Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A more dishonest man than Dershowitz? Try Elie Wiesel

A few weeks ago there was talk that Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu had enlisted Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel to pressure US Prez Barack Obama on Jerusalem, where 1,600 new housing units for Jews have been authorized against international law. Shortly afterwards, Wiesel published an ad in The International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal under the title "For Jerusalem." Basically it was a regurgitation of Hasbara clichés designed to explain why the Jews have more right to the city than others. The piece has been thoroughly picked apart and responded to elsewhere, so I'll only give you a taste of it before I proceed with my own critique of the paragraph that particularly irked me.

For instance, Wiesel claims:

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture—and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming.

So what? Religious books are not deeds. And the fact that someone thinks a lot about something does not confer on him any right to it. Otherwise, Gibraltar would be Spanish, the Falklands/Malvinas would belong to Argentina and my sister in law would have already been intimate with me... wait a minute, I didn't mean that last one. On another note, one wonders why he makes reference to the Qur'an only, as though all Palestinians were Muslim (a sizable minority belongs to the Christian faith, whose books also mention Jerusalem a lot of times).

Wiesel then argues:

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

The intellectual dishonesty here would make Alan Dershowitz blush. While it is accurate to say that certain Christians and Muslims (i.e. those who hold Israeli citizenship) are allowed to build homes in West Jerusalem, it is obvious that the people most likely to want to build in a city are those born there. In the case of Jerusalem, the Arab residents of East Jerusalem, who were born in the city and are children and grandchildren of people also born there, are not allowed to build homes in West Jerusalem. By contrast, Jews who are not Israeli citizens, and who have never set foot in the city, are granted permits to build houses. Racial privilege trumps longtime legal and lawful residence in Jerusalem.

In another paragraph, Wiesel states:

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again, when under Jordanian occupation, Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple.

This Holocaust survivor has no idea of the history he claims to be bound by. There's no vestige at all of Solomon's First Temple; the Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is basically part of the Second Temple erected by Herod, a Jewish king particularly known for having murdered his own children and who may also have massacred a number of newborns.

Which leads us to the following conclusion in which bad faith reaches new heights:

It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the war against Israel, the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.

If you and I ever meet eye to eye, please don't come to me with drivel like this. It makes me very angry, and due to a still undiagnosed condition, my skin turns green and I begin to throw up white phosphorous that might hit you in the face.

There's nothing holy or saintly about the Jews that prevents them from killing, be it for Jerusalem or for lesser causes. They have killed innocents for Deir Yassin; they have blown women, children and elderly people into smithereens for Haifa; they have even massacred farmers returning home on their bikes for the sake of keeping a curfew. Why wouldn't they kill for Jerusalem? In fact they did -- or how does Wiesel think that East Jerusalem was illegally occupied by Israel?

What happened before 1967 is that Israel, like all other countries, was aware that wars of aggression are not widely appreciated, and that they had to wait for a casus belli to arise in order to take over East Jerusalem. The war they started against Egypt, with which Jordan had a mutual defense treaty --a war that was skilfully presented as a preemptive, rather than aggressive, one--, provoked the intervention of the latter country, thus providing Israel with the perfect excuse to occupy the remaining of the so called City of Peace. Strategic restraint must not be confused with a wish not to kill.

As always, the Zionists make extraordinary assertions about the Israeli Jews' unsurpassable morality, only to shout "double standards" when one wants to look into the validity of those claims.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The "Judenrein" canard

The word "Judenrein" was invented by the Nazis. Its most fervent users, however, are the Zionists. Their logic goes as follows: if a Jew takes over Arab property, and the Arab owners want him to get the hell out of there, then the Arabs are Nazis because they want to make the property Judenrein. Quod erat demonstrandum!

A recent example was provided by Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, he made the following remarkable statements:

If we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the [Palestinian] insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and the Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?

There's no equivalence, and Ya'alon knows it well, between the Arabs who were already living in the Negev in the Galilee when Ya'alon's ancestors roamed the Pale of Settlement and the Jews who have illegally moved into the West Bank, in many cases stealing private Palestinian land, be it to erect the homes, as "security zones" or to build the roads to the settlements. The idea that the Arab citizens of Israel have a legitimacy issue that somehow cancels out with the very concrete illegality of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank is both immoral and absurd.

That aside, no Palestinian negotiator has ever asked to receive a territory ethnically cleansed of Jews. Unfortunately some people are living where they're not authorized to and they'll have to leave the place to comply with international law, not to satisfy the antisemitic designs of anyone. No ethnic cleansing there: thieves are thieves, not an ethnic group. What is being demanded is not a Judenrein territory; it's a squatter-rein one.

But not only that; the Palestinians are even prepared to allow the settlers to remain in the West Bank, provided that they accept Palestinian sovereignty. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has declared: “Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine will enjoy those [democratic] rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel.”

This is not precisely Ya'alon's idea. As the JPost goes on to report:

Ya’alon said that if Israel and the Palestinians were truly headed down the path of peace and coexistence, “Jews living in Judea and Samaria under Israeli sovereignty and citizenship” should be possible.

Under Israeli sovereignty? What is to be negotiated, then? The two-state solution means a state for the Jews and a state for the Palestinians, not a state for the Jews and another state also for the Jews. If the settlers want to remain in the West Bank, it is the Palestinians who will dictate the terms, not the State of Israel.

It is not through the free use of Nazi analogies to demonize the Palestinians that peace will be achieved. The "Judenrein" canard must be dropped immediately, and the fact that Ya'alon is not called out over his using it speaks volumes about the Israeli government's true commitment to peace.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dershowitz clears anti-Zionists

Why do we slam Israel, and only Israel, when Iran executes gays, Saudi Arabia lets girls die in a blaze rather than allow them to flee the burning place immodestly dressed, and Syria suppresses dissent and intervenes in Lebanon? The Middle East being such a mess, why do we focus on the Jewish state? It used to be because we were antisemites.

Not any more, according to a recent Alan Dershowitz blogpost. The piece is intended to make some point about the Catholic church trying to fend off widespread criticism of sexual abuse by priests, and using antisemitism in the process. Mirroring Zionist tactics, Catholics might ask why so much is being said about unpunished sexual violence within their faith and so little about abuse coverup in other religious communities. Dershowitz senses that, but has a response:

It is true that there is stereotyping and anti-Catholic bigotry in some of the criticism of the Pope for conduct of which he's probably unaware. It is also true that sexual abuse by those in positions of authority is widespread in many religious and secular institutions, and the focus on the Catholic church seems unfair. But the Catholic church is the most powerful religious institution in the world, and much of the criticism comes from disappointed Catholics.

So, according to this Dershowitz doctrine, selective slamming is allowable under two conditions: (a) that the criticized entity is powerful; (b) that abundant criticism comes from the people said entity claims to represent.

So that to apply the doctrine to the case of Israel, it is true that Iran or Saudi Arabia are worse human rights abusers than Israel. But with over 200 nuclear warheads Israel is the most powerful country in the Middle East, and much of the criticism for its policies comes from disgruntled Jews, including many Israeli ones.

It's official: we're not antisemites. Israel deserves to be preferentially criticized for about the same reasons that the Catholic church does.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"... very similar to nationality laws in place in Germany, Ireland, Greece..."

Who can say there's anything wrong with the Israeli citizenship law? After all, its provisions are similar to the German, or Irish, or Greek nationality laws, all of which prioritize descent over birthplace. In Germany, in particular, the Volga Germans, who live in faraway Russia, are given automatic citizenship just because somewhere in their genealogy there's a person who came from Germany; while people of Turkish descent born into families that have been living in Germany for decades are denied it.

Or so argue Israel apologists. But it's a dishonest argument, beginning with the fact that some of its premises have long ceased to be true.

The bulk of the counterargumentation has already been provided by The Magnes Zionist. To put it succintly, the German constitutional clause which granted citizenship to people of German stock living in Eastern Europe, including Russia, was designed to cover cases of expulsions and forcible transfers. This was later extended to people of German extraction living under oppresive Communist regimes. It did not apply to the numerous Volga German communities in Argentina or Brazil (for instance). It was a temporary remedy. As TMZ comments:

In fact, while couched in ethno-national language, the German “right of return” was not an open invitation to ethnic Germans to help rebuild a German commonwealth, but a humanitarian gesture to rescue co-ethnics from “oppression” under Soviet rule. The rhetoric of ethnic solidarity on the part of German conservatives was also an attempt to legitimize a German ethnic nationalism after its being discredited as a result of the Nazi period.

In any event, the “right of return” was limited spatially to those ethnic German living the Soviet Union and temporally to those who suffered as a result of the expulsions and living in a hostile environment. With more liberal emigration laws, and then the demise of the Soviet Union, the “right of return” was challenged both by liberals, who were opposed to preferential treatment of co-ethnics, and by conservatives, who feared the influx of Russians of German descent. As a result of legislation in 1993, preferential treatment in immigration was almost entirely curtailed.

May it also be added that despite the difficulties in acquiring nationality, non-Germanic foreigners did apply for, and obtain, it in large numbers. According to official figures, between 1995 and 2004 1,278,524 foreigners gained German citizenship -- 608,450 of them from Turkey alone. The comparable figure would be 10,000 non-Jews gaining Israeli citizenship each year, which we know is not happening.

But I'd like to point out two additional aspects in which Israel's citizenship law is radically different from other countries'.

In the first place, the German, Irish, Greek, etc., laws refer to people who emigrated from their respective countries at a time when nationality, citizenship and ethnicity were approximately coincident, and the respective countries were fairly homogeneous. Irish emigrants to the United States, for instance, tended to be white English-speaking Catholics, not brown-skinned Sikhs who spoke Punjabi at home. Same with Germans, who were white and German-speaking. The internal differences that did exist (for instance, between Protestant and Catholic Germans) translated into no additional rights or restrictions under the law. And the current versions of those European laws make no difference by race, religion or mother tongue.

This is not the same as the case in Israel. When Israel was founded, it was already inhomogeneous; it already comprised a fairly large Arab-speaking minority of the Muslim, Christian and Druze faiths alongside the Hebrew speaking Jewish majority. Furthermore, the State's creation itself originated a diaspora -- people who were born in the territory on which Israel was declared, and whose ancestors had been living for generations there, but who were not covered by the Nationality Law. Those (forced) emigrants are the equivalent of the Irish, German or Greek emigrants whose children have the right to citizenship under the respective laws. However, the Israeli law doesn't grant them the right to citizenship accorded to Jews. It's like if the German law accorded citizenship to Protestant emigres, but not to Catholic ones.

The second big difference is that while in Germany the process to become a citizen may be long and tiresome, down the road there's always a point from which you have exactly the same rights as a blue-eyed, blond and Christian German. A child born in Germany to a foreigner who has been a legal resident for 8 years, for instance, is granted temporary citizenship, but he must apply to retain it when he turns 23. I don't agree with such a provision; I prefer the Argentinian system whereby a child born in the country is forever a citizen. That said, once that German-born person successfully re-applies for citizenship, he becomes undistinguishable from any other German, and he can pass his German nationality on to his offspring on an equal footing with all other Germans.

That's hardly the case in Israel, where an Israeli-born Arab is a citizen but does not enjoy the rights that can be acquired through the Law of Return -- which detracts from his ability to remain a citizen. Thus, Israel's Nationality Law provides that:

# 11. (a) Where an Israel national -

* (1) became an Israel national on the basis of false particulars; or
* (2) has been abroad for seven consecutive years and has no effective connection with Israel, and has not proved that his effective connection with Israel was severed otherwise than by his own volition; or
* (3) has committed an act constituting a breach of allegiance to the State of Israel,

the District Court may, on the application of the Minister, annul his nationality.

This is not egalitarian, because the Arab Israeli who pursues a career abroad has his nationality revoked and loses any further right to it, while a Jewish Israeli in a similar situation can reapply for it under the Law of Return. Similarly, only the children of an Arab Israeli can apply for Israeli citizenship, while in the case of the Jewish Israeli, his children and grandchildren --at the very least-- can do so, again because of the Law of Return, and the right extends to further generations provided they marry other Jews.

In sum, despite the superficial similarities existing between the German and Israeli nationality laws, the results have been radically different, the former creating an ever more diverse society with equal rights for all, and the latter ensuring Jewish supremacy in a society with two de facto citizenships, one of higher quality than the other.