Thursday, December 31, 2009

If this fails, we can try yellow badges

I recall that as a young child I enjoyed singing Argentina's national song, Aurora (Dawn). We gathered at the schoolyard early in the morning, whether it was hot or cold or a shining spring day, and, as the flag was raised, we chorused the hymn with patriotic fervor. I particularly liked the tune:

However, I did have a small issue with the lyrics:

High in the sky
a warrior eagle
corageously rises
in triumphant flight;
a wing blue,
the color of the sky;
a wing blue,
the color of the sea...
It is the flag of my homeland,
born from the sun, given to me by God;
it is the flag of my homeland,
born from the sun, given to me by God.

I was nine years old, and I already knew I was an atheist. The other children in my class didn't have the same problem. The overwhelming majority were Catholic; a boy and a girl, who were cousins, were Jewish; and another boy was Protestant: they all had a God to pray to. I didn't, and I particularly regretted that, as a proud son of the city were the Argentinian flag was created, I had to mention God in the song devoted to it. It was my first taste of religious coercion.

But at least I wasn't forced to sing that I belonged to any particular faith.

How difficult it must be for Israeli Arabs, who have to sing a national anthem in which they must say they're Jewish -- and that is only the tip of the iceberg of religious coercion in Israel. Of course, no one is implying that it approaches the level of enforcement of totalitarian Muslim states like Saudi Arabia. But it steers clear from Western standards.

In some places, modesty patrols make sure that women don't go around immodestly dressed. Cars are stoned if they travel on certain roads on Saturday. Women are harassed if they sit next to men on buses that serve ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. Christian monks, nuns and priests are spat on on a regular basis.

The usual Zionist defense is that these abuses are not officially sanctioned by the State. That would be a good defense save for the fact that Israel is a country of many states within the State, which more or less do as they please without the forces of order interfering much. One example are the settlers, who build illegally like crazy essentially unstopped by the police and the army. Another example are criminal mobs, which operate with remarkable freedom, engaging in extortion, drive-by shootings and other typical underworld activities. The religious establishment is yet another example.

Religion controls all personal and family affairs in Israel, from marriage to inheritance to burial. Interfaith marriage, thus, doesn't exist. Israel apologists are quick to point out that if a Jew and a Muslim want to marry, they can always travel to Cyprus and have a civil marriage there, which is accepted by the State. But is the trip paid for by the State? Circumventing religion, while not impossible, makes life much harder.

Zionists counter that, while coercion may have a symbolic place, it does not practically affect the daily affairs of people. Well, that's simply not true. If you own a restaurant, you've got to display a kashrut certificate that states that you comply with Jewish dietary laws. The rabbis can grant it or revoke it -- and use this power to enforce behaviors completely unrelated to food rituals.

For instance, see what can happen to you if you put up a Christmas tree, or Christmas decorations in your restaurant (h/t Didi Remez):

While hotels, restaurants and clubs put up fir trees, Santa Claus dolls and red hats for the Christmas celebration and New Year parties that will take place in the next two weeks, the chief rabbinate  recommends not displaying symbols of the Christian holidays. Moreover, the rabbinical “Lobby for Jewish Values” recently began to take action against restaurants and hotels that intend to put up Christian symbols. “We are considering making public those business establishments that put up Christian symbols for the Christian holidays and will call to boycott them,” said the lobby’s chairman, Ofer Cohen.
Every year, the Jerusalem Rabbinate also acts to ensure that fir trees not adorn places of entertainment. A source in the Kashrut Department said that this is done every year in consent, and that businesses that don’t comply can find their kashrut certificate revoked.

Jude signs on shops anyone?

Haaretz further reports on the loon Lobby behind this persecution:

According to the Israeli media, the fliers distributed by the Lobby for Jewish Values contain the following call to arms:

"The people of Israel have given their soul over the years in order to maintain the values of the Torah of Israel and the Jewish identity. You should also continue to follow this path of the Jewish people's tradition and not give in to the clownish atmosphere of the end of the civil year. And certainly not help those businesses that sell or put up the foolish symbols of Christianity."

Of course, you always have the option of opening a restaurant in Cyprus.

So if I get this straight, "the Jewish right to self-determination" means the right to impose on non-Jews, or even on liberal Jews, absurd restrictions based on the superstitions of the Jewish religion, and to publicly insult the Christian religion in a variety of ways. If this trend continues, I see a future for yellow-badge makers in Israel.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Zionism's changing discourse

Norman Geras' blog has a review of Yaacov Lozowick's Right to Exist, a book devoted to justify Israel's warmongering. Here's an excerpt:

The massacres of civilians at Deir Yasin in 1948, Kibiya in 1953 and Kfar Kassem in 1956, for instance, really were just that, massacres. But such events were atypical and were met with horror in the wider community, while great efforts were subsequently made to prevent their recurrence. Indeed, the IDF has shown a consistent commitment to fight its battles justly, as dramatically demonstrated by Operation Defensive Shield in Jenin in 2002. Instead of bombing from the safety of the air, Israel lost 23 soldiers in hand-to-hand combat 'so that the Palestinian terrorists would be defeated with as few [Palestinian civilian] deaths as possible' (p. 255).

Israel's behavior during its assault on Jenin has often been hailed  as a model of morality. Here are other examples:

I am proud that we were there, that we fought, and I also am proud of the morality of the battle. The camp was not bombed from the air in order to prevent innocent civilian casualties, and artillery was not used even though we knew about specific
areas in the [refugee] camp where terrorists were holing up.
--Dr. David Zangen, Seven Lies About Jenin, Ma'ariv, 8.11.2002

In Jenin, Israel's government decided to pursue a course that placed much greater risks on Israel's soldiers but that greatly reduced the dangers to Palestinian civilians. We announced over loudspeakers our intention to clear out the terrorist infrastructure in the camp and warned everyone to leave. Then, instead of bombing from the air or using tanks or heavy artillery, our soldiers were sent on a harrowing mis­sion. They painstakingly went from house to house, moving through a hornet's nest of booby traps, bombs, and armed terrorists. After thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed during one mission, we still refused to use our air force or heavy artillery.
--Natan Sharansky, Jenin: Anniversary of a Battle

Not only was Jenin not a massacre or an unparalleled catastrophe but it is regarded by many as a model of how to conduct urban warfare against terrorists hiding among civilians. (...) Instead of bombing the terrorists' camp from the air, as the United States did in Afghanistan and as Russia did in Chechnya, with little risk to their own soldiers but much to civilians, Israeli infantrymen entered the camp, going house to house in search of terrorists and bomb-making equipment, which they found. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers and fifty-two Palestinians, many of whom were combatants, were killed.
--Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel, 2003, p. 144

In Jenin there was a battle - a battle in which many of our soldiers fell. The army fought from house to house, not by bombing from the air, in order to prevent, to the extent possible, civilian casualties.
--High Court of Justice of Israel

All of these pieces, as well as the hundreds of similar ones you will find on the Internet,  argue that the Jenin operation was particularly moral because Israel did not bomb from the air but did house-to-house searches, thus minimizing civilian casualties.

But in December 2008-January 2009, Israel behaved quite differently during operation Cast Lead. In this war, Israel didn't risk a single soldier in hand-to-hand combat, but instead bombed all houses where terrorists were holed up, in addition to a large number of buildings that contained none. Jenin had been called not a massacre because the 500 casualties initially reported were later found to be just 52; but in Gaza, 1300 people died, including, by Israel's most ardent apologists' own estimate, at least 300 civilians.

You would think that would lead Zionists to lament the IDF's diminished moral standards. After all, in Jenin they declared that the IDF's virtue had been not to bomb from the air, and the Gaza op was completely carried out from the air. They should have observed that, while the IDF is and will always be the most moral army in the world, unfortunately it's not as moral as it used to be.

But somehow they haven't made that observation. The discourse has changed, and now an operation is moral not if the attacking army refrains from leveling buildings with its air force; it's moral if, in addition to the bombs, the warplanes drop leaflets calling on civilians to evacuate the area.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Zionist threshold for truth

We Israel/Palestine bloggers like to think that our writings make a difference; that someone will be convinced by our posts to join our camp and not our opponents'. In the case of Zionist bloggers, they try to achieve this end in a two-pronged movement. There exists a layer of bloggers that make the most outrageous assertions and engage in "deny-it-all" tactics. If that fails, a second, intellectual segment makes elaborate arguments that may persuade more sophisticated readers.

The first group interests us here. It's the group that makes claims like:

  • The territories are disputed, not occupied.
  • The settlements are not illegal under international law.
  • Israeli soldiers are required by their Code of Ethics to risk their own lives in order not to harm civilians.
  • Torture is illegal in Israel.
  • All of Palestine, from the river to the sea, was given to the Jews by the League of Nations and this has not been repealed.
  • The difference between Palestinian terrorism nowadays and Jewish terrorism in the 1930s-40s is that the latter never targetted civilians.

Keep in mind that these "unsophisticated" bloggers achieve their objective not when they win a debate with an anti-Zionist, but when they succeed in having a neutral reader repeat the bullshit above in other blogs.

Elder of Ziyon belongs in this group. He will endlessly exploit the West's willingness to believe anything nasty about the Arabs (and anything good about the Jews) to discredit the whole ethnic group, with little attention to truth or fact.

In a recent post, Elder reminded us that, as is already known, the Arabs are liars. Under the heading Today's lying PalArab "eyewitnesses," Elder starts off by quoting the Palestinian news agency Ma'an:

Fifteen Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar settlement near Nablus attempted to set fire to a home in the village of Burin, Palestinian sources said Saturday.

Wearing white prayer shirts marking the Jewish Sabbath the group stormed the home of Ayman Attalla Safwan carrying flame excellents but were confronted by several villagers who tried to prevent their entry into the home, eyewitnesses described.
EoZ goes on to analyze:

Not sure what "flame excellents" are but not only would religious Jews not carry implements to create a fire - they wouldn't carry anything at all on the Sabbath, outside of what is necessary for saving lives.

Just another example of the lies that Palestinian Arab "witnesses" routinely engage in.
Because Einstein was Jewish, the gullible West will actually believe that religious Israeli Jews love the commandments of their religion more than they hate the Arabs. A recent Jerusalem Post story, however, proves otherwise:

Hebron rabbi permits gentile Shabbat construction in settlements

Rabbi Dov Lior, the rabbi of Hebron-Kiryat Arba, issued a halachic ruling last week that it was permitted to employ non-Jews on Shabbat to build in Judea and Samaria during the present construction freeze. (...)

Although there is no prohibition against a non-Jew working on Shabbat, there is a rabbinic prohibition for a Jew to tell a non-Jew to do work for him. It is considered more severe to tell a non-Jew to perform a biblical prohibition such as building than to perform a rabbinical prohibition. Nevertheless, to facilitate the settling of the land of Israel it is permitted.
At the time of the post's publication, however, I wasn't aware of this fatwa, but I did know that destroying fruit-bearing trees is illegal under Jewish religious law, and that settlers have been proven to burn and uproot olive trees. I told EoZ so. His response:

HB, the unfortunate truth is that even religious Jews sometimes pick and choose which laws they emphasize. for example, haredi Jews throwing stones on Shabbos at people violates a number of laws.

Creating a fire on the Sabbath is a law that would not be violated by any Jew who pretends to be religious. It is as unthinkable as eating a BLT in public. I stand by my analysis - the event did not happen as described.

(BTW, Palestinian Arabs have a long history of destroying olive trees - of Jews. And most of the olive tree accusations against Jews are lies as well.)
There exist bogus accusations of olive-tree destruction against the settlers, just like there exist bogus Holocaust survivors who collect huge sums writing books about their "stories" before being exposed. This doesn't mean that Elie Wiesel is a liar, or that Ma'an's story is false. So that I told EoZ:

You say "most" but you cited ONE case. I don't mean to offend you, but you look like the Holocaust deniers who say "the Jewish soap story is a lie; therefore, there was no Holocaust."

To prove your point, you must cite ALL accusations and prove that at least 51% of them are lies.
To which he retorted:

If there is a pattern of lies where Arabs cut down their own olive trees, then the accusations become automatically suspect.

How many does it take to establish a pattern?

The one I linked was October, 2008.

December 2006:
January 2006 (video of Arabs cutting trees down): trees.html

November 2003: 52528

Given this pattern, we need more than Arab and leftist "eyewitnesses" to establish that the accusations have a basis in fact.
How many swallows does it take to make a summer? Not 4, in this case, given the huge amount of olive-tree accusations. To further clarify things, I wrote:

Here is a list of olive tree claims compiled by Yesh Din. Can Elder prove that most of these claims are false?

If he can't, this is yet another instance of this blog providing non-credible information.

It is very funny that your evidence shows that most of the reported incidents could not be shown to have been done by Jews.

Even so, I was going to change my wording to "as far as I understand, most of the..." - but I couldn't correct the post, as it was in the comments.

This is a lot of effort to prove that I was wrong in something I didn't even post. And you still haven't.

But they (the reported incidents) could not be shown to be lies, either. If you have proof that they are, please show it. It will be of great interest to the State of Israel as it will clarify once and for all what really happened. (...)

I don't have to prove anything. The burden of proof falls on the one making an assertion.
Which finally led to a remarkable statement by EoZ:

Thanks for your opinion of what I must do. I feel I must ignore it. (...) I still believe my original claim is accurate, but I admit I have no hard proof, as you have no proof otherwise. My belief is based on the combination of multiple staged fake olive tree damage by Pals and anti_Israel activists, and the dual incentive of doing the faking - making settlers look bad, and getting compensation from Israel for such accusations. Given that, settler denials have at least as much credibility as the original accusations.
This is what it all boils down to. The Zionist threshold for truth is one's belief as backed by one's manipulation of selective information. He believes the settlers more than he does the Palestinians, but he passes off this belief as fact. In pure Holocaust-denier fashion, he compiles a short list of faked incidents and draws conclusions about the much longer list of reported incidents. And, unfortunately (and this is what we're up against), the West believes his belief.

Because, you know, Jews have 250 Nobel prizes and gave warnings before their terror attacks, while Arabs are hook-nosed, thick-eyebrowed and have shining black eyes and a knife in their teeth.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Israeli Jewish racism thread

One should not be afraid to call a spade a spade. Israeli Jews hate Arabs. But it's not a normal hate. It's a hate of cosmic dimensions. It's the hate of someone who can't even imagine the possibility of having anything to do with the Other.

Of course the statement above must be qualified. Not all Israeli Jews hate Arabs -- only an overwhelming majority that is fully supported by the State. And it's not a violent hate (except for the settlers and a few other groups), the reason it's not violent being that the State provides Jews with all the legal means to exclude Arabs from their communities.

There have been many recent examples of Israeli Jewish racism --from the statements of the housing minister that Jews and Arabs should not live together to the soccer player who apologized for suggesting that his team might hire an Arab--, so that I thought I might as well start a thread to gather information on the subject, which will be periodically updated with fresh racist outbursts from the Jews of Israel.

Just to start the database, allow me to report the case of Aadel Suad, an Israeli Arab who a few years ago had the weird idea of wanting to build a house in a plot of land he owned in a Jewish town. As usual, what followed is Kafkaesque:

Aadel Suad first came to the planning and construction committee of the Misgav Local Council in 1997. Suad, an educator, was seeking a construction permit to build a home on a plot of land he owns in the community of Mitzpeh Kamon. The reply he got, from a senior official on the committee, was a memorable one.

"Don't waste your time," he reportedly told Suad. "We'll keep you waiting for 30 years."

For Suad it's now been 12 years of fighting the committee's red tape to build a home on his own land. The reason, as far as he and his family are concerned, is singular: The local council doesn't want Arabs(...)

The Misgav Local Council rejected the accusations. The council said Suad's plot is located far from the other homes of the community and has no roads, sidewalks, lighting, water or sewer. All these would need to be connected through other plots, some of which are privately owned, the council said.

The council also said Suad's construction permit was conditioned on coming up with a plan to connect the plot to infrastructure, which he failed to produce in sufficient detail, or to accompany it with permits.

I.e., seeing that Suad's plot was far from the other homes, the Council imposed an ad hoc condition that wouldn't be required of a Jew and that would be next to impossible to meet precisely because of the plot's isolation. Read the whole story here. Be careful to notice the numerous measures taken by the Israel Land Administration to ensure that this particular Arab could not build a house on his own land.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

They haven't gotten a thing

Yesterday a mosque was partially burned in Yasuf, the West Bank, in an arson attack that destroyed carpets and religious books. Rightwing Jewish settlers are widely believed to be behind the attack.

The damaged mosque in Yasuf

In fact, as Haaretz reported,

Investigation into the incident points to the likelihood that settlers from nearby Tapuah are behind the attack, police said, but the vandals have not yet been caught.

Although an attack on a house of prayer is a particularly outrageous act of terrorism, it's not the only one in the present wave of violence. Last week the Israeli police was reported to believe that settlers were also responsible for the torching of a house and two vehicles, belonging to private Palestinian citizens, in the West Bank village of Ain Abous.

The Israelis are "investigating" both incidents. Good luck -- both to them and to those who are confident that someone will be jailed as a result.

The attacks are presumably part of the "price tag" policy currently being implemented by the settlers. The Times described it thus:

On a hilltop, blankets, pots and broken chairs are strewn where the Israeli army tried to demolish an illegal Jewish settlement outpost. In the fields opposite, 70 olive trees are scorched and blackened after the settlers took revenge — not on the army, but on the local Palestinians.

It is a new and effective settler tactic known as the “price tag”: if the Government sends police or soldiers to dismantle an outpost that is being built, the settlers make the Palestinian population pay the price.
And why are they stepping up their "price tagging" right now? Very simple: the Israeli government has declared a 10-month freeze on settlement construction in legal settlements -- as opposed to their previous sporadic crackdowns on illegal outposts only. This has been too much for the Jewish fanatics in the West Bank and they have declared war on the Palestinians.

Stupid settlers; they haven't gotten a thing.

Whenever a landmark High Court ruling, painful concession, breakthrough, or watershed is announced by Israel, the first thing you must look for is the caveat. And in this case the caveats are multiple:

  • Construction in East Jerusalem won't be frozen.
  • Construction already under way (i.e. the foundations of which have already been laid) won't be frozen. This includes more than 3,000 apartments currently being built.
  • Construction of schools, synagogues and other public buildings won't be frozen.
  • Exceptions may be granted under special conditions.
The idea is that construction will continue unabated. No new permits will be granted, but there's no clause in the freeze stating that the construction rate in the buildings already under way can't be stepped up. Meanwhile, Netanyahu will invite Palestinians to negotiate under outrageous conditions: 1) that they recognize the state religion of Israel (never in history has this been demanded of a party to a negotiation); 2) that they accept a state without an army; 3) that they accept Israeli control of all their borders, including that with Jordan; 4) that they accept wedges of settlements cutting deep into the West Bank, etc.

On month ten plus one day, Netanyahu will declare, in faux exasperation, that he made a painful concession and got nothing from the Palestinians, and the Ziosphere will be a festival of quotes from Golda Meir as to how they hate more than they love and they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. On that precise day, thousands of new permits will be asked for -- and granted.

So that settlers have nothing to worry about. They can focus on building more quickly the apartments that are already going up, or on building more in East Jerusalem. But I understand them; they want to build in their own settlements. In that case, there are still a few options available:

  1. Build boarding schools. Each student's bedroom will be quite large and equipped with a kitchen, a lounge, and one or two "auxiliary rooms" -- i.e., very similar to an apartment.
  2. Hire Palestinians to start building new apartments on Saturday, when the freeze enforcers won't drop by. The next time the inspectors show up, the foundations for the buildings will already have been laid, and much to its regret Israel will have to grant them permits. (Don't congratulate me on this idea; I borrowed it from a rabbi.)
  3. Declare a settlement part of Jerusalem and sue the State. While the case reaches the High Court, start construction of new buildings, which won't be stopped by the State, since it's not clear that the settlement is not part of Jerusalem. When the High Court decides it's not, the foundations will already have been laid.

I'm sure the creative settlers will find other ways around the freeze. So what are they warring about?

I have a conspiracy theory. The freeze was a deal between the government and the settlers. The settlers accepted the symbolic measure in exchange for being allowed to make a lot of trouble so as to give the impression of painfulness (even if the actual pain is being felt by the Palestinians). This might explain the construction spree that preceded the freeze, which would indicate that settlers had prior knowledge of the measure.

Be that as it may, it's clear that the building rate will not diminish during the freeze, and will probably reach unprecedented levels in ten months' time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The "illegal settlements myth" myth

Commentary has an article by David M. Phillips, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law, under the title "The Illegal-Settlements Myth." Sound familiar? "Settlements may be unwise, but they're not illegal" and "the territories are disputed, not occupied" are two Hasbara clichés that Zionists repeat tirelessly, failing to convince the saner part of the world, but further convincing themselves and their followers.

Zionists seem to believe that legality is something that is decided by article writers or by pundits on their blogs. Not so. Legality under international law is decided by the United Nations and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the bodies that most countries, including Israel, accept as the authority in matters of international disputes.

The UN's Security Council has repeatedly denounced Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. For instance, in UNSC Resolution 446 of 22 March 1979, it stated:

The Security Council,(...)

1. Determines that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East[.]

The issue arose again when the ICJ was asked to give an advisory opinion about Israel's Apartheid Wall/Security Fence. On 9 July 2004, the ICJ issued its opinion that the Wall was illegal "recalling in particular"

relevant United Nations resolutions affirming that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal[.]
Invoking UNSCR No. 446, the ruling included the following unequivocal statement:

The Court concludes that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.

The opinion was passed by a 14-1 vote. Even the sole dissenting judge, Thomas Buergenthal of the United States, was very careful to note that:

9. Paragraph 6 of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention also does not admit for exceptions on grounds of military or security exigencies. It provides that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. I agree that this provision applies to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and that their existence violates Article 49, paragraph 6.
But this is nothing new. The same conclusion had been reached in 1967 by the Israelis themselves. In early September of that year, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol asked the legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron (currently a judge at the Appeals Chambers for the Rwanda Genocide trials), whether international law allowed settlement in the newly conquered land. In a memo marked "Top Secret," Mr. Meron wrote unequivocally,

My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
But with so many scholars and international bodies agreeing that the settlements are illegal, what does Phillips build his case on? Basically, he takes the time-tested approach of muddying the waters by making weird interpretations and wild extrapolations. First off, he tackles the argument that settlements were built on private Palestinian land. The land, he clarifies for us, was not stolen; it was requisitioned, and then for military security reasons. It's true, he admits, that the settlements built on it were not military, creating a legal contradiction; but eventually, when the Palestinians protested, the case got to the High Court and the benevolent Israelis ruled in favor of the Palestinians:

In a 1979 case, Ayyub v. Minister of Defense, the Israeli Supreme Court considered whether military authorities could requisition private property for a civilian settlement, Beth El, on proof of military necessity. The theoretical and, in that specific case, actual answers were affirmative. But in another seminal decision the same year, Dwaikat v. Israel, known as the Elon Moreh case, the court more deeply explored the definition of military necessity and rejected the tendered evidence in that case because the military had only later acquiesced in the establishment of the Elon Moreh settlement by its inhabitants. The court’s decision effectively precluded further requisitioning of Palestinian privately held land for civilian settlements.
Mr. Phillips is in urgent need of updating. In 2005, then-defense minister of Israel Shaul Mofaz commissioned a report on the settlements from Baruch Spiegel, a general with the IDF. The secret document was eventually leaked to Haaretz, where its main findings were published. Among these:

An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements - about 75 percent - construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.
Lest anyone think that these settlements comprise only those erected before the 1979 ruling, Haaretz goes on to specify:

Among them are veteran ideological settlements like Alon Shvut (established in 1970 and currently home to 3,291 residents, including Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun); Ofra (established in 1975, home to 2,708 residents, including former Yesha Council spokesman Yehoshua Mor Yosef and media personalities Uri Elitzur and Hagai Segal); and Beit El (established in 1977, population 5,308, including Hagai Ben-Artzi, brother of Sara Netanyahu). Also included are large settlements founded primarily for economic motives, such as the city of Modi'in Illit (established in 1990 and now home to 36,282 people), or Givat Ze'ev outside Jerusalem (founded in 1983, population 11,139), and smaller settlements such as Nokdim near Herodion (established in 1982, population 851, including MK Avigdor Lieberman).
So that extensive land theft took place regardless of the High Court ruling.

Phillips moves then on to his star argument: the Geneva Convention does not say what most of the world believes it says:

Settlement opponents more frequently cite the Fourth Geneva Convention these days for their legal arguments. They specifically charge that the settlements violate Article 49(6), which states: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.”

Frequently, this sentence is cited as if its meaning is transparent and its application to the establishment of Israeli settlements beyond dispute. Neither is the case.

To settlement opponents, the word “transfer” in Article 49(6) connotes that any transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population, voluntary or involuntary, is prohibited. However, the first paragraph of Article 49 complicates that case. It reads: “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.” Unquestionably, any forcible transfer of populations is illegal. But what about voluntary movements with the antecedent permission or subsequent acquiescence by the occupant? (...)

To the extent that a violation of Article 49(6) depends upon the distinction between the voluntary and involuntary movement of people, the inclusion of “forcible” in Article 49(1) but not in 49(6) makes a different interpretation not only plausible but more credible. It’s a matter of simple grammar that when similar language is used in several different paragraphs of the same provision, modifying language is omitted in later paragraphs because the modifier is understood.

I'm a linguist and I'm not aware of any such grammatical rule as highlighted in boldface above in Spanish. I'm not an expert in English, but I suspect Phillips is making this up.

More to the point, paragraph 49(1) has nothing to do with 49(6). The former refers to the population living in the occupied territory; the latter, to the population living in the occupying country. (If both articles refered to both sets of people, 49(6) would be needless!) In 49(1), it's necessary to clarify that forcible transfers are forbidden because there may exist occupied people who want to be transfered. Moving out of one's country is an inalienable right. In 49(6), however, it's not necessary to clarify anything because the occupying power may not move its own inhabitants into the occupied territory even if they want to.

Ah, but Phillips has his legal experts, too.

To Julius Stone, an international-law scholar, “the word ‘transfer’ [in 49(6)] in itself implies that the movement is not voluntary on the part of the persons concerned, but a magisterial act of the state concerned.”
You will find Stone often mentioned by settlement apologists; not because he's a particularly outstanding jurist, but because he's one of the few authorities propounding this interpretation. However, his further analysis is telling:

We would have to say that the effect of Article 49(6) is to impose an obligation on the State of Israel to ensure (by force if necessary) that these areas, despite their millennial association with Jewish life, shall be forever judenrein. Irony would thus be pushed to the absurdity of claiming that Article 49(6), designed to prevent repetition of Nazi-type genocidal policies of rendering Nazi metropolitan territories judenrein, has now come to mean that . . . the West Bank . . . must be made judenrein and must be so maintained, if necessary by the use of force by the government of Israel against its own inhabitants. Common sense as well as correct historical and functional context exclude so tyrannical a reading of Article 49(6).
Judge Stone's incendiary language, using loaded terms like "judenrein," is indicative that he was driven by emotion rather than by rational analysis, which makes his opinion on this issue basically worthless. Of course, no one is excluding Jews from the West Bank, especially now that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has declared that they will be welcome to stay there under a future Palestinian state.

Finally, Phillips doesn't spare us from a Tibet analogy:

The settlements are also a far cry from policies implemented by the Soviet Union in the late 1940s and early 1950s to alter the ethnic makeup of the Baltic states by initially deporting hundreds of thousands of people and encouraging Russian immigration.

Nor can they be compared to the efforts by China to alter the ethnic makeup of Tibet by forcibly scattering its native population and moving Chinese into Tibetan territory. Israel’s settlement policies are also not comparable to the campaign by Morocco to alter the ethnic makeup of the Western Sahara by transferring Moroccan Arabs to displace the native Saharans, who now huddle in refugee camps in Algeria, or to the variety of population displacements that occurred in the various parts of the former Yugoslavia.

All these would seem to fit the offense described in Article 49(6) precisely. Yet finding references to the application of Article 49(6) to nations other than Israel is like looking for a needle in a haystack. What distinguishes a system of “law” from arbitrary systems of control is that similar situations are handled alike.
Is it possible that this man is actually teaching law at Northeastern? Someone ignorant of the basic distinction between occupation and annexation? Of course, Phillips has all the right in the world to be outraged by "the efforts by China to alter the ethnic makeup of Tibet by forcibly scattering its native population" (while remaining strikingly silent about similar Israeli efforts to "thin out" the Arab population in the Negev and in the Galilee), but the Tibetans are Chinese citizens and enjoy exactly the same rights as the majority Han population. In a dictatorship like China these may not seem to amount to much, but they include the right to use the same roads as the Han, as well as the highest railroad in the world that was built by China for the region. By contrast, Palestinians in the West Bank not only can't choose the authorities that will build roads on their expropriated lands; they also can't drive on those roads.

Thus, by invoking bogus linguistics and "authorities" that write in a remarkably unscholarly language, as well as by making cheap analogies based on amazing ignorance, Phillips manages to put together yet another unimpressive attempt at defending the indefensible.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Am I a Jew?

The short answer is no.

However, on several Zionist blogs where I've been busting Hasbara I've been "accused" of being Jewish -- and self-hating, needless to say. At first I thought it was some isolated deranged commenter, but as the claim keeps cropping up (see here for the latest instance) I must conclude it's part of a strategy. I know, this sounds a lot like a conspiracy theory, but the blogs where they've alleged I'm Jewish now include Engage, Harry's Place, Z-Word, Desde Sefarad, Judeo-Arab Conspiracy and now Elder of Ziyon.

The curious thing is that if I claimed to be a Jew, they would call me an Asajew, i.e. someone who uses their Jewishness as a shield to fend off accusations of antisemitism. If they, for the reasons that be, think I actually have some Jewish ancestry, they should congratulate me for not bringing it up, which is the right thing for a Jewish critic of Israel to do according to their other set of standards.

In short, damned if you do, damned if you don't. The blogosphere is a weird place, just like the Middle East.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Gaza greenhouse effect

Every now and then the subject of the greenhouses left behind by Israeli settlers eradicated from Gaza is brought up by Israel apologists as proof of several things. It is claimed that Gazans don't suffer from malnutrition: if they did, they wouldn't have destroyed the greenhouses when the Israelis left. Therefore, there's nothing wrong with Israel's blockade of Gaza, because it doesn't actually harm them. It is also claimed that the destruction of the greenhouses proves how hateful Gazans are: they prioritized wiping out every vestige of Jewish presence over keeping a valuable source of nutrients and income. Finally, it is asserted that a people that got the result of heavy investment and destroyed it can't be trusted ro run anything, much less a state.

Much of this is bullshit, and the part that isn't is highly distorted.

When Israel decided its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the settlers expected to be paid handosmely for the productive infrastructure they had created. Of course this was a display of chutzpah, because it had been heavy state subsidizing that had allowed them to create that infrastructure in the first place. As Haaretz noted:

The Gaza settlers had been inundated by perks from all directions. They received subsidized lands, subsidized water, assured wages from the public sector, "risk bonuses" and lower tax on their higher wages, subsidized daycare, cheap Arab labor, what didn't they get. The benefits they received touched on every area of their lives and they became accustomed to higher standards they can't forgo even now.
As the date of the withdrawal approached with no deal in sight, however, the settlers began to destroy the greenhouses. The New York Times reported:

About half the greenhouses in the Israeli settlements in Gaza have already been dismantled by their owners, who have given up waiting to see if the government was going to come up with extra payment as an inducement to leave them behind, say senior officials working on the coordination of this summer's Israeli pullout from Gaza.(...)

Of the roughly 1,000 acres of agricultural land that were under greenhouses in the 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza, only 500 acres remain - creating significant doubts that the greenhouses could be handed over to the Palestinians as "a living business," the goal cited by the Israeli coordinator of the pullout, Eival Giladi.
Finally, a last-minute effort by American Jewish philantropists raised $14 million and the remainder of the greenhouses was bought and turned over to the Palestinians.

However, since there had been no coordination with the Palestinians, there was no security plan to protect the greenhouses from looters. AP reported:

Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.(...)

Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.

“We need at least another 70 soldiers. This is just a joke,” said Taysir Haddad, one of 22 security guards assigned to Neve Dekalim, formerly the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. “We’ve tried to stop as many people as we can, but they’re like locusts.”
As can be seen, the theft was carried out by individuals, and in no way was it encouraged by the Palestinian Authority. Quite on the contrary, there was a conscious PA effort to prevent the lootings, which was however hindered by lack of resources.

Two reflections arise from the stories above.

On the one hand, it's true that some of the greenhouses were destroyed by Palestinian individuals. There's nothing remarkable about that. Beggars can't be choosers, as the saying goes, and looting is what normally happens when two conditions are met: 1) an impoverished populace; and 2) a situation of lack of control by an established authority. Gazans stole the hardware and materials contained in the greenhouses not in a drive to erase the Jews' memory from the territory, but to satisfy their personal needs. There was a rationale to their theft.

The destruction of part of the greenhouses by the settlers, however, can only be explained by animosity. They spent time, effort and probably even money to dismantle the facilities so that the Palestinians wouldn't be able to use them. There's a big difference between he who damages property in order to derive a benefit and he who damages it only to harm another person.

Many other related points could be made. For instance, that even in the Zionists' twisted logic the looting of the facilities would justify the ban on vegetable imports into Gaza, but not that on livestock (cows can't be raised in greenhouses). Or that the 350 Arab villages that disappeared from Israel's map were not looted by vandals; they were razed by the State in a clear drive to eliminate any trace of Arabness from their respective landscapes. But without getting into those intricacies, and just focusing on the destruction of the greenhouses by both Jews and Palestinians, it's clear who was moved by necessity and who by hate.