Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Translation: The Great People of Afghanistan, Salam Alaikum. Sunday morning, the International Security Assistance Force, while conducting a mission with Afghan Security Forces, launched an attack against what we believed to be a group of insurgents in Kotal Chawzar, in Southern Afghanistan. We now believe the attack killed and injured a number of Afghan citizens. I have spoken with President Karzai and apologized to him and the Afghan people. I have instituted a thorough investigation to prevent this from happening again. We are extremely saddened by this tragic loss of innocent lives. I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people. I pledge to strengthen our efforts to regain your trust to build a brighter future for all Afghans. Most importantly, I express my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families. We all share in their grief and will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
A few things are significant about this release.
1) It came out within roughly 24 hours of the attack itself. McChrystal preempted the Taliban from spinning the event by issuing ISAF's spin first. Especially in the social media age, this quick response capability is crucial.
2) The response establishes that ISAF views the strike as a mistake, versus an inevitable outcome of the battle. "I have made it clear to my forces" is language which reflects that McChrystal is taking responsibility, and implies a certain level of reprimand.
What the statement doesn't do is mention the Taliban, or place blame for a U.S. airstrike on the Taliban. Nowhere does McChrystal imply "We were doing the best we can but that darn Taliban just makes it so hard." Civilians don't care about excuses, and McChrystal has shown that he understands this by highlighting action he has taken.
Now compare this to a video from the Arabic desk of the IDF Spokesperson's office:
Firstly, the speaker, Avichai Adraee does a fantastic job. His speaks Arabic extremely clearly, and essentially is the IDF Arabic Spokesperson's office. But notice that the statement itself makes no apology for killing innocent people, and certainly puts none of the blame on Israel. Essentially the video reiterates talking points that would be appropriate for an American or Israeli audience, but in Arabic.
The U.S. has clearly learned from Israel's use of Youtube to promote its message. But Israel stands to learn from the way the U.S. crafts its language. Showing a little more empathy and demonstrating accountability would be strong steps Israel could take to allay some of the damage done from this strike.
And being more deliberate and careful before shooting explosives would prevent these human tragedies from occuring in the first place. And that's in everybody's interest.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
And read this part twice:
A solution "will require a conscious decision to get past the idea that Israel must lose if Palestine is to win, and vice versa. It will require a willingness to consider a more nuanced, much less digestible reality. One in which your side is no longer obviously, indisputably, unfailingly in the moral right, and the other cast as the perp, the unredeemable murderer, the plague of both houses - in short, the problem.
If this is to work, it will require an excruciating decision: letting go of one's self-definition as either pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. It will require a conscious effort to become pro-Mideast."
Go ahead, I'll wait.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Mullen's ability to appear reticent to give Israel and amber light to strike Iran is critical to U.S. strategy for two reasons. Firstly, Iran must think that the U.S. can, if its demands are met, prevent an Israeli military strike. The ability of the U.S. government to hold Israel back are one of the few carrots the U.S. has to offer Iran. Mullen's visit is a demonstration that should Iran choose to cooperate, it will be rewarded with a stronger security posture.
Secondly, it is important for the U.S. to avoid pulling an "April Glaspie" and send mixed signals about its intentions. If Iran becomes convinced that a U.S. or Israeli strike is imminent, despite other messages to the contrary, it has no incentive to continue engaging in diplomacy (see Gulf War, The First). Mullen can't say that he supports an Israeli military strike because it would completely undermine U.S. efforts, including the new round of targeted sanctions issued by the Treasury last week.
That being said, while Mullen is not offering an amber light to Israel, his visit in and of itself is intended as a show of strength of the U.S. - Israel military relationship. This sends a clear signal to Iran, but also to the people and government of Israel. Military cooperation is the most obvious nexus of cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, and Mullen's visit is a strong signal that despite the row over settlements, this crux of the relationship is stronger than ever.
Mullen's visit to Israel has thus far been a textbook example of compellance strategy, and the message from the U.S. to Iran is crystal clear: A military strike is not inevitable, but you'd better act soon.
Friday, February 12, 2010
This completely misses the point.
For starters, open inquiries are a fundamental point of overlap between defense officials and citizens in a democracy. After 9/11, Congress held public hearings to determine government failures. Britain is currently in the midst of the Chilcot Inquiry, in which dozens of senior leaders are testifying about Britain's role in the invasion of Iraq. Public discussion may be embarrassing but it is a necessary part of decision-making in any democracy. Israel shouldn't hold an inquiry for the UN, it should hold one for its own citizens.
But more importantly, open assessment of a situation also allows a country to look constructively at a failure. This entire balagan over Goldstone is a lame attempt to cover up what is blatantly obvious to many in the Israeli and American public, and defense experts here in Washington across the political spectrum.
Operation Cast Lead was largely a failure.
Let's just admit it. In strategic terms, the operation failed to secure its objective of stopping rocket fire from the Gaza strip. It failed to deter Hamas for significantly longer than any previous operation, and it is almost certain that Israel will engage Hamas militarily in the near future.
But instead of examining its conduct for ways to improve, the Israeli leadership is trying to cover up what is already clear to the public. Holding an inquiry might be a partial admission of failure, but both Israeli citizens and the international community can see how ineffective the operation actually was. Soldiers were sent into the field of battle, 10 of whom were killed and 336 of whom were injured, some seriously.* For what? A year of peace?
Having an open inquiry would foster a serious discussion in Israel of the IDF's strategy towards Hamas and other non-state actors. This critical dialogue must be predicated, however, on the understanding that the current strategy has failed and a new one is necessary. The longer Israel waits, the higher the costs will be.
Both Israel and Zionism have a long and proud history of pragmatism and innovation. The time has come for Israel to be as clever and resourceful in peace-making as it is in warfighting.
*Not to mention 1166 KIA (1/3 of whom were insurgents) and roughly 5000 Palestinians wounded.
How Some Israeli and American Jewish Media Incite Violence
Double Standard Watch Blog
It all began with an innocent enough request from Israel's Army Radio for an interview about the Goldstone Report and my 49-page response to it. The interview was conducted by an experienced host, Razi Barkai. Unbeknownst to me, Barkai had an agenda. He wanted to get me to say that I thought that Goldstone was a "moser."
He wanted me to use this Hebrew word, the meaning of which I did not understand, because in Israel, this obscure theological term has taken on a meaning of its own. According to The Forward, "the term moser entered Israeli political discourse in 1995 in the wake of Rabin's assassination by radical settler supporter Yigal Amir, when Amir cited some rabbis' designation of Rabin as a moser as part of his justification for carrying out the murder."
The Forward quoted Michael Karpin, an Israeli journalist and the author of a book on Rabin's assassination, as follows: "After the assassination, when Amir was interviewed by the police and he mentioned the term moser, people tried to find out what it is... Nobody used it here before the assassination."
Unfortunately, I was totally unfamiliar with the "inside baseball" - or in this case "inside Israel" - use of this esoteric term.
Several times during the interview, Barkai tried to get me to agree that Goldstone was a moser, a word he pronounced with a thick accent. Since the interview was being conducted in English, I thought he was asking me to agree with him that Goldstone was a "monster." I would never use the term "monster" since it suggests an inherent, even genetic, flaw in a person, without regard to what he has said or done. I was clear throughout my interview that I believed that Goldstone had exploited his Jewishness to lend illegitimate credibility to a false report. In this respect, he had betrayed his people and deserved to be condemned in the marketplace of ideas.
Accordingly, when Barkai asked me the following question, "Do you hint, Professor, that he is a moser, someone who betrays his own people?," I focused on the part of the question I understood. Believing that he is someone who betrays his own people, I answered the question in the affirmative. Barkai had sprung the trap. Now he had me. He could send out press releases indicating that I had called Goldstone a moser, even though I never used the word and had no idea what it meant.
The story spread quickly around the world, and I was condemned, largely by the extreme left, for advocating Goldstone's murder. As soon as I heard this, I immediately demanded a clarification from Barkai, which he ran on the air. I repeatedly emphasized, in subsequent interviews, that "I certainly did not mean to imply that any physical harm should come to Goldstone." But this didn't stop the incitement by those in the media more interested in sensationalism than truth.
M.J. Rosenberg, the former Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum, wrote in his Palestine Note blog that I was "calling for Goldstone's murder." Even more insidiously, the Forward, a mainstream Jewish newspaper, ran a lengthy piece strongly implying that I must have known the theological (or "halachic") implications of "moser." They went so far as to find an elementary school classmate at Etz Chayim Yeshiva in Boro Park who told them, quite erroneously, that I "must have heard it as a child." (Another classmate wrote the Forward a letter confirming that he too had never heard it - and he was a good Yeshiva student!)
The Forward then went on to quote another rabbi to the effect that to be "a moser can become a capital crime" under certain circumstances. At the very bottom of the article, so as not to detract from its sensationalism, the Forward included the following disclaimer:
'I do not want any harm to come to Richard Goldstone,' Dershowitz said. 'I want him to be responded to in the marketplace of ideas.'"
An article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by Ron Kampares was even more irresponsible. It "reported" the following:
Most recently, Alan Dershowitz likened him to a 'moser', a Jewish traitor deemed in some interpretations as worthy of a death sentence."
This was written days after I had made it clear that I wanted no harm to befall Goldstone. A response to the JTA article by Debra DeLee, president and CEO of Americans For Peace Now, accused me - also days after I made my position clear - of calling Goldstone a "moser," which she said is "a term reserved in traditional Jewish law for a Jewish traitor who should be killed."She also showed her ignorance of the fact that I had written a substantive response to the Goldstone Report, by saying that I "could have - and should have - aired substantive disagreements about the report that Judge Goldstone authored following the Gaza War."
Finally, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz (Bradley Burston) described me as "Kahana-sounding," a reference to the radical rabbi who did in fact call for violence - as contrasted with my call for peace based on a two-state solution and the end of civilian settlements. But no matter, its sells newspapers.
It's bad enough that there are some religious extremists on both sides who actually incite their followers to commit violence. But when elements of the mainstream Israeli and Jewish media twist the truth in the interest of sensationalism to imply - or state outright - that I am calling for the murder of Richard Goldstone, it is those irresponsible members of the media (and of Americans For Peace Now) who become the inciters.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"What is most instructive in this context, is the fact that of all the epithets which Alan Dershowitz hurled at Goldstone in an interview to Israel's Army Radio, the one viewed as the worst of them all - so grave that he later retracted it - was the word moser, used to condemn one who betrays his people by, yes, informing. Divulging privileged information to the outside world."
You should really read the full editorial because it makes some excellent points about the Israeli mentality towards Cast Lead and similar conflicts.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Despite the snow, the Treasury imposed sanctions on one individual and four companies in Iran today, all of whom relate to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It's smart that the sanctions are targeting the enemy group itself rather than the Iranian population as a whole. That being said, it's difficult to see sanctions pushing Iran towards negotiation. Iran has continually backed itself into a corner, meaning that it's hard for the U.S. to give the government a way to capitulate without losing face. The regime is also likely to be finicky in the wake of a failed attempt to ban major Sunni candidates from running in Iraqi elections, as well as the elections themselves. Free, fair, and largely sovereign elections on the Iranian border are not likely to play well among the population.
The decision makers in Iran are Ahmedinejad and the Ayatollah, so offensive actions should be aimed at cleaving between the two. A strategy to stir disagreement and cut a deal (i.e. repeal sanctions) with whomever blinks first might be the only effective way to stop a military strike on the country. However, even this strategy is not guarranteed to be effective, meaning that the chances of a non-military solution to the issue are quickly dwindling.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Here's a case of Israeli-backed Palestinian military forces targeting extremists in their own territory. The question is, how can the PA independently carry out such operations and use counter-insurgency techniques to better its intelligence on insurgent activity? Israel can't support these operations forever, and unless the Palestinian people support them, there's little hope for the sustainability of a Palestinian army. For more, see my yet to be researched or written doctoral dissertation, scheduled for release around 2016 if all goes well. Keep your fingers crossed.
Friday, February 5, 2010
At the Herziliya conference this week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that in the absence of a peace agreement with Syria, "all out war" would result. He meant this as a reason to pursue peace.
But Walid Muallem, Syrian Foreign Minister, interpreted this as a threat, saying that any Syrian response to an Israeli attack would include attacks on Israeli cities.
True to himself, Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman accused Muallem of "crossing a red line" and warned that "Assad should know that if he attacks, he will not only lose the war. Neither he nor his family will remain in power." In an ironic twist, when MKs and the media called him out on these comments, Lieberman bemoaned the "reactionary" nature of the Israeli left.
Despite all this raucous, it's really hard to find any way that these threats could escalate to an all out war, and this kind of posturing happens literally daily in the Middle East. The key is that every party is talking about their second strike capabilities rather than their first strike capabilities. Both Israel and Syria are afraid of being attacked, and neither is about to go after the other. Syria is highly likely to lose a war against Israel, and Israel would suffer from a war with Syria largely because of Hizballah.
What would be beneficial to relieve tensions is increased contact and dialogue. Syria is widely considered a lynchpin in Iranian hegemony in the region. Any attempt to draw it away and align it with Arab or even Western powers would be a blow to the Iranian government and would bolster prospects for greater long-term stability in the Middle East. De-isolation should not be considered a privilege for Syria, but rather a strategic Israeli means for weakening the Iranian threat.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
What has our discourse come to when it takes a Harvard lawyer to explain why ad hominem arguments are illegitimate in public discourse? The same lawyer who only four days ago levied the harshest of ad hominem attacks himself. Has the global Jewish community really lost its sense of compassion which is so fundamental to the core not only of Judaism but of Zionism as well? The legal legitimacy of the State of Israel was one of David Ben Gurion's largest concerns before the founding of the state. When did the pro-Israel movement get so out of touch with its origins?
In levying attacks on Alan Dershowitz this week, the tone of my comments have certainly been less than accomodating. But my beef is truly not with Professor Dershowitz as a person. It is rather with the partial and speciest tone of debate which his specific comments this week helped to encourage. In reality, the offenders against civil discourse are many.
What gives us as diaspora Jews the right to boil down the day-to-day complexities of Israeli and Palestinian life to black and white complexity? Since when is accusing a dissenter of being a bad Jew the way that we conduct discourse? The professor has shamelessly divested from engagement on this vital issue. But truly, this discourse is not the purvey of Alan Dershowitz alone, but rather of all who engage in discussion of Israel.
Let this week's events be a demonstration of how much work is yet left to do. How much more room remains for progress.
Two kids were fighting on a playground. The principal took the two kids aside and asked one, "Why did you hit Abe?" The child replied, "Because he hit me back first!"
Essentially that is the response to Goldstone which Alan Dershowitz gives in his blog post today. I've posted it unedited below.
Arguments 'ad hominem' in defense of the Goldstone Report
Double Standard Watch Blog
Even before the Goldstone Report was released, Richard Goldstone was arguing for its credibility by invoking his Jewishness, his Zionism, his daughter's residence in Israel and his connection to the Hebrew University. It was the mirror image of the classic fallacy known as the "argument ad hominem," which is defined as follows: A substantive argument should not be rejected solely because of who has offered it.
It follows of course that an argument should also not be accepted because of who offered it.
A close relative of the ad hominem fallacy is what I have called "the argument by ethnic identity," which I have defined as follows: An anti-Israel argument is made stronger if offered by a Jew. ("See, even a Jew agrees that... ).
These are precisely the fallacious arguments being offered in defense of the Goldstone Report by Richard Goldstone and his supporters. Goldstone has even elicited his daughter's help. This is what she has said: "Had Richard Goldstone not served as the head of the UN inquiry into the Gaza War, the accusations against Israel would have been harsher." She continued, "My father took on the job for peace, for everyone and also for Israel." She told The Jerusalem Post, "My dad loves Israel and it wasn't easy for him to see and hear what happened. I think he heard and saw things he didn't expect to see and hear...."
The problem is not what Goldstone saw and heard. It's what he willfully and deliberately refused to see and hear. He refused to watch videotapes, easily accessible on the internet, that show conclusively that Hamas terrorists routinely fired rockets from behind human shields. He refused to credit eyewitness reports published by refutable newspapers, and even admissions by Hamas leaders. He willfully refused to listen to the testimony of one of the world's leading experts on how democratic militaries fight asymmetrical warfare against terrorists who hide behind civilians, who said: "I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza."
Instead of defending the report against the many substantive arguments offered against it, Goldstone has repeatedly cited his Jewishness as both a shield against the criticism and a sword with which to continue to attack Israeli actions.
Had Goldstone not been the author of the United Nations Human Rights Council report on Israel, it would be tossed in the trash barrel along with other one-sided and biased reports by this prejudiced group which targets only Israel for human rights violations. But those seeking to defend this indefensible report point to Goldstone's authorship as proof that it must have credibility, because a Jew wrote it.
In a criminal trial, it is impermissible to attack the character of the defendant unless he has placed his character at issue. That is precisely what Goldstone has done in his campaign to lend credibility to his mendacious report by constantly invoking his Jewishness. The appropriate response to an ad hominem positive argument is an ad hominem negative argument. That is why, in addition to providing a 49-page substantive response to the arguments and methodology of the Goldstone Report, I have raised questions about Goldstone's motivations in accepting leadership of the mission and signing his name to a report which is so demonstrably false and one-sided.
In light of the hard evidence, that is easily accessible online and in the media, Goldstone cannot possibly believe that Hamas did not intentionally use human shields, have their fighters deliberately dress in civilian clothing and use mosques and hospitals to store rockets and other weapons. Videotapes conclusively prove these charges, and Hamas acknowledges - indeed boasts - of them. He cannot possibly believe that Israel used the thousands of rockets that Hamas directed against its children as an excuse, or a cover, for its real goal, namely to kill as many Palestinian civilians as possible. Nor could he possibly believe that the Israeli government made a policy decision, at the highest levels, to deliberately target Palestinian babies, young children, women and the elderly for murder. All the evidence points away from these wild charges.Yet he signed a report asserting that those demonstrably false conclusions were true. Shame on him. And even more shame on him for exploiting his Jewishness to get others to believe these defamations against the Jewish state.
The Goldstone Report should be rejected on its demerits. The added fact that it was authored by a Jew - selected precisely because he is a Jew with aspirations to be honored by the international community - should diminish, rather than increase, its credibility.
I have challenged Goldstone to debate the substantive points in his report. I promise not to make any ad hominem arguments against the report if he stops making ad hominem arguments in its favor. Or as Adlai Stevenson once promised a political opponent: "If you stop lying about me, I will stop telling the truth about you."
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
So, back in reality, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been making some very interesting comments during his visit to Israel. He's mentioned hoping to see Israel join the EU, and supports sanctions against Iran. PM Netanyahu called Berlusconi a "true friend" of Israel and literally said "we love you" during a toast to the Prime Minister.
Now that Berlusconi is in Bethlehem, he has drawn a link between mourning victims of the Holocaust and mourning victims in Gaza (This after he visited Yad Vashem and laid a wreath there).
It seems Berlusconi has taken an interest in playing a more prominent role in the Israeli-Arab conflict than Italy has generally taken in the past. A European country talking about Israeli EU citizenship is a very big deal in Israel, and his comments supporting Iran sanctions are also likely to play extremely well among the Israeli public. Of course, what remains to be seen is what concrete steps Italy will take to support negotiations, though Berlusconi spoke in favor of a return to them.
What the visit also shows though is the power an in-person visit can have to the region. President Obama has not visited Israel or the Palestinian territories since being inaugurated, a move which has had significant effects on his popularity in Israel and thus his ability to get anything done there. While Obama has done some shifting and renegotiating of the American posture on the conflict, he has yet to seriously indicate any plans to visit Israel. What Obama does not understand, Berlusconi understands perfectly. People can only judge someone by the information they are given. Coverage of the US in Israel tends to be far more 2-dimensional than coverage of US news domestically (obvious, but worth mentioning). An Obama visit to Israel may not create 60% approval ratings, but there's very little president Obama could say in Israel that would make his approval ratings there worse. A visit to the region has the potential to rejuvinate US-Israel relations. On the strategy side, and Obama visit to Israel would send a strong signal to Iran that Israel and the US form a united front. And visit to the Palestinian territories would also help cut the losses Obama has faced in public opinion since the zenith of his Cairo speech. Palestinians place a significant amount of hope in Obama to help them create a brighter future. The support Obama garners in a visit to Ramallah or Bethlehem could end up playing a key role in the political capitol both the US and the PA have vis-a-vis a final status agreement.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I plan to respond in full to his post here on The Camel's Nose. I'm very interested to hear what defense of his comments, if any, Professor Dershowitz will give, though I am skeptical the post will contain a sufficient justification of the ludicrous charges leveled at Judge Goldstone.
I am well aware of that blog posting, which I linked to in the first sentence of my previous e-mail. The post describes the flawed nature of the Goldstone report with relative accuracy. It does not address your characterization of Judge Goldstone as an evil man and a traitor, hence my e-mail inquiry this evening.
I enjoyed reading your blog post today on the flaws of Goldstone Report (linked for my readers here). However, your comments on Israeli Army Radio condemning Judge Goldstone as an "evil, evil man" and a "traitor" remain concerning to me. Could you please explain to me and my blog readership what makes Judge Goldstone worthy of such titles, and how your comments advance the cause of pro-Israel advocacy as per my message of January 31? Any insight you could give would be much appreciated.
The Camels Nose Blog
[sent to firstname.lastname@example.org at 6:05pm]
"Alan Dershowitz inciting against a political opponent, calling him 'evil' and a 'traitor' to the Jewish people on Israeli Army Radio."
Visibility on these comments just got significantly higher.
Monday, February 1, 2010
There's a very much topical article in today's Haaretz about the use of white phosphorous in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. While the article reveals some potential discord between the Israeli government (which claims two officers were prosecuted over the incident), and the IDF (which denies the charges), the article is extremely thorough. It does a great job explaining the difficult decisions that the commanders made in the field, and illustrates the complexities of a situation in which white phosphorus was used. The situation is clearly not a simple one, and merits serious discussion both within Israel and here in the United States. Regardless of whether you believe using white phosphorus was justified or unjustified, I'd posit most readers would be alright with ultimately seeing less of this on the news:
Terrified Israeli children in Sderot react to the "Tzeva Adom" warning system, announcing an incoming Hamas rocket.