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Why was the IDF (and Karsenty) Abandoned in the Al Dura Affair?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Thirteen years after Israel’s enemies unleashed one of the most damaging fake atrocity stories in military history, the Israeli government has come up with an official report [1.8 mb pdf] to refute the September 30, 2000 France 2 news broadcast, narrated by respected correspondent Charles Enderlin, that claimed to show 12-year old Mohammad Dura shot dead by IDF soldiers.

Oh, we already know and knew almost immediately beyond a reasonable doubt that al Dura was not shot by the IDF, and we almost certainly know that he was not shot at all, by anybody. Persuasive evidence (more persuasive than the official report) is here.

In fact, we can say with confidence that the incident was a fake, set up by France 2′s Palestinian cameraman and local Gaza residents.

But what is difficult to understand is the Israeli diffidence in the face of the vicious allegations.

The immediate response of the IDF was to temporize. From the official report:

On that same day, following the France 2 report, the Spokesperson Unit released a statement which made clear that while it was not possible to determine, based on the footage broadcast by the network, the source of the shots apparently fired at Jamal and the boy, ultimate responsibility lay with the Palestinians for cynically launching armed attacks from within the civilian population. …

But then, at a press conference on October 3, it turned disastrous:

[Maj. Gen. Giora] Eiland, in response to a question regarding Al-Durrah, answered that as a result of the gunfire at the junction, Jamal and the boy “took cover next to a wall, several meters from where Palestinians fired at us. The soldiers returned fire and apparently the boy was hit by our fire.”

Eiland later explained,

I had not seen all the evidence made available to the Israeli army only later…Given the long history of Palestinians exposing their children to danger, I assumed that the main issue in this case would be the question: Why would the Palestinians have exposed their own civilians to danger by firing on the Israelis while a boy and his father were in the crossfire? I did not realize that my words would be used to accuse Israel of cold-blooded murder.

The footage was played and replayed around the world. Two weeks later, two IDF reservists were torn to pieces in Ramallah to shouts of “al-Dura! al-Dura!” The alleged cold-blooded murder became the symbol of the Intifada, and an inspiration for suicide bombers. Daniel Pearl’s murderers and even Osama bin Laden, before and after 9/11, invoked it as justification for their acts.

Meanwhile IDF Maj. Gen. Yom Tov Samia, OC Southern Command, reenacted the incident, examined the relative locations of soldiers and Palestinians, and concluded that IDF bullets could not have hit al-Dura. This was announced at a press conference on November 27, which was almost entirely ignored by the media — and by top officers and Israel politicians. Indeed, the IDF Chief of Staff, Shaul Mofaz, told the Knesset that the investigation was a “private initiative of Samia,” not part of an official investigation.

Why didn’t Mofaz and his boss, Ehud Barak, who was serving as both Prime Minister and Minister of Defense at the time, take up the cause of the IDF and demand, with the maximum possible diplomatic force, that all information related to the incident — including all the footage shot by France 2 on that day — be placed at Israel’s disposal to do a proper investigation?

It didn’t happen, not then and not later, despite the revelation of more and more facts casting doubt on the story that the IDF had shot Dura. In 2005, the PM’s spokesperson to the foreign press, Ra’anan Gissin, asked France 2 for the footage and was turned down. In 2007, the IDF spokesperson tried to get the footage, but again Enderlin refused to provide it. More recently, the French Ambassador was asked “to help,” to no avail. Surely the State of Israel could have done more to defend the honor of its armed forces than to deploy low-level officials.

A French media critic, Philippe Karsenty, who has been defending himself against a libel suit filed against him by France 2 correspondent Enderlin for at least 10 years — he called the presentation “a hoax” — spoke bitterly in 2009 about the treatment he received from government officials:

During all those years, I got the cold shoulder from Israeli officials. With the exception of a few mavericks like Danny Seaman (director of the Government Press Office), Raanan Gissin (Spokesman, Prime Minister’s Office), Shlomi Amshalom, former deputy spokesperson for the IDF, or former ambassador Zvi Mazel, the vast majority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel treated me and others who pursued this case, as embarrassments – conspiracy nuts who they wished would just disappear…

In 2002, when it was still possible to do something immediate, Nissim Zvili was the Israeli ambassador to Paris. He listened courteously but explained to me that he was a friend of Charles Enderlin, the French journalist who narrated the al Dura hoax.

In 2006, Zvili was replaced by Daniel Shek, who refused to shake my hand, and later commented on a Jewish radio that I was defending “conspiracy theories.” When I asked his colleague in charge of communication at the embassy in Paris, Daniel Halevy Goitschel, why he never returned my phone calls, he responded: “the phone doesn’t work at the embassy.” We are not even dealing with a lack of support here. On the contrary, I was being sabotaged.

When I won the case [against another media outlet] in May 2008, Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: “Karsenty is a private individual and no one in the Israeli government asked him to take on his battle against France 2. Karsenty had no right to demand that Israel come to his aid. All calls on the Israeli government to come and ‘save’ him are out of place. He was summoned to court because of a complaint of the French television channel. I don’t see where there is room for the Israeli government to get involved.”

Last December, I went over the evidence with Aviv Shir-On, who now claims to have helped me, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). After two hours he repeated the old MFA refrain, “I’m not convinced.” Let’s say, for the sake of generosity, that Shir-On is just one more timid defender of Israel, so afraid of what “others” might say, that even the judgment of an independent (and hardly well-disposed) French court in favor of his own country, does not give him the courage to speak. So even though I won the case, and the new evidence from France 2 sharpens our argument, I could not count on Israeli officials to help move into a counter-attack. Enderlin, humiliated by the court decision, was allowed to bluff his way back to prominence, and recently, in the Gaza war, lead the journalists’ attack on the Israeli government…

On January 2009, I met Tzipi Livni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and asked her about the al Dura story and the lack of reaction of the Israeli officials. Why didn’t the State of Israel demand that France 2 admit their blood libel following the court decision? I was stunned by her answer: “Well, it happens that we kill kids sometimes. So, it’s not good for Israel to raise the subject again.” (Philippe Karsenty: Israel Losing the Media War: Wonder Why?).

Karsenty was convicted, and the conviction was overturned on appeal — but recently the decision that exonerated him was reversed by France’s highest court.

It’s too late for the Israeli government to help him with his case, but let’s hope it can find the strength at last to support the IDF.

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Divine Hint: Netanyahu and Mofaz Must Lead against Iranian Threat

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

We’re filing this one under the “Purim Torah” category, but on a day rife with miracles and secret hints and unpronounced plots and narratives, it might as well be something to consider year-round.

Let’s start with the fact—acknowledged by many, including the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook—that there are two kinds of antisemitism. Over the years they’ve become intertwined, and so they’re hard to tell apart sometimes, but the distinction is important if we wish to understand the mythical hatred of God’s archenemy Amalek (For he said, Because God has sworn that God will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. Ex. 17:16).

One kind of antisemitism is not very different from any other ethnic conflict, over new and ancient disputes, like the conflicts between Serbs and Muslims, Tutsi and Hutus, Flemish and Walloon. I would include the hatred of Palestinians towards Jews in this context, because, essentially, it is rooted in a dispute over land. It may have expanded by now to darker regions, but its inception was in a “normal” ethnic conflict.

Then there’s the ideological antisemitism, the Amalek kind. It was not born by anything the Jews have done to anyone, it comes from a baseless hatred, or, if you will, as the verse in Exodus suggests, a hatred of God which is expressed through the hatred of His children.

On October 4 and 6, 1943, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler told SS officers in Posen, Poland:

“I mean the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish race. It’s one of those things it is easy to talk about, ‘the Jewish race is being exterminated,’ says one party member, ‘that’s quite clear, it’s in our program, elimination of the Jews, and we’re doing it, exterminating them.’ And then they come, 80 million worthy Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are vermin, but this one is an A-1 Jew.”

After which that clever monster calls on his men to disregard those emotional urges, stare straight at the piles of corpses, and harden their hearts, because “The difficult decision has to be taken, to cause this Volk to disappear from the earth.”

That’s the cold, unwavering essence of Amalek, that’s the spiritual source that made Auschwitz happen, and that’s the driving force behind horrid monstrosities like the Ayatollahs and their clown, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They see us, whether for racial or for religious reasons, as the essential evil in the world and they want us—all of us, including the Neturei Karta idiots who kiss their hands—dead.

Now, just as there are two kinds of antisemitism, there are also two kinds of Jewish leaders: the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, our patriarch Jacob’s sister wives.

Traditionally, we’ve been led by the tribe of Juda, a son of Leah. This is because Juda, like his most beloved great grandson King David, have been able to teach us how to do T’shuva-repent. They’ve taught us—and the world—that repent involves first and foremost accepting responsibility for the wrong that was done, then expressing full regret for having done it, then fixing as best we can what we’ve done, and, finally, resolving to never repeat it.

Those skills are useless against Amalek. As soon as we reveal what we’ve done wrong, that’s all Amalek wants to hear. Anything we’ll add will only bolster his resolve to annihilate every last one of us, wherever we reside, men, women and children.

This is why in our history the only ones deposited with the mission of fighting Amalek have been the children of Rachel—because the children of Rachel are perfect.

It disqualified them from being our long-term rulers, implies the gemora in Yoma 22b: “Shmuel said: Why didn’t the kingdom of Shaul last longer? Because he had no imperfection. As Rabbi Yochanan said citing Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: We do not appoint a public leader unless there’s a can of vermin dragging behind him, so that, should he feel haughty, we’ll tell him: Look behind you.”

I’m not sure why the children of Rachel have been so perfect. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Rachel was Jacob’s true love: why, the moment he saw her he couldn’t help himself, grabbed her and kissed her (to the chagrin of more than one commentator). Perhaps it takes that kind of love to spawn perfect children. Leah’s love was troubled and tormented, rife with self doubt – the stuff that makes for introspective children with a weakness for poetry.

Mofaz Wanted Defense

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

During recent coalition talks with Netanyahu, Shaul Mofaz, head of the 2-man Kadima party asked to be named Defense Minister.

Mofaz used to be the IDF Chief of Staff, so the idea isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds, other than the fact that Mofaz is only the head of a 2-man political party, and in the previous government he managed to only remain a member of Netanyahu’s coalition for a record breaking two months.

Netanyahu turned down Mofaz’s request, after which Kadima joined the Lapid-Bennett alliance.

New Lapid Bennett Axis Enters Coalition Talks Together

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Now it’s getting real, at least according to the newly right-wing daily Maariv: the chairman of Yesh Atid, the leather-jacketed, cool TV journalist and host Yair Lapid, and the chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, the knitted yarmulke wearing, hi-tech wizard, NRP resurrecting Naftali Bennett have agreed on coordinating their positions when facing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition negotiations team.

Both leaders – the two most distinct winners of the recent election – have been holding their own negotiations, and agreed to present a unified position as their conditions for joining the next government.

Together, their two parties present a formidable block of 31 seats, equal to the Likud-Beitenu yield in the elections. Should they stick by their mutual commitments—which, in itself would be a refreshing Israeli phenomenon—they could easily force Netanyahu’s hand away from a partnership with the two Haredi parties, Shas and Torah Judaism. Those two only have a measly 18 seats to offer the embattled PM.

According to Maariv, which has recently been purchased by Shlomo Ben-Tzvi’s Hirsch Media, owner of the right-wing daily Makor Rishon—and as such is very reliable on issues concerning Bennett and the settlements movement—the two parties agreed that they would either join the coalition together or not at all. (This means that, should both remain outside the government, Lapid would be Opposition leader, to Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich’s chagrin).

Senior Likud officials have confirmed, according to Maariv, that such an agreement really exists, adding that it significantly limits Netanyahu’s room for maneuvering.

Netanyahu’s ideal coalition government would rely on Jewish Home, Shas and Torah Judaism (61 seats) with Kadima’s additional 2 seats and Shaul Mofaz, possibly, as Defense Minister. Indeed, Bibi has no interest in inviting Lapid to a seat of power in his government, which could make him even more popular four years from now.

So that, strangely enough, it is Lapid who depends on Bennett rather than the other way around, to keep his word. But, political nickels and dimes aside, the two men can only help each other by being known to cooperate publicly: two young men, both successful in their own rights, injecting honesty and principles into Israel’s cynical, depressing, old politics. And as such they’re certainly making Bibi look bad.

One man to watch for is Israel Beiteinu’s chairman Avigdor Liberman, who appeared pessimistic on Sunday regarding the possibility of putting together a viable coalition. “It’s very difficult to find a common denominator here,” he said. “The ideological split is sometimes very polar, so the end result is that instead of compromise we get ‘shatnez’ (halachically unlawful hybrid between wool and linen) that doesn’t allow us to move in any direction, and it does not allow us to bring any of the changes that the people are expecting.”

Liberman said that, as far as he’s concerned, the main issue for the next government should be changing the system of government. He said the issue would be determined in the guidelines of the next government, without wasting time on various governance committees. Likud and Israel Beitenu will meet in the coming days to present an offer on this count that would be acceptable to both parties.

According to Liberman’s proposal, the head of the largest party automatically becomes prime minister. Each government will have 18 cabinet ministers and four deputy ministers. The ministers will give up their Knesset membership, to ensure the separation of powers.

The voting threshold should go up three percent, says Liberman. Removing the Prime Minister will require a special majority of 80 Knesset members, and failure to pass a budget will not dissolve the Knesset. Votes of no confidence will require 61 signatures.

All of the above proposals reflect Liberman’s mounting frustration with the workings of government over the past decade or so, as he has experienced it intimately. His notions of a solution are typically direct, if not outright brutal, favoring the larger parties at the expense of the very parties Likud-Beitenu wants to seduce into the next government: Shas and Torah Judaism. It’s no wonder, then, that he is pessimistic about the chances for an effective government.

Indeed, the new pact between the two young mavericks Lapid and Bennett has effectively created two major, right-of-center blocks: Lapid-Bennett Vs. Netanyahu-Liberman, each with exactly 31 seats. Expect Liberman to push for partnership with the other “big party” – even if it requires Netanyahu to overcome his fears of an even stronger Lapid.

Twenty-Twenty Hindsight Makes them Lie

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Israeli politicians are rushing to try to deny history. They seem to have forgotten the concept of video. No longer can a leader claim not to have voted for something – it’s all there.

There were many of us who opposed the “Disengagement Plan” of Ariel Sharon. We said it would bring the rockets falling on Shderot to Ashkelon and Ashdod. The most forward thinking among us even warned of rockets on Tel Aviv. I don’t remember them saying rockets on Jerusalem – but this too has happened.

If you are thinking of voting for Kadima and Shaul Mofaz, if you are thinking of voting for Likud and Bibi Netanyahu – take a look at this news report.

From their own mouths…they prove their ignorance. There is a lie going around Israel today that Bibi Netanyahu did not vote for the Disengagement Plan, referred to by many as the Expulsion Plan because it failed to disengage us from the Palestinians in Gaza while merely resulting in the expulsion of 9,000 Jews and the destruction of more than 21 Jewish communities in Gaza and Northern Shomron.

From their own lips – these would be our leaders – blind then, blind now…

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Understanding Israel’s Upcoming Election

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The Israeli election set for January 22 and the coverage thereof is very strange in several respects. It is a contest in which his opponents seek to beat centrist Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu, of the Likud party, in a remarkably inept manner and in which international understanding of the issues is at the low level we’ve become used to seeing.

Here’s a simple way to understand the situation. The right-wing parties and the left-wing parties are each likely to get roughly the same number of seats that they received in the 1999 election. The difference is that in 1999 the rightist parties divided their vote among three parties and today have largely united into one. The moderate left in 1999 gave their votes mainly to one party and now are dividing it among four.

In addition, viewing the actual electioneering by the left makes one appreciate just how fraudulent political consultants are. They claim that they are going to help the candidate win but have no idea of how to do so. And in Israel they borrow childishly from the latest fads in American politics without regard to the differences. Here are the themes pushed by the moderate left opposition:

–Bibi is for the rich. This slogan is unlikely to work in a country where lower income generally corresponds with more conservative voting. The idea is obviously stolen from Barack Obama’s campaign. But Obama was going for large African-American, Hispanic, and student blocs plus some middle class sectors that could be stirred up over hatred of the rich. This has no relevance for Israel.

–Bibi will get you killed. This theme is accompanied by a picture of a mushroom cloud. But is the idea that he will get you nuked by attacking Iran or by not attacking Iran? It isn’t clear. And since Netanyahu has the best claim to preserve the country’s security that approach is likely to be counterproductive.

–Bibi doesn’t want your vote. This is the newest poster to appear though it isn’t clear who’s promoting it. That makes no sense at all.

–The choice of photographs. Former Prime Minister Tsipi Livni, the candidate of her own party—and one of the quartet seeking moderate/moderate left voters—has a photograph on her poster that looks as if it were selected by her worst enemy. In it she appears ugly, angry, and confused.

–Livni’s ad has several shots of Obama and one of her standing with new Secretary of State John Kerry. They seem to argue that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas really wants peace but Netanyahu blocked it. Perhaps this ad was designed by left-liberal American Jewish political consultants. It won’t go over well in Israel.

Shaul Mofaz, candidate of Kadima, Livni’s former party that is expected to collapse completely in the election, has a terrible photograph of himself with former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. That relates to Kadima’s founder but is unlikely to win any votes. Rather than projecting leadership, the other left-of-center party leaders seem to be seeking anonymity.

What’s astonishing is the obtuseness of the opposition, especially Labor. Netanyahu is going to win but the way to get the largest vote, becoming the official opposition and possibly his coalition partner, is to run on an energetic program of domestic improvements. The obvious opposition approach should be that it is the time to improve schools, the infrastructure, and reduce housing and food prices.

People are waiting to be told that their living standards can be improved without threatening their security. A winning theme would be to say Netanyahu has neglected these domestic issues. True, the economy has done very well but the price of relatively high employment, rapid growth, and low inflation has been high prices.

For breakfast just now I paid $3 for a croissant and $3 for a coffee in a country where income levels average half those in the United States. Young people can’t afford an apartment in a country where rentals are relatively rare and there is not a strong mortgage system or tax deductions for paying one.

That’s why there were social protests in 2011. While going into big debt and increasing subsidies—the trap into which most Western economies have fallen—would be a mistake there are certainly good shifts to be made. Instead, voters are being treated like idiots who will be won over by some silly slogan convincing them that either the prime minister is evil or will get them incinerated. That won’t win an election.

Mofaz on his Facebook Page: Ceasefire A Mistake

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Opposition leader and Kadima chairman MK Shaul Mofaz expressed opposition to the ceasefire on his Facebook page.

Mofaz wrote that “the ceasefire is a mistake and the next round with Hamas is waiting around the corner.” Mofaz also wrote that “in practice the military’s operational achievements did not translate into political success. You don’t settle with terrorism. There decision. And, unfortunately, a decisive victory has not been achieved and we did not recharge our deterrence. As the Chief of Staff during the Defensive Shield operation I stopped the suicide bombers. I know it’s possible. It’s possible to defeat terrorism.”

It should be noted that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was in charge of removing the IDF from the Gaza Strip, along with some 10 thousand Jewish residents. That move has probably contributed more than anything else Israel has done since the Oslo Accord of 1992 to deteriorate the state of her security.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/yoris-news-clips/mofaz-on-his-facebook-page-ceasefire-a-mistake/2012/11/21/

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