Saturday, October 17, 2009

Civil Fights: Mahmoud Abbas's new rules of diplomacy.


by Evelyn Gordon

With so much attention understandably focused on the Palestinian Authority's efforts to get Israel prosecuted for so-called "war crimes" in Gaza, the other obstacle to renewed peace talks is receiving less scrutiny than it deserves.

The PA's demand that talks with Binyamin Netanyahu resume from where they broke off under his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, is nothing less than a demand to completely rewrite the principles of diplomacy. Were it accepted, countries would no longer be bound only by signed agreements. Instead, they would be bound by any offer ever made during negotiations, even if the offer were rejected by the other party.

A brief recap: In September 2008, when he had already resigned as prime minister but not yet left office, Olmert made PA chairman Mahmoud Abbasa far-reaching offer. The offer, which Olmert and his advisors later detailed to various media outlets, and which Abbas confirmed to The Washington Post, gave the Palestinians even more than the 1996 Clinton plan, long considered the blueprint for any agreement. It included an Israeli withdrawal from 94 percent of the West Bank, with territorial swaps to compensate for the remainder; international control over Jerusalem's holy sites, with Muslim countries holding three of the governing body's five seats; and a symbolic absorption by Israel of some 5,000 Palestinian refugees. It was backed by a detailed map of the proposed border.

According to Israeli reports, Abbas wanted a copy of the map, and Olmert replied, "if you sign it, you can have it." Abbas requested a day to think it over and promised to return for another meeting the next day.

But Abbas never returned; he never even called. Olmert remained in office for another six months, but throughout that time he heard nothing from Abbas. In February, he made one final effort, using US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as an intermediary, but to no avail.

Only in May 2009 did he finally learn - via Abbas's Washington Post interview - what the PA chairman thought of his offer: He rejected it, Abbas told the paper, because "the gaps were wide."

Now, Abbas is demanding that the offer he rejected become the starting point for future negotiations. "There were maps prepared by both sides and proposals for territorial swaps, so we can't go back to square one," he told the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat last month. He has reiterated this position in discussions with American officials, vowing not to resume the talks unless it is accepted. In short, he is demanding that Israel be bound not by signed agreements, but by an offer to which he never even deigned to respond.

Nor is he alone in this demand. Just last week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told his country's Armed Forces paper that it would be "unreasonable and unacceptable" for talks not to begin where they left off, while Jordan's King Abdullah II made similar comments to Haaretz.

WERE THIS position actually accepted, the consequences for all diplomacy, worldwide, would be devastating.

First, if negotiators fear that offered concessions will bind their governments even if no agreement is reached, they will be loath to offer such concessions, making it impossible ever to conclude any agreement. After all, no country wants to forfeit negotiating assets without receiving anything in exchange. Yet that is the meaning of Abbas's demand: Once a concession is offered, it remains on the table even if the other side offers nothing in exchange, and can thus no longer be traded for reciprocal concessions.

Second, this eliminates a crucial tool that all negotiators and mediators use in trying to close deals: the threat that an offered concession will no longer be available tomorrow, so it is in the other party's interest to say yes today. Under the Abbas principle, any concession, once offered, would always be available, so saying yes is contrary to the other party's interest: It is better off waiting to see what additional concessions might be forthcoming.

But beyond its consequences for diplomacy, this principle would also destroy a fundamental democratic right: the public's right to replace a government whose policies it opposes. A decisive majority of Israelis voted for parties opposed to Olmert's concessions precisely because they deemed his offer reckless. But should Abbas's demand be accepted, the policy Israel's majority rejected would nevertheless remain in force. In other words, voters would no longer have the right to change their country's foreign policy; they would be limited to replacing the personnel administering this policy.

Granted, all democracies accept such limits in one particular case: Signed, ratified agreements - which require parliamentary or popular approval and apply to both sides - obligate subsequent governments regardless of those governments' views. But under the Abbas principle, any lone negotiator - even one who, like Olmert, had already been so repudiated that his own government compelled him to resign - would have the power to bind his country's future governments while imposing no reciprocal obligations on his interlocutors, merely by offering a concession that the other side rejected.

Acceding to Abbas's demand would obviously sound the death knell for the peace process. Not only can Netanyahu's government not accept some of Olmert's concessions, but it would be deterred from offering any concessions of its own by the knowledge that these would be deemed binding even were no agreement reached. And Abbas would have no incentive to sign anything if he could instead keep pocketing concessions without offering anything in exchange.

For this reason alone, one would have expected the West to unceremoniously reject this condition. Astoundingly, however, neither the US nor the European Union has yet done so publicly, nor is there any indication that they have even done so privately.

Their silence becomes even more incomprehensible when one considers the destructive implications of this principle for both democracy and diplomacy in general. It would be a pity if brand-new Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama, who won precisely for striving "to strengthen international diplomacy" by preferring "dialogue and negotiations" as the means of resolving international conflicts should be the very person to render those tools utterly ineffective.

 

Evelyn Gordon
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Friday, October 16, 2009

How Turkey was lost.

 

by Caroline B. Glick

Turkey's decision to betray the West holds general lessons for Israel and for the free world as a whole. These lessons should be learned and applied moving forward not only to Turkey, but to a whole host of regimes and sub-national groups in the region and throughout the world

Once the apotheosis of a pro-Western, dependable Muslim democracy, this week Turkey officially left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.

It isn't that Turkey's behavior changed fundamentally in recent days. There is nothing new in its massive hostility towards Israel and its effusive solicitousness towards the likes of Syria and Hamas. Since the Islamist AKP party first won control over the Turkish government in the 2002 elections, led by AKP chairman Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the Turks have incrementally and inexorably moved the formerly pro-Western Muslim democracy into the radical Islamist camp populated by the likes of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, al Qaida and Hamas. What made Turkey's behavior this week different from its behavior in recent months and years is that its attacks were concentrated, unequivocal and undeniable for everyone outside of Israel's scandalously imbecilic and flagellant media.

Until this week, both Israel and the US were quick to make excuses for Ankara. When in 2003 the AKP-dominated Turkish parliament prohibited US forces from invading Iraq through Kurdistan, the US blamed itself. Rather than get angry at Turkey, the Bush administration argued that its senior officials had played the diplomatic game poorly.

In February 2006, when Erdogan became the first international figure to host Hamas leaders on an official state visit after the jihadist group won the Palestinian elections, Jerusalem sought to explain away his diplomatic aggression. Israeli leaders claimed that Erdogan's red carpet treatment for mass murderers who seek the physical destruction of Israel was not due to any inherent hostility on the part of the AKP regime towards Israel. Rather, it was argued that Ankara simply supported democracy and that the AKP, as a formerly outlawed Islamist party, felt an affinity towards Hamas as a Muslim underdog.

Jerusalem made similar excuses for Ankara when during the 2006 war with Hizbullah Turkey turned a blind eye to Iranian weapons convoys to Lebanon that traversed Turkey; when Turkey sided with Hamas against Israel during Operation Cast Lead, and called among other things for Israel to be expelled from the UN; and when Erdogan caused a diplomatic incident this past January by castigating President Shimon Peres during a joint appearance at the Davos conference. So too, Turkey's open support for Iran's nuclear weapons program and its galloping trade with Teheran and Damascus, as well as its embrace of al Qaida financiers have elicited nothing more than grumbles from Israel and America.

Initially, this week Israel sought to continue its policy of making excuses for Turkish aggression against it. On Sunday, after Turkey disinvited the IAF from the Anatolian Eagle joint air exercise with Turkey, and NATO, senior officials like Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Opposition leader Tzipi Livni tried to make light of the incident claiming that Turkey remains Israel's strategic ally.

But Turkey wasted no time in making fools of them. On Monday eleven Turkish government ministers descended on Syria to sign a pile of cooperation agreements with Iran's Arab lackey. The Foreign Ministry didn't even have a chance to write apologetic talking points explaining that brazen move before Syria announced it was entering a military alliance with Turkey and would be holding a joint military exercise with the Turkish military. Speechless in the wake of Turkey's move to hold military maneuvers with its enemy just two days after it cancelled joint training with Israel, Jerusalem could think of no mitigating explanation for the move.

Tuesday was characterized by escalating verbal assaults on the Jewish state. First Erdogan renewed his libelous allegations that Israel deliberately killed children in Gaza. Then he called on Turks to learn how to make money like Jews do.

Erdogan's anti-Israel and anti-Semitic blows were followed Tuesday evening by Turkey's government-controlled TRT1 television network's launch of a new prime-time series portraying IDF forces as baby and little girl killers who force Palestinian women to deliver stillborn babies at roadblocks and line up groups of Palestinians against walls to execute them by firing squad.

The TRT1 broadcast forced Israel's hand. Late Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry announced it was launching an official protest with the Turkish embassy. Unfortunately, it was unclear who would be coming to the Foreign Ministry to receive the demarche since Turkey hasn't had an ambassador in Israel for three weeks.

Turkey's break with the West; its decisive rupture with Israel and its opposition to the US in Iraq and Iran was predictable. Militant Islam of the AKP variety has been enjoying growing popularity and support throughout Turkey for many years. The endemic corruption of Turkey's traditional secular leaders increased the Islamists' popularity. Given this domestic Turkish reality, it is possible that Erdogan and his fellow Islamists' rise to power was simply a matter of time.

But even if the AKP's rise to power was eminently predictable, its ability to consolidate its control over just about every organ of governance in Turkey as well as what was once a thriving free press, and change completely Turkey's strategic posture in just seven years was far from inevitable. For these accomplishments the AKP owes a debt of gratitude to both the Bush and Obama administrations as well as to the EU.

The Bush administration ignored the warnings of secular Turkish leaders in the country's media, military and diplomatic corps that Erdogan was a wolf in sheep's clothing. Rather than pay attention to his past attempts to undermine Turkey's secular, pro-Western character and treat him with a modicum of suspicion, after the AKP electoral victory in 2002 the Bush administration upheld the AKP and Erdogan as paragons of Islamist moderation and proof positive that the US and the West have no problem with political Islam. Erdogan's softly peddled but remorselessly consolidated Islamism was embraced by senior American officials intent on reducing democracy to a synonym for elections rather than acknowledging that democracy is only meaningful as a system of laws and practices that engender liberal egalitarianism.

In a very real sense, the Bush administration's willingness to be taken in by Erdogan paved the way for its decision in 2005 to pressure Israel to allow Hamas to participate in the Palestinian elections and to coerce Egypt into allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in its parliamentary poll.

In Turkey itself, the administration's enthusiastic embrace of the AKP meant that Erdogan encountered no Western opposition to his moves to end press freedom in Turkey; purge the Turkish military of its secular leaders and end its constitutional mandate to preserve Turkey's secular character; intimidate and disenfranchise secular business leaders and diplomats; and stack the Turkish courts with Islamists. That is, in the name of its support for its water downed definition of democracy, the US facilitated Erdogan's subversion of all the Turkish institutions that enabled liberal norms to be maintained and kept Turkey in the Western alliance.

As for the Obama administration, since entering office in January it has abandoned US support for democracy activists throughout the world in favor of a policy of pure appeasement of US adversaries at the expense of US allies. In keeping with this policy, President Barack Obama paid a preening visit to Ankara where he effectively endorsed the Islamization of Turkish foreign policy that has moved the NATO member into the arms of Teheran's mullahs. Taken together, the actions the Bush and Obama White Houses have demoralized Westernized Turks who now believe that their country is doomed to descend into the depths of Islamist extremism. As many see it, if they wish to remain in Turkey, their only recourse is to join the Islamist camp and add their voices to the rising chorus of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism sweeping the country.

Then there is the EU. For years Brussels has been stringing Turkey along promising that if it enacts sufficient human rights reforms, the 80-million strong Muslim country will be permitted to join Europe. But far from inducing more liberal behavior on the part of Turkey, those supposedly enlightened reforms have paved the way for the Islamist ascendance in the country. By forcing Turkey to curb its military's role as the guarantor of Turkish secularism, the EU took away the secularists last line of defense against the rising tide of the AKP. By forcing Turkey to treat its political prisoners humanely and cancel the death penalty, the EU eroded the secularists' moral claim to leadership and weakened their ability to effectively combat both Kurdish and Islamist terror.

At the same time, by consistently refusing to permit Turkey to join the EU, despite Ankara's moves to placate its political correctness, Brussels discredited still further Turkey's secularists. When after all their self-defeating and self-abasing reforms, Europe still rejected them, the Turks needed to find a way to restore their wounded honor. The most natural means of doing so was for the Turks writ large to simply turn their backs on Europe and move towards their Muslim brethren.

For its part, as the lone Jewish state that belongs to no alliance, Israel had no ability to shape internal developments in Turkey. But still, Turkey's decision to betray the West holds general lessons for Israel and for the free world as a whole. These lessons should be learned and applied moving forward not only to Turkey, but to a whole host of regimes and sub-national groups in the region and throughout the world.

In the first instance it is crucial for policymakers to recognize that change is the only permanent feature of the human condition. A country's presence in the Western camp today is no guarantee that it will remain there in the future. Whether a regime is democratic or authoritarian or somewhere in the middle, domestic conditions and trends play major roles in determining its strategic posture over time. This is just as true for Turkey as it is for the US, for Iran as it is for Sweden and Egypt.

The loss of Turkey shows that countries can and do change. The best way to influence that change is to remain true to ones friends even if those friends are imperfect. Only by strengthening those that share one's country's norms and interests - rather than its procedures and rhetoric - can governments exert constructive influence on internal changes in other states and societies.

Moreover, it is only by being willing to recognize what makes an ally an ally and an adversary an adversary that the West will adopt policies that leave it more secure in the long run. A military-controlled Turkish democracy that barred Islamists from political power was more desirable than a popularly elected AKP regime that has moved Turkey into the Iranian axis. So too, a corrupt Western-dependent regime in Afghanistan is more desirable than a Taliban-al Qaida terror state. Likewise an unstable, weakened mullocracy in Iran challenged by a well-funded, liberal opposition is preferable to a strong, stable mullocracy that has successfully repressed its internationally isolated liberal rivals.

Turkey is lost and we'd better make our peace with this devastating fact. But if we learn its lessons, we can craft policies that check the dangers that Turkey projects and prepare for the day when Turkey may decide that it wishes to return to the Western fold.

 

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Guilty without a trial.

 

by Moshe Dann

 

Agree with it or not, the Goldstone Report has set new parameters for future conflicts between Israel and Arab terror organizations and armies. And, as long as those parameters are used, Israel will be condemned. But neither Goldstone nor the UNHRC established them; that was done by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 

Based on what the ICRC calls International Humanitarian Law, the assumption of Goldstone's Report is that a clear differentiation was not made between civilian and military targets; even when the civilian population is sympathetic to and involved with the enemy and is used, willingly or not, as shields, the IDF has no right to attack.

 

According to the ICRC, Article 51 of the UN Charter does not allow Israel to act in self-defense against terrorists because "they are not a state but organized individuals among the population it occupies." Terrorists, according to this interpretation, may be "criminals – (but) not military targets," unless they are directly engaged in carrying out a terrorist act at the time; if not, they should be arrested and are entitled to due process in courts of law.

 

Such a position is obviously absurd in reality. In the context of modern urban warfare, terrorists deliberately imbed themselves within civilian populations in order to take advantage of humanitarian concerns.

 

Following these restrictions would endanger the lives of soldiers in favor of protecting the "rights" of terrorists. Yet the ICRC has determined the law and the UN uses this to condemn Israel, regardless of what caused the conflict, or the danger posed by terrorists.

 

This bias is explicit in the latest ICRC/Red Crescent Magazine (January, 2009) which contains an article entitled "Gaza, civilians in the firing line." Highlighting the suffering of Gaza residents, with graphic pictures, the article does not mention the cause of the conflict - years of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. It suggests that Israel deliberately targeted civilians and civilian targets.

 

Using statistics supplied by Hamas, the article notes, "1,380 people have been killed and 5,640 wounded... a particularly high proportion of the victims were women and children."

 

As in the Goldstone Report, no attempt was made to determine how many of the casualties were terrorists, or how many were killed or injured by Hamas; nor, in citing the destruction of thousands of homes and other buildings, how many were blown up by booby-traps, or were used by Hamas as military positions.

 

 

Rules only applicable to Israel

The ICRC also charged that "there was a lack of respect for (Red Crescent) medical teams." ("One volunteer was killed and six medical workers were injured.") There was no explanation of the circumstances, their identities, or efforts by IDF medical teams to help those in need. Nor is any proof offered for these charges.

 

To appreciate the impact of the ICRC's position and involvement in the conflict between Israel and Arab "Palestinians," one must understand that the ICRC is not just another NGO; it is the official "guardian" of the Geneva Convention. That means, for many, their word is law. Perceived as impartial, neutral and authoritative, their decisions are cited in international courts.

 

Following ICRC's rulings and interpretations, the UNHRC mandate, and using Hamas' propaganda, Goldstone concluded that Israel was guilty of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." That, however, was already decided in Geneva.

 

The IDF's use of overwhelming firepower against Hamas was justified militarily, to save soldiers' lives and to eliminate terrorists; but, even with extensive aerial documentation, there is no way of proving that the destruction of what appear to be civilian targets was necessary, thus creating a moral and humanitarian dilemma.

 

Moreover, these rules seem applicable only to Israel. There is little or no appreciation of Arab "Palestinian" terrorism as the context. Nor has the UN applied these rules to other conflicts, for example, in Sri Lanka, to protect the Tamils, the allied bombing of civilian targets in Belgrade, or anti-terrorist actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in which civilians are killed.

 

Israel, and Jews are held to a different standard, and that message needs to be exposed as bigotry. The IDF is the most moral army in the world; Israel is fighting for its life; we have no choice. But these valid assertions don't stand up to criticism like that in Goldstone's Report because the conflict isn't about who is right, but by who is fighting whom.

 

Arab terrorists will always be portrayed as victims, "freedom fighters," "militants," and "activists." The challenge for Israel is to present the conflict in such a way that Arabs are on the defensive. That can't be done, however, as long as the ICRC sets the rules, finding Israel guilty before anything happens.

 

As long as Israel accepts the ICRC as the final arbiter, it will lose the PR battle. Goldstone's Report is an example of this inevitability.

 

 

Moshe Dann, a former assistant professor of History, is a writer and journalist.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Mahmoud Abbas as Peace Partner? Dictators vs. "The Street".


by Khaled Abu Toameh

The US Administration has resumed its efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell is back in the region in yet another bid to persuade the two parties to revive the peace process.

But the question that needs to be asked these days is: Is there really a strong, credible and reliable partner on the Palestinian side for any deal? Or, in simple terms, can Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian deliver?

The answer obviously is no.

Even if Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas were to sign a peace agreement tomorrow morning, it is highly unlikely that the Palestinian president would be able to sell it to his people.

Abbas's credibility has been severely damaged as a result of the manner in which he handled a resolution that was supposed to be brought before the UN Human Rights Council regarding the findings of the Richard Goldstone report into Operation Cast Lead.

Palestinians were hoping that the resolution, which accuses both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the war, would be endorsed by the Council.

Abbas, however, shocked many Palestinians by ordering his representative at the UN, Ibrahim Khraishi, to set aside the resolution.

Abbas has since been facing an unprecedented wave of denunciations and allegations of high treason from many Palestinians and Arabs. Even some of his loyalists are now calling for his resignation on the pretext that he cannot be trusted to negotiate peace with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

The street protests that erupted in the Palestinian territories and Arab capitals following Abbas's controversial decision serve as a reminder of the wide gap that has always existed between Arab dictators and their constituents.

The protests also serve as a reminder that the Arab masses are more interested in punishing Israel than making peace with the Jewish state.

Abbas is under attack because, in the eyes of many Palestinians and Arabs, he "helped Israel bury its war crimes" in the Gaza Strip. In mosques in different parts of the Arab world, he has been condemned for "exonerating the Jews" and "betraying the blood of the Palestinian martyrs" killed in the war.

Abbas has offered a number of explanations for his decision to set aside the Goldstone report - explanations which have only caused further damage to his credibility.

First his aides and he claimed that the decision was taken under US pressure and threats. Then they argued that the decision was taken at the request of a number of Arab and Islamic countries. When these two explanations did not calm the Palestinian and Arab streets, Abbas ordered the establishment of a three-man commission of inquiry to look into the circumstances that prompted him to set aside the resolution.

This last move - the formation of a commission of inquiry - has been received with laughter by Abbas's critics. As a Palestinian minister put it, "In the beginning I thought it was a joke when I heard that the president had established a commission of inquiry to investigate himself. How can anyone take him seriously from now on?"

Well, it seems that there are still many who do take Abbas seriously, especially in Washington and some European capitals. Abbas's more recent decision to revive the debate over the Goldstone report by bringing it back to the UN Human Rights Council is seen as a pathetic attempt to save what's left of his credibility. So is his decision to send Palestinian policemen in civilian clothes to the streets of West Bank cities to demonstrate in favor of their embattled president.

Abbas cannot be a partner to any deal: his image and credibility have been severely tarnished. Any agreement he reaches with Israel will be received with suspicion by a majority of Palestinians and Arabs.

Hamas, on the other hand, is not a partner because the movement is not going to change its radical ideology, at least not in the foreseeable future.

All that one can do now is to wait until a new, third-way party emerges in the Palestinian territories. Sadly, that option also does not seem to be realistic at this stage -- especially not when both Abbas and Hamas have a common interest in suppressing the emergence of new leaders.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades. He studied at Hebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliated newspaper in Jerusalem. Abu Toameh currently works for the international media, serving as the "eyes and ears" of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

 

Blood Libels in the Arab Media Are Nothing New.

 

Hamodia speaks with Professor Emeritus Raphael Yisraeli, of the Islamic History Department in the Hebrew University, about the history of blood libels in the Arab world


 

By Yehuda Marks

 

Blood libels are nothing new in the Arab world, according to Professor Emeritus Raphael Yisraeli, of the Islamic history Department in the Hebrew University.

 

"What's happening now is no new trend. The first Arab blood libel was 160 years ago — the Damascus blood libel in 1840, although the European blood libels started much earlier, in the 12th century," says Yisraeli, who has written 25 books and some 100 scholarly articles in the fields of Islamic radicalism, Islamic terrorism and the Modern Middle East.

 

"The traditional European blood libel was brought over to the Muslim countries by

Christian Arabs who originated in Europe," the professor explains in fluent English, a language he picked up while studying for his Ph.D. in Islamic History and Chinese from the University of California, Berkeley. He is fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, French and Chinese.

 

 

Matzos on Yom Kippur

 

The Damascus blood libel, in which the Jews were accused of killing a Christian and using his blood for matzos, was finally refuted and proven to be a farce, concluding with the acquittal of all the Jews who had been arrested. However, the Arab world still believes the allegation, Yisraeli says.

 

Eight years ago, Mahmoud Al-Said Al-Kurdi wrote two articles in the Egyptian daily Al Akhbar repeating accusations from the Damascus affair, while only two years ago, a famous Lebanese poet, Marwan Chamoun, repeated the allegation in a media interview,

elaborating on the murder of the priest "in the presence of two Rabbis, who collected his blood."

 

In 1983, Syria's Minister of Defense, Mustafa Tlass, wrote a book entitled The Matzah of Zion, supporting the Damascus accusations.

 

The book is published by the Syrian government's printing house, and it has been in continuous print for over 20 years.

 

During a session in the U.N. Security Council Arab representatives distributed the book to "prove" what the Israelis are capable of doing, while a Syrian delegate cited the book at a United Nations conference in 1991, Yisraeli notes.

 

The Matzah of Zion has become a best-seller in the Arab world and has been translated into many languages. Despite the fact that the Damascus allegations have long been refuted and the book is full of lies, according to its cover blurb, "This study describes in fine detail and with scientific precision the blood rites of the Jews, who slaughter Christians and Muslims so they can mix their blood into the matzos they use on Yom Kippur (!)."

 

 

Blood Libels Following the Damascus Case

 

The Morocco-born Yisraeli, who immigrated to Israel at the age of 14, says that although the Damascus blood libel was the most well-known in Arab countries, there were many others.

 

"Most Islamic stories were copies of the fabricated Damascus libel or imitated the fables that were widespread in Europe," Yisraeli says.

 

  • In the vicinity of Damascus alone, there were nine incidents of blood libel between the

  Damascus affair in 1840 and 1900, with four such incidents in Palestine during the same period.

 

  • In 1844, there were two incidents in Egypt, one in Cairo, instigated by Muslims, and one in Alexandria, instigated by the Greek Orthodox.

 

  • In Turkey, there was hardly a year without a blood libel, and although the Turkish  government rejected them, foreign monks got the locals stirred up by distributing blood libel material in Arabic translation.

 

  • In 1866, in Hamadan in western Iran, 18 Jews were massacred following a ritual murder accusation.

 

  • There were further libels in Alexandria in 1870, in Smyrna in 1871, in Damanhur (Egypt) in 1871 and 1873, initiated by Muslims, and again in Smyrna in 1873.

 

  • In 1875 there was a blood libel in Aleppo, as a result of which the Pasha of Aleppo  had to send troops to guard the Jewish quarter.

 

  • In 1876 there was another blood libel in Smyrna and one in Constantinople, while 1877 saw libels in Damanhur and Mansura, where the local Muslims accused the Jews of kidnapping a Muslim child and killing him in order to use his blood for matzos.

 

 

The 'Poisoned' Fainting Girls

 

Professor Yisraeli elaborates on an incident that took place some 25 years ago in Jenin,

which shows how the whole world believed the anti-Semitic libel without going to the trouble of verifying the facts.

 

It was 1983, shortly after the first Lebanon War and just a week before Pesach. Palestinian girls in their high school classrooms in Arrabeh, Jenin, suddenly began to faint, one after the other.

 

They were taken to hospital and examined, but no medical reason was found for their fainting. Shortly afterward, other girls of the same age began fainting in Beit Lechem, and afterward in Hebron, Kalkoul, Tulkarem and Shechem.

 

Over a period of a few days approximately 1,000 girls ended up in the hospital at the same time, seemingly victims of an epidemic.

 

Since all this occurred just before Pesach, the Arabs raised the motif of blood libel, charging that the Israelis had poisoned the Palestinian girls.

 

Despite the fact that doctors who checked the girls found no evidence of poisoning, the Arab media accepted the claims of the girls that they had been poisoned, enlisting statements from Arab doctors.

 

Sadly, some of the Israeli newspapers believed the Arab claim and called for an investigation. When the Arabs saw the Israelis themselves accusing their own government, they raised the tone of their accusations even higher.

 

Baruch Modan, the director general of the Health Ministry and one of the leading epidemiologists in Israel, headed an investigation team and found nothing.

 

At a press conference he announced that there was no evidence of poisoning. So why had

so many girls fainted? Mass hysteria, Modan explained.

 

The foreign journalists mocked this reason, even though it was the professional opinion of a respected epidemiologist.

 

Encouraged by the support of the international media, the Palestinians became bolder and

offered still more "proof" of poisoning — yellow powder was found on the windowsills.

 

Dr. Modan and his team immediately checked the powder and found it to have originated

from nearby pine trees, but the foreign journalists remained unconvinced and continued to blame Israel.

 

The Palestinians' next step was to stage faintings. They prepared trucks in advance, and when the girls got to school they would pretend to faint and be put on the trucks, with the journalists and photographers following them to the hospital.

 

As soon as the foreign journalists left, according to Israeli journalists who were following

the story, the girls would get out of bed and return to school.

 

International newspapers ran headlines saying there was evidence that Israel had poisoned the children, with the French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde reporting that the presentation of Dr. Modan was "a weak attempt by the Israelis to hide their crime."

 

In the United Nations, the Security Council came out with a harsh statement against Israel.

 

Finally, Israel formally asked the International Red Cross and the World Health Organization to come and investigate.

 

The International Red Cross found nothing, and its representative issued a weak statement that he had not found any evidence. When he was asked why he did not make a stronger statement and simply refute the hoax, he replied: "This is not the job of the International Red Cross. ..."

 

The whole scandal was only silenced when the worldrenowned Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reported on the results of its investigation, with the U.S. experts concluding that it was indeed a case of mass hysteria, a phenomenon similar to teenage girls fainting at concerts.

 

While the affair had been covered with screaming frontpage headlines in the international

media, and Israel had been demonized for poisoning its Arab citizens, no apologies were sent by any organization or newspaper, Professor Yisraeli says.

 

"The only newspaper to my knowledge that apologized was The New York Times, which buried a retraction of its accusations against Israel in the back pages," Yisraeli adds.  "And no other newspaper bothered to do even that."

 

Israeli ambassadors in a number  of countries asked local newspapers to print a retraction, but they were ignored.

 

"The West couldn't care less. It was Jews who were criticized, so what does it matter?"

Yisraeli explains.

 

 

Modern Blood Libels

 

Just two years ago, Roland Jabbour, the chairman of the Australian Arabic council, went on record stating that Jews are "descended from pigs and apes" and that it is perfectly acceptable to tell people that Rabbis kill Christian children for the blood.

 

This is the accepted view in Arab circles.

 

The electronic media also runs series that evoke the blood libel, like The Exile series, which was broadcast in 2003 on al- Jazeera and other Arab stations.

 

The image of the Zionist in these programs, which are watched by millions, is that of the Der Sturmer Jew, bloodthirsty and frighteningly ferocious.

 

But why are these so heavily refuted lies so easily believed?

 

"Because you can't tell a lie about Jews that is too big for the Arab governments, Arab schools and Arab press," says Joseph Farah, the Arab editor and chief executive officer of

WorldNetDaily.

 

"As an Arab-American, I wish that were not true. But it is," Farah says. "As one of the very few commentators of Arabic heritage who dares to point out the obvious incredibility in such horror stories, I will be called names. I will be vilified. I will be

threatened, intimidated and harassed."

 

But by far, the dominant elements in the dissemination of the blood libel are newspaper

and magazine cartoons.

 

These lies are especially dangerous because cartoons are the hard to contest; it is difficult to argue with them, because they themselves are not discursive. They comprise not so much an allegation as a representation of reality. They also cross linguistic and national borders, meaning that the anti-Israeli cartoons include all Jews around the world.

 

Joel Kotek, a compiler of anti-Semitic and blood libel cartoons circulating in the Muslim world, prefaces his collection thus: "There are so many of these cartoons that I could select only a few."

 

Among them is one of Ariel Sharon standing on a pile of infants' corpses, hands dripping

with their blood, holding another infant aloft, and with a Magen David hanging from his neck; in another cartoon, a religious Jew is putting a baking tray in an open oven, and on the tray is a Palestinian child.

 

There is a strong vampire theme in the Arab media, with one cartoon of an Israeli soldier

giving his mother a present, a bottle filled with the blood of a Palestinian child; Jews drinking the blood of the American people through a straw; Shimon Peres and Yitzchak Shamir toasting each other with Arab blood; Ariel Sharon celebrating the New Year by drinking from a bottle labeled "Martyrs' blood." According to Yisraeli, the only

answer to these blood libels is for Israel to stop being so apologetic.

 

"We have to run our own independent publicity campaign, and we must stop being squeamish. The Arabs are winning their publicity campaigns by being horrific and spreading abominable lies about us, but we don't show the world the terrible pictures of

what they do to us," Yisraeli argues

 

Yehuda Marks

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Peace vs. the ‘peace process’.

 

by Jeff Jacoby

"Whom the gods would destroy," the late Irving Kristol once observed, "they first tempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict." Maybe "destroy" was putting it a bit strongly, but there is no denying that American presidents seem irresistibly drawn to the belief that they can succeed where others have failed and conjure a lasting peace between Israel and its Arab enemies. This diplomacy has gone by various names — Oslo, the Roadmap, Camp David, and so on — but time and again it has led not to the end of the conflict but to its intensification.

In his memoirs, former President Bill Clinton describes Yasser Arafat's refusal to accept the extraordinarily generous terms for a permanent settlement offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000. That refusal led to a Palestinian terror war, the bloody Second Intifada, and when Arafat called Clinton in January 2001 to tell him what a great man he was, Clinton was bitter. "I am not a great man," he told Arafat. "I am a failure, and you have made me one."

Of course, if Clinton was a failure so were the two George Bushes. Each made it his goal to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, each convened a grand international conference for that purpose (Bush 41 in Madrid, Bush 43 in Annapolis), and each left the situation worse than he had found it.

In his first nine months as president, Barack Obama has shown every sign of succumbing to the same temptation. Two days after moving in to the White House, he named George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader, his special envoy to the region. He pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into endorsing a "two-state solution." He declared that "the moment is now for us to act" to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Unlike his recent predecessors, Obama has gone out of his way to signal a distinct coolness toward Israel and its interests. At a White House meeting with the leaders of American Jewish organizations in July, he suggested that because there had been "no daylight" between Israel and the United States when George W. Bush was president, there had been "no progress" toward peace.

In fact, there had often been "daylight" between Washington and Jerusalem during the Bush years. There had been plenty of movement too, from the adoption of the Roadmap to the Israeli "disengagement" from Gaza to the final-status negotiations that followed the Annapolis conference.

Still: Obama was right when he said there had been no progress toward Arab-Israeli peace under Bush. Nor had there been any under Clinton. Nor, as things stand now, will there be any under Obama.

Why? Because the "peace process" to which all of them, their sharp differences notwithstanding, have been so committed is not a formula for ending the decades-long war in the Holy Land, but for prolonging it.

In an important article in the current Middle East Quarterly, Daniel Pipes reviews the terrible failure of the 1993 Oslo accords, and homes in on the root fallacy of the diplomatic approach it embodied: the belief that the Arab-Israeli war can "be concluded through goodwill, conciliation, mediation, flexibility, restraint, generosity, and compromise, topped off with signatures on official documents." For 16 years, Israeli governments, prodded by Washington, have sought to quench Palestinian hostility with concessions and gestures of goodwill. Yet peace today is more elusive than ever.

"Wars end not through goodwill but through victory," Pipes writes, defining victory as one side compelling the other to give up its war goals. Since 1948, the Arabs' goal has been the elimination of Israel; the Israelis', to win their neighbors' acceptance of a Jewish state in the Middle East. "If the conflict is to end, one side must lose and one side win," argues Pipes. "Either there will be no more Zionist state or it will be accepted by its neighbors."

Diplomacy cannot settle the Arab-Israeli conflict until the Palestinians abandon their anti-Israel rejectionism. US policy should be focused, therefore, on getting them to abandon it. The Palestinians must be put "on notice that benefits will flow to them only after they prove their acceptance of Israel. Until then — no diplomacy, no discussion of final status, no recognition as a state, and certainly no financial aid or weapons."

So long as American and Israeli leaders remain committed to a fruitless Arab-Israeli "peace process," Arab-Israeli peace will remain unachievable. Let the newest Nobel peace laureate grasp and act upon that insight, and he may do more to genuinely hasten the conflict's end than any of his well-meaning predecessors.

 

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

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