Thursday, September 18, 2014

On Narratives and Tactics

Sar Shalom

A common refrain in the pro-Israel community is that the media are biased against Israel. Coverage of the recent fighting in Gaza has been such that even Gary Rosenblatt of The (NY) Jewish Week, who previously has been a staunch defender of the media against charges of bias, felt forced to admit that there was something untoward in the media's coverage of the conflict. In addressing the media's bias, it would help to look at how the narrative frames developed that lead to today's skewed coverage in order to develop our own strategy to counteract it.

Recently, Columbia Journalism Review recarried an article about The New York Times' coverage of Israel. Early in to that article was a vignette about how narratives at the Times changed from Israel as a scrappy upstart fending off those who would exterminate her to Israel as cruel overlord:
During the winter of 1974, Seymour Topping, the assistant managing editor of The New York Times, and his wife, Audrey, visited Jordan as part of a tour of the Middle East.

On their stops in Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, Topping often had to confront criticism that the Times’ coverage was too favorable to Israel. It was a familiar enough situation for him; to be the editor of the Times in charge of international coverage meant you were a magnet for complaints. They were usually about the paper, but sometimes about US policy, which foreigners often believed was refracted through the Times’ coverage.

In Jordan, King Hussein took a different approach: He arranged for the Toppings to visit a nearby Palestinian refugee camp. The visit affected Topping markedly—he saw both the squalor of the camp and the festering hatred of Israel—and he recounted afterwards that he realized he had not understood the role of the Palestinians in the region’s future until then.
What this episode demonstrates is that King Hussein caught on to a strategy that I have seen mentioned during my days following the DLC: if you want to convince the public to support you against your opponent, tell them something that they don't know about your opponent but would not like if they did. Before the West saw how the Palestinian refugees were living, the narrative was that the victims of the worst genocide from Europe were attempting to restart their lives in the face of nihilist opposition. The new information that Jordan presented to Topping showed that instead of the opposition to Zionism being nihilistic, there was an actual victim of Israel's birth. This led to a new narrative that the victims of Europe's worst genocide sought to rebuild their lives at the expense of innocent, as most westerners came to see them, others. Unfortunately, when this new narrative began to gel, our only response has been to reiterate the facts underlying our old narrative more loudly.

In the absence of facts supporting the Palestinians' claims, the facts underlying our narrative would carry the day. However, if the Very Serious People of the world think that the facts underlying the Palestinian narrative are more significant, no amount of telling our old narrative will change their perception. This applies equally to Holocaust and Hamas' rockets. What we need to do is to tell the Very Serious People something about the Israeli-Palestinian that they don't know, but would make them not like the Palestinian national movement if they did. Since the Very Serious People's love affair with Fatah is based on the belief that Fatah is the last-best hope for peace, the facts we reveal would have to undermine that notion. Further, the Very Serious People are loathe to admit that there is no hope for peace, so undermining the notion that Fatah is the last-best hope for peace will require showing that there is an alternate partner to get to peace.

Accordingly, the next time dignitaries (political candidates, media editors) visit Israel, instead of showing them what Israelis are living through under Hamas terror, show them genuine voices for peace on the Palestinian side. The first example should be a gathering of Sheikh Jabari with what the Very Serious People call "settlers." This information would serve two purposes. It would show that if Fatah is dethroned, that hope is not lost for attaining peace. Further, it would show that the "settlers," are an excuse for Fatah to refrain from making peace rather than a real obstacle, as proved by the willingness of Palestinians like Jabari to meet with them. Preferably, the dignitaries would witness one of these meetings in Jabari's home in Hebron, but if they are unwilling to go where Israel "has no right to be," the meeting should be moved to where the dignitaries would be willing to go to witness it. This could be followed by more similarly minded Palestinians, such as the followers of Mohammed Daoudi Dajani's Wasatia movement. However, more important would be to see how the Palestinian national movement reacts to the Palestinians who genuinely seek peace as is evident in the anti-normalization crusade.

Ultimately, the goal is to supercede the current narrative the way the Arabs got the current narrative to supercede the one that existed until 1967. The new narrative should be one which acknowledges that there is Palestinian suffering, but which attributes that suffering to the national movement using the people as pawns and that the people who actually are trying to help the Palestinian people do not measure their progress by how far they roll back Jewish aspirations.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Are Jews Allowed to Even Visit Mecca?

Michael L.

mecca1I am a Jew.

Can I go to Mecca?

Let's find out.

I called the Saudi Arabian Consulates General office in Los Angeles (310-479-6000) and tried to ask them if I could come to Mecca as a Jewish tourist.

And when I say tried to ask them I mean that I am not at all certain that I was entirely successful in this minor endeavor.

The first nice lady who I spoke with recommended that I speak with the Visa Office.

That office recommended that I speak with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I asked people for their names, but they said that they were not allowed to give out that information, and I certainly cannot blame them for that.

But, I want to see Mecca.

I do.

And I want to know more about official Muslim-Saudi restrictions on Jews in the Holy City and the country as a whole.

Is that wrong?

And am I racist for wondering how it is that a Jew cannot even visit land where Jews lived for millenia prior to the rise of Islam?

Let's find out, shall we?


By the way, I do not often read Maureen Dowd of the New York Times but in her article concerning Mecca in 2010 she writes this terrific line:
Couldn’t Mecca, I asked the royals, be opened to non-Muslims during the off-season? 

Actually, now that I think on it, that could easily have been a line coming from the ample mouth of the late, great Joan Rivers.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Latest Post for the Elder

Title:  Weakness, Stupidity, and Head-Chopping

Here is a tid-bit:
I may be rambling a bit - and G-d only knows that I need a stalwart editor - but this popular head chopping fad that we have been reading about is ghastly... horrific... mind-bogglingly revolting... there are no words and it leads one to wonder the extent to which this kind of thing has been going on all along....that is, if I may wonder aloud without insulting anyone's religious faith, for chrissake.

Although I do respect people's religious traditions, this particular practice, for some strange reason, crosses a line for me, particularly when it is practiced on children as we saw with the Fogel family attack.  Your mileage may vary, but I find myself in the nay-saying camp when it comes to chopping off people's heads in the name of the deity.
So, is this head-chopping thing a fad or has it been going on all along in basically the same measure?

Certainly it is recommended in the Koran.

Sura 47 reads, in part:
When you encounter the unbelievers on the battlefield, strike off their heads until you have crushed them completely...
Therefore, this head-chopping habit is embedded in Islam's holiest book and I am pretty sure that Sura 47 is not the only place.

Here is a rather academic article by Timothy Furnish of the Middle East Quarterly on the subject from 2005.

I cannot help but think that Jesus would not approve.

In any case, I certainly do not and there is but no question that Obama was wrong when he said, the other day, something to the effect that no religion calls for harming the innocent.

That is a lie.

Obama is either ignorant or lying.  My suspicion is the latter.  How is it possible that I know more about Islam than the guy who went to Islamic school as a child?

Christianity is a religion of peace and compassion in the words of the founder.

Judaism is a religion of law.  One keeps Kosher - if one does so - not because of any contemporary notions concerning health, but because it is the written law, Torah.

Islam is a religion of submission and is the only religion in the world that advocates taking a sharp blade, stabbing it into a person's neck, and sawing their head off.

Does noticing this and mentioning it aloud make me a "racist"?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Alan Dershowitz On The Dead Baby Strategy And Other Crimes Against Nature


Some readers of geoffff's joint may know that the blog has shamelessly claimed for itself credit for coining the phrase "dead baby strategy" to describe the standing plan of the ruling Gaza authorities of the day, whoever and wherever they may be on the day and that is by no means necessarily in Gaza, to put civilians and especially children in the way of wars so as to harvest the propaganda value of the resulting lost lives for the war effort. 

Ah huh. Dead baby strategy. We had seen it before so many times it could be predicted with certainty with Operation Pillar of Cloud in November 2012 when it reached a new low of this depraved theatre of the grotesque.  Recall the Egyptian PM on a flash visit of solidarity just in time to carry for the cameras a freshly killed infant, son of a distraught BBC man no less. Turned out the child had been killed by a Hamas misfire.

Other images used have been of casualties of the Syrian conflict where there is an availability of dead kid stock several orders of magnitude over what is available in Gaza and is guaranteed to be always fresh in store.   

All you have to do is lie that the Jews did the killing and that of course is no sweat at all. Been doing that for centuries. 

 It was time it was given a name. Snuff movie is morally in the same field but doesn't quite cover it.  Death porn is closer.  

Anywhere in the world , building vast war tunnels with the blood and resources of a brutally and unlawfully ruled people and placing war facilities, including operations, war tunnel entrances and enormous munitions stocks among whatever facilities the people have been left after the plundering, would be seen as an enormous crime. To then instruct the civilian population to stay put and ignore warnings to evacuate that they know will come as the criminals have already attacked the civilian population of the hated enemy would hardly be seen as a point in mitigation anywhere.

Except in Gaza.

Over 300 kids were killed digging those tunnels. Hamas and the PA are the sources for that. Apparently the kids were prized as diggers because of their size and agility.  Likely they would have died horribly of course. 

What do you call this. A war crime? It doesn't even begin to describe it. Of course it is a war crime, not just one, but it is something else besides. Can you call it genocide not only as a policy for the Jews but also as policy for the Gazans, even when it is part of a single coherent strategy that includes rapidly expanding the population of the ruled people for the purposes that include the waging of jihad?

A policy that enslaves women, entrenches poverty, grinds out never ending grievance and that has resulted in Gaza having among the highest birth rates and population projections anywhere going all the way back to 1967 when living standards in Gaza and other places nearby dramatically began to improve in key sectors.

But I digress.

That was way before Hamas was calling the shots and the policy settings, such as they were, were flung in reverse with all seven gears grinding like a Norwegian submarine right back all the way to the seventh century. 

Not just Gaza by the way. The policy extends beyond Gaza. But how is a population explosion possibly in the same street as genocide?

Not the right word just now. But who knows what these maniacs are capable of and as the antizionist bigots in the West are fond of accusing Israel of genocide that involves the same population explosion it must be said that Hamas and its ugly sisters are guilty of a crime against their own people that is in the same dimension even now.

Not to mention the policy regarding the Jews.

Whatever else you could call this thing, you can say for sure it is uglier than a hatful of massacres and something else even uglier besides. You don't have to be a moral philosopher to note this.  

Where else in the world and in history would there be any doubt about the nature of a crime like this? There may  excellent reasons to not intervene including the most excellent reason of them all; that there is nothing that can be reasonably done. But whether it was genocide in Darfur, the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia or the crushing of the Tibetans there would be no lack of moral clarity about what we were seeing. 

Except in Gaza. 

Why is that? Isn't that being a little racist?  Because it sure looks like it to me. A kind of double racism. The racism that relieves the rulers of Arab peoples and especially "Palestinians" from all responsibility for their terrible crimes even against their own people and the racism that places the burden of responsibility for these crimes squarely onto the Jews.  

I've got to say this so please hear me through. We know it was determined Third Reich policy from the start to breed, as they saw and put it, as many Germans as possible so that they could be burned for a purpose that transcended the value of their lives.  This was a core theme of the ruling ideology.  Everyone knew this. It was taught in the schools. Beyond the individual is the state and beyond the state is the ruling ideology that must and will triumph even as the individual as an animal must die and whose duty therefore is to submit to the service of the state with his life.

In the light of events I guess one of the crimes you could accuse Hitler is the genocide of the German people. It is certainly true that Germans were his first victims and not just the Jewish Germans. 

Which brings me back to Gaza.  

As Hamas and its ugly sisters are being rewarded for their crimes and have people to burn as a result of a political culture that has a pathological attitude toward women and girls and a death cult attitude to the value of human life they will of  course keep on doing this.

But here's the thing. The rewards for Hamas are mainly in the West. They can see for themselves the strategy is working in spades and at a cost to them that is negligible. Other people's kids that have been brought into the world for this purpose as policy. 

The people of Gaza are oppressed and no one can seriously believe that there are not many among them who know what Hamas is up to and who just want a good and quiet life. But such thoughts are crimes in Gaza let alone words and how in any event supporting Hamas from the West can in any way be seen as in the best interests of the people of Gaza has to be dangerously close to racism in its own right.

Here is Alan Dershowitz nailing it at the Gatestone Institute. 

Hamas quickly produces photographs of dead babies to be shown around the world, while at the same time preventing the media from showing its rocket launchers in densely populated areas.
Unless Hamas's "dead baby strategy" is denounced and stopped -- by the international community, the media, the academy and all good people -- it will be coming soon "to a theater near you".
If Hamas's dead baby strategy works, why not repeat it every few years? And why shouldn't other terrorist groups, like ISIS and Boko Haram, adapt this strategy as Hezbollah has already done?
On June 13, 2014, the commander of the Gaza Division of the Israel Defense Forces took me into a Hamas tunnel that had recently been discovered by a Bedouin tracker who serves in the IDF. The tunnel was a concrete bunker that extended several miles from its entrance in the Gaza Strip to its exit near an Israeli kibbutz kindergarten.
The tunnel had one purpose: to allow Hamas death squads to kill and kidnap Israelis. The commander told me that Israeli intelligence had identified more than two dozen additional tunnel entrances in the Gaza Strip. They had been identified by the large amounts of earth being removed to dig them. Although Israeli intelligence knew where these entrances were, they could not order an attack from the air, because they were built into civilian structures such as mosques, schools, hospitals, and private homes. Nor could Israel identify their underground routes from Gaza into Israel, or their intended exit points in Israel. Israeli scientists and military experts had spent millions of dollars in aneffort to develop technologies that could find the underground routes and intended exits for tunnels that were as deep as a hundred feet beneath the earth, but they had not succeeded in finding a complete solution to this problem. The planned exits from these tunnels in Israel were also a Hamas secret, hidden deep in the ground and incapable of being discovered by Israel until the Hamas fighters emerged. At that point it would be too late to prevent the death squads from doing their damage.
Sure to get this 
I was taken into the tunnel and saw the technological innovations: tracks on which small trains could transport kidnapped Israelis back to Gaza; telephone and electrical lines; crevices beneath schools and other civilian targets that could hold explosives; and smaller offshoot tunnels leading from the main tube to numerous exit points from which fighters could simultaneously emerge from different places.

Friday, September 12, 2014


The problem with land swaps

Sar Shalom

Among the international intelligentsia, it is taken as an article of faith that the solution to what they call the Israel-Palestine conflict must be based on the "borders" that existed before the 1967 war. One problem, that this international intelligentsia recognizes, with this approach is that establishing the 1949 Armistice line as a border would make Israel's borders indefensible. Their response is to say that the border will not have to follow the armistice line exactly but could be altered by land swaps in which the Israel could gain land from the Jordanian side of the armistice line in exchange for giving Palestine an equal amount of land from the Israeli side. Right away, this approach raises practical questions such as whether any secure borders could be drawn for Israel in which Palestine has to have at least as much territory on a dunam basis as was on the Jordanian side of the armistice line prior to 1967 and the fact that Abbas holds a veto over any exchange going forward. However, these problems are beside the point from the fundamental flaw of the underlying premise of land swaps. I would call this flaw the supermarket shelf fallacy.

Suppose you walk in to a supermarket and see some produce on the shelf. To whom does that produce belong? The obvious answer is the supermarket. However, are you allowed to walk out with that produce? Of course, just so long as you pay the supermarket for that produce. Such is the status that the land swaps paradigm accords the disputed territories. That paradigm holds that because the land was under Arab jurisdiction prior to the 1967 war, it belongs to the Palestinians. It then tries to mitigate the effects of awarding "proper ownership" to the Palestinians by saying the Israel can acquire part of that land by paying the Palestinians for it.

The fundamental premise of the entire paradigm is that it considers jurisdiction prior to the 1967 war as the first and only criterion by which to determine proper ownership for today. The impetus for that position could come from the preamble to UN Security Council Resolution 242 which states, "Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war ...." However, even on that foundation, the notion that Arab jurisdiction confers rights for today falls flat because of how the disputed territories came under Arab jurisdiction. The international intelligentsia would claim that they rightfully came under Arab jurisdiction because of Partition. What this ignores is that Partition was an advisory resolution, in part due to the General Assembly only having authorization to issue recommendations, and thus could only come into force by both sides accepting it and giving it the force of bilateral treaty. Furthermore, even Partition did not give the Arabs jurisdiction over any part of Jerusalem, setting it aside for international jurisdiction. Yet, the international intelligentsia accords pre-1967 jurisdiction in Jerusalem as proof-positive for rights today. What all this shows is that jurisdiction prior to 1967 is the result of Jordan's conquest during the 1948-1949 war. Thus, decreeing that jurisdiction prior to 1967 confers automatic rights for today means picking and choosing what acquisitions of territory by war are acceptable.

None of this is meant to suggest that the Arabs living in the disputed territories should forever be subjects of a state in which they have no say in its governance. However, changing that situation does not require using the outcome from any previous war, whether in 1949 or 1967, as the basis on which to draw today's map. The principles underlying Partition were reasonable criteria by which to draw the map at that time. If I were to raise any objection, it would be that the Arab state was given exclaves in the Jewish state (Jaffa and Acre) while no exclaves in the Arab state were given to the Jewish state such as Gush Etzion. Even this could be justified because because removing the Arab population of Jaffa and Acre from the Jewish state had the effect of securing a Jewish majority for the Jewish state before the Jewish influx from the rest of the Middle East and the Arabs' abandonment and occasional expulsion from their villages in what became Israel. However, those principles applied today would produce a map that looks nothing like the Partition map. It is time to think of how the principles underlying Partition would affect the map if invoked under today's conditions.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where is the Jewish Pro-Israel Left?

Michael L.

If the great majority of Jews are liberal-progressive and if the vast majority of progressive-left Jews believe in Israel as the national homeland for the Jewish people, just where is their media presence?

I do not see it.  Do you?

Given the fact that most Jews are progressive and given the fact that most progressive Jews are Zionists, one would think that there would be a significant media presence to support the progressive Zionist viewpoint, but there is not.

Jon Segall and fizziks had a little something going for awhile, but they're just a couple of guys with a blog, just like we are.  I find it difficult to believe that all of western liberal Zionism cannot muster enough support to even have a significant media presence or political hub of some sort.

Why is it that almost all the pro-Israel magazines, newspapers, and blogs are considered "conservative"?  Ha'aretz, of course, is not, but pretty much everything else is.  The Jerusalem Post features Martin Sherman and Caroline Glick and would definitely be considered a conservative news outlet.  The almost brand-spanking new Times of Israel is moderate, under editor David Horovitz, as is the venerable Jewish Daily Forward.

But Commentary is conservative.

Arutz Sheva is conservative.

Algemeiner is conservative.

The Jewish Press is conservative.

Israel Hayom is conservative.

And among the blogs, fuggedabout it.  The pro-Israel / pro-Jewish blogs are considered conservative almost entirely across the board.  Israel Thrives is non-partisan and we welcome voices from across the political spectrum with the obvious exception of anti-Semitic anti-Zionists.

However, the Elder of Ziyon is moderate-conservative.

Jews Down Under is moderate-conservative.

CiF Watch is moderate-conservative.

The Gatestone Institute is moderate-conservative.

David Shapiro's Truth Revolt is conservative.

Gates of Vienna is conservative.

Pamela Geller's Atlas Shrugs is conservative-libertarian.

Israpundit is conservative.

Geoffff's Joint is conservative.

Abu Yehuda (formerly of Fresno Zionist fame) is conservative.

Sultan Knish (aka the brilliant Daniel Greenfield) is conservative.

Mark Golub of Shalom TV is, I would argue, moderate, along with Jon Haber's Divestthis!.

And, at this point, I don't think that anyone quite knows, or cares, what the New Republic is about.  (Marty Peretz should never have trusted Peter Beinart with the reigns.)

There is, however, an anti-Israel Jewish left snuggied up to, or thoroughly embracing, the anti-Semitic BDS movement.  Jeremy ben Ami and J Street got comfy-cozy with BDS so that even Jon Segall felt it necessary to distance himself from the group.  There is Jewish Voice for Peace that is viciously anti-Zionist.  There is the notorious Mondoweiss that no one with a clue could possibly call either pro-Israel or pro-Jewish.  There is Adam Shapiro's International Solidarity Movement that got the ignorant, naive, and pissed-off Rachel Corrie killed.

And G-d only knows how many left-liberal anti-Israel Jewish college groups have sprung up over the last few years.

But the point is this:

Where the hell is the Jewish left-liberal pro-Israel media presence?

There is Ha'aretz and precious little else and calling Ha'retz "pro-Israel" is, in itself, a significant stretch.  And it is not as if I stand with them.  On the contrary, I have been exceedingly open with my specific criticisms of the Jewish left.  These criticisms include:

1) Refusing to Discuss Islamist Threat

2) Whipping Up Hatred Toward Other Jews

3) Forever Playing Defense

4) The Moral Equivalency Canard

5) Ignoring Jewish History

6) Disregarding Friends and Supporting Enemies.

What I fail to understand - among the very many things that I fail to understand - is how it is that if progressive-left Jews represent the majority of diaspora Jews and if the majority of diaspora Jews favor Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, that there is virtually no liberal Jewish pro-Israel organizations in the media, either mainstream or bloggish?

Where are the liberal Jewish venues making the liberal Jewish pro-Israel argument?

I suppose that they must be out there, but as someone who keeps an ear to the ground on such things their voices are barely audible.