Wednesday, March 31, 2010

US demands will thwart Mideast Peace

Frida Ghitis has got it right when a friend hits her with "a daunting request."
"One of these days,'' she said, "you'll have to explain to me this whole thing with Jerusalem.''
So how do you address it? Ms. Ghitis's solution:
Instead of arguing about what part of the past matters most, we should focus on the future most people say they want. A majority of Israelis and Palestinians say they want to see peace, with two states living side by side. That, in the most contentious sliver of the world, is a delicate point of agreement that must be carefully nurtured, particularly because it remains a matter of passionate disagreement for minorities on both sides.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Treating a Terrorist as a Hero

The following appears in The Forward.

Treating a Terrorist as a Hero


By Stephen M. Flatow

Published March 17, 2010, issue of March 26, 2010

On March 11, 1978, a gang of seaborne Palestinian terrorists landed near a nature reserve on the coast north of Tel Aviv. There was only one person who had the misfortune to be on the beach that afternoon, a young American photographer named Gail Rubin. Gail, a native New Yorker who happened to be the niece of U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff’s sister-in-law, was taking pictures of birds.

The terrorists shot Gail dead. They didn’t ask her what she thought about settlements or borders. They didn’t ask if she agreed with this or that Israeli policy. They didn’t care if she was a moderate Jew or a militant Jew. She was a Jew. That’s all they needed to know. And for that reason, they murdered her. Then they hijacked a bus on the nearby Tel Aviv-Haifa coastal highway, ultimately causing the deaths of 37 other innocent civilians.

I was thinking about Gail during Vice President Joseph Biden’s recent visit to Israel. It occurred to me that since Biden’s visit happened to coincide with the anniversary of the 1978 attack, he might have taken a moment to visit the site of the massacre or at least say a few words about the murder of the relative of his late Senate colleague.

I guess I was being naive. The vice president ignored the anniversary.

But the Palestinian Authority didn’t ignore it.

The P.A. marked the March 1978 massacre by naming a public square near its capital city, Ramallah, after Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who commanded the terrorist squad. According to an official P.A. newspaper, the square will “commemorate her memory and her sacrifice as a Palestinian woman who resisted the occupation… A picture of the Martyr Dalal Mughrabi will be placed at the center of the square.”

Despite protests from Israel, the youth division of Fatah — the Palestinian faction headed by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas — held a ceremony on March 11 dedicating the square. A senior P.A. security official and a Fatah Central Committee member took part. While a larger planned dedication ceremony was canceled at the last minute for public relations reasons, the P.A. has made no secret of its embrace of Mughrabi and her murderous legacy.

Official P.A. television hailed the 1978 massacre as “a glorious chapter in the history of the Palestinian people” and praised Mughrabi as “a model of resistance, sacrifice, and Martyrdom-seeking, a model of giving and redemption of the homeland.” It also broadcast an interview with Mughrabi’s sister, who declared that “all the rifles must be pointed at the Zionist enemy, as Dalal willed it 30 years ago.”

Think about the message this sends to every Palestinian child who walks through Mughrabi Square, or who attends the computer center in Hebron, the Palestinian youth soccer tournament, the two summer camps or the two girls’ high schools that have also been named after Mughrabi. It teaches them that gunning down defenseless civilians is the proper way to behave, and that those who massacre Jews deserve to be honored and emulated. No wonder then-senator Hillary Rodham Clinton once referred to such Palestinian hate propaganda as “child abuse.”

Raising a generation of young Palestinians to glorify killers ensures that hatred and violence will persist. Not exactly what Israel expects from its Palestinian peace partners.

Why should Americans care about this?

Because we’re subsidizing the Palestinian Authority.

Congress approved $500 million in aid to the Palestinians for 2010. Granted, only some of the American aid to the Palestinians goes directly to the P.A., and the funds that are given to the P.A. are subject to restrictions. But money is fungible, and when we give funds to the P.A. for one project, it frees up funds for other purposes. And we know what the P.A. does with its money.

It gives payments to the families of terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel — including some terrorists involved in the murders of American citizens. (More than 100 Americans have been killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks in the past four decades — including my daughter, Alisa, who was murdered in Gaza in 1995.)

It uses some of our money to train, house and equip P.A. security forces. Some of the members of these “security forces” are terrorists (including killers of Americans) who were rewarded for their terrorism by being given jobs with the P.A.

And now P.A. money is being used to turn a public square in Ramallah into a shrine to a woman who is responsible for the murder of an American citizen.

It’s an outrage. And it took place right under the nose of our vice president.

Stephen M. Flatow is founder of the blog Terror Victims’ Voice.

The article can be read here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Refugees and Israeli-Palestinian Peace - a solution?

Michael Steinhardt is a wealthy philanthropist. When he speaks, people tend to listen. Did he go too far in today's Wall Street Journal?

"Over the past decade a great illusion has taken hold of three successive American administrations. The illusion is that the path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians will come through negotiating the fate of West Bank settlements.

But settlements are no longer the real issue that separates Israel and the Palestinians. The real issue is refugees."

Steinhardt then proceeds to layout his idea of a settlement:

First, a coalition of the usual Western powers plus China, Russia and affluent Arab countries would create a fund of $75- $100 billion. "The money would be used to create new communities within Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere, and to help educate and employ the refugee populace. "

Second, homes for the refugees outside of the borders of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel will be pressed to take some, too, on a family reunification basis, and apologize for its role in the creation of the refugee situation [does he mean those towns where residents were forced to leave by Israeli forces as opposed to Arab forces?] Islamic nations would be asked to open their doors, too.

I believe that a "settlement" of issues usually leaves both sides partially unhappy with the result. Steinhardt concludes:

But all the former refugees would have the best the world as a whole can offer: A range of possibilities for these millions to stop living in squalor and start living a decent, dignified life with opportunity and hope.

Only the Palestinians will be able to say whether this is good enough. If it is, peace is truly possible. If it isn't, we will know that, too. And at least we will know that we tried.

What do you think?

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Israel and the Jews - - Joe Biden doesn't get it

It's sometimes difficult to know what is going through the mind of Vice President Joe Biden when he makes a public comment or responds to a question.

I once had the opportunity to ask him a question at a fundraiser and I think he kept talking after the program was over. OK, I exaggerate a bit, but he was very long-winded that morning.

Now Mr. Biden is touring the Mideast in an attempt to jump start talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. As is necessary on such trips, Mr. Biden visited Yad Vashem, Israel's national museum dedicated to the Shoa.

What caught my eye in today's report by Ethan Bronner in The New York Times was this statement about Mr. Biden-
After signing its [Yad Vashem's] guest book, he said: “The phrase ‘never again’ is used so often it almost has lost its meaning. But then again all you have to do is walk through Yad Vashem to understand how incredible the journey has been for world Jewry and why Israel is such a central part of its existence.”
Yad Vashem is an important reminder of the Shoa, one that all visitors to Israel should visit. However, I am troubled by Mr. Biden's apparent linkage of the Shoa to Israel's existence. In other words, he implies that without the Shoa, there would be no need for an Israel.

Of course, the opposite is true. Jews have yearned for a return to Zion for about 2,000 years following their expulsion from Judea by the Romans. That the establishment of a State of Israel came several years after the conclusion of the world's deadliest war is a coincidence of time. And, while the Shoa may have been a catalyst for international action reestablishing the home of the Jewish people, it's nothing more than another blip on the time line of Jewish history.

The Bronner's report is here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

VP Joe Biden to aid Mideast peace discussions

The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey and Yahoo! News is reporting on Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to the Mideast an order to “aid” peace discussions.

However, there is a glaring omission in setting forth the reasons for pessimism in the lead up to the beginning of indirect negotiations between. Specifically, the Palestinian side has set forth two pre-conditions to restarting direct talks—first, a return of Israel to the pre-1967 boundary as the boundary for a future Palestinian state, and, second, the absolute right of return of Arab refugees to the Israeli side of that boundary. Both are non-starters from the Israeli point of view.

Even American military advisers recognize that the pre-1967 boundary cannot be defended by in the face of another military attack by its Arab neighbors. Israel’s strategic placement of communities along the old boundary line was designed to give it additional buffer in the event of war. Yet, Israel has announced its willingness to exchange other land with the Palestinians in order to deliver an equal area only to have such a request dismissed out of hand by the Palestinians.

A return of Arab refugees, even if they can be properly identified after 60 plus years, to within the current boundaries of would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. No other country has ever been asked to commit national suicide by granting such a request.

The Palestinians can have their state but by advancing demands that no sane Israeli or any other political leadership could accept, they have effectively blocked the Israelis from moving forward with negotiations. There should be talks, but without preconditions.

That's what I think.

Read the story here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Northern Ireland as a blue print for Israelis and Palestinians?

Israel's ambassador to Ireland, Zion Evrony, writes in The New York Times via the International Herald Tribune about "a consideration of the similarities that may exist between the conflict in Northern Ireland and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a search for lessons. "

Undoubtedly, there are huge geopolitical, historical and cultural differences between the two regions and the two conflicts. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict possesses far more intractable elements — above all the different role played by religion. The sheer density of holy sites in Jerusalem, sacred to three different faiths, makes them flashpoints of emotional tension. In addition there are the painful, bitter memories of wars, and the challenge of mutual recognition not yet met by all in the Middle East.
But there are lessons to be learned in the Middle East.
  • First and foremost, there is the concept that to resolve a difficult conflict, each side, while retaining its “dream” — its maximum aspiration — must be willing to forego its implementation in practice.

This means that "Israelis would have to give up the dream of a “Greater Israel.” Palestinians would have to give up the dream of “return” for the refugees, accepting their accommodation in a future Palestinian state."

  • A key lesson is that the essential interest of each side must be respected and safeguarded.

For Israel, its recognition by Palestinians as the nation-state of the Jewish people, existing with adequate security arrangements alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state. For Palestinians, independence and freedom within their own state.

  • The central importance of third-party mediation, as well as outside actors who continuously facilitate the process of resolution, is another moral to be gleaned from Northern Ireland peacemaking.

George Mitchell's work in Ireland is an example of how a mediator is supposed to work.

I think the ambassador's approach is thoughtful. What do you say?

Go here to read the full article.

Rachel Corrie's death now in the courtroom

This story is along the lines of "only in America" except we should now add "only in Israel."
The parents of Rachel Corrie, killed in an accident while she was protesting Israeli demolition of smuggling tunnels in a war zone in 2003, have filed suit in an Israeli court for damages arising out of that incident.

According to, the
The hearing of witnesses in the civil tort filed by the family of Rachel Corrie – a member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who was crushed to death by an IDF in 2003 – is due to begin next week in the Haifa District Court.
The plaintiffs – Corrie’s father, Craig; her mother, Cynthia; her brother, Christopher; and her sister Sarah Simpson – are suing the state for $324,424 in damages in what they charge was her wrongful death, caused by the use of “deliberate and utterly unreasonable force by the bulldozer driver” who ran over her over.

Controversy surrounds Corrie's death. Painted by her supporters merely as a concerned activist for Palestinian rights, I think she was far from it. I think she was a willing dupe of ISM and Hamas. A widely distributed photograph of Corrie shows her face contorted in rage as she burns an American flag in an attempt to curry favor with her Hamas handlers. But her death made a good story for anti-Israel protesters around the world.

The bottom line is that the government of Israel is allowing her parents to bring a lawsuit in an Israeli court. What other Middle Eastern country would allow that?

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Assassination in Dubai

I've just returned from two weeks in Israel where one of the lead stories has been the assassination of Hamas's arms buyer and smuggler Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

While the world condemns Israel for the assassination, something Israeli officials neither admit nor deny, others are analyzing Israel's or, for that matter, any other country's right to eliminate its enemies in a time of war.

The Financial Times,, provides one view written by Andrew Roberts in "Israel is no more rogue than America."

Commenting on articles by Henry Siegman and David Gardner condemning the killing, Roberts says,
"Both commentators are completely wrong. All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war – and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that – occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy."
Roberts does not believe that the condemnation of Israel is valid. He examines what other countries have done in times of war to reinforce his point.

All in all, Roberts makes a good case for the proposition that countries at war sometimes have to resort to actions that are not pleasant but are necessary nonetheless. Typically, reader comments on the article have run both ways.

Read the full article by going to the link above.