Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dershowitz strikes back -- with lies (yawn)

So there was this BDS conference held at Pennsylvania University -- one of the Ivy League institutions. Myself, I'm a fence-sitter with regard to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions -- I don't boycott Israeli products as such (although if I knew that they were made in the occupied territories, I would), while I think that divesting from Israeli companies makes sense only in certain specific cases. I'm more comfortable with the idea of sanctions.

In any case, this BDS event was organized at UPenn and, as might be expected, lots of Israel firsterssupporters rallied to organize counterevents that brought much larger attendances. This is not surprising since BDS is taking its first infant steps in the realm of mainstream discourse.

One of the anti-BDS events was a speech by the ineffable Alan Dershowitz. Under the headline Dershowitz strikes back, the StandWithUs site provides a raving review of the Dersh's presentation which, as can be predicted, consists basically of a regurgitation of tired Hasbara points. Of a somewhat higher interest is the Q&A, and in particular this exchange with a student:

During the question-and-answer session after the Annenberg presentation, one female student asked, "If an Arab student comes up to me and says, 'You took my land,' and I respond, 'Yeah, but we support gay rights,' how does that add up?"

Dershowitz said the answer is that the Jews didn't steal the land.

"The land on which Israel was established had a Jewish majority," he said. "In Israel's case, they bought the land, in this case from distant land owners, who lived in Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli policy of the yishuv was never to throw indigenous Arabs off the land.

"Israel's birth certificate is cleaner than the birth certificate of almost any other modern country in the world," he added. "Israel was established by law."

Notice Dershowitz's goal-shifting. In his last paragraph he seems to suggest that because Israel is cleaner than "almost any other modern country in the world," an Arab has no right to complain that his land was stolen. It's, of course, the case of the tax evader who claims he can't be jailed because other, worse criminals are free.

But to his credit, he does provide an answer to the student's question: the land was not stolen; the Jews bought it from "distant landowners" in Syria and Lebanon.

There's no denying that the Jews bought land in Mandate Palestine. But the land? Israel consists of some 22,000 sq km of land. By 1946, a year before the UN partition resolution, land ownership was distributed as follows:

This map was first published in the excellent Palestinian advocacy site, which in turn obtained the information from this United Nations document from the time.

As can be seen, the Jews didn't enjoy majoritarian ownership in any district. Quite on the contrary, in most districts of present-day Israel the land was overwhelmingly owned by private Arab citizens, with the Jews coming close (but still lagging behind) only in Haifa and Jaffa. This can be more startingly underlined by seeing a map of the land that the Jews did own:

Thus, the land was not bought from distant landowners. In fact, only about 1,500 sq km (some 6% of present-day Israel) was bought by the Jews. See here for the scanned relevant page of the British report "Survey of Palestine" published prior to the partition plan.

What happened, then, with the Arab-owned land? After some 700,000 Arabs were expelled or fled the 1948 war, their property was confiscated by the 1950 Absentee Property Law, whereby the real estate of those "absent" owners was transfered to a State Custodian, who in turn leased it to the Jews. Here are a few relevant paragraphs from this law:

2. (a) The Minister of Finance shall appoint, by order published in Reshumot, a Custodianship Council for Absentees' Property, and shall designate one of its members to be the chairman of the Council. The chairman of the Council shall be called the Custodian.

3. (b) The Custodian may appoint agents for the management of held property on his behalf and may fix and pay their remuneration.

4. (a) Subject to the provisions of this Law -
(1) all absentees' property is hereby vested in the Custodian as from the day of publication of his appointment or the day on which it became absentees' property, whichever is the later date;
(2), every right an absentee had in any property shall pass automatically to the Custodian at the time of the vesting of the property; and the status of the Custodian shall be the same as was that of the owner of the property.

The emphasized (by me) sentences can't be described in any other way than the Custodian stealing the Arab owners' land.

So that no, Mr. Dershowitz, the Jews didn't buy the land but some land which constituted a very small proportion of present-day Israel; and yes, what the Jews did with Arab-owned property is tantamount to barefaced thievery. And by the way, you've just been exposed once again as a straight-faced liar.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Iran threatened Israel": the umpteenth iteration of a lie

On the website of United With Israel, one of many pseudo-NGO's devoted to scare Jews into donating money for Zionist causes (such as the improvement of the editors' standard of living), there is currently a post titled Iran: We Must Attack Israel by 2014. Wow, I said to myself, they were right and I was wrong, and Iran has actually pledged to exterminate the Jewish state. The post, however, is a verbatim transcription of a Jerusalem Post story titled 'Iran must attack Israel by 2014' (quotation marks included in the original), so that here we have a first problem. It's not the same Iran (i.e. its government) claiming that it must attack Israel as some unnamed source stating as much. By slightly changing the headline's punctuation, UWI already managed to distort the story it was quoting.

But what was the story? In the first paragraphs, the JPost informs us that:

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's strategist provided the legal and religious justification for the annihilation of Israel and the Jewish people, in a document published on conservative Farsi website Alef. Reports of the document began to circulate the internet this week.

The document, written by strategy specialist Alireza Forghani, outlined the reasons why, "In the name of Allah, Iran must attack Israel by 2014."

So that this article is, in principle, written by "Khamenei's strategist" -- were you aware the Grand Ayatollah had one? Me neither. All of a sudden, however, this Forghani fellow pops up. The only internet mentions he gets are for this article of his, but we must believe he is the "strategy specialist" who advises the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader.

So that looking for more information on this frightening character I turned to the source of all wisdom. No, not God, MEMRI. The über-Zionist outfit reports on the story in what purports to be a scholarly analysis, with footnotes and all. The title is In Response to Escalating Threats between West and Iran, Iranian Official Calls On Regime To Attack Israel. An official? Let's read a few paragraphs:

As the reciprocal war of words between the Western and Iranian media escalated, and in response to Israeli declarations regarding the necessity of stopping Iran's nuclear program with a military strike, Alireza Forghani, a staunch supporter of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei[1] and, until recently, governor of Kish Province, called on the Iranian regime to attack and annihilate Israel. His article, titled "Iran Must Attack Israel by 2014" and published February 4, 2012 on numerous pro-regime websites,[2] follows an article he published a month ago praising jihad against the Americans and emphasizing the Iranians' hope for a war in which they would die as martyrs.[3]
Forghani's latest article contains two parts. The first expounds on the religious justifications, based on the Koran and the teachings of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, obligating all Muslims to attack Israel for stealing Palestinian lands and aspiring to take over the rest of the Islamic lands between the Nile and the Euphrates. According to the author, such an attack is obligatory, whether as defensive jihad (when Muslims are attacked by others) or as jihad in its basic sense (holy war against infidels).[4]

Notice that Forghani's article is a "response to Israeli declarations regarding the necessity of stopping Iran's nuclear program with a military strike." I.e., there does exist a concrete Israeli threat, and it's only in response to that threat that Forghani proposes a preemptive attack.

The following endotes provide evidence for MEMRI's claims:

[1] Forghani referred to Khamenei as "Imam" as early as September 2011., September 3, 2011. He recently resigned his post as governor of southern Iran's Kish Province over tensions with pro-Ahmadinejad circles. Fars (Iran), December 24, 2011.
[2] The article, which originally appeared on Forghani's February 4 blog in both Persian and English, was published on websites aligned with Iran's moderate-conservative stream and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), such as Fars, Mashreq News, Jahan News, Alef, and Asr-e Emrooz.
[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No.4467, "Iranian Websites Publish Threats against U.S. Targets in Gulf," February 1, 2012,

Notice that Forghani keeps a blog, where his article was originally published (i.e. it's not an original material from any Iranian State agency). Notice also that all the evidence for Forghani being a staunch supporter of the Ayatollah is that he referred to Khamenei as "Imam." That being said, something must be wrong with MEMRI's sources. For one thing, there's no Kish province in Iran. There does exist a Kish island, but for another thing, the only governor of that territory mentioned over the Internet is Madjid Shayesteh, who was incumbent at least until September 2011. But in any event, if Forghani resigned in December, he's an ex-official, not an official as MEMRI's headline claims.

Or is he? Ynet's coverage of the story claims he's a computer engineer, which would be more logical for a 28-year-old (MEMRI reports that he was born on August 31, 1983) than being an ex-governor of something.

Although MEMRI says that the article was published in both Farsi and English, it never gives us a link to the English version. Instead, it cherry-picks various paragraphs and presents them under scary headlines, but it's not clear if these are Forghani's or MEMRI's. Although the Zionist organization tries to induce us into thinking that Forghani wants to annihilate the Jews, there's no reference in the article to any Jews than Israel's.

Deep buried in the story (but, to MEMRI's credit, not omitted) is the following paragraph:

It would seem that the article, whose publication coincided with statements by Khamenei, in his Friday speech of February 3, about the need to wipe out the "cancerous growth" of Israel, is the regime's response to recent statements by Israeli leaders regarding the necessity of attacking Iran. While Forghani, who notes that his article expresses his own views and not necessarily those of the regime, states that Iran must take it upon itself to annihilate Israel, Khamenei has avoided pitting Iran as an active combatant against Israel, keeping his country in a supportive role of assisting other forces against Israel.

In this, and only in this, MEMRI seems to concur with the other sources. The JPost reports that:

Claiming to only represent the personal opinion of its author, and not the Iranian government, the doctrine was published on a website believed to have close ties with the Ayatollah.

Ynet, for its part, informs its readers that:

Forghani, who describes himself as an enthusiastic supporter of the Iranian government and a former member of the Revolutionary Guard's Basij militia, stressed that the opinions presented in his post are his own and do not represent the regime's position.

Notwithstanding which, the Daily Mail reported:

'Kill all Jews and annihilate Israel!' Iran's Ayatollah lays out legal and religious justification for attack

So that an article that called to attack Israel in a preemptive strike in response to an existing Israeli threat, and which was written by a young man who may be a strategy advisor to Iran's supreme leader or the ex governor of an ill-defined polity, but most probably a computer engineer, and which, moreover, explicitly claimed to reflect the writer's opinions only, is suddenly transformed into a hateful call to kill all Jews made by none other than Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

That's how Zionist myths are manufactured, and how they gain circulation. By providing endless bits of slightly false information, Zionist sites and news outlets manage to transform an irrelevant event in the blogosphere into one more reason why Iran should be nuked.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The caveat. Always look for the caveat

It is well known that the Israeli Supreme Court banned torture in 1999. It is far less well known that it didn't. Now how can this be? How can something be forbidden and allowed at the same time?

The answer is that all Israeli landmark decisions that apparently uphold Palestinian rights come with a caveat that renders them irrelevant. In the case of the torture ruling, it allowed recourse to the necessity defense and permitted investigators to use torture to meet immediate and otherwise unavoidable grievous threats to innocent life. And guess what: since then, every time Israel wants to torture someone it labels him or her "a grievous threat to innocent life," et voilà, business as usual.

I was reminded of this only the other day, when a Ynet story under the title
Gov't to withhold aid from settlements caught my eye. The auspicious lede read "Ministers decide to exclude 70 West Bank settlements from national priorities map; The story was covered up, officials say." By then I was sure that this decision had a clause that would allow the settlements to apply for prioritarian treatment anyway. The only doubt was how it would be worded. But why had that decision been made in the first place? The article first gave us the context:

The government has decided to exclude 70 West Bank settlements from the list of national priority areas, Ynet has learned Thursday.

The list asserts which towns across the country are to receive grants and benefits aimed at boosting the communities' economy and making them more attractive for new residents and investors.

On Sunday, the government voted to approve an updated version of the list, which included the 70 settlements. A day later, it was proposed to remove towns that are located beyond the Green Line from the priority map; the initiative was put up to a telephone vote, and was passed by a 15-10 margin. Several ministers abstained from the vote.

Then came the reason for the decision:

Government sources estimate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was concerned that including the settlements in the list will hurt the latest efforts to restart the peace talks with the Palestinians. Due to this fear, the West Bank communities were deemed ineligible for automatic aid.

How "concerned" of Mr. Netanyahu. He has enough conscience to understand that the settlements will be a hindrance in the peace process, but not enough not to build them.

By then, however, I had grown a little impatient. I didn't have to wait much, though, since the following paragraph gave me what I was looking for:

The settlements can still apply for incentives, but the decision to grant them these benefits is left up to the government.

So what do you think will happen in the next few months? What are you saying? That most, if not all, of the 70 settlements will apply for incentives? And that in most, if not all, of those cases the government will decide to grant them? Are you kidding me? Are you suggesting Israel acts in bad faith? But yes, you got it right and that's what will in all likelihood happen.

So that next time a Zionist brings up a suspiciously democratic Israeli decision or piece of legislation, don't think too much and confront your hypothetical pro-Israel friend with one simple phrase: it's the caveat, stupid.