Archive for May, 2008

Why I started blogging…

May 2, 2008

Actually, this piece explains why I started sending around my opinions to an email list in October 2001…which has now morphed into this blog.  Nervous about sending around my opinions on issues as diverse as film, the Middle East and American politics, I have been lucky that many of my readers have been supportive, saying they find my pieces “smart” and “insightful.”  I’m always late to technology, like when I first bought a VCR in the late 90s, and a friend said, “Welcome to the 80s!”  

Writing opinion really isn’t that new to me.  (And being opinionated started in the womb, I think.)  I edited a journal of political opinion at Tufts University in the eighties with big-time Democrat, Simon Rosenberg (more on that in another piece), but had a bit of a hiatus while doing other odd jobs.  Nevertheless, this latest bout of political-opinion writing began for me in September 2001, driven by my support of Ariel Sharon’s speech warning the freshly-installed President Bush, only weeks after 9/11, not to treat Israel the way the Western democracies treated Czechoslovakia in 1939. 

Sharon gave a speech (see excerpts below in a BBC article), after Bush, crossing a line no president had crossed before him, said he backed a “vision” of a Palestinian state.  This was something Bush wasn’t willing to stay until after 9/11, when he was trying to build a coalition to invade Afghanistan to chase Osama bin Laden and the Taliban out of there (and unfortunately into Pakistan, where they have since remained.)  Arafat, his people dancing in the streets after the 9/11 attacks, took advantage of the times to unleash a wave of attacks on Israelis, against which Sharon launched IDF actions.  The Bush administration sought to restrain the IDF, Colin Powell making a number of forceful telephone calls.  So, these developments, in conjunction with the first-ever US pronouncement in support of Palestinian statehood, compelled Sharon to make his rhetorical flourish that Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. 

Bush’s spokesman, Ari Fleischer, retorted that Sharon’s remarks were “unacceptable.”  Bush, who views himself as a Churchillian, was truly pissed off.  In subsequent years, Israeli political analysts have told me that Sharon’s speech was viewed by the Israeli political class as a mistake, requiring significant subsequent sucking up on the part of Sharon to reinstate the “special relationship” between the Israeli PM and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

So, I wrote a couple of Op-ed articles and submitted them to the New York Times, which didn’t publish them.  So, I began sending my views around to an email list.  Anyway, after W’s “successes” in Afghanistan and Iraq, he became much more sensitive to Israeli concerns, which was his natural Churchillian position.

The article at the end of this “Why I started blogging” section was a BBC report on the October 2001 nadir of recent US-Israeli relations.  Before that are the two Op-eds I submitted and a paragraph I wrote about the double standard Israel must face in its fight against terrorism.

Op-ed I wrote in October 2001 on Bush’s “Vision” of Palestinian statehood:

President George W. Bush’s “vision” for a Palestinian state could not come at a worse time for international relations.  In the twisted minds of terrorists across the world, it will be viewed as a victory for the perpetrators of the crimes of September 11.  The lesson they will learn is that by leveling buildings in American cities and killing more than six thousand people, more than one-tenth the number of America’s Vietnam War casualties, they altered the foreign policy course of the world’s only superpower.  This will lead to pressure on Israel to give in to violence as well.  Bush’s statement and assumed policy shift is the most recent example of a policy of “appeasement”, so tragically followed by the opponents of Hitler in the 1930s and so thoroughly repudiated by the president’s father in the Gulf War. 

By refusing to let the invasion of a sovereign nation stand in 1991 during the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush (Senior) proved that he had learned something as a fighter pilot in the skies over the Pacific during World War II.  Appeasement never works.  It emboldens those who would use violence to achieve their ends.  In the ten years since that war, global peace has been maintained.  In one careless statement, coming so soon after the tragic attacks last month, H.W.’s son has cast doubt on this principle.    

So, Israel has become the latest casualty of the World Trade Center attack. Western nations appear ready to exert their considerable pressure on Israel’s leaders as part of their efforts to bring Arab and Islamic nations into the anti-terrorism coalition.  Secure in Israel’s supposed invincible military might, the West could ask Israelis to make concessions that would probably cause a war in the Middle East, far bloodier than the Intifada.  

Western nations wish the Arab-Israeli conflict would just go away.  Especially when some argue that it is the root cause of terrorism in the West.  It has lead to everything bad from high oil prices, to terror in the skies and in our cities, to falling stock markets and attacks on our men and women in uniform.  Can’t the Arabs and Israelis just solve their own problems?  The president of the United States apparently thinks a Palestinian state would solve things, even prevent terrorism against the United States. 

Oslo”, the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians begun in Norway in the early 1990s, gave guns to Palestinians where previously they had stones.  And, they are firing these guns right now at Israeli soldiers and civilians.  Last year, Arafat rejected the peace deal offered by Barak, preferring to hold on to his maximalist demands and to throw Palestinian boys with guns at the Israeli military. 

Arafat’s demands, including a return to the 1967 borders, a Palestinian state with the right to fully arm itself, half of Jerusalem, and the right of return to Israel of Palestinians who fled the land after 1948, constitute nothing short of dismantling the State of Israel.  Barak’s offer itself would have put Israel’s survival at risk, by cutting Jerusalem, the heart of Israel, in half.  But still, this was not enough for the Palestinian leadership.   

Several years ago, Yossi Beilin, the Israeli Labor Party politician, outlined the crux of a workable peace deal between Palestinians and Israelis.  It was a simple trade.  A Palestinian state for Jerusalem.  That is, Israel would get Jerusalem with certain assurances for Muslim holy sites, and the Palestinians would get their sovereign state on the West Bank and Gaza, with certain assurances for Israeli security. 

One day, hopefully, a Palestinian “F.W. DeKlerk” or “Mikhail Gorbachev” will have the courage to accept such a deal.  Sad to say, Arafat, who himself can’t kick the habit of using terror for political gain, is not the man.   Hopefully, such a leader will emerge among the Palestinians, a leader who will accept the Beilin formula and who would do more. 

For starters, by educating Palestinians in history.  It is not true that the Holocaust was a hoax created by Jews to steal Arab land.  And, Arab and Islamic children should not be reading “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, that lamentable anti-Semitic diatribe from the 19th century that was excerpted in Arab and Islamic textbooks for years.  Until and unless such leadership emerges, Israel has the right to fight the suicide bombers and their masters and to demand a cessation of violence in the territories before talks begin.   

A radicalized, sovereign Palestinian state, fully armed, would likely go to war with Israel.  With enemies like Hamas, which is really a Palestinian government-in-waiting, the Islamic Jihad, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and their sponsors in the Islamic world, including Osama bin Laden, Israel must stand firm in the face of terror attacks and the propaganda barrage (remember the U.N. conference on racism).   And, if the West believes that a Middle East war will not spill over into their countries, they will be sorely mistaken. 

So, President Bush made a gaffe with his statement, and the Arab world applauded.  Hopefully, his vision of a Palestinian state will be a mirage.  It is not too late for him to explain that before a Palestinian state can be established, Palestinians must give up their most extreme claims, including Jerusalem, and must disarm and arrest the terrorists in their midst.  It is not too late for Bush to correct this first step toward a policy of appeasement of terrorists and extremists. As for Israel, let us hope that if America and the rest of the West do succumb to Arab and Islamic pressure, that Israel will have the courage and stamina to resist. 

 

 

Op-ed I wrote one week after 9/11 on Implications of the attack for Israel:

The world is coming together to fight terrorism and that is good.  George W. Bush, like his father before him, is putting together an international coalition, including Arab and Islamic nations.  This time, it is to break the terror networks and “smoke out” the terrorists, as the president so colorfully put it this week. 

These efforts should be commended, but friends of Israel should hope that there will be no unforeseen negative consequences for the Jewish state. After Prime Minister Sharon called here last week to offer his condolences, President Bush told him to get to work with the Palestinians on the peace process.

With French President Jacques Chirac at his side this week, Bush said that, as regards the Middle East, he hoped some good would come out of this evil.  His Majesty Abdullah of Jordan told Larry King this week that the acts of terror in the United States stemmed from anger and frustration in his part of the world.   These comments sound innocuous enough.  But, they could be an indication of the kind of pressure the international coalition, including moderate Arab states, Pakistan and Europe as well as the United States, once it has disposed of Osama bin Laden, could bring to bear on Israel. 

Heavy pressure could be exerted on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians that would endanger the long-run viability of the Jewish state. Western nations are getting tired of the Middle East conflict.  Especially when some in these countries argue that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the root cause of terrorism in the West.  Westerners wish the conflict would just go away.  It has lead to everything bad from high oil prices, to terror in the skies and in our cities, to falling stock markets and attacks on our men and women in uniform.  Can’t the Arabs and Israelis just solve their own problems?   

Oslo”, the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians begun in Norway in the early 1990s, gave guns to the Palestinians where previously they had stones.  And, they are firing these guns right now at Israeli soldiers and civilians.  Last year, Arafat rejected the peace deal offered by Barak, preferring to hold on to his maximalist demands and to throw Palestinian boys with guns at the Israeli military. 

Arafat’s demands, including a return to the 1967 borders, a Palestinian state with the right to fully arm itself, half of Jerusalem, and the right of return to Israel of Palestinians who fled the land after 1948, constitute nothing short of the dismantling of the State of Israel.  Barak’s offer itself would have put Israel’s survival at risk, by cutting Jerusalem, the heart of Israel, in half.  But still, this was not enough for the Palestinian leadership.   

Several years ago, Yossi Beilin, the Israeli Labor Party politician, outlined the crux of a workable peace deal between Palestinians and Israelis.  It was a simple trade.  A Palestinian state for Jerusalem.  That is, Israel would get Jerusalem with certain assurances for Muslim holy sites, and the Palestinians would get their sovereign state on the West Bank and Gaza, with certain assurances for Israeli security. 

One day, hopefully, a Palestinian “F.W. DeKlerk” or “Mikhail Gorbachev” will have the courage to accept such a deal.  Sad to say, Arafat, who himself can’t kick the habit of using terror for political gain, is not the man.  Until such a leader emerges among the Palestinians, Israel has the right to fight the suicide bombers and their masters and to demand a cessation of violence in the territories before talks begin.   

 The World Trade Center attack could change things for Israel. Western nations may try to exert their considerable pressure on Israel’s leaders.  Secure in Israel’s supposed invincible military might, the West could ask Israelis to make concessions that would probably cause a war in the Middle East, far bloodier than the Intifada.

A radicalized, sovereign Palestinian state, fully armed, would likely go to war with Israel.  With enemies like Hamas, which is really a Palestinian government-in-waiting, the Islamic Jihad, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and their sponsors in the Islamic world, including Osama bin Laden, Israel must stand firm in the face of terror attacks and the propaganda barrage, which was most vividly seen in the U.N. conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, earlier this month.  

And, if the West believes that a Middle East war will not spill over into their countries, they will be sorely mistaken. When a country has peaceful intentions and is on the side of right, its leaders should never shrink in the face of evil and terror. 

President Bush understands this.  This was clear in the days following the attacks in the United States, when he explained over and over again that America is a peace-loving nation and that the perpetrators are enemies of freedom, not freedom fighters for the oppressed.  Let us hope that President Bush does not check his sense of right and wrong and his quest for justice at the door when he comes around to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  And let us hope that if he and the rest of the West do succumb to inevitable Arab and Islamic pressure on Israel, that Israel will have the courage and stamina to resist. 

My email from October 2001:

 

 

It seems as though George W. Bush has discovered Israel on the map.

In September, U.S. President George W. Bush demanded that the Taliban government hand over terrorists who had perpetrated an attack on the territory of the United States.  The Taliban refused, and the U.S.-led coalition forces entered Afghanistan with troops, not to rule over Afghans, but to apprehend the criminals, and to replace the govt harboring them.  On October 19, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked PA President Yasser Arafat to hand over the terrorists who assassinated an Israeli minister.  He sent tanks into Palestinian towns, towns relinquished to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo negotiations, in order to pressure the PA to hand over the criminals.  Yet the U.S. govt has demanded that Israel pull its forces back, while coalition forces make mincemeat out of Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama bin Laden.  That is a double standard.  I guess might makes right in the mind of the misguided leadership of the world’s only superpower.

BBC article on Sharon speech, October 6, 2001:

Analysis: Sharon’s appeasement warning

   
 

The United States and many countries in the Middle East are now reflecting on the significance of a speech made on Thursday night by Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.In his speech, following the death of three Israelis in an attack in northern Israel, Mr Sharon compared Israel’s situation to that of pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.

Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938 when Europe sacrificed Czechoslovakia
Ariel Sharon

It was, in the words of some analysts here, an astonishing speech – a speech which has pleased right-wingers but which has surprised, even horrified, others. In the key passage Mr Sharon said: “I call on the Western democracies, and primarily the leader of the Free World, the United States, do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938 when Europe sacrificed Czechoslovakia. Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense.”“Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism,” he added.Clear messageMr Sharon’s message could hardly be more clear – Israel will not sit quietly on the sidelines during the international war on terror. It will respond when it is attacked.This is a direct challenge to US policy in this region.

 

 

Since the attacks on the United States, the Bush administration has worked hard to contain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.It has tried to make a shaky ceasefire work and it has made conciliatory approaches to many Arab states, knowing that America needs their active support in its campaign against Osama Bin Laden.Rejecting his roleThese approaches include Mr Bush’s remarks earlier this week in which he talked of a vision of a Palestinian state.In the American script of events, Ariel Sharon must keep quiet, act with restraint – even if Israel is attacked – and not jeopardise the coalition.But Mr Sharon does not like the role he is being asked to play, which is why he spoke as he did last night.And we now wait to see what effect Mr Sharon’s words and actions will have on US coalition-building efforts.CNN article on Bush’s new “vision” of a Palestinian state in October 2001, conveniently just after 9/11:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush said Tuesday that a Palestinian state was always “part of a vision” if Israel’s right to exist is respected. He said the two parties needed to get to work “on the Mitchell process” which he said provides a clear path to solving the crisis in the Middle East.

 

He refused, when asked, to say whether he had been prepared to announce his support for a Palestinian state prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York.

 

The president’s statement at a meeting with congressional leaders, follows news that the administration is considering a series of high-profile steps related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to secure much-needed Arab support for the international coalition against terrorism.

 

State Department and other senior administration officials told CNN on Monday that drafts of a major policy speech on the Middle East, to be delivered by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, are circulating in the State Department for review.

 

Officials said the speech will “clarify its [U.S.] views on an end result” of the peace process, which would lead to the eventual “creation of a Palestinian state.”

 

 

 

 

 

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