Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Many years ago, I once wrote something about how the media, mostly in its dealings with the rigth-wing, tends to use superlatives.


Rarely are Israeli MKs who are communists normally termed "communists" in reportage (as opposed to profiles).

Or "radical".

And almost never "extremists".

An example?


Ultranationalist Leader Joins Israeli Government

Ultra bias.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Yaalon's "Virus"

Moshe Yaalon resigned and in his press statement noted:

"I fought with all my strength against the phenomena of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society that threatens our might and also permeates the IDF, and has already damaged it. Senior politicians chose the path of incitement."

What, then, is this?

Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon attended a conference of Jewish Leadership activists this week, headed up by Moshe Feiglin. The Jewish Leadership group is considered the far right-leaning segment of the Likud.
 The Prime Minister's Office announced Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will summon Ya'alon for a face-to-face talk on the backdrop of statements he made against Peace Now at the conference when the prime minister returns from vacation.

During the meeting, part of which was broadcast Wednesday evening on Channel 2, Minister Ya'alon used particularly harsh words against left-wing activists and Peace Now members.
 When asked by one of the attendees about plans to dismantle the Bnei Adam outpost, he responded, "We again are dealing with the issue of the virus, Peace Now – the elitists, if you may – who have incurred great damage. From my perspective, Jews can and need to live in all of the Land of Israel for all eternity."
 Ya'alon warned against folding to US pressure. "There are certain things we need to say – up to here. When you do things you don't believe in, you enter a slippery slope because they put pressure on you, and you keep rolling downwards."
 "I'm not afraid of the Americans," said Ya'alon, drawing loud applause from the audience.

The host, Feiglin, thanked Ya'alon with warm words and promised to support him if he continues on this path. "It is important for us that cooperation come out of this. Every single positive step you make – and it is clear that you will make many – within our party, you will find this growing public helping you along. With the help of God, we will do good things together," said Feiglin to Ya'alon.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Breastfeeding, the Temple Mount and Islam

As noted here

The Palestinian Authority minister of religious affairs warned on Sunday that rabbis had permitted Jewish women to breastfeed on the Temple Mount

Why a warning?

After all, it is written in the Quran, 2:233:

Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers' provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. 

Breastfeeding can be a delicate subject for Muslims.  A few years ago, the BBC reported on this scandal:

One of Sunni Islam's most prestigious institutions is to discipline a cleric after he issued a decree allowing women to breastfeed their male colleagues.  Dr Izzat Atiya of Egypt's al-Azhar University said it offered a way around segregation of the sexes at work.  His fatwa stated the act would make the man symbolically related to the woman and preclude any sexual relations.

The president of al-Azhar denounced the fatwa, which Dr Atiya has since retracted, as defamatory to Islam...Atiya, the head of al-Azhar's Department of Hadith, said...if a woman fed a male colleague "directly from her breast" at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work.

"Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage," he ruled.

"A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed."

There have been other similar declarations in favor of such an arrangement, although many suggest that the woman first extract the milk herself before providing the male with her breast milk.

Last November, there was an incident when a Jewish woman was mercilessly removed for attempting to suckle her infant.

What is the problem?  How intolerant can the Waqf and PA officials be, even within the framework of their own religious instructions?

How inhuman?


American Jews: "Settlers"

I guess there's no escaping it.

Jews are "settlers", with or without a 'Green Line' with Israel or with America:

McConnell found that Touro is owned in a charitable trust set forth 250 years ago by its founders, some of the nation's first Jewish settlers,

Of course, that could mean that according to American Jews, especially the more liberal and progressive who insist that their concerns come first, maybe being a 'settler' is not that pejorative?

Or, perhaps, it is pejorative and they will not like being so termed?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rabin and Total Withdrawal Not

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin conversing with US President Jimmy Carter, March 7, 1977

We are ready however, for territorial compromise, but we do not accept the principle of total withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. The location of the lines can be negotiated. The bulk of Sinai can be given back. As for Golan, even in a peace agreement, we do not want to come down from the Golan Heights. The West Bank is the most delicate issue. We just had a Labor Party convention in which there was a long argument over this issue. We concluded that for peace, we would make territorial compromises on all fronts. But it is not so easy. General Dayan put forward a reservation concerning the West Bank and a close vote was held. Out of 1,200 participants, a majority of only 51 came out for our position on territorial compromise. So it is not an easy problem. Our policy is that we will not draw lines. Once this is done, it becomes the basis for later bargaining. There have been no Cabinet decisions on final borders. But this will be an issue in the campaign. The tendency in Israeli public opinion is not to give too much, to put it mildly. But if the public could see a concrete offer, if negotiations were underway, and if we were on the verge of peace, then we would have some room for maneuver. But not for total withdrawal. Ninety percent of the Israeli public would reject that, and we are a democracy.

In Sinai, Sharm al-Shaikh is one point. We do not require sovereignty, but we require a presence and control. Two wars began over navigation there, 1956 and 1967. Our people would ask, if we returned Sharm al-Shaikh, whether there would be more wars there. So we need control, not sovereignty, and a land connection, as well as some changes in the old international boundary between Egypt and the Palestine Mandate. Those lines, after all, were changed in 1906. The British pushed the Ottoman Empire to give up part of Sinai to Egypt. Before 1906, the international boundary between the Ottoman Empire and Egypt was different....

...I cannot say anything about the West Bank, but for peace, we would be prepared for a territorial compromise. But not for full withdrawal. There are sharp differences within Israel. 


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Another Poll: It's Not An "Occupation"

From the April 2016 Peace Index:

The negotiations with the Palestinians and their goals: The Jewish public is divided on whether it is currently appropriate or inappropriate to renew the political negotiations with the Palestinians, though the rate of those who think the present time is inopportune (49%) is a bit higher than the rate who think the opposite (44%). When it comes to the goals of the negotiations, however, it turns out that the distribution of opinions is much clearer. On the question “Which of the following two things is more important to you: that a peace agreement be reached with the Palestinians or that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people?,” 48% of the Jews regarded Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people as more important than reaching peace (only 27.5% preferred that goal). Sixteen percent answered that the two goals are important to the same extent, and 6% responded on their own initiative that neither of the two is important to them. These findings apparently show that, in the view of the majority of the Jewish public, Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people is a necessary (though not necessarily sufficient) condition for reaching a peace agreement. We found an even clearer distribution of opinions on the question of what is more important: that Israel have a Jewish majority or that Israel be the sole sovereign in all of the historical Land of Israel. Fifty-two percent responded that it was more important to them that the state have a Jewish majority, with only 22% opting for sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel as more important (for 19% the two objectives are important to the same extent).


Is there an occupation? In this context it is interesting to sere the unequivocal slant of the public’s positions on the question of whether it is right or not right to define Israel’s control of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria as an “occupation”: a large majority of the Jewish public (71.5%) believes it is not an “occupation”! Exactly that rate in the Arab public thinks the opposite.


Geography of 'Palestine'

From  "The Oriental geography of Ebn Haukal, an Arabian traveler of the tenth century":

On the book and here's the full PDF.


Apartheid in Palestine - 1935

In mid-August 1935, the Amir of Saudi Arabia visited the territory of the Mandate of Palestine.

Since the Hashemites and the Saudis were not exactly friendly * with each other, the Saudis having kicked the Hashemites out of their country - the reason they ended up in something called Transjordan - the event was momentous, in its proportion.

In the report, this event of August 14 caught my eye:

No Jews permitted in the Amir's company.




"Settlers" Already Then

From an article by Nick Danforth, a senior analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center,  in the New York Times on the Sykes-Picot Agreement:

...Faisal’s territorial claims would have put him in direct conflict with Maronite Christians pushing for independence in what is today Lebanon, with Jewish settlers who had begun their Zionist project in Palestine...

Well, did he use "settler" anachronistically?  Or are Jews always "settlers"?

By the way, Jews never ceased their "project" in Eretz-Yisrael.

And I just blogged last week on TE Lawrence's 1917 letter:

 “About the Jews in Palestine, Feisal has agreed not to operate or agitate west of the [Wadi] Araba-Dead Sea-Jordan line, or south of the Haifa-Beisan line . . . 


Friday, May 13, 2016

Three Comments on a Jaffa Barbar

Three comments on this story of a Jaffa barber leaving his town in 1948 and his son's reflections in Ramallah.

The father was 

A wealthy barber who also rented out four Morris Eights from his shop on Jaffa’s King George Street, Habib Hinn took one of his cars, 3,000 Palestinian pounds in cash, and the tools of his trade and drove to Ramallah, believing he would return, perhaps within a week, when the violence had died down.

Have you any idea how much 3000 Palestinian pounds were worth in 1948?  

Over 105,000 pounds sterling.

He was so wealthy that that was basically what he was thinking of, his personal wealth and not a nationalist struggle of his people.

And do you know how many of thousands of Jews were forced to flee Jaffa over the years of Arab terror and how many had to abandon homes on the border neighborhoods between December 1947 and April 1948 following the outbreak of hostilities by Arabs who refused a diplomatic solution of partition?

I hope the implication in this next excerpt is not that the police were a cause in his subsequent demise.

“My father talked only very rarely about the shop in Jaffa. And then one day – in 1987 – he said: ‘Let’s go and see the shop.’ We drove in the Fiat we had then.”It had transformed into an antiques shop. They stopped to look on the other side of the street but did not make it across, they say, before the Israeli police appeared and told them not to go into the shop.“I suppose one of his old [Jewish] neighbours recognised him and called the police. For him it was the end.” Within a month his father died.

If the year was 1987, a car with Ramallah license plates, while not totally unusual, would have drawn the attention of law officers.  But they could have escorted him in to see the place.  That would have been proper.  It happened to other former Arab residents there in Jaffa and in Jerusalem.

But here comes the key, literally:

And then – this year – Iskander found his father’s key. Many Palestinians keep the keys to their old family homes as a poignant symbol of what they lost as Israel was born and the demand for the right of return.
Iskander’s father, however, had hidden his for reasons his son believes he understands.
“I was clearing out the furniture in his old bedroom. He had hidden it in the bottom of his closet. He had hidden it because he loved us. He didn’t want us to feel the loss he had hidden all those years.
“And because he was wise. I think he must have known that if I had seen it and heard about it when I was young, I might have ended up in jail.”
He studies the key in his hand. “It is a message, delivered at an age when we could understand it. It says that sometime in the future I can return. It will open the door. I will pass through. And no one can stop me.”

If your intentions are peaceful, you can come visit today.  But if you think no one can stop some "right of return" exercise, you're wrong.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Yikes. Lawrence and Sykes-Picot

I found this document, and accompanying explanation here.  Just in time for the JCPA conference on Sykes-Picot (and here) next week* (and read their paper).

On Septembert 7, 1917, prior to the Balfour Declaration and the official establishment of the Jewish Legion, T.E. Lawrence dealt with the issue of whether the Jews will have a future in the area of the Arab Middle East that they wished to reconstitute their ancient historic homeland.  Obviously, he was aware of the divisions that were to be of the Ottoman Empire territories if England won the war, if not their exact delineations.

As the commentary makes clear, Lawrence writes to his superior at the Arab Bureau, General Clayton, to ask whether he should send a letter he has composed to Sir Mark Sykes. In it, he asks about the aims of the Zionists. He knows already that an area of the regiom, "the Jewish section" exists and needs to be "cleared up" just as there is a "French section" which he nevertheless feels "we may (if we win) clear up...ourselves.” 

Clayton advised Lawrence not to forward his letter to Mark Sykes – but a record of the unsent letter survived nonetheless. 

Again, as per the commentary, the letter is crucial to understanding exactly why Lawrence wanted the “Jewish section cleared up” – and addresses, en passant , Lawrence’s conflict with the Zionist pioneer Aaron Aaronsohn and, by extension, those Zionist converts within the British establishment, like Sykes (and Balfour, Orsmby-Gore, Deedes and Meinertzhagen), whom Aaronsohn had influenced.

The text:

“General Clayton showed me a letter from you which contained a message to myself - and this has prompted me to ask you a few queries about Near East affairs. I hope you will be able to give me an idea of how matters stand in reference to them, since part of the responsibility of action is inevitably thrown on to me, and, unless I know more or less what is wanted, there might be trouble. “About the Jews in Palestine, Feisal has agreed not to operate or agitate west of the [Wadi] Araba-Dead Sea-Jordan line, or south of the Haifa-Beisan line . . . 

This is quite important because it puts the lie to the Arab claim that the area that was to become the Palestine Mandate was somehow stolen from them without their knowledge as in the infamous McMahon-Hussein correspondence.

Lawrence continues:

“You know of course the root differences between the Palestine Jew [that is, the Sefaradi, who originates from an Arab country - YM] and the colonist Jew: to Feisal the important point is that the former speak Arabic, and the latter German Yiddish. He is in touch with the Arab Jews (their H.Q. at Safed and Tiberias is in his sphere) and they are ready to help him, on conditions. They show a strong antipathy to the colonist Jews, and have even suggested repressive measures against them [!]. Feisal has ignored this point hitherto, and will continue to do so. His attempts to get into touch with the colonial Jews have not been very fortunate. They say they have made their arrangements with the Great Powers, and wish no contact with the Arab Party [eventually, Weizmann & Feisal met and agreed on an outline of coexistence 16 months later]. They will not help the Turks or the Arabs. Now Feisal wants to know (information had better come to me for him since I usually like to make up my mind before he does) what is the arrangement standing between the colonist Jews (called Zionists sometimes) and the Allies . . . What have you promised the Zionists, and what is their programme? “I saw Aaronson in Cairo, and he said at once the Jews intended to acquire the land-rights of all Palestine from Gaza to Haifa, and have practical autonomy therein. Is this acquisition to be by fair purchase or by forced sale and expropriation? The present half-crop peasantry were the old freeholders and under Moslem landlords may be ground down but have fixity of tenure. Arabs are usually not employed by Jewish colonies. Do the Jews propose the complete expulsion of the Arab peasantry, or their reduction to a day-labourer class? “You know how the Arabs cling even to bad land and will realise that while Arab feelings didn't matter under Turkish rule . . . the condition will be vastly different if there is a new, independent, and rather cock-a-hoop Arab state north and east and south of the Jewish state. “I can see a situation arising in which the Jewish influence in European finance might not be sufficient to deter the Arab peasants from refusing to quit - or worse!” 

The commentary concludes:

Lawrence’s reference to Aaronsohn’s remarks is particularly interesting, inasmuch as Aaronsohn left an account of the meeting at which he made them. “This morning I had a conversation with Capt. Lawrence,” he wrote in his diary on 12 August 1917. “An interview without any evidence of friendliness. Lawrence had too much success at too early an age. Has a very high estimation of his own self. He is lecturing me on our colonies, on the spirit of the people, on the feelings of the Arabs, and we would do well in being assimilated by them, by the sons of Arab etc. While listening to him I imagined to be present at the lecture of a Prussian scientific anti-Semite expressing himself in English. I am afraid that many of the archaeologists and reverends have been imbued by 'l'esprit boche'. He is openly against us. He is basically of missionary stock.” Aaronsohn’s assessment of Lawrence as an anti-Semite stands in stark contrast to Chaim Weizmann’s opinion that Lawrence’s relationship to the Zionist movement was a very positive one, in spite of his strongly pro-Arab sympathies.


100 Years Since Sykes-Picot Agreement:
Lessons for the Middle East

The borders of the countries that were created artificially after the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain a hundred years ago have not withstood the test of time. The Middle East is ablaze with bitter wars between neighboring countries, between tribes, and between warring religious groups.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung will hold a conference on the lessons from the Sykes-Picot Agreement for today's Middle East. Participants include Israeli and foreign scholars from Turkey, the UK, France, the UK, Russia and the U.S.  

Conference Program
Opening Remarks
Amb. Freddy Eytan - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Dr. Michael Borchard - Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel
Amb. Patrick Maisonnave - French Ambassador to Israel

First Session: 9:30-10:45
Historical Overview of the Sykes-Picot Agreement
Chair: Amb. Freddy Eytan - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Westphalian Arab Nation-States in the Middle East: A Failed Experience
Prof. Shlomo Avineri - Hebrew University
Sykes-Picot and the Zionists
Dr. Martin Kramer - President of Shalem College
Sykes-Picot: Myth and Reality
Prof. Efraim Karsh - King’s College, London
Sykes-Picot Agreement: The French Perspective
Dr. Richard Rossin - Former Vice President of the European Academy of Geopolitics 
Coffee Break

Second Session: 11:00-12:30
The Collapse of Borders – a Future Perspective: Lessons from Other Countries
Chair: Dan Diker - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
How Resilient is the Current Middle Eastern State System?
Amb. Prof. Itamar Rabinovich - Tel Aviv University
Earthquakes of the Middle East
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
An American Perspective on the Sykes-Picot Agreement
Dr. Scott B. Lasensky - Senior Advisor to the United States Ambassador to Israel 
12:30-13:15 Break

Third Session: 13:15-14:15
Legal Aspects and International Law
Chair: Amb. Alan Baker - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Some Historical Facts about the Egypt-Israel Border
Prof. Ruth Lapidoth - Hebrew University
League of Nations Mandates and Subsequent Nation State Borders
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich - Northwestern University and Kohelet Policy Forum 

Fourth Session: 14:15-15:15
Strategic Perspectives: Then and Now
Chair: Dr. Michael Borchard - Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel
The Russian Strategic Perspective
Alexey Drobinin - Senior Counselor at the Russian Embassy in Israel
Turkish Foreign Policy and the Specter of Sykes-Picot: A Hundred Years Later
Dr. Ahmet K. Han - Kadir Has University, Turkey
Strategic and Geopolitical Aspects
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs