Friday, July 12, 2002

Arafat on his way out? - more indications from the ground in the West Bank.

The Israeli phone company, has said that it will not fly its employees on Air France as a protest of the incident where the pilot decided to announce that his Tel Aviv-bound plane was about to land in Israel-Palestine.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Good article by Ari Shavit on why the Israeli left, if it is sane and wishes to be relevant, must abandon the Taba understandings.

The (non-binding) understandings document formally recognize a "right" for 4 million Palestinians descended from 1948 refugees to move into pre-1967 Israel. Other provisions acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity, and dictate that the number of returnees will be limited - but there is no attempt to explain how these contradictory provisions will be reconciled.

Taba negotiator Yossi Beilin trusted Arafat and co. to be somehow "reasonable" (cf. here). But in actual fact he offered an enormous concession that would have been irrevocable - while receiving only vague promises in return. But then isn't that the whole story of Oslo?
From today's satirical "Last Word" program on Army Radio:

Irit: Amnesty International has issued a 70-pg. report in which they say that Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians constitute crimes against humanity....

Uri: "Yesss!"

Irit: Put aside your "Yesss" and "Wo-ho" for a second...

Uri: What this means is that, until now, when we opposed our getting killed we were considered to be an "interested party". Now people are coming along and actually saying that it's wrong to kill us....

Previously, Amnesty seemed to give express only token criticism of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. Why have things changed? A couple of months ago we were on the verge on being treated as pariahs and Arafat was being handed everything on a plate.

Whereas now: the EU is not saying too much about Operation Determined Path and is pushing for PA reform, and humanitarian organizations are suddenly discovering PA corruption and getting disturbed about Israeli victims. Not to be too optimistic - there's still lots of people like Chris Patten and Mona Baker around - but something has changed..

Is it simply the Bush speech? If the answer is yes, then it shows how much the situation revolves around realpolitik rather than principle.

This just in: The PA calls the Amnesty report "biased and unbalanced" (details). From the article, it's clear what they really mean: in their view, their situation justifies any and all behaviour. The PA and the other organizations mentioned seem unable to relate to the doctrine that murder of civilians in simply wrong.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

The government has decided to freeze the advancement of a private member's bill that would have permitted villages on state-owned land to discriminate against Arabs (report).

Barry Rubin says that Bush's stance towards Arafat derives in large part from Arafat's progressively closer ties with Iran, Hezbollah, and (indirectly) al-Qaeda. (article).
Regarding permalinks: I selected the "Archives" button and "republished" this week's page. That seemed to get permalinks working.
An IDF captain was killed in an ambush in Gaza today (details). This is the type of thing that I've been afraid of - maintaining a longer-term presence in Area A makes the IDF vulnerable to these kinds of attacks. Enduring these attacks is of course better than allowing Islamikazes to infiltrate, but I hope we also have a strategy for minimizing risk to the IDF.

Here's a story about a fellow who's been called up to an elite IDF reserve unit.

The Christian Science Monitor has an article comparing the "green line security fence" to the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, and the Korean DMZ. Wow how flattering.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Additions to the list of opponents of the bill that I described yesterday: President Moshe Katzav and Benny Begin (retired leader of the right-wing Herut party).

This AM they were covering the not-so-exciting ceremony of installing the new IDF chief of staff Moshe Yaalon. Following a revered tradition among Israeli public figures, Yaalon has a nickname that sounds funny to foreigners (ie. "Bougi").

Ms. C.G. has added some new translations to her Updates From Jerusalem site:

Army Radio interviews Fatah official Hussein ah-Sheik, who answers most questions by either expressing support for Jibril Rajoub, opposing the "occupation", or both.

An opinion piece from Maariv reacts viscerally to the Air France affair.

A satirical exchange from Army Radio's "Last word" program.

I came across an encyclopedic site about Israeli pop music that includes lots of sound clips. While the site is all in Hebrew, a broader audience might like to hear Punch (probably the best Israeli power-pop record), Joni Mitchell-eque Mika Karni, Where's the Kid (garage rock), or the chaotic Top Hat Carriers. You can go to the pages and click on the little speakers.
The main goal of this piece in the Christian Science Monitor by Helena Cobban ("Protect Palestinians Now") is to slander Israel with a lot of innuendoes popular on the left. But she makes a lot of inaccurate statements along the way.
The West Bank is an area of steep, arid hills punctuated by occasional vineyards and olive groves. With the area's 2.2 million Palestinians confined to their home communities, the Jewish settlements have extended their control over all the lands reaching to the very edge of the Palestinian cities and villages. It is no longer the Jewish settlements that are isolated outposts amid a "sea" of Palestinians, but the Palestinians who are restrained in tiny areas while the settlers and the Israeli military dominate everything between.

Nonsense. There has been little change on the ground in the West Bank in the past 2 years, except for the cropping up of "settlement outposts" on the periphery of existing settlements and he IDF has been cracking down on these.

Nowadays, Israel's Hebrew-language media carry much open discussion about the advantages of what Israelis refer to as the "transfer" of large numbers of Palestinians from the occupied territories – or even of Palestinians from inside Israel,

Cobban is making this up. You won't find any serious proposals for "transfer" in any of the major Hebrew newspapers.
who have supposedly full Israeli citizenship.

"supposedly" ?!? Israeli Arabs do have full citizenship.
At least one Israeli government minister, Effi Eitam, has expressed his open support of "transfer."

Eitam (a controversial member of a small religious party), has made off-the-cuff remarks about what could happen in the event of regional war. He does not openly promote "transfer" as a policy position.
Understandably, such talk terrifies Palestinians.

"Such talk", as amplified in the Palestinian media enrages Palestinians more than it terrifies them.

Even more urgently, he and other world leaders need to plan now for an international protection mechanism – preferably under UN auspices – to be deployed to the West Bank and Gaza as soon as possible.

Such "internationalization" had been Arafat's goal for a long time as it would enable Palestinian terror to continue while limiting Israel's ability to respond. Fortunately, Bush's speech has reshaped people's expectations: no longer can Arafat get away with using terrorism to try to get Israeli withdrawal without offering a peace agreement.

Update: Here is Daniel Pipes' review of Cobban's history of the PLO.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein and Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer have come out against "the bill". I don't think this is something that the right will want to fight over - "the bill" will probably be history in 24 hours.
Frankly shoddy reporting from the BBC: I see from Damian Penny that the BBC says the bill discussed in the blog entry below "would officially bar Arabs from living in Jewish communities" and conjures up images of mass expulsions.

This is an outrageous misrepresentation on the part of the BBC. The bill would permit specific village councils to bar Arabs (ie. from communities to which they anyway rarely seek to move) - this is radical enough - but the bill does not mandate such discrimination. More importantly, the bill has nothing to do with people living in cities (ie. Tel Aviv, Acco, Jaffa etc.) and would have little practical impact if it were to actually pass (which it probably won't).

Update: The online BBC article has now been rewritten (though not before the original article riled up all kind of nasty sentiments on various online forums). The original article (available here) was bylined Caroline Hawley but the new one has no byline. Obviously there was no explicit admission of error by the BBC.

Update: The bill has been sent to a committee - which essentially means that the proposal has been dropped.

Update: My email exchange with BBC reporter Caroline Hawley appears below. She's disarmingly congenial, disingenuous, and doesn't care that she's just added to the malicious lies about Israel being spread in the media.

Subject: BBC Website article "Arab ban proposed in Jewish areas"

Ms. Hawley,

I was quite surprised to see a report on the BBC website stating that the Israeli government was going to ban Arabs from living in Jewish areas.

The report was quickly corrected, but not before it managed to cause quite a lot of controversy and anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment in various online forums. I'm certain that most people who saw the original article did not see the corrected version.

My question is: What was the source for the original story? Was there concern that if the story was incorrect that it could have serious implications that could further stir the animosities that you colorfully describe?


Tal G.

Subject: Re: BBC Website article "Arab ban proposed in Jewish areas"
To: "Tal G."

Hi, Tal

Thanks for your comments. I believe I wrote "Jewish
communities on state land" .. I agree that to talk of
a ban in "Jewish areas" is misleading.

As you know the whole issue stirred a good deal of
controversy and it now appears that the government
will back down on its support for the bill.

Best regards


To: caroline hawley
Subject: Re: BBC Website article "Arab ban proposed in Jewish areas"


Thank you very much for your msg.

I have the original article, which begins:

Arab ban proposed in Jewish areas
The Israeli left has condemned the proposed ban

By Caroline Hawley BBC Jerusalem Correspondent

Human rights groups in Israel are vowing to fight a government decision that would bar Israeli Arabs from living in Jewish communities. Seventeen cabinet ministers voted on Sunday to support a bill brought by a right-wing MP in response to a high court ruling that would have allowed an Arab nurse to move into a Jewish village.

To "bar Israeli Arabs from living in Jewish communities" (first sentence) would mean that they are being expelled from Tel Aviv, Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem etc.

Again, at the end of the article:

The law, which would officially bar Arabs from living in Jewish communities, still has to be passed by parliament. But it has already further embittered relations between Israel's Jewish and Arab populations, which have been badly soured by the current climate of mistrust in the Middle East.

The article that is now at has been corrected (though your byline has been omitted). But as you note the article still has the misleading headline.

I'm sure that you understand my concern that the original version of the story is inaccurate, provocative and contributes to anti-Israeli sentiment.

Sincere regards,

- Tal G.

Subject: Re: BBC Website article "Arab ban proposed in Jewish areas"
To: "Tal G."

Your point is taken. Thanks for making it
Today's big issue is the cabinet's support for a bill permitting village administrations to deny land purchases to Arabs (cities are not being discussed). This is an issue which has been around for many years and started when the northern village of Katzir tried to deny admission to an Arab family - the Supreme Court has ruled that such discrimination is illegal. The new bill is an attempt to bypass the court ruling and was harshly condemned by senior Likud MK Dan Meridor (report). Some think that if the bill is passed the Supreme Court will just strike it down.

Discussion on the radio focused on an angle that I didn't see in newspapers. An official from Katzir named Duby something contends that there are Arab organizations that buy up (or would buy up) parcels of land in northern Jewish communities in an attempt to change their demography. This would be the mirror image of the efforts of a couple of Jewish groups that have been buying properties in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem - much to the dismay of the left. A common defense of the bill seems to be: "if Jewish Israelis tried to move into Arab villages it would be considered provocative, so why is preventing the reverse considered racist?".

I'm annoyed when I hear people defending the bill with reference to "zionist ideology", or "security". Ultimately, the debate is between those who believe that as a mature democracy we must consistently oppose any sort of nationality- or ethnically-based discrimination (except for Army service etc.) and, those who, as Uri Orbach put in on Army radio this morning, see a national conflict taking place.

The latter view has a lot of problems (eg. it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy). But it's worth noting that this latter perspective is shared by many Arabs. This fellow notes that noone had any problem when Arabs refused to sell him a tract of land. Meanwhile, the PA bluntly prohibits selling land to Jews - violators receive the death penalty.
Currently here, there have been no major terror attacks - though the IDF has foiled several attempts. On the Lebanese border, shrapnel from Hezbollah anti-aircraft fire has sent people into bomb shelters (report) - the Lebanese claim that the Israeli Air Force is flying over their territory.

We've been hearing a fair amount about shuffling Arafat's shuffling Jibril Rajoub and Tewfiq Tirawi in and out of the PA; and also about the course of Operation Determined Path - but in both cases it's difficult to know where things are going. On the radio yesterday there was an interview with MK Natan Sharansky, who was very enthusiastic about the prospects for promoting Palestinian democracy via a group of businessmen headed by Omar Karsou. Prof. Guy Bechor thinks that that's impossible: Arafat's reforms consist of installing people based not on their capability but on their loyalty only.
Tal G in the suburbs? T. and I are very fond of Jerusalem. It has a mix of old and new - there are people who are old-style ultraorthodox, old-style nervous types who would have been labor unionists 30 years ago, new style yuppies, and neo-spiritual types. Its handsome buildings and quiet atmosphere are quite a contrast from Tel Aviv. And it's sometimes a powerful experience being near to the old city and the Wailing Wall. But economic and other pressures are making us think about moving out.

Over the weekend we were looking at a small town called Modiin about half-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. As a place to live it has its pluses and minuses like any town. It's also very close to the Green Line -it has been quiet there, but there has been occasional shooting on the 443 highway into Jerusalem. Consequently a lot of people take the longer route via the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. In the neighborhood that we visited, there was someone whose wife had been in a coma since one of the Jerusalem bombings. Some new apartments include a "sealed room" in case of a chemical attack. And there was the jokester who said told us that it's a good place to live because it's close to the airport - "so that after the leftists have given Arafat the whole country except for the Greater Tel Aviv autonomous zone, you'll be able to make a quick exit".

That guy's cynicism is misplaced. The Labor party is in major disarray, and 80% of Jewish Israelis support the current IDF actions in the West Bank (">report). I heard that Shimon Peres has now told a French newspaper that Oslo was a mistake (don't have the details).
An Italian politician has made a proposal to internationalize Jerusalem (report).

Sunday, July 07, 2002

"Authorities" are reportedly investigating rumors of meetings between the LAX gunman and an Al-Qaida agent (details).
The pilot of an Air France flight to Tel Aviv made an announcement that the plane would soon be landing in "Israel-Palestine". Angry passengers then began to argue with flight staff. Eventually, an Air France spokesman apologized and said that the pilot was expressing his "personal view". (report via Imshin)