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Archive for June, 2010

Unity and…canapes

Check out this wonderfully objective (and hilarious) video about the UN, courtesy of “No Laughing Matter.”

Hat tip: Yair

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The other day, PA President Mahmoud Abbas made the claim that the Israeli expulsion of Hamas politicians from Jerusalem is “an obstacle to peace.”  This follows similar claims of Israel’s intransigence, including the impediments to peace of stopping a terrorist-laden ship from entering Gaza through the blockade, demolishing illegally built Arab homes in Silwan, and building housing in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

If you follow Abbas’s logic, then it stands to reason that Israel, in order to promote peace, should turn a blind eye to illegal Arab building, curtail legal Jewish building, allow terrorists and weapons shipments to infiltrate its borders unfettered, and allow jihadist politicians to operate freely in its capital.  Israel should do all this while continuing to supply food, medicine, and other necessaries to the “besieged” Gaza population.  The Arabs, meanwhile, should continue to hold Corporal Gilad Shalit hostage, refusing to allow him any contact with the outside world, including the International Red Cross, to blame Israel for all of their internal problems and incompetence, and fire missiles and rockets at will into Israel as part of its plan to destroy the Jewish State.  None of these, of course, can be construed as “obstacles to peace.”

The message is clear: the Arab leadership is not interested in peace.  No matter how much land Israel offers them, without conditions which spell the destruction of Israel from within (i.e. changing Israeli citizenship laws to repeal the Law of Return, and replacing it with a Law of Return for Arabs who fled in 1948), there will be no peace.  With language that brands the Jews European colonizers, that claims that the UN’s vote to establish the State of Israel in 1947 was an act to expiate its own guilt for the Shoah, and which refuses to recognize the Jews’ 3,000 year old roots in this land, it is the Arabs who constitute the greatest obstacle to peace.  By teaching hatred of Jews in their schools, by celebrating the death-cult of jihad (including dancing in the streets after 9/11 and supporting Hizbullah in the Second Lebanon War), and refusing even to meet the Israelis face to face in negotiations (which might force them to make actual, real concessions in the name of peace), it is the Arabs who are the greatest obstacle to peace.

But they aren’t obstructing peace all by themselves.  They have the fawning, sympathetic world behind them.  This is a world that automatically sympathizes with whoever can paint himself to look like the underdog.  It is too lazy to study history, and too ideological to look objectively at the facts in the present.  It romanticizes what it has convinced itself is the “religion of peace” despite the abundant evidence that shows that this religion has spawned a cult of idol-worshipers who pray to a god of violence, blood, and burnt flesh.  It listens, rapt, while the Arabs accuse Israel of killing their babies and creating another Holocaust, all the while alternating between denying that the Holocaust ever happened and promising an even bigger, better one very soon.  It believes the Arabs when they claim to have roots in this land for thousands of years (even to the point of making the absurd claim to be Canaanites), while their own surnames reveal their origins to have been Egyptian, Syrian, or Lebanese.  It is ready to trust whatever reports of starvation, squalor, and massacres come from Arab mouths, and refuses to apologize when those reports later turn out to be false.  It is ready to believe in Israel’s guilt without any evidence at all, and to assume the worst of Israel based on its own ignorance, prejudice, and malice toward Jews, Zionists, and Israelis.

When he heard Israeli denials of a massacre in Jenin, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “Can the whole world be wrong?”  Even when the whole world DID turn out to be wrong, when an independent investigation (in addition to many journalists and witnesses) found the claims of massacre to be baseless and bold exaggeration, neither Annan nor anyone else who had believed in them apologized.  This isn’t particularly surprising, though it is illuminating.  It shows not only that the whole world CAN be wrong, but that the whole world doesn’t really give a fig if it IS wrong.

So what really matters to most of the world outside Israel?  Only this: That Israel should be as you desire it should be.  If you despise Jews, want this land for yourself, or want someone besides the West to blame for your own stagnation and bankruptcy, Israel is here for you to slander, revile, accuse, and discredit.  If you believe in truth, justice, and have the patience to hear the facts, Israel is here for you to watch, support, disagree with, and treat as you would other nations.  But whichever reaction to have to Israel, be aware that your reaction says more about you, and who you are, than it does about Israel.

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A REAL cause

Ilana-Davita, in her comment on my earlier post about conspicuous consumption, suggested that it might be the first of a series of posts on life choices in a shared world.  Consider this the second in the series, if you like.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make an incredibly obvious statement: it’s time to get ourselves weaned off oil.

The horrific spillage contaminating the Gulf of Mexico, with its impact on the environment and implications of corruption and negligence at the corporate and government levels, is one good reason.  This disaster is only the latest in a series of screw-ups that shows that if the collection of oil cannot be done in a more secure, responsible manner, perhaps it’s time to find a cleaner source of energy.

I’m not demonizing oil and other fossil fuels for their contribution to air pollution.  According to Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in Superfreakonomics, the flatulence, exhalation, and manure from cows, sheep, and other ruminants are responsible for 50 percent more greenhouse gas than the entire transportation sector, generating methane, “which by one common measure is about twenty-five times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide released by cars (and, by the way, humans)”  (authors’ italics).  But the continued production of motor vehicles, particularly by American companies, that churn out the highest pollution coupled with the poorest fuel efficiency is inexcusable.  (I’m continually disgusted when reading the magazine section of the Jerusalem Post to see American SUVs, which consistently score at the bottom of the emissions ratings scale, beginning to make their way to the market in Israel.)  And the excuse, “We’re only making what people want” is rubbish.  Are people really attracted to inefficient cars that cost more money to fill up and churn out more greenhouse gases?  Wouldn’t they be even happier with a reasonably sized car that got 100 miles per gallon?  Or are the auto companies just sticking with an antiquated formula of making large vehicles with the same engine design and saying to hell with fuel efficiency and cleanliness?

I read years ago that the technology existed to make cars that could get over 50 miles per gallon.  And on a Google search this morning, I found a website for a company that claims to have the technology (replacing the time-honored piston engine for a more efficient design) to make an engine that can get over 100 mpg.  In the short term, redesigning engines to increase fuel efficiency seems to be a worthwhile goal.  So does improving cities’ and countries’ public transit systems, walking more, and searching for ways to utilize renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuels in the long term.

But there is a further thing to consider when examining the issue of fossil fuels.  Levitt and Dubner discuss the concept of the externality.  An externality is “what happens when someone takes an action but someone else, without agreeing, pays some or all the costs of that action.  An externality is an economic version of taxation without representation.”  The example the authors give is that of someone turning on the air conditioner in his home, creating externalities in the form of black smoke belching forth from the power plant that generates the electricity to run the air conditioner, as well as the environmental effects of mining and trucking coal to run the power plant, and the dangers to human life and limb of coal mining.

An externality of oil dependency often cited by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is that of lining the pockets of oil producing countries, many of which are located in the Middle East.  These countries are in many cases ruled or controlled by oil magnates who, in the absence of a popular mandate to rule, ingratiate themselves with the more extremist, Islamist element of their society by contributing large sums of cash to jihad-preaching madrasas (study halls) or, in more extreme cases (like that of Iran), actually fund terrorist activities including training combatants and purchasing weapons.  In a dramatic but not unlikely example, an American who pulls up at a gas station and fills the tank of his gas-guzzling SUV (which he drives almost exclusively locally, getting the worst possible mileage) is putting money into the hands of oil companies that purchase crude oil from Saudi Arabia, which funds Islamist madrasas, some of which indoctrinated the 9/11 bombers who then went on to fly American planes into American buildings and kill thousands of Americans (as well as other nationals).  Or, in a more contemporary example, that same American who, after nearly nine years of war in Afghanistan and a fruitless manhunt for Osama Bin-Laden, STILL owns an SUV and fills it up weekly, is putting money into the hands of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who uses it to finance his Republican Guard which terrorizes the population and keeps him and the mullahs in power, pays street thugs to batter and kill peaceful protesters who oppose the government, and also supports, through training and weapons purchases, two terrorist organizations: Hizbullah, which has taken over southern Lebanon and keeps the government of that country in constant turmoil, and Hamas in Gaza, which spends the money not on its own people, building a state with an economy, quality housing, and agriculture to feed its population, but instead uses it to fight a never-ending war to try to destroy Israel.

If the nutters who fill these flotilla boats headed for the blockade, who claim to care about Gazans, were to forgo the Mediterranean cruise and examine their own energy consumption habits and lobby in their home countries for alternatives to fossil fuel dependency, they would be working toward a REAL solution to help the people in Gaza, as well as reducing carbon emissions, improving sectors of the world economy, spreading democracy to parts of the world where people want to be free, and furthering world peace.  For people who clearly love a good cause, does this one sound worthy enough?

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The Cap’n showed me this fake, but very funny, movie trailer last night.  I sometimes think too little fun is made of Hollywood and the film industry in general.  This dispels that regret.  (Only missing scene: Protagonist doesn’t tearfully confess, “I never learned to read!”)  Thank you, BriTANick.  You made my day.

Hat tip: Nomi

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The best defense

There’s been plenty of ink (real and virtual) spilled over the issues of Israeli PR.  Glenn Jasper wrote recently about the lack of a unified message coming out of Israel.  Others say that Israel gets its story out too late to be the first account in the media.  Others throw up their hands and say that the world and the media are constitutionally anti-Semitic and it doesn’t matter what we do or when.  (There is a grain of truth to that; no matter how sympathetic to Israel a piece on the flotilla may be, the headline always refers to the “bloody raid” carried out on a “humanitarian” boat by the Israeli naval commados.)

I’m never completely satisfied with those explanations, since there will inevitably be differences in opinion and political view in Israel; it’s what makes it a democracy.  And I commend Israel for making sure to have the facts straight before it makes its statements instead of getting a story out there riddled with errors that it ends up having to apologize for.  And just because much of the world and the press wants to demonize Israel doesn’t make us demons; that’s their pathology, not ours.

I’ve been heartened in the last week or two to see a couple of pieces that put forward a REAL public relations program for Israel.  In her June 4 article, “Israel’s daunting task,” Caroline Glick advocates that Israel turn the tables on a hostile UN and demand an investigation of Turkey’s sponsorship of the pro-Hamas flotilla.  She also calls for Israeli embassies throughout the world to urge their host countries to outlaw organizations involved in the Gaza flotilla movement, and for Israel’s Justice Ministry to issue international arrest warrants for those involved in organizing and executing the flotilla, and prepare indictments for them in Israeli courts.  Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon seems to have adopted a similar attitude in response to Turkey’s call for an Israeli apology for the raid on the rogue flotilla, saying that it is not Israel who should apologize, but those who organized the flotilla in the first place.

But it’s Noah Pollak in Commentary magazine online who lays it out most clearly in his piece, “The problem with playing defense.” He praises Israel’s after-the-fact-truth-telling, but says “it is restricted to responding to lies, exaggerations, and accusations.”  In his analysis, “Israel is on the receiving end of a viciously negative political campaign, and as any campaign strategist knows, you don’t respond to a negative campaign by expending all your energy trying to explain why the lies aren’t true  — you go negative and play offense in return.”  Among the many suggestions he makes for a formidable offense is expelling the Turkish ambassador and making his return contingent on “a full, credible, and public Turkish investigation of  the terrorist organization that planned and funded” the flotilla; demanding reparations from Turkey for the cost of the operation, including the medical bills for the terrorists who received medical care here after the incident; and funding a Turkish language documentary on the Armenian genocide, putting it up on YouTube, and showing Erdogan that if he wants to call Israelis criminals and murderers, two can play at that game.  Where Israel’s public relations strategy has focused for decades on “the persuasiveness of reason, evidence, context, truth, fairness, and apology,” Pollak points out that this strategy has failed.  His final paragraph is a brilliant summary of what Israel’s PR should look like:

Israel’s hasbara strategy must shift to one that is based on power, self-confidence, and an eagerness to vigorously condemn its defamers. This is the difference between driving the debate and reacting to it, refuting lies and validating them, offense and defense, setting the agenda versus being on the agenda. If the Israelis wish to see a good model for how to set the terms of a controversy, they need only look at the Turkish prime minister’s brilliant performance this week.

In an ideal world where everyone was rational, everyone let the facts speak for themselves, and everyone accepted everyone else’s right to exist (pretty reasonable foundations, if you think about it), Israel’s antiquated PR methods would be effective.  But in an international climate boiling with politics, nationalism, corruption, and calls for violence and the destruction of others, anyone who doesn’t play by the rules — no matter how distasteful they may be — gets eaten.  Israel has shown a great will to survive against terrible odds, and one of the qualities that characterizes its success in that survival is its ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Well, Israel, perhaps it’s time to adapt again.

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Evelyn Gordon, always worth a read, has an article in Commentary magazine online entitled “New Poll Shatters Myths on Gaza Blockade and Settlement Freeze.”  Not only do I feel personally vindicated for my skepticism that the blockade on Gaza has failed to sour relations between Hamas and the Gazans; I am also heartened that despite what the media would have us believe about terror enjoying a happy home in the hearts of all Arabs who call themselves Palestinians, there is a sign that cooler heads exist within that population.  The myths explored (or, in most cases, exploded) in the article include the following:

1)  Israel’s blockade of Gaza in general, and its botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in particular, has only strengthened Hamas.

2) Palestinians’ prime concern is ending Israeli settlement construction.

3) Israel’s war on Gaza last year was counterproductive.

Gordon concludes her piece with the following observation: “But here’s one thing that really is counterproductive: Western governments making policy based on what they want to believe rather than on the facts. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.”

This is not to say that Arabs across Gaza, Judea and Samaria are clamoring to join hands with the Israelis and start a love train.  Three Israeli policemen were attacked by Arabs last week near Hebron, wounding two and killing one, a probable result of the removal of the dozens of checkpoints that have been dismantled in this part of the country in recent months.  Syria’s Bashar Asad appears to be looking for any excuse, however lame (the Mavi Marmara, to be exact) to threaten Israel with war this summer.  And neighbors of ours, longtime Efrat residents, just sold their house and moved to Jerusalem stating as one reason for moving that they just can’t take another terror war out here.  Indeed, the dramatic enlargement of the Emergency Medical Center here in Efrat with expanded 24/7 service, and the completion of a large chain grocery store a few minutes away at Gush Junction, may or may not be preparation for the next battening down of the hatches.

Hamas and Hizbullah can have only one goal in mind in their rearmament, and that is for another confrontation with Israel.  Rumors abound as to the range of their rockets and which cities are most likely to be targeted.  Ironically, in 2006, Efrat and many other settlements served as safe havens for Israelis who left their homes in the north until things quieted down: Israelis who until that experience had considered the settlements dangerous, and a nuisance.  You live and learn.

Whatever grandiose plans the Arabs may or may not be hatching for summer fun, this poll is a ray of light for those who don’t automatically assume that Israel messes up everything, or that the media are always competent to present a true picture of the Middle East as it really is.

Hat tip: Yael V.

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Latma does it again with another parody about the strategies of the Middle East’s current Big Three: Erdogan, Asad, and Ahmedinejad.  Tip: Don’t try drinking Coke while watching this; it’ll come out your nose.

Hat tip: Jameel

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