Friday, December 31, 2010

More Christian casualities in Iraq

We previously posted a story about the plight of a dwindling Christian community in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East.

Last night, the Times reports, 10 bomb attacks targeting Christians took place in Baghdad.

For some Christians here, the latest attacks represented the last straw. “We will love Iraq forever, but we have to leave it immediately to survive,” said Noor Isam, 30. “I would ask the government, ‘Where is the promised security for Christians?’”

Well, the answer is there is no security for minority religions in Muslim lands.

Read the full story.

The Double Standard

After some rabbis in Israel instructed their followers to not sell land to non-Jews, the Jewish and non-Jewish world rose in protest. Here's one person's response.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A good news story - sports as bridge between peoples

Palestinian Media Watch ran this story on December 28, 2010,
"Sports promote coexistence: Palestinian children hosted Israeli children for football game." Read it in full on PMW Bulletin.

Contrary to recent events in the Palestinian Authority that glorified murderers by naming parks and sports fields after them, it looks as though there are some in the PA who understand that there's more to be gained by kicking a football than lobbing a rock.

Let's hope that there are more stories of this type.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Spy" hanged by Iran

Iranian justice, whatever that might be, was meted out to Ali Akbar Siadat who allegedly confessed to spying for Israel's secret service, the Mossad.

There is no indication in any of today's reports when Siadat was tried, when the verdict was rendered, or if there was an appeal.

Read the following report, Ali Akbar Siadat hanged by Iran for relaying sensitive data to Mossad, and explain to me what constitutes "confronting the Iranian republic."

Well, that's what I have to say.

Stephen M. Flatow

Monday, December 27, 2010

Alan M. Dershowitz: The Finkler Question: Jews' irrational hatred of Israel

One of the worst epithets that one Jew can throw against another is "self-hating." We most frequently hear it when a Jew criticizes Israel. What drives a Jew to become critical of a country that one would think a Jew would have a natural adherence to?

Alan Dershowitz examines that phenomenon in a Jerusalem Post column The Finkler Question: Jews' irrational hatred of Israel.

Why do so many Jews regard Israel as a pariah state? The extraordinary characters in Howard Jacobson's novel shed light on the psychology behind the country's Jewish detractors.
Any objective assessment of Israel’s actions over the 62 years of its existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people would rank it near the top in compliance with human rights, civil liberties and efforts to minimize civilian casualties. The Israeli government has repeatedly offered statehood to the Palestinians: in 1948, in 2000-2001 and in 2008. Each time the Palestinian leadership rejected these offers. The current Israeli government is now offering to negotiate, without any precondition, a two-state solution and an end of the occupation of the West Bank. (Following the end of the occupation of Gaza, Southern Lebanon and Sinai.)
So what gives according to Dershowitz?
When I am asked the question: Why is Israel so demonized and why are the Palestinians so glorified, especially by some Jews, I am used to responding that the answer is beyond my pay scale: it is more in the domain of Freud, Sartre and others who are capable of deeply exploring the human condition. But now I have a better answer. I can point to Howard Jacobson’s remarkable comic novel, The Finkler Question. Jacobson...not only poses the question more astutely than anyone I have read, he also provides more interesting and provocative answers.
Read the full column to find out what Jacobson has to say.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christians in the Middle East - how are they treated?

Two stories about Christians in the Middle East have been in the news. And the stories are opposites of each other because in one, it's Muslims who are making life hell for Christians, and in the other, cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians makes for a merrier Christmas.

The first, from The New York Times, Traumatized Iraqi Christians Lie Low for Christmas, paints a pale portrait of a Christian community in decline.

As they gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the congregation here first contemplated death, represented by a spare Christmas tree decked with paper stars, each bearing a photograph of a member of a nearby church killed in a siege by Islamic militants in October.

The congregants on Friday night were fewer than 100, in a sanctuary built for four or five times as many. But they were determined. This year, even more than in the past, Iraqi’s dwindling Christian minority had reasons to stay home for Christmas.

Though the exact size of Iraq’s Christian population is unclear, by some estimates it has fallen to about 500,000 from a high of 1.4 million before the American-led invasion of 2003. Iraq’s total population is about 30 million.
Before you blame the 2003 invasion as the cause of Christian's plight, let's remember this--the only thing that protected Christians in Iraq was the dictator Saddam Hussein. It was in his interest to do so to give truth to the Muslim claim that Christians are always welcome in Muslim lands.

With murderous attacks as the basis for the declining Christian population, I think we see the true face of Islamism in its relationship to non-believers.

Contrast this story with this one coming via the Associated Press from Bethlehem. Bethlehem celebrates merriest Christmas in years.

The traditional birthplace of Jesus is celebrating its merriest Christmas in years, as tens of thousands of tourists thronged Bethlehem on Friday for the annual holiday festivities in this biblical West Bank town.

Officials said the turnout was shaping up to be the largest since 2000. Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in
Israeli-Palestinian violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to the holiday cheer.

Israelis are not going to take a back seat to anyone when it comes to protecting its citizens and tourists, so quiet translates into a Christian holiday that the "good old City" [hats off to Dickens] hasn't seen in a number of years. Shouldn't Palestinians be encouraged by this?

See this post by Jewish Virtual Library on the lives of Israel's Christian community-- Israel and its Christian citizens.

Well, that's what I think.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Asia 1 Convoy' Reaches Syria but the story is interesting for what it doesn't say

This post from points out the inability of folks to answer a question about Palestinian refugees. (According to its website, DP News is a full service news website that covers Syrian, Arabic, and International issues in politics, economy, NGOs, sport…etc., as well as online video and documentaries.)
Today's posting is about another aid convoy to Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoy 'Asia 1' is scheduled to reach the Syrian borders on Monday coming from Turkey. 15 countries are participating in the convoy, of which are India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bahrain and Iran.

The Secretary of the Higher Follow-up Committee of the Palestinian National Conference Khaled Abdul-Majeed, during a conference of the Committee at al-Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, hailed Syria's support to the Palestinians' struggle against the Israeli occupation and its help to ease their sufferings and lift the siege on Gaza.

OK, maybe you have figured it out, but the unasked question is why there are still refugee camps in Syria 60+ years after the attack against the newly declared State of Israel resulted in the migration of Arabs to other countries? After all, Jews were forced to leave their homes in Arab countries at the same time. But they were welcomed into Israel and made part of the country. Why not the Palestinians?

Why have they been treated as second class citizens in other Arab countries? Why have they not been welcomed into Lebanese, Syrian or Jordanian society? Why can't they get jobs, buy a home outside of their "camp" and raise their families as do the Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanians?

So, rather than rush so-called humanitarian aid to Gaza, perhaps it's time for Mr. Abdul-Majeed, to ask the above question and see if reports on that press conference.

You can read the full report here 'Asia 1 Convoy' Reaches Syria.

Well, that's what I think.

Stephen M. Flatow

Friday, December 17, 2010

The enemy within Israel - maybe it's the media, too

Caroline Glick takes on the Left, the Israeli and American media, and Saeb Erekat in her latest column in the Jerusalem Post. Column One: Bringing down Bibi

The lede -

The media and the US administration are again colluding with the Israeli Left’s political leadership to overthrow the Netanyahu government.
Why would she say that you may ask? Because two news stories received disparate treatment by the pols, other writers and the talking heads.

Last Friday, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief peace negotiator with Israel, published an op-ed in Britain’s Guardian newspaper in which he declared eternal war on the Jewish state. This he did by asserting that any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that does not permit the immigration of some 7 million foreign Arabs to Israel will be “completely untenable.”

Whoa! Is he saying what it sounds like he's saying? That if Israel doesn't allow the entry of everyone tagged as a refugee to within pre-1967, there will continue a state of war? Sounds like it to Glick and to me, too.

The second article was Tom Friedman’s latest column in The New York Times. Throughout his interminable career, Friedman has identified with Israel’s radical Left and so been the bane of all non-leftist governments.

In his latest screed, he compared Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to someone in the throes of an LSD trip. Friedman harangued Netanyahu for failing to convince his cabinet to agree to the Obama administration’s demand to abrogate Jewish property rights in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem for another 90 days. He argued that by doing so, Israel – with some help from the Palestinians – is destroying all chance of peace.

So on the one hand, the chief Palestinian negotiator declared eternal war. And on the other hand, Friedman condemned Netanyahu – for the gazillionth time.

And characteristically, the Israeli media ignored Erekat’s article and gave Friedman’s screed around the- clock coverage.

I think Glick is onto something here. It goes beyond and free and open press in a country where everyone is entitled to have, and does have, an opinion about everything. It goes to the essence of Israel's existence as a Jewish state. Flood the country with Muslims and in a year Israel is gone.

Don't agree with Erekat, then face eternal war.

Well, that's what I have to say.

Stephen M. Flatow

Friday, December 3, 2010

A fair voice in the Middle East?

When it comes to Middle East politics we are all familiar with the claims made about Israel-- it's an apartheid state, it's a colonizer, and on and on. So, it raises the question, can Israel be properly portrayed in the media?

There is a columnist that we've been reading for years, Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who seems to defy the stereotype of Middle East report.

In mid-November Abu Toameh was interviewed by Arsen Ostrovsky who posted what follows on FrumForum. I recommend reading it in full. If you want to read it where originally posted, go here.

Abu Toameh: What the Western Media Misses

A few days ago, I was fortunate to attend a talk by Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh in Jerusalem.

Toameh gave an incredibly wide ranging talk about the peace process, the double standards rife in the West and the media when it comes to coverage of the Middle East and his perspective as a Muslim Arab of Palestinian descent living in Israel (and you thought you had identity issues!).

Toameh has been working as a journalist for almost 30 years now, covering Palestinian affairs, focusing predominantly on the West Bank and Gaza, including for the Palestinian press under the PLO and for various international media outlets in the US and Europe. He is currently at the Jerusalem Post writing on Palestinian issues. Toameh is also an Israeli citizen living in Jerusalem. In other words, he is aptly qualified to comment on the issues of his discussion.

However, if you expected Toameh to jump on the anti-Israel bandwagon with the familiar cries that Israel is an un-democratic apartheid state responsible for all that is wrong including the bubonic plague or to have a single-minded focus on the occupation, you would have been sorely disappointed.

Instead, he spoke openly, courageously and in his words, said it “as it is”. Asked what he thought was the essence of the conflict, Toameh said it was not about money or even settlements, as many so called pundits often imply, as a precursor to blaming Israel. Rather, his answer was very simple: “This conflict is about Israel’s very existence in this part of the world.”

But before you get any conclusions, Toameh is not a card carrying Zionist or as somebody once asked him “when did you get on the Israel lobby payroll”. In his own words, he says:
I’m not pro-Israel, I’m not pro-Palestinian and I’m not pro-American. But as a journalist, I’m pro the facts and pro the truth.

Here are some of Toameh’s illuminating comments:

I asked Toameh how, as an Arab Muslim Israeli, he responds to accusations that Israel is an apartheid state.

His response:

Israel is not an apartheid state. But there are problems and some discrimination with the Arab minority inside Israel. If Israel were an apartheid state, I, for example, would not be allowed to work for a Jewish newspaper or live in a Jewish neighborhood or own a home. The real apartheid is in Lebanon, where there is a law that bans Palestinians from working in over 50 professions. Can you imagine if the Knesset passed a law banning Arabs from working even in one profession? The real apartheid is also in many Arab and Muslim nations, like Kuwait, where my Palestinian uncle, who has been living there for 35 years is banned from buying a house. The law of Israel does not distinguish between a Jew and an Arab.

As for the uniqueness of the Israeli media in the middle East, Toameh added:

Israel is a free and open country with a democracy, that respects the freedom of the media. You can basically write any anti-Israel story and still walk in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv without having to worry about your safety. Anyone can be a journalist in Israel.

Toameh says he finds it ironic that as an Arab Muslim living in this part of the world, the only place he can express himself freely is in a ‘Jewish newspaper’, noting that:

We don’t have a free media in the Palestinian area, we didn’t have one when I was working there in the late 70’s and early 80’s, we didn’t have one when the PLO came here after the signing of the Oslo accords and we still don’t have one under Fatah and Hamas.

But what about the media’s need for an anti-Israeli angle on stories? Toameh says that when he tried to alert many of his foreign colleagues that Palestinians were dying because of an internal power struggle or gross corruption by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, their reflex response was:

Where’s the anti-Israel angle to the story? Give us an anti-occupation story. Make our lives much easier. An Arab killing an Arab, that’s not a story for us.

Toameh notes that the same foreign journalists would then ask him: “are you on the payroll of the Israel lobby?” Do they [the Jews] pay you to say these things against Arafat and the PLO?’ Toameh’s response to them:

what do the Jews have to do with this? I’m telling you what the Palestinians are saying about there being corruption in the Palestinian Authority. I’m even telling you that the PA is saying that the PA is corrupt.

It is a sad reflection on the state of society, and in particular, the media industry, that not only are they not sufficiently concerned or outraged at the death of Arabs by Arabs (which coincidentally has claimed many more lives than the Israel – Palestinian conflict), but that they will only muster even an iota of concern if they can put in an ‘anti-Israel’ angle.

On the proposed loyalty oath as well, Toameh offered a pragmatic response: “I have no problem with it because it applies equally to both Jews and non-Jews alike.”

One of the biggest and most intractable sticking points has consistently been the Palestinian demand for a right of return, which Israel will not agree to because it would mean the death knell of Israel as a Jewish state.

However, Toameh offers a very simple and pragmatic three stage solution, where the Palestinian refugees could:

1. Go to the future Palestinian state;

2. Resettle elsewhere, including other Arab states; and

3. Be offered compensation.

Most tellingly though, and in a statement seldom ever heard from Arabs (or the West), Toameh then asked: “and what about Jewish refugees that were forced to flee Arab nations”, suggesting that the issue of Jewish refugees must also be part of any future solution.

Focusing on the problem from Arab dictatorships and their insistence on inciting their people against Israel, Toameh says that we have a problem in the West in failing to believe what people tell us.

If Hamas say they want to destroy you, you have no reason not to believe them. And if Ahmadinejad says he wants to destroy you, there’s no need to start analysing what he means by that. Stop fooling ourselves and if anyone thinks that Hamas will ever recognise Israel’s right to exist, you’re also living in an illusion. Take it from their mouth directly…the PLO however is different – they will tell you one thing in English and then another in Arabic.

On the subject of Arab dictatorship, Toameh says:

Arab dictators survive by constantly blaming the misery of their people on Jews and the West and never accepting responsibility for anything. And by inciting against Israel and the West, you divert attention from problems at home. Why? Because you always need to make sure that your people are busy hating someone else. If they’re not hating Israel and the West, they might wake up one day and come to you, and God forbid, demand reform and democracy.

The crux of the message is:

If you keep inciting your people, then they ask ‘well, why are we then making peace with the Jews?’ We should be killing them as Hamas is saying’.

So what does Toameh think about Mahmoud Abbas, the PA President?

Abbas is corrupt, discredited, weak and does not have much power. He is reliant on Israel, whose presence in the West Bank is ironically the only reason he has managed to stay in power.

And if Israel withdrew to the 1967 borders as demanded by Abbas and the PLO:

Abbas will collapse and Hamas will take over the West Bank in less than a day. If I were Israel, I would not give Abbas one inch of land in the West Bank – not for ideological reasons, but to avoid a situation where Hamas and others would take over the area.

When we asked him how best to defeat the extremists, radicals and terrorists like Hamas and Hizbullah, Toameh answered:

The first and most important thing is you go to the Arab governments and tell them stop the incitement that’s feeding these radicals and driving people into their hands. Sometimes there’s no difference between what is written about Israel and the Jews in the papers in Egypt and Saudi Arabia with what is written by Hamas.

Noting again the billions of dollars in aid provided by the US and EU to various Arab dictatorships, Toameh says in other words, and even clearer, they should tell them: “Stop calling for my death with my money.”

I asked Toameh about what steps were needed to move forward. According to him, the answer is “very simple” and involves the following steps:

1) The Palestinians must start investing money (provided to them mainly by the US and EU) for the welfare of their people instead of incitement. Then dismantle all militias, establish a free press and democratic institutions, end the infighting, insist on good governance and speak with one voice so at least we know who we’re talking to. And then he suggests they should go speak with Israel and see what it has to offer them.

2) Deal with the enemies of peace – if you weaken the enemies of peace, like Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, the moderates will rise and start speaking out. But as long as Iran is breathing down the neck and threatening, together with Hamas and Hizbullah, who are threatening to kill anyone who makes concessions, no moderate Arab will ever dare sign an agreement with Israel. Toameh says:

I don’t even rule out military action against any of them because this is the only language these guys understand. Talking to them and appeasing them is even more dangerous.

3) “We can’t move forward when you don’t have a clear, strong, reliable and credible partner on the Palestinian side” says Toameh. According to him: “Abbas is not a partner. He and Fayaad might be nice guys with good intentions – but they cannot deliver. So the PA are not partners because they cannot deliver and Hamas are not partners because they don’t want to be partners.”

* * *
Well done. What do you think?