For Israel's future, Obama should put support on paper
I've not had the pleasure of meeting Israel's foreign affairs spokesman Yigal Palmor but he became my favourite diplomat after describing recent criticism of Israel as "unqualified bullshit". I wonder what he really thinks?
Since Israel decided that 60 rockets a day was more than any country should have to tolerate, the global media has accused Israel of every evil imaginable. They have been aided and abetted by, supposedly, non-political UN Relief and Works Agency officials who are more extreme in their anti-Israeli venom than Hamas terrorists. The "bullshit" is exemplified by a Sydney Morning Herald headline from last week: "Israel kept UN aid out of Gaza." Israel has been accused of crimes against humanity for refusing to permit the passage of food, medical supplies, oil, electricity (used to make rockets) and other essentials required to destroy Israel. The precedent, undoubtedly, was that set by Britain and the US during World War II. We all know how accommodating they were in ensuring Germany and Japan were well supplied with food and fuel.
There are times when one fears for one's sanity when listening to such rubbish. How many thousands more rockets must Israelis endure before they are permitted to defend themselves? What happens as the rockets become bigger and more accurate? The few who concede Israel has the right to defend itself then argue that the rockets aren't very accurate. Some consolation if you have to run for air-raid shelters 60 times a day. Unlike Hamas, Israel protects its citizens by building air-raid shelters.
Imagine for a moment the reactions of the good burghers of Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney if rockets were fired into their neighbourhood. Contemplate what they would say to Kevin Rudd. "Wipe the bastards out" for openers. That has not been Israel's response. After 10,000 rockets over eight years, it has been remarkably restrained. However, when Hamas resumed attacks Israel decided enough was enough.
When three years ago Israel unilaterally handed Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Fatah had the opportunity, once again, to negotiate a permanent peace with Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state. Hamas preferred war, bloodshed and martyrdom. Having been democratically elected Hamas claimed a mandate. Israel, it appears, was expected to endorse the mandate that called for its own destruction.
To understand the minds of those Israel is dealing with, consider the statement of Hamas supremo, Khaled Meshaal. From the safety of Damascus, he described the recent war in which 1300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died, as an "unequivocal victory". And a defeat?
The word in vogue to describe Israel's destruction of rocket sites, weapons stores and Hamas terrorists has been "disproportionate": a word not much used during the London Blitz, which resulted in the deaths of 67,000 British civilians. Arthur Harris, commander-in-chief of bomber command, decided to "proportionally" flatten German cities: 600,000 German civilians died. In the Pacific the US lost 1700 civilians, mostly at Pearl Harbor, while Australia lost 700, primarily in Darwin. The US response was to "proportionately" bomb Japanese cities killing 580,000 civilians. Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki remember it well.
Had Hamas decided not to deliberately place their civilian population, arms and combatants inside schools, hospitals and mosques, far fewer innocents would have been killed and injured.
What happens now? Hamas claims it will continue to bombard Israel while one Israeli soldier remains in Gaza, ignoring the fact that three years ago Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. The rocket attacks increased. So where to now? The most oft repeated cliche regarding the Israel-Palestine dispute is that it's a very complex matter. I beg to differ. The Islamic world and the Palestinians in particular must accept that Israel will always exist. Not through the next truce or ceasefire but forever.
Israel's critics demand that it negotiate with Hamas, Hezbollah and Fatah, to create a Palestinian state, conveniently forgetting that Israelis have tried repeatedly to do so without success. How do you negotiate with those who, at the end of the negotiations, say:"No matter what we agree to we will destroy you"?
It's a cliche to say that the Arabs can lose a hundred wars and survive while Israel cannot lose one. If the Palestinians are encouraged to believe that eventually they will triumph no one should be surprised that after each defeat they regroup, rearm and plan the next onslaught. Yasser Arafat taught the Palestinians to believe that even if they lost a battle they would win the propaganda war. With their friends in the left-liberal media how could it have been otherwise? They must be convinced they can never destroy Israel.
Since its founding in 1948 Israel's proud boast has been that it has never asked any other country to fight its battles. It has had considerable support from the US but that support has not been one way. Israeli intelligence, military technology and scientific know-how has been Israel's payback. Israel is also the US's only reliable ally in the Middle East. It is almost certain that if Israel were under savage attack and in danger of going under, the US would come to its aid. There is, however, no formal agreement, pact or treaty to support that unstated undertaking. Which suggests the question, "Why not?"
The only way, to deter Israel's enemies is for the US to say unequivocally that it would never allow Israel to be destroyed. Most Westerners find it impossible to comprehend the mind of those Islamic fundamentalists who welcome death and martyrdom, particularly if it is achieved in an attempt to destroy Israel. On the assumption that not all Palestinians want to go to Paradise before the last possible moment, a declaration by the US and a formal agreement that it would intervene if Israel was under serious threat would have sane Palestinians looking for a peaceful solution. It's an idea the 44th President of the US might consider.
An ethical contrast
PALESTINIAN civilians living in Gaza during the three-week war with Israel have spoken of the challenge of being caught between Hamas and Israeli soldiers as the radical Islamic movement that controls the Gaza strip attempted to hijack ambulances.
Mohammed Shriteh, 30, is an ambulance driver registered with and trained by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. His first day of work in the al-Quds neighbourhood was January 1, the sixth day of the war. "Mostly the war was not as fast or as chaotic as I expected," Mr Shriteh told the Herald. "We would co-ordinate with the Israelis before we pick up patients, because they have all our names, and our IDs, so they would not shoot at us."
Mr Shriteh said the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety. "After the first week, at night time, there was a call for a house in Jabaliya. I got to the house and there was lots of shooting and explosions all around," he said. Because of the urgency of the call, Mr Shriteh said there was no time to arrange his movements with the IDF. "I knew the Israelis were watching me because I could see the red laser beam in the ambulance and on me, on my body," he said.
Getting out of the ambulance and entering the house, he saw there were three Hamas fighters taking cover inside. One half of the building had already been destroyed. "They were very scared, and very nervous . They dropped their weapons and ordered me to get them out, to put them in the ambulance and take them away. I refused, because if the IDF sees me doing this I am finished, I cannot pick up any more wounded people. "And then one of the fighters picked up a gun and held it to my head, to force me. I still refused, and then they allowed me to leave."
Mr Shriteh says Hamas made several attempts to hijack the al-Quds Hospital's fleet of ambulances during the war. "You hear when they are coming. People ring to tell you. So we had to get in all the ambulances and make the illusion of an emergency and only come back when they had gone."
My unwavering support for Israel (despite its crazy politics) and my interest in all things Jewish often puts me in reach of accusations of various sorts. Racists think I am helping to cover up evil Jewish conspiracies and some Jews are uncomfortable when I discuss mistakes that I think some Jews make. So I decided to get off the thin ice recently after I had put up quite a lot of posts about Jewish matters. It seemed to me that I could safely leave discussion of all points of view about Jewish matters in the hands of Jews themselves. But I am incorrigible. On Sunday I hosted a Burns Night and in my memoir about it on my personal blog, I ventured to compare a Burns Night with a passover seder!
Hi-tech made in Israel: "Albit Systems announced Monday that the IDF ordered 40 million dollars of UAVs (Unmanned aerial vehicles) from the company. Albit will provide the UAV Skylark LE I to the IDF ground forces and also be responsible for training the forces to use the UAVs. During Operation Cast Lead the IDF used UAVs manufactured by Albit. The Skylarks help the IDF gather intelligence and maintain coordination between forces."
After less than a week in office, Barack Obama's approval rating plunges 15 points: "Barack Obama might have been in office for less than a week, but the euphoria is beginning to wane. The new President's approval ratings have fallen from a stratospheric 83 per cent to a more modest - although still impressive - 68 per cent. Washington analysts said the scale of the drop in the Gallup poll underlines the immense challenges Mr Obama faces in trying to turn round the U.S.'s battered fortunes. He still remains vastly more popular than his predecessor George Bush - who left office with around 25 per cent approval.
Carter the outcast: ""There they stood, all four living U.S. presidents at the White House, smiling and posing with the soon-to-be newest member of the club, Barack Obama. But at that historic gathering earlier this month, one member of the group, Jimmy Carter, appeared to be cut off from the rest, as if he had crashed the party but could stay if he didn't cause any trouble. `It was fascinating,' said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who said the photo opportunity showed the others as clubby while Carter was a step apart. And there's probably a good reason for that too, Hess said. `He's a person who has stuck his thumb in the eye of every president who has followed him,' he said."
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)