Tag Archives: Hamas

The Cult of Death That Took Away Our Boys

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My heart is heavy. I feel loss and despair.

Today I watched the funerals of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach, three teenagers abducted and murdered on their way home from seminary two weeks ago.

As I watched the simultaneous live streaming of the three funerals, prior to burial in Modi’in, where they now lie side by side, united in death as in life, I witnessed love, warmth and compassion bursting from every fibre of their families’ being. I listened to the heart-wrenching eulogies of parents, siblings, teachers. I witnessed their families’ love of their community, the Jewish people, humanity,  G-d.

Their dignity is inspiring. We are moved to want to cross the distance that separates and to comfort and mourn with them. There is no consolation for a parent who has lost a child to brutal, meaningless, unspeakable murder.

Not so long ago my son was at a seminary nearby to theirs. Yes, not so long ago I passed the very spot from where they were abducted and murdered. It could have been my son, G-d forbid. It could have been yours. These boys ARE our sons. We are the Jewish People. We are the Jewish Family. Your son is my son and mine yours. You are my brother, sister, father, grandfather, my niece and nephew.

At the funerals there was not one single call for blood or revenge; just dignity and heartbreaking emotion. It was unbearable. I could not watch the final scenes.

Don’t tell me that we – anyone – doesn’t value the life of our own more than the other; whoever tells you that is a liar – or a saint. I have pity, yes, but not this sense of close familial ties, not this depth of grief and anger. Not this despair.

This cult of death which gloats and laughs with glee at grief and suffering, this cult with its maniacal glorification of revenge, this cult which feeds off the offal of its own vicious immorality, is simply not human; it is a travesty of thousands of years of human moral development to which Judaism and the Jewish people sit as the cornerstone and the abiding custodian.

It is, however, here to stay as it spreads across the Arab-Muslim world; a death cult devoid of pity, the absolute zero, the deep ocean trench, the nadir of nadirs of human moral worth and value. A cult that, like a tsunami of ideological delusion, scarifies the landscape of our culture, leaving a wasteland of flinty desiccation, the death of the heart, of the soul, and every last scintilla of humanness.

It is a cult that throws rocks at ambulances bearing the dead teenagers, distributes sweets rejoicing at the abduction of children (and considers them fair game), indoctrinates children to hate with a passion that is pathological, immiserates its people and wallows in the swill of its self-inflicted victimhood.

Israel and the Jewish people are not faultless, they are capable of evil, fanaticism and hatred; but this is not a pathology, it is not an essential and indivisible component of the culture, it is confronted and prosecuted, it is not nurtured and glorified.

This is the challenge of our century: how to defeat unconscionable evil, and expose its apologists.

To do so may mean our own culture is morally damaged in the fight against this scourge of our modern world, which competes with itself in plunging to new depths of depravity.

The Jewish people and the State of Israel, with all their imperfections, must be supported, critically if necessary, in this fight. It is a mistake to see it as a fight for land only, it’s far more complex. There are competing rights and claims, but interwoven with this narrative is an ever increasing, ever harsher infiltration of religio-political ideology which paints Jews as devils and untermenschen and reverses the meaning of good and evil.

Whilst the Jewish mother is consumed with loss, the Palestinian mother’s loss is somehow transformed to glorious martyrdom and the desire for more sons to sacrifice. As the Israel Matzav blog so aptly points out quoting journalist, Brett Stephens:

Here’s my question: What kind of society produces such mothers? Whence the women who cheer on their boys to blow themselves up or murder the children of their neighbors?

Well-intentioned Western liberals may prefer not to ask, because at least some of the conceivable answers may upset the comforting cliché that all human beings can relate on some level, whatever the cultural differences. Or they may accuse me of picking a few stray anecdotes and treating them as dispositive, as if I’m the only Western journalist to encounter the unsettling reality of a society sunk into a culture of hate. Or they can claim that I am ignoring the suffering of Palestinian women whose innocent children have died at Israeli hands.

But I’m not ignoring that suffering. To kill innocent people deliberately is odious, to kill them accidentally or “collaterally” is, at a minimum, tragic. I just have yet to meet the Israeli mother who wants to raise her boys to become kidnappers and murderers—and who isn’t afraid of saying as much to visiting journalists.

To hell with moral equivalences and journalistic ‘balance’, it’s time to decide which side you are on because it will sooner or later become that simple: life or death. Which path to you want humanity to follow in the decades ahead? Is it to push back and defeat, to obliterate religio-fascism, or bury yourself in a quagmire of misdirected human rights’ qualms that are only appropriate for a society and culture that has the moral capacity to produce them?

Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu said at today’s funeral:

The moral chasm that separates us from our enemies is deep and wide.

On his website, former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, had the last word on the distinction between a cult of death and those that cling to, and value life:

Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were killed by people who believed in death. Too often in the past Jews were victims of people who practised hate in the name of the God of love, cruelty in the name of the God of compassion, and murder in the name of the God of life. It is shocking to the very depths of humanity that this still continues to this day.

Never was there a more pointed contrast than, on the one hand, these young men who dedicated their lives to study and to peace, and on the other the revelation that other young men, even from Europe, have become radicalised into violence in the name of God and are now committing murder in His name. That is the difference between a culture of life and one of death, and this has become the battle of our time, not only in Israel but in Syria, in Iraq, in Nigeria and elsewhere. Whole societies are being torn to shreds by people practising violence in the name of God.

Hélas in Gaza and other stories

You may have though not much has been going on in Gaza recently. That is, if you stick to the mainstream media.

When it comes to the BBC, my headline could have been ‘Clueless in Gaza’. Apologies to both John Milton and Aldous Huxley.

BBCWatch is running with a story which perfectly illustrates how propaganda against Israel works. First the lie, then the apology, or the short footnote hidden away on a page of a daily newspaper, or Goldstone saying if he knew then what he knows now, or a cartoonist saying ‘but I didn’t realise it was offensive’, or Ha’aretz issuing a ‘correction’.

The story I am referring to is about Omar Mashrawi. I’m sure you recall the heart-rending scenes as Jihad Mashrawi, a BBC employee at the time,  paraded the dead body of his son Omar through Gaza City during Operation Pillar of Cloud, Israel’s operation to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

John Donnison, the BBC correspondent on the ground wrote how the boy had been killed by a shell fired by the Israelis. Despite the evidence at the scene appearing to contradict this claim, or at least causing severe doubt, nevertheless, yet another Palestinian dead baby story was attributed to the Israelis.

Three months later we find the probable truth via no less than the UN HRC as the BBCWatch article tells us, and I quote extensively because I cannot improve on it:

On March 6th 2013 the UN HRC issued an advance version of its report on the November 2012 hostilities and blogger Elder of Ziyon bothered to read the whole thing. The report states on page 14 that a UN investigation found that:

“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.” [emphasis added]

A footnote adds that the UN investigated the incident itself.

Omar Masharawi was the only 11 month-old infant killed on November 14th in the Zaitoun neighbourhood (although the woman killed at the same time was not in fact his mother as the UN report states, but his father’s brother’s wife; Hiba). 

The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it. Nevertheless, the people responsible for the fact that the unverified story was allowed to run – and that it was deliberately given such exceptionally extensive coverage – must be held accountable for their failure to even try to uphold the standards to which the BBC professes to adhere. 

Thus, Israel is demonised. And it is not only western journalists who do it, but Israeli ones too.

Ha’aretz published a story about how Ethiopian women entering Israel were given contraceptive injections. The point being that Israel, which insists it is not a racist, apartheid state, is trying to limit the birth rate of Africans because it is racist. Even at the time the story was rebutted by many sources.The explanation was that these were not long-lasting contraceptive jabs but reversible short-term ones and made at the request of the women for whom more conventional forms of contraception are taboo.

As a result the practice was stopped as being inappropriate.

Nevertheless, what do we find? yes, a plethora of reports telling the world how nasty those Israelis are to let black people into the country and then limit their fertility. The whole idea is nonsense anyway. If Israel were that racist, why spend so much time and effort bringing Ethiopian Jews into Israel in the first place?

And now Ha’aretz has not only given context to its story but has highlighted how its own journalism was hijacked by those with anti-Israel agendas.

 But the story has taken on a life of its own internationally. The words “forced” and “coercion” are being thrown around in the international coverage. Images of Mengele-level persecution of clueless, helpless victims being marched by force from camps to clinics to receive their injections have been conjured up, as the story has travelled from the Israeli media to the national mainstream media, to international and niche publications. The headlines run from the oversimplified to deliberately twisted:

Israel admits forcing birth control shots on Ethiopian women

Israel: Discrimination against Ethiopian Jews

Israel coerced Ethiopian women into taking contraceptive jabs

Israel Admits “Shameful” Birth Control Drug Injected in “Unaware” Ethiopian Jews

The most hostile coverage refers inaccurately to “sterilization” – conveniently ignoring the fact that Depo-Provera is a three-month birth control injection, for which women must voluntarily go to a clinic to receive the shots. It is insulting to the intelligence of Ethiopian women to believe that they did this for years at a time against their will. Certainly, if there was a nefarious plot to stop them from having babies, there would have been a more efficient way to do it.

Back in Gaza, if you recall, our blessed Prime Minister, David Cameron, once characterised Gaza as a prison camp whilst he was endearing himself to Turkish Islamist leader Recep Erdogan.

William Hague, our Foreign Secretary called on Israel to end the blockade.

So, no doubt they will both be much affected by the following facts:

COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) regularly reports on the number of truckloads of goods entering Gaza which continued even under rocket fire. http://www.cogat.idf.il/894-en/Matpash.aspx?Sad Our noble leaders will see that the Gaza prison camp received 400 truckloads of goods and 170 tons of gas this Thursday alone.

On Tuesday 144,310 flowers were exported from Gaza through Israel.

The people of Gaza should be reaping the reward of the quiet which has descended since their government stopped bombarding Israel. Yet, Messrs Hague and Cameron should also note the following:

On the 4th March the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza, a major route for goods, was closed, not by Israel but by Hamas. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/HumanitarianAid/Palestinians/Hamas_closes_Kerem_Shalom_crossing_4-Mar-2013.htm

Over 70 trucks laden with food and other goods are currently waiting on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom crossing for their Palestinian counterparts.

The crossing is currently not operating, as the Palestinian contractor responsible for the Palestinian side decided not to open the crossing today.

His decision stems from attempts by Hamas to replace the current contractor with one of their choosing. Hamas has been actively trying to push the Palestinian Authority out and take charge of the management of Kerem Shalom so that they may collect revenue from goods that enter Gaza.

These actions by Hamas endanger the current security arrangements and threaten the operability of the crossing.

If Gaza were so desperate for goods, why would Hamas close one of its lifelines in attempt to take control of the crossing replacing the Palestinian Authority contractor? Answer? it wants a kick-back for Hamas by operating it.

And there’s more bad news for those who find Israel solely responsible for the welfare of Palestinians whose government is determined to destroy the country that is most responsible for sustaining it. Egypt is destroying smuggling tunnels.

Yes, Islamist, revolutionary, Hamas-loving, Jew-hating Egypt is destroying the tunnels used for years by Gazans to smuggle everything from couscous to Mercedes and missiles.

The smuggling tunnels linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt are a security threat and must be destroyed, a Cairo court ruled on Tuesday, responding to a petition brought by a group of lawyers and activists in the wake of a cross-border attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards in August.

The Egyptians even flooded the tunnels recently.

So Messrs Cameron and Hague, where are your complaints to the Egyptians and to Hamas about the way they are turning Gaza into a prison camp, cutting off its routes for import and export?

No, we must only hear about what measures Israel takes to feed and sustain its enemies. All countries do that, don’t they? Supply their sworn enemies with food and power? Assad does it in Syria, yes? What? He doesn’t? Oh. So other countries across the world sustain the non-combatant populations of enemy countries and entities like the Sri Lankans looked after the Tamils in areas controlled by the Tigers?

Oh, I see, only Israelis have to be so generous or else it is a war crime and collective punishment. I understand.

I understand completely.

Hamas in context

I haven’t posted during the current conflict between Israel and Hamas because, to be honest, I have been seriously concerned about the safety all friends and family there which has somewhat paralysed my interest in writing.

The other problem has been that I just have not had the time to make any considered assessment when so many others are doing such a good job.

The situation changes so fast that the best medium to follow has been Twitter and that has been an invaluable and fascinating resource which, at times, made me feel that I was almost there. Except I do not have to run to a shelter every few minutes and have my life made a misery for years.

As I travel toward London where I hope to take part in the annual AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen) parade for the first time, it brought home to me the experiences of my mother during the London Blitz. She knows well what it is like to be under constant threat of being bombed or at the receiving end of a V1 or V2. Although what has been happening to Israelis in the south for years is not the Blitz, there are certain similarities.

Can you remember the last country to be subject to a constant rain of rockets? I don’t think it has happened since the V2 attacks on England in the 1940′s.

So I thought I’d try to put some context into this conflict, a context which is sadly missing from almost all news reports.

If you are a regular reader I probably don’t have to convince you of what I am about to write, but please disseminate widely if you agree. There are still many out there who simply, and understandably, accept everything the media, and especially the TV and Internet news media tell them.

What has been particularly striking over the past week is the reporting behaviour of the television and Internet media of the major news outlets and newspapers.

The BBC, in particular, has developed a culture of what it would consider to be good news reporting. This is an attempt NOT to be biased but to simply report what it sees and to deal with both sides ln the conflict evenhandedly.

This is an admirable approach, except when it comes to dealing with a terrorist group it amounts to naivety, ignorance and moral equivalence on a scale that undermines the entire reporting enterprise. By falling over itself to be ‘fair’ it often involves accepting the lies of Hamas and its supporters, treating a genocidal, fanatical, Islamist fascist regime as being trustworthy and distorting history and chronology as well as misinterpreting the root causes of this particular conflict.

The extent of the moral blindness this attitude can imbue is starkly revealed by a report
on the BBC news website which actually challenges both the main Twitter account of Hamas and the IDF spokesperson and postulating that both are guilty of a breach of Twitter’s rules by encouraging violence.

On Thursday, [the Al Qassam Brigade] posted a YouTube video purportedly showing the launch of a Fajr 5 missile towards Tel Aviv for the first time.

In its turn, the IDF tweeted a link to a video purportedly showing an Israeli air force attack on a “rocket warehouse in #Gaza”, on day two of its “Pillar of Defense” operation.

Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has also been using Twitter to get its message across.

The use of social media to announce and comment on military operations, almost in real time, is a significant departure for the social networking platform.

And it potentially brings the warring parties into conflict with Twitter’s own rules, which state: “Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.”

This is frankly ridiculous on two counts: firstly, once again, there is the moral equivalence between a terror organisation committing a war crime every time it launches a rocket, and the target of those rockets. Secondly, the IDF spokesperson is providing what could be life-saving information to Israelis as well as propaganda. The Hamas account belongs to a terror group and should be banned for that reason alone. It’s also telling lies.

So now for the context which makes this moral equivalence so reprehensible.

All too many commentators and, indeed, those who are disposed to be against Israel, consider and describe the conflict as if it were between two nations in a dispute over territory. I am talking specifically about Gaza, not the Palestinian controlled areas of the West Bank.

These same observers are also too easily duped by the lie that Israel ‘occupies’ Gaza and assume it does so for some malign reason to suppress and punish the people of Gaza for the perceived crimes of Hamas.

Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005 even before which rockets or mortars were being fired into Israel.
Prime Minister Sharon took the painful step of forcibly evicting Israelis and abandoning towns and synagogues and even exhuming the dead and repatriating to Israel.

The Israelis left behind billions of dollars worth of agricultural equipment which could have kick-started the Gazan economy. This resource was vandalised by locals more interested in using it for spare parts and other resources than creating a viable economy.

The Israeli largesse was soon repaid.

When Israel left there were no blockades, no embargoes on goods allowed through, no drones, no army, no closures. Gaza was free as its supporters now wish it to be, as they shout it at rallies across the world.

Then in 2006 after a vicious internecine war with Fatah where Hamas executed dozens of its political opponents by summary firing squads or throwing off tall buildings, Hamas won a ‘democratic’ election.

Hamas apologists are keen to point out that Hamas are the democratically elected representatives of the people of Gaza. During the London riots I was tweeting about Hamas, can’t remember why, when none other than Yvonne Ridley, doyenne of the pro-Palestine movement in the UK, tweeted to me claiming just this, that Hamas were the democratically elected government of Gaza. When I challenged her as to when their next elections would be, she got rather evasive and said it would be as soon as they had dealt with the Israelis, or something similar.

So Hamas are not democrats. Their election would not meet the standards of the civilised world or even the uncivilised. They allow no opposition, no free press. free speech, freedom of association. They kill gays, repress women, murder opponents without trial. They are, in fact, the incarnation of evil.

So don’t confuse a democratic election with democracy. Hitler was democratically elected, as I told Yvonne. She said she did not deny this without conceding the point.

Soon after their ‘election’ Hamas began a campaign of firing rockets into Israel. Since 2000, well before they came to power, they have fired about 12,000. This rocket fire has been intermittent. Sometimes several in a day, sometimes none for several days. It was rocket fire which precipitated Cast Lead in 2008.

Hamas have also sent suicide bombers into Israel, fired artillery shells at school buses, fired at IDF soldiers across the border, packed tunnels under the border with explosives and IEDs and, notoriously, took Gilad Shalt hostage for 5 years.

Israel’s forbearance did not last. Hamas were importing and manufacturing a huge cache of arms after 2006. Why? There was no occupation. They were free. Israel allowed in all that was necessary. Israel provided gas and electricity, as it still does.

So why the rockets?

Hamas’s charter clearly states their goals. They are an extreme jihadi, Islamist organisation whose raison d’être is to ‘end the occupation’. This is not the occupation of Gaza or even the occupation of the West Bank, but all Israel. They consider Israel to be illegitimate and that all the land, from the river to the sea, is Arab Muslim. Their role is to liberate it using any means possible.

But their aims don’t stop there. They are a virulently anti-Semitic group. They do not want a one state solution with Jews living harmoniously with Arabs and Muslims, they want to kill every last Jew in Israel – AND THE WORLD.

Don’t believe me? Read their charter Do read it. This is an absolutist, rejectionist movement which is a death cult.
Hamas have no regard for international law, although it puts up a vague pretence in front of Western cameras. It has no regard for human rights. It has no regard for human life. It abuses its children dressing them in jihadi ninja outfits replete with suicide belts and assault rifles and rocket launchers.
It indoctrinates its children into hatred and the need to shed Jewish blood.

This is the organisation in support of which demonstrators will often say, ‘We are all Hamas now’.

Hamas have been pounding southern Israel for years. Leading up to the targetted killing of a senior Hamas figure last year,  I had been tweeting for days and written an article about the online #stoptherockets hashtag. The rockets did not come as a result of the killing, the killing and subsequent offensive was after many years of intolerable rocket fire from Gaza. Rocket fire which had escalated to an extent before the killing which forced Israel to act.

When those commenting on Israel’s actions caution restraint, where were they when the rockets were falling like rain on Ashkelon, Beersheva, Ashdod, Sderot and other towns and cities in southern Israel? How would you like to live under that barrage delivered by an implacable enemy not defending itself but carrying out the objectives of its own charter. A charter which seeks the destruction of Israel.

Hamas, affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, supplied by Iran, financed by – well, partly by you and me if you are in the EU.

So how can anyone fail to see that it is Israel,who are the victims of aggression, not the other way round. the blockade, the embargo, the fence around Gaza, the controlled crossings are all of Hamas’s making.

Yet, despite this, Israel continues to provide power, humanitarian aid, treatment in Israeli hospitals for the people of Gaza who are also victims of the obscene and vicious death cult named Hamas.

I say nothing of the lies and falsely reported images coming from Hamas during the conflict. I say nothing of their evasive interviews which never answer direct questions.

Remember. Hamas fire from schools, hospitals, residential area. They stockpile munitions in mosques and bedrooms. Every time they fire a rocket from a residential area towards Israel they commit two patent war crimes. Yet no-one calls them out for this. The opposite; they receive support from national governments and organisations across the world.

NGO’s which say nothing about rockets fired at Israel are always apoplectic as soon as Israel responds.

Yet I detect things are changing. The UK, many European countries, the USA and even Ban Ki Moon himself seem to realise that Hamas are the aggressors. Whilst asking Israel to show restraint, something they never asked Hamas to do, they nevertheless clearly recognise the sequence of cause and effect here and they know that to ask Israel not to react would be utter hypocrisy.

Maybe you can now understand the background a little better.

My train is about to pull in to London.
See you later.

Shalit and what the deal tells us about Israel and Hamas

I am not going to tell you whether I believe the deal, recently brokered, to exchange one Israeli soldier, Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit, for 1027 Palestinian prisoners, is right or wrong.

Well, I am, actually; but not from a political point of view, or a practical one, or a religious one.

I am going to give you an answer from an ethical point of view, but not the obvious one about releasing murderers who may kill again.

I have had various conversations over the last few days with friends and members of the community to which I belong; some believe it is right to exchange Shalit and some do not.

The reason for the disagreement always centred around the rights of Shalit and his family against the rights of the families whose relatives had been the victims of hundreds of murderers and terrorists.

At the same time, the rights of those who may be killed in the future by those released also posed a dilemma throughout these discussions.

The truth is there is no right answer when you argue in these terms.

The point isn’t that Israel believes that one Jewish Israeli is ‘worth’ 1027 Palestinians. That is ridiculous.

The point is that Hamas knows that Israel values life, that Israel, Israelis and Jews across the world care that a young man is languishing in captivity without access to his family and friends, without education, without a sex life, without doing all those things that 20-something young men should be doing; and why? Because he was a soldier, not because he committed a crime, except that of being an Israeli.

Hamas has no such concerns or scruples when it comes to Palestinian prisoners. It is not their lives that Hamas cared about but their political value and their ability to hurt Israel even as convicted criminals.

Hamas knows that Israel values life. The perverted, inverted ‘morality’ of Hamas’s Islamist cult is in love with death.

Hamas has abandoned all semblance of what passes for human behaviour.

When you have bled yourself of all compassion, when you feed off your own hatred and have dehumanised an entire people; when you have nothing but contempt for your enemy because it has all those human qualities which you consider to be weaknesses, then it is a matter of little consequence and no conscience to win the obscene auction of a young man.

And that is why I support this exchange. I support it because it confirms in me the belief that I am on the right side. It’s not about good and evil; it’s about flawed humanity, which is, nevertheless, humanity and pure unabstracted malice and distilled evil.

And I could not care less about all the crowing and victory whooping and all the threats to kidnap more Israelis; and I don’t give a damn about the hero welcomes and the streets and squares which will be named after murderers who have deliberately targeted children, teenagers and the elderly.

What I care about is that my humanity remains intact, that Israel has demonstrated clearly that its humanity is intact and Gilad Shalit will be free.

Turkey roasts Israel

It looks like the Middle East has found a new Nasser for the 21st century.

Turkey’s president, Recep Erdogan, has announced a series of military and civil measures and sanctions against Israel since the publication of the Palmer Report enquiry into the Mavi Marmara incident over a year ago.

Even before the report Erdogan was making bellicose noises.

It appears that Erdogan is using the incident and Israel’s refusal to apologise as an excuse not only to withdraw from his country’s long and happy friendship with Israel, but to promote himself as a champion of the one cause that unites the Arab and Muslim worlds – the Palestinian grievance with Israel.

Erdogan came to power with a decidedly Islamist agenda. Turkey has been a secular state ever since Kemal Attaturk established the new Turkey in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. For decades Turkey was an example of how Islam can be a national religion and identity whilst retaining secularism.

Turkey’s record on human rights has not always been without blemish, but it is a member of NATO and would like to join the EU.

In April 2010 a so-called Freedom Flotilla of pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist groups announced their intention to beat Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza and deliver ‘humanitarian aid’.

As it turned out, there was little aid of any use on the boats and it was not only clear but also admitted that the true reason was confrontation with Israel and to promote the anti-Zionist agenda.

What is also clear is that the lead boat, the Mavi Marmara, registered under the flag of the Cormoros, was owned and led by the Turkish Islamist group the IHH.

I will not rehearse events which are now well known and which I have written about here, here, and here and in several other posts.

Despite worldwide outcry and condemnation before the facts were known Israel always maintained that its soldiers fired as a last resort and in self-defence. This was the conclusion of a BBC documentary. This was broadly the conclusion of the Palmer Report whose main conclusions were reported by Honest Reporting here:

1. Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal.

The fundamental principle of the freedom of navigation on the high seas is subject to only certain limited exceptions under international law. Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.

2. The Turkish IHH, which organized the flotilla, was looking for trouble with the IDF.

The majority of the flotilla participants had no violent intentions, but there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH. The actions of the flotilla needlessly carried the potential for escalation.

 3. The IDF used excessive force.

Israel’s decision to board the vessels with such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable . . . .

The loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces during the take-over of the Mavi Marmara was unacceptable. Nine passengers were killed and many others seriously wounded by Israeli forces. No satisfactory explanation has been provided to the Panel by Israel for any of the nine deaths. 

4. IDF commandos defended themselves from pre-meditated violence.

Israeli Defense Forces personnel faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their own protection. Three soldiers were captured, mistreated, and placed at risk by those passengers. Several others were wounded.

5. Gaza aid should be delivered by land.

All humanitarian missions wishing to assist the Gaza population should do so through established procedures and the designated land crossings in consultation with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Despite this, Prime Minister Erdogan said that the report is worthless and ‘null and void’.

Erdogan knew what was in the report. He knew that both Israel and Turkey would be criticised and he knew that the criticism would be mainly against Turkey.

Well before the report was published Erdogan was demanding an apology for the killing of 8 Turks. If this apology were not received by the time the report was published he threatened a tsunami of measures against Israel and he is, if nothing else, true to his word.

But Erdogan has form, as it were.

Here he is walking out on Israeli President Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009.

He accuses Israel of hypocrisy. He cites firstly the death of children (it’s always children) on a beach in Gaza supposedly from Israeli fire. Yet the ‘crime scene’ was quickly cleared by Palestinians and the IDF asserted that it did not shell the beach. There was a strong suspicion that this might have been a misdirected militant shell. But Erdogan does not give his supposed friend the benefit of the doubt.

Second he mentions two previous Israeli Prime Ministers saying they were happy when they entered Palestine in tanks. It is not clear which Prime Ministers he refers to or what he means by Palestine, but it was probably the Six Day War. Of course they were happy to force back the Jordanian armies from the West Bank and reunite Jerusalem.  The notion of ‘Palestine’ that we have now did not exist in those days. The West Bank was occupied illegally by Jordan. I don’t recall the Palestinians complaining too much about that. Or maybe he is referring to tanks entering Gaza. Whatever he means, he is implying that Israelis are joyful aggressors rather than defenders fighting an existential threat.

He is angry with the crowd applauding Peres who spoke about peace but the willingness to defend against aggressive neighbours. He criticises the audience for applauding, in his interpretation, killing. He goes on to remind Peres of the commandment not to kill.

Hypocrisy appears to be writ large for Mr Erdogan. I’m sure the Kurds,the Armenians and the Cypriots know a thing or two about Turkey and killing. Only Israel is not allowed to defend itself.

This is not a very impressive performance from Erdogan who comes over as aggressive and claims that the chair of the meeting won’t let him speak.

This incident was the first clear indication that Erdogan did not much like his ‘friend’. As a result of this incident Erdogan was lionised across the Arab world and in the Palestinian territories for standing up to Peres.

Nevertheless, Turkey and Israel maintained relations, shared military manoeuvres, enjoyed mutual trade. Thousands of Israelis holidayed in Turkey.

But the die was cast.

Erdogan soon embarked on his project of being number one man in the Muslim world. He began cosying up to tyrants such as Ahmadinejad and Assad and making nice with Hugo Chavez.

His finest moment was a humanitarian award from Muammar Gadaffi.

He also sent envoys to Hamas in Gaza to tell them that Turkey was on their side and to enhance his reputation in the Arab world.

The European powers and the United States saw him, and, presumably, still do see him as the very embodiment of the Turkish nation which has a toe in Europe and the West, and a large land mass in the East.

Erdogan is a useful middleman, a secular Muslim, who could speak on equal terms with Israel and Iran. He was a key player, the perfect go-between.

Israel was not happy with some of the conclusions of the Palmer Report but feels, overall, vindicated by it.

As to the legalities or otherwise of the blockade, that would require a separate post on its own.

Suffice it to say that, lo and behold, as soon as Israel is in any way vindicated in its actions, up pops a new UN statement telling us it’s all wrong after all; the Blockade is illegal. And the perpetrator is none other than Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights (there doesn’t appear to be one for Israeli human rights), and also Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, who also happens to be the author of a recent article which included a crude anti-Semitic cartoon, later withdrawn.

Falk is really likely to be unbiased, I guess, given his dual roles on behalf of Palestinians and a long track record of anti-Israel rhetoric and writing.

But back to Erdogan.

What the Turkish Prime Minister did and continues to do, on a daily basis, having failed to get Israel to apologise, is truly amazing.

Even the Palmer Report did not require an apology of Israel.  Should Turkey not also apologise to Israel for more or less sponsoring a terrorist organisation to confront and provoke its supposed friend? Turkish nationals planned and executed a lethal, suicidal attack on IDF soldiers, and he believes Israel should apologise. No-one was harmed on any of the other boats where there was no violent resistance.

If these two nations were supposed friends, surely they can sort out their differences, admit mistakes and work to avoid future incidents which would endanger lives, innocent and otherwise.

But no, Israel’s ally and friend has unleashed a torrent of sanctions against Israel and here is this tragic litany which is unprecedented in the relations between states supposed to be allies:

  • Downgrading diplomatic status of Israeli embassy and expelling the ambassador
  • Saying that Turkey will now patrol the Eastern Mediterranean to protect shipping from Israeli aggression
  • Threatening Israel’s gas drilling agreements with Cyprus
  • Pursuing the prosecution of supposedly named Israeli soldiers in the Mavi MArmara incident whose identities were revealed to him by the IHH (how they would know any names apart from the ones of the soldiers they stabbed, battered and shot and dragged below decks, I have no idea)
  • Humiliating Israel tourists at Istanbul airport by having them strip searched
  • Threatening to escort Gaza ‘aid’ convoys and confront the Israeli navy
  • Calling the Palmer report on the Mavi Marmara ‘null and void’ and worthless
  • Confronting a tourist cruise ship headed for Greece which is childish and provocative
  • Changing its jet fighter software to identify Israeli navy and air force as ‘hostile’
  • Claiming the Mavi Marmara incident was a casus belli
  • Saying he is prepared for war with Israel
  • Says that Israel must ‘pay’ for its ‘terrorism’
  • And the latest atrocity – requiring Israeli citizens have visas to enter Turkey

This is the behaviour of megalomaniac more reminiscent of the last century than this. It is the behaviour of a child having a tantrum, not a serious politician.

How can Turkey remain a member of NATO when it is clearly trying to provoke Israel into a reaction it can use as an excuse to ‘punish’ her.?

What would happen if Turkey attacked Israel on some pretext? What would the US do?

What will the Greeks’ and Cypriots’ reaction be to Turkey’s sabre-rattling? What about the Italians?

Turkey has the second largest fleet in NATO after the US. Israel is no match for this navy. In the air Israel may have an advantage but who even wants to contemplate such a ludicrous scenario.

If you ignore bullies sometimes they just go away, but often they will ramp up the aggro to assert themselves. Erdogan is asserting a new Turkish nationalism.

Such a situation was hardly imaginable in the Bush era. But the US and the Europeans have economic problems whilst Turkey is booming.  There may be frantic activity behind the scenes; many statements coming out of Ankara are often ‘clarified’.

If Erdogan is playing a game of brinksmanship it is not a very wise course of action given the volatility of the region.

What’s also certain is that some of the countermeasures mooted on the Israeli side, if they are true, such as supporting the PKK, the Kurdish separatist party which is designated a terrorist organisation, would be even more damaging to Israel and morally reprehensible.

There is no way Israel can give any succour to a terrorist organisation. This would be terribly wrong. If this is just Foreign Minister Lieberman’s rantings then he needs to be controlled or sacked.

Israel should avoid provocation, use the opportunity to cement ties with Greece and even Armenia and maybe think about counter-prosecution of the Turkish government for sponsoring the breaking of a legal blockade.  Is that not also a casus belli?

It may even be worth the risk for Israel to pre-empt Turkey and go to the International Court and seek a ruling which no-one could then gainsay.

Let’s hope the Turkish people have enough sense to get rid of Erdogan at the next election. They deserve better.

If Erdogan pushes too far he may end up being cut off from Europe like his Ottoman predecessors.

If he’s not careful Turkey may well end up cooking its own goose.

UPDATE: Apparently Israeli jets and ships are being identified as ‘neutral’ not ‘hostile’ and not as I stated above.

Also – an interesting analysis in the Daily beast by Owen Matthews gives a less dramatic view than me.

Flotilla II – The Audacity of Hype

Remember the Flotilla that set sail for Gaza one year ago?

Remember the Mavi Marmara?

Remember the worldwide outrage when the IDF killed 9 IHH members on board?

Israel was accused of piracy on the high-seas and murder.

I wrote about it here here and here.

Well, the flotillaniks are at it again.

So what’s it all about? What are the real objectives of the “Peace Flotilla”?

StandWIthUs have put together extensive information.

First there are Ten Quick Facts

This is elaborated here.

The US State Department issued a statement you can see here.

So what’s my blog title about?

Well, one of the US ships has been named ‘The Audacity of Hope’ mocking President Obama’s book of that name. This venture was trailed as a massive new Flotilla and the Israelis would have problems stopping it this time by sheer weight of numbers.

Yet we find to day that the number of participants will be approximately 300. There were 600 on the Mavi Marmara alone.

So the whole purpose of the flotilla is not humanitarian aid; that lie can easily be countered by the fact that both Egypt and Israel have offered ports where cargo can be checked and aid sent through to Gaza. In any case, Gaza does not need this aid.

The purpose of the Flotilla is to embarrass Israel. It is a blatant provocation.  The organisers are Hamas supporters. They know that if they can break the blockade then it is invalidated and weapons from Iran can pass freely to Hamas. If there is a confrontation, they hope to further their aim to delegitimise the State of Israel and isolate it internationally.

The flotillaniks say that they carry no weapons, yet a report today that is going the rounds of the Twittersphere is that extremists on the flotilla have chemicals aboard and want to kill IDF soldiers.

Here is what the Jerusalem Post reported:

While the organizers of the Gaza-bound flotilla said in Athens Monday that the passengers are taking to sea “without weapons,” government sources said Israel had information that some of the passengers had hid chemicals, such as sulfur, on theboats to be used against IDF soldiers.

This is what Reuters said:

An Israeli military source said Israel had information that some activists were planning to attack soldiers with acid and lethal chemical agents if they boarded the ships.

Dror Feiler, an Israeli participant in the flotilla, denied the allegation in an interview with Israeli Army Radio and said all of the passengers had signed a pledge of non-violence.

And Ha’aretz:

Senior officials in Jerusalem said Monday that Israel has received information that organizers of the Gaza flotilla may be bringing chemical substances on the ships to use against Israeli soldiers to prevent them from boarding the ships.

The senior officials also said that Israel had been notified that several extremists among the Gaza flotilla participants had recently claimed that they intend on “shedding the blood of IDF soldiers.”

Moreover, despite earlier reports, it seems that activists from the Turkish organization IHH, which was involved in the deadly IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara in last year’s Gaza flotilla, will be joining several of the ships sailing for Gaza as part of the flotilla.

Israeli officials claim that two activists participating in the flotilla have connections to Hamas. They named the first one as Amin Abu Rashad, who they claim is one of the head Dutch organizers for the Gaza flotilla and had served in the past as the head of the Hamas’ Charitable Foundation in Holland. The foundation closed down following Dutch authorities’ probe into its involvement in funding terror activities.

The second activist is Mohammed Ahmed Hanon, which Israel claims is a Hamas activist who stands at the head of the ABSPP, which is involved in transferring funds to terrorists.

It remains to be seen whether these reports are well-founded. If they are, then any veneer of peace activism is blown out of the water.

You might also like to see this post from the Elder of Zion about the organisers of this new Love Boat.

There is also a fine article by Ruth Dudley Edwards in the Irish Independent:

Let us be clear. Whether they know it or not, that gaggle of posturing, ignorant Irish clowns who are setting sail towards Gaza on the MV Saoirse are driven by anti-Semitism. Otherwise they would be protesting against — for instance — the Islamist killings and bombings that are forcing tens of thousands of Christians to flee the Middle East, the ethnic cleansing in the Sudan, the ill-treatment of servants and women in Saudi Arabia, the hanging of gays from cranes in Iran, the massacres of protesters in Libya and Syria, the torture of Irish-trained doctors in Bahrain for tending to injured demonstrators and the vicious anti-Jewish propaganda that teaches Arab children to hate.

I also refer you to the Howard Jacobson post I wrote recently.

Meanwhile, we find that in the a UN draft report into last year’s Mavi Marmara incident found that the Israeli maritime blockade was not illegal and they were within their rights to stop the flotilla.

A draft of the report, due to be released within two weeks, was given to Israel and Turkey about six weeks ago. The committee determined that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is in keeping with international law, and therefore its actions to stop the flotilla were also legal.

This same report states that Israel’s actions were “disproportionate” – that word again. Yes, it’s really disproportionate to make sure you kill someone who is fanatically committed to killing you or to die. But maybe that merits another post at another time. No doubt we’ll soon be looking at second UN Report and another attempted hatchet job on Israel in the coming days.

For the legal aspects also, read this by the Elder which refers to a Zeit Online article.

There has been some interesting attempts on the Israeli side to use lawfare against the ‘Peace Flotilla’ (great name for those who believe language is just another weapon of war – it’s called propaganda, usually).

First marine insurance companies were warned off insuring the boats because if it could be shown they were breaching international law, then they would in effect be liable to be sued by victims of Hamas terrorism:

A human rights group has warned insurance companies that they could be aiding terrorism if they insure ships that break the blockade of Gaza.

Israeli organisation Shurut Hadin has written to almost all major insurance companies worldwide, including Lloyd’s of London, the biggest in the world.

It warns them that they could be liable for massive damages if the ships they insure break Israel’s blockade around Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of the group, explained: “We sent these letters to the largest insurance companies in the world, including Turkish companies, which represent over 99 per cent of the maritime insurance business worldwide. We warned them that, if they insure these ships, they could be sued by victims of Hamas attacks.”

Jewish Chronicle May 19 2011

Then a US citizen invoked a 220 year old law to try to try to seize the US boats intending to take part.

Dr. Alan Bauer, who along with his son Jonathan was seriously wounded in Palestinian Authority Arab suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem in 2002, filed the suit in a federal court in Manhattan. He is represented by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Israeli-based Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) and New York attorney Robert J. Tolchin.

Bauer’s suit seeks to confiscate 14 ships outfitted with funds “unlawfully raised in the United States by anti-Israel groups, including the Free Gaza Movement.” The lawsuit contends that furnishing and outfitting the ships, which are being used for hostilities against a U.S. ally, violates American law.

A Canadian citizen who is a resident of Sderot has taken out a lawsuit against the Flotilla organisers:

Sderot resident and Canadian citizen Cherna Rosenberg has filed a million dollar law suit against two Canadian organizations raising money to sponsor a ship – The Canadian Boat to Gaza – to join the international flotilla to Gaza.

The suit, presented by Toronto barrister and law professor Ed Morgan and New York attorney and former AIPAC executive director Neal Sher to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Monday, argues that the groups, Turtle Island Humanitarian Aid and Alternatives International, both based in Montreal, are part of a chain of conduct that “ultimately leads to the rocket attacks that have traumatized the plaintiff and caused her much suffering and loss.”

The Greeks have waded in with their own attempt to derail the flotilla sailing from Athens:

Ynet has learned that six ships that were meant to take part in the Gaza-bound flotilla are being detained by the port authority and the coast guard in Greece. Senior officials in Jerusalem have confirmed the report.

While the organizers of the maritime convoy claim that more than 1,500 activists are set to take part in the initiative, it now appears that not more than seven ships, carrying 200-500 passengers, will participate in the flotilla.

YNETnews.com 27 Jun 2011 also see the Elder again here about Shurat HaDin’s efforts to scuttle the flotilla..

Of course, the Hamas-huggers are whingeing about all these efforts because they are getting a taste of their own medicine. Too bad!

So, the Peace Flotilla, replete, allegedly, with its chemical weapons and who knows what else, sets off for Gaza, not to build a nation, Palestine, but destroy another, Israel.

How sad. How tragic. How much longer will Palestinians allow themselves to be used as the pawns of Green-Red political posturing?

How much longer will they allow themselves to be sacrificed on the altar of anti-Zionist, Jew-hatred and far Left ideological fantasising.

Audacity of Hope? Or the Morality of the Cesspit?

You decide.

 

UPDATE:

Chas Newkey-Burden (OyVaGoy) has pointed me to his own blog post on this issue.

http://www.oyvagoy.com/2011/06/28/we-want-to-bring-the-soldiers-home-safely/

FURTHER UPDATE:

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2011/06/brilliant-lawsuit-to-stop-flotilla.html

Reaction to my article about the Channel 4 programme: “Sri Lanka, the Killing Fields”

There has been an unexpected reaction to my previous article on the Channel 4 programme shown last week: Sri Lanka, the Killing Fields.

This blog post is about to become the most viewed I have written in two years of writing this blog.

I found this a little bizarre because my blog is about Israel.

The main purpose of my Sri Lanka blog was to highlight what I perceive as the double standards of the UN and the international community.

So I am bemused as to why my post has had so many hits in such a short space of time.

I have come to the conclusion that the reason is that Israel and Palestine so monopolise the news media and the blogosphere, that it is seen as THE conflict, the most important one to resolve and a major cause of the ongoing ‘war’ between Islam and the West.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, and the Tamils in particular, have relatively few bloggers and virtually no attention from the media.

So when someone writes about Sri Lanka, it has a much larger impact than a similar article about Israel where my voice struggles to be heard in a plethora of shrill voices on both sides.

In my article I committed the sin of comparing the actions of the Sri Lankan army, on two occasions, to the actions of the Nazis. This is always a risky thing to do. Let me clarify; I compared the No Fly Zones to the gas chambers because both used simulation to dupe victims into believing they were safe when, in fact, the opposite was true. In retrospect, this was not appropriate.

I then compared Ban Ki Moon’s visit to a Tamil internment camp as being similar to the Red Cross visiting Theresienstadt and reporting all was well. This comparison is, perhaps, a little more felicitous.

The overwhelming majority of visitors have been supportive of my article.

One of the first commentators took me to task about accusing the Sri Lankan government of genocide when most Tamils live in the south and in comparative wealth and comfort.

Here is a legal definition of genocide found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG).

Article 2 defines genocide as, inter alia:

“…. any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; ….”

In my judgement, these conditions were met based on the evidence I have seen. Others more qualified will make theirs.

In the Sunday Times this week A A Gill was disparaging of the Channel 4 programme. He pointed out that no Channel 4 reporters witnessed the events and almost all the footage came from unconfirmed sources.

In these days of citizen journalism, in areas of the world where news reporters are not allowed, the evidence from private citizens and combatants is vital in telling the world what happened even if, as in this case, these video clips are horrific trophy recordings apparently taken by soldiers who appear to be enjoying the rape and slaughter.

This evidence of the dehumanisation of one group by another and how that can lead to war crimes and, yes, genocide, are all too familar to the Jewish people. Those who document the dehumanisation of Jews by Hamas, Islamic clerics and Palestinian Authority TV and literature, have no doubt that, given the opportunity, Jews would be subject to the same deranged slaughter as the Tamils and probably far worse.

At least in Sri Lanka Tamils still live and many prosper; they still have positions of authority in Sri Lankan society. No-one is suggesting that they must all be killed because they are an evil virus hated by G-d and humanity. Only the Jews have that dubious honour.

There are several initiatives by NGO’s and even politicians to ensure that any war crimes in Sri Lanka are punished.

However, I doubt that the UN Human Rights Council will have a permanent agenda item for Sri Lanka as it has for Israel.

I wish the people of Sri Lanka well and I hope that justice and reconciliation will resolve the conflict and allow all communities and faiths to live together with mutual respect and toleration.

 

 

Thoughts on Northern Ireland as model for the Israel-Palestinian conflict

This is a guest post by Mel McDermott. 

Mel McDermott lives in Dublin.  He has been a teacher for most of his adult life as well as a student of history with a special interest in the Middle East.

He is a close observer of parallels and contrasts between the conflicts in Northern Ireland and in Israel/Palestine.  He is active in hasbara work and in the struggle to combat dishonest media coverage and delegitimisation of Israel in Ireland.
 

A few years ago, around the time of Hamas’ violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, many voices were heard in Ireland, as well as outside it, claiming to draw lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process that were felt to be relevant to the Israel-Hamas conflict.  Politicians in the Republic, who include some of the most hostile to Israel among European parliamentarians, were only too happy to dispense advice to the Israelis – along the lines of “We talked to the IRA to end the conflict, so you must talk to Hamas if you want to end yours”, such negotiation being without preconditions.  The argument was usually clinched by the glib phrase “To make peace, you talk to your enemies, not your friends”.

It was always suspect advice.  Leave aside the fact that the primary motivation of Sinn Fein-IRA is political and that of Hamas is religious (though, of course, the religious dimension of Islam cannot be separated from the political).  For the first, the goal, mistaken or not, was the political unification of the island of Ireland outside the United Kingdom regardless of the wishes of the British majority in Northern Ireland.  For the second, as the Hamas Charter of 1988 makes clear, the goal is the recovery of land once under Islamic rule: all of historic Palestine including Israel is the waqf (Islamic trust territory) that cannot be allowed to be alienated from Islamic rule ‘until the Day of Resurrection’.

Leave aside also the very different balances of forces in the two conflicts.  In the NI case, Sinn Fein-IRA terrorism enjoyed neither majority support among nationalists in Ireland nor the support of any neighbouring state (though it did have safe houses in the Republic and covert help from friends in the US) and was fighting an uphill struggle against the British and Irish security forces, which had essentially fought it to a standstill by the early 1990s.  Hamas, on the other hand, has some reason to feel the wind at its back, what with arms supplies and training from Iran, the moral support of the Middle East Arab masses and the international campaign of delegitimisation of Israel.

Aside from wrong starting assumptions, the true weakness of the ‘talk to Hamas without preconditions’ advice was that it rewrote history by misrepresenting what happened between the first IRA ceasefire in 1994 and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.  For Sinn Fein-IRA to enter negotiations, the ceasefire was not enough.  To join in talks with the constitutional parties and the two governments, Sinn Fein was required to sign up to the six ‘Mitchell Principles’(named after US Senator George Mitchell, sent as mediator by President Clinton).  The chief of these committed all parties to renunciation of violence and to the use of exclusively democratic means to advance their goals.  In other words, your enemies had to stop trying to kill you before you agreed to talk to them.

After two years, the talks resulted in the Good Friday settlement that still holds.  According to its terms, Sinn Fein-IRA agreed to accept the present status of NI as part of the UK as long as there is a pro-union majority there, in return for its being allowed to take part in a power-sharing devolved administration in NI; the Republic voted overwhelmingly by referendum to remove its constitutional claim to NI, and the British promised to abide by the result of any future majority vote in NI to leave the union; residents of NI can opt for British or Irish citizenship.

In short, all sides operated within a familiar Western context in which recognition of politico-military realities, including war-weariness on all sides, generates movement towards negotiation, compromise and, ultimately, some kind of settlement.  When have any of those factors been in evidence among the anti-Israel forces in the Middle East?

The Mitchell Principles were, in fact, rather similar to the three conditions which Israel, with the agreement of the Quartet (US, UN, EU and Russia) has set for engaging Hamas in talks.  (Whether, since SF-IRA was not asked to recognize explicitly NI’s right to exist, Israel should insist on explicit recognition by Hamas in the event that it renounced violence fully, is an argument – an academic one, surely — for another day.)

But here’s a lesson from the NI peace process that nobody is keen to pass on to Israel’s leaders.  It is the fact that, even after you get the settlement, rejectionist elements among the terrorists will continue with violence and do their best to disrupt the agreement.  The worst death toll in a single atrocity in 30 years of conflict in NI came in August 1998, four months after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, when the Real IRA, made up of dissident former IRA members, killed 31 people at Omagh with a car bomb.  The same group has recently murdered Catholic/nationalist  members of the reformed Police Service of Northern Ireland (set up under Good Friday) and threatened to kill more, the aim being to intimidate their co-religionists from joining, thus bolstering their own claim that the PSNI is a sectarian force.

This pattern should be familiar to all who remember the eruptions of Fatah and Hamas terrorism after the Oslo Accords and the recent proliferation of groups in Gaza willing to continue rocketing southern Israel in defiance of the will of Hamas when that group calls one of its periodic lulls.

This is not a matter simply of terrorists falling out; it is about the persistence of the ideology that motivates them.  Recently, in the Republic, a new political party, Eirígí (Gaelic for ‘Arise’), founded in 2006 by former SF-IRA members, has been busy recruiting among young people and has been given a lot of air time to expound its views on the forthcoming visits to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth and President Obama and on the killing of bin Laden.  Defining its objective as an all-Ireland ‘Socialist Republic’, it aligns itself with the Real IRA rejection of Good Friday and rehashes the old republican tropes of ‘British imperialist occupation of the six counties’ and the demand for a ‘British withdrawal’.

Eirígí’s political traction so far shouldn’t be over-rated: in the recent NI local elections none of its candidates were elected, though one received over 1,400 votes in a Belfast ward.  Yet, with youth and vigour on its side and a talent for agit-prop on the streets, it has obvious potential to attract support from those too young to remember much about the peace process.

It has been an eerie feeling to hear the return of this pre-Good Friday rhetoric as if the Agreement had never happened, and to hear it go unchallenged by naïve talk show presenters as if it were just another contribution to debate.  The Agreement that was supposed to have laid the conflict to rest and resolved all outstanding matters between Britain and Ireland now seems to recede into the fog of history and becomes just one of a number of competing ‘narratives’.

Is this the future of an Israel-Palestinian peace deal, assuming one can ever be achieved?  A decade after the agreement, and a generation is on the rise that doesn’t remember the long process and painful compromises needed to reach it and is ripe for indoctrination and incitement by hate-filled ideologues from the past – there you have the materials for a new round of conflict.  Does the information revolution and its encouragement of ever-shorter attention spans facilitate this?  Think of how little kudos Israel gets now from critics for its withdrawal from Gaza less than six years ago – it might never have happened.

I’ve met Israelis who imagine, understandably, that a good ploy to win Irish friends is to emphasise a common anti-British narrative based on the parallel independence struggles of the Irish and Israelis.  I try to tell them there is no percentage in that line, since the inheritors of the violent nationalist tradition are also the most virulently anti-Israel.  For them, the Palestinians have taken over the MOPE (Most Oppressed People Ever) slot once held by the NI Catholics/nationalists.

The Eirígí phenomenon has some novel features.  It was already noticeable that the ranks of Palestine Solidarity campaigners were augmented by members of Sinn Fein, especially from the youth wing, who seemed very well organised for talk show phone-ins, texting programmes etc.  With the Good Friday settlement in place, and unable to vent their spleen on the unionist/loyalist opposition or on the security forces with the same venom as previously, these people found an ideal alternative outlet in the Israel/Palestine issue.

Eirígí have taken this further by practically merging agitation on the NI and Israel/Palestinian issues, thus enabling it to boast a membership equally ignorant of Irish and Middle East history.  Its street demonstrations have included a mock-trial and guillotine execution of Queen Elizabeth in Dublin city centre – on charges that included the 19th century famine and participation in the 2004 siege of Falluja – and demands for the release of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist Ahmad Sa’adat and the convicted Hamas terrorist Jamal Abu al-Haija, both on hunger strike in an Israeli jail.  Its website helpfully sets this in the context of the 30th anniversary of the deaths of 10 IRA prisoners on hunger strike in NI at the height of the IRA’s war.  The IRA’s pioneering use of victimhood as a propaganda weapon in a campaign of violence has found its emulators in the Middle East.

Falsifying history, the website adds ‘We in Ireland understand only too well the seriousness of the situation when you have no option but to use your body as a weapon’.  In fact, all the concessions won by SF-IRA in 1998 were already on offer in the Sunningdale Agreement of 1974 reached between the British and Irish governments (the nationalist politician Seamus Mallon famously called the Good Friday Agreement ‘Sunningdale for slow learners’).  But at that stage violence seemed a more promising path to its ultimate goal.   That remind you of anything in the 63 years of Israel/Palestinian conflict?

 

Two weddings and a funeral – everything connects to Israel

Well, I’m back and a lot has happened in the few days since I returned from Israel.

Wedding No.1

Fatah and Hamas have come together in unholy matrimony after years of slaughtering each other and vying politically for dominance of Palestinian society in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Why? Why now?

Why do two factions suddenly decide to make nice whilst holding a knife behind their back ready to plunge into their new friends’ chest?

For months Fatah have been pursuing Plan B: to have the UN support the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state on the so-called 1967 ‘borders’. Plan A was to continue or restart peace talks with Israel.

But Plan A stalled because Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are incapable of making peace with Israel. They have carefully cultivated an image of peace-seeking victims who have abjured terrorism and military action and pursue diplomacy.

Even though the PA continues to demonise Israel, to deny Jewish rights to any of the land, to regurgitate anti-Semitic narratives in the media and in the schools, its public and international face is one of the noble victim.

Creating a state on the 1967 ceasefire lines is a risky policy for reasons I have previously discussed; principal risk is that if Palestine equates to the land beyond the Green Line, then surely Israel equates to the land behind the Green Line.

This amounts to a de facto recognition of a permanent and settled view of Israel and makes it difficult, in theory, to pursue the long-term goal of a state from the River to the Sea.

The Palestinians are aware but are determined to continue to tear up all the Oslo Accords and go against all UN Resolutions; to nullify 60 years of history, negotiation, legally binding agreements. Tear it all up and go headlong for a unilateral declaration and bypass Israel. Something only possible because so many countries, member states of the UN, are conniving at this attempt to stamp all over Israel’s right to a negotiated peace.

A big stumbling-block to the UN recognition of a viable Palestinian state is the severed limb that is the Gaza Strip run by the Hamas preventing a unified state on all the land of the PA. Without this unity a UN vote in favour of a state will be more difficult, if not impossible.

So the conversation between Hamas and Fatah must have gone something like this:

Fatah: Will you marry me? It is a marriage of convenience. We need you to pretend we are married but we cannot consummate the marriage because we just don’t love each other and we have a different strategy to fulfil our goal of destroying Israel. But we’ll never be able to fulfil our dearest wish unless we appear to be unified.

Hamas: So you really want to destroy Israel? Why do you recognise their right to exist? We can never accept this.

Fatah: Just think. Our own state, a base from which we can pursue our next step: the Right of Return. Once we have a state and we can flood Israel with Palestinians, their pathetic democracy will mean that eventually we will have political supremacy.

We can still attack Israel and allow our military wings to continue the struggle whilst condemning their actions. We will have the political and diplomatic mastery whilst continuing the struggle. If they attack us, the world will condemn.

Hamas: What’s in it for us?

Fatah: we will allow you to continue with operations whilst we hold elections. We must have the semblance of democracy. We both want the same thing. Let the people decide whose method to follow. Let’s marry so we can destroy the Zionists.

Hamas: We agree. But we will win. Our marriage will be annulled as soon as we have attained our goal.

Fatah: So be it. Now let’s put together a joint statement….

So this first marriage is a sham designed to achieve stage one of the destruction of Israel which has always been the goal of both Hamas and Fatah. The terrible truth is that all negotiations have always been in bad faith.

Once there is an internationally recognised state will the Palestinians have a more just cause in the eyes of the world to rise up against the occupier and attack illegal settlers? What will the status of 1/2 million Israelis be?

The result can only be a severe escalation in violence. And the world will blame Israel once again.

Just as the West is crowing about the Arab Spring and all those wonderful freedom-loving democracies of which not one has yet materialised, the UN may be backing the creation of a new, undemocratic, terrorist state.

Go figure. Yeah, you got it in one; it’s OK because Israel is involved.

Wedding No. 2

William Wales and Catherine Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

I didn’t think this had anything to do with Israel until a correspondent in Jerusalem, an ex-pat Brit and a religious Jew, wrote to me that he had just discovered the true meaning of the hymn Jerusalem and would never enjoy it again. And he added that the Royal Family had Nazi roots.

I took great exception to both these assertions. There followed a series of emails trying to convince me that George VI was a Nazi or at least a Nazi lover. Several references to the Mountbattens and other royals and their Nazi sympathies proved, he claimed, that the Royal Family was Nazi, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist.

I won’t rehearse the discussion, it was my reaction that was important. Why should I spring to the defence of the Royal Family?

It’s all about loyalty and national identity. It tells me I am truly British and I won’t take such defamation even from an Israeli Jew. The possibility that there may be a thread of truth in what he says is difficult to confront because of these loyalties, even though I am not a great royalist.

I don’t believe the current Royal Family is Nazi in any way, that is absurd, but there may some anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism lurking, unspoken. After all, there has never been a State visit to Israel whilst the Gulf states are good friends of the royals despite their appalling human rights records. Or do the royals just do what their government tells them?

The royal couple were reported to be intending honeymooning in Jordan. A strange choice. Maybe a quick trip to Israel whilst they are there would be nice. I think not. We don’t want to be upsetting any of Britain’s Arab interests, do we.

As for Jerusalem, the hymn, music by Hubert Parry, I am aware that it is about William Blake’s vision of England as a New Jerusalem and its Christian message does not offend my Jewish sensibilities in any way. When I watch the Last Night of the Proms  I am more than happy to sing along even though I know its about Jesus striding across the hills of England. Who cares? The music is sublime and the words uplifting.

And, more food for thought, the royal wedding had both a hymn called Jerusalem and the glorious ‘I was Glad’, also by Parry, based on Psalm 122, which asks us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. A Psalm which we are told was written by King David himself.

So Jerusalem was at the very heart of this wedding and Jewish liturgy at the core of the ceremony, its most moving moment as Kate floated down the aisle with her father to the rousing strains of ‘I Was Glad’ – was there a dry eye in the house?

The Funeral

Earlier this week we awoke to the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US Navy Seals in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He was then buried at sea.

Celebrations in the West left me cold.

Sorry, I cannot rejoice at the death of any man. This does not mean that I don’t believe that it was right to kill him. I would have preferred that he were brought to justice but that was probably impractical. I can also understand people in New York and Washington feeling that justice has been done.

The significance of sending in an assassination squad to kill a terrorist is this: if it’s OK for the US to kill a terrorist in this way and for the leaders of the Western world to applaud this action, then surely it is OK for Israel to eliminate terrorists?

In the future, Israel can say, ‘what is the difference between our action and that of the US? If you do not condemn them, then why do you condemn us? If it is legal for them, then it is legal for us.’

This state assassination, however justified morally, if it is justifiable morally, poses questions for the future and, indeed, for the present; after all, is not Nato ambiguously attacking Col. Gaddafi in Libya in order to ‘protect civilians’. What is the legality of this, let alone any question of a broad interpretation of UN Resolution 1973.

Such actions by Western nations may have repercussions when trying to prosecute other national actors for similar procedures against what these nations consider proper targets for assassination. The actions of the Sri Lankan army against the Tamil Tigers might be justified along the same lines. You may shout ‘moral equivalence’ and you may be right, but the UN and the international courts might have a different view. Or do powerful countries have rights that weaker countries do not?

Already Human Rights organisations and politicians are condemning.

Former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt told German TV the operation could have incalculable consequences in the Arab world at a time of unrest there.

“It was quite clearly a violation of international law.”

It was a view echoed by high-profile Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.

“It’s not justice. It’s a perversion of the term. Justice means taking someone to court, finding them guilty upon evidence and sentencing them,” Robertson told Australian Broadcasting Corp television from London.

“This man has been subject to summary execution, and what is now appearing after a good deal of disinformation from the White House is it may well have been a cold-blooded assassination.”

Robertson said bin Laden should have stood trial, just as World War Two Nazis were tried at Nuremburg or former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was put on trial at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague after his arrest in 2001.

It is interesting to note a link to Wedding No. 1 in that Hamas condemned the killing whilst Fatah, true to their drive to be seen as a national player in tune with the West, applauded it. However, in private, they are probably chewing their knuckles in anger and frustration. Not that they were Al Qaeda supporters, but any victory for the US and, by association, Israel, is a big blow. It is also interesting that the Fatah military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, were reported to condemn the killing.

This apparent difference between Fatah and its military wing demonstrates the ongoing joint diplomatic and military attack against Israel. Fatah can have its pitta bread and eat it; they can condemn the murders committed by Al Aqsa and appear to be statesmanlike and against violence whilst actively continuing to pursue violence under the cover of a faux organisational separation. Not too disimilar to Sinn Fein and the IRA.

 

Goldstone Retraction Reaction

Judge Richard Goldstone
Photo by Reuters

As I foretold yesterday, Goldstone’s retraction is being dissed by the usual suspects.

The Jpost:

Senior Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Shaath on Sunday said that Judge Richard Goldstone apparently succumbed to pressure because he could not longer bear the terror directed against him, apparently referring to the way Goldstone was ostracized by his native South African and other world Jewish communities.

Fatah has an interesting and surprisingly broad view of the definition of ‘terror’ considering its unending blood libels, antisemitic smears and glorification of terrorist ‘martyrs’ (read murderers).

Surely Goldstone would have made the world aware of the ‘terror’ against him. What a pathetic response by Shaath.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO Executive, said (same article):

“There was a war crime,” he said, adding that Goldstone has no right to retract a report based on documents that were examined by the parties and subject to specific criteria, not on a personal whim.

In other words, Goldstone’s clear realisation that two years of Israeli investigation and evidence as opposed to complete silence from Hamas amounts to ‘whim’. Who are ‘the parties’ and what are the ‘criteria’ of which he speaks? Goldstone has every right to redress a wrong which he has previously signed up to. Just by stating he has no right doesn’t make it so unless you live in the Looking-Glass world of Palestinian politics.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri on Saturday dismissed Judge Richard Goldstone’s “regrets,” saying that “his retreat does not change the fact war crimes had been committed against 1.5 million people in Gaza,” and claimed that the group cooperated fully with the fact finding mission.

So the 1400 has now become 1.5 million. Hamas’ inflated language and posturing is in the face of Goldstone’s prior and continuing claims of war crimes by Hamas against, shall we say, 7 million Israelis. Their lack of a credible response to the original report’s findings are completely ignored in favour of the usual sloganising.

So it seems that the original findings are the ones that the Palestinians and all the other Israel-haters will accept because it is rather inconvenient to accept any retraction. The ‘war crimes’ stand, even though the person who made the claim has now retracted his conclusions.

I don’t see how they can maintain this stance if the UNHRC now throws out the report. But as the UNHRC is loaded with countries who are somewhat antipathetic towards Israel, there could be an interesting few months ahead.

The PCHR  is also at it, as reported by walla.co.il (translation)

Raji Sourani, chairman of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said this morning (Sunday) the regret expressed by Judge Richard Goldstone on the report written about the recent war in Gaza is, “an expression of personal opinion and will not affect the dialog”.

He claims that Goldstone was in the past two years “faced a psychological war waged by Jewish and Israeli organizations to press him to change his position.” He added that Goldstone should not retract his report because it “would ruin his reputation”.

So it’s those pesky Zionists again. No-one, it appears, is big enough to accept Goldstone’s retraction if they hate Israel.

Pretty predictable really.