Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Letter to Alan Dershowitz

UPDATE 7:00PM: Professor Alan Dershowitz has indicated, via email, that he plans to respond to the following open letter which I sent earlier today (Be sure to check back here for it):



Dear Professor Dershowitz,

I am writing to express deep concern over your comments to Israeli Army radio today. Your interview is a litany of defamation and double standards as today's articles in both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post report. In your interview, you are quoted as saying, "
The Goldstone report is a defamation written by an evil, evil man."

Do you mean to equate the Australian Judge of a U.N. report with the evil of the Hamas operatives who day and night target innocent Israeli citizens in Sderot, Ashkelon, and beyond? Is Judge Goldstone's evil akin to the evil of 19 hijackers who one September morning killed nearly 3,000 Americans in the name of their fundamentalist delusions? Even if I were to grant every argument made by your prejudicial official response to the U.N. I would be hard pressed to classify Judge Goldstone as an evil man under any reasonable definition of the word. Your comments therefore do absolutely nothing to advance the cause of Israel advocacy or justice for the innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caught up in the aftermath of this conflict.

Professor, you edit a blog called Double Standard Watch. So perhaps you can explain why you found it necessary to respond in excess of forty pages to the methodology of the Goldstone Report while publishing no equivalent criticism of reports published by AIPAC, CAMERA, HonestReporting, Aish, or the Israel Project, all of which regularly employ questionable methodology and omit key facts in their assessment of the situation in the Middle East. Perhaps you can also explain "Section I" of your response, in which you attack the members of the Goldstone commission for their previous bias against Israel. You argue this makes their conclusions on Operation Cast Lead illegitimate, yet you yourself are extremely outspoken with regards to Israel. By your own logic this should disqualify your opinions on Operation Cast Lead from any validity whatsoever, especially considering that you criticized the report in a blog post twelve days before it was even released.

What concerns me more is your comment that Judge Goldstone is a "traitor" to Israel. Goldstone himself is not an Israeli citizen so no doubt you mean that he is treasonous as a Jew. Perhaps you should speak with right-wing editorialist Isi Leibler who calls for Jews to exorcise the renegades in our midst.

Professor Dershowitz, on November 25th 2009 you debated J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami, and urged J Street to join under the umbrella of pro-Israel groups in Washington. You argued that its current stance was divisive. Professor, as far as I can tell, no official communique of J Street has used the word "traitor" or "evil" to refer to any statement to which they were opposed. Jeremy Ben-Ami has never cut off contact with someone for employing shoddy methodology or being prejudicial. Yet you have done both of these in response to Judge Goldstone and his mission's conclusions.

It concerns me that conservative supporters of Israel are being divisive, calling those who disagree evil traitors, urging them to be exorcised as if they were witches in Salem. How can more moderate voices be reasonably expected to join with the traditional voice of the American pro-Israel community when it looks for any reason to attack, defame, and insult anyone who dares to question the use of white phosphorous in civilian areas? In over forty pages, your response to the Goldstone Report contains zero references to the words "white phosphorous" or "flanchettes," both of which were used against civilians in Gaza. This grave omission indicates clearly that you have no interest in a candid discussion of potential Israeli mistakes in Operation Cast Lead, and this greatly saddens me.

I look forward with great enthusiasm to hearing your reaction, and posting your full un-edited response on my blog (www.thecamelsnose.blogspot.com) where I have posted this letter. Thank you for your attention to my concerns.


Sincerely yours,

************
The Camel's Nose Blog
www.thecamelsnose.blogspot.com


[sent via private e-mail to dersh@law.harvard.edu]


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Politicizing the Holocaust

Gideon Levy goes a bit overboard in today's Haaretz editorial about politicizing the Holocaust. But he makes some good points about the myopic thinking of the Israeli government and the extent to which the memory of the murder of millions of innocent human beings is being used for political gain. Which is categorically unacceptable.

On the one hand it's really important that Israel be proactive about anti-Semitism around the world. Israel is the representative of global Jewry in many ways and having been in Israel on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) I can tell you its an experience like no other. The way in which the Holocaust pervades deep into Israeli society is important to understand.

At the same time though, the way the current Israeli government has politicized the Holocaust vis-a-vis Iran is a poor model for other countries. Urging countries to not politicize the Holocaust while comparing Ahmedinejad to Hitler is hypocritical, and it makes other nations resent Israel's self-awarded monopoly on Holocaust suffering. Many people in many countries besides Israel suffered as a result of the Holocaust, and while Israel represents global Jewry it does not represent them exclusively.

The way the Lieberman Foreign Ministry has hounded countries that have encountered domestic anti-Semitism is percieved as arrogant, and was thoroughly unproductive. As abhorrent as the Swedish article about IDF organ harvesting was, the Swedish government had no role in the publication of the article whatsoever, and apologized without being asked. Hounding the government as Israel did was damaging to its global image, and it did absolutely nothing to prevent future anti-Semitism in Sweden. And let's face it, apologizing to Lieberman for racism is like apologizing to the Westboro Baptist Church for intolerance (check out their website at www.godhatesfags.com. Or don't).

A far more productive strategy would be to work together with governments, helping to facilitate programs which marginalize anti-Semitic voices. Israel could help create alliances between Jews and other minority groups in Europe and around the world. This would not only improve Israel's relations with foreign governments, it would be taking the steps to actually help diaspora communities. As it is, the government is deluding itself into thinking that ultra-sensitive arrogance is akin to effective prevention. It is not. And fetishizing the Holocaust is a dangerous distortion of history that Israel must seek to avoid by leading through example.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama on the Holocaust

Note the rhetoric about Israel. And please keep the survivors as well as the victims in your thoughts today.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Arab MK Visit to Poland

Firstly, congratulations to the Jerusalem Post for its new website design. Very pretty.

Today Haaretz is running and article about MK Mohammed Barakeh's decision to join the delegation to tomorrow's Holocaust Remembrance Day observance in Poland. The decision has raised eyebrows on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides and shows just how sensitive a topic the Holocaust is in Israel.

Ultimately though only 2 MKs have spoken out against the visit, and one is Dani Danon who is basically the Michelle Bachmann of Israel anyway. Its understandable why some Israelis might have a problem with someone using the Holocaust to promote their political agenda.

Which is why it's interesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu is also planning to draw a link between Iran and the Holocaust in his speech tomorrow. As tempted as I am to write about the double standard here, the truth is that the Holocaust should really not be used for political ends by either side. Hopefuly in the future discourse can focus more on the actual issues at hand.

And it's critical that an Arab MK be able to attend the Holocaust ceremony. His push for the Arab world to recognize the Holocaust is extremely important. He may criticize Israeli policy but is more likely to look insensitive than like a hero for doing it. Israel has much more to gain by letting him speak in the long run.

Here's hoping for a meaningful - and respectful - ceremony.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Palestinians on Human Rights

Palestinian human rights groups are urging Hamas and the PA to probe their actions in Operation Cast Lead. While the chances of this happening are extremely slim, the move says a lot about internal Palestinian dynamics.


1) It dispels the notion that there is a lockdown on information in the territories. The rights groups understand that the picture is far more complex than "Zionist infidels versus Palestinian freedom fighters."

2) It dispels the notion that dissent isn't present in the territories. The call for a probe is de facto and highly public criticism of both Hamas and the PA.

3) It dispels the notion that Palestinians uniformly support terrorism. One of the specific abuses named in the report is attacks on civilians in Israel.


It will be interesting to watch the reactions of both Hamas and the PA to the report. While any actual probe is highly unlikely, this kind of non-violent dissent has the potential to play an extremely positive role in the future of the Palestinian nation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti

The relief efforts in Haiti are just starting to get underway, but the situation there will require a sustained effort. Click here for a list of aid organizations that are assisting with relief efforts.

And for those of you in DC, I'm joining the hosting committee for a fundraiser being held next Tuesday the 19th at Recess bar at (275 15th St) at 5pm. The bar is giving proceeds from drink sales to Haiti relief efforts and hosting speakers who are involved with relief efforts. Come on down, it's a good opportunity to make your normal DC-happy hour networking a little more valuable. Here's a link to the Facebook invitation, for any of you social network-saavy kids.


I'm sure you're wondering what this all has to do with the Middle East.

The earthquake's effects are universally seen with horror and disbelief. Yet wars in the Middle East and elsewhere often have comparable effects and they are carried out deliberately by humans against humans. A war is essentially a Haiti - on purpose. Think about what that means.

My work in security requires an understanding that war and armed conflict are complex. But looking at the destruction in Haiti side-by-side with destruction in the Middle East really drives home just how ridiculous war really is. I hope the kind of outpouring of compassion and humanity the world is showing towards Haiti will be the same compassion it shows to victims of war and violence whose numbers are all-too-high in today's world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Diplomacy FAIL.

List of ways to not make Turkey care about anti-semitism:

1) Put their ambassador in a lower chair than your diplomats and not have a Turkish flag in the room and do so purposefully in a way that suggests your government has the maturity of a 5 year old.


This whole mess is typical of the Lieberman Foreign Ministry approach to diplomacy, acting as if any state that experiences anti-semitism owes it to Israel to grovel on its knees begging forgiveness. The problem is, most of the time the anti-semitism or even anti-Israel sentiments have nothing to do with the government, and heads of state tend to get resentful when they're expected to apologize...and apologize again...and apologize further. The Lieberman approach plays well in speeches, but does little to actually combat the very serious issue of anti-Semitism. Which means Lieberman is putting politics ahead of actually getting something productive done. Although if you didn't see that one coming, I have some desert in the Negev to sell you (if you're Arab you'll have to sign a loyalty oath before we make any deals).

Frustration about the pervasive nature of anti-Semitism is understandable, but this is international diplomacy and there are rules. Snubbing ambassadors is not an effective way to deal with anti-Semitism, it's arrogant and just plain rude.

Monday, January 4, 2010

On Airport Security

Over the past week or so, many pundits have been making the call that U.S. airport security ought to more closely resemble Israeli airport security, considering our evident lack of ability to stop Captain Underpants of Yemen (aka Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab) but for his broken detonator. To some extent, Israelis such a Rafi Ron already provide security at the nation's airports. The idea of keeping a calm checkpoint area, for example, is designed to make it easier to spot a nervous would-be terrorist.

Hands down, a greater focus on behavior and human factors in security would positively benefit the United States. In Israel, no one is asked to take off their shoes at the metal detector. If someone were truly a threat, he'd be detected long before. Finding a suspicious acting person is much easier than finding a pouch of non-metallic explosive in someone's underwear, and significantly less intrusive as well. In combination with current measures, psychological profiling would be a strong enhancement to American airport security.

That being said, it is important to remember that the security posture of the U.S. and Israel are very much different. The existential threat Israel faces as a country is more imminent than the threat from occasional large-scale attacks the U.S. faces. This means that Israeli security is designed to stop a different kind of threat than the U.S. must face.

And perhaps the biggest issue is that Israeli society is much more tolerant of invasion of personal privacy for security. Those who call for more intense, Israeli-style screening should ask why terrorists would limit themselves to airplanes. In Israel, patrons at restaurants, supermarkets, clubs, and universities are screened before entering. In the United States, this is probably not the most efficient allocation of limited counter-terrorism resources.

Israeli society also has a much higher tolerance for discrimination against minorities. And even in Israel, certain security measures have been subject to scrutiny. Until 2007, Ben Gurion Airport used to give different colored stickers for Arabs and Jews to put on their respective passports as they went through screening. The practice was stopped after complaints of discrimination from several parties, including the Nazareth-based Arab Association for Human Rights. One could argue that Israel's more delicate security posture warrants greater discrimination, but if even Israel has trouble finding the balance, the U.S. is sure to have difficulty as well. Many Israeli policies, if implemented in U.S. airports, would likely be the targets of lawsuits, and some of those lawsuits would be successful. Extra scrutiny for all Muslims or Arabs would likely be politically untenable in the U.S., not to mention ineffective, and against the very values the U.S. was created to preserve.

UPDATE 1/5/10:

Haaretz posted an article on its website this morning on new biometric security measures in at Ben Gurion airport, for your reading pleasure. Even Israel itself wants to move off of the security interview system.