Monday, March 30, 2009

The IDF Must Hold Fire

The latest furor over supposed Israeli war crimes in Gaza has once again followed the classic pattern: a charge made without any evidence later proves to be unverifiable, Israel is put in the untenable position of trying to prove the negative statement, the world media trumpets the charges in bold page 1 headlines, and when the facts are made available, corrections are published in small print well on the inside. The only difference from the alleged Jenin "massacre" is that this time the charges were made by Israelis-- published in English rather than in Hebrew to make it clear that they were playing for the world media rather than attempting to have a serious public discourse within Israel.
Of course, for the next few years anti-Israel websites and public demonstrations will prominently feature "IDF War Crimes" as part of their many grievances against Israel. But focusing on what did and didn't happen, while important both for the historical record and for Israelis who want to know that their sons behaved morally, really isn't the essence of the issue. After all, in every single war there are soldiers who have indeed behaved immorally; in every single war, civilians are killed either by scared teens armed with weapons, by angry soldiers who just watched their friend get blown into small bits, or by human error when shells didn't get aimed where they were intended. And when fighting against an enemy that doesn't hesitate to use human shields, that cynically uses schools as rocket launching pads and hospitals as military headquarters, that tells its own population that the highest calling they can seek is to become martyrs, civilian casualties are bound to be higher.
So what IS the essence of the issue? It's those who are opposed to any defensive action Israel takes, regardless of the provocation, regardless of the rationale, regardless of the situation where one side is clearly told that its fate is to be exterminated. It's well summarized on this sign displayed at the anti-Israel protest in San Francisco during the Second Lebanon War:

Hezbollah or Hamas can murder Israeli civilians at will, can rain rockets down over the entire country, and can blow up buses and cafes. But the IDF? It--and only it-- must hold fire. That's the message that is really being delivered to Israel. Double standards, anyone?

photo courtesy of Zombie

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Berkeley Daily Planet-- Superman Certainly Doesn't Work Here

Berkeley is the home of the University of California, the spawning grounds of the Free Speech Movement and the People's Park riots, and the site of some of the most left-wing politics within any American city (hence the nickname "Bezerkley"). While we previously wrote about anti-Israel activism on the UC campus and its insinuation even into Berkeley Hillel itself, there's another Berkeley institution that helps bring anti-Israel hate speech into print just about every week. The Berkeley Daily Planet (the "DP") doesn't employ Clark Kent, the mild-mannered alter ego of Superman; it is, however, owned and edited by one Becky O'Malley. And Ms. O'Malley has decided that of all the issues Berkeley residents care about, whether local, national or international, the one that deserves a wholly disproportionate amount of space (in particular in the letters to the editor) guessed it: Israel.

And these aren't ordinary letters from ordinary Berkeley residents. These are screeds from around the world, spewing the type of hatred that is politically correct when aimed at only one group of people: Zionists. There is a new website, the DP Watchdog, which documents quite well the selective publication of anti-Israel hate speech in the DP-- but to give you, our reader, just a brief flavor of what O'Malley feels is worthy of appearance in the DP:

"One should ask why anti-Semitism has persisted throughout the centuries. Let us go back to 539 BC, when Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, went to Babylonia and liberated Jews. One can ask why Jews were enslaved by Babylonians. Also, one can ask why Jews had problem with Egyptians, with Jesus, with Europeans, and in modern times with Germans? The answer, among other things, is their racist attitude that they are the 'Chosen People.' Because of this attitude, they do wrong to other people to the point that others turn against them, namely, become anti-Semite if you will." (note that this letter came all the way from India to appear in the DP, but O'Malley refuses to publish pro-Israel letters from outside Berkeley and environs).

"Anyone in Congress who supports this genocide does not represent me and many others in this country. Destroying a country’s infrastructure, killing millions of innocent civilians, including children, is inexcusable. I will never vote for anyone who supports this insanity. What Israel is doing to Lebanon is worse than what Hitler did in Germany. Hezbollah is merely an excuse for Israel to wipe out Palestine." (this was in reference to Israel's response to Hezbollah's missile attacks in 2006; note that she did write "millions")

"To what country does John G [note: a pro-Israel letter writer] owe his loyalty?… Would he spy for Israel? (It’s been done.) Would he perjure himself for Israel? (That’s been done too.) Would he threaten a political candidate with slush funds and slur campaigns? (Threats like Mr. G’s are not idle. They’ve been carried out successfully many times.) Would he protect Israel when it had deliberately killed American citizens? (Sadly, this too has been done.) Would he carry a bomb onto the New York subway or BART, if Israel deemed it necessary? How far would Eric Alterman go? How far would John go?"

Interestingly enough, O'Malley has also claimed that she has refused to publish items that she regarded as Islamophobic. (Zionists, it seems, are fair game; after all, we don't tend to burn, pillage or take to the streets to threaten mass murder over perceived slights to our heritage).

This week's edition of "j", the Jewish weekly in published in San Francisco, features a story about the DP. You can register and leave comments as well. We hope that those businesses who still advertise in the DP will be taking notice.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Standing Up For Zionism and Justice at UC Berkeley

The following is an editorial published in the UC Berkeley student newspaper, the Daily Cal, written by Yonatan Weinberg. Yoni is a member of the pro-Israel student group Tikvah.

In a previous post we circulated a speech by another one of the Tikvah students, at the beginning of the recall process against ASUC student Senator John Moghtader that has now been shown to have been based on outright lies by pro-Palestinian students. Yoni's Op-ed, like Matt's speech, needs no further comment except "Yasher Koach".

Israeli Apartheid Week Mirrors Recall

By Yonatan Weinberg Contributing WriterFriday, March 20, 2009

We're in Berkeley, where I know the Bible isn't very popular, but I think a line from Deuteronomy has suddenly become very relevant to students at Cal. "Justice, Justice, you shall pursue" it reads, and now, more than ever, is the time to pursue justice.
During the first week of March, Tikvah: Students for Israel put on Israeli Peace and Diversity Week. We hosted a variety of events celebrating the diversity that exists in the State of Israel as well as the nation's desire for peace with its neighbors. We hosted Israeli basketball star LaVon Mercer, an African-American who moved to Israel to play professional basketball and who, after falling in love with the country, decided to become an Israeli citizen himself. We had displays on Upper Sproul Plaza educating people about the unparalleled LGBT rights in Israel and the country's tremendous aid to refugees. We also screened a movie about an Ethiopian boy who escaped to Israel, where a Jewish family took him in as their own.
While we sought to engage the campus in a positive series of educational events, a different group, Students for Justice in Palestine, was once again spreading hate, misinformation and negativity across our campus. When they weren't misleading students about what's going on in the Middle East, they were busy spreading vicious lies about a fellow student in a malignant effort to further their extremist agenda on our campus. Israeli Apartheid Week and the SJP-CalSERVE led recall of John Moghtader are more linked than you might think, and they reveal a disturbing trend that exists on our campus. We have allowed malicious lies from SJP and their cohort CalSERVE to go unchecked for far too long. These destructive and divisive groups are forcing Berkeley in a direction that we don't want to be going.
In the face of injustice, we Cal students cannot simply look the other way. We cannot simply accept that what we hear is the truth. Rather, it is essential as independent thinkers to seek out the truth, to stand up, and to challenge. The SJP-planned, CalSERVE-promoted, smear campaign against Israel during Israeli Apartheid Week mirrors their smear campaign against Senator Moghtader: They simply spewed lies about a person or party and hoped that they would stick. And as we've seen lately, their claims about what happened on November 13th in Eshleman Hall turned out to be false.
It's ironic that the Students for Justice in Palestine have complete disregard for justice. Justice is not smearing an innocent man for personal gain. Justice is not lying to the student body and wasting $20,000 of student fees to achieve your own dastardly schemes.
It is time for the students of UC Berkeley to stand up and make a statement. We demand honesty from our ASUC officials, not the enabling of corruption and injustice like those that were committed by the dangerous CalSERVE machinery, from current President Roxanne Winston down to executive candidate and SJP member Kifah Shah. We demand honest reporting to UCPD, not the blatantly falsified reports that were given by students desperately trying to implicate John. Finally, we demand honesty when student groups promote their causes, not the predictable hate-filled rhetoric that took place during Israeli Apartheid Week.
Let us hope that we can learn from the corruption and deceit that SJP-CalSERVE plagued our campus with this year. We must hold them accountable. It is our responsibility to leave this campus in better shape than when we arrived. We must throw out the wrong, and pursue what is right. Justice, Justice we shall pursue.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chas Freeman--It's Not Over Yet

(this piece was written by Lawrence W. White)

Charles Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, is the diplomat chosen several weeks ago by the administration to chair the National Intelligence Council.

Problems immediately arose. Freeman was in the paid service of Saudi Arabia, had repeatedly blasted Israel, had defended China including its actions in the Tiananmen Square massacre, and had numerous conflicts of interest. Prior to the appointment he had not been fully vetted, and any examination of his finances had not occurred. As a result, the selection became controversial as soon as Freeman’s name became public.
As a result of these issues, opposition to his nomination arose among several members of Congress, as well as parts of the media and ordinary citizens. This led to his withdrawing his nomination after several weeks of controversy. Whether he withdrew or was pushed is not clear at this time.
Opposition to Freeman was initially attributed to his many statements blaming Israel for the current crisis and absence of peace in the Middle East. However, what led to his demise were not primarily considerations related to Israel but rather the exposure of Freeman’s many statements apologizing for Saudi and Chinese behavior as well as a whole panoply of foreign policy conflicts.
These included his 12 year chairmanship of the Middle East Policy Council which was a Saudi-funded front group, and his chairmanship of Projects International, a group that represented U.S. business interests in Saudi Arabia and China. Freeman fully supported the repressive government of China. He criticized a Tibet protest against China as a “race riot”, and stated that China should have intervened earlier in the Tiananmen Square protests. But the major feature of his support for China was his paid role on the board of a Chinese government-owned oil company that had dealings in Iran. This same Chinese oil company also purchased oil from Sudan while its leaders were overseeing genocide in Darfur. There were no objections from Freeman about any of this
Following the withdrawal, a collective sigh of relief was uttered by those who opposed him. However, it is not yet time to uncork the champagne. For those of us in opposition, we should not expect this problem to disappear. The fact that a group of citizens along with members of Congress mobilized to put pressure on the administration to halt the nomination clearly represents an age-old use of the democratic right to petition government. However, it also opens the door to new charges of pressure from the Israel lobby.
We have heard this before, from Jimmy Carter, Stephen Walt, and John Mearsheimer, from the likes of such hateful demagogues as Norman Finkelstein, and even from Jewish groups such as J Street who falsely label themselves as pro-Israel. This time, joining the cries of criticism of the so-called “Israel Lobby” are many new and surprising names, including Andrew Sullivan, and M J Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum,
Certain historical events become symbols. The USS Liberty tragic friendly fire incident in 1967 became the causus belli for the anti-Israel zealots and has been so for over 40 years. Now the Freeman case is about to become the poster child for those who preach against the “Israel lobby”.
Freeman himself has initiated the process. In a note to Foreign Policy, ABC news has reported that Freeman attacked the Israel lobby, claiming that the destruction of his career “will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues."

Here are Freeman’s words.

"The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors."

The inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States."

Now what is going on here? Congress, the media, good government organizations, and various special interest groups, have always evaluated candidates for high government office with great scrutiny. In this case as in others, the candidates own words were examined in full context. But as Jake Tapper of ABC News has pointed out, “only in Freeman's case does the nominee make an allegation that a foreign power was lurking nefariously somehow behind it all.”

For Freeman, this represents a different and more lucrative kind of career move than the one he had originally expected. He is now following in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter, Ramsey Clark, Charles Lindbergh, and others who have made a profitable career out of travelling the lecture circuit blaming Jews and peddling tales of conspiracy. This is what Richard Hofstadter labeled “the paranoid style in American politics”, and it has great appeal for angry minds.
Most Jewish and pro-Israel organizations took no public stance on the nomination, and there was apparently little lobbying of Congress. Nonetheless, Freeman’s son, Charles Freeman Jr., a former assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China Affairs., referred to his father’s critics as “Israel first-ers” and stated that his father’s “appointment is being challenged these days by a small cabal of folks that believe first and foremost in the importance of allegiance to Israel as a core U.S. priority.”
An irony in all this is that according to several members of Congress, the concerns about his anti-Israel positions did not, and would not, stop his official appointment to chair the NIC. Rather, it was Freeman’s comments on China and Tibet, and his connections to the Chinese oil company, that finally did him in.
None of Freeman’s critics claimed that he was not entitled to hold these opinions on Israel, China and he Middle East. . What they claimed that he was not entitled to do is to hold these judgments and allegiances, and at the same time make official analyses and reach conclusions for the US government on critical intelligence matters.
This raises an age-old question for American Jews. Is it useful to try to prevent this sort of appointment, or will it, as MJ Rosenberg claims, be dangerous in that it feeds resentment of Jews in official circles? WE have a different experience during World War 2, when the Roosevelt administration was supported by most of the Jewish community. Opposition to Roosevelt’s policies regarding restrictions on intake of the doomed European Jews was virtually non-existent. At that time, the roles of Jimmy Carter, Stephen Walt, and John Mearsheimer, were taken by Charles Lindberg, Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin.
In the 1930s and 1940s Jews were primarily motivated by the fear of creating an anti-Semitic backlash. The prevailing view of the Jewish community was to maintain a low profile and do nothing that might annoy the powers in Washington, (This is the position of MJ Rosenberg today).
At present, the Jewish community can see the results of a more aggressive posture. We now know the benefits of publicly speaking out, of lobbying, and using our rights as citizens. All indications are that this is a far healthier stance. However, this behavior is about to be tested.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A response to the organizers Israel Apartheid Week at UC Berkeley

This piece, by Ishmael Khaldi, originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

For those who haven’t heard, the first week in March has been designated as Israel Apartheid Week by activists who are either ill intentioned or misinformed. On American campuses, organizing committees are planning happenings to once again castigate Israel as the lone responsible party for all that maligns the Middle East.

Last year, at UC Berkeley, I had the opportunity to “dialogue” with some of the organizers of these events. My perspective is unique, both as the vice consul for Israel in San Francisco, and as a Bedouin and the highest-ranking Muslim representing the Israel in the United States. I was born into a Bedouin tribe in Northern Israel, one of 11 children, and began life as shepherd living in our family tent. I went on to serve in the Israeli border police, and later earned a master’s degree in political science from Tel Aviv University before joining the Israel Foreign Ministry.

I am a proud Israeli - along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but let us deal honestly. By any yardstick you choose - educational opportunity, economic development, women and gay’s rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation - Israel’s minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East

So, I would like to share the following with organizers of Israel Apartheid week, for those of them who are open to dialogue and not blinded by a hateful ideology:

You are part of the problem, not part of the solution: If you are really idealistic and committed to a better world, stop with the false rhetoric. We need moderate people to come together in good faith to help find the path to relieve the human suffering on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Vilification and false labeling is a blind alley that is unjust and takes us nowhere.

You deny Israel the fundamental right of every society to defend itself: You condemn Israel for building a security barrier to protect its citizens from suicide bombers and for striking at buildings from which missiles are launched at its cities - but you never offer an alternative. Aren’t you practicing yourself a deep form of racism by denying an entire society the right to defend itself?

Your criticism is willfully hypocritical: Do Israel’s Arab citizens suffer from disadvantage? You better believe it. Do African Americans 10 minutes from the Berkeley campus suffer from disadvantage - you better believe it, too. So should we launch a Berkeley Apartheid Week, or should we seek real ways to better our societies and make opportunity more available.

You are betraying the moderate Muslims and Jews who are working to achieve peace: Your radicalism is undermining the forces for peace in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. We are working hard to move toward a peace agreement that recognizes the legitimate rights of both Israel and the Palestinian people, and you are tearing it down by falsely vilifying one side.

To the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week I would like to say:

If Israel were an apartheid state, I would not have been appointed here, nor would I have chosen to take upon myself this duty. There are many Arabs, both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories who have taken great courage to walk the path of peace. You should stand with us, rather than against us.

Ishmael Khaldi is deputy consul general of Israel for the Pacific Northwest.