Saturday, June 19, 2010

Winds Blowing

 

by Paula R. Stern

 

The winds in the Middle East, at least where I live, can be sudden and strong. Sometimes, you think you might be able to spread your arms and fly into the air. The wind is harsh; raising a garden is hard and takes a lot of work and selective planting. On the flip side, the air feels fresher, drier, cleaner. Those are the real winds.

We also have the other kind; the kind few experience in a life time and ones that already I have experienced twice - the winds of war. One of the things I love about this blog is that it provides me with a glimpse of hindsight, for the future. At the beginning, each time the Arabs threatened war, I wrote about the concerns, the special concerns you have when it is not only your nation, but your son in the direct line of fire. The concept is bad enough, the reality crippling.

In the first years that Elie was in the army, I lost count of the number of times Hasan Nasrallah of the Hezbollah threatened, how many times Gaza fired on Israel and deserved to be stopped, how many times Syria belched and Iran burped messages of hatred and war. I finally learned that it is almost a seasonal thing. Summer comes and the Arabs dream of war and destruction. They kidnapped Gilad and Ehud and Eldad in the early summer and within weeks, we were at war.

And just two years later, they drastically increased the number of rockets fired at Israel and within a month, we were at war again. Then, as now, we did not know where the war would start - in the north with Hezbollah or in the south with Gaza. Summer is coming, and once again we do not know.

The new trick is the flotilla scenario. Send ships to break a legally declared naval blockade against an enemy, prioritize politics over humanitarian aid, and you have the makings of a tense situation and possibly one that will lead to war. With one/two in the army and one in reserves who might well be called in case of war, life is never boring.

I remember that Elie's training was "rushed" in order to get his unit "certified" for war. There is a threshold that they must cross before they can be deemed ready to go to combat. Otherwise, they are left in training or shifted to a checkpoint while others go to battle. I have heard talk that the army is pressing to certify Shmulik and Chaim's units, though I do not believe they would be involved in a war such as the one we are currently facing. To new to be sent "in"; they would likely be moved to checkpoints.

Elie, at 23 years of age, is a war veteran. Does that put a lump in your throat as it does to mine? Do your eyes fill with tears? I never wanted my sons to be war veterans. I grew up with the concept that war veterans were 70-year-old men remembering the distant past, not young men who have yet to live. But the army was kind to me. They put Yaakov in Givati, but he served as a non-citizen and so was discharged before he saw real action (or at least before he told me about seeing any real action - thanks, Yaakov!!!!). They put Elie in Artillery...a mother's "dream" in the army and though he was on checkpoints and in operations, he was smart enough to tell me the easy stuff and only now do the stories come out a bit.

Shmulik and Chaim are in ground forces. The time will come when I will be afraid for them; worry where they are and what they are doing. For now, they are in basic training and if there was one lesson I learned in the army, it was to worry about tomorrow when it comes. It's all about today...this day and every day.

There are ships heading to our shores again. They do not bring humanitarian aid; they abuse the very concept. They will be offered to unload their cargo in Egypt or Israel, as they were offered in the past. They will refuse. Their goals are political, their cargo and motives suspect. They will be turned back, this time and every time, no matter where they come from.

There will be no repeat of the Mavi Marmara, though this is what these ships are hoping for. No, we will not send our soldiers aboard enemy vessels...and yes, this is what they are and what they were. We will not allow our soldiers to be beaten, shot, stabbed by "peace activists" and "humanitarians."

No, this time, the ships will be met...and blocked. If need be, they will be sunk, at least, I hope so. I hope the Navy will quietly go under the waters and sink the ships after giving fair warning. And then, they should give the passengers three simple choices:

1. Call your international buddies and have them rescue you.

2. Prove you are not armed and then come aboard special ships so that we can save you, take you to shore and then send you on your way.

3. Drown.

Your option - let us know, the clock is ticking. Will Israel do this? I don't know. But with each concession, we guarantee more ships will follow and more danger and damage awaits. If your goal were truly humanitarian aid, the contents of the previous flotilla would have been delivered to the supposedly needy people of Gaza, rather than sitting in Hamas warehouses undelivered.

The lesson of the Gaza War was that Israel will not be fooled twice. We were fooled in the Lebanon War; we triumphed in Gaza in many ways though there was more we should have done. The flotilla fiasco was a propaganda nightmare for Israel and not a victory for our troops, who went in unprepared for the hatred and violence they received. They expected and believed they were dropping onto a true humanitarian flotilla that stubbornly refused to recognize our legitimate security issues. Our soldiers thought they would have minimal resistance and would then quickly be on their way to Ashdod, crew and cargo safe.

What they met were trained mercenaries, terrorists, thugs. That mistake will not happen again. We learned in Lebanon; we learned on the Mavi Marmara. The Arabs never seem to learn. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...and lose the battle.

The winds of war are again blowing in our direction - perhaps from Gaza or Lebanon; maybe Iran or Syria. What the Arabs consistently fail to understand is the basic, fundamental reality of the Middle East. There are 23 Arab countries; there is but one Jewish one.

We have no where to run, never did, and never will. The winds swirl around the mountains where I live until early evening when the cool air of rationality and night come visit. And then, it settles and it is one of the most beautiful, peaceful of lands. Most important, it is ours. Each of my sons have made a pledge to this land and to our people. Yesterday, an Arab approached a checkpoint with a bomb and turned himself over to the soldiers. He explained that he had been forced to go on this "mission."

Yesterday, Shmulik and Chaim trained and guarded. Not because anyone forced them, but because they understand that simple reality the Arabs have yet to grasp. War this summer? Maybe...maybe not. One day at a time...one day at a time...and today is good.

 

 

Paula R. Stern

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

 

The Palestinians: Who's Afraid of Elections?

 

by Khaled Abu Toameh

 

Almost at the same time that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting in the White House with President Barack Obama last week, the Palestinian government surprised Palestinians by announcing that municipal elections, slated for July 17, have been called off indefinitely.

 

Abbas's government did not offer any explanation for its controversial decision. The election was supposed to be held only in the West Bank: not only had Hamas, along with several other radical groups, banned the election in the Gaza Strip, it had announced its intention to boycott it.

 

Many Palestinians who have condemned the decision as undemocratic and illegal say that the real reason behind the cancellation of the vote is Abbas's fear that his ruling Fatah faction would suffer a humiliating defeat.

 

Fatah seems to have good reason to be afraid to contest the vote.

 

Over the past few weeks, Fatah leaders failed to agree on the identities of the candidates who would represent them in the election.

 

Many Fatah members threatened to run as independents or as representatives of their clans -- one of the reasons Fatah lost the last two votes: the municipal election in 2005 and the parliamentary election in 2006.

 

The decision to call off the election should be regarded as an admission of failure on the part of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority. It is also a blow to the US Administration's efforts to prepare the Palestinians for statehood.

 

The US, like the rest of the international community, continues to stick to the belief that Abbas and Fatah are credible peace partners who would one day be able to deliver a peace treaty to the Middle East.

 

But a party that cannot even hold a municipal election should not be treated as a real partner to anything.

 

Following Fatah's sixth general assembly in Bethlehem in 2009, some Western and Israeli political analysts started reporting how the faction has gone a long away toward reuniting and reforming itself.

 

The decision, however, to call off the municipal election in light of deep divisions in the faction proves that all the talk about Fatah "getting its act together" was nothing but wishful thinking.

 

Fatah continues to be dominated by most of the figures that were responsible for its defeat to Hamas in the last two elections. This is the reason why most Palestinians still do not trust Fatah. And this is the reason why Fatah is unlikely to win in any election, at least not in the foreseeable future. Those who are negotiating with Fatah as a peace partner need to absorb this fact.

 

 

Khaled Abu Toameh

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

 

 

Engagement of Syria Knows No Limits

 

by  Jennifer Rubin

 

Although Obama's efforts to engage the Syrian thugocracy have only succeeded in pushing Bashar al-Assad closer to Iran and placing Scuds in Hezbollah's hands, the president is not deterred. Not even the Republicans' effort to block the confirmation and redeployment of our ambassador to Damascus is going to halt Obama's suck-uppery. Indeed, he insists on rewarding Syria for its aggression:

The State Department has dispatched a high-level diplomatic and trade mission to Syria, according to senior U.S. officials, marking the latest bid by the Obama administration to woo President Bashar al-Assad away from his strategic alliance with Iran. The U.S. delegation comprises senior executives from some of America's top technology companies, including Microsoft Corp., Dell Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Symantec Corp., according to the U.S. officials. All these companies' businesses in Syria are constrained by U.S. sanctions. The mission is controversial, given recent U.S. allegations that Syria transferred missiles to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Syria, Hezbollah and Lebanon deny the allegations. U.S. officials said the business delegation will meet with Mr. Assad and his cabinet and seek to facilitate the flow of information technology into the Arab state, which is ranked by watchdog group Freedom House as among the most repressive in the world.

This is shocking even for this crew. Obama is committed to a foreign policy in which Israel is cut no breaks — indeed, is slapped around — for innocuous activity (building in Jerusalem) or for asserting its right of self-defense. Israel's enemies are coddled, encouraged, and extended olive branch after olive branch. The president, in fact, is encouraging bad behavior and signaling that there is no price for aggression.

Not surprisingly, this is being greeted with criticism from Congress and the human rights community, the latter of which has come to view Obama as working against its efforts to promote democracy and counteract repression:

Some lawmakers and Syrian human-rights activists criticized news of the State Department's mission Monday. … Some Syrian activists also voiced concern that Damascus's repression of political opponents could grow if the government develops more sophisticated technologies. "I think the administration is fooling itself it believes that this type of engagement will bring about a more democratic Syria," said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident based in Washington. "Assad has shown absolutely no signs of loosening his grip on society, and in many ways he's gotten worse."

Recall that last month Obama renewed sanctions that had been imposed by the Bush administration, declaring at the time that the regime was "continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, continu[ing] to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States." But now we send executives bearing gifts. Meanwhile, Iran looks on, no doubt convinced more than ever that Obama is not inclined to oppose regimes that brutalize their people and threaten Israel's destruction.

Obama insists on enabling dictators. Jewish groups are wedded to a strategy of enabling Obama. That leaves Israel to fend for itself. And so it will.

 

 

Jennifer Rubin

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

 

Why Israel Cannot Solve Its PR Challenge (or, It's The Message, Stupid!)

 

Why Israel Cannot Solve Its PR Challenge (or, It's The Message, Stupid!)

 

By Glenn Jasper

 

I spend my days helping clients develop and implement PR campaigns designed to promote the company in such a compelling way that its key audience will respond positively to what the company is communicating. Ultimately, the goal is always to build momentum and help the company achieve its potential.

So given that professional experience, it should be relatively simple to diagnose the PR problems Israel is having and prescribe a certain program to improve the situation.

And it is simple, but not in the way you might think.

Much has been written over the past few weeks - ever since "The Flotilla Affair" - about the overall weakness of Israel's PR, both when crises hit and in general. And they all brought wonderful examples of how and why Israel's PR has missed the mark.

But I'm afraid they've missed the mark as well.

One example lamented Information Minister Yuli Edelstein's frustrating cell phone contact system. But that is wrong, because fixing Edelstein's voicemail wouldn't help fight the incredible PR machine our enemies have built.

Another article suggested that as long as Israel is not able to separate the politics from the tourism, Jerusalem's tourism industry is going to suffer. But again, that is incorrect. Jerusalem is the center of the religious universe, and as such is going to be the hottest point on Earth for conflict. That is the deal and we must all understand and even embrace that. But this is irrelevant as well, in terms of the larger question about Israel's PR, although we are getting closer to the point.

Another PR complaint over the years has been the lack of Israel spokespeople who are able to speak strong English. Well, we now have Mark Regev at the wheel, one of the best I've ever seen, as well as Michael Oren in the U.S., who is fantastic.

And yet, Israel has had one of its worst PR runs over the last 12 months that it has had in decades. Doesn't this seem strange to you?

How can it be that we did better PR during the post-9/11 phase, when Ariel Sharon - who had trouble speaking "sound-bite English" - was prime minister, than we are doing now, when U.S.-educated Binyamin Netanyahu is at the helm?

When you consider the overall futility of the three above arguments of 1. Logistical ineptitude (the Edelstein example), 2. Brushing aside the negative, in favor of the positive (the Jerusalem tourism example) and 3. Native-English-speaking spokespeople (The Regev-Oren-Bibi example), there is only one conclusion that should be drawn.

It's not about any of these things.

To understand why we are failing, we must first look at why the other side is succeeding. And the answer to that question is simple: A unified message.

It wouldn't matter of Edelstein drank Red Bull 24 hours a day and was 100% available for all requested interviews. Because an hour later, someone from the government opposition will submit to an interview and completely contradict what Edelstein has said.

It doesn't matter that Jerusalem has wonderful views, great restaurants and almost-perfect weather, especially this time of year. Because the world is being told - by Jewish-Israelis - on a regular basis that Jerusalem is a place of conflict, and that the conflict is all the fault of the Jews.

And it doesn't matter that we have our strongest international spokespeople since the days of Golda Meir and Abba Eban.

Because we do not have that item that can often be the difference between success and failure for any PR campaign. In fact, it should be the cornerstone of any campaign.

It is the unified message.

After 9/11, Israel was unified, not only in its condemnation of the attack, but in its message to the world of "You see! This is what we've been going through! Now, do you understand us?"

But time has "healed," and we have once again descended to our previous disagreements and ideologies. We are not united.

And sadly, if Israel itself is not unified - as our enemies are, for the purpose of destroying Israel - then there will be no unified message, and we will continue to lose the PR battle, even if we are right.

So, please do not waste your time analyzing the PR strategy - or even lack thereof - or tactical approach of the Israeli government. It's not about that. It's the same problem that has plagued the Jewish people for centuries. We can't unify. Even about a message. Even when our future is at stake.

 

Glenn Jasper is a PR veteran and the General Manager of Ruder Finn Israel, the leading full-service strategic marketing consultancy and public relations agency in Israel.

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

 

 

Media, Academia Destroying Themselves Over Israel

 

by Barry Rubin

 

Institutions are crumbling as the lies needed to uphold the anti-Israel narrative become too much to bear.

 

The irrational slander and hatred of Israel is not destroying Israel. It is destroying the institutions — media and academic, especially — being driven to madness by this obsessive irrationality and decline from their own proper standards.

Like an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, the number of lies, logical fallacies, concealments, and strategic misconceptions necessary to make Israel look bad has grown so large that it threatens the health of the media and intelligentsia.

For in their assaults on Israel, these particular news media — of course, not in all they do nor in the work of all who report for them — have left behind professional ethics, rationality, and their own credibility. Political correctness has eclipsed factual correctness, and the purpose of some newspapers has been redefined from reporting the news to merely reporting the news that furthers the political agenda of editors and journalists.

The above, of course, is strenuously denied by those who embody such behavior, though it is of no surprise to those who are reading these words. And in this growing gap, the former lose credibility and the latter lose respect for what should be one of the main pillars of Western democracy and defense against the ideologies of dictatorship.

There is no institution that is more clearly typical of this malady than the once-respected and now justly often-ridiculed New York Times. Only the Times could donate a huge space to Tony Judt, a man without qualification to discuss the Middle East, claiming that the idea Israel is being delegitimized was a propaganda myth created by the Netanyahu government … while Judt daily delegitimizes Israel.

The Times apparently views any statement made by Israel or its supporters to be false until proven true beyond its ability to think up some excuse for not accepting it. After Israel released several videos showing Israeli soldiers arriving on the deck of the Mavi Marmara and being beaten by a large mob, it dismissed the footage as … "lacking context. Were they [the images] shot before or after the boarding party started using force?"

Yet one can clearly see on the video that the militants on the ship's deck are calmly standing there, obviously not being fired upon, and the soldiers are holding onto the rope, with their guns slung over their shoulders.

Forced to retreat a bit — but never acknowledging its error — the Times editorialized: "The Israelis claim that Insani Yardim Vakfi is a dangerous organization with terrorist links. They have yet to offer any evidence to support that charge."

But, of course, a vast amount of evidence had been released, including: documents showing the organization had been declared to have such links by, among other entities, the Danish government, France's leading counterterrorism magistrate, a previous Turkish government, and the U.S. government.

All documents are easily available on the internet, but beyond the reach of the Times, apparently.

There is, of course, one obvious point that proves the group has terrorist links: its open support for Hamas, a terrorist organization, in terms of financing, supplying, strategy (trying to break the blockade against it), and political aims. On virtually any other topic, this would have been sufficient to prove the point.

While governments of Israel, like all governments, have told lies, what is amazing is how good that government's record is — especially compared to other Western democracies. Israel and its supporters know that their every word will be scrutinized and must be backed up by facts and documentation. Yet the Times and other mass media often treat Israel as less credible than dictatorships and terrorists whose record for veracity is minimal.

Meanwhile, the International Herald Tribune runs an op-ed by Alistair Crooke, who has also been warmly received by the Times and other media. Crooke is openly a lobbyist for Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Los Angeles Times, whose record is just as bad, ran an op-ed by a UCLA professor and anti-Israel activist named Saree Makdisi entitled: "Don't single out Helen Thomas." Makdisi used long-discredited false quotes from Alan Dershowitz and Israeli leaders to claim they are also racist purveyors of hate speech.

Yet while the Los Angeles Times permits the publication of false quotations — as the New York Times did a few months ago with a Rashid Khalidi misquote — such media almost never quote the documented daily incitement and hate preached throughout the Middle East in mosques, government speeches, and mass media.

Media reactions to the latest revelations about Reuters' use of doctored photographs (removing a knife from a flotilla jihadi's hand, so it can be argued the Islamists were merely victims) have been a yawn.

When Rosie O'Donnell defended Helen Thomas and argued that the Jews should go back to Germany and Poland because there were no more death camps in those countries, it brought no criticism.

Yet what of all the things we aren't hearing about? I know from an impeccable source that when a book of mine was discussed at an editorial board meeting of the Harvard University Press, it was rejected after someone said: "We can't have an Israeli writing about Arab politics." And Princeton University Press, considered the absolute best for academic publishing on the Middle East, put out a book by a leading British anti-Israel activist — without notable academic argumentation in it — claiming that Zionism is a mental illness.

The reasons why such things happen are complex. They include the identification of Israel as evil and aggressive, which then permits it to be treated as inevitably dishonest and in the wrong. But this is only possible because it is accompanied by the ideological corruption of academia, media, publishing, and intellectual life in general.

Many journalists believe that the highest priority for media is to further their own causes and to tell the public what is "good" for it to hear. If, for example, negative things are reported about Muslims, third-world countries, or enemies of the United States — the reasoning goes — Americans might go into the streets and massacre Muslims or advocate wars.

Thus, censoring out large aspects of the news and distorting others has become virtuous. And there are many other manifestations: Christian groups come to the defense of those who expel Christians and won't let churches be built; gay groups support those who murder gays; feminist groups endorse those who repress women.

It is no accident that there are so many sayings warning against the dangers when perceived wisdom becomes nonsense. And they all agree that this mistake leads to the destruction of those who refuse to see reality accurately.

Sophocles, the ancient Greek playwright, noted: "Evil sometimes seems good to a man whose mind a god leads to destruction."

The Jewish Bible warns: "For the waywardness of the thoughtless shall slay them, and the confidence of fools shall destroy them."

And what form does that madness take? The German Socialist leader, August Bebel, explained it: "Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools." But, claim those who purvey its most modern form, we are against anti-Semitism.

Such arguments are merely propaganda for Israel. What is happening at most, however, is that all the traditional anti-Semitic themes are being introduced with merely the change of one word: "Jew" becomes "Israeli." The implications often leak into "Jew" anyway.

Rather than teaching democracy to the Arab or Muslim-majority world, the "teaching" has been in the opposite direction.

The leading Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports that in the city of Anne Frank, those who appear to be Jews are spat on and harassed in the streets. In one neighborhood a secret synagogue exists, since if the mostly Muslim population found out it would come under violent attack.

When a single Palestinian, who was not even known to reporters, claimed that there had been an Israeli massacre in Jenin, the world media trumpeted that fact, despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever.

It is not merely that Israel is presumed guilty until proven innocent. The problem is that many institutions are making it impossible for Israel to be proven innocent, and will ignore that verdict if at all possible. How else can one explain how a planned violent assault on soldiers by a radical jihadist group — that included their kidnapping (bragged about by the participants) — for the purpose of making the world hate Israel, did in fact lead to worldwide condemnation of Israel?

Even when the truth was documented on video?

"Can the whole world be wrong?" asked Kofi Annan in April 2002, talking about Israel. Annan has no idea that a century earlier the Jewish essayist and Zionist Ahad ha-Am asked that question in precisely the same words. Yes, answered Ahad Ha-Am, the whole world can be wrong, because we know that we don't use the blood of little Christian children to make matzos.

Only when the "best and brightest," including many Jews among them, recognize that they are perpetrating the modern version of such historical arguments and reclaim their own professional ethics and Enlightenment methods of reasoning will there be hope for them to do better.

 

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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

 

West Bank Murder Puts Peace Advocacy in Perspective

 

by Jonathan Tobin

 

In recent weeks, all the focus in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been on Gaza. So far Israel's government, supported by the vast majority of its people, has resisted international pressure to lift the blockade of Gaza, a measure that would grant both a psychological victory to the Islamist terrorists of Hamas as well as facilitate the rearming and refortification of the region.

But while Israelis and their friends are rightly focused on preventing Hamas from resuming its rocket attacks on southern Israel, attacks on Jewish targets in the West Bank have been largely ignored. Part of the reason is that the security fence that separates the area from pre-1967 Israel has effectively halted the flow of suicide bombers. But there have been literally hundreds of incidents of shootings as well as many attacks with lethal rocks on Israeli motorists in the West Bank. Fortunately, most have not resulted in casualties. Yesterday, however, a Palestinian shooter in the Hebron area ambushed a police vehicle. The attack left one officer dead and another wounded. Interestingly, the New York Times article that reported the shooting also included some interesting information about the supposedly draconian Israeli security regime in the West Bank. Since Israel has been trying to hand over security responsibilities in the region to the Palestinian Authority's forces, according to the left-wing group B'Tselem, which opposes Israel's presence in the West Bank, 20 staffed security checkpoints have been closed in the past two years.

The point is, the much-lauded administration of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and his boss, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, tells Americans and other Westerners that they want peace with Israel. But the PA-sponsored incitement against Jews and the presence of Jews in their midst continues. Fayyad's boycott of Israeli goods may be intended to boost his popularity, but it also feeds into the demonization of Israelis, which is the primary obstacle to lasting peace and implicitly legitimizes the Palestinian sport of taking potshots at Israeli vehicles.

Of course, there are those critics of Israel who believe that the mere presence of a Jew on the West Bank, even one just driving in a car, is sufficient provocation to justify a murderous Palestinian attack, or at least enough to rationalize such a crime. But those who feel this way should ponder the Gaza precedent.

In 2005 Israel withdrew every settlement and every soldier from Gaza, which is what Israel's critics want it to do in the West Bank. But the result wasn't peace but an escalation of violence across the border into Israel proper, with the evacuated territory turned into a terrorist base from which thousands of missiles were launched at Israeli towns and villages. The idea of repeating this exercise in the West Bank, which borders Israel's main population centers, is unthinkable, but that is exactly what those who decry the "occupation" are demanding. Though the vast majority of Israelis would like nothing better to completely separate themselves from the Palestinians and would gladly accept a two-state solution, they are not prepared to allow the West Bank to turn into another Hamasistan.

Advocates for peace who reduce the situation to simplistic pieties should understand that yesterday's shooting is a reminder of the grim reality of Palestinian hatred and violence and the unpleasant choices that face the Israeli people.

 

Jonathan Tobin

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

 

Israel refuses to commit suicide

 

by  Charles Krauthammer

 

Israel is accused of international criminality, writes columnist Charles Krauthammer, for doing precisely what John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis: impose a naval blockade to prevent a hostile state from acquiring lethal weaponry.

 

WASHINGTONThe world is outraged at Israel's blockade of Gaza. Turkey denounces its illegality, inhumanity, barbarity, etc. The usual U.N. suspects, Third World and European, join in. The Obama administration dithers.

 

But as Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, writes, the blockade is not just perfectly rational, it is perfectly legal. Gaza under Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel — a declaration backed up by more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian territory. Yet having pledged itself to unceasing bel-ligerency, Hamas claims victimhood when Israel imposes a blockade to prevent Hamas from arming itself with still more rockets.

 

In World War II, with full international legality, the United States blockaded Germany and Japan. And during the October 1962 missile crisis, we blockaded ("quarantined") Cuba. Yet Israel is accused of international criminality for doing precisely what John Kennedy did: impose a naval blockade to prevent a hostile state from acquiring lethal weaponry.

 

Oh, but weren't the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel's offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port, be inspected for military materiel and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza — as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza.

 

Why was the offer refused? Because, as organizer Greta Berlin admitted, the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, i.e., ending Israel's inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas.

 

Israel has already twice intercepted weapons-laden ships from Iran destined for Hezbollah and Gaza. What country would allow that?

 

But even more important, why did Israel even have to resort to blockade? Because, blockade is Israel's fallback as the world systematically delegitimizes its traditional ways of defending itself — forward and active defense.

 

Forward defense: As a small, densely populated country surrounded by hostile states, Israel had, for its first half-century, adopted forward defense — fighting wars on enemy territory (such as the Sinai and Golan Heights) rather than its own.

 

Where possible (Sinai, for example) Israel has traded territory for peace. But where peace offers were refused, Israel retained the territory as a protective buffer zone. Thus Israel retained a small strip of southern Lebanon to protect the villages of northern Israel. And it took many losses in Gaza, rather than expose Israeli border towns to Palestinian terror attacks.

 

But under overwhelming outside pressure, Israel gave it up. The Israelis were told the occupations were not just illegal but at the root of the anti-Israel insurgencies — and therefore withdrawal, by removing the cause, would bring peace.

 

Land for peace. Remember? Well, during the past decade, Israel gave the land — evacuating South Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005. What did it get? An intensification of belligerency, heavy militarization of the enemy side, multiple kidnappings, cross-border attacks and, from Gaza, years of unrelenting rocket attack.

 

Active defense: Israel then had to switch to active defense — military action to disrupt, dismantle and defeat (to borrow President Obama' s description of our campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaida) the newly armed terrorist mini-states established in southern Lebanon and Gaza after Israel withdrew.

 

The result? The Lebanon war of 2006 and Gaza operation of 2008-09. They were met with yet another avalanche of opprobrium and calumny by the same international community that had demanded the land-for-peace Israeli withdrawals in the first place. Worse, the U.N. Goldstone report, which essentially criminalized Israel's defensive operation in Gaza while whitewashing the casus belli — the preceding and unprovoked Hamas rocket war — effectively delegitimized any active Israeli defense against its self-declared terror enemies.

 

Passive defense: Without forward or active defense, Israel is left with but the most passive and benign of all defenses — a blockade to simply prevent enemy rearmament. Yet, as we speak, this too is headed for international delegitimation.

But, if none of these are permissible, what's left?

 

Nothing. The whole point of this relentless international campaign is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense.

 

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, six million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.

 

 

Charles Krauthammer's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times.

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

 

 

Israel’s Right to Blockade

 

by Joseph Klein

 

Does Israel's blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and its enforcement of the blockade comply with international law? The evidence suggests that the answer is an overwhelming yes:

The 1909 Declaration Concerning the Laws of Naval War (the London Declaration), the first international instrument to acknowledge the legality of blockades, specifically recognized the right of nations to blockade their enemy.

So does the San Remo Manual, which is a compilation by international law experts of agreed upon international law on blockades and related subjects. The blockade must be declared against a belligerent, and notified to all belligerents and neutral states (Article 93). The declaration must specify the commencement, duration, location, and extent of the blockade and the period within which vessels of neutral States may leave the blockaded coastline (Article 94). The blockade may be enforced and maintained by a combination of legitimate methods and means of warfare provided this combination does not result in acts inconsistent with the rules set out in the San Remo Manual (Article 97).

A blockade is prohibited, according to the San Remo Manual, if (a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or (b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade (Article 102).

Hamas is the self-declared enemy of Israel, sworn to its destruction, as set forth in Hamas' Charter. Hamas has backed up its belligerency toward the Jewish state by suicide bombings and thousands of rocket attacks launched from Gaza against civilians in Israel. Hamas's armed terrorist militia is funded, trained and armed by Israel's enemy countries, including most notably Iran which has managed to smuggle some arms to Hamas via land routes, and has attempted to do so by sea.  If Iran were as successful in arming Hamas with sophisticated rockets and other weaponry as it has been in arming Hezbollah on Israel's northern border, Israel would face an imminent existential threat on both its northern and southern borders.  Thus, the predicate for a blockade – a state of belligerency with the blockaded belligerent – is clearly established.

When Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, it had made arrangements with the Palestinian Authority for freedom of movement across the Israeli-Gaza border on the understanding that the Palestinian Authority would implement certain specified security arrangements. Those arrangements were never implemented. Nevertheless, even after  Hamas' victory in parliamentary elections and its stated refusal to abide by any agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israel did not immediately institute a blockade.  Only after Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier from the Israeli side of the border, took forcible control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority and began launching rockets from Gaza into southern Israel did Israel restrict the flow of most goods entering into and leaving Gaza.

Hamas' supporters, including the Free Gaza Movement which helped organize the flotilla in which the fatalities occurred after Israeli commandos met armed resistance when they boarded one of the ships, argue that the blockade is nevertheless illegal under international law. Under Article 102 of the San Remo Manual (quoted above), they argue, the blockade is illegal because Israel's purpose is to starve the Gazan population and deprive them of other necessities for survival, and the damage to Gaza's civilian population is disproportionately excessive in relation to any legitimate military need.

However, this argument ignores two basic facts (not "biased opinions" as some might allege):

First, food and medical supplies have been permitted continuously into Gaza during the blockade, including even during Operation Cast Lead, showing that Israel's purpose was certainly not to starve the Gazan civilian population or to deny them other necessities for their survival. Since the end of Operation Cast Lead, the amount and variety of supplies permitted into Gaza have increased, despite the fact that there is still no agreement on effective security arrangements in accordance with Israel's understanding with the Palestinian Authority and that Israeli's kidnapped soldier is still in Hamas custody without access by the International Red Cross.

Second, Israel tried to work out a compromise with the flotilla organizers which would permit its humanitarian cargo to be delivered to the Gazan civilian population. Israel proposed on several occasions that once it had the opportunity to inspect the ships for arms and supplies that could be used for military purposes and to remove them, all other cargo on the ships would be delivered to the civilians in Gaza through international agencies.  Israel's offer was an attempt to balance its military security requirements with mitigation of damage to Gaza's civilian population by allowing the bulk of the cargo to reach them through reliable means. Both Hamas and the Free Gaza Movement leaders rejected the offer.

Aside from the fact that Muslim Brotherhood members and other Islamic jihadists were participating in the flotilla – raising questions about the true humanitarian nature of the mission – the organizers of the flotilla admitted that their main purpose was to break the blockade: "This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege on 1.5 million Palestinians."

The Free Gaza blockade runners' willingness to deny the Gaza civilian population the humanitarian aid they claimed to be carrying if they could not succeed in breaking the blockade shows that Hamas' supporters – not Israel – were the ones willing to put Hamas' military objective of breaking the blockade over the needs of Gaza's civilian population.

Israel's enforcement of the blockade, including its boarding of the ships in the flotilla which refused inspection at an Israeli port, was fully in compliance with the following provisions of the San Remo Manual:

98. Merchant vessels (defined as a vessel, other than a warship, an auxiliary vessel, or a State vessel such as a customs or police vessel, that is engaged in commercial or private service) believed on reasonable grounds to be breaching a blockade may be captured. Merchant vessels which, after prior warning, clearly resist capture may be attacked.

103. If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies, subject to:

(a) the right to prescribe the technical arrangements, including search, under which such passage is permitted;

and

(b) the condition that the distribution of such supplies shall be made under the local supervision of a Protecting Power or a humanitarian organization which offers guarantees of impartiality, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

104. The blockading belligerent shall allow the passage of medical supplies for the civilian population or for the wounded and sick members of armed forces, subject to the right to prescribe technical arrangements, including search, under which such passage is permitted.

The ships on which there was no violent resistance to an inspection encountered non-violence from the Israeli side.  But on the one ship carrying Turkish activists, who had declared their jihadist intentions, Israeli soldiers descended with only paintballs in hand (pistols not drawn) and encountered violent resistance.  They had the right to protect themselves and their colleagues with lethal force once they were attacked by packs of assailants using knives, metal rods, clubs, etc. who had also begun to take the soldiers' pistols away from them.

Hamas' supporters turn a blind eye to the terrorist group's violence against innocent Israeli civilians and to its crimes against its own people.  Here is an excerpt from a speech delivered by Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on February 29, 2008:

Fathi Hammad: [The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has  developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has  become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land.  The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they  have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen,  in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the  Zionist enemy: "We desire death like you desire life." (Emphasis added)

There can be no real peace so long as the Hamas terrorists and their state sponsors such as Iran want more innocent Jews to die for death's sake and will settle for nothing short of Israel's extermination, even at the expense of innocent Palestinian civilians. The Free Gaza Movement and their supporters should spend their time seeking to free Gaza from the grip of Hamas, not trying to end Israel's lawful blockade.

 

Joseph Klein

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

 

Flotilla Thriller

 

by J. E. Dyer

 

This summer promises events that will thoroughly eclipse the diplomatic flurry over the recent Gaza flotilla. What few would have expected is the maritime character of the drama to which we have to look forward. And in a manner reminiscent of some seemingly minor operational decisions during the Cold War, Obama's response to the challenge will be the most important security signal sent by his administration to date.

The distant drumbeat of the impending climax has been sounding for some time; Iran and Hezbollah have repeatedly threatened shipping in, respectively, the Strait of Hormuz and the waters off Lebanon and Israel, near the northern approach to the Suez Canal. Hezbollah's most recent threat was issued in May, shortly before the deadly flotilla incident. Both Iran and Hezbollah are actively preparing to make good on their threats. This is not a theoretical menace. A complacent dismissal of their activities would be very dangerous.

Moreover, they are about to get help from — and take direct advantage of — the chaotic maritime situation brewing with the follow-on flotillas now in planning. Avram Rimon at Examiner.com had a good summary of them this weekend: they include a Gaza flotilla sponsored by German Jews; a counter-flotilla of Israelis hoping to bring aid to Cyprus, the Turkish Kurds, and Armenia (the latter under a Turkish blockade for more than 16 years); the Turkish flotilla for which Tayyip Erdogan has promised his own presence and a naval escort; and the flotilla being mounted by Iran, which is scheduled to leave Iran for Gaza on June 18.

The U.S. can do one of two things about these proliferating flotillas. We can organize NATO overtly to monitor and control eruptions in the Eastern Mediterranean, or we can simply leave it all for Israel to handle. Doing the latter will guarantee the early involvement of Hezbollah and Hamas in enlarging the scope of this maritime challenge. A hands-off approach by the Western nations makes it more likely that the terrorists, along with Iran and Turkey, will seek to precipitate crises — which may involve innocent commercial shipping — and press situational advantages. On the other hand, a declaration that the U.S. and NATO will prevent destabilizing eruptions, accompanied by obvious readiness to impose order if necessary, would be a salutary and effective signal. None of this need be done in a bellicose manner: quiet but unyielding is the appropriate demeanor.

Turkey's involvement in the recent flotilla should already have resulted in a moment of reckoning with its NATO allies, if only behind closed doors. The West's lackadaisical approach to its core alliance is on borrowed time. If the impending parade of flotillas produces only disorganized posturing from NATO, while allowing Israel's enemies to create havoc at sea and score propaganda points against Israel, the next challenge is likely to emerge almost automatically in the Persian Gulf. Iran has threatened to begin stopping ships in the Strait of Hormuz if the inspection clause of the June 9 UN sanctions is actually applied against Iran-bound cargo. Tehran's willingness to carry through on this will depend on the U.S. posture, which governs what the Iranians think they can get away with.

A strong stance in the Eastern Mediterranean is the lowest-cost, highest-payoff method of deterring Iran from the outset. Maintaining stability at sea and control of the world's key chokepoints is an American naval task so basic we rarely think about it, but the impact from breaches of that order is immediate and far-reaching. Doing nothing is courting crisis; we should be working to head this one off at the pass. That approach would be far less costly than reacting to a series of crises.

 

J. E. Dyer

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

 

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