors. That's not the issue; that’s not important. The urgent task is to defeat the Zionist Jews.
The tactic has worked for decades; it still does, to a certain degree. But, more and more Moslems across the world are getting weary of this same old excuse.
They hardly ever see any Jews; how could the Jews be responsible for their misery? They don’t even know what Israelis do, except fight against Palestinians, which concerns nobody. Nobody likes, respects, or cares about the Palestinians as anything other than a political stick to bash the "Zionist entity."
But even the Moslems who are critical of the Israeli “occupation” have strong words for the Palestinians. After all, Israel had, until quite recently, already left Gaza. The most obvious and immediate effect of the twin attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah was to bring the Jews back!
Saudi columnist Yusuf Nasir Al-Suweidan made a prediction on June 25, 2006. At that time, Israelis had not yet invaded Gaza; but he correctly prophecied that Hamas' attack on Israeli would bring about a far worse situation for Palestinians than the status quo... because, he said, this time Israel would not “react like 'harmless lambs.'”
[T]his time, a new reality will be created in the Gaza Strip in which all talk about 'back to square one' will be nothing but wild optimism -- since the [situation] will regress [far beyond that], to a level where it is possible to talk of a plan of deportation [of Palestinians] and demographic change in Gaza, and this [plan] might even be implemented soon. This will turn the Palestinian dream of an independent state into a thing of the past....
The main mistake lies in the fact that the Palestinian organizations did not respond correctly to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza... and its consequences. Instead of beating their swords into plowshares, pens, and other things that are needed for the development of Palestinian society -- in terms of the economy, society, culture, and so on -- most of them read the developments incorrectly and immaturely. This was exploited by the terrorist networks, that are funded and run by the regimes of the ayatollahs in Tehran and the Ba'th [party] in Syria, and [people] have been taken in by delusions and empty slogans like 'liberation from the river to the sea' [that are heard] among the poor, hungry, and desperate Palestinian masses. At present, what [these masses] need most is food, medicines, clothing, and other essentials _ not explosive belts, car bombs, and the slogan, "Congratulations, oh Martyr, the black-eyed virgin awaits you."
Attacks from Hamas against Israel are nothing new. However illogical, we cannot expect too much from Hamas. But what about the attack from Hezbollah? Israel left Lebanon in the year 2000. Since then, all has been quiet on the northern front. Why should Hezbollah arouse Israel now?
In Lebanon, after Syrian forces left, the power of Hezbollah began to weaken. The pressure to disarm the Hezbollah military wing gets stronger every day. Hezbollah was desperate to do something; they needed to divert the Lebanese citizens attention to somewhere else. But where? Why, the Jews, of course. They had to show the Lebanese that they still "needed" Syrian troops to protect from "Israeli aggression."
But, for some odd reason, this time, the Lebanese are not buying it. As their houses are being bombed, they are not necessarily blaming Israel; as Dafydd said, the public opinion of the Arab and Persian Moslems is up for grabs.
A Lebanese blogger, Fouad, has this to say.
We are ALL guilty. ALL OF US. Emergency hiwar watani session??? I am not sure if I should laugh or puke my guts out on the table. Let it be known to all. We are scared, our lives are on the line, our country is history, but it's all our fault. Each and every one of us. These are the people we elected, these are the people we let freely thrive in their little haven of hatred and murderous ideals, and this is us, scared and incapacitated, failing but to point fingers and complain. Well let me tell you this folks, we pulled our pants down and stuck our naked asses out, and now that we're ******, we really don't have jack **** to complain about.
Now, don’t get me wrong; as Fouad says, "there is no love lost between the lebanese people and the israeli leadership." Fouad and others have plenty to say about Israel’s aggression.
Under the circumstance, I cannot blame them. However, a blogger like Fouad correctly realizes it's Hezbollah who brought this to Lebanon. Israel is simply reacting to terrorist incursion.
Another Lebanese blogger Bob says:
And tomorrow when I will see the destroyed bridge linking my home town of Saida to Beirut, I will only say from the bottom of my heart: Enough! Enough wars, death and destruction! Curse you Hezbollah to hell and back! For all this destruction, for all this death! No it is not Israel fault; it is your own. Curse you!
Even though Hezbollah is hiding among the Lebanese, it is Iran -- and it's client state Syria -- which is behind the attacks. I wish Israel could bypass Lebanon and attack Syria directly. What do Syrian bloggers think of this?
Ammar Abdulhamid, who is Syrian but now lives in Maryland with his wife, has this to say:
[T]he national discourse and the constant calls for mobilization against a declared enemy were at best a diversionary measure meant to postpone any serious consideration of our developmental problems and our ruling regimes’ corruption and inherent authoritarian predilections.
For this reason, I never really believed in the conflict against Israel….
[T]he issue ahead of us if that of Hezbollah and Hamas being wielded as instruments of provocation by Syria and Iran to stir up another national liberation conflict and mobilize us all for the march to hell, with many of us applauding all the way.
All wishful thinking aside, I just don’t think that Israel is going to lose this round, and I think that the going-ons in Lebanon are only a prelude for the eventual and now inevitable confrontation with Syria, with all sorts of disastrous implications and consequences for our people.
I don't think Hamas or Hezbollah -- let alone Syria and Iran -- ever considered the "disastrous implications and consequences" of their acts of war against Israel. They only wanted to remind people of the Jewish threat and convince them they still needed the terrorist armies to protect them from Israel.
Instead, they brought the fury of Israel down upon them like fiery manna from Sheol. This was not in their plan; in fact, they are stunned by Israeli's reaction:
Hezbollah was surprised by Israel's response.
When they dreamed up this plan in January, they thought the Israelis would respond as usual: bomb a few Hezbollah positions on the border, and perhaps attack Palestinian militant camps. They were not expecting the attack to occur at this fragile time with the Palestinians.
Instead, the Israelis massively destroyed Lebanese infrastructure. Bridges throughout South Lebanon have been destroyed. Almost the entire South is without power.
If Hezbollah looked at reality instead of believing their own propaganda, they could have guessed this was going to happen... especialy after they saw what was already going on in Gaza at the precise moment they attacked Israel and kidnapped two soldiers.
True story: when Dafydd and I hiked in Yosemite, we were told not to cook near the camp ground. The smell, the rangers said, will attract bears. Despite all the warnings, some retardo decided to cook a whole mess of sausages on a grill he set up -- right next to his tent, right near our own tent (in Camp Curry).
That night, two black bears came roaring down to the camp ground and scared the heck out of the campers (we were already leaving that night for the Wawona Lodge). Fortunately no human was hurt; but one bear had to be shot by the "danger rangers."
Sure, the bears were the critters directly threatening our lives. But ultimately, the guy who cooked food and drew them down from the mountains should be held more responsible than the bears. The bears were just being bears; this dull-witted chef was being a dangerous fool.
Will the people in the Middle East ever hold their leadership responsible? Will they ever understand who lured the bears into camp? The jury is still out. But at least this time, the opinion of the infamous "Arab street" is up for grabs.
July 13, 2006
This Is a Test: For the Next Sixty Seconds...
Nobody seems to discuss this much as a motivation for Hamas and Hezbollah (both puppets of Iran) to attack Israel, but I'm sure it was in part because of Ariel Sharon's presumed brain death.
Ehud Olmert, while formerly a member of Likud (before Sharon formed Kadima), has never been considered a forceful or military leader, unlike Gen. Sharon. Olmert was in the IDF, of course, since it's required of everyone; but reading between the lines, I don't believe he ever served in combat. For most of his hitch, he was a military journalist -- say, just like Al Gore!
At the same time, the new defense minister is Amir Peretz, the head of the Labor Party. He is the former head of a trade union (Histadrut) and was known for hurling strikers into the streets to paralyze Israel... sort of an Israeli edition of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Although he has a more "real" military background than Olmert -- he was wounded in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 -- he did not show much interest in what was good for Israel (instead of what was good for Histadrut) until very recently.
One of the motivations for the terrorist groups to attack now is surely that the prime minister and the defense minister are both untried and untested.
There was reason for the Palestinians to think that each might be "soft": Olmert acted soft, in a way that Sharon never did (even when pushing disengagement); and Peretz is a left-leaning socialist who saw disengagement as a way to free up lots of money -- to spend on more welfare.
Iran is testing the new leadership... at the expense of the Palestinians of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Iranians (and their Syrian lapdogs) would not have ordered these raids if Sharon were still hale and whole and firmly in charge.
I wonder how long it will take for the Palestinians in Gaza and in Lebanon to figure this out?
Words of Wall
This is a Scaley Classic from the most ancient of Lizardly days, back when I was blogging on Patterico's Pontifications, my first actual guest-blogging post; it dates from more than a year ago... but it has suddenly become highly relevant today. (You can read it in its pristine originality at Words of Wall.)
This is the post where I first laid out the Lizard Doctrine: Israel should withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank, not because it will pacify the Palestinians (which I correctly predicted it would not), but because it would allow Israel at last to "give war a chance."
One link (to Haaretz) is no longer active, so I have replaced it with a cached version at the Jewish Agency for Israel's website; and I cleaned up a few infelicities here and there. Explanatory comments in brackets and italics are written today, not in the original; and I've added by usual boldface emphasis to create "inline headers," as I am wont to do.
Without any more alarums and excursions, we go...
Over on Power Line, another of my favorite blogs, Scott, who used to be Big Trunk, posted a lengthy segment from a Ha'aretz interview with Moshe Ya'alon, outgoing chief of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Scott clearly worries that the unilateral pull-out of Israel from Gaza and the West Bank will be disasterous for that country.
Scott's argument is serious and deserves response. Since nobody else seems to be willing to look at the other side of it from a pro-Israel perspective, I'll expend whatever "political capital" my recent election as junior sub-altern of the Politically Non-Euclidean Guild affords me.
The essence of the argument is, as always with Scott, quite intellectually sound, as far as it goes:
The coming Israeli pullout from Gaza seems destined to relegate the area to Hamas. Despite the resurrection of the "road map" to the creation of a Palestinian state, neither the Bush administration nor the Israeli government seems to have a road map to the cessation of the Palestinian war on Israel or the removal of the terror gangs from Palestinian territory.
Scott goes on to quote Ya'alon:
In the interview, Ya'alon said that recent statements by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas show that Abbas "has not given up the right of return. And this is not a symbolic right of return, but the right of return as a claim to be realized. To return to the houses, to return to the villages. The implication of this is that there will not be a Jewish state here."
Therefore, he said, the establishment of a Palestinian state will lead to war "at some stage," and such a war could be dangerous for Israel. The idea that a Palestinian state can be established by 2008, and will then produce stability, is "divorced from reality" and "dangerous," as any such state "will be a state that will try to undermine Israel."
There is no blinking this, of course. War will probably result; it has several times in Israel's existence, starting in 1948, hours after the British lowered their flag and even before the Israelis raised theirs. [Prediction 100% correct -- the Mgt.]
Théoden: But I would not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war.
Aragorn: Open war is upon you, whether would risk it or not.
I feel like Aragorn, trying to convince Théoden King [in the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- the Mgt.]. The hidden assumption here is that such open warfare would be worse for Israel than the covert terrorist war they're already fighting now... and thereby hangs the flaw with this entire line of reasoning.
As far as open war, there is no nation adjacent to Israel that would join today in such a jihad by the Palestinian Authority (if controlled by Hamas), and the war would be an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians. [Prediction still open -- the Mgt.]
The only nearby country that might even consider it would be Iran under the Mad Mullahs; but if they did, the Israeli (and American) response would (a) take care of our fears about an Iranian nuclear program, and (b) almost certainly spark a revolution within Iran itself by the people, who despise the Mullahs. Iran could only attack using missiles, since they obviously could not march through or fly across Iraq, Syria, and Jordan to get to Israel; and missiles can be shot down -- by us and by the Israelis, that is; not by Iran when the retaliatory strike is launched.
(There is the possibility that Iran would be able to launch a nuclear attack on Israel; we cannot rule this out. But if the ayatollahs are mad enough to do this in response to a Palestinian war, they would be equally willing to do it following any other provocation... suicide-bombing on a national scale. They do not need Hamas to lead them into such "martyrdom," if that is what they have decided.)
I've argued [in e-mail and comments] in support of the pull-out of Israel from Gaza and the West Bank (of the Jordan River) for some time; but my reasoning seems to be lost in the excitement of proving the above (fairly obvious) point over on Power Line, Captain's Quarters, BeldarBlog, and other sites where I've tried to have this discussion. A great deal of energy was expended trying to convince me of one of my own starting positions, that the Palestinian people hate the Jews and have never given up their intention of driving them into the sea, the reconquista of what they see as Greater Palestine. I think the gents at Power Line are still convinced that I dispute this point; in fact, it is exactly why I support the pull-out... that, coupled with two facts on the ground.
Here are my starting premises. Everyone making an argument should always start thus:
- Israel absolutely has the right to exist as a Jewish state, right where it is now... including in the West Bank and Gaza. They were attacked; they won those territories fair and square; they have the right to keep them and even settle them. It's just not good policy for Israel to do so.
- Nearly all Palestinians in the PA hate Jews with a passion nearly unequaled on the planet. They will probably never like the Jews; the best Israel can get is for them to forget that the Jews exist.
- When Israel pulls out of Gaza, the region will be taken over by Hamas. This is probably also true about the West Bank, although Hamas is not as overwhelmingly strong there. But if Hamas doesn't take over in the West Bank, then some other terrorist gang will do so, or there will be civil war (say -- perhaps they'll kill each other off!)
- Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa, Fatah, Hezbollah, and all other terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza have every intention of destroying Israel, and they will never give up that dream. They will never be honest brokers of peace.
I don't think Scott and I disagree on any of these points. This should clear up some of the confusion about my position: I do not believe that land is illegally occupied, nor do I support Bush's ridiculous "road map to peace," nor do I imagine that any deal with the Palestinians would be kept, except in one circumstance: if the Palestinians have no choice but to keep it or be annihilated. And thereby hangs my point.
There are three urgent responses to Palestinian intransigence that Israel must undertake; thankfully, they are doing exactly these. First, they must complete work on the wall, or "security fence," separating them from the Palestinians; second, they must maintain the power of the IDF and Mossad and the willingness to go after the leaders of the various Palestinian terrorist groups directly by assassination; finally, they must remove the settlers from the occupied territories.
I will assume the first two receive widespread agreement here; let's talk about the third.
Hate is a curious emotion. Although one of the prime movers of Mankind throughout history, it is actually very enervating. Governments have throughout history used hate to channel the energy of people who would otherwise oppose the rule of the regime, a fact recognized by George Orwell, among others: see the chapter "Goldstein Two-Minutes Hate" from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
But because it is so draining, it requires a constant irritant to maintain it, a constant, in-your-face reminder of the object of hatred. Without such irritant, the hate will still exist, but only in theory; it will have none of the energy needed to obsess the mind and be used to distract the hater from all else. Thus, Indonesian Islamists certainly hate the Jews, but only in the abstract; they do not expend a lot of time or effort trying to find a Jew so they can attack him. This is because the Jewish population of Indonesia is considerably less than 1%... most Indonesians do not know any Jews and may never even have met one in their entire lives. Constant propinquity is necessary for active, action-driving hatred -- which is why Big Brother staged those Two-Minutes Hate videos: he knew that without them, without constantly "knocking elbows," so to speak, with the supposed enemy, the people would soon forget Goldstein even existed. [Yes, of course I know; I'm talking about the "reality" of Winston Smith. -- the Mgt.]
The Jewish settlers in Gaza and the West Bank have become exactly such irritants, alas. They may have some cosmic "right" to be there; but the reality is that those territories are overwhelmingly populated by Arab Moslems. The tiny number of settlers, in their armed and economically successful compounds -- little Israeli gardens in the vast sea of sand that is the erstwhile British Mandatory Palestine -- are constant reminders not only that Jews exist but that they're far more powerful than the Moslems... and also better capitalists, in despite of Israel's socialist beginnings. Because the settlers need constant protection from the IDF, that means that everywhere Palestinians go, they have to pass through checkpoints in the land that, rightly or wrongly, they consider their homeland. They are made to feel weak and powerless; their destiny is beyond their control.
This gives every Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza his own, personal Two-Minutes Hate, often multiple times per day. And it is exactly that hate that Hamas, et al, feed upon and use to whip the people into a froth of rage and fury such that they will send their own sons and daughters to death, just in order to take some Jews with them.
Remove the settlers, hence the Israeli troops required to defend them, and the only irritant left will be the wall itself. Most Palestinians will not have to suffer the evidently unbearable daily fate of having actually to see a Jew, giving them the vapors. As absurd as this may seem to us, who live in a pluralistic society where "the Faithful" seem, by and large, to get along fairly well surrounded by "Zionists and Crusaders," it is a very real agony to the Moslems living in the PA. Remove the irritant, remove the agony, and you remove, not the abstract hatred, but its projection into the day-to-day world of those Palestinians.
It is that projection that gives the hate its power. Remove it, and you begin to starve Hamas and their murderous brethren. "Oh, yes, of course I hate the Zionist entity," Achmed will say; "but do you not see? They are gone! I can travel from Jenin to Hebron and see not a single Jew!"
Of course, if Achmed wanted to go from Ramallah to Gaza International Airport, he would have to travel through Israel; it's not a perfect disengagement; still, it reduces the contact to a tiny fraction of what it is today. With that relief, I believe it will be virtually impossible to persuade Achmed to give up his sons just to go off and kill Israelis he cannot even see, over on the other side of the wall. [Prediction accurate so far: these attacks were not suicide bombings but rather military assaults. -- the Mgt.]
All of the terror gangs will be crippled; Lebanese Hezbollah will still get support from Syria and Iran, but they're about to start having problems of their own. Terrorist groups will begin to be resented, even hated themselves, for their vicious bullying of the Palestinian people and their utter incompetence at running a country... revolutionary emotions that are at the very core of the incitement to hatred and violence by Hamas and the PA: they need scapegoats to distract their own people from the natural desire to fight back against such tyranny. Plus, without the ready-made targets in the settlements, to be perfectly blunt about it, all of Gaza and the West Bank will become targets for IDF response to the inevitable terrorist attacks. When such retaliatory strikes come, the Palestinian people -- who are not being constantly irritated by the presence of non-Moslems in their neighborhoods -- will blame the terrorists for "bringing trouble." [Hasn't happened yet, but I was talking about the long haul: the Palestinian people have not yet really been hurt. Give it some time. -- the Mgt.]
There is another advantage to the pull-out. Right now, there are still many Israeli Jews harboring the secret belief that they can cut some sort of deal with the Palestinian Authority; "road-map-ism," I'll call it. It's not as bad as in 1999, when Ehud Barak was elected; but it's still strong. The doves do not understand that the moment the Palestinians get Gaza and the West Bank, they will demand Israel itself... Palestinian maps of the region often do not even include Israel as a separate nation.
Israel gets nothing out of the settlements except illusion: they promote the illusion that the only reason the Palestinians make war on Israel is because Israel "occupies" those territories. Remove the settlements, and when the Palestinians shift seamlessly from demanding Ramallah and Bethlehem to demanding Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, all illusions will be shattered. Even the doves will be forced to accept reality. "Open war is upon you, whether would risk it or not."
I absolutely believe that even Avram Mitzna would fight to save Israel proper, and Ehud Barak spent his entire military career doing so. Not only will Hamas, PIJ, and Al Aqsa be terribly weakened by an Israeli pull-out from the territories, so too will be the Israeli Left. The Israeli Labor Party will be politically devastated when Ariel Sharon actually implements what they have only agitated for but never achieved. [Prediction 100% accurate: both Labor and Likud are relegated to "also rans" behind Kadima. -- the Mgt.] All of this will make Israel safer, not more perilous.
Summing up, the Sharon plan of removing the settlers (disengagement) while maintaining the strength and resolve of the IDF and Mossad and finishing the security fence will achieve three goals, each of which adds to Israel's security:
- Weakening the Palestinian terrorists by removing the Two-Minutes Hate that allows them to recruit so-called "martyrs" to kill Jews;
- Increasing the freedom of action of the IDF by removing unhelpful and difficult-to-defend Israeli targets from the enemy's territory;
- Forcing the Israeli Left to face reality and recognize that the two states will always be enemies, living at best in an uneasy calm, shattering the dangerous illusion that the lack of "open war" means they are at peace.
Israel must guard the borders, be vigilant against attack and ruthless in response, and at all times recognize the "facts on the ground;" only then will she be truly safe.
July 12, 2006
Israel vs. America In Blame War - Updated
UPDATE: See below for a response to Yoni Tidi on Hugh Hewitt today.
Anent the deadly kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah in Israel's north, the United States properly blames Hezbollah's masters: Syria and especially Iran:
The White House condemned the Hizbollah attack and blamed Syria and Iran, which both back the Lebanese Shi'ite group.
But strangely, Israel itself (or at least one top general) seems to point a finger at Lebanon, of all places... the country that just successfully expelled Syrian troops and has worked the hardest to expel Hezbollah and the Syrian intelligence services:
GOC Northern Command [Aluf] Udi Adam told reporters that Israel plans to "push back" Hezbollah guerrillas controlling southern Lebanon, adding that the IDF has "no intention at the moment of involving Syria," which has great influence over Hezbollah.
"We think at the moment the debate is beween us and the government of Lebanon," he said.
With all due respect, I think Gen. Adam is nutty. (Assuming the quotation is not simply taken out of context by Haaretz.) We've already discussed Syria's connection with Hezbollah; this is certainly true, though the ultimate puppeteers are in Teheran, not Damascus. (And not just of Hezbollah but of Hamas as well, despite the latter being more or less Sunni.)
UPDATE: Yoni Tidi -- who blogs and phones in to Hugh Hewitt from Seattle, I believe, but who is a veteran of the IDF in the last Lebanese War -- suggests that it's reasonable to blame Lebanon because "Hezbollah sits in their parliament." This is true, Mr. Tidi... but is that by choice of the rest of Lebanon, which has done everything it could to drive Hezbollah out?
It is far better to work with the Christians and anti-Hezbollah Moslems in Lebanon to destroy that terrorist organization in the South, in the Bekaa, and wherever else it lurks in Lebanon, thus allowing real Lebanese also to boot out the Syrian Intelligence agents -- whose presence is only possible because of the protection they get from Hezbollah. Instead of lumping patriotic Lebanese in with their Hezbollah occupiers, it's time for Israel to discriminate between them; just as we have achieved great results in Iraq by discriminating and driving a wedge between the foreign terrorists and the native-Iraqi "insurgents." The latter can be co-opted; the former must be destroyed to the last person.
Hugh Hewitt suggests Israel launch a bombing mission on Syria, and I would certainly applaud such a move: if you cannot immediately kill the wolf, at least take down the pup. But at some point, Israel, the United States, and the rest of the West -- yes, even including Europe -- will have to come up with an actual solution to Iranian madness and bloodthirst.
It certainly need not be any "final solution," not only because democracies simply do not do such ghastly things but also because there is no reason to make war upon ordinary Iranians: the vast majority of them are not cheerleaders for the Mullahs and would shed scarcely a tear if Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and the whole collection of Eaters of the Dead were to be sent on to final judgment.
But it's tricky to thread the Scylla of Iranian hatred of their hellish slavemasters and the Charybdis of Persian pride and patriotism. Somehow, we must get the population of Iran itself to rebel against their leaders, and then we can help them without being too obvious about it. Destroying Hezbollah, especially outside Iran, would be a tremendous leap in the right direction: none of the covert democrats in Iran have any love for Hezbollah, the "Party of God," who roam the streets of Iran attacking some men and especially women, betimes with acid in the face, for violating any one of the thousand and one intrictate, byzantine rules of the ayatollahs' version of Shiism.
But Big Lizards certainly agrees with Hugh that the first step is to crush the Syrian military, which will bring about the collapse of the Baathist Bashar Assad regime in Syria... thus not only helping out Israel but also relieving much of the pressure on Iraq, as Syria is the source of much of the support for Iraqi terrorists -- bombs, money, and especially ambulatory explosives (Syria is one of the primary conduits for suicide bombers into Iraq, though mostly from countries other than Syria).
Even if the collapse of the Baathists eventually brings more Syrian Islamists to power, it will take them some time to consolidate their power, and they likely will never wield as much power as Hafez al-Assad did or even as much as his "cockeyed ophthalmologist" younger son does today.
And during that period of consolidation, we can cripple Syria's ability to engineer death and destruction in either Iraq or Lebanon. And without Syrian governmental support, Hezbollah will be much more easily trapped between a Devil and a hard place of its own: the Israelis to their south and the Lebanese themselves to their north.
The Madness Accelerates
By "madness," I do not mean the wholly justified Israeli invasion of Gaza -- but rather the mindlessly defiant Palestinian response, where they appear to be ready to immolate their entire world, just to avoid giving up one hostage Jew.
Now, a new group has run pell-mell into the buzzsaw screaming "Allahu akbar": Hezbollah, feeling neglected (and tired of living in this vale of tears), just streamed across the Israeli-Lebanese border and, it appears, abducted two Israeli soldiers. Evidently, they looked upon Gaza and saw that it was good, and said, "Geez, I sure wish I had me one o' them Israeli Defense Force invasions!"
Hizbollah guerrillas said they had captured two Israeli soldiers in cross-border attacks from Lebanon on Wednesday in which three Israelis were also reported killed, sharply raising Middle East tensions.
Israeli ground forces crossed into Lebanon to search for the captured soldiers, Israeli Army Radio said. It said many troops and aircraft were taking part in searches across the border.
I can see Hezbollah's reasoning: kidnapping IDF soldiers has worked out so well for Hamas in the Gaza Strip; how could Hezbollah resist joining the fun? Of course, the most likely result will be a massive Israeli armor attack that annihilates Hezbollah strongholds from Beirut to the Bekaa Valley and from Tyre to the shores of Tripoli, crippling Iran (which owns Hezbollah) in the bargain and probably dragging Bashar Assad into the mess; but heck, you can't make an omlet, you know, without stepping on a few eggshells.
All right. Bring it on. We may see several terrorist groups try to gang-bang the Israelis: Palestinian Islamic Jihad is bound to feel abandoned; and al-Qaeda has been desperate to get a toe-hold in the Palestinian territories (perhaps curious to see the only people in the world more loathsome and degraded than they).
But one thing you will not see is a line of Arab nations rushing to support the terrorst sacrificial lambs. Don't look for Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan to join the fray. You see, being actual, real countries, these entities have entirely too much to lose to poke the tiger with a stick. In fact, while Lebanon may well lodge a "protest" at the U.N., in secret they will be cheering the Israelis on.
Happily for the civilized, and alas for American and European antisemites who are becoming thicker than the flies on Zarqawi's eyes, Israel has more than enough firepower to fight both Hamas and Hezbollah at the same time. Israel will win, one way or another; but there is a heck of a stretch between the two ways:
- The terrorists can release IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit and stop shooting rockets at Jews. Then the Palestinians can start trying to put the rubble of what used to be their society back together again;
- Or they can continue to make brainless, senseless, useless attacks cross-border... and watch everything they pretend to have fought for all these years be torn asunder and trampled underfoot by Israelis. In this response, Israel received such provocation from the Moslem terrorists that even the Europeans cannot help but tolerate, if not bless.
But which hand will the Palestinians seize, the right or the left? Remember, it was precisely for this group of people that some wag invented the aphorism that "the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
July 5, 2006
Here It Comes...
It appears that Hamas is so trapped in the quagmire of their own delusions of grandeur and persecution that they literally cannot even wake up to save their own lives: they fired another Kassam rocket -- Hamas claimed it was "upgraded" -- this time, as they had promised, at an Israeli school full of children.
"Tonight a grave escalation took place when a Kassam landed in a school in our southern town. This is a peerless and grave escalation in the terrorist war for which Hamas, which is in control of the Palestinian government, is responsible," Olmert said.
He said there will be significant ramifications for this "criminal attempt" to strike at Israeli citizens. He said Hamas would be the first to be hit.
I have long believed that jihadis actually worship an ancient death god who demands human sacrifices; "blood and souls for Moloch," perhaps. Now I think it may even be worse. Is it possible for an entire culture to be suicidal, to long for death in the hope that with enough letting of lives, the Great Old Ones will return to Earth and reclaim what was theirs? Do the Palestinians worship some sick version of H.P. Lovecraft's pantheon, some eldrich, imaginary being like Azathoth, the blind idiot god, or Yog-Sothoth, the lurker at the threshold?
It's difficult to come up with any rational explanation for their compulsion to launch feeble, impotent attacks on Israel, as if trying their damnedest to enrage the Israelis -- without actually impairing their ability to strike back at the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is like a berserker who rushes a man with a pike; he impales the berserker... who proceeds to pull the pike deeper and deeper into the wound, through and through, clawing at the pikesman with blood-soaked, detumescent fingers in a futile gesture of childish defiance.
Sorry. Carried away. But I still think it's a close analogy.
The reaction to the attack on Israeli schoolchildren is predictable, despite the fact that by sheer, benevolent luck, the rocket that hit the school missed all the children playing just outside:
In response to the attack, Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF to step up the speed and intensity of Operation Summer Rains in the Gaza Strip, launched last Wednesday in an effort to retrieve Cpl. Gilad Shalit. "We intend to achieve the goals of our operations in Gaza," Peretz said, referring to stopping the Kassam rocket fire as well as retrieving the kidnapped IDF soldier....
Meanwhile Tuesday, the IDF stepped up its offensive on the Gaza Strip despite the expiration of an ultimatum issued by the kidnappers of Shalit, abducted from his military outpost outside southern Gaza last Sunday. On Monday, several tank squads, bulldozers and infantry companies took up positions in northern Gaza opposite Beit Hanoun. On Tuesday, additional forces were sent into Gaza establishing a battalion-level presence in northern Gaza.
This can only end one way: eventually, the war will stop, because there will be nothing left in Gaza to defend but rubble and more rubble, with starving, stunned Moslems wandering the shattered landscape, wondering what sin they committed that their god should so fail them.
But then, it will be too late. The Palestinians could flee to the West Bank, but Hamas will probably use that as a launching pad for more useless attacks against Israel.
Nobody in the Middle East will lift a finger to save the Palestinians, because all of their neighbors hate and despise them. The UN will fuliiminate and demand, as Golda Meir famously suggested, that Israel should commit suicide so that the world will think well of the Jews. The United States will shrug and perhaps offer some half-hearted admonition; but the reality is that nobody in the administration really cares if Hamas decides to go out in a blaze of ersatz glory, and nobody in Congress is fool enough to stand with the terrorists.
So at some point, either Hamas can stop itself, or the Palestinian people can stop them... or else the problem will be resolved the hard way. It's a remarkable spectacle; I've learned things I never knew about the grip that ego-boosting fantasy can have on a whole people.
July 1, 2006
The "Hundredth Israeli" Effect
Is there a floor to stupidity? Or is it just turtles, turtles, turtles all the way down?
Take a look; let's see if we can't figure out a solution to this looming "humanitarian crisis" in the Palestinian Authority:
Israel last night threatened to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh if Hamas militants did not release a captured Israeli soldier unharmed.
The unprecedented warning was delivered to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter as Israel debated a deal offered by Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit.
It came as Israeli military officials readied a second invasion force for a huge offensive into Gaza.
All right, quiz question number 1: What is the proper response from Hamas?
- Appeal to Kofi Annan for a UN relief force to drive the Jews into the sea;
- Threaten to kill Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert twice;
- Release the hostage.
At any point, no matter how bad it has gotten, the Palestinians can make the beating stop: all they need do is release the hostage and stop shootin' Jews.
Nobody is going to help them. No one will come to their rescue. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan -- they're all going to sit quietly and hope the Israelis don't notice them; or maybe they'll sprinkle some borrowed luster-dust on their heads by shuttling back and forth in bootless "diplomacy." (What's to debate? The Palestinians know the one and only thing that will end this seige and save the shattered remains of the PA.)
Thousands of Hamas supporters protested in Gaza City late on Thursday over the arrest by Israeli forces of up to 32 Hamas MPs on the West Bank that day.
A Hamas spokesman said the group would never recognise Israel, in spite of a deal its leaders signed this week offering implicit recognition of the Jewish state in return for easing an economic blockade.
Quiz question number 2: When Israel sweeps into the PA like a hot bayonet through hummus, arresting a very significant portion of members of the Palestinian parliament, while Palestinian security forces utterly helpless and humiliated, the correct course of action from the Hamas leadership is:
- Scream like a girl and play "speed bump" in front of an Israeli tank;
- Sue Israel for damages in le Cour Internationale de Justice at the Hague;
- Release the hostage.
For decades now, Palestinian Arabs have been posturing as a force to be reckoned with. While Yassir Arafat was alive, he was courted by kings and couriers, parliaments and presidents, as if he were the blasted Pope -- instead of a cowardly, sexually perverted, miniscule troll of a terrorist thug.
For several years now, Israel has persisted in a lotus-dream of September 10th... a few suicide bombers here, a few Kassam rockets there, and what's a murder of a settler or twenty among friends? They accepted the absurd demonic pact that the Palestinians had moral authority to butcher and rape because everyone picked on them; and the Jews' lot in life was to suffer and cringe.
The Israelis forgot the most important two-word lesson of the Holocaust -- despite intoning it endlessly like a magical mantra (the words were there, but they never quite got the tune).
But now, for some reason, the sleeper awoke and tore a couple of pages off the calendar: at long last, September 12th has dawned in the Jewish state, and they realize that they must have zero tolerance for the murderous Palestinian shenanigans that they've tolerated and enabled for so long.
I don't know why IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit broke the camel's back; maybe it's the "hundredth monkey" effect -- which may well work for us humans, even though it turns out not to be true for macaques:
The "Hundredth Monkey Effect" is the name for a supposed phenomenon in which a particular learned behaviour spread instantaneously from one group of animals, once a critical number was reached, to all related animals in the region or perhaps throughout the world. Largely due to popularisation of this story, the "Hundredth Monkey Effect" phenomenon is now thought by some to occur in human populations with respect to ideas and beliefs in general even though the original story has been discredited (Myers 1985).
In any event, the abduction of Shalit has set in motion the most forceful reaction to Palestinian criminality since the invasion of Lebanon twenty-four years ago... and it may surpass that level, if Hamas cannot shake itself awake from its febrile delerium.
By the time they stop floccillating and take a look out the window, there may be nothing left to save.
Israeli fighter jets bombed 20 targets in Gaza, including the Interior Ministry, which it said had been used by militants to stage meetings, while artillery hit the northern strip with 500 shells in the 24 hours until yesterday morning....
Much of Gaza, including two main hospitals, was without power and running water as a UN aid chief warned that the 1.4 million residents of the strip were three days away from a humanitarian crisis.
"They are heading for the abyss unless they get electricity and fuel restored," said emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland, who urged militants to free Corporal Shalit and stop firing rockets into Israel.
There are two ways this ends: either Hamas relents -- or Israel simply runs out of targets. If Palestinians think it can't get any worse, they have only to wait a few more days; when you stare into the abyss, it stares back.
But they can end their tour of Hell anytime they want. They know what to do.
Quiz question 3: When the Damned dangle by their fingernails over the Abyss, they should --
- Shake a fist at the nearest Jew;
- Throw a rock;
- Release the stupid hostage already.
Must Israel obliterate them utterly? They will if that's the only solution. Or will the mad manage to find a way to connect with reality just long enough to save their worthless pile of dirt? Their fate is in their own hands; not many men can say that with such assurance.
June 28, 2006
With Six You Get Hummus
Two can play at this game.
The Israelis have started taking new hostages to trade for the soldier, rather than forking over pre-existing prisoners:
Israeli forces arrested the Palestinian deputy prime minister and dozens of other Hamas officials early Thursday and pressed their incursion into Gaza, responding to the abduction of one of its soldiers....
Army Radio said the arrested Hamas leaders might be used to trade for the captured soldier. Israel had refused earlier to trade prisoners for the soldier's release.
More than 30 lawmakers were detained, according to Palestinian security officials. Among them were Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer, Labor Minister Mohammed Barghouti and two other ministers in the West Bank.
So how long before Hamas surrenders? Or perhaps -- how long until Hamas is obliterated? Either endgame will be fine with Israel.
So far, Hamas -- now the official government of the Palestinian Authority -- refuses to recognize that Israel exists. It's going to become powerful hard to deny the existence of a country that's kicking their butts. Will they claim they're actually being attacked by Galactus or the Mole Men?
Palestinian plans for high-rise apartments, sports complexes and industrial parks in lands evacuated by Israel have given way to despair, with rising poverty, increasingly violent relations with Israel and a looming threat of civil war.
I can think of an easy solution:
- Recognize Israel;
- Accept the legitimacy and legality of previous agreements;
- Stop shootin' at Jews!
There, that didn't hurt much, did it?
Yesterday, Israel roared into Gaza in a lightning war (yeah, yeah, I know), ostensibly to find and rescue kidnapped IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit... but actually to break the back of Hamas, al-Aqsa, and other terrorist groups operating in the Gaza Strip.
This post is not a strategic analysis or tactical account of the Gaza invasion; others with far better credentials than I are covering that very thoroughly, including CounterTerrorism Blog (the new home of former Fourth Rail blogger Bill Roggio) and the Belmont Club; as well as far more prolific and patient bloggers than I, including my old CO, Captain Ed -- all of whom, plus many others, can be accessed via the blogroll to your right.
Rather, I just want to pluck out a few illuminating scenes among the Palestinians, responses to this existential crisis that are so very sad and pathetic that they're actually funny, in a morbid, black-humor way.
First, a general look at the lack of military preparedness for a "nation" that has been launching attacks daily deadly against the Middle East's premier indigenous military power, Israel:
Israeli tanks and troops entered southern Gaza and planes attacked three bridges and knocked out electricity to the coastal strip early Wednesday, stepping up the pressure on Palestinian militants holding captive a 19-year-old Israeli soldier.
The soldiers and tanks began taking up positions in two locations about a mile east of the Gaza town of Rafah under the cover of tank shells, according to witnesses and Palestinian security officials. Palestinians dug in behind walls and sand embankments, bracing for a major Israeli offensive.
"Walls and sand embankments?" Are they barking mad? How long do they thing those defenses will stop one of these, the Israeli Merkava main battle tank?
Israeli Merkava Main Battle Tank
Trying to defuse building tensions, negotiators from the ruling Hamas movement said Tuesday they had accepted a document implicitly recognizing Israel. But two Syrian-based Hamas leaders denied a final deal had been reached.
Israel said only freedom for the captive soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, could defuse the crisis, not a political agreement.
The wolf is not at the door, you morons; he is in the living room headed towards the bedroom. And you still can't get it through your thick skulls that it's time to crawl on your hands and knees and beg for mercy! How braindead are these Hamas "leaders?" Are the Palestinians down with this defiance in the face of certain annihilation?
Overnight, Israeli planes fired at least nine missiles at Gaza's only power station, cutting electricity to much of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security officials said. The station's three functioning turbines and a gasoline reservoir were engulfed in enormous flames that firefighters were unable to control.
The attack raised the specter of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as water pumps in the strip are powered by electricity. Some power in Gaza City was restored by tapping into electricity supplied by Israel in northern Gaza.
Gee, how long does Hamas suppose that source will last? Speaking of northern Gaza, Captain Ed links to the Jerusalem Post, which reports that Stage 2 of the Gaza invasion has begun: Israel is now moving into -- see if you can guess -- northern Gaza in a "pincer" move.
Shocked? You may not be, but evidently that possibility never occurred to the military geniuses in Hamas.
Back to the Associated Press. This sentence literally made me laugh out loud:
Masked militants from various armed factions took up defensive positions around Gaza City, instructing drivers to turn their headlights off.
Yeah... if you turn off your headlights and close those blackout curtains, then the Israelis can't see you!
What year do the Palestinians think this is -- 1942? (If so, that would represent a temporal quantum leap from their leaders, who think it's still the 7th century, and Mohammed still walks the earth, leading his armies against the infidel.)
Haven't they ever seen pictures on al-Jazeera or CNN or other terrorist-supporting television networks of American soldiers in battle wearing weird machines in front of their eyes? What do the Palestinians think those are for -- do they imagine that in the middle of combat, the Americans are getting eye exams? (Quick, call the Syrian Oculist!)
Maybe they haven't made the leap that if Americans have "starlight scopes," the Israelis probably do as well. And infrared imaging. And GPS and satellite mapping. And lots of other ways to operate... even when it's dark outside.
Invading the stronghold of the big, bad terrorist caliphs seems awfully similar to invading Mozambique or Bangladesh. Maybe if Palestinians spent a little less time pining for the olden times, when Islam could actually boot Frankish knights out of the Holy Land -- and less time plinking at Israel with Kassam rockets -- they might be able to devote the attention and industry necessary to build a real country, with a real economy that wouldn't be crippled by the loss of welfare payments from other countries. You think?
The militants told residents to leave the area. They piled gasoline-soaked tires in the streets. Earlier, bulldozers blocked some of the main roads with piles of sand and dirt to try to slow down Israeli tanks.
Yeah. Here's what happens when a Merkava hits one of those "piles of sand and dirt" at high speed:
Armored Division X-Games
You can't see it in that picture, but before landing, the Israeli tank commander did a "Superman" and a fakey-grab.
Here is the problem on a nutshell. From Deutsche Presse-Agentur via Monsters & Critics News:
For the first time since the soldier's abduction early Sunday, the Hamas-led Palestinian government backed the demands of the kidnappers and called for a prisoners' swap with Israel.
After a brief emergency cabinet meeting in Ramallah of only its West Bank members, Finance Minister Omar Abdul Razek called the kidnappers' demand that Israel free jailed militants 'logical.'
Sadly, it is logical: for years -- decades -- Palestinian terrorists from the PLO of yesteryear to Hamas, al-Aqsa, and Hezbollah of today have found that the quickest and surest way to get their own fighters released from Israeli custody was to kidnap some Israelis and demand a prisoner swap. It was not uncommon for the Israelis to let go 300 to 400 POWs in exchange for a single Israeli soldier... or sometimes even for his corpse.
It's not unreasonable that Hamas would think those were the rules of the game and try it again. Where they drift off the sanity-rails into the Land of Make-Believe is when the Israelis balked, threatened a huge invasion, and massed troops and armor on the border -- and Hamas still could not shake itself awake enough to hear the chilling wolf-howl just outside. Like old, deaf dogs, they lay fat and happy before the fire and didn't hear a thing.
I cannot continue. The brain reels. Even though I predicted exactly this, it's still hard to fathom how stupid are the terrorists of Hamas and Fatah, and the nutty Palestinian voters who substituted the former for the latter when Fatah proved too accomodationist to the "Zionist entity." (I've discovered the real difference between Fatah and Hamas: both want to drive the Jews into the sea, but Fatah would give them life preservers.)
At least, thank goodness, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has not been able to scrounge up those "20 different types of biological and chemical weapons" they threatened to use against the Israelis if they invaded. Keep all digits crossed.
And all this flows from the refusal of Hamas simply to recognize the existence of Israel and previous agreements with them, as nearly every nation on the planet had urged them to do -- including many Arab Moslem regimes. "And all for the want of a tenpenny nail."
Oh well. To quote Larry Niven again, "not responsible for advice not taken."
June 27, 2006
Hamas Is That Doggie In the Crosshairs?
So it appears that Israel is about to invade Gaza... and there is also a chance -- if the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade carries through on its threat -- that Israel will launch a nuclear strike as well. So what else is new this week?
Er... could you repeat that last bit, Dafydd? Something about a nuclear -- what?
Don't worry; it's only a fairly small chance.
From the Reuters story:
Israel rejected a demand by Palestinian militants to release Palestinian women and youths in its prisons in return for information on an abducted Israeli soldier and threatened a punishing offensive in the Gaza Strip....
Izz el-Deen al-Qassam, the governing Hamas movement's armed wing, along with the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and the Islamic Army, said Israel would not get information about the soldier unless it freed all jailed Palestinian women and youths....
"The time is approaching for a comprehensive, sharp and severe Israeli operation. We will not wait forever," [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] said. "We will not become a target of Hamas-terrorist blackmail."
The pistol is loaded and pointed at the Palestinian Authority's head.
Israel has not announced any imminent nuclear attacks, of course; and they would not, for there is no advantage served by making such a threat. You either do it or you don't.
But it's well understood that if the Palestinians attack Israel with chemical or biological weapons, and the attack is successful at killing a number of Israelis, then Israel will respond with WMD of its own. And since it doesn't truck with chemical or bacteriological weaponry, the reality is that it would, in that circumstance, break out the "temple weapons."
But would any group actually be fool enough to threaten CBW against Israel? Funny you should mention that...
The Australian speaks:
In a leaflet released in Gaza, the [al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades] said: "With the help of Allah, we are pleased to say that we succeeded in developing over 20 different types of biological and chemical weapons, this after a three-year effort.
"We say to (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert and (Defence Minister Amir) Peretz: 'Your threats of invasion do not frighten us. We will surprise you with new weapons you have not faced until now. As soon as an IDF soldier sets foot on Gazan land, we will respond with a new weapon."'
The hammer is cocked; will Hamas squeeze the trigger?
As Reuters put it, the clock is ticking for Hamas if they don't move very quickly to spring the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped Sunday. There are several ways this could end:
- Hamas could locate the soldier and force the groups who captured him -- the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees, and the Army of Islam -- to release him unharmed. Not very likely.
- Hamas could remain hardline about it, forcing Israel to invade wide and deep. Plausible, with two subplots:
- Fatah may actually have chemical and biological weapons... and they may decide to use them against the Israelis. Unlikely, by my guess, since the response would wipe Fatah and Hamas both from the map;
- Fatah may be lying about having WMD, or they may have them but choose not to use them. This is the most likely scenario, and it results in a major Israeli offensive against the PA... with predictably devastating results -- but no nuclear war.
Quite some time ago, in Captain's Quarters and elsewhere, I argued the case in favor of the Israeli pullout from Gaza and the West Bank (for example, in Crystal Gaza).
I agreed with those who opposed the pull-out, notably Paul Mirengoff of Power Line, that this would lead to Hamas taking over the Palestinian Authority and likely to a major terrorist offensive against Israel. But I parted company on what would happen next, arguing that this would liberate, not bind, the Israeli response to any such attacks:
But opponents of the pullout never seem to ask the next question: so Gaza is taken over by Hamas, which launches an attack on Israel... and then what happens?
What happens, I predict, is that Israel -- which would no longer have to fear mass murder of the settler-hostages in enemy territory -- will respond to Hamas as they responded to all cross-national attacks on Israel, most particularly in 1948, 1967, and 1973: with a full military response from the IDF, including air support, which they have rarely used in the territories since capturing them during the Six-Day War (after Gaza and the West Bank were used as staging areas for an Arab invasion of Israel).
Right now, Israel's hands are tied in the occupied territories. Israel is an occupying nation, so it cannot go all-out in combat within the territories without violating the rules of civilized warfare. Because Israel is in fact a civilized, Western country, it takes those rules seriously, even when the enemy does not. This is immensely frustrating, of course, since the Palestinian terrorists don't even recognize the existence of any sort of rules of warfare, civilized or otherwise; they have no restraint upon their behavior whatsoever.
But once Israel pulls out of both Gaza and the West Bank, "Palestine" becomes an independent nation in both law and fact (the first time an independent nation of Palestine has ever existed there, I believe). And that lifts the restraints on the IDF -- because even France and Russia would be hard-pressed to find a reason why Israel wouldn't be allowed to defend itself from attack by another independent nation.
I even enunciated a test by which we could see whether my vision of the future was correct -- that the pull-out will free Israel's hands -- or rather that of the naysayers, that it would result in devastating attacks on Israel that go largely unanswered by the Jewish state:
Here is what to look for to see if my prediction is coming true: once Israel pulls out, a major attempted attack by some terrorist group or groups is inevitable. Because of the security fence (the "wall"), that attack will probably be in the form of rockets, mortars, or artillery fired over the wall. If Israel responds with aerial bombing of significant targets within Gaza and the West Bank, that will tell us that the days of pussyfooting have passed. The Palestinian Arabs will wake up to a new reality, one in which Israel no longer pulls punches in response to mindless Arab terror. I absolutely believe this will create a much better situation than what we have now, with international terrorist groups having significantly less ability to launch attacks on Israel (or on us) from the Palestinian territory than they enjoy today.
But if Israel's only response is a targeted assassination of some Hamas official and a strongly worded letter of protest to Failed Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas... well, then Israel would have surprised and saddened me.
So far, at least, it has all shaken out just as I suspected it would; but we have not yet come to the divergence between me and those who opposed the withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank. That will likely come very soon now... that is, if the Palestinians don't cave and give up the soldier -- and if the Israelis don't cave and stand down their army without getting their soldier back.
Everything comes to a head very soon now: as "Larry Sanders" used to say, no flipping!
June 14, 2006
Things Fall Apart; The Terror Cannot Hold
I'm wicked, I know it; I was blighted as a child. But I can barely stifle my guffaws when I read stories like this:
Dozens of Palestinian civil servants stormed a parliamentary session on Wednesday to demand long-overdue salaries, attacking Hamas lawmakers and forcing the parliament speaker to flee the building.
The demonstrators chanted slogans and banged on the door of the building before entering the hall. The angry crowd then pelted Hamas lawmakers with water bottles, tissue boxes and other small items. Some climbed onto the lawmakers' desks. [I had the horrible premonition AP was going to write "climbed onto the lawmakers' laps." -- the Mgt.]
"We are hungry. We are hungry," the protesters screamed.
So now, in addition to a roiling factional war between Hamas and Fatah, the new "government" (that is, terrorist gang) has to worry about rampaging civil servants.
Of course, peace is busting out all over "Palestine":
Tensions between the sides have been rising, with 22 people killed in Palestinian infighting in recent months. Earlier this week, Fatah-allied security men torched the parliament building and Cabinet buildings in Ramallah in a rampage against the Hamas-led government.
Soon the whole of the Palestinian Authority will look like the final scene of the old Twilight Zone episode, "the Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," with the entire population running higgledy-piggledy in every direction, whacking each other with garden implements.
And the Israelis, who set this whole spectacle in motion by withdrawing from Gaza and planning to withdraw from the West Bank, will chuckle quietly. On a hilltop, overlooking the city, Defense Minister Amir Peretz will be seen speaking to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:
Peretz: Then I take it this place... this Ramallah... is not unique.
Olmert: By no means. Their world is full of Ramallahs. And we'll go from one to the other and let them destroy themselves. One to the other... one to the other... one to the other....
June 13, 2006
Gaza Beach Bingo: the Rest of the Story
In our post Provenance, we noted that there was a great deal of question whether the civilians killed on the Gaza beach were hit with an Israeli artillery shell, as the Palestinians and the world elite media all declared. Rather, we suggested, it's entirely possible the real culprit was an errant Qassam rocket -- fired by Hamas terrorists at Israel.
Well, Israel has completed enough of its investigation to have preliminary results... and sad to say, it appears Big Lizards was wrong. It turned out not to be a Qassam rocket after all.
Those civilians were slain by a Palestinian mine.
Yesterday, Israel already knew enough to state with some certainty that the family was not killed by an Israeli artillery shell (a tip of the hat to Right Wing News -- who must have linked us, because we're getting a lot of referrals, and our traffic is sky high!) According to the Jerusalem Post:
[Defense Minister] Amir Peretz said the panel's preliminary findings showed that the Ghalia family was not killed by a shell fired by the IDF ground forces or the IAF. Peretz said that one of six artillery shells fired by the IDF was unaccounted for, but that there was a gap between when the shells were fired and the time the Palestinians said the shells landed.
AP reports that the time gap was at least ten minutes; so unless Israel has a field piece that can fire shells up around the altitude of the Shuttle's orbit, that missing shell didn't come down and blow up the beach.
Associated Press falls all over itself to throw a bone to the Palestinians... but Mark Lavie, who wrote the piece, fails to note that he must contradict himself to do so:
It was not clear how the explosive got there, or whether it might have been an unexploded Israeli shell from an earlier military barrage. Peretz did not address that issue in his remarks. Israel has been claiming that Hamas militants planted a device to set off against Israeli commandos....
According to Israeli findings, shrapnel taken from two wounded Palestinians who were evacuated to Israeli hospitals showed that the fragments were not from the 155-millimeter shells used by Israeli artillery.
Thank heavens for those many layers of editorial cross-checking.
Back to the Jerusalem Post:
Olmert opened the cabinet meeting by expressing Israel's "deep regret" over the incident, and saying that Peretz had set up an investigation....
Olmert, who stressed that he was not apologizing because the facts were not yet clear, said past experience had shown that myths could be created that were divorced from the facts.
He was referring to Muhammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old boy killed [sic; we do not even know that much] during an exchange of fire between the IDF and Palestinians on September 30, 2000. Images of Dura hiding behind his father and then being shot and killed were beamed across the world, with Israel widely blamed for his death until researchers three years later brought ballistic evidence showing that the shots could not have been fired by IDF soldiers.
AP -- as well as Reuters -- also makes tedious reference to the alleged 16-month "truce" that Hamas had declared... until those wicked Jews violated it. Again, we wonder whether the news editors actually read the stories they're supposed to be editing:
The seaside carnage contributed to a sudden spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence. After the beach blast - and Israeli forces' killing of a top Gaza militant - Hamas called off a 16-month cease-fire that had significantly reduced casualties on both sides.
The antique media here uses a special definition of truce (or "cease-fire"), one not found in the commonly accepted dictionaries. As we noted in Provenance, and as the Jerusalem Post noted yesterday,
Regarding Friday's incident, Olmert said it must be made clear that Kassam rockets - designed to maim and kill Israelis - have been fired from the Gaza Strip continuously over the last few weeks.
"This firing is very serious," he said. "It strikes at the fabric of life in communities in southern Israel and threatens peoples' lives... This is an unending series of terrorist attacks designed to strike at civilians."
Needless to say, Hamas has rejected Israel's findings. They express stupifaction that anyone could imagine that an organization born out of suicide bombings of women, children, teenagers, the aged, and innocent civilians of all sorts -- including Moslems -- would ever plant mines to deter "Israeli commandos" in an area used by Palestinian civilians:
"This is a false allegation, and the Israeli occupation state is trying to escape from shouldering its responsibility by accusing Palestinians without evidence or any proof," said Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
"The eyewitnesses and the evidence that we have confirm that the massacre is the result of Israeli shelling, and the allegation about land mines planted by Palestinians is baseless," he said.
Those "eyewitnesses" have extraordinary vision indeed to be able not only to see a shell coming in, but also to know who fired it. Hamas does, after all, have artillery pieces too. Hamas is joined in blaming Israel, regardless of the evidence, by the George-Soros-funded and virulently antisemitic Human Rights Watch. AP quotes a "military expert" who speaks for the organization:
Human Rights Watch military expert Marc Garlask, the first independent analyst to inspect the scene, said he examined the shrapnel on the beach, saw the civilians' injuries and concluded the blast was caused by an Israeli shell. He held open the slim possibility that it was planted there by Palestinian militants, although fragment patterns did not back that.
"Our information certainly supports, I believe, an Israeli shell did come in," he said, ruling out a land mine.
No word on whether he wrote his report on the plane flight to Yasser Arafat International Airport. But it's largely irrelevant; unless Israel arranged for their artillery shells to be manufactured from the shrapnal of Palestinian mines, I think the evidence is in. Since I choose to believe Israeli investigators over a "military expert" from Human Rights Watch -- I admit my bias -- I have to say "case closed."
However, frustrated at the failure of the Israelis to live down to their MSM caricature (and perhaps by the sputtering failure of Fitzmas to come), the elite media has turned with a vengeance on the brutal, callous, and utterly senseless killing by Israel of even more innocent women and children:
An Israeli missile strike on a van in Gaza carrying militants and rockets killed 11 Palestinians, nine of them civilians, on Tuesday in the deadliest such attack in nearly four years.
The air strike signaled that Israel would not flinch from targeting rocket squads in densely populated areas in spite of an outcry over the deaths of seven Palestinians on a Gaza beach on Friday in a blast militants blamed on Israeli shellfire.
"We have been showing restraint due to the international storm caused by the incident on the Gaza beach, but no longer," Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz was quoted by the YNet news Web site as telling reporters in northern Israel....
"The car that we hit was loaded with Katyusha rockets and launchers and they were on their way to launch those Katyusha rockets at Israel," an army spokeswoman said after the attack in the eastern outskirts of Gaza City.
But of course, the important point is that the nine civilian deaths -- evidently, they ran out of their houses to go look at the van, into which the perfidious Zionists were pumping missiles -- included "two children and two medics."
Make of it what you will, but it's clear that when Israel removed the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, it was not an act of surrender or even appeasement. With the area depopulated of everyone but the enemy, Israel can now treat these attacks from Hamas as what they are: acts of war conducted by a foreign power against the nation of Israel.
June 12, 2006
[Dafydd also contributed extensively to this article.]
We often describe a situation where different parties are saying completely different things, and there is no way to tell which is right, as a case of "he said, she said."
But to the antique media, when the "he" in this equation is a Moslem jihadi, then "he said, she said" usually turns into "he said, and that's good enough for us!"
Take the recent attack at the beach in Gaza, where seven (or eight) Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed by... by what? Palestinian spokesmen who were not present at the time insisted it was by an Israeli shell... and that's good enough for the UK Times online:
Israeli artillery fire killed a Palestinian family who were picnicking on the beach in Gaza yesterday, as the shoreline was packed with people on a Muslim holiday.
Body parts, bloodstained baby carriages and shredded holiday tents were left strewn on the sand near Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, after the late- afternoon strike that killed at least seven people, thought to include the parents and children of one family.
They seem awfully certain it was Israeli artillery fire, and not an errant Qassam rocket, that killed the civilians; but why? What is their source for saying so? They never say; in the entire article, not once does the UK Times online tell us how they know it was the Israelis and not Hamas that fired the deadly weapons.
The New York Times weighs in on the same story -- and takes the same line. After all, just because Hamas is a terrorist organization that specializes in killing innocent men, women, and children, wants to see Israelis all driven into the sea, believes Jews are responsible for all the ills afflicting the Palestinian and Arab peoples, and which has lied many times in the past, doesn't mean we can't take their word when they say that they know for certain that the family was killed by Israeli shelling (that's what the Ouija Board said):
Hamas fired at least 15 Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, ending a tattered 16-month truce with Israel, a day after eight Palestinians were killed on a Gaza beach, apparently by an errant Israeli shell.
"Apparently?" What does that mean? Apparent to whom?
Israeli officials said they regretted any casualties among the innocent as Israel tried to stop the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel by shelling the areas from which they were launched. Defense Minister Amir Peretz sent a message expressing regret to Mr. Abbas, who called the incident "a bloody massacre" and declared three days of mourning.
On Friday, the Israeli Army was shelling a target area popular with rocket launchers 400 yards from the beach. The army believes that a shell fell short or that a dud, previously fired, exploded.
The "army" believes? I guess they mean the Israeli Defense Force... but who exactly within the IDF told them that? Where did they get such information? The New York Times is no more willing to reveal a source for unraveling this mystery than their namesake in London was.
Here is a very interesting pair of sentences from the NYT story. Maybe somebody can figure out "what is wrong with this picture":
Hamas fired at least 15 Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, ending a tattered 16-month truce with Israel....
Since the beginning of the year, Palestinians have fired hundreds of largely inaccurate missiles toward Israel, while Israel has fired more than 5,000 shells into Gaza.
That's a very interesting "truce" Hamas has been observing! What did they do, promise to limit the number of missiles fired at Israel to only "dozens of the inaccurate but potentially deadly Qassam rockets each month," as the UK Times put it?
And if the Qassam is so "inaccurate but potentially deadly" -- it has no guidance system at all -- then isn't it at least equally likely that the explosive thing that killed those eight (or seven) Palestinians on the beach was a Qassam, not an Israeli artilly shell gone awry? How do the two Timeses know to such certainty that the family were accidentally killed by Israelis (a "war crime"), rather than accidentally killed by Hamas militants (a tragic error?)
Pounding on the sand, Houda Ghalia shrieked for her father after he was killed with five of her siblings at a seaside picnic by what Palestinians said was an Israeli shell.
Footage of the 10-year-old screaming "Father! Father!" has played over and over again on television, driving home the devastating impact of what Palestinian leaders are calling "genocidal" and "a war crime...."
Israel expressed regret Saturday for the killing of eight civilians, but stopped short of taking responsibility, saying an investigation was under way.
Israel's military chief said the killings may have resulted from a misfired Palestinian rocket. Palestinians insisted they were caused by an Israeli artillery shell.
So maybe the IDF doesn't think that "a shell fell short or that a dud, previously fired, exploded." At least, the part of the IDF that spoke to AP doesn't agree with the part (if any) that spoke to the New York Times. Never let your AP hand know what your Times hand is doing.
And everybody ignores the undisputed fact that previously, someone from Gaza was shooting Qassam rockets into Israel, despite a supposed "cease fire." Isn't that significant in deciding whether something was a "war crime," let alone "genocide?" (Do Palestinians even know what the word "genocide" means? Palestinians, other Arabs, and most Israelis are actually the same "race": Semites.)
As in Rashomon, we can never know for sure whose errant whatever actually fell on the beach and killed those seven or eight civilians. Even if the Israeli investigation shows that whatever fell left Qassam pieces, not artillery pieces, behind, who will believe them? The world would rather believe Hamas terrorists than Jews.
The same thing can be said about the Haditha "massacre." All we have are the words of anti-American "civilians" who may be in cahoots with the terrorists themselves... and a questionable videotape that only proves that somebody died violently somewhere in Iraq more or less around the time of the claimed "massacre." We don't even know whether those bodies in the video go with that incident or some other incident days earlier or later.
The MSM ignores the not so hidden agenda of the "witnesses" and "reporters;" after all, why bother investigating when you have handy Marines to blame?
This battle is being waged with very sophisticated propaganda tools: on Special Report with Brit Hume Friday night, during the "Grapevine" segment, Jim Angle showed a photograph that was run by the London Times, and later picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times. It showed a number of dead Iraqis stacked up against a wall; the victims' hands were all bound behind their backs, and the wall was riddled with machine-gun bullet holes.
The London Times claimed that the photo showed Iraqis murdered by the US Marines in Haditha. Days later (maybe weeks), it was evidently pointed out to them that the photo did not match any of the witness statements about what supposedly had happened -- even from the Iraqis' point of view. The magazine investigated and discovered that the picture they'd run was actually of a group of Shia who were murdered by Sunni terrorists; it had nothing to do with Haditha or with the Marines.
The London Times (and the Chicago Sun-Times) eventually ran a correction and apologized. But that begs the question: how could a supposedly respectable newspaper editor and publisher look at such a photograph and say, "oh yes, that jolly well looks like just the thing the American Marines would do." What would make them think such a thing?
They might say "where there's smoke, there must be fire." But they, themselves are the ones who put all the "smoke" there in the first place. The only reason people keep thinking that US forces engage in massacres is that the elite media keeps saying so; they say so because it's so obvious to them, everyone knows it; and it's so obvious because, after all, look at all those other unsubstantiated stories of massacres in other newspapers.
It's the most circular of all circular arguments.
But finally, our side is speaking up.
A sergeant who led a squad of U.S. Marines accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha told his lawyer the unit did not intentionally target civilians, followed rules of engagement and did not try to cover up the incident, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The newspaper said Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 26, told his lawyer several civilians were killed in November when the squad went after insurgents firing on them from a house. But Wuterich said there was no vengeful massacre and described a house-to-house hunt that went awry in a chaotic battlefield, his lawyer said.
"It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines," said Neal Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the investigations of the deaths.
"He's really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians," he said.
I am not saying we should blindly believe what SSGT Frank Wuterich says. But we should understand it is still "he said, he said" -- not "he said, and that's good enough for the Times."
I will refrain from expressing my own opinion as to whom I would believe. We should wait for the investigation to be completed... in both incidents.
May 10, 2006
Playing "Dangle the Funding"
Well, the Europeans fooled me: they turned out to be right. But heck, it was a mistake anyone could make.
It turns out they really were close to getting the United States to agree to a compromise aid package to prop up the doddering terrorist state in Gaza and the West Bank. It's not as much as many on the left hoped for (that is, the U.S. and Israel agreeing to finance Hamas' war against both of them), but it will keep a completely dysfunctional government operating when by rights it should sink into chaos and collapse.
I can't ferret out just how much we're going to have to pay to support the civil servants of Hamasistan; Reuters reports only the total required monthly charity bill without breaking it down by donor:
The powers agreed that aid payments would be resumed for a three-month trial period, through a "transparent" mechanism that has yet to be worked out but may involve the World Bank.
It is expected that salaries to the Palestinian Authority's 165,000 employees, unpaid since March, will be settled. The monthly wage bill totals around $150 million.
"If you need a hospital to be run, and someone has to be paid, he will be paid," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after the initiative was announced.
That salary works out to about $11,000 per year per employee... quite a tidy sum in the Palestinian Authority. Not surprisingly, the patronage jobs that Hamas hands out allow their friends and jihadi supporters to live distinctly nicer lives than the ordinary people who elected them.
Oh, and I love this:
The Hamas-led government said it appreciated the Quartet's efforts to ease the burden on the Palestinian people but added that they could have gone further.
I knew we could always rely upon Palestinian gratitude.
So how does the United States justify supporting the government of Hamas?
The decision would appear to reflect a view held by U.N. officials that payment of salaries amounts to humanitarian support for the largely impoverished Palestinian population. Humanitarian support was never intended to be cut off.
Yeah... and if you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?
The Mideast Quartet, singing a capella, belts out a series of demand that Hamas must fulfill in order to get what they've already gotten:
Western powers have called on Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by existing peace agreements if it wants contacts to resume, but Hamas signaled on Wednesday that it was no closer to accepting those demands.
Now, there's a shock. So what will happen in three months if Hamas is still "no closer to accepting those demands?" I would like to think this really is a test... and in any test, there is the possibility of failure -- and consequences for failing.
We'll see. But at the moment, I'm skeptical. Business as usual, nothing has changed. Or to put it in terms that the EU might understand, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
May 9, 2006
Playing "Hide the Funding"
An interesting dynamic has developed in the "Mideast Quartet" (the United States, the U.N., the European Union, and Russia) debating Western response to the victory of terrorist group Hamas in the Palestinian elections: America vs. Everybody Else.
This is hardly original; this is, in fact, the usual position in which we find ourselves. And I don't even think the odds are unfair (which is too bad; I would prefer to see the odds very unfairly stacked against Hamas).
The current tussle is about whether the West should fund "the Palestinians," by which they mean the terrorist group Hamas, which won a majority of the parliament of the Palestinian Authority in January of this year. The U.S. position -- that they should be cut off so that they collapse -- should be a no-brainer; why give money to people who pledge to use it to pay for more suicide bombings of their neighbors? But evidently, Europe (including Russia) is much exercised about the dreadful possibility that the terrorist government might not survive a year:
The group of international mediators -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- first heard gloomy scenarios from foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and then headed into private talks to discuss proposals to ease the crisis.
"It is a difficult situation but I want to say that we are not going to let the Palestinians starve," said the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana after talks with the Arab ministers.
Translation for the diplospeak-challenged: "Even if Hamas spends every dime of its money on terrorist weaponry to attack Israel, the EU wants to pick up the slack, so that the Palestinian people will not suffer for their own dreadful miscalculation."
Worse, non-Americans at the conference are now retailing the rumor that the United States is coming round to their point of view:
A Western diplomatic source close to the discussions said the United States was edging closer to agreeing to a "temporary international mechanism" to channel money to pay employees of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority who have not been paid for the past two months.
"America is softening its position. The Arab foreign ministers made very clear if the Palestinian Authority collapses then you could potentially have a civil war," said the source, who asked not to be named as negotiations were at a delicate stage.
Good heavens, we can't have that! A wave of suicide bombings in Jerusalem, sure; the organized murders of women and children sleeping peacefully in their beds on the farms they built, no problem; incessant cross-border rocket attacks against Israeli Jews (and Moslems)... well whoever gave Israel the right to exist in the first place? (The U.N., actually. Though they quickly changed their minds when they suddenly realized that the "Zionists" were Jews.)
But Allah forbid that the Palestinians, who tossed out King Log for King Stork, end up suffering a civil war (Stork against Log: Fatah vs. Hamas in a steel-cage death match -- loser leaves town!) or any other adverse effects of their own stupidity and genocidal evil. That would shock the conscience of the world.
I think we can bet that if Reuters' source had been American, they would not have described him, her, or it (Reuters says it's a "he") as "a Western diplomatic source." So it's probably some European assuring the world that America is on the verge of capitulation. To be taken with several boxes of salt.
His credibility is further eroded by a contradiction within the article itself. The Americans actually quoted don't seem very close to such agreement at all:
The United States has taken the toughest line against Hamas since it won January elections and made clear on Tuesday that Hamas was to blame for all of its current financial problems.
"Any failure of Hamas to deliver on those needs is that of Hamas alone," said a senior State Department official.
The official said the U.S. would make clear in meetings that Hamas had to "fix the problems" and it could start off by meeting the demands of the international community, which include recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and signing on to previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.
Unless our negotiators are freelancing and ignoring clear instructions from Washington -- which will ultimately have to approve or reject a deal in any event, so defiance is futile -- they're sticking with the original plan: until and unless Hamas ceases being a terrorist organization, we're not going to fund them.
This is one of Reuters' infamous "non-story" stories: they don't really have anything beyond a vague sense of hope that eventually, America will cave. They have no American sources saying we're going to relent and start propping up Hamas, the way we propped up Mahmoud Abbas (and Yassir Arafat before him)... even the headline hedges: US may soften stand on Palestinian aid... and then again, maybe they won't. Who knows? Reuters sure doesn't!
Of course, if all that the "Western diplomatic source" means is that we don't want to see women and children starve to death, I'm sure something can be worked out. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is already spending millions to pay for "medical supplies and equipment for the Palestinians," and perhaps this could be expanded to pay for MREs for the civilians... Big Lizards suggests Moslem kosher meals, clearly marked in Arabic "You are being kept alive courtesy of the United States of America; ask your own government why."
I'm not happy that the medical supplies are being distributed by the U.N., because I think that body is perfectly capable of selling them instead on the black market, keeping half the proceeds, and sending the rest to Ismail Haniya for "martyrdom operations." But I suppose there's no alternative, other than to let disease pandemics run wild through the territories (which is not exactly healthy for neighboring countries, including Israel).
And there likely is no alternative but to let the U.N. distribute the MREs: mass starvation has, as an inevitable consequence, masses of desperate refugees streaming out of the "country" by the hundreds of thousands, which would be an absolute nightmare for security. But beyond food and medicine, there is nothing in the article quoting any American source agreeing with the EU that Hamas should be propped up, so they can continue their jihad against the Jews. The best they can offer is a tepid "We are encouraged and we are working on it" from an EU spokeswoman.
(By the way, you notice I keep writing "Hamas against the Jews," rather than "Hamas against Israel;" that is because their own charter makes it quite clear what really offends them. From the introduction to Hamas's Covenant:
This Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), clarifies its picture, reveals its identity, outlines its stand, explains its aims, speaks about its hopes, and calls for its support, adoption and joining its ranks. Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realised.
It's refreshing to read such clarity and honesty after struggling through the dissembling of the Europeans. It is also encouraging to read this blunt warning from the World Bank:
The World Bank warned on Monday the Palestinian Authority could face a breakdown in law and order and basic services unless foreign donors step in to pay the salaries of about 165,000 civil servants.
Translation for the antique-media challenged: "The plan is working splendidly. Keep it up!"
March 7, 2006
Hamas Makes Abbas Dance Naked On the Sand
In the long-running battle between the terrorist group Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction, and the terrorist group Fatah, which only calls for Israel's destruction in Arabic, we all know that Hamas just gained some "hand" by winning an absolute majority in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. However, Fatah left a legacy in the form of a supercharged President Mahmoud Abbas.
Now, Hamas has just voted to strip Abbas of his new authority to nullify laws passed by parliament, which the outgoing party bestowed just before they outwent. This in a world where such vulnerability swiftly leads to death -- metaphorically, in most cases; literally in some.
Abbas's term of office does not expire until January, 2009 (or until he does); with the new authority, Fatah hoped to restrain Hamas and somehow claw their way back into control by, one imagines, thwarting every Hamas initiative that might succeed where Fatah failed. Thus, Fatah could prevent invidious comparisions of their own ineptitude at governing the Palestinians with Hamas's efficiency in getting Israel to wipe them all out.
But of course, Abbas's best new toy is the power to nullify any parliamentary law... including the very law that would strip him of that power!
Hamas easily passed legislation to rescind Abbas' new powers, but some experts said Abbas has the authority to cancel Monday's resolution, perpetuating the standoff.
In a statement, Fatah complained the Hamas action "undermines the basis of dialogue and partnership in any institution with Hamas." A Fatah legislator said Monday's decisions would be appealed to the Palestinian Supreme Court.
Someone should alert the Hague, Belgium, and Jimmy Carter, while the Palestinian Supreme Court still has a chance to accept amicus curiae briefs. Already, this whole kafuffle has produced the best witticism uttered by any terrorist in the past thirty-five years:
Hamas lawmaker Mushir Masri ridiculed the Fatah reaction. "It is obvious that some people until now have not understood the rules of the democratic game," he said.
Meanwhile, back at the kibbutz, Israeli security officers are developing a plan to completely cut off the Palestinian Authority from all the enabling charity supplied by Israel -- not just tax money that "belongs" to the PA (according to accords that the PA has never obeyed) but also infrastructure that is simply missing from terrorist-controlled territory:
The "unilateral action" reference came as Israeli security officials outlined plans for Israel to cut itself off further from the Gaza Strip, after the summer withdrawal of soldiers and settlers.
The officials said Israel should gradually reduce and then ban Palestinian workers from Gaza entering Israel, cut off power, fuel and water supplies and allow the Palestinians to open a seaport and airport, eliminating Gaza imports and exports through Israel.
What will Hamas control then? Some empty streets, some empty buildings, and a lot of poor, wretched, starving people cursing the Jews for not supplying them with the necessities of life -- so they can rise up and drive the hand that feeds them into the sea (apologies for any mixed metaphors).
We shall watch Hamas's future career with great interest. In the meantime, at least the Associated Press knows what the real story here is, and the top of the article gets right to the bottom of it:
Hamas headed into a full-blown confrontation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, voting to strip him of powers he was hastily awarded by his Fatah Party in the last session of the outgoing parliament.
In Gaza City, an Israeli missile strike killed two Islamic Jihad militants and three bystanders, including two young boys.
That's all right; we'll always have Paris.
January 27, 2006
Very quick predictions. No long explanations.
- Hamas will discover that having a thing is not so fine after all as wanting a thing. They are woefully unprepared actually to run a country -- or even the pseudo-kleptocracy of the Palestinian Authority -- and the PA will fairly quickly collapse into chaos... civil war between Hamas and Fatah, or worse: the Hobbesian war of all against all. The government will formally fall.
- The Palestinian economy will shatter.
- After a bloody few months, out of sheer necessity, a third party will arise, a professional political class. They will likely be ideologically fairly neutral -- sort of a Palestinian version of Kadima, call it Padima -- whose sole platform will be competence at the actual mechanics of governance.
- New elections will be called, and Padima will win a sweeping victory over both Hamas and Fatah.
- Hamas and Fatah will fade into complete political irrelevance, though they will still have armed factions (they'll end like Muqtada Sadr and his Mighty al-Mahdi Army).
- Padima will have significant success at restarting the economy; all it will take will be an infusion of a bit of real Capitalism, rather than Arafatist corruption and Hamasian Islamism.
- Eventually, one or two more real parties will split out from Padima, the way parties split out of the Federalists in the early 1800s here. These parties will be pragmatic politicians with somewhat differing ideologies... but the ideological differences will be akin to those between Likud and Labor, or the Conservatives and the Liberals, rather than murderous warfar as between Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, PIJ, and the PFLP. Then and only then will Palestine become an actual functioning democrazy.
I expect this process to take some time, but we will all live to see it. (Except those of you who choose to die abruptly in the next few years. But I can't help that!)
January 26, 2006
On Those Dadburned Elections In Arafatistan
As long-term Lizardites know, although I'm a big fan of Netanyahu, I completely support the Sharon plan of disengagement from the Palestinians by withdrawing settlements from Gaza and the West Bank.
The typical argument people make supporting the position of the incapacitated Ariel Sharon and his uncertain party Kadima is that by withdrawing from the occupied territories, the Palestinians will be mollified by the gesture and will reciprocate with peace and love and brotherhood. In fact, I utterly reject this argument -- I support the policy for other reasons discussed below -- and I have dismissed this wishful thinking ever since I first discussed the situation in Crystal Gaza on Captain's Quarters, back in August, 2005.
With Hamas's landslide victory yesterday in the Palestinian elections, my prediction -- that following withdrawal, Israel will have a freer hand for military response -- may finally be tested. In fact, the victory of Hamas is more complete than the victory of Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party Canada... Hamas won an absolute majority in the Palestinian parliament and will completely control the Palestinan Authority. As they insist they will maintain the party plank to destroy Israel, and they will not disband the military wing of Hamas, they have one of two choices:
- They can be hypocrites, calling for Israel's destruction but steadfastly refusing to do anything that Israel could take as casus belli; or,
- They can be honest, launch an attack on Israel, and be utterly crushed in the ensuing debacle.
Note that Mahmoud Abbas remains the elected president of the PA, having been separately elected last January, and will presumably remain so until the expiration of his term, whenever that is. (History is encouraging for Abbas, as the previous president's term in office appeared to be eternal... at least he himself met his own expiry date.) Abbas does become largely powerless and irrelevant with this election, and he might resign. Who knows?
I'm not surprised by this result; I was actually quite startled yesterday, when all the newsies were claiming that Fatah had won a narrow victory over Hamas, as that seemed highly unlikely. Today's clarification makes far more sense than yesterday's equivocation. In fact, my theory of the Middle East is better served by a Hamas victory in this election than the continued charade of the "peace process."
The existence of an alleged "road map to peace" (President Bush's biggest foreign-policy blind spot) drove the Israelis into continued negotiation and interaction with the Palestinian Arabs (nearly all Moslem). Because the Palestinians have the equivalent of a psychic allergy to Jews, blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in their lives and history, the continued forced intimacy of negotiations, checkpoints, patrols, and settlers kept the Palestinians in a state of continual hysteria and incipient panic. Imagine if Republicans exuded a pheromone that automatically tripled the level of adrenaline in nearly every Democrat they met, causing a perpetual anxiety attack. (Oh, wait -- we don't need to imagine that.)
In such a case, the only possible solution is complete and total disengagement: the Israeli settlers should remove themselves from the occupied territories -- and the Democrats should remove themselves from the United States (I would suggest Madagascar, but it may sound a bit too much like "NASCAR" for their comfort.) So disengagement in the Middle East serves a double purpose: it removes the Jews from the sight of panicked, irrational Arab Moslems, and it also clears the decks for a massive Israeli response in the event of an attack... which is actually very likely now.
I don't know Dennis Prager's reaction to this vote, but I would suspect he at least appreciates the "clarity" (his favorite word), and that is my position, too. Fatah was every bit as terrorist as Hamas in its means and every bit as genocidal in its goals; it simply wore a mask of humanity, pretending to support freedom, liberty, and tolerance. Hamas is more open but otherwise indistinguishable from Fatah.
...Except in one other particular: because of their openness, Hamas may well be driven by the excess of its own rhetoric to formally declare war on Israel, or else to launch a naked attack across the border -- not simply sponsoring suicidal murderers in Netanya or Tel Aviv, but actual masses of Hamas militants charging into Israel, à la 1948, 1967, and 1973. At which point, the legitimate purpose behind disengagement will be manifest: without thousands of hostages behind enemy lines, Israel will be able to respond as any sovereign nation would to invasion from another, without let or hinderance.
If Hamas has a sudden "road to Damascus" conversion and decides it loves life more than it hates the Jews, wonderful. But if they follow true to form, follow the will of the Palestinian people -- a "will" they have put there themselves through relentless propaganda -- and believe their own PR about Allah drawing his sword and fighting alongside the Hamas warriors to exterminate the Jews (in revenge for the Jews being the first to reject Mohammed as the final prophet), they will actually launch a war... and Israel will swiftly and convincingly pound them into little bits.
If the mullahs of Teheran are mad enough to join with them, they too will be defeated... and this would also give unassailable cover for Israel and the United States jointly to strike at Iran's nuclear power facilities and at the mullahs themselves.
Then -- and possibly only then, alas -- will real peace become possible... at least for ten or twelve years. Until the madness once again strikes the Palestinians, and we must go through the whole belly-dance of a "peace process," followed by a war process, followed by another temporary peace.
Wilhelm Reich famously dissected the Mass Psychology of Fascism; I wonder if he ever considered the Mass Bipolar Disorder of the Moslems?
Regardless, as Sachi often says, the absence of open war is not the same as peace. And sometimes, you just have to roll the dice.
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