Thursday, December 31, 2009

Burston FTW*

To end the year on a satirical note, one can always count on Bradley Burston from Haaretz. This editorial on the Gaza siege says it all. Overall, the negative effects of the siege far outweigh the benefits. A strategy of COIN-inspired engagement would be much more effective at increasing Israeli security while also providing Palestinians with their basic needs. Hopefully the coming decade will see more effective policy making on this issue, and on the Israeli-Arab conflict as a whole.

Here's to a peaceful and secure 2010.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Carlo Strenger's op-ed says it all. Settlers comparing themselves to Rosa Parks? Talk about the twisted prism of the Middle East. I can empathize with the original writer that being forcibly displaced from historically Jewish land is difficult in the physical and spiritual senses alike, but that's a far cry from Rosa Parks. Strenger's treatment of this ridiculous op-ed is surprisingly fair. The original op-ed itself just illustrates the depth of the Israeli right's psychosis of self-victimization. It's a far cry from the roots of Zionism, which do not emphasize victimhood but rather pragmatic and practical action.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why Israel Should Conclude the Prisoner Swap for Gilad Shalit

There is one thing for certain in the negotiations over Gilad Shalit. If Israel does not return him in this round of negotiations, he is likely to die in captivity.

Prime Minister Netanyahu faces a difficult political and moral decision in accepting or rejecting Hamas' terms for the deal. Khaled Meshal, Hamas' leader, has signed off on these demands meaning that they are being taken seriously by senior levels in the Hamas chain of command. But for Netanyahu, the decision is between saving one soldier and putting others at risk. It is between bowing to the demands of a terrorist group responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Israelis, and taking a necessary step to bringing this horrible saga to a conclusion.

President Netanyahu, I urge you to accept the deal with Hamas. Israel has already demonstrated that it will release prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two soldiers. The line of deterrence is already crossed. It was crossed in the early days of the war when negotiations were driven by the myopia of leaders who thought that Israel would always prevail over a smaller sub-state adversary. It was crossed when Samar Kuntar, a vicious terrorist who once smashed a baby girl's head against a rock, was freed in exchange for coffins containing two bodies less than 30 years old.

You did not make these mistakes, yet you have a historic opportunity to begin to heal the damage done to the people of Israel by enforcing the policy of "no soldier left behind." The Shalit family and the people of Israel are counting on you to not make a decision which will appease the far right. This is not the time for political games. If you refuse to make the deal, or intervene to assure its failure, you will be seen as a puppet of the far right in Israel, and your government will suffer a major political setback.

Bringing back Gilad Shalit will solidify your place in Israeli history as a hawk who knows when to be pragmatic. Your conservative views make you the ideal Prime Minister to conclude a deal with Hamas. There is an understanding between you. You have the ability to see this deal through, and bring an Israeli soldier back to his parents.

The eyes of a country are on you Mr. Prime Minister.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Anatomy of a Rumor

This YNetNews article explains everything about today's news that a British court issued, then revoked, an arrest warrant for Opposition Leader MK Tzipi Livni for her role in Operation Cast Lead.

Both the al-Quds al-Arabi and al-Jazeera sites in Arabic have independent articles running the story, although as of 5pm al-Jazeera is running this amended story which says the warrant has been revoked.

al-Quds al-Arabi originally reported (catching the eye of Haaretz) that Livni canceled an appearance at the UK's JNF national conference because a London court had issued an arrest warrant against her. While this turned out to be true, the warrant was later revoked when it became clear that Livni was not actually in the country.

Haaretz is still running the story that the warrant is good, JPost is running the story that it was revoked. Go figure.

To say nothing of the hypocrisy of Britain prosecuting the killing of civilians by other states. Really British court system? Because Britain's sterling record on civilian casualties justifies it going after other countries? I have some ashen human remains in Dresden you should meet sometime.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winning Hearts and Minds on Both Sides

Haaretz ran an article today about settlers who handed out copies of the Qur'an to Palestinians after the mosque attack at the end of last week. No doubt the settler movement could use some good publicity, but the comments made by peace activist Rabbi Menachem Froman sound sincere: "We want to create new conditions between Jews and Arabs. Arson in a mosque is an attempt to sow hatred between Jews and Arabs. Jewish law also prohibits damaging a holy place."

I write often about engaging the moderate Palestinian population but it's important to remember that there is a moderate settler population as well. Supporting efforts like these will be key to reducing the number of radical settlers who resist withdrawal from the West Bank. Moreover, a better relationship between settlers and Palestinians would benefit all parties involved and their various interests.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pollard WTF

Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard criticized Israel's plans to trade prisoners for Gilad Shalit, suggesting instead that Israel execute one prisoner every day until Shalit is freed. His comments were carried by both Haaretz and JPost.

And really, on the issue of executing people who break national and international laws, who better than Jonathan Pollard to set an example? Yet while Pollard asks that those who violate Israeli security be killed, he should be freed. Clearly there's a difference between the national security damage done by terrorists and the damage done by Pollard, but he is hardly a moral authority on the rule of law.

All this is besides the point. Gilad Shalit was a drafted IDF soldier operating inside of Israel. He was attacked in a non-combat situation and dragged across the border into Gaza where he has been held for years without proper access to the basic human rights to which he is entitled. Jonathan Pollard committed espionage against the United States and has been treated completely within the boundaries of humanitarian standards and the American justice system. To even begin to equate himself to Shalit is ridiculous.