Saturday, June 27, 2009

Explosive meat

Did you know that beef can be used to make bombs and rockets? Neither did I. How else to explain, however, the ban on live cattle imports into Gaza enforced by the Israeli government over the better part of the year to date.

A recent Haaretz story reports the Israeli government's decision to allow 350 heads of cattle into the strip for the first time in nine months. (The Israeli military's "Coordinator of (Israeli) Government Activities in the Territories" (COGAT) has reportedly determined that 300 cows per week are the minimum needed in Gaza in order to avoid malnutrition, and a "humanitarian crisis.") But why was shipment of cattle forbidden in the first place?

This is a case of an idiotic decision by the Israeli government. Unlike in the case of the shooting of children, which is customarily described as a regrettable consequence of the rocks they throw (or is it "hand-propelled mineral devices"?), there's no way the ban on livestock can be rationalized, and it has been met with fierce resistance from within Israel itself. Not because of any humanitarian concern, mind you, but because it hurts the cattle raising industry:

The director of the Livestock Growers Association, Haim Dayan, said that the problem of his colleagues is that even though they now have permission to raise livestock for export to the Gaza Strip, long-term bans prevent them from doing so. As a result, they complain that they are often stuck with large stocks of cattle, something that lowers local prices and can result in enormous losses to the growers.

"If they tell us that the Strip is closed entirely, we will plan accordingly. But the current situation cannot go on," Dayan said.

Another concern that has been raised is that the smuggling of cattle from Egypt through tunnels to make up for the animals that aren't coming in from Israel might result in unhealthy animals being imported that could eventually result in disease spreading to Israel:

Israel's ban on the importation of livestock into Gaza, which has included cattle, sheep and goats, did not succeed in preventing them from being smuggled in. According to Gaza-based sources, hundreds if not thousands of head of livestock were smuggled in from Sinai in recent months, via tunnels.

The veterinary services of the Ministry of Agriculture warned the Defense Minister that the smuggling of livestock originating in countries like Somalia, where inadequate veterinary care is available, may contribute to the outbreak of illnesses, including mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease, and Brucellosis, that can also be dangerous for humans.

In summary, Israel has taken an irrational measure that might hurt its own economy and health system, as well as its already tarnished international image. The logic behind such irresponsible behavior is that if Gazans, including young children, are prevented from eating animal protein they will understand how bad Hamas is and eventually topple the regime. In other words, forced infant malnutrition is being used to try and achieve a political result.

What do you call it? I call it terrorism.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Letters to a Zionist friend (1): Natural growth

You, my friend, become somewhat enraged when I say that Israel should stop its policy of unabated settlement enlargement. It is a fact that there are settlers living in the West Bank, you argue. Granted, some of them will have to go when a final settlement (in the other meaning of the word, in this case) is reached. But in the meantime, those people are having children, and those children need day-care centers, playgrounds, schools, universities and, in fact, apartment blocks once they themselves get married and have kids. Why am I against those sons and daughters of settlers -- only because they're Jewish? Do I want to ethnically cleanse them? Or am I perhaps suggesting that Jewish women in the West Bank should be sterilized so that they won't have any more babies?

Rest assured, my dear friend, that I don't want to harm those people who, maybe duped by the Israeli government, have chosen to settle on another people's land. In fact, they would stay put under the solution I envisage for the I/P conflict: a binational state, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, with equal rights for Jews, Arabs, Druze, Samaritans, Armenians, Circassians and none of the above. But since there's little talk of this solution nowadays, and people on both sides insist on a two-state solution, I also maintain that, if the latter were implemented, the Jews in the West Bank, except for those who have repeatedly engaged in unlawful activities, should be allowed to remain there, either as foreign residents or, ideally, as dual Israeli-Palestinian citizens.

That said, I don't find it advisable that new Jewish migrants be settled in the West Bank. If the area is the subject of ongoing negotiations, it is an act of bad faith to bring more and more Jews so as to create Jewish majorities in places traditionally populated by Arabs and lay claim to those areas.

To this, you have answered with your Prime Minister's recent words. Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu has been straightforward and clear, you claim:

"The question of not expanding the territory is different from freezing life. You know, you have children, you have babies born, what are you going to do with them? You have to give them kindergartens, you have to give them schools."

"I don't want to grab new land," the prime minister continued. "But we really want people to have normal lives until that final agreement is reached."

Essentially, Netanyahu tells us it's all about not freezing things, about normal life being allowed to flow.

I seldom use hard words against people or institutions who may be dear to my friends. But in this case you leave me with no option: your PM is a liar. It's not true that construction in the West Bank is intended to meet the needs of the already existing population. In fact, a recent Jerusalem Post story reported that:

In 2007, the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria grew by 14,500, or 5.6% - from 261,600 to 276,100 - close to three times the growth rate of Israel's general population, which rose by only 1.8% during that same year.

The "natural growth" was 9,200, or 63.5%, with the remaining 5,300, or 36.5%, constituting migrants.

Now just think for a minute. While the 9,200 "natural growth" new residents are all babies, born to parents who already own a home, the 5,300 migrants must be provided with new apartments -- housing that was formerly not there. So it is safe to assume, my friend, that most of the new construction in the settlements is not intended to accommodate natural growth, but to house the forced growth brought in by migrants who mostly settle there allured by low taxes and inexpensive services, all subsidized by the State of Israel and by rich fanatical Jews from the Diaspora.

Now put your hand on your heart and answer me: isn't the life of a community that has grown by 9,000 babies vibrant enough? Why bring more life from outside? And after investing large amounts of money and effort to help those migrants settle where they don't belong, can Israel be said to do "everything within its reach to secure peace with the Palestinians," as you so often claim?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Israel, Daniella Weiss and the good cop-bad cop game

We all know Israel honors its obligations under the Road Map. Therefore, it doesn't build new settlements in the West Bank, only extensions of existing ones, and then only to accommodate natural growth. What do we antisemites want, to sterilize Jewish women?

In line with that good behavior, Israel cracks down on anyone who tries to illegally build homes outside the legal (under Israeli law) settlements.

Or does it.

No, it doesn't. The Jerusalem Post reports that:

The Land of Israel Faithful group said Monday it has a plan to construct 30 new outposts in the West Bank over the summer, in response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech a day earlier in which he said that no new settlements would be built and no additional land would be expropriated for settlement development.

Former Kedumim mayor Daniella Weiss, one of the leaders of the Land of Israel Faithful, told The Jerusalem Post her group was recruiting activists for this summer's outpost building.

I.e., this woman is announcing that she'll do something that is illegal under both Israeli and international law. The whole point of the operation is actually not so much to erect new land-grabbing units, but to reinforce the existing ones. Can you imagine? Thirty new outposts are set up; one day the Israeli army comes and destroys them; and the following day the Hasbara brigade appears in the media to announce that, in a painful concession, Israel has dismantled tens of outposts. That way the public will forget about the 100 or so equally illegal outposts that had been previously established, which will then become part of the "facts on the ground." Ms. Weiss explained it much more succinctly than me:

Weiss said she was not concerned that by pushing to build at more sites, the Land of Israel Faithful would weaken those eight outposts it has been trying to establish for two years.

"I have learned from experience that if you create new things, it strengthens the old ones," she said.

In the face of this cynical statement, one would expect the State of Israel to arrest her to show its commitment to the Road Map. Instead, she's allowed to roam the West Bank unmolested "creating things" at will. She doesn't loose sleep over the possibility of ending up in jail. She has "learned from experience" that, in the unlikely event that she's detained, she'll be released within a few hours.

It would be so easy for the Israeli government to shut us all up! Just by cracking down on the few rotten apples in the West Bank it would deprive the Pally-supporting crowd of a talking point. Why doesn't it, if it has repeatedly denounced the illegal outposts?

I won't give a direct answer to that; only remind the reader that in police stations all over the world there exists a game called good cop-bad cop. The bad cop mistreats the detainee; the good cop pretends to care for him. But two rules are inflexible: the good cop, for all his feigned concern, will never do anything concrete to stop the bad cop. And the detainee always ends up beaten to a pulp.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An unreasonable recognition demand

Said Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu in his Bar Ilan University speech on Sunday:

I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbors, led by the Palestinian Authority, and I say: Let's begin negotiations immediately without preconditions.

Wow, this is encouraging. Or it would be, if one were not aware that Israeli landmark statements always come with a caveat that in fact nullifies the supposed watershed. Torture is banned -- except in cases of national security danger (i.e., torture is as allowed as before). Illegal outposts will be removed -- but first an agreement will be sought with the settlers (i.e., the outposts will remain in place).

So that, in this case, one immediately begins a search for the caveat. Not a daunting task; a few paragraphs on, Netanyahu adds:

Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

So that the negotiations without preconditions do have a precondition after all: the Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

This requirement has no precedent. Never in the history of diplomacy has a country been asked to recognize the official religion of another nation. (Although some fool will try to make you believe that it's not a religion, that it's more complicated than that, let's be clear: the ONLY way you can enter the Jewish people is through religion.) For instance, when Argentina and Britain resumed diplomatic ties after the Falklands war, the former did not recognize the latter as an Anglican country; nor did the latter recognize the former as a Catholic nation. A country's official faith is a strictly internal matter, and it's none of another country's business to act as a guarantor of that state religion.

The very reasonable Palestinian position has been that Israel has the right to define what it wants or doesn't want to be, but Palestine (or any other country, for that matter) should not be asked to participate in the formulation of that definition. Senior negotiator Saeb Erekat put it crystal-clear in a 16 Nov 2007 interview with the Jerusalem Post:

Erekat told the Post it was up to Israel to decide what to call itself, and that the Palestinians would recognize it accordingly. "Like the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said, "if you change your name to 'the Jewish state of Israel,' we'll call you that."

The road map and previous agreements had required the Palestinian leadership to unequivocally recognize Israel, Erekat said in a telephone interview. "We did it.... At the United Nations, you are called 'the state of Israel.' We recognize that."

What part of this recognition does Netanyahu not understand?

All Israel would have to do to satisfy its own ego is to adopt the name "Jewish State of Israel." The PA would immediately recognize it under that name. Why don't they adopt it?

The answer, of course, is that Israel does not want peace. All it wants is a status quo in which it can build ever more settlements (pardon!!!, "settlement extensions to accommodate natural growth"). If it wanted peace, it would not ask of the Palestinians what has never, ever, been asked of any other party to a diplomatic negotiation.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Will the next Holocaust come from Norway?

You may never have heard of Manfred Gerstenfeld, but to the extent that he enjoys any name recognition, this stems from his continually crying antisemitic wolf. So what does he do if no antisemite shows up? He manufactures a countryful of them.

Gerstenfeld has been active in the demonization of Norway as a hotbed of antisemitism. In August 2008 he edited Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews, a book dedicated to scare the world about the wave of Judeophobia prevalent in Scandinavia. Last November he presided over a symposium, sort of, devoted to the same region-bashing. Now he has penned Another Year of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in Norway, an article that summarizes the most recent events reflecting Oslo's genocidal designs.

Jewish paranoia, whether genuine or feigned to get funding for a think-tank, is always fun to debunk. Let's see some of Manfred's points, together with the refutations:

1) Gerstenfeld claims: "One cannot criticize Israel for things other countries also do while refraining from criticizing those countries."

One cannot? Why? Is there any law forbidding it? (Hush, hush; I may be giving some European government or Monitoring Commission an idea.) Oh, I see: what he means is that one cannot do it without exposing oneself as a Jew-hater. Because you know, single-issue human rights advocates are bigots, since all people have the duty to show a similar concern for all abuses in the world.

The only problem with this reasoning is that in 1996 the United States Congress passed a Cuban Democracy Act, which imposed harsh sanctions on the island. It didn't pass a Chinese Democracy Act, or a Saudi Democracy Act, or a Tadjik Democracy Act, or in fact any democracy act targetting any other dictatorship than Cuba. Therefore, Americans, as represented by their lawmakers, are anti-Cuban racists, since one cannot punish Cuba for things other countries also do while refraining from punishing those countries.

Therefore, by denouncing Norway's criticism of Israel and not of other countries, but not the US's punishment of Cuba and not of other countries, Gerstenfeld exposes himself as an anti-Norwegian bigot, because you can't denounce Norwegians for things other people also do without denouncing those other people.

2) States Gerstenfeld: "[T]he Finnish blog Tundra Tabloids published a picture of [Norwegian finance minister Kristin] Halvorsen at the 'manifestation for a ceasing of hostilities.' It showed that someone standing very close to her was holding a sign that said 'The greatest axis of evil-USA and Israel.' (...) By not leaving such a gathering, Halvorsen must be considered as identifying with it."

Again the US comes to our help. On January 11, 2009, a pro-Israel rally was held in New York City:

Be sure to notice how at 0:33 a banner that says ISLAM = CULT OF HATE is unfolded and waved. Then, at 0:43, we see NY Senator Charles Schumer and NY Governor David Peterson speaking at the rally. By not leaving the gathering, they subscribed to the Islamophobic sentiment of the crowd. Yet Gerstenfeld remains silent at this display of hate by two leading American politicians.

3) Gerstenfeld makes reference to Norway's commemoration of writer Knut Hamsun, who welcomed the brutal German occupation of Norway during World War II and gave his Nobel Prize in Literature as a gift to the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. His comment:

In February 2009, Norway's Queen Sonja opened the "year-long, publicly financed commemoration of Hamsun's 150th birthday called Hamsun 2009...the queen spent a highly specific half-hour with Hamsun family members at the National Library. Together they viewed the author's handwritten manuscripts.


The festivities in honor of Hamsun are one more example of a dubious morality, abundantly present, in Norway's public discourse. For a few years there has been a Holocaust Center in Oslo (...) On the other hand, in 2009 a prominent Norwegian Nazi supporter is being lavishly honored and a museum is being established in his memory.

Once again an American counterexample comes in handy. Much, much more important than a Norwegian museum is the 50-dollar bill, which is well-known to the globe's 7 billion inhabitants. And guess whose face is on it? Ulysses S. Grant's. And guess what Grant did during the Civil war? The Jewish Virtual Library illuminates us:

In 1862, in the heat of the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant initiated one of the most blatant official episodes of anti-Semitism in 19th-century American history. In December of that year, Grant issued his infamous General Order No. 11, which expelled all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi:

The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.

In other words, the United States are celebrating every single second of every day of every year a brutal antisemite who ethnically cleansed Jews from a territory. Why doesn't Gerstenfeld publish article after article after article telling us how antisemitic Americans are until the 50-dollar bill is changed or withdrawn from circulation? Maybe because he understands that the world is not black and white, and that what is celebrated in those bills is Grant's contribution to winning the Civil War against the forces of slavery? If so, why doesn't he understand that the Norwegians celebrate Hamsun's literary work, not his inconsequential adherence to Nazism?

It's a shame that fabricators of antisemitism like Gerstenfeld are getting an increasing attention from otherwise intelligent people who become embarrassingly uncritical when the cheapest Hasbara points are made.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Letters to a Zionist friend

We all know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a Letter to an anti-Zionist friend in which he stated "When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews." Well, actually he didn't. But he did, according to Arno Lustiger in The Jerusalem Post.

That a leading historian, born in 1924 and a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, should take this hoax seriously, and that a leading Israeli paper should publish the whole building of nonsensical reflections he erects on it, is indicative of the need Zionists have to believe in the crap they peddle; a need that has made them lose any critical faculty.

However, the fake piece of correspondence has given me an idea that might help me increase the rate of my blogging activity. The idea is to write letters to a Zionist friend, a device that will allow me to respond to Zionist claims even if I don't have examples of them being made at hand. The letters will mimick the style ascribed to King in the bogus missive, with lots of "my friend"'s scattered here and there. In some cases, I will respond to a real pundit, blogger or commenter, whose claims I'll quote. This will be particularly helpful in the case of people who don't have enough entity or are totally unknown: presenting them as friends of mine will formally give some logic to my quoting them. In other cases, however, my Zionist counterpart will be totally imaginary, although the reader will recognize the myths, tropes, memes and canards I will attribute to them. In either case, the whole exercise won't be based on any actual correspondence between me and a Zionist.

But, unlike in the King hoax, a key ingredient of the letters will be real: the author.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Manufacturing antisemitism: the "loyalty" issue

We have already talked about American filmmaker Max Blumenthal, an expert in exposing Zionist gut feelings through his acid camera lens. In his most recent production, Max records Jews in Jerusalem making the most crudely racist remarks against American president Barack Obama, who has garnered the wrath of the Zionist world for simply placing the words "settlement" and "freeze" next to each other in a couple of speeches. (Man, one wonders what the reaction will be the day he really takes any concrete action against the settlements; targetted assassination comes to mind.)

The video got over 100,000 views in its first two days on the web, sending a chill up the Zionist spine. The Hasbara brigade swiftly took to the virtual street to explain that when a few Jews are filmed spewing hate it means nothing (unlike when, say, a few Palestinians are filmed celebrating 9/11), and that in any event they were drunk and, thus, their remarks meant nothing (unlike when, say, a drunk Mel Gibson made antisemitic remarks to a Jewish cop). Over at Harry's Place, that British marketplace for ideas (where, however, your trading license may be revoked any time), a commenter named Joshua went further:

OK, instead of observing the ramblings of a group of young people who are really quite drunk, let’s look at some real racism and on a continent where the vast majority of people (including the British) either directly collaborated in the Holocaust or deliberately turned a blind eye to it:

From an opinion survey conducted for the ADL which was published in February of 2009...

Joshua goes on to transcribe some of the survey's blood-curdling findings, among them:

In responding “probably true” to the statement, “Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country,” the 2009 survey found:

Austria – 47%, down from 54% in 2007
France – 38%, down from 39% in 2007
Germany – 53%, up from 51% in 2007
Hungary – 40%, down from 50% in 2007
Poland – 63%, up from 59% in 2007
Spain – 64%, up from 60% in 2007
The United Kingdom – 37%, down from 50% in 2007

The poll is available on the web under the title "ADL Survey in Seven European Countries Finds Anti-Semitic Attitudes Steady; 31 Percent Blame Jews for Financial Crisis."

Some of the attitudes described in the report are indeed antisemitic, although it's not a hatred of the same kind as, for instance, the one expressed by the 68% of Israeli Jews who don't want to live next to an Arab neighbor.

However, I'm still puzzled by the continued appearance of the "loyalty" question in these polls. Is believing that someone is more loyal to one country than to another in itself a form of hate? It might be if the belief were completely baseless. Is it in the case of, say, British Jews?

To analyze this we must first take into account that democratically-organized groups are usually judged by their elected leaders' actions. If the leaders say or do something nasty and their constituencies don't vote them out, then it is assumed that the rank-and-file members of the group basically agree with the leadership. This belief may be right or wrong, but it's clearly not racist.

Next, we must consider that loyalty is tested in conflict situations. When peace and harmony reign, the issue of loyalty is irrelevant. It's when some sort of friction arises that one can determine where loyalties lie.

In the case of Britain and Israel, there does exist a conflict of historical narratives that remains unresolved to this day. The Israelis claim that when the King David hotel was blown up in Jerusalem by Jewish terrorists in 1946 (killing 22 Britons, 47 Arabs and 15 Jews), the British were warned and they failed to evacuate the building. The British claim they never got any warning. There's no conclusive proof for either claim, but the burden of proof falls on the side making an assertion.

One would expect the Board of Deputies of British Jews (i.e., the organization that purports to represent the whole community) to take the stance that, since the claim is disputed, Britain must be given the benefit of the doubt. They're British, and they can't accept their country to be gratuitously blamed for over 90 deaths.

But the BoD has never issued such a declaration, even when clear provocations were staged by the Israelis. Thus, in 2006 the Menachem Begin Center organized a celebration of the King David bombing in Jerusalem, with the presence of current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. A plaque to be dedicated at the restored building was prepared for the occasion, with a text that included the inflammatory remark, “For reasons known only to the British, the hotel was not evacuated.” The BoD's reaction? A deafening silence. Their country was outrageously insulted by a think tank from another country with the endorsement a top politician and they said nothing! Mind-boggling. Unless, of course, you are more loyal to that other country.

Only after the British embassy in Israel protested was the text ammended and the incendiary wording removed.

True, the Sri Lankan community in the UK didn't protest, either. But they don't charge against British institutions each time they take some action deemed prejudicial of Israel. The BoD does. In that imbalance (denouncing Britons when they perceivedly harm Israel, but not Israelis when they insult Britain) lies the strong case for labeling the British Jewish leadership as more loyal to the State of Israel than to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That anyone should find that logical conclusion antisemitic is further proof that the word antisemitism has been devoided of any credible meaning.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The day I found myself defending Israel

It happened on a cold fall evening a few weeks ago. A composition of mine had been premiered at the Tango House in my city, and I treated my arranger and three of the musicians to dinner at a riverside restaurant.

My arranger is also my teacher and we have worked together for a few years now. Apart from setting my piano pieces for bandoneón and strings, he has turned me from a writer of bare melodies into a decent harmonizer. Give him a few decades and he'll make me master the intricacies of counterpoint and orchestration.

He's also a far-left Jew and an extreme critic of Zionism. While aware of each other's views, we don't usually talk about it.

The Tango House in Rosario

The subject of Israel wouldn't have popped up in the conversation if the double-bass player had not been what I term a "Jewish community Jew" -- a Jew who (unlike those whose life takes place mainly outside the community) blindly supports Israel and takes quite seriously weird theories about intermarriage.

The two began to argue, raising their voices and the eyebrows of other diners. Then, at a given moment, my arranger mumbled something about the genocide in Gaza.

"Genocide" is the second-most abused word in I/P debating. Some people talk of cultural genocide, or geographic genocide or whatnot, but the word shouldn't be devalued. Genocide is when people come searching for you and you have to hide. Then they find you and shoot you on the spot. Or ship you to a concentration camp to kill you with Zyklon-B. Or take you to a desert and leave you there to die of thirst. Or cut your head off with a machete. Not what Israel does.

Of course there are other ways of committing genocide. You can create conditions in which many people belonging to a specific group will die without your having to fire a shot. Like in the Ukrainian Famine. But it's not what Israel does either. Israel has prevented essentials from coming into Gaza and has caused malnourishment among the Strip's children and that certainly is a crime, even a crime against humanity -- but not the crime of genocide.

I told my arranger as much.

"I can't believe you're defending Israel," he said.
"Am I defending Israel? Or am I sticking to intellectual honesty," I replied.

After that, I thought of an analogy I should have made. If a person beats a kid, do you charge him with murder? I don't need to call Israel what it isn't, because what it is is already enough to expose its fraudulent nature -- an ethnically supremacist country masquerading as a Western democracy; a State hijacked by fringe religious fanatics purporting to be an outpost of enlightment; an entity that claims to seek peace just as it builds ever more land-grabbing settlements on another people's property.

So that no, Javier (not your real name), you shouldn't irresponsibly use that second-most abused word in I/P debating when you fight the Zionists. Because if you do, you're giving them the perfect excuse to hurl at us the most-abused one.