web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘David Hornik’

The State Of The Jews

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

How well are Jews – and non-Jews – doing with regard to the Jewish state? If the question focuses on the highbrow world, and particularly its predominant persuasion of liberalism (or what is still called by that name), the answer that emerges from Edward Alexander’s new book is: not very well.

The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal is not a seamless polemic but rather a far-ranging collection of articles and book reviews that, as Alexander himself allows, are “in flight from unity, as perhaps all collections of essays…must be in some degree.”

That said, the book holds together sufficiently well, being consistently concerned with the theme of how a beleaguered people – and particularly its most articulate individuals – copes or fails to cope with hostility and defamation.

Alexander, professor emeritus of English at the University of Washington in Seattle and longtime pro-Israel and pro-Jewish polemicist, begins with a look at some roots of liberal anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism in 19th-century England. Representing the former is the educator and author Thomas Arnold, who disliked Jews and would have allowed them to become English citizens only by converting to Christianity. Representing the latter are his son, poet and critic Matthew Arnold, who liked Jews and favored their integration in English society as Jews; and the philosopher John Stuart Mill, who extolled Jews’ contribution to civilization while not being overly fond of present-day Jews.

England, though, is one of the principal villains of this book, and by today not only has liberal English philo-Semitism vanished but, says Alexander, England has “declared war upon Zionism and the Jewish state and its inhabitants” and “become the most anti-Zionist and perhaps most antisemitic country in Europe….” And within that larger reality, it is “[English] Jewish Israel-haters” who “play an enormously disproportionate role in the blackening of Israel’s image and the relentless campaign to expel her from the family of nations.”

Thus Alexander reviews the demented anti-Israel activities and statements of the likes of the academics Steven Rose, one of the initiators of English attempts to boycott Israeli universities, and Jacqueline Rose, who has turned her critical opprobrium on “those wishing to denigrate suicide bombers and their culture.”

British Jews of the Roses’ ilk are ably assisted by non-Jewish English Israel-haters like the poet (or “poetaster” as Alexander calls him) Tom Paulin, who among other infelicities told an Egyptian paper that Jews living in the West Bank “should be shot dead,” or Ted Honderich, a philosopher of “mind and logic” who persistently praises the virtuousness of Palestinian terrorism.

Across the pond, leading American Jewish writers like novelist Saul Bellow and the critics Lionel Trilling and Irving Howe racked up a miserable record of sins of omission during the Holocaust, failing to write about it or show any particular concern for what was unfolding. That, at least, eventually evoked contrition, with Bellow writing in a letter to the writer Cynthia Ozick that “I was too busy becoming a novelist to take note of what was happening in the Forties…. Growing slowly aware of this unspeakable evasion I didn’t even know how to begin to admit it into my inner life.”

That contrasts, Alexander points out, with present-day American Jewish Israel bashers like Tony Kushner, Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, or the late Tony Judt, for whom alienation from Jewish national priorities is not cause for remorse but for self-celebration and strutting one’s superior morality.

In America and elsewhere, Alexander observes, such Jews invert the 19th-century notion of “a Jew at home, a man in the world”: generally devoid of Jewish culture in their personal lives, they start adducing their Jewishness when publicly excoriating Israel as a dark stain of evil on the face of earth.

There are, too, some good guys (and girls) in this book in addition to the younger Arnold and (equivocally) Mill. The 19th-century English novelist George Eliot, in Daniel Deronda, showed both prescience and deep sympathy toward the Jewish yearning to return to Zion. The late American Jewish author Marie Syrkin, while of socialist leanings herself, staunchly defended Israel when apathy or criticism were the going trends. Efraim Karsh, an Israeli emigrant in Britain, has with his book Palestine Betrayed definitively refuted claims of Israeli responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem. The Israeli poet Abba Kovner was a heroic anti-Nazi fighter in Lithuania during the war and, after emigrating to Israel, a patriot and leading light of Hebrew literary revival.

Palestinians’ Day In The Sun Appears To Be Waning

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

It’s been a bumpy road for the Palestinians lately.

Recent staged spectacles that were supposed to whip up sympathy for them and put Israel in a bad light again – the Nakba Day (May 15) and Naksa Day (June 4) marches on Israel’s borders, the flotilla, the flytilla – have been disappointments at best, if not outright flops. And the Palestinians’ long-hyped independent-statehood bid at the UN in September is meeting growing opposition from the West.

The Obama administration is believed to have signaled that it will veto the attempt in the Security Council. Germany and Italy have come out squarely against it, and last week 100 members of the European Parliament signeda letter decrying it, noting that “past agreements between the parties and international mediators clearly reject unilateral actions.”

Last week a meeting of the Middle East Quartet – the U.S., EU, UN, and Russia – that was supposed to find a way to head off the Palestinians’ statehood bid and restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, ended inconclusively. Two Israeli newspapers say the sticking point was – in return for Israeli diplomatic concessions – Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov backing the Palestinians’ ongoing rock-solid refusal to take that seemingly innocuous step.

It all left the Palestinians very upset with the U.S.

As Reuters reported,

[T]he Palestinian leadership, in unusually harsh criticism of Washington, on Tuesday held the United States responsible for “racist” Israeli policies it said had sabotaged the peace process.The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee convened in Ramallah after a meeting in Washington of the Quartet failed to announce any progress toward reviving peace talks.

“The only option facing the world today, especially the United States, is to use all tools to oblige the occupiers to halt their racist, expansionary policy,” the PLO said in a statement released after its meeting.

“The United States bears the prime responsibility for the continuation of this racist [Israeli] policy,” it said.

Somehow the “peace” cadences are hard to detect here – especially when you consider that “racist” Israel created the Palestinian Authority, has endured 17 years of terrorism from it without dissolving it, and last year froze the allegedly “expansionary” settlement construction for ten months in a fruitless bid to get the PA to discuss the two-state solution; and that the U.S., for its part, has showered the PA with $4 billion in aid since the mid-1990s and, particularly under Obama, for better or worse, made Palestinian statehood a central goal of its foreign policy.

But annoyance can run both ways, and many in Congress are – finally – getting fed up with the Palestinian Authority. In a nonbinding resolution, the House has voted 407-6 to suspend aid to the PA if it keeps refusing to negotiate with Israel. Legislators are also riled by the PA’s unilateral-statehood endeavor, recent cozying-up to Hamas, and other matters.

Trying to calm the winds, administration official Jacob Walles tolda House panel that “our assistance to the Palestinian people is an important building block of our efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East that will allow all people there – Israelis, Palestinians and others – to live their lives in peace, in dignity and in security.”

His words would come as a surprise to Nir Nachshon, a 27-year-old Israeli man who three weeks ago was pulledout of his car and savagely beaten after mistakenly driving into the Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. Thanks to a Palestinian Authority that is saturatedwith anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement, Israelis know that merely entering a Palestinian area means taking their life in their hands.

As Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said in response to the administration’s claim that its aid to the PA gives it “strong leverage”:

Is it that our assistance hasn’t given us leverage or that we haven’t really used it? The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act [2006] requires the Palestinian Authority to stop incitement and recognize the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist if it wants to keep receiving U.S. assistance. Given the Palestinian Authority’s record and given U.S. law, how can we justify continued assistance?

Or as Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky) told Walles and other administration officials at the session:

Surely, you all can understand how that is troubling to people in Congress that we – and frankly, I think, to the citizens of this country – that we continue to provide substantial aid and we feel like we are not getting cooperation. That is the situation that I think a lot of us feel cannot continue and, at some point, we’re going to have to just say, you know, if you guys are not going to cooperate, we’re going to have to cut the aid off.

With the Palestinians having fooled most of the people for so much time, could it be that their day in the sun is finally waning? It may be too soon to say so. But there are signs that the totally unwarranted spell they have cast for so long is starting to fray.

Bashing Of Glenn Beck Goes From Bad To Worse

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

When Glenn Beck’s upcoming Jerusalem rally was first announced, he saidit would be called “Restore Courage” – modeled on his “Restoring Honor” rally last year in Washington that drew half a million. Or as Beck put it: “Last summer, we set out to restore honor in Washington, DC. This summer, it’s time to restore courage. It is time for us to courageously stand with Israel.”

A month later the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot added more details:

Tens of thousands of excited Israelis and Americans, music performances, appearances by local and international celebrities, senior politicians and a live broadcast that will reach millions of viewers – this is just some of what is in store for Glenn Beck’s upcoming rally “to restore courage,” which is set to take place on August 24 in Jerusalem. The multi-million dollar production is expected to be attended by a convoy of American dignitaries, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent, and Republicans Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Congresswoman Michelle Bachman are to join Beck at the rally as well.”

That was too much for “liberals,” who went into a froth.

The Jerusalem Post’s left-wing columnist Larry Derfner published a piece called “Godspeed to Jerusalem, Glenn Beck.” Derfner spoke of

thousands of godly Americans expected to fly in to join tens of thousands of godly Israelis . So far there’s been no word about Koran-burnings . The stupider and more rotten an American’s politics, the more loudly he’s likely to cheer for Israel . So wackos like Beck and Palin and Bachmann love us – but only as long as we go on fighting their enemies . Who are Israel’s friends? Right-wing meshuggenehs. What is Israel? A right-wing meshugge country . Israel is a tragic story. It used to inspire idealists, now it appalls them . So come on, Glenn proclaim the covenant between Israel and whack-job America for all to see . And I couldn’t think of a better meshuggeneh for the job.

One would like to believe that even some who share some of Derfner’s views could admit this is not any kind of argument but a stream of nasty, bigoted abuse.

Americans for Peace Now, however, chimed inwith “Don’t let Glenn Beck set Jerusalem on fire!” The organization complained that “the location he’s chosen shows that what he really wants to do is foster conflict. He’s decided to hold the event in East Jerusalem, just outside the Old City, one of the most politically sensitive locations in the world. This proves that Beck is no friend of Israel, as he now claims to be. His planned rally could sow greater enmity between Israelis and Palestinians .”

That’s it, right on the money. The choice of location has nothing to do with religious associations; Beck will be flying to Jerusalem in the hope of starting a rumble. Again, the intellectual level of the elitist left doesn’t sweep you off your feet.

And then there was Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, who has gone so far as to publish a Beck-bashing book. In his June 17 column Milbank called Beck “the leading purveyor of anti-Semitic memes in the mass media.”

What really got to him was that Lieberman confirmed to a Washington Post reporter that “I’ve been approached by [Beck] to go . I’d love to participate…”

“This,” wrote Milbank, “nearly caused me to plotz. I admire Lieberman . But if he shares a stage with this creature, he will surrender the decency that has defined his public life . Lieberman still has time to reconsider. For the sake of everything you have stood for, Joe, please: Say it ain’t so.

Wacko. Meshuggeneh. Warmonger. Anti-Semite. Creature. These virtuous people don’t like Beck, do they?

Now what is actually the truth about Glenn Beck? As the political journalist Ron Radosh noted in a tribute last month, “his recent programs on Israel, anti-Semitism, and Jew-hatred of an Islamic strain have been unique in television fare, and in [them] Beck has been serious, passionate, and committed in his desire to defend Israel and to let Americans know why they should join him in this cause.

As Radosh further comments, Beck “has been devoting his air time to the need for defense of Israel and has been doing this in a way that no one else in the media is . No one else in the media has done as much to let Americans know about Islamist Jew-hatred and how it is being played out today. He shows his viewers videos from MEMRI’s own website that the major networks would never think of letting their viewers see.”

How Exactly Is The PA Preferable To Hamas?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

In reaction to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas unity deal signed in Cairo, Israel decided to turn off the spigot. It halted the transfer to the PA of over $100 million in customs and tax revenues.

Considering that, even under the right-of-center Netanyahu government, Israel has generally whitewashed the PA, Netanyahu even having called its president Mahmoud Abbas his “partner in peace” last September, it was a notably assertive step for Israel.

And it appears to have hit the PA hard.

Although the European Union immediately announced it would put up the money in Israel’s stead, it’s not clear when the sum will materialize. Meanwhile it was reported that PA prime minister Salam Fayyad was turning to tight-fisted Arab states for help, claiming the PA was unable to pay the April salaries of 155,000 government workers and intoning at a news briefing: “We say to our Arab brothers: save us. We need your help more than any time before. It is the moment of truth.”

It was furtherreportedthat Fayyad, sounding pretty desperate, was considering asking the UN Security Council to force Israel to hand over the money.

While the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, the EU have kept a distance from Hamas, the idea that the PA could be accountable for anything it does is indeed unfamiliar. In addition to the EU having claimed it would fill in for Israel on the transfer payment, its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has called  on Israel to relent and make the payment itself, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon directly told Netanyahu to do so in a phone call.

Israel, in having drawn the line at the PA’s deal with Hamas while more or less countenancing its other actions up to that point, is partly responsible for this state of affairs. Netanyahu has seen a diplomatic advantage for Israel in showing a generous tolerance toward the PA and repeatedly imploring it to join him in “peace talks.”

Israel could, however, have taken a different tack and emphasized that, based on the record, the PA is no more a genuine peace partner for Israel than Hamas. Talking points, among others, could include:

Holocaust denial. As reported by Palestinian Media Watch,

Holocaust desecration, denial, and abuse are all components of [PA] ideology. A PA TV children’s broadcast taught that Israel burned Palestinians in ovens . A senior Palestinian academic taught adults on PA TV: “There was no Dachau, no Auschwitz; these were disinfecting sites.” The [official] PA daily has published many articles denying the Holocaust.

Abbas himself published a thesis denying and distorting the Holocaust in 1982 – and as Israeli journalist David Bedein reports, this is hardly a thing of the past. Abbas’s thesis is now “prominently displayed” in “every [PA] school and in every library in every Palestinian university .”

Torture. Torture is rampant in PA jails, as reported by the Financial Times last November and by Human Rights Watch in October. Amid the talk of an Arab spring and democracy, no one asks why creating another brutal, oppressive Arab dictatorship should be a supreme Western goal or what kind of “peace” such an entity would offer Israel. For its part, Israel has not helped by constantly associating the PA with peace in its official statements.

The Fatah Charter. Israelis and others, in asserting that a Palestinian government that includes Hamas cannot be a peace partner for Israel, often mention genocidal provisions of the Hamas Charter. Yet the various foundational documents of Fatah – Abbas’s movement and the dominant force in the PA – actually are not much better.

Even Fatah’s revised 2009 Charter states that “our enemy is strong and the battle is ferocious and long . Go forward to revolution. Long live Palestine, free and Arab!” It makes no rescission of the Fatah Constitution, which declares that “Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.”

Incitement. While the fact that the PA names town squares, summer camps and the like after terrorists may be somewhat better known than the other problems, not enough attention is given to the link between systematic PA incitement and the horrific consequences. The massacre in March of five members of an Israeli family, including two young children and a baby, was committed by two PA teenagers who grew up in an atmosphere of severe anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic demonization and hatred. And now it turns out that the killing of one Israeli worshipper and wounding of several others in Nablus last month was perpetrated by members of the PA security force, at least two of them U.S.-trained.

Terrorist Unity And The Push For Statehood

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

The day after last week’s announcement of a Fatah-Hamas rapprochement in Cairo, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said he would keep pursuing peace talks with Israel. Almost concurrently, top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Hamas would stick to its stance of neither recognizing nor negotiating with Israel, but “if Fatah wants to negotiate with Israel over trivialities, they can.”

Notable here is that Abbas cannot “keep pursuing” talks with Israel because he has almost totally abandoned such talks since 2009. Instead, his statement appears to reflect a strategy of retaining his image as a moderate despite the reconciliation with Hamas – and al-Zahar’s grudging agreement suggests Hamas is willing to play along with the game.

And at whom is the strategy aimed? Not at Israel, which, Abbas knows, would not negotiate in any case with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it:

“The PA must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both.  Hamas aspires to destroy Israel and fires rockets at our cities at our children.”

Probably not at the U.S. either. Senior congressmen have already threatened to cut off aid to the PA if the deal with Hamas holds. The Obama administration – which has already come out against the PA’s push for a unilateral recognition of statehood at the UN in September – also reacted coolly.

But if, as observers generally agree, the Fatah-Hamas deal aims to allow Abbas to present himself as the leader of a united “Palestine” – both the West Bank and Gaza – at the UN in September, thereby strengthening his pitch for statehood, and if the deal can’t reasonably be seen as an attempt to raise his stock with the U.S., then a likely target is Europe.

Abbas knows that merely getting the standard General Assembly bloc of Muslim and underdeveloped countries to recognize “Palestine” would have little impact. Europe – especially the key countries Britain, France, and Germany – hasn’t yet taken a clear stance on the statehood push. Abbas knows he can’t have “peace” – that is, can’t get along – with both Hamas and Israel, or Hamas and the U.S. for that matter.

But Abbas would like to get along with both Hamas and Europe; he would like to have “unity” with Hamas and a ringing European endorsement of his state, too. Being able to claim he represents all of “Palestine” – while still professing readiness for nonexistent “peace talks” with Israel – could be a way of getting Europe on his side.

As for the UN itself, its Middle East envoy Robert Serry blessed the Fatah-Hamas announcement the day after it was made. And as for the EU, it stated that while it still needs to “study the details” of the deal, “We have consistently called for reconciliation and peace under the authority of Abbas as a way to end the division between the West Bank and Gaza ”

In other words, while preferring that Fatah have the upper hand, the EU hardly rules out Hamas – even though it officially defines it as a terror organization.

Much depends on whether a Fatah-Hamas unity government will indeed be formed and, if so, whether it will last until September. That would require fewer than five months; the previous 2007 Fatah-Hamas unity government lasted only three months before dissolving into bloody strife in Gaza. But these are different times, and some believe Hamas was driven to the deal by alarm over the possible fall of its patron in Damascus.

Much will also depend, presumably, on what such a government would do between now and September. One point of the agreement reached last week, for instance, is a mutual prisoner release. Hamas is supposed to release Fatah prisoners held in Gaza with Fatah doing the same for Hamas prisoners held in the West Bank. That would mean hundreds of Hamas terrorists roaming freely in an area where hundreds of thousands of Israelis live.

No doubt the U.S. would react negatively, since those Hamas terrorists were imprisoned in the first place by U.S.-trained Fatah forces under the strategy of helping supposedly moderate Fatah suppress and defeat Hamas. But would Europe see such a move as part of “reconciliation and peace”?

‘Winds Of Change’ Should Not Include A Palestinian State

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

“With the winds of change blowing through the Arab world, it’s more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” President Obama saidlast week after meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres.

Peres’s visit was widely regarded as a groundbreaker for a visit in May by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is expected to come under a mounting tide of pressure on the Palestinian-state issue, culminating in a Palestinian attempt to secure UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September.

Meanwhile a poll by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found that one-third of Palestinians approved the attack in the Israeli West Bank community of Itamar in March. In that attack, five members of the Fogel family – the parents as well as their 11-year-old son, 4-year-old son, and 3-month-old daughter – were stabbed to death in their home.

Four decades ago America was shocked by the Manson murders – intruders shot and stabbed to death four adults and a teenage boy at the house of actress Sharon Tate in Los Angeles (Tate, one of the stabbing victims, was eight months pregnant). One can imagine the horror Americans would have felt toward any society one-third of whose members approved the Manson murders. On the scale of horror, the Itamar massacre, given the ages of three of the victims, was even worse.

Two other points should be made.

One is that the Itamar perpetrators have not yet been caught – in contrast to other Palestinian terror attacks where Israeli security forces usually quickly nabbed the culprits. The delay this time is attributed to Israel having withdrawn its forces from much of the West Bank, to be replaced by U.S.-trained Palestinian forces.

The second point is that while the ages of the young Itamar victims may indeed have been “too much” for many Palestinians, that wasn’t the case with the 2008 massacre by gunfire of seven teenage boys and a young man in Jerusalem’s Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. That attack won the approval of 84 percent of Palestinians.

The murderous hatred of many of the Palestinians who are supposed to be awarded a state abutting Israel can be added to the many other arguments against such a state, at least at this time, that make no impression on the devout. Or as Netanyahu himself said recently – not about a Palestinian state per se, but about the supposed centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the region and the world – “There is no evidence that these true believers will not ignore.”

Take, for instance, the statement by Obama, who certainly must be counted among those believers, mentioned above. Rationally speaking, the “winds of change blowing through the Arab world” should not make “more urgent than ever” the creation of a Palestinian state, but induce more wariness than ever.

Those winds have already blown away the Mubarak government in Egypt, which upheld a formal albeit icy-cold peace with Israel for three decades, and is likely to be replaced by a far more hostile, quite possibly belligerent, regime.

Then there’s Jordan, also formally at peace with Israel since 1994, now subject as well to instability and seething with Islamist and Palestinian hatred of Israel. As for Syria, while the Alawite regime of the Assads is already one of the most hostile toward Israel, it’s also a regime that has, out of pragmatism, maintained a peaceful border since 1973; its weakening, and the rise of Sunni Islamists in its stead, could well put an end to that pragmatism.

Rationally, then, the overall instability of the Middle East, where regimes can disappear overnight, is not an argument for creating yet another Middle Eastern state squeezed up against your borders; it’s an argument against it.

To this must be added the results of Israel’s previous territorial withdrawals over the past decade – from Lebanon, leading to Hizbullah’s takeover of the south and eventually the whole country, now teeming with military facilities directed at Israel; and from Gaza, leading to the empowerment of Hamas and an ongoing nightmare of rocket fire and warfare.

Put popular Palestinian hatred in the mix, and the idea of the Palestinian state as an urgent policy goal emerges as not just irrational but crazy. It’s been suggested that Netanyahu, instead of trying to parry the pressures with deft diplomatic games, should start boldly enunciating the truth. It makes a lot of sense.

Thomas Friedman – Just Another Face In The Arab Mob

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Even without the anticipated passage of two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal, it was a week that rattled Israelis’ nerves.

It began on with a stern lecture by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that got considerable play in the Israeli media.

“For anyone who spent time in Tahrir Square these last three weeks,” he wrote, “one thing was very obvious: Israel was not part of this story at all. This was about Egypt and about the longing of Egyptians for the most basic human rights ‘.”

And because Israel, in Friedman’s view, failed to enthuse over nascent Egyptian democracy and instead feared the fall of the nonbelligerent Mubarak government, the columnist found himself “more worried today about Israel’s future than I have ever been, because I think that at time of great change in this region – and we have just seen the beginnings of it – Israel today has the most out-of-touch, in-bred, unimaginative and cliché-driven cabinet it has ever had.”

Friedman, for his part, continued to enthuse in his subsequent dispatch a couple of days later, writing that “Egypt has now been awakened by its youth in a unique way – not to fight Israel, or America, but in a quest for personal empowerment, dignity and freedom.”

One doesn’t know if his ardor has been cooled by the fate of his journalistic colleague Lara Logan, brutally assaulted in Tahrir Square by an anti-Mubarak mob shouting “Jew! Jew!” Material on the anti-Semitism of the “democracy protesters” had already been available, though it clearly had made little or no impression on Friedman.

Israelis, for their part, could be impressed by USA Today’s report that “top leaders of the protest movement that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak” are calling, among other things, “to cut off natural gas shipments to Israel.”

Those shipments are supposed to be guaranteed by the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty. While flouting many other provisions of the treaty, the Mubarak government upheld that particular provision for thirty years.

But let’s not get picayune about these “youth…in a quest for personal empowerment, dignity and freedom.”

And if Israelis turned their eyes from their neighbor to the southwest to their neighbor to the north, Lebanon, the picture was also something less than inspiring as Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Hizbullah terror organization, threatened in a ceremony in Beirut to take over the Galilee in the event of another war with Israel.

“I’m telling the Zionist commanders and generals,” he said, “wherever you go, anywhere in the world and at any time, you always need to look out, because Imad Mugniyeh’s blood has not been spilled in vain” – referring to the terror master assassinated by Israel in Damascus in 2008.

Israelis can remember another “Arab spring” not long ago – in Beirut in 2005. Then too democracy protesters – many of them undoubtedly authentic – thronged the streets and succeeded in getting Hizbullah’s ally Syria to withdraw its army from Lebanon. But today Lebanon is very much in the grip of Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran, and tens of thousands of Hizbullah missiles cover every inch of Israel.

One does not have to be Israeli – just intelligently sympathetic – to understand that such experiences dispose Israelis to cautiousness about purported transformations in the Middle East. Intelligently sympathetic and a good deal less arrogant than Thomas Friedman.

And what about Israel’s neighbor to the east, Jordan – with which, like Egypt, it signed a peace treaty, that one in 1994?

Some rather unpleasant winds blew from that direction, too, when Jordan’s new justice minister, Hussein Mjali, called for the release from a Jordanian prison of Ahmed Daqamseh, a Jordanian who murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997.

Mjali had been appointed by King Abdullah a week earlier “in a shakeup,” the Jerusalem Post noted in an editorial, “geared to stem protests inspired by Egypt’s turmoil” and “facilitate greater democratic freedoms.”

But the fact that Mjali, who served as Daqamseh’s attorney during his trial, could be appointed minister of justice in the first place raises grave questions. It should have been no great surprise that he’d be the blusterous chief speaker at a demonstration for Daqamseh’s release.

For now Jordanian officials have told Israel there are no plans to free Daqamseh – even though “Jordan’s powerful Islamist movement and the country’s 14 trade unions, comprising over 200,000 members, relentlessly campaign for [his] release.”

On Egypt, Short-Lived Unity In Israel

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedlyallowed about 800 Egyptian troops to deploy around Sharm el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

Some reports said Bedouin in the area – as part of the unrest now roiling Egypt – were challenging the Egyptian authorities there and needed to be quelled. The demilitarization of Sinai, from which Egypt attacked Israel in the 1948, 1967, and 1973 wars, is a central plank of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. It was maintained for three decades – until now.

That is not to say Sinai’s demilitarization has made life easy for Israel. Particularly since the latter’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Sinai has been a smuggling route where missiles and other weaponry originating in Iran make their way to Hamas in Gaza.

More recently it has also been a route where illegal African migrants – smuggled, like the weapons, by gangs of Sinai Bedouin – make their way into Israel, creating serious social and crime problems in some of its cities.

Still, to most Israelis these have seemed prices worth paying in return for the Israeli-Egyptian peace – or lack of military hostilities – that has prevailed since the peace treaty was signed.

The remilitarization of Sinai – even if at a small, symbolic level, and done to help the Mubarak regime preserve control at a moment of crisis – rouses specters for Israelis already rattled by fears of that regime’s dissolution.

Indeed, Aluf Benn, a columnist for Haaretz who drew some attention last week when he called Barack Obama “the president who lost Egypt,” seesthe remilitarization as irreversible:

“The Egyptians view the restrictions to their sovereignty in Sinai that were established in the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty as a painful blow to their national pride. Now they have taken advantage of the situation and redeployed their army in the demilitarized peninsula. No future government in Cairo will return this force to the other side of Suez.”

That is not to say Benn is critical of Netanyahu’s move: whereas “the ideologue in [him],” he claims, “would certainly have advocated holding steadfast to the letter of the treaty Netanyahu the statesman opted to sideline the demilitarization arrangements, fearing what would happen if angry masses took over the Straits of Tiran and were in a position to threaten Israel’s freedom of navigation to [its southern port of] Eilat.”

From that point, though, Benn, a left-of-center columnist whose earlier criticism of Obama seemed notable for reflecting Israeli unity on the Egyptian crisis, does manage to mount a curious challenge to Netanyahu. For if the latter’s “predictions come true,” he writes, “and Egypt becomes a new Iran should [Israel] go back to the strategic situation that prevailed before the peace agreement? Should it prepare for confrontation on all fronts ? Or should it make peace in the east and the north and concentrate its force against a new enemy in the south?”

By “the east and the north” Benn means, of course, the West Bank Palestinians and Syria respectively. In other words, for him, the right response to the crumbling of one “peace” would be to “make” two more. Despite the facts that decades of attempts at forging Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian peace have led nowhere at best and to severe terrorism in Israel at worst, and that the present situation in Egypt reveals the fragility of any such “peace” in a fundamentally unstable Middle East.

Benn insists, though, that “peace treaties are not an expression of leftist messianism, as argued by the right wing. Diplomacy is an alternative to force . If an Islamic republic takes hold in Egypt, Netanyahu will face a reverse situation and will be forced to decide whether to withdraw from the West Bank and the Golan Heights in an effort to stabilize the eastern front and concentrate a deterrent force on the southern front.”

It makes perfect arithmetical sense, at least: if you find yourself facing three enemies, why not “stabilize” two of them and have only one?

Except that Benn thereby ignores all the painful lessons Israelis have learned about the depth and intransigence of Arab-Muslim rejection and hatred – not to mention the radical strategic precariousness of giving up the West Bank and the Golan; and puts the onus on Netanyahu – that is, on Israel – to make friends, as if the Palestinians and Syria exist only to be courted by Israel and will wilt as soon as Israel makes a move.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/on-egypt-short-lived-unity-in-israel/2011/02/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: