Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ha'aretz's false reporting and lies

In reference to the following story in Haaretz by Akiva Eldar,

I wrote the following to the editor:

Dear Sirs:

This story seems to represent the opinions and wishes of Mr. Eldar, rather than a factual news item. In this article, Mr Eldar states:

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people as a condition for renewing peace talks is unacceptable to the United States, the State Department said ..."

A survey of other domestic and foreign news sources (via Google News) failed to reveal any other article referencing an explicit American reaction to Netanyahu's demand, let alone a rejection. I wonder where Mr Eldar's sources are, if they exist.

Eldar uses his interpretation of the American position (which admittedly is firmly in favor of a 2 state solution) and presents it as a news item. Evidently the idea that Israel is be recognized as a Jewish state is objectionable to Eldar. By presenting the most reasonable and basic of demands as "unacceptable" by the US, and therefore blocking any possible negotiation, Eldar wishes to portray Israel's current government in the most negative possible light. Yet the Palestinians' underlying and persistent rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state (to which they openly admit), with its accompanying demand for the return of refugees, is what is blocking peace, not Israel's demands.

This is unfortunately Haaretz's pattern of tendentious and dishonest reporting. It would be appropriate for an essay such as this to be in the "opinion" or "wishful thinking" section, rather than appearing as a news headline.

Jeffrey Shames

Note: as usual, Haaretz did not bother responding. They habitually do not respond to errors or corrections. There have been many other stories by Akiva Eldar of a similar nature-- taking partial facts out of context, manipulating them according to his agenda, then presenting it as "news".

What a truly shitty newpaper.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Should Israel Bomb Iran's Nuclear facilities?

I will begin with the answer: No.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are worrying, and represent a negative development in the region. Iran is ruled by extremist ideology, with an explicit goal to eliminate the Jewish State. They oppose reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians. They have demonstrated their ability to fight Israel via their proxies, Hamas and Hizbullah. Some past statements made by various Iranian politicians have raised the issue of a nuclear attack on Israel.

Proponents of an Israeli attack on Iran point to the successes of its operations in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2008.

Nonetheless, it would be against Israel's interest to attack Iran for several reasons:

1. Diplomatic: The Iranian nuclear issue is in the international limelight, and efforts to deal with the issue are being lead by the US. Any Israeli attack conducted without coordination with the US would sabotage these efforts and lead to a severe strain in relations with the US and European allies. Israel would pay a high price in terms of support from the US vis a vis its policy in this region.

2. Tactical: The world has changed. Iran is not Iraq or Syria. It has a large sophisticated army with significant capabilities, and most importantly, has Russian backing. The world is no longer unipolar, and the US does not have military or diplomatic hegemony. The regional balance of power has changed, not in our favor. Therefore the effectiveness of a potential military attack on Iranian facilities would be limited in scope and in time. The Iranians would be able to rebuild quickly, with the help of the Russians, unlike the Iraqis who needed the French. The Iranians would most definitely be able to retaliate, either directly or through their proxies. Israel has vulnerable strategic sites throughout Israel that could easily be hit in such an exchange, causing extensive damage and casualties.

3. Strategic: I don't think that it is possible to stop a determined state from acquiring nuclear capabilities. Iran, unlike Iraq, Syria or Libya, has rich natural resources to support its development efforts and its ability to sustain economic and diplomatic pressure. Therefore, Israel has no choice but to rely on deterrence and defense systems to maintain a balance of power against Iran. Furthermore, as Robert Gates pointed out, and I think that it is correct, that an Israeli attack would galvanize the Iranians behind their nationalist leaders and lead to bottomless hatred, and a determination to exact revenge which would be legitimate in their eyes. They would undoubtedly be able to carry our revenge attacks on Israel or Israeli/Jewish interests abroad. Right now the Iranians are limited in their ability and desire to hurt Israel, because of the middle eastern political situation vis a vis the Palestinians and other Arab countries. But in the event of an attack, they would have every excuse to use their full abilities.

Therefore, in my view, an Israeli attack would be a mistake.

I might be wrong. Perhaps if Israel does not act, history will not forgive us. But our allies and the region definitely will never forgive us if we start a regional war which we won't be able to end.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What (and who) is a self-hating Jew?

My previous post regarding Gideon Levy's essays in Haaretz raises the question of accusing somebody of being a "self-hating Jew". This post is a minor revision of a letter that I actually sent to Mr. Levy and to the editorial desk of Haaretz (I received no acknowledgment). Since I am not so sure about the definition, and because bloggers are not immune to charges of libel, I did not use this term to describe Mr. Levy himself, but only to characterize his writing.

But the question is an interesting one. What is a self-hating Jew?

Jewish history is replete with Jews who renounced or denounced their Judaism and then became its harshist critics. But the phenomenon did not become become widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries following the emancipation. Up until that time, the Jew in Christian Europe lived in a traditional community, surrounding by hostile populations or governments who kept the Jews in their place. Upward mobility was not an option. Jews in Muslim lands fared somewhat better, but were still relegated to 2nd class citizen status. Following the emancipation, when European Jews where given citizens rights in various countries, the doors opened up for Jews who wished to progress socially and economically. Jews began to assimilate, and various liberal reinterpretations of Judaism appeared, which incorporated the new knowledge acquired by science, and accomodated the desire for many Jews to not appear different from their Gentile neighbors. These Jews preferred to disassociate themselves from the image of the Eastern European "shtetel Jew", with his traditional garb, mannerisms and langauge.

This assimilation, however, did not solve the "Jewish problem"--the dilemma of trying maintain the Jewish people's identity, while avoiding the disabilities of discrimination and anti-semitism. There were still formal and informal strictures which interfered with upward mobility for the Jew. There was still cultural anti-semitism. So many Jews simply renounced their Jewish faith by being baptized. They adopted Christianity in its cultural sense, but not necessarily its faith. This opened the doors further, allowing the likes of Heines, Mendelssohn, Marx to become accepted and famous. Often, the route that they chose included denouncing the Jewish faith, culture and its people, in the most vile and stereotyped manner. Others, however, remained "philesemitic" such as Disraeli. The advent of Zionism brought the identity of Judaism into sharper relief, with lines drawn between Jews for or against the zionist enterprise.

So classically, the "self-hating Jew" was somebody who severely criticized his people by attacking "core" characteristics of Jews and Judaism, often adopting the narratives of the Gentile anti-semite. In the 1930s and 40s Lessing and Lewin were the first to attempt to understand the phenomenon. In essence, the term is perjorative and used by others to describe and discredit the critic. Whether the self-hating Jew actually hates himself or his Judaism is unclear. The assumption is that because the Jew is uncomfortable or ashamed with being a member of a disliked minority, he responds by internalizing the ideas of the critics of Jews and attempts to disassociate himself with the disliked group. Furthermore, it is assumed that because of some deep dark internal conflict, the self-hating Jew turns against his core identity. More recently Finlay has proposed that the term is used by opponents to "pathologize" dissent. In this case, the accuser of self-hatred has defined some "core values" which in his view catergorizes Jew from non-Jew. Thus, when somebody opposes one of these core values, such as support for Israel's policies or some other public issue, he is considered to be "self-hating". The problem, of course, lies in what these core values are, given that there is considerable debate among various factions of Jews-- liberal or conservative, religious or secular, zionist or non-zionist. So how can I avoid labeling anybody who disagrees with something dear to me as "self-hating"? Interestingly, Finlay points out that although there are vigorous debates in the Christian world about theology and dogma, nobody calls someone a "self-hating Christian". The desenter might be called an apostate or heretic, but not self-hating. So why do we characterize such Jews as self-hating?

I think that the term self-hating is intertwined with the unique nature of the term "anti-semitism". We don't really have a similar term for other religions-- we don't speak of an "anti-Christian" or "anti-Muslim" in the same sense. We might call them bigots or racists. However, anti-semitism is unique in that it implies certain characteristics present in the anti-semite himself-- irrational hatred, advocacy of violence, envy, and perhaps psychopathology. Anti-semitism is also uniquely illegitimate in the civilized world. A garden variety bigot is not pathologized in the same way. Because of the magnitude of Jews' suffering at the hands of anti-semites, any form of bigotry against Jews or Judaism is demonized and the focus of particularly sharp condemnation. Jews are particularly sensitive to anti-semitism, perhaps more so that any other group is sensitive to bigotry against it.

So self-hating is essentially seen as home grown anti-semitism. Therefore, Dershowitz's famous 3 D's can be applied-- demonization, double standard, deligitimization-- to detect "self-hating Jews", just as they are used to detect anti-semitism.

So each reader can judge for himself if Gideon Levy is a self-hating Jew.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Haaretz does it again

Once again, Haaretz, in this article
gives a voice to the sarcastic, whiny and self-loathing essays by Mr. Gideon Levy. One wonders why he chooses to live in a country which he considers to be so brutual, corrupt, and dark. Its hard to imagine what justification he sees in a Jewish State. Jewish self-loathing is unfortunately not rare, and Mr. Levy can compete easily in this realm with the likes of Karl Marx, H. Heine, and Avraham Burg. Its roots are usually in low self-esteem and a desire for acceptance, Every country has its self-respecting traditions that reinforce its identity, history, and culture, but Levy seems to want some generic rootless state, perhaps in Scandanavia. The Palestinians who Mr. Levy adores certainly would not have a more secular state than Israel. So what does he want with us?

If such an essay were to appear in an American paper from a non-Jewish author, it would be considered anti-semitic. I fail to understand why Haaretz includes Mr. Levy's essays in their paper. In the name of freedom of the press? Haaretz would serve themselves (and Israel) better by finding columnists who can write essays that contribute constructively to the debates in Israeli society. Mr. Levy writes more like a resentful and bitter "talkbackist" than a trained and principled editorialist. Including his writings in this newspaper speaks mountains about Haaretz's anti-zionism and anti-semitism.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Arab "Resistance" (Moqawama)

I believe that the Palestinian conflict will eventually be resolved by a 2 state solution. There are no other logical or practical possibilities. The Palestinians, Arabs or Iranians will not "destroy" Israel (modern countries can't been "destroyed" by another state). Israel will not make the Palestinians go someplace else, nor will they kill them all. I think that Bibi knows this and has chosen not to speak of it due to present political circumstances. But the "road map", which Israel adopted and even Lieberman acknowledged, envisions a Palestinian state. There may be more wars on the way, with lots of suffering on both sides, but eventually the sides will adopt this solution.

The problem at the present is that the Palestinians do not actually appear to want a state. Think about it. When the Jews were offered a state, they accepted what they were offered in 1947. The Palestinians have had 5 opportunities for a state. 1. with the UN partition. 2. in the period of 1948-1967 when Arab countries occupied their areas. 3. With the culmination of Oslo, when Barak offered them a state in 2000 covering 90%+ of the territory they demanded. 4. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, they could have build a mini-state there. 5. When Olmert (evidently) offered Abba a state covering 97% of the territories.

What did they do with these opportunities? They did not build up national and cultural institutions or infrastructure. They did not sieze these opportunities, when they could have had a state on a silver platter, with the blessings of the entire Western world. Instead, they continue to fight for their "rights"-- the rights to all of Palestine, the rights to the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa, the right for a few million "refugees" to return to their original towns and homes in modern day Israel. Now, of course, Israel would not voluntarily agree to self-destruct. Nor can the Palestinians or other Arabs overrun Israel, kick all of the Jews out, and bring all of the Palestinians back. So, unable to compromise and unwilling to accept a partial fulfillment of their dreams, the opted to this day for "Moqawama"-- the arabic word for resistance.

Resistance, in the Muslim context, refers to any act against those who are engaged in the perceived violation of "rights" or against injustice. Any action is legitimate, no matter how violent. More importantly, the resistance doesn't have to be effective, either. It is resistance for the sake of resistance. Now, I'm sure the Muslim themselves view this idea as a moral and lofty goal. The problem is that as long as the Palestinians and their leadership are stuck in their wallowing over how they have been wronged, without being able to get past all of their resentment and anger, they cannot arrive at a practical compromise. So they hold out for all-out "victory", even if it never comes, even if it costs them their lives, their economy, their social fabric and well being. Resistance has become a standard part of the Muslim language, to justify all kinds of things. The Lebanon War was an act of resistance? For what goal? So the Gazans fire rockets at Sderot's civilians. For what goal? What has it brought them?

It is though they are perpetually and tragically stuck, in a state of mourning over their perceived losses and injustices, and they are unable to move on. In insisting on a "just" solution, they eliminate the possibility of realistic compromise. Most Palestinians will settle for nothing less than the dismantlement of Israel. Certain other Muslim groups, like the Iranians, use the Palestinians for their own regional aspirations, by keeping their false hopes alive, making compromise even more remote.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why Avigdor Lieberman is a good foreign minister for Israel

The Israeli left and the Arabs are already screaming hysterically like hyenas about the new right wing government in Israel, and against its foriegn minister, Avigdor Lieberman. He is a racist, the say, and against peace.

Yes, he is against "peace" if it means creating a state that threatens Israel's security. Yes, he is against "peace", when it means only Israeli concessions in exchange for more Palestinian demands, incitement, and threats. Yes, he is against peace if it means handing over land encroaching Israel's heartland, to an impotent, violent and divided Palestinian society. When the Palestinians call for Israel to accept "peace", what they actually mean is surrender and self-destruction.

Is he is really a racist? When an Arab member of Knesset openly identifies with Israel's enemies and supports their armed struggle against Israel, is it racist to demand that he be kicked out of Knesset and stripped of his citizenship? What about when an MP, such as Azmi Bashara, spies on behalf of an enemy terrorist army? Should he be entitled to a pension from the State of Israel? Is that insane?

I think that its good that we finally have a FM that doesn't speak mealy mouthed about a peace that in reality is unattainable at this time. Israeli has shown that it is willing to compromise, but unilateral moves on its part are only recipricated with scorn, contempt, and demands for more concessions. I also think that the world, including the US, will get used to a different but clear message-- that we want peace, but will not compromise our security, period. Lieberman is correct in his assertion that the blind pursuit of an elusive peace only invites war; and that preparing for war by showing strength (politically and militarily) brings peace closer.

All other fake calls for "painful concessions" only make peace less likely.