Fantasies about the Palestinians’ “commitment” to peace.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
If a reactionary is someone who stubbornly opposes change, the State Department is a prime example of an institution mired in fossilized paradigms and narratives. Unable to discard received institutional wisdom in the face of historical facts both new and old, Foggy Bottom continues to live up to its moniker, blind to the historical realities and ideologies that should be determining our foreign policy.
The State Department’s recently released, and suitably criticized, Country Report on Terrorism 2016 is filled with examples of rote adherence to exploded analytic clichés. It takes a monumental effort of willful blindness to write of Mahmoud Abbas and the PA that “explicit calls for violence against Israelis are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it.” You have to go back to September 1938 and Neville Chamberlain saying that Hitler “was speaking the truth” and “would not deliberately deceive a man whom he respected” to find such a preposterous misreading of plain facts.
But such myopia is endemic in the foreign policy establishment. Another example comes from a recent columnby CNN talking-head and long-time Middle East hand Aaron David Miller. Writing in Politico, Miller analyzes the leaked (of course) transcript of some remarks by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who’s been charged with working on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Miller, at least in this essay, is no knee-jerk anti-Trumpian, and treats Kushner with respect. But this makes his repetition of long-exploded “expert” comments about the conflict even more depressing than if they came from a wild-eyed partisan.
Miller, for example, gently reminds Kushner that “history and the past” matter. Indeed, they do. But rarely are the facts of history evident in the standard State Department narrative. Take this comment from Miller: “Israeli and Palestinian officials can overwhelm you with intricate stories about which patch of land belonged to whom when and who double-crossed whom in previous negotiating rounds.” As written, this remark suggests the classic “he said-he said” moral equivalence usually trotted out by those who refuse to see that one side in the conflict is the aggressor, the other the victim. Instead, two peoples are fighting over a “homeland” and its religious shrines, and just need a neutral negotiator to persuade each side to give up something to make a deal.
The facts of history plainly do not support the stereotypical “both sides have just claims” argument. The territory of Israel, including Judea and Samaria (aka the “West Bank”), was for three millennia the homeland of the Jewish people. It was never an Arab “homeland.” Arabs came as conquerors, stayed as occupiers, and multiplied through migration. World War I, and the Ottomans’ drastic blunder of allying with the Central Powers, led the new Turkish nation to dissolve the Ottoman Empire and abandon the Middle East from Turkey to Egypt. As was their rights as victors, the French and British reorganized those territories into nations, including Israel, in recognition of the Jews’ historical ties to the region, and the previous decades in which Jews had returned to that homeland and begun to develop it.
These decisions by the victors were ratified under international law by several treaties and the League of Nations. The Arabs did not accept this outcome, and continued to use violence to reverse it. In 1948 this violence culminated in the withdrawal of the British as the mandatory authority; the declaration by Israel, per a United Nations resolution, that it was an independent state; the rejection once again by the Arabs of the resolution by the UN of which they were members; and a full-scale multi-national invasion to wipe out the new-born state––a war they started but lost. Twice more the Arabs attempted to use war to change facts on the ground created by international law, and twice more they lost. Since then they have used terrorism and stirred up global opprobrium against Israel to retake the ancient homeland of the Jewish people from “the river to the sea.”
This history can be read by anybody, and it is not “intricate” or a question of “which patch of land belonged to whom.” History and international law have long answered that question. Of course, for the Arabs it was a catastrophe, but so for the Germans was the one-third of Germany lost after its wars of aggression in the 20thcentury, and the ten million Germans forced to leave those lands their ancestors had dwelled in for five centuries. History teaches us these are the costs of losing a war. Only in the case of Israel are we told to forget this historical truth and turn aggressors and violators of international law into victims.
Another bit of received wisdom follows from the “each side has a legitimate claim” argument. That is, only diplomacy can resolve the conflict in a way fair to each side. Miller brings up the Egypt-Israel peace agreement as a diplomatic success that should be emulated. But that worked not because Egypt accepted Israel’s right to exist, but because Anwar Sadat made a realist calculation that it could not defeat Israel with war, but would coexist in a cold peace if the U.S. continued, as it does today, to pay $2 billion a year in the foreign aid equivalent of danegeld. And don’t forget, Sadat’s assassination by jihadists sent a powerful message to other Arab leaders that settling with Israel is a capital offense against Islam.
Apart from the agreement with Egypt, the record of diplomacy in the region for half a century has been one of abject failure. Like the Oslo Accords, which merely encouraged the Arabs to pocket concessions, rake in the dollars and Euros, and then hold out for more. This is another hard lesson from history, going back to Philip II. He brilliantly used interstate diplomacy and institutions as a tactic for buying time and gulling rivals until the matter could be settled by force, as Phillip did when he ended Greek freedom at Chaeronea in 338 B.C. In our day we have seen the same failures on numerous fronts, from the phony “peace treaty” with Vietnam in 1973, to the arms control agreements that the Soviets, Russia, North Korea, and now Iran have serially violated.
Of course, diplomacy is the métier of the State Department, so they think “smart diplomacy” is the silver bullet that will end conflict and foster peace. But diplomacy works only if backed by a credible threat of force to punish violators or bring them to the table, just as Israel’s defeat of Egypt in 1972 focused Sadat’s mind and convinced him that cold, bribed coexistence was better than another humiliating defeat. But we in the West have become increasingly unwilling to use adequate force to deter violators or drive them to an agreement. The most glaring example of this failure is the decades-long violations of the 1994 Oslo Accords by the PA, a fig-leaf for the terrorist Fatah and PLO. Indeed, rather than punish the Palestinian Arabs, we have continued to finance and arm its “government,” a corrupt gang that enriches itself even as it executes its “stages” strategy for destroying Israel, one tactic of which is terrorist violence, the other negotiating in order to extract money from the West and concessions from Israel.
Miller’s final advice for Kushner encapsulates the false assumptions on which the State Department has operated for decades: “Don’t be Israel’s lawyer.” This is particularly peculiar, given the outright hostility and brow-beating of Israel that was practiced by the Obama administration, and that apparently will continue under Trump, judging by the recent State Department report. Miller’s advice again assumes that, as in most divorces, two equally aggrieved parties with equal claims require a neutral arbitrator. But there are no equal claims in the Israel-Arab conflict. Israel’s claim is based on history, tradition, and the decisions of the League of Nations and the United Nations, decisions violently rejected by the other side. Miller’s advice is akin to a divorce arbitrator considering the “claims” of a wife-beater who got shot by his injured victim to be equal to hers. This is just another iteration of the “moral equivalence” and “cycle of violence” lies that outsiders find useful for helping them to avoid moral clarity and take the side that is right.
That fact makes this comment by Miller astonishing: “But the fact is we do have to see this conflict from both sides, regardless of our special bonds with the Israelis. Unless we’re prepared to exercise independence when it comes to mediation, we won’t succeed.” We know the Israeli “side”: a free, democratic, open country that recognizes human rights and confessional tolerance, a country founded on the territory their ancestors had continually inhabited for three millennia, a country willing to live in peace with its neighbors yet has been subjected for nearly a century to war and terrorist attacks at a frequency and lethality that no other country would tolerate for five seconds.
We also know what the State Department thinks is the other “side”: an indigenous people driven from their land by imperialists, victims of colonialism’s depredations, “occupied” by an alien power, subjected to “settlements” and “checkpoints,” and denied their longing for “national self-determination.” A people who want only to live peacefully side-by-side with Israel.
This interpretation of the conflict has been proven false over and over again. The Arabs have made it clear in word and deed that they hate Israel and want to destroy it, not because it is a neo-colonial outpost of the West that denies Arabs a national homeland, but because Israel is inhabited by infidel Jews, the scions of “apes and pigs,” the historical impediment to Muslim expansion, and the unjust “occupiers” of an Islamic waqf, a conquered territory that becomes a perpetual “endowment” of the Muslim peoples, and the destiny of which is to be brought back under Muslim suzerainty. Thus it is the sacred duty of Muslims to restore such territories to the umma by waging “jihad, jihad, jihad,” as Yasser Arafat used to preach, or by negotiating temporary “truces” that allow the faithful time to become strong enough to defeat the enemy.
Of course, our sages in the foreign policy establishment dismiss such obvious motives as the irrational residue of confessional bias or even “racism” ––even though 14 centuries of Islamic history, scripture, doctrine, and jurisprudence consistently describe these motives for aggression evident today in the conflict with the Israelis. And this brings us to the premier reason why a government bureaucracy––which is headed by political appointees, funded with taxpayer money, and freed from accountability for failure––continues to repeat analyses and policies that fail year after year. As the great historian of the Soviet terror Robert Conquest put it, “It is easy enough to fall into the trap of thinking that others think, within reason, like ourselves. But this trap is precisely the error that must be avoided in foreign affairs.” That is, a failure of imagination, the inability to think past our own arrogant Western, modern assumptions and instead see the conflict through the eyes of the enemy.
At the end of his column Miller at least admits that these decades of failure might mean that “Maybe it just can’t work,” that no negotiated solution is possible, and that Kushner like those before him will “remain trapped in a peace-process Bermuda Triangle, wandering around between a two-state solution that’s too hard to implement and one that’s still too important to abandon.” Why is he so pessimistic? Because he’s finally realized that we’ve utterly misinterpreted the motives of the Arabs, and ignored their religious doctrines and traditional practices? That they really don’t want a “two-state-solution”? That we’ve continually practiced a moral equivalency that is in fact moral idiocy, an unwillingness to say there is a right and a wrong, a just and an unjust, set of motives on each side?
No, just at the moment when you hope Miller might think outside the foreign-policy box, he retreats into the flabby banality that “you need real leadership and commitment by the two sides.” Commitment to what? The Palestinian leadership has had “commitment” all right––to destroy Israel as a state and return the ancient homeland of the Jewish people to its divinely ordained superiors. Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas have failed to be “real” leaders in our eyes only because they won’t make the effort to commit to our alien ideals we arrogantly assume are desired by everyone.
We, on the other hand, have failed not so much because of mediocre leaders, but because guided by our State Department, we continue to shoehorn the conflict into our Western paradigm of anticolonialism, nationalist self-determination, and the desire for our goods like human rights, democracy, and individual freedom. We are repeating the same old failure of imagination, and so will end up with the same old failure of diplomacy. And the wages of that failure will continue to be the blood of Israelis.
Linda Sarsour (right). Photo: Screenshot.
Anti-Defamation League National Director CEO Jonathan Greenblatt slammed The New School on Monday over the Manhattan-based institution’s upcoming hosting of a panel discussion on antisemitism that will feature several prominent anti-Israel activists.
Participants in the Nov. 28 event — titled “Antisemitism and the Struggle for Justice” — will include Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson.
“Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism,” Greenblatt tweeted on Monday. “These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.”
Mexico’s Sec. of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso, thanked the IDF team for their work to help the people of Mexico during the earthquakes. (IDF Spokesperson)
Mexico has reportedly announced that it will change its voting strategy at the United Nations and other international bodies by stopping to vote in favor of the Palestinians.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Figari contacted Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Yoni Pelad and told him of the shift in strategy for all upcoming voting procedures related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Perpetuating the romance of the Bolshevik regime, whose ‘good intentions’ cannot mask the horrors imposed in its name
This was written not in the Soviet Union or one of its satellites, but in New York in 1947 by Robert Warshow in Commentary magazine about the American culture of the previous decade. While slightly hyperbolic (the Southern Agrarians, the American Scholar, etc.?) it faithfully describes American Jewish culture of the time, emphatically including its Yiddish branch. At the extreme of this movement were people like Julius Rosenberg, George Koval, and Mark Zborowski, who actively spied for the Soviet Union. At the same time, editors of Communist publications, Hollywood and union activists, party writers and institutional leaders were all directed by Moscow and were joined by rank-and-file members in promoting the virtues of Stalinism over the evils of American constitutional democracy.
How the grandparents of today’s Christian victims of ISIS were also butchered by Muslims.
Editor’s Note: The following review was written by Raymond Ibrahim, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The book reviewed is Year of the Sword: The Assyrian Christian Genocide, a History (published by the Oxford University Press, 2016), by Joseph Yacoub, an Honorary Professor of Political Science at Catholic University of Lyon. A significantly shorter version of this review first appeared in the Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2017.
This important contribution to genocide studies documents how the world’s oldest Christian communities—variously referred to as Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Arameans, but best known as Assyrians—were, along with the Armenians, “victims of the [Ottoman] plan for exterminating Christianity, root and branch,” to quote Lord Bryce, circa. 1920. In fact, as half of the Assyrian population was massacred—going from 600,000 to 300,000 in 1915-18—relative to their numbers, no other Christian group, including the Armenians, suffered as much under the Ottomans.
Three non-Jewish men and one non-Jewish woman went up to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, on Thursday morning, and took part in a ceremony in which they received upon themselves the responsibility of adhering to the seven Noahide laws and were officially accepted by a rabbinic tribunal.
The seven Noahides went up to the Temple Mount accompanied by a group of rabbis. One rabbi explained to them the significance of the place and how the Temple was intended as a House of Prayer for all Nations, that benefits the entire world. The rabbis then discussed the laws pertinent to a non-Jewish resident of Israel, righteous gentiles, and the commandments incumbent upon them.
Allahu Akbar. You hear it everywhere these days.
Special agent Scott Wickland said that he heard cries of “Allahu Akbar” before the Benghazi attack. And then the guards ran for their guns.
In Nice, France, the Islamic terrorist who killed 86 people and wounded over 400 by running them over with a truck, shouted, “Allahu Akbar”. In New York, the Islamic terrorist who was trying to imitate him, also shouted, “Allahu Akbar.” The 9/11 hijackers had the same message, “Allahu Akbar”.
With so many investigations and promised indictments, why is the prime minister’s popularity still so high? Part of it is certainly the convoluted nature of the allegations. The more closely one examines them, the more unbelievable they become.For all the differences between Israeli and American Jews, one thing is uncannily similar: the daily headlines lambasting their current political leader.
Normally, we’re allowed to discuss everything, even the salaries of senior judges and police officers. And if we want, we can even demand a pay raise for the prime minister.
There’s no taboo. Everything can and should be on the table. Even a law granting the prime minister immunity from police investigations, in a slightly more reasonable version, is an appropriate subject for a public debate.
But these are not normal times. We are in the midst of a dangerous campaign against the heads of the law enforcement system. They are not immune to criticism. But in the past few months, something completely different has been happening. of the campaign.
There has always been a debate about the “loyalty” of Israeli Arabs. Meaning, of course, Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, apart from those living in the West Bank/Judea-Samaria.
Now, a new poll bolsters the argument that these Palestinians are a sort of Fifth Column within the Jewish state.
Not loyal at all.
According to a report in the Times of Israel:
“Two-thirds of Arab Israelis believe Israel has ‘no right’ to define itself as the Jewish nation state, while a majority of Jewish Israelis (58 percent) say those who reject that definition of Israel should have their citizenship revoked, according to a new poll underlining deep divisions between the two communities.
A report on Channel 10—a known stronghold of Bibi-animosity—claims that
senior law enforcement officials have concluded there is sufficient evidence to file an indictment against [Prime Minister Netanyahu] on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust…. The report quoted an unofficial police opinion according to which the evidence that has accumulated against Netanyahu is robust…. The State Attorney’s Office, Channel 10 reported, was also coming to the opinion that there are grounds to file an indictment on bribery, but was not as sure as the police.
Most of the latest purported information—once again leaked by the police, guardians of virtue in the Bibi-hunt who have leaked ruthlessly and systematically throughout this affair—concerns Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have done favors for his longtime friend, businessman and movie mogul Arnon Milchan, in return for gifts of cigars and champagne.